Wishing you all a happy new year.
And with that, I’ve decided to stay off social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for the month of January. I’m also giving up beer for those 30 days–yes, really–so I’ll be off Untappd as well. I’m only mentioning it so my internet coffee klatch does not become concerned.
I will likely still post here– I’m hosting Noir at the Bar NYC with several writers from Broken River Books on Jan 25th, and I’ll want to spread the word. And I’m still social media editor for PROTECT, so I will be posting stories to our accounts there. I’m itching to share news, such as the recent discovery that Ebola patient zero of the recent outbreak was probably infected by bats, which vindicates Richard Preston’s reporting for The Hot Zone, which pointing to Tikrit Cave as the source, back in the ’90s. There’s also news that “rescue dogs” are now in high demand as trophies, so much that stray dogs from other States and even other countries are being imported (some with endemic rabies). There’s a story brewing in me about that, and it won’t be pretty.
Recent movies and books I’ve enjoyed. Creole Belle, by James Lee Burke. Even though he does something that made me loathe Chelsea Cain’s One Kick- he lets early child abuse turn a character into a killer/super ninja/etc- he is so deft with character that the story is redeemed. There’s so much more going on, and his fury so well focused, that I forgave him this trespass. But writers, listen up. Child abuse alone does not turn you into a serial killer, a gibbering mental case, or a superhero. Nor does it lock you into the “cycle of abuse,” or make you want to personally execute every predator you see. People who’ve been abused can be all those things, but the majority are not. Those our are projections, of how we would deal with such unfathomable cruelty. Certainly many psychopaths experienced severe abuse at an early age, which blocked any formation of empathy, but it is infinitely more intriguing that most victims of abuse do not become killers or abusers themselves. That is the power of even the dimmest scintilla of human empathy. Don’t use child abuse as a shortcut. Burke almost did, but managed to make a self-destructive character into a fully fleshed human being, instead of a collection of impulses leading to “edgy” and unbelievable plot points, which is what I thought of One Kick before I threw my Kindle across the room (into a couch).
Speaking of psychopaths, I watched the 1965 version of The Collector with Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar, which was quite chilling, and managed to keep a razor wire of tension throughout. Next I’ll read the novel. I also read A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest Gaines, a rightfully lauded masterpiece of Southern racial relations, which dances from character to character in Rashomon-like fashion, and offers a glimmer of hope at the end. It’s set near Baton Rouge, which I recently visited, and I enjoyed recognizing the unique Louisiana culture. I’ll be moving down there one day. It’s corrupt and swampy and has great food, so it’s closer to New Jersey than you think. If Ernest Gaines isn’t a pseudonym, it should be. I’m eager to read more of his work.
I also enjoyed Bon Cop, Bad Cop, a Canadian buddy-cop movie that I can best describe as Hot Fuzz meets Strange Brew. It’s funny, silly, and simply a blast. Pitting a snobby Toronto cop (Col Feore) and a scruffy Quebecois officer vs. psycho terrorist killer hunting those who besmirch the glory of Canadian hockey, it’s always “Long Wait” on Netflix, but definitely worth waiting to see. Great fun.
Also reading Circus Parade by Jim Tully, an early hardboiled stylist who wrote of riding the rails and as here, circus carny life, before shuffling off to Hollywood and then obscurity. Let’s just say that his circus tales ring much truer than Water for Elephants did, even though Sara Gruen got a lot right, and wrote a very enjoyable, if maudlin tale. This one’s influence on Hammett, Hemingway, and others is obvious and it’s worth reading, if like me, you dig hobo narratives.
On the writing front, I have stories in upcoming collections:
“The Big Snip,” in Dark City Lights, edited by Lawrence Block for Three Rooms Press, a collection of New York City stories. This is available for pre-order.
“The Cronus Club,” in Dana Kabel’s Kannibal Cookbook, from Out of the Gutter. No release date, but I’ve read the story at several readings and according to the audience, it’s quite a doozy.
And I wrote an introduction to the Valancourt Books reissue of Gerald Kersh’s novella collection Clock Without Hands, one of his best. I found Kersh through Harlan Ellison, which led to this infamous letter, and eventually also led to me writing this foreword. Having my name beside Kersh’s is quite an honor. More on this when the book is available.
I’ll also be writing short articles for Criminal Element and sharing them here. I won’t be posting here just to post, as that has the same lure of instant validation that makes social media appeal to me. See you in the comments.
I’ll be back…