now available: The Summer of Blind Joe Death, a coming of age novelette


My chilling coming of age novelette is now available as a standalone e-book:

Wade and his best friend Red Collins have only lived eleven summers, but the one they’ll remember for the rest of their lives is when Blind Joe Death visited their holler, spinning tales of deadly haints and black dogs that steal souls in the night.

Wade lost his father in the mines, and Red wishes his were dead. When the boys invite this strange hoodoo man into their lives they learn that the real monsters walk on two feet and sit beside us in church, and there is no darkness colder than what lurks within the human heart.

Inspired by the “Silver John” stories of Manly Wade Wellman and the music of John Fahey, this story set in the hollows of Appalachia is one of my favorites. I’m offering it for only 99 cents, because it’s a story I would love to be read far and wide.

It’s available now for Kindle and iBooks; it will take a few days for the rest to percolate through the ether. I’ll update the links here as they become available. If you don’t do e-books, this 35 page novelette first appeared in Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT, as “Black Shuck,” and you can buy the paperback here.

Amazon Kindle

Barnes & Noble Nook

Apple iBooks

Kobo Bookstore



Strange Critters: Unusual Creatures of Appalachia

Here is the cover of the upcoming anthology Strange Critters: Unusual Creatures of Appalachia, edited by Frank Larnerd for Woodland Press. The cover art is by Steven Gilberts. I’m proud to have a story in this collection. Mine is about hoary goat-man who haunts a railroad trestle … it call it “Pope Lick Nuisance.”

Frank edited the excellent Hills of Fire: Bare-Knuckle Yarns of Appalachia for Woodland Press last year, in which my Jay Desmarteaux tale “The Rock Ridge Ringer” appears.

strange critters

I don’t have a release date yet, but I will keep y’all apprised…



Manly Wade Wellman

manly wade wellman

One of the lesser-known giants of the golden age of pulp is Manly Wade Wellman. He is best known for the “Silver John” tales of a folk singer with a pure heart and a silver-strung guitar who wanders the hills and hollers of Appalachia seeking “the old music,” who often runs into evil magics and “the old ones” instead.

The Silver John tales evoke the purely weird through an American folk lens, where creatures of the age before mankind leave their footprints through the hollers and hoodoo men hold sway. John has only his wits, his silver-stringed guitar and his powerful faith in good to wage battle with evil. The tales are laced with subtle humor and Wellman masterfully describes a character or a place with few sharp words, bringing you into his fantastic realm where the world may have waged two wars and split the atom, but somewhere in the mountains there still lurk creatures we cannot begin to comprehend.

There were a few movies based on them as well, but none seem to have captured the magic. Wellman’s fiction was a huge influence on my long short story “Black Shuck” in Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT.

who fears the devil

Manly Wade Wellman was an American original, a stunning fabulist who painted haunted murals of the Appalachian mountains using the language of the people who live there as his handmade oils and brush. His books are mostly out of print, but Baen has graciously included a collection of Silver John stories in their free electronic library:

John the Balladeer

I highly recommend the entire collection, but especially  “O Ugly Bird,” “The Desrick on Yandro,” and “Nine Yards of Other Cloth.” They are set after the second World War, but feel timeless and ancient, like the mountains themselves. He wrote several novels starring Silver John, such as The Old Gods Waken, and I purchased some on eBay. My local used bookstore didn’t have any. I look forward to seeing what John does with some room to stretch his legs in a story.

john the balladeer

Hills of Fire: Bare-Knuckle Yarns of Appalachia

I’m very proud to open Hills of Fire: Bare-Knuckle Yarns of Appalachia with my story “Rockridge Ringer,” where Jay Desmarteaux finds his old cellmate fighting for a crooked sheriff in a mountain town… and busts things up the only way he knows how, with his two quick fists. You won’t want to miss this one.

I was a big fan of the Dukes of Hazzard as a kid, and since then “Justified” and the Appalachian tales of Manly Wade Wellman and many others have intrigued me. I visited West Virginia a few years ago on a road trip- we stopped at Hillbilly Hotdogs and the Mothman Museum, and found folks as friendly as you could want- and I felt a kinship with the state, because like New Jersey, it is sometimes the recipient of jokes from those who’ve never stepped foot there. It’s a beautiful state and I’m proud to be in a collection by Woodland Press, a regional publisher that showcases writers from it.

Now I don’t know if editor Frank Larnerd showed the cover artist my story, but it sure looks like he read it. And while my image of Jay Desmarteaux was a Fred Willard in “Remo Williams” with a nod to author James Lee Burke, I am hard pressed not to see him as the brawler on this cover. And that don’t bother me one bit. I hope you’ll pick this book up, it has stories by Steve Rasnic Tem and a fantastic bootlegger adventure by Amber Keller as well.

Rip-roaring through the holler

Jay Desmarteaux’s debut in “The Rockridge Ringer” … a bareknuckle fighter forced into combat by a crooked sheriff. The cover evokes the classic pulps and men’s adventure paperbacks. I love it. I’ve had a peek at Amber Keller’s tale of running moonshine too, and I know you’ll love this collection of red-blooded tales rip-roaring through the hollers.

Frank Larnerd did a great job putting this one together. He nudged me to contribute, and I think this story really helped me envision the character and mood I want to set with the Desmarteaux novels.

Hills of Fire and Shotgun Honey

I’m thrilled to announce that my story “Rockridge Ringer” will appear in Hills of Fire: Bare-Knuckle Yarns of Appalachia later this year from Woodland Press, edited by Frank Larnerd. That one of my tales set in West Virginia passed muster with a native is honor enough, but sharing print with Frank in a Woodland Press book is even sweeter. I won’t tell you much about the story, but it involves two ex-cons fighting bare knuckle in a holler for a crooked sheriff. And there’s bikers, go-go girls and… well, you’ll just have to read it. And it stars Jay Desmarteaux, the lead in Bury the Hatchet.

And on Friday, my story “From the Heart” appeared in Shotgun Honey, one of my favorite online venues, and where I made my crime fiction debut (in this decade. My first was in Blue Murder, a long defunct online zine). It’s a short short (under 500 words) about the heart of a bluesman. I wrote the first version in 1999 or earlier. Though the story is utterly different, I was inspired somewhat by Harlan Ellison’s “Paulie Charmed the Sleeping Woman” and the down dirty Chicago blues from Andrew Vachss’s Burke series, the movie Thief, and so on. I rewrote it when I rediscovered it in May, but the basics and the voice didn’t change much. I think your voice is something you can develop, but not really change. You may have a few of them, with different tones, but the heart behind them is the same.