No Sleep Till Brooklyn Book Festival

Just mailed out the swag from the book giveaway–did you miss out because you don’t get The Plucking News? Sign up here and you won’t miss the next one.

In other news, my story collection from Down & Out Books, LIFE DURING WARTIME, is coming together and I’ll have a cover reveal for you soon. It collects the best of my stories and includes a few unpublished ones, and others that were difficult to find.

This weekend, on Sunday September 17th, I will be at Brooklyn Book Festival. In the morning I will be sitting at booth #310 with the Mystery Writers of America from 10:00 until noon, and from noon until 14:00 I’ll be at the Down & Out Books table with Lawrence Kelter, and several other authors. I’ll be wearing the snazzy Down & Out Magazine polo shirt in Black(Like My Heart!) black, so I’ll be easy to spot. I’ll have books to sign and swag to give away, and I hope you’ll stop by if you’re at the festival.

I’m not on any panels, but I will be going to see Sarah Weinman moderate the Killer Crime-Fiction panel with Joyce Carol Oates, Nelson George, and Ben H. Winters, and the comics panel Shapeshifters: Novelists Write Comics! with two of my favorite writers: Victor LaValle, and Gabby Rivera. Victor’s novel THE CHANGELING is brilliant, and I am really enjoying his miniseries comic DESTROYER, a modern update slash sequel to Frankenstein (the novel, which I’ve always liked more than the Hollywood versions). Rivera’s AMERICA comic is a blast and her novel JULIET TAKES A BREATH is great as well.

He won’t be at the fest, but I am looking forward to Laird Barron’s new crime novel BLOOD STANDARD, out in March 2018. He’s one of my favorite short story writers, and his novel THE CRONING made me shiver and laugh with its bizarre mix of weird cosmic horror, fairy tales, and Pynchonian ’50s paranoia.

As for me, I’m putting the final touches on the next novel and ready to dive into Jay Desmarteaux #2, where he boogies on down to the bad blood bayou…

the awesomeness of Stranger Things – and recommended reading

dunt dunna dunt dunt … my Winona

I loved the NetFlix original series Stranger Things. It’s only 8 episodes long, but never feels rushed. The Duffer Brothers did a great job, giving us characters we care about and a monster that truly terrified me. It’s set in the early ’80s and begins with four young kids playing a Dungeons & Dragons game. After the game ends one never makes it home. The cast is excellent, the police are not jerks or incompetent, and even the bullies have depth. It’s not perfect but it’s very close. And it doesn’t have a smarmy facade of nostalgia, the early ’80s were good and bad. A little anachronistic in behavior, but that’s expected.

strangerthangs copy

I recently read a list of “you might like…” books and wasn’t satisfied. It had the usual literary-friendly pre-genre picks like Arthur Machen and some other great books like Megan Abbott’s Dare Me, but … they really aren’t anything like the show. Stranger Things owes a lot to the following sources: Firestarter by Stephen King, also It and  Carrie and its clone The Fury, and Stand by Me. The works of H.P. Lovecraft. PoltergeistAkira, and the video game Silent Hill. There are nods to Aliens and the nerdy kids who all ring perfectly true reference things they love like The Hobbit and the Star Wars movies. And their favorite teacher is a clueless science nerd, who shows his date The Thing on VHS.

Here are some books I’ve read that reminded me of Stranger Things in a good way:

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons. There are scenes in this novel that still haunt me. It’s similar to It, but so much more concise and darker. Four young kids growing up in a town haunted by the evil of its past, which they must confront to save their lives.

Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale. Not quite as perfect as his masterpiece The Bottoms, but when a local girl goes missing, her oddball friends go on a Huck Finn-like adventure to find her, while avoiding the evil Skunk who haunts the swamps of the Sabine River. The Bottoms has young Harry witnessing a murder and trying to save a black friend from being lynched for it, and is possibly Lansdale’s best.

In the Woods, by Tana French. The first one by the master crime writer is darker and more haunting. Before Rob Ryan was police, as a young boy he was found tied to a tree in the woods near an ancient altar. The other two boys were never found. Now the land is about to be razed for developments and he goes seeking answers, as he remembers nothing of that night.

The stories of Laird Barron. The Children of Old Leech are even worse than the otherworldly Thing in Stranger Things and they also love to hide in the boles of trees. Start with The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All.

The Loney, by Andrew Michael Hurley. Another creepy childhood tale of a family’s yearly visit to an old Christian shrine in the hopes of healing their learning disabled youngest boy. The miracle occurs, but the source is something far more sinister.

My own short novella The Summer of Blind Joe Death is a weird tale set in ’20s Appalachia, where two young boys face the greatest evil there is.

And if you want to read a Megan Abbott novel about a missing child that will haunt you, it’s The End of Everything you want. One of my favorites.

Have you watched the series? What did you think? And what books or series would you recommend, to those who loved it?




Good Reads and Goodbyes

I left GoodReads recently. And I also deleted my 15 year old IMDb account. One reason was that these ratings are monetized, but another is that stars don’t tell the whole story. It was a personal decision, not a matter of principle. I am a reader and a writer, but not so much a reviewer. I found both sites useful, but not enough to share my stars with them. As you may have read, authors sometimes behave badly on Goodreads. I am reasonably sure I wouldn’t, but now that’s a certainty.

So here are a few books and films I’ve enjoyed recently, and why. It’s the month of Halloween, so some of these are creepy.

I just started WEIRDO by Cathi Unsworth, and I’m enjoying it very much. Some of that is ’80s nostalgia and old punk camaraderie, but she has a fine voice, a sneaky and subtle one that stands back and lets the story tell itself. The story is about a young woman who was institutionalized for the ritual murder of a fellow schoolmate, and a PI and activist who want to shed light on her trial, because she may not have acted alone. It has echoes of the “Paradise Lost” murders of Robin Hood Hills, the Satanic Panic of the early ’80s, and how anyone who was a “weirdo” felt back then, when having rocks thrown at you was commonplace.

PHANTASM, the infamous 1979 horror film by Don Coscarelli, who went on to direct Bubba Ho-Tep and John Dies at the End, was a blast. Yes, it’s cheap and cheesy and low-budget, but they managed great creepiness and well-spent gore with what they had. The Tall Man certainly is memorable, and what he’s doing with those corpses… well, it reminds me of another book I just finished, which was excellent:

THE CRONING by Laird Barron is a modern Lovecraftian masterpiece, without the sickly xenophobia beneath the surface, and a paranoid touch of Pynchon as well. The story is a slow burn but is well worth the wait, I kept expecting it to become twee and quaint like James Blaylock’s The Last Coin (a personal favorite) but the adorable ineptitude of its protagonist has an all too chilling reason, and I wouldn’t rob you of that revelation. Simply one of the best books I’ve read this year and one of my favorite horror novels in a long time.

And not as creepy, I enjoyed COME HERE OFTEN? 53 Writers Raise a Glass to Their Favorite Bar. Edited by Sean Manning, it includes entries by Laura Lippmann, Frank Bill, Alissa Nutting, Andrew WK, Duffy McKagan, Malachy McCourt, Tom Franklin, and a host of journalists, writers, musicians, and more, giving us a tour of bars from McMurdo Station to the ’70s Lower East Side, sneak-drinking in Tehran, literary bars from Oxford Mississippi to remote islands in the Pacific, James Crumley’s favorite watering holes, and more. A handsome little volume full of interesting reading.

But if you want some good scary reading, you can do worse than Flavorwire’s 50 scariest stories. I’m reading my way through the list. In daytime. With the lights on….