Night falls out of the gutter…

First, Ryan Sayles interviewed me for Out of the Gutter. He has a column there called The Noir Affliction. Ryan is a very funny guy, though I had to throw him around a bit, and he took a few shots at me. Probably the most entertaining interview I’ve done in a while. He asks me to define noir, and I turn into the Hulk.

Read it at The Noir Affliction.

Secondly, I’m very proud to be in Katherine Tomlinson’s NIGHTFALLS anthology, out soon from Dark Valentine Press. The last day on Earth… how would you spend it? If you’re Terence Nightingale, star of my story “Acapulcolypse,” you want to take out as many human beings as possible on your own, which is a real bother when you faint at the sight of blood. The anthology benefits Para los Niños, an organization in Los Angeles that helps at-risk kids and their parents succeed in education and in life, and contains 28 more tales from the likes of Matthew Funk, Sandra Seamans, Allan Leverone, Nigel Bird, Chris Rhatigan, Col Bury, Christopher Grant, Patricia Abbott, Jimmy Callaway and Veronica Marie-Lewis Shaw.

 

 

 

Belly Up to the Bar with Patti Abbott

I’d like you all to welcome Patti Abbott to a new feature of the blog, where I interview folks at the imaginary tavern in my head. If you’re not familiar with Patti’s work in the crime fiction genre, you’re only hurting yourself. She’s written more than 80 stories, including “My Hero,” the Derringer Award winner for 2009. Her collection MONKEY JUSTICE (love that title!) is published by Snubnose Press, and she is co-editor of Discount Noir. Let’s give her a cheer.

Tom:
Good evening Patti, and welcome to Belly up to the Bar. What are you drinking?


Patti:
White Wine, Savignon Blanc, very cold, preferably from Australia with South Africa being the runner up. Marlborough’s Nobilio is my cheapy favorite. I never pay more than $12 a bottle because I can’t tell the difference. As long as its dry and fruity, I’m good. Hate wines with the oaky taste of Chardonnay though.Or Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale (from Kalamazoo, MI. I like any wheat beer really.
I didn’t start drinking beer until the last Noircon. And I haven’t looked back.


Tom:
Well, beer drinkers are certainly welcome here. I’ve had Two-Hearted, a long time ago. Reminds me of that Hemingway tale, “Big Two-Hearted River.” But enough about beer, it’s for drinking, not talking about.

First let me say that I’ve admired your stories for some time, and the first I remember reading is “The Perfect Day.” It was so far above what I’d been reading that it inspired me to aim higher myself. That’s why I approached you for the Protectors anthology, and your story for it, “The Search for Michael” opens the book. Would you tell us a little about the story and the history behind it?


Patti:
“Perfect Day” was a story I couldn’t get published in a literary zine. I tried a few first since the crime element is so slight that I thought most crime zines would not take it.
I felt blessed when Chris Rhatigan published it in ALL DUE RESPECT and was astounded at the great response. This story will be part of my novel in stories HOME INVASION (Snubnose Press). It is heartbreaking to me that children have to grow up with monsters like Billie and Dennis Batch as parents. The children quickly become the parents and never recoup their loss. However as you will learn from the novel in stories, Billie’s childhood was dreadful too.

“The Search For Michael” is 2/3rds true and happened to a woman I came to know in my book group. She died rather suddenly (although she was a generation older than the rest of us) and another member told me her story after her death. And then, since her husband had taught at the school where I worked, another friend told me the same story. How the parents eventually spent all their money looking for the son who walked out the door in his twenties, all his meds left behind. Everything left behind. The father quit his job, even hired PIs in various cities to look for him. After his death, the mother indeed went to psychics all over the country, taking what comfort she could. The third part is an invention although he did have a sister who was a physician. I felt the story need resolution so I gave it a likely one and then took it back a little. The woman in my book group read a draft of the story and was really angry with me because I had betrayed the woman’s use of psychics, which she thought made her friend look crazy. Not crazy to me at all-I would have done it and cops do it too. I hope she has softened on it by now.



Tom:
I’ve felt an underlying anger in your work, or maybe a disappointment. Am I projecting this, or are you looking at the world and finding it wanting?



Patti:
You are an insightful reader, Tom. If I write in the first half of the day, as I usually do, it is in a black mood. A mood that awakens me every morning and I have trouble shaking off. Maybe the Irish in me. Or maybe the childish belief I harbor in fairness.

The world is not sentient I remind myself.
Yes, I have a lot of trouble with the world we live in and tend to see the dark side of even the most neutral events. I find the world wanting in how we treat children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and the mentally challenged. If we are ever judged, it will be on this ground–what we did for the least of them.
Once in a while, I can pull off a cheerier story, but they are not my best usually. I am also more likely to write about victims of crimes rather than perpetrators. I just don’t find perpetrators that interesting with a few exception such as Walt White. His is a journey from goodness to evil and that does interest me.
If you take a show like DEXTER though for instance, is it the serial killers that really interest us? They are almost exchangeable. Did someone give them a rule book?



Tom:
I’m with you on that. The banality of evil has been written about by better thinkers than me, but you’re right, when humans go really bad they tend to a pattern. Psychopaths or severely abused children robbed of any empathy by a litany of pain and neglect. Dexter is amusing for the characters, not the serial killer concept. Would you say we glorify crime more, as society and the law becomes more and more regimented? Or is it mere wish-fulfillment, vicarious violence meted out on our peers (which is what I think of the zombie phenomenon, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms)?



Patti:
In terms of books, television and movies, a lot of people. especially men, like to see violence and power. They identify with and watch those people who wield power–not the ones who are victims of it. I don’t think they are necessarily rooting for the bad guy, but instead rooting for the guy who is in charge, be it a mobster, a super-hero, a cop, a hit man. I think certain incidents bring out our sympathy for the victim of a bully, for instance. But at the same time I think we are suspicious of those who can’t solve such problems. We are about to perhaps elect a President who has said, let these people fend for themselves. And that sort of thinking filters down. If you are not popular or rich or successful, it is probably your fault, many would say. They never seem to acknowledge the fact we don’t all start from the same place in terms of money, color, family, IQ.
I am all over the place here but you get the drift.



Tom:
Writer interviews always go to “influences,” so let’s turn that around a bit. You run a web series called Friday’s Forgotten Books. If you could pick one author who is not generally taught in schools, and put them on the curriculum worldwide, who would it be, and what book?



Patti:
Now that’s a question I have never considered. I think I would chose Margaret Millar. She is a beautiful prose writer with great psychological depth. I don’t think you could go wrong reading her books. Dorothy Hughes and Patricia Highsmith would be two more.
I am not choosing these three because they are women but because they are interested in character and place above plot.



Tom:
I’ve never read Millar or Hughes, but I will. Patricia Highsmith is also one of my favorites.

You’re from Detroit, right? I’m from Jersey, so we both must have a love-hate relationship with our region, because we’re still here and not crazy. What do you love about your city, and what do you hate? And if you could hand me a book that revealed its heart, which one would it be?



Patti:
I lived in New Jersey for five years so I know it a bit too.
I would give you THEM by Joyce Carol Oates, which I think is her finest book even if she wrote it forty years ago. Paul Clemens MADE IN DETROIT is terrific too.
Detroit has all the cultural institutions of a major city–I like that about it. What you may not realize is that Detroit is surrounded by some very affluent suburbs that have art houses, theaters for plays, bookstores, things to do. I like that Detroit keeps fighting back with its music, its attempts to rebuild through attracting younger people to various areas. It is a great food city. A great sports city. We have every ethnic group you can name. If I walk the campus at WSU, I see young people from every region of the world. WSU had the largest Middle Eastern contingent anywhere but also huge numbers of students from Africa, Asia, Europe.

I hate the constant corruption, callousness and incompetence of Detroit politics. I hate that Detroit has allowed hundreds of architecturally important buildings to come down without thought. I hate that only twenty-some percent of students in Detroit itself finish high school. I hate that there are many, many, many city streets where only a few houses now stand. It is ugly outside of a few cultural areas. Although they have begun developing the waterfront, why not years ago like Baltimore? Why did Cleveland build the HALL OF FAME when Detroit has produced tenfold the music? Because, as usual, Detroit dropped the ball. I cannot tell you how much federal money was lost because they could not write the grants or hold on to them. It is a city filled with patronage jobs held by completely incompetent or corrupt people. Witness Kwame Kilpatrick, the scourge of the early 2000s.



Tom:
I will definitely check those books out, and if I make it up to America’s Mitten again, I will ask you for places to visit.

What would you say is the one topic you hope to have the last word in your fiction, and if you can’t be the one… is there someone else you’d be OK with taking that ring from you?



Patti:
At this point, I would say victims. I am really comfortable writing about victims. I am not sure who else victims interest. I don’t read too many stories about them.



Tom:
I think maybe the thriller genre has a lock on them, but I think they have a home in noir and the crime story, and I’m glad you’re telling their side.
It’s getting near closing time, so what do you have out there
that readers need to check out, and what is next down the pike?



Patti:
I have a story coming out in Crime Factory’s Horror Issue. I have a story coming out in Ed Gormans’s latest anthology. One in Mysterical-E, one in an anthology on Lee Marvin, one in a new Beat to a Pulp anthology, one in Katherine Tomlinson’s new anthology on the last day, one in Shotgun Honey next month. Probably too many.

Have you noticed how bees become very active just before they die?



Tom:
I know I’m not the only one who hopes you’ll be buzzing for a good long time, Patti. Thank you for dropping by. I’ll keep a case of Two-Hearted Ale cold for you.

The Protectors Anthology is coming…

For a year, I’ve been working on a follow-up anthology to Lost Children, the charity anthology inspired by Fiona Johnson‘s flash fiction challenge, hosted at Ron Earl PhillipsFlash Fiction Friday. It is nearly complete, and will be available September 1st. Here is the full list of contributors. 100% of proceeds will go to PROTECT and the National Association to Protect Children – the army fighting what Andrew Vachss calls “the only holy war worthy of the name,” the protection of children.

Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT

Stories by:

Patti Abbott
Ian Ayris
Ray Banks
Nigel Bird
Michael A. Black

Tony Black
R. Thomas Brown
Ken Bruen
Bill Cameron
Jen Conley

Charles de Lint
Wayne D. Dundee
Chad Eagleton
Les Edgerton
Andrew Fader

Matthew C. Funk
Roxane Gay
Glenn G. Gray
Jane Hammons
Amber Keller

Joe R. Lansdale
Frank Larnerd
Gary Lovisi
Mike Miner
Zak Mucha

Dan O’Shea
George Pelecanos
Thomas Pluck
Richard Prosch
Keith Rawson

James Reasoner
Todd Robinson
Johnny Shaw
Gerald So
Josh Stallings

Charlie Stella
Andrew Vachss
Steve Weddle
Dave White
Chet Williamson

40 stories. One cause: PROTECT

In a few weeks, the e-book will be available across all formats. The print edition will follow.

Cover art by Kim Parkhurst. Interior design by Jaye Manus. Cover design by Sarah Bennett Pluck. Print design by Suzanne Dell’Orto. Edited by Thomas Pluck.

I would like to thank everyone who submitted stories for the collection, and everyone who assisted me with this project, and everyone at PROTECT.

Book Blast: Bird, Ellison, Abbott, Beat to a Pulp and more

Several books by authors I admire have hit the streets recently. But first, let me get this out of the way. My friend Sabrina graciously opened the door of her blog to me, and I have a guest post up about why I wrote “Little Sister,” my story for last year’s Lost Children Charity Anthology.  Sabrina is a great friend, and my ideal reader: a passionate fan of crime fiction, who likes a story fraught with action, real stakes, and bloody thrills. She always puts her heart into her reviews, and if you like thrillers and noir, I highly recommend you follow her blog.

First up, my friend Nigel Bird- one of my favorite short story writers- has written his first novel. Some are calling it “teacher noir,” about a Scottish schoolteacher who tries to help one of his troubled students, and ends up in over his head. Nigel is the author of the excellent story collection Dirty Old Town, and last year’s smashing novella Smoke. In Loco Parentis is available at Amazon.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=plyoto-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B0082FR9ZO&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

Megan Abbott is one of noir’s rising stars. She began with powerful nods to the classics, and last year she wrote The End of Everything, a daring novel about an abducted girl in the Detroit chi-chi suburbs. I first read her in the L.A. Noire story collection, where her tale of Hollywood sleaze “The Girl” knocked me out of my socks and into next week at the same time. Now she’s tackled the high octane and brutally competitive world of high school cheerleading with DARE ME, and Dave White gives it a great review at his new blog, Beer ‘n Books. Dave is an IPA hound, but he has great taste in beer. He also writes a pretty good yarn himself, like Witness to Death.

Buy Dare Me at Indiebound
  http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=plyoto-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0316097772&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr
Beat to a Pulp Round Two is out, and editing superstar David Cranmer has put together another stunner of a collection. This time Charles Ardai, Bill Pronzini, Patricia Abbott, James Reasoner, Glenn Gray and Steve Weddle are on the card, among other champs, contenders and ringers. And look at that cover. David is one of my favorite editors to work with, and he really knows how to rope together a collection. Maybe he learned a little from Cash Laramie, his western marshal?
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=plyoto-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0983377510&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

And last but not least, the first author to influence me and make me pick up the pen was Harlan Ellison. Maybe you’ve read of our infamous correspondence? Well, Harlan began writing juvenile delinquent tales, before he broke the chains from pulp SF and created his own audacious flavor of speculative fiction. And some of those tales were racy, collected as “Sex Gang,” under the pseudonym Paul Merchant. They’ve been out of print, until now. Kicks Books is releasing them with the only slightly less squirmy title, Pulling a Train.

I don’t see the Ellison book available at my local indie or at Amazon yet, but these are what I’ll be reading this summer… once I catch up and read Dead Harvest, The Adjustment, City of the Lost, Edge of Dark Water, and That’s How I Roll!

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

a baker’s dozen of deviled yeggs…

Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled is a 99c e-book collection edited by David Cranmer of the excellent Beat to a Pulp fiction site. My story “Black-Eyed Susan” appears, along with some of my favorite fellow authors. Garnet Elliott, who just got accepted at Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine; John Hornor Jacobs, who wrote the Cthulhu noir novel Southern Gods; Brad Green, editor at [PANK] Magazine; Glenn Gray, the shock doc who’ll make you squirm as you turn each page; Ron Earl Phillips who appears and co-edited the Lost Children: Charity Anthology, Kent Gowran of Shotgun Honey, Patricia Abbott, who’s been knocking me out with stories in Needle and Pulp Ink, Ben Lelievre of Dead End Follies, also in the Lost Children book, Kieran Shea, king of dialogue driven tales, David Cranmer, who doubles as Western wordslinger Ed Grainger, and the one and only Wayne Dundee, author of the Joe Hannibal P.I. books and the western Dismal River.

Once again I’m proud to be among them. Before I wrote my own stories, I was reading theirs. And for a buck, this is the best Kindle bargain I’ve seen in a long time. If you don’t have an e-reader, Amazon lets you read Kindle books online through their free Cloud Reader.

BEAT to a PULP: Hardboiled is a compilation of uncompromising, gritty tales following in the footsteps of the tough and violent fiction popularized by the legendary Black Mask magazine in its early days. This collection includes thirteen lean and mean stories from the fingertips of Garnett Elliott, Glenn Gray, John Hornor Jacobs, Patricia Abbott, Thomas Pluck, Brad Green, Ron Earl Phillips, Kent Gowran, Amy Grech, Benoit Lelievre, Kieran Shea, David Cranmer, and Wayne D. Dundee and a boiled down look at hardboiled fiction in an introduction by Ron Scheer. Edited by David Cranmer and Scott D. Parker.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=plyoto-20&o=1&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&ref=ss_til&asins=B0061NQXHY

© 2011 Thomas Pluck