Goodbye to ThugLit

It’s a sad day for us literary thugs. Todd Robinson announced on Facebook that the upcoming issue of ThugLit will be the last.

When I started writing again, I picked up a copy of The Best American Mystery Stories 2010, which included a killer story that had first appeared in ThugLit (“Blood and Dirt” by Ryan Zimmerman.) That was my first introduction to the magazine, which I then found and was filled with sadness because it was on hiatus. When Todd jumpstarted it back up again, I devoured it. It was as great as it ever was. And I’m proud that my story “The Last Detail” appears in issue #19.

If you want to pay tribute to a tireless editor who kept one of the few markets for hardboiled, unflinching crime fiction where people can say cuss words alive for so long, why not grab a copy? Or all of them?

Thuglit Pluck Yourself

ThugLit was a rare paying market for crime fiction, at $50 a story. It was a sign of respect to the writer, that your work has value, and it was much appreciated. At two bucks for the ebook and $6.99 for the paperback, it was easily the best bargain in crime fiction.

When the last issue appears I’ll share it here, and I hope you all will grab a copy, to help repay Todd for his years of editing a magazine in the red, for the love of the genre, and helping so many writers reach our audience.

And if you want to read a funny, hard-hitting crime series with heart, check out Todd’s The Hard Bounce, and the upcoming sequel, Rough Trade:zErvqOypRKCKQtXKwoBW_ROUGH TRADE  - Robinson.


Protectors snags Major Awards!

The writers who contributed to Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT gave their all. Here are some of the awards and nominations they’ve racked up:

First, “Adeline” by Wayne Dundee won the Peacemaker award from the Western Fictioneers for best Western story of 2013.

Then “Baby Boy” by Todd Robinson was a finalist for a Derringer Award for best short crime story.

And now, Dave White’s “Runaway” is listed in The Best American Mystery Stories 2013 under Other Distinguished Stories of 2012:

bams dave white

And that’s not counting the awards the previously published stories have received, like “Season Pass” by Chet Williamson an Edgar finalist for 1989.

Fans of Ken Bruen, James Reasoner, Ray Banks, Patti Abbott, Nigel Bird, Johnny Shaw, Dan O’Shea and many more will find new stories that you won’t find anywhere else. 100% of proceeds from Protectors go to PROTECT, the only lobby that fights the abuse of children exclusively.

It is available in all e-book formats and in paperback:
Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT

ebookProtectors1024x1544 copy

Fresh Kill: Noir at the Bar Burger!

After reading at Noir at the Bar NYC, Firecracker and I went out for burgers with friends Paula Pahnke (a writer whose work appears in the Lost Children anthology) and her man Dennis. Paula led us through the freezing cold to Cozy Soup ‘n Burger on Broadway, a diner institution offering much more than burgers and soup. We all had burgers. But first things first… here is the greatest shirt in creation. Photo by Glenn Gray. I reviewed Giovanni’s a while back. They make-a nice sangweech, paisans.


They make a good burger but they overcook it a bit. Not competition for Krug’s, but this is a top tier diner burger.  I had the Santorini Burger- spinach and feta on an English Muffin- with purloined avocado and onion ring added.

cozy burger

Noir at the Bar was a blast again. Thanks to Glenn Gray and “Big Daddy Thug” Todd Robinson for having me again. This time the lineup had Hilary Davidson, Al Tucher, Matthew McBride, Kathleen Gernert Ryan, Reed Farrel Coleman, Justin Porter, Terence McCauley, SJ Rozan, and Seamus Scanlon. Glenn, Todd, and Laurie- bartender extraordinaire- plus all the crew at Shade NYC– thanks again for a great evening.noirbar

Also in attendance was Josh Bazell, author of BEAT THE REAPER, one of my favorites of the last decade. I reviewed it ages ago. It’s one of the books that showed me you could write a crazy story if you were good enough, and Josh sure is. Here’s my reading of “Tiger Mother,” a short story that appears in Noir Nation #2.


The Grand Illusion

Christopher Fowler thinks crime fiction has lost the plot. That means “has gone over the edge,” or “lost it,” for us on this side of the Atlantic. The gist of it is that most private investigators don’t work murder cases, and most crimes, even murders, go unsolved. And he is correct.

The basic premise of the detective or mystery story has been properly pegged as the return to order from chaos. And the second law of thermodynamics states the opposite: that  in any closed system, disorder (entropy) always increases with time. This is discomforting. Making order from chaos has the opposite, palliative effect. And that is why we enjoy mystery stories on a visceral level. Some kind of justice being done. It is soothing, in an increasingly unjust world.

Does this put all crime fiction in the genre of fantasy? No. Not all crime fiction follows the same structure. Read Tana French’s The Woods. Or some noir, though the loser getting squished like a cockroach is simply the cruel hammer of cosmological justice landing on someone who dares step outside his station, so in some ways noir is the most conservative subgenre of all. Some mysteries are best unsolved. They are mundane. Serial killers are still terrifying as psychopathic predators, but when you strip away their fetishes and rituals, they are all the same, damaged little children who had the empathy tortured out of them in one way or another.

This was the subject of my flash fiction story “The Uncleared.” It struck a nerve, and is one of my most popular stories. The justice is left to the mind of the reader, but feels as inevitable as the arrow of time. The law has failed, but justice will be done. This is the beginning of a novel, but I like it on its own as well. The thrills and gore and terror that will follow are all artifice, smoke and mirrors for what you already know, that justice can never be had. You can’t bring back the dead. To kill the pain inside you, you must become immune to pain. You know who doesn’t feel pain? Psychopaths.

So do I think all crime fiction is wishful thinking, because it doesn’t mirror reality? No. If I wanted reality, I can read the newspaper. Some stories do mimic the real world. Sometimes an episode in one’s life is like a story. Those often become memoirs. Because a “story” is also a construct meant to give comfort. They are often circular. They have familiar peaks and descents, the “rising action” which leads to… climax. And the good old afterglow, the denouement and the epilogue, which leaves us yearning.

Stories are all about verisimilitude. The semblance of reality. Just enough that we believe your cockamamie story, whether it’s about sparkly vampires, flying cars, someone having an epiphany about life, or a dogged police officer who won’t stop pulling at threads even if it means her life will fall to pieces as she puts one more unsolved case to rest. But I get what Fowler is talking about. I find myself more interested in the victims of crime and how they deal with it than seeing the cop fight the red tape, or the conspiracy, or the monolithic crime syndicate.

“The Uncleared” is based on a true story. A cousin of mine, she decided to become a real estate agent and sell her old house. Her husband found her in the basement bludgeoned to death. Her murder was never solved, but a killer with a similar M.O. was operating in the area and imprisoned. Another friend of mine, his mother was also murdered. The killer confessed in court, but due to a technicality, walks free among us. In a crime novel, my friend would plot the man’s demise, in a fiendishly clever manner that kept him out of jail. In reality, he has to live with it. And in some ways, that fascinates me more than any clever revenge plot. I can’t imagine living with it, but of course, I would. Life, like time’s arrow, goes only forward. It goes on. A gripping story could be written about it. Probably by John Irving. And I would like it.

But I also like stories such as Todd Robinson’s “Baby Boy” in Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT. That is also based on a true story. We know how the story ends in reality, but Todd does what a writer is supposed to do. He gives it his own ending, one that is infinitely more thrilling. I don’t think Todd has “lost the plot,” nor have dozens of other crime fiction authors operating today. Sure, CSI and many police procedurals solve more crimes in fiction than have been cleared in the annals of history. But that’s a matter of taste. There are plenty of open-ended tales out there, ones that make for a satisfying read and have enough verisimilitude to not make us balk, even if we’re well read in true crime and unsolved cases. So while I agree with Mr. Fowler that neatly solved mysteries are not my cup of tea, I don’t think the genre has lost the plot or even recycled it ad nauseam. It’s all a matter of who you read.


Bouchercon 2012

A great time was had by all. Some visual highlights. I have a big post tomorrow about paying back the reader, so here is some eye candy before I ask you to eat your veggies and think about the reader-writer relationship.

That slinky siren on my arm is the magnificent and multitalented Christa Faust. Her novel Choke Hold- one of my top reads last year and still the best story I’ve read with an MMA fighter- was up for an Anthony Award. If you haven’t read her work yet, she is a noir original. Her scientific knowledge of the genre on film and paper gives her work depth and originality, and Choke Hold tells a great story while giving us a peek at the modern gladiators of the American Colosseum: fighters and porn stars.

This is the voracious and adorable creature known as Sabrina Ogden. Like a blonde baby wolverine, she will claw her way through your heart to get to a cupcake. She is eating a donut here, but we also saw her obliterate french toast, bacon, a bacon cheeseburger, quesadillas, mini cupcakes and 42 ounce steak. At least I think it was a steak, it might have been the remains of a rude con-goer. This dear friend is the beneficiary of the Feeding Kate anthology that you so graciously funded on IndieGogo last month.
So yes. she ate all that with jaw damage.
I shared the burger with her because I am dainty.
She blogs and reviews at My Friends Call Me Kate.

That is Johnny Ramone’s guitar and Some of Joey’s jacket. The opening ceremonies were at Cleveland’s Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Sorry if this is the gem of Cleveland, but it’s kind of like a giant Hard Rock cafe. They had a Linkin Park guitar there. I’m not even sure that the Elvis, early R&B and Beatles stuff can erase that indignity. But it was nice to visit it, and they have a giant hot dog that belonged to Phish:

Best meals of the trip? Pierogies at a diner and bratwurst at the casino buffet. There were some fantastic restaurants nearby that served roasted pig heads and the hotel bar made a damn good burger, but this is a Polish town and the good eats of our vowel-challenged brothers Wzsgbgnyzcwz are the finest fare. This was a good bar town as well, with plenty of local beer on tap. The hotel had four Great Lakes beers and I enjoyed them all. The Tilted Kilt (Scottish Hooters) had the double IPA Nosferatu, which kicked ass (or bit neck, perhaps). And speaking of bars:

Noir at the Bar was held at Wonder Bar, a fine establishment with patrons of discriminating taste. Meaning they listened while Snubnose Press authors Eric Beetner, Jonathan Woods, Les Edgerton, John Kenyon, Jedediah Ayres and Josh Stallings read their work. Good beer, better stories. Great time.

Josh and Les are buds whose work I’ve talked about before. Out There Bad by Stallings is like James Crumley’s brutal action film put to paper by a street poet. Edgerton’s career speaks for itself, the heir to Ed Bunker, the real ex-con who writes sharp-edged truth. They are both featured in the Protectors Anthology (link to your right) as well.

Bouchercon was a great time- a celebration hosted by readers where the writers go to pay back. Even the mightiest like Lee Child and Mary Higgins Clark (who I met on the plane, and who was as gracious as you could imagine) mingle with the crowds and are as friendly and approachable as can be. If you enjoy crime fiction, this is your Comicon, except you don’t pay for autographs and you can rub elbows and have a drink with the people you came to see.

I met a lot of new people and had great times with them and the “old” friends I met last year. Glenn Gray and Todd Robinson, Johnny Shaw, Stephen Romano, Neliza Drew, Kent Gowran, Joe Myers… it’s a crime family reunion, and a trip I will gladly make every year.

Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT is out!

The anthology I’ve been working on since January, to benefit PROTECT and the National Association to Protect Children, is now available.

PROTECTORS includes a foreword by rock critic Dave Marsh, and fiction 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, Edward A. Grainger, 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, and Chet Williamson.

The book is now available for Kindle, and the pages at Barnes & Noble and Kobo will be live soon.

For updated order information, including how to order it directly through Paypal (generating the largest donation; you can upload the Kindle or ePub file to your reader, or read it on your PC) go to the PROTECTORS Official Web Page.

The book will also be available for the Apple iPad and on Smashwords. Our designer is working on the print edition, which will be available at Amazon and in bookstores.

The wait is over… go be a Protector!

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.