Monday, October 30, 2006

Cape Fear Crime Festival

Just got back from the Cape Fear Crime Festival where I had a very good time. All three of my panels were well attended and there were a lot of great conversations - Katy Munger, Barbara Seranella, Charles Todd, and Jesse Kellerman among many others. I didn't know that Ms. Seranella was a debutante before being a biker chick. Many thanks must go out to all the people who drove me around town - for instance, Jane Tesh who writes for Poisoned Pen press, and Joyce and Jim Lavene who write for just about everybody...No joke...Check out the website.

Special thanks must go to the person who kept me headed in the right direction - Dorothy Hodder. It must have been like herding cats through the woods, but it got done.

If you ever get the chance to go to a panel with Barbara Seranella on it, go. She's a riot.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cape Fear

Headed out to the Cape Fear Crime Festival in Wilmington, North Carolina. I'm on three panels, and I'm doing a reading (note to self, take something to read...). This should be some fun. I've never been to NC before, but I've only heard good things about the past iterations of this festival. I've heard, for instance, that one may sell a lot of books and actually get time to talk with other writers in a relaxed atmosphere. Speaking of relaxation...

I will tell, one day, of my recent trip to Hollywood with the hope of pitching to interested producers and (more likely) their assistants. To give the brief synopsis - I pitched, boy did I ever pitch, but then so did one thousand others. The smell of desperation in the air was thick as a London Fog - the overcoat, not the weather.

Back to Cape Fear - my three panels are ones that I, for once, feel competent to say something about: Hardboiled Noir, police procedurals, and short story writing. This is as opposed to the "Writers who happen to be brown" panel I'm often assigned to. Did I mention that I was referred to as "a brown man" by the hotel staff where I stayed in Madison, WI? John Rickards thought that was hilarious. So did I, come to think of it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Blood Knot - John Galligan

Holy Mackeral!*

What if the William Faulkner who wrote mystery short stories for Ellery Queen and the William Faulkner who wrote fine novels about dysfunctional American families were one and the same person? Well, he'd be John Galligan**. Galligan, with elegant prose, manages to do something that I would never, ever have guessed in a million years. He managed to write a mystery with a quirk to it*** and make it a top notch novel. This is transcending the genre - not that the genre needs transcending mind you, I like it just fine - this is a novel that can be enjoyed by anyone who can enjoy good writing.

The plot concerns Ned Oglivie and down and outer who is just trying to fish for trout. That's all he wants, but then there's a murder and people want him to look into it and, most importantly, there is a pretty much insane bunch of people who surround him - the Kussmaul family (Cuss 'em all?) who are a lot like the Snopes but in concentrated form. In fact, more than once I thought I was reading "Barn Burning." That's a story that I love, and this is that good.

Can Olgivie save a young boy from ruining his life? Can he save a mother from heartache? Can he get to the bottom of who killed the one person who might have been sane in the town? Can he ever get a chance to actually fish? All these questions are answered before the book draws to its close and you really do care what the answers turn out to be. The interesting thing is the short amount of time it takes Galligan to make you care. I was hooked (yes, sorry yet again...) after about five pages.

The quality of the prose is also striking - I have found that some mystery writers (and other genres as well literary writers) don't always take great care with their writing at the sentence level - the story may be inventive enough, but there is nothing special about the sentences that convey the story. With Galligan, each sentence is polished to brilliance. Easily one of my favorite reads of the year.

This, mind you is a novel that I read on the recommendation of the good people at CrimeSpree . They also recommended Sara Gran's Dope. Excellent stuff. The Galligan novel confirms that the CrimeSpree know what they're doing when it comes to liking books.

* Sorry for the near-pun.
** He'd also be William Faulkner, of course, but you get my drift...oops! Somebody stop me.
*** Like gardening novels, quilting novels, gourmet chef novels, et cetera, et al, ad infinitum.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Please Stand By...

I thought I'd join the 21st century and get a high(er) speed connection to the the transition I lost a few thousand saved emails. This wouldn't be bad except that I was using the old emails as an address book instead of using an address book as an address book. Anyway, you see the problem. Sorry if I'm ignoring anyone. It isn't intentional...for most of you.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Calibre by Ken Bruen

Mr. Bruen is a magician. Put a keyboard in front of him and he produces excellent work without fail. Of course, I say this having only read three novels and a couple of short stories. I'm thinking Rilke on Black has got to be a loser. Something has to be. In any event, if there is a loser in his oeuvre Calibre isn't it.

In this story, a nasty cop, DI Brant, chases a serial killer who kills for all the right reasons - people are just to bleeping rude. Brant himself is rude and may well have been a target but instead he targets the killer. In person.

Just when you thought Brant was man enough and more for this killer, Brant does something, something related to mystery writing no less, that turns the story on its ear a little.

Now, the thing about the novel, smoothly written in its way, frenetic in another, is that it is really a short story - I mean it's probably about 40,000 words. But you don't get a sense of an overgrown story or a novella that failed to grow up. Instead, you get a 40,000 word straight jab to the nose. It'll leave you bloody, and if it doesn't knock you out, it'll wake you up.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

To Make You Angry...

Found this at It is hard to imagine something more sickening than this. I don't usually report on real life crime, not recent crime anyway, but the actions of Thomas Engelhardt, 42 and Karl Heinz Henning, 61, German nationals the both of them...disgust me. Anger me. This is how I felt when I wrote my most recent novel - a novel perhaps no one should read because it was written with great anger and that's not necessarily the greatest motivation for putting pen to paper.

It makes you wonder whether the perpetrators can be seen as fully human. If they do this to children, don't they fail at some basic level? Of course, the quandry is that if we deem that they have failed as humans, can we then treat them like dogs - sick dogs without remedy - and put them down? It is, I think enough to try one's core beliefs and one's morals. There must be another way to have right done in the world. Oh Lord, help me find it, so that I may be a good man.