Week in Review of Small Press Crime Fiction for Aug 7-13, 2017
The big talk this week was over Kat Rosenfield’s article The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter. The post focuses on The Black Witch by Laurie Forest which became the focus of a Twitter storm from a review by Shauna Sinyad that called the book “the most dangerous, offensive book I have ever read.” The article details the snowballing attack on the book, a book that I haven’t read and do not plan on reading, shit, it is 608 pages long and I have other books I need to and want to read.
In a tweet that would be retweeted nearly 500 times, Sinyard asked people to spread the word about The Black Witch by sharing her review — a clarion call for YA Twitter, which regularly identifies and denounces books for being problematic (an all-purpose umbrella term for describing texts that engage improperly with race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other marginalizations).
J David Osborne, author and publisher of Broken River Books, wrote a great piece on the hullabaloo in the wake of the Vulture article. Osborne mentions Variety, but I think he means Vulture.
Lots of authors, according to that Variety article, say they “fear for their careers” if they say or write the wrong thing. I wish I could be more sympathetic, because I know that this is how some people feed, clothe, and shelter their children, but the eviler half of me finds it difficult to care that you writing about elves for money might be silenced by vicious rumors the popular kids in high school start circulating about you.
I am in agreement with Osborne here. I would add that if you write as a job, then it is up to you to be more aware of your surroundings. Osborne finishes up his post with, “Grow a spine, write what you feel, try not to hurt people’s feelings, apologize if you feel like it, and keep it moving. This is actually pretty simple.”
Out of the Gutter is running a special series for October, Gutteral Screams. It is quite simple it is “only looking to publish Halloween fare during the month. This doesn’t mean your story has to take place during Halloween. It means we want slashers, ghosts, monsters, ghouls, and goblins. Get weird. Get gritty. Go to town! Just make sure it’s a good story.” only looking to publish Halloween fare during the month. This doesn’t mean your story has to take place during Halloween. It means we want slashers, ghosts, monsters, ghouls, and goblins. Get weird. Get gritty. Go to town! Just make sure it’s a good story. ” Go to their site for more information.
Bizarro Pulp Press is open for submissions for the Summer/Fall 2018 publishing run. Their press release reads, “Bizarro Pulp Press is looking for literature that will push the boundaries of storytelling. We have read traditional narratives. It is time for something new. We want to be able to cry, to think, and to admire. We want to be frightened and we want to be in love. Nothing is taboo, so as long the content works within the framework of a piece of art.” And they recommend that you might want to look at some of the work they have already published. They don’t require you to do so, but you probably should. I mean seriously, if you aren’t reading a publisher then why the hell are you submitting there?
Midnight Ink releases the debut of Kellye Garrett’s Hollywood Homicide. BOLO Books called it “a fresh and fun novel.” Another review says “I laughed, buried my face in a pillow from embarrassment, walked away groaning—and still kept coming back.”
Beat to a Pulp continues its weirdness with the publication of Glenn Gray’s Transgemination. David Cranmer, publisher of Beat to a Pulp, wrote that Transgemination is “the kind of book still giving me chuckles on the third pass. Science fiction, horror, thrills, and lots of humor.” And not be be out done by such weirdness, Down & Out Books released Jack Getze’s The Black Kachina.
Back to crime fiction, Anthony Neil Smith’s Castle Danger is out now on Bastei Entertainment. It is described as “Nordic crime – American Style.” Polis Books released The Doll’s House by Louise Phillips. This book won the Irish Crime Fiction Book of the Year Award. Other new books include Pay The Penance, the third in Rob Ashman’s Mechanic Trilogy on Bloodhound Books, and H.G. McKinnis’ A Justified Bitch (Imbrifex Books). There were no new James Patterson Books this week, but I did miss this one from last week, The Dolls written with Kecia Bal.
There are many writers out there. For every writer that is new to me, there are perhaps hundreds and thousands of other great writers I know nothing about. A few weeks ago, I read my first Court Merrigan work and this week I have read my first work by Richard Godwin. Holy shit was it good. So take a moment, really about 20 minutes or so, and read Godwin’s Rothko’s Daughter at Pulp Metal Magazine. And now I have to scramble and add Godwin’s books to my TBR.
Over at Shotgun Honey, they have started a six-part serial by Brian Panovich called Fire on the Mountain. Part One was good and Part Two comes out on Thursday. Also on Shotgun Honey is Última Petición by Zach Stanfield, a nice little piece of flash fiction.
A new issue of Yellow Mama is out with works by j. brooke, Keven Z. Garvey, Gary Clifton, Kenneth James Crist, Cindy Rosmus, Michael S. Stewart, Calvin Demmer Doug Hawley, Liz McAdams, Paul Heatley, Andrew J. Hogan, Carolyn Smits, and Oliver Lodge. I’ll get to these next week.
Before we jump into the reviews there is an article over at SleuthSayers by Thomas Pluck about whether or not one should leave negative reviews, A Review Can Be a Plum, or It Can Be the Pits…. Years ago when I worked as an editorial assistant at The Boston Phoenix, an arts editor said to me that he believed there should never be a negative review as there is a writer that likes the work and why not publish the positive instead of the negative. Pluck doesn’t see the need for negative reviews, but his reasoning is that it will hurt the independent writer:
Personally I don’t see a need to let someone know if I disliked a book enough to leave less than a 3. I rarely leave a rant. If it’s a book that won’t be hurt by my review and I feel strongly about it, I’ll say why. But if it’s just another author trying to get by, I don’t see the need to fling my monkey excretions. I’m not a critic, and I don’t want to be one.
I try not to be overly negative in reviews of books I don’t like, because I’m sure that there are people out there who will like the book. Take my review of Steve Hamilton’s Exit Strategy, it was not my cup of tea, but at the same time I know many people love the superhero thriller, so I tried to accent the good parts of the book while not focusing on the negative
Nazis have been in the news over the last 72 hours. How would you like to read a crime novel that has a battle between Nazis and counter-protesters in the American South? Over at Do Some Damage, Marietta Miles reviews such a book: Angel Luis Cólon’s Blacky Jaguar and the Cool Clux Cult calling it “fast and riveting, paced perfectly for those who love a good crime story.”
Ben Lelievre gushes — I mean gushes — over Matthew Revert’s Human Trees (Broken River Books).
Human Trees is probably my favorite read of 2017, so far. It’s beautiful, smart, spiritual and, most important, it treats its readership like intelligent people. It never force feeds answers or any sort of moral alignment.
That makes the second book that Ben has added to my TBR this week. Earlier this week, Ben reviewed David Cullens’ Columbine, a factual recount of the the Columbine High School massacre. This book has always been on the periphery, but that has now changed.
Andrew Nette’s review of Grady Hendrix’ Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction is a wonderful read. Nette, who is releasing his own pop culture book in a few weeks, not only focuses on the actual horror fiction, but he also talks about the difficulty of mining pulp culture history. Nette’s book, out in September, is called Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 – 1980 which I look forward to reading. But back to Nette’s review, he liked the book a lot devouring it like a “starving giant killer crab”.
In a recent review on Black Guys Do Read, Richard Vialet brings up a valid point when reading uninspired crime fiction, “I’ve begun to find them terribly boring, mostly featuring a slightly flawed investigator running around asking the same questions for most of the book; it gets pretty tedious and repetitive after a while.” Preaching to the choir.
Now on to some good crime fiction. Michael Carlson says that Richard Lange’s The Smack “is an exercise in finely pitched writing, and the kind of noirish tale you relish even as you dread turning the page to get closer to its conclusion.” Christopher Novas at Pen Boys Reviews writes that Cody Goodfellow and J David Osborne’s The Snake Handler (Broken River Books) that is “great, pulpy adventure.” HCNewton (The Irresponsible Reader) writes that Jo Perry’s Dead is Good is more satisfying than the previous installments. MysteryPeople’s Molly Odintz reviews Leye Adenle’s Easy Motion Tourist calling it “superb international crime fiction.” I reviewed it last month and recommend highly as well.
Last week I reviewed two books from major publishers, so I’ll let you find them yourself. Yeah, I know, I have a few small press reviews in the pipeline.
In Do Some Damage, Scott Adleberg’s Shape of Life, Shape of Fiction looks at the story of Joyce McKinney who led a rather bizarre life that including the kidnapping and raping of a Mormon lover and, years later, the cloning of her favorite dog. These two incidents are recounted in Errol Morris’ documentary Tabloid. Alderberg writes about the age-old question, why can’t fiction be as strange as life is, that fiction cannot be as believable as true life is. Happily, Alderberg ends with this thought, “It’s something to strive for – a way to find a kind of plot that keeps a reader hooked yet has the preposterous, meandering freedom that real life provides.” I am in. I’m in agreement with this as some of the best books I have read over the past year are totally outlandish: Route 12 by Marietta Mikes, Motel Whore by Paul Heatley, Heathenish by Kelby Losack, and The Broken Country by Court Merrigan.
Laura Benedict has a good post about how to accept edits as a writer, but did I have a problem with this line, “They’re professionals who have a financial interest in seeing that the story appeals to a large number of readers.” I mean should we all write so that we can get an audience like James Patterson? Should Kelby Losack’s Heathenish be watered down so middle schools would make it required reading? Should Marietta Miles’ Route 12 not cover the horrors it does to reach more soccer moms? God, I think not. As I said, I have a big problem with that line. Stacy Robinson on SleuthSayers writes about editing the novella. As a fan of the novella, I was taken back by her line, “Does the story get told in its entirety or does it leave the reader unsatisfied and longing for more?” When I read a novel, I have almost an opposite response, “Could this book have had the fluff cut of out it to make it a quicker and more enjoyable read?” Also, the best books I read always, I mean always, have me wanting for more.
Wil Viharo interviews Eric Beetner over at Digital Media Ghost. There’s a lot in this interview, but here is my favorite line, “Small scale worries are what drives most of the real crimes and desperate acts in the world.” Viharo also has an interview with Gabino Iglesias who says that he is “working on two novels at once because sanity is overrated.” Dana King interviews Beau Johnson on the eve of the release of his debut book of short stories A Better Kind of Hate (Down & Out Books). Johnson talks about how his book got published, his writing process, and his influences which can be whittled down to one word, “King.”
Tony Knighton, author of the recently published Three Hours Past Midnight (Crime Wave Press) has a post about the development of his unnamed protagonist on Paul D. Brazill’s blog. I recently just finishing Knighton’s book and found it to be an amazing hard-boiled. And, yes, my review is forthcoming.
Kristi Belcamino writes about her conversion to a hybrid author, that is works released by a major publisher and her first self-published book, Blessed are the Peacemakers, that comes out on Tuesday. Jason Pinter, author of The Castle, wrote Six of the Best Political Thrillers at The Strand Magazine. There are the usual suspects, but one or two suprises.
David Cranmer, author and publisher of Beat to a Bulp, writes about his problems with the Longmire character on the TV show. Based on Cranmer’s experience as a former military policeman and special deputy US marshal, Cranmer brings up some valid points that take away from enjoyment of the show. I am in agreement that I want my cops to act like cops and not act like fictional rogue cops, leave that to Bruce Willis. Ben Lelievre reviews the TV adaption of American Gods and all I can say is that I am extremely happy I gave up after two episodes. I mean Neil Gaiman’s book is the fucking balls. Jedidiah Ayres has a great TV crime recap and he mentions one of my favorite crime shows Terriers.
A rather silly study comparing the number of curse words in novels of the 1950s to our century. Guess what? The numbers have fucking increased. Book Riot has a rather article that details a rather complicated set of steps on how to begin listening to audiobooks involving radio comedy shows, book dramatizations, and a few more steps. Or you could do it the way I just did and go on a rather long road trip by yourself. Why I Love J.K. Rowling (And Wish She’d Stop Writing Sequels) is unintentionally funny, seriously if you fell in love with Harry Potter books, you might just grow out of them when you have become an adult. Is this that hard to understand?
I haven’t had a chance to listen to this interview with Marlon James, author A Brief History of Seven Killings, maybe you will. Iain Ryan talks to ABC Radio about his wonderful crime novel, The Student.
If you need some ambient music for your writing, I’ve put together a 4-hour Spotify playlist that should work well. I’ve also played it while reading. Enjoy.