Small Press Crime Fiction Week in Review
Unlawful Acts’ Incident Report covers the world of small press crime fiction for the week of July 29th through August 4th with links to news, reviews, short fiction, podcasts, new books, and upcoming releases.
This past week I reviewed Chris Offutt’s “The Good Brother” and interviewed Angel Luis Colón, author of “Pull & Pray”. This week I have reviews of two books by Aaron Philip Clark, an interview with Clark, and an interview with Stephen Mack Jones, author of “August Snow” will be up on Do Some Damage this Thursday. I also have quite a few interviews ready to come out in the next week or two. Stay tuned.
The Strand Magazine interview with Sara Gran, author of the upcoming Claire Dewitt novel “The Infinite Blacktop”.
The world of the Claire DeWitt books is just a little to the left of reality—it’s not an alternate universe, but it’s slightly out of register with the mundane world. One facet of this world is that detectives are more prominent than they are in our real, more boring world, and people have a love/hate relationship with them. I think there’s a kernel of reality in that because many people have a love/hate relationship with the truth that detectives represent: we like it when it makes us look good; we like it less when it gets uncomfortable. So I think I would reverse your hypothesis: Claire is forced to detach from people because, as someone committed to the truth, she makes people deeply uncomfortable.
Will Viharo interviewed S.A. Cosby, author of the upcoming “My Darkest Prayer”.
Being an African-American who was born and raised in the South informs every aspect of my life, but especially my writing. Growing up I didn’t see a lot of authors black or white who were writing about my life experiences. Even great black authors like Chester Himes or Donald Goines, who were masters at weaving tales about the African-American identity, weren’t writing about the people I knew. Poor black people in the South who were doing whatever it took to create a life for themselves. So, I feel it’s my duty to speak to that section of our society while trying my best to write compelling stories that will bring people outside of that demographic into our world and see society through our eyes. But I’m a country boy so there are a lot of fast cars and moonshine in my stories as well. It always strikes me as odd when a conservative white southerner will cry about his heritage being attacked. You don’t own that heritage. People who look like me have a say in what that heritage is. Hopefully my writing is helping shape that conversation.
Dietrich Kalteis interviewed Charlie Demers, author of “Property Values”.
Absolutely. Elmore Leonard said that in his early years as a writer, he wanted to be Ernest Hemingway, until he realized that Hemingway had no sense of humour. Whether it’s G.K. Chesterton and Agatha Christie doing droll, metaliterary tricks in the Golden Age, or screen crime like The Sopranos or Justified or Pulp Fiction, the best stuff has humour in it, because that’s true to life. In real life, people are funny. Also, going back to the truism above, about humour and incongruity — crime is incongruous. It’s incongruous with the laws we set as a society; and the way that crime becomes a more or less formal part of everyday life is also incongruous with our idea of how society should work. So again, the ingredients are there.
Dorsett Book Detective interviewed Rachel Amphlett, author of “Gone to Ground”.
I’ll read every interview I can get my hands on with Peter James, Val McDermid, Peter Robinson, Ian Rankin, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Michael Connelly and Jeffery Deaver. That’s how I learned to understand how to write crime fiction – all their interviews are filled with great advice, and of course I love their books, too.
Howard David Ingham, author of “We Don’t Go Back: A Watcher’s Guide to Folk Horror”, on folk horror.
I’m the child of an occultist and a spiritualist medium. I wasn’t supposed to know about that really as a kid. But dad’s Forbidden Shelf was so temptingly high, and my climbing skills at that pre teen peak that we all have, and so I knew more about Soviet telepathy and rune magic and biothythms and Lemuria than, it is fair to say, most kids my age, even in the 80s, when people were at their most scared of it.
That fear of witchcraft and Satanism and magic didn’t come from nowhere. We had a good twenty years where the Age of Aquarius was in full swing, and that was all tied up with divisive politics, and austerity, and a sense that Britain at least was a tiny bit rubbish. That history was in fact unresolved, and had business with us still. And so we haunted ourselves, with everyday hauntings, hauntings close to home.
And that’s folk horror in a nutshell.
Attica Locke, author of “Bluebird, Bluebird”, and Esi Edugyan, author of “Washington Black”, sat down with Geeta Dayal of The Guardian. Here’s a tidbit form Locke.
I don’t think there’s any book I’ve written where I have not had moments of just weeping. I’m a black American, and there is so much of our existence that has not been heard or recorded throughout the course of history. Knowing that I have the power to write something down, that it got recorded, for somebody’s pain to get seen, is overwhelming to me.
And more news: Cockygate is over; the winner of the Sisters in Crime’s Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award for 2018 was Mia Manansala; over at Crimespree Magazine, Poisoned Pen Press was featured. Mike Barson interviewed Robert Rosenwald, president and founder, and Barbara Peters, editor-in-chief; Wendy Corsi Staub, author of “Little Girl Lost”, on our never-ending fascination with the Manson family; voting is now open for The Guardian’s “Not the Booker” longlist (last year Winnie M. Li’s “Dark Chapter” won this award); interview with Shari Randall, author of “Against the Claw”; Bigfoot erotica; sometimes the good guy wins; unsurprisingly, an editor of international fiction thinks Americans should read more translated works; someone complains that Flannery O’Connor is too dark, it’s as if “watching Wile E. Coyote and reading Flannery O’Connor are not very different”; Elaine Viets, author of The Dead End Job series and the Death Investigators Mystery series, stopped by BOLO Books for a Composite Sketch; and Steph Post, author of the upcoming “Miraculum”, interviewed Rob Hart, author of “Potter’s Field”.
There’s a new online magazine in town called Thriller. More short story links in the next edition of The Incident Report.
Don Lee, author of “Lonesome Lies Before Us”, on why writers keep on writing even when they don’t succeed in the business.
Being a midlist writer is the most tenuous position in publishing. Believe it or not, it’s not the first book that’s the most difficult to publish. When you’re trying to sell your first book, you have no track record, no sales figures. It’s all promise and hope. Down the road, after three, four, five books, everyone can see — via your downward sales and media trajectories — how short you’ve fallen of your promise, and it becomes harder and harder to get a publisher interested in your next project.
So the question arises: Why do I keep doing this to myself if it’s so painful, if there are so few rewards for doing it? Why does any midlist writer continue in this business? What’s the point?
Steph Post interviewed Sweta Srivastava Vikram, author of Louisiana Catch, about writing, her new book, and writer’s block.
I am grateful that I write in different genres, so I can always switch back and forth between poetry, fiction, and nonfiction to handle writer’s block. I also meditate and teach yoga. That’s been greatly helpful in embracing the highs and lows of a creative life—you show up to your words with dedication, just like you would show up to the yoga mat, and your words might surprise you. But commitment is key. Once you put aside your ego and expectations (just because you want to write doesn’t mean there will be a shower of words in that very moment), everything gets easier. Practice. Practice. Practice.
First Page Critique talked about how to handle foreign languages in fiction. I think you leave phrases alone when readers can discern what is meant. When you believe a reader won’t be able to figure out the meaning, I am particularly fond of the foreign phrase followed by the English phrase. The concern was that word count would go up, but I don’t see that as a concern. Don Winslow did this often enough in “The Power of the Dog”.
He lowers his mouth to Tío’s ear and whispers, “Vete al demonio, Tío.”
Go to hell, Uncle.
“I’ll meet you there,” Tío answers.
At Art Taylor’s First Two Pages, short story writer Eve Fisher wrote about “No Fences” from the November 2011 issue of “Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine”.
I am obsessive about beginnings. I write and rewrite the first few pages over and over and over again, primarily because short stories require you to get down to the story pretty damn quickly. And, at the same time, doing a little sleight of hand so that people don’t come out at the end of the story saying, “Well, I saw that from the beginning.” So I work and rework, trying to get it just right.
Other writing tips you could ignore or use: James M. Jackson, author of the Seamus McCree series, on his writing process; R.T. Lawons dissected his short story “Suspect Zero”; writing as the antidote to modern life; Sue Coletta on writing a press release; Scott Adlerberg on getting back his writing stamina; Nick Younker, author of “Don’t Bury Me”, on how to use Twitter to promote your book––the only thing he missed was promoting the work of others; Hank Phillippi Ryan on mastering point of view; Carrie Vaugh, author of “The Wild Dead”, on trusting the process; getting out of your comfort zone; Gabino Iglesias on how to write dialog with the last point the most important, “Read your stuff to yourself”; Angel Luis Colón, author of “Pull & Pray”, on doubt; and Linda Rodriguez on researching your novel.
Featured podcast this week is “Minorities in Publishing“. This week Jenn Baker interviewed Peter Gajdics (Inheritance of Shame) about the struggles to write his memoir on conversion therapy, the experience and outcomes of writing a trauma narrative, and the exploration of shame as well as reconciling with being able to heal after experiencing and writing about one’s own and others’ experiences.
Some other podcasts you may want to catch up on are Tommy Orange on the New Yorker Radio Hour; “7 Minutes With” hosted by Steve Weddle, two episodes of Angel Luis Colón’s “the bastard title” with Anjili Babbar and J. David Osborne; Osborne interviewed Jordan Harper on “The JDO Show”; and Eryk Pruitt stopped by to chat with Pam Stack about “The Long Dance” podcast and his new short story collection, “Townies”.
In the LA Review of Books, Adrian Van Young reviewed “A Necessary Evil” by Abir Mukherjee.
At its heart, the novel and its prequel, A Rising Man, take the buddy-cop formula and turn it on its head in endless rotations. The never-sentimental and always-evolving relationship between Captain Wyndham and Sergeant “Surrender-Not” Banerjee, “one of the finest new additions to his Majesty’s Imperial Police Force and the first Indian to post in the top three in the entrance examinations,” as his presence is tellingly over-explained by British toady Digby in A Rising Man, is what makes the books work as well as they do. Banerjee, “a thin, fine-featured little chap,” “earnest and full of nerves” with “slick, black hair parted neatly on one side and round, steel-framed spectacles [that] gave him a bookish air, more poet than policeman,” is the perfect foil to Wyndham’s hard-bitten, hard-drinking, and often over-confident man of action.
At Tough, Paul J. Garth reviewed Michael Pool’s “Texas Two-Step” (Down & Out Books).
It would be normal, I think, for someone to read the above description and imagine a novel in which the stakes are continually raised, in which characters are betrayed not just once, but several times throughout the course of the novel, but Texas Two-Step’s unique tune becomes apparent in the way it pulls these characters together then pulls them apart again, hinting at what is to come but consistently slowing things down once the inevitable appears just over the horizon.
Some other reviews worth your time: Lisa Ciarfella reviewed Paul D. Brazill’s “Small Time Crimes”; Dustin Lavelle’s collection of three novellas, “12 Guage” reviewed; “The Rules of Backyard Cricket” by Jock Serong reviewed; Emma Welton reviewed Michael J. Malone’s “Blood Tears”; Colman Keane reviewed Jane Harper’s “Force of Nature”; LJ Roberts reviewed “Three Shot Burst” by Phillip DePoy; “Her Name is Mercie” by Chris Roy reviewed; “Cockblock” by CV Hunt reviewed; Jon McGregor’s “The Reservoir Tapes” reviewed; Ben Lelievre reviewed John D. MacDonald’s “A Deadly Shade of Gold”; and “Overkill” by Vanda Symon reviewed.
Pull & Pray
by Angel Luis Colón
(Down & Out Books)
Five years after surviving the most harrowing heist of her life, Fantine Park is lured back to the United States by her aunt. The bait: a lead on the identity of her mother’s killer and a score known as the ‘pension plan’, a piece of software that can literally pay out in perpetuity if they can get their hands on it in time
Working with a team of actual professionals with their own motivations; Fan’s loyalties and beliefs will be tested as nothing is as it seems; especially when one of the members of this crew may have been the last person to see her mother alive.
It’s going to be lies, murder, and gas station hot dogs all the way down as Fan races to get the answers about the day her mother died and maybe, just maybe, the kind of cash that will pull her away from a continued life of crime. (Buy)
Small Time Crimes
by Paul D. Brazill
(Near to the Knuckle)
Hit-men, con men, jewel thieves, career criminals, killers, crooks and cannibals. They all congregate between the pages of Paul D. Brazill’s Small Time Crimes – a brutal and blackly comic collection of short stories and flash fiction that views the world at its most askew. (Buy)
Murder on the Marshes
by Clare Chase
Do you love twisty murder mysteries? Meet Tara Thorpe – the clue to a puzzling local murder has landed right on her doorstep. Perfect for fans of Faith Martin, LJ Ross and Joy Ellis.
As the sun rises, a wealthy young woman – Samantha Seabrook – is found drowned in the ornamental fountain of a deserted Cambridge courtyard, the only clue – an antique silver chain wound tightly around her throat.
It’s Tara Thorpe’s job to discover what happened to Miss Seabrook – but the case becomes personal when she learns that Samantha had been receiving death threats… rather like the one that landed on Tara’s doorstep the night the woman died.
Together with Detective Inspector Garstin Blake, Tara tracks the killer to the dank and dangerous fens on the outskirts of the city. But there’s something Tara can’t quite admit to Blake about her past – and it could make all the difference to whether they live… or die.
An absolutely gripping page-turner that will keep you hooked until the very last page. The first in a series of unputdownable Cambridge mysteries featuring Thorpe and Blake. (Buy)
by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
and Anna Waterhouse
Fresh out of Cambridge University, the young Mycroft Holmes is already making a name for himself in government, working for the Secretary of State for War. Yet this most British of civil servants has strong ties to the faraway island of Trinidad, the birthplace of his best friend, Cyrus Douglas, a man of African descent, and where his fiancée Georgiana Sutton was raised.
Mycroft’s comfortable existence is overturned when Douglas receives troubling reports from home. There are rumors of mysterious disappearances, strange footprints in the sand, and spirits enticing children to their deaths, their bodies found drained of blood. Upon hearing the news, Georgiana abruptly departs for Trinidad. Near panic, Mycroft convinces Douglas that they should follow her, drawing the two men into a web of dark secrets that grows more treacherous with each step they take…
Written by NBA superstar Kareem Abdul- Jabbar and screenwriter Anna Waterhouse, Mycroft Holmes reveals the untold story of Sherlock’s older brother. This harrowing adventure changed his life, and set the stage for the man Mycroft would become: founder of the famous Diogenes Club and the hidden power behind the British government. (Buy)
Murder in the Lincoln White House
by C.M. Gleason
March 4, 1861: On the day of Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration, the last thing anyone wants is any sort of hitch in the proceedings—let alone murder! Fortunately the president has young Adam Quinn by his side . . .
Lincoln’s trusted entourage is on their guard. Allan Pinkerton, head of the president’s security team, is wary of potential assassins. And Lincoln’s oldest friend, Joshua Speed, is by his side, along with Speed’s nephew, Adam Quinn—called back from the Kansas frontier to serve as the president’s assistant and jack-of-all-trades.
Despite the tight security, trouble comes nonetheless. A man is found stabbed to death in a nearby room, only yards from the president. Not wishing to cause alarm, Lincoln dispatches young Quinn to discreetly investigate. Though he is new to Washington, DC, he must navigate through high society, political personages, and a city preparing for war in order to solve the crime. He finds unexpected allies in a determined female journalist named Sophie Gates, and Dr. Hilton, a free man of color. Together they must make haste to apprehend a killer. Nothing less than the fate of the nation is at stake . . . (Buy)
A Tale of Two Murders
by Heather Redmond
On the eve of the Victorian era, London has a new sleuth . . .
In the winter of 1835, young Charles Dickens is a journalist on the rise at the Evening Chronicle. Invited to dinner at the estate of the newspaper’s co-editor, Charles is smitten with his boss’s daughter, vivacious nineteen-year-old Kate Hogarth. They are having the best of times when a scream shatters the pleasant evening. Charles, Kate, and her father rush to the neighbors’ home, where Miss Christiana Lugoson lies unconscious on the floor. By morning, the poor young woman will be dead.
When Charles hears from a colleague of a very similar mysterious death a year ago to the date, also a young woman, he begins to suspect poisoning and feels compelled to investigate. The lovely Kate offers to help—using her social position to gain access to the members of the upper crust, now suspects in a murder. If Charles can find justice for the victims, it will be a far, far better thing than he has ever done. But with a twist or two in this most peculiar case, he and Kate may be in for the worst of times . . . (Buy)
edited by Max Booth III and Lori Michelle
(Perpetual Motion Machine)
From the editors of Lost Signals comes the new volume in technological horror. Nineteen authors, both respected and new to the genre, team up to deliver a collection of terrifying, eclectic stories guaranteed to unsettle its readers. In Lost Films, a deranged group of lunatics hold an annual film festival, the lost series finale of The Simpsons corrupts a young boy’s sanity, and a VCR threatens to destroy reality. All of that and much more, with fiction from Brian Evenson, Gemma Files, Kelby Losack, Bob Pastorella, Brian Asman, Leigh Harlen, Dustin Katz, Andrew Novak, Betty Rocksteady, John C. Foster, Ashlee Scheuerman, Eugenia M. Triantafyllou, Kev Harrison, Thomas Joyce, Jessica McHugh, Kristi DeMeester, Izzy Lee, Chad Stroup, and David James Keaton. (Buy)
glass slipper dreams, shattered
by doungjai gam
from glass slipper dreams, shattered: Like a stupid girl with glass slipper dreams, I did everything you wanted with the hopes that one day, you would love me back.
glass slipper dreams, shattered the debut collection from doungai gam is filled with loss, sorrow, revenge and remorse.
gam delivers devastating punches in this collection of short-shorts, taking our breath away with a turn of a phrase, a dark play on words; every syllable paints unexpected shadows in our imagination.
—Linda D. Addison, award-winning author of How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend and HWA Lifetime Achievement Award winner
Reminiscent of Mercedes Yardley’s work, Doungai Gam’s stories and prose poems are small gems filled with heartbreak, sorrow, and longing, but they also hold light in the darkness and hope in the despair. Lovely!
—Damien Angelica Walters, author of Cry Your Way Home
Tales brimming with fear, dread and horror—a strong, unique new voice!
—Thomas Tessier, author of Phantom (Buy) 1 August
God’s Mean Older Brother
by G. Arthur Brown
It’s The Hangover meets The Book of Revelation in one of the funniest bizarro fiction novels of the year.
God, a single father, is forced to move back home with his parents. He really just wants to focus on writing his indie rock zine and escape the responsibility of being the Supreme Being, which can be a real drag. He’s also got a mean older brother who never left home and never stopped tormenting God or humanity by interfering in events throughout history. Now, God finds out the bastard’s built himself a time machine. As visions of an apocalyptic future come to God’s attention, he devises a foolproof plan to stop his mean older brother from destroying the world… then gets so drunk he forgets what the plan is.
“Whether he’s scribbling on napkins, writing online, or penning fiction, G. Arthur Brown is interested in taking the world we think we know, cracking it open, slathering it with weirdness, and twisting it into odd shapes–which, surprisingly, resemble the world more accurately than the world we wish we had. Brown’s a prime example of how the weird and the bizarre can provide an active and irreverent critique of the real. This is fiction that’s fun to read and yet deeply resonant.” – Brian Evenson, author of A Collapse of Horses (Buy)
by Jimmy Sangster
The Stewardess with a License to Kill is Back! Katy Touchfeather is a fun-loving, British spy with a cheeky attitude and lethal skills who travels the world as a stewardess. Her latest assignment is to bring down what appears to be a gold smuggling operation…but is something far worse. It’s a globetrotting, espionage adventure that takes her from London to a lavish yacht on the high-seas, from the jungles of Africa to the beaches of the Bahamas, and that pits her against one of richest men on earth and a deadly torturess who loves to extract information in agonizingly creative ways…and can’t wait to try them all on Katy. Praise for the Touchfeather Thrillers “Bubbly, irrepressible… drawn by her breezy, chatty first-person narrative, readers will cheer Katy on as she skates around with flamboyant grace.” Publishers Weekly “Freshness and humor are rare qualities in a thriller nowadays. They’re here in plenty. Exhilarating verve and expertise. It’s a winner!” Irish Times “A clever, high-spirited story that ends with murder of exceptional ingenuity and panache.” Times Literary Supplement (London) “Nancy Drew superhormone-genized.” Kirkus Reviews (Buy)
by Max Allan Collins
Legendary lawman Wyatt Earp straps on his six-shooter to battle a new breed of bad man in a new land — rising gangster Al Capone and his machine-gun toting killers on the streets of New York City.
It’s the 1920s, the glittering jazz age, and the beginning of the blood-soaked prohibition-era. The wild west and the gunfight at the OK Corral are fading memories, even for aging lawman Wyatt Earp, who is toiling in Los Angeles as a private eye and a technical consultant on cowboy movies. When Doc Holliday’s son, who is running a glitzy nightclub in Manhattan, is targeted by the mob, Wyatt gladly leaves the tamed west for the wild east to defend him, pitting himself against a brutal, young gangster named Al Capone…
“Wyatt Earp versus Al Capone – a wild, exciting ride.” David Morrell, author of FIRST BLOOD
“Highly entertaining….Collins has outdone himself in this tale of bad guys, bullets, and booze set at the start of the Prohibition era.” Library Journal
“Wyatt Earp vs. Al Capone – it might seem an improbable situation, but it could have happened, and Collins makes it work in this wild blend of classic Western and gangster characters, all set in Prohibition-era New York City” Philadelphia Inquirer
This book was previously published under Max’s pseudonym “Patrick Culhane.” (Buy)
by Marcelle Perks
Heavily pregnant Frannie is facing a crisis. An English woman living in Germany, her marriage is failing, her language skills are hopeless, and she feels like a fish out of water in a foreign country.
In a positive effort to tackle her problems she learns to drive so she can cope when her baby is born and build a sense of independence. After passing her driving test she drives in the early hours of the morning to gain experience on the eerily empty streets.
But when she encounters a Polish motorcyclist looking for his missing sister, she becomes sucked into a terrifying world of shady nightclubs, autobahn prostitutes and organ trafficking. And when she crosses serial-killing truck driver Stigelegger, there’s no turning back.
A most unlikely heroine, this nervous Night Driver must stay one step ahead of her pursuer on the darkest of roads in order to survive. (Buy)
No Place Like Home
by Rebecca Muddiman
What would you do if you came home to find someone in your house?
This is the predicament Polly Cooke faces when she returns to her new home. The first weeks in the house had been idyllic, but soon Jacob, a local man, is watching her.
What does he want and why is he so obsessed with Polly?
In a situation where nothing is what it seems, you might end up regretting letting some people in.
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