Incident Report No. 61

The Incident Report covers the world of small press crime fiction for the weeks of September 23rd through September 29th with links to news, reviews, and new releases.

This past week at Unlawful Acts, Jim Thomsen gave us a new edition of Shoulder Wounds. Thomsen reviews Scott Von Doviak’s “Charlesgate Confidential”, Amy Stewart’s “Girl Waits with Gun”, and Robert Crais’s “The Monkey’s Raincoat”. Hint: Thomsen loved both “Charlesgate Confidential” and “Girls Waits with Gun”. 

I reviewed two books this past week–yeah, Thomsen puts me to shame with all the books he reads. If you like police procedurals than Sandra Ruttan’s “The Spying Moon” (review) may be something you dig. 

If you taste runs to the dark side of crime fiction, let me whole-heartily recommend Kelby Losack’s “The Way We Came In” (review). Coming in at only 15,000 words, Losack’s novella is fantastic and should not be missed.


Over at The Rap Sheet, J. Kingston Pierce listed some of crime fiction blogs that are his favorites. I am pleased that Unlawful Acts is included as well as many other blogs I enjoy. The best part is that there are blogs I’ve never heard of until Pierce’s post. I’ve got some more reading to do.

My judgment in this matter is obviously biased. I’ve been writing The Rap Sheet now for more than a dozen years, and I know what I like and don’t like in this arena. I also understand how difficult it is to develop and maintain an active, thoughtful crime-fiction blog, so I look at other such projects through the lens of someone with high expectations as well as a hard-earned knowledge of what can be accomplished when blogging is an unpaid sideline, rather than a full-time occupation.

That’s a wonderful reminder that crime fiction blogs are researched and written during the time that bloggers steal from other areas of their lives.


News

Interview with Hector Duarte, Jr. (Dirty Books)

Q: How have your editorial duties at the Flash Fiction Offensive impacted on – or even influenced – your own short fiction?

A: I am forever grateful to Joe Clifford and Tom Pitts for trusting me enough to pass the FFO editing over to me, which helps me understand the importance of every single sentence, word, and letter. It’s taught me the importance of writing something that does not drag or waste the reader’s time. Get to the point and just raise the stakes from there.


“My Literary Heroes are Rap Artists” by Kelby Losack (Do Some Damage)

I can’t honestly name an influential crime author off the top of my head. Not to throw shade, but when I’m trying to summon the muses, I’ll click over to Sound Cloud before I crack open a noir. Maybe it’s because familiarity breeds contempt, like, I’m too much inside of the literary world to see the magic all the time. I’m seeing all the gears inside instead of being wowed by the magic or something, I don’t know. What I do know is this: the crafting of my prose, my voice – these are things I’ve tweaked and evolved primarily under the influence of indie rap.


“My Publishing Life with Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books)” (Off-the-Shelf Books)

Q: Which books have you worked on recently/are you working on?
A: We are always working on a number of books at different stages. I just did a final read of Susi Holliday’s utterly brilliant psychological thriller cum ghost story, The Lingering, before we go to press and I’m about to do the same to Will Carver’s dark, sexy, tense Good Samaritans. I’m doing final edits on West Camel’s beautiful, charming debut Attend, which is a bit Armistead Maupin … all character and lyrical writing. I’m also preparing Steph Broadribb’s Deep Dirty Truth, next in the fabulous single-mother, bounty-hunter Lori Anderson series, and Matt Wesolowski’s creepy Changeling, next in the Six Stories series, for bound proofs. I’m structurally editing books that we are publishing well into next year, like Doug Johnstone’s FABULOUS Breakers. It’s gloriously non-stop and never boring!


Interview with Sarah Ruttan, author of “The Spying Moon” (Dirty Books)

For me, the worlds that opened up to me through books were my escape. I was a very serious kid. I’ve never fit in. There’s a whole popularity/hierarchy thing in the publishing world, too. I don’t belong in that. I talk about books I’ve read and promote what I love and say what I think, even if it’s unpopular. That’s what I’ve been doing online since 2005. Sometimes, for a brief second, you can put someone on a reader’s radar or make a difference to a writer who’s struggling and needs some encouragement, and that’s nice, but I’m nobody in the book business. I’m just in my own corner doing my own thing. I don’t go to conventions or readings or anything so I don’t hang out with anyone. My husband should do that. He’s likeable. There are a few people I’d like to see again before I die, but at least one of them seems to have quit writing…


“Functional Cities, Body Modification, and Crime Aesthetics: An Interview With J. David Osborne” by Tobias Carroll (Vol. 1 Brooklyn)

It was hard to figure out how to do a sequel to Black Gum. There’s some cool shit that happens in part 1, and it is kind of open-ended, but where do you go when it’s a novella about a “lost young man”? At first I thought maybe I’d try to show the narrator attempting to restart his relationship with his wife, but I was over that whole thing. My personal life has moved on from that, and to be totally honest when The Sarah Book came out I thought “Scott pretty much put this genre to bed.” I wanted to keep it going though, just because I liked the characters so much, and I found a new in. I read Barry Gifford’s Sailor and Lula series and realized that I could do whatever I wanted. Those are the best books, the kinds that show you there are no real rules to this thing. So I settled on trying to make the series as funny as possible. The reflective stuff still pokes its head up every once in a while, but I re-conceived of the series as an open-ended sequence of adventures these characters could go on. I have no idea where it’s going. I’m going to approach each book fresh. Maybe in book four everyone chills out and I’ll be done. Maybe not! When I shifted it from being a clear arc to an open-ended creative space, I started to crank this shit out. It’s been fun.


Interview with Louise Beech, author of “The Lion Tamer Who Lost” (The Beardy Book Blogger)

Q: What was your inspiration to write Lion Tamer? It started out as an age-gap love story between a man and a woman, no?


A: Yes. It was originally young Ben and forty-five-year-old Amy. An early reader asked if I was aware that Ben was gay. I think on a subconscious level I had been aware and was perhaps afraid to write that story, as I was just starting out and didn’t know if I could do it justice.


“Why Alcoholism and Crime Fiction are Still Entwined” by Reed Farrel Coleman (CrimeReads)

For me, the more interesting aspect of this has less to do with the protagonists and more to do with the romantic notion of the drunken author. Frankly, I get asked more frequently about drunks writing books than drunk characters in books. I have known an alcoholic author or two, but it’s not a prevalent condition as far as I can tell and I’m not sure their drinking is actually connected to the work. In the past, however, I suspect that drinking was more closely associated with the writing process and that it was inevitable for alcohol to leak out of the writers’ lives and into the lives of their characters.


Interview with David Joy, author of “The Line That Held Us”, by Gabino Iglesia (Los Angeles Review of Books)

As simple as it sounds, I just don’t know anything else. I’ve been in North Carolina all my life. I’ve been in the mountains for most of it. I write very specifically about the county where I live. That’s just how the story comes. When I see an image, I tend to know where the characters are, sometimes down to the tree they’re standing under. The places I write about exist. You can go there. The graveyards, the restaurants, all of it. In the same way, when I hear a character’s voice, there’s an accent. They phrase things a particular way. It’s because those are the voices I’m surrounded by. I can’t think in any other terms.


Interview with Sara Gran, author of “The Infinite Blacktop” (MysteryPeople)

 I think the idea of the mystery that needs to be solved is a very central metaphor for our time. You’ll notice that when storytellers — writers, newscasters, politicians, doctors — want to interest their audience in something, they will often frame it as a whodunit. I also think the linguistic and historic link between mystic and mystery is not to be underestimated.


  • Interview with Chris Rhatigan, publisher of All Due Respect (Dirty Books Blog)
  • Interview with L.A. Chandlar, author of the Art Deco Mystery Series (Elena Hartwell)
  • “Bullet Points: Random Discoveries Edition” by J. Kingston Pierce (The Rap Sheet)
  • Interview with Lisa Brackman, author of “Black Swan Rising”, by Will Viharo (Digital Media Ghost)
  • “A Mystery Miscellanea” by J. Kingston Pierce (The Rap Sheet)
  • Interview with George Pelecanos (MysteryPeople
  • “Jeffrey Marks – A BOLO Books Composite Sketch” (BOLO Books)
  • “21 Best Books on Prisons, Incarceration, and the Justice System” by Lorraine Berry (Signature)
  • “Raised in South Central, Joe Ide Expands the Territory of L.A. Noir” by Gal Beckerman (New York Times)
  • Interview with Chris Ingram (Story and Grit)
  • Interview with Tom Leins (Close to the Bone)

Adrian McKinty gives us five reasons to read Nicholson Baker’s “The Mezzanine”.


Fragments of Noir brings us Big Lonely City #18. Here is a photograph by Jean Claude Gautrand that was included in the list.


On Writing

One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.

– Lawrence Block


“3 Principles on Finding Time To Write” by Jane Friedman (Jane Friedman)

Unless you’re a trained Zen monk, or you experience perfect days, harnessing your energy consistently and productively takes years of trial and error—of learning how to establish and improve habits that support your creative goals. And that requires some modicum of self-awareness.


“How Beautiful Should Your Sentences Be” by James Scott Bell (Kill Zone)

When I write a sentence I don’t want it to pull the reader out of the story by being either a) clunky; or b) purple. If there’s to be some “poetry” in the prose, I want it to be, as John D. MacDonald put it, “unobtrusive.”


“Are Super Men Bad for Your Health?” by Janice Law (SleuthSayers)

Putting ancient history, modern opinion and Oscar Wilde together, I began wondering if it was true not only that “you are what you eat” as the hippies liked to say, but that “you are what you consume of all sorts of media.” For, while over the last 50 or so years, a smaller and smaller portion of the population has actually had to handle military weapons for real, the society has become more and more militarized and more and more fond of military gear, clothing and armaments.

Does this represent a realistic response to threats? Or is this in part the result of that popular fantasy, the super smart, super technically astute super guy who saves whatever needs saving, including the world. Or perhaps of the equally ubiquitous fantasies of current military thrillers, complete with all the latest death-dealing tech?


“Nate’s Big List of Free Courses for Authors” by Nate Hoffelder (The Digital Reader)

For example, I taught myself how to make blog graphics one brutal, error-filled, frustrating step at a time because I didn’t know there was a free course that could have saved me a lot of time and effort.

In the interest of saving you from repeating my mistakes, I have pulled together a list of courses that authors and other creatives can take for free. I actually came across a few of these courses earlier this week and found them so useful that I wanted to share my good fortune.

All of the courses listed here are free, and I will continue to add courses over time. If you want to recommend a course for inclusion please fill out the form at the end of this post. (This goes double if it’s your course; one other reason for this post is that I wanted to give experts who teach these courses a reason to reach out to me.)



Short Stories

Some short fiction to read.


Book Reviews

“The Menace of the Years” by Frank Zafiro (Down & Out Books) (Kevin’s Corner)

Reminiscent of the “Old Hill Street Blues” television series, these books, as well as the numerous short story collections, showcase the job and the lives of all those involved. The author has a decade of experience as a police officer and uses that knowledge to illustrate the issues that police officers face on daily basis. Though the book is set in 1999, the same issues of budgetary problems, racism, and the appropriate use of force, among others, are just as relevant to the world of today.


“Trap” by Lilja Sigurdardóttir (Orenda Books) (Random Things Through My Letter Box)

Trap is a complex story, told so very well. There’s some really dark, dry humour in there along with the realities of modern-day drugs smuggling and financial corruption. This author writes with great authenticity, keeping her readers gripped and engaged throughout the whole breathless journey.

With a tension that increases as the pages are turned and characters who are incredibly well created, realistic and at time, downright horrific, Trap is a brilliant follow up to the wonderful Snare. I was totally consumed by the plot, bewitched by the stylish prose and once more am left longing for the next installment.


“White Heat” by Paul D. Marks (Down & Out Books) (Col’s Criminal Library)

I really liked this one; the depiction of a historic event in American history which I can recall happening at the time, albeit from afar; the race issue – with a presentation of attitudes and viewpoints and the reasoning presented for people harbouring polar opposite opinions with blanket mistrust and alienation, but Marks also offers a modicum of hope with actions where black and white look out for each other and work together.


“The Lingering” by SJI Holliday (Orenda Books) (Crime By The Book)

In THE LINGERING, S.J.I. Holliday has written a gripping and genuinely unique suspense novel with significant cross-genre appeal. Readers of Gothic suspense will love Rosalind House, the story’s richly-drawn central location; fans of supernatural thrillers will find plenty of chills in the ghost story Holliday weaves; those who love domestic thrillers will sink their teeth into the disturbing secrets kept between protagonists Jack and Ali. THE LINGERING is, in many ways, a tricky book to label—but the label isn’t important when the story is this fun to devour. Pick THE LINGERING up to add some genuine chills to your winter reading list.


“The Way We Came In” by Kelby Losack (Broken River Books) (Grim Reader Reviews)

When I was reading this, I felt as if The Way We Came In was like a literary version of the classic gangsta movie Menace II Society or something along those lines. This is high-quality fiction, folks. Losack writes with a clinical, sharp prose style and the story has a raw feel to it. Whilst only a short tale there is heavy emotional reader involvement with the small cast. The writing suggests Losack knows what he is talking about too and I feel it’s important for a writer telling this sort of story to convince. Kelby does so here in spades. The Way We Came In is very conversational in the way it’s written and it works really, really well, almost as if you’re privy to a series of deeply personal thoughts and exchanges between two people.


“Ghost: My Thirty Years as an FBI Undercover Agent” by Michael McGowan & Ralph Pezzullo (St. Martin’s) (Criminal Element)

Ghost is a fast-reading memoir featuring a largely no-nonsense cop who has an interesting tale to tell and some scores to settle along the way. The author, for all his tough-guy growling, is good company for just over 300 pages. That it’s a familiar story in its outlines doesn’t make it any less entertaining; you’ll get enough inside-cop and inside-crook stuff to feed your true-crime jones and then some.


New Releases

Some other blogs that list some new releases are:









Thanks for stopping by and reading the Incident Report at Unlawful Acts.

Incident Report No. 61

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