The Incident Report covers the world of small press crime fiction for the week of October 14th through October 20th with links to news, reviews, and new releases.
Please note that this is the penultimate Incident Report until December as I’ll be taking time to participate in NaNoWriMo. I’ll still be writing book reviews, conducting interviews and writing for Do Some Damage.
This past week I reviewed Matt Phillips’s “Know Me From Smoke” and Andrew Field’s “Without Rules”. I recommend “Know Me From Smoke”. I also interviewed Eryk Pruitt about short stories on the eve of the release of his collection, “Townies and Other Stories of Southern Mischief”. I also highly recommend Pruitt’s “Townies”.
Another thing I wrote is “One Sad Farewell and One WTF” over at Do Some Damage. The post covers the sad news that Midnight Ink will be shuttering its doors kind of which is really an article in itself. I also wrote about the insane tweet by Caffeine Nights–this got the most notice. Hell, it even got me blocked by Caffeine Nights on Twitter.
Some other blogs have chimed in as well. Over at the Beardy Book Blogger, he writes, “With one tweet they completely disregarded and insulted every book blogger there is . . . ” Go there and read “Bloggers Bash…ing. It’s been a funny old week.” And over at The Tattooed Book Geek, a rather long piece called “Sharing the Love: Book Blogger Appreciation”. They write, “The attack wasn’t personal against any singular blogger and it was instead, a general assumption/attack against all bloggers.”
End preaching mode. On to the news.
It looks like Noircon 2018 is back on, sort-of. More details as I get them.
“Sara Gran’s Infinite Mysteries” by Lisa Levy (CrimeReads)
Sara Gran’s books are mysteries about mysteries. They insist that we won’t or can’t see what’s right in front of us; they take the ideas of clues and cases and turn them into existential dilemmas. They are more like philosophy than crime fiction, though it is through crime—or more precisely, through mysteries—that Gran’s characters, especially her detective, Claire DeWitt, grapple with truths about life and our rightful place in the world. When DeWitt takes a case she’s not merely making a promise to solve a mystery. She’s jumping into an unknown world where the stuff of that mystery lives and trying to find her way back to familiar territory.
Matt Coleman, author of “Graffiti Creek”, has a great piece on diversity and the future of the crime genre called “Straight White Males and Mid-Range Jumpers”. (BookRiot)
I am, by no means suggesting there is no place in genre fiction for a straight white male. I am simply presenting the following case: the best writers of genre fiction are women writers, writers of color, and writers from the LGBTQ community. Disagree? Come see how wrong you are…
Will Viharo interviews J. David Osborne, author of “A Minor Storm” and publisher of Broken River Books.
I described it as “weird crime” but I’m not sure that works anymore. I like the films of David Lynch and other weirdo stuff. I prefer books that work as pulp entertainment, but have a rebellious streak in them. Iglesias, for example, writes his books in a mixture of Spanish and English. Cody Goodfellow wrote a crime novel about a dude that can turn into a shark. That kind of thing.
Over the years I’ve figured out that if I want to have a life and write my own books, I’d have to ease off the gas with Broken River. I have authors that I like working with, so they have (almost) free reign to write whatever. I’ll work on the book with them and release them. But it has shrunk in scope. I’m no longer looking for new authors, just building the ones that I like.
“Being Real In Crime Fiction” By J.J. Hensley (Editing by Elizabeth)
Being authentic in fiction has certain advantages. When readers pick up a novel, they are willing to dive into an unfamiliar world and they appreciate certain insights. If a reader is willing to make the commitment of time and energy necessary to immerse herself into 300-400 pages of uncertainty, then hopefully the author has put forth significant effort on the frontend. Gaining credibility with readers might be another advantage. It’s important to me that readers trust I won’t take them too far astray in how I depict certain processes and actions.
“The Interrogation Room – An Interview with Math Bird” by Tom Leins (Dirty Books)
There’s certainly a rich tradition of Welsh fiction and short stories, which crime and some noir are a part of. I researched Welsh crime fiction quite extensively for my PhD, as it was the main part of my thesis. So, I could reel off a host of great writers who are worth exploring for so many reasons. But I won’t, mainly because I’d hate to leave anyone out. But what I would say in relation to mapping new territory is that most Welsh fiction be it crime or literary tends be set in the south, Cardiff (the Welsh Capital), or the north West. And northeast Wales as the eminent scholar and biographer M. Wynn Thomas once wrote remains ‘an unexplored territory and has yet to find a place in the popular imagination.’ That’s still kind of rings true today, although it’s not entirely an undiscovered country. So, in my own way, I’m trying to remedy that. Hoping that my fiction can play a small part in pushing northeast Wales a tiny step further into the popular imagination, using a genre I love.
Sandra Seamans’s blog “My Little Corner” celebrates its tenth anniversary. If you are a writer this is the blog you need to be reading!
Mostly everyone has seen these wonderful Noir Princesses by freelance illustrator Ástor Alexander. But did you know these prints are for sale as well? Take a look at Alexander’s søciety6 store. You can see more of Alexander’s work at Bēhance, Deviant Art, and Tumblr.
- Interview with Ally Rose, author of “The River Runs Red” (Books, Life and Everything)
- “Let’s Make This Quick” by J. Kingston Pierce (The Rap Sheet)
- “Erin Alford – A BOLO Books Composite Sketch” (BOLO Books)
- Interview with Joe Clifford (Steph Post)
Adrian McKinty: 5 reasons to read…Philip K Dick
Big Lonely City #21 (Fragments of Noir)
Photograph by Dorothea Lange.
“How to Mess Up Your Lead Character’s Ordinary Day” by James Scott Bell (Kill Zone)
On the first page (preferably in the first paragraph or even first line) of a novel, I want to see a disturbance to a character’s ordinary world. It can be subtle, like a midnight knock on the door (The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve). Or extreme, like a ticking bomb (Final Seconds by John Lutz and David August).
What I don’t want is “Happy People in Happy Land” (HPHL). I’ve seen a few of these openings in my time, mainly in domestic settings. The happy family getting ready for the day, etc. The author thinks: If I show these really nice people being really nice, the reader will care about them when the trouble starts.
But we don’t. We start to care about characters when trouble—or the hint of it—comes along, which is why, whenever I sign a copy of “Conflict & Suspense“, I always write, Make trouble!
“Words Are Radical! (or, How to Cherish Language)” by K.M. Weiland (Helping Writers Become Authors)
This is the value of language. Indeed, we might even say language is a value system. By its very nature, it assigns value to all the pieces of our life, and by extension to life itself.
All humans interact with language on some level or another. But as writers, no one is more intimately responsible for cherishing, protecting, and propagating language than we are.
“Writing Tips: Learn to Love Outlining by Finding Your Unique Planning Style” by Megan Barnhard (The Creative Penn)
Outlining is a very personal process. That’s why it’s vital to find your own strategy for doing it.
Something that honors your creativity rather than squelching it. A process that helps you through writer’s block while also leaving you free to change your mind or give yourself over to the magic of your muse.
“From Self-Publishing to Getting Picked Up By the Big Five, Part 1: Lessons Learned” by S.L. Huang (The Thrill Begins)
I’m that rare bird in publishing. I was self-publishing a series that then got picked up by an agent and a Big Five publisher. Zero Sum Game, my first novel, is now getting a big release by Tor Books with shiny new edits, a hardcover run, and a wild publicity gauntlet!
“The Craft of Crime Fiction: Pacing” by Jennifer Hillier (The Thrill Begins)
Pacing will make or break your thriller. And I honestly think it’s the hardest thing to teach because before you can get really good at it, you pretty much have to be good at everything else. Great pacing means no fluffy descriptions, no useless dialogue, no meandering sub-plots, no extraneous details, no proselytizing, no “this book took a long time to get going.”
- “The Obstacle Ahead is a Mirror” by Michael Bracken (SleuthSayers)
- “The Psychology of Writing” by Kathleen Delaney (Buried Under Books)
- “The First Two Pages: BAR NONE by Cathi Stoler” (Art Taylor, Writer)
- “Befriending My Harshest Critics” by Edwin Hill (Career Authors)
After a month’s hiatus, Flash Fiction Offensive returns with “Mr. Sandman” by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri. There are also new issues of Flash Bang Mysteries, Trigger Warning Short Fiction with Pictures, and Yellow Mama.
“When Trouble Sleeps” by Leye Adenle (Cassava Republic Press) (Crime Fiction Lover)
However, one of the delights of the book is the way in which the author conveys the speech patterns of the people of Lagos while making it easy for a Western reader to understand the dialogue.
This is an entertaining read and a great insight into what makes Lagos such a throbbing, exciting but also dangerous city to live in.
“Townies and Other Stories of Southern Mischief” by Eryk Pruitt (Polis Books) (Crimespree Magazine)
The characters in all of Pruitt’s short stories are regular, every day people just trying to make their way through the world. There is no pretense to any of Pruitt’s characters. One woman takes a job in an East Texas bar in an attempt escape her past but finds herself running for her life. Another woman just wants to delete the sex video her ex-boyfriend posted online and then things don’t go as planned.
Eryk Pruitt establishes himself as a master storyteller with TOWNIES. His captivating characters and unique style bring his stories to a different, primal level that makes reading them a joy. Readers that enjoy the stylings of Joe Lansdale will now have another must-read author on their list.
“Dying to Live” by Michael Stanley (Orenda Books) (Crime Watch)
Like Connelly’s masterful series, Michael Stanley’s books are well-balanced and very good across the board – intriguing mystery storylines, engaging and interesting characters, and a vividly evoked setting that transports readers to the scene – all entwined with thought-provoking real-life issues.
The authors give readers a wonderful taste of Botswana – the good and the bad. The integration of cuisine, language, history, and cultural issues unique to the locale adds great flavour. In each book I learn more about the country, and in DYING TO LIVE challenging topics like AIDS and biopiracy are addressed, along with muti (traditional medicine, delivered by witch doctors) and poaching.
“John Woman” by Walter Mosley (Atlantic Monthly Press) (Bookgasm)
Crime fiction fans will no doubt pick up JOHN WOMAN, Walter Mosley’s latest novel, expecting something like Mosley’s earlier mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins, Leonid McGill and several similar standalone novels.
But be forewarned: JOHN WOMAN is, at best, only marginally about crime. Its focus is more on identity and history. Still, there is plenty to keep all readers turning pages in this fascinating character study.
“Trap” by Lilja Sigurdardóttir (Orenda Books) (Jen Med’s Book Reviews)
This is really a hard novel to describe in terms of pacing. It is neither fast nor slow. It just kind of fits. There are scenes of great tension, where your heart will be in your mouth, for example the scene where Sonja finally learns why Sponge got his nickname. Those scenes may make your skin crawl a little but, while necessary, they are not gratuitous in any way. The scenes where Agla concocts her deals may be laden with bank speak but still accessible and you can easily see where the rot, or the greed, began. But then there are still quieter moments where the characters reflect on their mistakes and choices, on the way that the hand that life has dealt them has played out and led them to their current fates.
“Murder in Mind” by Faith Martin (Joffe Books) (Ginger Book Geek)
I must say that I absolutely love Faith Martin and her books. She currently has two series out. One – the Hilary Greene series printed by Joffe books and the other series features WPC Trudy Loveday printed by HQ Digital. If I was asked to pick a favourite series it would be the Hilary Greene series. Over the course of the series I feel like I have got to know her far better and I feel like she is a true friend. I also love the fact that Hilary Greene deals with cold cases as I absolutely love anything like the television programmes ‘Cold Case’ & ‘New Tricks’. It means that I can indulge my fantasy of being a police officer and have a stab at investigating crimes for myself.
“In Harm’s Way” by Owen Mullen (Bloodhound Books) (Col’s Criminal Library)
There’s a lot of drama packed into the pages of this not too long a novel. There’s the mundane and the humdrum of everyday family lives, but enlivened by the backdrop of an unusual event and the effect is has on those closest to Mackenzie. It brings out both the best and the worst in the family.
Decent pace, very strong and realised characters, a bit of a puzzle throughout in that only towards the end do we discover the why and the who for Mackenzie’s abduction, but an enjoyable puzzle. After that revelation, Mullen also serves up another twist or two before the end. Lots to like.
“Back to the World” by Jim Shaffer (Close to the Bone) (Col’s Criminal Library)
Short, sharp, pacey, I enjoyed the back drop of the two wars and Johnnie’s upbringing mostly at the hands of his mother and with an interesting family dynamic, I liked the setting and the time frame of the book. The time spent in Johnnie’s company was pleasurable but a little bit too brief. Our finale seemed a little rushed (like my review!) and I would have preferred a slightly extended tale. But as Barnum said (disputed) – always leave them wanting more.
“The Obama Inheritance” edited by Gary Phillips (Three Rooms Press) (Bookgasm)
There will no doubt be an abundance of interpretive, critical, but dryly academic books examining Barack Obama’s two-terms as President. Phillips’s story anthology stands a testament to how these same years inspired the artistic imagination. Regardless of your political views, THE OBAMA INHERITANCE belongs on the shelf of every reader who enjoys imaginative stories of the contemporary world.
“Destroy All Monsters” by Jeff Jackson (FSG Originals) (NPR)
Jackson is a singer-songwriter in the band Julian Calendar, among other things. He is close to music, so you might wonder if he’s setting himself up as a gatekeeper here. However, he never defines authenticity, or provides a clear motive for the epidemic. There are no easy answers in the debate about the commercialization of art and the demise of genuineness, and Jackson doesn’t try to find any. Instead, he creates a world without explanations, where every act of violence is a prelude to another — leaving the reader space to fill in her own responses.
“Our Pool Party Bus Forever Days” by David James Keaton (Red Room Press) (Dead End Follies)
There’s nothing conventional about David James Keaton’s writing. I mean, it reads conventionally enough, but it has that colloquial and byzantine quality of stories told by overly friendly strangers lurking in strip malls or shady theaters. The kind of stranger who your reptilian brain is convinced will murder you. Perhaps none of his books embody that feeling better than his new short story collection Our Pool Party Bus Forever Days, stories about sharing roads and highways with overly friendly strangers and then some. It’s witty, winding and unsettling in the best possible way.
“Palm Beach Finland” by Antti Tuomainen (Orenda Books) (espresso coco)
If The Man Who Died evoked memories of Fargo, then Palm Beach Finland is a heady neon cocktail of Miami Vice, with a dash of Baywatch and a beach umbrella to top it off. Antti Tuomainen delivers another beautifully judged dark vein of humour running through the neon and pastels, but lurking behind the colourful facade, there’s a splendid noirish tale of murder.
- “The Shout” by Stephen Leather (Hodder & Stoughton) (On the Shelf Reviews)
- “Ed’s Dead” by Russel D. McLean (Contraband) (Crime Book Junkie)
- “Video Killed The Radio Star” by Duncan MacMaster (Fahrenheit Press) (Ginger Book Geek)
- “Elmet” by Fiona Mozley (Algonquin Books) (Sandra Danby)
- “Wife of the Gods” by Kwei Quartey (Random House) (The View from the Blue House)
- “The Dark Place” by Stephanie Rogers (Manatee Books) (If Only I Could Read Faster)
- “New Releases 10/16/18” (No More Grumpy Bookseller)
- “New Releases ~ Week of October 14, 2018” (dru’s book musings)
- “October’s Best International Crime Fiction” (CrimeReads)
- “APB – Fall 2018” (BOLO Books)
I Detest All My Sins by Lanny Larcinese
Bill Conlon’s lust for a high school girl has caught him a stretch at Graterford Prison and led to his kid brother’s suicide. And when Bill witnesses his young friend, Mikey, get shanked in the yard of the prison, his guilt comes into high relief. Catching Mikey’s killer would make everything right. Or would it? After his release, Bill begins to stalk Deadly Eddie, a former fellow inmate who Bill suspects is the killer. But like a late afternoon shadow, trouble is glued to Bill’s shoes. As bodies pile up, Detective Sam Lanza is brought on to investigate and he points to Bill as a strong suspect in the murders. Meanwhile, Bill’s girlfriend, Louise, goes missing and he is against the clock to find her before anything happens to her. Can Bill find Louise before she is damaged beyond repair, and finger the real killers before Lanza takes him down for crimes he didn’t commit?
Welcome to HolyHell by Math Bird
All Due Respect
Finding that briefcase full of cash, in the scorching summer of 1976, seemed the answer to all young Jay’s prayers. So did the magnetic pull of a stranger who rolled into town shortly after. But what Jay didn’t bargain for were the harsh truths of life that followed.
Welcome to HolyHell, set in the borderlands of northeast Wales, is a coming-of-age story about loneliness, hope, the past that haunts us, and the fear of growing older.
Mental State by M. Todd Henderson
Down & Out Books
When conservative law professor Alex Johnson is found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at his house in Chicago, everyone thinks it is suicide. Everyone except his brother, Royce, an FBI agent.
Without jurisdiction or leads, Agent Johnson leaves his cases and family to find out who killed his brother. There are many suspects: the ex-wife, an ambitious doctor with expensive tastes and reasons to hate her ex; academic rivals on a faculty divided along political lines; an African-American student who failed the professor’s course.
As Agent Johnson peels back layers of mystery in his rogue investigation, the brother he never really knew emerges. Clues lead from the ivy-covered elite university and the halls of power in Washington to the gritty streets of Chicago and Lahore, Pakistan. Ultimately, Agent Johnson must face the question of how far he is willing to go to catch his brother’s killer.
Mental State is about two brothers learning about each other in death, and about the things people will do when convinced they are in the right.
Vancouver Noir edited by Sam Wiebe
Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each book comprises all new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the respective city. Following the success of Montreal Noir and Toronto Noir, the Noir Series travels to the west coast of Canada.
Brand-new stories by: Linda L. Richards, Timothy Taylor, Sheena Kamal, Robin Spano, Carleigh Baker, Sam Wiebe, Dietrich Kalteis, Nathan Ripley, Yasuko Thanh, Kristi Charish, Don English, Nick Mamatas, S.G. Wong, and R.M. Greenaway.
Photograph by Päivi Rytivaara (FreeImages.com)