Incident Report

Incident Report No. 7

7_375Week in Review of Small Press Crime Fiction for August 28 – September 3, 2017

Houston resident Scott Parker, writer of crime fiction and westerns, wrote about his experiences living through Hurricane Harvey in his weekly column for Do Some Damage.

We went to bed with the constant sound of rain. Overnight, my wife and I took alternating shifts. We woke up every two hours and checked outside. Still raining. Hard. Even when your shift was over and it was time to return to sleep, sleep was hard to come by, especially when every cell phone in the house would buzz with tornado warnings.

One of my all-time favorite crime fiction publishers All Due Respect Books is open for submissions right now. Read their Submission guidelines and, for goodness sakes, read some of their books. They are really good, I promise you.

Check out the last few Incident Reports for other publishers that are accepting submissions like Fahrenheit Press and Out of the Gutter.

SHOTS tells us of a Call for Papers: A Study in Sidekicks: The Detective’s Assistant in Crime Fiction.

This collection aims to explore the changing representations and functions of the detective’s sidekick across a range of forms and subgenres of crime fiction from the nineteenth century to the present day. Forms may include: magazine short stories, serial or non-serial novels, ‘penny dreadfuls’, juvenile story papers, dime and half-dime novels, comics and graphic novels, radio drama, stage plays, film and television, video games. Genres may include: sensation fiction, the locked-room mystery, Golden Age detective fiction (including the clue puzzle and the hard-boiled detective novel), the police procedural, historical crime fiction, supernatural crime fiction, the serial killer thriller, the psychothriller.

Jen Conley

Joe Clifford, author of the Joe Clifford series, has been on an editing tear, first with Hard Sentences: Crime Fiction Inspired by Alcatraz (Broken River Books) and now with Just To Watch Them Die: Crime Fiction Inspired By the Songs of Johnny Cash (Gutter Books). This anthology features work by James Grady, David Corbett, Rob Hart, Jen Conley, Lynne Barrett and many more. I reviewed Clifford latest book Give Up the Dead (Oceanview Publishing).

Continuing from last week by linking to new releases that are not crime fiction William W. Johnstone’s Warpath of the Mountain Man (Pinnacle). Johnstone is one of the many Western writers hanging around the periphery of my TBR. Maybe one day, maybe one day.

If psychological thrillers are your thing, there are plenty to choose from: Les Zig’s Just Another Week in Suburbia (Pantera Press), Linda Huber’s Death Wish (Bloodhound Books), Liz Mistry’s Untainted Blood (Bloodhound Books), Richard Parker’s Hide and Seek (Bookouture), and S.D. Monaghan’s The Accident (Bookouture).

Can a week go by without a James Patterson release? Highly doubtful. This week’s release is Laugh Out Loud by Patterson and Chris Graberstein.

Brian Panowich

Short Stories
I have a few weeks of short stories to go through due to my vacation. Matthew Lyons’ The Brothers Brujo at Rusty Barnes’ Tough is nothing short of a masterpiece. Envelope by David Racheis is not a piece of flash fiction you should look past. Good stuff.

At Out of the Gutter they are publishing classic stories because we are not sending the great stories to publish. Let’s get on this. In the meantime read CS DeWildt’s McRib Therapy Alleviates Seasonal Depression and Isaac Kirkman’s Portrait of a Sister with Insects.

You have already read Tom Leins’ Skull Meat? You haven’t. Look, it’s freaking .99¢ and really good — here’s my review. Leins has a new story, Dry Salvage, in Near to the Knuckle. Read both the short story and the book.

I have to be honest, I was unsure of how the serial of Brian Panowich’s Fire on the Mountain would work out on Shotgun Honey. I do not know why I had any doubts. Fire on the Mountain just gets better and better. I’ve just finished Part Four of the six-part series. Absolutely delicious.

In the most recent edition of Yellow Mama is Paul Heatley’s Tickets to Heaven which is quite good.

Gabino Iglesias

Book Reviews
I finally got off my ass and read Gabino Iglesias’ Zero Saints. In my review I wrote:

Iglesias uses the crime genre to instill a sense of urgency to his story but it his writing — beautiful, powerful and, most importantly, fresh — that makes Zero Saints as much of a crime novel as Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five is a science fiction book. If you haven’t read Iglesias’ Zero Saints yet, don’t be a schmuck like me and wait, read it now.

I have been chatting up Winnie M. Li’s Dark Chapters (Polis Books) for several months now. I know I’ll be mentioning it a lot over the next several weeks and especially in January for my Best of 2017, but it bears repeating, this book is great. Sam Jordison writes in The Guardian:

The writing feels defiant and urgent – but it’s only half of the book. In a move that’s possibly even braver than recreating her personal trauma, Li attempts to get inside the mind of her rapist, explain his thought processes and explore his emotions.

Steve Weddle kind of reviews Yuri Herrera’s The Transmigration of Bodies. Weddle writes, “Brutal. Honest. Short and punchy sentences? OK. This is like when someone is talking about bacon-infused, chocolate stout. I like all those words.”

At Biblbiophile, they interview Ian Patrick and review his book Rubicon. Paul D. Brazill recommends Keith Nixon’s Dig Two Graves and Brazill’s latest book Cold London Blues is reviewed by Nigel Bird. Black Gat Books will be releasing Clifton Adams’ Never Say No to a Killer in November and it is reviewed on the Noir Journal. The New York Times recommends the new Chester Himes biography.

Terrence McCauley

John Ashbery has passed away. Harold Bloom said of Ashbery, “No one now writing poems in the English language is likelier than Ashbery to survive the severe judgment of time. He is joining the American sequence that includes Whitman, Dickinson, Stevens and Hart Crane.” Go over to Poetry to read some of his poems.

Terrance McCauley’s A Conspiracy of Ravens, the latest in his University series, will be out later this month on Polis Books. In his blog One Bite at a Time, Dana King interviews McCauley on the hero/anti-hero mythos.

One Bite at a Time: In your mind, what’s the difference between a hero and an anti-hero?
Terrence McCauley: To me, the anti-hero is the character that does what he or she is going to do anyway to serve their own purposes. They just happen to be for good. A hero, often in my opinion misdiagnosed as the protagonist, seeks to do the right thing for the cause which he or she serves.

Thomas Pluck’s The Lock-Up: Prison Fiction and Reality is a great introduction to the issue of prisons in the United States and fiction, “Our genre has many tropes about prison, and they come from our cultural beliefs, which come from stories, so it is a vicious circle. Many of our beliefs about incarceration are outdated.”

Sofie Kelly, author of The Magical Cat Mysteries, wrote about some great fictional detectives who happen to be women in The Strand Magazine. JJ Hensley’s interview with David McCaleb is a great read in The Thrill Begins. Max Allen Collins’ Quarry is headed over to Hard Case Crimes Comics. Andrew Nette has some thoughts on Point Blank which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Ben Lelievre looks back on True Detective: Season One.

If you like crime movies and do not read Jedidiah Ayres blog hardboiled wonderland, you need to. Ayres points readers to Robbie Barclay’s Backstroke.

Incident Report

Incident Report No. 6


6_375Week in Review of Small Press Crime Fiction for August 21-27, 2017

Apologies that this week’s Incident Report is a bit late but given my vacation, return to work, birthday, and taking our son to college, I’m okay with that. No short story links this week. They will return next week.

Alec Cizak will be taking submissions for his magazine Pulp Modern from October 1st through October 10th. If you haven’t read Pulp Modern Vol. 2 No. 1, please do so. You can find submission guidelines here for Pulp Modern Vol 2. No. 2.

Fahrenheit Press is getting into the game of anthologies with Noirville. Submissions are now open for twelve spots of tales from the dark side. Read their submission guidelines and get writing.

Out of the Gutter is always looking for flash fiction, 1,000 words or less.

Matthew Revert

New Releases
I know, I know, Matthew Revert’s Human Trees (Broken River Books) is not a crime novel. But given the three other books I have read from the publisher (Heathenish by Kelby Losack, Gravity by Michael Kazepis, and Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias) and Ben Lelievre recent review, Revert’s book became a must read for me.

Fahrenheit Press keeps on putting out interesting books. This week was Ian Patrick’s Rubicon. As the blurb says, it is the story of “two cops, both on different sides of the law – both with the same gangland boss in their sights.” I haven’t read anything from Penguin’s Europa Editions but I have always been intrigued. Suburra by Giancarlo de Cataldo and Carlo Bonini is getting a big publicity push based on its upcoming Netflix series.

I can’t say I missed it, but James Patterson released another book two weeks ago, The Store, this time he writes with Richard DiLallo.

Book Reviews
Ben Lelievre says of Hard Sentences – Crime Fiction Inspired by Alcatraz (Broken River Books), “(David James) Keaton and (Joe) Clifford put together a sweeping portrait of the Alcatraz experience, though and if you decided to crack this baby open, you’re bound to find something of your liking or something that transcends you idea of what prison stories can be.” Also over at Dead End Follies, Ben reviews Don Winslow’s The Force with expected results, “I’ve tore through The Force in two ravenous days of reading. It’s perhaps not Don Winslow’s best novel, but it’s up there with the best ones.”

Winnie M. Li

Next month Polis Books will be releasing Winnie M. Li’s debut crime novel Dark Chapter. I have already had a chance to read it and it is one of the best books of the year. It has already been out for a few months in the UK and has gotten many positive reviews. Dark Chapter is a difficult book as it is a fictional recounting of Li’s rape in Belfast. The book also has chapters told from the point of view of the rapist. As Jackie Law says in her review that it is “a powerful account of a crime that is too often maligned and misunderstood.”

Tom Leins, author of the recent Skull Meat, reviews Tony Knighton’s fantastic Three Hours Past Midnight (Crime Wave Press). Leins says of Knighton’s book that it “is a compelling slice on contemporary hard-boiled fiction, and one that cries out for a sequel – or sequels. Great stuff.” I am in complete agreement. Don’t miss Three Hours Past Midnight. On his blog Dirty Books, Leins also has an interview with Knighton.

Derrick Horodysk reviews Greg Barth’s Everglade, the fifth and final book of Barth’s Selena series. Everglade is hovering near the top of my TBR, shit, the entire series is on my TBR. I have been debating for weeks whether to just read Everglade or start at the beginning with Selena. In the Out of the Gutter review, Horodysk loves Everglade and calls the Selena series “one of the best noir series ever written.” I guess it is time for me to shit or get off the pot.

I am only hearing great things about Ryan Gattis’ Safe (McDonnell Douglas) whether it is on Eric Beetner and S.W. Lauden’s podcast Writer Types or Michael T. Fournier’s review in the Chicago Review of Books.

Donald E. Westlake
Photo by Jean-Marie David CC BY-SA

If you are a crime fiction fan, the article this week that you most likely read is Scott Bradfield’s Donald E. Westlake: The Writer’s Writer’s Writer in the Los Angeles Review of Books. The article starts with a humorous story of Bradfield taking a writer’s conference with the legendary Harlan Ellison. Ellison, in his abrupt style, tells Bradford, “Throw out that fucking copy of Finnegans Wake you’re always carrying around and go read Donald E. Westlake. He’ll teach you everything you need to know about writing fiction. Oh, and pick up some acne medication while you’re at it. Your face’s a mess.” Bradford goes on to say:

Those first Westlake books zipped by so quickly that I wasn’t even aware I was reading them until they were over. And unlike all the “serious” and “noteworthy” books I usually tried to read, they never had me anxiously checking how many pages there were left until the next chapter, or looking up words in the dictionary, or skimming back over the previous pages to find something I had missed. Every image leapt off the page; every scene quickly set me in a location so vivid and immediate that it felt like I wasn’t entering some fictional space but simply remembering an actual location where I had already been. And every line of dialogue opened up the voice and personality of the character who spoke it.

If you haven’t read Bradford’s article and I highly doubt that, stop reading this and read that.

Over at S.W. Lauden’s blog, Lauden interviews Gary Duncan, founder of Spelk Fiction and writer of You’re Not Supposed to Cry (Vagabond Voices). Duncan maybe one of the preeminent experts on flash fiction. In the interview, Duncan says:

Good flash fiction can be so many things—a unique voice, an original situation, a new way of saying something—anything that makes you sit back and wish you’d written it yourself. If I’m reading a good flash, I can usually tell it’s going to be good in the first few lines. You often can’t put your finger on it, but you can just tell that this is someone who knows what they’re doing. A light touch is important—you don’t want to hammer it home or lay it on too thick. I like flashes that make you work a little, that give you just enough information to get you thinking. What’s the backstory? What’s being said between the lines? What’s the bigger story here?

Danny Gardner writes about his writing process and the amount of work he throws away in Criminal Minds. The next NoirCon is set for November 1-4, 2018. I don’t know about you but I can never keep up with Book Riot and their lists of books to read. I’m guessing that their posts are more research minded rather than to do’s, I mean who has time to be in five book clubs. Over at J. Kingston Pierce’s Killer Covers blog, a companion to his excellent The Rap Sheet blog, he has a huge post that will probably become the most popular page of Killer Covers, Pay Attention, Big Boy!.

J. David Osborne writes at Lit Reactor about his evolving tastes in I’m Tired of Genre Fiction. Give Me the Weird Stuff.

. . . I’ve been having trouble enjoying “straightforward” books. I haven’t done the deep work of figuring out whether or not I’m a born contrarian, but I don’t even like reading books that are typically understood (by a majority of people, of course) to be “good.” Plots, characterization, pacing, all of it seemed boring to me, all of a sudden.

As good and weird as Osborne’s Broken River Books is, prepare for it to get weirder and better, if that is even possible.

Some interviews to catch up on are BV Lawson’s intervew with Jack Getz at In Reference to Murder. Getz has a new book out on Down & Out Books called The Black Kachina. Over at Mysteristas, Albert Tucher, author of The Place of Refuge (Shotgun Honey), is interviewed. Are you tired of me mentioning Tony Knighton? Too bad. You should be reading his new book Three Hours Past Midnight (Crime Wave Press) and also this interview with Scott Alderberg in Do Some Damage.

Noir at the Bar will be going at the National Book Festival this weekend. Noir at the National Book Festival will be rated PG rather than the usual R to NC-17 rating. Here is E.A. Aymar reading in the first DC Noir at the Bar. This was first published at Do Some Damage.

Incident Report

Incident Report No. 5

5_375Week in Review of Small Press Crime Fiction for Aug 14-20, 2017

This will be abbreviated as I’m on vacation in western Oregon to visit my sister-in-law who is a nurse in the VA down in Roseburg. So far we’ve hung out in Portland where I bought too many books at Powells, did a hydroplane boat ride on the Rogue River, saw some redwoods in northern California, and now we are hanging out in Newport, Oregon awaiting the end of times or as scientist call it a solar eclipse.

The sad news of the week is the passing of Bonnie Stevens aka B.K. Stevens. I knew of her only through her periodic essays of SleuthSayers. The folks over there put together a nice remembrance piece on Stevens.

In big news, All Due Respect is moving over to be an imprint of Down & Out Books. That makes the third imprint for Down & Out. I definitely understand the reason for doing so, but I wonder if it is such a good idea to have four book publishers of very similar tastes all together under one roof? Will they lose their identities? Or will the extra support from Down & Out Books be a boon for All Due Respect, Shotgun Honey, and ABC Group Documentation?

In silly news, historical genre novelist Philippa Gregory came out against genre fiction in the New York Times. At first glance, Gregory came out against bad writing which is okay but then she kept on talking.

And why does anyone write lazy, sloppy genre novels? The typing alone is so exhausting — surely if you’re going to undertake 150,000 words, you might as well have something interesting to say? Why do people write crime novels with blindingly obvious murderers? Why do they write love stories with idiotic heroes? (Oh, perhaps see above, re pornography.) Writing should be both individual and universal. Choosing to write a genre novel is like fencing the universe because you are afraid of space.

Choosing to write a genre novel is like fencing the universe because you are afraid of space. Amazing. For more take downs on Gregory’s interview read Clare Langley-Hawthorne’s Kill Zone post or Alison Flood’s takedown at The Guardian.

New Releases
Down & Out Books released Beau Johnson’s short story collection, A Better Kind of Hate. Mark Westmoreld writes of Johnson’s book, “His stories are populated with sleaze balls, grease stains, and bad motherfuckers.” Also released on Down & Out is John Shepphird’s The Shill Triology. You have probably read all three novellas already, but if you haven’t, now is your chance.

The third of the Danny Bird Mysteries, Death of a Devil, by Derek Ferrell is out on Fahrenheit Press. Also released by Fahrenheit is Speed of Life by James Pate. I missed last week, Anita Waller’s Strategy on Bloodhood Books.

Short Stories
In the spirit of keeping this short, I am just going to recommend some flash fiction. If you haven’t read Nikki Donson’s 83 over at Shotgun Honey, please do so. Brian Morse’s My Blue Mistake (Pulp Metal Magazine) is told from the point of view of a dead man. At Out of the Gutter, The Dressmakers Dummy by James Shaffer is pretty dark and then it gets darker. Crime writer Iain Ryan has a horror tale called Nice Ass over at Seizure. And something else different is Kamila Shamsie’s true tale, When Pakistan Feels Like an L.A. Noir, in Lit Hub. Shamsie’s piece reads like a short story.

Incident Report

Incident Report No. 4

4_375Week 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.”

Submission Calls
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?

Kellye Garrett

New Releases
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.

Short Stories
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.

Thomas Pluck

Book Reviews
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

Angel Luis Colón

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.

Leye Adenle

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

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.

Incident Report

Incident Report No. 3


Week in Review of Small Press Crime Fiction for July 31 – Aug 6, 2017
I started writing reviews of crime fiction books as a memory device for myself, books I liked, books I didn’t like. Surprisingly, what I found was that the crime fiction community from the writers to the readers are welcoming and supportive. J.J. Hensley wrote Know Your Enemy in The Thrill Begins that talks about how supportive the community is rather than cut-throat and vindictive.

It is impossible for most writers to consider other writers the competition when we have so much in common with each other. As a group, we have a set of shared goals, shared frustrations, as well as shared stories of disappointment and achievement. Not to mention, when we have driven our spouses completely crazy by talking about writing, we can turn to each other, knowing writers can rarely drive each other crazy since most of us have taken that drive and are still roaring toward the cliff like Thelma and Louise (for the younger writers out there – Google that reference).

Hensley’s new book Bolt Action Remedy (Down & Out Books) will be out in a few months.

In one of the feel good stories from this past week, Beau Johnson opened a box that contained his new book A Better Kind of Hate from Down & Out Books. He wrote on Facebook:

In my 30 years in the grocery biz I have opened many boxes. Thousands upon thousands to be sure. I can honestly say I have never opened one quite like this.

The sad news of the week was the passing of Sam Shepard. In the NY Times obituary, it was said of his writing “That feeling of uncertainty was translated into dialogue of an uncommon lyricism and some of the strangest, strongest images in American theater.” Over at LitHub, they published a few letters from Two Prospectors: The Letters of Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark by Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark.

Some other articles that are worth your while are Danny Gardner on how word count constraints can help in Standards and Practices, Jochem Vandersteem’s interview with Sam Weibe over at Son of Spade, and S.W. Lauden’s interview with Elaine Ash regarding her book Bestseller Metrics. And if you have some time, take listen to Fank Zafiro’s podcast Wrong Place, Write Crime where he interviews Sarah M. Chen.

DeLeon DeMicoli

New Releases
Quite a few new books and anthologies came out this week.. First and foremost, let me give some love to a new release from Shotgun Honey, one of my favorite publishers. This month they released the first book by DeLeon DeMicoli, Les Cannibales. Like all of their books, I’m expecting it to be great. Oceanview Publishing, who I know of from reading Joe Clifford, released Danny López’ The Last Girl. One of the blurbs calls it “a boozy, hardboiled trek through the sun-drenched streets of Sarasota Florida.” And it’s going for .99¢. Florda? Hard-boiled? Under a buck? Go buy it now.

Bloodhound released Sharon Dempsey’s Little Bird and M.A. Comley’s Double Jeopardy while Fahrenheit Press put together all four of Grant Nicol’s Grímur Karlsson Mysteries in Tales From The Ice House. A couple of anthologies is a new Akashic Noir, Atlanta Noir edited by Tayari Jones, and Carolina Crimes: 21 Tales of Need, Greed and Dirty Deeds edited by Nora Gaskin Esthimer published by Down & Out Books. Bruin Crimeworks reprinted two works from James Hadley Chase, No Orchid for Miss Blandish and Flesh of the Orchid.

From the bigger publishers released this week are Adam Sternbergh’s The Blinds and Augustus Rose’s Readymade Thief. And the new James Patterson release this week is the bookshot The Medical Examiner: A Women’s Murder Club Story by Patterson and Maxine Paetro.

Short Stories
If you follow Jim Thomsen on social media (Facebook or Twitter) you know he’s been trying to get published in Shotgun Honey for several months, five rejections and counting. And if you follow him, you also know he finally got a story published, Hell of a Girl and if was well worth the fucking wait. He also put up an extended version of the story up on his website, 1,108 words instead of the 700 for Shotgun Honey. Two other stories to check out are Emmett Dulaney’s Like a Kid in a Candy Store in Spelk and Angel Luis Cólon’s Last Call over at Beat to a Pulp.

This past week I reviewed Jason Pinter’s The Castle, Tom Leins’ Skull Meat, and Court Merrigan’s The Broken Country. I wrote that Merrigan had “created something unique and original.” Vicki Weisfeld reviews The Place of Refuge by Albert Tucher and LA Review of Books has a review of Tomoyuki Hoshino’s ME. Steve Weddle’s Do Some Damage review of Marcus Sakey’s Afterlife is a thing of beauty. Weddle writes:

Then not too much later, we get a guy cop and a gal cop doing sexxxy time on each other. I believe the record will show that I’m no prude. But, you know, I’m not terribly fond of reading about two people doing sex to each other. I don’t much care for detailed, play-by-play fisticuffs, either. I tend to skip along to the dialog. Also, I skip over anything too technical, such as a 250-word description of a timing mechanism someone might drop into a thriller. Gracious, is there anything I don’t skip over?

Well, I didn’t skip AFTERLIFE, that’s for sure. Because it moves. Because I care about the characters. Because I’m invested in the story, which gets hella weird.

Here’s an inteview with Joe Clifford on Fox 61 from Hartford, Connecticut. Clifford is the author of Give Up the Dead.

Incident Report

Incident Report No. 2

2_375 (1)Week in Review of Small Press Crime Fiction for July 24-30, 2017

The Los Angeles Review of Books went crime fiction this past week in a big way. First was Anthony Award nominee Sarah M. Chen’s interview, The Statement Makes Itself, with Danny Gardner regarding his new book A Negro and an Ofay. I actually stayed away from this interview until I finished my review of Gardner’s book as I wanted to be right or wrong on my own merit (or lack thereof). Chen and Gardner’s talk is an important read.

Danny Gardner

The book is rooted in real American history. There’s no better indictment of our present than for me to tell a story set in our past that resonates as if it were happening today. I set the story in the country’s past and if there’s a statement to be made, it makes itself. What I think we don’t pay enough attention to is the subtle racism. Like abject racism is easy to hate, right? It’s gross. It’s abhorrent. Anybody can hate that. But if you’re going to help me, help me with the institutionalized racism, the structural racism, the cultural racism. I’m from Chicago. You’ll never get more racist than that in the United States. So I’m kind of conditioned to let the abject racism roll right off me. Help me with that stuff I can’t fix. The undertow that drags me under although I’m a strong swimmer.

Next up is Steve Weddle’s interview with Jeff Abbott, author of the recently released Blame. As the blurb for I’ll Take Whatever Comes states, Weddle and Abbott talk about “his new novel, parkour, cyber attacks, and the influence of his grandmother.” Lastly, Tara Laskowski, author of the short-story collection Bystanders, talks to Christopher Irvin, author of the short-story collection Safe Inside the Violence and his upcoming release Ragged; or, The Loveliest Lies of All, in an interview called On Writing Violence. The discussion is good but I admittedly had a hard time getting past this:

One is marketed as crime fiction and the other is marketed as literary fiction. And yet, when Laskowski started reading Irvin’s stories, she realized there were many similarities in the ways they explored violence, ghosts and monsters, the working class, and inevitability.

I really should not care how readers from “literary” fiction get to crime fiction, but this made me channel my inner Kevin Kline from A Fish Called Wanda and shout, “You English are so superior, aren’t you?”

Over at Andrew Nette’s blog, Tony Kighton, author of the new book Three Hours Past Midnight (Crime Wave Press), has a timely post about crime ficition as literature:

I can imagine some readers protesting – crime fiction isn’t literature, it’s simply entertainment. My first argument is that all fiction is entertainment. If not, why else are we reading it? Yes, many great works of fiction explore deeper truths, but these also include work that is essentially genre, and besides, if it weren’t fun, nobody would read any of it. Second, the granddaddy of all literary serial characters, John Updike’s Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom, is essentially the guy who peaked in high school. Through four novels and a novella in which he leaves his wife, their infant daughter dies, his wife leaves him, their house burns down, they lose the family business – even in the minds of his loved ones after his death – he never changes.

Nikki Dolson

New Releases
Apologies for missing the release of Jerry Kenneally’s Polo’s Long Shot on Down & Out Books last week.  It is the eleventh in the Nick Polo Mystery series. I also missed Timothy J. Lockhart’s Smith from Stark House Press. Nikki Dolson’s long anticipated All Things Violent was released on Fahrenheit Press. Released this week on Bloodhound Books are Mark L. Fowler’s Red is the Colour and Pat Young’s Till the Dust Settles. A new entry into the Akashic Noir series, New Haven Noir. How about some Robot Noir, ’60s style, Adam Christopher’s Killing Is My Business (Tor Books), the latest in the Ray Electromagnetic series. Telos Publishing reissued eight or so of English noir author Hank Janson (Stephen Daniel Frances, 1917-1989), but at $15.95 for a paperback, I’ll be staying away. The James Patterson’s book published this past week is Moores Are Missing.

Short Stories
Erin K. Coughglin’s flash fiction in Shotgun Honey called The Girls Who Go to Wildwood is a great read. While you are there read Crime Waves Press writer Benedict J. Jones’ Samson’s Crossing. Two longer reads are Craig Faustus Buck’s Honeymoon Sweet about two con artists squatting in a beach house in Santa Monica, and J.J. Sinisi’s The Good Fortune of Agusta, a story about an older woman still carrying a lot of weight from her past. Two more, I promise and I’m done, Tom Leins’ Sloppy Operator and Tom Braken’s Last Good Day.

Book Reviews
Last week I reviewed three books, two reviews which appeared here at Unlawful Acts: Nikki Dolson’s All Things Violent (Fahrenheit Books) and Danny Gardner’s A Negro and an Ofay. I also had a review published in Rusty Barnes’ Tough: Roy Harper’s Shank. (Crime Wave Press). Some of the reviews of interest are Erica Ruth Neubauer’s review of Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids and David Cranmer’s review of Adam Christopher’s Killing is My Business. Over at NPR, Jason Heller of The AV Club has the article, 3 Supernatural Noir Tales That Reflect The Inhuman Condition, which reviews Christopher’s book, Richard Kadrey’s The Kill Society, and Jason Ridler’s Hex-Rated. Also on NPR, Maureen Corrigan reviews a new biography on Chester Himes.

Steph Post

Over at Shotsmag Confidential, the two writers known as Michael Stanley give us a much-needed lesson on African crime fiction. Steph Post went on to Facebook and got a bunch of recommendations of upcoming releases. She put it all together, posted it on her blog, and appropriatley called it Steph’s Fall 2017 Book Preview! Go and read this because I’m sure your TBR needs some more padding. Jenny Mitcham’s Up The Creek Without a Yacht over at The Thill Begins and Jeff Abbott’s appropriately titled article, Jeff Abbot’s Top Ten Writing Tips, at The Strand Magazine are two good posts about writing. Over at SleuthSayers is Brian Thornton’s interview with S.W. Lauden, Anthony-Nominee S.W. Lauden Weighs In On The Novella

Like many crime and mystery readers, I appreciate a fast-paced page turner. A lot of things demand my attention daily, so when I carve out time to read I like stories that grab me by the throat and don’t let go.

As a writer, I enjoy the challenge of trying to write those kinds of stories for my readers. I also think the shorter form gives writers a chance to spread their wings a little.

In his blog Education of a Pulp Writer, David Cranmer points us to this Charlie Rose interview with Martin Amis and Elmore Leonard.

Incident Report

Incident Report No. 1

1_375What follows is a stab at the week in review of small press crime fiction. I have written these reviews for the past month seeing if I could one stay interested and two if I could find the time. Over the last four weeks, this had several different iterations — none of which you will see — until I settled on something along these lines. This post covers the week of July 17-23. If you haven’t had the chance to listen to Tom Pitts and Jordan Harper’s conversation about writing, you need to. They are authors of American Static and She Rides Shotgun respectively. The podcast, an episode of Pitt’s Skid Row Chatter, is a short master class on writing. When they started talking about point of view, I’m not ashamed to say, I got a semi. Speaking of writing tips, Chris Rhatigan quietly posted two wonderful articles: In Defense of the Small Book and Five Writing Mistakes You Can Fix Right Now. As co-publisher of All Due Respect Books and a freelance editor, Rhatigan gives away some valuable advice for free. You should get on this post haste.

Through the Ant Farm by Robert Leeland Taylor was released by ABC Group Documentation and since this is one of my favorite publishers, this book immediately jumps up to the top of my TBR. Another great small press, Broken River Books, released The Snake Handler by Cody Goodfellow and J David Osborne.  A new anthology called Noir at the Salad Bar: Culinary Tales With A Bit is out featuring short stories about “gastronomic mysteries”. The fifth in Malcolm Hollingdrake’s DCI Bennet series, Dying Art (Bloodhound Books), is out. Also new from Bloodhound Books is the third installment of the DI Hamilton series by Tara Lyons, Deadly Friendship. New in the UK is Ausma Zehanat Khan’s The Unquiet Dead (No Exit Press), it is available in the US from Minotaur Books. Though not news to anyone, Michael Connelly has started a new series with a female cop, Renée Ballard. The first book is The Late Show. Richard Lange and Tetsuya Honda have released new books as well.

Tony Knighton, the author of the new book Three Hours Past Midnight (Crime Wave Press), has a short story on Trigger Warning called Dolly. Trigger Warning is new to me and the first thing that struck me was the incredible images that accompanied each short story. Admittedly, I haven’t had a chance to read anything past Knighton’s story but do take a look at Trigger Warning, the images by John Skewes alone are worth it. Three other stories I’m recommending are Angel Luis Colón’s Counting Ashes, Tony Tremblay’s The Scum Bar, and Joshua Chaplinsky’s Letters to the Purple Satin Killer.

Last week I reviewed Rob Hart’s The Woman From Prague (Polis Books) and Iain Ryan’s The Student (Echo Press). Over at Black Guys Do Read, Richard has been on a tear of reading some decent comic books: Peepland, Saga, and Sex Criminals. His review of Winslow’s The Force was spot on. A couple of other reviews you might want to read are Scott Alderberg’s excellent take on The Student and Gabino Iglesias’s review of She Rides Shotgun. Another book that has been getting a lot of good play on the internet is Tom Leins’ self-published Skull Meat.

Kellye Garrett, author of the forthcoming Hollywood Homicide (Midnight Ink), posts on The Thrill Begins about going from one’s Writer Hat to the Author Hat. As Garrett writes about how one moves from “flailing around in the middle of an ocean full of books screaming ‘Notice me! I’m over here! Isn’t my cover pretty?'” to actually accomplishing some good promotional work for one’s book. E.A. Aymar, writer and managing editor of The Thrill Begins, has a post about the painful waiting after submission.

Waiting is hell for writers. You’ve spent so long working on a book, finally written something pretty and polished and publishable. At any moment (seriously, any moment) you could receive word that you’re going to become a published author. You check your e-mail after meetings. Rush through voice mails. Worry about how often you’re bugging your agent. Every day you wake up excited, have that excitement wane through the day, and go to sleep disappointed. After a while, that nightly disappointment seeps into your days.

Two other posts that are worth mentioning is Gabino Iglesias’s LitHub column and his latest entry, Why Do So Many Indie Presses Fail, which is a sad but important read. Iglesias interviews several small press publishers about their take on the high failure rate of indie presses. Oh, and Scott Alderberg again, this time with an interview with Iain Ryan at Do Some Damage. Andrew Nette updates your Australian crime calendar with a Noir at the Bar and an interview with Meghan Abbot.

I post this knowing the incredibly long time a book takes to get a book published, but I still found the similarities striking.I came across a new book by Heather Burnside called Born Bad (Aria). As the blurb goes it is a “gritty Manchester crime trilogy. When your enemies get close, family loyalty is all you can trust.” This book immediately reminded me of Marnie Richards’ Born Bad (Avon) released a few months ago. It’s described as “gritty and gripping” by Kimberly Chambers. The description of Richards’ book starts out as, “A powerful, darkly comic novel set in the criminal underworld of Manchester from bestselling author Marnie Riches. The battle is on …” Indeed the battle is on.

The Robbery by Jim Cummings is a short crime film that if you haven’t seen it is well worth your time.

I hope you enjoyed this attempt at a week in review. By the time you read this, I’ll already be working on Incident Report No. 2.