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Interviews

Suspect’s Viewpoint: Angel Luis Colón

Angel Luis Colón’s new book, “Pull & Pray” (Down & Out Books), is out now. It’s the second featuring Fantine Park, a retired safe-cracker pulled back into the business by an estranged family member.  The first book was “No Happy Endings” which was nominated for an Anthony Award in 2017. You can find Angel on Twitter, @GoshDarnMyLife, as well as his website.  Let’s get this interview started because there’s a lot more to Angel than his latest book.

David: You have a full-time job, you’re married, you have two kids, you write, you edited flash fiction at Shotgun Honey, you write for anthologies, you do your own writing, you’ve had five books published in the last three years and now you host a podcast. Do you ever sleep?

Angel: Apparently, I don’t sleep ever. I’m also training for a half marathon and participating in Pitch Wars (basically mentoring a writer).

I’m an idiot because I honestly feel like I don’t do enough.

The truth of it, though, is scheduling. I get home and workout, kids get home and I try to hang out with them, and when it’s time for bed, my wife does me the solid of giving me an hour or two to get whatever I need to get done sorted out. On weekends, I might have to take a half day, but I find the hours. It isn’t impossible and there are times I step away from my desk in favor of the family (quite often) but it’s all about doing the work. I think it helps that for all this work, I’m not really getting paid for it, so I can dictate when I stop.

I can also sleep on my commute into work, so that helps too.

David: You have two series out now: Blacky Jaguar and Fantine Park series. Both have two books each with Fantine Park’s latest, “Pull & Pray” just published. Last time we talked you were working on a third Blacky Jaguar book. Is that still going to be a thing?

Angel: It is! I’ve had to rethink how I’m tackling Blacky but there’s a third story in the cards for him. The biggest decision is whether that’s a novella or something a little longer. I had four novellas in mind for him, but now it feels like the next two stories should work together. This is a good thing since it gives me breathing room to work on a horror novel, a few short stories, and another outline I’m working on right now.

David: I haven’t had a chance to read “Pull & Pray”, but will Fantine Park get a third go around? Also, is there anything else you are working on?

Angel: I never expected to write a second Fantine story at all, but she made me change my mind. Fan’s future is sort of a spoiler for “Pull & Pray” so I won’t get into details. That said, readers will know what the shape of her future looks like by the end of this story.

Right now, I’m gearing up for the release of my debut novel, “Hell Chose Me” (Down & Out Books, 2019). I’m proud of that one and really hope folks dig it. And hey, if folks are jonesing for some Blacky, they might be interested in scooping this book up; there’s something in there for them.

David: In your podcast, the bastard title, you had an episode where you chatted with Eryk Pruitt about Noir at the Bars. You guys talked about what to do, what not to do, and even talked about your own bad experiences at N@Bs. With the Bouchercon N@B coming up, do you have any rules or best practices that readers of any N@B should try to follow?

Angel: I just had a nice chat with Johnny Shaw (name drop) about some of this and he schooled me in an aspect of the live reading I hadn’t considered. There’s an idea that you’re selling your book or yourself at these events, but I’ll concede that my own thinking isn’t quite right there. The purpose of the reading is to give the audience exactly what you give readers: an entertaining time. There shouldn’t be a motive to kick ass up there beyond folks enjoying what your spitting.

I’m still not the biggest fan of first chapters or blatant promo like selling books at the event. If your goal is exposure, I think doing the very best you can for that event itself is the best path. Nobody owes you their presence or attention at these events.

David: You seem to be having fun with the bastard title podcast, how’s it going? I know you are only about a dozen episodes into it, but are you digging the direction you’re headed?

Angel: I fucking love it. It gives me a chance to emulate those bar conversations I’ve had at conventions and readings with none of the bullshit posturing. It’s also all on my terms! I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t an incredibly appealing part of the project.

I have plans for future endeavors but for now I’m committed to 52+ episodes. The guest list ahead is looking far more diverse, though. I’m booking more authors of color and authors from other genres. The goal of this project is to get to a place where my guest list will never be predictable. I want to provide a platform for as many writers as possible and that’s going to take some work, but I’m hyped to give it a go.

David: You are a big proponent of promoting and defending the unheard voices in the crime fiction community. Right now, it’s like every white person’s racist family member has decided to step away from their Thanksgiving table and are moving out to the streets. I know racism and marginalizing voices has always been there, but today people are taking a stand and telling white men to sit the fuck down. I guess this is a long way of asking, what work can we do to help those who need it?

Angel: Those with privilege need to take direct action and challenge their peers who poison the well. Those latter people do not deserve comfort in the face of how they’ve chosen to participate in our society. Without that action, it’s all hollow.

Continued inclusiveness in writing organizations and convention boards would be a huge step. Recruiting younger people to assist in these efforts is vital as well. More perspective helps everyone and keeps all of us honest. I do see it happening in small bursts already and you know what? There have been some immediate improvements in multiple writing scenes, but there’s still a long way to go. It’s not as simple as playing Noah here; you can’t ‘two of each kind’ this and act like the job’s all done once you’ve checked all the boxes.

We also need to squash the bizarre purity competition a lot of these efforts tend to be consumed by as those just hinder the actual accomplishments and regress efforts.

Let me add: I understand that I’ve got privilege of my own. I’m not perfect but I’m going to do what I can as best I can. Whether it’s out loud or behind the scenes, I’ll try to do as much good as possible. It’s all learning. The things I say about this subject are as valid a lesson for me as anyone else. Therefore, I don’t mind being outspoken. What’s the cliché; don’t sacrifice your authenticity for approval? I think Kanye tweeted that, so you know it’s borderline smart but mostly insufferable.

David: Give me five books to read, genre doesn’t matter.

Angel: I’ll dive into a few I’m currently reading and some I think most folks should read.

“The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo
“Low Down Death Right Easy” by J David Osborne
“The Great and Secret Show” by Clive Barker
“The Night in Question” by Tobias Wolff
“Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor


Thanks for stopping by and reading the Unlawful Acts’ interview with Angel Luis Colón.

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Books

Meat City on Fire by Angel Luis Colón

Meat City on Fire by Angel Luis ColónIt’s no secret I like Angel Luis Colón’s writing. I have reviewed both of his Blacky Jaguar books as well as the first in his Fantine Park series, No Happy Endings. So a collection of Colón’s short stories, Meat City on Fire and Other Assorted Debacles (Down & Out Books), would most likely be something I would enjoy. And enjoy I did.

There’s a cadence to Colón’s writing that I can ease right into away whether a story is set in a trailer park or in the Bronx. Colón gets the reader inside his characters’ heads as we witness how so many bad decisions are made, usually quickly and without thought of consequences. In “They’ll Choke On Your Lies”, Gerald, dressed in a priest’s frock, has recently robbed a liquor store and is picked up by two Mormon-looking strangers who have mistaken Gerald for another priest. Nervous about his situation, Gerald convinces himself with a lot of maybes that this would be a good score for him even though all his instincts tell him to run.

Gerald wrung his hands. Uncomfortable with the fraternity talk. It was both familiar and a little unnerving. The instinct to turn tail and run was there, but there was no place to go. The way the theater was positioned—surrounded by highways and no pedestrian path—made it nearly impossible to leave and elude if there was a chase. No, it was better to stay the course. Maybe he’d find a way to steal the Celica as there were no other cars in the lot. Instead, Gerald occupied himself with thoughts of potential gains from this sudden turn of events. Both Jacob and Henry were well-dressed, healthy, and clean. They didn’t seem to be the rich types, but they were also living it up in an abandoned movie theater and did not seem to be in need of a bath or medical attention. All signs pointed to a payoff. Something that would make the charade worth his while.

In Angel Luis Colón’s dialogues, there are no words misspoken, only the true utterances of his characters and never any uncomfortable and extended conversation. In a phone call between Evie and Kathy in “Saltimbocca”, a drunk Kathy calls Evie “love” and Evie, pissed at Kathy, is quite short with her.  In lesser hands, everything would have been overexplained, but Colón writes how people actually talk.

My phone rings only steps away from my front door.

“Hello?” I don’t bother to check who it is. I’m finally craving interaction.

“Evie, love, are you sick? You sound dreadful.” Kathy’s voice is slurred, “I’m so so sorry. Lost track of time.”

“Oh, that’s fine,” I lie. Her state is a little annoying. Clearly her morning was fun or she wouldn’t be in the drink.

“Look,” she clears her throat, “I need a little help. Are you home?”

“I’m actually at my front door now.”

“Ah, great. I’m only a few stops off. Eighty-Sixth and Madison, right?”

“Yes.”

She disconnects.

There is a certain enjoyment in reading a short story collection rather than an anthology.* Even though Colón’s stories wander from a county on fire to two men digging up a treasure in a basement, there is a consistent voice that allows the reader to easily move from a story about bestiality to one about an LSD trip. Colón’s collection has a few previously published short stories from Thuglit, All Due Respect, Spinetingler, Flash Fiction Offensive and other places, but there are plenty, if not more, unpublished stories. If you find revenge, darkness, and desperation attractive then Angel Luis Colon’s Meat City on Fire and Other Assorted Debacles is for you.

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Goodreads

* Yes, I know anthologies to provide a purpose, but I find the lurching around of voices difficult to parse

Categories
Books

Blacky Jaguar Against The Cool Clux Cult by Angel Luis Colón

Angel Luis Colón’s Blacky Jaguar Against The Cool Clux Cult (Shotgun Honey) opens as any Blacky story should with a bar fight. The latest installment of Colón’s A Song of Piss and Vinegar series has Blacky, sadly sans pompadour, fighting over the merits of CCR and, of course, on the run from all the law enforcement agencies.

After the opening salvo of busted heads and missing teeth, Colón takes Blacky on a different journey that the comic-book-craziness of last year’s The Fury of Blacky Jaguar. On his way to Graceland, Blacky goes to a small Tennessee town to do a favor for Brodie, an ex-FBI agent and now barber. Orchestrating some BLM-like protests, Brodie works with a young woman Erica who was brutally beaten by police in the prior year and he needs help from Blacky with a small bunch of violent racists and a hacker named neilDATASStyson.

While Colón’s The Fury of Blacky Jaguar is all fun and games, Blacky Jaguar Against the Cool Clux Cult is all fun and games until someone gets hurt.  In Blacky Jaguar Against The Cool Clux Cult, Colón adds more flesh to the story surrounding Blacky as well as to Blacky himself taking him from a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am figure to a more substantial character. This is Colón’s third book and he is explore the darker ideas of American life, but no worries as he still weaves them with violent outlandishness that we expect from a Blacky book.

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Books

No Happy Endings by Angel Luis Colón

 The first order of business for me when reading Angel Luis Colón’s No Happy Endings (Down & Out Books) was getting myself out of the rollicking NYC universe of The Fury of Blacky Jaguar (review) and planted into the Fantine Park’s New York which is at the minimum more structured.

At its core, No Happy Endings is a heist novella and as most heist stories go, it goes pear-shaped. Colón opens the book in 2007 with a simple donation at a sperm bank. Not an ordinary sperm bank, it turns out to be something out of the movie Clockwork Orange. I did not and will not do any research on the workings of this mechanical sperm extraction — I’ll take Colón’s word for it.

The next chapter set in 2007 introduces us to Park, a young Korean-American who has just electronically robbed a New York horse track/casino. She is quickly tracked down and arrested in an Atlantic City casino.

The book gets it real start five years later; Park is free and no longer on parole. Just as she hopes to get her life back in order with work, not drinking, and spending time with her father, she is strong-armed into a heist by an old mob boss. As Hurricane Sandy approaches the New York metropolitan area, Park balances the threats against her father and herself with planning a heist of the sperm bank. The relationship between Park and her father is a beautiful detail that Colón come back to several times.

He took the beer with a small nod. Held it back up to her. “You act like these hands can open this goddamn thing.”

Fantine smirked and opened the bottle with a twist. “You whine like a baby.” She handed it over.

“I am a baby. That’s what happens when we get old. We all turn into toddlers. Gonna need diapers soon.”

“Toddlers are easier to deal with.” Fantine pulled a chair next to her father and slumped into it. The back pinched her shoulders, but she dealt with it.

Jae took a small sip of his beer and smiled. “Took my pills for the day, but I can’t say I care if this interferes with anything.” He smiled. “Your mother hated beer. Said it was for poor people.”

“Yet we lived in a two-bedroom apartment my whole life.”

“She was cheap.”

Fantine laughed. “No shit.”

Colón explains the Chinese black market for American sperm, but the story is so good in No Happy Endings we don’t care — a good example of how to build a useful (or useless) MacGuffin. Instead, we root for Park to navigate through the assorted criminals who try to deter her all the while she tries to keep her humanity.

Amazon: AU CA UK US

 

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Books

The Fury of Blacky Jaguar by Angel Luis Colón

Angel Luis Colón’s The Fury of Blacky Jaguar (One Eyed Press) tells the story of Blacky Jaguar, an Irish criminal looking for Polly in the New York metropolitan area. The first chapter begins with Blacky beating questioning an old associate in an auto mechanic’s garage. Blacky gives zero fucks but does so with a smile.

To say that the first chapter finally winds down is an understatement to the runaway feeling the reader experiences as Blacky’s violence remains at full throttle throughout. After giving a beating and a gunshot to the garage owner, Blacky finds out a name and location to pursue Polly. But Blacky is still not done with his victim.

“I should shoot you again for making me come out to Staten Island.” Blacky stood up. Slipped his jacket off. Rolled up the sleeves of his wrinkled dress shirt. It was unbuttoned. A tattoo of Bettie Page draped his midsection. She was holding the sacred heart of Jesus. Underneath his navel, the word ‘Rebel’ written in Garamond type face. “Still gotta fuck you up.”

One of the great things about The Fury of Blacky Jaguar is that Colón keeps up the energy from the beginning to the end. Blacky struts about New York City literally kicking ass and taking names. And while Blacky brings a violent and bloody chaos to the outlying boroughs, red flags go up at an FBI satellite office in Queens about Blacky’s antics.  Special Agent Linda Chen who is on her superior’s shit list has chased Blacky for years. She reluctantly hands over her file on Blacky her partner, SA Iris Delgado and heads out with her to an emergency room in Staten Island to question the garage owner, Frank.

“Special Agent Linda Chen.” She slipped the badge back into her pants pocket. Inspected Frank’s wounds—no rhyme or reason to the bumps, bruises, and gashes. It was classic Blacky. “I see you’ve met someone I’m looking for.” She dragged a chair over and sat facing him.

The Fury of Blacky Jaguar is a non-stop fun-filled book with beatings, twists, and some laughs. If you like your crime fiction with violent mayhem, this book might be just for you. After finishing Colón’s great Blacky novella, I found out that there is a new one on its way. I know I’ll have to wait, but I don’t want to.

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