Incident Report

Incident Report No. 87

Photograph by Dacian Dorca (CC BY)

The Incident Report No. 87 features highlights from the Small Crimes posts I run almost every day. If you don’t have the time to read the daily missives then this might just be for you.

Several months ago, Chris Rhatigan, publisher of All Due Respect Books, asked if I’d like to help out his plan on resurrecting the All Due Respect zine. The idea was simple: we would publish hard-as-nails crime fiction with a touch of drinking money sent to the writers. I was already used to reading a slush pile. Years ago I use to read the slush pile for a literary magazine in Boston but reading so many stories again was definitely eye-opening with what makes or breaks a short story.

Luckily for y’all, over at Do Some Damage, Rhatigan lays down some guidelines that could be followed when writing short stories.

You don’t need a twist to construct a good short story. In fact, one of the most common mistakes I see is writers constructing stories that are built around a twist. In other words, the first three-quarters of the story seems to express, “wait for it, wait for it, the twist is coming!” Every part of a story should be engaging—not just the end. A related problem is that twists are so common that the law of diminishing returns kicks in. I would imagine most readers have seen plenty of twist endings. 

Simple plots that are handled with expert care and focus on a natural progression of events tend to make stronger stories.

Throughout Rhatigan’s “One Approach To Writing Short Stories”, he also recommends some great examples by Tom Pitts, Paul D. Brazill, and Stephen D. Rogers.

Over at LitReactor, Max Booth III wrote about trigger warnings in horror fiction and, not surprisingly, there’s a lot of carryover to the crime fiction genre.

Imagine the following scenario: You are lounging on the couch wanting nothing more than to chill out with a cool-ass horror book. You are enjoying everything going on in the story until—whoa wait what the absolute fuck suddenly—you’ve come across a random rape scene, and now instead of having a good time you are reliving a past traumatic experience from your own life. Your entire goddamn day is ruined. Replace “rape” with “suicide” and it’s the same outcome. All you can think about now is a lost loved one who took their own life or perhaps the long struggle you faced overcoming personal suicidal ideations. Or, to continue with one more example, imagine reading a book where a young child dies in a gruesome manner soon after losing your own child. No way are you in any mental state to possibly continue reading. Shit like that is very likely to wreck you.

I feel I’m giving this essay short shrift, but it’s quality especially given Booth’s wearing of multiple hats in the horror genre: writer, editor, publisher, reviewer, and fan.

The fifth book of Dana King’s Penns River series, “Pushing Water” (Down & Out Books), recently came out, and King has been busy. There’s his Do Some Damage article about writing police procedurals which is quite informative.

It bothers me that so many people think what they “learn” in cop and courtroom novels and shows are how things really are. It creates unhealthy ideas of how law enforcement works, or doesn’t. To feel one has to choose between realism and entertainment is a door to lazy writing. There’s no reason the story can’t be both.

Then King’s off to be interviewed by Dietrich Kalteis at Off the Cuff.

I read cop memoirs to get an idea of how they think. I still leaf through Connie Fletcher’s books of cops’ stories. Adam Plantinga’s books 400 Things Cops Know and Police Craft are wonderful resources. Ask some cops how cases get solved and they’ll tell you it’s usually because someone talks.

But wait there’s more!

King interviewed Tom Pitts on the eve of his upcoming release Cold Water (Down & Out Books). Pitts talked about his new book.

I think the Everyman facing insurmountable odds is a powerful theme, and very relatable. I wanted to write something akin to Joe Lansdale’s Hot in December or Cold in July, but my own version. And in Northern California. And I wanted it to play out in a few locations, not just San Francisco. I think the suburban sprawl is under-represented in fiction. Gentrification has made the big cities so banal. Where’s the hunger, where’s the struggle, where’s the passion? In the burbs, baby.

Other Articles

Adam Scovell on reading crime fiction during the pandemic (3:AM Magazine)

Alex George on letting it all burn, “Why Do Some Writers Burn Their Work” (Lit Hub)

“The Comprehensive Guide to Finding, Hiring, and Working with an Editor” by Chantel Hamilton (Jane Friedman)

“Author Spotlight: Andrew Davie” by Scott Cumming (Eight Million Books to Read)

Rachel Howzell Hall and Alex Segura discussed crime fiction (Writer’s Digest)

“The Origins of Scandinavian Noir” by Wendy Lesser (The Paris Review)

Book Reviews

“This Letter to Norman Court” by Pabo D’Stair (All Due Respect Books) (Col’s Criminal Library)

“Love is a Grift” by Graham Wynd (Fox Spirit Books) (Sonia Kilvington)

“We Need To Do Something” by Max Booth III (Perpetual Motion Machine) (Dead End Follies)

“Dead Man’s Mistress” by David Housewright (Minotaur) (Kevin’s Corner)

“Blacktop Wasteland” by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron) (So Much To Talk About)

“Sordid: Five Crime Stories” by Harry Hunsicker (Kevin’s Corner)

“Broken Dreams” by Nick Quantrill (Fahrenheit Press) (Ian Ayris)

“The Waiting Rooms” by Eve Smith (Orenda Books) (Crime Fiction Lover)

“Rock and a Hard Place Issue #2” (Eight Million Books to Read)

Featured Books

“Shotgun Honey Presents Volume 4: Recoil” edited by Ron Earl Phillips (Shotgun Honey)

“Throwing Off Sparks” by Michael Pool (PI Tales)

“The Good Book: Fairy Tales for Hard Men” by Tom Leins (All Due Respect Books)

“We Need To Do Something” by Max Booth III (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing)

“Nightmare Asylum and other Deadly Delights” by Sonia Kilvington (Close to the Bone)

“The Brooklyn Trilogy” by Robert J. Randisi (Down & Out Books)

Thanks for stopping by to read Incident Report No. 87. If you’d like to read more posts like this, please click here.


Trigger Warnings, Nightmares, and Writing

Small Crimes: Friday Reads

Nightmare Asylum and Other Deadly Delights by Sonia Kilvington | trigger warnings nightmares writing

Article: “Let’s Talk About Trigger Warnings” by Max Booth III (LitReactor)

Article: “One Approach To Writing Short Stories” by Chris Rhatigan (Do Some Damage)

Article: “Publisher Profile: How Three Rooms Press Operates” (Forbes)

Book Review: “The Waiting Rooms” by Eve Smith (Orenda Books) (Crime Fiction Lover)

Zine Review: “Rock and a Hard Place Issue #2” (Eight Million Books to Read)

Videos: “Celebrating Saul Bass’s centenary: 10 essential title sequences” (BFI)

Book: “Nightmare Asylum and other Deadly Delights” by Sonia Kilvington (Close to the Bone)

Thanks for stopping by and reading

Incident Report

Incident Report No. 85

Pasquale Paulo Cardo | Incident Report No. 85
Photograph by Pasquale Paolo Cardo (CC BY)

The Incident Report No. 85 features highlights from the Small Crimes posts I run almost every day. If you don’t have the time to read the daily missives then this might just be for you.

McSweeney’s is usually a good place to have a laugh, but Walter Jones’s “Philip Marlowe, Doordash Deliver Guy” is a step above the usual fair.

The phone buzzed the way babies cry when they’re hungry. I wasn’t available and didn’t want to be, but in the Dashing world you’re either available or you’re broke. I picked it up and read: Five Guys. Three bacon cheeseburgers with everything and one chocolate shake. I grabbed my hat and headed for the jalopy.

Chris Rhatigan, publisher of All Due Respects, sat down with Colin Conway and Frank Zafiro, authors of “Charlie-316” and the upcoming “Never the Crime” (Down & Out Books). There are so many crappy police procedural novels, so when Rhattigan spent the time to recommend one of books from this often-maligned genres, I took notice.

The concept and the original bones of the plot was all Colin’s idea. He asked me to collaborate based on my longer police background and the positions I held. Once we got started on the brainstorming, a lot of the details changed and a couple of characters emerged differently than we’d planned, but the bones of his original idea remained intact. I just loved the idea, the question of whether a city or a police department would be willing to sacrifice their favorite son on the altar of public opinion.

Over at The Big Thrill, Paul D. Brazill was interviewed about his new book, “Man of the World” (All Due Respect). The conversation bounced from violence, careers, music and novellas.

“Oh, I really don’t know why they’re not [more] popular,” Brazill said. “I love them! Though, apparently, Don Winslow is doing novellas now so that may change. For me, the novella is just the right length to tell a story without getting bogged down with exposition, soap opera, and holding the reader’s hand—without needless repetition and hammering home the point. A good novella is a short, sharp shock. Fast and furious.” And just to punctuate the point about music, Brazill added that novellas are “more like a Ramones single than a Genesis LP.”

Nate Hoffelder rightly skewers Macmillian CEO John Sargent and all other publishers, big and small, over the price of ebooks. What got Hoffelder going was Tor’s giveaway of the MurderBot series, four ebooks totaling 625 pages and a whopping $36 if bought individually.

John Sargent wonders why his ebook sales are down, and he has repeatedly blamed library ebooks. It’s really weird how he never seems to realize its his own policies (as evidenced by this series) that are causing the shortfall in sales.

I mean, Sargent was running Macmillan when he decided that the publisher’s first move into ebooks was to conspire with Apple and bring about agency pricing, raising Macmillan’s ebook prices in the process.  And he was still in charge when he brought about Agency 2.0 in 2014.

And now, as a result of Sargent’s policies, we have Macmillan charging $36 for a novel-length story.

The reason this is the perfect example of what is wrong with tradpub, folks, is that for the past decade trad pub has refused to sell the public what it wants at a price the public wants to pay. The whole point of agency pricing was to raise ebook prices and force consumers to buy the print books the publishers want to sell.

Some other quick links for you are “Leaving Home For Work with OCD” by Stephen J. Golds (Punk Noir), Kevin Tipple’s review of “Hosier Noir: One” (Kevin’s Corner), and “Going Down Slow“, a film by Eryk Pruitt.

featured books

“Recoil: Shotgun Honey Presents Vol. 4”
edited by Ron Earl Phillips (Shotgun Honey)

“Pushing Water”
by Dana King (Down & Out Books)

Rock and a Hard Place: Issue 2 (Winter/Spring 2020)

“The Girl in the Video” by Michael David Wilson (Perpetual Motion Machine)

“A Bouquet of Bullets” by Eric Beetner (Self-Published)

Thanks for stopping by to read the Incident Report No. 85. If you’d like to read more post like this, please click here.


Small Crimes: Thursday Reads

Pushing Water by Dana King | Small Crimes, The Taco Bell Edition

Small Crimes, the Thursday edition, features Taco Bell, Willie Nelson, Chris Rhatigan, Frank Zafiro, Max Booth III, Spelk, Fragments of Noir, and Dana King.

Podcast: Chris Rhatigan interviewed by Frank Zafiro (Wrong Place, Write Crimes)

Book Review: “We Need to do Something” by Max Booth III (Perpetual Motion Machine) (Jay Wilburn)

Short Story: “Happy Hour at the Pussy Cat Club” by Laure Van Rensburg (Spelk)

Interview: “The editor of Taco Bell Quarterly explains how to make art out of a fast food brand” by Constance Grady (Vox)

Movie Posters: More Film Noir (Fragments of Noir)

Music: “All 143 Willie Nelson Albums, Ranked” – this is a seriously good article (Texas Monthly)

Pre-Order Book: “Pushing Water” by Dana King (Down & Out Books)

Thank you for stopping by and reading the latest edition of Small Crimes.


Small Crimes: Wednesday Reads

The Girl in the Video by Michael David Wilson | Small Crimes

The Wednesday edition of Small Crimes features Colin Conway, Frank Zafiro, Chris Rhatigan, Matthew Ross, Paul D. Brazill, Russel D. McLean, Emily Hockaday, Jackie Sherbow, Curtis Ippolito, Barnes & Noble, and Michael David Wilson.

Interview: Chris Rhatigan talked to Colin Conway and Frank Zafiro, authors of “Charlie-316” and the upcoming “Never the Crime” (Down & Out Books) (All Due Respect Books)

Book Review: “Death of a Painter” by Matthew Ross (Red Dog Press) (Col’s Criminal Library)

Book Review: “Man of the World” by Paul D. Brazill (All Due Respect Books) (Crime Fiction Lover)

Book Review: “Ed’s Dead” by Russel D. McLean (Contraband) (Nigel Bird)

Article: The First Two Pages: “Talk to Me” by Emily Hockaday and Jackie Sherbow (Art Taylor)

Short Story: “Hook-Up Spot” by Curtis Ippolito (Punk Noir)

Submissions: “Exquisite Corpse Vol. 2” is looking for writers (The Exquisite Corpse)

News: The slow and agonizing death of Barnes and Noble as they stop selling new magazines (Good E-Reader)

New Release: “Girl in the Video” by Michael David Wilson (Perpetual Motion Machine)

Thank you for stopping by and reading the latest edition of Small Crimes.


Small Crimes: Friday Reads

Greg Levin, author of “In Wolves’ Clothing”, on why we read dark fiction in times of darkness (Greg Levin)

Interview with SJ Rozan, author of the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith books (Dietrich Kalteis)

Review: “I would like to tell you more about how the app works or what the Epub looks like, but there is no Epub because the app didn’t work.” (The Digital Reader)

Portrait of the Artist as a Consumer: Chris Rhatigan, publisher of All Due Respect Books (Punk Noir)

Photographs by Mr. Julia Child (Fragments of Noir)

“Man of the World” by Paul D. Brazill, a new book (All Due Respect Books)


Suspect’s Viewpoint: Chris Rhatigan

chris rhatigan (2)An interview with Chris Rhatigan, a freelance editor and the publisher of All Due Respect Books. He is also the author of several books: The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other, Squeeze, and Race to the Bottom  His occasional blog about writing is worth a read. I asked him several questions over emails.

David: Mike Monson, co-publisher of All Due Respect Books, left this past summer. Can you talk about his enduring influence on ADR as well as how you are filling the hole within ADR due to his absence?
Chris: Mike had been with ADR since the early days, back when it was a short fiction website. He shaped ADR’s identity as a magazine and publishing house exclusively dedicated to lowlife literature. Mike has high standards for storytelling, and we had a policy for every manuscript we accepted–we had to both be excited about it. No easy feat! He also wrote some killer titles for us.
On the second part of your question, teaming up with Down & Out Books has been a great experience. I’m constantly learning from the D&O team, Eric Campbell and Lance Wright, and they’re improving every aspect of ADR from the process a manuscript goes through to promotion and marketing. I also work with a consulting editor (Nigel Bird, Rob Pierce, or Chris Black) on every book we publish.

David: With the recent release of Matt Phillip’s “Accidental Outlaws” and eight books scheduled in the next ten months, it seems that ADR has its work cut out for you all. BTW thanks for piling on to my TBR. Can you talk for a moment about your production processes and the rhythm created for ADR’s upcoming releases?
Chris: We started off publishing one book every month. They were selling well, so we decided to publish two books per month. That was too much. We weren’t giving each title the attention it deserved. So I’ve rolled things back a bit and put some cushion in the schedule. I prefer to read each manuscript at least four times before its released.
Also, one of the important things as a small publisher is communicating with authors. I need adequate time to communicate with writers on each step of the process. I want every author I work with to be proud of the final product.

David: Submissions are still open for ADR and hopefully, you’re getting some activity there, you read a ton personally as shown by your Goodreads reviews, you’re a freelance editor, a teacher, a husband and a new father, how do you find the time?
Chris: I actually left teaching in 2015. Since then, I’ve been doing freelance writing/editing. This is a cliché, but it comes down to what I’m passionate about. I love reading crime fiction and I love working with authors to bring their work to publication. So I get up before my daughter at around 5:30 every day. That’s when I drink an unreasonable amount of coffee and edit. Unfortunately, I haven’t written much over this last year. Lack of time is the number one excuse for not writing, but there it is. Hope to get back to that this year. I was just jotting down some notes for a new book about Lionel Kaspar, scumbag newspaper reporter. The three fans of this series are probably peeing themselves with excitement.

David: I read that you’ve been in India for 6 years. I lived in Venezuela for a few years and I found it to be quite educational to be an American overseas. It is difficult enough to acclimate yourself to a new culture, but even grocery shopping or getting a cup of coffee is just a little different. How do you think it has affected you?
Chris: Educational is a good word for it. A couple of things stand out about my time overseas. One is that when I’m in India, I’m very aware of how American I am–my tastes, my accent, my way of thinking. Then when I return to the States, I feel somewhat less American. Like I’m a step behind everyone else. I’ll come back to an American grocery store and it’s like a bad acid trip. There are just no places even a little bit like that in India.
I live in a small town in the Himalayan Mountains so things are relatively simple. There are only a couple of roads; cows wander around the hillside; we tend to walk almost everywhere we go; we eat Indian food for almost every meal. I’ve enjoyed my time here but I’m ready to go back to the States. We’d like our daughter to grow up around family…and we miss IPAs, pizza that doesn’t taste like ketchup on cardboard, and having a vague understanding of what the fuck is going on at any given moment.

David: Give me five books/authors to read, genres don’t matter.
Chris: Pablo D’Stair should be a legend. His five-book series about con artist Trevor English is a master class in crime fiction. It was this series that got me interested in independent publishing. They have this mundane, grim quality that you’ll never see in books from large publishers.

Kanae Minato is a Japanese writer who has two books translated into English, Confessions and Penance. Both are slow-burn psychological thrillers I’d highly recommend.

Patti Abbott is a writer I always want to talk about, but particularly now since she recently released a short story collection, I Bring You Sorrow. Her novels Concrete Angel and Shot in Detroit are also excellent. There isn’t a crime writer out there who does characterization better.

I recently read How’s the Pain? by Pascal Garnier. It was recommended in a list of noir novels by French authors. This is an interesting take on the old hitman-about-to-retire plot. It’s more like a weird road trip story with all these tragic, nihilistic characters bouncing off one another. It has this wonderful sense of the absurd and a healthy dose of black humor.

Charles Willeford is a pulp writer from the golden era I only found out about a year ago. Now I can’t get enough. He has a different approach than other writers in this era, taking a more deliberate pace, but if you like hanging out in an evil character’s mind, there’s no one better.

Chris Rhatigan is a freelance crime fiction editor and All Due Respect Books publisher. He is the author of The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other, Squeeze, and Race to the Bottom.


The Lionel Kaspar Novellas by Chris Rhatigan

Before reading and reviewing Chris Rhatigan’s wonderful Race to the Bottom, I read two of Rhatigan’s earlier novellas, A Pack of Lies and Squeeze. These two books focus on Lionel Kaspar, a community newspaper reporter who is more interested in drinking, gambling and figuring out ways not to do work — not always in that order.

A Pack of Lies is part of Two Bullets Solve Everything (All Due Respect Books) that features novellas by Rhatigan and Ron Sayles. The Sayles’ contribution is Disco Rumble Fish, a mid-70s  novella about SWAT team.

A Pack of Lies begins with Kaspar trying to shake down a new developer in a suburb in central Connecticut. The developer, Len Gray, laughs off the attempted extortion with, “I was just curious. You’re trying to sell coverage in a suburban newspaper? Seriously? The fuck is wrong with you?”

Kaspar writes his retribution.

I wrote about twelve inches on why Len Gray was a know-nothing shithead and how he was going to ruin Wallingtown with a project that would destroy the environment, cause a never-ending traffic jam, and make the neighborhood a ghetto. Constructed as many half-truths as I could devise. All wrapped in the detached, objective reporter jive that I spouted like it was my first language.

Between Kaspar’s attempt to strong-arm kickbacks, his never-ending drinking, and some real bad gambling decisions, his life begins to go seriously bad.

Published a year later, Squeeze (All Due Respect Books) is a prequel to all the shit that went down in Kaspar’s life in A Pack of Lies. Rhatigan opens ups Squeeze with Kaspar as a low-level government hack at a Public Health Department. Besides leaking information to a local journalist, Kaspar is already drinking like a professional and beginning on the road of becoming a degenerate gambler. Luck shines on Kaspar as a local reporter recommends him for a job with the local newspaper. If you think you don’t like to work, you don’t have anything on Kaspar — he makes sloths look energetic. Once getting the reporter gig, Kaspar works on two scams: writing fake human interest stories and extorting money from public officials in return for suppressing embarrassing stories.

Tired of being shown up by Kaspar’s success, a competing reporter begins investigating Kaspar’s fictional stories. Though Kaspar has already put in place everything for his life to deteriorate, the rival writer just gives it all a big push.

I enjoyed reading Rhatigan’s take on his characters’ self-induced despair and subsequent decline whether it is in the Lionel Kaspar novellas or Race to the Bottom. The whiskey I drank while reading these tales of descent goes down a bit slower as I quietly hope I won’t end up as a character in a Rhatigan story.

I stumbled home, cursing with each soggy step, my head already throbbing with a hangover, the sourness of too much beer swirling around my mouth. The day had been clear and crisp in the morning, but clouds rolled in during the afternoon and the temps plummeted. At one point, I sat in the shrubbery in front of a one-story home—cars rushing past, wind whipping around, a group of black kids rolling by on bikes—put my head between my knees, huddled in my thin blue jacket.

Amazon: Two Bullets Solve Everything AU CA UK US
Amazon: Squeeze AU CA UK US


Race to the Bottom by Chris Rhatigan

I know that Chris Rhatigan’s Race To The Bottom  (All Due Respect Books) will bring back nightmares of working retail, dreams of the endless standing, moving product from shelf to shelf and back again, and the questions, the goddamn mother-fucking stupid questions. If anyone ever says that there is no such thing a dumb question, you know that they never worked retail.

Rhatigan’s novella tells the story of Roy, a drunk that’s been kicked out of his girlfriend’s place and ends up on the couch of a drug dealer who, oddly enough, doesn’t sell drugs. Roy’s addiction to whiskey and cigarettes, usually Ten High and GPCs, is supported by a shitty job at a retail chain, the not-so-deceptively-called Bullseye.

Though Rhatigan writes well about Roy’s constant emptying of liquor bottles, it is Rhatigan’s understanding of  what it is like to be part of the working poor, having one’s life ruled over by petty people, that stands out.

He went back to the front staircase, sat down, and smoked. Okay, he had to cough up $300 a month for rent. Banksy didn’t say anything about bills and Roy would fight him if he did. He wanted to charge that much to use his couch, fine, then that’s all he gets.

He figured about $200 a month on food and booze, leaving him with about $650 each month to play with. Well, about $135 would go toward meeting his credit card minimums. And the government was getting up his ass about the student loans he’d taken out for those two-and-a-half semesters he’d attended college. Not to mention that his car broke down every few weeks with a problem that always cost him north of $400. He could sell the car for a few hundred. Then he’d be back taking the bus.

That meant waiting in the rain, in the cold. That meant being late to work, as the bus never followed the schedule.

He ground out the butt on the staircase. Can’t think about this shit. Not getting him anywhere good.

He glanced at his watch. 2:30. Guess he wasn’t getting that shower or change of clothes. Time to go to work.


Roy hated every part of his job. But the part he hated most was walking into the store at the beginning of a shift.

Race to the Bottom is broken into three story lines: Roy’s minimum wage job that he clings to hoping that he won’t get fired, his constantly failing friendships, and a crime or two. All of these story lines are soaked in bad whiskey, stale cigarettes, and reckless decision making. Rhatigan’s writing in Race to the Bottom excellently tells the sad but believable story of a man deteriorating page by page, bottle by bottle, till his world comes to an end in a pathetic whine.

Amazon links: US CA UK AU