Tuesday, November 16, 2010
I recently heard my buddy Jed Ayres of "Hardboiled Wonderland" raving about a book he'd just read called "Pike". Well, I just finished up Benjamin Whitmer's debut novel, and the praise was warranted. The book was published by PM Press & Ben was nice enough to have them send me a copy. It may be a bit strong for those who love cozies, because there is nothing comfortable about "Pike". It is in your face, gritty, honest,and it revels in a world few dare to tread. Whitmer takes us on a journey through Hell and back (Cincinnati in fact) and exposes the underworld of dirty cops, drug addicts, prostitutes, and characters you'll love that aren't real like able. The book explores a hard world inhabited by even harder people. "This book is for those who like their Noir straight up, not stirred". I can't wait to see what Mr. Whitmer has for us next. I'll be keeping a close on Benjamin and PM Press.
Posted by Rod Norman at 5:31 PM
Sunday, November 14, 2010
What a weekend!! This was our first Murder and Mayhem in Muskego and we had a blast. The panels were interesting and it was great to see some of my favorite people again, but it's funny how the best part of these events is always the before and after, and the conversations on the side. After driving 6 hours to get there I was pumped to visit Mystery One Books, only to find a "Closed" sign hanging on the door due to working the meet & greet at Muskego. I was kinda bummed but things bounced back shortly after running into Reed Farrel Coleman, Victor Gischler, Sean Doolittle, Daniel Judson, Jeff Abbott, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Jen Forbus and her friend Judy in the bar at the Iron Horse Hotel. It was great visiting and catching up with old friends and making new ones. Judy & Jen.. sorry about the mix up at breakfast (our apologies), and Judy you can see already I'm terrible with punctuation as well. Ha One of the great things overall was discovering two new writers that I came away excited about, ( BLAKE CROUCH & HENRY PEREZ ). Before I forget, if you ever find yourself in Milwaukee and don't know where to stay, check out the beautiful IRON HORSE HOTEL located in downtown Milwaukee. It is just stunning! My wife and I caught a film on pay for view in our room that was...unforgettable. It's called "The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia", a documentary and I first heard about it on a tip from Jed Ayres,(thanks Jed). If you like southern goth & outlandish behavior then this film is for you. If you're a fan of Hank Williams III then you won't want to miss it as well. Saturday got off to a great start with a wonderful breakfast at the hotel with two of my favorite people, Scott Phillips and Reed Farrel Coleman. On the drive out to Muskego, we had an unusual experience when we stopped at a gas station to get directions & use the restroom and the owner tried to charge my wife 24.95 for a map of Muskego (which was free). He also didn't know where the library was ( 2 blocks away from him on the same road by the way) oh & the map did advertise for a 24.95 dollar oil exchange on the back...so it's easy to see how how he got confused. They probably never need to know how to give directions or read a map in the Middle East. That was interesting but the funniest thing that happened over the weekend was the show of effection Christa Faust's dog "BUTCH" had for Tom Schreck's stuffed beagle. I published the clean version (foreplay) at the top of this story, but if you want the rest of the story you gotta contact Christa for her photo. Let's just say Tom may wanna pick up a new version as this one got ravaged pretty good. It was great seeing Sean Chercover and hearing we're very close to seeing his next novel coming out and visiting with Michael Lister,( a great guy by the way ) and hearing that "Double Exposure" is going to be made into a film. That is very good news as "Double Exposure" was my favorite read of 2009. It was great to see Anthony Neil Smith, Chelsea Cain, Victor Gischler and Sean Doolittle again as well. Sean Doolittle needs to be doing audio books, he has a great voice for it and the guy is super smart as well. If there is a funnier writer out there than Victor Gischler, I haven't met him. Scott & Christa did a terrific job on their panel and kept the 50 & over group awake and on their toes. We had a event free trip home but we did enjoy our stop in Kenosha,Wi. at the MARS CHEESE CASTLE..it made me homesick for Wisconsin. I found the tollway on 294 interesting, pay the toll, don't pay the toll..your choice, quite interesting, and I missed all that downtown Chicago traffic. Good ending to a great weekend.
Posted by Rod Norman at 7:53 AM
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
As I boy I grew idolizing professional athletes like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Johnny Bench and Reggie Jackson. I grew out of that phase, but I have to admit even at 45, I am still star struck by a couple of my favorite authors such as Cormac McCarthy, Daniel Woodrell, William Gay, and Ken Bruen. I have been waiting to meet William for about 5 years now and had several close calls in the past with no success. There was a time I ran into Tom Franklin in Oxford,Ms. and we were in a discussion on William when Tom pulled out his cell phone, and says lets call him. Unfortunately,.. William never picked up. So, I waited patiently for William to make a public appearance for a book signing, but his new novel, "The Lost Country" has been held up for several years now. Then it finally happened, William was gonna be at The Southern Festival of Books & at Landmark Books in Franklin, Tn. I called up my friends and family and made plans and everything was set. On the day before he was scheduled to appear I got a call from Jed Ayres with the news William had cancelled both appearances due to his health. I can't begin to tell you how bummed I was at that moment. HOWEVER, the good news is William has made a full recovery, is feeling much better and rescheduled his signing at Landmark Books for Nov. 7th and it went off without a hitch. I was walking out of the bookstore following Madison Smart Bell's reading and book signing earlier that day, and I walk right into William Gay leaning against a car smoking a cigarette and it rendered me speechless, and for those of you who know me, that's quite an accomplishment. I soon recovered, and literally had one of the great evenings of my life. Sonny Brewer talked about how the book came about in the first place, ( an inspiration from John, the owner of LeMuria Books in Jackson,Ms.) which was pretty cool because I had just spent a couple hours in John's office this summer listening to tales of William Gay and other southern authors who had stopped in over the years. Then William pulled out his reading glasses and read his entire story from "Don't Quit Your Day Job". The packed crowd was delighted & the entire story was witty and quite amusing. William Gay has a wonderful talent for story telling and being able to find humor in himself and those around him. Sonny Brewer has put together quite the collection of authors here including many of my personal favorites such as Larry Brown, Pat Conroy, Tom Franklin, John Grisham, Silas House, Daniel Wallace and of course William Gay. Chris Gay, Williams son, also wooed the crowd with his talent as a musician. Check out the previous story to find out more on Chris. Following the reading's William hung around and signed books and spent quite abit of time in conversation with those lucky enough to be there for this occasion. I was thrilled that in the middle of telling William about an exciting new talented author who had admired his work, William says " would he like for me to blurb his book"...do bears #@%!* in the woods. Oh my goodness, I couldn't wait to get home & tell the author of the offer. I hope it works out! William also spent time sharing his thoughts on meeting Hal Holbrook,and his books being made into film (Bloodsworth & That Evening Sun) and just as I was asking him about "The Long Home" & the screenplay that Scott Phillips & Jed Ayres had done, we were interrupted by a young lady needing her books signed. I certainly understood the urgency and I forgave her but I sure would have liked to have heard the answer. The evening was everything I dreamed of and could have hoped for. William Gay is one of the nicest & coolest authors I've run across and I hope he enjoys the bottle of homemade rhubarb wine I took him..it's good stuff!
Posted by Rod Norman at 6:29 PM
I wanted to give everyone a heads up on a terrific musician I stumbled across that you may not have heard of yet, but I believe you will down the road. His name is Chris Gay, and he's the son of the very talented writer William Gay. I went down to Landmark Books in Franklin,Tn. on Nov. 7th for William Gay & Sonny Brewer's book signing for "Don't Quit Your Day Job". Well Chris came along & brought his guitar and really made quite the impression. Chris performed 4 songs he had written, starting with, "Go Crazy,Quietly" and "Lordy Elvis", before taking a request from his Father, "Statesboro Blues" and a request from Sonny, "Throw a Rock in the Road". Chris is a very talented musician & has recently recorded 3 songs in a studio in Nashville,Tn. and we'll be awaiting word on there availability. I talked with Chris afterwards and he's a heck of a nice guy, who's cut his teeth on his father's & Larry Brown's literature. I had a great time visiting with him and I hope to do a follow up interview with Chris very soon.
Posted by Rod Norman at 6:27 PM
Friday, November 5, 2010
Jed Ayres is one of the hosts of St. Louis' own Noir@ Bar. His short stories have been published in anthologies, magazines & on the web. He has just finished his first novel,"Peckerwood" and he writes screenplays. Jed acted in, wrote & produced the film "Mosquito Kingdom" which played at the Tivoli at the St.Louis Film Festival. Mr. Ayres also runs the website "HARDBOLIED WONDERLAND". He is a husband, and father of 2 boys and I'm proud to call him my good friend. It's my pleasure to bring you a new interview with Mr. Ayres who is currently in Philadelphia at NoirCon and is the envy of all of us who got left behind!
1)Noir @ Bar just met for the 7th time. Has it lived up to your expectations, is it something you hope to continue indefinitely, and would you like it to grow?
Noir at the Bar has surpassed my original expectations. I didn’t know if we’d register interest from anybody for it. I’ve been to some awfully dull literary events and we didn’t want our baby to resemble those bloodless readings in any way. The enthusiasm the event has garnered in the crime community has been very exciting, and I’m always floored and humbled when a writer I admire will come participate in our tawdry little production.
I would like to see it grow in a few ways. First, I’d love to see St. Louis become a destination for crime writers and hungry young talent to make a mark. Second, I’d love to see the city really embrace the event. Our budget is whatever is in my pocket… ummm, nothing. So, advertising is pretty much nil. The Riverfront Times has run some pieces on us and that’s been much appreciated, but we’re relying on word of mouth to promote it. Third, I’d like for Subterranean Books to prosper and independent bookstores and small publishers especially to get a shot in the arm from what we’re doing. And fourth, I’d like to become disgustingly wealthy from the whole affair.
2) Who first got the ball rolling, you or Scott? Was its origin based on the Philly Noir at the Bar?
When Scott came back from NoirCon in 2008, he mentioned that there was an event in Philadelphia called Noir at the Bar, so named by Peter Rozofsky(SP?), and wouldn’t it be fun to do something like that in St. Louis? Uh, yeah. It would. I have no idea if our events bare any similarity other than the name. I’ve heard that Scott Montgomery and Harry Hunsicker put on a Noir at the Bar Houston style recently and I’d love to have seen that, but again, I have no idea how similar an experience they may be.
3) Who's on your dream list of authors you'd like to see in St. Louis at N@B someday?
Here’s where I’m going to get in trouble for leaving somebody off, but the list truly is infinite. One of the first things that occurred to me when planning it was that it would be great to pair newbies with my heroes – kind of level the playing field and treat everybody equally – let the work speak for itself. So there are a bunch of writers without book deals that I would love to have participate alongside luminaries like…
4) Have you gotten an opportunity to read Scott Phillips's new book "RUT" yet and your thoughts if you have?
I read Rut a couple years ago in manuscript form and loved it. Scott’s got a real strength for creating ensembles of memorable characters to bounce off of each other in hilarious, perverse and tragic ways. He’s also great at seeing things through to their natural conclusions and consequences, for instance, nobody is ever neatly killed off in his books, once dead they pose new problems that have to be dealt with – he may have been a real sack of shit in life, but now he’s a literal sack of shit on the living room floor and we have to hide him - So, the opportunity for him to go a few years into the future and deal with the behavioral trends taken for granted now and play around with the consequences of it all with a fantastic stock of characters was not to be missed.
5) HARDBOILED WONDERLAND,is one of the best, if not the best, crime-mystery related sites on the web. What are some of your favorite websites to peruse?
That’s too much, really, but thanks. I have no idea how you’re supposed to do it. I have no idea what the gadgets and tools that ‘blogger’ offers do or how to install them, I’m totally useless there. I peruse very lightly and am often overwhelmed by a site’s main page – so many flashing lights and videos and advertisements and links – I skip ‘em. I’m an old fart. I get overwhelmed by print magazines that get too creative with their layout too. I check out The Rap Sheet and Spinetingler, Keith Rawson’s video interviews are great and The Nerd of Noir is always entertaining and insightful – I actually read the non-fiction portions of Crimefactory before the fiction too, they’re doing nice things over there. Mulholland Books has come out of the gates with a dizzying display of quality essays from top-notch talents. I don’t know how long they can keep that pace up, they haven’t even published a single title yet, but as long as they’re rolling along at this clip, I’m checking them out. Actually, I’d love to see a print collection of those essays. I’m a Luddite like that.
6) I know that you and Scott have been to L.A. recently pitching some screenplays and a TV series. Have you gotten any feedback or movement in that area since your return?
Scott and I have some scripts and concepts that are pretty kick ass, but I haven’t quit my day jobs yet.
7) You've been working†on your first novel for a while now, are you in the editing process now & how close are you to having a finished product, and shopping it around? Have started looking for an agent yet?
The novel’s working title is "Peckerwood" and it’s looking for a home now. I’m currently gathering dirt on various agents and publishers whom I hope to intimidate and coerce into making me wealthy.
8) You've written a novel, directed a film, acted in a film, written screenplays, had several short stories published,run a terrific website, and write a column for Barnes and Noble. Oh, I forgot you also help run St. Louis's own, N@Bar. AND..you’re a husband & a father of two wonderful boys. How do you do it or do you just change in a phone booth somewhere?
I have an amazing wife.
9) Otto Penzler recently commented on Cornell Woolrich, Jim Thompson, and David Goodis’ stature as legends of the crime noir, by saying that there are three current writers who may well be held in the same esteem some day. They were Stuart Neville, Ken Bruen, and Tom Franklin. Would you agree with that and is there anyone else you would add to that list? Also, I gotta note here that I've interviewed 2 of those here at S & W's, (Stuart & Ken), you think you can help me get one with Tom?
I don’t think there’s any arguing that those are three great contemporary writers, but there’s no way to say, with any kind of objectivity, what’s going to be carried on a generation or two down the road. In the case of Thompson, when he died he was out of print. I don’t think many people were banking on him having a resurgence or the legacy he does now. And he’s certainly not the first writer, (or artist of any field), to die in obscurity only to be greatly influential and appreciated a few decades down the road. So who’s to say who that could be now? But if you want to point out some folks creating exciting prose styles that are already being imitated and innovating the way we experience the written word, you’d have to throw in names like James Ellroy, Daniel Woodrell, Chuck Palahniuk and Irvine Welsh, plus a bunch more.
10) Tell me about Mosquito Kingdom, what did you enjoy about the experience and what did you dislike about it?
How long have you got? I enjoyed writing it. My second son was just born and I would literally be up in the middle of the night, rocking him to silence with my foot while typing away. In retrospect, I’m glad that I was such an integral part of the process of getting the film made. There were four of us that really got it done – Brad Hodge was the fearless visionary who had the sack to do it in the first place, Derek Elz is the only one who was present for every single second of production and post production, our workhorse and also responsible for the cool look and editing of the film, our star Chad Bockholdt kept showing up no matter what happened the last time we shot. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know how many times I thought we’d lost him for sure, but Chad’s a dedicated actor and apparently has no standards or sense of shame. And I wrote it and rewrote it everyday into post-production just to make it coherent. It’s not a great movie. But it’s a movie. A finished and watchable movie. One that I’m proud of. I know more people with half-finished films that will never see completion and ideas for scripts that they’ll never get made. I didn’t want to be another one of those guys. I’ve got a finished film, dammit. Now I can try to make a better one. Anyone who has ever made a film can testify that even making a bad movie is very difficult.
11) I thought you did a very nice job acting in that one. Is that something you would be interested in doing more of in the future?
Thanks. I’m not opposed to it, but it’s not something I’m seeking out.
12) You and Scott Phillips are pretty good buddies, how did your friendship develop and tell us something about Scott that we might not know.
I was a bookseller when The Ice Harvest film came out. I’d never heard of the book, but when it came in with the movie cover on it, I picked it up to check it out. The movie credits shocked me. Richard Russo wrote the screenplay? Get the hell out. I figured that if it was worth Russo’s time it was worth mine. And it was.
I found out that Scott lived in town and approached him through his website to do an appearance in my store. He came in to sign some books and I slipped him a copy of a short story I’d written and he very graciously read it and offered to give me some notes on it. He’s been very supportive and I don’t think the fact that I possess some incriminating photos of him from his Paris days even factors into it. He’s the best.
13) The best 3 films I've seen this year were Winter's Bone, Mesrine & Animal Kingdom. How about you, can you give us your fav's and something we might have missed?
My theater going has slowed down to a pretty pathetic rate these days. What I’ve seen is hardly representative of what I’d like to. For instance, I missed Mesrine, Red Riding and The Square during their theatrical runs. I probably wont even get to see The Town or Jackass on the big screen and Valhalla Rising never even came around. I did see and enjoy Winter’s Bone, Animal Kingdom and The Killer Inside Me over the summer, and I thought Brooklyn’s Finest was worthwhile, but far and away my favorite film of the year is A Prophet. It’s out on DVD now. You have no excuse.
14) Do you think you'll look back someday & go "OMG" I helped host Frank Bill & Matthew McBride's first public readings? What do you think the future holds for these 2 youngsters?
I already do. I accept full responsibility for all of their success and apologize profusely to the world. I wouldn’t rule out jail for either of them.
15) Give me 5 living writers that you couldn't live without?
The dude who wrote “may be harmful if swallowed” on the cans of paint. That guy saved my life more than once, but I don’t know if he’s still around.
My bosses (2) who write my name and theirs on paychecks.
The lawmakers who crafted government support for my economically vulnerable family.
Nicholas Sparks. Without him reminding the world that books exist no one would buy them any more. Ever. As someone who’d like to make a living selling books some day I’ve got to say thanks for that, Sparks.
16)What are some books you have read lately that everyone should seek out immediately?
Pike by Benjamin Whitmer, Wolves of Fairmount Park by Dennis Tafoya, The Cold Kiss by John Rector, Savages by Don Winslow, Misadventure by Millard Kaufman, Wake Up Dead by Roger Smith, Nobody’s Angel by Jack Clark, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, Florida Gothic Stories by Vicki Hendricks, Late Rain by Lynn Kostoff… are all 2010 books that I really enjoyed… I know I’m leaving off a bunch too… dammit.
17) I know that you and Scott wrote a screenplay for William Gay's first novel, "The Long Home.” Any movement or word on the chances of something happening there?
Haven’t heard anything new on that front for a while. I think people are waiting to see how the other Gay adaptations perform. We’ve had some nice attention from it. People say they like it, but I haven’t quit my day jobs.
18) Off the top of your head, are there a couple of books that you would love †to have a chance to†write a screenplay for?
The Ones You Do by Daniel Woodrell. That’s the one of his that just screams “movie” to me, though I hear the rights have recently been snatched up on that one. I’d love to write an adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s short story The Hardened Criminals. That is one of the most horrifying stories I’ve ever read and I think it could make a hell of a potent, scary movie. Duane Swierczynski’s The Blonde would make a great movie and it’s more or less structured like one already. I’d love to swoop in and take the credit for “writing” that kick ass film. Easy A.
19) You are a terrific interviewer, is there a dream interview still out there waiting to happen?
20) St. Louis will be hosting Bouchercon in 2011, are you planning any big events for N@B in connection with the mystery conference? It seems like a great chance to gather some very special writers for a night out on the town after hours at the Delmar Lounge.
I’m really torn about it. B’Con sounds like “play time” to me and I want to enjoy it. Noir at the Bar, especially on an epic level, sounds pretty stressful to carry. What I’m thinking at the moment is maybe an event the night before B’Con with the real nuts who are in town a night early. Could be a marathon event too. You comin?
Final Question: Where would you like to see yourself in the next 5 to 10 years?
Between Abbott and Bardsley on the bookshelves.
Posted by Rod Norman at 2:48 PM
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The William Gay booksigning with Sonny Brewer at Landmark Books in Franklin, Tn. that was cancelled in Oct. due to health reasons, has been rescheduled for this Sunday at 5 p.m. Author, Madison Smart Bell, will read and sign his newest book at 3 p.m. before the Brewer/Gay signing. This is a don't miss event as William does not make many public appearances these days. Hope to see you there.
Posted by Rod Norman at 6:36 PM
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
I am offering 2 free tickets to the St. Louis Speaker Series to hear Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the amazing best seller, EAT,PRAY,LOVE on Nov. 9th at the Powell Symphony Hall in St. Louis. All you have to do is be the first one to post you name & address in the comment section & I will mail those tickets out to you tomm. Good Luck!
Posted by Rod Norman at 7:36 AM