Saturday, December 24, 2011

Best of "2011" It was one Heck of a Ride !!

It seems like a long time since I've been back here writing on my blog, but their was no way I could close out 2011 without my best of list. I love lists and I especially love the "best of" end of the year lists. Kyle Minor & Keith Rawson are two of my personal favorites at this. It was a terrific year for books & music,a very disappointing year for film, and no one will ever forget the weather and its impact on the world in 2011. Love em or hate they are. Of course the books, concerts and film lists are all that I read, saw, or attended personally. Oh, Did I forget to mention the St. Louis Cardinals were World Champions as well.


1)Devil All The Time by Donald Ray Pollock
2)Already Gone by John Rector
3)Wake up Dead,Mixed Blood, & Dust Devils by Roger Smith
4)One True Sentence by Craig McDonald
5)Hurt Machine by Reed Farrel Coleman
6)The Wilding by Benjamin Percy
7)Frank Sinatra in a Blender by Matthew McBride
8)The Sisters Brothers by Patrick Dewitt
9)The End of Everything by Megan Abbott
10)Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
* honorable mention: The Adjustment by Scott Phillips


1)Crimes in Southern Indiana by Frank Bill
2)Drowing Tuscon by Aaron Michael Morales
3)Volt by Alan Heathcock
4)Sinners of Sanction County by Charles Dodd White
5)Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell


1)The Fear by Peter Godwin
2)Crazy River by Richard Grant
3)Murder City by Charles Bowden
4)On Fire by Larry Brown
5)I Was Looking for a Street by Charles Willeford


1)Fun and Games and Hell and Gone by Duane Sweirczynski
2)Claire Dewitt & The City of the Dead by Sara Gran
3)The Ranger by Ace Atkins
4)The Big Goodbye by Michael Lister


1)Give Us A Kiss by Daniel Woodrell
2)Tony & Susan by Austin Wright
3)Circus Parade by Jim Tully
4)Kiss Me Judas by Will Christopher Baer
5)The Siege of Trenchers Farm by Gordon M. Williams


1) Raylan by Elmore Leonard
2) El Gavilan by Craig McDonald
3) Gun Church by Reed Farrel Coleman
4) Donnybrook by Frank Bill
5) Wowzer by Frank Wheeler
6) Choke Hold by Christa Faust
7) The Devil is Real, The Louvin Brothers by Benjamin Whitmer
8) The Sex Lives of Missionary's by Kyle Minor
9) A Swollen Red Sun by Matt McBride
10) Me and My Likker by Popcorn Sutton


1) Texas Book Festival in Austin,Tx.
2) Frank Bill's Book Launch Party in Coydon,In.
3) Suspense Night at St. Louis County Library
4) Bouchercon in St. Louis,Mo.
5) William Gay's Art Exhibit in Oxford,Ms.


1) Jack Pendarvis (Univ. of Mississippi Lit. Class) with guest speaker Megan Abbott


1)Mumford & Sons at The Pageant St. Louis
2)Old Crow Medicine Show, Justin Townes Earle, Okervill River
at the Double Decker Music Festival in Oxford,Ms.
3)William Elliott Whitmore and Trampled by Turtles at Old Rock House in St. Louis
4)Drive by Truckers & Cardinals clinch Gm. #7 of World Series at The Pageant St.Louis
5)Jason Isbell and John Prine at Touhill Performing Arts Center in St. Louis
6)William Elliott Whitmore at Off Broadway in St. Louis
7)Lucinda Williams in Bloomington,In.
8)Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit at Old Rock House in St. Louis
9)Tom Russell and Thad Beckman in Mt. Olive,Il.
10)Hayes Carll in Champaign,Il. or.. Slaid Cleaves in Springfield,Il.


1) Ray Wylie Hubbard
2) Todd Snider at Sheldon Concert Hall Jan. 13th in St. Louis
3) Scott H. Biram or Chris Knight
4) The Black Keyes
5) Tom Waits...a guy can always dream can't he.


1)Midnight in Paris
2)The Help
4)Take Shelter
5)The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
6)The Cave of Forgotten Dreams
8)The Lincoln Lawyer
9)Martha Marcy May Marlene
10)Young Adult
*Sadly, I missed "The Rum Diaries"


1) Rampart
2) Shame
3) A Dangerous Method
4) Meeks Cutoff
5) My Week With Marilyn
6) The Descendants
7) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
8) The Artist
9) Melancholia
10)The Master

FINALLY CROSSED PATHS: (Yeah, I was a fan boy)

1) Ray Wylie Hubbard
2) Dannielle & Mike Wolfe from American Pickers
3) Guy Fierri
4) Keith Rawson
5) Jason Isbell


1) Sweetie Pies Restaurant in St. Louis,Mo.
2) Yuengling Beer
3) Roger Smith crime novels
4) The Kingdom of Survival and The Folksinger films by Slowboat Films
5) Scott H. Biram
6) Albums "Here We Rest", "A)Enlightenment B)Endarkment", "Bad Ingredients" and "Measbi".
7) Weird South Magazine
8) Turtleman, on Call of the Wildman
9) Artwork by Steve Keene and Tom Russell
10) Castle TV Series


1) Justified
2) The Walking Dead
3) Sons of Anarchy
4) Hidden City
5) Call of The Wildman
6) Treme
7) Bored to Death
8) Moonshiners
9) American Pickers
10) Off Limits and Boardwalk Empire

1) Craig Johnson's new Walt Longmire TV series on A & E.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Donald Ray Pollock, Q & A

Do not miss Donald Ray Pollock's appearance this Wed. night at Subterranean Books at 7 p.m. Mr. Pollock will be reading from and signing his new novel, "DEVIL ALL THE TIME". This book is guaranteed to make many Top Ten lists of books from 2011 & also several Best Book of the year lists. I am very thankful I was able to catch up with Donald in between book events this week and in advance of his trip to St. Louis. What follows is a Q & A we just finished up today. Many thanks to Donald Ray for his time and thoughtful answers.

S&W's) When people here the words "regional writer" it's like a curse word to some. I just have never understood that. The writers I love best, Larry Brown, Harry Crews, William Gay, are among those who've gotten that label. Shouldn't it actually be a compliment? These writers write what they know best & what they know is fascinating to most anyone who have read them. Why try to write about some area or people you know nothing about? I prefer hard core realism.

DRP) I think a large percentage of writers could be considered "regional". I mean, if most of your fiction is set in or around New York City or Dublin or Boston, hell, you're still focusing on one place. It definitely doesn't bother me to be known as a Midwestern writer or an Ohio writer or, heck, even a Ross County writer. Because I've lived in southern Ohio my entire life, there be something seriously wrong if the place wasn't a very important part of me.

S&W's) It was a long journey,(32 years at the paper mill, 5 years learning the craft at 45 years old,going back to school and getting the MFA), to getting KNOCKEMSTIFF published. How satisfying was it to hold that first book in your hands and realize you did it?

DRP) As for what I felt when I got my hands on that first finished copy of KNOCKEMSTIFF, I'd rank it among the four or five best experiences of my life. I felt, I guess , more than anything, extremely lucky. I mean, it's what every writer dreams of, right?

S&W's) You've used Knockemstiff, Oh., your hometown as a setting in both books. However, you also use Coal Creek, W.V. quite a bit in the new novel. Why Coal Creek W.V. as a setting?

DRP) Well, I'm not really sure. I knew that I had to move Arvin away from Meade, so that he would eventually end up on the road and meet up with Carl and Sandy, and so I chose a place that I figured I could write about. West Virginia isn't a whole lot different from Southern Ohio.

S&W's) I know you're gonna get asked this a lot and I believe people will make comparisons, so I'll go ahead and ask now. How much of an influence has Flannery O'Connor had on your writing?

DRP) There are many southern writers who have had a big influence on me: Carson McCullers, Tennessee Williams, Barry Hannah, Larry Brown, William Gay, Chris Offutt, Harry Crews, Ron Rash, Flannery O'Connor, the list goes on and on. I can tell you that I copied "A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND" on an IBM typewriter at least twice when I was starting out.

S&W's) Your books are dark, they're brutal, the characters seem to be always wanting to run away from something or aspiring to to be more than they are. Yet, there is such a sense of realism and honesty, and humanity, that you can't help but fall in love with these characters no matter their flaws. Your thoughts?

DRP) Even though many of my characters are mostly bad people, I think they would be very difficult to write about if I didn't feel at least a little empathy for them. And at fifty-six years old, I've seen a lot of people screw their lives up, and so I can understand ( to an extent, anyway) how easy it is to do that.

S&W's) Lets talk about working class writers like Larry Brown & William Gay and one of my new favorites, Frank Bill, for a moment. Did those writers inspire you and do you think that they have given voices to the voiceless?

DRP) Well, as I said, William Gay and Larry Brown have influenced me alot, along with Frank. But not just their writing. These are people who worked blue collar jobs for years while they were learning how to write. More than anything, they gave me hope that maybe I could do the same.

S&W's) There are two big events coming up soon, that you will be appearing at. The first is a reading & book signing event in St. Louis on July 20th at Subterranean Books and the other is Frank Bill's Book Launch in Corydon,In. on Sept 10th. For those folks who haven't been to one of these events, what can they expect when they come out?

DRP) Well, I don't know about Frank's book release party in Corydon, bas as for me reading in St, Louis, ha! I'll just read parts of the new book for maybe 30 minutes and then answer questions if anyone is still awake. In other words, I'm not a showman!

S&W's) Young kids today who want to be writers, and who might be in the same shoes you were as a young man. What advise would you have for them?

DRP) The first thing you need to realize is that if you don't love books and love to read, then you're probably not going to make it as a writer. Reading comes first. Then you have to learn to sit in the chair and write every day, or at least try to write. Figure on doing that for several years before anything starts to happen. When you go out, leave your cell phone and your ear buds at home and pay attention to the world around you.

S&W's) "DEVIL ALL THE TIME" is the best book published in 2011 that I have read. I cannot imagine anything coming close outside of Frank Bill's debut. To me it's an instant classic. It will no doubt draw comparisons to "Wiseblood", amongst others. Did you ever foresee being able to write something so good, that it will probably still be read long after we are both dead and gone?

DRP) Man, I really appreciate your wonderful and generous words about the book, but I have to admit I'm still not sure how "good" it is. Only time will tell, I guess.

S&W's) I don't want to give away anything about the ending of "DEVIL ALL THE TIME" I have to be careful here. However, my question to you is, any chance you will pick up and revisit it in another novel in the future? Is it something you want to come back to, or is it something you've even thought about?

DRP) I really don't know yet. I have thought that I'd like to write a novel about Hank, the storekeeper, at some point, but I've got a couple other things planned first.

S&W's) How important is life experience to writers? I just can't see how all these young writers can entertain people my age, when they haven't done, seen, or experienced much yet. Wouldn't you say life is the best teacher?

DRP) Sure, life is definitely the best teacher. Still, even if all you've done is go to school, you've still experienced quite a bit of life or the human condition with your family and friends, that is, unless you've stayed in your room all the time playing on the computer or texting or whatever. I do wonder about young people who are so obsessed with "social networking", ,which,really, is mostly bullshit. Don't get me wrong; I can get as hooked as anyone on that stuff, but I do try to limit myself. You're not going to find much material to write about if most of your time is spent trying to say "connected" through a little piece of plastic. Too, a college grad should probably spend a year or two working around people before they enter a MFA program, though I'm sure as hell not saying you need to spend thirty-two years in a factory!

S&W's) In regards to music, what kind of impact has groups like Drive By Truckers, Lucero, Hank III, and Steve Earle had on you or your writing?

DRP) I've listened to all these people, of course, but I think the way that music influences my writing is a little different.What I mean is that when I'm revising , I pick several albums and listen to them over and over, until I'm not really hearing them anymore, at least not mindful of the lyrics. For "THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME", I listened mostly to the following albums when I was doing the revisions (which took a long time): the first two Allman Brothers records, a piano tribute to Radiohead( Christopher O'Reilly's, "True Love Waits"), a collection of old gospel songs on Smithsonian Folkways, the self -titled album by Clutch,and Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was the Night". These were used, basically, to help me get in certain moods.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Chapter 5 : The Royal Gorge Route by Rudy Phillips

Rudy Phillips was a depression era hobo who rode the rails from 1925-32 & was crowned "King of the Hobo's " in Britt,Iowa at the Hobo Convention. He was a good friend of mine and I miss him dearly. I decided as an honor to Rudy I would print a chapter from his book "Hobo King Rambling Rudy" here on my blog. I hope you enjoy it and I'll be putting a new page or two up each day this week to the conclusion of this particular story. Enjoy this true tale of crime adventure!

The Royal Gorge Route:

A few days of the Salt Lake City Mission swill and Rudy was restored to his former self. His reluctant host was the City flop house on the West side of Town. The time was passed by walking the streets of skid row or accosting anyone looking congenial. In this way the lad kept a little money on him at all times in case of an emergency. He marveled at the fact there was a water fountain on practically every street corner after almost perishing on the parched, lonely desert from the lack of it.But ultimately, the distant whistle of an East bound freight train summoned him to its embrace.

Rudy sat perched atop a boxcar of the slow freight as it wound its way through the mountains. The amazingly scenic "Royal Gorge Route" was enjoyable with its many tunnels and 1000 foot cliffs. It was the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. Occasionally far below, he would catch a glimpse of a river as it wound its way through a canyon.

Rudy had to leave the train at Soldiers Summit, Utah. His visit there was a brief one because the authorities and local citizenry were animus. They advised him that his talents could possibly be plied better somewhere else; say St. Louis or Chicago.Yes, there was overt hostility from the people towards the poor hobos. So, being the agreeable sort he was, Rudy capitulated and stayed close to home, the jungle.

He sought out a fire and went over to get warm. While there he struck up an acquaintance with a young black boy, who was about his age, as they stood around trying to keep warm. The youngster introduced himself as Chi. He was of slight build, had a quick wit and a smart mouth, which at times he confessed, had caused grievous social disharmony amongst the brethen. Rudy judged him to be around fifteen or sixteen.

"They don't like colored folk none around here" he was saying, "so I think it would be a lot mo' healthier fo' me ta hop on the next freight outta here".

Rudy diverted his concentration from the entrancing flames to Chi. "I don't figure they care much for hobos neither" he interjected, "so I'm clearing out too as soon as I can. Folks around here ain't too awful friendly to us bo's".

I'm tolerable hungry "Chi continued after the short unsolicited interruption: his train of thought remaining stedfast, "and they ain't narry a sally or mission around these parts nowheres." He placed his hands inside the side pockets of his dark brown overcoat. "No sir, a man don'stand a chance in a hard place such as this." Bitterness hung heavy on each word.

"Where you from anyhow?" Rudy asked, just making conversation to kill time.
"Chicago, how about chu?"
"St. Louey."
" Looks like we is neighbors." Chi said with a broad smile revealing pearly white teeth.
"Sure does don't it."
"Well tell ya what, when we get ta Chi town ah'll show ya round. Then mebe you can show me' round St. Louey sometime. Is 'at a deal?"
"Sounds fair ta me" said Rudy extending his open hand.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Get yours Today !!

You know you want to be the first to have one of these, your a trend setter not a follower, so skip tonight's pizza and pre-order one of these. After all, their is only 40,000 in the first printing so they won't last long. They would make a great Birthday or Christmas gift as well for that really cool but hard to buy for friend or relative.

Friday, July 1, 2011

"Fun & Games" A wild ride you wanna take !

I just recently finished reading Duane Swierczynski's new novel, "FUN & GAMES", the first of a trilogy published by Mulholland Books. The second book "HELL & GONE", will be released in October of 2011 and the final conclusion, "POINT & SHOOT", will be out in March of 2012. Now, I know what most of you are thinking, you hate series novels because you have to wait so long in between books. But, that's the genius of Duane Swierczynski you see, he's releasing a trilogy that will be available before the end of the Mayan calender in December of 2012, so you can read these without worries of never finishing.You'll be done BEFORE the world ends. I think it's pretty thoughtful on Duane's part. And, all kidding aside, it's a terrific read and you won't want to put it down once you start. It's the story of an ex-cop,Charlie Hardie, who has left that career for a life of house sitting. Unfortunately the house he's watching in "Fun & Games" has a stow away who is being hunted by "The Accident People", a group who make people disappear and leave no traces, only the appearance of an accident. Charlie's life is suddenly at risk as is those from his previous life. Caught between the girl and the people who want to make her disappear, Charlie's in for a hell of a ride. This is one series you won't want to miss. Duane is the author of "The Wheelman", "The Blonde" and my personal favorite "Severance Package". If you haven't read Duane before, what are you waiting for? Start with "Fun & Games" and then go read his back list, you'll thank me later.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Frank Bill's Book Release Party for Crimes in Southern Indiana

Frank Bill's Book Release Party for Crimes in Southern Indiana
Click on the link above for details:

This is going to be an Event you want to put on your calender now. If you could go back in time and attend a first book event for Daniel Woodrell, Larry Brown, or William Gay, wouldn't we all. Well this is going to be one of those times and later you can look back and say yeah I was there. Pretty cool stuff, and that's without saying that some other really terrific authors will be reading as well (Donald Ray Pollock, Kyle Minor, Scott Phillips, Jed Ayers). Who knows, their may be others show up.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Noir @ Bar and Meshuggah Cafe a Winning Team

I caught the latest Noir@Bar on June 11th which is normally held at the Delmar Lounge, but on this occasion was moved to the Meshuggah Cafe. This was due to necessity but in my opinion this was a better setting anyway. It's quieter, spacious, and had A/C along with the same options of drinks as well as coffee. Now, I know Bukowski would be saying,"Hell No" to the nicer digs, he would cry out that a Dive is required for these type readings and he may be right. I can only speak for myself when I say I prefer Meshuggah Cafe as a permanent home for N@B. Now, on to the important stuff like the all star group who read that night and the Alumni who were in attendance as listeners. John Hornor Jacobs ,the author of "Southern Gods" read first and delighted with a short story of Southern Goth & faith and snake handling. Aaron Michael Morales, author of "Drowning Tuscon" followed up with a short story entitled "New Mexico Drive By" and I can only say it will go down in N@B history..along with Aaron, as one of the most memorable readings ever. This was the stuff for which legends are born...both good & bad. Fred Venturini, author of "The Samaritan" then read an excert from his book and a short story about idolizing serial killers. Very funny stuff and did I mention Fred has muscles and that Aaron really liked those muscles...well if you were there then you would know that. Finally, my friend Frank Bill, closed the night with a tiny bit of his soon to be released debut novel, "Crimes in Southern Indiana". This was terrific and a real joy to hear Frank read those same words he has so carefully crafted in this collection. Overall a smashing success !! In attendance were Matthew McBride, Matt Kindt, Dan O'Shea, and of course MC's & hosts Scott Phillips and Jed Ayres. Dont forget Jesus Angel Garcia will be reading from "BadBadBad" at the next N@B in August. Also, Donald Ray Pollock, author of "Knockemstiff" will be appearing at Subterranean Books on July 20th with his new book "The Devil All The Time".

Diners, Drive Ins and Dives

Since the summer has kicked in it seems that Guy Fieri has always been close by. It started when my wife and I made a quick trip over to St. Louis to meet Guy at Left Bank Books while he was promoting his new book "Guy Fieri Food" and then continued on as we traveled to Indianapolis for my Birthday and hit JERSEY"S restaurant (located in Carmel,In.) for lunch. Jersey's it seems had been recently reviewed by Guy on DDI&D's. The East Coast themed restaurant serves great food but is not a place to go if you want your food fast. Everything is made from scratch and you are given a sheet to read when you come in stating this and encouraging those in a hurry to move on. I had a chicken steak sandwich with ham shavings,bacon & cheese, and BBQ sauce, known as"The Red Sox Really Suck" that was wonderful. I also tried an appetizer of loaded chips (homemade potato chips) covered in cheese, bacon & BBQ. Great stuff. On the downside the service was also East Coast. We were ignored by our waiter who screwed up our order with another table, which added to our delay and which while he admitted his mistake he never apologized for it.Somehow I doubt they ignored Guy or screwed up his order.

Friday, June 17, 2011

American Pickers Festival LeClaire, Iowa

I headed up to Leclaire,Iowa for the 2nd Annual American Pickers Festival June 4-5th and had a stroke of good luck. We got in town, and ran by our hotel around 5 p.m. and then decided head over to Antique Archeology and check out the shop. Well the shop was closed but the garage door was open and we were just wandering around snapping some photos when Mike Wolfe pulls in in the new Pickers van. Mike immediately jumped out and greeted us with a "Hey, how you doin" and jumped right into a conversation about where we were from (Effingham,Il.), where he had been (picking in Nashville,Tn.) and opening a new shop & my Oxford,Ms. shirt I was wearing. Seems we both love Ole Miss ! Mike told us we were welcome to look around, and he and his nephew Adam began loading T-shirts into the van. Well, I felt kinda bad just watching and told Mike so, who immediately said "well start grabbing boxes". I spent the next half hour working with the Pickers, which I found pretty cool and my wife found pretty funny (taking a picture to prove I was working). Yeah hilarious. It wasn't long before Danielle came out and Mikes brother dropped by and a couple of appraisers from the show. Mike and Danielle were gracious and took pictures with us and proved to be the same down to earth people you see on the show. No acting here, just downhome folk. I was probably ready to go home then, my dream fulfilled, but of course we hung around and stayed for the Festival and checked out LeClaire. We ate at Wise Guys Pizza, caught the city book sale, attended the antique car show and hit several of the city wide garage sales. The best part of Sat. was the Q & A with Mike and Danielle up on the levee. Mikes Mother, Judy Gimbel, the clowns, and Danielle's Dad were in attendance as well. The one thing Mike & I share and the one thing that always draws me in like a moth to a flame is "PASSION" ! Mike is very passionate about what he does and has since an early age. It was also cool to hear how much he gives back to the community and charity as well. It seems Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz are very generous men. The Laurel & Hardy heads pictured above have been donated to St. Judes to be auctioned off (amongst other items). Mike is also working on a couple new projects including "Kid Pickers" books & website to educate kids on the importance of preserving our history. When the Q & A was over both Mike and Danielle stayed around in the 95 degree heat signing autographs. We left Iowa totally fufilled, and looking forward to coming back to see Frank in the years ahead. And, someday I just might be willing to let loose of some of my collection to the coolest Pickers around.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Debut Authors: Frank Bill and Matt McBride

I truly believe that one of the greatest joys we can get in this life is in helping others and in seeing our friends and love ones achieve success. I have the pleasure of calling Matt McBride and Frank Bill my friends. I posted interviews with both these authors on this very site several months ago and I predicted both of these guys would hit it big. Well.. now months removed, I can say I was right. Matt's book "Frank Sinatra in a Blender" is now available for purchase on Concord E-books website and Amazon for $7.77. It includes a wonderful intro from Ken Bruen, one of the living legends in the mystery genre. I read this puppy when it was nothing more than a manuscript and I loved it and I sent it to Ken who was nice enough to read it.. and thank goodness he loved it. The rest is history...Matt's enormous talent so evident in his early short stories was finally given a home by Concord Free Press. This is only the beginning and someday we'll be able to sit back and laugh about the early days when he was a struggling writer. But, don't take my word for it, get over there and buy the dang thing..I think Matt gets half of every book sold & the other half goes to Concord Free Press to help with their charitable efforts. The only downside to Matt's book is my character, Officer Wiethop, got left on the cutting room floor. Such is my life story...close but no cigar !! Ha ps Also left on the cutting room floor was take a, LEFT ON PHILLIPS & RIGHT ON AYERS now those were streets I was looking forward to driving.

Frank Bill's first book "Crimes in Southern Indiana" comes out via FSG on Sept 7th & Aug 30th via Amazon. I read an early draft and this is one terrific book and early reviews are drawing lines to McCarthy, Woodrell, and William Gay. Those are HUGE shoes to fill. However, Tom Franklin and William Gay himself, have both recently given it high marks. Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff gave raving reviews as well. So, mark it on your calender as this is one book your not going to want to miss.It's available for pre-order on Amazon as we speak.Then as we get closer to those above dates I'll have some other special things posted on here. Jed Ayres and myself spent a weekend with Frank & his wonderful wife Jenn,(she was a saint to put up with the 3 of us) not too long ago, and we shot some terrific stuff down there that will come out in due time. Don't forget Frank will be in St. Louis on June 11th at Noir@Bar and he will also have a short story published in Playboy some time in the Fall. Oh, and he's a Hoosier by the way..born & bred like yours truly.

The great thing, the exciting thing here, is that both of these guys are just scratching the surface of what will be long and fruitful careers. Get aboard these trains now before they leave the station.

Whole Lotta Shakin Going On

Busy times my friends, but good times nonetheless. Traveled to St. Louis,Mo. Sunday May 29th to the Downtown location of Left Bank Books to do a meet and greet with super cool chef Guy Fieri. Guy was there from 12-2 and signed books & took photos with all those in attendance. The time was too brief but I'm still glad we went. Guy Fieri is the host of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives as well as the host of the game show.."A Minute To Win It". Also ran into my buddy Kevin who is one on the great autograph collectors in the Midwest, and who along with his partner in crime Mark Medley, always bring a smile to my face.

Tomorrow, (June 2nd) kicks off one of the best book sales that the Midwest has to offer, the St.Charles Friends of the Library Sale. It runs Thursday through Sunday and opens tomm. at 9 a.m. with a $10 admittance fee. Don't mean to grumble...but I will anyway, the fee doubled from $5 last year to $10 this year. I understand the St. Louis Book Fair charges $10 on it's opening night, but as good as the St. Charles sale is, and it is good, this is a bit much to ask with the economy the way it is. The answer is yes, I will grudgingly hand over my $10 anyway. Most hardbacks run in the $2 category, well below the $4-6 fee at the St. Louis Book Fair. See you there & happy hunting...oh by the way, do me a favor & leave all the Benjamin Percy, Daniel Woodrell, Chris Offutt, Will Christoper Baer and William Gay's alone..they have my name on it.

The first Annual American Picker Days will take place this Sat & Sun June 4th & 5th in LeClaire,Iowa and will be attended by Mike Wolfe and Dannielle and other guests from the show. The city will be hosting a city wide garage sale in conjunction with the festival. An appraiser will also be on hand to appraise your items at $5 an item. This promises to become an annual event. Frank Fritz will not be in attendance. Antique Archeology will also be open during the Festival. They are also opening a second location in Nashville,Tn. Maybe I'll see you there.

June 11th: Noir@Bar you will not want to miss this one!! Are you ready for this? Aaron Michael Morales "Drowning Tucson", John Hornor Jacobs "Southern Gods", Fred Venturini "The Samaritan" and the next superstar, Frank Bill "Crimes in Southern Indiana" all on the same night at 7 pm in the upstairs loft of Meshuggah Cafe in the heart of U. City. Another N@B has also been added for Aug 6th with special guest Jesus Angel Garcia, author of "badbadbad!" How can you go wrong with an author with Jesus & an angel in his name?

Also just in, the Queen of Crime Noir, Megan Abbott will be at Square Books in Oxford,Ms. on July 27th with her new book, "The End Of Everything" which Entertainment Weekly has called the next "Lovely Bones". Wow, now that's praise you like to hear.Proud of you Megan.

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, the Real Deal

It's been awhile since I've posted anything and it's great to be back. Last evening, I was in St. Louis,Mo. at the Old Rock House to see Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit. I became familiar with Jason's work through Frank Bill, as we both share a passion for The Drive By Truckers. Jason Isbell was once one of 3 singer songwriters in the DBT's. Unfortunately, about 4 years ago Jason left the band after splitting with his wife Shonna (also a member of DBT). He soon struck out on his own and formed the band the 400 Units. They have recently put out a new CD entitled "Here We Rest", their third CD and in my opinion the best yet. It's not simply better, it is terrific. Featuring some of Isbell's top notch songwriting, including not soon to be forgotten hits, "Alabama Pines", "Tour of Duty" and my personal favorite "Go It Alone". However, last night was my first chance to catch Jason & his new band in person, and..they were outstanding,simply one of the best shows I've ever seen. They rocked the Old Rock House, with a passion & energy that's rarely seen these days. I expected Isbell to be terrific, but I was unprepared for how talented the members of the 400 Units would be. Isbell is now surrounded by a group of musicians as talented and as passionate as he is. I truly believe in time this band will grow the same kinda cult following that The Drive By Truckers have. If you are going to be anywhere near Memphis,Tn. on June 24th, head on over to The Hi Tone & catch these guys along with Kentucky Knife Fight at 8 p.m.
While I'm thinking about I also want to put a plug in for the new documentary on the Drive By Truckers called "The Secret To A Happy Ending"...which honestly isn't all that happy. If you would like alot of insight into this legendary band and the individuals who formed it ( primarily Patterson Hood & Mike Cooley ), then this is the film for you. The film will also shed some light on Jason Isbell's departure from the band in 2007. So head over to Best Buy, Amazon or Netflix and check it out.


This 9 minute clip was shot by Adam Wangler and features a brief cameo by yours truly if you don't blink. Anthony Neil Smith recently allured to St.Louis as becoming a hub for the Neo Noir world, in a large part due to the efforts of Scott Phillips & Jed Ayres and their little slice of heaven known as "Noir @ The Bar". It is held at the Delmar Lounge in U-City and has hosted writers such as Sean Doolittle, Frank Bill, Matthew McBride, Tim Lane, Derek Nikitas, Pinckney & Laura Benedict, Theresa Schwegel, Dennis Tafoya, Matt Kindt, Anthony Neil Smith, Kyle Minor, Malachai Stone, of course Scott Phillips & Jed Ayres, amongst others I've probably forgotten to mention.

Monday, February 28, 2011



How cool is it to be in a video by author Scott Phillips and to be in it with Christa Faust? 32 below cool !!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Like Guinness, Brilliant, Absolutely Brilliant...McDonalds "ONE TRUE SENTENCE"


Craig McDonalds fourth novel in the Hector Lassiter series, ("One True Sentence") comes out Feb. 14th, and you'll want to pick this one up immediately. I've been a big fan of Craig's ever since reading "Head Games" , the debut in the series. That affection has continued with "Toros and Torsos" and "Print The Legend". However, to me, this is Craig's masterpiece. Set in Paris in 1924, Hector finds himself and best friend Ernest Hemingway caught up in a series of murders of literary magazine editors. A wonderful cross of fiction and non fiction, you feel transported back in time to The City Of Lights and the Lost Generation. McDonald blends the fictional pulp writer Hector Lassiter, into a world of non fiction characters such as Gertrude Stein, Alice Tolkas, Aleister Crowley, Man Ray, and of course Hadley & Ernest Hemingway. McDonald humanizes these literary icons like only he can. I have always found the Lassiter novels to be intelligent, rich and thought provoking, but "One True Sentence" takes the series to a new level and establishes this series as one of the best things going. This one has it all, mystique, intrigue, mystery, erotica, murder, the occult. I don't want to give away too many plot points, but lets just say that there are a ton of twist & turns and Hector's love life is down right steamy. Who knew that Craig McDonald could write erotica this good. Simply put,I did NOT want to put this one down and did not want to see it end. I cannot wait for the fifth book to come out and yet we're still 8 days away till the fourth ones official release date. Well, it's that good, and it leaves you thirsting for more. For those who have never read any of the Lassiter novels, it is not necessary to start at the beginning with Head Games. Each novel is self sufficient, but if you do read them in order, I really believe you'll find this one to be Craig's crowning achievement. This is also the last of the Lassiters that Hemingway appears in. We will be looking forward to more Brinke Devlin in the days & years to come. Brinke, a Louise Brooks clone, becomes the love of Hector's life but could also be the murderer.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

YouTube - "American Pickers" on The Late Show with David Letterman (2011-01-11)

YouTube - "American Pickers" on The Late Show with David Letterman (2011-01-11)

YouTube - Johnny Duhan The Burning Word

YouTube - Johnny Duhan The Burning Word

I just received this new song from one of "Signs & Wonders" favorites, Johnny Duhan. Johnny says they refused to play list it due to its religious nature. Help us spread the word by clicking on the link above and giving it a listen.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Concert offerings for 2011, Heatin Up in the Midwest

Fred Eaglesmith Feb. 11th St. Louis,Mo. Off Broadway
Lucinda Williams Feb. 25th Bloomington,In.
Sarah McLachlan Feb.17th Indy & March 13th Louisville,Ky.
Arlo Guthrie March 15th Effingham,Il.
Murder by Death March 16th St. Louis,Mo. Off Broadway
John Hammond March 20th St. Louis,Mo. Old Rock House
Ryan Bingham March 10th Indy & March 12th Louisville,Ky.
James McMurtry March 26th St. Louis,Mo., The Paegent & March 29th Champaign,Il.
Guy Clark April 2nd Van Buren,Mo.
Carll Hayes April 7th Champaign,Il. High Dive
Tom Russell Oct. 7th St. Louis,Mo.
Slaid Cleaves June 19th Fayetville,Ak.

After a really weak 2010, it looks very promising in 2011. I'm still holding out hope for Old Crow Medicine Show, Tom Waits, Hank III, Steve Earle & William Elliot Whitmore to come around in the summer or fall.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Ken Bruen says of FSIAB

"2011 is off to a magnificent start, this novel dazzled me, delighted and provoked me. Never no more will I view Old Blue Eyes in the same light. A stunning piece of sustained imaginative artistry"

I also read the manuscript for Matt's unpublished crime novel and I gotta believe this one's gonna get snapped up pretty quick. This is by no means a cozy. This is a hard boiled crime story, set in St. Louis,Mo. It revolves around a heist of millions from a Credit Union and soon everything goes to Hell. There are alot of people who want to get there hands on that kinda cash and will kill to get it. This ones got great characters, great dialouge, and lots of action & some very brutal & sometimes funny scenes. It reminded me of early Ken Bruen. For all of you out there who loved Benjamin Whitmer's wonderful debut novel "PIKE", you will want to keep an eye out for this one down the road. I'm no pro at this, all I know is what I like and I liked this one alot. Like Ken says, it was a great way to kick off 2011. I can only hope to find a few more as entertaining as this one in the year to come.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

BLAST OF SILENCE....speaks loud & clear.

I really, really.. wish I could remember where I first heard of this film. I go to so many crime blog's that when I forget to write things down I can't remember who to thank. That is a real shame because I owe someone a HUGE thank you. If you come across this story and it was you, then consider yourself thanked properly. The film I'm talking about is "Blast of Silence" from 1961, and written, directed and starring Allen Baron. The film is available via Criterion on Netflix and contains in addition to the film, a special addition entitled " Requiem for a Killer: The Making of Blast of Silence" from 2007. How this film has ridden under the radar for so long is a crime. Blast of Silence is the story of Frank Bono, a hit man from Cleveland who's come to New York to do a job at Christmas. This film is vintage N.Y. and was made on about a $20,000 budget. Frank deals with his feelings of alienation while waiting to complete the job and soon things start to spiral out of his control. Frank soon finds his profession is not one you can simply walk away from. Lionel Sandler gives voice to film in the role of narrator. I watched the film twice in one day & then viewed the extras and just fell in love with it the more I saw of it and learned of it. I highly recommend it to all my crime noir buddies out there.