Mystery Tribune Issue No. 4

Mys­tery Tri­bune Issue No. 4
Win­ter 2018
The Mag­a­zine for Mys­tery and Sus­pense
236 pages
Edit­ed by Ehsan Ehsani

The first sto­ry in the Win­ter 2018 issue of Mys­tery Tri­bune, "A Friend Indeed" by Bren­dan DuBois, effec­tive­ly sets a tone.The dis­cur­sive nar­ra­tor, soft­ware design­er Caleb Willis, tells us every­thing we need to know in the first long sen­tence of the sto­ry: "So after my sec­ond mis­tri­al and my final release from coun­ty prison, I decid­ed to take up walk­ing, since there's not much to do with my life after I had been accused of mur­der­ing my best friend, who also hap­pened to be sleep­ing with my wife, while also in the process of steal­ing my com­pa­ny." After a lit­tle back­track­ing, the sto­ry unfolds neat­ly, fol­low­ing that old dic­tum: the journey's the thing, not the des­ti­na­tion.

The sec­ond sto­ry, "The Cur­rent," by Dan J. Fiore, fea­tures one of the best descrip­tions I've ever seen of being acci­den­tal­ly drunk, the details com­ing through loud­ly and in in near-hal­lu­ci­na­to­ry detail. "It feels like there's a wall in Shawn's mind, a brick wall just behind him block­ing out every­thing that came before. Think­ing, remembering–it's like bang­ing against the bricks and the wall moves and shakes and bends and bits get through but not enough to see. Not enough to under­stand." Poor Shawn, a nine-year-old kid, is drunk, found by a father who's incon­sis­tent and a liar at best and ret­ro­grade ass­hole at his worst. Bad shit ensues, but as the sto­ry clos­es, Shawn "knows that hid­den under it all, beyond the dark­ness and chaos, is a place where it's calm and qui­et and final­ly still." This is a sto­ry I didn't expect to like as much as I did in the end.

"Kill One, Get One Free," by David Rachels takes an old saw, the gang­ster mak­ing his bones, and injects some mean lines and life into it. "This was the first moment I under­stood what I was sign­ing up for–what I had already signed up for. It was kill or be killed. At once, killing this old lady seemed like an act of self-defense. I felt my con­science relax." This brings us into the mind­set of our almost-hit­man, but there's still a turn to come, and it's a good one. It also fea­tures my favorite end­ing of the sto­ries I read in this issue, a con­clu­sion both sat­is­fy­ing for the sto­ry and intrigu­ing enough to want to read more about this char­ac­ter. Plus, you hear writ­ers quote some­one famous about the pow­er of the appro­pri­ate­ly placed peri­od; this story's only excla­ma­tion point does the same thing, but bet­ter.   

Todd Scott's "Wolf bite" is the third sto­ry to fea­ture a dog promi­nent­ly. This par­tic­u­lar beast is one to remem­ber. "It comes at him fast from the oth­er side of the trail­er. Low to the ground, throw­ing dust and rocks. Head as big as a fuck­ing mail­box. Maybe a dish­wash­er, with a whole din­ner set­ting worth of teeth, shined up bright. It's a fuck­ing shark on brindle legs. Bark­ing its god­damn head off." This is Tom­my Dale Keegan's dog, both dog and own­er bad actors, and the Mid­land Police Depart­ment, in the per­son of Ben Harp­er, has to shoot one of them. The first line tells the sto­ry: Ben Harp­er doesn't shoot the dog, even after he gets bit­ten. This is a real­ly fine piece, dis­cussing both man and dog, and man and woman, the two strains tied togeth­er skill­ful­ly and irre­sistibly. Plus, I'm a suck­er for s good dog sto­ry.

A sto­ry of anoth­er kind entire­ly, "Death In Flo­rence" by Nick Kolakows­ki brought me to a place I've nev­er been and plant­ed me square­ly on ter­ra fir­ma. "Despite the con­stant threat of vehic­u­lar slaugh­ter, I love this place: the tall side­walks lined with can­dy-col­ored mope­ds, the impos­ing wood­en doors plas­tered with flak­ing posters, the cries of ambu­lances and spar­rows, the Sene­galese deal­ing post­cards and cheap trin­kets from card­board stands (all the bet­ter to fold away when the Cara­binieri make an appear­ance)." The rest of this well-struc­tured sto­ry details a woman on a quest that isn't all it seems to be, with a twist I didn't see com­ing at all. The best kind of sto­ry, this one demand­ed a reread imme­di­ate­ly to find the clues the author left behind.

"Oil Down," too, relies on set­ting to con­vey its pow­er, par­tic­u­lar­ly in writer Bri­an Silverman's descrip­tions of or men­tions of food. The men­tions range from roti to Carib beer to Stal­lion over­proof rum, but in par­tic­u­lar, oil down, "a one pot stew fea­tur­ing salt­ed meats, greens, pro­vi­sions like bread­fruit or cas­sa­va and cooked slow­ly in coconut oil and coconut milk often served at Sun­day din­ner" all of which sets a scene as capa­bly as any more typ­i­cal descrip­tion of land­scape or peo­ple. The sto­ry itself involves the death of a vagrant, called Filthy Man, and the efforts of a local bar own­er, Len Buon­figlio, a refugee from New York, to solve the pos­si­ble mur­der with the assis­tance of sev­er­al locals. This piece has the feel of a nov­el about it, and one hopes we'll see more of Mr. Len's sto­ry some­where else.

"Dad" by Hugh Fras­er clos­es out the fic­tion in this issue. A short vignette about the narrator's trou­bled rela­tion­ship with his father, this piece deals more with the after­math of a crime than the com­mit­ting of one, and seems a more sub­tle tack to take in the midst of the oth­er more tra­di­tion­al nar­ra­tives in the issue. The sto­ry opens as the nar­ra­tor remem­bers his life with his father. "At least the wait­er has only one taste of his garbage, he has no idea what it was like to live with it for thir­ty sev­en years. Every god­dam thing he ever said to me, since I can remem­ber, was some way of mak­ing him­self feel good at my expense." Need­less to say, this isn't going to end well for any­one involved.

Fic­tion is obvi­ous­ly the main attrac­tion for me, but beside the sto­ries, there's a Q&A with Rick Geary, reveal­ing inter­views with Tom Sweterlisch, Nick Petrie and Sean Phillips, and a review of James Anderson's Lul­la­by Road. Plus, there's an arti­cle by Ele­na Avan­zas Alvarez called "Psy­chopaths in Crime Fic­tion."  I don't know enough about pho­tog­ra­phy to com­ment deeply, but pho­tog­ra­phers Mal­go­rza­ta Sajur and Ash­ley Jon­cas held and reward­ed my inter­est. The added bonus of pho­to illus­tra­tions for each sto­ry is a great thing I wish more jour­nals could afford to do.

Over­all, this is a strong issue of Mys­tery Tri­bune, a mag­a­zine I'll return to in the future. You can sub­scribe for $48 year­ly (four issues) or buy sin­gle copies at www​.mys​tery​tri​bune​.com, and you should if you're inter­est­ed in con­tem­po­rary crime fic­tion.

 

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The Balkan Route by Cal Smyth

 

Fahren­heit Press
ISBN 978–1979517591
Novem­ber 2017
280 pages

Ital­i­cized text from the Fahren­heit Press site:

After a busi­ness­man is bru­tal­ly mur­dered in Bel­grade, Inspec­tor Marko Despo­tović digs into the web of cor­rup­tion that con­nects the police, politi­cians, drug deal­ers and spir­i­tu­al heal­ers as they bat­tle over the lucra­tive Balkan hero­in route.

Can Marko nav­i­gate his way through an increas­ing­ly com­pli­cat­ed and dan­ger­ous inves­ti­ga­tion as he tries des­per­ate­ly to keep him­self and his fam­i­ly safe?

Marko Despo­tovic is a Ser­bian police inspec­tor with a com­pli­cat­ed life. On one hand, there's life with his lov­ing wife Bran­ka and their teenaged ten­nis-prodi­gy son. On the oth­er, there's his neighbor's col­lege-aged daugh­ter, liv­ing near­by, who is also Marko's mis­tress, and the pass­ing­ly curi­ous fact that he's a non-cor­rupt cop in a very cor­rupt world.

When he solves the mur­der of a local celebri­ty busi­ness­man, Despo­tovic is both­ered slight­ly by how eas­i­ly the case gets solved. What fol­lows reflects not only the cor­rup­tion of the local police force, but also the inter­sec­tion of crim­i­nal­i­ty and pol­i­tics. The ter­ri­ble real­i­ty is that Despo­tovic, in order to keep his life and fam­i­ly in good order, must become part of the cor­rupt sys­tem he only part­ly under­stands. For a while. And then, he becomes good at being cor­rupt him­self, a mat­ter hint­ed at in the first words of the nov­el.

"The sil­hou­et­ted fish­ing boats remind­ed Inspec­tor Marko Despo­tović of corpses that had float­ed down from Vuko­var dur­ing the Yugoslav War. Marko turned from the view of the Danube, lit up by the ris­ing sun, picked up his Ser­pi­co-style sun­glass­es and slid them into his shirt open­ing." There's no short­age of corpses in the nar­ra­tive, and the specters of the recent wars sur­round the char­ac­ters in both object and imag­i­na­tion, as a cou­ple key scenes take place among the ruins of bat­tles not so long past. There's also the specter of Amer­i­can film and the lure of easy star­dom. It's a milieu to die for.

Writer Cal Smyth's com­mand of this sto­ry rife with dou­ble­cross and com­pli­ca­tion is a mar­vel to read. Told in third per­son lim­it­ed per­spec­tive, most­ly from Marko's point of view but skip­ping around to var­i­ous oth­ers as the plot demands, this book is so well char­ac­ter­ized, Marko's plight so real, that from the reader's per­spec­tive, the seam­less whole has both break­neck pace and delib­er­ate intent. The out­come, grim yet real­is­tic, feels inevitable and right.

Smyth spent time in Ser­bia dur­ing the time peri­od in which the nov­el takes place, avoid­ing a NATO bomb­ing, and it shows. Sim­ple Google search­es of events and names in the book reveal a writer whose inten­sive research for the nov­el near­ly sur­pass­es his clear felic­i­ty with lan­guage, from the names of well-known crim­i­nals to the names of local pop stars. There's even a self-actu­al­iza­tion spe­cial­ist who plays a cen­tral role in a plot that gives as much plea­sure from unusu­al jux­ta­po­si­tions and dis­so­nances as it does from the writ­ing.

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The Lousy Racket: Hemingway, Scribners & the Business of Literature

The Lousy Rack­et: Hem­ing­way, Scribner's and the Busi­ness of Lit­er­a­ture
Robert W. Trog­don
The Kent State Uni­ver­si­ty Press
2007
307 pages
$30.00

While read­ing the first vol­ume of Hemingway's let­ters pub­lished recent­ly (they're up to vol­ume IV now) I came across men­tion of Trogdon's 2007 book. Trog­don is one of the series edi­tors, so it made sense to find this book slipped into the works cit­ed, and I was intrigued to find out that it con­cen­trates on Hemingway's rela­tion­ship with his pub­lish­er and its chief rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Maxwell Perkins, edi­tor extra­or­di­naire. A. Scott Berg dis­cuss­es Perkins' role in curat­ing the career of F. Scott Fitzger­ald and Thomas Wolfe in Max Perkins: Edi­tor of Genius, but spends sur­pris­ing­ly less time on his role with Hem­ing­way. Trog­don rec­ti­fies that omis­sion in this book, a thor­ough dis­cus­sion of issues Hem­ing­way faced with par­tic­u­lar atten­tion to sales and mon­ey con­cerns,  as well as issues of cen­sor­ship and poten­tial law­suits. Trogdon's sym­pa­thy lies with Perkins as edi­tor and pub­lish­er rep, who became both cheer­leader and hard-head­ed busi­ness real­ist as com­pared with Hemingway's often angry blus­ter­er.

The first major issue came up with the book Scribner's took on after Hemingway's break with his first major pub­lish­er, Boni & Liv­eright, The Tor­rents of Spring. In a now famous pub­lish­ing sto­ry, Hem­ing­way used the unflat­ter­ing por­trait of Sher­wood Ander­son he wrote in Tor­rents to break his con­tract with Boni & Liv­eright, know­ing they would not agree to pub­lish some­thing that sat­i­rized their lead­ing light, which then gave him the oppor­tu­ni­ty to move to Scribner's, with whom he would spend the rest of his life.

"The most com­pelling rea­son for Hemingway's dis­sat­is­fac­tion with Boni & Liv­eright was the mar­ket­ing of [his first book] In Our Time. Liv­eright was more inter­est­ed in what Hem­ing­way would do in the future than in his ini­tial Amer­i­can pub­li­ca­tion. Short sto­ry col­lec­tions typ­i­cal­ly sold bad­ly, espe­cial­ly when they were the first books of unknown authors. Liv­eright appears to have treat­ed the book as a lost cause right from the begin­ning, pub­lish­ing it only to secure the tal­ent­ed author for the firm. Liv­eright ordered only 1,335 copies, indi­cat­ing that a large sale was not expect­ed." (19)

Trogdon's strength is in the num­bers crunched. We learn not just that only 1,335 copies were print­ed, Liv­eright spent only $653.10 on adver­tis­ing, and didn't fea­ture the book until page 25 of its fall 1925 cat­a­log. Trogdon's access to and analy­sis of the adver­tis­ing bud­get, ad place­ments and cat­a­log copy give us a much clear­er pic­ture of what real­ly prompt­ed Hemingway's desire to shift pub­lish­ers: mon­ey.

Even so, the pub­lish­er switch didn't mean that Scribner's took a wild fly­er on Hem­ing­way and threw buck­ets of mon­ey at him. Trog­don reports only a $500 advance and 2,785 copies print­ed on Hemingway's first Scribner's book, The Tor­rents of Spring, with an ad bud­get of $796.54 in 35 venues. Not the num­bers of some­thing they expect­ed a great deal of move­ment from.  This seemed to cre­ate in Hem­ing­way the bane of all pub­lish­ers, the writer who con­stant­ly bitch­es about money.That would all change–or would it?–with Hemingway's first prop­er nov­el, The Sun Also Ris­es, the rea­son Scribner's want­ed Hem­ing­way to begin with.

Mon­ey and the pur­suit of it remained a theme through­out Hemingway's time, a theme he returned to with increas­ing petu­lance and feroc­i­ty depend­ing on how he felt at the time, giv­en the ads he saw in the trades and gen­er­al inter­est mag­a­zines, and how many copies of his books Scribner's print­ed. He remained con­vinced that the pub­lish­er didn't do enough to push his books of the 1930s, a time dur­ing which his pop­u­lar and crit­i­cal recep­tion fad­ed a bit from the high points of The Sun Also Ris­es and A Farewell to Arms, a down­turn only cured by the 1940 block­buster For Whom the Bell Tolls. Perkins at these times reas­sured Hem­ing­way that the pub­lish­er remained firm­ly in his side, and that they were doing the best that they could, giv­en the demands of the mar­ket and the times.

Oth­er demands came to the fore as well, pri­ma­ry  among them the issues of cen­sor­ship and poten­tial libel. Hem­ing­way insist­ed, in his per­son­al writ­ing cre­do and in his busi­ness inter­ests, that he nev­er used a word with­out know­ing it was the best word for the sit­u­a­tion, and it quick­ly came to pass that his use of four-let­ter words com­mon­ly used would nev­er work in the rel­a­tive­ly staid con­fines of Scrib­n­ers and the pub­lish­ing world in gen­er­al. As well, his habit of lift­ing real-world friends and some­times ene­mies and plac­ing them in his nov­els with bare­ly-changed names and char­ac­ter­is­tics proved to be an issue.

Still, the empha­sis this book places on the mon­ey trail dur­ing Hemingway's career at Scribner's: the ad bud­gets and place­ment, the con­tracts, the remu­ner­a­tive book club deal that put For Whom the Bell Tolls over the top in sales, all tak­en from Scribner's records and doc­u­ments from the Hem­ing­way col­lec­tion, serve to remind us all of Hemingway's true per­spec­tive.  First, the actu­al work mat­tered. Sec­ond, but near­ly equal­ly, the mon­ey mat­tered, regard­less of crit­i­cal or audi­ence opin­ion. If you're inter­est­ed in the often sober­ing busi­ness of literature–all dol­lar amounts are also list­ed in 2005 dollars–and Hem­ing­way, you shouldn't over­look this book.

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William Gay's Detective Novel

It's being released soon, accord­ing to the William Gay Archive and I think many of you will be inter­est­ed. Here's the descrip­tion.

John Stoneb­urn­er, a jad­ed detec­tive, has aban­doned his office in Mem­phis to live on the banks of the Ten­nessee Riv­er. There he meets retired sher­iff, Cap Hold­er, who made a small for­tune after Hol­ly­wood pro­duced a movie based on his exploits clean­ing up the drug deal­ers in his rur­al coun­ty. Hold­er hires Stoneb­urn­er to hunt down his young girl­friend and a suit­case full of drug mon­ey after they dis­ap­peared at the same time. The inves­ti­ga­tion brings Stoneb­urn­er in con­tact with a fig­ure from his youth, Thi­bodeaux, now an unpre­dictable town drunk. Enslaved to their past indeed, the inter­twined tra­jec­to­ries and motives of Stoneb­urn­er, Hold­er, Thi­bodeaux and the young woman even­tu­al­ly col­lide in a crazed chase across Ten­nessee, Mis­sis­sip­pi, Alaba­ma, and Arkansas.

It's out of stock at Ama­zon right now because of last-minute changes, I've heard, but will be avail­able again soon.

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Southernmost, by Silas House

I've been look­ing for­ward to a new Silas House nov­el for years now. I've fol­lowed his career since I pub­lished his work in Night Train, and was extreme­ly proud to have his blurb for my col­lec­tion Most­ly Red­neck. His nov­els reveal the best of Appalachia, the pow­er of fam­i­ly, and most of all a rev­er­ence for music and the nat­ur­al world that con­tin­ues to make me feel good when I reread them, which I do every few years. Like Chris Offutt and Chris Hol­brook and Lee Smith and Breece Pan­cake, he writes a world and peo­ple I rec­og­nize in my bones, though the accent's a lit­tle dif­fer­ent where I grew up in the very north­ern tip of Appalachia. Algonquin's pro­mo mate­r­i­al for the new Silas nov­el South­ern­most fol­lows, and I encour­age you all to check it out when it comes out in June.

When a flood wash­es away much of a small com­mu­ni­ty along the Cum­ber­land Riv­er in Ten­nessee, Ash­er Sharp, an evan­gel­i­cal preach­er there, starts to see his life anew. He has already lost a broth­er due to his inabil­i­ty to embrace his brother’s com­ing out of the clos­et. Now, in the after­math of the flood, he tries to offer shel­ter to two gay men, but he’s met with resis­tance by his wife. Furi­ous about her prej­u­dice, Ash­er deliv­ers a ser­mon where he pas­sion­ate­ly defends the right of gay peo­ple to exist with­out con­dem­na­tion.

In the heat­ed bat­tle that ensues, Ash­er los­es his job, his wife, and cus­tody of his son, Justin. As Ash­er wor­ries over what will become of the boy, whom his wife is deter­mined to con­trol, he decides to kid­nap Justin and take him to Key West, where he sus­pects that his estranged broth­er is now liv­ing. It’s there that Ash­er and Justin see a new way of think­ing and lov­ing.

South­ern­most is a ten­der and heart­break­ing nov­el about love and its con­se­quences, both with­in the South and beyond.

Blurbs:

"In Silas House’s mov­ing new nov­el, a pas­tor wres­tles with a cri­sis not just of faith but of all the appar­ent cer­tain­ties of his life: a cri­sis of mar­riage, of com­mu­ni­ty, of father­hood. This is a nov­el of painful, final­ly rev­e­la­to­ry awak­en­ing, of fierce love and nec­es­sary dis­as­ter, of the brav­ery required to escape the prison of our days, to make a bet­ter and more wor­thy life.”—Garth Green­well, author of What Belongs to You

This beau­ti­ful­ly craft­ed nov­el brims with a spir­it of hope­ful human­i­ty as one man’s effort to make him­self a bet­ter per­son casts rip­ples in the world around him."
—Charles Fra­zier, author of Vari­na

South­ern­most engages my most deeply hid­den fears and hopes. Silas House has all the gifts of a pas­sion­ate sto­ry­teller, and to this book he adds the heart­felt con­vic­tions of a man will­ing to voice what we so sel­dom see in print—the ways in which with all good inten­tions we can mess up and go wrong, and only lat­er try to sort out how we can win our own redemp­tion. I love this book, and for it, I love Silas House.”
—Dorothy Alli­son, author of Bas­tard Out of Car­oli­na

A spir­i­tu­al jour­ney, a love sto­ry, and a clas­sic road nov­el … With its themes of accep­tance and equal­i­ty, South­ern­most holds a spe­cial mean­ing for Amer­i­ca right now, with rel­e­vance even beyond its mem­o­rable sto­ry.”
—Lee Smith, author of Dime­store

Silas House's char­ac­ters are as real to me as my own fam­i­ly. South­ern­most is a nov­el for our time, a coura­geous and nec­es­sary book."
—Jen­nifer Haigh, author of Heat and Light

South­ern­most is an emo­tion­al tsuna­mi. The clas­sic themes of great lit­er­a­ture writ­ten about fam­i­ly life are upend­ed here in a mod­ern twist as a father and son flee one life in search of anoth­er; as estranged broth­ers sep­a­rat­ed by time and their judge­ment of one anoth­er seek redemp­tion and through the women in their lives, antag­o­nists in the strug­gle who become grace notes on the road to redemp­tion. This is a sto­ry of faith lost and love found, and what we must throw over­board on the jour­ney in order to keep mov­ing. A trea­sure."
—Adri­ana Tri­giani, author of Kiss Car­lo

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Governor Seeks to Kill University Press of Kentucky?

Please don't let this hap­pen.  From Scott Jaschik at Inside High­er Ed.

Ken­tucky gov­er­nor Matt Bevin has pro­posed that some 70 small pro­grams in the state bud­get be com­plete­ly elim­i­nat­ed — as he also has pro­posed across-the-board cuts of around 6 per­cent for pub­lic high­er edu­ca­tion and most oth­er state func­tions.

Bevin, a Repub­li­can, has cit­ed tight state bud­gets and has not spo­ken on spe­cif­ic pro­grams he would elim­i­nate. But word spread this week­end that one of his tar­gets was the Uni­ver­si­ty Press of Ken­tucky, and many authors and schol­ars have react­ed with alarm.

While the press is based at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ken­tucky, it is not affil­i­at­ed with that insti­tu­tion alone. Rather, it works with all the state's pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties as well as a num­ber of pri­vate col­leges, include Bel­larmine Uni­ver­si­ty and Berea and Cen­tre Col­leges. The press pub­lish­es more than 50 books a year and is con­sid­ered par­tic­u­lar­ly strong in schol­ar­ship on the state, in Civ­il War and oth­er mil­i­tary his­to­ry, and in vol­umes that relate to the his­to­ry and cul­ture of Appalachia.

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Quick Hits–Paul D. Brazill

This post intro­duces some­thing I hope will become a fea­ture here at Fried Chick­en and Cof­fee, quick inter­views with writ­ers in the crime or rural/Appalachian fic­tion scenes, and short takes on what­ev­er writ­ers I'm obsessed with at the moment. First on this list is Paul D. Brazill, whose work I've known of for some time via Twit­ter and oth­er places. His 2012 arti­cle Brit Grit intro­duced me to a num­ber of new writ­ers on the oth­er side of the pond, and I've asked him just a a few ques­tions here, not want­i­ng to take up too much of his valu­able writ­ing and teach­ing time.

Paul D. Brazill's books include A Case Of Noir, Guns Of Brix­ton, Too Many Crooks, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in Eng­land and lives in Poland. His writ­ing has been trans­lat­ed into Ital­ian, Ger­man and Slovene. He has had stuff pub­lished in var­i­ous mag­a­zines and antholo­gies, includ­ing The Mam­moth Books of Best British Crime

In your 2012 Brit Grit blog post, you ref­er­ence Ted Lewis as the father of the move­ment. In what ways do you see his lin­eage in today's crop of writ­ers?

I think it’s in the tim­bre of the writ­ing — peo­ple like Ray Banks, Char­lie Williams and Allan Guthrie, for exam­ple, have a strong sense of the absurd. The ridicu­lous­ness of every­day life. There is also a real focus on char­ac­ter – minor char­ac­ters, the set­tings, the dia­logue, are all well-drawn.

I’ve said before that I think the dif­fer­ence between crime fic­tion and noir is that crime fic­tion is about bring­ing order to chaos and noir is about bring­ing chaos to order. Or even mak­ing the chaot­ic more so!

So, Brit Grit is clos­er to noir, I think, since even the most real­is­tic police pro­ce­dur­al is still a pater­nal pat on the head.

You men­tion Gareth Spark and Paul Heat­ley as two cur­rent exem­plars. Which books of theirs do you rec­om­mend? Would you name some oth­er small press prac­ti­tion­ers who should be bet­ter known?

Marwick’s Reck­on­ing by Gareth Spark and An Eye For An Eye by Paul Heat­ley are both great and are pub­lished by Near To The Knuck­le who have also pub­lished Ian Ayris’ bril­liant One Day In The Life Of Jason Dean. All three books are rich­ly writ­ten. Full of light and shade. Also, check out Mar­tin Stan­ley, Robert Cow­an, Tom Leins, Aidan Thorn, LA Sykes, Julie Mor­ri­g­an. There are plen­ty of oth­ers too!

Where would you place your own work in the Brit Grit spec­trum? Who do you look up to?

I’m the light relief. The court jester. A tad bit­ter­sweet, maybe, but I write to enter­tain. The Brit Grit writ­ers I’ve took most from are prob­a­bly Char­lie Williams and Tony Black’s Gus Dury books.

What books are you most look­ing for­ward to in 2018?

I’m just keep­ing a beady, bleary eye out but any­thing by the above writ­ers.

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Ernest Matthew Mickler's White Trash Cooking

by  Michael Adno/Bitter South­ern­er

In the 1980s, some folks wrote off Ernie Mick­ler, author of “White Trash Cook­ing,” as a yay­hoo curios­i­ty. Oth­ers thought him one of the most bril­liant South­ern folk­lorists and pho­tog­ra­phers of the 20th cen­tu­ry. But per­haps most impor­tant­ly, Mick­ler left behind a tes­ta­ment to the fact that all South­ern­ers — even those at the mar­gins — have a right to claim their roots.

In spring of 1986, Ernest “Ernie” Matthew Mickler’s “White Trash Cook­ing” land­ed on book­shelves across Amer­i­ca — a 160-page, spi­ral-bound anthol­o­gy of South­ern recipes, sto­ries, and pho­tographs. 

Odd­ly enough, damned near every­one loved it. It was imme­di­ate­ly revered by lit­er­ary snobs, South­ern aris­to­crats, Yan­kees, folk­lorists, down-home folk, and peo­ple on either side of the Mason-Dixon.

The book stirred a firestorm of pub­lic­i­ty — part­ly seri­ous, part­ly tongue-in-cheek — land­ing Ernie on “Late Night With David Let­ter­man” and Nation­al Pub­lic Radio, in mag­a­zines like Vogue and Peo­ple, and in a litany of news­pa­pers. In The New York Times, crit­ic Bryan Miller deemed “White Trash Cook­ing” the “most intrigu­ing book of the 1986 spring cook­book sea­son.” Even the grand dame of South­ern lit­er­a­ture, Harp­er Lee, claimed she had “nev­er seen a soci­o­log­i­cal doc­u­ment of such beau­ty  —  the pho­tographs alone are shat­ter­ing.” She called the book “a beau­ti­ful tes­ta­ment to a stub­born peo­ple of proud and poignant her­itage.”

More:

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January Sale Down & Out Books

My pub­lish­er, Shot­gun Hon­ey, oper­ates under the umbrel­la of Down & Out Books. D&O is run­ning a 99-cent sale on two ebooks, for a lim­it­ed time only. D&O has estab­lished itself as a clear­ing­house for great crime fic­tion in all its iter­a­tions and I knew that before I came to be part of the fam­i­ly, so you can trust me on these. Vis­it the links below the blurbs to check out the sale.

The demons that dri­ve John “Mocha” Moc­cia to obsess, to put absolute­ly every­one under a micro­scope, and scratch away at every last clue, make him the best hard­nosed detec­tive in Brook­lyn homi­cide. But these same demons may very well write the final chap­ter in his career.

He isn’t the kind of detec­tive to take no for an answer, but in his most recent case answers are damn hard to come by. Part­nered with the con­sci­en­tious Detec­tive Matt Winslow, Mocha endeav­ors to solve the mur­der of the wealthy and beau­ti­ful Jes­si­ca Shan­non, a woman who had every rea­son to live.

As Mocha and Winslow strive to push for­ward the hands of time and solve the mur­der, their impos­ing lieu­tenant breathes down their necks, sus­pects are scarce, and all of the evi­dence seems to be a dead end.

With the last pre­cious grains of sand falling through the hour­glass, Mocha push­es ever for­ward, deter­mined to make an arrest, even if it means this col­lar will be his last.

PURCHASE:

 

There are sev­en of them. Children—innocents—whose long-buried remains are uncov­ered by a flash-flood. No one knows who could have com­mit­ted such a crime. Clues are scarce, and with the media turn­ing the sto­ry into a law enforce­ment night­mare, time is short. Only Wil Hard­esty, a pri­vate eye who has more in com­mon with the case than any­one knows, is will­ing to push hard enough—and dig deep enough—to find the cru­elest of killers. The killer of The Inno­cents …

PURCHASE:

 

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Forthcoming from Chris Offutt: Country Dark

This­April 2018 book by Chris Offutt seems to neat­ly cross two of my prime obses­sions, crime fic­tion and Appalachia. Be sure to pick it up. It's a guar­an­teed good read.

His first work of fic­tion in near­ly two decades, (Coun­try Dark is a taut, com­pelling nov­el set in rur­al Ken­tucky from the Kore­an War to 1970.

Tuck­er, a young vet­er­an, returns from war to work for a boot­leg­ger. He falls in love and starts a fam­i­ly, and while the Tuck­ers don’t have much, they have the love of their home and each oth­er. But when his fam­i­ly is threat­ened, Tuck­er is pushed into vio­lence, which changes every­thing. The sto­ry of peo­ple liv­ing off the land and by their wits in a back­woods Ken­tucky world of shine-run­ners and labor­ers whose social codes are every bit as nuanced as the British aris­toc­ra­cy, (Coun­try Dark is a nov­el that blends the best of Lar­ry Brown and James M. Cain, with a noose tight­en­ing ever­more around a man who just wants to pro­tect those he loves.

Pur­chase: Ama­zon, Indiebound, B&N

 

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