Monday, February 29, 2016

2016 ... So Far

We hit the ground running with 2016 BEAT to a PULP releases and thought it would be nice to arrange all the darlings in a row. The Posthumous Man came out a couple of years back but we gave it a face-lift and wanted to include it here. We are now up to something like fifty published books. But who's counting?

Grey O'Donnell is back to normality after the events in Retribution six months before. He and partner Billy Cole are hunting down a fugitive with a large price on his head, and what should have been a routine job takes a turn for the weird when they follow the trail to an abandoned mining encampment. Something unnatural lurks in the trees near Bentley, and when the living dead pay a visit to the town, Grey enlists the help of a Ute medicine man to fight them off. Trouble is, the love of Grey's life has gone missing, and he's not about to lose Peggy a second time.

The dirty work of policing the chronosphere continues ...

Continuity Inc. agent Kyler Knightly and his uncle, Damon Cole, travel back to Old Vegas, circa 2035, to nab a rogue scientist bent on turning pre-apocalypse America into his own personal demolition derby. It's monster trucks versus monster preppers in a nitro burning, high octane adventure reminiscent of Mad Max.
When Elliot Stilling killed himself, he thought his troubles were over. Then the ER doctors revived him. It's infatuation at first sight when he meets his nurse, Felicia Vogan, a lost soul with a “weakness for sad sacks and losers.” She helps Elliot escape from the hospital, but once outside she leads him straight to a gang planning a million-dollar heist. Does Felicia really want Elliot to protect her from the outfit's psychotic leader, Stan the Man? Or is she just setting him up to take the hard fall? By the time this long night of deceit and murder is over, Elliot will have to finally face himself and come to terms with his own dark past.

Join the search for a hammer of unimaginable power …

From the Valley of Gahm in the land of Brassik, a rogue priest named Nindocai hears the transcendent ringing of a mythical mallet—a call for action from the Goddess Arya. Leading a rag-tag band over frigid, snow-packed terrain, Nindocai goes in search of the hammer of the gods that can free his people, or in the wrong hands could spell annihilation for mankind. But they may not complete their quest with the tyrannical Wyvar regulators, that rule the land with an iron fist, out to destroy Nindocai and his followers at any cost.
Seething hatred spurs The Lawyer forward, with a burning vengeance for his family slaughtered by seven hardened gunslingers. He’s tracking them down, one by one, until every killer is in the ground. His next target, Big Jim Kimbrough, left tracks to the small town of Sundown, Arkansas, where The Lawyer learns his prey has already moved on.

But he can’t leave after he witnesses a black man named Josiah being dragged behind a horse, the man’s only crime is allegedly taking food from a white man’s table, and is about to be lynched. The Lawyer takes up arms to save Josiah, realizing Kimbrough is slipping from his grasp with every minute he spends in Sundown. None of that will matter, though, if The Lawyer doesn’t survive the next twelve hours in the wake of a racially charged mob, fueled by the town’s tyrant and cheap liquor.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Six Guns, Noir Fistfights, and Burnout: Eric Beetner Interview

I enjoyed the hell out of working with Eric Beetner on The Year I Died Seven Times that was one of BEAT to a PULP's critical and commercial successes of 2015. Our second collaboration, The Lawyer: Six Guns at Sundown, was as big of a thrill, taking us back to the 19th century to pick up the trail blazed by Wayne D. Dundee in Stay of Execution and The Retributioners. I begin by asking Eric about making that genre jump.

David Cranmer: Going from crime novels to Westerns, does your approach change in any manner?

Eric Beetner: Aside from the horses, no. I've always seen the vast majority of westerns as crime stories. There are outlaws, law men, guns, violence. I think there is usually a bit more moralizing in traditional westerns, but aside from that most westerns are action pieces.

My experience is more with film westerns over western novels. I am woefully lacking in my knowledge of that area and the ones I've read tend to come from crime writers like Harry Whittington and Elmore Leonard more than classicists like Zane Grey. But in western films, there are some that are only a pair of spurs away from being great noir films. So my approach to the Lawyer books has been the same as I would take to my crime novels. Lead with an exciting story bolstered by strong characters and keep the momentum rolling downhill.

DC: Are you conscious of the reader when you are writing?

EB: I'll say somewhat but not overly. I like to please myself as a reader first and write a book I would want to read. So in that sense, yes. I don't try to write for a specific audience. I never want any outside forces to dictate a story that might make it veer off into being something it doesn't want to be.

DC: You have attended a few Noir at the Bar's. How's that experience?

EB: A few, yes, you could say that. I'm about to enter my fifth year as host of the Los Angeles events and I've read in San Diego, Chicago and Minneapolis. I wish I had a chance to visit all of them. I think the reason they have proliferated in the wake of us stealing the idea from Jedediah Ayres and Scott Phillips in St. Louis (who had stolen it from Peter Rozovsky in Philadelphia before that) is the casual nature of the events and the clubhouse atmosphere they represent. I started the L.A. events as a way to bring the community back together after the loss of a real hub of interaction when the Mystery Book Store closed down. I missed those gatherings of writers where I could meet people, get advice, find new voices. We need that as a community.

Now that there are over a dozen chapters across the country and now even in England, there are multiple hubs for people to gather around and not feel like they are writing alone in a bubble. And with the bookstores continuing to close, this gives writers another place to stop on tour or to read often for the very first time.

Just this weekend I'm hosting writers from Canada, New York, Portland, Detroit and here at home. I love giving writers a place to stop where they know there will be a crowd almost certainly twice the size of what they'll get at a bookstore event.

If airfare was cheaper, I'd be at any event anyone wanted me.

DC: I've heard of the many successes of Noir at the Bar but has any event ever fallen flat, failed to live up to expectations, or come to blows?

EB: They still tell the tales in Minnesota of the Noir at the Bar where a fistfight broke out. Their first one, I believe. We've been drama free in L.A. The worst one I ever put on had to be at Bouchercon in Cleveland. It showed me the importance of the right venue. The bar had no real sound system and the area they put us in was right next to the actual bar where a dozen or two revelers who had no interest in sitting quietly and listening to a bunch of pasty weirdos read crime fiction talked LOUDLY the entire time. That was brutal.

Similarly, the first attempt at a San Diego event ended up in a sports bar that was decidedly NOT the right venue.

DC: Do you enjoy social media?

Enjoy? I wouldn't say I enjoy it. Not for being an author, anyway. It's necessary these days, but I cringe at self promotion and for everyone who tells you it is an essential part of building an author profile, there is another saying it doesn't work in the slightest. I love that I've connected with so many writers who are now friends and I have connected with readers too. As a sales tool, I don't think it's all that effective. But I have very few other tools in my box, so for now it will have to do.

DC: You are a very prolific writer. Ever worry about burnout or the material running thin?

EB: Burnout yes. Ideas running thin - never. Part of why I'm prolific is that I had too many ideas. I could stop conjuring new ideas now and have enough in notebooks and scraps of paper to fuel another ten novels. I have movie ideas, tv show ideas, bad ideas, great ideas.

I worry about keeping up quality, for sure. I don't want to put out substandard material and I trust an editor would tell me so if I tried to pass something half baked. But ideas are never in short supply. So, like it or not, y'all are stuck with me for a while.

DC: You had some big hits (The Year I Died Seven Times and Rumrunners) '15. Besides The Lawyer: Six Guns at Sundown what's on tap for this year?

EB: Get comfortable, we're gonna be here a while. 2016 is another busy year for me. There is a sequel to Rumrunners called Leadfoot that will be out in the fall. In May that same publisher, 280 Steps, will be reissuing my novel The Devil Doesn't Want Me which means it will finally be in print. It will be my first hardcover too, which is cool. Plus, they're putting out the sequel I wrote years ago but never got released. It's called When The Devil Comes To Call and that will be out in June and then I am at work on completing the trilogy which will be out in 2017.

The gents over at Blasted Heath will be doing an ebook version of my novel Run For The Money which I had previously released as a limited print edition under the title Criminal Economics. There were only 100 of those printed so it's a rarity and it will be nice to have that book out for more people to see. I really like it. It's a bit gonzo and over the top.

The sequel to The Backlist, the novel I co-wrote with Frank Zafiro, will be out later this year too. It's called The Short List and its really fun and pulpy.

I'm the proud creator and editor of an anthology called Unloaded which features crime stories written without any guns. It's meant to highlight the issue of gun violence in America and there is an amazingly impressive list of authors who wanted to be involved and make our little statement for sensible gun control. That's out in April.

And my agent is shopping new books, pitching books to Hollywood, pitching TV shows. Something may break this year, you never know. Either way, I'll be here. Still typing. Still telling stories.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Books for Consumption

Here are the main books of February that have occupied my waking (and often sleeping) thoughts. 361, Backshot, Dali, A Universe From Nothing, Basic Math and Pre-Algebra, and The Bible a biography are 100% recreational. The Posthumous Man, Six Guns at Sundown, and Torn and Frayed are BEAT to a PULP releases being spruced up and readied for public consumption. Dust Up I’ll be reviewing for Macmillan’s Criminal Element blog. Neale’s Tricks of the Imagination is for a short story called “Room for Death.”

What are you digesting?

Monday, February 22, 2016

On God, the French, and Orson: Jake Hinkson Interview

As far as many are concerned Jake Hinkson is the finest noir writer of his generation. From his searing debut, Hell on Church Street, to scorchers like The Posthumous Man and The Big Ugly. Lou Boxer (co-founder of NoirCon) stated, "Keep an eye on Jake Hinkson. He's taking the notion of the sacred and the profane to an entirely new level in noir."

David Cranmer: Is there anything you've ever wanted to be besides a writer?

Jake Hinkson: Not really. I have no other skill. I come from a line of people who either work with their hands or preach (or, sometimes, both). I did construction, and I sucked at it. So maybe I'd be a preacher. If I wasn't a heathen, I probably would have made a pretty fair preacher.

But, no, I never actively wanted to do anything else. I started writing stories as a kid, and I just never stopped.

DC: As a heathen (Merriam Webster defines in part, "not belonging to a widely held religion") do you leave open the door that we may have been dropped off by aliens--some celestial helping hand--or is it straightforward The Big Bang Theory?

JH: To paraphrase what God told Job: who knows?

DC: Have you matured as a writer since your debut, Hell on Church Street?

JH: Oh man. That's for other people to say, I guess. One of the truest things I ever heard about writing is that the more you write the harder it gets. Maybe it doesn't work that way for other people, but it's worked that way for me. You learn from your mistakes, but you also see more mistakes. I've written entire books that will never see the light of day. Those are costly mistakes to learn from.

DC: What was your impression of France?

JH: France was amazing. I can't speak highly enough of the people I met and the incredibly warm reception I got when I was there. We did a seven city book tour, and everyone was so kind to me. I met hundreds of people. It was crazy. They seemed to really love Hell on Church Street and were eager to read The Posthumous Man. It's downright bizarre to be far more well known in France than I am in America-than I am in my home state of Arkansas-but there you are. For some reason, my work has caught on overseas. Who the hell would have ever predicted that?

DC: France has a history of seeing talent we Americans overlook or take for granted. Phillip K. Dick was a good example of our occasional myopic deficiencies. Could you see yourself locating there if that enthusiasm considers to soar?

JH: To your point, the French were the ones who looked at our dimestore pulp novels and our cheapie B movies and said, "This is something unique called noir." Their ideas about noir, in turn, had huge influence on us here. So noir, at least originally, was the result of a French interpretation of an American phenomenon. And I have to tell you, I was shocked at how big noir is in France. Noir stuff there is what SciFi/Fantasy/ Superhero stuff is here. First off, reading is the national pastime in France, so there are bookstores everywhere. (Bookselling is so big there that people go to college to study to become booksellers. Selling books is a career in France, not just a job.) And when you walk into a bookstore half the store is crime stuff. HALF. There are two kinds of books there: noir and blanc. Noir is crime stuff. Blanc is everything else. So, in short, France is like heaven for a crime writer.

Would I move there? I don't know. I absolutely had the time of my life there, and I can't wait to go back when we release the French version of The Posthumous Man. I can tell you, though, that I never felt more American than when I was in France, which, funny enough, only made me love France all the more. So I don't know. There's been some vague talk of maybe going over at some point to do a residency at a college or something. I wouldn't rule out, but it would be a pretty big move. I'm not sure how long I could go without an America-sized cup of coffee.

DC: Michael Kronenberg has done an exceptional makeover to The Posthumous Man cover. Where did you first meet this gifted graphic designer and artist?

JH: Oh man, who is better than Kronenberg? I first became aware of Michael through his work as the designer for Eddie Muller's magazine Noir City. I write articles for them, and Michael's layouts for my pieces were just fantastic. We met and became fast friends. He's now designed covers for three of my books: The Big Ugly, No Tomorrow, and, now, the revamp of The Posthumous Man. Kronenberg is the best.

DC: Here's a wild card last question: like me, you are an aficionado of Orson Welles. Which one of his films do you like best and why?

JH: Welles is my great obsession. Maybe for that reason, it's hard for me to pick just one of his movies and call it my favorite. Citizen Kane is a movie unto itself, of course. There's nothing else like it. Falstaff is his most beautiful, most virtuosic, most moving film. I think it's probably his masterpiece. But to answer your question, let me pick a dark horse, a movie that not enough people talk about: The Trial. It's not for every taste-it's sort of film noir meets European art house with the heart of a dark absurdist comedy--but I love it. It's the Welles film that I've returned to over and over again the last few years. I love the world he creates in that film. It's its own closed universe.

Giving Away Jake Hinkson's The Posthumous Man

The Posthumous Man reborn! (and we're giving it away)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Wayne D. Dundee's Ice and Fire

What I've been working on with Wayne...
From the Valley of Gahm in the land of Brassik, a rogue priest named Nindocai hears the transcendent ringing of a mythical mallet—a call for action from the Goddess Arya. Leading a rag-tag band over frigid,snow-packed terrain, Nindocai goes in search of the hammer of the gods that can free his people, or in the wrong hands could spell annihilation for mankind. But they may not complete their quest with the tyrannical Wyvar regulators, that rule the land with an iron fist, out to destroy Nindocai and his followers at any cost.
Who will be first to reach the hammer and unharness its awe-inspiring power? Will Nindocai’s crew survive an encounter with the frozen fire beast of lore? And what emanates from deep within the ruins of a secret underground chamber … does great wealth await, or is death beyond the cavern’s mouth?
Best-selling author Wayne D. Dundee (Manhunter’s Mountain, The Empty Badge), known as one of the modern architects of hardboiled fiction, directs his prose skills toward crafting a fantasy tale that rivals the classics of the genre.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How I Came to be a Character in a Science Fiction Novella

Most of you know my nephew Kyle J. Knapp died nearly three years ago in a fire. A way of coping from the loss was to continue publishing books of his poetry that I had started when he was still alive. Then, after reading his dream journals, another idea came to me in which I asked several writers to compose a short story based on a snippet from one of Kyle’s dreams for The Lizard’s Ardent Uniform.

There was one dream that was particularly special to me and I knew just the person who could do it justice. The dream: Kyle (a huge Doctor Who enthusiast) had to save my life from a sabotaged mission by time traveling in a pair of my futuristic gravity boots—what a kick that was to read!

So I approached my good friend Garnett Elliott whose work has appeared in countless magazines, including Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. The result was “The Zygma Gambit.” There was real magic happening among those pages, and Garnett has since written “Carnosaur Weekend” where we stop crooked developers from exploiting the Late Cretaceous. The newly released “Apocalypse Soon” has us on a high octane undertaking reminiscent of Mad Max! My alter ego name: Damon Cole. Pretty damn cool, huh? But the biggest thrill is Kyle (aka Kyler) continues to live, breathe, soaring through space and time. Does the heart good. Hope you take a look and enjoy.

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Conversation with Icy Sedgwick

David Cranmer: I have to confess I haven’t seen too many Western films of late though I’ve heard The Hateful Eight and Bone Tomahawk are continuing proof that the Western remains a viable presence on the big screen. Have you seen them or any other movies worth noting?

Icy Sedgwick: I'd highly recommend The Hateful Eight - I saw it on opening day in the UK and I was so impressed! I also saw Slow West last year, which was a quiet sort of Western, and it's also useful to note how different the contemporary Westerns are compared to the classic films people are used to. Gone are the spats between outlaws and local lawmen, or cowboys out on the trail - the newer Westerns are more bloody, yes, but they're less black-and-white about who is good, and who is bad. Good guys have their dark sides, and bad guys have their own motivations. A lot of people still seem to decry the Western and I think a lot of that is part of the legacy of John Wayne; the modern films are a lot more nuanced, and they're more like historical dramas that are just set in the Old West.

DC: In your latest novel To Kill A Dead Man your character Grey O’Donnell is definitely cut from this new and improved cloth. Where did the idea for him originate?

Icy: A long time ago I'd had an idea to do a John Constantine-style character set in the old West, but I never really did anything with the idea. When I was approached and asked to write The Guns of Retribution, Grey was originally an outlaw, but it didn't sit well with the way he treated people or conducted his business, so his job changed. When I decided to write To Kill A Dead Man, I remembered my old idea for supernatural shenanigans in the old West and decided to give Grey something new to do!

DC: Even though you didn't set out to write a series character you have a very colorful one in Grey. Any plans on continuing him on in further adventures? And if so would they also be supernatural offerings?

Icy: I have ideas for at least two more adventures; one of them will definitely be supernatural in nature but the other one may be more Gothic and 'monster' related! Eventually I'd like to involve Grey with more indigenous myths and folklore, but I'll see how the next couple of stories go.

DC: Do you need complete isolation to write or could you write in a café, bookstore, etc.

Icy: I often write on my laptop in the living room while someone else is watching the TV. I do put music on, but that's more to get myself into the mood of whatever it is I'm writing - film soundtracks are good. I don't like writing in cafes because I tend to get distracted by people watching, but I sometimes write on my lunchbreak at work. I find some kind of background distraction helps me to focus a lot better than total silence or isolation would. I keep dreaming of going off on a writing break but I know I'd get no writing done!

DC: Can you dismiss whatever writing project you’re on when you’re away from the keyboard?

Icy: Lord no. Even if I'm not consciously thinking about it, some level of my brain is still smoothing out plot points, rounding off characters, or coming up with ideas. Then without warning they bubble to the surface and I have to write it down while I remember! I think it's important to not struggle with the project - you can overthink things, but if you let your brain just get on with it while you're doing something else, then you're always working on it, even if you're not actually typing.

DC: Your website is called The Cabinet of Curiosities. Besides writing what takes up a great deal of your free time?

Icy: I'm working on my PhD, which does entail a lot of writing but it's also research focused, so I spend a lot of time reading books on horror cinema, ghost stories and set design. I also like to sketch and paint, and I knit up a storm while I'm watching TV. That's not always the best idea - I got so wrapped up in the second season of Penny Dreadful that I forgot where I was up to and had to undo sixteen rows of a hat!

DC: What was the last great book you have read.

Icy: I just read Stephen King's Misery for the first time and while I prefer the film, few people do characterisation like King. Even when his plots occasionally get a bit wobbly, the way he puts his characters together just carries them. I don't think I'll enjoy any of his books as much as I enjoy The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and some of his short stories are phenomenal, but I consider much of his writing to be a sort of writing masterclass.

Let's Have a Little Town Pride

I always get a kick out of saying Dave Zeltserman is back at BEAT to a PULP with a new story. Here's "Town Pride" to jump start your February.