J. Kingston Pierce

Aug 192014
What happens when you turn a couple of friendly but ambitious crime-fictionists loose to create their own paperback publishing company? Something like Brash Books, the independent enterprise developed over the last year by author-screenwriter Lee Goldberg and trial attorney-turned-novelist Joel Goldman. As I explain in my new column for Kirkus Reviews, Brash will make a big splash in September, when it rolls out its first 30 titles, including private-eye yarns, espionage adventures, Old West justice tales, and even a couple of vigilante-for-hire thrillers. Tom Kakonis, Maxine O’Callaghan, Gar Anthony Haywood, Bob Forward, Jack Lynch, Barbara Neely, and Dallas Murphy are among those represented by the company’s initial offerings, but other familiar names, such as Geoffrey Miller, Mark Smith, and Robin Burcell, will be joining them on Brash’s release roster over the next year.

Not long ago, I contacted Goldberg and Goldman, via e-mail, with a long list of questions about their new publishing endeavor. They responded quickly--and in more than 4,300 words. I was able to use part of what they told me in Kirkus, but certainly not all. So below, I am presenting most of the rest of our exchange. (The covers featured in this post, by the way, all come from soon-forthcoming Brash releases.)

J. Kingston Pierce: How do the two of you know each other?

Joel Goldman: I met Lee at some long-ago mystery conference, probably Left Coast Crime or Bouchercon, not long after my first book was published in 2002. We kept running into each other and people kept mistaking us for brothers.

Lee Goldberg: We met at a mystery conference somewhere 10 or 12 years ago. We became fast friends and ended up working closely together on the Mystery Writers of America’s board of directors for many years. During that time, I developed enormous respect for his intelligence, business savvy, and his ability to negotiate complex disputes (I guess that comes from his background as a lawyer). So, in some ways, it feels like we’ve been in business together for a very long time. When we’re together, people constantly mistake him for my brother, Tod, who is a crime writer, too.

JKP: Why did you decide to republish only books that have originally seen print since 1970? Is it simply a way of distinguishing Brash from other companies that are also bringing back out-of-print crime fiction?

JG: As a startup, we knew we couldn’t do it all. We had to stake out our ground without taking on too much. 1970 seemed like a good jumping-off point, but that’s not how we’re distinguishing ourselves. We’re doing that by publishing the best crime novels in existence, a carefully curated list of award-winning and critically acclaimed novels plus a select list of new titles. Sorry, I know that sounds really corporate but it’s the best way of saying who we are.

LG: I don’t want to give the impression that all of our republished books are from the 1970s. That’s definitely not the case. Our reprints go as far back as the mid-1970s, but are also as recent as the early 2000s. Most probably fall in the late ’80s, early ’90s. But the pub date of the books or time period that the books are set in aren’t what’s important to us. It’s the storytelling. A great crime story that is well-told is timeless, regardless of when it was published or what year the stories take place.

JKP: Is it correct that you’re launching your first 30 books, all in early September? How many authors do those 30 represent?

JG: Yep. Thirty books from 12 fantastic authors.

JKP: Do you worry that with such a huge single-month rollout, some of the individual works you’re publishing might get lost?

JG: We’d be crazy if we didn’t worry about that, because we don’t want to publish more books than we can support.

LG: But we also wanted to make a big splash, to launch with a list of books that truly announces who we are, that represents the range of work that we’re publishing, and that demonstrates the high quality that sets us apart from our competitors.

JG: Our marketing plan is a solid mix of old-school and new-school promotion, including magazine and convention ads, online ads, social media, and our killer Web site. We’ve hired an ad agency and a PR firm to help us, and we’re going to as many conventions as we can to get the word out.

LG: The best advertisements we have are our books and our authors. People are blown away by how gorgeous our books are and are very enthusiastic about the authors we’re publishing. Those readers are spreading the word for us better than any tweet or Google ad can.

JKP: Who was the first author who signed with Brash Books?

JG: The first author Dick Lochte. He was at Bouchercon. We told him what we’re thinking about doing and asked him if he was interested, and he said yes. We knew that if someone as well-respected as Dick would join us, that we were really on to something.

LG: Dick Lochte was the first author to say he’d sign on with us, and that gave us the boost we needed to know we were on to something. But I think the first author who actually signed a contract with us was Tom Kakonis. I’d been a fan of his for years. Back in the early ’90s, I nervously approached him at a conference to ask if he’d blurb for my book My Gun Has Bullets [1995]. I was stunned and enormously flattered when he actually gave me one. Over the years that followed, it broke my heart to see his books gradually fall out of print. So when Joel and I decided to launch Brash, he was at the top of my list of authors we had to republish. Not only did we get his backlist, but he offered us a brand-new novel, too [Treasure Hunt]. That was an unexpected gift, one I took as a positive omen of our success.

JKP: How do the two of you split your responsibilities with Brash? Do you both acquire and edit the works, or is the company structure more complicated than that?

JG: It’s hard to have a complicated structure when it’s just the two of us--plus someone who coordinates the preparation of the books. One of the great things about working together is how easily and naturally we’ve divided things up. I take the lead on the business side, finances, legal, things like that. Lee takes the lead on the Web site, social media, and scouting for authors and books. We’re both involved in acquisitions. We give notes to authors on new manuscripts but we also work with a freelance developmental editor to do the heavy lifting.

LG: It’s amazing how naturally we’ve fallen into our roles. We do almost everything together, but Joel ultimately handles the nitty-gritty business side of things. I have complete faith in Joel’s sound judgment. He’s an amazing negotiator and has a great head for business and numbers. Me? I need a calculator to count my fingers and toes. I tend to be the book scout and the person who makes the initial contact with authors and estates. We’re basically mining my collection of mysteries and thrillers for the backlist titles that we’re publishing. I also solicit recommendations from writers and readers that I know who have a deep appreciation and knowledge of the field. People like you, Bill Crider, Dick Lochte, Johnny Shaw, Paul Bishop, and Jan Burke.

JKP: Which authors are you most excited to see back in print?

LG: I’m equally excited about all of them, and I’m not just saying that. It goes to the core of our business model. Each and every book has to excite us. It’s what sets us apart from most of our competitors, who are vacuuming up backlists just to build their content libraries. We are publishing the books that we love, books that our fellow authors love, and books that have earned incredible praise. Keep in mind, we’re paying for all of this out of our own pockets, so every book we publish is personal for us.

JG: This is a little bit like asking which of my kids do I like best. The answer can depend on the day! But I love all my kids and I’m thrilled to introduce all of our authors to a new audience. That’s why we’re doing this.

JKP: So far, who have been the authors you’ve had the hardest time convincing to join the Brash “family”? Have there been many who have turned down your offers? And what reasons did those holdouts give for their refusal?

LG: We’ve been lucky. I’d say 95 percent of the people or estates that we’ve approached have enthusiastically jumped on board. They can tell how much we love the books, that we are genuinely enthusiastic, and they can see we are the real deal, not a couple of hucksters. It really helps, I think, that we are successful authors ourselves. We’ve lost a couple of authors because they couldn’t get the reversions of rights back from their publishers on their out-of-print books. And there have been a few estates where there are a number of heirs or parties who have to agree in order to make the deal … and we haven’t always succeeded in making that happen.

JKP: Are there other living authors you simply can’t find? Or authors whose descendents have proved elusive so far? Please name names.

JG: Some people are hard to find. We’ve even hired a P.I. from Boston to help us, and she’s done a great job. I’d love to name names but we don’t want to give the competition any ideas.

LG: Hunting down some of these authors or their heirs has been a challenge … but it’s also been fascinating, too. We lucked into this terrific, tenacious P.I. who is really enjoying these cases and has taught us a lot.

JKP: In addition to republishing existing novels, you’re commissioning new works from authors who are still alive. Can you tell me the names of some authors you have convinced to deliver fresh books to Brash?

JG: Discovering great new books has been one of the real perks. Tom Kakonis had one sitting in his drawer called Treasure Coast. It’s one of the best crime novels I’ve read in a long time and we’re releasing it in September.

LG: We’re also publishing a thriller from Philip Reed, a new “Wyatt Storme” novel from W.L Ripley, a kick-ass action-adventure from debut authors James Bruner and Elizabeth Stevens, and a crime novel from Robin Burcell, based on the novels by Carolyn Weston that inspired the TV series The Streets of San Francisco. All those books, still yet-to-be-titled, will be out in 2015. We’ve also got a couple of other original novels we’re currently negotiating to acquire that came in as unsolicited submissions.

JKP: How many Brash Books releases would you like to put out every year? And how many of those would you like to be new books, rather than reprints?

LG: We’re publishing at least one original novel per quarter, and eight or nine reprints of previously published work. So, at this point, we’re planning on publishing 35 to 40 books a year. That’s not counting the two or three collections we’ll be releasing between quarters. For instance, we’ll be releasing all four of Michael Stone’s Streeter books in one volume and all four of Barbara Neely’s Blanche White books in one volume, after we’ve released them all individually.

JKP: I saw, in the front of Treasure Coast, that author Kakonis credits Lee with “rescuing” him. Is he referring there to Brash having extended his writing career?

LG: The last thing Tom ever expected was for me to call him up out of the blue and ask if we could republish his out-of-print thrillers. I was surprised that he remembered who I was, but he hadn’t forgotten me any more than I had forgotten him. When I told him how much I wanted to bring his books back, he was touched and excited. He figured that he had had his time in the publishing limelight and that it had passed. I asked him if he’d stopped writing novels. He mentioned that he had a novel that he wrote some years ago, but had stuck in a drawer because he’d been so badly burned by the publishing business. I asked if I could read it … and he sent it to me. I was blown away by it. I couldn’t believe that a book this good, that was every bit as great as his most-acclaimed work, had gone unpublished. It was a gift for us to be able to publish it.

I can’t speak for Tom, but I think what he means by his kind dedication is that Brash Books has saved his past work from being forgotten … and reinvigorated his desire to write books. We may have rescued him, but he launched Brash Books with Treasure Coast.

Lee Goldberg and Joel Goldman discuss the line-up of private-eye novels Brash will release in September.

Goldman and Goldberg talk about some of the unconventional heroes featured in their Brash Books line.

JKP: One of the more interesting moves you’re making--and which you mentioned briefly before--is to, first, pick up the late Carolyn Weston’s three Sergeant Al Krug/Detective Casey Kellog novels, including 1972’s Poor, Poor Ophelia, which inspired The Streets of San Francisco; and then you’re planning to continue that series with a new author. What’s the status of those negotiations? And have you decided to keep the story setting in 1970s Santa Monica, or move it to San Francisco, perhaps in the present day?

JG: We’re really fortunate that the fabulous Robin Burcell, who’s won a shelf-full of awards, has agreed to continue Carolyn’s series. We’re bringing it into the present-day and moving it to San Francisco.

LG: I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and my father was an anchorman on KPIX [TV]. So, naturally, as a kid, I was a big fan of The Streets of San Francisco. And when I saw that the TV series was based on three books by Carolyn Weston, I snapped those up and devoured them. They’ve been on my shelf ever since. They are great police procedurals that won acclaim in the 1970s--a time when there weren’t a lot of female crime writers out there, certainly not many getting the kind of attention that she was or inspiring a hit TV series. And yet, even though everybody knows about The Streets of San Francisco, nobody remembers Carolyn Weston’s books, perhaps because she never wrote any more books after those three procedurals. They fell out of print and into oblivion. Not with me. They were at the top of my list when we launched Brash. We acquired all the rights to Carolyn’s books from her heirs and decided to continue the series. Joel and I both knew the perfect writer for the job: our old friend Robin Burcell. We had no one else in mind (which also shows how much Joel and I think alike). Not only is Robin an acclaimed crime novelist, but she’s a cop in Northern California, too. Who could possibly be a better choice? We can’t wait to read her book.

JKP: Brash Books seems to put a great deal of emphasis on handsome book covers. How important is it to put out novels that look good in addition to reading well?

JG: We know from self-publishing our backlists that a dynamite cover is essential to a book’s success, because that’s how a reader first encounters a book. The cover has to grab the reader and tell her enough about the book to make her want to buy it. Just as important, the production quality of the print books--from the cover, to the binding, to the interior layout--has to be indistinguishable from any book put out by the Big Five [publishers], and ours meet and exceed those standards. We’re proud to say that CreateSpace is responsible for producing these beautiful books. They’ve amazed us with their incredible work.

LG: Joel and I are very, very involved in the design of each and every cover, working very closely with CreateSpace’s excellent team of artists. We know exactly what we want and aren’t satisfied until our expectations are met … though these artists exceed them on a daily basis. I’m sure they would tell you that we’ve been very tough on them and, as a result, have brought out their A-game. They are as proud of these covers as we are. Perhaps even more so. We also felt strongly that our trade paperbacks had to look indistinguishable from those from the Big Five … not just to wow customers, but to show brick-and-mortar booksellers and the mystery-writing community at large that we are serious about putting out quality work. And I think our books do that.

JKP: Joel mentioned before that you guys are fronting the money for Brash yourselves. Is that correct? This venture can’t be cheap.

LG: It hasn’t been cheap, and I think that shows in the books themselves and in our Web site. I was a TV producer for many years, and I made sure that you could see every penny we spent on-screen. Well, every penny we’re spending [here] is on the page. We’ve invested a considerable amount of our own money in this … which goes back to one of your earlier questions. We wouldn’t be investing this much of our money into Brash if we didn’t love each and every book we are publishing. This publishing company is a reflection of our shared passion for crime fiction--as authors and readers.

JKP: You say you want to treat authors the way you would prefer to be treated. The upside of that seems obvious: You presumably go out of your way to help writers bring the finest products they can to market, and compensate them as best you can. But is there a downside to that, too? Can you be sympathetic and also profitable?

JG: We’re publishers but because we’re also authors, we know what kind of relationship authors want to have with their publishers. That’s not about having sympathy. It’s about having respect. Authors understand that writing and publishing are separate businesses and that neither can be successful unless both are successful, and if we aren’t profitable, no one will have any sympathy for us.

JKP: Speaking of your both being authors, how do you balance your Brash responsibilities against your own interests as writers? Have you had to take a step back from composing and publishing your own books, in order to get Brash Books up and running?

JG: I’m pretty certain that Lee has found a way to make his days last around 27 hours. I’m still scrounging for the elusive extra time to keep up with writing my own books. It’s a daily challenge.

JKP: That said, what book(s) are you writing at the moment?

JG: I’m working on two new co-authored series, one with Lisa Klink and one with James Daniels. And, I’m working on the next book in my Alex Stone thriller series--at least in my head.

LG: I’m writing the fourth “Fox & O’Hare” novel with Janet Evanovich, which will be out next year. But at this moment, Janet and I are signing a few thousand copies of The Job, the third novel in the series, which will be out in November.
Aug 182014
The organization Sisters in Crime Australia has announced the shortlist of nominees for its 2014 Davitt Awards. These prizes are named for Ellen Davitt, the author of Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud (1865), and are meant to honor the best in Down Under crime/mystery fiction by women. The nominees are:

Best Adult Novel:
Dark Horse, by Honey Brown (Penguin Books Australia)
Nefarious Doings, by Ilsa Evans (Momentum Press)
A Bitter Taste, by Annie Hauxwell (Penguin Books Australia)
Web of Deceit, by Katherine Howell (Pan Macmillan Australia)
Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent (Picador Books)
The Dying Beach, by Angela Savage (Text)

Best Young Adult Novel:
The Midnight Dress, by Karen Foxlee (UQP)
Girl Defective, by Simmone Howell (Pan Macmillan Australia)
Cry Blue Murder, by Kim Kane and Marion Roberts (UQP)
Every Breath, by Ellie Marney (Allen & Unwin)
A Ring Through Time, by Felicity Pulman (Harper Collins)

Best Children’s Novel:
The Perplexing Pineapple: The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno (and Alberta), Book 1, by Ursula Dubosarsky (Allen & Unwin)
The Looming Lamplight: The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno (and Alberta), Book 2, by Ursula Dubosarsky (Allen & Unwin)
Verity Sparks: Lost and Found, by Susan Green (Walker Books)
Truly Tan: Jinxed!, by Jen Storer (Harper Collins)
Truly Tan: Spooked!, by Jen Storer (Harper Collins)

Best True Crime Book:
Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport, by Anna Krien (Black Inc)
Deadly Australian Women, by Kay Saunders (ABC Books)

Best Debut Book (any category):
A Trifle Dead, by Livia Day (Twelfth Planet Press)
The Midnight Dress, by Karen Foxlee (UQP)
Girl Defective, by Simmone Howell (Pan Macmillan Australia)
Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent (Picador Books)
Every Breath, by Ellie Marney (Allen & Unwin)

In addition, 660 members of Sisters in Crime Australia will cast votes for their Readers’ Choice award recipient of the year.

The winners in all six categories will be declared during a “gala dinner” on Saturday, August 30, by South African crime writer Lauren Beukes.

(Hat tip to Crime Watch.)
Aug 182014
A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

No Safe House, by Linwood Barclay (New American Library)

The Gist: “Seven years after barely surviving the terrors of No Time for Goodbye (2007),” explains Publishers Weekly, “the Archer family of Milford, Conn., once again tempts fate in this darkly comic if decidedly creepy thriller … History seems to be repeating itself as mom Cynthia fights to set limits on 14-year-old Grace, who defies her--much as the rebellious 14-year-old Cynthia herself did the night she got drunk with local hood Vince Fleming and her parents and brother disappeared. But Grace’s latest lapse in judgment--agreeing to joyride with pistol-packing bad boy Stuart Koch, whose father assists the now-grown Vince--plunges the entire clan into a deadly perfect storm of greed, violence, dog walkers, and ruthless rival crooks at cross-purposes.” Reviewing the Evidence says this novel plays to the author’s strengths: “Here we are on familiar, if still effective, ground for Barclay. He specializes in mining a suburban angst rooted in the suspicion that the leafy streets and tidy homes sit atop a subterranean fault line that constantly threatens to split wide open and engulf their earnest and respectable citizens in unexpected anarchy. He is particularly good at situating the threat in the teenaged characters, who behave in that familiar and maddening combination of reckless daring and moral superiority most parents of adolescents will recognize instantly. Grace in this case does something thoroughly foolish yet almost sweetly naïve. When she learns what she may be responsible for, she has to be almost physically restrained from rushing off to the authorities to confess, while her exasperated but loving father does what he can to protect her.”

What Else You Should Know: For a piece in The Big Thrill, A.J. Colucci “asked Barclay why he chose to go back to the story after all these years. ‘It was my U.S. publisher, Penguin, that really wanted me to do a sequel, and seven years seemed like the right amount of time. The daughter in the book, Grace, is the same age as her mother Cynthia when the first event happened, and that had some symmetry to it.’ … Barclay enjoyed going back to the original characters and imagining how they developed. ‘When something traumatic happens in the context of a thriller, even when you find out all the answers, you have to wonder--what’s it like for those people afterwards? How does their life change? What does it do to them personally? I knew how it would affect Cynthia and her relationship with her daughter. That’s the stuff I wanted to get into, how she would be so obsessively overprotective. It’s the law of unintended consequences--the more you try to achieve one thing, the more you achieve the opposite. The more Cynthia tries to rein Grace in, the more she fights back. We’ve all been there.’” The Minneapolis Star Tribune adds that “While this is a sequel to No Time for Goodbye, familiarity with that earlier thriller isn’t required to enjoy this look at a family trying to maintain cohesion. What makes the story work is the depth and strength of the Archer family and their love for each other that oozes off the page while bad things continue to happen around them.”
Aug 182014
I’ve been rather joyfully following the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest since 2009. Taking its name from George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), it champions hideous (read: humorous) opening sentences from never-to-be-completed books. Entries are accepted in categories ranging from Adventure and Children’s Literature to Historical Fiction and Purple Prose.

Winning this year in the Crime category was Carl Turney of Bayswater, Victoria, Australia. Here’s his submission:
Hard-boiled private dick Harrison Bogart couldn’t tell if it was the third big glass of cheap whiskey he’d just finished, or the way the rain-moistened blouse clung so tightly to the perfect figure of the dame who just appeared panting in his office doorway, but he was certain of one thing … he had the hottest mother-in-law in the world.
Harrison, Ohio’s Joshua Long scored runner-up honors with this:
Hard-boiled private eye Smith Calloway had a sinking feeling
as he walked into the chaotic crime scene, for there, as expected, was the body dressed in a monk’s habit; there was the stuffed cream-colored pony next to the crisp apple strudel; there was the doorbell, the set of sleigh bells, and even the schnitzel with noodles--all proclaiming that the Von Trappist Killer had struck again.
Actually, though, I got the biggest chuckle from one of three “Dishonorable Mention” recipients in this category, submitted by Brian Brandt of Lansdale, Pennsylvania:
When the CSI investigator lifted the sheet revealing the mutilated body with the Ginsu Knife still protruding from the bloody chest, Detective Miller wondered why anybody would ever need two of them, even if he only had to pay extra shipping and handling.
Click here to read (or groan at) all of this year’s top contenders.
Aug 152014
I’ve had my head down over the last couple of days, trying to finish work on my latest column for Kirkus Reviews. Which may explain why I missed the tragic news that Jeremiah Healy--author of the Boston-based John Francis Cuddy private-eye series--committed suicide yesterday. A post in Bill Crider’s blog says that “depression exacerbated by alcohol” contributed to Healy’s action.

Born in New Jersey in 1948, Healy was a graduate of Rutgers College and Harvard Law School, and had been a professor at the New England School of Law for 18 years. He had served as the chair for the Shamus Awards, president of the Private Eye Writers of America, and president of the International Association of Crime Writers. During his writing career, he turned out at least 18 novels and dozens of short stories. His second Cuddy outing, The Staked Goat (1986), won the Shamus. Under the pseudonym Terry Devane, he also penned novels about Boston lawyer Mairead O’Clare.

I had the chance to interview Healy for January Magazine back in 2000, but saw him at more than one Bouchercon over the years. The last time, I believe, was during the 2011 convention in St. Louis. He always struck me as a smart guy, and very much a fighter. He’d already survived a bout with prostate cancer.

His wife, author Sandra Balzo, sent out the following message:
My heart breaks to send you all this news, especially by email. As you may know, Jerry has battled chronic severe depression for years, mostly controlled by medication, but exacerbated by alcohol. Last night he took his own life. Jerry was the smartest, kindest man I’ve ever met, and I thought we’d continue to grow old together. His demons had other plans. Please keep Jerry in your heart, as you all were in his.
I send my best wishes to his family.

Gone, Baby, Gone

 Obits 2014, Videos  Comments Off
Aug 132014

Damn, what a horrible way to start the week! First it was comedian Robin Williams, lost yesterday, apparently to suicide, at age 63. Now comes the news that actress Lauren Bacall--born Betty Joan Perske in the Bronx, New York, in 1924--has passed away at age 89.

A former theater usher and fashion model, Bacall first came to prominence in 1944, when, at age 19, she starred with 44-year-old Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not, a film based loosely on Ernest Hemingway’s 1937 novel of the same name. Her famous double entendre-laced line, delivered to a smoking, reclining Bogie--“You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and … blow”--knocked out movie-going audiences everywhere, and had no less impact on Bogart himself. At the time he was already on his third marriage, to actress Mayo Methot, but he divorced her the next year to wed Bacall, or “Baby” as he called her. The pair were together only until his death in 1957, but if Bogie’s ghost is still anywhere around today, it’s whistling for her to join him now.

You can watch a Turner Classic Movies tribute to Bacall here.

READ MORE:Lauren Bacall (1924-2014), Hollywood Legend and Style Icon,” by Noel Murray (The Dissolve); “Lauren Bacall, Sultry Movie Star, Dies at 89,” by Enid Nemy (The New York Times); “Lauren Bacall, Legendary Actress, Dies at 89,” by Ryan Parker and Dennis McLellan (Los Angeles Times).
Aug 112014
After a six-month hiatus (really, that long?), I’m reintroducing “Pierce’s Picks,” a weekly alert to new crime, mystery, and thriller novels worth reading. I hope this slightly modified format will make it easier to keep up the feature’s weekly pace. We shall see.

Brainquake, by Samuel Fuller (Hard Case Crime)

The Gist: “The bagmen who transport money for organized crime,” explains a Hard Case blurb, “live by a special set of rules: no relationships, no ties … no alcohol, no women … no talking … and never, ever look inside the bag you’re carrying. For more than 10 years, despite suffering from a rare brain disorder [that causes uncontrollable seizures], Paul Page was the perfect bagman. But that ended the day he saw a beautiful Mob wife become a Mob widow. Now Paul is going to break every one of the rules he’s lived by to protect the woman he loves--even if it means he might be left holding the bag.” Kirkus Reviews calls Brainquake “a hard-boiled story filled with quick dialogue and rich archetypal characters.” Publishers Weekly adds: “The writing is pulpy and the violence brutal, but Fuller explodes a few surprises to keep the plot unpredictable, and his mordant asides on crime and corruption elevate this tale above much standard genre fare.”

What Else You Should Know: This novel, with its gorgeous cover illustration by Glen Orbik, was originally slated for publication on September 9. Somewhere along the line, though, the folks at Hard Case decided it would be better to release it tomorrow, August 12--maybe because that would have been the 102nd birthday of Samuel Fuller, the author and filmmaker who died in 2007. Fuller had penned half a dozen previous novels (including 1944’s The Dark Page), but left Brainquake unpublished at the time of his death; it was discovered later, and Hard Case’s edition represents its first English-language release. “We’ve had some big books at Hard Case Crime,” editor Charles Ardai writes in a press notice, “but the publication of Brainquake in some ways tops ’em all. Fuller was a larger-than-life figure--decorated D-Day veteran, liberator of the Falkenau concentration camp, teenage crime reporter in New York City, rail-rider with hoboes in the Depression, Hollywood wunderkind, fighter for racial equality, revered American icon overseas--and having him join the Hard Case Crime family is a special privilege.”


 Awards 2014  Comments Off
Aug 112014
Over this past weekend, PulpFest 2014 took place in Columbus, Ohio. Included among its events was the presentation of two prizes.

J. Randolph Cox, a former editor-publisher of Dime Novel Round-Up and author of the bibliography Man of Magic & Mystery: A Guide to the Work of Walter B. Gibson, won the Munsey Award, “presented annually to a person who has worked for the betterment of the pulp community.” Meanwhile, J. Barry Traylor picked up the Rusty Award, “designed to recognize those individuals who have worked long and hard for the pulp community with little thought for individual recognition, it is meant to reward especially good works and is thus reserved for those individuals who are most deserving.”

Congratulations to both prize recipients.
Aug 102014
It seems as if I’ve been writing a great deal about Down Under crime fiction lately. Last weekend brought an announcement of the four finalists for this year’s Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel in New Zealand. And now comes word of which books and authors have made the shortlist for Australia’s 2014 Ned Kelly Awards.

Best Crime Novel:
Bitter Wash Road, By Garry Disher (Text)
Fatal Impact, by Kathryn Fox (Pan Macmillan)
In the Morning I’ll Be Gone, by Adrian McKinty (Serpent’s Tail)
Beams Falling, by P.M. Newton (Penguin)
One Boy Missing, by Stephen Orr (Text)
The Dying Beach, by Angela Savage (Text)

Best First Crime Novel:
Dead Cat Bounce, by Peter Cotton (Scribe)
Hades, by Candice Fox (Random House)
Blood Witness, by Alex Hammond (Penguin)
Every Breath, by Ellie Marney (Tundra)

Best True Crime:
Disgraced? by Paul Dale (Five Mile Press)
Forever Nine, by John Kidman and Denise Hofman (Five Mile Press)
No Mercy, by Eleanor Learmonth and Jenny Tabakoff (Text)
JFK: The Smoking Gun, by Colin McLaren (Hachette)
Outlaw Bikers in Australia, by Duncan McNab (Pan Macmillan)
Murder in Mississippi, by John Safran (Blackfriars)

Sandra Harvey Short Story Award:
“Housewarming,” by Louise Bassett
“The Scars of Noir,” by Darcy-Lee Tindale
“Voices of Soi 22,” by Roger Vickery
“Splinter,” by Emma Viskic
“Web Design,” by Emma Viskic

The winners of the 2014 “Neddies” will be declared on Saturday, September 6, during the Brisbane Writers Festival.
Aug 082014
(Editor’s note: The Rap Sheet has enjoyed a cordial and mutually beneficial relationship over the last few years with Australia-born Scottish author Tony Black. In 2010 he debuted an original short story on this page, “Last Orders,” featuring his series character, journalist-cum-detective Gus Dury. Two years later, we featured an excerpt from Miracle Mile, his second novel about Edinburgh Detective Inspector Rob Brennan. And then last year, we were pleased to host Black’s long-hoped-for interview with William McIlvanney, still best known for his 1977 series debut, Laidlaw [which is now back in print]. In addition to having a new novel out in Britain, Artefacts of the Dead, Black has also released Hard Truths: Cross-Examining Crime Writers, a collection of interviews he’s conducted with accomplished modern contributors to the crime and mystery genre. Below, he briefly explains his intentions with that work.)

Writing, as everyone knows, is a tough business. Just when you think you’ve got on top of the tricky craft aspects along comes the even trickier feat of finding an agent. Then a publisher. Then the industry changes and you find yourself doing the agent and publisher’s job too.

If I was to track the bumps in the road to calling myself an author, I wouldn’t know where to start. I had about 10 years in the wilderness and five novels gathering dust before I got a break with Random House. Twelve books later, the only thing I’m sure about is that it’s a constant learning process … and, nothing like what I thought it might be.

I’ve spoken with dozens of writers about the business of putting words on a page and always found that it’s a familiar tale; precious few have it easy. The path to publication is filled with face-slaps and rejections. We all have our horror stories. My personal favorite is being told by two separate London publishers, on the same day, “We’re not looking for a Scottish writer” and “We have a Scottish writer.” There was also an American agent who wanted to turn my breakthrough novel’s protagonist, Gus Dury, into a “bonnie Scotch lassie,” but I simply stored that away in the “insane/hilarious shit” file.

Writers trade this stuff like football stickers. Once, at a gig with Russel D. McLean (The Lost Sister, Mothers of the Disappeared), he regaled the audience with a tale of one manuscript coming back covered in crayon, and a note attached saying, “As you can see, my child didn’t rate it much either.” Appalled? You should be. But in an industry where the upheaval has been seismic recently--giving everyone with an Internet connection a voice--writers get used to it. Opinions are like arseholes: everybody has them.

I like Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh’s attitude toward critics, which he outlines in one of three interviews I’ve conducted with him, all featured in Hard Truths: “If they were any good, they would have done it themselves and be selling truckloads. But they ain’t, and I am. I know this, they do too. Enough said.”

Black talks with fellow novelist McIlvanney about his writing and the crime-fiction genre, in general.

Another Scottish author, William McIlvanney, recounted for me the halcyon days of gentlemen reviewers, who thought twice about “annihilating an author” because they generally had a book of their own on the way.

The wisdom of these wordsmiths--and that of many more like them--is gold. And crime writers like to share. It’s said they’re the nicest of the writing bunch, because they get all their angst out on the page; for the opposite reason, romance writers are the ones to watch, allegedly.

When I started interviewing the crime writers featured in this collection, a few years ago, it was a way of providing content for the nascent Webzine Pulp Pusher. That was it, plain and simple; the idea of gathering their collected wisdom wasn’t on my mind. But, slowly, I found myself quoting back the interviewees’ responses to reading groups, students, my own interviewers, and just about anyone else who would listen. So, I asked myself, why? The answer was obvious, and I thought, well worth sharing.

Hard Truths: Cross-Examining Crime Writers features my exchanges with the likes of Ian Rankin, Andrew Vachss, Stuart MacBride, Ken Bruen, and a long list of others. The book clocks in at about 85,000 words--and being the words of the best in the business, you can rely on the quality of every one of them.

READ MORE:Steve Jovanoski Interviews Tony Black” (Crimeculture).