Monday, August 31, 2009

Cover for Donna Moore's OLD DOGS!

A couple months ago, two totally unconnected events occurred that would bring together the talents of two women living thousands of miles apart: I was asked by crime writer/agent Allan Guthrie to read his client Scottish novelist Donna Moore's second book for possible publication, and I posted my high-school graduation information to Facebook.

Laughing my way through Donna's Old Dogs, I knew I had to publish this comic caper about an art heist gone horribly awry. Donna had won the Lefty Award for Most Humorous Crime Novel for 2006's Go to Helena Handbasket (PointBlank), and I think she has another winner on her hands here.

Then I received an e-mail from an old high school classmate, Julie Zarate (neé Jimenez), having spotted me on Facebook. Even though she and I both attended Houston's High School for Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice, I knew back then we were both destined for success outside the law enforement world... she was already showing talent as an artist (and trust me, I still have some of her drawings and I'm not parting with 'em anytime soon!), and, well, I just knew any profession involving me possessing a loaded gun was no good for anyone involved (I'd make Barney Fife look like Bruce Willis). So, I wasn't that shocked to see that, 20 years later, she's doing quite well moonlighting with this art gig... look through her work here. And after chatting with her by phone, I felt that she'd attack an Old Dogs cover with great relish. She did an amazing job of depicting heroines Letty & Dora, two elderly hookers-turned-con-artists, and I'm confident you'll agree!

Old Dogs (978-1-935415-24-4; trade paperback original; $15) is coming in June 2010 (distributed by Consortium). Look for it! In the meantime, track down Go to Helena Handbasket if you want to laugh 'til you pee.

Early praise for Old Dogs:

"Like the perfect heist, Donna Moore’s screwball caper is slick, audacious and hugely rewarding."—Chris Ewan, author of The Good Thief's Guide to Paris

“[Donna Moore] has surpassed herself in her wit, insight and sheer turn of phrase in Old Dogs. Take Joan Rivers, add some less acerbic Susan Silverman and sprinkle with the sheer story-telling glee of early Carl Hiaasen and you'll have some idea of what to expect. Roll out the awards shelf, Donna is going to grab them all. Her wondrous artistry makes it seem so easy, and books this readable and compelling are anything but easy to achieve. This is true art. Beware, you may want to grab passers-by and insist they hear a passage read aloud, it's that good.”—Ken Bruen, Shamus Award-winning author of London Boulevard

Friday, August 28, 2009


Miami Purity, by Vicki Hendricks (978-0-9792709-3-2; paperback; $16) Originally published by Pantheon, 1995. Published by Busted Flush Press (with new foreword by Ken Bruen and new afterword by Megan Abbott), May 2007

Chapter One

Hank was drunk and he slugged me – it wasn’t the first time – and I picked up the radio and caught him across the forehead with it. It was one of those big boom boxes with the cassette player and recorder, but I never figured it would kill him. We were sitting in front of the fan, listening to country music and sipping Jack Daniels – calling each other “Toots” like we both enjoyed – and all of a sudden the whole world changed. My old man was dead. I didn’t feel like I had anything to do with it. I didn’t make that choice.

I spent a few days in jail till the law decided I wasn’t to blame. It was Hank’s long record got me out. He was known to the cops. Afterwards I went on drinking and missing that son of a bitch like hell. There were several months I don’t know what I was doing. He had a terrible mean streak, but we were good together – specially when we got our clothes off.

At some point I woke up from a blackout and was in the hospital. I had vague memories of an asshole buying me drinks and him on top of me in a musty smelling car. There were flashes of fist and the sound of it against my jaw, but I wasn’t sure whose fist it was – I could’ve been mixing up another time. The nurse told me I looked like I’d been kicked, beat up so bad I was lucky to be alive. I don’t know why I believed her – about being lucky – but after they patched me up and dried me out for a while I was ready to give it a go. Really try to make myself a life, for the very first time. It was a big mistake.

That morning in North Miami Hank was almost gone from my memory, and so was the half pint of peppermint schnapps I used to carry in my shoulder bag.

I handed over the nine bucks I had on me to the cab driver – close to my last in the world – slid toward the door, opened it, and hopped out.

“You’re a quarter short, lady,” the cab driver said.

I just kept scooting on my way. Didn’t have a choice.

“Hotty bitch,” he hollered. He stretched across and banged the door shut. I think he was trying to catch my ass-end in it.

Hotty – I didn’t know the word. I glanced back at him as I stepped up on the curb. He was pissed but there was nothing worth doing about it. I took a last drag and threw my cigarette on the concrete. The pavement was slick and clean from a morning downpour.

I’d been job hunting along Biscayne and on Dixie. There were stretches of gas stations, a couple pay-by-the-hour motels I was familiar with, and 7-11's and insurance agencies and such, alongside bars and strip clubs. I’d had the driver make five stops. Ran the meter up just a hair too far not even thinking of a tip. So I stuck my chin up a little and kept walking. Didn’t flinch when he laid his patch of rubber.

I liked what he said – hotty. I was hot all right. At thirty-six-looking-thirty, I was determined to get myself out of the dark bars and into the daylight. I figured I could do something besides mix a drink and puppet my bleached peach around in a blacklight. ’Course, I’d made good money at it, but it was all spent as fast as it could make the transfer from garter to nose. And then the rest of it kept up Hank’s habits. There were other men over the years too, as long as I remember – since about age twelve. They’d all cost me, just not quite so much as Hank. I made em happy and didn’t ask nothing for keeps. Thought there was love in their hearts.

My last job was dancing at Bubbles. I didn’t want to get back with that crowd. I’d taken my last hit in the mouth – or anywhere. I wasn’t complaining, but I’d made up my mind Hank was gonna be my last mistake.

What I had was a small efficiency – rent due, a wild head of bleached blond hair, and a dancer’s ass, still tight as could be. My nose was clean. All I needed was a regular day job. The “Help Wanted” in the window said this was as good a place as any.

I looked through the smeary glass walls and saw a rack packed with clean clothes that circled the store. The morning was overcast but the rose-tinted plastic shrouds glistened under the fluorescents. Yeah, it looked good.

I’d been in Miami for a couple years, but I’d missed it all. Living on a buzz, I couldn’t say I ever stopped to take notice of the surroundings – except for being warm. I rarely saw the outside of a bar since I left Cleveland, much less stepped into the ocean or even sat in the sun. Now I was beginning to look around. If Cleveland was the armpit of the world then Miami must be the eyes, clear, blue sparkling eyes with plenty of promises. It was all there for me.

I grabbed the door handle with one hand, smoothed down my miniskirt with the other, and strolled on into the Miami-Purity Dry Cleaners.

I walked up to the counter to wait for the girl. She was busy with a customer. She hit three buttons and the whole long rack of clothes started to sway and travel. It fanned a breeze up my skirt. I said to myself, yeah, I’d like to give that rack a whirl.

The girl was young, but I had better pairs of what usually counts in the world. She was dark, sweet looking, but heavy Cuban probably. I knew how it worked. If they’d hire her they’d take me.

The customer headed out and I stepped up.

“Is your boss around?” I asked. “I’m interested in applying for the job.”

“The lady who hires you is not here right now, but I will find the manager.” She stuck out her hand and I took it. “I’m Marisol.”

“Sherri,” I said.

She went off to the back.

It was just a second before he came stepping out from behind the partition ahead of the girl. I took a look at that baby face, and those Jagger lips, and I got hot. He was wearing the cleanest shirt I ever saw, with a smooth, soft neck coming out of the open collar. Some dark curls feathered up from his chest.

I wasn’t expecting a dry cleaner to start my juices running. It was the mix of innocence and animal that did it. He was looking at me with his bright blue eyes, sweet as a baby’s.

I could feel the weight shift to my heels and my left hip swing out. I wanted to feel his hands grab at my hips while I watched those lips work. It was the first time since Hank my body started to heat up and come alive on its own. It felt good, but I knew I ought to watch it.

“What can I do for you?”

“I’m interested in a position,” I said. I parked my tits on the counter between my elbows and crooked a thumb under my shoulder strap to keep steady. Looked real straight into his blue eyes. “What kind of position is it?”

“You can fill out an application, but we were expecting to hire a retired person. It only pays minimum.”

I didn’t know if I could live on that, but those lips were sure convincing. It had already been a long morning.

“It’s handy,” I said. “I’ve done worse. I’d like to give it a try.”

I had his attention and I spoke a little lower, kinda privately with him.

“I’ve been workin the bars all my life. Now I’m after a change. When I saw your place, I got a feeling. You know – like fate brought me here. I said to myself, I’ll walk right in and get that job. I can do cleaning. That’s something I’m good at.”

I watched his face. Looked at the shiny gold cross hanging around his neck. I figured he was a Christian. I knew a lot of dancers that were Christians and I admired their good intentions. He was sizing me up and down.

“It was an impulse. I believe in fate, don’t you?” I said.

“Yeah. Anyway, I can give you an application.” He put out his hand salesman-style. He had long clean fingers, and a tan muscular forearm showed below the crisp rolled shirt sleeve. “I’m the manager. My name is Payne.”

I couldn’t resist. “Ouch,” I said. I kept my lips rounded an extra second while I took the hand, and then smiled. “Mine’s Sherise Parlay. Sherri, for short.”

One corner of his mouth went up smirky-like. “Payne was my grandfather’s name. We’re Irish – Mahoney.” He slid a sheet of paper across the scratched white counter. “Here,” he said. “Fill it out. The owner will be here in a few minutes. You’ll have to wait. I can’t make that kind of decision.”

I sat down on a plastic lawn chair against the side wall. I could see he was watching so I made a little show of crossing my legs under my short pink skirt and wiping the sweat off my neck. My body was jittery. My foot started to jiggle and I put both feet down flat on the floor. I knew I didn’t have to fuck Payne to get the job, but I would’ve felt more comfortable with that.

The application was long and complicated, like most I filled out that morning. I wasn’t sure if I did it right. I guessed at some dates. When I finished I gave it an overall glance. The page was printed neat but it showed up the blanks in my life. Well, I wouldn’t lie. It was a fresh start. I could feel the bad luck dropping off my back making my shoulders lighter.

I sat still and straight, looking like I’d applied for regular day jobs a hundred times and gotten em.

“Here she comes,” he said. I saw the woman before she flung open the glass door. Her lips said it all – those and her eyes, and thick dark hair – she matched him. She was his mother. She looked about ten years older than I was. Pretty good shape. Small and compact. Tough.

Payne introduced her as Brenda Mahoney.

She didn’t waste time. “Let me see the application,” she told him. Her face was kind of puffy up close, eyes yellowish with pink around the edges. Her hand was shaky when she held it out, and that tipped me off right away that she’d had a few too many the night before. Probably the night before that too, a long string of those nights. She started tapping the counter in front of her for him to slide the paperwork over there fast. He frowned and flung it to her like it burned.

I watched her face to see what she’d think when she got to my past employment, dancing and bar jobs with gaps in between where I couldn’t recall or couldn’t put down a name for what I was doing, but she didn’t flinch.

“It’s not a glamorous job,” she said to me. “I’m not sure you’d like it.”

I picked up the sweet scent of alcohol on her exhaled breath. She talked fast though, and didn’t slur.

“You’ll sweat in here, and your hair will frizz up. We can’t use air conditioning because of all the steam – cold air would turn it into rain. And you have to be careful every second. You’ll be using jets of steam for some fabrics and white-hot metal pressing plates on others.”

I wondered how careful she was herself by afternoon if her drinking started this time in the morning.

She leaned forward and crossed her arms, fingering a gold cross with green stones that hung on a heavy chain between her tits. It was cute – mother and son both had their crosses. The stones were the color of her eyes that burned into me.

“If you touch one of those plates with your arm, the skin sears right to it.”

“I’m real careful.”

“Your past experience shows that you’ve always worked with the public – in entertainment. You’re in your thirties and never had a routine job. Are you sure you want this kind of responsibility?”

I nodded. “I’d appreciate it, Mrs. Mahoney. I’m ready to be responsible. I need the regular hours.”

“Okay,” she said and put her hands on her hips. “You sound like you mean it. Good. We’ve been trying to fill this position for a time now. I can see you have the energy, even if you lack the experience.” She put a hand on my upper arm. I think she meant it to be firm and warm, but her nails were long and felt a little like claws.

“You’ll eventually meet the other employees working their shifts on the pressers. We’re all friends here.” She moved her hand across for a shake. “Call me Brenda.”

I looked at her face and thought, yes, maybe in ten years that’s where I’ll be – smart and tough, with the know-how to run my own business. “Thanks, Brenda,” I said.

I glanced over the counter at Payne as she walked away. He looked fed up. His full lips were pursed and he was watching me with those cool blue eyes. I thought of grabbing the back of that thick curling dark hair and yanking his face down on mine.

“How about you?” I said. “Think I’ll fit okay?”

He just looked at me and didn’t say anything, but our eyes stuck for a second.


Vicki Hendricks's Miami Purity is considered one of the best noir debuts of the last twenty years, and is a must for all fans of the genre!

Find copies at your favorite independent, chain, or online bookseller, or directly from BFP here. See the list at the right for some of the indies that support & stock BFP titles.

Vicki Hendricks lives in Hollywood, Florida, where she teaches English and creative writing. A fan of dangerous sports, she has completed 550 skydives, learned to dog sled in Finland, and has been birding in the jungles of Costa Rica. Her fifth novel, Cruel Poetry (Serpent's Tail; 978-1-85242-927-0; $14.95), was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original.

Praise for Miami Purity...

“Sex and murder, sunny places and shady people – Miami Purity is a modern noir masterpiece.” – Michael Connelly

“The authentic heir to James M. Cain, Vicki Hendricks is the high priestess of neo-noir. A fierce and fearless talent.” – Dennis Lehane

“One of my top ten all time reads. Hotter than Miami in August.” – Charlie Stella

“Shocking and supercharged, both reverent and original, this is the novel that amped up a new generation of noir writers.” – George Pelecanos

Miami Purity is as sleek as a well-oiled weasel and tight as the Gordian knot. One of the best of its kind from a very fine writer.” – Joe R. Lansdale

“Vicki Hendricks is a true original. She is undoubtedly one of the most important noir writers of the past twenty years, and Miami Purity is one of the best crime novels I've ever read, period.” – Jason Starr

Miami Purity is the toughest, sexiest, most original debut noir novel ever written, and instantly rockets Hendricks into the list of all-time great noir authors. Gripping, super-sexy, and unforgettably raw.” – Lauren Henderson

“One of my favorite books to read and reread. Vicki Hendricks supplies heat and steam aplenty, and one of the hottest femme fatales in history. It’s the crime fiction version of Viagra.” – Robert Randisi

“Did I like this dark and twisted story about Sherri Parlay and her lover? I came home with the book and opened it at the kitchen counter and was still standing there at the end – literally did not put it down. Miami Purity might make you think of James M. Cain's ultra-noir The Postman Always Rings Twice – but Vicki Hendricks is a lot sexier.” – Barbara Parker

Miami Purity is a book of raw, primitive power with a relentless drumbeat of sexuality. James M. Cain is a timid schoolmarm compared to Vicki Hendricks. This is a shocking book, brimming with vividly perverse characters who are driven by the strange and twisted logic of evil. If Hannibal Lecter were in the market for a mate, he would look no further than Miami Purity.” – James W. Hall

Miami Purity cooks white hot – it’s Hard Copy meets James M. Cain meets white trash with a vengeance. This book is an instant redneck idiot savant classic: so gruesome and funny and deadpan outlandish that you wind up baying at the moon like a Florida coondog.” – James Ellroy

“Steamy and erotic. Raw and real. Miami Purity will knock your socks off, and anything else you happen to be wearing.” – Paul Levine

"Vicki Hendricks has been called the 'Queen of Noir,' and after reading Miami Purity you'll know why." -- Timothy Lockhart, The Virginian-Pilot (12/21/08)

“This book is the very definition of noir. Ms. Hendricks steers us head long into the down and dirty life of Sherise Parlay as she attempts to make her life a better place. The best way to accomplish that? Murder of the cold-blooded variety, of course. In a circumstance of the darkest irony, Sherise lands herself a job at Miami Purity, a local dry cleaners. She is minutes into to living out her resolve to better her life when she is introduced to Payne, the owner’s son. On the surface, he seems to be everything she hasn’t had before in a man. Underneath, possibly worse. A deeper shade of black. I inhaled this book like a drowning victim takes in lungs full of air upon hitting the waters’ surface. It is very fast, very dark and very good. The darkest parts of human nature are dissected and put on display, for your reading pleasure. And the ending will mess with you. I had to take a shower when I was done with this book.” – Jennifer Jordan, Crimespree Magazine

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

ONCE UPON A TIME anthology

A very special mystery anthology has just been published, in honor of two very special booksellers. Once Upon a Crime (Nodin Press; trade paperback original; $16.95) is a group of stories collected and presented as a tribute to Pat Frovarp and Gary Shulze of Once Upon a Crime Bookstore in Minneapolis and booksellers & librarians everywhere. When Gary began treatment for leukemia, the community of authors they support banded together to highlight the incredible and irreplaceable contribution they’ve made to the lives of readers and authors in their community and around the nation.

The lineup features an impressive array of crime-fiction veterans and up-and-comers:

Vince Flynn (introduction)
C.J. Box
Ken Bruen
David Housewright
Michael Stanley
Libby Fischer Hellmann
Gary Phillips
Maureen Fischer
Anne Fraser
Troy Cook
Pat Dennis
Pete Hautman
Chris Everheart
William Kent Krueger
Lori Lake
Gary R. Bush
Reed Farrel Coleman
Anthony Neil Smith
Mary Logue
Lois Greiman
Terri Persons
Max Allan Collins & Barbara Collins
Sujata Massey
Marilyn Victor
S.J. Rozan

Here's what BFP writer Reed Farrel Coleman has to say about Once Upon a Crime, the store and the anthology:

"One of my favorite indie bookstores to visit on tour is Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis. In fact, I’m beginning my tour of Tower tour there in October. I love everything about the place, from its cool logo and sign, subterranean digs, massive back rooms full of the mystery genre treasures and the friendly, engaged customers. But the real treasures are the owners Pat and Gary. Friendly, supportive, and committed to their mission as indie owners, they are truly lovely people. So it was quite a shock to the mystery community when, several years ago, Gary was diagnosed with a severe form of leukemia. After a long course of treatment, I’m pleased to report that Gary’s made a startling and successful recovery—here’s where my superstitious mother would knock on wood, spit, and mumble some Yiddish. We’re all very thankful for that, but the treatment was incredibly costly. In order to defray some of those costs, some of Gary and Pat’s writer pals in the Twin Cities area banded together and came up with the idea for the anthology. Gary Bush and Chris Everheart have done a great job of gathering a group of the genre’s heavy hitters who have contributed stories and all proceeds derived from the anthology to help clear up Gary’s medical bills. It’s an all-star lineup that includes Max Allen Collins, CJ Box, Ken Bruen, SJ Rozan and many others. There are a hundred reasons to buy this collection of stories, but buy it because it jammed packed with great stories and one not-so-bad one from me."

I also asked Gary himself to offer a few words...

"As for the genesis & gestation of the anthology, I was largely left in the dark. The only reason it isn't a complete surprise to me is that the editors figured that they really should ask my permission. Needless to say, Pat & I are honored & flattered beyond words by the response of the authors who contributed stories. The book took so long in the making (over 4 years) that I was determined to survive the bleak odds of survival in order to see it in print! Just another thing, besides the unbelievable support of authors & friends (one of the editors would come over and help Pat restock, and shovel snow after every storm), that kept me going, and kept Pat sane."

Proceeds benefit the Memorial Blood Bank. To order copies signed by many of the contributors, please contact Once Upon a Crime at (612) 870-3785 or by e-mail.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Meet us in St. Louis... at Bouchercon 2011!

I, Crimespree Magazine's Jon Jordan, and our spouses (McKenna & Ruth) are co-chairing the 2011 Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, September 15-18, 2011, in St. Louis. We're excited to announce that the website is now up, and we're starting to take registrations. And who wouldn't want to attend this Bouchercon? Check out the line-up, just with the Guests of Honor...

American Guests of Honor: Charlaine Harris (the Sookie Stackhouse series, the basis for HBO's True Blood) and Robert Crais (the Elvis Cole series)
International Guests of Honor: Val McDermid (the Tony Hill & Carol Jordan series, the basis for BBC's Wire in the Blood) and Colin Cotterill (the Dr. Siri series)
Lifetime Achievement: Sara Paretsky (the V. I. Warshawski series)
Toastmaster: Ridley Pearson (the Lou Boldt / Sheriff Walt Fleming series)
Fan Guests of Honor: Kate Stine & Brian Skupin (Mystery Scene Magazine)

And that's only the beginning! Jon and I have lots of ideas that we believe will help make this the biggest & best Bouchercon ever. And just why did did we -- Jon's from Milwaukee, David from Houston -- choose St. Louis? Obviously you haven't been to the city before. Jon and I both will be reporting on our thoughts of St. Louis in the months ahead, with additional, expert insight from the perfect guides: Gateway City's mystery authors.

In the meantime, please bookmark the B'Con 2011 blog, so you can keep in touch with what's going on. But hell, you know you wanna go! Get on over to the official B'Con 2011 website and register now! It's a mere $125 until the end of 2009. What a deal!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Reed Farrel Coleman nominated for the 2009 Shamus Award!

Reed Farrel Coleman has just been nominated for a third Shamus Award for Best Private Eye Novel! He has won it twice before: For his 3rd Moe Prager book, The James Deans (Busted Flush; 978-0-9792709-8-7; paperback; $14), and for the 4th Moe, Soul Patch (Bleak House Books). This time, he is nominated for 2008's 5th Moe book, Empty Ever After (Bleak House)... Busted Flush Press publishes the first three in this series! New fans need to start with #1. :-)

Moe #1: Walking the Perfect Square (978-0-9792709-5-6) Read an excerpt from Walking the Perfect Square here.
Moe #2: Redemption Street (978-0-9792709-0-1)
Moe #3: The James Deans (978-0-9792709-8-7)
Winner of the Shamus, Anthony & Barry Awards! Nominated for the Edgar, Gumshoe, and Macavity Awards!

The Shamus Awards will be announced at Bouchercon 2009 in Indianapolis, Oct. 16th. For more information and a complete list of nominees, please go here.

Catch Reed Farrel Coleman in your town when he tours this fall for Tower (written w/ Ken Bruen; 978-1-935415-07-7; paperback original; $15)! Tour details to come later this week.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Reed Farrel Coleman & Jason Pinter

Crime writers Reed Farrel Coleman and Jason Pinter meet up to discuss their upcoming September 30th event at the renowned Mysterious Bookshop... and discover that they have more in common than they thought. A lot more...

Reed's complete Tower signing tour to be posted soon!

Monday, August 10, 2009


It was great to hear from Rob Dougherty, manager of Clinton, New Jersey's Clinton Book Shop, who just discovered Reed Farrel Coleman's Walking the Perfect Square (978-0-9792709-5-6; paperback; $13)...

"After hearing Maureen Corrigan's review of Reed Farrel Coleman's Moe Prager detective series on NPR, I ordered the first of the series, Walking the Perfect Square. As a bookseller, I put a great deal of trust in Corrigan's reviews. I can honestly say that I was not let down... in fact, I was blown away. Walking the Perfect Square is among the best of all crime novels that I have read. I look forward into putting this book into the hands of readers who I am sure will agree that Reed Farrel Coleman is, without a doubt, one of the brightest stars of the crime fiction genre."

Thanks, Rob!

And if you're in the Clinton, New Jersey, area, please check out this independent bookstore here. And just why is it important to support local businesses & indie bookstores? Read this and see.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

DAMN NEAR DEAD... the sequel!

In 2006, Busted Flush Press released its first original short story collection, Damn Near Dead (edited by Duane Swierczynski, introduction by James Crumley; 0-9767157-5-9; trade paperback original; $18). With 27 all-new "geezer noir" tales by some of today's top writers -- including Laura Lippman, Stuart MacBride, Mark Billingham, John Harvey, Megan Abbott, Colin Cotterill, Ken Bruen, Reed Farrel Coleman, Jeff Abbott, and many more -- DND went on to earn five award nominations and one win (for Bill Crider's "Cranked"... read "Cranked" for free here).

And now... a sequel is in the works!

Alvin, Texas, crime writer Bill Crider (whose DND story was an Edgar nominee!) returns to "geezer noir," this time as Damn Near Dead 2's editor. The anthology will debut at NoirCon (Nov. 4-7, 2010; Philadelphia, PA) with several of the contributors in attendance.
And just who are the contributors?? Well, stay tuned... Trust me, this will be quite a line-up!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

TOWER interview #3: Allan Guthrie

The Tower Interviews by Craig McDonald

In September 2009, Busted Flush Press will publish Tower (978-1-935415-07-7; trade paperback original; $15), a collaboration between award-wining crime novelists Ken Bruen (London Boulevard; Once Were Cops; The Guards) and Reed Farrel Coleman (Walking the Perfect Square; The James Deans; Soul Patch). Tower was edited by Edgar Award-nominated crime writer, editor and literary agent, Allan Guthrie (Kiss Her Goodbye; Two-Way Split; Slammer). In a series of interviews on the BFP blog, the trio discusses the process of writing and editing a novel that Publishers Weekly calls "brutally poetic." Edgar Award-nominated crime writer Craig McDonald (Head Games; Toros and Torsos) interviewed Bruen, Coleman, and Guthrie. Craig ("a genuine expert on the history of crime fiction" — Eddie Muller, San Francisco Chronicle) is an accomplished interviewer, and two collections of his interviews with major crime writers have been published: Art in the Blood (PointBlank Press) & Rogue Males (Bleak House Books). Here is the third interview, with crime writer/editor Allan Guthrie! [Interview #1, with Ken Bruen, can be found here, and interview #2, with Reed Farrel Coleman, is here.]

Craig McDonald: My understanding is [Busted Flush Press's] David Thompson sought you out for this editing post…
Allan Guthrie: That’s right. David’s known of my editing jones for some time—over the last few years he’s been a big supporter of PointBlank Press, where I picked up the habit editing writers like Dave Zeltserman, Duane Swierczynski, Ray Banks. And David’s known that it’s something I miss. As a literary agent, I edit manuscripts to various degrees for some of my clients, but the last book I worked on primarily as an editor was Ed Lynskey’s The Big Cheer, which was two, maybe even three years ago.

CM: What was your approach as editor in tackling this unique challenge of a two-person manuscript with contrapuntal narration?
AG: I approached it as I would any other manuscript. One author, two authors—doesn’t make any difference. Seriously, it’s not the number of authors involved, it’s what’s on the page that matters.

CM: Any special parameters or objectives you set in editing Tower?
AG: Other than trying not to make a fool of myself, no.

CM: Did you have to go back to one or either of the authors to adjust something that the other’s work mandated revising or tweaking?
AG: Reed was my first contact for all the edits, so they went through him and then came back with changes accepted or declined, bits added here and there, suggestions acted on or not and explanations as to why or why not. All very thorough and entirely peaceable.

CM: Were there times you were mediating between the two authors to make sure everything married up into a cohesive storyline?
AG: I came on board after the novel was written, so the storyline was already nice and solid. This sounds really boring but the truth is that this was a painless process, with no trace of ego. Nobody bit anybody’s ear off. Which I admit was a bit disappointing. I was hoping for a spot more carnage from those two.

CM: Did you have any role in the plotting—perhaps in terms of patching story problems or continuity issues?
AG: To a very limited extent. I suggested one or two things that the guys took on board, but my main contribution—I think—was just to help polish what was there. The book was already about 99% of the way done when I first read it and my suggestions were mainly along the lines of trying to make things a little clearer or more consistent. Most of the editing I did was in the details, although there were one or two places where I suggested something a little bigger—adding a scene here or there, something like that.

CM: This isn’t your first time editing Ken. Any special demands you find in handling Ken’s work?
AG: Special demands… well, Ken’s formatting is idiosyncratic, there’s no getting away from the fact. But I really like it. I’ve never seen his prose published the way he formats it, although I’d once planned to publish a story of Ken’s just the way it was written for an anthology I edited. Unfortunately the anthology got pulled at the last minute. Would have been interesting… and possibly a first.

CM: Ken’s manuscripts do have a very distinctive… look. The published version of Once Were Cops has a very striking single-sentence formatting that is much more in keeping with the more recent original manuscripts of Ken’s I’ve seen…
AG: Yes, even the very early manuscripts have that distinctive Bruen look. I’m glad to see the books being published more as Ken thinks they should look rather than as convention dictates. The way his writing appears on the page is clearly of huge importance to Ken.

CM: Ken credits you with making one or two “brilliant” tweaks to his portion of the narrative. Can you elaborate?
AG: Hell, no, I can’t think of anything remotely brilliant.

CM: Could you preview some of your own current/coming projects?
AG: I have a new book out in the U.K. called Slammer, a prison novel about a young prison officer who can’t cope with the stresses of the job. It’s out in the U.S. in November. And in a couple of months [out now!] I’ll have a novella out in the U.K. called Killing Mum, about a guy who arranges contract killings and one morning gets an anonymous request to have his mother whacked.

CM: Anything else you’d care to get out there?
AG: Just to say it was a real pleasure working on Tower and I hope lots of people read it.


Craig McDonald is the author of Head Games and Toros & Torsos (both from Bleak House). The third novel in the Hector Lassiter Series, Print the Legend, is forthcoming from Minotaur Books in winter 2010. His current book is a collection of interviews, Rogue Males: Conversations & Confrontations about the Writing Life (Bleak House Books), featuring discussions with James Crumley, Daniel Woodrell, Pete Dexter, James Sallis, James Ellroy and Ken Bruen, among many others. Visit him online at

Allan Guthrie is the Edgar Award-nominated author of Two-Way Split (PointBlank); Kiss Her Goodbye (Hard Case Crime); Hard Man, Savage Night, and Slammer (all from Harcourt). Visit him online at


Look for a Tower excerpt soon, and even a contest to win your very own Tower galley! Tower will be published in September 2009. Ken Bruen & Reed Farrel Coleman will both appear at Bouchercon in Indianapolis! Reed will hit the road to sign Tower, with stops including New York, Minneapolis, Denver/Boulder, Phoenix/Scottsdale, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Austin, and Houston (complete tour schedule to be posted soon).

Booksellers / librarians: Order Tower through
Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, Ingram, and Baker & Taylor!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Covers for Zoë Sharp's thrillers!

They're not coming out until summer 2010, but the wonderful Lisa Novak has designed some pretty cool covers for Zoë Sharp's first two Charlie Fox thrillers, Killer Instinct (May 2010) and Road Kill (July 2010). These books have never been published in the U.S. thriller fans, take note... you won't want to miss this series! Killer Instinct will feature a new introduction by Lee Child.

“Charlie Fox is simply the best.”—Jeffery Deaver

“Zoë Sharp writes some of the best thrillers around . . . Charlie Fox is totally believable, thanks to Sharp’s writing skill.”—Ted Hertel, Deadly Pleasures

“Male and female crime fiction readers alike will find Sharp’s writing style addictively readable—one of the very best crime fiction sagas out there.”—Paul Goat Allen, Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Mark Francis is putting the finishing touches on the cover of Ace Atkins's Crossroad Blues (978-1-935415-03-9; paperback; $15), which is due out in October. Damn, Mark did a fine job, don't you think? (Left-click the cover to enlarge.)

Coming later this week: Covers for Zoë Sharp's first two Charlie Fox thrillers, Killer Instinct and Riot Act, both due out next summer.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Akashic to reprint Naomi Hirahara's A HELL OF A WOMAN story!

Congratulations to Naomi Hirahara, whose "The Chirashi Covenant" (originally published in A Hell of a Woman) has been selected for Akashic's Los Angeles Noir 2: The Classics, due out in April 2010.

I asked Naomi to say a few words about writing the story:

I've always been curious about beauty pageants, especially ethnic specific ones (Miss Navajo Nation, Miss Chinatown, etc.). We have one in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo that has existed for more than 70 years. Rather than having female characters in their teens during the actual time of the pageant, I thought it would be interesting to jump forward ten years later. I set "The Chirashi Covenant" six years after the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and during the postwar housing boom of Los Angeles. The hope and excitement of being beauty queens have faded and reality has set in. Most of the 1941 contestants have started to rebuild their lives and recalibrate their dreams, but one refuses to abide by the status quo, which eventually leads to the destruction of her family.

Truthfully, I'm very humbled and even a bit embarrassed to be included in a collection with the likes of Chandler, Cain, Macdonald [Los Angeles Noir 2: The Classics]. But when I think about my characters and what they faced and survived, I am truly honored. Thanks to Busted Flush Press, editor Megan Abbott, and A Hell of a Woman for "The Chirashi Covenant" to see the light of day. (Los Angeles Noir 2: The Classics only feature short stories that have been published before.)

Naomi Hirahara, born and raised in Southern California, is the Edgar Award-winning author of the Mas Arai mystery series (Summer of the Big Bachi, Gasa-Gasa Girl, Snakeskin Shamisen), which features a Japanese American gardener and atomic-bomb survivor. A previous editor of The Rafu Shimpo newspaper, she also has produced nonfiction books on horticulture and Asian American history. Her short stories are featured in Los Angeles Noir, A Hell of a Woman, and The Darker Mask, while her middle-grade book, 1001 Cranes, was released as a Yearling trade paperback in June of this year. A board member of the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America, she recently completed the fourth Mas Arai mystery for St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne, Blood Hina, which is scheduled to be published in March 2010. Her mystery serial, “Heist in Crown City,” appears bimonthly in Asahi Weekly in Japan. An occasional writing workshop organizer, she currently teaches a bilingual writing class with seniors in a program through Poets & Writers, Inc. and funded through a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts. She received her B.A. in international relations from Stanford University. Her web site is