Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ace Atkins's new deal with Putnam!

Congratulations to Busted Flush Press author Ace Atkins (Crossroad Blues), who just sold two Quinn Colson novels -- featuring an Army Ranger who returns to his rural Mississippi county to find it overrun by corruption and his uncle, the sheriff, dead... the beginning of a trail that will lead him not only to the killers but to a new career -- to Neil Nyren at Putnam, for publication in 2011 and 2012.

I asked Ace about this exciting new project....

"The idea for launching a new series was actually posed to me by my editor at Putnam, Neil Nyren. Since Neil is also the editor of John Sandford, Randy Wayne White, and Robert Crais, this wasn’t an opportunity that needed me thinking twice. I’ve written four true-crime novels for Putnam, and I really welcomed creating a new hero to explore my world here in north Mississippi . I think the Deep South -- not counting the other universe of south Louisiana -- hasn’t really been covered. I see so much crime and lawlessness down here that it really called to be written about. And I’ve thought a great deal about the kind of hero it would take. (Many parts of Mississippi feel almost like the old West.) I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but I can promise it will be very gritty, violent and based on very real problems and issues here. The series kicks off a story as old as Odysseus -- a man returns home from war to find his town in shambles. You can bet trouble soon follows. The first book launches in the spring of 2011 and the next story follows in 2012."

But first, look for Busted Flush Press's reprint of Crossroad Blues, due out in mid-December!

Monday, November 23, 2009

CROSSROAD BLUES foreword by Greil Marcus!

Busted Flush Press's reprint of Ace Atkins's first Nick Travers crime novel, Crossroad Blues (978-1-935415-03-9; paperback; $15) -- which will ship from Consortium to booksellers beginning December 11th -- features not only an original, never-before-published Nick Travers short story ("Last Fair Deal Gone Down"), it also offers the following new foreword by renowned music journalist Greil Marcus.


Copyright © Greil Marcus, 2009. Reprinted with permission.

ROBERT JOHNSON GOT a few minutes in Phoenix, a 1997 cops-as-robbers bloodbath. In the Arizona bar she runs, Anjelica Huston leans over a jukebox, punching up Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues,” named for a ’30s machine and a concatenation of woman-as-automobile metaphors that makes Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” sound chaste. Cop Ray Liotta walks in, catches the tune: “My grandfather used to have one of those,” he says. “Good car.” “It’s not about a car,” Huston says mordantly. So they banter back and forth, tossing lines from the song at each other like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall running their horse-race double entendres in The Big Sleep. It’s as if familiarity with Robert Johnson music on the part of even vaguely cool middle-aged white people can be taken for granted, like alcohol and insomnia.

You can get as good a sense of Johnson’s presence in present-day life from this barely noticed movie as you can from any number of grander manifestations: his first-team 1986 entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; the 1990 release of his Complete Recordings, and the subsequent Grammy and gold-record awards; his 1994 stamp. There are novels, from Walter Mosley’s perfect-pitch RL’s Dream, his best, to Sherman Alexie’s pseudo-ghost story Reservation Blues, both from 1995. There are films, from Walter Hill’s puerile 1986 fiction Crossroads to Peter Meyer’s stunningly delicate 1997 documentary Can’t You Hear the Wind Howl?

All of this is based in the way one man hung sound in the air. That’s an event in Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen.” Each high guitar note stands out, flying away like a bird from the slow, nearly abstract rhythm, the apparent ground of the composition, then circling over the singer as if trying to decide whether to light. “You can see it,” the 1990s blues player Robert Cray says on the screen in Can’t You Hear the Wind Howl? “It’s so visual, the music is visual.”

More than seventy years after his murder in 1938, Johnson persists as the most famous and influential blues musician who ever lived. He is a man whose personal culture, his version of a local Mississippi culture—certain moves on six guitar strings, certain recastings of long-polished song fragments, certain inflections of common vocal patterns—has become world culture. Since his twenty-nine 1936 and 1937 recordings began to travel by way of reissue albums and rock ’n’ roll cover versions in the ’60s—the Rolling Stones’ “Love in Vain” and “Stop Breaking Down,” Cream’s “Crossroads” and “Four Until Late,” scores more—Johnson has pressed his case, and his case is an argument against life. Life insures that we will desire what we can’t have; life allows some of us to translate our frustration over our inability to live as we wish into art, and art is only a further trap. Its beauty finally does no more than mock the meaningless existence of those who make it, producing only a greater despair—and that, Johnson said in “Cross Road Blues,” “If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day,” and “Stones in My Passway,” is a cheat. But that’s not all: in Johnson’s hands this argument is an invitation to a dance, a joke, and a mystery.

This is the premise of Ace Atkins’s 1998 Crossroad Blues, a detective story featuring one Nick Travers, whom the reader meets as a professor of musicology at Tulane. Travers gets onto a story going around about a 1938 Robert Johnson recording session and nine sides no one has ever heard; no one can quite disbelieve it. Soon enough there’s an itinerant red-headed blueswoman, an albino black man who was present when Johnson was killed, a craven white promoter, more than one box of discs that all but glow with the sulfur of the forbidden, and a body walled up in a house for more than half a century.

Atkins has endless fun with material that has tortured so many writers before him. Crossroad Blues is a riot of Johnson lore, driven by the sort of stories generations of blues researchers would have sacrificed their children and parents to nail down: in these pages, Johnson is murdered by a white record producer for stealing his own records. Old crimes remain alive as shaggy-dog stories. “Shut his ass up, Willie,” a man who holds court in Three Forks, Mississippi, where Johnson was killed, says of the facts the blues professor has at his command. “Just made me fifty bucks yesterday from some Japanese. They thought I was Robert Johnson’s son.” But there is also something more, something none of the previous treatments of Johnson’s life, his legend, his myth, his recordings, even the two or three known photographs of the man himself have led anyone to put into words.

There comes a moment when Atkins seems to see through his own tale. He seems to realize that the story, like the little bird that might fly out of “Come On In My Kitchen,” will resist even those who can make a detective novel out of it. It’s a white man’s doubt in the face of a black man’s legacy, if not anyone’s doubt in the face of the rebuke art offers life. At the very least there is a deep feel for black secretiveness in the face of white greed, be it greed for the fortune the lost records represent or for the knowledge Atkins’s hipster academic momentarily suspects is not his to find. All books or movies about Robert Johnson ought to have a dream in them, but of the many that will follow Atkins’s, few will contain a dream as fine as this: “Black-and-white images of searching for Robert Johnson—his music grinding beneath a huge needle. Johnson gagging on his own blood as he vomited. Johnson smiling up at him and telling him, You’re not welcome. . . . You’re not part of this, he said. You’re not welcome.”

That dream, those words, didn’t stop Atkins, and they won’t stop anyone else. King of the Delta Blues was in preproduction at Rhino Films some years ago, with a script not only about but by Robert Johnson. One of those things: It’s a common name. There are seventeen in my telephone book, probably as many or more in yours, and one in none.


Greil Marcus is the author of The Shape of Things to Come, Mystery Train, Dead Elvis, and other books. He lives in Berkeley.

Look for Ace Atkins's Crossroad Blues, out in time for the holidays. The original Nick Travers story, "Last Fair Deal Gone Down," is set at Christmas! Visit Ace Atkins's blog here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Best-selling thriller writer Jason Pinter interviewed six renowned crime-fiction reviewers on The Huffington Post, and BFP was mentioned a few times, especially in response to the question "Which small presses do you feel are doing the best job publishing crime novels?" Mystery Scene's Kate Stine said, "[O]ne of my favorites is... Busted Flush in Texas. Not only do they select high quality books, they do what so many small presses don't: lavish care on the covers and general marketing materials." Read the entire interview here. BFP praise aside, it's a wonderful, informative exploration of the state of the crime novel & where it's heading.

Ken Bruen & Reed Farrel Coleman's Tower was #1 on Dallas Morning News's Paperback Fiction best-seller list (running November 1st)! Special thanks to Legacy Books, one of Texas's largest indie booksellers, for this!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Gatsby's Vineyard, by A. E. Maxwell (978-1-935415-01-5; trade paperback reprint; $14) On sale in two weeks!

Chapter One

JAY GATSBY WOULD have loved the Napa Valley—until someone found him face down between the vines. And they would have found him that way, make no mistake about it. There’s more than wine, prestige and carefully nurtured romance in Napa. There’s money. Real money. The kind people kill and die for.

Socially, Gatsby might have had an easier time in Napa than in East Egg. The vintage of the money in Napa is a lot less important than the vintage of the wines that are stored and poured there.

Some of the money in Napa is old, even older and more deeply rooted than the arm-thick vines in the vineyards that survived Prohibition. But much of Napa has been built in the last decade with money from semiconductors or sinsemilla or silver scams. As a result, there’s a kind of rough-and-tumble economic democracy on Napa’s flat and fertile floor. Growing grapes isn’t a club tournament limited to members only. All you need to become part of Napa’s economy is the admission fee. Joining the crowd of vintners is like signing on for a pro-am golf tournament in Pebble Beach or Palm Desert. Just ante up and play with the stars.

There is one condition, however: the money has to be real. None of this dollar-down-and-bet-on-the-come bullshit that works in the rest of California. Inherit your fortune, earn it, politely steal it or find yourself a wealthy silent partner. Whichever. Just make sure that your assets are as liquid as your Cabernet Sauvignon.

There’s a very good reason for that kind of fiscal snobbery. You have to have money in order to lose it—and that’s just what will happen. You’ll lose money. A whole lot of it. When you strip grape growing and wine making of its romance, the process is called farming, and there are a thousand ways to go broke farming. Ask anybody who has ever tried to turn a profit with a pitchfork and a hoe.

Oh, sure, there’s money to be made in the rich creases and on the flats between Spring Mountain and the Cedar Roughs, between the salt marshes of San Pablo Bay and the black rocks at the top of Mount St. Helena. Napa Valley grows wondrous grapes which become magnificent wines which fetch premium prices all over the world. A smart, trendy, innovative vintner can make a fortune in good years, break even in middling ones and hold losses below the threshold of bankruptcy in those years when the frosts come late in the spring and the rains come early in the fall, and when the mites and the leaf roll and the systemic viruses cripple the vines.

But all told, your odds of making a killing are probably a lot better in Las Vegas. Ask Coca-Cola or Nestlé or Seagram’s or any of the other capital-rich conglomerates that fueled the vineyard boom of the middle 1970s. They poured cash into Napa as though it were a slot machine, and they kept on pulling the green handle. But they couldn’t even turn up a double cherry. The guy who runs the casino had reset the drops while no one was looking. The payoffs were irregular, the return on investment minimal, the bottom line dismal.

One by one the conglomerates backed out of Napa Valley, leaving behind the only folks who could still afford to play the game: the old-time farmers who owned their land in fee simple, and the very wealthy boutique winery folks for whom the romance of the wine country was as bewitching as the sound of Daisy’s voice was for Gatsby.

I can sympathize with Gatsby. I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich, and rich is indeed better. But as a group the recently arrived always have been and always will be the butt of well-bred disdain . . . and more dangerous forms of aggression as well. I know something about what the nouveaux riches are up against. My late and lamentable Uncle Jake, the last of the hippie outlaws, left me a steamer trunk full of untraceable currency that my ex-wife, Fiora, turned into a fortune. Granted, my asset sheet wouldn’t intimidate J. P. Morgan or J. D. Rockefeller, but it gives me a freedom that is sometimes hard to describe.

You have heard, perhaps, of “fuck-you money”?

However much I enjoy the aspirations and excesses of the newly rich, my favorite folks in the Napa Valley are the old-timers, the farmers who are not necessarily rich but who have been there since before the boom, the people who rooted themselves and their vines in the land thirty or forty years ago, when the valley started to crawl out from under Prohibition.

Actually, some of these families go back more than a century. Barley farmers and dairymen and European grape growers gravitated to the valley not long after the gold rush. They were drawn not only by the soil but by the light and the clean air.

Unlike Iowa or Kansas, where farmland has the utilitarian aesthetics of a John Deere tractor, Napa has an enormous, fecund beauty. The hills are sexy, like black eyelet lace smoothed over tanned skin. There is a sensual fullness to the country that is palpable. The feeling comes from the contrasts of cool and heat, damp and dry, and from the visual impact of heavy, bushy vine heads along straight trellises in row on row of field on field of grapes. Even in the spring, when the vines are just past bud-break and the grapes are more potential than actual, there is a feeling of immense growth and fertility.

The nights are still crisp in the early summertime, when the gray evening fog spills over the crest of Spring and Diamond mountains along the west edge of the valley. Yet those same June days are warm and getting warmer; the sun is back and, like a young stud horse, just beginning to focus blinding, instinctive heat on the requirements of procreation. By July the days will bake. The south- and west-facing hills and canyons will become chimneys drawing up valley heat and pouring it over the small vineyards in the side canyons. All day long the vines will soak up sunlight, changing it into the complex sugars and tannins and acids that eventually will become fine wine.

The contrasts between the mountain and the valley vineyards are part of what has always fascinated me about Napa. The valley vines have an easy time of it, comparatively. Granted, the soil is rocky rather than Iowa-loamy. Each vineyard has its walls of red and brown and gray boulders, from hand-sized to head-sized, some grubbed from the ground by Chinese coolies a hundred years ago and some stacked last winter by Mexican field hands.

Up toward Calistoga, just off the Silverado Trail, I once ran across a rock pile that was ten feet high, a hundred feet wide and three quarters of a mile long. Every stone on it had been dragged from the soil by a pair of hands, tossed on a stoneboat and skidded to the pile. The huge rock pile was the proceeds of a few large vineyards, maybe a hundred and fifty acres. There are more than thirty thousand acres of vineyards on Napa’s flat valley floor. Each of them had to be developed the same way. One stone at a time. That tells you a little bit about what farmers are up against on the flats.

But the mountains are even rougher. The mountains test a vintner’s dreams, his wallet and his nerve.

Diamond Mountain was the first sizable mountain vineyard to be opened up in the recent boom. That was maybe ten years ago. A grape entrepreneur named William Hill took a real flier, brought in a couple of D-8 Caterpillar tractors and put them to work scraping the brush off one hundred and fifty acres of natural amphitheater on the shoulder of Diamond Mountain. The slopes were chillingly steep. The D-8s turned turtle a half dozen times, rolling over on their backs and waiting helplessly to be rescued. Nobody was killed, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Then Hill brought in smaller, more agile Cats and cut stair-step terraces, gambling that the remaining soil was deep enough and special enough to justify development costs of ten thousand dollars an acre. St. George’s rootstock went in first. That took two years to establish itself. Then the scion vines were grafted on—Cabernet Sauvignon, mostly.

The yield was low, maybe half of what the normally stingy Cabernet vines would produce on the flats. But what grapes those mountain vines grew. Good flatland Cabernets might return four to six hundred dollars a ton. The stressed vines of the Diamond Mountain Vineyard produced half as many grapes but the fruit was extraordinary, world class. Sterling Vineyards, the big Seagram’s subsidiary down the road, was paying upward of two thousand dollars a ton when they finally got smart and bought Hill out.

There’s a little one-lane dirt road that runs straight up Kortum Canyon from the edge of downtown Calistoga, such as downtown Calistoga is. The road, once the stage route over the mountain to Santa Rosa, cuts along one edge of the Diamond Mountain Vineyard. Just before the road drops over the ridge into the next valley, there’s a spot where you can park and look down across the pepperwood and madrona and manzanita. In the foreground the vineyard is simmering in its natural punch-bowl microclimate, soaking up the hard summer sunlight. Beyond is the rest of the Napa Valley, all the way down toward Stag’s Leap and a dozen other of the most special wineries in the United States. The view is so grand that you hate to tell the rest of the world about it.

That’s the spot where Sandra Autry and I would go, back when we were seeing one another. Sometimes in the early evening, when the worst of the heat was over, we used to drive up there and park and admire the view and neck and get as hot and sweaty and passionate as a couple of teenagers.

After about an hour of that we’d both be lucky to get down the hill. Sometimes we didn’t. Get down the hill, I mean. But other times we’d check into the little hotel on Lake Street. The place wasn’t very genteel but it had its own rural California charm. With the windows wide open to catch the first evening breeze up from the bay, we’d sweat and love and drink cold white wine and have a hell of a good time.

Then we’d shower and go eat in the Mexican restaurant down the street, the one that was using mesquite charcoal a dozen years before the gringo importers discovered it. Broiled pollo and carne asada, carnitas and fresh corn tortillas. Mexican field hands tend to be beer drinkers, but as a nod to the lifeblood of the valley, the restaurant had a wine list of sorts. It extended from blanco through rosé to tinto. All of the wines, even the tinto, were kept in the cooler.

Sometimes Sandra would cook, which is what she had done every day since she was eleven and first discovered that canned tomatoes tasted better if you added something—almost anything—from the cupboard. Sandra was a natural cook. It came to her as easily as the violin had once come to me; but, unlike me, she learned early to value her gift from the gods. She didn’t throw her talent away because it never came up to her expectations, the way I had. She just worked like hell to develop her gift.

And gift it was. She understood instinctively, almost intuitively, how foods and wines and herbs and spices work together, in the same way that I had once understood the immense possibilities of music. She dreamed of tastes in the same way that I dreamed of sounds.

There wasn’t a pretentious bone in Sandra’s lovely body. She seldom talked about what she was doing, what spices she used, what elements of Pinot Noir made it particularly suited to her veal dishes or her cheeses. But her sensory acuity was remarkable and her sensory memory was perfect. On a summer night in Calistoga, one of her three-egg omelets with herbs and a tomato vinaigrette was better than most four-star meals. She could look at a raw egg and know whether to use more or less basil, one or two grinds of pepper, a three-dollar Chablis or a twelve-dollar Grey Riesling.

I have eaten grand meals and known some world-class chefs, but Sandra was both the best at what she did and the least willing to dress it all with fancy words. So far as I’m concerned, that’s the only reason she is less famous now than, say, Alice Waters, the trendy queen of Bay Area eating. Sandra could cook as well as anyone, but she didn’t talk as well and her politics and aesthetics weren’t as avant. So Sandra remained a quiet treasure.

Maybe it’s simply that Sandra was too busy living and eating and loving and tasting to be bothered with the talking of it.

Sandra kind of put me together, I guess, after Fiora and I broke up the first time. Sandra was a wine-country girl. Her parents owned one of the most famous vineyards in the Napa Valley, a hundred and forty acres of fertile ground called Deep Purple. The Autrys were down-to-earth folks, in the original sense of the word, and that may have been where Sandra learned her natural reserve. She lacked the outgoing charm, the sense of showmanship, that professional cooks and hostesses often have. But her extraordinary talent had already taken her a long way when I met her at a fancy wine-tasting party in San Francisco three months after Fiora first moved out on me and went back to Harvard.

Sandra was tall and almost willowy. Almost, I said. She had a figure that most women would have killed for, but lots of men never noticed because she tended to dress in an understated way. She was not given to showing herself off, but she made quite an impression on me the first time I ever saw her.

The party was crowded, with people sliding this way and that to get through, and I was standing in the middle, watching it all with the detachment of the unattached. When I first saw Sandra making her way through the crowd, she was trying hard not to spill the tall glasses of champagne she was carrying in each hand. Most everybody else was having a good time impressing whoever they were talking to. I guess I had been a long time without a stirring, because I found myself watching Sandra—Venuslike with arms raised, seeming by her attitude to invite inspection—as though I had never seen a woman’s body.

She had come about halfway across the room before I realized that I was staring. Then I realized that she realized I was staring. Then I realized that she didn’t mind me staring, even if I wasn’t looking at her eyes. I think I got a little flustered, turned a little red. But Sandra just kept coming toward me, smiling, calm and sexy as all hell.

It felt so good to want a woman again that I got over my embarrassment and just kept watching, albeit a bit less like a chained wolf watching a lamb gambol closer. Sandra drew abreast of me, quite literally, and then slid past without saying a word, a faint smile of pleasure or pride parting her lips. Three steps beyond me, she turned and looked back over her shoulder.

“You like them?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said simply, because it was way too late to think up a polite lie.

Still smiling, she turned away and glided into the crowd.

Two hours later she was introduced to me as Sandra Autry. That’s where I got lucky again, since it took me less than two minutes to remember that S. Autry was listed on the menu as the master chef for the evening. This was back in the relative Dark Ages, when a woman who wanted her cooking to be taken seriously might hide her gender behind a single initial. Sandra seemed genuinely pleased when I put that little puzzle together, and she allowed me—maybe even encouraged me—to hang around while she oversaw the cleanup. Then she took me home, all the way out to a Victorian at the north edge of Golden Gate Park.

Neither of us mentioned my previous lechery until sometime just before dawn, after she had given me a hickey on my neck. It was a reward, she said, for not being afraid to leer in public.

“If I ever get to feeling drab and little brown henlike,” she said, laughing deep in her throat, “all I’ll have to do is bring back the memory of the look on your face. Every woman needs that once in a while. When I got close and saw those gray eyes and that slow, sexy smile, I knew that if I never had another man I had to have you tonight.”

That was Sandra’s gentle way of defining our relationship from the very start. We never lived together, and often were not lovers when we did get together. She was independent in a deep and abiding way. There was too much of life she wanted to experience; she had too many things to do to allow herself to be tied to one man.

And I had too many ties and too many directions to go to be bound inextricably to her.

Yet we were very close when we were together. I told Sandra about my failed marriage, and she explained Fiora to me, without ever having met her, because they were quite alike. There is an independence in some modern women that ought not to be trifled with. This wine-country woman helped me to get over Fiora by eventually sending me back to her. Maybe Sandra and I never stuck permanently together because Fiora and I had already done so. But Sandra and I got pretty sticky, some of those hot nights in the little hotel in Calistoga.

Now I was headed north out through the Tejon Pass, leaving the smog of Los Angeles behind, with Fiora sitting beside me in the car, headed toward Napa’s generous, fertile harvest because I had heard that Sandra was in danger of losing everything she had ever owned.

What I didn’t know then, what I didn’t discover until much later, too late, was that the trouble was bigger than Sandra, bigger than the hundred and forty acres of magnificent grape land called Deep Purple. The trouble was as complex as a good Chardonnay, as hidden as the roots of the silent vines, and as deadly as steel sliding between living ribs.

Yes, Gatsby would have loved the Napa Valley, but he wouldn’t have survived it.

I nearly didn’t.


“Maxwell manages a slam-bang climax . . . and the California wine business background is unusual and entertaining.”—Publishers Weekly

“Evokes with grace, elegance and love the colors, smells and sounds of Napa Valley wine-making.”—Vanity Fair

“By far [Maxwell’s] best, a California thriller with very real characters and dialogue and a violent, unexpected ending you won’t soon forget.”—Palo Alto Times Tribune


Gatsby's Vineyard will be published this month, November 2009. Find copies at your favorite independent, chain, or online bookseller. See the list at the right for some of the indies that support & stock BFP titles. Booksellers/librarians: Gatsby's Vineyard is available through Consortium, Ingram & Baker & Taylor.

A. E. Maxwell is the pseudonym of husband-and-wife writing team Ann & Evan Maxwell. Ann is now best known as New York Times best-seller "Elizabeth Lowell." Visit their website here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

"Off the Road, But Waiting for My Head to Return", by Reed Farrel Coleman

I’ve been back home for about ten days now after touring Tower for three weeks. Counting the launch party at Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan, I visited twelve cities, made twelve flights, went through security at LAX with the guy who used to play Ned on General Hospital, stayed in a lot of Fairfield Inns, one Courtyard Inn, one Sheraton, one Grand Hyatt, one Marriot Extended stay (for one night... it’s a mystery) and two friends’ houses. I did four events with other authors—one with Jason Pinter, one with Russell Hill, two with Michael Connelly—one stock signing, a literary salon, one Bouchercon panel, one awards ceremony (won the Shamus Award for Best PI Novel of 2008 for Empty Ever After), closed the B'con bar twice, ate some fantastic meals: Chicken fried steak and fried okra in Dallas with Harry Hunsicker, his lovely wife Alison, and Daniel J. Hale; pork chops, homemade mashed potatoes, homemade applesauce with Barbara Peters and her husband Chef Rob; best fajitas in the world in Plano. I ate in a few Denny’s and had a lot of crappy airport food as well. Fairfield Inns have swimming pools, but no restaurants. Go figure. Did you know they almost always put Fairfield Inns and Courtyard Inns right across from the other? Fairfield Inns are like the bottom of the Marriot food chain. I think they put the two in close proximity so that when guests at the Courtyard complain, the deskman points across the way and says, “It could be worse. You could be over there.” Truthfully, the Fairfield Inns were just fine and their employees were great to me. In fact, everybody was pretty great to me. The bookstores, their employees, the owners, the fans, even the ones that were there to see the other authors, were all great.

Touring can be lonely, so the memorable moments for me usually have to do with the folks who rescue you from the loneliness. Whether it’s a breakfast in Denver with PIs Colleen and Shaun who tell hysterically funny stories and take pictures of you signing your books with expensive fountain pens for a fountain pen website & blog or a tour of Twist Phelan’s beautiful new town house or a walk around the Berkeley Marina with Simon Wood or an afternoon of watching football with Ralph Pezzullo or going to Dealey Plaza and the 6th Floor Museum with Harry Hunsicker and Dan Hale or a sharing a beer with David Hansard in Austin, they’re all moments of grace. The worst moments were the moments of disorientation (Where am I? Shit, I’m late.) and trying to find Mad Men in hotels that don’t have AMC on their cable set-ups. And not for nothing, I love sports and the news as much as the next guy, but could hotels please put something on their TVs other than fifty ESPN channels and CNN, Fox, MSNBC…

So, like I said, I’ve been home a while now. It’s been great, but I still have those occasional moments of road disorientation like when I wake up in the morning and think about what time the blue Super Shuttle van is coming to collect me.


Reed Farrel Coleman is the three-time Shamus Award-winning author of the Moe Prager P.I. novels (the first three of which are published by BFP) and co-author (with Ken Bruen) of BFP's Tower. Visit his website here.