Monday, September 13, 2010

Daniel Woodrell in today's Shelf Awareness

Daniel Woodrell (Tomato Red; Winter's Bone) takes part in today's Shelf Awareness Book Brahmin... He answers such questions as what's on his nightstand now, the book that changed his life, and more. Go here to read further.

See Mr. Woodrell at Bouchercon next month in San Francisco and in November at NoirCon!

“There are writers who break all boundaries and break your heart with the sheer level of their art. Daniel Woodrell is not only the most truly humble writer I’ve encountered but one of the very few I refer to again and again to learn how true poetic writing is achieved. His on-the-surface simple style conceals a master craftsman at work. There is no writer I know I would love to devote a whole novel to just quoting from his work. There are crime writers . . . literary writers . . . and then . . . Daniel Woodrell. Nobody comes near his amazing genius and I very doubt anyone ever will.”—Ken Bruen, award-winning author of London Boulevard

Friday, September 10, 2010

Appear in a Reed Farrel Coleman novel!

Register early for 2011 Bouchercon in St. Louis, and you’ll be in a drawing to have a character named after you in three-time Shamus Award winner Reed Farrel Coleman’s next Moe Prager novel, Hurt Machine (which will be launched at the St. Louis Bouchercon)! The winner, who will be chosen from the first 250 registrants (there are about 100 registrants, so far), will also be invited to lunch with Reed, along with two runners-up. Visit the Bouchercon 2011 website to register now!

Reed has won the Shamus Award for Best Novel of the Year three times, won the Barry and Anthony, and twice been nominated for the Edgar. He is a co-editor of The Lineup and was the editor of the anthology Hard Boiled Brooklyn. The former executive VP of Mystery Writers of America, Reed is an adjunct professor at Hofstra University . He has published eleven novels—two under his pen name Tony Spinosa—in three series, and the stand-alone Tower co-written with award-winning Irish author Ken Bruen. His latest Moe Prager novel, Innocent Monster, will be published in October from Tyrus Books.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Reed Farrel Coleman on INNOCENT MONSTER & the reprints

by Reed Farrel Coleman

After over twenty years at this and with twelve books under my belt, you’d think the debut of a new novel would become old hat. Although it isn’t quite as exciting as it was when I first began my career, the experience never gets old. I’m really looking forward to Tyrus Books’ October 5th release of the sixth Moe Prager novel, Innocent Monster. I’m excited for all the usual reasons—the launch party, the tour, the fans’ reactions—and just the general buzz of holding something in my hands that began as passing thought over two years ago.

But this time, I have a little bit extra to look forward to because Busted Flush Press has timed the release of the new editions of Soul Patch and Empty Ever After to coincide with the release of Innocent Monster. This will mark the first time since the very early days of the Moe Prager series that entire series will be available at once (& in both physical print editions & e-books). In fact, it will mark the very first time since the very early days of my career that all of my published novels will be in print at the same time.

It is especially exciting because the Busted Flush Press editions of the Moe books come with forewords by some of the leading writers in the genre today: Walking The Perfect Square-Megan Abbott, Redemption Street-Peter Spiegelman, The James Deans-Michael Connelly, Soul Patch-Craig Johnson, Empty Ever After-SJ Rozan. Each of the BFP editions also includes an afterword by me, explaining a little bit about how came to write each book. I am particularly interested in the fans’ reactions to a new feature Busted Flush Press added for Soul Patch and Empty Ever After. At the conclusion of those two novels, BFP has added an original and previously unpublished short story by yours truly.

I look forward to seeing you when I launch Innocent Monster at the Mysterious Bookshop, October 7th. I’m also looking forward to seeing you at Bouchercon, Noir Con, Murder and Mayhem in Muskego, and during my stops on the road.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Honest, officer, it's only research," by Donna Moore

Research can get you into a lot of trouble. And it’s fraught with danger if you are a writer of comic crime fiction. If you write a serious police procedural series, you can telephone your local police station with worthy questions such as ‘can you tell me the length of a police baton?’ or ‘what do you use to shine your uniform buttons?’ that make people want to give you expansive, knowledgeable answers. I, unfortunately, don’t get the same reaction. I just don’t understand what’s wrong with calling my local police station and asking ‘can you tell me the best way to break out of one of your cells?’ or -- and apparently this is an even worse question -- ‘how easy would it be for an elderly woman and a teenage boy to storm the police station and take you hostage?’ If I can give you a spot of advice, I would suggest that you don’t bother asking those questions. They won’t tell you.

When researching Old Dogs (new from Busted Flush Press), I nearly got myself arrested in a local museum. I believe I was already being carefully watched by the security guards for spending more time peering behind or under the exhibits to see how they were secured. However, at the time I was oblivious to the fact. The museum in question is a lovely grand old building, and one of the features inside, in some of the interior walls are big, fancy metal grilles. I was peering through one of the grilles into a dark tunnel beyond when there was a cough behind me. ‘Can I help you... madam? There was a distinct gap before the heavily inflected madam. I’m sure he what he actually wanted to say was ‘Can I help you... you maniac?’

‘I was just looking through the grille. Why is it there?’

‘It’s where all the pipes are. There’s enough room for the workmen to walk through.’

Really?’ I said. ‘That’s fascinating. How would a person get in?’

He looked at me suspiciously. ‘I’m not sure I should tell you.’

‘Oh please tell me. I just want to know if you could hide in there when the museum was shutting, and whether the tunnels are interconnecting so that you could walk through them without getting spotted by the security cameras and... wait... why are you grasping my elbow so tightly and frog-marching me out of the museum...?’

So you see, when you have no skills or talents that would actually fit you for being a crime writer, it’s tough. Many of the writers I know have walked the walk -- police, FBI agents, lawyers, PIs, bodyguards, criminals and, in one case, possibly a spy (even though he doesn’t admit to it). They tell you to write what you know. Well, being a pensions consultant doesn’t quite make the grade (what am I going to do... bore someone to death by reading them a set of actuarial tables?)

That’s not to say I haven’t come into contact with the long arm of the law. But it’s always been on the periphery. Now, I don't know about you, but whenever a policeman turns up at my door and says "Are you Donna Moore?" I always start to panic. Of course, it's to be hoped that a policeman isn't going to turn up at your door and say "Are you Donna Moore?" That's an altogether different problem (and one for which you would have my sympathy). My immediate response is to think a) Oh my God, what's happened to everyone I love?, followed swiftly by b) What the hell have I done? and sometimes c) Has someone sent me a strip-o-gram?

Now, it just so happens that every single time a policeman has turned up at my door I've been on the decidedly underside of dressed.

The last time I had a brush with the law, it was early one Saturday morning. There was a knock on the door and it was a policeman who had come to interview my (now) ex and I. I was in my pajamas so he said he'd give me a few minutes and then come back. I must have looked pretty scary because he didn't turn up until half an hour later. When he finally arrived I said to him ‘Sorry if my appearance scared you so much that you gave me enough time to go out to the dancing.’

What had happened was that a couple of days previously an elderly man was knocked over in the street and he died. Complicating matters was that it was a police car which knocked him over, so, obviously, they have to do a really thorough investigation. The policeman said that it was like doing a murder enquiry, even though it wasn't a murder. He had to fill in forms for both John (my ex) and I.

He said, ‘We'll go to the first person first’ and turned to John.

‘Excuse me,’ I said. ‘But who's to say he’s the first person?’

He looked a bit shocked but laughed and said, ‘OK, you can go first then... it's just that he was sitting nearest to me.’

Weak, very weak. He asked name, address, age, telephone number, where I was born (I bit my tongue before saying Newport Pagnell Gas Station -- pump 4, and just answered the county) and height. As he was writing down my height I said ‘Oh God, you're not going to ask my weight are you?’ Luckily he said no. Then he asked whether I was known by any other name. I didn't think that Badsville Broad was relevant, so I kept schtum. I hope I don't get hauled up for withholding evidence.

Then he gave me the form to fill in the next bit - you had to circle your hair colour, eye colour, build (oh God -- the ignominy of having to circle 'fat'; but 'pleasantly plump' or 'the tubby side of voluptuous' just weren't on the form. Skin type 'pale' (I decided not to go for 'spotty' even though a huge zit had appeared on my chin that very morning -- I just hoped that it would disappear in a couple of days and not be a permanent distinguishing feature). Then there was a question that asked for tattoos/piercings/peculiarities/ scars.

‘Do you have any extra sheets -- I can't fit all my peculiarities in on 3 lines.’

Then it was John's turn, or ‘Person number 2’ as the policeman called him from then on. I liked that. I used that from then on.

While person number 2 was filling in the form the policeman said ‘I'll now be able to go back to the Equal Opportunities officer and tell him that I did everything correctly.’

‘How humiliating.’ person number 2 said.‘Yes, you've learned a valuable lesson here today’ person number 1 said.

Meanwhile, person number 2 was agonising over his form: ‘Do I have light brown or dark brown hair? Is it straight, or short? Or straight and short?’

‘Is there a box for old-fashioned?’ I said. ‘If not, straight and short will do.’

And I could see him visibly sucking in his stomach when he got to the 'build' question. 'Slim' was the look he was going for I believe. I caught a glimpse of his form as he handed it back. God help the police if they ever need to search for John. They'll be looking for someone who looks remarkably like Johnny Depp, when Johnny Rotten would be more accurate.

Then the policeman's cell phone rang. Imagine this big butch bloke in a uniform (steady), and his cell phone's trilling away with Britney's 'Oops I did it again'.

‘How disappointing,’ I said. ‘I would have expected you to have the theme tune from The Bill or The Sweeney.’

‘I have. When the station rings it plays The Sweeney.’

So there you have it. If I ever come to write a story about a police investigation I have some background research. I'm not exactly sure that it's any use though. He probably went out of here thinking ‘Two dodgy characters if ever I saw them. Pale and Fat was a bit mad. Tall, Slim and Good-Looking is obviously a pathological liar. And what the hell were all those books with 'murder' in the title?’

But if you can’t walk the walk, then at least you can closely observe the people who do walk the walk, right? Wrong. I must be one of the least observant people on the planet. One morning, I went to catch my bus to work, only to discover that the bus shelter was already full. With about six police, and a bloke and a woman both looking slightly the worse for wear. So, rather than interrupt this cosy little chat, I stood next to the bus stop, waiting for my bus, while wondering what this guy had done. Maybe he'd dropped some litter? Daubed some badly spelled slogans on a wall? Been drunk in charge of a bus shelter?

Just before my bus arrived, one of the policemen came around the side of the bus shelter, looked at me funny, and bent over to pick something up. I looked down. There, 2 inches away from my feet was a saw. Apparently the guy had tried to cut his girlfriend's head off with the saw while she was sleeping. Luckily, she had woken up before he could get very far, realised that he wasn't holding the saw in order to put up a couple of shelves and had run out of the house, with him chasing her, still wielding the saw. Obviously sensing that this was not your normal DIY episode, a passer-by had called the police, who arrived mob-handed in double quick time, complete with riot gear. Enter your humble narrator to trample all over the evidence.

It’s a tough life doing research.


Donna Moore is the author of Go to Helena Handbasket, winner of the 2007 Lefty Award for most humorous crime novel. She has short stories in various anthologies, including BFP's Damn Near Dead and A Hell of a Woman. Donna runs the blog Big Beat from Badsville, which focuses on Scottish crime fiction. Her newest book is Old Dogs, about which Library Journal says, "The author's clever wordplay, irreverent humor, and vivid characters will please Elmore Leonard, Donald Westlake, and Carl Hiassen fans, not to mention the Ocean's Eleven crowd."

Monday, August 30, 2010

New cover for David Handler's fifth Hoagy book!

Check out the BFP cover for next summer's reprint of David Handler's fifth Stewart Hoag mystery, The Boy Who Never Grew Up (trade paperback; $15). In The Boy, Hoagy, ghostwriter to the stars, heads to Hollywood when he's hired to pen the memoir of a hot young director.

We're going in a different direction from any of David's previous book covers... what do you think??

Find the first four in the series in two omnibus editions:

The Man Who Died Laughing / The Man Who Lived by Night
The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald / The Woman Who Fell from Grace

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Busted Flush Press joins forces with Tyrus Books!


Two of Crime Fiction’s Most Respected Independent Presses Merge

MADISON, WI— August 26, 2010 — Tyrus Books, Inc. today announced the acquisition of Busted Flush Press, LLC., in a move that brings together two of crime fiction’s most recognizable independent presses.

“We’re very excited to add the Busted Flush brand to Tyrus Books. David Thompson is a dedicated and tireless advocate of crime fiction and I look forward to seeing the Busted Flush brand continue to grow,” said Benjamin LeRoy, Publisher and President of Tyrus Books.

Thompson, Publisher of Busted Flush Press, will continue in his current role, selecting approximately twenty titles a year for publication. The combined companies will have approximately 45 books in print by the end of 2010 with another 20 titles scheduled for spring 2011.

"I am very excited to join forces with Ben and Tyrus Books. I’ve long been a fan of what Tyrus has been doing,” Thompson said, “and I believe Busted Flush Press will be a good fit."

With this acquisition, Busted Flush becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Tyrus Books. Both companies are distributed to the trade by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

About Busted Flush Press
Busted Flush Press has published previously out of print books from authors such as Ace Atkins, Daniel Woodrell, Reed Farrel Coleman, Don Winslow, Zoë Sharp, and Ken Bruen. Works published by Busted Flush have won or been nominated for nearly all major awards in the crime fiction field including the Shamus, CWA Dagger, Macavity, Anthony, Derringer, and Edgar Awards. For more information about Busted Flush Press please visit

About Tyrus Books
Tyrus Books, founded in 2009, publishes crime and dark literary fiction from emerging and established authors including Loren D. Estleman, Victoria Houston, Peter Gadol, Angela S. Choi, Victor Gischler, Seth Harwood, and Mary Logue. Before starting Tyrus Books, Publisher Benjamin LeRoy founded and presided over Bleak House Books. For more information on Tyrus Books please visit

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Win a signed copy of INNOCENT MONSTER!

Head on over to Sara J. Henry's blog for a chance to win a signed copy of Reed Farrel Coleman's upcoming Moe Prager novel, Innocent Monster (Tyrus Books; October)! Hurry... contest closes September 2nd.

"Sashi Bluntstone, the 11-year-old Next New Thing on the New York art scene, has been abducted, and Moe Prager—former NYPD cop and former PI—is asked by his estranged daughter, Sarah, to join the search. He expects only tragedy; Sashi has already been missing for three weeks, and he hasn’t been a PI for seven years. Now a well-to-do wine merchant, Moe agrees, primarily to attempt to restore his relationship with Sarah. He quickly learns that nothing increases the value of paintings faster than the death of the painter. Suspects abound: wealthy, self-important collectors; greedy gallery owners; odious rival artists; even the victim's parents. But Moe abides. This sixth Moe Prager novel is pretty much note-perfect. Coleman's take on the art world as a den of iniquity is priceless, as is Moe himself—intelligent, street smart, and tough, especially for a sixtysomething. He’s also sophisticated, despite seeing himself as a 'poor schmuck from Brooklyn.' He’s a mensch, and his bone-deep world weariness and mordant sense of humor should enthrall lovers of old-school, tough-talking, loner private eyes (think Loren D. Estleman's Amos Walker)."—Booklist (starred review)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

New cover for Don Winslow's 2nd Neal Carey book!

I'm sorry, I've been bad about posting on the blog recently... I've been moving my office to my house, and let me tell you, about 300 boxes, down stairs (no elevator), heat index over 100... it wasn't fun. Okay, I know you're saying, "quit your whining, David." Well, at least that's what my wife says. But I'm back to catching up on things, hard at work on getting books to the printers for the fall & mapping out 2011.

Those of you who have been patiently (God bless you!) waiting for Donna Moore's Old Dogs, you'll be happy to know it ships from the printers in about 10 days... then it takes a little longer to filter through Consortium & on to bookstores & libraries... but rest assured, it's a-coming! (There will be an e-book edition, as well.) And I promise you, it'll be worth the wait... honestly, one of the funniest books I've ever read.

In the meantime, check out the cool new cover of the spring BFP reprint of Don Winslow's second Neal Carey novel, The Trail to Buddha's Mirror... I think this will be a series you'll want to collect in paperback (even if you already own them), simply because the covers will look so great together. Then again, I'm a little biased.

More to come... thanks for checking in!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

New praise for BFP books!

Old Dogs (by Donna Moore; paperback original; 978-1-935415-24-4; $15)
"Hilarious... A hypnotic and rollicking experience. Moore has got to be one of the funniest writers in or out of Glasgow." -- ForeWord Reviews (September/October 2010)

UPDATE (08/05/10): "I giggled my way through Donna Moore's Old Dogs... Filled with mayhem, torture, raw sexual banter, creepy chauffeurs, hired killers, and enough kilt-raising Scots profanity to shock a porn star... [A] ribald laugh-a-thon... I recommend Old Dogs highly to fans of Donald Westlake and Carl Hiaasen." -- Betty Webb, Mystery Scene

Killer Instinct (by Zoë Sharp; paperback original; 978-1-935415-13-8; $15)
"A solid, very well-written debut... The urban English setting is nicely realised, and grimy enough to make the reader’s skin crawl on occasion, particularly Charlie’s work at the Adelphi Nightclub. And even so early in the series, the action is so well choreographed that you believe every bone crunching impact on the page. Killer Instinct is a sharp, punchy read; a brutally confident start to a series that would continue to evolve in the best possible ways. Busted Flush Press are going to be reprinting the early Fox novels over the next year or so, and you’d be well advised to check them out and get acquainted with one of the most well-defined and convincing series protagonists I’ve encountered in a long time." -- Russel McLean, Crime Scene Scotland (Read the full review of Killer Instinct and Sharp's Fourth Day here.)

Monday, August 2, 2010

TOWER nominated for a Crimespree Award!

Tower (by Ken Bruen & Reed Farrel Coleman; paperback original; 978-1-935415-07-7; $15) has just been nominated for the 2010 Crimespree Award for Favorite Book of 2009!

Tower has also been nominated for the Anthony Award, Macavity Award, Spinetingler Award & the Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award (Mystery).

Here are all of the nominations:

Favorite book of 2009
BURY ME DEEP, by Megan Abbott
TOWER, by Ken Bruen & Reed Farrel Coleman
TRUST NO ONE, by Gregg Hurwitz
THE AMATEURS, Marcus Sakey

Favorite first Book 2009
RUNNING FROM THE DEVIL, by Jamie Freveletti
EVEN, by Andrew Grant
A BAD DAY FOR SORRY, by Sophie Littlefield
THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST, by Stuart Neville

Best in an on-going series for 2009
THE SILENT HOUR, by Michael Koryta
SHATTER, by Michael Robotham
WALKING DEAD, by Greg Rucka
TRUTH, by Peter Temple

The winners of each of these awards, along with the recipient of this year's Jack Reacher Award will be announced at Bouchercon in San Francisco.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

TOMATO RED excerpt

Tomato Red
(by Daniel Woodrell; foreword by Megan Abbott; Busted Flush Press; 978-1-935415-06-0; $15)
© Daniel Woodrell, 1998, 2010


Theme Park of Fancy

YOU’RE NO ANGEL, you know how this stuff comes to happen: Friday is payday and it’s been a gray day sogged by a slow ugly rain and you seek company in your gloom, and since you’re fresh to West Table, Mo., and a new hand at the dog-food factory, your choices for company are narrow but you find some finally in a trailer court on East Main, and the coed circle of bums gathered there spot you a beer, then a jug of tequila starts to rotate and the rain keeps comin’ down with a miserable bluesy beat and there’s two girls millin’ about that probably can be had but they seem to like certain things and crank is one of those certain things, and a fistful of party straws tumble from a woven handbag somebody brung, the crank gets cut into lines, and the next time you notice the time it’s three or four Sunday mornin’ and you ain’t slept since Thursday night and one of the girl voices, the one you want most and ain’t had yet though her teeth are the size of shoe-peg corn and look like maybe they’d taste sort of sour, suggests something to do, ’cause with crank you want something, anything, to do, and this cajoling voice suggests we all rob this certain house on this certain street in that rich area where folks can afford to wallow in their vices and likely have a bunch of recreational dope stashed around the mansion and goin’ to waste since an article in The Scroll said the rich people whisked off to France or some such on a noteworthy vacation.

That’s how it happens.

Can’t none of this be new to you.

The gal with her mouth full of shoe-peg corn and the bright idea in the first place drives over and lets me off at the curb, and there’s another burglar passed out in the backseat who won’t be of any help. She doses a kiss out to me, a dry peck on the lips, and claims she’ll keep her eyes peeled and I should give the high sign once I’ve burgled my way inside.

The rain has made the ground skittish, it just quakes and slides away from my footsteps, and this fantastic mist has risen up and thickened so that eyesight is temporarily marked way down in value.

I stumbled into a couple of different hedgerows, one about head high and one around the waist, before I fell onto the walkway. The walkway was, I suppose, made of laid brick, but the bricks were that type that’s bigger than house bricks, more the shape of bread loaves, which I think classes them as cobblestones or something. So I wobbled along this big brick walkway, on up the slope and past a lamppost in the yard that made a hepatitis-yellow glow, straight to the backside of the mansion.

Rich folk apparently love their spectacular views, pay dear for them, I’m sure, so there was all this glass. The door was glass and the entire rear wall practically was glass. By sunlight I’d reckon you could see the total spread of the town and long, long pony rides’ worth of countryside from any corner in there. All that window gave me brief goofy thoughts of diamond-point glasscutters and suction cups and the whole rigamarole of jewel-thief piss elegance but, actually, with my head out to lunch as it was I just grabbed a few logs from the firewood stack on the patio there and flung them at that glass door.

I suppose I had a sad need to fit in socially with those trailer-park bums, since I imagined they were the only crowd that would have me, because when that first chunk of wood merely bounced from the glass door and skidded across the patio I became bulldog-determined to get the job done for my new friends, and damn the effort or obvious risk.

The logs hit with a bang. Two, three, four times I chucked firewood at that glass and never heard anything close to the sound of a shatter. I sidled up in the mist and skimmed my fingers over the door and felt, I think, the start of some tiny hairline fractures, but there were no big, hopeful splits.

The glass of that door surely had some special qualities that must’ve been expensive to come by, but worth it, I’d have to say, judging from the wimpy way those logs merely bounced and failed to bust me in there. But I kept pitchin’, and bangs kept bangin’ out across that neighborhood of mist, until my pitches became tired and wild and I whipped a firewood chunk three or four yards off-line and into a small square window to the flank of the door, and that glass thankfully was of a typical lower order and flew all to pieces.

The glass shatter seemed like a sincere burst of applause, a sincere burst of applause that would come across as alarming and requiring a look-see to any ears open out there in the mist. I went motionless, tried to be a shadow. Pretty quick I heard a derisive shout from shoe-peg mouth, something that might’ve hurt my feelings to hear clear, then tires squealed and carried my social circle away, leaving me to do the mansion solo.

I stayed a still shadow for a bit, but my mind, such as it was at the moment, was made up and determined: I needed friends, and friendship is this slow awkward process you’ve got to angle through, and I could yet maybe find what we looked for, return to the trailer park on foot as both a hero and the sudden life of the party.

When no alarm was raised, I came out of my shadow imitation and went to the broken window. The mist felt like a tongue I kept walking into, and my skin and clothes seemed slobbered on. The world aped a harmless watchdog, puttin’ big licks all over my face.

The window was set too high to spring through, and the glass was not perfectly broken out. There were jaggedy places with long points. I got up on tiptoes and reached my arm through, extra careful, but couldn’t reach a latch or doorknob or anything worthwhile.

The batch of flung logs had scattered about and lay underfoot, and the third or fourth time I stumbled on one this thought jumped me. The thought called for a ladder of firewood chunks, and I went to work building this theory that had jumped me from below. That mist made any effort seem sweaty and sweat made me feel employed and that made me start expectin’ a foreman to come along and, because of the part in my hair or the attitude of my slouch, fire my ass on a whim, as per usual. But the ladder got built and came to reach the height it needed to.

I think I thought this ladder invention meant I was thinkin’ straight.

Atop the ladder I wrapped my T-shirt around my fist and punched the jagged parts loose until there was a clean frame that could be wriggled through without gettin’ carved along the flanks.

I slithered inside, uncut, and tumbled among the riches.

My distance perception had gone tilt in my head and that floor reared up and swatted me awful quick. The floor felt like a clean street, a street of that marble stuff, I reckon, maybe Mexican tile, only it was in the kitchen area and mighty stern to land on, especially with that tilt factor in my head, as I barely raised my arms to brace before skidding across it. I’d judged I had further to fall, but huh-uh, and the pain jangle spanned from my elbows and knees to my shoulders and toes. I squealed and rolled and chop-blocked a highback chair in the dark there and sent it tumbling.

You might think I should’ve quit on the burglary right then, but I just love people, I guess, and didn’t.

I became a shadow again, splayed on that imported floor, listening to the mansion. It was supposed to be empty, but newspapers get so many things wrong. Best not to trust them overmuch. The mansion had a slight glow going on inside there, and I got it that they had left a couple of lamps burning in a distant room. The lamps were likely set on a timer and meant to warn away such as I so such as this wouldn’t happen.

These burglar lights helped my eyes to focus.

Standing again, finally I slid my shirt on and rubbed my sore spots, then let my feet aim me toward the glowing room. The crank comedown was settin’ in, I think, from the way my feet got heavy and weaved and stomped. This mansion smelled of big achievements and handbags from Rome and unknown treats, which were better scents than I was used to. The walls even seemed special, kind of, as my fingertips skipped along them feeling how fine and costly they felt. My mind, I’d say, stumbled along two or three steps behind my body. More like a waiter than a chef.

When I wobbled inside that lit-up room the wind jumped from my chest. I gasped, groaned, mewed. My legs folded beneath me and I fell face first to a soft carpet that smelled sweeter than my ex-wife’s hair and brought to mind sheep in a flowery meadow high in the Alps or Japan or Vermont or some similar postcard spot from out there in the world where the dear goods I’ll never own are made.

The sight and smell of all this shook me.

I know I trembled and breathed shallow.

The mansion was the way I’d always feared a mansion would be, only more so. In my fear I’d never managed to conjure the spectacular astounding details. A quick inventory of only this one room made me hate myself. Made me hate myself and all my type that came before me. This mansion was sixteen levels higher than any place I’d ever been among.

As I stared about—gawked, probably—I likely blushed pink to go along with those trembles.

I’d say what such things as I saw in that room were, if I knew the proper names of such things, though I’d bet heavy I’ve never heard those names spoken. I’m sure such things have personal names—those special moody lampshades made of beadwork, and a chair and footstool put together with, like, weaved leather hung on frames of curled iron or polished rare bones, maybe, and end tables that had designs stabbed into them and stuffed with gold leaf or something precious, a small and swank desk over by the far wall, and a bookshelf so old our Revolution must’ve happened off to the sides of it, carved up with fine points and nicely shined, with a display of tiny statues and dolls arranged just so all across it.

Pretty soon I crawled away from the light, back to the dark parts of the mansion. That sinking feeling set in. Truly, I felt scared, embarrassed for the poorly decorated life I was born to.

This mansion is not but about a rifle shot distant from the trailer park, but it seemed like I’d undergone interplanetary travel. I’d never collided with this world before.

I collected myself in the kitchen. Shuffled my parts back together. My breaths deepened to normal. That splendor had stunned me and then sickened me with a mess of recognitions.

You see the insides of a classier world like that and it sets your own to spinning off-balance, and a tireless gnawing discontent gets to snacking on your guts and spirit. This caliber of a place makes you want to discriminate against yourself, basically, as it reveals you as such a loser. A tiny mote of nothin’ much just here to muss up the planet these worthies lived so grandly on and wished they could keep clean of you and yours.

I ain’t shit! I ain’t shit! shouts your brain, and this place proves the point.

Oh, hell yes, this mansion was a regular theme park of fancy fuckin’ stuff I never had, never will, hadn’t ever truly even seen in person.

Naturally there’s some urge to just start smashing amuck in the mansion, whacking all those glamorous baubles and doodads as if these objects had personally tossed you a key ring and told you to fetch their car. That urge is there, to see things shatter, dent, sag with ruin. That urge is always there, usually in shadow though never far away.

But I don’t need to want that anymore, or at least lately, so instead I decided to eat.

That mist had gotten bunchy and milled up against the kitchen windows like a rubbernecking crowd peeking in on a private moment. A few wisps shoved in through the busted window and gave me the sense of long fingers slowly pointing.

There was a button on the wall beside the stove, and I punched it and got light. The light pushed the crowd back, slapped away those pointing fingers. This kitchen came near to the size of a decent trailer home. There were, close as I could figure, two stoves or three, or just one giant with a dozen burners. Cabinets ran to the ceiling, made of some blond wood from Oriental lands, I’d guess, and the ceiling was yea tall, so there was a cute li’l stepladder on a runner that slid from cabinet to cabinet so you could see into the upper shelves. A pretty dapper rendition of woodwork, in my opinion. The fridge resembled a bank vault, a big dull metal thing with heavy doors.

The funny thing about these swell folks is they don’t leave much food to scrounge. I did a run-through of the fridge and found that all the familiar items were frozen. It disappointed me that there were no exotic leftovers. In the freezer part I turned up a booze bottle that belonged on the pricey shelf at the Liquor Barn. The label on the bottle resembled an eye-test chart, Russian or one of those names, but after a few chugs I could testify it was vodka, for certain, and a quality version of it too.

I began to thrash through the cabinets hunting for peanut butter because I’d seen mayonnaise in the fridge, and peanut butter and mayonnaise meant I could sleep. I could let the crank go bye-bye and sleep. I can’t sleep without food nearby. I can’t sleep anywhere until I know I’ll get to eat again if I need to. I don’t have to eat, yet I can’t rest without bein’ positive sure there’s food at hand, but these folks apparently didn’t stoop to peanut butter ’cause there wasn’t any. Peanut butter is the prescribed hunger medicine for poor folks, and there’s always a scraping or so left in the bottom of the jar, somewhere way back in the cupboard. I’ve been to bed hungry plenty and my tummy whimpered and whimpered and those whimpers are forever on tape in my head.

The vodka at least gave my gut growls instead of whimpers.

Some cheese turned up in the fridge. It’s a nice round hunk, but it’s not yellow. It’s some nearly white kind that smells too gourmet for me, but the hunk was silky smooth and plump as a newborn’s rump and I had the sensation of sinkin’ my teeth into a pampered baby’s butt for a taste.

The flavor was odd but okay, and I knew then I could rest.

The vodka and me and the baby butt of cheese wandered down a dim hall. When crank dies out, a big sudden tired hits, and I could feel it windin’ up to smite me. You sleep where you land. I got to a room that echoed as I walked and sounded big, until I bumped my shin on a chair, then fell into it, and threw my head back and raised my feet to the stool out front.

My collapse had been into a calfskin wingback chair, and I just folded into it, tucked myself away secretly there like a French tickler in a gentleman’s leather wallet.

The dreams that made the scene inside my skull weren’t dreamy dreams, but rather more like long news clips from kangaroo court sessions convened on me in a gaudy plush holding cell, and the entire jury was made up of loved ones I’d sorely disappointed since they were buried and whiskery perverts who took a shine to me just the way I was.

I slept for over a full day, as you know, but I won’t say I rested.


“There are a handful of writers who are known, read and revered by other writers for the brilliant beauty of their words. Some have become better known—James Lee Burke is an obvious example—but some haven’t yet achieved the wide readership that they deserve. Daniel Woodrell is chief amongst them. He’s created his own niche in the mystery world—‘Ozark Noir’—and he’ll dazzle you with each page. Chandler once wrote his ideal of a private eye and I think it applies to writers as well, certainly to Woodrell: ‘He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.’ Woodrell is the best at what he does and he can equal the best writing in any other world.”—JB Dickey, Seattle Mystery Bookshop


Find Tomato Red at your favorite bookseller or online retailer!

Here are a few links:
Square Books (Oxford, MS)
Big Sleep Books (St. Louis, MO)
Seattle Mystery Bookshop (Seattle, WA)
"M" Is for Mystery (San Francisco, CA)
Murder By The Book (Houston, TX)
Barnes & Noble

Busted Flush Press

Monday, July 26, 2010

Moe & Zoë!

Reed Farrel Coleman

Reed's sixth Moe Prager novel, Innocent Monster (Tyrus Books; October; $24.95), gets a very nice review in Publishers weekly: "In Shamus-winner Coleman's darkly impressive sixth Moe Prager mystery (after 2008's Empty Ever After), the retired Brooklyn PI takes on a baffling missing person case only because his estranged daughter, Sarah, begs him to help. In the three weeks since art prodigy Sashi Bluntstone, the 11-year-old daughter of Sarah's childhood friend Candy Castleman, disappeared from a walk on the beach near her Long Island home, the police have found no trace of the girl, who 'skyrocketed to prominence at age four when her Abstract Expressionist paintings... began selling for tens of thousands of dollars.' Prager, who encounters a host of ugly characters, including parents Max and Candy, who aren't telling all they know, and resentful painter Nathan Martyr, becomes increasingly sure that Sashi is dead, but keeps slogging along. His past as a cop . . . and his current career as a wine merchant make Prager a complex character well suited to handle a complex mystery."

Zoë Sharp

Zoë's THE CHARLIE FOX MYSTERIES -- centering on ex-army self-defense expert and one time Special Forces candidate, Charlotte "Charlie" Fox and her all-action, high octane adventures in the world of close protection -- has been sold to Twentieth Century Fox TV, by Alan Nevins at Renaissance Literary & Talent on behalf of Jane Gregory at Gregory & Company. Now that would be an awesome show!

Find the first Charlie Fox thriller, Killer Instinct (paperback, $15), from Busted Flush Press.

Friday, July 23, 2010


We now have a cover for Ken Bruen's The Hackman Blues, which makes its U.S. debut next summer. The BFP edition will include a new foreword by crime writer Ray Banks and a new afterword by Bruen. The cover was designed by Michael Kellner, who worked on many books for Dennis McMillan Publications! Isn't it positively wonderful?? The book's pretty darn good, too...

"I was drowning in a sea of mediocre writing and half-arsed attempts at ersatz amorality when The Hackman Blues sideswiped me like the worst kind of mugger. The sheer strength of the prose knocked me to the ground, battered and bruised... and yet I found myself pleading for more. The Hackman Blues is British noir at its most brutal and honest, populated by characters you could never love but find yourself unable to leave. This is the book that reminded why I love crime fiction... And know The Hackman Blues is the book that will change the way you read crime fiction, that will show up most other writers trading in the darkness of the soul as rank amateurs compared to Ken Bruen. This is noir. This is Bruen. This is The Hackman Blues." -- Russel McLean, author of The Good Son and The Lost Sister

"It’s not a book that wants you to be comfortable. In fact, it wants to hurt you with its relentless nihilism. Which is why this one’s my favourite. To me, it’s what crime fiction should be -- visceral and unrepentant. We should be shown that crime is a filthy, warped and damaging thing. And The Hackman Blues does this in spades. So enjoy, but don’t say you weren’t warned." -- from the foreword by Ray Banks, author of Saturday's Child

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

INNOCENT MONSTER launch party announced!

Reed Farrel Coleman will launch the publication of his sixth Moe Prager novel, Innocent Monster (Tyrus; hardback, $24.95; paperback, $14.95), at NYC's Mysterious Bookshop, Thursday, October 7th, 7-9 p.m. BFP will also have the 4th & 5th Moe books back out in time: Soul Patch (w/ a new foreword by Craig Johnson; paperback; $14) and Empty Ever After (w/ a new foreword by S. J. Rozan; paperback; $14). The rest of Reed's tour to be announced soon!

(And let me say this... Innocent Monster is among Reed's best works yet!)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

BFP to publish Daniel Judson's "Gin Palace" Trilogy!

Years ago, Bantam published the first two books in Daniel Judson's "Gin Palace" private eye trilogy, The Poisoned Prose and The Bone Orchard. Sadly, even after being nominated for one Barry Award, two Shamus Awards and winning one Shamus, the Declan "Mac" MacManus series was dropped before Dan could wrap things up. At long last, 2011 will see the long-awaited return of reluctant Hamptons P.I. MacManus as BFP reprints the first two, and publishes the never-before-seen third novel, The Gin Palace.

I've been a friend of Dan's for years, and I still remember reading that "first" (quotes explained in a minute) Mac book while I was laid up after oral sugery back in 2002 (which is neither here nor there, but considering my mindset, I was feeling mighty finicky). I thought The Bone Orchard was one of the best debut P.I. novels I'd read in a really long time.... even though I was slightly confused throughout. You see, the two books were published out of order, and when reading The Bone Orchard, you know pretty much all of the events of The Poisoned Rose, without really understanding what was going on.

Anyway, ever since I started Busted Flush, I've been talking with Dan about publishing them all, and now, at long last, the trilogy will be published as intended, with The Poisoned Rose out in the summer, and The Bone Orchard and The Gin Palace out in the fall, in time for Bouchercon 2011!

These gritty P.I. novels are perfect for fans of Reed Farrel Coleman, George Pelecanos, Sean Chercover, and Dennis Lehane.

"Judson's cinematic prose and realistic dialogue create lush, vivid scenes... [T]his taut thriller is far from predictable, and its dark and mysterious plot suits Judson's understated writing style." -- Publishers Weekly on The Poisoned Rose

"A vivid cast of characters and a frightening plot packed with dead bodies combine to make Judson's atmospheric debut thriller one of the year's more memorable reads." -- Publishers Weekly on The Bone Orchard

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cover for A. E. Maxwell's summer 2011 book!

Busted Flush Press has been reprinting the Fiddler & Fiora crime novels by A. E. Maxwell, with the fourth, Just Enough Light to Kill, having come out a few months ago. We're now gearing up to do the next two in the series in 2011, starting with #5, The Art of Survival (978-1-935415-16-9; paperback; $14), in which Fiddler heads to Santa Fe & finds himself embroiled in a mystery surrounding the discovery of a new Georgia O'Keefe painting.

Here's a sneak peek at the new cover, designed by the outstanding Lisa Novak, who has worked on the previous four Fiddler reprints...

"The story is unnerving, mesmerizing and, when relief from fierce tensions is required, blessedly funny." -- Publishers Weekly

If you haven't yet discovered this wonderful private eye series, start with Just Another Day in Paradise. Perfect for fans of Robert B. Parker, Robert Crais, and John D. MacDonald!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Dan Chaon -- the National Book Award-shortlisted author of Among the Missing and Await Your Reply -- has some kind words about Daniel Woodrell's The Death of Sweet Mister (being reprinted by BFP in March 2011). At Houston's Murder By The Book (my day job), Chaon's Among the Missing was one of our favorite books of 2009!

"Daniel Woodrell is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and The Death of Sweet Mister is one of his best. His books are often described as 'noir,'and it's true that they are often dark and shocking. But to me, the most shocking thing is the unsentimental tenderness that he brings to his portraits of these deeply troubled characters. This is an incredibly moving book, in addition to being an eye-popping, disturbing, blow-the-top-of-your-head-off work of suspense. I would say it's sort of a masterpiece." -- Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply

Look for Woodrell's Tomato Red from Busted Flush Press in August, and The Death of Sweet Mister next spring. And don't miss one of the indie-film hits of the year, Winter's Bone (based on Woodrell's 2006 novel), in theaters now!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

DAMN NEAR DEAD 2's table of contents!

Behold, the table of contents from this November's Damn Near Dead 2: Live Noir or Die Trying! (trade paperback original; 978-1-935415-40-4; $18)...

Take a stroll down the boulevard of broken hips...

Edited by Bill Crider
Introduction by Charlaine Harris

“Sleep, Creep, Leap” (by Patti Abbott)
“El Conejo” (by Ace Atkins)
“Stiffs” (by Neal Barrett, Jr.)
“The End of Jim and Ezra” (by C. J. Box)
“Out Stealing Buddha” (by Declan Burke)
“Love Story” (by Scott Cupp)
“All About Eden” (by Christa Faust)
“Flying Solo” (by Ed Gorman)
“Neighborhood Watch” (by Carolyn Haines)
“Memory Sketch” (by David Handler)
“Some Things You Never Forget” (by Gar Anthony Haywood)
“The War Zone” (by Cameron Pierce Hughes)
“You’re Only Dead Once” (by Dean James)
“The Sleeping Detective” (by Jennifer Jordan)
“Kids Today” (by Toni L.P. Kelner)
“The Old Man in the Motorized Chair” (by Joe R. Lansdale)
“Angel of Mercy” (by Russel McLean)
“Miss Hartly and the Cocksucker” (by Denise Mina)
“Sometimes You Can’t Retire” (by Marcia Muller)
“The Investor” (by Gary Phillips)
“Bill in Idaho” (by Scott Phillips)
“Zypho the Tentacled Brainsucker from Outer Space vs. the Mob” (by Tom Piccirilli)
“Trade Secret” (by Bill Pronzini)
“The Summer Place” (by Cornelia Read)
“Warning Shot” (by James Reasoner)
“Cutlass” (by Kat Richardson)
“Chin Yong-Yun Takes the Case” (by S. J. Rozan)
“Granny Pussy” (by Anthony Neil Smith)
“Old Men and Old Boards” (by Don Winslow)

I am so excited about this anthology... as with the first DND, there isn't a clunker in the bunch! Scheduled to be launched at NoirCon in Philadelphia, Nov. 4-7!

And don't forget the award-winning anthology that started it all!
Damn Near Dead
(edited by Duane Swierczynski; trade paperback original; 978-0-9767157-5-7; $18)

Friday, July 2, 2010


"Charlie Fox came on strong in Zoë Sharp's early novels but, like a lot of tough girls, softened up with time. Now, thanks to an enterprising small press, we can catch Charlie in the rough. Originally published in 2001, Killer Instinct finds this army-trained martial-arts expert on her first job, working security for a club in an English seaside town. Charlie looks like a made-for-TV model, with her red hair and motorcycle leathers, but Sharp means business. The bloody bar fights are bloody brilliant, and Charlie's skills are both formidable and for real." -- Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review, July 4, 2010

Thanks, Ms. Stasio!!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Free shipping, more praise!

From now on, any orders of $25 or more through Busted Flush Press's website get FREE SHIPPING! Please feel free to order often. :-)


More praise for upcoming BFP releases:


“Don Winslow may be the finest crime writer currently working in America. His recent work—including but not limited to such titles as The Winter of Frankie Machine, The Dawn Patrol, and California Fire and Life—is brilliant on every level, displaying a depth, intelligence, and humanity few writers can hope to equal. Amazingly, his thrillers are also whip-fast, compulsively readable, and rich with language so glittery sharp I am left furious with envy. Instead of hating the man, I am his fan. A Cool Breeze on the Underground is the beginning of Winslow’s journey, and shows all the talent and promise of what is to follow. If you’ve not read the Neal Carey books before, send Busted Flush Press a note of thanks. You’re in for a treat.”—Robert Crais, best-selling author of The Sentry

“It’s one thing to see promise in a young writer, but A Cool Breeze on the Underground is just plain unfair. With his premier Neal Carey novel, Don Winslow announced to the world that neither he nor his characters were going to be run-of-the-mill. He continues to prove it with every book he writes.”—Reed Farrel Coleman, three-time Shamus Award-winning author of Innocent Monster

A Cool Breeze on the Underground is classic Winslow. All the characteristics are there: the style, the wit, and the building tension. Neal Carey is a wonderful character who drives the story to its stunning conclusion. A great read!”—Dave White, Shamus Award-nominated author of The Evil that Men Do

TOMATO RED, by Daniel Woodrell
(at the printers right now)

“Whenever I’m in need of inspiration, resuscitation—a big, heaping blast of air—I read the opening page of Tomato Red. By the end, I’m always grinning: that disbelieving, appreciative, joyful grin you get when you come upon the extraordinary. That writing! It’s hard to not move when you read Woodrell; his Ozark rhythms will get you toe-tapping, swaying in your seat. It’s impossible, in fact, to read Woodrell discreetly: you’ll find sentences, dialogue so funny or brutal or just plain brilliant, you need to share them with someone else. His characters are underdogs, heartbreakers, steal-your-wallet-and-kick-you-on the-way-out scoundrels, but you still want more time with them. With Woodrell, you always want more.”—Gillian Flynn, Edgar Award-nominated author of Sharp Objects and Dark Places

Monday, June 28, 2010

Zoë Sharp & Lee Child together!

If you're in the NYC area, don't miss BFP thriller writer Zoë Sharp and #1 best-seller Lee Child at The Mysterious Bookshop (58 Warren St.; 212-587-1011), tomorrow night, Tuesday, June 29, 6:30-8:00 p.m. They will sign Killer Instinct, Zoë's first Charlie Fox thriller, published in the U.S. for the first time! Lee Child wrote the book's new introduction.

Also in New York, Zoë will drop by Partners & Crime (44 Greenwich Ave.; 212-243-0440) sometime on Tuesday to sign store stock of Killer Intsinct.

Please contact either store to order signed/inscribed copies!

UPDATE (06/28):
* Read an excerpt from Lee Child's introduction here.
* Read about and see photos from Zoë's earlier stops on her tour, including Houston, Tucson, Phoenix, and New Orleans!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Zoë's tour, Reed's review of WINTER'S BONE & more!

Next week, BFP thriller writer Zoë Sharp will be coming over to the States for a mini-tour to celebrate the U.S. publication of the first Charlie Fox novel, Killer Instinct. It's a whistle-stop tour, taking in Houston, Tucson, Phoenix, New York and New Orleans. Highlights include:

* Tuesday, June 22nd, 6.30 p.m.: signing at Murder by the Book, Houston
* Wednesday, June 23rd, 1:30-2:00 p.m.: signing at Clues Unlimited, Tucson
* Thursday, June 24th, 2:00p.m.: Velma Teague Public Library, Glendale
* Thursday, June 24th, evening: Poisoned Pen Conference, The Poisoned Pen, Scottsdale
* Tuesday, June 29th, 6:30-8:00 p.m.: signing with Lee Child at The Mysterious Bookshop, NYC

Please contact these stores to order signed or inscribed copies of Killer Instinct!
Need help tracking down copies of Zoë's books, feel free to e-mail David here.


Crime writer Reed Farrel Coleman has long been a fan of Daniel Woodrell, an author he considers a "genius." We asked Reed, who saw the new film adaptation of Woodrell's 1996 novel, Winter's Bone, this past weekend, to offer up a review of the movie.

"Life is tough to begin with for Ree Dolly, a teenage girl living in a dirt poor part of the Ozarks where everybody in the area’s got a hand in the meth trade and everyone around is related to one degree or another. But when Ree, already responsible for raising her two younger siblings and caring for her infirmed mother, finds out that her father’s put the family homestead up as bail collateral and that he has fallen off the face of the earth, she goes on a quest to find her dad and save their land. Her odyssey is as harrowing as anything Dante could have dreamed up and as fraught with peril as anything Ulysses ever had to face. Ree faces it, for the most part, alone. Winter’s Bone, written by the Shakespeare of the Ozarks, Daniel Woodrell, is a masterpiece. So too is the movie adapted from the novel.

"The film, directed by Debra Granik [right], is the most faithful adaption in deed, spirit, and tone I have ever encountered. Talk about someone who understood the source material. She understood the dirt beneath its fingernails. But making a film is about making choices and the choices Ms. Granik makes are the right ones. There are things that in the novel—Teardrop’s nub of an ear and burnt face, Ree’s romantic involvement with her closest girlfriend, the brutality of the beatings—that Ms. Granik has wisely played down for fear those details would call too much attention to themselves and detract from the overall impact of the film. And the little additions she makes, particularly a scene involving Ree’s discussion with an Army recruiter, are brilliant.

"Still, the movie, as faithful as it is, isn’t the novel. The movie doesn’t quite have the mythic quality of the book and necessarily has a sharper focus on the crime aspects of the story. However, the film does shine a particularly strong light on the culture of the women in this part of the Ozarks. It’s the women who insulate the men from Ree when she comes calling. It’s the women who do the dirty work, who enforce the codes of behavior, who deliver the beatings. Yet as powerful as these women are made to seem, you just know that they are trapped in this world with no hope of escape. It is that sense of hopelessness and my yearning for Ree to move beyond it that will stay with me forever. Read this book. See this movie. If Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Ree, and John Hawkes [left], who plays Teardrop, and Ms. Granik don’t receive baskets full of nominations for their performances, the world really is flat."

Reed Farrel Coleman is the 3-time Shamus Award-winning author of Walking the Perfect Square, Redemption Street, The James Deans, Soul Patch, Empty Ever After, and the forthcoming Innocent Monster.

Go here to find out when Winter's Bone will be showing in your area!


Speaking of Daniel Woodrell, he & Winter's Bone director Debra Granik were interviewed yesterday on NPR's Fresh Air. Catch the audio & transcript here.

Busted Flush Press will reprint Woodrell's 1998 masterpiece, Tomato Red, in the next month. Listen to him discussing the book on NPR back in '99.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Killer Instinct (by Zoë Sharp; 978-1-935415-13-8; trade paperback original; $15) On sale now!

Chapter One

I SUPPOSE I ought to state for the record that I don’t make a habit of frequenting places like the New Adelphi Club, which is where this whole sorry mess began. Maybe if I’d run true to form and avoided the place, things might have turned out differently.

The New Adelphi was a nightclub that had risen phoenix-like from the ashes of the old Adelphi, a crumbling Victorian seaside hotel on the promenade in Morecambe. It had a slightly faded air of decayed gentility about it, like an ageing bit-part film actress, hiding her propensity for the gin bottle under paste jewellery and heavy make-up.

I should have seen the changes coming, of course. Over the last eight months the Adelphi has had ‘under new management’ written all over it. The first inkling of a revolution had been a line of skips along the front wall of the car park. The next, a sheepish visit from Gary Bignold, the assistant manager, to tell me that I no longer had use of one of the upstairs function rooms for my Tuesday night class.

‘Sorry, Charlie,’ he’d said awkwardly as he’d broken the news. ‘We’ve got a new boss man and he’s sweeping clean. He’s decided that making a few quid every week so you can teach a load of frumpy housewives how to slap down flashers in the park just doesn’t fit in with his game plan.’

I teach women’s self-defence, have done for four years now. I use gymnasiums in local schools, indoor badminton courts in leisure centres, and even the converted ballroom of a country house that’s now a women’s refuge. Finding a replacement venue for this class wasn’t going to be impossible, but it wasn’t going to be a piece of cake either. I thought regretfully of the lost revenue, and shrugged.

‘Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it,’ I said. He’d caught up with me in the car park, near the skips. I was packing my jogging pants and trainers into the tank bag of my RGV 250 Suzuki for the ride home to Lancaster, only five miles or so away.

Gary hovered from one foot to the other until I’d double-zipped the bag and clipped it down. ‘So what’s happening to the old place then?’ I asked, tucking my scarf round the neck of my leather jacket. ‘They going to pull it down and build yet more luxury flats that nobody wants?’

‘Nah, this new bloke, he’s dead switched on,’ Gary said, relieved enough to be chatty. ‘He’s going to turn this old dump into a nightclub. I’ve seen the plans. It’s going to be absolutely excellent. Couple of bars, split-level dance floors, bit of food. The business. You’ll have to come. Opening night. I’ll get you in free, no trouble.’

I raised an eyebrow and he looked hurt at my scepticism. ‘I will,’ he repeated. ‘I’m going to run the bars for him. It’s all been agreed.’

I didn’t say anything as I swung my leg over the bike and kicked it into life. Gary sometimes lets his enthusiasm run away with him. He looks too wide-eyed to ever be put in charge of anything more than asking the next person in line if they want fries with that.

I gave him a cheery wave as I circled out of the car park, ignoring his shouted assurance that he’d give me a call when they were about to re-launch.

It’s a good job I wasn’t holding my breath.

The New Adelphi Club opened about six months afterwards, just after Christmas. In record time if the murmurs in the building trade are to be believed. It seemed Gary had been right about the new boss being a mover and shaker.

At night the neon on the outside of the building lights up low cloud with an eerie violet glow and is visible from halfway across Morecambe Bay. It’s become quite a local landmark.

I learned from the local paper that Gary did, indeed, become the bar manager for the new enterprise, but he never called to offer me those free tickets. I must admit I hadn’t really expected him to.

It came as quite a surprise to myself, then, that I ended up at the place only a month or so after it opened.

That was my friend, Clare’s fault, not mine. She’d dropped it on me over the phone a few days before. ‘There’s this karaoke competition on at that new club in Morecambe this Saturday,’ she’d said, out of the blue. ‘I fancied giving it a whirl, but Jacob won’t go, so will you come along and lend some moral support?’

I hesitated. Clare’s a mate. I’ve known her and her feller, Jacob, ever since I first moved to Lancaster, but I thought such a request was stretching a friendship too far. ‘I didn’t know you were into that sort of thing,’ I said cautiously, playing for time.

She laughed. ‘Well, Jacob says I haven’t much of a voice. He says my strangled mewlings make the nocturnal warbling of our elderly tomcat sound like Pavarotti, but I reckon he’s just too much of an old fogey to want to go to a nightclub.’

I vaguely heard rude mutterings by someone at the same end of the line as Clare, and she laughed again. Jacob must be in his early fifties, his dark wavy hair streaked through with grey, but he’s one of those men who oozes sexual attraction. Always laughing behind eyes the colour of expensive plain chocolate, and just as tempting. If he could reproduce that kind of chemistry in a lab he’d be a millionaire.

Clare is twenty-five years his junior, more my own age. Tall, slender, she has endless legs and a metabolism that means she can binge peanut butter straight out of the jar without putting on an ounce. I recognised years ago that food was not going to be one of my indulgences in life if I wanted to stay in a size twelve.

I envied Clare the ability not to gain weight more than I envied her her looks, which were stunning. She had long straight hair to go with the legs, golden blonde without bottled assistance, and a sense of style I guess you just have to be born with.

She also rode a ten-year-old Ducati 851 Strada motorcycle like a demon and had the distinction of once having outrun a bike copper through the local Scarthwaite bends at well over a hundred. He’d pulled her over out of curiosity and his chin had bounced off his toecaps when she’d taken off her helmet. Where anyone else would have had their licence taken away for three months, she didn’t even get a producer.

‘So, Charlie, what do you say?’ Clare prompted now. ‘I don’t really want to go by myself,’ she admitted.

I heard Jacob in the background again, loudly this time. ‘You’re not going alone until they’ve caught that bloody rapist!’

‘Yeah, that too,’ Clare said. ‘You’ve heard about that, I suppose?’

I agreed that I had. It was a vicious attack that had only happened a few weeks previously. I’m not the morbid type, but I took a professional interest in the crime. Enough to keep tabs on the progress—or lack of it—in the news reports.

When you make your living teaching people, mainly women, how to avoid potentially ending up in the same situation, you tend to notice anything that affects business. When new pupils turn up at my classes with a sudden burning desire to learn how to reduce a large, hairy would-be mugger to a jellied heap on the pavement, you tend to ask what sparked off their interest. You don’t come out of it looking too good if you haven’t heard all about the latest stabbing, rape, or murder. Particularly if it took place on your own doorstep.

In this case, the victim was just turned eighteen, walking home along a gloomy footpath near the River Lune late one Thursday night and not smart enough to take a taxi. When she’d regained consciousness two days later she was only able to give a hazy description of her attacker.

He’d raped her with a knife held at her throat, then beat her savagely around the head. The police announced piously that it was a miracle she wasn’t dead. As it was, the doctors predicted that she was going to need months of physio, speech therapy, and counselling. The surgeons had managed, after a fashion, to save her right eye.

Lancaster may have its share of violence, but it’s still not the kind of town where things like that happen on a regular basis. The local paper was having a field day with tabloid-style headlines it never normally got to air. Public figures expressed their outrage. Worried citizens wrote to their MP.

Prominent policemen promised early results. It was a brutal and senseless attack, their spokesman said. The culprit must have been covered in his victim’s blood. He must have been spotted arriving or leaving along the busy main road which shadows the river. He must have got home in a dishevelled and excited state. He would, they prophesied, soon be under lock and key.

As it was, several weeks had now gone past. Nothing happened. Appeals were made on the television and would-be witnesses obligingly came forward by the dozen. Unfortunately, none of them had anything of real value to tell. It appeared that the only witness of any sort was a derelict wino called Jimmy.

Jimmy thought he might have seen a car, and he even thought it might have been on that evening, but through the fog of his perpetual alcoholic stupor, he couldn’t quite recall the registration number. Or the model. Or the colour.

There was an air of fear in the city that you could almost reach out and touch. I’d noticed it in my students, seen it on the street. Even over the distortion of the telephone system I could hear it now in Clare’s voice—and in Jacob’s, too.

I sighed.

‘OK,’ I said. ‘I’ll come with you. Just don’t expect me to sing!’

Which was how, a few days later, I came to be waiting for Clare in the car park of the New Adelphi Club, twiddling my thumbs and rapidly having second thoughts about the whole exercise.

It was partly because the noise level belting out of the place was so high I feared permanent hearing damage if I ventured any closer. The bass could be physically felt across the other side of the tarmac. I could well imagine that at closer proximity the high frequency would qualify as an offensive weapon.

In the ten minutes or so since I’d parked up and sat, watching people arrive and go in, I’d come to the conclusion that I was probably ten years too old to be there, which made most of the clientele too young to buy cigarettes, never mind alcohol. Also, in a clean pair of black jeans, an almost-ironed shirt, and my least tatty leather jacket, I was wearing way too many clothes.

Despite the chill of the evening—it was February, after all—the boys were all wearing tight little vests that showed off how many hours they’d spent down the gym, or untucked luridly coloured shirts that tried to hide the fact they didn’t know where the gym was. The girls looked like they’d come out in their night-dresses. God, I felt old.

A new set of lights swept into the car park, and Jacob’s rusty old cream Range Rover pulled up next to where I’d parked the bike. Clare waved through the window as she killed the motor and hopped down out of the driver’s seat.

‘Hi,’ I said. I nodded to the car. ‘I thought for a moment Jacob had changed his mind about coming.’

‘Oh no,’ she replied with a little grimace. ‘He drew the line at just lending me the car.’

I eyed the skimpy little frock Clare was nearly wearing as I dumped my helmet on the Range Rover’s back seat. ‘The way you’re dressed I won’t ask why you didn’t come on the bike.’

She looked down at herself with a wry smile. ‘It would have been cold, wouldn’t it?’ she agreed, then nudged my arm. ‘Come on, Charlie, lighten up.’

‘Lighten up? You’ll be beating them off with a shitty stick looking like that and I’m the one Jacob’s relying on to get you home in one piece,’ I grouched. In view of her glam appearance I tried to do something with my untidy mop of pale reddish blonde hair, but it spent too much of its time stuffed under an Arai bike helmet to pretend to have a style now.

She grinned at me again. ‘Don’t worry, if we walk in holding hands they’ll all just assume we’re gay.’

‘Yeah,’ I said sourly, ‘and I don’t have to ask which one of us they’ll think is butch.’

Clare locked the Range Rover’s door and linked her arm through mine. ‘Well,’ she said, a smile dimpling her lovely face, ‘we should both be safe then, hm?’

To start with, we nearly didn’t get into the New Adelphi Club at all. Gary’s new boss man had employed some very useful-looking door staff. Two big guys I didn’t recognise, which came as a bit of a surprise really, when I think about it. I thought I knew all the local hardcases.

Clare didn’t have a problem. They waved her through staring at her legs so hard that afterwards I doubt they would have been able to pick her face out of a line-up.

I didn’t merit such appreciation. I just got an arm like a steel girder across my path as one of them grabbed hold of the front of my jacket.

‘Oi, can’t you read?’ he demanded. He jerked his head to the six-inch square sign half-hidden behind him on the wall, which was headed ‘Dress Code’. ‘No leather jackets and no denims!’ he stated, stabbing a finger at the appropriate lines. God knows what he would have done if he’d known about the Swiss Army knife I always kept as an emergency tool kit in my jacket pocket.

I looked down at the meaty fist screwing up the leather. He had gold sovereign rings on three out of four fingers and a blurred blue tattoo disappearing up his wrist into the sleeve of his dinner jacket. It reappeared again over the top of his shirt collar, an indecipherable squiggle just to one side of the knot of his clip-on bow tie.

I couldn’t help getting the feeling that if Clare and I had been dressed the other way round, she probably would have still walked straight in, but now wasn’t the time to lose my rag. I always have the greatest respect for someone whose pain threshold allows a tattooist to stick so many needles into their neck.

‘How about you let go of me and we’ll start this again?’ I said, keeping my voice reasonable.

‘How about you just fuck off and come back when you’re properly dressed?’ he sneered, shoving me backwards half a step.

‘How about you learn to pick up your teeth with broken fingers?’ I shot back. He was pissing me off big time, and this was not professional behaviour. He was muscle and menace, not the right material for working the door. They should have kept him in a cage somewhere until they needed real trouble sorting out. I didn’t think I qualified for the strong-arm tactics straight off.

‘Hey, what’s going on? You causing problems already, Charlie?’

We both turned, which is not easy when you’ve got someone practically lifting your feet off the floor.

It was Gary. He was wearing a white dinner jacket to distinguish himself from the underlings, and trying to look like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. I don’t think he quite pulled it off.

‘It’s all right, Len,’ he said. ‘Charlie Fox is OK. I know her. What’s the problem?’

The doorman slowly, and with great reluctance, uncurled his fingers from my jacket and put me down. ‘She’s not properly dressed,’ he muttered, a bully caught in the act by one of the teachers. He didn’t quite shuffle his feet, but he came pretty close to it.

Gary gave me a studied glance. ‘That’s about as properly dressed as she gets,’ he said, flashing a quick smile. ‘I think we can bend the rules about the jeans just this once, but the boss man’s in tonight so you’ll have to lose the jacket,’ he told me apologetically. ‘I’ll check it for you.’

I shrugged out of my jacket and let him hand it over to the cloakroom staff. Len stood and glared at me like a lion that hasn’t made a kill for weeks and who’s just been whipped back from a freshly slaughtered antelope.

The other doorman was also dressed in a dinner suit, and sporting that comedy blend of joined beard and moustache that just circled his mouth. The rest of his head was shaved smooth of hair. Both of them were wearing walkie-talkies with clip-on mics and earpieces. Curly wires disappeared under their jacket collars.

The bald doorman had been leaning against the wall during the whole exchange. His only energy expenditure was to chew gum. He made no moves to get involved on either side. Now he grinned at me slyly as Clare and I passed through into the bowels of the club. It made my scalp itch.

‘You’ll have to tell me what you think of the place now it’s been re-done,’ Gary yelled down my ear over the thunderous beat of the music.

The narrow entrance way had opened out into the club proper. It had changed so much since I’d last been inside the old Adelphi that if it hadn’t been for the unaltered façade I’d have thought they’d pulled the whole place down and started again.

We’d come out on what was now the first level, overlooking the basement dance floor. I looked up and saw the cellars weren’t the only thing that had become open plan. The ceilings of the next two floors up had been partially dismantled, revealing bars and more dance floors. I didn’t want to be impressed, but I couldn’t help it.

Clare and I fought our way through the crush to one of the bars on the next level up where Gary gave us both a drink on the house. The full extent of his generosity became apparent when I looked at the prices, even though Clare just had a glass of dry white wine and I stuck to mineral water.

‘So, when’s the karaoke start?’ Clare asked him, leaning close so he could hear her over the din.

‘Oh you’re going to have a bash at that are you?’ he said, preening under the attention. Like most fellers he had to look up slightly to make straight eye contact with Clare. Particularly when she was wearing four-inch heels. ‘That’s terrific,’ he told her. ‘To be honest, it’s been a bit slow to take off. The girl who’s won it the last three Saturdays in a row isn’t much cop, but she’s got enthusiasm. The crowd seem to like her.’

He offered to take us up to the smaller dance floor where the contest was taking place and introduce Clare to the DJ who was in charge of it. ‘Dave Clemmens is a scream,’ he said. ‘Just tell him what you want to sing and he’ll look after you. No trouble.’

We followed him deeper into the club, up a winding spiral staircase. Out of habit I checked out the nearest exits as we went. Dave the DJ held court at one side of the raised stage area on the other side of the floor. Gary guided Clare across with his hand resting lightly on the small of her back. I was deemed strong enough to make my own way there unaided.

Dave was another of those blokes who obviously spent more time admiring himself in the mirrors down at the gym than he did slouched in front of the TV at home. He’d worked hard on the vanity muscle groups, emphasising his biceps and pecs.

As Gary introduced us to him, his eyes flickered from Clare’s face down her body to her legs and back again, with a slow smile forming on his lips as he offered her his hand.

‘Delighted, Clare,’ he said, holding on to her fingers slightly longer than was necessary. Clare gave him the sunny smile of someone who’s used to eliciting such a response from men.

The stare he treated me to was less driven by lust, more by curiosity. I could see him playing mix and match with the relationship between the two of us. Frankly, I didn’t much care what combination he finally came up with.

He soon switched his attention back and started asking a few questions about Clare’s background. Had she sung before? Had she entered a competition like this before? She answered them all easily enough, leaning forward to talk to him. ‘So where are you from, Clare?’ Dave asked now, scribbling notes on a pad balanced in front of him. His other hand worked the controls of the deck with the sureness of long familiarity.

‘I live near Caton village, just the other side of Lancaster,’ she said.

‘Uh-huh, and what’s your phone number?’ It was tagged so neatly onto the back of the other questions that Clare nearly fell for it, opening her mouth to speak, then closing it again quickly. She shook her head with a smile and wagged her finger at him.

‘Ah well,’ he said, ‘you can’t blame me for trying.’ He checked the list on his pad. ‘You’ll be up last, but there’s only eight tonight, so don’t stray too far. If your friend wants to stay about here she’ll get the best view.’ He put just enough emphasis on the word friend to give it a whole host of meanings.

I smiled sweetly at him and said nothing.

He shrugged, reaching for his microphone. ‘OK, ladies and gents, this is what you’ve been waiting for! Another chance to hear the least-talented people in the area step up to the mic and make arse-holes of themselves!’

I was surprised at the intro and didn’t try to hide it. Dave grinned at my reaction.

‘OK, first up, as always is the reigning champion from last week. Where is she? There she is, can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but what she lacks in being musical, she makes up for in volume and guts. Step up to the mic, Susie Hollins!’

Despite this remarkable lead-in, the girl who scrambled up onto the stage was flushed with excitement rather than anger. She was pretty in a conventional sort of way, medium height, blonde streaks running through naturally dark hair, and a blouse that went see-through enough under the artificial lights to show the generous cut of her bra.

There was something vaguely familiar about her that I couldn’t place. Funny how you can never recognise someone out of context. I frowned while I dredged through my memory files, but came up empty.

Now, Susie stood fiddling with the microphone and primly adjusted her micro-length skirt as Dave gave his spiel about her.

‘You all know Susie. She works behind the meat counter at our local supermarket, and she can weigh out my sausages any time! She’s here tonight as usual with Tony—give us a wave, Tone—there he is! Got your own groupie, haven’t you, Sue? Mind you, with a voice like this, she needs all the help she can get. Give it up now, ladies and gents, for Susie Hollins!’

Susie launched straight into her number with plenty of gusto, but Dave was right. She did need a watertight container to carry the tune. She didn’t have the range to hit the high notes, or the breath control for the phrasing of the song.

Still, you had to hand it to her, she was up there giving it her all, and the crowd were cheering her on. Or maybe they were just trying to drown out the sound of her voice.

One thing was for certain, though. Susie Hollins may have been no great shakes as a karaoke singer, but I didn’t think that was reason enough for anyone to want to kill her.


Find Killer Instinct, the first Charlie Fox thriller (never before published in the U.S.!), at your favorite bookseller or online retailer! Here are a few links:
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