Guest blog: Dietrich Kalteis on writing Poughkeepsie Shuffle

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First off, thanks again for inviting me to write a guest post about my new novel, Paul.

Poughkeepsie Shuffle is the story of Jeff Nichols. He’s a former inmate of Toronto’s infamous Don Jail. After getting his release, Jeff tries to rekindle a relationship with his ex, Ann Ryan, wanting to make his way in the world by taking a job at a used car lot. It soon proves to be not enough to keep them afloat, so when the lure of easy money comes along, he gets himself mixed up in a smuggling ring, sneaking guns across the U.S. border. The trouble is Jeff’s the kind of guy who doesn’t let the lessons of past mistakes get in the way of a good score. And as things spin out of control, he hangs on, trying to hit the motherlode.

 

I set this one in Toronto for a couple of reasons. First, I grew up there, and I wanted to recreate it the way I remember it back in the mid-eighties. It was a grittier, character-filled place, before the meat packing plants started giving way to gentrification, and the rail lines that once lined the land below Front Street started disappearing, leaving behind its industrial heritage.

 

Second, being located across the lake from Niagara and Buffalo, the city has easy access to the US, making it the perfect setting for a story revolving around smuggling. I read an article a few years ago about a gunrunning ring that operated between upstate New York and Ontario. It was taken down by the OPP, working alongside several U.S. law enforcement agencies. There was also an increase in gang violence back then, and that worked into the story too, heightening the danger for Jeff and the others delivering guns to warring gang and selling to the highest bidder.

 

PoughkeepsieShuffleCoverThere were also bits of personal experience that I weaved into the story, and there are a couple of characters loosely based on real people I had met. For instance, I really did meet a guy who went to South America and stumbled onto what he dubbed a miracle cure for hair restoration. He was so gung-ho about getting rich off it, he spent all his time and even more of his own money trying to get it into the  North American market. Man, did he learn about red tape.

Then there’s the Conway character who I based on another guy I met who wanted to teach the world to sing, wanting me to help him market his new company in exchange for singing lessons. And there’s Archie, the Elvis impersonator, a character based on a wanna-be Elvis I met one morning in a copy shop. There he was in shorts and flip flops — with his morning-after hair and sideburns, looking like he was coming off a rhinestoned night — running off a bunch of flyers for an upcoming gig.

 

Living in Toronto back then helped me add something to the scenes I was describing, but there was still a lot of research to be done too. I went through a lot of news archives, photos and old map books to get it right.

 

Writing this one in first person from Jeff’s point of view limited the scope, not allowing the viewpoints of other characters, but the sense of closeness and the biases of the main character made it well worth it. As I worked my way through the first draft, I was happy with the way it was turning out. Actually I had fun putting myself in the shoes of a guy willing to break a few rules in pursuit of easy money, a guy who figures he’s on the fast track to riches only to find he’s actually on a runaway train.

 

There’s dark humour mixed with rising tension as Jeff keeps getting in deeper. Sometimes it’s his cleverness, sometimes it’s his lack of it, and other times it’s his desperation. He’s just an unwitting participant in his own undoing, and I think readers will like Jeff and cheer him on, hoping that if he doesn’t win, he’ll at least survive.

 

Poughkeepsie Shuffle will be released September 11, 2018, published by ECW Press, and available online or through your favourite book retailer.

DKalteis 2018 Photo credit Andrea Kalteis

Dietrich Kalteis is the award-winning author of Ride the Lightning (bronze medal winner, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best regional fiction), The Deadbeat Club, Triggerfish, House of Blazes (silver medal winner, 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best historical fiction), and Zero Avenue.

His novel The Deadbeat Club has been translated to German, and 50 of his short stories have also been published internationally. He lives with his family on Canada’s West Coast. His website is http://www.dietrichkalteis.com/

Short, Sharp Interview: Alex Shaw

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PDB: What’s going on?

I’m sitting in Doha, and crossing my fingers in preparation for the release of the HQ Digital/HarperCollins editions of my Aidan Snow thrillers – Cold Blood, Cold East and Cold Black. They’re out in ebook on the 14th of September and then the paperback release dates are staged by a month from the 20th of September.

PDB: Do you listen to music when you work?

I’m not really a music person. If I’m not writing on location, I prefer quiet when I work, or BBC World News.

PDB: What makes you laugh?

Anyone who takes themselves too seriously. Someone said I should do ‘stand-up’, but I’m too lazy so it would have to be ‘sit-down’.

PDB: What’s the best cure for a hangover?

Carry on drinking, failing that stick your head in a snowdrift, failing that take two sachets of Dioralyte with a large glass of water and a pair of ibuprofen tablets before you go to bed, then repeat in the morning. Add whisky where appropriate.

PDB: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I’ve lived in the UK, Kyiv and Doha but I’d love to live in Barbados.

PDB: Do you have a bucket list? If so, what’s on it?40371397_1126584314164622_8511433859823304704_n

Travel more, get fit, and get cast as either Jack Reacher or James Bond, oh and buy a bucket.

PDB: What’s on the cards?

As well as promoting my Aidan Snow series, I’ve two new thrillers finished and am writing the sequels to both.

PDB: Anything else

I’m editing and publishing the third Death Toll anthology – ‘End Game’, which will be out in December. And you’re in it.

41356478_1700674410044410_3583505044294598656_nBio:  Alex Shaw spent the late 1990s in Kyiv, teaching and running his own business consultancy before being head-hunted for a division of Siemens. The next few years saw him doing business for the company across the former USSR, the Middle East, and Africa. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers organisation, the Crime Writers Association and the author of the Aidan Snow SAS thrillers. Alex, his wife and their two sons divide their time between homes in Kyiv – Ukraine, Doha – Qatar and Worthing, England. Alex can be followed on twitter: @alexshawhetman

Alex’s Aidan Snow series can be found in most good bookshops, some odd ones and here. 

Short, Sharp Interview: Dietrich Kalteis

PoughkeepsieShuffleCover.jpgWhat the hell is a Poughkeepsie Shuffle?

It’s when you take the story’s main character, Jeff Nichols, and release him from prison. He tries to get his life in order, but no matter what move he makes, it’s the wrong one. But, dancing as fast as he can, Jeff’s not one to give up easily. And he’s willing to bend some rules and break a few laws in pursuit of easy money, getting mixed up with some guys running guns from Poughkeepsie up to Toronto. What makes things worse for Jeff, he’s never been one to let the lessons from his past mistakes get in the way of a good score in the future.

 

What are your favourite ‘man out of prison’ books or films?

The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King (1982) is a great novel as well as a great film. One of my favourite scenes is when Red (played by Morgan Freeman in the 1994 film version) tells the review board about whether he’s been rehabilitated or not.

Then there’s Out of Sight by Elmore Leonard (1996). The scene where Jack Foley and Karen Sisko end up in the trunk of a fleeing car is one of my all-time favorite jail break scenes, and one of the funniest too. The movie version was directed by Steven Soderbergh, and starred George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez.

Also on my list is Escape from Alcatraz, one of the top-rated films of 1979, starring Clint Eastwood. It’s about the real-life prison escape of Frank Morris, an inmate who disappeared off the Rock without a trace, escaping along with the Anglin brothers back on June 11, 1962.

On the lighter side of escape films, there’s the animated Chicken Run (2000), directed by Peter Lord and Nick Park of Wallace & Gromit fame. A band of chickens plot their escape from certain death, not from a prison, but from the farm where they live after the farm goes from selling eggs to selling chicken pot pies.

And on the classic side, there’s Cool Hand Luke by Donn Pearce (1965). Paul Newman earned an Oscar in the film version (1967), playing the lead about a guy who refuses to play by the rules. Midnight Express by Billy Hayes (1977) is a great story about drug running gone wrong and the horrors of landing in a foreign prison. And there’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, written by Ken Kesey, published in 1962. It centers on a guy who fakes being crazy to get transferred from the state pen to a state hospital, which seems a lighter sentence – till he meets Nurse Ratched. The film starring Jack Nicholson won all five major Academy Awards, and is considered one of the best films ever made.

I also enjoyed reading On the Rock (2008), the biography of Alvin Creepy Carpis, written by Robert Livesey.

 

Did Poughkeepsie Shuffle require a lot of research?

I lived in Toronto at the time the story takes place, so a lot of the sights, sounds and setting came from memory. I often travel back to my former hometown, and I’m always amazed at all the changes happening, but I’m also aware of familiar places being torn away and giving way to taller buildings and wider roads. So I wanted to bring back a grittier, character-filled Toronto, the way I remember it back in the mid-eighties. But not wanting to rely totally on memory, I gave myself a refresher by digging through a lot of archives, old street maps and a lot of old photos, aiming to restore the character of that era.

A couple of things helped sparked the story. One was a news article I read about a large gun-running ring operating between upstate New York and southern Ontario that got busted by the OPP and several U.S. agencies. The other was the increased gang violence happening in the city at the time.

 

Music features strongly in Zero Avenue. Is that so with Poughkeepsie Shuffle?

Frankie Del Rey, the main character from Zero Avenue, struggles to get her music career off the ground, and her whole life revolves around her music. Poughkeepsie Shuffle’s Jeff Nichols just wants to make ends meet. He’s not as cool as Frankie, but what they have in common, they’re both willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want. Jeff’s not so much into music, but it does find its way into the story. Nena’s singing about red balloons on a ghetto blaster when two thugs come to cut off Jeff’s finger, using the music to muffle his screams. Then there’s the scene when the rocker Meatloaf gets spotted at a birthday party in a restaurant. And there’s an Elvis impersonator in flip-flops who belts out “Love Me Tender” in a barber shop. There’s also a guy named Conway who gives singing lessons, claiming he can teach anyone to sing like a canary, guaranteed. And toward the end of the story, Jeff starts hearing an angel choir. So, while music isn’t featured as strongly in this one, it’s still there.

 

What’s next?

I’m pleased to have a short story called “Bottom Dollar” included in the anthology Vancouver Noir, coming this fall from Akashic Books. And my next novel is complete and signed with ECW Press and due to be released next year. It’s called Call Down the Thunder, and it’s about a Kansas man and his wife who find some interesting ways to survive the dustbowl days of the late 1930s. Currently I’m working on a story that takes place in the far reaches of northwestern Canada and Alaska, about a guy on the run from a gangster he ripped off. Not only did he steal his money, but he stole his woman, too.

 

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Dietrich Kalteis is the award-winning author of Ride the Lightning (bronze medal winner, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best regional fiction), The Deadbeat Club, Triggerfish, House of Blazes (silver medal winner, 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best historical fiction), and Zero Avenue. His novel The Deadbeat Club has been translated to German, and 50 of his short stories have also been published internationally. He lives with his family on Canada’s West Coast.

His website is http://www.dietrichkalteis.com/,

and he regularly contributes to the blogs

Off the Cuff: http://www.dietrichkalteis.blogspot.ca/

And at 7 Criminal Minds: http://www.7criminalminds.blogspot.ca/

You can also find him on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dietrich.kalteis/

and Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dietrichkalteis/

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Recommended Read: Fighting Talk by Martin Stanley

Fighting TalkWhen loan shark Alan Piper offers Eric Stanton a job, he reluctantly agrees. Against his better judgment, Eric enlist the aid of his psychotic brother, Derek. The pair are soon embroiled in dog fighting, mad junkies, Polish gangsters, and a hell of a lot of violence.

Martin Stanley’s Fighting Talk is Brit Grit at its best. Choc full of great characters and dialogue, its as funny  as it is brutal,  and has a great sense of place. Five Gritty Stars!

Top Telly: Out

OUTIn the 1978 TV series OUT, poker-faced Tom Bell plays Frank Ross, a gangster who is sent to prison for robbery after someone grasses him up. Eight years later, Ross leaves the slammer and is confronted with a London that has changed and people that have changed.

Instead of stitching back together his relationships, however, Frank is focused on tracking down whoever stitched him up.  OUT – written by the late Trevor Preston – is great, gritty stuff and it’s a real period piece too- no mobile phones!

There are some great performances, particularly from Bell and Brian Cox as the psychopathic gangster McGrath, but there are loads of top turns from the likes of John Junkin, Victoria Fairbrother, and Peter Blake.

There’s also a very cool credit sequence with a cracking George Fenton theme tune.

And you can watch OUT for nowt on You Tube, if you’re that way inclined.

ITW Roundtable discussion July 23-29

itw_logo_members_wbI’m over at The Big Thrill taking part in the ITW Roundtable discussion July 23- 29:

“How do you choose your character’s names?”

‘With ThrillerFest firmly in our rearview mirror and our writing bucket full of inspiration, we turn to ITW Members Alan JacobsonDani PettryPatrick OsterJay BrandonRobert J. StavaPaul D. BrazillKim AlexanderSarah SimpsonWilliam BoyleDavid Orange and Lisa Black as they discuss how they choose their character’s names.’

Check it out and JOIN IN!

Recommended Read: The Day That Never Comes by Caimh McDonnell

The Day That Never ComesEx-police detective Bunny McGarry is missing and his friend –  would-be private detective Paul Mulchrone – sets off to track him down. Meanwhile, a terrorist group appears to be killing Dublin’s fat cat property developers.  These and other story strands are soon entagled in Caimh McDonnell’s The Day That Never Comes – the second part of his four part ‘Dublin Trilogy.’ And like McDonnell’s debut novel – A Man With One Of Those Faces –  it is a cracking blend of  quick humour and fast-paced crime thriller. The Day That Never Comes is choc-full of great characters and sharp satire, and is marvelous fun.

Recommended Read: Confessions Of An English Psychopath by Jack D McLean

confessionsLawrence Odd is a psychopath with a long history of committing violent crimes and he is more than happy to be recruited as an assassin by the Cleansing Department – a particularly shady branch of the British Secret Service. All goes swimmingly until Lawrence discovers the Cleansing Department’s darkest secret.

Jack D. McLean‘s  witty, quirky thriller Confessions Of An English Psychopath is fast moving, funny, violent and a hell of a lot of fun.

Imagine a lethal cocktail of The Ipcress File, The Prisoner, Monty Python, and A  Confederacy Of Dunces, and you’re halfway there.

A belter!

Short, Sharp Interview: David Owain Hughes

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PDB: What’s going on?

So much! This new release has me chasing my tail, what with having to contact copious amounts of editors for local magazines and newspapers, bloggers, reviewers and anyone else with a dark, dingy corner on the internet willing to advertise it on their website. I’m also knee-deep in interviews. Combined, it’s taking up my days, and it’s forced me to put the writing on hold for the time being, which isn’t a bad thing as I’m getting plenty of reading done. Something I’ve neglecting of late.

PDB: Do you listen to music when you work? 

It depends if I’m in the zone or not. If I’m going great guns, I’ll tend to stick some music on. If I’m struggling, I prefer silence, so I can concentrate. More often than not, I have music playing. But never, ever when I’m reading – that would drive me bonkers.

 

PDB: What makes you laugh?

King of Queens, Laurel and Hardy, Only Fools and Horses, Bottom, TheInbetweeners, One Foot in the Grave, Carry On and anything dark, crude or lewd. It’s how I roll, man. King of Queens is definitely my ‘go to’ show. If I’m down, in need of cheering or stuck for something to watch, any series of that show is the first thing I reach for. It calms me.      

 

PDB: What’s the best cure for a hangover? 

Surplus amounts of tea and a full English breakfast. Is there a better cure?! If there is, I’ve not heard about it. Also, I’ll have a cheeky ‘hair of the dog’, too. Shh!

 

PDB: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? 

Anywhere near a beach, fairground and amusement arcade.   

 

PDB: Do you have a bucket list? If so, what’s on it?

 I don’t have a bucket list but if I did, getting my arse to the States before I die would be at the top with a bullet! I have daydreams of tearing down Route 66 in an American muscle car. Who doesn’t, I suppose. I’d also like to see the Great Wall of China and visit a strip club. I think the latter’s fairly doable, what do you think?

 

PDB: What’s on the cards? 

A sequel to South by Southwest Walesthat’s for sure. I plan to start writing Any Which Way but South Wales in the coming weeks. For now, it’s the only project I have planned, bar a few short stories I may write for anthology calls, etc.  

 

received_10213192081906758PDB: Anything else?

 Not off the top of my head. Thanks for the awesome interview.

Bio: David Owain Hughes is a horror freak! He grew up on ninja, pirate and horror movies from the age of five, which helped rapidly instil in him a vivid imagination. When he grows up, he wishes to be a serial killer with a part-time job in women’s lingerie…He’s had multiple short stories published in various online magazines and anthologies, along with articles, reviews and interviews. He’s written for This Is Horror, Blood Magazine, and Horror Geeks Magazine. He’s the author of the popular novels “Walled In” (2014), “Wind-Up Toy” (2016), “Man-Eating Fucks” (2016), and “The Rack & Cue” (2017), “South By Southwest Wales, along with his short story collections “White Walls and Straitjackets” (2015) and “Choice Cuts” (2015). He’s also written three novellas – “Granville” (2016), “Wind-Up Toy: Broken Plaything & Chaos Rising” (2016).

His Amazon author page is here.

His website is here.

He’s on Twitter here.