Over at Dana King’s One Bite At A Time blog, I talk about Big City Blues, crime fiction, Roman Dalton, Near To The Knuckle, living in Poland and more!
Quite a bit, actually. So much so I’m hoping to take most of the summer off. To wit:
My newest Nick Forte PI mystery, A Dangerous Lesson, launched May 15 in print and Kindle editions, both available through all finer Amazon outlets. In this, the fourth of the Forte stories, Nick is investigating an heiress’s new boyfriend when he becomes tangentially—then deeply—involved with a serial killer. Frankly, I’m not a fan of serial killer fiction, but this story appealed to me as a way to get into Forte’s increasingly dark character. They say two people in a relationship will tend to sink to the level of the one who’s most fucked up, and that’s certainly the case here.
I recently finished the outline for my next Penns River story, tentatively titled Small Town Crime. Based on said outline, this will be my most ambitious book and will force me to try to stretch my abilities. Light a candle for me if you’re so inclined.
“Wait,” you say. “The ‘next’ Penns River book? There are others?” Damn right. Two of them have been released previously, and, thanks to Down & Out Books, all four of the Penns River books currently residing on my hard drive will become available over the next couple of years. D&OB will re-release Worst Enemies and Grind Joint this fall, with the third (and new) book, Resurrection Mall, to become available in the spring of 2017. Contracts have yet to be signed, but we also have a handshake agreement to release the fourth PR book—PR-Two—in the spring of 2018. Everyone at Down and Out has been great to work with and I’m jazzed about the whole process of working with them, as well as the quality group of writers I can now call peers without seeming presumptuous. (You’d have to ask them how crazy they are about that prospect.)
I’ll also be at Bouchercon in New Orleans September 15 – 18 and the Creatures, Crime, and Creativity (C3) Conference in Columbia MD September 30 – October 2. Anyone at either of these events, please stop by and say hello. You don’t need to buy a book. I’ll sign anyone’s book, you want me to. Hell, I’ll sign their name in their book if the line’s too long for you to wait. That’s the kind of reader-oriented writer I am.
(Thanks to Paul Brazill, author, raconteur, and bon vivant, for providing this forum. Truly a gentleman. Hell of a writer, too.)
Bio : Woody Haut, writing in the LA Review of Books, named Dana King’s novel Grind Joint as one of the fifteen best noir reads of 2013. His first PI novel, A Small Sacrifice, received a Shamus Award nomination that same year. A short story, “Green Gables,” appeared in the anthology Blood, Guts, and Whiskey, edited by Todd Robinson. Other short fiction has appeared in Spinetingler, New Mystery Reader, A Twist of Noir, Mysterical-E, and Powder Burn Flash. His newest book is A Dangerous Lesson.
Dana’s blog, One Bite at a Time, resides at danaking.blogspot.com. He lives in quiet near seclusion with The Beloved Spouse.
I was amused by a tweet from Radio 4 wondering — at this late date — whether it was time for Jane Bond. I think Peter O’Donnell and I both would have the same eye-rolling reaction to that. Not least because my sexy spy thriller Chastity Flame has resurfaced from her adventures for a shiny new opportunity: Thanks to Smashwords, Wattpad and Tirgearr Publishing, we’re serialising the first book of the trilogy. That’s right, you can read the book for FREE that’s been called ‘50 Shades of James Bond’ and ‘a highly addictive, fast-moving, clever, sexy and funny globe-trotting, spy romp’ by Mr B himself.
Head over to Wattpad to start reading one chapter a day! Be advised, it’s smoking hot so not for the prudish. James Bond gets a run for his money in that department. Can’t wait that long? Jump over to Smashwords (the alternative to Amazon) and pick up the book or all three in the trilogy.
Over on the Graham Wynd side of my life the exciting news is that two anthologies I’m in are up for Anthony Awards: my story ‘Life Just Bounces’ is in Murder Under the Oaks edited by Art Taylor and my tale ‘Mesquite’ appears in Protectors 2: Heroes which Thomas Pluck edited. Lots of great books up for the awards—tough choices for those voting in New Orleans!
Meanwhile I’m trying to wrap up a novella called Love is a Grift and figure out who I should send it off to. I think the tag line will be, ‘One woman, four cities—and a string of bodies.’ How’s that sound?
I wouldn’t usually bring up academic stuff here, but I’m working on an essay about Dorothy Hughes’ The Expendable Man for a special issue of TEXT on crime fiction and the creative nexus. The more I write about Hughes the more I admire her writing. If you haven’t yet read the novel In a Lonely Place grab it. Then go get the Criterion release of the film. What a gorgeous piece of messed-up noir with glorious Gloria and a surly Bogart. You will not be disappointed.
K. A. Laity is the award-winning author of White Rabbit, Dream Book, A Cut-Throat Business, Lush Situation, Owl Stretching, Unquiet Dreams, Chastity Flame, and Pelzmantel, as well as editor of Respectable Horror, Weird Noir, Noir Carnival and Drag Noir. She also writes historical fiction as Kit Marlowe and crime as Graham Wynd. Dr. Laity teaches medieval literature, film, gender studies, digital humanities and popular culture at the College of Saint Rose, where she is also the director of the Digital Humanities Initiative. She divides her time between upstate New York and Dundee, Scotland.
Private Eye Nick Forte is hired by obnoxious musician Marshal Burton to follow Burton’s equally obnoxious wife. What should be a mundane divorce case spirals out of control when Burton is killed.
Where I talk about Kill Me Quick! and all sorts of cobblers.
Fledgling writers are encouraged to “write what you know.” They’re also urged to “write the kind of book you’d like to read.” What do you do if the only profession you’ve known is music, but you like to read gritty private investigator novels?
Make the investigator a “recovering” musician. The smooth segue is into public school teaching as a band director, which may be unsatisfying for any number of reasons, not all of which have to do with the job. After that, he ends up with whoever is hiring.
My undergraduate degree is a B.S. in Music Education; after three years in the Army, I got my Master’s in trumpet performance. I played and taught on a freelance basis, took orchestra auditions when I thought I had a shot. Becoming a father forced me to come to grips with the fact that my talent was inadequate to support a family, so I got a job at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville MD, right on the DC-Maryland border. After breaking up more fights than I can remember, putting out one small fire, and being assaulted by students three times in two years, I pulled the pin and looked for greener pastures.
Nick Forte’s Bachelor’s is from Northwestern, not Indiana University of Pennsylvania. This explains how he would up in Chicago, where I lived when I first started to write him. No Masters, but he also spent three years in an Army Band before returning to Chicago as a freelance player. His daughter born, he took a teaching job on the South Side (the baddest part of town), and quit after a couple of years, tired of being the only unarmed person in the rehearsal hall. The police were hiring and he aced the exam. Musicians don’t do well in paramilitary organizations with externally enforced discipline. (Trust me.) So, a PI.
Forte doesn’t play anymore, except occasionally for his own enjoyment. Music is still a part of his story. In A Small Sacrifice, he takes a date to see Maynard Ferguson and his big band. (Gives you an idea of how long this story has rattled around: Maynard died in 2006.) In yet-to-be-released tales, he stops by a jazz club to listen to a quartet and serves as his own music critic. (”A piano player who thought he was Count Basie tried to maximize his income per note by playing as few as possible. He didn’t understand Basie any better than I understand feng shui. Basie wasn’t great because he played few notes; he was great because he knew which notes not to play.”) A Chicago Symphony performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony is too much for him, as close as he came to that level, seeing his best friend in the principal trumpet chair, missing how they used to play together. A subsequent night out takes him to the House of Blues to hear Tower of Power.
So we have two men, one fictional, one corporeal. (How real I am can, apparently, be debated, as I have been asked more than once “Are you for real?”) Music degrees, military service time, teaching experience in tough schools, divorced father with separation issues concerning their daughters. I didn’t become a cop; Forte did. Forte’s issues over living away from his daughter take primacy as things move along, but he’ll always convey a sense of his willingness to drop whatever he’s doing and go back to music, if the offer were made and he had a year to get his chops in shape.
Just like me.
Bio: Dana King‘s latest novel is A Small Sacrifice ‘the story of a private investigator called in well after the fact to re-investigate that year’s Crime of the Century. Very loosely based on the Jon Benet Ramsey story, it deals with the dead child’s grandmother’s efforts to get her son’s and daughter-in-law’s names cleared. She essentially asks the detective to prove a negative. He plans to poke around and give her something palatable until he learns someone else is taking the whole thing a lot more seriously than he is.‘
A Small Sacrifice is the nominated book, the story of private detective Nick Forte and what happens when he tries to clear a man’s name and discovers why it had been muddied in the first place.
The other freebies include two books from Dana’s Penns River series, set in an economically depressed Western Pennsylvania town: Worst Enemies, and Grind Joint; as well as Wild Bill, the story of how an FBI investigation into Chicago’s organized crime goes awry when a mob war breaks out.
Over at One Bite At A Time I talk to Dana King about Roman Dalton, Blackwitch Press and more.
Paul took a chance, asking an opinionated SOB for opinions on something said SOB thinks about a lot. Case in point, my thoughts on PI movies. This is not a comprehensive list, but each movie is one I feel strongly about. You want to argue? Bring it on.
The Best of the Best
Chinatown – Close to a perfect movie. Jake Gittes is the ultimate 30s PI: sleazy, but tolerably honest. (As he says in The Two Jakes, he’s the leper with the most fingers.) Great story perfectly set in its period and operating on multiple levels, artfully directed and photographed, with superb acting. Not just possibly the greatest PI movie, among the greatest movies, period.
The Maltese Falcon – Possibly the most faithful successful screenplay adapted from a novel, tweaked to satisfy the Hayes Office. Virtually all dialog, but what dialog it is, perfectly delivered by a first-rate cast that hits all the notes. Rumor has it Ingrid Bergman was to be cast in the Mary Astor role. Could Spade have sent her over? I mean, come on, she’s Ingrid Bergman.
Angel Heart – Mickey Rourke at his disreputable best. Harry Angel has Jake Gittes’s sleaze, but lacks his inner core. Stylishly filmed to evoke post-World War II New York and Louisiana, with layers of symbolism, this is classic noir with supernatural overtones.
Blood Simple – Not really a private “investigator” movie, as there isn’t much to investigate. M. Emmett Walsh’s Loren Visser is less a PI than an amoral bastard who doesn’t know when to stop. A bad situation keeps getting worse. Another classic noir, flawed people doing what they shouldn’t, and paying for it.
Harper – Based on Ross Macdonald’s The Moving Target, Paul Newman plays Lew
Archer (here named Harper for legal reasons) with the right amount of 60s go-to-hell to keep his man with a mission from seeming archaic. William Goldman’s screenplay stays true to Macdonald’s (and Archer’s) sensitivities, and keeps the complicated plot on track.
Twilight – No, not those shitty vampire stories. Newman, again, with Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon, James Garner, and an all-star cast of character actors (if that’s not an oxymoron). Written by Robert Benton and Richard Russo, directed by Benton. The story of aging friends, impeccably acted, perfectly paced, low-key with a constant undercurrent of tension. We don’t make movies like this in the States anymore.
Hickey and Boggs – Bill Cosby and Robert Culp transfer their I Spy buddy chemistry as down-and-out private eyes who need a retainer to pay the phone bill. Bad things happen when your need for money overwhelms your judgment. Their chemistry is the thing here they get in deeper over their heads all the time.
The Two Jakes – Sequel to Chinatown. Never received the respect it deserved, as it always came off second best in the comparisons. That’s not fair; all but about two dozen of all the movies ever made come off second-best when compared to Chinatown. Harvey Keitel joins Nicholson this time, with another kick ass supporting cast.
The Big Sleep – (The 1946 version with Bogart; the 1978 effort with Mitchum sucks.) I’m sure I’d like this more if I hadn’t read the book. Screenwriters William Faulkner and Leigh Brackett worked around the Hayes Office as well as they could, but killing Eddie Mars at the end also kills half the point of the book. If I had a billion dollars I’d have this re-made as a period piece, with the original Chandler plot points. That movie would kick ass, even though we still wouldn’t know who killed the chauffer.
The Long Goodbye – Robert Altman tries to make a point by twisting Chandler’s story. If you’re going to use the title and the characters’ names, you owe them some respect; Altman shows none; the ending is so far from Marlowe’s character he might as well have grown wings. Altman should have written his own, similar, story, as the point he tried to make is well-taken, especially from a 70s perspective. That might have been a hell of a movie.
The Big Lebowski – Yeah, I know. Its only PI is Jon Polito’s brief appearance. (Jeffrey Lebowski is not a private investigator.) Still, it’s a wandering daughter job. And The Dude abides.
Dana King‘s latest novel is A Small Sacrifice ‘the story of a private investigator called in well after the fact to re-investigate that year’s Crime of the Century. Very loosely based on the Jon Benet Ramsey story, it deals with the dead child’s grandmother’s efforts to get her son’s and daughter-in-law’s names cleared. She essentially asks the detective to prove a negative. He plans to poke around and give her something palatable until he learns someone else is taking the whole thing a lot more seriously than he is.‘
DK: Yes. (Long pause.) Oh, you want more? I figured one word was as short and sharp as it got.
A Small Sacrifice is the story of a private investigator called in well after the fact to re-investigate that year’s Crime of the Century. Very loosely based on the Jon Benet Ramsey story, it deals with the dead child’s grandmother’s efforts to get her son’s and daughter-in-law’s names cleared. She essentially asks the detective to prove a negative. He plans to poke around and give her something palatable until he learns someone else is taking the whole thing a lot more seriously than he is.
PDB: Why a PI novel?
DK: The first “adult” stories I remember reading were Sherlock Holmes. As a teen, I found an old copy of Mickey Spillane’s The Twisted Thing in the basement during a cleaning and I was hooked. Raymond Chandler, Robert B. Parker, Robert Crais, Dennis Lehane, and others have proven to me the PI story, when done right, is the highest form of crime fiction. Private investigators are in the perfect position to look at issues in ways no one else can, or will. Cops don’t have the time, and civilians rarely have the expertise, at least not enough to pass a feasibility test.
If you really want an argument in favor of PI stories, ask Declan Hughes. Not only is his Ed Loy series as good as anything going right now, Declan is a passionate and articulate advocate for the form. I wish I had a transcript of the speech he gave at Bouchercon in 2008. Made me proud to write PI stories.
PDB: Which other books have you had published?
DK: Wild Bill is the story of a federal investigation into the Chicago mafia that goes wrong when a war breaks out after the boss dies of natural causes. Worst Enemies is the first of series set in a small Pennsylvania town, a working class twist on Strangers On a Train. Both were self-pubbed as e-books and are available for Kindle and Nook.
My first traditionally published, physical book is titled Grind Joint, and will be released by Stark House in the States on November 21. It’s the second in the series begun by Worst Enemies, and described what happens when a casino is sold to the town as a panacea for their financial troubles.
PDB: To blog or not to blog?
DK: To, definitely. I can’t count the number of writers I read and enjoyed because I either read their blogs first, or found about them from someone else’s blog. Blogs are a great way to give potential readers insight into how a writer views his craft and subject material, as well as provide the writer a place to work things out in his own mind. They can also become time sinks, so each writer has to keep the distraction potential under control.
DK: The Beloved Spouse and I are re-watching The Wire for the third or fourth time. (I’ve lost count.) We keep up with Longmire, as well as Copper on BBC America. Castle has become a guilty pleasure; we’re up through Season 4 on Netflix.
In the past month we’re also been lucky to catch Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy with Gary Oldman, along with The Recruit with Colin Farrell and Al Pacino. The movie that has stuck with me most over the past few months is In Bruges, with Farrell (again), Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes.
Musically, Mahler’s Sixth Symphony has forced its way into my CD player once or twice a week for a month now. Not sure what’s up with that.
PDB: Where can people find out more about your writing?
DK: The best place is probably my blog, One Bite at a Time. I’ve been better about posting there lately, and try to get something up two or three times a week