I’m very pleased to see one of my stories reviewed at THE DROWNING MACHINE
Pop over and check out what they have to say about The Friend Catcher
I’m very pleased to see one of my stories reviewed at THE DROWNING MACHINE
Pop over and check out what they have to say about The Friend Catcher
Michael J Solender has asked for some Goodbyes, Hellos and favorite flashes from some friends of the NOT. http://notfromhereareyou.blogspot.com/2009/12/not-end-of-world-just-end-of-year.html I’m very pleased that the talented Laura Eno has chosen my tale The Friend Catcher as her fave flash story of 2009.
My own choice was BEHIND THE CURTAIN by: Kieran Shea
HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone and thanks for stopping by.
Full of Crow Press have a bundle of cool ebooks available for download. I have a story in one of them-LESS THAN THREE– called M.
FOC genius Lynn Alexander, along with Doug Mathewson, has also produced the first issue of Blink-Ink -Print. A FREE PDF is now available
Blink-Ink Print #1 features writers like Offbeat Jim, Michale J Solender,Jelena Vencl Ohlrogge, Kristin Fouquet, Zack Moll and even me with OLD TOWN, MIDNIGHT.
Showcase – Frank Duffy
Biography: Frank Duffy was born in Liverpool in 1971. He started writing when he was just eight years old, but it has only been in the last five years that he has started writing seriously. His inspirations are varied, though he has a passion for all things dark and eerie. He has a number of publishing credentials to his name, having placed stories in both the U.K. and abroad in such magazines as Here & Now: Tales of Urban Fantasy, The Ethereal Gazette, Visions, Insidious Reflections and Estronomicon.
He currently lives and works in Poland as private school teacher, in the fascinating city that is Warsaw. Frank lives with his partner Ewa, his two dogs B and Mr Mole, and devotes most of his time to thinking-up new ways to unnerve himself.
Published stories: The Seat (Here & Now), The Box (The Ethereal Gazette), Where It All Started (The Ethereal Gazette), The Examples (Insidious Reflections), The Inevitable Change (Visions), Others’ Pain (Visions), Cycle (Pulp Metal Magazine). Frank’s short story False Pilgrim is now available to read in Estronomicon, the magazine produced by Screaming Dreams Press.
At present Frank has half-a-dozen stories under option. He is also hoping to place a novella, a near-future satire called Leaving The Room. Work in progress: The Dark Soldier, (a novella), co-author Steve Jensen. Deadline, (a novel). False Pilgrim and Other Stories (a collection).
Please give us a little background on yourself and your writing career.
Frank: I was born in Liverpool in 1971, but grew up in large provincial village just down the road. I attended a Catholic all-boys school, which was still in those days floundering under the misapprehension that caning and general acts of arbitrary violence against their pupils was an acceptable norm of the education system. Naturally, it has since made its way into my work.
As for my writing career I’ve been writing ‘seriously’ for five years now. When I say seriously, I mean that I started to submit my work. I’ve written for as long as I can remember, which is to say since I was eight years old. I’ve placed stories on both sides of the Atlantic, and I seem to hover between what the industry calls speculative fiction (when they don’t want to say horror), and outright bona-fide horror.
‘She blinked her eyes rapidly, batting the gentle tide of white which was slowly submerging her and made another decision. It would hurt, but she had no choice but to act. Nicky counted…one…two…three…, and with a cry that escaped without her knowing it, she was sitting upright. Her head did not spin or roll, but instead obstinately refused the gravity of her concussion. She dug her hands into the snow that bordered her like the chalk outline of a corpse in a murder scene.‘ (‘For Me’ by Frank Duffy)
When did you first aspire to become an author, and was there a particular book which inspired this?
Frank: Actually, the first thing that made want to aspire to be an author, wasn’t a book, but a teacher I had in junior school. Her name was Mrs. Cardwell, and she used read to us (‘us’ being a relative term… children from my year aged 7, and the ‘bigger’ pupils who were 8 or 9) from a book of traditional ghost stories every Monday morning, straight after school assembly. Of course this was a children’s book, but the effect was nonetheless quite staggering. I remember it was raining outside, and all the children, about forty of us in total, sat around her while she read to us. It was quite exciting as you can imagine for a child of seven.
At the end of this she read Walter De La Mare’s poem, ‘The Listener’ to us, and asked the older kids to go home and write a story on what they felt the poem was about. Us younger kids weren’t asked to do this, but nevertheless I went home and wrote my own version of events anyway.
The first book which had an impact on me was most probably Ramsey Campbell’s collection ‘Demons By Daylight’. I remember being too young to appreciate what was going on when I read the stories, but I knew that there was something special happening.
The first novel that had a similar influence on me would have to be Stephen King’s ‘Christine’. I’ve gone back many times to ‘Demons By Daylight’ because there’s so much to savor, and as an aspiring writer, there’s an awful lot to learn from reading it time and again, but I haven’t read ‘Christine’ in over 25 years.
‘Father Jose got out of the van. He walked along the pavement and up to the back of the vehicle. Inside something thumped the walls. The metal rippled from the repetition of the commotion, concentric circles of violence and emotion that drew the attention of nobody but a young boy in a sleeping bag. The priest opened the back of the van, stood aside as the door slid upwards, rolling and twisting on its motored chain. He pulled himself into the back and crouched down by Liu’s eldest daughter. He had shackled her to the floor, her arms and legs encased in heavy bracelets chained to iron loops set into the floor. He produced the fourth key and held it front of the face of the creature.”It’s time,” he said.’ (‘The Last Supper’ by Frank Duffy)
Which contemporary writers do you admire?
Frank: Obviously like a lot of other aspiring writers in horror, Ramsey Campbell is without doubt somebody I have admired for a long time. But I tend to find that the writers I admire are usually outside of horror, such as Penelope Fitzgerald, Michael Chabon, and Truman Capote.
Of course there are many writers in horror whom I do admire, and whose work I love, but they are too numerous to mention here.
What do you consider to be the major themes in your writing?
Frank: If you’d asked me that several years ago I might not have been able to answer. It took other people to point out what was staring me in the face, namely that a lot of my stories deal with people who feel out of place, not lost in the physical sense, but somewhere in a mental landscape of their own design.
‘Simmons lay half on the bed, his back arched, the woman with the broken nose embracing him, pulling him towards her with one hand. Her other hand was in his partner’s mouth, up to the wrist, bulging in the depths of his throat; a face Harrison had trouble recognizing swung towards him, its eyes pleading. The woman grasped Simmons tighter as she forced the hand further, and slowly moved her head in Harrison’s direction. “He needs more than me,” she said. His partner flailed a useless hand at the naked back of the woman. “Want a try?” she asked.’
(‘The Signal Block’ by Frank Duffy)
What do you feel is the most important and fully-realized story you’ve written?
Frank: It changes week to week. But for now I’d have to go with, ‘And When The Lights Came On’. This story encapsulates what I want to do stylistically, but more importantly, I think it shows me finally embracing the story, the idea, running with it in as many directions as possible, letting the beast out of the bag.
Which books have influenced your thinking, and your writing, more than any other? And whose writing style do you aspire to equal?
Frank: That’s such a difficult question to answer because I’m always discovering something new every year. The list is fortunately endless. But two examples of the kind of work I have recently been thinking about would be Paul Auster’s ‘The Music of Chance’, which showed me the many wonderful ways in which direction and narrative can be used to complete a truly personal perspective, while Ramsey Campbell’s ‘Midnight Sun’has been instrumental in showing me the awe of traditionalism in the supernatural can be reworked into a modern setting to create something at once beautiful and horrifying.
I would be a liar if I said I didn’t aspire to write like these writers, but of all the writers whose work technically impresses me, that would have to be Michael Chabon. I want to write like Frank Duffy, but I wouldn’t mind having a little bit of what he’s had.
How has living in Poland influenced your work?
Frank: Enormously. Poland is much like England in that its history is reflected in everything you look at. Whether it’s a derelict piece of communist architecture, a brand spanking new residential block, or Chopin’s former residence, the physical landscape generates the kind of feeling I get from being anywhere in England.
Which is surprising given that Polish people in general are not at all superstitious, and have no time for horror. Given their history that isn’t surprising.
‘The stark brilliance of the underground had begun to show him things he’d rather have not thought about; the stamp of indefinite weariness on so many faces had shocked him; the seemingly arbitrary explosions of unexplained violence had given each train ride an abnormal musicality all of its own…the screams, the yelling…the uncontrolled language. Of course the city had eventually clamped down on it, deploying regular patrols in a pattern difficult to predict, but the faces never changed, nor did the sense that the train was taking them someplace other than home or work.’ (‘And When the Lights Came On’ by Frank Duffy)
What are your future writing plans?
Frank: Well, I’m working on a collection at the moment, and after that I’m probably going to rework a near-future satire. My ultimate goal is to find a publisher for a novel I’m working on called ‘Deadline’. But generally just to keep writing.
Visit Frank’s website here: http://coaction.wordpress.com/
Read False Pilgrim by Frank Duffy here: http://www.screamingdreams.com/ezine.html
If you haven’t checked out Sandra Seamans’ MY LITTLE CORNER, you really should. Sandra is one of the best short story writers around and, as well as her musings, MY LITTLE CORNER is an essential database of short story markets.
Sandra has chosen her top ten online short stories and, along with the likes of Hilary Davidson, Patti Abbott and Cormac Brown, she has picked my story The Tut which was at BEAT TO A PULP earlier this year.
Thanks very much Sandra and also David and Elaine at BTAP!
The link to MY LITTLE CORNER is:
The link to The Tut is:
Okay, so Kerrie at MYSTERIES IN PARADISE is putting together a list of the best crime novels of 2009. I’ve come up with ten crime books that I really enjoyed. In no particular order and only including one book from each author – I could have put all of Ray Banks’ Cal Innes Quartet in there, no problem, for example. Not all the books were published in 2009 but, I think, most were.
Slammer – Alan Guthrie
Killer – Dave Zeltserman
Broken Dreams – Nick Quantrill
Paying For It – Tony Black
Beast Of Burden – Ray Banks
Dead Men’s Dust – Matt Hilton
Deadfolk – Charlie Williams
Sanctuary – Ken Bruen
The Bloomsday Dead – Adrian McKinty
The Desert Hedge Murders – Patricia Stoltey
The link to Kerrie’s blog is here: http://paradise-mysteries.blogspot.com/2009/12/your-best-crime-fiction-reads-in-2009.html
Festivals in Europe are big business. Unlike conventions in the English-speaking world, European festivals are usually organised with the assistance of much in the way of subsidies, public and private funding, to the extent that the competition between cities and organisers is savage and that festivals almost take on a political nature. Versailles has an event devoted to films about aviation, Spoleto features opera, Pordenone silent films, Saint Malo has travel writing, etc… and woe is the town or city that does not feature an artistic festival of some sort on its calendar. At last count, there are almost 2000 art festivals in Europe alone every year, with subjects ranging from the popular to the most arcane. And crime fiction has its share: Gijon in Spain, Cognac, Lyon, Frontignan, and a much-lamented event in Grenoble and many others in France, Mantova, Trevi and Brescia in Italy. But one of the most important ones is Courmayeur’s Noir in Fest, which takes place every December in the trendy ski resort at the bottom of Mont Blanc on the Italian side of the tunnel under the mountains. Where all these festivals differ strongly from the Anglosaxon model is that they mostly organised by professionals rather than fans, although access is free to the general public and no costly registration is involved. Balancing the budget is not the organiser’s main aim, and as long as the event generates enough press and media, both regional and national, the funders appear to be satisfied as do the hosting cities and towns. I was invited in the early 1980s to Cattolica on the Italian Adriatic when the festival was still called Mystfest (and still continues to this day under that moniker, although with a different emphasis) when the year’s event was focused on Jim Thompson. I had earlier as a publisher revived Thompson in the UK in my short-lived Black Box Thriller imprint (alongside David Goodis, Horace McCoy, Cornell Woolrich, Anthony Boucher, Fredric Brown, W.R. Burnett, Marc Behm and others). This was a whole year before my buddy Barry Gifford also picked up on Thompson and some of my other rediscoveries with his Black Lizard list) and Stephen Frears was in the process of filming THE GRIFTERS from Don Westlake’s script, and was asked to speak about him. I wrote a piece on Thompson and his legacy for the festival’s programme book and also managed to bring along some rushes of the movie which was still being edited as a preview. The festival offered both film and literary events and allowed me to meet a number of Italian and French attending writers and critics, as well as Roger L. Simon, Stuart Kaminsky, Julian Semyonov and other mystery writers who had also been invited,. Lasting friendships were made amongst a most convivial atmosphere of sea, sun, Italian food and wine and culture.
During the course of the following year Elisa Resegotti, who then organised the festival’s literary events, and her colleague Marina Fabbri would occasionally call me back in London asking for addresses and phone numbers of US and British authors or filmmakers they wanted to contact, as well as for advice and recommendations about future guests and possible movies they could screen. A year almost went by when I had another telephone call, which ended with a friendly “See you in 2 weeks, then”. My reaction was “Are you inviting me back?” After all, the festival (and most European events likewise) was in the habit of paying for guest’s fares (and their companion), and also paid for our hotels and meals, so this was a wonderful freebie to say the least.“Of course” was the answer and I was informed that I could pick up my ticket at the Alitalia offices on Regent Street. There was no need to ask me twice! On arrival at that year’s festival, I picked up the complimentary copy of the lavish festival souvenir book cum programme in my hotel room, and lo and behold I was now listed as one of the festival’s official overseas advisers. To cut a long story short, I’ve been attending the festival every year since for the last 21 years and it is always one of the highlights of my criminal and personal year. The initial directors of the festival were two major Italian film critics, Giorgio Gosetti and Irene Bignardi. Following my second year of attendance (other guests included James Ellroy, Derek Raymond, Agatha Christie’s grandson Mathew Prichard and J.G. Ballard amongst others), the organisers had a fallout with the city and transferred the festival to the Mediterranean resort of Viareggio, with Bignardi moving on to take over the Venice film festival (and later Locarno) and Giorgio promoting Marina to co-director. The two years in Viareggio were splendid, with guests including Krizstof Kieszlowski, Nicolas Roeg, Quentin Tarantino, Frederick Forsyth, Robert Bloch and many others, and the entertainment budget on the extreme side of munificence what with all guests being given passes to the best restaurants in town and as much time spent at bars and meals as at specific film and lit events. It was therefore no surprise that after 2 years in Viareggio, we heard that a handful of town notables responible for the funding had ended up in jail for corruption and the festival no longer the recipient of such generosity had to decamp. After some nervous months, Giorgio and Marina soon informed us they had come to an agreement with the town of Courmayeur in the Valle d’Aosta to move the festival to the mountains, and from June to December. In 2010 we will be celebrating twenty years in Courmayeur and what an adventure it has been.
MAXIM JAKUBOWSKI ( his Wikipedia entry is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxim_Jakubowski ) is a publisher and former owner of the world-famous Murder One bookshop in London’s Charing Cross Road. As well as being a writer and editor of various cult publishing imprints, he is acknowledged as a disturbing and controversial voice in contemporary fiction. His collections have sold massively, he is a regular on TV and radio where he is an expert on crime, erotica and film, and a Guardian columnist. He is literary director of the prestigious CRIME SCENE festival held at London’s NFT.
PRAISE FOR MAXIM JAKUBOWSKI
“An unholy mixture of Jim Thompson and American Psycho” – Time Out
“It memorably evokes the ghosts of Cain and Hammett and delivers some of the scariest writing since American Psycho” – City Life (UK)
“The hard sexy edge of Henry Miller and the redeeming grief of Jack Kerouac.” – Mystery Scene
“Proudly pornographic… the most comprehensive rendering of S&M variations ever to make it in to mainstream fiction” – The Literary Review
Books by Maxim Jakubowski
Life in the World of Women (1997)
It’s You That I Want To Kiss (1998)
Because I Thought I Loved You (1999)
The State of Montana (2000)
On Tenderness Express (2001)
Kiss Me Sadly (2002)
Confessions of a Romantic Pornographer (2004)
Blink|Ink Online is a website intended to showcase short fiction, of about 50 words.
They publish microfiction (nano, smudge, shorts) on their website http://blink-ink.com/content/ and have also produced a print collection.
I’ve had a few stories at the website and yesterday I was pleased as punchdrunk to receive a copy of Blink Ink Print Issue One.
Contributors include Michael J. Solender, Offbeatjim Wittenberg, Jelena Venel Ohlrogge and a brilliant story –Illusion – by A. L. Dresser. Photos are from the super talented Kristin Fouquet and I also have a story: Old Town, Midnight.
Details of how to get Blink Ink Print are at the website.
Blink|Ink also features art, multimedia projects, photography, and more.
For Submission Inquiries: email@example.com
For General Questions/Website/Concerns:
For Blink|Ink Print:
For Blink|Ink Projects, Web, Art, Multimedia, Audio, Etc.
Visit the Blink|Ink Gallery, where you can find collections, featured artists, mail art, photography, asemic writing, and more.
For information about art|multimedia at Blink|Ink, contact:
That first morning I ran into Brian at Joanne’s cubicle. “Did you hear?” he asked. “Rodney King trial. The cops. Not guilty.”
I looked at him, and for once the stupid little preppie and I had the same thought. “Head for the hills,” we said in unison.
By two o’clock, the radio stations had transferred to continuous live helicopter news. I could hear the stress in the reporter’s voices. People were being attacked at Normandy and Florence. Looters were breaking into stores in East Los Angeles. Fires were being started.
At three o’clock, my boss appeared at my office door. For once she seemed as frightened and as human as the rest of us.
“I’m letting everybody go home early,” she said. It was three o’clock, two hours before normal quitting time. How generous of your tight ass, I thought.
Home? How could I get home? Getting to the San Fernando Valley from Beverly Hills, I might as well have been trying to get to Russia. I called Ken and told him I was on the way to his house.
I watched the eastern sky blacken as I waited in gridlock on the side streets in Beverly Hills.
I had met Ken on a blind date, one that I furiously resisted for weeks because of the endless years of unsuccessful blind dates. I had sworn them off and I wasn’t about to waver. Truth is, the fun in fucking men on the first date went right out the window when I stopped drinking, and there was nothing to say this would be anything other than a first date. The guy sounded like he was eighty years old. The first time he had called I told him I was much too busy to talk and to call me back in three days. And he called after three days – who is this idiot I thought – and even though I was rude to him on the second phone call just like on the first, he still wanted to meet.
Did you lose a bet or something? I thought. Even with that intriguing raspy voice, I didn’t want to meet him. I drove down Wilshire Boulevard to the restaurant, bristling. Eat your lunch and get out of there, I told myself.
But there he stood in the parking lot, with a face like Kevin Kline’s. He wasn’t eighty, he was more like forty and looking like a freaking angel sent to redeem me.
He lived in the living room of his parent’s rambling ranch house on Airdrome off of Robertson in the Fairfax district. The house was stripped to the studs for a major remodeling job. His parents had moved out and he was there to protect the place, to some odd work around the house and to keep from paying rent. We walked on clear plastic tarp to get to the only bathroom on the other side of the house, a house that stretched for miles.
His bed, high up on a wooden captain’s bed that he built, was stationed in the living room, the only room not completely gutted. We made love on that bed in front of a broad picture window where silk lined drapes separated us from the Orthodox Jewish families walking to temple on Saturday mornings.
He liked the fact that I would stay in the house in the evenings and watch television, waiting for him to come home from various jobs. Depending on the neighborhood he was working, he could be home at 11. If it was Brentwood or Beverly Hills, it was usually later. People there had much more involved burglary systems, so it took longer to get inside. He’d come home at 1 or 2, exhilarated, but refusing to tell me about it or show me the take. He didn’t want to make me an accessory. Fine, I said. Just come to bed.
The sky to the east was completely black by the time I pulled up in front of Ken’s house. He had no food in the house except for a measly orange chicken Lean Cuisine in the freezer.
“We can’t go anywhere. There’s a curfew on.” He was standing in front of the television and watching replays of Reginald Denny getting his head bashed in.
“Fuck curfew,” I said. “I’m starving. There’s got to be something open.”
We drove down Robertson. The street was deserted, not a car in sight. I kept a look out for black and whites, Ken looked for an open store. Frustrated, we pulled into the Montgomery Wards parking lot. At the far end of the lot stood the hulk of a Toys R Us store, dark inside. But a door was open, a battered white Toyota parked outside. Three other cars pulled up in unison, people streaming out and sprinting into the store.
Watching the looters come out of the store with arms full of electronics was mesmerizing.
Ken looked hypnotized. “You know, we should get in on this.”
“No, Ken. We need to get the hell out of here,” The thump thump thump of a helicopter was approaching. I started to pound the inside of the door, feeling that familiar urge to jump out of the car and bolt. He gave me a swift look of anger.
We went back to the house in silence. We split the Lean Cuisine and turned on the television. And there was that stupid Toys R Us being looted, the whole thing on television. Apparently it wasn’t a cop helicopter that I heard, but a news helicopter.
He shook his head. “Man, that would have been some easy pickins.”
“What, for cartons of Barbies? Give me a break,” I retorted, embarrassed over my slip-up.
Later, he grabbed my hand. “Come on,” he said. “We can see a lot from the roof.”
We climbed up via a ledge outside the bathroom window.
“I’ve had to come up here a few times to fix things,” he said, straddling the peak like he was king of the world.
To the left the plume of smoke from East Los Angeles was as tall and as broad as a dust storm. The only sounds were constant sirens in the distance. The Toys R Us forgotten, I was never happier.
“I need to go check on my grandmother,” Ken said two days later. Curfew had been lifted.
“My mom’s worried. No one’s answering at the switchboard. She wants to make sure everything’s ok.”
Ken’s grandmother had Alzheimer’s and was imprisoned in a convalescent home, an old converted hotel on Fairfax Boulevard just below the Tower Records on Sunset, a complex hidden by a concrete wall sprinkled with graffiti. The switchboard was fine – like everywhere else, the phone service was erratic.
Ken and I sat on the window seat in Grandma’s room. Next to me was a dinette table, a small television with rabbit years and a blue bud vase the only ornaments. The afternoon sun was starting to pale.
Grandma With Alzheimer’s asked him questions. Had he retired yet? How was his wife? “No, Grandma, you’re thinking of my father. I haven’t retired. I’m too young. I’m not married.”
“You’re still living in that place on Gramercy?”
“No, Grandma. Dad lived there before I was born.”
“Do you have any children?” she asked.
“Because I haven’t met the right woman yet, Grandma.”
I looked at him, waiting for the punch line.
It didn’t come.
We got back in his truck. I stared at him.
“What the hell was that?” I asked. He said nothing. Just grimaced and shrugged his shoulders.
We went back to the house in silence.
“Look,” he said when we had parked.
Here it comes, I thought.
“I just can’t promise anything.”
“ Why the hell not? Either you do or you don’t want this.”
“The truth is that I…I don’t know…I’ve always imagined myself with another type of girl.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“Christ, Ken. You break into houses for a living. I’m the one with the straight job here.”
“Well, I know. I just…I don’t know.”
“You don’t know what?”
“Look, I can’t really say right now. I just don’t want you to get the wrong idea.”
“Let’s go back up to the roof,” I said later that evening. Ken looked at me, puzzled, then relieved. Apparently I had gotten over the afternoon.
We climbed up again, through the bathroom window, out on the window shelf. Ken pulled me up onto the roof again.
We sat with our feet braced to keep our butts sliding down the shingles. Below the pathway gracefully laid the way to the front door.
Maybe we could start over, I thought. I nestled next to him, placing my right arm behind his back for balance.
At first he looked ahead, and then turned and looked east.
“We should have done it. We could have made some money.”
“That Toys R Us.”
“You’re still mad about that?”
“Hey. All it would have taken would have been a run in and a run out. Nothing to it. There were so many people in there, no way was one black and white going to run us all in. IF they showed up.”
“Would it help if I went and bought you a G.I. Joe?” I rubbed his arm, trying to make a joke.
This scared me. He was freaking mad at me for not wanting to rob a Toys R Us.
“I just didn’t see the point in taking the risk,” I continued.
“Well, that’s just it. You never want to take risks, do you?”
I sat there, looking west at the sunset. Everything was in a haze, even in Santa Monica and over the ocean. It made for a spectacular sunset.
I placed my hand between his shoulder blades and pushed.
He tried to scramble for his balance, his arms flailing. For a second I thought he was going to grab me in his panic and pull us both off the roof.
I planted a foot on his hairy back and pushed hard.
I looked down at him face up on the pathway, motionless, his grey eyes staring up at me, a pool of blood spreading underneath his head.
“I guess I’m the right woman now,” I whispered.
Sirens wailed on Robertson Boulevard but I knew it would take the cops hours to get here and only after someone found the body. As I climbed down the roof and scooted through the bathroom window, I looked to the eastern sky towards Watts and South Central being rebuilt right at that very moment.
Laurie Powers is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. She is the granddaughter of Paul Powers, a prolific pulp western writer from the 1930s, and has recently published his memoir, Pulp Writer: Twenty Years in the American Grub Street. Laurie writes on her blog, Laurie’s Wild West, about the history of pulp fiction among other topics. She primarily writes memoir and historical pieces. L.A. Riot is her first work of fiction in over ten years.
Link to Laurie’s Wild West: www.lauriepowerswildwest.blogspot.com
Link to Pulp Writer web site: www.pulpwriter.com
PULP METAL MAGAZINE is here: http://pulpmetalmagazine.webs.com/
There’s a load of new stuff at PULP METAL MAGAZINE.
Whatever Happened To Cuddy Wiffer? is my new I DIDN’T SAY THAT, DID I? column; the fiction section features work from Jason Michel, James Hilton and part two of Frank Duffy’s wonderful CYCLE; Ghost Story By Peter Straub – A Review By Steve Jensen is in the Non-fiction section;the brilliant Tim Hall has Business Reply Mail in the Art Comics section and in the music section Pablo D’Stair gives us his thoughts and recollections of the band Bellflur t
Football Is My Life by Matthew Funk
Everybody wants to score some happiness these days. Happiness is the new religion—it shoved aside the health craze 80s, the head case 70s, the Call of Duty spit and polish satisfaction that kept the Greatest Generation’s hearts pumping even when they were powering down scotches in a car without seatbelts. I’ve lived in Santa Monica, California, in Xenia, Ohio and in the big, Red State hemorrhoid of Orange County, and no matter where I am, folks are looking to jack up their happiness.
I’ve found what their looking for. This score is never dry, and the man is always on time with the goods. I have a simple solution for every sad sack that pushed a pen or smiled through her teeth while knowing—knowing like it was written in red paint on every raw nerve—they deserve better than what they’re putting up with just to eat and sleep indoors.
I have a simple solution, and that’s a big part of what makes it good. The best solutions are the simple ones—easy to practice and a breeze to remember. At the root of the Global Happiness Deficit is that people overcomplicate the problem. No matter how green the cud they’re chewing is, they’re always wondering how fat the color is on the other side of the fence. People with money worry about their soul. People with soul worry about their bank account. Everybody worries about their health, and if they don’t, they worry about what shit they’re missing out on in CNN or the Crystal Cathedral or the NY Times Best Seller list while they’re working their asses off at the gym. I’ve seen a man with enough cash to travel the world and enough friends to never be lonely doing it—the very model of success—melt into a whining wreck because he just couldn’t score a convincing hit of happiness.
The first trick to finding happiness is just like scoring any drug—you accept how easy it is to get it. The next trick is to turn on your television Sunday morning. Happiness is waiting for you, and it’s louder than the commercials.
Football is happiness.
Now, of course, a nod to my international brothers out there: You’re all set with your version of football, and so long as that ticks off all the boxes I’m going to cover here, we needn’t quarrel over whose football is the “real” football. The following diatribe is to extol the American sport of football—NFL football—not to tear anybody else’s faith down.
And that’s the first perk to football—the reason why it trumps finding spiritual fulfillment through telling your beads or intoning a mantra any day of the week: Football has all the zealotry of faith with none of the sniffy doctrine. No one is turned away from the altar of the NFL. WASPs, blacks, gays, chicks, Jews, sinners and saints and suck-ups alike can all get off on watching the elaborate brutality of the grid iron. Better yet, the services are always on schedule, broadcasting live coverage of the Apocalypse in the here-and-now.
Fans, you don’t have to wait to see if you’re among the twelve tribes or if you’ve made it onto the lists of the chosen—Judgment goes down and everyone’s invited. Miracles don’t have to be mined from between oft-contradictory lines of seven-point font—you watch them happen with every 40+ yard pass and every desperation onside kick. There is no boring sermonizing, no need to wrench yourself into some weird posture named after a flower, no need to skip chapters like Numbers or Corinthians to get to the good parts. The drama is wall to wall. The blood is all over the field. All you need to do is to be what you are—what God or Brahma or formless chance made you—an animal.
We’re all animals, and it’s our right to eat. The satisfaction of being warm and loud and well-fed is something we all were born believing in our sinews that we deserved. A lot of nonsense follows to distract us, but at our core, we can depend on the primal thrill of a full gut and a head full of adrenaline more than we can on the dollar standard or the Democratic Congress. But we’re human animals; we have something in us—dress it in a Hallmark prom dress and call it a soul, or kick it in the gutter and call it perversity—that has an appetite for wonders. We want to see shit get really weird and wild. It takes all kinds, but whether we dream of true romance or true crime or God’s providence, we all need a break from the normal to have our bit of happiness. And for that, my friends, we have the football field—shameless, super-hi-def purveyor of fourth down conversions, Hail Mary passes and broken bones.
If you need data to support this hypothesis, I present you with a control group: The small Texas town. In small Texas towns, football presides in its proper place above heaven and Earth alike, and rightly so. This is because small Texas towns are humanity boiled down to the basic human element. They don’t have any money, they don’t have any museums, they don’t have any sure way out, down the road or under it. They don’t even have real horizons out there—just a knife’s edge of a desolate meridian, all highway and no destination. But they have football. And football will never kick you out of your own house after you done her wrong. Football will never set a collection’s agency on you or issue a bench warrant with your name on it. There are no sins in football, only penalty flags. And while football giveth and football taketh away, football never leaves. This is the faith that those whose lives are just a test of faith, every second after the next, can depend on.
Trust in football, my friends. Believe in it, and it will make you happy. You can worry about bills day to day, and you can worry about the hereafter, and you may still be disappointed to find a car wreck or a carcinoma cutting your perfect plan off at the knees. You can worry about making a difference, and work toward it, and still find in the last accounting that you come up short. You can worry about love and love will still break your heart. But football, a game of inches and intricate rules, is just complex enough to sponge up all the worry you can ever imagine, and never fails to deliver the goods. If you want to actually get a life lesson from football—if you are blue-balled for some doctrine to tell you right from wrong—it is this; it is the First Commandment of the NFL:
You can be in the best possible condition, and you can be on the best coordinated team, and you can and you must play as hard as you are able, but you may still lose—you may still fail to get that inch that carries you forward to The Big Win—you may fail to find those inches and you will have to try again.
This is what life is about: Be the best, try the hardest, expect nothing and go for the win.
That’s happiness. That’s what the fans tune in every Friday night, every Saturday day, every Sunday and that’s why the true fans believe there is nothing more important. This is what we tune in to see and why the players take the field.
Politics, poetic truth, the pulpit—that’s a chump’s game, with no real way to cash in your chips no matter how much you pay into the house. Football will deliver a miracle you can taste at the back of your yelling throat, yard by yard. Football is the game that matters.
Football is my life.
Matthew Funk is a professional writer in marketing for corporate America, a writing mentor and the author of several manuscripts that illuminate the beauty of human extremes. A graduate of the Professional Writing MFA at USC, his work is also featured on his Web site.
Sins of the Father
Kelsey sat on the floor of the small camper-RV. The lights were out. A hard rain beat down on the tin roof like a symphony of pounding devils. And it was COLD. She watched her breath rise like a soft, puffy cloud.
Her right hand was throbbing. Blood leaked slowly out of her black leather glove. She held it gingerly. Wincing with pain.
‘Fuck,’ she moaned softly.
She reached into the side pocket of her motorcycle jacket, pulled out a small, burlap bundle and carefully unwrapped it. In it were four fingers. Her fingers. One of them with a small diamond ring. She shuddered. Carefully wrapped them back up and slid it back into her pocket.
‘How am I gonna shoot with my left hand,’ she mumbled to herself.
It was supposed to be an easy job. Rob the Tataglia card game. Then kill ‘em all. Yeah, right. Knock off a group of low-level mobsters? What the fuck was she thinking?
Ten-thousand dollars was what she was thinking.
But the whole thing blew up in her face. What the fuck happened? Was it a set-up?
It was like they were waiting for her. She KICKED the door down, raised her 9mm Beretta at them, and she was grabbed from behind. Whirled around. SHOVED into a chair. Arms held down on the table.
And then the chopping started. One finger at a time. Every ten minutes.
Gave her lots of time to think about the next one.
But she was good. She didn’t give him up. She couldn’t.
Not her father.
But then, a miracle. Fucking crazy Westies came in blasting, killing them. Taking their money. Leaving Kelsey hiding under the table. Pretending to be dead.
She looked around in the camper. Not abandoned. Someone lived here. There was food in the fridge. Well, a couple of TV dinners. A six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Great taste, this guy had.
She looked at the stove. Had an idea. She needed to cauterize the wounds on her finger stumps. No time to worry about reattaching them.
See, Kelsey had to go hunt down dear old papa while she still had the element of surprise. It wasn’t going to be easy, as he changed hideouts as often as most people change their sheets.
She looked at the nasty bed.
Well, most people.
Kelsey went to the stove. Turned it on. Watched the black coils slowly turn red. Slowly, achingly pulled off her glove. White hot pain shot up her arm. The glove hit the floor with a sloppy, wet SPLAT.
She spied a bottle of whiskey. Kessler’s. ‘Smooth as Silk.’ My ass. She grabbed the bottle, twisted off the cap. Took a long drink. Wiped her mouth. Watched the blood from her stumps drip, drip, drip on the fake-tiled shitty linoleum floor. Bent the bottle up again, drained it.
Dropped the bottle. POP. Glass splintered like snowflakes across her boots. She closed her eyes, feeling the booze go right to her head.
Kelsey opened her eyes. Stared at the oven. The burner now bright red.
‘Just do it,’ she mumbled. ‘Get it over with.’
Kelsey SHOVED her hand onto the coil. A SIZZLING sound. The smell of charred flesh. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she thought, ‘it really does smell like pork.’
Kelsey SCREAMED. Ran to the sink. Turned on the tap. Held her ruined hand under the cold water. Instant relief.
Outside the tiny trailer a man in black peered in the window. Rough-looking, about fifty. Shock of grey-black hair, dressed in a filthy, grey jumpsuit. Small, piggy black eyes. Bruised and battered face. Smiling a smile of pure evil. He pulled a black snow mask down over his face. Opened the door and went inside.
Kelsey wrapped a wet hand towel around her ruined hand. Looked up, startled at the unexpected visitor.
‘Sorry to barge in like this,’ she sneered. ‘But it was an emergency. I’ll pay for the damages.’
The hulking figure stared at her through the slits in the woolen mask. Silent. Ominous.
‘Okay, you’re pissed off. I get that,’ Kelsy said, holding up her hand. ‘But I just lost four fingers, and I’m not in the best mood. So if you’ll just excuse me, I’ll get the fuck out of your hair, and we can both continue our wonderful little lives.’
The figure whipped out a black matte Glock. Aimed it at her.
Kelsey grabbed a cast iron skillet off the stove and HURLED it at his head, CRACK. He went down, THWUMP. She jumped on top of him, trying to grab his gun. But the man was strong, and only dazed from the blow to the head.
His gun went SPINNING across the room.
They wrestled across the filthy floor, trying to reach it, BANGING into cabinets. Kelsey tried to grab her gun with her left hand, but the figure was too strong. He FLIPPED her over, pinning her to the floor with his beefy girth. CRACKED her across the face with his gun.
She spat blood, teeth and drool in his face. The figure ROARED with anger, raised his haunches like wrestler, and BANGED down with all his weight on her ribs.
Kelsey spun her head back and forth, looking for something. Saw an empty steel doggie bowl. This guy has a dog? She GRABBED it and CRACKED it on the side of the figure’s head, CLANG. He stopped, shook his head, and Kelsey SMASHED it under his chin, HARD.
He flew backwards, landing on his back with a THUD. Dazed. Reeling from the blows to the head.
Kelsey got up, wincing from the pain of her cracked ribs. Struggled to get her gun out. Aimed it at him with her good hand.
‘Don’t move, asshole. I’ve had a REALLY bad day, and I’m not in the fucking MOOD.’
The figure groaned underneath the mask. Blood slowly flowed out onto his neck.
‘Take your fucking mask off. I like to see who I’m shooting.’
No response. Then … what was that? Was the bastard chuckling at her?
‘NOBODY laughs at me, fuck-head!’
Kelsy FIRED off a round. Wood SPLINTERED to the side of his head.
He laughed louder.
Kelsey SCREAMED. Fired off five rapid shots in succession. BANG. A bullet in his arm. BANG. The next, his shoulder. BANG. Then the side of his head. BANG. his right eye. BANG. Then his left.
She walked over to the hulking figure. Now still. YANKED his mask off, to reveal a dark-haired man.
Who looked JUST like her.
Kelsey looked at him sadly.
‘My father, who art in heaven’ …
In Hollywood the line between the living and the dead is permeable and many screenwriters exist in a zombified state, souls long gone, boney fingers tapping on keyboards as if guided by some unseen force, cranking out screenplays about zombies, something they know well.
Guys like John Fante, Jim Thompson, and Horace McCoy are good examples of cool novelists turned into Hollywood zombies. Booze, bad times, and producers stole their souls. Finally, a sense of artistic waste washed over them like listless waves carrying spent condoms sloshing ashore on the sands beneath the Santa Monica pier, dazzling lights spinning in the dark above.
Everyone’s favorite Hollywood zombie-writer is a fictional character in a film, a poor sap who ended up face down in a swimming pool. It’s not often that films are narrated by dead men, but in Sunset Boulevard, a zombified screenwriter tells the tale of how his last drops of precious bodily fluid had been drained by the flashy fangs of a zombie-vampire Hollywood actress demanding yet another rewrite. The next stop was a coffin shared with a dead pet monkey.
Billy Wilder co-wrote and directed Sunset Boulevard,which some argue is a horror film, not a film noir, and he also directed Double Indemnity, a true classic noir. Not one but two great writers contributed to the final product on that film, though one of them felt the other’s prose had a bad odor. Screenwriter Raymond Chandler, a brilliant but somewhat fussy man, wrote in a 1942 letter to the wife of his publisher, Alfred K. Knopf:“….Hammett is all right. Igive him everything…. But James Cain – faugh!Everything he touches smells like a billygoat…. Such people are the offal of literature, not because they write about dirty things, but because they do it in a dirty way. Nothing hard and clean and cold and ventilated.”
Hard, clean, cold, and ventilated is not what zombies like. They prefer stuffy, stinky, hot basements and box canyons where they can corner you. L.A. inspires tales of seediness and collapse because it’s a smelly, brutal, unventilated place where the air is only cold and clean way out over the ocean—offshore.
Writers tend to be thoughtful, quiet, reserved sorts, but L.A. is great for loud hustlers. You gotta be tough, fast, and vicious; and willing to suck ideas from the brains of writers and claim them for your own. It’s a city of mirrors, and illusions, and lies, where the best bullshitter wins if he doesn’t lose himself the way Chaplin does in the film The Circus when he runs into a funhouse room full of mirrors. (Welles used the same imagery in the super-sleazy noir, The Lady from Shanghai.) To make it, many have to be willing to hustle and steal like Sammy Glick does, lead character in What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Schulberg.
Oh, and don’t try to laugh Hollywood away once it’s zombified you. It’s the city where Jim Belushi died of an overdose in a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont while in the midst of writing a screenplay for a film he was calling Noble Rot; where Richard Pryor caught on fire while freebasing; where Fatty Arbuckle worked as a director under another name after his career was ruined by a false accusation of murder; where Chaplin went through a miserable divorce from his teen bride Lita in which her lawyers did all they could to destroy his character.
The Los Angeles resident Aldous Huxley predicted a brave new world in which a wonder drug called Soma will make everyone zombie-like but mellow. Turns out that blockbuster film spectacles are Soma for the masses. Everyone is put to sleep by the razzle-dazzle of a thousand CGI deaths that sooth the savage souls of the zombies in the audience, all chuckling at decapitations, auto crashes, and exploding blood packs.
Literature is all about the importance of the individual soul, something zombies lack. Yet even great writers like Burroughs and Borges and Baudrillard say that in the labyrinth of the garden of forking paths of the book of sand of simulations of reality there is no reality, no soul, no individual– only the map, the simulation, the replica, the replicant. L.A. is where many thousands of people are engaged in creating seductive and entertaining simulations about zombies and replicants shuffling around, hungry for brains and souls. It’s a metaphor for real life in the modern world. It’s also a metaphor or working in Hollywood as a screenwriter.
The odd thing is, the more sleazy and horrific the whole thing is, the better the films about the place are. Here are some wonderful dark visions ofL.A.: Chinatown by Roman Polanski, Collateral by Michael Mann, Day of the Locust by John Schlesinger, The Big Lebowski by the Coen brothers, Ed Wood by Tim Burton, Mulholland Drive by David Lynch, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie by John Cassavetes, Pulp Fiction by Tarantino, Boogie Nights by Paul Thomas Anderson, Short Cuts by Robert Altman, and Bladerunner by Ridley Scott.
Los Angeles is bulldozed at night so a new movie set can replace it by dawn. You can run from your fate as a zombie but you can’t hide from the fake reality that L.A. has created for you that has replaced your own life by infiltrating your dreams, taking over your imagination. Don’t fight it, surrender. You’ll feel so much better once you’ve lost your soul and begun shuffling toward the cineplex or your computer keyboard, thinking only of zombies and longing for brains.
Bio: Matt Dukes Jordan is the author of a forthcoming novel called Dance, Hollywood Monkey, Dance, written with his fictional cohort, Ron Jon Bone. Jordan is also the author of Bukowski’s L.A., 2008, and Weirdo Deluxe, 2005. His book Weirdo Noir is due out in the fall of 2010. His short story Sunset Boulevard Escort Services can be found in the brand-new anthology of LA fiction, Sleeping with Snakes: Notes from the Los Angeles Underbelly. He shows art at Hyaena gallery (see Hyaenagallery.com). He’s lurked around L.A. on and off since 1990. He has also lived in London, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Key West, and various other places.
He is also the film guy at Pulp Metal Magazine.
Walter Conley’s amazing disenthralled is out again with some great prose and photos from Alisa Rynay Haller
R o b e r t C r i s m a n
M i s s A l i s t e r
C K B l a c k
L e n a V a n e l s l a n d e r. I’ve a story there too:Late Night Film. It’s here: http://disenthrallme.wordpress.com/issues/issue-3/