Favorite books of 2018

“What does that mean? Whatever you want it to mean. Are these movies “the best”? Are they our favorites? Are they “movies we got to see before the deadline”? In my case, it’s some combination of all three — but I’m really quite happy with the aggregate results.” — Jim Emerson

This year’s end of year piece is bigger than previous ones I’ve written. 2018 was my biggest reading year in a long time. My job duties changed and I am spending more time driving, so I decided to make the most of it and started listening to audiobooks. By far, my greatest consumption was audiobooks. Because of the higher number I decided that I would err on the side of robustness for my end of year round up.

The form I eventually settled was: Book of the Year (on because there was one), top reads of the year (not limited by release year), and finally a longer list of notable reads (2018 releases, re-reads, older releases, graphic novels, and non-fiction).

Book of the year: Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese – On the surface, Indian Horse is about hockey and the Indian Residential School system in Canada, but it encompasses so much more: trauma, loss of culture, loss of identity, growing, and the long hard path to righting your ship when so many forces were hell-bent on sinking it. It’s told in an intimate, confessional way that draws you into the narrative, deeply investing the reader into the story of Saul Indian Horse.

Top 10 read of 2018

Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello – This fantastic essay collection uses the form of a bestiary and well known animals as a starting point to explore various topics. It is witty, insightful, and entertaining as hell. If you ever have  chance to hear/see the author perform the final essay, do so (Koko the gorilla using her limited vocabulary to tell the infamous joke, The Aristocrats).

Brother Anhia Ahlborn – Brother is sharply told, has characters that will evoke strong feelings, some you will support, some you will loathe. By the time you suspect where the story is heading it is too late, you are strapped in for the ride. And as bad as you think it will get, it winds up being worse.

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay – Potent mix of home invasion story and end of the world story. Probably the tensest book I read all year.

Cockblock by CV Hunt – Cockblock is a fresh take on the zombie story, one for the Me Too era. It also acts as a critique on the pervasiveness of technology and how quickly information can spread. The world created here is a patriarchal system cranked up to 11 with women leading the larger resistance that must take place to stop the President. It veers from the horrific to the humorous while maintaining a relentless drive forward.

The Fifth Season by NK Jemison – NK Jemison won the Hugo award in 2018 for The Stone Sky, the third book in the Broken Earth series. Her consecutive wins  courted some backlash from those against a more inclusive genre. This seemed to be the perfect time to read one of her books, so I went to the library and grabbed a copy of The Fifth Season. The Fifth is a sophisticated book that demands the readers attention. You start off in the deep end of a of a new world and Jemison masterfully doles out information and developments as needed to control how the world expands and opens up and succeeds in keeping the reader hooked.

The Last Cowboys by John Branch – An insightful book about a multi-generational ranching family increasingly relying on a multi-generational dominance in the sport of rodeo. This is a fascinating peek into a world that is shrinking with time.

Sisyphean by Dempow Torishima – The most original piece of fiction I read all year. There is an astounding amount of imagination on display here.

Spy of the First Person by Sam Shepard – A fractured narrative about a dying man, written by a dying man, each fracture is a crystalline moment that provides yet another fleeting glimpse of the themes that Sam Shepard grappled with. No conclusions are reached at the end of a life examined. We wouldn’t have Sam Shepard’s final book any other way.

The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley – I was a big fan of Hurley’s God’s War from a few years ago and I look forward to each new book she writes. This one is from last year.

There There by Tommy Orange – Tommy Orange takes a braided approach to give the reader a cross section of modern Native American life in America, specifically in Oakland California. And it ain’t always pretty. Sometimes it is messy and sometimes it is raw. But it will always be real.

Notable Books by Category

Notable 2018 ReleasesThe Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy, Space Opera by Catherynne Valente, Green Sun by Kent Anderson, Sunburn by Laura Lippman, The Line That Held Us by David Joy, Where the Bullets Fly by Terrance McCauley, Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias, Lost Films anthology, Pull & Pray by Angel Luis Colon

Notable re-readsSadie When She Died by Ed McBain, The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain, Shane by Jack Schaefer, Lew Griffin series by James Sallis, Fat City by Leonard Gardner, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, Warlock by Oakley Hall, A River Runs Through It by Norman McLean

Notable older releasesThe Dead Mountaineer’s Inn by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, The Rider by Tim Krabbe, Death Wish by Brian Garfield, The Day the Cowboys Quit by Elmer Kelton, Certain Dark Things by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Notable Graphic NovelsTetris by Box Brown, Paper Girls by Brian Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, Saga by Brian Vaughn and Fiona Staples, The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling by Aubrey Sitterson and Chris Moreno, Cousin Joseph by Jules Feiffer

Notable Non-fictionKillers of the Flower Moon by David Grann, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery, Lady Killers by Tori Telfer

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Eclectic Mayhem 2: The Native Flu

coyoteCoyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias

On a map it’s easy to look at a line and call it a border. Down on the ground though, borders are amorphous spaces where people and things blend and mingle and aren’t always so clear cut. Within that blending, magic happens. That’s one reason why walls suck. Coyote Songs takes a mosaic approach to showing us some of the stories on the border. Stories with heart that have some genuinely awesome moments and some genuinely moving moments.

Coyote Songs at times occupies some of the same limnal space as “The Cowboy Bible” by Carlos Velázquez and “The Kidnapped Space” by B Traven. Which, to be clear, isn’t to suggest that Coyote Songs is derivative in any way, but only that this mosaic novel is itself, one tile of a larger mosaic of Border fiction.

brotherBrother by Ania Ahlborn

The great writer Derek Raymond, influenced by classic 20th Century American hardboiled crime fiction wrote of the black novel. He said, in part, that, “The black novel…describes men and women whom circumstances have pushed too far, people whom existence has bent and deformed. It deals with the question of turning a small frightened battle with oneself into a much greater struggle — the universal human struggle against the general contract, whose terms are unfulfillable, and where defeat is certain.” The black novel is similar to noir.

Sometimes the best noirs are what I call accidental noirs. Meaning, the author didn’t necessarily set out to write a noir story, but one emerged out of the darkness. I’m often wary of noir used as a descriptor or marketing term. If an author or the marketing surrounding a story categorize it as noir, I’m skeptical. But those accidental noirs, the venture out into the darkness? Those are special. Brother isn’t, strictly speaking, a noir. But it is a black novel and any basement noir crazies out there should check it out.

Brother is sharply told, has characters that will evoke strong feelings, some you will support, some you will loathe. By the time you suspect where the story is heading it is too late, you are strapped in for the ride. And as bad as you think it will get, it winds up being worse.

lineThe Line That Held Us by David Joy

The Line That Held Us got me thinking about the Lindenmuth men in my own family. My great-grandfather, Old Heck, was a trapper in the mountains of Pennsylvania. He would spend months at a time out trapping, come back to town to sell his pelts, drop off some money to my great-grandmother (presumably), and head back out. My grandfather had a large nose, so people around town started calling him Old Hook. He was an avid and life long hunter. My grandfather took my Dad hunting when he was a boy. He sighted a deer and, in that moment, realized he didn’t want to shoot it. He also realized that he couldn’t tell grandfather this so, in an elegant solution, shot the ground off to the side of the deer, scaring it. You see, he realized that the most important thing for him to do, in the moment, was to pull the trigger. It was better to pull the trigger and miss then to not pull the trigger at all. And I have never been hunting (but I have no problem with it, to be clear).

Over the years this progression has been jokingly called both the evolution of man and the de-evolution of man. While it makes for a good punch line, it sacrifices accuracy. If one is feeling generous, they could place the Lindenmuth men along a kind of continuum that might represent the wild on one side and something like civilized on the other.

The three main male characters in The Line That Held Us fall at different places along a similar continuum. Dwayne is wild and not fit for town living. He follows more primal ways and cuts right through the often unspoken norms that bind a society. Calvin is a guy who lives and works and succeeds fully within the bounds of society. He has a job, a woman that loves him, and goals and things he wants to accomplish. In a way that most of us understand, he has the most to lose. The man that connects them is Darl, who has a foot in each world. He wants to spend as much time as possible out in the woods, hunting. But he needs his connections to those in his small circle of family and friends. His presence in each world recharges his battery for his presence in the other.

The men on this continuum will clash and the outcomes won’t be neat. How they clash and the messiness that ensues is for the reader to find out.

8193+a8LxALIndian Horse by Richard Wagamese

On the surface, Indian Horse is about hockey and the Indian Residential School system in Canada, but it encompasses so much more: trauma, loss of culture, loss of identity, growing, and the long hard path to righting your ship when so many forces were hell-bent on sinking it. It’s told in an intimate, confessional way that draws you into the narrative, deeply investing the reader into the story of Saul Indian Horse.

Richard Wagamese died in 2017 and I’m sorry it took this long to read him, I’m now a fan and can’t wait to read his other books. He has said on numerous occasions that Indian Horse, originally, was intended to be a “Shoeless Joe does hockey” novel. I have no doubt that Kinsella’s novel was the starting point and structure and inspiration for Indian Horse but it is more akin to Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It, especially in the sections of the book that describe hockey and everything that it means and is capable of. But also in the way the it deals with the helplessness of wanting to help someone but not being able to or knowing how.

Upon finishing Indian Horse I had the rare feeling of wanting to immediately read it again. And I’m sure I will again, soon.

Side note: The hilarious and profane Canadian TV show Letterkenny has a running joke about the Native hockey teams. In the world of the show, the Native teams are so tough and so feared that when teams have to play them, some players are inevitably sick and can’t play those games. Those players that call out are said to have “the native flu”. After reading Indian Horse, and its representation of how the Native players learn the game, and the conditions they play under, especially when compared to their white counterparts, it’s easy to see how that reputation can develop.

Indian Horse was made into a movie and released earlier in 2018. I look forward to checking it out when it becomes available.

Eclectic Mayhem – Halloween Horror Edition

I spent October reading horror. Here’s a couple of quick take reviews.

Cockblock by CV Hunt (Grindhouse Press) – I’ve been a fan of CV Hunt for a couple of years now. I missed it back in June when it first dropped but scooped it up with the quickness when I was prepping my reading list. The President is delivering a speech across all technologies that turns men to mindless rapists. The only way to stop them is a shot to the balls. Cockblock is a fresh take on the zombie story, one for the Me Too era. It also acts as a critique on the pervasiveness of technology and how quickly information can spread. The world created here is a patriarchal system cranked up to 11 with women leading the larger resistance that must take place to stop the President. It veers from the horrific to the humorous while maintaining a relentless drive forward. This is a very zeitgeisty novel without being overly obvious. Highly Recommended.

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Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix (Quirk Books) / My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix (Quirk Books): Grady Hendrix, with these books, writes what I’ll call horror with a light touch. They largely maintain a sense of fun, even through moments of genuine horror. There is nostalgia for the 70s/80s horror boom (an era we know Hendrix likes) without feeling like regurgitations or reproductions. Horrorstor is a haunted house story where the “house” in question is an Ikea knockoff store called Orsk (included are product descriptions that get increasingly more horrific). My Best Friend’s Exorcism seasons in some 80s nostalgia (never over the top) and brick by brick builds the great relationship between the two girls, building the the titular exorcism that will test them.

The first thing that needs to be said is that the physical versions of these books are gorgeous and are worth owning. Horrorstor is designed to look like, in part,  a store catalog. The paperback version of My Best Friend’s Exorcism looks like an 80s VHS tape.

It’s almost the kind of think you hate to say but, these two books might be a good fit for folks who say they don’t really like horror. Both Highly Recommended (though I liked My Best Friend a bit more).

 

 

The Last Safe Place by Rob Hart – Hey, remember that time Rob Hart, author of the successful Ash McKenna series, wrote a zombie novella? Wait, what? It’s out of print now but he did. In The Last Safe Place Rob Hart places his zombie apocalypse survivors on Governor’s Island in New York. They have cobbled together a surviving, but not necessarily thriving, community. Then shit goes wrong, as it always must. Clocking in at a little over 100 pages, it is the perfect length for Hart to get in, establish some characters and their relationships and dynamics then quickly jump to a couple of zombie action sequences. It’s lean, mean, and moves quick, exactly the way you want a story like this to be. Recommended

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Lost Films edited by Max Booth III and Lori Michelle (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing) – One of the things that I appreciate about this anthology, and what the fine folks at PMMP are doing, is that it can, in no way, be considered run of the mill. It’s unlikely they will ever publish an anthology with some general theme, like Haunted Houses. With them you get anthologies about haunted films, haunted sounds, or pizza horror. And that original starting point pushes the authors out of their comfort zones some, with some strong fiction as a result. Recommended.

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Interview with Terrence McCauley

Bullets.jpgBrian Lindenmuth: Why did you decide to write a western?

Terrence McCauley: I decided to write a western because I had always been a fan of the genre. I grew up watching westerns with my dad and, later in life, began to enjoy reading them as well. A lot of writers I admire, including Elmore Leonard and Richard Matheson, wrote westerns and I wanted to give it a shot, too. It continues to be a great experience.

You’ve now worked in two separate genres. What were those experiences like? Any notable differences? How was Bouchercon different from the western convention you went to?

I’ve actually written in three separate genres. Crime fiction (my 1930s books PROHIBITION, SLOW BURN and THE FAIRFAX INCIDENT) and my University Series (SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL, A MURDER OF CROWS, A CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS). Westerns are different in that a writer doesn’t have modern conveniences to rely upon to move the plot along. Even in my 1930s novels, the telephone, radio and automobile were in use at that time. Not so much so in westerns set in the late 1880s. Distance and a lack of technology play an important role in the stories which, in my opinion, allows for a rich story-telling environment.

Bouchercon is always a great experience and an opportunity to see some friends I haven’t seen in a while. The Western Writers of America convention is much smaller, but every bit as impressive. The amount of scholarship in that community is absolutely incredible. People tend to think of westerns as just shoot ’em ups with cowboys and Indians and bank robbers. One glimpse at the various categories will prove that it’s a very diverse genre. I had the good fortune to make a lot of new friends at this year’s convention and I look forward to going next year as well.

There is an idea that westerns are just crime fiction in a historical setting, do you believe this to be true?

I believe that’s partially true. I also believe that the west is broad enough to encompass quite a few genres. Just look at the amount of westerns for sale on Amazon and you’ll see a good number of them are romances. One could also write an epic novel about the plight and struggles of various groups in the settlement of the west and never have a shot fired or a murder committed if they crafted the story properly. Historical fiction, crime novels, noir, romance and classic stories all have a home in western fiction. And virtually every type of non-fiction is covered under western history and current western affairs as well.

What is your favorite western movie?

My favorite is THE SEARCHERS. It’s an imperfect movie that hasn’t held up as well for me over the years, but I still consider it my favorite. The iconic performances and scenery. The open bigotry of Ethan Edwards, the clashing of cultures and the memorable characters all serve to make it my favorite western.

What is your favorite western novel?

West Texas Kill by Johnny Boggs. He writes a classic western with a modern take that appeals to all audiences. It has some great characters and fantastic action pieces that make it my current favorite. However, I read quite a few books in the genre, so my favorites do change from time to time.

Who is your favorite western writer?

I’ve got a few. Peter Branvoldt, Johnny Boggs, Larry Sweazy, Charles West.

What recent release western novels are worth checking out?

Peter Branvoldt’s Stagecoach to Purgatory, A Bad Place to Die by Easy Jackson, Copper Sky by Milana Marsenich and The Promise Bride by Gina Welborn and Becca Whitham.

What do you most value in the fiction you love?

I value the ability to lose myself in another world. I love reading new takes on old genres and learning something new about myself in return.

Who is your favorite violent western character?

Josey Wales is a tough character to beat. The movie was fantastic and one of my all time favorites.

Is the western genre dead, dying, in a state of disrepair, or doing just fine?

I’d prefer to say it’s in a state of transition. If you look at the book stores that carry westerns, you’ll see no shortage of new releases every month. And if you look online, the selection is even greater, albeit the quality is sometimes a bit suspect. Although a majority of the western e-books selling for $0.99 are bargains, many others should have gone through a more rigorous editing process.

Then/Now/Next: what book did you read last, what book are you reading now, and what book will you read next? (any genre)

Hot Springs by Stephen Hunter / Law at Randado by Elmore Leonard / Hombre by Elmore Leonard.

What was the last great western that you consumed (watched or read)?

Bone Tomahawk was the last great western I consumed. I desperately wanted to like Hostiles, but found it sullen and smug. Bone Tomahawk showed everyone at their rawest form and was a special movie, although not always pleasant to watch.

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Terrence P. McCauley is an award-winning writer of crime fiction and thrillers. He is the author of the James Hicks series, which include:  THE FAIRFAX INCIDENT, , A CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS, A MURDER OF CROWS and SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL, published by Polis Books. He has also written two award-winning novels set in 1930 New York City – PROHIBITION and SLOW BURN. 

In September 2018, Kensington Books published Terrence’s first western WHERE THE BULLETS FLY as part of his new Sheriff Aaron Mackey series. The second entry in the series – DARK TERRITORY – will be published in 2019.

Terrence’s World War I novella – THE DEVIL DOGS OF BELLEAU WOOD – won the Silver Medal for Historical Fiction from the Military Writers Society of America. Proceeds from sales go directly to benefit the Semper Fi Fund.

Tattoo Tuesday with Nik Korpon – interview

QueenOfTheStruggle_144dpiBrian Lindenmuth: What was the first tattoo you ever got and why did you decide to get it?

Nik Korpon: First one I ever got was the line-drawing of a guardian angel on the inside of my left bicep. I’ve always believed in angels and demons and ghosts but I had this weird experience when I was 18. I got into a fender-bender with this women and was really angry, only to realize 10 seconds later that if I hadn’t bumped into her, I would’ve gotten t-boned by another car and likely died. Her insurance info didn’t go through when I filed the report so I tried to track her down, but she didn’t exist (according to what she’d given me). I thought she was an angel and that feeling stuck for a long time, though that might’ve just been teenage neurosis. She probably just didn’t want her insurance to go up because of some dumb kid.

What was that first experience like?

Not bad. I think I was awkward because I didn’t know what you were supposed to do when getting tattooed.

Tattoos can capture a memory, or are representative of a feeling or a person. What is your most meaningful tattoo, and why?

I have a big lion head that goes across my chest and down past my sternum. I got it for my son based on a book we read when he was little, about a daddy lion and his cub, and it’s the most meaningful one that I have. I also really like the Hitchcock stuff I have on my leg.

What was your last tattoo?

Last finished tattoo was probably a banger on my leg that we all gave each other when a friend from out of town came back to visit the shop. I’m still getting the lion finished, seven years later, because I don’t have any free time.

When will you get your next one?

I was hoping to get my ribs covered up with a big panther and shark, but I think it’ll have to wait till my kids get a bit older and I have more free time. I live an hour from my old shop and (unfortunately) don’t get down there often. Or anywhere, for that matter.

Any tattoos you regret?

Not any that I explicitly regret, but ones that I wouldn’t do the same. But they’re all representative of some part of my life.

What do your tattoos say about you?

They’re as random and scattered as I am. They’re almost all traditional, but some have a ton of significance and some were just slow days at the shop and “I’m bored. Y’wanna put something on me?”

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“I forgot to mention this tattoo, but I love it. It’s the cricket bat from Shaun of the Dead, which is one of my favorite movies ever and, to my mind, one of the most perfect screenplays ever written.”

How do others react to your tattoos?

I had both sleeves about fifteen years ago and I’d get tons of looks. This was before Miami Ink and before tattoos got super popular. All my friends and roommates were artists so within my group it wasn’t a big deal (they were all more heavily tattooed than I was) but other people would look at me sideways, sometimes cross the street. I got lots of scared looks when I was traveling through Eastern Europe because it was mostly Russian mafias and whatnot that were heavily tattooed. Now it’s no big deal.

What do tattoos bring to our culture?

Ideally, they tell stories visually. That’s what always attracted me, especially with Japanese tattoos. They’re works of art and they change the viewer to understand what they mean, to really study them. I’m out of the loop now (I left the shop four years ago) but in the five years I was there, we saw a huge shift toward Instagram tattoos—like those dandelions that dissolve into birds and arrow line-drawings—and lots of text. Stuff that doesn’t require any thought, that’s just immediately understandable. It’s kind of a bummer, but it kept the lights on so…

Do you have a go to tattoo person/shop? Give them a shout-out!

I worked at Saints and Sinners in Baltimore for five years and those dudes make incredible tattoos. Most of mine were done by Christian Beckman (who is the namesake for the character in Stay God, if anyone’s read that). Anyone in Baltimore should go get tattooed there.

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Bio: Nik Korpon is the author of The Rebellion’s Last Traitor, Queen of the Struggle, and The Soul Standard, among others. He lives in Baltimore.

Tattoo Tuesday with Steph Post – interview

Walk in the Fire CoverBrian Lindenmuth: What was the first tattoo you ever got and why did you decide to get it?

Steph Post: I got my first tattoo, a lotus flower on my back, on my 18th birthday, on my first real road trip. I had always been fascinated with tattoos as a kid and knew they would become a part of my life as an adult. My family was less than thrilled. I called my mom from Atlanta on my birthday and the first thing she said was, “I know what you did and I don’t want to hear about it.” Fortunately, she’s gotten used to my tattoos by now.

What was that first experience like?

Exciting. I’m not one of those people who likes to brag about how they don’t feel pain or how tattoos don’t hurt. They can damn well hurt. But I don’t remember how the first one felt at all (whereas I can still remember what it felt like to have my elbow drilled…). I just remember feeling excited about the process and also a bit like I was coming into my own.

Tattoos can capture a memory, or are representative of a feeling or a person. What is your most meaningful tattoo, and why?

Oh, wow. Every tattoo of mine has meaning. That’s why I get them, as a record, in a way, of an experience or a time in my life or something that I was feeling and wanted to hold on to forever. Many of them have a meaning in themselves in what they depict and others are simpler and represent a time and place. One of my favorite tattoos is a gorgeous fox piece on my right leg. The fox is my spirit animal and so this image represents me as a whole, rather than marking out just one facet of my life.

What was your last tattoo?

I was tattooed a few weeks ago, actually. Just a small piece on the inside of my arm. It’s a line from The Little Prince and reads “But if you tame me, then we shall need each other.” It’s in honor of all the dogs that have come into my life and passed on (and two in particular who left me this past year) and also explains how I feel about the intense connection I have with the dogs I’ve shared my life with.

When will you get your next one?

Who knows? I usually get tattooed about every six months, though lately it’s been stretching out to once a year or so. I’m not hanging around tattoo shops so much like I used to. I do have my next tattoo in mind, and it will be a big one, but I almost always sit on a tattoo idea for months and months before committing to it. So, we’ll see…

Any tattoos you regret?

Nope.

What do your tattoos say about you?

That I’m badass? No, seriously I think they express the things I value most in life. Tattoos can never be lost, can never be taken away from you. They can fade somewhat or acquire their own scars, but you own them in a way that you can’t own anything else. I’ve never been one to show off my tattoos or to get tattooed just for fun or the hell of it. It’s always an intensely personal experience, which is sort of how I approach everything in life, I suppose.

How do others react to your tattoos?

I’ll tell you, it’s a lot easier to have tattoos now that they’ve become so popular. It didn’t used to be so acceptable, especially for women. Years ago I had a lot of people, strangers always, who told me that I was going to hell or would never find a guy and would never amount to anything. This happened a lot when I was waiting tables back in North Carolina. I’d be like “here’s your sweet tea” and some lady would say thank you and then tell me how it was such a shame, because I could have been such a pretty girl without all those tattoos. The absolute worst was when, for a time there, people felt like they could just come up and check out my tattoos. I almost decked a guy in the grocery store once for trying to lift up the back of my shirt to see one of my tattoos. That hasn’t happened in a long while, though. I think I’ve gotten enough now that people are too intimidated. Or maybe I’ve just perfected my “back off” look, finally. 🙂

What do tattoos bring to our culture?

Tattoos used to be the mark of an outsider. And of being part of a tribe of outsiders. In a way, I miss that concept, but I also love that now more people feel that it’s okay to express themselves, in whatever way they may choose. So I think tattoos indicate an openness to, quite literally in some cases, wear our hearts on our sleeves. Tattoos let us share ourselves, oftentimes our most true selves, in a language this is both simple and transcendent.

Do you have a go to tattoo person/shop? Give them a shout-out.

I don’t and very much wish I did! My latest go-to guy, Sean Williams, who did quite a bit of my more recent work, left St. Pete and I moved as well, so I’m still looking for someone local to have that tattoo connection with. But since so many of my tattoos have been acquired while traveling, I have work from too many artists to even remember. I love working with one artist for a time, but I also love picking up work from artists all over the country when the time and place is right for a new tattoo.

Bio: Steph Post is the author of the novels Walk in the Fire, Lightwood and A Tree Born Crooked. She graduated from Davidson College as a recipient of the Patricia Cornwell Scholarship and winner of the Vereen Bell award, and she holds a Master’s degree in Graduate Liberal Studies from UNCW. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, a Rhysling Award and was a semi-finalist for The Big Moose Prize. She lives in Florida.

I come to praise Allan Guthrie, not bury him

DkUmR6fWsAAEAyoOver on Twitter on Saturday I decided to celebrate Allan Guthrie and his books with a small series of tweets. It received a good response but since I wrote them on my phone while at the dog park, I wanted to take the opportunity to collect them together here, add some more thoughts, and pull together some links.

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Let’s talk about Allan Guthrie and his books. Allan Guthrie writes full-dark, gonzo, noir fiction. He published five novels and three novellas from 2004-2010. His novels are: Two-Way Split, Kiss Her Goodbye, Hard Man, Savage Night, and Slammer. His novellas are: Kill Clock, Killing Mum, and Bye Bye Baby.

For many years Allan Guthrie’s website, Noir Originals, was an essential read. It featured emerging writers of noirboiled fiction, articles, interviews. He also wrote an important contribution to the creation of a noir fiction canon, 200 Noirs.

I believe Guthrie’s momentum was lost and he is now, unfortunately, more of a cult writer with less recognition than he previously enjoyed, especially among writers and readers who have come to crime fiction in the last couple of years. Publishing can be like putting logs on a fire. When logs are regularly put in a fire, the flame burns constant and bright. When no logs are put on the fire, the flame can gutter or extinguish.

Allan Guthrie has not been idle, he was running Blasted Heath books, he’s part of a team that started their own literary agency, and he’s the acquiring editor for Bastei Luebbe’s BE imprint. But because he’s not active on social media and hasn’t had a book out in a few years, his name isn’t ringing out in the streets the way it once did.

I don’t know what Al’s future writing plans are, he may surprise us all and start publishing new books regularly (hint, hint). If he doesn’t, I just want to do my part to make sure his work is remembered.

Where to start with Allan Guthrie? If you want the full basement-noir-crazy shit, go with Hard Man, Savage Night, or Slammer. If you want something a little more along the lines of conventional crime fiction, go with Two-Way Split, Kiss Her Goodbye, or any of the novellas. Even if the latter category is more your speed you still owe it to yourself to try something from the former.

Bottom line: If you’ve made it this far and Allan Guthrie is new to you, what the hell are you waiting for? Go read some Allan Guthrie.