Online Issue 18: Happy Thanksgiving

TSP OI18 cover

It isn’t the turkey or the stuffing or the pumpkin pie that will make your Thanksgiving truly great. It’s the books you can buy on Black Friday, and we’ve got you covered with tons of recommendations! First, Jenn Stroud Rossmann talks about what engineers read, then Susanna Beard shares what she has lined up and Rusty Barnes talks about what’s overloading his Kindle. Barbara Winkes also drops in to talk about the books she’s reading and ones she hopes to get to soon (such as Vox, which sounds fascinating). Who’s reading Gary Philips? Who has Max Ellendale’s latest on their nightstand? Who is anxious for Nicole Chung’s memoir? Check out those TBR piles to find out.

In my latest review I look at Jenn Stroud Rossmann’s The Place You’re Supposed to Laugh. Lots of great insights about family, life and identity here, with appeal for teens and adults alike.

Need to escape all the family togetherness? Rusty Barnes talks about his latest novel, The Last Danger, and cross-border crime. (What could be a better gift for the wall supporter on your shopping list?)

And in case your family Thanksgiving is nothing but political squabbles and family drama, Susanna Beard has cuteness on tap with her two trusty author assistants, Cookie and Tipsy. Pictures here.


Miss our latest issues? Issue 17 contents  – featuring Tom Leins, Paul Brazill, Kelli Owen, JL Abrama, JJ Hensley, Terrence McCauley, Barbara Winkes and more – can be found here.


We’ll be back next week with CJ Lyons, Ovidia Yu, Wendy Webb and more.

Plus, December 1 I’ll kick off my Advent Calendar, covering a book, movie, TV series or something else I enjoyed from this past year and recommend.

(Not a ‘best of’ list, because I haven’t consumed everything so I couldn’t possibly say what’s best. And not a ‘best of stuff by my friends’ list either. Most or all come from people I have never met.)


Eryk Pruitt, Vicki Hendricks, Gary Philips, Christa Faust and more: what Rusty Barnes has on tap for holiday reading

What are some of the titles in your current TBR pile?

Townies-Cover-DesaturatedI only buy new books on Kindle these days, so what’s on deck is mostly newish material: My Darkest Prayer, by S.A. Cosby, The Long and Faraway Gone, by Lou Berney, Townies, by Erik Pruitt, Peepland, by Christa Faust and Gary Phillips, Cruel Poetry by Vicki Hendricks, The Girl from Blind River, by Gale Massey.

What book are you currently reading?

Some Die Nameless, by Wallace Stroby. The opening action scene seems to me to be a clinic in how to do it well, and so far, it’s taking a grizzled old plot–the over-the-hill special operative brought in for one last job–and making it new for me again. I’m also reading the poet Philip Larkin’s letters over. He was a complicated and curmudgeonly man who wrote some the most beautiful and feeling poems I’ve ever read while simultaneously being an often repellent personality, at least in some of his correspondence.

What do you hope to add to your TBR pile soon and why?

There’s a new biography of Ross MacDonald I’ve been itching to get to after reading his correspondence with Eudora Welty, as it’d be tough to find two more distinctly different writers. I’m a fan of Welty’s from way back when my obsession with things Southern began twenty-five years ago in the Kmart bargain book lot when I discovered Larry Brown and now I want to become a fan of MacDonald’s based on the letters.

Bonus: Which author do you want to see have a new book out soon?

I have a hankering for Appalachian literature lately having finished my friend Charles Dodd White’s most recent–and great–book In the House of Wilderness, so it would be especially nice to see a new Ron Rash or Pinckney Benedict novel or to see Chris barnes-the-last-danger-3Holbrook or Chris McGinley publish a new book. They have a knack for the vernacular and a love for the country,which shows in the writing. I’m always on the lookout for new crime writers, too, but I keep my ear pretty close to the ground on those.

Rusty talks about his latest novel, The Last Danger, here.


Rusty Barnes is a 2018 Derringer Award finalist and author of the story collections Breaking it Down and Mostly Redneck, as well as four novels, Reckoning, Ridgerunner, Knuckledragger, and The Last Danger, His fiction, poetry and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in many journals and anthologies. He founded and edits the crime journal Tough.


From Rural Pennsylvania to Cross-Border Crime: Rusty Barnes talks about The Last Danger

Fun Fact:

“I can sing the hell out of  ‘A Horse with No Name’ at karaoke.” – Rusty Barnes

thelastdangercoverSR: Practice pitching: tell us what your new book is about in 50 words or less.

RB: The Last Danger continues the exploits of Matt Rider, protagonist of Ridgerunner, in his continuing battle against the renegade Pittman family, which leads to him running drugs and money back and forth across the Canadian border. It doesn’t go well.

SR: Where did your idea for this book come from?

RB: I wrote the three novels that became the Killer from the Hills series in quick succession in 2014-15, with the intent of doing a series chronicling the journey of a law-abiding man who quickly becomes broken and lawless: an antihero. I’d just recently joined a couple groups celebrating the books of my youth: men’s paperbacks of the 70s and 80s, in particular mob-related fiction, crime fiction, and westerns, and I wanted to write an homage to those books I loved so much growing up and which largely formed the pleasure reading of my adulthood. I went from reading pulp in my teens to reading mostly literary fiction then back to pulp again in my mid-late 40s, and my writing habits followed suit, and thus Matt Rider was born.

SR: What’s one thing that you and your protagonist have in common?

RB: We both grew up in rural northcentral Pennsylvania, the foothills of Appalachia, which formed the basis of commonality in our personalities: a natural distrust, maybe even resentment, of authority and a strong connection to family. There the resemblance pretty much ends.

SR:  Cage match between you and your protagonist. It’s a fight to the death. Which one of you will be left standing, and why?

RB: It depends. I’m a pretty big boy, so if I can get him down on the ground I’ll have a fighting chance.Otherwise, Matt kicks my ass six ways from Sunday, as he’s in shape and packing and I’m neither.

SR: What’s the first book you remember reading that had a huge impact on you? How did that story affect you? How do you think it shaped your desire to be a writer?

RB: Beginning in the mid-to-late 70s, my family was involved in competition muzzleloader shooting and period reenactment, so I read a great deal, fiction and non-fiction, about the American frontier and the popularized version of the ‘winning’ of the west, with a special interest in events happening pre-1840. The first book of those I remember reading was Sackett’s Land by Louis L’Amour, part of a long-running series which featured, chronologically, the first Sackett to come to America, Barnabas. This roughly paralleled the Barnes family coming to America from England, and in my mind’s eye, the Sacketts became Barneses and suddenly I had a deep and abiding love of genealogy, history and living history, putting my family members–we were large and contained multitudes–in place of the Sackett heroes, and starring in adventures I played out with action figures and with my cousins and friends. I wrote, mostly Poe-influenced poems and little stories, then, but I decided to become a writer, whatever that meant, in 1989, and I’ve done little else since but pursue that goal.

SR: What was your journey to publication like? What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome?

RB: It took me a year to find a publisher, and 280 Steps accepted all three Killer from the Hills novels, then went kaput after publishing only the first, Ridgerunner. I was floundering, looking for something to do with the books. In the meantime, I wrote and sent another novel out, Knuckledragger, which Ron Earl Phillips at Shotgun Honey agreed to publish, and when 280 Steps went under suddenly, Ron offered to take the Killer series on and republished Ridgerunner, which I’m forever grateful for. The third book in the series will come out eventually, I hope, but in radically different form than I originally wrote it, as is necessary given the way this one turned out after revisions. The book took a darker turn, let’s say.

SR: Tell us something about you that isn’t common knowledge.

RB: I am the size of an NFL lineman without the musculature.

SR: Everyone needs an outlet to help them recharge. What hobbies do you have outside of writing?

RB: Outside of writing, I fuel myself by editing other people at my journal Tough, writing poems in between fiction projects, and playing popular songs on the ukulele, as well as spending time with my amazing wife and family.

SR: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

RB: Read everything in sight. There will come a time when you won’t read as much, and you’ll regret every second you didn’t spend seeing what else was out there to emulate, learn from and aspire to.

Check out Rusty’s TBR pile!


Rusty Barnes is a 2018 Derringer Award finalist and author of the story collections Breaking it Down and Mostly Redneck, as well as four novels, Reckoning, Ridgerunner, Knuckledragger, and The Last Danger, His fiction, poetry and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in many journals and anthologies. He founded and edits the crime journal Tough.