Online Issue 17: “Living My Best Life”

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This issue begins and ends with mourning. We mark the passing of long-time reviewer and crime fiction enthusiast, Theodore Feit, with his final review.

We’re also reeling with the fresh pain from the news that Evie Swierczynski has passed away after her fight with leukemia. Many years ago, I was hired to travel to Philadelphia and interview Duane Swierczynski for a magazine feature. I got to meet his children and Meredith. I’m lucky enough to say I’ve known Duane for many years, and yet I do not know him and his family well … and yet Duane’s posts over the past several months have made many of us feel as though Evie was a part of our family, because he captured her spirit and shared her with us all.

All I really know today is that their grief is unfathomable. In the days and weeks ahead I’ll be thinking of Duane, Meredith and Parker as they begin the unfathomable journey forward without Evie.

One thing Duane mentioned months ago was that Evie always said, “Living my best life.” For her, it was a statement of sarcasm in response to misfortunes. (DS FB June 7)

May we all cherish the moments we have and truly live our best lives.

Scroll down a bit and you’ll see a list of ways to pay tribute to a loved one’s memory.

Sticking with the Music Theme

Paul D. Brazill’s Supernatural Noir is out in stores now, and he’s sharing his new work’s playlist with us.

Author Interviews

Kelli Owen talks being a Nerdy Klutz, how that impacts her zombie apocalypse plan, and what a vampire story has to do with prejudice.

Brian Lindenmuth chats with Terrence McCauley about writing westerns.

Robert White talks about Thomas Harris, David Lindsey and Martin Cruz Smith, his protagonist’s biggest fear, and how real life events inspired Northtown Eclipse.

When The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale Collide: Barbara Winkes talks about her Dystopian tale, Cypher.

Reviews:

Sandra Ruttan takes a look at In The Galway Silence, the latest Jack Taylor novel by Ken Bruen.

Brian also has a horror review column up, just in time for Halloween.

And, in sad news, the review of The Line by Martin Limon marks Theodore Feit’s final review. Our condolences to Gloria on Ted’s unexpected passing last month. He was a long-standing reviewer who was committed to sharing his love of books, and will be missed.

Actors Wanted

Tom Leins picks the Actors who Could play Joe Rey, the Gunrunner, Slattery and Wila.

To Be Read Features

Wondering what some of your favorite author are reading these days and hoping to crack open soon?

What Do John Verdon, Annette Dashofy, Gwen Floria, Eric Beetner and Kyle Mills Have in Common? JJ Hensley talks recent reads and more.

J.L. Abramo talks about global events that impact his current reading, works by Erik Larson and Bryan Burroughs and his hopes for new Tim O’Brien novels.

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Casting Call: Tom Leins on the Actors who Could play Joe Rey, the Gunrunner, Slattery and Wila

Who should play your protagonist on TV or in a movie? What is it about them that makes them suit the character – attitude, similar characters they’ve played or appearance or something else?

James Norton as Joe Rey

The protagonist of my new book Repetition Kills You (and my previous book Meat Bubbles & Other Stories) is Joe Rey, a cut-price private investigator, who regularly works as muscle-for-hire to make ends meet. Regular readers may recall that Rey has already had the Casting Call treatment, so I won’t go over old ground here, suffice to say, I picked James Norton – based on his performance as Tommy Lee Royce in the tremendous UK crime drama Happy Valley. The intensity that Norton brought to the role was hugely impressive, and while he was involved in some breathtakingly callous scenes, he was also a master manipulator who displayed a real toxic charm.

Repetition Kills You is a literary jigsaw puzzle. The book comprises 26 short stories, presented in alphabetical order, from ‘Actress on a Mattress’ to ‘Zero Sum’. Combined in different ways, they tell a larger, more complex story. Given the sheer number of characters that weave in and out of the various story strands I was spoiled for choice when selecting characters for this feature. They may not be the obvious choices, but these were the ones that elbowed their way into the Casting Call!

Charles Dance as The Gunrunner

The Gunrunner appears in the story ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’, when he hires Rey to retrieve his estranged daughter, Shivonne. If you can imagine Charles Dance with a firearm fetish and a floral-patterned rayon shirt, and you are in the right ballpark!

I always enjoy Dance’s imperious tone, and it would work especially well here, as he talks down to Rey – not a man who enjoys being talked down to! Dance was great in Game of Thrones, but it is his stint as Conrad Knox in Season 3 of Strike Back that resonated more strongly with me when casting this particular role.

Casting Call #2 - Tom Leins - Repetition Kills YouMark Bonnar as Slattery

In the Paignton Noir series, Rey encounters a number of increasingly unhinged father figures, ranging from Wet-Look in Meat Bubbles to Cantonese mobster Malcolm Chung in the forthcoming Boneyard Dogs. In Repetition Kills You, Slattery comes closest to filling this role, albeit in a far more innocuous manner. He runs a sleazy, unsuccessful bar on a near-derelict industrial estate, and Rey and he enjoy an uneasy, unspoken friendship.

Mark Bonnar has worked on some of my favourite British TV shows in recent years (Line of Duty, Unforgotten, Catastrophe) – performing vastly different roles each time – and I think he could effortlessly tap into the shifty, defeated quality that Slattery brings to all of his scenes. The crime dramas may have displayed his sinister side, but the excruciating dark comedy in Catastrophe is a good reference point too – not least the scene where he hires a transsexual prostitute.

PJ Harvey as Wila

Wila appears in the story ‘Howl’, which is the longest piece in Repetition Kills You, and one of my favourites. I don’t want to give too much away, but Wila is a Polish lounge singer with a murky – possibly dangerous – past, who Rey is hired to hunt down.

I’m always surprised that PJ Harvey hasn’t done more film work (her sole acting credit seems to be Hal Hartley’s 1998 movie The Book of Life, which I have never seen), as there is no one quite like her out there. In truth, I’m not sure how well a Dorset-does-Polish accent would work, but I think it is important to have a singer in the role, to make it convincing!  

(Trivia: the song Wila sings mid-way through the story was inspired by ‘Dirge’ by Death In Vegas (which had Dot Allison on vocals), rather than a PJ Harvey track, but I’d love some PJ material on the soundtrack, as I’m a big fan.)

Tom Leins also did a casting call for Meat Bubbles & Other Stories.

Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. He is the author of a trio of novelettes, SKULL MEAT, SNUFF RACKET and SLUG BAIT, and two short story collections, MEAT BUBBLES & OTHER STORIES (Near To The Knuckle) and REPETITION KILLS YOU (All Due Respect, an imprint of Down & Out Books). His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, Flash Fiction Offensive, Horror Sleaze Trash and Spelk Fiction.

https://thingstodoindevonwhenyouredead.wordpress.com/

Online Issue 12: Zombie Cat

Lots of good stuff in this issue, as well as some news, so let’s get to it.

 

Willie Davis chats about his novel Nightwolf. Davis has some keen insights about the benefits of being an author, a razor sharp wit and some interesting anecdotes to share. Plus, there are links to where you can find him on podcasts. Check it out! And don’t miss my review of Nightwolf by Willie Davis.

Paul D. Brazill is back, sharing all the tunes referenced insharing all the tunes referenced in Small Time Crimes and the link to his playlist. In case you missed it, Paul dropped in a few issues back to talk about Last Year’s Man.
Gray Basnight is here to chat about alternate history thrillers, New York City, hurricanes and more.
Tom Leins is back to talk about Meat Bubbles and Other Stories. In case you missed it, he was here a few months ago, talking about the perfect cast for this collection.

dscf1052-0Who is this man that is not my husband? Who is Allan Guthrie, you say? Brian shares thoughts on the author he now considers to be a cult writer. The tragedy is that there are now a whole crop of hardboiled/noir writers coming up who don’t know who Al is and this needs to be remedied. The next time someone tells me that they are brave or redefining the genre because they killed the dog I have two words for them: Allan Guthrie. Oh, and did you do it to be shocking or did you earn it on the page? Being a shock jock doesn’t take talent. Anybody can say or write something inappropriate that will upset people. Earning every horrific moment of pain and violence you write? Making someone writhe in their chair as they read but having them so deeply hooked they have to keep turning the pages? That’s raising the bar in writing, and few will match Allan Guthrie’s talents at that. I sense a re-read of Savage Night in my near future.

 

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Since so many people have forgotten (or don’t know) who Allan Guthrie is, there are also a lot of people in the crime genre circles who may not even know about Thuglit, Demolition, Pulp Pusher, Spinetingler and the far too many other notable ezines that were prevalent a decade ago.

When the owner of Spinetingler shut the site down, I was keenly aware of how much stuff I had out there that was lost. I was also aware of how many short stories no longer had a home. As a writer myself, I’ve had a number of short stories that were published online that have disappeared when other sites shut down.

That’s why I’m announcing today the launch of a sub-site for Toe Six Press: Zombie Cat.

Zombie Cat will publish reprints of short stories… maybe more. For now, we start with short stories that have been previously published. As long as they don’t conflict with rights bought, if the story has previously appeared in print or online it can be considered for republication. However, I don’t want things that are presently posted on an author’s website. The priority is stories that do not currently have a home online.

We kick things off today with “Absolution” by Mindy Tarquini, a story originally published in Spinetingler’s 2006 Spring Issue.

Reviews
Thoughts on Reviewing

Reviewing is one of the toughest things for me to do sometimes. On the one hand, it’s easy to give an overview of a plot-driven story and be enthusiastic about how it got its hooks into you and kept you turning the pages. That’s a certain type of story in its own right.

There are other types of stories. Literature was the perfect marriage of thriller and commentary, for example.

I wouldn’t even hazard a guess about how many books I’ve reviewed in my life. I was taught to review back when I was 20, in college studying journalism. And I had to produce things back then. When I started Spinetingler I wanted to talk about books I liked, so I started reviewing again.

These days, I review for Toe Six and Underground Book Reviews. Reviewing for UBR has changed my reviewing system, because I also judge the Book of the Year award for them, and have for the past two years. I was thrilled to see novels like Brian Cohn’s The Last Detective win BOTY last year and The Last Great American Magic win the year before. Hell, I don’t even know what genre The Last Great American Magic is, but I don’t care. Fantastic read. Enjoyed every page of that.

The great thing is that this means I get to read a variety of works that don’t always fit into neat genre categories.

It’s also meant that over the past few months I’ve had to revise my ranking system. I used to say mentally every book starts out as a 4 out of 5, which is a great read to me. 5 stars was reserved for books that really blew me away or stood out as special for some reason. Books that had major developmental and technical issues would fall down the rankings.

However, since the BOTY system relies on reviewers giving books 5 star reviews, and since that’s subjective, I realized that any book that does it’s job should get top billing, or it won’t be considered for the annual awards.

The simple reality is that I hate ranking systems. They are wildly inconsistent. Ask 20 people how they decide what a 5-star read is and you’ll probably get 23 answers. Art, by its very nature, is subjective. So my objective with written reviews is to give people enough information to decide if the book is right for them.