Building a Book Playlist

New YorkedOne of the first things I do when I write a book is make a playlist. I’ve got three rules: It can’t have too many songs—I like to keep it to roughly an hour’s worth of music. Only one song per musician or artist. And none of the songs can have been used in a previous book’s playlist.

I don’t listen to it while I write. When I’m actually sitting at the keyboard I prefer music without words, like Bach’s cello suits or Aphex Twin or Sigur Ros (they sing in a made-up language; doesn’t count).

The soundtrack is for editing, or while I’m walking to and from work, or when I’m at the gym. Anytime my mind is wandering and it helps to be in the right headspace.

South Village is the third Ash McKenna novel, set on a hippie commune in the middle of the woods. Ash, an amateur private investigator (though he prefers to himself as a blunt instrument), is hiding out from a bad thing he did, waiting for his passport to come through so he can flee the country. And then someone gets killed. Just when he thinks he’s out, he gets pulled back in.

The book is a little bit about madness, but also a little bit about loneliness. And it took me a while to find the right combination of songs, but this is what I came up with.

The ‘Nam Connection

“Shelter from the Storm” – Bob Dylan

“All Along the Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – The Rolling Stones

This isn’t exactly scientific, but I wanted to evoke the feeling of the Vietnam era, when hippie communes were growing in popularity. These are some songs I’d expect to hear while watching a movie in which soldiers traipse through the jungles along the Meikong River. And each one plays a bit into Ash’s personal journey.

Plus, the first two Ash novels—New Yorked and City of Rose—feel very current to me, whereas this one feels a bit untethered to time period, given the lack of modern amenities at the commune. So I wanted the music to reflect that.

The Hippie Connection 

“Revolution” – The Beatles

“Redemption Song” – Bob Marley

“John and James” – The Maytals

“What I Got” – Sublime

It’s a hippie commune. There’s got to be some Bob Marley. And “Redemption Song” is a little on the nose, but it’s also a really good song. “Revolution” is the same—a little obvious, but it works for me.

I went to SUNY Purchase College, which had a big hippie scene, so I’m pretty used to that vibe. I spent a lot of time listening to Sublime, though I guess that’s not exactly unique to my college experience. But I also listened to a lot of the Skatalites and the Maytals, ska bands from Jamaica. Something was going to end up here; just happened to be “John James”.

Time to Get Angry

“Sleep Now in the Fire” – Rage Against the Machine

“Dogma” – KMFDM

“I’m Against It” – The Ramones

Part of the book involves militant hippie activists and a protest, so I needed some angry songs on here, too. The Ramones because I always need at least one punk song on every soundtrack. Rage Against the Machine because it’s Rage Against the Machine.

KMFDM, to my mind, is Rage Against the Machine with more staying power and a better sense of humor. I could have picked a lot of songs from their huge catalogue, but went with “Dogma”, because there was a snippet I wanted to use in the epigraph. Which the band leader, Sascha Konietzko, very graciously allowed me to use.

The Personal Cuts

“You Learn” – Alanis Morissette

“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” – Johnny Cash

Twelve years ago, when I visited The Hostel in the Forest—the commune South Village is loosely based on—my friend Jacqui and I were driving from Brunswick to Athens. It was the middle of the night and I got it in my head I wanted to listen to Jagged Little Pill. I don’t even know why. We had to visit three Wal-Marts before we found the CD, and then we sang along until sunrise, driving back road through Georgia. I associate that album with that trip. “You Learn” gets a spot.

And, finally, Johnny Cash. This particular song made it because Ash is dealing with his loneliness, and how he relates to other people. But also, I’ve always got to have Johnny Cash. That should probably count as the fourth rule.


From The Atari Times to The Throes of Crime

erikarnesonsquareOne of my earliest memories of school is writing a short story about King Kong and how proud Mom was when I brought it home. (I wish I remembered more about the actual story — I’m certain it would have made a worthy sequel to the original film.)

A few years later, I wrote a four-page newsletter called The Atari Times to share my fifth-grade thoughts on the Atari 2600 and games like Pitfall, Space Invaders, and Circus Atari. Dad took my creation to work and made photocopies, then drove me around our development as I dropped off free samples to drum up subscriptions. (It didn’t work. There might have been a second issue, but I can’t swear to that.)

As a freshman at Temple University, I started a play-by-mail professional wrestling simulation called the Global Wrestling Federation. Mom and Dad helped me file a fictitious name registration with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and buy some advertisements to find customers.

When I started writing for a small music magazine called Notebored, Dad bought me a subscription to Writer’s Digest to help me learn the craft.

In short, Mom and Dad were relentlessly encouraging.

Last year, they both passed away. Mom suffered a stroke on April 22, and I will always believe that she would have fully recovered — except that Dad died of a heart attack just two days later. Once the reality set in that her husband of 45 years was gone, Mom was ready to join him in the next life. She did so less than three months later, on July 12.

14691927_10210834636448831_8116857010231003939_oThe James and Jeanne Arneson Memorial Scholarship Fund was created to honor their memory and continue their legacy of encouragement. The fund provides financial support to graduates of Wilmot High School in Wilmot, South Dakota, who display an aptitude in creative writing by authoring a short story.

Why Wilmot? Dad’s grandparents — my great-grandparents — moved to the United States from Norway in 1903. In 1914, they moved to Wilmot, a small town (population 492) in northeastern South Dakota. That’s also where they’re buried.

The scholarship fund is managed by the South Dakota Community Foundation, with a Scholarship Selection Committee consisting of me, my wife Elizabeth, and authors Jen Conley, Merry Jones, and Jon McGoran.

Superintendent and High School Principal Larry Hulscher and English teacher Danielle DeGreef made sure students were aware of the scholarship and encouraged them to enter. In May, Elizabeth and I visited Wilmot to award the first scholarship to senior (now graduate) Jessica Zempel, who won for her short story “Love, Lust, and Death.” We can’t wait to see what students come up with in future years.

If you’d like to donate to the fund, it’s pretty simple.

My first book, The Throes of Crime, a collection of 26 short stories and six true-crime essays, is available at Amazon (ebook and paperback), and all proceeds from The Throes of Crime benefit the fund.

If you’d like to donate directly to the scholarship fund, you can find out how at my website.

And please take a moment today to encourage someone — a child, a parent, a friend, a stranger. Encouragement is a powerful thing.


The 5 Minute Interview: With Grant Jerkins

He’s an overweight, mostly bald, late-middle-age white guy in skinny jeans. Phil Collins meets Phil Collins. Like that. But like a really old Phil Collins. A sad spectacle.

We meet at the Viper Room off the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. Almost two hours late, Jerkins offers no word of apology, no acknowledgement that he is tardy to the party.

A Pixies T-shirt bulges at the belly as he tosses a pack of Camel Wide Blue onto the tabletop and wedges himself into the booth opposite me. One can’t help but wonder if the convenience store was sold out of American Spirits.

I glance at the publicist hovering just out of plain sight, but well within earshot.

INTERVIEWER: Let’s make this real. No handlers. No interference. Just me and you. Five minutes of honesty. Being straight with each other. You down with that?

Jerkins sighs and motions away the publicist.

INT: Don’t you think it’s a bit trite to interview yourself? It’s kinda been done to death.

GRANT JERKINS: Says you. What’s old is new. Here’s the secret to writing: There are no new stories. It’s up to the writer to tell old stories in a fresh way.

INT: That’s the secret to writing? Clichés are okay?

GJ: Yep.

INT: That’s great. Sagely advice. Faulkneresque.

GJ: ‘Stories from the past don’t die. They haven’t even been told yet.’

INT: Not how that goes.

GJ: ‘Haven’t even been told yet.’ Think about that.

INT: Okay, let’s tie that into your new release, Abnormal Man. It’s about a kidnapping gone wrong. Has that one been told yet? A kidnapping? Gone wrong?

GJ: Not the way I tell it. Have you read the book?

INT: I want to stay with this train of thought before we get into those kinds of specifics. I did a little research on this, about how many books and movies have used the kidnapping-gone-wrong trope. Sticking to things released just within the last twenty years. Care to guess how many there’ve been?

GJ: I have no idea.

INT: Guess.

GJ: I’m not interested.

INT: A shitload. A shitload of books and movies have used that plotline.

(Silence.)

INT: You can’t smoke in here.

GJ: It’s the Viper Room. They allow smoking. Johnny Depp smokes in here all the time.

INT: Okay, but you’re not Johnny Depp. You’re like, a sad old man trying to cling to his youth. And you’re way too old to be wearing skinny jeans. Let it go.

GJ: Have you actually read the book?

INT: Let’s shift gears. What’s up with that cover art? What’s that about? It’s a pink tree in like a deserted Wal-Mart parking lot or something.

GJ: Did you notice the crack in the asphalt leading to the tree?

INT: A bit obvious. But yeah, man. I get it. I get the symbolism. Asphalt cracked in the past hasn’t even cracked yet. I so totally get it.

GJ: Look, the point isn’t that it’s about a kidnapping or that there’s crack in a parking lot. The point is that sometimes we make bad decisions. Sometimes we do things we regret. And hurting another human being can be the biggest regret of all. And maybe we try to fool ourselves, try to believe that our actions were preordained. That what we thought were choices were never choices at all. It was never under our control.

INT: Fate? Seriously? You really are bringing out the chestnuts.

GJ: You have a young man. The protagonist in the book. He’s introverted. Isolated and lost. No friends. Nothing. An island in a sea of humanity. Except he likes fire. He’s sexually stimulated by fire. It’s his only friend, his only escape. Was that a choice for him?

INT: It’s easy to shock. Oooh, he gets off on fire. How disturbing.

abman_1800x2700GJ: Not the point. And you’re right, it is easy to shock. But sometimes when we get to glimpse into someone’s unguarded core, it’s shocking. Hell, the banality of it can be shocking. But what makes it worth exploring is the question of how did that person get that way. How did any of us get to be who we are, doing the things we do? Was what got you here today in front me in this booth the culmination of a series of choices, or were you destined to be a hipster douchebag from the moment you were born? Were you always someone unable write anything of any substance on their own and therefore must associate himself with serious writers hoping the glam rubs off?

INT: A serious writer? That’s how you see yourself?

GJ: What about a child molester? Or a rapist? It’s uncomfortable to talk about, to think about. But are those choices? Is that someone’s fate? Or even a result of chaos? Did carbon atoms swirling about the galaxy bring them to that point? Isn’t it worth putting some thought into how the most despicable amongst us got to be who they are? Or, putting all that aside, what about their humanity? They are human, right? We are all human, so as uncomfortable as it is, we need to acknowledge that our humanity binds us. That we overlap and have commonalities in that regard. What if we concentrate on that overlap, our humanity as a Venn diagram, and then consider the problem from there?

INT: You are not a serious writer. You think you’re like Bret Easton Ellis or something?

GJ: I cannot stand that prick.

INT: Guess what? Our humanity just overlapped. I can’t stand that fucker either. Are you down with the new crime movement? That whole thing? The whole Southern Gothic Burn Barrel Rural Noir thing? Someone like Brian Panowich? What’s you’re take on him?

GJ: Tattoo-riddled charlatan.

INT: We really are seeing eye-to-eye. So Venn it’s Zen.

GJ: Nah, see, I actually like Panowich. I was testing you. I dig his writing. He’s righteous.

INT: He’s a serious writer. I’ll give him that much. But you, you are not a serious writer.

GJ: I try. I honestly try. I aspire.

INT: Dude, you’re a fucking hack. You’re not even a hack. You’re like… Like a nothing. You’re like dark matter. You might exist, but probably you don’t. You don’t exist.

GJ: You’re right. I don’t exist. I’m not even past yet.


Yes, Exactly Like That

What’s your book about?

Silence.

Pause.

You start. You stop. You start again. You fumble around your marble mouth. Your tongue all of a sudden weighs twenty pounds. You then say some canned crap that sounds a lot like canned crap.

This is the drill when I’m sometimes asked about my books. Keep in mind I used to pitch script ideas to studios. I was better at that. That I can get geared up for. That I can prepare for. Basically I down an unreasonable amount of coffee and work out the pitch ahead of time. Talk it through. Work out the kinks. Research who I’m meeting with and the company / studio they work for. Try to understand what they might want to hear. Also, when you do those types of meetings you’re almost taking on a character of sorts. It’s you not being you. Another version of you, you’re a sales guy all of sudden out to close a hot lead. You’re not the writer bleeding out every word, searching for the best way to describe how it feels to be empty and alone in the universe. No. In a pitch meeting you’re working a room and brother, you are on. But in a way it doesn’t matter, because in those rooms, a lot of times, it’s all up of grabs anyway. I’ll give an example:

You say, “This script is about an average person’s struggle to find hope in hopelessness.”

They say, “You mean like Fast and the Furious?”

You say, “See, you get it. Exactly like Fast and the Furious.”

That’s sometimes how it goes. You say something. They say something. You pivot off what they say, because you desperately want the gig, and in the end it’s this mangled mess of a thing that neither one of you are really all that interested in. You smile, they smile, you accept their bottle of water and hope you see somebody cool as you leave the studio lot.

With a novel it tends to be different, for me at least. This is something that you set out to write and, at least with me again, no one told you That sounds amazing, go write that, can’t wait to read it. Books are all a little more personal. A little more of you pours into them. A bit of you seeps in somehow. So when you’re cornered in a random situation and asked the question of what your book is all about you might have to pause. Sure, there is a quick Amazon description you can throw out there, but that somehow feels like cheating. Sounds a little like your reciting the alphabet. You also don’t want to stand there for half and hour taking a deep dive into the backstory of the Waiter that takes a bullet to the head on page five.

To be clear, you should absolutely memorize the Amazon description as a backup if nothing else. Gotta have something in your back pocket if your brain goes shithouse. All of this is to say, hey I get it, it’s hard to talk about your stuff sometimes.

People also want to know what genre or category your write in. Reasonable question, but another one that can trip you up.

My stuff, my writing, is the product of all kinds of things. When I was in screenplays I’d write several different genres. Horror, rom-com, thrillers or whatever a meeting might want me to be. If you have to jam my books all into a category? Yeah, it’s crime fiction. Some are very crime fiction and some are tilting towards other things.

14034994_10208348038591234_6596683013820239818_nMy new one, Genuinely Dangerous, is a tough one to plant a label on. That’s by design. When I started out with it I wanted it to be this fun, insane book that read like Chuck Palahniuk joins Elmore Leonard on a road trip with Hunter S. Thompson driving and Charles Bukowski serving drinks from the backseat.

If I pitched that as a movie the silence in the room would be deafening. Blank stares. Heads down looking at iPhones. Hell, that might be the last meeting I ever had. This would not be well received around town. Hard to make a poster of that. Difficult to envision a trailer with that setup.

But you can do that in a book and I’d like to think I did just that. You can really do anything you want in a book. Granted, yes, there are some book ideas that more commercially viable than others, but as far as just writing something, it’s pretty damn wide open with books.

Take what I just said about the Chuck and Hunter road trip thing and strap this on — Genuinely Dangerous is story of a down and out screenwriter who’s fallen out of favor with the movie biz because his second movie tanked and tanked hard. He’s taken refuge in the suburbs and he’s become obsessed with getting back into Hollywood. He has a crazy idea for a movie. He wants to embed himself with a crew of bank robbers and film a documentary while they work their dirty deeds. You know, war correspondent style. What could possibly go wrong?

Okay. Now that’s a thing. That’s a book. It’s dark comedy, satire, big action crime book and it’s the book I wanted to write. It’s a book I would want to read even if someone else wrote it. So that, kind folks, is what my book is about.

And yes, it’s exactly like Fast and the Furious.


The Fine Art of Killing Your Darlings

STTKM NK Cover

“All writing is a campaign against cliché. Not just clichés of the pen but clichés of the mind and clichés of the heart.”

– Martin Amis, “The War Against Cliché”

Some things take a few minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master. Games like chess, for instance, or knocking off a bank and getting away with it. Flash fiction also falls into this category: sure, a lot of people can type out 500-700 words, but stitching (and cutting) that mass of verbiage into an effective story takes a lot of skill and practice.

The great thing about a Website like Shotgun Honey is how it gives the crime-fiction writers of the world a no-bullshit platform for their best short work. Just a handful of venues these days seem to offer that kind of opportunity: Out of the Gutter is also going strong, along with The Molotov Cocktail and a handful of others. Every week, these sites offer a collection of short hits, quick enough to get you through your next bus-ride or waiting room sojourn. I always like a bit of literary murder and mayhem right before the dentist drills my teeth; it really puts my minor pain in proper perspective.

And every week, the editors behind those sites need to weed through a ton of stories in order to find the roses. What differentiates the stories that make it? They tend to push back hard against the clichés of the genre, offering a new and startling take on old, dusty tropes.

Fortunately, a crime cliché is easy to pick out of the lineup. Italian mobsters who speak in exaggerated New Jersey dialect? It was old long before Francis Ford Coppola shot the first frame of the Godfather trilogy. Serial killers with cute nicknames who work as cops by day? Snore. Femme fatales who plug their loving men in the back and walk away with the cash? You’ve seen it too many times to count.

A twist on a tired trope, on the other hand, is pure gold, especially if it comes with an unexpected ending. For example, take a look at “Getting the Word Back,” a story by fellow Shotgun Honey editor Angel Luis Colón. What starts as a standard-issue liquor-store robbery quickly evolves into something far weirder—and, in the end, about twice as vicious as you were expecting.

With my own flash fiction, I’ve tried to subvert clichés whenever possible. Take my story “Special Delivery”: while a lot of hardboiled tales focus on people trying to bust out of prison, I wanted to write something in which an anti-hero had to break in. I took a fair bit of inspiration from last summer’s infamous breakout at Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York, in which a pair of prisoners figured out a way past the prison walls via underground tunnels,Shawshank Redemption-style.

When it came time to collect the stories for my new noir-fiction collection, Somebody’s Trying to Kill Me, I realized that, in many ways, the flash fiction had been harder to write than some of the longer pieces. With a “full sized” short story or novella, you have the space to build an entire world; with flash fiction, you must telegraph a lot of information in as few words as possible. (The best flash is also self-contained: contrary to what some writers think, snipping a fragment from a longer narrative and presenting it unedited as a short-short story is often an ineffective technique if you want to be published.)

In the end, I alternated the collection’s longer pieces with flash fiction, creating a “long-short-long” rhythm that hopefully keeps readers engaged all the way through. Check out Somebody’s Trying to Kill Me and let me know if you think it works.

And in the meantime, if you’re writing flash fiction, remember to kill your darlings as ruthlessly as possible. Your red editing pen (literal or metaphoric) makes for a fine murder tool.


Stand aside, Kayfabe. Here Comes Wrestletown.

Temp CoverI’m baaaaack.

Thanks to head honcho and good friend Ron Phillips for having me. It’s been too long. I’m even getting the itch to submit soon, if you can believe it…

But onto the topic at hand – looking back over the years of chatting with Ron on g-chat, hanging out at cons, etc. – one thing that we really connected on (besides crime fiction and Shotgun Honey, of course) was comics. Ron did some work in comics back in the day and it was a lot of fun to see him reminisce while I ground away on my dreams of grandeur.

Fast forward a bit and while working on some comic projects, I wrote KAYFABE, a crime novel about a retired pro-wrestler named Seymour “Savage” Jackson. I love the book, but it’s a bit too one-note for me when it comes to plot. After several drafts I re-outlined the book many times, yet still (to this day) haven’t tackled it. But the pro-wrestling aspect stuck with me.

I’ve been on a huge nostalgia kick over the last year. I could put the blame on having two young boys, but it’s likely just me being a big kid. Part of that has been reconnecting with pro-wrestling, another diving back into manga, especially the more ‘literary’ and ‘slice-of-life’ from creators like Taiyo Matsumoto and Inio Asano.

Out of this madness, WRESTLETOWN was born. An illustrated hardback novel (cover and interior artwork by Andrew MacLean) about two orphans coming of age in a city obsessed with pro-wrestling, with fans who believe the action is real. The genre is a lot more fuzzy than KAYFABE or my other previous work, but I can definitely tell where my crime writing shows through in my voice, which is a long way of saying that my time with Shotgun Honey, both reading and writing (especially reading) has stuck with me since.

inklogo_120x120-5411e9d5cb4d7a47a13543245393f0b5WRESTLETOWN‘s a little different, a lot of fun, and my favorite project to date. The book is being published with Inkshares, a publisher that functions like Kickstarter, except by copy instead of dollar amount. I hope you guys will give it a look and consider supporting the pre-order campaign to bring this baby into existence in mid-2017.

OH YEAH! DIG IT!

Until next time…give ’em both barrels!


Preacher: Episode 10 – Call and Response

preaching-to-the-choir

And the landing my friends, it has been stuck.

In what’s probably the episode to match the absolute whacked out mad cap humor of Garth Ennis nearly 1:1, Call and Response serves as a fantastic finale to what many could and should deem “Preacher Begins”.

So it all leads to this: God’s coming by way of Jesse Custer—who is still very much on the run.

We establish it’s been a few days; we’re only 15 hours or so off from mass. Cassidy was picked up by Root at a whorehouse, Jesse is in hiding, and Tulip just got back from visiting Carlos. She stops at the local beauty parlor where a line of ladies are getting primped and waxed for the arrival of the Lord.

God HATES pubes, folks. Laser those buggers off and know his love!

Anyway, the show.

10948761_preacher-season-1-episode-10-call-and_66dde0a3_mTulip goes looking for Jesse and decides to visit Redneck Donnie and his creepy BDSM wife. Great use of lawn flamingo follows, but it’s all for nothing; Jesse’s their houseguest. There’s a creepy vibe here, though. Are they helping Jesse of their own accord? Possibly, Donnie half-deaf now.

Cassidy, though, well he’s in a spot. Root’s figured out what he is and has decided to fill Cass with bullets and blood until he finds out where Eugene is. Man, can I say what a fantastic job W. Earl Brown has done with this role? On the comic page, Sheriff Root was an odious redneck piece of garbage. TV’s root is a wonderfully realized, non-stereotypical southern lawman. He’s a standout to me throughout the season.

W. Earl Brown as Hugo Root - Preacher _ Season 1, Episode 9 - Photo Credit: Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

Root and Cass have a conversation in between the shootings and Root decides to let him go once he’s had his fill of what-the-fuck for a lifetime.

Back at the Redneck BDSM household, Tulip reveals to Jesse that she has a gift for him: Carlos in the trunk. We finally see the entire story behind that foiled bank robbery and find out Tulip miscarried because of the entire mess. She wants an eye for an eye and Jesse gives in, deciding to put a bullet in Carlos for screwing them over out of jealousy for what they had.

After some back and forth, though, Tulip decides against murder and the pair opt for a good old fashioned ass whooping in a scene that could have been lifted straight off the page. Loved the shot of Jesse and Tulip shoulder to shoulder.

After all that wackiness, it’s game day. Quincannon cuts Jesse off—the dick—still firm in his belief in the God of Meat, but I think he’s going to have a hard revelation or three. The rest of the town shows up to church as well to watch Jesse have a little trouble figuring out how to work an angel phone, but once he gets it going, BOOM: well, hello God.

Annville-Church-Preacher-Season-1

And what a completely asinine, by the book God we get. Old white dude on a throne and all. At first he’s resistant to being summoned and questioned, but Jesse’s “balls” earns the town the right to question him. Quincannon seems to get closure on his loss and Jesse gets to ask about God’s plan. God plays it mysterious and vague—as God would do—but something about God’s hand-waving of Genesis and Eugene strike Jesse as off.

And he realizes something. This isn’t God.

Using Genesis, Jesse demands an explanation and gets one. God’s gone. The guy on the phone is an angel in a costume and nobody knows where He is. With that revealed to the town, well, things go a little sour.

- Preacher _ Season 1, Episode 9 - Photo Credit: Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

The church gets torn up, that pedo bus driver gets speared, the town mascots commit suicide together, Odin cradles his meat baby (holy fuck, that was disturbing), and the man managing Quincannon Power & Meat’s Methane Power Plant dies of a heart attack while having some leather fun with a random lady. The poor girl tries to sort out the issues –with a ball gag in her mouth—but it’s no use. All the methane begins to vent and the Annville Savage’s final cigarette sets it all in motion.

That’s right, folks, Annville gets exploded in methane. The entire town is killed in an elaborate fart joke.

Bless you, Based Showrunners.

In the meantime, Jesse, Tulip, and Cass finish some promised French fries and get on the road. The goddamn whiners finally get the REAL beginning to this saga.

preach-finBack at Annville there’s a survivor! Our mini-assassin wanders out of the wreckage with a limp. She hears the sound that tell-tale sound of a hammer cocking and she’s immediately given a new hole in her chest. Behind her, the Cowboy, fresh from hell and with a single word on his lips.

Preacher.

Season 2 starts next week, right? RIGHT?

What did I love?

  • Everything. This was about as pitch perfect a finale I could have asked for. The humor, violence, and plot were wonderfully bizarre and the tone was nearly perfect. Kudos to the cast and crew. They really did a great job here.
  • Eugene is officially our replacement for John Wayne. It works. Jesse needs a conscience, not an avatar of ancient masculinity.
  • Tulip’s reaction to the word. It made up for the bleh pregnancy thing enough to make me forgive it.
  • Great callbacks to almost all the little jokes on the show. Pay attention to the missing pet signs on the diner!

My biggest gripes?

  • I don’t have a date for when season 2 begins.

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Well, it was a great ride. Thanks for reading my ramblings and feel free to ping me about your thoughts via Twitter @GoshDarnMyLife or right here in the comments. I’ve got ideas of where this is all headed and what changes may come. All I know is I’m absolutely thrilled we finally got a spiritually faithful rendition of a very beloved comic.


Preacher: Episode 9 – Finish the Song

preaching-to-the-choir

Back to Ratwater!

This week’s Finish the Song finally gives us a resolution to the Cowboy’s story—and it’s much stranger than you imagine. The least strange part? The Cowboy murdering the entire town as he forces a Chinese immigrant to continue singing an operatic ballad. It’s a tense and bloody scene. The Cowboy truly does love to kill.

PREACH_SOK-20160317-LJ_0302.dng

In the present day, Jesse is on his way to jail. Sheriff Root wants answers and Jesse provides them plainly before escaping form the back of the cruiser.

Deblanc and Fiore, fresh off their disappointing attempt to get Genesis back in its prison, visit a travel agency. The agent inside offers them a few getaways, but the boys are looking to go down south. Like super, super south.

preacher9_01And the plot train keeps rolling as Tulip calls Emily over and lets her know everything about Cassidy. Tulip’s been feeding him tons of animals, but Cassidy isn’t healing. Something about his condition and nonhuman blood doesn’t seem to jibe. Tulip heads off on a little road trip and Emily reveals what happened to Jesse—which Tulip gives zero fucks about. That is, until Emily reveals she’s dating the mayor. That changes Tulip’s demeanor quite a bit. Still, I thought Emily sort of hated him?

Meanwhile, Jesse eats pancakes with some homeless folks. Small scene, but it may be my favorite with Jesse so far. It feels like him for the first time in a while.

Back to Emily and Cassidy’s feeding time. Poor guinea pig. Poor Cassidy. We get a call back to an image from the comics here and I honestly think it’s VERY interesting how early it comes into play.

Back to the angels. One mentions leaving the radio on for the tiny heavenly assassin from a few episodes back. They’re packing up for their trip and debate the next move. They flip a coin to decide what to do and come up on calling Heaven twice. Only problem: no phone. It’s gone. There’s a tidbit or two here that I think may end up playing a very HUGE role in yet another deviation from the comic. 1) Calling Heaven means Fiore and Deblanc would be separated forever and 2) Deblanc knows what hell is like while Fiore doesn’t.

I have a theory.

I will not share it.

Emily gets a lot of screen time this episode and what I feel is ultimately a big hint as to what her fate will be next week—especially given the movie she’s watching. Cassidy isn’t satisfied, by the way. He’s screaming blue murder. Emily gets up to bring him a rabbit and we cut to Quincannon’s office where a few of his works are having a company fistfight?

Mayor Miles is there and gets a call from Emily. She’s in danger. Cassidy’s going to get her. The mayor rushes over to Tulip’s uncle’s house, but it’s a trap. Emily locks him in the room with Cassidy and the mayor’s all but the meal that the Irishman needed to finally bounce back. Can’t say I’ll miss the little weasel.

10846337_preacher-episode-9-annotations-a-quick_tb2c2fed1Sheriff Root gets called to the angel’s hotel room as the place is a bloodied, broken mess. In the bathroom? The still alive mini-assassin, well, sort of alive. She’s missing her limbs and is taking an ice bath. She begs the Sheriff to kill her, so he does (great moment of raw emotion too) which gets her reincarnated and back out in the world.

The angels catch their shuttle to hell, but poor Fiore can’t bring his comics. This lends more weight to my theory. Off to hell they go!

As for the phone they wanted to use? Jesse got it! He goes to Tulip’s uncle’s house—and that poor dude is always in a drunken coma, huh—and finds Emily there. She mentions Cassidy is there and heads off. Damn, Emily, you cold-blooded as fuck.

preacher-episode-108-cassidy-joseph-gilgun-jesse-dominic-cooperJesse finds a recuperating Cassidy and the many dead bodies in the room. The boys rekindle their bromance with apologies and an oath to help one another. Jesse breaks down his plan to use the phone and his power to call God down, but it seems the phone won’t work for human hands. Luckily, Cass knows where they can get a few angel limbs real easy and hell, they need to dispose of a corpse either way.

Before they leave, though, Jesse leaves Tulip a message of apology and heartfelt love. Tulip’s a little busy with that Carlos fella and a meat tenderizer.

And then the Cowboy’s story…begins again?

What the fuck?

We go through the motions again, though at a quicker clip (like, not multiple episodes of waiting).

Then it happens again.

And again.

And again.

The angels show up after the massacre and we finally find out that this isn’t necessarily the past, it’s also hell. Interesting to note: not as crowded as Ghost Eugene said it was. Guess Jesse’s just bug fuck crazy.

The angels offer the Cowboy a way out of reliving the worst days of his life over and over again. All he has to do is kill a Preacher.

On Earth, Jesse and Cassidy dig up some angel bodies underneath that very familiar tree.

Next week is going to be fucking insane.

What did I love?

  • AN ENTIRE EPISODE OF PLOT MOMENTUM. FINALLY,
  • The Cowboy’s fate is well-realized. We got a solid reason for him to hate a Preacher,
  • The buildup for certain characters to get their earned deserts,
  • Emily finally impressed me. Shame I think she’s dying.

My biggest gripes?

  • I would have liked some more Ghost Eugene. Should we call him Ghostface? ArseGhost?

God’s invited to the party next week. We’ll see if some theories hold water or whether I’m as big of an asshole as I believe I am. Either way, should be fun.


Preacher: Episode 8 – El Valero

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Hey now, here’s the episode that should have followed Sundowner. I wonder if there was some kind of mix up last week and they aired a bunch of non-essential deleted scenes. Because seriously, I’m still mad about He Gone.

Anyway, El Valero is a bit of a return to form and some forward momentum that provides some incredibly deep changes to the Preacher mythos that I think are pretty fucking brilliant. The episode also further cements my theories of what the outcome of this season will be, and honestly, I don’t think many people are seeing the biblical parallels here.

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We start off with a massive change as we find out what happened the night John Custer visited Odin Quincannon. Before he made that call, Odin lost what appeared to be about 90% of his family in a freak ski lift accident. Their bodies shipped to him, he’s in his office surrounded by the corpses of his loved ones and a live cow. John Custer shows up and Quincannon is broken; having gutted the corpses and the cow to show Custer he can no longer distinguish between the animals and his family. And thus he begins to worship the God of Meat.

I told you Jesse made a mistake using the Word on him without deeper context.

We move on to Quincannon’s raid of Jesse’s church and all these men find out that not only is Jesse a hell of a fighter, but he’s an expert marksman. There’s seriously no stopping this man—especially the drunker he gets. Jesse finally feels in character compared to last week. He’s drunk, guilty, and violent; having wasted energy trying to get Eugene back from hell with nor results. Once he runs Quincannon’s men off for the first time, though, he hears a noise in the hole he dug up in the church.

And out comes Eugene.

Holy fuck!

preacher-episode-107-jesse-cooper-4-935After fetching the poor kid some water, Eugene and Jesse have a long talk. We find out hell is pretty crowded and obviously not the most awesome place. Jesse calls Eugene’s dad and apologizes to the kid. He realizes now that he was wrong to judge, that it’s God’s job to judge everyone and he needed to understand that Genesis would come with consequences.

All the while, Quincannon and his men make their next plan of action. Something a little more organized since Jesse is a fucking force to be reckoned with.

Eugene and Jesse keep talking, but there’s a small problem. Eugene knows about the angels. Jesse realizes he never told the kid about them and Eugene’s caught: none of this is real, Jesse’s fucking crazy.

Ghost Eugene? I dig that. Jesse needs a Jiminy Cricket.

Meanwhile, Tulip adopts a dog…okay?

Quincannon’s men give the raid another try and Jesse sends them running back. One guy manages to get um, dismembered, but isn’t too freaked out. Probably shock—have a feeling getting your dick shot off can do that to a guy.

Anatol Yusef as DeBlanc, Tom Brooke as Fiore - Preacher _ Season 1, Episode 7 - Photo Credit: Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

More and more folks are turning up to the standoff and Jesse announces over loudspeaker that he wants the angels to come. Thankfully, Sheriff Root’s there to understand the request and Deblanc & Fiore show up promptly. Jesse breaks his little restraining order on them and lets them know he’s ready to evict Genesis of they can help him get Eugene out of hell. Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily work out as intended as the little demon/angel spawn finds its way right back to Jesse after being extracted. This leaves the angels upset and leaving—planning a secondary option to resolve this mess.

That leaves Jesse alone, drunk, and stupidly open to an ambush by our favorite little Civil War reenactor, Donnie. Earlier, Donnie had a bright idea and shit a gun off while he had his head in his car trunk. Now he’s sort of deaf and the Word won’t work—and suddenly Donnie’s IQ had a jump in my eyes too. Jesse gets to eat the business end of a pistol and is brought before Quincannon to sign away that damn church.

Jesse’s willing to surrender, but he has a single final request: one more service. He’s going to call out God and if the deity offers nothing worthwhile, will denounce him as Quincannon wanted from the elder Custer so many years ago. Jesse’s lead off and taken in the back of Root’s cruiser—arrested, I guess—while the town watches. Man, this town sure seems all sorts of crazy bug fuck potentially past the point of redemption, huh?

Oh, and that dog Tulip bought? Food for a clearly recuperating Cassidy.

Meanwhile, that underground bunker shows up again. The pressure builds up and a silent guard presses a few buttons to prevent something from happening.

Have a feeling whatever might happen happens next week.

What did I love?

  • This episode felt like it had a purpose. Nice of you to join us so close to the finale, plot,
  • The implications of Ghost Eugene are huge. I’ll take him over John Wayne, to be honest,
  • Tulip’s complacency to Cassidy’s needs is sort of chilling. Hope this pays off,
  • ‘Preacher shot my dick off’ the music made that entire scene.

My biggest gripes?

  • I still want to see the God of Meat,
  • The townsfolk subplots are boring now,
  • No Cassidy? Boooooooo,
  • The first part of the church fight being behind closed doors. God damn, AMC, just give them a few extra grand.

Next week, Jesse’s going to continue his fail parade. You just know calling God is going to raise all sorts of fuckery.


Preacher: Episode 7 – He Gone

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Nothing worse than spoiled good will. Even if it’s in the service of a good payoff.

“He Gone” might be the weakest episode of the season so far—either a victim to the condensed storytelling a ten-episode season doesn’t have time for or a limited budget because of what’s to come.

But whatever, that’s beside the point. There’s some good character work here, even if the plot goes all sorts of nowhere—impending Quincannon ridiculousness notwithstanding.

We open right where we left off last week, Eugene’s gone to hell and Jesse seems sort of, well, not give a fuckey? Bonus: Cas was watching from above the whole damn time. Terrible event to witness; your best bud condemning a teenager to hell below.

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Jesse, in the meantime, just goes forward with Church service as if all validation of his religion hasn’t occurred. Kudos, Mr. Custer, kudos. After mass, Eugene’s dad is looking for his son; Jesse brushes it off—cold-hearted motherfucker.

Jackie Earle Haley as Odin Quincannon - Preacher _ Season 1, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

Oh hey, Odin Quincannon finished his Alamo playset. Also, he’s listening to cows screaming…

This was genuinely fucking disturbing. I may now be a vegan.

Flashback! The Story of Jesse and Tulip. After a fight, Papa Custer looks to have to take in little Tulip (the actress they got to play young Tulip is fucking amazing by the way) and we get a few wonderful glimpses into their early lives. Tulip’s a troublemaker, an O’Hare as Jesse’s father points out, and he calls Child Services to find her a proper home. This sets Jesse off and he prays for his father to die. Shame that wish comes true.

Nathan Darrow as John Custer, Dominic Ruggieri as Young Jesse, Ashley Aufderheide as Young Tulip - Preacher _ Season 1, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

We get a nod to fans in two forms during the flashbacks 1) Jesse LOVES John Wayne, even has a weird portrait of him and 2) ‘Until the end of the world’.

In present day, Tulip’s chasing down kids for her drunkle’s (GET IT) pants and being a certified bad ass in the process. She spots that damn mascot walking around again with his dog (my theory: that mascot? God).

Back at church, Jesse’ s got a prayer group, but Cas interrupts with the knowledge that he saw what happened. He’s also horrified to see Jesse gives zero fucks for some reason. He’s convinced at this point that Genesis needs to be evicted, but Jesse ain’t having it, off he goes to pray while Tulip shows up with a bunch of shit food to make dinner.

Cas and Tulip have a solid talk about their relationship with Jesse and the Reverend Custer sure is about the biggest shit heel in existence. He goes to his little prayer group and has some weird rehearsal for a play about Lot and his salty wife (how fucking apt) and comes off a bit fatalistic about the players’ reactions to the end of the world.

MY GAWD THE FORESHADOWING.

Quincannon comes a calling and reveals to Jesse that the Word didn’t quite stick. He has some paperwork for Jesse to sign and provide the church and land to as he didn’t become a Christian. Jesse tells him to fuck right off and the stage is set: Quincannon will be back.

Interesting to note: Quincannon doesn’t seem as dreamy as he was a handful of episodes ago. Wonder if someone shook the Word right out of him. Maybe that damn mascot.

preacher-ep7-cooper-fireAnd now, the most awkward dinner since the Whites and Jesse Pinkman had their silent supper in Breaking Bad. Sheriff Root comes calling for his son and Jesse’s caught in a lie. He walks the sheriff out and Cas confronts him again. Jesse reveals that Eugene deserved to go to hell. He shot the Loach girl and himself after an unrequited display of love. Jesse believes sinner should burn if they can’t be saved, so Cas finally goes full monty: he steps on into the sunlight and starts burning, leaving it to Jesse to decide whether to save him.

No answer to that as Jesse returns to the dinner table and is furious Tulip knew Cas was a vampire. He shits that bed and Tulip leaves.

We end this week with Jesse clawing at the floorboards of the church and screaming the word into the earth, trying to get Eugene to come back.

In the night, Odin’s coming and he’s got a small army with him.

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Man, we got three episodes left. No more wheel spinning.

What did I love?

  • The acting was great. Wonderful little character moments. That’s about it.
  • Well, aside from the fact that a lot of my theories are hold more water than a ten-gallon hat’s going to accommodate.

My Biggest Gripes?

  • It’s time for things to start coming to a head. Jesse’s downfall needs to come, this town needs to die, and a certain Saint needs to come marching in.
  • Not in love with the change to Eugene’s origin, BUT I have a feeling it may be hearsay.

Next week’s promo looks interesting, but I said the same last time. Tempering the fucking expectations.