“Some of us, by simple grace, sit on the merry-go-round enjoying the ride while others struggle just to stay on. The damned thing’s going too fast, their legs keep getting away from them, everything they have slides over the edge and is gone. These are the folks Nick Heeb writes about. Don’t try to make writing like this safe by saying it’s gritty or transgressive or classic noir. Those are words, and this is real.”
—James Sallis, author of Drive and the Lew Griffin cycle
This week Shotgun Honey is pleased to release the debut novel The Lucky Clover by Nick Heeb. The story is about a man who is drawn to misfortune, poor choices, and the remote roadside biker bar The Lucky Clover. As James Sallis suggests, Heeb has produced a book that doesn’t easily fit into one bucket, though elements may want you to quickly do so. Regardless of what you clasp onto, The Lucky Clover will drag you and its protagonist willingly or not to the end.
Only a few days left of 2018, and I imagine many of you are ready to be done with it. I know there are a lot of aspects I’d like to leave behind. But in the publishing world, there’s always something to look forward to, and that’s more books.
01-18 | The Lucky Clover by Nick Heeb
02-08 | Main Bad Guyby Nick Kolakowski
03-08 | It’s Not My Cult! by A.X. Kalinchuk
04-12 | Load by Preston Lang
05-10 | The Furious Way by Aaron Philip Clark
06-07 | How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks by Jennifer Lee Thomson
07-12 | Honorary Jersey Girl by Albert Tucher
08-09 | 40 Nickels by R. Daniel Lester
09-06 | Chasing China White by Allan Leverone
10-25 | Shotgun Honey Presents: Call Me Danger
12-13 | Coal Black: Stories by Chris McGinley
2019 will be full of comedy and tragedy with many returning characters and authors. Enough variety that you’ll want to add at least one to your nightstand reading.
Many titles have been mentioned previously, and in the coming weeks and months we’ll be delving into each one individually. Two noteworthy additions come in the final quarter of 2019.
In 2018, unless you’ve been in hiding, you’ve probably run into Chris McGinley’s stories on various websites, including ours with “The Haint”. So we’re very happy to publish his first collection Coal Black: Stories in just under twelve months. As the title suggest, it’ll be packed with stories about rural Kentucky and Appalachia. I’m a fan and I hope you’ll be too.
In October is one of two special projects we’re working on for release in 2019. Shotgun Honey Presents: Call Me Danger is the return of our anthology series which kicked off our publishing endeavors with Both Barrels (2012), Reloaded (2013), andLocked and Loaded (2015). Keep your eyes out for information on submitting in next couple weeks.
If you’re a reviewer and you see a cover, title or author that piques your interest, feel free to reach out by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be sure get you an eARC when it’s available.
Thank you for your support and have a prosperous new year.
This week Shotgun Honey is pleased to announce the release of our final book of 2018, Rival Sons by Aidan Thorn. It is always a pleasure to publish longer works from our flash fiction contributors. Aidan’s first story was “Waste Disposal ” back in 2014.
When Kyle Gordon hears that his mother is terminally ill he makes the journey back to his hometown for the first time in nearly two decades, only – home isn’t what it used to be. Kyle is shocked by the dilapidation that has befallen his town.
For nineteen years Kyle vowed to protect the people of his country, serving in the armed forces. On returning home he realises that there were those needing protection right on his own doorstep and it was from no foreign enemy but that of his own flesh and blood. For decades his own father, Frank Gordon, ran the small farming town through fear and crime. Now, the throne has been passed to Kyle’s younger brother, Graham, a man with no moral code.
Kyle had enlisted in the army to distance himself from his father’s chosen profession, and he’d not returned until now to keep his own young family from harms way. Through returning to support his ailing mother Kyle’s fears become reality—the lifelong feud between brothers is reignited and a dangerous bond is formed between his teenage daughter and her grandfather, Frank.
Praise for Rival Sons
Rival Sons is a story about evil overtaking good, how one brother can corrupt the other, and how the lineage passed to us can be more corrupt than any jailhouse snitch. In this blast of a novella, Aidan Thorn delivers—these characters know rivalry and vengeance, guts and glory, failure and worse-than-failure. They also know love and courage (well, some of them do). And like every great noir story, Rival Sons is about a few bad men eating the bullets they so deserve.”
—Matt Phillips, author of Know Me from Smoke, The Bad Kind of Lucky, Accidental Outlaws, and Three Kinds of Fool
“A really strong story with great characters. Brilliant stuff. Aidan Thorn is at the forefront of the new wave of British noir.”
—Chris Black, Senior Editor at Fahrenheit 13
“This nuanced, multi-layered homecoming tale packs a real kick-in-the-teeth. Powerful stuff.”
—Tess Makovesky, author of Gravy Train and Raise the Blade.
About Aidan Thorn
Aidan Thorn is from Southampton, England. His short fiction has appeared in Byker Books Radgepacket series, the Near to the Knuckle Anthologies: Gloves Off and Rogue, Exiles: An Outsider Anthology,The Big Adios Western Digest, Shadows & Light, Hardboiled Dames and Sin as well as online in numerous places.
His first short story collection, Criminal Thoughts was released in 2013 and his second, Tales from the Underbelly in 2017. In September 2015 Number 13 Press published Aidan’s first novella, When the Music’s Over In 2016 Aidan collated and edited the charity anthology, Paladins, for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, working with 16 authors from the UK and USA to deliver this project.
2019 is only a month away—boy did this year blow by—and for 2018 there is only one more book on the books, Rival Sons by Aidan Thorn releasing December 14 (I mention this as it was to release on the 7th). It’s been a rewarding year as far as working with talented folks, though it has been at times it’s been a juggling act. Part of that is working with all these talented folks, and being allowed to put their stories out there for the public. It’s also because I work full-time elsewhere and I am a full-time student (at 50 next January), and then there’s just having shitty health.
My favorite part of the publishing is the creativity I can give to the covers. If you look in the front of 99% of the books I produce the credit belongs to Bad Fido—it is me and I am it. I created Bad Fido with the hopes of doing covers (and related publishing necessities like websites) for people outside of Shotgun Honey. But, time hasn’t really be on my side. My style is so varied it would be fair I don’t have a style, but the designs I do come from the stories and not some house style I perceive I should have. I think flexibility is good. So if you have a book coming out in 2019 that doesn’t have a cover yet … I’m just saying.
This week Bad Fido, um me, is please to share covers for January and February releases by Nick Heeb and Nick Kolakowski (respectively).
InThe Lucky Clover by Nick Heeb, we follow the Narrator who returns to his old haunt, The Lucky Clover, looking to forget and recover from his past life’s miseries and humiliations by drinking with good friends. He soon discovers the people closest to him had no interest in his honest intentions, and that violence is the only language spoken in this sparse and hard country he calls home.
The Narrator is a man of vice and his actions are fueled by drink and drug and too much time spent in The Lucky Clover. While the story is stark, much of the environment is left to our own encounters with the seedier side of life. Instead of focusing on the atmosphere of the roadside bar, I felt vice was the way to go with this cover. What do you think?
In 2017 the second Shotgun Honey/Down and Out release was A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps which introduced us to Bill and Fiona, whose true romance takes them to near death. This was followed up a year later with Slaughterhouse Blues. Those crazy lovebirds Nick Kolakowski is a true provocateur of gonzo violence and mayhem. And this February (2019) Bill and Fiona return in their last book in the Love & Bullets trilogy titled Main Bad Guy.
For this book, I took lead from the author and used a central image that is key to the plot and tone of the book. I won’t reveal it’s intent, but it’s going to be quite the ride to this unique courtship.
And of course, I took this opportunity to revisit the first to books of the series and provide some unison. What do you think? Better than the originals?
It’s sad to see the series end, but it’s not the end of Nick. He and I, and a talented bunch of other writers, have something really excited for the second half of 2019. More on that later…
This week I also caught up with posts that didn’t get posted. A couple weeks ago I went to the hospital to get an MRI and came out with Bronchitis. And having sworn I had pre-published all the stories for November, I didn’t check to see if the stories had published, preferring the comfort of bed. So big apologies to R.D. Sullivan and Joshua Wade Freeman. So their stories published late. So be sure to read “So Easy” by R.D. Sullivan and “Gas” by Joshua Wade Freeman.
When I first got a chance to read Face Value by William E. Wallace, I immediately connected with Eddie Pax, a man that works within the gray areas of society tracking down properties owned by bad men. Eddie was a classic pulp protagonist, and in a different generation William would have been a classic pulp writer comparable to Donald Westlake’s alter ego, Richard Stark. When I accepted Face Value I asked if there were more. Eddie had appeared in a few short stories, but in William’s mind the stories and the novels were endless. Potential always there. He was constantly writing, and I believe it was in the words that William found the strength to fight cancer. Even a few weeks prior to his death he talked about that next Eddie Pax novel. It’s a shame that novel never found completion, Eddie Pax was my kind of character. I’d rather have William here, instead.
I only knew William through his writing, though I feel I should call him Bill. That’s what his friends called him, and at least to me he made it really easy see him as a friend. Bill had many friends from his journo days, and he collected many as a crime writer and a champion of small press publishing. Bill published a few collections on his own, such is the marvel of publishing today, and then a couple books with All Due Respects, then rival and now sister publishing company, and his final book Face Value with us, Shotgun Honey. When he wasn’t writing, he was reading and he was supporting writers who are not often heard, marginalized by the marketing of the New York publishing houses. He wrote about books and authors he liked on his blog, Pulp Hack Confessions.
Today, I am honored, with the editorial guidance of Chris Rhatigan of All Due Respect, along with the support of Eric Campbell and Lance Wright of Down and Out Books, and the blessing of Margot Wallace, Bill’s wife, and Garth Wallace, Bill’s son, to release DEADLINES: A Tribute to William E. Wallace. This is a collection of stories — inspired by the career and stories of William E. Wallace — culled from writers and colleagues that Bill took time to champion. I thank these writers for their time, their stories, and their patience.
Paul D. Brazill
Sarah M. Chen
Renee Asher Pickup
C. Mack Lewis.
Sarah M. Chen
I knew Bill more from his online presence than in person. He was such a generous and ardent supporter of the crime fiction community and his humorous posts were something I always enjoyed reading. Before knowing him online, however, I did get the chance to briefly meet him at LCC Portland. I immediately liked him. He was intelligent, kind, and witty.
When pitching my first novel DIRTBAGS to agents, I forever felt the sting from one particular rejection that said only, “I thought you said this was supposed to be funny.” That one hurt. All my lonely thoughts crashed and crumbled at the shores when I read my first-ever Pulphack Confessions review which Bill titled: “A Laugh-A-Minute With The Funniest Serial Killer Novel I’ve Ever Read.” For the first time since I’d started writing, I felt like I’d connected with a reader. It’s still my favorite review ever.
William Wallace was a fantastic champion of my work. He was one of the first to review my story collection and I will always be grateful. I never got to meet him in person, but I wish I could’ve have. Rest in peace, William.
I “met” Bill virtually on July 3, 2014, after reading his story “Working Stiff” in Flash Fiction Offensive. I friended him on Facebook and we wrote each other about the noir/crime fiction community and how supportive the writers are unlike other competitive areas. We emailed a few times and talked through Facebook. He promoted fellow authors’ works and I always looked forward to reading his stories. I got to meet him in person at Renee Asher Pickup’s Book and Booze podcast reading in San Francisco. And later at Left Coast Crime in Portland. We both sat at Holly West and Josh Stallings’ table at the banquet dinner in 2015.
Our final meeting was for breakfast in Berkeley on June 2016. I was in the Bay Area to watch an Oakland A’s game for Father’s Day. Bill’s diagnosis was grim and I wanted to see him again if he was up for it. We arranged to meet that Saturday for brunch. After being surprised to see him at a Joe Clifford book launch at Pegasus Books the night before, we met Saturday morning. We had brunch the following morning. Bill talked about some characters he met while reporting, authors he loved, concerns about the state of the publishing industry and the diminishing short story market and his health. He didn’t eat much as he had no appetite. While he had grown thin and looked tired, his eyes were alive. After our meal, we sat outside and talked a little longer before he needed to head home. He signed my copy of “Hangman’s Dozen” and I gave him a hug. A few days later he sent me the following message that broke my heart…
“You’ll be interested to know that you are the last person other than my docs and family I have seen since we had lunch. My son had tix for us to go to the MST3K reunion at a theater in Emeryville last night, but I couldn’t manage it. Looks like I am going to be spending most of the rest of my life shuffling around home and writing or down at Kaiser for treatment or labs. Of practically all the people I know who are writers, I am happiest you were one of the last I got to see in person. . .”
I am so glad he was wrong and had another seven more months to live. In those months he put his life out on Facebook for his friends to see. Writing, playing his guitar, reading stories and giving reviews, and still sending out words of encouragement to the crime writing community. Brave and generous to the end. When Bill passed, it still came as a shock. I miss Bill. A fantastic writer, advocate, and friend.
Will contributed most of the photos, and those moments are captured memories that we are thankful for.
Thank You, Bill
William E. Wallace was an exceptional talent and a passionate man. This wonderful collection cannot begin to express his contribution to our community or the void left behind in his passing. Bill called himself a hack, but his talents extended beyond his own writings, elevating those around him.
Thank you for contributing to Shotgun Honey with your short stories and allowing me to give Eddie Pax one good story of his own.
Thank you to all the authors who contributors, to co-editor Chris Rhatigan, and our publisher Down & Out Books. And to Margot and Garth Wallace our condolences and gratitude for allowing us to celebrate Bill the only way we know how.
This week Shotgun Honey is proud to release The Hollow Vessel by Albert Tucher. It is part of the Errol Coutinho/Big Island of Hawaii series which includes last years The Place of Refuge.
The Hawaii County Police are used to Rotten Roger sleeping rough, but now the veteran tramp has a new tent. The bloodstains in it don’t bother Roger, but they are the last thing Detective Errol Coutinho needs to see.
Coutinho is already looking for Rhonda Cunningham, a young woman from New Jersey who was last seen in Hilo buying a high tech tent like Roger’s. Rhonda planned to live off the grid in the rainforest of the Big Island, but her wealth stands in the way. Too many people want a piece of her to let her disappear. Some wish her well, some want her dead, most want her money, and one wants the thing she will never give.
So whose blood is it in the tent? Coutinho’s investigation will send him up against a hit man from New Jersey, a bunch of wannabe local gangsters, and his own nephew. An old girlfriend wants the best for her son, but she complicates the case even more, and a legendary marijuana trafficker proves both real and deadly. It’s getting crowded in the rainforest, and the shakeout will be murder.
“Full of twists and turns, The Hollow Vessel is an entertaining ride into the underbelly of the Hawaii’s Big Island. Detective Coutinho and his sidekick Kim find themselves pulled deep into the jungle of drugs, family skeletons, and a little bit of old school New Jersey. With Tucher’s sharp prose, The Hollow Vesselis a fast moving story with a great set of characters.”
—Jen Conley, author of Cannibals
“In his second outing with Detective Errol Coutinho of the Hawaii County Police, Al Tucher, ups his game. His eye for detail, sense of pacing, and gift for characterization and setting makes spending time in the rain forest of Hawaii a delight.”
—Patricia Abbott, Edgar, Macavity, and Anthony-nominated author of Shot in Detroit, Concrete Angel, and I Bring Sorrow
About Albert Tucher
Albert Tucher is the creator of prostitute Diana Andrews, who has appeared in more than eighty hardboiled short stories in venues including The Best American Mystery Stories 2010. Her first longer case, the novella, The Same Mistake Twice, was published in 2013. Her world includes the characters in The Hollow Vessel and The Place of Refuge. Albert Tucher is a librarian in his day job, but retirement beckons.
When Shotgun Honey first started in 2011 it was done so to capture something of the past, of zines that had come and gone. Some that flickered brightly and then vanished. I didn’t have any concept of how long the site would last or if it would exist past a few months. It wasn’t entirely my show, and I was just happy to be part of Kent Gowran’s reminiscence. Kent and Sabrina, who founded with me what I like to call The Gauntlet, that tribunal system of story selection, both decided to move on after our first anthology collection. Even I moved on to an extent, only managing site and relying on a very capable group of editors. Many have come and gone: Chad, Joe, Erik, Chris, and most recently Angel. Their tenures varying.
Jen Conley accepted the invitation to join the gauntlet in the fall of 2012, essentially filling the position left by Sabrina Ogden. Without hesitation, I can say that Shotgun Honey would not still be publishing anything had it not been for the dedication and selflessness of Jen. There had been times, more than once, where my health and personal life put the site in jeopardy. Because of the trust I had in Jen, I knew that I could take the breaks needed and get myself right. She would guide the ship, and for six years she had been a true Shotgun Honey. This was her last week carrying my weight. I am and will always be grateful to her tenure and her heart, wishing her and her family the best. Though this is a loss in our family, we take a bit of solace in the fact she can now again contribute as the wonderful storyteller she is.
Every editor of Shotgun Honey has one thing in common, they have all been contributors first. I see no reason to change that tradition. I would like to welcome Hector Acosta to The Gauntlet.
Hector has been contributing since 2011 with his first story “Big C”, and has contributed to the Shotgun Honey Presents: Both Barrels anthology series. His novella Hard Way was the first book to be published under the Shotgun Honey/Down & Out Books imprint. Hector is a big wrestling fan, so if there are any Kayfabe crime writers this might be your in. He shares my love of Deadpool and always likes my tweets.
Hector rounds out The Gauntlet with fellow editors Nick Kolakowski and Renee Pickup.
We’re going to miss you Jen!
This last week we released covers for the upcoming books:
The delayed Deadlines: A Tribute to William E. Wallace will be release on August 24, 2018. Proceeds will go to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund in his honor. So please cut back on your favorite Starbuck’s coffees and save enough to properly remember Bill.
Chris Pennington woke up in his recliner at 3:07 AM. The Phillies game from last night was being replayed and was in its third inning. Chris thought he made it to the seventh or eighth inning earlier. He felt good, felt better than he had in months, maybe years.
When I was a wee lad, us neighborhood kids would assemble on Friday nights and march down to the local multiplex, to see whatever action spectacular graced the screen that week. If the movie in question was a sequel, there was a high likelihood we would leave the theater complaining about the reheated plot, the clumsy callbacks to the original film, and how all the lead actors had phoned it in.
At the time, it was easy to blame the directors and screenwriters for the mess. But now, having taken my own run at a sequel, I realize those creative types were wrestling in the grip of a particularly insidious trap: it’s hard enough to create a new work—and if the result is any good, it’s even more difficult to follow it up with something a.) better, and b.) at least somewhat original. After all, you poured everything you had into that first book or movie; the temptation to stick to that same formula with the sequel is sometimes too much to overcome, especially on a deadline.
This theory explains the last two “Die Hard” movies, along with a fair number of book series.
When I finished writing “A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps,” I had the vague desire to write a sequel. I had enjoyed the writing experience quite a bit (the usual agonies over plot and sentence structure aside), and ended the book in a matter open-ended enough for a follow-up. Plus, I really liked the characters; I wanted to find out what happened to them, and I hoped the audience would, too.
Little did I know that I had stepped into that trap.
For me, the biggest challenge in writing a sequel is that you need to keep the previous books in mind at all times. When you have multi-novel character arcs, if you mess up the details in your latest book, your protagonists will evolve in weird and inconsistent ways. Readers notice when motivations shift, or characters’ personalities change abruptly from novel to novel.
The next challenge: avoiding a rehash of the plot from the first book. In my case, this was a little bit easier than formulating the character arcs: the plot of “A Brutal Bunch” is contained to a very specific locale (a dying town in Oklahoma with a dark history), and driven by a lot of folks who (spoiler alert!) don’t make it to the end. My two protagonists, Bill and Fiona, survive and flee to another country. The second book’s exotic environment and a fresh cast of characters helped guarantee that I didn’t go to the proverbial well twice, in terms of plot beats.
Third, I needed to avoid my personal clichés, those plot elements that I’ve found myself using (however subconsciously) again and again. I have two in particular that I’m trying to weed out of my writing: a habit of eliminating a bunch of secondary characters in a single explosion—an easy way to streamline a narrative and kick off a second or third act with a bang!—and ending things with a massive gunbattle (you can blame my watching “The Wild Bunch” at too impressionable a young age for that impulse). As I wrote the sequel, I took those old tools away, and forced myself to invent new ones.
I’m pleased with the overall results; and I’m probably the first person ever to stage a vicious brawl in a self-driving Tesla. Nobel Committee, I await your call.
It’s been a while, and kind of a crazy year. How have you been?
Last year, almost a year ago, I announced our new partnership with Down & Out Books. I can’t say enough great things about Eric and Lance, who have done a stand up job with their own line of books, and have become home to so many talented writers with the inclusion of new imprints like ABC Group Documentation, All Due Respect Books, and of course Shotgun Honey. Also, respect to those imprint publishers Jeremy Stabile and Chris Rhatigan.
Overall, the change has been positive, and I have some really exciting books coming out in 2018 and 2019 which I might not have had a chance to work with if not for Eric and Lance. However, change has its obstacles, and of course I’ve thrown a few wrenches, maybe some lawn furniture, in the mix. The end result were some really tight deadlines for scheduled books and delayed releases of the One Eye Press re-issues. I know Lance says a a prayer and a curse for me every night.
What? Get to the point? Okay, okay.
Shotgun Honey is pleased to announce the re-issue of Face Value by William E. Wallace. Originally released in the summer of 2016, Face Value, would end up being William’s last book before losing his battle to cancer on February 25th of this year. It would be the only Eddie Pax novella, though we had talked about future books. I loved the work William put forward not only for himself, but for others, and the moments of compassion. In 2016, I discovered I had a brain tumor, and when you hear that kind of news your thoughts go towards the worst end of the spectrum. I was scared, but William without pause was there to lift me up and say positive things. This was when he knew that he had an expiration date that was already past.
Face Value is the final One Eye Press re-issue, which means that if you missed them prior you can pick them up again.
Next year brings a new batch of books, but one returns Shotgun Honey back to it’s anthology days with a collection that I’m proud to issue in late February titled Deadline: A Tribute to William E. Wallace. A collection of short stories written in tribute to William by authors who worked or have been supported William’s reviews and promotional efforts on his blogs. It will be edited by Chris Rhatigan, who also published works by William, and artist/writer James R. Tuck Jr., who will provide the cover work for the anthology. The line up is still evolving, but will include the works of:
Sarah M. Chen
S. W. Lauden
So pick up a book (or two) today. And I hope you’ll come back as we announce more about 2018 and the Deadlines anthology.
Self-deception gets in our way, trips us up, makes us do bone-stupid things. We all suffer from it from time to time. Luckily, most of us recognize this and, at least sometimes, try to compensate the best we can.
But sometimes we don’t confront our self-deceptions until it’s too late. For me, that happened when I was coming out of graduate school with an eye on a tenure-track teaching gig. Turns out, the entire professional landscape for college professors—and especially the job market—had shifted in a major way while I was locked away inside the ivory tower, and I’d failed to notice it.
Wait, scratch that. I had noticed it. I just used my own powers of self-deception to convince myself it wouldn’t affect me. Spoiler alert: it did, and as a result, I lost a few years of my professional life to swimming upstream through a job market that didn’t have any room for me.
And while I’ll never get those years back, I did eventually recover and learn something from my mistake. Alton Carver, the protagonist of my new novel How I’m Spending My Afterlife, isn’t quite so lucky:
Alton Carver has a problem.
A cocky lawyer in his mid-30s, he’s under federal investigation for embezzling and securities fraud. Instead of spending the next three to five years behind bars, he’s got a plan: stage his own death, take the money he stole and light out for Central America, leaving behind wife Nicole and daughter Clara. But when he sticks around town long enough to watch his own funeral, he makes the unpleasant discovery that the life he’s leaving behind isn’t the life he thought he had.
When he overhears the way his former colleagues talk about him now that he’s “gone,” Alton is forced to reconsider his self-image as a respected and admired pillar of the legal community. Then the shock of seeing Nicole in the arms of another man leads Alton to postpone his plan to run for the border. What comes next is a slow-burn train wreck, a tale of self-deception, revenge, and bad decisions.
Alton is cursed with a knack for self-delusion and an oversized ego that’s almost incapable of admitting to mistakes. We’ve all known people like Alton; some of us have watched them crash and burn in disasters of their own making. And some of us—though certainly not me, of course—have even secretly enjoyed it.
I gave up on an academic career around 2011, fully four years after earning that sheepskin. I started writing this book in earnest three years later, but I’d had the first eight or nine pages sitting around for several years by then. Once I decided to get serious about writing fiction, I dug those pages out of deep storage, reread them, and thought there might be some potential there. So I kept writing, and in the fall of 2016 I’d made it all the way to a final, publishable draft.
I’ve always said that all fiction is autobiographical in some way, but I’d really struggled to see how this applies to my own novel until this very moment. Like Alton, I was an unreliable narrator of my own life. It honestly never occurred to me that maybe I was writing about my own self-deceptions—albeit in a completely different context—and all the time, money and heartbreak they cost me when I was writing about Alton.
How I’m Spending My Afterlife takes place mostly in Florida, but it’s not the same style of noir that you’ll find in my story, “Back to Tall Pines,” which takes place in a fictional north Florida backwoods town and was published back in April right here on Shotgun Honey. The book is available in Kindle, epub, and good old paperback formats from your favorite online retailers. I hope you’ll give it a chance, and if you do, I really hope you dig it.
I also used to move around a lot, so I’ve pounded the pavements of my hometown, Belfast; navigated the sidewalks of Manhattan; jogged on the banks of the Danube in Budapest; run through the Tokyo night in summer, when the heat and humidity is just about bearable, dodging cicadas as they dropped from the scattering of trees; and sweated through circuits of my local park where I now live in England.
There’s a house in that park straight out of a child’s bad dream. Top-heavy with a massive, towering chimney and dark, grime encrusted windows, it squats on the perimeter of the grass in front of a regimented line of neat terraced houses’ back yards like a brick witches’ cottage from a Grimm fairytale. I passed that house every time I ran through the park and, eventually, wrote a short story about it. A weird crime-horror hybrid about a Belfast paramilitary-turned-informant haunted by his past, I sent it to One Eye Press after spotting their Blight Digest Fall 2014 and was surprised and honoured to have it accepted for the Winter 2015 edition. There it was, my story, “Running On Dead Leaves,” in print. It was a massive encouragement in terms of sitting my arse on a chair and putting words down.
I used to run.
Buy RAVENHILL today
That was before October 2014, when my beautiful daughter was born and I had other, more pressing things to do – like down a couple of beers and have a bit of craic with friends in the rare quiet moments. One of those mates, over several of those beers, made a bet with me shortly after my wife and I knew a wee package was on the way. He bet that I couldn’t write a novel before my daughter arrived. Red rag to a bull, I went for it.
I thought back to writing my crime-horror hybrid and realised I enjoyed the paramilitary crime angle more than the horror, so I set to work. Belfast has changed a lot since I left home, and the republican and loyalist ceasefires of 1997/98. For a start, it was the safest city in Europe in terms of conventional crime during the ‘Troubles’ while the balaclava set were busy scurrying around blowing half the country to bits, shattering teenagers’ kneecaps and shooting various folk in their beds. Now, according to some indexes, it’s the third most dangerous city in the UK behind London and Glasgow, and ranks up there with Dublin and Limerick if you’re talking Ireland-wide. What if a character who’d been in the thick of it back in the bad old days came back after a long time away? What if his old comrades were drug dealers and gangland kingpins? What if the past was still very much alive?
The result is my debut novel, Ravenhill, published by Silvertail Books and out now in Kindle and paperback formats from Amazon. Here’s the story:
Belfast, 1993: Jackie Shaw is a young tearaway running with paramilitaries in Belfast. He treads a fine line keeping psychotic hard-man Rab Simpson in check while sleeping with gang leader Billy Tyrie’s beautiful wife on the side.
When a bomb claims nine lives, he is given the role of getaway driver in a planned reprisal killing, a key role in a major operation. But Jackie may not be who he seems …
Twenty years later, Jackie returns to the city for his father’s funeral after disappearing in mysterious circumstances. He wants to mourn then leave, but when figures from his past emerge, he is left with no choice but to revisit his violent former life.
Give it a try. It’s a brick-hard crime novel with a couple of twists and a glimpse of the stark reality behind the headlines from Northern Ireland. And thank you One Eye Press, for giving me a leg-up with that first published story in Blight Digest.
Now, I might just go for a run tomorrow. After I finish off the beers in my fridge tonight.
On November 7, 2009, my favorite mixed martial artist, Fedor Emelianenko upped his consecutive winning streak to twenty-six, unprecedented in the world of combat sports. On the same night, I began writing chapter one of Les Cannibales, my first published book. Here’s what it’s about:
During a robbery, Blinky sees police activity down the street. His crew assumes cops have the art gallery surrounded, unaware of their true presence, which is responding to a car accident that has left one man dead. The thieves shoot at responding officers and take hostages. When Detective Reynolds arrives on the scene, he identifies the dead man involved in the car accident. This becomes his main lead to hunt down the thieves’ true identities and work out a peaceful resolution before S.W.A.T moves in.
Each thief has a story explaining why he chose to take the job. Inky is a con artist repaying an old debt, Blinky is a stuntman in need of quick cash, Pinky is an enforcer that’s looking to move up in the ranks and Clyde is a sociopath/art aficionado that loves to steal. When S.W.A.T teams get the go-ahead to overtake the gallery, it’s dog-eat-dog as the gunmen plan their escape.
Jump back a week, car parked curbside on San Pablo avenue. Two cars up, a person stepped out of their parked car, the driver door sticking out far enough some might consider it hazardous to passing vehicles. Without much effort, I found myself lost to woolgathering, waiting for my wife to return with coffee. This is how I come up with most stories—sitting there, bored, waiting on someone else.
“What if that person was struck by a car due to some technicality like crossing the line?” I muttered out loud. “That’d be somethin’.” I regressed further, falling deeper into the vortex of my imagination. Suddenly, viola—chapter one. When I got it down on paper, it reminded me of that unexpected scene in Pulp Fiction when John Travolta’s character accidentally shoots Marvin in the face.
Jump ahead a few weeks later, I caught an interview Quentin Tarantino gave to film students. One student asked Quentin: “What do I need to do to become a great director?”
“Write a movie like Reservoir Dogs,” was Tarantino’s response. Cue: standing ovation. Cut to: me planting myself in front of the typewriter, beginning chapter two.
The first draft was novel length (still have a hard copy on file). Originally, Les Cannibales contained fictionalized stories of actual art heists that occurred throughout history. Think of the theft of Mona Lisa in 1911, thieves seizing two Renoir from the National Museum in Stockholm with submachine guns, and $300 million worth of art taken from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. The idea was to authenticate my story’s crime by highlighting actual crimes that have occurred. In later versions, I decided on axing those chapters—instead incorporating elements from those anecdotes into the crime I made up.
I wrote Les Cannibales eight years ago. To see it find a home with Shotgun Honey and Down & Out Books is a dream come true. Be a pal and check it out after you read this. Go ahead, give Les Cannibales a chance. You’ll be surprised with what you discover.