Johnny Cash Anthology Roundtable

Last week, Gutter Books released their latest music-themed anthology, JUST TO WATCH THEM DIE: CRIME FICTION INSPIRED BY THE SONGS OF JOHNNY CASH. The collection was curated by Joe Clifford who got an Anthony Award nomination for his previous rock anthology, TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND: CRIME FICTION BASED ON THE SONGS OF BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN.

I was aware of Johnny Cash growing up, but didn’t develop a passion for his music until I discovered roots-influenced punk bands like The Blasters, X, The Cramps, Social Distortion and The Gun Club. By the time I reached college, Cash’s music was in heavy rotation on my stereo. To this day, one of the best concerts I ever saw was The Man In Black live at The Pantages Theater in Hollywood with Beck as the opener. So when I heard Gutter Books was putting this collection together, I knew I had to submit a short story. The song I chose was “25 Minutes To Go.”

Now that the collection’s out in the world, I’m thrilled to see my name alongside talented authors like Rob Hart, Jen Conley, David James Keaton, Lynne Barrett, David Corbett, Tom Hazuka, Mike Creeden, Nik Korpon, Sarah M. Chen, Terence McCauley, Gabino Iglesias, James Grady, Danny Gardner, Rene Asher Pickup, Hector Duarte Jr., Ryan Leone, James R. Tuck, Angel Luis Colón, Jennifer Maritza McCauley, Steven Ostrowski, Terri Lynn Coop, Max Booth III and Heath Lowrance.

In honor of the release, I contacted Joe Clifford and a handful of contributors to find out what Johnny Cash means to them. I think you’ll enjoy their responses almost as much as this fantastic anthology (which you can snag RIGHT HERE).

Joe Clifford—Editor

What inspired you to create a Johnny Cash-themed crime anthology? 

We did the Springsteen one, which did pretty well, in terms of sales. But, man, so many people wanted to be in it (and were sorta pissed at me for not asking them). So we tried to do another Springsteen one, but his lawyers said no. So I tried to think of another Americana artist who embodies that crime fiction spirit, and who better than Cash? So I asked a bunch of new writers (and then there were some more writers I didn’t ask who sorta got pissed.)

What Johnny Cash song were you surprised that nobody claimed?

I’ll cheat a little here. Ryan Leone took “Folsom Prison Blues,” but his story was originally called something else, and when he learned that no one had claimed FPB, he changed his title (which works better for the piece anyway).

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Interrogation—Tom Leins

Who: Tom Leins

What: A disgraced ex-film critic whose 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. A novelette, SKULL MEAT, is available via Amazon, and a collection, MEAT BUBBLES (& OTHER STORIES), will be out later this year.

Where: Paignton, UK

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Congrats on the release of SKULL MEAT. How did this one come about?

Thanks, Steve. Weirdly enough, despite the low page-count it took me eight years to put together! The first chunk of the story was published online way back in 2009, and another slab of text languished on my hard-drive for almost a decade. Embarrassingly, assembling the finished version took less than a week!

The novelette length was a bit of a head-scratcher, so I decided to release it myself via Amazon—to satisfy my own curiosity about self-publishing more than anything. I had no idea how a novelette would be received, but I’m happy to say that SKULL MEAT has picked up some nice feedback from reviewers and crime writers alike so far, so it seems like people aren’t too put off by the awkward length.

(Quick quiz question: free copy of SKULL MEAT for the first person who can flag up where the title originated? Hit me up on Facebook or in the comments!)

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Writer Types Podcast—Episode 8

A software snafu delayed the release of the latest episode, but it’s definitely worth the wait.

Our featured interviews for episode 8 include Rachel Howzell Hall, James Ziskin, Ryan Gattis and Erik Storey. With special appearances by: Rob Hart, Todd Robinson, Jake Hinkson, Brad Parks, Brain Panowich, Joe Clifford and Val McDermid.

You can find our crime + mystery podcast wherever you listen or download:

SoundCloud

iTunes

Stitcher

If you like what you hear, please share it with your friends on the socials. If you really like what you hear, please subscribe and leave a review. That’s the best way to help us spread the word.

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S.W. Lauden is the Anthony Award-nominated author of the Tommy & Shayna Crime Caper novellas include CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). His Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION and GRIZZLY SEASON (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in Los Angeles.

Interrogation—Gary Duncan

Who: Gary Duncan

What: A freelance writer and editor based in England. His flash fiction collection, YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO CRY, is available from Vagabond Voices. He is the founding editor of Spelk Fiction.

Where: Northumberland

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

I first came across you and your writing at the excellent flash fiction site, Spelk. What was your inspiration to start that webzine?

I got hooked on flash fiction about four or five years ago and thought the best way to really immerse myself in it would be to start my own magazine. Quite presumptuous, I know, given that I was new to it and didn’t know any flash writers. I wanted to start off small though, so I figured why not give it a go and see what happens. I took a lot of inspiration from some of the flash magazines I used to read back then (and still do), things like Ink, Sweat & Tears, Near to the Knuckle, Shotgun Honey, Flash Fiction Offensive, and The Pygmy Giant. I wondered, at the time, if there’d be enough room in the market for another one, and was quite surprised when people started sending me their stories.

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Interrogation—Terri Lynn Coop

Who: Terri Lynn Coop

What: A recovering lawyer, antique dealer, and writer. Her first novel, a legal thriller called DEVIL’S DEAL, is available via Amazon. Her work has appeared in several anthologies, including the upcoming JUST TO WATCH THEM DIE—STORIES BASED ON THE MUSIC OF JOHNNY CASH. She is also the host of the multi-genre talk radio show, “The Blue Plate Special,” part of the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network.

Where: Kansas

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Congrats on the launch of “The Blue Plate Special Podcast.” What was your inspiration to create this show?

The Executive Producer, Pam Stack, invited me to pitch ideas for a show. There were already several genre specific shows for mystery, thrillers, romance, etc. I’m a big cross-genre reader and didn’t want to limit myself. So, I conceived the idea of a multi-genre show where it might be sci-fi one night and police procedurals the next. The name came from my love of old-school coffee shops and my insane collection of vintage restaurant china. The “blue plate special” traditionally was a rotating menu item, usually offered at a lower cost. You never knew exactly what would be served on any given day.

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Interrogation—Elaine Ash

Who: Elaine Ash

What: She edits career authors as well as emerging talent. BESTSELLER METRICS is her first how-to book. It’s also a patent-pending software in development for the publishing industry.

Where: Los Angeles

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

As a fiction writer, you have published short stories, novelettes and novels. What was the inspiration to write BESTSELLER METRICS?

The inspiration came from editing novels for many years. I saw the same problems affecting novelists who were working incredibly hard to get published. Ten years ago I thought Oh, I’ll come across a book that talks about those issues one of these days. But no matter how hard I searched, that book never came along. A year or so ago I realized that if I didn’t do it myself, it wasn’t going to get done. So I got busy.

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Interrogation—Beau Johnson

Who: Beau Johnson

What: His short stories have been published by Out of the Gutter Online, Shotgun Honey, Spelk, HST, and the Molotov Cocktail.  His collection of shorts, A BETTER KIND OF HATE, was published by Down and Out Books.

Where: Ontario

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Congrats on the release of A BETTER KIND OF HATE. Can you tell us a little about how this collection came together?

Thanks for the congrats!  It’s been quite a ride.  The collection came together because of many people, too many to name.  I will give you a couple, however—Tom Pitts and Eric Campbell.  The former put the idea of a collection in my head.  The latter is the person who allowed this idea to bloom.  All in all, I’m forever indebted.

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Interrogation—Glenn Gray

Who: Glenn Gray

What: His stories have appeared in a wide range of online and print magazines and anthologies. His story collection, THE LITTLE BOY INSIDE AND OTHER STORIES was published by Concord ePress.

Where: New York

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Your short story, “Break,” kicks off the new Broken River Books anthology, HARD SENTENCES. How did you come up with the idea for this one?

That was all David James Keaton’s fault. Seriously. I was racking my brain for an idea, something medical. Maybe the infirmary at Alcatraz, from a physician’s point of view. I started researching Al Capone and his well-known history of syphilis in his later years. It was all pretty interesting, but nothing good jumped out or clicked as far as story. I considered various angles, but most were dead ends for me. Nothing unique enough. Then DJK posted a list of concepts in the HARD SENTENCES guidelines that he wanted to see written. One of them was, “a story inspired by that Russian guy in the news who squeezed through the food slot in his prison cell.” I was like, huh? So I searched online and found the video and was like, hell yes, we may have something here. I watched this lanky naked dude wriggling through the food slot of his cell like some kind of slippery fish. He plops down on the other side of the bars, puts his clothes on and nonchalantly walks away.

The wheels started turning. What if there was no food slot? How could someone squeeze through the bars? What would stop you? Bone, of course. If we had no skeleton, we’d just be a blob and could squeeze through anything, and I thought of that liquid metal guy in Terminator 2. So I started thinking about diseases, anomalies, syndromes, anything that could help. And for me, the medicine has to make sense in order to write it. It can be fantastical but it has to be based in some real medicine or disease. And the anatomy has to be perfect. I had some diseases in mind, did more research, settled on osteogenesis imperfecta, and quickly realized I had something workable.

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New Flash Fiction

I love flash fiction. I love reading it. I love writing it.

Unfortunately, I don’t get the chance to publish much of it these days. So I was thrilled to see my short story, “Secondary,” up at Spelk Fiction. I originally wrote this one for a two minute reading at Bouchercon, New Orleans in 2016. It was also read by a cozy author at the California Crime Writers Conference MISCAST event last June.

And now it’s up at Spelk, a great site for flash fiction under 500 words.

Give it a read. I hope you dig it.

S.W. Lauden is the Anthony Award-nominated author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series including BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION and GRIZZLY SEASON (Rare Bird Books). His Tommy and Shayna Crime Caper novellas include CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in Los Angeles.

Interrogation—Tom Pitts

Who: Tom Pitts

What: He received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He remains there, working, writing, and trying to survive. He is the author of AMERICAN STATIC, HUSTLE, KNUCKLEBALL, and PIGGYBACK.

Where: San Francisco

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Congrats on the release of AMERICAN STATIC. What would you like readers to know about your latest novel?

Thanks! What to let readers know? Where to buy it! Down & Out Books tells me you can order this one from any bookstore, so have at it. As far as the story goes, if you enjoyed HUSTLE, I think you’ll love this. It’s fast-paced, down and dirty, and a ton of fun. Provided you have a twisted view of what fun is.

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