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).

Continue reading

2016: Favorite Rock and Roll Reads

rsz_screen_shot_2016-12-14_at_11041_pm

If you like reading about rock and roll as much as I do, then 2016 was a really good year. Not only were the bookshelves stocked with amazing punk rock non-fiction from the likes of Keith Morris and John Doe, but The Replacements came back into my life in a BIG way. I also discovered a few other crime writers out there who, like me, are using rock and roll as the leaping off point for their violent tales of intrigue, lust and woe. And it was another great year for music-inspired short fiction as well.

Here are a few of my favs, in no particular order.

Nothing’s more rock and roll than a list!

TROUBLE BOYS: THE TRUE STORY OF THE REPLACEMENTS—Bob Mehr

There have long been theories about why this Minneapolis punk outfit-turned-critical darlings never achieved their long-predicted commercial success. Rumors of self-doubt and self-sabotage were the stuff of legend. This well-researched book sets the record straight in a way that even the most die-hard fans will appreciate.

rsz_screen_shot_2016-07-31_at_30401_pm

ALL YOUR LIES CAME TRUE—Mike Creeden

It’s hard to read this high-octane thriller without thinking of your favorite rock and roll duos—Axl Rose/Slash, Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, or David Johansen/Johnny Thunders. Creeden does a great job of wrapping this page-turner in a glittery cape of rock and roll imagery to keep the action pumping. Strong characters, a fast-moving plot, and a killer back story deliver some unexpected twists and turns. This is a dark, but fun read that you won’t be able to put down. Read my interview with Mike Creeden.

UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF L.A. PUNK—John Doe & Tom DeSavia

This collection of overlapping essays about the first-wave of LA punk is a fascinating look at how legendary scenes are born. It’s incredible to think that a hundred kids, one apartment building and a handful of clubs gave us decades of great music from bands like X, The Germs, The Go Gos, The Minutemen and The Blasters. It goes by fast, so read it twice.

rsz_screen_shot_2016-01-10_at_72706_am

FLIGHT 505—Leslie Bohem

A private jet powered by broken dreams, regret and self-delusion. Fame might have eluded Mickey and Al, but that doesn’t stop them from getting back in the chase—long after their expiration date. A fun, fast read that brings the 80s LA New Wave scene to life in vivid color, and explores the meaning of success through the perspective of three very different, but hopelessly intertwined characters. A great read for anybody that ever chased the brass ring down Hollywood Blvd. Read my interview with Leslie Bohem.

MAMA TRIED—Edited by James Ray Tuck

I can’t think of a better marriage than the one between crime fiction and outlaw country—and this collection doesn’t disappoint. What started out as a random Facebook post according to editor, James Ray Tuck (“Someone should do a crime fiction anthology based on outlaw country songs called MAMA TRIED so I can write a story for it.”), turned into one of the best music themed anthologies of 2016. Stand out stories include Eryk Pruitt’s “I’m The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised,” Christa Faust’s “Truth or Consequences (Waiting’ Round to Die)” and Eric Beetner’s “Pardon Me (I’ve Got Someone To Kill).”

rsz_screen_shot_2016-10-16_at_45559_pm_2

PEEPLAND—Christa Faust & Gary Phillips

I don’t always read comic books or graphic novels, but when I do they’re about a peepbooth worker and her punk rock ex-partner. The brutal murder of a public access pornographer puts this unlikely duo under fire from criminals, cops, and the city elite, uncovering a web of corruption that leads right to city hall. Christa Faust and Gary Phillips are two of L.A.’s best pulp and noir writers, and Andrea Camerini’s artwork in PEEPLAND is fantastic. Read my interview with Christa Faust and Gary Phillips.

MY DAMAGE: THE STORY OF A PUNK SURVIVOR—Keith Morris & Jim Ruland

Keith Morris is a founding member of two groundbreaking SoCal bands, Black Flag and The Circle Jerks (among others). But this well-written book goes beyond those stories to show you his winding path to underground infamy. It’s been a strange trip for this soulful punk icon, and it just keeps getting more interesting.

CRIME + MUSIC—Edited by Jim Fusilli

Jim Fusilli, editor for this fantastic short story collection, starts his forward this way: “I don’t suppose it would be much of a surprise to discover that there’s a dark and deadly side to the world of popular music.” What is surprising about this anthology is the diverse talents of the contributors, including Zoe Sharp, Peter Robinson, Reed Farrel Coleman, Tyler Dilts, Bill Fitzhugh and Erica Wright—among many others. Every one of these stories hums, sings or (in the case of Gary Phillips’, “Shaderoc The Soul Shaker”) rips your head clean off.

DESERT CITY DIVA—Corey Lynn Fayman

I came into the Rolly Waters series in this third installment, but had no problem getting acquainted with the character and his San Diego. This book is a romp across a SoCal desert full of paranoid outsiders and lost souls. Love the musical references threaded throughout, and Rolly’s ability to solve the action-packed case without constantly waving a gun around or punching through walls. A fast, fun read that will keep you coming back. Read my interview with Corey Lynn Fayman.

rsz_screen_shot_2016-10-02_at_90522_pm

WAITING TO BE FORGOTTEN: SONGS OF CRIME AND HEARTBREAK INSPIRED BY THE REPLACEMENTS—Edited by Jay Stringer

Putting aside my own contribution to this anthology, Jay Stringer has assembled a truly impressive collection of crime and mystery writers including Johnny Shaw, Kristi Belcamino, Josh Stallings, Angel Colon, Jen Conley, Tom Leins, Alex Segura and Mike McCrary—among many others. Not to mention, talented contributors like Franz Nicolay (The Hold Steady) and Gorman Bechard (Director of “Color Me Impressed: A Film About The Replacements,” and “Every Everything: The Music, Life & Times of Grant Hart”). Read my interview with Jay Stringer.


BCC Cover FinalS.W. Lauden’s debut novel—about a punk rock musician turned disgraced cop—is called BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION. It was released in October 2015 from Rare Bird Books. The second Greg Salem novel, GRIZZLY SEASON, was published on October  2016. His standalone Tommy Ruzzo novella, CROSSWISE, is available from Down & Out Books.

Interrogation—Jay Stringer Talks Replacements

Who: Jay Stringer

What: Jay Stringer was born in 1980, and he’s not dead yet. He’s English by birth and Scottish by rumour; born in the Black Country, and claiming Glasgow as his hometown. Jay is dyslexic, and came to the written word as a second language, via comic books, music, and comedy. He writes hard-boiled crime stories, dark comedies, and social fiction. Jay won a gold medal in the Antwerp Olympics of 1920. He did not compete in the Helsinki Olympics of 1952, that was some other guy.

Jay is the author of WAYS TO DIE IN GLASGOW, HOW TO KILL FRIENDS AND IMPLICATE PEOPLE and the Eoin Miller series. He is also the editor for WAITING TO BE FORGOTTEN: STORIES OF CRIME AND HEARTBREAK, INSPIRED BY THE REPLACEMENTS, available Oct. 15 from Gutter Books.

Authors included in WAITING TO BE FORGOTTEN: Hailey Ardell, Ed Kurtz, Rick Ollerman, Alex Segura, Gorman Bechard, David Accampo, William Boyle, Johnny Shaw, Jen Conley, Angel Luis Colon, Josh Flanagan, Eric Beetner, Mike McCrary, Rory Costello, Franz Nicolay, Tom Leins, Josh Stallings, Erik Arneson, Kristi Belcamino, Manuel Royal, Eyre Price, Jerry Bloomfield, Liam Sweeney, S.W. Lauden and Jay Stringer.

Where: Glasgow

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

Your Replacements-inspired anthology, WAITING TO BE FORGOTTEN, will be released by Gutter Books on October 15. How did this project come together?

I’d been toying with a couple of music-related ideas for years. One had been to put out a collection of short stories inspired by Lou Reed’s New York album. Another had been The Replacements. They’ve always been in the DNA of my work. Not long after Gutter Books released Joe Clifford’s Bruce Springsteen anthology, I mentioned on Facebook that I’d love to see a ‘Mats collection someday. Tom Pitts got in touch to say, well, why not right now?

Continue reading

Interrogation—Mike Creeden

Creeden Pic1Who: Mike Creeden

What: His work has appeared in Tigertail, Miami Living, The Florida Book Review, EVERYTHING IS BROKEN, and TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND: CRIME FICTION INSPIRED BY THE SONGS OF BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN. A native of Massachusetts, Mike now lives in South Florida and teaches writing at Florida International University.

Where: Florida

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

I just finished ALL YOUR LIES CAME TRUE and I kept getting the strange sensation that the book was written specifically for me. Who did you think the reader of this story would be when you wrote it?

It was written specifically for you, Steve—you and anyone else who’s ever played in a band, or been obsessed with a band or walked around all day, every day with song lyrics and guitar riffs and concert footage running through their heads. I was thinking about the kind of reader who measures the quality of a movie by what songs are on the soundtrack, someone who gets excited when a writer mentions a rock song or a band in a novel.

Continue reading

Guest DJ—Will Viharo

We are THRILLED to have “gonzo pulp” author Will Viharo as our Guest DJ this week! I think you’ll agree that this playlist—including everything from Henry Mancini and David Bowie, to Nina Simone and Blondie—is a great way to kick off the weekend. Who knows, it might even inspire you to mix up a cocktail or three.

emailsignatureEarlier this week, Viharo launched Thrillville Press with an announcement on Facebook: “To say the creation of my own imprint followed a circuitous path is a gross understatement. It’s basically 37 years in the making, beginning when I wrote the first draft of CHUMPY WALNUT at age 16 in 1979.”

Since then, Viharo has released several impressive books through a variety of small presses and self-publishing platforms. His two most recent releases, both from 2015, include HARD-BOILED HEART (Gutter Books) and THE SPACE NEEDLER’S INTERGALACTIC BAR GUIDE (Createspace).

The four anthologies currently available from Thrillville Press include: CHUMPY WALNUT AND OTHER STORIES; LAVENDER BLONDE and DOWN A DARK ALLEY;  A MERMAID DROWNS IN THE MIDNIGHT LOUNGE and FREAKS THAT CARRY YOUR LUGGAGE UP TO THE ROOM, and THE VIC VALENTINE CLASSIC CASE FILES (cover design by Matt Brown).

viccoverthrillvillepress1smallBut, sorry folks, Thrillville Press is not open to submissions. This is a one man show.

“Thrillville Press, like all of my artistic endeavors over the past thirty-odd (very odd) years, is purely a labor of love. I’m truly at the point where if anybody doesn’t dig who I am or what I’m about or the work I produce, it simply isn’t my problem. Self-reliance is the key to professional happiness, at least for me.”

I’ll drink to that. Cheers, Will!

S.W. Lauden’s debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, is available now from Rare Bird Books. The second Greg Salem novel, GRIZZLY SEASON, will be published in September 2016. His standalone novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in March 2016.

Interrogation—Mike McCrary

Who: Mike McCrary

What: He has been a waiter, a securities trader, dishwasher, investment manager and an unpaid Hollywood intern. He’s quit corporate America, come back, been fired, been promoted, been fired again. Currently he is a screenwriter and author who writes stories about questionable people who make questionable decisions.

Where: Austin, TX

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

Your 2013 novel, REMO WENT ROGUE, is one hell of a read—fast-paced, vicious and dark. How did the character of Remo come together?

Thank you, sir. Glad you dug it. Yeah, Remo kinda came out of a fascination of defense attorneys and the weirdness of their jobs. All the information that must be swirling around their heads at any given time, knowing all the horrible shit that your clients have done and it’s your job to set them free or at least get the best deal possible. It’s extremely necessary to the legal process, but thinking of actually doing it as a profession is a whole different thing. I also really liked the idea of one of these guys having a crisis of conscience and falling off the deep end. So, those elements plus I have a deep affection for drunk, broken, pill-popping, foul-mouthed bastards with a heart of gold.

Continue reading

Great Writing Tips From Publishers & Authors

I have been very lucky to interview some great Indie publishers over the last year. Most of them are writers as well.

From e-mags and quarterly print publications, to anthologies, novellas and novels, these are the people bringing fresh new voices to the crime fiction world.

Here is a collection of recent quotes along with a few interview excerpts. Click on the links to read the full interviews.

rsz_screen_shot_2015-04-19_at_44611_pm

Craig T. McNeely is owner and editor-in-chief of Double Life Press and a writer. His short fiction has appeared in All Due Respect, Thuglit, Flash Fiction Offensive and more. He lives in Arkansas where he’s quietly plotting the takeover of the publishing world.

Read the Craig T. McNeely interview HERE.

rsz_screen_shot_2015-05-17_at_70957_am

[Interview excerpt]

Both of your novels were published by your own company, Follow Your Dreams (FYD) Media. Why did you originally decide to take an independent approach to publishing?

The technology is out there to publish, distribute, and promote like never before. I once got the opportunity to speak to Sue Grafton who said, “Wait. Give it time and the book will get (traditionally) published.” I just kept thinking, “Why wait? What for?”

Read the Laurie Stevens interview HERE.

rsz_screen_shot_2015-05-25_at_81643_am

Christopher Black is a noir writer of little note and editor-in-chief of Number Thirteen Press—a project to publish thirteen quality crime novellas, one on the thirteenth of each month for thirteen months.

Read the Christopher Black interview HERE.

Continue reading

Interrogation: Will Viharo

Experience the Thrill–SeattleWho: Will Viharo

What: A pulp novelist, freelance writer, B movie impresario, and lounge lizard at large. One of his novels, LOVE STORIES ARE TOO VIOLENT FOR ME, has been optioned for a film by Christian Slater since 2001. For many years in the San Francisco Bay Area he programmed and produced a roving “cult movie cabaret” called “Thrillville,” hosting hundreds of live B movie/burlesque shows as “Will the Thrill” along with his wife, Monica Cortes Viharo, AKA “The Tiki Goddess.”

Where: Seattle

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

I just finished A MERMAID DROWNS IN THE MIDNIGHT LOUNGE and my head is still swimming. Great stuff. How did this story begin for you? What are some of the most unexpected ways in which it evolved?

I actually first began writing this novel—which turned out to be my personal favorite of all my books—back in 1997. I’d just split from my first wife of like three months, so I was emotionally devastated, and I was working my ass off 12 hours a day as an Aero delivery driver in San Francisco while living in a cheap little hovel over in Oakland, near Lake Merritt, walking distance from the Parkway Theater, which had just been reopened and renovated as a combo movie house/restaurant by some friends of mine, who asked me to host and program a weekly midnight movie show, which I initially called “The Midnight Lounge.” These same friends had founded Wild Card Press and published my novel LOVE STORIES ARE TOO VIOLENT FOR ME back in 1995, but frankly they were professional dilettantes and quickly dropped the press in favor of the much more lucrative film exhibition/food racket, which proved very successful, until the entire business collapsed due primarily to internal turmoil in 2009. pulpcollection2By that time I had pretty much given up on ever achieving my dream career as a novelist, though I still wrote and published a lot of freelance articles on pop culture and such. Plus my live show, now locally famous as “Thrillville,” garnered a ton of local publicity, establishing my “brand name,” though not in my field of choice. I was also happily married to my “lovely assistant” from my cult movie show, Monica “the Tiki Goddess” Cortes. We were wed at the Cal-Neva in North Lake Tahoe with a Rat Pack/mariachi ceremony/reception on May 31, 2001, exactly four years after I first met her at my screening of Jailhouse Rock on May 31, 1997. So I was no longer lonely, the main source of much of my literary therapy. Anyway, I’d put down MERMAID once the theater took off and I was hired as a full time publicist/programmer. But when the company abruptly folded, my backup career went with it. Now, suddenly without a steady income again, facing a return to the series of crappy odd jobs I’d been sustaining myself with since age 16, I was back in familiar, full-on panic mode.
Continue reading