Interrogation—Gary Phillips

Gary photoWho: Gary Phillips

What: Author of more than a dozen novels, a couple of short story collections, graphic novels, edited or co-edited several anthologies, and has various short stories in numerous anthologies. He is the former president of the So Cal chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, this year’s chair of the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color grant awarded by Sisters in Crime, and current president of the Private Eye Writers of America.

Where: Los Angeles

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

Your most recent release is 3 THE HARD WAY, a collection of three novellas from Down & Out Books. What is it about novellas that you like as a writer? Do you also enjoy them as a reader?

Interesting that the famed (or is that fabled?) James Patterson is getting into the novella effort in a big way. Not sure this means all boats rise, but it is the case that various writers across various genres have been on the grind pumping out 3 the hard waynovellas – 20,000 to 40,000 words – for some time. This echoes the heyday of the original pulps in the ‘30s when you could buy for a dime then twenty-five cents a pulp magazine, so-called for the cheap paper it was printed on but now refers to a certain rat-a-tat style of writing, with superhero-type characters such as Doc Savage, the Golden Amazon, Captain Future, the Shadow and so on. Each would have a lead feature said to be a novel-length tale, usually 40,000-50,000 words, plus several short stories.

3 THE HARD WAY then is in that vein. Two of the stories are more pulpy, action-adventure oriented, and the third is crime fiction. As a reader to me a novella gives you just enough story to dig in for a while but the demands of the form mean less extraneous matter and more charging ahead. Though that is not to slight characterization. I like novellas too as that might mean for a series character you can put out three or four of them in a year. Or if the finances lined up, why not once a month like back in the day?   No one has done that quite yet, but I would think that’s coming.

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Interrogation—Brian Thornton

Who: Brian Thornton

What: Author of nine books, including THE BOOK OF BASTARDS and THE BOOK OF ANCIENT BASTARDS, in addition to serving as collection editor for the crime fiction anthology WEST COAST CRIME WAVE. His short fiction has appeared in such venues as ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE and the Akashic Books anthology SEATTLE NOIR. A native Washingtonian, he is currently serving his second tour as Northwest Chapter president for the Mystery Writers of America.

Where: Seattle

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

You and I met at Left Coast Crime in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago when we were both guests on the Noir on the Radio podcast. Tell me about the short story you read that night.

“Half Smart, No Nerve” is both the shortest thing I’ve ever written for me, and my first paying fiction. I wrote it over a decade ago, in response to a notice on the venerable Rara Avis Hard-Boiled & Noir Fiction email discussion list that a new British publication called BULLET UK was seeking contributions of stories 1,000 words or shorter in length. At the time I was trying my hand at short stories, having already gotten my first “mistake” novel out of the way.

It had never occurred to me to even try to write something that short, so I gave it a whirl, spent three hours on it, emailed it to BULLET UK, and was delighted when they accepted it. I got 25 pounds for my trouble (still have the check.). Easy peasy.

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“Bat Sabbath”—Noir Slam!

Noir Slam Sarah Chen

(Photo by Sarah M. Chen)

Noir Slam was a fantastic event at The Last Bookstore. Lots of great readers. Awesome crowd. Well done, Eric Beetner and Maxine Nunes! Thanks MWA SoCal!

Here’s the story that I read at Noir Slam last night:

BAT SABBATH

Remember when Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off that bat? I was there that night, thirteen years old and in the front row. Best night of my life. Bat blood was still dripping from Ozzy’s yellow teeth when he tossed the twitching carcass right at me.

The band kicked into “Crazy Train” as I clutched at the leathery wings. That’s when some Ron Jeremy look-alike sucker-punched me from behind and snatched it. Everything went black.

I woke up when the arena lights came on. The seats around me were empty and my head was spinning from the Quaaludes and weed. I spotted my attacker near the t-shirt booth and pounced—like a bat-crazed cheetah chasing down a baby zebra. His arms flailed as I launched onto his back and clawed at his eyes.

My hands were covered in blood when the security guards finally pulled me off. That’s when I noticed that my victim looked more like Joan Jett than Ron Jeremy.

Feathered hair can be tricky like that.

I did three years in Juvie for attacking an innocent woman. But that’s where I learned how to play guitar. You should come see my Ozzy Osbourne cover band sometime. We’re called Bat Sabbath.

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published by Rare Bird Books in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

Less Is More

Noir SlamTomorrow night I join 18 fellow writers at The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles for Noir Slam— “a fierce, fast-paced trip to the edge of modern noir.” Just look at that list of readers! We each get one minute—60 precious seconds—to tell a complete story. It’s an interesting challenge.

I tried looking through my novel and my novella for 150 words that would work, but everything seemed like it would take a minute or more just to set up. So, I decided to write something specifically for the event. As with most things in life that are challenging, I turned to Ozzy Osbourne for inspiration.

See you tomorrow night in downtown LA!

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published by Rare Bird Books in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

Some Recent Short Stories

Looking for a quick read? Here are a few of the short stories I have published in the last year.

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published by Rare Bird Books in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

Interrogation—Craig Faustus Buck

CraigFaustusBuck_smallWho: Craig Faustus Buck

What: His debut noir mystery novel, GO DOWN HARD, was published by Brash Books in 2015 and was First Runner Up for Killer Nashville’s Claymore Award. His short story “Honeymoon Sweet” is currently nominated for both the Anthony and the Macavity Awards. He is chapter President of Mystery Writers of America SoCal.

Where: Los Angeles

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

I just finished reading your debut novel, GO DOWN HARD. It focuses on two of my favorite things—L.A. and rock and roll. How did you dream this story up? Why is L.A. the right place for this story?

After years toiling in TV, I was sick of outlining (a required step in selling a script), so when I turned to crime writing I just sat down and started. I had no idea where the book was going, but I had a first paragraph (long gone), which ended with: “If there is a flaw in her beauty it’s the back of her head, which some jerk has seen fit to splatter across her million-dollar Lichtenstein.”  That seemed promising, so I figured out who “she” was and the bricks began to lay themselves. As I met new characters, they started driving the story and I just held on for the wild ride. Of course I had to go back and do a lot of shucking and jiving to make a cohesive story out of it, but I had a ball doing it. Seat-of-the-pants writing was a whole new concept for me, and I loved it, even if the book took three times as long to write as it needed to.

Of course, it had to be set in L.A. and to me, that means rock. My old school friend Robert Landau has an exhibit up at the Skirball Museum as I write this, about the last of the hand-painted rock and roll billboards of Sunset Boulevard. That was my turf. I grew up above the Sunset Strip. My grandmother went to L.A. High. I went to Fairfax, as did my mom. I formed my first band when I was 12. I ran the light show at the Whiskey a Go Go when I was in High School. The first house I ever owned was in Laurel Canyon, which is a rock hall of fame in and of itself. I haunted the Ash Grove and the Troubadour. I ushered at the world premier of Hair (and I don’t mean the movie). L.A. and rock are the soil from which I sprang, the blood in my veins. Not to mention that noir was born here. How could I NOT set GO DOWN HARD in the world of L.A. rock?

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Noir Slam—Weds., Sept. 2—Downtown LA

Noir SlamI am very excited to be part of NOIR SLAM, 20 mystery/crime authors taking you on a fierce, fast-paced trip to the edge of modern noir—60 seconds at a time. The event takes place starting at 7pm Wednesday, Sept. 2 in downtown Los Angeles at The Last Bookstore. I was there for an Erika Krouse reading just last night and the place is amazing.

Just imagine how cool all of your friends will think you are when you click this Facebook link and tell them you’re “going” to Noir Slam!

Not convinced? Well, here’s a list of the amazing authors included on the bill: Christa Faust, Brett Battles, Anonymous-9, Danny Gardner, James Queally, Maxine Nunes, Eric Beetner, Samuel Gailey, Craig Faustus Buck, Stephen Blackmoore, Ashley Erwin, John Shepphird, Aaron Philip Clark, Travis Richardson, Paul D. Marks, Josh Stallings, Hannah Sward, and your’s truly.

If you aren’t familiar with some of these scribblers, I have been lucky enough to interview several of them on this blog over the last year. Here are a few of my favorite quotes, along with links to the original interviews. Of course, there is no better way to get to know an author than by reading one of their books…just saying.


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Read the Josh Stallings interview HERE.

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Read the Anonymous-9 interview HERE.

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Read the Eric Beetner interview HERE.

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Read the Travis Richardson interview HERE.

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Read the Paul D. Marks interview HERE.

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

Cozy vs. Noir: Thoughts On Genre

Cozy vs. NoirIf you write or read books under the greater “mystery fiction” umbrella, then you will be familiar with these two popular sub-genres—”cozy” and “noir”. Here is how Wikipedia defines the two:

  • Cozy mysteries, also referred to simply as “cozies”, are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.
  • Noir fiction is a literary genre closely related to hardboiled genre with a distinction that the protagonist is not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. Other common characteristics include the self-destructive qualities of the protagonist.

I know, I know: Freakin’ Wikipedia?! But they make it so easy. It also seems pretty accurate.

Genre has been on my mind a lot recently because I got invited to participate in an  awesome event on the first night of the California Crime Writers Conference. It’s called “Cozy vs. Noir” and it is sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America and hosted by the one, the only, Eric Beetner. I am absolutely thrilled to take part, but the whole concept has got me thinking.

Luckily, I have interviewed some great authors who have strong opinions on the subject. We’ll start with Rob Hart, author of NEW YORKED (out June 1 from Polis Books):

unnamed-1Is NEW YORKED a crime novel in your eyes? How important is genre to you as a writer?

Genre discussions make me go cross-eyed. If I was pressed I’d say it’s a little noir, a little literary. But I’m firmly in the class of: A good book is a good book, and I don’t care if it’s YA or poetry or literary or crime or a cookbook.

(Read the whole Rob Hart INTERVIEW)

And Scott Adlerberg, author of JUNGLE HORSES:

JungleHorsesIs it important to you as a writer to jump between genres?

Is it important to me? It’s not so much important as a question of what works for a particular story. With JUNGLE HORSES, as I was doing it, it seemed to work. The second part, the fantastic part, just grew out of the noirish part, without strain, I felt. I wouldn’t try to force genres together just to be odd or “different.” But what’s fun about genres is how fluid and flexible they are and how you can play around so much with them. There’s a lot of ways to be inventive.

(Read the whole INTERVIEW)

So, if you’re in L.A. on June 5, please stop by. The event is free and open to the public. If not, I will let you know how it went afterward, right here.

S.W. Lauden is a writer and drummer living in Los Angeles. His short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Akashic Books, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published in 2016.