Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch
After the Fall 2016

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Coming Soon: The Story So Far

On September 1, 2011, I posted my first entry here and so much happened since then that a summing up may be helpful.  By the last week in August I'll chronicle my progress from a Midlist Monster determined to storm the Trad Pub Bastille to the author of three published e-books (as of August 10), with a fourth on the way in October.

It's been an interesting year, culminating in an adventure that's only just begun.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rounding Up the Indie Big Dogs: August 2012





Good morning. Today's roundup contains four names that nobody owning a Kindle should miss.

  1. Russell Blake. RB's output is prodigious: a novel every 6-8 weeks. To the purists who object, Frederick Faust (aka Max Brand) wrote 500 novels and as many short stories—for a total output of some 30 million words. And Alexander Dumas wouldn't  have had any issues with RB's breakneck schedule. NIGHT OF THE ASSASSIN is a recent prequel to Blake's popular Assassin series. And it's a fine place to begin because in less able hands it might have been a bit of fluff: an episodic novel showing the genesis of the assassin whose name will be El Rey. The difference in Blake's style can often be seen at a glance. Compared to the Patterson school of 3-line paragraphs and 10-word sentences, his moves are anaconda-like, enveloping a reader in gravitas and klout: a paragraph of 20 lines, an 80-syllable sentence, a lonnnng first chapter setting up the first hit of the book and then pulling it off in the literary equivalent of a DePalma tracking shot. Flash back to 25 years ago...then 16 years ago...etc. Two fab tricks enable Blake to pull off a series of flash backs, which—as we all know—are forbidden. First, since the book is a Prequel and written episodically, the 'flashes' become history: self-contained and yet linked bits in a mosaic. Second, each episode takes the boy, then the young man, closer to his dream of becoming El Rey—and our better understanding how he acquired this dream. And, oh yeah: RB's a stone killer with action.
  2. Michael Prescott. STEALING FACES was trad-pubbed in 1999, when Prescott was represented by Jane Dystel. Not long afterwards, though he'd published a number of novels and received some terrific reviews, his numbers failed to satisfy the new masters of the game. So Prescott was sent to The Desert, where other fallen gladiators licked their wounds and cursed their fates. But, luckily for all of us, Prescott wasn't finished yet. Today MP is one of the elite leaders of the indie revolution—and one of USA Today's favorite ebook success stories. This book offers a sizzling intro to an exceptional talent. Prescott raises expectations artfully, then bounces them hard off the walls. We begin, believing we've got yet another simple take on THE DEADLIEST PREY, a young woman fleeing a rifle-wielding pyscho who shoots her once, then shoots her twice...and then peels off her face. But wait. Now the killer in turn's being hunted by—eh? A woman who's a murderer too and is connected in some way? Once Prescott has our attention with the pulp-style opening, the style becomes more elegant, more seductive, and the tale takes delightful turns into police procedural, psychological study and even budding love story. No more spoilers. Read and love this novel—and hang on to your faces.
  3. John A. A. Logan. Once upon a time, an acclaimed Scottish short story writer wrote four novels with high hopes...and watched decades pass while he found himself crushed under the weight of rejection. He emerged from exile with an astonishing novel called THE SURVIVAL OF THOMAS FORD. Now, day by day, the good news spreads: When an Artistic director goes slumming with a commercial thriller, the result is Martin Scorcese's CAPE FEAR...but when a Literary writer produces a thriller with love and respect, the result is THOMAS FORD. The engine of the novel is meticulously crafted: Ford, and his wife are run off the road by a joyriding punk and his pal. Ford's wife dies and he spends six-odd weeks in a coma. While he sleeps, bad trouble brews: the bird-faced punk, Jimmy McCallum, and his burly friend Robert fear that Ford may remember their faces. Jimmy has extra good reason to fear: his father's a violent, dangerous man and word of this could harm da's business...When the boys begin to scope Ford out, the book's engine proves to run on a very high octane indeed. But nothing plays out as we'd thought. Thomas Ford isn't Bronson or Eastwood. The boys are not pure evil. Violence comes as expected, and yet...Meanwhile, Logan weaves a spell of lovely prose and carefully orchestrated images that we'll be thinking of long past The End.
  4. David Cranmer (Edward Grainger). THE ADVENTURES OF CASH LARAMIE AND GIDEON MILES, VOL. 1. This collection of seven short stories had me, as they say, from Hello. They're self-contained yet subtly linked—with passing references to previous events—and they play out like episodes in a classic TV western of only 25 minutes: no time to waste, move right along, suggest the currents underneath, let readers fill in the spaces between. The stories are, in fact, adventures, rather than slices of life. But a single adventure in each forms the core without any padding for length: a boyish killer whom Cash is transporting shows what he is made of...Cash needs to find a way quickly to safeguard a brutalized girl...Cash and Gideon are too slow in spotting mischief in a boneyard...This author's not cheap with the action, be sure: When it comes, come it does and it's bloody and quick. At the same time, however, no adventure enrich the characters of its two engaging leads: Cash, raised by Indians, and his black partner Gideon. Cranmer deserves special praise for his handling of time and dialogue. The details are sparse but telling: a 'lucifer' is used to light a cheroot, not a match...'the only brick and wood building at the end of the street'...a Mackinaw jacket...Finally, Cranmer's devised a simple, slightly formal style that reminds us where and when we are without beating us over the head: 'Cash cleared leather first and opened a dark hole in the rapscallion's forehead/' I loved this book and you will too.  

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Nobility: Opening Pages








NOBILITY


By Reb MacRath




Copyright 2012 Reb MacRath


NOTE
The short sections set in Canada are based on real events. The rest of the story is true.












A






1. THE ROAD GANG
Black didn't come any better than this. The sky looked as crisp as a new satin sheet in one of those sexy hotels. The stars seemed to be shy about something, while wisps of silver obscured the wan sliver of moon. What a night!
It was the sort of Christmas Eve the pickpockets could warm to. They stood randomly spread on the platform of Atlanta's Amtrak station, careful to keep from each other for now. A few of the overhead light bulbs had blown. And the gang felt at home in the shadows, taking a moment to savor the sky. New to the city, some had never worked a train before. But at their first glimpse of the station's cracked glass and crumbling brick, their seven heartbeats quickened.
The South was old and tired and beat. A perfect little lady, to play with as they pleased. They planned to play with her, all right. For they stood with the best of the road gangs—traveling thieves who planned their scores from coast to coast and worked as one. This year, 1999, had been their flushest yet. And, high from the Hilton conventions they'd cleaned, they'd decided to try something new: different names.
Their leader, a craggy-faced, silver-haired man wearing a black leather duster, shot a long sweeping glance down the platform. One by one they caught the look. And so, as--
Well, as—
Hell, as gods they boarded, itching to score.
2. SEVEN-STRONG
All the right sounds had started to signal that the train would leave on time:
The whistle blew. A baritone piped 'All aboard!'...cleared his throat...then boomed the phrase. Suitcases thumped on the corridor walls. A couple, in passing, rehearsed a duet: 'But I think it's your turn.' 'No, your turn.' 'No, yours.' Scattered catcalls followed: 'Move it!' 'Where's the power?' 'Lights!' Down the hall a calm voice urged them, 'Right this way, folks, this way. Your rooms are all in order.' And now the diesel engine thrummed.
The seven thieves had gathered in a cabin made to seat, comfortably, four. For this short meeting, the space would do fine. In one corner hung a broken bell made of silver plastic, a Christmas card beneath it reading: XXXOOOXXX MILLENNIUM! They'd decided to keep this odd note of good cheer.
Only the tall man had taken a seat, a small black trunk beside him. He'd removed his black leather duster and wore one of the twelve suits he'd had custom-made: a streamlined, chalk-striped charcoal gray. A regal purple and gold kerchief spilled from the breast pocket. The outfit became the group's leader, or steer, who orchestrated every hit.
Jove, he thought. Get used to it. That ought to be easy enough, don't you think. You're six-foot-four, you weigh two-ten, and you're right at the top of the heap. You can't even remember the last time you lost a woman, a score or a fight. You're Number One by any name: your own or White or Sunday. Just be your usual powerful, rough, All-American—jovial self.
Jove slipped his gold pocket watch from his vest. He checked the time—6:54—and, with an approving nod, eased the watch back into place. He stroked his trimmed silver beard once for luck, then rested his palms on his knees. His hands were large and well tended. Either one could pick the deepest pocket in a blink. He surveyed the troupe crowded into his compartment, getting their new handles straight in his brain:
The old man to his left wouldn't go by Brown this time. Tonight his mentor, and their stall—lookout and source of distraction—would be known as Janus. This had taken a little hard-selling by Jove, who'd forgotten the god had two faces. ('You calling me two-faced? A doorman?' 'No, I'm saying you're so quick, so sly, folks'll think you've got two faces. Why? Because nothing gets past you. Babe, you rule the night. Doorman? You're the god of doors!')
Janus seemed to be warming a bit to the name. It sounded far better than Tweedy, the nickname his worn suit had earned him. He was still whip-quick upstairs, forget the mop of straw-white hair, the thick glasses and shaggy mustache. But his spotted hands shook on his cane's ivory top. Janus needed one more shot—and this time up the dosage—or those arthritic fingers might do them all in.
Next left stood Mercury. (Use it twice, Jove: Mercury!) The young runner was—mercurial: light-fingered and wing-footed enough to split with the wallets, or pokes, the thieves bagged before the marks knew they were missing. And heart? Merc had enough for all of them. He could listen by the hour to Janus's argot-filled ramblings. They were all practicing catholics—skilled, dependable thieves. Those who bagged the pokes were tools. A priest was a buck...a farmer, a Hoosier...a working stiff, a slave. And one day he'd be a class cannon himself—a master pickpocket like Jove. Merc, five-four with insoles, crossed his arms just underneath his sweatshirt's BAD BOY logo. His spiked chestnut hair seemed to bristle.
By Jove, Jove thought, I like this. All right, Merc, I've gotcha. Next!
Mars wouldn't be hard to remember for the giant who half-filled the window. Instead of enforcer, just think: god of war. Muscles, muscles, everywhere—including some between his ears. At heart, the big lug was an overgrown kid. But there were two buttons that might set him off without Jove nearby to control him. First, Mars' devotion—a good, noble thing—could grow insanely intense. If some young woman failed to want Jove or some guy, maybe, gave Jove a wrong kind of look...Bad enough. But button two? When those lips of his slipped and Mars lisped—duck. A single S, from fifteen feet, could put out a candle. And God help anyone who laughed.
You'd never know it to look at him now, massive hands stuck in his pockets. To soften the bulk of his shoulders and arms, he wore a loose shirt of plaid flannel. Suspenders lent a folksy touch. And his features were blandly appealing, with strips of skin above his ears. But Mars stood thinking till it hurt of Waterfall, a spell from Jove: a dream picture of nurturing S's that loved and did not mock him.
Vulcan stood at Mars' left. An ex-arsonist who still carried a torch for that work, Vulcan alone made Jove's skin crawl. He'd begged, like a child, to be god of fire. But now the troupe's class cannon found himself seeing a vulture rather than a point man: the one who took the pokes from Merc, picked them clean, then scrapped them. Jove willed himself to think of fire. To think of that waved amber hair as gold flame. To see those pale gray eyes as coals on that gaunt, pitted mug. It also helped Jove to remember the freak's redeeming virtue: He'd die before skimming a poke.
Vulcan stood at his ease in a gray sharkskin suit. As he waited he toyed with his lighter: a king-size Zippo, buffed to a dazzling gloss. It had a button on one side he always kept his thumb near. They all wondered about Vulcan's lighter. But not even Jove had ever asked him what the black button was for. They guessed they knew; they feared they did.
Jove turned his gaze to a more pleasing sight.
Ah, there she stood, fabulous Venus. She was one of the road gang's two tools for the night—those charged with the actual dipping. Discreetly turned from Vulcan, and safe from all curious eyes on the train, she stripped off her white ski suit. Venus never showed her stuff until the time to strike, for she had the sort of heart-stop looks that tend to get too-noticed.
She unwrapped the black scarf that had half-draped her face. Finally, she offed her shades and gave her long blonde mane a shake. Her cheeks were flushed, less from the cold than from anticipation. She grinned at blushing Mercury, the only man in the room she hadn't spent a night with. Some day if he cared less, she might. But till then...She turned her pale blue eyes to Jove and blew on the tips of her fingers.
Oh yes, Jove remembered those fingers. That night.
Last up: Cupid, who held one sloe eye fast on her. She was okay as a tool, he'd admit—okay being high praise from Cupid. Yet he never missed a chance of pointing out her flaws. Her nose was unremarkable, if you really studied it. Her mouth, without her bag of tricks, was—out with it—crude, really...wanton. Low class. And that curvy bod Mercury pined for wouldn't last long with the garbage she ate: tacos, Twinkies, Oreos!
Still, high time to partner up. So he slipped out of his black coat and gloves, ditched the scarf, removed the shades. His hair was pure jet; his complexion was perfect; he worked out for three hours a day. Ruffling his curls, he regarded Jove warmly.
And Jove met the glance, always careful to give this young man equal time. Until their one-sided rivalry blew, Cupid and Venus still made a crack team.
The time was now 6:56.
The whistle blew, then blew again. The power hummed beneath their feet. And they all felt it humming within them.
Jove smiled wolfishly. “All right, kids, it's choo-choo time. This isn't the Hilton. This isn't Grand Central. We've all got to give up our kissers, and the right way to do that's to be bold as day. A train's got personality. A train's jam-packed with characters. Be one and you'll fit right in. There ain't no fix on this one.”
No fix, indeed. The thieves all knew they had no safety net tonight, no one to bail them out.
So Jove gave them the news they all tingled to hear: “Happy Hour's on for eleven.”
A small cheer rippled round the room. Everyone loved Happy Hour. That was when they could cut loose, after playing by the rules.
Jove looked swiftly at each face. Now only one matter of business remained: his risky deal with Janus.
“And tonight, at eleven, we're all in,” he said.
3. JANUS FLIPS THE BELL THE BIRD
“Him?” Vulcan pointed at Janus. The old duffer was actually going to dip? Hell, he could hardly hold that cane!
Jove's finger flew like lightning, aimed at Vulcan's forehead.
“You!”
The ex-torch flinched, but did not blink. His thumb twitched at that button for seconds before the tension faded. Jove turned his glance to Janus then.
“You absolutely sure?”
“Damn sure!” The older thief rapped his cane twice on the floor. And behind those thick lenses his eyes were quite clear. He'd decided to retire tomorrow and wouldn't check out as a doorman—well, pardon the hell out of him, god of doors. He'd do that till Happy Hour—then one last chance to work again. “I've got the stuff. Anyone doubt me?” He jabbed one finger at the bell. “You think my time has passed me? Think I'm spooked by a year with three zeros?”
Nobody answered him or met his eyes. So Janus rapped the floor again.
“I was dippin' when some of you bums were in diapers!” His spotted left hand reached to Jove then, half steady and wholly defiant. “You know I can, son. Try me.”
A test had been Jove's one condition. His eyes were stern. “You got that right. Gather 'round me, children. Happy Snappy Time's arrived.”
They crowded closer, tense but high, all eyes on that small black trunk, whose silver hasps began to gleam.
“Don't look so glum,” Jove said. “Who knows, maybe we'll survive this. We're the good guys, aren't we?”
4. THE TALL THIN MAN
Signals flashed from car to car. And brains scrambled to interpret them according to the book. Hands and feet were propelled into motion, flicking switches, taking steps to change the train into a sleek silver streak. On the platform, porters' breaths came in agitated little clouds that rose as if hailing the darkness.
The men began pulling the steps up. They were almost finished when a tall thin man with an envelope between his teeth came scrambling onto the platform. He had a fugitive look in his eyes, as if there were dogs at his heels. Big dogs. In his right hand he carried a suit bag; in his left, a takeout bag from Colosseum Deli. And over his right shoulder hung a dirty canvas satchel.
As he neared, they could make out a scar on one cheek; and it seemed right at home there. This guy might have come from a chain gang, or worse. Though he was good-looking enough in his way, his features looked haunted and hardened. He wore a torn denim jacket, faded black T-shirt and knee-patched black jeans. The striped sneakers were the only things about him that didn't look whipped.
He moved in a half-halting, half-running gait, as if his feet didn't quite know which was which. Or maybe he just had one hell of a limp. He held his gear up protectively high. The figure he cut seemed at once absurd, alarming and pathetic.
Horace, an elderly ported in no particular hurry, waited till the spook arrived with just enough wind left to wheeze. Not a chance of a tip here but, Jesus, this guy needed a place for the night. To his surprise, the envelope held a one-way First Class ticket—and five hundred dollar bills. A desperate, raspy-edged whisper informed Horace what they were for.
“Ho, ho, ho,” he said. “No sweat. Mister Donofrio—sir!” He replaced the cashless envelope back in the gentleman's teeth.
The whistle blew. They boarded now. At the top step, though, the porter felt his neck hairs start to bristle. He turned them to see what was what and looked up.
And as he did he whispered, “Ahhh!”
5. PALINDROME FEVER
In a show lasting twenty-six seconds, a comet streaked across the sky and showered silver sparks. And at random through the train the queerest things occurred. The heavens might have been playing a game for their own amusement...or just joking in their own language.
A man's laptop went stark raving bonkers. On its silver screen palindromes blinkered as fast as the letters could form:

RUFFLED ELF FUR
DOG DOO? GOOD GOD!
WE PANIC IN A PEW
ED, I SAW HARPO MARX RAM OPRAH W ASIDE
MA, I AM A MAN, I AM
NOW, SIR, A WAR IS WON
A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL: PANAMA!
WON'T LOVERS REVOLT NOW?
SNUG & RAW WAS I ERE I SAW WAR & GUNS

In an aisle, two passing strangers stopped and turned to greet each other. 'MADAM, I'M ADAM,” he told her. The woman curtsied, answering, “SIR, I'M IRIS.”
A cook in the kitchen looked up from his salad. He shivered as if in a seizure and sang, 'ANA, NAB A BANANA!”
An executive eyed his reflection and sighed, “IS SO BAD A BOSS I?”
A husband stopped a porter, pointing to his wife: “RE HYPOCRISY: AS I SAY, SIR, COPY HER.”
A suitcase fell, clipping a game board. The wooden tiles flurried, then landed in this palindrome: O DESIRE, RISE, DO!
The train shuddered once intensely. And when the strange fit ended, no one looked as if they'd seen or said an unusual thing. But here and there curious cravings for order remained: A Windsor knot was redone twice; a lock of hair, restraightened; a baby, shifted on a knee; a student's eraser, worn down to the nub.
Then, with a whistle and a sigh, the train began to roll.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Don't Miss Saturday's Sneak Peek

The most unusual gang of thieves you're ever likely to meet will drop by on Saturday to introduce themselves.  The road gang of high-tech pickpockets is out to ruin every man, woman and child on board the Amtrak Crescent.  The only man who can stop them has a date with a handgun at midnight, unless...

The book is called NOBILITY.  It's a sleek and slender book whose Kindle release date I'll give at that time.  Read the opening pages and see what you think.

Till then!


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Coming Soon: Indie Big Dog Roundup 2

Yes, it's true:  the first week of August will bring reviews of more indie movers and shakers:
1) Michael Prescott, an indie thriller superstar profiled in USA Today.
2) Russell Blake, Balzac-like in his energy and committed to producing a new book every 6-8 weeks.
3) John A. A. Logan, an acclaimed short story writer who spent his own time in The Desert trying to market four novels...and emerged with an astonishing indie literary thriller.

Plus:  a bonus writer whose name I'm holding back for now.

See you at the Roundup!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Cold Beautiful Truth About Covers


Tom Doherty, of Tor Books, once gave me a percentage breakdown of the various factors that make or break books: cover, title, jacket copy, blurbs, advertising, etc.  In his opinion, covers accounted for ten percent or less.  And, seemingly confirming this, Tor gave one of their top stars, John Farris, the most garish, ridiculous covers on earth--and John kept selling about 100,000 copies.

John's core readership, developed in the course of thirty years then, may well have stuck by him regardless.  Then again, with better covers, he may have been selling half a million copies.  At that time, I worked at Oxford Books, and I'm here to tell you that I couldn't give those books away to discriminating readers who'd never heard of John.  Not until, with DRAGONFLY, John wrote a different sort of book--stronger on mystery and romance, lighter on extreme gore--and was blessed with a fabulous cover, as elegant as his prose style.  We couldn't keep that book in stock.  And shoppers flocked across the aisle to the New Arrivals to pick it up and have a look...

The importance of the cover to an indie writer is certainly far higher than just ten percent.  And you know what?  Rightly so.  A single glance will tell them if our book belongs to the herd or apart...how we think about ourselves and the work we're offering...what they might expect from us in terms of style or approach...and, far from least, how resourceful and committed we are to delivering real razzmatazz.

When I e-pubbed THE VANISHING MAGIC OF SNOW, I was still learning the ropes.  And this showed:  the cover was nothing more than a slightly altered author photo...and the book's formatting was spotty because I'd chosen a cheap formatter.  Onward to the learning curve.  For #2, SOUTHERN SCOTCH, I chose a more professional and more expensive formatter who took genuine pride in her work:  Jo Harrison.  And a friend who's quite good with computers helped design a more colorful cover
that suggested both the Scottish and the Southern elements.

BUT...Though the cover was wild, bold, playful and unusual, I still wasn't entirely happy.  Though I had a helluva story, I'd failed to inspire readers to even download the novel for free.  I began to brood on the word resourceful.  And then the word independent.  With a single tip from Jo Harrison, I set my sights on Fotolia, a data base for stock photos and images.  For my third ebook, NOBILITY, I wanted a killer image of a train at night.  And I began to pour through hundreds of shots...till I found my killer cover.  Fired up now, I started searching for a cover in the same vein for the sequel to SOUTHERN SCOTCH.  Days later, I found it.

As always, I'll heed the feedback I get.  At this point, I'm satisfied that these new covers will turn heads and convey the essence of a book by Reb MacRath.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Rounding Up the Indie Big Dogs: July 2012



Good morning. And it is a fine one for those of us who love to read and who don't feel we have to pay $25-$30for fiction force-fed down our throats by the teetering Trad Pub Cabal. For those who salute the Ebook Revolution, our hearts are high as we set out. In our hands, our treasured weapons: the beloved ebook readers that transport us today to the future...where the real cream at last is beginning to rise in an entirely new breed of writers.

These writers are all proud members of what I call Glad School: veteran gladiators of the Trad Pub wars...who've struck out on their own and won their independence. No conventioneering, no toadying to agents, no caving in to established conventions, no fear of breaking Sacred Rules. The three writers I've selected for the opening roundup couldn't be more different. But the one thing they all have common makes for some great news indeed:

They have nothing but contempt for the sort of agent who would say, as one did say to me: 'I'm sorry, but I can't read your prose and watch TV at the same time.' These three writers write for readers who, they know, do love to read. And each is completely committed to delivering the ultimate bang for your bucks, whatever Sacred Rules he may be required to break.

Final note before the reviews: I know none of these good Glads. None has asked me to review his book. I have no professional debts to repay. Their style and behavior on Twitter impressed me, that's all I can say. I checked them out on Amazon. And, brothers and sisters, I dug what I saw. That said, the first Big Dog Mini-Reviews.  All are available on Amazon Kindle.

  1. Vigilante by Claude Bouchard. The first in a series of thrillers featuring Montreal detective Dave McCall and computer whiz Chris Barry offers a terrific spin on Death Wish in an exotic setting. Time: 1996. A crafty, savage killer is cleansing Canadian streets in cruel ways...then, of course, feeding the details to his favorite reporter. That central conceit dates back to Jack the Ripper. But Bouchard has his dark fun with it, along with every other staple of the serial killer genre. In fact, CB plays a shell game worthy of Ira Levin (no slouch at the fine art of bloody surprise, as you'll know if you've ever seen Death Trap or read A Kiss Before Dying). CB plays so suavely with his list of suspects, and he is so bloody smoooooth in style as he bounces our heads off the walls, that I can't help but think of him as the Indie Cary Grant. And, guess what, he starts off with a stick in the eye of our old friend, Miss Grundy: an opening flashback that's very well done and gets the tale's engine in gear. Bravo, CB, you smoothie.
  2. Blacklisted by Luke Romyn. Okay, if Claude is Cary Grant, then Luke Romyn must be Sly Stallone. The Dirty Dozen meets The Expendables meets Inglorious Basterds here when a team of criminal 'scum' is assembled, then set off on not just one but a string of suicide assignments. The hero, Mike Swanson, begins as a brutalized boy and goes on to lose two beloved mentors before becoming a vigilante...then a member of the team. His early training as a boxer and then bouncer, are especially well done—and extra-interesting because of Romyn's own background in security and bouncing. Actually, Romyn's rugged photo confirm his author creds. And his defiant starting note hint at his own brutalization by the Trad Pub Cabal. In the hands of a less able writer, this would have been an okay actioner. But this baby rises above that...and how. This is my world, Romyn says, and there's no take it or leave it—you'll take it. Miss Grundy takes more sticks than one: from an ongoing opening flashback the book couldn't live without...to the completely convincing romance between two serial killers. Romyn's the real deal for action. Go, Sly!
  3. The Fall of Billy Hitchings by Kirkus MacGowan. I was put off from this novel, at first, because it sounded like YA. But when one critic called it a cross between Indiana Jones and Jason Bourne, my interest grew.. A sneak peek at the opening pages on Amazon inspired me to order it. And I'm hear to tell you I'm glad that I did. Forget YA. Forget Bourne and Indiana Jones. Know this: Investigator John Reeves needs to recover three plates, whose powers he still hasn't guessed...Someone else wants the plates...Billy, a troubled teen, is the only one able to tap the plates' power—sometimes with disastrous results. I've compared KM to actor George Kennedy because his style reminds me of that not always gentle giant: George was often a lovable figure unaware of his real strength—and, just so, KM may draw you into a warm scene with a hug...then squeeze the life right out of you. Sticks in the eyes of Miss Grundy? You bet! KM, defiantly, refused to write his fable in clear-cut black and white. Without stinting on the action, he always takes the needed time to plumb the moral/emotional depths.


Next month: three more Big Dogs for your indie groove!





Monday, July 9, 2012

Can Tweet Two-Stepping Two-Time Mystique?

I use Twitter and Facebook like everyone else.  But lately I've started to wonder if the familiarity they breed might cheat us of something important:  the power of the aura that comes with a certain mystique.    Usually, I know, this aura is reserved for movie stars.  But--at least till lately--the best writers (songwriters included) have grooved on the aura as well...and some have cultivated it.  We sense that we don't know a thing except what we're allowed to know, especially when they play the game and dole out biographical crumbs.

Our readings and hearings of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, J.D. Salinger and Mark Helprin, are enrichened by our ignorance about their secret lives.  (Helprin, in particular, has rewritten his without end.)  We can understand this better if we think how hard it is for others who live with us or know us well to appreciate our work.  If they even bother to read it.  Spouses will love it because it is ours.  Friends who know us all too well will shake their heads, knowing that it can't be any good (after all, weren't we a mess when we went through that last divorce?).  And the large crowds we seek online?

They're more likely to come through, I think, if we look after our presence online and don't grow too cute or  familiar. too desperate or too anything else.  With so many shout-outs for their prized attention, it may behoove us to pull back...to be just a little bit cooler, a bit less everyday.  Though we're all spared, for now, the temptation to do the talk show circuit or be torn apart in the tabloids, we're not spared the need to do well by our work.

Behave like a king to become one.

So I'll close without reminding y'all that today is laundry day.