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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bouchercon 2011

The air is still and the dust has settled. It’s official. Another Bouchercon has come to a close. This was my first one—and if there’s one thing I learned, it’s this: Writers love to ̶d̶r̶i̶n̶k̶ talk about writing. And reading. And books, authors, movies, guns.

The weekend kicked off with the Bouchercon Edition of Noir At The Bar on Wednesday. The selection of readers was stellar. Glenn Gray, John Rector, Hilary Davidson, Matthew C. Funk, Jon McGoran, Laura Benedict, and Duane Swierczynski. Even moi had the chance to read. I selected Big Darlene the Sex Machine, from the upcoming anthology BEAT TO A PULP: Round Two. Everyone laughed. Some cried. But at least no one threw vibrators, vegetables, or fruit at the stage.

It was to be the first of several epic nights. All of them late and hard on the liver. Btw, I’ve heard rumors the Bouchercon crowd dropped over $40,000 dollars just at the bar. At least $5,000 of that was my tab. Which the very generous Glenn Gray insisted on paying. Talk about a cool guy. Here’s a writer whose generosity knows no boundaries. At one point he bought dinner for John Rector, Johnny Shaw, and myself. He refused to accept payment of any kind. This is a very serious guy when it comes to paying the bill. Thought I’d have to arm-wrestle him for it. But in the end, there’s no need to argue. And why would anyone argue with a man who can bench press a garbage truck?

Exactly. You wouldn’t. So I didn’t.

The rest of the weekend was a blur to be honest. Remembered only in short gray patches of nostalgia. I’m not sure how a man can fit so much activity into four days without cocaine. Yet somehow I did.

If there’s one thing I realized after my second night of hard drinking, it’s this. Bouchercon is about memories. We closed down the bar every single night.

One night we took the party back to Glenn Gray’s room. And by God, if there’s one thing I can say about Glenn Gray, it’s this. The man comes prepared. His room was filled with alcohol. Beer. Wine. Even champagne. I think. Still not sure, but whatever it was, I drank it quick while he was in the shower and returned the empty bottle to the fridge. I failed to mention this to him. I’m still not sure he knows. I suppose if he ever calls me on it, I’ll just blame the whole thing on Cameron Ashley. The editor of CRIMEFACTORY.

Do you know Cameron Ashley? If not, I suggest you friend him. Not only is he a magnificent writer, but also one of my favorite humans. Sincere and genuine. Of all my friends from Australia, ̶I̶ ̶o̶n̶l̶y̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶o̶n̶e̶ Cam is my favorite. I’ll always remember drinking and laughing hysterically until 4 AM like junior high school kids away at camp. WOW. If only I could remember the things we talked about. Though I can assure you with blunt honesty that none of them would be appropriate for this setting. Or any other setting for that matter.

The next day we bowled.
Most of us were awesome; some of us were not. And by some of us, I mean me. But I don’t blame myself; I blame that silly rule about free shots of tequila for every strike you roll. Plus I blame Owen Laukkanen for making me drink them. Damn you, Owen. It’s all your fault.

After the bowling alley, I met a few people who claimed to be (cough) fans. We ended up at a small corner bar for a series of drinks. Then another bar. After that, I found myself in a strange hotel room. After what seemed like hours, I stumbled out and made my way back to the Ren for more drinking.

I realize I’m forgetting a bunch of shit but I’m trying hard to touch on the highlights. Like this one: Daniel Woodrell. That’s right. I drank bourbon with the man and he is awesome.

And yeees, I am truly very lucky. I believe a connection was made. Or perhaps it’s wishful thinking. Still. When I finally figured out how to introduce myself, the first words he said to me were these: McBride? I’ve heard of you. You’re Jed’s friend.

So there’s that. The ultimate highlight of ̶m̶y̶ ̶l̶i̶f̶e̶ Bouchercon. The rest of our conversation I will keep for myself. Just know that he and his lovely wife are, as my pal Frank Bill so eloquently puts it, “salt of the earth.” So true.

That’s pretty much it. P.J. Farris, Keith Rawson, Greg Bardsley, Kent Gowran, Dan O' Shea, Jimmy Callaway, and everybody else I drank and exchanged lies with--see you next year. Bouchercon 2012. Drinks are on Glenn Gray.

The amazing Jon Jordan! Along with Anthony Award winner Hilary Davidson.

<=== The lovely Christa Faust.

That crazy bastard Scott Phillips
Yes, he knows Krav Maga!

Monday, August 22, 2011

SOUTHERN GODS book release

Cold rain fell from the darkness and pounded the windshield as we left the driveway. The sky was black and starless. Lightning flashed in quick bolts and thunder made a deep slow growl that rumbled through the hills and shook the barn.

The clock on the dash read 6:02.

I made my way south, toward Little Rock. I brought with me a blonde navigator—her hair thrown up in a failing bun—a Pomeranian, a long haired Chihuahua, and a small caliber pistol I bought at a pawn shop with cash money and few questions asked.

As the rain let up, the sky came to life and a dull yellow blur to my left became sun. It brought with it a powerful blast of Ozark heat and it welcomed the day with promise.

I drove our Volvo at a high rate of speed and we made good time.

By midmorning we stopped for breakfast. Either Shoney’s or Golden Corral—I already forgot. But it doesn’t matter; it was horrible. If I could remember, I’d warn you never to go there.

What I do remember, was that it was in a little town called St. Robert’s, and it was directly across the interstate from a Gentleman’s club called Big Louie’s.

Now, I might suggest going there. But, um, anyway …

A short while later we were back on the road and breaking speed laws with reckless abandon. We rolled into Branson around 12:00. If you ever have the opportunity to drive in Branson, Missouri at noon on a Friday, don’t.

But I had to. I had a surprise for my wife. A trip through The Titanic Museum.

It’s not that I wanted to go, I didn’t. But she’s a woman, and women are all about romance, so I just naturally assumed she would enjoy it. I was wrong.

Wife: This looks kind of stupid. Wait, it’s $22.00 a ticket? WHAT? Let’s just go to that medieval castle instead.

Now, that’s my kind of girl.

So I tore through the parking lot like a boss and slid my station wagon into the thoroughfare, through a section of wet pavement soaked by lawn sprinklers, and spun the front tires freely as the machine fought to gain traction.

An hour later we were back on 65. We crossed into Harrison; our destination was Lead Hill. Site of a medieval castle being built way out in the Ozarks. Way out. In fact, it was well over fifty miles out of our way, but that’s fine. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda guy. So we drove. Through the two lane back roads of Arkansas. Up monstrous hills and down into the cavernous valleys.

We arrived at the castle much later, only to find it was closed. A quick googling of Ozark Medieval Fortress revealed this was the only day they really ever closed.

Undaunted, we headed back to 65 and blazed a hot trail down toward Little Rock. To the book release of my pal John Hornor Jacobs debut novel SOUTHERN GODS.

We didn’t make it far when that terrible breakfast I’d had earlier at the place I can’t recall came back to taunt me. I’ve gotta find a bathroom I told my wife, and about that time we saw a sign that advertised a tourist attraction. It was a natural bridge formed from rock that was a thousand years old. The settlers used it.

Surely that place’ll have a restroom.

My wife: I dunno.

We traveled down the side of a colossal mountain that was steep with solid chunks of Ozark granite for walls and deep channels carved into the side by the hand of God.

There were signs everywhere that told you to put your car in low gear.

When we got to the bottom we found a small parking lot with a beat up sports car parked up close to an ancient ramshackle dwelling that looked as old as the hills themselves.

We paid five bucks to see the natural bridge and it was about as interesting as a thousand year old natural bridge could be. But my main focus was the restroom.

Where’s your facilities? I demanded, and she pointed with her head.

I stepped out back to find an antique shit house that looked like it would fall over and die in even the slightest gush of hard wind. I looked at my wife. I’m not going in there.

I opened the door and told her there was no way I was getting in this two holer. A man has to question the structural integrity of an ancient outhouse beside a thousand year old bridge. I’ll just wait.

We were only 3 hours from Little Rock.

At 4:00 we rolled into a town that sits just above Little Rock and let the dogs make logs next to an Outback Steakhouse. Then we ate.

Then we spent the next hour and twenty minutes in traffic, with the air conditioning on high, but we found Little Rock, only to travel in circles for the next ten minutes, but finally we arrived at the Butler Center. I put the car in park and turned off the key.

The clock on the dash read 6:02.

After exactly 12 hours behind the wheel we’d finally reached our destination. Sure we made horrible time since it was only a 6-hour trip, but still, we had a grand adventure—and adventure is the name of the game when you travel with a wife, two small dogs, and a handgun that may or may not be legal.

Yes, along the way I even broke my iPod. Turns out when you drop one on Ozark granite they break into ten thousand pieces.

SOUTHERN GODS book release

When we stepped into that precious air conditioning I was in awe of the beauty of the gallery that was hosting John’s event. It was vast, and decorated with beautiful artwork of every shape and size.

Then we were in the signing room—and there was the man himself—rubbing elbows with his fans, looking happy. But as badly as I wanted to say hi, I wasted no time finding the OPEN BAR. That’s right, drinking is important, and nobody knows this more than John Hornor Jacobs, so I was delighted to find a bartender and a table adorned with top shelf booze.

For the record, the event was glorious. I’ve been to a few signings in my day but nothing as fancy or extravagant as this. All in attendance were dressed handsomely and smartly. With the exception of me, who wore shorts and flip-flops.

And it must be said; the guest of honor was a magnificent host. He wowed the crowd with a bold a capella rendition of The Cats In The Cradle and then performed a martial arts demonstration that left the audience wide eyed and slack jawed.

Okay, that last part is a lie. But the only reason he didn’t do these things is because he didn’t have time. He was busy signing books and shit. Making people laugh. Making people proud.

Especially his dad, whom I spoke with at great length. He's a real southern gentleman with a presence that commanded respect, and he gave me a look that felt like he was sizing me up. But he was beaming with pride; he had a wide happy smile that said that’s my boy!

He told me John had a great agent. I gave him a clever look back and said trust me, I know.

45 minutes later and we were out the door. While I hadn't been there long enough to get into any real trouble, I was there long enough to receive a parking ticket I will never pay.


Two hours after that and Little Rock was a memory of heat and beauty and the pride I felt in seeing a fellow writer succeed.

I’d stood back in awe and watched the line grow and grow until it ran the full length of the wall and wrapped back around toward the door. There were several hundred people and I’d bet my broken iPod JHJ sold at least 100 books.

By 9:00 we were back in Little Rock. I’d taken a wrong turn, and of course both our iPhones were dead—which meant no navigation. Before we left the house that morning my wife suggested we bring our old atlas. Just in case.

We don’t need that, I assured her. We can use our phones.

I forgot the phone charger stopped working.

It was midnight and we found ourselves on a two-lane blacktop road called 92. We were still in Arkansas. In a town called Choctow. But it wasn’t a town. It was just a yellow sign someone jammed into the dirt on the side of the road.

But we ran north. Eventually we found 65, and we drove into the hot black night through the hills of Arkansas and we crossed back into Missouri.

There were no other cars on the road. All I could see was a blanket of darkness as moonlight illuminated my copy of SOUTHERN GODS through the window.

I thought about that phantom radio station John wrote about.

I thought about Bull Ingram and Ramblin’ John Hastur. I’d seen the forests of thick green trees and Ozark Mountains and the jagged bolts of Arkansas rock that inspired John Hornor Jacobs.

When I looked down, the dashboard lights flickered and it felt like the motor could stall. Static came through the speakers like white noise, and suddenly a cold chill ran through me I cannot explain.

I reached down and turned off the radio—just to be safe—and listened to the highway whine.

Buy your copy of SOUTHERN GODS right HERE.

Monday, August 8, 2011

the NOIR AT THE BAR anthology

At long last--after months and months of torturous waiting ... I'm very proud to announce the long awaited NOIR AT THE BAR anthology has officially been released. Just look at this amazing cover designed by Matt Kindt.

Seriously. Just look at it. This cover is sick. It's dope. It's just about the coolest thing I've ever seen, and it's the perfect jacket to prepare you for what you're going to find inside.

Now I've had a lot of cool things happen for me lately in the publishing world (like this!) and I've even been lucky enough to have an A-list celebrity pimping me to 5 million people ... but one of the things I'm most proud of is the fact that my story GUNPOWDER & ALUMINUM FOIL opens up this kick ass anthology and it's followed by 18 more stories of death, destruction, and madness. And here's the best part, the proceeds of this work of art all go to help save an Independent book store in St. Louis called Subterranean Books.

Btw, SUBTERRANEAN BOOKS is THE ONLY PLACE IN THE WHOLE WORLD WHERE THIS BOOK WILL EVER BE SOLD. Yep! And wait, here is actually really the best part .. not only does this book demonstrate the raw creativity of 20 insane batshit crazy motherfuckers, and not only do the profits go to help the bookstore, but this book is only (pause) $12.00! No, really. It's only 12 frog skins. That's a bargain for a collectors item such as this. I predict this first edition will sell out quick so you better buy your copy while you can. Or, better yet, buy two copies. One for yourself and another copy as a unique gift, or maybe give it away on your blog. You can order the book by clicking on this link for SUBTERRANEAN BOOKS. Plus .. a good lot of the contributing writers will be at Bouchercon next month and everybody will be happy to sign it.
Now, just in case you've been living in a damp musty crawlspace under your neighbor's back porch and you're unfamiliar with NOIR AT THE BAR -- or N@B as it's affectionately known -- allow me to fill you in. N@B is an evening filled with drunks. I mean writers. Drinking and reading from their original material in a bar. Except now it's at a coffee house. But NOIR AT THE COFFEE HOUSE just doesn't have the same ring to it now does it?

Trust me, it's a pretty cool set up. No matter where the idea for such a sleazy endeavor originated, these two degenerates, Scott Phillips and Jedidiah Ayres, have taken this idea to the next level. It's a great way to spend an evening with a bunch of writers and you get a rare chance to see through that tiny window to their brain. Or in Aaron Michael Morales's case, see him heckle other writers while they read. Or, in the case of Jesus Angel Garcia, stomp around the room shouting into a bullhorn after traveling 9,000 miles on a cross country trek peddling books, CD's, a documentary film, and a basket full of condoms. N@B: THE BOOK ==> BUY HERE.

NOIR AT THE BAR: The genius book trailer. N@B Trailer

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Frank Sinatra In A Blender - June 1, 2011.

For the last few months I’ve been busy. I’ve had a lot happening. I got an agent in New York and I got a deal on an eBook with Concord ePress. My book comes out next Wednesday, June 1, and I’m excited. It’s been a lot of hard work but in the end I believe I have a strong, very unique book.

It’s called Frank Sinatra in a Blender. It’s about a private detective in St. Louis who drinks. A lot. He has other bad habits too, and he really doesn’t care what you think about them. He’s his own man, and that’s just the way he likes it. He has a drinking problem, a drug problem, and a partner named Frank Sinatra.

Did I mention he carries a shotgun and a chainsaw?

Did I mention the book has a gracious and very generous introduction from Ken Bruen?

Did I mention the book is dedicated to Charlie Sheen?

Stay tuned. Next week you can order a copy for about 8 bucks and see what all the talk is about.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


A year ago I wrote a story called RED DONKEY for a Crime Factory Special Edition called KUNG FU FACTORY and my copy finally arrived in the mail today. Let me tell you, it's pretty damn cool. It's been a long time coming but I promise it's been worth the wait. The book is nice and thick; big enough to deflect a roundhouse if you found yourself in the wrong situation. It's got a tight hard spine -- if you need to crack someone in the throat with it. Which you might. And the stories are all 100% ass-kickers that'll get your adrenaline pumping and make you wanna choke, bitch slap, or pile drive the first inconsiderate turd wrangler who smart eye's you. BUY THIS BOOK. It won't make you taller or a better softball player, but it'll get your heart pounding and give you something to think about the next time you get backed into a corner. Think of it as a lesson in self-defense. One day KUNG FU FACTORY could save your life. Trust me, you need this book. It packs more power than a thousand pounds of dynamite.

Both versions available. Printed word and download. Order your copy today: Print or Kindle

Christa Faust, Anthony Neil Smith, Duane Swierczynski, Joshua Reynolds, Chad Eagleton, Michael S. Chong, Frank Bill, Matthew J. McBride, Cameron Ashley, Chris La Tray, Garnett Elliot, Jimmy Callaway, Bryon Quertermous, Nerd Of Noir, Liam Jose, Addam Duke

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Death of a Bookstore

I've said it before, I’ll say it again – The death of a bookstore is a very sad thing indeed.

There’s nothing like a small, Independent hole in the wall that exists because of love, not money. Love of books. Love of characters. Love of fellow readers. So it was with sad eyes that I read an email from the incomparable Jedidiah Ayres, delivering the unfortunate news that one of our favorite little bookstores in St. Louis might close down this year.

Well, Jed’s not the type of guy to just stand around and let that sorta thing happen without a fight. So he and his partner in crime, Scott Phillips, devised a brilliant plan to try and throw Subterranean books a bone.

The Point of this Blog Post

For the last few years, Subterranean has been the official bookstore for Noir At The Bar, an event I’ve blogged about, where writers from all over the literary world stop by the Delmar Lounge in the Central West End for alcohol. I mean, for the chance to hang out with other writers and read the written word to a room full of hungry ears. I myself was fortunate enough to read there last year.

Which brings me to Scott and Jed’s generous, bighearted idea. To publish an anthology of stories from Noir At The Bar by the writer’s who’ve read there. Let me say it’s a great honor to know something I read there will end up in a book that’s being sold to support such a worthy cause as saving a bookstore.

Like all writer types, I love books. I love bookstores, too, and I can’t stand the thought of seeing yet another one disappear into the void. Once the Indy stores are gone, they’re gone. I used to tell my sons when they were little, “The most important card you can have in your wallet is a library card.” Because I wanted them to fall in love with books. The same way I did. The same way YOU did. Preserving the written word is important. I want my kids to take their kids to Subterranean. But with all the technological advancements is that possible?

In the digital age of convenience we’re living in, it’s safe to say any small bookstores still alive and breathing are doing so because inside their heart of hearts, they bleed for the printed word. Sure, everybody loves his or her Kindle, but it smells like plastic!

There’s nothing like being greeted by the aroma of rows and rows of old leather bound hardbacks printed on thin ancient sheets of paper. And a place like Subterranean knows who you are and they know what you like.

If they tell you, “I’ve got something I know you’ll like,” it’s because they’ve taken the time to get to know you, and, well, they know what you like. The difference between Barnes & Noble and an independent bookstore is simple. The chains are in business to make money and the Indy’s are in business to make friends. At the risk of sounding like a two-dollar politician brawling for a vote, if nothing else, do it for the children. Support your independent bookstores before they all die.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Waiting Game

And the wait begins. Friday afternoon I sent my manuscript to an agent in New York City. THE BIG APPLE. The Mecca of the publishing world. And with that wait comes a whole new set of emotions to deal with. Pride, for one, because try as they might, not everyone has what it takes to push through a novel length manuscript. There is satisfaction and a real sense of accomplishment because you saw it through all the way to THE END. You didn’t quit when the writing got hard. Fear; is another one, because even though you poured your heart and soul into this piece, what if it’s not good enough?

Then you have the questions. The doubt. You try to walk that razor thin line inside your head without falling off. It’s a dangerous balancing act between realistic expectations and dreams of grandeur. Was it good enough? Should I have written that one particular scene in the book; the scene that’s sure to offend everyone, except maybe three people I know personally. Did I just produce the best, most genius piece of material of my life or should I destroy my computer?

I’m living a writer’s life, I do believe. Self-doubt. Loathing. Hunger. Combined with the unexplainable drive to create worlds and invent characters readers can relate to. Believable characters that real people can stand behind and care about. Or even loathe. Loathing is good.

Like every writer before me, rejection is my nemesis. They are the gatekeepers used to thin the ever-increasing herd, and I accept them as a necessary part of the process. I make every attempt to learn from them. Then I laugh at them, and print them out just to burn them. But rejection is an implement and I keep the ashes in the top drawer of my toolbox. They are powerful, compulsory tools I use to push me forward into the unknown, and they bounce off my Kevlar armor like raindrops on a windshield and roll down my steel breastplate, disappearing into the void with the other hundred that came before it.

So when I say the waiting game begins, what I really should’ve said was the waiting game continues…because to me that is truly a writer’s life. WAITING. Learning patience to hone your craft, and developing a bulletproof casing to protect your fragile ego from the painful, earth shattering bullets of negative response and denunciation.

So while I wait for the reply from New York, I’ll keep in mind that waiting and rejection are both part of the world I’m making a conscious choice to enter and if I can’t take either one, I am surely in the wrong line of work.