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Monday, October 22, 2012

Interview with W Earl Brown

I'll keep this intro short. It's no secret I'm a big fan of DEADWOOD (and really, who isn't?) and over the last year or so I've gotten to know W Earl Brown a little bit. He played Dan Dority, who was my favorite character. Dan was Al Swearengen's right-hand man, steadfast and devoted. The most loyal character on the show.

Well, Earl was cool enough to do an interview with me. I find I am even more of a fan now than I was before.

1) Got Pulp? You grew up in the south. So my first question is, how did a country boy from Murray, Kentucky, end up in Hollywood? Had you always aspired to be an actor?

W Earl Brown: When I was 12 years old and loading hay bales on my Granddad’s truck, the thought hit me, “I can NOT do this for the rest of my life.” So I guess you could say an aversion to backbreaking physical labor and a highly tuned imagination lead me to where I am today.

I always had a fascination with movies and television since I was a toddler. My great-grandmother babysat me. She was always going on about, “Now them TV cameras is downright magic. You can do all sorts of things with ‘em.”

That seed was planted early in life but it wasn’t until I went to college at Murray State U, and took an acting class on a whim, that the idea began to blossom that I could actually do it.

2) Got Pulp? What kind of movies did you watch growing up? What actors were your heroes?

W Earl Brown: I could only see whatever the wide releases were. Or the southern drive-in circuit fare. There were no videotapes. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I’d ever heard of HBO, and since I lived out in the country, we could not get cable TV. So, whatever was at the Capri/Cheri Theater or at Murray Drive-in, was what I saw.

My freshman year of HS, three movies blew me away: STAR WARS, ANIMAL HOUSE, and HALLOWEEN. Saw each multiple times. It was only second or third viewing of AH, in the scene where Belushi pours mustard on himself at the party, that I had the cognizant thought, “Man, I’d love to work in the movies…”

In the 90s, I did SCREAM and SOMETHING ABOUT MARY – that generations AH and HALLOWEEN. To say the least, that was pretty cool.

Actor heroes – to many to mention. But Belushi was really the one who first made me want to be in movies, so I’ll say Belushi. John.

3) Got Pulp? You’ve portrayed many different characters in both television and films. Are there any certain types of roles you enjoy playing the most, or certain types of roles you go after?

W Earl Brown: Wherever the writing is. Writing is the foundation for everything. Without it…

4) Got Pulp? What would be your dream role?

W Earl Brown: Dream Role? I dunno… I can think of a Dream Paycheck, but not really a role. There are numerous stage roles that I’d love to play. But as for movies, there are stories I’d like to tell as a writer, but I’ve never purposely written anything for myself. Even in BLOODWORTH, we offered my role to a well-known actor first. When we realized that his schedule would not work, I came off the bench and played it myself, but that was not the initial plan.

5) Got Pulp? You’ve played a lot of characters. Earlier this year you popped up on an episode of the X-Files I was watching. You went to school with Gillian Anderson, what was it like to see her shoot to super stardom, and then get to work with her again years later?

W Earl Brown: Gillian? To see her become a Fanboy’s Wet Dream as the ultra-serious Dana Scully was odd to observe. In school, Gillian was best known as a comedienne, her greatest successes were in comedies. Plus, she was a big punk rock chick. She and I did an A.R. Gurney show, SCENES FROM AMERICAN LIFE, together at the end of my time at The Theatre School/DePaul. I didn’t really know her well until then. We became friends during that show. I’d lost touch with her for years though. She had nothing to do with me being cast on X-Files. It was a very pleasant surprise for both of us to get to work together again.

6) Got Pulp? There’s a lot more to Earl Brown than meets the eye. You are also a screenwriter and a producer. At what point did you make the jump from acting to screenwriting and producing? What prompted the move?

W Earl Brown: I’ve always written, just like I’ve always played music and drew pictures and took photographs. I am a Dilettante Supreme and a Raging Megalomaniac.

Seriously though, most of my biggest inspirations have been artists who work in many areas: Kris Kristofferson, Shel Silveretein, Steve Earle, and Rodney Crowell. These guys are my heroes. One art feeds the other, so I guess you could say I’ve got a big ol circle jerk of creativity going on in my mind at all times.

As for producing: If we were going to get BLOODWORTH made, Shane Taylor (director) and I were going to have to do it ourselves. So, we did. I enjoy the creative problem solving aspect of it. The number crunching, organization part of it is not necessarily my cup of tea. But a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, and as BW proved, Shane and I can do it. So, we continue to lead the charge. We are going to make more movies together: we make a good team.

7) Got Pulp? So, you wrote and produced the film BLOODWORTH (adapted from the novel, Provinces of Night, by William Gay). I know that was a personal project you felt passionate about, and with most personal projects they are never easy. They can be long drawn-out gut-wrenching acts of love. What was it like to bring your vision of the novel to the screen?

W Earl Brown
: I read CATCHER IN THE RYE when I was in college. Unlike many fellow classmates, I did not relate to it. When I first read PROVINCES… I found my Holden Caufield in Fleming Bloodworth. Fleming’s viewpoint was how I saw the world at that age.

As for what the process was like, it was painstaking. One has to tear the book entirely apart and rebuild it again. To be so emotionally tied to a story makes that process all the more difficult.

I am happy with the result of our film, I can only think of one movie I like better than the novel it was based on (FORREST GUMP) and our movie is no exception. I only scratched the surface of PROVINCES OF NIGHT.

8) Got Pulp? I am a huge fan of William Gay and was truly devastated when he passed away. I always thought one day I would get to meet him. I know you two were friends. Care to tell us a little bit about your relationship with him? What was he like?

W Earl Brown: William Gay. I met him through my wife, Carrie, who interviewed him for a project she was working on in 2002. She brought home a copy of PROVINCES for me to read.

I’d never met William face to face until Shane and I flew to Nashville to attend the Southern Book Festival to try to convince him that, while we didn’t have a lot of money, we’d not fuck up his book too bad. Mind you, this was before DEADWOOD. William only knew my work from SOMETHING ABOUT MARY and that was not exactly proof positive that I could pull off PROVINCES.

I knew William was a fellow music nut and a baseball fan. The Yanks/Red Sox playoff game was on in the bar. Eventually our conversation got around to Steve Earle, I said that Steve was a good friend. William was skeptical, “You KNOW Steve?”

Not long afterward, I stepped outside the bar and called Steve. He was watching the game also. As we were talking, Manny Rodriguez beat up 72-year-old Don Zimmer. William was watching it in the bar. After the roar died down, I said to Steve, “I need a favor…” I put William on with Steve and they talked for a good long time.

When William hung up, he said, “I reckon y’all can have the book…”

After that, William and I began to correspond with one another, mostly over the phone. We’d have these rambling conversations about the oddest topics. William was like a character right out of the pages of Faulkner. He had a thick as molasses drawl and he spoke slowly. Couple that with his natural shyness and he really seemed like a Snopes at first glance. But as you listened closely, you could see an immense intelligence and generous spirit. He was a walking enigma. I miss him.

 9) Got Pulp? We have to talk about DEADWOOD. Dan Dority, in my opinion, was probably the most three-dimensional character on the show – as far as unpredictability and depth go – because one minute he’s cutting another man’s throat and the next minute Al has just hurt his feelings. What was it like to play Dority?  

W Earl Brown: DEADWOOD was a dream job where we could not wait to get there everyday, because we never knew what was going to happen. It is not like it was all hugs and butterfly kisses, but we knew it was something no one had ever seen before. 

10) Got Pulp? David Milch: I cannot say enough about this guy. In a world where the term ‘genius’ is tossed around so casually, I truly consider this man to be a genius when it comes to writing characters and scenes. You wrote an episode(s) of Deadwood. What was it like to work with him? Do you feel like you learned a lot about the craft of writing from Milch?

W Earl Brown: Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that David is a genius. I’ve never encountered another mind quite like his. As for writing, truth is we all wrote on every episode – the entire staff. David, in turn, rewrote us all. “My” episode might have 7 lines in it that are as I actually wrote them. I’ve been complimented on that beautiful scene at the end with Jane and Joanie, I agree it is a beautiful scene. I didn’t write a word of it – Regina Corrado did.

Likewise, there are things I wrote of which elements would show up in other scripts. So, it was a group effort guided by the strong hand of The Maestro.

11) Got Pulp? On top of acting, writing, and producing, you’re also a musician? Let’s talk about your band and the music you play.

W Earl Brown: My megalomania knows no bounds … Sacred Cowboy are a country band with heavy guitars – a Motley Cruegrass if you will. The band has mothballed for a few years. We made an album “Hard Country” and played all over LA and the surrounding areas with our crowning achievement being on the bill for Stagecoach 09. It truly was a really good band, and hopefully will be able to play; it is just trying to juggle schedules.

12) Got Pulp? You have to drive from New York to LA. You can only bring three CDs. Name them.

W Earl Brown: For a cross-country drive? This would be different than my “Top Deserted Island” list because I’d need driving music plus I can’t stop at 3, so here are 5:

13) Got Pulp? Great list. I saw Pantera 3 or 4 times in the mid 90s, when they were really on fire. Phil Anselmo was angry and Dimebag Darrell was electric. Then, sadly, I remember getting off work late one night and hearing the news that Dimebag had been shot by some stupid asshole. Did you ever get a chance to see them live? 

W Earl BrownI saw Pantera on the first Ozzfest, they were touring behind the Southern Trendkill record and then I saw Reinventing the Steel opening for Sabbath. I became really good friends with Rex and through him have met Phil, Vinnie, and Rita. Both Rex and Rita were in the background on separate DEADWOOD episodes.   

14) Got Pulp? What are some jobs you’ve had over the years in between acting gigs? What was the worst job you’ve ever had?

W Earl Brown: I finished school in 89. I was the production coordinator at DePaul Theater School for two years and I also painted houses on the side. I got a run of picture deal on THE BABE (Babe Ruth baseball pic) in 91 and made enough money on it that I didn’t have to do anything else. I’ve not had a job outside of the industry (acting, writing, and to a small degree playing music) since then. But hands down the hardest work ever is farm work – hauling hay and cutting tobacco will bust your ass. I know my granddad had a farm and I had to help out growing up. Luckily for me, he lived fifteen miles away so it wasn’t like I was saddled with daily chores. Summers and weekends were enough to make me realize farm work was not for me. My vivid imagination is too strong and my propensity for prolonged manual labor is too weak.

15) Got Pulp? Have you ever thought about throwing in the towel? Just saying, “Fuck it, I’m going to go out and get a real job?"

W Earl Brown:  No. Are you kidding me? I get paid to play. I get to travel to cool places and have unique experiences. It’s a life I dreamt of having and I have it. To quote Oscar Wilde, “Every bone in my body cries out against the vast in humanity of normal employment.” I have gone through dry spells, and have gotten a tad bitter every now and then, but my wife knows how to set my ass straight. She is my biggest fan, my best critic, and my Muse. I guess if I were broke (and I’ve been close on occasion), I would work whatever job I could find to pay the bills, but so far, that has not happened.

16) Got Pulp? I know you’ve been a busy guy. You’re working a lot these days and you have a shit load of films coming out. Everything from THE LONE RANGER to A SINGLE SHOT to THE MASTER. You also got to work with John Hawkes again in THE SESSIONS (Sol Star, from DEADWOOD). I’m saying it now: a few of these films could be Oscar contenders.

W Earl Brown: THE MASTER is an Oscar shoo-in and I think THE SESSIONS will definitely be on the short list. THE MASTER makes you think. THE SESSIONS makes you feel. Both are Oscar bait.

THE LONE RANGER is going to be kick-ass, popcorn awesome. My stock answer for “when did you start acting?” has always been, “when I was 5 playing Lone Ranger in my backyard.” That is literally true. I still own one of my original Lone Ranger Fanner Fifty cap guns and, thanks to eBay, I also have the gun belt. So, I followed the LR remake from the time Bruckheimer got the rights six years ago. I HAD to be in that movie. Luckily, Gore cast me. While shooting the movie, I had an epiphany – I am doing the exact same thing, EXACT, that I was doing 43 years ago. Only now, I am getting paid to do it.

17) Got Pulp? There’s a great scene in THE MASTER where you and Joaquin Phoenix appear to really get physical with each other. Did you actually hit him? Because it looks like it.

W Earl Brown: Yes. We beat the shit out of each other. I tried to pull punches by loosening my wrist when I threw them. But one time, my wrist landed solid right on his temple. I know that had to hurt like hell. But Joaquin wanted it that way. I ended the day with a sprained toe. Don’t know how the hell that happened after getting punched, shoved, and slapped all day, I got a toe sprain…go figure.   

Last question: What is the strangest experience you’ve ever had with a fan? Have any DEADWOOD fans on the street ever called you a cocksucker?

W Earl Brown: Dozens of times. The worst – standing at a urinal during the intermission of a Merle Haggard/Bob Dylan concert. The men’s room was packed, shoulder-to-shoulder with dudes at the piss trough. Dude next to me, keeps giving me the eye – I think he’s a pecker checker – he says, “Hey.” Now I’m pretty sure that assumption is correct. Without making eye contact, I return the “hey.” Upon hearing my voice, “Well GODDAMN it IS you!!! Cocksucker!! FUCKING COCKSUCKER!!! (yells to his buddies) “It IS him. I fuckin’ told you cocksuckers!”

That was A Socially Awkward Moment.  

Thanks, Earl. I’m a big fan of your work and it was a pleasure to interview you. If you’re ever in the deep woods of rural Missouri I expect a phone call. I’ll have good music and cold beer waiting.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New Pulp Press cover for Frank Sinatra in a Blender

I've toyed with you for weeks now, telling you how badass the brand spanking new cover is. Now, here ya go: have a look for yourself. It's amazing and beautiful and gloriously pulpy. It's PERFECT — and I cannot say enough good things about my kickass publisher, New Pulp Press. My editor gave me total control over the cover, and he hooked me up with an amazing artist this is the result. (Not to mention an epic backcover, designed by artist extraordinaire, Erik Lundy).

And of course, a blurb from the incomparable Charlie Sheen. Thank you, BRO.

FRANK SINATRA IN A BLENDER, coming from New Pulp Press, Fall of 2012, in fine bookstores everywhere.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How To Get A Book Deal In 3,285 Days

In regards to writing: I have always viewed failure as an obstacle and not a roadblock. Obstacles can be overcome—but a roadblock is a fucking roadblock. And the only way through a roadblock is with a bulldozer. Because the hardest part about being a writer is not writing the book. It’s about not giving up after you’ve written it. It’s about not giving up on being a writer. You learn from your mistakes or you don’t progress. Writing—with the goal of getting published—is about failing, because you will. You have to. Failure is the greatest teacher. It makes you stronger. You must embrace failure with an open mind because you have to learn from it.

I started writing seriously back in 2003. Before that, I’d always written little things. Small things. Poems. The beginning of a short story here or there. But I never thought about being a writer. And I can’t say I knew I wanted to be a writer since the day I was born either. Because I didn’t. I mean, who would want that?

But without realizing it, I decided to write a book late one afternoon on a Wednesday. The town newspaper had just come out and I saw an advertisement for a writers group forming in another town. I read the ad with strange curiosity.

Still, I threw the paper away. But the next day I kept thinking about that ad. There was a group of writers that wanted to “get together” and, you know, write. They wanted to form some kind of club.

On one hand that sounded really stupid. On the other hand it sounded really awesome.

That ad played through my mind over-and-over. It was strange how it called to me. So the next day I bought a newspaper and called the number and talked to a lady named Pat. She was very friendly. Said, welcome to the club. They met on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

Did I want in?

I said, you bet.

When Thursday came, I got to the library late—it was an hour drive from our farm out in the country—but I arrived with great enthusiasm and entered a room filled with middle-aged women who greeted me with awkward smiles and cautious head nods.

They said the meeting had just begun. We should all introduce ourselves.

So we took turns around the table. Made introductions. Talked about our goals and hopes and dreams. What did we want out of this group? What were our expectations of ourselves as writers?

One by one, everyone talked. But everyone’s answers were the same.

They said: we have four or five stories a piece trapped inside our heads – if only we could find some way to unlock that box. Find a way to get the story from head to paper. How do we find that key?

I said: I just want to write.

So we wrote down single words on small patches of scrap paper and dropped them in a paper sack and shook it up. Our leader pulled the first word. Said, “write for twenty minutes. Be sure’n use the word blind!

From her purse, she removed a gargantuan stopwatch made of stainless steel that looked like it could withstand just about whatever punishment you could give.

“Let’s see what you come up with,” she said. “Go!”

The next thing I knew, the clock had stopped. But I wasn’t done.

Just one minute, I told them.

When I finished, I looked up and everyone was looking at me. But no one spoke.

It was our group leader who broke the uncomfortable silence with a nervous cough.

Who wants to go first?

No one volunteered.

I looked around the room and realized it felt awkward in every way but one. That being the fact I was, strangely, happy. I had discovered something inside of me I never knew existed. It was in that moment I knew what I was meant to do.

It was a ‘game changing moment’ if you will. At one point or another we all have them. The trick is to pay attention when the moment comes. To recognize that moment from other moments and capture it before it slips away.

I was just about to make my move when our fearless leader piped up and offered to read what she had. Close to a page by the look of it.

They followed, one-by-one. Starting at her left and ending with me.

Several had managed a whole paragraph, or a handful of words—though they’d forgotten to use blind. But most were blank pages. Or pages filled with sketches. Or doodles. And then I read mine. Nine-and-a-half pages, and I used the word blind in the very first sentence.

When I finished reading, I’d left my audience at a scene where a fat guy gets shot in the throat while eating a White Castle — the blind guy. I looked up and saw everyone was uncomfortable. The lady to my right shook her head. Looked like she might get sick.

This is pretty cool, I told her. But she took a sip of coffee and ignored me.

No one else replied.


I had an hour drive home with the windows down. There was something inside me that felt raw and exciting. I’d found what I’d been looking for all my life. Words.

The next few days crawled. Time was a glacier that moved slower than it had ever moved before. I could not wait until Tuesday, and when it came, I got to the library early. I was the first one there. While I waited, I ate a protein bar. Thumbed through an Elmore Leonard novel. Played snake on my old Nokia.

Then, finally, after several protein bars and many pages of Elmore Leonard and countless rounds of snake, I realized they weren’t coming.

Undaunted, I opened my backpack and found what I’d written the Thursday before. I read the words out loud with newfound curiosity and I didn’t want the story to end.

But when it ended, I didn’t miss a beat. I picked up where I’d left off and wrote for the next two hours. Until the janitor found me and threw me out.

But I left with thirty pages and never looked back. Two months later I had a manuscript.


Writing the manuscript wasn’t hard. Writing the manuscript while I lived 100 miles away from my job was. I built minivans for one of the big three. At the time, I installed seatbelts on the passenger side. I had the timing just right. I could walk up the assembly line and meet the van: shoot the upper bolt, shoot the lower bolt, slap a plastic clip in the floorboard, walk back to my job, and then write for thirty-five seconds.

So that’s what I did. Night after night. Ten hours a night. Six nights a week. Thirty-five seconds at a time.

I spent every minute consumed with plot and character development and dialogue. I wrote between minivans. On my lunch break. At my kitchen table during the 9 hours out of 24 that I was actually home. But two months later I had fashioned my first novel-length manuscript, and it was a remarkable achievement. I had just produced the single most amazing piece of original material the world had ever seen. I would blow the doors off the entire publishing industry with this masterpiece. No less than 100 thousand handwritten (and hand counted) words in seven different spiral notebooks. Pen to paper. That’s how I rolled. A book deal was right around the corner. I could smell the fame and wealth. I began to think of all the things I’d buy with the money.

I’d never typed on a computer before, so my wife jumped in. Typed the whole thing in her spare time. Between both jobs she was working. It took a few weeks, but then she finished, and kapow! There it was. My book on paper. Suddenly, not seeing my words scribbled in red and black and blue ink seemed real. Legit.

So after finishing what I considered to be the greatest achievement of my life, I decided to give it a quick read. Just to be sure I spelled everything right.

I was proud. Figured it was just a matter of time. It would probably take a few months, sure, but I didn’t mind waiting. I was a writer! Writer’s waited. Before long there would be money and travel and fame. A movie deal? Most likely.

And that’s when the delusions of grandeur began.


I spent that summer buying stamps and stuffing envelopes and writing query letters. I had a ritual and it went like this: Every Thursday night – twenty envelopes and twenty stamps and ten pieces of paper. I would send off my query letter to the ten different publishers I found on the back of any book I could find—regardless of the genre. I’d just write them all letters and tell them how great my book was.

But of course that didn’t work.

At some point I bought a book called The Writer’s Market. It cost thirty bucks but it was worth every penny. I’d stuff the large envelopes with the queries, address the smaller SASE, and stuff it in the big envolope. Stamp them all, and drop them in the mailbox on my way to St. Louis. I’d send out ten queries a week, every Friday, to ten different agents. Or ten different publishers. I did this for a long time and it never worked.

Until that one day when it finally did.

Everyday for years I checked the mail religiously at a quarter of two, and one day I found an envelope from a publisher in Georgia called Dare To Dream publishing. I assumed it was just another letter wishing me the best. Telling me not to feel like such an asshole. It’s just that, well, my story wasn’t right for them. But not to take it personal. And by the way, good luck on all my future writing endeavors.

That’s what I expected. I’d made peace with rejection early on. I accepted the idea that nobody’s as good a writer as they think they are. Especially not at first. I collected the rejection letters on our fridge, and after a while you couldn’t see what color it was. But that’s okay. I was a work in progress.

But to my great surprise, it was not a rejection letter. They said, “we loved the story and we’d like to offer you a contract. What do you think of that?”

We left that night for Georgia.

We had two hundred and thirty-five dollars to our name but we hit the road. Drove eight hours in rain. Slept in our Durango. We brushed our teeth the next morning with bottled water in a truck stop parking lot.

A few hours later I crashed the writing conference my new publisher was attending. I told them who I was, said I’d just gotten the letter yesterday. FTW! Where’s my contract?

And they didn’t know what to say. They asked me was I crazy?

Of course, I said. But also quite determined. I was there to talk business.

But they didn’t know what to think about that. Said they admired my dedication, but they had to draw a contract first. Promised they would send it Monday. Be patient, they told me.

I assured them I was. Then we made the drive back to Missouri, and I was satisfied. I’m going to be a writer. I started making plans. Calling newspapers. I was lining up interviews like a one-man marketing machine and I wasn’t even home yet.


Once we got back home I parked myself at the mailbox. I waited all week but the contract never came. It finally arrived three weeks later, though I called them almost daily to remind them. But I really should have paid more attention to the BIG picture. The writing on the wall. I tried, but I was just too distracted. Blinded by thoughts of quitting my job. I couldn’t wait to give my boss the finger. I wanted to write myself out of that factory job so bad; words fail me. I cannot describe it. But I was on my way. It wouldn’t be long now.

My book deal fell through eight months later. And I’d already done several interviews, not to mention an ingenious marketing campaign. I had it all planned out. I was putting up billboards and distributing bumper stickers. My Mom had t-shirts made.

Then one day I went to my publishers website but the website wasn’t there. I called the number but it was disconnected. The next day we left for Georgia. Again.


I could not save the book deal but you can never say I didn’t try. It was a long drive home. Even with my wife beside me I felt alone. Like I was bleeding inside. My soul was an open wound. I wanted to die. Dare To Dream had been bought out by a company that published only Women’s Fiction.

Oh? I’d asked them back in Georgia. What’s that mean?

It means we publish lesbian fiction.

My wife says the color drained from my face and I looked as white as the wall I was standing in front of. But still, I would not go down without a fight. I told them not so fast. A deal is a deal.

But they told me they were sorry. And honestly, I think they were.

You must reconsider, I demanded. And they thought long and hard. They wanted to help me if they could but the manuscript I’d written didn’t fit the new program. It was about a riverboat casino heist gone wrong. While the book was everything a good book should be—fast pacing, strong characters, guns and drugs and a towering body count—there were no lesbians.

I said I understood. But I lied.

It was a long drive back to Missouri.


For the sake of brevity I will condense the next five years. I quit my (excellent paying) job to write. I got a Myspace page (don’t laugh – you had one) but that wasn’t cutting it. It was 2008 and I’d never really used a computer. When I wasn’t writing, I started riding motorcycles (and crashing them). Then I bought a boat and crashed it. I spent a lot of time in Emergency rooms. But that whole time I never stopped writing or believing.

At some point I discovered Twitter and realized the key to succeeding was learning every possible thing I could about the business, and what better way to learn about writing than by meeting writers.

I’ll never forget this: I’m sitting at my kitchen table—with both arms wrapped in gauze because I’d wrecked my motorcycle in a tank top—determined, but clueless. I didn’t know what to write or where to send it. And then I stumbled upon a literary agent (who would go on to become my agent down the road) and I also found Scott Phillips, author of The Ice Harvest. I remembered him from the special features section of the movie. He was hilarious. And famous. So I followed him on Twitter, and low and behold, he followed me back. So I wrote to him, immediately, and told him he was cool. Could we meet, I asked? He agreed. And that was it for me.

That was the real beginning. I learned more in a half-hour of talking with Scott than I had in six years on my own. He told me I should get an agent, and he recommended the agent I have now. Then Scott told me I should write a short story. Submit it online. So I did, as soon as I got home. I wrote Gunpowder & Aluminum Foil and from there I shifted gears and held the pedal to the floor. Tried to push it through the floor. Because that’s what it takes to make it.

Before long I was meeting people and connecting on all the right levels. I started writing short fiction and submitting it online. Built up a network of friends and followers.

But it took another three years before I could truly feel like I was a writer.

But the point is this: I never gave up

And now I have a book deal with New Pulp Press. Plus there's a new manuscript in my agent's hands. And, somewhere—saved on some old hard drive—there is that first book I ever wrote. The one that began as nine-and-a-half pages—written on an assembly line, at our kitchen table, in the backroom of a library—surrounded by other people who felt the same spark I did. The difference is: I recognized that spark and did everything in my power not to let it die. I've spent the last eight years trying to grow the flame—now it is a raging inferno.

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.