Today noir novelist Anthony Neil Smith brings his virtual biker rally to Chimichangas at Sunset as part of his epic blog tour for his soon-to-be-released fourth novel, the thoroughly engrossing Hogdoggin’. At each stop of his tour, Smith continues the story of a biker rally that keeps getting bigger …. and crazier…
Meanwhile, over at Smith’s blog, Crimedog One, you can learn more about Hogdoggin’ and read my guest blog post, in which the biker rally gets a little weirder (Neil’s tale below follows my entry, if you wanna read these in sequence).
Be prepared to be offended, and disturbed in all venues, including Hogdoggin’.
After signing Larry’s book in the basement, Steel God and Smith came upstairs and immediately began nailing two-by-fours across the door, hoping that might keep the bastard in for the rest of the rally. Fat chance.
They pounded the last nail, slapped the dirt and sweat off their hands, and then turned to find a yuppie-type, like he fell off the screen during Office Space. And he didn’t look so hot, a big gash in his shirt, bleeding. In fact, he had a bit of the zombie look to him. The wound looked more natural on him than the tie.
Grinned, said, “So you boys pounding some nails, eh? Shit, you know what that’s all about, right? That hidden subtext? Hammering away. Nailing it to the wall. Dig it?”
Steel God punched him in the nose. The skin split, but this guy didn’t even lift a hand to stop the blood flow. He just dropped.
They shrugged and stepped over him.
The bar had taken on a creepier quality. Moody music from some freakish types on the stage. A stranger (albeit hotter) class of women. Men who looked like they belonged performing on the streets of New Orleans.
“What did you say these guys were called again?”
Smith said, “Skull Patrol.”
Steel God nodded. “You know…if I’m not mistaken, that’s the club that belongs to, um…what did she say his name was?”
“The chick who tried to castrate me, the one I bought the bike for.”
“I thought Anastasia put her in traction.”
“She did, but not before I had a good ride with her and all. Anyway, she said some guy promised to pay her a couple hundred to either kill me or take my cock back to him as a prize. I think it’s the guy who leads this crew.”
Smith took a gander out at the hypnotized, gender-challenged, middle-manager-type, hipster, bizzaro crowd. “I don’t know his name, but I heard one of them call him El Muerto Avocado.”
“Wait…The Dead Avocado?”
“Either that, or Hot Guac. It’s hard to hear in this joint.”
Smith stepped behind the bar for a moment and emerged with a double-barreled shotgun, which he fired into the ceiling without warning.
Everyone shut up and covered their ears, crouched. Steel God could barely hear above the ringing.
Smith took advantage of the quiet to shout, “One of you fuckers take me to Hot Guac or I start shooting you douchebags!”
They got a volunteer.
Outside, they followed this guy who must’ve been mute. He kept looking over his shoulder and waving his hand like Folllow me, yeeesss. Come now from some old horror flick. Smith kept the gun on him, but all three of them knew he wasn’t going to fire it again. Steel God told Smith he didn’t even have revenge on his mind so much.
“Instead, I’m just so damned curious. I don’t think I even know this guy.”
“Maybe you accidentally killed his brother or something. You know, a blood feud.”
They arrived at one of the town’s two travel motels–the shittier one, actually. At the other, people actually lived there long term and took care of the place. But not at the Double-D-Luxury Motor Hotel. It hadn’t been luxurious since 1981. And apparently, no one had cleaned up the vomit from the sidewalks since the mid-nineties.
Mute Man waved them towards room 107 and stepped out of the way.
Smith went to knock when Steel God braced him, whispered, “What if it’s a trap? You knock, he blows your head off.”
Before Smith could answer, the door swung open, and the dude standing there said, “I wouldn’t do that. Come on in. Grab a beer.”
He turned and walked back into the room. He was definitely one of those laid-back Californians, loose jeans and a shabby T-shirt, no shoes.
Smith and Steel God followed, not sure if they should. Soon as they were in, Mute Man reached for the door handle and slammed it closed. Made everything feel itchy.
Hot Guac, if that’s who this was, had already settled on the floor, bottle of Pacifico in his hand. “Beer. Or this new batch of guac I just made. Don’t tell anybody, but I think the secret is to use lemon instead of lime. And the organic red onions.”
Smith looked around the room. He stepped over to the bowl of guac and picked up a chip, scooped some up. Shrugged. “Not bad.”
Hot Guac laughed. “Dude.”
Steel God was noticing something else. On all the walls, there were mounted things. All on nice high school spelling bee award wood, metal plates at the bottom with names like “Shifty” and “Dr. Heartbreak” and “Indian Burn”. Was it some sort of animal? Hard to tell. Shriveled, dried out. Was he mounted slugs? Snakes? Worms?
Then God got it. “Shit, these are cocks.”
Smith had never seen the big man so stunned. He looked at the wall, then at Hot Guac, the wall again, down at his crotch, the wall again.
“You fucking collect biker cocks?”
He shrugged. “Let me tell you a story. It might better explain something about myself. You see *gack*–”
Cut off because Steel God had grabbed him by the throat and dragged him up the wall. “Make it quick.”
Hot Guac, turning purple in the face, wheezed out, “A biker killed my brother.”
Smith said, “Yeah, I called that one.”
God asked, “Why me? Why was I next?”
“Be. Cause.” Sucked in a mighty breath “Your rally. I. Fish. Big.”
Steel God smiled, kept his grip on. “You know, if you’d given me some sort of sob story, something I’d done to you, I was prepared to be merciful. But I can’t be seen supporting this sort of hobby. You understand, right?”
Hot Guac nodded. Or maybe he was just passing out.
Steel God turned back to Smith and said, “You go on back. I’ll handle it from here.”
“You sure? I can help.”
“No, I mean it. This is for my eyes only. Like that Bond movie, dig? Only for me. I’ll see what no one else will see. Me and this fucker here.”
Smith tried to think of something to say.
“I said GO! Now!”
Smith beelined for the door.
Right before he stepped out into the night air–hot wind kicking up dust–Steel God said, “And when I see you tomorrow for breakfast, you do not ask about this. You blank it from your mind. What’s about to happen officially never happened. You feel me?”
Smith cleared his throat, figured that was answer enough, and got the hell out of there. As he cleared the motel’s property line, he heard Hot Guac make a noise only his mother should ever be allowed to hear, and only after she’d died.
I first learned of this Greg Bardsley fellow when he submitted the story “Upper Deck” to my re-boot of Plots with Guns. It only took the first page to convince me I’d found my first acceptance. And it only got wilder and better.
I’d been looking for stories that put into practice what had only been theory in my head–contemporary noir with a transgressive edge. Stories that got to me at a gut level. Stories that I would find impossible to shake from my memory.
“Upper Deck” did just that. It made me laugh, made me flinch, and grossed me out (that last one isn’t a necessity, but if done right, well, congrats). Check this:
He tells you about upper-decking, and he tells you how he’s gonna use Harvey as a decoy. He tells you how they’re gonna come over to Ernie’s for the season finale of “Scott Baio Is 45 and Single,” and right in the middle of it all, Calhoun’s gonna excuse himself and saunter off to Ernie’s hall bathroom. He explains how he’s been preparing for two weeks, how he’s been getting into “the rhythm of nightly deuces,” how he’s gonna chow down lots of carnitas and beans for two days before and show up at Ernie’s at 7:45 with a giant mug of creamy coffee. How Harvey is gonna distract Ernie in the TV room while Calhoun’s in the can, gently removing the lid to the upper water basin of Ernie’s toilet, pulling his sweats down and slowly navigating onto the toilet until his ass is practically falling into the exposed water basin, his feet planted firmly on the toilet-seat lid, his hands reaching to the sink counter and window frame for stabilization, and then (the exaltation) releases “a monster” into Ernie’s upper deck, where it will either wreak immediate havoc on the flushing system or simply reside unnoticed for months on end.
See what I mean? How can this possibly go wrong? You want to know, right?
Move on through his other work, like “Funny Face”, “She Don’t Like Hecklers”, and “Some Kind of Rugged Genius” (on the fabled 3AM Magazine site), you’ll come to “Headquarters Likes Your Style” from Out of the Gutter, which I found to be another high point in a mountain range full of high points. A cubicle jockey finds a way to get back at management by insinuating to his office neighbor that the supervisor is making moves on him. And damned if the guy doesn’t buy into it. Really stellar stuff. Many times, he takes mundane office drones with active imaginations and gives them that one extra little push they need to send it over the edge, and by then it’s too late to reel themselves back in. Consequences abound, and the horrific black comedy that ensues will burn into your brain like a branding iron.
That’s why Bardsley’s work will be around a long time. He forces you to remember.
My prediction, as soon as the novels start rolling out: Bardsley will be as big as Palahniuk. But the critics will like him a lot more.
So, if the wild-man who is Bardsley tells you Hogdoggin’ is good, then you have no goddamned excuse not to pick this thing up and make it your next round of bathroom reading. And if you don’t mind, get it on June 1st (HOGDOGGIN’ MONDAY) online, at your nearest local bookstore, or at any of the indie bookstores I’ve marked as my territory along the route (places and dates at Crimedog One).
Next, from out there in the morning fog, Patricia Abbott is watching you…
Tonight on the Main Stage: Primus, “Those Damned Blue Collar Tweakers”