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Greg Bardsley

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Plots with Guns

My sweet consolation

One of the things about earning coin during the day, writing crime fic at night and being a family man throughout is that you don’t get to read nearly as much as you’d like.

My consolation? I have some scary-talented buds sending me some of the best crime fic around.

Case in point, I have been thoroughly enjoying Tony Black’s latest sensation, Truth Lies Bleeding. If you haven’t read Black yet, do yourself a favor and check out this novel by the talented U.K. prose stylist, who once again has managed to suck me in with a story that appeals to the mind and heart. With Truth Lies Bleeding, Black introduces us to yet another fascinating and fully evolved character, Edinburgh Investigator Rob Brennan, who is dealing with demons on many fronts, not the least of which is a ruthless killer who’s left a mutilated corpse in a back-alley dumpster. The police procedural element of the book is captivating, and the emotional connection to Brennan is nearly immediate. Top-shelf material from Black — again.

Also just “in”: My e-book copy of Matthew McBride’s breakout first novel, Frank Sinatra in a Blender, which I admit to taking a peek at last night despite the fact I’m in the middle of other books. I mean, with a title like that, how could I not take a peek? Regardless, I was laughing out loud within minutes and can tell that I will thoroughly enjoy that morsel.

Meanwhile, had the pleasure of reading some underground prose (for now, at least) by the prolific and powerfully voiced Kieran Shea – learn that name. … And Crimefactory just came out with a sick new issue with crate of great pieces by Eric Beetner, Jedidiah Ayres, Tony Black, the Nerd of Noir, Nigel Bird and Mike Sheeter. … Oh, and there’s some seriously discounted, tart transgressive fic by Anthony Neil Smith over at Herman’s Greasy Spoon.

And finally, was thrilled to see an excerpt of my recently completed novel appear in the legendary Plots with Guns. If you like your Crazy Larry and your Calhoun, be sure to check out The Frequency, To Which He Must Attend.

Frank Bill crosses the tracks

Last fall, I finally had the pleasure of meeting Frank Bill. This was about a year after we both appeared in Issue 5 of Plots with Guns and subsequently began to exchange notes, strategies and war stories from our respective crime-writing trenches.

I was inspired not only by his narrative voice (raw and poetic and brutal), but also his devotion and work ethic. Whereas, I stay up way too late to work on my novel, Frank rises way too early to do the same. In fact, there are times I’m just ending my writing here on the Pacific Coast when in comes a note from Frankie, who’s just getting started in southern Indiana.

At Bouchercon last fall, I found Frankie to be a genuinely kind, earnest and down-to-earth guy, which made it even more fun when we both (somehow) ended up at the St. Martin’s cocktail reception (it was like that scene from Seinfeld in which Kramer gets spun around at the Tony Awards by the “Clydesdale Surprise” people and ends up at all these “after parties”). We were in publishing culture-shock, in a good way. Hell, we were just a couple of pulp/noir writers snatching free food off the trays, trying not to stick out too much.

We were the kids from the wrong side of the tracks.

Well, for Frankie, not any more.

Frankie and his agent Stacia Decker announced yesterday that he has signed a two-book deal with Farrar, Straus & Giroux – for his novel, DONNYBROOK (a sneak peek of which I thoroughly enjoyed), and a collection of stories, CRIMES OF SOUTHERN INDIANA.

I am beyond thrilled for Frankie – his determination to put words on the page every day and his courage to tell brutal stories in a singular voice have paid off. The fact he also happens to be a great guy makes it even sweeter.

So freaking cool you want to be a part of it

Sometimes you come up on something, and it’s so freaking cool you just want to be  a part of it.

I felt that way about Nancy when I met her in the college newsroom some 20 years ago. The rest, as our kids would say, is history.

Same goes with cool fiction. Super cool fiction. I’m not saying I want to marry and impregnate cool fiction; I’m just saying that when I see it — when I read it, experience it — I want to be a part of it. It happened when my buddy Riske and I were in Keppler’s one lunch hour and he literally tossed the debut  edition of Murdaland to me, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it (I never was, unfortunately, but I tried). It happened when I went to a Sun Microsystems party with Nancy in ’95 (she was working there) and I saw all the people saying wild stuff, doing amazing things, and I thought, I want to write for these people. And it happens over and over again every freaking time I check out a new edition of Plots with Guns.

PwG INSPIRES me.

Plots with Guns is freaking cool. Way cool. Phenomenal stories. Crazy-fun art and design. This whole high-brow/low-brow thing going on. Anything goes, as long as it socks you in the gut, takes you somewhere you hadn’t yet been. It’s Gary Busey waxing poetic. Or Hume going off the deep end, on mescaline. It’s a bunch folks hanging out in the dark corner of the Town Lounge, completely unresponsive to the posturing and BS swirling around them.

All of which is to say that Plots with Guns has a new issue out — and it makes me wanna be a part of it, again. Amazing pieces — all of the them — from Shea, Bill, Tafoya, Ashley, Knight, Kiewlak, Hess, Thomas, Kerr and Elliot. No wonder everyone wants to get in PwG.

Cuckoo for Crazy Larry?

Not too long ago my story, Crazy Larry Smells Bacon, had quite the day.

First, in the morning, I received the news that Crazy Larry, which originally appeared in the transgressive-fiction journal Plots with Guns, had been selected to appear in the anthology, By Hook or by Crook: The Best Crime and Mystery Stories of the Year: 2009 [Tyrus Books], edited by Ed Gorman and Martin Greenberg.

Then, that night, I learned that judges for the storySouth 2010 Million Writers Award had named Crazy Larry a “notable story” of the year (along with pieces by many others, most notably Kieran Shea, Kyle Minor and Mike MacLean), and that it’s still elligible for higher praise, however unlikely.

For all the love Larry is now receiving, I can thank PWG editor Anthony Neil Smith. Neil’s push-backs on the piece, and his suggestions for spry ol’ Larry, really made a difference. … I’m also glad to tell you that Larry has a solid role in the novel I have been writing; it’s a relief to see that Larry actually ineterests more people than just Neil and me.  

Not that there would’ve been anything wrong with that.

Five questions at Scrivo

richardsonMark Richardson and I have been comparing notes on fiction-writing for years now. We have had some great talks about it all. Whereas, he’s more likely to tell me about the latest story by nearby peninsula genius Tobias Wolff, I’m more likely to tell him about some amazing stories I’ve read in Plots with Guns or the now-defunct Murdaland.

He reads fiction in The New Yoker. I read fiction in Thuglit. And then we trade.

A few years ago, we had a debate about Eat, Pray, Love.

Along the way, he’s turned me on to some great shit in his publications. And I’m happy to report that maybe I’ve turned him on to noir and transgressive fiction. Case in point, Richardson is now weighing in on UNCAGE ME, the anthology of noir that includes my story, Hotshot 52, and has asked me to answer five questions over at his new blog, Scrivo.

Mark is a great writer with an amazing track record in fiction — every story he’s written has been picked up so far. And Scrivo already has made some interesting observations about  the pursuit of fiction-writing.

You can chek out his bog and his five questions of me right here.

It really *is* ANS season

Jed Ayres was right a few weeks ago when he noted that we were entering Anthony Neil Smith (ANS) season. Hell, the author of Hogdoggin’ is all over the place. Several weeks into ANS season, we’ve already had a virtual bike rally for his new novel as well as the far-reaching Hogdoggin’ Monday. Since then, he’s been all over the place – in the virtual, and the flesh. There have been Noir at the Bar events, book signings and interviews galore.

To mention but a few. … Hardboiled Wonderland gets deep into ANS’s skull and doesn’t leave, in an interview here. In the U.K., Pulp Pusher hands the mic over to ANS and Victor Gischler for a quickie here. And at Frank Bill’s House of Grit, ANS drops in here.

So, with all the work ANS is doing these days, you might be surprised to learn that he also put out another edition of Plots with Guns – this one a special edition Plots with (Ray) Guns, with each story set in the year 2509. The first two stories I have read so far – “Koko Takes a Holiday,” by Kieran Shea, and “Ill Nature,” by Kyle Minor – knocked my socks off, each leaving a mark in my mind that I have yet to shake off. Shea also has an equally strong piece in Pulp Pusher right now, so if you’re in the mood for a jolt, check it out here.

Speaking of The Pusher, some more news in that arena in a few weeks.

KIERAN SHEA UPDATE: Adding to the growing evidence that he and ANS secretly plan to take over the world, I’ve now learned that our man Kieran also has a piece coming out in Ellery Queen. Who’s the third party in this Axis of Noir?

He smells bacon, and it drives him cuckoo

Badass noir zine Plots with Guns came out with “one bar fight of an issue,” as its editor Anthony Neil Smith puts it. And I’m thrilled to report that my story, “Crazy Larry Smells Bacon,”  is included — along with pieces by Mark Raymond Falk, Frank Bill, Jason Hunt, Keith Rawson, Jonathan Woods, Neil Richter and someone called Anonymous-9.

pwg1

I had a lot of fun with “Crazy Larry.” I smiled a lot when I wrote this one. I gave myself the creeps when I read it back to myself.  I think about the namesake of the story, and I grin. There’s something about potentially dangerous oddballs that makes me smile. Not sure why, but there it is.

Once again, as was the case with my story, Funny Face, which appeared last year in Storyglossia, I have Smith to thank for helping me strengthen the piece. ANS came back hard with the straight dope, and I am grateful for it, because the piece is stronger for it. 

Feeling kinda verklempt over here on the left coast. …. You make me wanna be a sicker writer, Neil.

 

You like depravity, you dirty little thing

Yeah, I know what you like. You like to read that sick shit. And you’re wondering if that guy over there — that seemingly normal guy over there enjoying his coffee — is capable of concocting the same kind of disgusting, perverted and trangressive stories that percolate through your skull each and every day. Well, guess what — maybe he is. Maybe he’s just like you, with a mind in the gutter.

Hell, if you pick up the latest edition of Out of the Gutter, the “modern journal of pulp fiction and degenerate literature,” you will see that you and I are not the only ones with bent imaginations. There’s some seriously great (and sick) fiction up in that piece — so far, I have really enjoyed stories by Jed Ayres, Vicki Hendricks, Charlie Stella, Jordan Harper, Sophie Littlefield, David Cranmer, Randy Rohn, Matt Louis and Nicholas Korpon, and I’m still reading.

Apparently, you and I aren’t the only ones who like the sick stuff. Bookgasm just weighed in with a nice review of OOTG; it also included some favorable words about my story, “Headquarters Likes Your Style.” [Hey, I never said I was above shameless self-promotion.]

Elsewhere, the depravity continues unabated. Plots with Guns came out with yet another top-shelf edition chock full of great stories — be sure to check them out. …. And I recently learned that Jen Jordan will include my story, “Hotshot 52,” in her upcoming anthology, UNCAGED [Bleak House Books], which hits bookstores this summer. 

And finally ….. Speaking of people who write fucked-up shit, I met Jed Ayres for the first time tonight. I’m in St. Louis for work, and he was gracious enough to take in a few pints with me. After the second round of beers, we both expressed relief that the other guy wasn’t a psycho or, worse, an asshole. With this Internet thing, you never know.

I”ll leave you with the list of authors to be included in UNCAGED. With this group of writers, I see myself more as the towel boy. Anyone want a towel — or has a wet one they no longer need — just holler.

Pierce Hansen
Evan Kilgore
Tim Maleeny
Nick Stone
Simon Kernick
Christa Faust
Victor Gischler
Stephen Blackmoore
Blake Crouch
Declan Burke
Gregg Hurwitz
Brian Azzarello
Simon Wood
Steven Torres
Allan Guthrie
Martyn Waites
Bryon Quertermous
J.D. Rhoades
Stuart MacBride
Patrick Shawn Bagley
Scott Phillips
Greg Bardsley
J.A. Konrath
Maxim Jakubowski
Talia Berliner

Minutiae Monday — “it’s gonna be a zoo”

Let us begin the minutiae …

My 6-year-old son likes to take his guitar and “serenade the neighborhood” with his original songs. It’s proven to be a great way to attract lots of adults and children, which of course is his primary objective. … Plots with Guns just released another really strong set of stories, including those from Chimichanga friends Bryon Quertermous, Patti Abbot and Todd Robison. Added bonus: the stories are accentuated by some great art and another really cool design. Cool shit. Real deal. … I have to admit it felt good to see my short story, “Funny Face,” included on a short list recently created by DOGZPLOT. … This weekend: three birthday parties, three park adventures, one wet bed, four sleep relocations, one tee-ball game and one lingering cold. … I’m happy to report that my employer Sun Microsystems was named one of the world’s most ethical companies. … My wife and kids are participating in a school field trip to the San Francisco Zoo tomorrow. It’s gonna be a zoo there.

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