Greg Bardsley



One year ago

One year ago tonight, I let out a long sigh of relief. 

I’d just watched our system of laws, checks and balances (not to mention a few courageous individuals) thwart a final effort by a United States president to overturn his election loss. 

In the weeks and days leading up to that day, we’d all watched (or heard) our president employ a series of increasingly disturbing tactics to try to undo the will of the people. We’d heard the recorded phone call in which he’d threatened a Georgia election official if he didn’t “find” enough votes to reverse the results there. We’d seen how he’d invited small-town election officials to the Oval Office in hopes of convincing them to toss out validated results that helped deliver Michigan to Joseph R. Biden. And we’d read how he’d fired “disloyal” military leaders in the days and weeks leading up to the transfer of presidential power.

Back then, I was troubled that more people weren’t deeply disturbed by all of this. I found myself wondering if I was overlooking something that would explain their relative silence? Had I been watching too much cable news? Was I trapped in my own echo chamber? Were these news stories, recordings and anecdotes actually not nearly as important as they seemed to me? 

But then came Jan. 6, 2021, when the president of the United States incited a riot. And not just any riot, but one that actually succeeded in delaying the certification of our election–perhaps the most sacred proceeding of our democracy. We all sat helpless as the MAGA mob infiltrated the Capitol building with its Confederate flags, Trump banners and zip-ties. For the next three hours, our president sat in the dining room near the Oval Office and watched it all on TV, reportedly mesmerized by the fear and chaos he’d created. He tapped out a vindictive this-is-what-you-get message on Twitter. When he finally did speak, he told his mob, “We love you; you’re very special.”

Although that day was horrifying on many levels, I also saw hope. 

I truly believed that Jan. 6, 2021, was The Moment. 

This would be The Moment that would reveal with great clarity to anyone who hadn’t yet understood the jeopardy this president was willing to put our democracy in order to stay in power. After this dark day, I was sure that only the most zealous, vacuum-wrapped, unreachable of Trump’s followers would fail to finally see him for what he’d just become: One of the most notorious figures in American history.

On that night, I was sure that all of Congress [not just Democrats and a few principled Republicans] would take the earliest opportunity to unanimously impeach and convict this president. I believed that this man would live the remainder of his days as an American outcast [if not also as an inmate at a federal prison]. 

One year tonight, I was certain that all of our elected officials would cross partisan lines to ensure that something like this would never happen again. Collectively, they’d agree that the will of the people [our democracy] would always come first, that it is more important than personal interests, partisanship, culture wars, Supreme Court appointments, policy differences and deep-seated resentment. 

A year later, there’s a sinking feeling in my stomach. It’s the kind that skids lower and lower until it anchors to the pit of my gut and expands painfully in all directions, until I’m forced to accept that something is very very wrong:

A year later, our democracy is in grave danger. 

In the February impeachment trial of Trump, too few Republicans had the courage or foresight to convict him of inciting an insurrection. In fact, most Republican leaders have refused to condemn Trump, and the former president has not become the party outcast he should be. In fact, he is unquestionably the most powerful member of the Republican party, and now some of our elected representatives have taken steps to fill key election roles around the country with Trump loyalists, people who (unlike their predecessors) might be willing to “find” Donald Trump some votes in 2024.

A year later, Trump still hasn’t been held truly accountable for his efforts to upend our democracy. Most troubling of all, there’s no indication that the Justice Department is investigating Trump and his top enablers for the crime of impeding the electoral certification and attempting to deprive citizens of their constitutional right to vote.

Some 727 people have been charged in the insurrection, but not one of them is Trump or his fellow instigators. Donald Trump is not behind bars nor in criminal court; instead, he is at his resort where he’s making plans for a Jan. 15 rally that will perpetuate his election lies and celebrate the deadly mob that tried to subvert our democracy. 

And that is an American disgrace.

One year ago today, I believed that we’d finally experienced The Moment that would unite nearly all Americans to protect our democracy. Today, it’s clear that moment has not come, and I worry if it ever will. 

But there is something we can do.

Congress still hasn’t passed important voting-rights legislation that would help protect our democracy. This is because Senate Democrats lack the votes to stop a Republican filibuster that is killing important voting-rights legislation that would help protect our elections. On Jan. 17, they will vote on whether to change those rules so that the filibuster rule would be lifted and these important protections can become law. In Washington, DC, they call this the “nuclear option” because it is considered to be an extreme political move with potentially long-lasting ramifications to bipartisanship. 

But if ever there was a time in politics to go “nuclear,” it is now. 

Hanging in the balance is nothing less than the future of our democracy.

Big news in the land of Greg Bardsley

I will give you some clues, and you can guess what’s happened ….

  • I have been dance-walking in public.
  • Several times in recent weeks, I have succumbed to gentle weeping.
  • I have told my agent, David Hale Smith, that the next time we see each other, he should prepare to  be monkey-hugged. … Tightly.
  • Buoyed by third-party validation, I have  been relentless at home. The wife has given me two weeks before I need to “cool it with the jokes.”
  • I have subscribed to the Twittter channel of publishing maestro Cal Morgan, and I have declared that if anyone F’s with Cal, he or she is instantly F’ing with me. Thugs, texting motorists, careless target-shooters, daydreaming crane operators and stray lightning bolts take note – stay the F away from Cal or I will seriously F you up. …. Try me.
  • This year is fine, but now I really can’t wait for next year.
  • And holy shit, I have a revision due Oct. 15

In other words, Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins, has bought my debut novel, CASH OUT, and has targeted a launch date of Fall 2012.

And I am still blown away.

I mean, Harper Perennial? Cal Morgan and the gang at Harper? Really? This really has happened? The same outfit that publishes Jess Walter, Dennis Lehane and Chad Kultgen? …. Me? Really?

I feel like a dog that’s been given a large stick of salami. I don’t ask questions. I don’t say, “Why are you doing this? Are you sure you have the right guy? I’m not supposed to have salami.” … No, I just take that salami and get to work. And that’s exactly what I plan to do.

It has been a long time coming. Thankfully, I have had a lot of fun – and learned so much – along the way. And because I get to work with the amazing folks at Harper, not to mention DHS and my posse of fellow writers who’ve been so generous with their time, I know my learning is only ramping up.

This is just the beginning, but I do have to thank some folks: My manuscript readers (Riske, Ayers, Richardson, Canon, Shea, Bill and Bruen); my wife Nancy, always enabling and always my toughest reader; my mom and sister, who always believed; the aforementioned badass agent DHS and the amazing Lauren Smythe at InkWell; my generous supporters and blurbers who didn’t have to but did (Black, Dorst, Huston, Bruen and Bill); my earliest and most relentless champion (Smith) and, of course, Cal Morgan and his gang at Harper.

Now, back to the dance-walking. [I think I am done with the gentle weeping].

P.S. – This post comes nearly four years to the day after I wrote my first item for this blog — something about “chasing the chimichanga” (publishing a novel). … Weeeee-ird.

He wasn’t avoiding me, after all

I kept hearing about this Beetner guy.

I’d see his name mentioned in crime-writing blogs, or I’d listen in as someone at Bouchercon would name him “a writer to watch.” And I was thrilled when the Million Writers Award named his powerful, elegantly told Thuglit story, “Ditch,” one of the three best pieces in all of online fiction in 2010. … But even so, I’d never seen the guy, chatted with him or exchanged notes with him, which struck me as a bit odd considering how tight the pulp/noir writing world seemed to be.

I found myself asking, Who, really, is Eric Beetner? Does he really exist? ….. Or worse, is he avoiding me?

At Bouchercon, I finally got to meet Eric, who I found to be very real and very cool. We soon after learned that we’d both nagged bad-ass literary agent David Hale Smith for our new manuscripts (I mean, check out that client list). We’ve since been comparing notes, sharing news and even collaborating on a skunkworks project that’s still under the tarp.

Recently, I’ve learned that he and author J.B. Kohl have published a second novel with Second Wind Publishing. In short order, Borrowed Trouble, has won praise from a variety of respected authors, including Hilary Davidson, who called it “pulp fiction at its finest.”

I had to interrogate these two.

Eric and J.B. (aka, Jenifer) were kind enough to play along.

Chimichangas at Sunset: How did you guys end up writing novels together?

Eric: I do some work with the Film Noir Foundation managing some of their social media websites, and Jennifer wrote to me asking if she could link to our site. I checked out the site she wanted to link and read about her first book, The Deputy’s Widow. It seemed like my kind of thing so I bought one and I liked it. I wrote to tell her so and sent along one of my shorts, Ditch, which was in Thuglit.

Jennifer: I really liked Eric’s work. The thing I noticed most was that our styles are similar. I got to thinking that if we wrote something together it would be a fun experiment and might actually lead somewhere interesting. I pitched him the idea of writing together . . . and heard nothing back. I think he contacted me again later about a publishing question or something along those lines and I approached the subject again. This time, he seemed receptive to the idea and within a week he sent me an idea he had for this boxer whose brother gets killed in the ring. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Chimichangas at Sunset: When I see double bylines on a novel, I always envision two people huddled around a computer. One guy is practically resting his chin on the typist’s shoulder, whispering, “No, don’t make him a transvestite. He has to be a born-again. Remember? Or a midget. A midget I could live with.” … Or, I imagine one guy on a lounge chair at the beach —  zinced up nose, dark shades, cigarette hanging off his lips — as he barks insane story ideas to his poor S.O.B. partner who’s pecking away in a dank basement outside Cleveland. …. What’s it really like?

Eric: I don’t think we’re typical by any stretch. We do everything by email. We live on opposite coasts so we’ve never had the chance to meet in person. So we’re each typing away in our respective time zones in solitude and sending out chapters into the ether and then waiting for a reply with more words to build on top of.

Jennifer: LOL. Well, Greg, your scenario would never work because I don’t use zinc on my nose . . . it clogs my pores. Eric and I have the perfect relationship. Don’t get me wrong, Eric is a great friend–one of the best I have–but I love that I don’t have to talk business with him and that we don’t have to sit in an office together and hash stuff out. We work from an outline that changes when needed–we read each other’s stuff. We edit each other’s stuff. We get the work done. It’s easy and fun. I guess that doesn’t sound very glamorous, but that’s really the way it is. 

Chimichangas at Sunset: If you had to pitch BORROWED TROUBLE to the cast of “Jersey Shore” ….

Eric: I think I’d say it has a lot violence and bad words in it. And it’s cheaper than Snooki’s book. And if there’s ever a movie made of it there are parts for all of you . . . because there are a lot of corpses.

Jennifer: I agree. Plus, don’t forget the trashing of houses and the sex and bondage. On film. 

Chimichangas at Sunset: In writing BORROWED TROUBLE, what surprised you the most?

Eric: Once again how seamless it all went. We each had a chance to write each other’s characters this time around which we didn’t get to do much of in One Too Many Blows To The Head and I expected that to be harder but I think we’re both such fans of each other’s work, even within our own book, I approached it with a real sense of respect like I had to get it right to do this guy, Dean Fokoli, justice.

Jennifer: I would have to say I was surprised at how well we did at getting the characters right. We didn’t have to correct one another on anything regarding mannerisms or language or physical description. I think I was surprised at how well Eric knew Fokoli. I had no issues with anything he wrote. He did my character justice and, in a weird way, it was flattering to read the chapters Eric wrote with Fokoli in them.

Chimichangas at Sunset: What’s next for you two?

Eric: We’re outlining a new book, different from the first two. We’re also involved in a collaborative novel with our publisher that has been really interesting. It’s called Rubicon Ranch and eight different writers from our publisher each contribute chapters building on a central mystery. It’s being published on the web right now in installments and when it’s all done it will be a published book. At this point even we don’t know who the killer is. We’re really hoping it’s our characters.

I’m also nearing the end of my fourth solo manuscript and my agent is shopping one of my solo books to publishers right now. I continue to write short stories but I keep getting ideas for novels so my output has been severely cut back. I want to do more since it is a great way to get out in front of readers. Plus it’s fun.

Jennifer: I’m looking forward to the next book we write together. Right now we’re in the “tossing out ideas to each other” phase. And that is always fun. I’m curious to see what else we can come up with. At this time we have no plans to stop writing together. And we both continue our solo work. I’m finishing up my second solo novel now and I’m not really sure what I’ll do with it once it’s done. Try to sell it, I suppose. 

These smokestacks, they are a-billowin’

In short time, Crimefactory has ramped operations with stunning velocity.

Since Issue 1 in January, Crimefactory’s barbed-wire studded conveyor belt has rolled out top-notch essays, interviews and fiction by everyone from the legends (people like Bruen) to the unknowns (people like me). It’s raw and smart and cool, and it continues to produce at an amazing pace — its smoekstacks billow night and day. Credit goes to shift bosses Keith Rawson, Cameron Ashley, Liam Jose and Jimmy Callaway — apparently, these guys never sleep, if you consider the hundreds of pages Crimefactory already has published.

In Issue 3, the conveyor belt spits out my story, Headlock, which involves … well, you get the idea. [Fair warning: If stories about marathanon headlocks, disgusting private encounters and low-functioning, extra-hairy house guests are *not* your thing, you may wanna pass on this one]. As thrilled as I am to see it roll off the line, maybe I’m even more thrilled to see it there with the products of fellow line workers Kieran Shea, Jed Ayres, Dennis Tafoya, Sandra Seamans, Dan O’Shea, Roger Smith and Leigh Redhead.

Suggest you venture into the Factory. Just be sure to put on a hardhat.

Small enough to toot my own horn

Yes, that’s right. I’m small enough to tell you about a couple of reviews people have written about my story, “Headquarters Likes Your Style.”

Bookgasm weighed in with some nice words. I’ll take that.

Eastern Standard Crime followed up with some words, some of them favorable. I’ll take that, too.

To the Gutter I go

This past spring, I got a call from a colleague who helps me with corporate videos. He was concerned. Didn’t know what to do, who to call. So he called me. Said he was working on a video that included a comment from an executive that concerned him. It was a comment that sounded benign enough in the corporate world but could be interpreted as quite graphic and socially inappropriate … if your mind is in the gutter.

We had a good laugh. Then I had an idea. An idea for a short story. I wrote it and sent it to an outfit that seemed perfect for this kind of subject matter.

Today I’m proud to announce that my story, “Headquarters Likes Your Style,” will appear in Out of the Gutter, “the modern journal of pulp fiction and degenerate literature,” which recently released its list of contributors for its fifth printed edition. I was honored to be included on this list of talented sickos, and I’m thrilled about appearing in Out of the Gutter. These guys a OOTG love what they do, and they’ve created a journal that is so original, so bold, so unapologetic, so anti-fancy-boy that you can’t help but want to be a part of it.

Being in the gutter never felt so good.

Say it isn’t so, Murdaland

Shit. … A great fiction journal just bit the dust.

Murdaland on Wednesday sent a note to me and other crime writers announcing that it was “suspending publication.” Says the note, “We tried very hard in 2008 to keep Murdaland going as a viable entity, but it’s just no longer possible.”

In terms of quantity, Murdaland doesn’t leave a large body of work. It produced just two printed issues. But holy shit, did they turn some heads. In an instant, the journal became one of the more sought-after places for crime writers to showcase their fiction. It had this highbrow-lowbrow thing going, and more important, it ran some truly badass crime fiction — or, perhaps more accurately, badass fiction that happened to deal with crime.

Regardless, it’s suspended now. And, I hope I’m wrong, but it feels like it’s not coming back. Maybe I’m woefully uninformed in these matters, or maybe I’m in denial, but I’m left scratching my head trying to figure how other printed journals can find ways to make it work financially but not these guys. The other thought I had was, Why not go web-based? Again, easy for me to say. I guess I just hate to see them go.

Sunday …

Sunday morning. Heavy lidded. Half asleep. The sound of little feet padding into the bedroom. Open an eye. Dylan’s light-brown hair, a few strands sticking out in various directions. He throws his three stuffed animals — Goggy, Trotty and Dragon — onto the bed and climbs up. I pull him toward me. The boys had been gone for the better part of a week. I open an eye again. His giant almond eyes are looking at me, happy. He snuggles closer. We hug, Goggy, Trotty and Dragon smushed between us. I doze in and out, open an eye now and then. Big almond eyes looking at me. Quiet contentment. I pull him closer, and he sighs, happy.

Open an eye. Blond hair sticking up everywhere. Jack. Crawling up the bed, to the other side. In a moment, I have both of my boys in my arms. Totally silent and calm. No fighting or feces-centric insults. Is this real? A cruel trick of the mind? We lay there for a good half an hour, completely silent.

Could it get any better? Yes, it could. “Mommy” could be here. …

Sunday evening at SJC. Southwest flight 3843 from Burbank. Dylan and Jack sitting eagerly. Jack has picked out purple tulips, Dylan deep-orange sun flowers. Dylan grasps his bouquet with both hands, holding it out, looking down the aisle, past the security point. Finally, they see Mommy and bolt toward her, people parting for them. I guide our little group hug to a nearby bench seat.

Sure, we had our first family fight within 20 minutes, but that’s beside the point. Bliss is like a sunset — a brief, sweet and beautiful moment, gone in a minute. Until the next time.

One of those moments

It feels like one of those moments, one of those moments when a lot of folks you dig are having, well, their moment.

Specifically, it feels that way for my writer friends. Lots of good things happening for some fine writers.

First, Bryon Quertermous had a hell of a week, with his short fiction appearing in no less than two printed anthologies. First Amazon sent me “A Prisoner of Memory: And 24 of the Year’s Finest Crime and Mystery Stories” (Pegasus; 432 pages; $15.95), which puts Bryon’s story beside those by heavy hitters Michael Connolly and Lawrence Block, as well as stories from Chimichanga friends Patti Abbot and Hilary Davidson. Pretty sweet. Then a few days later, I dropped in on the massive Barnes and Noble in San Mateo, where right on the front table I found “Hardcore Hardboiled” (Kensington; 352 pages; $14), which also features a Quertermous story with the rest of Thuglit‘s top stories in 2006. I’m thrilled not only for Bryon, but also another Changa buddy, Todd Robinson, aka Big Daddy Thug, publisher and founder of Thuglit, which ran my story, “Big Load of Trouble” last year. It’s Todd’s vision, tenacity and sharp sensibilities that have made Thuglit what it is today — one of the best places to read crime fiction online. One of the headlining contributors to “Hardboiled” is another Chimichanga bud, Duane Swierczynski, who’s thriller “Severance Package” (St. Martin’s; 288 pages: $13.95 pages) just hit the stores and is getting rave reviews.

But wait, there’s more. … Major Changa philanthropist Anthony Neil Smith just completed a road tour for his new novel, “Yellow Medicine” (Bleak House Books; 260 pages; $14.95), which continues to get great reviews for great reasons. Meanwhile, my good friend Al Riske recently won a short-fiction contest run by the Blue Mesa Review and will soon see his story, “Pray for Rain” in print. And lastly, prose stylist Tony Black, publisher of U.K.-based Pulp Pusher, which ran my “She Don’t Like Hecklers” last year, soon will see his first novel, “Paying for It,” released by Random House and offers the following video teaser. Congrats to Tony and all the others who are enjoying their moments.

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