"You know what? The bastard blows me out of the water. This guy writes Maine like Ardai writes New York. If you're not reading him, you don't know what you're missing." --Chris F. Holm, author of "The Collector" series, The Killing Kind, and Red Right Hand.

"A refreshingly new voice in noir." --Ed Kurtz, author of Nothing You Can Do and The Rib From Which I Remake the World.

"A glorious boilermaker of noir and East Coast gothic. The action is taut as a sprung snare and Bagley tightens the screws with every page." -- Laird Barron, author of Swift to Chase and Blood Standard.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Yellow States

Would you vote for this man?
I did.

Seems Bleak House Books is starting a book club, and they’re letting readers decide which of their new titles will be the first pick. The list of Bleak House candidates is far more impressive than that in our current presidential primary clusterfuck.

Anthony Neil Smith’s latest novel, Yellow Medicine, is one of the contenders. I’ve already expressed my admiration for this book. Voting ends March 15, and the winner will be announced the next day. Go vote. Go. Now.

And remember: if you don’t vote for Neil, the terrorists win.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Shake Your Money Maker

Money Shot
Christa Faust
Hard Case Crime, January 2008

Angel Dare is a retired porn star who runs a booking agency for girls in the industry. She agrees to do a scene in a new movie as a favor her old friend Sam, but things go bad and Angel is left for dead in the trunk of a Honda Civic. Now she’s back and out for revenge. There is just one problem: the bad guys have set things up so it looks like Angel is a murderer and child pornographer. Angel has to dodge the cops while trying to find out who has destroyed her life.

Faust, the first woman ever published by Hard Case Crime, is an amazing talent—and how can you not love an author who references H.G. Wells and Jenna Jameson in the same novel? She gets readers so deeply inside her protagonist’s head that it is impossible not to share Angel’s feelings of desperation and hatred. We can’t wait for her to punish these scumbags. More, we want her to be able to get away and start over somehow.

The novel’s other great strength is its unflinching look at the adult entertainment industry and the way in which it both feeds and feeds off of American culture. Money Shot is full of the social insights that made the works of writers like John D. MacDonald more than “just” crime novels. It’s also good bloody, sexy fun.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Back from the Dead and Kicking Ass

Plots with Guns is back, mean and nasty as ever, with new stories from Stephen Blackmoore, Tim Maleeny, William Boyle and others. Go check it out.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Take Your Medicine

Yellow Medicine
Anthony Neil Smith
Bleak House Books, April 2008

We need to do something about this Anthony Neil Smith guy. He co-founded Plots with Guns, the greatest noir ‘zine that ever polluted the Internet[1]. His debut novel, Psychosomatic, was a piece of twisted genius. Then he single-handedly invented heavy metal noir with The Drummer.[2] His short stories show up in great magazines like Murdaland and even *sniff* literary journals.

Now Smith brings us Yellow Medicine, the heart-warming tale of Billy Lafitte, a disgraced cop from Mississippi who trudges through the days as a deputy sheriff in rural Minnesota: taking bribes from the local meth dealers; having sex with women in exchange for letting their law infractions slide; getting hammered and calling his ex-wife, who won’t let him talk to their kids; and suffering through an unhealthy crush on Drew, the bass player in a psychobilly band called Elvis Antichrist[3].

Drew asks Billy to help her meth dealing boyfriend out of a jam. Seems the boyfriend pissed off some Asians who are moving into the area and trying to take control of the drug trade. Of course, it isn’t that simple; the Asians aren’t just drug dealers. Billy has all he can do to avoid getting swept away in the shit storm that follows. Like Billy says, “If I made things right, then I had everything I wanted. Happiest fucking asshole on earth.”

Smith injects the traditional noir atmosphere with rednecks, college kids, ruthless feds, a terrorist cell and even—in some ways the most jarring part of the mix—a couple of decent people just trying to help. Then there is Billy, whose biggest goal is to live long enough to see his kids again. As always, Smith’s prose shows no mercy. It is beautifully dark stuff. This guy gets any better and I’m going to pull a Tonya Harding on him.

[1] Although PWG shut down in 2004, Smith is reviving it and we should see the first new issue soon.
[2] And if you don’t think the world needed heavy metal noir, then you can go fuck yourself.
[3] Psychobilly? Google it, baby.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Leaving Rachel: The Love Hurts Blog Event

Patti Abbott, Aldo Calcagno and Gerald So decided to give you all a big, bloody Valentine this year. They asked a bunch of crime writers to post love-themed flash fiction this morning. They call it Love Hurts. You will find links to these bits of Valentine’s nastiness on Gerald’s blog and Aldo’s Powder Burn Flash. My own contribution originally appeared on the late, great Flashing in the Gutters in May 2006.

Leaving Rachel
By Patrick Shawn Bagley

The night before graduation, we drove out to her father’s camp on Embden Lake with my acoustic guitar and two fifths of Smirnoff. The place was like something out of an L.L. Bean catalog, with deer heads and a togue mounted on the walls. No one had been there since before ice-out, and the cabin smelled of pine and mothballs. Fishing rods and a single-shot twelve gauge stood propped in a corner by the door.

I laid my guitar on the couch and broke the seal on the first vodka bottle. Rachel opened the bedroom windows to let the fog creep in while we sat on the bed and drank. We didn’t talk, just passed the bottle back and forth, listening to the loons call to each other across the water. Later, Rachel lit an oil lamp and we made love in the dim yellow light. She climbed on top of me. “It’s not too late,” I said. “We can still get you a ticket.”

She moved slowly above me, bearing down with her hips, whispering, “Not now.” Her tears broke cold against my skin. “Not now.”

We woke early and sat naked under a blanket on the porch. The morning was gray and damp. The loons were still at it. My head hurt, a dull and muzzy sort of ache. I didn’t look at Rachel. “So are you coming with me or not?”

Her hair brushed my shoulder as she shook her head. “I can’t.”

“Can’t or don’t want to? You’re twenty-two years old, for Christ’s sake. Don’t tell me you can’t.”

“You aren’t from here. It’s easy for you to just go, but everything I love is right here.”

“Except me.”

“Except you.”

“I guess you’ll get over me,” I said.

“Don’t be like that.”

“Like what?”

“You know what I mean. That way you get.”

I kicked off the blanket and went inside to dress. Through the windows, I saw her walk down to the lake. There were other camps nearby, but it was too early in the year for most of the owners to be around. I heard a light splash when she dove in. I hurried to get everything ready, then went out to wait for her. The water was freezing and she wouldn’t stay in long.

Rachel surfaced right where her father would put in the dock once he opened up the camp for summer. She walked out of the dark water, pushing her hair back away from her face. I waited until she opened her eyes. I wanted her to see me when it happened.

The shotgun blast rolled across the lake. In its wake, everything was quiet. I put the gun back in the cabin and came down to the shore with my guitar and what was left of the vodka. I sat on a rock and played her a song, then. The loons sang their own tune, but it wasn’t for her. The rain came slowly, like a dingy gray hangover.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Burnt Offering

What Burns Within
Sandra Ruttan
Dorchester, May 2008

Child abductions, a string of arsons and a serial rapist have the detectives working overtime in Coquitlam, British Columbia. Worse yet, these crimes may be connected. The body of each missing girl turns up—40 days after her abduction—in a burning building. The rape victims all share a connection to the local volunteer fire department…the same department that has been responding to the arson calls.

Ruttan’s characters are even more compelling than the mystery they must solve. Constables Tain (no first name given), Ashlyn Hart and Craig Nolan share an unpleasant past, but now they must put that behind them and work together. Not an easy task when other cops have their own agendas. Peel away the plot, and What Burns Within is a novel about relationships between partners, between fathers and sons, husbands and wives. It also explores the often thin line between religious zeal and insanity.

There were a couple of places where I got momentarily lost, but they were due to my own lack of knowledge about Canada in general and the RCMP in particular. Fans of Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride or the late R.D. Wingfield will find a lot to like about What Burns Within. A sequel, The Frailty of Flesh, is scheduled for an autumn 2008 release, so I hope this marks the debut of a long-running series.

The Lineup

Gerald So had a great idea: put together an anthology of poems about crime. He found willing accomplices in Richie Narvaez, Anthony Rainone and me. We've gathered some fine work from several crime writer/poets and the results will appear in a chapbook-sized print anthology called The Lineup: Poems on Crime. Look for it sometime this spring. You can get more details at our official blog.