"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.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Word Count Wisdom, or The Book's As Long As It Needs To Be

“Guys like Harry Wittington and Jim Thompson could tell a story in less than two hundred pages. They didn’t need six hundred like everybody seems to now. And they were good stories, let me tell you. Not like most of this bloated stuff you read now.”
—Clyde Ballinger in Death on the Move, ©1989 by Bill Crider

Friday, June 27, 2008

Fridays: Forgotten Children’s Books

The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald (1967)
Illustrated by Mercer Mayer

Tom is the smartest kid in town. He’s smarter than most of the adults, too (which ain’t saying much, since this is Utah in 1896, but still…). Tom uses his great brain to run short cons on the other kids and get revenge on anyone who crosses him. He’s like Encyclopedia Brown without the civic-mindedness. He’s like Roy Dillon with chores and a bedtime. Now and then, his conscience or his mother force him to put his great brain to work helping others. I was probably ten years old when I first read this book, and it still holds up.

Don't forget to check Patti Abbott’s blog for a complete list of this week’s participants.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Damn That John McFetridge

I'm supposed to be finishing my revision of Bitter Water Blues this week, but I made the mistake of cracking open John McFetridge's novel Dirty Sweet, and got hooked in on the first page. Everything else got put on hold until I finished it this afternoon. Russian crooks, biker gangs, shootings, bombs, strippers, porn, seventies rock...Dirty Sweet has something for everyone. Like Declan Burke, McFetridge has been compared to Elmore Leonard. While there are stylistic similarities, McFetridge is his own man. Grab this one, but don't make any plans until you finish it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Get Demolished

The latest issue of Demolition is now up and loaded with just the kind of depraved crime fiction I love. Stephen Blackmoore's "In a Family Way" is particularly tasty.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Recommended Reading

Lyman Feero blogs about Mental Health Awareness for Writers.

My Spine Is All Tingly

The summer issue of Spinetingler Magazine is now online for your reading pleasure. In addition to my story "Bank Job," you also get great stuff from Amra Pajalic, John McFetridge, Steve Mosby, Patti Abbott*, Steve Allan, Stephen D. Rogers, Sandra Seamans, Allan Guthrie, Tony Black and others, plus interviews and reviews.

PDF version.
HTML version.

*Is it just me, or is Patti out of control? She makes the rest of us look like slackers.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Big Guns

Plots With Guns #2 is locked and loaded with new fiction by Bryon Quertermous, Jimmy Callaway, Todd “Big Daddy Thug” Robinson, Jason Duke, Patti Abbott, David J. Montgomery, Frederick Zackel and Josh Converse. This issue will scar you for life. What're you waiting for? Get on over there.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Hideaway by Michael Kimball

On Tuesday, June 17th, at 7:30 PM, the New YORK Theatre Company will present a test-run staged reading of Michael Kimball’s new play Hideaway at the York Public Library. Hideaway will open the 2008-09 season at The Players’ Ring (Portsmouth, NH) this September. Audience members will be invited to stay after the performance for a talk-back with director Joi Smith, playwright Kimball, and the full cast.

To separate their troubled son from the destructive influences of a Massachusetts suburb, Ray and Sally Stenovsky move to a remote lakeside cabin in northern Maine. They isolate Christopher and home-school him for five years. Then one day a prefab log cabin is erected next door. Enter Bobby Johnson and his young wife Deadre, a hard-partying couple living under Witness Relocation. When the play opens, Chris is alone. Scenes follow thematically rather than chronologically, in answer to Chris’s question: "How did I get here?"

Michael Kimball is the author of the thrillers Green Girls, Mouth to Mouth, Undone and the critically acclaimed Firewater Pond.

Where the Rivers Flow North (Fridays: The Books You Must Read)

It’s time once again to talk about some great books that you might have missed. You can find the complete list of this week’s participants at the blog of mastermind Patti Abbott.

Where the Rivers Flow North by Howard Frank Mosher (1978)

In this collection of six short stories and the title novella set between the 1920s and the 1970s, Howard Frank Mosher explores the hardships and small victories of life (and death) in Kingdom County, Vermont. Mosher has an eye for describing northeastern Vermont’s stark beauty while at the same time plumbing the depths of characters shaped and hardened by that same landscape.

In “Alabama Jones,” twenty year-old Bill is offered a chance—possibly the only one he’ll ever get—to leave Kingdom County when a girl who sings on the fair circuit spends a few days with him. He wishes he’d never met her because he knows he will never leave.

“First Snow” is the story of two half-brothers with conflicting notions of a man’s responsibility to his family, society and the land he owns. It’s also one my favorites of all Mosher’s stories.

In “Kingdom County Come,” Henry Coville is an old man who grew up working in lumber camps until he went to fight in France during World War One, where he lost a lung during a gas attack. When he got home, the lumber boom had fallen and he took to running bootleg whiskey and working as a hunting guide. “Fifty years went by, went somewhere, and for some reason or perhaps no reason his remaining lung was suddenly decaying like the diseased elms on the village green.” A self-reliant man his entire life, Henry becomes increasingly frail, “annoyed with himself for what he couldn’t help.” But he knows what he has to do while he still has the strength to do it.

There there’s the title novella. “Where the Rivers Flow North” brings us Noël Lord and his “housekeeper,” a Penobscot Indian named Bangor. Noël is another man who talks about leaving his land. In his case, it’s because the Northern Vermont Power Company is building a dam on the river that runs through Noël’s property. He and other old-timers like him will be flooded out if they do not move. Noël takes the power company’s money and makes plans to relocate in Oregon, but he is too closely tied to his land. He has left several times over the years, but has always returned. With the completion of the dam, that will no longer be an option. Bangor is one of Mosher’s greatest characters, and a perfect foil for the taciturn Noël Lord.

Mosher has won many awards over the years and “Where the Rivers Flow North” was made into a movie starring Rip Torn, Tantoo Cardinal and Michael J. Fox. Like Mosher’s books, the film did well with critics but did not gain a wide audience. That’s too bad, because his work is accessible, enjoyable and significant.

I had originally planned to write about Ernest Hebert’s 1979 novel The Dogs of March for this week’s installment. However, Lisa Kenney has already done so (and better than I would have) on her blog. I hope you’ll go there and read what she has to say. The Dogs of March was the first of Hebert’s beautifully dark novels set in his fictional town of Darby, New Hampshire. It’s as good and valuable as anything by Annie Proulx, William Gay, Howard Frank Mosher, the late Ruth Moore, Ivan Doig, Richard Russo or William Kennedy.

Like Where the Rivers Flow North, The Dogs of March was originally published by Penguin, but is currently available from Hardscrabble Press/University Press of New England.