January 27, 2012

A Haunting Explained...

I’ve been a ghost. Here’s why:

The Simon Rip Novella
Four or five years ago, I wrote a novel called The Paperback Girl, a period P.I. story set in Las Vegas. I sent it off, had some nice things said about it, but no one took it...because it was terrible—just fucking awful. When I got the last rejection, I realized I needed to put longer things aside for a while. There was a lot I knew I needed to work on before I would be ready to tackle something so lengthy again and be more successful.

After writing "Darkling In The Eternal Space" and "The Last Painting of Hawley Exton,"  I knew I wasn’t finished yet with Simon Rip. Returning to science fiction/fantasy—my first love—would help break me of some of those lazy short-cuts I felt I had been taking with my crime fiction. More than that, there were exciting stories still to be told about David Cranmer’s time cop. I believed in those stories enough that I knew I wanted Rip’s next adventure to be the work I really pushed myself on.

In The Clear Black Fields of Night is the longest piece of fiction I’ve written since I typed: THE END on the last page of The Paperback Girl. Humility aside, I think it’s probably my best work to date. When you read it, I hope you agree.

Sekret Projekt #1
I’m pleased with “Somewhere Beyond The Pavement,” my contribution to Sekret Projekt #1. This weekend I’ll finish my own edits, then send it off for review. It’s a little more in line with the type of fiction you’d expect from me, but it’s still something different.

Plague Kisses
This crime/horror hybrid will be “part” of someone else’s ongoing series. It’s not due for a while, but I’ve already written a good bit of it. Besides, I’ve got the entire thing in my noggin. When something comes to you that clearly and that completely, you don’t let it lie.

Shane Stevens
Work goes on. Right now, I’m trying to raise funds for a research trip. If I can get the money together, it should provide me with the last bits of info I’ll need to put together a full portrait of Stevens.

Still To Come
There’s a thriller on the horizon, three crime stories already plotted, and my next attempt at a novel.

January 21, 2012

J.W. Rider

My copy of Hot Tickets.

Shane Stevens wrote two pseudonymous novels under the name J.W. Rider. Jersey Tomatoes and Hot Tickets feature a private investigator named Malone, an ex-seminarian and ex-F.B.I. agent now in business for himself in Jersey City. They’re both decent novels, but despite the awards and the praise, including a cover-blurb from Frank Sinatra, they’re my least favorite of Stevens’ work.

Yes, the first person narrative is engaging. Malone’s an interesting protagonist. Unlike a lot of his characters, Malone is funny and could have easily carried the series for several more books.

Yes, even in such an uncharacteristic work as a humorous P.I. novel, Shane is still skilled at setting and brings Jersey City to life on the page.

Yes, all his themes are still there: the bullshit that keeps us from connecting to another human being, a strong sense of moral justice, and the twisted shadow of the American Dream.


The problem is Stevens builds each book along the same lines and seems to have written them by the numbers. In the Shamus-winning first novel, a shady real estate developer hires Malone to find who’s been making threats on his life while an anti-religious activist wants him to investigate her mother’s apparent suicide. The follow-up finds Shane’s detective trying to help out a stripper who’s studying to be an Episcopalian minister and, again, investigating death threats--this time against a pro wrestler named Samson. Each time the two separate cases prove to be connected and wind together to violent conclusion.

You could make the argument that Stevens is following genre formula. Sometimes, there's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, you want to read something familiar--a book you know what you're going to get from the beginning. The problem is his formula, even with all his strengths as a writer, produces only a convoluted and complicated plot mess mired in poor transitions and unbroken stretches of hard-to-follow dialogue. It’s just a poor effort from a writer capable of far better.

What sticks with me about both Malone novels is a single question. It's what I've come to think of as Stevens' question--


January 20, 2012

Here's Your Second Clue

Here's your second clue to the plot of Simon Rip's next adventure:

January 16, 2012

Snakes In The Briar Patch

Last night I opened the fridge in search of a snack and saw the carton of blackberries I bought at the grocery. I washed a handful and ate them standing at the kitchen sink while staring out our old casement window. The security light hadn’t kicked on yet, so it was dark outside and lonely. As I stood there eating the tart fruit and feeling the seed grit between my teeth, I remembered a briar patch of berries once grew next to the tin-roofed barn at my parents house.

In late June or early July, we’d walk through the old farm gate and across the field, all of us together, to pick blackberries in the summer heat. My mother warned constantly of snakes, but my brothers and I didn’t care. We just tried not to prick our fingers on the thorns as raced to fill our baskets.

I remembered my stomach usually hurt by the time we were done. I ate more berries than I picked, though I knew once in the kitchen my mother would rinse them off and give us a bowl of sugar, and we’d sit at the table and roll the berries across our little white mountain, and they tasted even better than what we ate off the vine. And I remembered my brothers’ stained fingers and the dark purple wounds on their clothes. My parents had all boys, and being boys they looked at berries and saw little grenades, perfect for throwing and exploding on clean white T-shirts.

But that’s all gone now.

My father hacked the blackberry bush down after Nathan died. He doused the vines in motor oil and burned them way out in the field, past the pond and the thick line of trees. From the porch, I watched the black smoke curl over treetops and, for a moment or two when the wind shifted direction, it looked like my tree-house was on fire.

My mother told me it was because of the snakes nesting in the briar patch.

The next year my other brother was back in prison. At the start of summer my father got rid of the barn. I watched that too from the back porch, watched him fasten the log chains and pull it down with his truck. It took them all day to haul off the blue-grey tin and burn the timber out there in the field, in the blackberry ashes. 

I hadn’t thought of any of that in years. Didn’t realize those memories were still there, waiting for something to pull them up again in a chain of thought as strong as the chain that tore them down. It all seems sad, I suppose, but I’m okay with those memories--at least for today, right now, this moment as I write this. I think I've come to understand a little about life and our attachments and our fears. I just hope I don’t spend mine trying to kill the snakes nesting in the briar patch.

You can't get rid of them with a scythe and a black-smoked fire in field.

January 14, 2012

Here's Your Clue

A Rip Through Time is now available for the Kindle. A week ago, I sent David a 35K novella called In The Clear Black Fields of Night. If you're curious about the plot for Simon Rip's next adventure, here's your clue:

January 5, 2012

Manhunter's Mountain

Early last month I had the pleasure of reading Heath Lowrance’s Miles To Little Ridge. It was the first story written by another author using characters from Edward A. Grainger’s western series. Any fears about other writers using Cash and Gideon were put to rest by Lowrance’s superb effort.

Well, today marks the release of the first novel featuring The Outlaw Marshall. The news of a full-length adventure gets even better when you see who wrote it. Manhunter’s Mountain comes from none other than Wayne Dundee.

Man, does the product description on Amazon entice:
Manhunter's Mountain shows a powerful side to Cash Laramie as he makes his way down the side of a mountain with a prisoner in tow, and two prostitutes eager to flee a mining town that's gone bust, looking to make a new life for themselves. An early winter storm promises to make the journey more than a normal struggle. And, leaving town with two of its most precious gems, the prostitutes, puts Cash in the crosshairs of an angry gang of men who are willing to keep the women in town ... at any cost.

"A fast, hardboiled Western that continues the Cash Laramie legend with swagger and good, solid writing. Wayne Dundee brings his masterful voice to the Western and tells a Cash Laramie story in perfect pitch. Manhunter's Mountain should be on every Western fiction reader's bookshelf."
--Larry D. Sweazy, Spur Award-winning author of The Coyote Tracker.

January 4, 2012

Zulu Night

Shane Stevens's novel Way Uptown In Another World is one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read. Every now and again, I'll pick up my very battered and very old copy from the shelf and re-read a chapter.

This morning I, again, came across one of my favorite passages:

“Soon the sun will shoot itself full of holes and lay down dead in the west, while Zulu night comes to suck out my eyeballs, leaving me only the soft slurp of black blood to tell me I’m alive. I stand up, trying to see myself in the windowpane but there’s no reflection. I’m invisible. I’ve got shape and mass but I don’t cast a reflection. People see me but they don’t really see me.”

January 2, 2012


Killer The Pug understands relaxing.
Not looking forward to going back to work tomorrow (I've been off since the 23rd of December). I really need to figured out how I can stay home and still get paid...but, seriously, I needed this break. Between personal stuff and work stress, I was feeling pretty damn beat.

I took it easy during my vacation. I caught up on a lot of sleep and managed to sneak a few naps in here and there. Spent some time with friends from out of town. Read five Christopher Pike books (I still enjoy those--I admit it). Watched a good bit of Sons of Anarchy and re-watched the early 1990s Dark Shadows revival on Netflix streaming.

However, I also did some writing. Yesterday, I finished the Simon Rip novella and sent the 35K adventure off to David Cranmer. I'm pretty happy with it. I wrote it with two specific goals in mind. First, I wanted to it be fun and exciting. It needed to move like a summer blockbuster. And, second, I wanted it to be full of interesting ideas. I wanted to try to capture a small bit of that sense of awe I felt when I discovered Tim Powers, Michael Moorcock, and Grant Morrison.

I don't know if I succeeded in those--I'm looking forward to what David has to say and his suggestions. If what I did works and people buy it, I think Simon Rip can really be a series with a long life.

Also, started plotting two other things you'll be seeing soon. The first, I know I can't talk about. The second will be part of a currently ongoing horror series. I've very excited about both this projects. I appreciate the chance to flex my muscles in different areas. I haven't given up crime fiction, but I think these excursions are what keeps a writer's work from stagnating.

Work on the Shane Stevens biography/search continues. Currently, I'm trying to figure how to get the cash together for a research trip that should provide the mother lode.
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