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BEFORE I GET TO MY RANT - (” I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT…”) …A COUPLE OF THINGS…

To leave a comment, now, the link is up at the top - just below the title of the column.  Click the link, then scroll to the bottom to leave your comment. 

Hope you all like the new look.  This may not be the final one, so stay tuned. All thanks to Evil E, Jr….my daughter Kelly, aka AMBIGUOUS ARTS , who is still fine tuning things. She’s the real talent in the family.  And speaking of talent - check out the left side of the coloumn - I’ve finally got my fantastic interrogators listed!  In case you’re not familiar with any of them (?!) - please do click on their names to go to their websites, and see for yourself why they’re all so special.  I’m not crazy about how small their names are, or the wacky way this program alphas by first name instead of last, but those fixes are in the works.  Also on the right side - just above “Evil E” - you’ll see SUBSCRIBE. Click that and sign up if you’d like to be personally reminded each month when the next Evil E appears.  Your email address will NOT be used for any other purpose. It won’t be traded, bartered, or used for blackmail.  And that is gospel.

Congratulations to all the Barry and Anthony nominees!  So many of my favorite authors and friends are short-listed, I’m actually giggling with glee!  By now, you all know who they are - so l’ll just take a moment to say how especially proud I am of our very own Anthony nominees - Louise Ure (Murderati/Web Site), David Montgomery (Crime Fiction Dossier/Web Site), Ali Karim (Special Services) and Jason Starr (& Ken Bruen/Slide/Best Paperback Original).  How timely that this month’s Person of Interest just happens to be Jason!  And another nominee-The Anthony & The Barry - Megan Abbott - was last months Person of Interest.  You may wonder if I have a crystal ball.  I don’t.  Just lucky, I guess.

OKAY - ”I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT…

I’m not going to buy James Frey’s new book…even out of curiosity, or the NY Times great review, or the LA Times negative review.  Sorry, but I don’t support deceit.  ‘Reformed’, or not.  I’m certain Mr. Frey’s new book (nameless on purpose) will, once again, become a best seller, and maybe Oprah might have him back on her show.  He’s already on the NYT list, so I’m sure he’ll do well without my $$.  Especially when he does appearances like he did in Portland last month to discuss the new book.    Tickets to this outing were $27 which included a free (?) book.  Oh, wait.  That probably wasn’t his doing.  I’m sure that was a  promoter policy thing.  But why, then, wasn’t a free book offered for the other writer appearing with him?

I watched an interview with Frey recently, and regarding the ‘inaccuracies’ he’d finally admitted to in ‘A Million Little Pieces’, he said he’d ‘made a mistake.’   Mistake??  Oh, I get it.  ‘Mistakes’ are new-speak when you get caught.  Horse feathers.   This from a guy who claims to revel in being unorthodox? (See Vanity Fair/June/2008), “to play with truth and reality, play with the rules people place on writing and art, which I wholly reject.”  ??  Excuse me, but I wasn’t aware that calculated lying is now considered a mistake.  Were you?   But then, ethics these days seem to be a vanishing trait.  Fame is all, no matter who is hurt, who is deceived.  Even being plagiarized (present as new or original an idea or product derived from an existing source) these days ain’t no big thing.  And yeah, it happens (in many shades of gray) more often than you might realize.  But then, that guy we all remember who’d said ‘he hadn’t had sex with that woman,’ seems to be faring well enough, so what the hell, huh?

By the way, I should make something clear here in case you might have missed one of my earlier outings.   Except for the interviews, all musings, vents, opinions and comments here - are mine - and not representative of the thoughts or opinions of my wonderful cohorts who generously concoct great questions for our interview guests each month.  So, don’t send them hate mail if you disagree with something I might say.  :)

I JUST LOVE THIS DEPT…

It’s never too late to start your career.

                                   

           Millard Kaufman, the Oscar nominated screenwriter (TAKE THE HIGH GROUND, and BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK), not to mention one of the creators of MR. MAGOO, penned his first novel - BOWL OF CHERRIES/2007 /McSweeneys- when he was 86!  A starred review from PW, to boot!  But perhaps even more fantastic - the Writers Guild of America recently declared Kaufman to be a “Living Legend!” Having just turned 90 - the energetic Mr. Kaufman is hard at work on another book.  Well, like they say - ‘use it, or lose it’.   Wail on, Mr. Kaufman!!

Remember all the talk about product placement in books?  Has anyone out there read CELEBUTANTES?  A friend (?) gave me a copy, and I gotta tell you - these two authors, Amanda Goldberg & Ruthanna Khalighi Hopper have got to be the queens of pp.  Damn near every page is loaded with name designer goods, jet-setting restaurants and boutique hotels, film and TV actors, luxury cars, film and TV titles, oh…I could go on, and on.  But you know what?  It was  a fun read.  Really.  Stop laughing.  I know who you are, and where to find you.  Okay, so some might think it was dumb and ditzy, but maybe it was meant it to be?  So stop thinking I’ve lost it.  It was a break from dark and stormy nights, okay?

Speaking of dark and stormy nights, there was an interesting thread on DorothyL last month…violence and how ‘torture scenes’ are increasingly explicit.  It’s kinda like who can out titillate who.  Or, is it ‘whom’?  Anyway, I naturally offered an opinion.   I said I couldn’t understand the appeal of ‘DEXTER’, or why readers apparently love this guy.  How can he be lovable?  What is it about him that doesn’t turn readers off?  It’s not that I’m against a ‘vigilante’ type protag - but does he have to love his work so much?  Someone said the series was ‘witty’.  Oh.  Well, that explains it, I guess.   Might be wittier if ‘ole Dex was involved in a therapy session ala Tony Soprano.  We could have tons of laughs then reading about the shrinks reactions whilst hearing about Dex’s expertise.   Someone else mentioned readers related to Dex because we all shared the same ‘Id’ desire.  Well, I can relate to that at least.  I mean, there are a few people my ‘Id’ is itching to meet up with…  Oh?  You too?  :)  We should talk.  Have your people call mine, and we’ll set up a meet.

AND THEN…

Belated thanks to the incomparable Margery Flax for once again working day and night overseeing yet another bestselling Edgar Week!  Not to forget the many chairs and committees who outdid themselves!   I had a great shot of Margery lined up with her husband, Steve - but she turned her head the minute I hit the button!  But here it is anyway…

GREAT NEWS DEPT…

EASY INNOCENCE, the new zinger from Libby Hellman is rushing off the shelves so fast, people are have trouble getting a copy!  And it is already in a second printing three weeks after it was released!  Absolutely terrific news for not just a fabulous writer, but one hell of a great gal.  Go get ‘em, Libby!

AND THEN…

I know you’re already primed to attend the next major crime fiction conventions - ThrillerFest (July) and Bouchercon (October) - but I want to remind you to get your acts together and be sure to register for LEFT COAST CRIME/HAWAII!!   Yeah, yeah, I know…this is June and the con isn’t until next March…but go over to http://www.leftcoastcrime.org- click on LCC Hawaii and just take a gander at how many folks have already signed up!  The Waikoloa Beach Resort is a mega complex, but darlings - there are only so many rooms blocked out for LCC, capice?  And really, you don’t want to NOT stay where all the action is, right?  This is an incredible opportunity to not just  be a part of a great con (brought to you with the exquisite expertise of Bill & Toby Gottfried ), but a super way to have your summer vacation earlier!  Bill and Toby have lined up some fantastic pre & post con excursions that will make your stay on the Big Island memorable.   How’s this for a teaser?  Whale watching, snorkel & sail to Kealakekua Bay, Mauna Kea evening summit w/a gourmet dinner, maybe a horse back ride to the Waipi’o Valley?, a trip to Kilauea?  Oh, and if you decided to visit Madame Pele, uh…don’t take any rocks home, k?  Many have, and their tales of woe are legion.  So, don’t mess with her.   All excursions are optional, naturally, but oh, so very exciting!  And one other kaimaina caution -  never, I mean NEVER turn your back to the sea.  Mo’ bettah you be one smart Malihini and get registered wikiwiki, than be saying ”Aie! Ao no ho’i!”

See? Even Bill & Toby agree with me!

Breaking news about ThrillerFest from Kath Antrim - Dr. Cyril Wecht will be attending.   Dr. Wecht, in case you’re not familiar with his name - has performed over 14,o00 autopsies!  And was consulted on the deaths of JFK, Elvis, RFK, Sharon Tate, Jon Benet Ramsey, Anna Nicole, Laci Peterson and Vincent Foster.  Whew.

If you haven’t checked out the attendee list for Bcon/Baltimore - what a treat to discover that Val McDermid will be there and - hold your hats - Elizabeth George.  Now, when’s the last time you saw her at a con?  I tell you, this is going to be one great Bcon!

AND NOW - WE RETURN TO OUR BEDEVILED CREW AND WHAT APPEARS TO BE ONE MASSIVE F…ER, SCREW UP AFTER ANOTHER…

We last left our team wondering if the QUEENPIN was once again hot on their heels.  They soon realized that she was actually after the WATCHMAN, and so were the L.A. OUTLAWS.  They got a big laugh out of that - hell, they’d been after him since the SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI, and still couldn’t nab him…good luck, lady!  Even THE CRIMEWRITER couldn’t help them, he was too busy with a new caper.  Checking their RECORD OF WRONGS (?!), they knew they were nearing their LAST CALL and a DEAD CONNECTION, so they decided their best bet was to avoid the BURN ZONE where THE BLACK DOVE hid out, or wait…was that DEVIL’S PEAK?  Not sure, they decided to make a detour around THE SHANGHAI TUNNEL and head for THE FAULT TREE to rest.  It was there they saw A PALE HORSE following what looked like HOLLYWOOD CROWS zooming over a huge BLACK WIDOW.    All it took was ONE LAST SCREAM, and they were outta there!  Let THE CHILDREN OF BLACK VALLEY with their EASY INNOCENCE deal with it!  Their cache of YELLOW MEDICINE was low, and their copy of THE MURDER NOTEBOOK didn’t include the recipe.  So, before an all consuming BLACK OUT night fell - and hoping to hell it wouldn’t turn into a NAMELESS NIGHT, or a SAVAGE NIGHT, they hightailed it to GAS CITY again.   Sure, they knew they were going in circles, revisiting some of the same places, but when trails got cold, there was nothing worse than being STALKED by indecision.  I mean, not knowing WHAT THE DEAD KNOW, and WALKING THE PEFECT SQUARE got you nowhere.   Hell, life ain’t always a BOWL OF CHERRIES, and with nothing new in the way of clues before them, BEATING THE BABUSHKA was a major time waste.  What they needed was THE WHOLE TRUTH, not TWENTY WISHES.  They had to HOLD TIGHT to their mission, but they were in a DEAD HEAT to wrap this puppy up.    And then, it came to them…all they had to do was…

Could this guy be one of the upcoming heirs to the throne of noir?  A lot of readers think so.  Even the covers on his books just scream darkness, intrigue, conflict and all that kinda nail biting stuff.  See that dame standing in front of the window on the cover of THE FOLLOWER?  Is she nuts, or what?  I mean, she’s just looking for trouble, right?  Ah, but then…Jason must have something in store for her, huh?  

Since many of the interview questions are directed to Jason’s collaboration with Ken Bruen, I thought you’d like to see this photo I took of them during Edgar week…

And now…

JASON STARR!

And he is one!

ALI:

What is it about ‘flawed’ characters that appeal to crime-fiction readers so much?  Especially as your own work often trawls through the lives of people on the edge?  I found THE FOLLOWER particularly chilling in this respect.

JASON:

Hey, Ali.  I think flawed characters, in general,  are more interesting to read about than characters without flaws.  Normal is boring, dysfunction is exciting.  Flawed people are prone to violence, ectetera, and that can easily lead to a crime.  In THE FOLLOWER, and several of my other novels, my flawed characters are seemingly normal people.  I don’t want readers to be able to distance themselves from my books and think, Oh, that could never happen to me…because it could.

NICK:

We discussed the possibility of THE FOLLOWER being turned into an anti-Friends type TV series.   Any news on that?   You and Joe Finder are about the best writers of white collar creepoids out there.  You also write about office life quite brilliantly.  How come you do it so damn well?  Were you one of those quiet office worker bees who accepted the Holy Commandments of Office Life - Thou shalt accept thine nuts being crushed by a moron” - while thinking, “Ha, just you wait until I get published, scumbag!”, Or, were you the sort who, like me, said, “The hell with this,” and walked out…?

JASON:

Hey, Nick, thank you,and I love that, the anti-Friends.  Yes,there has been interest in THE FOLLOWER for TV and as a feature film.  I can’t really comment on it because it’s in negotiations, but I’m very excited about this project…   And thanks so much for mentioning me with Joe.  He’s been one of my favs for a few years now and you’re right, his white collar criminals are brilliant, though I suspect we have very different backgrounds.  I was usually one of the lowest level employees wherever I worked and I’m actually proud of this.  My jobs were mainly part-time and gave me time to write and I liked being at the bottom looking up.  Also, trust me, I’ve worked for some totally insane people.  I had many sales jobs, too many to count.  I also woked for magazines, in publishing, and in computer networking.  I’ve never liked being told what to do, which is whey writing has turned out to be the perfect career for me.  I usually sucked it up and kept my mouth shut, though a couple of times, like you, I just said fuck  you and walked out.  The only job I was ever fired from was — believe it or not — at St. Martin’s Press, my current publisher.  I was a ‘long term temp” working in the education department and I was fired for writing on the job.  Every time my boss came in she’d see me scribbling something and she finally got tired of it and canned me.  Though she didn’t actually tell me I was fired.  She said, “Your job is ending.”  That sounds much better, right?

LOUISE:

How the hell do you co-author a book?  Especially with the likes of Ken Bruen?  You guys make it look like a haiku written ambidextrously.  Do you kick around ideas for characters and plot?  Or do you each write a scene or a chapter and take off from there?

JASON:

Wow, thank you so much, Louise, and don’t think we won’t use that as a blurb, because we will. :)  When we decided to write together we knew there were obstacles because our styles are so differentand because, in general, I think it’s very hard to co-write a book.  I think this is why most writing teams are relatives, mother-daughters, husband-wives, etc.  you have to know the other person very well and then there’s a luck factor, you just have to be able to connect with each other.   I think it’s worked for Ken and me because we’re good friends and because, while our styles are different, we have a similar overall vision for our books.  We always know which way the books are headed…south…way south.  Regarding the actual writing, we had a bit of a head start with BUST because this was loosely based on a novel I had previously written but had kept in the drawer.  In SLIDE and THE MAX (due out in September), it has been an even bigger challenge because we had to start completely from scratch.  I was concerned going into SLIDE about whether we’d be able to pull it off, but I think there’s some of our best plotting and characters in that book and in THE MAX.   The writing itself  always goes amazingly smoothly, considering we’re on different continents, though I remember one time while writing SLIDE, Ken sent me an email where he wrote, “I HAVE A NEW CHARACTER, A COP!”  Of course, he wrote this in caps, right?  I was terrified because I felt like I had the plot down in  my head and knew exactly where everything was going, but then I figured out how to integrate the cop into what was going on in the book and I think this turned out to be our best stuff in the book.   Regarding how we write the books, some readers have speculated that we switch off writing chapters, or that Ken writes the Irish stuff and I write the American stuff, which is actually the biggest compliment we’ve gotten because it’s completely untrue.  There isn’t one chapter in anyof the books that we’ve written independently.  In a  few instances one of us wrote half of a chapter, and the other person completed it, but mostly we write together, page by page, paragraph by paragraph.  Sometimes he writes the first half of a sentence, and I write the second half.  The whole point of us writing together was to merge our styles and come up with a new voice that isn’t like the voices in our solo books.

PAUL:

Does your hair ever get in the way when you’re typing, or do you write long hand?

JASON:

Well, Paul, my hair isn’t quite as long as it once was (it went halfway down my back in my rocker days :) )  One of these days I’ll post photos on My Space.  But I do type, directly on to a P C.

DAVID:

Jason, you’re closing in on 50…Isn’t it time to cut the hair?  Do you ever get tired of writing about creeps, crooks and cons and just want to write about a preschool teacher or something?  (not that I want you to do that…unless it’s a preschool teacher  who’s also a dominatrix.)

JASON:

Whoa, Dave, I think I have about a decade to go before 50, but nope, I ain’t cuttin’ it, not until it starts falling out in a serious clip anyway, and you never know when that’ll start to happen.  We have a picture in my family of a great uncle who lived in Russia about 80 years ago.  In most of the pictures he has this thick, dark hair, and then in the next picture, boom, Kojack.  So I may wake up one day and find it all on the pillow…  But I’ll tell you what - if Barry Eisler gets a crew cut, I will too.  Deal?  If I thought of a preschool teacher who I thought would make a great character in a crime novel, I’d go for it.  But, as you say, there would have to be something off about him or her.  I think my strength is in writing about edgy people, though I think in my recent books like THE FOLLOWER, and some of the other projects I’m working on (including a graphic novel for DC) I’ve been expanding my approach, varying points of view more.

JULIA:

What do you do to keep your hair so thick, lustrous, and full-bodied?

JASON:

Why am I sensing  a theme here? :)   Tea tree oil and kimchi are my latest tricks.  But don’t put the kimchi in your hair.

DOUG:

You write solo and now 3 books with Ken Bruen.   What are some of the differences between writing as a team, and going it alone - the good, the bad, and the ugly?

JASON:

Writing my own books and writing with Ken are completely different experiences.  When I write alone it’s like working out in a gym:  I go every day, do a little more each time, but progress is slow and it could take months before I start to really see the results.  But when I write with Ken, we each do about 3-5 pages a day and the results come much faster.  We also have twice the chance to come upwith a great line or plot twist, and it’s a nice break from solo writing to be able to talk to Ken about the books while we’re writing them and to do the promotion together. When I write alone, I’m always very secretive and solitary, which is rewarding in its own way, but it’s nice to get a break from that sometimes.

ALLISON:

If I had a writing partner, I would probably be in prison for murder.   What is it like writing with Ken Bruen?   Have you wanted to kill him?   Has he tried to kill you?   How do you stay reasonably sane and still create such fabulous books?

JASON:

LOL.   Ken and I haven’t had any conflicts at all so far and I think part of it is because we know the end results won’t be like our individual books, there will be our combined books, so there are never any little squabbles about whose line or phrasing we use.  And the great thing about co-writing is if anybody ever complains about a particular seedy line I can say—hey, don’t blame me, Bruen wrote that one :)… So, no, I don’t think Ken’s plotting to kill me, but Ken’s a sneaky guy so I guess you never know.  How about this?  If I ever turn up missing - officially lable him ” a person of interest.”

THANKS TO JASON for trading places today - and as always - my thanks to the crew:  Allison Brennan, Paul Guyot, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Ali Karim, Doug Lyle, David Montgomery, Nick Stone and Louise Ure.

NEXT EVIL E WILL BE ON JULY 7 TH  subscribe and then you won’t have to remember when we’ll be back! And if you’d like to join in the conversations - just click on ‘Comment’ and yak away.  We love it.

KEITH KAHLA, Senior Editor at St. Martin’s goes on the hot seat.  Besides being the editor of so many of our favorite writers, Keith is one of the wittiest guys I know - I’m really looking forward to seeing him handle our rascals.  And you can bet he will! :)

So, see you next month, or not.

Until then, stay safe, stay warm - and be nice to each other.

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