Book two of the Barker Mysteries, “Monterey Pulp,” is now available in audiobook from Wordwooze Publishing . Narrator Theo Holland does an outstanding job reading Barker’s first adventures! Click here for the Audible copy!
The mysterious sleuth of California’s Central Coast returns in a new episode of the Barker Mysteries
Following hot on the heels of his rescue of Carmel’s mayor from the ship Wicked Joe in Monterey Noir, Barker once again finds himself in a hot mess of danger and intrigue. Seeking escape from his newfound popularity, the handsome man with no memory of his past travels deep into the Carmel Highlands, only to find adventure has followed him there.
From an encounter with the disturbing Easter Bunny Man at Pacific Grove’s famous Lover’s Point to a diabolical plot by the homeless denizens of Deadrent Kingdom, trouble is never very far from Barker and his collection of loyal canines. And mystery has a way of following this strange man who deliberately chooses to live in the margins of society. Barker can make anywhere a home; he is as resourceful as the pack of hounds that are his devoted companions.
Author Nevada McPherson’s book, Poser, new this year from Outcast Press, throws readers to the ugly side of life, then delivers us into the even uglier suburbs of affluence and privilege.
McPherson’s debut novel comes with a mess of problems for Ambrose, a small potatoes drug pusher and our lead character, who is a lot more charming than his ambitions tell. Ambrose may be up for anything to make a buck, including turning a trick or two, but he just can’t stay out of trouble. Thankfully, his good nature and innocently-sexy looks afford him a few trustworthy friends. With their help, Ambrose manages to hide out in Silicon Valley, where he poses as a graduate student until his troubles cool off. Little does Ambrose realize; one promising idea may lead to a world of misfortune.
Kissed with romance and taut with threat, Poser is a smartly-plotted debut novel in what is sure to be a memorable noir series.
Read my interview with the author below:
WHITEHURST: Let’s start with a big congratulations on Poser. Can you talk about how long you worked on this book and what led to its publication?
MCPHERSON: Thank you! Yes, I’ve been working on this story for a long time. It started as a screenplay that I was inspired to write after spending several summers in Palo Alto, beginning about twenty years ago! Each year when I went back things had changed through dot-com booms and busts, but that ever-electric vibe was always there and still is. My husband was teaching at a debate camp at the university, and I was helping students with research papers. In the evenings, I would walk around the campus and surrounding neighborhoods and certain evocative images would catch my attention or stay in my mind, leading me to believe “there’s a story there.” One image I came across while walking past a house was a person sitting under a patio umbrella in a back yard with a martini glass on the table in front of them. That stuck in my mind and a variation of that appears in the novel. It’s actually in a pivotal scene! I worked on the screenplay through several drafts and then decided to adapt it as a TV series script and it was through doing that, I discovered new characters and story lines and decided to adapt it as a novel. When I could tell there was more story beyond this novel, I decided to do it as a book series. I’d been engaging with Outcast Press on social media and when I posted a logline for Pit-Mad on Twitter they reached out with interest in the book, and the book series.
WHITEHURST: When you describe your work, and Poser, to someone on the street, what do you tell them?
MCPHERSON: Both I and my work have been described as “quirky” on several occasions, so these are quirky or eccentric characters who get themselves into bad situations. I sometimes describe it as a “Silicon Valley noir with Southern Gothic roots,” because several of the characters have southern backgrounds and they’ll be returning there to deal with family issues (that they’d rather not deal with) from time to time. I also sometimes describe it as a Silicon Valley soap opera, with crime fiction and romance elements. No sooner do the characters get one issue semi-resolved when another issue pops up that makes everything more difficult. I dislike awkward moments in real life, but love them in fiction, so this book is loaded with awkward moments and bad decisions, with occasional moments of serendipity.
WHITEHURST: Your story, full of crime, romance, sex, and violence, has been described as transgressive in nature. For those of us not familiar with the style, care to shed some light?
MCPHERSON: Transgressive fiction is that wherein characters find offbeat or even illicit ways to deal with society’s strictures and structures. They usually operate outside the mainstream and could even be considered social misfits in many cases. The characters in this book all do that in diverse ways, and even the ones that seem perfectly “normal” on the surface have secret interests and obsessions that drive them to do transgressive things. Since this book does contain elements of several different genres, it was difficult to pitch it as just one “type” of fiction, so discovering the characteristics of transgressive fiction through blog posts–some retweeted by Outcast, which specializes in transgressive fiction, from Natalie Nider’s wonderful blog Trainwreck Tendencies–provided me with “aha” moments that helped me to place what I’m doing in my fiction, as well as what I tend to do in my other writing. Another great resource on transgressive writing is Neda Aria’s blog, nedaaria.info. It just so turns out that many of my favorite authors are considered “transgressive” writers as well, so I feel very at home now in referring to my work as transgressive fiction.
WHITEHURST: Poser’s protagonist Ambrose is a memorable, albeit broken, dude. As are Bennie, Jessica, Randy, and the others. How did you produce such a noir-fueled cast?
MCPHERSON: That’s a great question and a difficult one to answer, in a way! I suppose that during my walks where I first started to get inklings of this story, these characters started to take shape, populating the scenery. I remember thinking that much like New Orleans, where I lived at the time, someone adrift like Ambrose could find places from which to operate, sleeping with a backpack as a pillow, blending in when necessary and finding places to change and clean up well enough to look presentable when he must. He’s had to adapt to survive to get where he is at the beginning of the book and continues to adapt throughout the series. Even as his circumstances improve, he’s constantly presented with challenges where his chameleon-like abilities are tested. Jessica and Bennie possess some characteristics of rich girls often found in noir (a la the Sternwood sisters in The Big Sleep) but even though they do or can have everything, each has something missing that they find with the unlikely pairings of the new men (and women) in their lives. Randy didn’t exist in the original screenplay, but I added him when writing the teaser for the TV script, and he immediately took shape as a major character, in all his messy, messed-up glory, so it’s like he was right there, just waiting to walk onstage all along. Some of the other characters are inspired by noir archetypes, and some just appeared, but as they’ve developed could be placed within those archetypes.
WHITEHURST: Why set the story in San Francisco, Palo Alto, etc.?
MCPHERSON: I get inspired by places that I visit, and since I like to get out and walk around, I seek to connect with the local vibe. I had no clue what Palo Alto or San Francisco would be like before I went there, but I was captivated by the weather, the scenery, the “big dreams can come true” attitude that those places seem to possess. Also, coming from a part of the country where historically the juxtaposition is more north/ south, it was a switch to feel that West Coast/ East Coast juxtaposition, so maybe it just stretched my consciousness in a different way that help me see things from a new angle. San Francisco is a big city with lots of history and personality, tuned into the Silicon Valley buzz, and Palo Alto is a smaller city with a big university, on the forefront of innovation while retaining much of its retro appeal. Both are featured heavily in noir books and films, from The Maltese Falcon to Double Indemnity (the husband in that story “somehow” goes missing on the train to a class reunion in Palo Alto), so since I am a fan of noir, and love those places on a sensory level, it turns out to be a good fit for my story. Also, there’s something about port towns that imparts a sense of possibility that more land-locked places don’t always have. That’s something I love about New Orleans, and as I’ve discovered through various conversations and my own observations, there’s a strong “sister port city” connection there. Also, both places inspire artists of all types and have a high tolerance for the unusual and eccentric. Used to anyway. Let’s hope both cities are able to retain that with the advent of (sometimes extreme) gentrification.
WHITEHURST: Poser is called “A Eucalyptus Lane” novel, which indicates more are on the way. What’s the story on the second book in the series?
MCPHERSON: The second book is in the works and picks up where Poser leaves off. We’ll get more insight into the backgrounds of all the major characters, and, for the most part, “meet the parents” mentioned in Poser. We’ll meet Ambrose’s incarcerated brother, Butch, who evolves into a major character with the third book in the series, and Rajit’s partner, Terrence, who got fired from a mega-tech firm the same time Rajit did. Rajit and Terrence will join forces with Ambrose, looking for ways to put their tech genius to good (though “good” may be a relative term here) use, and Ambrose will be looking for ways to increase his own net worth, seeking to prove himself a real player, to show Jessica and others that he’s capable of much more than they might think. We’ll also find out what happened to Miss Dover, which influences Ambrose’s bold actions as well.
WHITEHURST: Tell us about your writing habits? Any music or ambience needed before you sit down to write?
MCPHERSON: I like to have a cup of coffee or hot matcha and write late at night, preferably with jazz music or light classical playing in the background. I prefer listening to music with no lyrics when I’m writing, because the singing usually distracts me. The only exception to that is music from the 1980’s for some reason; maybe because I grew up with that, so it blends into my mental background most of the time. I like to keep sandalwood incense on hand, and indirect lighting (two desk lamps pointed toward the ceiling) is best for me when I’m writing.
WHITEHURST: Now that Poser is unleashed upon the world, any signings or online events planned we should be aware of?
MCPHERSON: I have a book signing March 23 at Metropolis Café in Milledgeville, GA, where I live now, and working on dates for more. I’ll be on Sample Chapter podcast coming up soon, and I have plans for posting video readings from Poser and other writers’ work at my blog on a new series called Bedtime Noir. I’ll post the dates/ times for upcoming events on my web site, so check there for the latest news.
WHITEHURST: Besides the next novel in the Eucalyptus Lane series, what else have you been working on?
MCPHERSON: I’m working on an action/ adventure short story for an anthology, and another short piece set in a southern diner for another upcoming anthology from Outcast; more on those will be announced at the web site. Also, I’m revisiting my manuscript for a novel I wrote about the life and times of silent film director Erich von Stroheim, and the TV pilot based on the Eucalyptus Lane novels. The summer will be devoted to Book Two in the series (I have a title in mind for that one—still firming it up). and I’m looking forward to seeing what develops for Book Three. I have that one planned, but always leave room for discovery. I never know where these characters will take me!
My latest nonfiction book for The History Press, “Murder & Mayhem in Tucson,” was featured this morning in The Arizona Daily Star for a story on southern Arizona authors. Thank you to them and writer Helene Woodhams for the mention!
Read the article here and get your hands on Murder & Mayhem in Tucson here!
The year 2022 is upon us. In my mind, however, it should still be early 2021, but time is ever elusive and waits for no one.
In 2020, I set my eyes upon a total of thirty books. This last year, in 2021, I read only fifteen. No clue what happened. I enjoyed amazing work, however, written by amazing authors, and as always wanted to share my top five picks for the year. There were some hauntingly good reads unleased upon the world following the pandemic.
My annual reminder is this, not all of these books were released this year. My top picks are ones I happened to read this year. Doesn’t mean they’re new!
Anathelogium: Poetry & Prose from the Neither by K.A. Schultz
In “Anathelogium: Poetry & Prose from the Neither,” author K.A. Schultz demonstrates her ability to weave silky prose while at the same time cooking up dark literary bites sure to please a variety of readers. Anathelogium collects prose from the author’s treasure trove of published and unpublished work, including short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. Schultz’s fantastic writing style reads like a marriage between Lovecraft and Dickens and delivers an intriguing, engaging modern experience in Anathelogium.
I’ll Pay When I’m Dying by Stephen J. Golds
“I’ll Pray When I’m Dying,” the latest from author Stephen J. Golds. “Broken” is a word that deftly describes our lead protagonists, Ben Hughes and his father, William–two compelling and dark people featured in the book’s pages. I’ll Pray When I’m Dying can be read as an engaging, and violent, standalone novel or as part of a trilogy of books that include “Always the Dead” and “Say Goodbye When I’m Gone.” While the characters may be a bit busted up, there’s a beauty in their lives and an elegance to the prose. Nothing needs fixed there.
Palm Springs Noir edited by Barbara DeMarco Barrett
Edited by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, “Palm Spring Noir“ escorts readers to the seedy underbelly of the Coachella Valley, to places where movie stars, tourists, and locals fear to tread. A slew of savvy writers contributed to these sun-bleached tales, including DeMarco-Barrett, Eric Beetner, Alex Espinoza, Janet Fitch, J.D. Horn, and more. Readers will explore the dark corners of Twin Palms, Bermuda Dunes, The Salton Sea, Indio, and other hot spots made famous by the actors, singers, and mobsters who have called Palm Springs home over the years. Featuring fourteen stories, all with a soul of their own, readers are treated to a dizzying array of Palm Spring’s desert dwellers, from Mixed Martial Arts fighters and clowns to pool boys and sugar daddies. Heavy with sunshine, bright with dread, Palm Springs Noir will take you on a ride not easily forgotten.
Under an Outlaw Moon by Dietrich Kalteis
Dietrich Kalteis packs one hell of a punch in his stories. His latest is no exception. In “Under an Outlaw Moon” readers are introduced to Bennie and Stella, a couple of lovebirds from the 1930s, who are destined to go down in history. Not as the aforementioned lovebirds, however, but as outlaws.
Outlaw Moon is based on real life couple Bennie and Stella Mae Dickson, semi-famous bank robbers of the Depression-era, and their ill-conceived quest for a better life, one that pits them against the relentless J. Edgar Hoover and the F.B.I. If you haven’t picked up a Kalteis book yet, this one’s a great place to start.
Dark Associations by Marie Sutro
In “Dark Associations,” San Francisco Detective Kate Barnes faces The Tower Torturer, a gruesome serial killer famous for using historical methods of brutality. And the book cleverly plays on these twisted, punishing scenarios, lending an air of horror to the overall ambience of the mystery. Gritty, mysterious, and brutal, Sutro puts the “dark” into her freshman novel. Look for more Kate Barnes in the new year, with the release of her follow-up novel, “Dark Obsessions.”
In “Jacob, A Denouement in One Act,” author K.A. Schultz spun an elegant, dark tale around the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol.” Her ability to weave silky prose while at the same time cooking up dark, delectable literary bites is on full display with her newest collection of stories, “Anathelogium: Poetry & Prose from the Neither,” available now.
Anathelogium collects prose from the author’s treasure trove of published and unpublished work, including short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. While her readers may be familiar with her alluring yarn, “The Perigean Turn,” included in this new collection, they’ll be delighted to find an all-new sequel included as well. “The Drowning Man Game” returns us to the sea, and those mysterious creatures who live there, in a fresh and surprising way.
Schultz’s refined writing style, to me, blends Lovecraft and Dickens. That combination delivers an intriguing, engaging modern experience in Anathelogium.
I had a chance to chat with Schultz about her new book, and writing in general, which you can read below!
WHITEHURST: What led you to the world of writing?
SCHULTZ: When I was a kid I had my tonsils out and my dad brought me a little ring binder with paper and a pen. He brought that to the hospital. It was always about writing on paper and putting things down. I’ve always done it. I have chronicled just about everything. Writing stories was a natural progression. My parents were immigrants and my first language was German. My mom always said I started speaking English at home when I was in kindergarten. I read and read and read. I like to say that I ate books as a child. My mother would get mad and tell me to go out and play, so I would take my books outside and find places to sit and read. I have old library copies now, as an adult, of books I checked out as a child. I would do things like read Jaqueline Susann, and hide the books in my closet or I would read The Exorcist. I read it to the end and then I went back to page one and read it again. I had to digest it. I was reading adult romances in elementary school. Reading, and the learning and the imprinting and the desire to put words down just manifested in writing. We write because we have to. We can’t help but do it.
WHITEHURST: Your style is very original, as colorful as it is distinct, and reminiscent of Lovecraft and Dickens. Tell me a little about your writing process and if you think the way you write?
SCHULTZ: I love that. The question, to me, is hugely complimentary. I have read just a little bit of Lovecraft. I have some books of his and plan to read a lot more of him, and Dickens. I also write a lot of poetry. I’m very aware of the phonetics and the cadences, the musicality of words and sentences. I distinctly remember reading to my kids – and my sons are much older – Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” It’s one of the best out loud reads. It’s very musical. Musicality, I think, morphs into poetry. Because I write and I draw, I view the words as illustrative. Lovecraft’s style is such a bridge style, especially when you think of Dickens and Poe. They’re from another era and readers have to acclimate to the voice. Whereas with Lovecraft, you can read it as you read modern writing. It has a musicality, however, that bridges back to Poe, for instance. I have written a lot of poetry and I think that is what, perhaps, you are sensing.
WHITEHURST: How do you stay inspired to write and what would you recommend to other writers just starting out?
SCHULTZ: I have a writer account on Instagram, which is separate from my personal account, and I follow writers, literary news, and all bookish things. I see (writing) prompts from publishers, I see what other writers are doing, and I think it’s very inspirational. It’s like a daily magazine that you flip open, scroll through, and get ideas from. Some of these people put a lot of time into their posts and their prompts look gorgeous. It’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing. When I see it, it sparks an idea. I think it’s a good place to start for inspiration. And of course, just reading. Reading other authors. Charles Dickens, obviously, inspires. He’s a working-class guy and did very well. He had humor and wit and then he was able to do good by pointing things out through stories. I also think about somebody like Anne Rice, who was this brilliant woman who wrote very, very well. She was a wife, she was a mother, and loved her homes. She had this fabulous dark outlet. I’d have to really think about it for a while to make a list of all the authors that have inspired me. Kurt Vonnegut is fabulous. I read the Little House books, all of them, many times, and never watched the TV series. Those were pivotal reads for me.
WHITEHURST: Anathelogium: Poetry & Prose just came out. The book is a wonderful mix of whimsy and darkness with stories that are both new and stories that have been published elsewhere. Tell me a bit about the book and the story behind the name?
SCHULTZ: It’s eloquently transgressive short stories and poetry. I explore a lot of the dark side and use dark humor. “Prose and Poetry from the Neither” is the subtitle for the book. The Neither is taken directly from my time travel story. I think, through creative writing, you do step into a different plane. Both of those things play into what the book is about. Anathelogium is built upon the word “anathema.” I love what the word means and I love the phonetics of the word. Also, the word “anthem.” You go from anthem and you add anathema, then tuck in a few little things here and there, and all of a sudden it’s the negative over the opposite of everything. This is a collection of things that have been accepted, things that have been rejected, and I don’t think acceptances or rejections are necessarily valid. They are what they are. The Anathelogium becomes the repository for everything ever discarded, or cast off, or rejected. I popped it over to Urban Dictionary and they published it. I love made-up words and phrases. I think it suits this collection quite well.
WHITEHURST: Are there any stories behind any of the pieces in the collection?
SCHULTZ: When I put this collection together, I realized how incredibly autobiographical it was. I blogged for Huffington Post from 2013 to the beginning of 2018. As a writer you’re in between every word. You’re in between every line that you write. The stories I write are built on bits and pieces of knowledge I picked up and loved, things that have fascinated me, and some firsthand experiences. “Paradise” for instance, was such a blast because I put myself in this scenario and I wrote it. I always joke that if none of this works out I’ve got a Plan B. My Plan B is that I’m going to go to a little beach somewhere and work at a little bar on the beach, hang out, and not do anything but collect seashells. I wrote a horror story based on this fantasy. It was incredibly autobiographical and that was something I did not expect to see as clearly as I did.
WHITEHURST: In “The Drowning Man Game,” your characters play an intriguing and dangerous game, how did the idea for that story come to you?
SCHULTZ: I wrote what became “The Perigean Turn” years ago. The original version was called “Jonah-Blue.” Then there was a call out called Wild Violence. It was a perfect opportunity to recraft that story. The Drowning Man Game is the sequel to Perigean Turn. It finishes that story. I love the story. The story came to me in a flash and it was a blast to write.
WHITEHURST: Many of your stories deal with water. The Drowning Man Game, Sub Marine and The Perigean Turn for instance. Is there a special significance for you?
SCHULTZ: I’m a real believer that things are in our DNA for certain reasons, whether it’s a genetic memory or whatever. Earliest memories, falling back on my love of literature, was always about mermaids. I’m old enough to predate Disney’s Little Mermaid. I was a parent when that came around. I’d sit at the bottom of swimming pools holding my breath, pretending I was a mermaid, and still go to the ocean. I have an Instagram account devoted to the ocean. I’m so drawn to it. Water, mermaids, all of the psychological, intellectual aspects of it.
WHITEHURST: Out of the prose in Anathelogium, do you have a favorite?
SCHULTZ: Different ones are favorites for varied reasons. For instance, Paradise is a favorite because of how much of me is in it. I could pretend I was a character and write it and that made it fun. I’m also fond of my vampire art history story because I’m an art history person. I am art history, and I am art and I am history. I wrote a flash fiction piece, and it was a vampire story with Christmas punch, which was like putting my two favorite things together.
WHITEHURST: With the holidays here, tell me a bit about Jacob. What led to a novella about Jacob Marley rather than Ebenezer Scrooge?
SCHULTZ: It started with the animated 1971 version of A Christmas Carol. You can find it on Youtube. It is a masterpiece. I remember watching it and loving it. That was my introduction to that story. It led me to other versions, but the ’71 animated classic (and it won an Oscar) really embodies a mature version. That also led me to more Charles Dickens. I had a wonderful teacher in high school and he had us read “A Tale of Two Cities.” He and I would end up having discussions in class and everyone else would just listen. He opened my eyes and my love for the book, and its purpose in raising awareness, and in history. Much in the way Charles Dickens wrote Christmas Carol, during a feverish, overwhelming time for him, the story for Jacob came to me years ago while driving home from Christmas shopping. I thought up the story between the mall and my house. I was overwhelmed by it. I literally threw up the words and it was really hard to clean it up. I often wondered about Jacob Marley, because he was so sad and he was so self-aware. He roamed the world in a purgatory. I created a “rest of the story” for him because that’s something I wondered about. Huffington Post was bought and sold by a few people over the years and I sensed that the whole independent blogger platform was going to end. So, in December of 2017, once a week I posted a stave (which of course is how Christmas Carol was originally published) and it gave me a deadline. It forced me to clean up the work and make it legible. That was my final project for them.
WHITEHURST: How do you feel about horror and the holidays?
SCHULTZ: One thing I would say about horror and holidays, and this goes back to illustrating, if you want to illuminate something on a piece of paper, you make the dark darker. I think that goes for horror. It should be as accepted as any other genre. Instagram has been shadow banning the hashtag #horror for a long time now. I think we all start out on the dark side and aspire for the light and I think it’s so important that we express those things, particularly when it comes to things we’re contending with now. We hear so much through new technologies about violence and violent expression. If we can protect these things through the creative art form, and lay it out there, life won’t be lost, but we’ll have shared something that might illuminate. Some of the best horror is the darkest shit I’ve ever seen. It’s so valid when you look at it in that context.