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 Anathelogium collects prose from the author’s treasure trove of published and unpublished work, including short stories, flash fiction, and poetry.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.
Thank you to Punk Noir Magazine and Stephen J. Golds for ranking “Murder & Mayhem in Tucson” as one of their top 21 picks for 2021! If you haven’t checked out Punk Noir yet, be sure to take a look at their content here!
Read the full Top 21 of 21 here! And click hereto get your copy of Murder & Mayhem in Tucson!
There are two writers I look forward to reading every year: Stephen King and Dietrich Kalteis.
Like King, Dietrich is a writer readers can count on to produce compelling stories on a regular basis. His intense latest thriller, like many of his prior novels, takes us back to an era when life wasn’t as peachy. 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 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.
I got a chance to talk with Dietrich about the book. Read the interview below!
WHITEHURST: First off, congratulations on “Under an Outlaw Moon.” Is this project how you spent the pandemic? And what else kept you busy during that time?
KALTEIS: Thank you, Patrick.
I came upon the story of Bennie and Stella Dickson while doing research for Call Down the Thunder. That was two years before the pandemic, but by the time I finished that novel and the one after it, Cradle of the Deep, we were already in lockdown as I started the first draft.
I’ve kept busy writing. When I’m not doing that, I’m going for long walks, cooking, reading a lot, watching films, and when I get in the mood, I paint or play guitar.
WHITEHURST: Your novel is based on real life criminals Bennie and Stella Mae Dickson, bank robbers from the Depression-era. What led you to these two?
KALTEIS: What struck me about their story, Stella had just turned sixteen when they got married and robbed two banks. The scores weren’t huge, and they pulled them off without anyone getting hurt, yet they quickly found themselves at the top of the FBI’s most-wanted list, becoming the focus of a nationwide manhunt — newlyweds wanted dead or alive. Their story fascinated me.
WHITEHURST: Bennie and Stella Mae meet for the first time in a roller rink, and this is where we meet them in the opening pages of Outlaw Moon. What instinct told you to begin the book here?
KALTEIS: I wanted the reader to get to know them as they meet and fall for each other. I think Bennie and Stella become likable in this scene, and I hope the reader will be drawn in as the sparks fly between them.
WHITEHURST: A lot of readers, and writers, like to know how an idea begins. What burst of inspiration led to Under an Outlaw Moon?
KALTEIS: When I read a 1938 newspaper article that introduced me to them, I saw a story of the underdog, and as I dug some more, I saw them as misunderstood and treated unjustly.
WHITEHURST: You once told me you listen to music to block out the white noise while you write. Was there a soundtrack for this book?
KALTEIS: There’s always music, and its whatever works with the rhythm of the story I’m writing on any particular day. There’s no set playlist, I just put on whatever feels right in the moment.
WHITEHURST: When you talk about Outlaw Moon, how do you describe it conversationally?
KALTEIS: Side note: Some years back I was asked by another writer what my first novel was about, and I found myself tongue-tied and stammering, like a deer in headlights, stumbling as I tried to explain what the story was about. Since then, I’ve always had a pitch ready.
For this one it’s: Under an Outlaw Moon follows the true story of Bennie and Stella Mae Dickson. He’s reckless and she’s an outsider longing to fit in. When they pull off a bank robbery to celebrate her sixteenth birthday, their lives take a turn that they never could have imagined.
WHITEHURST: Where can readers get their hands on the book? And is there an audiobook?
KALTEIS: Readers can find the book in print or digital formats at the ECW Press website here, through Amazon, or at a favorite bookstore. And yes, there’s an audiobook version coming soon via ECW Audiobooks here.
WHITEHURST: With many restrictions being lifted across the globe, will there be any signings or in-person events in your future?
KALTEIS: For now, certain restrictions remain in place here, so all events will be online. As soon as they lift, I’ll be looking forward to signings and live events. Events and updates will be posted on my website here.
WHITEHURST: Are you working on anything new?
KALTEIS: I finished final edits for Nobody from Somewhere, a crime novel set to be released by ECW Press next June.
Here’s the pitch: When long retired cop, Fitch Henry Haut, sees two men forcing a runaway girl into their vehicle, he steps in and gets the upper hand. He and the girl escape in his broken-down Winnebago, and as Fitch listens to her story, he realizes the men will come after them. A bond forms as he and the girl struggle to escape out of town. Anyone interested can find out more on ECW’s website here.
Blood Rites Horror, in honor of their first anthology, is putting out a special edition of “Bitter Chills” this holiday season. Not only will it feature my original horror story, “The Violent Snow,” but an all-new sequel written just for this new holiday edition titled, “The Cruel Heat.” Each story in this special holiday edition will come with an all-new illustration as well.
Look for the new holiday edition on December 5th, in hardback, soft cover, and ebook! The original print and ebook version can be found here.