REVIEW AND INTERVIEW: Good Girls Don’t with S.W. Lauden

Cover for Good Girls Don’t: A Second Power Pop Heist
by S.W. Lauden

Remember Jackson Sharp?
The wily protagonist of “That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist” returns in an all new music-laden adventure with author S.W. Lauden’s “Good Girls Don’t: A Second Power Pop Heist.”
The second, and worthy, addition to Lauden’s Power Pop canon begins with the Sharp family working hard for the money at their Tulsa music shop and, on top of that, they’ve got a Jamie & The Jaxx reunion album in the boiler. Add to the mix the insanity of the shop’s hugely popular Record Store Day and things just couldn’t be better.
That is until the unsavory, cowboy boot-wearing multi-millionaire Russell Patterson shows up with an assignment. Spend a week in Los Angeles at the MCA Whitney studio to finish that album they’re working on, he tells Sharp, and take care of a little side-job while there.
That side job? Steal the ’72 Fender Strat Doug Fieger played when he recorded the hit song “My Sharona.” On the surface not a tall order, not easy, but not impossible. Little do they realize, however, they’re not the only ones out to get it.
Lauden continues to write the hits in this second installment, which builds upon the gritty criminal flair of the first, and is sure to get you humming a song or two while you read.

Good Girls Don’t can be picked up here! Read on to rock on with my S.W. Lauden interview below.

S.W. Lauden

WHITEHURST: What made you want to return to Tulsa and the Sharp family? And welcome back.

LAUDEN: Thanks for having me back! This was always going to be a series of some sort. That was part of the consideration for the shorter-length books. The idea was to create a fully fleshed-out universe and then write a bunch of punchy stories set there. As attention spans get shorter (mine and the readers!), I think there’s room for more “beach reads” in crime fiction. Fast-paced novelettes you can knock out in a couple hours on the subway, on a plane, during a court recess, or around the pool. As of now, the plan is to publish a new book every June—which seems doable—but I’ve also considered publishing every six months if there’s an audience. It’s kind of an experiment, but I’m having fun with it.

WHITEHURST: In the new novelette, you name drop some obscure, and some famous, bands. What’s the toughest part when it comes to researching a book in your world?

LAUDEN: Funny enough, the music research was pretty minimal. I co-edited an essay collection last year called Go All The Way: A Literary Appreciation Of Power Pop. So I’ve been steeped in that musical genre for a while now, even beyond my own personal knowledge. Although it is a good excuse to dig into the vinyl collection…
The mix of obscure and famous songs is important because you don’t want to distract from the action with an endless stream of random band names. Most crime fiction lovers will know The Knack thanks to “My Sharona,” but far fewer will know, say, 20/20 much less Rubber City Rebels. I’m guessing most readers don’t pick these books up to get lectured about obscure guitar pop bands; that’s just the set dressing. As the author, I have to strike a balance. On the other hand, if readers seek those bands out because of my books, that would be great—but definitely not required to enjoy the stories.

WHITEHURST: Any playlists to listen to while reading this particular heist?

LAUDEN: For sure! The series is based in Tulsa, so you’ll want to check out (or revisit) Dwight Twilley, Phil Seymour and 20/20. The Sharp brothers go to LA in Good Girls Don’t, so add bands like The Beat, The Bangles, The Plimsouls, The Go-Go’s, The Nerves and, of course, The Knack. And they end up in Chicago, so finish off with some Cheap Trick, Off Broadway, Shoes and Material Issue. Any one of those bands will take you down a glorious YouTube or streaming rabbit hole. Trust me, there’s lots of great power pop to discover down there.
If that’s too much work, this Spotify power pop playlist from director James Gunn is pretty comprehensive. The song “Calling All Destroyers” from my old band Tsar is on there, so he obviously has excellent taste. [Insert Humble Brag Emoji]

WHITEHURST: Last time we talked you mentioned that your band, The Brothers Steve, would be releasing an album. How is that coming along, and how did your love for pop inform the writing process for Good Girls Don’t?

We released that album, #1, last July and I’m happy to say it made a bunch of “Best of 2019” lists in the (ahem) mature power pop universe where we roam. More recently, we struck a deal with Big Stir Records in LA and they’ll be re-releasing that album, along with some new singles and B-sides. There’s also rumblings about a second album at some point. Right now we’re recording tracks for a couple upcoming tribute compilations that should see the light of day later this year or early 2021.
It’s funny, I didn’t set out to be the musician who wrote crime fiction about musicians—but I ‘m kinda stoked that’s how it turned out. Music has been such a big part of my life for so long now that it has become one of the main filters that I experience the world through. So I shouldn’t be surprised that it plays such an important role in my writing. I’ve decided to just embrace it.

WHITEHURST: What’s next for S.W. Lauden?

I’ve got a couple new standalone novels written. Trying to figure out what to do with those. And I’m working on some non-fiction projects along the lines of Go All The Way: A Literary Appreciation Of Power Pop. I’m always looking for something interesting to keep my squirrely brain occupied.

BIO: S.W. Lauden co-edited the essay collection, Go All The Way: A Literary Appreciation of Power Pop. His crime fiction novelette, That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist, was released in 2019. The follow up, Good Girls Don’t: A Second Power Pop Heist, will be available June 29, 2020. His Greg Salem punk rock PI series includes Bad Citizen Corporation, Grizzly Season and Hang Time. S.W. Lauden is the pen name of Steve Coulter, drummer for Tsar and The Brothers Steve.

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Out now: Shotgun Honey Presents: Recoil

And featuring my Sam the Thug tale, “Kerouac’s Second Scroll.”

Order copies (print and ebook) from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

From the publisher:

In its fourth installment, Shotgun Honey presents twenty-three tales of crime that will hit so hard that the recoil will be felt long after the stories are done. With new and established authors from around the world, Shotgun Honey Presents Volume 4: RECOIL delivers stories that explore a darker side of remorse, revenge, circumstance, and humanity.

Featuring these amazing writers:

• “Tell the Man About Love” by Rusty Barnes
• “The Ghost Road” by Susan Benson
• “Hotelin’“ by Sarah M. Chen
• “The Wrong Affair” by Kristie Claxton
• “Victory in the Spring, 1987” by Jen Conley
• “Avenues” by Brandon Daily
• “Noise” by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett
• “After the Bombs” by Hector Duarte Jr.
• “Missing Persons Day” by Danny Gardner
• “The Art of Negotiation” by Tia Ja’nae
• “Dirty Devil Dance” by Carmen Jaramillo
• “Beer Run” by Nick Kolakowski
• “Turner’s Bar” by JJ Landry
• “Johnny Still Goes to Atlantic City” by Bethany Maines
• “Jericho” by Tess Makovesky
• “Detour” by Alexander Nachaj
• “Toothpaste” by David Nemeth
• “The Thing I found Along a Dirt Patch Road” by Cindy O’Quinn
• “Three Fingers” by Brandon Sears
• “Too Many Mullets” by Johnny Shaw
• “The Last Mistake” by Kieran Shea
• “The Walk Home at Night” by Gigi Vernon
• “Kerouac’s Second Scroll” by Patrick Whitehurst

BOOK REVIEW: Black Souls An adventure across cultures

Black Souls by Sabina Gabrielli Carrara
Published by The Green Bat (December 7, 2019)

Sabina Gabrielli Carrara’s thriller Black Souls welcomes readers to both Ireland and Italy, but you don’t have to live there to enjoy her dark psychological tale of murder and family intrigue. In Black Souls we follow the charmed life of Lola Owen, a woman of Italian descent living peacefully with her husband and children in Ireland. She believes her mother to be a distant memory, following a traumatic suicide when she was young, and has sequestered her remaining Italian family members to the past as well – only they don’t want to stay forgotten. Lola’s cousin, Giulia, and her aunt, Mara, find themselves at odds with one another over the future of their property, the Kopfler Grand Hotel, a matter which is only compounded by unforeseen events, and both gel into a furious drama full of scorn, revelations, bloodshed, and murder. Lola finds herself knee deep in the family’s internal drama whether she wants it or not, especially when it brings violence to her very quiet Irish life, and resolves with her husband Fergus to travel to her childhood home in Ponte Alto, Italy, and settle matters once and for all.


Expertly paced and full of relatable characters that wouldn’t be out of place in any country, Black Souls puts us on a train ride of thrills, over bumps and twists, to a nail biting and surprising finish.

Whitehurst’s Top Reads of 2019

The roaring twenties are upon us. And I am already tired of the Gatsby references. Luckily there are plenty of books to take us away from those things. And there will be some awesome books in the New Year likely to make us forget all about Fitzgerald. Maybe.
There were some damn good stories in 2019 and killer short reads that don’t necessarily count as books. This includes S.W. Lauden’s fantastic “Power Pop” novella. The memoir “Resurrections in the Dark” by Janice Blaze Rocke provided a living, breathing tale that’s hard to forget as well. I’d recommend checking both out, not to mention “All the Way Down” by Eric Beetner.
I did a terrible job of tracking my reading over the last year. By my estimate I read about 21 books, down from last year’s count, but not bad for a slow page turner like me. Here’s the usual disclaimer – I read these books in 2019, but that doesn’t mean they came out this year. Some did, of course, but I choose my annual favorites from the stack and not by publication date.

Wonton Terror by Vivien Chien

“Wonton Terror” is the latest installment of Vivien Chien’s wonderful cozy mystery series and pits our series hero Lana Lee against a murderer who knows a thing or two about blowing things up. Lana is nearly killed by a bomb blast in Ohio’s Asian Night Market. While she makes it through with minor injuries, a family friend isn’t so lucky. Lana is determined to know why he was killed.
Having discovered Chien’s Noodle Shop Mystery series just this year, I have endeavored to consume them all. Fun, fast reads, and she’s already got at least two more in the literary pipeline.
Visit the Noodle Shop here.

101 by Tom Pitts

Thank God for friends. Young Jerry Bertram finds himself in deadly peril after snatching cash from a biker gang in northern California. When they come gunning for him, his mother steps in to help, enlisting the aid of a pot grower and all-around tough guy Vic. But even their aid may not be enough to kill what’s coming for them.
Pitts takes the silencer off the barrel and comes in guns blazing with his latest book. It’s always a thrill to read this guy’s stuff.
Take a trip on the 101 here.

Spine of the Dragon by Kevin J. Anderson

Kevin J. Anderson hits one out of the fantasy ball park in his latest book, “Spine of the Dragon.” We’re given some truly creative characters and fantastic fantasy elements, ones readers will be daydreaming about well after turning the last page. Here we meet King Adan Starfall, the disgraced Brava Elliel, King Kollanan, the ancient Wreths; we explore the Commonwealth, and of course wake the dragon! I totally enjoyed this read and look forward to book two in this new series.
Grab your sword and read the book here.

Cold Girl by R.M. Greenaway

Talk about creeping dread. That’s what readers can expect when they enter the world of R.M. Greenaway’s “Cold Girl,” the first in her B.C. Blues Crime series. The novel centers on the disappearance of a local musician and the realization she may be in the hands of the notorious Pickup Killer. Called a police procedural, but damn hot for us readers who like chilling scenes and frozen climates in our killer crime fiction.
Lay your cold hands on a copy here.

Call Down the Thunder by Dietrich Kalteis

Author Dietrich Kalteis brings reader into the thick of the 1930s Dust Bowl in his 2019 novel “Call Down the Thunder.” In it we meet the tough as leather Sonny Myers, who happens to be a bit down on his luck, and his vibrant wife Clara, who wants a little more than Sonny can offer. Not that anyone else was doing much better in Kansas at the time, anyone except the crooks. Sonny comes to realize this sad fact and decides to help himself to a bit of the loot the same way the crooks do.
This is a fantastic historical crime thriller, which takes readers into a desperate chapter of American life, and adds a touch of sweetness only Kalteis can create.
Get your thunder on here.

INTERVIEW: Haunted Monterey County on The Odd Entity Podcast

Follow the ODD Entity Podcast on Twitter and Instagram @OddentityPod

Haunted Monterey County got the star treatment on the latest edition of The ODD Entity Podcast. Thank you to Janine for having me on! I had a great time talking about haunted locales in Monterey, not to mention chatting up spiritual beliefs, Winchester Mystery House, and more.

Listen to the podcast here.

INTERVIEW: Haunted Monterey County featured in Carmel Magazine

Carmel Magazine – Holiday 2019

Be sure to pick up the Holiday 2019 issue of Carmel Magazine, found everywhere along the California Central Coast and abroad. Writer Renee Brincks did a fantastic writeup for the book and it was awesome to be included once again in such an illustrious publication. Can’t find a print copy? Read it online here: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/1182230-cm-sm-ho19-nov/66

And get your copy of the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Haunted-Monterey-County-America/dp/1467142352/ref=sr_1_1?crid=4SX1Q5J4N617&keywords=haunted+monterey+county&qid=1573163908&sprefix=Haunted+Monterey+County%2Caps%2C193&sr=8-1

BOOK REVIEW: The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night

The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night – pictured with Fido the Saguaro.

There are times when you start reading a book without knowing what to expect. Such was the case with D.E. Night’s young adult (YA) fantasy book, The Crowns of Croswald. It was familiar yet wholly new at the same time – and it turned into an energetic, comfortable reading experience.

This review comes from a writer and reader who rarely dip his toes into the genre. When it comes to fantasy and YA fiction, my experiences primarily orbit Lord of the Rings, Narnia, The Kingkiller Chronicles, and the Harry Potter series.

It’s the latter I felt largely influenced The Crowns of Croswald and in the beginning those similarities were strong, even for someone who has not read the Harry Potter (HP) adventures for years. I found myself feeling as though I’d been transported back to those days of Hogwarts, to that memorable era when I read the first three HP books to my daughter. And this was not a bad feeling at all.

In fact, the more I read, the more I was engrossed in Night’s tale, told simply and elegantly, and found myself absorbed by it. This is not HP at all, but an original story told in that cozy YA style (imagine HP as a genre), and done quite well. The author’s world-building game is top notch.

Lovely illustrations adorn each chapter title.

The book’s chapters are dotted at the outset with charming illustrations also reminiscent of the small drawings seen at the top of each HP chapter. Only these illustrations are done to enhance the story of Ivy Lovely, a young woman who has no idea how exciting her life is about to become.  When we first meet her she’s hidden under a magic-killing screen, little realizing her potential as she toils in Castle Plum’s kitchen ensuring each dragon-cooked meal is as tasty as possible. Her only real friend at this point is the woods dwarf, Rimbrick, who offers her hints to her own destiny, not to mention all the books she can handle. It’s when she’s kicked out of Castle Plum that her life begins to change, particularly when she lands in the magical Halls of Ivy, a school where anything can happen and usually does thanks to the scrivenists – sort of like wizards but here the wands are quills – sort of. At school she befriends the witty Fyn Greeley, gets into a bit of trouble, and more importantly seeks to unlock the mysteries of her past, why she was brought to the school, and deal with the nefarious Dark Queen. More happens, a lot more, but readers will have to discover those gems for themselves.

Another point I enjoyed was the use of the name D.E. Night, which readers of Croswald will discover is a name used in the book itself. Early on, in fact, Rimbrick hands off three books for Ivy to read. Each is written by Derwin Edgar Night.  The subtle inclusion of the author into the work reminded me of Doyle’s inclusion of Watson into the classic Sherlock Holmes stories, a trick I can get behind with ease. It’s a great way to supercharge the imagination for readers.

Those looking for a well-paced read in the vein of authors J.K. Rowling and Patrick Rothfuss (without the adult-level syllabus) look no further than D.E. Night’s plucky Croswald series, now at two books and counting.

Check out Night’s website here.

Halloween ghost stories with Haunted Monterey County

Featured in the news

KAZU 90.3

Those looking for all things spooky during the Halloween 2019 season need look no further than the pages of Haunted Monterey County. Local NPR public radio 90.3 KAZU featured the book on Halloween day.

Take a listen or read it here.

Monterey County Weekly

For a look at even more haunted sites in Monterey County, read Weekly Reporter Marielle Argueza‘s story, which featured a number of the paranormal locales found in the book.

Read her story here.

Thank you to Marielle with the Weekly and Dylan with KAZU for making it a haunted Halloween!

Tucson’s bookstore bonanza

The skinny on the town’s literary landscape

Collect those stickers and bookmarks.

Arizona’s biggest close-to-the-border city, Tucson, is a literary oasis.

Driving down the streets one might see cowboy hats, MAGA hats, and camouflage hats, but you might also see bookstores dotting the landscape behind them, a lot of bookstores. And some damn good ones. Book lovers visiting Tucson, or those new to town, will find oodles of retail to fit their reading needs.

(Click the header to visit each bookstore’s website)

Barnes and Noble

There are two in Tucson, with one right smack in the middle of town and another to the north. Coffee shops inside a bookstore always make the trip more fun, as do aisles and aisles of books. Those who have gone to B&N know they also have print magazines, collectibles, stationary, and way more. It’s great to see them humming with activity after dark.

Bookmans

Bookmans Midtown location.

Bookmans is something of an Arizona tradition. There are stores in Flagstaff, Phoenix, and in Tucson, the birthplace of the chain, there are three locations. Here one can find used books in every genre, graphic novels and comics, merchandise from jewelry to toys, musical instruments, video games, and all in between. They even sell new books. Not just that, but bring in your old books (and other stuff) and you might just get store credit to spend there. Visits are like a trip to a literary Disneyland. You never know where to look first.

Antigone Books

Be kind at Antigone Books

Smack dab downtown, this local hotspot is one of the biggest independent bookstores in the area. Full of helpful staff, the bookstore offers new books, mugs, bookmarks, stuffed animals, and more. The vibe is alive with bookish charm. Here you can find any number of book groups to join, author events to attend, and even learn about how they power the store with solar energy. The place is simply a must-go Tucson experience.

Mostly Books

Mostly Books is a place readers can get lost in. The store is long with reading nooks and rooms filled floor to ceiling with stories of all genres. Here it’s easy to find books written by local talent, attend book signings, and join in with monthly book groups. Nicely located on Speedway, the relaxed and friendly atmosphere makes stopping here a definite addition to your bibliophile checklist.

Clues Unlimited

You don’t need a magnifying glass to find it.

You like your library with some sleuthing, some killing, and some crime? That would be Clues Unlimited. They’ve got paperback cozies, local crime and mystery authors, hardback noir, and more – all packed into a cute little spot. Be sure to take the time and browse around and say hi to that cute dog that hangs out there.

Book Stop

Is that the smell of old books in the Book Stop, cigars, or what? Either way you’ll get that book jones satisfied at this place, which carries a ton of used, ultra-rare, and out of print titles for your reading pleasure, not to mention a chunk of scholarly tomes to peruse. Grab a chair and pony up to this reading mecca.

Tucson in action (in a readerly way)

These are just a taste of what the community offers those who carry books or e-readers around with them, or anyone who likes to shop. There’s also the bookstore for the University of Arizona and other sellers around town. Not just confined to stores, many of the bookstores represent at local events and festivals with their own tables.

To top it all off, Tucson is home to one of the biggest literary festivals in the nation. The Tucson Festival of Books is held each March and is one hell of an affair. Check their website to get a taste of what you’ll see – between trips to bookstores naturally.

Read an excerpt from Call Down the Thunder: A crime novel by Dietrich Kalteis

Call Down the Thunder
By Dietrich Kalteis
ECW Press (October 15, 2019)

Dietrich Kalteis has produced another gem with his latest historical crime novel, “Call Down the Thunder,” out this month from ECW Press. Read the description below followed by an excerpt of the novel courtesy of ECW. Find your copy here!

Amazon.com description:

Sonny and Clara Myers struggle on their Kansas farm in the late 1930s, a time the Lord gave up on: their land’s gone dry, barren, and worthless; the bankers are greedy and hungry, trying to squeeze them and other farmers out of their homes; and, on top of that, their marriage is in trouble. The couple can struggle and wither along with the land or surrender to the bankers and hightail it to California like most of the others. Clara is all for leaving, but Sonny refuses to abandon the family farm.
In a fit of temper, she takes off westward in their old battered truck. Alone on the farm and determined to get back Clara and the good old days, Sonny comes up with an idea, a way to keep his land and even prosper while giving the banks a taste of their own misery. He sets the scheme in motion under the cover of the commotion being caused by a rainmaker hired by the mayor to call down the thunder and wash away everyone’s troubles.

Author photo by Andrea Kalteis.

Call Down the Thunder book excerpt:

Not getting out of Kansas tonight. The dusk was coming on.

Clara sat on the bumper. The steam had stopped rising from under the hood. Had only been the one truck drive by since she broke down. Likely end up sleeping in the truck.

Then she heard it, coming from a long way off, raising dust behind it. An old Packard with the square cab, the headlights high and on either side of the windshield, the kind of truck they used for delivering the post when she was a kid. This one painted brown, gold lettering down the wood-
paneled sides. The driver slowed to a stop and leaned across the seat, calling out the window.

“Got trouble?”

Some kind of scorn would likely have the man driving off. Clara smiled and said, “Darn thing started clunking and blowing steam, then quit. Sure be grateful in case you got some water to spare, mister.” Clara sizing the man up, medium height with a hawk nose, bug eyes and bushes for eyebrows and sideburns, looked harmless enough.

“Your lucky day. Water’s my game,” he said, pointing at the lettering down the side.

Eugene Cobb, Rainmaker.

Getting out, he stuck a bowler on his head, came around the front bumper and said his name, looking over the old Hudson, never seen something on the road with this little paint left on it.

“Rainmaker, huh?” She smiled and said her name.

“Spoken with the note of the skeptic, Clara.” Pulling open his passenger door, Eugene took a canteen from behind the seat, giving it a shake and offering it to her.

“You make it?” Taking it, she smiled and had a drink. Couldn’t believe how good it felt going down.

“Pumped it fresh this morning.”

“Let me ask, how you go about making it rain, Eugene?” She drank some more.

Crooking a finger, he wanted her to follow to the rear of his truck, flapping back the musty canvas. Behind some packs and tubs of supplies stood a kind of mortar on a tripod, strapped to the truck’s floor. A simple affair of a tripod base, a long barrel and a bipod mount. The thing painted black with his name painted gold along its barrel.

“That like a cannon?”

“Cannon’s more an artillery gun, fires a flat trajectory. Roundshot mostly.” He climbed up in back. “What I fire’s more of a canister shot, what I call my Cobb-busters.”

“Shoot them where?”

“The sky, of course.”

“Can I ask why?” She drank some more.

“Causes it to concuss, see? Makes it rain.”

Clara looked up at the cloudless evening, the moon and stars starting to show.

“Can see you’re a doubting Debbie.”

“Never seen a fella do it, blast the sky, is all.” She looked at the tubs of sulfur and black powder, bottles of colored liquid, some labeled ether.

“Pack them special, my Cobb-busters.” Reaching a hollow tube with welded propellent fins, his name down the side. Cradling it in his arms, he explained about removing the explosive, how he repacked it, then dropped it in the cast-iron tube, how it hit the firing pin and shot into the heavens, the special blast bringing about the rain. Saying, “I calculate the trajectory, windspeed and velocity, you see?” Smiling, Eugene set the missile back down, pushed a pack aside and came up with a jug, sloshing it around, holding it out.

“What’s this?”

“Water . . . for your radiator.”

“You make it?” She smiled again, handing the canteen back.

Tossing the empty canteen to the corner, he hopped down, took the jug over to her truck, looking under the folded hood. He scraped remnants of seeds and nuts from the radiator, pointing to where some rodent had chewed through the tubes.

Clara leaned in and saw what he was pointing at.

“Little buggers built nests, see there?”

“How far you figure I’ll get?”

“Was wondering how you got this far.” Shaking his head, he set the hood down. “Need a new hose, at least that.”

“Saying I’m damn out of luck.”

“Well, I can offer you a lift.”

Clara looked up the road, then back the way she’d come, then at him. “Where to?”

Excerpted from Call Down the Thunder by Dietrich Kalteis. © 2019 by Dietrich Kalteis. All rights reserved. Published by ECW Press Ltd. www.ecwpress.com