American Static: interview with Author Tom Pitts

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American Static by Tom Pitts  Down & Out Books (June 26, 2017)

Some writers are like doctors. They have the stuff you need right when you need it most. Tom Pitts is an author like that. Having read American Static at a time when I was thirsty for a blast of literary danger, the book was like the tall beer Tom’s holding in his author photo. It hit the spot.What starts as a deadly, and compelling, crime thriller; American Static soons takes on a darker twist. The story unfolds to reveal murderous political intrigue, a savage quest for the truth, and weaves in a sweet love story  – albeit in a surprising way.

When I got a chance to sit down with Tom, the first thing on my mind was all the great characters sprinkled throughout the book, so I started there…

PATRICK WHITEHURST: You have Quinn, Carl, Tremblay, Steven, Teresa, and a cast of others, nearly all a bit shady. How did you keep them straight?

TOM PITTS: If you’re referring to the juggling of POVs, it’s the only way I see the whole picture. It’s more than just a third-person perspective, it’s a lens through which we can see each character’s motivations. I took this idea a little further than in my last novel, Hustle. And I think the result is a faster moving, more exciting ride.

As far as them being shady, to be fair, kindly ol’ Carl ain’t too shady. But all characters—just like people—come in varying shades of grey. They just aren’t black or white. Mind you, some are blacker than others. I think even the most evil motherfucker in the world still likes a chuckle now and again, still likes to sit down and watch Bob’s Burgers, you know?

WHITEHURST: You’re knocking back a few at the bar and some dude asks you to describe American Static. What do you tell him?

Tom Pitts at Boucher
Author Tom Pitts.

PITTS: I tell ‘em it’s a devil-at-the-crossroads kind of tale. That’s what Quinn is. He’s that intoxicating, charismatic devil that’ll take you on a fast ride to hell.

WHITEHURST: When you gaze at the stars, thinking wistfully on those glorious days spent writing the book, what stands out? What part of American Static really turned you on?

PITTS: I was on a roll after Hustle. I marched forward on this one full of cocky confidence. The plot unfolded and the puzzle presented itself to me perfectly. I love that feeling when the pieces fit together. What I remember most—when I put together the political backstory that’s the impetus for the events—is jumping up from the keyboard and yelling Yes!

WHITEHURST: What can you tell us about an audiobook?

PITTS: I’m very excited about it. It’s the first audio book being done for one of my stories. The narrator, Daniel Greenberg, has done an excellent job. I listened to a lot of audio books during a hellish commute I endured a few years back. And I mean a LOT of audio books, and Daniel has just the even-handed style I like—not too dramatic, not too flat. I’m told it’ll be done by the start of May, so I’m hoping it’ll be available in June. If it goes well, I’m going to do one for Hustle and the new book, 101.

WHITEHURST: The movie question now: who would you cast? I could almost see De Niro as Quinn, maybe a younger version. Thoughts?

PITTS: I do hate being pinned down by this question. Once I have someone in mind it’s hard to get them out of my head, but … since you asked. I think I’d like to see Frank Grillo as Quinn. He’d be perfect for it. He’s got something scary going on just under the surface. It’d be tough for a just any old pretty boy to sell it. Frank has a bit of grit. The kind of guy you can never feel quite comfortable around.

WHITEHURST: What about bands? Who do you listen to when you type?

PITTS: Nobody. I’ve always worked in silence. I’ve gone so far as to stuff toilet paper in my ears and pump white noise through some headphones to find silence. Rob Hart recently asked on Twitter about playlists for writing, the soundtrack that a writer prepares for each novel. A light went on over my head—a playlist to block the world out? Brilliant. Maybe I’ll try it the next time around. Especially if it’s a period piece.

WHITEHURST: What’s the story these days? What are you working on?

PITTS: I just finished the final edits for my next novel, 101. It’s coming out in November from Down & Out. It takes my shifting POV philosophy even further. I’ve very proud of the book. It’s fast-moving, funny, and full of wild characters. It’s set against the backdrop of a pot farm in Humboldt County six months before it went legal in California. I spent a fair amount of time in those hills doing research—yeah, that’s what we’ll call it—and I hope it captures the tone of the hills. I’m still working on the Hustle script and doing the dance with Hollywood. Hopefully I’ll have some solid news to share about that soon. I can say things are heating up though. Then, I suppose, it’s time to roll up my sleeves and get to work on a new novel. I can’t wait to get back to that strange headspace where I spend a few hours a day in the unpredictable world of my own fiction.

Visit Tom’s website here.

Order American Static here.

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Interview with Clean Sweep author Michael J. Clark

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Clean Sweep by Michael J. Clark, ECW Press (March 13, 2018)

Not every day is peaches and cream. Some days are just terrible. But when you find a good read, it’s always peaches and cream. This was the case when I read Michael J. Clark’s debut crime novel Clean Sweep, out this month from the fine folks over at ECW Press. It’s all warm and fuzzy, in a violent crime-filled way, which is fine with me. Check out my interview with Clark below!

PATRICK WHITEHURST: There are a number of great characters in Clean Sweep. How did you develop them and how did you manage to keep them all straight?

MICHAEL J. CLARK: We start with Tommy Bosco. The good pastor is loosely based on a good friend of mine, a reformed smuggler with the gift of gab when it comes to his days of criminality. Just when I think he’s told me every story, he makes my jaw drop again. ‘Tommy’ just told me a tale about the night he was shot five times, and drove himself to the hospital. I’m sure there’s some truth in that story, be it ever so slight. Maybe it was only twice, maybe he was grazed, or it could have just been cuts from a bullet-shattered side window as he sped away. ‘Tommy’ has this ability to either make you love the story, or love the bullshit. If it’s all just bullshit, it’s the best bullshit I’ve ever heard, double album-worthy.
I’ve read many a police procedural in my time, so coming up with cops that were clean, semi-clean, or dirty/homicidal-for-hire wasn’t too much of a stretch. In retrospect, Clean Sweep could have been written as a police procedural. I decided to bring the fringe characters out of the shadows. Think of the guy who’s always loading a van while being questioned by a pair of homicide cops on Law & Order. Doesn’t he have a story beyond those crates? Maybe, just maybe, Man Loading Van is the story. Same with the person who becomes the corpse. The unfortunate stiff is always the last to know, right up to the point that the hammer hits the back of the shell casing.
In the case of Clean Sweep, I decided to ‘compartmentalize’ the various groups until the need arose to intertwine them. (Uh-oh, I think I’ve got a touch of ‘Tommy’s’ bullshit creeping in here). Keeping the various characters/groups where I needed them to be meant that there were only so many of them peering over my shoulder during the keyboard clatter. It was the only way I could handle it without turning into Jack Torrance.
I’m a huge fan of conspiracies. I truly believe that the development of ‘misdirection technology’ (that TV set you call a phone) is not only planned, its truly required to ensure shadowy success.The conspiracy I floated in Clean Sweep has its seedlings in the sandy soil of historical record in Canada. I just added the Miracle-Gro.

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Mr. Clark

WHITEHURST: A lot of writers listen to a “soundtrack” when they write, music that inspires their words. Was this the case with Clean Sweep?

CLARK: There are a few snippets of music in the book. I enjoy jazz, and I’m learning more about it, though I’m anything but an expert on the notes the musicians play, or the ones they don’t. The ‘music’ has more to do with the research, like watching reams of vintage YouTube that relate to the story. I could listen to British announcers reporting on the 1950 Manitoba flood into the wee small hours. I should mention that my second book is set in 1985 in Winnipeg. There’s plenty of music in that romp, and there had to be. (Silly haunted radios…)

WHITEHURST: Picture yourself plopped down at a seedy dive bar. What would you tell the bartender who asks what your book is about? It’s gotta be different than how you’d explain it to a publicist, right?

CLARK: Well, lets assume that I’m into my third quality scotch by this point, neat. “Well friend, Clean Sweep is about the Winnipeg that no one wants to talk about, but everyone knows is there, just like any town on the face of the earth. And do you have any more peanuts?”

WHITEHURST: Without giving anything away, what part of writing the book made you sit back and think, “I’m a rock star?”

CLARK: Rock star? I’d settle for Polka King right now. I think its when you come up with those fun little phrases, the ‘you’re gonna need a bigger boat’ nuggets. You wonder if they’ll have the same impact for the reader as they did for you.

WHITEHURST: Everyone asks this, so I will too. Who would you pick to be in the Clean Sweep movie?

CLARK: I’ve had the pleasure of knowing a few people in the film, theatre, and comedy world in Winnipeg. I’ve been enjoying the adaptation of Caught by Lisa Moore on the Mother Corporation, AKA the CBC. There’s such an incredible pool of Canadian talent to pull from. Kristen Kreuk from Burden of Truth could have her pick of roles. I’ve gotta get Adam Beach in there somewhere. Many of the characters are perfect for the abundance of character actors that abound. I’ve been a fan of Michael Ironside since Scanners. (A perfect Ernie Friday.) As for Pastor Bosco, I’m still thinking. ‘Tommy’ looks a lot like Richard Rawlings from Fast ‘n Loud. Hmmmmm…

Thanks for the great interview, Michael! Clean Sweep is available now. Get your hands on it here.

Whitehurst’s Top Reads of 2017

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The year 2017 will go down in history for a lot of reasons; some of those reasons being the addition of quality literature to the libraries of the world’s dwindling army of readers. Over the last year, possibly in an attempt to cower from real world political poison, I’ve disappeared into 20 books, including nonfiction and fiction, I found my share of quality literature, not to mention my escape.

Having read everything from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry to the first six entries of Don Pendleton’s Executioner novels, the year of lit in the Whitehurst house was a good one. Take a look at my top five picks for the year. While they didn’t all come out last year, I read them in 2017, which is how my list works.

Zero-1Zero Avenue by Dietrich Kalteis

Who doesn’t love a punk rock masterpiece? That’s what I found when I read Zero Avenue. This is one gritty punk tale chock full of crime and the desperation of survival. Zero takes no prisoners in its detail and scope and keeps kicking through to the very end. What a movie this would make. And the score would rock. Someone better be on that.

A blast in the face, full of punk and vigor, and one of the best reads of the year for me.

Get your copy here.

Moving-1Moving Through Life Ungracefully by S.M. Pastore

There’s something satisfying about reading words that have echoed in your own mind at various times in your life. That’s how this collection of poetry and prose found me. It’s a quick read, but worth repeat reading, just to relish in the word choices and raw honesty found within.

For anyone who needs words whispered gracefully, honestly, and without remorse, lean into this book.

Find the book here.

ThrillMe.jpgThrill Me: Essays on Fiction by Benjamin Percy

Meeting and listening to Benjamin Percy talk were highlights of the year for me. He’s a charismatic speaker and has an impressive literary resume. This book, on the craft of writing and story-telling, should be on the shelf of every writer, whether they’re jotting their first line or their gazillionth. I zipped through it like a mad man. After meeting him and getting his John Hancock on the book, I couldn’t help but hear his captivating voice speaking every sentence.

Super informative, fun, and enthralling book.

Find it here.

GaslightGirl-1The Gaslight Girl: A Decisive Devices Novella by Hargrove Perth

Billed as the first in the Decisive Devices Steampunk series, The Gaslight Girl functions just as well as a standalone tale, though readers will most certainly want to explore the other entries when they turn the last page. Get to know Halloran Frost, get to know a cinderwench, and sink your teeth into this thrilling romp in the hottest genre around.

For those with a taste for authors such as Gail Carriger and Kevin J. Anderson, not to mention the classics by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, familiarize yourself with this series.

Find the book here.

NameWind-1The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Imagine Lord of the Rings with a Harry Potter storyline and you come close to the breathtaking tale that is The Name of the Wind. In fact, the previous sentence doesn’t begin to describe how wonderful I found this book and its main character, Kvothe. I simply could not put it down. The first in a planned trilogy (I hope there are more than that) got me so pumped, I very nearly grabbed the second to read immediately after finishing. Instead I put it aside to savor the anticipation, though it will be read in 2018.

Book One of the Kingkiller Chronicles. Buy it. Love it. Love it twice.

Get it here.

Cornell Woolrich, quit staring at me

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Cornell Woolrich.

The streets get gritty and mean. Cold shadows keep the sun from hitting the pavement and those passing by bump into you with a snort and no apologies. If you’re lucky you see a set of bleak eyes staring out from under a shaded hat, piercing you with desire, and not the lustful kind, but the kind that makes you move your wallet from your back pocket.

Back in the day, those eyes might have hung from the face of Cornell Woolrich.

Woolrich was NYC in and out. Born there. Buried there. Barely left town. Barely left his place. Who cares that he might have had a mental blemish or two? Who cares he lived with his mother? The dude was killer.

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One of the many William Irish novels written by Cornell Woolrich.

Woolrich had a way of storytelling unrivaled in his time. Hitchcock fell into the spin of his yarns and shot Rear Window as a result. He wrote a ton, and tons were made into movies, including his novels, “I Married a Dead Man,” “The Phantom Lady,” and others. He may have written under the name William Irish for a while, perhaps thinking the pseudonym sounded more badass than Cornell, but these days we all know it was him. Yet he remains one of New York City’s, and the world’s, best and largely uncelebrated crime writers.  At least he made the name Cornell a cool one.

Being a hermit, the man seemed more content to stare at the world without engaging in it, but he had a knack for people nonetheless. He could populate a story like no one’s business.  And if you were in New York in his time, say between 1926 and 1968, the year he died, you might have fallen under his gaze.

Count yourself lucky.

REVIEW: Steampunk boils beautifully in The Gaslight Girl by Hargrove Perth

Steampunk is a subgenre to behold in the science fiction and fantasy world. It’s the stuff of clockwork wonder and corseted amazement and, for many; it’s something readers can’t get enough of. Many, however, don’t quite get it. Exactly what is steampunk?
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The best way to describe the steampunk life is to imagine a futuristic world with fantastic mechanical creatures, airships and weaponry, but rather than advance technology, picture it made with iron and copper, gears and cranks, and powered with steam. Picture men and women of the future, but in a setting more closely comparable to old London, of the time when Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper skulked around.

Author Hargrove Perth has steampunk down. In her fast-paced novella, The Gaslight Girl, she’s taken a story familiar to all of us and injected hot steam in its veins. The Cinderella story, full of despair and ugly-on-the-inside stepsisters, forms the bare bones in this the story of young Halloran Frost. Cinderella she is not, for this girl is armed, corseted, and chock full of attitude, not to mention the heir of her father’s gas company and his dark secrets. The Gaslight Girl has all the gears, mechanical creatures, airships and steam-fueled spirit that have enamored readers to the genre across the world.

Perth’s novella is part one of the Decisive Devices series, with more excitement sure to come. This exciting ride is surely not over yet.

For those with a taste for authors such as Gail Carriger and Kevin J. Anderson, not to mention the classics by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, you’ll want to get to know Halloran Frost and Perth’s Decisive Devices novella.

Learn more about Hargrove Perth here.

Order The Gaslight Girl here.

Review: Abandon All Hope grabs you by the throat

Abandon-2Abandon All Hope: Gate 1: Book 1, by Lizzi Cruz and Royce Steele, is a grabber with blue collar hands.

The book features an assortment of nine fast-paced rural horrors, similar in spirit to the early tales of Stephen King, but with a dash of Joe R. Lansdale thrown in for good measure, not to mention a few modern themes.

Hosted by the quirky, fiendishly funny Nefaris Rouge (think the Crypt Keeper), Abandon thrusts readers into a gripping, dark adventure chock full of screams and gore. Be prepared for anything in this short, dynamic read. The first in a planned nine-part saga (there are a lot of gates when it comes to horror, or levels, or whatever Dante-esque terrors ones prefer to call it), book one is a captivating start to what looks like a promising new horror series. I particularly enjoyed the short story “Mutha Bugga” for its simple exposition, memorable (and idiotic) main character, and that damn blue chair. It took a while for the heebie-jeebies to clear my mind after reading that particular short.

This is a book that aims to shock and aims to please fans of old school fright.

Cruz and Steele do a damn good job of it.

Buy the book here!

Whitehurst’s Top Reads of 2016

From tripping out with Tarzan and the Ant Men, to starting Marie Kondo’s book on tidying up, it’s been a year of diversity and perhaps a bit of quirky inclusion. My print book collection grew in 2016, which came as a surprise due to my Kindle attachment issues, and the number of books started and not finished (sorry, Kondo) grew as well. This means 2017 will be the year of finishing things I started. Fingers crossed.  I did, however, manage to finish 14 books. Below are the top five books I couldn’t stop thinking about after reading the last page.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

There’s a little book shop off Alvarado Street in downtown Monterey, California, that reminds me of this book whenever I walk by the place. With a splash of fantasy, a squirt of Da Vinci Code, and a bit too much techy talk, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore features a mysterious society, the depths of Google, and the wonder of musty old books stacked high to the ceiling. Set in San Francisco, but with a trip to the Big Apple thrown in, former techie Clay gets an adventure of a lifetime when he leaves his web design gig for a job at a dusty old book shop found next to a skanky strip club. I looked forward to this book every time I sat down to read. You might too.

Find the book here.

Mentats of Dune by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert

The second book in their “Schools of Dune” trilogy continues the spicy space opera adventure begun by Brian’s father, Frank Herbert. While the writing style in the new Dune books (and there are a lot of them) differs from Frank’s style, I look forward to each and every one. So much so I read them in doses, so not to run out of material. Anderson and Herbert have penned a number of standalone novels and trilogy novels that fill out the intensely vibrant cosmos found in the Dune universe. With the conclusion of the Schools of Dune trilogy, their work in the universe will end. At least for now. I, for one, am already looking forward to their return. Mentats of Dune features the story of Vorian Atreides, who works to make peace with his family’s sworn enemies in House Harkonnen. Characters from the other trilogy novels also make appearances, such as the villainous Erasmus and zealous Manford Torondo, as do the Fremen of Arrakis, not to mention sandworms. It wouldn’t be awesome without a sandworm or two of course. If you like Dune as I do, then get into these books.

Find the book here.

Inferno by Dan Brown

Just in time, since I missed the movie in theaters and still had a few weeks in 2016, I snatched the latest Robert Langdon (number four in the series, number three in the movie series) from my book shelf and set to work before the movie hit the digital rental service. It wasn’t hard to devour this one. Like Da Vinci Code (number two in the series, number one in the movie series), I had a hard time putting this book down. Langdon is back in killer nerdy, confused form in this one, only getting the clues but not the bullets and action smacking the walls around him. He’s knee deep in Dante lore, in Florence, in Venice, in death masks, and in plagues. This equated to a page turner in my book. I ended by Googling when Brown planned to pen the next in the series (number five in the series, maybe number four in the movie series, depending whether or not Howard gets around to doing The Lost Symbol), so that means it was good.

Find the book here.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, and J.K. Rowling

I wasn’t sure I was ready for a new Harry Potter story (popularly called HP, right?), especially not one that would read weird. I was sure it would too, being that it was a play and not a novel at all, but after finding the rhythm of the story, I totally fell in love with it. I was back in the world of magic and Muggles in a flash. Being that I was already an adult when the series began, reading the Cursed Child made me feel like a younger adult. The story itself, with time travel and Harry’s kids, kept me enthralled until the end, definitely a worthy addition to the HP canon. I have to add, however, that I would love to see this made into a film. The fanboy in me, though I understand Rowling’s motivations and wishes, prays she will pen another novel in the series, because I would flip out.

Find the book here.

The Irish Bride Series: The Innocents Book 1 by Jaime Lorie Goza

Say hello to Grace, a young and innocent Irish lass (not to mention a new face to add to the grand tradition of Irish literature), whose life is rough, but also quirky and amiable at times. While not one who devours everything Irish, being Irish myself has led me to more than my fair share of books set in the Emerald Isle. This book fits into that collection quite well.  This book served as a fun distraction for reading time and makes for a good addition to anyone’s shelves, whether or not they’ve touched that goofy Blarney Stone thing.

Find the book here.