Whitehurst’s Top Reads of 2018

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As 2019 beckons us into her titular embrace, I realize my literary to-be-read pile is something of a clean slate for the coming year. There are titles I know I want to read: my usual foray into the new Executioner novels, something by Stephen King, perhaps finish the last two Game of Thrones tomes, etc., What excites me most, however, are the books I have no idea about. The ones that are coming that I cannot foresee. Maybe that’s a bit too deep, but it’s got me on the edge of my seat. What will they be? Some will be culled from the authors below.

I read 22 books in 2018, ranging from the aforementioned Mack Bolan Executioner ebooks to non-fiction titles all about creating tighter sentences. Favorites that didn’t make my top five included Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (who would have thought it would grab me like that?), The Wise Man’s Fear (probably the best fantasy out there right now), and Clash of Kings (and I’m now trudging through the third one, but won’t be done before the new year). Let me glom on to that by saying Stephen King’s The Outsider got my motor running too.

Here’s the usual disclaimer – I read these books in 2018, but that doesn’t mean they came out this year. Some did, of course, but really these are just favorites I laid eyes on over ’18.

American Static by Tom PittsStatic-1.jpg

I hungered for a blast of literary danger and happened to pick up American Static at the right time. What starts as a deadly and compelling crime thriller; Tom’s dark, street-smart ride takes a grim twist, unfolding to reveal murderous political intrigue, a savage quest for the truth, and it happens to have a bit of romance, the sort that shares needles, but sweet nonetheless.

Snag your shock of Static here.

The Devil’s Necktie by John LansingNecktie-1

Author John Lansing has created a tough-as-they-come, but wholly believable character, in Jack Bertolino. I’ve read more than one of his adventures, and there are a few, including the latest book The Fourth Gunman. The Devil’s Necktie, the first book, was like a bomb going off. It came with everything us hardboiled mystery lovers crave: guns, intrigue, and the kind of writing most authors aspire to. Start with the first and stay for the rest of the series. Here’s hoping it lasts for a good long while.

Engage your Bertolino fixation here.

Mary Russell’s War by Laurie R. KingRussell-1

My dirty thirties were made all the more pure thanks to the wonderful Mary Russell series penned by Laurie R. King. For me, this is the continuation of Sherlock Holmes we all need. I see it as the only true canon next to Doyle’s original Holmes tales. Adding Mary to his retired life and continuing their shared adventures into my forties have been a true highlight of my middle life. I jumped back into the Holmes/Russell pool this year with Mary Russell’s War, which happens to be a great jumping-on point for anyone interesting in the high-thrill world of these two amazing actioneers.

Turn those pages here.

The Outlaw’s Ransom by Jennifer AshRansom

The Outlaw’s Ransom by Jennifer Ash is the first in a series of books written under the Folville Chronicles umbrella and it doesn’t disappoint, especially for Hood Heads (fans of Robin Hood lore). This is one hot romp of a tale from Ash and a surprise for me, as it landed outside of my normal assortment of books, which is undoubtedly why I found it memorable and something I’d strongly recommend to others.

Get your hands on it here. Or steal one from an entitled person and give it to someone with want.

Poughkeepsie Shuffle by Dietrich Kalteispoughkeepsieshufflecover

Poughkeepsie Shuffle deals with an ex-con named Jeff Nichols, a guy who jumps from a notorious jail back into the bristling criminal elements. But the thing is he’s a likable guy just trying to do right by the woman he loves. This book grabbed me from the get-go, Jeff grabbed me from the get-go, and I turned the pages hoping he’d make it out in one piece, or at least somewhat alive. In Dietrich’s gritty world of noir, there’s no guarantee the protagonist will come out on the breathable side of a coffin. But I had to know, which made this a great read.

Take a road trip to Poughkeepsie here.

 

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Photo Gallery: October Events

Check out photos of recent events in Monterey County below! Big thanks to Ace Hardware in Carmel for hosting us Arcadia authors, to Old Capitol Books for hosting a writing workshop for me and Dietrich, and for selling books at the Noir at the Bar a few night’s later. Thanks also to our Noir hosts, East Village Coffee Lounge!

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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.

Noir at the Bar – Seaside, Calif., Oct. 2017

19059861_1986112188278233_1335083638625727466_nThanks to all the great authors who came out for last night’s event at The Press Club in Seaside, CA, and to everyone else who gave us their Friday night. From bodies in trunks to bodies full of junk, these folks make an impression and got the criminal minds flowing. Special thanks to Dietrick Kalteis for making it all happen! Old Capitol Books did a sweet job with the book sales, almost as busy as the bar…

Authors in attendance:

S.W. Lauden
John Lansing
Tom Pitts
Sandra Balzo
Eric Beetner
Rob Pierce
Dietrich Kalteis
Patrick Whitehurst
There in spirit: Joe Clifford
Emcee: Janice Blaze Rocke

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A Steampunk Pardon

The carriage moved quickly through the cobbled streets, but slowed to a creaking crawl when it entered Phoenix. Bridges swooped over the apex of the double-decker carriage once in the city limits, coming close to breaking the stove top pipe belching steam at its highest point. Those crossing the bridge when the large vehicle passed below recounted the story later that night over a shot of absinthe. Mothers clutched their children and rushed to flee, dropping their parasols and groceries, laborers gripped the copper railing, waiting to topple over. But the carriage trundled along without causing harm. Standing in a cloud of steam, those bridge -goers raised their fists and shouted their anger, but to no avail. They could see no one in the large vessel’s stained-glass windows.

Had it been in the sea, the carriage would have been more at home. It carried the appearance of a Man O War, but without sails of any kind, only large wooden wheels and paneled walls reinforced with iron rigging. Those who witnessed the vessel from the cramped, hot street level saw a name burned proudly on the stern, STEAM SHIP ONE. It made its way down the winding, cobbled interstate to the center of the city, where the forefathers erected a large copper phoenix, metal feathers and head pointed toward the heavens, as a reminder that it is possible to rise from ashes and be stronger for it. Every day at noon, the phoenix spouted a geyser of flame straight up. Some days, however, the smog of industry made even the flames of the giant statue hard to see. Today was one of those days. Within moments, Steam Ship One vanished into the brown haze.

For those who saw it approach, the meaning was clear. The President had finally arrived to pardon their sheriff. The nation’s first mechanical leader, run by well-oiled gears and golden pistons, had been elected due to his inability to act in the political theater. The sheriff supported him, which meant protection from his enemies. There were those who said it would never happen, that the heat of Phoenix would melt his clockwork brain, but others knew better. The mechanical man could take the heat. He boasted of it often enough.

The pardon, hammered onto a tin sheet and branded with the presidential seal, meant their jailed lawman would be back on the street, free to unleash his reign of single-handed terror on the mute second class. They were the ones who stoked the fires, suffered the pits, cobbled the interstate, but never spoke. They were the ones who never crossed the bridges over the interstate, but they built it.

5 tips for non-fiction, photographic histories

 

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There are plenty of paths to success when on deadline. Some prefer to wait until the last minute, as pressure makes them produce. Others prefer the slow boil, working at a snail’s pace until it all comes to a head, but only one of these techniques helps when it comes to historical non-fiction, particularly the sort that require finding a lot of photographs and documents from a certain era. If you have to work with others, particularly organizations, start early. You never know what will happen, photos can be misplaced, just plain gone, and the documents you thought would help may prove lifeless.

With my Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History book, forthcoming from Arcadia Publishing, I lit a fire under my chair the week I got back the contract. As the Museum book marks my third Images of America challenge, I thought I would share five tips to making the process an easy one.

1. Be confident you can get the materials and photographs you need before submitting a proposal. This way you’ll go into the work without a forehead vein popping out. Keep a bibliography document open at all times so you can add your sources without a drop of stress sweat.
2. Start writing. Write early and write more than you need. I tap out a longer chapter first, then take a weed whacker to it. Stray bits of information can always be saved for the photo captions, where I believe the meat of the research resides. Copy and paste those bits to a separate document for later use. I create individual documents first, then marry them to a master doc at the end.
3. Pay attention to the important deadlines. With Images of America, there are usually a few of them. Try to get there early. You’ll feel good about yourself.
4. Spend the clock talking to the people who know a great deal about the subject. Buy them dinner if they seem up for it, or just smile warmly, but make sure they’re included. This way they’ll remember you over the coming months when they unearth something that would be cool in the book. Answer their emails, send them emails, just talk to them.
5. Be a photo wizard. You don’t need a wand, just a lot of pics. Gather more than you need, maybe a hundred more, or maybe just bunches more. It gives you a chance to weed out the so-so pics for the strong ones. In the newspaper business, editors prefer faces to be as big as a quarter, or failing that a dime, but any historic photograph that gets your heart hammering is a good photograph.

In Curmudgeon Writing Style

 

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Boris paintings

When asked what I mean when I write “In Curmudgeon” for a particular story, I usually say something about how too many writers, bloggers, social media scribes, etc., focus on the positive and very rarely rant on about a problem. To me, that’s a problem. No one has a perfect life, and pretending you do is problematic. By using “In Curmudgeon” at the beginning of a story, I am signaling that the writing takes a different approach. Life isn’t always a Rumi quote. Below is something of an artist’s statement on the process as I fleshed it out in my head.
The method isn’t anything terribly new, though I believe it can be applied to any writing style, be it prose, non-fiction, poetry; and can work in art as well. My series of Boris paintings would be a good example. Existentialism, brilliantly developed by Simone de Beauvoir, and gynocriticism, with a nod to Elaine Showalter, paved the way for new thoughts, while Poe’s style of gothic prose and Kerouac’s spontaneous prose, further charted a course for the development of narrative techniques. It helped me develop the in curmudgeon style, which I distilled and simplified over the last several years.

Intent: To bring awareness to depression, bad moods, dark thoughts and other forms of negative energy, and illustrate that it is neither odd nor uncommon to feel this way. To stop the common practice of pretending everything is okay all the time. To embrace what is, for some, a natural bend to see the worst in the world, and to put this style in the public eye. Rather than hide negative thoughts, complaints, and rants, even replace them with intentions of beauty and peace; In Curmudgeon takes the honesty back, highlighting what is wrong in the hopes humanity might grow by exposure to it.

Description: Writing in curmudgeon takes the philosophy in narrative writing that not everything is meant to be, not everything ends happily, and not everyone finds joy in simple things. It doesn’t pretend or lie to the reader. It’s about honesty and raw truth, which isn’t always available – thanks to a world that idolizes positivity, often at the expense of a grim reality. For some observers this constant form of positivity makes one feel like there is something wrong with them for looking darkly at the world, for not trusting the world. There are positives in this life, which can be reflected in curmudgeon, but celebrating the honesty in humanity is essential. Rather than face a world of increasing positivity, where popularity is measured by the appearance of success and social bragging, in curmudgeon is a place for those sick of hearing the lies.