October events!

(Sept. 24, 2018) Look for some cool events this October on the Monterey Peninsula. Cool for writers and fans of the written, and spoken, word at least. And who isn’t a fan of that?

80895257-34e2-471c-ad88-ed8f969c0aa3

October 21 – I’ll be joining a number of authors in Carmel on Sunday, October 21, from 1-3 p.m. for a book signing event featuring local authors and historians. More details to come, but it sounds like a great place to find some early Christmas presents for the bibliophiles in your family. I’ll be ready to sign my recent book Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History! The event will be held at Carmel Ace Hardware, located at 290 Crossroads Blvd, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA93923.

kalteis-writing-worksho

October 23 – Want to learn more about the craft of writing fiction and nonfiction? Author Dietrich Kalteis and I will hold a workshop on that very subject Tuesday, October 23, at 6:30 p.m. at Old Capitol Books in downtown Monterey. We’ll discuss writing style, guidelines, and the research that goes into works of fiction and non-fiction. Old Capitol Books is located at 559 Tyler Street in downtown Monterey. Learn more here!

N@B poster Nov 2018

October 26 – Noir at the Bar returns to the Central Coast this month! This year’s Noir will be held at the East Village Coffee Lounge, at 498 Washington Street in downtown Monterey, beginning at 7 p.m. Books will be available for purchase thanks to the awesome folks at Old Capitol Books. Donations will be accepted at the door, benefitting the Central Coast Writers group! It’s a sweet lineup of authors too: Terry Shames, Kris Calvin, Tom Pitts, Rob Pierce, Susan C Shea, Mark Coggins, Morgan Boyd, Dietrich Kalteis, and me! Get more details here!

Noir at the Bar – October 26th, 2018

N@B poster Nov 2018It’s going to get mysterious and maybe even a tad illegal down in Monterey on Friday, October 26, at the East Village Coffee Lounge. Look for trench coats, a suspicious marine layer rolling in like spilled pea soup, shady-looking folks in sunglasses, or just a gaggle of writerly types skipping along in the fog. When you see it, you’ll know you’ve arrived.

Noir at the Bar is back in town.

Thanks to crime fiction author Dietrich Kalteis, this year’s Noir is shaping up to be a killer one. He’s organized a sweet lineup for this year’s event, including authors Terry Shames, Kris Calvin, Tom Pitts, Rob Pierce, Susan C Shea, Mark Coggins, Morgan Boyd, Kalteis himself, and me! The lovely Natalia Molina will emcee the event!

Is it too cheesy to say it would be a crime to miss this night of literary mischief? God, that would be cheesy to say.

This year’s Noir will be held at the East Village Coffee Lounge, at 498 Washington Street in downtown Monterey, beginning at 7 p.m. Books will be available for purchase thanks to the awesome folks at Old Capitol Books. Donations will be accepted at the door, benefitting a local charity!

It may be dirty, but the free press is our best defense

FreePress

Journalism is meant, on its best day, to provide checks and balances for those in power. Those who make decisions that ripple through our jobs, our welfare, and our checkbooks have to be held accountable for their decisions. If it weren’t for watchdogs, Americans would drown under the rule of those who care little for anything and anyone beyond their own interests. We would be manipulated, lied to, and used as cogs in a machine –necessary but ultimately forgettable. In a free society, the news is intended to provide all Americans with the information needed to make an intellectual decision. It’s not intended to convince you how to think on a particular subject, or even on a particular candidate, but it will furnish the tools we need to make a smart decision on the matter.

It’s not always perfect and it can be downright dirty. Ratings factor into the equation, as they do for most print and television offerings. Advertisers factor into the equation as well; news outlets are businesses at the end of the day. They have to make money to survive, but their mission has never been more clear. You’re simply not going to get all the facts, all the angles, nor the whole truth from those elected to positions of power. There are people in this country afraid of an informed population. Some news may sensationalize, some may muddy the line between editorializing and journalism, but more than anywhere else, the news media is there to inform. Their job is to ferret out the mischief and replace the tall tales with a sobering dose of reality.

This may seem like pie in the sky idealism, but as a former journalist, I know there is truth in reporting. Our reporters, covering beats from crime to education, are American citizens like the rest of us. They go home to families and watch football on the weekends. They vote, pay taxes, buy groceries, and carry degrees that instilled in them a belief that journalists should be a voice for the voiceless. Without journalists, the voiceless would be all but dead.

Recent attacks on the media are terrifying in that they are seeking to suppress the search for truth by lobbing derogatory labels like hand grenades, including the effort to label journalists as the “enemy of the people,” which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Journalists ARE the people. Their job is to present the facts, while ours is to understand and use it however we see fit.

I stand with the Boston Globe as they, and more than one hundred other newspapers across the country, defend their voices from those who seek to silence them. On August 16th, these news organizations will publish editorials warning of the dangers of anti-press rhetoric. And don’t be fooled, the press is under attack, and an America without them would indeed be a country on fire.

Read more on the Boston Globe’s effort here.

 

 

Chihuahua Nebula Character Guide

CHI-1CHARLTON

UNIVERSE

Chihuahua Nebula

OTHER ALIASES

Chi-Town, Handsome Man, Charlie-Town

PLACE OF ORIGIN

Dignity’s Quiet Pond of Austere Reflection

IDENTITY

Sealed until the next millenium

KNOWN RELATIVES

Izzy, Francis Pants, Dulce, Lucy (deceased), mom, dad

BIOGRAPHY

Trapped in a cage, brought to a strange land of heat and pink jeeps, Charlton’s murky past is one of survival and grit. Rumors abound of his imprisonment and courageous fight for a family of his own. In the heat of Arizona, his exploits were barked about, though sadly never translated to English, leaving his first year of life a riddle the world may never solve. Charlton himself speaks little of his time behind bars at the Humane Society and what led him, a strapping specimen prone to battling mail carriers, there in the first place.

More recently, however, Charlton has grown accustomed to the powers he harnessed while on the “forever home” cell block. With a raised paw and sad eyes, Charlton (ALSO KNOWN AS HANDSOME MAN) can mentally project the song “Through the Eyes of an Angel” at will. He can speak the word treat in four languages and has super hearing, which enables him to hear both a wrapper opening in the kitchen and the mailman two blocks away at the same time.



CHI-4DULCE

UNIVERSE

Chihuahua Nebula

OTHER ALIASES

Doolsay, Dulce Hammer, Hammer Time, Pretty

PLACE OF ORIGIN

The Frankenstein Wind

IDENTITY

Unintelligable

KNOWN RELATIVES

Izzy, Francis Pants, Charlton Chi-Town, Lucy (deceased), mom, dad

BIOGRAPHY

Never has a canine of her stature been able to blur reality with only a gentle breeze to egg her on, but this and other abilities have earned her the enduring respect of her peers. The largest of the pack inhabiting the Chihuahua Nebula (but still rated small in the dog scale), Dulce developed early on the preternatural ability to move through the fabric of time itself, running with such speed that she can appear in two places at once. While her swiftness has never been measured, she’s been heard one moment on the kitchen counter and, within the blink of an eye, found to be staring innocently from her bed two rooms away with only the dust of potato chips on her chin as proof an infraction of time and space occurred.

Dulce is the youngest of the pack, but being born of the Frankenstein Wind, she quickly asserted dominance over the pack, save the Throne Couch inhabited by her sister, Izzy (SEE KNOWN RELATIVES), and uses her wild corgi, Chihuahua, and rat terrier abilities to regularly patrol her domain and ensure her reign as the Nebula’s premier queen.



CHI-3FRANCIS

UNIVERSE

Chihuahua Nebula

OTHER ALIASES

Pants, Mister Pants, Cutie Patootie

PLACE OF ORIGIN

The gates of the Aztec Empire

IDENTITY

Faw-RAN-shiss

KNOWN RELATIVES

Dulce Hammer, Izzy Scareda, Charlton Chi-Town, mom, dad

BIOGRAPHY

Francis was born from mystery. His whereabouts prior to his appearance at the SPCA in Monterey will forever be regarded as one the universe’s most baffling puzzles. While he’s hinted at such things as prior knowledge of a dog door, his understanding of play is severely limited, leaving little for historians to glean. When brought to live with his relatives in the Nebula, Francis showed remarkable peace-keeping abilities. His affection for all three of his siblings (SEE KNOWN RELATIVES) has made him one of the strongest members of the pack.

While on a recent scouting mission in the backyard region of the nebula, Francis proved his worth as a protector of the pack when he chased two pigeons from the area by running nearly fifteen feet without stopping.



CHI-2IZZY

UNIVERSE

Chihuahua Nebula

OTHER ALIASES

Iz, Izzy Izzy Izzy, Scarlett, Izzy Scareda

PLACE OF ORIGIN

The Great Iron Forge

IDENTITY

Izquerda Frida Kahlo la’Beau

KNOWN RELATIVES

Dulce Hammer, Francis Pants, Charlton Chi-Town, mom, dad

BIOGRAPHY

Izzy may well be the oldest member of the Chihuahua Nebula pack, but as a three-legged teacup Chihuahua, she is also the smallest. She first appeared, as if from a bolt of indignant lighting, at the border of the Monterey and Pacific Grove Empires. There tales were told of her heroic leap from a point high as Heaven itself, a feat that ultimately cost her leg, but gained her much more in return. For Izzy is never without her miniature collection of dolls, her mighty igloo home, her entourage of trusted blankets, and the mysterious twin stairs that bookend either side of her throne (AKA COUCH).

Her dominance over the pack has never been in question, as she is both the unspoken and unheard ruler in her opinion. As others have learned the hard way, cross her and unleash her terrible motor growl- a sound like a zipper being pulled really fast-at your peril!



 

San Francisco Comic Con Top 10

ConBanner-1.jpg

It’s a geek’s fantasy realized. A nerd’s dreams turned flesh and blood. A dad’s headache from the noise, but worth it. I’m all of that and a grumpy bag of chips. But, as most of my friends know, I’m a sucker for heroes and stories. Being a father to a younger comics/pop culture aficionado, the 2018 San Francisco Comic Con was the place to hang our invisible fedoras. Before I get into what was (nice about it) killer, let me tack on a couple of bitches. It’s what I do. First off, consider larger conference rooms for some of the workshops. We missed Starlin (Starlin! The guy who devised the Infinity War storyline!) because it was too full, which got me pissy for a hot minute. Parking was also gnarly, but when isn’t it?

On to what was super:

People
Staff was on it. They were all over it. Staff nailed it.

10. Comic Con staff

A friend of one of the con’s founders, and I never got her name (a theme for me on this trip), was one of the first people my son and I encountered in the hotel elevator. She went above and beyond in helping us navigate what could have been, for a dense man like me, a confusing morning of con registration. Instead she got us hooked up the night before with our wrist bands and gave us the rundown on what to expect once the pop culture adventure exploded in our faces. You can’t beat that kind of customer service with a barbed-wire baseball bat.

hotel.jpg
The view from our sweet suite.

9. Oakland Marriott

Who knew the Marriott was actually connected to the Convention Center where the San Francisco Comic Con was held? Not this doofus. It was a sweet surprise when we realized we wouldn’t have to leave the building. Riding the elevator from our posh room (with paper-thin walls, however, which I discovered thanks to a lusty romantic couple next door); we were deposited right into a throng of Deadpools, Darths, and Who Police Boxes. It was the best ever. Great place, great views, great that Netflix connected to the huuuge flat screen, and great staff.

Warriors
A man sweeps the streets of Oakland, while another jumps a human ramp, to celebrate the Golden State Warriors victory over the Cavs.

8. Golden State Sweep

Not that it has anything to do with the con, but crazy as Hell that our trip to Oakland coincided like a train wreck with the Warrior Playoff sweep over the Cavs and LeBron James! When we got there, people were just taking to the streets downtown to celebrate, chanting “Warriors!” from the windows down to the subway. Some were even holding brooms from three stories above ground, sweeping the air, because why not? So it was a good kind of train wreck. Insanity save for valet parking. Warriors!

Walking Dead
Ben getting a signed first issue, number one, collector’s edition, etc.

7. The Walking Dead Guy

I may be a newbie to the Walking Dead pop culture machine (on season four, so much blood), but my son isn’t. He’s the guy who got me hooked on it, so for him to meet one of the guys who made the dead walk in the pages of the original Image comic book was incredible. Dude was super nice too (isn’t it always a good idea to mention if someone is approachable? If it is, then everyone there was just that). The worst part? Not sure of his name…

Ginny
Nerding with every flavored bean breath with Bonnie Wright.

6. Ginny Weasley

Her real name is Bonnie Wright, but for most of us in line to meet her, she was Ginny – beloved wife to the wizard we all know and root for: Harry Potter (HP to us cool kids). I can’t even write the name without saying it with an English accent in my head. My son and I, besides grabbing a pic with her, heard her talk about her work in directing and with environmental organizations like Greenpeace. As HP nerds, just getting to meet her was… magical (ugh).

Frakes
William T. Riker is in the hizzay!

5. Number One (at number five)

Genres of all kinds appeal to me. As a teen, none grabbed me more than Star Trek: The Next Generation when it came to weekly television. I was reading horror, flipping through Heavy Metal and Flaming Carrot Comics, but I never missed a single TNG episode. Not a single one. Jonathan Frakes is a polite, friendly guy in person – though to be fair meeting him was uber brief. But hey, being in the presence of Number One, the guy who gave us Star Trek First Contact, one of the reasons The Orville rocks, was enough to excite this fan boy.

gerry.jpg
Me and Gerry Conway, down by the school yard. Or hanging at a con and talking about Punisher stuff.

4. Gerry Conway

You know meeting a Marvel Comics icon would make my list. I counted myself a True Believer during the days Lou Ferrigno got himself painted green every week. I was one of the only kids on my block who knew the word, “Excelsior!” And even back then, I knew about the Punisher. Gerry Conway is one of the co-creators of the character, which he introduced in Amazing Spider-Man No. 129. He’s also the writer who (gasp) killed off Gwen Stacy back in the day. I gushed on him at the con, but he was cool with it.

Afterburner-1
Issue 2 is a keeper.

3. Afterburner Comics

What’s better than going to a gigantic comic con in Oakland (yes, it’s called the San Francisco Comic Con, and yes, I know San Diego’s is bigger, but does size matter?) and straying from your preplanned itinerary into uncharted territory (yes, I make itineraries). I found something pretty damn cool in Afterburner Comics and came away with a treat I wasn’t expecting. I found a new underground comic to sink my intellectual teeth into, one full of black and white noir and adults-only pizzazz. If you haven’t come across the brilliant Robert Stewart and Afterburner Comics, you’re missing out.

Gray
Making the time to hang! Thanks, Claudia!

2. Claudia Gray

Claudia Gray is an author everyone should read. Many of us have in fact. She’s also a joy to meet in person. Her work has been made a part of the Star Wars universe, which tells you something about her prose. Whether it’s canon, not canon, I can never keep up, so I don’t know. I’m not one to let it bug me anyway. She’s a good writer and meeting her amidst the buzz and bang of the convention was a personal highlight.

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

1.  The Cosplay

You hear about it in secret. You read about it on the dark web. You think you’re prepared. But then you walk into a man inside an inflated Pikachu. You see cosplayers in real life and you take a gut punch in the “I’m geeked out and really amazed” region. These people are incredible. The detail, the love and giddy excitement, are evident in what they do. Without the thrill of the cosplayers, conventions like the San Francisco Comic Con wouldn’t be the blinding, shining beacon of hip absurdity this world needs. They make these things what they are.

 

American Static: interview with Author Tom Pitts

Tom Pitts cover-pitts-american-static-1800x2700px.jpg
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.

Interview with Clean Sweep author Michael J. Clark

Sweep-1
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.

Sweep-2
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

Banner-1.jpg

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

woolrich
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.

Marihuna
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.

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.