There’s definitely a top five when it comes to the most haunted spots in Monterey County, but that’s not what I’m writing about today. Instead, I’m going to get a little personal. I’m going to delve into my personal thoughts on researching and preparing for my upcoming book, Haunted Monterey County (coming October 2019 from The History Press). A Top 5 Most Haunted Monterey County Locations is coming, however, being that there are easily five that rise to the top – it’s just coming later.
Below are the top five things that surprised me while prepping for the book:
Rest stops – If someone told me I’d be writing a book on ghosts and hauntings in the county, I wouldn’t have been surprised. I grew up hungry for Randall Reinstedt’s books. If someone told me that research would bring me to a rest stop outside of King City and that I would actually have fun going there, I would have spit out my coffee. Those who know me know I’m never without coffee. But as Han Solo once said, “All of it. It’s all true.” I did have a good time. It’s always fun to get out on a sunny Sunday for an adventure of the weird kind. You never know what can happen.
The Googles – Google may not know I’m working on a book, but the Googles helped me locate many of the sites and forums where Central Coast-specific ghost stories are shared. This means, from now until the Googles is goggled (or the end of time), I will get alerts about ghosts. This isn’t a bad thing really, since I’ve already come across creepy stories I’ve never heard before – usually from places on the east coast. Why the hell is that? I still get alerts about Bakugan too, though it’s been years since my son wanted one.
Excitement and some of the opposite – I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction I’d get when news of this new addition to Monterey County’s ghost book collection broke, but the level of interest has given me a little bit of a pre-publishing high. Thank you to everyone who made that happen. There’s the opposite too, some who are less than thrilled to see another book on haunts summoned out of the Netherworld. I appreciate the curmudgeons! I am one. My hope is the book will appeal to them as well. There are stories in it that have appeared nowhere else. There’s history as well, plenty of it, which is why I enjoyed taking on this project. If the curmudgeons come away entertained, I’ll get even more high.
Paul’s talent – Just doing the ghost book, and paying tribute to Mr. Reinstedt, was enough, but then the idea came along to get some art in it. There are photos, quite a few taken when I visited the haunted sites (like the rest stop), but having one of California’s top talents on board made it even cooler. Paul Van de Carr is an incredible artist as you’ll see in the pages of the book.
The believers – I’m the first to admit I’ve never had a paranormal experience that I can recall. It’s not that I don’t believe, it’s just I don’t have the eyes for it. I can’t decorate my house in a fashionable way either. Don’t have the eyes for it. But there are plenty who do have the sight. They’ve seen a lot over the years too. While writing this book, I was (and still am) surprised at just how many people have stories, tales of that time they experienced something they just couldn’t explain. This book tells their stories, just as it tells history’s story.
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 Staticby Tom Pitts
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’sdark, 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.
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.
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.
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 Kalteis
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’sgritty 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.
(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?
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.
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!
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!
“Poughkeepsie Shuffle weaves a violent tale about banged up people with hearts full of rust. Crossing the border between bleak and bleaker, Kalteis effortlessly shifts gears from broken dreams to petty schemes with a rhythmic voice that’s all his own. If you read one book about gun smuggling, used car sales and hair restoration this year — make it this one.” — S.W. Lauden, author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series
Dietrich Kalteis is a prolific writer. He’s a guy who knows how to get to the meat of a story without wasting a lot of real estate on the page. His latest book, Poughkeepsie Shuffle, starts off sharp (I’m looking at you, finger scene) and stays sharp until the end. You relate when his characters make a crazy-ass decision. We’ve all been there at one point or another. At the same time, these aren’t the sort you’d invite over for a game of Scrabble – no matter how bad you feel for them. Kalteis is that kind of author. He makes you sympathize with someone you’d never want to hang with.
SIDENOTE! Those in Monterey, CA, on October 26th, can meet Dietrich at this year’s Noir at the Bar, which will be held from 7-10 p.m. at the East Village Coffee Lounge in downtown! More details here on the website soon.
See my interview with the author below and learn what drew him into the fine world of crime writing.
WHITEHURST: Poughkeepsie Shuffle deals with ex-con Jeff Nichols, a guy who jumps from a notorious jail right back into the criminal elements. What led you down that path when it came time to write your new book? For that matter, what got you into crime writing in the first place?
KALTEIS: I grew up in Toronto where the story’s set, and I wanted to recreate the city the way I remembered it back in the mid-eighties. It was a grittier, character-filled place back then, before the meatpacking plants and rail lines that once lined the land below Front Street started disappearing, giving way to gentrification and leaving behind its industrial heritage.
And being across the lake from Niagara and Buffalo, the city has easy access to the US, making it the perfect setting for a story revolving around smuggling. I read an article a few years ago about a gunrunning ring that operated between upstate New York and Ontario, being taken down by the OPP and several U.S. law enforcement agencies. And I remember news stories about the increasing gang violence back then, and I wanted to work that into the story.
Then there were a couple of real-life characters that I fictionalized and weaved into this one. For instance, I did meet a guy who claimed he stumbled onto this South American miracle cure for hair restoration. He was so gung-ho about it and spent a fortune and a lot of time trying to launch it, but instead of the riches he expected, he just kept running into a lot of red tape.
Then there’s the Conway character who I loosely based on a guy I met who wanted to teach the world to sing, offering to hire me to help market his new company in exchange for singing lessons. Needless to say, I declined, and I still sing like shit. And there’s the Elvis impersonator, a character based on this guy I met one morning in a copy shop.
I didn’t set out to write crime stories. At first, I wrote a lot of short stories trying to find what worked for me, trying different styles and genres. There was often dark humor in the stories, and that just seemed to fit into a crime story. Plus I’ve got a soft spot for the lowlife characters that usually end up in my crime stories.
WHITEHURST: Say you’re in line at the grocery store and some guy with a case of beer and a bag of Doritos asks you to describe your newest book, what do you tell him?
KALTEIS: Assuming the guy in line offers to share the beer and Doritos, I could give him my elevator pitch after I stopped chewing, It would go something like this: Jeff Nichols, an ex-con recently released from the Don Jail, is discontent with his used-car sales job. Not one to let past mistakes stand in the way of a good score, he’s soon caught up in a gun-running scheme. As things spin out of control, Jeff hangs on, determined to not let anything stop him from hitting the motherlode.
WHITEHURST: Steven Spielberg gives you a jingle one day and wants to film a movie of the book, but he’s not sure who to cast. Anyone you’d recommend for the role of Nichols?
KALTEIS: Bob Odenkirk from Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad fame would make the perfect Jeff.
WHITEHURST: Research is crucial when it comes to great writing, especially writing about bygone eras and seamlessly plopping your readers smack dab in the past, which you do well in this and your other books; how do you get the flow of history into your books (even the 1980s!) without it coming off like a term paper?
KALTEIS: I do the research, then I don’t let it get in the way. I limit how much goes in and I keep descriptions to the barest of details. Too much tends to bog the pace so there has to be this balance. I want to include details that lend credibility, and sometimes they just need a mention, without going into a lot of explanation. And some details give the scene color, creating vivid pictures for the reader.
WHITEHURST: Music. A lot of writers create a soundtrack for their books, others click away at the keyboard in perfect silence. What do you listen to?
KALTEIS: For me, there’s a silence in the music. When I put on my headphones, I play what works with the scene I’m working on. It lets me slip into the story, blocking out the white noise that interrupts everyday life: voices, phones, cars and emergency vehicles going by on the street. For Poughkeepsie Shuffle there was no real theme or soundtrack. And although I like many kinds of music, I was never much for the dance music, post-disco and techno of the era. Instead I went for Springsteen, Warren Zevon, George Thorogood and Stevie Ray Vaughan. And there were a few sixties bands like the Kinks and the Beach Boys making a comeback in the eighties that I still liked.
WHITEHURST: Is there a part of Poughkeepsie Shuffle you like best, a chunk of the book that made you sit back and smile?
KALTEIS: One scene that makes me smile is when Jeff walks into the barber shop and meets the Elvis impersonator. That scene was inspired by this time I took my then five-year-old son to a copy shop, running into Elvis waiting his turn. I got to talking to him, the man standing in his flip-flops, looking like he was coming off a rhinestoned night, with his hair and sideburns askew. He was running off flyers for an upcoming Vegas show at a nearby hotel lounge, so we chatted a bit, then I wished him good luck and got back a bona fide “Thank you very much.” When he left to tack up and pass out the flyers around the neighborhood, I asked my son, “You know who that was?” And I got a very matter-of fact, “Sure, Elvis.”