REVIEW AND INTERVIEW: That’ll Be The Day with S.W. Lauden

Cover for That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist
by S.W. Lauden

There’s always that one sibling. It seems there’s one in every nuclear pod. In That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist by S.W. Lauden, we’re introduced to Jackson Sharp the moment he breathes free air for the first time in a long while. Only he may not be breathing it for much longer thanks to his brother, Jamie, who has a heist in mind that’s sure to make any fan of the Beatles froth at the mouth. Should things go wrong, Jack will end up right back in the bowels of Oklahoma State Penitentiary, where neither of his siblings ever care enough to visit.

With a setting near Tulsa, Lauden’s toe-tapping, gritty novelette is like the Outsiders on a punked-up, rockabilly high. It’s a smooth crime story with a playlist sure to get a song or two stuck in your head while you read.

That’ll Be The Day drops June 18th. Boogie on over here for your copy. My interview with the man himself, S.W. Lauden, is below.

S.W. Lauden

WHITEHURST: Besides short stories featured in anthologies, you’re the author of three books in the Greg Salem series and two Tommy and Shayna novellas. Why write a novelette?

LAUDEN: I didn’t exactly set out to write a 17,000-word story, but I always knew it would end up somewhere between a short story (5,000 words) and a novella (30,000 words). My other books have all been published by indie presses, but I’ve been interested in the idea of self-publishing for a while. With a story like That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist—an odd length and a super niche-y subject—I decided it was time to give it a whirl.

WHITEHURST: What was your inspiration for That’ll Be The Day?

LAUDEN: Late last year I got offered the chance to co-edit an essay collection about power pop with Paul Myers (it’s called Go All The Way and Rare Bird Books will publish it this October). Re/discovering bands like Raspberries, The Knack, The Records, Shoes, The Shivvers, Dwight Twilley, The Bangles, Teenage Fanclub, Fountains of Wayne, New Pornographers, etc. quickly became an obsession. I didn’t plan for my power pop research to also become a crime novelette, but I’m really glad it did. It was a blast writing about the Sharp brothers, their failed music career, and the life of crime that followed.

WHITEHURST: Your knowledge of music, bands, and instruments is solid. What’s the story there?

LAUDEN: Most of my life has been organized around music. I had older brothers that got me into classic rock and heavy metal as a kid, before I discovered punk in junior high. From there I was off to the races, listening to a lot of glam rock, post punk, new wave, power pop, alternative rock, Brit pop—you name it. I started playing drums in bands in high school and didn’t stop for any real length of time until my early 40s. I got to make a few records and tour, etc. Given all that, I suppose it’s no surprise that a lot of my crime fiction revolves around music and musicians.

WHITEHURST: What’s next for you?

LAUDEN: I recently played drums on a record for an LA-based garage rock/power pop band called The Brothers Steve. We’re self-releasing a limited run of vinyl in late July, but songs will start popping up in various places between now and then. We definitely won’t be touring (too many adult responsibilities for anything crazy like that), but we might play a couple of shows here and there.

Info at https://www.thebrotherssteve.com.

WHITEHURST: Thanks for stopping by for a chat!

LAUDEN: Thanks for reading the book and inviting me to your blog!

BIO: S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series including Bad Citizen Corporation, Grizzly Season and Hang Time. His Tommy & Shayna novellas include Crosswise and Crossed Bones. A new novelette, That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist, will be released on June 18, 2019. S.W. Lauden is the pen name of Steve Coulter, drummer for Tsar and The Brothers Steve. More info at http://swlauden.com.

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BOOK REVIEW: Crack Open the Spine of the Dragon

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Spine of the Dragon by Kevin J. Anderson -Tor Books (June 4, 2019)

It is possible to read every book written by Kevin J. Anderson; difficult, yes, but not unheard of. Crazier things have happened. Other writers Hulk-out with envy at his prolific nature, and not only that, his books are engaging. That’s always a bonus.

In his latest offering, Spine of the Dragon, Anderson tours readers through the popular genre of intellectual fantasy fiction, which leans more literary than, say, those old Conan pulps, but it’s just as adventurous. For me, someone who’s read The Saga of the Seven Suns series and many of Anderson’s other science fiction (Dune for life!) titles, delving into an all new fantasy realm was a welcome change. With that pesky Game of Thrones now decided, and no new George R.R. Martin book on the horizon (same for my other favorite, Patrick Rothfuss), there’s no better time to meet the ancient wreths, explore the Commonwealth and Ishara, and wake the dragon!

The book begins with introductions, jumping as Anderson does, from character to character, then back again, until we the readers feel the rhythm of the work. We meet King Adan Starfall, the disgraced Brava Elliel, King Kollanan, and others, though not in a relaxed way. There’s a nasty sand storm, an attack from the sea at Mirrabay, insane monsters, and the return of a frightening long-gone army all within the first fifty pages. And did I mention the maps? It’s not worth raising your sword if there isn’t a map at the beginning of a fantasy book. Raise your sword high, because there’s more than one in Spine of the Dragon.

While some readers may see a few similarities, such as the frostwreths, who felt a bit like White Walkers to me; and the book’s toggle switch between characters may remind them of other fantasy novels, which Anderson has done forever by the way, there’s a lot to nerd over in Spine. The backstory of the wreths fascinated me, as did the godling’s relationship with the Isharans, and there’s so much to explore. As with Anderson’s other books, you’re never ready for them to end when they do.

And if there’s one thing Anderson is good at, it’s world building. Spine presents a well-molded civilization with a crisp plot and intriguing characters, told in that winning Anderson style, which for me is like hanging out with an old friend. As with most tales of magic, strange creatures, and stalwart warriors; you just can’t get it all in one book. So be on the lookout for book two already in the sandy Commonwealth pipeline!

Buy Spine of the Dragon here!

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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Dietrich Kalteis on Poughkeepsie Shuffle

PoughkeepsieShuffleCover
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.

DKalteis 2018 Photo credit Andrea Kalteis
Author Dietrich Kalteis

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.”

Visit Dietrich’s website here.

Order Poughkeepsie Shuffle here.

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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!

Phantasmagorical Goo

white-woman-ghostsWhat makes a ghost a ghost?

What exactly are they made of? When that chilly hand settles on your shoulder and squeezes, what is it? A memory? A telekinetic process sent from the Other Side? The hunt for answers has been an ongoing one since, I’m guessing, that time a Neanderthal heard footsteps in his cave, but upon investigation found the place deserted. Today’s world makes the search even easier to document. There are websites devoted to the paranormal. There are movies, both fiction and nonfiction books, and videos on YouTube and elsewhere.

For me, it’s a feeling. Years ago, as a reporter for the Williams-Grand Canyon News, I wrote about a great little restaurant on Route 66 called Twisters. I ate there often and still have fond memories of the place. This particular story, I recall, was of a darker nature. The owner’s security camera picked up something strange during the night and he called me in to check it out. When I arrived the next day we sat in the back room and watched the video. In the middle of the night, when Route 66 was deserted and after the place had long since closed for the day, a foggy humanoid shape came to visit the restaurant’s gift shop.  It moved with a particular gait, as if it were walking, right into the bathroom.  That’s when I got the feeling. A cold chill washed up my spine, which told me I was witness to something very odd. I was later told the restaurant was once a gas station and that the owner had committed suicide. The restaurant owner wondered if that ghostly form walking across his floor could be that man. I had no answer, but was happy to post the video to the News website.

Read about it here.

ghost

Whether one believes or not, ghosts are a part of life. They’re talked about by believers and nonbelievers alike, which makes them real in a way. Logically, the idea makes little sense. They can pass through walls, but also move things on a shelf, so which one is it? Why are they clothed, others ask? There are answers to every question if you’re a believer. It could be they’re not a real remnant of a soul at all, but a telekinetic leftover (akin to a projected image) that repeats the memory of an event over and over again. It could be some of us are like spiritual magnets, while others just don’t have the eyes for it. Some of us are cooler than others it seems.

Check out this great Live Science article on the topic.

A more recent theory is that ghosts are made up of dark energy, not dark in the sinister sense (though that sounds fun), but dark in that it is a form of energy that cannot be seen. Much like the dark matter discussed in a cosmic way by scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson, this dark energy may explain why we can’t (yet) explain it. It also makes sense when it comes to that chilly unseen hand resting on your shoulder. It can move things we can see, like your skin or the fabric of your shirt, but we cannot see what made it move.

Look here for NPR’s description of the idea.

Have you ever felt a chilly hand on your shoulder? What do you believe?