Jan 27, 2006

Charlie Huston on this and that and the other thing

I have just interviewed Charlie Huston for your reading pleasure, and reading Charlie's books is a pleasure so you should read this. For the record, nothing I threw at him got him off his game, the answers came quick and his spelling is much better than mine.

Jon: How cool is it writing comics?

Charlie: Are we sure that cool is the word we want to apply to the job of writing comics? I mean, “How insanely geeked out is it writing comics?” seems far more appropriate.

The answer? - It’sreallyfuckingsupercoolandgeekedout,man!

I was not a full on comics geek when I was a kid, but I had a period of years from about 12-16 where I was a regular fixture at the local shop and had a steady addiction to a handful of titles. One of those titles was MOON KNIGHT. So, while getting any kind of gig writing comics would be cool for me, getting to write a book I was deep into back in the acne years makes the personal geekcool factor shoot through the roof.

Jon: How is the writing for comics different?

Charlie: The biggest difference is the most obvious, all those fucking pictures, man. Someone has to figure out what all those pictures are gonna be. I thought they’d have some kind of freakish homunculus that they sent over to sit on my shoulder and tell me what to tell the artist to draw. But they said no homunculus. Not in the budget.

Trying to get that down, letting the art carry as much of the story as possible, that’s a pain. My prose style if pretty scanty, but I love me some meandering dialogue. Too much of that in a comic book and pretty soon all the cool pictures are getting covered up. Wordy baaaaaad. Pictury gooooood.

Jon: Your first novel was a hardcover, the following two in tradepaperback. Any idea why?

Charlie: Bottom line. That’s why, because of the bottom line. If CAUGHT STEALING had sold well in hardback the sequel, SIX BAD THINGS, would have been hard as well. Not the case.

But, while the change was instigated by pure economics, there was a consensus that my books are probably better suited to the trade format. The content is dark and vulgar and violent and skews a bit toward a younger, more cost conscious, reader. So far the switch seems to be working.

However, ALREADY DEAD and the next Joe Pitt book were always planned as trade paperback originals. Just not too much call for hardback horror unless your name is King.

Jon: Who are some of your favorite authors?

Charlie: In no particular order:

<>Don DeLillo, Ian McEwan, Cormac McCarthy, Jack Womack, Patricia Highsmith, Jonathan Lethem, Chuck Palahniuk, Alan Furst, Elmore Leonard, Richard Price, Charles Bukowski, Graham Greene, William Gibson, James Elroy, and, of course, Hammett, Chandler, and Hemingway..

Jon: What question do you get asked more than any other?

Charlie: Oddly, the question I get asked more than any other is, “What question do you get asked more than any other?” How weird is that?

Jon: Your first book had a picture with you and full head of hair. Pictures from last fall, the hair, not so much. Is there a story behind this lack of follicles?

Charlie: My hair is seasonal. In the spring I shave everything. Within limits, mind you. Some areas simply should not be shaved. They require waxing.

Come the winter I grow as much hair as possible.

But I keep the Brazilian year round. I’m not a savage after all.

Jon: If you could pick any character to write in any genre or field who would it be?

Charlie: I’d love to take a crack at a Sherlock Holmes screenplay. Something dark and violent, but still very, very Edwardian/gothic. Not like the psycho-killer Holmes stories that seem to be the vogue these day. Those feel like typical serial killer procedurals with Holmes plugged in to play the William Peterson role.

Jon: Would it be safe to call Hank Thompson an avenger?

Charlie: I’d actually say not. Certainly he’s motivated by a desire for revenge on occasion, but his basic motivation is to get the fuck out of trouble. That or protect the people he cares about.

Jon: And where did you get the idea for the cat??!!?

Charlie: Bud the cat started as a plot device. I wanted Hank’s neighbor to saddle him unknowingly with badguy-bait. The cat just seemed a good way of getting it in the house. After that he took on a life of his own. And once I engaged in a cat torture scene I knew I was gonna have to keep him around.

Jon: What did you base your vampire lore on?

Charlie: Assorted items I pulled from my ass. The initial impulse to base vampirism in a virus was rooted in my desire to have Joe Pitt rooted in a very concrete world. Well, as concrete as a vampire’s world can be. Only much later when someone brought up Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND did I realize how I’d been influenced by that book. Proving again that most all fiction is theft.

Jon: What are you working on now, besides Moon Knight?

Charlie: I’m in various stages of editing the third and final Henry Thompson book and the second Joe Pitt Casebook. I’m also finishing up a first draft of a stand alone thriller.

Jon: What time do you usually get up?

Charlie: Just early enough to really irritate my wife if I accidentally wake her as well.

Jon: How much time in the course of a week is your television on?

Charlie: Too fucking much. I spend most of my viewing time on old movies and sports, very little episodic stuff. But it’s still a huge time vortex.

Jon: Do Russian people scare you?

Charlie: Not nearly as much as Comic Con San Diego scared me.

Jon: What five cd’s could you not live without?

Charlie: OK, this answer will be different on any given day, but here’s today’s list

in no order:

Willie Nelson: Red Headed Stranger

Tool: Aenima

Johnny Cash: Unchained

Elton John: Madman Across the Water

Cannonball Adderly: Sumthin’ Else

That’s a very wintry list, much different in the spring.

Jon: Where do you hope to be ten years from now?

Charlie: On a beach in Mexico with a fiercely independent child that’s perfectly capable of fending for itself while my wife and I have another margarita.

Jon: Who reads your book first after you finish?

Charlie: My wife has been my first reader on all my books. She also reads them in bits and pieces as they are written.

Jon: What can you cook better than anything else?

Charlie: My wife’s favorite is a pasta with tomato, onion and toasted pancetta.

Jon: When you travel, do you travel light or over pack?

<>Charlie: Very light. Too light. I almost always leave something I’ll need. At Boucher Con my publisher hosted a dinner for all their writers in attendance. I was expecting something casual, but once we were in Chicago I found out it was at a Michelin rated restaurant. All I had packed was jeans and sneakers. I wore the jeans, but felt compelled to hit a shoe store and buy a $19 pair of black loafers and some sox. Only loafers I’ve ever owned. Didn’t pack them when I went home. Still got the sox.

<>Jon: What's the one thing always in your refrigerator?

Charlie: Ammo. It keeps better that way.

Jan 25, 2006

The Crime Dawgs Are Barkin' You Better Let 'em In

Anthony Neil Smith and Sean Doolittle are running ahead of the pack, this is not news. However this weeknd they are running rampage through the midwest including stops at Once Upon A Crime (Minn., MN), JAN. 26, 7:00 PM -Booked For Murder(Madison Wi), JAN. 27, 7:00 PM -Mystery One Books(Milwaukee, WI), JAN. 28, 11:00 AM.

Mr. Smith is widely respected for his work with Plots With Guns, a wonderful site, though now defunct, full of fiction and mayhem. The McMillan Press put out an anthology of the best work from the site last fall.His new book is called PSYCHOSOMATIC and is truly unique. Ask him just right and he'll probably even sign your copy for you. By the way, in issue 5 of CRIMESPREE Neil wrote a great piece on James Ellroy for us. Check it out.

Sean Doolittle came to my attention about the same time I became aware of a publisher named Ugly Town. I read DIRT and I knew the something special was in my hands. Something that was a spark, a beginning.Sean followed this up with one of my all time favorite books, BURN. Now his third book is out and RAIN DOGS is yet another amazing piece of work.

These are writers who are not writing for the common denominator, they are writing something a little more honest, maybe too honest. And while it may leave you wanting a showwer, it will definitly leave you wanting more.

These alpha crime dawgs are part of a new wave of crime fiction that is really starting to make itself heard. Step up and take a turn howling at the moon with these guys.

Jan 22, 2006

Maggie Griffin on watch list

This photo, from an array of pictures shwon to a border gaurd in a graphic novel show a familiar name and face. Is there some thing
Greg Rucka knows that we don't? Since he writes QUEEN AND COUNTRY, the graphic novel this is taken from one has to wonder.

By the way, the Queen and Country novels are great too, as is everything else with Greg's name on it. Check out the novels and also the reall ass kicking stuff he's doing at DC Comics(link to the right) right now.

Greg Rucka ever sleep?

I mean I worry. Of course it it means less writing then I'll send him coffee.

I was a WHEELMAN for Duane Swierczynski

Here's proof, the lovable
Duane Swierczynski was right here in Milwaukee, and since I drove him around a bit I am a WHEELMAN..

It was a pleasure to spend time with Duane who is well mannered, well read and, well, a hell of a nice guy.

And a DAMN good author too.

My apologies go out to Bryon and his car.

Jan 20, 2006

Philly Mystery Steak - Duane Swierczynski

Duane Swierczynski
will be in Milwaukee Saturday the 21st. He's signing at Mystery One, so if you need a signed book call 414-347-4077. Copies of THE WHEELMAN and SECRET DEADMEN available.

He has promised to sing at least three song from the movie Grease

if more than ten people show up for the event, snow or no snow.

So come get a great book and hear some great music too.

Jan 17, 2006

Denise Mina Interview from Crimespree #9

Denise Mina is a very busy lady right now. With an expanding family, book dead-line and too many other projects to list she took a time out to talk to Crimespree about her newest literary adventure. Denise is writing her first graphic story arc and she’s starting with the crème de la crème. Hellblazer.

Ruth Jordan: Why, of all the figures available in comic fiction did you choose Hellblazer to write?

Denise Mina: What a flattering question! Actually they approached me and asked if I would like to write it. I replied instantly that I would eat my own guts to write for Hellblazer. It’s a great noir story with gothic overtones and Constantine is super cool.

R: How did the opportunity present itself?

D: The editor, Jon Vankin, wrote to my website and asked if I’d be interested. I was so thrilled. Boasting about it before I signed off.

R: You were approached? That's great. A perfect match with the body of fiction you've written, too. How did Vankin find out about you? Is he a reader?

D: Well, apparently he is. Although I never really believe anyone reads my books unless they know me. If he isn’t a reader he’s a very good bluffer.

R: A birdie told me that you already owned all of the Hellblazer comics when you started writing your story arc, are there any other comic heroes you keep in touch with on a regular basis?

D: Not especially. Sorry

R: When did you start reading Hellblazer?

D: My boyfriend made me read it and he’s been a fan since about 1990. I think the first thing I read was Deadly Habits, so when was that? Five, six years ago? (1994)

R: John Constantine is a man who’s cheated both the Devil and death, literally. Do you find him to be more of a heroic or a tragic figure?

D:I think he’s a bad selfish man, a heartbroken idealist and one the those cynics who seem to keep trying to do the right thing even though they don’t think it’s going to make any difference in the long run. I love people like that. Blind faith.

R: "Bad, selfish man" I like that. The first story arc I read was in Rare Cuts. It's a rough beginning. And I was drawn towards Constantine anyway. Like a great mystery protagonist. A Rebus, a Robicheaux, an O'Donnell.... Flawed individuals who try to do their best and sometimes the only thing it preserves is their own humanity. They are the best protagonists, aren't they?

D: Definitely. I like protagonists who do the things I’d like to do, punch the baddy, insult the prom queen, dabble in hell and taunt the Devil. It’s a kind of hyper-version of the quandaries we all face every day, like whether to be a loyal friend, or sell our soul to the three lords of hell.

R: What amazes me about Hellblazer is the fact that over and over the story arcs deal very realistically with social issues. Homelessness, alcoholism, rent boys. it’s a fascinating series. Is that what drew you to this particular comic?

D: Well, its why I love Hellblazer, I’m not so keen on hyper fantasy comics unless it’s a clear analogy of something else. Some people love that abstract theology aspect of comics but I just get confused by women in furry bikinis holding the Norbs of Orb.

R: "Women in furry bikinis holding the Norbs of Orb." I’ve missed that one. But I have Jon's Christmas present now. Can you give our readers a preview of your story arc, or tease us with the title?

D: The title is “Empathy is the Enemy” and it concerns the truth about near death experiences. I always wondered about that benign white light that draws you in and thought it might be a trap.

R: You're catholic too, aren't you? (Recovering, in my case)

D: Yes, I was at convent boarding school. Hard core.

R: Convent Boarding School, that is hard core. So let me ask this question. Is it more important for John Constantine to save his soul, or to try to save his soul?

D: To try. Canon law’s a slippery monkey. In the next world we’re to be judged on our intentions, not our actions. As any failed catholic porn star’ll tell you ( and there are a lot of them) thinking about sex is as bad has having sex. If John tries to save his soul he’d be onto a winner. His problem is that he’s not humble enough to try.

R: Did writing "Empathy is the Enemy" work any of our inbred guilt out for you?

D: I’m so crippled by guilt and shame I hardly notice it anymore. I self medicate with cigarettes and chocolate.

R: I shop, books mostly but shoes too.. On the lighter side, romantic question, can John and Kit ever get together?

D: I’m sorry to say it but I never liked Kit. Kind of in the way it takes a long, long time to get to like the new partner of an old friend, I always felt she was crashing the JC party and slowing things down a lot. What the hell did she illustrate anyway? When did she work? She just seemed to spend a lot of time at home pursing her lips and waiting for him to get home.

R: Not a Kit fan? Should John Constantine have a relationship with anyone? Does he find a friend in “Empathy Is The Enemy”?

D: Yeah, I think he should meet someone but I believed him and Zed a bit more, someone who doesn’t hate the dark side of him but understands and accepts it. Maybe that was the attraction to Kit though, that she was so dull.

R: Tell us what's different about the writing experience. Novels as opposed to a graphic presentation?

D: Graphic is so much more visual and the prose has to be really tight. It’s very disciplined because each frame has to be still, no one can move across a room or reach into their pocket and take something out. I can actually feel different bits of my brain sparking in to life when I do it.

R: Have you seen the artwork? Was it what you expected?

D: I’ve seen a cover which is stunning and funny at the same time because it shows Glasgow “neds” or thugs and the artist has them down perfectly, from their zip up track suits tops and skip caps to the stance. It’s very classic as well. It’s thrilling to see that,

R: I adhere to the theory that if a writer writes well no two readers are going to imagine any given scenario within a novel in exactly the same way. In a comic where you're given the visuals and they are so important to the story, it must be a trip to see the artwork as the author. Did it make you visualize your own story differently?

D: It did, I like the slip between a writer and reader, I like to hear what other people made of scenes I’ve written. Because the places in Hellblazer are all real, Glasgow motorways and an area of housing in the city, I made a film of the area and sent a DVD of the sites to the artist. It’s going to be wild to see what they make of them.

R: Do you want to comment on Constantine (the movie)?

D: I liked it as a movie but didn’t think it related to the JC I know very much. I think cannon law is a neglected source of movies stories though and Keanu is a brilliant movie star. He holds a screen like no one else.

R: If Jon Vankin asks you to write another story arc, will you ?

D: I’ve got 13 issues to write and couldn’t imagine doing another arc afterwards which is probably a good thing. I work really hard on commissions the first time because I’m afraid of getting caught out but tend to get sloppy really fast so it’s probably best to keep it short.

R: When can readers find “Empathy” at their corner shop?

D: January 2006.

R: Will you come and visit with Crime Spree again to talk more about the books?

D: Defo.

R: How cool is it.... I mean Hellblazer? I'd be, well, excited to be sure...

D: Hellblazer is fuck-off cool. I’m sure you can’t print that but it is. Ian Rankin sent me a slightly awed email asking how I’d gotten the job. That’s how cool it is.

Fuck-off cool describes being able to interview Denise Mina for me. The author of THE GARNET HILL TRILOGY, SANCTUM and this summer’s THE FIELD OF BLOOD is one of our most gifted scribes. “Empathy is the Enemy”. January. You can’t go wrong.

R: After a challenging and rewarding "day job" what made you pick up the pen, take the first keystroke?

D: Being shit at my day job helped. I was a bad, shy, apologetic academic. I should have done less work and bummed myself up more.

R: "Tartan Noir" Has it been great, I look at the body of writing coming from
Scotland and am truly amazed?

D: It’s brilliant. TN is building up to a body of work that really comments on society as it is now. I’m sure that in the future Scottish crime fiction from this period will be well studied as a perfect snap shot of what was really going at this time. Literary fiction is so pointedly aimed at academic approval now, it hardly seems to relate the rest of us.

R: Paddy Meehan is very young. Was it a risk to pick such a young protagonist for THE FIELD OF BLOOD?

D: Probably. The publishers wanted to know how we could possibly sell such a young woman to the hardened crime fiction reading public but it doesn’t seem to have been a problem in the end up. FOB is the first of five books charting her career.

R: When will we see more of Paddy?

D: I’m editing The DEAD HOUR, the second one, right now. It’s due out here in July next year.

Jan 15, 2006

Crimespree #10

Issue ten is now in the hands of the Postal Service and I'm told should be arriving within ten business days. We had a slight delay because of a holiday shut down at the binders. Alafair Burke graces the cover in a photo taken by her new husband Sean, and she is holding a new addition to her family.

In this Issue:
From The Editor by Jennifer Jordan
News Bits – a new feature
On The Road by Ruth Jordan, Zoë Sharp, Steven Sidor and Gary Schulze
Coronada The Play by Ruth Jordan
Books Books Everywhere by Ayo Onatade
Footprints: Eric Ambler by Allen Salter
The Lesbian Detective Novel by Lori Lake
Fiction: Something Blue by Julie Hyzy
Profile: Jan Burke by Ruth Jordan
2005 in Review, Favorite books and Best contribution to a series Poll
Dagger Awards
The Column with No Name by Julia Spencer Fleming
Cover Story Alafair Burke by Ruth Jordan
Laundry List by Sharon Short
What Is A Thriller by David Morell
When Worlds Collide by James O. Born
He Writes, She Writes by Robert J Randisi, Christine Matthews
Eye On Hollywood by Jeremy Lynch
24 Turn 5 by Libby Fischer Hellmann
My Favorite Film by Jason Starr
DVD Reviews
Crimes On 45 by Kevin Burton Smith
Fiction: The Service Call by Judith Cobb Daily
CH CH CH Changes by Ben Leroy
The Day Job: Lamp Lighter by Simon Wood
My Favorite Book by Alafair Burke
Menopause Da Series by Jane Isenberg
King Fixer by Reed Farrel Coleman
Charles and Caroline Todd Interviewed by Judy Clemens
and of course book reviews

For those of you playing at home,
Deadline for Number 11 is Jan 25th.
Deadline for number 12 is March 25th.

Jan 14, 2006

DVD - Warriors, SIN CITY

As You may have picked up from other posts in this blog and from our magazine, I love watching movies. I especially like watching them on DVD because the extra features are something I really enjoy. I love the interviews and behind the scenes stuff.

Extra features, when done right really add to a DVD. Two very good examples are: THE WARIORS, ULTIMATE DIRECTORS CUT and SIN CITY, RECUT, EXTENDED, UNRATED. Note the extra words with the titles. Usually a good indicator of some good stuff added to the disc.

THE WARRIORS has 4 different featurettes which include production background, interviews and footage from filming. It's all well done and interesting. It was so cool to see where the bottle clinking scene came from and why other things were done the way they were.

I also really enjoyed watching the remastered film. It's clean and crisp and looks and sounds great.

SIN CITY. I love Robert Rodriguez's work. I think he love what he doeas and it shows. I also think this explains why his deluxe sets are so well done. Loads of features including a cooking class, Film school, tons of interviews and behind the scenes footage. Watching his special features is interesting for fans and intsructive for wanna be film makers.The SIN CITY set in particular is great because the inclusion of Tarintino and Frank Miller.

Also included in this set is a graphic novel by Frank Miller , footage of Bruce Willis on stage singing in Austin, and three different ways to watch the movie. Well worth every penny in my book.

DVDs enhance the viewing for any movie lover. It's more than just a better quality cut of the film and enhanced sound. Extra features can really make a package better. Even the $5.50 copy of LOGAN'S RUN i bought had a great featurette filmed at the time the movie was made.

In the near future we plan to run at least one post a week from our Entertainent Editor Jeremy Lynch with DVD news. Saying that Jeremy likes films is like saying that the pope prays a bit.

Jan 12, 2006

Cornelia Read

Just who is this Cornelia Read?

Well, I know a few things.

I'm goddamned excited about reading her book. Hopefully we'll get an arc so I don't have to wait.

She's getting tons of buzz frome everywhere.

She's a very nice lady. I met her at Bouchercon in Chicago breifly and I like her.

She won't be seen wearing chicken monkey shoes.

Corelia Read has a website to help you get ready for what could be the best debut this bloody year

And let me say this. If you get a chance to see her at a convention or a conference or any 'ol book related shindig, buy her a drink and let some of her cool rub off on you. Trust me, Cornelia is good people.


I did it

I went and got a library card. The first one I've had in over twenty years.

I did it partially because there are some books I want to read but don't need to own, but also because they loan DVD's. Free!

As it turns out they also have comics!

I'm also dropping my cable. We are getting the bare bones for local channels and that's all. For the little time we spend watching it just is not worth the extrotionist prices they charge. With the money we save we can actually buy our favorite shows on disc.

Jan 6, 2006

I Don't Know How I Did It

Beofre Television was on DVD how did I watch? How did I tolerate the waiting week by week only to eventually miss an episode anyway? Putting TV on DVD is genius, genius I tell you.

Case in point: MURDER ONE. Great show. I watched a couple when it was originally on, but missed enough to lose interest. Well, New Years Eve Ruth and I watched all 23 hours of it back to back. The whole first season with only a half hour shower break. THat is the way to watch television. It's a great show and I didn't have the torture of know I might miss one or the pure hell of waiting a week for the next episode.

This week after work I watched over three nights all the episodes of THE JOB with Denis Leary. Again, wonderful viewing with no waiting.

The truly wonderful thing is most of these things can be rented or borrowed from the library. Of course being the freak I am, we own them....

Next up, Night Gallery, Keen Eddie and Rebus.