Ravenous Shadows; Die, You Bastard! Die; and The Devoted

So earlier this week I discovered Ravenous Shadows, a new horror/mystery/thriller imprint that launched earlier in the year. Editor John Skipp says of these genres that “they play fast, and they play rough”. What we are looking at is novellas/short novels that are unafraid to go full dark and can be read in a couple of sittings.

Do they deliver? Let’s take a look.

I downloaded four samples of Ravenous Shadows books to my Kindle and out of that group, bought three. (Side note: Nothing against that fourth book and I actually plan on buying and reading the other published books. So far so good.)

Out of the three that I bought I’ve already read two of them. So yes, these are quick reads that can be read in a couple of sittings.

The first one that I read was The Devoted by Eric Shapiro. The Devoted is about the final day and remaining nine members of a suicide cult. There is a mix of first person and third person narratives. The first person POV is of the number two man in the cult and the third person portions are a mix of other media: diary entries, television interviews, family members, excerpts from books on cults, etc. The alternating POV’s do a great job of getting into the other members of the cult and the history of the cult.

In addition to expertly setting the stage Shapiro does a great job with a couple of other things. The first is that he masterfully, and constantly keeps applying pressure, increasing tension and ratcheting the pressure ever tighter. This ties in to the second thing that he does really well, he keeps the reader guessing as to how the end will play out until the very end.

One other aspect that deserves to be mentioned is the psychological aspects. You really get into the mind and motivations of the main character, who becomes quite compelling, and dare I say sympathetic. In doing so he creates a book that will appeal to the basement noir crazies, their mothers, and everyone in between. The Devoted is a ticking time bomb of a book with an explosive ending that delivers on it’s narrative promises. Highly Recommended.

The second book that I read was Die, You Bastard! Die! by Jan Kozlowski.

Die! takes us into the life of a paramedic who suffered horrible sexual abuse as a child at the hands of her father. After being away for 20 years she’s called back home to care for him. Things don’t go as planned.

Die, You Bastard! Die! is a full dark, grindhouse, rape revenge thriller that maintains an unbearable level of tension and throws in enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes.

Die! may not be for everybody but those that read it will be rewarded. While there are scenes of explicit violence portrayed in the book Kozlowski does not linger on them or glamorize them. But you will cringe. This is another Highly Recommended book.

One of the definitions of noir that gets passed around is that things start off bad and get worse. Both of these books fit the bill.

There have been a few books over the last couple of years that have not popped up on many crime fiction readers radar screens because they have been either marketed as horror or have been put out by a horror or horror associated press (Crimson Orgy and People Still Live in Cashtown Corners come to mind). I don’t want to see the same thing to happen here. Skipp says that Ravenous Shadows will publish 30-40 titles per year. So far they’ve published five and at least three of them are solid mystery/crime/thriller titles.

Ravenous Shadows is one to keep an eye on and have quickly become one of my favorites. I hope to continue to see high quality titles from them.

Brother Brother Brother: Breaking Kayfabe on Recent Wrestling Fiction

Over the last year and a couple of months there has been a rise in wrestling related fiction. I suppose the obvious reason would be that those who were fans during the then WWF’s huge run in the 80’s are now writers. But really, who cares what the reason is because hey, it’s wrestling fiction. I think that there is a huge amount of story potential in wrestling that is only now starting to get explored.

So, because I’m running late with today’s post, here’s a quick run down.

One of the earliest examples of recent wrestling fiction is the short story “The Last Kayfabe” by Ray Banks. In a short space Banks just nails the voice of an over the hill wrestler who still has it in his blood.

Last year Jason Ridler brought us Deathmatch: A Spar Battersea Wrestling Thriller. Ridler, like Banks, nails the essence of wrestling. Not just the facet that is exposed to the public but all of the backstage action too.

Earlier this year Stephen Graham Jones’ Zombie Bake-Off which plops a group of wrestlers right into a zombie uprising. And it’s brilliant. Throughout the course of the novel Jones sets up some scenarios and by the end delivers on them. Really, it’s one of my favorite novels of the year.

Blood Red Turns Dollar Green by Paul O’Brien probably best captures the wrestling business and life style. It also has the broadest scope, spanning many years, with a large cast of characters. O’Brien even managed to get Mick Foley to blurb his book.

Recently, the anthology Lucha Gore: Scares From the Squared Circle was released. Lucha Gore mixes the world of wrestling with horror. I only just bought this recently so I haven’t really had a chance to read it yet, but I’m looking forward to it. Plus, it has a great cover.

So what do you think. Is wrestling fiction a thing? Did I miss anything? Have you read any of these?

Currently Reading: The Devil Doesn’t Want Me by Eric Beetner (16%); Driving Alone by Kevin Lynn Helmick (30%)

A/V Club best films of the 90’s – what they missed

The Onion A/V Club recently published a list of the 50 best films of the 90’s

As always with this type of thing it is fun to point out what was missed.

I would have loved to see Point Break on the list but understand why it isn’t.

There seems to be a problem with the methodology they used. Almost like a conscious decision was made to not include family movies or animated movies. So I would also include: Iron Giant, Princess Mononoke, Ghost in the Shell.

The other that were missed: Shallow Grave, The Usual Suspects (pretty sure I didn’t see it there), State of Grace, The Sixth Sense, Gridlocked, and in my opinion one of the best movies of that decade, one that is virtually unknown even to this day, Fresh.

What did they miss?

Check Out The Savage Kick

We all know the history of the online short crime fiction zines and how they came to be over the last 15 years or so and filled a void. In recent years there has been a rise in crime fiction print journals. The legendary Murdaland stormed onto the scene, had an impact then folded after two issues. A little more then a year after Murdaland our very own Steve Weddle co-founded Needle Magazine, which six issues later, is still going strong. Earlier this year John Kenyon launched Grift Mgazine, and Pulp Modern recently published their third issue.

I think that these magazines and journals are all, deservedly, pretty well known. Especially within the crime community.

What I wanted to do briefly today was to point out another great magazine/journal that everyone might not be as aware of. Savage Kick.

The Savage Kick is an annual (or whenever the hell they feel like it) fiction journal that contains a lot of raw and in your face fiction. It also features interviews and recommendation lists. The early issues were straight up old school zines that were stapled together and kind of sloppy in the best way possible, and the last couple being more of a trade paperback journal.

The new issue is out now.

Each of those old issues had a limited print run and when they hit the limit, boom that’s it, no more. In fact issue #1 is gone but the other are still available and highly recommended. There are probably two reasons why these guys aren’t more well known: They don’t publish only crime fiction and they are erratic.

But I do recommend that you check them out if you have the time and the coin. It was actually in issue 5 that I first read a story by Julie Kazimer which lead to me buying her short story collection, nominating it for a Spinetingler Award, and purchasing and publishing her crime fiction novel through Snubnose (couple of weeks).

Bottom line is that I wanted to take a moment and use this space to boost their signal and make sure folks were aware of them.

Savage Kick is a part of the Murder Slim family. They published the Spinetingler Award cover nominee The Hunch by Seymour Shubin and also The Angel by Tommy Trantino which was featured in the article 30 Days in the Hole: The Real Prison Books. Check these books out.

Current Read: The Warlord of Willow Ridge by Gary Phillips
Current Listen: Babel by Mumford and Sons

A plea and a free

A plea and a free

When Snubnose Press was started I wanted to be in a position where I could publish a book for no other reason then I liked it, without consideration of it needing to sell X amount of copies.  I wanted to take a chance on titles that otherwise might not get picked up by a traditional publisher.

So when I read a submission that was a 20k word noir poem I just knew that I had to publish it.  To me Nothing Matters by Steve Finbow was the kind of title that exemplified what it meant to be a small publisher.  Most other publishers wouldn’t have touched it but we would. For no other reason then because it was good.

We tried to soften the blow of a 20k word noir poem by including a novella version as well. That way the reader would have a choice. The reality is that, as good as Nothing Matters is, no one is buying it.

Snubnose Press hasn’t done a lot of free giveaways but what better way to get someone to try something.  We’re giving away Nothing Matters all week.  Just because we want you to have a chance to try it. Because we think that you’ll like it if you do.

Written in prose that’s as projective as a hollow-point bullet, Nothing Matters explores the dark side of desire, the surreal side of sex, and the horror that humanity witnesses.

Man and woman. Love and hate. Sex and violence. A road trip to the end of the world. On the way—murder, torture, lust, and despair. Shadowy figures haunt the anti-couple. As does their past… and their present.

From the deserts of Nevada and California to the gargoyle-sentried skyscrapers of New Babylon, X and Z will stop at nothing to be together. But will they kill for it? If you loved Romeo and Juliet, you’ll hate this.

Nothing Matters—a torque song for the 21st century, a torture song. X and Z are at the end of love, the end of language—read their story to find out Y.

If you like…
…experimental poetry
…lean hardboiled prose
…the above stated editorial philosophy

Please consider trying this book, on us.

David Rachels, the author of Verse Noir had this to say:

Steve Finbow’s NOTHING MATTERS asks the remarkable question, Are you tough enough to read poetry? X and his femme fatale Z trade blood- and sex-soaked narratives in noir’s first epic poem. And for the faint of heart, there’s a prose version, too.

Benoit Lelievre from Deadend Follies had this to say:

NOTHING MATTERS is a great, beautiful and entertaining experiment with the economy of genre. It’s like Finbow had boiled a noir text and the essential words came out scattered on the page. The sense, the bigger picture in between the verses is loose, but is there. If you ever doubted that noir had a stylistic essence of its own, read NOTHING MATTERS and think again. I really, really enjoyed this. Read it in two sittings and even dreamed about it. It’s a first time it happens for me, for a book.

Here is a brief excerpt of the novella version that we ran at Spinetingler:

“…my bar, a music bar somewhere on the road between LA and Barstow, a stop for truckers, fuckers, and no-luckers. We have booths with personal jukeboxes, a stage for bands and dancers, rockers and strippers, shockers and dippers, the lonely and the never befriended. I bankrolled it through my dead husband’s leavings (he upped and died of shock, the third that never happened)—eventually—after X greased a few cops, threatened the insurance investigators, took a cut, set fire to it, watched my face in the glow of the flames, watched the green turn black, watched the metaphor for exchange turn to ash, watch my lust for him shrivel and die.

The thing is, once he had done what I asked of him, he was no longer necessary. He stayed around until I found something else for him to do, someone else for him to do, somewhere else for him to be. Not here. There. That was always important. I wanted him close but distant. He was distant but close. Proximity is relative. I saw him through the reverse end of an emotional telescope. His proximal philosophy was to share pulses. Gone but not forgotten. Forgotten but not gone. Never anywhere between.

Not long ago, two men came to me with a business proposition—they’d help finance the bar, bring in better-looking girls, more violent dogs, champion roosters, psycho boxers, bring in the crowds, all they wanted was use of the cellar bar for one night a month, no questions asked, no answers given—two faggots with muscles upon muscles. I closed the bar one night a month, gave them access, saw the black garbage bags wet with sticky saliva, the spill of black blood and white powder, the impenetrable eggs, the splashes of dark red urine, the burned women’s clothing, the collection of cheap jewelry scattered in the Sunset Debris dumpsters.

One night, the faggots brought me a present. Straining on its leash, spit running down its jaw, its white teeth glistening, its pink and grey gums trembling, its stub of a tail vibrating. I bent down and scratched its head, its hair short, a strawberry blond and I said,

“And what’s your name, big boy?”

And one of the faggots says, “Pinker. He’s an American pitbull. You could do with some protection.”

I rubbed the dogs ears and looked into his eyes. He gulped and wagged some more.

“The only thing I need protecting against is myself,” I said.”

And finally here is a book trailer for Nothing Matters.

Books not on Kindle but should be

Books not on Kindle but should be

One of my favorite things about ebooks is seeing old, forgotten, and previously out of print books given a new life. Ideally this should be done at a cheaper price so it becomes an opportunity to expose readers to some really great works.

Some of my favorite e-book re-issues are:

Tarantula – Thierry Jonquet
Judas Pig – Horace Silver
Dark Paradise – Lono Waiwaiole
Box NineWirelessWord Made Flesh; and The Skin Palace – Jack O’Connell
23 Shades of Black – Ken Wishnia
The Wait – Frank Turner Hollon

Publisher’s should be devoting time and energy to creating in house ebook departments that work on pumping out quality ebooks for all titles that they hold the electronic rights to. I had an editor tell me on Twitter that they had no plans for e-book versions of a crop of, at that time, new releases. Hell, I need a job, hire me and I’ll do it for you. Publishers should continue to seek out older, out of print titles that can be brought to the medium. And authors should make sure that any back list titles that they own the electronic rights to should be out there.

I was a kid when CD’s first came out. Until then records had been the predominant format. There are tons of titles that were released as a record that were never issued as CD’s. These recording are lost to all except the most ardent of collectors. They didn’t survive the transition and I don’t want to see that happen to some great books.

Here are some really great books that are not available as ebooks but should be.

High Life – Matthew Stokoe
Saguaro Riptide – Norman Partridge
The Ten-Ounce Siesta – Norman Partridge
They Don’t Dance Much – James Ross
Cutter and Bone – Newton Thornburg*
Blackburn – Bradley Denton*
The Death of the Detective – Mark Smith
Nothing Burns in Hell – Philip Jose Farmer
My Brothers Gun – Ray Loriga
The Gift – Patrick O’Leary
Door Number Three – Patrick O’Leary
Dead City – Shane Stevens*

In an effort to walk the walk I actually contacted a couple of the authors on this list in the hopes of getting an ebook version of their titles out through Snubnose. One said no, and the other hasn’t responded to the offer that I made.

*Newton Thornburg, Bradley Denton, and Shane Stevens don’t have a single title available for the Kindle.

What books are not available as e-books but should be?

Current Read: Dope Sick: A Love Story by j.a. kazimer; Lonely No More by Seymour Shubin

Current Listen: Babel by Mumford & Sons