10 questions about your next book meme starring the Snubnose Press players

The Do Some Damage crew was asked to consider participating in a meme that’s floating around where authors answer ten questions about the project that they’re working on. I believe that some of the other DSD’ers are going to participate during the week. Since I’m the only non-writer of the group I asked some of the Snubnose Press authors to answer the questions. Below are their answers.

Jedidiah Ayres is the author of the short story collection A F*ckload of Shorts

1) What is the working title of your next book?

I’m open to suggestions

2) Where did the idea come from?

The collected anecdotes of a friend of mine who survived a few crazy years working in a kitchen in a ridiculously, comically corrupt river town.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Crime? Sure, but not really a thriller. Coming of age? Okay, but don’t expect to take away many valuable lessons. Drug Novel? Maybe. But without all the boring-ass cleaning-up or blacking-out bits.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in the movie rendition?

The ones that like getting naked a lot.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

This book could’ve been titled Hunter S. Thompson’s Kitchen Confidential, but that’s not the vibe I’m shooting for.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It won’t be self-published. I’m not represented by an agency. Dear agency, would you like to represent me?

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?

Kiss my ass.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hmmmm… Ask the Dust meets Trainspotting by way of The Andy Griffith Show? Now and On Earth thumbs a ride through a Controlled Burn On the Road? The Wanderers join Sailor & Lula for a swim through The Shark-Infested Custard? Katja From the Punk Band decided that You Can’t Win when she tried to Steal This Book and reaped The Ice Harvest?

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My buddy. In fact, we’re collaborating. He just had an amazing collection of true stories that were begging to be strung together and teased into a novel.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Sex. Drug-dealing. Gun-running. Cooking. Molotov Cocktails. Sex. Fisticuffs. Baseball-bat-icuffs. Bikers. My smooth-ass prose. The author’s recently leaked celebrity sex tape.

Court Merrigan is the author of the collection Moondog Over the Mekong.
1) What is the working title of your next book?

The Three Days and Nights of Lamar Tilden

2) Where did the idea come from?

Frustration? It just seemed like it had been a long time since I had had a good, novel-length idea, so I sat in a chair, goddammit, until I had one.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Crime & suspense & noir.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Billy Bob Thornton would be the title character, Meryl Streep for Lamar Tilden’s wife Mary Leigh, Clint Eastwood would be Lamar’s father, Phillip Seymour Hoffman would be Holt Marsh, Sean Penn would be the priest, and then, you know, since I’m dreaming, I’d give a bunch of unknowns their first shot at being the minor characters. I like unknowns, being one myself.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Someone else has always run farmer Lamar Tilden’s life, but when Holt Marsh jibes him a bit too far inside a grain bin, Lamar buries him in corn. Now he has three days to set a lifetime of cheek-turning to rights before the trucks empty the bin, Holt’s body clumps to the bottom, and a cell slams shut on Lamar forever.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

An agency, I hope. Seeking representation as we speak.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?

It’s not done yet, but I’m aiming for an even three months.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I came up with the idea while reading Mystic River by Dennis Lehane and The 25th Hour by David Benioff, so those books will have their artful fingerprints all over The Three Days and Nights of Lamar Tilden. In its final form, I’ll also be proud if the book bears some resemblance to Nate Flexer’s criminally under-appreciated The Disassembled Man and also Les Edgerton’s The Bitch, both wonderful noir portraits of villainous minds in fierce decline. If I get really lucky, there will also be shades of Frank Bill’s Crimes in Southern Indiana and everything by Daniel Woodrell.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

What if you committed the ultimate crime and didn’t run? What if you stayed to face down a lifetime of meekness? And what if you had three days to do it? Wyobraska farmer Lamar Tilden is about to find out.

Ryan Sayles is the author of The Subtle Art of Brutality & Brian Panowich is the author of numerous stories.
1) What is the working title of your next book?

C’mon and Do the Apocalypse! – co-written with Brian Panowich

2) Where did the idea come from?

Panowich did an interview with a horror website where he said he’s like to see John Wayne take on the zombie apocalypse. That got me thinking and I Facebook’ed him about writing that story and I’d write one and we’d bundle them together like a split record the old punk and hardcore bands used to do. He wound up writing another thing entirely but the project is up, getting ready to launch.

Panowich says – Ryan Sayles called me up one day with the idea of doing a flip book in the vein of the old ’90s IMAGE comics, where a story was featured on both sides of the book. Read one, flip it over to read the other one. The comic book nerd in me loved the idea, and any reason to ride Ryan’s coattails worked for me. We thought Zombies would be a good place to start.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Noir and horror. Panowich’s story is about a good man trying to keep his friends and family alive during the opening minutes of the apocalypse and mine is about a douche bag who has learned how to capitalize on running a harem of zombies until hippies show up. And as usual, hippies bring carnage and mayhem.

Panowich says – Warped Necro Erotica. Or maybe Self Help.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Eric Roberts would be my lead. All the way. A much fatter, greasier version of Doug Hutchinson (Percy Wetmore from The Green Mile) would be the john named Angelou, and then two smelly hippies would be the hippies.

Panowich says – My half of the book is called My Wife Dawn…And The Dead and I think I should be self-cast in every part. Like a skinny tattooed Nutty Professor but badass. Of course Sayles would be cast as My Wife Dawn.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Two of the greatest noir writers the world has ever seen take on a much-ignored topic: zombies.

Panowich says – Come On Do The Apocalypse: The new greatest story ever told.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self. We just want it out there.

Panowich says – We’re playing that one close to the chest, but I’ll give you this. Two words. Bidding. War.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?

A week. Each of our stories is about 15K words. It took each of us about a week for the draft.

Panowich says – Over breakfast, the morning of the deadline.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Well… none really. They fall squarely into the zombie genre. Panowich’s is fairly close-quartered–inside a house–and mine takes place on a farm. The scale for these isn’t too grand, but this is something he and I are going to keep doing and the next ones will be bigger in scope from what it sounds like.

Panowich says – That’s a ridiculous question. Clearly this is groundbreaking stuff. No comparisons can be made.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I know I enjoy the mindless horror aspect of zombies. They’re everywhere nowadays. And I love writing slaughterfest-type things. So for me, after reading Panowich’s horror interview I immediately started thinking about it. Then I couldn’t think of anything else. I have a fairy-tale/zombie story up at Amazon called “Straw House, Stick House, Brick House, Slaughter House” where a fairy makes her living cleaning up zombie infestations and gets hired to protect the three little pigs from the Big Bad Wolf. The BBW has decided his final solution to getting the pigs is sell his soul for the power to command a zombie horde. So there’s that, which greased the wheels for me doing zombie stuff.

Panowich says – Like most things I write, my motivation was simply to impress Ryan. That and the fact that my wife Dawn deserves libraries full of books written about her. She’s gorgeous, smart, funny as hell, and the only person I’d want next to me during a battle with hordes of the undead.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

We’ve created a single universe for all this to take place inside. It’s the first volume of any number of stories we’ll generate over the coming years. Panowich lined up a great artist to do the cover so all in all we’ve got a good package.

Panowich says – Not to give too much away, but your going to want to get in on this from the ground floor. Buy this book for a chance to say you knew us back in the day, before the movies, the TV spin-offs, the scandals, or the eventual prophesies. Put away your inhibitions, and Join me and my comrade Ryan down the path to enlightenment. Take your first step into our future, put your right foot in and Come on, Do The Apocalypse.

Tom Pitts is the author of Piggyback

1) What is the working title of your next book?

Hustle.

2) Where did the idea come from?

I was thinking about how modern technology could play into the age-old scenario of the hooker who blackmails the john

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Fiction or crime/fiction or thriller.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I don’t know. I’ve been asked this question before about other stuff of mine. I’m not the type to envision an actor as a character in my work. To me, it kind of locks the character into a box I’m not comfortable with. It’s a bit like watching an animated movie when you know who is doing the voices. When that happens, it’s tough to get Ray Romano’s face out of your head while you watch the wooly mammoth.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When two young hustlers, caught in an endless cycle of addiction and prostitution, decide to blackmail an elderly client of theirs, they find that their victim has already been targeted by a much more sinister force.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It’s been queried to a few agents. We’ll see how it goes. The first one said the characters were far too “unsavory”, which I took as a great compliment. I knew then I was definitely on to something.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?

About four months at about three hours a day, four days a week (on a good week.) It eclipsed all my other writing. I love that time when your only focus is to push a story forward.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I have no idea. Isn’t that the point, to try to come up with something original? If there is something like it out there, the few people who have read the first draft couldn’t come up with any comparisons.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

When I down and out and living in the street, I saw the hustlers working up on Polk and Sutter in San Francisco and always wondered what drove them. What they did gave me the shutters. They were sickly and dangerous-looking, the epitome of sleaze. Damaged individuals living in a depraved world. Even in my state of eroded morals, they were gone, so much further down the path of no return. They were true nihilists, living for the next fix and waiting to die. I thought maybe there was a story there, something horrifying, yet realistic. It started out as an idea for a longer short, maybe a novella, but then it the story took over and it kept going.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

The tale is definitely not for everyone. When Joe Clifford read it, he said he had to take a shower afterword. It’s disturbing to say the least. But if you like your stories rough and sleazy and full of violence, then this one is for you.

And … you’ll never wear a lobster bib again without thinking of Hustle.

Craig Wallwork is the author of To Die Upon a Kiss, forthcoming from Snubnose Press.

1) What is the working title of your next book?

The Sound of Loneliness.

2) Where did the idea come from?

I had fallen on that old writer’s adage of “write about what you know”. The problem I found was I knew very little. The only reoccurring themes I could draw upon in my life was the fallacy of love and the pain of loneliness, both of which I had either witnessed growing up, or experienced firsthand. The second problem I encountered was that all the novels I had read at the time dealt with these issues by burying the suffering under subtext or metaphor. It appeared to me there was a lot of talk but no one was actually saying anything. Then, while holidaying in Greece one year, my wife found an old tatty paperback of John Fante’s Ask the Dust in a cafe. She read it and said I would like it because it was a novel with balls. I didn’t know anything about Fante, but in that book he taught me how to deliver raw emotion, to offer words that on paper were so brutalised you couldn’t help look upon them with sadness and empathy. Had it not been for authors like Fante and Knut Hamsun, the bones of an idea about a lonely man searching for love in a hostile town would have remained stripped of its flesh.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Underbelly fiction.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Adrien Brody in the lead of Daniel Crabtree because he looks emaciated and vulnerable, even though he is always in good health. My knowledge of English female actresses of around 15 years of age is limited, and I think that’s a good thing.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

“Amidst the clamour of life, the sound of loneliness is the most deafening of all.”

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The book has been picked up by an independent press called Perfect Edge Books and will be released on January 25th 2013. They have an awesome list of authors attached to the label including Andrez Bergen, Caleb J Ross, Nik Korpon, Michael Gonzales, Amy Biddle, Christopher Dywer and Anthony David Jacques. We’re all very excited about its future.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?

The first draft came quick. Probably around 6 months, which when you’re working a full time job and trying to withhold your grasp on sanity as well as being a dutiful husband, is a quick turnaround. But that first draft was essentially a pastiche of Fante and Hamsun, with elements of Bukowski thrown in. It was honest, but the narrative was too antiquated to sound believable. It got a few rejections based on this. I guess I was just exhausted with it and put it under the bed and wrote something else. It was almost three years before I looked at the manuscript again, and like the pain of being dumped by a lover who treated you unfairly but you were too blind to see it at the time, the distance allowed me to understand the error of my ways. Several revisions came after, and a few more during the editing phase. It is now a solid little novel that I’m hoping will stand the test of time.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

As mentioned before, Ask the Dust by John Fante and Knut Hamsun’s Hunger. Hating Olivia by Mark SaFranko and some of the novels by Dan Fante (John’s son) like Mooch, Chump Change and Spitting Off Tall Buildings influenced the rhythm and brought the “voice” of the narrator more into the 21st century.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My family, my hometown, the people I met while boozing in the pubs, poverty, the need for change, the shit on the streets, the blood in my mouth, pregnant clouds, pregnant teenagers, the stench of stale ale and the hunger in my stomach, all were seeds planted in the allotment of my mind and blossomed and took macabre forms that were eventually rendered out on the page. Writing this novel was more an exorcism than a biography.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Regardless of what I’ve said, this is a very funny book. I wrote it very much like a person delivering an anecdote of a terrible incident: at the time, when living out the scenario, humour is far from your mind, but in retrospect, having lived through the experience, the details are delivered in a much more light-hearted manner. The Sound of Loneliness is essentially about a man who went through hell just to offer a joke to the world.

Aaron Philip Clark is the author of The Science of Paul and A Healthy Fear of Man

1) What is the working title of your next book?

The Furious Kind

2) Where did the idea come from?

A true story a friend told me about the 1985 death of an undocumented worker in Los Angeles and the police officer who helped cover it up.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Crime/Thriller

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Edward James Olmos, Naya Rivera, John C. McGinley, and Paul Wesley

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A young woman seeks retribution for her mother’s murder and subsequent cover up with the help of a retired mob enforcer.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m not sure yet.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?

I’m still writing (not enough time in the day).

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Bitter Fruit: A Novel by Achmatt Dangor

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles history inspired me to write this novel.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

The characters are rather brazen and its likely the most hard-boiled novel I’ve written to date.

Todd Morr is the author of Captain Cooker
1) What is the working title of your next book?

Jesus Saves, Satan Invests is nearly done, and I’m working on another Cooke novel with the working title Best Laid Plans of Idiots and F*ckups

2) Where did the idea come from?

I wish I knew so I could visit more often. I honestly do not remember when the first idea for either of these two stories began. As with anything I’ve ever done, it starts with the first chapter which was written with little or no idea what was going to happen next. Most ideas are found while running or driving my fairly long commute. Some of my best ideas have come on hot days when I decide to run eight miles but only have six in me.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Crime is a major part of both books and all the major characters are criminals in some sense, so crime makes sense. Snubnose Press called Captain Cooker noir-boiled, so I would go with that.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

For JSSI I always picture Linda Hamilton circa Terminator 2, eighties Michael Bien would have a role too, and I could even picture a character as pre-governor Arnold. Since this casting would require a time machine, Gina Carano might work, Angelina Jolie, a Demi Moore comeback vehicle, or Jennifer Lopez just because she was good as Karen Sisco in Out of Sight. Since I don’t have that time machine to pick up Escape from New York era Kurt Russell, I suppose Michael Madsen would work for Best laid Plans.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

JSSI – It started with a message on her answering machine; ‘Jesus saves Satan invests’ and Janet, living comfortably off the spoils of her ill-gotten gain as the centerpiece of a blackmail ring, did not need to know the caller was currently sharing trunk space with a fresh corpse to know it meant trouble.

Best Laid Plans – While in jail, thrill seeking, would be Robin Hood, and home invader Chase needs Cooke’s help to protect both his money and his sister.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I do not have an agent; ideally I will be working with Snubnose Press again.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?

JSSI – about two months, this is fast for me. Of course, I wrote the first draft a while ago so subsequent drafts have taken longer. Best Laid Plans is still in progress, but the first chapter was written in January 2012.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

JSSI – Thomas Perry’s Jane Whitefield novels, Out of Sight by Elmore Leonard just for the Karen Sisco character), Kick Ass (think a grown up Hit Girl).

Best Laid Plans – It’s not a heist, but it definitely involves a caper, so Richard Stark’s Parker novels come to mind, though that is probably wishful thinking on my part.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Once I’ve started a book the desire to see how the story ends, since I have yet to start a story knowing how things will play out.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

JSSI –Corrupt cops, outlaw bikers, strippers, grifters, guns, car chases, explosions, and a door to door salesman.

Best Laid Plans – more fun and violence with Cooke.

Joe Clifford is the author of the collection Choice Cuts

1) What is the working title of your next book?

Lamentation. Which is the name of the bridge in my small Northern New Hampshire town.

2) Where did the idea come from?

Jerry Sandusky. Sort of. It’s really the story of two brothers. But the Sandusky case provided me with a background and the plot to tell that story.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Commercial mystery/thriller

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Excellent question! And, sadly, one I’ve already considered (I tend to picture my novels in terms of cinema). Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Guy Pearce, Frank Langella

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book

In Northern New England, Jay Porter encounters a mysterious hard drive, and is forced to confront his parents’ death and estranged brother’s addiction–delivering him to the dark heart of a small town’s shocking secret.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I am going back into the agent pool for this one. I had an agent before but got frustrated by the process. I think this book is more commercially viable.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?

Couple months. Hit a hot streak and rode it out. Although that first draft was primarily an outline (like most first drafts).

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hilary Davidson’s Damage Done, Scott Smith’s A Simple Plan, maybe a little Winter’s Bone, Russell Banks’s Affliction.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve been trying to write the story of my brother and me for years. I was just about done with the draft when I read Davidson’s The Damage Done and its sequel, The Next One to Fall, which I felt gave me the…permission…to follow through with my vision. Both Davidson books are terrific, with real mainstream appeal, something I deeply admire and aspire toward.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I work hard to be accessible. I think of the parts of books that bore me. And then try not to do that.

J.A. Kazimer is the author of Froggy Style, Shank, and the forthcoming Snubnose Press release, Dope Sick: A Love Story

1) What is the working title of your next book?

Unhappiest Place on Earth

2) Where did the idea come from?

My strong-dislike of Disneyland.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Romantic suspense

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Mila Kunis and David Austin Green

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When CIA assassin, Hannah Winslow, mistakenly kills the wrong target, she vows never to take another life, and leaves everything she loves behind to start a new life, a dull life complete with a fake identity, an overweight cat, and a new career bringing sexy back to the bottled water industry, but her former partner, Benjamin Miller has other plans for Hannah’s retirement that includes multiple murders. (Yes, that is one heck of a long sentence).

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Agency

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?

Working on it since September 2010. Just finished the first draft in October.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to write something different, in a different genre than I’m used to.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Lots of sex scenes, plus I reveal the secret to immortality. Here’s a hint, try not to die.

Modern Noir – a visual guide

[This is how I spent part of my Sunday, so I hope folks find this useful]

Noir is often considered as a genre, or sub-genre, and is usually associated with crime fiction. Really though, it is more like a style of fiction, or even a strain of fiction, rather then a sub-genre that doesn’t have to be limited to crime fiction. In recent years a lot of authors have self-identified as noir or even neo-noir (a term that I don’t like) writers but even that can be misleading since some of the best noirs weren’t written with that goal in mind.

Since it pops up here and there and in unexpected places noir winds up becoming a type of fiction that you have to search for and not always find, which is part of what makes a great noir story so rewarding when it is found.

Noir has been historically resistant to firm definition and any attempt at defining what it is probably says more about the author of said definition then the term itself. Rather then re-hash what noir is or isn’t I instead decided to created a visual guide to modern noir with the only commentary being that I genuinely love all of theses books and I believe them to be noir.

A couple of random notes:

-As much as I love old crime fiction, old pulps, and classic noir my reading preference of late is for noirs from the mid to late 70’s on, so that is the focus here. Some great noirs have been published in recent years by small and unlikely publishers, hopefully this guide points some of them out. Also, I believe that modern noirs sometimes get left out of noir discussions.

-They are in no set order.

-The board is a work in progress and I’ll add new covers as I discover them or remember to add them. So check back if you like.

-If you don’t see a book here you can read in to it or not. Maybe it means something, maybe not.

-I’ve written about noir a few times now. I am not an expert, just an enthusiast.

Here’s my visual essay, or guide that I created.

Quote for the day

Last night I was reading an article about the new game, Far Cry 3, in the new Gameinformer magazine and came across a great quote from game producer Dan Hay.

“What I like about Far Cry is that it’s a moment in time. You take a regular character and you put them into a situation that is abnormal and you tell that slice of their life.”

Sounds like great writing advice to me.

It reminds me of a line I heard from the legendary special effects guy, Tom Savini, once. He said some to the effect of:

I like to pick one guy and follow the evolution of his heart attack.

Why F*ckload of Scotch Tape may be the bastard child of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
by Jedidiah Ayres

In the wake of the recent DVD release and film festival screenings of Julian Grant’s underground crime flick F*ckload of Scotch Tape I’ve read a bunch of reviews that more or less fall into two camps – heralding it as a triumph of small-budget/big-vision nastiness with a surprising element of heart, or as just one of the worst, most unpleasant movies the critic has ever seen. The film centers around a hapless thug, a terrible crime and an increasingly bloody scramble for a bag of cash – it’s also a musical, an element that is as divisive with the critics as the unrelenting awfulness in the characters, and the atmosphere of moral rot.

I can’t take any credit or blame for the music, performed by songsmith Kevin Quain, (though I can assure you that film has made a fan of his out of me), but I will shoulder my share of responsibility for the character and plot as it is based upon two of my own short stories (“A Fuckload of Scotch Tape” and “Mahogany & Monogamy”).

Among some of the more thoughtful reviews, I’ve come across nuggets of insight about my work that have deserved a moment’s reflection, as well as many off-base and (mostly) inaccurate dismissals of my contribution from the film’s league of detractors (one of my favorite disses it’s received went something like “If you like voice-over and homophobia, you’ll love this film.”)

But honestly, you can send your flowers and mail bombs back in time addressed to the late-great Sam Peckinpah. More than anything else, it’s probably his own nasty, divisive masterpiece/greatest-artistic-failure Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia that can’t escape the damning results of a paternity test.

Fifteen years into my obsession with Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, I’m still not finished ripping er, drawing inspiration from it, and I’m not the least ashamed to say that I do. Nope, I rip that shit off every chance I get and when I do, it’s the best stuff that I write.

Which is not necessarily to say, Peckinpah would recognize, claim or love his bastard. I won’t presume. Hell, even I have to squint to make out my own familial resemblance to the film at times, (as Julian created plenty of the adapted story himself), but in the wake of reading these many reviews, and squinting myself into farsightedness, it’s the Alfredo Garcia likeness has come into starker relief.

When we first meet Benny (the protagonist imbued with such amazing loser-charisma by Warren Oates), he’s playing piano at a hole in-the-wall Mexican cantina. His back-story isn’t told, but the lines are spaced plenty wide to afford an unobstructed view of the large print betwixt. He’s a gringo who has run out of options back home (apparently even Tijuana lies on the far side of a scorched bridge or two in his rearview), his inamorata appears to be at least a part-time prostitute, he wears a clip-on tie, and sunglasses indoors… at night… in bed.

There’s a significant disconnect between his self-image, and the reality of his nature and capabilities. He seems determined to cast himself as Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, but, it’s the loser Bogart character Fred C. Dobbs from Treasure of the Sierra Madre that gets name-checked by a condescending heavy in the scene where we first meet Benny – tipping Benny, and the audience, off to the fact that Benny’s act isn’t fooling anybody. But Benny is equipped with powerful self-delusion, and lets the slight pass unacknowledged, and that type of willful blindness continues throughout the film.

In fact, the rest of the picture is a non-stop assault on Benny’s masculine ideal, which he grudgingly concedes by attrition, and even though, or perhaps because, he is emasculated at every turn, and by everybody he encounters from Alfredo the deceased lothario and Elita the survivor to Kris Kristofferson the rapist and the gringo mercenaries who insult him openly, Benny carries on with the quest that will cost him his soul.

Indecisive and weak-willed when it counts, insecure, always reserving action for when he’s out of options, he fucks over justice for cowardice, revenge and self-destruction, and passes up love for convenience. Integrity for self-preservation and self-loathing.

And yet… we care for Benny.

I do, don’t you?

During his many opportunities to walk away from the path he’s stumbling down, his desperation and panic are barely contained, and his pain is so evident… He’s so utterly lost – it just breaks that lump of coal I have the good humor to call a heart.

He’s a loser, and helpless, but far from harmless. Once he’s out of options, he’ll play that final card, his capacity for physical violence, and he’ll pound that note hard and with conviction – his final avenue of expression – like the last key left on a piano.

It’s all leading to that eventually, but as long as that titular object can evade him, Benny’s got a chance. Elita knows it, Benny knows it, and we do too – which is why we’re rooting for Alfredo Garcia’s head to remain out of reach – as soon as it’s within his grasp, Benny’s finished. He will destroy himself.

The characters at the center of my short stories have cast themselves as the central figures in a story much larger than they are, and both take severe actions based on twisted instincts and bad information. They are as confused and frustrated about their place in the world, and in their masculinity and sexuality as Benny is. They construct identities and images for themselves that they fail to actualize, and if given half a chance they will fuck things up every time. Benji and Ethan (from “Fuckload of Scotch Tape” and “Mahogany & Monogamy” respectively) are fumbling after the same object, to which they’ve both (as Benny has) attached inappropriate symbolic weight.

Just as Benny has, in Elita, the love of a woman he doesn’t deserve, and whose character he will disparage, in comically un-just outbursts of moral outrage, intended to distract from his own defects, each of my creations has their own loving one, of whom they will make terrible assumptions, and quickly curse – Chuck, the father figure for Benji and Trish the object of desire for Ethan.

Also like Benny, both Benji and Ethan, having pushed away every good thing and human connection by the end of their story will find themselves haunted by their consciences and conversant with them, on some level, through unlikely intermediaries. Benny spends the third act of Peckinpah’s film driving dusty back roads, unloading and explaining his psychosis to a severed head in a canvas sack on the passenger seat, while (especially in the film) Benji’s physical brokenness, the ever-bloodied nose, and the discolored busted arm – bound with a fuckload of scotch tape – which grows more foul and infected mirroring his inward state, while Ethan (in the short story) hears his Greek chorus in the hair metal ballads on the radio and blasting from the strip club’s loudspeakers, and surrenders himself to the fates.

At the end of the stories I hope that you can feel a sorrow for them, though I doubt anyone will argue that they don’t deserve what they get. Ultimately, like Benny, they consistently fail to recognize grace when it’s revealed, and will always abandon salvation-offered for damnation-earned.

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Jedidiah Ayres is the author of A F*ckload of Shorts and co-editor of the Noir at the Bar anthologies. He keeps the blog Hardboiled Wonderland.