Monday, May 27, 2013

Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

Police detective John Tallow witnesses the brutal murder of his partner by a schizoid psychopath referred throughout GUN MACHINE as the Hunter. Tallow’s crime scene begins with the Hunter’s apartment that is packed with a plethora of guns lining the walls, carefully linked (almost like an H.R. Giger painting) with each weapon representing an unsolved murder of the last twenty plus years. Tallow’s superiors allow him to work the case (when in reality he should be on extended forced leave) but tie his hands for genuine results by limiting him from police resources needed, and it soon becomes clear to Tallow that someone wants him to fail in his search for the Hunter.

The high point of GUN is the Hunter himself, who believes he is walking the Manahatta landscape when the Lenape peoples of North America were present. Ellis writes these passages in such a convincing manner that I felt like I was inside the impaired brain that evidently short-circuited a long time ago. I hope when Hollywood comes calling (Tinseltown already filmed RED by Mr. Ellis), they don’t try any gimmicky camera tricks to express the amoral, hellish vision of the Hunter. One just needs an actor on the Robert Mitchum or Javier Bardem level to express the unscrupulous, mentally unstable monster.

Mr. Ellis has a solid handle on writing the classic detective novel. It’s crisp storytelling with engaging, well-developed secondary characters (if a bit—geeky misfits banded together—cliche), and robust action sizzling at the right hardboiled turns. Within a few chapters, I was won over by the battle-wearied John Tallow who becomes a man with a single obsessive goal—regardless of the consequences—of tracking his prey down. The ingenious way he works around his superiors with the help of his tight-knit band of police brothers and sister brought a smile to this ‘tired of bureaucratic red tape’ reader’s face. GUN is well paced for two thirds of the novel but I started feeling (around chapter thirty) that I wanted to get to the end a tad bit faster (a novella would have been perfect) but stuck with it and was rewarded with Tallow’s very high tech way of tracking the killer to a satisfying showdown.

My first Warren Ellis John Tallow novel. It won’t be the last. GUN MACHINE is well worth your time and money.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Patti Abbott at BEAT to a PULP

Patti Abbott is the author of more than one hundred stories online, in print journals, and in numerous anthologies. She is the author of the ebooks, MONKEY JUSTICE and HOME INVASION (Snubnose Press), and co-editor of DISCOUNT NOIR (Untreed Reads). She won a Derringer Award from the Short Mystery Fiction Society for her story, “My Hero,” in 2009. Recent stories appeared in THE HUFFINGTON POST and THUGLIT. Forthcoming stories will appear in PLOTS WITH GUNS, YELLOW MAMA and MALFEASANCE OCCASIONAL. You can find links to more of her stories at

Patti helped put BEAT to a PULP on the map back in 2008 and I'm very happy she has returned this week with "The Big Lug."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Nik Morton at BEAT to a PULP

Bio: Nik Morton served in the Royal Navy as a writer, then went into IT. He has sold many short stories and edited several books and magazines. He now lives in Spain. In February 2011 he was hired as the editor-in-chief of the US publisher, Solstice Publishing. He is the author of Bullets for a Ballot. His book Write a Western in 30 Days is due in June, and he has just signed a contract for his 18th and 19th books, Wings of the Overlord, a fantasy quest jointly written with Gordon Faulkner, and Blood of the Dragon Trees, a thriller set in Tenerife. His ghost-written book Odd Shoes and Medals, an autobiography of an 80-year-old has just been released.

Let me just add that Nik is a good friend. He accepted the very first Cash Laramie story (for which I'm eternally grateful) and wrote one of his own with BULLETS. And I'm very pleased to say that he's back at BEAT to a PULP with "Bid Time Return."

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Richard Burton Diaries

When I’m not reading submissions for BEAT to a PULP, I usually can be found around bedtime reading children’s books to my daughter, and, then after she's asleep, biographies for my own pleasure. Normally I prefer bios of authors or historical icons, like John Adams or Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs. Actors generally aren't high on my list, and, though Richard Burton was an actor I respected (for The Spy Who Came In From the Cold and, here’s the pulp kid in me, The Wild Geese and Where Eagles Dare), his bio wouldn’t be one I'd gravitate to.

Just the same, The Richard Burton Diaries ended up on my Kindle Fire. At first, I thought I had made a mistake. As I swiped through the digital pages, I was kinda bored, and even when "E" entered the picture, it didn’t help things. (You know who E is, right? Yeah, Elizabeth and Richard were Brad and Angelina forty-five years before. Still, wasn’t interested ... never understood celebrity and probably won’t in this lifetime.) I almost gave up on the read, but then—this is going to sound weird—I felt like I was starting to relate to this Welsh-born thespian on a personal level. Maybe it was just his thoughts on being exhausted at the end of a long work day and how he just wanted to finish the latest novel on his nightstand. That sentiment is universal, right? With pithy diary entries, I kept reading on. More often than not, the diary is dedicated to what he ate, drank, and read for leisure. Burton was a voracious bookworm and could finish a novel in a day. He lists many, and I jotted down a few he recommended. He comes across as just an average guy, and his humble way of proclaiming the absurdity of the media circus about him kept me going.

Many, many pages are devoted to E. No doubt he loved her deeply. He worries about her tiniest fears and dotes on every aspect of her life. Almost too much but obviously they were river deep, mountain high in love. They divorced in ‘75 and got together again for work on the disastrous Private Lives play. At first everything went well with their public reunion but fairly soon Burton wrote:

"ET as exciting as a flounder temporarily…. This is going to be a long seven months. ET beginning to bore which I would not have thought possible all those years ago. How terrible a thing time is."

By the way, if you like reading about the famous knocking the famous, there are plenty of those moments sprinkled about. Franco Zefferelli and Jean Moreau get hit predominantly hard. As does the director of The Maltese Falcon, “Huston is a simpleton. But believes himself to be a genius. And a self aggrandizing liar. Cunning at it.”  

Still, I find the best entries to be the quiet ones devoted to the women he loved and the children he adored ... the ordinary guy—the guy I get—who just so happened to become one of the most famous actors of the 20th century.

And somewhere across time—October 5, 1966 to be exact—RB was scrawling, “In case there is any mistake. This diary is written for my own benefit.” Maybe so, sir. But I came to enjoy your ramblings and thoughts on life. I was sad when your life in these pages ended. Salud.

Josh Stallings at BEAT to a PULP

Have you checked out BEAT to a PULP recently? In the last few weeks we have had Jen Conley, Keith Rawson, and Thuglit’s Todd Robinson. This week, I’m real pleased to say that Josh Stallings is at BTAP. Recently, I read his noir memoir All The Wild Children and knew I wanted his work on our webzine. He graciously obliged with “The Blow Jobs.” And on the way: Patti Abbott, Matthew C. Funk, Nik Morton, Sandra Seamans, Terrie Farley Moran, Benoit Lelievre, Stephen D. Rogers, Charles Boeckman, and many more.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Heath Lowrance Interview

Where did life begin for Heath Lowrance?

If we're talking literal, it began in Huntsville Alabama with a smooth-talking ladies man who somehow convinced my (rather naive) mother that he was Chuck Connors. A whirlwind romance, a quickie marriage, and bammo, a kid-- at which point the smooth celebrity look-a-like vanished from the scene and left my mom to do the child-rearing on her own. We migrated to Calhoun, Tennessee, then Michigan, and back and forth for a while, depending on my mother's fortunes and family relations.

If we're talking figurative, it began when I was in my forties and decided I didn't give a damn what anyone thought anymore and decided to stake everything on writing.

What has been the greatest sacrifice?

I sacrificed relationships and "career opportunities" that would have led to stability and money. I turned away from any sort of "normal life". But I never missed any of it. By middle-age, I knew that nothing else would work for me but to be dedicated to writing. Any job I took would have to conform to that; if it meant eating ramen noodles and sleeping in the back seat of my car (which it did, for a while) then so be it. Nothing else would do.

My life so far has been an example of Amazing Luck. Despite some intensely rough periods, I'm at a place now where I have a day job that doesn't interfere with my real work, I have a lovely and supportive wife, and a bright and beautiful daughter from a previous marriage. I'm not hungry. I have a roof over my head. And I write. I never had to give it up.

I always liked the way Charles Bukowski referred to mind numbing day labor as soul-sucking jobs. What were a few of your memorable positions?

I've had a LOT of jobs, man. The worst one ever was the one I had the longest, through most of my thirties: working as an office drone. Customer service and all that, taking phone calls from angry customers and dealing with the idiotic managerial hierarchy and soul-destroying corporate minds. Oh, how I hated it. And not surprisingly, I didn't write much during that period. It was awful.

Before that, I worked in a lot of book stores. I worked as a private detective for about a year, which was not nearly as interesting as it sounds. I worked security in the parking lot of a punk club in Detroit. I was even one of those guys who dresses up like a cartoon animal at a theme-pizza- restaurant for kids.

The best job, though, was at Sun Studio in Memphis, where I was a tour guide. I got to listen to great music all day, and talk to people from all over the world. Met a lot of my favorite musicians there and learned a great deal.

Is the ghost of Elvis alive and well at Sun Studio?

Ha... no Elvis sightings while I was there, I'm afraid. But the King will always live on in our hearts, yeah?

I did hang out with Billy Lee Riley, though, and Rufus Thomas, Roscoe Gordon, a few others. I gave a tour of the studio to The Cramps, and that was kind of cool. Probably the highlight of my time there was when the BBC came to do a documentary and filmed Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Scotty Moore (Elvis' guitar player) jamming in the studio. I was the only non-essential personnel in the room. I still get chills thinking about it. I shared a Coke with Carl Perkins and got dissed by Jerry Lee.

What an incredible moment! I gotta ask though, what was up with The Killer that day?

The Killer was getting make-up put on for the cameras. I came up and introduced myself, told him I was a fan, and he sorta looked up at me in this stiff-necked way and said, "'course ya are, son," and then turned away. It was kinda funny, and pretty typical Jerry Lee.

How did you come to write weird westerns?

It was a case of writing what I wanted desperately to read. I loved Robert E. Howard's work, and Joe Lansdale's crazy weird westerns, and really wanted to read something that was all out pulp-inspired western horror. So that's where I went. "That Damned Coyote Hill" was a combination of genres I love, featuring my ideal damaged tough guy protagonist. I wasn't thinking in terms of a series at the time. I honestly thought it would be a one-off. But something about Hawthorne kept inspiring more story ideas and now he and the weird western have taken hold of me.

Can you give us a hint of what Hawthorne is up to next?

Next is "Scarred", the origin story, probably in summer. You'll find out about the woman named Johanna, and Hawthorne's father, and the unspeakably horrible act that led to Hawthorne's current preoccupation with slaughtering evil wherever he finds it. After that, the Cash Laramie/Hawthorne cross-over, which I'm pretty excited about. That will take us approximately halfway through the Hawthorne saga.

It will be interesting to see how you and Ed Grainger are able to cross these two worlds. Hey, make sure Grainger does his fair share of the writing.

Hey, you don't crack the whip on Grainger. But you can be sure it'll be every bit his story as much as mine.

You're right and I shouldn't dump on Ed, he does contribute to a couple of my bills. So, what's it like to write Grainger's Gideon Miles character and what's next?

I've really grown attached to Gideon. It's sort of like when a mutual friend introduces you to someone and says, "Hey, you guys should hang out," and you wind up being tight with that person. That's how I feel about Grainger lending me Gideon Miles. And I also think Gideon is sort of inspirational, as a character; whenever I have to decide what course of action he'll take in a story, or what he'll say or think, I start with: what would a decent, strong-minded, level-headed man with a deep understanding of the world do? Because that's what Gideon Miles would do. He's a role model. I'm proud to have contributed to his mythos and help develop his character.

It's a very different proposition from writing Hawthorne, who is a bit of a psychopath, really, and not someone you'd want to emulate.

The next Gideon Miles is a novella called "Gideon Miles and the Axeman of Storyville," which catches up with our hero in his senior years, running a club in New Orleans and coming into conflict with a depraved murderer. Sometime in the near future, I'll return to Gideon in his Old West Marshaling days.

Heath Lowrance regularly blogs at Psycho Noir and his Amazon page can be found here.

Friday, May 3, 2013

“Thomas Pluck!”

When I mention the name Thomas Pluck out loud, my two-year-old daughter recites it in a cute high-pitch voice. His name must have some sorta boom-chicka-boom rhythm the way she spins around on her toes as she sings out, “Thomas Pluck!”

Today, I was sent quite a present from “Thomas Pluck!” The gift was his final edit of Blade of Dishonor that we’ve been working on together—or rather he’s been working on based on an idea I hatched about a character named Reeves. My proposal was cliché and to “Thomas Pluck!”’s credit, he let me know it was cliché. But he liked the germ of the idea and ran with it. It’s too early to get into specifics as this nearly 50k word novel needs to be edited by yours truly and we have to work on the cover art, though I think “Thomas Pluck!” has that, um, covered.

Wait a sec, I just remembered he had talked about Blade once before and said this about it:

David Cranmer asked if I’d be interested in writing about an MMA fighter tussling with ninjas over a stolen sword. How could I say no to that? David published my mixed martial arts fighter tale “A Glutton for Punishment,” and I grew up on ’80s ninja movies and the Shogun Assassin “baby cart” samurai films. It is set in the present day, but the action begins in World War 2. I enjoy writing this so much that there may be a prequel written in the era of feudal Japan.

Well, he exceeded far beyond what I imagined. Today, at the soul-sucking day job, I read as much as I could at lunch and then said out loud, “Thomas Pluck!” My co-worker asked, “What’s a Thomas Pluck?”, and I replied, “You will know soon enough.”