Friday, December 27, 2013

And So This Was Christmas

Going into this holiday season, I wasn’t sure how my family would cope, being our first Christmas without Kyle. But—I don’t know how to put this in words—it was good, and I think it’s because we chose to remember him rather than mourn him. We pulled together and had sweatshirts made that feature his Pluvial Gardens book cover on the front and text from the poem on the back with his name and life years. We all put our shirts on and then went outside for a photo in the snow. I’ve worn it each day since. Maybe, I’ll give it a rest tomorrow—maybe.

My sister surprised her husband with this ornament—the photo below was taken by my brother-in-law, Bob—a symbol of a father and son's shared passion for music, and he got her a sapphire necklace, the stone for Kyle's birth month September. Very touching. Christmas 2013 for us was about a family that lost a very special member, about how we got knocked down but not out, how we took as much of the sting out of our pain as we could, how we’re stronger now because he’s still with us in his words and in spirit. Always will be.

I hope all of you find some peace this season. From my family to yours, we wish you the best of New Years.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

118-Year-Old Treasure

William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice was in a packed away box at the new house. I took it out, away from its brothers and sisters—King Richard The Third, Macbeth, King Lear, etc—and opened it up. From 1895 ... 118 years ago! The original owner, Arden N., inscribed his name in pencil with the year 1899. For both a history buff and a lover of all things print, this was quite a find. The books from Harper & Brothers was edited with notes by William J. Rolfe.

Wikipedia adds a little spotlight to this find:
William James Rolfe, Litt.D.(1827–1910) was an American Shakespearean scholar and educator, born in Newburyport, Massachusetts on December 10, 1827.

He graduated from Amherst in 1849, and between 1852 and 1868 was head master of high schools at Dorchester, Lawrence, Salem, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Early in his career, he edited selections from Ovid and Virgil and (in collaboration) the Cambridge Course of Physics (six volumes, 1867–68).

His Shakespearean work began with an edition of George Lillie Craik’s English of Shakespeare (1867). This led to the preparation of a complete edition - the Friendly Edition - of Shakespeare (forty volumes, 1870–83; new edition, 1903–07).
These little, red books have sharp illustrations and comprehensive introductions by Rolfe. Now this is where I get downright, uh, nerdy, but how remarkable that I’m holding a book from many decades past and in such pristine condition! Actually the first copyright was 1870—a hundred years before I was born—containing words that are around 415 years old! As a humble publisher and pulp hack, I would be exceedingly glad to be remembered thirty minutes from now let alone the century mark.

I turn to my latest effort which is a print version of Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles (first released in 2011 as an ebook, now approaching 120 reviews on Amazon, and heading toward deeper parts of the great pulp stream). I’ve added an extra story, and I ponder for the shortest of seconds that someone will be reading those words in 2113.

Yeah. Small chance, but perchance to dream, right?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Our Fantastic, Sad, Little Snowman

We didn’t get as much snow as expected, but it was enough to have some fun sledding down the little hill in front of our house. This is the first winter that I'm sure our daughter will begin developing some memories of making snow angels, sledding, and bringing snowmen to life--and our first snowman attempt had me chuckling! Not quite enough wet snow so we had to keep him tiny in stature. The stone eyes were too big for the face and Ava’s hat a size too large. But with that carrot button-nose, overall, we like our fantastic, sad, little snowman.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Fall Creek Review

The Fall Creek Review is the beginning of something I think will be very special. A new webzine devoted to poetry, stories, art, and opinion edited by Cole Montegue. A very spare site at the moment, but I’m aware of what lies ahead and I think you are going to want to bookmark this page. By that first poem, well, maybe just me, but I feel The Fall Creek Review is off to an inspired start. Please stop by and drop a comment. It will be appreciated.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Down This Long Road Is A Mailbox

At the bottom of this long and winding hill is a mailbox. I enjoy the walk down and even the difficult trudge back up -- gets the blood pumping, which is a welcomed change after typing all morning, and my Saint Nicholas gut tells me I should make the climb a few more times every day. Yesterday’s delivery (from the postman as he said with a smirk, “Read much?”) was HARDBOILED 3. I ripped open the package on the long climb up and read aloud, huffing and puffing, the glossy cover’s names: a distinguished gathering of greatness -- Josh Stallings, Andrew Nette, Patti Abbott, Sophie Littlefield, Chris F. Holm, Keith Rawson, Fred Blosser, Hilary Davidson, and Kieran Shea. A new co-editor is on board by the name of Elise Wright. I’m still tempting her with a full-time gig at the webzine, but she is holding out for more Jelly Bellies. We’ll see who wins.

So, after, I grab another coffee, I will admire the current paperback and then get moving on the next. Always be closing with quality, and the next book is a time traveler that I’ve left stranded for far too long in the 24th century.

And, more importantly, I plan on making more snow angels with my daughter. I didn’t mention that did I? Well, with the dusting of snow we got late yesterday afternoon, she made a total of thirty before the sun went down over the tree line. And I know with her daddy’s help, we can triple that number today. Here's a shot of one of our earliest efforts.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A New Member of BEAT to a PULP

I'm very pleased to say Chad Eagleton has come on board to help edit stories at BEAT to a PULP along with myself and Scott Parker. I'm sure you are aware of his work, but for a few who may not, Chad is a Spinetingler Award nominee and two-time Watery Grave Invitational finalist. He is the editor of the 1950s Greaser anthology Hoods, Hot Rods, and Hellcats. He blogs regularly at Cathode Angel, and his short stories and novellas can be found at many major pulpy webzines and publications.

Welcome, Chad.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

BEAT to a PULP: Hardboiled 3

BEAT to a PULP: HARDBOILED 3 is now available at Createspace, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Kobo, and iBooks to follow soon.

Description: The third time's a blood-splattered charm as BEAT to a PULP and nine of today's hard-hitting, top writers stalk the depraved streets where no good deed goes unpunished, vengeance is the norm, and lady luck is a cold-hearted bitch that just left you for dead in a back alley. Raw-nerved, pure virtuosity seeps from the grunge-tainted keyboards of Patti Abbott, Fred Blosser, Hilary Davidson, Chris F. Holm, Sophie Littlefield, Andrew Nette, Keith Rawson, Kieran Shea, and Josh Stallings.

Co-edited by David Cranmer, who brought you the 2012 winner of Spinetingler's Anthology of the Year, this bold and riveting collection is a worthy continuation in the best-selling BTAP "Hardboiled" series.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pluvial Gardens

The early stages of Pluvial Gardens.
My sister Meta along with her husband Bob and Bob's brother Gary have all been working on the Pluvial Gardens—a memorial garden not only for my nephew Kyle, but also our father whose ashes are there, our mom who is very much alive but is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s, and a family friend who passed away on the same grounds a decade plus back. In this picture, Meta is sitting between two hearts outlined with rocks and filled in with red mulch—that was Bob’s idea, a nice touch. This garden is being constructed on the spot where the house fire claimed my nephew's life. Friends, family, and even some folks who hadn't known Kyle have pledged flowers, money, and time toward creating the garden. The outpouring of love is on a level I've never experienced before.

Also, my niece Kayla recently had this extraordinary piece of art tattooed on her arm. She chose a favorite shot of her brother, and I can see why she picked it. It has the essence of who he was, and the tattoo artist captured this to perfection. I feel like I don't say it enough to her, and so I want to say it now: I’m so proud of my niece in all that she has accomplished and what’s yet to come.

I am one who no longer believes in closure—not when you love someone as much as we loved Kyle. But I do believe you can keep the memory alive, and that brings moments of peace which are very welcomed. And on that note, my sister Meta wants to thank all the writers and readers who have showed so much kindness for her son—the people who reached out with all the support for Kyle's work in the form of reviews and spreading the word.

I hope you don't mind me talking a bit about my family but that is what this old soldier is thinking about on Veteran's Day 2013. And I hope this post finds you all doing well.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Guardian's Top 10 Westerns

Peter Swanson brought this list to my attention and I gotta say I like every film here. Your thoughts?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Trails of the Wild

I've been working on TRAILS OF THE WILD for a few months and am happy to finally set it free. This eclectic western collection features six  short stories from the cutting edge talents of James Reasoner, Patti Abbott, Chuck Tyrell, Kieran Shea, Evan Lewis, and Matthew Pizzolato. Grounding the beautifully packaged book (thank you, dMix) is a new Cash Laramie novella by Wayne D. Dundee that gives new meaning to the moniker The Outlaw Marshal. TRAILS is available through Createspace or an eBook for the Kindle and print. By the end of the day I hope to have it in the Nook and iBooks stores. And Kobo follows in about a week.
I certainly hope you have as much enjoyment reading TRAILS as I did while putting it together. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Little Book That Did

Back in January 2012 when we released MANHUNTER'S MOUNTAIN I had no plans to offer any of the Cash Laramie novels as print books. Ebooks were cresting on the newest of waves, and it seemed like the perfect medium to launch the outlaw marshal character who came up through the webzines. All the Cash & Miles stories have been popular but Manhunter's Mountain is clearly a hands-down favorite. Not a month goes by without someone asking if the series is available in print. One fan from North Dakota even asked if I could print just one copy for his collection, and I wrote back saying it would cost $500! Crickets chirping.

So, from now on most BEAT to a PULP works over 15k will be in both print and electronic formats, and we will work on updating our back catalog.

Thank you Wayne D. Dundee for writing such an exceptional book that perfectly infused the western, noir, and hardboiled elements.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Movie Night: His Kind of Woman

His Kind of Woman is a 1951 black-and-white film noir starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell. The film features supporting roles by Vincent Price, Raymond Burr, and Charles McGraw. The movie was directed officially by John Farrow and based on the unpublished story Star Sapphie by Gerald Drayson. [Source: Wikipedia]

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Tom Pluck's Steelcase

You are looking at a Steelcase business grade shelf stacked 3 deep.

My own books and signed editions by authors I respect line the top shelf. Some are blocked out by the Escher Metamorphosis cards that I respond to letters with.

So there is a benefit to snail mail...

I cycle the books back and forth to force me to read the ones I've neglected. My TBR pile is so big I may never finish it. It just keeps getting larger as more and more fine stories by great writers are published. And then there's the e-books.

The shelf threatens to plummet through the floor on occasion, and I go on a reading binge to put it on a diet, but then someone goes and writes another damn good book and it's overweight again.

If only that were life's biggest complaint, having so many great stories waiting for me to read.

Pluck This!

My buddy Thomas Pluck is featured as part of the Montclair Times Bookshelf. Check out Pluck pens pulp fiction warriors.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Little Boy Inside and Other Stories

"The Little Boy Inside" was one of the premium short stories published at BEAT to a PULP. A toppermost of the pulpermost to slightly re-coin a Lennon saying. What genre is it? You read and tell me. Mr. Gray is one of those authors who has the ability to transcend the silly check points critics set up for us. Bottom line: Glenn Gray is a damn fine storyteller with a unique voice. Now he has a collection of his stories published from the notable Concord ePress that I very much recommend. Need a sample? Here you go ...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Now That's a Bookshelf, Bill Crider!

This is just one of many shelves in my office.  A mere drop in the ocean of books around there.  The top shelf holds most of the Ace Double crime novels, though the most famous one is a couple of shelves down in the middle.  Most of the rest is a sort of hodge-podge. I know what's there, even though it's all double-shelved.

Bonus: Bill performing with The Fabulous G-Strings.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Angel Bitch

It's ages since he had his last attack.
These days she knows when one's about to strike
and sends an urgent warning to the phone
he keeps in readiness next to his heart—
reverberations that he daren't ignore.
Though kneeling at the altar rails, at work
or sleeping in his bed, he'll rise and go.

Sound-proofed, with padded doors and dimly lit,
her basement is her place for therapy—
A basement for abasement, she will jest.

Now raised above him on a golden plinth, a light behind, its halo round her head, from breast to ankles she is dressed in white. The dress gives off a slightly golden glow.

Our second David King story, "Angel Bitch," first appeared in 2011.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dave King Commemorative at BTAP

In September, Dave King wrote me an email saying, “Much thanks for all your past encouragement.” I replied by asking for his address to send a book of poetry his way. At the time, his generous remark didn’t sink in of how he was so close to life’s edge. You see, back on August 15, Dave posted on his blog that he had prostate cancer. Yet he continued putting up poems with his courageous view of the future, and it had me hopeful that more time lay ahead. Sadly, though, Dave’s son Gavin informed his father’s online friends that Dave passed away on October 4.

I recommend you take a minute to read “Why can only the living mourn?” And “How do I prepare for death?” These two recent posts reveal what a brave, compassionate, and caring man Dave King was. And what an extraordinary talent. Good lord, he wrote a poem a day for most of the time I knew him, and on more than one occasion, I had commented along the lines of, “Dave, when are you going to put a book out!” I was in awe of the quality and output.

Like most social networking friends, I can’t remember who came to whose blog first. One day he was there. After reading "I am the man who swallowed the boy" in February 2010, I asked Dave if he would write a poem—in story—for BEAT to a PULP. A few months later, he sent “Collision” and then in 2011 the delightfully titled “Angel Bitch.”

When my nephew died this past June, Dave said in part, “A tragic story that puts my present troubles in perspective.” What a beautiful human being! Doing what class acts of his stature does, put others and their problems above his own.

A further testament to Dave’s courage, I had asked him for another poem for the webzine, and he responded, “It may take me a while to write the poem -- I'm not quite as quick as I was -- have to wait for the next energy burst like a surfer waiting for his wave.” I love this imagery, and how his reply captures the magnificence of a great poet still carrying on with what he loves.

Dave, I never heard your voice, shook your hand, or had an English cup of tea with you. But know I miss you dearly, friend. Thank you for your past encouragement and support. May your poetry continue to soar long after your passing. I know it will with me. And I am rerunning both your BEAT to a PULP contributions this week in your honor.

Rest in peace.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Hawthorne: Tales of a Weirder West

There are monsters in the West. There is evil, lurking in the blood-soaked hills and bone-strewn plains. But there is also Hawthorne—scarred, enigmatic, deadly, driven by an all-consuming rage to seek out and destroy evil wherever he finds it. Without mercy.

But how long can one man fight the demons before becoming one himself?

HAWTHORNE: TALES OF A WEIRDER WEST features the stories “That Damned Coyote Hill,” “The Long Black Train,” “The Spider Tribe,” “Bad Sanctuary,” and “The Unholy” as well as an introduction by Western fiction legend James Reasoner.

Amazon Kindle and Createspace print.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Heath Lowrance's Bookshelf

It's hard to figure out where to put the oversize books, so they wind up on top of the short shelf in front of the window, along with Hulk, Linda Darnell, Tiki Clock, and um, a rubber brain. Those "Crimes and Punishment" volumes were partly responsible for warping my very young brain; they're full of purple prose and lurid death-scene photographs, and when I was ten or so I found a few my mom had hidden away. About three years ago, I stumbled across the entire set at a library book sale and snatched them up.

Heath Lowrance regularly blogs at Psycho Noir.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Against the falling stone

Sketch from one of Kyle's notebooks.

Kyle J. Knapp

The dripping blonde blushing iris of the waterfall,
And wanders,
Wearing her cold, worn willow-vair lashes
   Against the falling stone.

From Pluvial Gardens & Other Poems.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Hard Case Crime's Charles Ardai at BEAT to a PULP

Charles Ardai is co-founder and editor of the acclaimed Hard Case Crime imprint, which since 2004 has been publishing paperback crime novels in the style of the pulp paperbacks of the 1940s and 50s. Nominated five times in its first five years for the Edgar Allan Poe Award and described by Neal Pollack in The Stranger as "the best new American publisher to appear in the past decade," Hard Case Crime has published books by authors such as Stephen King, Mickey Spillane, Pete Hamill, Donald E. Westlake, Ed McBain, Madison Smartt Bell, and Lawrence Block, and won praise from authors ranging from Jonathan Lethem to J.K. Rowling. Ardai is also himself an award-winning author whose work has received the Edgar and Shamus Awards and been selected for anthologies such as The Year's Best Horror Stories and Best Mystery Stories of the Year. The first two novels he wrote for Hard Case Crime, under the pseudonym "Richard Aleas," are in development as feature films at Universal, with Jonathan Levine attached to direct. Ardai is also a writer and producer on the TV series Haven, which was inspired by the novel Stephen King wrote for Hard Case Crime.

We're very honored to have Mr. Ardai at BEAT to a PULP this week with "The Shadow Line."

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bill Crider's Evil at the Root

In this latest Sheriff Dan Rhodes adventure, Bill Crider sends the small-town Texas lawman to investigate the apparent theft of a set of false teeth from one of the elderly residents of the Sunny Dale Nursing Home. The case, which begins as one merely embarrassing ("Ah ain't got no TEEF!") quickly turns serious when the owner of the missing dentures, one Lloyd Bobbit, is found suffocated with a plastic grocery bag.

The prime suspect is a fellow Sunny Daler, Maurice Kennedy, who was known to have had no love for the cantankerous Bobbit—a feud that originated way, way back in the youth of the two men. Now Kennedy is missing—but is he the killer or another victim?

Meanwhile, Rhodes and his two attenuated jailers have been hit with a lawsuit claiming dangerous and inhumane conditions at the local jail. There's not much of a case, considering that the town's best cook provides the prisoners' meals. With all that's going on, Rhodes scarcely has time to pay proper attention to his fortunately ever-patient fiancée, Ivy Daniel.

Bill Crider's Evil at the Root: Newly released for the Kindle.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ron Scheer's Bookshelves

You’re looking at one wall of the room I use for an office. The books across the bottom shelf on the left (plus three on top and three on the floor) are references for blogging and the book project I’m working on. The book itself in its present form is in the stacks of paper on the floor.

The rest of the books are mostly western fiction and some history. The stack between the cases is the to-read-next pile, and it hardly ever seems to sink below where it is now. About a third of that bunch are original editions of 100-year-old novels. There are more on the middle shelf of the bookcase on the right.

The framed photo on the far right is my attractive wife and copyeditor. The bears and koala are part of a collection that has followed me over the years. Charles Gramlich will recognize the framed cover of his KILLING TRAIL peeking out atop the left bookcase.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Garnett Elliott's Bookshelf

I was putting some paperbacks from storage on their new bookshelf 'home' when it occurred to me that some people might wonder why I've arranged them in the way that I have. Then I thought, "Wonder how other writers' bookshelves look as they organize their most prized worldly possessions." A couple of days later, I was corresponding with Garnett Elliott and asked him if he didn't mind sharing. Ask and ye shall receive:

Here's the "prized books" section of my bookcase, with all the hardboiled authors who have had the most influence of my writing.  Though it's hard to see, from left to right is:   Himes, Higgins ('The Friends of Eddie Coyle,' natch), Thompson, Goodis, Williams (Charles Williams--'The Hot Spot'), Chandler, Hammett, MacDonald (I've got McDonald, too, but on another shelf), Crumley, Willeford, Cain, Peter Rabe, and of course, Mojo Storyteller, Joe R. Lansdale.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dundee On Hell Up

I saw this Amazon review from Wayne D. Dundee for HELL UP IN HOUSTON, the second in BEAT to a PULP’s Jack Laramie series, and I had to share. Thanks, Wayne.

Hell Up In Houston is a Hell of a Good Read by Wayne D. Dundee
This second title in the Jack Laramie series is another intriguing entry that slams the roaming PI up against some mighty hard edges and spins him around in a number of deft plot twists. The pace never lets up and, even though you know Jack is going to get his bearings and do some hard pushing back before it's all over, you're driven to keep reading in order to find out how and also learn the answers he needs before he can settle all scores.

Spawned by David Cranmer's popular Cash Laramie westerns, Jack is the grandson of ol' Cash who --- in place of his grandfather's U.S. Marshal star --- has taken up the plastic badge of a PI during the early post-WWII years. Unbound by a standard office in a particular city, however, Jack roams West Texas and surrounding areas hunting up cases where he finds them. He covers the miles in a hard-driven old DeSoto, pulling a horse trailer that serves as a mobile office and, as needed, his living quarters. This concept gives the overall series a nice distinction right from the get-go.

In this tale, returning to Houston is just about the last thing Jack wants to do. The last place he wants to be. But misfortune, in the form of a blown radiator on his DeSoto, plants him there ... and, by the time he's ready to leave, he has even more reasons for never wanting to go back

Monday, September 30, 2013


Most of mom’s books were destroyed in the fire that claimed my nephew’s life. The material possessions are quite secondary to our greatest loss. And I hadn’t really thought much about mom’s eclectic collection of biblical, political, literary, poetry and pulp novels. (Yes, now you know where some of the inspiration came from for both me and Kyle.)

Cover illustration by Fred Pfeiffer.
My charmers and I have been settling into a new home, and, over this weekend, we went to the storage unit for a few items when I began rummaging through some boxes. In them, I found a few of my mom’s books. I lit up. There was THE PRISONER OF ZENDA by Anthony Hope. That 1968 paperback, probably bought off a spinner rack, had a cover that simply mesmerized me as a kid before I was even old enough to read. Who was the guy trying to escape from? Would he get past the sentries on the bridge? Zenda! The very name sounded like excitement.

Ronald Coleman—one of mom’s favorite actors—starred in the 1937 film adaptation, and I still remember how her eyes would grow wide when she said his name. “What a magnificent actor!” she’d rave, then she’d add very dramatically, “I always loved movies of Kings and Queens!” She must have told me that a thousand times as I was growing up. I smile now when I imagine my mom as an eleven-year-old girl thrilled about going to see her favorite actors fight it out on the silver screen.

I think I will hermetically seal this paperback. Yep. Going to save it for another generation ... “Ava, let me tell you about THE PRISONER OF ZENDA. Here’s your grandmother’s copy ...”

Thursday, September 26, 2013


I’m late to the game here—no surprise—finally watching Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes set in present day England. Didn’t think they could pull it off, but the way they’ve combined modern tech with Sherlock’s computing brain is riveting. Martin Freeman as Doctor John Watson, who’s returned from grueling tour of duty in Afghanistan, is a perfect match as a man of action. The whole cast and presentation is above the average, and it got me thinking of my list of top SH portrayals. Starting with:

Jeremy Brett -- The definitive Sherlock Holmes. An actor who melded with the role. Brett appeared in 41 episodes of the Granada series (1984-1994) and became the new standard.

Benedict Cumberbatch -- This updated SH makes me forget that Holmes was originally a 19th century detective. So far I’ve watched only the first two episodes, “A Study in Pink” and “The Blind Banker,” and if the rest of the series holds form, I’m sold on Cumberbatch.

Basil Rathbone played the part from 1939-1946 -- The first Sherlock Holmes I ever watched. When the SH name is brought up, I immediately think of him in my mind’s eyes. I still enjoy watching Rathbone’s The Hound of the Baskervilles film, though I didn’t care for his Holmes update to the WWII war effort.

Peter Cushing (1968) -- The production doesn’t quite live up to others in standards, but Cushing delivers an equally tremendous performance. I recently watched his SH portrayal on a new DVD release, and plan to watch them again soon.

Also in my top ten would be Arthur Wontner, Michael Caine, and Christopher Lee. Since some 75 actors have played Sherlock Holmes in 200 plus films, maybe my partial list is quite different from yours. Set me straight, my Sherlockians!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Heath Lowrance just got out of the hospital and has written a very touching post. Stop over when you get a chance.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Frequencies Open, Captain Cranmer

I’m on the USS Enterprise, my first day on the job, walking around in jeans and a plain old T-shirt. I’m led into a room that’s to the right of the elevator in the original series. I know that’s not spatially correct, but I have bigger concerns ... I’m worried about what color shirt I’ll be wearing. Please don’t be red! I tell myself. In the room, I’m handed a ‘Spock’ blue shirt, and I sigh a relief.

I’m left alone to put it on. It feels comfortable (though I remember William Shatner said in an interview that they were not), but it’s too long, stretching almost to my knees. I don’t have time to think about it as someone comes in and whisks me away, out of the starship.

The Enterprise is docked on Earth, and it’s a beautiful sunny day. Apparently, back on board, the crew members on the bridge are preparing for an emergency drill training session that I will be leading. Sensing my unease, Kirk slaps me on the back and says, “You’ll do fine.” Then he escorts me back to the bridge. The training begins with a scenario of another ship’s crew in danger on a foreign planet.

“Open all frequencies,” I tell Uhura.

“Frequencies open, Captain,” she replies.

I speak loudly into the air, asking, “How many casualties?”

“Seventy-nine,” a male voice crackles back from the imagined faraway outpost. Anguished screams and explosions sound in the background. They are under attack from a formidable opponent. Probably Klingon.

I tell him what to do to save his crew and repair the situation. “Keep me posted,” I command with authority. I click off the intercom, and then as an afterthought, I click back on, adding, “But don’t call us, we’ll call you!”

My lame joke is well received with everyone on the Enterprise Bridge as they double over with laughter.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Girl They Loved To Kill

The tragic life and career of Peggie Castle, a woman who made a brief living out of dying in film noir. -- Jake Hinkson

Thursday, September 19, 2013

James Reasoner’s Death and the Dancing Shadows

James Reasoner’s “Death and the Dancing Shadows” features his Markham PI who is called to the home of retired movie star Eliot “Lucky” Tremaine. Turns out Tremaine is being blackmailed by video of his missing granddaughter, Stacy, in a porn film. The girl’s trail leads to murder and thugs who rough up the P.I. I spotted the twist at the end but was rewarded with Mr. Reasoner’s very sobering last paragraph where Markham does the right thing.

“Dancing Shadows” is a 9,000 word novella originally published in the March 1980 issue of MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE. I hope Mr. Reasoner releases more of these old gems.

Grab a copy of this book at $0.99 and schedule yourself a half hour. You’ll be thoroughly entertained.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On the Death of a Friend

I interviewed one of Kyle Knapp's very good friends, Amanda Shaw, and asked her for a little insight into her time with Kyle, of the work they did together, and how Kyle's death has impacted her.

How long had you known Kyle?

Amanda Shaw
I've known Kyle since I was fourteen, so 8 almost 9 years. I was sitting outside during lunch hour at school. He liked my moccasins and Green Day T-shirt so he sat beside me and just started talking to me; he tried to teach me to play hacky sack, but that didn't work, so for 8 years we just kept talking.

Were you aware that he kept scores of notebooks in which to compose his poetry and other writings?

He didn't tell me about his writings until a couple years into our friendship, but I think the moment I became a part of them is when he told me about them. Last fall, after I returned from Colorado, was my first visit to the Mill Street house and the first time I actually saw the physical volume of his work though he’s always sent me a story here and there to edit; he always seemed to trust my opinion on his writing, but honestly I was usually just proofing his grammar. From early on I realized his works were special and unlike anything I've ever read.

You worked together on a short story inspired by Salinger, right? How’d that come about?

Kyle believed in me as a writer. I am really private about the things I write, mostly because they are the ramblings of the inner workings of my head, but I guess also because I am not confident in what I put on paper. I shared them with Kyle though; he was one of the very few I trust most. So anyway, last semester I was retaking creative writing and of course Kyle had to know about every assignment. I had a simple journal exercise that involved writing out a conversation between me and my favorite character; I shared that journal assignment in class and my professor really enjoyed the way I wrote the conversation with Seymour from “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” by J.D. Salinger. My professor suggested this be the start of my short story assignment. I immediately called Kyle and told him about how I was going to attempt writing a story within another story. He had never read “Bananafish” so I loaned him the book Nine Stories. I worked on the story by myself and periodically sent Kyle the most recent version of it. He would add little edits here and there, but one evening he said he was bored and edited the entire story into his style of prose. For my final draft I mixed my final draft with Kyle's version. We had so much fun working on the story; we were planning to write a story together using the same basic idea, and plot line from my perspective and his perspective. I am really sad that didn't come to fruition; I think it would have been really great.

How did you find out he had died?

Amanda and Kyle.
The two weeks before Kyle died were really rough; I am only mentioning this because it is important to the day I found out he had passed. He had started drinking again, and we were really at odds. He wanted me around to help him, and I couldn't because I wanted him to stop drinking, and I had vowed to him a long time ago that I wouldn't be around him if he was drinking. I would talk to him on the phone and through email all he wanted, but I guess in my way of thinking, hanging out with him and driving him places was enabling him in some sort of way. The day before the fire, a Monday, he called me and begged me to take him for ice cream; he was drunk, so I said no. The fire happened that night, but I didn't find out until that Wednesday. Anyway, on Tuesday I was driving to Rochester for a concert and my boyfriend asked me if I had talked to Kyle that day because Kayla, Kyle’s sister, had posted a Facebook status asking if anyone had heard from him. It hadn't crossed my mind until that moment that Kyle had not called or texted that day, and really for 8 years, a day did not go by that he didn't make contact with me at least once. My heart sank and I said to my boyfriend "What if he is dead?" I called his phone and he didn’t answer; we both decided to ignore the fact that he was missing and enjoy the concert; Kyle would be okay. During the concert, I received text messages from a few high school friends stating "We love you" and "we're here for you," and I just disregarded them not connecting any dots. The next morning Steven, my boyfriend, woke up before me and logged onto Facebook on his phone; he told me to log onto my Facebook and all that I saw were a series of "RIP Kyle." My heart sank, and all I could hear was this weird wurring sound in my ears. I texted Kayla and said something like, "Tell me this isn't real." She didn't respond right away, so I just kept saying this is fake and calling Kyle's phone. Kayla finally texted back with something along the lines "I am so sorry, Amanda. Kyle is gone." I cried the entire rest of that day; Kyle's death is the first death I have ever experienced. Experienced feels like an odd word to use; what I mean is I have never lost a family member except for a grandfather when I was very young, but we were not close. Kyle was my best friend. I am not sure I have ever been closer with another human being. I tried to seek comfort from my grandmother, my mom, my friends, but no one knew what to say and all I could hear was that strange wurring sound in my ears. I wish I had taken him for ice cream.

Tell me about going to where he died and finding the notebook?

A page from Kyle's notebook.
The first few days after Kyle died were the most bizarre days of my life. It felt as if everyone wanted to talk to me. I was bombarded with questions and "I'm sorrys." Many of our mutual friends visited the place where he died--I'd been referring to it as the Mill Street house--and described in horrifying detail how it was just gone. I decided I was not going to go there. The day of his memorial service solidified this decision; I would not visit where he died. I would not see the destruction. It was too hard, I just couldn't. I had been reading every day the last letters he sent me from his time in Florida [in rehab]. I've mentioned them before, but in one of the letters he wrote, "I still want to walk through walls in my dreams, and learn how to find you long after we die." I read and reread this line; I don't know if it was just my deep desire for him to be able to do this or he actually succeeded, but the night after his memorial service, I believe it was a Sunday, I had a dream; Kyle and I were sitting on the back deck of the Mill Street house drinking that organic dark coffee he loved so much, smoking cigarettes and talking. It was a fall day, there was a slight breeze, the air felt as if it had just rained though the sun was shining through the trees. I asked him directly, "Are you really dead," and he replied, "Yeah, I am really dead. I need you to do something. I need you to go back to the house. I left something there." I don't often have vivid dreams, and I hardly ever remember them if I do, but this was like a movie, clear as day. The next day I drove up and down Mill Street trying to gain the nerve to go to this place I had refused to go back to. I finally pulled in. The basement of the house was surrounded by yellow caution tape. I just stood by my car for a while trying to feel something; I guess trying to feel Kyle. I decided to cross the tape line, Kyle would have for me, and I walked around the house. First I went to the spot where his pseudo study was in the front of the house, nothing was there. Then I walked and stood above where the living room was; all I saw were dumbbell weights and charred magazines. I was getting so frustrated at this point. My heart had broken more than it was before seeing that place and I was not finding anything. I began to walk back to my car and happened to look down right at the place where his bedroom use to be and sitting there right on top of all the ash was a stack of charred papers. Even from above I recognized the handwriting as Kyle's. I didn't grab the papers then; I was too afraid that if I jumped down I wouldn't be able to climb out without getting cut by glass.

The next night, all I could think about was that notebook. A bunch of my friends were at the Dryden Hotel. I went to them and asked if they would come with me. I assembled a group of five people all of which were Kyle's friends and we went to the Mill Street house. We all kind of dispersed; I think everyone wanted to pay their respects and say goodbye to Kyle. Two of my friends and myself went to where the house was and they helped me get down to the notebook with tiny cell phone lights. I grabbed the pages. My mind was clear this night. I felt almost brave like I was on a sacred mission. Upon grabbing the pages, we stayed awhile longer. We didn't really talk to each other much. I guess grief is really personal, so even feeling similar none of us knew what to say to each other. Many of us were in tears as we left. I had to dry out the pages as they were wet from rain the previous day, and once they were dry they were so fragile. A few of the pages fell to dust at the slightest touch. The ones that I salvaged though, I can't even describe the feeling. I remember at the memorial I heard more than one person say how sad it was all of his writing was gone, but knowing that not all of it was gone was almost a relief. These small fragments from the year 2010 somehow survived. I don't think any of the pages show a complete poem or short story, but some very raw and honest thoughts survived. I gave the pages to Meta and Kayla. I don’t really believe that the dream was actually Kyle, and I don't think I really could have avoided going back to the house forever.

Celebrations on Amazon
Kyle's writing was his entire soul, his mind, his heart, his entire life existed through the written word. I know if I hadn't found the notebook someone would have. Anyone who loved Kyle, even half as much as I do, knows how important his work was to him. We all had hopes to save some of it.

And you did, Amanda, thank you. And thank you for sharing some memories of Kyle with the rest of us. Deeply appreciated.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

On Sunset Blvd, Drinking Sam Adams with Garnett Elliott

Garnett Elliott and I were at the cyber bar off Sunset Blvd, having the last of our Sam Adams. I had put the finishing touches on formatting his “Hell Up in Houston” earlier in the day.

“Drifter continues to sell a couple of copies a day, which is good.” I said. “Word of mouth continues to build. Wayne D. Dundee and Keith Rawson have agreed to write a Jack Laramie. And I'm going to write two.” I swallow the last of my amber brew.

Garn downs his ale faster than he could spill it. He glances at what remains of his hairline in the mirror behind the bar and says: “The lineup looks good, David, and I can start work on #3 shortly.”

“You mentioned Lansdale as an inspiration. Any movies in particular? I'm looking to motivate myself before writing,” I say, reaching for my Kindle Fire that I had brought along to show off the “Hell Up” book.

Hud and Giant are good—if long—Texas movies, though they're not really noir. Most of the inspiration so far has come from talking to co-workers who are from different regions of the state, also reading Thompson, and Latimer, who wrote Solomon's Vineyard. That story in particular had an influence on “Hell Up in Houston.”

I leaf through the Kindle and find Vineyard but a little expensive for my weekly allotment for books. Then I find Jim Thomson’s Pop. 1280 and download it.

“What’s next for you, Garn?”

“Oh, lots of stuff. Tons of stuff, actually.” He pulls out a planner book and riffs the pages, which are all blank. “Big, big projects. I've been thinking about trying my hand at old school Sword and Sorcery--you know, like those old Daw paperbacks with the cracked yellow spines from the 60s and 70s. What the turbo-geeks call 'Appendix N.' After that, definitely more hardboiled, maybe even something contemporary. Dystopian sci-fi, too. The sky's the limit, Big D.”

He begs me for cab fare back to his cyber studio apartment. It's embarrassing, and I've already sprung for the Sammy A, but what are you going to do? On his way out the bar, Garn convulses like he's just had a seizure and claws a shabby Moleskine out of his back pocket. “I've got it,” he says, writing furiously with a crayon stub, “it's a three-part novella about a crew of ne'er-do-well carpet cleaners, their naive boss, a right-wing radio host kidnapped by his own fans, and an organ-legging operation run out of a gated retirement community in north Tucson ...”

"Another round,” I say, waving to the bartender.

Now Available ...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Night of the Killer

A gorgeous, dark-haired woman is walking toward me along a canal in Europe. On the other side of the tapered road is a line of two-hundred year old homes. I’m in modern times but the lady walking toward me seems to be from the not-so-distant past. Her high heels are dropping soft footfall clicks on the cobblestone. Her shadow looms large, enveloping the area. I recognize the curvy shape and the attitude in the stroll, even though her face is still unclear. It’s the actress, Ava Gardner.

I’m eager to meet this Hollywood star, even if I’m just dreaming. She’s been a favorite of mine since having seen THE KILLERS, THE NIGHT OF THE IGANUA, ON THE BEACH, and THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN. Lately, I’ve been reading The Secret Conversations. But how do you talk to a legend? It comes to me … I’ll start with saying that my wife and I named our daughter after her.

I thumb my fedora up. I relax my hand off Jack Laramie’s Colt that I brought along. I’m feeling Alan Ladd-ish cool, but my enthusiasm and ease are short lived. Out of the shadows I see the well-known face for only a second before she morphs into a zombie. She smiles a wicked I’m-going-to-kill-you grin.

I’m petrified but can’t run. I know the end has arrived.

She lunges.

Fade Out.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hilary's Fair Warning

It's always a pleasure when Hilary Davidson, one of the first-string players at BEAT to a PULP, stops by with a new story. Her first tale for BTAP, "Insatiable," won a Spinetingler Award, and her contribution to ROUND TWO, "A Special Kind of Hell," was a finalist for a Derringer. She makes us look damn good. Thanks, Hilary. Here's her latest, "Fair Warning."

Saturday, September 7, 2013


So back in July 2011, I had a germ of an idea for a new character (probably after watching too many Toshiro Mifune films) named Reeves who's in possession of a priceless sword that is stolen. ClichĂ©, right? Well, Tom Pluck also grew up on the same ninja and samurai films that I did (let’s hear it for The Challenge!), and, having a much sharper idea, came up with BLADE OF DISHONOR.

Taught to fight by his war hero grandfather, Reeves comes home to find Grandpa Butch embroiled in a centuries-old battle over a treasured Japanese sword. Together they team up with Tara the hot-rodding ambulance driver and a secretive member of a samurai warrior brotherhood to take on a powerful clan of ninja and yakuza bent on sparking a third world war.

From the heroics of the Devil’s Brigade in World War II and the brutal underground fight scene of Tokyo to the American heartland, BLADE OF DISHONOR pits battle-hardened cage fighters against cunning shadow warriors in a thrilling adventure story that’s part Kurosawa and part Tarantino … with a ton of Pluck!

Tom will be at Bouchercon in Albany and will have copies of BLADE OF DISHONOR available at a store in the dealer’s room. Since I’ll be in the area, I’m planning on crashing the party and hope to see you there. But if you can’t make it, you can get the BLADE OF DISHONOR omnibus now from Amazon.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Customer Service

For Assistance, Go F* Yourself!
Sign at hotel where I stayed recently.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Swamp Things

We went to Magnolia Plantation in South Carolina, located along the Ashley River directly across from North Charleston. It's one of the oldest plantations in the country, dating back to 1676 when Thomas and Ann Drayton built their house and garden. The plantation has been in the family ever since. 15 generations!

The magnificent Magnolia Plantation house.

That's a little food above his right eye but this African Spurred Tortoise at the petting zoo didn't seem to mind.
Of course, I'm sure everyone thought of The Spider Tribe like I did.

The duckweed in the water encircling the trees made for a beautiful picture but don't jump in ...

... because he's in charge of this part of the plantation ...

...  and has many friends lurking around out there ...

... in the dark depths, like this ... thing ...
SWAMP THING! Of all the interesting history I learned throughout the afternoon, the comic book lover in me was most impressed with hearing that the 1982 Swamp Thing movie starring Adrienne Barbeau was filmed here.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Free For All: Guns, Pulp, & Celebrations

At BEAT to a PULP this week are three poems from Kyle J. Knapp's Celebrations in the Ossuary and Other Poems. Take a look and then follow the Amazon link to grab your own Kindle eBook for free in celebration of what would have been his twenty-fourth birthday today. Along with Ossuary, BEAT to a PULP: Round Two and The Guns of Vedauwoo featuring Cash Laramie are included in the Labor Day $0.00 holiday special.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Under The Bridge

The Ravenel Bridge, an impressive cable-stayed bridge, spans the Cooper River east of Charleston, South Carolina. Running underneath along the east end of the bridge is a hidden gem of a park with historical markers and a war heroes monument, a children's playground that Ava approves of, a snack shop and gift store, and a long pier where I snapped this picture of my charmers today.