Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Conversation with Andy Henion

David Cranmer: So, what is Andy Henion reading?

Andy Henion: At the top of my print stack is Best American Mystery Stories 2015, edited by James Patterson. This is a yearly tradition for me. Inspiring. I haven't made the cut yet, though last year I had a piece in the "Other Distinguished Mystery Stories" shortlist. I'm also reading California by Edan Lepucki (a literary apocalyptic tale that's starting out slow, so far) and Pulp Fictions, edited by Peter Haining. On the Kindle is Gutshot, a collection of stories by Amelia Gray, and USA Noir, the Best of the Akashic Noir Series. I just finished a novel called Haints Stay by Colin Winnette that was excellent. How about you, David?

DC: I’ve been on a Martin Amis run for a couple of months having already devoured Night Train and London Fields. I’m currently enjoying his breakthrough Money from 1984. Guess I’m enjoying that prose stylist approach, you know, the flowering language. He’s a disciple of Saul Bellow who I admire a great deal myself.

You mentioned not making the cut yet for Best American Mystery Stories. Do you, deep down, have a need to appear in such an outlet to feel like you have arrived as a writer?

AH: No, but it’s a nice honor for a short story writer. A certain validation after publishing more than 100 shorts in the past 15 years. I’ve been shortlisted for a Derringer and nominated for a Pushcart as well; that stuff helps keep you going. Arriving, to me, implies more of a commercial breakthrough—topping the NY Times bestseller list, lunching with the Coens to discuss the screen version.

DC: For me, it’s making a living publishing books and writing. To be able to look back over a decade and be able to say I didn’t punch a clock. Speaking of publishing, BEAT to a PULP released your recent novella, The Devil in Snakeskins, which is described as a surreal post-apocalyptic Western. What are the influences for this offbeat mashup?

AH: Devil started as a short story I wrote for the now-defunct Thieves Jargon. I wanted to write about a bad-ass western gunslinger is all, something I hadn't done before. My imagination took it from there, filling in the odd world around him. As with most writers, I didn't purposely set out to make the story like anyone else's (and thankfully, several reviews have discussed its uniqueness), but looking back there were definite influences: Clint Eastwood's spaghetti westerns and Stephen King's Dark Tower chief among them. Also: a nod to post-apocalyptic fare such as The Book of Eli and Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

DC: One of the reasons I wanted to publish The Devil in Snakeskins is that the professor is completely amoral. So often in current fiction we have bad guys that only kill other bad guys or serial killers like Dexter who have a moral code. Blah! I want a bad guy to be like Henry Fonda in Once upon the Time in The West. 100% evil and I think that’s what you’ve done with your creation. Do you plan on writing more of the professor or is it back to crime fiction for you?

AH: He’s got a brutal past and a bullet lodged in his brain—damn right he’s cranky! And yes, he’s back, this time dealing head-on with the long-simmering effects of said bullet. And men with pinchers. And neck-eaters. And, well, I’m only 6,000 words in …

I believe the professor does discover a shred of morality, by the way. Once he meets Delmer (an ill-treated orphan boy much like himself) and decides to give him a chance, he realizes some folks are worth fighting for, even if the vast majority of humanity is wretched.

DC: On your Facebook page I see lots of pictures and videos of cuddly animals doing cute things. How many furry critters are running loose around the Henion household?

AH: Monkeys loving puppies, baby hippos, hand-holding otters ... it all warms my noirish little heart. There's a black cat sitting next to me right now waiting for a "man scratch." Another upstairs working on her 18-hour nap. And then there's Parker, our Labradoodle/golden lab mix who's just smart enough to play dumb.

DC: Which writers have influenced you?

AH: I started reading horror early on—middle school through my Army days. Stephen King, Peter Straub, Dean R. Koontz. I read Catcher in the Rye about a half-dozen times as a high school senior—couldn’t get enough of it. The Bell Jar. The Shipping News. These stories really tapped in to my feelings of isolation and dissension. As an adult, I dove headlong into crime and noir, and short stories (both because I wanted to start writing them and because I love the form). Some of my favorite crime series writers are John Sandford, Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke and James W. Hall. Top noir guys are Elmore Leonard and Stark/Westlake. Short story masters: Denis Johnson (his Jesus' Son collection will blow your mind), Tom Franklin, Raymond Carver, Wells Tower and Ottessa Moshfegh. Favorite short story: “The Cavemen in the Hedges” by Stacey Richter.

DC: My early influences were The Hardy Boys and that led straight into Robert B. Parker who enlightened me on Raymond Chandler. About the same time as Chandler (about fifteen-years-old I’d say) I began reading The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway which I still turn to today. No less important: Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, Edward D. Hoch, James Reasoner, and Wayne D. Dundee.

Andy, Your blog is called Searching for the perfect sentence. Let me hear your top 10 sentences in Devil?

10) “I kilt another feller and threw him to the beasts.”

9) Billy went to his knees trying to scream but found this impossible without a tongue, the resulting sound like something from a nightmare.

8) For the next hour they conversed as enlightened beings in a barbaric world, the professor discussing his love for biology and psychology, in particular Pavlov and Freud, men who attempted to get at why people did what they did, while Kinsey leaned toward the classics, the fables and—winking here—those no-war scribes, that fella from Dee-troit being his all-time favorite, his characters so unvarnished it was like looking straight through to their souls.

7) She looked at him as if he had just squatted down and shit a hog-beast.

6) She was the most ancient thing he had ever seen, little more than a child-sized bag of wrinkles.

5) “Shit on my hospitality and I’ll use yer fuckin’ brainpan for a spittoon.”

4) Gray stringy hair clung to her skull like a helmet; a mass of skin tags covered her jaws and neck, a live, fluttering scarf.

3) He was a blowhard, this Shakespeare feller, yet somehow she brought his melodramatic drivel to life, reciting the lines with unbridled conviction.

2) The professor’s funk turned to familiar thoughts of vengeance, to the mechanics of killing, an almost comforting state of mind for a man whose world was defined through the sight of a pistol.

1) He was fine dying here, long as this motherfucker died first.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Miles to Lost Dog Creek by Ron Scheer Scheer completed “Miles to Lost Dog Creek” in 2012. Unfortunately, I was top heavy at the time with Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles stories, so I set it to the side with the intent of publishing it much sooner than this. In the interim Ron approached me about publishing his How the West Was Written series, and I jumped at the chance.

Sadly Ron passed away in April, and after releasing the last in the How the West Was Written books, I turned my attention, once again, to “Miles to Lost Dog Creek.” However there were several developments in the Miles character over the past three years that needed the writer’s touch, but I didn’t have my friend Ron to turn to. So I went to two mutual friends of ours and fellow Western authors, Chuck Tyrell, aka Charlie T. Whipple (who’s worked with me from time to time on this series) and Richard Prosch. I sent it their way for their skilled eyes to run through the pages … thank you, both!

Knowing that “Miles to Lost Dog Creek” may very well be Ron’s final published work, I wanted the cover art to be special. I asked Chuck Regan, whose talents have been previously on display with another BTAP cover, and he turned in this exceptional piece. Many thanks, Chuck.

"Miles to Lost Dog Creek” is available as an ebook and later this week in print. Because it’s a long short story I’m pricing the ebook at the affordable $1.49. But if you are a fan of the series and of Ron’s work, I really recommend the print copy which is a beauty.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Brief Q & A with Garnett Elliott, author of Dragon by the Bay

David Cranmer: In your latest novella, Dragon by the Bay, you seem to have found the true cause of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, right?

Garnett Elliott: I don't want to commit any major spoilers here, but let's just say it was not due to tectonic activity as people claim. Generally, it's not a good idea to steal things from the lairs of Chinese dragons, as they have both a strong sense of propriety and a direct influence over natural forces. Especially when pissed off.

DC: There's definitely a homage to Big Trouble in Little China.

GE: Oh yeah. The movie was originally written as a western, and being a huge fan, I'd been trying to track down the original script on the net. When I couldn't find it, I decided I'd just go ahead and write my own version. It's not the same story, mind (so no lawsuits, please), but it's got a lot of the elements. Also, like the movie, it's been heavily influenced by Shaw Brothers kung fu films.

DC: Tell us a little bit about the plot.

GE: It's a buddy story, of sorts, packed with action and supernatural elements. The protagonist Carson Lowe is the son of missionaries to Kwangchow, so he speaks Cantonese and isn't a total fish out of water when exposed to Chinatown. But the real hero of the story is Liang Man, or "Manny," a chubby dumpling chef with as much courage as Kung Fu skill. Together, they go up against the corrupted Taoist immortal Twin Fury Xue, and his evil henchman Nine Serpents Hsien. The next to last chapter is a battle royale.

DC: You mention the Shaw Brothers. Any particular film a favorite?

GE: Since the arrival of Robert Rodriguez's awesome El Rey Network, I've been treated to dozens of Shaw Brothers' flicks. My favorites involve the 'Venom Mob' actors, most notably 'The Five Deadly Venoms,' 'Crippled Avengers,' and 'The Kid with the Golden Arm.' The stories are inventive and the athleticism on display will make your jaw drop.

Another fun fact: My connection to Kung Fu movies predates El Rey. Back in 2001, my sister's house was used as a location set in Jet Li's The One. It's not a great movie by any stretch, but it sure was fun watching wire-work stuntmen make forty foot leaps from my niece's bedroom!

DC: What's next for Garnett Elliott?

GE: Well, I've got a story landing in Craig McDonald's anthology Borderland Noir, due out in October. Among others, it features work by Ken Bruen and James Sallis (of Drive fame), so I'd say I'm in good company. I'm also planning to start on a new Drifter Detective novelette entitled Two-Trick Pony.

DC: There are rumors it's curtains for Jack Laramie, The Drifter Detective. What can you reveal?

GE: You know what they say about rumors . . . though the full title of the novelette is Two-Trick Pony: The First and Last (?) Cases of Jack Laramie.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Stranger

Back in high school did you have to read THE STRANGER by Camus? Over at Macmillan's Criminal Element I take a fresh look at this classic.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Duck at the Lake

My daughter Ava's "Duck at the Lake" dedicated to her Grandma Sheila who passed away this past week.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


Our mom passed away this morning surrounded by a loving family. Tears flow for what we are missing but I'm thankful that she is now at peace. Years before, in the first stages of Alzheimer's, she would still spend evenings writing down old songs from her youth. Here's a favorite of hers, "I'll Be Seeing You."

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Julio Cortázar Blow-Up and Other Stories is the most fun I've had reading, so far, in 2015. Hopefully that joy comes across in my most recent article, Infiltrations of the Surreal: Argetina’s Julio Cortázar, for Macmillan's Criminal Element.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Remember Mr. Mint, Lord Licorice, Plumpy, and Gramma Nutt?

Our present choice for family game night is Candy Land. Remember that one? Our 1999 version features King Kandy, Mr. Mint, Lord Licorice, Plumpy, Gramma Nutt, etc. One great thing (among many) about parenthood at middle age is the chance to relive childhood again. Little d and I have as much fun in this simple race-to-the-finish board game as four-year-old daughter. And, yes, it’s still frustrating to be almost to the end only to get stuck in Molasses Swamp or sent back to Plumpy when the rest of the gingerbread men are hot on your heels … always my luck!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Miles To Lost Dog Creek Cover

Release date: August 2015

A Brazilian Kick


A pithy (seventy-one pages) comedic story recounting the tale of Joaquim Soares da Cunha who abandons his respectable life to become Quincas Water-Bray, a “champion drunk” and leader of various bums, prostitutes, and other dubious people his prissy family view as lowlife. When he dies (with a content smile on his face) his family outfits him in respectable garb and prepares for his funeral. However, his drunken friends decide to swipe the body—after putting the deceased's more comfortable clothes back on—and gives him one last jaunt about town. A laugh out loud read especially toward the end when Quincas somehow gets into a bar fight and the best passages finds his loopy friends viewing him as very much alive conversing, drinking, and laughing with them.

Note: The original 1959 Brazilian title is THE TWO DEATHS OF QUINCAS WATERYELL.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


                                "At this time he had no messages for anyone. Nothing. Not a single word."

Happy Birthday, Dad!


Clayton Oliver Cranmer


Photo taken 1942


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Wayne D. Dundee's The Retributioners

J.D. Miller, aka The Lawyer, continues to hunt the men that slaughtered his family. His next target is Jules Despare who’s been riding with the Selkirk gang robbing banks. When the town of Emmett, Texas, is marked by the hardcases and the local marshal murdered, The Lawyer is asked by the town’s influential residents to track down the reprehensible outfit. But he has little use for the narrow-minded bigots that won’t stand behind the remaining deputy—a black man named Ernest Tell. After Tell resigns, he suggests a partnership with The Lawyer who refuses. It’s obvious, though, these two avengers are gunning for the same men and will eventually work together to settle old scores in THE RETRIBUTIONERS.

And click here for Wayne talking about writing the second adventure in the Lawyer series.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Farewell, Randy Johnson

One of Randy's avatars
Randy Johnson was quick on the review. In the early days of BEAT to a PULP I would marvel at how fast I would release a book and his thoughtful appraisal would appear. Same day and often in the first few hours. I started thinking of Randy ahead of publication—his name would be at the top of my list of individuals to send a print copy. But I found his electronic review still popping up with lightning speed on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. Turns out he wouldn’t wait for the snail mail delivery and buy the ebook. He explained in an email that he had health issues and spent a majority of his time reading. It was his pleasure to do so he told me. I’m chuckling thinking about the one time I'd inadvertently forgot him (just by about an hour or so at the most) and didn’t want him to spend his money. I hastily wrote:

I have a copy coming your way later this morning in eBook format and I'll plop one [print] in the mail.
His within seconds reply:

I appreciate the offer, David. But I purchased a copy this morning. Looks good.
So Randy became one of the core supporters that I would often send an advanced reading copy. Reviews are essential to an independent publisher and his continuing act of kindness over the last seven years will never be forgotten.

But much more than that, I treasured his random emails and occasional direct messaging on Facebook. (Often he would just say "good morning" when he saw me online.) He knew I was a fan of Longmire and would leave comments on the reviews I was doing for Criminal Element. He was the first to write and lament, "They cancelled Longmire! Damn!" And Randy appreciated my character of Gideon Miles—an African American US Marshal—that I loosely based, in part, on Bass Reeves. An early letter:

Randy Johnson here,
Don't know if you watch the Elmore Leonard series JUSTIFIED on FX. I thought about you watching tonight's episode. One of the characters asked someone if they'd "ever heard of Bass Reeves. Somebody ought to tell Denzel about him." Cheers
I'll deeply miss this friendship. He made a difference in my life and many others. R.I.P. comes to mind but doesn't seem to fit here. Randy was a metal fan and though I didn't share that particular interest I took delight in his enthusiasm for the music he loved. So instead of rest in peace--Rock on, old friend.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


In Cooperstown, NY, yesterday, on some unrelated to the writing agenda when Denise spotted the glum James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) sitting all stone-faced, seeming to ponder why everyone these days is more absorbed in talking no-hitters and stolen bases. His statue safeguards the grounds where his treasured Otsego Hall, the home his father built, once stood before it burned to the ground a few years after his passing. There was no parking so my charmer willingly hopped out to snap these photos while Ava and I looked on.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The High and the Mighty

Blustery kite weather this afternoon and my charmers along with Ava’s grandfather had a lot of fun flying this butterfly and ladybug. The hand to my mouth is when the kites nearly collided in midair. Luckily my daughter is a skilled navigator and no harm was done. Though, on my own, I managed to slam the butterfly into the top of a tree—and amazingly pulled it down without damaging it. Thanks to Aunt Meta and Uncle Bob for sending the aerial fun.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Remembering Ron Scheer

Lynda Scheer​ asked me to write a final post for Ron​'s Buddies in the Saddle blog. A very deep honor for a friend I loved very much. I hope you can take a few moments to join me over there in remembering Ron.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Little Shutterbug

Ava was playing photographer today, and then her daddy snapped a picture of the little shutterbug.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

My West: The Sandhills of Nebraska by Ron Scheer

My West: The Sandhills of Nebraska by Ron Scheer. (I enjoy hearing Ron talk about the land he loves so much.)

A Fistful of Beetner by CT McNeely

Eric Beetner gets a glowing review by CT McNeely from Dark Corners ...

Eric Beetner is a good old-fashioned pulpster. He spins a rip-roaring yarn like nobody's business and this year is one of the best years to introduce yourself to his work if you're not already on Team Beetner. I am going to talk to you about two of the things Mr. Beetner has coming this year: Rumrunners and The Year I Died Seven Times.

If you have your hand on the pulse of pulp, you know what an amazing operation David Cranmer is running over there at Beat to a Pulp. If so, you may be aware of The Year I Died Seven Times already when it was released in serialized installments. Regardless if you've read it serialized or not, this is your chance to see the whole funny, sordid, wild tale in one volume.

The Year I Died Seven Times tells the story of poor, unfortunate Ridley as he, well, it's pretty much in the title. What isn't in the title is all of the times that Beetner will make you cringe, laugh, cry, and all the sleep that you will lose staying up to read this one to its thrilling conclusion.

Also coming this year is Rumrunners. Rumrunners is Dukes of Hazzard meets Fargo, pissed off and mad about it. It's an alcohol fueled rollercoaster ride of backcountry badassery.

Rumrunners, like all the best backcountry crime tales, focuses on a family. In this case, the McGraws. You need only look to the title to see how they get by. That is, until now, when Tucker McGraw decides to go straight. Of course, it's not that simple. These things never are.

Rumrunners is every bit as good as you want these books to be. It succeeds in pulp revelry where so many other great works of Southern crime fiction fall flat. It is one damn fun book and you'll find yourself returning to it like a favorite movie over and over.

The same can be said, of course, for everything Beetner has ever written. This will be a year of good fortune for Beetner, with many new releases, and that means it will be a great time for all you crazy fiends out there in Pulpsville. Get ready with them wallets, folks. The Year of the Beetner has arrived.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Film Noir Foundation

I regrettably wasn’t able to attend The 13th Annual San Francisco Film Noir Festival but was much honored that BEAT to a PULP was a sponsor. Just look at these beautiful souvenir programs that Promotional Director Daryl Sparks sent my way. Thank you, Daryl! And a big thanks to Michael Kronenberg (talent behind Jake Hinkson’s The Big Ugly cover) for designing our ad. And, of course, the one and only Czar of Noir, Eddie Muller. Here’s a link to their indispensable Film Noir Foundation.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ice Castles and Drifters

A week of shoveling out from various winter storms and building an ice castle (inspired by FROZEN of course) for my daughter. Early mornings have been spent finishing up a Gideon Miles novella and giving a new look to The Drifter Detective series.

2/12/15 update: And STILL more white fluff ahead which makes my three-year-old pleased because her castle is becoming quite elaborate and now includes an opening at the top. She crawls up and sits on the snow-packed roof and surveys her vast kingdom which includes a nearby bird feeder and her grandpa plowing the road. And just checking Amazon all the Drifter Detective titles have been reorganized. I do like the new look. Hopefully it kicks the series in gear.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

In Bloom

Photo of Amaryllis taken by my three-year-old daughter Ava.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Talking Twain

I'm at Macmillan's Criminal Element talking about Mark Twain. A sample:
Mark Twain (1835–1910) was never one to pull punches on politics, ethics, religion, slavery, or just about any cultural flashpoint, quite often leading public discourse on a number of weighty issues where his views, even today, still function as a moral compass. Twain approached each topic with wry humor, reminding us, “If you cannot have a whale's good opinion except at some sacrifice of principle or personal dignity, it is better to try to live without it. That is my idea about whales.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

At War

I'm waiting for white to move. This has been a hard fought battle though my opponent isn't out of the game yet. “Easy, you know, does it, son.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

False Memories

This article reminded me a bit of BLADE RUNNER's replicants created by the Tyrell Corporation. In particular, Rachel's implanted false memories. It seems, based on this piece, its just as easy a Jedi mind trick on flesh and blood.

Monday, January 19, 2015

How the West Was Written: Frontier Fiction, Vol. 2, 1907-1915 by Ron Scheer

During the years 1907–1915, frontier fiction boomed with new writers, and the success of Owen Wister’s The Virginian (1902) began to make itself felt in their work. That novel had made the bestseller lists for two years running. With the continued popularity of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show, and the appearance of one-reeler westerns on movie screens, many featuring the adventures of Bronco Billy Anderson, the cowboy hero was becoming an established mythic figure in the public imagination.

For writers of popular fiction, the frontier was also a subject for exploring ideas drawn from current public discourse—ideas about character and villainy, women’s rights, romance and marriage, democracy and government, capitalism, race and social boundaries, and the West itself. With each new publication, they participated as well in an ongoing forum for how to write about the West and how to tell western stories. Taken together, the chapters of this book describe for modern-day readers and writers the origins of frontier fiction and the rich legacy it has left us as a genre. It is also a portal into the past, for it offers a history of ideas as preserved in popular culture of a century ago that continues to claim an audience today.

How the West Was Written: Frontier Fiction, Vol. 2, 1907-1915 by Ron Scheer is now available in print and Kindle formats.

* * * * *

Praise for How the West Was Written: Vol. 1

“This is a splendid study of early western fiction, most of it written contemporaneously with the settlement of the American West. A surprising number of women authors are included among the sixty-some novels reviewed by the author. The book offers penetrating, rich, and lucid examinations of these early novels, and gives us a good understanding of where western fiction came from and how it has evolved. Highly recommended.”
—Richard S. Wheeler
Spur Award-winning author

“[Ron Scheer’s] scholarship is meticulous and the book is an enlightening contribution to American literature with this study of the Western, its roots and its themes. I’m proud to have it on my bookshelf. It’s unique in the canon, as far as I know.”
—Carol Buchanan
Spur Award-winning author

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Red Venus

The Cold War just bled into the cold void of space

Fog-shrouded Venus had refused to give up her mysteries, until the USSR sent their best and brightest on a top-secret scientific mission. Now the crew of the Krasnyy Sokol, led by gorgeous Cosmonaut Nadezhda Gura, must brave a hellish hothouse of jungle swampland crawling with monstrous life. It’s Russians and rayguns against a death planet—and that’s before the Americans show up. 

At 17K words, RED VENUS is a slam-bang trip on atomic-powered rockets, seen through the eyes of the East. Read it, tovarisch, and experience a part of the solar system that never was. 

* * * * * 

Praise for Garnett Elliott and RED VENUS: 

“Garnett Elliott takes the Cold War into space in this rip-roaring planetary adventure tale that wouldn't be out of place in the browning pages of an old issue of Imagination or Imaginative Tales, two of my favorites from the ’50s. Check it out!” 
—Bill Crider 
Anthony Award-winning author 

* * * 

“Garnett Elliott’s RED VENUS is an exciting science fiction thriller that is at once pulpy yet high tech, crackles with sharp characterizations, a full-tilt pace, plenty of twisty surprises, and action galore … Oh, and did I mention the hostile planet teeming with fierce, grotesque creatures who fly and crawl and ooze out of the muck to relentlessly stalk and strike at practically every turn? Buckle up tight and get ready for a maximum-G thrust into outer space adventure!” 
—Wayne D. Dundee 
Author of Fugitive Trail, By Blood Bound 
and the Joe Hannibal series 

* * * 

RED VENUS is a solid, old school pulp sci-fi story, equal parts adventure and intrigue. But it’s also an insightful ‘what if’ narrative … a terrifically fast-paced alternate history with great characters and pacing. I loved it, and I'm pretty damn hard to please when it comes to sci-fi.” 
—Heath Lowrance 
Author of Hawthorne: Tales of a Weirder West