Contracts are being signed for Wakeland 4, Sunset and Jericho. It centers around housing and politics, and while I’m biased, I think it’s the best pure mystery of the series. Details soon.
Dietrich Kalteis, one of my pals, has won the Crime Writers of Canada award! His new novel, Nobody from Somewhere, came out a few days ago, and I can’t wait to start it.
Mystery Writing Mastery and The Noir Short Story are still going strong! With signup for TNSS, you can send me a piece of flash fiction and I’ll give you some feedback on it.
I have a few extra signed copies of the first Canadian edition of Invisible Dead ($20 CDN plus shipping), and some audiobook CDs of Hell and Gone ($30 plus shipping). Email me for details. (You can also buy through Indiebound, or your favourite local bookstore.
My flash fiction, “Mother’s Good Little Boy,” is up now at Shotgun Honey.
I’ve been pretty quiet lately, for a couple of reasons. I have a book on submission, a standalone thriller about a group of adults who, as kids, survived a Columbine-like shooting. You could say this is bad timing…and you would be correct. At least one publisher outright refused to read beyond the first page.
But I don’t think there’s ever a good time for the kind of books I write. The kind that are (hopefully) entertaining, but also about something vital and uncomfortable and unspoken.
Of course it’s an uphill battle to confront the things you’re addicted to. And North America is addicted to mass shootings.
I’m proud of that book, wouldn’t have spent a year and change writing it if I didn’t think the story mattered, and it may never see the light of publication day. That’s just a fact about publishing a writer has to accept.
These days I feel a proprietary concern for crime fiction I never used to. The uncomfortable books don’t tend to get recognition or support. Crime fiction has become the province of cool guy bikers, ten feet tall drifters, empty assassins, wealthy housewives with secrets, big dick private eyes, and cops who shoot first and ask questions never.
And that’s fine, there’s obviously great stuff being written and published in that vein, but that’s not what I do.
There weren’t a ton of Vancouver crime novels when I started writing. Now there are. And many are variation of what I mention above: fantasy novels where the poor serve as the orcs and trolls and whatever. Poverty tourism. The brave superhuman sleuth fends off evil junkies and hookers, leaping tall buildings and passing judgment on those below.
The crime fiction I love involves taking a hard look at the world, at one’s self, and discussing that through the lens of genre.
There’s a famous Canadian lawyer-turned-author whose plucky hero walks through “the detritus of the previous night’s hooking, drinking, and snorting” to get to their swank office in Gastown. That kind of dismissive attitude bothers me more than it should. And it’s the prevailing attitude in much of what I see trending in crime fiction.
Publishing I think has gotten both more inclusive (a huge positive) and more moneyed and distanced from crime itself (a big negative). For every book about something, like Razorblade Tears or Gone Girl or Robicheaux, there are a lot of high-concept, empty pages. Book-products. It’s sad.
I used to read interviews with Ellroy, Price, Lehane, where they’d disparage being called “crime writers.” I used to think that was silly—what could be better than being a crime writer?
I don’t think that as much anymore.
The other reason for my silence is a lot less gloomy and long-winded—I got an arts grant to write a historical novel, which I’m gearing up for. It’s daunting to have to do that much research, to not be writing about the here and now. But the here and now has lost some of its allure. We’ll see how it turns out.
Books: Master of the Senate by Robert Caro is 1100 pages about how the US senate works, why it usually doesn’t, and how Lyndon Johnson inveigled it into passing the first civil rights bill since Lincoln. The book has the most devastating description of the Emmett Till murder and trial I’ve read, and a very even-handed discussion of the compromises LBJ made to get anything past the "Southern bloc" of pro-Jim Crow Democrats. Sometimes today, it feels like the working class left and the academic left aren't even willing to speak to each other, let alone find common ground...but I don't know much about politics.
TV: We Own This City was a great look at police corruption. Season three of Barry had its moments. I’m eager to check out Dark Winds, set on a Navajo territory during the 70s.
Thanks for reading.