Monday, December 31, 2012

Five You Can't Miss from 2012 -- Paul D. Brazill

I haven’t done as much online short story reading this year, as I have done in the past. But there are some sites that always deliver. So, I thought I’d pick from those sites some stories from writers that were new to me in 2012 and made immediate impact. All of these stories are lean and mean and deliver short, sharp, shocks.

Fishing by Dyer Wilk at Shotgun Honey.
Dark, intense.

A Redheaded Woman by Chris Leek at The Flash Fiction Offensive
Harboiled, funny.

Rundown Dog by Gareth Spark at Near To the Knuckle.
Vivid, brutal.

The Banyan Tree by Joe Clifford at Near To The Knuckle
Harsh, nasty.

A First Time For Everything by Bill Baber at Shotgun Honey
Cruel, gritty.

Bio: Spinetingler Award nominee Paul D. Brazill has had bits and bobs of short fiction published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books Of Best British Crime 8 and 10,and he has edited the anthologies True Brit Grit & Off The Record 2– with Luca Veste - and Drunk On The Moon 1 and 2. His ebooks Red Esperanto, Death On A Hot Afternoon, 13 Shots Of Noir, Vin Of Venus (with David Cranmer & Garnett Elliot ) and Snapshots are out now, and his novellas The Gumshoe and Guns Of Brixton will be out pretty damned  soon. His blog is here.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Five You Can't Miss from 2012: Chris Rhatigan

Here are my top stories from 2012. Five from the internet (just by chance...) and two more that appeared in publications I edited.

In the coming weeks, writers and editors will be picking their favorites, too, so be sure to check those out.

"The Day We Shot Jesus on Main Street," by Travis Richardson at Shotgun Honey. For some reason, surreal stories involving the Jesus Christ were big with me this year. This story's got a healthy dose of Southern insanity that shoves down your eating pipe.

"Baby Jebus' Big Score," by Heath Lowrance at Pulp Metal Magazine. Baby Jebus as a gangster. I don't think I need to say anything else.

"Blackbird," by Dakota Taylor at Slit Your Wrists Magazine. This guy's only 19 and he's already writing poignant fiction. This story's basically how I remember...except add more meth.

"A Best Friend is the Hardest Thing to Come by," by Ryan Sayles. This guy's quickly becoming one of my favorite writers and this here is what he does best--funny and nasty as hell.

"Waiting Her Chance," by Patti Abbott. I could make a list of just stories she's published this year. But I didn't do that. Anyway, this one is pure Patti--quiet menace, like a snake in a dark cave or some shit like that. 

And here's two I published....

"7 Seconds," by Erin Cole at All Due Respect. Maybe the most suspenseful story I've read since Bradbury's "The Whole Town's Sleeping."

"Kingdom Come," by Kevin Brown in Pulp Ink 2. Another surreal story involving old-time religion... Don't know why that was striking a chord with me this year, but I assure you that this crazy-ass vision of the apocalypse and it's no-good atheist narrator will win you over.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Best Bizzaro Fiction of the Decade

The problem with an anthology like this is the name. Anything that claims to be the best of an entire decade sets up ridiculous expectations about how good it will be. It also creates problems for the editor--do you try to represent all sides of the genre? If so, will your anthology have any coherency, or will it seem like a grab bag?

In this case, editor Cameron Pierce has mostly represented what I would call the literary side of bizarro. Stories that stick to traditional narrative techniques based in some kind of "weird" element, such as all the characters being animals. There are a few that fall outside of this category, like Kevin Donihe's hysterical "Traveling Dildo Salesman" and a number of speculative fiction pieces, but this brand of story dominates.

My favorite in this ilk is Ben Loory's "The Octopus." The Octopus, who is living an average middle class man's life, is visited by his nephews from the sea and awkwardly interacts with them, eventually leading him to question his decision to move away from home. It's a simple story told in simple language--and its gorgeous in a Ray Bradbury kind of way.

Blake Butler's "We Witnessed the Advent of a New Apocalypse During an Episode of Friends" is as funny as it is strange. It's perfectly executed, with a standard, boring episode of this soul-sucking show becoming more and more disturbing, until it descends into complete chaos. Really, when you think about it, when else could the apocalypse take place other than during an episode of Friends? I first read this story in Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, and found it even more satisfying on a second read. 

Garrett Cook's "Mr. Plush, Detective" is a hardboiled PI story featuring a man trapped in the body of a teddy bear. He's not the white knight type, but a lowdown, no-good, stab-you-in-the-back-and-take-your-stash PI. It's good, dirty fun and has inspired me to pick up the novel, Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective.

Anyway, The Best Bizarro Fiction of the Decade is a fantastic compendium that anyone who enjoys this genre should check out.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

At Slit Your Wrists and Drunk on the Moon 2

Slit Your Wrists Magazine is a cool hangout and has featured some very fine fiction. I'm happy to have my story up there, thanks to editor Laramore Black. It's called "Harlot X and the Chestray" and it's straight bizarro, which is the direction my writing has veered toward as of late.

Drunk on the Moon 2, from Pulp Metal Fiction, is also out now, with this slick cover. For those uninitiated, these are stories about Roman Dalton, Paul D. Brazill's werewolf/detective/drunk creation. This edition has entries from the likes of Richard Godwin, Ben Lelievre, and Chad Eagleton.

My story, "The Birds Are Dead," also found its way in there. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

At All Due Respect... and Yellow Mama

Eric Beetner's got this issue of All Due Respect with "A Job for Two," proving that even small-time robberies can go terribly, terribly wrong. Another fine effort from a top crime writer.

And I have a story in the xmas issue of Yellow Mama, "Small Bites." While you're there, be sure to check out work by AJ Hayes, Richard Godwin, Christopher Grant, and Cindy Rosmus.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Love Me by Danger Slater

Do you like tales of Cold War espionage? Taut psychological thrillers? Science fiction as a metaphor for U.S. foreign policy? How about cute angst-filled teenage vampire toyboys?

Well, too bad. None of those things are in this book.

So reads the description for Danger Slater's debut novel, Love Me, which sets the tone perfectly. Instead of all that crap, Love Me is an epic, inter-dimensional quest for contentment through the eyes of one viking who (some of the time...) lives in a castle constructed from skulls. 

It's absurd and hilarious. While the book brings up big issues--what is the purpose of life? how does one find happiness? what is identity?--thankfully, it never takes any of those questions particularly seriously, because where the fuck would that get us. Mostly Danger Slater is concerned with entertaining and baffling readers as his viking romps through a surreal world. Highly recommended.

Monday, December 3, 2012


I'm thrilled to be part of Nightfalls, an anthology from editor Katherine Tomlinson, who edited the dearly departed Dark Valentine Magazine. This one is all about the apocalypse, a great concept for a collection. So many of my favorite authors in here too--Nigel Bird, AJ Hayes, Jimmy Callaway, Patti Abbott. Snatch it up on Amazon straight away.

On another note, Matt Funk has a knockout story at All Due Respect, "His Girl." With so many hold up stories out there, you might wonder how this could be original, but trust me that it is. Funk is always great, but this one of my favorites of his. The struggle for power between these players and an unexpected yet believable twist make for great storytelling. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

All Due Respect Anthology

Submissions are closed for the All Due Respect anthology. Submissions remain open for the zine.

Twenty-seven smoking crime stories for the antho. Patti Abbott, Nigel Bird, Christopher Grant, Alec Cizak, Richard Godwin, and many more. Release date is early 2013. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Off the Record 2: At the Movies

I have a chat with Luca Veste over here about Off the Record 2, the smashing sequel, appropriately enough, to the first Off the Record. My story in there is titled "Jaws," and it's about a truly psychotic corporate type who goes completely off the rails.

Unfortunately, I busted my Kindle while in the middle of reading this collection. The first several stories I read were quite good, including Steve Weddle's "Windows," a Raymond Carver-ish story that has a quiet desperation about it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pubs you should check out

So I want to post a review of the new Needle, but I'm not exactly convinced I will ever receive it here in India, where the postal service is rather unreliable. Anyway, it's a safe bet that you'll be getting your money's worth--CJ Edwards, Court Merrigan, Brad Green, Thomas Pluck, Matt Funk. It's a great lineup for their first double issue.

I also have a story in there, "Creator/Destroyer." It's about a guy who is jealous of the golden boy living across the street. So he murders him and takes over his life. Then things get weird.

I've also found a number of excellent bizarro publications. To be honest, not enough, but some very good ones.

First is Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens. Unfortunately, they folded recently. But you can get all the back issues for cheap on Amazon. This is the best I've seen--Sam Pink, Kevin Donihe, Andersen Prunty, Gina Ranelli. Edited by Bradley Sands. Mostly straight bizarro, a lot of flash, some very good poetry, too.

I've also been enjoying Unicorn Knife Fight, which apparently hasn't been published since 2011 (according to Duotrope). The first story, "Surf Grizzlies," is hilarious.

The Dream People is also quite good. Edited by D. Harlan Wilson.

Phantasmacore seems to straddle the line between bizarro and speculative fiction. "Dying Day" by Michael C. Keith reminds me of a Philip K. Dick story.

I also dig Slit Your Wrists, which publishes a range of dark genres.  "Blackbird" by Dakota Taylor is quite good--and he's only a 19-year-old kid!

Overall, however, it appears that there are not too many venues devoted to surrealist shorts. There is, of course, The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction, which I will probably invest my money in at some point. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Parking Tickets" at Linguistic Erosion

For the first time in quite a while, I have a story up on the interwebs. It's at Linguistic Erosion and it's called "Parking Tickets." It's an attempt at low-key bizarro--no ninjas or surfing grizzly bears, just one guy's weird life and a mustache hat.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

At All Due Respect: Jane Hammons

Jane Hammons is at All Due Respect with a haunting historical fiction piece, "Dust Clouds." If you like this story, you should check out her other work at A Twist of Noir and Shotgun Honey.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Patti Abbott at Shotgun Honey

Patti's always great, but this  story, for me, is as good as it gets. The menace in her stories is always so quiet--maybe that's why it's so affecting.

Check out "Waiting for Her Chance" at Shotgun Honey.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

At All Due Respect: Erin Cole

Erin Cole is a top writer of horror fiction. She's at All Due Respect with one of the most terrifying pieces of crime fiction I've read. You need to read "Seven Seconds."

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Driver's Guide to Hitting Pedestrians

Andersen Prunty's The Driver's Guide to Hitting Pedestrians has to be one of the finest single-author collections of bizarro out there.

The cover and Prunty's hilarious description sold me on the book right away. Then I read it and that was good too. I make smart decisions.

Anwyay, the title story is a wonderful bit of macabre about a contest to see who can injure the most pedestrians. The contest comes complete with an oddball set of rules and a desperate, deranged cast of characters. This story is probably the closest to a standard narrative in the whole book, but it's still wild, weird, and fatalistic.

 "The Laughing Crusade" might be my favorite. After finishing his treatise on the New Anarchist Revolution, a man retreats to his back porch for a beer and a cigarette. He soon stumbles upon the fact that the entire neighborhood is filled with people maniacally laughing and that they're going to crush all the non-laughers. The ending is truly disturbing--images I won't soon forget.

"Princess Electricity" is a surreal journey into a world where one buys loaves of bread with 10 ideas or gets a job by having the name Terry. And some random girl controls all of the electricity.

Every story in here is the real deal--unpredictable, imaginative, often funny. I like the variety in this collection--some of the stories lean toward horror, others toward fantasy, others are straight bizarro. Prunty's an author I can't get enough of.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Death Takes a Snow Day by Cindy Rosmus

I like writers who know their strengths and play to them. Cindy Rosmus is one of those writers.

Her short story collection, Death Takes a Snow Day, is all about that wonderfully fucked up state, New Jersey. Jersey hit men, Jersey bars, Jersey relationships. The setting becomes a full-fledged character, present on every page.

Rosmus maintains a focus on dysfunctional relationships between men and women throughout. Sometimes a wife is hiring out the murder of her husband. Sometimes a woman is in love with a man she knows is evil. Every scenario is doomed from the start. If noir characters fall from the curb to the gutter, then Rosmus is a noir writer.

Yet, unlike many noir writers, Rosmus crafts sympathetic narrators--people who are trying to do their best. But in Jersey, your best isn't enough.

Death Takes a Snow Day is genuine fiction you need to read.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

At All Due Respect -- Richard Godwin

Richard Godwin's got a feel-good love story over at ADR, "Atrocious Acts." It's the kind of feel-good love story that ends with a lot of death.

Godwin has one of the most distinctive voice in crime writing, so you'll want to check this one out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

All Due Respect Anthology Submissions Open

I'm reopening All Due Respect submissions for the zine and for an upcoming anthology.

I'm looking for the same thing for both the zine and the anthology: gritty, no-nonsense crime fiction, 1000-5000 words.

The collection will be released in early 2013 by Full Dark City Press. They're open for longform submissions as well, so check that out too. 

Send your stories to Please let me know if it's a simultaneous submission. I'll consider any story submitted for both the zine and the collection.

Submit, or a middle-aged white guy from LA who's mad about not being able to get breakfast at a fast food restaurant will hunt you down.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

They Had Goat Heads by D. Harlan Wilson

"I go to a movie and notice that I'm starring in it. I don't remember shooting the movie, let alone auditioning for the part. I am not an actor." -- D. Harlan Wilson, from "The Movie That Wasn't There"

They Had Goat Heads is a masterpiece of the surreal. It's the kind of short fiction collection that hangs together perfectly. Each story is brilliant on its own, but together they resonate beautifully. Wilson blends micro, flash, and short stories to great effect.

The result is chaos--a world where you no idea which way is up or down. You expect to be assaulted by elbows, giraffes, and monster trucks. At the same time. Or at separate times.

Summarizing the plots of these stories is pointless. It's safe to say that you'll go for a strangely pleasing ride in each.

Instead, I'll drop in some random lines:

"'Dad's dead,' said my father. 'I better put him in the freezer.'" -- from "Fathers & Sons"

"Timeless lint blizzards should be wrangled and punished with the same efficiency and enthusiasm as cautious men. The fact is...

...Lithuanian tourists cannot be trusted." -- from "The Kerosene Lantern Tour"

"When he finished telling the story, he left my office.

He came back, told me the same story, and left again.

He cam back again and told the story over, pausing to emphasize the importance of attention-grabbing introductions.

He left.

He came back a forth time and told the story over, twice, back to back." -- from "The Storyteller"

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Octopope! is a great example of a book that sets rules and sticks to them.

It is a also a great example of a book about octopi selecting a new pope.

Yep, that's what it's about. They drink, they swear, they randomly pick a new pope by stuffing a bunch of names into a hat. They pick who they think is a dud and then it turns out he is awesome... and then it turns out he is a dud.

John Smallberries tells us none of the "why" and sticks to the confines of this beautifully simple and nutty premise.

This is a short, fast, and hilarious read. 

As soon as I saw the name, I said "Hell yes!" I said the same thing after reading it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

At All Due Respect: Benoit Lelievre

Benoit Lelievre is up at All Due Respect with a tough boxing tale straight from the streets of Oakland, California. Check out "Droppin' Plates."

Monday, September 17, 2012

At All Due Respect: Rob Kitchin

Rob Kitchin has an artful, funny tale with "Nearly Extinct." It's a highly unconventional heist tale with the true stink of desperation.

And it's got one hell of an ending.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Two Bizarro Books

I just completed two of the best books I've read in a very long time. Both are in my top five for this year.

Person, by Sam Pink, is the essential bizarro novel. Pink doesn't need anything weird--his bizarro is the absurdity of everyday life.

He dispenses with plot, content to follow around a man who lives an unremarkable life.

Everything about this novel rings true to me. Pink, in lyrical fashion, illustrates how Person thinks--flitting from one subject to another based on shallow emotional reactions, always afraid, always questioning--and this is the core strength of this book.

The other is Fill the Grand Canyon and Live Forever by Andersen Prunty. I'd read Prunty's short horror stories and thoroughly enjoyed them, but this, for me, was a cut above.

Our narrator spends a lot of time working on his MyFace page, gaining followers for his group that supports a TV personality who encourages people to, you guessed it, fill the Grand Canyon so that they can be immortal.

This book is hilarious. It's populated with weird and insane characters who embark on murderous rampages, ecstatic tooth-brushing, macabre cheerleading, and desperate attempts to make any sense out of anything.

If you want a real treat, check out Prunty doing a reading from the book here. I love the frenetic pace of this. Every reading should be this charged.  

Saturday, September 1, 2012

At All Due Respect -- David James Keaton

David James Keaton is one of those writers who I respect because he's always trying some crazy shit. If a writer's job is not to bore you, then Keaton always performs his job admirably. A while back, he wrote this story for Needle called "Shrodinger's Rat," easily the strangest story about prison I've ever read.

His story at ADR, "up down up right down left up," veers wildly from retro video games to celebrity worship to jerking off while driving with all the personality and insanity I've come to expect from his work. Go check it out here.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Interview: Julia Madeleine

Julia Madeleine is a force in the crime fiction world and writes some of the best short stories around, including a disturbing tale in Pulp Ink 2. She's here with us today talking madness, writing, research, and tattoos.

DBK: Many of your short stories are about crazy people. The characters may seem semi-normal at first, but by the end, it's obvious that they're batshit. What draws you to writing about the less-than-sane?

JM: I swear I could be in a room of fifty people and I’ll attract the one wack-job who’s there. But maybe that’s because I love crazy people. They’re so fascinating. I know quite a few of them, got a few in the family. They are an endless source of material for my writing. One of my crazy friends recognized herself in my novel—a brief reference to her showing up to lunch with her mother with a shaved head, wearing a tiara and a feather boa—and laughed out loud. I always feel a little guilty writing people into my stories but they seem to enjoy it when I do.

DBK: How much research do you do for your stories? How about novels?
JM: As much as necessary. I spent hours on research for my novel The Truth About Scarlet Rose, combing through newspaper archives on microfiche down at the Toronto reference library (it takes place in the 80s). But the research was fun. Short stories don’t seem to require too much in the way of research.

DBK: Your work alternates between crime and horror. Do you see yourself as a crime writer, a horror writer, a pulp writer, or just a writer?
JM: Oh, probably a crime writer with a love of noir.

DBK: Whose work are you into right now?
JM: I just finished Don Winslow’s Savages and went to the movie (both are brilliant) and picked up Kings Of Cool. Love his style. I recently read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I’ve read all of her books and love the way she writes. I’m currently simultaneously reading Meagan Abbott’s Dare Me, and One Good Hustle by Canadian author Billie Livingston.

DBK: Are you working on a novel? Any new short stories coming our way?
JM: Yes to both questions. I’ve got a few short stories coming out this year including one in Noir Nation’s next issue, and in Shotgun Honey’s new anthology. I’m about 40K into my latest novel about a woman who murders her husband’s mistress and frames him for it.

DBK: Your "Tattoo and a Review" series is fabulous. How do you coax people into reading pulp who might not otherwise be interested?
JM: I pretty much trick them. I offer them the use of my lovely iPad and the invitation to distract themselves from the pain of their tattoo by indulging their mind in some dark little tales of crime and mayhem. What I’m really doing is subcontracting reviewers so I can feature some of my writer friend’s work on my blog. It’s a lot of fun for everyone I think.

DBK: How much does your work as a tattoo artist influence your writing?
JM: I don’t know if my tattooing influences my writing so much as competes with it for my time and creative energy. It’s always been that way with me between the two mediums; art and writing. Everything in my life suffers for my writing. It always will and I’m good with that.

Author's Bio: Julia Madeleine is a thriller writer and tattoo artist living in the Toronto area. For a year she lived in the country on a 30-acre property in the middle of nowhere which became the inspiration for her novel, No One To Hear You Scream. Find out more about her writing at

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Beat to a Pulp: Round Two

Beat to a Pulp: Round One might be one of the best crime fiction anthologies I've ever read--and Round Two follows in its footsteps.

The variety and quality of stories is remarkable. So is how emotionally effecting these stories are--this is an excellent demonstration of how pulp fiction isn't just about sex and violence. (Though there's plenty of that too!)

It kicks off with Bill Prozini's "The Space Killers." I usually dislike pastiches, but this is very well done. The punchline is a doozy--and it's revealed in a gradual, controlled manner.

The legendary Vin Packer's "Far From Home" might be my favorite in here. It's a sad, lovely story about family loyalty and discrimination. And the writing will make you be afraid to pick up a pen again.

I dig Chris F. Holm's crime fiction, but his short horror is so freaking good. "An Open Door" is sure to give you the creepy crawlies, but it goes beyond that and delves into our lack of understanding of how the world works. I think horror's best when it's exploring our base insecurities, and Holm does that here.

Alec Cizak's "State Road 53" shows just how messed up small-town life can be. He's knows how to create flawed, likeable characters. And the atmosphere is perfect--felt like I was back in the Midwest.

I don't exaggerate when I say that there are several other stories in here that will floor you. Jodi MacArthur, Patti Abbott, Sean Chercover--the list goes on. There's only one solution--and you can find it here.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Guest Post: Jim Wilsky

Excited to have Jim Wilsky here today, whose story at All Due Respect is kinda legendary. He also has a novel coming out TODAY from Snubnose Press. It's called Blood on Blood and is co-written with Frank Zafiro. You can find out more at their blog, Harboiled Partners in Crime.

First and foremost, I want to thank Chris for letting me do a guest post on Death by Killing. I consider it an honor to be here. I was going to try and write something clever and witty or maybe write a barely disguised attempt to push my new book - but then the other day, I read one of the saddest quotes I think I’ve ever come across. So here is something else, a tribute maybe or,

A Toast
We all have our favorite authors and I’m betting that some of them don’t necessarily write in the same crime fiction genre that a lot us do. My own personal favorite really has nothing to do with what I try to write, or the sandbox I play in. But he loves writing and books, books of all kinds.

My guy is Larry Jeff McMurtry. Born 1936, in Archer City Texas. Son of a rancher and his wife. That’s about all you need me to say because it isn’t like I’m talking about a guy that you don’t know much about. Anybody who can write, with such excellence, in such a range from Lonesome Dove to Terms of Endearment doesn’t need much of an introduction. Just a little side trivia: his novel Horsemen, Ride By inspired a little movie called Hud starring some goof named Paul Newman. His hometown of Archer City was the model setting for his novel and resulting movie, The Last Picture Show. Anyway, there you go. He had game.
He said this back in 2005, "The world we created that book shop for is gone. It doesn't exist anymore. I will soon enter my seventieth year and would like to travel a bit before I become too decrepit. The books will stay right where they are -- they can slumber in their majesty until the next turn of the wheel." And if you have any emotion in you, any at all, you have to love those beautiful sad words. 

The books he was speaking of then were housed in his four Booked Up bookstores and buildings. He had a dream of opening up used book stores in several cities around the U.S. including Arizona, Chicago and D.C. as well as his home base of Archer City. He did exactly that, fulfilling his dream in the late 80’s and 90’s. Hundreds of thousands of books were stacked on unending shelves. He wanted the book to survive, the bookstore in general, to survive. And not the chain stores that have racks and racks of the latest bestsellers in maybe 8 or 10 sections, but a real honest to God bookstore with the most unbelievable collection you could ever imagine. 

By the time he made the statement above they were all closed except Archer City and it was going away too. 

Did he originally do it for money? Of course not. Did he decide to open it in his hometown because of the demographics and predicted explosion of growth of the Archer City population….at under 2,000 people and a stop off on the way to nowhere, probably not huh? No, he did it because he loved books. 

Then, later in 2005, he reconsidered and decided to stay open. The decision to keep things going was driven purely by the heart and by an outpouring of public support. In what used to be 4 buildings, all Booked Up in tiny Archer City is now boiling down to one and they are having a public auction (August 10th and 11th in fact). McMurtry has an unbelievable book collection spanning across vast sections of art, children's literature, collecting and crafts, fiction, military history, poetry, science fiction, 18th and 19th century books, classical studies, fiction before 1925, foreign books and pamphlets, ancient history and mythology. Some 450,000 books that will go down to around 150K.

McMurtry isn’t just a great author and my personal favorite because of his tremendous string of award winning novels and movies adapted from those novels, or his numerous screenplays. Not just for his Guggenheim grants, Stanford fellowships, Pulitzer Prize and Academy Awards. In my mind, it’s also because he loves the written word. Loves the pure art that represents. Larry McMurtry is a romantic at heart. His books are like videos to me and they have come with a built in soundtrack that I can hear. Yes, he’s a romantic and I would argue that all great writers share that trait, among others. 

If you are close enough and if you have the means I would encourage the trip to Archer City. If not now, make that trip someday. It will be worth it. 

Just remember, “The books will stay right where they are -- they can slumber in their majesty until the next turn of the wheel." 

I hope I can write a sentence like that someday.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

At All Due Respect

Fiona Johnson's got a dead dog, a couple of dumb criminals, a tough-as-nails old woman, and a healthy serving of Scottish slang over at All Due Respect. You don't want to miss "Never Too Old for Fun."

Friday, July 27, 2012

Eric Beetner

Eric Beetner's one of the best short story writers in the game. Now he's (finally!) got a short story collection with his name on it: A Bouquet Full of Bullets. You should check it out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

At Hardboiled Partners in Crime

I'm over at Jim Wilsky and Frank Zafiro's place today talking about what I've learned about editing. I tend toward the terse so it's quite a short list.

I've been a bit incommunicado recently with moving and preparing to teach classes in less than week (aggghhh!) but I hope to have everything back up and running soon. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

News and Notes

-- First, great story over at All Due Respect by Thomas Kearnes. A little Texas whorehouse plus a college kid with girl problems. Check it out.

-- I have signed on with Full Dark City Press as an editor. This outfit is lead by CJ Edwards and Alec Cizak, so I'm very confident that we'll be putting out good work. Check out their new web site here. We already have an anthology with some big names in the works. Then we'll be working on releasing a few books per year. 

-- Received my print copy of Pulp Ink 2 in the mail the other day. It looks freakin beautiful. So, if you buy the electronic version, I'd be happy to send you an electronic version in the format of your choice, too. Check it out at Amazon here

-- I'm moving to India. Tonight. So things are getting a bit crazy. DBK will probably go dark for a little while. But don't worry, I'll be lurking in the shadows...waiting. 

If you're curious at all about my worldwide travels, check out How Do You Get To?, a blog that my wife, Melanie Reichwald, and I are working on.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pulp Ink 2 FREE

That's right--get a helping of pulp fiction completely free.

First five people to leave their email addresses in the comments (or to email them to me at chris dot rhatigan at gmail dot com) will get Pulp Ink 2 for the device of their choice.

And, no matter what you think of it, we here at Pulp Ink HQ (currently a dining room table in Long Island) would be overjoyed if you post your thoughts somewhere on the interwebs.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Pulp Ink 2 is now live at Amazon, Amazon UK and CreateSpace! We've got beautiful killers, visions of the apocalypse, blood-thirsty rats, and one severed arm on a quest for revenge.

Some of the best crime and horror writers today contributed to this collection--you won't want to miss it. Featuring stories by Kevin Brown, Mike Miner, Eric Beetner, Heath Lowrance, Matthew C. Funk, Richard Godwin, Cindy Rosmus, Christopher Black, Andrez Bergen, James Everington, W. D. County, Julia Madeleine, Kieran Shea, Joe Clifford, Katherine Tomlinson, R. Thomas Brown, Court Merrigan, BV Lawson, and Patti Abbott. 

Big thanks to co-editor Nigel Bird and the team at Snubnose Press for all their hard work getting this one out to the world.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Pulp Modern III

What I dig about Pulp Modern is the variety and quality of stories--and the latest issue has plenty of both.

Amy Bloom has a gorgeous, complicated story of friendship and loss. Every line is loaded with rich details and sounds perfect. And the last paragraph is heartbreaking.

I also enjoyed "Cinnamon's Solace" by Joseph Walker, a hardboiled tale of loyalty betrayal. This one's like a sharp blade to the kidneys--an unflinching portrait of career criminals.

William Dylan Powell's excellent as ever with "Cutthroat Business." All that stress from living the corporate life eventually starts to wear on you...and then you go on a murderous rampage. Maybe someone should do a corporate noir anthology--Jim Wilsky had a story a while back at All Due Respect that would fit in nicely too.

In W.P. Johnson's "White Light, White Heat," a couple of college kids in Philadelphia are trapped in an apartment while a zombie apocalypse consumes the city. With its abundant pop culture references that drive the story forward, this is a horror mash-up that fits this magazine perfectly.

Ron Sheer's "Bikers" is an original western about a new, seemingly harmless cult that rolls into town. Dale, our even-keeled protagonist and local newspaper editor, is determined to give these folks a fair shake. I'd never read Sheer's work previously, but I'll be looking for more--this is an oddball tale with a smart, ambiguous ending.

Pulp Modern is setting the standard in terms of multi-genre publications. Get yours today at CreateSpace or Amazon.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

At All Due Respect

If you haven't met Diana Andrews, now's your chance. Albert Tucher with a savvy, funny story at All Due Respect.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

At The Flash Fiction Offensive...

The good folks at The Flash Fiction Offensive have published my story, "Glug, Glug, Glug." It's about one liquor store owner's quest to make a living in a world of assholes. I had fun writing this one, as I am a sadist.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pulp Ink for free

Okay, so you read this blog and, somehow, I still haven't convinced you to buy Pulp Ink.

Because I'm a shitty salesman.

Anyhow, now you don't have to bother with any of that "paying for it," as it is free at Amazon and Amazon UK. Until Saturday. Then you'll have to pay for it.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Jason Armstrong

Writing funny is hard. There are plenty of good writers who sprinkle in humor here and there to good effect, but to actually write funny stories--like Woody Allen or Douglas Adams or PG Wodehouse or David Sedaris--is one tough feat.

But Jason Armstrong is up to the task.

Bad as Fuck, Armstrong's collection of short stories, is nothing short of hilarious. I first read Armstrong's work over at Thrillers, Killers n Chillers, which published "Man Changes Mind." In this story, a guy who seems like an undeclared college student considers becoming a serial killer because it seems like the easiest way to become famous. Then he considers how difficult being a serial killer actually is and eventually abandons his half-baked plan. This one cracked me up when I first read it and it's my favorite in the collection.

I also loved "Look Who's Fucking Talking." Ah, the joys of parenthood. Here's a two-year-old buttmunch who terrorizes his poor father in a surprisingly (and somehow appropriately...) mature manner. And Armstrong manages to somehow pull off a touching and genuine ending.

Much of the humor in here is in the absurdity of the premises, such as "Ass to Mouth," in which a frustrated clerk mugs a very emotional ATM. This works very well in "Rejected," too, as we hear one side of an email conversation between an editor and an increasingly insane writer.

This one's only 99 cents over at the Amazons so you better check it out.  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Andrez Bergen

Last year, Andrez Bergen leaped onto the scene with Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, with a cover and title that thoroughly convinced me of the book's appeal before I'd ever read a page.

This summer, his second book, One Hundred Years of Vicissitude, will be released, and I was lucky enough to get an early look.

In some ways, these are two very different books. TSMG is a sci-fi noir thriller set in post-apocalyptic Melbourne, while One Hundred Years is a more literary venture about one man's swim through purgatory with an obtuse, lovely Japanese guide.

Yet both books are smart, filled with dark (and light) humor, littered with cultural and media references both popular and obscure, and told from the perspective of cynical, sensitive, likable, alcohol-loving protagonists trying to navigate their way through confusing, morally questionable worlds. Both are told in the author's inimitable narrative style--Bergen relishes wacky tangents and dives head-first into philosophical dialogues that prove to be some of the most satisfying parts of his books.

Bottom line is that both of these are highly original, challenging yet thoroughly enjoyable novels. Bergen has a voice all his own and I'll be on the look out for wherever he pops up next. TSMG is published by Another Sky Press, a Portland organization that takes a very different (and welcome) approach to publishing. 100 Years is published by Perfect Edge Books.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pablo and I have a yak

Part 3 of my dialog with Pablo D'Stair is up here. We discuss twists, whether or not predictability matters, and dissect/argue about a Paul Brazill story.

That Pablo is one tough cookie.

Friday, June 15, 2012

At All Due Respect

I'm honored to host Patti Abbott at All Due Respect with "Is That You?" It's a story about hard times and desperation filled with the unsettling menace that Abbott does so well.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pulp Modern Issue 3

The new Pulp Modern is here and available at CreateSpace. The first two issues of this magazine lit the world on fire and I expect nothing less from this next one--Garnett Elliott, Amy Bloom, Matt Funk, Richard Godwin, Edward A. Grainger, William Dylan Powell and ever so much more.

It also includes my story, "You're Welcome." It's about a guy in line at a grocery store who develops an obsessive hatred for the guy in front of him.

Also, kick-ass art work by Jason Cole. Yes.

And over at Yellow Mama I've got a story about a truck stop diner waitress called "Bright Girl." As in all good stories, a deformity is prominently featured.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Andersen Prunty

One reviewer of Bury the Children in the Yard by Andersen Prunty, who gave the collection one star, said:

I got this book thinking it might be fun to read some horror stories in between classes. What I ended up getting was a selection of stories that did nothing more than make me go "Huh."

This must be one of those cases of one man's trash being another man's treasure. I loved this collection for precisely the same reason. Prunty never reveals the original source of the horror, never explains too much. He leaves it up to the reader to create their own interpretation. 

And it's not the kind of horror that's intended to scare the reader, or at least not in the traditional sense. I would describe it more as unsettling or disturbing--the kind of quiet horror that James Everington has also mastered.

My favorite in here is "Music from the Slaughterhouse," in which average, small-town folks find a fountain of youth and beauty. Of course, this comes with a hefty price. 

This is a very fine, unusual collection of stories that's free right now at Amazon.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Burning Bridges

Sometimes, you've just got to say, "fuck it."

That's what the folks who put together the Burning Bridges anthology did. When life (a small publishing house) gave them lemons (blatantly copied cover art), they made it into lemonade (a collection of kick-ass stories).

Each piece involves a character permanently ending something--a relationship, a job... a bridge. This theme spreads across many genres, sci-fi, crime, literary, and horror all make appearances.

Paul Brazill is as brilliant as ever with "The Beginning of the End." A pair of jilted, murderous lovers hole up in the same hotel in this topsy-turvy tale. Brazill weaves together multiple storylines deftly and ends it with a sharp payoff.

Julia Madeleine's "Unforgettable" details the suicidal tirade of a woman who was on the wrong end of one too many bad relationships. I saw the ironic ending before it happened, but that made it no less satisfying! A very tasty tale.

"A Freeway on Earth" by Heath Lowrance is an absurdist masterpiece. Our narrator is running late for work--again--and bracing himself for the inevitable thrashing his supervisor is all-too-willing to dish out. He blazes down the interstate, but gosh darn it, obstacles blockade him at every turn--a hideous car accident, a pregnant woman in a cab about to give birth, and, of course, an alien invasion. It's the kind of satire of modern life that Lowrance does so well.

Darren Sant's "Punishment/Lola" reminds us that it's never a good idea to fuck your boss' spouse. Especially when your boss is a criminal. Or does it? This is a fast-paced tale with some excellent dialog.

Plenty of other good stuff in here, including a revenge classic by Allan Leverone and a couple of degenerates sweating it out in McDroll's "No Turning Back." Highly recommended.


On an unrelated note, Pablo D'Stair and I have a conversation about genre and literary fiction over here. It's a four-part series being published by a Sri Lankan newspaper. Previously, Pablo had a very interesting dialog with author Caleb Ross. Next month he'll talk with Nigel Bird.

Friday, June 1, 2012

At All Due Respect

Daniel Mkiwa is at All Due Respect this issue with "The New Sleep," a story about loyalty and robbery gone wrong. Head over, check it out and, if the mood strikes you, leave a comment.

Monday, May 21, 2012


The winter 2012 issue of Needle is chocked full of very sharp crime fiction.

And a guy on the cover who reminds me of Dennis Duffy from 30 Rock.
The return of Kieran Shea's PI Charlie Byrne is alone worth the price of admission. In "Paying it Off," Byrne's up to his usual, dealing with the low-lifes and the lower-lifes as best he can. Nobody writes New Jersey quite like Shea and this one's overflowing with grimy atmosphere.

Jen Conley is a new name to me and she's got a corker here with "Finn's Missing Sister." Bobby is trying to escape old ties as best he can, but he gets sucked back in when an old flame disappears. Conley astutely captures the desperation of her characters. Soon after I read this one, I saw her name pop up again at Shotgun Honey with a vicious short, "Hatpin."

I loved Chris La Tray's take on Midwest suburban sprawl in "A Dog Named Buddy." Things get fucked up in unexpected ways when one homeowner gets tired of the neighborhood dog that's always shitting on his lawn and takes matters into his own hands.

Plenty of other excellent fiction in this issue from William Dylan Powell, BV Lawson, Matt Funk, Benoit Lelievre, Kent Gowran, and many more.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Trevor English at All Due Respect

I'm proud of every story I've published at ADR, but this one is something special.

Last year, Pablo D'Stair released three novellas about small-time crook, Trevor English. These are some of my favorite books. D'Stair is an original writer with a distinctive style. He devises fascinating premises and simply lets the stories grow from them. And he's an expert at exploring the paranoid psychology of his narrators.

This issue of ADR heralds Trevor's return in the fourth novella of the series, the Akerman Motel/Apartments per week. If you dig what you read there, head over to, where you'll find all the Trevor novellas for free.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Closed for Submissions

All Due Respect is closed for submissions. Need to work through a backlog that extends into the first weeks of 2013. We have a fantastic slate of stories coming up.

I will probably open submissions again at the end of the summer or early fall.

Recent Good Stuff

Writing's a bitch, eh? You sweat your ass off producing what you think is quality material, then you get a bunch of rejections or some asshole who downloaded your book for free gives it one star.

But once in a while all that hard work pays off and that's what's happening for me right now. Here's what I've got in the pipeline:

-- "You're Welcome," a story about a guy who decides he's going to murder a stranger he sees in line at the grocery store, will appear in the next issue of Pulp Modern. This one was inspired by this bit by the brilliant comedian Louis C.K.

-- "Creator/Destroyer" will appear in a future issue of Needle: A Magazine of Noir. This one's huge for me--I've devoured every issue of Needle and it's taken me a while to come up with a piece that fits in with this magazine. "Creator/Destroyer" is about a boring, suburban dude who is jealous of the picture-perfect family across the street. Things go all haywire in this one early on.

-- "Lucky Convenience" was published at A Twist of Noir a while back. Now Editor Christopher Grant has submitted it to be considered for an anthology of online crime fiction edited by none other than Otto Penzler. Big thanks to Mr. Grant! Whether or not "Lucky" makes the cut, this is a huge honor.

Feel free to share your good news in the comments!

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Teaching is a strange career.

I just finished student teaching at an eighth-grade history class in rural Iowa. It was a very challenging, engaging, trying, rewarding semester. The highs and lows of teaching are more severe than other jobs I've had. Feeling even partially responsible for the development of 82 teenagers is a lot of pressure.

Joe, the narrator of Nigel Bird's new book, In Loco Parentis, is a teacher who, shall we say, doesn't deal with the stresses of the career particularly well. He uses all the traditional stress relievers (drugs, alcohol, and sex). But the grind of teaching gets to him and eventually his chemically induced haze isn't enough.

Especially when he discovers something that every teacher dreads--that one of his students is being abused.

I can't blame Joe for how he reacts. I might do the same thing. But his actions have consequences, and Joe is quickly dragged down into a world of shit. Despite all of his awful decisions and his base weaknesses, Joe is a very likable character. I rooted for him til the very end of his spiraling journey.

This book features all of Bird's trademarks, especially his talent for crafting remarkable characters. Not just the narrator, whose voice Bird captures with perfect pitch, but all of the supporting cast as well. Two in particular: Joe's friend, the neurotic, clingy, very memorable Wolf; and his on again, off again lover Emma, a married woman and parent of one of his students.

If you've read any of his short work or his novella, Smoke, you know that Bird is a noir poet whose work is complex yet immediately satisfying. He follows up on that brilliantly in his first full-length effort. Be prepared: In Loco Parentis is a rare and devastating book.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Re: Book Blurbs

Over the last six months or so, I've been asked by a few writers to provide blurbs for their books. This is cool because I get to read the manuscripts before everyone else (bwu-ha-ha-ha!) and I get to show my support for great writers in a way that might help them sell more books. (Emphasis on might!)

Anyway, I spend a lot of time toiling away at these quotes, writing and rewriting them. It's a deceptively difficult thing to do... You want to simultaneously:

1) Tell people why they should read this specific book instead of doing a million other things 

2) Praise the author without going over the top

3) Give the reader some hint about the kind of book it is

4) Share your own experience reading the book 

5) Make sure it sounds good (book blurbs being a genre of writing in and of themselves)

As I find the best blurbs tend to be three or four sentences (or fewer), I can't get around to accomplishing all of these goals, but I do try, and I tend to rewrite them a dozen times. But I do find them a fun challenge.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Surreal. Grotesque

There's a new kid on the block publishing some mean bizarro--Surreal. Grotesque.

Few gems in their first issue. I particularly liked Joshua Dobson's "The Smut," in which porn and pollution collide in futuristic fashion. Nathaniel Tower has a darkly funny tale with "The Ugly Husband."

Add in gorgeous art and more fiction by the likes of Bradley Sands and Richard Thomas and this is an issue you won't want to miss.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

At All Due Respect...

Chris La Tray is up at ADR with "Molotov," a whip crack of a story set in his current home, Missoula, Montana. Go check it out or perish!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Couple of Good Ones

Phil Beloin Jr. has a disturbing story up at Yellow Mama, "Agony or Delight." 

A high school loser gets the girl of his dreams, but bungles his chance. Beloin nails this kid's voice--it really sounds like he's talking to the reader. 

At Shotgun Honey, Travis Richardson's up with "The Day We Shot Jesus on Main Street." This one's a surreal tale about a devout Southern town that won't put up with any heathen bullshit. It's a roaring good time.

And I landed a few more good reviews of my short story collection, Watch You Drown, which is free at Smashwords and cheap at Amazon.

Fiona "McDroll" Johnson gives it a nice write up,  saying that it's "packed full of surprises and brutal punches that will keep you flicking through, only to be disappointed when you realise you're at the end." 

I was also honored to see that Pablo D'Stair post about Watch You Drown at Goodreads. Here's some of what he had to say: "I was just fascinated, by the voice, by the unadorned musicality of it, by the swirl of it around itself, using the character, the scenario, the inertia as playthings, pushing the cake crumbs around an empty plate for the pure enjoyment of that, no desire toward the cake itself at all. "

Friday, April 20, 2012

Story up at Spinetingler

I've got a flash fiction piece that I would describe as quiet noir up at Spinetingler. It's called "Old Fashioned" and it's about a couple of drunks and the bar that they love.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

PULP INK 2 is coming!

First off, we have this incredible cover art from Eric Beetner. I could not be any happier with this--it says crime, it says horror, it says kick ass.

Speaking of kick ass, here's the lineup:


Pulp Ink 2 will be published by Snubnose Press and will hit a virtual newsstand near you mid-summer.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Writing Advice

Stephen Graham Jones* wrote this article called "Ten Obvious Truths About Fiction" over at LitReactor. Then Pablo D'Stair and Sarah D'Stair responded to it in a podcast over at P.S. We Are Better Than You.

They critique the 10 Obvious Truths on a number of grounds, noting that they do agree with Obvious Truth #2 "The reader is smarter than you think," but almost nothing else.

Overall, I side with the D'Stair (their opinions on this are basically identical) critique of this particular piece of writing advice and most writing advice in general. (Although there are some points on which we differ...)

Some objections they bring up with which I wholeheartedly agree: 

1) Jones' piece assumes that there's some generic reader out there. Maybe there is such a thing, but why are we assuming that every writer wants to hook this illusive median reader browsing through the airport bookstore to find something that kills a few hours? There are plenty of writers already writing to the median reader--most of who are failing at this goal--certainly we don't need more of these writers. 

2) Jones' piece seems geared toward writers who play it safe. Don't break conventions! Make sure every page has a hook! Make sure the story keeps its promises! Sure, there are plenty of writers who succeed within these confines, but there are plenty of others who set up completely different confines.  

3) Jones makes the point that readers don't go for vague endings. This gets on my nerves. First of all, I think some of the most satisfying endings in fiction are vague endings. (Pablo D'Stair happens to write some of the finest vague endings around.) So to say that "readers" don't go for it is only true if we're talking about that median reader again. 

Where I disagree with the D'Stairs is about Obvious Truth #8 "Readers can tell when you are trying to be smart on the page." Pablo says, instead, that you should "be as smart as you are." I don't see any reason ever to "try to be smart" (even "as smart as you are") on the page. Sure, there are some writers who I like who I would imagine are very smart, but more often than not, even with writers I like, usually I'd prefer to see less research, less of their education, less of all that shit--save that for writing essays or something.

A good example is Tom Clancy. Clancy clearly did so much goddamned research and then felt like he had to fit it all in, or just he got carried away. Either way, he threw down way too much knowledge. Especially in The Cardinal of the Kremlin. So fuck that. Don't be as smart as you are. Be as smart as your characters are.

I'm sure Pablo knows where more shit than Trevor English.

Also, I'm surprised Pablo didn't shred apart Obvious Truth #1 "The reader should never have to work to figure out the basics of your story." Jones seems to suggest (and not just in #1, but throughout) that the reader should leave the experience with few to no questions. Some writers pull this off beautifully--they load you up with questions and never answer them. I prefer these kinds of writers over the ones who try to tie up everything little thing.

*note that Stephen Graham Jones is a far, far more accomplished writer than I am. So maybe you should take his advice over mine.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

At All Due Respect: Thomas Pluck

Since Thomas Pluck burst onto the scene last year, he's appeared in virtually every crime fiction zine and won a Bullet Award for one of his stories. And with good reason--he writes with urgency and creates big, memorable characters.

He's at All Due Respect right now with "White People Problems," the story of a bartender too caring for her own good, a dumb criminal or two, and a villain who wields a Stogie as a weapon.