Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
bulldog named Fireball Roberts, in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."
The Last Good Kiss
“Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.”
Cool Hand Luke
It was a tough week for me last week. Two of my favorite entertainers died. James Crumley died at the age of 68. Pretty young by today’s standards. And to bookend the terrible week, Paul Newman died Friday at the age of 83. That’s a more acceptable age I guess.
Everyone knew Paul Newman. Those blue eyes; the great work he did with his charitable food line. And the movies. Who could forget those. The Verdict is still one of my favorites of his and I still argue that he should have won the Oscar that year for best actor. The Sting. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Hombre. Color of Money. The Hustler. Slap Shot. The list is pretty long. Paul Newman deserves those accolades. He lived his life well – a life one could emulate and be quite happy – even if you weren’t a movie star.
But James Crumley, on the other hand, is a bit of an enigma. He never had a best seller. He never rose above the level of “cult writer” despite critical acclaim. Something just didn’t click for him like it did for Paul Newman. But I, like many crime writers, credit Crumley as one of my inspirations when I started writing. There was something earthy and real about his characters and his writing. They were deeply flawed people that did violent things in gritty locations. He was a very fine writer that deserved a wider audience. But then, maybe he didn’t care.
And that’s were these two men intersect. They lived their lives as they wanted – doing the things that gave them joy. They excelled at their crafts, and while one of them achieved worldwide stardom, the other lived quietly in Missoula, Montana. But they are equals in my eye.
And I suspect in that bar behind the pearly gates, the two men are sitting next to each other drinking the heart out of a fine spring day. Yeah, sometimes nothin’ can be a real cool hand.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
What if I chucked everything and moved to the wilds of Alaska? Could I survive? Alone? With only a few favorite books, a puny 22 rifle and pair of galoshes?
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
I was flying home from a writer's conference a couple weeks back and I was feeling pretty good. Pretty good because I was on a panel with some truly famous authors and I held my own. Of course, that might have all been in my mind, but self-delusion is an underrated trait in my opinion. At any rate, it was a good conference overall. Got to reconnect with some folks I've met out on the circuit and met a couple new folks too. I generally feel pretty jazzed after one of these things but this one was particularly good it seemed. That is, until I got on the plane to fly home.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Okay, the cat doesn’t get the whole writing gig. But he knows how to have fun. I’m usually the last to bed (being a writer means some odd hours) and I fear turning off the lights before retiring. Why? Because the darkness is his friend. He loves to hide behind the sofa and attack me as I walk down the hall to the bedroom. I’m half asleep and this furry missile comes out of the dark and hits me full on, staggering me. I curse softly at him (don’t want to wake my wife – the cat is bad enough) but I have to grin too. He’s a trickster. He’s loves to play. He even loves to play fetch like a puppy. He loves life. And I love him for it.
So there is a bond between the cat and me. I’m not a cat or dog guy per se – but I do like animals. And like I said, I do love this cat. He gets it. He gets that life should be fun. That no matter how many times you attack the dork as he trundles off to bed, it’s fun. Yep. Scaring the crap out of the half-asleep guy is fun. I can imagine him curling up at the foot of the bed thinking, I got him good tonight. And I get turkey in morning. Life is good.
Okay, maybe he doesn’t understand why I write instead of nap, but I think he gets me just as I get him. We are simpatico that way. We get life. Life should be fun. That treats are okay in moderation. That sneak attacks are fun – if no harm is done. That life is good. Yeah, at least the cat understands me.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Okay, confession time. I was a closet geek in high school. Well, okay, maybe I wasn’t so much in the closet as I might think. Sure, I played baseball all through high school and I even played football for one year before I realized that football is the modern equivalent of the gladiatorial games – and I wasn’t the lion. So I had my cool clique to hang out with. I wasn’t the kind of nerd that did extra credit trigonometry problems nor was I on the chess team or the kid with the clichéd pocket protector. But I was a kid that loved to read.
Hey, I was 16 – it wasn’t cool to “read” anything that wasn’t glossy and had half clothed to mostly unclothed women in it. But I did. And I liked it. And I don’t think anyone at my high school but Mr. Macmillan knew how much I like it. He could tell. He could see the signs. All of us in the literature cult know the signs. I bet some of you in the audience know the signs.
And although I haven’t reread many of those novels we read back in Advanced Literature, I do remember them. I remember the feeling they gave me. The feeling of power. Of understanding human nature just a little bit better – at a time in life when all of human nature and motivation was a snake ball to me. I still haven’t figured out why Lisa Ackerman hated me. But I’ve gotten over it...
Anyway, the books were my friends – closet friends – but good friends nonetheless. They got me through some weird times and I’m thankful for their service – then and now. Because just as they taught me lessons back then, they teach me lessons today. Like I said, I haven’t reread most of the classics, but they’ve stuck with me as I pull together stories and ideas and themes and plots and all the other building materials that make up a novel.
So 20 some odd years later I say, “Here’s to you good and noble friends! Thank you for being there – then and now!”
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Monday, March 3, 2008
Just got back from a great weekend in South Florida. Sleuthfest 2008 is in the books and I'm so very glad I went. Not only because it was 10 degrees back home - and 80 degrees poolside - but because of the warmth and camaraderie of all the attendees and conference volunteers. It takes a small army to put one of these things on and it went flawlessly. I especially want to thank Joanne Sinchuk at Murder on the Beach for supporting a not so local boy - but a boy that wishes he was local. And to Christine Kling - a fellow novelist living the life I've always dreamed - thank you for such a wonderful discussion and the grog was fantastic.
It's these conferences that keep you going. Tiring as they are, they energize you too. You meet the folks that read your books and you meet the writers that write the books that you love. Not a bad way to spend a weekend.
Friday, February 8, 2008
Police are searching for a man who tried to send a noteworthy package of books to Paris, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. A UPS Store clerk "was preparing to ship the plastic-wrapped books on Jan. 31 when she noticed that one of the hardbacks rattled, according to police reports. The woman shook the book and spotted a gun part slipping through the pages."
A subsequent police search revealed that the books contained "a disassembled Beretta handgun, three loaded magazines and two boxes of 9mm ammunition hidden in hollowed copies of Richard Tarnas' Cosmos andPsyche, Isaac Asimov's Chronology of the World and a communications text."
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Whew. I’m finished. Okay, maybe not finished, finished, but pretty damn close to finished. I’ve finished the second book in the Phil Riley series.
It’s a pretty good feeling actually. Being able to settle back in the chair, nod the head at the computer screen and say to yourself, yeah, that will work. Okay, some touches here and there. Oh yeah, gotta change her hair color to keep it consistent, but yeah, this will work.
So there you go.
But the smile fades as you slowly come to the realization you aren’t finished.
Not by a long shot.
Remember that idea that’s been pin balling around in your head? Yeah that one. Better get started on it while the idea still seems good. Okay, okay. I’ll start next week. Give my self a little vacation from the writing gig. But right now, I’ll create a new folder to store the chapters for that new novel. Oh, I’ve got a couple more minutes before I really should go to bed. I’ll put in the headers and footers. Well hell, while I’m at it….
It’s grinding cycle. I’m like that Hawksbill turtle that occasionally needs to surface for air but also must live underwater to survive. I know my time at the surface is limited. My time for a breather is limited. My time away from writing is limited.
So I take a quick peek at the clouds, maybe roll my face toward the warming sun, Then, like that turtle, I take a big gulp of air and head back down to the reef.
It’s what writers do.