Publication News and Potpourri

I’m pleased to report that my short-short, “Tips”, is in the latest issue of Dark Corners, which also includes stories from my colleague and brother-in-noir David Rachels, Ed Kurtz, Will Viharo, Heath Lowrance, Ryan Sayles (who also just welcomed a new daughter — congratulations, fella!), and other nifty writers. It’s all wrapped in a really cool cover as well, adapted by Emily J. McNeely from the painting Hunting the giant octopus of Namekawa in Ecchu province by Utagawa Hiroshige III:


You can pick it up here in dead tree form, or here for your Kindle.


Went to Real City with the ladies this afternoon — while they haunted the mall, I went to a local music store and window-shopped a bit, looking at a set of drum mikes because the Berries are looking at doing some tracking, either demos or a full DIY project. Credit to the salesman for the attempted upsale, but I managed to resist this sort of situation:

Later, I swung by the used bookstore, where I saw an autographed hardback of Lawrence Block’s “One-book series”, The Specialists. I was sorely tempted, but with a tuition payment to make this evening, I opted instead for the paperback version, and with luck, I’ll get LB to sign it for me at Bouchercon in October. Meanwhile, the Spawn snagged a copy of Stephen King’s From a Buick 8, and I bought a copy of Jane Eyre for donation to a local school’s book drive for low-income students.

That was followed by a trip to a local beauty supply shop that is a favorite of the Spawn. She picked up some sort of unguent that, judging from the price, is apparently made from Californium-252, and we headed home. Two weeks from today, we’ll be in Real City again, but I’ll be driving home without her. I hope I’m up to it.


The abovementioned Dr. David Rachels and I are in the process of building an academic journal to replace one for which Mondoville College was once known, but which departed shortly before my arrival in town. As part of that, I’m reading similar journals to the one we plan to build, one of which is no longer extant. Although I thought I had escaped the magazine editing biz when I went back to grad school seventeen years back, I can hope things will be different when the subject matter strikes me as more interesting. We shall see.


Today’s music comes from a band that’s pretty close to the definition of a one-hit wonder, which is of course better than being a no-hit wonder. The interesting thing is that their one hit is actually a fusion of two songs (with nifty production from Bob Ezrin), but nobody cares, and it has become a staple of classic rock stations ever since its release in 1980. As a matter of fact, a band of mine that featured the Mad Dog on vocals covered it a few times, but I still like it. So from Hamilton, Ontario, here are the Kings, with a powerpop gem: “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ to Glide”. By the way, the band is still around, and yep, they still do this one.

Nothin’ matters but the weekend, so I hope yours is enjoyable!

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Slim Chances

Having been in the Freshman Comp game for more than 15 years all told, there are some authors I’m tired of reading about, to the point that I don’t really feel I can give papers about them a fair reading. (As it happens, these are also authors who are the subjects of many putatively recyclable high school papers, so there’s that, too.) The authors in question include Poe, Maya Angelou, and especially Langston Hughes. J.K. Rowling will likely join the list very soon. (I get a lot of requests for Dr. Seuss as well — I still allow those, because I get a kick out of watching the kids freak out when they discover some of the subtexts.)

These days, when kids propose writing papers on those folks, I tend to try to point them in other, parallel directions. Some of my suggestions include Countee Cullen, James Weldon Johnson, Toni Morrison, Lord Dunsany, Oliver Onions, Rita Dove, Chester Himes… and Robert “Iceberg Slim” Beck. Typically, the kids don’t know who any of these people are, but it’s fun watching them find out. And in the case of Iceberg Slim, it’s even more fun to see kids discover how much their cultural world owes to him, for better or worse.

At the Chronicle Review this week, there’s an interesting article about Iceberg Slim and his influence on popular culture, with side excursions into the African American pulp press of Beck’s era. The article’s author is a bit intrusive — OK, maybe a lot intrusive —  but it’s still a neat piece. Check it out.

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Gig Report: Pieces Fit Together Edition

The Berries made another assault on the ears of Real City last night, performing at our friendly confines of Art Bar. We were packed up and ready to leave Mondoville by 6, and it got us to the venue earlier than we expected, about 6:45. This allowed us to get good parking spaces, and we got the gear into the venue about 7:15. Having had a good experience at the local Ramen house in the past, I grabbed dinner there again. I tried a different variety last night, and it was good, but I may have been a bit overeager, if my scalded tongue this afternoon is any indication. Meanwhile, I continue to be utterly incompetent with chopsticks, so I once more relied on a spoon. As I walked back, I saw a food truck pull into the club’s lot, but timing being everything, I guess I’ll have to wait til next time.

I got back about half an hour before the show started, so I was there as some of our friends arrived, including two of my favorite former students. Then it was time for things to get rolling, so we headed into the performance area and watched as Skull Baby took the stage.

I’ve talked before about their sleaze-rock carnival of chaos, and again, they brought a mix of sleaze, slop, and Elvis post-impressionism (no joke — according to the band’s bassist, vocalist Toby has worked in the past as an impersonator), effectively turning the stage into Disgraceland. It’s huge fun, if your tastes run toward exploitation movies and horror punk, and mine do. To make things even better, the guys in the band are kind, friendly, warm people, and I’m already looking forward to seeing them at our next scheduled gig.

We were up next, and it went well. I had a bit of a call-back moment as we were setting up. I saw a couple of guys from the headliner band watching us before we started, and the guitarist and drummer were saying how nice my drum set is. Once again, I have the satisfaction of having gear that’s better than I am, and I still take pleasure in that.

Once we got rolling, we did 14 songs in our 45-minute set, including three covers (our standards of “Gloria” and “Pictures of Matchstick Men“, and our resurrection of Richard and the Young Lions’ “Open Up Your Door“) and several debut numbers. We even introduced a new dance number, “The Scurry”, assisted by Real City’s cool couple of “Jim Stark” and his lifetime party partner Leigh.

The audience seemed to dig it, judging from the head-bobbing, smiles, and nods of recognition, even of the new stuff — which may seem odd at first, until you realize that what they’re recognizing is the approach and style. After the show, numerous folks told us that we have the Nuggets-era/60s-punk sound locked in, and I can’t ask for better than that.

So as Myrtle Beach-based Incredibly Tall People took the stage, I was in a good mood. These fellows are pretty young, but have serious chops, which they displayed in a set that incorporated jam-rock, relaxed reggae-influenced grooves, and a few covers that ranged from Pink Floyd’s “Time” to the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” I’d be willing to bet these guys get all the work they can handle, and it was nice to share a bill with a band that polished.

Finally, it was time for the headliners, Ruba (rhymes with “Bubba”) Say and the Cosmic Rays. While we strive for the sound of 1966, this power trio moves the calendar a few more pages, to about 1973. The sound is what these days gets called proto-metal, recalling groups like Ram Jam, Brownsville Station, and Grand Funk Railroad, with a dollop of the Nuge as well. I’m told that Ruba and the guys dominated the local music scene in the 80s and early 90s, and I can see why — they can play, they’re huge fun, and I’m glad they’ve returned after a long hiatus. This is music made for hanging out at the 7-11 on a summer night in suburbia, playing video games or watching a twentysomething guy flip out as his teenaged girlfriend grinds the gears of his Trans-Am: “Dammit, Bobbi Jean!” Again, I consider this to be high praise, as there’s still a lot of that kid at the 7-11 in me. Apparently there’s a lot of him in others as well, as the crowd — more than a few of whom were in my demographic — was discovering that music is sometimes the next best thing to time travel.

Still, it was late, and I had to head back to Mondoville, getting in the door at 2 this morning. I got up around eleven, and I’m still happy about the show. That’s a good sign.

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William Lindsay Gresham, Call Your Office

As I stopped at Wal-Mart this morning, I saw a young African American boy (approx. age 10) putting pieces of paper under windshield wipers  in the parking lot. Sure enough, when I got back to my car, I found this waiting for me:

Miss Grace

One would think that an entrepreneur in Mrs. Grace’s position would be able to target he advertising more selectively. I mean, with the psychic powers and knowledge of past, present, and future, she ought to know who needs her services and approach those folks more directly.  At the very least, she should be able to track down a competent proofreader.

Interestingly, Mrs. Grace’s advert took up both sides of the slip of paper. The English side you see — the flip side is in Spanish, and the palmist’s hand is replaced by a picture of (I think) the Lady of Guadalupe.

Stanton Carlisle was unavailable for comment, as was Stanton Carlisle.

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“Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes”

I don’t drink alcohol, and haven’t in years (well, not deliberately, anyway — I was surprised by a champagne punch at a faculty reception a couple of years ago.) I don’t mind if you do, though, and my abstinence isn’t a moral thing. It’s based on the fact that I have a really bad family history with substance abuse, most recently and horribly demonstrated by my brother’s history, and the fact that probably my biggest advantage in most situations is that I’m bright, and that’s not an edge I want to dull. My addiction is food, thanks, and while that may very well kill me too, I think that’s the struggle I prefer to have.

What brought all this on was the fact that the Spawn had to complete an online alcohol awareness course as part of her intake into Flagship U. She passed the various tests easily, she said, but then she told me something I thought was interesting. “After I checked the box that said I don’t plan on drinking in college, the program asked if I’d be interested in leading an organization for non-drinkers, and then if it could pass my information on to the administration!” She declined both opportunities, which is fine by me — she’s going to Flagship for several reasons, but none of them involve chairing some latter-day chapter of the WCTU. (As it happens, there are already latter-day chapters of the WCTU. Go figure.) It’s not like that’s the most important thing about her, or about me, for that matter. Still, I guess it’s further evidence that society seems to want personal choices to become public action.

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Ludwig — Roll Over Beethoven

When I was a teenager, playing a five-piece drum kit my folks got me from Sears as a combination thirteenth birthday/uprooting me to Kentucky gift, I both loved and hated trips to the music store, where I’d snag issues of Modern Drummer magazine and catalogs from drum companies like Tama, Pearl, and Ludwig. It was a mix of pleasure and pain because I’d see wonderful drum kits, endorsed by folks like Neil Peart (at the time, a Tama player),

neil tama

Pearl, used by Peter Criss — although I wasn’t a Kiss fan,

KISS midnight special 1974

and of course, Ludwig, which was for me the most iconic brand, or at least the one associated with the most important drummers:

Buddy ludwig

Ginger Ludwig

Ringo Ludwig

but I knew I couldn’t afford any of them, and I’d wind up playing my no-name kit until I died or got a job. (When I was in high school, those options seemed more or less equidistant.) In the meantime, I got to hear other high school drummers razz me about my cheap kit, making comments like “You know, you’ve got to mess around on the bad stuff before you’re ready to play the good.” I studied the drum catalogs and endorser listings the way other kids studied baseball statistics, and dreamed of the day I might get a set like the ones from the magazines.

When I was in my mid-twenties, during my first trip through grad school, I came into an mid-five-figure inheritance, which I squandered with remarkable speed — not surprising, as never having had money, I didn’t really know how to handle it. But one of the things I bought was a pro-level Yamaha kit — the same one I use now, 25 years later. As I’ve said over the years, I reached a level of satisfaction when I got gear that was better than I am, and I suspect it always will be.

Not quite my kit, it's close, and the color (Cobalt Blue) is right.

What made me think of all this was the fact that Ludwig drums — including the kits Ringo uses — are now made not all that far from Mondoville, in Monroe, NC. The Charlotte Observer offers an interesting look at the factory, and the people who work there. It’s worth your time.

Posted in Culture, Music, Why I Do What I Do | 3 Comments

Saturday Potpourri

It hasn’t been a hugely newsworthy week at the Mid-Century Mondohaus, which is fine by me. The drum hauler needed a new water pump and timing belt, and while that set us back almost $900, that’s cheaper than either a new engine or another car payment, and allows me to take my kit to next week’s gig in Real City. Thus, my plan to drive the thing until it pulls a One-Hoss Shay continues.


A crime-writing Facebook friend of mine is reading Mr. Block’s The Crime of Out Lives, and though it has only been a couple of months since I read it, and only slightly longer since its publication, I found myself giving it another look last night and this morning. Because the book is a compendium of articles, forewords, and the like, it’s a wonderful example of a book you can read in small bites, one or two essays at a time, spread over a long period. (Of course, between my reading speed and lack of self-control, I find I’m much more likely to take that approach the second or third time through a work. ) And so I read a bit last night and a bit (so far) this morning, and in LB’s appreciation of Raymond Chandler, I ran across this gorgeous little simile:

[Chandler’s] landscapes have the look of bad early Technicolor, at once faded and garish, like sun-washed cereal boxes in a shop window. [Emphasis mine — Mondo]

Not only is it a spectacularly good image, putting it in the context of a piece about Chandler seems to serve as a hat tip. Well played, Mr. B — as usual.


The preceding item may prompt a couple of you to ask (if you’ll permit me the egotism to assume you care), “If you comprehend the stuff you read the first time through, why do you need to go back and reread this stuff? Wouldn’t you get more of it if you read it more slowly? Would you need to reread it at all, then?”

I don’t really know. What I’ve noticed is that I tend to read things the first time on a level of plot or comprehension. My history seems to indicate that I do that well enough. Doubtless, had I been given a pop quiz after my first read of Crime of Our Lives, I would have passed. However, if I feel the urge to give a work a subsequent pass, that’s when I really start to notice the “writerly stuff.” It’s like looking at a painting, I guess: I’m not going to see it as a collection of brushstrokes and color choices the first time I look at it. I’m going to think, “Oh, this is a still life,” or a landscape, or (in less representative works) an expression of some feeling/idea/whatever. Then, if the painting interests me enough to look more closely, I’ll look at the technique, composition, or what have you.

In fact, with a book, I’m actually inclined to dislike writing that calls attention to itself in a manner that interrupts the story. I suppose my model is closer to what David Bordwell describes as the “classical Hollywood style” of cinema, where the audience is supposed to feel as though they are looking through the fourth wall, rather than being reminded that what they see has been mediated by a director, cinematographer, or whoever.

So anyway, there’s my answer to a question I get asked on occasion. Go figure.


It occurs to me that in less than a month, we’ll be packing the Spawn off to Flagship, where she’ll begin the next step. I find this exciting, but unnerving. Heaven knows where she stands on this. But as the saying goes, “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” (Apparently John A. Shedd phrased it slightly differently, but I prefer the rhythm of my misquote. Sue me.)


As is my habit, I’ll close this entry with a bit of music. I first heard this song when I was in high school, I think, although it actually came out in 1979, when I was in eighth or ninth grade. As a drummer, I’ve always been impressed by the sparseness of Pete Thomas’s playing on this track, which suits the song’s skittery paranoia. So from Elvis Costello and the Attractions, here’s “Green Shirt.”

See you soon.

Posted in Family, Literature, Music, Why I Do What I Do | 2 Comments