Review of THE SPARTAK TRIGGER by Bryce Allen

I love the voice in this novel, which is an addictive cross between Chuck Palahniuk and Mikey Spillane with a bit of spy-fi a la Ian Fleming thrown in for good measure. What this book does (and does well) is follow the classic structure of a detective/spy novel, plot twists and tough guy dialogue included, while simultaneously poking fun at those storied genres. There are insider jokes/familiar troupes on practically every page, and the author’s influences literally pop up and say, “Hello.” Usually, a writer will deliver jokes deadpan and only acknowledge his/her influences via author interview, but Allen calls attention to his in the actual narrative, which makes the book all the more comical and enjoyable. Too, this level of self-commentary adds a layer of depth to the narrative, making THE SPARTAK TRIGGER both a novel and, in its own way, criticism. . .and entertaining criticism at that.

But all English major stuff aside, this book does the most important thing a novel should do: it makes you want to turn pages; it draws you into its world and makes you want to stay there. Bottom line, that is my most fundamental requirement for fiction, and based on that, I highly recommend reading this one.

http://www.amazon.com/Spartak-Trigger-Bryce-Allen-ebook/dp/B00J27G8PI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403983764&sr=8-1&keywords=the+spartak+trigger

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Interview with Paul D. Marks, author of WHITE HEAT

Why do you write?

MARKS: I write so I can kill people…on the page that I can’t kill in real life……….. Seriously, why do I write – why does anyone write – because we have to.

When do you write?

MARKS: I keep “vampire hours,” so mostly I write in the middle of the night.  My sleep schedule has shifted over time.  I’ve always been a late-night person.  But that used to mean going to bed at 2 or 3 or 4am.  Now it means going to bed at 9am and getting up at three or four in the afternoon.  So I tend to write starting at about 11pm these days.  It’s quiet.  There’s no interruptions. And the nighttime sets the proper mood for most of what I write.

Where do you write?

MARKS: I write in my home office.  Sometimes I do it other places.  But my office has everything I need. I have a nice view. Pictures on the wall that inspire me. Mostly album covers and movie lobby cards, some other things. And, of course, my picture of Dennis Hopper flipping the bird from Easy Rider. I also have access to my addictions, diet cherry Pepsi and Waiwera water.  Plus I have my assistants, my dogs and cats, to help out.

If I’m out and about in the world, coffee shop, beach, library, I get too distracted by what’s going on around me…but that can be fun.  Too much fun.  And you might think there would be distractions in the office, TV, phone and food.  But I’m pretty good at avoiding those.  What I’m not good at avoiding is the internet.  I love to research and it makes me feel like I’m working even when I’m not.

What do you write?

MARKS: I write mostly noir and mystery fiction, but sometimes mainstream and humor or satire. For example, my Shamus Award-Winning novel, White Heat, is a noir-mystery-thriller set in and during the “Rodney King” riots (see below for more details) and its sequel, Broken Windows (not yet published) is in the same vein.  I’ve had over 30 short stories published that run the gamut from noir to mainstream and satire, including several award winners.

How do you write?

MARKS: I put my ass in the chair, goof for a few minutes on the computer, doing whatever I want, and then I start in on one of my projects.  Doesn’t matter if I’m not in the mood – you get in the mood by doing it.  And even if it’s not going well, just write, stream-of-consciousness.  Hone it later.

Tell me about your previous books and where they can be found.

MARKS: White Heat and L.A. Late @ Night, a collection of five of my previously published short stories, can be found on Amazon in both paperback and e-versions, as well as other venues.  White Heat is my Shamus Award winning novel that Publishers Weekly calls a “taut crime yarn.”  It’s set during the “Rodney King Riots” of 1992 and is about a screwup P.I. who inadvertently leads a murderer to his prey and has to find the killer in order to make things right.  L.A. Late @ Night is a collection of 5 of my previously published short stories.  All set in L.A. and in genres ranging from noir to hardboiled to medium boiled. Lawrence Maddox, the reviewer in All Due Respect, Crime Fiction Magazine said this about that collection: “You could hate L.A. for the way it screws with the decent folk so deftly conveyed here, but you won’t be able to put this highly recommended collection down.”

Tell me what you’re currently working on.

MARKS: I’m working on a slew of projects.  The sequel to White Heat and another novel, this one a mystery set on the World War II homefront, are already done and sitting with an agent.  So I’m currently working on two stand-alone novellas.  One for a publisher of novellas and one for myself.  Both are mysteries, but one is more noir than the other. But the other is interesting because it’s set all in one location. But if I told you exactly what they were about, well, you know…  I’m also working on three different short stories, plus the blog I write for every other Friday (http://7criminalminds.blogspot.com/).  And I’m co-editing an anthology of mystery short stories from various writers called Coast to Coast: Murder from Sea to Shining Sea (that may or may not remain the final title), that includes several big name and award-winning mystery authors.  I’m definitely not wanting for things to occupy my time.

Tell me something funny.

MARKS: I write so I can kill people on the page that I can’t kill in real life………..  You gotta admit, that’s pretty funny….

Thanks for having me, Max!

 

Find Paul D. Marks at:

www.PaulDMarks.com
https://www.amazon.com/author/pauldmarks 
facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks
twitter: @PaulDMarks

blog: http://www.7criminalminds.blogspot.com/
blog: http://pauldmarks.blogspot.com/

http://www.amazon.com/White-Heat-P-I-Duke-Rogers-ebook/dp/B007SIR8QG

http://www.amazon.com/L-A-Late-Night-Mystery-Streets-ebook/dp/B00I9289HM

 

Paul D. Marks’ novel WHITE HEAT is a 2013 SHAMUS AWARD WINNER.  Publishers Weekly calls WHITE HEAT a “taut crime yarn.”  And Midwest Book Review says “WHITE HEAT is a riveting read of mystery, much recommended.”  Paul is also the author of over thirty published short stories in a variety of genres, including several award winners – and L.A. LATE @ NIGHT, a collection of five of his mystery and noir tales.  His story HOWLING AT THE MOON will be in an upcoming edition of Ellery Queen.  And he has the distinction, dubious though it might be, of being the last person to have shot a film on the fabled MGM backlot before it bit the dust to make way for condos.  According to Steven Bingen, one of the authors of the recent, well-received book MGM: Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot: “That 40 page chronological list I mentioned of films shot at the studio ends with his [Paul D. Marks’] name on it.”

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Book Review: DOVE SEASON by Johnny Shaw

In my mind, this novel can be broken down into two parts, and both of them are satisfying, but for different reasons.  Part One is about Jimmy Veeder, a good guy drifter with a sense of humor, who returns to the Imperial Valley in California to visit his dying father, Big Jack Veeder.  The highlights of this section are Shaw’s descriptions of Imperial Valley and Mexico, which is right on the border nearby.  Here is one of my favorite sections from the beginning of chapter six:

All the fun stuff is in Mexico. . . Hell, you can buy Cuban cigars. You can go to a bullfight, a dog fight, or a cock fight if that’s your pleasure. What is fun and illegal in the U.S., Mexico gladly offers in a semi-legal, slightly dangerous way. If the law looks the other way, then is it really illegal?

In this passage, Shaw comically sums up the moral and legal ambiguity of Mexico and what role America and Americans play in that ambiguity; pretty much throughout Part One, he manages to skillfully provide commentary on the complex relationship between the two countries, but without being preachy, long-winded, and, most importantly, without sacrificing the narrative thread. Another aspect of Part One I enjoyed was the relationships between Jimmy (the son) and Jack (the father).  Even in a crime novel, death bed scenes, especially death bed scenes between parent and child, could very easily come across as trite or just plain boring to read. But these aren’t.  Big Jack, a veteran and a farmer, is kind of the strong-silent type, but he has a wonderful sense of humor, especially about death.  Here’s Big Jack on death, from chapter three:

Dying is a bitch when you don’t believe in God. But I ain’t going to start now just because I’m scared. I’m afraid, and the only way I know how to kill fear is distraction. I want to die happy. I want to die laughing.  . .Let’s not let this get dark and sad and morose. Leave the crying to the women.

Throughout Part One, there are funny exchanges like this between Jimmy and Jack, the best of which happens when Jack asks his son to find him a prostitute, which, in a way, serves as the transition from Part One to Part Two.

Part Two of the novel is the crime element of this particular crime novel, and this is when the narrative really picks up speed.  Jimmy and his friend Bobby head into Mexico to locate Yolanda, a prostitute that Big Jack has a mysterious relationship with.  I never like to talk specifics about plot, but I can say this journey into Mexico brings death, kidnapping, and gangsters into the mix, which is always fun. I especially enjoy the character Tomas Morales, a stone-cold businessman who Jimmy used to look after when Tomas was a little kid. Morales is into all manner of illegal activity, but he assists Jimmy in finding Yolanda.  In this section of the novel, the reader really gets to know Jimmy, and the misadventures he gets into with Bobby are great fun.  As is their dialogue.  Here’s Bobby’s response when Jimmy asks him to go to Mexico and help Jimmy locate a hooker for Big Jack:

Your dad is fucking awesome. I am so in on this. Beats the shit out of bringing flowers. Jack wants a piece, let’s tear him off some chonch.

That made me laugh.  I also enjoyed the relationship Jimmy has with Angie, his ex-girlfriend who works at Big Jack’s hospice center. Tough as nails and every bit as funny as Bobby, Angie keeps Jimmy, a slacker by nature, focused and centered, and it is always fun to read.

Bottom line, this is an excellent book with a funny yet flawed main character and a fascinating setting.  The Mexico/US border is always fertile ground for great stories, and Johnny Shaw has certainly added a great new one.  I’ve already downloaded PLASTER CITY, which is another book in the Jimmy Veeder series. I give DOVE SEASON my highest recommendation.

http://www.amazon.com/Dove-Season-Jimmy-Veeder-Fiasco-ebook/dp/B004FPZ272/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403267409&sr=8-1&keywords=dove+season

dove season

Interview with Bryce Allen, author of THE SPARTAK TRIGGER

Why do you write?

ALLEN: I’ve never really thought about it to be honest, it’s kind of just something that I’ve always done in one form or another. In high school/college/my mid-20s I played in various bands and wrote songs but when that came to an end I began writing fiction as a creative outlet. It took a few years to get published but I definitely feel like I needed that time to improve my skills and develop stylistically.

When do you write?

ALLEN: Typically I’ll write at night but if I have a free day on the weekend I’ll brew a pot of coffee and pound on the keyboard all morning and into the early afternoon. I’ve tried writing during my lunch break at work but that tends to be unproductive.

Where do you write?

ALLEN: I’ll mainly write in my apartment on the sofa with a good CD playing. Sometimes I’ll throw on a DVD of a film I’ve seen a million times, just so there’s some white noise in the background. If I have to do any research for a story I’ll usually go to a café or library – for whatever reason I’m more productive on that front in public venues.

What do you write?

ALLEN: My undergrad degree was in history so I definitely got my fill of nonfiction/essay writing in college so now I write fiction pretty well exclusively… I’ve always enjoyed dark humour and action-packed stories so those elements will definitely always be present in my writing, with varying degrees of volume. In my first novel I tried to fuse transgressive meta-fiction with spy-fi so in the future I’m sure I’ll try fusing similarly divisive styles somehow.

How do you write?

ALLEN: I typically leave a LOT of blank spots to be filled in later. I was the same way writing essays back in school – I’d write a sentence that served as a placeholder for what that idea would be and then move on to something else. I’ve tried creating outlines and such for bigger projects but those usually go out the window – I think it’s better for writing to have an organic/natural flair so I definitely try not to overplan what I’m working on at any given time.

Tell me about your previous books and where they can be found.

ALLEN: My debut novel THE SPARTAK TRIGGER is currently available through Necro Publications/Bedlam Press:http://necropublications.myshopify.com/products/the-spartak-trigger. As I alluded to earlier, it’s an attempt at fusing Ian Fleming with Chuck Palahniuk and Charles Bukowski. It’s a short book with a LOT happening and several recurring gags/themes throughout… It’s definitely not something everyone will like but I wanted to write something I would enjoy myself, so from that standpoint I’m pleased with how it turned out.

Tell me what you’re currently working on.

ALLEN: Right now I’m working on an alternate history novel that takes the basic framework of Quebec’s FLQ Crisis and places/reimagines it in the American South. I did a lot of research on the FLQ back in school so it’s nice to be able to incorporate my history degree into something creative.

Tell me something funny.

ALLEN: I used to play bass in a Poison tribute band. I wish that was a joke.

 

Buy THE SPARTAK TRIGGER here: http://necropublications.myshopify.com/products/the-spartak-trigger

Follow Bryce on Twitter @Bryce_E_Allen

Read an excerpt from THE SPARTAK TRIGGER here: https://www.smashwords.com/extreader/read/419919/3/the-spartak-trigger

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On Why Villains are Fun. . .

The world needs villains. Especially in Judeo-Christian America, we need villains in order to validate our own moral superiority; we need villains to be the living embodiment of Evil, to be out there committing the Big Crimes, so that the rest of us can shake our heads and keep right on cheating on our taxes and stealing our neighbor’s WIFI and parking in handicap spaces.

But philosophical and moral arguments aside, we need villains because well, they’re cool. And they have way more fun than most of us.  They allow us to watch (from a safe distance) as they not only succumb to their base desires, but really revel in them. Personally, I enjoy them for their unapologetic nature, for thumbing their collective noses at the world and saying, “I do whatever I want, whenever I want, and stop me. . . if you can.” Really, how fun does that sound?

Now think about this.  What would Superman be without Lex Luther?  Answer: just an uptight guy with glasses and a strong chin.  I mean, James Bond is just a womanizer without the likes of Auric Goldfinger and Dr. No;  without the many foes Bond has battled and defeated in those books and movies, he would be a cliche, a very one-dimensional character, who would have to find a rich widower to pay for his first-class air travel, gadgets, and dry martinis.  Hell, even my beloved Red Sox are much more fun to watch when they are pitted against the Evil Empire known as the New York Yankees.

Which brings me to an article on villains and villainy I found at a tumblr site called CleverGirlHelps. I linked to the entire article below, but I’ve excerpted some choice bits for those interested, as I am, in the dynamics of villains.

On the difference between a villain and an antagonist:

What makes a villain a villain is action. What makes an antagonist an antagonist is force against the protagonist. Again, these things can overlap, but do not always do so. I would like you to disregard the notion that villains and antagonists must be characters. They can be, but they do not always have to be.

On villainy as a reflection of the hero:

A villain can be a reflection or shadow of whatever the hero stands for and loves. A villain who is good at their job might be this because they represent whatever the hero fears, loathes, or is scared of. A reflective villain is more than not-the-hero, a villain is the essence of not-the-hero.

On villainy as conflict:

Conflict and villainy can easily coincide. Conflict is the basis of the story, the thing that drives the plot and spurs on the characters. Bear in mind, if your villain is a part of the conflict, I expect you to deal with the villain somehow before resolving the plot in its entirety.

Here’s the entire article, which is filled with smart observations on the subject as well as a variety of examples to back up her opinions. Check it out.

http://clevergirlhelps.tumblr.com/post/84565698794/hi-i-was-wondering-if-you-have-any-advice-on

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DRIFTWOOD: A California Road Trip Novel by Elizabeth Dutton

Folks, Driftwood, a first-rate novel by my friend and colleague Elizabeth Dutton, is now out in paperback! Only $9, so snag it here. To celebrate the occasion, and, hopefully, entice more to buy and review this excellent book, I’m re-posting my review of Driftwood.

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I’ve been a serial obsessive for most of my life, and many of the things I’ve obsessed over–eating shrimp two meals a day, wearing green sweat pants, and dying of carbon monoxide poisoning, to name but three–I’ve managed to, more or less, move past.  But music and California are two obsessions that will always dominate my imagination. And in Driftwood, the debut novel by Elizabeth Dutton, I can indulge in both of those long-standing obsessions.

Here’s the basic set-up: Clem Jasper (great f-ing name!) is an L.A. trust fund kid with a well-known rock musician for a father who dies suddenly while playing ping-pong.  Still reeling from the loss and trying to figure out her place in the world, Clem receives a rather strange inheritance: a bundle of letters from her father instructing her to visit several meaningful yet mysterious destinations around California.

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Clem’s a quirky and relentlessly self-commenting narrator, but an oddly likeable one.  She is one part misanthrope and one part romantic.   As a reader, I sympathized with her, gobbled up her irreverent remarks and witticisms and spot-on commentary about, well, everything. In short, Clem is that often-talked-about-but-rarely-realized round character.

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The other brilliant aspect of this book is the setting: California. In Dutton’s hands, California comes alive, becomes something more real, more interesting, more quirky than the glittering yet static version of California that’s lived in my imagination for so long. I particularly enjoyed the oddball characters Clem meets in the towns she visits; I relished the descriptions of the landscape, the weather, the vibe of each new place she goes in search of gaining a deeper connection with her father. And, of course, there is the music. Yes, many songs and bands (both real and fictional) are mentioned, discussed, and evaluated, but what struck me the most was the (forgive me) music of the road.  Throughout Clem’s journey, she is attempting to find a rhythm for her life, to write her own song, one that redefines who she is and what family means.

Bottom line, I highly recommend this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A SUNDAY IN ALPHABET LAND, my latest novel

I am 33,000 words into my new crime novel A SUNDAY IN ALPHABET LAND, and I am sneaking up on what I think will make for a killer ending. Similar to my Eli Sharpe books, this one features a “problem-solver” (a.k.a. detective) named the Rook, who is trying very hard to clean up Alphabet Land, a neighborhood that has gone to the dogs since the nuclear plant was decommissioned nine years prior.  Set in a fictitious town in South Carolina, Alphabet Land is blue-collar all the way, a neighborhood that has relied on the plant for employment for the past forty years, and when the novel begins, Alphabet Land is awash in drugs, violence, and crime, all of it controlled by a man named Luke Bump (a.k.a. villain).

This novel takes place during one Sunday, and it is action-packed, gritty, and totally noir.  It has guns and fights and cool, but scary settings where all the action takes place. I’m hoping to have this book finished within the next couple of weeks, and then I plan to submit it to agents before the summer is out. Hopefully, someone will be interested in it.

In the meantime, be on the lookout for the first book in the Eli Sharpe series entitled GO GO GATO. It’ll be released on August 1st. Click on the link below to pre-order.

http://www.amazon.com/Go-Gato-Max-Everhart/dp/1603819118/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1395937767&sr=8-2&keywords=go+go+gato

Or enter my Goodreads giveaway and win a signed copy.

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/88620-go-go-gato

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Early Praise for GO GO GATO

Thank you very much to Steve Ulfelder, James L. Thane, Jack Remick, and Paul D. Marks for reading GO GO GATO and providing blurbs. It is always nice when authors you read and respect end up liking your work, too. Check out what they had to say about my debut novel below.

From its hero to its milieu to its eccentric, three-dimensional characters, Max Everhart’s GO GO GATO is a terrific read. The North Carolina minor-league baseball scene feels authentic and beloved, and I was always rooting for protagonist Eli Sharpe. The best news is that this excellent mystery is first in a series. Fans of Harlan Coben will want to check out Max Everhart, a major new talent!

– Steve Ulfelder, Edgar finalist author of WOLVERINE BROS. FREIGHT & STORAGE

GO GO GATO is the debut entry in a promising new series by Max Everhart, and it’s a fast-paced, entertaining tale. Eli Sharpe is a very appealing character who combines just the right amounts of wit, humor, intelligence and courage, and it will be fun to watch him in action as the series continues to grow and develop.

– James L. Thane, author of UNTIL DEATH and NO PLACE TO DIE

A missing person’s case turns deadly. In Go Go Gato, Everhart executes the classic mystery with ease and more than a few twists. All the modular scenes are there—the sleuth’s office, first encounter with the femme fatale, the victim’s lair, digging up the past, witness interviews, suspect interviews, and that essential—the corpse. But we’re not in LA or Boston. We’re not in SF or NYC. Everhart sets this fine novel in Asheville, NC and he breathes new life into an old form with a convoluted plot, detailed characters, and a very flawed detective. Chandler would be proud.

– Jack Remick, author of THE BOOK OF CHANGES

Max Everhart scores a homerun with this first novel in his new Eli Sharpe mystery series. Eli finds much more than he bargained for in his search for a missing baseball player in this fast read, best enjoyed with a glass of George Dickel in hand since that’s Eli’s favorite “poison”. Like a good curveball you won’t see the twist ending coming at you.

– Paul D. Marks, author of the Shamus Award-Winning novel WHITE HEAT