Trivial Armchair Protest #1

I like Starbucks’ red cup and I’m glad they dressed themselves up for the holidays. I’m annoyed that Nordstrom’s is bragging about not dressing up sooner. They sell clothes, after all: if anyone should dress up sooner, it’s them.

Nice cup. But why are the mermaid's feet behind her ears? Wait--this mermaid has feet?

Nice cup. But why are the mermaid’s feet behind her ears? Wait–this mermaid has feet?

I’m also tired of people casting judgments about how others recognize and celebrate or do not recognize and do not celebrate particular holidays. #NotForYoutoSay #GetOverYourself #MerryChristmas #WarOnChristmas #HappyHolidays #WarOnHolidays

Speaking of war… I never thought I’d say this, but I miss the good old days when this Christmas cup argument mattered. Please CNN, argue with me about the color of Starbucks Christmas cups and stop scaring the shit out of me. #DaeshGoF*ckYourselves.

Debut San Francisco Cyber-Noir

Mark Richardson’s Hunt for the Troll (New Pulp Press) is a step up from ordinary pulp. It’s what happens to San Francisco noir when the shiny new promise of Silicon Valley comes to town, pushing back the fog to play some light in the corners. In this case, the light is more ominous than the dark. Our comfortable eyes, adjusted to the power outage, are burned by the glare when the lights go on.

Gone is the reluctant hero and snubnose pistol stoicism; in their place are entrepreneurism and quantum computing. Gone are the troubled dame and her leggy needs; in their place are the chessboard and another step toward transhumanism.


The narrator’s a cipher, a man without a name, an identity tattooed on his arm in binary code and a bad-ass alter-ego in the gaming world of Centre Terrain. He’s king and serf in his own domain, part creator and part creation. His story proceeds between worlds: the real world of breakfasts and sex; the gaming paradise he helped build, not unlike a Tolkien wet dream; and that place between sleep and wakefulness that isn’t a dream but nor is it quite real. Is it?


The Blind Rooster Jumps to Paperback

Preston Lang’s The Blind Rooster (Crime Wave Press) is now more pulpy than ever before. It’s recently been made available in paperback!

Reading this dime-store crime tale is a lot like people-watching at the Laundromat: the major figures resemble coin-op types, people resigned to the vague indignity of paying to have their underwear tumble around in a public washer. And don’t take your eyes off them for a moment—they’d just as soon pinch a quarter from your pocket as take your favorite pair of jeans from a hot dryer.



This summer I pretended to sit down with Lang to talk about a few things. We covered the emotional intelligence of peanut eaters, the role of fire hydrants in the government’s summer emergency plans, and the collected work of Franklin W. Dixon, among other things.

If you’re eager for more Preston Lang when you finish, check out his crime books: The Carrier and The Blind Rooster.

Skip the small talk and heading straight to it: Interview with Preston Lang

The Veteran

This quiet Vet passed in July. He was 98. In ’43 he sailed west to Pearl, then onward through the Pacific: Tinian, Saipan, Iwo. He was a U.S. Army sharpshooter, an MP guarding Japanese prisoners of war.

In ’45, weapons at rest, he traveled back east by train. He worked as a plasterer at the White House. His clearance gave them fits–fingers, worn smooth by labor, refused to yield prints.

It amused him to collect retirement more years than they made him work.grandpa on his motorcycle

Rest in Peace, S.A. East, Jr.

Take pride, Veterans.

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.                                        John Adams US diplomat & politician (1735 – 1826)

Kingly Reads for the Throne

Eight great books to get you through those lonely moments with the fan on. Presented in no particular order—the right book will depend on your mood, and the size of the job before you.

1. The Onion Ad Nauseum
This is closest to reading the old classic: an actual newspaper. It’s a little heavy to hold, but more than makes up for its weight with sheer levity. Also, a lot more manageable than the original broadsheet.

2. Our Dumb World—Atlas of the Planet Earth 73rd Edition (the Onion)
Perfect companion piece to the first recommendation. The Atlas takes us around the world marking important historical events such as U.S. engagement with Iraq in 2001, when President George W. Bush deployed 15 top officials to the country “on an excuse-finding mission.”

3. Shakespeare’s Insults for Teachers—Wayne F. Hill & Cynthia J Ottchen
You don’t have to be a teacher to use these witty ripostes against the children, parents, and administrators who plague your time. Blast your bosses and other nags with lines like: “I will do nothing at thy bidding. Make thy requests to thy friend.” (Timon of Athens 1.1.267-8)

4. The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook—Piven & Borgenicht
The best part of my copy of this important text is the note from Christmas 2004 that reads: “Dear Chris, Whoever (Ben): May you never experience the worst case scenario. Affectionately, REDACTED”. What this shows us is the utility of such a book as a gift-giving item. Contents include bountiful illustrations and simple directions on how to handle Great Escapes and Entrances, Leaps of Faith, The Best Defense, and Adventure Survival.

5. Earth (The Book) A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race—The Daily Show with John Stewart Presents)
It’s funny because it’s true.

6. English as a Second F*cking Language—Sterling Johnson
This gem in the shape of Strunk & White’s classic treatise on grammar goes far beyond our expectations in the proper use of cusswords. It categorizes, for example, the Need to Know, Nice to Know, and Forget Its when finding colorful ways of admiring particular feminine curves. The book itself falls into the category of Need to Have, with brilliant examples of usage on every page: “I shit a brick” (See the IDIOMS section) “I shit a porcupine” (See a good proctologist).

7. I Am America (and So Can You)—Stephen Colbert
If you miss the real faux Stephen, here’s your chance to reacquaint yourself with his original brand of humor. Best for shorter stints… there’s really only so much we can take of it.

8. Any collection of David Sedaris essays.

Bonus Read: Wake Up and Smell the Shit
This collection of short stories is so terrible you won’t feel bad about ripping it up and using it for toilet paper. Remember to call Joe the Plumber soon afterwards, however, since this pulp will wreck your sewage. Full review coming soon.

Query Inquiry

In the decade or so that I’ve been shopping novels around I’ve noticed a strong downward trajectory in agent response rate. I don’t mean passes vs. requests for manuscripts. I mean a high and growing degree of non-response, period.

Yes, the query landscape has changed dramatically from paper to electronic in that time, increasing the amount of communication agents receive (much of it surely unwanted, of poor quality, etc.). In no way do I intend to cast my judgment on the process–or the lack of process–here.

Rather, what I’m looking into is whether or not my most recent query is somehow generating the broader silence from the publishing world. My draft query is below, and I welcome readers’ thoughts on it. I will gladly return the favor and review a query draft from those who wish to engage.


Dear Hammerhead,

If anyone can help the victims of America’s gun violence problem, it’s the smart folks in national intelligence. Set in a D.C. cube farm at the Bureau of Government Intelligence and Execution, commercial novel The Fed Buffet (70,000 words) features a few young interns looking for love in a town where federal workers are easy prey and the right to bear arms is nothing short of sacrosanct.

Gabriel Dunne’s internship with BOGIE tracking the impact of gun violence on American families should be his dream job. But before he can sink his teeth into the work, his boss tasks him with designing wedding invitations, a colleague begs him to help woo their fellow intern, and an overzealous security chief hounds him over an expired password. With congress threatening a government shutdown to score political points and guns loose throughout the nation, Gabe and his colleagues have more at stake than lost paychecks alone: for Manny Teague it’s the safety of his young twins and for Marci Apron her choice of career over family; Chloe Gilchrist can’t plan her wedding without office resources and Bruce Harcourt needs government lawyers to help with his divorce; meanwhile the lonely Miles Miles, one egg shy of heart-attack city, tries to mentor them all, but Gabe and friends can’t concentrate as the shredder guy grinds Top Secret documents all day and the lawyers trick them into betting on federal bowling league matches. When a BOGIE staffer is victimized by exactly the kind of violence their office exists to prevent, Gabe turns to the NRA to help solve the nation’s ills, but first he must survive the next round of violence in the nation’s gun parade.

Concludes with brief bio paragraph and prior publications.

That’s it. Any thoughts on how to make this sing, or agents/indie presses you think might be interested?

Review: C.S. DeWildt’s Love You to a Pulp

C.S. DeWildt’s Love You to a Pulp packs two narratives, tight spirals driving like hammerdrills against the cranium til they breach the dark cavern beneath. You’ll know it when you get there underground with him.

In the first narrative glue-nose dick Neil McGrath sniffs out a mystery involving the pharmacist’s daughter in a Podunk southern town. In the second, McGrath is raised hard by a degenerate father. Drugs, violence, sex (& incest) propel the present. Booze, violence, sex (& incest) litter the past. The present arc comes off with varying degrees of coherence, owing in part to a protagonist warped by a lifetime of headblows and vapor trails. The past is blackness, full of cobwebs and caves, things too awful for a child to bear:

She whined as the filthy men ravaged her and she watched the boy, stumbling on newly found legs over the bottle-littered stead, looking at the scene periodically only when a severe thrust did bring a shriek from his mother’s lips. She looked away and saw McGrath in the doorway of their shared clapboard, a still silhouette like a graven idol backlit and flickering in the light of a single oil lantern.

love you to a pulp

Both narratives trade hits, one-two punches, each knocking down the other, chapter by chapter. Together they bring on hangovers, shiners, doses of regret that’ll test the grit of any crime fiction aficionado; together they inspire awe and reflection. More importantly they dignify a genre more often defined by shitty writing and fake-ass tough guys. Love You to a Pulp is the real deal: hard and fast, but also rich with literary merit.

Full Review

Other Reviews

The Halloween Hundred

Dragons Are Dangerous

Mulridge interrogated the boy, chilled by his flat voice and steady hands. Twenty years in police psychiatry, he’d never met so cold a child.
“You’re a knight?” Mulridge said. “Is that dragon blood on your costume?”
“I’m a knight. Knights kill dragons.”

“Did you know the dragon you killed was your brother?”
“Dragons are dangerous.”
“Did the dragon threaten you? Or attack?”
“It breathed fire. So I killed it.”
“Fire? Out his mouth?”
“The fire came out the wrong end.”
“The wrong end?”
“It lifted its tail and breathed fire at me, so I ran it through with my sword.”

Better Than the Local Library

Anyone interested in reviewing books should know about Edelweiss, a free online catalog housing a seemingly endless collection of forthcoming and recently-released titles.

I can tell you what Edelweiss is, and I can walk you through how I use Edelweiss to select books for review. But the best way to really understand what’s available there is to take a look for yourself. It’s easy enough (and free) to create an account.


In the “Review Copies” tab, users can browse for books, link to in-depth summaries, see comparable titles, and access a host of other industry-related information. But best of all, the system makes it easy to request advanced reading copies and digital review copies of titles that look good. Some are immediately available for download to your Kindle or other device, while others require a quick note to the publisher (the system stores your standard message, something as simple as “I post reviews of literary and crime fiction for the 2.5k followers who read my blog at” will do).

I’ve requested and downloaded almost 40 books in the last year and a half. I’ve reviewed about a dozen of these (some of my review copies come from other sources). So far as I know there is no penalty for requesting a copy and not doing a review (or, for that matter, for including negative commentary here and there). Between 90-95% of the titles I’ve requested have come within a few days. Some have taken a little longer, and only one request has been outright rejected.

Edelweiss describes itself as “a web-based interactive publisher catalog system that enhances or replaces the use of hard copy catalogs… Use of Edelweiss is completely free for booksellers, librarians, reviewers, and other professional readers.” Read on!