Thursday, February 09, 2006

This About That

Daniel: That's number eleven. :-)

Tribe: Actually, the full quote is "Sure, I'll change anything you want. Or you can change it for me..." Obviously we don't want writers who are totally bull-headed. But we'd like them to believe in their own story enough to stand up for it occasionally. We don't want spineless little wimpy writers who will bend over, whimpering, just to please us, without even a clue as to why we're suggesting changes. Their paramount concern should be a better story, not just racking up a publishing credit or sucking up to us. If a writer doesn't believe in his own story at all, why should we? And the second part of my pet peeve should be obvious -- we want the writers to do the writing. At best, we make suggestions, provide examples of the sort of thing we want, but we don't want to have to write their stories for them.

Graham: Tension? It's mostly one way. We ultimately rejected a story, that's about it. Someone wants to draw attention to their rejection publicly, that's their business. And hey, trashing me publicly all over the place may get them more easily published somewhere else. Astonishingly -- and I know you'll find this difficult to believe -- I'm not universally beloved. Shocking, ain't it?

Aldo: Alas, I'm pure as the driven slush, and don't take bribes. But save that beer, and we'll drink it together someday, compare war wounds and tell tales out of school.

Jim: That's probably Gerald's and my biggest fault (besides being so glacially slow at times). We're picky about stuff like guns and logic and plausibility and coherency. Some writers grasp immediately what needs to be done, and they're a pleasure to work with. Others couldn't find a clue if it was stapled to their ass.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Ten Things to Say to Tick Off a Thrilling Detective Web Site Editor

1) I know this story doesn't exactly fit your guidelines, but...
2) I couldn't find your guidelines, but I think this time travel story is just perfect for you...
3) Have you finished editing my story yet?
4) Sure, I'll change anything you want. Or you can change it for me...
5) Whaddya mean, it's offensive? What are you, a faggot?
6) Are you going to run my story or not? You have five days...
7) It's not preposterous. It happened in real life.
8) Why wasn't my story in your last issue? I already told all my friends...
9) That's just your opinion. I don't like my voice being tampered with...
10) Fuck you, I'll get it published somewhere else.

Actually, maybe number ten isn't so bad to hear after all... unfortunately you have to go through most of the other nine before you get to hear it.

I dunno. Maybe we should be less encouraging to newer writers, and more brutal.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

La Ville, Ma Ville..

Scooped! On my own turf!!!

Yesterday the Divine Ms. Sarah blogged a little about Montreal pulp fiction and even though she generously linked to assorted scribblings I've previously done on the topic, I still feel a little, well, uh, violated.

Of course, being a stand-up gal, she gave me a heads-up and get this: it turns out we BOTH recently ordered the same book (SUGAR-PUSS by Al Palmer, a 1950 paperback about a fallen girl in our mutual big bad city).

Of course, I'm ALWAYS interested in Montreal pulp and crime fiction, but lately it's been rekindled because I'm writing an intro for Stark House Press' reprint of the third (and final) novel in the Mike Garfin private eye series by Martin Brett.

Mike (actually Michel) is the real deal, an honest-to-goodness Montreal P.I., half-French-Canadian, half-Irish-Canadian (nowadays he'd be referred to as half-Quebecois, half Anglophone), an ex-Mountie turned private peeper working the mean streets of "la ville ouverte," a wide-open city full of all the good things Montreal had to offer in the thirties, forties and fifties: sin, sin and more sin, all greased along by corruption at almost every level of government, which no doubt inspired Chandler himself to once refer (perhaps with a little jealousy) to Montreal as "almost as crooked as we are."

Ah, the good old days, when sex was still considered "dirty"...

Garfin's an eye straight out of the Spillane mold, then, a mass of social and ethical contradictions and hypocrisies and more than a few psychological issues. He loves/hates women, despises homosexuals, and displays offensive attitudes towards various ethnic and national groups with alarming frequency -- in short, he's gloriously politically incorrect. But he never seems anything less than real, even if his cases do sometimes devolve into swirling whirlpools of coincidence and head-scratching plot twists.

He was created by Martin Brett, a writer with more than a few "issues" himself. Brett was a pseudonym of Ronald Douglas Sanderson. He was British by birth but later became a Canadian citizen, and wrote several documentaries for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, before eventually returning to Europe. But one quick read of the Garfin novels and you know that he was a Montrealer through and through -- at least for a while. His renderings of Montreal come alive, in a way the dry and juiceless warblings of a currently popular mystery writer never do.

Besides the Mike Garfin books, Brett wrote several other hard-boiled novels (sometimes under the pen name of Malcolm Douglas) in the fifties and sixties, including Exit In Green, Flee From Terror (set in Yugoslavia), Murder Comes Calling, Rain of Terror, Prey By Night, And All Flesh Dies, The Final Run, Dead Connection, Shout For The Killer and The Deadly Dames (featuring Montreal P.I. Bill Yates, who is actually Garfin under another name for another publisher). The books are all solidly pulpy affairs, that all seem to take place in a eternal night full of treacherous women, evil foreigners, slimy drug dealers and sexually ambiguous thugs -- sweaty fever dreams of sex and violence that seem worlds away from the carefully articulated self-conscious but oh-so-literary blow-dried, semi-detached perversions of even our most twisted hard-boiled crime writers.

Those guys (and we all know who they are) regularly get Edgar nominations and literary acclaim. All Sanderson got was obscurity. But read one of his books and I guarantee you'll come away with a slightly dirty feeling, like you've inadvertently enjoyed something a little nasty. But by God, you'll know you'll have read something. A little viscerality can go a long way...

Which is why it's such a thrill that Stark House is bringing them back in all their occasionally repugnant glory, and I'm so jazzed about writing the intros. (I also wrote the intro for a 2004 two-fer that reprinted PURE SWEET HELL and CATCH A FALLEN STARLET).

And the third Garfin novel, the one I'm doing the new intro for, is possibly the best yet, a real treat. It was actually written in 1961, several years after the first few entries in the series, and offers a more global perspective (by this point Sanderson's wanderlust had brought him to Spain, I believe). Garfin gets roped into a case involving a deposed president from an unnamed but volatile South American country, hiding out from his political enemies (after ransacking his homeland's treasury) in a mansion up on Mont Royal, who fear his return may spark another coup.

At times, the plot seems depressingly timely, what with its cynical talk of insurgents and true believers, and the summary of the president's revolution-torn homeland reads like modern-day talking points from newspaper reports and TV broadcasts from abroad (or even closer to home): " sorts of secret police. The clamp's on... the jails are fuller than ever. Torture is back. The... government is made up of idealists... You don't need trials when you have ideals."

The title of the book (which may partially explain why it's so hard to find a good used copy) is -- and I kid you not -- A DUM-DUM FOR THE PRESIDENT. But rest assured -- despite all the thriller-like foreign intrigue, Garfin remains Garfin.

I'm enough of a goody two-shoes to enjoy a good, morally uplifting tale as much as the next doofus, but sometimes I just wanna wallow. And the Garfin novels are the perfect cure.

Plus, they're great for homesickness.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


The results from the 2005 THRILLIES are trickling in, slowly but steadily, to my site -- slowly, because I only upload them to the site every few days

Why not have it automated? Because some people are infantile jerks. And "infantile jerks" is not the phrase I'd use were we speaking privately. Lord knows, my language isn't always the most proper (and yes, dear, I'm working on it), nor am I a prude, but there's something about the deliberately gratuitous use of offensive or insulting language that pushes all my buttons.

So I go through the time-consuming task of going through the comments and editing out the nonsense. Otherwise it's like handing a moron a can of spray paint and pointing to a blank wall.

Disagree with an opinion, have a gripe with me, whatever... fine. But when did we suddenly become so obnoxious? It's not even a matter of political correctness -- it's a matter of civility.

A white suburban jock with beans for brains thinks it's fine (or maybe "cool") to call co-workers "niggers;" a prim and proper older person who strongly disapproves of today's "foul" language nonetheless readily uses terms like "hebes" and "jungle bunnies" and "faggots;" an apparently disgruntled anonymous (of course) web surfer fills up the CHEAP THRILLS ballot form with expletives.

And the excuses for it are always depressingly lame and hollow.

"Ooh, I was angry."

"Ooh, I was just joking."

Or most lame of all: "Ooh, that's what THEY call themselves."

On that last point, yes, some members of some groups may refer privately to each other in perjorative terms, or publicly as a sort of self-defensive gesture, but it's simply not right. If you want respect, the first step is to respect yourself. Casually referring to yourself as "fag" or "nigger" or "gimp" or "wop" or "kike" or "dyke" or whatever is false pride -- how many in those groups would refer to their grandmother -- to her face -- in those terms?

Even envelope-pushing comics like Richard Pryor or Lenny Bruce knew when (mostly -- nobody's perfect) to draw the line and when to let it rip. It's all about context. Too bad too many of their less-talented descendants miss the point completely -- it's not the words themselves that are funny, but the men. And it's particularly sad that too many of their fans also miss the point.

Like, "Hey, he said %**($$##&!!! He's so ^*%$#*! FUNNY! He's so &$!$ COOL!!!"


Anyway, if you haven't voted for the THRILLIES head on over to

Tell 'em Joe sent ya.

And try to keep your opinions on Steve Hamilton or whoever polite...