Monday, April 29, 2013

The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other

I'm going to level with you: This is the best thing I've written.

It's out today. And it's free.

It's about how three friends confess crimes to each other for no reason, then become really unhinged. It's about smoking and instant coffee and terrible bosses. It's about angry assholes and mopping floors.  

The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other is now available here.  

Or you can pay $3 for a nice paperback from KUBOA

Here's what some writers I respect are saying about it:

"There are a number of writers out there who are playing with noir fiction and bending and shaping it in new ways. Think John Rector, Eric Beetner or Heath Lowrance. If they’re writers you dig, you should add Chris Rhatigan to the list. He has his own style and that comes to the fore in The Kind Of Friends Who Murder Each Other. Truth be told, I was bowled over by the end of the first chapter; from then on he just kept on hurling the balls at me and his characters until things had to end. This book is taut, strong and put together like an old classic. Don’t miss out." -- Nigel Bird, author of Smoke and In Loco Parentis

"The storytelling is in the nuance here. It strolls along with a gritty, flat-line pulse, lulling the reader with paranoid details and untrustworthy narration. Then comes the hay maker and Rhatigan owns the moment. Over and over again." -- Ryan Sayles, author of The Subtle Arts of Brutality

"The Kind Of Friends Who Murder Each Other is filled with losers, from the narrator Simon to his pals Mackey and Slade, all the way down to the bartender who no doubt enjoys Springsteen's 'Born To Run,' so much so that it plays four times before the first page is gone. The thing about these losers, though? We know each and every one of them. Some of us may even be them, in one form or fashion. And that's what makes the book hit like a sledgehammer between the eyes. Read it and weep, kids." -- Christopher Grant, Editor/Publisher of A Twist Of Noir

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Five You Can't Miss: Brian Panowich

Considering I’m such a noob to the online crime fiction community, I still find myself lurking around the dark corners of the Internet trying to find the best stories out there. This column (Five You Can't Miss) has been invaluable for turning me on to some of the best writing I’ve ever seen, so I invited myself over to maybe return the favor.

1. Hatpin By Jen Conley
Ms. Conley has consistently turned out some of the best fiction on the planet, and this one over at Shotgun Honey is where my love affair with her stuff began. It’s full of hard as nails female characterization and a lesson in making every word count. Mary Mulligan is my dream girl.

2. Seeds By Chris Leek
Chris can throw dialogue into any situation, or timeframe, like it’s nobody’s business. From the world of a hardened black jack dealer in Pigeon, over at Grift Magazine, to trailer trash jargon like A Redheaded Woman, at The Flash Fiction Offensive, but nothing compares to the old western revenge tale Seeds, at The Big Adios. You would think Mr. Leek grew up on a mountain learning how to talk by listening to his uncles and cousins while they brewed up another batch ‘o shine. As good or better than any script Sergio Leone worked from.

3. Pit Stop By Les Edgerton
I bought the first issue of Noir Nation Magazine on a whim, not knowing who Les Edgerton was. It included his story Pit Stop and I read it in a fever. It was full of matter-of-fact straight talk that bowled me over. Not once did it feel like “writing”. That shit is what I had been looking for. Lucky for me (and you) the story was an excerpt from the BEST BOOK I’ve read in years called JUST LIKE THAT. Buy it. Read it. Break something. You’re welcome.

4. Folded Blue By John Rector
I know this story was written in 2011, but it’s new to me, so I’m breaking the rules a bit. Sometimes a story taps into something so raw and primal that the reader has no choice but to carry it around with them forever. There’s no un-ringing the bell. It’s yours now, whether you want it or not. That’s Folded Blue by John Rector over at Shotgun Honey. It’s the literary equivalent to a layer of greasy film you can’t scrub off. It’s brilliant.

5. Push, Push, Push By Ryan Sayles
I’m going to catch a little grief for including Ryan on this list, considering he’s a good friend of mine, and we’ve written a few books together (SEE HERE), but you know what? Fuck ‘em. The guy can write. I’m going to bend the rules a little further by recommending a story no one has read yet except the editors who keep rejecting it. (Yes, it’s that good.) In 2011, Sayles and I both submitted some stories to an anthology that was kicking off, and we both got rejected. I asked him to send it to me, and I can see why it keeps getting turned down.

Because it’s fucking brilliant.

Sometimes the world needs time to catch up to genius, or maybe they’re just scared. The story is one huge chunk of dread that sits on your chest and squeezes the life out of you. You know what’s coming. You know you can’t stop it. And as horrific as the ending is, it had to be that way. It makes sense. The world is a fucked up place. Anyway, all you editors looking for the next greatest thing, go read Push, Push, Push by Ryan Sayles and publish it, so the rest of the whole can be in the know. You can reach him at his personal email address or his private cell phone number 510-379-8640. Again, you’re welcome.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? by Andrez Bergen

Andrez Bergen is an interesting cat. His first three books, in many ways, are very different from one another. One's a classic detective fiction dystopia mash up; the next is an exploration into the nether regions of the afterlife; and his most recent, Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?, is an homage to comic books and draws from the work of Philip K. Dick.

Actually, homage isn't really what's going on here--it's almost an investigation of the assumptions comic books are based on. You see, Heropa is a futuristic virtual reality set up with super heroes, villains, and blandos (all the people who super heroes save). The world has become such a terrible place that people have totally given up on it and they journey to Heropa mentally, if not physically. Heropa is a fundamentally (and mechanically) broken place, where the super heroes and the blandos resent each other and everything seems to be falling apart.

Bergen uses this premise as a vehicle to poke at a bunch of interesting questions: What does being a super hero mean? Would a world with super heroes be better or worse? What about all those people who the super heroes "save"? Are they real people or just objects? Can virtual reality be as important as reality?

And this is what I dig about Bergen's work in general--he takes entertaining plots and characters and uses them to explore deeper issues. Yet he's never didactic or navel-gazing; he walks the tight rope expertly.

After three books, it's clear that Bergen doesn't confine himself to one genre. In fact, he prefers to mix and blend genres with gleeful abandon. Yet there is consistency. He creates some of the most wildly imaginative places you will ever encounter in fiction. He has perfect pitch for witty dialog and cultural references. And his characters are fascinating people who you'll want to hang out with.

Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is both an entertaining and challenging read for comic book lovers and the rest of us alike.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I wrote a book

So my book, The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other, is now available through KUBOA Press for pre-order. The print version is only $3. There will be a free ebook available April 30.

I'm terribly excited about this. First of all, I've wanted to work with Pablo D'Stair ever since I read the ridiculously good Trevor English series, and I was thrilled when he decided to make my little novella part of KUBOA's 2013 catalogue. Second, I think this book is the best representation of my work.

It's at the intersection of bizarro and crime. It's about the arbitrary nature of, well, everything. It's about the fall from the curb to the gutter. It's about clock-watching, friendship, smoking, minimum-wage jobs, nihilism, bad coffee, generic America, and boss-hating. At the end of this book, you will have learned zero life lessons and will probably feel like shit.

Rather than summing up the plot, I'll let AJ Hayes tell you about it in perhaps the best blurb ever written, which is really more of a story in and of itself:

"It was one of those nights that Raymond Chandler talked about in the opening paragraph of Red Wind. You know those nights, the ones that make you realize you've done the same things on the same night with the same guys for what seems an eternity. The ones where even the air is thick and still and motionless. Where everything moves slow and turgid and without purpose. And you get the feeling that none of the here you inhabit is real. You get the feeling that you and those guys are like bugs in amber. That a thousand years from now you and those guys will be sitting there, at the same time, on that same night, stuck. That kind of night.

Then one of you says something. Tells you something so unexpected it sets in motion events none of you ever dreamed could happen. And that surety of sameness shatters. And the roller coaster crests the first hill and down down down you go, getting slammed every which way in the turns, feeling the world end in the drop aways and all the while, picking up a velocity that you know is as terminal as a magnum round to the forehead.

Yeah, Friends Who Murder Each Other is like that. Just like that. And it's one helluva ride."

Saturday, April 6, 2013

C'mon and Do the Apocalypse by Brian Panowich and Ryan Sayles

Zelmer Pulp is putting out the kind of books that I have always assumed would gain popularity with the advent of electronic books--short, entertaining collections of novellas (or novelettes or whatever the hell you want to call them), something that the big publishing houses will never do.

C'mon and Do the Apocalypse is two zombie stories (FREE this weekend) I thoroughly enjoyed. Brian Panowich's "My Wife Dawn...and the Dead" takes a standard suburban family and plops them in the center of the apocalypse. One would assume this would lead to social critiques of suburban life and consumerism and blah blah blah, but Panowich follows a different path, instead making these everyday people flawed and likeable. Despite the ensemble cast, I found myself rooting for these characters to beat the odds. The violence is controlled and real--especially when a calloused teenager has to take out her own sister. And the ending is touching without any sentimentality... or, for that matter, hope.

Ryan Sayles brings the nasty (even for a zombie story) in "28 Days of Mutilated Zombie Whores Later." It's about Nelson who (appropriately enough...) runs a brothel of zombie whores. This is a classic zombie  blood bath complete with a bunch of unredeemable characters who probably didn't have a shred of humanity before the apocalypse. It's all good, pulpy fun--and delivers a completely disgusting, satisfying ending.

Zelmer Pulp has also released Hey, That Robot Ate My Baby, with five sci-fi stories that promise to be both mind-bending and offensive.