Short, Sharp Interview: Tom Pitts

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PDB: You latest book is called 101. What’s it all about?

In a nutshell, it’s set against the Northern California pot business on the cusp of legalization. A kid on the run from trouble in San Francisco goes to hide out there and brings a whole lot of trouble with him. There’s a wild array of characters who’re in on the chase and they race back down the 101, converging in Oakland to settle their scores.

PDB: How has pot legalisation changed life in America?

The worst is yet to come. So far, in California, all we’ve seen is more and more laws and regulations. They’re coming up with new ones every week. If it keeps up, the black market will be back in business. A lot of the laws seemed designed to cut out the little guy, the small-time grower who previously flourished. It takes a pile of money to get in on the legal side now, the kind of money that comes from corporations and tech and venture capitalists. Out on the street things are generally the same, except you can smell weed everywhere. No exaggeration.  Bars, malls, restaurants, billowing out of cars.

PDB:  What’s best, critical or commercial success?

Critical. No question. There’s the pragmatic in me that says take the money. But, the truth is, you create what you create. If it’s going to last, it’s got to be good. You don’t need millions of dollars to be happy. You know what’ll make you happy? Leaving behind something great. If a critical success is also a commercial success, then good for the creator. Pretty unlikely it’ll happen with one of my books though. But if you start off looking for commercial success, you’ll end up with something watered down and forgettable. This is what I learned from music. Forget about what the audience wants and just create. Then, if it’s good, it’ll resonate.

PDB: Do you judge a book by its cover?

You have to judge a book by its cover. You do it whether you want to or not. Are there exceptions? Of course there are and I don’t want to discuss them. The reality is, if you’re standing at the store, staring at shelf, it’s the cover that’s got to pull you in. That’s its job. The word-of-mouth, the oohing and awing over blurbs, sizzling sleeve description all come after.

PDB: Was Huey Lewis right, is it hip to be square?

Perhaps he was right. Out here in Silicon Valley we’re living a real-life revenge of the nerds.  I, unfortunately, was way too cool back then, so I’m now part of the ostracized, marginalized sect.  The calculus majors and computer labs kids are now running the world, so fire up your bong, stream your Netflix, and let go of the steering wheel. Someone else is in control.

PDB: What’s on the cards?

tom pittsFor me? My novel American Static just came out as an audiobook, it’s up there on Audible, Apple, and wherever else. 101 is out on November 5th, ask any bookstore to order it, or you can find it on line. I’ve got another book coming out in 2020 called Coldwater, but until then I have to roll up my sleeves and get to work. These babies don’t write themselves, you know.

Bio: Tom Pitts received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He’s recently been called the underworld bard of the Bay.  He is the author of AMERICAN STATIC, HUSTLE, and the novellas PIGGYBACK and KNUCKLEBALL. His new novel, 101, will be released by Down & Out Books November 5th, 2018.

 

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Recommended Read: Broken Dreams by Nick Quantrill

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Nick Quantrill’s Broken Dreams is a cracking book. It’s the story of a Private Investigator following a muddy and bloodstained trail through a battle scarred Northern city. PI Joe Geraghty- like his hometown Hull-  has both taken many a good kicking and is trying to get back on his feet. Broken Dreams is realistic and romantic – in a Joe Strummer way.  It takes you by the lapels and drags you along on a gritty, griping journey. Recentley rebooted by Fahrenheit Press, Nick Quantrill‘s debut novel is highly recommended.

Recommended Read: Violent By Design by Paul Heatley

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Violent By Design takes place in the aftermath of the events in Paul Heatley’s brilliant Eye For An Eye.  Gangster Neil Doyle is hoping to go legit with his new nightclub and is unaware that one of hs drug houses has been ripped off. Things invariablt spiral violently out of control when his right-hand-man Jimmy Finlay decides to keep things under wrap and sort things out himself. Paul Heatley’s Violent By Design is a brtual and brilliant Brit Grit gangland thriller. With heart.

 

Guest blog: Dietrich Kalteis on writing Poughkeepsie Shuffle

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First off, thanks again for inviting me to write a guest post about my new novel, Paul.

Poughkeepsie Shuffle is the story of Jeff Nichols. He’s a former inmate of Toronto’s infamous Don Jail. After getting his release, Jeff tries to rekindle a relationship with his ex, Ann Ryan, wanting to make his way in the world by taking a job at a used car lot. It soon proves to be not enough to keep them afloat, so when the lure of easy money comes along, he gets himself mixed up in a smuggling ring, sneaking guns across the U.S. border. The trouble is Jeff’s the kind of guy who doesn’t let the lessons of past mistakes get in the way of a good score. And as things spin out of control, he hangs on, trying to hit the motherlode.

 

I set this one in Toronto for a couple of reasons. First, I grew up there, and I wanted to recreate it the way I remember it back in the mid-eighties. It was a grittier, character-filled place, before the meat packing plants started giving way to gentrification, and the rail lines that once lined the land below Front Street started disappearing, leaving behind its industrial heritage.

 

Second, being located across the lake from Niagara and Buffalo, the city has easy access to the US, making it the perfect setting for a story revolving around smuggling. I read an article a few years ago about a gunrunning ring that operated between upstate New York and Ontario. It was taken down by the OPP, working alongside several U.S. law enforcement agencies. There was also an increase in gang violence back then, and that worked into the story too, heightening the danger for Jeff and the others delivering guns to warring gang and selling to the highest bidder.

 

PoughkeepsieShuffleCoverThere were also bits of personal experience that I weaved into the story, and there are a couple of characters loosely based on real people I had met. For instance, I really did meet a guy who went to South America and stumbled onto what he dubbed a miracle cure for hair restoration. He was so gung-ho about getting rich off it, he spent all his time and even more of his own money trying to get it into the  North American market. Man, did he learn about red tape.

Then there’s the Conway character who I based on another guy I met who wanted to teach the world to sing, wanting me to help him market his new company in exchange for singing lessons. And there’s Archie, the Elvis impersonator, a character based on a wanna-be Elvis I met one morning in a copy shop. There he was in shorts and flip flops — with his morning-after hair and sideburns, looking like he was coming off a rhinestoned night — running off a bunch of flyers for an upcoming gig.

 

Living in Toronto back then helped me add something to the scenes I was describing, but there was still a lot of research to be done too. I went through a lot of news archives, photos and old map books to get it right.

 

Writing this one in first person from Jeff’s point of view limited the scope, not allowing the viewpoints of other characters, but the sense of closeness and the biases of the main character made it well worth it. As I worked my way through the first draft, I was happy with the way it was turning out. Actually I had fun putting myself in the shoes of a guy willing to break a few rules in pursuit of easy money, a guy who figures he’s on the fast track to riches only to find he’s actually on a runaway train.

 

There’s dark humour mixed with rising tension as Jeff keeps getting in deeper. Sometimes it’s his cleverness, sometimes it’s his lack of it, and other times it’s his desperation. He’s just an unwitting participant in his own undoing, and I think readers will like Jeff and cheer him on, hoping that if he doesn’t win, he’ll at least survive.

 

Poughkeepsie Shuffle will be released September 11, 2018, published by ECW Press, and available online or through your favourite book retailer.

DKalteis 2018 Photo credit Andrea Kalteis

Dietrich Kalteis is the award-winning author of Ride the Lightning (bronze medal winner, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best regional fiction), The Deadbeat Club, Triggerfish, House of Blazes (silver medal winner, 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best historical fiction), and Zero Avenue.

His novel The Deadbeat Club has been translated to German, and 50 of his short stories have also been published internationally. He lives with his family on Canada’s West Coast. His website is http://www.dietrichkalteis.com/

Short, Sharp Interview: Alex Shaw

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PDB: What’s going on?

I’m sitting in Doha, and crossing my fingers in preparation for the release of the HQ Digital/HarperCollins editions of my Aidan Snow thrillers – Cold Blood, Cold East and Cold Black. They’re out in ebook on the 14th of September and then the paperback release dates are staged by a month from the 20th of September.

PDB: Do you listen to music when you work?

I’m not really a music person. If I’m not writing on location, I prefer quiet when I work, or BBC World News.

PDB: What makes you laugh?

Anyone who takes themselves too seriously. Someone said I should do ‘stand-up’, but I’m too lazy so it would have to be ‘sit-down’.

PDB: What’s the best cure for a hangover?

Carry on drinking, failing that stick your head in a snowdrift, failing that take two sachets of Dioralyte with a large glass of water and a pair of ibuprofen tablets before you go to bed, then repeat in the morning. Add whisky where appropriate.

PDB: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I’ve lived in the UK, Kyiv and Doha but I’d love to live in Barbados.

PDB: Do you have a bucket list? If so, what’s on it?40371397_1126584314164622_8511433859823304704_n

Travel more, get fit, and get cast as either Jack Reacher or James Bond, oh and buy a bucket.

PDB: What’s on the cards?

As well as promoting my Aidan Snow series, I’ve two new thrillers finished and am writing the sequels to both.

PDB: Anything else

I’m editing and publishing the third Death Toll anthology – ‘End Game’, which will be out in December. And you’re in it.

41356478_1700674410044410_3583505044294598656_nBio:  Alex Shaw spent the late 1990s in Kyiv, teaching and running his own business consultancy before being head-hunted for a division of Siemens. The next few years saw him doing business for the company across the former USSR, the Middle East, and Africa. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers organisation, the Crime Writers Association and the author of the Aidan Snow SAS thrillers. Alex, his wife and their two sons divide their time between homes in Kyiv – Ukraine, Doha – Qatar and Worthing, England. Alex can be followed on twitter: @alexshawhetman

Alex’s Aidan Snow series can be found in most good bookshops, some odd ones and here. 

Short, Sharp Interview: Dietrich Kalteis

PoughkeepsieShuffleCover.jpgWhat the hell is a Poughkeepsie Shuffle?

It’s when you take the story’s main character, Jeff Nichols, and release him from prison. He tries to get his life in order, but no matter what move he makes, it’s the wrong one. But, dancing as fast as he can, Jeff’s not one to give up easily. And he’s willing to bend some rules and break a few laws in pursuit of easy money, getting mixed up with some guys running guns from Poughkeepsie up to Toronto. What makes things worse for Jeff, he’s never been one to let the lessons from his past mistakes get in the way of a good score in the future.

 

What are your favourite ‘man out of prison’ books or films?

The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King (1982) is a great novel as well as a great film. One of my favourite scenes is when Red (played by Morgan Freeman in the 1994 film version) tells the review board about whether he’s been rehabilitated or not.

Then there’s Out of Sight by Elmore Leonard (1996). The scene where Jack Foley and Karen Sisko end up in the trunk of a fleeing car is one of my all-time favorite jail break scenes, and one of the funniest too. The movie version was directed by Steven Soderbergh, and starred George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez.

Also on my list is Escape from Alcatraz, one of the top-rated films of 1979, starring Clint Eastwood. It’s about the real-life prison escape of Frank Morris, an inmate who disappeared off the Rock without a trace, escaping along with the Anglin brothers back on June 11, 1962.

On the lighter side of escape films, there’s the animated Chicken Run (2000), directed by Peter Lord and Nick Park of Wallace & Gromit fame. A band of chickens plot their escape from certain death, not from a prison, but from the farm where they live after the farm goes from selling eggs to selling chicken pot pies.

And on the classic side, there’s Cool Hand Luke by Donn Pearce (1965). Paul Newman earned an Oscar in the film version (1967), playing the lead about a guy who refuses to play by the rules. Midnight Express by Billy Hayes (1977) is a great story about drug running gone wrong and the horrors of landing in a foreign prison. And there’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, written by Ken Kesey, published in 1962. It centers on a guy who fakes being crazy to get transferred from the state pen to a state hospital, which seems a lighter sentence – till he meets Nurse Ratched. The film starring Jack Nicholson won all five major Academy Awards, and is considered one of the best films ever made.

I also enjoyed reading On the Rock (2008), the biography of Alvin Creepy Carpis, written by Robert Livesey.

 

Did Poughkeepsie Shuffle require a lot of research?

I lived in Toronto at the time the story takes place, so a lot of the sights, sounds and setting came from memory. I often travel back to my former hometown, and I’m always amazed at all the changes happening, but I’m also aware of familiar places being torn away and giving way to taller buildings and wider roads. So I wanted to bring back a grittier, character-filled Toronto, the way I remember it back in the mid-eighties. But not wanting to rely totally on memory, I gave myself a refresher by digging through a lot of archives, old street maps and a lot of old photos, aiming to restore the character of that era.

A couple of things helped sparked the story. One was a news article I read about a large gun-running ring operating between upstate New York and southern Ontario that got busted by the OPP and several U.S. agencies. The other was the increased gang violence happening in the city at the time.

 

Music features strongly in Zero Avenue. Is that so with Poughkeepsie Shuffle?

Frankie Del Rey, the main character from Zero Avenue, struggles to get her music career off the ground, and her whole life revolves around her music. Poughkeepsie Shuffle’s Jeff Nichols just wants to make ends meet. He’s not as cool as Frankie, but what they have in common, they’re both willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want. Jeff’s not so much into music, but it does find its way into the story. Nena’s singing about red balloons on a ghetto blaster when two thugs come to cut off Jeff’s finger, using the music to muffle his screams. Then there’s the scene when the rocker Meatloaf gets spotted at a birthday party in a restaurant. And there’s an Elvis impersonator in flip-flops who belts out “Love Me Tender” in a barber shop. There’s also a guy named Conway who gives singing lessons, claiming he can teach anyone to sing like a canary, guaranteed. And toward the end of the story, Jeff starts hearing an angel choir. So, while music isn’t featured as strongly in this one, it’s still there.

 

What’s next?

I’m pleased to have a short story called “Bottom Dollar” included in the anthology Vancouver Noir, coming this fall from Akashic Books. And my next novel is complete and signed with ECW Press and due to be released next year. It’s called Call Down the Thunder, and it’s about a Kansas man and his wife who find some interesting ways to survive the dustbowl days of the late 1930s. Currently I’m working on a story that takes place in the far reaches of northwestern Canada and Alaska, about a guy on the run from a gangster he ripped off. Not only did he steal his money, but he stole his woman, too.

 

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Dietrich Kalteis is the award-winning author of Ride the Lightning (bronze medal winner, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best regional fiction), The Deadbeat Club, Triggerfish, House of Blazes (silver medal winner, 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best historical fiction), and Zero Avenue. His novel The Deadbeat Club has been translated to German, and 50 of his short stories have also been published internationally. He lives with his family on Canada’s West Coast.

His website is http://www.dietrichkalteis.com/,

and he regularly contributes to the blogs

Off the Cuff: http://www.dietrichkalteis.blogspot.ca/

And at 7 Criminal Minds: http://www.7criminalminds.blogspot.ca/

You can also find him on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dietrich.kalteis/

and Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dietrichkalteis/

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Recommended Read: Fighting Talk by Martin Stanley

Fighting TalkWhen loan shark Alan Piper offers Eric Stanton a job, he reluctantly agrees. Against his better judgment, Eric enlist the aid of his psychotic brother, Derek. The pair are soon embroiled in dog fighting, mad junkies, Polish gangsters, and a hell of a lot of violence.

Martin Stanley’s Fighting Talk is Brit Grit at its best. Choc full of great characters and dialogue, its as funny  as it is brutal,  and has a great sense of place. Five Gritty Stars!

Top Telly: Out

OUTIn the 1978 TV series OUT, poker-faced Tom Bell plays Frank Ross, a gangster who is sent to prison for robbery after someone grasses him up. Eight years later, Ross leaves the slammer and is confronted with a London that has changed and people that have changed.

Instead of stitching back together his relationships, however, Frank is focused on tracking down whoever stitched him up.  OUT – written by the late Trevor Preston – is great, gritty stuff and it’s a real period piece too- no mobile phones!

There are some great performances, particularly from Bell and Brian Cox as the psychopathic gangster McGrath, but there are loads of top turns from the likes of John Junkin, Victoria Fairbrother, and Peter Blake.

There’s also a very cool credit sequence with a cracking George Fenton theme tune.

And you can watch OUT for nowt on You Tube, if you’re that way inclined.

ITW Roundtable discussion July 23-29

itw_logo_members_wbI’m over at The Big Thrill taking part in the ITW Roundtable discussion July 23- 29:

“How do you choose your character’s names?”

‘With ThrillerFest firmly in our rearview mirror and our writing bucket full of inspiration, we turn to ITW Members Alan JacobsonDani PettryPatrick OsterJay BrandonRobert J. StavaPaul D. BrazillKim AlexanderSarah SimpsonWilliam BoyleDavid Orange and Lisa Black as they discuss how they choose their character’s names.’

Check it out and JOIN IN!

Recommended Read: The Day That Never Comes by Caimh McDonnell

The Day That Never ComesEx-police detective Bunny McGarry is missing and his friend –  would-be private detective Paul Mulchrone – sets off to track him down. Meanwhile, a terrorist group appears to be killing Dublin’s fat cat property developers.  These and other story strands are soon entagled in Caimh McDonnell’s The Day That Never Comes – the second part of his four part ‘Dublin Trilogy.’ And like McDonnell’s debut novel – A Man With One Of Those Faces –  it is a cracking blend of  quick humour and fast-paced crime thriller. The Day That Never Comes is choc-full of great characters and sharp satire, and is marvelous fun.