Dance Hall Days

Sunday! I have a panel and a signing at Comic Con today; the Saints have a play-off game, and the Golden Globes are tonight…and sometime today the Olympic ice dancing finals are also airing. Madness! Usually my Sundays are a lot more mellow than this. I did manage to get a lot done yesterday; cleaning and organizing and laundry and filing and even some brainstorming. I am definitely going to be hitting the ground running this week; it’s so lovely to finally feel 100% me again, stupid flu or whatever it was I had.

So, this morning I need to do some more cleaning, am going to do some more brainstorming and perhaps an edit on a story, work on the new Scotty outline, and do some other editing before it’s time to get ready to head down to the Convention Center. Damn it, I also have to copy edit that damn file of Bourbon Street Blues, too, don’t I? Sigh. My work is never done.

And the Scotty Bible. Heavy heaving sigh.

I also read another short story yesterday, Angel Luis Colon’s “My Heart Died on Blackrock Avenue.”

meat city on fire

I’ll never forget my first fight.

And I mean a real fight, not the random tussles with my brothers or cousins. I’m talking a knuckle-busting, lip-splitting, eye-swelling fight. The kind of fight where you go savage and the world’s pure fire, where there’s no concern about whether your punches connect or if they’re going to do permanent damage. A real street fight–drawn blood, scrapes and cuts you find later, and that taste at the back of your throat, as if you’d been chowing on pennies all day long. The kind of fight a person with more brains than heart knows to avoid.

Obviously, my first fight was over a girl–surprise, surprise.

I met Angel in Toronto at this year’s Bouchercon; as is usual with the business, we have a lot of mutual friends. And then he wrote this brilliant piece for Medium, and I thought to myself, I need to read this guy, so I ordered his collection Meat City on Fire and Other Assorted Debacles.

Wow.

I said when I posted about Sue Grafton that she was the writer who brought me back to the crime genre; the stuff that was getting published in the 1970’s and early 1980’s that I was reading held no interest for me; I hadn’t heard the term toxic masculinity yet, but that was primarily what turned me off to crime fiction at the time. To this day, I still have trouble reading some male authors for that very reason; I’m just not interested in reading any more books about the tough, tragic, closed-off man who drinks himself into oblivion because the love of his life is dead, or he’s obsessed with some dead, beautiful woman that makes him reflect on life and the harsh, cold, cruel world in which we live. No thank you. This trope also pops up in what’s called ‘literary fiction’ as well; it’s hard for me to identify with, or care about, these kinds of characters; the plight of the straight white man simply doesn’t interest me that much. Does that mean I’m prejudiced? Maybe.

It’s something I can live with.

So, as I started reading Angel’s first story in this collection, I winced a little bit inwardly. Great, I thought, here we go again with the tough-guy stuff. But the story–which isn’t a crime story at all, I might add–isn’t that; it’s actually fantastic, to be honest. There are so many truths, and so much honesty, in this story that it’s almost painful to read, to digest, to think about. I didn’t grow up in Brooklyn, as the main character in this story did, but I grew up in the working class neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago, where casual racism not only existed but simmered; where prejudice wasn’t just about the color of one’s skin but also about religion and your ethnicity; if you were a Pole or a Slav, etc. Violence was always just there under the surface, and this story took me back to that neighborhood, the innocence of childhood and learning about the cold, cruel world out there. It’s a truly terrific story, and I encourage everyone to read Angel’s collection, or one of his novels.

I’m really looking forward to reading more of his work myself.

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