Half of My Heart

So, it’s now Tropical Storm Sally, with landfall expected sometime on Tuesday, given its current projections, and we are right smack dab in the center of the Cone of Uncertainty–although the path overnight has shifted somewhat– it going right over us; with storm surge through Lake Borgne through the Rigolets and into Pontchartrain as well as the mouth of the river. The surge is only supposed to be a maximum of twelve feet, which is okay since the levees can handle up to sixteen, but yikes if you’re outside the levee system!

I got caught in a downpour yesterday while running my errands–file this under What Else Is New–which I honestly don’t mind; it’s kind of becoming expected for me. I’m surprised when I run errands and don’t get caught in a downpour. What’s annoying is how rain makes New Orleans drivers–never the best in ideal circumstances–makes them forget everything (what little) they actually know about how to drive and become even bigger morons. I am also amazed at how many people cannot deal with the possibility of getting wet in the rain, or having to walk a few extra yards in the pouring rain. Um, if I’ve learned anything about New Orleans rain in the nearly twenty-five years I’ve lived here, it’s that it doesn’t matter: you’re going to get soaked, no matter what, and once you reach a certain point in soaking wet it really doesn’t matter anymore. You can only get SO wet.

It’s really not rocket science, people. Seriously.

I started writing a short story which started forming in my brain on Friday night–“Fear Death by Water”–and that title is actually a quote from T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Lands.” Nothing to fear here, Constant Reader–while I do own a copy of Four Quartets I’ve still not read it; there was a lengthy quote from the poem at the opening of a book I was moving in the ever-shifting attempts to declutter the Lost Apartment Friday evening–the book, which I loved and should probably reread, was Nightmare Alley, which my friend Megan recommended to me and it is quite the dark noir ride, But those four words–fear death by water–struck a chord in my creative brain and I heard the opening sentence very clearly in my head: But she would have never gone out on a boat, she was always afraid of water and as the sentence began to crystallize in my head, I started seeing the rest of the opening scene and also that this would be a gay NOPD detective Blaine Tujague story. So after I put the groceries away yesterday afternoon and before changing out of the clothes that got wet in the downpour and showering, I opened a new Word document and began writing this story. It stalled out about a hundred or so words in; I am hoping to get back and spend some time with it again today.

The vacuum works better now that the filter has been clean, but it’s still not as strong as it once was; or perhaps I am merely remembering it being more powerful. I am not really sure. It takes more than a couple of runs over things to get the properly vacuumed (I love that the Brits say “hoovered”, as they turned the brand name of a vacuum into a verb). So the Lost Apartment looks much better this morning than it has in a while, but i still need to get some more work on it done. It’s a start, though, and every little step works.

We watched The Babysitter: Killer Queen last night, and while the previews made it look quite marvelous, it wasn’t really. The highlight was Robbie Amell shirtless, and he was the only person in it who seemed to have committed to actually performing, other than the male lead and the new female love interest. (Note to producers: you can never go wrong with Robbie Amell shirtless.) We also started watching a new series called The Duchess, which had moments of humor but seemed kind of flat in all; we’ll give it another episode to see if it picks up. We are also sort of losing interest in Raised by Wolves; the most recent episode struck us both as a bit dull and we’re losing interest in the story; it’s taking a bit too long for the story to really start moving. I was playing Bubble Pop and checking social media while watching the fourth episode, and let’s face it, that’s a pretty damning indictment.

I also started Babylon Berlin yesterday, and it’s quite marvelously written.

I way overslept this morning. Our phones of course went crazy around six in the morning with the emergency alert about the state of emergency being declared with Hurricane Sally, which may now be a category 2 and again, I am worrying about the power situation more than anything else; I have a freezer filled with food that will perish should we lose power for a significant amount of time, which would absolutely suck rocks. It appears there will be lots of rain as well as high winds that we’ll be dealing with most of tomorrow; I’ve not received any notice yet about work so currently the plan is still for me to go in to the office. That, of course, could change at any moment, so we shall see. No, we aren’t planning on evacuating–but that may change given the power situation, and if we do lose power, at least I can get some reading done.

I plan on trying to make some progress with my emails today, as well as trying to work on the story and getting chapter eight finished on the book as well.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Sunday, wherever you are, and stay safe.

My Tears Ricochet

Ah, memory lane.

It’s a place I don’t go very often, frankly–or at least, try not to go to very often–because while memories can be lovely, there’s always that incredible danger of remembering things through the rose-colored glasses; the development of the sense that things were better in the past than they are in the present. Nostalgia is both intoxicating and addictive, and frequently, incorrect, which is why I try not to visit there more than once in a great while. We tend to not remember things correctly, and we also tend to remember things in ways that make us look and feel better in that same way, which isn’t terrible but can be dangerous.

As Constant Reader is aware, I was recently reminded me of that post-Katrina period, when I wasn’t sure about the future of either series I was writing and frankly, wasn’t sure about being a writer anymore. I had, after all, already accomplished my dream: I’d published fiction with my name on the spine, and had even published short stories. It seems funny now to remember a time when I thought I was finished with writing–particularly since that was over thirty novels and I don’t even know how many short stories ago–but those were pretty dark times. I do wish my memories of that time weren’t quite as hazy as they are; it’s almost like I am trying to look back (when I do try) through gauze or even darkness. But my blog entries from those days still exist; I can, should I want, go back and reread them whenever I would like to–which, I think, is part of the reason I continue to keep this blog almost sixteen full years after it began, even though I’ve moved it here to WordPress from Livejournal. I do miss Livejournal though, and I miss how easy it was to connect with other people there. Blogs are, so I’ve been told countless times, a relic of the past and my stubborn refusal to let mine go is seen as quaint. People don’t read them anymore and they don’t have the reach that they once did, but that was never why I blogged in the first place.

I have some errands to run today–which I am delaying doing–and it’s gray outside already. We’re scheduled to be hit by another tropical storm in the next few days, most likely on Tuesday, and the rain is supposed to start coming in later today–it looks like the clouds are already here, and really, would it be a Saturday of Greg running errands if it didn’t rain? I need to take my library book–the Rock Hudson bio–back, and I also need to really get going with the cleaning and the writing today, especially now that the vacuum cleaner is working decently again. I need to take the rugs outside and shake them out, and do the kitchen floor before I put the rugs back. I suspect while the kitchen floor dries will be either the time to start reading Babylon Berlin or dive into some short story reading; I am very behind on that, and anthologies and single-author collections continue to pile up in the section of the living room where I keep them in order to have easier access to them when I am ready to read a short story. I also got the hard copy of the issue of Mystery Tribune with my story “The Carriage House” in it; I’d like to read some of the other stories in that issue as well. I don’t feel exhausted today–then again, I haven’t run my errands either, which always drains me–so I am hopeful that it will be a good day of cleaning and reading and writing around here today.

We watched the new episode of Ted Lasso last night, and I have to again beseech you to start watching this show; it’s really quite charming and lovely and funny and moving in all the ways Schitt’s Creek hit all those same sweet spots. We also thought we were watching the final episode of We Hunt Together, but apparently there’s another episode that hasn’t aired yet on Showtime so there’s yet another one to go. It didn’t really engage me very much, to be honest; it’s entertaining enough, but I also found myself checking social media on my iPad and even playing Bubble Pop at times while watching–which really isn’t a good sign, is it?–and with all the great and terrific crime shows that are currently airing, or have aired recently (Killing Eve, Broadchurch, even the earlier seasons of How to Get Away with Murder), the bar is set pretty high and this one just doesn’t click for me on all of its cylinders, which is a shame; the potential was definitely there. There are also two new episodes of Raised by Wolves that dropped this week, Archer is returning this coming week (huzzah!), and we also are curious to watch The Babysitter: Killer Queen–we watched the original last week and found it amusing and entertaining, and let’s face it, you can never go wrong with Robbie Amell in tight jeans and no shirt.

The new version of Rebecca also has me meandering down Memory Lane a little as well. Timothy is of course my Rebecca pastiche/homage; and is one of my personal favorites of my own books. Rebecca has long been one of my favorite novels of all time–Daphne du Maurier really was a mad genius–and it, along with several other favorites (In Cold Blood, Blood and Money, The Haunting of Hill House) are long overdue for rereads.

It also occurred to me yesterday, as I was going through the list of submission calls I am considering writing (or rewriting) stories for, that I am getting close again to have enough stories for another single-author collection, which is both interesting and scary at the same time. I had originally intended to call my next collection Once a Tiger and Other Stories, but have also come to realize that the title story, “Once a Tiger,” is more of a novella than a short story, which is why I can’t figure out how to end it as a short story, and since I have several other novellas also in progress (“Never Kiss a Stranger,” “Fireflies”, and “Festival of the Redeemer”) that I should just do them all as one collection. I think the next short story collection will be either This Town and Other Stories, or Moist Money and Other Stories, but I think the former works better than the latter. I also have to wait for some of the stories that have been already sold to come out in print first before I can put together another short story collection, which is rather exciting….which is also why it’s so damned important that I get this current book finished.

Because I want to get these other things finished, too, and I really want to start working on Chlorine.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines for now. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

Picture to Burn

Thursday, Thursday, is today’s child full of woe? I used to know that rhyme when I was younger–one of those things that would pop out of my mouth and brain every now and then when I wasn’t expecting it to–and now I cannot seem to summon it from the depths of my memories. I think it was Tuesday’s child, anyway; was Thursday’s child full of grace or something like that? Possible, I suppose.

Another good night’s sleep was had yesterday evening, which is lovely. I have to go into the office today and run errands on the way in.  I’m just glad to be feeling more rested, to be honest, and then tomorrow is a work-at-home day, and then I slide into the three day weekend, which is kind of nice. I hope to finish reading  Little Fires Everywhere this weekend, start reading The Coyotes of Carthage, and perhaps dip my eyes back into the Short Story Project–I have Sara Paretsky’s short story collection glaring at me from the end table as well as the new Lawrence Block anthology, and so many others I’ve not finished reading–and of course, I want to get a lot of writing done. I want to spend some time on Bury Me in Shadows, as well as maybe get some short story writing done, which would be lovely.

One can certainly hope, can’t one?

But I’ve also learned my lesson about over-planning for the weekend; I know I need to just make a list of things to do that need to be done and not overly pressure myself to get it all done over the course of the long weekend, while recognizing that I also need to recharge my batteries and I also need to do some cleaning; perhaps even work on that damned file cabinet which I never finished working on.

Yesterday’s Cynical 70’s Film Festival choice wound up being nothing I was considering. Instead, I choose to rewatch The Exorcist, which I’ve never seen other than the “edited for television” version. The Exorcist was a phenomenon at the time, and most people still, to this day, consider it the scariest film they’ve ever seen and it regularly pops up on lists of best horror films ever made. I read the book at the height of its popularity, when I was in junior high school, and while it didn’t precisely scare me, it was lurid–we all read it for the lurid parts, like the crucifix masturbation scene and so forth; there was something sacrilegious about reading it, like actually reading it was an act of subversion. The film broke all box office records of the time and was nominated for a lot of Oscars, and the soundtrack–Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”–always brings up mental associations with the film. It was the first outright horror film to get that many Oscar nominations, or to be nominated for any, really, other than Rosemary’s Baby, which wasn’t nominated for a lot; William Friedkin, fresh off his Oscar winning outing with The French Connection–which is also on my list–directed it. A more traditional entertainment, The Sting, wound up sweeping the Oscars that year. A few years ago, I reread the book to see how well it held up, and as an adult who is also now a writer and has been a reviewer, and has read thousands of other books in the interim, I can say it doesn’t hold up well at all–it really isn’t all that scary, either; it was a product of its time and it might not even get published were it written today. The characters were very cardboard and one-dimensional and behaved in ways that made no sense whatsoever; the focus was on the sacrilege, really, and the shock. I wondered if that would be true of the movie, as well, in its unedited version.

The acting was fine, really; Ellen Burstyn is never bad in anything, and Linda Blair was also fine; but the truth is the direction of the film doesn’t really develop the characters enough to make the viewer empathize with them, or identify with them. The scares weren’t as scary as they were; it’s hard to be scared when you know something is coming and you’ve already seen it, after all; part of the thrill of a horror film is not knowing when the scares are coming, so rewatches never have quite the same effect. I watched this time in a more analytic way, rather than as a viewer–but while others I’d seen before–Aliens comes to mind–really hold up incredibly well, The Exorcist doesn’t; I don’t feel like I got to know enough about Chris MacNeil or Father Karras enough to care about either one of them; and I found that I had more questions about them and who they were than I did when I viewed it as simply an entertainment. I think had the film been filmed more intimately, rather than from a cold distance, it would have held up a lot more; I don’t know, I am neither a filmmaker or a critic. But it didn’t trigger much of a reaction in me, and that’s rather telling. I think the problem, from a story-telling point of view, is that it couldn’t make up its mind whether it was about the MacNeils or Father Karras; although the title would tend to make you think the focus was on Father Karras; it should have been titled The Exorcism, really, and that, I think, was the end problem result for me: the book and film were really about Father Karras and his struggle with his faith, but only touched on that issue glancingly; because it also wanted to focus on how dismissive we are of spiritual issues in our modern scientific world, and wanted to show how an atheist, irreligious woman would try to get her child scientific treatment and slowly come around to the idea that in the modern world, something rooted in past superstition was the issue. Both are great stories, but for me, it failed in trying to tell both and wound up just skittering across the surface like a needle on a warped vinyl record.

Ultimately, though, The Exorcist–both book and film–are important works in both disciplines; along with Rosemary’s Baby, ushered in the 1970’s revival and rejuvenation of horror, in both film and literature, and that influence cannot be denied. Without either of those books, would Carrie have been published, or Peter Straub’s first horror novel? It was The Exorcist, after all, that first really introduced me to horror.

And I absolutely loved the television series inspired by it.

And on that note, tis time for me to return to ye old mines of spice. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I’ll catch you again tomorrow.

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Eyes Open

Well, it’s Tuesday and so far, we’re still here.

This time of year is always enervating, to say the least; one always wants to keep a close and careful eye on any and every storm that comes into the Gulf of Mexico, but at the same time it’s very easy to fall prey to panic and fear. It’s never easy, particularly around the anniversary of Katrina (fifteen years ago) and all those memories that entails, and while Marco fortunately fizzled somewhat, making landfall as a mere tropical depression (nothing to be sneezed at, in and of itself), one always has to remember Laura is still out there, and there’s yet another making its way across the Atlantic in our general direction–or at least there was; I’ve not heard a word about the system that will become the N storm, should it become organized.(I just looked for it on-line and can find nothing, so I am assuming it just fizzled out and died, which is, of course, good news for now). We’re going to be on the wet side of Laura, should she not continue tacking to the west, so we need to be braced for that, too.

I rewatched Jaws yesterday for the first time since the summer of 1975, when we went to see it in the theater after church (we often went to see matinees after church on Sundays; kind of like a treat of sorts. Now that I think about it, I wonder if it was a bribe to get us not to complain about going to church in the first place? Ironically, I didn’t mind going to church once I’d met some of the other kids and got active in the Youth Group–how things have changed, eh?). The theater was so crowded the usher actually had to find us seats, and the only three together (Dad didn’t go to church with us) were in the center front row. IMAGINE watching Jaws on the big screen in the front row! It’s actually a very well-made movie, and it still holds up after all these years; it didn’t scare me at all the way it did that first time because, of course, I still remembered all the jump scares and all the shark attacks–which clearly means the movie had made an impression on me. I had already read the book before we went to see the film; and the changes made to the movie from the story of the book–Mrs. Brody didn’t have an affair with the oceanographer in the movie and the ending was different–actually improved the story; the ending of the book wouldn’t have played in the movie (the shark finally dies as its coming in for a final attack on Sheriff Brody–just stops moving and disappears into the depths, and he swims for shore) and I also liked that the oceanographer didn’t die in the movie (the shark kills him when he’s in the cage; Brody is conflicted about this because he knew his wife was fucking the kid), but the end of the movie is kind of anticlimactic. But Jaws was the movie that changed everything: it was the first summer blockbuster, which changed Hollywood and how movies are released; it started out national obsession with sharks–there would be no “Shark Week” without Jaws; it turned Stephen Spielberg from a nobody into an A-list director; and–this is just a theory–set the stage for the revival of horror films that was to come in a few years, with Halloween and Friday the 13th, because above all else that Jaws was, it was a monster movie that scared people. I bought a copy of the book a few years ago–I think the fortieth anniversary edition of it–and have always meant to get around to rereading it; I still haven’t.

Jaws was also a bestseller, and it also set the stage for the huge hit the movie was, and the success of the movie also brought the book back to the bestseller lists. Peter Benchley, who’d written a non-fiction book about the sea already, became a bankable author–his next novel, The Deep, which I would argue is a better book than Jaws, was an instant bestseller and of course became a huge hit film–but the movie wasn’t as good as the movie of Jaws, and the success of the film was largely driven by the images of Jacqueline Bisset in a wet T-shirt, her nipples clearly visible (I could be wrong, but those images might have started the wet T-shirt craze as well; who knows?), and I’d always meant to reread The Deep  as well. When I was acquiring Benchley novels, triggered by the anniversary of Jaws, I also got some of his other, later books–also successful, not to the level of the earlier books, which include The Island (which I liked) and The Girl of the Sea of Cortez, which is probably his best, and definitely the most literary, of his books.

Today all of our appointments were canceled, just in case, so it’s another work-at-home day for me; I do have to run over to the office to restock my condom packing supplies as well as drop off the boxes I made yesterday, and I am not really sure what movies I want to watch today. After I finished working yesterday I managed to get another chapter done in Bury Me in Shadows, which was pleasing, Ironically, I found myself doing precisely the thing I described yesterday–revising and editing without looking at the hard copy pages, only to remember and discover that I had input the changes exactly as detailed in the notes–but am also getting a little worried that I am not remembering things and am making continuity errors; so to ease that worry I’m probably going to sit down and reread the first five chapters again before I started on Chapter Six tonight–which means I probably won’t have time to read Lovecraft Country tonight, alas. I’m also planning on making dinner tonight–it’s been a hot minute, believe me–and so my time this evening will be very limited, sadly.

We also started watching the documentary series The Vow, currently airing on HBO MAX last night, and it’s absolutely fascinating. This first episode was all about the people who are telling the story of the documentary getting involved in NXIVM, and I have to say, listening to the leaders and their conversations about working on yourself and being honest with yourself and realizing your own potential and that you often set up your own roadblocks–I was frankly thinking there’s something to this and was thinking about the ways I often roadblock and self-defeat myself. Of course, it’s really just another “power of positive thinking/reaffirmations” thing, and there really is something to that methodology; of believing in yourself and having the confidence to really chase your dreams, and how so often the self-destruct mechanisms we all seem to have inevitably have something to do with negativity introduced into our psyches by someone else (example: I may not remember his name, but I will never forget that writing professor who told me I had no talent and would never be published, as long as I live), and why do we let those things fester in our minds and allow them to continue to affect us–in this case–some forty years later?

I’m really looking forward to the next episode.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, everyone, and see you tomorrow.

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Jump Then Fall

Sliding into Sunday with two storms heading this way, less that two days apart. Ah, 2020, you just keep 2020-ing, don’t you? We are in a flash flood warning from today through Thursday, as I see over at nola.com, and are in a hurricane warning as well. Parking restrictions have been lifted, and I am feeling fairly certain that this time around our street will likely flood again–as it has done only once before, and not during a hurricane–because the fucking two empty lots have a stupid condo building going up on it, so there’s no place for water to go this time. I’ll probably have to move my car this afternoon to get it up higher than where it is parked right now. I checked my phone this morning but there’s nothing from work; which is in and of itself interesting: with so few people actually working in the office, what exactly is the policy and procedure during a hurricane? Monday is supposed to be clinic hours, of course, but since the hurricane could be hitting us smack dab in the middle of those, are we really going to have our clinic? Although–looking at the latest track, it appears to have slowed down some and is now predicted to cross over us around seven pm on Monday–whereas last night before I went to bed it was one pm.

May we live in interesting times, indeed.

I just hope we don’t lose power–although the two storms will indubitably amp up the humidity, I don’t think it will be as hot. That was what saved us that week when Ike knocked out our power and hovered over the city for a couple of days; the cloud cover made it cooler, otherwise it would have been completely unbearable.

Yesterday was a rather relaxing one. I did run an errand–which I may regret, as I wound up buying more perishables, and–sigh–my freezer is full–and then came back home to relax some more. I worked on Bury Me in Shadows a bit, finishing Chapters Two and Three and pulling up Chapter Four before going to bed, and it’s coming along rather nicely. We watched Jojo Rabbit last night–didn’t really care that much for it, to be honest; I guess it was just too smart for me–and then started watching Warrior Nun, which really didn’t engage us very much after the first episode, but we are intrigued enough to give the second episode a chance–you can never really judge a show competently by its first episode (although the first episode of Lovecraft Country was off the chain amazing), and sometimes it takes an episode or two to get going (hey, Outer Banks took four episodes to hit the ground running), but our standards have been set pretty high this year–we’ve watched some amazing programs this year.

I also decided to treat myself to cappuccinos this morning because why not? Marco tomorrow, Laura Wednesday; the potential of living a week in August without power; yeah, who cares about the mess and all the moving parts of the espresso machine to clean this morning? Besides, the jolt I’ll get from two cups will power me through the rest of this morning and I’d like to get more chapters finished today–since who knows how long we’ll have power this week–and I am busily charging up all of my devices; granted, as long as the car isn’t under water and will start I can always go out there, turn the air conditioning up as high as it can go, and sit there while my phone recharges, like during Ike.

I also managed, from the looks of things, to get some organizing and cleaning done around the kitchen/office yesterday, which was not only necessary but needed. There are still some things I need to get straightened up, of course, and some things to get filed, but it’s not nearly as messy as it has been lately. I also tend to get neater the more into writing a book I get, so there’s that. I am really feeling my characters now, and I think I am doing some very good work on this book now. Ideally, it will be finished by the end of the month–that was the goal, and while it no longer seems likely anymore–am I really going to revise 21 chapters in eight days?–at least I am on track to get it finished and turned in sometime in September, which is lovely; and then I can get to work on the Kansas book and finally get that fucking albatross from around my neck.

I also gassed up the car yesterday just in case. And the lovely thing about a Honda is that IF we do need to suddenly have to evacuate, a full tank will get me pretty damned far. Although I am not worried about a sudden evacuation, of course; no one seems to be leaving New Orleans today and the storm will be here tomorrow.

It’s weird looking outside my windows this morning, which is definitely a sign that a storm is coming–that weird eerie stillness and surreal glow to the light.

And so, I need to put hurricane warnings and thoughts aside, otherwise my obsessive personality will find me sitting here, refreshing weather.gov every few minutes looking for updates, and waiting to hear from work whether I actually have to go into the office tomorrow. I am going to put all those worries and anxieties aside–as worrying and being anxious will solve nothing, it never does–so that I can be as productive as I possibly can this morning.

I think I’m going to have another cappuccino and curl up with Lovecraft Country for awhile.

Have a safe and lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

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Highway Don’t Care

I could get used to this sleeping late thing quite easily.

So yesterday, Facebook decided I could no longer crosspost this blog to my personal Facebook page because it’s “spam”; I don’t know if it was reported as such, or whether it’s just a new thing with their shitty new design, which they also forced me to start using yesterday (it really is garbage, and a complete rip-off of how Twitter looks if you use it through a web browser–but why would Facebook care about integrity of design? Why wouldn’t they rip-off another social media’s design even though there was absolutely nothing wrong with their original design in the first place?); in either case, it’s infuriating and frustrating.

It does allow it to go to my author page–in fact, I didn’t even try to post yesterday’s blog to my author page and yet there it was–but I can’t see some of the pictures on previous blogs. They also removed my birthday post (the one titled “August”) from my timeline. It’s still on the author page; how it’s not SPAM there but it is on my timeline is just one of those unsolvable, eternal mysteries of Facebook, its garbage staff, management, and design thieves.

Sigh.

In an ideal world, I wouldn’t need to even use Facebook, and I often wonder about the advisability of social media in general. But I love communicating, and staying in touch, with friends I rarely see other than at writers’ conferences and so forth, which aren’t going to be happening for the foreseeable future either; as well as former co-workers, friends from long-ago times, and just people who either read my books or I’ve discovered through other actual friends who amuse me endlessly with their wit and snark. That’s what keeps me there–and while it saddens me that my blog may no longer be able to go onto my timeline, at least it still will go up on the author page and on Twitter; so maybe I am going to have to ask those who like it and want to read it occasionally to either like my author page or follow me on Twitter. I hate asking, because it makes me feel like I’m begging people to like me, but there it is. It’s one of the parts of being a professional writer I despise the most: self-promotion and marketing.

One of the loveliest things about getting older and gaining a better perspective on life is the determination of what is important and what is not; I’m not sure when it was that I decided I no longer cared if people like me or not, but it was enormously freeing. There are still vestiges in my psyche of what I have derisively termed “Homecoming Queen Syndrome”: the desperate need to be liked by everyone. Sure, I would prefer for people to like me rather than not, but it doesn’t bother me when someone doesn’t anymore. I am not to everyone’s tastes, certainly my sense of humor isn’t,  and my writing is definitely not. It was one of those great moments, you know–what Oprah calls the aha moment–when I realized that, after all, I don’t love everything I read and I don’t like everyone I meet, so what kind of narcissistic egomaniac thinks everyone should love them and their work?

Not I, I decided, and that was the end of that. I am still a work in progress, however, and so I still sometimes lapse into that mentality from time to time before I snap back to my senses and think, better people than you don’t like me.

Which has kind of become my mantra, really: Better people than you don’t like me.

So, yesterday–my do nothing be a slug day–was lovely. I didn’t really do the Internet much, and I realized, at one point, as I was reading through All That Heaven Allows,  a biography of Rock Hudson that I am reading as research for Chlorine (I checked it out from the library) that, since it’s actually research I should have been marking pertinent pages with post-it notes; because it’s actually a gold mine–not just about being a gay actor in the period I am going to be writing about, but about gay history in general (I found an interesting bit about a gay sex scandal involving the University of Kentucky football team in the early 1960’s! And a bit about a FUCKING GAY BAR IN LEXINGTON KENTUCKY DURING THAT PERIOD!!!), and so I started flipping back through the book and finding passages I remembered, marking them with post-it’s so I can make notes and so forth on paper or in a word document…and then the book mentioned Tab Hunter, and I thought, oh yes, I have his memoir Tab Hunter Confidential, and being the anal/OCD person I am, I immediately had to find my copy, and then got swept into it–I’d never read it, and then, of all things, came across a bit about Tab doing a theater production of Chapter Two with Joyce DeWitt in the early 1980’s and how he didn’t know who she was because he didn’t watch television and again, I thought to myself, wait a minute–you’ve not only met Tab Hunter, JOYCE DEWITT WAS WITH HIM WHEN YOU MET HIM. He came to the TWFest BECAUSE you met him at a Publishing Triangle party with Joyce DeWitt!

In fact, when I–several sheets to the wind at the time–got up the nerve to introduce myself to Mr. Hunter, and asked him if he would ever do the Festival because I knew he’d done a production of The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore with Tallulah Bankhead (how I remembered that given how wasted I was, I have no idea) and he was quite enthusiastic–not only about the Festival but that I knew that obscure detail of his long career. The last thing I remember about the conversation was Joyce DeWitt writing down his contact information for me on a fucking cocktail napkin that has undoubtedly been lost at some point over the years.

How the hell did I lose a cocktail napkin with Tab Hunter’s contact information on it, written down by Joyce DeWitt? 

And as I went through his book, and I got to the part about that particular stage production–darling Marian Seldes was also in that cast! Marian set the standard high for graciousness and loveliness. I also really liked Frances Sternhagen, Zoe Caldwell, and Shirley Knight a lot.

Huh. Maybe I should write a memoir, after all. I’ve certainly got a lot of funny stories about meeting famous, or rather sort of famous, people.

I suspect the biggest problem with writing Chlorine will be dragging out the research for as long as possible because I am enjoying it so much…I mean, reading these two nonfiction books have really amped up my creativity and inspiration!

There are two hurricanes this morning out there heading for the Gulf Coast; Laura and Marco. Yesterday New Orleans was in the direct center of Laura’s Cone of Uncertainty; this morning that has shifted west some–but we’re still in the cone. Marco was on track yesterday to come ashore anywhere from Corpus Christi to Grand Isle, which meant we were also in THAT Cone of Uncertainty as well; and the forecast of timing meant both were going to come ashore around the same time. It also meant that the extremely rare weather phenomenon known as the Fujiwhara effect could happen (why not? The Midwest already had a rare derecho storm last week); it’s only happened twice on this side of the continent (it’s more common in the Pacific). Essentially, when two hurricanes form and come within 800 miles of each other, they can begin to rotate counter-clockwise around a centralized point between them. If they are within 680 miles of each other, they can merge into a bigger storm.

I wonder how the evangelicals are going to blame this on the gays?

So, this morning I am going to go back to work–I am going to start digging through my emails, going to run an errand I’d rather not run, and dig into Bury Me in Shadows. I’ll probably also spend some time with my Rock Hudson biography as well.

Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

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August

And, once again, it is my birthday. 59, and the official start of my sixtieth year; my fifties are now in the rear view mirror. It’s so strange. I don’t think I ever believed I would make it this far–I certainly didn’t during the plague years, when I just assumed I would inevitably contract HIV and begin the slow agonizing descent to death I had watched so many others experience. It’s weird how much the world has changed since when I was a little boy reading my middle-grade mysteries and dreaming of someday becoming a writer like Carolyn Keene or Franklin W. Dixon (little did I know at the time that neither was a real person and a number of different writers had written the books I was so addicted to). I’ve been watching a lot of 1970’s movies lately during my condom packing work-at-home days, and even that seems like the distant past…although it kind of was; 1979 was over forty years ago.

How terrifying that thought is!

I’ve never minded getting older; frankly, there were times in my life when I was relatively certain I wasn’t going to live to a ripe old age. So every birthday, in some ways, feels like a triumph of sorts. Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s–before the development of the “cocktail”, infection and death seemed inevitable to me, and I became sort of resigned to it. That feeling of inevitability, I think, was part of what finally pushed me into pursuing my writing dream seriously–I never knew how much time I had, and I didn’t want to die regretting never having put any serious effort into it. It seems strange to be oddly grateful to a plague for pushing me to pursue my dreams…and yes, if I had to choose between being pushed to chase my writing dreams or having all those who died back, I would always choose having them live; the world would be a better place had they had more time. I don’t think I will ever stop grieving for the dead, for the lives unnecessarily lost, and as this more recent pandemic has reminded me, the other plague is yet  another source for my PTSD.

My birthday has ceased to have any meaning for me, other than as simply a marker of getting older. With every year the value of my birthday, my special day, has declined and decreased. I always say that my parents never made a big deal out of my birthday, and that’s both untrue and unfair–the older I get, the more fair I try to be with my parents–they were both very very young when I was a child, and both worked full time; and my father was also going to school at night. They never allowed my birthday to pass without there being cake and presents, but it wasn’t like it was ever like a whole day of celebratory; it was my birthday and it needed to be acknowledged and celebrated, but it wasn’t like they could take a day off and ignore their other obligations. As I got older my birthday inevitably was disappointing for me; my parents and sister obviously cared about it, but no one else seemed to, and there was a point when I realized that if I wasn’t the one making plans for my birthday, no one else would do it. I wanted my birthday to be a bigger deal, and to celebrate it, but my friends never seemed to care and many often simply blew it off. That kind of hurt, actually, and I think it was sometime in my mid-twenties that I finally decided to stop setting myself up for being hurt and disappointed and to put my birthday into its proper perspective: it wasn’t a special day, it wasn’t anything worth being disappointed over, and I made up my mind that I would never make a big deal of my birthday ever again–nor would I allow anyone else to do so. I would simply always take the day off from work, and do whatever it was I wanted to do.

Of course, it was my thirty-third birthday when I came to New Orleans and my life changed forever; hard to believe that was twenty-six years ago that I finally found my place, the city where I belonged and where I could have the life I wanted and my dreams would come true for me. My love affair with this crazy, wild, madcap, frustrating, infuriating but wonderful city began on my thirty-third birthday, which remains one the best birthday of my life thus far–and I can’t see how any other birthday could inevitably be better than that one. That’s another reason to not make a big deal out of my birthday, really; my thirty-third (and my forty-fourth) set the bar so high for wonderful birthdays that I never want to try to top those. Frankly, I don’t see how I ever could, really.

Last evening, when I got home from work I was very tired and worn out. Usually Wednesday is my work from home day, where I spend the afternoon making condom packs and watching movies. Thursdays I got into the office and make kits for the syringe access program on Fridays; but since this week my birthday fell on a Thursday and I intended to keep up my tradition of not working on my birthday, I went into the office yesterday and spent between six and seven hours making the kits. I was dog tired when I was finished; you can’t do it sitting down, so I was on my feet the entire time, other than short breaks to have something to drink or to have my lunch. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home to pick up a few things and rolled into the Lost Apartment, exhausted and tired and hot and sweaty….and then began unpacking my backpack, only to discover that my prescriptions, which I’d picked up on my way into the office, had been left behind at the office because I hadn’t gone back to my desk before leaving. This put me into a funk–I was already tired and bitchy, and while I know intellectually that I could probably go a day or two without my blood pressure medicine–the last of the previous refill was taken this morning–I really didn’t like the idea of going three days in a row without taking it. SO, grumble grumble grumble, my plans for today–essentially, not going on line, not dealing with emails, not doing any work of any kind while just being a slob (no shaving, no shower) and just throwing on sweats and finishing Lovecraft Country while also getting caught up on my Real Housewives shows was not to be; I was going to have to get in the car and go to the office; and my sanctuary day at home of not going out in public was going to be ruined. But as I sat and grumbled to myself while Scooter purred in my lap and I rewatched the LSU-Texas game from last season while playing Bubble Pop on my iPad, I realized: your birthday is an arbitrary day, really, and it doesn’t matter WHAT day you celebrate it. So, go by the office tomorrow; pick up the mail and go make groceries and pay the bills and do all the things you were planning to do on Friday, and make FRIDAY your hermit-away-from-the-world day.

So, that’s what I am going to do. I am going to spend the morning straightening things up around here, deciding what I want to make for my birthday dinner, trying to clean out the inevitable mass of emails in my inbox, and run those errands while trying to keep a positive face on the day. I may not get to everything I probably should–hey, it’s my birthday–but I will go ahead and make a good faith effort, and at least I don’t have to worry about the day job today.

And on that note, I’m going to get a second cup of coffee and start making some casual progress on things through the day–and I am still going to try to catch up on the Housewives  as well as spend some time in Lovecraft Country.

Have a love day, everyone.

Afterglow

Birthday Eve, in the year of COVID-19. Tomorrow I will turn 59; although it’s actually my sixtieth birthday (you aren’t born aged one; so your birthday actually ends the year which age you are supposedly turning; this is the start of my sixtieth year, which actually will end on August 20, 1961, when I “turn” sixty).

So, today is Wednesday but my Friday, since I am taking a long birthday weekend to luxuriate in the joys of being Greg, and I am going to head into the office rather than work at home today (the stuff I usually do in the office on Thursday I will have to do today). I’m also going to pick up my prescriptions and run by the post office at some point today as well.

The Australian publisher ClanDestine Press announced the table of contents for The Only One in the World: A Sherlock Holmes Anthology, which is the anthology that features my story “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy;” you can access the press release here. I am very proud of this story, and am equally excited to be in this anthology. As I have explained before, Sherlock is a bit out of my wheelhouse, so I had to push myself and stretch a bit to get the story done. Overall, I greatly enjoyed the experience, and now find myself sometimes looking into the possibility of writing another such story. I really like the 1916 universe of New Orleans I created for the story, and that was such an interesting period of New Orleans history–so much going on, really, and so much material to choose from–that I will probably write some more about the period, if not with Holmes/Watson centered in the story. The press release was a lovely thing to wake up to this morning.

I am feeling oddly rested this morning, despite waking up multiple times during the night and staying up later than I should have to continue streaming The Morning Show. I am telling y’all, this show is terrific, and the cast is amazing. I marvel at Jennifer Aniston’s performance in every episode, but the entire cast is terrific, and the writing is superb. We’ll probably finish watching tonight, and I sure hope there’s going to be a second season.

And after today, I am of course on the mini-staycation I mentioned earlier. I am going to try to get some work done when I get home from the office–I’d really rather not spend my birthday cleaning the house–and I am debating whether or not I should actually try to get some work done on Bury Me in Shadows on my birthday. I don’t see why I shouldn’t; I would dearly love to spend my birthday doing things I enjoy, and I actually enjoy writing. I would love to finish reading Lovecraft Country, and possibly some short stories (I am so behind on The Short Story Project it isn’t even funny) and I may–I know, I know–spend some time working on the top drawer of the filing cabinet. I actually enjoy organizing and getting my filing system under control and into some sort of actual working shape would be marvelous; almost like a birthday gift to myself.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

 

Soon You’ll Get Better

Saturday morning in New Orleans, and all is as well as can be expected in this hellish timeline we are all living through at this point. I’ve been sleeping exceptionally well lately–not sure why, but don’t want to question it and simply enjoy it for as long as it lasts, frankly–and I may even just stay in bed as long as I want to tomorrow; I could have easily lazed in bed much longer this morning. I may treat myself to cappuccinos while I get everything on-line done that I need to get done before closing my browser and shutting the Internet down for the rest of the day so I can get to work on Bury Me in Shadows, which I haven’t even looked at all week, much to my deep and abiding shame. I’ve not completely adjusted to working 8:30 – 5 every day, really; and am always tired and mentally fatigued when the daily shift comes to an end; too mentally fatigued to read anything, let alone write anything. I did manage last night to clean up/organize some electronic files, though.

While I was condom packing yesterday (I filled three boxes of them, a personal best thus far) I continued my journey through 1970s cinema, with yesterday’s theme being paranoia. Paranoia was a big thing in the 1970’s, and the films and novels of the decade reflected that–not surprising, given it was also the decade where Vietnam came to an end (1975), when Watergate occurred (1972-1974), and of course, the decade where terrorism really became a thing–it was the decade of the Munich Olympic massacre, the Entebbe skyjacking, etc. It was a decade where trust in institutions began to erode and fade; where conspiracy theories really began to come into their own; and cynicism replaced optimism–if optimism could be said to have ever been an integral part of the American outlook and not simply another part of the mythology we were being sold. It was the decade of the Bermuda Triangle, the Amityville horror, UFO’s, and countless other strange conspiracies and/or cover-ups; when Area 54 really entered the public consciousness, and a time when it became much easier to believe that the government was lying to us about everything and that corporations and billionaires were truly running the world for their own benefit and profit. (This was, of course, the primary theme of Taylor Caldwell’s bestselling novel Captains and the Kings, a thinly veiled history of the Kennedy family’s rise to wealth and power, which was made into a mini-series later in the decade.)

The two films I watched yesterday while condom packing were definitely reactions to the paranoia of the times: The Parallax View (starring Warren Beatty) and Three Days of the Condor (starring Robert Redford). Both were based on novels; both were about conspiracies and/or cover-ups led by incredibly powerful people; and both had very cynical endings. The Beatty film was about the cover-up of a political assassination, in which Beatty played a crusading journalist trying to get to the bottom of the story; the Redford film was about a man who worked for a CIA front (the American Literary History Society) and whose job was to read books, articles, journals, etc., looking for coded references to spy organizations and conspiracies (which was, in and of itself, another example of paranoia); the Redford character finds some curious reoccurring references in some South American and Greek novels and articles and writes a report. One day when he goes out to pick up lunch for the office he returns to find everyone dead; even the guy who called in sick was murdered in his apartment. Redford, whose code name is “Condor”, is not a field agent and has no idea what is going on, other than his life is in danger and he needs help. He winds up taking Faye Dunaway hostage at some point at gunpoint and getting her to help him–she eventually succumbs to Stockholm syndrome, winds up helping him rather than escaping, and they even have sex together*–and throughout the course of the movie you never are certain who can be trusted or who cannot, as people keep switching sides, including the professional assassin (played by Max von Sydow), and the end of the movie is also cynical, implying that not even journalists can be trusted (subverting the popular 1970’s trope of the crusading reporters, inspired by Woodward and Bernstein’s coverage of Watergate).

It was an interesting decade to experience puberty and adolescence through, that’s for certain.

We’re nearly finished with The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, and are really enjoying it. I think we’re going to go with Never Have I Ever next; we’ve pretty much been watching non-stop noir-like heavy crime dramas for quite some time now (although the foreign ones have been absolutely delightful) but I think some light comedy will be welcomed gratefully into the Lost Apartment.

We also had an astounding thunderstorm/flash flood warning yesterday afternoon, which seems to be happening almost daily now. I love rain–I don’t even mind being caught in it as long as I am not having to lug shit into the house while it pours–and there’s nothing quite so comforting as being safely warm and dry inside while it pours outside and the sidewalks get covered in an inch or so of water. I’m not sure if it’s going to rain today–there’s nothing but sunshine and blue sky outside my windows this morning–but I feel fairly confident it will at some point; after all, it’s pretty much a daily occurrence now.

I also realized belatedly last evening that part of the funk I’ve been in lately has to do with the impracticality and uncertainty surrounding the football season for this year. I usually spent most of August excitedly reading everything I can about the Saints and college football, wondering what the coming season will hold; will it be an exciting one or a disappointment; but no matter what happens, I am always entertained–and last season was, as Paul reminds me pretty regularly, one for the books. As huge LSU fans last season was like a fairytale, a Disney film come to life–with every element in place for a great uplifting movie, and the ending was perfect, too; LSU stuck the landing and gave all us fans a season we will always remember with a smile. I am deeply grateful I got to see that championship team play twice in Tiger Stadium–we went to the season opener against Georgia Southern and the Florida game, which was one of the best times I’ve ever had in Tiger Stadium, and we’ve been to exciting games before but that one was everything–and am even more grateful I got to see Joe Burrow play, not only those two games last year but in the games we were able to see the year before. Not knowing if there’s even going to be a season, or if there is, what it will look like, has been kind of depressing on top of everything else; it’s as though all the things in life I find joy in are all gone, with just the bullshit left in its place. I’m not even sure how I feel about the conferences trying to make a limited season happen; it just seems vastly unfair to the players to put them at so much risk, and I don’t know if I should encourage that by even watching the games if they do happen and air on television.

I will never forgive the non-maskers for the loss of this football season, or however it turns out–whether it’s shortened, messed up, or cancelled. NEVER. Thanks for being such complete selfish assholes! You, for the record, are why we can’t have anything fucking nice–although the loss of college football is the LEAST of your crimes. Enjoy meeting your God with that black sin on your soul.

So, I am going to finish this and head back into email hell for a while, before showering and getting back to work on my book. I’ll probably try to do some cleaning and organizing while I’m at it; I still haven’t started–or even selected–my next fiction read, although Poe Dameron; Free Fall is sitting right there….but I also want to read Lovecraft Country before I start watching the show.

And on that note, back to the spice mines.

*This is the same trope that Robert Ludlum used in The Bourne Identity, in which his character, Jason Bourne, who has been shot in the head and now has amnesia and no idea why everyone is trying to kill him, kidnaps a woman and takes her hostage; by the end of the novel they are in love and making a future together–and no one thinks anything of this, and it’s presented as normal; another sign of the times, I suppose. I’ve been meaning to reread The Bourne Identity as well as revisit Ludlum; his career as a novelist actually began in the 1970’s with a paranoia novel, The Osterman Weekend, which was also made into a movie, and almost all of his books have some sort of paranoia at their heart. I loved Ludlum when I discovered him in the late 1980’s; I’ve meant to revisit him for quite some time now, to see how he holds up. My favorites of his were The Chancellor Manuscript, The Gemini Contenders, and of course, The Bourne Identity, but I read all of the books he wrote himself until he died–I’ve not read any of those written by other authors since his death.

On the Road Again

Yesterday was another awful, low energy day. I got something lovely in the mail–thank you again, Penni Jones, that was so incredibly kind and thoughtful of you–and I got caught out running errands in a wonderful thunderstorm; I eventually had to make a mad dash through the pouring rain to the apartment with bags of groceries and the mail. After getting into the house I was very tired and cranky and out of sorts, and looking at Bury Me in Shadows just made my stomach clench and my nerves fray. I wasted some time writing an entry about writing about vampires, which I will post at some point this morning (if I haven’t already) and looked through some of that writing. I was also enormously pleased, despite the frayed nerves and the stomach clenched in knots, to see that the writing of said vampire fiction was actually quite good, which was nice; I have such a tendency to avoid looking at my old work (for any number of reasons, none of which speak well to my self-confidence) that it was kind of a pleasant surprise to read it and think, hey, this was from really early in my career and this isn’t bad at all, well done, earlier-in-his-career Greg!

So, tired and with low energy, I decided to retire to my recliner with Blacktop Wasteland, figuring that finishing that book was one of my goals for the weekend, and that was probably the easiest goal to reach.

Nor do I regret one second of the time I spent with the book.

Beauregard thought the night sky looked like a painting

Laughter filled the air only to be drowned out by a cacophony of revving engines as the moon slid from behind the clouds. The bass from the sound system in a nearby Chevelle was hitting him in his chest so hard, it felt like someone was performing CPR on him. There were about a dozen other late-model cars parked haphazardly in front of the old convenience store. In addition to the Chevelle, there was a Maverick, two Impalas, a few Camaros and five or six more examples of the heyday of American muscle. Yhe air was cool and filled with the scent of gas and oil. The rich, acrid smell of exhaust fumes and burnt rubber. A choir of crickets and whippoorwills tried in vain to be heard. Beauregard closed his eyes and strained his ears. He could hear them but just barely. They were screaming for love. He thought a lot of people spent a large part of their life doing the same thing.

The wind caught the sign hanging above his head from the arm of a pole that extended twenty feet into the air. It creaked as the breeze moved it back and forth.

Laura Lippman describes noir as “dreamers become schemers,” and that’s always the closest description of what noir actually is that I’ve ever heard. Like all definitions of noir, it’s not quite everything, but nothing else anyone has written or said about noir comes as close to it, in my mind, as that. For me, noir is like pornography; I maybe can’t tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it. I personally love noir; it’s probably one of my favorite things to read (or styles of film to watch). I try to bring a noir sensibility to almost everything I write, no matter what label it’s given as an important keyword on Amazon. (I still believe that Timothy is the most noir thing I’ve written to date; but I am looking forward to delving more deeply into it with future work.)

Blacktop Wasteland is called a ‘heist’ novel by people who know the genre probably better than I do; and they are not incorrect; it is a heist novel. But it’s also so much more that I feel calling it that is, in some ways, a disservice to it–and I don’t mean to imply by that statement that there is anything wrong with heist novels. I haven’t read many of them, and I haven’t seen many heist films. Rob Byrnes writes truly clever, intricately plotted ones with a wide variety of distinct and well-developed characters that are also witty and funny as well as smart. But Blacktop Wasteland is also noir of the purest sort, the kind that Cain and Thompson and the other greats wrote; about working class people who can’t quite catch the break they need to be upwardly mobile, who believe that in a society and culture where everything is stacked against them, the only answer is criminality–and knowing when to walk away from that life. It’s about wanting more for your kids and your family than you had; it’s about grabbing for the American Dream and the brass ring. It’s also about family, and the damage done by wrong decisions and believing mythology you’ve invented rather than facing harsh and painful truths.

The main character of Cosby’s novel, Beauregard Montage (more commonly known as Bug) has tried, throughout his adult life, to build a better life for his wife and kids, and the child he rarely sees he fathered when he was a young teenager with a white girl whose family keeps her away from him. He’s opened his own business–a garage doing car repair and oil changes, etc–but the opening of a franchise oil change place has eaten into his business and has put him in danger of losing it all. A complication with his mother’s Medicare has resulted in a vast amount of money due to the retirement home where she makes everyone’s life miserable. That oldest daughter needs money for college and is dating a guy who might not be good for her. The bills are all overdue and the mortgage on the garage is so overdue it could lead to foreclosure.

Is there anything more American or relatable in these troubled times than financial distress?

But what Bug is best at is driving; he was in the Life before he decided to walk away from it for the sake of a straight life for his wife and kids. His own father walked away from his family when Bug was a teenager–for their sake, since he couldn’t escape his own criminal past. And the carefully constructed life Bug has put together for his family is slowly coming apart at the seams; and he needs money, and fast. So when a driving job in the life comes available, he grits his teeth and agrees to it. But nothing is ever as easy as it seems, and this job leads to other bills that have to be paid–with blood and bone.

The story alone is riveting, but what makes this novel so strong and powerful is the voice and the development of Bug as a character. The struggle within him between the desire for a normal family life and to do right by his children versus the thrill he gets from being in the life; from getting to flex and use his driving skills to skirt the law and get away with it is what takes this book to another level–and then the realization, the coming to terms with his feelings for his own father and that abandonment, as well as coming to terms with his complicated relationship with his mother, as he tries to do the right thing by his own family was breathtaking in its complexity and how agonizingly real it all seemed.

And those actions scenes are masterfully crafted, and keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time. Even had I wanted to put the book down, to take my time with it and read it more slowly, to draw the pleasure out, I couldn’t have once the kicked into high gear.

The writing is also deceptively simple yet honed to a sharpness and beauty worthy of compare to the grand masters of crime writing.

And while it was an accident of my TBR pile, I am very glad I read Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths and S. A Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland back to back, as both are surely writing some of the best contemporary rural noir of our time; they should be paired, really, and read back to back, much the same as how Megan Abbott’s Dare Me and Michael Koryta’s The Prophet should be paired together.

What a terrific time to be living in for a fan of crime fiction this is!