Monday is my birthday. Instead of getting a gift I’m going to give one away. My short story collection, Stray Bullets, is FREE for the next three days on kindle. Please feel free to download and share. Enjoy!
An absolutely fantastic novel.
Denny Malone is the top dog in the manhattan north task force in New York City. He has a strict moral code when it comes to family and friends. On the record he looks like a dirty cop but off the record he’s just trying to protect the neighborhood he loves. If he has to crack a few skulls or take some money from gangsters and pay shady attorneys he does. Malone takes care of business and makes sure the streets remain peaceful as possible. All until bigger dogs, the FBI, come gunning for Malone, then it’s a battle for survival. For him and his family.
The Force feels like it’s meant to be a classic and I think it is. It’s Goodfellas meets The Shield. Winslow is one of those writers that has his own style and he does it very well. Quick, tight sentences come at you hard and heavy. He does an interesting thing where he uses first, second, and third person to tell the story and it actually works pretty well. Every character’s voice is authentic and in your face. They all feel like real people even down to the secondary ones. It’s tailor made for a movie and I hope it becomes one.
Winslow’s prose is so lean and the pace is so fast though, that sometimes he doesn’t successfully pluck the emotional chord he intends to pluck. It falls flat and you whip right by it and keep going. Also, the book feels a little cliche at times and I think that’s because of the setting. New York is used so much in books and movies I actually feel like it hurt The Force to a degree. Even if it is a great story, it’s as if we’ve seen all this before. If it had been set in a different city, LA or Chicago or somewhere South, it might have felt a little more like its own thing. Maybe not completely original, but at least have its own look and feel.
Judging from Winslow’s twitter account I expected this to be heavy left-leaning arguments, but I was surprised to find that he balanced both sides of some tough subjects very well. We get the voice of the police from Malone and his crew and the things they have to deal with everyday, but we also see the other side with how other characters feel about the things the police do. Malone’s girlfriend Claudette, and the FBI agents for example. I feel like he kept an even keel on these things we all see on the news and social media everyday.
I sometimes talk smack about grocery store writers, those authors whose books you can always find in any grocery store no matter what. I bought The Force in one and I believe it deserves that amount of exposure. I’ve only read a couple of his books, but Don Winslow has already made my list of top 5 writers. Highly recommended.
Out now for kindle
Buy it Here
With a ton of help from my brother, bizarro author Matthew Vaughn, I’ve finally decided to release my first short story collection. Titled Stray Bullets it features stories about mobsters, con men, losers, and outlaws.
It’s stuff I’ve written since around 2011 or 2012. Some of it has been published online at Shotgun Honey, Near To The Knuckle, and a couple of other places. I’ll admit they’re not all perfect but I like them. I hope you’ll like them too.
Stray Bullets on Amazon
Here are a couple of other books I’ve read from All Due Respect. I highly recommend going out and picking up anything from them.
The Deepening Shade by Jake Hinkson: I’d heard good stuff about Jake Hinkson for awhile. After finally sitting down to read this collection I painfully have to say it was a little disappointing. The writing is great and Hinkson is terrific at giving his characters a distinct voice. Unfortunately these stories suffer from lackluster endings and are sometimes just flat out boring. It won’t stop me from picking up more of his work but I expected these to have a little more, I don’t know, wow factor, I guess.
Crooked Roads by Alec Cizak: Now this was a good collection. Pitch black hardcore crime fiction. Exactly the kind I like. All noir, some bordering on horror. Every one a punch to the throat. Highly recommended.
Recently I read a couple excellent books from crime fiction publisher All Due Respect. Instead of making a post about each one I thought I’d lump them together.
Only Bones by Daniel Vlasaty: This was a really good noir from author Daniel Vlasaty. A bike messenger who doesn’t stop taking amphetamines even for a minute takes a job from his drug dealer and gets in over his head with dirty cops, and his drug dealers drug dealer. Grounded in reality and written in a minimalist style Only Bones is a fast paced, witty, and often times funny tour through Chicago via bicycle. Daniel, the messenger not the author, is basically the sidekick to all the tough guys you normally read about. The reader stands on the sideline with him as he’s dragged from one bad situation to another always questioning if he should just walk away and disappear from the city he’s grown up in and loves. I just really loved the characters voice and realistic situations. Vlasaty never goes over the top to where it’s unbelievable. You can seriously imagine being in some of the situations he finds himself in. It’s a pure noir grounded in reality. I highly recommend it.
Debt Crusher by Michael Pool: These days mob stories are to crime fiction what zombie stories are to horror. A well trodden area of the genre that never really changes much. In Debt Crusher author Michael Poole switches it up by setting it in Seattle and then ripping the main character out of the mob he had spent so much time in and putting him on the run.
Poole, who I had never read before and wasn’t even on my radar, writes a good short, sharp yarn. His writing is clean and goes for the throat, although the middle got a little dull for me. But ends with a quick blast of action and suspense. Poole is definitely on my radar now.
Ash McKenna is a mess of a man who wakes up to a voicemail from the girl he loves only to find out soon after that she is dead. So Ash sets out on a quest to find his lady friends killer. On the way we meet Ash’s friends and some off kilter crime bosses all told through the eyes of a man born and raised in New York.
New Yorked is a neo noir tour through New York City. There’s a cavalcade of characters that populate Hart’s New York such as the transgender crime boss Ginny, the obnoxious Hipster King, and Fanny Fatale who runs a strange LARP game that runs through the city. Ash’s friends and a cousin who shows up on his doorstep which give the reader a different perspective on Ash’s real motivations for finding his friends killer. Some of these people are almost unbelievable characters, but prove to add a real quirkiness to the story.
Rob Hart has a nice noir style to his writing, spare and direct prose that isn’t clogged with over description. It actually reminds me a little of Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt series except without the vampires. The plot tends to meander a bit though, and some of the characters introduced were completely irrelevant to the story, unless he plans to use them more extensively in the next books of course. He writes good dialogue and character even making the city I only know from TV and movies come alive. I’ve followed his career through a mutual writing community and his first novella The Last Safe Place and I think New Yorked is a very good start to a new series. I’ll look for the next one City Of Rose soon.
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kind of stories you write?
I am the father of four awesome little kids and the husband to a super great wife, and I work Maintenance in an Injection Molding facility. I write bizarro that is more on the horror side of the genre, and also extreme horror.
2. What’s new? Plug your newest work for readers.
My most recent novella is Mother F’ing Black Skull of Death, which Morbid Books put out last December. It’s about a small town that gets a tainted shipment of energy drinks, which turns some of the residents into monsters. It’s main focus is on a nerdy guy and the town bully.
3. Why do you write in the particular genre that you do? Have you written outside of that genre?
I’ve been into writing since I was really young, mainly horror and sci fi. When I got older and decided to get serious about writing, I found that everything I wrote in those genres just fell flat. Then I discovered Bizarro. I’ve been a fan of the stranger side of things for a lot of years. As a kid I loved Grant Morrison and Peter Milligan comics, and Troma movies. So, when I found bizarro books it was a perfect fit for me. I realized I could let loose and write stories without being confined to the standard rules of storytelling.
I have written some outside of bizarro/horror, but nothing published. I have a “trunk” novel that would probably be considered transgressive that I’ve thought about revisiting now that I have a few years of experience under my belt.
4. Are there certain themes or characters in your stories close to your heart that you like to write about?
I don’t know that I have certain themes or anything I like to write about. My first two novellas were throwbacks to B-movie style cheese and gore. But I’ve got some bizarro type stuff that is totally different, I really like just exploring all over the place.
Oh man, that’s a big list. Anderson Prunty, William Pauley 3, and Stephen Graham Jones are go to’s for me when it comes to bizarro/weird horror. I really dig writers like Irvine Welsh, Chuck Palahniuk, and Bret Easton Ellis, they write some really good characters. Philip K Dick, Stephen King, Brian Keene, Ryan Harding, Adam Cesare. Usually when I read any of these authors I’m inspired to work harder and try to write better. Garret Cook’s Archelon Ranch, Josh Myer’s Feast of Oblivion, and Edward Rathke’s Ash Cinema all really impacted me when I read them. Also, Harmonie Korine, he’s not an author but I’m inspired by his storytelling.
I’m always working on the next thing. Once I finish a book I tend to jump right into the next one, so, usually when a book of mine comes out, I’m already elbow deep into the next one. The next thing I have coming out is Sexual Avenger: The Hard Dong of Justice from New Kink Books. Its three short stories about an unlikely hero with a three foot pecker. That one should be coming out anytime now. I’m writing my first straight up extreme horror book, leaving out the comedy and over the top silliness I usually put in. Its about a third of the way finished. Also, I have a collection of six short stories that all interconnect, it is in the editing stages and should be out later in the year if everything goes as planned.
7. How do you find or make the time to write?
Make the time to write is definitely the correct statement. I write all my first drafts by hand. I always carry my notebook with me that has my current project, it helps when I’m waiting in the car while my wife runs into the store, or I’m picking up my daughter from school. I also try to squeeze in some words through out the day at my job. I don’t always get a chance to write at work, but when I can I try to take advantage of it. Once I’ve finished my first draft, I type it up at home. As I mentioned, I have kids. Usually, when we put them to bed for the night I’ll fire up the laptop and work on typing up something from a notebook or editing a project that I’ve completely typed, until I’m too tired to stay awake. So, finding the time to write for me is any chance I get throughout the day or night, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get a normal writing routine!
8. Most artistic people I’ve known are creative in more than one way. What other creative things do you do?
Besides writing, and obviously reading, I occupy most of my free time with art. I usually do pencil and pen drawings but here recently I’ve been trying my hand at digitally coloring my artwork. I have artwork in a recent anthology of Wizard of Oz inspired stories called Baum Ass Tales, from Riot Forge. Also, my short story collection I’m working on will feature my artwork, too.
Besides art, I’m into music. I used to play bass in a few different local bands but now a days I just play at home to entertain myself and the kids.
9. Lately I’ve had a weird obsession with the number 9. Do you have any weird obsessions?
I don’t think I have any weird obsessions really, but if anything I’d say I’m obsessed with knowledge. When I find something I like, for example the newest Star Wars movie. I avoided all the spoilers I could before I got a chance to see the movie, but once I finally watched it, I obsessed with reading everything I possibly could about it. I tend to do that with a lot of stuff. My kids started watching the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers a while back, and I spent endless hours reading about all the different versions and what happened to different cast members. There’s nothing like filling your head up with tons and tons of useless information. I might actually get more writing done if I didn’t do this so much, but it’s hard to stop with the internet always at my finger tips.
What do you do when you decide to put out your second book, or movie, or album? You want to go bigger, badder, faster, and crazier. At least up the ante from your first effort, right? The last thing you want is to hit that “sophomore slump”. Well, Matt decided to take that thought and inject it with cocaine, or meth, or maybe…an energy drink. Motherfucking Black Skull of Death is about a hundred times wilder and weirder than his first effort The ADHD Vampire.
The neighborhood kids favorite energy drink is tampered with and causes anybody who drinks it to turn into an insane monstrosity. A huge muscle bound beast with rock-like sores covering their bodies and a giant ding-a-Ling. Vince and his crew of horny ne’er do wells are always picking on nerds like Hairy Harry and Stevie. At some point they all ingest the tainted energy drink and become sex monsters. Then eventually do battle in the streets destroying all kinds of property and each other. There’s also a girl in the picture who likes Stevie, Janet, who is extremely weird In her own right. Like talking to her stuff animals who seem to also talk back. The story also cuts to others that get ahold of the drink such as an elderly woman in a nursing home and a man who has some weird sexual appetites pet dog.
It’s all pretty insane. The whole story is absurd in a good way and way over the top. Basically an X-rated adult swim cartoon in novel form. If you love Bizarro this one is a can’t miss.
This is my brother’s second novella after The ADHD Vampire out now from Morbidbooks.
Welcome to the new Red All Over. I’ll be posting writing updates, book reviews, and pretty much anything else I feel like posting. Most of which will be writing related in some way. Hopefully, I don’t slack off here like I did with my last blog and produce some quality content in the coming months.
First of all I have decided to start a new crime fiction magazine called Affiliated. Why call it Affiliated? Well, I’m looking for crime fiction of course, but I wanted to put a little twist on it. I’m wanting cross-genre crime fiction. Stuff with a horror edge, or maybe some sort of fantastical element to go with it. Not just straight detective fiction (which I like to an extent) or thug lit (for lack of a better term). But, think more speculative. Maybe have the detective be an angel or demon. Write about a thief who steals from a mummy. A junkie addicted to blood or pus. Anything, as long as it is crime related in some way. Horror, fantasy, bizarro, but featuring criminals and cops. I think you get the picture. If interested head over to Affiliated and check it out.