Check out http://thisisby.us/ and look for the "genres" tab, pull down and select "fiction." My mini-fable, Avram and Sera, is posted there. This site rates stuff based on user feedback. I'm not sure how it works, but I figure I'll find out shortly. (The little photo next to my name is H.P. Lovecraft.)
I've done it now. I've joined a book group of sorts at Barnes & Noble (bn.com) on crime fiction. I got a fancy invite in my Hard Case Crime monthly shipment. So, look for Mark_OC if you drop in. And I found an interesting writing spot called thisisby.us which says: write for the world. get paid. I'm M.C. O'Connor there. I feel like Sybil--dissociative identity disorder (called multiple personality disorder in the book). I write this blog. I write another blog about the Giants. I comment at two other Giants blogs. I write a homebrewing blog. I'm living in the public nets (that's a phrase from Greg Bear's Moving Mars) like an insect ensnared in a spiderweb, tendrils of cybersilk wrapping themselves around me limb by limb. I try to keep the 'real' physical me attached to the earth by writing by hand in my daily log. I use cheap bics and dollar-store compostion books. I think it helps.
When wealthy husbands cheated on their wives, Matt Cadd saw his cash flow improve. He fiddled with the telephoto lens and watched the bedroom window. Any moment, the lamp would come on and he would have his shot.
Smile, you dumb bastard, he thought, it might be your last.
Ten score and 13 years ago, our fathers brought forth a new notion, conceived in a distillery, and dedicated to the proposition that all men deserve a good drink.
1794 is given as the "date" of The Whiskey Rebellion, which actually took place over several years. Allegheny County in western Pennsylvania was a hotbed of sedition, but the hatred of an internal excise tax was as American as apple pie in those days, and folks all over, not just the rural west, opposed the federal effort. Big Daddy George and his buddy Alex had to pay the War debts, and taxing the hillbilly whiskey-men was as good a source of revenue as any other. After all, drinking is sin, and these blue-blood Virginia aristocrats just couldn't abide the notion that free folks could make all they wanted and barter with it up and down the rivers of commerce the young nation enjoyed. (Never mind that Washington was a brewer and a distiller.) Maybe Aaron Burr shot Hamilton because they never sat down and had a drink together. Real men can settle their differences over a few jars, eh?
William Blake's "Songs of Innocence and Experience" forms the thematic motif of Richard Aleas' newest Hard Case Crime novel, Songs of Innocence. Richard Aleas is the anagrammatic pen name (alias, get it?) of Charles Ardai, an accomplished entrepeneur, writer and publisher (Hard Case is his creation). His novel Little Girl Lost (HCC-004) won a Shamus Award in 2005. Songs of Innocence (HCC-033) has the same protagonist, New York City P.I. John Blake, and explores the same netherworld of the sex industry. Novel one was strippers and strip clubs, novel two is hookers and massage parlors. Aleas does a brilliant job of updating the P.I. for the 21st century. Our boy John is a scholarly type, boyish and slight of build. He uses cell phones, e-mail and the Internet. He's no Mike Hammer, but his bull-headedness and moral outrage winds up pitting him against all sorts of hoods, hitmen, gangsters and other tough guys. Little Girl Lost was prologue, and without giving away too much, Songs of Innocence is epilogue. My lovely bride and I like to read books out loud together (the Hard Case books are great for this), and we tackled both of young Mr. Blake's adventures this way. Little Girl Lost was a straightforward missing person/mistaken identity tale. Brisk and suspenseful, we identified with our hero's quest, and forgave him his foibles. "A Little Girl Lost" is actually the title of one of William Blake's "Innocence" poems. Much of the P.I. genre deals with the struggle to maintain hope and integrity (innocence) in a corrupt and tawdry world (experience), and LGL is no exception, as John Blake has to learn hard realities about his youthful dreams. Songs of Innocence isa far darker tale, and is set a few years later, and John Blake is now an ex-P.I., getting out of the business before it destroyed him. Bad things happen, though, and he finds his way back in. Unfortunately his bloody quest for truth and understanding almost bordered on parody. Our hero would stick his head in the guillotine, almost get it chopped off, and then do it again. And again. Everyone told him to look out, the blade would soon fall, but he would push on doggedly. I appreciate a good story of obsession, or even madness (think Jim Thompson), but Songs of Innoncence was almost tiresome. That's unfortunate, because I like Mr. Aleas' writing, and I've blogged quite a bit about my enthusiasm for Hard Case. Suffice to say we had looked forward to spending time with a new and improved John Blake after his fine debut in LGL, and were a bit disappointed by the new version we got in SOI. Funny how the more hard-boiled story was less appealing! Nonetheless, Aleas is a strong writer and I look forward to more from him.
This week I got my hands on The Executioners by John D. MacDonald. This is pre-Travis McGee stuff from the late fifties. and later became the movie Cape Fear with Robert Mitchum (re-made more recently with Robert DeNiro). My copy is a neat little hardcover book club edition with a slightly worn dust jacket. A great find (and I'm not telling)! At the local library book sale this morning, I found another interesting book, Ed McBain's 1997 effort Goldilocks. It is not one of his 87th Precinct tales. It, too, is a book club hardcover with a worn jacket. Finally, this afternoon, the new (#2) MURDALAND arrived in the mail. That is a noir score, to be sure. Tune in later for reviews.
Today is the 50th anniversary of SPUTNIK. I want to thank the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for launching that tiny satellite a few years before I was born. Here's why: Sputnik caused a panic in the U.S.A. and one of the consequences of this panic was the reform science education. My high school years (1973-1977) were post-Sputnik reform years. That is, the curricula and methods were a direct result of the demand for more rigor and theory in science education, and an expectation that students would DO science. That experience was a godsend for me. I LOVED science in high school. It shaped my life--I became a science teacher. The second consequence of Sputnik was The Space Race. When I was 9, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. I watched the Apollo flights religiously. The awe and wonder that that event inspired in that little boy changed him forever. I have never stopped looking to the stars. The movie 2001: A Space Odyssey came out the previous year. I watched it when I was boy, and it blew my little mind. The enigma captivated me, and to this day I read and watch SF. (And I have never stopped being amazed and bewildered by Kubrick's transcendent film.)
I have to crow a little bit--my California Golden Bears beat the University of Oregon Ducks this past Saturday in a thrilling game at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. Here in northern Siskiyou County, despite the presence of many Cal alumni, the hoi polloi identify with Oregon. The State of California is just a little too weird for this earthy cowboy community, and folks seem to feel Oregon is closer in spirit. In fact, Oregon is just a few dozen miles away. The funny thing is that the nearest Oregon town--Ashland--is so damned California in style, outlook, politics and general vibe! Ashland is a clean, upscale, mountain version of Berkeley. No matter. Medford, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, these are Oregon cities with the working class spirit Siskiyouans seem to like. Oregon State University's Beavers don't generate the enthusiam the Ducks do, even though Corvallis would be a more appealing town for most of my neighbors than Eugene. Well, the Ducks have a great team, and wins bring fans. OSU's Beavers have won back-to-back College World Series baseball titles, but the Ducks shine on the gridiron. Cal won a marvelous contest that could have gone either way. A fumble by a young Duck with seconds to go sealed a 31-24 win for the Bears. I'd screamed myself hoarse by then, and the wait for the officials to "review" the call was pure agony. Can we please get rid of TV replays? Call the damn game and move on. Of course mistakes will happen. Get over it, they are part of the game. The Bears have a long difficult season ahead, with UCLA and USC showdowns looming. But I get bragging rights here at home for a few weeks, and no matter what else happens, I'm taking advantage of that!