So what have you been up to for the past year? It feels as if there’s something that’s been happening that has kinda gotten in the way of the normal flow of our lives. It’s on the tip of my tongue. Huh.
Anyway, I’ve taken the year-long opportunity to finish writing not one, not two, but three crime novels. Long-time readers of mine know that my first novel was the short-and-sweet-and-pulpy The Naked Dame, a throwback detective novel set in 1950s Los Angeles. It was a joy to write, in the vein of James Cain or Raymond Chandler, and I guess you’d call it my shout-out to my dear ol’ departed Dad, who introduced me to old-school L.A. and film noir and pulp fiction while I was growin’ up. The Naked Dame was also an experimental first novel for me, getting me accustomed to the pacing and rhythms of longer-form fiction. Although I took a break from crime fiction to write the Blood trilogy, I knew I’d come back to the genre eventually, and indeed that’s what I started to do in 2018 and 2019. Over the next couple years, I’d write and polish one big book and also two shorter crime novels, ending up with three separate novels finished in 2020 and 2021. Hey, I had to do something with all that quarantine time.
A Small Poisonous Act is the first of these new novels. It’s a long suburban crime tale (124,000 words!)—as yet unpublished—focusing on the inhabitants of a neighborhood street in Fort Collins, Colorado. Told from a number of unique perspectives, A Small Poisonous Act is about the secrets we all keep from one another, and how, in this particular case, those secrets can explode in our faces all at once. You could say that this book has become a metaphor for the 2020 quarantine. It’s insular, in that it takes place entirely on one street, and it has a preoccupation with the lives we live behind closed doors. It’s also about that quiet explosiveness that can happen to the best of us when we’re bottled up or trapped in a corner. This book is my sprawling attempt to capture a “suburban noir” feeling that I really enjoy in the fiction of Tom Perrotta or Megan Abbott.
Loser Baby is the second of the two new books, and this one is the craziest of the three. Taking place in Santa Ana, California, close to where I grew up, it follows a motley crew of characters as they navigate a drugged-out urban scene and deal with a crime that has suddenly taken place in their midst. As with A Small Poisonous Act, I wanted to explore points of view, and this book has several of them. But it focuses most strongly on Jasmine, whose story arc resonated strongly with me as I wrote. This is the book I decided I wanted to get out to you first, because I think it’s the most fun of the lot. Late last year, I decided to publish this one through Dark Highway Press, and so I commissioned a local cover artist named Mark Morris, who came up with a striking cover based on my ideas. (See below.) My ol’ buddy Kirk Whitham laid out the book for me, and we’re aiming for a June 2021 release.
The third book, just finished, is called Tessa Goes Down, and it’s what you call a “two-hander.” Told from two back-and-forth rat-a-tat perspectives, Tessa Goes Down is also about secrets: two people falling in love (and gettin’ nasty) as they deal with their own secrets from each other—while they’re suddenly on the run together. The book takes place partially at the Texas/Mexico border and tackles a lot of the division of the past four years, a period of time that one of the two characters dubs the “Age of the Asshole,” because is there any other name for it? As I wrote, Tessa Goes Down became my final take on the T____ years, when the United States full-on embraced its asshole-ness. I’m SO anxious to hear your take on this book, because it totally adheres to that essence of noir fiction, that bleak hopeless darkness that’s coming for you whether you’re ready for it or not.
So those are the projects that I’ll be dealing with in the coming months—publishing them, marketing them, talking about them, giving them away to contest winners! Watch for more specific information about each one as I release them, and thanks as always for checking them out!