Monday, June 27, 2011
I finished up the last signing for The Ranger
last Thursday in Jackson, Mississippi. But on Sunday I had a chance to speak to Francois Busnel
, host of La Grande Librairie
-- an extremely popular show in France focusing on writers. Can you imagine a show in America talking to writers instead of Real Housewives or fifth rate celebrities attempting to dance?
I met Francois in Memphis on Beale Street to discuss race, music, and the complexities of the South. The French are endlessly fascinated with Southern culture. They also love classic noir. So in the last few years, my Nick Travers stories have enjoyed a nice run of success. Even though I haven't written about Nick for seven years, a French audience is just discovering the books in translation. Francois and the wonderful crew from La Grande Librairie enjoyed a nice drink together at the Peabody bar before they headed to Jackson to speak to pal, Tom Franklin and then onto New Orleans to talk with James Lee Burke. This is all for a seven-part series on American authors and the regions they write about. Other authors highlighted on the show will be Jim Harrison, Pat Conroy, and Philip Roth.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
I saw this posted on the Sundance Channel
website this morning. I agreed with the note on the post. It seems McQueen couldn't take a bad pic -- even a mug shot.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Friday, June 17, 2011
So . . . after I left the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, I joined my new pal Jim Drake for lunch at theBank of America Tower. Jim was one of the directors behind a lot of hit shows when I was a kid, everything from All in the Family, Good Times, to Alice and The Facts of Life. We spent most of lunch talking about our mutual love of Westerns, particularly Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. The tower offers the best views of Seattle and we studied it while we ate burgers and drank beer. You could almost see to Japan.
After I left Jim, I walked down to Pike Place Market
. The fish stalls were closed and the fish throwers had all gone home for the evening. I stood on First Avenue to watch the ferries chugging home against the twilight. Dinner came courtesy of Steelhead Diner
on Pine Street. I had some Copper River salmon
and local clam chowder on the side. About midway through the rhubarb-strawberry pie, I was pretty sure I'd be returning to Seattle. Not a bad place to spend 22 hours. -- Ace
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Sunday, June 12, 2011
I'm in Austin tonight at 5 for a reading at the world-famous BookPeople
. My buddy Jesse Sublett
will be singing a few murder ballads between chapters. Jesse is not only the founding member of The Skunks
but also a terrific writer of novels and histories.
On the road from Houston to Austin, I did make my annual pilgrimage to the Southside Market
in Elgin. Best brisket I've ever had.
After the reading tonight, I'll probably wander down to the Texas Chili Parlor
for some Shiner Bocks
. You may know the bar from Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof
. The inside of the bar looks pretty much like the movie. But you won't find a parking lot or back porch. That was added from Tarantino's imagination. Here is one of my favorite scenes
in the movie with music by Joe Tex
Speaking of Quentin. I think Quentin would definitely appreciate Quinn. Much like Death Proof
, The Ranger is my tribute to some of those terrific 1970s drive-in movies
. More on that tomorrow . . .
Saturday, June 11, 2011
It's been a couple days since my last post. It's been pretty damn busy.
THE RANGER tour kicked off to a great start in my home town of Oxford, Mississippi on Thursday.
My thanks to everyone who came for the Square Books reading and carried the event on over to the City Grocery bar.
Yesterday, I hit the road on up to Blytheville, Arkansas at the famous That Bookstore in Blytheville
. The owner Mary Gay Shipley is one of my favorite people in the book biz and that sentiment is echoed by Bill Clinton and John Grisham who make her store a regular stop.
I just landed in Houston this afternoon for a 4:30 signing at Murder By the Book
. This is my first signing there after the death of my great friend, David Thompson. Very strange to be here without him. Above is a very typical of photo of me and David drinking after the book reading and talking old movies and books.
Tomorrow I drive over to Austin to read at Bookpeople
and hang out with my pals, Jesse Sublett
and Scott Montgomery. Thinking maybe some natural barbecue from Ruby's and a few Shiners.
Monday night I'll be at A Real Bookstore
(yep, that's the name) outside Dallas in Fairview for a cocktail party/reading at 6 p.m.. If you're in the area, please stop by. Apparently they've created a cocktail just for The Ranger
made with plenty of Jack Daniels. Man, I love Texas!
Monday, June 6, 2011
I confess to a perverse love of a subgenre I call redneck noir. Redneck noir, like all noir, offers a maximum of violence and a minimum of sentimentality, but it has the additional blessing of being acted out in the darkest recesses of the not-always-sunny South by people who prove themselves to be more dangerously disturbed than citizens of other, more tranquil regions.
Redneck noir has illustrious roots in Southern literature. One of its most sublime moments comes at the end of Flannery O’Connor’s great story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find
,” when the maniac known as the Misfit, after killing a silly old woman, reflects, “She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
Elsewhere, William Faulkner
gave us the backwoods sadist Popeye and the upwardly mobile white-trash clan of Snopeses; Erskine Caldwell embraced redneck noir in novels such as “God’s Little Acre
”; and John D. MacDonald
often set Travis McGee in conflict with narrow-eyed, big-bellied Southern psychopaths with names like Billy Bob and Bubba.
” is a fine example of the subgenre. Atkins, who lives on a farm outside Oxford, Miss., has written eight previous novels, all or most set in the South, but this one begins a new series about an Army ranger named Quinn Colson. The novel’s plot is unoriginal. Colson, a tough survivor of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, returns to his home town for the funeral of his uncle, the local sheriff, who is said to have killed himself. He learns that his uncle might have been murdered and sets out to find the truth. Along the way, he must deal with various family problems — including a sister who has become a lap dancer — as well as with his high school sweetheart, who has married one of his best friends. A pregnant girl of 16 with a six-shooter in her backpack also complicates his life.
We’ve passed this way before, but what brings the story roaring to life is that it takes place in northern Mississippi, up near Memphis, in a fictional Tibbehah County that is populated by some of the most ignorant, mean-spirited, violent and generally deranged human beings who ever walked the Earth. We’re given a close look at a gang that is pumping methamphetamine into the county. At the bottom level are zonked-out teenage followers of a psychopath called Gowrie, who is preparing them for a Holy War of some sort. Above them in the food chain is Johnny Stagg, a latter-day Snopes who’s getting rich off meth and truck-stop prostitution and naturally has political ambitions. Farther up the line, in Memphis, are mobsters no one wants to think about.
Our ranger’s quest for justice is punctuated by choice moments of Southern-fried noir. A crazed evangelist vowed to save the life of a rich man with cancer: “Even when the man died, the preacher didn’t give up, refusing to let folks take the body from the church, letting the man lay there for nearly a week, telling everyone that he could raise [him] from the dead.” A senile gangster, during a gun battle in a convenience store, “found a spot up by the cash register, where he thumbed through porno mags and drank a beer, every so often giving a low whistle and saying, ‘Hot dang.’ ” Atkins has an unerring sense of the rural underworld of trailer parks, truck stops and meth labs.
Perhaps the reader must be a son or daughter of Dixie to fully appreciate Atkins’s dark vision. O’Connor used to say that she didn’t write about grotesques, just people she knew. In any event, “The Ranger” is a joy ride into the heart of darkness. Its plot may sound a bit likeLee Child’s
Jack Reacher novels — ex-military killing machine takes on local toughs — but the Reacher series increasingly strikes me as expertly crafted comic books, whereas Atkins does more with characters and a sense of place. If anything, “The Ranger” recalls the hard-edged crime novels of Greg Iles, although Iles’s books are set in the more sophisticated (these things are relative) world of Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. Neither Atkins nor Iles writes pretty or uplifting stories, but their books ring true, at least if you’re not looking for magnolias and moonlight.
Anderson regularly reviews mysteries and thrillers for The Post.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
In his size -- he was 6-foot-7 -- and his centeredness, James Arness suggested John Wayne, to whose production company he was under contract before he became the star of “Gunsmoke.” For 20 years, from 1955 to 1975, Arness, who died Friday at the age of 88, played Marshal Matt Dillon in what, along with “Law & Order,” is the longest-lived drama on American television. READ ENTIRE L.A. TIMES OBIT
Friday, June 3, 2011
If you happen to get the Documentary Channel, check out "Honeyboy and the History of the Blues" tonight. I'm a featured interview in the doc, talking about the myth and legend surrounding Robert Johnson. Remember him? He was the subject of my very first novel in 1998. Be sure to also check out my beard. I had forgotten I had a beard when this thing was shot about ten years ago. I kind of miss the beard.
"Honeyboy and the History of the Blues"
(June 3, 8 pm ET/PT) -- A legendary musician -- a a performer at the inauguration of President Barack Obama -- David "Honeyboy" Edwards was born on a plantation, hopped trains playing guitar around the country at age 16 and became an early pioneer of the musical phenomenon known as The Blues. Featuring interviews with Edwards, B.B. King and other Blues greats, "Honeyboy" is a biographical journey that is as much the story of the man as it is about the music that he helped to create.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
This week Joan Parker was the guest on NPR's "Here and Now."
She gives a tour of her home in Cambridge and talks about her relationship with her late husband. Listen until the end of the segment for a teaser on the new Spenser books. This year I've had the immense pleasure of getting to know Joan. You learn why Bob dedicated all those books to her.
Also check out today's piece in the Boston Globe about Bob's desk
. I had the honor of chatting with Joan earlier this year in this very special place.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Andy Griffith turns 85 today.
A real American icon, I don't think there is a town in America that doesn't get reruns of the "Andy Griffith Show."
Like many people my age, there hasn't been a time I don't recall Sheriff Andy Taylor and the gang. But my favorite role for Griffith had to be as Lonesome Rhodes in the brilliant -- and somewhat forgotten -- Face In the Crowd.
If you haven't seen this picture, you should rent it. Today. One of my all-time favorite films and one that really showcases the range of Griffith, a darkness and madness that's not to be missed.
But let's go back to Sheriff Andy for a moment.
Someone the other day asked me what The Ranger
series is about. And I replied, "it's a very gritty version of the 'Andy Griffith Show.'" Just imagine Andy as a hardened Afghan war vet, Barney as a massive black wounded Iraqi war vet, and Opie as a mixed-race child of mysterious parentage.
I absolutely had the show in mind as I started this series. And my greatest thanks to Mr. Griffith today for his inspiration. Now someone let Otis
out of the drunk tank.
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