“Alive” in Needle Magazine

Needle Magazine Winter 2014-15I’m stoked to have ended 2014 with a short story in the same issue of NEEDLE Magazine as David Corbett, a tremendous author who was also a fantastic teacher in the LitReactor class I took from him a couple of years ago.

My short story “Alive” is in the Winter 2014-15 issue of NEEDLE, along with stories by David, Sarah Askins, Jeff Barr, C.M. Beckett, Nigel Bird, Kim Bradley, Steve De Jarnatt, Paul J. Garth, Ed Kurtz, Elahzar Rao, Chris Rhatigan, Albert Tucher, and Laura Woollett. Scott Morse did the excellent cover art.

“Alive” — which borrows its title from a song by The Throes — is set in January 1953. Here’s the opening paragraph:

Grigor Dragunov remembered when Leningrad was Petrograd. He also remembered when it was Saint Petersburg. No matter what the government decided to call the seaport city, it was a miserably cold place to live at the end of January. A bone-chilling wind leaked through the thin walls of his small third-floor apartment, and the moment he stepped out of bed his arthritis flared up. He swallowed two aspirin, as advised by his doctor — assuming the fool had a genuine medical degree, which Grigor doubted — but experience had taught him a better way to dull the pain: vodka.

NEEDLE’s always a fantastic read, full of top-notch fiction. I can’t wait to get my hands on this issue. You can buy a copy here.

By the way, David Corbett’s teaching a four-week LitReactor class starting January 13. Sign up for The Craft of Character. I promise you won’t regret it.

The Art of Character by David Corbett

The Art of CharacterNovelist David Corbett (author of Do They Know I’m Running?, Blood of Paradise, Done for a Dime and The Devil’s Redhead) is a great teacher. I can say this from first-hand experience, because I took one of his classes (“Writing Crime Fiction”) at LitReactor.com. So if you get the chance to take a class with David, I highly recommend it.

But if not, you can try his new book (just out today!), The Art of Character. When I first about the book a month or two ago, I pre-ordered it immediately.

But you don’t need to rely on my endorsement. No less a writer than Edgar winner Megan Abbott (author of Dare Me, The End of Everything, etc.) says this about The Art of Character: “Indispensable. Few are the writer’s guides that are written as beautifully, cogently, and intelligently as a well-wrought novel. This is one of those books.”

Corbett explained why he believes The Art of Character is helpful in this blog post at Murderati: “Few if any of the books on writing I reviewed, even the ones I admired, offered any real guidance on how to conjure that organically whole yet emotionally complex hobgoblin we think of as a fully realized character.”

At Jungle Red Writers, he was interviewed by Deborah Crombie, and explained how the book came to be.

I can’t wait to dig into The Art of Character, and I know that my writing will be much better for having done so.

NoirCon2012 Recap

NoirCon 2012NoirCon 2012, a small convention dedicated to the art of noir, has come to an end. I also attended NoirCon 2010 (it takes place every other year, so the next one is in 2014). Both were excellent events, packed with interesting panel discussions, one-on-one interviews and speakers. Organizer Lou Boxer does a tremendous job.

There were many, many highlights. Here are just a few:

A panel called “The Movie was Better” featured Lawrence Block, Anthony Bruno and Duane Swierczynski with moderator Ed Pettit. Some great tidbits: Swierczynski’s Charlie Hardy books (Fun & Games, Hell & Gone, Point & Shoot) have been optioned for a television series… Bruno novelized the screenplay for Seven, but the producers wouldn’t give him any video or stills as the movie was being made so he had no idea it was raining 90 percent of the time… Block was not influenced to change his burglar character Bernie Rhodenbarr in any way whatsoever after the 1987 film Burglar starring Whoopi Goldberg in the title role. (The movie also starred Bobcat Goldthwait, so what are you waiting for?)

On that panel, Block also discussed the importance of on-site research for modern writers who want to get the setting of a scene just right: “Between Google and Wikipedia, there’s no reason to ever leave your house.”

The keynote speaker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler, spoke about cinematic technique as it applies to novels. He used examples from Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon and Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (the latter, being published in 1861, obviously didn’t draw from film for inspiration, but nonetheless used the novel’s equivalent of establishing shots, slow motion, etc.). It was a great talk.

Butler’s latest novel, The Hot Country, is available from Mysterious Press and features an early 20th century war correspondent, Christopher Marlowe Cobb, who travels to Mexico during that country’s civil war and witnesses a priest being shot.

Megan Abbott may be the best panel moderator in the history of panel moderators. She’s funny, smart and keeps things moving. The True Crime panel with her, Alison Gaylin, Wallace Stroby and Dennis Tafoya was a clear standout. David Fincher’s 2007 film Zodiac was singled out several times for being an excellent true crime movie, a sentiment I completely agree with.

In the one-one-one interviews, Jeremiah Healy did a great job interviewing Otto Penzler (of Mysterious Bookshop and Mysterious Press fame), while Swierczynski did an incredibly entertaining interview with Block. The Swierczynski-Block interview was, hands down, the funniest hour of the show.

When Swierczynski pointed out that Block’s career started with Gold Medal paperbacks, which many people didn’t consider to be “real books,” and is now in the era of e-books, which many people don’t consider to be “real books,” Block responded with: “Right. I’ve been writing not-real books for over 50 years.”

The interview touched on Block’s use of pseudonyms, the speed with which he writes, the number of countries he’s visited (about 160, though “now, we’re finding that staying at home is a perfect way to prevent jet lag”), and much more.

Block’s dry sense of humor was evident throughout. Discussing one particular editor, he said, “I never met him, and I’ve always been grateful for that.” And when people ask him how he wrote a book, his answer is, “I took those particular words and put them in that particular order.”

Block said the books he’s probably most proud of are When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes (1986, featuring private investigator Matt Scudder) and Small Town (2003, a stand-alone novel).

I could go on and on, since nearly every panel, interview and speaker could qualify as a “highlight.” (I really should mention the final panel, Crime in Primetime, which featured extended discussions of the television series Breaking Bad, The Shield and Hill Street Blues. Terrific stuff.)

But for me, the best part of NoirCon was meeting so many great people, including the incredibly down-to-earth Mr. Penzler, David Corbett (I took his class at LitReactor earlier this year and he’s a wonderful teacher), fellow Temple alum Jon McGoran (whose tremendously cool-sounding book Drift will come out in July), Dustin Kurtz (marketing manager at Melville House, who was kind enough to help me find a great book for my wife: Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov), Peter Farris (author of Last Call for the Living), Shannon Clute (of NoirCast.net), Liam José (of CrimeFactory) and William Lashner (who is hilarious and made the Jewish Noir panel a riot).

UPDATED: For more about NoirCon, check out:

Gallagher has also posted some clips to YouTube. Here’s a 27-minute clip from the keynote address by Robert Olen Butler:

Here’s a 30-minute clip from the Swierczynski-Block interview:

And here’s a four-minute clip of Block from the awards ceremony, in which he discusses David Goodis:

Killing Yourself to Survive

David Corbett‘s short story collection Killing Yourself to Survive — described as “seven stories of desperation and death” — is out today. (Here’s the book on Amazon.) I took a class (“Writing Crime Fiction”) that Corbett taught earlier this year on LitReactor.com, and he’s fantastic, so I’ll be reading this one with enthusiasm.

Corbett’s novels include Do They Know I’m Running?, Blood of Paradise, Done for a Dime, and The Devil’s Redhead. He’s also been featured in numerous short story anthologies.