Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
Buon Giorno, Amici!

Our motto ...

Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Thursday, May 28, 2009

We got sod … Feeding the boids … The Yin and Yang of it all … Johnny Porno finds a home ...


Welcome to Temporary Knucksline. I have no idea how long this will last and/or if it’ll remain the new Knucksline (away from the webpage) but here it is.

For those uninitiated with Knucksline, it isn’t much more than a journal (usually weekly, sometimes bi-weekly) I use to rid myself of nervous writing energy. Sometimes it’ll be fun. Sometimes it’ll get boring (usually when it comes to politics and/or sports, depending on which floats and/or sinks your boat) and sometimes the DOC will having something to say (but he is always entertaining).

And here’s a roster of the usual suspects:

Knucks … the ugly one … the Knuckman … Knucklespeare … Knucklemania: that would be me.

The Generalissimo: that would be me also.

Charlie: The Knuckman’s imaginary brother.

The Principessa Ann Marie … the boss … the cappo di tutti cappi … the wife … and the always popular old ball and chain: Ann Marie Cucci-Stella (don't you hate hyphenated names?).

Rigoletto: … our fierce diabetic Bichon Frise.

The brats: … my kids, in order of their earthly appearance: Nicole, Charles (not Charlie) and Dustin.

Momma Stella: … The toughest broad I know ... my mommy.

The DOC: … an incredibly talented writer, dear friend, certified (as in awarded) gun nut and marksman … and my substitute father (although he’s old enough to be my grandfather).

Spartacus: … the super mouse that has taken over Casa Stella.

Casa Stella (pronounced Stey-la): … the joint we bought last summer.

With the introductions out of the way … welcome to Temporary Knucksline's first ever post (with a cool surprise ending about a new book of mine).


We got sod … It does my heart good to see the Principessa Ann Marie out and about at 5:00 a.m. to water HER lawn. Last week we got sod. This week we got crankiness in the morning. While I no longer have to do the 3:00 a.m. wake up to get to the gym for 4:00 a.m. (thanks to being laid off from a weekend gig), I still sometimes wake up bright and early (Wednesday, 2:35 a.m.) and wind up heading out to the gym to get it over with. Now the boss gets to join in some of the pre-dawn fun when she has to “soak her sod” … until the sodding of Casa Stella, waking her up fell on me remembering at 5:30 a.m. to yell up the stairs, “Hey, doll face, wake up!” To which she always responded (with definite angst in her voice) “I’m up, I’m up!”

Feeding the boids … the cool thing about all this sod soaking is feeding the boids … which I really have started to enjoy. Watching the little fellas (and gals, I suppose) flock down in a frenzy for that generic white bread (I can’t stand to eat anyway) is actually fun. Of course Spartacus isn’t particularly happy about this form of socialism, but I always remember to leave a skirt stake out to defrost (so he doesn’t chip his molars) before we leave for work.

The Yin and Yang of it all … I’ve finished reading David Payne’s Confessions of a Taoist on Wall Street and was telling the boss about the most wonderful aspect of this read being the absolute emotional tug of war (speaking of Ying & Yang) readers will experience as they follow the adventures of half-Chinese/half-American, Sun I (pronounced Sun-Yee) as he confronts life outside the Taoist priesthood (he’d been dedicated to) to pursue an ultimate enlightenment (through his American father’s world) on Wall Street (the Tao within the Dow and vice versa). Confessions is a lesson in philosophy and vocabulary amidst so much more. While the author can write spot-on dialogue of any kind (including Brooklynese), his vocabulary (for this reader) requires a dictionary be handy. I was jotting down words (to look up later) like a dervish.

Confessions starts in China and ends up in lower Manhattan. We root for this guy at every turn, even when we see him turning from mellow to monster … he’s befriended by another Chinese-American already living here. Wo is one of life’s poor slobs who (like so many of us) works hard while constantly falling behind … he owns his own restaurant in Chinatown and has two daughters (one gorgeous, the other pretty; the former somewhat icily pragmatic, the other mellow and forgiving). We want Sun I to fall for the latter, of course (Yin-Mi), but he falls for the former (Li). And just when we think we can safely dislike Li, that old Yin and Yang acts up again and we find ourselves rooting for her (to escape). Hey, no spoilers here … go read the thing. It’s a terrific book by one of my favorite American authors. The characters are as rich as any I’ve ever read. Payne paints Wall Street with the Dickensian brush it deserves. My favorite character throughout this wonderful read was a Jewish seat holder named Kahn. This guy’s monologues are Roth-like. He’s hilarious and profound. Author Payne is from the south, but you’ll never guess it. The bonus (to all great reads, I feel) is the education you get: Confessions offers Chinese philosophy, Greek mythology, all forms of literature and poetry, Yiddish, business (to include stock market parlance) and a genuine touch of New York (and China). This guy (David Payne) is one of the best around, amici … so go read him.

Johnny Porno finds a home … finalmentamia, amici, Johnny Porno has found a home. Stark House Press, which until JP, only published reprints, is veering into unchartered territory with our latest effort. Here’s how my agent described it to potential publishers:

It's the summer of 1973 and John Albano is a former construction worker with child support and rent payments he can't keep up with by driving for a Brooklyn car service, but then it's his quick hands and honorable nature that ultimately place him squarely in the middle of a perfect storm of danger.

Albano is just trying to make ends meet when he takes a weekend stint counting heads and collecting the take at illegal screenings of the recently banned porno film Deep Throat for Mafioso Eddie Vento. But a devious ex-wife, her more devious ex-husband, the wiseguys behind the film (including one obnoxious wannabe with a frenzied beef for Albano), the Fleetwood Eldorado used in the opening scene of the porno film and a host of cops (both good and bad-including the deranged one Albano punched out) snowball into an often humorous, sometimes violent, action-packed page turner loaded with the masterful dialogue that earned Charlie Stella six *starred* reviews and countless comparisons to such masters of the genre as Elmore Leonard, George V. Higgins, Donald Westlake and Mario Puzo over the course of his six contemporary crime novels.

Basically, amici, it’s a nostalgic look at 1973 New York/Americana (a complete rip-off idea {the nostalgia aspect} from Craig McDonald’s two brilliant crime novels, Head Games and Toros and Torsos (T&T is my favorite between the two because it is loaded with GREAT Americana). After reading T&T last year, I figured I had to explore what I love reading most—American history/nostalgia.

What the government did in 1973 (in its infinite incompetence) was provide organized crime with a second prohibition-like financial score when the New York Court banned the porno flick Deep Throat. I highly recommend the documentary about the film, by the way, Inside Deep Throat. It’s why I wrote the book in the first place. The boss and I watched the documentary and as soon as it was over, looked to each other and simultaneously said (I kid yous not), “Next book.” I had a lot of fun with this baby and was amazed to find how many things had happened the week I randomly chose to start the novel in August of 1973. The dialogue inherent to the characters was fun to write and delving into some other cultural/political issues (regarding gays on the police force, etc.) made the research all the more rewarding. And it just so happens that the year 1973 was when the NYPD started up an organized crime division, which permitted me to reach back to prior books of mine for some favorite characters.

It is wonderful to find a publisher so enthused as to veer in a new direction. Greg Shepard at Stark House made it feel right again. I can't thank him (and Ed) enough. We (the old ball and chain and I) look very forward to moving on … yous have no idea how much so.

Well, some of yous might.

Ed Gorman was the man behind the scenes in all this and to whom Johnny Porno will be dedicated. Tonight he posted this on his blog: