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).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Doc apologizes?


Say it ain't so. Here he is ... Mr. Warmth & Compassion ...

Okay, Chaz,

My head is lowered and I stand properly chastised. You’re so adorable when you are bathed in the warm glow of righteous indignation. I’ll bet the Principessa pulls all kinds of mean tricks on you just to see that glow. Not really mean ... just cute things. Like hemming your pants an inch every night, so you think that you’re getting taller. Putting vodka in your water bowl. Mixing some crack in with your pipe tobacco. You know, cute stuff like that.

And now the Principessa is a blonde. Warm glow, notwithstanding it is probably time to get your ticket punched, Chaz, cause this sounds like the end of the line for you. If you’re smart you’ll buy one of those double door refrigerators in the next few days, so at least you will have a nice box to live in when she throws your fat ass out.

Getting back to the election, in my defense I thought we were considering the standard three choice question:

a) Fredo

b) Some Repubican with great hair.

c) Some Independent who looks like a naughty stewardess.

I didn’t realize you were also considering:

d) We string them all up and start from scratch.

Once you throw (d) into the mix it sort of makes (a), (b) and (c) irrelevant.

You bring the torches. I just need to touch up the edge on my pitchfork. Let me know where we’re all going to meet. I’ll bring cookies.

Ridiculous news item of the week:

Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly claimed that the NYPD can now shoot down aircraft in emergencies. It is believed his secret tactic is shooting a .50 caliber rifle from a helicopter. Well, Ray, I’ve got a penis and an air mattress in the back of my truck. That doesn’t mean I’ll be schtupping Emily Deschanel just because I want to.

By the way, Ray, exactly how many shots did it take to bring down Amadou Diallo? (and he wasn’t going 300mph)

To wrap things up, we’re still friends, you actually have a job, the Bills won three games and the Principessa hasn’t left you yet. Life is good, Bunkie!

Smell the roses (or the ravioli)

Your pal,


Monday, September 26, 2011

How ‘bout those Buffalo Bills!


They’re still partying up in Buffalo ... and this 18 second video says it all ...

Last night the ugly one broke out the Chivas and did some damage as my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills dealt out some revenge against the Cheatriots of New England, their prima donna QB, their nefarious coach (who was caught filming other team defenses and had to pay an out-of-(Kraft’s)-pocket fine) and their always annoying fans ...

After spotting them 21 points in the first half, when owner Robert Kraft’s payoffs to officials was most evident with all the penalty flags thrown against us (you tackle Wes Welker a little too hard and you get a flag ... you stare at Miss Brady a little too long and you get two flags, etc.). Even with the under the table envelope Kraft slipped the refs for the first half (assuming his statistic machine wouldn’t blow the free 21 points), our beloved New York State Buffalo Bills were not to be denied.

We still had to play the second half ... and the stampede was on!

The prima donna was picked off not once ... not twice .... not three times ... but four times (count’em again), with the last one going back to the house for a score. And did yous see Miss Brady giving chase on that one? Sweet Jesus, Tom, don’t put yourself out or anything, you might get turf toe ...

Before the start of the season, the big mouth from New Jersey, fatso Rex Ryan, asked the rest of the NFL to beat the Cheatriots.

Listen, you fat fuck, we not only beat the Patriots, we’re gonna whip your fat ass too. That pathetic offense (ground and pound this) and Swiss cheese defense (how many rushing yards did you give up yesterday?) is no match for the stampede.

And the Stampede is on!

Go Bills!


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Blondie(s)! And TK responds to the Doc ...


So I come home from work Friday night prepared for our Friday night Mexican dinner date and there’s a strange, beautiful tomata’ waiting for me inside casa Stella. Ever the debonair, soave bolla, romantic type, I say, “Wifey, Madonna mia, wanna’ fool around first?”

This is some big deal, amici. Remember I haven’t eaten dinner yet.

“You like it?” she asked.

“Are you kiddin’ me? Forgetaboutit (the really good forgetaboutit), I love it. I just wish there was something I could do to myself for you.”

I could see her wheels turning. Recently she applied for a gun permit, for one thing ... and I’ve seen her practicing with knives, but eventually she settled on, “Let’s go to dinner, fatso, before I change my mind.”

Ten years ago, the wife had a crush on Ali G ...

But settled for me ...

It'll be ten years this January, amici ... that’s what I’m talkin’ about. We headed down to the Bahamas ... the honeymooners ...

Give the woman credit, amici ... this is what she has to put up with these days ...

And sometimes this ... (my kids call me the Phat Dad) ...

Now, it's on to Mr. Compassion, the Doc. First of all, sir Doc, say hello to my friend Maria ...

As for the movie reviews ... stuff this in your can of Pabst and drink it:

And thirdly, Mr. Doc ... my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills are 2-0 going into Sunday’s game vs. the Cheatriots. There’s no fantasy there, pal o’mine.

And now onto Doc’s politics. It was GOP Presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney who recently claimed, “Corporations are people.”

(The pick above was borrowed from Ben Whitmer’s blog) ...

Republicans vs. Obama ... TK beg’s to differ with the Doc (that bastion of warmth and compassion). First off, the list of perpetrators in the last Republican debate should not be measured against Obama. While I have no doubt any self-respecting moron can run the office of President better than Mr. Obama, the list of Republican candidates (like the President himself) have thus far failed to measure up to self-respecting moron status. Did you (Doc) see the debate the other night? The way we at TK see it, the difference between the next major party president and the last one (like this one and the one before him) is so negligible and inconsequential (meaning they will do whatever they can for those who own them versus those who vote for them), it makes ZERO difference which party gets their man (or woman) into the oval office.

Well, since Doc is not on Facebook, here’s a repeat of what I learned from the Republican Debate (minus the typos) ...

Rick Santorum: He wants to stay in Iraq, Afghanistan and sounded as if maybe we should start a few more wars because “Americans want a victory” ... he also wants to reverse our military policy regarding gays, except his cover for that was “Sex doesn’t belong in the military.” Straight from the dark ages ... I’ll assume he has the support of his immediate family ...

Herman Cain: Funny guy, but I don’t think he’s figured out he’s the token African-American on their stage ...

Newt Gingrich: He still looks like the kid from A League of Their Own ... you know the kid who you wanted to slap the shit out of ...

Gov. Gary Johnson: Who?

Rick Perry: Exposed once again as somebody who makes George W. Bush look intelligent (think about how hard that is) ...

Michele Bachmann: She wants us to keep every dollar we earn. I guess she’ll be holding bake sales for the construction of America’s infrastructure, paying the military bills, social security, etc. The woman remains a nonsensical candidate.

Ron Paul: Poor Ron ... he’s lost it of late. He used to be somewhat engaging, but he’s probably done more to damage the libertarian cause this election than help it.

Jon Huntsman: If this guy looked anymore programmed, he could be a robot ... that said, he’s probably the most intelligent guy up there (which is NOT saying much). His wanting to get out of Afghanistan was refreshing (to everyone except Santorum, but he’s nuts) ... I guess he just doesn’t have the support because he served a Democratic President ...

Mitt Romney: I guess he was the big winner last night, although I still don’t see how or why. At this point, I see Romney as Obama has been to Bush (sometimes Bush III, sometimes Bush Light and sometimes Bush on Steroids). He has about the same spine (jello) and I’m not sure which candidate has less conviction in what they espouse (Obama or Romney).

Again, I don’t see why the Republicans are running anybody against Obama. He’s done more for their corporate cause than any GOP President I can remember ...

As for Doc’s request that I not waste my vote (because just like lemmings on the Democratic side of the zero sum equation) Doc’s version of the lesser of two evils might lose ... well, what a great idea that is!

Talk about votes being tampons!

Vote for somebody you don’t believe can (or will) support what you want because the other side won’t do what you support, except, as it turned out (yet again), the one you wanted didn’t support (except rhetorically) what you wanted.


You betcha ... but even more confusing is watching Democrats and Republicans pick at each others’ scabs while the powerbrokers who own both major parties have a good laugh all the way to the bank. The message from both sides is simple: This is the very best we have, so choose or be a tampon, suckers.


You party faithful types can kid yourselves all you want (this includes you, Doc).  The time for revolution has come. We can either do it via the ballot box (and vote both major parties out) or in the streets the old fashioned way (clink on this revolution link) ... and looking at the next few years of ever expanding poverty in this (Sarah Palin voiceover) “great land of ours”, you can bet (or betcha) your bottom dollar the streets are getting a lot more attractive to those losing everything they’ve been conned into thinking was an American dream.

Right now, for all intents and purposes, the American dream has become a state sponsored lottery ticket. If that’s your purpose in life, to be richer than the next guy (because why?) ... well, keep buying those quick-picks ... suckers.

Tampon my ass.


Leave the political party, take the cannoli. And remember, yous only get one shot ...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Doc is back ... and he's pissed ... so what else is new?


Monthly Disclaimer ... Temporary Knucksline features one voice from the right (a few feet right of Attila the Hun). The Doc is the most loveable, compassionate—check that. He’s the Doc ... and boy is he pissed today (at who else, me and Obama--like Obama is my best friend). Doc didn’t get the postcard about me using Karl Rove’s playbook, so he’s pissing vinegar and then drinking it when he runs out of Pabst Blue Ribbon ... here now, the Doc.

Hey Chaz,

It’s been a long time. I don’t even know where to start. I would have submitted more articles, but I couldn’t deal with your whining. Geezus, Chaz. A company is offering you part time work and you feel offended that they are interfering with your god-given right to unemployment. Get over it, son. You still got 99 weeks ahead of you. Unless of course the bamster screws that up like everything else he’s touched.

I’ve been watching the Republican debates. Out of the seven perps on stage there isn’t one of them who couldn’t do a better job than President Fredo. Even that crazy little hobbit Ron Paul has got him beat. He has some ideas that I completely disagree with, but I know he has no ill will towards the country. The Bamster… well, I’m not so sure.

Fredo is campaigning across the country under the guise of passing his new Jobs Stimulus (slush fund) Bill. It is imperative that it be passed immediately. It wasn’t so important that Fredo would cancel his vacation though. Harry “The Undertaker” Reid said that the Senate would take a look at it maybe next month. That’s the Senate’s version of urgent.

By the way, whatever happened to the bamster’s $2,000,000 Darth Vader bus? He uses it for 3 days then puts it in the garage next to Michelle’s dusty treadmill?

Now Fredo has to deal with Solindra and “Fast and Furious”. F&F is easy. You gave 2,000 assault rifles to Mexican drug cartel guys and they disappeared. What the hell did you think they were going to do? In the illegal weapons trade the entrance exam is disappearing with 2,000 AK-47s.

Explaining away Solindra is a little tougher. You give me $500,000,000 and I will employ 1,000 employees making commemorative Solindra paperweights way past your second election. These duckeggs blew through $500,000,000 in 2 years without a paperweight to show for it. They made $6 solar panels and sold them for $3. Top that off with the fact that they have already informed the courts that they will fall back on the 5th amendment for all questions. They don’t even know what the questions will be, but they know they can’t answer a thing without incriminating themselves.

Now tell me that Sarah Palin is too stupid to be president. Oh, I Forgot. You are throwing your considerable weight behind Ralph Nader. Yeah, 12th time is the charm.

Your vote can be a sword. Your vote can be a shield. If you vote for someone who can’t possibly win, your vote is a tampon. Every 4 years when they announce the 2 candidates I think “This is the best America has to offer?”

Come November 2012, if you don’t vote for someone who can beat Fredo, you might as well vote for him. Nader couldn’t win an election against that Sham-Wow guy.

By the way, while you were working at that job you hate the amicis and I had our annual meeting in Las Vegas. It was raised and seconded that the only thing more irrelevant than your opera clips and Buffalo Bills fantasies were your foreign films reviews.

If we wanted to read reviews of movies we will never see we would go to… well, actually we wouldn’t go anywhere. If we aren’t going to see the stupid movie what do we care what some fat-fucking-semi-employed-crime writer thinks of it.

Wow! That’s bitter even for me.

Now, I’ve gone through this letter 2 times trying to soften it up. Remember when you always used to say, “Doc, you are just the sweetest, most caring person on God’s green earth”? Look what two and a half years of Zippy in the White House has done to me. I have shot way past curmudgeon. I should be living under a bridge and eating goats.

Have a great weekend, Knuckster.

The Docster

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Around the world with Temporary Knucksline ...

Rigoletto wags his tail … I’m not sure if there’s doggie karma out there or not, but when Eaglettte QB/dog torturer-killer Michael Vick was shaken up with a slight concussion last week, Rigoletto’s tail started wagging like somebody dropped a fresh cut T-bone steak on the floor.

Tony Romo’s ribs … there’s no denying the gutsy performance by Romo against the San Francisco Rice-a-Roni Treats last week. As Ali G might say, “Big ups to him.”

At home, my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills continue to leave NFL pundits scratching their heads. This week it’ll be the Cheatriots (the moniker borrowed from my son, Dustin) who fall victim to the stampede … Bills won’t need to circle the wagons this week. We owe the cheaterfaces … it’ll be a blowout, 43-24.

I heard something about baseball this week but didn’t catch all of it. It’s almost the end of the season that never ends … until November. Just think, if MLB could figure out a way to stretch it so baseball playoffs contended with NFL playoffs, it (baseball) would be even less relevant.

That said, my short story Tiant-McClain for the MFA program requires I replay all of the 1965 baseball season the old fashioned way (rolling dice) … okay, so maybe just the opener between Cleveland and Detroit, but I’ll have to record some of the game as it’s broadcasted.

The wife says, “Don’t ask.”

Speaking of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, the land of “All men are created equal” has finally done away with that particular stain on our severely stained national landscape, although some states still cling to the sanctity of marriage (not to mention the sanctity of a record divorce rate) as that between a man and a woman … so much for that constitutional bumper sticker owning up.

Asleep at the wheel … Some people have finally had enough and took to Wall Street in New York to protest those behind our government for big business by big business. Of course there was very little media coverage (they too are big businesses). The hope that the riots in the Middle East (where those shit on by government had finally had enough) might spread to our shores has faded fast. We’re obviously much too happy with what Democrats and Republicans have been doing to us to even consider breaking away from either party, never mind find fault with the economic system that owns both of them. We remain (faithfully, apparently) asleep at the wheel …

Wednesday there was a lot of noise at the U.N. over Palestinian statehood. More concerned with Hamas and his own backyard than the plight of President Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was there to declare statehood. When shown how voiceferous Obama has been defending the Palestinian cause on MSNBC cable show, Morning Joe, a Palestinian diplomat said, “Yes, he promised us a lot and has yet to deliver on anything.”

Sound familiar?

Oy vey …

Then Joe Scarborough went on to poke fun at Rick Perry for seeming to have problems with the word “precipice” in his speech denouncing Obama and pledging undying loyalty to Israel (and that Jewish vote in the key state of Florida) …

What is it with Republican Governors and their inability to speak the mother tongue?

Oy, oy, oy, oy va-va-va-vey …

Then they (Morning Joe) picked on Michele Bachmann’s assault on Obama’s foreign policy while standing in a meat freezer (with cow carcasses hanging in the background). Then they switched back to Sarah Palin’s famous speech while a turkey was being whacked directly behind her.

Something tells me if Bachmann gets knocked a little dizzier than she already is, Rigoletto’s tail will be wagging to beat the band again …


Sing it, Freddy ... Oh, Momma mia!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Movies … Sarah Porno … la desk ... rights and lefts ... Bills-Raiders & Carmen ...


Sarah’s Key (the movie) ... last night the Principessa Ann Marie and the ugly one (moi) went to the movies (it was our date night) ... we saw the movie version of the book I read (and reviewed here) a couple of months ago.  From Wiki: An American journalist's present-day investigation into the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup (where French police in German-occupied Paris on 16 and 17 July 1942 rounded up 13,152 predominantly non-French Jewish emigres and refugees and their French-born children and grandchildren, who were then shipped by rail to Auschwitz where they were murdered).

In this case, although the movie veered somewhat, I liked the movie better. The book was very good until the secret was revealed (a terrible secret). In the movie they did a better job (or it was Kristin Scott Thomas and a terrific cast that did the better job). Real good movie ... and, yes, bring the tissues.

The Widow of St. Pierrre ... a very good movie about a very liberal couple who intervene (one officially) in the planned execution of a murderer … the famoso French guillotine features as the widow (maker) in this very well done French film … very well done and it may influence how you feel about the death penalty.

Editor/janitor’s desk ... this is what it looks like most days but I’m scheduled to remove some of the mess this weekend ... it’s what I promise every weekend ... That’s Poets & Writers behind the tobacco stash/alongside the wallet ... it's an article written by a dear friend (Jonathan Blunk), wonderful biographer and published poet about MFA Nation and I’ll be posting it here soon as I convert the file to text from pdf. It has to do with writing groups that need to form and stay together (or writers who need to join such groups) once they finish their MFA program. It’s all about the creative process and not letting it whither from life’s less rewarding demands.

JONATHAN BLUNK is writing the authorized biography of the poet James Wright. He coedited Wright's selected letters, A Wild Perfection (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005). His poems, essays, and interviews have appeared in the Nation, the American Poetry Review, the Georgia Review, and other journals.

Bills 41, Chefs 7 ... that was last week. This week our opponent is a bit tougher ... the Raiderettes from the left coast ... take the Bills and lay the points ... we rock all over again, 33-17 ...

Ron Paul’s social Darwinism tract (you shouldn’t be a burden to others and just die already) drew cheers from some of the Neanderthals at the last GOP debate. I suppose because it’s the cost that counts, not a life ... weren't these the same people who were so terrified about so-called death panels? I guess it was paying for death that scared them, eh?

Rick Perry’s Army of God was also quick to cheer ... this about his state’s record on the death penalty ... I guess the self-righteous are still itching to do some killing for God ... but why? Because Rick Perry, who hates government, doesn’t struggle with killing an innocent by mistake .... he claims Texas has a very thoughtful ... clear process in place ... (I guess when it comes to killing, his government can't make mistakes) ... oy vey, and the crowd went wild ...

Last year it was Johnny Porno (a flashback to 1973 when porn took off for adults the way cabbage patch kids did for, well, kids). And now, just 38 yeas later, oy vey, it’s Sarah Porno?

If it’s true and the Palinator did one (or more) of the stars of the NCAA, it will be hard to avoid the flood of parodies on this story. I already considered this as the title of my next porn-themed crime novel ... or maybe a screenplay?

Sarah does the NCAA?

Establishing Shot: Overhead shot of Brooklyn College (hey, the opening scenes to Debbie Does Dallas were filmed there (on the football field and inside the men’s locker room).

A camera slowly zooms in on the athletic field, then inside the men’s locker room where sounds of lust-making (or maybe lovemaking, yous’ll have to decide) can be overheard …

1st College Basketball Player (CBP): You like that, don’t you?

SP: You betcha.

2nd CBP: You seeing the bright lights, yet?

SP: Not yet, gosh darnit, but I can see Russia! It’s so big!

3rd CBP: You still for abstinence, woman?

SP: Just the explicit sex part. That gets my support.

1st CBP: You feelin’ a little bi-curious, momma?

SP: Oh, sure. You betcha. There's a place in Hell reserved for women who don't support other women.

Oy vey ...

And on the Democratic side of the aisle (because TK is an equal opportunity political party basher and TK doesn’t see, aside from the rhetoric that flies in the face of their actions, much of a difference between either of these parties) ... President Obama (the other day) said, “We’ll set up an independent fund to attract private dollars and issue loans based on two criteria: how badly a construction project is needed and how much good it would do for the country.”

TK wonders if that will be anything like the screening process that produced that $535,000,000 loan guarantee to now-bankrupt Solyndra?

Which leads to how to become an instant billionaire … What does a $100K investment to a presidential campaign net you (aside from “good will”)? Well, maybe (just maybe), a $535,000,000 return. So what they went bust, somebody made out like a bandit … I’m not sure if it’s a scandal or not (it’s certainly no less shameful than Cheney’s Halliburton no bid contract connections), but it is yet another slap in the taxpayers face (after all, that half billion was OUR money).

Leave the political party, take the cannoli.


How ‘bout a little Carmen? Elina Garanca sings the Habanera ...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Reviews (books and two disturbing films ... and one from 1953 Coney Island) ... debates/speeches ... sports ...


Richard Bausch … when I embarked on my MFA journey I was equally as anxious (in a good way) to see what I’d be assigned to read as I was about trying something out of my writing league. As it has turned out thus far, I couldn’t be happier with everything about the program, from reading lists to mentors to classmates to the writing projects. It’s certainly filled my schedule during my unemployed hours and now that I’m working again, it’s kind of filled my life (in a very good way). First off, my mentor for this semester is a guy who founded and has run the MFA program at Boise State for fifteen years (Mitch Wieland). You’ve read a review of one of his books here (God’s Dogs). Not to worry, there’s no sucking up in these programs. You either do the work or you don’t; there aren’t A’s or B’s to try for … or D’s or F’s to avoid. You’re either in a program like this for a purpose or you’re not. You don’t take advantage of it, you’re the fool.

Mitch is one of the excellent staff at SNHU and I’ll be reviewing more of the staff’s works here over the course of the next year. I’ve already done so for Katherine Towler (in fact, had read and reviewed her long before I ever applied to the program), and she’s now up for a New Hampshire literary award with her latest, Island Light. While Michele Isler remains my official Godmother (and #1 fan), Katie is the Godmother of the SNHU program. Don’t make noise outside her Shutter Island room or you sleep with the fishes …

So, back to Bausch … Mitch recommended I read The stories of Richard Bausch this past month and like the epiphany I once had reading George V. Higgins (actually hearing Dave Gresham read him), Bausch’s stories have so energized me, it’s become pretty obvious that attending SNHU for my MFA has been the best writing decision I’ve made since I’m published. My original mentor (Dave Gresham) had sent me a Raymond Carver book of short stories back a few years ago, probably to give me a push in that direction (and probably because my original writings were theatre pieces about relationships). Carver’s works got me started writing short stories and I put together a collection just a few people have read. Now that I’ve read Bausch, I’m finding him more in tune with what suits me and I’m super inspired of late (i.e., I haven’t stopped writing since starting to read Bausch). 8 non-crime short stories and 4 crime short stories—10 of the 12 inspired by reading Bausch; one by a movie mentioned below and the other from a Facebook search for someone from my past. I can’t tell you how or why these epiphanies happen, amici, but when they strike, there’s just no stopping what happens next; the mind starts whirling and the fingers start typing and hopefully it’s readable in the end, but you know (you really do) that you’re on to something and you just can’t get enough of it (the reading and/or the writing). Just about everything else gets in the way.

So, yeah, buy this collection of short stories by Richard Bausch and yous tell me. I just bought one of his novels (3 novels in one) and will report back/review them when I have the time again.

Visit his website and writers pay attention to his ten commandments ...

I’m told that my Review of Frank Bill’s Crimes in Southern Indiana will appear on The Crime of It All sometime next week.
Crime Factory, The First Shift is now available at Amazon. It’s loaded with short stories from around the crime writing world. They even let me in there ... Keith Rawson was the editor and this baby features a ton of very good crime writers (the list is very impressive if you skip my name).

My short story, The Decider, (no, not the last imbecile to occupy the white house) has to do with a cancer-riddled word processor fed up with a Rodan-like Human Resources person ... Would you look at the beak on this broad (Rodan)?

Two disturbing films I watched last weekend kept me thinking about them all week. Both are Spanish. One is called Tony Manero (Chile/Brazil) and yes, it has to do with the John Travolta character from Saturday Night Fever. The other is called Battle in Heaven (Chile) and it sparked a short story I couldn’t resist writing because of the effect the film had on me. There are sex scenes in here I know Doc will have a good laugh at my expense over (since they have to do with what he claims is my obligatory opening scene BJ) but it isn’t the sex scenes that disturbed me (not fully). You’ll have to take a look-see and decide for yourselves.

Tony Manero ...

Battle in Heaven ...

Here’s a less disturbing film some Brooklynites will definitely get a kick out of. It was suggested to me by author, editor and one of SNHU’s brilliant staff, Merle Drown, The Little Fugitive.. You’ll get to see Coney Island the way it was when we were kids (The Steeplechase and Parachute Jump, etc.). It’s a beautiful thing ... plus the dialogue made me feel 50 years younger ... oy vey.

Actor Josh Duhamel is a Minot, North Dakota boy and he’s put some effort and bucks behind the relief effort there for victims of the record flooding the Magic city experienced this year. Duhamel should next give serious consideration to first buying the film rights, then starting and maybe producing Rough Riders, the next Stella novel that features a Minot local detective, a Miss North Dakota and some characters from Eddie’s World (the first Stella crime novel). My writing roots began in North Dakota under the tutelage of Dave Gresham. I’m a former MSC Beaver … and I even ate Lutafisk once. Think about it, Josh … you’re the guy I’ve been waiting for …

GOP debate … there was this bozo act this past week. Seriously, a car salesman (Romney) “held his own” and that’s something to look forward to? Reduce taxes, cut entitlements, but let’s not discuss the war (literally) or what it costs in blood and coin, but especially as regards ending ALL OF THEM (WARS) already. Let’s just figure out a way for the most wealthy in the country to “earn” more wealth while the ever widening gap becomes Death Valley for all us non-millionaires.

The President’s Speech …

No, not that one … the other one Thursday night that officially kicked off the 2012 Presidential campaign for Mr. Obama. In it he clearly defined how he’ll try and win reelection. I don’t remember when the dog and pony show these speeches have become bothered me as much (not what President Obama was doing, but rather all the posturing by the members of Congress—stand up, sit down, stand, sit, etc.), but the incredible rudeness by a few of the GOP members was pretty shameless, I thought. At least wait until the guy is finished before you giggle …

How Mr. Obama brought up collective bargaining with a straight face has to be one for the ages, but Richard Trumpka sitting in the house for the spectacle didn’t surprise me at all; it’s a literal Ripley’s Believe It Or Not for corruption, our government is.

Surely we don’t have to be forced to watch the joke it (our government) has become on national television. Couldn’t we just watch Abbott and Costello reruns instead? I love this one (reminds of sitting and standing, etc.) ... “The guy hit me.”

Louis Tiant vs. Denny McClain … this has to do with an MFA short story I’m writing based on the Strat-O-Matic baseball card game; one of the characters in the story lost a son a few years back and can’t relate to the rest of the world and thus lives in a kind of fantasy world based around the game. The story isn’t about him, though … my mind works in whack job ways.

Football is back … and my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills will shock the Chefs of KC this weekend with a 23-17 victory. Neither of the last two super bowl champions bothered bringing their defenses as yards accumulated like snowflakes in Vermont. The Pack is likely back, but it’s a long season and injuries play a significant enough roll to not crown any champions yet (just ask the Coltless who are now Paytonless … forgetaboutit).

 Our director at the SNHU program may have an unprounceable name in Brooklynese (Diane Les Becquets), but she's a hell of a writer and a Vince Lombardi reincarnation (in the best possible way) ... so TK annointed Diane "Little Vince" this week.  I read Season of Ice a few months before the program began and it was terrific (you'll feel the chill in the air she describes).  Remember Lombardi time?  Now there's Les Becquets (pronounced Le Beck) time ... don't be late!


So, since football is back, it's time to celebrate ... how else but with booze ... the brindisi from La Traviata (Libiamo = the drinking song)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Interview with a King (Dana King, author of Wild Bill)


Questions for a partner in crime writing.

Dana King’s Wild Bill is an incredibly well written debut novel loaded with masterful dialogue and characters you’ll want to follow through the dark side of Chicago’s “outfit”. It’s a mob novel as good as any out there, past or present. Likewise, so is the author as good as any out there, pastor present. TK planned on interviewing Mr. King a week or so ago, but our editor in chief/janitor was held up by some nasty bursitis in his left shoulder. Here now, finally, the interview.

TK: Okay, first off, you’re a Marylander by way of Pittsburgh. Why Chicago? Why the outfit?

DK: I traveled to Chicago several times when I was a musician and loved the town. When my mid-life crisis came early, I tried what The Beloved Spouse calls “a geographic cure.” The good news was that Chicago was perfect for me. Lots of ethnic neighborhoods made me feel at home, and genuinely nice people. Greatest city in the world, outside of Pittsburgh.

After I came back to the Washington area, I discovered the books by William Roemer, who was the FBI agent most associated in working The Outfit. Sam Giancana’s personal albatross. He wrote a memoir, and several other books on specific individuals and events in Chicago mob history. While the Five Families in New York were divvying up territory and having pissing contests, Chicago’s organization was taking over the city from the inside out. People think of The Commission as being in New York, but pretty much everything west of Chicago ran through the Outfit.

TK: Wild Bill had suffered a heartbreaking loss (his wife). Was that a character sketch before or after you started the novel?

DK: After. He needed to be damaged in some way to make the Wild Bill aspects of his personality more believable, considering he’s pretty much of a straight arrow. It wasn’t her death that tore him up so much as how he didn’t make enough time for her. That’s what sets him up for what happens in the book, worrying that he could be making the same mistake with Mad.

TK: One of the situations that struck me as especially polished was the relationship between Wild Bill Hickox and Madeline Klimak. It’s one of those especially verboten relationships that often develops between law enforcement types. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly is a dangerous one. Was that something that developed as you wrote the novel or was it pre-planned?

DK: Mad was key to the story from the beginning. It’s the relationship with her that prompts Wild Bill to re-enter Will Hickox’s personality.

TK: Madeline was a very cool cucumber until she’s confronted by Jr.’s, let’s call it, lack of respect. It was a particularly tough scene I thought was handled perfectly by relating to us her fear (for life and limb). How do you get there as a writer? We all have to get into the minds of our characters, but what was it that precluded you from going Charlie’s Angels on us (and Jr.) the way she’d once done to her husband?

DK: First, thanks for the Mad questions. She was the hardest character to write. I’d never written scenes from a woman’s point of view before, and I didn’t want to take any shortcuts that wouldn’t sound true, especially to any women who might read the book.

Mad’s cool and she’s tough and she can handle Mitch, but Junior’s in a different league. I’m a huge fan of The Sopranos, and I understand why people want to like Tony and Paulie and Silvio. They’re charming guys, in their way. That makes it easy to forget their consciences have on/off switches the way most people use the remote for the television. Junior is a predator, plain and simple, and he’s risen near the top of the most predatory occupation there is. It’s not that he’s a tougher version of Mitch. Junior is a whole different species. Mad senses this, and is smart—and cool—enough not to allow things to become worse than they are. That doesn’t mean she’s not horribly frustrated by only having one option open to her.

TK: Some people won’t want to believe the assault on Madeline was possible, but we all know life is often stranger than fiction. Why, for instance, would a mob boss get his hands dirty beating up a truck driver (John Gotti)? Why would another mob boss whack a woman (as Whitey Bulger is alleged to have done)? Why would they get involved? I ask because I want you to clear the air for both of us. Some of the criticism I faced with a Russian mob book had to do with my making them (the Russian mob) less than invincible (especially vs. a woman). Why (and how) do guys as powerful as Jr. make those kinds of mistakes?

DK: I think a lot of these guys think with their glands. Junior certainly does. He’s frustrated over how things are going at work, his plans aren’t coming together as he’d like, and patience isn’t his long suit. He sees a chance to take out some frustrations without consequence—at least, that’s what he thinks—so he does.

TK: Spot on, I’d say, but now it’s fess up time. I remember a few years ago throwing our GPS out of the window because I was lost in PA (house hunting) and then pulling over and being so frustrated with my wife reminding me what I moron I was, I got out of the car and hammered the front hood with my right hand (thus making the drive home a left-handed endeavor--of course I used my right because I’m right handed and, of course, the hood won). Did you have something personal to draw on? Maybe not that friggin’ stupid, but something you can relate to where you know what you’re doing is wrong and probably stupid but you’re so angry (glandular mismanagement) you went ahead and did it? Did you toss your favorite horn into a wall? Smack a Bill Mazeroski statue off its pedestal in your bedroom as a kid?

DK: I had a terrible temper when I was younger. Probably still do, but I’ve learned to contain it better. I used to trash my dorm room once a year in college, punch and kick things (not people). A lot of anger in there somewhere. I was about forty when I finally realized I wasn’t acting like someone who really cared about the things that set me off; I was just an asshole. People I wanted to be closer to kept their distance. The Beloved Spouse posted a Facebook status the other day that applies well to me: How many people are alive today solely because I didn’t want to go to prison?

Put that characteristic on someone like Junior Bevilacqua, for whom this lack of control can actually be a plus. He has no real reason to rein it in, and he’s not too worried about going to jail because of his ability to rig outcomes.

TK: Frank is the typical old world mobster we can’t help but root for in his war with Jr. Some might call it romanticizing the fellow. You pull off a major move sandpapering the veneer by book’s end (no spoilers here), then somewhat giving it back. Is it that Frank is the kind of mobster you can understand or the kind you’d fear more than the shoot first, think later (i.e., Jr)?

DK: It would depend on how I met them. As a regular straight guy, I’d cross the street to avoid Junior. He exudes menace, and would put me in a hospital or in a hole for talking to the wrong girl or accidentally spilling a drink on him. Frank’s the kind of guy who’s learned to observe the big picture, and is willing to place certain things in perspective. He’s someone who could get close to you, get you nice and comfortable, use you for what he needs you for, and then disappear you. That’s why I used Tony Accardo as Frank’s mentor. I read Roemer’s book on Accardo, and that’s the kind of guy he struck me as, though his word was his bond. I highly recommend Roemer’s books for anyone who wants to get a grip on how the mob really works.

TK: Speaking of the mob. I loved the cynical references to the New York mob and could hear the introspective commentary of Frank’s regarding the way New York operated (too often on a stage with spotlights). You mentioned a few NY mob celebs. What kind of research did you engage aside from the Roemer books? Were you surprised when you learned what you did about NY vis-a-vis Chicago?

DK: I’ve read all of Joe Pistone’s books—the real Donnie Brasco—and both of the Henry Hill books, Wise Guy (which Scorsese made into Goodfellas) and the one he wrote after he was in witness protection. Peter Maas’s Underboss, about Sammy Gravano, is a great book. To be honest, I’ve also watched The Sopranos through several times. I heard enough about how realistic it was that I used it for ideas on what kinds of things mobsters are into the general public might not think about, and for a sense of their speech patterns.

If anything surprised me, it was how much more attention the New York office of LCN (La Cosa Nostra) got than Chicago’s, when Chicago actually had more juice. It goes back to Capone. He was only in charge for a few years, but he brought everyone else in line, and the power has been passed down in an orderly manner since. New York probably had too many things to get into, as each of the five families started out in something different: docks, unions, trucking, gambling, etc. I read a great book—I wish I could remember the name—on how the Lucchese family got established in the Garment District. While they were getting organized among themselves, the Outfit was taking over the legal levers of power in Chicago. For evidence on how the Outfit ran Chicago, read When Corruption was King, by Robert Cooley. Fascinating book.

TK: Follow-up Frank question: Was he a product of his particular environment or the American political landscape in general? After all, it was Al Capone who said, “Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class”.

DK: Both, I think. In his book The Outfit, Gus Russo uses the term “upperworld” to contrast straight business with the underworld. Frank Ferraro could definitely have been successful in the upperworld, had he chosen to be. Part of the reason he didn’t was because of where he grew up, but, let’s face it, a lot of kids grew up in The Patch and didn’t become criminals. I’ll defer to your judgment on this—in fact, I’m curious as to what you think about this—but I get the feeling guys who go into OC for a living aren’t big on delayed gratification. They don’t want to see their investment portfolio grow by five percent a year. They want to have the cash in hand to do what they want with it now. They may spend it on women, drugs, booze, whatever, or they may use it to grease the wheels of the upperworld. If they’re going to “invest” it, I suspect the majority are more interested in getting three to five points a week on the street than buying stocks, unless they’re laundering the money. Frank’s a patient man by Outfit standards. I still wouldn’t want to get more than a week behind on a payment or service.

TK: Jr. is the train wreck mobster that has pretty much brought that world to its knees of late. He’s also as cold as ice, as he (and we) learn during a shootout. I thought that a very smart touch, making him every bit the sociopath the job requires. How did you come to that moment? The scene from The Godfather when Michael lights Enzo’s cigarette on the hospital steps came to mind for me. I’m guessing, of course.

DK: I hadn’t really thought about that much, but in retrospect it occurs to me that someone who feels fear—or doesn’t feel it—the way Junior does is more dangerous to both himself and to others. That’s what I was really going for, the danger that follows him around.

TK: Back to the start. I loved the prologue; Jr.’s pop dropping dead, a reflection of his past, then the Outfit’s future on his mind. Ultimately, he could care less, even though his son would be fighting for his life. I often finish a novel and go back to rewrite the start. Was there another start to the novel or did you start from that scene?

DK: Bless you. There was a lot of talk in blogosphere as I was finishing this book that prologues were dead. They’re exposition, get to the story. Often I agree. But here, the inciting event for the story takes place before the book actually starts, with Gianni’s death, and I liked the irony of a mobster provoking a war by dying of natural causes. So I set it off before Chapter One, and used what could be called Gianni’s life passing before his eyes to bring the reader up to speed in a hurry.

TK: Mitchell, Madeline’s husband and father to their kids, was not the typical dirty cop. Like Wild Bill, he too has smarts from years on the job you don’t learn in any police academy. The cops and robbers (or good guys and bad) aren’t always so different. Was that a social statement you intended to make? It sure was an accurate one if so.

DK: These are hard men, on both sides. I mentioned Joe Pistone’s books earlier. He comes across as a good guy, a guy I’d want to have my back, there’s not a lot that’s warm and fuzzy about him. From the cop’s perspective, he deals with vicious criminals who aren’t just knuckleheads or random felons, but sociopaths who have based their lifestyles on getting over by whatever means necessary. Everyone lies to him, and everyone is playing an angle. The tragedy of Mitch isn’t that he’s become hard, it’s that he can’t turn it off.

The other thing I wanted to do with Mitch was not to make this too much of a good guys/bad guys morality play. Cops are drawn from a cross section of society. A certain percentage of the general population are selfish assholes. So are a certain percentage of cops. Plus—and no offense to cops by this—people are drawn to the kinds of jobs where they get to do things they like, so someone who likes to boss other people around might have a lot of fun as a cop. Combine the two, and you have Mitch.

TK: Vinnie Dominoes was one of my favorite characters and I can attest to guys like him eating five meals a day (not me, I was a nobody who ate five meals a day, Vinnie was a somebody). He’s also well on his game. Characters like these are essential, I feel, to good mob novels. Was he an afterthought or somebody you had in mind from the get-go?

DK: Vinnie was key for me from the start. He might be my favorite mobster in the book. He’s the guy everybody talks to. Everybody trusts him, in their own way. Still, remember what his business is. How, and how much you trust him, could be a life-or-death decision.

TK: Your dialogue is as good as Elmore Leonard, his Canadian counterpart, John McFetridge, Higgins and anybody else. Was that your natural strength back when you first joined that writing group you acknowledged at the end of Wild Bill?

DK: Excuse me for a second while the tumescence you have inspired by comparing me to people like Leonard, Higgins, and McFetridge dies down and I can reach the keyboard again.

I honestly had no idea what I did better or worse when I started writing. Dialog came easier to me, and it was well-received by others, so I leaned on it more. Then I started to notice I enjoyed books that tilted toward more dialog, and thought about why. Elmore Leonard was right. No one skips dialog when they read. It’s the most effective and efficient way to propel the story and explore the characters at the same time.

TK: What the fuck? Define tumescence please.

DK: Swollen. Engorged with blood. Wood. A tent pole. A stiffy. A chubby. Or, as I just found in the Urban Dictionary, a purple-headed yogurt slinger.

TK: Tell us more about that writing group and how much influence/help it was in your progression.

DK: There’s no way to overestimate the influence that group had on me. There were so many basic writing things I did poorly when I first started there. Everyone was supportive, the suggestions were always phrased in a helpful manner, and people there hung with me through frustrations. I moved far enough away that getting to meetings is a rare and random thing now, but I still stay in touch with the group as kind of an adjunct member. Great group of people, even as its membership has evolved. A lot of good friends, good memories, and lessons well learned.

TK: We’ll be working on a book of mob short stories together and I thank you for going along with the idea. I’ve started one story about the comare (pronounced gumada) being interrogated by a couple of feds. I have no idea where it’s going. Will you be writing something about any of the characters from Wild Bill? If so, which one?

DK: I’m toying with the idea of writing a story from each of the last five decades, focusing on the Pittsburgh mob, leading up to the two books based in a fictional suburban town you’ve read but that haven’t been released yet. Now that you got me thinking about it, some prequel stories based on the characters in Wild Bill might be fun.

TK: I know Corky (your wife) reads your work and helps with the editing process. My wife does the same for me and I find her invaluable. Do (or did you) two get into arguments over suggested changes? Does the sole heir get to read anything once it’s done?

DK: Arguments, no. We have had a few animated discussion that range over a few days. She’s great at helping me to keep a balance between writing too much for people who already know what I’m talking about, and explaining too much.

The Sole Heir is a pre-med student right now and doesn’t have much time for leisure reading. The last thing she needs right now is the Old Man asking her how she liked something, especially since she could be cutting on my brain some day and I don’t want to hear her say, “I bet you wish now I’d spent more time studying the medulla oblongata instead of that shitty book you made me read.”

TK: Okay, there’s no way I’m passing on “the medulla oblongata” for one of the short stories in our collection. As we used to say playing three sewer stickball, “chips on the medulla oblongata” (now meaning, instead of a tax on losing the ball, it’s mine now). I mention this because the title is too cool to ignore. Do (or have) you written stories, novels, etc., around a specific title that just nailed you the right way?

DK: Never around a title that I can think of. I’ve written stories just to include a good scene I had, or even an opening line. Never a title. Titles bust my balls. I hate them.

TK: What’s next? You’ve already put a fan base together (and have further proved mob fiction isn’t dead), but will you be going series, standalones ... vampires?

DK: Oh, Christ, not vampires. This year’s project—in addition to the stories we’re writing—is to go back to the PI series I was writing several years ago. The detective showed up as a guest star in my most recent novel (Grind Joint, which I hope to release next spring) and got me to thinking of what else I could do with him. After that, I’m not sure. I like the potential in both series I’ve started. I might just take turns, or run with the one that generates the hot idea.

Yous can find all the good stuff on Wild Bill and its author at his website. Here’s a sample scene ... and here’s the cast of characters ... AND ... and yous can get it on kindle here ...

— Knucks
And here’s another appropriate verismo aria ... from Cavalleria Rusticana ... (translation below) ... it’s a pretty prophetic aria (to the storyline of the opera), amici ...

O Lola, with your milk-white blouse,
white-skinned, with lips like cherries
your laughing face looks from the window,
and the first one to kiss you is blessed!
Blood may be spilt on your doorstep,
but to die there is nothing to me.
If, dying I went up to heaven
and found you not there I would flee!

If, dying I went up to heaven
and found you not there I would flee!
Ah! ah! ah! ah!