A Lure for the Devil

I wrote a piece on one of my favorite forgotten crime novels for the Los Angeles Review of Books. You can read it here.

Gunn_Deadlier Than the Male cover

The novel is bonkers (as you can read about in my article). French philosopher Gilles Deleuze named it as one of his favorites in his incredible essay, “The Philosophy of Crime Novels.” I talk about both of these things, plus femmes fatales, truth, sex, murder,  and all kinds of interesting stuff.

Watch Me on TV

Creative Community 2.0 – Sean Carswell from David Starkey on Vimeo.

David Starkey interviewed me for the local public access TV show Creative Community. We talk about writing, my childhood, and punk rock. I also read a couple of passages from Dead Extra. Check it out.

You can also watch the video on Vimeo by clicking this link.

Good Fun

Sean Carswell Vermin 2004

Your author at the Mountain Bar, Los Angeles, circa 2004.

I love to do readings. Before I talk about that too much, I should get this plug out of the way: I have a reading coming up at the Barnes & Noble in Ventura on Sunday, June 23 at 1:00 PM. Click this link for more info.

Now, I know most authors hate to do them. A lot of times, authors grudgingly plow through their passages at readings, apparently encountering their words for the first time, barely paying attention to their audience, and generally bumming out everyone. They usually go on way longer than they should even if they’re entertaining. I saw a lot of these readings when I was a young writer (and I still see some, occasionally). I never wanted to be like that.

But also, the nature of how I came up as a writer never allowed me to do that. I started my readings in all punk rock contexts: between bands at shows, in anarchist bookstores, in squats, in bars, and generally in places where the crowd didn’t feel the need to be polite. If you didn’t amuse them, there were consequences.

My first books were on a punk press. I sold them by touring with other zine writers. We’d set up shows anywhere we could. From 1999-2008, I did something like 250 readings in 50-60 cities with dozens of other authors. We learned pretty quickly how to choose the right things to read, how to grab an audience, how to get a laugh, how to embody a story, and basically how to do all those things you need to do to avoid getting heckled. It was a great education. All those audience members willing to give me a chance, to react positively at the good stuff and negatively at the bad stuff, shaped me as a writer.

With this new book, I’ve been doing all the things that authors do these days. I’ve done a few in-conversations, some panel discussions, that kind of thing. But I haven’t had to chance to give an old-school reading. So, for my upcoming event at Barnes & Noble, I begged them to let me do just that. I’m looking forward to it.

However, since I made the big stink about having them let me read, I’m going to need an audience. If you’re in Ventura, please come out. It’s a Sunday afternoon. You’re not busy. You’re not doing anything else. You’ll have a good time. And, if I don’t bring my A game, you’re welcome to heckle, boo, throw beer at me, start a barroom brawl, and all those other things that have happened at other readings I’ve done.

Noir at the Last Bookstore

last bookstore LAMy next event–and the last Los Angeles event for a while–will be at the Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles on June 11. I’ll be part of a group reading that’s co-sponsored by Prospect Park Books (my publisher) and Rare Bird Books (another very cool LA press). Rare Bird is bringing crime writers Doug Cooper, Eric Tarloff, and Frank Strausser. Prospect Park is bringing Phoef Sutton and me. Gary Phillips is hosting.

It should be a great event. If you don’t know who Phoef Sutton is, check out his Crush series. It’s a blast. If you don’t know who Gary Phillips is, check out his Ivan Monk series. It’s rad. And, if you’ve never been to the Last Bookstore, take this chance to go. It’s one of the coolest places in LA.

The event is Tuesday, June 11 at 7:30 PM at the Last Bookstore, 453 South Spring Street, Los Angeles. The event is free, but the bookstore appreciates it when people buy books in advance. Here’s a link to the tickets (which are actually just pre-ordered books).

Anyone Here from San Diego?

MG BannerMy next event for Dead Extra tomorrow, May 17, at 7:30 PM at Mysterious Galaxy Books in San Diego. I’ll be in conversation with Lisa Brackmann. If you don’t know who Lisa Brackmann is, you should read this review I wrote for her book Go-Between and this review I wrote for her book Black Swan Rising.

Mysterious Galaxy is located at 5943 Balboa Ave., Suite 100, San Diego.

If you’re in the Los Angeles area didn’t get a chance to catch me at the book release earlier this week, don’t fret. I’ll also be reading at Noir at the Bar this coming Saturday, May 18, at the Stand in Pasadena. That event also starts at 7:30. The Stand is located at 36 South El Molino Ave, Pasadena. The event is part of LitFest Pasadena, so you can make a day out of it, if you want to.

Come out. Come out. It’ll be fun.

Just in Time for the Book Release

The day before my book release (which is Tuesday, May 14 at Skylight Books in LA), the Los Angeles Review of Books reviewed my new novel, Dead Extra. It’s a very thoughtful, professional review. To answer all the questions that my wife asked me about the review: No, I didn’t write it myself. No, I don’t know the author. We have never met. Again, no, I promise that “Glenn Harper” is a real reviewer for LARB and not my pen name.

Also, I was interviewed for Speaking of Mysteries a few weeks back, and the interview went live today. You can listen to it here. Or you can get it through iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever else you get podcasts.

And I want to add two serendipitous things about the review and interview.

  1. I’m currently reading Denise Mina’s The Long Drop. I picked it up because I saw it in a bookstore recently, and I remembered reading a great review about it a couple of years ago. The guy who just reviewed Dead Extra wrote that review. So I’m reading a book recommended by the reviewer who is now recommending my book. I know that doesn’t put me in a class with Denise Mina, but maybe someday.
  2. I used a landline for the Speaking of Mysteries interview with Nancie Clare. The only landline I have access to is in my office at the university, which is on the former grounds of the Camarillo State Mental Hospital. So I was sitting on the grounds of the old hospital when Nancy was interviewing me about it. It was so weird to sit there, thinking about the horrors from the old hospital days, talking about them, and looking out over the student union where the flowers were in bloom and students were doing college things.

Let’s Talk about My New Book, Part One

Dead ExtraWe’re still about three months away from the release date, but I’m already so excited about my new novel that I’m having trouble thinking about anything else. When someone asks me how I’m doing, my first thought is, Great! I have a new novel coming out! I think it’s the best thing I’ve written! I almost always contain myself and say, “Good. How are you?” Almost always.

I want to talk a little about the new one here, though. It’s a crime novel titled Dead Extra. It’s set in Los Angeles in the 1940s. One of the protagonists is Jack Chesley, a veteran who returns from a German POW camp to find his wife dead and his wife’s twin convinced the death was murder. It sounds like a common trope, I know. Hopefully, I changed things up enough to that Jack isn’t common. He’s not your typical Sam Spade/Philip Marlowe tough guy detective, for one thing. For the other thing, he’s inspired by a real man.

My father is the youngest of seven kids. The oldest, born 21 years before my dad, was my Uncle Jack. Jack’s middle name was Chesley. I was close with my Uncle Jack for the final fifteen or so years of his life. This started when I was about 13. He’d come down to Florida. I’d take him fishing. He’d take me on drives around town. We’d talk a lot.

As I got older, Uncle Jack opened up to me more and more. He told me stories about his father, my grandfather, who’d died when my dad was a little kid. The old man, as Jack called him, was brutal. A hired thug. A gunman. A killer. And, though Jack didn’t put it in these terms, the old man was horribly abusive to Jack. Jack got away from the old man first by joining the NYPD, then by going off to fight in World War II. His plane was shot down in western Germany. He parachuted out, survived behind enemy lines for a bit, and ended up in a German POW camp. While he was there, his father and his wife both died. When he returned, he got mixed up with his wife’s twin sister.

I took a bunch of these things from my uncle’s life and used them for my novel: his name, some of his war stories, the broad strokes of his relationships with his father, his wife, and his wife’s twin sister. Mostly what I tried to borrow from him was his complexity.

When I got to know him, Jack was in his sixties. He was a recovering alcoholic, a retired cop, a father and grandfather, and just about the sweetest guy I’ve ever known. What also came out in our conversations was that he’d killed people. A few during the war. Maybe a few while he was on the force. I could never reconcile this in my mind. How could you be all these things? How can you be a killer and a kind, generous, thoughtful uncle? How can a young man go through all that Jack went through and emerge whole on the other side?

I don’t know that anyone buy Uncle Jack can answer those questions. I developed the character of Jack Chesley to explore some of these questions and find ways to reconcile some of these things in my mind.