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.

The Next Mass Shooting

All these mass shootings have inspired me to post a book review I did for FlagLive in October 2018 for Lisa Brackmann’s Black Swan Rising. Brackmann’s novel is probably the best approach to a conversation about what happened last weekend that I can think of. Scroll down past the cover to read the review.

Black Swan Rising

Think about the next mass shooting. Not the one that happens every day, in which two or three people die unspectacularly in another state, and we don’t even hear about it. I’m talking about the next big one. Think about the next time someone brings an AR-15 or two into a place where we could imagine ourselves—or where we could imagine our children—and opens fire, killing dozens of people who shouldn’t die that day. We all know it’s going to happen. Maybe not this week or this month, but in the next year, for sure. And think about what you’re going to say when it happens. Because this is the important point: you already know. You have already reacted to this event. Your opinion is already formed. All of our opinions are. We have our tweets ready. The NRA has drafted their next speech. Political teams on both sides of the aisle have their press releases ready. Television news teams have stock mass shooting footage waiting in a folder on their computer and “experts” on speed dial. The experts have already formed their arguments. Bumper stickers have been printed. They’re already stuck.

I’m not just talking about mass shootings, here. Pick any issue in which battle lines have been drawn and trenches dug. Think about the next time a man in power is accused of sexual assault. We’ve already exonerated or convicted the man, dismissed or believed the woman.

We don’t even need the shooting or the assault. We could have the argument right now. The same nothing would change.

But let’s say, hypothetically, that we want to live in a world where men don’t mow down dozens of strangers with assault rifles or feel entitled to women’s bodies. How do we have a real conversation about change?

This is the challenge that Lisa Brackmann embraces in her latest thriller, Black Swan Rising. The novel begins with a woman being harassed before she’s even named. Sarah Price works social media for a congressional campaign. She also has a secret past. They, whoever they are, have found her. The harassment has started all over again. She wonders if her past could derail her boss’s reelection campaign. Meanwhile, across town, local TV reporter Casey Cheng is covering a mass shooting when she gets shot. As part of her recovery, she sets out to investigate the aftermath of mass shootings. Her investigation reveals that her shooter aligned himself with a misogynist, neo-Nazi movement. There’s every reason to believe that more shootings are on the way, and both Sarah and Casey are targets.

All of this is established in the opening pages of the novel. Brackmann sets up a difficult tightrope for herself to walk. Sarah and Casey could easily become mouthpieces for the author; the book could easily become preachy and dull. It could feel like one more voice shouting at us from an entrenched position. Brackmann—the author of the New York Times bestseller Rock, Paper, Tiger—is too skilled for that. First, she makes Sarah and Casey feel real. They’re both flawed, confused, and trying to move through incredibly difficult circumstances. Sarah is not at all sure she has the courage to do what she needs to do. Casey may have too much courage. They both may end up dead. More to the point, you care about them staying alive. Second, even though the novel is built around a political campaign, the presumable Democrat (parties are never mentioned) is sweet and caring, but also has violence issues and carries a gun. The Republican banks on racism but has a big heart. Both are at times likeable and despicable. The campaign comes to take a backseat to Sarah and Casey’s intersecting stories. Complicated issues are raised and moral decision must be made. And there are guns. So many guns. And shootings. Always too many shootings. Also, as a respite, there’s a lot of baseball and good craft beer. Through it all, the plot moves like a roller coaster. You get pinned to your seat and flung at increasing speed down a track that feels like it could throw you at any second. It’s exciting. You find yourself at the end way too quickly.

The ending itself is a surprise and a risk, but, for me, totally satisfying. It leaves me realizing that I lost myself in the book, but once I was done, I couldn’t help meditating on this culture of toxic masculinity that we’re living in. I feel like I learned something about what a woman has to navigate, about where she finds support and where there is none, and about the institutions that protect and nurture bad behavior by men. I feel a little more ready to more ready to have a conversation that’s deeper than two sides shouting at each other across a battlefield.

 

 

Book Sale!

Indie Crime Crawl copyMy publisher and a few other indie crime publishers are holding a 25% off sale this week, which means that, until Sunday (July 21, 2019), you can get a new copy of Dead Extra directly from my publisher for $12 and free shipping. Here’s the link.

I know you can get a copy on Amazon for $11, and if you buy on Amazon, I appreciate your support. But Amazon really is a horrible company. They brutalize their employees and use predatory and illegal tactics to perpetuate monopoly capitalism. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather you buy Dead Extra on Amazon than not buy my book at all. Still, you have a chance to buy it for a buck more from my publisher, who–unlike Amazon–let’s her employees take bathroom breaks and who–unlike Amazon–is nurturing the publishing industry instead of using it as a loss leader in an attempt toward global domination. Why not take that chance?

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.