Publishing News

This showed up on the Publisher’s Marketplace newsletter today. You gotta love the author who got top billing!


Publishers Marketplace
New deals for May 22, 2018
Author of MADHOUSE FOG and OCCUPY PYNCHON Sean Carswell’s DEAD EXTRA, a classic 1940s L.A. noir novel involving dirty cops, B-movie script girls, alcoholic screenwriters, a women’s mental hospital, blackmailing dirty-movie-makers, and a lousy former cop who was presumed dead in WWII but is very much alive, to Colleen Dunn Bates at Prospect Park Books, in a nice deal, for publication in Spring 2019 (world).

Author of HEAVEN’S CROOKED FINGER Hank Early’s next PI Earl Marcus mystery, to Faith Black Ross at Crooked Lane, by Alec Shane at Writers House (world).

Author of the forthcoming Bogota 39 Juan Cardenas’s ORNAMENT, about the delusions of art, science, and love, and a drug trial gone wrong, to Lizzie Davis at Coffee House Press, in a nice deal, by Andrea Montejo at Indent Literary Agency on behalf of Editorial Periferica (NA).

Author of ME, MYSELF AND THEM Dan Mooney’s THE GREAT UNEXPECTED, in which two men in a nursing home strike up an unlikely friendship and plan an epic escape, pitched in the spirit of A MAN CALLED OVE, exploring themes of friendship, aging, finding oneself later in life, and experiencing newfound joy, again to Park Row Books, by David Forrer at Inkwell Management on behalf of Legend Press (NA).

Author of The Solitude of Prime Numbers, Paolo Giordano’s DEVOURING THE SKY, an epic story of male friendship, the enduring love between men and women, and the all-too-human search for meaning as it follows four Italian friends from youth to adulthood, to Pamela Dorman at Pamela Dorman Books, for publication in early 2020, by Andrew Wylie at The Wylie Agency (NA). The original Italian edition is published by Einaudi. Rights sold to Shanghai Translation in China, Le Seuil in France, Rowohlt in Germany, Slovart in Slovakia, Keter in Israel, and De Bezige Bij in the Netherlands.

Author of THE HERBALIST Niamh Boyce’s HER KIND, based on the true 14th-century story of Alice Kytler and her maid, the only person to be burnt as a witch in Ireland, to Patricia Deevy at Penguin Ireland, for publication in spring 2019, by Nicola Barr at The Bent Agency.

Winner of The Guardian’s travel writing prize Matt Stanley’s A COLLAR FOR CERBERUS, telling the story of a callow young graduate who chauffeurs an irascible old writer on an epic trip around Greece, to David Haviland at Thistle.

Amy Patricia Meade’s COOKIN’ THE BOOKS and a sequel, featuring a literary cafe and catering company in a quaint southern town, to Kate Lyall-Grant at Severn House, in a two-book deal, by Jessica Faust at BookEnds.


Doc, the Dude, and Marlowe

Lebowski screenshotHave you ever watched The Big Lebowski and wondered to yourself, where does the Dude fit in the spectrum of constructed masculinity from Philip Marlowe to Doc Sportello? Have you ever wished there were a Pynchon scholar who could explain to you the ways in which writers rewrite famous texts, and how they revise them? Have you ever wished someone would really explain the specifics of how our culture teaches males to act like men? If so, you’re in luck. I just did all that.

Of course, I know most people don’t really ask those questions. But I do. I do a lot of scholarship. The University of Georgia Press published my book on Thomas Pynchon last summer. I’ve had a handful of articles in peer-reviewed journals lately. I’m proud of all that stuff, but there’s a downside. It’s hard to share it. Most of the peer-reviewed articles are behind a paywall. Only students and academics can access them. And my book on Pynchon is really important, but it also costs $60. I wouldn’t spend sixty bucks on a scholarly tome on Thomas Pynchon. Actually, I would. I have. Many times. But I have a hard time asking others to do that.

Anyway, bringing it all around, I’ve recently published an article in Orbit: A Journal of American Literature. It’s on all the things I wrote about up in my first paragraph. And Orbit does things right. They don’t charge people to read their journal. They don’t charge scholars to make their work open access. And still they find a way to get the top scholars in the field to vigorously peer-review everything they publish.

So long story short, if you want to read my article on masculinity in Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski, and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels, you can read it here.

And, while you’re there, you can read the review that one of the top Pynchon scholars in the world did of my book (it’s the fourth review; you have to scroll down).

Gifts from the Past


Maltese FalconI had this old copy of The Maltese Falcon for so long that I stopped seeing it.  I’d scan my bookshelves looking for something to read.  The Maltese Falcon would be stuck in the middle of all my other Hammett: The Thin Man, The Red Harvest, The Glass Key, and Nightmare Town.  I’ve read all of these.  I love them all.  Strangely, I bought them all years after The Maltese Falcon.  I don’t know why I waited so long to finally pick up Hammett’s most famous novel.  I just did.

This weekend, I was looking for something fun to read.  I’d just finished The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.  It’s excellent.  Mitchell deserves all the praise he’s been getting.  But it’s also a heavy novel.  I mean this literally in the sense that it’s over six hundred pages of small type, and figuratively in the sense that it makes me think a little harder than I want to about the economic and ecological ruin that we seem to be hurtling toward.  I wanted something light.  Both literally and figuratively.  Those faded green letters on the spine of The Maltese Falcon caught my glance this time.

The novel took over my weekend.

There’s not much I can say about the book or Hammett that hasn’t already been said.  Every crime novelist from Raymond Chandler to Janet Evanovich owes at least part of their naked prose to Hammett.  Every crime film director from Howard Hawks to Quentin Tarantino should kick royalties to the Hammett estate.  He touched them all, whether they know it or not.

Maybe no one owes Hammett more than the Coen Brothers.  Their second-best movie, Miller’s Crossing, takes it’s protagonist from The Glass Key, it takes the bloodbath from The Red Harvest, it takes the dame from The Maltese Falcon, it probably takes the character of the Eddie the Dane from The Dain Curse (though I’m not sure; that’s a Hammett novel I haven’t read yet), and it steals lines directly from several of Hammett’s novels.  I don’t fault the Coen Brothers for this.  It’s what makes the movie great.

All of this I knew and expected when I picked up The Maltese Falcon.  What surprised me wasn’t the writing itself.  It was the artifact of the book.

The first thing I noticed when I opened it was a ticket.  It was for a basketball game I went to at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996.

I don’t remember purchasing this book, so I did some detective work of my own.  The book was priced at two bucks.  It was printed in the early eighties, so I picked it up second hand.  It didn’t have any markings from A Capella Books, which is the only bookstore I remember going to in Atlanta in 1996.  But I must’ve bought the book in Atlanta.  Otherwise, it wouldn’t have the ticket in it.

I didn’t really live in Atlanta in ’96 so much as I stayed there for a couple of months.  I bummed off my friends Laura and Carla.  They let me sleep on their couch.  We all worked together at a restaurant downtown.  I lived out of duffel bag that summer.  This meant that my possessions were minimal.  I wouldn’t have carried books to Atlanta with me. The only ones I would’ve had would be ones I bought there.  And because I was trying to take up as little space as possible, I wouldn’t have bought many.  But, for some reason, I bought this one right at the end of my stay there, and I didn’t read it.

I understand why I didn’t read it then.  Those days during the Olympics were crazy.  There was a bomb that went off in Olympic Village.  I’d walked across that spot a couple of hours before it blew.  There was a bomb scare where I worked in Underground Atlanta.  There was a lot of working in a packed house and a lot of drinking after work.  There were some pretty great sporting events.  It makes sense that an old crime novel would have to wait.

What’s harder to understand, though, is why I would’ve bought it.  I bought hardly anything during those two months that I didn’t immediately consume.  No records.  No other books that I remember.  No new clothes or sunglasses or Olympics memorabilia or electronics or anything.  Just food and drink and the occasional gift for Laura or Carla, who were allowing me to stay rent-free.

The survival of this book is also a bit bizarre to me.  For most of my twenties, I lived light.  When I moved from apartment to apartment, I could typically do it in one trip.  If it didn’t fit in the back of my truck, I gave it away or threw it away.  When I moved to Los Angeles in 2001, I whittled my possessions down to a truck load again.  I left enough room in the back of that truck for me to sleep on the way out.  Yet, somehow, an unread copy of The Maltese Falcon was in one of those boxes.

Also, I scan my bookshelves at least once a year and get rid of about twenty percent of the books.  If I picked up this copy eighteen years ago, it stands to reason that it survived at least eighteen bookshelf purges.  And, during that whole time, I did not read it.

I don’t think I can say that about any other book I own.

For some reason, during all of those purges, this two dollar paperback said to me, “Don’t get rid of me, yet.  There’ll be a time in your life when you’ll want to read me.  I’ll be here then.”

This weekend, he was here for me.  It was perfect.

With the holiday season coming up and all this cultural pressure for gifts, I’m feeling right now like no one has to get me anything.  An eighteen-years-younger version of myself already spent a couple of bucks and hooked me up.

Pam Houston’s Ukulele

thin air 20For a few years, I’ve been writing stories about some of my favorite writers and their metaphysical ukuleles.  They’re all fiction, but based on true stories.  My most recently published one pays homage to Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted and Cowboys Are My Weakness.  It has been published in the literary journal Thin Air.  They made me the “featured writer” for the issue and posted the complete story to their web site.  You can read it here.

Also, I’d like to point out that the journal itself is very cool.  The other featured author is poet Jim Simmerman.  Jim was a hell of a poet and a guy I always liked to spend time with.  I’m honored to share this tiny little spotlight with him.  I encourage you to support Thin Air, if you can.

This is the fifth ukulele story I’ve had published in the past year and a half.  As far as I know, it’s the only one you can read online.  The other four are:

Jack Kerouac’s ukulele in The Rattling Wall.
Raymond Chandler’s ukulele in VLAK.
Flannery O’Connor’s ukulele in 14 Hills.
Herman Melville’s ukulele in Fjords Review.

Fjords lists the Melville story as an “essay.”  I assure you it’s not.  It is based on a ton of research I did on Melville, but I also made a lot of it up.  I haven’t pointed out the mistake to the folks at Fjords because I feel like I suckered someone over there, and I like that feeling.

In case you’re wondering, there are seven more ukulele stories written that I haven’t submitted for publication.  I plan to finish revising those, then send the whole thing out as a collection sometime this summer.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my little tribute to Pam Houston.