The Interrogation Room – Waiting To Be Forgotten Special – Franz Nicolay

Last up in my series of interviews to celebrate the launch of the new Gutter Books anthology ‘Waiting To Be Forgotten: Stories of Crime and Heartbreak, Inspired by The Replacements’ is … Franz Nicolay from The Hold Steady!

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Name: Franz Nicolay

Story Title: Alex Chilton

Firstly, what drew you to this anthology?

Jay Stringer invited me to submit something, and I always try to say “yes” to things by way of an incitement to work.

How did you first get into the band, and what was the first Replacements album you owned?

I’m going to tell you a dirty little secret – I didn’t listen to the Replacements until quite late in life, and only because I was in a band that was constantly compared to them. And when I did, my favourite song on “Let It Be” was the Kiss cover.

How would you pitch your story to potential readers?

The song “Alex Chilton” is premised on the fantasy that quality will out, that even the cultiest artist can find an audience of millions. That is the sustaining idea of many mid-career musicians, who’ve passed through the “hot new thing” phase of their career without quite making it over the hump, and are staring down the barrel of a couple decades of slogging it out before they reach, with luck, the “rediscovery” moment, if it ever comes. I know a couple people like that, and this story is about the slow poison of that hope.

This story aside, does music have an important influence on your fiction?

I still think of myself as a professional musician and only a serious amateur writer, and all I’ve ever thought about since the age of five or so has been being a musician—so in the larger sense music is the most important influence on my life, of which writing fiction is a part.

Do you have any additional publishing plans for the rest of 2016 and 2017?

My book The Humorless Ladies of Border Control: Touring the Punk Underground from Belgrade to Ulaanbaatar, about punk and DIY in the former Communist world, just came out on The New Press, so I’ll be hyping that for a while.

Finally, if you had the opportunity to put together a music-themed anthology, which band or artist would you choose?

I think Prince would be cool. The wheat-to-chaff ratio can be a little daunting with Prince but he has a way of writing about psychological situations that are well outside the norm of pop songs.

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The Interrogation Room – Waiting To Be Forgotten Special – Kristi Belcamino

Next up in my series of interviews to celebrate the launch of the new Gutter Books anthology ‘Waiting To Be Forgotten: Stories of Crime and Heartbreak, Inspired by The Replacements’ is Kristi Belcamino, author of Blessed Are The Dead.

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Name: Kristi Belcamino

Story Title: Achin’ to Be

Firstly, what drew you to this anthology?

The chance to work with Jay Stringer on a project and, of course, The Replacements.

How did you first get into the band, and what was the first Replacements album you owned?

My high school boyfriend. Pleased To Meet Me.

How would you pitch your story to potential readers?

Nikki Black is a train wreck and probably the most unlikable character I’ve ever written and as a result I adored writing her and writing this story.

This story aside, does music have an important influence on your fiction?

Absolutely. I can’t imagine writing a book without mentioning music in them. I don’t listen to music when I write, but I love listening to music when I revise.

Apart from your own one – do you have any favourite stories in Waiting To Be Forgotten?

For sure. ‘I’m In Trouble’ by Hailey Ardell.

I met Hailey in Chicago in 2015 at Printer’s Row when she won the Mystery Writers of America’s flash fiction contest. She is a terrific writer. I see great things happening for this teenager and her writing.

Do you have any additional publishing plans for the rest of 2016 and 2017?

My first young adult mystery, City of Angels, will be published by Polis Books in spring 2017.

Finally, if you had the opportunity to put together a music-themed anthology, which band or artist would you choose?

U2 for sure. I have four books published and a fifth one coming out in 2017 and I’ve made it a goal to mention at least one U2 song in each of my novels.

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The Interrogation Room – Waiting To Be Forgotten Special – Erik Arneson

Next up in my series of interviews to celebrate the launch of the new Gutter Books anthology ‘Waiting To Be Forgotten: Stories of Crime and Heartbreak, Inspired by The Replacements’ is Erik Arneson.

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Name: Erik Arneson

Story Title: Election Day

Firstly, what drew you to this anthology?

I love the idea of repurposing song titles as short story titles. Many of my stories have borrowed titles from The Throes and Poole, two 1990s modern rock bands I really enjoy. As soon as I heard about Waiting To Be Forgotten, I reached out to Jay Stringer and asked if I could take on “Election Day.”

How did you first get into the band, and what was the first Replacements album you owned?

Pleased to Meet Me was the album that introduced me to The Replacements. It was released in 1987, so I was pretty late to the party.

How would you pitch your story to potential readers?

A news reporter is working to get her career back on track in Duluth, Minnesota, when a slimy campaign manager threatens to reveal her past.

This story aside, does music have an important influence on your fiction?

Absolutely. In my short story collection The Throes of Crime, more than half the stories borrowed titles from The Throes and Poole. I often listen to music when I’m writing. Hopefully the rhythm and, if I’m lucky, some of the lyricism finds its way into my prose every now and then.

Apart from your own one – do you have any favourite stories in Waiting To Be Forgotten?

There’s no way to choose just one. So many of the authors with stories in Waiting To Be Forgotten are personal favorites: Johnny Shaw, Jen Conley, Alex Segura, Eric Beetner, Angel Luis Colón… the list goes on.

Do you have any additional publishing plans for the rest of 2016 and 2017?

The Throes of Crime was released on September 17. It’s my first book, which is very exciting. All proceeds from The Throes of Crime will go to the James & Jeanne Arneson Memorial Scholarship Fund, which provides financial support to graduates of Wilmot High School in Wilmot, South Dakota, who display an aptitude in creative writing by authoring a short story. The fund was created in memory of my parents, who were relentlessly encouraging to me and my three sisters. Mom and Dad were also voracious readers, particularly of fiction.

My first novel, Dragonfly, will hopefully be available in early 2017.

Finally, if you had the opportunity to put together a music-themed anthology, which band or artist would you choose?

The Choir. Steve Hindalong’s lyrics are amazing, Derri Daugherty’s guitar work is mesmerizing, and the overall musicianship the band has displayed on their 15 or so albums is truly remarkable.

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The Interrogation Room – Waiting To Be Forgotten Special – Rory Costello

Next up in my series of interviews to celebrate the launch of the new Gutter Books anthology ‘Waiting To Be Forgotten: Stories of Crime and Heartbreak, Inspired by The Replacements’ is Rory Costello.

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Name: Rory Costello

Story Title: I.O.U.

Firstly, what drew you to this anthology?

I was (and am) a huge fan of ‘80s indie-rock. I’d read the Springsteen crime fiction anthology, and when I saw what Jay wrote about the vision he had, and the great guideposts that he set out, I thought, “I’d like to give this a shot.”

How did you first get into the band, and what was the first Replacements album you owned?

I was in college when the Replacements started recording, so I heard them on our college radio station. I had the chance to see the original line-up live in 1986. The first album of theirs that I owned was “Tim”. Truth be told, they weren’t top favorites of mine at the time!

How would you pitch your story to potential readers?

It features some of U.S. society’s most marginalized people, underdogs who refuse to give in despite the long odds against them.

This story aside, does music have an important influence on your fiction?

Not important, but it’s there at some level. For example, in my Alcatraz story (a little more on that below), the bad guy is loosely based on a well-known punk rock musician. I’ll leave it to readers to see if they can figure out who.

Apart from your own one – do you have any favourite stories in Waiting To Be Forgotten?

Jen Conley’s entry. She’s always so reliably good.

Do you have any additional publishing plans for the rest of 2016 and 2017?

David James Keaton accepted the entry I submitted for the Alcatraz short story collection that he conceived, “Hard Sentences”. Broken River Books (great house!) plans to release the book sometime in 2017. My story takes place just after the U.S. Civil War. We’ll see what else may arise.

Finally, if you had the opportunity to put together a music-themed anthology, which band or artist would you choose?

Nick Cave offers a lot of fertile territory.

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The Interrogation Room – Waiting To Be Forgotten Special – Mike McCrary

Next up in my series of interviews to celebrate the launch of the new Gutter Books anthology ‘Waiting To Be Forgotten: Stories of Crime and Heartbreak, Inspired by The Replacements’ is Mike McCrary, author of Remo Went Rogue and Genuinely Dangerous.

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Name: Mike McCrary

Story Title: Here Comes A Regular

Firstly, what drew you to this anthology?

When I first heard about the project I just thought it sounded cool and a lot of fun. I was also a fan of the Springsteen anthology that Gutter put out awhile back. Then you layer in the fact that I had met Jay Stringer at Bouchercon the year before, Gutter published one of my books (Remo Went Rogue,) and, oh yeah, I like The Replacements.

So I put all that together, swished it around and I thought that maybe, just maybe, I should try and get involved.

I’m a logic genius.

Then I hit up Jay and begged him to let me in. He took pity on me and was kind enough to let me pick HERE COMES A REGULAR. Then, boom, as they say.

How did you first get into the band, and what was the first Replacements album you owned?

I hate to admit it. It a little embarrassing, but I kinda backed into it. I liked Paul Westerberg’s solo stuff first and I didn’t really know anything about The Replacements. It started with a Cameron Crowe movie (SINGLES) that had a couple of Paul’s songs on the soundtrack. One day I driving around with a girl I was dating and had the soundtrack playing. She pretty much informed me that I was a fucking idiot (as most girls do) and that I should remove my head from my ass and check out The Replacements.

She let me borrow TIM and LET IT BE. She lent me the CDs (one didn’t have a case if memory serves) and I never gave them back. We broke up and I kept the CD’s out of spite and also, I really dug the music. You can judge me all you want to. The cold hard truth is that the girl could go if she wanted to, but I didn’t want to lose the tunes.

It happens.

How would you pitch your story to potential readers?

You can listen to HERE COMES A REGULAR probably a hundred times and never come up with the story that saw in my head. That’s not to say the story I did isn’t true to the song. I think it is. It’s more that when I went back and listened to the song I heard crime, pulpy tale with unrealized hopes and dreams, violence, and plenty of profanity. I think it’s a lot of fun and hope people dig reading it.

This story aside, does music have an important influence on your fiction?

Huge influence. With everything I write I spend a fair amount of time putting together a playlist or multiple playlists to listen to while pulling words out from my head. I’ll put one playlist together for action scenes and another for lower key stuff or a separate one with just instrumental pieces. I’m all over the board with the type of music too.

I’ll do everything from Mozart to Thelonious Monk to Judas Priest to Taylor Swift to The National to Men Without Hats and everything else you can think of that falls between those cracks.

Apart from your own one – do you have any favourite stories in Waiting To Be Forgotten?

I haven’t gone through them all yet, but I’ve read most of them. It’s a great list of writers, very cool mix of stories too, but I’m sure I’m not alone in picking Johnny Shaw’s GARY’S GOT A BONER. Aside from that bit literary genius, Eric Beetner is always a blast, Josh Stallings = the Goods, and Jen Conley simply nails short stories better than most.

I’m sure I’ll add to that list as I rip through the rest of these. I’m really very proud to be a part of this thing of ours.

Do you have any additional publishing plans for the rest of 2016 and 2017?

I just published a new novel a few weeks ago called GENUINELY DANGEROUS that’s out now. I’m also wrapping up the first draft of a new book that I hope to throw around soon.

Also, I sold the French rights to REMO WENT ROGUE and GETTING UGLY, and those are supposed to hit France some time in 2017.

Finally, if you had the opportunity to put together a music-themed anthology, which band or artist would you choose?

I’d like to do something big, fun and not too deep like say AC/DC or GUNS N’ ROSES or maybe one that’s a little more trippy like PINK FLOYD or RUSH maybe.

Actually WILLIE NELSON would be pretty badass. Yeah, any of those I’d be down with.

You offering?

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The Interrogation Room – Waiting To Be Forgotten Special – Eric Beetner

Next up in my series of interviews to celebrate the launch of the new Gutter Books anthology ‘Waiting To Be Forgotten: Stories of Crime and Heartbreak, Inspired by The Replacements’ is Eric Beetner, author of Rumrunners and Leadfoot.

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Name: Eric Beetner

Story Title: Left Of The Dial

Firstly, what drew you to this anthology?

Jay asked if I was a Replacements fan and my response was, “Well, I play guitar and I’m not an idiot. What do you think?” They were a consistently great band whose music has really held up to time. I wanted to be involved if only to celebrate a great band.

How did you first get into the band, and what was the first Replacements album you owned?

I played in bands and was a hardcore punk kid. I also listened to a lot of guitar driven power pop of the 80s as I was learning to play guitar. Stuff like The Beat, The Romantics, The Smithereens. The Replacements were just one of those bands within that “college rock” scene at the time that were so highly regarded. Tim was the first album I owned but I got Let It Be and Pleased To Meet Me soon after.

How would you pitch your story to potential readers?

A sad rumination of the consequences of violence. Sounds depressing, but I hope it’s not. But the violent actions have real consequences for the guys in the story.

This story aside, does music have an important influence on your fiction?

Not really on my fiction, but in my life for sure. Making music was something I did every day for years and years. I’m still passionate about music and discovering new music as well as unearthing older stuff I hadn’t know about before. I have thousands of songs, still own CDs and vinyl, still own a room full of guitars. Music is never background noise to me. I can’t write with music on because I get distracted.

Do you have any additional publishing plans for the rest of 2016 and 2017?

My most recent novel, Leadfoot came out November 1st. It is a prequel to my novel, Rumrunners. Next May will see the final book in my Lars and Shaine trilogy called The Devil At Your Door. I’ve very proud of all three books in that series and it’s been great fun to write. Later in 2017 will be my third western novella for The Lawyer series, but I still need to actually write that one.

Finally, if you had the opportunity to put together a music-themed anthology, which band or artist would you choose?

I’d probably go back to my hardcore roots. There are quite a few aging punk rockers and hardcore kids who write now. It might be interesting to see what people wrote about. I went to a lot of shows and clubs when I was a teen that were genuinely dangerous. I could see crime stories being set there easily.

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Book Review: Three Kinds of Fool by Matt Phillips

THREE KINDS OF FOOL

Author: Matt Phillips

Publisher: All Due Respect

Release Date: August 2016

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Jess Forsyth is a Southern California ex-con, content with his post-prison career cleaning pools for wealthy citizens. A chance reunion with barfly, gun-dealer and all-round shit-bird Mikey Watt sees Jess lured into a violent scam to rob brash young drug dealer Griffin – a plan that Mikey is convinced cannot fail. The ill-conceived robbery quickly veers off course however, and the resultant collateral damage binds the three men together in a violent, unpredictable battle of wills.

I was a big admirer of Matt Phillips’ previous two books – Redbone (Number 13 Press) and Bad Luck City (Near To The Knuckle) – but the scuzzy California noir of Three Kinds of Fool may be his best work yet. Less claustrophobic than its predecessors, the story feels looser and more fluid, the canvas more expansive and the narrative more volatile. Jess himself is an enjoyably conflicted protagonist, whose actions never fail to confound, and chief antagonists Mikey and Griffin are sufficiently duplicitous, and keep the plot twists coming. On a technical level, Phillips writing is as strong as ever, and his prose has a deft, lyrical quality, even as the bullets fly and the blood spills.  Great stuff.

Reviewed by Tom Leins

Book Review: Dead Heat With The Reaper by William E. Wallace

DEAD HEAT WITH THE REAPER

Author: William E. Wallace

Publisher: All Due Respect

Release Date: July 2015

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Violent. Melancholic. Booze-soaked… The novellas that make up Dead Heat With The Reaper – Legacy and The Creep – are two sides of the same coin, one of which happens to be horribly disfigured.

In Legacy, retired steel mill worker Frank Trask is a terminally ill tough guy living on borrowed time. Keen to put his $400,000 life’s savings to good use – and go out swinging – Frank devises a brutally efficient plan to kill two birds with one stone – as long as he lives long enough to pull it off. In the second novella, The Creep, Sergeant Alan Baldocchi survived the IED in Afghanistan that killed his platoon, but the bomb left him so scarred that his ravaged visage now scares women and children. Back home, Baldocchi meets Susan, a nurse who takes a liking to him. Unfortunately, the shabby apartment they both live in is swarming with young criminals – and Marcel, the leader of the gang, has dark plans in mind for the unlikely pair.

I first encountered William E. Wallace’s fiction early last year, with his terrific flash fiction piece ‘Bird Hunter’ (published by Shotgun Honey), and this book is an appropriately unforgiving companion piece to that story. He has an effortless hardboiled style, and a coolly detached way of writing violent scenes that never feels gratuitous – in spite of the carnage that is unfolding. Further, Wallace – a former investigative journalist – does a great job of imbuing his narratives with a healthy amount of well-observed background information, which adds plenty of meat to the bones of what are, ultimately, pretty straightforward stories. If you enjoy blue-collar, heart-on-sleeve tales of retribution, Dead Heat With The Reaper is a killer one-two punch combo – go check it out.

Reviewed by Tom Leins

The Interrogation Room – Waiting To Be Forgotten Special – Josh Flanagan

Next up in my series of interviews to celebrate the launch of the new Gutter Books anthology ‘Waiting To Be Forgotten: Stories of Crime and Heartbreak, Inspired by The Replacements’ is Josh Flanagan.

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Name: Josh Flanagan

Story Title: Bastards of Young

Firstly, what drew you to this anthology?

My friend, Jay Stringer, whose fault this whole affair is, invited me along, presumably having read some of my comic book work, and previous novel, Astro Van, or just my ramblings on social media and podcasts. But I said yes immediately, because I really love this kind of writing prompt, and the sort of characters the music evokes. Real people. Working people. Rough people.

How did you first get into the band, and what was the first Replacements album you owned?

I was very excited to contribute, but I felt the need to confess my relative unfamiliarity with The Replacements. I mean, I knew who they were, and their place, and their significance, and I even knew what they sounded like, but I wasn’t what I would call a fan. But every so often, context can make music work where before it hadn’t connected. I dove in, reading lyrics, rather than listening. I did have a copy of Tim, so that was helpful, and I’m not a complete poser.

How would you pitch your story to potential readers?

It’s a story of people without a lot of choices in life. Survive or don’t. From the outside, some of those look like bad choices, but really it’s not much of a choice at all. In this one, if you’re a young single mother, and you need to feed your child, and keep him warm, you’ll do anything. It’s not even a question of whether you should do it or not. This is just the hand you’re dealt. The problem is, sometimes it can go bad.

This story aside, does music have an important influence on your fiction?

I think music plays into an aesthetic that is shared with both the stories I really enjoy reading, and the ones I really like to write. I love to have something solid and grounded that I can understand. I never go for, nor do I write stories about ethereal, lofty things. I love stories about real people we know or might know, and I feel the same way about music. When you look at the Replacements, they’re stories about life, and not necessarily the meaning of it.

Finally, if you had the opportunity to put together a music-themed anthology, which band or artist would you choose?

That is an amazing question. It turns out that choosing something like that is much more challenging than you’d think, and the Replacements are an excellent choice. Running through my favorite bands, the first one I landed on that made my raise my eyebrows was the Ramones. The songs are gritty, grimy, and just a bit silly. Actually, I bet that’s already been done somewhere. It should have anyway.

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