Thursday, August 28, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

ANNOUNCING ALL DUE RESPECT BOOKS

Logo by JT Lindroos
That's right, bitches.

The crew that's brought you oodles of kick-ass short fiction is stepping up its game: novels, novellas, novelettes, short story collections--we're doing it all.

Alec Cizak founded ADR in 2010 with a single goal: publish uncensored crime fiction. Stories about criminals from the perspective of criminals. That continues to be our goal.

We're starting right now: you don't exist, two noir novellas by Pablo D'Stair and ADR co-publisher Chris Rhatigan is out now. (With a mass-market paperback out very soon.) Get it here, now!



To celebrate the launch, issues 2 and 3 of the magazine are FREE starting Sunday for a short time.

And we've got a killer lineup of books due out this year, including:

Tussinland by Mike Monson. Trashy noir. A cough medicine addict with a penchant for Frosted Flakes and bad TV is framed for murder. All the excitement of Monson's fast-paced novellas in his first full-length novel.

Prodigal Sons by Mike Miner. Literary thriller. Matthew Flanagan ditches his perfect life to pursue drinking himself to death in Vegas. But his two brothers back home in Connecticut aren't having any of that.
At turns funny and moving, this book is a hard-boiled American odyssey.

Two Bullets Solve Everything by Ryan Sayles and Chris Rhatigan. A crime split. Sayles comes out with guns blazing in Disco Rumble Fish, set in the seventies and featuring his badass cop Richard Dean Buckner. Then Rhatigan's got A Pack of Lies. A sleazy, small-time journalist is blackmailing one source and pumping out all manner of falsities. But before he knows it, he's in a world of shit--scrambling to keep everything straight and the cops off his tail.

Revenge is a Redhead by Phil Beloin, Jr. Pulp novella. After getting kicked out of the house by his policeman father, a young man falls in love with a red-headed hooker, then a spends a wild night avoiding rape, robbery and murder. He ends up committing quite a few crimes of his own and eventually seeks revenge on his attackers with the help of his new-found love interest.

Plus issues of All Due Respect, a new version of Monson's short story collection Criminal Love, and more.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

REVIEW: Federales by Chris Irvin

Mexican Federal Agent Marcos Camarena is a dedicated, but very human, public servant. After having his fill of the rampant corruption and violence he witnesses every day, he leaves his job. He's busy drinking himself silly when he gets a call offering him a job he needs. But this job's not an easy one--protecting a politician who's intent on cracking down on the drug cartels and  has no desire to have a bodyguard.

Federales, from One Eye Press, is a fast-paced, hardboiled story with an insider's understanding of Mexican politics and problems. Despite the thriller pacing, Irvin creates likeable, interesting characters who you'll be rooting for in spite of their flaws. This is a highly engaging, well-written novella that you can finish in an afternoon.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

COMING SOON: you don't exist, Pablo D'Stair

Very soon, Pablo D'Stair and I will release a noir double feature: you don't exist. D'Stair, for my money, is the undisputed master of the short noir form with the Trevor English series and they say the owl was a baker's daughter. Here's the beginning of his contribution, the eerie tale of  a guy lost in the middle of nowhere. 

bleed the ghost empty
by Pablo D'Stair

Apparently, I’d wound up further from the highway than I’d thought—I was under the impression I’d been running parallel to it, keeping a straight line, that at worst I might have to back track half a day’s drive, but the reality seemed so much more dreadful. I wasn’t even nowhere, I was just somewhere I couldn’t identify, and there seemed to be no one else there with me.
I thought I remembered having seen a car, somewhat indistinctly, off down a twist of secondary road not so long ago, argued with myself that I had, that I hadn’t, that I had, settled that I had, just because I didn’t feel like being wrong.
I didn’t lower the speed of the car, but whimpered, giving glances to the empty coffee and the other half empty coffee I’d started using for an ashtray, an idiot thing to’ve done, a plump of deformed skins of cigarettes there, now, a scrap of the plastic off of some pack.
I knew I should’ve slept last night, should’ve slept the previous night, but that didn’t much matter. Unless I wanted to pull over, sleep in the car surrounded by nothing—road, trees, rises of hills up, dips of hills down, rocks, road, trees, tall grass—I’d just have to keep driving.
It’d gotten dark over an hour ago. Before that I’d not seen anything for five hours.
Maybe that car.
Maybe not.

***

A car passed me. I’d wondered the entire time the headlights approached if I was going to turn the wheel, crash into it—smiling, giggling, the radio going on and on, on and on.
I was glad that someone was around, wriggled in my seat, coughed and sort of sneezed at the same time, punched the top of my thigh and needed to have a piss. I imagined it was alright, that I’d come up on some town relatively soon—pictured less a town than just some empty, half burnt down hotel somewhere, husks of cars rusted, animal carcasses, nobody there when I touched at a bell that wouldn’t sound. Cinematic idiocy. I tried to think up where the images were drawn from—what film exactly—just as quickly didn’t care.
What signs there were on the roads had been making me unsettled. I’d see a sign for a town called Dismit or Brandon, there would be an indication of how many miles it would be until the town, but the next sign would just have other towns listed, other miles, no mention of Dismit or Brandon.
When I saw a sign that said Callafield in two miles, I kept my eyes peeled. But two miles—three miles, five miles, five songs from the radio later—I’d not only not seen Callafield, but no turn-offs of any kind.
At ten miles, there were two new signs for Talle and Bauer.

***

I hissed like it was a smart remark at the sight of a little dingy gas station with a shack-looking diner or shop off a ways from it—the one high light only illuminated enough of the dirt lot to see the pumps, the impression of something further on.
The light also showed the chill whisper of moisture in the air. I realized I was shivering, slapped at the heater, slapped at the cigarette lighter, fumbled through the pile of wrappers and clothes and various discard on the passenger seat until I came up with my half pack of cigarettes.
I might’ve been imagining the thing with these signs, I thought, but shook my head even while I did, snorting. Cigarette lit, lighter replaced, I said aloud that I didn’t mean Imagining, I’d meant I might not understand how the roads worked. I certainly could’ve been missing turn-offs. No question, I admitted that. Especially with my fatigue, agitated. The trouble was, I’d not seen a hint of any town, so the signs, at best, meant that it was two miles or five miles or ten miles to the road that would eventually lead to the town. A town could be hours away, still.
I was nowhere, either way.
I stared out through the windshield, set the wipers on, smoked mostly down out my nose.

***

The gas pumps were locked. I’d known they would be. I doubted this was a functional gas station, but at the same time mumbled that it had its own light, wasn’t closed off with a gate or anything— why would someone bother to lock up empty pumps?
I wondered if I could even trust this gasoline, if I did pump it, if I could figure out some way to pry the lock.
I wandered over to the diner building, looked in a window but couldn’t get the impression of whether it was a viable establishment or a husk. I did find a coin operated cigarette machine, rather well stocked, when I went looking for a toilet, so I tossed some punches around, clapped, knelt and checked at the prices. I didn’t know any of the brands at all, but this made me giddy, it’d be like smoking the abstraction of Cigarette, which seemed about right.
There was a bin for bags of ice with nothing inside, some trash bins with locks on the lids, empty from the weight of them.
The bathroom I found was locked, and this made me sort of relieved, really. I just pissed into the gravel, onto my shoes a little bit, bobbing, tapping up the courage to find someplace to have a squat, as well.

***

I used the rough paper towels I’d gotten with some doughnuts two days prior to wipe myself. After I got my pants reclosed, I squinted at the rear of the diner building and what I could see of the illuminated lot—I’d thought I’d only walked a dozen paces into the uneven field, frightened to go further because of the dark, but the building, the car seemed far away.
Sighing, I lit a cigarette, got the last flame of a lighter I then tossed away, craning my head around, brow kept quite low because the mist in the air was sharpening. I stared in the direction of a faint chugging sound, tottering where I stood, my eyes finally adjusting enough to get the idea it was a parked car, engine going. It was. Once I had the visual, the sound was distinct, unquestionable even in its lullaby hush. Tufts of exhaust flaked up from the thing’s rear. It was parked a good way off. I heard the thwit of its windshield wipers, going at slow intervals.
It was too dark to make out if a road had gotten the car there or if the driver had just turned in to the field. So, I returned to the lot, glancing around for anything. There was a heavy, latching gate, closed, chain wrapped around to keep it in place, but padlock open. This was toward the lot’s far corner, underneath of the long dead bulb of a high poled light, like the one still sputtering brown orange spittle all over my car.

***

After I let myself shiver, smoking machine cigarettes, leaning against my car or walking in half awake circles, I started my engine, turned the heater up, watched the gas gauge creak to about half of a quarter tank. It was ridiculous, I said, then slammed my elbow into the door, the bone striking the handle funny, fingers tingling numb, slowly cooling, warming back to normal.
Even if I stayed the entire night, there was no guarantee the gas station would open, I’d have to wait for somebody to come by, flag them down, get them to let me follow them as their directions would be meaningless—I didn’t trust the roads, the signs, anything.
Though, I said, squirming my thumb knuckle into the bulb of my closed eye, it might be different in the light, it might look normal, like it was something outside.
I realized I could call the police, patted myself for my cell phone, a heave of anger rolling its shoulders in my chest until I saw the thing where I’d left it on the dash. I wondered if it was the same emergency number everywhere. It’d have to be. It was that or I’d nothing to dial.
I didn’t really have an emergency, I whispered to be a pest to myself, then got a new cigarette going.
What did I care? It wasn’t an emergency or it was, what did I care about it?

***

Other than the number six-eleven-six-thirteen, there was no address on the front of the diner or on the pumps. I tugged at the padlocks a few times, looked around for a mailbox or something out on the roadside where I’d turned in. Nothing.
Nothing.
The police could trace my call, I’d imagine. If they couldn’t they couldn’t, I had no idea how it worked outside of the city I lived in—or in places at least civilized enough to have sensible road signs.
I started chuckling at the idiot situation I’d made for myself. I lingered at the entrance I’d driven up by, as I reminded myself I had passed somebody a while back, people did use the road, somebody might happen by.
It was getting to be after ten o’clock, so my odds were decreasing, of course.
I dialed in the numbers for the police, stared at the Send button, wondered what difference it would make.
I could wait out the night, it made no difference. I didn’t care.
Pacing and muttering my arms around, I wound up back by the latched gate in the corner. Leaning on it, I saw that the car was still down there, motor on, tongue click of windshield wipers, probably radio on.

***

Knowing there wasn’t one, I wobbled around, looked for a soda machine, even walked up to the diner window, peered in, scanning for a cooler.
I could smash the window, it occurred to me. I felt brilliant. There’d be something to drink in there, and better still some alarm might go off. Or there might be a fire alarm, anyway, I thought, clapping palms to thighs, congratulating myself.
But what would I say I’d been doing here?
I deflated a moment, then shook my head, held up a finger as though explaining to some idiot version of myself that I wouldn’t stay around, I’d drive away a bit, just happen back by when the police were there, be overjoyed, ask them which way was which around here.
I stared at a thin pane, could see myself thrusting elbow through it, smashing it with a rock, getting the lock undone.
Maybe.
I’d consider it.
Maybe.
Shivering, I sat down.
The road the other car was parked on might lead to a house, the owners of this place might live in that house, so that would spoil my police plan. Police don’t respond to alarms out here, I imagined, thinking more clearly. Police have nothing to do with very much out here, most likely. The owners would just come down, shut off the alarm, leer around suspiciously, sniff their little dirty snouts in the air awhile.

***

The car down the road was still lulling, probably kids gingerly smoking up, making out, jabbering. It didn’t mean there was a house nearby, but they would know where a gas station was—no one who didn’t live around here would park there all night, whiling away the time.
I paced around, quite irritated that there wasn’t a working light above me, if there were, maybe these people would’ve seen me, gotten spooked, driven off. They’d need to come out eventually, it only served to reason, and this gate was the way in and the way out.
Back to the car, I turned up the radio, but killed the engine, made myself warm enough with some shirts I’d tugged out of the box I’d torn open the previous day when I’d been sure it was where I’d left some CDs.
The mist started to turn more into a kissing downpour—nothing so bad, droplets flat and wide, each turning to three streaks as they made their way into the crease of the windshield behind the wiper blades.
I opened my eyes vaguely to see the rear lights of a truck moving past the turn in, blinked drowsy, then shot up, hurting my knee, my calf starting to spasm, tore at the clothing I’d tangled myself in and hobbled out the car door into the mud, able to hear the skish of the truck tires for several minutes even through the mess at my feet being pelted hard by the now full grown rain.

***

I stammered around, incoherent, lighting a cigarette, head bent way forward to keep the thing being made soggy even as I jabbed it with the car lighter. I’d been asleep for something like ten minutes—less than that, eight or nine minutes—and a truck goes by. It was worthless. I threw my cigarette away, tilted my head so that rain could hit it straight on, winced at a fat drop in my eye, my whole face burning.
I slunk my way back in the car, lit a new cigarette, pouting.
On top of it, like a sneer at myself, I realized I didn’t know what I was talking about when it came to the gate. If it was kids smoking up, that was probably how they got in, but only maybe. They could have pulled off the side of the road down some distance to avoid the gate, maybe they didn’t know it wasn’t really locked, or—and this I said right at the windshield, burping twice from off breaths while I forced it out—there was a house down there, their house, and they’d just go back inside.
I roughed my wet hair with a shirt, felt around on the backseat floor for my wool cap, tucked arms to my side, hands to pockets, one last fresh cigarette going, and sponged over to the gate.
The car was there, its exhaust lapping left and right in the wind at the rain, the wipers probably still going at the same lazy thuk.

***

Narrowing the distance to the car, I saw the passenger door was ajar, watched the tumble of exhaust, could vaguely make out the loud of the radio, music I didn’t know.
I got a little antsy, not wanting to scare anybody, cause some freakish confrontation, so darted my head around, scanning the patches of trees and growth for any sign that someone might’ve been having a piss, decided to wait out the rain in the shelter of an overhang or something instead of making the run for the vehicle.
I slowed, made some obligatory callings out, feeling an imbecile, wanting my presence to be known.
I wound around wide, so that I could approach the car from the front, show in the headlights, held my hand up twerpish and kind, giving it wiggles, saying Hello, headlights making the vehicle and whoever was in it nothing, music whining out the cracked open door.
I stopped short.
I made a gesture of confusion, some sign that I wanted them to let me know if it was alright to approach—they should make the lights blink, honk the horn, open and close a door.
I looked to both of my sides, wondered how much of an idiot I was making of myself. No one was in the car, probably. They’d all gone off someplace, or there was only one person to begin with.
I didn’t see anyone watching me, was damp through to my tightening skin.

***

The driver of the car had a screwdriver deep in his eye, his cheek gashed open all the way up, a clot like half-dried dead grass leaking down into a crust of his shirt over his shoulder, his chest. His pants were undone, a fully erect penis leaned slightly to one side, one of his hands seized into claw just next to it, his other arm stretched back behind him grotesquely, like he’d been batting at something behind his head.
I listened to the thupping of water on the car roof, felt it numb my hands and just stood, leaned over, no idea how long. Eventually I crouched down, sitting in the puddled mud, scratching at my wet lips with the senseless pulps of my fingers.
The music from the radio continued to blare, sounded less like anything than it had at just a snip through the sour weather.
I touched my pockets, realizing I was looking for my cell phone, but I’d left it back at my car, had set it back to the dashboard before I’d nodded off.
I kept telling myself Okay okay okay, not just muttering, telling myself the word in sets of threes and sets of three-sets-of-three Okay okay okay Okay okay okay Okay okay okay making a relaxation of it, a sing song.
I needed to call the police. Certainly. But I couldn’t move, didn’t want to move.
I got standing again, not turning back to look at the man, gauged the distance back up the hill to my car. I could hardly even see the sneeze of orange lot, just the general sense of light there, beaconed like a smear of mucus.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

COMING SOON: you don't exist

Ever since I read the ridiculously good Trevor English series, I've been a huge fan of Pablo D'Stair. He writes what he calls claustrophobic noir--stories singularly focused on a character who, in one way or another, is cornered. 

I'm really honored to be working with Pablo on a new project titled you don't exist. Pablo has the opening novelette, Bleed the Ghost Empty. I follow with Pessimist. Both stories (through sheer chance) involve the main character finding a bunch of cash, not to mention a healthy dose of self-hatred and wandering around in a car.

Below is the beginning of Pessimist. Next week I'll post an excerpt from Pablo's piece.

Pessimist

Chris Rhatigan
One

Flight 7842 from Dallas to Moline, Illinois, bounced hard on the runway.
It was about a second of air time, two at most, but plenty of time for Pullman to think all of the following:
You’re going to die.
The plane will explode.
You will burn to death.
Yet you are no one.
You have lived thirty-seven years, but have done nothing.
No one will mourn your death.
Will there be a funeral?
Maybe they have to have funerals for people who die in plane crashes.
Like the FAA requires it or something.
Then it would just be a chaplain and one FAA guy.
The chaplain saying the Nicene Creed and the FAA guy texting the whole time.
Doing their job, honoring your flaccid corpse.
They forget to bury you.
And they move on, but you remain in that plain, pine box, staring at the sky, wide fucking awake even though everyone thinks you’re dead.
Because you can’t die if you’re nobody in the first place.
Then the plane landed.
Pullman let out a long breath, rubbed the bridge of his nose, the nausea pillaging the bottom of his stomach. The descent into Moline had been turbulent—one of the luggage components even snapped open—and Pullman was relieved to be back on the ground.
The guy in the aisle seat, who hadn’t said anything the whole flight, slapped Pullman on the shoulder, said, “Man, the way you looked, I thought we were all gonna die! Ha ha! Ha ha!” He laughed like an asshole. “You going to be all right there, buddy?”
He managed to say this without expressing any concern.
Pullman wanted to rip the guy’s throat out.
Instead, he pretended to finish a crossword puzzle. He never finished more than half a crossword puzzle.
The plane taxied for thirty minutes. Pullman never understood this part. Why couldn’t they just go to the gate? Why’d they always have to dick around?
His seat was at the back of the plane by the bathroom, so he waited another fifteen minutes for everyone to leave.
Then he wondered why he was losing patience. What was he going to do with a few extra minutes? He would probably waste it watching ESPN News in his hotel room, or thinking about ordering one of those adult movies, but deciding the $12.95 price tag was too steep. He would waste these minutes like he had wasted all those that came before.
He put his head in his hands. When he looked up, everyone else was gone.
Just him and the flight attendants, who were cleaning up the absurd amount of trash—empty water bottles, used tissues, newspapers, one mango rind—that the passengers had created in less than two hours. 
Pullman went inside. Moline might be the most depressing airport he’d seen. When you went to O’Hare or JFK or Miami, you arrived there. Big airports with dozens of coffee chains and bustling crowds and important people going to important places. Moline was more like a bus stop.
He settled on an unnamed food stand—not that he had any other choices. A few limp danishes, soggy sandwiches, hot dogs that resembled colon lining.
“Whaddya want?” said a fat old woman behind the counter. When she spoke, her gray cheeks jiggled obscenely.
Pullman pointed at one of the danishes—cheese? apple? regret?—and forked over three bucks. He ate it in three bites as he walked to baggage claim. A dollar a fucking bite. It felt like a sugar bomb exploded in his stomach, made him over full and hollow at the same time.
He waited at baggage claim as flights from Atlanta and Detroit picked up their luggage first. His black duffel bag rolled down to the belt fifteen minutes later. He scooped it up and went to the desk for his rental car. The bag’s weight felt different. Pullman took another look and confirmed that the bag was his.
He was in town for a convention in Davenport, just over the other side of the Mississippi River. He was the assistant city planner for the city of Harper, New York (really it was a town, but for some legal reason they called it a city). His boss didn’t go to the conference—Pullman figured this was because the conference was in Iowa, a place no one wanted to go. He couldn’t have placed Iowa on a map of the US before this trip.
His rental car was a Chevy Aveo, a pipsqueak of a vehicle that inspired about as much awe as the Moline airport. His bag barely fit in the backseat.
It was much colder here than back in New York—a fierce wind blew around a few inches of snow, creating these tight whirlwinds of white. Pullman didn’t have a wool hat or gloves, and he shuddered at the thought of three days in this shit.
Pullman started the car, waited for it to warm up. He exhaled, his breath sticking to the windshield.
Maybe he’d run the car into a tree or, better yet, off a bridge into the Mississippi River. He’d be peaceful as the car descended in the brown, murky depths.
He’d always admired people who committed suicide. Especially those who did it with discipline or sent a specific message. Anyone could knock back a handful of sleeping pills with a bottle of liquor to speed up the inevitable. But to impale yourself with a crucifix or starve yourself—that took balls.
The place they put him up in looked like a good home for a crank addict. The sign out front was a goddamn paragon of creativity: MOTEL. He assumed this was the right place because the address seemed close.
The front office didn’t have a door. The man inside it wore a t-shirt and jeans despite the cold. He had a chicken’s head and the blank, unblinking eyes of the idiotic.
Pullman swore as he trudged across the unplowed parking lot, lugging the bag. His feet were soaked with cold. He had brought boots, but they were in his bag.
The man in the office stared at him the entire time until Pullman reached the doorway. Then the man directed all of his attention on a TV mounted to the wall, an old black-and-white movie.
Pullman looked at the desk clerk, but the guy refused to look back.
“Is this 4668 Howe Avenue?”
The guy’s left eye twitched.
“I think I have a reservation? Under Pullman?”
The guy still didn’t respond. What the fuck? Pullman thought people in the Midwest were supposed to be nicer or some shit. He should have known that people are equally terrible everywhere.
Pullman struck the bell on the desk hard.
The man grabbed a key from under the counter, slid it across the desk, still managing not to look back at him. Pullman took the key, which had a sticker indicating it was for room six. He almost said “Thanks” out of routine, but stopped himself. He turned to leave.
“HEY!” the man shouted, now with all his focus on Pullman. He stabbed the counter twice with a finger. “Ya pay first, asshole.”

***

Pullman threw his bag down, kicked off his slushy sneakers, and sank onto the flimsy bed. Bland landscape painting on the wall, a bible in the nightstand drawer. These normal things comforted him.
But he could see his breath in the room. The heat either wasn’t on or was broken. The motel probably didn’t receive too many complaints about it—if you’re really high, it doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold, nor could you be too picky about what kind of place would accept your presence.
The bag. It was different and, somehow, Pullman had an inkling about its contents.
A hunch.
Vague, but unmistakable.
The trip had been a disaster so far. He flew from LaGuardia to Dallas, where he had a five-hour layover, followed by a completely unexplained three-hour delay, during which the plane sat on the tarmac and passengers were repeatedly told they couldn’t use the bathroom. This, of course, made Pullman have to pee. Each minute dragged by before they finally reached a high enough altitude to permit urination.
Then the pilot fucked up the landing in Moline and almost killed them all. Now this shithole of a motel and this weird bag identical to his but probably filled with stolen human livers on ice—or something other item of equally awful value.
But didn’t airport security check bags? When he went through security in New York, they had taken away his bottle of travel shampoo in his carry-on. He’d almost made a joke about how they’d foiled his big terrorist plot to wash his few strands of remaining hair, but managed to restrain himself.
Pullman hefted the bag onto the bed.
He unzipped it a few inches.
Zipped it back up again.
He blinked.
The painting on the wall was still of a covered wagon crossing the plains, back when America had shit like bison and muzzle-loading rifles.
The book in the nightstand was still the bible.
His sneakers were still soggy with snow and ice.
The floorboards were still stained the color of rust from some mysterious leak.
So he wasn’t hallucinating.
He unzipped the bag—this time in one fluid motion, all the way open.
And again he found it packed with bundles of cash.

Bundles and bundles and bundles and bundles of cash.