Cell at Eastern State

Cell at Eastern State

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Dope Thief appeared on some 'best of' lists for crime fiction for the year, and in some excellent company:

January Magazine's Best Crime Fiction of the Year list in a nice mention by Kevin Burton Smith.

BSC Reviews Best Mystery/Crime Fiction of the Year in the lists from Keith Rawson and Brian Lindenmuth, both of whom have been incredible in getting the word out about Dope Thief.

And it turns out Dope Thief was the best selling crime book at Farley's Bookshop in New Hope, which is a really cool thing to have happen at a store that's been so supportive.

Highlights for 2010:

I'll have a short story, "Doe Run Road" at the excellent crime website, Plots With Guns.

I'm working on a story right now for CrimeFactory. I'll let everyone know the title as soon as it's accepted. Crimefactory was a cool crime zine that's being revived by Keith Rawson and Cameron Ashley and should be back as a website in January.

In June, my second novel The Wolves of Fairmount Park, will be coming from Minotaur Books.

I'll also have a story in the upcoming Philadelphia Noir, from Askashic Books, edited by Carlin Romano. I don't have a date yet, but I'll keep everyone posted.

Hope everyone has an excellent New Year's!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

December 12th Liars Club Event: Two Bookstores in One Day.

On Saturday December 12th we’ll be having a very special, two-timing holiday event in New Hope, PA as we party with our old friends at Farley’s Book Shop, and new friends at Canterbury Tales around the corner in Peddler’s Village. We arrive at 11:00 am and finish up at 7:00, making this our longest party yet.

Liars LA Banks, Marie Lamba, Jonathan Maberry, Gregory Frost, Merry Jones, Dennis Tafoya, Keith Strunk, and Don Lafferty will spend the day bouncing back and forth, between these two indies. I gotta believe spiked holiday beverages will have to be part of this gig.

Here’s the rotation, but we expect the area to be packed with holiday shoppers and revelers, so the times on this schedule may fall to pieces depending on the way the day plays out.

Kelly and Greg
11 am-1 pm.: Farley’s Bookshop, 44 S. Main St., New Hope, PA
3-5 pm: Canterbury Tales, Rt 263 and Street Rd., Lahaska, PA at Peddlers Village

Merry and Maberry
1-3 pm: Farley’s
5-7 pm: Canterbury Tales

Marie and Keith
11 am-1 p.m.: Canterbury Tales
3-5 pm.: Farley’s

LA Banks, Don and Dennis
1-3 pm: Canterbury Tales
5-7 pm: Farley’s

Here’s a map showing the locations of both book shops. They’re less than 5 miles apart; about a 10 minute drive without traffic.

View Larger Map

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Minotaur Spring Catalog

Huddled Masses,

The new Spring catalog is out from my publisher, Minotaur Books , and you can see The Wolves of Fairmount Park under 'July.'

You can also see what the jacket art is most likely going to look like, though it might be tweaked slightly, according to my editor. It has a nicely dark, gothic feel, doesn't it? Let me know what you think.

The book centers on the shooting of two boys in front of a dope house in Philadelphia, and it follows a young detective and the addict uncle of one of the boys as they each try to uncover what actually led to the shooting.

I hope it will appeal to everyone who enjoyed Dope Thief. Wolves is a more complex story, told from multiple viewpoints, including family members, cops and criminals, but it's still in the same dark thematic territory of violent crime, broken families, corruption and the desperate wishes of deeply flawed people that they can finally do the right thing.

I think bound manuscripts should be available soon, and I hope to be able to get out to even more bookstores, libraries, conferences and workshops next year than I did this year in support of Dope Thief.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Interview with Agent Alex Glass

Here's a great, thoughtful interview with my agent, Alex Glass of Trident Media, for Rich Sambuchino's site, Guide to Literary Agents. The interview is by Ricki Schultz.

Agent Advice: Alex Glass of Trident Media Group (Part I)
Posted by Chuck
Agent Interview by contributor Ricki Schultz.
This is Part I of II.

"Agent Advice" is a series of quick interviews with literary and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else...


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wellington Books Liars Club Event


December 5th, I'll be with the Liars Club at Wellington Square Bookshop in Exton, PA.

Join us from noon till 2:00 pm as we celebrate the Delaware Valley’s newest independent bookstore.

A local player in the used, collectible and rare book markets, Wellington Square Bookshop has undergone a recent expansion to include new titles.

Come check out this luxurious literary hideaway with Philly Liars Marie Lamba, Jonathan Maberry, Gregory Frost, Merry Jones, Dennis Tafoya, Keith Strunk, Jon McGoran, and Don Lafferty.

Wellington Square Bookshop

549 Wellington Square
Eagleview Town Centre
Exton, PA, 19341

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Events next Saturday.


On Saturday the 21st of November I'll be at Farley's Bookshop in New Hope, PA. I'll be signing books and haranguing passersby from 1:00 to 4:00pm.

Farley's is a great place, crammed to the rafters with books. It's exactly the kind of store that shows off why independent bookstores are so important and such a great antidote to the chains. They're great supporters of local writers, and the people are there because they genuinely love books. I never walk out of the place without a new book.

Date: Saturday, November 21, 2009
Time: 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Location: Farley's Bookshop
Street: 44 S. Main Street
City/Town: New Hope, PA

Come on down!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Free Kids Workshop at Moonstone Arts Center

I'll be teaching a free workshop for the Spells Writing Center in Philadelphia on Saturday:

Mysteries Revealed!
Sat, November 14, 2009
2:00–3:30 p.m.
Moonstone Arts Center (formerly Robin’s Bookstore)
110A S. 13th Street, Philadelphia
Taught by Dennis Tafoya
Ages 8+

Taking inspiration from the award-winning children’s book Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg, we’ll write our own strange and funny story books. Van Allsburg couples illustrations with a single caption, leaving the reader to ponder the rest of the story behind the picture. Whether you’re inspired by one of Van Allsburg’s pictures and want to expand on it, or you prefer to create a mysterious set of your own pictures and captions, come prepared to think, laugh, and write, write, write!

*Space is limited! Call 267-670-0869 or email write@phillyspells.org to reserve your spot now.*

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Liars Club at Womrath Books in Tenafly

Good rats,

(I had to drop out of this event today because of a cold, but everyone should still go and meet the other amazing writers and talents of the Liars Club)

This Saturday, November 7th, the Liars Club is hosting the 60th Anniversary Bash at Womrath's in Tenafly from noon-3 p.m.

The event is free, but a portion of the proceeds from the day's book sales will be donated to the Sergeant Harry Fund in honor of the store's founder, Sergeant Harry Kutik! So not only will you be supporting a great indie bookstore, but you'll also be helping disabled veterans achieve a better life. More info is at www.sgtharry.org.

The Liars will be bringing trivia contests, giveaways and prizes including copies of our books and cool Liars Club totebags. I'm also reliably informed that there will be cake!

Womrath's is at 12 Washington Street / Tenafly, NJ 07670 / Phone: 201-568-8857.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween at Aaron's Books

It's Halloween, and I'll be at Aaron's Books, in Lititz, PA, at 2:00pm to conduct another Crime Writing Workshop! These are always a lot of fun, and include readings from classic crime novels, as well as lively discussion and an exercise in writing mayhem. Readers who love crime and writers with a little darkness in their hearts are especially welcome!

See you there.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

UFO tour


I'm currently in New Mexico, where Dan Wolkow (above) from Eastern New Mexico University's Roswell campus invited me to do some workshops and talk to the students about writing. Dan did an amazing job promoting the workshop and we got a great turnout and gave away five signed copies of Dope Thief.

It's always a blast talking with aspiring writers, and the results from the writing exercise are invariably really funny and interesting. I think people love getting license to think about mayhem.

On Halloween, I'll be at Aaron's Books, in Lititz, PA, at 2:00pm to conduct another Crime Writing Workshop for aspiring writers, loyal readers, and the morbidly curious.

(Extra points for anyone who recognizes the Bill Hicks reference in the title to this post!)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bouchercon 2009


I'll be at Bouchercon, October 14th to the 17th, at the Hyatt Regency in Indianapolis.

It's the world mystery convention, with dozens of crime authors, including Guest of Honor Michael Connelly. There'll be tons of great panels and chances to meet and hear some of the best thriller writers working today.

Really looking forward to hanging out with all my new friends and lots of excellent writers.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Liars Club at the Moravian Book Shop

Huddled Masses,

I'll be with my Liars Club pals this Saturday, October 3rd at the Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, PA, from 5 to 7pm. We'll be signing our books, giving away prizes and generally celebrating the Book Shop's contribution to the community.

The Liars Club is a group of Philly-area writers, producers and media people who get together to promote local independent bookstores and shamelessly market our own work.

This is your chance to hang out with Bram Stoker award-winner Jonathan Maberry (Patient Zero, St. Martin’s, and They Bite!, Citadel), Gregory Frost (Fitcher’s Brides, Tor Books; Shadowbridge, and Lord Tophet, Del Rey/Random House), Marie Lamba (What I Meant…, Random House), Dennis Tafoya (Dope Thief, St. Martin’s), Jon McGoran who writes as D.H. Dublin (Freezer Burn, Berkley), Keith Strunk (Prallsville Mills and Stockton, Arcadia Publishing Images of America Series), Kelly Simmons (Standing Still, Washington Square Press), Merry Jones (The Borrowed and Blue Murders, Minotaur Books), and social media marketing consultant, writer and lecturer Don Lafferty.

Come on down! These events are always a blast, and I'll bet there'll be cake!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Noir at the Bar

Wednesday night, the 30th of September, I'll be at Pete Rozovsky's latest Noir at the Bar. Pete runs the "Detectives without Borders" website, an excellent resource on international crime fiction.

The event will be at the Pen and Pencil Club, at 1522 Latimer Street in Philadelphia. I'll be on at 6:00pm, reading from "Dope Thief" and being interviewed by critic and literary historian Ed Pettit.

After me, at 8:00pm will be Pete Dexter, reading from his latest novel, Spooner. Pete is the author of several critically acclaimed novels, including "Paris Trout" and "The Paperboy."

Hope to see everyone there!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Crime Movie Night

I'll be hosting a showing of two classic crime films at the County Theater in Doylestown, on Friday, September 25th. The event is sponsored by the Doylestown Bookshop, and I'll be doing a signing and reading there at 8:00pm and then crossing the street to the County Theater to introduce the movies at 9:00pm. We'll be showing Orson Welles' classic Touch of Evil, with Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh, followed by the cult noir Gun Crazy, with John Dall and Peggy Cummins. It should be a blast, and one lucky attendee will win a chance to have his or her name used in an upcoming novel. The reading and signing are free, tickets for the double feature are ten dollars, or five dollars with a purchase of Dope Thief at the Bookshop. More info can be found at the Doylestown Bookshop's website.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Novel #2 is coming

I turned Novel #2 in to my editor at Minotaur and now have a tentative pub date of Spring, 2010!

The book will be a mystery and is titled, "The Wolves in Fairmount Park." I hope fans of "Dope Thief" will enjoy it. It's set in Philadelphia and centers on a heroin addict trying to solve a murder.

Look for it from Minotaur Books in the spring.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New Book from Jonathan Maberry

Literate Ones,

My buddy Jonathan Maberry has a new book out in the stores right now. It's called THEY BITE!: Endless Cravings of Supernatural Predatorsand it's an excellent, hugely entertaining resource on demons, werewolves, killers, beasts and imps, fictional and real, and the best part is...I'm in it! No, not as one of the monsters - as a contributor, smart ass. Jonathan gave me full rein, so I have a paragraph on my favorite movie monster, the ridiculously scary clown from Stephen King's "IT".

Hope you'll get a minute to check it out.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Kid is Making a Movie


Check this out: My son Dave is making a documentary about the Canadian Alternative Music Scene. You can check it out here.

He's been interviewing members of bands like Broken Social Scene, Holy Fuck, Black Diamond Bay, Sunset Rubdown and The Sam Roberts Band. He's met some amazing musicians who have been incredibly generous with their time and he's had an excellent experience.

Dave is a third-year film student at Emerson College. He's hoping to complete editing on the movie this fall and hopes to enter it into some film festivals when the film's complete.

My Criminal Obsessions

Dwellers in Darkness,

I thought I'd list some of the odd stuff I'm obsessed with and that, given the time, I'd eventually like to write about at more length.

Over the next few days or weeks, look for short pieces about the following:

The Alice Crimmins Case, which inspired Mary Higgins Clark's first novel, "Where Are the Children?"

Barbara Graham, whose life inspired the movie, "I Want to Live."

Urban Snipers Charles Whitman and his lesser-known imitator Mark James Robert Essex.

The Zoot Suit Riots, referenced in James Ellroy's "The Black Dahlia" and lampooned in Stephen Spielberg's movie, "1941."

Unsolved murders like the Zodiac, the Anthrax case of 2001, and the Black Dahlia, and why some unsolved cases stick in the public memory while others fade.

Love to hear from you about crimes, solved or unsolved that you can't stop thinking about and that you think reflect some interesting truth.

Friday, August 21, 2009

30 Minute Crime Writing Workshop

Forces of Darkness,

It's time again for my free 30-Minute Crime Writing Workshop, to be held next Saturday, the 29th of August, at the Borders Express in the Montgomeryville Mall in North Wales, PA.

I'll be reading from 'Dope Thief' as well as from classic crime novels by authors like Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block and my pals Scott Phillips and Christa Faust. We'll talk about the elements of crime fiction and I'll put the attendees through a guided exercise in writing mayhem.

How can we get all this done in 30 minutes? (I'll give you a hint: The secret ingredient is lying).

I've done these workshops in locations all over the east coast and it's always been a ton of fun. Come on out and see which of your neighbors is secretly plotting a murder!

Friday, August 14, 2009

A story about Dope Thief's Bucks County locations is running now at D-town Magazine, available everywhere here in Doylestown. It was a lot of fun traveling with the photographer, Martin Buday, and being interviewed by Rich Pietras, both really nice guys. You can see more of Martin's great photographs here. I'm really grateful to D-Town for the exposure, and I think it's really cool that they were willing to talk about some of the less savory aspects of life in the county. I hope everyone checks it out!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Way Out West

Just got back from a trip to Vegas, the Grand Canyon and Palm Springs, with lots of great desert driving that always leaves me with a head full of crazy story ideas. This is Red Rock Canyon, near Vegas.

The desert along 62, east of Twenty Nine Palms.

The south rim of the Grand Canyon. There were fires all around the rim of the canyon, putting out great sheets of white smoke. It was amazing.

While I was out there, I also signed copies of Dope Thief at the Barnes and Noble on Maryland Parkway in Vegas. There are now no independent bookstores that carry new, secular books in Las Vegas.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Off to Vegas

Children of the Night,

I'll be heading out to the southwest tomorrow, on a trip that will include Vegas, the Grand Canyon and Palm Springs. Saturday, I'll be signing books at the Maryland Parkway Barnes and Noble in Las Vegas at about 1:00pm.

I've been getting great reaction to the Dope Thief book trailer, especially to my son Dave's excellent, moody music.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

New Book Trailer

I've put together a book trailer for the book. You can see it on You Tube, or right here at the blog at the bottom of the page. The amazing music is from my son, Dave, who's in Canada right now working on a documentary on the Canadian music scene. It was fun to do - hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

News of the week.


I spent the day last week with Martin Buday, a photographer from D-Town Magazine. Martin took some great shots of locales from Dope Thief that will run with an interview next month. This is the Cherry Top, a custard stand in Ottsville.

Really nice review at Las Vegas Weekly by Ed Pettit. Excellent to get a real print review and this one is amazing. I may get T-shirts made up with the text of this one.

This weekend...going to be at Between Books in Claymont with the Liars Club on Saturday from 3:00pm to 5:00pm on Saturday, the 25th of July. It should be a lot of fun, with giveaways, games and lots of great authors on hand.

On hand from the Liars Club will be: Marie Lamba (WHAT I MEANT..., Random House), Jonathan Maberry (PATIENT ZERO, St. Martins), Keith Strunk (PRALLSVILLE MILLS AND STOCKTON, Arcadia Publishing), Kelly Simmons (STANDING STILL, Washington Sq. Press), Merry Jones (THE BORROWED AND BLUE MURDERS, Minotaur), Gregory Frost (LORD TOPHET, Del Rey/Random House) and me, signing copies of DOPE THIEF.

So glad Martin got this shot of the Neshaminy, an ancient strip club in Warrington. The owner sold out and the place is going to be torn down for a bank and a restaurant. It was pretty much unnoticed by anyone except those of us who knew it from the old days, until the township tried to pass an ordinance banning signs showing nudity. At that point the owner painted the place with rainbow colors and put a wild sign out front reminding people of President Bush's drug use. It will be missed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I had such a great week last week I wanted to stop and make sure I said thanks to everyone who helped me get the word out about Dope Thief. My friends Laurie and Whit Webb were the most gracious hosts, putting me up in a beautiful house in Wilmington, North Carolina and showing me an excellent time.

Laurie set up my Crime Workshop at Pomegranate Books AND my interview with NPR affiliate WHQR, which were both a ton of fun and went really well. This is Laurie, Whit and their little guys, Gray and Micah.

The folks at Pomegranate were also amazing, getting the word out so effectively that the Crime Fiction Workshop I did at their store was attended by more than thirty people; a great, funny and smart crowd of readers and writers.

I also wanted to thank Olivia from Ukazoo again, who also did an excellent job packing the house when I did the Crime Writing Workshop at Ukazoo Books in Towson, MD. She got the word out all over the place and event got the workshop a mention on WYPR, the local NPR affiliate.

Friday night I was at the Chestnut Hill Book Festival, a brand new event in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, and that was also a great time. I sat on a panel hosted by Ed Pettit and including Kelly Simmons and Jon McGoran, who helped organize several panels and speakers for the event. Kate O'Neill from the Chestnut Hill Business Association did an excellent job coordinating what must have been an incredibly complex event featuring dozens of panels and speakers.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Today at Tinicum Arts Festival

I'll be signing copies of Dope Thief, haranguing the nice suburbanites and generally making a pest of myself at the Tinicum Arts Festival today. It's going on all weekend at 932 River Road, in Erwinna, and I'll be there today, Sunday, from noon until 2:00pm.

There'll be 250 artists and artisans, a book sale, live entertainment, childrens' activities and tons of food.

Hope you can make it!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Coming to North Carolina

I'll be at Pomegranate Books on Thursday at 7:00pm to put on my Crime Writing Workshop. This should be a great trip - I'll be seeing my pal Laurie Webb, the world's best developmental editor, putting on the workshop, and getting a chance to be interviewed on Midday Cafe on WHQR, the local NPR affiliate.

Pomegranate Books is at 4418 Park Ave, Wilmington, NC. The phone number is 910-452-1107. The Crime Writing Workshop starts at 7:00. I'll be reading my own work as well as from classic crime writers, and having the attendees do a little writing themselves.

Hope to see you all there.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Last of the Independents

(Parts of this post were originally posted on the St. Martin's Minotaur blog, Moments in Crime)

I recently got word that a review of Dope Thief was going to appear in the Las Vegas Weekly. Whenever I get hear about a new review, I call the local independent bookstores to see if they're carrying the book. Unfortunately, the day that I got notice that the review was going to appear, I called the last independent bookstore in Las Vegas that carries new, secular books, only to find out they had been given the word they were going to be closed by the casino that owned them within a month.

Luckily, the Barnes and Noble I reached out there was willing to put the book in stock, but it was another depressing sign about how much independents struggle now to stay afloat.

I thought I’d take a minute to render an appreciation of some of the independent bookstores that have not only hosted my events, put my books on their shelves and generally shown great support to me and other local writers, but also who have provided me with nearly all the great books that both entertained and educated me over the years. Everything I know about how to write has come from reading, and more often than not the books I’ve read have come from independent bookstores (and not just because I’m so old that I predate the chains).

Doylestown Bookshop hosted my first event, which meant a lot to me because it’s the local bookstore of the town where I’ve lived for thirty-five years. Doylestown has always had an independent bookstore, though for years it was Kenny’s News Stand, a tiny candy, lottery and magazine place that stocked very little besides mystery and romance novels, though they were happy to order anything you wanted. Doylestown Bookshop is a huge place, occupying what used to be County Linen, a fixture on South Main Street since the fifties. The bookshop is owned by Pat and Phil Gerney and managed by Shiloh Hopwood, and they do an amazing job of supporting local authors. There are events there just about every week, and more often than not there’s a local connection to the featured writers.

Doylestown was the first bookseller to host the Liars Club, a local Philly-based writers group that includes myself, Jonathan Maberry, Leslie Banks, Greg Frost, Jon McGoran, Kelly Simmons, Merry Jones, Ed Pettit and a bunch of other great Philly-based writers, producers and creative types. We decided it would be a great thing to throw a series of celebrations for local independent bookstores, and we’ll be doing events at the Clinton Bookshop in Clinton, NJ (this Saturday at 1:00pm), Aarons in Lititz, PA, Womrath’s in Tenafly, NJ, and other area bookstores as we can.

Farley’s in New Hope, owned by Jim and Nancy Farley, has been in the same location in the middle of New Hope, PA, since the 1960’s. I used to spend hours in there when I was young, getting lost in the great helter-skelter confusion of shelves and stacks, and I’m always glad when I walk in and find that the place is still jammed to the rafters with an eclectic assortment of books.
Julian and Lauren set me up at a table in front of the store one Saturday in May and I had a blast haranguing passersby and giving away Oreos and Nutter Butters, selling a few books for them and having a great time.

Chester County Books and Music is a legendary Philly-area store. It’s by far the biggest bookstore I’ve ever seen, taking up 38,000 square feet in a shopping center in West Chester, PA. I remember when it was a little store in another location out
by 202 that sold surplus textbooks, and now it's an excellent book and music company with an on-premises restaurant. Thea organized an event for the thriller-writers contingent of the Liars Club – Kelly Simmons, Jonathan Maberry and Jon McGoran, and also included Minotaur’s Keith Gilman, author of the Shamus Award-winning Father’s Day.

The Liars Club will be doing more events, and our concept for celebrations of indies has caught the interest of the ABA, NAIBA and other organizations. It’s a great way to get the word out about the importance of local booksellers to the lives of their communities, and allows us to market ourselves and our books in a way that’s a little more fun than the standard signing.

Friday, June 26, 2009

This weekend: Deadly Ink

For those of you in the area, I'll be at Deadly Ink, the crime writing conference, on Saturday and Sunday, the 27th and 28th. The guest of honor is bestseller Lincoln Child, and I'll be on two panels: Writing the Bad Guys, on Saturday at 11:15am on Saturday, and Research - Doing Your Own Investigation, at 9:15am on Sunday.

It should be a great experience. Dozens of thriller and crime writers will be there, and it includes author signings, a conference murder mystery, and lots of great food. Jeff Cohen is the toastmaster for the event, and writers like Ken Isaacson, Rosemary Harris, Jane Cleland, Kate Gallison and Jeff Grabenstein will be signing books and sitting on panels.

Deadly Ink is being held at the Sheraton in Parsippany, NJ, this weekend from 8:00am to Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Trip to the Movies

(Repost from Moments in Crime, St. Martin's Minotaur)

All the crime writers I know love movies. We talk about our favorites, trade recommendations and argue nearly as fiercely and passionately as we do about books. There are as many ways to approach crime movies as there are ways to approach crime writing, and when a movie has been adapted from a book, part of the fun of watching is critiquing the thousand choices the director and actors made about interpretation.

I think nearly all of us who write crime aspire to write screenplays, and not just for the promise of better financial rewards. When we read, we “see” characters and setting and action, sometimes very vividly, and we get proprietary about how we want to see books interpreted. Movies, as much as books, shape our expectations of what crime stories should deliver, and they show us criminal behavior and the repercussions of violence with an immediacy to which fiction can only aspire. They form the cultural landscape, and they influence not just other filmmakers, but also writers, and sometimes, criminals themselves.

I thought it would be fun to put up a short list of some crime movies I love and stimulate a little discussion about the differences in the experiences of watching a crime movie and reading crime fiction. I’ve picked some more obscure films here – I figure you already know the usual suspects, like Chinatown, The Godfathers I and II, and The French Connection.

Rififi. – 1955. Jules Dassin was in France because he’d been blacklisted when he was invited to interpret Auguste le Breton’s short, vicious crime novel for the screen. He wrote the screenplay in English and had it translated into French. It’s the archetype for just about every heist film you’ve ever seen. Jean Servais plays Tony le Stéphanois, a tough-but-tender hood who is one of the classic noir anti-heroes. The centerpiece of the movie is the wordless, nearly silent, seventeen-minute burglary of a jewelry store. Amazing. Dassin himself shows up as the charming safecracker Cesare, whose indiscretions bring on the inevitable final mêlée as rival gangs scramble for the loot.

The Killing – 1956. Director Stanley Kubrick wrote the screenplay with Jim Thompson, based on the novel Clean Break, by Lionel White. It centers on the robbery of a racetrack led by Sterling Hayden, and features some of the most memorable character roles of the period, including Elisha Cook Jr. doing yeoman work as the henpecked loser chained to grasping harpy Marie Windsor, the crazily-intense Timothy Carey, and cheerful Kola Kwariani as a chess-playing strongman who rips his shirt off to get it on with the cops. Everyone in the cast seems barely in control, and the paroxysm of violence at the end seems not just earned, but inevitable.

High Sierra – 1941. Written by W.R. Burnett and John Huston, Burnett’s novel. Bogie leads a great cast on a caper that’s bound to go wrong. As Bogart’s sadder-but-not-wiser ex-con Roy Earle puts it, “Of all the 14 karat saps... starting out on a caper with a woman and a dog.” Of course, things go bad, and then worse, and Roy’s gal Marie, played with a great alternating toughness and vulnerability by Ida Lupino (who went on to become a significant director in her own right) watches from a police blockade as the cops close in on her man. “Tell me mister, what does it mean when a man crashes out?”

City of Industry – 1996. Harvey Keitel is a force of nature in this terse, muscular heist movie directed by John Irvin. When wheelman Stephen Dorff kills Keitel’s brother, the wonderfully aimless Timothy Hutton, and absconds with the loot from a Palm Springs jewelry store robbery, Keitel moves like a runaway train through the underworld of Los Angeles to get his version of justice. The then-unknown Famke Janssen, new widow of one of Hutton’s accomplices, feeds Keitel lines that he brings off with a perfect, distracted understatement. “What are you going to do when you find him?” “You already know.”

Classe Tous Risques – 1960. I’ll let this one stand in for a dozen French movies I love, directed by guys like Jean Pierre Melville and Claude Sautet, who made this gritty, tense downhill slide starring the always-excellent Lino Ventura (probably most recognizable from the classic “Army of Shadows”). Lino’s fugitive gangster Abel Davos is on the run with a death sentence hanging over his head, and like most of the great French crime films of the period, it’s really about loyalty and treachery. It’s hard not to imagine the wartime experience of occupation subtly influencing postwar directors as they depicted tough, violent fugitives dogged by suspicion and doomed by betrayal.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Liars Club Event in Clinton, NJ Tomorrow!

I'm joining my friends from the Liars Club for an event, tomorrow, Saturday, June 20th at 1:00pm at the Clinton Bookshop in Clinton, NJ. We're playing games, giving away some cool prizes including signed books, and generally celebrating a great independent bookstore.

My Liars Club pals who will be there include: Bram Stoker award-winner Jonathan Maberry (Patient Zero, St. Martin’s); Young adult author Marie Lamba (What I Meant…, Random House); Mystery author Jon McGoran who writes as D.H. Dublin (Freezer Burn, Berkley); Historical author Keith Strunk (Prallsville Mills and Stockton, Arcadia Publishing Images of America Series); and Social media writer and speaker, Don Lafferty.

Hope to see you there.

Crime Writing Workshop

Had a blast last night at Ukazoo Books in Baltimore, putting on my 30-Minute Crime Writing Workshop. I read from Dope Thief, as well as from classic and favorite novels by Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block, Raymond Chandler, George V. Higgins, Max Collins and Christa Faust. Attending writers then worked on guided exercises from different crime scenarios, and I gave away a copy of Dope Thief.

It was a lot of fun, and the group did amazing stuff with the assignments. It made me wonder how much murder folks carry around in their heads all day, just looking for an outlet.

Thanks to Olivia Tejeda and the whole gang at Ukazoo for setting up an excellent event.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Blogging this week on Moments in Crime

I'm blogging this week on Moments in Crime at St. Martins' Minotaur. I'll be posting from June 15th to the 21st, so stop by and leave a comment or just get the word out to friends and family. I'll be talking about writing, the elements of noir fiction, music and crime movies.

Send me suggestions or comments, and feel free to weigh in by leaving a comment directly on the blog.

Hope you enjoy it!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Crime Brunch Today

Hey, kids! I'll be down at Briget Foy's at 1:00pm for a Crime Fiction Brunch, sponsored by Robin's Bookstore and Moonstone Arts Center. I'll be sharing the event with Keith Gilman, another Minotaur writer, author of the excellent Father's Day. Come on down for some great food and to talk with us about crime writing.

Hope to see you there!


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Interview with Jonathan Maberry about his new novel, Patient Zero

It doesn't surprise anyone who knows Jonathan Maberry that his new bio-terror thriller, PATIENT ZERO, has already garnered high praise from writers like Peter Straub, David Morrell and Joe R. Lansdale. Jonathan Maberry has already found success as a horror writer, winning multiple Stoker awards for both fiction and non-fiction and securing a reputation as a writer whose work Stuart Kaminsky describes as "vivid, threatening and beautiful."

In PATIENT ZERO, Maberry introduces Joe Ledger, who combines the martial skills of an action hero with the troubled past and vulnerabilities of the classic noir protagonist. Joe is a Baltimore cop recruited by a secret government agency to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a plague that can turn people into murderous zombies, a harrowing device Joseph Finder calls "Night of the Living Dead meets Michael Crichton."

Since 1979, Jonathan Maberry has written thousands of articles, seventeen nonfiction books and seven novels, as well as plays, poetry, comics and forays into new media and webcasts. He's currently writing DRAGON FACTORY, the next installment of the Joe Ledger series, and editing Thrill Ride, a serial graphic novel for ITW showcasing the work of some of the biggest names in thriller writing. He's also the only writer I know who's a member of the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame, which means he knows how to make those scenes of hand-to-hand combat harrowing and frighteningly accurate.

I caught up with Jonathan at the local Starbucks that is his writing home; so much so that he credits the place in the acknowledgements of his latest book.

PATIENT ZERO is being described as a bio-terror thriller, but it actually pays homage to a number of different genres. How do you categorize the novel?

I call PATIENT ZERO a bioterrorism thriller for convenience sake, but you're right in that it crosses a lot of genre lines. In fact, Ken Bruen labeled it a 'neo-noir thriller', the first of its kind. That's probably right on the money. The backbone of the story is the classic thriller: a race against the clock to stop bad guys from doing something really, really bad, and in this case they want to release an unstoppable pathogen. But the hero is a cop and he breaks the case down using a police procedural approach. That isn't often done in thrillers. Plus, the plague turns people into zombies, so you have a bit of the horror genre and the medical thriller genre as well.

PATIENT ZERO does have other elements in it as well. When the hero, Joe Ledger, leads Echo Team on the missions in the novel the books moves a bit into the arena of the military thriller. If PATIENT ZERO needs a simpler label, I'm going to just call it a 'thriller'. That'll do.

You're an incredibly busy writer, but you still conduct classes for new and young writers. Why is that important to you?

For a couple of reasons. First, I love teaching. I've been a teacher for my entire adult life, and I've taught a lot of different things. I teach traditional Japanese jujutsu and kenjutsu (the sword art of the Samurai), and have taught self-defense for women, children and the physically challenged for decades. I taught martial arts history at Temple University for fourteen years. But teaching writing allows me to try and influence other writers to improve their craft and sharpen their business sense.

That part -the business--is crucial, because I've seen what happens to writers who don't understand that publishing is a business. I was there once and got smashed, but I learned from it, and learned the business, and if I can keep another writer from getting smashed, then I feel like I just did something for the common good.

The other reason I love to teach is that in order to teach you have to understand the subject. To teach writing you have to deconstruct it, to peer inside to see all the cogs and pinwheels that make a story tick. I've learned as much from teaching the craft as I have from the process of writing. And that's improved my own skill set.

There's another reason, too. I get totally jazzed when one of my students makes that step and sells something. Not because I want to take credit (which is silly, 'cause I didn't write it) but because that means someone else gets to have the kind of fun I'm having. There's another kid on the playground, which means we're going to have that much more fun.

You're famous for prodigious amounts of research for both your fiction and non-fiction. What was the coolest thing you discovered in researching PATIENT ZERO?

That zombies aren't as far-fetched as we thought. That's cool, though in a very scary way. I need to backtrack a bit to the book I did before PATIENT ZERO. Last August Citadel Press released a nonfiction book called ZOMBIE CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead in which I interviewed hundreds of experts in law enforcement, forensics, and various specialties within medicine. During that research I talked to epidemiologists, molecular biologists and other experts to find out if any of what zombies did in the movies was medically possible. Turns out each individual quality or symptom is possible. Luckily for us it's improbable for those qualities to co-exist in the human body. Improbable, but not actually impossible.

The seed for the Seif al Din pathogen in PATIENT ZERO is a prion disease. Prions are misfolded proteins that act like viruses and can be passed down through family lines even though they don't have DNA. Mad Cow is a prion disease, but the one that really scared the heck out of me is one called 'fatal familial insomnia', a disease that causes its victims to stay awake until the become completely exhausted, deranged and mindless -and then it kills them. My villains take that disease and amp it up with genetic manipulation and combine it with some aggressive parasites of the kind found in nature. Each separate component of the Seif al Din pathogen exists and is possible. I'm just happy that no one has actually done this. I hope.

Your books are both critically acclaimed and popular with readers. Which matters more to you - the regard of your peers or your fans?

No offense to my fellow authors, but I write for the readers. I want to make the books fun for them, I want to challenge them, and I want to give them the give of story they can become involved with. That's one of the reasons I love doing signings, readings and author appearances. I love talking about books with the readers. Not just my own books, but any books. I've had so many great conversations with readers about books...they're often very deeply informed and so well-read that I always get good leads for books I then go and buy.

The support from my fellow authors hits me in a different way. I'm fortunate enough now in my career to know most of the authors whose books I read. I'm one of those readers who likes to know the person behind the book -just as I like knowing the songwriter behind the song. It deepens the experience for me. Having received support for PATIENT ZERO from authors I greatly respect is greatly empowering and validating.

Your Joe Ledger books are entertaining reads, but they're also about the war on terror. Do you use the platform of the novels to weigh in on America's efforts to eradicate terrorism?

In a way. I'm an idealist and a realist at the same time. A point is made in the book that terrorism is an ideology, not a nationality. That's my personal view. I'm against terrorism, whether state sanctioned or as the practice of small groups.

However there are a lot of viewpoints presented in the book, and I don't personally share all of them. PATIENT ZERO is not a 'my country right or wrong' book. Far from it. I believe in responsibility, accountability and an adherence to human rights laws. Not all of my characters share that view.

Funny thing is, a couple of blog reviewers suggested that I was pro-right wing and even a supporter of the Bush viewpoint on the 'war on terror'. I read those reviews and wondered if they'd actually read the book. The viewpoints closest to my own belong to Joe Ledger -the protagonist--and Rudy Sanchez, his best friend (and the moral compass of the book). Other reviewers more clearly got that I was a liberal who would still pull a trigger if the moment demanded it.

I do agree with the philosophy that negotiating with terrorists is a losing proposition. At the same time I agree that the only way to defeat terrorists is to use the kind of guerilla warfare they use. Hence Joe Ledger's take-it-to-them way of doing things.

If you had to choose, would you rather your readers come away from your books wowed by your plots, or in love with your characters?

In love with the characters. Plots are nice, but if the book isn't filled with real people, then it's just bubble gum. As both reader and writer I'm drawn to the characters.

When creating the characters for PATIENT ZERO, I wanted all of them to be three-dimensional, and that includes the villains. My primary villain, Sebastian Gault, is very real to me. He has good and bad qualities; he has a past and a viewpoint that makes sense to him. The same goes with El Mujahid and Amirah -the fundamentalists who head the terror cell and Gault's science division--they aren't cookie cutter terrorists. They have complex personalities and relationships.

The people who have read the book already reached out to me about characters. People seem to care about them. I love that readers are bonding with the 'people' in my book.

How much does the realism or plausibility of your plot devices matter to you?

In this kind of story there's always a point at which the science of the plot crosses over into a bit of science fiction. As the dinosaur cloning did in JURASSIC PARK. The key is to make every other aspect of the story as realistic as possible so it's not much of a stretch for the reader to suspend their disbelief.

I also dig research. I include a lot of gizmos that seem very James Bond, but just about everything in the book is either in use by covert ops, or is in R&D at companies that provide materials for covert ops.

When it comes to the action scenes, I have a special interest in making them as real as possible. I've been a martial arts practitioner for 45 years and worked for years as a bodyguard in the entertainment industry. I've been in a lot of serious conflicts, including dealing with armed attackers and multiple attackers. I was also Chief Instructor for COP-Safe, a company that provided arrest and control workshops for law enforcement officers ranging from rookie street cops to SWAT. I don't believe in flashy fighting, and when Joe Ledger takes it to them PATIENT ZERO you can trust that everything he does is completely plausible. This is something I give talks and lectures on at writers' conferences, including last year at ThrillerFest and at BackSpace.

If the components of the book are real, then the thrills will be real, and that's what it's all about.

This interview originally appeared at The Big Thrill, the web newsletter of the International Thriller Writers.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Short Story

Just finishing up a short story, a form I haven't worked in for a good long while. Now I have to figure out what to do with the story - whether to submit it to a magazine, podcast it or think of something else useful.

I've always loved short stories, which are now an endangered species, at least in print. There are probably more stories than ever out on the web (where I still have a few, cruising around cyberspace like killer asteroids), but the collected book is rarer than ever. That's one of the reasons I'm looking forward to Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, by Wells Tower. Friends of mine who specialize in short stories will typically have to get novels published first before their collections might be considered for publication.

Some of my favorite writers specialize in short stories, like Amy Hempel and Annie Proulx. Drop me a line and tell me about some of your favorite short stories.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Moments in Crime

From June 15th to June 21st, I'll be guest blogger on Moments in Crime, the blog for St. Martin's Minotaur, the publisher of my novel, Dope Thief.

Send me ideas for blog topics! My first entry is going to be an appreciation of libraries and librarians, who have turned into great supporters of Dope Thief. I'll probably also do at least one on music, and another on my writing process.

All suggestions welcome.

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Hey, folks!

I'm Dennis Tafoya, author of the recently-released thriller Dope Thief, from St. Martin's Minotaur.

I just put this page together to have a place you can find schedules and links to my events, appearances, reviews and interviews.

I'll also be posting occasional rants about writing, publishing, marketing and my favorite books, movies and music, and letting my friends do the same.

Hope you find it useful,

Dennis Tafoya