Cell at Eastern State

Cell at Eastern State

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day Seven, 2000 Miles

Got to Austin, Texas yesterday and put on my Crime Fiction Workshop at BookPeople with Scott Montgomery today. Scott's been a great friend to me and my books and is an experienced writer himself. Last night he bought me a drink at the beautiful Driskill Hotel bar and told me stories of the screenwriting trade in Hollywood, which always sounds like a heartbreaking way to try to make a living. The workshop was great, with a nice turnout of aspiring writers who (as usual) produced some really interesting fiction.


I spent about 36 hours in New Orleans, a town I'd love to visit again. The Garden District was beautiful, and I stopped in to visit the folks at Garden District Books before walking through the Lafayette Cemetery #1. I think what I loved most was that unlike the frequently anonymous cities of the northeast and midwest, every inch of the town seems particularly and specifically New Orleans.

The French Quarter was full of cool little surprises. I took the obligatory walk down Bourbon Street, past the packed clubs and assaultive music, picked my way through the staggering drunks and overdressed college girls, and crossed Esplanade to find some really great little places on Frenchman, including DBA, a modest little place with twelve Irish Whiskeys on the menu and a mostly local crowd.

I even enjoyed the long drive from Mobile west on 10 to Texas. Yeah, there are cops every five miles, but there are also rice paddies, swamps and bayous, threadbare casino/truck stops and adult superstores with biblical names.

Tomorrow it's on to Joplin, Missouri, a stop to break up the trip to the last event, a Noir at the Bar with Scott Phillips, Jed Ayres, Derek Nikitas and Matthew McBride at the Delmar Lounge in St. Louis on Monday night, the 28th.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wolves of Fairmount Park is Out Today

Today is June 22, and Wolves of Fairmount Park is finally out. So far, it seems to be for sale in independent bookstores, all those great crime bookstores that gave Dope Thief it's start last year, and Barnes and Noble stores in the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

There are also more interviews out. One that I had done with Jed Ayres for his blog, Ransom Notes, at Barnes and Noble's site, with the balance of the interview here, at Jed's site, Hardboiled Wonderland. (Jed's site always has some excellent art on the home page - see if you crime movie buffs can figure out the source of the one displayed there now).

The other was done by Kieran Shea for Spinetingler Magazine. Both of these interviews were done the old fashioned way, with the interviewers feeding me one question at a time and then following up. I think it makes for much livelier, more interesting Q&A.

Spinetingler also gave the book a really nice review, too, as did Tim Davis at Mystery Scene Magazine.

It's day two (well, technically day three, now) of the tour, and I'm down in New Orleans. I walked around a little downtown, but I have to admit I was pretty wiped out when I got here earlier, so I'll put a lot more into tomorrow. Today's drive was an easy one, down from Atlanta to the Gulf coast, and the day flew by talking to friends about the release of the book and trying to figure out where it was actually for sale.

Today was also the day that Rebecca Cantrell's new thriller, A Night of Long Knives, is being released by Minotaur, which is excellent news. It's a follow up to her acclaimed Trace of Smoke, and I'm sure it's just as fascinating and gripping as the first one.

Thanks to all my friends for getting the word out! It's been an amazing day.

Day Three, The Thousand Mile Mark


It's going by faster than I thought it would, but then what doesn't these days? I'm in Atlanta, a thousand miles south, and about 37 chapters into Moby Dick. The money's holding out okay, Ahab just nailed a Spanish gold piece to the mast, and I'm having an amazing time. The theme of the first three days was dogs. Crossing the road, in doorways and cars and in pickup trucks, where I saw three enormous animals with short gray hair that were some kind of hound and were as big as elk. They were having a fine time jostling each other while crammed into the bed of a tiny pickup truck, but I dropped way back, worried that one of them would go over the side.

Spent two great days hanging out with my pal and editor Laurie Webb. I first talked to her a few days after I finished Dope Thief when we were introduced by a mutual friend, and we've been having one long conversation ever since. We talk about how to assemble good stories, which is all Laurie's done professionally since she went to Hollywood in her teens, where she ended up working for Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella for more than ten years, and in her business now as a consulting editor. We talk about the movies and books and people we love in one endless, drifting conversation from the second we meet until I have to leave.

Laurie and my friend August Tarrier (who sometimes share clients) are two of the very few people I've met who can consult brilliantly on story, with just the right mix of good advice and sharp analysis and with such enthusiasm and positive energy their clients (like me) go back to them over and over. I've been in dozens of workshops and talked to even very gifted writers who turn out to be the last people you would want to go to with a story in progress. Not because you'd get bad advice in the particular, but because most people have no idea how to help writers move forward without losing confidence because they've made mistakes or gotten bogged down. Think about it: How many people do you know who can address the flaws and missteps in your work in such a way that all you want to do is keep working with them?

I think the secret has to do with focusing on what needs to get done, not where it's gone wrong, and in accepting the premise of the work being written. I'm trying to learn from them, but they seem to do very naturally what is a pretty complex mix of tasks, and underlying it is of course a talent that might not be transferrable and has to do with a kind of 'story sense.'

Okay, so not too much here about the drive, I'll admit, but this is the stuff I think about when I'm driving. I'm also working on a short story for a Crimefactory print anthology for my pal Keith Rawson, so even while I was standing under a giant Mexican sombrero at South of the Border I was wondering about how Philadelphia courtrooms are laid out and how a parole violation hearing works. I know, I know, but this is what fun looks like for me.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The White Whale Tour

"Call me Ishmael. . .

Some years ago — never mind how long precisely — having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can."

So I'm heading out. I'll be leaving on Saturday, June 19th and coming back around the 30th, heading down through Virginia and the Carolinas, Atlanta, spending a couple of days in New Orleans, then to Houston, Austin and up to St. Louis. I'll have my laptop, my Ipod and Moby Dick on 19 CDs.

I'll be seeing my editor and friend Laurie Webb in Wilmington, North Carolina, then south through Atlanta and New Orleans to visit that city for the first time. Then it's west to Houston, where I'll be doing a signing at Murder By The Book on the 24th with novelist Gary Phillips, who'll be signing copies of the crime collection Orange County Noir, which he edited for Akashic Books; Sarah Cortez, editor of Indian Country Noir; Vicky Hendricks, Florida Gothic Stories, and Jonathan Woods, author of Bad Juju and Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem. The event is at 6:30pm.

On the 26th, I'll be putting on my Crime Fiction Workshop at Book People in Austin, Texas at 3:00pm. The workshop is always a lot of fun - I read from classic crime stories, discuss the elements of crime fiction, and lead attendees in an exercise designed to show the twisted, unhealthy impulses harbored by readers and writers of crime fiction.

I think the highlight might be the Noir at the Bar on June 28th at the Delmar Lounge in St. Louis. By that time I should be a stuttering mess from ten days on the road, but luckily I'll be helped out by some excellent company: Derek Nikitas, author of Pyres and The Long Division, both of which were wrenching, affecting and excellent novels; my friend and hero Scott Phillips, author of The Ice Harvest, The Walkaway, Cottonwood and the forthcoming Supply Sarge; and Jed Ayres, writer, blogger, reviewer and great friend to crime writers everywhere.

It's cool that both Derek and Scott should be there, because though both of them are identified as crime writers, they easily outdistance the constraints of that category to produce deft, fearless, highly original work about people at their most desperate, unhinged moments.

Then I'll be meandering home for the official launch of Wolves of Fairmount Park on Friday evening, July 2nd at the Doylestown Bookshop, my hometown bookstore, where I hope everyone in the Philly area can join me for what I'm sure will be a great time. I'll be wearing the bleary look, the new tattoo, and the T-shirt that reads, "And I only am escaped alone to tell thee..."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

New Fiction, A New Issue of Crime Factory, and Cool News

Lords of Flatbush,

You can read a new short fiction piece of mine called "How to Jail," out this week in Crimefactory, the excellent new journal of short fiction, reviews and interviews put out by Keith Rawson, Cam Ashley and Liam Jose.You can read it for free as a PDF, or you can also download it to Kindle or Nook.

This month's issue features some excellent crime fiction by Jed Ayres, Greg Bardsley, Kieran Shea, Sandra Seamans and Daniel B. O'Shea, as well as Liam's excellent interview with Nash Edgerton, who directed The Square, which is one of the best crime films of recent years. The film has been in limited release, but if you love great independent film you MUST find it immediately. There are also reviews by the always-excellent Peter Dragovich (the Nerd of Noir) and Jed Ayres, as well as nonfiction from South African crime writer Roger Smith and Australian Leigh Redhead that will be of particular interest to writers and aspiring writers.

Another cool piece of news is that "How to Jail" might become a short film. The excellent Paul Von Stoetzel, who made the absolutely compelling documentary "SNUFF" is looking at trying to turn my short story into a short movie, which would be awesome. Paul and his company, Killing Joke Films, have produced a bunch of prize-winning films ranging from documentary to Lovecraftian horror.

If you haven't seen it, SNUFF is an examination of the urban legend of snuff films, movies that depict actual murder on-screen. Of course it's disturbing, but it's also fascinating, chasing the increasingly elusive truth of whether such films may have been produced. (Though, for the record, the eponymous movie called "Snuff" from the seventies is a ridiculously unconvincing, if awful and unsettling, attempt to sell a poorly-shot porn film by dressing it up as real-life horror. As my filmmaker son, Dave, pointed out: "They changed camera angles in the middle of the 'murder.')

My new novel, "Wolves of Fairmount Park," is out on June 22nd! My next post will be details on the tour...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New Interviews and Reviews

Guys and Dolls,

I have some new interviews and blog entries posted that you can check out if you get a minute:

Lenny Picker interviewed me for Publishers Weekly in a piece called City of Unbrotherly Love: PW Talks With Dennis Tafoya. It was a lot of fun talking to Lenny, and the interview was picked up by a bunch of newspapers and blogs. Thanks to my publicist at St. Martin's, Hector Dejean, for setting that up!

Aaron Brown interviewed me for the June edition of International Thriller Writers newsletter, The Big Thrill. You can read it here. You can see more about Aaron and his work at his website, AaronLBrown.com.

The excellent Marshal Zeringue, who maintains a bunch of really cool websites about books and authors, asked me to talk about what I was reading, at two of his blogs, Campaign for the American Reader and Writers Read. Marshal also runs The Page 69 Test, a really fun site on which authors talk about whatever appears on page 69 of their latest books.

Wolves of Fairmount Park received a starred review in Publishers Weekly, which was really nice news, and a solid recommendation from Booklist.

"Starred Review: Dennis Lehane fans will welcome Tafoya's second crime novel, which delivers on the promise of his debut, Dope Thief. A drive-by shooting in front of a Philadelphia dope house claims two victims, Michael Donovan and George Parkman Jr., and leads to an intense search for the gunman. Both fathers--Brendan Donovan, a cop whose son was wounded, and George Parkman Sr., whose son died--can't help wondering if the incident was somehow connected with Brendan's younger half-brother, Orlando, a ne'er-do-well drug addict. Tafoya skillfully shifts among the perspectives of the two grieving fathers, Orlando, and Danny Martinez, the primary investigator on the case. The bleak worldview Brendan articulates ("Nobody knew anybody. Nobody knew the first goddamn thing about their wives or their husbands or their kids or their friends") will resonate with classic noir readers, who will hope Tafoya is their guide through the mean streets for years to come." Publishers Weekly

"Two middle-class teenagers are victims of a drive-by shooting as they stand in front of a Philadelphia house where drugs are sold. One dies, the other is left in a coma. That straightforward premise compels this gritty, insightful crime novel. What were the teens doing there? Buying drugs? Who ordered the shooting? Why? What does it mean for the endlessly roiling competition among the city’s drug dealers? An unlikely handful of people want answers to those questions: a rising young detective with contacts in the drug world; the boys’ fathers, one a Philly beat cop, the other a well-to-do businessman; and one boy’s uncle, a junkie. The path to the truth is circuitous and bloody and leads all over the city. Tafoya’s characters, whether cops, killers, or victims, are multidimensional, and his portrait of the city’s drug trade is bleakly realistic. Tafoya’s Dope Thief (2009) was a fine debut. This much more ambitious follow-up cements his position as an up-and-coming hard-boiled writer." - Booklist