It’s the Only Way to Live. In Cars.

My short short story “I’m Starting to Think about Leaving Tonight” will be published in The Black Car Business, Volume 2 anthology, available on September 24.

You can pre-order the ebook version now for $3.99 cheap.

The anthology, edited by My Cousin Vinny fan Lawrence Kelter, features literary crime fiction stories involving the theme of the infamous, ominous, conspicuous black car. My story was inspired by listening again and again to Gary Numan’s “Cars.” One line popped out to me as a moment of crisis for a character, and, after imagining it, the rest of the story flowed from there. In a readable way, I hope.

On the Book of Faces, Kelter was kind enough to say about me: “[Narvaez] has one of the most interesting and compelling writing styles I’ve come across in years.”

Besides me, the anthology includes authors such as Jonathan Ashley, Brett Battles, Kathy Bennett, Tim Ellis, Ty Hutchinson, Rick Murcer, Gary Ponzo, Jeff Soloway, and Frank Zafiro.

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“Crazy, Am I? We’ll See Whether I’m Crazy or Not.”

I’ll be trying to mumble something coherent, which should be scary enough, at The Bicenntennial of Frankenstein panel at the Bronx Music Heritage Center,
1303 Louis Nine Blvd., Bronx, N.Y., on October 27. To celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s novel, they’ll be showing the 1931 Frankenstein film with a live soundtrack by Bobby Sanabria & Project X combining jazz, Latin jazz, and funk.

The program will open with a discussion about the film’s influence and legacy, featuring writer, filmmaker, and horror patron Edwin Pagán, horror writer April Grey (A New York State of Fright: Horror Stories from the Empire State), and me, who has dabbled in horror in his time.

Admission: $7 | $5 for students & seniors| FREE for kids 12 & under

Wear a costume! I’ll be the one dressed up as the possibly emerging author.

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Otra Vez at KGB

I read last night (Thursday, August 2) at the MWA-NY Crime Fiction Reading Series amid the moody crimson shadows of KGB in the East Village. The lineup included  Casey Barrett, Kellye Garrett, Rob Hart, V.S. Kemanis, and James McCrone, and the event was hosted by Jeff Markowitz.

The audience really seemed to like the flash fiction story I read, so I’m encouraged to send it out to find a home.

And a donated copy of Roachkiller and Other Stories was not the last in the raffle pile.

Thanks to V.S. Kemanis for the picture!

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Hawking Books in Harlem

It was a fine pleasure to be sitting down on a breezy day  and hawking my bookwares on Saturday, July 21, as part of the 20th anniversary Harlem Book Fair. Truth to tell, it was very breezy. Very, very breezy. Breezy enough to knock my neatly displayed books over (and I’d spent 10 whole minutes making those handmade cardboard book displays — must really invest in real ones, made of lead). Breezy enough to almost knock over the tent at the Mystery Writers of America, NY, booth, C21, which was barely held down by a gallon jug of water at each corner. Breezy enough that my last reserve of bookmarks went sailing, never to return.

However, sales were breezy. (See what I did there?) Sold all my bookwares. Truth to tell, all but one. But that one got pretty beat up as it somersaulted down the pavement, too beat up to even sell at a severe discount. Maybe I can turn it into a doorstop.

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Doing Damage: Mixtapes of Murder

The following was originally published on Do Some Damage, June 26, 2018.

THE MIX OF CRIME FICTION AND MUSIC has been getting a lot of play recently. Several recent and upcoming anthologies partner harmony and harm, and it’s set me to thinking about how music echoes in the fiction of some of my crime-writing friends as well as my own work.

The Big Score
Publishers certainly like themes to hang books and sales on. Cats. Dogs. Cities. Holidays. Pastiche. Politics. But mostly cats and dogs. Still, there is something special about the duet of music and mystery.

Throughout history, every type of music has been vilified as Devil’s brew. “Ye troubadours maketh much evil!” “That Rudy Vallée sure is a caution!” “(Washboard players / blues singers / jazz musicians / rock stars / rappers) are in league with Satan!” Music is intimate, personal. It throbs with sex, subversion, and trouble. The beat of young love, the thrum of rebellion, the rhythm of the Other. It is the soundtrack to all our sinful thoughts, deeds, and fears, accompanying them and, according to some, even inspiring them.

So it makes sense that mystery and music tango well. Think of the lasting appeal of murder ballads. Of the absurd amount of violence in opera.

Consider Sherlock with his crashing violin. Traditional crime fiction certainly has an ear for classical music, perhaps because its writers had high tone tastes and/or because its fans are rigid upholders of what they perceive to be upper class standards.

But by the mid-20th century, lonesome saxophones haunt the shadows surrounding middle-class private eyes, and later jazzy theme songs introduce such shows as Peter Gunn and 77 Sunset Strip. (Please think of the snappy theme song and not “Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb”). And I can’t think of Mike Hammer without thinking of “Harlem Nocturne.” In sum: Music is intricately linked with the genre.

Second Hearse, Same as the First
Music as a plot point for mystery stories has a long history. (For a generous list, see Josef Hoffman’s Music and Crime: 50 Novels). Music-themed crime fiction anthologies go back to at least Murder to Music: Musical Mysteries from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (1998). In this century, there was Murder . . . and All That Jazz (2004) and then A Merry Band of Murderers: An Original Mystery Anthology of Songs and Stories (2006).

More recently — and you might sense a shift here in tastes just from the titles — we’ve had Crime Plus Music: Twenty Stories of Music-Themed Noir (2016), edited by Jim Fusilli, Waiting To Be Forgotten: Stories of Crime and Heartbreak, Inspired by The Replacements (2016), edited by Jay Stringer, and then Gutter Books’ Rock Anthologies, including Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Based on the Songs of Bruce Springsteen (2014) and Just to Watch Them Die: Crime Fiction Inspired By the Songs of Johnny Cash (2017), both edited by Joe Clifford.

In 2019, we’ll see Murder-a-Go-Go’s: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of the Go-Go’s, edited by Holly West, and The Hangman Isn’t Hangin’: Fiction Inspired by the Music of Steely Dan, edited by Brian Thornton.

Thornton calls these kinds of anthologies “the ultimate homage” to musicians who also happen to be great storytellers.

“And Steely Dan and crime fiction? Listen to their lyrics. So many of their songs have a potential or even outright criminal angle: ‘Kid Charlemagne,’ ‘Here at the Western World,’ ‘Sign in Stranger.’ I could go on and on.”

There’s probably more than an air of nostalgia in these collections, too, a longing for a, shall we say, more melodious time. So far, there’re no anthologies inspired by Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, or Rihanna. (Also: Note how most anthos so far are about male and dominant paradigm singers/bands.) But give it time.

Hitting a High C — for Crime!
Tiny Crimes anthologyMany of the stories in these anthologies contain lyrics or plot elements from the songs they’re homaging. For the Steely Dan anthology, I chose “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number” and wrote the story trying to figure out Rikki’s side of the story while referencing some of the song’s lines (without crossing into copyright infringement, I hope, I hope).

In writing that story, I realized I use music a lot as a starting point. In the recently published anthology Tiny Crimes: Very Short Tales of Mystery and Murder, edited by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto, my story “Withhold the Dawn” was inspired by letting one word follow another as Don McLean’s “American Pie” killed me softly in the background. The song worked its way into the story, which is about a vengeful ax-wielder, not the Big Bopper, et al. But there is a loose pastry allusion.

That’s the way music is. It’s is a large part of the pop culture detritus that litters our brains. But that can be helpful when writing.

Black Car Business AnthologyWhen I was invited to contribute to the upcoming The Black Car Business, Volume 2 (September 2018), edited by Larry Kelter, I was stuck on what to write since I’ve no particular passion for automobiles. So I turned to Gary Numan’s seminal “Cars,” and the line “I’ve started to think about leaving tonight” turned in my head as a moment of crisis for a character. The story grew from there, and the line stuck as the title of the piece.

I’m not the only one, of course. Alison Gaylin (Crime Plus Music, If I Die Tonight) uses music to set the mood when writing, although she finds music with lyrics too distracting. “On the other hand,” she says, “I love to use songs in my books to help set the time period and in characterization. You can tell a lot about a character by what songs they like (and hate!).”

I remember Wallace Stroby’s Gone ‘til November contained many musical references, so he handed out CDs of the songs at his book launch. Says Stroby, “You had Johnny Cash songs next to hip-hop songs next to old soul songs, but they were all on the same theme — people leaving and never coming back. The whole tone I was going for in the book was reflected in the songs.”

Music then hath its charms to soothe (read: prompt, inspire) the savage breast (of the writer), so that he or she may in turn write about savagery.

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“Withhold the Dawn” from TINY CRIMES, Now at CrimeReads

Tiny Crimes AnthologyYou can now read my contribution to the upcoming anthology Tiny Crimes: Very Short Tales of Mystery and Murder, edited by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto, on CrimeReads. I’ll be reading this story at the book’s launch at Housing Works on June 5.

“Withhold the Dawn”

You can read the story there, but of course, please click here to check out the anthology, which features stories by Julia Elliott, Danielle Evans, Brian Evenson, Sasha Fletcher, Amelia Gray, Elizabeth Hand, Yuri Herrera, Henry Hoke, Carmen Maria Machado, Benjamin Percy, Adam Sternbergh, Helen Phillips, Laura van den Berg, Charles Yu, and more.

I’m not sure what inspired me to write this story. I originally wrote a very different version of it for a zine I used to publish (“a zine I used to publish” — a phrase that fills me both with pride and with profound embarrassment) back in the 1990s. It had a readership of five, if I include myself. I think this was a story that freewrote itself to life. By which I mean, I started with a word and followed it with another, without any plan or object, and I let myself get pretty damned silly about it, giggling to the finish line. It’s also likely this song was in the background as I was scribbling away.

Thank you, Mr. McLean!

“Withhold the Dawn” is then perhaps my first foray in noir crime fiction, done long before I thought of myself as any kind of crime fiction writer. When I read that Catapult was putting this anthology together, I pulled the story out of mothballs and overhauled it top to bottom.

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TINY CRIMES Giveaway, Reading at Housing Works SOHO

My short short story “Withhold the Dawn” will appear in the upcoming anthology Tiny Crimes: Very Short Tales of Mystery and Murder, edited by Nadxieli Nieto and Lincoln Michel.

Giveaway
Enter for a chance to win a copy of Tiny Crimes here, before April 30. #Goodreads #Giveaway

Reading
I’ll be reading at the book launch for Tiny Crimes at Housing Works, 126 Crosby Street, New York, NY, 10012, on Tuesday, June 5, 7 p.m. #Free

Here is the promo copy for the reading: “Tiny Crimes gathers leading and emerging literary voices to tell tales of villainy and intrigue in only a few hundred words. From the most hard-boiled of noirs to the coziest of mysteries, with diminutive double crosses, miniature murders, and crimes both real and imagined, Tiny Crimes rounds up all the usual suspects, and some unusual suspects, too. With illustrations by Wesley Allsbrook and flash fiction by Carmen Maria Machado, Benjamin Percy, Amelia Gray, Adam Sternbergh, Yuri Herrera, Julia Elliott, Elizabeth Hand, Brian Evenson, Charles Yu, Laura van den Berg, and more, [and me,] Tiny Crimes scours the underbelly of modern life to expose the criminal, the illegal, and the depraved. Editors Nadxieli Nieto and Lincoln Michel host an evening of readings from some of the collection’s contributors [et moi].”

“Gruesome” Reviews
Of the anthology, Michael Pucci in the Library Journal noted, “The tenor of each piece varies from the dreamlike (Laura van den Berg’s ‘Friends’) to the deliciously gruesome (Richie Navarez’s [sic] ‘Withhold the Dawn’).”

(I’m used to having my name butchered by now. I should just buy the domain names for every conceivable misspelling, shouldn’t I?)

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