“Roachkiller” Review

Many, many thanks to Terrence McCauley for his very kind words in his review of Roachkiller and Other Stories. Here is an excerpt:

“It’s an impressive group of entertaining and deep short stories that aren’t your typical crime fare. His work is ethnic without pandering. Realistic without being morose or bitter. It’s also subtly engaging and very fast moving without being obvious about it.”

Read the entire review here.

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Long Island Noir at SCC

That's me all the way on the left, trying to flash the photographer.

The writers from Long Island Noir, after our panel on May 5 at Suffolk Community College, Brentwood campus. From left: Irredeemable R. Narvaez, Randy Reed Farrel Coleman, Quick-Witted Qanta Ahmed, Charming Charles Salzberg, Roundhouse Kicker Kaylie Jones, Cunning Kenneth Wishnia, and Snazzy Steve Wishnia.

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New York Times Previews Long Island Noir

Huzzah! Long Island Noir gets previewed in the New York Times today, and my story “Ending in Paumanok” gets a mention.

The article quotes a line from my story about Long Island’s “having ‘all the inconvenience of the city and none of its perks.'” And then it goes on to say, “In the story ‘Ending in Paumanok,’ by Richie Narvaez, a female literature professor at Stony Brook University is drawn into an affair with a student that quickly turns deadly.”

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At KGB, Reading from “Hurricane”/”Juracán”

A suitably eerie photo for an evening of . . . murder! Photo by Denise "Cupcake" Vazquez.

It was a dark and stormy night . . . when I read at KGB Bar in Manhattan, along with the great writers Kira Peikoff (Living Proof), Sheila York (A Good Knife’s Work), and Bruce DeSilva (Rogue Island), as part of An Evening with Edgar® Award Mystery Writers. I read a brief excerpt from my short story “Hurricane” (also “Juracán, which is available now for free on Smashwords and is also part of the Roachkiller and Other Stories collection, which just came out.) Sponsored by the NYC Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, the reading launched this year’s Mystery Week in New York, which celebrates the 66th anniversary of the Edgar® Awards. Thanks to the fun crowd who braved the cold spring rains. Despite the wishes of some of my Facebook friends, I kept my pants on during the reading.

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How I Came to Write This Story: “Zinger” from “Roachkiller and Other Stories”

I guest-posted this today on Patricia Abbott’s loverly blog.

"I eat this wimp's will power for breakfast, John-bo."

WAY BACK IN THE 20TH CENTURY, I had a freelance job writing web site reviews, and I came across a contest for Best Hollywood Movie Pitch. Looking at previous winners, it seemed the funniest entries won. So, I dashed off the first thing I thought of: “A vicious serial killer is electrocuted while at the same time, miles away, a standup comedian electrocutes himself while ironing. Through the wires, their souls get switched! How will the killer deal with being a single dad? Will the standup comedian think hell is funny?” It was so basic and so ridiculous, I was surprised Adam Sandler hadn’t made a movie of it—yet (starting countdown . . . NOW). I won the contest—receiving the ephemeral-yet-ever-lovely prize of bragging rights—but more importantly the idea stayed with me, maybe because it was so basic and so ridiculous. Like a pop song that just won’t leave your head unless you knock it out, some story ideas won’t go away unless you do something with them—or you drink a lot. I decided to do something with it.

So a few years ago I sat down and wrote a story to go with my contest-winning Hollywood pitch, adding names, filling out characters, but removing the whole cliché trip to Hell. (Free advice to writers: “Hell’s been done.”) The idea was still so silly I made sure to put in a lot of humor, something I usually am frugal with when it comes to noir (mustn’t let laughs get in the way of a good murder). The story ended up as an odd mashup of Wes Craven’s Shocker and Freaky Friday (the 1976 version with Jodie Foster, please) and a little of Tom Hanks’s Punchline, which I shall not link to. My girlfriend at the time suggested the perfect title: “Zinger.” Now all I had to do was find the story a home.

But who publishes darkly comic crime fiction with a supernatural twist? I submitted. Horror magazines turned it away—“Too crime fictionish.” I submitted. Noir magazines didn’t want anything to do with slipstreammery. “Just guns and gals, please.”

I . . . All right, I didn’t submit that hard, but it gets frustrating when no one wants your baby. So the story got buried for a long while . . .

But then last year I was looking through my stories to put together my ebook noir compilation, Roachkiller and Other Stories. I had 10 stories ready to go, but I just before I sent them to the publisher I realized one story was noirly, but not as noirly as the others in the book. But if noir=dark, then “Zinger”—even with its scene of a serial killer doing a stand up set—was noir. So I decided to include it in my collection. In fact, it became a selling point, as all the other stories were previously published and may have been already read by my fans (big shout out to both of you!), and this was a story no one had read before.

Now I’m just waiting for someone (Mr. Sandler, I’ll take your call now) to option the story and make it into a great big B movie. I can already picture it at my local video store, with a lurid cover, a giant discount sticker, and starring Louis C.K. (in either role).

You may also want to check out a previous post I wrote on Ms. Abbott’s blog about my short story “Juracán,” which is also included in the Roachkiller collection.

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Say, What’s the Idea?

Here’s my opening business during the “Where Do You Get Your (Criminal) Ideas?” panel at the New York Public Library on April 3. I moderated the panel, which included writers Chris “Rhymes with Beer Stein” Grabenstein, Alison “Exclamation Point Enthusiast” Gaylin, and Jonathan “Brains!” Maberry.

David Lynch recently told Interview magazine, “Ideas are like fish. They just come to you sometimes, and when you’re really lucky, you fall in love with them and know exactly what to do.”

The question before us today is “Where do you get your criminal ideas?” Or more broadly, “Where do you get your ideas?” This is a question that often vexes authors in its apparent ubiquity as it seems to be asked at every author appearance, from signings to readings to when you get recognized waiting in line at Starbucks. Depending on how it is asked, it can seem nosy or intrusive, or even sadly polite, something asked just to fill the yawning silence after a reading.

It may seem like a simple question, but answering it in a complete and genuine manner can be difficult. There is a great blog called WhereDoYouGetYourIdeas—for everything there is a blog—and on it I found some wonderful answers. The author Joe Hill gives a flippant answer: “Schenectady. They have them on a shelf in a Mom & Pop on Route 147. ” JK Rowling tries to be more straightforward: ”The answer is ‘out of my head’, but people don’t seem very satisfied with that, it’s too boring, even though it’s true.” And author Harlan Ellison in his typically irascible manner reportedly once said, “From you, that’s why you don’t have any!”

So, yes, it is a cliché question and is easily mocked. But that is not to say that the question does not have merit and that it does not yield revealing answers about the mysteries of inspiration and creativity. I believe it helps to see the question as being asked from two different intentions. On the one hand, aspiring writers will ask, and they seems to mean, By what strange magicks have you conjured up your publishable works? On the other hand, non-writers may ask it to plumb the depths of your mind. This is especially the case when friends or concerned family members read your work and say, What is wrong with you? Where do you get these ideas??

In either case, as we hope to see today, when the question is asked, it is like the Kobayashi Maru of author questions, one that at the very least shines a light in the midnight-dark workings of an author’s mind. To wit, allow me to introduce our panel today.

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Crider on “Roachkiller”

Bill Crider kindly plugs Roachkiller and Other Stories on his blog: “Hardboiled prose, noir sensibility, and all very effective.”

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