Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ALL DUE RESPECT #3: OPEN ROADS AND FREEBIRDS

How do you follow a story like David Cranmer's THE GREAT WHYDINI? You don't. You go in a completely different direction.
For issue number three of ALL DUE RESPECT, JJ Kinni puts together a road story that fuses the wandering prose of Jack Kerouac with some nice elements of all-American debauchery we would expect to find in a Jim Thompson or James Ellroy novel. The result is "Open Roads and Freebirds," a story that moves from post-World War II alienation to the dawn of the free love movement in San Francisco. This is an usual piece. If your idea of crime fiction is the rocking chair prose found in Ellery Queen, get a crowbar and pry your mind open. This is what All Due Respect, at its heart, is all about:

Breaking every goddamn rule in the book.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Amoral Rock and Roll

I'm always hesitant to delcare something the "best" of its breed, but I've been under the impression for over fifteen years now that the greatest rock and roll album ever is The Stooges' Funhouse

Whenever I have been asked to list ten records I consider the "best," I have a basic criteria for any record to make the list.  Basically, a great rock and roll album cannot be more than 45 minutes long.  It has to be loaded with songs that you can listen to a hundred times without getting sick of.  The order has to make sense, meaning, you never get the urge to skip a track when you're listening to it.  Most importantly, as soon as the record is over, you should want to play it again, right away.  Some records that always make my list include Funkadelic's Maggot Brain, David Bowie's Low (and sometimes Diamond Dogs,) Velvet Underground's Loaded (purists cry foul here, but other VU albums have songs I skip when I listen to them,) and of course there is always a Beatles record (the older I get, the more I prefer Abby Road to all the others,) and, among others, Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (even though I personally prefer just about everything Floyd did right up to that point;  The brilliance of Dark Side, however, can't be ignored.)  Again, someone might cry foul-- What about The Clash's London Calling?  What about The Wall?  Those albums are indeed great, but they exceed my 45 minute rule.  That rule exists because rock and roll should be quick, like a knife to the kidneys.  Fittingly, the record that always makes the top of the list is Funhouse.

Funhouse is rock and roll.  It is a record that demands to be turned up as loud as possible.  As soon as the guitar drops it's vicious first notes of "Down on the Street," the listener instantly feels alive.  When I was in my late twenties I was basically a glorified delivery driver for Markey's Audio/Video in Indianapolis.  It was a shitty job.  It wore me out, physically, but it didn't tax my mind at all.  When I got home at night, I'd blast Funhouse (the uptight woman who lived in the apartment below mine always complained when I played that record) and it got me in the mood to sit down and write for three hours before going to sleep.  After the debacle that was my film "career," I realized those days of flying across Naptown highways and backroads with a scratchy cassette copy of Funhouse growling out of the speakers of the company vans and box trucks I drove and writing at night were, in fact, the best days of my life.  Better than when I was partying in my late teens and early twenties and better than when I was sowing my wild oates with the wild women of Los Angeles in my early and mid-thirties.  The entire record expressed my mood at the time.  I was living out the stupid dream of blue collar glory and putting it down on paper.  One jackass editor sent me a rejection letter in 1998 that read, 'Great writing.  Let me know when Holden Caulfield grows up and I'll publish it.'  What a piece of shit!  I wanted to grab the fucker by his throat and throttle him until his neck broke.  So many people like that turd assume there's a point where an angry man "grows up."  Well, if that happens, he wasn't ever really angry to begin with, which means he's been and always will be a fucking fake!

There's nothing fake about Funhouse.  I still listen to it when I need to remind myself that my time on Earth is to be dedicated to scorching the universe with my pissed off allergy to all things bullshit and fake.  And if I ever "grow out of it," someone put a fucking bullet in my head, because it means I'm already dead.

May Iggy Pop and the Stooges forever be blessed by the powers of chaos that make this universe explode with possibility.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

More good stuff at Beat to a Pulp:

This week at Beat to a Pulp, guns go a-blazing in a historical piece of fiction by Fred Blosser.  It's called Gunpoint and it's worth the read for the attention paid to historical detail alone.  I like it 'cause it's about them good old days in America when folks settled things without lawyers and bureaucrats and weepy-weepy bullshit on the Oprah show and corrupt politicans wagging their hypocritical fingers at television cameras telling us, their goddamn bosses, how to behave! Whatever.  It's late.  Go read the story and tell Mr. Blosser what you thought of it when you're finished.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

RE: ALL DUE RESPECT

I've received some amazing story submisions for All Due Respect.  The next two months are booked.  While I've had to reject a number of stories, it's generally because the plots are simply too common.  The writing is usually excellent.  I'm beyond impressed by the skills of the writers I don't see on any "Best-seller" list.  But isn't that always the case? 

I remember working for an agency in Hollywood as a reader.  Great, and I mean GREAT screenplays would come in from Kansas and Vermont and Montana and everywhere else between New York and L.A.  Anytime I'd pass one up to the Big Boss, he'd ask where the writer was from.  "Kansas?" he'd say.  "There are no writers in Kansas!"  And into the circular file it would go.  Meanwhile, one hack after another, hooked into the system by family or by getting down on the old knees, would make millions off of the idiots in charge.

Speaking of idiots and Los Angeles, I have to relay my anger at the "writers" who frequent the 'writing gigs' section of the Los Angeles craigslist.  Craigslist is the easiest way I know to promote a project like this in its infant stages.  I posted ads for All Due Respect in about fifteen different American cities.  The submissions came in from all over the country.  The ad on L.A.'s craigslist, however, got flagged.  I reposted it and it got flagged again.  This went on for twenty-four hours before I finally decided to say 'fuck you' to L.A.  I've actually had this problem before.  When crewing up for my shitty second feature movie, Beverly Hills Massacre, I told the producer to put ads on craigslist.  Again, the morons in L.A. kept flagging the ads.  I worked on a stupid short film as an assistant director a few months after shooting BHM where I met some of the idiots repsonsible for all the flagging in L.A.  They explained that any gig that didn't offer a sufficient amount of pay got flagged.  I tried to explain to them that anyone looking for work on craigslist shouldn't be expecting a million dollar paycheck, but they wouldn't hear it.  You see, in Los Angeles, EVERYBODY knows EVERYTHING and if you try to present them with something resembling logic, their ears automatically close up.

When I first moved to L.A., people heard my Hoosier accent and asked me if I was from Alabama.  I said, "No, I'm from Indiana."  To which they would respond, "What's the difference?"  Tells you all you need to know about Los Angeles...

Burn Hollywood Burn!

Monday, August 16, 2010

This week at Beat to a Pulp:

Want a nice punch to the gut?  Check out an ace piece of flash fiction at Beat to a Pulp.  It's called "New Boyfriend."  Written by William Blick, it's a tight, quick read that will bonk you right over the head in the end.  Great stuff.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My brief, shining cinematic moment

For those who don't know, I spent a good twenty years writing screenplays and making movies.  The very first feature-length script I wrote was called Men in Black.  It was a mix of Goodfellas and UFO paranoia.  The film would have been R-rated and seriously hardcore.  I told an agent in New York about it in the spring of 1993.  She laughed and said, "Nobody cares about UFOs."  Like an idiot, I listened to her.  I didn't copyright the script and put it away in a drawer.  That fall, the X-Files debuted on Fox and UFOs became the talk of the decade.  In 1996, an idiot from Chicago who claimed to be an agent asked to see the MIB script and signed me to a bogus contract.  Literally-- and I mean literally-- the very next day I was informed about the cartoonish family movie with the same name that was in production under the direction of Barry Sonnenfeld.  The idiot from Chicago continued to pretend he was trying to sell my scripts in Hollywood.  Being a dumb hillbilly from Indiana, I just didn't understand that nobody in Chicago makes deals in L.A.  Eventually, I told the idiot to get lost.  He asked to see two scripts I wrote in 1999 and convinced me to let him produce one of them, Mr. Id.  I signed on to the direct the picture as well and ended up losing about 20,000 dollars on a movie I walked off of the set halfway through the production.  Without my guidance in post-production, the film suffered at the hands of the idiot from Chicago who refused to listen to my instructions despite the fact that I was the fucking creator of the movie.

Someone told me I needed to move to Los Angeles at that point and I did.  Again, I was a dumb, toothless hillbilly from Indiana.  I didn't understand that Hollywood will call you if they want you in their business.  They don't like outsiders, especially toothless hillbillies from Indiana.  I spent seven years trying to get another picture made while my health and teeth rotted thanks to this country's barbaric approach to health care.  I lived in total poverty while everyone else I knew grew up and became adults.  By 2005, I had decided to give up on the movie business altogether.  I was making my own brand of country music and thought, for a few crazy months, that I would move to Austin, Texas and become a cow punk god.  By 2006, I had the itch to make another short film.  I shot a three minute movie called Lovesick Blues (the title taken from an old country song whose best rendition, without question, came from Hank Williams Sr.)  That little movie, as sloppy as it looks, made it into the first L.A. Shorts Film Festival.  It can be seen here:

LOVESICK BLUES

I used my tax return that year to buy a mini dv camera and started making short films every other month or so.  Eventually, I convinced a colleague of mine whom I taught with at Crenshaw High School in South Los Angeles to produce my second feature film.  It was called Beverly Hills Massacre and the original script was a giant middle finger shoved right up the ass of political "correctness" and all the Polite Police who espouse that shit.  I, apparently, had not learned the lesson I should have with Mr. Id;  Hollywood distributors do NOT like radical movies.  They have a very basic, bland, "get along with everybody or else" dogma that all movies must preach or they will NOT be distributed.  The producer of Beverly Hills Massacre listened to some serious douchebags at a post-house that had not (and still hasn't) produced anything of note and my movie was horribly altered in post-production.  When it became clear that that movie was not going to get sold either, I decided enough people had risked enough money on my film career.  I went back to doing what I had been doing since I was a child, which is writing fiction for people who don't need moving pictures to keep them interested.  Just before I quit making movies, however, I shot one last short film with my dv camera in Koreatown.  It is, in my opinion, my one and only masterpiece in the field.  It can be seen here:

3507

Both films, you will notice, have a crime element.  It's just in my blood...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stuff everybody should read: Quiet Days in Clichy

I've been pushing the Jim Thompson library all summer.  I thought I'd change the pace and talk about my favorite Henry Miller book, Quiet Days in Clichy.  There isn't much crime going on in the story, aside from an episode involving a seventeen year old girl.  To most uptight people in "polite" society, however, it is an amoral bible of sorts. 

The story I've heard about this book is that Miller was hired to write some pornographic literature.  What he came up with was this rambling, plot-less narrative about two guys living right on the edge of poverty in France.  They spend their time chasing women and crusts of bread.  Supposedly, the company that wanted Miller to write pornography thought the book was too artsy.  Henry Miller would go on to write a couple of volumes of graphic pornography (collected as Under the Roofs of Pairs.)  Luckily, Quiet Days in Clichy became available as a "normal" book (it may have been erroneously marketed as pornography in its first printings, just as most of Miller's work was.)  It's a great read.  The language is loose.  The depiction of poverty and having fun in spite of poverty are important lessons for anyone considering becoming an artist. 

Further, this book has helped me determine which women in my life are repressed and which ones are truly liberated in the old mind, body and spirit.  Most women I've given the book to have given it right back, furious.  One of them even threw it at me.  If a woman can make it through this volume without getting pissed off, it means she has an open mind.

By the way, for Miller's take on materialism in America, check out The Air-Conditioned Nightmare.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Strength" reviewed by someone I don't know

Colleen Wanglund was kind enough to review the anthology Ruthless.  She was even kinder to mention my story as one of the "other notable stories" in the book.  She seemed to admonish me for depicting a child torturing a rat and then later drowning a cat before taking his anger out on another human being.  Of course, that's the point, isn't it?  I'm not a big fan of serial killers or serial killer stories.  For whatever reason, this particular story was designed to give voice to the notion that when children are pushed around, they will find ways to push back.  I was thinking about Columbine when I wrote it.  I was also thinking about the Holocaust, and how the Jewish faith prevented so many people from fighting back.  I wrote "Strength" many years ago when I lived in Los Angeles in a one room apartment with no kitchen and lots of fucking rodents.  While I don't have anything against cats, I don't know why anybody would be sympathetic to rats!  Rats will eat your babies!  They're dirty, diseased, and fucking stubborn beyond belief.  I've actually had a couple of rats try to pick fights with me in the streets of L.A. and in Chicago when I was shooting my god-awful feature movie Mr. Id.  Anyway, I think some people might take Wanglund's comments out of context, or, more precisely, the events in the story out of context.  Keep in mind, the anthology is called RUTHLESS: An Extreme Shock Horror Collection.  If it wasn't shocking, it wouldn't have made the cut, yes?

Anyway, I appreciate the mention.  I just wish she hadn't pointed out that aspect of the story.

Here is the page with the full review:

Review of RUTHLESS: AN EXTREME SHOCK HORROR COLLECTION

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

ALL DUE RESPECT, ISSUE #2

David Cranmer, from Beat to a Pulp and The Education of a Pulp Writer, provides the latest story in All Due Respect.  It's genuine pulp fiction with some nasty characters doing nasty things.  Highly recommended.

ALL DUE RESPECT

Saturday, August 7, 2010

MANIFESTO DESTINATION now available as a "kindle" book

My first (and, thus far, only) novel, Manifesto Destination, is available once more through Amazon.com as a kindle book.  The price is only 3.95, in tribute to the cost of paperbacks back in the early 1980s, when I started reading.

Manifesto Destination is a hardboiled noir thriller with a healthy dose of sociological science fiction thrown in for good measure.  I wrote it during a frantic week in Los Angeles, back in 2001.  I had just moved to the city of (plastic) angels.  I was living in a one room apartment with no kitchen that I had just discovered was infested with rodents.  An agent asked to see "my book" and I decided I had better write one if I was going to have a shot with that particular agency.  Setting myself high off the ground so that the rodents could do their business without bothering me, I tore through cartons of cigarettes while pounding out this short novel in about a week.  Don't worry, it has been edited and revised several times since then.  The jerk-off agent who asked to see it decided not to represent me.  I eventually had to move out of that apartment in the middle of the night since the company responsible for the building (located on Serrano, in Koreatown, for those of you thinking of moving there) literally said they were going to do nothing about the rats and mice.

The book was briefly published by Pale House, a small press run by some youngsters in Los Feliz.  I think all my friends and relatives at the time bought it and one person purchased a copy from Skylight Books, also in Los Feliz.  Then the book sat in the darkness of my computer files for a few years until I decided to publish it as a kindle edition on Amazon, last year.  A couple of people I don't know actually purchased the book and wrote kind reviews.  Then, a publisher in Indianapolis said they were interested in putting out a traditional, hardcover edition of the book.  I waited for well over half a year for those idiots to send me a contract.  They never did, so now, I've decided to make the book available, once more, through Amazon.

If you like Raymond Chandler and/or Philip K. Dick, you will like this book.  Nothing too intellectual, just some nice, paranoid distopian fiction.

Those of you who have stepped into the 21st century and own a kindle may purchase and enjoy the book here:

MANIFESTO DESTINATION by Alec Cizak

Friday, August 6, 2010

Manifesto Destination for sale once again on Amazon

My first and only novel, Manifesto Destination, will soon be available on Amazon.  Again.  It will be available as a kindle download for 3.95.  I think that's a pretty fair price.  Right now it is being reviewed by Amazon's staff (I don't know why, considering it was on sale for twice as much a year ago...)  It should be up by Monday.  As soon as I have a link I will post it here along with more details about the book.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Stuff the kiddies should read: E.C. Comic Books

Like all good American kids in the late seventies and early eighties, I had a paper route.  I soon discovered that people thought comic books were important and started putting my issues of Daredevil and Star Trek and Howard the Duck in plastic bags and storing them in cardboard boxes.  As I got into the hobby of collecting comics, I discovered the Holy Grail of golden age books-- The horror, crime and science fiction titles put out by E.C. in the early fifties and then snuffed by some uptight congressional bullshit.

Now, for those in the know, E.C. comics did espouse a certain morality, but it was done in a manner much more effective than any Bible or preacher could ever hope to produce.  In the world of E.C. comics, there was such a thing as karma (I apologize to all Hindus for using that term, as all Americans do, incorrectly.)  Thus, the cheating wife who plots to kill her husband gets a swift taste of justice as soon as her poor old hubby is feeding worms.  The abusive husband who kills his wife and her lover, well, he gets his too.  Alfred Hitchcock Presents would later tell the same kinds of stories to a "proper," prime time audience, but even the great Hitch paled before the graphic, relentless, brutal honesty of the E.C. comics.

A lot of people are familiar with Tales from the Crypt because of the lively TV series that appeared on HBO during the 1990s.  Because they were on pay TV, I think the producers were able to stick to the spirit of the original stories.  There were a couple of other horror titles, the Vault of Horror and the Haunt of Fear.  As much as I loved them, I think the best of the lot was Crime SuspenStories.  Here were nasty noir tales of revenge and justice done with an extra kick Hollywood could never have gotten away with.

Back in 1981 and '82, when I was at the height of my comic collecting days, I had many opportunities to purchase original E.C. comics.  I could never muster the patience, however, to save up for what, at that time, I perceived to be a steep price tag of forty and sixty and sometimes one hundred dollars.  Today, those comics are worth, in good condition, thousands.  Oh well...

You can find reprints everywhere and they are worth the time it takes to read them.  I especially recommend sharing them with your children.  If you want them to grow up to be a decent person like myself, that is.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Christmas Crime!

My short story "The Spirit of Taking" will appear in CrimeSpree, a print publication devoted to crime fiction.  "The Spirit of Taking" is all about being a good thief on Christmas and hoping the Ghost of Christmas Swindle will reward you for your efforts.  It's probably the closest thing to a family story I'll ever write...

Still no word from Powder Burn Flash.  They haven't put up a new story since early June.  I'm thinking they're either on vacation or taking a break.  As soon as I hear from them, I will post here.