Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The 10 Rules - Part Four

Phildelphia, home of the Broad Street Bullies, the city of brotherly love.

Part one of this totally fictional adventure is here.

Part Four

Wednesday morning we took the Lincoln Tunnel out of New York and driving by the huge port in New Jersey Declan said, “Can you imagine the amount of graft in there every day?”

I said the black market economy in there must be as big as the economy of lots of small countries and Declan said, yeah, “Everybody getting a piece.”

Thousands of containers, millions of them, coming off ships and being put on trucks, probably twenty-four hours a day.

I said, “Scams and graft,” and then I thought that might be a good name for the rock band in Tumbling Dice, the book I was working on, Ladies and Gentlemen, Scams and Graft! Maybe the management company.

Then I said, I always like a good scam. “There were these guys, when I was living in Alberta, welders or gasfitters or something, they made a fake cover for an overnight bank deposit drop, put it on a different bank branch everynight. It was pretty clever, it fit right over the real one, looked just like it but it caught the deposit bags. They’d leave it up for a few hours, collect the bags, take the fake front and move on.”

Declan said that was pretty good, clean. “But you’d need to be a pipefitter, wouldn’t you?”

I glanced sideways at him and realized he was thinking of how to work something like that.

“They got caught, it was funny, because the fake front they had was for the Bank of Nova Scotia and they spelled it wrong, they had it down as Scotai instead of i-a.”

“So you’d have to be a pipefitter who could spell, then?”

I said, yeah, I guess so, and figured I’d better not mention any more scams because Declan was looking at them all as business plans.

Noir at the Bar in Philly was great. Peter Rozovsky has a brain the size of a planet and could easily be the most annoying, arrogant guy around – I know I would be if I was half as smart as he is. But he’s not. Declan and I each read from our books and then answered questions and it turned into a great night. We had a few beers with the nice people who’d come out, one of them was Scott Phillips who wrote The Ice Harvest and I bought a copy after reading the first page and getting hooked by the description of a waitress in an empty bar on Christmas Eve as having, “dishwater blonde hair that looked like she’d got shitfaced and decided to cut it herself.” At about one thirty we walked back to the little hotel we were staying at on the other side of downtown.

We were both in a good mood, talking about writing books and feeling like professionals, like we had some idea what we were doing. It was strange then, it still is, to have people ask questions as though we know something other than, “It sounded cool so I wrote it down.” People looking for some kind of secret to writing and publishing, something other than, make it the way you really want it and then send it to publishers. We’d both, Declan and I, got amazingly lucky and we knew it.

Then Declan said, “Look,” and I saw the car, slowing down in front of the bank, the girl getting out of the passenger seat, looked to be in her twenties, if that. She was carrying a gray canvas bag and going to the night deposit drop.

Declan was moving then, saying, “Don’t have to spell for this,” and running past the girl, not even slowing down as he grabbed the bag.

The girl just stood there staring at him and a guy started getting out of the driver’s seat but his huge fucking gut got in his way and he stumbled, falling into the street, yelling, “You fucking punk, I’ll fucking kill you.”

It might have been his keys in his hand and it might have been a gun, I was running too fast and shaking too hard to really tell.

Declan was gone, down the alley and into the dark.

I looked back and saw the girl – she looked like the waitress from Noir at the Bar, she sure didn't get shitfaced and cut her own hair – laughing and shaking her head but not moving and I saw the fat guy getting up and telling at her to get in the fucking car.

Then I heard, “Over here,” and I saw Declan, maybe ten feet into the alley leaning against the wall looking like he was waiting for a bus.

I said, “What the fuck?”

He pointed and said, “That’s our hotel,” and there it was, across the street from the bank where the fat guy and the waitress were making the deposit. The car was long gone, I guess the guy figured we’d still be running and he was trying to catch us.

Declan dropped the canvas bag and was looking at the cash, disappointed it wasn’t more, saying, “Fucking credit cards, no one pays in cash. All this credit, it’ll go bad, you know.”

Yeah. I followed him back to the hotel thinking the news was full of people worried about the credit crunch, the sub-prime mortgages starting to default. That’s our big problem, too much credit.

Just like in books my heart was pounding and my fingers were numb. There was no way I’d get any sleep before the drive to Baltimore.

Good thing I had that Ice Harvest to read.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Isn't that cool

A Christmas present from a friend in Japan.

I've been making my way through the French edition of Killshot, though it's taking me a long time. I'll never be able to read Japanese, but it's a very cool addition to my collection.

I'm still working on the Bouchercon "fiction" but I've been busy taking meetings with TV guys about possibly joining the writing team of a new Canadian cop show. Looks very interesting, quite a new take on the cop show, possibly very controversial. More soon....

Saturday, December 13, 2008

e-book of Dirty Sweet now available

These guys are now offering a .pdf version of Dirty Sweet for $7.68.

Check it out here.

We'll get back to The 10 Rules next week. See what the Broad Street Bullies are up to in Philadelphia and find out what went on behind the scenes in Baltimore...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Riding the Bus in Toronto

A little break from the road trip.

A couple of videos about the Toronto Transit Commission, our beloved TTC:


And 22 years ago:

I love this town.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Ten Rules Part Three

A little later than I'd planned, here's Part Three.

Remember, it's fiction. It's all made up. All of it.

You may want to start with art one, below.

The Canada-US border had changed a lot since the last time I drove across, pre-9/11. Back then the people working there were called Customs Officers and they asked you where you born and where you were going and they hoped you'd have a nice day. Now they're called Homeland Security, they carry big sidearms and they don't seem to care how well your day goes.

We waited in line and when it was our turn we pulled up at the booth. The guy inside had already typed my lisence plate number into the computer and he kept looking at the screen as he asked us where we were going.

I said, “Baltimore,” and he said, “Baltimore, New York?”

Shit, I was thrown off already, I didn't even know there was a Baltimore, New York. Then I blanked on what state Baltimore was in and I said, “No, um, Baltimore,” and I was about to say where the Orioles play and I remembered and said, “Maryland,” as if I'd won final jeopardy.

“What's the purpose of your trip?”

“We're going to a convention, a writer's convention.” I didn't think I should say, 'crime writer's convention,' I didn't want to say the word crime.

The guy said, “Are you both Canadians,” and Declan said, “No, I'm Irish.”

The guy typed on his computer some more and said, “Pull up over there and go inside.”

Shit. Everybody's border nightmare, pull up over there.

We did.

Across the parking lot a couple people were repacking their car, rolling up sleeping bags and shoving them into the trunk. Their stuff was spread out on the ground all around the car.

Declan said, “That doesn't look pleasant,” and he took the toy gun out of the glove compartment and put it into the paper Tim Hortons bag our donuts had been in.

We got out of the car and on the way into the building Declan dropped the Tim Hortons bag onto an already-full garbage can and kept walking. Just like that. Shit. I was starting to realize I didn't know this guy at all. It was fun and games when I told people I was taking a road trip to Bouchercon with a guy I'd never met, a writer from Ireland I met online, but it didn't seem so weird to me. I liked his books. So what if they're full of criminals and guns and violence, so are mine, didn't mean anything.

Well, not in my case.

Declan held the door open and still looked calm and cool as we went inside.

And he was calm and cool answering all the questions and ten minutes later we were walking back to the car. As we passed the garbage can, Declan didn't even slow down as he reached out and picked up the Tim Hortons bag.

Getting in the car he said, “Wal-Mart might be out of our way,” and I said, “I doubt it they're all over the place.”

Declan closed the door to my Saturn Vue and said, “Well, better safe than sorry.”

On the way to New York City we stopped in Brattleboro, Vermont. It's almost a sci-fi experience, pulling off the interstate into a beautiful mountain town where it still seems like the 50's. The folks at Mysteries on Main were happy to tell us that Brattleboro has four book stores on its main street and no Starbucks. That's good for them, I guess, but I was desperate for a triple grande latte.

The town was so nice, the people so pleasant, I almost felt bad pulling the gun in the gas station on our way out, but a car with Quebec plates left just as we pulled in and it gave me the idea to use my bad French accent to get the kid to hand over the money. It wasn't as good as the cheque cashing place, barely twelev hundred bucks, but as Declan said, “Every little bit helps,” and I figured the cops would be looking the car from Quebec.

A few hours later we were in New York City. Google directions were fine and we dropped the car in a parking garage on West 63rd right next to the Y where we were staying.

We'd made the arrangements online. I'd sent Declan some pictures of the rooms at the Y and they'd looked fine – small, but clean and with bunk beds. I had a joke all planned for when we walked into the room, I was going to say, “I haven't slept in bunk beds since jail,” but by the time we got to the room with over ten thousand bucks in stolen cash it didn't seem so funny.

And walking into the room was when we realized there was no bathroom.

Down the hall, around the corner. Public washroom. Three shower stalls. One of them covered with yellow police crime scene tape.

Declan said, “What the fuck,” and I said, “It's fun to stay at the YMCA.”

It was late by then so we walked around the neighbourhood, saw Lincoln Centre, Columbus Circle and Central Park. New York, New York.

The next morning in the elevator there were a couple of well-dressed women, business suits and carrying briefcases, and one of them was saying, if CBS doesn't give us an answer right away, we'll take it to ABC, and I was thinking, yeah, it's the Y, so what, it's New York, it's big business and here I am going to see my American publisher.

Declan said, “Those beds are noisy, though, can't even think of a wank in there.”

Things didn't go well at the publisher.

First of all, neither Declan nor I had thought to bring the address. Sign of the modern world, we stood in Columbus Circle and Declan phoned his brother in Dublin who Googled the publisher and gave us the phone number. You really can't make this stuff up.

We got the wrong subway directions. The publisher had recently merged with another company and moved offices and the nice receptionist gave us direction to the old office. We were only lost for a few minutes, though, and hopped in a cab.

The reality of the merger sank in at lunch when no one seemed too interested in any more books from either me or Declan. Fair enough, that's business, but we left bummed. Declan stopped in the Baby Gap to pick up stuff for Lilly and I walked around the block a few times trying to put the best possible spin on all this.

The weird thing was I spent more time looking at places to rob, seeing all the security and trying imagine ways around it. I used to call that kind of thing research, now I wasn't so sure.

It was late afternoon when we got out of the cab by the Y and Declan said let's take a walk in Central Park.

We walked around, talked about writing, other stuff we were working on, tried to cheer each other up. I wanted to find that memorial for John Lennon but I wasn't motivated enough. We took some pictures, telling ourselves they were for the blog but I doubted we'd put any of this up on a blog.

We were on our way out and we saw a fenced off area with swings and slides and jungle gym, the sign said 'The Dianna Ross Playground' and Declan said, “She gets the whole place to herself?” and I said, “Look,” pointing at some high school kids, two boys and a girl, all wearing maroon sweaters – the boys wearing grey pants and the girl a grey skirt – and they were going behind the playground to where there were a few trees and a guy sitting on the bench in the shade. The guy was three hundred pounds easy, big bald black head, and he nodded when the kids stopped to talk to him.

Declan said, “Beautiful day for a dope deal.”

One of the high school boys dropped something on the bench – my crime writer skills kicking in to tell me “money” and the big black guy dropped an envelope. The kids walked out past the Dianna Ross playground in no hurry.

Declan said, “Not a bad idea, that,” and I thought he meant as a scene in a book, a dope deal in the park but it was kinda boring, very matter of fact. Maybe it could get worked into something else but it'd have to happen pretty quick and move on.

Then I thought maybe he meant scoring some dope and I was going to tell him I'd be fine with a beer, maybe a Jameson if I was still bummed, but he was already walking around the playground towards the guy.

The guy said, “Gentlemen.” He was having a great day, a beautiful autumn day sitting on a bench in Central Park making money.

Declan took the gun out of the Baby Gap bag and said, “Afternoon.”

The guy said, “Oh my, they selling toy guns at Baby Gap? I'da thought Gap for Kids, maybe, but not the babies. This city,” shaking his head but still in a good mood. Then he said, “What can I do you for gentlemen, little weed or something more chemical? You feeling nostalgic today I got some genuine hippy acid.”

Declan dropped the gun back in the Baby Gap bag and said, “It's good weed, then?” and the guy said, “The best, my man, you Irish, right?”

Declan said, “Yeah.”

The guy said, “Yeah, like my man, Bo-no, gonna save the world,” and he laughed.

We bought a little weed. It wasn't 'the best,' it was okay.

The next day we were feeling a little better and ready for the drive to Philadelphia for Noir at the Bar, organized by Peter Rozovsky. The extra cash we had meant we wouldn't have to crash at Peter's place, which was good because we're all getting a little too old to be “crashing” on couches.

We're suposed to be professionals, after all.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Ten Rules - Part Two

Before heading off to Bouchercon this year I started to write a bit of fiction about the trip.

Here is Part Two.

Remember, it's fiction. It's all made up. All of it.

Part One is below.

Declan stood by the door with the other smokers, his the only hand rolled, reading the headlines in the newspapers lined up in the boxes and I went inside to get us a place in line. Every hundred kilometres or so on the 401 there’s a rest stop.
They’re all the same; a gas station and a couple of fast food places. The names are different at each stop, a Petro Canada and a McDonalds, an Esso and a Wendy’s, a Shell and a Burger King – they all have Tim Hortons.

And they all have line-ups. I’ve been back and forth down the 401 from Toronto to Montreal every month of the year and every hour of the day and night and there’s always a line. So, standing in this one I thought about how I was going to steer the conversation to robbery. I’d been thinking about it for a while, here I am at home all day, drop my kids off at school and sit down and write. What if I just popped out once in a while and pulled a robbery? No one would notice and the money would just look like it came from my writing. Wouldn't be too much money, just a few grand here and there, but it would really take the edge off.

The idea never went anywhere because it wasn't something I could do by myself. I needed a partner.

In my head, of course, I was the laid-back, cool, ex-con Ernest Stickley, call me Stick. In reality, of course, I’m the weasely, talking-too-much car salesman Frank.

Oh, I’d thought about being both, doing it all myself, but I didn’t think I could. I’d written a flash fiction, a thousand word short story called The Book Club (it was on the website Shred of Evidence about two women who leave their book club and start robbing guys going into strip clubs. It’s kind of a housewife Swag. My friend Alan Taylor made a short film out of it, The Armed Book Club. He’d make a good partner, except he lives in Montreal. And we’d be known right away as the Black and White Bandits or something stupid like that. Alan’s black.

Back when I was at Concordia, ten years of part-time night classes to get a lousy English Lit BA, my buddy Bobby Jones and I were filling out applications to med school and law school and teacher’s college and getting turned down everywhere, so we decided – one night in the Rymark Tavern on Peel after four or five pitchers of Molson Ex – that if we didn’t get in anywhere we’d start a life o’ crime. That’s what we called it, life o’ crime, and laughed and figured out how we’d get pilot’s liscences, lease a plane, set up a front business and bring in drugs from South America. The next day it didn’t sound so stupid. Just like Frank and Ernest in Swag we worked out some details, made up some rules. We figured we’d be successful because we’d be smart. We would never DO drugs, because, as Bobby says to this day, dope is for dopes. We wouldn’t flash money around and we wouldn’t be greedy. We’d get a stake, start a business, maybe buy up some duplexes in NDG in Montreal where we both lived.

Bobby’s black, too, so we would’ve been the Black and White Bandits again, but then he went and got into teacher’s college and then went to teach in Yellowknife. He’s got the balls for armed robbery, that’s for sure, but now he lives in Nova Scotia and is making too much money and having too much fun to think about a life o’ crime.

Another friend still in Montreal, Randy McIlwaine also has the balls for it, no doubt. He’s big and strong, huge shoulders and broad chest and can make his eyes look insane when he wants to. Randy walks into a bar with a sawed off shotgun and says put the money in the bag, they’d put it in the fucking bag.

Except he’s a cartoonist, you can see his stuff at his website , it’s really funny. If I mentioned this plan to him he’d get a big laugh out of it.

Still, it seemed like such a good plan, I couldn’t let it go so I thought about a few more possible partners; Michel Basilieres is living in Toronto now, his first novel, Black Bird, won the Books in Canada /Amazon award and got fantastic reviews but now he’s teaching at U of T and spending all his spare time with his son. Families really do get in the way of careers.

Families made me think of my cousin Joe, he and I got arrested in Calgary together at the Sears, something I fictionalized in Dirty Sweet, and he might have been game back then, but he’s also in Nova Scotia now, taking it easy, blasting Deep Purple and working in a greenhouse.

But now here I was on the road with Declan, a guy who obviously thought about armed robbery because he wrote a fucking great book about it. I just didn’t know how to go from talking about writing novels to actually doing it.

I was next in line when Declan came in and stood beside me, saying, “Couldn’t do it here, though, have to stand in line so long there’d be miles of footage,” and he motioned to the camera on the wall behind the cash.

I said, “Yeah, and these places are always crowded.”

We ordered, me explaining that a double-double is coffee with two cream and two sugar and Declan saying, “There’s still room for the coffee, then,” and asking for it black with sugar. We also got a box of Timbits.

Walking back through the parking lot to the car I said, “I wonder sometimes what Tim Horton would have thought about Timbits,” and Declan said, “There’s really a Tim Horton?”

“People think he’s like Ronald McDonald. No, he was a hockey player. Started the first one of these places with a cop in Hamilton.”

Back on the road, Declan said, “But there are some places you don’t have to stand in line?”

“Not on the highway,” I said. “Have to turn off into one of these small towns.”

“These small towns have banks?”

“Not much anymore, the banks are closing branches all the time, setting up kiosks in grocery stores, forcing people to use ATM’s, online banking and those cheque cashing places.”

“You’ve got that scene,” Declan said, “in Everybody Knows..., where the guy robs one of those places.”

“Yeah,” I said. “That’s right.”

“That’s a good scene, it really works.”

I said, thanks, but I don’t know, it’s a pretty straightforward scene. J.T., a biker back from serving in the army in Afghanistan waits at the back door of a cheque cashing place and when the woman comes out for a smoke he shoves a gun in her face, forces her inside and cleans out the till.

“These little towns, they have these cheque cashing places?”

“Yeah,” I said. “They do.”

We pulled off the 401 into Trenton, past the fighter jet that looks like it has a pole up its ass, and into town. We were just going to take a look around, see what was what. Trenton is really just a big air force base with a little town attatched.

I said, “The thing is, for armed robbery, you need arms.”

“Right,” Declan said, “guns.”

“This isn’t like a book, just put in a convenient character, some guy we know who can get his hands on a gun.” I laughed then, said, “Like Rossi in The Big O, worried he can’t go to Sicily with the .22, a woman’s gun.”

“Wants his .44 back from Karen.”

“Too bad we don’t know a Karen.”

Declan pointed to a road sign and said, “Bridge to USA, could find something there.”

“Yeah, well, regardless of what people say, they don’t have guns in the corner stores.”


There was some tension in the car, we were both nervous, getting serious.

I said, “Like Homer Simpson said, ‘Wait three days? But I’m mad now.’”

No laugh.

“In my story about the housewives robbing guys going into strip clubs they use a toy gun they bought at Wal-Mart.”

Decland said, “A toy? Right.”

“Because I don’t think it’s the gun, really, I think it’s the setting.”


“Yeah. A kid’s playing with it in his back yard, it’s a toy, a grown man is carrying it in a back alley at night, it’s a gun.”

“Or a back alley in the day?” He pointed to a Mr. Cheque Cashing place at the end of a strip mall and I saw the Wal-Mart up ahead.

It went just like the scene in the book. I parked my car behind the big trash bins behind the store and we waited. After about half an hour a guy came out the back door and used a piece of two by four to prop it open.

Before I could say anything about how it looked like it really would've worked, Declan jumped out of the car and left the door open. We’d bought the gun at the Wal-Mart, looked just like a real gun, it’s true, especially when we painted it black with some of that model paint in the little square jars and scratched it up. I wrapped a big elastic band around the handle a few times and Declan said, what's that for and I said, I don't know, “I saw it in Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy,” and Declan said, oh, okay then, but till that moment when I saw him point it at the guy’s head I didn't think we’d really do it.

They went inside the Mr. Cheque place and less than a minute later Declan came out carrying a big manilla envelope and jumped into the car.

He looked at me and said, “So, are we going, then, or should we just sit here and get arrested?”

I hadn’t even started the car, so I did, and drove back around the strip mall and out onto Division street. We went a couple blocks and made the turn up Sidney Street to the 401. No sirens, no one chased after us, nothing.

“What the hell did you do in there?”

He said, cashed a cheque, and for a second I thought that’s what he really did and I was so relieved. Then he laughed and said, “Holy fuck, there’s ten grand in here,” pulling money out of the envelope.

“Some of that’s American.”

“Good we’ll need it tomorrow in the states.” He looked at me and I think he winked and then he said, “We are going to the states, aren’t we?” and I realized we were taking the on ramp to the 401 heading west for Toronto. It’s like I just wanted to get home.

We only drove a couple miles on the 401, took the Wooler Road exit, crossed over the highway and got right back on heading east, the sign saying, Kingston 100 kilometres.

Declan said, “Holy shit, man. I thought about a little side-line to the writing, just something to take the egde off, you know,” and I said, yeah, I know.

He said, “Just a little extra income, I thought about maybe dealing a little dope, a few regulars, nothing big, but fuck, ten grand in ten minutes – that's a bit of all right.”

I thought, well, when you put it like that.

An hour and a half later we were pulling up to the American border, looking at some very serious and well armed guys in uniforms.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bouchercon meta-fiction

Before heading off to Bouchercon this year I started to write a bit of fiction about the trip. I present the beginning of it here and will post the rest of it over the next few weeks.

Remember, it's fiction. It's all made up. All of it.

The Ten Rules

When I wrote my novel, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, I used Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing, and I’m pretty sure that Declan Burke used them when he wrote his novel, The Big O, so it was natural when we teamed up to pull armed robberies on our way to Bouchercon in Baltimore, we’d use Elmore’s Ten Rules for Success and Happiness from his novel Swag.

In both cases we had to make minor changes to the rules. For one thing, grocery stores and bars never have much cash on hand anymore and one exclamation point for every hundred thousand words? Come on, these are crime novels, people getting robbed and beaten up yell.

In Swag, Frank Ryan, a used car salesman from Detroit, meets Ernest ‘Stick’ Stickley, a car thief from Oklahoma and they team up to rob people. I knew a Frank when I lived in Calgary in the late 70’s, Frank Kloss, and he was a used car salesman. When I met him he was selling truck parts for the same company where I worked in the warehouse. Calgary at that time was a lot like the Detroit Elmore Leonard described in Swag -- full of young people moving in from somewhere else to make money. The apartment building the guys live in in the book was an awful lot like the townhouse complex I lived at in the Woodlands, in the southwest of Calgary. Young people, under thirty, thirty-five anyway, all making money and not thinking past the weekend. In fact, a band from Calgary at that time, Loverboy, had a hit with “Working for the Weekend.” In Swag the women sitting around the pool were stewardesses and models working the car shows and in Calgary they were hairdressers and oil company secretaries but they had the same kind of snotty attitude they thought was being independent and they didn’t mind trading up if a guy making more money moved in. Pretty much everybody living there was from somewhere else.

Frank, my Frank, didn’t live in the complex, he was married already and had a couple of kids, but he was a lot like the Frank in the book. He could see a car drive by and tell you within fifty bucks how much he could sell it for and you just knew he was right. Frank had his scrapes with the law, too, and I always wondered how far he’d go if he didn’t worry he’d get caught. Or if the pay-off looked big enough.

At the same time, My uncle John got out of jail in Nova Scotia and like so many maritimers came out to Alberta. He stayed with his sister, my aunt, Mary, just like I did when I first got to Alberta. And John was a lot like Ernest ‘Stick’ Stickley. Being from Nova Scotia is like being an Okie, especially if you can take cars apart and put them back together and you just got out of jail. We were driving around Calgary, trying to find work on construction sites and John said if things got really bad he was, “sitting on two grand,” and it took me a few minutes to realize he meant his Pontiac Parisienne. Frank might’ve been able to get two grand for it, but John never would’ve gotten more than a grand. Anyway, it was that way of thinking about his car that made me think of Stick. That, and the way he stood up to guys in bars and never raised his voice or lost his cool and you could tell he wasn’t going down without a fight. Well, I could tell because I knew what he went to jail for.

So it was easy for me to see Swag come to life, the characters were so real for me, they were people I knew.

Now, twenty years later, living in Toronto, I’m a successful Canadian novelist, which means I don’t really make any money form writing and I meet this Irish writer, Declan Burke, online. We have the same US publisher, Harcourt, and had the same editor, Stacia Decker, till the company merged or got bought or something, and she got laid off.

Declan and I’ve both had our Elmore Leonard comparisons – the Irish Mail on Sunday said he was, “Elmore Leonard with a harder Irish edge,” and Publishers Weekly said I was, “a clear disciple of Elmore Leonard... not a bad thing for a fun read.” Ken Bruen said nice things about both of us.

So, we came up with this plan to do a mini promo-tour together, driving from Toronto to Bouchercon in Baltimore, stopping at as many bookstores along the way as we could. The first night at Sleuth of Baker Street went well and the next day we hit the road. Driving the boring 401 from Toronto to Kingston, we got to talking about the Elmore Leonard comparisons and how, sure, it’s great, but pretty fucking hard to live up to.

I said, “The thing is, with these kinds of characters, crooks, but professionals – not insane serial killers or unrealistic James Bond stuff – we all want them to be as real and natural as possible, so that’s going to mean sounding a little like Elmore.”

Declan said, “You don’t call him Dutch?” and I said, no, I don’t.

At that time I was about halfway through writing a novel called either Tumbling Dice or Emotional Rescue, or maybe even Some Sing, Some Dance after the Michel Pagliaro song, and the car stereo was blasting out late 70’s top forty – Fleetwood Mac, Gerry Rafferty, - research I called it, the novel being about a late 70’s band called The High who reunite to play the casino circuit and rob a few along the way. Declan had an iPod and was fingering the headphones, trying to be polite and not just stick them in his ears.

Then I said, “And really, it’s hard not to follow those Ten Rules of Writing, they really do make for a good book.”

“Oh right, yeah.”

“Said is a shortcut for me. I pick up a book, I flip through it, if people are exclaiming, or announcing or demanding, I put it back on the shelf.”

“Or querying,” Declan said, “never heard anybody query in my life.”
To be totally honest, I’d been thinking about this for a while, so I started talking about Swag, how everybody says it was the real breakthrough for Elmore, took him from cult status to mainstream and Declan said, “Fantastic book.”

I said, yeah, fantastic. “And it had ten rules in it, too.”

“That’s right, the original title was Ryan’s Rules. What was it, Frank’s rules of robbery?”

“Frank Ryan’s Ten Rules for Success and Happiness.”

“Right,” Declan said, “written on bar napkins. Ten rules. Have you read Troy Cook’s 47 Rules of Successful Bank Robbers,” and I said, 47?

“Good book.”

We’d been driving an hour, we were finally out of Toronto, passing through Oshawa, it’d been city all the way but now there was some countryside, flat and bland. Traffic was still steady, three lanes in each direction. It was a dull October day, the leaves gone off the trees but no snow yet.

Declan said, “You’re right, though, 47 is a lot. I’d have to carry the book with me on robberies.”

“Right, ‘hang on, everybody stay on the floor, I’ve just got to look this up.’”

“Don’t see it working.”

“No,” I said. “But the general idea, the armed robbery.”

Declan said, “Yeah.”

“Like in The Big O. Karen pulling the stick ups.”

“Till she meets Ray. Did you notice,” Declan said, “we both have women with similar names, Karen, Sharon, both involved in illegal activities who both meet guys named Ray.”

Oh, I’d noticed. Our books also had exactly the same dedication, mine’s, “For Laurie, always,” and his is, “For Aileen, always.” It was freaky.

I said, “In my new book, Swap, I have three women pulling stick ups at spas.”


“There was an article in the paper, three women robbed some spas in Toronto. They got caught and one of them turned out to be a beauty queen. Miss Toronto Tourism, something like that.”

“Do they always just hand you the material in Canada, then?”

“Pretty much. Hand me all kinds of ideas.” I waited a moment, saw Declan looking at the miles of nothing we still had to drive, holding his earphones, and then I said, “You just have to follow the rules.”

“Right, back to Elmore. I can see he has a point about not opening with weather here, how long could you hold a reader talking about grey clouds?”

“I was thinking about the other ten rules,” I said. “Frank’s. Be polite, don’t say more than you have to, never call your partner by name – they all make sense.” Declan was looking bored and I was thinking the driving was longer and straighter than he’d imagined. I said, “You know, in Swag Frank gets the idea because he read an article in the paper, too. A couple guys who had a three or four year run doing exactly what he was talking about.”

Declan said, “Yeah.” He was still looking straight ahead at the highway, probably getting near the end of being polite.

I said, “Elmore must have read that article.”

Declan said, “You think?”

Yeah, his patience with the road was coming to an end, and probably his patience with me. I said, “You wan to stop for a coffee,” and he said he’d kill for a smoke.

Pulling into the gas station I said, “If you were going to take that kind of risk, wouldn’t you want a bigger score than a cigarette?”

(okay, that's it for part one)

Thursday, November 20, 2008


We haven't even finished raking the leaves and now the whole place is covered in snow! This is my front deck. It's too early, too early! It's not even December...

Luke likes it, though, and so do the kids, so that almost makes it worthwhile.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thanks Quill and Quire

Quill and Quire, "Canada's Magazine of Book News and Reviews," picked 15 books from 2008, "to remember," and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere is one of them.

The article says, "Some are critical favourites, some are bookstore blockbusters. Some dive into difficult subjects, some are about pure pleasure."

About Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, they say it's, "a sprawling portrait of a city that's rare for any novel, genre or literary."

It's great to be noticed, thanks Q&Q!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Darwin's Nightmare by Mike Knowles

Stark, Spillane, Parker and now Mike Knowles.

A while ago I was asked to contribute a blurb to a first novel called Darwin's Nightmare. Cool title, I thought, and then when I read it, cool book.

I offered the blurb, "Like Parker on meth," but the publisher wanted something else so I gave them, "Relentless. Only the most ruthless survive. A fantastic new hard-boiled voice. Anti-hero Wilson is pitch-perfect."

But don't listen to me, listen to Allan Guthrie:

“The evolution of the gangster novel takes a step forward with 'Darwin's Nightmare.' Mike Knowles' hardboiled spin on Hamilton's underworld is written with a tireless and controlled intensity.”

Or, Edgar Winner, Thomas Perry:

“Darwin's Nightmare is an angry charge into a bloody underworld free-for-all where a fighter's survival is earned by what he'll do after the bullet hits him. Mike Knowles is a strong new voice in crime fiction.”

Or the Hamilton Spectator:

“A debut novel with an assured, strongly focused voice and hard-boiled writing that reminds you of Mickey Spillane. Darwin's Nightmare announces a new and serious mystery writer on the Canadian scene...The pace of the story kept me turning pages. The violence is raw, the energy of the writing is addictive, and the story reveals life as it unravels from the wrong side of the gun...Darwin's Nightmare is a debut novel not to be missed.”

Or, the bookitself. As it says on the back:

"Wilson spent his entire life under the radar. Few people knew who he was and even less knew how to find him. Only two people even knew what he really did. He worked jobs for one very bad man. Illegal jobs no one could ever know about. Wilson was invisible until the day he crossed the line and risked everything to save the last connection to humanity he had. One day changed everything. Wilson saved his friends and earned the hatred of a vengeful mob boss, a man who claimed he was Charles Darwin’s worst nightmare.

"Wilson survived his transgression and went even deeper into the underworld of Hamilton becoming a ghost in the city – an unknown to almost everyone until he was paid back for his one good deed. It started with a simple job. Steal a bag from the airport and hand it off. No one said what was in the bag, and no one mentioned who the real owners were or what they would do to get it back. One bag sets into motion a violent chain of events from which no one will escape untouched. Wilson learns that no one forgets, no one gets away clean, and no good deed goes unpunished."

Darwin's Nightmare by Mike Knowles available now.

Monday, October 13, 2008

SWAP it is

Looks like we're going with swap as the title for the next book.

This is the first pass at the cover.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Free e-book

I've collected all the flash fiction, short stories and even a few interviews I've done online and put them together in a free e-book over on my webpage.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday, October 5th, 1:00 - 2:30

Declan Burke and I will be making the first stop in "John and Dec's Excellent Adventure Road Trip to Baltimore" at the Sleuth of Baker Street Bookstore in Toronto on Sunday, October 5th from 1:00 to 2:30.

Declan's novel, The Big O, is being released today in the USA and Canada and there will be copies available at the Sleuth.

The Big O is getting some well deserved rave reviews, many comparing it to the greats but I have to say I found it a fresh new voice (or voices, really, as everyone in the large cast gets to tell their own story), a total original.

The Sleuth of Baker Street Bookstore is at 1600 Bayview (south of Eglinton).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Forgotten Books Friday

St. Famous by Jonathan Dee, though I could have picked any Jonathan Dee, I think. I have no idea why this incredibly talented, insightful writer isn't a bestseller every time out, but there you go.

Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say (even though they didn't get it exactly right) hwne the book was published in 1995:

"Dee explores America's obsession with the cults of victimhood and fame in the aftermath of a race riot in New York City. Paul Soloway is a struggling writer who's been working on his first novel for 10 years when the acquittal of a white man who has shot a black child touches off a riot in Harlem. Paul ends up being abducted and held hostage by Victor Hartley, a normally respectable young black man brought to the boiling point by a long and random chain of circumstance. The novel opens as Paul, who has suffered severe physical injuries during his time as a hostage, is released from the hospital and into the ensuing media feeding frenzy. Eventually, he is persuaded to write a book about his experience in the riot, which is presented to the reader largely through excerpts from the work in progress. Meanwhile, his abductor becomes a hero in the black community and, with the help of a high-profile lawyer, starts his own media campaign. The gulf that separates Paul and Victor is only increased by their different attempts to make sense of their private experience in the public realm, leading to a climax that sacrifices credibility to make a polemical point. Dee is certainly a skilled writer, one who pays careful attention to both the internal and external details that give his characters' actions substance and weight. But while his portrayal of America's racial divide is acute and his characters well drawn, ultimately both Paul and Victor emerge as selfish and naive, and much of what they learn about the power of the media and the distortions of public image over the course of the novel seems distressingly obvious."

Okay, I guess maybe (maybe) the characters might be a little naive and maybe even a little selfish but I thought that made them real people. I didn't find the point polemic or sacrificing credibility (in fact, it was frustratingly real and refused to give in to the temptation of a happy ending) or what the characters learned to be "distressingly obvious." The ideas in this book will have only become more poignant as the "power of the media and the distortions of public image," have become even more pronounced.

I'd also put Dee's Palladio on your TBR lists. It has more to say about the advertising industry than ten years of Mad Men episodes.

Swap or Go Round?

The new book is finished and off to ECW for editing. Now comes the hard part - the title.

I'm looking for something that means, "all relationships are symbiotic." This because the book is about different groups of organized criminals fighting for territory, old groups giving way to new. It's about younger cops starting to move up in the force. And, oh yeah, there's a couple murdered in their car on the way home from a "lifestyle" event - what used to be called wife-swapping.

So, Swap or Go Round?

They're both from songs, of course, as all my titles are.

Swap is from a song I made up for a band in the book called Smiley's People - which was a band I played guitar for in the mid-80's along with Alan Taylor, who wrote the music for the Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere trailer and Michel Basilieres who wrote the award-winning novel, Black Bird.

Go Round is from the Billy Preston song, "Will It Go Round In Circles?" which has the lines, "I've got a story, ain't got no moral/The bad guy wins every once in a while." Which, I guess if you've read my books you wonder, "once in a while?" There's also a little, 'what goes around comes around' in the book.

So, which title?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Sun Review

This past weekend, many newspapers in the Sun chain (Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Ottawa) ran Joan Barfoot's review of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, which said some nice things about the book, calling it, "an absorbingly complex tale that combines the concerns of troubled cops with accounts from an underworld of bikers, the Mafia, sex-trade workers and ethnic-based gangs."

And finishing with,

"As Everybody Knows This is Nowhere beautifully shows, change depends, timelessly, on the inclinations, depravities, ambitions and hopes of individual humans out to do their best, or their worst, in the world."

Some of the papers also ran this really cool illutration by Tim Peckham.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My National Post Diary

The National Post newspaper runs a daily feature in its Arts and Life section in which someone keeps a diary for a week.

This week it's me.

I kept the diary back in June. It was fun.

It's here.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Three Authors

Peter over at Detectives Beyond Borders tagged me with the question, What three authors would you miss the most if they stopped writing?

Like most people, I'd have a tough time narrowing the choice down to three and lately it's been getting even harder. I was thinking about a blog post just yesterday, wondering if we're in a new golden age of crime fiction.

In 2006 I attended my first Bouchercon (and I'll be going again this year) and I met a whole bunch of writers; Mike Harrison, Robert Dugoni, Sandra Ruttan (in person!), Duane Swierczynski; I was on a panel with JD Rhoades, Brett Battles, Bill Cameron and Michael A. Black; I said hello to Lee Child, Gary Philips and Don (I have a problem with impulse control) Winslow and lots of others. When I got home I started reading books by people I'd met, and to be honest, I didn't expect to like many of them.

I liked them all.

Am I getting soft in my advancing years?

Since then I joined CrimeSpace and met Barbara Fister, Jon Loomis, Donna Moore, Linda L. Richards, Patti Abbott, Angie, and lots and lots of other writers and I've been working my way through their books. And they're all good.

What happened to the snarky, cynical hard to please jerk I was?

Last year I "met" online Declan Burke, Ray Banks and Al Guthrie, so I read their books and you know where this is going...

Pretty much all of these writers are younger than I am, so I'm looking forward to years and years of happy reading. As Barbara Fister says, "I'll read till I die and I still won't be finished!!"

So, it's a great time to be involved in crime fiction.

But to try and answer the question, I'm going to go with:

Elmore Leonard. Over the last forty years he has quietly laid down the history of a particular slice of America better than anyone else. What John Cheever did for suburban culture, Elmore Leonard does for the working-class. His books are some of the few American books to be truly multi-racial and completely honest. The last few books filled in the gap between his westerns and modern-day novels. Check out Glitz and Swag as two of the very best crime novels ever written.

Alice Munro. Not a crime fiction writer, not even a novelist, but the greatest short story writer ever. She has also chronicled an entire generation, one story at a time, digging deeper into human relations in a single short story than most novelists do in an entire career. Lives of Girls and Women and Who Do You Think You Are would have been a career right there, but she just keeps going.

Roddy Doyle. The Barrytown trilogy was a lot of fun, but The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, Paula Spencer and The Deportees are fantastic. What writing should be.

So, keep writing everybody. It really feels to me like we're just at the beginning of something special here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hard Luck Stories

Isn't that just so cool? It's the illustration by Jean-Pierre Jacquet for my story, Barbotte, in the current (and sadly last) issue of Hard Luck stories.

A huge, huge thank-you to Dave Zeltserman and Ed Gordon for doing this. It's a ton of work for them and I really appreciate it.

My story, set in Montreal in 1946, is a tribute to my Dad, who passed away in 1985 and would have been very proud. The main character, Nat Lawson, like my Dad, is a telephone installer who knows everyone in town. As far as I know, my Dad was never involved with gangsters, crooked cops or jazz musicians, but they were there and he was there...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Shifting Gears

“With gas prices rising they had to change their plans.”

This was the challenge for a flash fiction. I made the slight change from 'gas' to 'diesel.'

Many thanks to Patti Abbott for asking me to do this. She has a list of the other stories on her blog.

Long Haul

John McFetridge

When they finally got through Toronto, the 401 bumper to bumper for two hours, Ellen relaxed in the cab and said to Rick, “How long till we get to London,” and he said, “Why, you want to pull over for a quickie?”

She said, “You remember when we didn’t even pull over?”

Rick’d been driving long haul for almost thirty years, married to Ellen the whole time. Back in the beginning they rode together, popped in the Allman Brothers on the eight track and saw America. And Canada and a little of Mexico. Then they had the kids and she stayed home and raised them and Rick kept driving, both of them liking the idea of being independent, working for themselves, owning their own rig, being their own boss.

Now the kids were grown, Rebecca in the air force, Allan a state trooper, RJ in college going to be a teacher, and Ellen and Rick were back on the road having the retirement they’d be dreaming of all these years.

Except now it didn’t look like it was going to work out. With diesel prices rising, their plans had to change.

Rick said, “You nervous?”

“I should be, shouldn’t I? What we’re doing.”

“What else can we do? Got no choice.”

Ellen said, “Yeah.” Things had been getting tight for a while. They’d talked about selling the house but with the bottom falling out of that market they couldn’t get much for it. Rick’d been driving without health insurance for a couple of years now, sleeping in the cab for days at a time even if it cost too much to run the heater, waiting for a load that would at least cover the cost of hauling it.

Walking into the almost empty drivers’ lounge of the Fifth wheel in Dorchester, Ellen said, “Wow,” and Rick said, “Yeah, like a neutron bomb.”

After Ellen said hi to Tommy and got introduced to the other drivers at the table she and Rick sat down and the guys – not all ‘guys,’ Alison and Rachel, too – were back in the middle of their talk. Their bitching. Grant saying, “It’s a matter of pride,” and Wayne saying, “Bullshit, it’s a matter of survival.”

“You know repossessions are up a hundred percent.”

Rachel said they got Ed Kirk’s last week, didn’t even have to chase him, it was sitting in his driveway. “Used to take the bastards weeks, months to get a hold of a rig.”

“When it was hauling.”

Grant said, “What can we do? No one’s building houses, there’s nothing to haul.”

“There’s plenty to haul,” Wayne said, “but with diesel over four bucks a gallon, there’s just no profit. The big fuckers, the nationals, buying it in bulk, paying way less, they can afford it. Drive the independents out of business.”

“You want to go on strike?”

“Right,” Wayne said, “that’ll work. Anyway, we’re an association of independent truckers, not a union, it’s against the law for us to strike.”

Grant said, shit, “We need Jimmy Hoffa back.”

Ellen looked at Rick, saw him laughing with his buddies, guys he’s known thirty years, but not looking as worried. Or not showing it.

“We need something,” Rachel said. “These gas prices, it’s costing me a buck a mile to haul, shippers still paying eighty-seven cents.”

“What’s that song,” Wayne said, “another day older and deeper in debt.”

Grant said, “Tennessee Ernie Ford, my Dad used to love that.”

Ellen looked at her watch and said to Rick, “We better get going.”

Wayne said, “It’s not the romantic times seeing the country you were hoping for, is it?”

“Worked your ass off for,” Grant said.

Ellen said, “We gotta do what we gotta do.”

They took the 402 up to Sarnia and got in line with the rest of the trucks crossing the Blue Water Bridge to Port Huron, Michigan.

Rick said, “Are you sure about this,” and Ellen said, “Yeah.”

Rick said, “We’ll be over in half an hour. You know, there was a time there could be five, six thousand trucks a day cross this bridge. You could spend hours in line, a couple hundred bucks in fuel. A wait like that now, there goes your profit on that job.”

Rick pulled up to the customs window and talked to the guy like he had ten thousand times before. Got waived through, drove under the radiation-sniffing portal, said to Ellen, “Spent fifty million bucks, looking for terrorists, nuclear weapons, dirty bombs.”

Just before Flint, Rick pulled off 69 onto 24 south towards Metamora, pulled over in a rest stop and Ellen made a cell call, saying, “We’re here.”

Ten minutes later a motorcycle pulled up, a guy driving and a woman sitting behind him.

Ellen had already pulled the two backpacks, a Transformers and a Bratz, out from inside the mattress in the sleeper – all those precautions seeming silly now, but you never know – and climbed out of the cab. Rick got out, too, walked up to the bike and said, “Nice Softail.”

The guy looked at Rick’s rig and said, “Nice Peterbilt, 389?”



Ellen said, “They could talk like this all day,” and the woman, about Ellen’s age, took the backpacks and put them in the Harley’s saddlebags saying, “Boys and their toys.”

The guy told Rick he could get him a deal on a bike and Rick said they’d talk about that next time. The woman handed Ellen a FedEx envelope.

Driving away, Rick said to Ellen, “You met her online?”

“Website for Moms with kids in the military. Her son joined up two months ago, he’s going to Iraq next week.” Ellen pulled the twenty grand in cash out of the envelope, four bundles, 250 twenties in each. The backpacks were full of ecstasy tabs, 2000 in each. The biker and his buddies would sell them in Detroit and Ann Arbour and Lansing for twenty bucks a pop.

Rick said, “That’s not a lot of time for training,” and Ellen said, “No, not much.”

Then she said, “How long till Saginaw?”

“We’re doing fine,” Rick said. “Why, you want to pull over?”


Thursday, June 12, 2008

My New Website

My good buddy Michel Basilieres has updated my website, added the short fiction and even a few audio stories I recorded (flash fiction - 3-5 minutes each).

He can do the same for you, for a small fee. I think it really helped having a fellow writer design the webpage.

It's here:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Forgotten Book Friday

Forgotten Books Friday is a great idea and I want to start by thanking Patti Abbott for asking me to be a part of it. As soon as she did, I thought of one of my favourite novels that’s not exactly forgotten but certainly not as well known as it should be. Newton Thornburg’s Cutter and Bone from 1976.

I have a friend who’s an excellent cartoonist – so good, in fact, that his biggest fans are other cartoonists. That’s kind of Cutter and Bone – Time Magazine said at the time it was published that it pointed, “to the future of crime fiction.” If it has, it’s because it’s influenced a lot of crime fiction writers – like George Pelecanos who wrote the introduction for the book’s later reissue. Not exactly forgotten, Cutter and Bone certainly isn’t as recognized as it should be.

The story of Cutter, a one-armed, one-legged, one-eyed Vietnam vet and, Bone, his good-looking gigolo buddy starts in California and ends in Missouri, is simple; late one night Bone sees a man cram something into a garbage can. When that something turns out to be a dead teen-aged girl, Cutter realizes the man Bone saw ‘could be’ J.J. Wolfe a “cornpone millionaire” from Missouri and justice must be done. But not through messy legal avenues, no, that never works on millionaires. Cutter wants to blackmail the man.

The biggest influence on the crime genre was taking the mystery out of it and concentrating almost entirely on character and theme. Certainly throughout Cutter and Bone, the issue of Wolfe’s guilt is in dispute, it also quickly becomes beside the point. Solving the ‘mystery’ isn’t what the book is about at all. Thornburg has admitted that his pessimistic view of the world caused him to reject the crime genre, with its detectives and its neat resolutions.

Instead he wrote a book George Pelecanos says is about, "America's festering wound in the wake of Vietnam," with no neat resolution.

It’s a festering wound seen through the eyes of a very wounded Cutter and a very disaffected Bone. Wolfe represents the corporate culture that destroyed Cutter's body in a brutal war: "it's never their ass they lay on the line, man, never theirs, but ours, mine."

In many ways it’s exactly the same way many people feel today in the face of another foreign war. In Cutter and Bone, Wolfe’s men in Missouri are described as, “lean and sunburnt and improbably pleased with themselves.” They’re never going to be the victims of the war, never going to lay their own asses on the line.

As relevant today as it was in 1976.

The movie, Cutter’s Way, based on the book is okay. Thornburg hated it, and certainly he’s right the ending is much better in the book.

Here’s a good article about Newton Thornburg

And the review from Time Magazine in 1976 (isn’t the internet great?).

Monday, May 12, 2008

a noir love song to Toronto

A couple more reviews are in for Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.
Kirkus Reviews, in its May 5th edition ran a starred review:

It’s refreshingly hard to tell the good from the no-good in this helping of cops and robbers, Canadian style.

Sharon MacDonald, smart, attractive, a loving mother, wears one of those metallic adornments around her ankle. She’s under house arrest for hospitalizing some wise guy who got out of line. As the operator of an established Toronto “grow room,” Sharon plants and harvests marijuana for profit. Enter Ray, good-looking, immensely appealing to Sharon, with an unnerving proposition likely to make drug kingpin Richard Tremblay unhappy. An unhappy Tremblay means a trembling Sharon, a state familiar to her ever since she knew the ice-eyed kingpin when he was only a scary student prince. On the other hand, Ray’s scheme has almost irresistible payoff potential if Sharon can trust her new partner long enough to double-cross him safely. Newly paired Toronto police detectives Bergeron and Armstrong have trust issues of their own. Neither is sure the other is the solid cop to be hoped for in a partner. Throughout the exposition, persistent, worrisome rumblings indicate that it’s shake-up time in Toronto, and everybody knows that on both sides of the law enforcement divide big players are going down.

Bristling action, a vivid sense of place and nary a plot twist telegraphed. Exceptional work from McFetridge (Dirty Sweet, 2006).

Publisher’s Weekly was less enthusiastic, but still, I’m thrilled to get a review in PW:

Canadian author McFetridge’s complex crime caper, whose title comes from Toronto-born Neil Young’s first album with Crazy Horse, follows Toronto police detectives Bergeron and Armstrong as they pursue a variety of cases, starting with the body that falls off a high building and strikes the car windshield of a john just about to enjoy a hooker’s services. Meanwhile, Sharon MacDonald is under electronic house arrest, working angles on expanding her dope business, when she meets a guy named Ray with plans to smuggle literal shiploads of marijuana. A clear disciple of Elmore Leonard, McFetridge (Dirty Sweet) has almost every character talk and think like Chili Palmer (“That was one thing J.T. learned in Afghanistan - the enemy’s only half your problem, if that”), not a bad thing for a fun read. On the down side, too many subplots start and abruptly end as this noir love song to Toronto plays out. (July)

The July listing is for the US edition. Everbody Knows This Is Nowhere and the paperback edition of Dirty Sweet are in Canadian stores now.

Friday, May 09, 2008


So, I joined a site called GoodReads. Don't know much about it yet, but it's all about books, so that's good.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Growhouse - the short story

Finally there's an anthology in the Akashic series of city noirs set in Toronto. I tried to contact the editors and publisher quite a few times but I never got any response on how to submit a story for consideration. There's been some chatter ;)

Anyway, the story I would have submitted, Growhouse, was accepted by Bryon Quertermous at Demolition Magazine and it's in the current issue, so thanks Bryon.

Friday, February 08, 2008


Advance copies of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere have gone out and we're starting to get blurbs. This is very exciting, something that's never happened to me before. Here are some:

“Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere is just one hell of a read, takes off like a bullet and never let’s up, like a wondrous mix of Elmore Leonard and McBain but with a dazzling Canadian slant that is as fresh as it is darkly hilarious. Detective Bergeron and under-house-arrest Sharon MacDonald are just terrific creations; they leap off the page and the only flaw is the book is over before you can quite catch your breath—it’s that enthralling.”—Ken Bruen, author of Edgar-nominated Priest.

Who’d have thought there was such a seedy side to Toronto, and McFetridge is the perfect guide. Everyone Knows this is awesome! - Victor Gischler, author of Shotgun Opera (yeah, now, but pretty soon we'll be saying author of Go-Go Girls of the Apocolypse)

“Crackling dialogue, explosive action, cops, crooks, and the deadly setups, scams, and mind games these underworld types play. Sounds like a good Elmore Leonard novel. Reads like one, too. Enjoy.”—Parnell Hall, author of Hitman.