Friday, April 27, 2012

A Writer's Life

Today I was interviewed at A Writer's Life, blog of the ever gracious writer Caroline Clemmons: Read it HERE

Monday, April 23, 2012

Buddies in the Saddle: Interview and Review

Ron Scheer's excellent blogsite Buddies in the Saddle has posted a review of Cherokee Winter, and a lengthy interview with me. Ron asked some very complex questions, and made me think quite a bit about my work and the western genre. Read it HERE

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Celebrate National Poetry Month with 30 Days of the 5-2: Crime Poetry

Gerald So has an excellent weekly crime poetry blog called The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly -and this April, to help celebrate National Poetry Month, he's coordinating a blog tour and has invited me to participate. Basically, each day of the month a different blogger will write about his/her favorite poem that has appeared at the 5-2. The complete list of participants can be found here -it gives fans of noir, whether prose or poetry, a great chance to encounter not only some new poetry but some new blogsites to follow. Several of these folks are friends of mine, and are darn good mystery writers and/or poets.

The piece I have chosen is by Pushcart Prize-winning poet Paul Hostovsky -check out his website here. The poem is called "My Visit to the Gardner Museum"; before I wax on about why I like it so much, I will let you read it...


by Paul Hostovsky

Isabella Stewart Gardner had a lot of shit,
a lot of very old and beautiful shit
from all over the world, going all the way back to
the Egyptian sarcophagi, which look a lot like bathtubs
though really they’re coffins. A whole lot of dead
shit in this museum, is what I’m thinking
to myself, not sharing that thought with the lovely
young woman who brought me here on our second date.
To share the world with the world, Isabella Gardner
built her eponymous museum in the Boston Fenway
in 1898. Now, a hundred and ten years later,
me and Celia are walking through its galleries, not touching
because it’s only our second date. And I think it’s obscene
the way she accumulated all this shit and shipped it
back to Boston. And I think it’s exactly what’s wrong
with America, the way we keep appropriating
shit that doesn’t belong to us, buying it up and
calling it ours. But I don’t tell Celia that because I want
to hold her hand now, which is presently pointing up
at an enormous gilt frame with no painting in it,
her sweet inquiring voice asking the well-ironed
museum guard standing next to it at attention: What
is this?
And he tells us this is the Rembrandt
that was stolen a few years back, along with the Vermeers
and other masterpieces cut right out
of their frames, the way poachers cut the valuable
part of the animal right out of the animal,
leaving the bloody carcass behind for the world
to stare at aghast and brokenhearted. And I think
this is by far the most interesting thing in the museum,
though I don’t tell Celia that, her hand in mine now
as we listen together to the museum guard’s harrowing tale
of the enemies of art breaking into Isabella’s
rooms, and ripping the Dutch masters right out. Like a
rape, she gasps, squeezing my hand tighter. That’s when I
reach for her other hand, which she gives to me now,
so now we’re standing face to face, just inches
away from each other’s flesh-colored
flesh, which is making the museum guard very
uncomfortable. And he looks away. And I steal a kiss
from Celia. And then I cop a feel of Rubens.

Now that's good stuff. On one level it is about crime in the classic sense, the sense we would expect -art thieves having stolen paintings from a museum. But on a deeper level it's about a whole different kind of stealing, a kind most of us never think about -cultural appropriation (although as an American Indian Studies scholar I think about it quite a bit.) That is, the nasty habit we as Americans have of just taking stuff that doesn't belong to us and not giving it back, literally and figuratively, because we consider ourselves the guardians and arbiters of "civilization." It is an expression of privilege that most Americans, Europeans, Aussies, Canadians, et al take for granted- the "white man's burden," as Kipling put it. Cultural noblesse oblige. The narrator and his girlfriend have "flesh-colored flesh," and we as readers understand that flesh-colored means white. Yet when they are confronted with evidence of more mundane thieves stealing canvas from a frame they are aghast, comparing it with poaching and even rape... Celia seems ignorant, if her boyfriend is not, of the irony. The thieves had stolen from thieves.

All of which is very fascinating, as Celia's boyfriend muses to himself. But in the final two lines we are taken to an even deeper, more primordial level. He steals a kiss, a sensual touch, from both the woman and the artwork -or was he conflating the two, touching something more Rubenesque than a canvas, and was there really any difference? Regardless, he can not -or chooses not to -resist engaging in the primal urge to take, if even for a moment... poaching, stealing, taking physical and sensory pleasure, the most basic of drives. He is the thief incarnate, and his theft is both powerful and disturbing in how timelessly natural it is -leaving the authoritarian figure, the guard, so uncomfortable he must look away.

As must we. But the thief is there.

Like I said, powerful stuff.

I plan to be a regular visitor at the the ol' 5-2, and I recommend you do as well. For my part, I am sometimes a crime writer and sometimes a poet, but I have never before considered combining the two -I'll be thinking about it now. In the meanwhile, you can check out my poetry and crime fiction if you are so inclined:

Cross Road Blues

Idylls in Darkness

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cherokee Winter: New interview up

My short story collection Cherokee Winter is now available at AMAZON and SMASHWORDS. It is the first of a two-part collection, really -the second, Red Trail, will be available soon as well. All of these previously published stories deal with the West, the frontier, or in some cases the Civil War.

Jacquie Rogers has put up an interview with me and an excerpt from the first story in the collection, "The Stealing Moon," at her excellent blogsite Romancing the West... take a look!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Park Overall for Tennessee!

Most of you know my friend Park Overall for her many TV roles, most memorably as Laverne on Empty Nest from 1988-1995.

For the last couple of years, I've known her in a different context: as a fiery advocate for progressive causes, from health care to women's rights. She is witty, wise, and never afraid to speak her mind or show her passion for justice. She is a person of great integrity and I have an enormous amount of respect for her (plus she's a fellow Tennessean!)

And today (April 4) she made a very important announcement:

" I went to Nashville, I spoke, I met, I saw. Today, I announce here, first to the The Tennessean, 2nd to the Greeneville Sun, and now to you, my most fun people: I am filed to run against Bob Corker for the US Senate. The Blunt amendment put me over the top. I am sick of rhetoric, and as all of you who know me, know, I have an East TN fire in the belly. I am tired of liars, cons and theives, a filthy environment and the subjugation of the poor, let alone the middle class. I am not buyable, and I don't have 7.5 million for my campaign. But I have you, or some of you, and I believe, I believe, I believe! Hang on, 'it's gonna be a bumpy ride.' weeeeeeeeeee!"

I aim to blog, speak, knock on doors...whatever it takes. Because Park Overall is the kind of person Tennessee needs -the kind of person we deserve -representing us in Washington. As a historian I have been concerned for some time now that certain political elements are trying (successfully) to steer us back into the Gilded Age -a time of social darwinism, when the working man and woman had almost no rights (nor the working child, for that matter, and there were a lot of them!) Our country's only hope is if history continues to rhyme, and this type of social engineering energizes new voices on the left who are unafraid to speak  up and help stir a new Progressive Age. My friend Park is stepping up to take that challenge. If you live in Tennessee, or know folks who do, help me spread the word.

Park Overall for U.S. Senate. Park Overall for Tennessee.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Nominated for a best short story Peacemaker award- twice! What an honor.

The nominees have been announced for the annual Peacemaker Awards for Western fiction. I am deeply honored that two of my tales have been nominated for best short story: "Blackwell's Run", published by Western Trail Blazer as an ebook short -part of the Blackwell series- and "The Sin of Eli," published in the Western Fictioneers anthology THE TRADITIONAL WEST.

Winners will be announced June 1.

I am in some excellent company, too! Here is the full list of nominees:

Best Western Short Story:
***There were  two ties in this category, which is why there are seven nominees instead of the required five.

“Planting Season” by Johnny D Boggs (Cactus Country Anthology, Volume I – High Hill Press)
“The Way of the West” by Larry J. Martin (The Traditional West anthology, WF)
“Blackwell’s Run” (Western Trail Blazer) by Troy D. Smith
“The Sin of Eli” by Troy D. Smith (The Traditional West anthology, WF)
“Panhandle Freight” by LJ Washburn (The Traditional West anthology, WF)    
“The Death of Delgado” by Rod Miller (The Traditional West anthology, WF)
“Stay of Execution” by Lucia St. Clair Robson (Cactus Country Anthology, Volume I – High Hill Press)

Best Western Novel:

The Sonora Noose by Jackson Lowry (Berkley)
Redemption, Kansas by James Reasoner (Berkley)
Blood Trails by Lyle Brandt (Berkley)
The Assassination of Governor Boggs by Rod Miller (Bonneville Books)
Between Hell and Texas by Dusty Richards (Kensington Pinnacle imprint)

Best Western First Novel:

Unbridled by Tammy Hinton (Roots and Branches Publishing)
The Black Hills by Rod Thompson (Berkley)
Dismal River by Wayne Dundee (Oak Tree Press)
Bullets And Bad Bad Men by B.A. Kelly (Oak Tree Press)
The Guerrilla Man by Steven Clark (Solstice Publishing)