I’m Back! The Marijuana Chronicles, Inherit the Dead and more…

I’m back. Not that I was ever away, not from my life that is. (Though I sometimes dream of escaping, buying some secluded island like Marlon Brando did, but would I have to ruin my career and gain 200 pounds? First, I’d have to get a career like Brando’s, then make enough money to buy an island, two things that are highly unlikely, so… never mind.). What I meant was that I was away from my website, but now that it’s been rebuilt I’m going to stay current and I hope you’ll follow me. I’ll be updating my activities as a writer and artist, things I believe you will find interesting as opposed to what I’m having for breakfast or my afternoon snack (though you can ask if you really want to know).

So, this past year, where to start? Maybe with the books I recently put together.

the_marijuana_chronicles The first, for Akashic Books, “The Marijuana Chronicles.” Yeah, you heard that right. Akashic publisher, Johnny Temple and I were chatting at Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop one night and Johnny mentioned his drug series books (The Cocaine Chronicles, The Speed Chronicles) and that he was thinking about a marijuana book and for some reason I blurted out “I’d like to do that,” and Johnny said OK. Maybe I was just being nostalgic for my college days but I thought it would be fun and it was. It’s a collection of stories and essays by people like Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky and many more, all having to do with pot (obviously), some funny, some serious, but all terrific. I wrote a story too and made some illustrations (for a few weeks my studio was filled with sketchy paintings of toke-dragging lips and fingers rolling reefers, which gave visitors pause. “The Marijuana Chronicles” comes out on July 2nd , but you can preorder. Several of the contributors will be reading at the St. Marks bookstore on the evening of June 25th as a kickoff, so come by and say hello. There will be several events – in NJ, Seattle and other places, which I will list on my site once they are set up, so stay tuned. Read more about it here.

inherit_the_dead_newAt the same time, I put together a serial novel for the Touchstone imprint of Simon & Schuster, called “Inherit the Dead.” Its got 20 great writers, each contributing a chapter in an ongoing story. Writers like Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, CJ Box  and Charlaine Harris to name just a few. I had contributed to the last Touchstone serial novel, “No Rest For the Dead,” so when they asked me to edit a new one I said why not. Maybe I need to practice saying NO. But honestly, saying yes can bring unexpected things into your life as well as unexpected people and both of these projects did. Getting to work with these writers was a treat, and seeing their chapters as they came in was like winning some sort of story-a-day sweepstakes. Our ongoing noir-themed novel (think Raymond Chandler meets Dashiell Hammett meets Cornell Woolrich meets Ross MacDonald and you start to get an idea) comes out October 8th so look for it.  Read More about it here.

In February I was keynote speaker at the University of Houston’s conference on Printmaking & Philosophy of Art, organized by the coolest heavily tattooed philosopher that walks the earth, Dr. Christ Mag Uidhir. I had to get up and speak in front a roomful of philosophers and it was terrifying. But not only were they receptive to my talk on art and writing, they interpreted my work in ways I had never considered. While I was there I got to make a print (thanks to the artist Jamie Davis) with the university’s print department and Burning Bones print shop and that was great.  See image below*

This Marilyn edition will be printed and available sometime later this summer.
This Marilyn edition will be printed and available sometime later this summer.

The other treat in Houston was being invited to speak to the Honors students. Their professor, a very cool guy, John Harvey, had his students read my novel “The Killing Art,” and they asked me all sorts of questions relating my novel to other little books they were reading like “The Iliad” and “Crime & Punishment” along with Montaigne’s papers. Was I happy? Are you kidding? It was like dying and going to “real writers” heaven. Crime fiction writers are always ghettoized (something I intend to write more about) so this was really special. (And the fact is, my new novel actually does has something to do with “Crime & Punishment,” though it’s a lot shorter.)

This has also been an incredible year for Crime Fiction Academy, a program I helped create for The Center For Fiction, and the only ongoing program exclusively devoted to crime fiction in the country. Last week, Mary Higgins Clark was the “Master Class’’ speaker. Mary was great in her public talk but she really let her hair down upstairs in the private salon with the CFA students, which seems to be the norm. These informal CFA author/student salons (with authors like Dennis Lehane, Elmore Leonard, Lee Child, Joyce Carol Oates, Val McFermid, Linda Fairstein, Jeffery Deaver, Lawrence Block, Susan Isaacs and more) have all been amazing—and they are not the only thing that makes CFA special.

So, a little bit about my own writing…

Several people (God bless ‘em) have been emailing and want to know when they can read a new novel. I know it’s been a while since “The Murder Notebook,” but that will soon change. I’ve finished a new novel and I’m working on another. And I am always writing stories. If you pick up the current issue of the Strand Magazine you will find one of my stories, set in Rome and starring a pretty screwed up American artist, who gets involved with a young street hooker and things go downhill from there. I had a story in Ellery Queen Magazine (September/October 2012), and will have a new one in the December issue.  I just wrote a fairly outrageous story though I’m not sure what to do with it yet (it’s very x-rated). I may put it here, on my website, but I’m still debating that.

That’s it for now. I don’t want to wear you out with my first blog entry! There will be more, and often. Some about the work I’m doing or involved in, some about the art of writing crime fiction, some about the crime fiction world, some about art and the art world – and some simply about a particular topic that has me in its grip at the moment. I will also be adding new stories, podcasts and videos (some already here), so I hope you will stay tuned.

Thanks for visiting. Please come back.