Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tick-Tock, the Clock is Running

The Groupees bundle is available through the end of July. So far sales have exceeded our first goal and continue to rise. Here’s the deal:

Go to the 27 Authors Crime Fiction E-Book Bundle page on the Groupees web site.

Bid whatever you think the collection is worth to you. Bids may be as low as $2.00.

You’ll receive the following e-books:

Four Funny Detective Stories, Starring Maynard Soloman, by Ben Sobieck.

Banal, by Vincent Zandri.

Kick It With Conviction, by Fiona “McDroll” Johnson.

The Noir anthology from Black Heart magazine, edited by Laura Roberts.

Cleansing Eden (The Celebrity Murders), by Ben Sobieck.

Wild Bill, by, well, me.

In addition, the top bidder will receive a handcrafted hard copy of Wild Bill, created by The Beloved Spouse specifically for this Groupees promotion. Bidders Two through Five receive signed copies of Cleansing Eden, which has recently been released in paper.

Be not dissuaded by my presence in the group; these people can write. (If you’ve already read Wild Bill, the rest of the bundle I still a great deal. Buy it, and line your Farmville bird cage with the extra copy of Wild Bill.) In addition to those listed above, the Noir collection has stories and artwork from twenty-seven collaborators, including several previously noted here on OBAAT (Dan O’Shea, Keith Rawson, Kieran Shea, and the ubiquitous Mr. Sobieck).

Not only is this a great deal for you, you get a chance to do good while doing well. Twenty percent of all proceeds will be donated to the National Kidney Foundation.

Summer will soon be gone. You’re not going to want to face the Season of Doom without something good to read. Two bucks gets you in; the high bid so far for the print copy of Wild Bill is $21. It can be delivered to you anywhere in the world mail deliveries occur. Hell, I’ll hand deliver the bastard if you live within 100 miles.

Head on over. The clock is ticking.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Wild Bill (And More) Available as a Groupees Bundle

Events have precluded me from devoting the kind of attention this has deserved, but Wild Bill was selected for inclusion in a promotion that has great promise and is also a lot of fun.

Ben Sobieck, author of Cleansing Eden and the Maynard Soloman short stories, has put together a package of authors and books for the promotional web site Groupees. People can buy an entire bundle of crime fiction e-books by paying whatever they want for the books. As an incentive, premiums will be awarded to the highest bidders.

The books (and their blurbs) are:

Four Funny Detective Stories – Starring Maynard Soloman (Ben Sobieck):

Maynard is the philosopher-cum-man-of-action that we all wish we could be, the detective who solves mysteries by turning idiocy against itself.” – Peter Rozovsky, Detectives Beyond Borders (Spinetingler Award winner)

“I recommend to everyone who is looking for a quick read. It’s perfect for that pick me up laugh, that bathroom read, that afternoon escape.” - Molly Edwards, Reviews by Molly

Kick It With Conviction (Fiona Johnson):

Seven crime/noir/drama/humour original stories from Fiona ‘McDroll’ Johnson

The Noir Issue of Black Heart Magazine (Laura Roberts):

Featuring the works of old-schoolers and newcomers to the noir/crime-fiction genre. Packed with 64 pages of short, dark fiction and even shorter (and darker?!) poetry, there’s a little something for everyone with a hole in their soul—or a few bullets where there oughtn’t be.

Cleansing Eden, The Celebrity Murders (Ben Sobieck):

“Cleansing Eden is a highly suspenseful read. Benjamin Sobieck has an inventive way with words. He writes with a voice that’s strong and uniquely his.” – Debbi Mack, New York Times bestselling author of the Sam McRae series

“Cleansing Eden by Benjamin Sobieck is a gripping story about individuals who give up more and more of themselves over time, becoming the things they hate.” – Michelle Peden Vasquez, Life in Review

Banal (Vincent Zandri):

Is a writer suffering from a never ending bout of writer’s block capable of murder? Or is he simply bored with his life? In this previously published short story by bestselling noir author, Vincent Zandri, a writer commits the ultimate act of destruction to a neighbor and friend if only to finally uncover the one story he needs to write himself out of his troubles. But then, not all murders are what they appear to be. Nor are all stories.

Wild Bill (Some Guy):

Blah blah blah blah you’ve heard it all before.

To get in on this, go to and click either Get It! or Gift It! (Or both. No reason you can’t get a copy for yourself and one for someone else.)

The premiums to be awarded to the top five contributors include four autographed copies of the recently released print edition of Cleansing Eden and a unique, hand-crafted paper copy of Wild Bill. Proceeds will be split among the authors, with a share going to the National Kidney Foundation.

I’m jazzed to be included with such a talented group, and flattered to have been asked. The deal is only open for eight more days, so get in on it while you can. It’s a chance to choose your own level of support for several authors at once, as well as contribute to a worthy cause and be entertained for the contribution. (The “worthy cause” is the NKF, not me. I’m the cause of many things, few of which are considered worthy.)

Pop on over when you get a chance. Any questions can be asked at the site, or left in the comments below, and I’ll do what I can to get an answer.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wild Bill Reviewed at Edged in Blue

Many thanks to Jim Winter over at the Edged in Blue blog for his kind words for Wild Bill. Jim's a fine writer, whose Road Rules made my Best of 2011 list. I have his Northcoast Shakedown queued up on Kindle for when life stops intervening so damn much.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead

I only heard of this movie because it stole its name from the Warren Zevon song. All I knew about it was the title.

So I wasn’t expecting much when the credits started to roll. Andy Garcia. William Forsythe. Christopher Lloyd. Treat Williams. Jack Warden. Steve Buscemi. Bill Cobbs. Oh. “And Christopher Walken.” (Don Cheadle also has a cameo not noted in the opening.)

Now they have my attention.

This is a solid movie about what happens when you mix with the wrong people and things go tits up. (In this case literally, when Garcia’s crew accidentally kills the girl they’re supposed to be bringing back to the crime boss’s son.) I’ve always liked Andy Garcia, and I appreciate his skill as an actor more all the time. (For a role you’d never expect to see him in, check out Confidence.) Here he pulls off subtlety most actors wouldn’t have the nerve to attempt, especially in a touching scene with Lloyd. This is also the first time I’d seen Lloyd in a straight dramatic role, and he is convincing as the senior member of Garcia’s crew.

The story moves along, the dialog sizzles, and the performances are spot on. The movie lost its ass, according to IMDB. (Budget of $7 million; American gross of about $500,000, though it did better in the UK.) It’s a shame. This is a good example of what can be done on a fairly limited budget, working with professional actors for whom the job is worth more than the check or the media coverage.

Will your life be forever diminished if you don’t see Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead? No. If you like solid, gritty crime stories with solid performances, sharp dialog, a little tongue-in-cheek humor, and bits of pathos that never become maudlin, it’s a well spent couple of hours.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Heaven’s Prisoners (Movie)

The Beloved Spouse and I watched Heaven’s Prisoners last night, a 1995 film starring Alec Baldwin as James Lee Burke’s protagonist Dave Robicheaux. Not a great movie, but a solid effort and well worth watching.

I’ve often wondered why more of Burke’s books haven’t been made into movies. This is the second I’ve seen (along with In the Electric Mist, with Tommy Lee Jones), and both came off well. Louisiana is a great setting for the kinds of stories Burke tells, mysterious more than mysteries, and the scenery and lifestyle are photogenic. New Orleans is just down the road, and The Big Easy is always good for a great scene or two.

I’d not read the book, but had meant to see the movie for some time. Baldwin is good as Robicheaux, though his accent slips occasionally. In his late thirties when the film was made, he’s almost too young to have done what Robicheaux has done by that point in his life (Army, NOLA cop, notorious homicide detective now off the force), but uses that to his advantage. He’s not a grizzled drunk with a hard-on. Baldwin’s Robicheaux wants what’s right, and will push the envelope beyond what’s rational to get it. Every bad thing in the movie happens because he can’t leave well enough alone, but his initial motives are pure. He has no way of knowing when he starts he would have done well not to push things, and it goes badly for him. Once the ball is in motion, he can’t help himself, and he’s more than capable of giving as good as he gets.

The screenplay was written by Scott Frank, who also did the first successful adaptation of an Elmore Leonard crime story with Get Shorty. (Hombre and the original Three-Ten to Yuma both pre-date it and were, of course, superb adaptation of Westerns.) Not having read the book, but well aware of Burke’s work, I saw many of the things that made Get Shorty successful in Heaven’s Prisoners. Frank keeps as much of the original dialog as he can, which adds considerably to the flavor, as both Burke and Leonard have their own distinctive styles with speech. (No, as I said, I have not read the book, but I know how Burke writes dialog. Work with me.) He’s also more concerned about remaining true to the tone of the book than with replicating the plot. Robicheaux’s friend, Clete Purcel, is missing from the film, though there is a scene that could only have been written for Clete in the book, his movie role filled by a DEA agent. Clete is problematic for screenwriters, as his presence in Robicheaux’s life often overwhelms his importance to the plot. (He is also missing from In the Electric Mist.)

Heaven’s Prisoners is not a great film, though it is the kind of movie American studios make too rarely these days: a crime film not filled with car chases and shoot-outs that gets you to the end with a satisfied feeling of knowing your time has not been wasted. (It should be pointed out the two main action sequences and both well done and compelling.) Watching inspired me to go to the local library and pick up a copy for comparison purposes. It also fired up my writing impulses, left mostly dormant for the summer, as it reminded me why I wanted to write in the first place: so I could write stories like that.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Way of the Gun

The Way of the Gun is the movie Christopher McQuarrie made after his classic The Usual Suspects, though it was quite a bit after, due to the usual Hollywood contractual issues, and McQuarrie’s desire not to be typed as strictly a crime guy. I’ve read recommendations for a few years now, so The Beloved Spouse and I checked it out on NetFlix. We’re not sorry we watched it, though we’re not likely to watch it again, either.

The general premise is not just good but believable: two losers decide society has no place for them, so they have no time for it. They’re making a living selling body fluids (giving some highly entertaining interviews to sperm bank workers in the process) when they overhear a conversation between a doctor and a surrogate mother. The surrogate has bodyguards, which implies money, and lots of it. Our anti-heroes get the bright idea—by their standards—to kidnap the surrogate before she has the baby.

They didn’t bother to check to see if the father of the baby in question is connected to The Mob. Mayhem ensures.

There are a lot of good things about this movie. Using the names Parker and Longbaugh for the protagonists, then staging the big shoot-out in a location that gave every indication of being where the ending to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was filmed was an inspired Easter Egg for those paying attention. The action scenes are well staged, and guns have to actually be reloaded at realistic intervals, though how Parker and Longbaugh were able to carry as much ammunition as they did and were still able to walk is curious. The dialog is crisp, as would be expected from McQuarrie. (“Fifteen million dollars is not money. It's a motive with a universal adaptor on it.” And this exchange: “So, you the brains of this outfit, or is he?” “Tell ya the truth, I don't think this is a brains kind of operation.”) The casting and performances are both excellent, especially Ryan Phillippe as Parker, Benicio del Toro as Longbaugh, James Caan as the fixer tasked with unraveling this mess), and Geoffrey Lewis as Caan’s helper. (Sarah Silverman also does a brief walk-on as a character aptly credited as “Raving Bitch.”)

So, I must have loved it, right?

Well…there are holes. Some things happen, and you’re left scratching your head, wondering how this character got from Point A to Point B knowing only what he knew. Maybe something was edited out post-production. Hard to say. The end result keeps you from becoming lost in the movie, as these disconcerting anomalies interfere with the fictional dream any storyteller tries to create. I don’t want to get specific because it might spoil things for a potential viewer.

The Way of the Gun is definitely worth seeing if you’re into this kind of movie. (Which I assume most of this blog’s readers are.) Don’t expect too much, and you’ll enjoy it a lot. High expectations won’t ruin it, but will take the edge off.