Launch Padding

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories (with one of my stories in the first volume) was released this month and is now available from Amazon, and other fine bookstores that don’t subject anyone to the goddamn Amazon Prime program, like Barnes and Noble and The Book Depository.

Now with the official seal of approval from the Conan Doyle estate.

Now with the official seal of approval from the Conan Doyle estate.

The launch party was held October 1, at London’s Heron Tower. Even before the big day, it was the best seller in Amazon’s Sherlock Holmes category. Upon release, physical copies sold out on the site in the first three hours. Since then, they’ve had new copies come in and sell out at regular intervals. The supply and demand has yet to stabilize, so grab your copies, hardcover, paperback or ebook, where and when you can.

Philip K. Jones. Sherlock-Holmes pastiche expert, is the first reviewer to go on record, calling it the finest volume of Sherlockian fiction he’s ever read — and he’s only made it through volume one of three so far. This from a guy who keeps an online database about Holmes and Watson and reads EVERYTHING to do with the consulting detective and his pet doctor.

A number of related articles have been saved in my browser for too long now, and I should get around to linking to them…

The Melbourne Review of Books did a nice interview with fellow contributing author, Wendy C. Fries.

The Sherlock Holmes Society of India interviewed publisher, Steve Emecz, prior to release. At the launch, he announced plans for an edition of the anthology in India. Other countries may follow.

Finally, there’s a lengthy interview of editor, David Marcum by The Baker Street Babes. Scroll to the end, and you’ll see a specific mention of me, my story — “The Song of the Mudlark” — and future plans for new tales of Wiggins and The Irregulars down the road.

Now that we’re past all that, the next anthology I’m in has gone to press. Playground of Lost Toys will be out at the beginning of December with my new story, “When the Trains Run on Time.” Here’s the final cover:playgroundoflosttoys

Three more anthology appearances are already in the queue after that. Plus some other major news that’s just crossed my desk. It’s too early to announce anything or show you cover art, but I have an explosion of material coming out through to the end of the year and into 2016.

As for now… Back to my editing and rereading chores. Groan.

The Unspeakable

There’s no nice way to say this. Corpses crap themselves, and steps must be taken. You don’t want a group of mourners standing around a casket with a “Who farted?” expression on their faces, only to realize, after exchanging accusatory glances, that the perpetrator was the one in the box. That’s not a final memory anybody wants of mom or dad or aunt Josephine.

Funeral science has, through much trial and error no doubt, developed the A.V. plug. It’s a plastic device that’s half screw, half butt plug, and is used to stop up one or more holes that might develop some unfortunate leakage before a corpse is safely planted in the ground. I know about these sorts of things because I’m morbid, but I’m not an expert. So when the A.V. plug came up as a recent topic of discussion, I felt compelled to ask around.

No, not these.

No, not these.


Me (in all seriousness): Do you know what the A.V. stands for in A.V. plug?

Her: There’s two holes down there.

Me: Ah. I was hoping it stood for something classy like “alimentary viscera.”

Her: I’m eating.

Me (shutting up): Right.

Recent research (and by “research” I mean “roaming around the dark corners of the web looking for sick and twisted things”) led me to my new favourite website, The Order of the Good Death. It’s run by Los Angeles funeral director Caitlin Doughty, who is the author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory and creator of the hilarious video series, Ask a Mortician.

I’ve long been aware of how the monopoly of modern funeral rites is ruining death for everyone, and it’s nice to see groups advocating alternatives a mere fifty-two years since Jessica Mitford wrote The American Way of Death, exposing the gouging that goes on in the industry.

I know this sort of thing is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it warms my cold jaded heart that the web provides such valuable information resources about the nitty-gritty that goes on behind the scenes whenever somebody’s loved one (or unloved one) snuffs it. Including what gets shoved up their ass.

I highly recommend you take time out from watching funny YouTube cat videos to watch some of Caitlin’s funny YouTube death videos. Spoiler alert: there’s a funny cat in some of them.

Caitlin Doughty and friend.

Caitlin Doughty and friend.

Pardon the shameless plug. Plug? Get it? Haw!

There are only three days left in The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Kickstarter campaign. All goals have been met, but if you want to get your copies ahead of the rest of the world, this is your last chance.

Short News About Short Stories

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories has reached its secondary goal of £10,000 in their Kickstarter campaign. Although they now have all the cash they were shooting for, you can still merrily contribute in order to get your copies of the three-volume set (or any individual volume) in a format of your choice before anyone else, including the major retailers.

Interviews with the authors of Volume One (myself included) has appeared on I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere. This will be followed by two more sets of interviews for Volumes Two and Three. Check them out if you want to see what makes a bunch of Sherlockians tick. Or if you care to read whatever I blathered on about for “The Song of the Mudlark.”

In other anthology news, my next story, “When the Trains Run on Time,” will be featured in Exile Editions’ The Playground of Lost Toys this fall. Co-editor Colleen Anderson was recently discussing the book and its lineup on her blog. No cover art yet (which is one of the issues she writes about), but I remain watchful. New cover art for a publication I’m in always tickles me.

More announcements are queued up, but I’m stuck waiting for official announcements, air dates and/or contracts. You know, the usual bottlenecks.

A Three Part Problem

When I was a wee nerdling, I once attended a meeting of The Bimetallic Question. It may sound like a sinister secret society, but it’s only the Montreal incarnation of the usual sort of Sherlock Holmes fan club you’ll find sprinkled throughout the world. To this day, they get together once every couple of months in someplace suitably stodgy, talk about Sherlock Holmes, and act all Victorian. Or, if they’re particularly progressively minded, Edwardian.

A highlight of the evening is a quiz about one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. They select a sample from the canon, encourage everyone to refresh their memory, and then ask trivia questions at the gathering. The winner gets a prize, as I recall. This was so long ago, I hadn’t finished reading all sixty of the original adventures. So when I was told we’d be questioned about the contents of The Veiled Lodger, I had to skip ahead and read that one early.

“It’s not very good,” the organizer on the phone warned me in advance.

Sacrilege from a Sherlockian. It was like hearing a Trekkie admit that one of the episodes of The Original Series kinda sucked.

He was right, of course. It wasn’t very good. Conan Doyle was slipping in those last years of his life. After killing off Sherlock Holmes and then bringing him back from the dead due to public demand, his heart often wasn’t in it. There are plenty of gems to be found in those final collections, but some of the stories are lazy rehashes of earlier, better work – or worse, dull original material that lacks the spark that made the characters successful in the first place.

A tasteful illustration rather than the lured money shot modern audience might prefer.

A tasteful illustration rather than the lurid money shot modern audiences might prefer.

The Veiled Lodger is one of those latter examples. It hardly even qualifies as a mystery. Holmes and Watson are summoned to hear a confession from a woman about a case the consulting detective once looked into but didn’t solve because he was never officially engaged. It all plays out as an excuse to get to the shocking finale where the veiled lady raises her veil to reveal what’s left of her face after it got chewed off by a lion. Where’s the accompanying Sidney Paget illustration for this one, I ask you? Okay, he was dead by the time it was published in 1927, but Frank Wiles, his successor, might have come up with something appropriately grisly. I blame The Strand editors for wussing out on the opportunity to horrify its readership.

As is often the case with many characters that endure long after the death of their creators, some of the most intriguing stories were written by subsequent authors. This will irritate purists, but my favourite adventures are often ones created by writers who were free to run with the groundwork Conan Doyle laid decades before them and make sense of his often egregious continuity errors. I’m particularly fond of Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Per-Cent Solution and what Billy Wilder accomplished as screenwriter and director of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (I will forever lament the hour that was cut and largely lost by the studio).

Those examples hardly scratch the surface of what’s out there. As copyrights expired and the property slipped into the public domain, tremendous numbers of pastiches were written and filmed, including far more novels and short stories than Conan Doyle ever managed in his career. I have a good number of them, big and small, in my library. Now I’m looking forward to adding The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories in the fall – for reasons both selfish and charitable. This record-breaking collection is the largest of its type ever assembled, and will feature sixty new adventures of Holmes and Watson set in their proper time period and fitting in with established continuity (tortured as it might sometimes be).

My story, The Song of the Mudlark, will be among the sixty in this three-volume set that will be available in hardcover, paperback and eBook. All royalties will go to the Undershaw Preservation Trust which is restoring the house Sir Arthur Conan Doyle built and lived in while he was writing certain notable tales like The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Empty House (the one that revived the detective after a long hiatus). The Undershaw property is being prepared as the new location for the Stepping Stones school for children with learning difficulties, and they’ll be moving in once the renovations are done.

Undershaw back in the day.

Undershaw back in the day.

If you’d like to put in an early order and get your copy before everybody else, there’s a Kickstarter page with the usual levels of contribution, depending on how flush you feel. They blew through the initial goal of £2000 within the first couple of days, but the preferred total is £10,000, which will help enormously with the shipping costs of all these heavy tomes.

Additional information about the project and Undershaw can be had in this recent article and this interview with the publisher and editor. Stepping Stones also has a page of their website devoted to the work on Undershaw as its new home.

Rogue Gallery

So apparently I’m an internationally renowned artist. Again.

Longshot Comics will be making an appearance in Talking Pictures Blue (Voices Rising) at the Songwon Art Centre in Seoul, South Korea this coming month, from June 12 to July 12.

I just wish someone had told me.

The only reason I know about it is that it came across my Facebook feed today. Nobody linked me to it, sent me an email, gave me a call or, you know, comped me plane tickets and a hotel stay overseas. It just sort of came up. I would have scrolled right past it if I hadn’t recognized some very familiar word balloons I toiled over twenty-two years ago.


The bottom right hand corner called out to me from the morass of Facebook updates about babies, pets, politics and the dumb meme-de-jour.

To quote the mission statement for this particular exhibit, “With its point of departure in the world-wide image industries of the 19th century, this exhibition focuses on a mythical structure in contemporary thinking about mediatised images: According to this myth, artists’ pictures must ‘talk’ by themselves, or they will be considered secondary, derivative, or even irrelevant.” There’s plenty more where that came from.

So, uh, I guess if you’re in the Buk-Chon neighbourhood in the coming weeks, drop by. Take some pictures. And email them to me so I can know what I’ve gotten myself involved in this time.

My Twitter project, 140 Fantastic Characters, wrapped up recently and is now collected on its appropriate sub-page. This past week has seen the next leg commence with 140 Super Characters – just in time for summer blockbuster season when we get swamped with superhero franchise films and news about what other superhero franchise films will be clogging up screens by this time next year.

It, too, will be collected on its own page bit by bit. Or you can read the daily thread by following me on Twitter.

Badge of Honour

There was a slight delay, but Locked and Loaded: Both Barrels Vol. 3 was released last week and is now available in physical and eBook forms. I haven’t received my pulp copies yet, but this new scan reveals the back cover for the first time and something I always like to see – a negative review.

“Nightmares written from the ghetto of life,” denounces the one-star Amazon review for the previous volume of the series.lalfrontandback

I looked it up, and this particular review (the only negative one for the book, in fact) came from one Betty Jonas, currently ranked number 30,511,827 on Amazon’s top reviewer list with only three reviews to her name. So, yeah, not exactly Roger Ebert. Checking out her other opinions, I was greatly amused by her summary of The Busy Writer’s Tips on Writing Mystery and Crime, which suggested, “You never know, you, or even I, might be the next Mike Hammer.” Classic, considering Mike Hammer is a fictional character. Mickey Spillane was the actual writer who created him.

Ron, the editor, expressed his sincere hope that the current volume will inspire similarly negative reviews. And I can see his point. Why print glowing reviews when the negative ones make a book sound so much more intriguing?

Why yes, as a matter of fact, I would like to read some nightmares from the ghetto of life. I would like to hang out with one despicable character after another. And if I’m going to read trash, it might as well be pure trash. Thanks for that glowing recommendation.

Order your copy today and give Betty a hug for me.

Calling Shotgun

It’s been eventful on the crime-fiction front for me lately. The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir is now on shelves (if, indeed, you can still find shelves with physical books for sale – otherwise you can buy it as an eBook from various outlets). Corey Redekop’s mini-interview with me about the anthology has been up for a while. I probably could have written a separate book answering the question “What does ‘noir’ mean to you?” but who has the time to read it, let alone write it? Some people have a very loose interpretation. Unsurprisingly, my definition is married to the concept of film noir which, itself, has been broadly and loosely defined by others. This may have to be a topic for a blog post at some future date because I get asked, far too often, by cinema luddites, “What’s film noir?” whenever I bring up the subject. Yeah, I’ll get around to that right after I try to explain what a spaghetti western is to everybody.

“The View from Inside the Pocket” is my latest short story to appear on Shotgun Honey. It makes its debut today. You can go there now to read it and heaping piles of other crime stories, including two more of my own.

Also from One Eye Press, the cover for Locked and Loaded: Both Barrels Volume 3 has been announced. This new anthology is slated for release on April 21, and will feature my story “Young Turks and Old Wives” among many others. It will be available from the usual suspects.

Shotgun Honey's official mascot (unofficially Frigga from Thriller: A Cruel Pictures AKA They Call Her One Eye AKA Hooker's Revenge) makes a return appearance for the cover of Volume Three.

Shotgun Honey’s official mascot (unofficially Frigga from Thriller: A Cruel Picture AKA They Call Her One Eye AKA Hooker’s Revenge) makes a return appearance for the cover of Volume Three.

Nobody’s Role Model

I first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark the day after my 13th birthday. In Quebec the film was rated 14-and-over for violent content, which means I shouldn’t have been allowed in. But the movie gods smiled on me that year and my school ID came back in its laminated plastic tomb badly cropped, with the last digit of my birth date missing. All I had to do (and do often) was lie to the ticket vendor about what that final number was supposed to be and they couldn’t deny me entry to this or any number of another inappropriately violent, gory or sexy films.

Much as I was a James Bond devotee, the adventures of Indiana Jones won me over instantly, and I’ve been along for the ride, through the ups and mostly downs of the series, ever since. To appreciate the Indiana Jones oeuvre, and its various incarnations in books, comics and tv shows, you have to understand two very important things about the character.

1)      He’s a complete prick.

2)      He’s a bad archaeologist.

Audiences let him get away with a lot of shit because he’s played by Harrison Ford, who happens to be a big star with a charming smile. But ignore the handsome face and just look at all his character moments, on screen and referenced by others, and you’ll quickly appreciate that he’s an unscrupulous treasure hunter, a mercenary for hire, a grave robber, and often a bit of a sadist. He’s also not very nice to the ladies. It’s why, as follow-up films go, I prefer Temple of Doom in which he openly cops to seeking fortune and glory, to Last Crusade that tries to (literally) paint him as a Boy Scout.

I just brutally murdered someone in the most violent way possible. It's a good day to be me!

I just brutally murdered someone in the most violent way possible. It’s a good day to be me!

The fact that Disney now owns the rights to the franchise and plans to recast and churn out a bunch of new adventures is fine by me. I know some fans are up in arms, but hey, maybe we’ll get another good movie or two out of it. It could happen. You can’t argue that all the Bond films since Connery left the role have been crap. You can’t even argue that all the Bond films starring Connery are great. Or that all the Indy films starring Ford are great. Or good. Or even adequate.

Yes, even the original Raiders of the Lost Ark, undisputed Hollywood classic that it is, has holes in it. The Big Bang Theory fired a major shot across its bow when one character proposed that Indiana Jones has no role in the outcome of his own film – that things would have played out, much as they did, with or without him. Putting aside the argument that the story is really about a guy reconciling with his old girlfriend (his statutory rape victim, in fact) after ruining her life, others have disputed the Big Bang interpretation.

One such recent article points out that Indiana Jones’s story arc in his first cinema outing is one of character rather than action. And I’m sure there are other defending essays to be found by the hundreds out there in the interwebsland.

They’re all wrong, of course. Here’s my version of the story, which is, quite obviously, the correct one.

The idea that Indiana Jones has no major impact on the plot of Raiders of the Lost Ark is ludicrous – that if he weren’t involved in the story at all, the Nazis would have found the Ark, opened it on the island, and been wiped out regardless. It’s a silly premise that ignores the facts. By attempting to thwart the nefarious Nazi plans throughout Raiders, not only did Indiana Jones have significant impact on the events surrounding the Ark of the Covenant, he actually managed to fuck up world history and condemn tens of millions of innocent people to death.

Some hero.

Don’t believe me? Look again. The whole idea of taking the Ark to the island for a sneak preview was Belloq’s, and only happened because Indy’s constant interference prevented the Ark from being shipped out of Egypt in a timely fashion. Until Indy’s penchant for violence and ineptitude blew the whole thing up, the plan was to send the Ark directly to Berlin on the Flying Wing. German high command would have had it safely out of the hands of any and all grubby archaeologists in short order, and Belloq, if he wanted to be present at the opening at all, would have been stuck trying to thumb a ride on the next plane out.

And what would have happened then? The Ark would have been opened, as originally intended, in front of Hitler and the entire senior staff of the Nazi Party, wiping them all off the face of the Earth via God’s wrath, ending their stranglehold on Germany in 1936 and preventing World War II (at least in the European Theatre) from happening at all. The Pacific war might have still been on, but then again, perhaps not. Would Japanese aggression against British holdings in the Pacific have been so bold if England and her navy weren’t occupied by the Blitz and the Battle of the North Atlantic? Yeah, maybe Indy fucked over everybody on that side of the world too, come to think of it.

This can hardly be construed as an isolated incident of Indiana Jones ruining the 20th century for the rest of us. If you take his historic interference in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles to heart (in which we see our hero incapable of going to his front porch to collect the morning paper without running into five historic figures and shagging one or two of them) then there’s no end of misery and suffering this globetrotting asshole has inflicted on the world.

Regardless of who writes, directs or gets cast for future Indy outings, I look forward to them explaining how Indiana Jones personally crashed the Hindenburg, lost the Viet Nam war for America, and unleashed the AIDS epidemic, all while trying to get his greedy mitts on some antiquarian doohickey because “It belongs in a museum!” rather than the country and culture of origin.

Some hero. My hero.

You Waited Too Long

I haven’t been much use to anybody these last few days. I’m still trying to catch up on my sleep after staying up very late several nights in a row, trying to finish Breaking Bad. Yeah, Breaking Bad, a show that’s been over since 2012. I’d been making my way through the series slowly, successfully avoiding spoilers, but I knew I was pushing my luck. Somebody was bound to spoil something about the plot, especially with the spin-off show, Better Call Saul, now airing and already renewed.

Then I was watching Saturday Night Live last week, the one with Dakota Johnson promoting that newer, crappier version of Nine 1/2 Weeks for the 21st Century. There was one sketch featuring a character’s reaction to the mere mention of Breaking Bad – “No spoilers, I haven’t seen it yet.” At that moment, another character pops into frame and announces, “You waited too long.”

My Spidey sense was already tingling. I had my fingers in my ears, blotting out any residual sound by loudly exclaiming, “BLAH BLAH BLADDY BLAH!” because I knew the next words spoken on my television would be a HUGE spoiler. I dodged that bullet, but I took it as a sign. I had to get Breaking Bad off my plate once and for all, so I overdosed on it. Now I have Heisenberg and Pinkman on the brain and I’m walking around everywhere calling people “bitch” and telling them we need to cook. But at least I’m through it. I know what happens. You can’t spoil it for me anymore.

Which begs the question – which other TV series do I need to get through before somebody opens their big mouth? The Walking Dead is a spoiler time-bomb with every episode, as is Game of Thrones. The only solution there is to remain current. As for other shows that have already run their course, there’s a lot to choose from. Dexter already spoiled itself by ending badly, but I’ve seen that series finale and lived to regret it.

I think my next spoiler-free viewing binge should be Rome. I’ve been meaning to get back to that before it comes up in conversation and somebody in earshot says something stupid and ruins a surprise. Call me crazy, but I already suspect things don’t work out so well for Julius Caesar in the long run. Or Mark Antony either. And yet, somehow, I’m betting that Octavian kid goes on to bigger, better things. Just a hunch.

Considering that one has been off the air since 2007 and all the major plot lines were resolved over 2000 years ago, I really have waited too long.

The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir is now available for order through Amazon (.ca or .com). My story, “Choke the Chicken,” begins on page 116. Get to it before you hear any spoilers like, for example, that it really is about a chicken despite being a noir story. You wouldn’t want some asshole blurting out a thing like that anywhere near you before you’ve had a chance to read it for yourself.