Saturday, July 16, 2011

Video Interview—Duane Swierczynski

In the last four years, there’s been a near holy trinity of pulp writers who, in my eye, can do no wrong:

Joe R. Lansdale

Charlie Huston

Duane Swierczynski

Swierczynski is one of those rare novelists who have yet to make a misstep in his career, despite the broad narrative leaps he takes. His novels are—for a lack of a better term—high octane thrill rides, which constantly challenge the notions of genre and keep the reader burning through pages.

Swierczynski is also one of the novelist who I’ve most wanted to interview and finally I was lucky enough to sit down with Duane at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ where he was making his first appearance and we sat down and talked about his latest effort Fun & Games, Mulholland Books, his recent work with DC comics, and just where in the Hell he gets ideas from?

I hope you enjoy.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Issue #6 is LIVE!!! And a quick note

Hey Gang,

As you may or may not know already, issue #6 of Crime Factory is Live!!

It's 200 pages of awesome and the line up is huge, so I hope you check it out right HERE

I also wanted to drop our future contributors and individuals whose stories we've already accepted a quick note regarding issue #6 and future issues.

First off, we're trying to publish as frequently as we can and we appreciate your patience regarding seeing your story in Crime Factory. We obviously love your work, otherwise we wouldn't have accepted it.

However, I will say we are working with a sizable backlog of stories. In fact, most of the stories in issue #6 were accepted over a year ago and when we're putting together an issue, we tend to prioritize those that have been in the hopper the longest.

Plus, I don't know if anyone has noticed, but each issue is growing larger and larger, and the reason for this is we want to get these stories out into the world, but once again, I do want to urge you to be patient.

But, if you do have concerns regarding your accepted story, please feel free to contact me personally at: rawsonkeith (at) gmail dot com. I will get back to you in a timely manner.

Please only contact me if you have an ACCEPTED story, not a query.

Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys the issue.
-Keith Rawson, publisher, Crime Factory Magazine

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Interview—Tom Piccirilli

I’ve been a long time admirer of Tom Piccirilli. His narrative voice is one of the most stylized and fearless of the current batch of neo-noir novelists. I was recently fortunate enough to steal away some of Piccirilli's precious writing time to talk about his most recent releases (the brilliant Every Shallow Cut and his collaboration with Ed Gorman, Cast In Dark Waters.) as well as his experiences in e-publishing and his upcoming hardcover release from Bantam THE LAST KIND WORDS.

I hope you enjoy

Keith Rawson: Over the last year you've focused intensely on the current economic state of the U.S. How much has the down turn in the economy affected you and your community?

Tom Piccirilli: I have focused on economic woes in some recent short fiction and my noirella EVERY SHALLOW CUT especially, because finances have been tight here and growing ever tighter for the past year. My wife has a heart attack in early ‘10, and though I thank her doctors daily that she's made a full recovery, the hospital bills continue to pour in. Being one of those millions of Americans without health insurance, we've been brought to the brink of ruin by our debts. Being a nervous, tense, worrisome soul even at the best of times, I'm all that to the nth power now. And though it helps to make for some deep dark noir, it hardly sends me to sleep with dancing sugar plums in my head. At least two of our neighbors have been foreclosed on and it's a real possibility that me or anyone else can get crushed beneath our mortgages and wind up back in Ma's basement or out on the streets. Write what you know, and at the moment I know stark terror pretty well inside out.

Keith Rawson: 2010, I think, has been the first year in close to a decade where you didn't have a full length novel appear, what's the reason for this?

Tom Piccirilli: My next novel for Bantam THE LAST KIND WORDS has been trekking on a long and bizarre road. As anyone who's paying attention knows, the publishing world is in a bit of disarray now. Random House, the parent company of Bantam, came in and restructured the whole place among layoffs and a culling of the book lines. Somewhere in there, though, the good folks at the house decided to push me out of mass market paperback originals and shove me up to hardback with a nice big publicity push. We've already got blurbs from the likes of Lee Child, Daniel Woodrell, Nancy Pickard, and a number of other generous, first-rate folks. However, Bantam has decided the best time to release the book is in summer, and since they couldn't quite make it for summer of ‘11, the novel is now currently slated for summer ‘12.

Keith Rawson: Is this your first time publishing in hardback and why did Bantam decide to with your next full length release as a hardback?

Tom Piccirilli: It's my first time in hardback from a major publisher. I've had tons of small press limited edition hardcovers, but this is the first novel from a NYC publisher the size of Bantam. Apparently they've got great faith that the book has some kind of mainstream appeal and might actually sell copies. It's the story of a former thief who returns to his criminal family shortly before his brother is to be executed after going on a killing spree. The brother claims that he did go on a rampage, but that one of the murders attested to him he didn't commit. So my protagonist is drawn into this bizarre mystery, helping a brother he hates, forced to face people and events from his past that he doesn't want to face.

Keith Rawson: EVERY SHALLOW CUT is a bit of a departure for you. It's dark but doesn't really stick to any particular genre. What's the novella about and where did the idea for the story come from?

Tom Piccirilli: It's the story of a homeless writer who's lost his house and wife amidst the economic downturn, who is finally pushed to the point of violence. He buys a gun and goes on a cross-country trek with his bulldog to see his older brother. Along the way he relives his past, his highs and lows, his busted dreams, and his failures, while trying to make sense of his own downfall. It's kind of a meta-fiction, with a lot of autobiographical realistic emotions focusing on a lot of raw honest stuff, most of which has never really happened. It might be a departure for me because it's not a horror or crime tale, but is dark as hell, and in some regards possibly my darkest story ever. And anyone even remotely familiar with my work can see that it shares certain themes with my other noir fiction.

Keith Rawson: You also recently released a collaborative piece with Ed Gorman--Cast In Dark Waters. Is this an e-book original or was is it previously published? Also could you give a brief summary of the book?

Tom Piccirilli: It was originally released as a limited edition hardcover as part of Cemetery Dance's Novella series. It's our homage to the old pulp magazines and such writers as Robert E. Howard, Kenneth Robeson, and Maxwell Grant. It follows the story of Lady Crimson, a female pirate captain who rules her crew with an iron fist and sails in search of treasure to a distant island where vampiric-like beings haunt the tropical waters and jungles. Going ashore she finds a fabled temple with a thousand stone stairs and is forced to outwit and battle a tribe of monstrous creatures as well as various undead former friends and lovers.

Keith Rawson: Was Cast In Dark Waters your first collaborative novel? And would you ever consider another collaboration?

Tom Piccirilli: It's the first collaborative piece I ever did. I've also co-written a short horror story with Ken Bruen. But I'm a complete control freak. I can only collaborate in a certain fashion, which is how I came to do these two pieces. Both of my collaborators got to a certain point in the story and then turned it over to me to do whatever I pleased. They never rewrote me and didn't mind if I rewrote them. Unless I have that kind of control, I just can't co-write with anyone else. I don't play well with other children in the sandbox.

Keith Rawson: Inevitably, I'm going to have to ask you about e-books and the e-publishing process. First, which do you prefer, traditional publishing or e-publishing and what are the up downsides of both for you?

Tom Piccirilli: If I was one of those cats who's selling 500 units a day, or even a week, and keeping 90% of the cash, I'd definitely be a big proponent of e-publishing. But at this point, for me, it's just a little extra gravy a month. Financially and career-wise it has not replaced traditional publishing in my life, although it is a terrific supplement. I can bring out-of-print books back into print with only a modicum of expense, I can do original novels or novellas or collections that don't seem right for the traditional presses for one reason or another, and I can toy with prices or do monthly sales or any other damn thing I feel like doing. E-book publishing is having total control of the material. Traditional publishing, though, still offers me advances, an editor, a physical book, sales from brick and mortar bookstores, a team of folks dedicated to promoting foreign sales, some advertising, etc.

Keith Rawson: Will you be re-publishing the horror tittles you wrote for Dorchester (Leisure Books) or is the publisher still in control of the copyright? And what was your take on Brian Keene's current situation?

Tom Piccirilli: I own all the rights to my work. I'll probably be reprinting some of the books in the future. Right now I'm more focused on my crime fiction and getting that out in front of my readers. I'm glad that Brian was willing to go to the mattresses to get Leisure to return his rights to him. Few writers are willing to draw a line in the sand and refuse to let the publishers cross it. Whether it's because of lethargy, inertia, or fear, too often authors are taken advantage of by corporate forces.

Keith Rawson: You came into publishing at the tail end of the horror boom of the 80's, what's changed the most in publishing since then and what would you change back if you were in control of the industry?

Tom Piccirilli: Well, since then just about everything has changed. Less bookstores, less copies of books in stores, less love of genre fiction, it seems. You used to be able to put "horror" on the spine of a book back in the 80s, not so anymore. There's so many biases and worries and emphasis on mega-sellers rather than mid-list. The mid-list is effectively gone, the paperback scene is going. If I could change anything it would be that publishers spread the love around, try to build up entire careers rather than selling single books or series. Push the authors, push literature as a whole rather than the flavor of the hour, keep the people who love books in business, because without them, there is no business.

Keith Rawson: What's been your proudest moment as a novelist and what's been your most difficult?

Tom Piccirilli: I've been in this game over 20 years, and it's never been easy. Writing is a gut-wrenching process and publishing can be even worse. My proudest moment is the fact that I'm still alive after being kicked in the head by every boot in the biz imaginable.

Keith Rawson: Do you ever see yourself returning to writing novel length horror or has the voice disappeared?

Tom Piccirilli:The voice is there but the desire is gone for the time being. Maybe the wheel will turn again somewhere along the way.

Keith Rawson: Not to be too invasive, but what are you currently working on? And other than THE LAST KIND WORDS what else can we expect?

Tom Piccirilli: LKW has been pushed back to '12 but I'm currently working on the sequel THE LAST WHISPER IN THE DARK. Besides that, there's always some noirellas and short stories in the pipeline, but it's a bit too early to discuss them at the moment.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Video Interview—Joe R. Lansdale

In the two years I've been conducting interviews, there's been only one author who leaves me star struck whenever I sit down with him:

Joe R. Lansdale.

As most of you know, Lansdale's been an enormous influence on me since my teens (You can read my tribute to Joe right HERE over at Spinetingler) and I always feel very fortunate that the legendary author is willing to sit down with me year-after-year.

And on April 16th, I sat down again with Lansdale at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ to discuss Joe's latest Hap and Leonard novel, Devil Red, his upcoming Young Adult novels, and his future projects with Mulholland Books

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Nueva LocalizaciĆ³n by Jimmy Callaway

Stillwell lit two Luckies and handed her one. The streetlight threw vertical shadows on her face as she smiled up at him. “What’s this?” he said, touching his finger to the pucker of skin on her belly.

“Cigarette,” she said.



“Huh,” he said, taking a drag. “You two didn’t get along, I take it.”

She shrugged. “That’s the only mark he ever left on me. He felt bad about it afterwards. Seemed to, anyway.”

“Huh.” He watched the smoke curl from her Lucky, the ash beginning to crumple under its own weight. He took an ashtray from the bedstand and placed it on his own naked stomach. “My old man was no angel himself.”


“Yeah. The belt, that was his, y’know...”


“Yeah. But then one day, I don’t remember what I did, but I had the belt coming. So I decided, bent bare-ass over my own bed, to not cry. And I couldn’t see his face, but it was like, whap! whap! And then he paused, y’know, waiting for the reaction. But I held it in, y’know. And I couldn’t see his face, but I could, y’know, I could picture it. Confused. He wasn’t a smart guy. But then he got it after a minute. Still, one more time—whap!—and that was it. Never got the belt again.”

“Yeah,” she said, and handed him her cigarette.

He took it from her and stubbed it out, and then his. They slept, her with her head on his chest.

She called a few times, but gave up after a week or two.


She’d been angling to get Zero into the bedroom all night. He finally just let her blow him on the couch, not only shutting her up for fifteen minutes but also letting him continue with the block of Roseanne on TV Land. The blow job was pretty good, too.

After she was done, during a commercial, Zero said, “Hey, what’s that on the back of your neck?”

“What?” she said, feeling back there.

“That scar, man.”

She said, “Oh, that. Nothing. I was in a pretty bad fight once, with some bitch trying to steal my boyfriend.”


“Yeah. Just stupid high school shit, at some party. When I had her on the ground, one of her friends hit me with a broken bottle.”


“Yeah. Eight stitches.”

“Man,” Zero said. The commercial was over, but Zero said, “Y’know, I haven’t thrown a punch since fifth grade?”

“Yeah, this kid, I don’t remember his name, was being a real prick at the bus stop, man, just being a real jerk-off. Throwing rocks at kids, just being a prick. And then, I dunno what happened, but I just snapped and beat the shit out of him. Right there in front of everybody.”

“Wow,” she said, “Did you get in trouble or anything?”

“Nah, no grown-ups around, nothing. None of the other kids were gonna narc me out, they all hated him too. But there I was, standing over this kid, crying in the gutter. And then I realized I was crying too. Or at least I had tears coming out of my eyes. All worked up, man, all excited, and for what?”

“Nothing,” she said.


They fell asleep in front of the TV, Zero’s pants still undone. Zero scrambled some eggs for them both in the morning.

He never called her again, but ran into her on the street a couple weeks later. She seemed real glad to see him, but they never hung out again. It never came up, really.


Bronson had been trying for a couple of weeks now to get this girl into the sack, but it was totally worth it. She was round, she was firm, she was more fully packed than a Who concert in the ‘70s.

They lay there, panting. “Man,” Bronson said, “That was fun.”

She laughed a little in the back of her throat.

Bronson rolled over onto his side, facing her, his head resting on his hand. “Hey, what’re all those little scars on your back? You fall into a thresher or something?”

“Hm, no,” she said, “I had a boyfriend who was into BDSM.”

“Oh,” Bronson said, “What is that, like, an industrial band or something?”

She laughed again. “No, it’s, y’know, bondage and stuff. He had this cat-o’-nine-tails he’d use on me.”


“Not your thing, huh?”

Bronson pulled a face.

She said, “Have you ever tried it?”

“Well, no. But I did date this one girl who wanted me to rape her all the time.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah, it was no big thing, it was just kinda weird, that’s all. Every time we’d do it, she’d ask me what it was like raping her.”

“And what did you say?”

Bronson shrugged. “Oh, well, y’know, I said it was great or whatever. But I couldn’t really say, since I’d never raped anybody. She seemed to like it, though, y’know. I aim to please.”

She said, “Well, an element of danger can be, y’know, a real turn-on.”

“Yeah, I get that. I dunno. It’s dangerous enough out there for me, thanks. I mean, not to sound braggy or anything, but fuck. I’ve been beat up, shot at, all kindsa crazy shit. So when I’m in the company of a young lady, y’know, I’d like to...let my guard down a bit, I guess. That’s living dangerously, you ask me. Not that you did.”

She laughed.

He grinned. “I guess I’m just an old-fashioned guy,” he said.

“I think you’re sweet,” she said.

They slept, and then she let him have sex with her again in the morning.

She never returned any of his phone calls after that.

ROBBIE V WANTS A JOB By Cameron Ashley

John G comes back into the cafe. He adjusts his pants, pulling the waistband up over his under-gut, wipes his palms on his thighs, leans over the counter and picks up his short black.

Mark sits at the rear of the cafe, combing his greasy ducktail back into a shape it never really lost in the first place. He taps his fingernails on his Cooper’s stubbie, drawing John’s attention. John waddles over and sits down.

“What’s up, mate?”

“Someone here to see you. Says he knows you. Says he wants a job.”

John sighs, his coffee-breath clouding Mark’s personal space.

“Where is he?”

Mark smiles and points to a table at a front corner of the cafe.

John, eyesight fading with age, squints at the shape hunched over his table, then fumbles for the glasses in his pocket. They are crazy thick black-rimmed spectacles, the kind hipsters wear for irony’s sake but John wears out of cheapness. John says,

“Fuck me.”

“Yeah, thought you’d say that.”

The shape in the corner stares out at Lygon Street. John turns back to Mark.

“This guy’s going to scare off all the pretty girls.”

“Take a look around, boss. You ever see any pretty girls in here?”

“Smartarse. Who is this freak?”

“Says he’s Robbie V. I was gunna just toss him, but he swears he did some work for you a few years back.”

“That guy’s Robbie V?”

“So he says.”

“No way he’s Robbie V.”

“Well, that’s what he says.”

“That guy...he’s...all cut up.”

“I believe he’s what’s known as a modern primitive.”

“A what?”

“A modern primitive. They’re into weird body modification and post-humanism and...”

Mark smiles into his latte cup.

“...alternative sex.”

John makes a face like someone cupped a fart in their fist and released it under his nose.

“Jesus Christ.”

“Had a quick chat. Seems like a nice guy.”

“How do you know all this stuff?”

“What stuff?”

“This modern...whatever stuff.”

“I read, John.”

“You and your perverted books.”

“I once went out with a chick who had a piercing through her thing. What was her name?”

“Through her what?”

“Her thing. Christ, John, don’t make me draw a picture.”

“You’re wrong. There’s something very, very wrong with you.”

“She had to take it out. It made her cum all the time, like just walking around and stuff, off she’d go.”

John shakes his head, says,

“What is happening to this world?”

“Nancy! That was it, her name was Nancy. Shit, I should check in with her.”

“You need to find a nice girl.”

“Are you going to give him a job?”

“Doing what? Scaring little children?”

Mark laughs, says,

“Keep it down, boss. He can probably hear you.”

“I don’t give a shit. What happened to him? Such a handsome boy. Look at all those scars...”

“I don’t mind the scars, look how they swirl, such intricate patterns. It’s the earrings I find a bit off.”

John takes another look. Huge, heavy, metal hoops are inserted into Robbie V’s lobes, stretching them out so far you could put a midget’s fist through them. Mark says,

“Pretty gross, eh?”

“I can’t talk to him.”

“Do you really know him?”

John whips off his glasses, leans in close.

“I do. He used to do what you do.”


“He then got some weird girlfriend...went all...weird.”


“He up and left. Last I heard he was in Nimbin or something.”

“Well, he’s back now. Maybe she dumped him, the weird girlfriend.”

“Good riddance. I can’t talk to him.”


“I can’t. You do it. You tell him I have no work for him. My heart has broken. Such a handsome boy.”

“John, surely we can use him for something.”

John stands, shakes his head, shuffles off to the kitchen, says,

“What is he thinking, coming back to me looking like that?”

Mark drains the last of his beer. Rubs his eyes. He hates disappointing people and this dude’s potentially a bit of a wild card and wild cards he hates disappointing the most. He walks behind the counter and grabs two more beers. Robbie V hears Mark approach, he looks up and smiles.

Fuck me, his teeth are filed.

Mark pops the top off a beer and passes it to Robbie. He does the same with his and takes a seat.

“Listen, mate –”

“He didn’t go for it. I heard. It’s okay. I just thought that maybe he could use someone with a look, you know.”

“Yeah. Well, I think that it’s just that you’re a little...distinctive, mate. I mean, you stand out like a sore dick. I mean, you look like Killer Croc.”

“Killer --?”

“Croc. From Batman. Look, never mind about all that, okay? I’m pretty sure someone somewhere can use a man of your distinctive talents. Whatever, uh, they may be.”

Robbie V leans across the table. He’s quite the side of beef. The table gives out what may be a final death rattle. Mark makes a mental note to start reinforcing these cheap pieces of shit before there’s an accident. Robbie V bares his fangs and says,

“I am a man with a broken heart who has lost all faith in everything except the modification of the flesh. I have transformed myself into something post-human. I have gone through rites of passage you cannot even comprehend. I know how to burn symbols into skin, how to suspend a body from hooks through the flesh and how to take a man through a journey of such pain that it will leave him either transcendent or dead. I have no interest now in anything except pain and its power and what it can do.”


The guys sit there, eyeballing each other. Finally, Mark says,

“So. You have any pictures of yourself, like, hanging from meat hooks or whatever?”

“Not on me, no.”

“Right. Well, tell you what, I like you, mate. I’ll put in a good word for you and, even though we try not to torture-slash-maim too much these days, you never can tell when such a situation may arise. Leave me your number. We’ll be in touch.”

Robbie V nods, reaches for his wallet. Mark waves it off.

“Beer’s on me mate.”

They shake. Robbie stands, smiles at Mark with those shark teeth.

“Thanks, mate.”

Mark nods, holds his breath till Robbie V is surely well on his way back to Freaksville. Mark sits and drinks his beer and thinks about piercings for a bit. He pulls out his phone, scrolls through some numbers and dials.

“Nancy? Hey, it’s Mark. How ya been?”

My Brother's Keeper by Brian Lindenmuth

“I knew there were others like me who had brothers they did not understand but wanted to help. We are probably those referred to as “our brothers keepers,” possessed by one of the oldest and possibly one of the most futile and certainly one of the most haunting
of instincts. It will not let us go.”

A River Runs Through It

He stood there, in the middle of his brother’s living room, and felt
the sounds and bustle of family and domesticity wash over him. He was
less then twelve hours out of jail after doing twelve years for a
crime he didn't commit and these sounds were foreign to him. His
brother had picked him up from the motel, brought him to his house
then left him in the living room with shouts to "make yourself at
home", not knowing quite what to do with him. He felt vaguely dirty
and guilty as if he was eavesdropping. Buried beneath all of this he
felt longing. He longed to possess these sounds and take them into
him and keep them forever. He so badly wanted his own set of domestic
sounds. The unfulfilled desire coupled with the knowledge of its
absence hurt him deeply. The only thing worse than hurting was knowing
why and being unable to do anything about it. He was lonely and alone
and he knew it.

Twelve years ago they said he beat her and punched her in the gut hard
enough to lose the child few knew she was carrying. He hadn’t, his
brother had been the violent one that night.

His prodigal brother’s star had always been on the ascendancy, shining
bright in others eyes. The star blinded many to his brother's
shortcomings and a ready excuse was always quick to free him of blame.
Unlike his brother he had always been written off and cast aside.
But those were the actions of others and he still loved his brother.

Living in the glow of his brother's radiance had taught him to be an
observer and in silence he became a quick study of people. He saw the
changes in his brother's girlfriend before anyone else did and he also
saw his brother's eyes after she told him. When their old man told
him that his brother and her went to the quarry instead of their usual
Friday night movie he knew.

He knew what his brother was going to do that night and was unable to
get there in time to stop it. He knew that he could protect his
brother by taking the blame and not one person would doubt it. He
drove his brother to the end of the street where they lived and let
him out to walk the rest of the way home telling him he would take
care of it. He did it because he believed that any man who turned his
back on his family was no good and he didn't want his brothers more
promising future to be jeopardized. He was stronger than people
thought and he would lie about what happened and his brother was
weaker than people thought and would let him.

"Uncle Joe, when did you get here?"

He refocused on the present. "Just a little bit ago."

"Where's Frank" He knew his niece had stopped saying Dad awhile back
but to hear it was jarring.

"He said he'd be back in a minute."

He still hadn't lost his heightened jail sense, the one that told when
shit was coming, the one a man learned to trust in order to survive,
the one that kept him alive. He knew something was wrong. He knew
something was coming.

"You knew that didn't you? Were you listening from the kitchen?"

"I was."


"Frank and I don't do the same room thing anymore."

He thought he saw a ghost of a look on her face, one he recognized
from jail. The broken look that new guys wore after a few nights and
sometimes many more after. A look of personal hell and violation. He
shook it off because he wasn't in jail anymore and knew he was still
trying to adjust.

With all of the light tone he could manage he asked, "What'd you do to
your arm?" He almost said kiddo but stopped just short.

This time, as she pushed her sleeve down, he knew he saw the look.
Looking through him she said, "Frank".

He felt movement upstairs coming closer. For the first time she looked
right at him and his jail hardened soul jumped.

"I really don't mind the scars," she said.

With that confession she let him into a small select club. She looked
at him fully with eyes older then her age to see if he understood
that. He did. He held her gaze and nodded slightly.

He stood there for four breaths, unable to speak. The silence fitting
and necessary. The third breath was the deepest of them all and the
fourth held a finality to it, as if a decision had been reached.

He knew he had to leave. With something breaking inside of him he
left in silence, quickly and quietly. After the door clicked shut a
question, directed towards him, hung in the air, then fell away

In a moment of strength he turned his back on his family because after
the things he did in jail he knew he was no good. He knew that
sometime later, in a moment of weakness, after some preparation, he
would again be who they all thought he was. He'd be back.

Once, he'd gone to jail because of his brother. Now, he'd be going
home again because of him.