Killer Diller Chiller. . .

thrillerWell now. What do you know? To my sincerest surprise Lake Country came home this past weekend with the 2013 ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original. My congrats to my very talented fellow nominees Blake Crouch, Alison Gaylin, Alex Marwood, and Michael W. Sherer, and my genuine thanks to the International Thriller Writers for the meaningful honor. Furthermore, a big manly slap on the back to golf buddy and fellow Omahan John Rector, who brought home the same award in the Short Story category for Lost Things. It was a lite brite evening with pals old and new, during which I learned gratitude and humility. It was also a memorybook 5 days in Manhattan with the family, during which I learned that you can always find a churro cart for your 8-year-old in NYC unless you happen to be looking for one. Now back to work.



Even by my low standards it’s been a long time since I updated this thing. By request, here goes:

2013 has been a strange but good year so far. Among the highlights: a Thriller Award nomination for my most recent novel, Lake Country, by the International Thriller Writers, Inc., to be presented (or not) this July at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. Humbled I am indeed to be included in the category, and we’ll use the event as an excuse to give the kids their first live-in-progress glimpse of NYC. Doolittles take Manhattan. Fair warning, Manhattan. And Doolittles.


Some of you have asked about the status of long-pending film adaptation of The Cleanup. Delighted to report that the project is moving  full steam under the weather-eyed stewardship of director Alex Turner (and the new title Beg the Devil). We’re in the thick of the casting process, and I’ve got very exciting news for anybody who’s interested. But I can’t share any of it yet. Soon.

What else? I dunno. Blogging is hard. Stay tuned. . . .

The Next Big Last Big Thing

Time to dust off the old blogging machine just (barely) in time to uphold a promise-to-participate in “The Next Big Thing”–a round-robin Q&A session which writers, apparently, have been passing around the Internet recently like a ceremonial goblet or H1N1. Maybe you’ve seen this elsewhere. The rules: answer 10 questions and pass ’em on.

I was tapped for duty last week by hard-writing hero (and way-back brotherfriend) Brian Hodge. I’ve modified the prescribed opening question slightly (from “next big thing” to “last big thing”) just because it’s my website and dammit I do what I want.

At the end I’ll let you know who will be picking up the gauntlet on their own site(s) next Wendesday, December 12.

With thanks to Brian, here goes.

1) What is the working title of your latest book?

Lake Country. I think the working title was The Lake Country.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

Utter desperation. The original nugget actually came from a newspaper article about quirky jail sentences. I expanded that nugget into a one-page pitch, which I sold to my publisher, then proceeded to fail for more than a year at turning that pitch into a readable novel. Finally, a month before deadline (which was an extension to an extension of the original deadline) I threw away everything—around 250 dishwater-dull pages. That night in the shower a pair of characters came to me (so to speak). Mike and Darryl. I started over from page 1 with those guys and seven months later had a finished manuscript.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Crime/suspense. More on the character-driven side of the spectrum than the action-thriller side, but blood does spill.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Whoever is gettable and could secure financing. But seriously, I have no idea. Sometimes I’ll picture an actor when writing a character, but generally not. I’ve had a very tangential observer’s experience with drumming up casting lists for another book of mine, and I’m always surprised at how the most unexpected suggestions for actors in certain roles end up being the most interesting. In the end I suspect it’s best for novelists to leave all their important casting decisions to the professionals.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A down-and-out young war vet races to derail his troubled combat buddy’s cockamamie kidnapping/revenge scheme before it’s too late.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Capably represented by long-time agent and friend David Hale Smith.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Oh, no. I relived that horror in Question 2.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Just this week resident crime fiction czar Scott Montgomery of BookPeople in Austin, Texas, posted this video comparing the book (kindly) to Elmore Leonard. That’s very flattering so I’ll claim that one.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’m not sure if there was a specific source of inspiration beyond what inspires me generally to write anything:  the long, constantly expanding list of other writers and books I admire.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

One reviewer called it “Fargo without the wood chipper.” I think a wood chipper improves any story but you can’t beat the Coen brothers at their own game.

Now, then. Of the handful of bright-eyed recruits I approached to advance this flag to the next hill, only one passed muster (agreed to do it).

That inglorious basterd is none other than Victor Gischler, another old friend, who runs a mean barbecue and hits 9-wood from tee to green when he’s not writing novels, comic books, screenplays, and unsolicited Disney travel guides.

December 12, Gischler.

Check him out.

The Cleanup: The Movie

2011 was the first year since the 90’s that I didn’t work on a new novel. But I did try my hand at screenwriting for the first time. It was fun, refreshing, frustrating, and fulfilling, and after many ups, downs, ins, outs, and anecdotes straight out of the Hollywood anecdote book, we’re left with what I think is a darned solid feature film adaptation of my book The Cleanup (if I do say so). The project has a terrific director/writer in Alex Turner, a talented co-producer, interest from various quarters, and a number of chewy parts for an exciting network of possible actors. All we need now is a go flag. Wish us luck. . . .

Noir at the Bar

Last summer, I traveled to St. Louis and, among other things, did a reading at a semi-regular lit event run by Jedidiah Ayres and Scott Phillips known colloquially as NOIR @ BAR. It was a great night and just what I needed at the time. Subterranean Books, the terrific indie bookstore down the block, sat in with a cash register and peddled all our wares.

Naturally, the good folks at Subterranean are, like small (and large) bookstores everywhere, struggling to make ends meet these days. Jed and Scott came up with a great way to try and help a little:  the NOIR AT THE BAR short story anthology, now available exclusively through Subterranean Books (6275 Delmar In the Loop, St. Louis MO, 63130; 314-862-6100).

If you like crime fiction, give it a look. You get a pile of good stuff, and Sub Books earns a few sheckles for the resistance. That’s what we call in the publishing game a win-win position.

Lake Country Adjacent

After quite a delay, caused primarily by my being a slow creeping turtle of a novel writer, my new book finally became available for pre-order a few months back. Since then, a few people have written to ask a variation of the question, “How come I can’t find your new book for sale anymore?”

The answer is that the book was rescheduled semi-recently due to a format change (a change for the better, in my view). The good news:   it’s still coming, now in July 2012.

Meanwhile, here’s a sneak-peek at the cover, which came in last week. And you can read, if moved, an excerpt of the book in the hot-off-the-PDF-machine issue #7 of Crime Factory Magazine. Thanks to the Random House art department and the good folks at Crime Factory. And thanks for sticking around, folks. Hope you enjoy. . . .


Hey, look at that–my short story “Care of the Circumcised Penis” co-won the 2011 Derringer Award. Co-congrats to B.K. Stevens and all the other winners and nominees, and sincere thanks to the Short Mystery Fiction Society for the honor.