NEW FICTION: Bourbon & Blondes has arrived!

From the bus stations of Rt. 66 to the smoky, neon-tinged jazz dives of the big cities, these wanton tales of longing introduce us to vixens on the fringe and those shifty men that drove them there.

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Watch: The 'Bourbon & Blondes' Book Trailer

Get your shot glass ready because you're about to enter a retro world of showgirls, drifters, barmaids and thieves.

The eternal question for scribes?

In this new social media landscape, the question becomes: Is blogging dead? It just may be...

Watch: The 'Front Page Palooka' Book Trailer

Read the pulp novella that one reviewer called 'A potboiler in the style of old school writers like Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler...'

Friday, March 4, 2016


The world is running out of hooch. At least the good stuff.

CNN reports that quantities of single malt scotch are dwindling.

"The shortage of old and rare single malt ... has already started, and it's going to get worse," Rickesh Kishnani told CNN.

Why the shortage? For starters, single malt has always been rare by nature and when distiller ramp out production during any given year, there's no telling what the demand will will be when the bottles mature.

In the 80s, CNN reports, many distilleries were going out of business and as little as 10 years ago, scotch exports were fledgling. Add to that a massive bourbon boom and scotch lovers are in trouble.


Noticing the shortage, some distilleries are ramping up production but scotch enthusiasts won't see returns on that for perhaps 10-15 years.

"We are currently working at full capacity -- seven days a week, 24 hours a day," Charlie Whitfield, a brand manager for Macallan told CNN. "We just need to be patient and allow those casks to work their magic."

That's not stopping the world, however, for clamoring for the good stuff.

A Black Bowmore whisky aged for 30 years before its 1994 release went for roughly $110 a bottle. Now? Expect to fetch $7,000 at auction, said Stephen Notman of the Whisky Corporation, a whisky investment firm.

So what's a scotch fan to do? Perhaps explore some premium blends in the Johnnie Walker line or dive into the robust land of bourbon, which is experiencing a healthy renaissance.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015


The version of this post that I published last year was so popular that it warrants an update. And honestly, what a difference a year makes. There are still some holdovers from last year with a few newbies popping up. I urge anyone who is interested in indie- or self-publishing to subscribe to as many of the shows as possible.


Entrepreneur Jim Kukral and writer Bryan Cohen have been delivering the goods in their entertaining and very topic-worthy podcast. From Jim's occasional rants (which are hilarious) to Bryan's analysis on writing trends and tips, this is a must-listen show that has solidly built a loyal community. If you only subscribe to one show, THIS should be it.


In terms of sheer information, writer Steve Scott's SELF PUBLISHING QUESTIONS is a Godsend. In roughly 82 episodes, the self-publishing titan will teach you how to do everything from market your book to how to find a domain to how to navigate Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing platform. I've often listened to shows more than once. They're quick and zippy. There isn't a subject that Scott doesn't approach.

3) THE AUTHOR BIZ (Via iTunes)

Host Stephen Campbell sounds exactly like the kind fella you'd wanna have a beer or two with. His affable nature and conversational tone make his podcast one of the industry's best. Interviewing heavy-hitters in the self-publishing world, Campbell dives into their writing process as well as their marketing and entrepreneurial aspects of their business. Perfect listening for a long commute.

4) WRITE 2B READ (Via iTunes)

Upstart Ani Alexander is the newcomer of the bunch but don't discount her. A fiction author as well as an emerging publishing guru, she usually has her finger on the pulse of what's happening next in terms of the technical and social media tools that authors can use for their business. It's an eclectic show that always delivers.


Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt and David Wright - the original rock stars and indie-publishing gurus - have recently retooled and relaunched their groundbreaking show. While I'd be the first to admit that, at times, the old format went a tad off the rails for me, this svelte new show is laser-sharp, focused and usually features a guest or specific writing topic. If you wanna learn how to build a bonafide fiction factory, these are the guys to learn from.


Entrepeneur Jim Kukral, one-half of the excellent SELL MORE BOOKS SHOW and visionary behind the Author Marketing Institute, gives us quick, no-nonsense interviews with the industry's leading authors, marketers and booksellers. Each episode, Kukral and his guests teach us how to build our business, tell great stories as well as how to design an e-book cover that sells. If building a book-based biz is your goal, this guy has the goods.


Hosted by the den mother of our self-publishing nation, Joanna Penn continues to help the masses by chronicling her own journey. Whether it's singing the praises of new and emerging platforms or branching out to such mediums as audiobooks or foreign translations, Penn not only interviews guests that have done it all, but tells us how she herself is navigating the oft-unforgiving indie-publishing waters. She's truly a voice that's comfortable in the world that she's in.


Another relatively new show, Dan Dynneson is committed to helping authors achieve success by highlighting specific nuts and bolts tools and case studies. There's always a healthy mix of business, branding and genre-specific advice. What's more, he's quickly becoming a guru who knows how to work the tools in cyberspace (check out his awesome Instagram feed).


Simon Whistler's excellent podcast was really the first show that I actively listened to. (Disclosure: I was a guest on his 27th episode). In addition to the show and a great resource page, Simon has also written two books to help authors with aspects of their business and has an amazing (and free!) course on how to create an author web site. What I specifically like about Simon's show is that it's one of the longer shows out there. You can grab a cup of java, sit down and relax as he interviews some of the most successful indie scribes in the biz. It's another weekly staple.

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So I figure I'd drop the goods on a podcast I'm producing at my day job. It's called TV HANGOVER. The concept is fun conversation about TV between a lofty critic and an obsessed superfan. From highbrow ('The Leftovers') to lowbrow ('Bachelor in Paradise'), the rants and gripes are fast and furious and comprehensive.

Check it out and subscribe in the iTunes store or on Stitcher.


00:40 — This week we’re watching: “The Grinder,” “Homeland,” “The Affair,” “The Good Wife”
2:35 — “The Leftovers” kicks off season 2 with odd opening
8:44 — “Serial” coming to TV; “Dr. Ken” scores high ratings; and reboots on the way
18:36 — Is the 30-minute comedy format in jeopardy?
24:34 — “Quantico” is ruling TV, but our Super Fan isn’t impressed
31:03 — ABC Family is rebranding, but will that help?
34:28 — Vicki chats with N.J.’s Manny Cabo about stint on “The Voice”
42:38 — Wrap-up

TV HANGOVER, EP. 4: 'The Leftovers' returns, 'Quantico' soars and Vicki interviews 'The Voice' contestant TV critic Vicki Hyman and super fan Erin Medley agree to hate “Dr. Ken” but are divided on drama “Quantico.” New Jersey’s Manny Cabo talks about wowing judges on NBC’s “The Voice.” Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

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Friday, September 18, 2015


Editorial note: I've been meaning to get around to writing a review for TNT's new period cop drama "Public Morals" but work has been keeping me more than preoccupied. Nonetheless, I initially didn't have high hopes. For starters, TNT recently gave us the noir-stinker "Mob City," a retro drama playing dress-up and I must admit, I've never been a fan of that Kermit-like voice of series creator and star Edward Burns. Boy, was I wrong... This drama is miles ahead of "Mob City" ... Heck, it's even way ahead of the gorgeous "Magic City."

What the show gets right is the look of the Big Apple. If you flipped AMC's "Mad Men" upside down, you'd get this - the inner-city grime of the mid-sixties, warts and all. And plus, anything with the superb Michael Rapaport gets my vote.

In short, if you need a retro fix in the gloomy, back room world of crooks, molls, whiskey and guns, this just may be the show for you.

Enjoy the better-late-than-never review below from the Los Angeles Times (republished with permission from repubHub)

"Public Morals" is proof that even in this time of television's Great Overcrowding, one should never judge a show by its genre. In theory, Edward Burns' tale of cops 'n' gangsters mingling and mangling on the mean streets of circa-1960 New York is the last thing we need. Add a zombie menace and/or a female character…

Sunday, September 6, 2015


Paul, you've been kicking around the writing biz for quite some time. You've written a bunch of novels, short stories, screenplays and were the co-creator of a new pulp line (FIGHT CARD), what makes LIE CATCHERS different from your previous work?

Lie Catchers is my most intimate book on two levels. First, it really delves into my personal experiences as an interrogator. This was something I’ve been wanting to do for several years now. Interrogation is an intimate dance between the interrogator and a subject all in pursuit of an elusive concept of truth. We all have our personal space, which can vary depending on the situation we are in – public, social, intimate. The intimate zone (0’–1.5’) is reserved for those individuals to whom we are closest, who we trust. A great interrogator lives in the intimate zone.

When I am in an interrogation, I have no barriers between myself and the suspect. We are knee to knee, and sometimes closer. I sit on the edge of my chair alert to anything the suspect does I can interpret as a sign of deception. If a suspect’s behavior changes when I ask anxiety raising questions from what it was when I was asking non-anxiety questions (usually personal history stuff so I can get a behavioral base line) then I know I caused that deceptive behavior to happen. Often my first clue is when the suspect’s carotid artery begins to pulse in their neck. This is visible, but you have to be in the suspect’s intimate zone to see it.


As a sex crimes detective, think about what I am asking of a suspect. I’m asking them to tell me their deepest, darkest secrets – secrets that will get them sent to prison for long stretches of time. The only way to do that effectively is to developed an intimate relationship between the interrogator and the suspect. Using my personality, my empathy, and a complete lack of judgment, I have to draw a suspect into a world where there is nothing outside of our mental engagement. I know this works because I’ve done it time and time again. And like Ray Pagan in Lie Catchers, I’ve been able to pass that skill on to others.

The book is also intimate because it is told in the first person voice of Calamity Jane Randall – an experienced detective who is about to have her world turned inside out by Ray Pagan. My connection to Jane and her personality felt very real to me. As I wrote, it was as if she was right there, in my intimate zone, whispering in my ear.

We became blog buddies back in 2007 when I started my first blog NOTES FROM HEMINGWAY'S LOUNGE. It seemed we both gravitated towards nostalgia and all things retro. LIE CATCHERS is set in the present. Was there a concerted effort to keep your new characters in the here and now?

I think so. My prior two novels, Felony Fists and Swamp Walloper, were boxing noirs set in the 1950s. I’d also spent a lot of time in the past as I edited each of the 40+ books in the Fight Card series. In returning to my cop/writer roots, it just felt organic to set the book in the current world. There are still some nostalgic hat tips in Lie Catchers, but the mood is more Breaking Bad than Mad Men.

Your successful Fey Croaker series features a grizzled female L.A. homicide detective. What did you find exciting about writing this complex female character that you wouldn't have normally found in writing a burnt-out male?

All of my long term partners over my 35 years with the LAPD have been great detectives who just happened to be female. In working with them, I quickly realized there was a whole other level of aggravation with which female officers and detectives are forced to confront. As a writer, I wanted to capture the essence of that conflict in Fey Croaker and the complex cases I threw her way.

What has been interesting is finding the differences between Fey Croaker and Lie Catcher’s Jane Randall. Not only do they work in radically different LAPD environments a generation apart, but their personalities are very different. Jane is a touch more tentative, a little less self-aware. She is no less of a detective, but her approach is much softer. Fey reacts, charging into situations until she crushed them. Jane can take physical action, but it’s not her go to mode. Jane quickly assesses situations and responds in whatever way achieves her goal with a minimum of shattered glass. This was the biggest difference between the two characters – and that difference is what gives Jane the ability to be an effective interrogator. She also has a fascinating secret you’ll have to read Lie Catchers to learn about.

Most fans of your work will know that you're an accomplished (albeit retired) law enforcement man and have even been named as LAPD's Detective of the Year on two occasions. What can you tell us about the two heroes in LIE CATCHERS? Are you basing them on yourself or anyone from real life?

A writer’s characters will always have a certain amount of their creator in them. But as the story grows, so do the characters – they change as they adapt to the elements of fiction. While the interrogation techniques wielded by Pagan and Randall are all very real, the characters are their own creation.

What's the one kind of book you'd like to tackle that you haven't yet?

I’d love to write a high adventure novel – a genre sadly no longer with us having morphed into the doorstop-sized, bloated, non-thrilling, thriller genre. As I was growing up, I spent hours in the worlds of high adventure created by the likes of Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley, and Hammond Innes, among others – pitting man against not only overwhelming odds, but also against the many furies of Mother Nature. I’d like to single-handedly resurrect the genre and return it to its proper place in the fiction pantheon.

This question is for some of the budding scribes out there... Prior to LIE CATCHERS, your latter work has been almost exclusively independently published. Currently, the book is being released through new pulp publisher Pro Se. Why go with an established publisher now at for this work?

Actually almost all my work before the Fight Card series was published by the big six legacy publishers in both hardback and paperback. However, I found dealing with them an exercise in frustration. The contempt traditional publishing shows to mid-list writers (those who sell, but are not bestsellers) has been well documented elsewhere, but it was one of the reasons I moved away from novels and into television and film work.

When the e-book revolution turned the publishing world on its head, I was drawn back to the challenges and perks of self-publishing with the Fight Card series. Having so much more control over my work was refreshing and I felt I would never even think about submitting to a legacy publisher again. And I still feel mostly the same way.

However, Pro Se Productions is a boutique publisher with a large output and a very successful track record. I’ve known Pro Se editor-in-chief Tommy Hancock for a number of years now. I both admire and respect his work ethic and his desire to work closely with his writers and do everything he can for them.

Lie Catchers was originally slated to be published by another independent entity, which crashed and burned around everyone’s ears. Tommy Hancock was there to pick up my pieces and made me believe Pro Se could provide a larger, stronger publishing platform for Lie Catchers. It has been a great choice.

What's next for Paul Bishop?

I’m cranking away on the sequel to Lie Catchers (tentatively titled Lie Killers). I also have a glimmer of an idea for the third book in the series. I have some short story commitments for various anthologies, and I have been doing some freelance magazine work. All of this while I continue to teach week-long interrogation classes to a wide variety of law enforcement agencies. And, oh, yeah, I’ve also made the rash statement about single-handedly resurrecting the high adventure genre – what was I thinking?

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Fans of this blog will know that from time to time I host the occasional raffle or giveaway featuring a novelist of note. For my third effort, I figured I would kill two birds with one stone by announcing the availability of my two audiobooks (just released on Audible) and by offering two free copies in a giveaway.

If you've stumbled upon my page for the first time, here's a bit about each book:


Minimalist in approach but long on mood and atmosphere, this first entry in The Ladies of Liquor series is a boozy mix of old-school pulp, shadowy noir, and hard-boiled double-crosses. Enjoy this collection of nearly 50 flash fictions and short stories that splatter into the ear at 90 proof. From the deserted bus stations of Route 66 to the smoky, neon-tinged jazz dives of the big cities, these wanton tales of longing introduce us to desperate vixens on the fringe and those shifty men that drove them there.
Get your shot glass ready because in this retro world, showgirls, drifters, barmaids, and thieves have one thing in common - they're all painted on a seedy canvas drenched in a hearty barrel of Kentucky's finest nectar.


If you dig hard-boiled pulp and noir heroes like Chandler's Philip Marlowe, Spillane's Mike Hammer, and Hammett's Sam Spade, Nick Moretti is certainly your man....

Years of fight halls and newsrooms have East Coast sportswriter Nick Moretti looking for a change. When a sloppy hustle goes bad and Nick takes a bullet in the shoulder, it's time to go west. Hired by Pinnacle Pictures to write a boxing movie about troubled heavyweight champ Jericho "Rattlesnake" McNeal (who accidentally killed a man in a dark juke joint), Nick joins forces with sexy public relations gal Dillian Dawson for a cross-country tour to give an everyman boxer an unlikely shot at the world title. What could go wrong?

From the crackling neon of old Hollywood and Sin City, through the steamy delta, and on to Chi-Town, the glitzy dream becomes a noir nightmare, and newshound Nick Moretti is about to commit a reporter's greatest sin - becoming a Front Page Palooka....

For this entry in the hard-boiled Fight Card series, writer Anthony Venutolo steps in as Jack Tunney, the shared pseudonym for today's hottest crime writers who write for the monthly pulp books. Upon its release in 2013, Front Page Palooka was nominated for three New Pulp Awards including Best Novella, Best New Writer, and Best New Character.

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Monday, July 6, 2015


Ray Donovan is back and Goddammit, it's darker than ever.

While everyone continues to sing the praises of the overbloated and (sometimes) full-of-itself "True Detective," I've been telling people about that other California neo-noir on premium cable Sunday nights (WATCH THE FIRST EPISODE OF SEASON 3 HERE).

Granted, the visions of the Golden State on 'Donovan' are more Cartier than K-Mart on the Showtime drama and, truth be told, it works. And why shouldn't it? If the grit and underbelly of California can work as a character on the bleak "True Detective," it can certainly do the opposite for the Rodeo Drive set.

For the cheap seats: The drama is set in sunny Los Angeles where brooding Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber), a tough and deeply-flawed South Boston transplant, is a fixer for the law firm of Goldman & Drexler and makes messy situations go away for the Hollywood-elite. Initially, Ray had to deal with the fallout of his own problems when his father, Mickey Donovan (Jon Voight), was unexpectedly sprung from jail. As a result, Ray's been teetering the line with FBI agents and the press who have been on him his associates for two seasons.


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Cold-cocked by betrayal twice - professionally by his mentor Ezra Goldman (Elliott Gould) and personally by his unfaithful wife Abby (Paula Malcomson), Ray harbors a bitterness he can't seem to shake at the start of season 3. After divorcing himself from anything that resembles closure, Ray finds neither solace in that bottomless bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue or the barfly he angrily pounds against the wall of his apartment. None of it seems to work. In fact, they may be making things worse.

He seems temporarily distracted when Andrew Finney (Ian McShane), a wealthy Los Angeles power broker, hires him to find his kidnaped son. Finding him is the easy part. The obstacle quickly becomes dealing with Finney's ambitious family, namely daughter Paige (Katie Holmes) who may be even more treacherous than her powerful poppa as they attempt to bring a football team to the city.

And what of Donovan patriarch Mickey (Emmy-nominated Jon Voight)? Last we saw TV's most charismatic snake, he won a boatload of cash at the racetrack. At the start of this season, he's holding court at a crummy condo complex he owns in which he's surrounded by low-level hookers (including new cast member and the almost-unrecognizable Fairuza Balk), pimps and various ne'er do wells. His dim-witted son Bunchy Donovan (Dash Mihok) is busy attempting to run his brother's boxing gym left vacant when Terry (Eddie Marsan) got pinched in a sloppy heist gone wrong with Mickey.

Admittedly, 'Ray Donovan' is one of my favorite summer shows and I'm relieved to see that this season isn't bringing the tired arc of yet another oddball lawman to the mix. This drama has always excelled when they concentrated on the creeps. Speaking of, I'm particularly excited to see what Golden Globe winner Ian McShane will bring to the table. After all, this is the guy who stole every scene as criminal Al Swearengen on HBO's 'Deadwood.'

It'll also be interesting to see how Ray adjusts to his darkness for season 3. As he attempts to go legit and become a power player himself, where will that leave the rest of the Donovan clan? Will Ray reconcile with his wife who seems to be unraveling post-infidelity? Will Mickey derail any plans that Ray has in store? Will Ray's two spoiled teenagers continue to go down that path of right and wrong? Will Ray ever reconcile with his right-hand man Avi and tough tech-savvy assistant Lena? I'm salivating at all the subplots in store.

While the masses continue to dissect every syllable and soliloquy on the still-ponderous and heavy-handed 'True Detective," the only enjoyable crime delight on Sunday nights continues to be the fast-moving 'Ray Donovan.' It's time a new anti-hero claim his throne...

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Who is the REAL Don Draper? Is it Bill Backer?

Mad Men finale: Is Bill Backer the real Don Draper?

Warning: This article contains a spoiler, of sorts Mad Men's finale ended not with a whimper but with a song. As a refreshed Don Draper saluted the sun, wide-eyed viewers were treated to a playback of one of the most popular commercials of all time: Coca-Cola's 1971 spot, ‘Hilltop' The implication being, after finding himself, Golden…

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Where does the time go?

Seven years ago I jumped into this thing called the Blogosphere with a crude little blog which, admittedly, I knew nothing about running. I was flying blind and pretty much found my way in the dark when it came to HTML, search engine optimization and content curation.It was the Wild West. Everyone recorded their every thought and some lucky early adopters were fortunate enough to get noticed and parlay their blogging success into healthy and vibrant writing careers. Oh, to be that lucky.

For the first year on that crapified blog, I drudged along but eventually would feel that the content was lacking. At the time, I aggregated to the the same pop culture and geek news that every one did - and better. I added nothing new and it showed.

Initially, I had a few popular posts namely about Heath Ledger and his leaked shots as The Joker in "The Dark Knight" as well as Robert Downey's first images as Tony Stark in "Iron Man." The Internet and their geeks were abuzz. And I fed into it. Still, though, it didn't feel right.


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While the blog was racking up thousands of page views, there was no real return traffic. At the time, I was quietly diving into the works of Charles Bukowski. A longtime fan, I remember that Buk first plopped on my radar when I reviewed the film 'Barfly' in college a million years ago. Mickey Rourke's performance as Hank Chinaski (Buk's fictional alter-ego) was magical and ever since the '80s, I decided to learn more about the guy that created him. It became an awakening period and after seeing the documentary film 'Born into This,' I knew that I found another scribe to be enshrined in my stable of literary kindred spirits. The group included such creative masters as Tom Waits, Rod Serling, Bruce Springsteen, Papa H., Kerouac and, of course, the minimalist master - Raymond Carver.

Ever since my days as a Barnes & Noble stock boy, I was sucked into the world of Ray Carver. Initially, the Vintage book cover for 'Cathedral' lured me into the author's alcoholic world of the men and women that made up the fabric of this country. But the prose kept me there. He said so much with so little. Reading Carver, you felt as if you were eavesdropping on conversations you had no business listening to.

But Bukowski? He was raw and a bit feral. Perhaps it was his mystique. The drunken L.A. scribe; the go fuck yourself poet; It was mesmerizing. He, too, was a bit of a minimalist and the work didn't come off as 'written' but instead real.

So that's what I loved about the concept of blogs circa 2007. You had the chance to be real. Do whatever the hell you wanted. I envisioned blogs of that day as the "little magazines" in which Buk wrote for. Those personal underground publications (like Open City) in which NOTES OF A DIRTY OLD MAN were created. I always said that if Buk were alive and coming up today, he'd have a blog and write the shit out of it. So that's why I wanted to start BUKOWSKI'S BASEMENT and kill that wretched excuse of my first blog where I was writing about such bullshit as Batman and Green Lantern. Wasn't me.

That creative pivot was one of the best decisions that I ever made creatively. I began to post my flash fiction, poems, audio recordings and have met some wonderful people along the way. Bukowski's Basement was personal to me. It was and still is an extension of my creativity and personality. It was something to brag about and show off.

Six years, 582 posts, 2843 comments, 2 books and half a million page views later and I can thankfully say that I feel the same way.

I want to thank everyone who's popped by, read some stories and left a comment or two. It's much appreciated.

Here's to the next half-million...

~ Ant

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Thursday, March 26, 2015


Win a copy of what noted scribe Salman Rushdie calls "Pure, muscular storytelling ... irresistible."

Every now and again a scribe comes along that grabs the industry by the short and curlys. Mark Wisniewski is THAT kind of scribe. In fact, 'Watch Me Go,' was one of the most-anticipated books of the year, receiving advance praise not only from Rushdie but Daniel Woodrell, Ben Fountain, Rebecca Makkai, Dan Chaon, Christine Sneed, Tim Johnston, and Ru Freeman.


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The book is the candid and insightful storytelling of love stories turned tragic by racism, sexism, and economic injustice. Two narrators, black and white, male and female, risk their lives by admitting how their pursuits of the American Dream soon fated their futures to betrayal, double-dealing, and proximity to horrific death.

Via publisher Putnam: Douglas “Deesh” Sharp has managed to stay out of trouble living in the Bronx, paying his rent by hauling junk for cash. But on the morning Deesh and two pals head upstate to dispose of a sealed oil drum whose contents smell and weigh enough to contain a human corpse, he becomes mixed up in a serious crime. When his plans for escape spiral terribly out of control, Deesh quickly finds himself a victim of betrayal—and the prime suspect in the murders of three white men.

When Jan, a young jockey from the gritty underworld of the Finger Lakes racetrack breaks her silence about gambling and organized crime, Deesh learns how the story of her past might, against all odds, free him from a life behind bars.

Interweaving Deesh’s and Jan’s gripping narratives, Watch Me Go is a wonderfully insightful work that examines how we love, leave, lose, redeem, and strive for justice. At once compulsively readable, thought-provoking, and complex, it is a suspenseful, compassionate meditation on the power of love and the injustices of hate.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015


'We're not bad people, we just did a bad thing ...'

I wasn't expecting to like 'Bloodline,' the new sweeping Netflix family drama that debuted March 20. After all, the last thing any of us needs is another show to clog our queue and I seriously wanted to hate it.

Boy, was I wrong.

Netflix clearly hits a homerun when it comes to this new drippy Southern noir. Granted it may not have the water-cooler chatter of an "Orange is the New Black" or the formal gravitas of the flagship "House of Cards," but, if anything, this welcome addition to the streaming service's stable will definitely leave you craving more. And more. And more.

"Bloodline" is about the family dynamic; it's about our figurative demons; it's about achieving and being comfortable with our place at the table. It centers on the Rayburns, the defacto pillars of their community in the sticky Florida keys. So what's it about? When the black sheep and eldest son returns home for the 45th anniversary of the family-run hotel, dark secrets begin to emerge from their shameful past. As a result, the Rayburn siblings question everything they know about loyalty and themselves.

Believe me, I know... The genre and 'noir' label gets bandied about a bit too much. And it's easy to see why. There are several shows on TV these days that get slapped with the 'noir' moniker but probably aren't. Take Showtime's awesome "Ray Donovan," for example. As gritty and dark as the show tends to be, it's probably not a noir. That said, I'm sure there are those who would disagree.


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There are many blog posts, albeit all with different characteristics, of what truly constitutes a noir. The late Roger Ebert has a pretty nifty list of ten.

Here's one of my favorites from him: "[Noir is] The most American film genre, because no society could have created a world so filled with doom, fate, fear and betrayal, unless it were essentially naive and optimistic." This is "Bloodline" in a nutshell because, at times, the Rayburn clan are all of those and then some.


BADDA-BING WITH HUMIDITY. "Bloodline" comes from "Damages" creators Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler and Daniel Zelman. If some of the family angst feels like familiar territory, you may be onto something. Kessler wrote and produced the second and third seasons of HBO's "The Sopranos."

THE BREAKOUT STAR. It's refreshing to see the family black sheep as the eldest of the tribe instead of the baby. And man, does actor Ben Mendelsohn hijack every scene he's in. The Australian thesp smolders and pivots every time you think you know what's happening. If Mendelsohn looks familiar he should. Acting since the 80s, he's been in a slew of TV shows and films. Notably, he also lit up the screen in the neo-noir "Killing Them Softly," with Brad Pitt and "The Place Beyond the Pines."

Here, however, he'll easily win you over as the guy that you know you probably shouldn't root for but do anyway - a doomed drifter - a sad lowlife who feels more comfortable in bus depots and coffee shops. Yeah, THAT'S noir.

A SOLID CAST. Where to begin? It's top-notch from top to bottom. Need proof? Sam Shepard as Poppa Rayburn, the patriarch of the family who just may hold some secrets; Sissy Spacek as the mom who loves that black sheep a bit too much; Linda Cardellini, the attorney daughter, who to me, looks like Ellen Page's hot Milfy mom (Cardellini, by the way, had a stupendous run on 'Mad Men' as the upstairs neighbor that was able to penetrate that Don Draper armor) and, finally, New Jersey's own Norbert Leo Butz, the young son with that Sonny Corleone temper. This leads us to...


THE STAR. What's that you say?? Kyle Chandler stars as John Rayburn, the stoic second son and county sheriff. Now, before everyone goes all sorts of bonkers on me, I'm not suggesting that the Emmy-winner is bad. Quite the contrary. He does a fine job as the strong and silent Rayburn who has a soft spot for his eft up of a sibling. For me, his star gets lost in this eclectic mix of personalities. Granted, I've only seen the first few and he solidly delivers on every level, but again, when he's matched up against Mendelsohn, it might as well be John Candy acting and, I would expect that a star on the level of Chandler to stand out a bit more. Is it the writing? The performance? Still too tough to say. I will re-evaluate by the season's finale and amend if necessary.


Should you give it a try? Absolutely. A family drama that feels neither soapy nor melodramatic, this Netflix show can easily rise above the streaming service's higher profile flagships. At its core, this is a drama that smolders just like the slow burn of Mendelsohn's cigarette and take it from me, THAT'S noir.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015


'American Crime' follows four different subplots unified by a central crime: The murder of a veteran and the vicious attack and rape of his wife.
EDITORIAL NOTE: The following review is from guest blogger Spencer Blohm, a freelance entertainment and culture writer from the Midwest. His taste for crime shows started as a young child watching Law & Order when he probably shouldn’t have been and has only grown from there. He lives and works in Chicago and is desperately campaigning for an extra role on 'Chicago P.D.'  

Even from the commercials, it was clear that ABC’s latest drama American Crime was going to stand apart from the rest.

Now, two episodes in, it’s safe to say those assumptions were correct. Of course, what would one expect for a series created, written, and directed by the talented screenwriter of 12 Years a SlaveJohn Ridley? If you haven’t managed to tune into it on TV yet, click over to platforms like ABC Go or DTV and catch up before you read on - this post will contain spoilers!

The series follows four different subplots unified by a central crime: the murder of a veteran and the vicious attack and rape of his beauty queen wife. We’re first introduced to the victim’s bitterly divorced parents Russ and Barb (Timothy Hutton and Felicity Huffman). It’s here the first elements of racial tension are introduced, when the police reveal the suspect in question to be Latino. Barb dismissively declares, “It just figures. My son goes off to another country to fight, then he comes home to be killed by someone from another country.”


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On the flipside of her biases are the Gutierrez family, led by single father Alonzo. His straight laced and naive son Tony is drawn into the murder drama after it’s revealed he had been (uncharacteristically) renting out one of the cars from his father’s body shop to the gang member accused of committing the murder. By the end of episode two Tony is already locked up in juvenile detention, even though he did nothing wrong himself.
The crime for which Tony has taken part of the fall is generally attributed to “Hector”, a heavily tattooed Latino man, whom we first meet as he uses the victim's credit card. Thrown into the mix is Carter, an African-American drug addict whose vices include his love for girlfriend and fellow drug addict/sometimes-prostitute Aubry. While viewers aren’t nearly as privy to their stories as they are those of the Gutierrez’s and central characters Russ and Barb, it’s not immediately obvious who has committed the crime in question. Granted, there are many signs pointing to Hector and Carter, but by choosing to withhold scenes from the murder itself, Ridley leaves a lot unanswered.
As Ridley jumps from story to story, the viewer must keep pace and connect the dots.

He flashes quickly from one character to the next, going scene by scene in a style reminiscent of other race and crime-fuelled dramas like Crash and Traffic. It’s shot in such a way that it  appears gritty, visceral and “real” in a similar fashion to the aforementioned films as well as the short-lived FX drama The Bridge. The end result is a program that poses questions to the viewer without blatantly asking them.

These questions concern the state of contemporary America, concentrating on current race relations and perceived inequalities within the judicial system. These issues couldn’t be timelier, considering the ongoing state of upheaval following the death of Mike Brown last August and ongoing conversations surrounding racial biases. The show approaches crime in such a way that hasn’t been seen before on a major network, but their risk has paid back in dividends with 8 million viewers tuning into the premiere followed by 5.7 million following up the next week. Ratings aside, critics have been raving about the series as well with the L.A. Times declaring it “must-see TV” and the New York Times perhaps giving the best description of the show yet, calling it “a depressing story told so skillfully that it’s almost impossible not to be happy to see it unfold.”

It’s clear that American Crime didn’t start the fire, but in its clear choice to stoke the flame we can expect to see more than just “entertainment.” For those willing to be shaken from their slumber, this series is a must.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Note: The following is a piece I wrote for my web site I'm embedding it here with two new pieces of information or assets - a film noir video above for the tune "The Night We Called It A Day" with Sinatra's recording below.

Three days before Frank Sinatra's 99th birthday on Dec. 12, Columbia Records announced that Bob Dylan's 36th studio disc "Shadows in the Night" will be a selection of tunes culled from The Chairman's "Great American Songbook." Set to be released Feb. 3, the set will boast 10 tracks and were conceived with a different vision than…

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Win a copy of what Stephen King calls 'The Crime Novel of the Year' right here!

Crime writer Richard Price ("Clockers, "Lush Life") has long been the poet laureate of the gritty, rain-swept streets of urban America and neo-noir. And now he's giving us a new voice in crime fiction with the pen name Harry Brandt and the new novel "The Whites."

VIA PUBLISHER HENRY HOLT: The electrifying debut of a new master of American crime fiction, Harry Brandt—the pen name of novelist Richard Price

Back in the run-and-gun days of the mid-90s, when Billy Graves worked in the South Bronx as part of an anti-crime unit known as the Wild Geese, he made headlines by accidentally shooting a 10-year-old boy while stopping an angel-dusted berserker in the street. Branded as a cowboy by his higher-ups, for the next eighteen years Billy endured one dead-end posting after another. Now in his early forties, he has somehow survived and become a sergeant in Manhattan Night Watch, a small team of detectives charged with responding to all night-time felonies from Wall Street to Harlem.

Night Watch usually acts a set-up crew for the day shift, but when Billy is called to a 4:00 a.m. fatal slashing of a man in Penn Station, his investigation of the crime moves beyond the usual handoff. And when he discovers that the victim was once a suspect in the unsolved murder of a 12-year-old boy—a brutal case with connections to the former members of the Wild Geese — the bad old days are back in Billy's life with a vengeance, tearing apart enduring friendships forged in the urban trenches and even threatening the safety of his family.

Richard Price, one of America’s most gifted novelists, has always written brilliantly about cops, criminals, and New York City. Now, writing as Harry Brandt, he is poised to win a huge following among all those who hunger for first-rate crime fiction.

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Check out Richard Price discussing the work

LISTEN: Richard Price on NPR

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