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, April 27, 2012

PICK ME UP ON YOUR WAY DOWN (#fridayflash)

Press play for some mood music

first hour

It had been a long drive for Grace -- like can't feel your legs long.

Somewhere between the grime of Los Angeles and the burnt palette of the Nevada border, she ditched her pumps altogether. As she drove over the cracked asphalt, she heard them rattle underneath the passenger seat and it bothered her.

third hour

She looked for a gas station or roadside slophouse. Nothing. Despite the growling in her gut, she wasn't hungry. She needed a cup of Joe. Anything would help now and she couldn't help thinking that even the mud Gus sold on his hot dog cart outside the courthouse would do. Without caffeine, the radio would have to do. Nothing but Patsy Cline and Charlie Walker for hundreds of miles. It helped for a while, but she had a deadline so Grace pressed on because she knew there'd be a reward. Especially after what she'd done.

sixth hour

She was now in Nevada and the boys would soon be by to pick her up after ditching the toaster she was driving. At least that was the plan. Or was it?

seventh hour

Sweat dripped down the back of her neck and all Grace wanted to do was rip off the deluxe over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder she bought from the five and dime. But then, that would be unladylike so unbuttoning a few extra buttons would have to suffice. Besides, who was watching?

eighth hour

By now, the sun was sleepy and she leaned against the car and wondered if there was any beer left in the cooler of the trunk. There was, but those Lowenbraus were floating in ice water hotter than a two-dollar pistol.

Then it hit her. They weren't coming. They never were. But it was okay. Truly okay.

Her plan worked. She knew those fellas were lower than the belly of a snake and she smiled at the very thought of how truly dumb they were.

ninth hour

As the sun set on Grace, she hopped back into the heap and headed back to Los Angeles to where she actually hid the money.

Music: Charlie Walker, "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down" via the Internet Archive. It can be downloaded here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

I TAUGHT HER WELL (#fridayflash)

Press play for some mood music

Even though she pointed that gun at me, I wasn't scared.

You see, it wasn't the first time and truth be told, I wasn't sure if this little chickadee had what chickadees didn't to pull the trigger. In fact, I couldn't help think how it made her sexier. I tried not to smirk. She looked cute.

I slowly walked over to the bar cart and poured myself a copper delight. I raised an empty glass in her direction, asking if she wanted one herself. She shook her head. That was the extent of our communication.

At this point, the smirk arrived. "You could still have some hooch and point that gun, ya know..."

She said nothing and kept that barrel aimed square at where my heart beat. Funny since she always claimed I didn't have one. I shrugged, downed the cheap scotch she usually kept on hand and tried to calm her down.

I focused on those lips that looked like that came from pink roses. They weren't quivering which told me that she meant business. Or at least she thought so.

Her makeup wasn't smeared so that told me she wasn't losing any tears on my behalf. Somehow, I was expecting at least a small amount of water works. There I go, flattering myself again.

Also, she was also wearing black leather gloves. That little trick she learned from me. And to think I foolishly thought that trip to Gimbel's yesterday was for that bra she was now lying in. Now wasn't the time, though, to focus on that ample bosom. If I was lucky, later. Maybe.

I was mildly distracted by the Crosley. It blared a blues tune and she knew I hated blues. Acoustic no less. She got that pointer from me as well. Keep your subject disoriented. I started to think that she was up to something. I lowered the radio and found my station. Our station.

Some piano jazz, seduced with some trumpet, echoed throughout the small apartment.

"Wanna dance?" I asked, extending my hand. I knew she wouldn't go for it. Still I had to test whether she'd break. That was my trick in the past but here, now, she remained stoic, impressing me again. My little cupcake, all grown up.

We'd been at this Midwestern con game now a couple of years and she'd proven herself to be valuable enough. So much so that she started demanding more cabbage. That wasn't part of the deal. At the end of the day, I needed my shape in a drape to be happy with the dresses I bought and the perfume she sniffed, not a lion's share of the popcorn. Uh-uh, that wasn't the arrangement. I'd sooner put her back on a bus to whatever depot I found her at twinkly-eyed.

So here we were. Me admiring how cute she looked with the big boy gun and her doing the best Sterling Hayden impression she could muster with the tricks I taught her. Shaking my head, I reached for the scotch once more, bad as it was.

The one thing I didn't teach her? How to skate away, clean as a whistle, with all of the money. That trick was still mine. Or was it? I caught a glimpse of a burgundy leather duffel peak out from under the bed. I knew it too well. It belonged Fat Sam, my bank in the region. He held on to my dough, banked it under his name for a hearty cut. Little did I know that Fat Sam also wanted a piece of her chicken wing.

I pointed to the duffel and she cocked the trigger. That was his cue. The closet door creaked open and Fat Sam walked out and before I could say anything, she did it. God dammit, she really did it.

She pulled that trigger.

As I fell to the ground, slug in my belly and water in my eyes, I smirked my last smirk and couldn't help think that I taught her well. It gave me an odd sense of satisfaction.

She won.

Photo: Taken by photographer Marco Patino with subject Allison Grace of the grindtastic Tumblr blog Nekromistress.
Music: Smoky Babe - 'Rabbit Bues,' courtesy of the Internet Archive.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Everyone wants them some Don Draper...

As the recently-cancelled "Playboy Club" on NBC has shown and what ABC's "Pan Am" will soon learn is that it takes a little bit more than period clothing to capture that "Mad Men" magic.

The "Mad Men" formula is simple. The Emmy-winning AMC show is first and foremost a workplace show about advertising and the people who inhabit the office. The sixties era-coolness is just the setting. It's done so well, that we, as viewers, believe it to be a secondary character. That's the beauty of it.

Starz is getting in on the period action with their own ambitious new drama "Magic City." On paper, it sounds fascinating:

1959. Miami Beach. The heyday of cheap air travel brings the well-to-do cheaply and quickly to the region. Enter Ike Evans (that's a manly name, huh?), owner (or is he?) of the chic Miami hotel the Miramar Playa. He's forced to make some uncomfortable decisions not to mention some shady backroom deals with a local mob kingpin regarding the future of his joint. Five minutes in, it's easy to see there's no shortage of conflict here.

Throw in a backdrop of a falling Havana, union problems, the rise of The Kennedys and all the Rat Packy glory you can think of and it's easy to assume it sounds like a winner right out of the gate.

Not so fast.

It's obvious Starz knows what it's doing. "Boss" star Kelsey Grammer just scored a Best Actor in a Drama Emmy and the channel's "Spartacus" has been a solid performer for years. That all said, "Magic City" irked me a little bit. Not enough to stop watching by any means, but let's just say I'm going to keep my eye on it for some troubling aspects that I'll get into shortly. Think of the show as a dab of "Boardwalk Empire," a pinch of "Mad Men" and a healthy dose of "The Sopranos." Throw it all in a blender and the concoction will be this frappe.


* THE MAIN MAN. As Ike Evans, series star Jeffrey Dean Morgan has the heavy load here as the resident Don Draper. While most people liken the actor to a C-list Javier Bardem lookalike, I think he's much more of a poor man's George Clooney and that's NOT a bad thing. Morgan is pulling it off as the man who has to live with himself in his shady world. His life is his hotel and no one is going to take it away from him. Morgan easily has the charisma of an old-school leading man so I'm really hoping some other aspects of the show will do him justice. Morgan is a solid actor with solid TV and film credentials ("Grey's Anatomy," "The Losers" and "Watchmen") so it's no shock he can more than pull this one off.

* DELUXE SETPIECE. The "Magic City" sets are top notch. Gorgeous mid-century is everywhere and it's obvious that no expense was spared when it came to weaving the world of the Miramar Playa - both inside and out. This is catnip for retro junkies.

* TUNES AND THREADS. Showrunner Mitch Glazer didn't stop there. The authenticity is carried through with superb fashions and a soundtrack of REAL music from the era. In fact, we actually hear an off-camera Sinatra singing "I've Got the World on a String" towards the climax of the first episode (taken from the CD "Live at The Sands." In the first episode, 'Ol Blue Eyes was performing in the hotel's showroom and I just have to thank everyone involved that a Sinatra was NOT cast. Extra points for casting an actor to portray longtime Sinatra pal and saloon keeper Jilly Rizzo.


* 90210 SYNDROME. Part of the allure of "Mad Men" is that the cast looks TRULY like the could've lived and breathed in the sixties -- Jon Hamm aside, the ad men and women at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce don't exactly look like the leaped off the pages of a frikkin' magazine. That's my problem with "Magic City." Almost everyone is gorgeous. So much so, that a) it becomes distracting and, as a result, they all blend into one another. I know it's Miami where people are born gorgeous but ... it's just freakin' unbelievable. Give me the imperfectly perfect anytime...

* GETTIN' STALE? Every now and again, you're hit with some pretty bad dialogue...

"Rip out my heart and eat it -- I am yours."

"You built a palace, now it's time to be king...'"

"You only go around once in life and sometimes, not even then..."

"Who are you?"
-- "The wrong woman..."

A word of note to the writer's room: Less is more. What's unspoken is much, much more powerful. C'mon fellas...

* OH NO, NOT HIM. I'm talking about 'that' character... You know what I mean... Ike's screw-up, bad boy son (Steven Strait, above) who's ssooooooooooo dreamy it hurts and Ike's ruthless gangster partner (veteran actor Danny Huston, left) who a) is conveniently nicknamed 'The Butcher' and b) is juuuuuust the type to smash a bottle poolside and then act like it never even happened. These kinds of central-casting stock characters just even a few episodes in feel ridiculously one dimensional.

This all said, I'm very well aware that a new show has to find it's voice and the characters have to establish themselves so I'm willing to roll with it a bit because the production value is so high, the historical period is so ripe with possibilities and that "Magic City" star Morgan could be a compelling leading man.

This show has tons of potential. I'm pulling for it...