Derrick Ferguson Cozies Up To CURSED FROM THE CRADLE

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Quick description of cozy mysteries: a genre of crime stories where the crime takes place in a small community where everybody knows each other and have long-time, even generational relationships with each other and they’re all up in everybody’s business. The detectives in these stories are generally amateurs and mostly women. The example that most people would be familiar with is the long-running and highly-successful “Murder She Wrote” starring Angela Lansbury as mystery novelist Jessica Fletcher who always seems to be stumbling over dead bodies. In fact, there’s a fan theory that has it that Jessica herself was actually the murderer and framed all the people who went to jail for the crime as there was no possible way she could have encountered all those murders by happenstance.

I myself have very little familiarity with the genre myself as my taste in detective fiction runs toward the hard-boiled. I’m more down with Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Chester Himes. But I do believe that with the plethora of good fiction available, there’s simply no good reason to obsessively limit one’s self to one type of fiction. So, when CURSED FROM THE CRADLE: THE ELLIOT LAKE MYSTERIES I became available to me, I thought it a good time to check out what the genre had to offer.

The beautiful town of Alder Bay on the Oregon coast is one of those communities far enough away from the big cities that the inhabitants can cheerfully pretend the outside world might as well not exist. It’s not a big town. In fact, it’s so small it only has one unmarried Chinese-American resident; Elliot Lake, chief reporter for the town’s weekly newspaper. Elliot’s a friendly, easy-going guy, well-liked by the residents and seemingly satisfied with his life and his job. A lot of the pleasure I got out of reading the book is Elliot’s wry, laconic thoughts about the town and its people, most of whom we get to know very well indeed when a series of child kidnappings commence.

This is less a straight-up and down relentless hunt for the kidnapper(s) stealing young children and more of a study of how the kidnappings affect the town and how the inhabitants deal with it and their relationships with each other as it soon becomes apparent that whoever is snatching the kids has intimate knowledge of their movements. It has to be someone living in Alder Bay and for Elliot, the thought that the kidnapper(s) has to be somebody he considers a friend is as frightening as the fact of the kids being stolen. Elliot isn’t just some small-timer. He’s worked for Seattle newspapers and as such he’s trained to observe. How could he be that close to somebody that capable of such a crime and not have seen them for what they are?

Well, that’s possibly because he’s distracted with girlfriend problems as well as dealing with a surprise visit from his parents. Let’s just say that Elliot has issues with them he is neither qualified nor prepared to cope with and we’ll leave it at that. In fact, goodly portions of the novel are taken up with Elliott and his personal problems to the degree that if you decide to read the book (and I do recommend you read it) you may at one point (as I do admit I did) say to yourself; “Well, shucks…they don’t seem very worry about finding these damn kids. And if they don’t care then why should I?”

And that’s where you’d be making the mistake. Because that isn’t the kind of book Cynthia Moyer is writing. Cynthia’s characters are deeply concerned about finding the missing kids. It’s just that life has to go on while they’re looking for them. People still have to go to work. Kids still have to go to school. Dogs have to be fed. Clothes still have to be washed, ironed and folded away.

Cynthia obviously likes these characters a lot and knows her fictional town as well as Michael Jordan knows how to handle a basketball. Yes, there are some characters that wander in and out of the story with no good reason at all save that Cynthia wants them to be there and there’s one character that every time she showed up I wished that the book was a movie I could fast forward through the scenes with her but on the whole, I had a pretty good time with the story and characters. Enough that I’m engaged enough to want to read the sequel. Good job, Cynthia.

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The Secret Origin of Diamondback: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

This may take us a while so if you want to go get yourself a snack and a nice cold beverage before we start, go right on ahead. I’ll wait. Matter of fact, think I’ll go grab myself a Coke and a sandwich as well. See you back here in ten.
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You back? Solid. Get comfy and we’ll get started.
The Secret Origin of Diamondback begins with my desire to write what I have since come to describe as an “Urban Western.” Which simply means that everybody drives cars and uses automatic weapons instead of riding nags and firing six-shooters. But with some industrious rewriting, “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time”could be told as a straight-up western. Matter of fact, there’s a lot of Sergio Leone’s “A Fistful of Dollars” in the DNA of my story. But the concept of a mysterious stranger who comes to a town ruled by warring criminal gangs and by pitting the gangs against each other through cunning, ruthless manipulation comes out the winner goes back further than that. There’s Akira Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo” from 1961 which many believe was inspired by Dashiell Hammett’s classic “Red Harvest” written in 1929. “Red Harvest” also generally considered to have inspired Walter Hill’s “Last Man Standing” which is basically “Yojimbo” set during Prohibition. “Lucky Number Slevin” and “Sukiyaki Western Django.”
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Okay, so you get the basic idea, right? I had this idea to tell a western in modern-day drag. Not a terribly original idea, I agree, but one that I wanted to do and that’s all I need to get me going. The only criteria I have for any project I take on is that it excites and intrigues me. I have to live with the characters and invest a lot of time in them and the story I’m telling and life is too short to spend it writing about about characters I don’t care about. So, I conceived the story of Diamondback as one spanning three novels that was intended to be a further homage to Sergio Leone’s “Dollars” Trilogy:
Diamondback I: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time
Diamondback II: And The Devil Will Drag You Under
Diamondback III: Once Upon A Time In Denbrook
Only one novel got published, the first one:
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It sold about as well as ice makers in Norway. Which kinda left me bummed out. I dunno why it didn’t sell. Maybe because Diamondback Vogel was a completely different protagonist from Dillon, which is the character that most people associated me with. The philosophy of the concept behind the Diamondback character is simple and can be summed up in these lyrics from Billy Preston’s “Will It Go Round In Circles?”:
I’ve got a story ain’t got no moral,
Let the bad guy win every once in a while
Which is exactly what Diamondback Vogel is and I make it very clear: he is a bad guy, a right proper villain. In fact, it can be said that everybody in that first novel is a bad guy. I did that on purpose as I wanted to see if I could write a novel where every single character was a low-down, no-good unrepentant, unapologetic mean-ass bastard or bitch and still make the story entertaining and fun. The (very) few people who did read It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time let me know that I did succeed in that as they enjoyed it tremendously. But at that time (we’re talking around 2008 or ’09) I considered the book to be a failure, put away my ideas for the trilogy and moved on.
So why am I now revisiting Diamondback and rewriting the first book with an eye to completing the trilogy at last? Ten more years of experience and confidence helps, lemme tell you. I recently re-read the book in one sitting and saw where I could improve upon the story, expand some scenes, increase the level of characterization and action. It short, I could write a better book.
And I did write a book where every single character it was a low-down, no-good unrepentant, unapologetic mean-ass bastard or bitch and that one sold a bit better and everybody who’s read it has indeed described it as entertaining and fun. I’m talking about my homage (some would say outright theft) to Hammer horror films:
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I could also restore some stuff I had originally written but was persuaded to take out. The original version of It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time had a lot more violence, some pretty racy sex scenes and harsher, rougher language. But by taking all that out it meant that it wasn’t the story it wanted to be. It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time wanted to be raunchy, profane, deliriously violent and madcap in its exploitation sleaze and I had taken all that away from the book and on that level, it deserved to fail. Because it wasn’t the story it was supposed to be.
But if we’re good and faithful, we sometimes get a second chance and so I’m going to take another crack at Diamondback: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time. And you’ll be able to accompany me on the rewrite as I intend to present the story in serialized form, just as it was originally presented long ago on the much beloved Frontier original fiction website. Details will be on my Patreon page if you’re interested (and I hope you are) but if you’re not, that’s okay as well. We’ll still be friends.
As always, I thank you for your kind attention and your tolerance in putting up with my ramblings and as always I urge you to keep track of what I’m doing both here and over at Usimi Dero which I where I spend much of my Facebook time. You can also friend me at my personal Facebook page. I’m a pretty friendly guy.
Peace!

I Saw The Future At Windy City Pulp Con by Len Levinson

Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Len Levinson served on active duty in the U.S. Army from 1954-1957, and graduated from Michigan State University with a BA in Social Science. He relocated to NYC that year and worked as an advertising copywriter and public relations executive before becoming a full-time novelist.

Len created and wrote a number of series, including the Apache Wars Saga, The Pecos Kid, and The Rat Bastards. He has had over 80 titles published.

After many years in NYC, he moved to a small town (pop. 3100) in rural Illinois, surrounded by corn and soybean fields, a peaceful, ideal location for a writer.

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I live in a small town (population 3000) way out here on the great American prairie. Therefore I have little contact with the wider world of publishing although I’ve written 83 published novels to date.
Last Sunday (4/23) I attended the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention in a Chicago suburb called Lombard, and became aware of the future of fiction publishing. Many of you probably have come to this awareness already, but it was a major revelation for me.
I realized that there is a huge, growing indie publishing movement fully underway, and has come into being because traditional publishing has narrowly focused on conventional “safe” fiction, and tends to reject anything new, weird, crazy or bizarre.
This policy has left a huge vacuum now being filled by the new indie press which operates under a different business model. They don’t have offices in Rockefeller Centre in NYC like Simon and Shuster. They operate out of home offices, barns, or other low-cost spaces. Everything is handled over the internet. And they don’t pay advanced. Authors receive royalties only, as in the early days of publishing. And they produce GREAT eye-catching covers that are works of art on their own.
During the convention I spoke with Ron Fortier, publisher and editor-in-chief of one of the larger indie publishers, Airship 27. He said that famous authors sometimes call him about books of theirs that were rejected by their usual publishers, because those books were considered too far out. But nothing is too far out for today’s indie publishers who market, among other items, novels about vampire cowboys, lesbian werewolves from Mars, hard boiled crime-fiction, other action-adventure novels including traditional Westerns, and all kinds of sci-fi, fantasy and sword and sandal fiction. They also publish new novels about characters in the public domain such as Sherlock Holmes. It’s called “the New Pulp Movement.”
I also spoke with Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, which is also a major indie publisher marketing hundreds of titles. He told me that the big five publishers are buying up some indie publishers, because they can see where the business is going. But Tommy isn’t interested in selling out. His main interest is exciting new fiction.
Evidently there’s a whole new publishing world out there of which I was unaware, although some of my old books have been republished by indie publishers such as Piccadilly, Destroyer and Blackstone. But I never realized how important this New Pulp Movement is becoming. It is wildly creative, fully energized and intensely ambitious, the new kid on the block fighting for a bigger slice of the pie. The welcome result is more choices for readers and hopefully more income for writers.