Just so you know, I wrote this super fast, by the seat of my pants. I was absolutely thrilled to be asked to be a part of the new POPCORN! imprint (thanks Matteo!), and especially thrilled to try my hand at a WWII tale, even if my research was fast and loose and mostly improvised. And now that I read it again, the first paragraph makes no sense to the rest of the story...
My buddy Matteo Strukul asked if I would write a WWII-themed novella for his upcoming Popcorn imprint with La Case Books, and I had a blast doing it. Also, it just might be the most ridiculous thing I've ever written (well, there's this one other thing...but let's not discuss that now).
Cheers to Matteo, and also Jacopo Pezzan and Giacomo Brunoro at La Case, for the beautiful artwork, too, courtesy of Angelo Bussacchini.
Yeah, I've talked about my love of Stephen Hunter's work before. I can feel the Southern dust kicking up behind this barreling truck of a novel every time I dig in.
But as a writer, it occurs to me that while I'm reading and enjoying a Hunter novel, I'm also analyzing at the same time. And I understand completely why he makes the choices he does. And they're the same choices I would've made, and the same I make day after day when I'm writing. It's neat to recognize a kindred soul, more so in Hunter than in many others.
So even with a pile of good paper books on the desk, and me ready to dive into them, I ended up downloading a bunch of Kindle books that have instead grabbed my attention.
The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli. First in a series, and yes, I was immediately under the spell. The crime-part of it wasn't that interesting compared to the rest, which is about a guy coming back to see his troubled family after no contact for five years. Hook, line, and sinker. Ready for the next one, which just came out.
Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne. This thing is stark. Spare, barely there, and it's a beauty. The scenes ramble around and feel at first like a crap film-splicing job, which is exactly why it's so fucking good. Cheers to the next wave of minimalist crime writers after the hearts of Higgins and Leonard. Thanks to the Nerd of Noir for turning me onto it.
The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson. I lucked out because this one was available as an e-book from our local library, and it's another one that defies you to put it down after a few pages. I couldn't I put aside whatever else I was reading to keep cramming this one into my brain like I would a bowl of M&M's at a party. Wait, that made no sense. Anyway, yeah, majorly digging this.
Also looking forward toMystery Girl by David Gordon, which I stumbled across only when Amazon sent me an email about another e-book they thought I would like. I read the sample of that one, didn't like it, and then saw the Mystery Girl cover on the "also bought" line. Tried it. Loved the sample. Itching to get to it.
Okay, yeah, I heard this awesome rockin' Rush tune on the way back from Minneapolis after Noir at the Bar, and I can't shake it loose now. I mean, I used to have the Counterparts album on CASSETTE FUCKING TAPE, just so you know, but it has been years and years since I've heard it. So listen to it first. I'll wait:
Now, the best way to enjoy this song is to dig the awesome rockin' riff intro, then just zone out for the first two verses, because they are truly awful. Just pretend he's singing about futuristic temples or dragons or dystopian philosophy, and then zone back in at the lyrics "This is not a love song..." because then the song goes into AWESOME ROCKIN' MODE right on through the end and it makes me happy.
However, if you're also like me and just can't let the lyrics go by without trying to figure them out logically, okay. Let's look at the first verse.
It was long after midnight When we got to unconditional love She said, 'Sure, my heart is boundless But don't push my limits too far' I said, 'If love was so transcendent I don't understand these boundaries' She said, 'Just don't disappoint me You know how complex women are'
I'll be around If you don't let me down too far...
Okay, okay, let's get some things straight first. We all know Neil Peart writes all the lyrics for Rush, right? Or most of them now, I dunno. So Peart thought this situation was worth writing about. I'm kind of wondering if this is what a first date with Neil Peart is like (from now on, I'll put "Neil Peart" in quote marks to indicate the character of "Neil Peart" in the song, as to not confuse him with the real Neil Peart, since we can't make the assumption that the "I" in the song is actually Neil Peart).
So, yeah, apparently "Neil Peart" decides this is a "must" topic to discuss, since it was long after midnight when they "got" around to it. As in, they must have been discussing other philosophies of relationships and love up to this point already. And the woman with "Neil Peart" here is obviously (at first) a very strong and independent woman who doesn't fall in line with the fairy tale romance bullshit "Neil Peart" is slinging at her. Love has limits. And it seems (because, you know, I did some research and a lot of other people seem to think this song is really deep and analytical, with great insight into human romantic relationships, whereas I think the "Neil Peart" character here is an old-fashioned male chest beater who does not dig the new "women's lib" going around, ya know). So "Peart" is all like, "Boundaries? Boundaries aren't love! That's not right." And the woman is all like, "Dude, chill. Don't disappoint me." Which is code for "Don't be an old-fashioned male chest beater."
And I *really* hesitate to say that the woman here said the next line. "You know how complex women are." I'm thinking "Neil Peart" added that in as a bit of a dig at her, because that's a big, orange, glowing, stereotypical comment, right?
Recap: this long-ass discussion happens because "Neil Peart" is a romantic who is looking for an old-fashioned woman, and here he is trying to chat up a strong, modern, awesome rockin' woman who sees trough his bullshit.
Or, I'm also thinking this happened because "Neil Peart" tried to pick her up with, "Hey, what do you think of the band 'Rush'?" and she said, "Meh. Kind of cock rock if you ask me. Only guys dig that." And so he got a little ruffled.
And the "I'll be around if you don't let me down" stuff makes sense, right? Wouldn't any of us say that? Isn't that kind of what the marriage vows boil down to? So the woman is saying this, right? Sounds like a good deal...but a part of me thinks "Neil Peart" is sneering a bit at it, all, "How dare she!" or something.
It was just before sunrise
(Wait, wait, I've got to interrupt here. She's stuck around, still? After all that guff? What the fuck have they been talking about between then and now? Anyway...)
When we started on traditional roles.
(*Sigh*. Oh, "Neil Peart", must you?)
She said, 'Sure, I'll be your partner But don't make too many demands' I said, 'If love has these conditions I don't understand those songs you love' She said, 'This is not a love song This isn't fantasyland'
I'm now a bit confused by the awesome rockin' "Neil Peart" of "Rush" who writes such awesome future songs, but seems put out by a modern woman who isn't into traditional gender roles. For her, it's more of a shared thing. Of course it is! It should be! Why, oh, why do you think this approach will work, "Neil Peart"? Or are you just trying to test her endurance with this all-night conversation, thinking she'll just say, "Fuck it, okay, you win" sometime around breakfast? "I'll say 'honor and OBEY' at the wedding."
And "Neil Peart" will gloat over his eggs.
I mean, seriously, what is the point (and how would this hold up in real life, my friends?) of saying, "Well, if you're like that, then why do you like those love songs with all the UNCONDITIONAL LOVE and TRADITIONAL GENDER ROLES, huh? Huh? Huh?" And he really thinks he has her on the ropes, too. This is the knockout punch! Boom! That'll show her!
Which is why I'm so glad the song lifts into orbit starting with her line: "This is not a love song, this isn't fantasyland."
At which time she should GET UP AND LEAVE and maybe throw his eggs in his lap or something because, dude, "You're a fucking dinosaur!" Just, come on, "Neil Peart", you spent the last however-many hours trying to suck all the "strong modern independent" off this woman, and she's FINALLY given you the what for over your pathetic little ultimate line of reasoning.
And then the rest of the lyrics are pretty fucking awesome and rockin' and all that ("A phosphorus flame on a tropical sea is a cold fire..." GODDAMN, THAT'S COOL!) and the music is just rippin' and all that.
I really really hope the "Neil Peart" character here was intended by the real Neil Peart to be the bad guy (or at least the poor clueless ass) in this tune, and the woman is intended to be the one we're cheering for (at least, I was) because she just so happened to get on this guy's radar screen in the hotel bar at some conservative political convention. And maybe they had some fun together upstairs before "Neil Peart" started in on his treatise concerning what "love" was supposed to be while she rolled her eyes and checked the messages on her phone.
Am I just way off base here? Is this song really trying to say the guy in the tune got the raw end of the deal somehow? God, I hope not.
I just imagine Peart handing these lyrics to Geddy Lee, and Geddy saying, "Oh, no, Neil, no no no. C'mon. Can't you write about spaceships and dragons and more dystopian landscapes where music defeats the overlords and brings us all closer together?" And then Neil Peart drags out the dreaded "contract" and stabs it with his finger while shouting, "I write the lyrics! The contract says so! Mine! You just sing like a strangled cat like you always do, eh?" (Because they're all Canadian) At which point Geddy Lee looks up his bank account, checks the balance, and relents because he is somehow inexplicably very rich thanks to this d-bag's words so far.
All kidding aside, yeah, I'm one of those guys who really likes Rush and thought his teenage band should play "Limelight" instead of "Rock and Roll All Night", but we never found a drummer good enough to do it...and also, I never learned how to play all the guitar parts, either.
So kudos to RUSH and the real Neil Peart and the awesome, non-strangled-cat Geddy Lee and that other one who makes the guitar do things, and hope they don't bother Googling themselves because, really, it was all in jest...yeah, all in jest. You keep believing that.
Southwest Minnesota State professor and noir crime author, Anthony Neil Smith, signs first movie deal
MINNEAPOLIS – Southwest Minnesota State University professor, Anthony Neil Smith, will have a new credit to add to his resume. This week Smith signed a deal with Minnesota production companies Killing Joke Films and Pounding Heart MultiMedia to turn one his popular novels into a film. A noir crime author, Smith is the author of seven novels, including the Billy Lafitte series--YELLOW MEDICINE, HOGDOGGIN', and THE BADDEST ASS--and ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS, named by Spinetingler Magazine as Best Novel of 2012 in their "Rising Star" category. Hogdoggin' will be his first book to be turned into a movie.
The follow-up to 2008’s YELLOW MEDICINE, HOGDOGGIN’ continues to follow the trail of rogue, ex-cop Billy Lafitte, as he returns home to Yellow Medicine County, Minnesota. Dodging a revenge plan hatched by the FBI special agent he once assaulted, Lafitte’s brutal adventures are best exemplified by the blood sport that provides the title, which matches vicious dogs like rottweilers against helpless pigs. In the words of Booklist’s Elliott Swanson: “Smith’s version of Minnesota is no Lake Wobegon; the inhabitants are refreshingly made up entirely of the deranged, the damaged, and the doomed.”
A native of Mississippi, Smith is now chair of the English Department at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, MN. “I'm thrilled to let Minnesota’s best film teams take a chance on adapting this, the novel I was working on when I finally fell in love with Minnesota. Keeping it close to home is the right decision, and Pounding Heart MultiMedia and Killing Joke Films are the right people to do it."
Killing Joke Films’ owner, writer and director Paul von Stoetzel, is known for his unflinching storytelling, winning numerous awards for his hit documentary, SNUFF: A Documentary About Killing On Camera. Von Stoetzel first met Smith online after being introduced to the crime writer’s community by noir author Dennis Tafoya. After reading Smith’s book, Yellow Medicine, von Stoezel became very interested in Smith’s work.
Killing Joke Films signed a deal earlier this year with Pounding Heart MultiMedia to produce and distribute its films, including its first feature film, A Method, due for release this fall.
“I am extremely excited about pairing one of Minnesota’s best noir crime authors with one of the most fearless directors Minnesota has ever produced,” said Pounding Heart’s Executive Producer/Owner Bridget Cronin Sutton. “This will be a great movie that people will want to watch.”