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donnybrook

Frank Bill giveaway

donnybrookA week ago, I did a write up of Frank Bill’s debut novel DONNYBROOK and having a couple extra copies on my hand I offered someone in the audience a chance to win one of those copies. What was entry fee for such a reward? Simply give me other books to read while I’m cooling my heals for the next Frank Bill novel. Given I’m not the fastest of readers, that would still be a considerable void to fill if we’re lucky enough to get another book within 18 months. The wheels of publishing are a slow and bitter beast.

I reached out as best I could and got the following suggestions to keep the tide of anxiety away.

Ryan Sayles offered up his own novel from Snubnose Press, THE SUBTLE ART OF BRUTALITY. Ryan, Ryan, Ryan. You should know I support my own and I’ve already read it. The title really does say all that needs to be said to sell the book.

Erik Arneson recommended, and I give a strong second, THE LAST CALL FOR THE LIVING by Peter Farris. Alas, I already own Pete’s book and equally look forward to his next release.

The towering Seth Harwood throws me a fresh author, Russell Banks and his short story collection TRAILER PARK. I will be adding that to my to read list. Thanks Seth, and for those who are looking for a good action series go and read his Jack Palms series, JACK WAKES UP and THIS IS LIFE, as well as his new thriller IN BROAD DAYLIGHT.

The mondo bearded and plaid clad Brian Beatty recommends Barry Hannah’s YOUNDER STANDS YOUR ORPHAN saying that this Faulknerian tome is bleak and bolder than Hannah’s earlier works.

Paul von Stoetzel offers up WINTER’S BONE by Daniel Woodrell, as well snuck in Scalped comic series and Jed Ayres’ FIERCE BITCHES. All which are in my possession (or soon will be as Jed’s book is ferrying itself from Australia at this very moment.)

So the bottom line here is I need to figure out which of you deserves to win. I’m sorry, but I have to mark off Ryan, Erik and Paul since their recommendations are already in my library. I know, you’re not psychic or have access to my bookshelves. Thanks for playing.

So that leaves Brian and Seth who suggest not only works I haven’t read, but authors I was unfamiliar. I suppose I’ll flip a coin. Heads for Seth and tails for Brian. *flipping*

TAILS!

Sorry Seth. I will be looking into Russell Banks.

Brian, I’ll contact you on Facebook to get your address.

frankbill

Review: Donnybrook by Frank Bill

frankbillI know I’ve mentioned this a time or two, but my first introduction to Frank Bill was an excerpt of DONNYBROOK that appeared on Do Some Damage almost three years ago. I had just filtered my way into the crime fiction community, discovered flash fiction, and DSD was my gateway to enumerable sites and authors. It was that excerpt that sent me on hunt for more Frank Bill, and the discovery of many stories that appeared in his debut short story collection, CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA.

For my entertainment value Frank has done good by me, DONNYBROOK was no exception.

“I don’t make threats. I offer moments to reconcile one’s shitty choices”

donnybrook-ukTowards the end of Frank Bill’s novel, Chainsaw Angus, a retired bare-knuckle brawler turned meth user/dealer, utters the quote above and it stuck out. It just buzzed in my ear and to my reading encapsulated the entire book’s tone. DONNYBROOK is a series of interwoven characters, each who come from troubling circumstances, leading them to make shitty choice after shitty choice. The only reconciliation for these characters is to keep punching forward through the consequence of those choices, to beat and batter their way towards their rightful reward. And for Chainsaw Angus, the bombastic Liz, the double-crossing Ned and the morally skewed Jarhead Earl that leads them to the three-day fight festival known as Bellmont McGill’s Donnybrook. And not far behind are Deputy Sheriff Whalen looking for revenge and the exotic Fu Xi seeking to collect a debt.

DONNYBROOK is all at once a high octane juggernaut of violence and destruction, while also being a reflective commentary on the disintegration of Southern Indiana wrought from meth addiction and economic poverty. A moral decay blights a lost Orange County, and our protagonists—if there are any, because there are no heroes here, only survivors—choose to forge their way with busted knuckles and spent bullets to each their deserved reward.

For a book I’ve waited nearly three years to read, Frank Bill served up the social canvas he laid down with CRIMES and then gave it an unhealthy bump of meth-fueled adventure. Like I’ve said before Frank Bill doesn’t disappoint, and I wouldn’t pass on my thoughts just to build him up. I enjoyed DONNYBROOK from cover to cover, and look forward to what Frank cooks up next because I’ve already got the itch.

donnybrookSo while I’m miserable for the next Frank Bill, I thought I might make you miserable as well. I’ve found myself with two copies of DONNYBROOK, one red and one blue. I don’t need both, even though they look mighty pretty on my bookshelf, so I’m going to give one away. The winner can choose the color. So what do you have to do?

It’s going to be a wait until the next Frank Bill release, so here’s what I want. I want you to fill up the comments with recommendations of new, old and not released novels and collections to keep pangs away, to feed and fill me up with comparable material. So drop me one title by whoever and sell me on the plot. Recommend as many as you like, each in their own comment. I’ll pick my favorite and send the winner a copy of Frank Bill’s DONNYBROOK.

CISI Contest Winner: False Promises by Ken Fish

So, that’s what it feels like to pretend, he thought, as he laid in bed staring at the water-stained ceiling, trying to fall asleep for what felt like the millionth time in his fifteen years of living. It had been a normal day. It had been a rough day. In Abel McIntyre Junior’s family, there was no difference. In his family, in the trailer park with the neighbors that surrounded him like ghouls from a house of horrors, the best days for him would likely kill any other kid, he always thought.

Abel knew how other kids lived, and it wasn’t like him. He could see their houses on the soft, rounded hills across the Mystic River through the loose glass slats of the crank-open windows in his tiny wood-paneled bedroom. They had yards with grass and swing sets in them where children played all summer, and mounds of colorful flowers that gleamed in the most carefree way from mid-spring to mid-autumn. Even in the winter when those same hills were just grey mounds spiked with the craggy skeletons of oaks and maples, the houses glowed golden and warmly, twinkling on the coldest of days when there was ice in the air and the river looked as if it was frozen solid.

They lived in actual houses, and those houses they lived in didn’t have wheels under them. This fact alone seemed to provide those kids with some sense of permanence and security that Abel never knew. This fact alone, Abel sometimes caught himself believing, raised them up above him and his ever-toiling Ma, Ethel, and drunkard Da, Abel Senior, and their house with the wheels underneath it just in case they needed to make a run for it again.

“Pretending,” his mother always said “is much better than reality.” For Abel, there was always a certain disconnect between that mantra of hers and how he thought he lived his life. He never thought what he was doing was pretend, it felt more like protection. It was what he did to make do as the poor kid who lived in the trailer park that was essentially used as a halfway-housing complex for the underfunded and understaffed loony bin on the edge of this otherwise rich white town. For Abel, it was survival.

* * *

“Don’t you ever change your pants?” taunted Fred, the super-popular star of the soccer team at school. “I can smell those filthy things from here.” The reality of it was, Abel rarely did change his pants. In fact, he only owned three pairs; one for every day, one for Sunday, and one for the rare occasion when Ethel would sneak their dirty laundry into the laundry room of the loony bin where she and her sorry excuse for a husband, Abel Sr., worked.

Abel always loved laundry day. He relished the brief moment when the few clothes he had were stiff and crisp and smelled like the industrial detergent they used to kill off every biting, burrowing, stinging, blood-sucking creepy-crawly he imagined inhabiting the flesh of all those crazies where his parents worked. Every time he slipped into a clean pair of trousers or a fresh shirt he felt, if only for a second, reborn.

Abel could feel his face redden as he froze from a sickening mix of anger, humiliation and disenchantment. He’d been caught out again. He’d been targeted by yet another wicked prick who had nothing better to do than pick on the one kid in school who did everything in his power to be invisible to all those around him. Abel always kept quiet. He always kept to himself. He never did anything to anyone. He never did anything to deserve the sort of treatment he got over and over again.

Sometimes he thought he was cursed. When Abel was little, back before he started going to school, he fantasized about what it would be like to be able to get away from his Da every day. He thought it would be some sort of safety-zone, a cinder block oasis where there would be kids just like him, a place beyond the reach of his Da’s roaming hands, or worse yet, drunken fists. It didn’t take Abel long to discover the difference between fantasy and reality. To Abel, school seemed like the place people like his Da went to learn how to curse, fight, and in general, grow up to be an asshole.

“My gawd!” Fred hollered across the crowded cafeteria. “Didja shit yer pants, or what, Abel?”

Just then, at the very moment Fred called Abel by his first name, the name his worthless father burdened him with, everything else he said, could say, or would ever say again, meant nothing. At that moment, he could hear nothing but the blood rushing in his ears like the roar of the hurricane that crushed the crazy gay twins under the huge choke cherry tree that set their ragged pack of scabby, inbred cats free through the torn sheet-metal of their old 12’ by 40’ two lots down from the McIntyre’s.

At that moment, all Abel could see was Fred, his mouth flapping mutely before him. After that, all he could see was red — red from the mouth of that nasty boy Fred where Abel’s first punch landed with a stomach-churning crack, mashing Fred’s thin, pale upper lip into hanging shreds of gore. Fred’s mouth kept moving, but his face no longer read as arrogant. He looked truly shocked, and under that, truly terrified.

Abel couldn’t hear if Fred was trying to backpedal his way out of the suddenly desperate situation his mean mouth got him into. He couldn’t hear if Fred was screaming for help. Abel landed another punch, this time, to Fred’s jaw. He could feel himself smiling as his now torn knuckles made their impact, and the bone of Fred’s jaw gave way with a pop, down and to the left; a deformity deserved.

Abel could see the teeth swimming in Fred’s mouth, and his left eye instantly swollen, the indentations of Abel’s fist at its rim like the dimples on a fat lady’s ass. It looked as if Fred was shaking his head in a frantic NO gesture, but there wasn’t
any NO left in this. There was only GO left in this.

Abel heard later that he was growling and grunting like some sort of rabid animal when he was on top of him, that is, when he wasn’t laughing like one of those fellas from the fenced-in gravel lot in front of the nut house. Despite being one of the smallest boys in his ninth grade class, it took three middle-aged teachers and a Puerto Rican dishwasher to get him off of that poor boy. Abel was expelled that day, and day later, he was sent to juvenile hall.

* * *

A week after he got out, Abel saw Fred with his mother at the local grocery store. He was shattered. Fred acted like he didn’t see him, but Abel knew he did.

Abel didn’t know what happened that day at school. He relived it in flashes that provided neither context nor explanation. What he did know, is that it was like a dream coming true. All the times he’d been picked on, and all the times he’d been beaten up, had been erased by latching onto that smart-ass, Fred, and beating him to within an inch of his life.

Abel pretended to be sorry in front of the judge. He pretended to be sorry in front his so-called anger management counselor in juvenile hall. He even tried to pretend to be sorry in front of his Ma after his month of being locked up behind a tall chain link fence and those thick concrete walls, but she could see right through him.

“You don’t have to pretend to be sorry in front of me, mister,” she said smiling wryly.

Abel said nothing in response. He just smiled and thought about how everything was gonna be alright from that point forward. He had no idea if he believed that, or if he was just fooling himself, and to be perfectly honest, he didn’t care either way.

Crimes In Southern Indiana by Frank Bill

From the day we are brought into the world until the day we are unceremoniously kicked out, we are marked by each passing moment. We are carved like soapstone into our ever growing imperfection by intrinsic, personal events. A map of personal history. We are but the lives we live.

As a toddler, my family lived outside Covington, KY on a horse farm. My memories of that time are most likely manifest from stories told and pictures seen, though some seem so crystal clear when I think upon them.  Too clear not to be my own. I don’t know, I wasn’t much taller than a knot on a log.

What does this have to do with CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA? Nothing and everything.

My folks split when I was three and through out my childhood, bolstered by mom’s venomous hate towards my absent father, it marked me more than it should have. It grew from a scratch to gash to near abscessed pain and anger. By the time I was 15, I didn’t much like either of my parents.

Frank Bill‘s book CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA is chock full of wonderful stories about people marred by experience, circumstance and isolation. Most have little vindication or happy resolve, but each carves a dark image of life in southern Indiana.

I was 25 when I met my father again for the first time. At the insistence of my young bride, I called him from a hotel room just outside of Cincinnati. I half expected him to have horns and a tail or eyes pitch coal black and filled with evil. I was awash of emotions, all including hate, disgust and anger. That all but melted away when I opened the hotel room door. He was my blood.

I had gotten about halfway through CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA when I read “The Old Mechanic” which depicted a young Frank meeting his estranged grandfather for the first time. It immediately pulled at those old scars. The memories of a fatherless youth and reconnecting with a past I never really had. It reminded me that we are very much the definition of our past, but our past doesn’t have to define our future.

CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA is rich with local experience and setting, but the characters’ lives are very much the stitches of an unraveling patchwork Americana. For better or worse we are the lives we live.

Run Away Home with Frank and Donald

Have I mentioned I got a chance to read Frank Bill‘s debut book, CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA? I wasn’t sure if I had?

Might as well get used to it. I’m going to be talking about it all month and I plan on it being a busy month down here on the blog.

I’ve been re-reading CRIMES this last week because I want to do a slam dunk review of it next week to post around. I don’t do reviews much. I give them a shot, but I tend to be so damn casual about it. All my structured English education just flies out the door. That’s alright though, because I never believe anything that reads scripted or not from the heart. And if I didn’t like CRIMES I’d kindly thank Frank for the opportunity and move on to the next book. I don’t believe in negative reviews.

But I did like CRIMES so there will be a review in a weeks time.

As reviews go, I recently read a lot of good things about Donald Ray Pollock — some bad too, but those read of personal opinion and not capable review — so he hit my radar. Last week Amazon had a ridiculously good deal on his first novel, THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME. I couldn’t pass up the discount on top of my free shipping. Only a chapter into it and I ordered KNOCKEMSTIFF — Pollock’s first book, a short story collection — for my Kindle.

I don’t have a vast library of crime fiction. Only what I’ve engulfed myself in over the last couple years. So I’m not deeply familiar with  Harry Crews or Larry Brown, though I have a book or two of each to read, but I understand that in their time they were the voice of southern noir. Neither Pollock or Bill are what I’d call southern, rather two country boys living in the mid-west. One in Ohio and the other in, well, Southern Indiana.

They both have a similar voice developed from what they know, where they grew up, and the lessons life have taught them. Reading their bios about and interviews with them, and of course the words they’ve both written, though their styles may differ I connect with the heart of what they write about, as well as some odd parallels.

Growing up a West Virginia boy, I so desperately wanted to be gone from country. As soon as I could stand I swore I’d run the first chance I got and never look back. I made it to Colorado, but rough times and bad decisions had me tail tucking it home with a new wife and baby on the way. Back to family, back to home.

It’s strange that it’s taken me nearly two decades of struggling with work, with writing, with life, to realize it’s not about where you live. And realize the experience of those two decades if honed with my natural predilections could tell stories people want to read.

So to writers, who I now admire, like Frank Bill and Donald Ray Pollock, thank you for showing me my stories don’t have to go far. They only need to run away home.

Don’t forget the deadline for the Frank Bill and Write Where You’re At challenge ends August 25th. 2000 word story about where you grew up.

Frank Bill and Write Where You’re At

I had the pleasure this last Spring to be offered a chance to read an advance copy of Frank Bill’s CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA, a collection of short stories, Frank’s first book. I was thrilled, though I have to admit when the offer came up I’d been angling for a copy of DONNYBROOK, Frank’s second book and first novel. I had read an excerpt DONNYBROOK on the Do Some Damage blog the previous Spring and was deeply envious of anyone who’d gotten an early peak of that glory. Bastards.

CRIMES is an exceptional collection of story from Frank Bill’s heart and home and if I could I’d buy out the entire first run, giving each copy away because this book needs to be read. The reality check is I can’t. I did pre-order a copy when it first became available and as you know I really don’t need another copy. So I’d like to give it to you. One of you at least.

Would you like a free copy of CRIME IN SOUTHERN INDIANA?

If not, I suppose I can just put it on my shelf never to be read. Collect dust and when Armageddon comes and all the electronics in the world are destroyed by EMP or solar flares, some zealot will find it on my abandoned copy and devote an entire religion to the House of Grit. I think Frank would like that.

So you want a free copy? Well you’re going to have to work for it. Write for it.

In CRIMES there are several stories that are interrelated, tied together, but if you’re really reading the stories you’ll see a character that ties them altogether. A character with a powerful, but silent voice. Southern Indiana, with all her rural harshness and nurture. Like Daniel Woodrell’s Ozarks or Dennis Lehane’s Boston, Frank Bill captures the heart of Southern Indiana, elevating her above just a setting or a location.

So if you really want to win a copy of CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA, I give you this task:

Write a story that lives, breaths and could only exist in your own back yard. Fill it with local color and give your hometown a voice that walks effortlessly among its characters. Your story doesn’t have to be a crime story, but does need to be a good story.

Deadline: Thursday, August 25, 2011.
Word Count: 2000.
Genre: Open.
Prize: A copy of Frank Bill’s CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA.

Winner announced August 30, 2011.

Update: I failed to mention how to submit your story. In order to enter your story post it to your blog or other public venue so it can be read and commented on by readers and other entrants. If you don’t have a post location, contact me.