Wednesday, April 24, 2013

600th Post! - An interview with S.A. Hunt

Today's guest is S.A. Hunt, author of The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree, the first book in the Outlaw King saga.

How did The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree come about?
It actually started as a very different book in a very different frame of mind. I wanted to write DIME, a horror novel about a man that gets stuck in a town teetering on the brink between Earth and hell, and have a part at the end of it where he wakes up in a military hospital. He realizes the whole thing was a dream, but through abilities gained along the course of the book he reaches into that other-place and essentially pulls his fellow survivors, fictional people, into the real world. Life difficulties and a decreasing enthusiasm for the story as a whole ended with DIME on the backburner, but I still wanted to write something incorporating the same sort of metaphysical detangling.

After a while, I wanted to write a post-apocalyptic novel and it quickly transformed into a gunslinger epic. After a few rewrites and an epiphany, I changed the protagonist back to a male and re-introduced the concept of existing in a fictional space. In the end, WHIRLWIND is inspired by both Stephen King's DARK TOWER as well as my own fledgling feints at writing DIME--which is where a lot of the horror comes into play. And the follow-up to WHIRLWIND, the more Noreen-centric LAW OF THE WOLF, is actually going to incorporate a character and certain aspects from DIME. The Sileni, the antagonists from WHIRLWIND, are striving to induce wickedness in humanity and in LAW, we're going to see that firsthand when several characters end up back on Earth and find themselves obligated to prevent a public massacre.

Did you shop it around to agents or jump directly into the self-publishing ocean?
Both. I self-published it first, and once I got a few good reviews under my belt, I started querying in the hope that the good press would make me look better to a prospective agent. Some of you may think that's a backwards idea, but it seems to make sense to me. More and more, however, as I go along, I'm beginning to taper off in my quest to find an agent. It's looking like I'm not going to have any biters. That's okay; as I like to tell myself, go ahead and pass on me. You just won't get any share in the movie rights some day.

How much of you is there in Ross Brigham?
Quite a lot. I needed a doofus with a wounded heart to justify the way Ross just blunders into a parallel world without compunction, and I had just the right kick in the stomach the book needed: my own recent return and subsequent divorce. Chapter Two of WHIRLWIND is very similar to my own first night home from overseas. Luckily, my real father is still alive and I haven't been sucked into a tornado, regardless of what my ex-wife would like.

How many books are planned in the Outlaw King series?
I would estimate it at three, but it honestly depend s on two factors: how popular the first two books end up being, and whether or not the story is totally finished by the end of book three.

Have you thought about using Kickstarter to fund the writing of the next book(or books)?
I have thought about it, but I had several reservations. First of which was that I didn't think Kickstarter allowed crowdfunding of novels, at least self-published ones. The second was that it didn't seem ethical to me as there are already so many self-published writers out there churning out work without the benefit of outside financial assistance, regardless of my own difficulties. The third was that I honestly didn't figure I would be able to attract much funding, especially with how WHIRLWIND was doing so poorly in KDP numbers (note: when my KDP is up in May, I am not renewing my Select status, and WHIRLWIND will be available on UncoveredBooks, Smashwords and Kobo.) The fourth was that I couldn't think of anything substantial I could offer as a bonus to the highest bidders. Signed paperback copies? Paper maps of Destin? My notebook? Discounts on future books? If anyone thinks I'd have a chance at Kickstarter success or has good ideas for bidder bonuses, feel free to let me know. I could definitely use the financial lifeline.

What is your favorite 1980's sf/fantasy movie?
Hands down, I'd have to say KRULL. I still can't believe there was no sequel and it wasn't inspired by a novel. The world in the movie is so exotic and realized, and the story and the Glaive itself were very original for their time. It's a sad thing that Hollywood isn't as adventurous as it was in the 80's... there was some quality innovation back then. Suits just don't take many chances anymore, which is sad because those projects have a peculiar habit of producing truly legendary cult content when you give them a chance. (I have to give classic He-Man flick MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE a nod, though. It was a crazy movie but it definitely gave the He-Man world a swarthier Boris Vallejo / Yoshitaka Amano vibe it desperately deserved. SUPER MARIO BROS has earned a place in my heart as well.)

Was there a book that made you realize you wanted to be a writer?
It has to be a toss-up between Stephen King's DARK TOWER series, Joe Hill's HORNS, Dan Simmons's HYPERION series, and the swashbuckling non-fiction travelogue HEART OF THE WORLD, by rebel National Geographic explorer Ian Baker. I've been writing since I was a little kid, but up until now I've been trying to build my life according to everyone else's rules. Joe Hill's book is what slapped me in the face and reminded me of who I really was and what I was capable of.

Who would you say your influences are?
I think I get my wordiness, banter, and paragraph structure from Dean Koontz, my pantsy style of writing from King, my descriptiveness from Dan Simmons (as well as my years playing MU* games and buil ding world grids in same games) and my propensity for delving into the psychotic and mythical from Neil Gaiman. But as LeVar says, don't take my word for it. My readers will see what they will see.

What's your favorite book?

Who's your favorite author?
King, without a doubt. His kid Joe is really gaining on him, though. It's like a slow-motion horse race. They both do extraordinary horror, but King's still got the goods in character development and getting into heads.

What's the best book you've read in the last six months?
Brad Poynter's THE MEEK: a mysterious phenomenon shrinks every human on the planet to the size of an action figure, turning the world into a warzone of ravenous pets and giant obstacles. It's an amazing odyssey combining the survivalism of a wilderness thriller with the mind-blowing and sometimes hilarious aspects of life four inches tall.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
(1) WRITE. WRITE WRITE WRITE. Stop telling yourself that you're not any good, and stop telling yourself you don't have the time. Stop overplanning, past a certain point planning is just procrastination. Just do it, and don't rely on writer self-help books to tell you how to do it. Stop overthinking it. Just open a word processor file and start typing. (2) They say "write what you know," but that doesn't mean a plumber should write a story about being a plumber. Stephen King said, "A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is the ability to remember every scar," and that's what WWYK means: use your memories, throw in your scars and shiners and bruises. A compelling story is a witch's brew of what life's thrown at you. (3) Scrivener is very much worth the $30. If you're serious about writing, get it.

What's next for S.A. Hunt?
Living and writing, writing and living. I wish I could tell yo u I'm going to be executive producer on the movie adaptation of WHIRLWIND, but I'd be fibbing!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Dark Tower Tuesday

It's Dark Tower Tuesday over at Shelf Inflicted so check it out.

Do Not Avoid! 13 Questions with J.W. Wargo

Today's guest is J.W. Wargo, author of Avoiding Mortimer.

How did you get involved in the Bizarro movement? 
Happenstance, really. I've been writing stories since I learned how to read and write. I moved to Portland, Oregon after dropping out of college and kept writing, but not too many people were into the weirdness I was creating. While searching the Portland library for absurd literature, I came across a Carlton Mellick III book, Fishy-Fleshed, and started reading it. I was hooked instantly and began gobbling up as much Bizarro as I could get my hands on. When I realized that the majority of the writers and publishers were based in Portland, I started communicating with them online and eventually met Mellick at a reading. I attended the Bizarro Convention that year and have been a part of the community since.

What's the inspiration behind Avoiding Mortimer?
The idea for the book first came to me in the summer of 2010 while I was hitchhiking Europe. The previous year I had been in an accident involving my overly-intoxicated face coming into close contact with the floor of an NYC bar bathroom, leaving a bloody gash across my eyebrow. I received medical treatment at NY Presbyterian, and as soon as they discovered I had no insurance, no money, no job, and no home, they had me fill out paperwork to apply for emergency medicaid and I was rejected because Social Security had told them, "According to our records Joseph Wargo is deceased". I had to go through a bunch of redtape with the government to get that one fixed. Dead as I was, I still applied for and got a passport and left the country. They eventually fixed the clerical error, or so I assume. And that was where it started: "What if a guy dies due to a processing error in the afterlife?"

How much of you is there in Mortimer?
Mortimer's personality was partly based on previous social anxieties I had. Besides us both having inquisitive natures, not much else about us is similar. While Mortimer goes to great lengths to avoid things, I pushed myself to face the world with an unusual approach to it. In 2009 I became permanently semi-nomadic and wandering storyteller. I chose hitchhiking as my main method of travel, and it forced me to interact with a wide variety of people from all over. I got past any public speaking fears by reciting my short fiction and poetry on street corners for change. I made enough money to survive and I've always kept moving. 4 years later I've gone from Portland to NYC to Florida to California to Europe to Albuquerque to Canada to Hawaii to Mexico and back to Hawaii. All points I've hit in between adds up to over 75,000 miles traveled and so many experiences I could never write them all.

Are there any crazy books about the afterlife that you would recommend?
Punk Land by Carlton Mellick III and Suicide Girls in the Afterlife by Gina Ranalli. Good Omens by collaborators Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, while not exactly a book about the afterlife, is a great one, too. Also, not a book but I have described Avoiding Mortimer as being "like the film Wristcutters: A Love Story without the love story".

Every watch Pushing Daisies?  Jim Dale's voice was in my head while I was reading Avoiding Mortimer.
I have not. After reading a bit about it though, I am quite intrigued by the premise. I shall have to hunt this down for later viewing.

What is your favorite B-movie?
1954's Them! The first big bug movie and probably one of the catalysts for my childhood obsession with ants. I was very happy to be able to include ants as an important plot point in Avoiding Mortimer. I suspect I endeavor to sneak ants into subsequent books,

Was there a book that made you realize you wanted to be a writer? 
Though I had started writing stories at age six, I didn't start thinking about writing as anything more than a fun hobby until I was fourteen and watched the film Memento by Christopher Nolan. I watched the movie several times and then found the screenplay online and read it. I thought that this is exactly what I want to do. Write stories as good as this one. I later took screenwriting classes to learn the craft, and the knowledge gained I applied to fiction writing and have since been working to better my skills and create a style wholly my own.

Who would you say your influences are? 
As a kid, I was heavily influenced by the satire of Douglas Adams, the philosophy of Bill Watterson, the outlandishness of Shel Silverstein, the technical language of Michael Crichton, and the imaginative worlds created inside Choose Your Own Adventure Books. More recently, I've studied Nietzsche, Jung, and theoretical physics, but possible the most influential person I've ever read has been Robert Anton Wilson. Both his fiction and nonfiction have taught me more effective forms of communication and helped me see the world in so many new and exciting ways.

What's your favorite book? 
During my travels I have always carried a copy of the aforementioned Wilson's book, Prometheus Rising, with me. It attempts to explain consciousness, the brain, and how we communicate and interpret information using an amalgamation Every time I open it up and read a little bit of it I always gain something different from it.

Who's your favorite author? 
Kevin L. Donihe

What's the best book you've read in the last six months? 
A very difficult question. I have read three in the past six months that were all quite excellent reads. Of Thimble and Threat by Alan Clark, We Live Inside You by Jeremy Robert Johnson, and The Deadheart Shelters by Brandon Armstrong.
 I am currently reading Fuckness by Andersen Prunty and it has surprised me thus far. I'm only halfway through it and I already  want to write the film adaptation for this book.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
Whatever you write, when you feel it is the best that you can write it, take it and read it aloud, whether to yourself or to someone else. When you hear the words coming out of your mouth, rather than from within your head, they will change and you will see how you can make it even better.

What's next for J.W. Wargo? 
I'm currently doing a series of travelogues over at Imperial Youth Review about some of the more interesting experiences I've had on the road. You can follow my exploits with this handy link:
I also started a monthly series on Bizarro Central highlighted strange music and musicians. Working on a few short stories for magazine publication, and plan to write my next book later this year. As for travels, look for me doing some more storytelling on the streets of Japan and Australia next year!

Avoiding Mortimer

Avoiding MortimerAvoiding Mortimer by J.W. Wargo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mortimer, a man who's been avoiding life his entire... life, rejects undeath and runs away from home. When his life consisting of working at the aglet factory and playing with his ant farm proves to be too much, he kills himself, only to find the afterlife isn't all it has been cracked up to be. Can he avoid an eternity of servitude as he avoided everything else in his life?

First off, it's Mortimer that's doing the Avoiding. We are not meant to Avoid him.

In this entry in the New Bizarro Author series, J.W. Wargo tackles a familiar subject, the afterlife, and turns it on its ear in a way I've pondered more than once. Considering the afterlife is going to be populated by the same jackholes we deal with every day, why would it in any way resemble paradise?

Mortimer is an Arthur Dent-style protagonist, taken to the nth degree. His life consists of avoiding pretty much everything. He goes to work, comes home, and goes to bed. He has seven identical suits and does everything he can to avoid being noticed. Death almost seems like a mercy at first.

Wargo's afterlife is one of servitude if your life's worth is low or lounging if one's life worth is high. Mortimer soon rejects his new job at the earlobe factory and meets other avoiders, these intent on avoiding participating in the afterlife. Mortimer proves himself to be the avoidingest avoider that ever avoided and saves the day. Oh, and god is a hobo. And there's a character called Ant Blob. And some sentient dreadlocks. All of that is true but it's a Bizarro book so I can pretty much say anything and you'd believe it.

Any complaints? Not a one. This is my favorite book in the 2012-2013 New Bizarro Author series so far.

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The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree

The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree (Vol 1)The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree by S.A. Hunt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Ross Brigham returns from a stint in the army, his life is a shambles. His wife has left him and his father, Hugo Award-winner Ed Brigham is dead with Ross tapped to finish his last novel in his western-fantasy series, the Fire and Fiddle. But what will Ross do when he finds out his father has been murdered and the world he has been writing about for years is real?

Two disclosures before we get down to business.
1. I got this book in exchange for a review. And it's pretty damn sweet.
2. I'm never in a hurry to read self-published books since they are usually not well written or edited to any visible degree. However, this one's name is a line from a Johnny Cash song.

Confession Time: Sometime during the gap between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla, I was so enamored with the Dark Tower that I took a number of stabs at writing my own Dark Tower-inspired fantasy western. I got about 30-40k in before I decided I was just rewriting the Dark Tower and put it on the shelf. I'm glad S.A. Hunt didn't shelf his Dark Tower homage.

Like it says on the back cover, The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree is a love letter to the Dark Tower, 80's fantasy, and spaghetti westerns. Even still, I accepted this book with reluctance. I mean, first off, it's from Createspace. Why don't I just get out my red pen and start clenching my jaw right now? And it's an homage to the Dark Tower? Did Hunt just change a some things around and regurgitate the sacred texts like so many Tolkien imitators have done before him?

He did not.

While the Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree may have been inspired by the Dark Tower in some degrees, like Stephen King being a character in the later books and the fact that there are Gunslingers running around, it stands on its own. It actually reminds me more of the second half of Lev Grossman's The Magicians, where Quentin finds out that the Narnia-analog Fillory is real.

Ross and friends Sawyer and Noreen find themselves on Destin, the world Ross's father had been writing up until his untimely death. A mysterious black figure stalks them as they struggle to get acclimated to their new world. Hunt makes the world-building fairly painless. I love that aspiring gunslingers have to eat some fungus as their final test. Those that survive have their brains reconfigured by the fungus to be awesome killing machines. Those that don't end up dead or irreparably insane. Good stuff.

My fears about the writing were unfounded. There were some editing hiccups but it was head and shoulders above most self-published books I've ever read. I loved references to the Dark Tower, the Simpsons, and lots of 80's fantasy and sf movies.

Any complaints? Just that there wasn't as much gunslinging action as I was hoping. It feels like the first volume of a series, which it is. When's the next one coming out, Hunt?

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go

Down by the River Where the Dead Men GoDown by the River Where the Dead Men Go by George Pelecanos
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When a drunken bender sees Nick Stefanos stumble upon a murder in progress, he begins investigating once he sobers up. Nick soon finds himself teaming up with Jack LaDuke, a straight-laced PI and looking for the murder victim's best friend, unraveling a web of drugs, pornography, and death...

Nick Stefanos' slide into irredeemable drunkeness continues in Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go, the third of his "adventures." While Nick is now one of my favorite series mystery characters, he's wearing me down with his drinking.

Down by the River deviates from the structure of the first two. There are no drunken road trips in this one. Nick actually acts more like a detective in this one than the previous two books put together, mostly because Jack LaDuke doesn't drink. Still, Nick being Nick, he does manage to hit the sauce quite a bit, getting blackout drunk a few times and trashes his relationship with Lyla.

Pelecanos' writing continues to mature in these early outings, displaying some Jim Thompson in addition to the usual Chandler and Crumley. His depictions of Nick getting drunk make me feel a little hungover. This one felt a lot more urgent than the other two Stefanos books, probably because there was no drunken road trip to break up the investigation.

Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go is the best written of Pelecanos' Nick Stefanos series and probably the most powerful since it shows what Nick's life is doing to the people around him. I guess I'll give it a five but I feel guilty doing it since Nick keeps plunging toward rock bottom.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Nick's Trip

Nick's TripNick's Trip by George Pelecanos
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whe a high school friend of Nick's hires him to find his missing wife, Nick takes the case and quickly finds out nothing is as it seems. While Nick looks for the wife, he also looks into the murder of a reporter friend of his. Are the two events linked? Will Nick be able to solve the cases and escape with his life?

As Nick Stefanos' life continues to side downhill, pushed by a waterfall of booze, my esteem for George Pelecanos continutes to rise. Nick's Trip, much like the previous novel, A Firing Offense, sees Nick going on a drunken road trip. This time, however, it's with his client, Billy Goodrich.

The Goodrich portion of the novel is a trip into the countryside centering around checking April Goodrich's old haunts and going up against her old boyfriend, Tommy Crane. Nick consumes an inhuman amount of booze and gradually pieces together what is going on. The other portion, finding out killed William Henry, puts Nick up against dirty cops and organized crime alike.

Much like the last book, the greatest strengths of this one are Washington DC as a setting and the characters. Nick continues his plunge toward rock bottom and I love that he works as a bartender between cases. The regulars at the Spot help drive the story forward as Nick pieces things together. I also like the side plot with Nick and Jackie Khan.

The writing is even better than in the last book. It's pretty clear that Pelecanos holds James Crumley on a pedestal, or at least did at the time this was written.

Any complaints? Not really, apart from the structure being pretty similar to the last book and there not being several hundred more Nick Stefanos books out there waiting for me to read them. Four drunken stumbling stars.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lives of Tao

The Lives of TaoThe Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When secret agent Edward Blair is betrayed and killed, Tao, the alien symbiont that lives within him, must find a suitable host to continue the centuries long war between his faction, The Prophus, and their archenemies, the Genjix. Too bad he winds up inside overweight IT worker Roen Tan instead. Can Tao whip Roen into shape before the Genjix find him?

When Angry Robot offered an ARC of this book in their weekly newsletter, I jumped at the chance to request one. Two alien factions waging war against each other using humans as hosts and pawns? What's not to like?

Nothing, as it turns out. Lives of the Tao is an engaging read from start to finish. Roen's journey takes him from being an overweight, weak-willed shlub to a major player in a war for Earth's future. Not bad for an IT guy who hasn't had a girlfriend in ten years.

The relationships in Lives of the Tao are what drives the story forward, most notably Roen's relationships with Tao, the alien living inside his head, and Sonya, the Phophys host assigned to help Tao whip him into shape.

It's a fun read. One of my favorite parts is how Tao related a paragraph or two of the history between the two Quasing factions, the Genjix and the Prophus, at the beginning of each chapter, sometimes paralleling events in the story.

The ending, while somewhat predictable, was perfect for the story and left it open-ended enough for future adventures of Roen and Tao. Four easy stars.

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Friday, April 12, 2013


ShatnerquestShatnerquest by Jeff Burk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When another reality bleeds into our own at a comic book convention and armageddon is on the horizon, three geeks (and their cat Squishy) do the only sensible thing they can think of: Steal a dead man's DeLorean and go on a road trip to rescue William Shatner!

First off, I was initially dismayed that this has little to do with Shatnerquake. However, I buckled up and stuck around for the ride, and what a Shatty ride it was.

Shatnerquest is a bizarre road trip, a story of the impending apocalypse, unrequited love, and a smorgasbord of homages to geekdom: Star Trek, Road Warrior, and many other staples of geekery are represented. Seriously, where else can you read about a biker gang led by a wannabe Klingon, a cannibal Captain Kirk cult, and a Dalek gas station attendant? Not to mention Shatzilla's bloody rampage...

The final battle delivered the goods and made me with Shatnerquest was a movie or TV show.

While I didn't like this one quite as much as Shatnerquake, Jeff Burk's writing has come a long way since his debut. It's a great way to spend an afternoon.

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Firing Offense

A Firing OffenseA Firing Offense by George Pelecanos
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When an old man that knew his grandfather asks Nick Stefanos to find his missing grandson, Nick agrees out of a feeling of kinship for the boy. But what does an ad man in an electronics store know about detective work?

Here we are, George Pelecanos first novel. The more Pelecanos I read, the higher he is elevated in my esteem. A Firing Offense is no exception.

A Firing Offense starts off with a standard hard boiled plot: someone is missing. In this case, it's Jimmy Broda, a young man that reminds Nick way too much of himself at that age. Nick embarks on an investigation that is equal parts The Long Goodbye and the Last Good Kiss, an investigation that mostly consists of driving around, talking to people, and drinking a small lake of alcohol. For most of the story, Nick was in the dark as much as I was.

What sets Pelecanos apart from a lot of his contemporaries is his sense of time and place. Washington DC is as much a character in the book as Nick Stefanos and the pop culture references, mostly the music, paint a good picture of the time the story was occurring.

The music references lead me to believe George Pelecanos might have run into each other if I'd been going to shows in DC bars in the 90's. He mentions Night Boat to Cairo by Madness, a song I've listened to myself at the tail end of a long night out, and The Raybeats, a obscure Link Wray inspired band featuring Danny Amis, who is now one of the guitar players for Los Straitjackets.

It's an easy four star read. Washington DC is as much a character in Pelecanos' books as New York is in Lawrence Block's.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Special Report: The Contingency Plan is Being Constructed

I'm forming a collaborative blog with some of the heavy hitters on Goodreads in the event we have to pile into an escape pod somewhere down the road.  We're calling it Shelf Inflicted.  I'm not abandoning Goodreads or my book blog at this time, though.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Last Argument of Kings

Last Argument of Kings (The First Law, #3)Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As the Gurkish march on Adua, Bayaz schemes to defeat them, Jezel discovers his secret parentage, and Glokta tries to learn things no one wants him to know. Meanwhile, the Northmen are holed up in a fortress in the hills with Bethod's army at their gate, waiting for the Union army to arrive. Will they arrive in time? Is even Bayaz enough to defeat the Gurkish?

Apart from my Dark Tower reread of 2011, It's been a long time since I read the final book in a fantasy series. I guess re-reading the Elric books was the last time and probably Amber before that. The Last Argument of Kings, final book in the First Law trilogy, is way up in the series ender hierarchy.

The manure hits the windmill in a serious fashion in this volume. Several pretty important characters die. The rest of them have their lives change in real ways. Who would have Jezel dan Luthar and Logen Ninefingers would wind up kings? Or what would happen after they did?

Glokta and Bayaz were by far the most captivating characters in this volume. Glokta shocked me time and time again and I'm still not sure if Bayaz slew his mentor or not, only that he has his fingers in most of the pies in the bakery. All the revelations toward the end blew my mind.

There are so many things I want to gush about in this volume, like Bayaz using the Seed against the Eaters, Glokta marrying Ardee West, and the fight between The Bloody Nine and the Feared. I knew the confrontation was coming as soon as the Feared was introduced and I was pretty sure of his weakness. I just didn't picture the battle to be so brutal.

The character development over the course of the three books was pretty damn amazing considering where Jezel, Logen, and the rest started. The ending was the icing on the cake.

Like I said in my reviews of the other books, people compare these books to George R.R. Martin but they aren't that similar other than the brutal deaths. The First Law is way more like Pratchett. This particular volume reminds me of Watchmen quite bit when the heroes find out just how thoroughly they've been jerked around.

Five blood drenched stars. That's all I have to say.

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Trailer Parks and Superspies - An Interview with David Barbee

Today's guest is David Barbee, author of Carnageland, A Town Called Suckhole, and Thunderpussy.

How did you get involved in the Bizarro movement? 
I was self-publishing when the call came out for the first New Bizarro Author Series, a tryout for Eraserhead Press to find writers who wanted to specialize in bizarro. I already wanted to specialize in bizarro, and I wanted to work with Eraserhead just as badly. So I left my self-publishing endeavors behind to start fresh with them. My NBAS book, Carnageland, did pretty well and thus I was indoctrinated into the scene. The author world can be volatile and scary, but the bizarro crew is a really tight-knit family. They are friendly and ambitious in all the right ways.

What was the inspiration for A Town Called Suckhole? 
I've always loved cyberpunk, and I've wanted to write a sci-fi cop story like Blade Runner since I was a little kid. I had such a story in my head for years until I realized that the idea would be cooler and more unique with a big conceptual twist. So I started reworking the idea to be both a cyber-detective story while also twisting it into a Southern noir. Those two elements came together really well, and created a world that's extremely weird and deceptively simple. The title, A Town Called Suckhole, came to me while driving home from work one night. It was one of the easiest books for me to write, because the voices and references on display can usually be found right outside my front door.

Who is your favorite redneck comedian? 
Redd Foxx, who isn't a redneck at all. But he was way funnier than Jeff Foxworthy or any of his ilk could hope to be. The redneck comedy boom was strange. People who enjoy it are free to do so, that's fine. But since I grew up around this stuff, to me it always comes off as jingoistic. And not even in a subversive way. It's these millionaires cracking jokes to (mostly) ignorant rednecks about a lifestyle that, in the twenty-first century, is a total fucking sham. So yeah, Redd Foxx.

What is your favorite Southern dish and have you ever eaten road kill? 
I haven't had the pleasure of eating roadkill yet. I hear that possum is the worst tasting meat known to man, though. On southern cuisine I actually eat, I'll just say that the soul food my wife cooks is delicious as hell. She can make a country meal that tastes wonderful and isn't trying to actively murder you with cholesterol.

What was the inspiration for Thunderpussy? 
Absolutely none, which feels like I'm saying the book is uninspired (it isn't). I just mean that I had no plan to write a spy novel. I was pitching a ton of things to Carlton Mellick III, and one of them was called "Quantum Crashers of Thunderpussy." He didn't like the pitch, but said that Thunderpussy would make a good title for a bizarro spy book. I've found that that's how a lot of creative endeavors start. Someone says something as a joke, and then boom, it's real.

What is your favorite spy movie? 
I wrote Thunderpussy as one of those jet-setting action stories full of high stakes, but the spy movies I enjoy best are the more realistic ones, like "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." I love nothing more than to watch a movie with a ton of British actors basically talking to one another the whole time.

Do A Town Called Suckhole and Thunderpussy occur at different points of the same timeline?
That's a damned good question. I'd say it's possible. Thunderpussy takes place in a strange future with settings all over the world. Suckhole is set much further along in time and in a singular place. The townsfolk of Suckhole have their own ideas of history, but those ideas are ill-informed and mostly wrong. Thunderpussy exists somewhere between that future apocalypse and the weird Civil War that Suckhole remembers. So it's possible, but just barely. If I think too hard on it, I'll probably become obsessed with all of my stories existing in the same shared world... which would drive me insane with the quickness.

Was there a book that made you realize you wanted to be a writer? 
Not really. When I was a boy, I wanted to be a comic book artist. Then I realized that I wasn't as good at drawing as I thought, so then I wanted to be a comic book writer. That evolved into just being a writer of prose, which I could do on my own. It seems to be panning out okay. I've always wanted to be creative, but there wasn't just one thing that made it so.

Who would you say your influences are? 
A lot of things. My earliest influences were movies and comic books. I'm one of those 80's kids that grew up on Star Wars, Thundercats, and X-Men. Even video games influence me, at least the ones from back when I used to play. I make an effort to draw inspiration from as many things as possible, because that's what make the imagination fertile. I read as many other books as I can, too. That's the cornerstone for any author, and I believe you have to seek variety there as well. I read hardcore horror books, scifi/fantasy, bizarro, and try to sprinkle some true literary novels in there as well.

What's your favorite book? 
This answer would probably change depending on when you ask me, but for right now, I'll stick with "Whipping Boy" by Sid Fleischman. I got a copy of it at an old book sale last year and it was one of my absolute favorite stories as a child. Children's literature operates with a sense of simplicity while also talking about serious things, which is what I try to do with my own writing.

Who's your favorite author? 
Once again, there are a lot of right answers to this, but today I'll say Alan Moore. It doesn't matter what medium you're working in, you can make room for big ideas. Whether it's superheroes, horror, or even pornography, Alan Moore's stories always work for me because he's using big ideas to tell them, bigger ideas than anyone else would even dare to use.

What's the best book you've read in the last six months? 
I just finished "All Monster Action!" by Cody Goodfellow. It's a Grindhouse-like collection of stories leading up to a "feature attraction" novella, and it's just brilliant. Cody's a madman who takes already-insane concepts and pushes further than you or I would think to. And doing that, making it work seamlessly in a story or stories, takes a mixture of brains and balls that only he has. If anyone enjoys ridiculous sci-fi, high concept horror, or just big monsters smashing one another, then they should definitely read this book. It's a bizarro masterpiece.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers? --The author's life is that of a lone samurai dependent on his sword. Only your sword is a word processor, yet you still might get your head chopped off. Treat it as work. Hard yet honorable work. And don't expect fame, riches, or groupies belonging to your preferred gender. If you're meant to be a writer, then none of this will bother you.

What's next for David Barbee? 
I just turned in a novella for my entry into the Bizarro Starter Kit. I'm hoping that it will also be collected with two other novellas that I'm working on, and they can be released together sometime. I'm also working on a story called "Shotgun Sodapop" for the Magazine of Bizarro Fiction, and I'm promoting the hell out of Thunderpussy. Whosoever is reading this interview, I implore you to buy my book. Reading is fundamental, but reading Thunderpussy is just plain fun.