Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Cold London Blues by Paul D. Brazill

Below is an excerpt from PDB's latest. Check out Cold London Blues, Amazon US and Amazon UK.

A shadow of gloom hung over Father Tim Cook as he watched the slivers of early morning sunlight slice through the stained glass windows of St Martins’ church. The church felt cold and cavernous to him these days. His footsteps echoed as he paced the damp floor.

He sighed and realised he’d been doing that a lot lately. Reminded him of his mother. He shivered and looked at his Rolex. It was almost opening time at The Golden Fleece.

Father Tim left the church and took a short-cut across the park, avoiding the attentions of the drug dealers, drunks and prostitutes that congregated there, even at this time of day. He was almost at the rusty wrought-iron gate that led to the high street when a dishevelled, shambling figure stumbled from out of the bushes. He was tall, gangling. Dressed in what had once been an expensive suit but was now tattered and torn. Covered with dirt and excrement. Another city boy down on his luck, maybe. A twat for sure. The pallid skin and glaring red eyes gave him the appearance of a vampire on the prowl.

He reached out a bony hand.

‘Spare a …’

Before he could finish his sentence, Tim punched him in the throat and guts. The junkie barely screamed as he stumbled to the ground.

Tim glanced around but no one had noticed. These days, no one had any interest in what happened to a drug addict in a city that was infested with them. Tim dragged the unconscious junky into bushes and headed across the street and into The Golden Fleece.

‘The usual, Father,’ said Niall, the Golden Fleece’s wiry and obtuse barman, who had the annoying habit of never looking anyone in the eye.

Tim nodded.

Niall poured a pint of Stella Artois and placed it on the sticky bar. Tim sat at the corner of the bar watching an old black and white television that was showing a cricket match that seemed to have been dragging on for an eternity.

Niall usually refused to allow a television in his pub but today was a cricket tournament that he felt he just couldn’t miss. Tim had no interest in sport, especially cricket, and was almost catatonic. Apart from Tim, the rest of the customers in the pub were weathered and weary old men that were gathered around the bar watching the match like gargoyles at the front of Notre Dame Cathedral.

‘This must be what purgatory is like,’ said Tim.

‘Eh?’ said Niall.

‘Nothing,’ said Tim.

The multi-coloured lanterns that adorned the bar area and the dingy pub’s few tables flickered as the front door opened. A tall blonde in a fake leopard-skin coat walked in. She grinned.

‘Father Cook,’ she said. ‘Just the bloke I’ve been looking for.’

Magda grasped Cook’s hand and shook it vigorously. An old, overtly masculine habit from the days when she was known as Marek.

‘Let’s grab a table,’ she said. ‘I have some info that’ll blow your cobblers off.’

Although Marek had learned a little English whilst serving in the Polish army, Magda’s far from sentimental education came from hanging around Liverpool bars just as classy as The Golden Fleece, and even less sophisticated establishments.

They took a seat in a dark corner of the room, beside a broken quiz machine. The small table was illuminated by a shimmering red lantern. Magda took off her coat. She was wearing a sparkly black dress. Her fingernails and lipstick were blood red.

She put her black leather handbag on the table. Groans of disappointment emanated from the bar area.

‘What are they watching?’ she said.

‘Paint stay wet,’ said Tim.

Magda rummaged in her bag. She placed a few items on the table: a knuckle-duster, a small gun, a lipstick. And then she took out a Samsung Galaxy S4.

‘Have you heard of the motivational guru Nathan North?’

‘I have heard of him. There are billboards about the city for his Wembley Arena show/ performance or whatever they call it but who exactly is he?’

‘It’s an everyday kind of story. Nathan North was once a television chat show host. He was kidnapped while recording a TV programme in Colombia and had some sort of mystical revelation. He eventually set up a series of self-help courses ‘The North Method.’ And sold books and films of course.’

‘Looks like he’s doing well for himself’.

‘Hold on. There,’ she handed Cook her smartphone. ‘Have a gander at that while I go and get a drink. Want one?’

Tim looked at his watch.

‘Yeah, why not.’

Tim tapped the smartphone screen and a small promotional film appeared. A load of blah blah blah about empowerment and the like. North was a real smarm-bag but if it made him the dosh, Tim couldn’t fault him.

Magda sat down as the film was ending.

‘Fascinating stuff I’m sure but …’

‘You missed it didn’t you?’ said Magda. She took a big slurp of her Guinness. ‘Rewind.’

Tim handed the phone back to her.

‘Here, you do it. I hate using other people’s phones.’

Magda tapped the screen and froze it at the point she was look for.

‘There,’ she said, and showed the picture to Tim. Nathan North was shaking hands with a weedy man who looked like a vampire.

‘You want to find Ron Moody, there you are.’

He handed the phone back to Magda.

‘Well spotted, Maggie May. A nice little bonus will be coming your way.’

Paul D. Brazill
is the author of Cold London Blues, The Last Laugh, Guns Of Brixton, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc member whose writing has been translated into Italian, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. He has also edited a few anthologies, including Exiles: An Outsider Anthology, and True Brit Grit.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Trevor English Series Is the Definition of Noir

By Chris Rhatigan

In 2011, Pablo D'Stair released five novella about petty con man Trevor English as a serial. Each day a chapter was published at a blog, culminating in the release of all five books. These were stunning little paperbacks that, unfortunately, are not in print today. (Though you can see some of their covers below.)

However, what is in print and available for Kindle is Trevor English, which presents the five parts as a single book.

Somehow, this book has been ignored despite it being one of the most original works of fiction that I've encountered.

I re-read them recently and found them just as engrossing as the first time I read them.

The thing that jumped out at me immediately is the style. Here's a sentence from the first page of this letter to Norman Court, the first book in the series:

"I'd taken a large bite, was taking a drink to help me swallow it, when some guy sat down right at my table, nodded at me, smiling and it wasn't until I'd mashed the swallow down, caught my breath and was saying Can I help you? I realized it was the guy I'd stolen his wallet about two days before."

Most crime writers prefer short, punchy sentences. As you can see, Pablo D'Stair does not. He uses this to great effect with Trevor English--the reader becomes trapped in the narrator's paranoid, narrow voice. The entire series is told in his rambling thoughts.

Then there's the character himself. D'Stair tells you next to nothing about Trevor English's past. All you see is his present. He is driven by an innate desire to grift. He never thinks about it; it's just what he does. But grifting, although central to his character, steadily erodes his sense of self (if he had a sense of self to begin with). He burns through identities one after the other, with no concept of being any of these particular identities. (And his "real" identity sounds like a fake name.)

Here's the last paragraph of the second book, Mister Trot from Tin Street. Trevor's burning time at an airport, slowly making his escape after a failed con.

"Spent as long as I felt like on a bench out in the passenger pick-up area, smoking, making slow progress down my coffee. Every once in awhile I'd think I recognized somebody--the girl, some guy. Nobody. Every now and again, someone'd look at me like they might've been thinking I was somebody, too, quickly able to discern I wasn't. They'd look away and I'd be glad about that."

Goddamn. 

Then there's the banality of the events across the entire series. In an age where every crime book is "fast-paced" and "action-packed," Trevor English lacks almost any physical action. (D'Stair has described his style as "slow-burn noir.") Trevor blackmails people into giving him small amounts of cash. He wanders from bland nowhere town to bland nowhere town, occasionally working shitty low-wage jobs and always looking for an angle. All he wants is to make enough dough to buy cigarettes and booze and rent a cheap motel room--and he seems almost incapable of having larger ambitions than this. (The banality is wonderfully captured in the covers of the original five novella--which D'Stair did himself--Trevor with a bag, Trevor at a pay phone...)

Trevor is given a gun in the first book and told to use it to kill a man. And he carries that gun for the entirety of the five books and never uses it. Take that, Chandler!


Yet the series has plenty of suspense. Watching Trevor work on his schemes that inevitably fail in one way or another is a sheer joy. And watching Trevor trying to elude the police and various PIs is equally enjoyable.

The thing that Trevor bizarrely, naively never realizes is that the mark is often playing him too. He's a grifter who trusts people almost in the way a child would.

Despite all this, these books were trashed on Goodreads because people suck. Whatever. Read them for yourself and find out. The ebook including all five novella is $7.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

ON THE WRITING OF ONLY BONES, AND ALL THE BROKEN BONES AND BLOOD AND AMPHETAMINE THAT CAME BEFORE IT

by Daniel Vlasaty

I get into a lot of accidents. It comes with riding a bike in Chicago.

It’s all part of it.

There’s a scar on the back of my hand from the last time I was hit by a car while my bike. I was doored. This lady was getting out of her car and she flung her door open and it clipped me. I went over my handlebars.

There’s another scar on my ankle and one on my ass/hip. From the same accident.

The lady just slowly closed her door and drove away.

It was raining that day and I was already late for work.

I’ve broken two of my fingers and dislocated my elbow. There’s a scar on the back of my head where the hair won’t grow back. And my knees are jacked from riding fixed gear for years and years.

There have been bruises and blood and my bike has been broken into pieces.

Someone rear ended me once and I went over the car and my bike went under it.

I’ve gotten into fist fights with people on the road and I’ve had things thrown at me from car windows. I’ve been honked at and screamed at and this one time a guy leaned out his car’s window and tried to shove me off my bike.

I’ve been chased by the cops and almost hit by a bus and countless taxis and ubers and scooters and just about anything and everything else with wheels on the road.

What I mean to say is that I fucking love riding my bike.

:::::

ONLY BONES is something that I bled over. This book almost killed me, literally, in more than one way.

There’s a lot of me in the main character, Daniel. We share more than just a first name. We also share a love of bikes and drugs. It’s sometimes hard to tell which of these two things I love more. Even though I don’t use anymore.

I’m still a drug addict. It’s something I’ll always be.

It’s a love that will never fully go away. I know this. It’s just something I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life.

Most likely.

But biking, man. There’s just something about it.

There’s something crazy and amazing and beautiful about riding your bike through rush hour traffic in Chicago. It’s a rush.

It’s a game.

You’ve got to be smart and you’ve got to be confident. Or else you’re fucking dead.

When I think about it, it kind of makes sense. My love for both of these things. They kind of go hand-in-hand.

There’s the rush and the speed and the adrenaline.

There’s always trying to do more and go faster and never stop.

It’s the same hustle with both of these.

:::::

I’ve been riding a bike for years. Ever since my wife and I moved back up to the city.

But the drugs came first.

I’m not going to get into too many details but let’s just say that years and years ago one thing lead to another and I ended up with a prescription pad in my possession.

It wasn’t long before I was a full-blown addict.

But none of this matters. Not anymore.

It’s time to move forward and forget about the past.

:::::
   
The idea for the book came to me when I would spend most of my time just riding around the city. Back when I was still trying to hide my addiction from my wife. She was just my girlfriend at the time and I was out of work and doing nothing good or important with my life.

This was years ago. Years before I actually sat down to write the thing.

I tried to write it back then but it came out a mess. I think I was too young at the time. Too new to my addiction.

It would take years and countless failed attempts to get clean before I could write this story.

I figured out that I had to first get clean before I could ever write about using.

:::::

The actual writing of ONLY BONES was a weird experience.

Digging through my past and all the drugs and the pain and the struggle. It did two things: it made me want to use and it made me sad.

I felt that itch, that urge, that took me so long to learn to fight and ignore. It came crawling back to me. And more than once I found myself out on the street with money in my pocket and a hunger burning deep in my gut.

It was hard, man. Let me tell you. It was so hard.

It would have been so easy to just go. To just give in.

But I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.

I told myself never again.

I’ve got things going on now. I’m two years clean (as of July 5, 2016). I’ve got a wife and a good job and friends and family that love and support me.

And I’ve got a kid on the way now, too.

So I can’t fuck around anymore.

I won’t.

I wrote ONLY BONES to move on. Maybe not consciously. Not at first at least.

I just sat down to write it and every little piece of me came out with it.




Only Bones by Daniel Vlasaty is available at Amazon.

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Real Human Being, and a Real Hero (Drive, 2011)

By Nick Kolakowski
It’s difficult to stomp someone to death in an elevator.
Near the end of the neo-noir film Drive (2011), when Ryan Gosling’s otherwise-nameless Driver slams his boot through the skull of an equally nameless goon sprawled on the floor of a lift, the violence clearly takes a lot of effort. He grips the handrails for more leverage, really puts his back into bringing that foot down. Blood sprays. Bone crunches like a mouthful of cereal.
No wonder it’s the scene that everybody remembers. One of the clips of it on YouTube has 1.2 million views (and climbing). That the Driver spends the seconds preceding the bloody stomping in lip-lock with Irene (Carey Mulligan), the object of his affections, just heightens the impact. It’s love and death in a little box.
It’s also the moment in the film when Irene (and perhaps the audience) realizes that the Driver is a total psychopath.
Or maybe ‘psychopath’ is the wrong word. In his stoicism and reliance on bone-crushing violence, the Driver has a lot in common with One Eye, the protagonist of the Medieval-era Valhalla Rising (2009), another film by Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn. The Driver would be right at home in One Eye’s lawless wilderness, rendering people into meat left and right without consequence.
But the Driver was born a several centuries too late for that. Instead he’s in Los Angeles, or more precisely, a version of Los Angeles familiar to any fan of noir, full of shadows and streaked with neon. And within that context, he is an apex predator. The gangsters who stand against him have no chance. Later in the film, he stalks and kills Nino, an avuncular gangster played by Ron Perlman, with a slow relentlessness more reminiscent of a slasher-film monster than the ostensible hero. (If Nino were a sympathetic character, the circumstances of his death would be sad and terrifying.)
Noir has a long tradition of handsome killers with warped psyches. Sometimes they’re the anti-hero, as with Lou Ford, the murderous deputy sheriff who narrates Jim Thompson’s infamous novel The Killer Inside Me (adapted into film twice, in 1976 and 2010). More often, they’re the side heavy who steps onstage long enough to deliver a brutal beat-down or gruesomely inventive killing (the Cohen Brothers specialize in sprinkling their films with that type), often before being dispatched in turn.
In Drive, by contrast, the Driver is positioned much more as a protagonist as opposed to an anti-hero. He is a real human being and a real hero, as a bubbly pop song on the soundtrack repeatedly reminds us. Plus he’s fighting to save Irene and her little boy, and there’s no purer goal than that. The dichotomy between his motives and his savagery makes him the Great White Shark of the neo-noir world. In the end, no matter what his reasoning, or how intense his love, you’re just glad he isn’t coming after you.   

Nick Kolakowski’s noir fiction has appeared in Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, Out of the Gutter Online, and Crime Syndicate Magazine. He is also the author of Somebody’s Trying to Kill Me, a book of crime-fiction short stories. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Interview with Stan Miller, author of Prelude to the Massacre

In Prelude to the Massacre, Lee Williams is an angry ex-con released in the midst of the Great Recession. His cousin Jeff is a deranged and disfigured Iraq War veteran, militia member, and Neo-Nazi prophet. When these two meet in a funhouse vision of Tea Party Arizona, the results are explosive. Stan Miller's vicious debut novel is All Due Respect's most intense book yet.

This interview was conducted by Mike Monson, ADR co-publisher.

ADR: When did you first have the impulse to write fiction? 

Stan Miller: One of my earliest memories is of wanting to be a novelist. I'm not sure where the idea came from. Seems it was always there.

ADR: What are steps you took from that impulse to the point you are now -- about to have a very skillfully written and completely original novel about to be published? How did you develop those skills? 

SM: Up until I got back from Iraq when I was twenty-three I didn't write. I planned to write. I read a lot, learning what art/literature could be from the writers I considered to be the greats. And not only the greats but the good, the bad and the mediocre too.

When I got back from Iraq I moved into my mom's basement and wrote. It was pre-meditated. The entire time I was in Iraq I had planned for such a time when I would sit down and pound out my great war novel.

I spent the first six months I was home from Iraq living in the basement and writing. I had irregular hours because I was on unemployment and didn't have to work, plus I had some cash saved up from my last seven month tour in Iraq. I'd wake up at noon on a given day, take a walk for a few hours, maybe drive and see some friends, but in any case before night fell I'd be back in the basement writing. I'd write for four or five or six hours. Then I'd go out to the bar, or a friend's house, then drive or walk back home, depending where I was, and get back to writing.

I hung out a lot with some kids who went to a liberal arts school down the road from my hometown, who seemed incredibly sophisticated to me. They were cultured, whereas I was not. I was more well-traveled than most of them, and had the war experience, so there was a two-way transmission between us there. I would borrow all their books and read them voraciously. Mostly to fill in gaps in my own reading, and to pick up on theory and things like that. This was back in '05, before the literary world really got onto the Internet the way it is now, so in order to learn where the culture was you still had to go somewhere physical in person and ask around for it.

Seems quaint now.

After six months I drank and otherwise spent my way through the money I'd saved up in Iraq. Also my unemployment ran out. I'd already been accepted to Bard College for the next year, but it was January and the prospect of working until school started seemed distasteful to me. So instead I got together about two thousand bucks really quick by selling off all my stuff and cashing out some savings bonds I'd bought up while in the military. I got in contact with an ex who was Sicilian and lived over there. She found me this really cheap room in her city, a very non-touristy city right on the Mediterranean. I flew over and stayed there for three months.

I estimate that I wrote over a million words or so that first year. I started and then scrapped a few novels and did a lot of short stories. So I taught myself, basically. It was really during that year between Iraq and college that I developed the style that I've stayed with. I don't believe that I could write any other way at this point.

ADR: Tell us the basic story of your life to this point.  Birthplace? Upbringing? Jobs? College? Military service? 

SM: I grew up in a culturally backwards, isolated, racist and bigoted redneck town in Rust Belt Pennsylvania. I was born just as all the steel mills were closing down, and all the men had lost their jobs, and everyone was bitter and angry. There was a lot of sympathy with the militia movements at the time, and the KKK was a big deal in my hometown. They'd have these rallies every year where they'd dress up in their white sheets and stand at the main stop light in town and hand out literature. People would wave at them and honk their horns. Nobody confronted them. These are your classic former-Union workers turned Far Right.

Anyways, my upbringing was a mixture of Evangelical Christian oppression and biker-gang-wildness and paranoia. People believed in the Devil and in black magic and witchcraft. The New World Order. Racist jokes traded at Thanksgiving Dinner.

Despite this I did have some family members who were more open-minded, even educated. I was really fortunate to have these people in my life, to give me some kind of perspective. It did not escape me that these relatives had all left town right after graduating high school.

I picked up pretty quickly that all the racists were losers who I didn't want to be like. And by the time I was eighteen all I wanted to do was leave Pennsylvania and never go back. It's like Andy Warhol said: A small town is only good for leaving.

I joined the Marine Corps two weeks after graduation.

Clinton was President when I joined up, so my idea was that I'd spend five years floating around the Mediterranean. Then 9/11 happened, and within three months I was in Afghanistan, where it was zero degrees on Christmas Eve. Then, a year later I was in the invasion of Iraq. Then a year later I went back for a second tour in Iraq during the occupation. In a nutshell I watched the country fall apart while the President lied about it. I worked as an intelligence analyst, the exact same job that PFC Manning had (she actually published a few hundred reports that I personally typed up), so I had a front row seat. [Note PFC Manning was in Army Intelligence while in Iraq and leaked classified information to WikiLeaks and was subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison.]

Boy, what a time. We were preparing power point briefs that were being emailed to the White House about how fucked up the country was, then looking up at the flat screen TV on the wall where Bush would be talking about some other Iraq that I'd never been to. This was all in the context of the 2004 presidential election. Me and most of my other buddies, I guess you could call us "old millennials" now, were completely disgusted and pretty recalcitrant. And we openly talked shit on Bush. I was warned one time that I could face charges for sedition if I kept shit-talking the way I was. This was probably an empty threat but it served to piss me off even more.

This was while living in a ruined, bombed out palace in Ramadi that was occasionally under fire from insurgent rockets and mortars, right around the time of the second battle of Fallujah. What also pissed us all off (myself and the other junior intel guys) was that the media weren't reporting the reality of the war on the ground at the time. Iraq was totally out of control by early 2004 but if you listened to Bush or the media you wouldn't know it. To a degree that was because it was simply too dangerous for reporters to go off base at that time. An obvious Westerner couldn't have walked off our base for five minutes without the insurgency immediately knowing where he was and kidnapping them. That's how little control we had in Iraq during the lead-up to the US elections. And it got worse, of course. A lot worse.

But by that point though I was out, clutching my honorable discharge.

After the war, and after my "gap year" detailed above (haha), I went to Bard College. I chose Bard 
because I have a second cousin who's an English professor at a state college down South who I ran into at a wedding right after I got back from the war. I asked him the best school for creative writing was and he told me one of them was Bard. So I applied and got in. I was very cool on the idea of creative writing, because I was aware of how much money it would cost with no guarantee of a return (and also I figured I'd taught myself), and when I showed up at the campus the week before classes started I decided to go for Spanish Literature instead, figuring that I'd at least learn a language that way.

Anyways, Bard. Small genteel New England Liberal Arts School. $50,000 a year. $50,000 a year! I went for half that sum because I was an "adult learner." The qualification for that was being over twenty-four years old and living off campus. At the time the GI Bill wasn't a free ride so I had to take out a bunch of student loans. It ended up being quite expensive. The staff was legit though. Chinua Achebe was a professor there and you'd see him going around beneath the trees in his wheel chair.  They had an organic garden, the first I had ever seen, and a pair of adult-sized swing-sets. These were located between some gigantic Great Gatsby-style mansions that looked off a hillside onto the Hudson River. The professors took everything the undergrads said very, very seriously, because many of the students had parents who were very, very rich. That said, I learned an incredible amount there not only about books, Spanish lit and culture, but about America itself. I had never before been around real rich people, up close. I saw that they really were different from me, just like F. Scott Fitzgerald said they were.

After a year I decided that I didn't want to go $100,000+ into debt for a BA. I transferred to Temple University, which is a big public school in North Philadelphia.

Temple and Philadelphia are much more real. Philly is, culturally and demographically, one of the Blackest cities in America, and I loved it. I still love it.

Anyways, I graduated, got a really shitty job with the government, and eventually quit and moved out West at the nadir of the Great Recession.

ADR: What writers or books have influenced you the most? 

SM: So many but James Joyce's Ulysses will always be the most important book I've ever read.  I read it when I was sixteen and it set in my mind what a work of literature could be, what a writer should aspire towards, as well as the way a life lived for art might look like.

After Joyce it's a toss-up. Mishima is up there. Marguerite Duras was extremely influential on my writing style (people might find this strange). William S. Burroughs is another, not only The Naked Lunch but his three cut-up novels as well, especially Bryon Gysin's essay at the end of The Ticket that Exploded. From these two guys I got the idea that the purpose of the artist is to create new images to replace older ones. People will forget words but they won't forget an image.

Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky is another big influence.

Nietzsche.

Most of all Hannah Arendt. Prelude to the Massacre is basically a conversation I had in Phoenix with The Origins of Totalitarianism. I would recommend anyone upset with my book read all three volumes of her book... then they'll be really upset.  

Crime/noir-wise I like Raymond Chandler, especially The Big Sleep. I've read almost every word he's written. And James M. Cain. The Postman Always Rings Twice is one of the great American novels. And Dashiell Hammett. The Maltese Falcon in particular. 
  
ADR: Could you have written Prelude to the Massacre if you hadn't served as a soldier in war? 

SM: No. But neither could I have if I hadn't lived on Circle K hotdogs and gas station wine, crushed up and railed Opana in the toilet stalls of moving Greyhound buses in the middle of the desert between and Blythe and Quartzite, lived with the homeless and with illegal immigrants in flop houses of doom...all that fun Great Recession/Obama Phone/Modern Day Ghost Town bullshit I've done since moving out West.

ADR: How much is Prelude based on yourself or other real people? 

SM: With the exception of the murders it's mostly inspired by real people and events. It's also totally fictional, of course.

Jeff is based partly on Chris Kyle, the "American Sniper" guy. I'd just moved to Arizona, Tea Party Central, when he came on the radar. And just like that he was dead. But I was really freaked out by him, especially at this idea I had that he'd get into politics one day. Here was a guy who killed over two hundred people yet managed to learn not a single thing about human life.

Jeff is also partially based on JT Ready, who was a piece of shit Wotanist Tea party figure in Arizona. He's most famous for appearing with his border crossing patrol crew at the Occupy rallies dressed up in their militia uniforms. He ran for a few local elections and eventually ended up killing an entire family before blowing his own brains out on the lawn of some HOA house in Mesa, Arizona.

The warcrimes Jeff took part in are based on the Maywand District killings in Afghanistan.

The part about the Neo-Nazi Marine squad is taken from old Camp Lejeune lore.

Mount Asgard does not really exist.

Wotanism does.

Lee is a composite of many serial killers.

I've hidden a lot of Easter eggs in the novel concerning them.

ADR: Prelude to the Massacre is very disturbing in a lot of ways. Now, I'm semi-well known for including graphic sex and violence and all kinds of bad behavior in my books, and even I was shocked the entire time I was reading the book. Was it hard to go to all those places with your characters and the plot? If not, why not? 

SM: The violence in the book is extremely disturbing, I can't deny it. I hadn't read it for a year until I had to do revisions recently and I was shocked at some of it myself. But also I think parts of it are pretty funny too, and the second half definitely veers towards the absurd. There is a sort of trench/gallows humor in it I think. There had to be, or I wouldn't have been able to write it.

That said, I don't think any of the violence is gratuitous or exploitative. If it was purely exploitative then it really would be inexcusable. It would almost be snuff-porn. But I needed it to be extremely real if I was going to use it to explore the other issues I set out to look at, especially the racism aspect. But without the violence I couldn't have pursued that, because it's through the extreme violence that I could get access to the subconscious parts of the main characters, including the parts of themselves they refuse to acknowledge. Also, it was through the violence that I could push the boundary between representation and experience in the reader.

Beyond that even, the book was written based very closely on Hannah Arendt's theories about power in a totalitarian state. In part I think the violence is so disturbing because the victims are often completely powerless, not to mention innocent. But this is totally critical to the point of the book. Lee is a thrill killing piece of shit. But to Jeff the killings have an entirely different level of meaning. To him they are like mathematical proofs for this theory of how the universe works. And he completely, absolutely believes in them with all of his being- he's given up his own personalty and soul and willfully become a robot. The Nazis and the Communists looked at their murders in precisely the same way. Jeff repeatedly tries to woo Lee, who represents the merely criminal, over to his way of seeing things, that is, to his ideological viewpoint. The idea is that if enough Lees are converted over to Jeffs then what do you get? The next invasion of Poland.

ADR: Prelude in a lot of ways feels like a warning -- a warning that racist, nationalist and bigoted forces in the U.S. are simmering just below the surface. So, it's all fiction, right? Could the events in your book really happen here? 

SM: Trump? Jeff would actually go on about how Trump is not what he's waiting for, although he is certainly a harbinger. But seriously, it was fiction based on my own fears and anxiety when I started writing it four years ago. Now every few days we seem to hit a new low of the human spirit, and I feel like it's becoming more and more relevant.  The militarization of the police is one of the big ones, and we don't know how that will resolve itself yet.  I live in fear of political movements like the one Jeff hopes to see. And not just from the Right. There could absolutely exist a Left-wing version of Jeff. ISIS is filled with guys like Jeff. He is the mass-shooter mentality politicized. His final words, his vision at the very end of the book, that is the nightmare I'm trying to evoke. So I hope that people read the book and are disturbed. They should be. I think we're living in very dangerous times.


Stan Miller was born in 1981 in rural Pennsylvania. He grew up shooting guns, hunting and reading James Joyce. Two weeks after graduating high school he shipped off to Marine Corps boot camp to escape the terrible boredom of a Rust Belt existence. This ill-advised move saw him sent to Afghanistan once and Iraq twice. Besides the Middle East he has lived in North Carolina, Sicily, Spain, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Phoenix and Hollywood. He now lives in California's Central Valley. He is a dropout of Bard College and a graduate of Temple University. He avoids meat and likes animals more than people. Prelude to the Massacre is his first novel.