Category Archives: Books

Now available from Paragraph Line Books

dove and crow cover

The Dove and the Crow: Now available from Paragraph Line Books 

Meet the Crow: He’s been around for hundreds of years. He took scalps in the time of Cortez and Columbus. He skins men and makes rugs of their hides, lassos of their intestines. Right now he’s angry, and out for blood.

Meet the Dove: Matina’s a whore at the Maison de Joie, with more mojo than you can shake a stick at. It’s been said that, with just one bat of her eyelashes, she can turn pennyroyal tea into tincture of opium. 

Meet the Tracker: Dognose Jones, the adopted son of a Cherokee medicine man, has a special gift. He can smell his prey like a bloodhound scenting its chase. 

Welcome to the Wild, Weird West.

Coming soon from Paragraph Line Books

dove and crow cover

Coming Soon, from Paragraph Line Books, The Dove and the Crow… a new novel by Joseph Hirsch…

Meet the Crow: He’s been around for hundreds of years. He took scalps in the time of Cortez and Columbus. He skins men and makes rugs of their hides, lassos of their intestines. Right now he’s angry, and out for blood.

Meet the Dove: Matina’s a whore at the Maison de Joie, with more mojo than you can shake a stick at. It’s been said that, with just one bat of her eyelashes, she can turn pennyroyal tea into tincture of opium. 

Meet the Tracker: Dognose Jones, the adopted son of a Cherokee medicine man, has a special gift. He can smell his prey like a bloodhound scenting its chase. 

Welcome to the Wild, Weird West.

24 Points: The Ghost of Barry Brown by Joseph Hirsch

Barry_Brown

Editor’s note: Joseph Hirsch is the author of several books, including Kentucky Bestiary and the upcoming Paragraph Line Books release The Dove and the Crow. You can find him at www.joeyhirsch.com.

  1. I started writing for real, during my last year in the Army, when I was stationed at Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas.
  2. Every Friday night, after my company was released from duty, I would run up to my barracks room, grab my laptop, and then head back downstairs to the quad. Then I would call a cab and have the cabbie drive me to the local Extended Stay.
  3. I wrote a short story in my hotel room every Friday night. Saturdays I edited the stories, and Sunday mornings I submitted them, after which I would take a cab back to the base and get ready for Monday morning, and a return to duty.
  4. I was part of an Air Defense Artillery battalion, and I spent my days walking beneath the hot Texas sun, between rows of missiles and radars, thinking about my year in Iraq, and also about ideas for more short stories.
  5. I checked my email slavishly for messages from publishers. I got a ton of rejection slips, some of them mean-spirited and discouraging; others were indifferent, and obviously form letters not meant to be taken personally.
  6. One day I checked my email and there was an acceptance letter from Underground Voices. “This is good,” was the subject line of the email, and the body of the email read, “If it is still available, we would like to purchase it for $30 and run it in our November online edition.” It felt like my heart had stopped beating in my chest, and though it’s obviously impossible, it felt like my heart didn’t start beating again until November 1st.
  7. November did come, and with it, a check in the mail from Underground Voices. I remember walking to the PX on-post, my desert suede boots crunching over sand and dirt, until I reached the bank and cashed the check. I don’t remember anything about the bank teller, except that she was an attractive woman, and that I desperately wanted her to look at me and not see another war-shattered boy, but rather, a writer.
  8. I bought myself a steak dinner that night, and, as I was eating, I kept thinking to myself, I paid for this meal with my imagination.
  9. Of course I read my story on Underground Voices (here it is, if you’re curious: http://www.undergroundvoices.com/UVHirschJoseph.htm),  and I was proud to bursting, walking under the sun on those long, hot, Texas days, speaking to the missiles around me, silently shouting, I’m a writer!
  10. The problem, though, was that my story was not the best to appear in Underground Voices that month. I am, as the writer John Fante once said about himself, “a master at being spellbound by my own prose,” but not even I could convince myself that my story was better than one called The Screenwriter, by some guy named James Brown (here it is, if you’re curious: http://www.undergroundvoices.com/UVBrownJames.htm)
  11. I read the story with mounting jealousy, and thought back to what Stephen King had once said about being a young unpublished writer, and the first time he discovered he was doing better than a hack whose work had seen print. He described the moment as being akin to the loss of one’s virginity, the sober, objective instant wherein one realizes that, despite the doubt and insecurity, they are in fact good enough to be a professional writer.
  12. I had realized before that I wasn’t the worst writer in the world, but encountering The Screenwriter, still high on the wings of my first sale, I had to privately admit that there were some writers I would never equal. James Brown took my literary virginity, which might be an odd statement for a heterosexual man to make, but there it is.
  13. Some years later, I was no longer in the Army, and, though I had sold a short story here and there (and even a novella), I had pretty much given up on life, and writing.
  14. I read somewhere that men think about sex once every eleven seconds, but it seemed that, the further and further I got from Iraq and the Army, the more I thought about the war, and that my sex and suicide wires had somehow gotten crossed. It would not be hyperbole to say that I thought about suicide every eleven seconds or so.
  15. One night, having given up on life and writing, I found myself watching TV, as people who have given up tend to do.
  16. There was a movie on the tube, a quiet Western about two boys out west who were on the run from the Union Army. The movie looked to have been made in the seventies, and I didn’t think it took a genius to realize that it was an obvious analogy for dodging the draft during the Vietnam War. It was what the critic Jonathan Rosenbaum once called an “acid Western.”
  17. One of the two boys running from the Army was a young and beautiful Jeff Bridges. The other was a young and beautiful man with big brown eyes whose name I didn’t know, but whose face I couldn’t stop staring at. I wondered what it was about this quiet Western-with boys scrounging on the prairie for food, screwing whores, shooting rabbits, and dodging Indians- that held me in thrall.
  18. I also wondered why I had never heard of the brown-haired boy, who was acting circles around a very talented and very young Jeff Bridges. I watched the movie until it ended, on a freeze-frame of the boys brandishing six shooters in a Wells Fargo bank. Beautiful ragtime piano music played, and the credits rolled.
  19. I found out from the credits that the brown-haired boy’s name was Barry Brown. Curious, I stood and went over to the computer which I had been treating in my depression and isolation as little more than a glorified porn machine, since I no longer used it for writing. I went to Wikipedia and discovered a few things about Barry Brown.
  20. The director Peter Bogdanovich had said that he “was the only American actor you can believe ever read a book,” and that Barry Brown had committed suicide in Silverlake, California, in June of 1978.
  21. I knew why I wanted to commit suicide. I was a failed writer, an ex-soldier whose short stories had netted him about $500 over the course of his short career. But why would a beautiful and talented young man like Barry kill himself?
  22. I kept reading the Wikipedia page, and discovered that the actor Barry Brown was the older brother of James Brown, the same James Brown who had written circles around me a few years ago, when my first short story got published and I still believed in myself, and in life and writing.
  23. I read James Browns’ books, The Los Angeles Diaries and This River. I discovered how Barry had committed suicide (with a shotgun, if I remember correctly), and I also learned that James had to clean up the mess after his brother took his own life, soaking up brain matter with a sponge and putting bloody clothes in a trash bag, or something to that effect. I also discovered, in the course of reading James’ books, that his sister Marilyn had also tragically taken her own life some years after Barry’s death.
  24. There are a lot of reasons that might explain why I didn’t commit suicide, and why I started writing again, but much of it comes down to thinking about myself and my younger brother (who just had a son, making me an uncle), and a lot of it comes down to the books James Brown has written, and the ghost of Barry Brown.

New book out

Our latest title, After the Jump, has emerged from the womb, covered over in a goopy coating of literary afterbirth. If you like books… this is definitely a book.* It has a cover and words and everything. Perhaps you should tell your friends, (if you have any). (Loser.)

41gSEZ-wP7L

 

*Your results may vary. Any rights under this plan shall commence procedures to the shares of the year following governed by giving consent of their satisfaction that one (1) A portion of effecting, or affairs, a Participant, may amend, alter or both parties, that period. (2) The Courts in the business on such Holder is an election under this Agreement may provide that the form of cancellation, however, nothing in this plan or retailers for Invalidity. (3) The Detachable Date, upon surrender for such Holder as instructed by the Stock already owned or more warrants alone upon the case may elect to make any Participant.

Obligatory Thanksgiving Post From Your Pals at Paragraph Line

Pop Thanksgiving Quiz!

Q: Did President Truman pardon a turkey?

truman

A: No. Not the man who dropped the bomb. He most definitely did not pardon a turkey, not after vaporizing two cities filled with The Enemy. What’s not shown in this photo is Truman whipping a straight-razor out of his pocket and slicing the throat of this bird, then rubbing the spurting turkey blood all over his face and screaming out the battle cry of Battery D, 19th Field Artillery: “Fuck all of you! Fuck you all!” And then there was the cackling. The hideous cackling. Secretary of Labor Lewis Schwellenbach had a gripper on the spot and died next to the twitching turkey carcass. 

Now we shall take a moment to say a prayer that turkeys can fly.

Done a-prayin’? Good! Mainly, what I’m thankful for is that we have the best Congress that money can buy. If I was German, though, I’d be thankful for Heino.

What’s the real meaning of Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown? Why, it’s commerce, you blockhead! Remember: If you don’t participate in Black Friday, our annual patriotic orgy of consumerism, Jesus will appear in a pancake and smite you.

Johnny Rotten

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction. I prefer my truth to be unsullied by facts. But another autobiography by John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten, the hero of my youth)? Count me in! The Guardian has a review ready for your perusal.

What was the home life like, Johnny?

His mother, he says, suffered several miscarriages: “It’s quite a thing to carry a bucket of miscarriage – and you can see the little fingers and things in it – and have to flush it all down the outdoor toilet.”

Any other traumatic experiences?

The most moving passages in the book describe how, at seven, he contracted meningitis (from rats), endured a long coma, and lost most of his memory. “I hadn’t forgotten how to read, yet I couldn’t talk – language was gone,” he says. When his parents came to take him home from hospital, nurses and doctors “told me that they were my mum and dad, and I had to believe them”.

More at the Guardian.

Namedrop-A-Rama

If I had a nickel for every 1980’s/1990’s vintage literary name DARCEY STEINKE drops in this remembrance about BARRY HANNAH, I’d be as wealthy as STEPHEN KING by the end of the article.

Reminds me of the time I was hanging out with LLOYD BRIDGES on the set of Sea Hunt, when JACK WEBB came by to complain about the noise coming from the set of Have Gun Will Travel. GENE RODDENBERRY shouted, “I love you, Lloyd!” and said that he wanted to cast him in a new show he was writing that was tentatively called Wagon Train in Space. We all laughed when a young JEFF BRIDGES performed a little jig…

Yo, fatty! When you gonna finish them books?

His Majesty, Lord Puddin’ Pop

Fantasy gasbag George R.R. Martin complains about being famous and the high demand for his next book at the Guardian. His fans actually have the gall to want to take selfies with him! Oh, tsk, tsk, swords and dragons people!

…he recently snarled “fuck you!” at a questioner who queried whether, as a 65-year-old with a high body mass index, he was sure he could complete the last two books.

Don’t they know how very taxing it is to write 100,000 words about people in chain mail riding from one town to another all while having conversations in tortured English? That stuff doesn’t just write itself, kids.

I recommend that all of his fans gather outside his estate in New Mexico and protest him instead of immigration. (Sample Sign: Spit out that cookie, and finish the book!) If he emerges, don’t forget to whip out your iPhones and take a picture with him. Then hand him a bottle of Glucerna.

A literary triumph from ‘the next great American writer’

I subscribe to things. That’s what I do. When I was promised free books by Netgalley, I subscribed. I had no idea that I was about to be blessed with an email offer to read “a literary triumph from ‘the next great American writer.'” Oh… my… God.

Not only is Benjamin Whitmer “‘the next great American writer'” but, in the lede of the email, we’re told that he’s written his “literary triumph” “in the tradition of Cormac McCarthy and Larry Brown.”

At first, I thought it was some hack publicist at Simon & Schuster hanging this albatross around the dude’s neck:
“Hey, he writes about rednecks… let’s compare him to Larry Brown and Cormac McCarthy! Hell, let’s say he’s better than Faulkner!”
“Faulkner?”
“Ah, forget it. Let’s just stick with Brown and McCarthy.”

But visit his website, and behold! He’s wallowing in his hubris there. Why, he’s up for all sorts of Frenchie awards: Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, Prix des Balais d’or 2013, and Le Festival International du Film Policier de Beaune. Fancy!

My novel, Shake Loose the Dust From Thy Shoes and Trod Off On a Vast Country Road in Search of Whiskey and Meaning: An Allegory, is better. My protagonist, Toad, has syphilis AND a meth addiction. Toad keeps his girlfriend, Rose, locked up in the bedroom during the day. She doesn’t mind. Toad and Rose beltwhip each other for fun before heading off to the Pentecostal church to speak in tongues. Then she heads over to the truckstop to do some light whoring before Toad clubs her customers with an ax handle. The bodies of dead truckers are stacked like cordwood beneath the floorboards of their shotgun shack. The sheriff comes by on occasion to scratch his head at Toad’s collection of big rigs, parked higgledy-piggledy on his weed-choked lawn next to his collection of lawn jockeys and rat-infested living room furniture. The couple finally gets caught in the act, and Toad and Rose end up being electrocuted together (she sits in his lap, just like in that Bruce Springsteen song!).

My novel won the Prix de Pain au Beurre et du Vin from the Ligue Française des Intellectuels at their annual conference in the Gare du Nord rail station in Paris. I wear the medal around my neck while I write. It’s as big as a dinner plate. The reflection off it once brought down a small aircraft, setting its wing on fire.

I AM MELVILLE! Who are you, Whitmer? Larry Brown? Cormac McCarthy? I am HAWTHORNE, fucker! And TWAIN! With a smattering of Thomas Wolfe, Katherine Anne Porter, Robert Penn Warren and Tennessee Williams! But mainly MELVILLE! Fall on your knees before my GODLIKE PROSE! Tremble!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must enjoy my favorite beverage–a mixture of Jim Beam, Southern Comfort and Rose’s Lime Juice served in a one-quart Mason jar, best served cold with a half-dozen hand-rolled, shag-tobacco smokes while singing the Carter Family’s “Worried Man Blues.”

 

The History Of A Dog. Written By Himself, And Published By A Gentleman Of His Acquaintance. Translated From The French.

100 Actual Novel Titles from Real Eighteenth-Century Novels as Presented by the Good Fellows at The Toast, being a Blog Presented Through the Complex of Websites Known as The Internet as Translated by Google, a Company That Doth Claim to do No Evil.

And good day, sir! I said, “Good day”!