Category Archives: Crime Fiction

Ray Banks interviews Johnny

First off, if you don’t know who Ray Banks is, you are dead to me. Go out, buy his books (all of them), read them, and then get back to me.  I’ll wait.

While I have found that the crime writing community has been shockingly supportive and inclusive, Ray has gone above and beyond in his support for DOVE SEASON.  Including this interview, in which Ray asks some really great questions.  Check it out at The Saturday Boy.

And if that wasn’t enough, I wrote a guest blog about the 1965 movie, THE LOVED ONE on his crazy-awesome movie site, Norma Desmond’s Monkey.

DOVE SEASON Has Arrived!

My debut novel DOVE SEASON goes on sale today. It’s still hard to believe.

As a writer, I often joke that I have more discipline than talent. I’m the guy who shows up every day. I get my work done and try to maintain a certain level of quality in everything that I produce. I can’t imagine not writing every day, and I try to show respect for the work and my potential readers. But to actually have the book in my hand, to see my first novel out in the world,  it’s an absolutely incredible experience.

I just want to say to everyone that has offered their support, to everyone that has chosen to spend some of their precious time reading my book, and to everyone in the future that picks up one of my books, I am truly grateful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Now back to the regularly scheduled shameless self-promotion already in progress.

Crime Always Pays Interview

Author Declan Burke’s blog CRIME ALWAYS PAYS is an essential resource for any fan of crime fiction.  And although the site primarily concentrates on Irish crime fiction, Declan was nice enough to include me.

For me, it was a real treat.  How often does one get asked what their favorite Irish crime novel is?  I imagine that question could catch a lot of people flat-footed.  I’m lucky I’m a fan.

Check the interview out here:

And while you’re at it, you check out Declan Burke’s new novel ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL.  Declan brings an incredibly original voice (and a very funny one) to the genre.

Portland, OR: Murder By The Book

Great event at Murder By The Book in Portland yesterday.  I joined Shaun Morey, Tyler Dilts and Audrey Braun (aka Deborah Reed) to talk about our books, writing, and a whole slew of other subjects.

If you’re ever in Portland, don’t just go to Powell’s.  Stop in here, as well.  It’s one of the country’s great mystery bookstores with an incredibly knowledgeable and friendly staff and wonderful selection of new and used books.  I always find something I didn’t know I was looking for.

Donald Ray Pollock and the Rural Story

Last night, I was fortunate enough to attend Donald Ray Pollock’s reading of his new novel THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME at Powell’s in Portland.   After reading his short story collection KNOCKEMSTIFF earlier this year, I was an immediate fan.  If you like good writing and an honest portrayal of the hardscrabble, lives that many rural Americans have experienced, it’s a must-read.  Uncompromising feels like a weak adjective, but it’s all I got.

Maybe it’s because I have my ear to the ground, but I’ve been noticing a nice uptick of rural male stories that feel rooted in truth and written by people that know the world.  With my novel DOVE SEASON set mostly in the farming community of the Imperial Valley where I grew up, I’m always looking for writers who get the country right.

When I started my book, I just wanted to write the story that was in my head. Something that was honest and something I knew. And that was the country. When I started to shop it to publishers, I realized that I had hit the trifecta of: working class, rural, and male.  Not what a lot of publishers thought of as their reading public. If the writers below are any indication, I think they’re starting to see how wrong they were. That a good, honest story will always prevail.

So I put a list together. If anyone wants to add to it, I’d love to hear from you.  I’ll start with just five writers and keep following it up, as I keep reading, remembering, and hearing about people bringing the backroads to life.

1. DONALD RAY POLLOCK – One of the things that any writer envies is another writer’s ability to turn off any outside influence and truly write from one’s self.  Mr. Pollock digs deep inside his history and his imagination and offers imagery and morality that a less confident writer would veto. Start with KNOCKEMSTIFF and graduate to THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME.

2. TOM FRANKLIN – Franklin’s Mississippi is as vivid as Pollock’s Ohio. His collection of short stories POACHERS won the Edgar Award and more recently his novel CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER was a Finalist for Best Novel.  Franklin is a compelling story with an eye to the history of the world around him.

3. DANIEL WOODRELL – The author that coined “country noir” to describe some of his novels. Most people will know him as the author of the novel WINTER’S BONE on which the Oscar-nominated was based. Whether in the Ozarks or the Bayou, you really can’t go wrong with these books.  WINTER’S BONE is a good place to start.

4. CRAIG JOHNSON – As the author of the Walt Longmire detective series, Johnson is probably considered more of a straight genre writer, but his depiction of the Wyoming countryside deserves a second look. While the mysteries of his books drive the stories, they are really about the characters and the world. A voice for an often forgotten part of this country.  Start with THE COLD DISH.

5. FRANK BILL – Okay, I’ll admit that I’ve only read a couple of his short stories, but every single one of them punched me in the face, picked me back up, and then punched me again.  His upcoming collection of these stories CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA is one of the most anticipated books of the fall.

As Donald Ray Pollock wrote in the book he inscribed to me last night, “We all got to stick together.”

BookExpo in NYC

Okay. So this blog’s a month late. I’m writing a screenplay and new novel concurrently, so I still haven’t found a way to keep any consistency to this new thing called blogging. If the content is going to be at all interesting, I just need more time. And more interesting. So don’t expect the content to be too interesting yet (How’s that for salesmanship?).


The view from my hotel room

Last month I was in New York for BookExpo America (or BEA for the super-hip).  BEA is this giant convention for publishers, librarians, booksellers, and apparently people that like to sell five-dollar bottles of water. For me, it was a chance to spread the word about DOVE SEASON. It was a 40-hour trip that AmazonPublishing was cool enough to pay for. And I had a blast. Hell, this was the first book signing I’ve ever done and I got to do it in New York, of all places. Here’s the proof.

But for all the feeling like a big-shot aspect of it, the most amazing part was the people I met.  I got to meet a lot of the people that I work with at Amazon Publising who I’ve only communicated with by phone or email. A very fun group. And a whole mess of cool writers.  Here’s me and WAHOO RHAPSODY author Shaun Morey signing each other’s book.

This is the part of the blog where I drop names.  I got to hang out and tool around New York with Shaun, Tyler Dilts (KING OF INFINITE SPACE), Helen Smith (ALISON WONDERLAND), and Charlie Williams (ONE DEAD HEN). As well as getting the opportunity to meet and chat with John Rector, Joe Konrath, Blake Crouch, Cara Black, Duane Swierczynski, Megan Abbott, and more.  Read all their books, they’re all awesome.

I even found some time to hang out and see some live comedy with one of my former screenwriting students, who is currently a producer on THE DAILY SHOW. Let it be known the world over, I take 100% of the credit for his success.  There was too much beer to take photos, but I swear it happened.

I’ll leave you with the worst spelling of my name ever.  This is the driver that picked me up at the airport.  After he dropped me off, I’m pretty sure he was going somewhere to kill James Bond.

If you can’t read it, Shaw is spelled CHAOW.

Later this week, I’ll write about my trip to Santa Barbara where I was a judge at the Reel Loud Film Festival and even gave a speech (which only included one dick joke. I had promised to keep it classy).  I bet you can’t wait.  Chaow!

Why James Crumley is king

I was doing some research on wikipedia, and of course, I got almost immediately distracted from whatever I was supposed to be doing.  I ended up searching JAMES CRUMLEY to see if there were some books that I hadn’t read yet.  I just had to share one of the quotes that they include in the listing.  This is from THE LAST GOOD KISS, one of the best crime novels I’ve ever read.  If you haven’t read it, drop what you’re doing and find a copy.

“Son, never trust a man who doesn’t drink because he’s probably a self-righteous sort, a man who thinks he knows right from wrong all the time. Some of them are good men, but in the name of goodness, they cause most of the suffering in the world. They’re the judges, the meddlers. And, son, never trust a man who drinks but refuses to get drunk. They’re usually afraid of something deep down inside, either that they’re a coward or a fool or mean and violent. You can’t trust a man who’s afraid of himself. But sometimes, son, you can trust a man who occasionally kneels before a toilet. The chances are that he is learning something about humility and his natural human foolishness, about how to survive himself. It’s damned hard for a man to take himself too seriously when he’s heaving his guts into a dirty toilet bowl.”

Damn.  I mean, seriously, damn.  I’m definitely overdue for a reread.

The New Phonebooks Are Here!

The Advance Reader’s Copies of DOVE SEASON just arrived today!

It’s hard to describe the feeling of finally having the book in my hand.  So little about writing actually feels concrete that having a real book is flat-out bananas.  I am obviously at a loss for words if “bananas” is the best I can.

If there are any other authors out there that can describe the feeling of having your first novel in your hands for the very first time, I would love to hear from you.  Or even your tenth book.  The feeling can’t get old.

All this on top of some really awesome blurbs from Charlie Stella and Ray Banks.  Here’s what they had to say about DOVE SEASON:

“Johnny Shaw is a talented writer with a genuine feel for desert speak.  His debut, Dove Season, offers some cross-border issues of the day.  A dying father’s last wish quickly turns into a deadly adventure for all involved.  Shaw has writing chops deserving of future attention.” — Charlie Stella (author of Johnny Porno)

“Johnny Shaw’s Dove Season may well be the best debut this year. It has the warm wit of Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard novels, the effortless cool of Elmore Leonard and just a sprinkling of Crumley’s border dust. Here’s to many more Jimmy Veeder fiascos to come.”— Ray Banks (author of Beast of Burden)

It’s crazy (bananas, if you will) to get this kind of reaction from such great writers.  One hell of a good week.


My Week of Crime

I attended the March meeting of Friends of Mystery in Portland to hear SF-based mystery writer Cara Black talk about her books and Paris. A really fascinating and engaging speaker.  The way she talks about the city makes you want to head to the airport and jump on a plane.  I haven’t read any of the Aimee Leduc series, but I’m going to add them to my voluminous list.  I also got the opportunity to have a nice chat with Portland crime writer Bill Cameron.  A great guy.  If you haven’t read his books, you should take a look. LOST DOG and CHASING SMOKE are good places to start.  He captures the city of Portland really well and it’s hard not to like a hero named Skin.

The next night, Greg Rucka was signing the new hardcover edition of his graphic novel STUMPTOWN at Bridge City Comics. Not only did I pick up a signed copy (look for my review soon), but Greg was generous enough to offer to read an Advanced Copy of DOVE SEASON.  So if you don’t see me touting his blurb in a month or two, you’ll know he didn’t like it.

It got me thinking.  I’ve been writing for a long time, so I have pretty thick skin when it comes to criticism and reviews.  But I have to admit, it’s slightly more nerve-racking to hand your book to people who you have read and admire.  Obviously I want good reviews from other sources, but I don’t know most of those people’s work.  I do want other authors to like it. If they don’t, it’s cool. Chalk it up to a matter of taste. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want them to.

Just finished the book SMONK by Tom Franklin and absolutely loved it (I put a short review of it up at Goodreads).  I might wrong a longer piece on it in the future.  Definitely not for everyone, but if you like gleefully described unapologetic violence and gore, this western is for you.

Until next time…

Crime Writers Rock!


This is the portable model

Over the last few months, I have been contacting various authors in an effort to get them to read an advanced copy of my novel DOVE SEASON for consideration in supplying me with an author blurb.  You know what I’m talking about, those hyperbolic quotes on the back of the book that tells you that the book is awesome and you should buy it.

I sent out emails far and wide, thinking that if I was lucky I would get maybe two or three people to get back to me, let alone agree to read it.  I was wrong, I got over 20 authors to agree to read it.  And the ones that could not due to their schedules, were gracious and full of support and advice.

I have come to the conclusion that crime writers (and a few non-crime writers) rock.

The following list represents a group of authors that displayed unbelievable generosity and support to me.  Not all of them could read the book and I am sure that not all of them will supply me with a blurb.  But all of them welcomed me to the crime writing family.  I’ve read books by all of them and if you’re looking for something to read, pick up a book by one of these writers.  You won’t be disappointed.

Please note: Just because these authors are on this list, does not mean that  they have endorsed my book (many are still in the process of reading it).  I only wish to express my sincere thanks for their generosity and support.