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.

Guest Blog at Wordstock Festival

I will be giving a reading and doing a workshop at the Wordstock Festival in October.  Leading up to that, they asked me to write a guest blog for their site, which you can find here:


I’m really excited to be a part of one of the  most exciting literary events in Portland.

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:  http://crimealwayspays.blogspot.com/2011/08/ya-wanna-do-it-here-or-down-station.html

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.”

R.I.P. Newton Thornburg

I just learned of the passing in early May of author Newton Thornburg, probably known best for his novel CUTTER AND BONE.  There is a longer article about him here at The Guardian.  When I was soliciting authors for blurbs, I found him in the phone book and wrote him a fan letter not knowing that his health was in decline. I hope that he knew that he had readers that were incredibly thankful for his contribution.

CUTTER AND BONE is one of the finest examples of California crime fiction that the last century had to offer.  I wrote this review for Goodreads, which does little to do the book justice:

A powerful book that needs to be rediscovered. The depth and originality of the characters is truly remarkable.

While often categorized as a crime novel (which it is), that is a far too simplistic classification for the book. Crime drives the story in a number of different ways, but that is true with plenty of “literature” that isn’t grouped in the slums of genre work.

The moral questions and gray areas of life that give the crime novel its greatest thematic potential (and so often fall short in execution) are explored to their fullest in this often jarring novel.

Never predictable, always interesting, and never pandering. To successfully tell a story filled with amoral characters and bad choices, and still pull off empathy and intrigue is a hell of an achievement.

I just reread my review and it sounds a little hyperbolic (probably all the adjectives, but it deserves the praise). Short version: This is a great read.

Mr. Thornburg’s death is a great loss.  I encourage anyone reading this to find a copy of one of his books.  They deserve continued attention.

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.