The Pre-Publication Jitters

The pre-publication reviews of Cry Father have been good, thank God. Kirkus Reviews and Shelf Awareness, in particular. Which has been a big help when I’m awake nights hoping everybody doesn’t hate it.

I always forget how much sleep I lose when I’m waiting on a book to hit the shelves. I try not to worry about it too much and just keep plugging away at whatever project I’m working on, but there comes a day when you realize you ain’t gonna be getting anything done for the next few weeks. That’s when you give it up and start taking real long walks and spending more time at the firing range.

I’m there.

The thing is, I know what I write isn’t for everybody. Not by a long shot. I actually have a very specific reader in mind, and he dictates more of my creative life than I should admit. He’s a guy I used to work with in a factory about 12 years ago. He was somewhere in his forties, had a couple of kids somewhere who hated his guts, and had just got out of prison a year or so prior.

As far as I could tell the only two interests he had were beer drinking and reading. He read probably twice as much as I did, and he read everything. But he was a vicious critic, and he absolutely no use for most of what was out there. While we were on the assembly line, we’d talk books for hours, him just savaging everything he considered bourgeois, boring or full of shit. Which was, of course, most of the stuff I was reading at the time.

He’s who I try to think of when I get worried.  Whatever anybody says, I think Ray’d like this one. That’s what I tell myself.

Of course, I have no idea if he actually would like it. I haven’t seen him in more than a decade. And, to tell the truth, I’ve spent so much energy rewriting him into my ideal reader and inner critic that God only knows if he’s anything at all like I remember.

But it does help me sleep.

Sort of.

(You can win a copy of Cry Father from the Goodreads giveaway here; you can read an excerpt here.)

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Blood Meridian and Intermediate Novel at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop

If anybody’s interested, I’ll be facilitating two sessions at Lighthouse starting in mid-August. The first is the 8 Week: Intermediate Novel Workshop, meeting on Saturday mornings, and the second is the 4-Week Reading as a Writer: Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, meeting on Monday evenings.

I’m really excited for both, of course, but I’m a little out of my mind for the Blood Meridian session. Anybody who knows me has probably heard a little of my rap on that book, and I’ve been having a ball reading and compiling notes in preparation.

Like this passage, from Richard Slotkin’s Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860:

In American mythogenesis the founding fathers were not those eighteenth-century gentlemen who composed a nation at Philadelphia. Rather, they were those who (to paraphrase Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!) tore violently a nation from the implacable and opulent wilderness – the rogues, adventurers, and land boomers; the Indian fighters, traders, missionaries, explorers, and hunters who killed and were killed until they had mastered the wilderness; the settlers who came after, suffering hardship and Indian warfare for the sake of a sacred mission or a simple desire for land; and the Indians themselves, both as they were and as they appeared to the settlers, for whom they were the special demonic personification of the American wilderness. Their concerns, their hopes, their terrors, their violence, and their justifications of themselves, as expressed in literature, are the foundation stones of the mythology that informs our history

. . .

The voluminous reports of presidential commissions on violence, racism, and civil disorder have recently begun to say to us what artists like Melville and Faulkner had earlier prophesied: that myths reach out of the past to cripple, incapacitate, or strike down the living.

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Cry Father Pre-Order Information and an Excerpt

Hundreds* of you have been asking where you can buy Cry Father, so here’s some links. (And if you’re on the fence, the marketing folks have put together an excerpt that you can read here. It’s the first chapter.)

* Two.

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Eric Spicer Indicted on Firearms Charges

Some of you may remember a post I wrote about one of my best friends, Paul Schenck, who was killed by the police last year. And that shortly after I wrote that initial post, the officer we were told was in charge of his killing, Eric Spicer, was fired. Which after I posted about it, inspired somebody who claimed to have inside information to email me anonymously, telling me that Spicer actually wasn’t in charge and was trying to save Paul’s life from a bunch of gung-ho SWAT guys who were intent on gunning him down.

Well, that led to a short exchange with Spicer himself – initiated by him – who told me that he couldn’t speak publicly, but seemed to want to clear the air . . . somehow. Which was followed by a couple of local Dayton television personalities who called me and told me they were running down the story too.

And then nothing.

A couple of months of nothing.

Until recently, when this news broke from WHIO:

A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted a former Greene County Sheriff’s major for allegedly forging Sheriff Gene Fischer’s name to buy a machine gun.

Eric A Spicer, 44, of Beavercreek, was fired March 6. He had been on paid leave since an officer-involved shooting in Yellow Springs last July.

The seven-count indictment alleges that Spicer forged Fischer’s name on documents he provided to a firearms dealer in New York in 2009. The paperwork claimed that the machine gun would be used for law enforcement purposes, according to a release from Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and Michael Boxler, the special agent in charge of the Columbus division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The ATF seized the machine gun in March during a search of Spicer’s home. Spicer allegedly told the ATF that he worked for the Jackson Twp. Police Department.
“I’m saddened by the events,” Fischer said. “We have cooperated with the ATF and will continue to do so.”

Now, I have no idea what the hell’s going on. Some are saying they find the timing of this suspicious, to put it mildly. All of the sudden it comes to light that Spicer has broken a firearms law 5 years ago? And it all hinges on the word of Sheriff Fischer, who, according to many, is setting up Spicer as a fall guy in Paul Schenck’s murder? The same Sheriff Fischer who, as I’m hearing it, is scared shitless over lawsuits that could arise from said murder?

For my part, I don’t know. I’m not in any of these guys’ heads, but when things fall into place that look just a little too pat, I tend to wonder. And it doesn’t help that everything I’ve heard since my last post on the subject is that the Greene County Sheriff’s Office has managed to blaze new ground for cronyism and corruption.

What I do know is that I really, really wish that Eric Spicer would speak up. If he’s got something to say, if he really is being set up, now’s the time to make some kind of statement. Otherwise, it’s pretty difficult not to take him as just the rottenest apple in this particularly rotten barrel.

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Clete Purcell (described beautifully here) on why he carries a gun, from James Lee Burke’s Light of the World.

She looked at the shoulder rig he was wearing and at the snub-nosed blue-black .38 he carried in a nylon holster. “Why do you carry that?” she asked.

“Because not to carry it is to say I believe in the world. I don’t believe in the world, at least not the one I’ve seen. I don’t like authority, either. Anyone who wants to control other people is out to fuck you over. So I carry my own authority.”

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New Cover Art for Cry Father

The folks at Gallery decided to change up the cover art for Cry Father. Here’s the new pass:

I think I like it a lot. By way of comparison, here’s what they initially had:

Come to think, I like that one, too. But I’m not a graphic designer, so I leave it to my betters. Either way, I couldn’t be happier that they’re thinking about it so much, and working so hard on the book. They’re a hundred percent behind it, and the whole process has been the kind of thing you dream of. Or don’t even dare to dream of, because it doesn’t seem like it could ever really get that good.

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