Monday, January 24, 2011


I know the name "Proof" comes from somewhere else when it refers to a single run printing of a potential book, but it seems so apt that it also serves as proof a book is real. Maybe it's just one of those serendipitous language miracles.
Either way, the "proof" of the new book, Borrowed Trouble, arrived in the mail today. That can only mean release is imminent. Prepare yourselves for the promotional onslaught, or the best onslaught I can manage on my own, not being a PR person or one who even much enjoys thrusting myself into the spotlight.

As an opening salvo I offer what others have said about the book. The people we hand selected to read an advance copy of the book were all so generous with their time and their words we thank them very sincerely. Frankly we were blown away by the nice things people had to say. If all goes well there will be more to come. Not a bad way to start off though, is it?

"Meticulous historical detail slams you into the hard boiled world of Ray Ward and Dean Fokoli as they use hard fists and cold steel to knock the shiny off Hollywood's glitter. Borrowed Trouble is like a talented fighter – powerful, quick, and hard to put down." 
Rebecca Cantrell, award-winning author of A Night of Long Knives
"For a knockout punch of hardboiled, look no further than Borrowed Trouble, sequel to the period noir One Too Many Blows To The Head. You'll want to go the distance with Ray Ward, a tough-luck protagonist who knows how to hit where it counts!" 
Kelli Stanley, award-winning author of City of Dragons
"Everyone has a short list of books that stayed with them long after they turned the last page—add Borrowed Trouble to mine. Eric Beetner and J.B. Kohl have vividly re-created 1941 Los Angeles, ripping apart the city’s glamorous façade to reveal the cold noir heart beneath. With sharp writing, head-spinning twists, and pair of protagonists haunted by memory and loss, this is pulp fiction at its finest."
Hilary Davidson, author of The Damage Done
Borrowed Trouble is the hard hitting sequel to Kohl & Beetner’s noir knockout debut  One Too Many Blows To The Head. It grabs you by the lapels from the first page and drags you out of the murky corners of Kansas City’s underbelly and into a glittering Hollywood where the bright lights cast sordid and sinister shadows.”
Paul D. Brazill, crimewriter, The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime
“An intriguing tale of two outsiders thrust unwillingly into the dark side of 1941 Hollywood. A seamless collaboration, rich with explosive dialogue and scenes so vivid, Kohl and Beetner takes the reader on a compelling journey. Rich with prose that packs a powerful punch, Borrowed Trouble is not to be missed.” 
Deborah J Ledford, author of Staccato and Snare
"It’s 1941 and noir’s hot new duo, Kohl and Beetner, return with another sure-fire winner. Borrowed Trouble is a relentlessly tough and lean novel, packed full with memorable characters. United by their troubled pasts, the unlikely pairing of PI Dean Fokoli and troubled boxing promoter, Ray Ward, head from Kansas City to Hollywood to untangle a dark tale of greed and exploitation, but ultimately one which offers them both a shot at personal redemption. They don’t write them like this anymore. Jump onboard now."
Nick Quantrill, author of Broken Dreams

The two sister books meet each other for the first time. Quite a pair. If this writing thing all goes south I might try my hand at book jacket design. I feel quite proud of these. Once again kudos go to Marc Sasso who painted the cover of One Too Many Blows To The Head and put up with my stifling of his creativity by giving him a reference photo and saying, "Do this but with blood." He is a much more talented illustrator than this. Don't believe me? Click that link up there. 
And to the anonymous painter of the image that adorns Borrowed Trouble, thanks for you and all your ilk who provided a look to the sordid words of pulp fiction. I tried like hell to find out who it was but couldn't. Either way it is an homage to the pulps of the past and a perfect image for the book. How did you know when you were painting it 50+ years ago?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

We've been Nooked

At long last One Too Many Blows To The Head is available for the Nook, Barnes and Nobel's e-reader. And it's only $4.99!

 Is it disingenuous of me to tout the digital release of a book while only recently lamenting the passing of my favorite brick and mortar bookstore? I think not.
The two outlets should be able to coexist. As much as I admire the convenience, price and ease of e-readers (though I do not own one myself)  they will never be a substitute for the staff at an indie bookseller. If all the big B&N or Borders went away I honestly wouldn't care much. To me, they are as impersonal as shopping at Amazon or Smashwords. I'll reiterate the quality of the staff at indie bookstores and their help and expertise in helping book customers. I speak as someone who didn't read much at all for years and years simply because of the intimidating nature of a giant bookstore with 12 sections and no actual human touch to help me find my next favorite book. I would walk in and stare, dumbfounded, at the selection - each with a blurb touting it as the greatest book of a generation - and just walk out empty handed.

It was A Simple Plan by Scott Smith that got me back in. It was exactly what I wanted and I finally had a touchstone. Something to say to an actual person who knew his or her stuff, "I liked this. What else ya got?"

Indies, from Kate's Mystery Bookshop in Boston (RIP) to The Mystery Bookstore here in LA made all the difference for me and helped me get back into reading.
Let me also throw my hat in the ring for indie record stores too. I've been in many more record stores over the years. I've even played gigs in them. There is just nothing like a fan who wants to spread the love of a find they made. Be it books, albums, comics, art house cinemas, whatever.
That said (again) go ahead and snag a copy of the book if you've got a Nook. And tell me how it looks.

Borrowed Trouble in mere days! (I hope)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Another one down

I've been reading a lot so far this year. One airplane trip and I'm well ahead of my reading goals so far. But today I'm here to add to my contributions to the Criminal Plots reading challenge. This time out I tackled the 'Book that has been turned into a movie'. It came easily as my choice, The Ice Harvest, was one I was planning on reading anyway.

I've heard a lot about Scott Phillips and, as it turns out, we now share an agent so I was eager to read his work. I saw the movie when it came out a few years ago and I liked it quite a bit. One of those tiny crime films that doesn't try too hard to be a son of Tarantino or an homage to Film Noir. Just a solid cast in a dirty story about a really bad (Christmas Eve) night.

Now, I'm not one of those types to go on about how the movie is never as good as the book blah, blah, blah. Having written for both and with movies really being my first love I think they are apples and oranges and should be evaluated as such. Like the book? Great. Don't judge the movie by the book. Different animal. It's like saying you like dogs if you own a Great Dane but then when someone gives you a Chihuahua you complain that it just isn't the same. No. It's not. Dogs, yes. But different things entirely.

That said, I enjoyed the book greatly, despite and in some cases, because of the differences. And it didn't detract from my liking of the film either. The Ice Harvest is a quick read but due to my normal lunch-hour-only habits it took me a week, but this would be a great all-in-one read. It was a slow build. An interesting one, but slowish in a good way that adds to the overall pace. The writing style is great though. No fancy flourishes, just straightforward prose and believable action. Nothing is out of place in this book.

Of course, having seen the film first, I couldn't get the image of John Cusack out of my head for the lead character but it didn't detract too much. I like Cusack so that helped. All in all The Ice Harvest would be one I definitely recommend to anyone who likes a tidy noir tale with sharp characters and some unexpected twists. My greatest endorsement? I went out yesterday and bought another Scott Phillips novel.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Losing a legend

Facebook has been abuzz today with news that the venerable Mystery Bookstore in LA will close its doors at the end of the month. It really is sad for Angelenos and Mystery Lovers in general. People all over the country, and truly the world, shopped at the store which became a real hub of the mystery community in Southern California.
For me, they were the first people to be unbearably kind to me in the mystery world. It was a trait I have seen replicated over and over but Linda, Bobby, Emily, Ingrid, Graham and the staff were so good to me you'd have thought I was James Ellroy in there instead of some punk who sold maybe 20 books through them (and trust me, I bought a hell of a lot more)
I thank them first and foremost as a reader. I got so many great recommendations! Nearly all the signed editions I own came from there. I feel like my drug connection is being sent to prison. What will I do?

I won't lie that among my first flurry of thoughts was, "Oh, crap. There goes my launch party for Borrowed Trouble." and, yes, that does depress the hell out of me. Not that I can't try to find somewhere else to have one, but that there is no where else I want to have one.
After what could have been a complete debacle on the launch party for One Too Many Blows To The Head, where we had no actual books for the signing, the staff turned it into one of the best lemonade-out-of-lemons experiences of my life. I knew I was among friends.
So many little things . . . Linda I bonding over our personal lives, and only learning about our shared connection through discussion of a Marcus Sakey book.
Being invited to the Mystery Bookstore booth at the LA Times Festival of books to sign alongside some of my heroes. To have Bobby and Linda (and Kirk and Pamela) treat me like an author, not just a small press author, but a real writer was so incredible.
All the other writers I have met there and become genuine friends with. Stephen Jay Schwartz, Christa Faust, Brett Battles, Kelli Stanley, Rebecca Cantrell, Sophie Littlefield, Gar Anthony Haywood, Holly O'Neill and recently Benjamin Whitmer and John Rector. I know I'll see them all again but I know it will be less frequently.
Seeing our book on a bookstore shelf for the first time ever. Every writer remembers that.
Bobby sending a copy of our book to Italy to a reader who didn't know squat about it but Bobby knew their taste and thought they'd dig it (reports were they did)
Signing the jail registry alongside all those great names - one page away from Mickey Spillane for @%$# sake!
No matter what I go on to achieve as a writer, The Mystery Bookstore will always be like a first love.

Too often in the gnashing of teeth over the new world of books and publishing the focus is on how the publishing houses will do, or not do, in a digital age. To me, today's news is the biggest tragedy. To have an indie bookstore that has no only helped me a writer but as a reader suddenly vanish is devastating. I wish I could have done more. Sold more books for them. Bought more books from them. Convinced more people to stop by and buy a book for a gift.
This is the most direct impact I have felt of the changing book world and the biggest difference for me will be that my life as a writer and a reader just got a lot more impersonal. The relationships I made there are valuable to me and I hope the community doesn't fall apart without a center to orbit around.
Time will tell how it really impacts us here is Los Angeles and I know most places never have the luxury of a store like the Mystery Bookstore at all.
I can only thank them for years of service to me as a reader and for their friendship and kindness to me in my still young adventures as a writer. They will forever be the one that got away.

Me at The Mystery Bookstore for my first ever reading at the launch party for One Too Many Blows To The Head. This will have to suffice as my first and last appearance at the store.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Reading challenge #1

So I agreed to blogger Jen Forbus' 2011 reading challenge over at Criminal Plots. There are several categories and this book could have gone in two for me but I'll put it in the "A Different Country" because I'm fairly certain I'll read something that is the first in a series this year and when I really looked at it I don't read a whole lot set in other countries. But I guess that's the point here. Anyway, the reason I read this one was because it is a series and I like the author. So here goes:

The Guards by Ken Bruen.
I'd heard so much good stuff about this book I feel like the last person in America to actually read it. I have liked Ken's writing but it struck me that I have read mostly his co-written works. Tower with Reed Farrel Coleman, the books with Jason Starr, Bust, Slide and The Max. Rilke on Black was the only standalone of Bruen's that I'd read and I liked that one too. Time to jump in to the Jack Taylor series.

At an appearance promoting Tower Reed Coleman said he changed his style a little to fit with Bruen. After the first draft and reading his part up against Ken, Reed went back and started plucking out words to tighten the language and make it a little more clipped. It worked in Tower.

Now, I try hard to never say anything bad about a book because you never know when it will come back to haunt you. I am also a firm believer that there are no bad books, only books that are not right for a particular reader. Even Dan Brown (who I've never read). Even The Bridges of Madison County (which I have).
That said, The Guards didn't do it for me. Not a total failure on my part but it just lacked a certain something that would make me seek out the others in the Jack Taylor series. Certainly nothing that would turn me off Ken Bruen in the future though. I still want to read back through more of those early books.

Mostly it was that clipped and staccato language that Coleman mentioned. It is much more aggressive in The Guards. For me, it was to the point of making it hard to dive deeply into the story. Things happened in fast motion. It became exhausting. A part of it too may have been the lingering on Taylor's alcoholism which is just something I don't enjoy reading even in the best scenario. I know, I know - why even read Noir fiction?
Bruen's plotting is excellent and all that but the sparse language and the short bursts of scenes and chapters left me standing outside the story in a way. And Taylor as a character was not someone I felt I wanted to spend a lot of time with. Hell, he doesn't even seem to like being with himself.
In the end The Guards is hardly a bad book and Bruen is still a hell of a writer in my opinion. The style he reached for in this one just didn't do it for me. But The Guards is an award-winning classic already so I am obviously in the minority.
So there. I was honest. Not easy for me. So far, that's the most challenging thing about this reading challenge. Thanks Jen. (sarcasm font, where are you?)
Oh and the country is Ireland. Bruen is Irish. So there.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Making a scene

Last night I wrote a scene where one of the main characters force-feeds a crack pipe to an uncooperative fellow, making him chew the glass until he's spitting blood. Sometimes writing is just too much fun.

It was one of those late addition scenes too. Not in the outline until I sat down at the computer late last night. I was about to go into a scene I wasn't 100% behind and in thinking about it the day before and during the day yesterday I hit on a logic issue. It was one of those, "Well, why wouldn't they just go here?" kind of things I hadn't thought about before but any reader would realize very quickly. Yeah, why wouldn't they go talk to those guys if they're looking for the missing man? It made total slap-the-side-of-your-head sense once I thought of it. So after a few small adjustments to previous chapters I sent my characters off on a new mission and hence the resulting crack pipe feast happened.

Just goes to show you that writing cannot be defined by time at the keys. I "write" quite a lot before I've even set down the first word. Thinking about the story, hearing the characters speak in my head. That is all writing too. It is letting a story come to you and then pushing it along when it stalls out. Much of this happens when I've gotten into bed and turned off the light. Much of it happens when I'm driving to work. You have to be prepared to stash away ideas as they come.

As for adjusting on the fly, I always find once I have a solid structure it is the small detours that usually add the most flavor. For me anyway, I can only take these side trips once the route is already established. Hopefully it turns out better than the time my Dad took my sister and I to see Lincoln's cabin en route from Iowa to Connecticut and it turned into a 6-hour detour to see - a log cabin. For a 9-year-old kid this was hardly worth it. Still haunts me.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 off to a great start

So nice to be on a 'best of' list for a book that is technically not out yet (but kind of is on the technical side. I'll never understand this business) The talented and generous Hilary Davidson, she of The Damage Done, one of the most talked-about book this year and a damn fine read (would I give one to my sister for Christmas if it wasn't?) included Borrowed Trouble in her year-end wrap up. She was kind enough to blurb an advance copy and even got to see the lost chapter 30 (which we subsequently tossed out and replaced in whole with a new scene)
See her comments on Day Labor, the blog site of Crimefactory.

I'm officially on the calendar for the first appearance in conjunction with Borrowed Trouble at The Well Red Coyote in Sedona, AZ. on Feb 26th at 2 pm. Come on by! I'll be in discussion with Deborah J. Ledford about our books and about the editor/writer relationship.
The Well Red Coyote is a great indie bookseller co-owned by author Kris Neri. And a chance to make it back to Sedona? Hell yeah. Haven;t been there since my film screened at the film festival. We loved it then. Hoping like hell I can make it a full weekend with an appearance at The Poisoned Pen too but I guess I should let them know I was planning that. I hoed to have ARCs to send out by now but I may have to plead and beg without them. If all goes well I'll have actual books any day now. I've said that before.

I'm at work on a new novel and the first week has been very productive with over 10K words so far. We'll see what happens next week when I'm back at work. So far I'm digging this one.

Looking forward (sort of) to starting up the Borrowed Trouble promotion machine in the next few weeks.