Congratulations to Frank Loose. He posted a review of a Stark House
title on Amazon.com and he gets to choose the Stark House book of his
choice, free of charge.
But wait, there's more...
still would like to see more reviews out there from our readers, good,
bad or indifferent. In keeping with this month's Charlie Stella
feature, we're going to hold another drawing, this time for an
AUTOGRAPHED COPY of Charlie's book, Johnny Porno.
Same rules apply, just post a review,
the contents entirely up to you and
not influenced by us in any way, and send us an e-mail letting
where we can read it.
For every review you post, send an e-mail and we'll
put another entry in the drawing. After a few weeks, we'll pull a name
at random and you will get this, the collectible Johnny Porno version.
So send a link, your name and address to us here after
you post your reviews, and we thank you for taking the time to share
your thoughts on our books.
Alley / Winter Girl / Strictly for the Boys by Harry Whittington
One is a
Lonely Number by Bruce Elliott / Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott
back list title:
WILD TO POSSESS / A TASTE FOR SIN by Gil Brewer
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This month's newsletter features
a new interview with the one and only Charlie Stella. But after you
delete your e-mail, remember that all of our past newsletters are
posted online here.
a quick reminder that the
next book out of the block is our first James Hadley Chase double, and
it should be coming in from the printer any day now. If you've never
Chase before, seriously, you'll wonder why never have. He's a
park-your-rear-in-your-favorite-chair, have a beverage near at hand,
and stay up to the dark hours turning pages kind of guy. As much fun as
you can have with a book. In a literary way, at least.
in July, we have the long-awaited eighth novel from one of our favorite
writers working today, Charlie Stella. He's back after 2010's Johnny Porno with the follow-up to his very first novel, Eddie's World. So we asked Charlie to talk a bit about his life and work and plans for his future projects. And here is what he said....
You've made no secret about your past life as a bad boy dabbling in the
life. Had you not put yourself through those experiences, how
would that have affected your later career as a writer? Would you
still have written? Would you have written something other than
Charlie Stella: I
started out writing plays (and continue to write them). It is
relationships I’m most interested in writing about (and I’m currently
having one hell of a struggle doing so in the form of literary
fiction). Literary fiction (and I hate typing that) is what I
prefer to read. I can only take so much of crime fiction (reading
or writing). I used to bang out first draft crime novels in three
months and now I’m easily sidetracked by projects that provide more
interest (whether they have to do with the MFA program I’m enrolled in
or writing plays). I think learning what I did on the street
probably made it much easier for me to go in a mob fiction direction,
but I have no doubt I would’ve continued hacking away if I hadn’t
experienced a street life. I probably would’ve stayed where I
longed to be, either in the theatre or writing literary fiction.
Crime writing, once I had some experience with the characters in that
world, made it easier for me to put novels together.
SH: You've told me that George V. Higgins' The Friends of Eddie Coyle is your favorite crime novel. That book's influence can clearly be seen in your first one, Eddie's World.
Was the naming of your character, Eddie Senta, a tribute to Higgins'
Eddie Coyle? What other ways were you influenced by that
book? Who else influenced you?
My Eddie Senta was a far more decent person than Eddie Coyle, but I bow
to Mr. Higgins at every turn. He was pure genius. I’m a
hacker. It’s interesting you bring up that influence because it’s
what I’m now trying to fight off in my literary attempts. For me,
Higgins wrote as close to documentary style writing as it gets.
There wasn’t much character introspection, certainly a ton less than
what Elmore Leonard allows his characters. It was rapid fire in
the moment dialogue that gave you everything you needed to know about a
character in one or two sentences. Speaking of Eddie Coyle and
what a prick he actually was: “Fuck you and the horse you rode in
on.” A line he tells some woman he “thinks” was hogging a public
telephone because “he” needed to use it. In crime fiction, to be
able to deliver a character through dialogue, without delving into
Freudian fucking backstory, is a blessing and a gift. Higgins
could also describe something with repetitive pronouns. He did
this. He did that, etc. As awkward as it might appear, it
was extremely effective. Also, his ability to describe something
... let’s put it this way: I used to imagine it was Walter Winchell
narrating the way he did in the old Untouchables series. Just
perfect. Several other writers influenced me early on, Elmore
Leonard for one, but more as a reading fan than a writing style.
I never get the very flattering comparisons. Leonard is much
smoother and much more tame. I think other writers influenced me
through reading more than writing styles. That list is way too
long to type out.
SH: Other than The Friends of Eddie Coyle, what other crime novels would you put up in that rarefied air?
CS: A few James M. Cain novels certainly (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce, Double Indemnity ... American Tabloid (James Ellroy) ... more recent crime novels that really wallop me are those by Lynn Kostoff (The Fall and Late Rain were both wonderful), Craig McDonald’s Lassiter series and his latest, the standalone, El Gavilan), Vickie Hendricks' entire collection remains one of my favorites, and last year PM Press had two authors, Michael Harris (The Chieu Hoi Saloon) and Benjamin Whitman (Pike)
who rocked me pretty good with their work. Newcomer Dana King, in
my opinion, may have the goods on all the mob fiction writers out there
(myself definitely included). He’s put together one hell of a
series. He’s one polished gem just waiting for a break.
terrific blog lets your fans and readers know what's going on with you,
including your participation in an MFA program. How has this
schooling affected your writing? How has it affected your reading?
hate the distinctions forced on writers (genre vs. literary, etc), but
my love is drama and writing about relationships. My love of
reading is also focused more there than crime. That said, I am
struggling mightily to overcome some crime writing habits and learning,
learning, learning. The MFA program I’m in, Southern New
Hampshire University, has been a godsend and a wonderful
experience. The director of the program at the time, Robert
Begiebing, assured me they wouldn’t just “take my application fee” and
give me a fair reading. I was paranoid about being a crime writer
applying for an MFA. Bob retired the semester I began
and Diane Les Becquets has taken over and it’s just been
great. Truly. I went in thinking I had to because I’d soon
need a career change due to all the outsourcing; get the paper and try
and find a teaching job. Now I could care less about the
career. I’m revitalized as a writer; excited again to be
challenged. I’m one competitive MF’er with myself (seriously,
it’s a sickness; I’m currently on Atkins and writing down everything I
eat so I can have at least one less carb per day--I’m down to
4.4). It’s a challenge and what I’ve learned so far I probably
couldn’t have handled 10, 20 or 30 years ago. The mentors in the
program all have a lot to offer. The reading is pretty much on
line with what I prefer, although some of the authors I hadn’t heard of
before (because I was essentially a philistine most my life), have been
incredible finds. I love the program and only wish it were six
semesters rather than four (at the same price, of course). I am
seriously considering applying for a PhD but only for the experience of
the process. There are enough Doctor Moe, Larry and Curly’s in
also mentioned that non-genre writing has a lot of interest for
you. How do you see that coming out in your future works?
I'm of the genre-scmenre school of good writing is good writing,
entertaining writing is entertaining writing, and I have great
admiration for folks who read graphic novels, pulp reprints,
Dostoevsky, Ken Bruen, Cormac McCarthy, Daphne Dumaurier, and Charles
Dickens with equal relish, though with different flavors. How do
you feel about genre labels and what borders you may intentionally
cross in the future? Or do you think the fine arts curriculum
will help more to elevate your crime fiction?
with you, brother. Good writing is good writing. I’ve read
literary fiction that makes me gag and crime fiction that does the
same. Some classified as crime genre writers can write circles
around some classified as literary authors (for this reader).
It’s the reader and his or her tastes that count. As I mentioned
earlier, I’m having to break some habits I’m very comfortable with—my
new challenge. I’m okay with trying, but I may not stick to
it (using a variation on my crime writing style). I’m not in the
program to be a better crime writer. I’m pretty confident now as
a crime writer. Trying for the Higgins-like documentary style is
a polar opposite to what I’m trying to do in the program. It
isn’t easy. Nor should it be. My crime fiction is
entertainment, pure and simple. I make no grandiose Higgins-like
boasts. Higgins hated being pigeonholed as a “crime
writer.” He claimed he wrote “books with crimes in them.” I
hope to break into the literary world, but I’m in no rush and I don’t
kid myself. It will be a genuine writer’s struggle. I think
I have a lot to offer, but whether or not I can present it in a manner
worth publishing is something else. And let’s not forget bookscan
numbers. If I do get something done in the literary world, unless
it’s a small press that ignores the numbers big publisher can’t ignore,
I’d have to change my name (something proposed twice by bigger houses
with two of my crime novels for the sake of distribution). Crime
fiction will have to deal with Charlie Stella. If it means enough
to me, should I ever manage to break into the literary world, I’ll use
my grandfather’s name.
SH: Johnny Porno,
your seventh published novel, came out to almost universally positive
reviews. Yet it is quite a different book from your earlier
ones. It's denser, less dialogue driven. Was this a
conscious stylistic choice on your part?
of it was the time I took to write it (relatively longer than usual)
and some of it, I suspect, had more to do with the historical basis
that required more narrative than I usually write. I know one guy
who wasn’t crazy about it. He’s one of my bestist friends
now. I call him coach.
SH: And now Rough Riders, out in a few months, is a sequel to Eddie's World and is set ten years later, in the current day. The style of Rough Riders is closer to the Johnny Porno style than how you wrote Eddie's World. Was this a purposeful decision, or does it more reflect where you are as a writer today?
I have no idea. I think it has to do with time again. I
wrote RR’s 10 years ago and an offer was made by Carroll & Graf
immediately after my editor there read it. Being the genius
businessman I was then (and am now), I turned the offer down and let it
sit. I went back every once in a while to play with it, but then
I decided it was time to get serious with it again and I gave it
another go. I’m not sure it reflects where I am today.
Maybe as a crime writer. Maybe. The follow-up novel I hope
to do with Stark House Press will not have as many subplots as my last
two, although there will be another sizeable cast.
people inevitably ask you where you get your ideas from, do you tell
them "off the back of a truck in Jersey" or are the old days better
left in the past? Until people like me crassly ask about them.
write from revenge. In all of my crime novels you’ll find a
revenge theme in there somewhere (so I suspect something triggers
something in the vast space between my ears). Eddie’s World is actually a fictional account of something I did from revenge. Some of Jimmy Bench-Press was lifted from my street life (none of the violence in either book, by the way). Charlie Opera
was born from a vacation in Las Vegas in the midst of a bad
marriage. The Venetian was being built at the time and I went for
early morning walks past it every day and came up with the
mugging. From that I turned it into various revenge themes.
Cheapskates was born from the
line that popped into my head one day: “They nothin’ but
Cheapskates.” The book was written around that line and some
things that had gone down in my past personal life. Shakedown
took place where I used to live in Little Italy and that was born of a
situation I once had with a loan customer I thought had worn a wire on
me. Mafiya was born of
a prior novel that didn’t go anywhere but that started in Starrett
City, Brooklyn. I saw Spring Creek as a good venue to find a
bunch of floating bodies. I also wanted to play with
Russian-American dialogue. Johnny Porno was born from watching the documentary, Inside Deep Throat.
Going back in time was great fun and I may do that again someday.
I mean, the mob is pretty much falling apart these days. The 70’s
was their prime so ...
talked a little bit on your blog about what you're working on
next. What would you like to say about that project here, and
how's it coming along?
does a guy like me not write a novel about a guy hiding in the witness
protection program while taking classes in an MFA program? I
decided to go back and take Jimmy Mangino off the shelf; he’s done his
ten years for murder and is about to get out. He wants his due
(since he was made the day he was arrested). The Vignieri’s are
tipped off by a crooked cop (what, another crooked cop?) about a guy in
witness protection on the island off the New Hampshire coast where the
MFA program spends a week each summer. They offer Jimmy an upped
position if he takes care of the guy. You’ll have to buy and then
read the book for more than that.
And that's it. You can get a sense for Charlie's direct way of speaking here, and for more like it, check out his blog, Temporary Knucksline. You'll have to figure out the title for yourself.
And the usual
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