Last week I called up Ron Earl over at Shotgun Honey and asked if I could get some promo in for my new novel, HUSTLE.
His answer? NO. Didn’t even think about it, didn’t even take a breath, he just said NO. Then I tried Irvin. Same thing: Flat out NO. (In fact, Chris may have even giggled.) I thought Jen Conley may be more receptive to my plight. “Ron already called me,” she said. She should’ve said Ron already warned me. Another NO. Maybe Erik would give me a different answer. Hell no. He wouldn’t even pick up the phone. Now that I think about it, he may have slipped me a wrong number back in Albany. Fuck this, I decided. These were the guys that published my first crime fiction piece, the ones that first put me on the printed page; I wasn’t going to take the cold shoulder lightly.
I packed my gear—thirty copies of HUSTLE, my Remington pump, a case of Red Bull, a bottle of Jack, and a box of shells—and headed out to their fabled secret lair in West Virginia. It wasn’t hard to find. I just watched for plumes of chemical smoke churning up into the air above the sacred hills that used to be home to the best stills of the worst outlaws in the country. I put my truck in low gear, loaded my shotgun, and took one last hit off the bottle of brown.
After miles of mud and back-road ballyhoo, I found their spot and rode up, ready to kick in some doors and do some shooting, but … the fuckin’ joint had no doors, barely even had walls. This is where the country’s best flash fiction has been filtering through? This is the hallowed hall of acceptance and rejection that so many of the best crime writers submit to? It looked like a fucking meth lab. In fact, except for the pictures of me and Joe Clifford scotch-taped to a makeshift dartboard, it was a meth lab. Not the kind you see in Breaking Bad either, but the real deal. Reggie LaDoux would have been proud of that set up.
I wanted to plead my case, sell some books, get my message out to the street, but all I found were some ancient penthouse magazines, warped vinyl records, and fifty gallons of acetone. No computers, no internet. I wondered how Ron Earl et al. were able to keep up their weekly servings of flash. Then I saw it, the secret to their success: a pile of books stacked in a corner beside a rusted metal device that resembled a meat grinder. Gooey, pulpy paper was being squeezed out of the grinder’s holes. It hit me, that’s how they do it. They’ve been taking the best crime fiction and distilling it down into 700-word bites and serving to America as new. Brilliant.
Well, no way was I gonna let my book, HUSTLE, my baby, fall victim to their scheme. I was such a sucker too; I’d brought a trunk-load of copies of HUSTLE, straight from the Snubnose Press, to use as payment for the promo. All I’d really done was bring fodder for their literary cannon (or meat grinder as the case proved to be.)
It was just as well. To breakdown HUSTLE, a story so sleazy, so explosive, so action-packed, in their pulp grinder would be too explosive—too much for the reading public. It would have blown the lid off their whole scheme. I had half a mind to leave a few behind, let them find ‘em and see what would happen. It’d serve ‘em right.
Instead, I opted for wrecking the grinder by sticking in some Emily Bronte and Dan Brown at the same time. The result? The thing gummed up and pitched off the edge of the bench it was bolted to. I can only guess it was an act of mechanical suicide.
You’re welcome, America. I’ve made crime fiction safe again for all of us.
Now get out there and buy yourselves a copy of HUSTLE.