Tag Archives: Events

The Gray Shadow

Hey friends,

What’s been going on? I’ve had a couple of things pop up recently and I wanted to share them with you, but first–a few serious words about facial hair…

I stay fairly clean cut. I shave every other day usually. If I don’t, the grayness of my stubble threatens to overshadow my face in (what I think is) an unflattering way. But the other day, I let three whole days go by without shaving. When I saw my friend Riley at the store he was like, “Whoa! Hey, that looks cool.” 

I trust he was being honest, but still–I feel self-conscious about my “gray shadow.” What do you think?

I keep expecting some former football player to come up to me with that Just For Men darkening gel and say, “Your beard is weird.”

I don’t think I’d ever use that stuff, you know, but I’ve wondered if it would work or if I would look like that weird pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.

So, unless people tell me they want to see more of my gray shadow, I’ll be doing this on a regular basis…

Anyway, now you know what I obsess over when I’m having writer’s block (which I’ve had for the last month or so).

But before I had writer’s block (or “writer’s blah”) I did write a few things that recently popped up. Check them out. A piece of reportage for Robert Lopez’s No News Today and some fresh word collage action at the great new Unshod Quills web site.

In other news, I’m part of the advisory board for this exciting new small press community called The Lit Pub. They have good taste and the books they’ll be talking about here are going to be ones you’ll remember and love.

In upcoming event news, I’ll be part of the awesome Mortified shows happening Thursday and Friday night at the Mission Theater. If you haven’t been to one of these shows (in Portland or another city), they are a lot of fun.

Later this month, I’ll be teaming up with one of my favorite Portland musicians and reading two musical narratives at Entertainment For People at the Woods (can’t tell you who this “secret guest” is just yet because she has another show that week). Catch this rare collaboration on June 22nd in Portland and then June 24th in Seattle at Theater Off Jackson (two shows, two cities!).

I wanted to end this post with a photo that I took last year when B. Frayn and I were down in Houston. I just randomly found it still on my phone.

Thanks for riding by.

Friday the 13th: Our New Lucky Day

Hi friends,

Today is a really exciting day here at Sampsell/Future Tense headquarters. Actually an exciting week in general. It started off with two readings–Monday night at Powell’s I read at the Plazm Magazine anniversary party. Tuesday night, I read at a kick-butt Smalldoggies reading at the Blue Monk. Smalldoggies also published this chapter from my novel-in-progress on the same day.

Wednesday, I had this fun essay (about a short story I love) published on the Noo Journal blog.

Then today, I had a double doozy! I published an essay about The Cars comeback on The Rumpus (one of the best websites out there) and I announced the newest Future Tense acquisition on the Future Tense Books site. Chloe Caldwell–welcome to the family!

Chloe Caldwell, New York Girl

Now, it’s time to relax a little (just a little) this weekend.

Thanks for tuning in.


How many staples have I stapled in twenty years?

See you tomorrow night at Disjecta. 8pm. It’s free. But the memories will be priceless. There will be cake, drinking, music, readings, bike tricks, and a lot of famous sexy writers.

Also, there will be T-shirts for sale, with our new mascot, The Beavegator (use your imagination). I would post it here but it’s too scary. Actually, the file is too big and I can’t figure out how to make it smaller right now.

Anyway, see everyone at the party!

*poster by Riley Michael Parker

What Have I Been Doing?

Hey friends,

It really seems like this whole year has been nonstop action. After all the touring and attention for A Common Pornography, I thought I’d be settling down a little, but I still have a few big readings coming up. Check the events page for that list. We got libraries, benefit readings with rap groups, a huge Future Tense Books celebration (!!!!!), and a big stage appearance at Wordstock.

In other news, I feel comfortable enough to mention that I’ve now dove headlong into a new book. This one is shaping up to be a novel though in some ways it may resemble the short chapter style of ACP. I guess that’s just the way I’m writing these days. Some day I might write something with long, sweeping chapters, but for now, this is the method I get most excited about. I’ll sit down and write anywhere from 75 to 300 words most of the time. On good days, I’ll write 300-1000 words. I don’t think any chapter of this book will be longer than two pages. In some ways, I’ve modeled it after the great Joe Wenderoth book, Letters To Wendy’s. It’s about the ups, downs, joys, kinks, secret thoughts, and buried insecurities of a relationship that has endured seven years of beautiful and painful moments. Parts of this book, tentatively titled Fissions, will appear this fall in Fugue magazine (from University of Idaho) and a few other places. I’ll keep y’all updated on this thing but I’m aiming to have it finished and sent to my agenting and editing peeps next spring or summer.

What else? I wrote about Padgett Powell on the LA Times book blog

I just published a new chapbook on Future Tense–a totally beautiful and mysteriously sexy thing called Ventriloquism by Prathna Lor

I designed(?)/built(?)/obliterated(?)/tarnished(?) a Moleskine journal that will be auctioned off at this benefit for Write Around Portland on Oct. 2nd. You can go see the thing I made at Design Within Reach. I mostly just did some word collage and found photo stuff…

I have new stories in the newest Ne’er Do Well and the Portland Review special anthology, 20 Minutes in Portland (with cover art by Matt Bors)…

That’s it for now. Hope your summer was as good as mine (the Southern tour was awesome, plus I got to see Pavement and The National play beautiful outdoor shows in Portland).

Talk to you later.

Tour Diary: New Orleans and Oxford

Frayn and me at Rowan Oak

It’s been a few days since I blogged about our travels and a lot has happened. If you’re on Facebook you can see some photos there too if you’re curious.

Right now, we’re in Memphis, hanging out at the Peabody Hotel checking our Internet stuff (free wi-fi) and watching the ducks get escorted from the famous lobby fountain to the roof (a beautiful and comic spectacle).

Here is what has been happening the past couple of days/cities:

We got into New Orleans on Saturday and checked into the Hilton by the French Quarter (Thanks, Rupert Murdoch!). We had just enough energy to go for a quick stroll through the quarter. It was pretty rainy that day so the streets were wet but spirits were still hot and high. It was the first time Frayn had ever been there and we got dinner and drinks to celebrate.

The next morning, our friend Pia Z. Ehrhardt picked us up and gave us a tour of her city. It really is one of the best cities in the country, even with the struggles and aftermath of Katrina and the levee disaster. We drove through the lower 9th ward and saw some of the destroyed homes and trashed lots nuzzled right next to the new (and odd) “Brad Pitt houses” that he’s had built down there. We drove through the beautiful city park, next to the museum and by the school where Pia teaches. Then she took us to her super sweet home and fed us red beans and rice.

frayn, me, and Pia

From there we went to the Maple Street Bookstore. My agent, New Orleans superhero Michael Murphy, met us there and I read a few chapters of ACP to a small crowd (Houston–you no longer hold the record for smallest turnout!).

We spent some time with Michael and went to Octavia Books and signed a stack of books there too (if you live in NOLA, go to either of those stores to get your signed copy!). We went (of course) to Cafe Du Monde and later we stumbled on a place called Marigny Brasserie for a delicious dinner.

The next night we made it just in time for my 5:00 event at Square Books with Claudia Smith and Mary Miller. They do a cool thing there, where they have drinks (wine, whiskey, and ginger ale!) and snacks out for people before the readings start at 5:30, so it was nice to relax a little and catch up with Mary and Claudia and meet the super cool folks at Square Books, Michael Bible and David Swider. Not to mention, Lynn Roberts, the store manager.

Claudia started things off with a few stories from Put Your Head In My Lap and then Mary Miller read a great story from Big World. We took a quick drink break before I was to read and then before I went up to the podium–I shit you not!–John Grisham walked out with store owner and former mayor, Richard Howarth (who is also a legend around Mississippi). “He doesn’t usually do this,” Howarth started. “But John Grisham wanted to share some words with y’all.” It was a pretty odd moment, a lot of people looked at each other, thinking it was some sort of prank. But then we realized it really was John Grisham and he stood up there and read for ten minutes from his new book, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer. This whole experience was also strange because I had, just an hour or so beforehand, been trying to point out Grisham’s giant house off the side of the highway to Frayn as we entered Oxford.

When Grisham was done reading, Howarth invited Mary and Claudia and I up for a photo op. “So people will believe you when you say you read with John Grisham,” he said. The bestselling autho did stick around til the end of the reading, but I’m not sure if he bought any of our books. 🙂

Miller, Sampsell, Grisham, Smith

When I got up to read after that, I joked, “I called John earlier today to see if he wanted to open up for me but I didn’t think he’d show up.”

The whole experience of reading at Square Books was great. Local writers like the awesome Tom Franklin and the hilarious Jack Pendarvis were also there, along with a nice (and surprisingly big) crowd made up of younger student types. I guess summer school still packs them in at Ole Miss.

After the reading we went with a gang of folks to City Grocery for drinks and then Ajax, one of the great eateries in the Square. After dinner, we loaded straws up with toothpicks and shot them into the ceiling, as the tradition allows. I got about six toothpicks embedded in that sucker.

We stayed for two night with Tom Fanklin and Beth Ann Fennelly, in their luxurious guest house. Breakfast was had at Big Bad Breakfast, a place where all the food are named after southern writers and books. We had dinner at another great place next door to that called Snackbar. And we visited Faulkner’s place, Rowan Oak. All in all, it was a GREAT time in Oxford and probably the highlight of this trip so far.

My breakfast at Big Bad Breakfast

We’re now here in Memphis for a quick stop and then off to Atlanta tomorrow to hang with Blake Butler, Jamie Iredell, Amy McDaniel, and our friends there. More travel adventures and pics to come. Thanks for reading!

Tour Diary: Houston

Well, it finally happened. Frayn and I pulled up to Kaboom Books last night just in time for our reading with Kirby Johnson and Ryan Call and we were the only ones there. I’ve been fortunate to have good luck with my touring thus far, getting good crowds at every event. The previous low turnout was at Books Inc in San Francisco when 15 people came.

It made me feel a little worse last night because the store owners actually had bottles of wine and some snacks spread out on a table. We talked with Kirby and Ryan and eventually a few other people came straggling in. A half hour later, we started the reading and there were 12 people to see us. We read on the back patio. The weather was a little more wet and cool than Austin since it had rained earlier in the day. We were quick and efficient with our readings. Kirby read a funny spoof about Extreme Home Makeover, Ryan read a story about a kid struggling with baldness, and Frayn read a tale about a horny couple looking for someplace to have sex. I finished things off with the ACP chapter about taking nude photos. It turned out to be a pretty great event.

Kirby Johnson

Ryan Call

B. Frayn Masters

Everyone there was really nice, including some dude named “Drummerpoet” who recited a poem to us after the reading. It was about how much he liked TV when he was a kid and it rhymed. It was pretty smooth actually.

About six of us went out afterward and got some drinks and grub at a place called Onion Creek, which was pretty good. I got something called a Frito Pie (ironically, without onions)–it was a mess of chili on a bed of Fritos and cheese on it. For some reason, I thought there was supposed to be a hot dog under all that, but I was mistaken. There was no dog. 😦

After that, we went to a famous place downtown called La Carafe, a cash bar with a lot of years behind it. Not to mention, a gigantic boar’s head above the front door.

The topics of discussion included hunting, cockroaches that hide in ivy, the wonders of Galveston, why some people have southern accents and some don’t, and the dumb controversy about the recent Tin House submission rules.

At the end of the night, we returned to the home of Gene Morgan, who’s letting us stay here while he and his family is away. Thanks, Gene!

Ryan is coming back over to pick us up soon and we’re going to explore the city more with him today. Some places called The Breakfast Club, the Rothko Chapel, and the Texas Junk Shop are on the list of places to go. Until tomorrow…thanks for reading.

Tour Diary: Austin, Texas

Last night, Frayn and I read at House Wine here in Austin, Texas. It was a fun outdoor reading with a good crowd and the host was Tyson Midkiff, who also runs a series called Whiskey Rebellion (“Where we drink as much as we can tell and try to read,” he says). Unfortunately, two of the evening’s readers had to cancel–Elizabeth Crane was sick and Alex Lemon couldn’t make it from El Paso. Too bad since I’m a big fan of both of those folks, especially Alex, who I’ve never met before and whose memoir, Happy, I just finished and loved.

The night started off with a dramatic air battle between a hawk and a bunch of grackles. The grackles were actually bullying the hawk as it flew overhead. Maybe they were protecting a nest or something. One grackle tried to headbutt the hawk out of the air. I didn’t know what a grackle was but I was told they’re like pigeons, but dumber and more squawky. Click here for more information on these fearless, witless creatures.

Our host read a story and was followed by Jeff Chan, who read about staging a fake fight on a radio show.

My lovely lady and travel companion, Frayn Masters, then read a story from her new iPad. She wasn’t trying to look like an asshole, she explained. She just wasn’t able to print up her story beforehand. As our surroundings got darker, it proved to be a useful tool, its screen illuminating her face like someone telling a campfire story with a flashlight. It was great.

I wrapped up the night with a few bits from ACP, getting a nice response and even selling a few books. Internet lit star Tiff Holland was in attendance and it was fun to talk to her for a good spell also.

After the reading, we went across the street and got some delicious cheap burgers (and fries and vanilla shake) from a place called P. Terry’s. It was tasty (don’t worry–we’re going out this morning for those breakfast burritos or whatever it is people keep raving about).

We drove around town a little and parked by the capital building, which is huge (not surprising, I guess, since this is Texas). There was a big crowd of young, attractive bike riders gathered on the front steps taking a group photo. We wondered if they were going on a naked bike ride. It probably would have been a pretty sexy naked bike ride (not like the ones you usually see–sorry, naked bike people). Overall, it does seem like people are maybe more attractive than usual here. More fresh-faced. Earlier, at the reading, I had commented about how most of the girls ordering wine looked to be about 19. “I’m sure there are some fake IDs going around,” said Tyson.

After a good night of aimless cruising, we took our rental car (a white Toyota Camry) and headed back to our friend’s place (Amelia Gray, thank you for letting us stay here while you’re in New York!). Her cats, Turk and Pub, clamored for my attention as I rested on their reclining chair and Frayn played around some more with her new iPad.

We’re heading to Houston later this afternoon and reading tonight at Kaboom Books with Ryan Call and Kirby Johnson.

Did I mention it was hot and humid here? And apparently it’s storming in certain areas. Hope we don’t get blown off the road. More tomorrow, I hope! We’re staying at Gene Morgan’s house in Houston.

Some Shenanigans

Hey folks–a couple of fun things coming up. First off, I’ll be hosting a reading on July 2nd at Ampersand.

This all came about (or was INSPIRED by) Evelyn Hampton’s brain-meltingly good book of poems, “We Were Eternal and Gigantic.” I was so transfixed by the oddness of her unique world (I read a bunch of it while doing an info shift at work) that I quickly tracked her down and saw that she lives in Seattle. I emailed her to see if she’s come down to read here and she said yes. In fact, we’re getting her here before she goes off and moves to Rhode Island (read: Brown).

Phew! That was a close call.

I’m so glad I’ll get to meet her and see her read. And she’ll be joined by Emily Kendal Frey, whose new book, The New Planet, might be her best work yet. Not only that, but Bryan Coffelt, Future Tense intern/editor/designer will be reading from his new chapbook, The Whatever Poems.

I’m so excited to be hosting these fine folks that I have written some strange (maybe misguided?) long-form story intros for each person. They involve Bryan’s dad’s tattoo, Emily’s connection to NASCAR, and Evelyn’s mechanical arm (body part subject to change). It will be interesting to see how it all goes down. And oh yeah–there will be free beer. And hopefully if it’s nice, we can open up the big garage door/window thing.

In other news, I wrote this little list of awesome things I’ve recently read, for Impose!

And to convince you even more of my love for reading, see this Laughing Yeti post!

Pay attention!

And we’ll see you on July 2nd.

Noir, One Year Later

On May 1st of last year, the Portland Noir anthology came out from Akashic Books. It took a couple of weeks for people to notice it at local bookstores, but when it did, it really took off. Portland Noir has been one of the top 20 best-selling fiction titles at Powell’s every month for a year now–a fact that kind of shocks me. I knew people liked noir and I knew the locals like to read about themselves and their fair city, but the number of books we’ve sold at Powell’s is far more than anything else I’ve been involved with.

There were a lot of highlights in this book’s life, especially during some of the events we had around town. One of the fun ideas I had around this time was to write fictional noir-style introductions to each person at these events. I’d read them in a pseudo-gumshoe kind of voice while Miles Davis’s Round Midnight played behind me. Just for fun, I thought I’d post all the intros here. I suggest playing the Miles while you read them.

Thanks to all the writers. I’m so glad that this book has had such a great run in Portland.

A promo poster made for the book by Gigi Little.

From the Powell’s Book Release Reading:

Chris A. Bolton. This is the kind of guy that makes you suspicious. Why does he have a middle initial and what does it stand for? Adolf? Anarchy? Abraham? The mind races with possibilities. Like many shady characters in Portland, he works in comics, and if that’s not bad enough, he makes his living as a blogger. Who ever heard of such a thing? For a long time I thought he was just another bald guy with a smirk, trying to pull a fast one on anyone he could. But then he sent me this story, The Red Room. It’s a story that takes place at Powell’s City of Books. It involves blackmail and cops—the dumb kind of cop. But this story ain’t dumb. I read it and I said to him, “Not bad, kid. Not bad at all. You really hit me in the stomach on that one. Now here’s your 200 bucks. Get lost before I get really sappy.”

Luciana Lopez. Now here’s a lady on the run. I’m not exactly sure what she’s done, but it turns out she’s leaving the country in just a few short hours. I thought she had a cushy job at the daily paper, writing about pop stars and local bands. I know this kind of chick, I thought. She writes about hip hop but knows her way around a 12-string guitar too. She uses those mysterious dark eyes to get backstage and finds out the inside scoop before anyone else. She’s the kind of woman who plays the players. But now apparently, she’s gone too far. Her story in this book is called Julia Now and it uncovers the motive behind a St. Johns murder in the 50s. That alone could get her in trouble but then she makes it worse by dissing the Shins. But at least she was considerate enough to spare the Decemberists.

Jonathan Selwood. He’s what you’d call a big box of trouble. Some people say he’s a novelist, but to me he looks like a bouncer at the Boom-Boom Room, the kind of guy who’ll make you scream until his favorite stripper smiles at him just right. His fuse is so short that it looks more like a piece of lint. He’ll blow up in your face like a cheap firecracker. His story, The Wrong House, is about a ruthless crook with a crowbar and an arm with so many holes it looks like a cheese grader. It’s the kind of story with language so off-color that you could only read it out loud to a deaf person. With details so vivid though, I suspect that it’s all gruesomely true, and for that, I have to give the thug some respect.

From the Portland Noir reading and party at the Blue Monk:

Karen Karbo. It’s hard to mention her name without someone getting all bent out of shape. Apparently, she’s quite the grifter. And not the kind that walks around with an empty gas can asking for spare change. This dame brings down people and businesses that were thought to be untouchable. Her chosen method: blackmail. Who knows if she does it with a flip of her hair, a batting of her eyelashes, or a slip of her little black slip. But somehow she gets the job done and she gets the photos to go with it. Close-ups, profiles, still lifes. Secret little photos worthy of framing. Yeah—a good framejob is one thing you’d call it. Apparently, she tries to lead a straight life too, as a writer. She’s darn good at that as well. Her story, The Clown and Bard, is a rope-a-dope full of lies, deception, and mail order brides. She writes from a man’s perspective and it’s a convincing trick, but then again, that’s her bag—she’s convincing.

Justin Hocking. Some see him as a cultural emissary, the head honcho at someplace called the IPRC. They make it look like some kind of commie printing place, where hippies and hipsters go to make their flimsy propaganda, but I know better than that. Go there during the off hours and you’ll run into all sorts of scum. From tweaked out gangsters to old strippers with pupils bigger than their pasties. I got it on good authority that IPRC actually stands for International Pharmaceutical Redistribution Center. Mr. Hocking, the guy behind this shady organization has written a story that takes place partly under the Burnside Bridge. A place where skaters get out their aggressions on the curved concrete and any new kid that slips into their scene. Burnside Forever is a cautionary tale and I caution all of you not to forget it.

Justin Hocking and me at the Blue Monk reading. I wore a tie to every event. Pic by B. Frayn Masters.

Monica Drake. I’ve got enough dirt on this woman to bury her three times. 1985: As a teenage follower of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, she poisoned a salad bar in The Dalles, causing an outbreak of Salmonella. 1992: After the Portland Trailblazers lose the NBA championship to the Chicago Bulls, Drake wins a huge bet through her Las Vegas bookie and the following week gives half the money to Clyde Drexler. 2003: a Dear John letter is found in the L.A. home of dead rock star Elliott Smith revealingly signed “Monica D.” Calling this lady a murderer, cheat, and heartbreaker is only the first layer of this onion. The more you dig in, the more it burns your eyes.

In her story, Baby, I’m Here, she follows a sad sack bunch of burnouts as they take a little field trip to visit a friend at Good Samaritan Hospital. And the shape that these people are in, they may as well reserve a bed for themselves.

Gigi Little. The story goes that she’s a former clown who just happens to be good with some rope. She was also an author of children’s books. That is, until she became disgruntled and left those days behind her. She also left behind three dead editors and their appreciation for happy endings. The weapon that they never found—six feet of nylon rope. When her face started popping up on federal posters, she went underground and changed her name. She thought Gigi Little sounded pretty harmless. She cut up her credit cards and moved down into a secret corner of the Shanghai Tunnels until it all blew over. In an odd way, her story, Shanghaied, is a homecoming of sorts. But in her story, she makes herself out to be the one you feel sorry for. Of course, we can usually figure out when someone is playing us for a fool. Usually, anyway.

Tahoe Jackson. (Tahoe was our musical guest of the evening and she not only turned the event into a party but she also turned the room into a soul inferno) I thought this lady would be the only touch of class on this stage tonight, but then I got the scoop. It turns out that she was hatching a master plan to throw Beau Breedlove off the Sellwood Bridge before he went off and blabbed all over the KGW news. Why would she do that, you might wonder. Well, I’ll tell you why. This babe is on the record as a full-fledged Sam Adams stalker. That’s right. It doesn’t matter to her that he butters the other side of the bread, she still has chocolate and champagne sent to his home every other week since 2006. In 2008, she went as far as to send him a life-size blow-up doll of her likeness. When Beau started causing a fuss she put a target on his pretty little behind and had him silenced before he said too much. Unfortunately, the damage was done, and poor old Sam still wasn’t falling for Tahoe. That is until she started camping in his front yard and serenading up to his bedroom window. Now I’ve heard that Sam and Tahoe have been spotted together having happy hour nibbles at the Slow Bar. It just goes to show you what a good woman and a good song can do when there’s a lot of passion to throw around.

Tahoe Jackson serenades me at the Blue Monk. Pic by Leann O'Rourke.

From the reading at Looking Glass Bookstore:

Ariel Gore. Even her name has the kind of bizarre twist that’ll make your stomach turn. Ariel: sounds pretty and soft, like a mermaid and it actually means “the angel of healing”…but then her last name is Gore. As in “blood and gore.” Makes me think of a dame with Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. And although she’s written several books, I think this is the first time she’s actually written about murder, and in her story, Water Under the Bridge, she writes about it with such pizzazz that it’s like she’s been waiting all her life to get the rage out. If you see her sometime at Dot’s, just make sure you don’t talk to her about your art.

Floyd Skloot. What can you say about the guy? He’s been playing the game for a long time and just when you think he’s knocked out, he’ll throw down a vicious hand stacked with kings and queens and take all your money. Sometimes he plays the sap, breaks out his cane, regales you with stories of his baseball dreams…but I don’t trust the guy as far as I can throw him. And he’s a small guy so I could probably throw him pretty far. His story, Alzheimer’s Noir, could make you cry if you were a big softie but it’s also full of uncertainty, false memory, and double talk. A sticky web of mystery that’ll make you hallucinate like you smoked a funny cigarette while hiking through Oaks Bottom for the first time. It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for the guy.

Megan Kruse. Now here’s a lady who will do whatever it takes to get what she wants. You might think she’s just a lonely soul with mommy and daddy issues, but she’s a master of the slow seduction. Once she’s gottcha, you’ll be stuck to her like glue, afraid to stray too far because her charms—and her whiskey—will make you feel like you’re addicted. Not just to her smile but also to her tears. That’s right, buddy. You’ll be in deep. Lost in a dark well without a ladder. In her story, Lila, she tries to play her romance games with a stranger at the Tik-Tok. But it turns out she has some competition, and it’s the kind of competition that makes you do things you don’t want to do.

From the reading at Murder By the Book:

Bill Cameron. Here’s a character if I ever saw one, and believe me, I’ve seen plenty. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Bill without his trademark fishing jacket. It’s almost like he sleeps with it on, going through all the pockets in his sleep like a nervous twitch. I think I have a good idea what’s in those pockets. He’s not foolish enough to carry bullets in there, but he’s got cyanide capsules disguised as aspirin in one pocket; A dart-blower that looks like a Sharpee in another. Hair spray that’s really pepper spray, one of those Kung Fu throwing stars, a mini cheese grater, some brass knuckles, and perhaps his secret weapon, razor-sharp fish hooks. But you know what—he rarely has to use any of this stuff. Cuz this guy’s sly. In his story, Coffee, Black, he writes himself as a retired cop, staking out a new Starbucks store that’s been the target of regular vandalism. His caffeinated investigation takes him on a wild goose chase that turns as chilling as a hazelnut frappuccino. I don’t know what’s more frightening in this story—the anarchists or the insurance agencies.

Kimberly Warner-Cohen. She may look small but she’s someone you don’t want to mess with. I saw her take down a sumo wrestler once with a good flying chop to the throat. Before she moved to Portland, she lived in New York where her street name was K-rock Man-Slayer. She published a novel a couple of years ago called Sex, Blood, and Rock and Roll. When I read it I thought it was non-fiction. I was scared for my life. In her story, People Are Strange, takes your emotions and tosses them around like a rag doll. One moment you’re experiencing phantom twin syndrome, longing for the sibling you never knew you had; the next minute you’re surrounded by naked ladies and beer stench in the darkness of a strip club-shaped like a jug of moonshine. But in that darkness, you make a discovery, one that fills you with joy for a moment, until it’s snatched away with brutal coldness and disregard. It’s the kind of moment where decisions are made and sometimes you have to live…or die…with the results.

From the Wordstock Portland Noir P:ear benefit reading:

Jess Walter. To tell you the truth, I’ve always been a little suspicious of the guy. Who else do you know spends most of their time in Spokane, Washington, cranking out award-winning novels while pretending to be a normal family guy? What’s he’s hiding from out there? Once I was on a greyhound bus and I heard some tweekers telling stories about the potent crystal meth that comes out of that town. They kept talking about some meth-chef called “J-Dub” and I deciphered their ghetto pig-Latin to mean Jess Walter. Especially when one of them pulled a beat-up copy of Citizen Vince out of their backpack. For his story in Portland Noir, good ol’ J-Dub slips into the persona of an Oregonian editor, slyly manipulating the daily horoscopes to harass an ex-girlfriend. It’s a tale that asks us the timeless question: What love isn’t crazy?

Zoe Trope. Here’s a case of the hunted becoming the hunter. When Miss Trope published her high school memoir, Please Don’t Kill the Freshman, a lot of her teachers were none too happy with the skewering they got in her book. They tried to blackball her and they gave her mountains of extra homework. They toilet-papered her house and crank called her cell phone. They hung chicken feet from her locker.

And then a funny thing happened. These teachers mysteriously started showing up to school with black eyes and broken bones. Some of them disappeared for days on end. One of them was found tied up in the back of a swinger’s club with a vibrator throbbing on the floor nearby—the poor trigonometry teacher was in tears. People started pointing fingers at the teenage Trope but she was long gone by then. Moved to Ohio to get a “higher” education. And no teachers messed with her there.

Back in Portland now, Trope’s been playing nice, innocently studying to be a librarian and writing stories like the one in this book. It’s about girlfriends, orgasms, creepy guys on the Max train, and of course, revenge.

Dan DeWeese. Back in the 90s, he was known as “Danny Boy the Weasel”—the most unassuming but dangerous bookie in the Portland gambling scene. He’d take your over/under, your knockout predictions, your trifectas, your college basketball brackets, baseball bets, what-have-you, and he’d turn them either into big happy cash for you or a night sleeping on the couch with a take-out pizza box for a pillow and an angry wife.

There were others that tried to move in on his turf, tried to pass out their calling cards at the Rialto or buy you a drink at the Portland Meadows, but they quickly disappeared. “The Weasel got ‘em,” you’d hear people say with a shake of their head. “Bit his nose clean off his face,” they’d laugh. And those stories aren’t just myth. 1994 was the busiest year for nose surgeons in Portland history.

But now Danny Boy is flying straight. Ten years clean from Gamblers Anonymous, he’s now focused on writing and recently even sold his first novel to HarperCollins. His story in Portland Noir, The Sleeper, is a haunting tale about a newspaper delivery guy trying to come to terms with the shambles that his life has become. Set in the early morning quiet and gloom of Highway 30, the narrator’s thoughts are sure to take over your head and in the end, you won’t know whether you’re winning or losing.

Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones contributed a comic for the anthology so they never read at any of the events. But if I did, I would have pointed out that Jamie is a convicted dog stealer and arsonist (he once burned down a whole Safeway) and that Joelle is a world-class pool shark with a Swiss bank account and a collection of severed fingers in the glove box of her car. It doesn’t get more noir than that.

Southern Sizzle

Hey y’all,

I am in the middle of setting up some southern road trip readings for July. Take a gander at the Book Tour page and see if I’m coming your way. I’ll be reading with my fiance, B. Frayn Masters, at most stops. So far I’ve got Houston, New Orleans, and Atlanta set. Still working to confirm Austin somewhere (the great Amelia Gray and Elizabeth Crane are helping us iron something out there) and I am also holding out hope that we can do something in Oxford, Mississippi. I actually see that Mary Karr is reading at Square Books the same night we’re there. Should I crash the Mary Karr reading? Ha!

Now here’s the catch. This is going to be an expensive trip. We’re flying to Austin and then renting a car for about ten days. Does anyone want to sponsor my tour and give us money to cover these expenses? We could put an ad on our rental car or something. Imagine, a big RC Cola ad on the side of our vehicle. Or Billie Jo’s Computer Repair. Johnny’s Bar-B-Q?

Thankfully we have some places to stay while on the road.

Can’t wait for that southern sizzle and hospitality.