Monthly Archives: January 2016

Podcast – VODKA O’CLOCK 1601

Welcome to the first episode of VODKA O’CLOCK for the new year! It’s my honor to welcome back a sweet friend, brilliant writer, and one of my personal life gurus, JOSH STALLINGS.

Download on iTunes, Stitcher, or listen here.

WRITING THE BOOKS

Josh’s writing career began with ALL THE WILD CHILDREN (a memoir) and the MOSES MAGUIRE trilogy. All four books buried the readers in deep dark crime stories, both real life and fictional. The lives all touched by sex, drugs, guns, and lots of dysfunctional families/relationships.

Trivia: the character Sam’s appearance and her feelings on body image came from a conversation Josh and I had a long time ago.

His latest book YOUNG AMERICANS, while still including sex, drugs, and glittery rock ‘n roll like David Bowie, is a masterpiece of medium-boiled crime fiction that’s suitable for a late teen and older audience. Sam, never call her Samantha, comes from a family of thieves. She formed her crew at a young age. When she’s burned by a lover and needs to pay off his debt, Sam reunites the crew and takes on a few new members. Josh was told he couldn’t write (re: sell) a coming of age story with a heist plot. He challenged that and succeeded.

“To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming of age crime story.” ~Josh Stallings

The three female characters at the heart of Sam’s crew: Sam, Candy, and Valentina are some of the most vibrant and refreshing female characters I’ve read and fell in love with them the same way I did with the women of Sarai Walker’s DIETLAND. The character of Sam feels so much lighter and more in charge (even when in danger) than the sex workers in his Moses Maguire series. PS – Valentina is a phenomenal transwoman of color.

We had a great part of our discussion addressing book cover and poster design. https://www.pinterest.com/theamberlove/cozy-mystery-covers/

Will we ever see Josh’s zombie cozy mysteries or Viking cozies? Maybe someday we’ll get that lucky!

“I really believe that fiction is at heart, the lie we tell so we can get to the truth. And I think that’s what we’re all trying to do no matter what genre it is.” ~Josh Stallings

Josh read his memoir to his father before he died a year ago.

“It’s very hard as a parent to divorce yourself from the fact that you feel responsible, as that is one of your works of art is that child. And so, you take personally what they do, not just personally because you love, but personally because it reflects on you at some level.” ~Josh Stallings

To extent, we even got into the commercialism and making art for a living – covering doing it for love, making only tips, charging people reasonable prices, libraries vs torrents.

When it came to writing YOUNG AMERICANS, it was truly something created because Josh felt the love for the story. It began as a short story in the FEEDING KATE anthology. He thought about the world and asked himself if he could live with it for a whole year to flesh it out to a full novel.

“If tomorrow I was out in a bar and met this story would I say, ‘yeah that’s a one-night story,’ or would I say, ‘now that’s a story I want to get hitched to’?” ~Josh Stallings

He further explained, and is very quotable you’ll hear for this entire episode, about writing what you love not what you think will sell. He continued to see writing like dating:

“I say be yourself because, otherwise you might meet the right person and they won’t recognize you. And I think that’s true about writing. Write what you love because then other readers and writers who like what you like will recognize you.” ~Josh Stallings

FEELING OLD

Josh discussed the difference in aging out of his Hollywood job as a movie trailer editor where youngins try to yinzplain to him about his job. Whereas, in literature, at his age, he’s shown great respect.

“I don’t know whether I am or am not an asshole, but I know I’m trying to get better every year and I hope that shows up in the writing.” ~Josh Stallings

“They think it’s so punk to steal a book and yet, they’ll give six hundred dollars to Apple for a phone. They aren’t sticking it to the man, they are sticking it to the artist.” ~Josh Stallings credits a commenter on his site for this.

Pop Culture Vulture reviews Young Americans

Dave RichardsPop Culture Vulture

I was born in 1976. So for me the ’70s is a decade I can only experience by looking back at history or some of the film, television, books, comics, and music that was produced in that era. It seems pretty clear though that decade was a great time for crime fiction and it’s also a great era to set a pulp crime tale; the mob was this organization of almost mythic power and corruption was everywhere. In his new novel “Young Americans” writer Josh Stallings takes readers back to that time period, by melding a heist story worthy of the great Richard Stark with a subculture he was part of and loved, the Glam Rock era. The result is a powerful, fun, and exciting crime tale.

“Young Americans,” (named after the David Bowie album) kicks off in mid December of 1976 in Northern California. In the opening chapters we meet Sam, a stripper who has run afoul of a powerful rural crime boss and the only way to save herself is by returning to the family business, thievery. So Sam returns home to San Francisco and assembles a heist crew to help her get out from under the crime lord’s thumb and perhaps start a better life. We follow her and her friends and family as they form a plan, gather the materials they need, and case their target. We then go along on the daring New Year’s Eve heist of a packed disco and then the story picks up even more power and momentum as the aftermath of the heist puts Sam and company in the crosshairs of a number of powerful and dangerous enemies.

So “Young Americans” is a fun and exciting tale full of twists, turns, and great action, but it’s real strength is it’s great cast of complex, fun, and well developed characters. Our chief protagonists are Sam, a tough and cunning thief with a devotion to both her biological and chosen families; and her brother Jacob whose smarts got him shut out of the family business. So when we meet him Jake is a bright kid obsessed with the great films of his era and the great rock ‘n roll, and when his sister comes home he insists on being part of her plans to get out of trouble.

Jake’s friend Terry, a smart jock turned glitter rock kid also becomes part of the crew. Rounding out the team are Sam’s old partners in crime Candy and my favorite character in the book Valentina, an African American transgender woman. I don’t want to spoil anything by talking too much about why I like Val, but let’s just say she’s incredibly charismatic and a bad-ass.

We also meet a number of colorful, eclectic, and cool characters over the course of “Young Americans.” One of my favorites ended up being Jo jo a gay, kindly, mob enforcer with a love for ’70s TV.

“Young Americans” shines a light on how cool, capable, and tough Stallings core cast is, but the author also really shows off their humanity as well. We get to see them in their element and we get to see them dealing with the physically and emotionally taxing consequences of their actions. Those are my favorite types of crime novels; the ones where you get both thrills and excitement and the brutal and painful costs of violence. It’s a type of novel that Stallings is a master at telling too. He proved it with his Moses McGuire trilogy of novels and proves it once again here.

So “Young Americans” has a different kind of feel than Stallings previous work, but it contains all of the elements I’ve come to love about his writing: fun action, gritty street level crime, fascinating characters, and powerful and poignant drama. For me it reads like a mash up of the lurid, lightning charged rock of the post-glam punk band the Cramps and Richard Stark’s awesome Parker novels.