I am feeling lucky and a bit stun-boggled by the wonderful reactions to my glitter rock disco heist yarn. Having been told to stay away from resent period novels and that a coming of age story and crime story just wouldn’t mix in a reader demographic sense. Thing is it was the next book I needed to write. The Moses McGuire novels took me to a dark angry place, I needed some mirror ball infused joy. It seems like a few other of you did too.
Here is what happened so far…
Earlier this year Young Americans was nominated for a Left Coast Crime Lefty Award (along side, Michael Connelly, The Crossing (Little, Brown and Company) Matt Coyle, Night Tremors (Oceanview Publishing) Robert Crais, The Promise (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) and Gigi Pandian, The Accidental Alchemist (Midnight Ink). Gigi, deservedly won. Me, I was proud to be named beside so many talented writers.
Young Americans is also up for multiple Anthony Awards. (2016 Anthony Awards are presented at the Bouchercon XVLII World Mystery Convention in New Orleans on Friday, September 16, 2016.)
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
The Long and Faraway Gone – Lou Berney [William Morrow]
Gun Street Girl – Adrian McKinty [Seventh Street/Serpent’s Tail]
Little Pretty Things – Lori Rader-Day [Seventh Street]
Young Americans – Josh Stallings [Heist]
Stone Cold Dead – James W. Ziskin [Seventh Street]
Ok this is insane, I am listed next to many of my favorite book of the last year.
BEST CRIME FICTION AUDIOBOOK
Dark Waters – Chris Goff – Assaf Cohen, narrator [Blackstone Audio]
The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins – Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey & India Fisher, narrators [Penguin Audio/Random House Audiobooks]
Causing Chaos – Deborah J. Ledford – Christina Cox, narrator [IOF Productions]
The Nature of the Beast – Louise Penny – Robert Bathurst, narrator [Macmillan Audio]
Young Americans – Josh Stallings – Em Eldridge, narrator [Josh Stallings]
Em Eldridge did a wonderful job on the audio book. She crushed it.
Maura Lynch has nice words here… http://www.thewiseacre.net/search?updated-max=2016-07-01T17:11:00-04:00&max-results=1
What I most am is grateful to all the writers and readers who voted to nominate Young Americans. I means the world to me. Thank you.
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
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.
Stripper Sam is on the run. She leaves behind Hicksville USA and heads back to her family in San Francisco but trouble is soon barking and biting at her heels.
Josh Stallings‘ 1970s set heist novel Young Americans is bloody brilliant. A marvelous blend of crime fiction, coming of age story and offbeat family saga. Complete with a great soundtrack.
Stallings’ books are always great but this could well be his best yet.
BOLO Books– Posted on
Young Americans is a classic heist novel in that the motivations and desired results are what one would expect; yet the originality of the participants and the unique setting situate the book apart from the others of the type. Readers looking for a quick read, some hilarious dialogue, and a brief glimpse into a forgotten time will find much to enjoy in Josh Stallings’ tale.
As the novel opens, Samantha – but please call her Sam – is working at a strip club in Humboldt County, California. She is a big girl but makes no apologies for it. Raised in a criminal family, Sam sees stripping as her effort toward a legitimate lifestyle. But as it often does, the past rears its ugly head when Sam gets herself involved in some internal power struggles among her corrupt acquaintances and must flee for her safety.
Needing to hide out, Sam returns to her hometown of San Francisco and hooks up with her old gang of friends. Her brother Jacob is also hanging around, constantly trying to impress Sam’s childhood best friend, Candy, so that Candy might take a romantic interest in him. The reunion is short-lived as Sam’s attempt at subterfuge collapses around her.
Their only option to keep the tight-knit gang safe and intact is by agreeing to perpetrate a heist at the local disco hotspot, Taxi Dancer. The casing of the joint and planning for the raid provide many entertaining vignettes. Of course, on the night of the heist, shenanigans ensue and when two of their own are put in danger, Sam and her friends must ratchet up their seriousness.
And what a gang it is: Sam and Jacob are the main focus, but it is Valentina Creamrosa, a transgendered African-American amazon, who stole my heart. She gets the funniest quips and her unrequited love for Jacob’s friend Terry is very sweet. The group is a family – not of blood, but of choice – and they will do what they have to in order to protect their own. Josh Stallings’ Young Americans is a crime novel with a heart of gold.
1976 New Year’s Eve, San Francisco. A Firebird transports a crew of glitter kids away from the city. Forget the trunk full of cash and illegal firearms. Forget the disco heist and sea of felonies left in their wake. They are five friends happily rolling down thunder road with no horizon in sight. They are YOUNG AMERICANS.
1976 WINTER BREAK
Jacob lay down on his waterbed, staring at the poster on the ceiling – Iggy and the Stooges. He was wondrously stoned. High enough to feel nostalgia and whimsy, straight enough not to be consumed by the need to power eat a sack of Jack in the Box tacos.
It is no secret that Josh Stallings is one of the very few authors whose books I have to seek out and devour the moment they are published. His Moses McGuire novels are some of the best, some of the most raw, crime fiction you will read, and his autobiographical All the WIld Children is amongst my top three favourite books I have ever read. So when I got an early opportunity to read Stallings’ latest novel, it had a lot to live up to. And of course, live up to, it did.
You see, Stallings can write. Blimey, can he write.
I’d like to illustrate that now. For a great part of this year, I have been lecturing in Creative Writing, helping two classes of adults to write a novel. I don’t wish to put myself out of a job here – times being what they are, and all that – but if you want to know how to write a novel, read Josh Stallings. That’s all you have to do. What I have spent nine months talking about, Stalings shows. Time and time again.
Lets start with Time and Place – two fundamentals of writing a novel. In YOUNG AMERICANS the time is 1976, the place, California, specifically San Francisco. Stallings brings both place and the era to life as only one who has lived through it can. It is easy to throw in a few references to the music of the time, the clothes, politics, etc. But these alone do not convince. What a writer needs is to capture the mood. To capture the mood, you need to capture the rhythm – the beat. Stallings manages these effortlessly.
Then there are the characters. Take the following, for instance. A description of the main protagonist – Sam – the grandaughter of a safe cracker, the daughter of a thief:
Sam sat in a camp chair wrapped in her sleeping bag. She was a big girl, with the kind of curves that started wars. Zaftig. Out of fashion. The Thin White Duke, David Bowie, made looking underfed fashionable. You could count every one of supermodel Margaux Hemingway’s ribs. Sam’s body was luxurious. It said screw you, have a burger and relax awhile. Her glitter platforms jutted out of black satin jeans. Her hair was cut in a spiky shag, just like Suzi Quatro. It was a blonde-red. Shiny. Her body, her stature, demanded a wider view of what a glitter rocker could look like. Not that anyone wanted an ass-kicking enough to screw with her about her size.
In these lines, Stallings conveys everything you need to know about Sam. That is how to describe a character.
All the characters in YOUNG AMERICANS – every one – is a solid, living being, each with their own journey, their own purpose. Even the minor characters are drawn with such a fine pen, they leap from the page and promise to smack you in the face if you for one second doubt their right to live and breathe as you and I.
And the dialogue . . . the dialogue . . . Elmore Leonard eat your fucking heart out . . .The dialogue crackles and spits like pig fat on an open fire. It’s just brilliant.
As for the plot, it twists and it turns, and twists again. This time, this place, these characters, Stallings wraps the plot around them, and they just go at it.
In the hands of a writer like Stallings, YOUNG AMERICANS becomes more than a simple heist novel. it becomes a novel of need, of love, of love friendship – all set to a glitterball beat.
It is a truly brilliant novel.
– Ian Ayris
“When he wasn’t on a losing streak and moody, he was a great guy.”
When Josh Stallings brings out something new, it’s an exciting event. It’s like the interesting shaped parcel under the Christmas tree – you can’t wait to open it and have no idea what’s going to be inside.
Sam is a young woman who was taught to crack safes at an early age by her father. She gets involved in a drugs deal that goes wrong and is held accountable for the mess. The only way she can make amends and keep herself alive is to rob a nightclub that happens to be owned by a member of the mob.
In spite of the close attention of the local cop, she collects together members of her old crew, her brother and a few new flamboyant and varied players to help her out on the job.
There’s a tense build up to the heist and an even more dramatic escape.
Suffice to say things don’t go well and Sam and her family find themselves in a position where everybody literally wants a piece or two of them.
Bubbling under this are intertwined relationships of different kinds that are built on strong loyalties. This means none of the ways forward are simple.
The setting is really special. It would be great to get into that time machine and zoom back to the era and the location. There are drugs and sparkles and almost anything goes. Stallings does a good job of bringing that disco world to life and opens each chapter with a cool and apt quote to get things rolling.
For my taste the book is a little heavy on dialogue, but that is often redeemed by the use of an extensive range of monumental slang and similes that only a really cool-as-hell dude would be able to find.
This one’s for the crime reader who likes material to be multi-faceted and to stray beyond the boundaries of the main action.