Archive for the Precious Blood category
by Jonathan on May 7th, 2011
I’ve started the West Coast tour for A Hard Death. Since I’ll be driving a lot, I’ve made a, uh, driving mix. It’s fast, noisy, straight-ahead rock’n'roll music. For many people, it’ll be unlistenable. Also, at times it is enthusiastically profane: consider yourselves warned. It’s really not suitable for kids, unless they’re bad kids. Here’s the download link , and here’s the tracklisting:
THE HIGH ROAD TO A HARD DEATH
Mason Williams, “Classical Gas” (not obscene)
The Soledad Brothers, “Break ‘Em on Down”
The Cramps, “Human Fly”
The Gun Club, “Ghost on the Highway”
The Jesus & Mary Chain, “Never Understand”
Motorhead, “The Ace of Spades”
Ministry, “Jesus Built My Hotrod”
Charlie Gracie, “Guitar Boogie”
Clinic, “Walking with Thee”
Mclusky, “Lightsabre C***sucking Blues”
Bad Brains, “Pay to Cum”
One more thing: PLAY LOUD!
by Jonathan on April 10th, 2011
Here’s the flyer for the Thursday launch in Tribeca:
by Jonathan on July 6th, 2010
By curious coincidence, just after I’d blathered on about my book covers, Goran Alfred from Bra Bocker, who are publishing the Swedish edition of Precious Blood, sent me the cover he’d designed. This is another cover that’s more about graphic design than illustration; it has a visceral quality that’s quite bracing, but I really like it.
I told Goran it reminded me tonally/texturally of one of my favourite video game series, the survival horror franchise called Silent Hill. Since he’s not a gamer, I sent him a clip of the game. I’m just realizing he never replied – I hope he wasn’t offended by the comparison! I better check…
by Jonathan on July 2nd, 2010
I’ve just learned that the U.S. publication date for A Hard Death will be April 12, 2011; I don’t understand the complexities of publishing, and have to admit that I’m a bit disappointed that it’s taking so long to come out here. I’m going to do my best to make sure that the third book, tentatively titled City of Rust, arrives a little more promptly.
The delay is actually a bonus: I’m using the time to tighten and polish. There’s an old writing adage that “a novel is never finished, it’s abandoned” – it’s a real luxury to have the time to touch up an already “abandoned” project…
I really like both the new US hardcover jacket for A Hard Death (above) and the paperback cover for last year’s UK release. The two covers are carefully designed, reflecting local taste and the practicalities of marketing a book on a bookshelf – I suspect that the UK cover wouldn’t have played as well with US readers as it did with those in the UK.
The US cover for A Hard Deathis more literal, a watery swamp forest bathed in a golden red glow; that intense colour will make the book “pop” on the shelf. Unlike the clean, urbane font used for the US Precious Blood jacket, where the story was set largely in New York City, the designer has gone with a battered, almost Western/vintage-style font that, by coincidence or design, evokes the UK cover, particularly the font used for my name.
The UK cover is visually edgier, bristling with visceral style. It’s of a piece with the UK cover for Precious Blood, which reminded me of blood spatter on an abatoir floor. For the new book, the concrete has been swapped out for an impressionistic backdrop of light filtering into a clearing through rotted trees, perfect for the Florida Everglades setting of A Hard Death. Since it’s a paperback, and smaller than a hardcover, the title and author name are much larger, easily legible across the bookshop.
I have to admit that my initial reaction to the UK cover for Precious Blood was a little like one of those movie scenes where a character is sitting for hours, having her portrait painted. The bearded, beatnik artist paints furiously, eyes flicking repeatedly from subject to canvas as he captures her likeness in minute detail. Finally, he pronounces the work a finished masterpiece. The sitter approaches the canvas only to discover that it is an incomprehensible mess of drips and spatters. After my initial surprise, I quickly grew to like the cover – I think it’s very effective, the style working well at a gut level to convey the brutality and violence of serial murder. I did feel that, while the design captured the book’s urban mayhem, I peronally saw Precious Blood in very deep rich colours, full of expressive, nuanced visual detail; to me, the UK cover felt a little reductive, the story distilled to blood on concrete. I think I liked the UK cover for A Hard Death better both because it was more literal and more organic (yeah, the trees may be dead, but, still – trees!), and also because I had a clearer idea of what to expect.
I really loved the very direct cover for the German edition of Precious Blood. The Gothic text works really well, I think; indeed, I was a little surprised by how much I liked the simple, graphic style. Note that they decided to go with another title – Precious Blood has, I believe, richer connotations in English than in German.
The Dutch cover kind of baffled me – I won’t tell you what I thought it was the first time I saw it! But I do love the title in Dutch; my first unaccompanied trip as a kid was to the Netherlands, and I hold a special place for the country in my heart.
There were a couple more editions in German. This one was for the Austrian market – quite chaste in comparison with the second German edition that follows it! Note: the book is not this tiny in real life…
This is the cover of the most recent German edition. In her review of Precious Blood, USA Today critic Carol Memmott was kind enough to use the phrase “nail-biting masterpiece”, but they captioned the cover photo “like a literary equivalent of horror flick Saw“! Those of you who know me know I’m too much of a wuss to ever watch that film…
Anyway, yes, this cover looks like it would be perfect for the literary equivalent of horror flick Saw…
Finally, my friend Kevin Krooss had his own ideas about how the Precious Blood cover should look:
Of course, when Kevin learned there would be a Swedish edition, he couldn’t resist having a crack at that, too…
by Jonathan on November 23rd, 2009
I have a long article about blood in the UK newspaper the Independent today. It’s a bit of a curious thing, hopscotching around the place, covering how I became a forensic pathologist, the Cuban white and black magic I saw in Miami, realism in crime fiction, the meaning of blood in different religions, blood spatter forensics and vampire movies.
Since I don’t know how they’ve illustrated it, I thought I’d add a few photos to support the story. I gathered these from around the internet when I first started working on them, and have lost the links – if they’re yours, please let me know so I can credit you.
I’ve tried to do it in sequence to correspond to the story. Obviously, if you’re squeamish, you probably shouldn’t look at this post. Although, really, if you’re squeamish, what are you doing on my blog?
In Israel, a ZAKA operative wipes blood after an attack:
A Durer portrait of Christ suffering:
A Cranach crucifixion – Christ’s blood anointing the faithful…
A devout Filipino being crucified on Good Friday:
Shi’a Muslims marking the Day of Ashura; others sacrifice by donating blood.
An nganga, a cauldron filled with mystically significant metal, wood and leather objects, and blood, and, here, a human skull. For practitioners of palo mayombe, the dark form of the syncretic Caribbean religion of santeria, the nganga is the ritual equivalent of an altar.
Technicians clean up an nganga discovered in New York City, ritual markings on the wall. In Miami, when we encountered santeria or brujeria (palo) artefacts, the cops would scoff at them, but most would refuse to touch them.
by Jonathan on November 19th, 2009
Things are going well for A Hard Death in the UK. Yesterday, I got an excited email from my agent to let me know that the book is on the UK Bookscan Top 20 Fiction Heat Seekers list, bumping shoulders with work by some really strong authors. I’m amused to see that I actually beat out the Master, James Ellroy; I’m sure it won’t last long, but if I ever meet him, I’ll be sure to let him know.
Next Monday, I have a feature article in the Independent, a British broadsheet newspaper. It’s a peculiar piece, about my experience with blood, covering everything from how I became a forensic pathologist to my feelings about the Twilight series; we’ll see if that affects sales at all. I’ll be sure to post it here when the piece goes online.
I’ve been meaning to record a podcast, some thoughts and a brief reading from A Hard Death, but there seem to be a thousand and one things that need attention at any second – the penalty of living a disorganized life, I fear. I’ll get to it this week, or die trying. Or a reasonable facismile thereof.
by Jonathan on November 12th, 2009
I’ve been so busy with life and the U.K. release of A HARD DEATH that I hadn’t noticed that the anniversary of the US edition of PRECIOUS BLOOD was upon me.
By way of commemoration, here is a series of relevant images:
Altdorfer, “The Martyrdom of St. Florian” (1515)
Caravaggio, “St. Katherine” (1599) – I’m fascinated by the whole “spoked wheel” thing. In Raphael’s portrait of St. Katherine from the early 1500′s, the spoked wheel has the smooth, mall-ready finish of something from Pottery Barn. We know she was tortured with a “spoked wheel”, but what the hell is a “spoked wheel”? I don’t believe either Raphael or Caravaggio have a clearer sense of it then than we do today. Notice that the wheel is broken…
Caravaggio, “The Martyrdom of St. Andrew” (1610)
Francesco del Cossa, “St. Lucy” (1470)
I love the demure way Lucy holds her eyeballs on that little lorgnette thing…
by Jonathan on November 3rd, 2008
Just popping my head in to mention that I’m currently ignoring my own blog (and very effectively too, I might add) so that I can guest-blog on Lee Lofland’s excellent cops and forensics site for writers and mystery fans, the Graveyard Shift. I’m going to be doing this on the first Monday of every month, until Lee gets sick of me.
My first blog entry is up today; it’s a gloss on the forensic value of tattoos.
by Jonathan on October 18th, 2008
As Bouchercon went on, I could feel myself wearing out. At home, I’m frequently woken during the night by my two cats (one inherited from my ex-girlfriend, the other acquired when my ex-girlfriend insisted the first needed company. Ever since, the two have waged a full-on yakuza-style feud, the violence unrelenting, the body count high. Actually, I am the body count, my chest leaped on every night at 4AM by a 20 pound cat with claws of honed stee – mine is a truly Promethean existence.), but for some reason, I slept badly every night I was in Baltimore. Adrenaline, I suspect.
Saturday was my birthday, and a pretty fun and hectic birthday it was too. I spent a slightly sluggish morning, drifting groggily through the halls, and was pleased to find that many of the attendees were in a worse way than me. Some had rolled back into the hotel well after 5AM, but were pressed back into action before 9AM, sore of head, furred of tongue and possessed of photographs of themselves chugging down champagne bottles in seamy-looking bars, and of the police cruisers dispatched to greet them (reflection of the City of Baltimore’s devotion to literature). I realized that being tired because I’d slept poorly was a pretty damn feeble excuse – while they’d been out on epically worthwhile Bukowskian benders, the stuff of writerly legend, while I’d stayed home and played the Princess and the Pea like a wuss.
At 11:30AM, Brian Lindemuth was the ringmaster for the Serial Killer panel, with Mark Billingham, Michelle Gagnon, Alan Jacobson and myself roaring and batting at his questions with our paws. We went back and forth on the realism question, on whether or not the motive of a serial killer could ever be really understood, discussed some prominent real and fictional serial killers, and debated Hannibal Lecter’s underwear choices (full credit to Brian for keeping the discourse snappy with carefully crafted questions, including the occasional curveball).
Afterwards, I signed books in the uh, book-signing room. Through a pleasant accident of alphabetical coincidence, I found myself next to Christa Faust, a strikingly pretty, compact blonde whose preference for sleeveless tops won her the Most Visibly Tatooed Author at Bouchercon 2008 award. She’d also be a shoo-in for the Most Direct Conversationalist award – I knew her as a wildy popular author of hard-boiled fiction for Hard Case Crime, but was pleased to discover that she was a professional dominatrix specializing in bondage and foot worship within two minutes of striking up conversation (Englishmen are always delighted to learn things like that, trust me.) Since the first friend I made when I moved to New York City was the infamous photographer Eric Kroll (warning – if you have a delicate constitution or are easily offended, do not click on that link), it wasn’t surprising that we had friends in common. With a funny, smart and beautiful companion, my minutes in the signing room blasted by, and I was soon sprung to find Alafair for a bite of lunch.
In the afternoon, I visited the book stores, but couldn’t find a copy of the book I’d been looking for (James Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss, since successfully located). I milled around the halls a bit, repeatedly bumping into Jonny Santlofer – a man who’d hold impromptu court on a lily pad, if that’s all that was available – and finally decided I’d be better off back in bed. A nap later, I swung by the bar, where the New York branch of the Mystery Writers of America was holding a get-together, chatted with Meredith Cole for a while (admiring the scarf she’d whipped together, which had the cover of her upcoming book printed on it – true Williamsburg hipster crafting!), then with Joanna Powell and Sharyn Rosenblum from Harper Collins, spotted Tasha Alexander and, I think, Danielle Emrich and their posse plotting malfeasance in the lobby, then Alafair summoned me to dinner.
Harry Hunsicker and Margery Flax had hastily assembled a small group; superior logistical technique resulted in a minivan magically appearing to whisk us away to dinner at Oceanaire, a sleek modern seafood restaurant where one could freely eat crabcakes without risking the food poisoning that had gutted the Bouchercon ranks. It was a fun group of people – Margery, Harry and his wonderfully stylish wife Allison, Alafair, her friend McKenna Jordan from Houston’s Murder by the Book, Tim Maleeny, Dan Hale, Charlaine Harris and her agent Joshua Bilmes.
Not only was it fun, it was raucous fun: the rendition of “Happy Birthday” I endured on the way to the restaurant had the sort of bracing ferocity one only encounters once in a lifetime, if one is lucky. Alas, they nailed me with it again when my Baked Alaska arrived, and quite possibly once more on the way home, although by then I’d packed my ears with a prophylactic paste of birthday candle wax and meringue. When my hearing finally returned, Margery was telling a blood-curdling story of dancing the Hustle in a New York City bank in the early 1970′s – apparently that kind of behaviour, like leisure suits and snorting cocaine, was acceptable back then. O tempora, o mores!
I’m a huge fan of True Blood, the bodice-ripping Southern Gothic vampire series on HBO that Alan Ball has created from Charlaine’s Sookie Stackhouse series. It was a real treat to meet her, and to hear that she’s a huge fan of the show, too. Of course, how could she not be? – the week of Bouchercon, it was announced that all seven of Charlaine’s Sookie books had bounced onto the New York Times bestseller list. She was supersweet (and probably continues to be), and had all sorts of choice gossip about the show.
By the way, about the show: on various groups, I’ve heard people complain about the explicit sex and violence in the TV show. WTF??? That’s like being outraged to discover bacon or chocolate in your dinner! Sex and violence are the spice of premium cable! It can’t all be Wheel of Fortune and Everybody Loves Raymond…
Back at the hotel, I was flagging again. I said hi and bye to a few people, then watched Jonny Santlofer holding court again in the corner of the lobby, this time sprawled on a banquette, showing off his expensive and curious footwear to Dan Conaway and Megan Abbott,the foxy Wednesday Addams of Crime Fiction. They were fading fast too, and so I left before I had to carry them up to their rooms.
On my way back to my room, my Bouchercon visit effectively finished, I passed the electronic podium in the Sheraton lobby that showcases the best that Baltimore has to offer. I realized I hadn’t taken a single photo at the festival, so I did:
Then I went to bed, after offering a little prayer that I’d survive another trip on I-95 with Alafair at the wheel.
by Jonathan on October 16th, 2008
Well, I’m back from Bouchercon, the annual crime fiction festival, this year held in Baltimore and run by Ruth Jordan of Crimespree Magazine and Judy Bobalik. It was my first Bouchercon, but I felt not so much “virginal” as (whatever the single word adjective you’d use to describe someone arriving in the Big City for the first time, and feeling a bit disoriented and lost amid all the bustling crowds). It was a bit bewildering, but there was a tremendous sense of community, and everyone was super nice – like, Midwestern-level nice.
I arrived Thursday afternoon, and was ecstatic to get there, at least in part because I drove down with Alafair Burke; Alafair is, to be frank, certifiably psychotic at the wheel, her need for speed almost carnal in its urgency. The combination of high speed daredevil manoeuvres (at one point, she drove under a semi just so she could slam us up the ramp of an empty car transporter trailer, shooting us up about 20 feet high, hurtling through the air to land squarely 8 inches in front of the black Tahoe that had irritated Alafair by dawdling in front of her for a good two minutes). (Seriously.)
I checked into the Sheraton, which was actually not bad for a chain hotel – the common areas had all the elegance of a feed auction in Topeka <tm a joke I made at the time>, but the rooms were pleasantly modern in their style, and the bathrooms were quite handsome. Unusually inoffensive for a chain hotel! Of course, the widescreen LG TV was set to Standard Definition, with the images all stretched to fill out the screen space, something I HATE! If your signal isn’t in widescreen, set your set to Academy Ratio, darnit all to heck!
I checked in with my publicist, Harper’s wonderful Heather Drucker, then milled about a bit with Alafair, but I was exhausted, so when she and her coterie headed out to dinner, I disappeared to bed. Roomservice steak, serviceable, some awful TV vampire movie with that blonde sweater girl from that Star Trek spin-off. Jeri Ryan? Something like that.
Friday morning at the crack of dawn (8:30AM), I joined authors John French (Baltimore PD Crime Lab), ex-cop Lee Lofland, all around force for good Cody McFadyen and Gwen Freeman, pinch-hitting for Sheila Lowe (both Sheila, a hand-writing analyst and forensic artist Brenda Robertson Stewart were felled by food poisoning, an epidemic of which shot through the assembled ranks like melted butter through a loosely-packed Jumbo Bag of popcorn) to discuss the way forensics in movies, TV and books relates to the real world. (In brief, many forensics folks hate how fake it is, I personally like it because it often captures the spirit of what we do, and it makes us look absurdly glamorous – and hey, what’s not to like about that? I’ve written about it a few times, most recently in a blog for the Baltimore Sun, and previously for New York magazine. And I actually believe what I said!)
Despite the obscene hour, a good time was probably had by everybody – it was too early to make rigorous judgements like that. It was good to finally meet Lee, whose blog, the Graveyard Shift, is a fantastic resource for all things police and forensics-related; Lee’s book on police procedure is aimed at writers, and is a goldmine for, uh, writers. I’m going to try to persuade him to let me make the occasional guest post on the Graveyard Shift.
The rest of the day was a bit of a blur. I saw a bit of various assembled friends; people seemed to accumulate in the lobby as overflow from the overcrowded restaurant, and then move on to other places. I saw quite a lot of Tasha Alexander (that blonde hair is like a flag), J.D. Rhoades, Jonny Santlofer, Megan Abbott, Dan Conaway, Joe Konrath, Meredith Cole, Michael Koryta, Sean Chercover, Mark Billingham, Michelle Gagnon, Sarah Weinman, Tim Maleeny – y’know, I’m going to stop now. It’s going to KILL me to add in the URL’s to everyone I’ve just listed! I saw lots of great writers, in short.
There’s a really interesting (at least to a newbie) and palpable hierarchy to the event. Well, not so much a hierarchy as a finely-pitched sense of celebrity, an awareness of superstar success. Lee Child just has to lean against a door frame in his elegantly lanky way to trigger waves of psychic attraction; he becomes more apparent simply by standing still. And Harlan Coben strides affably through the halls, his smooth dome poking above the heads of the crowd like an iceberg in a flat sea; even if you didn’t know what they looked like, it’d be easy to spot the million dollar-plus advance crowd.
That probably sounds bitchy, but I really don’t mean it that way – one of the hallmarks of Bouchercon (based on my huge experience of the thing) is the friendliness of the participants, and the willingness of authors to stop and chat. I never once saw either Child or Coben not talking and smiling with fans or with other writers. It felt good to belong to that brother/sisterhood (to the extent that a novice author can consider her- or himself as belonging to that community).
In the evening, I went to the Harper dinner at Cinghale, a slightly swank modern Italian restaurant. I got to meet (breathlessly!) the amazingly cool Val McDermid ; I cornered her and told her about how worried I’d been when some critics found Precious Blood gory, and then how relieved I’d been when I read The Mermaids Singing, her first – Crumbs! And people said my book was gory! She was supernice, in line with the conference’s Nice Mega-authors theme. As was Laura Lippman, who I’m sure I terrified with my fanboy ravings about The Wire, created by her husband David Simon and Ed Burns.
I had a fun table, including Billingham, and it was great to finally dine with the notorious Otto Penzler, New York City icon and King of the Mysterious Bookshop. He would’ve been an entertaining enough companion on the mystery chatter front alone, but that he should be an informed and opinionated foodie was just gravy…
After dinner, hmmm… I took a taxi back to the hotel with Otto, Tasha, Andy Gross and Jonny Santlofer, then we milled around for a while before making our way to the Reacher’s Creatures party for Lee Child. I was fading fast by that time, and went home to crash not long after 1AM.
Now I’m fatigued from all that writin’ and linkin’; I’ll finish the rest of Bouchercon tomorrow…