THE LAST PROJECTOR NEW YORK TIMES SCANDAL?

Projector Reviewed

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Well, this is awkward. It looks like an intrepid reader and fan of Broken River Books has done their homework. From an article that’s clearly dated “1983,” it appears as though David James Keaton’s novel The Last Projector, a book I’ve spent countless hours working on, was in fact released sometime around Fall of that year, AND it had a featured review in THE NEW YORK TIMES. Sitting demurely next to a review of Return of the Jedi and above a review of Stephen King’s new, shiny-from-the-showroom Christine, the critic seems to view the The Last Projector in a very favorable light, but I really don’t know what to make of all this. My head’s still spinning. This newspaper snapshot also claims that “Broken River Books” published it, which to my knowledge I did not invent until a couple years ago, although the author and I did brainstorm possible names for a publishing house when we shared a bus ride to the previous Winter Olympics. Or did we? Or is this just a calculated attempt by an author to manufacture a scandal? I can’t remember. I need to sit down.

Good Books I’ve Read Lately

Figured I’d do a quick roundup of some of the stuff I’ve read, recently.

First off, here’s a review I did over Blake Butler’s 300 Million for Electric Literature.

I have also been remiss in my duties as a crime fiction fan, in that I haven’t yet sung the praises of Cry Father by Benjamin Whitmer. On a sentence-by-sentence basis, this one is the king of 2014. It brings up themes that will feel familiar to the dutiful crime reader: fatherhood (obviously), responsibility, alcoholism, drug addiction, and violence. I read this one months ago and I feel like I’m still digesting it. I still don’t really know what to say, other than I felt it hard, and that I think you should read it. One of those rare “un-put-downables.” A sticking point for me, and something I’d like to discuss further, is the book’s ending, but I’m gonna save that big spoilery motherfucker for a while down the road, once it’s been widely read.

I went to see James Ellroy read at Powell’s. That was a big moment for me. There’s no one who’s influenced my writing more than that strange, tall man. I felt inspired by his showmanship, inspired by his confidence, inspired by the guts of his shtick. I couldn’t meet him, though. Jeremy Johnson and Michael Kazepis did, but I just couldn’t. It wasn’t time yet. I didn’t want to look at him and see him and have him see me. Just didn’t seem right. I like him as a writer and performer, but I didn’t want to meet him as a person. I’m still not sure why. Probably just nerves. Anyway, I read Perfidia and thought it was awesome, but probably my least-favorite of his so far. All the parts with Ashida were awesome. That procedural-type shit. I don’t know. For someone who’s so good at keeping it short, this one felt, for the first time, too big.

Young Gods by Katherine Faw Morris occupies an ever-widening space in crime fiction, a space that I dislike with a passion. That Morris cuts out a spot inside that space with deft and at times flat-out brilliant prose creates a kind of dissonance in my mind, in that this type of book represents a big problem that I whine about a lot, but it’s so well done that I liked it. It’s the story of  a thirteen-year-old girl who moves in with her pimp/drug dealer father after the death of her mother. It moves from anecdote to anecdote, in which the girl takes drugs, attempts to enlist her friend as her dad’s new trick, commits murder, and finally, in a sense, becomes her dad. It is an extraordinarily bleak book, and by the end of it I wondered what it was trying to do, exactly. The journey is fast-paced and the prose is on-point, but man am I ever tired of poverty porn, where the sharp descriptions of violence and depravity serve to move the characters, usually poor and ill, away from the reader, until it’s like we’re looking at the whole thing from space, and maybe that’s the point, but I’m still not 100% convinced as to the overall value of something like this. I’m not saying “the violence made me feel gross,” I’m saying “the violence seemed unreal.” If there’s not three-dimensions to hang it on, it just is what it is. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about. Lots of people seem to like that stuff. And, like I said, overall I liked it, too. Recommended it if you want a clinic in how to write like a demon.

And finally, I’d like to talk a little about Dogo Barry Graham’s wonderful, eye-opening Kill Your Self: Life After Ego. In the spirit of a book that is all about losing the self, and working to curb suffering by muting the ego, I’m going to make this review all about me. As of late I’ve found it increasingly difficult to let go of my anger. It’s always been a problem, that I tend to see and expect the worst from people. After reading this book, I realized that, as is typically the case, it all stems from a problem with myself. Or rather, the story I tell my self about myself.

Graham uses quick, succinct aphorisms to move the book along, never dwelling on one thought or the other. I’ve always enjoyed this about zen writing, in that even whilst explaining a koan or a deep subject, the writer typically just expresses the question in the clearest way possible, once, and then dips out. After that it’s up to you. It’s something you’re supposed to think about, and the process of thinking is the solution in and of itself.

This book is packed with a-ha moments. I reflected a lot upon reading it. In particular, I enjoyed the passage about the fishing boat, in which the owner of said vessel takes his newly-painted baby out on the water on a foggy day. Another boat bumps into his, and he turns around and starts yelling, only to find the other boat empty. The boat is always empty, but we bring our stories to it, the story that goddammit this drunk motherfucker is out here not watching where he’s going or goddammit I just got this painted and of course it gets fucked up…no. These are all stories we’re making up as we go along, all stories designed to make us the protagonist of our lives, the put-upon, the only one who “gets it.” After awhile, this becomes easier than breathing. The boat is always empty, until we fill it with our own bullshit.

The book is presented in a “take-it-or-leave-it” style. It isn’t preachy. It doesn’t want you to do this or that. It just is. And it’s so refreshing. Couldn’t recommend it more.

‘THE LAST PROJECTOR’ IS AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER!

Well folks, we’re finally here. The biggest Broken River Book of all time is getting ready to drop. The Last Projector is a dense, convoluted, funhouse-mirror-Russian-nesting-doll work of absolute insanity and genius. It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked on a book. It’s taken its author years to write. It has been the underdog, shunned by stuffy New York presses. It’s hard to categorize, harder still to wrap your mind around, and I would venture to say it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.

The hardcover will be a thing of beauty. Here’s the cover:

tlp

Here’s the synopsis:

“In this hysterical fever dream of a novel, meet an unhinged paramedic turned porn director uprooted from an ever-shifting ’80s fantasy. Discover a crime that circles back through time to a far-reaching cover-up in the back of an ambulance. Reveal a manic tattoo obsession and how it conspires to ruin the integrity of a story and corrupt identity itself. Unravel the mystery surrounding three generations of women and the one secret they share. And follow two amateur terrorists, whose unlikely love story rushes headlong toward a drive-in apocalypse.”

The talk:

“The Most Anticipated Book of 2014. Hell, it’s the most anticipated book since this podcast has existed.” – Booked

“Imagine Harry Crews’ grit-filled world head-butting William Gaddis’ dense, rollicking literary hopscotch and you’re firmly entrenched in David James Keaton country. His thrilling debut, THE LAST PROJECTOR, is the bubbling, epic story of how wonderfully screwed up America is.” -Patrick Wensink, author of Broken Piano for President

“That thing called ‘voice’ authors are said to have? Keaton’s are legion. That ‘Tap, tap, tap’ you may hear issuing from this book? I wouldn’t open it up without a quick ‘Klaatu barada nikto’ for good measure.” -Jedidiah Ayres, author of Peckerwood and Godfather of the Noir at the Bar reading series

It’s the literary equivalent of Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales as written by a film-obsessed David Foster Wallace. The pre-order is available below.

Be well.

Get the hardback HERE.

Get it for Kindle HERE.

GOD$ FARE NO BETTER: VOLUME ONE is Available!

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GOD$ FARE NO BETTER: VOLUME ONE is now available. $15 plus shipping. I’ll be doing a limited run of these in paperback, so if you’re a collector of physical books, first of all god bless you, and second of all I hope you like it. They’ll each have their own unique cover art from a different artist, and they’ll all be designed by Matthew Revert. So, you know. They’ll look nice. I’ll be doing this limited-run thing for each volume of the GOD$ series, which has developed into a sprawling epic that I didn’t want to wait three or so years to show you, which is how long I figure it’ll take between writing Danny Ames books (look for BLACK GUM GODLESS HEATHEN later this year) and standalone novels and putting out a fuckload of books every year on Broken River.

For those of you who read this when it was serialized, I can tell you this paperback version is about twice as big. So, if you know what happens, I’m not gonna pretend there’s some drastic change plotwise. But it’s denser, my first real foray into maximalism, and it has more cool subplots (like the part that deals with the King of the Shopping Carts, for instance). It’s different from anything I’ve ever done. And it’s hands-down the most fun I’ve had writing anything, ever. I spend so much time paring down the Ames novels, cutting them to the bone, it feels really cool to just be able to let whatever weird idea I have onto the page. If the Ames books are boom-bap hip hop, the GOD$ series is free-form jazz. But it’s all weird crime, and it’s all nasty.

Anyhoo, if you’d like a sample, here’s a good bit from the novel. The series revolves around a former supercop, a killer moving backwards in time, and a hitman who can unhinge his jaw like a snake and swallow his victims whole. The whole thing is being played out as a “symphony” that extra-dimensional aliens are watching from outside of time.

Until they reached the dim yellow lights of the McCallan Street Bridge their eyes were wide to the dark and the floating neon green carpets of their heart chakras and the sound of cicadas pressed against their sides and kept them from the tangles of little bluestem already wet with dew. They gripped their stomachs as the san pedro expanded.  Drennon had dumped the ugly olive powder into a bowl he’d crafted in pottery class and added filtered water and mixed the shit until it was a paste.  A teaspoon of cinnamon didn’t keep them from nearly vomiting but they both liked that this was a drug a man had to commit to.  Bassell filled a couple Ziploc bags with food dye and set a dusty overhead projector on the floor and aimed the light at the ceiling.  He pushed the dye around the bag and Drennon laid close to the hot machine and watched the colors move. When the spackle on the wall began to shift like grains of sand in the tide they both decided to head to the bridge and maybe smoke to take the edge off the nausea.

 #

Jaime Sorokolit met with his employer under the McCallan Street Bridge to collect his payment for a lawyer he’d shot in the mottled hills behind a gas station off US-93.   The desert had been cold and he’d led the crying man by the light of a copper refinery to the south to the base of a small caldera, where he shot him through the head clean and buried him shallow under a collection of volcanic stones.  He took a moment to rest, then clapped his hands together to get the dust off and sighed and turned to go when he heard a noise like castanets at the bottom of a well.  He couldn’t see in the dark and didn’t really care to investigate but after a few steps the clicking became so loud as to be unbearable and he fell to his knees, feeling the sound coming from the top of the caldera but also from inside his bones.  He covered his ears with his palms and tried shut his eyes against the vibrations but he felt his lids quiver and roll up and so he had to see what was in front of him up the hill at the rim of the caldera.  Three worms, each about ten feet high, weaving gently in the breeze like nylon puppets under a fan at a car lot.  Glowing like blacklights.  At the creatures’ apex their scales pulled back like foreskin and their beaks tittered and they drooled green.  They slid down the mountain in perfect time with each other.  Sorokolit wanted to die.  Anything to get the strobe out of his brain.

He didn’t remember anything after that.  He cradled a cup of coffee in the diner of the gas station.  When the morning blue broke over the hills it filled up with dusty employees of the refinery and Sorokolit could hear all the spoons hitting the plates and could smell the grease from the kitchen.  He tried to read the menu scrawled in chalk on the belly of the cartoon chef hanging from the wall but his eyes kept shaking in his skull and after a few blessed seconds of focus everything returned to tiny electric whirlpools.  The soup of the day is lobster bisque, he thought.

Later that night, under the bridge, Jaime Sorokolit was pondering what all went into a lobster bisque besides lobster when Mike Lecours lifted his long quiet gun and shot him through the neck. The round nicked his carotid and shredded his trachea and severed his brachial plexus, which kept him from reaching up to stem the flow of blood gushing from his neck over his new sweater and into the dirt.  Lecours had aimed for his temple, but he was drunk as hell and anxious to get the whole thing over with.  He swayed on his heels and put his gun away and watched Sorokolit fall backwards into the river.

#

From their craft above the river, the beings perceived Drennon and Bassell leaning over the railings, their smartphones extended, them desperately trying to get a picture of the flying saucer whilst being completely oblivious to the man who was nearly bled to death in the river below.  The conductor stepped away from the viewing portal and approached the podium.  His guests that night included both creators and several prominent singularities with a smattering of fans.  The consciousness shift involved in the lensing process made everyone on board sick and they shuddered at the unmistakable glacial weathering of their skin but they steadied themselves against the seats in front of them, anxious to hear the music.  It was especially exciting for the Creators, being both the designers and the products of this world, to complete a circuit to meet the things that they created that created them.

The conductor called up the hexeract on the imager behind him and the crowd felt suddenly warm with the nostalgia brought on by seeing the six cube in four dimensions, the primitive representation of their reality, their gods suddenly becoming cognizant of them.  The human characters, the boys on the railing and the dying man in the river, stretched out on either side of the crowd.  The conductor raised his hands and slowly brought them down as though pressing a needle to a record and gently folded the fifth dimension over the fourth.  The crowd sensed dying life and lives just beginning shooting off in two directions, before and after, and they felt the alien sensation of moving through space-time and they saw what happened and what happens and the conductor felt himself bursting with pride as the crowd swayed to his music.

You can order it here:

“Black Gum Godless Heathen” Available for pre-order

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Black Gum Godless Heathen is the sequel to the 2013 surrealist cult hit Low Down Death Right Easy. At the end of that novel, the vicious but painfully human enforcer Danny Ames’ violent, haphazard search for his missing brother culminated in a visit from two hapless hitmen. With both of them dispatched, Ames disappeared, ghosted to some other town, to some other set of problems. BGGH picks up with a young man named Beau Tilden, the cousin of one of the murdered hitmen. A split-tongued teenage satanist with a face full of tattoos and a ziploc bag full of drugs, Beau is reeling from his cousin’s death and coping in the only way he knows how: self-destruction. When an opportunity for revenge presents itself, Beau will descend into an increasingly bizarre and frightening rabbit hole of violence and mind-altering substance abuse.

The first chapter:

They told Beau Tilden it was a closed casket and that he couldn’t see Charlie one last time. When the eulogies were done and the preacher said some words, the first row stood and lined up to touch the top of it. Charlie’s mother wept and held on to the casket. Beau’s mother pulled her off. Everybody touched it for several seconds. There were two folks ahead of him. Beau reached down into his pocket. With his other hand he screwed the cap off the keyhole at the corner of the ledge. Just his uncle in front of him. The key was large and ungainly, a lazy s-shape with a long drill bit at the end. He stuck the beveled edge into the hole and turned the crank slowly. Once his uncle finished with his time there at the head of it Beau heard the click and dropped the key and rushed over and threw the coffin lid up.

Everyone gasped and some yelled but to Beau it was far away like rain on a pool tarp because all he could see was the mess that bullet did to what used to be his cousin’s face.

#

He sat on the steps and ignored everyone’s drama. His aunt tried to smack him but he moved his head ever so slightly and the palm went wide.

Beau said, “You didn’t see shit.”

His aunt said something about “disrespectful.”

Beau said, “You are.”

Everyone got in their cars and went home.

#

He walked to the Corner Store and waved hello to Ron. He poured himself a slushie and bought some chips and talked to the clerk a bit and went out front and sat on a picnic table off to the side and ate his chips.

A man in a leather jacket came out of the dark and sat next to him. He had a pirate ship tattooed across his face.

He pointed at the tattoo under Beau’s eye. “What’s this dagger mean?”

“Nothing.”

He pointed at the “580” across Beau’s chin. “What’s this mean?”

“It’s the area code.”

“Where am I?”

Beau told him.

“Do you have a videogame system?”

“Yeah.”

The man rummaged through his bags. Pulled out a loaf of white bread. “I got this bread. Can I come over and play?”

Beau motioned with the bag of chips. “No.”

The man was quiet for a bit. “What’s these teardrops mean?”

“Means I’m super sad.”

“What’s this on your neck?”

“It’s a Buddha.”

“It’s a Buddha!” the man yelled. He pointed at the giant tattoo on his face. “You know what this pirate ship means?”

“What?”

The man in the leather jacket hopped up and put his hands on his knees and leaned into Beau’s face. “It means I’m a motherfucking PIRATE.”

After that the man sat down, put some sunglasses on, ate his bread, and said not one more word to Beau Tilden. He got up and left.

Ron came out and lit a cigarette. Offered the pack to Beau.

“No, thanks. I only smoke when I drink.”

Ron nodded. “Me, too.”

Cars hissed past on the wet road.

Ron said, “You attract them.”

“I seem to.”

“All that shit on your face.”

“Yeah.”

The clerk was quiet for a moment. “I heard about it.”

Beau didn’t say anything.

“What’re you gonna do?”

The rain picked up a little. Beau shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Ron nodded through the smoke. “That’s a good way to be.”

#

That night, Beau clocked in and went back to the dish pit. He focused on brushing out the pots and pans and bowls and silverware and ignored the shouts from the kitchen. His boss came back and poked his head in and stood quietly for a bit, stroking his white beard, a hulk of a man blocking the entire doorway.

“You alright?”

Beau Tilden unclenched the spigot and set the hose back in its cradle and shut the boxy dishwasher so the churning sound filled up the whole room.

He took off his apron.

He cried.

His boss opened up his arms and took the shaking man in his arms. The two stood like that until the dishwasher clicked off.

#

Thirsty Thursday. The night was young but the university kids were on one. They’d hit the bars and now they wanted hot dogs. Line out the door. Beau watched them. Short skirts and polo shirts and lipstick and hair gel. Watched the orders go up and the kids working the front pick them out the window and call out the numbers over the noise.

The restaurant was baseball themed. Pete Rose poster on the far wall, a framed photo of Yankee Stadium already cracked, Fenway Park near the bathrooms. Six TVs, each one on a different ESPN. The floor made to look like a baseball diamond.

Two large boys stood up at a table and shouted at each other. Beer spilled and foamed over the Astroturf.

One picked the other up and bodyslammed him into the table. Nachos flying.

The crowd cheered.

And out through the floor to ceiling windows, Beau could see the local panhandler, Frog, crossing the street with a half a loaf of bread in his arm.

Beau’s boss came out of the kitchen and looked at him. “Just what the fuck are you doing?”

Beau grabbed his rag.

This whole series (there are three more after this one: Half of Nepal, Elkhoury, and Pyramid in a Dead Star) is my way of dealing with my time spent in a small, hellish town in southern Oklahoma. This particular volume draws on my experiences with bad drugs and sleep deprivation. It’s probably my most surreal novel since my first, alternately inspired by the minimalism of Ellroy and Sallis, the complexity of television shows like The Wire, and the hazy weirdness of Harmony Korine.

If that sounds up your alley, you are more than welcome to pre-order a signed copy through PayPal or with a credit card here:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Can’t wait for you guys to read this one. It’s gonna surprise you.

NEW SERIES “CASH ON THE SIDE” FROM J DAVID OSBORNE TO DEBUT THIS FRIDAY

On Friday I’ll be debuting a series of mine called CASH ON THE SIDE. It’s a sequence of independent (yet eventually interlinked) stories about a duffelbag full of dirty money. My goal with this was to emulate something like STRAY BULLETS and also to do my best to subvert the expectations of what a crime story is supposed to be. The first installment will be available here, at brokenriverbooks.com, and will cost $0.99. Here’s a sample:

“Marcus Tillman signed the lease to his new apartment on a Friday afternoon. That night, he slept on the floor on a pile of blankets with his wife. He dreamt of an ATM that kept spitting money at him. $3000 bills with Frederick Douglass’s face in the center. He woke up and shook off the dream and smoked a cigarette outside. Already the neighbors were up and hollering. A disheveled man carried a garage sale sign limply at his side, talking to himself. Marcus stubbed out the smoke and went back in. He fixed a pot of coffee and found a pencil in one of the boxes in the living room and set about marking the sheet the apartment manager had given him. His wife was still asleep on the floor, blankets over her head. She’d told him yesterday: “Find everything. They’re not keeping our deposit this time.” So he tried. The door was slightly broken, the wood around the latch having deteriorated to the point that he could push the door open without turning the knob. The electrical outlets hissed when he plugged in his phone. There was a little mold in the bathroom, a kitchen light that didn’t work, an A/C that sputtered and coughed, and a rather large hole behind the washer and drier that contained a dufflebag full of stacked hundred dollar bills.”