THE BIG BLOW-OFF: A NOVEL BASED ON TRUE EVENTS

FINAL-COVER-smallI discovered the story of the Lewis-Jones Gang while doing some research in Denver Public Library’s Western History Department. It was one of the happy happenstances of researching on microfilm. And, too, one of the pitfalls. It’s easy to get distracted when plowing through old newspapers. Some story, completely unrelated to your target research, will present itself and, like a child chasing a runaway balloon, off you go in pursuit.

So it was with the Lewis-Jones tale. I became obsessed with their story and found amazing primary sources in 11 different newspapers from Cleveland to Los Angeles, Kansas City to Denver. What emerged was a narrative of blood and violence, betrayal and vengeance.

Frank Lewis was from a family of misfortune. His father led all three of his sons into crime and their lives ended badly. A fourth offspring, Eva, tried hard to stay on the lawful side of the street, but love for her brother caught her in a downward spiral of crime.

Dale Jones was a hard case from early adolescence when he killed his first man. Robbery and murder became his calling card and once he hooked up with Margaret “Margie” Celano, the pair became an early version of Bonnie and Clyde.

Toss into this volatile mix the willful, violent robber Roscoe “Kansas City Blackie” Lancaster and the rebellious Roy Sherrill and you had the makings of what proved to be an amazingly dangerous and deadly as any Colorado had ever experienced.

THE BIG BLOW-OFF is 80 percent true and about 20 percent conjecture, extrapolated from the historical record. It is a story largely lost in a sea of Twentieth Century crime. The 1920’s and 30’s were so rife with gangsters that men like Frank Lewis, Dale Jones and Kansas City Blackie became little more than bit players in a virulent drama. However, within the annals of Colorado crime, nothing before the Big Blow-Off so rocked the state.

THE BIG BLOW-OFF is now available at The Kindle Store at this link:

MY MEMORY OF GARY BRANDNER (1933-2013)

 Brandner

Gary Brandner was a well known horror writer who passed away September 23, 2013, from cancer of the esophagus. He wrote 30 novels, the most famous being The Howling, which launched a successful film franchise and earned him “an obscene amount of money.” He and I were not friends, although we exchanged letters after meeting at the 1991 Horror Writers Association annual meeting in Redondo Beach, Calif.

Gary and I met at an evening social/cocktail party. He was warm and amiable and we chatted about the meeting and writing. A Famous Writer was also in attendance. The FW brought a video tape of the Eerie, Indiana TV pilot. He set it up at a table in the corner, announced that he would be playing it for anyone interested. A couple of people joined him while the rest of us remained in the central part of the room, drinking quantities of alcohol and talking.

Suddenly, Famous Writer yelled angrily, “Hey, you people want to hold it down? We’re trying to watch this pilot. I went to a lot of trouble to get it.”

Gary was clearly annoyed at the FW’s attitude in so far as the rest of us, probably 40 or 50 people were being scolded by the FW and his two sycophants.

“F— off, (FW),)” he yelled in response.

There was a tense moment and, quite shocked, I thought FW might march over and go to blows with Gary. Didn’t happen. FW and his followers returned to their video and the rest of us returned to our conversations and drinks.

Gary glanced at me. “(FW) is such an asshole.”

I really admired Gary Brandner for not kowtowing to the FW and, believe me, many other attendees did.

ON WINGS OF LEATHER: A WINTER TALE OF BLOOD AND SEX

I write horror because I enjoy it as both a writer and a reader (or viewer). There’s OWOLnothing quite like having someone tell me they read a book I’ve written and it scared them; warms the cockles of my hearts.

For example, my latest Kindle book is my 1994 novel ON WINGS OF LEATHER. It was published by Leisure as THE DEVOURING. It received some nice notices and was named one of the best horror novels of the year by Science Fiction Chronicles.

People tell me it’s a scary book and reviewers liked to point out that the creatures in the book were vicious and blood-thirsty and not environmentally-deprived being worthy of our pity. I would add that they were horny, too.

Leisure had a book scheduled entitled THE DEVOURING and it apparently fell through. All the publicity had gone out and orders were coming in and there on the editor’s desk was my query letter. He snapped up my book to fill the void. Hence the cover — evil yellow eyes staring through a broken door — that had nothing to do with the story. I hated the title from the get go, but in a phone conversation with the editor, I was told ON WINGS OF LEATHER was too similar to a romance Leisure had just published entitled ON WINGS OF LOVE. Somehow I doubt the readers of ON WINGS OF LOVE would get confused by my books, since they most likely would never consider reading it.

Sales might have been stronger if Leisure had not marketed it by Douglas D. Hawk and Robert Kangas. I assume Kangas was the author who did not deliver a manuscript. The double names confused buyers and made book signings exceedingly difficult to schedule.

Additionally, the book became part of a class action lawsuit against Leisure. Typical of New York publishers, Leisure was cooking the books and an audit showed that they owed a lot of money to a number of writers. What the owed me was not a fortune, but was the royalty for more than 7,000 books. (I’ll save my diatribe on the corruption rampant in the publishing industry for a future blog.)

I conceived ON WINGS OF LEATHER while working at the University of Denver. I had a window in my second floor office that looked towards Mount Evans and the Front Range and in some daydreaming fugue state I visualized a winged creature flying around a mountain peak. The image haunted me for years until I exorcised it by writing the book in which winged death paralyzes a small Colorado mountain town as FBI agents and local law enforcement officers seek a solution to a series of horrible deaths. Overseeing the investigation is Roberta Ferris and FBI Special Agent Richard Case aided by Morgan Blaylock, a reluctant local with enough problems of his own.

ON WINGS OF LEATHER is available at the Kindle Store.

 

 

MY FRIEND RICK, “Mr. October”

On March 21, 2013, Rick Hautala died suddenly of heart attack while walking his dog.

RickA Maine native, Rick lived in Westbrook and was a real New England liberal, a Yankee who championed the underdog and the disenfranchised. While he liked meeting new people and making new friends and was as gregarious and gracious as anyone, his frequent Facebook posts derided the mean-spirited and political charlatans. He wasn’t concerned about offending conservatives or their wealthy supports. He had a quintessential New England honesty that came with an intense and accurate bullshit detector.

Last year, the Horror Writers Association presented him with a Life Time Achievement Award, a very impressive honor. Much to my regret, I was unable to attend the Salt Lake City gathering.

In one his final interviews, Rick pointed out that he “grew up lower middle class (read: “poor”)” and that as a career choice writing was not a particularly secure one. Yet, for more 30 years, Rick was a working freelance writer, first and foremost. He didn’t care about awards or belonging to organizations (Rick once told me that the concept of a “writers organization is an oxymoron”), he simply wanted to tell stories and, hopefully, get paid for them.

I and thousands of others discovered him in 1981 when his first novel, Moon Death was published with a glowing cover blurb by Stephen King with whom he had gone to college. A werewolf novel, the book was brimming with energy and passion and I couldn’t put it down. When I finished it, I remember staring at the cover thinking two things: I wanted to write books like this one and I wanted to meet Rick Hautala.

I’ve never been able to explain it, but I felt a keen affinity with him through his writing after reading Moon Death. I think I told that him when we first met in Providence, Rhode Island at the Horror Writers Association annual confab in 1990. He only laughed and invited me to join a clutch of other writers for pizza and beer. That was so typical of Rick.

Mr OctoberAs Maine’s “other horror writer,” as he was often dubbed, Rick offered his readers something honest and genuine in his writing. No pretense, no obvious effort to be slick and crafty; Rick wrote to tell the story, not wow the reader with gimmicky literary tricks, flowery phrases and obvious devices. In a tribute to him, his youngest son’s fiancé, an aspiring writer herself, wrote that he would tell her that if she wanted to write, “just sit down and start writing for f—’s sake.”

Many others knew Rick far better than I did. We met in Providence and the next summer in Redondo Beach, California, and then in 1992 in New York City, where we walked around Manhattan with fellow writer and Rick’s closest friend Matthew Costello, a Big Apple native. I recall Matt sticking out his thumb when we met a guy going the other way. “That was Joe Walsh.” Rick and I gawked like country bumpkins.

To be sure, Rick was not a country bumpkin. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English from the University of Maine in Orono. He was exceptionally well-read and counted among his friends the cream-of-the-crop of contemporary horror writers including such luminaries as Peter Straub, Joe R. Lansdale, Tabitha King, Harlan Ellison, and, of course, Christopher Golden and Matt Costello. Those are just ones I can recall off the top of my head; literally, he knew everybody.

Before emails, Rick and I stayed in touch by letter and telephone. Not constantly, but occasionally. Talking with him was always a pleasure, like a blast of cool, fresh air. He was funny and smart and disarmingly self-deprecating. He liked to laugh and he liked to make others laugh, too, and he was insightful; so very, very insightful.

My last communication with him, not too long before his death, was an email. I happened upon an online page from Leisure Books. They were going out of business and returning book rights to authors. One of Rick’s books was on list in which they claimed not to know to whom the work belonged. I let him know he needed to contact them.

Now, of course, I wish I had called him; I wish we had talked one final time…

I learned of his deaths months after it occurred. I had been playing at hermit and when I finally discovered he was gone, it was like being punched in the face.

The thing is, the last time I saw Rick was 1992, yet the affinity I felt for him when I first read his work has never faded. I had a visceral connection with him and I honestly don’t believe death can severe it. Of course, I am sad that he’s no longer in this world, no longer among us, no longer contributing his words and his stories to the ever-expanding body of literature.

While I trust he is resting peace, there’s a part of me that believes wherever Rick is, he’s either spinning a yarn or getting in the face with some overwrought bully. Either way, I’m certain he’s in his element.

THE BLACK CLAW IS HERE!

Mark-BCI’m kicking off 2013 with a new book, never before published and NOT a horror novel. MARK OF THE BLACK CLAW is the first in a series of novels that are homage to those fun and wild pulp novels of the 1930s and 40s. You know, The Shadow, Doc Savage, Operator 5, The Spider, The Avenger and Black Book Detective featuring the Black Bat among scores of others. With, of course, a tip of the hat to the great cliffhanger serials and ‘B’ movies filled blood, thunder and a pinch of melodrama.

At the outbreak of World War II, a mysterious vigilante appears to protect the city from Nazi spies, black marketers and a host of other saboteurs, thieves and thugs. From dark alleys to penthouse hideaways, The Black Claw delivers swift justice in a battle to protect the American home front.

You’ll meet Vicky Kirkwood, the intrepid reporter who always scoops the competition on Black Claw stories; Police Lieutenant Shane Chandler and Sergeant Marty O’Malley, out to stop the vigilante; Eddie “the Terrible” Tobin, newspaper editor/tyrant; Yancy Fleet, reporter for a rival newspaper, and a host of supporting characters and bad guys lead by the masked mastermind Osiris.

Why, someone asked, write this book? My answer: Why not? I love writing horror, but too, I have a weak spot for action and adventure. Above my desk is a note; M.A.R.S., a reminder that everything I write needs to have Mystery, Adventure, Romance and Sex. Although, regarding the latter, MARK OF THE BLACK CLAW is quite innocent and chaste compared to my works of horror.

MARK OF THE BLACK CLAW is currently available at The Kindle Store http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BRMEB4G and Barnes and Noble (LINK).

JUSTICE OF THE BLACK CLAW, the second volume, will followed later this year.

And, speaking of horror, I hope to publication the all-new A LESSER GOD RISING very soon as well as ON WINGS OF LEATHER, which was originally published by Leisure Books as THE DEVOURING. WINGS was named one of the “top 10 horror novels of the year” by Science Fiction Chronicles.

MOONSLASHER SEQUEL AND MORE!

I’ve not posted here for many weeks and that’s not good. However, please note that in the ensuring time since I last posted, I’ve managed to get two more ebooks posted for Kindle and Nook. They’ll be available on other platforms shortly.

MOONS OF THE BLOOD HUNT is the sequel to MOONSLASHER. It was almost published back in the 90s, but the publisher wanted it shortened and I didn’t want to shorten it. Thus, it languished in my computer until now. A friend told me that it’s “scary.” Well, I should hope so. I am a horror writer and I do aim to scare the bejesus people.

ISLAND OF THE WOLF is a novella, about 30,000 words and as such, it’s selling for a mere 99 cents. And speaking of scary….

Five people, strangers to one another, awaken on a plane flying over the Canadian wilderness. The cockpit door is sealed shut and when they land on a vast lake, the plane docks and the pilot orders them ashore at gunpoint. For the next three nights, they attempt to survive the savage creature that pursues them on an island from which there is no escape.

Believe me, for 99 cents, loosing a few night’s sleep will be worth it.

MOONSLASHER LIVES…AGAIN!

Finally! MOONSLASHER is posted to Amazon. I’ve updated it a bit, but it’s the same story that appeared from Critic’s Choice in 1987. Foley Kincaid, Tom Burk, Vanessa Symons, the Hackett brothers, Shaw McManus and Jessica Halworth and, let’s not forget, Sekhet, are all there playing their part in the blood fest.

I’m remember writing it in the office – the same office’s I’m in now, except rather than a tile floor, it had orange carpeting (what was I thinking?) – on an IBM Selectric typewriter that was the be-all and end-all of writing tools. Of course, I wrote it in the fall of ’82, right before the infamous Christmas blizzard that shutdown Denver and the surrounding area for about four days. In 1982 all the great technology we now take for granted – the Internet, personal computers, cell phones, Kindles – were just pipe dreams. A remarkable amount of change has occurred in 30 years. For one thing, I was 34 years old. Now I’m what? Forty-nine? I think the math works. Right?

Now, I’ve already uploaded the MOONSLASHER cover, but I’m uploading the final cover – I added a tiny bit of info.

Thus, if you like scary monsters, you’ll like the Moonslasher.

MOONSLASHER

!MOONSLASHER

Here’s the preliminary cover of Moonslasher, my 25-year-old horror novel that has been reedited and updated. It sold well and for Critic’s Choice Paperbacks was the number bestseller during their few years as a publisher. In fact, in an annual volume of Fiction Writer’s Market, they featured it as the highlight book.

I’m pleased with the new version. It’s tighter than the original, which was a little sloppy here and there. And the story holds up. Remote resort town in the Colorado Rockies, teenagers drinking, partying and having sex, a one-armed cop keeping the peace and a bizarre monster prowling under the full moon, killing anyone in its path and eating what it kills.

Fun stuff.

I was once told that a couple of teenagers related to my wife were driving at night through Wyoming, under a full moon, taking turns reading Moonslasher, scaring the bejesus out of one another. What’s not to love about that?

Hopefully, I’ll have Moonslasher out as an ebook by mid-September.

ON DWELLING BY THE DARK STREAM

My name is Douglas D. Hawk. I am a writer, primarily of horror novels although I dabble in adventure and historical crime.

“Douglas” is Scottish and Gaelic for “dweller by the dark stream” or “dark river.” I’ve always liked that; hence, the name of my blog. However, I was writing horror novels – dwelling by that dark stream – long before I happened upon my name’s meaning.

The “Hawk” comes from the British. I’ve always believed that some distant ancestor was swilling ale in a sketchy roadhouse or dubious inn called The Hawk or The Hawk’s Inn or something similar when the tax collector showed up and my drunken forbearer paid, signed the rolls and thereafter was known as something or other Hawk.

I am, indeed, a dweller by a dark stream. That’s not to say I revel in blood and gore and carnage or cheerlead at car wrecks or rubber-neck industrial accidents. Quite the contrary, I’m an upbeat, positive guy. In fact, I remind myself every day that my mood and disposition are choices and I choose to be happy. I mean, let’s face it, choosing to be unhappy is both asinine and insane.

Besides, writing horror is not about embracing darkness; it is about peering and poking into the darkness to better appreciate the light. It’s hard to understand what is truly good if we do not understand what is truly evil. Besides, I like to scare the bejesus out of people. When someone tells me that they read one of my books and “couldn’t sleep all night,” I feel no guilt, not the least little bit. No, on the contrary, I’m delighted. That was my intent.

My brand of horror is personal. I exploit fears, phobias and the things that haunt our dreams and wake us in the dark with our heart pounding and our face bathed in sweat; the terrors that make our stomach flutter, our knees weak and shorten our breath.

Cast a few characters in some remote locale with an unseen force or an unknown entity that will both psychologically and physically torment and torture them before killing and eating them, or, better yet, eating and killing them, now that’s a good time—for me, and hopefully, for my readers.

When I write I seek that transcendent place where my fingers on the keyboard and the symbols on the screen vanish as the story unfolds in my mind like cinema of the grotesque, where the next image bobs to the surface like a bloated corpse on the dark lake or screams at me from the shadows like a howling banshee and my stomach lurches or I groan with disgust, then I know my fiction’s working. After all, how can I scare readers if I can’t scare myself?

The bottom line is simple: Writing is my addiction and horror is my drug of choice. Given the etymology of my given name – dweller by the dark stream – I have occasionally wondered about fate and destiny. I’ve embraced tales of the horrific since I was young. Having met scores of other horror writers, I’ve concluded that most of us are absurdly normal or at least not too abnormal. We’re not any stranger than other writers, it’s just that our imaginations are neither saccharine nor overly sanguine. And when we pose the what if questions, we usually find sardonic and disturbing answers.

For anyone interested, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of Moonslasher, my first novel and a minor bestseller. Soon I will be releasing it as an ebook, revised, reedited and updated. (I wrote in on an IBM Selectric, long before home computers were popular and the Internet, cell phones and other electronic gizmos.)