Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Latest Reads and Other Things

I know, I know... it's been a few years (4+ actually). Just so you know... I'll never be up to speed on current reads and my reviews, well, they will always be me just writing about books in a random way. This has always been and will always be a random thoughts blog in the fullest sense.

I started the year reading November Road by Lou Berney.  This was such an entertaining read even without the ending I had hoped for. You know me and my sappy, happy endings. The book reminded me of childhood days road tripping it to North Dakota to see our uncle during the summers. Though our road trips usually took a detour off the beaten path for spankings with twigs found on the side of the road by our step-mother Freda. Trust me, if I had known about Frank Guidry when I was six I would have summoned him up a time or two to save us. Speaking of Frank... Frank Guidry, the ever loyal lieutenant to New Orleans' mob boss Carlos Marcello. Carlos Marcello... every time I read that name I thought of Oscar Martello.  *eyes glaze over* I'm sorry. Where were we? Oh, yes. Frank Guidry, the ever loyal lieutenant to mob boss Carlos.  Frank is way too loyal if you ask me. He reminds me of me when I became too trusting and complicit with my medical care and out of total laziness I was just doing whatever the doctor told me to do until I almost died. Not that Frank's lazy... he's anything but. It's just, one too many errands later and now Frank's just another loose end in a world full of wasted lives. With a new take on the JFK assassination, November Road  has plenty of suspense, love, murder, more murder, and wisdom.  My favorite line in the book was given by Leo, personal assistant to the charismatically crazy Ed Zingel. When Frank inquires about how making decisions should come easy when you know the knack to a happy life, Leo replies, "With every decision we create a new future. We destroy all other futures." Clearly Frank took that to heart in the final pages of this book. Frank may have been just another wasted life on the run from Carlos in the beginning pages of this novel, but by the end... his life was everything but wasted.

I found myself silently screaming while reading this book. It is all of our current political nightmares captured in 340 pages with the added bonus of a happy ending. When Remy Stanton inserts himself as hero in an armed robbery, he finds himself thrust into the public spotlight and intentionally the new face of a ruthless business man's run for President of the United States. Secrets, secrets, and a little bit of love keep the novel moving quickly. Seriously realistic and brilliantly written, this novel gave me a glimmer of hope.

I didn't smile once while reading this book. It was that good. Seriously. I mean, this was a depressing look inside rural back country living where all roads lead to nothing but bad decisions, unemployment, misplaced hope, miserable memories, and insanity. All of the characters are broken. All. Of. Them.  The Weight of this World is everything I would have expected from a novel by David Joy. The despair... hauntingly beautiful.


The Upper Hand by Johnny Shaw is a seriously fun read with lots of laughter and witty comments. After the death of their mother, a dysfunctional family reunites with a long lost relative and together they plot to steal millions from the televangelist that inherited their inheritance.  Bonding over family secrets and stories of buried treasures, the Ucker kids create their own definition of family and pull off a heist their parents would be proud of. Or, at least, their father would be.

I'm a lover of church hymns so I was curious to hear the tune for the hymn sung at Bertha Ucker's funeral found on page 41. I know, I know... seems kind of bizarre, but this is the second book by Shaw that I've found myself googling a hymn after reading. I've attached the hymn, well, the versions I could find online, below. The words were written by S. Trevor Francis and the music is by John E. Gaul. Tune: Columbus.

I Am Waiting for the Dawning

I Am Waiting for the Dawning Piano

I Am Waiting for the Dawning Piano/Information

Audio Books

If you have a couple hours to spare I highly recommend this inspirational book by Admiral William H. McRaven. Make Your Bed is really good. Seriously... listen to it.

And if you're willing to take a completely different path with your listening,  I would also recommend My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her love of history and her heritage are so infectious you'll find yourself jotting down names of historical figures mentioned so you can learn more about them. The bonus of this book in audio is you get to listen to Ginsburg read her own opinions as well as listen to recorded lectures and speaking assignments. It really is fascinating and I can't suggest this book enough.

I'm currently listening to Cold - The Susan Powell Case Files

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I Have No Idea What The Title of The Book Is...


I've spent the last 17 months recovering from some complications with Lupus. A minor problem turned out to be major, and then my doctor didn't really know what to do and made some errors in my treatment plan. I almost died... twice in a two month period. So I did what most people would have done. I divorced my doctor of 14+ years and moved on.

Of course moving on came with its own set of complications. All fixable, though. I've been on a weekly dose of Methotrexate for just over a year now. Probably not the best drug in the world, but my options are limited. And I'll take what they give me to live, right? I take my poison on Saturday night and rest and recover on Sunday. And I'm doing incredibly well. This is the first time I've been pain free in 16 years. I feel great. I've taken up biking. Me... on a bike. It really is a beautiful thing! The only ongoing issue I've been having since I've started the medicine has been the headaches.

Yeah, the headaches.

They start early in the morning and continue through the day. And they've interfered with my reading. A lot! I think I've read, maybe, three books from cover to cover since last May. One book I read twice. It took me so long to get through Big Maria by Johnny Shaw the first time, that I decided to read it again. For the record, I found it just as hysterical the second time around. And I'm still devastated over the burros, Johnny. Just devastated... *sigh*

Itching to get back into reviewing I took up listening to audio books. Not an easy thing to do, by the way. At least it hasn't been easy for me. I started with some books that were on sale... Hey now, don't laugh. I didn't know if listening to books would be something I'd like, and I didn't want to shell out a bunch of money to audio books I would never listen to.

So I started with a legal thriller written by some guy named Adam Mitzner.  It wasn't a bad book. I actually liked it.  My only complaint was the use of the word ejaculated during what would have been a rather pleasant love scene.

Dear Adam-  I don't care what your editor said about the use of the word ejaculated. please refrain from using the word in any future love scenes. Love, Me!

Maybe you didn't notice the problem... up there in the previous paragraph about the book I read listened to. I didn't realize the problem, either, until I sat down at lunch to tell a friend about the book. As I sat there telling her all about this book and how much I liked this author and hated the word ejaculated, she asked me what  the title of the book was.

"I have no idea what the title of the book is..."

Not sure how I missed the title... but it seems to be happening with all the books I'm listening to. I'm assuming this issue will resolve itself over time. Maybe. *takes mental note to write down title of all future audio books* This girl that could memorize page numbers and paragraphs to reference later in reviews is finding herself jotting down minutes and section numbers with notations on what she's trying to remember.  I'm also struggling with the voice of the reader... I find myself starting the book over after the first hour because that's how long it takes me to get used to the voice.

Hmmm...  to avoid this problem Dan O'Shea should be the master narrator for all audio books. Just for me... please.

So there you have it. I'm listening to books now and reading when I can. And even though reviewing might take me longer to do... I just wanted you to know that I'm trying.


Friday, May 31, 2013

Gavage by Chuck Wendig

One day, when Chuck is super duper famous and one of the elite in Hollywood with a series on every major network in every country far and wide, I will be able to tell all my neighbor kids about the time I shared the backseat of a Mercedes with Chuck... while bonding over carsickness. I even brought him gifts for the occasion. And it was spectacular!  Here's a picture of our time together... after the carsickness wore off.  Thanks for being my guest today, Chuck. 


I’m kind of a foodie.

I figure, life is short. Might as well eat well – and not just an “eat for pleasure” kind of a thing but also an “eat for maximum health” thing. See, food is dirty. Its industry is largely corrupt. Organic used to mean something but then lobbying moved the goalposts. Monsanto wants to stick seeds in your farm-dirt that you can’t reproduce from year to year and hey who cares if the stuff is becoming pest-resistant and bred with pesticides in ‘em. Here in Pennyslvania we have fights between Big Dairy and Little Dairy—the little guys won the right a few years ago to sell raw milk long as it’s tested and regulated, and the Big Guys tried suing the Little Folks just for saying that the milk is hormone-free, and now the Big Guys are back with a new governor trying to push Little Dairy back out of the picture again by making their organic raw milk illegal.

Food is full of scary people doing scary things.

And those scary things often result in what’s on our plate.

So, let’s talk about foie gras.

Foie gras is the liver of a duck or goose—particularly a liver that has been fattened.

I’m not a fan of liver, really.

But I love me some foie gras.

It’s like eating some kind of magical meat butter. It’s unctuous and creamy and has a tinge of sweetness to it. It’s an amazing food. It sounds strange and off-putting. It’s not.

However, in some states, you can’t eat the stuff.

Because it’s illegal.

Here’s why: opponents say that it’s cruel. The act of creating foie gras requires gavage, or the force-feeding of ducks and geese, and that sounds pretty horrible. Force-feeding is something we do to prisoners and torture victims. Opponents paint a picture of us shoving food into duck maws as they struggle to escape.

Two things, though:

First, if you’ve ever actually seen gavage, the animals like it. If they’re raised on a humane farm, they’ll run to the act of gavage, not away from it. Ducks aren’t like people. They don’t savor their food. They just want it in their belly.

Second, if you’ve ever paid attention to the way meat is actually produced in this country, it’s rife with acts a thousand times more disgusting than gavage: mutant chickens with three wings and tumors whose corpses end up getting fed to cows or pigs (called “chicken litter”), and pigs are held in cramped containers that during their whole lives never lets them turn around 180 degrees.

Gavage is a distraction. Opponents fight it and then go home and eat a chicken breast from a headless chicken force-grown into an adult chicken in less than half the time it would normally take. A chicken pumped with water, hormones, and antibiotics. A chicken that never saw the sun.

Ah, but! Gavage represented for me a really interesting fictional opportunity—here’s this thing that’s illegal and prized as a delicacy and ironically kept from the people who are willing to pay to keep it ethical. And I wondered, could that open the act up to unethical practices? Could people’s inability to eat foie gras lead them to black market foie gras? Are there crime seeds in forbidden food?

And so, the story of “Gavage” was born.

Hope you check out the collection.

Hope you like it!

Chuck is the author of the published novels: Blackbirds, Mockingbird, Double Dead, Bait Dog, and Dinocalypse Now. He also the author of the soon-to-be-published novels: The Blue Blazes, The Cormorant, Heartland Books 1/2/3, Beyond Dinocalypse, Dinocalypse Forever, Harum Scarum, and Gods & Monsters: Unclean Spirits.
Much of his writing advice has been collected in various writing- and storytelling-related e-books.
He currently lives in the forests of Pennsyltucky with wife, two dogs, and newborn son.
He is likely drunk and untrustworthy.


If I could encourage any writer to start a kid detective series it would be Johnny Shaw.  I found myself grinning and giggling so much while reading about this hard-boiled, fedora-wearing kid detective, Simon Sez, that I finally had to leave my work desk and finish the story in the stairwell just so people would leave me alone and let me read in peace. Let's just say that if Simon Sez had been around in my younger days I would have been offering him bites of my cookies every day of the week... and, no, that's not a euphemism.  I'm thrilled that Simon Sez in the Snickerdoodle Kerfuffle debuts in FEEDING KATE, and I really, really, really, really, really hope to read more detective adventures featuring this truly lovable character. 

Simon Sez in The Snickerdoodle Kerfuffle

I’m not one of those writers that always wanted to be a writer. I didn’t write my first short story at 5 or a picaresque novella at 8 or a trilogy of novels known as “the puberty cycle” at 12. I don’t really remember what I wanted to be. Probably some bastard combination of super-hero, architect, and farmer (Superarchifarmer?). The idea of putting stories down on paper didn’t occur to me until college and even then it was as a screenwriter (and as screenwriting falls somewhere between bumper stickers and greeting cards in terms of literary merit, I’m not even sure that counts).

And while I wasn’t a writer as a kid, I was a voracious reader. I may have grown up on a farm in the middle of the desert, but that house was filled with books. Not a bookcase against the wall in the den, but overflowing with books. I’m talking tonnage. When I packed the books up after my Pop passed away, there were over 10,000 volumes.

And a big part of my early reading other than comic books was mystery series books: Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew (yes, boys read Nancy Drew), Encyclopedia Brown, and The Three Investigators.  This was, of course, before I graduated to Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs, another teenager converted by the awesome power of Frank Frazetta.  It took me a while to get back to reading mysteries, but I never forgot a lot of those childhood bookventures.

When I sat down to write a story for FEEDING KATE, I knew that food had to be an integral part of the story. The first idea that jumped in my head was stolen cookies.  Don’t ask me why. Maybe I was hungry. Not too hard-boiled, to be sure. I mean, I have a reputation to uphold (or so I sadly tell myself). Stolen cookies? It sounded like an Encyclopedia Brown story.

But Encyclopedia Brown was too Sherlocky. The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew were the Poirot and Marple of the teen mystery set. And while the Three Investigators had some edge (their hideout was in a junkyard!), they used their brains too much to be considered badass. Where was Li’l Phil Marlowe or Sammy Spade? Where was the kid who was willing to ask the hard questions, play rough with the boys and rougher with the dames, and at the end of the day, have the grass stains to prove it?

That’s how the hard-boiled kid detective Simon Sez came to be. At eleven, he’s got ten good reasons you shouldn’t mess with him. His fingers when they’re in fists.

FEEDING KATE inspired me. I enjoyed the hell out of writing the story, and I’m considering writing more stories with Simon.  We’ll see.  I did see the titles “The Boy Who Was Not It” and “The Dill Pickle Stickler” written in the margins of some notes. That might be enough to get me started.

But for now, the only place to read “Simon Sez in The Snickerdoodle Kerfuffle” is in the pages of FEEDING KATE.  Simon Sez says buy it.

Johnny Shaw is the author of the novels DOVE SEASON and BIG MARIA. His work has also appeared in Thuglit, Crime Factory, Plots with Guns, and various anthologies.

He is the creator and editor of the online fiction publication BLOOD & TACOS, a loving homage to men’s adventure paperbacks of the 1970′s & 1980′s.

You can find him online at or follow him on Twitter @BloodAndTacos

Feeding Kate: A Crime Fiction Anthology is available from Amazon. All proceeds from Feeding Kate benefit the Lupus Foundation of America.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Just Part of the Job by Holly West

I'm super happy to have the beautiful Holly West as my guest today. The two of us met on Twitter and then met in real life while attending Bouchercon in St. Louis, and I've since had the pleasure of seeing her several times in LA while attending Noir at the Bar (N@B).  She's an amazing writer with several of her short stories being published online and in anthologies, and is currently awaiting the release of the her first novel Diary of Bedlam (working title) in 2014 from Carina Press. I know that she loves a good home improvement project and that she has a great eye for design, but what I didn't know until recently is that she's an accomplished  jewelry designer. Man, the things you learn when you're stalking your friends online. *wink wink*  Holly is a wonderful person... she's full of life and adventure, kind words, warm hugs, and a smile that can brighten the darkest of days. I'm thankful to have her as a friend.

Aaaannd - after reading her guest post today I think we need to plan a Girl's Trip to Disneyland... we can be Mouseketeers together, Holly!  

Just Part of the Job

There haven’t been many of them, but of all the short stories I've written, my contribution to FEEDING KATE is my favorite.

JUST PART OF THE JOB is about a troubled young celebrity named Kate Partridge whose penchant for drugs and alcohol has caught up to her. A tabloid favorite, she’s on probation and can’t get work because the industry she grew up in is fed up with her hijinks. On her way home from a night of heavy partying, she hits a bicyclist on Malibu Canyon. Will she stick around to help him and take the heat or will she run?

Whew, boy. You don’t know the half of it.

The culture of the entertainment industry is pervasive in Los Angeles. Speaking of troubled starlets, the jewelry store where Lindsay Lohan allegedly stole a necklace is located two blocks from my house. It’s not uncommon to happen upon random film shoots and now and then we get notices that filming will be happening on our street. For ten years I lived in the same condo building as a very famous singer/songwriter and my trainer at the gym is an actress. One of our neighbors is a middling reality show producer.

My dog goes to the same veterinarian as Leonard Nimoy’s and Rick Springfield’s pets.

I could go on and on but remember, it’s not as if I’m involved in the “business.” I’m just an average Josephine trying to get her write on. That’s what I mean when I say that celebrity culture is pervasive here—it’s all around you even when you’re completely unconnected to it and not really searching for it. That said, I love a good celebrity sighting (Rick Springfield in the vet’s waiting room? I actually swooned). And obviously, I can drop names with the best of them. I visit regularly, but I draw the line at buying tabloids—somehow reading celebrity gossip online seems less shameful than reading People magazine.

Perhaps shameful is too harsh a word. But I use it because there is a vileness to the celebrity gossip industry; the hounding paparazzi coupled with the antics of attention-starved publicity whores makes for a symbiotic yet toxic combination. My participation, even if it’s only clicking on a link or two, makes me complicit in it. Still, I can’t look away.

I suppose I’ve always had a fascination with celebrity. My grandma had a regularly replenished pile of movie magazines handed down from her sister and every time I’d go to visit, I’d pour over them, mesmerized by the celebrities of the 1970s. Elizabeth Taylor stands out the most for me; back then, the tabloids documented her every move, from who she was sleeping with to how much weight she had gained or lost. By age eight I had all of her husbands memorized (well, the ones she’d had up to that point, at least).

As a kid, I wanted to be a celebrity. I was obsessed with becoming a Mouseketeer, and I absolutely convinced myself that I had what it took to be a star. I even devised a plan to get to LA to audition. I was bitterly disappointed when my parents informed me it was never gonna happen.

It seemed natural, then, that my protagonist in JUST PART OF THE JOB be a former ‘tween star who’d grown up with all the entitlements, ass-kissing, and scrutiny that such celebrity brings. These, coupled with her excessive drug and alcohol use, makes for a rather distorted take on both reality and morality and leads to what I think is a pretty damned good conclusion.

Holly West’s short fiction appears in several anthologies and her debut historical mystery will be published by Carina Press in February 2014. She lives, reads, and writes in Los Angeles, California with her husband, Mick, and dog, Stella. You can find more information about Holly at

Feeding Kate: A Crime Fiction Anthology is available from Amazon. All proceeds from Feeding Kate benefit the Lupus Foundation of America.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Rewards by Steve Weddle

What can I say about Steve Weddle? Steve is this all-around good guy that seems to have a knack for helping people. He's kind and witty, yet serious enough when he's kidding around to not know if he's really kidding around or not. Intimidatingly kind? Anyway, he's also one hell of a writer.  If I had to describe his writing in one word I'd probably use the word... *thinks super hard* musically hypnotic? Okay, that's two words. But you get the idea. There is music in the words he's writing... or at least you can feel the emotional pulls and pushes of his characters in each story that he tells (and if I had a musical degree I'd compare this to a symphony or something, but I don't so... I won't).  I'm talking about the emotional pull you get when you're reading about the hard-core mobster that tugs at your heart one minute while he's professing his duty to protect children, and then holding your chest and squeezing your eyes shut the next minute as said mobster takes a baseball bat to a child predator with such realism that you find yourself wiping away blood spatter from your face. And, yes, I'm assuming this has happened to all of us... you know, read something so real that you just knew you were actually there witnessing it?

Steve writes like that.

All the time.  

And this "musically hypnotic" writing can be found in the story he was kind enough to contribute to the Feeding Kate anthology. The Rewards is an incredibly realistic and hypnotic tale of a family gathering with one too many awkward moments. Moments I think we can all relate to... cringe-worthy even.   In fact, it's almost like he's pulled a memory from my brain and shared it with the world.  So weird.

Steve pulling memories from my brain...

The Rewards

When my wife said we’d been invited to meet some family and visit the DC zoo, I had no idea how costly a night it would become.

We live close enough to DC that we can toodle in for a day trip to the zoo or the Smithsonians and then toodle our way back home after dark.

Her family connections were staying over in Bethesda, so they thought we all might want to stay in the same hotel, enjoy the pool the night before, have dinner close by. Sounded great.

The hotel has an indoor pool, which is kinda fancy. When I was a kid, we went to a family reunion (some distant family relations) in a Holidome. It was a Holiday Inn, but in a dome. They had indoor pools. And shuffleboard. At which, I must say, I showed considerable sports prowess, as you might expect.

In Bethesda, my wife’s cousin had made reservations for us at the restaurant in the hotel. Which is fine. I didn’t know whether it was Denny’s, as this wasn’t the LaQuinta, but I figured it would be fine.

I’d never eaten at a Morton’s Steakhouse before. I’m more a Western Sizzler kind of guy. Actually, I’m more of a Bonzana fan, but I haven’t seen one of those in a while. Big baked potato and an iceberg salad. Jello cubes in a too-small bowl. An overcooked piece of beef I’d misordered. Ah, Bonanza.

We got to Morton’s and headed for our table. Only, it wasn’t a table. It was a room. The room I describe in the FEEDING KATE story I wrote, “The Rewards.” While much of the story – the in-laws, the psychic assaults, the baby problem – was fictionalized, the setting was pulled from our Morton’s visit fairly whole cloth, as it were. Even the desertion of the women as the check arrived was real-ish.

That setting helped me find the story for “The Rewards,” that terrible awkwardness in the face of family stress, that subterranean conflict cracking through.

I have never paid so much money for future poo-poo in my life. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll never have to again. But I could, without the difficulty faced by the poor guy in my story. If I were a better man, I could tell that the next day I dedicated myself to funding a food bank for the hungry. I didn’t. Instead, the positive that followed is that I spent the entire day at the zoo and never once complained about how expensive their $7 hamburgers were.

Steve Weddle grew up on the Louisiana/Arkansas line, holds an MFA in creative writing from Louisiana State University, and currently works for a newspaper group. He lives with his family in Virginia. His novel COUNTRY HARDBALL will be published by Tyrus Books in November 2013. The book is set for simultaneous release as hardback, paperback, ebook, and audio book.

Feeding Kate: A Crime Fiction Anthology is available from Amazon. All proceeds from Feeding Kate benefit the Lupus Foundation of America.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Kamikaze Death Burgers at the Ghost Town Cafe by Thomas Pluck

I couldn't help but smile the entire time I read Kamikaze Death Burgers at the Ghost Town Cafe by Thomas Pluck because it was just what I had expected from his character Jay Desmarteaux, and because it also introduced a character we had both talked about in the past, Kate. Well, that and the fact that these two meet up in a cafe sharing the same love of cheeseburgers didn't hurt. And the flirtatious fry sharing was pretty fun to read, too. And did I tell you that Kate gets to wear leather? Well, she does. AND she carries a dagger. I really hope this isn't the last we see of Kate, Pluckster.  She's awesome... and she'd make a great side-kick every now and again for Jay. *wink wink*

Sabrina is one of the most supportive and inspirational people I know. I've written two stories that came about after chatting with her. The first was a challenge to write an opening line on Twitter. That turned into "Shogun Honey," about a samurai who gets mixed up in a battle between a priest and yakuza. The next time, we talked about favorite characters, and somehow "Kate" became a woman on a motorbike with a penchant for leather and knives.

And that was the seed that grew into "Kamikaze Death Burgers at the Ghost Town Cafe," for the Feeding Kate anthology.

Jay Desmarteaux is a recurring character of mine who has appeared in "Gumbo Weather" in Needle Magazine, "The Rock Ridge Ringer," in Hills of Fire: Bare-Knuckle Yarns of Appalachia, and will appear in my novel BURY THE HATCHET. He is an ex-con who spent a quarter century in prison taking the fall for the murder of a brutal high school bully. In some ways he is older than his forty years, and in other ways, he is a lot younger. He had 25 years to hit the weight pile, box in the ring, study in the library, spin gears in the auto shop, and chum it up with lifer outlaws, made men, gangbangers and street thieves.

But we know none of this when we meet him in the story. He is just a man driving a rare hand-built '57 Cadillac Brougham, who witnesses a tragic accident on the highway and becomes embroiled in a gang war between bikers and truckers in the Utah desert. The biker element came from a story a man told me in a diner, about why he had an Iron Cross. He had rescued a Hell's Angel from a bad spill and the biker gave him his cross as a thank you, so if he ever needed help from an Angel, he could ask. I never found out if he ever had to cash that chip in, but the story stuck with me.

And so did the image of Kate that Sabrina and I had come up with. Jay is good at playing both sides against the middle, but I wanted him to meet his match. And he is more than matched with Kate, who became one of my favorite characters. Someone bound by law and principle, but with a wild heart that yearned to be free. Just as Jay is shackled to his young mistakes and fierce desire for elusive justice, he needed a foil. And that was Kate.

And Sabrina being from Utah, I had to set it there. I have only driven through the state on a trip to Burning Man 15 years ago, but the desolate and stunning red desert backdrop cried out for a highway chase. That reminded me of DUEL and the Mad Max films, and it all came from there (that and my time working at the docks, driving my Mini Cooper among the tractor trailers). I remembered a small diner in the town of Echo that we stopped in. It still exists, and the "cafe" is based on my memories there. They don't serve a "Kamikaze Death Burger" but they make good breakfast and cheeseburgers.

I believe there is no food more American than the cheeseburger. The idea of Jay rolling through the desert in an iconic Cadillac in search of burgers and justice to be done made him into a Don Quixote cowboy strutting out of American myth, to me. He was spinning his wheels, no pun intended, until Kate came along and smacked him upside the head, and gave him something to fight for.

Jay's like me, in that way. I'm not happy unless I am working toward something. Once I get there, I need another quest. Even if it's just to try the Kamikaze Death Burger at the Ghost Town cafe.

Thomas Pluck writes unflinching fiction with heart. His work has appeared in Big Pulp, The Utne Reader, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, Blood & Tacos, Burnt Bridge, PANK Magazine, McSweeney's, The Morning News, Beat to a Pulp, and numerous anthologies. He is the editor of Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT. You can find him on the web at and on Twitter as @tommysalami

His novel BLADE OF DISHONOR, an action thriller spanning World War 2 to the present, will appear in 2013 from Beat to a Pulp press.

Feeding Kate: A Crime Fiction Anthology is available from Amazon. All proceeds from Feeding Kate benefit the Lupus Foundation of America.