Monday, May 18, 2015


This is a rough first draft of the prologue for the memoir I have started writing. No, I'm not looking for feedback or anything. I just wanted to share it. Hope you enjoy it (all things considered).



It’s the Fourth of July and my left hand wears a glove of blood. I’ve been sitting on the living room floor for hours, getting up only once to find something to end it all with, settling on a serrated steak knife from a kitchen drawer.

This moment has been steadfast in my mind for over a month. On April 23rd, Angelyn had put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger. We’d had plans to get married, but to quote Ross Geller from Friends, “We were on a break.”

Blood drips onto the carpet and I feel fleeting guilt that someone’s gonna have to clean it up, but fuck it.

My laptop is on the floor with me, but I’m not looking at it, nor am I looking at the TV, which is also on.

It’s still light outside, but in the distance I’m vaguely aware that folks are already setting off fireworks. It’s very hot and very humid—Southern Florida, Pine Island, in July. I’m also fairly drunk, though not as drunk as I would like to be.

I’ve had a few false starts. Tiny nicks and scratches with the blade, though little to no blood. My mind and heart are telling me I’m worthless, no good to anybody. The world would definitely be a better place without me in it, all I do is hurt people, I am the sole reason for Angelyn killing herself. That responsibility is completely on me. I’m the reason she blew her brains out.

I’ve waited this long to snuff myself only because, right after her death, my mind fucked every which way, I was invited to Seattle to accept my father’s induction into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. I had to stay alive long enough for that. It was one meaningful thing I could do before vacating this damn world. It also allowed me to see my son Corwin, and my mom and sister, one last time.

I know I wasn’t any fun to be around in Seattle. I was too fixated on joining Angelyn and getting the hell out of here. I could’ve been nicer to my family, even if I felt as though they didn’t give a rat’s ass about Angelyn’s death (it had only been a few weeks). I mentioned that suicidal ideation was plaguing my thoughts, though it didn’t generate much of a response. Really, though, what do you say to someone who tells you that?

I didn’t drink at all for the few days I was in Seattle, though it was never far from my mind. I’d already made the decision to take my life just as soon as I got back to Florida. Everything that had happened in Florida was more than enough to convince me that I was merely taking up space, existing in a place where a real life should be, breathing air that should be someone else’s.

Florida is hell for me, but for the most part it is I who has turned Florida into hell. From the moment I moved here, each day I’ve taken another step down a dark, deadly path. I’ve slept in alleys, passed out in swamps (finding new shoes was a trial), slummed it in flophouses and in beyond shitty motel rooms. I had a chance to make a new life for myself and blew it the very second I arrived. Many people won’t talk to me anymore; bridges have been burned.

More blood drips onto the carpet (I’m sorry, landlord); there is blood everywhere. My T-shirt and jeans are ruined. After the few false starts I’d finally mustered the strength, raised the blade and swung it down hard, cutting myself all the way to the bone.

Red gushes from my wrist and forearm, but there is no pain. There is no relief, no fear, just blood spilling over everything, and an inky mental blackness pushing its way in from all sides. Black and crimson dominate my vision. My family, my son, my friends are all bouncing around in my head, but they are muted, distant, and seem artificial.

It isn’t just the last month or so. I’ve had suicidal ideation since grammar school. It’s as though my whole life has been waiting, anticipating this very moment. Angelyn’s suicide is just the final straw.

And now I’ve done it.

There is no feeling in my arm. There is no feeling in any part of my body. It’s getting darker even though the sun is still out, and there are red filters over my corneas. I’m dripping. The shirt is red but the blood is redder, the leg of my pants has darkened but has a shiny blood-red hue to it.

Slowly, painlessly, I am dying. Every minute I feel weaker, sleepier. Before too long it should all be over.

A voice pops into my head, asks me if this is really what I want.


I don’t just want it. I feel obligated—to the world; I owe the world my absence. And I owe it to myself to stop the pain and agony of simply existing. Really, it’s a win-win.

As my mind considers shutting down, the thoughts running through it are millions at once, hiccupping, jittering, flickering in and out like single movie frames. There are so many that a pile builds up into a mountain somewhere in the lower back of my brain. For whatever reason I’m able to feel what part of my brain is being used… it’s weird.

I’ve gotten blood all over myself. That heavy thwack has brought about an awful lot of the red stuff. I feel bad about the carpet, but really, soon I’ll be dead, and the landlord can only shout at a ghost, so no sense worrying too much about it. I have the last thirty-three years or so to contend with, and it’s all scrolling so quickly by and piling up so fast that my life up to this point is now just unhappy gobbledygook.

While everything inside me is muffled, I can still feel traces of sadness, as well as anger—at a lot of things. I’m mad at Angelyn. She checked out, left me, and I’m angry at her for killing herself, even angrier at myself for causing her to do it. This is what I believe, in my heart of hearts, I drove someone to suicide, and the anger of it reflects right back onto me, because I am the cause of her death, and the cause of so many other people’s misery.

Alcohol is a big part of it. I know that. Drinking has been a problem for a while now—I’d been arrested in February for a DUI—but when Angelyn left, this problem exploded, going way beyond what I could’ve imagined. With the exception of Seattle, I’m averaging between a fifth and a handle of Captain Morgan spiced rum, as well as a six- or twelve-pack of beer, pretty much every day, along with some Sutter Home wine. Drink until I pass out and when I wake up, drink until I pass out again. Too much pain, it’s the only way I know how to cope with things now, and it’s what I spend the little money I have on. If you hurt, and you find something that helps take the pain away, there’s a good chance you’ll do it, consequences be damned.

Basketball season is over. It had been the one thing kind of keeping me going. For a couple of hours each night I hardly drank, and was even able to enjoy a few little experiences. But now it’s all over, and again I have nothing. More importantly, I am nothing.

It’s just a matter of waiting now. The life is draining from my body. As long as I can be patient, it’ll happen.

More blood. The black has become much deeper, thicker. Still light outside, but my world is a black world tinted with red.

Soon. Soon it will all be over. Finally, I’m on my way out. Thank God!

Then my cell phone rings.

That's it for now. Some other pieces may or may not find their way onto Bloggety Blog. Only time will tell, I guess.

Until next time...

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Untitled Roger Zelazny Essay

This is another essay I wrote, a bit before the one I just posted. I do like this one better, I think. I don't think I ever settled on a title. In fact, I'm not sure if this was ever published or not. Any which way, here it is. Happy birthday, Dad.

                                    “From far, from eve and morning
and twelve-winded sky,
the stuff of life to knit me blew hither:
here am I.”

            I never thought I would ever be sitting here at my computer writing something like this.  The story I would like to tell is far too complicated.  So I shall tell another story, and shall attempt to be brief.
            Most children, at an early age, look up to their mother or father, see them as heroes, as mythical demigods, invincible beings, what have you.  They are our providers; they take care of us.  In a sense, they are gods.  I was not an especially weird child for seeing my father in this light.  When I was a little boy, Dad was the greatest man in the world.  He was my hero.  I wanted to be just like him when I grew up (more on that in a minute).  Unfortunately, when young innocent children reach those dreadful teenage years, for whatever nebulous reason, these same all-powerful adult figures are suddenly, in the eyes of adolescence, regarded as uncool.  They become the last people in the world some teenage jizz-fitter wants to be seen with.  I don’t know why this is, but most of us know that it is.
            I would be lying if I said I was not guilty of this same outlook.  I was nothing special, just another naïve kid who foolishly thought I could rule the world (with what, I don’t know).  Sometimes, though, I’ve wondered if there was more to it than that.
            My older brother Devin and I were both very much into horror films and comic books when we were kids.  I still love horror now.  My father noticed this interest we had and encouraged it in both of us.  He rented us scary movies any sane parent wouldn’t let their kids watch even after they had kids of their own.  He bought us comics, told us spooky stories.  I can remember being so young that I was barely able to write and I wanted to write stories like Dad.  But I wanted to write scary stories.  I wanted to remake Friday the 13th Part 3 or something, only in words.  Hell of a goal, huh?  But hey, that’s how these things develop, right?
My father gave me this old clunker of a word processor typewriter, the kind with the little LED display about the length of a stingy stick of Juicy Fruit and the body shaped like a reject from George Lucas’ model spaceship department.  Where he got this machine, I do not know.  I do know that I typed on it a lot, never much of anything special (I was just learning to write, let alone type) until the day at my grandmother’s house when I completed my very first short story.  It was called, I believe, “Ax Killer,” and it was a six-year-old’s conglomeration of bits from different horror films, sewn painfully together with no plot, no characterization, nor anything else of literary value.  Basically lots of “AAAHHHH!” with misspellings and little to no grammatical usage.  Still, I was proud of all two and half double-spaced pages I had cranked out. 
I took it to my grandmother, who was in the kitchen with my brother, and handed the masterpiece over with full confidence. 
What happened next?  What was my first experience in submitting a piece of fiction?  My six-year-old self was brought to tears as my grandmother dissected the piece, ripped it to shreds, laughed at me, told me I didn’t put a period here, I had too many Os in “bloody,” it was nothing but “AAAHHHH!” and “Let’s get out of here!”  It was terrible, it was foolish, and, basically, I was stupid.
I can’t understand why my grandmother would do such a thing.  To this day, I do not know.  That’s a whole other story.
I snatched the pages away from my grandmother, ripped them up in front of her, threw the bits and pieces at her, and then ran back to the living room, where I curled up on the couch and cried.
I didn’t write again until I was almost in high school.
For me, other than being just another goofy teenage hoodlum, high school was rough.  I wasn’t what you would call “stupid” but you might say that I was “unwilling to learn.”  My grade point average was somewhere in the negative hundreds, I hated the school I went to, hated most of the other students, most of the teachers, and basically hated my life all around.  I didn’t read the books assigned to me.  I did not do my homework.  I never wrote in Creative Writing class.  I got to a point with my Algebra teacher where I could waltz in, make eye contact with her, shrug, and walk right out again, at which point I would go to the parking lot and smoke cigarettes.  I did, however, read my comic books and other various things, and took up playing music, specifically the drums.
It wasn’t until close to the end of my eighth grade year that something changed, however small that change was.  It was quite a while yet before it would have any true significance.  My English teacher, Lynn Woodard, decided to take a break from the usual this and that, and told everybody to take out their notebooks.  For the first half of class we were to write a short story about anything we wanted.  For the second half we were going to read them.
I don’t know why it was that, for one of the only times in the past ten years, I decided to put pen to paper that day.  Maybe I was just inspired.  Maybe I’d filled my cigarette quota and my jack-off-and-think-about-girls quota and figured it might be a nice change.  Whatever it was, I wrote a story, connecting a random string of events with random nonsensical dialogue.  I understood stories.  I didn’t understand writing them.  I’d given up on that when I was six.
Like my father, I can be painfully shy.  When it came my turn to read, I refused out of embarrassment.  Miss Woodard did not relate to whatever my problems were, but she did understand that I had my problems.  She told me my story had to be read, and if it made me feel better she would read it to the class for me.
I agreed, hiding my face in my hands.
I can’t remember what the story was called.  What I do remember was everybody laughing—not because it was terrible, but because it was funny, because it was, as one classmate said, “entertaining as hell.”  I think it was the first time I got an A.
My father picked up my little sister Shannon and me from school that day.  The usual bullshit ensued on the drive home.  “How was your day?”  “Can I turn up the stereo?”  Blah-blah-blah.  “Oh, I got an A in English today.”
“For what?”
“A story I wrote.”
With an enthusiastic uptilt in his voice, Dad said, “No kidding?”
“No kidding,” I said.
My father drove along, smiling.  He sought an alternate route home, through a residential neighborhood.  After a moment he asked if I had the story with me.  When I said yes he asked if he could read it.  When I said yes he pulled over in front of some innocent, unknowing house.
“What’s going on?” Shannon asked.
My father looked at me with genuine excitement.  I took this to mean we weren’t waiting until we got home.  I withdrew the story from my bag and handed it over as he switched off the stereo.  I remember being terrified.  After all, my dad was a writer.  A professional writer.  A famous writer.
He read the story, laughed at what I believe were the appropriate moments.  When finished he handed it back over to me.  “I love it.”
Like I said, it was quite a while yet before it would have any true significance.  But that moment, that one drive home, changed something in me.  And though I still didn’t do well in school, I took a bit more to both educating myself and to writing.  I began running short stories by my dad.  He would always read them, no matter how busy he was.  Thing was, he would not help me.  Not in the literal sense.  He would not tell me about my structure or about my characterization.  He would tell me things that seemed obtuse.  With that great warm smile he would ease back in his seat, place his hands behind his head and tell me things that, unbeknownst to me, I was supposed to think about.  To meditate on.
I can remember, maybe two years before he was gone from my life, when he asked me to join him in his office.  I sat down across from him, at first nervous that I had done something truly awful.
“I just wanted to talk with you a little about your writing,” he said, “or your music, or anything else you decide to pursue.”  He eased back and brought his feet up onto his chair (he couldn’t rest them on the ottoman because his manual typewriter was sitting on it).  “Keep at it,” he said.  “Don’t let anyone tell you you’re wrong.  If you know what you want to do and you keep at it, you’ll make it.”  He gave me some additional writing advice, some of which I’ve taken, some not.  One has to remember that even at this point I was still a stupid, self-centered teenager.  But I never let those words evaporate.  They’ve remained with me always.  And as time has passed I’ve realized, just like when I was a little boy, Dad is the greatest man in the world I’ve ever known.  He is still my hero.
I went into denial when my parents split up.  I went into denial when I knew my father was dying.  I immersed myself even more so into being a stupid goofball teenager.  I wasn’t there nearly as much as I should have been.
There are certain regrets I have to live with.  One I don’t have to live with, thank God, is allowing my dream to be taken away from me forever.  I only lost it for about ten years.  With my father’s help, I was able to reclaim it.  And I’ll never let another tell me that I’m wrong.  Life is too short, and this dream I nearly lost is the reason why I live.

“…Now—for a breath I tarry
nor yet disperse apart—
take my hand quick and tell me,

what have you in your heart.”

Also, be on the lookout for Shadows and Reflections, A Roger Zelazny Tribute Anthology, coming soon, edited by Trent Zelazny and Warren Lapine.
Featuring such masterful writers as Steven Brust, Kelly McCullough, Edward J. McFadden III, Lawrence Watt-Evans, S.D. Perry, with an introduction by George R.R. Martin, and an afterword by Neil Gaiman.


So, I wrote this years ago. My approach would be incredibly different now, but several years ago is not now. Still, I like it, and want to share it. Today is my father's birthday. He would be 78 today. Happy birthday, Dad. Love you, miss you.


Sometimes I wake up from dreams in which my father has played a role.  For a few seconds I truly believe he is alive, or has returned.  More times than I can count I’ve woken up just after hugging him, and no matter how many times this happens, once my conscious mind takes over and reveals the painful truth, the emptiness I feel inside is immeasurable.

I have accepted my father’s death, though I have never gotten over it.  Maybe one reason I’ve had so much trouble is that his books are everywhere.  Right now I can just turn to the shelf behind me and find no less than fifty paperbacks with his name on them.  I am a huge fan of his work, my friends are fans of his work—people read my last name, and sometimes they ask me if I’m related to the writer.  These kinds of things might possibly stagger the process, I don’t know.  It could also be a number of regrets I have.  Regrets about how I dealt with things when he was sick—how the whole family did, maybe.  I do have to chock at least some of it up to that I was a somewhat dysfunctional, self-absorbed teenager.  I wasn’t there for him—or Jane—like I should have been.  With all of my other problems at the time (now pointless by comparison) I was in heavy denial.  I did not believe that my father was going to die.  Or I really did not want to believe it.

 With the exception of a couple of pieces, I did not read my father’s work while he was alive.  Within a month after his death, I picked up Nine Princes in Amber, hoping that, in some way, it might help me hold on to him.  To an extent I was successful, but moreso, the book just blew me away.  I immediately read Guns of Avalon, then Sign of the Unicorn, and so on, and began to fantasize about living in Amber, training with Benedict or riding with Julian through the forests of Arden.  I became obsessed with the series (hell, my son’s name is Corwin Random), and then eventually moved on to his other books.  I have a special fondness for The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth, Dream Master, and My Name is LegionLonesome October is up there too.  I found a love for his writing, as well as a newfound love for the man.  I regret not reading his work while he was around.  I regret never being able to toss one of his books down in front of him and say, “This rocks.”  I regret that I never got to tell him how proud I am of him.  

 But to hell with regret.  He lived through it.  I lived through it.  And years later, even though I wasn’t actually reading his work, we were able to talk about creativity, specifically music and writing.  It was great.  The man seemed to know everything, or at least something about anything.  As we had these almost nightly conversations, me sitting on a stool, him lying on the couch, I grew to understand how great and important he was; and once I had read his books and stories—him being my father aside—he became one of the biggest influences on my own work.  I have many influences, but when people ask me who the biggest are, I typically list three: Donald Westlake, Joe Lansdale, and Roger Zelazny.

 I touched upon this in another piece I just wrote, as yet unpublished, but I think it is important to share again.  When we are kids, our parents are the most important people in the whole world.  They are our providers.  They take care of us.  In a sense, they are gods.  However, at some point, when we enter into our all-important teenage years, some inane part of us comes to this bizarre understanding that our parents are not cool.  They become, in a sense, dorks.  I don’t know why this is, do you?  If you did not have this view as a teenager, you are a very special, rare breed.  Most every kid I know did this.

Fortunately for me, even if I had this outlook, my father and I still had a connection.  A connection of creativity (that and, somewhere inside, I did actually know that he was totally cool).  We talked more and more about life and what it meant.  We talked about anything, really.  When I got into the Beatles and the Monkees and Led Zeppelin, he already knew all about them.  We philosophized, joked around, and drank too much Pepsi.  He read me bits from the musical he wrote, read me excerpts from A Night in the Lonesome October while it was still scribbled on legal pads.

When he passed away and I began truly experiencing his work, I got in touch with him like I never had before.  It was clearly Roger, but it was a Roger like I’d never seen.  It was a Roger that not only knew about all the wonders, but had created a lot of them himself.  It was so totally cool.
As time goes by, I’ve learned that, at least in my life, things often come full circle, because my father is still the most important person to me in the world.  He is my hero, and I miss him dearly.

I still have the dreams.  I often ask myself if it is just a dream, or is he dropping in to say hello.  I guess, really, it doesn’t matter.  I get to see him every now and then, and from time to time we’re back on the stool and the couch, chatting it up.

I’m pleased that the work he created has influenced so many other writers and has entertained so many people.  I sometimes wonder if I had been truly aware of how cool and important he was when I was a self-centered doofus teenager, would things have been different? 

I regret to say I’ll never know…

But to hell with regret.

Roger, here’s to you, man.


(Originally published in Amberzine, edited by Erick Wujcik, 2005)

Monday, July 28, 2014

New affordable paperback of The Day the Leash Gave Way and Other Stories

Look for it soon. A new affordable paperback edition, with a new introduction and two additional stories from my reprehensible vault.

Yes, it has been five years since this collection was released, and since then a LOT has happened in my life. I shall post the introduction below. And yes, this is also in minor anticipation of a new short story collection which should be coming out (from what I understand, and hope) early next year, but that's for another time.

Of course you can STILL buy The Daythe Leash Gave Way and Other Stories in hardcover, trade paperback and kindle, and I don't see that edition going away any time soon. The new paperback, however, has this groovy new cover by Bryce Pearson, and includes two ancient stories, "The Ten-In-One" and "Chicken Strips." It will also be available for the rooting'-tootin' low price of $7.99.

Anyway, here is the intro to the new edition. Make of it what you will:


     Well, a lot has happened in the five years since this collection came out, but I don’t intend to bore you with much of it.  I mean, this is just a mere introduction to a collection of short stories, and so in keeping with the original theme of the book (a collection of “short” stories), I would also very much like to keep this preface succinct.
     The tales within these pages are really little more than a time capsule, a snapshot of a writer just getting started.  They are some of my early pieces, some of the very first stories I ever wrote that somehow managed to get published.  Some of them are good, some of them are okay, and (I’ll be honest here) some of them are dreadful.  What they all are, however, is proof that, if you want to accomplish anything in your life, you’ve got to start somewhere.
     Since the original release of this collection in 2009, I: became an alcoholic, know what it’s like to be in jail, lost a fiancé to suicide, attempted suicide myself and damn near succeeded, spent three days in one of the top five worst crises centers in the country, slept in alleys in Tampa, Florida, had someone offer to buy me a $20 hooker, lost other friends to both suicide and disease, changed my mind about wanting to die, realized I was going to die if I didn’t stop drinking, managed to get myself into rehab, successfully quit drinking, pat myself on the back from time to time for closing in on five years of sobriety, met the woman of my dreams, got a dog, continue battling to get out of my father’s shadow, manage to make most of my living by making stuff up and writing it down, haven’t found religion but have found joy… I’m sure some other stuff happened, too.
     Anyway, I was a very different person when I wrote the stories collected here.  The way I see the world now is vastly different from how I saw it then.  I’ve gotten much better, both as a writer and as a person (at least I hope), but these stories mark a period in my life.  A period I will never forget, and don’t mind sharing with anyone who feels like having a look-see.  Hell, for this edition I’ve even allowed a couple extra early tales that are not in the hardcover, trade paperback or ebook version.
     Why?  Because, as I said, these stories mark a point of my life.  A good point or bad point?—Yes, both.
     I will reiterate one thing and then let you get on with it.  Some of the stories collected here are good, some of them range from decent to meh, while others are simply atrocious.  But if you want to do anything in life, you have to start somewhere.  To hell with shame.  You’ll never accomplish shit if you don’t even bother to try.  This edition (and me with the audacity to include a couple of stories that didn’t originally make the cut), while I hope you enjoy it (and, really, there’s plenty to like, I think), I hope it can also help illustrate the mere fact that if you wanna do anything in life, you have to start somewhere.
     Happy reading.
     Thank you, and enjoy the buffet.


Friday, July 25, 2014

My Dear Friend Ana, and/or "There's no place like home for Roo"

This, to me, is worth sharing and sharing again. Ana and her daughter Reilly are very dear to me, and they've hit some pretty hard times. I've done what I can to help, including selling a couple of rare signed Roger Zelazny items. I don't have many gems like that, but my true friends mean the world to me, and if I must part with something of such value, I know that my father would be very pleased to know that it is going to a good cause, to help a friend in need.

I've known Ana since high school. She has been there for me more times than I can count. She was there for me when I lost someone very special to suicide, and was there for me after I attempted it myself. Without her, I may never have had the courage to ask Laurel out on a date. Ana helped give me the courage, the strength, to stick around, to not give up and to reach for my dreams, to make my life better. I wanna try giving back some of that strength, to my dear friend, and her daughter, "Roo."

I implore you. If you can, please donate. If you cannot or don't want to, that's totally understandable and cool, but would you please share this link, and help spread the word?

You can click HERE, or on the picture of Roo, in order to get to the web page.

Thank you so much. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cool Promo Thingy

My friend Bryce Pearson put this together and I think it's quite cool. Now, if people will actually buy the books, that would be great :) Regardless, any which way, I think this is quite cool :)

Here is an AMAZON LINK, should anyone decide they do want to buy something.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

David Goodis

If you ask any wordsmith who their favorite writer is, you’ll probably find that more than nine times out of ten, they can’t simply pick just one. You will often also likely be surprised at some of the answers you’ll get. For me it can vary from week to week, even day to day or hour to hour. Sometimes minute to minute.
When I think about my favorite writers a whole list pops up. Joe Lansdale comes immediately to mind, as does Cornell Woolrich, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, my father, as well as some of the usual suspects, like Stephen King and Dean Koontz. But more often than not, if you were to ask me which writer helped me to shape my writing the most, you’ll usually get the same answer. David Goodis.

A native of Philadelphia, Goodis also spent parts of his life in New York City and Hollywood during his professional years (he died about ten years before I was born). With the exception of one book taking place in NYC (Nightfall) and one in San Francisco (Dark Passage), Goodis cultivated the shadows of his Pennsylvania home town, using it as a template to craft his hard-boiled—or hardcore—stories about dark lives. You know the kind. Lives gone wrong, lives filled with criminality, alcoholism, and human despair, all majestically painted in a dreary, blighted landscape.  He has been called the “Poet of the Losers,” and while in some aspects the title seems apt, from other angles it seems a bit off the mark. I feel one could just as easily call him the “Poet of the Common Man.”

I discovered Goodis the way a lot of people find authors—through the movies. For years I worked in a video rental store that carried virtually every kind of movie imaginable. It was a treasure trove for the movie lover, and if you weren’t a movie lover when you started working there, you most likely were one when you left.

One day I was putting away The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and thought to myself that, other than a few Cagney flicks and some Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers romps, I really wasn’t very well-versed in classics. That same night I took The Treasure of the Sierra Madre home and watched it. Well, my friends, this movie so excited me that suddenly I had to see everything Bogart had ever been in. Moreso, it excited me about the classics, and even moreso, about Film Noir. For something like eight or ten months I don’t think I watched a single movie in color. I was all about the old black and whites.

And what do a lot of people, especially writers, do when they see a movie they really like? They check to see if it was based on a book, and if it was, who wrote that book. I read B. Traven’s novel and liked it, but then there was the night I took home the classic Bogart and Bacall movie Dark Passage, about a man convicted of murdering his wife who escapes from prison to prove his innocence, finding that his face is too well known, and is forced to seek some illicit backroom plastic surgery (which was a rather new concept at the time). When I finished watching it my first thought was that it was like something that could have come out of Donald Westlake’s pseudonym Richard Stark—I mean, the man did write a Parker novel called The Man with the Getaway Face. But it was the atmosphere and the flavor, the characters. I was already a huge Richard Stark fan, and this movie gave me the same kind of warm, fuzzy feeling.

I went back to the beginning of the movie and saw that it was based on a novel by a man named David Goodis. Excellent, I wrote his name down, and the very next morning I went to the library. I searched, in hopes of finding the book that was the basis for this great movie I had seen the night before. But, alas, there was no Dark Passage. In fact there was only one book in the whole library by Goodis, D.

I pulled it off the shelf and it had the same cover art to another movie we carried at the Video Library (no relation to the Public Library). A French film by François Truffaut called Shoot the Piano Player. I had not seen this movie but it was well-regarded and, hell, if it was the same author who had penned Dark Passage, I was gonna give it a shot.

That’s where my true writer crush began. With the very opening paragraph:

There were no street lamps, no lights at all. It was a narrow street in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia. From the nearby Delaware a cold wind came lancing in, telling all alley cats they’d better find a heated cellar. The late November gusts rattled against midnight-darkened windows, and stabbed at the eyes of the fallen man in the street.

Needless to say, I checked it out and took it home, and with each page I read, I found myself reading a little slower and a little slower. This man had a unique prose style I hadn’t seen the likes of before. His characterization was solid, deep, philosophical, but without pretense. Ten or twenty pages in I said to myself, “This guy has got something I want.”

Given that Shoot the Piano Player (originally titled Down There) was the only book in the entire Santa Fe Library system, I immediately went online, and found and bought whatever I could. Cassidy’s Girl, Nightfall, The Burglar, Of Tender Sin, Night Squad… and yes, eventually, Dark Passage. I was in literary heaven. Even now, when I need a kick-start, I often pick up a book by David Goodis, open it to any random page, read just a paragraph or two, and my juices start to flow.

So, as a writer, what did I learn most from David Goodis? Two things, one very important, one something I more just studied and, at times, mimicked. We’ll start with that one.

His vivid prose. His choice of words, his beautifully in-depth stream of consciousness that always enriches both the story and, more importantly, the character. His use of repetition without at all seeming repetitive. I’ve mimicked, I’ve tried, I’ve borrowed, but only David Goodis can write like David Goodis, as I’ve since learned only Trent Zelazny can write like Trent Zelazny, which brings me to the important one…

Honesty. While some may not find his prose as beautiful as I do, what they convey above anything else, is honesty. I believe the man, at least on paper, was completely and utterly honest with himself. When I was an alcoholic and my fiancé committed suicide, that was when I truly got it. I lost myself in Goodis again, and this time, after having suffered such horrible tragedy, he took me by the hand, and with each word he wrote, he explained to me that what I had to do, now more than ever, was be honest with myself. I agreed, brought up a blank screen, and in a very short time, while still a drunk, wrote Fractal Despondency, which even now, some three years since its release, some say is the best thing I’ve written. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, but it was a big shift in my writing, as well as in my life. (By the way, I've now been sober three and a half years on the 28th of this month.)

I would still very likely be a writer, but due to things that happened in my life, I’m a very different writer than I probably would have been otherwise. And it’s primarily thanks to David Goodis who helped me figure out how to shape chaos into some semblance of order, that I am the actual writer I am.

Thank you, Mr. Goodis. Here's one guy on the planet whose life you changed, and I am eternally grateful to you.