So a few weeks ago I received a review from Russell Blake, an author whom I’ve admired quite a lot since jumping into this Indie swamp so many of us find ourselves treading in these days. One of the primary reasons I always admired him, I must say, is that he maintains this rebellious and moreover completely esoteric image (I’ve only ever seen ONE PHOTOGRAPH of the guy and when he sent it to me for the Read A Book, Make A Difference page, it was so tiny I actually had to blow it up just to be “smallish”). He’s an expat living in Mexico (I bought a book ten years ago about how to become a successful expat), he writes more than any author I know—and I mean hours per day—and because of that hard ass work puts out a great book every freaking month, he keeps company with his dogs (you all know my dog situation and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I could do the same, allowing my lovely wife, Amy, along for the ride, too, of course…ahem).

He was also friends with Patti Carrigan before me (another author/friend of whom I think the world) so I used the old “well if Patti likes him so much…” argument, even though he really kind of intimidated me with his brash, ball-busting, you-don’t-need-to-know-more-than-I-let-you-know attitude.

Then, come to find out, Bert Carson, my Black Hat Twin, my compatriot, one of my genuine heroes and one of my fondest new writer friends, adores this dude?

So I admired Blake a bit from afar. Other than our RABMAD common ground and a few sightings over the months, we didn’t really talk a whole lot. Well, when I needed a few advanced reads for my new book, Dark Prairies, I had a pretty short Short List of authors I trusted to really get me, my book, etc. I decided (because of “all the above”) to include Russell on my list. His answer was that he was buried in his own WIP (i.e. busy as hell, which we all totally understand) and he finished by saying:

“[I] can at least skim some of your book and give you a one line blurb you can use, assuming it doesn’t suck a bag of dicks.”

Now let me saying the following about his answer:

1) This comment reminds me SO MUCH of the greatest same-sex friend I ever had in my life, I wonder if he has reincarnated himself down in Mexico under a pseudonym.

2) Louis CK is far and above my favorite comedian on the planet and his “suck a bag of dicks” routine made me laugh harder than perhaps any other routine in at least the last twenty years. (See said routine at end of this blog.)

3) The brash, in my face, “I haven’t read you so what do I know, you may just SUCK” attitude that dripped out of the pores of that response scared the living shit out of me.

I did NOT send him an ARC. I was too terrified. I believed in my book. My editor believed in it. I’d been writing and caressing and believing in this book for three years. This was to eventually be my “put me on the map” book. Most people who had read it thought it was fucking magnificent. And Russell Blake scared me so shitless that I decided to take the coward’s way out and not even send him an advanced read to skim.

So imagine, weeks later, when I get an email from him that tells me he is reading my book (even though he’s still finishing his own magnum opus WIP) and he says (among other things) “you can write like a motherfucker” and tells me it’s one of the better books he’s read this year! Then, a couple weeks after that, he writes a review of the book that, if I still had my locks, would have blow my hair so far back I’d have looked like fucking Gallagher.

I just finished Silver Justice, Blake’s most recent novel to hit the streets. Wow. I love to read nonfiction books. In fact, for a long time it is all I would read. I wanted (and still want) to learn. Not much fiction gives you that. Historical fiction, yes, which I have not tried. But last year when I decided it was time to, well, you know, do your business or stand up, buckle your pants, and call it all a pipe dream, I started reading fiction again. Reading great fiction by authors in my own genre to whose talent and storytelling abilities I aspire is what fuels me.

James Lee Burke. Annie Proulx. John D. MacDonald. Dennis Lehane. Elmore Leonard. Jonathan Lethem. Thom Jones. Tim O’Brien. Davy Rothbart. Ayn Rand. Joseph Conrad. Thomas Pynchon. (The last half-dozen don’t necessarily write in my “genre” but are so fucking extraordinarily talented that they make me a better writer just by reading their individual sentences and words.) Also, I have no idea if any of them would terrify me, but my guess is Ayn Rand could put the fear of God into any person with but a look (and trust me, that would be quite an accomplishment considering the fact that she was an atheist).

Truth is I don’t read a lot of my own peers’ work. It’s not a slam—like Russell Blake, I have a limited amount of time (and I am personally a horrifically slow reader) so when I devote my time to a book, it really needs to be to a writer who fuels my own tank—a writer who makes ME a better writer.

Well what I found in Mr. Blake is a guy who likes to teach the reader some serious life shit with his genre as the vehicle (my opinion, BTW, nothing he said to me). Silver Justice left the jaw of my sensibilities lying on the ground. Blake follows up the ending with a list of books to read if one would like to further examine and/or LEARN about the subject matter of the book. Oh YEAH, baby, I will be getting those books. As a storyteller, Russell Blake is one of the better I’ve found—as an educator, using his profound storytelling (and pure writing) ability to teach you a thing or two about this world we live in, well, I’ve as yet to find his equal.

It’s one thing to write a great mystery novel. It’s quite another indeed to infuse said genre with enough real-world financial shock and awe that it leaves the reader wondering about the very present and future of this rock we call home and where it’s heading. And here’s the rub, dear readers: it’s clear from the get-go that Blake knows from whence he speaks. The man’s a cornucopia of information on financial markets and the intricacies behind, above, and most importantly beneath them.

Blake is living the life I’d love to be living and he’s got a brain as big as Jupiter, so if you’re like me and you love to exercise that little clump of gray matter between your ears, do yourself a favor and pick up Silver Justice (and the several books it recommends—important reading for the cogent mind).

You’ll be damn glad you did.

And you should also visit his site and read what he writes there. The man is, as I said, a freaking cornucopia. Don’t pass him up.

Oh, and as-promised, Louis CK’s “suck a bag of dicks” routine. I swear, it will have you literally ROTFLMFAO, okay? And I’m not even an Internet lingo aficionado. I have linked to it before, I believe, so you may have already seen it (hit refresh if it doesn’t show the first time).

 

 

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The blank page is dead…long live the blank page.

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Author known to use spontaneous satire, sarcasm, and unannounced injections of pith or witticisms which may not be suitable for humorless or otherwise jest-challenged individuals. (Witticisms not guaranteed to be witty, funny, comical, hilarious, clever, scintillating, whimsical, wise, endearing, keen, savvy, sagacious, penetrating, fanciful, or otherwise enjoyable. The Surgeon General has determined through laboratory testing that sarcasm can be dangerous, even in small amounts, and should not be ingested by those who are serious, somber, pensive, weighty, funereal, unsmiling, poker-faced, sober, or pregnant.)

 

17 Responses to Can A Hero Be Someone Who Terrifies You?

  1. […] A really fun and flattering blog and review, about Silver Justice and my sense of humor, from talented indie author RS […]

  2. Louis CK is a very, very funny man. As was George Carlin. I think it’s the truth they bring to the humor that makes it so funny for me.

    Thanks for the kind words. I think I should explain, though. I get asked to read others’ work about two to three times a week. Add that up over a year and you start to see the problem. If it takes you six to eight hours to read a book, that’s a whole lotta books. As an example, I am just now getting to books I agreed to look at in November. Of 2011.

    I’m glad I made an exception for Dark Prairies. Frankly, I did so because I read LOST, and found it well written and entertaining, so I knew you could write. But once I read the Look Inside excerpt I knew I would have to buy the damned thing. I was hooked. And that’s extremely rare, because I’m not a big fan of anything smacking of western.

    I’m glad I did. It’s a remarkable achievement. Coming from a writer who is very hard on his own work, those aren’t words spoken lightly.

    Glad you enjoyed SJ. I’ve wanted to write a book that somehow wove my understanding of the financial markets, economics and banking into it for some time. I sort of skirted the issue in Zero Sum, but Silver Justice tackles it more frontally. I don’t think one in 100K understand what was done to the nation, or by whom, and after researching it in depth I felt that the 2008 crisis, which still has the world in a death spiral, was the ideal backdrop for a different sort of novel. I do encourage you to read the books I recommend, especially Fruits of Graft, which is a mindblower and will make you physically sick.

    How’s that for a ringing endorsement?

    Seriously, though, appreciate the warm sentiment. I’m very very lucky I’ve had the meager success I’ve had to date, and you know as a writer how important it is to hear your work resonates with readers. That it resonated with you as a talented author in your own right makes it all the better.

    Now I have to go and watch the Louis CK clip again. So much for any more work today. That will just take me into the downward spiral of youtube and I’ll wind up watching him for the next eight hours. Oh well. There are worse things…

    • rsguthrie says:

      Oh trust me, I knew exactly what you were saying (and up against)—I have the same basic policy with other writers; it’s just too time-consuming and risky in my book. But the suck a bag of dick comment, well it made me laugh AND terrified me all at once! ;) Nah, seriously I just left you alone because I knew you were deep into YOUR magnum Opus (which I look forward to). And you DID accomplish what you set out to do with Silver Justice. I started out majoring in Economics in college and was taught by a professor who got his Masters at Princeton (a big black man with HUGE mutton chops just starting to speckle gray named Clifford Reid who would begin each class, ala “Paper Chase” and start from the upper left of the (normally already custodial-cleaned blackboard) and slowly erase every square inch of the board, the class so silent you could hear a cockroach fart, then would pick up a piece of chalk, saunter back to the upper left, place the chalk in the ready position, and without turning around say something like “Mr. Guthrie, please explain to the class the relationship between declining supply markets, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, and the farther-reaching implication on the sliding demand curve.”

      I learned more Econ from Cliff getting a “D” than I ever learned getting an “A” in any other class. Suffice to say I am now a Finance/Econ ignoramus but the shit still FASCINATES me and your book was like a pitcher of ice water in the face. I AM going to read each of the books you recommended. I expect by the time this is all finished, I’ll be having cold-sweat nightmares that even good tequila won’t squelch, but I’m too intrigued at this point. :)

  3. I actually left out most of the technical stuff so I wouldn’t bore and baffle the casual reader. It’s a fine line between whetting one’s appetite and overwhelming folks with detail. I started off with about 12K more words than the finished novel – and then left those on the cutting room floor in the interests of readability. My sentiment was that it was easy to tell a story in 12K words, but much harder to synthesize those down to the 500 right ones.

    What’s funny is that Silver Justice was the book I was writing when I was knee deep in my Magnum Opus. You can probably guess how much focus it took to keep the threads together and make it coherent with the financial and economics stuff. While I could go on forever about the gold standard, the importance of a stable reserve currency, the insidious effect inflation has on the middle class, etc. etc. I chose to keep it simple. Likewise, I had to lose an awful lot about the history of the Federal Reserve, mercantilism and classical economics, the Great Depression’s true causes (which really does deserve it’s own book – only nobody would read it), etc. etc. All of which fascinates me, and horrifies me, simultaneously.

    Keep up the good work. Quality matters. In everything. Eventually.

  4. yoon says:

    I moseyed on over here from Mr. Blake’s blog. I’m very happy to meet you because he also scares the crap out of me. And I’m not even a writer. I’m so relieved that my fear of this irascible puppy-loving bird-rescuing septuagenarian clown-fighter is not unreasonable.
    Thanks you.

    • rsguthrie says:

      Glad you moseyed. Did it look anything like John Wayne in The Cowboys? (BTW, it’s his puppy-loving that cinches it for me. For no man or woman can be all bad who loveth the greatest creature to walk this planet.) :)

      • yoon says:

        No, it looked rather like a duck. Yes, his puppy-loving cranky self got me as well (Russell Cranky Blake is his name, btw). Especially after I found his blog and clicked on RABMAD (I just call it RAMBO, couldn’t you have named it so it’s more pronounceable?).

      • yoon says:

        BTW, I’ll be reading Dark Prairies some time this month since Mr. Blake so heartily recommends it.

  5. Big congrats on the high praise from such a big-time author.

    While we all have to have a certain amount of confidence, it’s always nice to hear praise. Especially such real praise from someone you know isn’t bull shitting you.

  6. Caleb Pirtle says:

    All of my heroes may not terrify me, but they do strike a sense of emotion because of their persona and, if they are authors, what they write. Their books may terrify me, but mostly they leave me with a deep sense of admiration for talent that burns through their words. That’s why I spend so much time with the works of R. S. Guthrie, Russell Blake, Bert Carson, and, especially, Stephen Woodfin. These guys can take a few words and make then sing and dance, and it’s not all happy music.

    • rsguthrie says:

      What you didn’t say (and can’t) is that you write like that, and I promise you every person you just listed considers you a hero, whether you terrify them a little or not. I consider you such.

  7. Jericha says:

    If your heroes don’t terrify you at least a little, I’m pretty sure you’re doing it wrong.

  8. I’m so happy you decided to write about Russell. His Fatal Exchange was one of the first ebooks I bought. I loved it and I read several others with the same reaction. He’s a kick-ass author.

    But he doesn’t scare me at all. I think he’s one of the funniest guys alive. When I was just starting out on Twitter he was busily ranting nonsense online and loved watching what he did and responding when I couldn’t help myself.

    If you’ve read his book about his dog Lobo – An Angel with Fur – you know he’s got a soft spot, a big one.

    Russell is hands down the best writer I’ve encountered in the past year. I’d love to be as prolific and pertinent as he is every time out. Congrats that he loved Dark Prairies. I need to get to it soon!!

  9. Why thank you, Kathy. You’re too kind. And I don’t see nearly enough of you on Twitter anymore, but that’s probably my bad. My writing schedule this year is insane. But next year, not so much, and then I’ll be back to ranting nonsense online. Whether that’s a threat or a promise is another story altogether.

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