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