Today marks the launch of the redesigned website, and the end of a hectic twelve months or so. This time last year, I was preparing for the release of my first book, In the Devil’s Territory, and for the 25-city tour that accompanied it.
Since then, I’ve done over 60 readings in 26 cities — New York, Brooklyn, Boston, Brookline, Providence, Provincetown, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Winston-Salem, Lexington, Columbus, Toledo, Indianapolis, Ann Arbor, Champaign, Edwardsville, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Fayetteville, Memphis, Seattle, Bellingham, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. And the book attracted favorable notice in such high cotton venues as The Boston Phoenix, The Yale Review, The Toledo Blade, The Columbus Dispatch, Third Coast, The Stranger, Publishers Weekly, Bookslut, New Pages, and The Palm Beach Post.
One of my favorite cities was San Francisco, where I got to read with tour partner Kathleen Rooney and all-time hero Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, at the Modern Times Bookstore, and that after a day of restaurant-hopping with San Francisco’s greatest culinary guide, George Awad. (I have pictures of the reading, but not, I’m sorry to say, of the food.)
Another highlight of the last twelve months was the publication of my novella “A Day Meant to Do Less,” in Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Mystery Stories 2008, edited by Otto Penzler (proprietor of the Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan) and George Pelecanos (bestselling author of Right as Rain and The Turnaround, and producer of HBO’s The Wire.) The novella also appears in my book, but Best American Mystery Stories helped it reach a much larger audience, not only in the United States, but also in international markets including Europe, Japan, and India.
Speaking of mystery stories, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Anthony Neil Smith’s Plots with Guns magazine, which has given a home to the grittier stories I’ve been writing the last couple of years, and which has introduced my work to a new audience, the book junkies who devour smart crime fiction by the likes of Richard Price, Dennis Lehane, and David Benioff. One of the stories they published, “They Take You,” was nominated for the Million Writers Award, the Spinetingler Award, and the Dillinger Award. I feel lucky they found me. Other magazines and anthologies nice enough to publish my work in the last few years: The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Mid American Review, Sou’wester, Quarterly West, Carolina Quarterly, The Journal, River Teeth, Scoring from Second: Baseball from Life, The Rumpus, The Columbus Dispatch, Surreal South, Surreal South 2009, Freight Stories, Dogzplot, Versus Anthology, Interrobang, Elimae, Pindeldyboz, and Random House’s Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers.
Now it’s back to the grind. I’m trying to finish the next two books, at least one of which will be set in Haiti, which I’ve been visiting off-and-on over the last two years, and, yes, I’ve fallen in love with the place.
I don’t want to tell you too much about the book I’ve been writing there, but I do want to show you a picture of my friend Yves, from the first time I visited his house in the mountains just south of Port-au-Prince. He killed one of his rabbits for me, and showed me how to kill it and dress it and prepare it for dinner. Then we picked leeks out of his garden, and his wife made a sauce with carrots and tomatoes, and Yves smoked the rabbit over some charcoal and we ate it in his kitchen.
I’ll leave you with a list of books I read or re-read last year, and recommend to any and all: Knockemstiff, by Donald Ray Pollock. Sabbath’s Theater, by Philip Roth. In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O’Brien. The Shawl, by Cynthia Ozick. Town Smokes, by Pinckney Benedict. The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard, by Erin McGraw. The Quiet American, by Graham Greene. The Dew Breaker, by Edwidge Danticat. Elegy for the Southern Drawl, by Rodney Jones. Babylon in a Jar, by Andrew Hudgins. Bucolics, by Maurice Manning. The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Jesus’ Son, by Denis Johnson. I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down, by William Gay.