Making Bones

bonesI have a review in the latest Missoula Independent. The book is called Making Bones, by Bill Vaughn. It’s a crime novel set in the Missouri Breaks region of Central Montana and features a fantastic female lead character. You can check the review out HERE, and I urge you to do so because it’s a hell of a lot of fun. I can’t recommend it enough.

Normally I’d run a clip from the review here, but instead I’m going to share the book excerpt that Vaughn published online; I doubt he’ll mind if I copy and paste it here:

IZZY sprawled in her lawn chair, holding hands with Mark and trading gossip about the latest acquisition of the local polygamist, while they waited for the sheriff. Rolex, Izzy’s bay-and-white paint, and Sally, Mark’s long, tall buckskin mare, were saddled up and tied to Mark’s trailer.

At ten a streamer of dust on the horizon announced the arrival of the local constabulary. Smudge Iverson was already red-faced and out of breath as he lowered his considerable heft from the county’s old stock truck to the ground. He’d brought along one of his three deputies, a scarred and wiry Cree named Fenton Welch. Their horses stomped in the rack, eager to get out and get on with it.

“Porta,” the sheriff rasped, apparently unwilling to waste any additional effort to shake hands. Mark had told Izzy that Iverson informed him in their most recent professional conversation that he was no different than his constituents in the matter of their position on Washington D.C. and its most visible presence in the Breaks, the Bureau of Land Management.

“What did he really say?”

Mark shrugged “We don’t need your kind here.”

“Does he mean Rangers? Or Italians?”

Mark shrugged.

Izzy watched Smudge examine her in a guy way, chest first, then crotch. Then he looked again, in reverse order. “Hey, Smudge . . . .” She resisted the temptation to ask him if he’d like her to turn around so he could check out her ass.

“Izzy,” Iverson rasped, ignoring her to deal with Mark. “What’s this, Porta? You bringin a date to a body search?”

Despite herself, Izzy laughed. Everyone in Hilger County knew that she and Mark were doing more than sniffing around each other. After all, they were high-profile individuals—Izzy resented because she inherited a big spread in a part of the world where there wasn’t enough ranch to go around for even the male heirs of these old families, Mark reviled because he worked for the land-grabbing socialist government that was trying to confiscate their property so rich liberals on the Coasts could have even more playground in the Big Empty.

“She’s here in an official capacity,” Mark told the sheriff.

“Welch will take all the pictures we need,” Iverson rasped. “You know we cain’t take no civilians along.”

She went to her saddle bag and came back with her badge. The BLM office in Lewistown had issued the shield to her after Mark convinced his bosses that her knowledge of the Upper Breaks qualified her to be sworn in on the Castel case as a special deputy ranger.

“Ain’t no civilians round here,” she said. Iverson took the badge and poked it with what seemed to her an unwholesome gesture.

“Well, fuck me and the horse I rode in on.”

Izzy tapped her index finger on her lips. “Um, how about just the horse?”

What is unique about this particular outing is that it’s the first time I’ve reviewed a book for the Indy that is available only via Kindle eBook. It’s possible this is the first time they’ve ever published one at all, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you one thing: if more Kindle-only releases were as good as this one, I think I’d be reading more than the dwindling number I do every year. Most, with a few exceptions from reliable writers I’ve come to trust (like Gramlich, and Badelaire), are shit. Maybe I’ve just been on a bad run the last couple years, but the quality in self-published fiction has been on the decline. Either that or I’m just getting pickier. Or grouchier. Probably all of the above, but heaviest on that last possibility.

Anyway, give Making Bones a chance. Here is the link on Amazon. You won’t regret it.

Oh, and if Bill Vaughn’s name sounds familiar, it’s because last year I reviewed his nonfiction work Hawthorn: The Tree That Has Nourished, Healed, and Inspired Through the Ages, also for the Indy. That book was recently selected for Honor Book recognition for the 2015 Montana Book Award. So kudos to Vaughn for unleashing two excellent, totally different books in about a year.

Violent Act

My latest from the Missoula Independent; a review of the new Jim Harrison novel, The Big Seven. Here is a paragraph:

Books_SevenIn an effort to get his post-retirement life together, the impressively alcoholic Sunderson buys a small fishing cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His neighbors, the Ames family—a lawless clan of criminals whose antics are believable only when viewed as the blackest of comedies—soon entangle Sunderson in their web of incest, violence and domestic abuse. He hires the young Lily Ames to continue in the capacity she had for his cabin’s previous owners as something of a caretaker; she is killed shortly thereafter in an AK-47 shoot-out with her cousin, Tom. Her sister Monica takes Lily’s place and immediately becomes Sunderson’s lover. We meet several other members of the Ames family, even as they begin to die one after the other from some kind of mysterious poisoning. Is Monica, the cook for the family, the killer? Could it be Lemuel Ames, the “runt” of the clan whom Sunderson befriends, a thoughtful, bird-loving man who spent most of his youth in prison for bank robbery? Or could it be another member of the psychotic bunch?

Jim Harrison is one of my favorite writers, hands-down. Read the rest of it HERE.


Behind the Music

soundcity-poster-pYou know for a “writing” blog, or at least the blog of a “writer” of some kind, I really don’t talk about writing much. Certainly not writing advice, mainly because I don’t have any; I figure there are enough blowhards out there driving frustrated writers down conflicting paths to misery. But even my own writing I don’t talk about much. So here’s a little update. I haven’t been doing much fiction writing at all lately, though I have a couple story ideas clattering around, and some notes taken here and there, and I have a pretty solid novel idea with a few notes here and there as well. However, the bulk of what I’ve been working on is freelance nonfiction writing. Have some irons in the fire, some stuff that will see the light of day in a few months, things like that. I’ve written the occasional piece for the Missoula Independent as well. I mention it because there is a piece out today that is about something I really dig — the music documentary Sound City produced and directed by Dave Grohl.

I hope you check out my review in the Indy today. Here’s a little excerpt:

As a guy who has made music with friends for many, many hours in recording studios, the film hits me where my heart is when it comes to the creative process and how music should be recorded. Forget digital cutting and pasting. Forget perfect performances. I want bands live in a room, making music together, playing the songs as a unit to capture living, breathing, human performances. Other musicians and music geeks of similar values—those graybeards and kids digging through vinyl bins at record stores—will no doubt agree.

That snippet really sums it for me, in many ways. It was tough — really tough — to squeeze what I think of this documentary down to 700 words, but it came out okay. I feel like music, and my various pursuits in it, really defined the first 35 years or so of my life, and, once the realities of those failed efforts set in, left me flailing for the last ten or so, bitter and jaded and cynical and surly. Sometimes it’s hard to even listen to music, because so much of it is an ache akin to visiting places where you spent time with a former love, or with someone who has moved or passed away. Writing is a creative pursuit that I’ve been trying to plug the holes with, and it has worked to varying degrees, but I’m not there yet. It’s hard to imagine that writing will ever provide the kind of euphoria that fragmented moments on stage or in the studio have, but I’m trying. It’s a totally different discipline; I’ve found nothing in writing that comes close to that moment of connection that happens when you are playing with people you’ve labored hours in rehearsal with, and everything is clicking, and there are people in the audience connecting at the same time. It can be truly transcendent. I think Sound City captures what that can be like, what it has been like. It’s a fantastic achievement.

As for writing, we’ll see. I enjoy it, and I realize I’ve tried to make it something it’s not. So I’m working to discover exactly what it is. I may ultimately throw in the towel for something else . . . but not today.