What a week. Not only did finally get licensed to drive in the wilds of New York State, but this little beauty was unveiled for all to see:
Yup – that’s the cover to my Miami crime novel, Silent City, hitting in March fromPolis Books. It’s the first installment in the Pete Fernandez series, with book 2, Down the Darkest Street, hitting the following month. It’s gonna be a busy year. I don’t imagine I’ll get much work done if I spend most of the day staring at this cover – but I can’t help myself.
I’ve known my next guest since college – so, a little over 15 years. I have a vague memory of stumbling into the school newspaper and asking for an assignment, a few hours after registering for classes. Alfred Soto – then the editor of the paper – took pity on me enough to keep me busy, and I stuck around. Since then, we’ve remained friends and I can say Alfred is like family – and it’s been great to continue to read his daily thoughts and analysis on his site, Humanizing the Vaccuum, since we don’t see each other in person as often.
He’s a contrarian in the best way possible – eager to question what many take at face value and equally willing to embrace the looked-down-upon or ignored to give it a fair shake. He’s as comfortable talking about Taylor Swift as he is rolling up his sleeves and analyzing the Iran nuclear deal. I learned a lot from Alfred as an eager college punk – whether he was handing off a worn out CD copy of The Smiths Singles or the collected short stories of Nabokov, he was – and continues to be – a trove of knowledge, insight and suggestions. He’s a great writer, a sharp critic and does not suffer fools – in fact, he’s probably groaning at the use of that cliche as you read this.
I’m happy he took the time to visit my little corner of newsletter-land.
I’ve known you for more than 15 years – but my readers might not know you at all. How would you describe yourself, what you do and what you like to talk about?
So far my favorite album of 2015 is by Jazmine Sullivan, an R&B singer-songwriter who took five years off and returned with “Reality Show,” a tight, immaculately sung and written album about the costs of dealing with fuckers and fakers. I’m taken with Courtney Barnett’s “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit,” a debut album that sounds like a cross between Luna and Sheryl Crow; she’s also a first-rate guitarist. Ashley Monroe of Pistol Annies adds another in a series of fine albums by her, Miranda Lambert, and Angaleena Presley. At the moment Miguel is my favorite performer, period: a full-throated singer who has an unusual affinity for passivity and pleasure. And so many excellent singles! Check out this song by Japan’s Gesu no Kiwami Otome.
The I Love Music message board has been revelatory. Every day I read about a new artist or an old one I’ve over looked. You’ll find me on that board idling many an afternoon.
I love the Courtney Barnett record a ton, too. I don’t feel so out of touch now! In terms of music criticism, what are some of the good and bad things you see happen often in how reviews are written? Who are some of the writers you admire most?
In 2015 the click is all. Often we rush to judgment because we want to be first. Editors are under tremendous pressure. Writing doesn’t matter. The internet was an advertiser’s dream: it ended that post-war ethos of subsidizing creativity, covertly through the CIA or otherwise. But I know not a single writer who doesn’t pine for the time when you can think about an album for a month or week. Luckily I still read terrific criticism: Tim Finney and Meaghan Harvey at Pitchfork, Brad Nelson at Maura Magazine and Deadspin, David Drake at Complex and other places, Brad Shoup at The Singles Jukebox. I always look forward to Keith Harris bylines. There’s a few others I’d mention had I the space.
What are you currently working on, and what can you tease that’s coming down the line?
A. Look for the longest piece I’ve ever written to get published in a couple months. More book reviews. Expect ceaseless HTV posts.
I’m still very much enjoying the Crime Writers On podcast – even if I disagree with a few things from the last episode: namely, their POV on True Detective (especially when the shows they point to as “good” are Ballers and Scrotal Recall – but it’s all relative, I guess) and the Breakdown podcast (agree it is a bit Mr. Rogers-y, but decent) – still, the hosts are polished, engaging, smart and informed, so I’m hooked. I wish I could say the same for the extremely slow and often tedious Undisclosed(perhaps me giving up is a byproduct of Adnan burnout) and the too-charming-for-its-own-good Mystery Show. But I may revisit both later, if time permits. Or not.
Had a wonderful time at the first-ever Queens LitFest reading with Megan Abbott and Nancy Bilyeau (who also organized the mystery/crime portion of the event). Excited to see this event continue next year.
As noted last week – I’ll be co-hosting the PEN/Mystery Writers of America Mingle, which should be a lot of fun. The event is free (just RSVP!), you’ll get to meet a lot of great people and it’s at LPR, one of my favorite venues.
I got to talk about the seventh episode of True Detective with Jordan Foster and Lisa Levy at The Life Sentence. We had a fun time – hope you enjoy. And, as we head into the season finale, I found this Slate breakdown of the plot to be very helpful.
Here’s a peek at the first few chapters of Rob Hart’s excellent debut, New Yorked.
This chilling piece tells the story of the Jennifer Pan murder case – first seen by me via the Sunday Long Read newsletter. Here’s another one from the same edition – an engrossing profile on writer Jim Dent.
At Maclean’s, Sarah Weinman reviews the new Shirley Jackson collection.
This has been an interesting publishing story to follow.
Congrats to my dear friend Rebekah Monson, who I’ll be talking to here soon-ish.
RIP, Marilyn. 53 years ago this week.