Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The first chapter of my novel and some other Falcon fiction

A few of you have asked how you can get a glimpse at some of my fiction. Well, here you go. Previously on this blog I published a couple short stories:

1) Dust to Dust, a sequel to a vampire short story I wrote in 1985 before Blade hit the scene. You will see some similarities, but it is somewhat unique. I let it die once vampire stories became so rampant but I do think there is a novel in it someday.

2) Bless me Father, a sort of Dexterish type short story about a Priest who hunts down pedophile priests. I wrote it during Hurricane Ike.

And finally, here is the first chapter of my novel, Jesus Just Left Chicago. I am very close to finishing (finally). I am a binge writer, and I have been on a serious binge of late. If you like what you see, hopefully you will buy the whole thing when it comes out. The idea came from hearing the ZZ Top song one night driving home. I pondered the glorious question: If Jesus just left Chicago and is on his way to New Orleans, where would he go?

The answer was simple. Sam Houston Race Park. And he would make everybody money.

The result is a project I have been writing and revising for about 15 years. It is finally near the finish to the point where I feel I can share the first chapter.

WARNING: All of these have graphic content. If you are hyper-religious, then Father and this one are probably not for you. Enjoy.



My name is Louis. I killed Jesus.

I have been trying to live with that. I can’t anymore. How do you live with killing Jesus?

How do you live with the greatest crime in history? There’s no redemption for that. No forgiveness. Not from anyone.

You must think I’m crazy. I’m not crazy. I am a little drunk. I’ve been trying to think of a way to deal with this, to come to grips with the greatest sin ever. Get it out of my head.

This is what I have come up with: tell you the story. Get it all out there. Confess to you.

Tell you why. Maybe you will believe me, maybe you won’t.

One thing is for sure: I believe. I met Jesus. I was his friend.

And I betrayed him. I killed him.

There’s no real way to deal with that. Not much precedent. Tried to call Judas a few times and figure out what he did, but they don’t have a hotline to hell. Guess I will see soon enough, though. That will be a lonely spot at the bar in hell – Judas and me.

I’m not there yet. Just in case, I bought a fifth of Jack Daniels. Black label, the good stuff. Don’t plan on taking any of it with me, though. Just thought I would start working on the bottle and writing my story.

More than a story, really. The longest suicide note in history.

My plan is pretty simple. When I get to the bottom of this bottle, I hope to have told you everything I know. And I hope someone will believe me. And then I am going to take this beautiful piece of cold, hard steel – a .45 my dad gave me a long time ago, with his initials carved on tiny letters on the trigger -- and blow my brains all over this computer.

I wonder what that will look like. Will it spray? Will it splatter? Will it be black? Red?

Will it clot? Will I see pieces of my own brain before I die? I wonder how many seconds I will have before it all goes dark.

Before I go to hell.

I wonder if it the bullet will go through my brain and destroy the computer. Wouldn’t that suck? My suicide note ruined in the blast? Wouldn’t that be ironic?

Hell, maybe no one ever sees it. That would be the greatest sin of all.

I’m going to write it anyway. Maybe my kids will get to see it. (I wonder how they will handle being the children of the most evil man ever? They will keep some therapists in business for a long ass time!) Maybe my ex wives. They won’t be surprised, that’s for sure. Oh well. I am writing it for whoever reads it. But mostly I am writing it for me.

That’s all I ever really wanted to do anyway -- write. Like everything else, I was just never very good at it. At least not until Jesse showed up. Everything got better when Jesse Christian was around. (Sorry, Jesse was Jesus. I’ll get to that. Weak attempt to get you to keep reading. There’s some technique there, but I don’t remember what it’s called).

 I’m a little drunk. Did I mention that? I had a few beers before I started this Jack. I don’t usually drink beer. Always Jack. Jack and Coke. Turned Jesse onto it for a while, but he always went back to wine. Man, there’s something about Jack and Coke…smooth, a little sweet, a nice punch. Gets you there pretty quickly. Five or six really strong ones and you are good for the night.

I don’t have any Coke, though. Today, it’s straight Jack. Except for the last little bit. I do have a Diet Coke, and I will mix it with that. Won’t be the same, but then I expect to be too drunk to care at that point. Just want my last drink to be Jack and Coke. Or close enough.

(It's not as bad as the time when Kiddo No. 1 was an infant and all I had to mix it with was pedialyte. Ugh.)

You probably think it should be red wine. No way I ever drink that again. Not after what I did.

At least I have that glow. That warm, just-a-little-drunk glow. It’s all I have. And thanks to it, I can be honest with you.

Of course, it’s probably why I failed so much as a writer. Probably stayed drunk too much.

I have no idea how I became the most evil person in history. I mean, Hitler looks like a choir boy next to me. Wow. That’s a tough one to figure out. I was a good kid. Hell, I was an altar boy. Snuck a little wine every now and then, but who didn’t?

I had good parents. My dad worked in the refineries. Got cancer from whatever stuff he inhaled every day and died at 50. My mom stayed at home and raised all of us. She wanted to be a romance novelist. I guess that’s where my interest in writing came from.

She sucked at it, too. And I don’t think they had much of a romance. There was a neighbor who visited a lot. She only seemed happy around him. I figured out later they had been carrying on for years. Apparently he wasn’t her only beau, either. Guess I inherited her curse.

I was always more like her, and I hated that. But I didn’t want to work in the refineries,either. I went to junior college, took writing classes, met a girl, got married, got a divorce. Wrote short stories for a while, then tried writing technical journals. Then I worked as a reporter. Covered all kinds of stuff for the local newspaper.

I wasn’t very good at any of it. Stayed drunk too much. I think I mentioned that. But I
enjoyed reporting. My favorite was the cop beat. That’s where you stayed at the police
station, and went to cover stories when something weird happened. I saw a lot of cool
stuff – double homicides, drug-related murders…all kinds of bloody stuff. Galveston had
some bad people back then.

Oh yeah, forgot to mention: I grew up in Galveston. That’s where I am now. Galveston
is a failed port on the Texas coast. A nothing little island that’s a lot like New Orleans
without the tourists or the French Quarter. (New Orleans is where I killed Jesus, by the
way. We will get to that).

Saw a lot of cool stuff in Galveston, mostly when I covered cops. Man, that beat was fun.
One time I went with the police to an auto-pedestrian accident. The victim’s body was
twisted under the tire base of an 18-wheeler, but he was still alive when we got there. He
was breathing fast, blood everywhere, his body broken in all different ways. I wondered
why he wouldn’t die. He just kept whispering, “forgive me. Forgive me.”

I know it’s sick, but I laughed. “You are asking the wrong guy, chief.” He kept begging
anyway. Right before he died, one of his eyes actually blew out of his head. He had some
weird hemorrhage in his brain. Essentially, his eye exploded. He didn’t die right away,
even then. He reached up with the one arm that was only partially broken and tried to put
his eye back. I admired that.

 So did the paramedics. They gave him a shot of morphine as a reward. He had no chance, and they knew it. They could never have gotten his body out of the wheel base, even if he’d had a chance. It took them hours even after he died.

I watched him die that night, just after midnight, a man I would never know. He was just
road kill to me. But he wound up making an impact, because that night I decided I was
truly sick. I enjoyed watching him die.

My story in the paper the next day didn’t really do it justice.

It read like this:

“GALVESTON – A Texas City man was killed when he was struck by a tractor-trailer

truck Monday night at Highway 45 and 61st

John Economy, 27, was attempting to cross highway 45 on foot at night when he was struck by the vehicle.

He died at the scene.

Economy was unemployed and had no known address and no known living relatives. He graduated from Texas City High School in 1983 as class Valedictorian.

Services are pending.”

I always wondered about John Economy. How he went from being the smartest kid in school to a guy who got killed crossing a freeway in the middle of the night. A guy who died begging for forgiveness, wrapped around the wheelbase of a Nabisco truck, his eye blown all over the pavement.

I also wondered why I wrote such lousy news stories.

I tried sports for a while, then features. Then I tried teaching. Then I met another woman, had another wife. Two kids. Another divorce, too. My fault this time. The curse of my mother.

It occurred to me for no real reason that had John Economy lived, we would be the same age. We’d both be 43.

I think John got it right. He checked out before he fucked up his life. I waited too long. I should have gone a long time ago. I think that’s what a truly smart, sick person realizes: you can’t escape the sickness. Mine was drinking and gambling. And I couldn’t get away from it.

Most people with my sickness just go broke. I wound up killing Jesus.

Damn. This Jack tastes good. I hope they have it in hell.

I wish you could see this view. A little alcohol glaze really makes it beautiful. I rented a little condo on Galveston Bay. Fall is coming. It’s cool, and the sun is setting on the water.

I doubt I will see the sunrise. I hope to be done before then.

Something you should know about Galveston Bay: it’s dirty. It’s brown. You can’t see your feet when you walk in the water. But when the sun sets, it makes the ugly brown glimmer and shine. It gives it an odd, white-ish hue that looks almost like ice. Today, the horizon is framed with a huge thunderstorm just off the coast. The sun is behind the top of the huge, cumulus clouds, spreading a weird, orange color across the sky. It looked like someone set off an A-Bomb, and it the explosion stopped halfway through and froze itself in the sky.

I came here because every important decision I made was done staring out over Galveston Bay or the Gulf of Mexico. Over this water, I decided to try to be a writer. I decided to get married. Twice.

And divorced. Twice.

And I decided to kill Jesse Christian. Turned out he was Jesus. Damn. Blew that one, huh?

There is a comfort in this water. My life has been built around it. I’ve lived most of it here. Now I am going to die here.

My name is Louis. I killed Jesus. I told you that already, didn’t I? Sorry, I’m a little drunk.

Guess I better tell you how I killed him.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Revisiting the best current shows on TV

Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant in BBC's Sherlock.

Sometime late in 2012 I posted a list of the best shows on TV at the time. As always, these lists are subjective and certainly based on personal preference. I use the following criteria:

1) Is the show clever? Unpredictable? Does it make me think or does it spoon-feed me plots?

2) How is the writing? Is the dialogue well done? Does it engage me?

3) Do I care about the characters or are their flaws so annoying that I don't root for them?

4) Quality of acting.

5) Consistency in episodes. Many have filler episodes or just bad ones during the course of a season. The best shows are events; they have no dead episodes.

We rate each on a 1-10 scale.

So with that in mind, here is the current list based on those criteria and my opinion. Shows like Breaking Bad (finished) and Copper (canceled) are no longer on the list. These are currently running shows (with one possible exception noted below). Network shows do not fare well; most are written for the LCD and ratings.

1) SHERLOCK, BBC (50 points). It just concluded season 3, and it was once again brilliant. This one scores a 10 in every category above. It's well written and conceived, the acting is off the charts and there simply isn't a bad episode. To be fair, it's more like a yearly mini series (three episodes, 1 1/2 hours each) but it is simply riveting. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are off the charts as Sherlock and Watson. Both have become major stars, but have agreed to two more seasons.

2) JUSTIFIED, FX (48). Probably the best traditional series on TV in terms of a more than 10 episode per year set up. They have agreed to one more year, and the story ends from there. The late Elmore Leonard's fingerprints are all over this, especially in terms of the writing. It's clever, funny, and interesting. The acting -- especially Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins -- is pure brilliance. The characters -- even the rogues -- are loveable. The last two seasons have been the best yet. After a few dead episodes early on, everything the past two years has been terrific. Unlike a lot of shows, this one simply gets better each week.

3) GAME OF THRONES, HBO (44). This past season featured perhaps the single greatest television episode in history with the Red Wedding. Overall it is incredibly well conceived and strays from the books enough to stand on its own. There are a lot of characters to follow (too many, in my opinion) and a few episodes that dragged a little keep it from matching the top two.

4) LUTHER, BBC (43). The series appeared to end this year, so this one might not belong on the list. If so it wrapped up nicely. If not, would love to see it back. Idris Elba is fantastic as an on the edge detective who is always one step away from snapping.

5) SONS OF ANARCHY, FX (34). It can get soap-opera-ish at times, and the writing is a little suspect, but the acting is terrific and the most recent season might have been the best yet. They went over the top quite a bit this year, and frankly I think Game of Thrones has raised the bar in terms of shock factor. A willingness to kill off one of your biggest stars (Ron Perlman) takes guts.

The next group (no particular order)

BANSHEE, Cinemax. Season 1 was terrific. Season 2 has been a little slow at times so we're reserving judgement until the end.

HELL ON WHEELS, AMC. Was a little worried this one might get canceled when it was moved to the dreaded Saturday night slot, but it will be back for another year. Anson Mount is terrific.

WALKING DEAD, AMC. Has devolved into a series of dead episodes and then an excellent one that makes you hang in there. Not great acting or writing, and the concept has probably played out, but I can't eject on it.

THE NEWSROOM, HBO. It's got a lot of the Aaron Sorkin trademark in it -- more about relationships and everyone sleeping with each other against a backrop of a newsroom -- but it's also very solid. Season 2 was better than season 1. It will be interesting to see how season 3 plays out.

MAD MEN, AMC. I remember when this show was one of the most brilliant on TV. Last season was absolutely awful; the writers have devolved into playing the "look ma, I got Emmys so I can be clever" game and the show has become a joke. One season left, but unless it rallies it is two seasons too many.

TRUE DETECTIVE, HBO. This is a brand spanking new series that has been nothing short of brilliant through the first few episodes. Too early to judge, but so far, so good.

THE AMERICANS, FX. Started off fast but started to drag at the end last year. Will give it another chance, but...

ELEMENTARY, CBS. An imitation of Sherlock based in America with a nice twist -- Lucy Liu as Watson. The acting is strong, but watching it after watching Sherlock is like dating Rosie O'Donnell after Scarlet Johannson. It basically uses the same simplistic weekly plot as NCIS (the bad guy shows up in an early scene) but the acting performances make with worthwhile. It's a shame networks have to dumb things down.

Shows I ejected on: Despite its Emmys, I thought Homeland fell apart at the end of season 1 and I lost interest early in season 2. The same goes for Ray Donovan, which started well but I was out by episode five. I think it has something to do with Showtime's offerings; they start edgy but can't sustain it.

I have not watched Shameless, Blacklist, Black Sails or the Following, but I hear good things. At some point I will binge watch them.

So there you go. Who got left off?