Thursday, May 8, 2014

Johnny Shaw

Johnny Shaw was born and raised on the Calexico/Mexicali border, the setting for his Jimmy Veeder Fiasco novels, Dove Season and Plaster City. He is also the author of the Anthony Award-winning adventure novel, Big Maria.

His shorter work has appeared in Thuglit, Crime Factory, Shotgun Honey, Plots with Guns, and numerous anthologies. He is the creator and editor of the fiction magazine, Blood & Tacos, which recently added a phone app, a Podcast, and a book imprint to its empire.

Shaw received his MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA and over the course of his writing career has seen his screenplays optioned, sold, and produced. For the last dozen years, he has taught writing, both online and in person. He has taught at Santa Barbara City College, UC Santa Barbara, LitReactor, and numerous writing conferences.

Shaw lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, artist Roxanne Patruznick.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Shaw's reply:
With a few exceptions, I’ve been focused on crime fiction for the last few months. It’s always been my pleasure reading, so I tend to default to that quadrant of the to-be-read stacks when I’m looking for a book. I’ve read a lot of great books recently and would encourage people to seek these out.

The Little Boy Inside and Other Stories by Glenn Gray - One of the best short story collections I’ve read in a long time. Strange, compelling, and incredibly unique, Gray’s idiosyncratic stories of bodybuilders, scut monkeys, and strange happenings stuck with me for a long time after I put the book down.

The Hard Bounce by Todd Robinson - Eventually my characters Jimmy Veeder and Bobby Maves are going to have to have an old-fashioned Marvel Team-Up with Boo and Junior, Robinson’s dynamic duo. While the urban setting and our point of view and writing styles are completely different, Robinson shares my affinity for mayhem and dark humor. Hard-boiled, funny, but grounded and human. It’s hard to believe that this is his first novel.

Rake by Scott Phillips - Everyone should be reading Scott Phillips. If you aren’t, get on it. He’s the only author that I can name that can balance true noir with laugh-out-loud humor. I mean dark, dark stuff that still finds the funny. It’s hard to explain how difficult that is to pull off. My books are hard-boiled and funny, but they aren’t noir. My characters live in a just world, the good guys usually win. Not in Phillips’ books. What he does is amazing. Take Rake, for example. The elevator pitch is Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me, if you took Lou Ford and made him a soap opera actor in Paris (I’m not very good at elevator pitches). I haven’t read his new one Hop Alley yet, but it’s at the top of my list.

Federales by Christopher Irvin - This novella from first-time author Irvin is fast and lean, no fat to slow it down. Sharp prose, strong characterization, and painful empathy. A parable told within the arena of Mexico’s disastrous drug war. It captures the futility and tragedy of a country at war with itself. Sad and poignant and definitely worth picking up.

A Swollen Red Sun by Matthew McBride - This one doesn’t come out until June, so write down the title or just pre-order it now. With his first novel Frank Sinatra in a Blender, McBride hit the ground running with a manic, action-packed fiasco of his own. And while his new novel is anything but subdued, it’s a much more ambitious, yet controlled novel. Capturing the people of Gasconade County in Missouri honestly, warts and all, this has some of the most memorable characters you’ll ever run across. I’ll read everything McBridee writes.
Visit Johnny Shaw's website.

--Marshal Zeringue