Thursday, January 30, 2014

Stories and sandwiches... and jail.

If I were to write an "advice to criminals" column, this post would be in it.

There's a reason criminals wear raccoon masks and carry bags marked with a generic "SWAG."  It's because they don't want to be recognized, and bare faces and Gucci bags will stand out to members of the public being relieved of their possession in an illegal manner.

Therefore, if you want to commit a crime, (a) don't wear a distinctive t-shirt when there are witnesses, (b) if you do wear a distinctive t-shirt when there are witnesses, don't wear it the very next day while the cops are looking for you.

Sound reasonable?

(And yes, the below item of clothing was the distinctive t-shirt in question.)


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Disarming reviews: "So disappointing..."

I'm starting a new, weekly habit here on D.A. Confidential and I'm calling it "Disarming Reviews." Yes, I know that's an ambiguous label but it's intentional. Here's the plan: I want to take my bad reviews and disarm them, render them harmless, and do so in a way that is itself quite disarming. Simple, no?

But why would I do this? Two reasons.

First, as you might imagine, if a writer has a hundred good reviews and then one bad one comes in, guess which gets his attention? The words sting and smart, even for the writer with the thickest skin (and mine's pretty thick). But an author has to suck it up because there's a rule in the writing community that forbids authors from responding to, addressing, or otherwise interacting with reviewers.

"Reviews are for readers, not writers" goes the saying.

Fair enough. I don't do any of those things but you know what? Thumb tacks are for art projects, but they still hurt when you step on one. So, every week I'll be taking a bad review and not interacting with the reviewers, but rendering their words cute and harmless. Like this, which addresses my first novel, The Bookseller:


The second reason I'm doing this? Well, any excuse to put my kids in videos...

Oh, in case anyone wants to give me points for originality, please don't. I saw this done on a website where children's book authors read aloud their bad reviews. It's awesome.
Here's that site:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Numbers one, seven, and ten. Good numbers, those.

This may never happen again, so I'm marking it for posterity: all three of my books are best sellers at BookPeople. Love that place, the magnificent staff and its wonderful customers.

The books in question:
The list in question:

That's all. Have a wonderful Sunday. :)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

An English pyschopath... (no, not me!)

As regular readers of the blog will know, I am utterly fascinated by psychopaths and sociopaths. To the extent, actually, that a novel I'm working on right now features one.

I have no idea what the gender breakdown is for psychopaths, in terms of how many men to women. But I do know that female serial killers are rare. One has just popped up in England and I thought I'd share for anyone who missed the story.

Her name is Joanna Dennehy, she's 31 years old and she just pled guilty to murdering three men, by stabbing them in the heart. She then dumped their bodies in ditches in Cambridgeshire (very close to where I grew up).

Cute girl, pop over here for pictures.

The outstanding (in terms of story potential) things is that this woman had a henchman named "Stretch" who was 7'4". I prefer ironic nicknames myself, so would rather he was called Shorty, or Midge, but hey, I'm not going to second guess these people.

They get all stabby.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Polly busts a drunkard

This has to be one of the best stories I've seen in a long while:

Police in Mexico City said a drunken driving suspect stopped at an alcohol checkpoint was betrayed by his pet parrot, which told police "he's drunk."

Investigators said Guillermo Reyes, 49, was pulled over last week at a routine checkpoint in the city and officers heard a voice in the car repeating "he's drunk, he's drunk," Spanish-language newspaper El Universal reported Tuesday.

Police said they looked inside the vehicle, expecting to find another person, but instead discovered Reyes' pet parrot.

Reyes failed a sobriety test and was arrested on a drunken driving charge. The parrot was supposed to be taken away by Animal Surveillance Brigade officers, but Reyes told them the bird is with him at all times and could suffer stress if separated.

The parrot was allowed to accompany Reyes to jail.
The story is here if you don't believe me.

For fun, let's make a couple of assumptions. (1) that the police based their testing on the parrot's statement, and (2) Mexican law looks like US law.
So, I think the defense lawyer gets to put the parrot on the stand and cross examine it.
Defense lawyer: "Do you have any training that allows you to recognize someone above the legal limit for alcohol?"
Parrot: "Caw."
Defense lawyer: "You have core training?"
Parrot: "Polly got a cracker."
Defense lawyer: "A what?"
Prosecutor: "Judge, I believe a cracker is slang for a drunk person. The parrot is reiterating that his owner is a drunk."
Defense lawyer: "I object to the prosecutor putting words in the witness's beak."
Judge: "Is this really happening? I need a drink."
Also, did you see that the parrot was allowed to go to jail with its owner, to avoid separation anxiety?  What does that even look like in a parrot??
Also, I'm concerned for the bird. Snitches don't do well in jail.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Crikey, it's here already!

The day snuck up on me, like one of my own dastardly ne'er-do-wells.

Release day for The Blood Promise!

Here are a couple of nice things people have said about it, already (but I'd rather you made up your own mind, of course):

“Mark Pryor is one of the smartest new writers on the block. His new novel is a doozy.”
Philip Kerr, author of A Man Without Breath, a Bernie Gunther novel

"Pryor seems to have hit his stride in this series, as he adroitly juxtaposes the light banter between Marston and Green with some scenes of intense emotion.... And, all the while, the suspense ramps up. Top-notch mystery in a skillfully delineated Parisian setting."

And don't forget, if you're in Austin you can come to the launch at BookPeople, Friday Jan 17 at 7pm, and enter a free drawing to have your name used in a future book. Yes, you could be a killer, a victim, or just some dude/dudette on the street corner selling balloons.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wow, two years already?

I was going to let yesterday pass in quiet reflection of an old bugger. An old bugger who passed away two years ago. But he visited me last night in my sleep (dreams, people, I don't believe in ghosts. Though that'd be cool, and he'd get a kick out of haunting me).

As a result, and because I'll likely be talking about him at the launch of my next book (since he's one of the inspirations for my hero, Hugo Marston), I thought I'd repost the tribute to my Dad that I wrote the day after he died.

Now, before you reach for the tissues (or the "back" button) this isn't a sloppy, sad, boohoo post. No, Dad wouldn't have liked that. Which is why, when I first shared it, I included a disclaimer.

Here is the post, starting with that disclaimer: if death is holy to you, and the deceased are sacred, if you believe that our loved ones who've passed on cannot be around laughter, or can no longer be objects of amusement, delight, and ridicule (just as they were, and we all are, in life) then I salute you and respect your position completely.
I would also caution you not to read this post.

You see, in the early hours of . . . yesterday, I suppose, my father died. That was the reason for my trip here, to help my mother care for him and to say good bye. He's had cancer for ten years and lived five more than they said he would, so his death is not a shock in that sense. But the end itself came faster than expected, and my sister and brother arrived a few hours after he'd shuffled from this mortal coil.

Naturally there have been tears, but to understand the gamut of our emotions you have to know my dad. He was highly intelligent. He was the most unjudgmental person I have ever met. He was a solitary figure, invariably preferring the company of trees and animals to human beings, but one of the delights of life for him was a good, deep conversation with a bright friend or stranger about politics, technology, or social issues. He enjoyed good champagne and provided his family with the best port of the previous century, as well as the good taste to appreciate it.

Now, despite being a quiet man, he had one foible that risked making him the center of attention at the wrong time: he would get the giggles. Not just a few of them, but a barrowful that would set his shoulders to shaking and his eyes watering, pulling the breath from him for minutes at a time. My sister and I inherited the gene and my greatest memories are of us sitting at the dinner table quivering with laughter at some minor amusement (any true Giggler will tell you that they require no ignition, they are laughter's version of spontaneous human combustion).

One other thing: there is no more practical man in the world than my dad. In the sense that he resurrected this barn of a mountain home, clearing out door-mice (while never killing one of them) and remaking ceilings, stairs, the water system, the patio, etc etc. Practical, too, in the sense that he detested unnecessary extravagance. Silliness, yes, extravagance, no.

This is dad a few years ago, during a three-year volunteer project in Namibia. Taking a wild guess, I'd say around Christmas time (I'm pretty sure those are his Christmas trousers. . . ).

So he died late Friday night, this humble, honest, antlered man, with my mum and me holding his hands, telling him how much we loved him. She and I stayed up the rest of the night, we lit a fire and made tea, and finally we dozed off in our chairs towards dawn.

And then the fun really began. Because, you see, this is France. And in France there are a few certain truths: (1) the bread is better, (2) everything requires paperwork, and (3) the bread requires paperwork.

First of all, the nurses who'd cared for him the past few months immediately drove up to our mountain home, at 2:30 A.M., to clean and dress his body. We left him in the bedroom so my brother and sister could visit and say good bye. We all spent the day coming and going, finding ourselves talking to him, sticking our heads into the room to see if he needed anything, that sort of impractical, self-comforting nonsense he'd roll his eyes at.

What he wanted, of course, was for us to find a nice tree, wrap him in a sheet and tuck him into the soil facing the mountains. Not surprisingly, the French don't permit that. Can't blame them. So cremation (my sister has begun calling it "his transmogrification") is the next best thing, but that requires a coffin. I half-believe the old man would have made his own, but he works with nice oak and I'm guessing didn't want to waste it on a box that would be buried in wet soil. So, very unashamedly, we ordered the cheapest there is. No silks, no cushions, no frills or finery at all.

Our options as far as funeral homes were twofold: the professional, practiced company who'd take care of things in a hushed reverence, or the local chappie from the village. Only problem with him, being a sole proprietor he'd need help carrying dad out of the house, though he said his wife could come up and lend a hand if need be. Given the price difference, and our terror of hushed reverence (what if one of us got the giggles?!), we of course opted for the local chappie.

He duly showed up last night and halfway through the conversation, we all realized there'd been a misunderstanding (easy when you're speaking a foreign language over the phone, and using go-betweens). We were by the fire in the kitchen and he suddenly looked puzzled and jerked his thumb towards the ceiling.

Chappie: "You mean, he's here? In the house?"
Mum: "Yes. You didn't know that?"
Chappie: "No, I thought he'd died in the hospital."
Mum: "He died here. He's still here, dressed and ready to go."
Chappie: "Ah, that's a problem. I didn't bring the casket."
Mum: "Oh dear. Well, if the van's refrigerated, maybe. . . "
Chappie: "No, no, I brought my car, it's too small."
Me: "You have a front seat and a seat-belt, don't you?"
Chappie, nervous laughter: "Yes, but. . . "
Mum: "Can you go get it?"
Chappie: "No. I need permission. Paperwork from the mayor and the police, it's required to transport the body."
Mum: "What about tomorrow?"
Chappie: "Tomorrow is Sunday."
Me: "People don't usually die on Sundays?"
Chappie: "Yes, but . . . then they wait."

You get the idea. The end result is that while he works on getting the papers signed, he'll drop off a casket (I'm writing this as I wait) and, with the help of my brother and me, we'll load our dear old dad inside and keep him as a piece of furniture in the front room, or the cellar if it proves to be a warm day, until the signatures and permissions have been gathered.

The problem with keeping him in the main room is that we'll keep talking to him and, if yesterday is any guide, getting the giggles. Not that he'd mind, of course.

The problem with putting him in the cellar is, well, he'll be blocking access to the port. That, I am certain, he'd mind a lot more.

We will miss you, dear dad, but more than anything we will remain grateful. For everything you did, and everything you were.


Back in the present... I was right! We DO miss the old fella. But, I was right about the other stuff, too, and two years on the happy memories and giggles far outnumber the tears, which is how it should be, right?

He would certainly think so.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New year, new book, new names needed...

Happy New Year everyone.

Remember a month or so ago, I mentioned wanting to use real people's names in my upcoming books? Oh wait, here's the post. Anyway, I'll be having in in-person drawing at the launch of my new Hugo Marston novel, called THE BLOOD PROMISE. I'll be sharing wine, cheese, and a hat full of names at BookPeople on January 17, at 7pm.

In fact, the new book contains the names of the winners from the last drawing in May. So yes, it's for real! But you have to be there to win. Or leave a comment below, and beg.

And in case you haven't seen it, here's the cover. I love, love, love it.

Some people like the book, too:

Praise for The Blood Promise:

"Mark Pryor is one of the smartest new writers on the block. His new novel is a doozy."
—Philip Kerr, author of A Man Without Breath,
a Bernie Gunther novel

"Pryor seems to have hit his stride in this series, as he adroitly juxtaposes the light banter between Marston and Green with some scenes of intense emotion.... And, all the while, the suspense ramps up. Top-notch mystery in a skillfully delineated Parisian setting."