What I’m Reading – Robert Randisi

I have been a fan of Private Investigator fiction for decades. So, it’s perplexing to me that I only discovered the work of Robert Randisi over the last three years. Randisi is the founder of the Private Eye Writers of America, who grant the Shamus Awards every year for the best in P.I. fiction. Not sure, why it took me so long to discover his work, especially given how much of it there is.

Because “founder of the PWA” is hardly Randisi’s claim to fame. He’s also been called the “last of the true pulp writers.” Since the early 80’s Randisi has published over 600 novels.  Read that again…over 600 novels. Most of these are Westerns, over 400 in the Gunsmith series of Adult Westerns alone. My love for his P.I. books led me to try some of his Westerns, and in turn has re-opened this genre to me.

But back to the P.I. work.

I’m currently working my way through his Miles Jacoby series, about a retired boxer learning the ropes as a PI.  Jacoby is set in New York, like Randisi’s excellent Nick Delvecchio series. This has allowed Randisi to create a shared universe for his series, where characters from the Nick and Jack series and the Henry Po book all show up throughout the various books (don’t look now, but some of characters also show up in the Gunsmith – The Show Girl novel, at least by name).

Full Contact has Miles hired by a rich Detroit businessman to find a missing daughter. He’s also trying to clear the name of his friend, and recurring character, Knock Wood Lee, who is accused of the murder of a debtor. Parallel cases that may or may not converge is a common plot structure in P.I. novels. Randisi frequently adopts it, but he doesn’t adopt a pattern as to whether the cases will converge or not. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. And I won’t spoil that for you here.

The first of the Jacoby series leaned on the boxing theme. The second, pulp magazine collections. This one, has Karate. And for that reason, it took me a while to get into it. But, as always, Randisi delivered, including a whodunnit solution that I didn’t see coming.

I’ve tried to think what it is that I find so satisfying about a Randisi read. And I’ve landed on the ease in storytelling. His prose is tight, and free of any extraneous material. Yet, it still seems free to meander. He also gets away with a lot less description than most authors can manage…again ease in storytelling.  James Lee Burke, he is not. One of the interesting things to me is that I can love both authors’ work, so much. Yet, they are so different.

There are over 600 books to choose from with Randisi. I wouldn’t recommend Full Contact, as the book to start with, but it’s damn good. (For the record, I’d start with the DelVecchio series).


What I’m Reading – Conan

I suspect a lot of men my age had some exposure to Conan stories in their youth, either through the books, comics, or movies (I had a crush on the blonde girl in Conan the Destroyer).

I remember reading some stories and watching the Arnie movies (and the blonde). I really enjoyed the movies (ahem, blonde), even though they look corny now. The stories?  I seem to remember thinking, eh, I’d rather read Tolkien.

That was sometime in the early 80’s, and the fantasy genre is so-filled with Tolkien-esque “epic” fantasy now, that it may as well just be called the Tolkien genre. I’ve pretty much given up on reading these brick door stoppers (with the occasional exception of Steve Erikson’s Malazan novels). But I am becoming more interested in the Sword & Sorcery predecessors to the Tolkien phenomenom.

If you’re interested in these roots, you must check out Robert E. Howard’s Conan. So, when I found the first couple of the Conan collections that were edited and supplemented by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter at one of our friendly local used booksellers, I snatched them up and decided to re-acquaint myself with Howard’s mighty Cimmerian.

As I make my way through the stories, I’ll comment on them here. (And I won’t be exclusively reading Conan. So, if I share other reading thoughts, don’t fret. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve abandoned Conan).

The Thing in the Crypt

Volume One opens with the standard editor’s intro, plus some letters the Howard wrote to fans regarding Conan, and a Howard penned essay on the creation of Conan’s world and the Hyborian Age. Reading about world building bores me to tears.  So, I only skimmed over this essay and jumped straight to the first story.

Which…unfortunately wasn’t a Howard penned Conan story. The collection (all volumes, I understand) is sprinkled with pieces of Conan’s story told by de Camp/Carter to fill in gaps in the chronology.  Some stories are also unfinished Howard manuscripts that one of these editors picked up and completed. Why open the collection with one of the non-Howard stories, though?

Fortunately, I liked the story fine (and for future reference, I won’t write about something I don’t like. Life is too short.).

It tells the story of Conan, newly escaped from enslavement, chased by wolves into a cavern in the side of a hill. The cave is pitch black. So, Conan must figure a way to illuminate his quarters (the influence on Dungeons and Dragons is right there in the first story). Only to find out that he’s made his way into a giant Mummy’s crypt. Said Mummy has a bad-ass sword, which Conan must have. Except when he removes the sword, all hell break’s loose with the Mummy.

And that’s it. The whole story. About 15 pages. Yet, it was still fine.

The one thing the story lacks, in my opinion is an intelligent antagonist for Conan to interact with.  But hey… I still liked it.  Maybe there is something to be said for Hack & Slash?

As to my initial question as to Why start with a non-Howard story, my only guess is that de Camp / Carter felt the need to tell an origin story for Conan’s sword.

Next up is Tower of the Elephant, which is a Howard yarn.


Chapter One – Everything is Broken


No this isn’t the twilight zone. I’ve learned from multiple readers that the posting of the first chapter of my next book (North Country Girl) confused them, and they thought it was the first chapter of my currently available book (Everything is Broken). (Note: If anyone needed more proof at my ineptitude at promoting my work, look no further.)

You can read even more of Everything is Broken in the preview/look inside features at the various retailers.

But to hopefully clear the picture, I present the first chapter of Everything is Broken.

Copyright © 2018 by Anthony DeCastro

All rights reserved.

Everything is Broken by Anthony DeCastro

Chapter One

Billy “Sample” Smith was a low-level dealer of weed and pills, who stayed out of trouble with the law by simply lacking any ambition. He spent his days playing video games at wherever he was shacking for free, and his nights selling dime bags to rich kids wandering around Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach.

I didn’t like Billy, but I had when we were younger. Back when he had earned his nickname.  

It was a night in college, sophomore year, at one of the many strip clubs that flourished in the Strand. Billy escorted one of the girls to the Champagne Room. When she came back down twenty minutes later with a sodden Billy holding her hand like a little boy, she said, “Okay, I’ve had my free sample. Now I’m ready for the full dish. Who’s next?”

Billy stood about five-three and weighed maybe 120 pounds after a full meal. The stripper could have referred to his stature, but a bunch of college guys would never come to that conclusion. So Billy spent the rest of his college days fending off teases about the size of his manhood. College only lasted a few more months for Billy. But the name, “Sample”, stuck to this day.

Like I said, I didn’t like Sample, but in my business it helps to have a conduit to the seedy side of the Beach. And he’d done me a solid in that regard many times. So when he texted me saying he had work for me and asked me to meet him at the Second Avenue Fishing Pier, I didn’t stop to think whether I wanted to work for dirty money, or ask whether the work would involve me breaking any laws. I just agreed to meet him at 10 p.m. at the end of the Pier. Legality, prison time, or a knifing by rival dealers, I pondered on the ride over.

* * *

It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and a light chill rode shotgun on the breeze coming off the Atlantic. I played the part of a beach bum put out by the cold, wearing a light nylon windbreaker, threadbare khakis, and white canvas boat shoes. I stopped at the pier’s bait shop and paid a dollar walker’s fee to a heavy-set, bald clerk. He looked annoyed that he had to lean forward to ring up my sale on the register.

“Ya know we close up at eleven, right? No excuses. Gotta be outta here by eleven.”

I didn’t point out that his breath smelled worse than the bait he was peddling, or how I doubted he would make the effort to walk down to the end of the pier and escort me out, if I rebelled and stuck around longer than eleven. I just nodded and stuffed the little orange ticket stub he handed me into the front pocket of my slacks.

Stepping out of the shop, I hunched my shoulders against the cold. Somehow, the smell of the salt, the fish guts, and seaweed was more potent on this side of the bait shop. Flickering, halogen lights hung from rickety posts illuminating a dim path down the pier.  The boards of the pier creaked and sagged under my steps as they always had. It was a wonder that the thing hadn’t collapsed. Especially during the summer months, when tourists lined the pier elbow to elbow, reeling in pinfish and toadfish and other useless game.  

Tonight it was mostly empty, there were only a handful of old salts down near the end. They slouched, elbows resting on the rails, rods in their hands. They dropped their lines beside the pier’s pilings hoping to lure sheepshead to the live shrimp or fiddler crabs or oysters, which baited their hooks.

I found Sample on hands and knees at the far end of the El shaped terminus, sawing the dorsal fin off an 18-inch, baby, black-tip shark. A light, spinning rod laid beside the shark, and I could see a circle hook set into the crook of the shark’s mouth. Its tail swiped back and forth, painting the boards of the pier with its own blood.

“What the hell are you doing, Sample?”

He jolted, bolt upright. “Jesus, Fuzzy. You almost gave me a heart attack.” He dropped the knife and stood wiping a bloody hand on the front of his jeans. He was naked to the waist, and his concave chest was as hairless as his bald pate. 

I shook his callused hand. It was sticky with fish blood.

“With a grip like that Fuzzy, you’d think you was a dairy farmer, not someone who throws a ball for a living.” He pointed to the impotent shark, flopping at his feet, its dorsal fin hanging by a flap of skin. “Best bait in the world there is for shark.”


“No lie,” he said. “Wounded baby shark draws the big ones like flies to shit.”

“Isn’t there a size limit on what you can keep?”

“I’m using it for bait,” he said. “I ain’t keepin’ it.”

“I don’t think it matters, Samp. And, didn’t I see a sign prohibiting shark fishing from the pier?”

The crescent moon flashed upon his golden bridgework. “I ain’t always exactly been what you’d call legal.”

He had me there.

“Yeah, well, you asked me to come and I’m here. So, what’s up?”

“Let me get this baby baited up and wet again. Then we can talk,” He stepped down on the shark’s head, bent over and yanked the fin from the fish’s back. “There’s beer in that styrofoam cooler. Help yourself to one.”

Busch Light was stacked in neat rows in the iceless cooler. I grabbed a can, popped one open, and took a short pull of warm, cheap beer. 

Sample worked on the shark’s pectoral fins now.

“What’s the deal with chopping off the fins? Isn’t a lively bait, the better bait?”

“Sure, if you’re hunting smart fish. Sharks ain’t exactly smart, and they ain’t discerning about what they eat, either.” He mulled that over for a second. “Come to think of it they’s kinda like me in that way. Anyway, a shark is drawn to an easy meal. I don’t want this beauty dead when I toss it down there, but I want it hurtin’. Stick around. I’ll be here all night. I bet I pull in a big’un.”

Mr. Out-by-eleven would love that.

“Don’t be so quick to laugh, Fuzzy. Just last weekend I pulled in a seven foot hammerhead. Doin’ just like this.”

“I wasn’t laughing at you, Samp. A thought just crossed my mind. But do me a favor, get that thing on a line and back in the water, so I don’t have to watch it die, while you’re telling fish stories.”

I watched in admiration of his efficiency when he set about the task. The person passionate about his work or hobby, even a person like Billy Smith, is a person not prone to wasted effort or bullshit. The bait remained hooked to his spinning rod, as he hurried to a boat rod as thick as a broom’s handle, leaning in the crook formed by the corner of the pier. He slid free a 5” stainless steel J-hook from where it was fastened to a huge 9/0 bait-caster reel. Flipping the drag on the side of the reel, he pulled six feet of monofilament line free, giving him enough slack to hurry back to the shark. He slid on his knees, and skidded to a stop right before the shark’s snout, safely out of reach of its dangerous bite. He grabbed the shark behind its head, jamming his thumb and middle finger into gills on either side. Then he threaded the giant hook into one nostril and out the other. With the bait now hooked, he reached into his back pocket, produced a pair of needle-nosed pliers, and pulled loose the circle hook from the fish’s mouth.

He exhaled a blast of breath and peered up at me. “I never feel real good about this until I get him hooked up on the big daddy,” he said as he hoisted the shark up by the shank of the giant hook. The baby predator looked resigned to its fate. Sample tossed it overboard and let out the line for several seconds. When the sinker reached the bottom, he flipped the bail, cranked a few times, and put the rod back down in its original spot. He tied the pole down to the pier with yellow nylon rope.

“There, now we can talk.”

I waited, while he stood there with a dumb look on his face. “You texted me, Samp.”

“So I did, So I did. So how’s it going, Fuzz? How’s your mom?”

“She’s in jail. How do you think she feels?” 

I’d put her there.  

We both knew it.

The obligatory awkward silence descended. Even the waves seemed to stop slapping at the pilings. Mercifully, one of the old salts hacked away like a lifetime smoker.

“You still doing the PI gig?”

“You know I am,” I said.

“Still doing, domestic stuff? Ya know like catchin’ daddy puttin’ his thing where he shouldn’t?”

“You’re not married, Samp. Where are you going with this?”

He stepped closer so he could speak in a lower tone. “There’s a girl I want you to follow and take pictures of who she gets with.”

“Ok, Samp. Who’s the girl?”

“She’s just a girl,” he said. “She’s gettin’ herself in trouble.”

“Like I said, Samp. Who’s the girl?”

He had a look on his face I recognized. It was the same look I saw staring back at me from the mirror, after I’d awakened from one of my dreams. The bad ones. The ones, where I dreamed that my fiancé was still alive.

I said, “Are you in love?”

“No, No, No. Nothing like that. It’s just she’s a good kid. Smart kid. She’s got a good future, if she don’t go messin’ it up. Ya know how it is.”

I tried to formulate what a good future looked like to Billy Smith, but I came up empty. “How are pictures of her going to help that? Is she under age? Are you going to take the pictures to her parents? What’s the deal?”

“Nah, she ain’t under age. She’s pullin’ tricks.”

I said, “She’s a whore?”

“No it ain’t like she’s walkin’ Yaupon Drive. She’s just meetin’ guys at hotel bars and dressed all up in those rhinestone dresses.”

“She wears rhinestones?”

“Yeah, you know them sparkly things like the chicks wore to prom?”


“Yeah, sequins. The girls that dress like that at the hotel bars are pros, Fuzzy. She’s a good kid. I don’t want her goin’ pro.”  

“So say I take pictures of her doin’ the nasty. Say I even catch her transacting. What exactly do you think you’re gonna accomplish with my pictures?”

“She says she ain’t pullin’ tricks.”

“You asked her if she was a whore?”

“She ain’t no whore, Fuzzy. But yeah, I kinda asked her, you know? Why she had so many dates, and with older guys. I was cool about it though.”

He caught me with that one just as I swallowed a mouthful of beer, and I fought the urge to spit it back out. “And how did she react to your slick line of interrogation?”

“Oh, she got what I was askin’. I told ya, she’s a smart one. She giggled and patted me on the cheek and said, ‘Ah, Billy you ain’t got nothin’ to worry about I only got eyes for you.’ I said, ‘Honey, you need to be careful with what you doin’ there’s bad folks out there.’ She said, ‘I ain’t doin’ what you think I’m doing.’ And got some nasty look on her face. She kinda been avoidin’ me ever since.”

I said, “I still don’t see what pictures will do for you.”

“If I can confront her with the evidence that she’s lyin’, I think I can get her to listen. And if it’s all there in black & white, she’ll see what she’s doin’ ain’t smart. I know it.”

“I shoot in color and digitally.”

“Whatever,” he said. “Whaddaya say, Fuzzy? You gonna help a brother out?”

“What’s her name?”

“I knew I could count on ya. Her name is Marisol Rodriguez.”

“How do you know her?”

“I know her brother. He’s over at CAU on a full-ride. He plays that receiver, who also blocks on the line.”

“Tight end,” I said. “What’s his name and is he one of your customers?”

“Jandro Rodriguez. Short for Alejandro. In high school, he went by Alex, but got tired of all the A-Rod shit. So now he goes by Jandro. He buys from me from time to time, but don’t hold that against his sister, Fuzz. She ain’t ever bought from me. She’s just sorta around a lot. I think she likes to hang out at the college, meet his friends you know?”

Sample was an interesting character. He was quick to uphold this girl’s honor. A girl who he assumed was a prostitute. But he wanted to be sure I knew she says no to drugs. “How old is she?”

“I dunno. 18 or 19 maybe? She outta school.”

“Ok, and how long do you want me to peep on her?”

“I dunno maybe a week. We gotta get her with a john.”

“I get $100 a day, plus expenses.”

He whistled. “Damn, Fuzzy. That is harsh.”

“It’s my normal rate,” I lied. I didn’t tell him I was discounting him by half for the help he’d given me in the past.

“What kinda expenses you talkin’? You gonna charge me for gas or something?”

“You say she works the hotel bars. I’ll be spending time in them. I can’t sit in the bars at night, drinking nothing but ice water without drawing attention, or worse, being asked to leave. Don’t worry. I’ll keep my receipts.”

“Wow, I need to have your job. On top of the fee, you get your bar tab picked up.”

“Look this is probably a fool’s errand, anyway. You don’t have to hire me at all.”

He shoved my shoulder and left his hand there. “Take it easy, Fuzz. I’m just bustin’ your balls. But let’s make it four days.”

“Deal,” I said.

He patted my shoulder, and when he removed his hand, I saw the dark stain of fish blood on my jacket. “Say you don’t give a discount for cash. Do you?”

“Sorry Samp. I keep it on the level with Uncle Sam. Cash and check spend the same for me. But cash lets me start right away without waiting on the check to clear.”

He looked hurt. “Fuzzy, damn, how long we known each other?”

“I’m kidding, Samp.” The smell of the fish blood he’d left on my shoulder crawled down my insides and turned somersaults inside my stomach. He had some rags, but they all looked worse than the slime he had just left on me. “So where do I find this Marisol Rodriguez?”

“She’ll probably make her way to the Coral Beach some night this week. But, I can’t really say with Turkey Day comin’ up.”

“You know where she lives?”

“I don’t want you goin’ where she lives, Fuzzy. She lives at home, and I want no one catchin’ on to you.”

“Sample, you are hiring a private investigator to spy on someone for you. You’re paying me, because I don’t get caught doing it. It’s kind of my thing.”

“All the same, Fuzzy. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“Ok, but it might take me more than the four days just to luck out and stumble upon her at a bar. You got a picture of the Happy Hooker?”

“Don’t call her that. Nah, I ain’t got no picture of her. But just check her out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, she’s got lots a photos on there.”

I wondered if he was stalking her online, but I didn’t ask, because he pulled a wad of bills out from his pocket. “How much you need upfront?”

“No retainer, Samp. I know you’re good for it. But if you can front me a hundred for the expenses that would help. I’m running a little dry right now.”

He held out the bill, not letting go of it when I reached for it. “This girl is beautiful, Fuzzy. I mean like movie star looks. When you see her, don’t get no ideas.”


“Yeah, ideas. You got them weathered, jock, good looks, even with that gray hair. Like that Greek god or something. You know the one they always talk about.”


“Yeah, Adonis. Don’t go pulling no Adonis shit on the girl.”

I snatched the hundred from his hand. “I don’t think Adonis was ‘weathered’, but don’t worry, Free Sample, I won’t pull any Adonis shit.”

“Ah, don’t start with that Free Sample shit, Fuzzy. That ain’t right.”

“I’ll start tomorrow.” 

I left him there questioning his manhood.


Everything is Broken is widely available digitally and in print at these retailers: books2read.com/everythingisbroken

If you are in the Greenville, SC area Fiction Addiction carries it.

If you are in the Tampa Bay area Wilson’s Book World in St. Pete carries it.

My publisher Palmetto Pulp Mill sells Autographed Copies

Look for a Cover Reveal for the next book, North Country Girl in the coming days.





Film Noir Friday – The Killing


I started watching When Strangers Marry this afternoon, which is one of Robert Mitchum’s first top billings, but I fell asleep. No fault of the film. Fault goes to the turkey, and the writing life. And I have a lot of writing I want to get done this weekend, plus my first signing event. So, I don’t think I’ll get around to watching the film that TCM’s Noir Alley is airing — The Killing.

The Killing is one of Stanley Kubrick’s first films. It sits in the Holy Trinity of Noir heist films along with Asphalt Jungle (also starring Sterling Hayden) and Riffifi. I admit to much preferring heist films like Criss Cross that focus tightly on a single, main character over the ensemble casts, as featured in The Killing. But that doesn’t mean this film doesn’t have a lot to offer. I’ll give you couple.

  1. The scenes. It’s fascinating to watch how Kubrick will frame a scene from one point of view character, and then frame the same scene from a different point of view. Same action. Different story.
  2. The Elisha Cook, Jr. – Marie Windsor relationship. If ever there was a noir couple, it is these two. Cook is the putz, and Windsor is a hungry black widow.

I haven’t watched this movie in a few years, but those two observations stay with me.

If you like your femme fatales evil as hell, you have to see Windsor in this.



Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s somehow always seemed more about family then the others. I have fond memories of traveling home in my younger adult years and all of us being together. And I’ve had some good ones traveling north to my other, married-into home. Admittedly, in recent years, Thanksgiving has just been the three of us. Jill, Dylan, and I. This year will be no different.

But it still makes me happy to think of my brothers, their wives, and their children all together for the holiday.

Plus, on July 5th, we don’t start seeing Turkey propaganda in all the retail stores.

Plus, I like the central idea of “giving thanks.”

And, let’s face it. I like to eat.

One year, when Dylan was less than five, it was a just the three of us Thanksgiving. We were going around the table and stating what we were thankful for.  When we got to Dylan, he remained silent. His eyes shifted, looking for the right answer. Then he looked down to his plate. To the orange, Jell-o, his mother had made just for him, because he’s a picky eater. He smiled. His chubby cheeks pooled with color. “Jell-o. I’m thankful for Jell-o.”

It’s been a tough month. The sting of our family’s loss is still fresh, but the memory of that smile on Dylan’s face all those years ago, still makes me….


So, I’m thankful for the love of my family.

For my health.

For the unwavering support I’ve received from my parents over the years.

For being born in this country.  And all the freedom and prosperity that entails.

For friends, who even after not seeing me for decades, call/text to check on me because they know I am in pain.

For people I hardly even know, who have reached out too, because they loved my brother.

And for all of you reading this, whether I know you or not. I am thankful for you.

And yes, I’m thankful for orange Jell-o.

What I’m Reading – Gil Brewer


Okay, so the title should read What I Read, but What I’m Reading sounds better.

I read Gil Brewer’s The Vengeful Virgin years ago when re-issued by Hard Case Crime. I remember enjoying it, but I’m going to re-read it because I have no recollection of the story. This is common with me. Stories I read. Stories I write. When I complete them, they disappear.

As I’ve become interested in the source material for Film Noir, the name Gil Brewer came up from time to time as an excellent practitioner of the genre. I’m not sure if any of his books were ever adapted for film during the Cycle (1940-1959), and I’m too lazy to research it. But it pricked my interest.  So when Stark House Press offered an overstocked copy of a Gil Brewer double-shot of A Devil for O‘Shaughnessy and The Three-Way Split for three bucks, I revisited Brewer.

Most interesting from that encounter was learning Gil Brewer had lived most of his adult life, his writing life, in my native hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida. The introduction painted a grim portrait of Brewer’s life (again I’m too lazy to go see who wrote that introduction) that possibly explained the dark depictions of the human soul found in his work.  I read Devil, which was an unpublished manuscript being released for the first time. Unfortunately, it was written during the depths of Brewer’s downward spiral of heavy drinking and self-doubt. It is a fair novel, with some bright spots. I haven’t gotten around to reading Three Way yet.

Later this year, Stark House released another Brewer double shot The Red Scarf / A Killer on the Loose, with an excellent introduction by Paul Bishop.  I gave Brewer another shot, and I’m glad I did.

The Red Scarf reads very much like Devil because Brewer’s authorial voice is distinctive. His prose is concise. His first person POV in-looking. But where Devil sagged in storytelling and plot (plus there’s too much woo-woo for my liking), Scarf masterfully works the noir pallette.  It tells the story of Roy Nichols, a down on his luck motel owner hitchhiking home to St. Pete from Chicago. He becomes ensnared in the sticky web of Vivian Rise and her boyfriend Noel, who are transporting a briefcase full of mob money. Yep, it’s the story of a doomed protagonist (he has a beautiful innocent housewife back home), a femme fatale, and a satchel of money. We’ve all seen this before, but the reason we have is that it makes for a compelling story. And Brewer delivers. This thing reads like the best of B-Movie film noir. That’s a compliment.

I said Brewer had a distinctive voice, and he does. At least on the two books I’ve read recently, the writing is undeniably his. Now I don’t find his voice as compelling as a Chandler or Robert Parker or James Lee Burke, but it is there, and that is more than can be said of many contemporary writers, who have polished away any defining features of their prose. For that reason, Brewer’s voice is a welcome reprieve. The book also is a complete, satisfying novel coming in at maybe 50,000 words. There’s a lesson here (even for yours truly) on the power of brevity and simplicity.

I recommend The Red Scarf and look forward to reading more Brewer.


Film Noir Friday – Woman in the Window

TCM’s Noir Alley is screening the early noir Woman in the Window this weekend. It is well worth your time if you have any interest at all in these films.  It is esteemed noir director Fritz Lang’s (Scarlet Street, The Big Heat) first American film noir. Filmed during noir’s infancy in the US, it almost establishes the template for the genre along with Double Indemnity. Doomed protagonist who can’t seem to right the ship, and things just keep getting worse…mostly because of a seductive woman who suck him into her dangerous web (Femme Fatale). Crime. Chiaroscuro cinematography. Etc.

It also includes three stars of the genre at the top of the billing in the always excellent Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennet as the Femme, and Dan Duryea.  The three of them would gather with Lang again a year later to film Scarlet Street, Lang’s masterpiece. When I first started exploring these films, I watched Scarlet first, and I almost wish that wasn’t the case. The two films are almost the same story (different characters, same archetypes). In the case of Woman in the Window, Lang chose to change the ending of the original script for fear of drawing the ire of the production code of the time. In my opinion, the ending is Woman’s only flaw.  I don’t know if Scarlet Street had a similar changed ending in its history, but the one it ended up with was significantly more powerful than Woman’s. It was almost as if Fritzie took a mulligan.

If I could go back, I would watch Woman first, wait a week, and watch Scarlet. Less of a letdown for Woman, and fascinating to see how the story evolved. And that is what I’m recommending now, if you haven’t seen these films. If you like film noir (or just old movies), you should see both of them.

Why I went “Wide”

Please do not take any of this as advice. NO ONE should take advice from an independent publisher with one book out.  I am mostly writing this to record my thoughts, like a diary, so I’m able to look back on the decision.

Outside of the decision to indie publish in the first place, I sweated nothing as much as the decision of going “wide” vs. exclusive with Amazon.  Much of the Indie Publishing community is persuasive on the idea of Amazon exclusivity, especially for first time publishers. The argument goes something like this:

  • Kindle Unlimited (KU) allows for royalties on page reads. Patrons already in the KU program can download and read the book at no extra cost, and the publisher/author earns something like half a cent per read.
  • Page reads can provide royalties in place of sales which are hard to come by for authors with no back list.
  • KU is free visibility/discoverability, which is important for a new publisher
  • Exclusivity allows periods of free and reduced-price promotion each 90 day period.
  • The mysterious Amazon algorithms show more love to exclusive writers/publishers
  • Amazon accounts for 80% of e-book sales in the US. Distribution. Publishing through other sources is diminishing returns.
  • Probably a dozen other compelling reasons, including that many of the successful indie publishing authors are exclusive with Amazon. (Possibly most, I have no idea. I know all the successful “rock-star” indies I’m aware of are exclusive).

So why wide?

I make decisions based on how I see things as a consumer, so –

  • I want as few obstacles for a customer as possible (i.e. I want my e-books available for use on as many devices as possible, I want my paperbacks available in as many venues as I can manage…including libraries)
  • When I download a “free” book (like KU), I seldom read it. It somehow devalues the book to me.
  • I don’t like the idea of exclusivity in general. It feels like a sell-out. I have zero problems with Amazon. I use them all the time. But as a consumer, I want options of where to spend my money.
  • Amazon is huge in the US. The world is a big place.
  • Return to the first bullet, I’ve always hated being told that I can’t use a product. I don’t want to be this guy, “Sorry, my e-book can only be read on kindle or a kindle enabled-device.”

It’s possible I’ll never know whether the better business decision is exclusivity. I could test the waters, I suppose. But even that seems shortsighted, and for that period there’s a good chance I’d have to tell some prospective reader that my e-book is only available for Kindle.

Since I am wide, here’s a universal link where you can pick your poison…er retailer:  books2read.com/everythingisbroken


Chapter One – North Country Girl

Here in all of its un-edited glory is the first chapter of my second novel in the Fuzzy Koella series, North Country Girl.  (Warning: Some NSFW language below)


Copyright 2018 Anthony DeCastro.  All Rights reserved.

Chapter One

The night after Christmas, I spent sitting in my truck in the parking lot of a barbecue joint across the street from a rundown convenience store called The Whiz. The night was pleasant. I had the window down to enjoy the crisp air and the lingering aroma of smoked meat and the chatter of middle America visiting The Whiz for their post-holiday beer, junk food, and lottery tickets.  I hated stakeouts, but the stars in the skies, memories of gift giving with my girlfriend, and the fading pain from my last bullet wound kept this old bear in the yuletide spirit.

Old bear.

That’s what Veronica called me.  Old bear.  I’d never asked her how old she was.  I was too smart for that.  I am a private investigator after all.  But she seemed only a couple years younger than me.  Yet, I was her old bear.

I was employed by an Indian-American entrepreneur named Hab Singh, who owned five other Whiz’s throughout the Strand. Someone had vandalized all his stores with anti-Muslim graffiti over the last couple of months.  Mr. Singh did not understand why, he, a Sikh, was being attacked with anti-Muslim hate.  I understood perfectly.

People were stupid.

I had staked out three different stores over the last week. No luck.  Fortunately, no other attacks had happened during that time. I planned this stakeout to be at the store less than a mile from my home the night after Christmas.

When the store lights shut off after midnight, I took more interest in observing the building. A few minutes later, the clerk appeared from around the back of the store in a twenty-year-old, gray Chevy Celebrity sedan.  He signaled right and turned onto Business Highway 17 towards Myrtle Beach.  The action died at the Whiz with his fading tail lights.

Two hours later, I spotted movement in the vegetation behind the store.  I pulled across the street with my headlights off and slid past the south side of the building.  As my truck nosed around the corner, the tires crunched on the remains of a broken beer bottle.

They crouched with spray cans poised at the back door.  Two of them. Dressed in black. Wearing ski masks.  They looked in my direction and sprung to their feet and sprinted to the safety of the woods.

I threw the gearshift into park, and jumped out of the truck.  I hit full speed within a few steps.  When I hit the woods, however, I faced the challenge of running in the dark through a path carved by people a lot shorter than six and a half feet.  I soldiered on.

Branches lashed out at my cheeks.  Sensing a disaster that could end up with me blinded, I held my right hand out in front of me to ward off the danger.  Within seconds, thorny brambles bloodied my hand.

I could not see my prey, but the trees were alive with their passing.  I continued in their direction.  Just as I felt the cold clench of exhausted lungs, the branches ahead went dormant.

I should have heeded that warning.

Ten steps later, a vandal clothes-lined me with a forearm across my throat.

I flew from my feet.  Time suspended.  I wind-milled my arms, as if I could somehow tread air.  I sank.  My back slammed against the leafy floor of the path.  My head followed and found a tree root.  What little breath I had left in my lungs, expelled in a blast of air.  I gasped trying to recover the lost oxygen.  No luck.  It felt like my lungs were clamped off.  No air could enter.  I rolled back and forth, gasping for air.

My attacker dropped beside me and sprayed paint into my face.  It stung, as it coated my eyes.  The world went black.

I kicked and swung my arms, like a kid in a tantrum.

His partner said from my left, “Dude, let’s bolt, now!”

“Shut up, Mason.  I think we got a fuckin’ rag-head lover, here.”

I kept kicking and swinging, but with him straddling my torso and me blinded, I made no contact.

I felt his weight lift from me momentarily, and one of his knees shifted up onto my right bicep.

As the weight of his knee settled down, I rolled enough to the right to lift my left hip off the ground.  I pulled my piece from the clip-on holster at my waist.  Blindly, I jabbed the revolver up into where I believed his midsection would be.

“Ugh,” he said.

From his groan, and the brush of his thigh on the back of my hand, I knew I had jammed my gun into his groin.  I pulled the hammer back with my thumb.  “Come out from the bushes.  Hands up and empty, or your friend spends his life as a Eunuch.”

“A what?”

“I will scatter his nuts all over the bushes here,” I said. “Now get out here with your hands up!”

“Jesus, Mason. Come out,” squealed the voice above me. “He’s got a gun.”

I heard bushes rustle over my left shoulder. Footsteps.

I ground the end of my gun against my attacker’s crotch. The steel sight at the end of the barrel caught in his denim covered scrotum.

He whimpered.

I pushed harder against him. “Stand up slowly.”

I kept continual pressure on his genitals as he crawled to his feet and I got to my knees. “Mason, I have the hammer pulled and my finger is on the trigger.  You try anything and your buddy here has made sweet love to his lady for the last time.”

“Mason, don’t fuck around,” his buddy said.  “This motherfucker is crazy.”

All the adrenaline had pushed air back into my lungs.  Now, I wanted to make these two suffer for the hate they’d unleashed on Mr. Singh and his employees.

But I was no vigilante.

I fished my phone out of my pocket and held it out to my left.  “Take that Mason.  Remember, no funny business.”

Mason’s hand closed around the phone and my fingers.

I rotated the barrel ninety degrees against his buddy’s crotch.

He breathed in harshly.

“Why the phone?” Mason asked.

“I want you to scroll through my contacts and find ‘Uncle Rod’.  Dial him up, and tell him you are with Fuzzy, and you want to turn yourself in.  I want you to tell him we are in the woods behind The Whiz in Murrell’s Inlet, down the road from Fuzzy’s place.”

He slid the phone free of my hand.  The only sound as he searched my phone was the heavy breathing of his friend above me, and the chirping of crickets.

“Found it.”

“Mason, Rod will have questions.  He always does.  Just put the phone to my ear when that happens.”

He must have reached Rod, because he said, “Ah, yeah is this Rod?”

“No funny business,” I reminded.

“So yeah, Rod. I’m here with Fuzzy.  And he wants us to turn ourselves in.” Mason paused. “Um, here let me let you talk to Fuzzy.”

Mason must have knelt beside me to put the phone at my ear because I felt his breath warm on the side of my face. It smelled like corn chips.

“Fuzzy, what are you up to now?” Rod asked.

My Uncle Rod was a detective with the Myrtle Beach Police Department. I gave it to him in as concise terms as possible.  When I got to the proceedings in the woods, I punctuated the action with little jabs to my spray painting buddy’s groin.  I explained, as best I could, where he could find us.  He said he would send cruisers over to retrieve us.


If you enjoyed it, I hope you’ll look for North Country Girl in December 2018.

If you’re interested in a similar peek at the first in the series, Everything is Broken, Amazon’s look inside feature is a good option:


Everything is Broken is widely available digitally and in print. Including available by order at your friendly, local bookstore.