Stuff By Me

Lots of stuff by me out now.

First off, three reviews I did last fall for Spinetingler are now online at  I review Sean Chercover’s excellent Trigger City, Reed Coleman’s equally excellent The Fourth Victim, and the Rockford-like TKO by Tom Schreck.  Read it.  Download it.  Just go.  They have a lot of new fiction in Spinetingler this month as well, and this issue’s been a long time coming.

Second, I have even more reviews in the Summer edition of Mystery Scene. I review A Plague of Secrets by John Lescroart, Dead Man’s Dust by Matt Hilton, and Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup, whose novel Q&A become Slum Dog Millionaire.   Mystery Scene is on your local bookshelf now.  And if it’s not, grab the manager at your local big box store or indie, drag him or her over the counter, and scream, “I want Mystery Scene right NOW!!!”  (Er…  I am not responsible for any arrests or restraining orders if you do, but at least you’ll have made your point.)

And finally…


I have a new short story out in Mysterical E.   Call “In Collections, ” it’s a hit man story based in the Lake Erie islands.  It starts as every short story should start:   With a naked man staring down the barrel of a gun.  Kooky, eh?

That’s all for now.  More as more happens.

Gambling In Ohio: It’s Overdue

Slot machines are coming to Ohio racetracks in an effort to make up a $3 billion shortfall in the state budget.  Soon, a new gambling issue will be on the Ohio ballot, this time without narrow provisions of Issue 6, nor interference from the former Argosy (now Hollywood) Casino.  In fact, Hollywood’s owners are looking to put a casino in Cleveland, a city that could use the economic boost.

With the state in a deep hole, and basically any sort of legalized vice that might attract people to the state banned, it’s time to let people play slots, Texas Hold ‘Em, and roulette.  It’s time to get rid of the state’s outdated, outmoded ban on gambling.

To put this in perspective, I honestly don’t want to go to any casino.  I spent an afternoon in Belterra over in Vevay, Indiana about five years ago.  It was noisey, and people at the slots get pretty obnoxious when you get between them and their favorite machines.  I never returned until Bill Engvall did a show there in 2006.  Gambling to me consists of playing the Megamillions when it tops $26 million (a million a year for the next 26 years.)

So when I say Ohio needs gambling, I don’t say it out of a need to gamble.  I say it because it attracts gamblers and jobs.  It’s more than people sitting like zombies at the slots.  Certainly, there are risks to gambling.  Pete Rose, anyone?  But casinos would provide a well-regulated environment that would mitigate some of those issues.

The argument I’m tired of hearing is the argument that has the least substance behind it: crime and prostitution.  The puritanical groups in this state scream hysterically that Ohio would suddenly sprout Midwestern versions of the Mustang Ranch and be overrun by Mafia types.

Indiana started allowing casinos in 1993.  There’s been some uptick in crime that comes with an uptick in tourism.  Show me a tourist attraction that doesn’t cause that.  Lawrenceburg, the nearest suburb in Indiana to Cincinnati, is not exactly an epicenter of crime and violence.  Prostitution?  There have been isolated incidents, but Lawrenceburg, Rising Sun, and Vevay aren’t exactly meccas of whoredom.  Try Vine Street or Covington after midnight.

Gambling’s not an ideal situation, but Ohio needs to stop legislating other people’s morals.  The simple fact is when you go into a casino, you need to take responsibility for yourself.  Since a majority of people who go do, or at least know to quit when they get burned, it makes no sense to continue an outmoded and, frankly, downright silly ban.  Regulate gambling.  Tax the hell out of it; it’s a tax people gladly pay.  But it’s time for the ban to go.  The schools need it.  The libraries need it.  Police and fire departments need it.

UPDATE:  A gent from Ohio Jobs & Growth Plan emailed me with a couple of corrections.  The ballot issue was Issue 6, not 5 (payday loan restrictions), as I originally wrote.  I also learned Cleveland’s proposed casino is actually a project by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

Heading For Indy

I’m about to send the fee in as soon as some money owed hits my account.  I’m speaking, of course, of Bouchercon.  I haven’t been in two years.  In 2007, it was in Alaska, and I couldn’t justify the $600 air fare.  ($200 on Southwest to get to Seattle; another $400 to get to Anchorage.)  Also, Anchorage is five hours behind Cincinnati.  Can you imagine the jet lag?  California for a few days isn’t so bad.

In 2008, I really, really, really wanted to hit Baltimore, but life changes and the resulting expenses kept me home.  Besides, I was new to this family man thing and wanted to spend more time with Nita and AJ.  So while I missed everyone in Baltimore, I more than made up for it just staying home.

But this year?

Bouchercon is two hours away, almost close enough to commute.  Yes, I’ve waited until mid-summer to apply, but for the first time, writing and web income are paying for it.  Whoo hoo!

“But Jim, you might not get a panel assignment.”

Good.  In Toronto, they gave me a panel after I said “No panels.”  I was a neophyte.  I wanted to watch.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get out of it.  Besides, I was on the panel with Neil Smith and Sarah Weinman, so “No” was out of the question.

In Chicago, in 2005, Bob Randisi asked me to help with a day of programming by the PWA.  I couldn’t say no, and didn’t want to.  Besides, my panel had Ken Bruen, Reed Farrel Coleman, Eddie Mueller, and John Connolly.  Basically, I just threw out a topic, then shut up.

After that?  No panels.  Unlike most writers, I do enjoy public speaking.  I was in Toastmasters for eight years.  The only thing I’ve never liked is…

Panel discussions.  I especially don’t like moderating them.  In my first year, not only as a panelist, but sitting in the audience, I had to deal with that guy.  You know the guy.  He stands up during the panel, and preambles his comment (Never a question) with, “As a novelist and author of eleventy hundred short stories…”  Five minutes later, no one’s sure what he said.  He was thankfully silent during my one moderation turn, but I think it had to do with my panel, none of whom would tolerate long-winded rambling.

But I really don’t like the panel format.  It’s hard to gauge when to speak up and to be silent.  I’d venture to say it’s harder than standup.  Plus nine times out of ten, there’s always one person on the panel who is not connected at all to the topic.  Hasn’t happened to me yet.

I digress.  I don’t go to Bouchercon to sit on panels.  For every slot, there are 300 authors vying for the seat.  (This was used as a guilt trip when I turned one down once.)  I am very happy to let the other 299 writers, reviewers, and superfans have a shot.  (This did not go over well as a response.)  The past two cons, panels have been managed by the Jordan Clan, and Indy’s crew seems equally reasonable.

Me:  Jon, I don’t want to do a panel in Baltimore.  I just want to sit in the bar and schmooze.

Jon:  OK.

Simple.  Did I mention I like Jon?  He also introduced me to Red Bull.

So Indy will be my time to reconnect, bury a couple of hatchets, and hang out with writers again.

And I have to go next year.  It’s in San Francisco, the only reason God created California.  And 2011?  St. Louis.  Driving distance again.

To paraphrase Robert Parker, I’d be a fool not to.

[No My Town Mondays this week.  Check out Travis’s blog for this week’s posts.  Better hurry.  Travis is dropping out.]


Nita and I are on our last day of a three-day staycation.  We decided after all the changes our life went through last year to give our groaning bank accounts a break and not spend money on a trip.

So what did we do?

Nothing.  And you know what?  It’s been everything we hoped it would be.

A Few Rants About Technology…

Just a few things I want to get off my chest about our technological society.  Some new.  Some repeated.  But hey, I haven’t had my coffee yet, so I get to piss and moan to my little heart’s content.  Hopefully, you’re informed or entertained.  If not, it’s a big Internet.  You know what the address bar is for.  I hope.

  • Recently, I heard a whining commentary on how Internet on airplanes invades privacy.  “Now, I’m expected to be in touch even at 36,000 feet,” he complained.  As to the suggestion that he turn off his iBerryDroid device while on the plane (or anywhere else he might want a minute to himself), he said, “But then I’ll be seen as out of touch, a luddite.”  Dude, you deserve every intrusive email and phone call you get.  If you’re so insecure that you worry about overly needy people wanting you to respond to their emails Right. This. Second. you have much bigger problems than being a luddite.  Turn the damn phone off, and tell people you’ll get back to them when your life permits, not theirs.  For a society big on individualism, we sure have become a bunch of sheep.  (Kinda like the neocon movement.)
  • Related to the previous rant, there are people who, in fact, think you have to respond to every email, every IM, every phone call instantly.  My response:  You need to chill and remember other people have lives, lives that most likely don’t revolve around you.  If you don’t get a response in two hours, it probably means the other person is busy, turned off their phone/computer/whatever, doesn’t want to talk to you, or doesn’t want to talk period.  All those are valid reasons you are not entitled to an opinion about*.  Get over it.
  • I still say cheap cell phones are the worst thing to come out of the 1990’s.  On the other hand, you can have mine when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands.
  • Anonymous blog comments – If you say it, claim it.  And don’t hide behind someone else’s name, either.  Yes, some people have online names they use, but there’s a difference between building an identity and hiding one.  Put up or shut up.  Preferably shut up.
  • Windows Mobile devices – No, seriously, Mr. Ballmer, you need to make these things a little more responsive if you want to compete with Apple in the touch-screen sweepstakes.  Right now, you’re lagging behind Apple (of course), Blackberry, Google, and…  Palm?  WTF?
  • Will someone please explain to me the appeal of Twitter?  Beyond short little news bites, it’s pretty much useless.

*Winter’s Law: You are not entitled to an opinion of other people’s personal lives.  It’s not your life, so it’s not your business.  Celebrity is not an exception.**  End of discussion.

**Which means Heidi and Spencer Pratt need to go away.  Now.

MTM Cincinnati: Queen City Square Rising

A few weeks back, I wrote about the new Queen City Square tower going up between Third and Fourth Streets on Sycamore.  Here’s a shot of it on Friday of last week.


This growing concrete structure is the core of the building, which actually sits in a 60-foot hole in the ground.  Crews will finish this first and build the tower around it.  The building on schedule to open in Spring of 2011.

[More My Town Mondays with Travis Erwin.]

I’m The Dude

Today is Father’s Day, and I’ve been informed that my family is grilling out today in my honor.

However, here at Chateau Nita, I am not Dad, and this is not Father’s Day.

I have been informed that AJ now refers to me behind my back as “The Dude.” And today is Dude Who Takes Care of Us Day.

For a crime ficcer like me, that means a lot.  Because someone else was The Dude.

I speak, of course, of Jeff Bridges, aka The Big Lebowski.

Now all I need is for Sam Elliott to narrate my life at a bar in a bowling alley.

Some Conclusions From The Street Car Rant…

I make no apologies for offending anyone for any post here (nor should you if you speak your mind), but that does not mean I can’t be convinced to look at a topic in a new light.  Monday’s streetcar rant was one of those instances.  This may surprise people, but I was genuinely pleased with the comment thread, despite basically getting spanked by streetcar supporters.  Sometimes, you gotta say something ignorant to learn something.  I learned something.

So what did I come away with Monday?

  1. The streetcar project is not funded by either the city operating budget (which was still in the hole as of Monday) or any stimulus money.  The question remains whether to pay for it, not so much how to do it.  That depends on when the city pulls the trigger.
  2. It’s not nearly as unpopular as I have previously believed.  Mind you, I also said I tried to avoid the talking heads on WLW, who seem to oppose pretty much everything in Hamilton County except strip clubs and gambling.  Sometimes I’m not nearly as successful at that as I’d like.
  3. Several enthusiastic supporters gave a lot of good information about the project.
  4. Much of this is tied to a revitalization of the city’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, an effort that’s been long in the making and probably started much later than it should have.  It’s happening now, though, so what seemed like a pipe dream when I first arrived in Cincinnati eighteen years ago is becoming a reality at a snail’s pace, but the snail’s been leaving a lot of tracks, so to speak.

And my opinion of the project?  I wish them success, and in fact, when the shovel finally hits the ground, I’ll be snapping pictures of it.  I did contact a couple of the commenters for more info.  When they have it, you’ll have it.

In the meantime, I plan to go through OTR and get some pics of what’s already been done there.