Tag Archives: Gary Phillips

New serial of L.A. life from Gary Phillips

Artist: Jeffrey K. Fisher
Artist: Jeffrey K. Fisher

“Best slow your roll, Al,” the one-handed bartender Pierre Gaston said languidly. He took hold of an empty glass between the pincers of his prosthesis. Behind him and above the bottles on a flat screen TV, played a near mute newscast about a truckers’ job action at the port.

That’s why I love Gary Phillips. He writes shit-talking dialogue like no one else, and there’s always a crazy character or two, like a one-handed bartender sitting in the Scorpion Tap. That’s right, the Scorpion Tap. Crazy as they are, they’re still true to the L.A. I know and love. And hate. But mostly love. Because this ain’t the L.A. of Hollywood glitz and glamour, or beaches and West-side wealth, this is where the heart and soul is at. South Central. At least that’s where we’re starting.

The story’s called The Dixon Chronicles, and Gary writes:

Embracing a populist literary tradition that reaches back to Charles Dickens, among others, whose examinations of class conflict in industrializing England were published serially in newspapers, yours truly humbly presents the first installment, chapter if you will in “The Dixon Family Chronicles” on the capitalandmain.com news site.

The webserial follows the interrelated and divergent lives of its three African American main characters. They are Henry “Uncle Hank” Dixon, a handyman living in South L.A.; his niece Jessica “Jess” Dixon, an Iraq war vet who now works in a fulfillment center in Riverside; and her brother, Joseph “Little Joe” Dixon, a one-time pro baller prospect who works as a youth athletic director in Oakland. As the characters deal with everyday life in the Golden State, issues surrounding wage inequality, gentrification, unionization, job insecurity, transportation, and food deserts are woven into their stories.

New chapters will appear each Wednesday at least through the end of this year.

Gary may sound nothing like Dickens, but you can bet I love this calling upon the populist tradition and examining of class (and race) conflict across time and space and vastly different experience. And just as Dickens belonged to London, so Gary belongs to L.A., and I’m looking forward to traveling its streets with him. He starts right in one of my old neighbourhoods, and dealing with the displacement and unemployment that comes with land speculation and that I fought every day of my working life for six years. Can’t wait until next Wednesday…

Of course, this isn’t the first time Gary has written stories in this kind of form — as a writer I’m a little in awe of it, mostly because I just don’t think I could ever manage it. But there’s the comic Bicycle Cop Dave over at fourstory.com, illustrated by Manoel Magalhães. And then there’s the set of stories that eventually became the caper story The Underbelly, that we published at PM Press. All I’m saying is that the man’s got skills, so check out his awesome website.

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Vertigo Crime and Comic Con day 1

Yesterday I headed down to San Diego for Comic Con…there is absolutely no rest for the wicked and it sometimes makes me sad! I drove down with my co-editor in crime on the Switchblade Imprint, the indescribable Gary Phillips. The coversation was smooth, and involved a lot of speculation on the extraordinary New Jersey corruption case that broke yesterday morning, involving the arrest of three mayors, multiple rabbis, and 2 state assemblymen on charges of bribery, money laundering, and even organ trafficking! I’m sure both of us were wishing we had written such a fucking great story, I certainly was…

Comic Con is just as immense, sprawling and overwhelming as ever, sprinkled with characters in amazing costume and an incredible diversity of nerdiness that I really love. But it makes you tired quickly, it is too much to take in. We wandered, talked to people, and then I sat in on Gary’s panel, Vertigo‘s announcement of the upcoming work for 2009 and 2010. And was amazed. I love the edginess of Vertigo, they have published Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore and Grant Morrison and…the list just goes on and on. And sitting and listening to all of the amazing stuff they have newly in the works was a joy. I’m just not sure how to fit the pleasurable reading of each of the new series into a life already crammed full with pleasures and much work. But I am sure I will find a way.

Karen Berger created the imprint within DC comics, which I hadn’t known until I met her briefly yesterday and Gary told me the story. To find a woman as the head of such an amazing dark and gritty series of crime, fantasy, and horror made me happy…funny how the genres I love most are very dominated by men. The broad preferences of different genders in reading and writing are patent, I shall save speculation on why and how that happens as I am still thinking through it. But in only the short time I have been working in publishing I have run into a couple of good ole boys and felt treated very much like a secretary rather than a creative partner. It was a bit shocking to me coming from my small world of organizing where such things were at least much more subtle, officially called out and censured. And I was always a force to be respected and feared. To discover it so blatantly in the literary world was much sadder than the shock of being talked down to and patronized when I worked in the bra shop two years ago now on my…er…sabbatical, I hated it as much, but everyone knows that shop ‘girls’ get disrespected all the time. I was somewhat prepared for that, though the fury it inspires was just as grand.

So cheers to Karen Berger.

And cheers to Vertigo Crime, announced at Comic Con last year and the fruits soon to be available in the first two black and white hardcover graphic novels, Brian Azzarello’s Filthy Rich and Ian Rankin’s Dark Entries. Gary is writing a graphic novel called Cowboys, which traces the collision of two very different men, it starts with them holding guns to one another’s heads and disbelieving each others’ claim that they are working undercover. We went out to dinner with a great group of writers, at my end of the table was Jason Aaron who writes Scalped, (which I sadly haven’t read but that should be recitified in the next few days), Jason Starr, author of a number of novels for Hard Case Crime, and Max Allen Collins, who wrote Road to Perdition amongst many another great book…they all have new stuff coming out soon, judging from the previews they should all be read as soon as they are released!

And just one of the interesting tid-bits of conversation that made me think…the claim, would anyone still read Dashiell Hammett if they hadn’t made the Maltese Falcon into a movie? James M. Cain without Double Indemnity? Chandler without the Big Sleep? Max always thought that Kiss Me Deadly was a great movie that kept the name of Micky Spillane alive to readers…an interesting thought and very possibly true, and something I instinctively rebel against, and yet…

PM, the Tucson Book Festival, & conspiracy theories

It makes me so happy that my hometown had its first annual book festival this weekend, hurrah for the Tucson Book Festival. And to be there with a table full of books and cds and dvds I can be proud of? Even better.

The PM table was busy, very busy, and I am thoroughly exhausted, but in that satisfied job well done sort of way. Yesterday was much busier. The highlights were the elder from the Sioux Nation who broke down for my dad the racism of the courts and the struggle to reclaim their original treaty lands from the US government, stolen after gold was discovered in the Black Hills. She was awesome. There was an older guy with polished and coiffed white hair, khakis, smart blazer. Mirrorish sunglasses. He looked at the Angola 3 video, and told me he had been imprisoned in Angola (the country), by the Cubans (who ran the country at the time). I almost asked him if he had met Che then, but didn’t. I never know if those guys are being serious, I met another old guy who told me once in a bar that he had been in Laos for years, back when he worked for the government, back when he didn’t exist. Whether or not these guys were black ops, they give me the creeps. Somehow I believe them, because they could say such things to thousands of  American who would never know what they were talking about.

Dad manned the booth with me yesterday, and was incredibly helpful in many ways. He claims that his role was to distract the big talkers with big theories and allow me time to talk to other people. My feeling is that he did that to some extent, but also ensured they spent an extra 20 minutes in the booth that I could have prevented. Like today, when I learned a great deal about the connections between the Rothschilds and England’s Royal family and how they run the world. And none of the big talkers bought anything. And many of them are emailing me in the next few days.

All of the conversations were interesting though, and I did enjoy them all. Here’s an excerpt from some of the leaflets I picked up:

“I am now a FELON because I attempted to protect my mother, a victim of Alzheimer’s, from a herd of wild cattle (including bulls) on our own private FENCED property near Snowflake, AZ.

The rancher refused to remove them, so I tried to scare the 30-40 cattle back through our gate with the noise from a .22 rifle and in the process one was killed. It must have been a ricochet since I know that I did not try to hit one.

The rancher (Dee Johnson), has 60 FELONIES against him for CATTLE RUSTLING. He is a cousin to both Jake Flake and Jeff Flake, in the AZ Legislature and US Congress respectively. Is it possible that politics has something to do with this?

you can read more at www.cowcrap.org.

Cattle rustling! God Damn! Oh the good times we had I can tell you! And of course maybe they’re not from the town, but I find mention of the Flake family of Snowflake, Arizona somewhat amusing. If they weren’t connected to cattle rustlers reminiscent of Clint Eastwood films that they seem to be, they would be a Christmas special.

Today was slower, and both parents came along making it a family affair. And Gary was around, speaking on a panel on noir and politics with Kent Harrington, and that was great. He came by the booth of course, even though the printers have yet to find a paper that works for the Jook’s cover flaps so the books didn’t arrive in time, and the book signing that should have taken place didn’t. The biggest disappointment. But here we are, with new our new friend Joy from Revolutionary Grounds.


You should definitely head on down there if you’re in Tucson, and often. Not just because they are stocking many of our books, but also because they are a great space on 4th ave to hang out, talk, eat well and drink Zapatista coffe.

And amazing, I ran into three different families I haven’t seen in 10-15 years, maybe more. The Seoldos and Sharon who used to go to our old church down off of Valencia and 12th, and the Leons. Roy used to be the assistant coach for my brother Dan’s soccer team (good old Santa Cruz, ah I remember the days, I saw them every Saturday for much of my childhood)…it is lovely to run into folks from the old days.

It was a very long, but very nice weekend, full of so many great conversations that I can’t mention them all! Folks here are fantastic. Of course.

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