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Pillar of Fire

On December 16, 1960, two commercial airliners crashed over NYC. My stepdad was a student at St. Augustine’s, a school in Brooklyn right near where one of the planes came down. I grew up hearing about the crash and got to be pretty obsessed with it, reading old newspapers and searching out images. Here’s a story I wrote about it, one that I’ve been working on for a few years now.

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Gaspipe

If you ever read Philip Carlo’s Gaspipe, which is about Lucchese boss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso, you can flip to the center of the book and see a picture of the attached house where I grew up. My mother and I lived in the ground floor apartment (where the Cassos used to live) for much of my early childhood. When she got remarried, we moved upstairs into the bigger apartment; she was in that upstairs apartment until late last year when she moved next door with my grandmother. My grandfather used to tell me Gaspipe stories, mostly about him selling hot items off a truck. The Carlos were our neighbors and friends. Philip, who also wrote The Night Stalker (about Richard Ramirez) and other true crime books, was living in the city when I was growing up (and, according to his old man, hanging out with his good friends Robert DeNiro and Tony Danza all the time), but he was the first real writer I knew of and knew. I’d talk to his father Frank and ask a hundred questions, pressing him for the straight dope on the writing life. I don’t think I knew at the time how close Frank was to Gaspipe. I never asked him about Gaspipe, I’m pretty sure, even as my interest in mobsters and outlaws grew. But I definitely spent a lot of time as a kid wondering about Gaspipe; I’d sit in our little apartment and try to imagine things that had happened when he lived there.

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Weird on Top

Wild at Heart was released 25 years ago today. I was 11, going on 12, and already a big David Lynch fan. I didn’t see it until it came out on VHS, whenever that was, and then I asked for the tape for my birthday the next year and watched it over and over, memorizing it. This is probably my favorite scene in any movie ever.

Also 25 years old: Pump Up the Volume, which I watched just about every goddamn day from seventh grade to eleventh grade (I dubbed it from a rental by connecting my mother’s VCR to my grandparents’ VCR). Probably the movie that had the most influence on me as a kid. The soundtrack introduced me to Leonard Cohen, MC5, The Pixies, Soundgarden, and Sonic Youth. I’m still in love with Nora Diniro. And I still chew Black Jack gum when I can find it. Bonus: the guy who wrote this great AV Club piece, Ron Hart, went to SUNY New Paltz, where I started in ’96 (I lived in New Paltz ’96-’01 and then ’02-’06).

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Bound to Collapse

Dead End Follies made a list of “10 New Generation Genre Writers You Need to Read,” and I’m honored as hell to be included.

Thanks to Benoit for these kind words about my work:

“Boyle is a bit of a classicist who can harness the beauty of hardboiled and literary fiction both. His characters are complex, layered and tormented. They are built like rows of majestic buildings bound to collapse in an inevitable natural disaster.”

 

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Update

Man. Shit. I haven’t updated this site in a long time. Have a bunch of stuff I’ve been wanting to post here since March; I hope I remember it all. A couple of other things first: I’m reading at TurnRow Books in Greenwood, MS before a presentation of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross on 8/13 at 6:45 p.m. I’ll also be on the Short Stories Panel at the Mississippi Book Festival in Jackson, MS on 8/22.

1. Back in March, my second book, a short story collection called Death Don’t Have No Mercy, came out. Megan Abbott, hero and pal, had these kind things to say about it:

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2. I did the Book Talk podcast with Stephen Usery in Memphis. Listen here.

3. David Bowles said some swell things about Death Don’t Have No Mercy and Broken River Books over at The Monitor. He thought the stories were “evocative of James Cain,” which means a hell of a lot to me.

4. Rob Hart, who just put out a terrific debut novel called New Yorked, made a list of Five Great Books About New York City and included Gravesend. It lifted my heart to see my book up there on The Daily Beast with books by some of my heroes.

5. For a minute there, back at the end of April, I somehow had the top-selling book in Mississippi according to The Clarion-Ledger. I’m not sure how it’s even possible, but it’s the only time I’ll ever see my name at the top of a list like this, so I’ll take it.

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6. Here’s Death Don’t Have No Mercy on Jack Pendarvis’s recommendation shelf at Square Books.

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7. Noir at the Bar Oxford 2 was a big success. Seems like a long damn time ago already. I have some photos from the event, more than last time anyway. I won’t post them here, but they’re on my Instagram if you want to check them out. Great night.

8. Some kind words about Gravesend from Philip David Alexander, author of Peacefield, over at Goodreads: “This is a dark gem of a book that will more than satisfy fans of David Goodis, George V. Higgins, Richard Price and Daniel Woodrell.” Full review here.

9. I was home in Brooklyn for a couple of weeks and took a lot of pictures. Most are up on my Instagram page. Here are a couple I didn’t post there. This train platform is the D station at 25th Avenue in my neighborhood, where the last scene in Gravesend takes place.

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10. Here’s a picture of me, Tom Franklin, and Ace Atkins celebrating the publication of Ace’s great new Quinn Colson novel, The Redeemers, on the balcony at City Grocery last week. Pick up a signed copy here. Photo credit: Milly Moorhead West.

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Tonight!/Reviews

Noir at the Bar Oxford II. Tonight at Proud Larry’s. 9 p.m.

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Also, here’s a review of Death Don’t Have No Mercy in the New Orleans Review.

And thanks to Scott Adlerberg for this review on Goodreads: “A marvelous collection of eight stories about men who drink too much, have damaged souls, and whose lives, for all purposes, may already be over. None of the main characters is all that old – we’re talking about men in their twenties and early thirties – but already they’ve made a lot of bad choices and continue to make bad choices. Still, you’ll be hard-pressed to encounter more entertaining, compelling fiction about sad people than the fiction you’ll find here. Boyle has a style of elegant simplicity that makes for compulsive reading, and his way of evoking place, Brooklyn around Coney Island, upstate New York, a hotel room in Montreal, is impeccable. Environment almost is a separate character in these stories. I could have read eight more of these beautifully told tales and look forward to what William Boyle will do next.”

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First Lines

These are the first lines of the eight stories in Death Don’t Have No Mercy, my most recent book, out now from Broken River. I don’t know why I’m doing this. I’ve seen other people do it, and I guess I like it. I like seeing the lines away from their stories, even away from their titles. Maybe it’ll make you want to check out the book. Maybe it won’t. Probably I’m dumb. Have a good afternoon. I’m going to rest my big stupid head for a few hours. You can buy the book here or here if you didn’t blow all your money on a shitty sandwich made of processed foot cheese and horse kisses.

1. Calhoun wasn’t sure why he’d stolen the Walkman from the kid.
2. Yank Byrd addressed the letter to the editors of Broken Spoke and then typed: I hope like hell you’ll consider the enclosed story, “The Incredible Bright Life of the Snatch Pie Coeds.”
3. The poor box was pretty well-secured to the floor and it took a good push to get it loose.
4. “Don’t listen to them, Clip,” the old cut man said.
5. He had gone to the house in Phoenicia to clear his head.
6. Books got back in early March.
7. Mullen had returned to the old neighborhood for one reason: the last time he was home he’d hidden two thousand dollars in twenties in a shoebox in the crawlspace of his grandmother’s attic.
8. By the time I got to Coney Island, I’d started to worry that Uncle Harry wouldn’t be happy to see me.

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