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R. I. P. Mike Sheeter

This past June 5, those of us in the underground pulp fiction scene lost one of our own. Mike Sheeter was a writer in the trenches who had done it all, from having his screenplays made into movies, to editing some of the biggest men's magazine in America, to writing corporate copy to keep the lights on. He was in the process of conquering crime fiction with his own unique vision when his heart stopped working right, and then stopped working altogether. We hope that Mike, looking down or up as the case may be, will get a smile out of the dubious honor of being eulogized in Out of the Gutter.

By Brian Murphy

He was Mr. Plaid back when I first met him online. “Big Daddy Thug,” Todd Robinson, creator of the now infamous Thuglit had just graciously run my first Costa Rican story I’d ever submitted. Sheeter also had a story running in that edition - #19. We ran head-on into each other over at Thuglit’s neglected, streaming comment section. Other than my own rambling madness, the only other author also dropping comments there was Mike Sheeter. Only he wasn’t calling himself that. I would for weeks, maybe months, call him Plaid. Mr. Plaid.

Mike was batshit-crazy about secrecy – security. I guess most of that came from the years and years Mike had been in the writing game. He’d done everything from screen plays when he was living out in LA, to sitting in as editor and chief for some of Americas legendary and sleazy publications: Hustler, Soldier Of Fortune – others, too many to list here.

This guy wrote the book on hip cynicism – always told me it came with the territory. Christ. The both of us together made Céline seem gentle by comparison. Oh yeah, Mike and I, we hated everything, especial no-talent writers who were getting big breaks. That was the thing about Mike. Guy could write. Plenty of readers out there can attest to this, especially old readers of Gutter.

He and I began sending material back and forth. We became very good friends; shared in rejection and acceptance, each in our own twisted ways. Me, with a face dropped down into a pile of raw heroin powder, and Sheeter? He puffed weed and drank righteous amounts of imported beers. Our correspondence, spanning over six years, ran from hysterical-historical to low-down, gut-wrenching crime stories.

Ever the secretive one, Mike had projects galore he rarely mentioned. Most of the time, none of that mattered. We spent most of our verbiage filling in the blanks on what began to appear as one unstoppable letter. Reading some of that now, I realize all over again just how brilliant a man, and a writer, Mike Sheeter had always been.

And like many brilliant writers, he was never all that far from an eviction notice - from a "Sheriff’s writ.” I wasn't in much better shape.

But we wrote, continued to write, and let pretty much most everything else the "average bear” gives more than a shit about fall apart around us. It had also gotten to the point where I lived for another letter from Mike. We bounced off each other, ideas flew, crashed and burned with machine-gun rapidity.

Mike Sheeter died of complications after a heart surgery, on a steamy Tuesday, on June 5th. Reading the note kindly sent by Mike’s younger brother, I felt like a huge part of me had gone missing.

Thought I’d go back into my Sheeter files, pick out something which I felt summed the man up. As if this could even be a possibility? However, the piece of correspondence I turned up actually does do a fairly decent job of providing some insight into a very brilliant, complicated, hilarious and magical man and writer.

Mike. Sure but you’ll be missed. If it’s hell you ended up in, try and get us a room with cable – the Discovery Channel.

Thanks, brother. Thanks for making me a better writer.

--I wish to fuck I had been in LA when Central Avenue was hopping, go down there and listen to Art Pepper, Les Young, Diz... somebody just gave me an amazing CD: a 1958 concert at Carnegie Hall by Coltrane and Monk.. fucking amazing sounds. Apparently they recorded it and forgot about it, and it was just rediscovered. Epochal stuff like that happens all the time, but if Paris Hilton gets a bad bikini wax and chaps her muff it leads the news.

Just been reading David Goodis, The Wounded and the Slain, a new hard case crime paperback. Now there was a bleak and wounded mootherfucker, he makes Jim Thompson seem like Captain Kangaroo. (All my heroes are drunks, suicides, hopheads, recidivists, and misfits. Or dead... almost all of them.)

Looking forward to reading your Costa Rica story in Thuglit. Always seemed like a land of enchantment to me, no army, skinny little Ticas who speak English... I had a guy from England write the other day to ask me if I was the same Mike Sheeter who wrote the story "VIOLATED" in Thuglit 18. Yeah, that's me, I wrote back, and a ghastly silence ensued, like I had gone to his house and pushed catshit through his mail slot. Why do we do it? Why the fuck do we do this. Can't help it I guess. Screw it, a man wants immortality he can always carve his name and dick size on a rock, huh?