A thug’s life is hard. No doubt about it. Todd Morr and I own the territory at the corner of Shank and Bitches in the rough section of Malibu. Day after day, between the hours of noon and four PM, we represent like no two dudes ever have. Old ladies cruise near us and cross the street. They know better. Punk ass kids take the long way around. Unless, you know, it’s like five PM or whatever.
Outside on the corner, the sunlight washes down harsh on the concrete. Graffiti everywhere. And by graffiti I mean designer ads for places which only offer platinum cards. Sea gulls circle overhead. Kind of like the Old West with vultures, only these things poop more and dumpster-pick. Limos and limited edition Italian cars drive by, tinted windows hiding their occupants from the real world. Our world. Todd, staring off in the distance, thoughtfully stroking his soul patch as I put my pants back on.
“Dude, I asked you not to wear that T-shirt,” he says. “It makes us look like morons.”
I look down at the ratty old T, the only thing my father ever gave me. “I like it. It’s part of me.”
“It reads, More Penis, Please. Get something else.”
“Oh dad, always the jokester…” I say. “I’ll think about it.”
And then, just like that, the shit hits the fan. Out of nowhere a Bentley Continental GT V8 roars to life up Shank. Back window down, chromed-out barrel showing its ugly face. Must be a rival gang, encroaching onto our turf. Todd and I go to dive down Bitches Avenue when the thing lights up. I hear pop pop pop and all I know is I piss myself.
Which, actually, is an almost daily thing, but still. Some jack-fool is tryin’ to whack me.
I roll. Todd does as well. The Bentley rockets off into a sea of other pretty decent cars. Nothing fancy, so I don’t think I could pick it out of a line-up or anything.
“Dude, you’re hit. You’re bleedin’, man.” Todd says, out of breath and looking at my shoulder.
“I ain’t got time to bleed,” I say, try to stand. It doesn’t work, and that’s not good. I fall back down, and I ain’t got time to fall neither.
Todd stares at me, waiting for me to quit the act and get up. Return to normal. When I don’t, he just smiles. “Come on, bro. get up. Stop bleedin’.”
I collapse, feel the pain. “I can’t bro. Not this time.”
“No. Seriously. Get up. I can’t- I can’t live if living is without you.”
“I know, Todd.” I say, grimacing. “But you’ve got to move on. Leave me here to…to join my ancestors at the banquet tables of Valhalla.”
“But you’re not a Viking.” Todd says. “You’re like, a quarter French and some other pussy nationalities.”
“I’m going to ignore that.”
“Here,” Todd says, “I think I know what will help.”
Todd stands, and reaches to his flavor saver. My hand shoots up, “No! Leave it!” I say.
“I can’t bro. Not with your life on the line.”
He plucks a few hairs. A tear rolls down his cheek because, if you think about, it actually hurts more to yank out a single hair or two than to just rip out a clump.
He kneels beside me, cradles my head. Carefully sprinkles the flavor saver hairs into my wound. We lie there like that until the wound stops bleeding.
We are so relieved we cry, cuddle. Promise each other all the important things over and over again. The way thugs do. Turned over a new leaf, right there on the sidewalk. Pool of blood under me, Todd over me. His head blotting out the high sun, stroking my hair and singing songs to me.
It was wonderful.
And then the Bentley made a second pass and we both died. Assholes.
It’s one of four French words I know. Other than that, I suppose a noir story should have a bit of mean in it, even the ‘good guy’ should not be all that good, and a legit sense that things are not going to end well.
Where does your grit come from?
Probably from a dark suppressed corner of my subconscious that I prefer stay that way.
What parts of Todd wind up in your stuff?
More than I should admit. My day job is teaching music to kids and I write about a guy who would gleefully stomp a man death. Unlike the people I write about I’m really a nice guy, which might be why the characters I write are not.
Yeah, right. “I’m a nice guy.” So am I, but parts of me still end up in my work. If I remember correctly Captain Cooker is the first thing you've had published? Ever? If that's accurate, how the hell did you go from nothing to a published novel?
That is accurate, and it was not exactly easy. Only took about a quarter of a century, though there were long stretches where I did not do much writing.
The main reason is I suck at writing short stories, even though I’m trying to improve. I tried for a while, thinking getting some short stuff published would help get a novel published, which is probably why they sucked, or at least one reason. Seriously, I think I’ve written two decent ones, maybe three if we count a high school English assignment. One is in Out of the Gutter 8. I got some positive feedback on another and then immediately rewrote it taking out all the good parts. I then modified it into a chapter on a yet unpublished novel. The high school one is long lost.
That is the long way of saying it was probably going to be a novel or nothing, which is tough. Asking someone to read a novel from some dude they have never heard of with absolutely no credentials what so ever is a hard sell and I’m not much of a salesman. There was a long time when I honestly wished someone would tell me my stuff sucked, since that would at least imply they read some of it, instead of what I perceived as the “Why the fuck would I bother reading something from you?” response. Of course, if things were reversed and I had a pile of stuff to read, I would have done the same thing after reading some of my queries.
Does anyone enjoy writing query letters? I sure as hell don’t and I’m not very good at it either.
I'd love to know the origin of your book. How'd it come around?
Captain Cooker is sort of a prequel to an unpublished novella, which without heavy work will remain that way, so I already had the Cooke character and while the novella has some serious flaws I really liked the character, so I wanted a better story for him. Sadly, the idea of the two missing teenagers is based in reality. I remember seeing the flyers posted everywhere and people talking organizing searches, and the sad ending when they were actually found. Cooke, being who he is, would be a suspect in such a thing, so I took it from there, going in another direction away from the missing kids as I did not really want to do a Law and Order episode and fictionalize a true story.
What led you to Snubnose Press?
Google. I actually had another publisher, but just after sending me a final edited manuscript for me to approve they went under. Which is depressing, getting a novel published without any other credits is a long shot and I felt at the time I would never do it twice, but I started to sending it out again and really it worked out for the best. Snubnose is a better fit and clearly a better operation. Looking at the other writers on there and the level of their work I feel a little like “what the hell am I doing here?” Actually I feel a lot like “what the hell am I doing here,” which is a good thing; makes me want to work harder.
And you should. You’re published alongside me, and that is an honor which must be recognized by all men. Hear me Joe? *ahem* Tell me more about this...flavor saver thing.
I thought we agreed that stuff was off the record? I mean seriously dude, I have a family, I am not, I repeat, I am not going to screw with Tupperware. Tell me more? I’ve already said too much. Wait, did I seriously just say ‘screw with Tupperware’, that sounds kind of kinky and possibly painful. You can edit that out, right?
Yes, I can edit it out, but my supreme sense of journalistic integrity forces me not to. This isn’t some BS “newspaper” where lowlife hopheads just make up the most ridiculous horseshit and call it news. This is Out of the Gutter. C’mon, son. You play the guitar, surf, write novels and worship me. Is there anything you don't do?
Well I don’t surf, I’ve tried it, and it was ugly. I grew up in Colorado where we have a serious lack of waves. I don’t really make money either, just ask my wife. I’m waiting for my Ryan worship royalty. Those beers don’t buy themselves.
Wait a second. You don’t surf? I must be following the wrong Todd Morr on Twitter. Hmmm…if that’s right I should look differently at all of those tweets which link to commercials for penis-enhancements which he sends out. What’s next, writing-wise?
I’m nearly done with another Cooke novel (never say book, ever) though depending on how things go “nearly done” is a very relative term. A demented thought or two is rolling around the brain as to what will be next after that. A science fiction novel sits on the laptop half done, dying from neglect, which I should probably get back to.
I wrote myself into a corner just this week but managed to find a way clear, which seems to be standard operating procedure for me. I’ve never done an outline and am sure if I did I would abandon it anyway, how much do you plan before actually writing?
What theme song would play as you enter a room?
Hocus Pocus by Focus, best yodeling in a hard rock song ever, or for more solemn occasions ‘Little Wing’ the SRV version.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Todd Morr. Check out his book Captain Cooker from Snubnose Press. The dude has an ear for dialogue that’s like razors zipping back and forth.
Next go ‘round – We begin our journey into the Femme Fatales of Noir. Sandra Ruttan, anyone?