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The Next Big Meme!

Posted in Uncategorized on December 5, 2012 by nikkorpon

Bar Scars Cover

Richard Thomas tagged me, so I guess it’s my turn on the great meme machine. Joining me this week are Monica Drake, David James Keaton, Caleb J. Ross and Simon West-Bulford. Some things are in the mix that I can’t talk about publicly yet, plus I’m absolute crap at promoting my fiction, so I modified these questions to talk about Bar Scars, my short story collection that came out this fall on Snubnose Press. I should have another post up in a week or so talking about some other cool stuff.


What is the title of your last book?

Bar Scars: Stories. I stole it from a City Paper column that used to run a couple years ago. It fit the collection well, though, and the column was awesome.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I had a bunch of stories I liked that had either been published a while ago or had gone out of print and I didn’t want them to die in anonymity. Plus, as I talked about in an essay at Elizabeth A. White’s blog, I’d recently discovered that, though the characters initially had different names, I was writing about the same people in my stories, my novels and my novellas. I thought a collection was a good way to throw all these lowlifes into one location and let them destroy each other.

What genre does your book fall under?

Crime, most definitely. Hardboiled, noir, mystery, it’s all about people who need something, consequences be damned.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I see the characters as more of an aura or a voice than a fully-sketched person. I try to let their character define for itself rather than physical attributes. That being said, definitely Ryan Gosling because he’s dreamy… Wait, what?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Whiskey is thicker than blood and the most important question is always where to hide the body.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It was published by Snubnose Press, who also published my novella Old Ghosts.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The stories were written over a three-year period, but compiling and editing only took a month or so.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

All of the best books ever written are exactly like Bar Scars.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I had some stories that I really liked and had either been published in small zines, in print, or with places that had since gone dark. I thought it’d be a good way to revisit some of that stuff, especially because it had been brought into a new context after I’d realized that, even though the names were different when the stories were first published, I’d been writing about the same characters in my novels and shorts. I explain this much better at Elizabeth White’s blog.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

The stories are gritty, funny, sexy, gross, disturbing, scarring, ridiculous, disheartening and goofy, but at their core, they’re all love stories. Like the song says, Love is a many splendored thing.

A Review of Richard Thomas’s Herniated Roots

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 1, 2012 by nikkorpon

As I mentioned recently, my first short story collection BAR SCARS recently came out on Snubnose Press. What I didn’t mention was that my homeboy Richard Thomas had his first short story collection, HERNIATED ROOTS, come out on Snubnose a week later. Though not planned at all, I thought it was very fitting. I came up with Richard, in a manner of speaking. We’ve published in many of the same magazines, we’ve edited each other’s stories for years, we have our first novels on the same press (albeit the same now-shuttered press.) The long and short of it is that we know the other’s work very well, so we thought it’d be nice to review each other’s collection. His review of BAR SCARS is posted here. Instead of talking about each story, I chose the ones that really exemplified something in his writing that I enjoy. On some stories I ramble longer and others I practice what I tell my students: Be concise. All of them, though, show something pretty special.

A brief caveat before going into this: Much of this review is very positive, but rest assured that it’s no easy back-pat for a friend. Behind closed doors, before these stories were published, we tore into them viciously, and probably bruised some egos along the way, but did it for the sake of the story. And really, isn’t that what friends are for?


A man meets a girl in playing pool in a bar and it all goes downhill from there. This story is an example of what Richard does best, creating that interplay between inference and action, the perceived bleeding over into the actualized. It’s not even a question of which one exists as much as which one you’d rather exist, which is possibly more unsettling than the story itself. While the narrative itself is compelling—what more can you ask for in noir than a hot chick and inevitable self-destruction? —the quick mental flash the protagonist has at the end shines a new light on everything. It’s one of those sleight-of-hands that cause you to reevaluate the story on a second, third and fourth read.

Your Enemies Will Devour You

Besides being a wrenching story of moral decay and loss, Enemies has one of the best lines of the whole collection, wonderful because of its disarming simplicity: ‘She is like an old pair of gloves—soft and supple, giving and familiar, torn and abused.’ Comparing a woman to a pair of old gloves—and particularly a love interest who is supposed to arouse us—is a risk to begin with. There are a ton of ways it can go awry. But the sentence just unfurls in this unexpected way, each paired-comparison deepening the understanding of this character. It’s so simple but so effective, like all great writing.

Later in the story, the protagonist utters a line that could almost be the thesis of the collection: ‘I cannot stop drinking so I don’t even try.’ It’s not because this collection, or Richard’s work in general, is populated by scores of drunks, but more that it focuses on people who recognize their internal darkness and embrace it. Though they might try to put a nice face on for the outside world, they never forget who they are, no matter how much they try to drink, snort, fight or fuck it into submission.

Even later in the story, he ups the ante again. With golf club in hand, he waits for his boss to leave work. One shot to the head knocks him down, the protag goes to work, but not on the head. ‘I beat his back like a dusty rug.’  I write a fair amount of depraved stuff, but this line really chills me. Part of it is the simplicity I spoke of earlier—this sentence is only eight words if you count the article ‘a’—but the chill runs much deeper. Part of it is the juxtaposition of this hyper-violent act right up against the domesticity of cleaning the rug that sits in your living room. What really gets me about it, though, was something that I didn’t fully realize until I’d read the story four or five times: How long do you have to beat someone on the back to kill them, and what other kinds of noises are made during that beating? With all the lush descriptions that Richard writes, it’s these short, sharp ones that cut through that lovely haze and fishhook you in the gut.

Last thing about this story: I love this story because, like with a lot of his work, we slip between mania and violent reality, only in this instance, I didn’t realize until the last line what the story is: A perverse love letter to a son.

Bird in Hand

This is a lovely little twist, the double-double cross. Each time I read it, I think about the ending of A Confederacy of Dunces. It’s one of my favorite endings of all time, because everyone thinks they’re winning, but in actuality everyone is losing. Similar feeling here. It’s also, as a recent transplant to the ‘burbs, a nice subversion of the Suburban American Dream. The dialogue crackles, too.


This is an exercise in how many different ways there are to say ‘red’ and how those simple descriptions can color your understanding of a character. It also called back another example worth noting. Watching Philip Seymour Hoffman drink whiskey from a baby food jar in Capote is one of the saddest things I’ve ever witnessed. A glass jar is nothing by itself, but this glass jar is imbued with so much emotional weight that it hurts to watch. Same with the red barn in this story. I won’t ruin it for anyone, but by the time you understand what the significance of the barn is, it really deflates you, knowing that this barn will recur for days and days and days.

Herniated Roots

It’s not a flashy story, but a quiet and tense examination of a man’s disintegration. This harkens back to what I was talking about in Enemies. So, I guess in that vein, it’s not so much a disintegration of man but an acceptance, maybe even a dark enlightenment. My point is, this is what it’s like to watch someone die.

On a little side note, part of this stuff was chopped out by the editor, which Richard then rewrote and sent to Shotgun Honey. It’s interesting to read the two alongside each other because you can see the threads crossing between, yet they remain separate.


The blurring between reality and fantasy/delusion/hallucination is a common theme in the collection, and this story is a shining example. Looking at it from an analytical perspective, Descent is really interesting for the sub-genre explored here that could be adjacent to mystery, where instead of investigating ‘who they are’ we’re investigating ‘what they are.’

The story starts with ‘She haunts my dreams’ and ends with ‘I never ask why.’ The border between worlds/states reminds me of a tropical waterfall, in that the underside—a dark, protected cave—and the outside—a lush lagoon ringed by a throbbing jungle—are kept separate only by running water. Standing on one side, you can easily stuck your hand through and reach the other. It might be an ecstatic sensory experience, and it might rip your arm out of your shoulder and pull you under.

Tinkering with the Moon

This is just beautiful, top to bottom. It’s probably my favorite story in the collection. It starts with a simple premise: A young boy copes with dysfunctional and absent parents by building sculptures with Tinker Toys. The way the emotion is handled though completely gutted me. It mixes the painfully real with the emotion of the ethereal and leaves you wondering what you just experienced. Actually, it doesn’t leave you wondering. You don’t care what you’ve just experienced. It leaves you wanting to nestle down inside that feeling, close your eyes and just let it envelop you.

BAR SCARS: STORIES is now available.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on September 12, 2012 by nikkorpon

I’m super stoked to say that BAR SCARS, my first collection of short stories, is available from the lovely people at Snubnose Press. Brian and company are putting out some of the best crime fiction over there, with stunning covers designed by Eric Beetner, and I’m humbled to be included in such company. I was fortunate to get two nice blurbs by Craig Wallwork, who writes some incredible stories and if you’re not hip to him yet you’re really missing out, and JA Kazimer, author of Dope Sick: A Love Story.

In other stuff, Shotgun Honey just released the cover for the BOTH BARRELS anthology, and it is pretty amazing. They have pictures over at the site. The lineup is even more amazing than the cover, so definitely keep an eye out for that.

I also got word that I’ll be teaching a noir fiction class through the Baltimore CityLit Project. The class starts mid-February and there will also be a panel in conjunction with the class at the CityLit Festival in April. More deets on those as I know them.

Last thing. Obviously, I’m pretty bad at keeping this updated, so I figure it’s better to just cut my losses. If you’re actually reading this and would like to stay in touch, please check me out at Facebook at The Crimes of Nik Korpon or on Twitter at @NikKorpon. I will post things up here from time to time, but I’m pretty active on those two. According to the new-media-author-experts, I’m committing virtual suicide, but I’d rather spend time writing stories than blog posts.

Double-crosses gone wrong, underage lovers with overprotective brothers, fathers searching for their dead daughters. No one in Bar Scars gets away clean. In Korpon’s Baltimore, whiskey is thicker than blood and the most important question is where to hide the body. It doesn’t matter that these are the normal people you see every day, because whether they’re from a broken bottle of beer or the jagged edge of broken dreams, these scars will always shine through.


Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Posted in Uncategorized on February 10, 2012 by nikkorpon

I’m super stoked to say my story Gold Teeth was chosen as one of the winners in Punchnel’s Hard Boiled-Down Noir Fiction contest. All five entries ran this week and you should do yourself the favor of reading them, especially my homeboy’s, Richard Thomas. The winners are all invited to read with the always awesome Frank Bill at Writer Night: Murder and Mayhem for Kids, which will be  tomorrow night in Indy. All proceeds go to Second Story, helping to introduce creative writing to kids. Ken Honeywell will be reading my story, as Baltimore is light-years from Indy.

Speaking of Hardboiled, I’ll be a guest on Booked Podcast‘s Intro to Hardboiled this evening. I’ll post links when they’re live.

Too, if you’re in the Arlington, VA area next week, I’m doing a noir panel at One More Page Books with Elizabeth Hand, James Grady, Sandra Ruttan and Con Lehane. It’s panning out to be a very academic week in which I will consistently be able to geek out on crime books. Good times.


From My Brain to Your Ears

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 26, 2012 by nikkorpon

ImageI’ve got a couple readings coming up I’m pretty excited about.

On Sunday 29 January, I’ll be reading at the Lit and Art series, at the Watermark Gallery in downtown Baltimore (100 S. Charles to be exact.) The reading runs from 2-5. Eric D Goodman curates the series, and he’s an excellent writer, so I can only assume he has good taste in reading. Then again, I’ll be there, so maybe he’s just kind.

RIght after the Lit and Art reading, head up Charles to the Baltimore Hostel (17 W. Mulberry) for the January edition of Last Rites, hosted by Pat King and myself. We’ll have Timmy Reed, Jessica McHugh and PH Madore reading and Clint Thompson playing a couple songs.

Next month, on Wednesday 15 February at 7PM, I’ll be joining Sandra Ruttan and Elizabeth Hand on a noir panel down at One More Page Books. It’s part of George Mason University’s Fall for the Book festival, and should be a lot of fun. There’ll be some Q+A, discussion, agonizing over ‘What is the definition of Noir?’questions which will lead to us getting Anthony Neil Smith on speakerphone, reading and eventually debauchery, as they offer wine alongside the books, too. So, pretty much what readings should be. Big thanks to Terry Nebeker for getting it all together.

Hope to see you at one or the other or the other.


Old Ghosts are e-Haunting, Nominating

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 16, 2012 by nikkorpon

Just got some super exciting news. My Baltimore noir novella, Old Ghosts, has been nominated for a Spinetingler award for best novella. I’m wicked flattered to be included with writers like Tom Piccirilli, Ray Banks, Fingers Murphy, Gerard Brennan, Nigel Bird, Chuck Wendig and a whole bunch of other heads. Voting runs from now until the end of the month.

If you haven’t read Old Ghosts, and want to try out your new Kindle, Snubnose Press just released the e-version of Old Ghosts. They’ve been putting out a steady stream of top-notch crime fiction for the last year and I’m very happy to be among such a great crowd. Also exciting is that they’re using one of the alternate covers Boden Steiner designed for the print release. I love the giallo-inspired look and am glad it’ll finally see the light of day. If you fancy popping up a quick review over at Amazon, I know they’d be very appreciative.


Want free books? Buy ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 28, 2011 by nikkorpon

Doctor of noir, James Brown of crime fiction and fellow proponent of tacos Anthony Neil Smith is at it again. For today only (being CyberMonday and all) he’s come up with a new scheme: If you buy a copy of his new one, ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS, he’ll send you a copy of Jarrett Rush’s CHASING FILTHY LUCRE and my latest novella BY THE NAILS OF THE WARPRIEST? Three books for just a couple bucks. Pretty awesome, yeah?

So, why are you still reading this? Go on, then. Shoo. Start buying. And spread the word.


Like Chinese Democracy, but Marginally Better…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 26, 2011 by nikkorpon

There are no words to describe the enormity of this.

…in that it’s been a while, not that I have dreadlocks, fifty extra pounds and a KFC bucket on my head. By the by. Long time, lots of stuff to catch up on. Most of which I can’t remember at the moment, as is usually the case.

-It’s been brewing for a while, but I can finally announce that I’m proud to be joining Keith Rawson, Patti Abbott, Les Edgerton, my homeboy Richard Thomas and a ton of other wicked talented authors over at Snubnose Press. They’ll be re-issuing my novella Old Ghosts in e-format this winter. Mid-2012, they’ll be releasing my first short story collection, Bar Scars. It’s looking like there will be about ten stories, maybe more if I can write a couple new ones. Most are published or forthcoming, but several are lost in the ether of forgotten sites or small print-run magazines. Covers and such coming as I get them.

Blasted Heath was kind enough to feature By the Nails of the Warpriest as their first of their Friday Freebies. I know I keep going on about that press, but they’re doing lots of great stuff over there. I just finished Anthony Neil Smith’s All the Young Warriors, and in the words of Mrs. Marsellus Wallace, ‘Goddamn, I say Goddamn.’ There”ll be a full review coming soon (ie: when I get a chance to write it) but do yourself a favor a pick it up now so you can experience it firsthand. I’m onto Ray Banks’ Dead Money at the moment, and The Heath have excellent taste. They also have one of the coolest Christmas gifts I’ve seen in a while.

-The LitReactor Book Club discussion of Stay God is still going strong. It technically ends next week, but  I have a feeling it’ll creep into December for a bit.

-I’m slowly making my way through this website to reorganize this thing, get the links sorted, add interviews and reviews and whatnot. Doubt there’ll be any substantial overhaul because, to be honest, I’m not so great about updating a free website. My residual Catholic Guilt won’t let me pay for a nice site to neglect. Either way, there should be more stuff.

‘Til I think of more…


STAY GOD is the LitReactor Book Club pick!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2011 by nikkorpon

I’m super stoked to say that Stay God will be the inaugural pick for the LitReactor Book Club, discussion starting 1 November. If you haven’t checked out LitReactor yet, well, why the hell haven’t you? It’s technically an offshoot of The Cult, Chuck Palahniuk’s website, but it’s so much more. Take all of the writer material, mix it with literary analysis, books geeks and comma nerds and you’re starting to get the idea. Basically, it’s a writer’s wet dream (see: Keith Rawson’s interview with Daniel Woodrell.) They’re doing great things over there and they’re just getting started.

Suffice it to say: I’m stoked. Thanks to Pete Goutis and Charles King for the support.

In the meantime, you can pick up a copy of Stay God in print, in Kindle format, or other e-formats.

Aside from that, I’m also wicked excited to finally have the print copy of my new novella, By the Nails of the Warpriest, in my over-caffeinated little hands. Print copies are available here, and e-formats here. They should be available in the UK soon, so says the publisher. Pretty much, once Amazon gets off its ass and does it.

Speaking of e-books and being super excited, have you seen the line-up for Blasted Heath yet? BH is the brainchild of Allan Guthrie and Kyle MacRae and will launch on 1 November with new books from Anthony Neil Smith, Ray Banks, Douglas Lindsay, and debuts by Gary Carson and Brian Pendreigh. Yeah. Exactly. Do yourself a favor and go have a look.

More when I think of it.


By the Nails of the Warpriest out now!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 5, 2011 by nikkorpon

As per usual, I’m slacking on updates. But that’s not a reflection on how excited I am about this novella. This one’s been a long time coming, written on an airplane to and from AWP then festering in a desk drawer for several dark months. WAPRIEST is shorter than OLD GHOSTS or STAY GOD, but I think it’s the best thing I’ve written so far. The world of The Thief is real to me in a way that the other worlds aren’t, which is odd because the other two were set in Baltimore.

Regardless, I’m incredibly proud of this little book, not just because of the story, but because of everyone involved. The excellent Boden Steiner has done amazing covers for OLD GHOSTS, SPEEDLOADER and Patti Abbott‘s forthcoming short story collection, and outdid himself with the WARPRIEST cover. Caleb Ross and Tim Hall wielded their editorial machetes and helped to make the story as lean and mean as possible. Ben Whitmer (author of PIKE) and Ray Banks (author of a rack of books you need to read, like now, but the most recent being GUN and BEAST OF BURDEN) were kind enough to lend their words to the cover. If I say I’m really proud of this again, I might puke. You get the idea. Instead, I’ll let them speak:

“By the Nails of the Warpriest is the kind of book that’ll tear your heart out and leave you howling in the wilderness, and I mean that in the best possible way. It’s an eerie and wonderful novella.” –Ben Whitmer

“Nik Korpon’s By the Nail of the Warpriest is dystopia with a capital D, and reads like some bastard hardboiled sci-fi lyric you can’t shake from your head. Don’t be fooled by the low page count, either. This is a novella that feels like a novel in the best possible way – it’s dense, atmospheric and literary. In short, you’d be batshit to miss out on this.” -Ray Banks

The novella is available in a bunch of formats, from a bunch of places (print, Kindle and the plethora of formats at Smashwords. If you’d be so kind, please spread the word. I’ll love you forever.