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Florida Man novel, Mike Baron

MORE FLORIDA MEN

I don’t chose my stories. My stories choose me. Every day, a new Florida Man story.

FLORIDA MAN REMOVES NINE FOOT ALLIGATOR FROM POOL

FLORIDA MAN CAUGHT IN SEX ACT WITH PET CHIHUAHUA FLORIDA MAN SEXUALLY ASSAULTS’ STUFFED OLAF DOLL AT TARGET

Day after day, Florida Man after Florida Man. Florida Women too. It seemed ideal material for a comic so I started writing. By the time I finished the five scripts I had a detailed novel outline. Getting an independent comic off the ground is an iffy proposition. If I were an artist, I would have drawn it myself. But I’m not. And artists don’t work for free. Fortunately, the talented Todd Mulrooney agreed to throw in with me.

I wrote the novel and sent it to Wolfpack publisher Mike Bray. Wolfpack specializes in Westerns, thrillers and crime stories, and Florida Man is comedy. Mike said he’d take a look, he might know someone. After he read it, twice, he said he wanted to publish it himself. So there it is. That’s Todd’s art on the cover.

By now, you are all weary of the blurb:

Gary Duba’s having a bad day. There’s a snake in his toilet, a rabid raccoon in the yard, and his girl Krystal’s in jail for getting naked at a Waffle House and licking the manager. With his best friend, Floyd, Gary sets out to sell his prized Barry Bonds rookie card to raise the five hundred needed for bail. But things get out of hand.

I had inadvertently joined an informal group of Florida Men whose fascination with that state’s more outre behavior and denizens is something more than a hobby. I hooked up via Florida Men with James Aylott, a former tabloid photographer turned novelist whose novel The Beach House touches on much of the same material. But while Florida Man follows the exploits of one hapless hero, Tales From the Beach House tells the intertwined stories of the denizens of a seedy Delray condominium. It is as packed with intrigue, heartache, and betrayal as a Shakespeare comedy, but is often funny. James uses real headlines to kick off each chapter:

FLORIDA MAN MISTAKES DEAD WOMAN FOR APRIL FOOL’S MANNEQUIN

FLORIDA MAN CAUGHT IN SEX ACT WITH PET CHIHUAHUA

FLORIDA MAN KILLED TESTING BULLET PROOF VEST

James read my book and posted, “Crammed with hysteric high-octane toxic masculinity, and without a hat tip to any sense of modern political correctness the novel “Florida Man” has to be one the must read books of the year! This amazing novel is pure-concentrate Florida fiction and will certainly be inducted to this genres future Pantheon of greats. Gary Duba, the book’s central character has to be a solid contended the Mick Dundee of our times and should be immediately signed up for a new marketing campaign by the Florida tourism board. This truly was an astonishingly good book and I highly recommend it to anyone who isn’t easily offended who is looking for a fun and action packed read. This book has raised the creative bar in the genre of Florida fiction and it will be hard to beat by the many writers who tread that path. I am just glad my next book will be set in Missouri as Florida Man has set a new standard that will be hard to better.”

I thought I’d pretty much covered the territory in that one book, but my publisher feels otherwise. I am planning a sequel. There is no dearth of material. Just go to www.floridaman.com, which sedulously tries to keep track. You can find our books on Amazon.

The Outline, Mike Baron

THE OUTLINE

Why should you outline? There are several reasons. The first is to provide a road map for the story you intend to write. A good story is like a good pop song with a theme, a bridge, and a hook. Shifting dynamics. The outcome is always in question. If you were to portray your outline as a sine wave, it would look like a roller coaster ride. The outline doesn’t have to be exhaustive. My outlines range from two to ten pages. Ken Follett’s outlines are over a hundred pages. The reader must surprise himself if he is to surprise others, so the outline must contain wiggle room. The outline must reflect your protagonists’ personality and character, as well as those of other major figures.

Character is destiny. The reader wants someone with whom he can identify, unless you’re writing about a rogue, such as George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman. Even Flashman is charming. You enjoy his company even if you don’t want to be anywhere near him. Or the book has to be compelling, such as Pete Dexter’s Paris Trout, a novel about a despicable racist. A skilled novelist can make any protagonist compelling.

Just as a good song ends on a definitive note, such as The Beatles “A Day In the Life,” so should your outline indicate an end. But beware! Your characters will come alive and start dictating plot! When this happens, trust your characters.

The second purpose of the outline is to excite readers. The outline must be entertaining in and of itself. If you have written a dry recitation of events crammed with adjectives and qualifiers, throw it away! When the reader has read your outline, his reaction must be, “Holy shit! Where’s the book?”

Use your craft to bring that outline alive.

On Writing, Mike Baron

ON WRITING

Writers are people who have to write. They write every day. They don’t talk about it, they do it. People who don’t write every day are not serious writers.

You must know your craft, the rules of grammar, how to conjugate a verb. Don’t get nervous. Most of you already know this without the fancy labels. I see, you see, he sees. It is part of your instinctive grasp of English. Everyone needs a little book of rules. For the writer, it is Elements of Style by Strunk and White. This slim volume has been in continuous publication since 1935. It takes an hour to read and is quite droll. Buy a used copy. Do not get the illustrated version. It has been bowdlerized in the name of PC.

All good fiction, whether comics or otherwise, is built around character. We humans are mostly interested in our own kind. The more interesting your protagonist, the better your story. Stories start with people. The TV show House on Fox is a perfect example. Hugh Laurie’s character is so thorny and unpredictable people tune in week after week out of fascination with his personality. Same thing with Batman, since Denny O’Neil straightened him out. Prior to O’Neil, Batman wandered from mood to mood, often “humorous,” seldom entertaining. Denny made Batman a self-righteous obsessive/compulsive. Obsession is always interesting.

While it’s possible to grow a great story out of pure plot, sooner or later it will hinge on the characters of your protagonists. “Character is destiny” holds true in fiction as well as life. Know who your characters are before you start writing. Some writers construct elaborate histories for each character before they begin. It is not a bad idea. Start with people then add the plot. Get a bulletin board. Write each character’s name and salient characteristics on a 3 X 5 card and tack it to the bulletin board. You can do the same with plot points. You can move characters and plot points around to alter your chronology.

What is plot? It’s a dynamic narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. It’s like a good pop song. It has to have a hook. Sometimes that hook is simply the narrator’s voice. Huckleberry Finn succeeds mostly on the strength of Huck’s voice, by which I mean the way he presents words. In other words, it’s not the meat, it’s the motion. It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it. Huck comes alive through his words, which are fresh and immediate. We feel we know Huck. Same thing with Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. It’s that world-weary, cynical with a heart-of-gold voice whispering in your ear. “He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.” Chandler also said, “A good story cannot be devised, it has to be distilled.” In other words, start with character and let character find the plot.

Comic writers think visually. No matter how bad our chops we can pretty much describe what we see in words. Some of us can even draw a little bit. I used to write comics by drawing every page out by hand—everything—all the tiny details, facial expressions, warped anatomy, half-assed perspective, all word balloons and captions. Editors and artists loved it. Why? Because they had everything they needed on one page instead of spread across three pages of single-spaced type. Some of the most successful writers in the industry write very densely. Each script is a phone book.

While drawing I became so immersed in the story I gave myself a spastic rhomboid muscle. Friends! Do not do what I did Learn to draw properly. That means a drawing board, an ergonomically correct chair, and applying the pencil lightly to the paper. So much for art advice.

There is another advantage for writers who would draw each page. It forces you to confront issues of pacing, camera placement, and editing. It teaches you the natural pace of a story, when to break a scene, when to zoom in for a close-up, and when to pull way back for a two-page spread. Archie Goodwin and Harvey Kurtzman both used this method when writing comics for other artists. I’m not advocating such. Most of the best writers in this industry do not draw. If they do, they still write full script.

Even though you are only providing words, it is up to you to SHOW, DON’T TELL. This is the prime directive. What’s the dif? Tell: “The assassin drew a bead on Mac’s back and pulled the trigger.”

Show: “Mac stared at the wall. He thought he saw a face there, maybe his ex-wife, damn her. He was still staring when a thirty foot giant slammed him in the back with a titanium driver. As he slid to the ground, his face gathering granules from the brick, a creeping numbness radiated from his right shoulder followed by the gush of warm blood and the scent of sheared copper.” We don’t have to mention the assassin because obviously someone pulled the trigger.

When writing for comics, try to show as much as possible. A finicky man entering a public phone booth might pull out a handkerchief to wipe the receiver. Maybe he’s obsessive/compulsive. Maybe he carries a box of Sani-wipes with him everywhere. By showing this man wiping down the receiver, you have established something about his character.

Never describe what the reader can see for himself.

There’s no established format for comic scripts. You can’t go wrong by doing it as a film script. You don’t necessarily need a screenplay writing program, just write it like a play. What does a play look like? Brush up your Shakespeare. There are a lot of books out there on writing comics. I’ve contributed to some of them. It never hurts to read about writing. We’re all curious as to how other writers do it. Many aspiring writers have recommended Robert McKee’s Story as the way to go. While Story contains good advice, it is also egregiously padded and never uses a nickel when a fifty cent piece will do. Joe Esterhaz’ The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood is the anti-Story. If you read one, you must read the other.

There’s also Denny’s DC Comic’ Guide to Writing Comics, a no bullshit primer by one of the best.

There are no writing schools but there are many writing programs. College level courses on comic book writing are a bull market. I’d advise any struggling writer with a Master’s degree to head toward the local college. Run don’t walk. Nobody can teach you how to write. You either got it or you ain’t. But a good teacher can help you improve your writing. Famous novelists in residence offer a career shortcut to those who are determined to become novelists or screenwriters. Same old adage, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

James Hudnall has an essay on writing that comes and goes on James’ homepage like a mirage. Go to www.hameshudnall.com and say James, where’s that great column on writing at? Elmore Leonard has a few choice words on writing:

http://www.elmoreleonard.com/index.php?/weblog/more/elmore_leonards_ten_rules_of_writing/

It is the narrator’s voice that draws you through the story.

Mike Baron has written many novels. Wordfire Press has published Helmet Head, about Nazi biker zombies. Whack Job is about spontaneous human combustion and alien invasion. Skorpio is about a ghost who only appears under a blazing sun. Banshees is about a satanic rock band that comes back from the dead. Liberty Island Press has published Biker and Sons of Privilege and will publish Not Fade Away, Sons of Bitches, Buffalo Hump, Bloodline, and Disco.

Our Fascination with Comics by Mike Baron

OUR FASCINATION WITH COMICS

Why do comics attract such intense fascination? Much of it has to do with the form. It’s all there in your lap. It takes fifteen minutes to read. This makes everybody an expert. For those of us who grew up with comics, they are among our nearest and dearest entertainments. We all have our favorites and opinions on what constitutes a hero.

The art grabs your eye first, especially when you come across the shock of the new. Kirby, the first time you saw him. Steranko or Neal Adams. You read the words. There aren’t that many, but usually there are too many. Many writers can’t abide a wordless page. They’re the writer, it’s their job to add the words! So add words they must, whether they advance the story or not. A comic is not a novel. Words have greater significance in a comic because there are so few of them. Who reads a comic and skips the long-winded passages? Nobody.

Because they’re so simple, everybody thinks they can do it. And they can. Comics are the most forgiving of all art forms. You will believe a man can fly. Flaming Carrot. The Tick. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. These concepts would have a hard time gaining traction in other media without first launching as comics. It took sixty years for movies to present these concepts convincingly. In comics, they gain instant acceptance.

The underground explosion of the sixties, seventies, and eighties brought fresh writing to comics. The autobiographical musings of R. Crumb, Spain Rodriguez, Dori Seda and Sharon Rudahl have an immediacy and freshness often lacking in mainstream comics, because they are unique to that individual, untethered to continuity or tradition. Many of these creators have continued to do groundbreaking, often literary work, such as Bill Griffith’s memoir of his mother’s affair, Invisible Ink.

Too often, mainstream comics have fallen back on cliches. How often have we read, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore?” “We have to talk.” “Move it, people.”

You can only read so many novels a week, but you can read twenty-five comics in a day. Now you’re an expert. Because the form is so simple, it’s easy to imagine how you could do it better. Everybody has their favorites. Everybody has strong opinions on what constitutes good story. Some writers understand the medium better than others. Carl Barks. Alan Moore. Chuck Dixon. The explosion in comic-based movies has not resulted in an increase in readers, but it has fired up the comic fans.

Movies require vastly greater resources than comics and because the stakes are so high, the level of professionalism is also much higher. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is better written than ninety per cent of the Captain America comics. When you grow up loving a character or book, you feel a proprietary interest. When the movie deviates from canon or just falls on its face, many readers feel betrayed, that the movie makers don’t understand the character, or pervert its intent.

While comic sales shrink, the obvious solution is to sell comics in movie theaters. But there is no communication between the comic book publishers and the theater chains, and even if there were, they couldn’t agree that the sky is blue. Comics aren’t important enough to occupy space in a modern cineplex, never mind there is plenty of space.

Comics are on life support for a number of reasons. Poor writing. The rise of video games. Most comics can’t compete with a good video game in terms of entertainment. The rise in illiteracy. The collapse of the distribution system. Take your pick. But they will never die because of their simplicity. Anybody can produce a comic. It is a labor of love.

Cliches, Mike Baron

CLICHES

There are certain phrases that permeate the zeitgeist like low-hanging fruit. The moment you read one, your eyes glaze over.

“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”

“We have to talk.”

“Move it, people!”

“I know, right?”

“I can’t even…”

Comic book writers feel pressue urge to add words. There’s all that space! For what are we being paid if not to add words? The habit is especially egregious during fight scenes. A real fight is physically demanding. Even the best fighters, who train for months, run out of gas and simply don’t have the energy to talk to their opponents. There are always exceptions, like Muhammad Ali and Nate Diaz. But most of the time, you’re out there panting trying to outguess your opponent.

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I too have added unnecessary dialogue to fight scenes. And I just used a cliché! You see? It’s everywhere!

Show don’t tell is among the most important lessons a writer must learn. This applies to prose as well as comics. Comics are a visual medium, and anytime you can advance the narrative by showing, you should. This doesn’t mean a wordless comic. Dialogue can advance plot too, but it must arise naturally from the narrative. Use dialogue to reveal character or add a touch of humor. Shakespeare understood the importance of humor, which provides brief flashes even in his darkest tragedies. Even Schindler’s List has a few jokes.

Show Don’t Tell by Mike Baron

SHOW DON’T TELL

I have three rules for the writer. Okay, I have a lot of rules for the writer. But I start with these three: 1. Your job is to entertain. 2. Show, don’t tell. 3. Be original. They’re all difficult to internalize, but some more than others. Rule number two has ramifications that go far beyond writing, and inform the way we live.

Once you internalize “show don’t tell,” you no longer call people names. That’s telling. And not calling people names suppresses all sorts of bad habits. Like bragging. We all want to impress others. When we were young, we would recite our accomplishments ad nauseum, especially after a few drinks. We all know people who only talk about themselves. We’ve all met people who think nothing of reciting their entire family history on a first meeting. Sometimes these histories reflect poorly. It doesn’t matter. The point of the encounter is for them to grab a little therapy by talking about themselves. They never say, “What do you do? What are your hobbies? What do you love?”

The secret to being a good friend is to be a good listener. A writer will absorb these tales of triump and woe and tuck them away for future reference. They’re personal and original, which brings us to rule number three.

In looking over this blog entry, I see that the whole thing is a violation of my second rule and I’m tempted to erase it.

Where I Get My Ideas by Mike Baron

WHERE I GET MY IDEAS

People ask me where I get my ideas. I subscribe to an idea service. It’s expensive, but it’s worth it. Every week, they send me a list of ideas on the Dark Web. They guarantee that these ideas are just for me, and no one else. I had to fill out an exhaustive questionnaire and undergo a series of intense physical tests to qualify because some of these ideas are risible, and could trigger extreme reactions in some people. Madness. Depression. A stroke. Even the funny ones.

Some of the ideas are cryptic. There’s no appealing to the Idea Board for clarification. You get what you get and that’s all you get. A number of ideas come in the form of story titles. THESE ARE YOUR MONTHLY STORY TITLES is the header. Frankly, I could use some help with the following:

“Drunk Octopus Wants To Fight”

“Never Say Nebuchadnezzar Again”

“Oxy, Oxy, All In Free”

“Put Your Gear Away, Put Your Fear Away”

“Bicycles Hate Icicles”

“How To Get Peanut Butter Off The Roof Of Your Mouth”

If any of you have stories to go along with these titles, I would like to hear them. No not really. It’s like that guy who keeps telling me, “I have a great idea for a novel! I’ll tell you, you write it, and we’ll split the profits!”

Ideas come from everywhere. As soon as Adrian Berry published his book The Iron Sun: Crossing The Universe Through Black Holes, a hundred science fiction writers went to work. I used his research in Nexus. Some science fiction writers foresaw the rise of the internet, including Neal Stephenson, John Brunner and William Gibson. Others, like Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, followed the internet. All you have to do is read the newspaper. Wait. The newspaper is dying. It’s almost gone. All you have to do is cruise the internet.

Florida Man in Jail by Mike Baron

As many of you know, I’m working on a FLORIDA MAN novel. Gary is in jail for trying to beat a restaurant bill by dumping a life nutria on the table. For those who do not know what is a nutria, it’s an invasive water rat.

Gary tried to sleep on the floor against the wall, Earl sitting next to him, when the deputies brought in some hepped up board punks who’d been caught spraying swastikas on the local synagogue.

Gary slept fitfully, wakened numerous times by beefs, splats, squeals, raps and smacks.

He woke at one am to the dulcet tones of an aspiring rapper.

“My dong is long. My shlong is strong. Let it feed like an eagle eating an eagle in the weed.”

Groaning, Gary saw the hip-hop artist, a gawky black kid in chinos and an artfully ripped Tupac muscle shirt.

“That don’t even make sense!” a man bellowed from a bench.

“You want to test me, broheem?” the rapper said. “Step right up. I ain’t what I seem.”

To these dulcet tones and others, Gray drifted off to sleep.

Someone shook him by the shoulder. He woke with a start to find a young man wearing a rough blue cotton Armani suit, a blazing white shirt with the collar outside the suit jacket, and black Brunos, reeking of Paco Rabanne. He had a fashionable three day stubble on his handsome chin, and rich black hair.

“Mr. Duba?” he said. “Mr. Duba?”

Gary sat up and looked around. Where was Earl?

The man seemed comfortable on his haunches. “I’m Sid Saidso. I’m a programming executive with Netflix. I’ve been following your exploits and I’d like to talk to you about possibly doing your own reality show.”

Gary sat up, rubbing his eyes. “My exploits?”

Sid Saidso’s smile was like a thousand watt bulb. “Since the lottery! I’m executive producer on What’s Your Snoblem, which is in its second season, and Barfalo, which debuts in November and stars Bruce Willis and Brie Larson.”

Barfalo?”

“A bulimic buffalo terrorizes settlers in eighteen eighties Nebraska. But never mind about that. I believe in deep preparation. I’m not a drive-by guy. I know how you won the lottery. I know about the alligator in the pool. You were on that plane that exploded. They said it was filled with scorpions.”

“Tarantulas,” Gary said.

“Exactly. You’re a fascinating dude. Your wife is even more famous. Sponsors would pay plenty to feature your exploits. It won’t be cheap. It won’t be exploitative. I respect what you do.”

Gary scratched his head. “What do I do?”

“That’s what we’ll find out.”

Sid Saidso dipped in his jacket and extended a blinding white card between his exquisitely manicured first and second fingers. Gary took it. It showed the black silhouette of Charlie Chaplin dancing with his umbrella, and said,

SID SAIDSO

SAIDSO PRODUCTIONS

LOS ANGELES AND ROME

There was a website, an email address and two international phone numbers. Gary tucked it in his front pocket.

“What are you doing in here?”

“I heard you were in here and slugged the first cop I could find.”

Gary regarded Sid Saidso. “Dubious.”

Saidso grinned. “Kidding! They said I was veering all over the street. Now I ask you. Do I seem the slightest bit impaired to you?”

Saidso held his right hand out like the head of a snake, steady and level to the ground.

“Did you see a big guy? Looks like Li’l Abner?”

“No, I just got here. Here’s what I’m thinking. My team will follow you around. They’re very unobtrusive. You won’t even notice them. They use drones. We’ll wire your house to the extent that you’ll allow. I’m looking at either forty-four of fifty-six minutes to be aired weekly. I believe I can get you a seven figure deal.”

Gary counted on his fingers.

“I know Roebuck Simms bailed you out of jail, but I don’t know why. I think I can get him on the show.”

“You know about Steely Danielle?”

“I was there! I tried to talk to you then but some thug kept getting in my way.”

“What thug?”

“A six foot seven Jamaican transsexual. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

“So why ain’tchoo bail us out?”

“Believe me, my lawyer is on the way. As soon as I’m out, you’re out. By the way. The nutria.” Saidso made the ‘OK’ figure with thumb and forefinger. “Brilliant. I even have a nutria wrangler.”

A guard named O’Malley who looked like El Capitan in Yosemite came back. “Duba, let’s go. You’re bailed out.”

Saidso followed Gary to the gate. “How do I get in touch with you?”

“I’ll call you.”

Habib waited in the reception area. Gary collected his things and signed the forms.

“Thanks for bailing me out.”

“What can I say, I’m sentimental. Also, I have three properties need new roofs.”

Florida Man by Mike Baron

As many of you know, I’m working on a FLORIDA MAN novel. Gary is in jail for trying to beat a restaurant bill by dumping a life nutria on the table. For those who do not know what is a nutria, it’s an invasive water rat.

Gary tried to sleep on the floor against the wall, Earl sitting next to him, when the deputies brought in some hepped up board punks who’d been caught spraying swastikas on the local synagogue.

Gary slept fitfully, wakened numerous times by beefs, splats, squeals, raps and smacks.

He woke at one am to the dulcet tones of an aspiring rapper.

“My dong is long. My shlong is strong. Let it feed like an eagle eating an eagle in the weed.”

Groaning, Gary saw the hip-hop artist, a gawky black kid in chinos and an artfully ripped Tupac muscle shirt.

“That don’t even make sense!” a man bellowed from a bench.

“You want to test me, broheem?” the rapper said. “Step right up. I ain’t what I seem.”

To these dulcet tones and others, Gray drifted off to sleep.

Someone shook him by the shoulder. He woke with a start to find a young man wearing a rough blue cotton Armani suit, a blazing white shirt with the collar outside the suit jacket, and black Brunos, reeking of Paco Rabanne. He had a fashionable three day stubble on his handsome chin, and rich black hair.

“Mr. Duba?” he said. “Mr. Duba?”

Gary sat up and looked around. Where was Earl?

The man seemed comfortable on his haunches. “I’m Sid Saidso. I’m a programming executive with Netflix. I’ve been following your exploits and I’d like to talk to you about possibly doing your own reality show.”

Gary sat up, rubbing his eyes. “My exploits?”

Sid Saidso’s smile was like a thousand watt bulb. “Since the lottery! I’m executive producer on What’s Your Snoblem, which is in its second season, and Barfalo, which debuts in November and stars Bruce Willis and Brie Larson.”

Barfalo?”

“A bulimic buffalo terrorizes settlers in eighteen eighties Nebraska. But never mind about that. I believe in deep preparation. I’m not a drive-by guy. I know how you won the lottery. I know about the alligator in the pool. You were on that plane that exploded. They said it was filled with scorpions.”

“Tarantulas,” Gary said.

“Exactly. You’re a fascinating dude. Your wife is even more famous. Sponsors would pay plenty to feature your exploits. It won’t be cheap. It won’t be exploitative. I respect what you do.”

Gary scratched his head. “What do I do?”

“That’s what we’ll find out.”

Sid Saidso dipped in his jacket and extended a blinding white card between his exquisitely manicured first and second fingers. Gary took it. It showed the black silhouette of Charlie Chaplin dancing with his umbrella, and said,

SID SAIDSO

SAIDSO PRODUCTIONS

LOS ANGELES AND ROME

There was a website, an email address and two international phone numbers. Gary tucked it in his front pocket.

“What are you doing in here?”

“I heard you were in here and slugged the first cop I could find.”

Gary regarded Sid Saidso. “Dubious.”

Saidso grinned. “Kidding! They said I was veering all over the street. Now I ask you. Do I seem the slightest bit impaired to you?”

Saidso held his right hand out like the head of a snake, steady and level to the ground.

“Did you see a big guy? Looks like Li’l Abner?”

“No, I just got here. Here’s what I’m thinking. My team will follow you around. They’re very unobtrusive. You won’t even notice them. They use drones. We’ll wire your house to the extent that you’ll allow. I’m looking at either forty-four of fifty-six minutes to be aired weekly. I believe I can get you a seven figure deal.”

Gary counted on his fingers.

“I know Roebuck Simms bailed you out of jail, but I don’t know why. I think I can get him on the show.”

“You know about Steely Danielle?”

“I was there! I tried to talk to you then but some thug kept getting in my way.”

“What thug?”

“A six foot seven Jamaican transsexual. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

“So why ain’tchoo bail us out?”

“Believe me, my lawyer is on the way. As soon as I’m out, you’re out. By the way. The nutria.” Saidso made the ‘OK’ figure with thumb and forefinger. “Brilliant. I even have a nutria wrangler.”

A guard named O’Malley who looked like El Capitan in Yosemite came back. “Duba, let’s go. You’re bailed out.”

Saidso followed Gary to the gate. “How do I get in touch with you?”

“I’ll call you.”

Habib waited in the reception area. Gary collected his things and signed the forms.

“Thanks for bailing me out.”

“What can I say, I’m sentimental. Also, I have three properties need new roofs.”

Sons of Bitches, Mike Baron

Loathe though I am to toot my own horn, I was born in a cove in a boat in Siam. All my Biker novels are moving to Wolfpack this month, including Sons of Bitches. Sons of Bitches is about a woman who puts out a Muhammad comic, and must hire Josh to protect her. I copied the following review before my previous publisher deleted it. I wish I could name the author, but I assure you, it wasn’t me!

“Baron” His Bloody Red Heart: A Writer’s Finest Hour When a pulp novel by a true comics great transcends genre to become entirely a thing of its own, and of its moment, you have the literary equivalent of a protest song on your hands, folks. And in SONS OF BITCHES, Mike Baron really “busks” some heads. Polly Furst is a likable young comic book creator who incidentally is a lesbian with a war vet gay uncle. In Baron’s fast moving prose, with his Biker P.I. Josh Pratt now well established, we get to know Polly through her unusual career, her wit and modern girl-next-doorishness. She’s real. Baron has nothing to say about sexuality, though it is involved in the point he makes by novel’s end, a point that does for pulp thrillers what Picasso did for Mickey Mouse. Polly has invested her energies in a comic book that has caught the attention of religious extremists. She hires Josh Pratt, Baron’s reformed hood Biker who’s now a private eye with government contacts and a loyal dog remaining from a doomed love that may be an ongoing theme in the Bad Road Rising series. Pratt uses the Internet and Dark Web to help solve cases, and this never fails to be entertaining. This novel also finds Pratt in the funny position of describing his bike in page-long detail a few times. It’s a great trick; there’s a melancholy patience to this young man who’s been on both sides of the moral road. Baron builds up his fever dream with expert writerly cruelty. We care. He knows we have to, because it’s his job to make the crap hit the fan when we least expect it. As in most of his novels to date, a breezy chapter can end in shock. It might just as easily end in an amusing story stalemate. I noticed as far back as 1983 that Baron likes only one thing better than surprise, in his work: having the ability and desire for an originality that guarantees his penchant for surprises stays surprising. So Pratt helps Polly hide out with her uncle and finds an ally in a Dark Web user who may turn out to be a bit of a sidekick to our hero in the future. On that, I await a surprise. The bad guys threaten Polly’s life, try to sabotage her book signings, interfere with her career. She presses on, ignoring Pratt’s concerns as much as possible. Polly is young and broad-minded in a free country. As an atheist, she is happy to satirize religion. A reader is well aware a Polly Furst would scream bloody murder if anyone dared criticize her sexual orientation. Pratt just wants to help and make a buck to buy breakfast biscuits with. He’s no philosopher, because so much of what people ruminate about in life is obvious, or irrelevant, to him. He gives in to lust at one point, gets drugged and things seem OK. “Seems OK” is a way of describing the clear message unfolding. Pratt’s lust interest has ties with a radical group holed up on the land of a sick old man who obviously could forgive the Devil for starting fires. Pratt and friends scope out the place, as the hands of government and law enforcement are tied by the rights of the freedom-hating visitors to our land, who, while plotting the destruction of our way of life, are enjoying it like sailors on leave. Baron surely chuckled writing of their secret perversity, no surprise to Pratt or to this reader. It’s your call on that, fellow readers. After the run-ins with villains, including an articulate man who’s almost apologetic about the demands of his faith, Baron hits his story and us with a meteor. Pratt gears up, though he can’t legally own a firearm. Abusers of freedom have turned freedom on itself, because of threats overlooked through cultural sensitivity. Sometimes freedom is like justice: a tragic tumble of dice. Readers should approach this book through an emotional lens, because Baron is not among the media figures screaming their opinions in what used to be called entertainment. This book is like life. It happens. You get to think about it. You get to hum along to some great Protest Song lyrics.