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When Amazon posted their SIPs (Statistically Improbable Phrases) for Panamanian Moon, the second one listed was "goat fucker" and I thought, great, that'll really hook the readers.

At panels, I got asked so often about language that I developed this stock answer:

"I try to write dialogue that fits the character and since most of my characters are badass motherfuckers kicking the living shit out of evil cocksuckers, they tend to work blue."

Oh, and I give you an amen on that adverb shit.

I'm with you on that first page rule all the way.

I figure, if a writer can't be bothered to give me a reason to keep reading right off the bat, the writer in question really isn't worthy of my time or money. It's a very simple no-fail policy that serves me well.

And bring on the cussin'!!!

I can't say anything about cussing in a book, since my books have elicited so many emails decrying the amount of cussing...of course always beginning with, "I love your books, but..." I always wonder why these people actually finish the books if they find the language so offensive.

That said, I did write a book that's coming out in June with no cussing, no graphic sex, no graphic violence and I guess it could be considered a cozy, except for the tattoos, the guy with a tattoo needle skewering his shoulder, and a threat to tattoo someone's eyeballs. Does that disqualify it?

I'm totally with you on the point about making that first page interesting because despite my occasional lapse into reading books that I think suck (see post from Wednesday), I usually just read the first few lines before diving in to make sure it's something I can sink my teeth into.

Yeah, well, the language is an issue for some folks. I'm happy for them they have books to choose from that don't have f-bombs everywhere. Diversity is key, the world of books would be boring without it.

Personally I get pissed off at people who feel free to diss a book they haven't even fucking read. Please. Judge it on your own tastes, but don't climb on the fucking bandwagon and call it crap because everyone else has. Think for yourself!

If you think you take copious amounts of shit for writing noirish stuff, try writing erotic romance and listen to the rash of insults you get for writing smut, porn, or that "formulaic bodice ripper crap." Explaining the need to write stories that contain blue language and explicit violence is a piece of cake compared to explaining why you write menage stories, male/male plotlines and why cocksucker is a term of endearment, not a slur.

I don't justify, I don't explain, but I will say I enjoy having a foot in both worlds of mystery and erotic romance. For me the plot boils down to the same issue:

In mystery, the story is based on the characters relationship to violence.

In erotic romance, the story is based on the characters relationship to sex.

Here's what I say:

My books are parties to which everyone is invited ... but nobody has to stay. Just don't come stomping in, take Johnny Cash off the hi-fi and force us all to listen to Lionel Richie. Don't try to "fix" my party. The rest of us are having fun.


Presence or absence of bad language doesn't bother me, as long as it fits the characters. I myself have to restrain my own foul mouth because my daughter repeats everything I say.

Speaking of children, now that I have some I have a real tough time reading about crimes against kids. It's just a visceral revulsion. I mean, I'm not offended that someone would write such a thing - I just can't read it.

And violence... I prefer the semi-documentary style (THE FRENCH CONNECTION, for example) instead of over-the-top mayhem. But I make an exception for Tarantino.

I've pretty much come around to notion that morality is relativistic; that is, what we say is right and wrong is fundamentally a human construction and as such is relative to a given context. What the group majority deems "right" and "wrong" is right or wrong until you can convince the power structures (courts, government, social groups, etc.) otherwise.

The same goes for things like literary tastes.

If you'll pardon my putting you on the spot for a moment... the social group that is Neil Smith, Victor G., Bleak House Books, and all of its associates (our blog community and other pub professionals, etc.) sets a tacit and fluctuating idea of what is "acceptable" and even "good" fiction.

It's classic social dynamics.

For whatever reason, the group has decided that noir, gritty, ball-busting fiction basically from the school of Goodis, Thompson, Cain (which was totally influenced by Hemingway and Hammett) and handed down to MacDonald, Leonard, Crumley... and later Pelecanos, Connelly, Lehane, Lippman is "good" fiction.

It's what we do.

Now I'd posit the most recent wave involves a return to the rural. Our good buddy J.D. Rhoades, Sean Doolittle, yourself, PWG, and folks like Craig Brewer seem to be embracing a kind of redneck working class populist moral code as authentic and a model for "good" fiction.

Language and style serves this function.

Fuck yeah.

Call me an asshole, but ever since I had a kid I've really ramped up the awful shit I put them through. When I found out my wife was pregnant the first thing I did was write a story about an angry pregnant stripper who wants to kill the baby inside her with a flare gun.

And the one I'm working on right now has a guy flying to Vegas with his baby thinking about the horrible things that could happen to the kid when he dumps him off and he doesn't really care.

I love my baby boy so much, but it's not a stretch to imagine horrible things to do to something that screams and shits and runs your body to its rawest emotional edge on a regular basis.


You're an asshole.

Don't thank me. It was my pleasure.

I like to shock the reader's senses. Fuck, shit, motherfucker, cocksucker ect. have lost any shock value they might once have had through over use.

A slightly (adverb!) expanded vocabulary is the key to getting under a reader's skin, crawling around in there for a while. It's fun to watch.

Study how e.e. cummings creates tension with paired opposites, how Richard Brautigan can surprise you with the simplest construction. You can not only crawl under the reader's skin- you can nail that hide to the wall.
---William M. Brock

Wow. A Brautigan reader.

And I'll never forget the first time cummings took off the top of my h(caveat emptor)ead.

Both of these writers just ripped me up at a very early time in my writing life. Thanks for bringing their names out into the sunlight for a good airing out.

Yeah, I'm a big Brautigan fan myself. Love his poetry.

I love how Gischler tries to pretend he doesn't like Lionel Richie.

I remember reading "Red Dragon" by Thomas Harris when it first came out. Now "Red Dragon may seem out of date to most of you- obsolete police procedures, film instead of video tape, or cell phone pictures and videos.

But when Will Graham insists they fingerprint the victim's toenails because "she had pretty feet." It got to me more than all the blood, gore, and perversion. Here was a man willing to go to the most distasteful places to get a glimpse of the killer. I guess that's why I prefer not to use profanity. "Pretty feet" hit me a lot harder than "motherfucker."
---William M. Brock

I'd go with "pretty motherfucking feet."

Kidding. But seriously?

I'm not saying profanity is the only way to go. But I am saying that those words are out there, and people say them, and they're useful, and when done right, they are Beau-ti-fuck-in-ful. They can have as much or as little impact as the author wants, if he or she is smart about it.

I think it's all about the perfect word for the moment. And if another writer tells me there is *never* any time for profanity, and that they've "lost any shock value that they may once have had through overuse", I'm going to have to raise a skeptical eyebrow.

So yeah, I say it's absolutely great to see powerful writing without profanity, but don't go insinuating that those of us who use them are somehow lazy or lesser writers. That's a gutfuck, I tell ya.

It's a fun topic, eh, Mr. Brock?

Absolutely a fun topic- and important when I'm looking at markets for my work.

The first story I sold used every obscenity in the book, and was neccessary for my character's dialogue. And most publications do not object if the words are used as epithets, not in their literal meanings. (I had one magazine accept a story where one character called another a motherfucker, and reject a story where a guy actually fucked his mother- go figure.

In general. the more extreme the language and subject matter, the easier it was to sell. But I can creep people out without using profanity or graphic violence.

(Some of my friends say I can creep people out without writing, but that's another topic.)
---William M. Brock

Oh, and by the way, one of my favorite Brautigan poems:

"Fuck me like fried potatoes
on the most beautifully hungry
morning of my God-damn life"

How about, "Write something that you'd want to read." Seems to me too many people worry about the "market" for their writing. Develop your own tastes and then cater to them.

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