Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Andrew Miller's Would You Rather

Bored with the same old fashioned author interviews you see all around the blogosphere? Well, this series is a fun, new, literary spin on the ole Would You Rather game. Get to know the authors we love to read in ways no other interviewer has. I've asked them to pick sides against the same 20 odd bookish scenarios. 

Andrew Miller's
Would You Rather

Would you rather start every sentence in your book with ‘And’ or end every sentence with ‘but’?
And the very first question kills me. And so I think I’ll stick with and, not but.

Would you rather write in an isolated cabin that was infested with spiders or in a noisy coffee shop with bad musak?
And I’ve got nothing against spiders or isolated cabins, but I draw much of my inspiration from the absurdism in our social interactions. Sorry, I’ll stop with the “and-but’s.” Generally as long as I’ve got a table or desk and headphones I’m productive, whether being attacked by spiders or Sussudio.

Would you rather think in a language you could understand but write in one you couldn’t read, or think in a language you couldn’t understand but write in one you could read?
Absolutely the first. To be able to understand my thoughts and then express them clearly to someone else who I don’t even share a common language with would be exciting. Especially when, upon reading my insane ideas, they sent the men in white suits to carry me away and I would have no idea the reason because I couldn’t understand a word they were saying.

Would you rather write the best book of your career and never publish it or publish a bunch of books that leave you feeling unsatisfied?
So much of my writing is merely an attempt to understand what is going on in my chaotic head that writing one true thing, putting all of my best efforts into a book that is never published, well just knowing I was able to find clarity on the page alone would be exceptionally gratifying.

Would you rather have everything you think automatically appear on your Twitter feed or have a voice in your head narrate your every move?
I was an early adopter of Twitter then gave it up after getting bored by it and haven’t had a Twitter account now for a good 5 years. However, I daily feel as though there are voices in my head arguing over who gets to direct and who narrates the disaster; so I’m not sure this qualifies as a would-you-rather choice as much as you-are-fated life.

Would you rather your books be bound and covered with human skin or made out of tissue paper?
This is a fascinating question. I would rather all of my books published during my life be made of tissue paper because they will be full of fragility and tenderness and the reader should be made plainly aware of the need to approach the text with some level of tenderness. If there is a book unpublished at the time of my death however I want it bound in my skin as I would expect it is the true cause of my demise and like a hunter who mounts their trophy kills those pages deserve their reward as well.

Would you rather read naked in front of a packed room or have no one show up to your reading?

When I write I do so as a way of exploring and exposing myself as completely as I am able. When I share my words it is because I want that exploration and exposition to stir others into action; as much as the audience perhaps would prefer not having shown up, being naked in front of so many pairs of ears seems like the only answer to me.

Would you rather your book incite the world’s largest riot or be used as tinder in everyone’s fireplace?
If my words could stir the destruction of our current status quo then I will give the world a never ending litany until everything is turned out and upside down. Surely if that doesn’t succeed the victors will follow through with burning everything I’ve left behind.

Would you rather give up your computer or pens and paper?
Bring on the blackout – I’ll carve open my finger and draw words and pictures with blood if needs be. As much as I enjoy typing and watching the never-ending-internet pass by, paper and pens will always be my closest friends.

Would you rather have every word of your favorite novel tattooed on your skin or always playing as an audio in the background for the rest of your life?

Tattoos definitely, unless I have to pay for them, because that would be super expensive. Also, I have no idea what novel I would choose – so many fantastic books out there that I love by the end of it all I would just be a rainbow of words.

Would you rather meet your favorite author and have them turn out to be a total jerkwad or hate a book written by an author you are really close to?
Kill your heroes – there’s nothing worse than hating a piece of work done by someone you care about because you’re obliged to talk to them about it; whereas most authors are total jerkwads speaking from personal experience with gazing into mirrors and other reflective surfaces.

Would you rather your book have an awesome title with a really ugly cover or an awesome cover with a really bad title?
As someone with a dumb title but awesome cover on their current book I feel like this question may be meant as a dig (j/k). Seriously, when people talk about a book they generally lead with the title and often don’t discuss the cover art at all, so absolutely an awesome title is best.

Would you rather write beautiful prose with no point or write the perfect story badly?
I think this is the hardest question in the list because most people will stop reading a poorly written story no matter how important message is but will quickly consume beautiful prose regardless of its intention, often apply their own meaning. I suppose I’ll flip a coin and say perfect story wins because I’m a sucker for intention.

Would you rather write only embarrassingly truthful essays or write nothing at all?
Embarrassingly truthful essays is pretty much all I write.

Would you rather your book become an instant best seller that burns out quickly and is forgotten forever or be met with mediocre criticism but continue to sell well after you’re gone?
I would rather create something that is truthful enough to stand the test of time. My body may fail sooner than later, but a well written book is like a long distance conversation. To leave behind a book evocative enough for generations of readers to find worth their while is in a way like time travel or even immortality.


Andrew Miller writes to us from Columbus, OH and is the author of If Only The Names Were Changed (CCM 2016). He’s currently pursuing an MFA in creative nonfiction at Miami University and you can keep up with him at

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Page 69: Shattering Glass

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....

In this installment of Page 69, 

we put Connor Coyne's Shattering Glass to the test.

Ok Connor. Set up page 69. What are we about to read?

First year college students Ezzie and Dunya are auditioning to act in plays.  When they arrive on site, however, they are told that each director is hosting their auditions from a different hidden location in the sprawling forest behind the University.  Ezzie and Dunya start finding directors and auditioning, but Ezzie, who has spent her life doing theater, is discouraged by her mediocre performances.  Dunya, on the other hand, has never been onstage in her life, but shines in front of the directors.  The duo make their way among the trees, auditioning for play after play, plied with expensive booze, and treated to extravagant and bizarre performances by everyone around them.

What is the Shattering Glass about?

Lots of answers to this question.  Firstly, it is about going away to college, leaving your family behind, having to correct your own mistakes and discover who you are and who you want to be as an adult.  For the rest of your life.  It is also about battling ancient and evil alliances hellbent on their vision of global domination.  It is about the poignant rituals of higher education: dorm life, cafeteria food, books, classes, midterms, awkward encounters with love and sex, the realities of financial struggle.  It is also about resisting the magnetic pull of sentient turbines that suck up your memories and convert them into electricity used to power the university.  The book is about a lot of things... today I am thinking of it as a cross between the writing of J.K. Rowling and Thomas Pynchon.

Does page 69 represent the book’s overall theme? Do you think it give the reader a good sense of the book?

The coming-of-age themes, yes, I think it represents them very well. Ezzie is supposed to be in her element here, and yet she falters, again and again.  She knows it's not reasonable to be jealous of the inexperienced Dunya, who is also Ezzie's roommate and best friend, but this is Ezzie's turf, dammit. What the hell are we supposed to feel when we start sucking at something we know we're really good at, huh?!

Style, also, yes.  Shattering Glass is meant to be an enchanting and dizzying pastiche of allusion, call-outs, homage, and evocative detail.  Page 69 references expensive rye and gin, the plays of Caryl Churchill, Charles Stewart Mott, the seven deadly sins, a popular class taught at the University of Chicago for one quarter in 1998, and the New York Daily News' notorious front page headline of October 30, 1975. 

Plot, perhaps not so much.  While the actual events on this page do influence what follows, much of this is probably a subplot.  This page gives no sense of the identity of the antagonists or the central conflict that drives the action of the story out.  Which is also, perhaps, fitting, because Shattering Glass is a novel that deploys and enjoys many tangents.


Could’ve fooled me, Ezzie thinks. It tastes awful. Like peppery, piney, celeryish rubbing alcohol smell.

“Try again!” says the director. They read the scene again. Ezzie notices no improvement. The lizard screams. “Thanks!” says McDirector. “We’ll post results on Friday.”

“We’re auditioning for all the plays,” says Dunya. “Maybe you can tell us where to go next?” Pointing, pointing. “Okay.”

Over the barrow and through the woods, to Mad Forest’s house manager they go. “Welcome!” he swoons, with two audition forms in his hand. They stand in a large but shaggy clearing, and there is a much larger crowd here, and time-charged animatronics of Charles Olan and President Gerald Ford.
“Take stock in the situation!” booms Olanbot. 

“Go to hell, New York!” roars Fordbot. “Go to hell!”

Clouds puff up over the stars like cotton candy. Torches lick the leaves. Deep in there, Ezzie recognizes a couple kids from the Cradle. Jason James is a boy from Wrath House, tall and friendly, 70s hair, like a cheerful teddy bear, and he reads with a cutting Romanian accent. Then there is Velma Brass.

“Hi, Velma!” cheers Ezzie, too ready, enthusiastically. But Velma is busy rehearsing her part and does not notice. Meanwhile, Dunya has finished her form and is looking at a script.

“I think,” Dunya says, “I should read for the Vampire. Since I’m taking that class on the Classic Vampire. Do you mind that?”

“Okay,” Ezzie says.

“See, I knew you were going to say ‘Okay,’ because some vampires know what you’re going to say before you do. I know that from my Classic Vampire class.”

 Why am I so passive? This is theater! This is my thing. This is what I was born for! And so they read, and Ezzie is so-so, so-so, discouraged and downcast.

“You look stressed,” says the house manager. “Have a sip, and relax a little.” He hands her a mug of coffee. Except it isn’t coffee. It’s 


Connor Coyne is a novelist living and working in Flint, Michigan. His first novel, Hungry Rats, has been hailed by celebrated author Jeffery Renard Allen as "an emotional and aesthetic tour de force." His second novel, Shattering Glass, has been praised by author Gordon Young, as "a hypnotic tale that is at once universal and otherworldly."

Connor represented Flint's 7th Ward as its artist-in-residence for the National Endowment for the Arts' Our Town grant, through which artists engaged ward residents to produce creative work in service of the 2013 City of Flint Master Plan.  He is founder of the Gothic Funk Press. Connor's work has been published in Belt Magazine's Flint anthology, as well as Santa Clara Review, Moria Poetry Zine, East Village Magazine, Flint Broadside, and Moomers Journal of Moomers Studies. Connor lives in Flint's East Village, less than a mile from the house where he grew up. Learn more at


Monday, September 26, 2016

Audio Series: Clown Tear Junkies

Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen."  was hatched in a NYC club during BEA back in 2012. It's a fun little series, where authors record themselves reading an excerpt from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.

Today, Douglas Hackle reads to us from his collection 
Clown Tear Junkies (Rooster Republic Press), a Wonderland Award-nominated collection of bizarro/absurdist short storiesDouglas's first novel, The Hottest Gay Man Ever Killed in a Shark Attack, was published in August 2016. He is also the author of ; “The Ballad of TERROR TINY TIM,” a novelette included in the collection The Four Gentlemen of the Apocalypse (Strange Edge Publications); and a forthcoming short story collection titled Is Winona Ryder Still with the Dude from Soul Asylum? and Other Tales of DOOM and TERROR! A selection of his short fiction is also included in the The Bizarro Starter Kit - Red (Eraserhead Press).

Click on the excerpt below to begin listening:

The word on Clown Tear Junkies:

Within the whacked-out worlds of these twisted tales, only one thing remains the same:

Everything is better when laced with the tears of a clown…

When a sexually adventurous couple decides to spice things up by bringing bees into the mix, they learn it’s never wise to dial 811 in case of an emergency. A deadbeat dad gains employment as a lady-in-waiting in a fairytale bromance where every character looks exactly like someone else from John Carpenter’s The Thing. The unknowing victim of a cruel prank, a simpleton spends his entire life waiting on a park bench for the hottest girl in school. Using only his twenty-sided die and good old-fashioned D&D magic, a man must continually resurrect the neighborhood kid regularly murdered on his own front lawn. An aging slaughterhouse worker and the iconic figure from Edvard Munch’s The Scream hit the clubs every weekend in a vain attempt to get laid.

These and many more absurdities await in Clown Tear Junkies, the debut collection from Douglas Hackle.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Indie Ink Runs Deep: John Smelcer

Every now and then I manage to talk a small press author into showing us a little skin... tattooed skin, that is. I know there are websites and books out there that have been-there-done-that already, but I hadn't seen one with a specific focus on the authors and publishers of the small press community. Whether it's the influence for their book, influenced by their book, or completely unrelated to the book, we get to hear the story behind their indie ink....

Today's ink story comes from John Smelcer. John is the author of over fifty books. His stories, poems, and essays appear in over 500 magazines. For almost a quarter of a century, he has been poetry editor at Rosebud.

Memento Mori: 
My Tattoo Celebrating Life, Death, and Remembrance

Twenty years ago, I had an idea to write a book about the day Jesus was crucified. Everyone knows the story. But this was different. I wanted to tell the story from the point of view of Simon or Cyrene, who the bible says was impressed by Roman soldiers to help carry the heavy cross through the narrow streets of Jerusalem up to Golgotha. Everyone recalls that some unfortunate spectator was ordered to help Jesus along Via Dolorosa, but almost no one ever talks about him, not even in sermons. Simon would have been whipped by the soldiers urging them forward and jeered at and spat upon by bystanders who wouldn’t have known that he was ordered to help at sword point. The flesh on Simon’s shoulder would have been laid bare by the raspy wooden beam as was Jesus’s shoulder (most people don’t think about that wound). Throughout the ordeal, Simon would have been covered in Jesus’s blood. Their blood may have even intermingled. There is no other story in the gospels of Jesus’s blood mixing with someone else’s blood. What would be the repercussions?

After two decades of off-and-on writing and research, including taking graduate courses in religion at Harvard University, The Gospel ofSimon, was just released and includes blurbs by folks like Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Saul Bellow, and even Coretta Scott King. There’s even an interview with W. P. Kinsella, who wrote the novel that was adapted into the Academy Award winning motion picture, Field of Dreams. Having lived with the persistent and profound vision for so many years, and feeling emptiness where it had once consumed me, I felt compelled to have some lasting symbol to remind me of what I had gone through. What says forever better than a tattoo?

That’s a grimace, not a smile.

Tattoo artist Chad Weigert of Why Not Tat2’s in Kirksville, Missouri working on John Smelcer’s shoulder. 

John Smelcer’s Simon and Jesus tat

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Melanie Reviews: Superman on the Roof

Superman on the Roof by Lex Williford
Pages: 40
Publisher: Rose Metal Press
Released: August 2016

Reviewed by Melanie Page

Superman on the Roof begins with an introduction by the 10th Rose Metal Press chapbook contest judge, Ira Sukrungruang. He contemplates and defines what a short story collection is: “The short story collection is a gathering of suffering. But the good short story collection expounds and often enlightens the reader to the very nature of suffering, and in that moment is a shared intimacy between writer and reader.” Unlike most introductions, Sukrungruang wisely avoids summarizing Williford’s chapbook and instead puts the reader in the right frame of mind.

Narrated by Travis, oldest sibling of four, Superman on the Roof is about the repetition of grief. Perhaps considered a long short story told in a collection of short short stories, most of the pieces begin with where the characters are in relation to the death of three-year-old Jesse. At first, he’s alive; it’s “the summer before he got sick...” and then the next piece starts “The morning after our kid brother Jesse died...” Travis tells the stories of his family months after Jesse died, the summer after Jesse died, the Christmas Eve after Jesse died. Though the clichĂ© time heals all wounds is commonly expressed to the bereaved, Travis’s entire life circles around the death of his toddler-aged brother, never letting the reader out of his grip of grief.

It would be easy to hate nearly everyone in Superman on the Roof if it weren’t for one beautiful story about Jesse at age two before he got sick, and sister Maddie, age five, swimming in a plastic play pool. They take off their bathing suits and run around the yard naked, ending up in the street. While I was gripped with fear for what happens when children are in the street, their father swoops in and picks them up, blowing bubbles with his mouth on their stomachs and making them laugh. Their mother admonishes the father for essentially rewarding the small children for playing in the street, but it doesn’t matter: this moment is alive and happy.

Maddie attempts to recreate the scene after Jesse dies, but it’s not possible; instead, her father spanks her and yells at her. This was where the real grief started to crawl on me and not let go as the pieces explored the remaining children in a strict Catholic school, the downsize to a cheaper house, the consequential lack of money from so much time in the hospital, a future in therapy, a discovery years later of home videos of Jesse that no one remembers.

Though a mere 44 pages, Lex Williford establishes how grief both consumes and numbs us, how people refused to acknowledge pain both emotional and physical, and how we all try to keep our shit under control.

Melanie Page has an MFA from the University of Notre Dame and is an adjunct instructor in Indiana. She is the creator of Grab the Lapels, a site that publishes book reviews and interviews of folks who identify as women at

Monday, September 19, 2016

Buried in Books - My New Precioussssess

Because I can't possibly read every single book that finds its way into my home IMMEDIATELY, though I fully intend to die trying, allow me to show off our most recently acquired precioussssess...

For Review

Chistopher DeWan
Atticus Books
September 2016

HOOPTY TIME MACHINES: fairy tales for grown ups is a collection of forty-five fantastical stories filled with peculiar journeys and wild awakenings, with fairytale heroines, introspective superheroes, and a whole menagerie of monsters—each one deeply human, and a little bit heartbreaking.

One of the "most anticipated small press books of 2016" (John Madera, Big Other).

*From Publisher/Author, love Atticus!

Melissa Yancy
Univ of Pittsburgh Press
October 2016

Winner of the 2016 Drue Heinz Literature Prize
Many of these richly layered stories juxtapose the miracles of modern medicine against the inescapable frustrations of everyday life: awkward first dates, the indignities of air travel, and overwhelming megastore cereal aisles. In “Go Forth,” an aging couple attends a kidney transplant reunion, where donors and recipients collide with unexpected results; in “Hounds,” a woman who runs a facial reconstruction program for veterans nurses her dying dog while recounting the ways she has used sex as both a weapon and a salve; and in “Consider This Case,” a lonely fetal surgeon caring for his aesthete father must reconsider sexuality and the lengths people will go to have children.
            Melissa Yancy’s personal experience in the milieus of hospitals, medicine, and family services infuse her narratives with a rare texture and gravity. Keenly observant, offering both sharp humor and humanity, these stories explore the ties that bind—both genetic and otherwise—and the fine line between the mundane and the maudlin. Whether the men or women that populate these pages are contending with illness, death, or parenthood, the real focus is on time and our inability to slow its progression, reminding us to revel in those moments we can control.

*From publicist, sounds interesting

David Trueba
Other Press
August 2016

Blitz is a romantic tragicomedy that recounts the exploits of Beto, a young architect who heads to Munich with his girlfriend to take part in a landscape-planning competition. In an instant, a text message Beto wasn't meant to receive shatters him, leaving him bewildered and heading nowhere. But unintentionally he falls into the arms of Helga, an older woman, in a cross-generational encounter that is the heart of the tale.
     With sensitivity and biting wit, Trueba crafts a story of errant souls and lost loves, humorously critiquing male narcissism, all the while showing us that in this modern age it is more important than ever to appreciate every moment and embrace intimacy when luck allows it, no matter from where.

*From Publisher

Darin Bradley
Underland Press
October 2016

Once the capital of a global empire, Aer is now only a global protectorate. One of the eight wonders of the ancient world, Aer is a cradle of civilization, preserved by international aid and foreign interest, primarily Worldview, an international media network. Worldview has wired Aer so thoroughly that subscribers around the world can interact with every facet of daily life in the ancient city. Pinhole lenses and mobile cameras and embedded microphones export the challenges, dramas, and simple joys of Aeri life to those whose donations keep it alive. Because, without them, the Aeri will die.

Aer has been quarried for millennia from the world's rarest stone deposit, and this prize, the Aeri birthright, is the centerpiece of Aer's ancient religion: the belief in God in the stone itself. In ages past, the inspired dialogs of the saints were the empire's greatest export, carrying the truth that God's presence morphs the faithful into their true form. But the stone, we now know, is radioactive. It always has been, and it has been twisting the Aeri across the generations, reforming their bodies into their final states.

The international community now keeps the Aeri alive with radiation abatement, food aid, health care, and the sundries of daily life. Aer is a shared cultural gem, a mitigating presence in an unstable region. It is a link to a past when God walked the Earth, and empires rose on the power of belief. But there is trouble in paradise. Belan and Vesse are in their twenties, as bored and idle as the others their age, struggling to find meaning in a world where they want for nothing. With their lives writ large for Worldview's never-sleeping eyes, the couple find themselves at the epicenter of a cultural awakening, and their efforts to navigate the truths of the new Aer have consequences for everyone.

Totem is the final installment in Darin Bradley's thematically linked "Dystopian Cluster." This is voyeuristic terrorism in a world where religion has gone viral and Big Brother works hand in hand with UNESCO.

*From Publisher  / Read and loved Chimpanzee 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Matt Fogarty's Guide to Books & Booze

Time to grab a book and get tipsy!

Back by popular demand, Books & Booze, originally a mini-series of sorts here on TNBBC challenges participating authors to make up their own drinks, name and all, or create a drink list for their characters and/or readers using drinks that already exist. 

Today, Matt Fogarty is all about the drinks, drinks, and MOAR drinks! Check out how he pairs one up with each section of his collection:

Books and Booze: Maybe Mermaids and Robots are Lonely by Matthew Fogarty

Maybe Mermaids and Robots are Lonely is a collection of 34 stories and a novella. Each story is inspired in some way by characters that have become almost legendary in American culture, like Bigfoot or Andre the Giant or the good soldier. I'm sure I could find a cocktail inspired by each story, but that would be dangerous. And yet, one cocktail to represent the full collection doesn't seem like enough. I love cocktails. Often, a good drink is what gets me into a story and through. It's also how I celebrated completing the book. So, I've come up with a cocktail for each of the five sections of the book. I hope you enjoy.

Under: The Detroit

2 oz Woodward Barrel-Aged Gin
1 oz Faygo Rock and Rye
½ oz Tart Cherry Liqueur
5-6 dashes Angostura bitters
Pinch of Morton Salt

Instructions: Combine in a shaker and shake with ice. Strain into a chilled glass—a coupe glass, maybe, or a martini glass, or really any cold glass will do.

It took a while to write this book. It took a while to admit I'm a Michigan writer and even longer to admit there's something worth writing about in the suburbs and, particularly, in my boring coming-of-age in the suburbs of Detroit. I'm still not quite comfortable calling myself a Detroit writer, even though the city and the history and the people inform every sentence, every word, of everything I write. Detroit informs me as a person in the world in all kinds of ways I can recognize and probably even more profound ways I'm not smart enough to deduce. It's a complex city with complex suburbs and a difficult past and an uncertain future. Not unlike this book, I can only hope. And not unlike this drink.

Over: The Bigfoot

1½ oz High West Campfire Whiskey
1½ oz Cold Brew Coffee
½ oz Douglas Fir Eau de Vie
½ oz Maple Syrup
Flamed Rosemary
Pebble Ice

Instructions: Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass and stir. Pour into a glass filled with pebble ice (fun fact that changed my life: you can buy pebble ice for $1.50 a bag at the Sonic drive-thru!). Light a sprig of rosemary with the nearest fire. Let the oils in the rosemary flash and smoke. Let the flame disappear. Spear it into the drink and watch yourself, lest the drink carry you away, the only evidence of your disappearance a trail of muddy prints.

One of the more fun stories in the collection is a retelling of Gogol's "The Overcoat" featuring Bigfoot as a temp at a law firm. This story is a nod both to some of the Russian writers I love, like Gogol, and also to my inglorious past as a lawyer in a large Washington, DC law firm. These are characters I know well, all disassembled and mixed and remixed and reassembled. But it's also a story about two people pressed together in the chaos of work with such force that they get to thinking they ought to be one. That thinking is only reinforced by the taboo of it, of two coworkers dating. And that taboo is released, the thrill of it gone, when everyone finds out. We lead such guarded lives thinking we have things to keep secret. When really, we're all holding onto things, keeping them from others, for no good reason—like our secrets, our failures, our passions, our joys, our hope. Some days it feels like we're all so lonely here together. And it doesn't need to be that way.

Between: Zombie (in your head)

1½ oz Appleton Estate Special Gold Rum
½ oz Bushmills 10-Year Irish Whiskey
½ oz Bacardi 151 Rum
¼ oz Flor de Cana Silver Rum
¾ oz Pineapple Juice
¾ oz Lime Juice
¾ oz Cranberry Juice
½ oz Falernum
½ oz Brown Sugar Simple Syrup
2-3 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Instructions: I’ve stated the ingredients here in ounces. Consider your day—how large of a horde you’ve had to run from—and adjust amounts accordingly. Add the ingredients (except the bitters) to a shaker and shake heartily. Strain into a tiki mug filled with crushed ice. Top with a few dashes of peychaud’s bitters for that nice blood red finish and garnish with extravagance and joviality using whatever’s on hand (pineapple, tiny umbrella, brains, etc.) Drink cautiously.

The center of the book is a novella. It's a zombie novella, a fairy tale of sorts, set in small part in Muncie, Indiana (because, what better place to have taken over by zombies) and in big part in Detroit. One pivotal moment involves a clash between protestors and the national guard. It took a good while to write until I found the right inspiration—the events of Bloody Sunday and, more specifically, Paul Greengrass' treatment of that day in the movie Bloody Sunday. This drink is a nod to that source, as well as to my family heritage, via the Cranberries, whose song "Zombie (in your head)" was—who knew?—is a protest song about Bloody Sunday.

Above: Andre the Giant

2 oz Crown Royal
½ oz lemon juice
5 oz champagne

Instructions: Shake the Crown, lemon, and simple syrup together with ice. Strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne. Repeat. And then repeat again. And again. And again and again until you're 7'4", 520 lbs, unpinnable, and kind-hearted.

This is a different take on a French 75, replacing gin or cognac with Andre's favored Crown Royal. It's what he'd drink before matches and it plays a bit part in the story "Finishing Moves." The story jumps back and forth in time before, during, and after the famous Wrestlemania III match in the Pontiac Silverdome in which Andre allows himself to be body-slammed by Hulk Hogan. It's an epic moment, the slam, representing the passing of a torch—of the mantle of the hero, the fan favorite—from Andre to Hulk. It's the moment at which Andre, alive at age 40 despite his doctor's prognosis, outlives his usefulness. They no longer need him to be the gentle giant. All that's left for Andre is to play the heel or to head home.

Away: Outline of the Moon

1 ½ oz Port
½ oz Amaro de Angostura
1 oz Raisin-Infused Dark Rum
1 ice sphere made from orange juice and zest

Instructions: Because going to the moon requires preparation and patience, something so big and so far and so perilous to reach, you can just head off cocksure and heedless. So a day or two (or a week or a couple of weeks) in advance, pour an amount of rum into a mason jar filled with raisins. Let it steep until infused. You’ll have a delightful dark rum and a pile of reanimated raisins ready for a second life. Or, I suppose, if you’re pressed for time, you could muddle the raisins into the rum or throw the raisins and the rum and any caution you might have held into a pot and let the rum simmer for a while and then cool. Build the drink in a glass, stir until cold, enjoy at night and outdoors.

The closing story in the book is an alternate history of sorts, a reimagining of the first moonshot set in the early 1900s and greatly influenced by Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics and a painting by the alt musician (and Jim Jarmusch company player) John Lurie. In this story, the first astronauts are sent by slingshot into space to the moon, which turns out to be less than they'd hoped. Life afterward, too, is less than satisfying, as the two men yearn for unsolved mysteries.

Acknowledgments: The Last Word

¾ oz Two James Gin
¾ oz Lime Juice
¾ oz Green Chartreuse
¾ oz Maraschino Liqueur

Instructions: Give it a good shake and strain it into a coupe glass. Garnish with a cherry or a lemon peel or a toothpick. This may be the easiest and best of all these drinks and yet also the most complex in terms of how the ingredients come together—citrusy, sweet, strong, herbal, and, overall, very well balanced. Notwithstanding its name, it’s not the end of anything, but rather the beginning. You’ll want more than one.

This cocktail has a history. It was invented in the 1910s or 1920s in Detroit by a vaudeville monologist named Frank Fogarty (no relation that I know of) (fun(?) fact: he was nicknamed the “Dublin Minstrel”). The story goes that Frank was a regular at the Detroit Athletic Club while in town for a run at the Shrine Theater. One day, he was in the mood to experiment, and thus, the Last Word was born. In ensuing years, the drink was mostly forgotten until a bartender at Seattle’s Zig Zag CafĂ© rediscovered it and put it on the menu.

I found the Last Word at a bar called The Passenger in Washington, DC while out with some of the friends named in the Acknowledgments section of the book. This was before I was really a writer. I was practicing law, hating it, wishing for something more, wishing I’d gather the courage to commit myself to writing and write the stories I wanted to write. It wasn’t the drink as much as the friends—who’d already witnessed all my different types of sadness and hoping—who encouraged me to do it, to figure out a way to set everything else aside and write. And as I flip through this book I know it wasn’t just those friends that night, but so many people I’ve been so lucky to have met, who’ve pushed me forward, put up with my shenanigans, given me support, and had confidence in me when I had none in myself. This Last Word is for them.


Born and raised in the square-mile suburbs of Detroit, Matthew Fogarty currently lives and writes in Columbia, where he is co-editor of Yemassee. He also edits Cartagena, a literary journal. Matthew is an alum of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and the Wesleyan Writers Conference. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as PANKPassages North,Midwestern Gothic, Fourteen Hills, Smokelong Quarterly, andMoon City Review.