Tag Archives: mafia

Now For Sale in the Kindle Store: Viva Las Vegas, a Zombie Crime Story

I’m celebrating Halloween by putting all my old zombie stories up in the Kindle store. “Viva Las Vegas” is Zombie Stories #1.

When the zombocalypse hits, a Mob hit man who made the mistake of working “one last job” and got his fiancee killed must cruise the broken streets of Vegas looking for her.

Buy a copy of “Viva Las Vegas” for 99 cents in the Amazon Kindle Store.

“Viva Las Vegas” was the very first zombie story I ever wrote.

I had been re-reading The Godfather and Goodfellas and reading the books of former FBI agent William F. Roemer, about the Chicago mob. I was totally obsessed with the Sicilian-American Mafia and organized crime in general. My friend Alex S. Johnson told me John Skipp was reading for another Book of the Dead anthology. Some years before, I had read the original Book of the Dead, an anthology of stories based on the world of George R. Romero. I thought it was the most drop-dead amazing horror I had ever read.

So I wrote “Viva Las Vegas,” “A tale about dirty rotten gamblers and the heavily-armed hit man who kills them a second time…sometimes a third.” I made it as tragic and hard-boiled as I could stand, and extra-bloody because you can’t have a zombie novella without cracking a few heads. The original version was 7,700 words, and i trimmed it down to about 7,200 to speed up the action.

After I submitted the story, Skipp called me at home one day. He told me how much he loved the story, but he couldn’t take it…because while it was 100% true to his crime-novel sensibilities, it wasn’t quite true to his Book of the Dead sensibilities. I think those were his words, more or less. I was so blown away by getting a call from John Skipp that I just bleated and glorped. I think I mighta squeed.

Anyway, when my friend Shade Rupe was collecting stories for a second volume of his amazing magazine/anthology Funeral Party, it was at a time when I didn’t really consider myself a nonfiction writer.

So I sent him this. He loved it. It appeared in that amazing tome.

Some years later, it was selected for a volume of James Roy Daley’s Best Zombie Stories anthology series.

It’s one of my favorites. Like all my zombie stories, it cuts to the heart of my mythology, even if it’s a very different mythology than other zombie stories I’ve written. When I came back to the genre with The Panama Laugh, I had this character very much in mind…but this guy isn’t quite Dante, because the time between one work and the other had warped me profoundly, and I had much more to say.

Zombies, like vampires, are a template for thematic improvisation and psychological exploration. While that’s true of all monsters, fictional and nonfictional, it’s with zombies and vamps that I find my own obsessions framing the argument so the agonies seem real.

Doing anything else would be unfair to the characters. Laugh if you want, but I take horror seriously.

Hope you enjoy it. I know I liked writing it.



The Canary Sang But Couldn’t Fly

The full title and subtitle of this book? The Canary Sang But Couldn’t Fly: The Fatal Fall of Abe Reles, the Mobster Who Shattered Murder, Inc.’s Code of Silence. After typing it, I’m ready for a nap.

The title pretty much sums up the wonkish tone of the offering, which is, even so, one of the best organized crime books I’ve ever read. It may be of primary interest to those who are completely obsessed with the Mob, and particularly with the Mob in the 1930s. Regardless, it’s magnificent.

The Canary Sang But Couldn’t Fly concerns the career, and more specifically the death, of Abe Reles, a government witness against Murder, Incorporated. Murder Inc. was “The Syndicate,” the enforcement wing of the national Mafia organization (though most particularly in the New York area). Reles’s death was a critical moment in the history of the mob, since the case was one of the government’s first real attempts to prosecute the Mafia since the Capone days.

The first part of the book, roughly speaking, relates the events in Reles’s life and in his murder. The whole second half is essentially a deconstruction of the investigative process, in which it is painfully obvious to everyone (including to members of Congress) that there was a major cover-up — but no one can figure out quite what happened.

It’s a bit of a police procedural at times; those tend to leave me cold when they’re fiction, but for some reason here it all comes together. I read it thoroughly engrossed.

Unfortunately, the author, who studied Murder, Incorporated for 10 years, passed away as the book was being prepared for publication. So there won’t be any more awesome books coming from him. Major bummer.

This one is serious essential reading for organized crime scholars.

Indian Journalists, Forest Rangers Battle “Sand Mafia”

You heard me. “Sand Mafia.”

Forest rangers in Chandigarh, India were physically attacked this week by sand-mining mobsters for the third time in a year, “expos[ing] the rampant illegal quarrying from the restricted areas in the Chandigarh periphery.”

Chandigarh is a a planned community in the extreme north of India that manages to be the capital of not one but two Indian states (Punjab and Haryana). Says Indian Express:

A team of Forest officials, led by Forest Range Officer Blawinder Singh, intercepted a tractor-trolley laden with sand illegal lifted from the forest area near Chhoti Karoran village, close to Chandigarh, but the driver and his accomplices not only manhandled and attacked the Forest officials but also managed to flee away with the illegal sand in the cover of darkness, the police said here today.

You laugh, Yankee dogs, but the sand mafia is a recurrent and growing problem in northern India. As a planned community, Chandigarh requires sand for construction projects, but the mining of sand is controlled by politically-connected mobsters who flout environmental legislation. Earlier this year, the Times of India reported that its own team of journalists was attacked by gangsters while reporting on the theft of sand from an important environmental site (READ THE REST OF THIS POST ON TECHYUM)