Red means run, son…

Have you heard Neil Young’s Powderfinger? If not, give it a listen. The song and, in particular, the line “red means run, son, numbers add up to nothin’…” was Brad Smith’s inspiration for the title of the first book in his country noir mystery series (releasing January 2012). The foreboding tone of the line soon coalesces into a strong and pulsing plot. Virgil Cain, a hard working farmer (attractive in a Paul Newman-sort-of-way and always ready to help a friend, or a horse) is accused of murder when a man to whom he is negatively connected is discovered with a golf club skewered into his chest.

Virgil’s need to prove his innocence and his country-boy practicality leads him to escape from the court house where he’s being held and flee towards evidentiary support. The scene in which he escapes is a good one, humorous in its simplicity. The image below is of the author, Brad Smith. He is peering into the prison yard behind a court house upon which he based this scene. You’ll have to read the book, for the details on this one.

As a small-town girl, this novel appeals to me on many levels. I will happily read about a man hiding himself amongst hay and sneaking back onto his farm to water his horses. I also find much beauty and truth in the solidarity of small-town friendships, which Brad clearly writes from experience. If you’re a fan of Neil Young and Hank Williams, if you like crime fiction with a darker edge, like works by Elmore Leonard, Dennis Lehane or James Lee Burke, then I think you’ll like this one.

A few of us went down to Brad’s farmhouse in the country, near the north shore of Lake Erie, to film a trailer for Red Means Run under the direction of  a very cool and talented filmmaker. Just wait until you see it.

Here are some behind-the-scenes shots:

The Crew:

The getaway car:

 Brad defining “country noir”:

FQ (photographer) defining “country noir”:

Publisher’s Weekly says of Red Means Run, “Smith (Busted Flush) eschews pyrotechnics in favor of character in this assured crime novel, the first in a new series set in upstate New York.”

Check out the final product

Film by Adam Vollick.

Find Brad Smith on Facebook and visit his website at

Simon Recommends (2)

So, last week, we began our new blog feature, Simon Recommends (set to run until Christmas).  Sian recommended The Spellman Files — a quirky, smart and sharp detective series about Isabel Spellman and her crazy, Private Investigator family.

This week, we have something totally different in store!  Brendan, Executive Assistant and Cowboy extraordinaire is recommending James Lee Burke’s Rain Gods.  Check it out!

Brendan’s Review

I couldn’t tell you where my fascination with the dust and desert of the South comes from, considering I’ve been happily born and raised in the Great White North.  But there’s something about the way of life that James Lee Burke paints in his books that makes me want to drop everything and head off towards the horizon in the hopes that I’ll stumble on some adventure.  But until Toronto increases its saloon population and my Back to the Future-esque pipedream comes to pass, I’ll have to content myself with escaping into works like Rain Gods.

James Lee Burke has a ton of novels out there, and you can’t go wrong picking any one of them.  But before you get too far into his bibliography, make sure you get to meet Sheriff Hackberry Holland.  He’s tough as nails, no doubt, but that alone doesn’t do it justice – everything in this story feels familiar and grips you right away, but the people and places are never just stereotypes ripped out of a cheap Western.  With everything in Burke’s books, there’s history and complexity behind everything and everyone.

What makes this book so impressive is that in Burke’s writing there’s allegory and philosophy, grace and force.  But, even better than that, there are guns, horses, and a whole cast of dirtbags and good people to keep things rolling.  The book is a seriously fun ride, and I can’t think of many better villains (is that the right word for him, I wonder?) than Preacher Jack Collins.  Best part is, there’s more to come: I have the sequel, Feast Day of Fools, in my bag right now.  Like the land he’s writing about, Lee Burke’s stories just seem to keep rolling on, expanding and getting more impressive with every step forward.  So until I get an answer back about installing hitching posts at the office, I’ll be clinging to these books and riding with them wherever they take me.

Danger on the Border

The Texas/Mexico border is a dangerous place where only talented fiction writers like our very own James Lee Burke dare to tread.  There is something so symbolic about a border and Burke embraces all it has to offer.  In his third installment to the Hackberry Holland trilogy Feast Day of Fools, Burke dives into themes of love, loss, temptation and honour, showering them all in danger.  Sheriff Hackberry Holland is out to find the person responsible for a torture and death witnessed by ex-boxer Danny Boy Lorca, but when his investigation leads him to the door of a mysterious Chinese woman, he must decide where his primary threats lie.  With the return of Preacher Jack Collins, presumed dead at the end of the last book, Holland must prepare defenses on all fronts.  Cormac McCarthy, you have some serious competition with this one.

And not only does Burke write engaging novels, he always makes sure to produce an audio book to accompany his books.  He believes in the art of oral story-telling and all the magic a voice can inject into a story.  Award-winning actor and audio book narrator, Will Patton is the voice behind the book!  If the name doesn’t ring a bell, think the coach from Remember the Titians or the Lieutenant in Brooklyn’s Finest.  His husky voice gives the perfect edge to Burke’s stories.

Check out James talking about his audio books and then give Will’s narration sample a listen.

Hear Patton read an excerpt from Feast Day of Fools here, and visit James online here!