Category Archives: Uncategorized

David Nemeth Interviews Me in ‘Suspect’s Viewpoint’

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by David Nemeth for Suspect’s Viewpoint,  on Unlawful Acts.

Below is an excerpt.

David: Let’s talk about your story, “Rats”. I mentioned in my review, the story uliam sweeny - suspect's viewpointnmasked a fear that I think many of us have, that we are all precariously situated in our lives. In crime fiction, there’s always a certain amount of fear but it is always removed far from the reader. With “Rats” and other stories, the reader can absolutely picture themselves in these difficult situations. With many in the States one or two steps away from financial ruin, can you talk about how you relate your storytelling these sorts of situations and even those caused by a few bad decisions?

Liam: I want to split open the social construct that says that if you live on the street, or you’re poor, or struggling, that you’re, at best, society’s cautionary tale. We’ve been conditioned to believe that if you’re doing well, it’s because you deserve it, that it was solely because of your character, and nothing else. Only occasionally that’s true. And we’re also conditioned to believe the opposite; if you’re down and out, you must deserve it, and be of weak moral character. Again, only occasionally is that true.

But reality encroaches. We see homeless families that work two jobs and live out of a van. We see homeless veterans. And we feel like we have to explain that away, because the truth, that someone can do right in their life and still wind up busted and broken – that’s a terrifying reveal. In “Rats,” both main characters wound up on the streets for reasons other than a faulty character. And that’s the “crime” of that story – not any crime they’ve committed, but the crime of their very existence.

You can find the full article on Unlawful Acts.

‘Presiding Over the Damned’ is available for Amazon Pre-Order

In the sequel to the Jack LeClere detective series, Presiding Over the Damned, Jack must face his most explosive case… and his most heartbreaking victim.

It is available for Pre-Order from Amazon

From PRLog:

TAMPA, Fla. – May 1, 2018 – PRLog — Down & Out Books is pleased to announce that PRESIDING OVER THE DAMNED, the second Jack LeClere thriller by Liam Sweeny, will be published on August 20, 2018 in trade paperback and ebook formats.

About PRESIDING OVER THE DAMNED …

An arson in New Rhodes reveals the body of Julia Mae Jefferson, an eight-year-old African American girl in the city’s North Central District. Jack LeClere, the top homicide detective in the New Rhodes Police Department, is paired with a new partner for the case, Clyde Burris, a former New York City homicide-turned- New Rhodes PD Internal Affairs detective. Jack and Burris have a mutual distrust of each other, but that’s the least of their worries. In the heat of the ashes of that row-house, the search for a brutal killer awaits.

Presiding Over the Damned Book Cover
Presiding Over the Damned Book Cover

Julia Mae’s world was one of neglect—of a child, and in fact, many of the North Central children—falling through the cracks. Jack and Burris follow her through those cracks and discover an underbelly of abuse and an industry of exploitation in the guise of a daycare center called Mount Vision. Jack and Burris, through their own struggle to build trust in a city where little can be found, find something that even the most cynical activists could never have imagined—a true wolf in sheep’s clothing, and a monster with an SS tattoo and a rebel flag in his window.

To give Julia Mae justice, Jack, Burris and Marcus Ellison must make a temporary peace, and the city must come face-to-face with the fruits of its indifference.

Meet the author …

Liam Sweeny is an author and graphic designer from the Capital Region of New York State. His work has appeared both online and in print, in such periodicals as Spinetingler Magazine, Thuglit, All Due Respect, Pulp Modern and So It Goes: the Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. He is the author of the collection Dead Man’s Switch and the first detective thriller in the Jack LeClere series, Welcome Back, Jack.

Celebrating seven years as an independent publisher of award-winning literary and crime fiction, Down & Out Books (https://downandoutbooks.com) is based in Tampa, Florida. For more information about the book, to request a review copy of the book, or to inquire about an interview with the author, contact lance@downandoutbooks.com.

Down With the Sickness

Wow. My God. I quit smoking at the point of a stethoscope, the doctor in the Emergency Room of Samaritan Hospital listened to my death-rattle as I waited for the standard talk, the “you’re going to keep coming in here for this” spiel, to which I’d respond, “Yeah, I know, I know…” But it didn’t come. I figured he just forgot, but that’s not what doctors do… He gave up. He could hear in my death rattle the thousand times I said “Yeah, I know, I know…” to other docs, and how I’d probably be breathing air through a full-filter by the time I hit the parking lot. I had become the hopeless; the damned of the smoking areas.

But I’d had it myself. I think the more people nag you, the more you carry on the bad habit as kick-back. It’s when everyone leaves you alone that the last disapproving voice remains; your own. So, on Christmas Day of 2015, after leaving the ER, I quit. No patch, no gum, just a little fever, chills, a truckload of aggravation and irritation, and staying away from people for a while. I quit, and it’s been over two years, but I know I could always go back. It’s a giant monster that is still capable of swinging through my brochial forest grabbing stands of deadened alveoli.

I smoked approximately eighteen-thousand-and-sixty-seven packs of cigarettes in my life. Packs, not cigs. Packs. I’ll probably catch bronchitis for the rest of my life. I fear going to get a lung cancer screening. I didn’t have to go to the Emergency Room this time, and that’s probably because I quit two years ago.

As a kid, I never thought that middle age would be like this. Hell, I never thought middle age would be. I told my Physics teacher, Mr. Parisi (oddly enough, in a smoking cessation class,) when he asked what I thought was going to happen when I was forty, that I hoped to be dead by then, and he said, wait till you’re thirty-night and think that. Boy, shit, wasn’t he right as rain when I turned thirty-nine. I owe him a beer one of these days.

When we’re kids, we act like middle age don’t exist, and for a small few beloved, it never does, but for the rest of us, we wake up and one day the big 4-0 is a date you can glance at on the kitchen calendar and the kids at the store call you ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ un-ironically. You’re not dressing up to look “new” any more; you’re just trying to match that good picture you took five years ago, the one you didn’t pay a second mind to then, but it’s one of the few you have left.

So, with all of this rant, my birthday is in three days, and my lungs are butter. I couldn’t blow out a cake with the right amount of candles. My parents are deep-cooking a slap of corned beef – all day, with cabbage and soda bread – and maybe I’ll be able to taste it. I may actually be sick over three Nor’easters. I love Nor’easters, and I’ve had to love from afar.

The moral of the story? Buy my book. I need Luden’s. Also, if you’re young, and you think you won’t outlive the consequences of your shitty decisions, you probably will. Moderation is your friend. Take it out with you when you go partying. Ain’t nothing sadder than a cat that used to hang.

 

ADR Talks With Liam Sweeny, Author of Street Whispers

Liam Sweeny is the author of Street Whispers, a short story collection out today. It’s an eclectic collection of pulp, grit and noir stories inspired by the Capital Region of New York, a rust-belt crossroads in the shadow of the city that never sleeps.

ADR: The stories in your collection mostly take place in the Capital Region of New York state, nearby to Albany and Troy for those unfamiliar with the area. Are there any other authors writing about this region? Why do you find that the region is a good setting for crime fiction?  

LS: I live in the city of Cohoes, which is north of Albany, across the Hudson River northwest of the Troy city center. The area was written about famously by the author William Kennedy in the books Ironweed, Legs, possibly others, I’m not sure. Caleb Carr, author of the Alienist series, lives in Rensselaer County, Troy’s county, and he wrote the book Surrender New York, a story that takes place in a fictionalized version of Rensselaer County. James Howard Kuntzler’s World Made by Hand dystopian series takes place in a fictionalized city just north of here. And there was the movie The Place Beyond the Pines with Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendez was about, and shot in and around the Capital Region city of Schenectady.

The Capital District is a very old place. Albany, in its incarnations, has been around for four hundred years. It was a fort, a Dutch trading post, a barrier to the British conquest of New England (the capital district includes Saratoga.) The Continental Army set up camp in my back yard, quite literally. And later, with the construction of the Erie Canal, this area boomed, and was home to many firsts, specifically in industrialization. Troy was the first steel capital before Pittsburgh, and Cohoes was the home of the first industrial textile mill.  Troy also had a few cultural claims to fame, the “Home of Uncle Sam,” and the home of “The Night Before Christmas,” and it’s a mark of belonging in Troy to know the story of meatpacker Sam Wilson and the Troy Sentinel newspaper article in 1823.

It boomed and it busted, and is struggling to boom again, to hide the scars of vacant concrete factories and the curbside litter that speaks to the dissolution of neighborhoods that, at one time, took care of their streets. We have nanotech and polytech and, I think, seven or eight colleges, and we have people working three jobs to afford a studio apartment, basic bills and food for the week. And that’s something that’s happening everywhere. But people here still wake up each morning with pride that they live in what could rightfully be considered a cradle of America.

As one last note, this area is the intersection of the Interstates 90 and 87, which make it a crossroads of the Northeast. We get enough drift from that to keep things interesting.

ADR: Which other short story writers did you consider influential on your work? Who else are you reading in crime fiction right now?

LS: I was named after Liam O’Flaherty, and I was exposed to some of his stories at an early age. I mean, they’re dark as hell. Grit like a sanding belt, and they opened my eyes up to the period in Ireland that he wrote about. It was one of the first times I was awakened from the fictions we have in this country to a new reality: The Ireland of shamrocks and leprechauns to the one of stark Catholicism and the visceral sacrifice of a man to cold industry. Kurt Vonnegut was another influence, I mean, not the same as O’Flaherty, but I liked his ability to dash your expectations of a character’s moral standing. He showed the fragility of judgmentalism. In my time of coming out with plot twists in short stories, I could always feel that groove. Also, Steve Weddle, and his book Country Hardball, showed me a side of country life that resonated with the fact that deep country is only ten miles out in any direction from here, and made me want to set stories in some of the outlying towns.

Right now, I just finished Joe Clifford’s Broken Ground, which isn’t out yet, but is in the Jay Porter series that I’ve been following faithfully. I also just finished Eryk Pruitt’s What We Reckon, which was an incredible standalone, and I hope he follows that up. I’m currently reading Tom Pitts, American Static, and am just getting into Jen Conley’s Cannibals. I’m waiting for Ryan Sayles’s Albatross. I am thinking of re-reading Les Edgerton’s Death of Tarpons, which may not specifically qualify as crime fiction, but it is told by a master of the genre, so I’ll count it.

Read the rest of the article on All Due Respect

My Book Launch and the Back to the Eighties Night Party

DSC_0018(1)Yesterday was Pub Day for my new collection of short stories, Street Whispers (which you can now buy here.) And of course, part of the whole fun of having a Pub Day is having a book launch, typically done in a book store, sometimes in a writer-friendly coffee shop or bar. My last book launch was in a bar, and it wasn’t a big draw, though being asked to sign a patron’s breasts was “of note.”

Auditioning ActAnyway, Phil Sawyer, good friend and undeclared ambassador of the Capital Region, owns Auditioning Act Entertainment DJ Service, an interactive audio-video extravaganza that can just show up anywhere and unleash the rhythm and the blues, the jazz and the funk, the laser lights and the video stars. Well it just so happened that he was throwing the Back to the Eighties Night party at the Ukranian-American Citizen’s Club on my home island, in my hometown of Cohoes, and he said to me, “Sween, throw your book launch there! Chuck books at people. Draw dirty pictures of ’em on the title pages. Go nuts, do whatever the hell ya want, kid!”

Now, Phil’s a good friend, and I gave him a couple of fictional shout-outs in the book, so I was down with that idea. And I’m glad I did. This party was amazing. I mean, just hordes of mullets, motorcycle jackets, oversized rock T-shirts, leggings, and Aquanet coiffures rekindling the flames of rebellion against a backdrop of raw, winner-take-all Wall Street greed. The rockers, the misfits, the kids smoking around the corner of their high-schools, planning for the kegger on the tracks later on that night.

Phil had shit locked down, too. I can’t think of too many fine-ass eighties songs I didn’t have imprinted on my mind in that spot where I keep the voice of Ronald Reagan saying “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” The laser show was nuts; hell, I was abandoning IMG_1202my post here and there just to bathe in it a little bit. There were four bartenders and a revolving door of thirsty people fifty deep. Seriously, though, little Rubik’s cubes flying through the air, a smiley-face beach ball making its rounds foot-to-foot, unplugged microphones on stands with bandannas tied to them court people singing anyway cause it was all good. No cops called, but who’s to say they weren’t there? Everybody was there.

So yeah, I sold some books. I didn’t sign breasts, but I think that’s a one-off thing. Plus I wasn’t equipped with a Sharpie, or telling anybody I would. But I sold some books, and got to hang out with a ton of great people. I do have some books left, so if anyone local is reading this, I’ve got a few I can sign and send. But all in all, I am always going to try to launch my books inside a cool party when I can. And AAEDJS is number one on my speed dial for that.

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It’s Pub Day (Look What We Made, Everybody!)

Today is finally here; Pub Day. My newest book is live, and I hope that somewhere right now, there’s an eager mind walking into the Jade Club, or remembering that they met David under the underpass last night on their way to the OTB. Or there’s a few people with that oh-so-giddy feeling that something neat is coming by post. ‘Cause all bills and junk mail just sucks, right?

For me, Pub Day is an irregular holiday. I’n a way, it’s like a birthday, but I’m not the one being born. It’s like my kid’s birthday, without the screaming, puking, burping and unconditional love. I wish I could tell you all how much goes into getting a book published. Fuck it, I will.

I’m not going to talk about taking your laptop and matching scarf into that trendy coffee shop and pretending you think best with an audience. I mean, shit, you might, but the writers I know that hit coffee shops are in it for the free WiFi and coffee they don’t have to make themselves. We’re talking people in the zone, man, like, crazy shit and search histories that would shock your kids. Seriously, we have to apologize to the NSA on Facebook so that hopefully they’ll keep our names on fewer lists. Writing can be the loneliest thing in the world, yet we endure our loneliness together, like we’re all getting the same torture, so it sucks, but hey, it’s something to talk about.

But it all means something when a publisher or agent says they want to see more. In my case, today, it was Chris Rhatigan, the publisher of All Due Respect Books, a purveyor of lowlife fiction, a rough track newly acquired by Florida-based scene starter Down & Out Books. Chris wanted to see a collection. He’d seen my jams before, and he was looking to throw a little heat out in the winter line-up. And I looked far and wide for a set of tales to give him. He’s a tough customer. But as I was collecting stories, I noticed they were all set (mentally) in the Capital Region. Which is weird for me, because usually, I’m all over the map. Needless to say, we got a short, quick snappy collection with just the right punches in just the right places.

But that’s really where another process begins. Editing; preparing the raw psychic explosion of storytelling into the refined communication that anyone picking up that story will flow through without any of the author’s arcane idiosyncrasies tripping them up. It’s laborious, and I had to make some hard choices, and bash my head against a wall once or twice (figuratively.) Because putting a book together is a team effort. I know a lot of people (and I used to be one of them) that think that they can do it all on their own, but that shows up in the finished product, and unfortunately, the writer will be the last to know, ’cause people are tactful before they’re honest. By the time this was truly ready for print, Chris Rhatigan (And Math Bird) had pounded it into something I could be proud of.

I will say that I was allowed to work on the cover. You can see it; I think it speaks for itself. It’s simple. But even that, I had many rounds with Chris, and Eric Campbell and Lance Wright from Down & Out. See, when people think of the indie scene, they may not realize the amount of effort and expertise that goes into fine details at some of the small, but known publishers. And they have pennies on the hundred-dollar bills that the big publishers have to do it.

So, Pub Day. I’m having a book launch, sort of. Auditioning Act Entertainment DJ Service, a company owned friend and all-around good guy Phil Sawyer, is having a Back to the Eighties Night on the island. I’m thinking, with a cash bar and a laser-light show and eighties video on the walls, I gotta end my Pub Day slinging books through lasers at “winners”, cause I see myself charging good party-goers when it’s too dark to read them there. But it will be fun, and books will change hands, and photos will be taken.

So this is Pub Day.

Stone Discs and Writing for the Love

I was in my local convenience store, flush from “book pub day.” For those of you who aren’t writers, “book pub day” is the day your book comes out, although on this day, my book wasn’t technically “out” yet, but I had gotten my copies in the mail. Long story short, it’s the completion of one process, and the beginning of another process that makes the writing world go ’round. And on this great day, I ran into an old friend, and we chatted up writing – and I gave him a copy, as you tend to be a bit generous on book pub day. And as it is with any creative pursuit, we talk about ‘doing it for the love,’ as it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense these days to be doing it for the money.

Now I agreed that it’s really a labor of love, not like it was an insult or anything. Hell, I think that most writers I know realize that a certain amount of love of the art helps us all sleep at night (some of us at our keyboards.) But later, now even, I have to think; how much of the effort, the concentration, the blocks and epiphanies, the anxieties and triumphs that, if any other person caught wind of them, would see them as something minor and insignificant, is done “for the love?” Because people collect stamps and create intricate lace doilies for the love. Is what we do something else?

To say that it’s not wouldn’t be accurate. When I reach in deep and my fingers are tapping words and phrases with the grace of a classical pianist, or the flow of a jazz ensemble, there’s love there. But there’s something deeper. It’s a fundamental understanding of why I write, and I suspect it’s similar for most writers. Why I write is about what purpose I hope my writing serves.

And now, onto stone discs. I found these discs called M-Discs. They’re DVDs; they burn the ones and zeroes into a synthetic mineral layer. So they burn data into rock. Short of snapping them in two, they can hold data for a thousand years. So I think about this, a thousand years. Think of all the things we don’t know about the year 1018. I mean, yeah, we know things. We know “the order of things” around the world, generally. But most people couldn’t read, and writing was a luxury for the clergy. Hell, “English,” as we know it, didn’t exist yet. And yet we are sitting in 2018, reading this, and we all get published every time we hit “post” or “send” and the world literacy rate is close to eighty-seven percent and how many people read when they don’t have to?

I don’t write for the love of it. I write because we owe that archaeologist a thousand years from here something that speaks above and beyond the endless stream of white noise and mind-candy in which we are awash right now. We have a talent, and a drive and patience and we have to use those things to chronicle, witness, lambaste and hyperbolize a time that is moving so fast that the archaeologists might not be looking from a thousand years away, but maybe a hundred, after the bombs drop and the radiation clears.

Maybe we love the craft, or maybe we love the solemn underlying obligation of the art. Maybe we’re just telling histories that haven’t happened yet.