I'm not a writer because writing's easy for me. I'm in it for the hot chicks and big checks! (Memo to self: So, wait...why are you still doing this?)
Writing is actually so un-easy for me the old Thomas Mann quote hits pretty close to home: "A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. Even something as seemingly simple as a frickin' blog post is a real pain in the arse to do. I mean, it's like, 'Here I am staring at the damn screen not knowing what to say again. ARGH!!! Why didn't I take up knitting?'"
(I added all the stuff after "more difficult than it is for other people," BTW. But I have the feeling ol' Tom would've shared my pain if he'd had to do self promotion via social media.)
This year, I've tried to simplify things for myself by sticking to one goal: I'm finally going to write a sixth "Holmes on the Range" novel. (Well, I suppose I really have two goals: I'm finally going to write a sixth "Holmes on the Range" novel and I need to remind people about it every now and then so someone will actually read the thing when it's ready. Hence this frickin' blog post. ARGH!!!) I'd hoped to write a new "Holmes on the Range" short story for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine as a sort of warm-up for the novel, but I didn't get to it before the end of 2016, so now it's tabled.
But here's the miraculous thing: Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer are already back in the pages of EQMM, and I didn't have to lift a finger to get them there. All the finger-lifting (and fingers-hitting-keyboard) came courtesy of Jonathan Turner, who included the Amlingmeyers in his spot-on Sherlockian pastiche "The Adventure of the Disguised Passenger." Jonathan knows and understands my heroes so well I even wrote a tribute of sorts to him a few years ago, and it was amazing (and a little frightening) to see how well he'd captured Big Red's voice in a section of his story. (Why frightening? I'm replaceable!)
Check out the January/February issue of EQMM for "The Adventure of the Disguised Passenger" -- and a bit of a sneak preview of my upcoming "Holmes on the Range" novel. (Jonathan's story takes place a year after the last HOTR book, World's Greatest Sleuth!, so it offers readers a peek at the Amlingmeyers' future.)
Now -- back to the hot chicks and big checks!
I've been revisiting a series by a favorite author of mine recently. It had been a while since I'd read it, so it's been interesting to return to the books and see if they stand up. I'm happy to report that they do.
The "Holmes on the Range" series is actually good!
Or World's Greatest Sleuth! and On the Wrong Track are, anyway. I haven't gotten to The Black Dove and The Crack in the Lens yet. But I have high hopes.
I'm going through novels #2-#5 in the series to (A) get them ready for re-publishing and (B) get myself ready to write novel #6. What I've learned (or simply remembered) so far:
It's not just the original novels I'm revisiting as I rev up to revive the series, by the way. I've also been checking back in with all the things that inspired the series in the first place. I've been reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Rex Stout and Agatha Christie. I've been watching Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot and The Thin Man and Westerns and The (original!) Avengers.
Here's hoping the fun continues even after the brain cells start frying again.
Repeat after me: Be funny. Be clever. Be funny. Be clever...
Or maybe I should say, "Celebrate, a select few! The day 60% of you have been waiting for has finally arrived!" Because according to my exhaustive research -- O.K., it was one lousy poll a long time ago -- that's how many of you have been coming to this website looking for a specific bit of news.
"What specific bit of news is that?" I hear you ask. (I have really good hearing.) It's this: The "Holmes on the Range" series is back!
Well, will be back. Soon. Ish. Provided you're willing to define "in about a year" as "Soon. Ish." Here's the deal.
Once upon a time, Minotaur Books pulled the plug on the series. They could do that because they were the publisher and publishers get to do stuff like that no matter how much it bums the rest of us out. But there was a way to bring back our mystery-solving cowboy heroes, Big Red and Old Red. It just required lots of patience.
Once the original books had been out long enough, I could start asking Minotaur to give me back the rights. So I did. And they said no. So I asked again. And they said no. So I asked again. And they said yes...to one book. So I asked again. And they said yes...to three more books. And I stopped asking.
All four sequels to Holmes on the Range -- On the Wrong Track, The Black Dove, The Crack in the Lens and World's Greatest Sleuth! -- belong to me now. My plan: reissue them, then write a fifth sequel. Then a sixth. Then a seventh. Then a ninth. (The eighth sequel is always a letdown, don't you think? I figure I'll skip it.)
Long story short (or is it too late for that?): The new-and-improved edition of World's Greatest Sleuth! went on sale a few days ago, and the rest of the original books will start popping up in redesigned packaging between now and the end of the year. Once that's done, it's on to Holmes on the Range #6, which will come out (and this is one of the great things about self-publishing) whenever the heck I finish it.
Tease #1: Subscribers to my e-newsletter got this news over the weekend, and they already know what the sixth novel is going to be called.
Tease #2 (or maybe it's more of a Taunt): I gave away a bunch of free books to e-newsletter subscribers, too. So, you know...hint hint.
Something I didn't tell the e-newsletter crowd (because I can only make those e-newsletters so long before none of the crowd will read them): The fantabulous new cover for World's Greatest Sleuth! was supplied by the equally fantabulous folks at Alchemy Book Covers and Design, and I'll be sharing more of their fantabulous work in the fantabulous (hopefully) weeks ahead.
So stay tuned, 60% of you! As for the other 40% -- well, I'd love it if you stuck around, too. This self-publishing thing is gonna be tricky, and if it's gonna work I'll need as close to 100% of you as I can get....
To most Americans, they're a one-hit wonder. For me, they've been a nearly lifelong obsession. And now, 33 years after I discovered the English band Madness, they've become even more to me: They're role models.
Most visitors to this site might -- might -- know Madness from their early '80s hit "Our House." You know. That peppy pop ditty about the guys with a house in the middle of their street? It was the band's one and only top 40 moment stateside, but they were major hitmakers back in the U.K. Although I liked "Our House," it was a different Madness single -- the euphoric "Wings of a Dove" -- that sent me scurrying to the local Camelot after I caught the giddy video on MTV.
Tracking down the band's back catalog was actually a big challenge for a kid growing up in rural West Virginia. But that was part of the appeal. No Def Leppard or Duran Duran for me. That stuff was for the other kids. I wanted to be unique! I wanted a challenge! I wanted to blow countless hours scouring cut-out bins for obscure imports!
But my devotion wasn't simply a pose or being a completist. The band's songs really did speak to me in a way that most other pop music didn't. Which was a little ironic given that the lyrics were often so profoundly, inscrutably English I wasn't quite sure what Suggs, the lead singer, was going on about. It took about 1,000 listens to my favorite Madness song, the cheerfully anarchic "House of Fun," before I realized it wasn't an ode to reaching the drinking age and buying yourself a beer.
Yet even without always understanding the meaning, I deeply felt the mood. The best Madness songs were sweet pop chocolate coating a gooey center of sadness. They weren't afraid to be silly -- sometimes very silly -- but they weren't afraid to be wistful and melancholy either.
That was an appealing combination for a kid who was trying to smile through his own isolation and dejection. So Madness and I bonded. Or I bonded with Madness, anyway. And I stayed loyal to that bond even as the band traveled the now-familiar pop-act trajectory: fading chart fortunes, lineup changes, a breakup, an abortive reunion, a successful reunion, a hiatus, another reunion, another shakeup, etc.
For a diehard fan, I'm actually pretty damn lucky. The last three decades would've been a lot more frustrating if I'd been a Dexys Midnight Runners fanatic. (Don't laugh: It could've happened. I actually kind of like that band.) Though Madness haven't had a hit single in Britain so far this century -- their last top 10 song came out in 1999 -- they still tour constantly. They even come to the West Coast from time to time, and I've seen my heroes live twice. As transcendent as those concert experiences were, what's even more important to me is knowing that new Madness music is on its way. And it usually is...at its own slow pace.
Back in the band's '80s heyday, they wrote more than one song about record label pressure to churn out another chart-topper. But these days they're in no hurry. In the last 17 years they've put out three (soon to be four) albums of new material. And the most recent ones all have one thing in common: no record label. Starting with the ambitious, critically praised "The Liberty of Norton Folgate" in 2009, Madness has been releasing its albums on its own.
Is it a coincidence that the band went its own way and promptly produced a classic? Well...yes. Because they were still going their own way when they released the tepid, uninspired (to this loyal listener) followup, "Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da." But hey -- even mediocre new Madness is still new Madness, and I'm grateful that the band has the freedom to record and release what they want, when they want.
Today I pre-ordered the double album special edition of the band's latest, "Can't Touch Us Now." Because dammit -- that's the kind of fan I am. And you know what? I'm not going to sell out any stadiums anytime soon, but I like to think I have some fans like that, too. Which is why I recently took steps to give myself the kind of creative freedom Madness has.
Where will those steps take me? Places old, places new, places scary, places fun...and I hope you'll be stepping along with me the whole way.
There are certain moments a writer dreads. Reading an email that begins "Thank you for your submission, but...." Seeing a one-star review pop up on Amazon. Finding one of your own books in the remainder bin — or, even worse, realizing you're not in the damn Barnes & Noble in any way whatsoever.
I've been through them all. More than once. More than twice. More than...well, lots. And for a long, long time, I let each experience mark me. I'd see the rejection, the bad review, the nothing where my books ought to be, and I'd feel the rubber stamp smacking into my forehead.
Back when I used to go to mystery conventions like Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime, it would happen, too. I'd muff some conversation, screw up an inscription, notice that Writer X was signing waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more books than me, and I'd feel it.
It got really bad a while back when I found myself, for the first time in years, without a book contract. Money got tight. Mickey Rourke's cheeks after his fourth facelift tight. So tight my wife started to give me a running countdown to doom.
Her: "We have six months before we run out of money."
Her: "We have five months before we run out of money."
Her: "We have four months before we run out of money."
Her: "You got a royalty check today."
Her: "Yeah. Yippee. We have five months before we run out of money."
It got so that every bag of groceries I bought, every round of drinks I picked up, every book or movie I treated myself to — each one was simply another step closer to an empty bank account, foreclosure, disaster.
Eventually, I reached the moment every professional writer really dreads. The moment you realize you can't be a professional writer anymore. Not of the "make up fun crap in your pajamas all day" variety, anyway. It was time to go back to a day job.
Of course, Fate being the perverted biyatch she is, the second I landed a 9-to-5 gig, contracts started flying at me. Suddenly I had three series to write...and no time to write them. So a "Tarot Mystery" was a little late. Then a "Nick and Tesla" book was really late. Then another "Tarot Mystery" was reeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaalllllllllllly late. I was a pro again, as I'd defined it, but I was stressed out and burned out and disappointed in myself for letting my editors down. And you know what?
I'd reached the ultimate FAIL, in fact: Writing was making me unhappy. It had been for a long time, I realized. Because how can you be happy with that FAIL FAIL FAIL constantly whacking you in the face?
And who was doing the whacking? Not editors, not agents, not snarky reviewers, not even Fate.
It was me.
I'd sold X books and X + Y stories and I'd been a finalist for X - Z awards and I had X x X readers who like my stuff. And, yeah, O.K., I had to have a day job. But it was a stable one I actually liked. Which meant I didn't need book contracts to feed my family anymore. Yet somehow I was still a failure?
Nope. That kind of thinking was a FAIL right there. It was time to knock it off.
The countdown to financial doom has been aborted. I have the freedom to write whatever I want. There are people out there who've been patiently waiting for me to do something with that freedom. And I'm done judging myself.
My new slogan: MAKE WRITING FUN AGAIN. Which makes me happy.
Like most writers, I would love to see one of my books or stories turned into a movie. (I say "most" because there are people like J.D. Salinger and Alan Moore out there -- writers who would either be appalled to see Hollywood besmirch their precious art or who've already seen their art besmirched so much any producer who came within arms length would be immediately garroted with an issue of Variety.) But though you won't find me in the Internet Movie Database*, I have had a few ships-passing-in-the-night moments with the film biz.
Actor A and Actor B were interested in Property C once upon a time. Friend D tried to talk Actor E into optioning Book F, and Friend G tried to do the same with Actor H. Producer I tried to interest Director J in Series K (unsuccessfully). Film Agent L told me that everyone at Company M loved all my books. (This was about six months before my first book came out.) Scripts were written based on Stories N and O. Etc. etc. etc., right on through to Z. But nothing's come of any of it.
So the closest I might ever get to a film adaptation of my work is this: I wrote the prequel and sequel to a book that was recently turned into a not very successful (though, IMHO, pretty entertaining) movie. Hey, it's something, right?
If Amazon is to be believed, both my books have gotten a nice little sales bump from the film's release. Why wouldn't we believe Amazon? Because according to the Amazon Kindle page for the sequel, the prequel doesn't exist: It lists only two novels in the series instead of three.
Which means there are going to be some bewildered readers out there. In fact, one of them recently reached out to me via Twitter to ask which of the two "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" books she should read before seeing the movie.
So as a public service to her and anyone else who's confused, here's a quick guide to reading the PPZ series.
Publication Order/Possible Reading Order #1
(1) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
(2) Dawn of the Dreadfuls
(3) Dreadfully Ever After
Possible Reading Order #2
(1) Dawn of the Dreadfuls
(2) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
(3) Dreadfully Ever After
Preferred Reading Order
(1) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
(2) Dawn of the Dreadfuls
(3) Dreadfully Ever After
(4) Cadaver in Chief
(5) The White Magic Five and Dime
(6) Fool Me Once
(7) Holmes on the Range
(8) On the Wrong Track
(9) The Black Dove
(10) The Crack in the Lens
(11) World's Greatest Sleuth!
(12) Dear Mr. Holmes: Seven Holmes on the Range Mysteries
(13) Blarney: 12 Tales of Lies, Crime and Mystery
(14) Naughty: Nine Tales of Christmas Crime
(15) Whichever book of mine comes out next
*Actually, I just checked, and you will find me in the Internet Movie Database. It's just my name and a blank screen, though. Sums it all up nicely, eh?
"Truth is stranger than fiction," they say. And whoever "they" are, they're right -- even when the fiction is about the impact the living dead would have on a presidential campaign.
A few years back, I wrote a novella called Cadaver in Chief: A Special Report from the Dawn of the Zombie Apocalypse. It was part Dawn of the Dead, part Shaun of the Dead and part All the President's Men (with a little sliver of They Live). The premise: What if the dead rose from their graves...and American politics as usual just kept chugging right along?
It was (and still is) one of my favorite things I've ever created because (A) I felt it was pretty darned funny but more importantly (B) it was honest. No other fiction I'd written had allowed me to so directly ridicule the stuff that drives me nuts about modern American life.
Shallow, celebrity-obsessed media. Anti-intellectual demagoguery. Manipulative marketing and magpie materialism. Head-in-the-sand denial. Decaying democracy. Phony baloney politicians on both sides of the aisle. You know -- all the things that could doom our great nation to the dustbin of history. Hilarious, right?
Well, yeah. I thought so. But since novellas fall into the literary Dead Zone -- too long for most short story markets, too short to sell as a novel -- I had no choice but to publish it myself. Which I did. I then got to see just how dead the Dead Zone can be. (Translation: It has not sold like hot cakes. It has sold like cold, moldy cakes.)
That the novella didn't reach more readers was a big disappointment. But I always held out hope that an audience would find it one day. After all, we had some real presidential campaigns coming up. Everything I was mocking in Cadaver in Chief was going to be in the spotlight for many an interminable, infuriating month. Or so I thought.
Then a strange thing happened. The politicians I'd taken aim at -- the rote, soulless creatures driven only by an insatiable hunger for votes -- got shoved into the background. And the candidates doing the shoving (and surging in the polls because of it) aren't the predictable meat puppets I'd satirized. They aren't zombies.
Which isn't to say they aren't monsters. It's just not obvious what kind they are anymore. At the moment, I'm reminded of the Tasmanian Devil -- a drooling, spluttering dynamo of pure destructive energy. But maybe they'll turn out to be werewolves or mummies or dragons or Daleks. (I wouldn't be shocked to hear some of them chanting "Ex-ter-min-ate! Ex-ter-min-ate!") One thing I know they're not: vampires. They aren't that smooth.
But no -- they aren't zombies either. There's life in them. And if there's one thing they treasure, it sure as heck ain't brains.
Does all this mean Cadaver in Chief is no longer valid or meaningful or funny? My fellow Americans, I assure you that's not the case. It's just that the target has shifted a bit. And if I want to hit it squarely again, it might take Cadaver in Chief 2 to do it....
I'm Steve Hockensmith, and I approved this message (whatever it is).
I've been reading a lot of nonfiction about the Old West on my Kindle lately, mainly because (A) it's research for the new "Holmes on the Range" novel I keep not finding time to write and (B) I really need something to distract me from Judge Judy when I'm at the gym. (With its unvarnished portrait of the modern everyman's cupidity and stupidity, Judge Judy should be the most depressing thing on television...and would be if it weren't for just about everything else on television.)
I used to think I had a decent handle on what life was like on the frontier of the late 1800s. Hey, I've seen Blazing Saddles, like, five times! (Oh, and I've read a bunch of books about cowboys and cattle ranching, too.)
Yet a lot of what I've been reading lately has taken me by surprise. News flash: Blazing Saddles is not a documentary. Nor are Rio Bravo, High Noon, A Fistful of Dollars or Shane. (Though, come to think of it, Shane's not really that far off compared to the others.) Of course, I never thought that Hollywood was in anything but the fantasy business. But I still wasn't expecting some of the realities that Hollywood and many writers of Western novels have usually ignored.
Two books in particular opened my eyes...even as they sometimes made it hard to keep those eyes open. Mark T. Smokov's He Rode with Butch and Sundance: The Story of Harvey "Kid Curry" Logan and Jeffrey Burton's The Deadliest Outlaws: The Ketchum Gang and the Wild Bunch both have really, really long titles. (I was going to end that sentence with a more developed thought, but after typing out those titles I was too tired.) Both books are also exhaustively researched -- and, as a result, a bit exhausting to read, especially for someone who isn't familiar with the contentious intricacies of Old West scholarship. (Of course, it probably didn't help that I was trying to suss out those intricacies while sweating on a StairMaster, Judge Judy glowering at me from a large-screen TV about three feet from my face.)
Yet even though I still have a hard time remembering the difference between Harvey "Kid Curry" Logan and George "Flat-nose" Curry and the dreaded Chicken "Curry" Withrice, I did glean a few facts that will find their way into a "Holmes on the Range" tale sooner or later. For instance:
People used to shack up with each other
In your classic Westerns, there are basically two types of women: virtuous pioneer wives and school marms on the one hand, cackling saloon floozies on the other. Madonna, meet Whore. The notion of premarital wink-wink-nudge-nudge with any woman but a you-know-what is out of the question, and the sanctity of marriage is a given. Yet the books I've been reading are filled with common law marriages, infidelities, annulments, divorces, bigamy and plain old-fashioned hook-ups. Guess what, friends: Even 100-plus years ago, both men and women liked sex (there -- I said it!), and they weren't always as uptight about getting it as later generations would have us believe.
People moved around
"Duh," you say. "You can't be a pioneer if you don't go someplace new." Well, don't "Duh" me, pal! Here's my point: Once the settlers settled, a lot of them (or their kids, anyway) tended to un-settle themselves. Not only do the outlaws in Smokov and Burton's books drift around a lot -- putting in a summer breaking horses here before buying an interest in a restaurant there before just lying around drinking for five or six months way the heck over there -- they weren't the only ones. Many of the more law-abiding types were restless, too, trying their luck at something new someplace new every year or two. On Gunsmoke, Marshal Dillon, Kitty and Doc hung around Dodge City for 20 years. In the real West, they probably wouldn't have lasted 20 months.
People knew each other
"Duh," you say again. "Why wouldn't people on the frontier know -- ?" Stop duh-ing me! Geez, I hadn't even started explaining myself yet. The gist is this: Because so many people were moving around so much, and because the West was so sparsely populated, everyone seems to cross paths with everyone else at one point or another. So when an outlaw is on the run in Wyoming, there's a fair chance he'll be spotted by some random shmoe who can say, "Hey, isn't that Chicken 'Curry' Withrice? You know -- of the West Texas Withrices?" Of course, there was a chance that the West Texas Withrices didn't really exist and Chicken's real name was John Smith, because --
People changed their names a lot
Another reason Smokov and Burton's narratives are so hard to follow is the sheer number of aliases used by their subjects. "After the Missouri Pacific holdup," they might write, "Withrice went to Lubbock where, under the name Bill Vindaloo, he renewed his acquaintance with Sally Biryani (a.k.a. Mary Elizabeth Masala), staying until he was spotted by Sheriff Jack 'Tandoori Joe' Chutney, who'd known him when he worked for local rancher James 'Joe Tandoori' Naan under the name Joseph 'Tandoori Jim' Kingfisher." It's not only confusing for a modern reader trying to block out Judge Judy. It was super-confusing for the lawmen of the time. Which is one of the reasons --
People got away with murder
"Duh," you start to say before catching yourself. "Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef shoot a bajillion guys in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." Good thing you didn't actually say that, because it misses the point. I'm talking about what CSI: Deadwood looked like. A crime scene investigation in the Old West seemed to go something like this. (1) Find the body. (2) Look around to see if anyone's standing nearby with a smoking gun. (3) Shrug. (4) Go home. Even if the notorious killer Chicken "Curry" Withrice is standing around nearby trying to look innocent, good luck proving he's anything but the itinerant Bible salesman he claims to be. "My name's Saul 'Psalms' Paneer," he'll say, "and I'm afraid I'm all out of Bibles." If you're lucky, you'll be able to hold him long enough for someone to recognize him. More likely, all you'll hear is, "Oh, he's not Psalms Paneer. That's Tandoori Jim Kingfisher, the Texas cowboy. He's harmless." But let's say someone does I.D. Chicken "Curry" Withrice, who was known to have a grudge against the victim, Bob Notnamedforindianfood. Well, then things would get really complicated, because --
People got lawyers
In a lot of Westerns, maybe even most, bullets settle everything. All you'll see in the way of an aftermath is a shot of bodies in the street or a gleeful undertaker. In reality, a killing inexorably led to something Westerns (and thrillers and action movies, for that matter) like to ignore: bureaucracy. There would be coroner's inquests, grand juries, indictments, warrants, motions to dismiss, jurisdiction disputes, trials, continuances, more motions to dismiss, more continuances, appeals, pardons and finally, maybe, the occasional legal hanging. Death, it turns out, could be just as tricky a business in the Wild West as it is today. But it's hardly surprising that filmmakers and writers ride around that fact. "You know what stories set in the Old West don't need more of?" you say. "Paperwork."
This website has an FAQ page, but there's a question I'm frequently asked that you won't see on it: "What the heck should I write about today?" It comes up approximately once a month — and I'm the one asking it. It's what I'm wondering every time I sit down to update this website. (I don't call this a blog anymore because blogs are updated more than once a month and I don't want to be accused of false advertising.)
Today the answer to my question was a resounding "I dunno." I mean, it was obvious what I should do: Pimp my latest book. But I'd already done that here, here and here. Oh, and here. Here, too. And here. Not to mention here. I was plumb pimped out.
So I started looking for inspiration (a.k.a. procrastinating) on social media. And then it hit me. I've got hundreds of lovely, smart friends on Facebook and Twitter. (How could they not be lovely and smart? They like me. Circulus in probando.) I should ask them what they want to know.
So I did.
Is there going to be another Amlingmeyer brothers book?
—Steve W., Windsor, Georgia
Absolutely! Look for it on sale sometime between October of 2016 and December of 2022! (I have a few scheduling issues to iron out.)
Is it true you stopped writing about the Amlingmeyers because someone outdrew them?
—Frederic E., Salem, Virginia
In a sense you're right, Frederic. Big Red and Old Red were dry-gulched by that most deadly of desperadoes, The Indifferent Publisher Kid. That is one hombre with a lot of notches on his Peacemaker! So many promising mystery series gunned down in the prime of life....
Who do you most frequently get mistaken for?
—Linda M. J., somewhere in New Jersey
My wife. My 12-year-old daughter has the disconcerting habit of accidentally calling me "Mom." Maybe I need to let my beard get a little bushier so it's more obvious which parent she's talking to.
Can you ride a horse?
—Sylvia V., somewhere in North America
I have spent a grand total of 90 minutes, six seconds in the saddle. That's spread out over three rides. Two, on tired old nags, lasted 45 minutes each. One, on a feisty young filly, lasted six seconds before I found myself airborne. So, yes — I can ride a horse. Whether I can ride one well is another question entirely (and one we probably have the answer to).
How many pairs of argyle socks do you have?
—Rita G.H., Spartanburg, South Carolina
2.5. Why I'm still hanging on to that one mismatched sock I don't know. How long are you supposed to keep a widowed sock before you give up hope that its mate will return from the Dryer Vortex (or wherever it is socks go when they disappear)?
How many Words with Friends games do you usually have going?
—Jorge R., Alhambra, California
A dozen. But there's always time for more. Challenge me, guys! I'm MrKateMojo.
If you lived in the 1800s, would you have been a writer, a newspaper man, a cowboy, a city slicker, a shop owner, a con or something else?
—Airieanne A., Earth
If my family history is any indication, I would have been either an unhappy farmer or an incompetent carpenter. Not that my ancestors were unhappy farmers or incompetent carpenters. They were just farmers and carpenters. I'm the one who would have been unhappy and/or incompetent. Viva la 21st century!
If you were in a pie fight, what kind of pie would you throw if you had to eat that same kind of pie every day for the rest of your life?
—Allan E., Vancouver, B.C.
This question posits the existence of the strangest alternate reality I've ever heard of: Earth-P, where pie fights (and draconian laws about them) are commonplace. I guess if I were trapped on such a world I'd throw a pizza pie. But then I'd start looking for a cosmic treadmill. (That's a deep-cut DC Comics reference, gang.)
If the English language were on fire and you could only save five words, which would they be?
—Daisy B., Alameda, California
I hope I'd have the presence of mind to go for "someone," "call," "the," "fire" and "department."
What question have you always wanted to be asked because you have a really spiffy answer, but no one has ever asked?
—Mike F., Earth-P
"I have a million bucks I don't need — you want it?" It's very disappointing that no one's asked me that yet. Three guesses what my spiffy answer would be.
Why are you unable to embrace "Driving in My Car" by Madness?
—Ron A., Everett, Washington
The long answer: Around the time Madness went into the studio to record their fourth album, The Rise & Fall, the band began experimenting with a song style that was deliberately discordant and rhythmically herky-jerky. It might have been an outgrowth of the success of "House of Fun," their most successful single up to that point. The band pushed the punchy, borderline cacophonous feel of "House of Fun" until it became something more dissonant and unmelodious. Examples on the The Rise & Fall include "Mr. Speaker (Gets the Word)" and "New Delhi." A single, released a few months before the album but not included on it, embodied this style: "Driving in My Car." Despite my deep and abiding love for Madness (a love demonstrated by the length of this answer), it's not a style I find satisfying. I don't think it's a coincidence that when Geffen Records put together the compilation album that would break Madness in the U.S. a year later — a compilation that was more or less The Rise & Fall with half the tracks replaced by older Madness hits — "Driving in My Car," "Mr. Speaker (Gets the Word)" and "New Delhi" were all left off.
The short answer: "Driving in My Car" is naff.
And you guys thought I only got geeky about DC Comics!
Is that all there is?
—Kymberlie C. I., the Dryer Vortex
You actually want more after that last response? Or are we speaking cosmically/philosophically? In which case the answer brings us right back to the thought that inspired this whole post.
Big Red and Old Red
Cowboy brothers become the Wild West's answer to Sherlock Holmes!
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Dear Mr. Holmes
Big Red and Old Red star in
seven short-story adventures!
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Nine hilarious crime stories
with a yuletide twist!
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Cadaver in Chief
Forget your brains...this zombie
wants your vote!
Learn more here!