Monday, January 3, 2011

Cort McMeel and his novel SHORT

Hi Folks,

A bit of a departure--I want to give a shout-out to my writer buddy, Cort McMeel and his just-released novel, Short, which is climbing up the bestseller lists and deservedly so.

Cort just emailed me to tell me he'd just given me a shout-out in an interview with Jenny Shank he just did for New West and I wanted to share it with you. In it, he said in part:

Western Writers

An Interview with Cortright McMeel

"Short" is a funny, talented debut novel by a Denver's Cortright McMeel.

By Jenny Shank, 1-03-11
  Cortright McMeel, photographed by Sam Holden.
  Cortright McMeel, photographed by Sam Holden.
Denver’s Cortright McMeel works for Rainbow Energy, teaches at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop, founded Murdaland, a crime fiction literary magazine, and writes accomplished short stories and novels.  His thirteen years of experience as an energy trader provided the source material for Short (Thomas Dunne Books, 304 pages, $24.99), a talented and funny debut novel of duplicitous and morally bankrupt traders and brokers.  In Jess Walter’s review of Short for The Washington Post, he noted that McMeel “revels in juicy descriptions and office anecdotes, which have the unmistakable feel of insider lore.” I recently interviewed McMeel via email about Short.  We discussed why he originally thought of his novel as a “trader Western,” another novel he’s working on about Doc Holliday, and his trademark “Dad who has two kids under six writing technique.” Cortright McMeel will discuss Short at the Tattered Cover (Colfax) on Wednesday, January 5 at 7:30 p.m.
New West: What brought you to Denver?
Cortright McMeel: My wife has always wanted to live here near the mountains so we could ski more. I got a look at an energy trading firm out here three years ago and we took the shot. It’s been excellent, especially for the kids, and we’ve never looked back.
NW: Your first novel, Short is set mainly on the east coast—have you set anything you’ve written in Colorado?
CM: As soon as I arrived, I found out that Doc Holliday died in Glenwood Springs. I took a trip to visit his grave. Ever since I have been doing research on a novel about his final stint in Leadville. One chapter is written, and the project is one that is very personal to me and one that I am excited about.
NW: You earned an MFA at Columbia before entering the fields of advertising and then trading.  Was it always your plan to study writing, and then find a job that it was easier to make a living at afterward?
CM: “Plan” is a strong word to apply to anything I do. I was going to go to the Marines but this woman I was in love with (my now wife) was going to be in New York City. I lucked out and got into Columbia. After Columbia I was too lazy to be a waiter and had too flimsy a grasp of the truth to be a journalist. Advertising was the perfect fit.
NW: Tell me about Murdaland, the crime fiction literary magazine you founded.  How did that come about?
CM: Murdaland is something I’m very proud of. This is the only good idea I ever came up with while sitting at a bar. I was on a crime fiction kick, reading Jim Thompson, [Georges] Simenon, and George V. Higgins’ The Friends of Eddie Coyle, and I was like, “Man, this stuff is literature!” I’d had three failed, rejected novels, and I thought “Well, if I can’t be a writer, I love literature in general, and so I’ll be a publisher.” I wasn’t rich from trading but I had a few pennies to rub together to fund a modest literary magazine. The idea I had was I wanted a dark crime magazine with literary sensibilities. I wanted Jim Thompson and David Goodis versus bestseller type stuff. Discovering American Dostoyevskys was the experiment. We were fortunate enough to get some incredible talent like Daniel Woodrell, Mary Gaitskill, Jayne Ann Phillips, Tom Franklin and Richard Bausch, as well as a David Goodis classic reprint and some amazing fresh talent, especially standouts like Les Edgerton, who is about to break big in 2011. That first issue was something special. After the second issue we shut it down but just the two issues were enough for Murdaland to garner respect, an award or two, and a small, but hardcore, following.
NW: Your author photo is great, with you staring intensely forward as you holding a copy of Fat City by Leonard Gardner and The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway– did you do that to show that those books are your influences?
CM: The photo with the books was totally a happenstance. Being a book nerd, I’m always carrying books around, more than one. I happened to have those two books on me and the photographer created that photo. I was worried it would seem pretentious or something. But it came out great. In real life I look like Shrek. (Aside: Yes, both those books are huge influences for me.)
NW: How did the idea for Short come to you?  Did it start with characters or a plot idea?
CM: It came while reading Ian Flemming’s Goldfinger, a spy novel about a bad guy trying to corner another commodity market…gold. I was like…I could do this but with electricity trading.

For the rest of the (fascinating!) interview, go to:

This is where Cort and I first met (Murdaland). I still don't know how he found about me, but he contacted me when putting together the first issue, and asked if I had any short stories I could send him for consideration. Well, I didn't--I quit writing short stories years ago (no money in 'em), but I cannibalized a part of a novel I hadn't sent out. Cort loved it and asked if I had anything else. I ended up sending him two more cannibalizations of other novels and he ended up taking all three. Not only that, he paid me for all three, even though he combined them into one story. Now... that's a nice guy in my book! An editor who pays more than he has to!

Ever since then, our friendship has broadened and deepened and he's become my chief advocate with publishers on behalf of my work. We also have a mutual dream. Cort wants to found a literary press and he asked me a long time ago for a novel for it when he launches it and if it happens, I'd be honored beyond belief to have him as my publisher and editor. He's simply brilliant.

Cort also received a wonderful review for Short in the Washington Post you can check out at:

And, then there's the review on Short I wrote for Amazon which is on a post a week or so ago here. It's just an amazing novel and Cort is destined to become a major novelist. I just want to do my part in helping him get the attention he deserves.

Hope you folks get his novel and like it as much as I did. He's going to give me an interview for the blog as soon as his life settles down a bit. He's doing readings and signings all over the place right now. In fact, I think this week  he'll be doing a signing at the famous Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver on Wednesday, January 5. If any of y'all are in the area, don't miss it! If you go, tell him "I sentcha."

Blue skies,


T.M. Avery said...

Interesting. I just read his story in Murdaland a few months ago. I looked because I couldn't remember his name. Now I can't remember why I needed to know it. Hmmm.

nutschell said...

I love reading how writers got started and how they got their big breaks. It keeps me going whenever I feel like giving up. Thanks for posting this!
warm regards,

Susan Fields said...

It sounds like this is going to be an exciting year for him! And forget about 2011, as far as I'm concerned, you've already broke big - Hooked is one of my all-time favorites!

Helen Ginger said...

Short sounds like a good read. Is it in e-form? If so, I'll tell my husband to look for it for his iPad.

When will your book come out? You know I'll have to get it right away!

Les Edgerton said...

Tiffany, did you like my story in Murdaland?

I'm like you, Nutschell--I love reading about other writers. Especially those who've had a tough time--makes me feel less alone!

Susan, you're so darned nice! Thank you.

Helen, yep, it's available on Kindle, et al. My agent's still looking for a pub for the Bijou book and some others, including a noir novel and a YA. Keep your fingers crossed for me! All look promising, but you know the vagaries of publishing, especially these days!

T.M. Avery said...

Of course I loved your story. You had us read it for class.

That's not why I loved it. I just genuinely did. Plus anything that inspires me to write more is definitely on the list of things I love.

Unknown said...

I met Mcmeel at the National Arts Club in New York to release his book and he’s a riot. I read SHORT and it was hilarious, his story was great and his characters were realistic. SHORT is brilliant, original, and I was blown away at the realism. As a big fan of Murdaland I highly recommend SHORT.

Les Edgerton said...

Thanks, Tiffany. I miss our classes! Miss talking to you in my office and around campus!

Patrick, Cort really is the "real deal" isn't he! Just talked to him and we're going to do an interview for this blog this weekend. He just started his own blog which I've included on the bloglist here. Check it out--has a great "interview" with the deceased Chs. Bukowski... Not sure if it really was Bukowski as he sounded sober... and that wouldn't be right...