Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Hi folks,

I met C.L. Phillips, mystery author of FIRST MISTAKE at Bouchercon and she graciously invited me to participate in a blog promotion where authors discuss their Next Big Thing. You can find her post here. And, thanks, Cindy!

But before we get to my next big thing, I’d like to throw a big shout out to Carl Brush, Maegan Beaumont, Jed Ayres and Richard Godwin, all of whom I hope will be participating in the blog chain with their own stuff next week. Meet these extremely talented writers! 

Carl Brush is an old friend and colleague. He’s written several historical thrillers, the latest of which is titled THE SECOND VENDETTA and is a novel I recommend highly. His novels are set in and around San Francisco and Carl is a meticulous scholar so you’ll know the environment of his characters is perfectly accurate. More—his novels are all page-turners!

Maegan Beaumont started out as a student of mine when I was teaching at Phoenix College and is now the program director of my ongoing novel-writing class and a few months ago she signed a two-book deal with Midnight Ink Books with an option for a third. She writes thrillers with a female badass protagonist who Jack Reacher wouldn’t want to mess with! You can preorder her first novel in the series, CARVED IN DARKNESS by clicking this link. Just be sure that all the doors and windows are locked before you begin reading it… Just sayin’…

Jed Ayres is a guy who writes some of the most brilliant noir this side of the ocean. He’s also the founder and co-host, along with bestselling novelist, Scott Phillips, of the prestigious “Noir at The Bar” events in St. Louis and has edited two anthologies containing work from the best noir writers in the U.S. And now, he’s published his own long-awaited collection of stories, titled… ready?... A F*CKLOAD OF SHORTS. Don’t let the title mislead you… it’s more down and dirty and nasty than that… Keep it locked up if you have kids…

Richard Godwin is an absolute genius and his dark thrillers are bestsellers in the UK and should be breaking out in the U.S. soon as well. He runs the well-known interview called “A Chin Wag at the Slaughterhouse” which I was privileged to appear in—best interviewer in the business, on a level with the Paris Review class of interviewers. His latest thriller is titled MR GLAMOUR one of my picks for Best Novel of the Year. It’s got a twist at the end that will blow you away. If you’re in the UK, you can find it by clicking this link.

Tune in to their blogs and you should see their own “Next Big Thing” sometime next week, I hope!

And now, mine….

Meet THE RAPIST, a rollicking romp through the world and somewhat twisted mind of protagonist Truman Ferris Pinter who awaits his execution on death row for the crimes of rape and murder. Some serious moments also…Scheduled for release April, 2013 from New Pulp Press.

Okay. I’ll admit it. I lied in the above description. The thing is, this isn’t a high-concept book that one can describe with a one-sentence, TV Guide logline. In fact, to describe it kind of gives it away so I’m opting to provide pre-pub reviews by some authors I respect highly to give you a bit of an idea what it’s all about. 

One Several Sentence Synopsis Review
Meet Truman Ferris Pinter, condemned prisoner #49028, a snarling, wicked, silver-tongued misanthrope – a black hole of a man who sucks you in with the human gravity of his self-deception, then distorts your beliefs with the super-logic of his epiphanies. Oh, it’s all there – gut-grabbing lust, sex, hate and violence, deeply disturbing comments about our insane world – but The Rapist by Les Edgerton is much more than a new classic of Modern Noir. Against all odds, master wordsmith Edgerton has created the most mesmerizing and disturbing narrator since Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley, an intense, strange, well-spoken villain whose story and sexual perceptions will frighten many more men than women. The Rapist is not who -- or what -- you think.
Jack Getze, Fiction Editor, Spinetingler Magazine

The Story
Again, I’m relying on a review.

So, I’m reading Les Edgerton’s The Rapist. The title has already made me uneasy.

Five pages in and I can hardly breathe.

Ten and I’m nauseous.

For the next 50, I’m a mixture of all of the above, but most of all, angry.

I feel like ringing my feminist friends and confessing: Sisters, I’m reading something you will kill me for reading.

I feel like ringing my ex colleagues - parole officers and psychologists who work with sex offenders in Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow - and asking them if they think it’s helpful to publish an honest and explicit transcript which shows the cognitive distortions of a callous, grandiose, articulate sex offender; one which illustrates his inability to have a relationship with a woman and his complete lack of empathy?

I’m thinking I don’t know what I should be thinking.

Will it turn sex offenders on?

Should we listen to this guy?

Is it possible to separate the person from the offence, and to empathise with him as he waits to die?

I don’t ring anyone.

I read on.

And the breathlessness, nausea, anger and confusion increase all the way to the end, at which point all I know is that the book is genius.
Helen Fitzgerald, author, Dead Lovely, Bloody Women, The Devil’s Staircase, Donor and others.

What is the hook? What’s this book really about?
‘I live in a small, dark realm which I fill out’. Jean Genet’s words in “Miracle Of the Rose”. And like Genet, Edgerton writes with lyricism and a sense of history of things that disturb, balancing through his superb style themes that may otherwise unsettle the narrative. Edgerton’s brilliant archaeological dig into the motivations of a rapist is an unflinching look at the darker recesses of the human psyche. There is nothing gratuitous here and it takes a command to achieve a narrative pull in such territory. It reminded me of John Burnside’s “The Locust Room” but it’s better written. Edgerton voices the demonic forces at work within his narrator’s head. He embeds the story with the protagonist’s need for redemption set against the backdrop of his life. "The Rapist" is confessional, poetic, unrelenting, and as real as the newspaper lying before you. It challenges the assumption that fictions need to censor the things people read every day in what is deemed factual. It is told in a style that situates it among the classics of transgressive fictions.
Richard Godwin, Apostle Rising, Mr Glamour


Les Edgerton has written, in The Rapist, something that . . . that . . . well, defies explanation. Don't get me wrong; the writing is extremely powerful. The imagery is wonderful and startlingly clear. The emotions are vivid and visceral. Emotions that grab you physically and rattle your teeth violently the further you dip into his tale. But the question is . . . how do you define it?

Nihilistic existentialism comes to mind as a basis for understanding. The realization that nothing . . . nothing . . . is real or meaningful. But somehow the definition falls flat. There is, ultimately, a purpose for what happens to the character. Better yet; there is a deep, almost Freudian, mystery that grabs you and makes your imagination soar with the possibilities in understanding what is happening.

I wouldn't say that, after you finishing reading The Rapist, you're going to have a feeling of satisfaction. In fact I strongly suggest you're going to feel as if you've just walked out of a House of Mirrors. You certainly will be confused, shocked, and puzzled.

But you will realize that you've just read something amazingly original. Truly, magnificently, original.
B.R. Stateham, author of A Taste of Old Revenge, Tough Guys: The Homicide Cases of Turner Hahn and Frank Morales and others

What inspired the book? Where did you get your idea?
From reading Charles Bukowski’s short story, “The Fiend.” The bravest fiction I’ve ever read, bar none. I wanted to achieve what he accomplished there. In my mind, I have, but that will be determined by the readers. I was also inspired by my own time in prison and from a guy in a cell next to mine who was in for rape and who turned out to have been bumrapped and eventually declared innocent.

What genre is this book?
Literary. Existential. Noir. Philosophical. Who knows?
Where and when can I read the book?
In April of 2013 from New Pulp Press at all the usual online outlets, although the publisher, Jon Bassoff is aiming for an earlier release. You’ll be able to purchase it as an ebook and as a paperback.

Thanks, folks. Hope you glom onto a copy when it comes out. It’s easily the best thing I’ve ever written and it was exhausting to write. I don’t think I’ll ever have again the energy it took to write this book. I think it would literally kill me.

Blue skies,


Hi folks,

I've gotten several emails asking me when MIRROR, MIRROR would be available in paperback and originally we thought it would be out before Christmas, but alas--my publisher called me and said the printer won't be able to deliver paperback copies until after the holidays.

I'm bummed out, but if you want to get a copy for a Christmas present for a daughter, niece, friend or whomever, it is available as an ebook. Also, I think there's going to be a sale on it and if so, I'll announce it here.

My apologies to those who've waited to get the paperback edition!

Blue skies,

And you can order it by hitting the link here... http://www.amazon.com/Mirror-ebook/dp/B009VNN40K/ref=sr_1_1_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1354045162&sr=1-1&keywords=mirror%2C+mirror+by+les+edgerton

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hi folks,

I'm stoked. Just found out about a review of THE BITCH that appeared in a Russian blog! Journalist Ray Garraty who writes from deep inside Russia just posted his review. Check it out at

Thanks, Mr. Garraty!

Blue skies,


Also, here's a Thanksgiving Day image to imprint on your eyeballs... Courtesy: my friend Anonymous 9

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why a writer shouldn't use bestsellers for models...

Hi folks,

Here's why you shouldn't base the value of a book on its sales or bestseller status... Or use at least some of them for models for your own book... Warning: Some cursing and sexual references in these.

I laughed so hard I was crying...

My friend Rick Bylina sent this to me and some friends. The reviewer, Katrina Lumsden is a brilliant reviewer as I think you'll agree.

Blue skies,

The question is: What would Bukowski think?

Monday, November 12, 2012


Hi folks,

This is a rerun of a post I ran some time back and I had a couple of requests to post it again. Hope you glean a few things from it to help inform your own writing!
I’d like to talk about novel endings and what makes a compelling finale to your novel. There’s no way I can cover everything that goes into a great ending, but I’ll try to cover some of the more important elements.

Before we get to the ending, we need to discuss what leads up to that point. Let’s look at basic story structure. Simplified, a novel structurally consists of a protagonist and an antagonist as the two most important characters. The protagonist has something happen to him or her (inciting incident) that creates a surface problem (that’s actually symptomatic of a story-worthy problem) which will occupy him or her for the rest of the novel, trying to resolve it. The antagonist also has a goal and it’s his or her goal that provides the opposition for the protagonist in resolving his or her goal. The struggle to resolve the problem(s) against increasing opposition occupies the majority of the novel.

It might be helpful to define our terms before we begin.

Protagonist: Simply the individual through whose persona we (readers) experience the story.

I urge writers to never think of the protagonist as the “hero” or even “main character.” To see this character as a hero reduces the character to a one-dimensional, cardboard character, ala “Dudley Doright.” Moral qualities, such as good and bad, shouldn’t apply to the protagonist or the antagonist. Can they be good or bad? Sure, but to define them in that way as their chief characteristic makes it likely you’ll create cartoonish characters rather than fully-developed literary characters. To see this character as your “main character” reduces the value of characterization to the novel and overemphasizes plot. And, there is one protagonist per novel, not several. Not “co-protagonists” or multiple protagonists. That person can have multiple “helpers” or aides or helpers or even equal partners, but it needs to be one person we see.

Antagonist: The individual whose goal conflicts with that of the protagonist’s surface problem goal always and sometimes the story-worthy goal as well.

It’s even more important not to think of the antagonist as a villain. Even more so than the protagonist, that can really lead to a Snidely Whiplash type of character. Can he or she be a bad or evil person? Certainly, but you’ll create a much more believable and interesting character if you simply view that person as an individual whose goal conflicts with that of the protagonist. The villain can also have as many lieutenants or allies as you wish.

Inciting incident: Something that happens to the protagonist that creates and/or reveals the surface story problem to the protagonist. The inciting incident is what needs to begin the contemporary novel. Anything before that event is backstory or setup and shouldn’t precede the inciting incident beginning. If the backstory is important, it can come later, once the reader is invested in the protagonist’s problem. Novels are about one thing only and always—trouble. Today’s novels need to begin when the trouble begins, not before. And, the trouble has to begin with the inciting incident as before that happens there is no trouble, at least not in story terms.

Surface story problem: A bona fide problem that is revealed to the protagonist as a result of the inciting incident. While it is a serious problem, it’s not as serious as the story-worthy problem it’s symptomatic of. Usually, it’s posed as a somewhat superficial goal—love, money, solving a crime, achieving success of some kind, etc.

Story-worthy problem: The “real” problem of the protagonist and which the surface problem is symptomatic of. It’s usually a deep-seated psychological problem. The story-worthy problem isn’t known to the protagonist at the beginning of the story. It is only through the struggle to resolve the surface problem that the more important problem begins to be revealed, and the full realization is usually achieved in the final scene when both the surface problem and story-worthy problem are resolved. Although the story-worthy problem isn’t revealed to the protagonist until they’ve gone through the struggle to resolve the surface problem, the author should be aware of it so that he or she can create an effective plot to get to that point.

Plot: A plot is simply a point-by-point list of all the causal actions that the protagonist takes to resolve the problem. A plot will show such things as: inciting incident, which leads to awareness of problem, first step to resolve the problem, which leads to disaster (failure to achieve the main goal), which leads to step two and so on, against increasing opposition, until the last scene in which the problem is resolved. The “spine” of the book and the plot is the protagonist’s problem and that problem should color every single page in the novel and be behind every action he or she takes. If coincidence occurs, it must always have a negative effect on the protagonist and should never be the source of help or in resolving the problem. If coincidence helps the protagonist, then what you have is what is called an… idiot plot. Don’t go there!

Goals: Both the protagonist and the antagonist have goals. Each of their goals is to resolve their individual surface problems. While the protagonist will also end up having a story-worthy problem goal, the antagonist doesn’t. His or hers is only a surface problem that just happens to be in conflict with the protagonist’s problem.

These definitions may or may not be instantly clear to you at this point, but after our time here together should be. I’d just like you to be aware of them so that this makes sense as you read on.

So, okay, where’s the stuff about novel endings? Relax! It’s coming, I promise.

To illustrate all of this, I’d like to use a teaching model I use quite often. The film, Thelma & Louise, written by Callie Khouri. It’s a film most people have seen so it should be a familiar model. You might want to rent it again to refresh your memory.

Let’s go through the story.

First, the inciting incident. Remember, this is something that happens to the protagonist that creates and/or reveals the surface story problem.

The inciting incident in T&L is in the beginning, where the protagonist, Thelma (no co-protagonists here, although sometimes people mistakenly think Louise is a co-protagonist.) She’s not. She’s the Older Mentor character, if you want to ascribe a label to her. The incident occurs when Thelma’s talking to her husband Darryl as he prepares to leave for work. It’s been established that she is required to ask his permission before embarking on her weekend trip with Louise. She starts to ask him twice for that permission. There’s important backstory here, but it’s not revealed until much later in the story when the two women pick up J.T. and talk and Thelma reveals she’s been married to him for four years and dated him through all four years of high school. The backstory is that she’s been with Darryl for eight years and probably in an abusive relationship. That’s shown by the way they talk to each other. All that’s needed. The intelligent reader/viewer “gets” that instantly.

Thelma is fully aware she’s in a bad situation, and, from time-to-time has performed actions to deal with it. She’s probably spit in Darryl’s food, gossiped and complained about him to Louise, not given her all in bed, whatever. Other times, she ignores her problem. But, it’s not yet to the point where it becomes the biggest single problem in her life and at a stage where nothing can get in the way of her resolving it. That’s what’s required to raise what’s only a “bad situation” to the level of becoming a story problem. If she can still ignore it for a time, can alibi what her true state is for a time to herself, can even forget her problem for a time… then it’s not yet a story problem... or a story. It’s only when she reaches her tipping point, when that “straw that broke the camel’s back” moment occurs and reveals to her that it’s the single biggest problem in her life and that she can no longer ignore it, even briefly, that it becomes a story. In T&L, Thelma’s inciting incident is a small, dramatic moment. We’ve seen clearly via the phone conversations with Louise that it’s imperative Thelma ask Darryl for permission to go on the trip with her. She even begins to… twice. It’s the second time she starts to ask his permission that constitutes her inciting incident. It’s what Darryl does to her—remember?—the inciting incident is something that happens to the protagonist? What Darryl does, is something he’s no doubt done before, But—this time it’s different. This time it’s the one time too many that he’s done this. And what does he do? Simple. She attempts to ask him the second time for permission and he crudely and rudely dismisses her, treating her as an annoyance rather than as his wife and a person. It’s the tipping point for her, the inciting incident, the thing that finally reveals her problem clearly to her. (Keep in mind that the word “problem” in story terms doesn’t have the same definition as the lay term. In story terms, it’s more than a bad situation—it’s a problem that the protagonist won’t let go away until it’s resolved.)

Here’s the actual scene:

THELMA goes through the living room to the bottom of the stairs and leans on the banister.

(hollering again)

Darryl! Honey, you’d better hurry up.

DARRYL comes trotting down the stairs. Polyester was made for this man and he’s dripping in “men’s” jewelry. He manages a Carpeteria.


Dammit, Thelma, don’t holler like that! Haven’t I told
you I can’t stand it when you holler in the morning?

(sweetly and coyly)

I’m sorry, Doll, I just didn’t want you to be late.

DARRYL is checking himself out in the hall mirror and it’s obvious he likes what he sees. He exudes confidence for reasons that never become apparent. He likes to think of himself as a real lady-killer. He is making imperceptible adjustments to his overmoused hair. THELMA watches approvingly.

(My note. This was the setup. Now comes the inciting incident.)

(still annoyed)


(she decides not to tell him.)

Have a good day at work today.





(as if he’s trying to concentrate.)



          You want anything special for dinner?

And, that’s the inciting incident. For perhaps the hundredth time (or more!) in their relationship, she started to do what she’s always done in the past—ask for her husband’s permission to go on the trip. But… something’s different this time. With his evident attitude—his crude dismissal of her and of anything she’s trying to say—she reaches her limit. Before this point, she’s just put up with him and played the dutiful wife. This time, her problem is clearly revealed to her. The little light in the refrigerator of her mind just clicked on. This is why it’s important to understand the complete definition of the inciting incident. (The inciting incident is something that happens to the protagonist that creates and/or reveals the story problem to her.) If she has what appears to be a problem but it’s not clearly revealed to her that she has, then it’s not yet a problem in story terms. It has to be revealed and clearly to her. That’s the only thing in the definition that has to be there in the inciting incident scene. The problem—at least to others—may have been there for a long time. She may have even been very aware of a bad situation. But, until that moment when it reaches the level of being the most important problem in her life—a problem that she can’t ignore another minute until it’s resolved—it’s only a bad situation and not a story problem.

Also, the inciting incident should be a dramatic scene, not a melodramatic one. And this is.
A small, dramatic opening should then begin to build until the biggest scene of all—the final one. Many writers make the mistake of thinking they have to open with not a dramatic scene, but a melodramatic one. If you open with a murder, kidnapping, bomb explosion and the like—where do you go from there? More murders, more kidnappings, bigger bombs? This is not to say a novel can’t open with that kind of thing, but if your novel’s not a thriller, per se, you might want to reconsider that strategy.

Some believe the inciting incident was when Harlan tried to rape Thelma. Nope. That’s just the “Point of No Return” moment. That event wouldn’t have even been possible if Thelma had asked for Darryl’s permission. That was the real inciting incident—an event from which everything else derived.

And Darryl isn’t the antagonist. Not even close. He’s a one-dimensional, cardboard character. A cartoon. Snidley Whiplash. The antagonist? Hal, the Arkansas cop. Remember, Thelma’s goal, as it evolves, is to escape being caught and forced to exist in a male-dominated world. Hal’s goal is to catch her. He’s not a bad guy at all (remember, I said to not think of the antagonist as a “villain?”). He’s one of the best and nicest guys in the story. He wants to save the two women, first from going to jail, and in the end, from being killed. His goals are strictly good and honorable. His goal simply opposes Thelma’s goal and that’s the only definition of an antagonist.

Thelma’s surface problem is to escape Darryl’s domination… for a weekend. Seeing who and what kind of  person her husband is, creates instantly reader identification for her as well as sympathy and empathy. Already, we’d like to see her have some fun. It’s obvious she’s had very little with this butthole.

So, her surface problem is Darryl’s domination of her. But, remember I said the surface problem is only symptomatic of the much bigger, much more important, deeper psychological problem the protagonist faces? It’s very true in this story. The story begins with Thelma trying to resolve the surface problem—escaping Darryl’s domination, even if for just a weekend—but, as events progress, little by little, Thelma eventually comes to the realization that she has a much bigger problem. That she’s forced to exist in a male-dominated world. It’s much bigger than just Darryl as she gradually comes to realize as events progress.

I wanted to go over these things so that the ending—which is what this is all about!—makes complete sense. Now. Here’s the definition of a quality ending:

Ending: A novel ending should contain two elements—a win and a loss. That’s in terms of the protagonist’s goals, both surface and story-worthy. Years ago, we used to teach writers that endings should be either “goal-achieved” or “goal-unachieved.” Like most things, we’ve learned better ways to express story structure. An ending that only achieves the protagonist’s goal as well as an ending in which is the protagonist’s goal is lost are both incomplete and unsatisfactory endings. There must be elements of both to make it a good ending.

Like everything important in a story, the ending should always be presented as a scene. Never by exposition or summary or the character ruminating in his/her head. Through a scene. And, there are particular requirements for this scene. As Janet Burroway, in her classic text, Writing Fiction, says about resolutions: “Here the epiphany, a memory leading to a resolution, has been triggered by an action and sensory details that the reader can share.” (Italics mine.) It’s a scene that can’t depend on conversation to make it work. It can’t, for instance, have the protagonist talking to a priest who then convinces her of a truth, and that gives her her epiphany. The resolution has to be triggered by an action—and an “action” in this case, isn’t dialog. It has to be a physical action.

What’s the physical action in the ending of T&L? That’s easy. They’re just been chased and are now surrounded on all sides by cops who are ordering them to put their hands up or get killed. Surrounded on all sides except in front of them, where the Grand Canyon lies. Sensory details? Plenty! Cops jacking shells into carbines, a helicopter’s rotors swirling dust, an authoritative voice over a bullhorn demanding they surrender. No way out, except… This triggers the epiphany for Thelma. And, what is the memory that leads to a resolution for her? Again, easy. Even though we can’t see it in the film, we understand what’s going through her mind. The memory of Darryl and her abusive relationships, and, even more important, the new knowledge that her entire world is controlled by men as evidenced by what’s happened in their journey. Selfish men, like Darryl, evil men like the tanker truck driver and Harlan, the would-be rapist, manipulative men like J.T., and even good, moral men, like Hal and Louise’s boyfriend, Jimmy. But… all men. At the very end, Thelma realizes her surface problem (getting free of Darryl, even if just for a weekend) is only symptomatic of a much bigger and deeper, psychological problem for her—having to exist in a male-dominated world with no voice at all. She didn’t know this at the beginning. In the beginning, she was only aware that Darryl was a shit. In the end, as a result of everything she’d gone through, she finally comes to the realization that Darryl was only a small part of what she faced in society.

And so, she does the only thing left for her to do. She and Louise tacitly agree to commit suicide. They seal their decision with a kiss and then hold hands as they hurtle into infinity. And, that, satisfies the two elements in a quality ending, by providing both a win and a loss. The loss? Easy. She gives up her life. The win? Again, easy. She achieves her independence from men on her own terms. It cost her her life, but the tradeoff was worth it to her.

This is a fairly common ending. It’s seen, for instance, in Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, where the mother kills her child to keep her from having to live in slavery. It’s seen in any number of war novels where the protagonist gives up his or her life to preserve a way of life for loved ones.

This doesn’t mean protagonists have to commit suicide to achieve a good ending. This is just one of countless possible endings. But, however you end your story, just make sure it contains both a win and a loss for the protagonist. That’s key.

What’s interesting about this movie is that some of the studio execs wanted to change Khouri’s brilliant ending to a typical Hollywood “happy-sappy” ending. One where they surrendered, spent a few years in prison, and were released to live out some kind of Stepford wives’ existence ever after…

Thankfully, she stood her ground and they released the intelligent version!

Hope this helps you in creating your own endings. Hope to see your work on the shelves of Border’s and Barnes & Noble!

Blue skies,
Les Edgerton