Friday, July 27, 2018


(This is a rerun, but thought it might be helpful to anyone who hadn't read it originally.)

Hi folks,

What? You didn’t realize Chef Gordon Ramsey taught writing? The fact is, he’s one of the best writing teachers in the world.

He disguises it by claiming to reach cooking, but if you understand the code he’s using in his presentations on his show, KITCHEN NIGHTMARES, it’s all about writing.

Actually, it’s about any art form. The rules are pretty much the same, whether it’s in cooking, painting, writing, sculpting or music or anything else in the art world.

Let’s take a look at his shows and see how that works, okay?

First, what’s almost always the chief reason the restaurant he’s called in to help out is failing? While there are a variety of problems, without fail the primary one is that the food the restaurant is serving sucks. Let’s look at that one first and see how it relates to writing.

When he walks into a failing restaurant, the very first thing he does is order a meal. The food he wants to look at and taste is the same as the writing teacher looking at the student’s manuscript. To paraphrase a famous Presidential slogan: “It’s the food, stupid.” Or, in our case as writers: “It’s the writing, stupid.”

The quality of the food is the single biggest obstacle to success for any restaurant. The quality of the writing is the single biggest obstacle to success for any author.

See where we’re going? See how the comparison starts to make sense?

He begins with the food because the truth is, if the food’s good, just about everything else can be wrong and the restaurant still has a chance of succeeding. Conversely, if everything else is perfect—the service, the décor, the location, et al—but the food sucks—all the restaurant owner is going to have is a place that has a great waitstaff, an amazing décor, a prime location… and stands largely empty with those talented waiters and waitresses standing around picking their noses….

It’s the same with writing. The manuscript can be perfectly presented with proper formatting and delivered to the right gatekeepers—agents/publishers—but if the writing sucks, it won’t matter. Two bites into the mss “meal” and if it doesn’t taste good, it’s headed for the circular file, just like the food Ramsey sends back on that initial tasting is headed for the same circular file. What us literary types refer to as being “shitcanned.”

What are the responses of the restaurant owners and chefs when Ramsey tells them their food sucks? It’s predictable. Most are in denial. Most are in way-huge denial. Almost to a person, they feel their food is amazing. They’re convinced that the reasons they’re not rich yet is something else other than the food. The usual response before he delivers his judgment on their menu is that he’ll come in, deliver a few “secrets” that will get them on their way to becoming a four-star establishment. Does this remind you of anything? A new writer in your class or writer’s group, perhaps? Who, before the critique begins is clearly there to glean a few “inside” writing or publishing tips so they can be on their way to the bestseller lists or at least to be signed by an agent or sell their novel?

Look at the responses he gets when he tells them he wouldn’t serve their food to a dog. Many (most?) get angry. It never dawned on them that they couldn’t cook well. In their minds, it was always something else that prevented them from achieving a sold-out restaurant every night. How dare Gordon criticize their work! See any correlation to a writer receiving criticism from a teacher or agent or editor or the writer’s group?

The writer who is also righteously irate, thinks about all those people who told him his writing was “better than Joyce Carol Oates.” Folks like his family, his friends, the friendly faces in his writing group, his English teacher, his workmates. How could they all be wrong and this pretender (teacher/agent/editor) have such a different opinion? Maybe it’s because… this teacher isn’t connected to them emotionally and only judges the product? And has higher standards? A better knowledge of what good writing consists of? And a version of Hemingway’s “built-in bullshit detector?” Maybe…

There’s a supercilious teaching “method” some schools and venues want their writing teachers to adhere to, called by some the “sandwich” method. Start with a piece of praise bread, slip in a bit of criticism, and then finish it off with another piece of praise bread. Does this strike anyone else as perhaps a great example of mollycoddling? Of treating writers less than adults? Schools do this for two reasons. One, they want return customers (students). People who are told bluntly that their work is bad often don’t return. Especially when there are plenty of places who will tell them they’re great. Two, they’ve bought into this New Agey crap where teachers aren’t supposed to let their little charges know that among them are winners and losers. (Kind of like real life…) It’s the mindset that awards “participation trophies” and bullshit like that. Like the school recently in the news that cancelled their annual Honor Days because the ones who didn’t achieve that level would “feel bad.” Well… so frickin’ what… When do you suppose that kids are going to learn that some people are smarter than others, some have gifts others don’t share, some just work harder, and there are even some folks who are smarter, more gifted and also work harder? That just seems more of an USSR attitude than an American one, but I may feel that way just because I’m not up on my Karl Marx reading… And don’t plan to be…

That “sandwich” method of teaching. Two pieces of praise, one piece of criticism. That kind of implies that everybody has two great things they’re doing in writing and only one bad. My experience is that often it’s the reverse ratio and I’ve had more than one beginning writer in class who did nine bad things and only one good one. The “good one” was showing up on time and that was about it. If that’s the case, then I guess the teacher should make up things to praise them about. Wouldn’t that devalue honest praise? I mean, if a person is terrible at writing dialog and you’re out of praiseworthy pieces of bread, should I tell him the only one writing better dialog these days is Elmore Leonard?

Can you imagine Gordon walking into a restaurant and telling them, “Well, the third waitress on the left is doing a great job. The food is atrocious. The bartender served me a perfect Gibson.” Don’t think so. My guess is that Gordon wasn’t lucky enough to have gone to a contemporary American public school… Poor guy. He probably went to a school that was still in the real world. That’s kind of tragic… Wonder how he worked through all those negative things he must have had said to him…

There’s a reason writers don’t have a writer’s union. Well, not one that many people belong to, anyway. It’s because most of us know you succeed by merit and hard work. An organization that’s predicated on the concept of “more money for less work and fewer hours at the expense of others” just isn’t suited for our temperaments as a rule.

Okay. I’m off my soapbox now…

Another correlation Ramsey has with good writing instruction is that he doesn’t differentiate between kinds or even levels of restaurants. He puts as much work into correcting a neighborhood bar and grill in a Midwestern town as he does a pricey French restaurant in NYC. He doesn’t try to make the neighborhood restaurant into the French restaurant or vice versa. No such thing as “literary” restaurants and “genre” restaurants. The only commonality in his mind is that they be the best they can be within their parameters. He knows what constitutes great pub food just as he knows what great Japanese or Italian cuisines requires. Whether it’s a hamburger he’s creating or a soufflé, it’s all about the quality of the individual dish. He thinks like Nabokov who said he didn’t acknowledge any genres other than “good writing and bad writing.”

He also insists the menu be contemporary. That dated dishes, even when prepared well, aren’t going to draw diners. The same thing exists in literature. The writer who insists on creating stories considered archaic or out of fashion, even if written well (within the standards of that day) aren’t going to draw many readers. A writer who absolutely loves the “Dear Reader” style of Victorian literature may write a similar book, but it just isn’t going to sell, any more than an epistolary novel ala Samuel Richardson’s “Pamela” is going to be crowding anyone off the shelves at B&N. Time and again, Gordon encounters these dinosaurs who are trapped in the past and spends days trying to dissuade them of the value of their effort.

Watch his shows and see how often he tells his charges to keep it simple, use fresh ingredients and don’t overcomplicate the recipes. Sounds kind of like Hemingway and Carver, doesn’t it? Or any number of brilliant writers. The first precept I give writers is that one of the biggest keys to becoming a good writer is to pay attention to two things: Make it clear and make it interesting. Kind of what Gordon says about good cooking…

There are no synonyms for the following words in either cooking or in writing:

1. Bad
2. Stupid
4. Dull

They state plainly what they mean. There are words that mean the opposite and if a writer works hard enough and pays attention, they can change those descriptions of their writing to:

1. Good
2. Intelligent
3. Entertaining
4. Brilliant

… but to change those words to the positive ones takes hard work, not unearned, empty words of praise. Just about every writer starts out with the former words as being accurately descriptive of their writing. That’s no sin. What’s a sin is believing when people tell you it’s the latter that describe the work when it doesn’t. When your writing is consistently praised, I’d turn on the b.s. detector and trust it’s in working order.

Watch Gordon Ramsey when he turns around a failing restaurant and imagine he’s instructing you as a writer. The lessons he imparts are exactly the same.

Hope this helps your own writing! BTW, we have a new session of our online writing class beginning on Aug. 5 that has a couple of openings. Our class uses the same principles as Mr. Ramsey does in his... If interested, give me a yell at and I'll be happy to answer any and all questions.

Blue skies,

Me and several of our classmates in Scottsdale, AZ

Monday, July 23, 2018


Hi folks,

Eric Campbell my publisher at Down & Out Books, just sent me this photo of the ARC copies of my memoir, Adrenaline Junkie. These get mailed out to reviewers and places like the NY Times, Washington Post, Publisher's Weekly and a bunch of others. It will be released for sale in November.

Hope you like it!

Here are some early blurbs with more to come:

‘Les Edgerton’s expertly told memoir is in turns tragic, thrilling, funny and heart-breaking. Adrenalin Junkie is a powerful blend of coming-of-age story, family drama and low-life crime thriller.’
 – Paul D. Brazill, author of Last Year’s Man, A Case Of Noir, and Kill Me Quick!

Having survived an American Gothic horror story of a childhood, unrepentant former thief, dope dealer, hedonist, Navy hellraiser, and porn actor Les Edgerton—now a writer and teacher—tells a tale of many tales: If  Scheherazade were an old pirate who got  away with the gold, this would be his opus.

Earl Javorsky, Author, Down to No Good and others.

"Where to start with Les Edgerton's memoir, ADRENALINE JUNKIE ...? I once said, if there's a book in everyone, then there's a library in Les - now I may need to revise that estimation, upwards. No one can accuse Les of being a 'crime tourist'. He's lived the life, done the bird, and now he's written the book. ADRENALINE JUNKIE should be on any prospective (or established) crime writer's list. An entertaining, darkly-rendered tale of one man's adventures in the very belly of the beast."
-Tony Black, author of HER COLD EYES

"In a way, Edgerton already wrote ADRENALIN JUNKIE in his crime novels. With the veneer of fiction removed, his always entertaining, often enlightening, sometimes infuriating and unapologetic stories hit even harder. Without any doubt, Edgerton is one of the great storytellers of fiction - and now non-fiction."

Benjamin Sobieck, author of the Writer's Digest Guide to Firearms and Knives and the Maynard Soloman crime humor series

Les Edgerton's Adrenaline Junkie is the compelling, beautifully written story of an extraordinary man who has lived on both sides of the tracks, seen through the bullshit and the hypocrisies, and come out saner and stronger for it. From the opening jail house scene to the end, this is a ride of heartache and passion, of tempest and brilliance, like a cross between Genet and Steinbeck, like a chorus celebrating the underdog, the downtrodden, the criminal, and the inspired, a chorus that only keeps getting louder and rising in melody, as Edgerton achieves a sort of sainthood among sinners, an apotheosis of rebellion and force, much like Harcamone at Fontrevault, or a hero in a Johnny Cash song, a huge, Promethean work of major significance and scale.

'How often is a memoir genuinely astounding? A reformed outlaw takes us through his harsh rural childhood, working harder before he was twelve than most of us ever will.  
There follows armed robbery, pimping, drug dealing, rape in prison, narrowly avoiding a hellcat's castration attempt, suicide foiled by the rope breaking, a walk on part for Charles Manson and his creepy serial killer mate - who got short shrift from our host. And so much more... So many startling sentences:' She was going to be his last fuck before the operation and I was going to be his first after he became a woman.' 'It was then Charles Manson started to contact me...' There's a satisfying twist late on after he becomes a family man so this fascinating book has just the right ending.' 

'Essential reading. Makes Bukowski seem like Donny Osmond.'

Mark Ramsden, Author, The Dark Magus and the Sacred Whore, The Dungeon Master's Apprentice,  Dread - The Art of Serial Killing, Radical Desire: Kink and Magical Sex, War School 

Les is a real, honest-to-God writer in a world full of wannabes. So it goes without saying, his memoir Adrenaline Junkie is better than most novels you’ll read in your life - largely because his real life is more interesting than most novels. Buy it. Read it. If you don’t like it that’s your fault, you stick in the mud.

Damien Seaman, Author and Interviewer

Adrenaline Junkie is like no memoir I have read. Filled with stories of knifings, armed robberies, brutal prison fights, and Charles Manson (yes, that Charles Manson!), Edgerton proves that life can be stranger (and certainly more violent) than fiction. But Edgerton isn’t just a guy with a tough story to tell. He’s a poet who startles you with sentences both stark and darkly beautiful. An astonishing accomplishment.
Jon Bassoff, Author, Corrosion and others

Blue skies,

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Hi folks,

Well, we’re just finishing up our final week on the current session of my online novel-writing class, “Les Edgerton’s Bootcamp for Writers,” and find ourselves a couple of openings. Our next session will begin on Aug 5 and consists of a ten-week session, with the probability of taking a week off sometime during the term to recharge batteries.

This is a call for new class members. Not sure how many openings we’ll have as we offer vacancies first to our auditors.

The basics are the course costs $400 and it’s limited to ten people. The $400 is nonrefundable, as if a person quits during the session it would be impossible to fill that vacancy. As this is my primary source of income, it would be detrimental for myself and my family. It’s very rare that anyone opts out once begun, however. In over five years, there have only been three.

We’ve had a remarkable history of success. Nearly three dozen writers over the past ten years who has become a part of our class or whom I’ve coached privately has gone on to being legitimately published and/or secured a good literary agent. In fact, that is our only goal—to become legitimately published.

I try to warn people who are thinking of joining us, how tough the class is, but I know from past experience that even so forewarned, at least some are going to be in for a shock when they see that we really don’t hold hands, pat people on the back for minimum efforts, or overlook writing that doesn’t work. I’m not cruel (at least I don’t think so) nor are any of the oldtimers in class, but most new folks haven’t been exposed to a class like ours. The truth is, most writers who haven’t had a class like ours have been praised in other classes or most likely, have been in classes that use the “sandwich” method of teaching. You know—that deal where the teach applies a bit of praise, then a bit of criticism, and then a bit of praise. Well, that ain’t our shtick. Not even close. The comments we all provide on everyone’s work fit one definition only.

They’re honest.

This isn’t to be mean or to act like we’re the only folks around who know what good writing is. Except… we do. I’m not aware of any other class out there with the kind of track record ours enjoys. Virtually every writer who stays the course with us ends up with a top agent and/or a book deal. That doesn’t happen in a single ten-week session. About the earliest anyone has earned an agent or book deal in our class has been about a year. And, that’s reasonable.
The thing is, our writers don’t expect things to be easy.

I figured I’d let some of the class members give you their take on our class. They don’t hold back and they all have tough skins. They will all tell you the same thing. It isn’t a class for sissies or for those who need their hands held or lots of pats on the back. Becoming published is hard, hard work and isn’t an undertaking for sissies. To get there, our students know they have to put on their Big Boy and Big Girl pants and expect to work harder than they ever have in their lives—and to never, ever “settle” their standards of excellence.

From a student several years ago:
Hi ________. Since Les opened the floor for comments from the "class veterans" I'm chipping in with my two cents. I have a file cabinet filled with stuff I sent Les and then needed asbestos gloves to take the paper off the printer. When I started this journey, I'd never taken an English class past high school. (I was pre-med in college) I figured I love to read, so how hard can it be? Okay, quit laughing at me. Clearly, when I wrote my first version of my first novel, I had no idea about story structure, POV, any of that. I figured I'm pretty articulate and therefore I can write?
Les quickly set me straight. All of this is to point out that we've all been on the receiving end of Les' brutal honesty. I will find some of the comments he made on my work and post them but phrases like "throwing up in my mouth now" and "bury this so deep in the yard no one ever finds it" are seared into my brain and I don't have to look to find those!!! The point is, I took other classes before I met Les and the teachers were kind and gentle and never told me I sucked. If it weren't for Les, I'd still be churning out awful drivel that makes people want to throw up instead of trying not to throw up while I wait to see if my agent is able to sell my book. I would never have gotten an agent without Les. So hang in there. Listen to everything he says and if it doesn't make sense, ask away.

From another student:
The novel that I am currently trying to sell has been a work in progress for several years. The first time Les saw it he sent it back and told me to re-write the WHOLE thing!!! My character was a wimp. She sat back and let things happen to her. I argued a little, rewrote a little and then moved on to another book. After a year, I went back and reread it and saw the truth. It was awful. So I took a deep breath and started over. Page one. First sentence. Re-wrote the entire thing. It took a full year and then I revised it again. It's definitely a process. But once you get the inciting incident and the outline steps down pat, it's a whole lot easier. Trust me!!! And you'll never graduate completely. A few months ago, Les and I went head-to-head on one single passage. I was trying to be lazy and take the easy way out. He called me on it and I resubmitted three or four weeks in a row, revisions on the same passage. I was sure my classmates were so sick of it they were going to stick needles in their eyes rather than read it again! But in the end, the passage rocked!! So hang in there!!!! It'll get better. (Note: This novel sold and the writer is currently working on her fifth novel.)

Class members come from all over the globe. We’ve had students from the UK, Ireland, Taiwan, Spain, all parts of the U.S., Canada, Australia, Luxembourg and many other places. We work with writers in virtually every genre on the bookshelves.

The way class works is that the class is divided into two equal groups. We used to have just one group, but it got to be too much for many students. In the past, everybody in the class was required to read everybody else’s work each week and provide in-depth comments on everyone’s work. That meant they had to read nine other class members’ work and deliver intelligent commentary on each one. We’ve since evolved to a more manageable number where now each class member reads and delivers comments on just four other classmates’ work. I provide comments on everybody’s work and that’s why the class is limited to only ten. With ten writers, I can give each person the quality of time and analysis each deserves.

Each week begins on Sunday evening, when people can begin submitting their weekly pages from Sunday until Thursday. If it’s a new writer to the class, they are allowed to submit their first five pages of their novel, plus an outline which consists of five statements and a total of 15-20 words. Oldtimers in class call this “inciting incident hell.” If the outline isn’t working and their beginning doesn’t represent the inciting incident as provided in their outline, they are required to keep submitting each week until it does. Our feeling is if they haven’t thought through their novels sufficiently and provided a publishable novel structure (evidenced by the outline), then they most likely don’t have a novel ready to be written and to simply plunge ahead will almost invariably lead to an unfinished novel. We don’t want that.

Once they’ve been okayed for the beginning, from thereafter they can submit up to eight pages per week, along with the others in class.

Time zones don’t matter. Everybody’s work, including everyone’s comments and my own comments on each person’s work each week is posted on the class site and folks can go to it any time of the day or night. Class members can begin sending back their comments on each others’ in their group from Sunday through the following Sunday, when it begins again. Although, in practicality, most members send in their work each week on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It’s like being in an “on-ground” class in that everything said or done in class is seen by everybody.

We do have a chat function and people use it all the time, even though they’re in different time zones. One of the best things about this class is that we have lots of oldtimers who know from their own experience what works in a novel and what doesn’t and more importantly… why it works or doesn’t work. It’s like having a group of seven or eight other professionals helping you with your own novel. Probably at any given time in class, there will be four or five who already have had a novel or several published as a result of being in class, so it’s a really rarified group. And, if you think that you couldn’t operate in a situation like this because you’re a beginner, that simply isn’t the case here at all. Nearly every single person in each class began just the way you did, as a rank beginner. And, they remember and they have complete empathy for your situation, if you’re a beginning writer.

It’s not a situation of simply saying, “This doesn’t work.” Myself and others in class will surely say that, but we then let you know why it didn’t work and give you solid suggestions on how to make it work. We collectively have a nurturing nature and all of us want the newcomer to succeed just about as badly as that writer wants to.

If you are still interested but still feel intimidated, I think if you simply look at how the class works, you’ll quickly see how you’ll fit in comfortably. Since we’ve got a couple of weeks left in class, for anyone who would like to see up close and personal how we work as a class, I’d be delighted to give you auditor status for our last week. Besides class members, we also have an auditor function which works the same as it does in a “regular” college class. You’re admitted to class and can view every single thing we’re doing and the entire class session is archived and easy to access. Normally, the cost of auditing the class is $50, but for our last week, for those interested in simply getting a look at how we work, just email me at and let me know and I’ll have our class administrator, Holly, get you on board asap.

I know there are no doubt a lot of questions you may have. Please feel free to contact me at any time and ask me anything you’d like.

From past experience, when we’ve had openings like this, they go quickly, so if you are interested, please get in touch, okay?

For those interested in such things, here are a few of my own qualifications to teach writing.

MFA in Writing from Vermont College
Taught writing for the UCLA Writer’s Program
Taught writing via Skype for the New York Writer’s Workshop
Writer-in-Residence for three years for the University of Toledo
Writer-in-Residence for one year for Trine University
Taught writing classes for St. Francis University
Taught writing classes for Phoenix College
Taught writing for Writer’s Digest Online Classes
Taught writing classes for Vermont College
Published 20 books, including craft books on writing, novels, sports books, YA novel, historical nonfiction book, humor nonfiction, black comedy novel, noir, thrillers, literary and existential fiction.
Dozens of short stories published in such publications as The South Carolina Review, High Plains Literary Review, Aethlon, Flatmancrooked, Murdaland, Best American Mystery Stories and many others.
A lot of living… much of it as an outlaw…

Blue skies,

Some of our classmates meet up in Denver