|photo: Ron Reagan
CB McKenzie's first novel, Bad Country, won the Tony Hillerman Prize from St. Martin's Press, the Spur Award for Best Contemporary Novel from Western Writers of America, and was shortlisted for a New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, a Shamus and an Edgar. After a decade as a fashion model in Europe and the U.S., and some time as a house painter and farmhand, McKenzie graduated from the University of Arizona. His novel Burn What Will Burn was published by Minotaur Books (June 21, 2016).
On your nightstand now:
The Hundred Mile View by C.J. Howell (280 Steps Publishing): this book is as cranky and agitated as a constipated mountain lion and about as likely to bite your ass; a southwestern noir with some teeth in its mouth.
The Bottoms by Joe Lansdale (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard): based on his short story "Mad Dog Summer" (which was originally published in 999: New Stories of Horror and Suspense, but can most easily be found in The Best of Joe R. Lansdale). It is a useful example of how to take a good 30-page short story and turn it into a great 300-page novel (and win the Edgar).
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie: this is a coaster for my beer bottles.
The Scribe, a novel by Matthew Guinn: Matthew is a blurb buddy of mine, and I love the way he bends history to accommodate story with neither the worse for the effort.
The Secret Life of Anna Blanc by Jennifer Kincheloe, another really good mystery set in history.
A Teacher's Introduction to Postmodernism by Ray Linn: I love me my pomo, and this is the "reminder" book I keep on hand.
She Died a Lady by John Dickson Carr (as Carter Dickson), silly stuff on a lot of levels, but I'm a sucker for a Golden Age locked-door mystery, and a diehard Carr fan.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Boston Strangler by Gerold Frank. I snuck this from my mom's reading stack and read it while home sick from grammar school. Scared the sh*te out of me, and still does. Close second: Myra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal. (That brace of books should give some clue as to my early mindset.)
Your top five authors:
Graham Greene: my go-to when I tend to overwrite. Though with predictable characters, Greene always composes elegant prose and writes short books with some twist that gives all his novels some mystery.
Cormac McCarthy: my go-to when I tend to forget how the Bible sounds and want to write like that. Child of God is one of my favorite books, and James Franco's weird-ass movie version also do I love (to adipocerous death).
Agatha Christie: still the best mystery writer of all time. I once read her books in chronological order of publication and still have all 80-plus, in various paperback editions, beside me at all times.
Gabriel García Márquez: when I was a kid, Cien años de soledad introduced me to the idea that sympathetic characters can be constructed from flawed material. The Autumn of the Patriarch is my favorite because it proved that to me.
King David et al.: Psalms 130, "I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope" is a good reminder to writers of the need to pray their way out of "block." Psalms are what I read when I don't read Cormac McCarthy.
Book you've faked reading:
Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hoftstadter. Though I read it eventually, at first I faked having read it, like about 10 million other people, and then even when I read it, I was kind of faking it.
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. I carry this around when I'm at Self-Realization Fellowship in Encinitas (though I've probably read about as much of this book as most of the fellows there, I would imagine).
I have also pretended to read several popular authors I was on panels with, but had not a clue who they were.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Bad Country, a novel by CB McKenzie (2014, Minotaur). If you don't like punctuation, you will love the hell out of this book. If you like punctuation, listen to the Blackstone audio narrated by Mark Bramhall, who has a voice like buttah.
Child of God by Cormac McCarthy, lyrical and harsh and useful, just like the Psalms.
The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq, though a terrible curmudgeon, Houellebecq in this particular book indicates the possibility of a post-hermeneutical rhetoric, which, naturally, all sensible thinkers support.
Book you've bought for the cover:
The Case of the Lonely Heiress by Erle Stanley Gardner; Playback by Raymond Chandler (I collect vintage mystery/hardboiled hardcovers mainly for their covers); Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry by Harry Kemelman (I have all the Rabbi books in vintage hardcover); Calamity Jane of Deadwood Gulch by Ethel Hueston.
Book you hid from your parents:
Autobiography of a Yogi: Self-Realization Fellowship used to sell these little palm-sized booklets about Yogananda's principles and I ordered some from the back of a magazine (can't imagine which one). Not sure if I "hid" these pithy little books per se, but since I was raised pretty strictly Southern Baptist, I was never sure how those tenets would fare in my household.
Book that changed your life:
If my life has changed, I'm not aware of it.
Favorite line from a book:
"In watermelon sugar the deeds were done and done again as my life is done in watermelon sugar." --Richard Brautigan's In Watermelon Sugar. The whole book is like this, and I love every word just like watermelon sugar.
"I wait on the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word, I hope" --Psalms 130
"A man shouldn't forget who tries to kill his dog." --Bad Country by CB McKenzie
Five books you'll never part with:
Every Agatha Christie book featuring Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple.
The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux: the best travel book ever written.
The Drowning Pool by Ross MacDonald. Lew Archer is the literary role model for my PI, Rodeo Grace Garnet, and Ross MacDonald my role model for writing PI novels.
Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre; yes, it is thus.
In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan: I've never shed a tear for a suicidal celebrity save for Richard Brautigan, whose writing (and lifestyle) defined Literary Writer for me for many, many years. I once asked Brautigan during a post-reading q&a (in Arkansas), "What about the Logan Sisters?" and that totally cracked him up, and I will always treasure that moment.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, wherein Agatha Christie invents something.
I'd also like to come fresh to Shutter Island, which completely fooled me (I'm also a big Dennis Lehane fan). Pet Sematary also spellbound me (I could not put that creepy thriller down, so to speak)--and when S. King tweeted positive on my Bad Country, that was like a major prize.