Simon Wood

Posts Tagged: lowlifes

I’m happy to announce the release of MALFRATS, the French edition of LOWLIFES.  After the success of my French book, L’évadée, it was only natural to give French readers something else to chew on.  I’m looking forward to see their response to this story.

For those who read French, the storyline goes a little like this:

Le détective Larry Hayes de la police de San-Francisco, croit avoir atteint le fond du baril quand il reprend conscience dans une ruelle après un mauvais trip et sans aucun souvenir des quatre heures précédentes. Et ce n’est que le commencement de ses ennuis. A deux pâtés de maisons de là, l’informateur de Hayes, un sans-abri nommé Noble Jon, gît dans la rue, mort, après avoir été battu et poignardé. Les sinistres affres de la culpabilité s’infiltrent dans le cerveau de Hayes. Est-il l’assassin de Jon? Les preuves s’accumulent contre lui. Hayes monte sa propre enquête afin d’avoir une longueur d’avance sur les accusations de meurtre qui ne manqueront pas de s’abattre sur lui, et il disparaît parmi la communauté des sans-abri de la ville.

So if you’re French or know someone French, I hope you’ll give this book a shot.

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FallGuy audio2I’m happy and pleased to announce the release of the audio edition of THE FALL GUY.  It’s available from the Audible and Apple stores worldwide.  The storyline is:

“Todd Collins has failed in every job he’s ever undertaken, but that all changes when he backs his jalopy in a shiny, new Porsche belonging to a drug dealer. When the police stop the drug dealer for a broken taillight that Todd has caused and discover a cocaine shipment, a West Coast kingpin holds Todd responsible. On the run from organized crime, Todd discovers his true calling when he fights back.”

The audio book is narrated by the wonderful Ed Hunter who read ROAD RASH and LOWLIFES.  Ed does a great job bringing hapless Todd to life.  I hope you’ll give it a listen.

Audible (US)
Audible (UK)
Audible (Australia)

iTunes (US)
iTunes (UK)
iTunes (Canada)
iTunes (Australia)

I hope you enjoy this second title from Dark Wood Books.

Categories: new book

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Lowlifes audio3I’m happy and pleased to announce the release of the audio edition of LOWLIFES.  It’s available from the Audible and Apple stores worldwide.  The storyline is:

“San Francisco Detective Larry Hayes thinks he’s hit bottom when he wakes up in an alley after a bad trip with no memory of the last four hours.  This is only the beginning of his problems.  Two blocks away, Hayes’ informant, a homeless man named Noble Jon, lies dead, beaten and stabbed.  The eerie pangs of guilt seep into Hayes.  Is he Jon’s killer?  The mounting evidence says so.  Hayes mounts his own investigation to stay one step ahead of murder charge and disappears amongst the city’s homeless community.”

The audio book is narrated by the wonderful Ed Hunter who read ROAD RASH a couple of years ago.  Ed does a great job bringing troubled cop, Larry Hayes, to life.  I hope you’ll give it a listen.

Audible (US)
Audible (UK)
Audible (Australia)

iTunes (US)
iTunes (UK)
iTunes (Canada)
iTunes (Australia)

This is the first title produced under the Dark Wood Books label.  Expect more from them soon.

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From time to time someone will take me to task over my characters—usually my protagonists. The usual complaint is over my hero’s “goodness.” The remarks usually center on, “You know, if your main guy had done the right thing in the beginning, he wouldn’t have gotten himself into all that trouble.” And those people are right. My good guys have usually done something to put themselves in the position they find themselves in. It’s somewhat of a personal belief. If you stray from life’s straight and narrow, then life’s probably going to bite you in the ass and keep biting.

I’m happy with this trait of my stories. Squeaky clean characters blazing a trail for all that is good and right don’t excite me. I like fallible people. People who know to put on oven mitts because they’ve gotten burned a couple of times, not because they’ve been told not to touch hot things without them. I guess I identify with these sorts of characters. I’ve committed a few minor infractions in my time and the repercussions have snowballed. I think it’s the gathering pace of the payback that intrigues me and drives my fiction. The fear and panic experienced when a situation goes sideways makes for great stories, if not for real life.

I must admit it has colored the way I look at the world. I’m not a glass half-empty kind of a guy but more a glass half-filled with something corrosive tipping over and spilling everywhere kind of a guy. I have a habit of predicting how a bad situation will get worse. Once you’ve tempted fate, it has its own gravitational pull that is inevitable.

The spark that ignites my storylines is a moment of weakness. The character is presented with a situation that nine times out of ten they’d ignore, but circumstances are skewed this one time. He’s out of a job. She’s just been dumped. These characters are in a weakened state when an opportunity is presented. Instead of blowing it off, they throw caution to the wind and act out of character. Naturally, it doesn’t pan out and it is going to take a whole lot of fixing to set everything right again. Moments of weakness are dangerous currency.

Lowlifes really underscores the idea of someone at their lowest ebb because of their human frailties. The story centers on Larry Hayes, a San Francisco Detective. He thinks his life has already hit rock bottom. He’s lost his family to divorce and he’s clinging to his career by a thread. All this stems from a painkiller addiction he can’t kick that he picked up from an on-the-job injury. But there’s another level for Hayes to fall as he finds out when he wakes up in an alley after a bad trip with no memory of the last four hours. He thinks this is the wakeup call he needs to turn his life around, but his problems intensify when he receives a call from a homicide inspector. Hayes’ informant, a homeless man named Noble Jon, lies dead two blocks away, beaten and stabbed. The eerie pang of guilt seeps into Hayes. During his lost four hours, he’s been in a fight. His knuckles are bruised and there’s blood under his fingernails. Is he Jon’s killer? The mounting evidence says so. To add insult to injury, his wife has employed a PI to dig up dirt on him to ensure she gets sole custody of their daughter. Hayes mounts an off-the-books investigation and disappears amongst the city’s homeless community to stay one step ahead of a murder charge. In a fight to save his neck, Hayes faces a much larger issue—stay on the path he’s on or turn things around? Despite his faults, isn’t that a character you’d want to read about?

I guess I like my shop-soiled heroes, maybe not to hang out with, but to read and write about. It has a lot to do with how someone reacts under insurmountable odds. There’s more at stake than the mystery or the crime to solve. The character’s soul is at stake as well. And I can’t help root for someone in that position. Everyone loves a comeback kid. I think I also identify with human frailty and characters like Larry Hayes. While I have never done any of things Hayes has done, I can’t say I couldn’t land myself in that level of trouble. I don’t think any of us can. We’re all capable of screwing up bad badly under the right (or maybe it’s wrong) circumstances. There for the grace of God go I and you—don’t pretend you’re infallible. We all have our moments of weakness.

That concludes Lowlifes‘s month in the spotlight. So I’ll leave you with the first three chapters from the book. Enjoy!

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three

Categories: book of the month

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Lowlifes centers on a murder in the homeless community. As I wrote the story, it could have been easy to show the homeless in stereotypical terms as people lower down on the totem pole than the rest of society. I made it an aim of the story to show all kinds of homeless people, the likeable and the not so likeable.

I think the prospect of becoming homeless is a haunting one. A roof over our heads is such a basic need that it’s hard to imagine living without one. No one sets out to live on the streets, but life and circumstances can get away from us and there’s nothing to say that any one of us couldn’t end up homeless, especially these days. It’s easier to fall off life’s tightrope than you think.

The reason this subject appealed to me is that I’ve encountered all sort of homeless people. A few years ago, I was riding my bike into work early because I had to attend an offsite seminar. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten my keys to the building. This resulted in to me changing out of my ratty cycling clothes and into my work clothes by a fountain. With the early hour, I could get away with stripping down to underwear without being caught. So I thought. Just as I was pulling on my trousers, a young couple came around the corner and saw me. They were obviously homeless. They used the central plaza to sleep and the water fountains to the clean up. They mistook me for fellow homeless person and a new one at that and proceeded to tell me where I could get food, what water was fresh to drink and wished me luck on getting back on my feet. It was such a touching exchange that I never shared the encounter with my bosses. I didn’t want the plaza being locked down to make it impossible for this couple to come and go.

A couple of years ago, my sister was in Denver for a conference. She was shocked to find that several of the hotel staff working the conference were sleeping rough on the streets at night. She got to talking to a couple of these people who were in their early twenties who explained they could afford to eat, but not to live anywhere. My sister struggled on a personal front with that harsh reality.

Quite recently, late at night, a man offered to wash my wife’s windshield at a gas station in San Francisco. At first, she said no, but after she filled up, she offered the guy a couple of bucks. He refused the handout and said he’d only take the money if he cleaned Julie’s windows, so she let him. While he worked, they talked. He explained he’d been laid off, the benefits had dried up and he had no money coming in. He refused to beg for money, but he was desperate to work, even if it was for loose change. It’s hard not to admire someone for that level of self-respect.

I guess I’m saying you can’t judge person just by looking at them or by the situation you find them in. You have to talk to people first before you can make an assessment. I can’t say every homeless person I’ve encountered is like the people I’ve described. Some homeless people have been rude, aggressive, crazy and/or unredeemable. So when I’m approached by a homeless person, I always engage them. I may not give on every occasion, but I never pretend the person doesn’t exist, because if the tables were turned, I would want someone to give me a moment of their time.

Categories: book of the month

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Lowlifes centers on a washed up cop investigating the murder of a homeless man. When my collaborator moviemaker, Robert Pratten, approached me with the idea of a crime story set in the homeless community, it immediately appealed to my sensibilities. Regardless of your opinions regarding the homeless, the idea of becoming homeless is a scary thought and in these dire economic times, it’s something that could happen to any of us. That’s the great appeal of Lowlifes to me. That a calamity such as homelessness could strike any one of us.

It’s very easy to judge others and their decisions, but I believe we walk a fine line in our daily lives. I’ve spoken to book clubs where readers have remarked that they would never find themselves in the predicaments that some of my characters find themselves in. I say you just haven’t found yourself in awkward predicaments—yet. Circumstances bigger and meaner can strike us at any time and wreck our lives. Homelessness could be the result, but so could jail, divorce, loss and a host of other things. The upshot is that our lives can be upended at any moment.

So, when Robert presented me with a brief outline for the book, there were certain things I wanted to have in the story. The protagonist is San Francisco PD detective, Larry Hayes. He’s lost his wife and daughter to divorce. He’s lost his self control to a painkiller addiction picked up from an on-the-job injury. And he’ll lose his career if he doesn’t get a handle on his life. It could be argued that Larry has fallen off the tightrope, but for me, he hasn’t. He stands on the precipice. His situation can get a whole hell of a lot worse. He can end up living on the streets like the man whose murder he’s investigating or he can take a grip on his life and turn it around. Maybe sifting through an already ruined life reflected back at him will be the thing to help Larry find his balance and keep from falling.

I don’t necessarily condone the decisions that Larry Hayes has made when readers meet him on page one, but I sympathize. I don’t believe any of us can say we wouldn’t allow ourselves to end up in Larry’s position. Life’s rug can be yanked out from under us at any time. Luck, timing and due diligence ensures that it doesn’t happen too often, but sometimes, luck plays against us and it all goes wrong in a hurry.

So let Larry Hayes’ story be a warning to us all that the ground under our feet isn’t as stable as we take for granted.

Categories: book of the month

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LOWLIFES is February’s book of the month. It’s a crime novella set in San Francisco. Unlike my other books, it wasn’t my idea. Someone came to me with a story idea and this was the result…

Storyline: San Francisco Detective Larry Hayes thinks he’s hit bottom when he wakes up in an alley after a bad trip with no memory of the last four hours. This is only the beginning of his problems. Two blocks away, Hayes’ informant, a homeless man named Noble Jon, lies dead, beaten and stabbed. The eerie pangs of guilt seep into Hayes. Is he Jon’s killer? The mounting evidence says so. Hayes mounts his own investigation to stay one step ahead of murder charge and disappears amongst the city’s homeless community.

What They Are Saying About the book:
“A terrific pulp-fiction piece that reminds us just how easy it is to fall off life’s tightrope.”
— SJ Rozan, Edgar Award winning author

“Inspector Hayes, a complex, likable cop, finds himself in a world of trouble. Lowlifes grabs you on the first page and is nonstop action to the end.”
— LJ Sellers, author of The Detective Jackson series

“Lowlifes provides a gripping , Rashomon-like look at the murder of homeless police informant Noble Jon. Innovative use of multiple media and alternative technology amps the verisimilitude while providing a deeper insight the characters’ desperate motives. An intriguing twenty-first century murder mystery.”
— Mark Coggins, author of The Big Wake Up

“Simon Wood’s inventive and original LOWLIFES takes you on a tour of San Francisco no tourist gets to see. The ride’s as thrilling as a high-speed chase down Lombard Street, and just as twisty. Don’t miss it!”
— Kelli Stanley, author of City of Dragons

Over the coming weeks, I’ll share a little on how this book came about and what happens next. Enjoy!

Categories: book of the month

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LOWLIFES is my under the radar book this week. This book is a little different from anything I’ve ever done before because it was multimedia project that involved a blog and movie as well as a book. The whole thing played out as a serial at the beginning of the year.

PLOTLINE:
LOWLIFES centers on Larry Hayes, a San Francisco Detective. He thinks his life has already hit rock bottom. He’s lost his family to divorce and he’s clinging to his career by a thread. All this stems from a painkiller addiction he can’t kick that he picked up from an on-the-job injury. But there’s another level for Hayes to fall as he finds out when he wakes up in an alley after a bad trip with no memory of the last four hours. He thinks this is the wakeup call he needs to turn his life around, his problems intensify when he receives a call from a homicide inspector. Hayes’ informant, a homeless man named Noble Jon, lies dead two blocks away, beaten and stabbed. The eerie pang of guilt seeps into Hayes. During his lost four hours, he’s been in a fight. His knuckles are bruised and there’s blood under his fingernails. Is he Jon’s killer? The mounting evidence says so. To add insult to injury, his wife has employed a PI to dig up dirt on him to ensure she gets sole custody of their daughter. Hayes mounts an off-the-books investigation and disappears amongst the city’s homeless community to stay one step ahead of a murder charge.

LOWLIFES is a collaboration between filmmaker, Robert Pratten, and me. We used a different medium to tell the story. The book tells the story from point of view of the protagonist, a San Francisco Police Inspector. The short film gives the viewpoint of a PI investigating the cop. The fictional blog catalogs the thoughts and feelings of the cop’s estranged wife. You don’t have to read/watch all three to understand the story. You can quite simply read the book and not watch the movie and it’ll all make sense—and vice versa. You can watch the first of the movie episodes below.

The serial is over and LOWLIFES is now available as book and ebook. You can learn more about the project at http://www.lowlifes.tv.

Thanks and I hope you’ll enjoy the story in all its guises.

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That’s the question The Jungle Red Writers ask during my interview. Look at the trouble I get myself into when I write a book and a movie at the same time. In other places, Murder She Writes host a guest blog in connection with Lowlifes and the mistakes people make. Leave a comment over at Murder She Writes and you have a chance at winning a copy of Lowlifes.

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I’m today’s guest blogger over at Maurice Broaddus‘ site. I question how safe are we in our day to day lives and how it fluenced LOWLIFES.

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