Switchblade—a different slice of hardboiled fiction where the dreamers and the schemers, the dispossessed and the damned, and the hobos and the rebels tango at the edge of society.
"If readers haven’t gotten hip to Switchblade yet they need to . . . they are very much like the Black Lizard of the new century, especially when it comes to finding the new talent that the community hasn’t heard of yet."
"My current publisher crush has got to be PM Press’s Switchblade line."
—Jedidiah Ayres, Ransom Notes: the Barnes & Noble Mystery Blog
If you feel like rocking out while reading our fine selection of heartfelt radical violence, and rocking it loud, we've even got a song for you, courtesy of Chris La Tray's old band the Lazerwolfs. Name of Switchblade if you couldn't guess. Makes us happier than a barrel of full-metal monkeys.
Switchblade is a noir imprint showcasing the grittiest in new work, illuminating the lamentably unavailable classics in the genre, and highlighting the shadows on the margins of the dark end of the street.
Series Editors: Gary Phillips and Andrea Gibbons
1. The Jook - Gary Phillips
2. I-5: A Novel of Crime, Transport, and Sex - Summer Brenner
3. Pike - Benjamin Whitmer
4. The Chieu Hoi Saloon - Michael Harris
5. The Wrong Thing - Barry Graham
6. Send My Love and A Molotov Cocktail - edited by Gary Phillips and Andrea Gibbons
7. Prudence Couldn't Swim - James Kilgore
8. Nearly Nowhere - Summer Brenner
With her teen daughter Ruby, Kate Ryan moved to the secluded village of Zamora to have a quiet life off the grid beside her poor neighbors, the Spanish farmers of northern New Mexico. When Kate invites the wrong drifter home, the delicate peace of her domain shatters. Troy is the bad smell that refuses to go away.
Finally, Kate bribes him into leaving with a few hundred dollars and a ride to Santa Fe. In town, Troy hustles his way into another woman's life and returns to Zamora to prove he's not the man Kate thinks he is. No? He's way worse. After Troy is shot and Ruby disappears, the village erupts with fear and confusion.
Like a Greek chorus, the Spanish farmers camp outside the Ryan house and offer their comments, both quixotic and profound, on mayhem, murder, invasion, conquest, and drought. Meanwhile, coming and going are the sheriff, the local doctor, Ruby's friend, his mother, and the clinic's nurse, each with a different theory on Troy's assailant, Ruby's kidnapping, and the discovery of an unidentified corpse. Steadfast throughout is Kate's love for her daughter and her willingness to risk everything to find her.
Brenner writes in prose as stark and beautiful as New Mexico's landscape where violence bursts in starts and fits like the summer monsoons. All the more terrifying for its understated brutality, Nearly Nowhere is filled with ominous surprises as it travels the back roads from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to Idaho’s Bitterroot Wilderness.
About the Author:
Summer Brenner was raised in Georgia and drifted northeast to Boston, over the Atlantic, out west to New Mexico, and eventually to the Bay Area where she has been a long-time resident.
Currently, she works in Richmond, California, focusing on literacy and youth. She is author of a dozen books of poetry and fiction, including the noir thriller from PM, I-5, A Novel of Crime, Transport, and Sex; and short story collection, My Life in Clothes. Forthcoming from PM is Nearly Nowhere, first published in France by Gallimard's la serie noire.
“With her beautifully wrought sentences and dialogue that bring characters alive, Summer Brenner weaves a gripping and dark tale of mysterious crime based in spiritually and naturally rich northern New Mexico and beyond.” —Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of Roots of Resistance: A History of Land Tenure in New Mexico
“Summer Brenner's Nearly Nowhere has the breathless momentum of the white-water river some of her characters must navigate en route from a isolated village in New Mexico to a neo-Nazi camp in Idaho. A flawed but loving single mother, a troubled teen girl, a good doctor with a secret, a murderous sociopath—this short novel packs enough into its pages to fight well above its weight class.” —Michael Harris, author of The Chieu Hoi Saloon
Prudence Couldn’t Swim
Author: James Kilgore
Publisher: PM Press
Size: 8 x 5
Page count: 208
Set in Oakland, CA, white ex-convict Cal Winter returns home one day to find his gorgeous, young, black wife, Prudence, drowned in the swimming pool. Prudence couldn’t swim and Cal concludes she didn’t go in the water willingly. Though theirs was a marriage of convenience, he takes the murder personally. Along with his prison homie Red Eye, Cal sets out to find out who did Prudence in. His convoluted and often darkly humorous journey takes him deep into the world of the sexual urges of the rich and powerful, and gradually reveals the many layers of his wife's complex identity. While doing so, Cal and Red Eye must confront their own racially charged pasts if the killer is to be caught.
Author James Kilgore has woven together strands of his own quixotic and complicated life—twenty-seven years as a political fugitive, two decades as a teacher in Africa, and six years in prison—into a heady tale of mystery and consequences.
About the Author:
James Kilgore was a 1960s political activist in California, who ultimately became involved with the Symbionese Liberation Army. In 1975, he fled a Federal explosives charge and remained a fugitive for 27 years. During that time, he rejected the politics of small group violence and built a life as an educator, researcher, activist, parent and husband in Southern Africa. Using the pseudonym of John Pape, he earned a Ph.D. and authored a number of academic articles and educational materials and co-edited the acclaimed 2002 anthology: Crisis of Service Delivery in South Africa (HSRC, Cape Town and Zed Press, London). Authorities arrested Kilgore in November 2002 and extradited him to California where he served six and a half years in state and Federal prison. While incarcerated, he worked as a teachers’ assistant and also completed the drafts of eight novels and a screenplay. Umuzi Publishers (Cape Town) released his first work, We Are All Zimbabweans Now, in June of 2009. Two of his subsequent novels are contracted for release in 2011, Prudence Couldn’t Swim (PM Press, Oakland, CA) and Freedom Never Rests: A Novel of Democracy in South Africa (Jacana Media, Johannesburg).
"James Kilgore is a masterful writer, and as a US activist who has lived in Africa most of his adult life, Kilgore is able to connect us to politics and culture as no other writer. This character driven mystery promises to find a devoted following."
—Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War.
"James Kilgore’s writing is a refreshing blend of literary talent and political insight ; something sorely missing from much of the fiction penned by writers on the Left. His wit, swift pacing, and dead-on characterization are skillfully woven into an unflinching vision for radical change and social justice. So often we are told that a commitment to radical change and a rollicking good read mix like oil and water. Along comes Kilgore to put that lie to rest!"
—Frank B. Wilderson III, Author of Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid, Winner American Book Award, 2008
Edited by Gary Phillips and Andrea Gibbons
Published November 2011
Size: 8 by 5.5
Page count: 368 Pages
Subjects: Fiction Anthology
Burn, Baby, Burn.
An incendiary mixture of genres and voices, this collection of short stories compiles a unique set of work that revolves around riots, revolts, and revolution. From the turbulent days of unionism in the streets of New York City during the Great Depression to a group of old women who meet at their local café to plan a radical act that will change the world forever, these original and once out-of-print stories capture the various ways people rise up to challenge the status quo and change up the relationships of power. Ideal for any fan of noir, science fiction, and revolution and mayhem, this collection includes works from Sara Paretsky, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Cory Doctorow, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Summer Brenner.
They call him the Kid. He's a killer, a dark Latino legend of the Southwest's urban badlands, "a child who terrifies adults." They speak of him in whispers in dive bars near closing time. Some claim to have met him. Others say he doesn't exist, a phantom blamed for every unsolved act of violence, a ghost who haunts every blood-splattered crime scene.
But he is real. He's a young man with a love of cooking and reading, an abiding loneliness and an appetite for violence. He is a cipher, a projection of the dreams and nightmares of people ignored by Phoenix’s economic boom…and a contemporary outlaw in search of an ordinary life. Love brings him the chance at a new life in the form of Vanjii, a beautiful, damaged woman. But try as he might to abandon the past, his past won't abandon him. The Kid fights back in the only way he knows – and sets in motion a tragic sequence of events that lead him to an explosive conclusion shocking in its brutality and tenderness.
About the Author:
Barry Graham is a former boxer, former gravedigger and a current novelist, journalist and tireless blogger whose reporting has appeared in magazines ranging from Harper's to Flaunt. He is the author of five other books, including The Book of Man, which was named one of the best books of 1995 by the American Library Association. His article "Why I Watch People Die," about the two executions he has witnessed, won a FOLIO Silver Medal in the Best Single Article Category in 2008. The French magazine Transfuge has called him "one of the great post-realist authors."
"Graham's words are raw and gritty, and his observations unrelenting and brutally honest." —Booklist
"Graham's stories are peopled with the desperate and the mad. A . . . master." —Times
"Vivid, almost lurid, prose . . . a talented author." —Time Out (London)
The Chieu Hoi Saloon
By Michael Harris
Published: October 2010
Page Count: 320
Dimensions: 8 by 5
Los Angeles, 1992. Three people's lives are about to collide against the flaming backdrop of the Rodney King riots. Vietnam vet Harry Hudson is a rootless journalist fleeing a fear-ridden childhood, the specter of a civilian he shot in Vietnam for reasons he has yet to fathom, and the drowning of his 2-year-old daughter while he sat by drunk.
He stutters and wrestles with depression, aware he's passed the point at which victim becomes victimizer. Drawn remorselessly to the lowest dives where he feels at home, he meets Mama Thuy, a bombshell struggling to run a Navy bar in a tough Long Beach neighborhood, and Kelly Crenshaw, a prostitute whose husband is in prison.The Chieu Hoi Saloon as character study hauls you kicking into humanity's very depths, and then drives you through the darkness as thriller: Will Harry find the love and redemption he seeks or, blinded by loneliness and need, will he commit yet another crime?
About the Author:
Michael Harris grew up in a little railroad town in Northern California, in the loom of Mt. Shasta, whose mystic influence shadowed him from the University of Oregon to Harvard to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. An army veteran of Vietnam, he has worked as a Forest Service aide, a janitor and an English conversation teacher in Tokyo. For thirty years, he was a reporter, editor and book reviewer for West Coast newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. Like his alter ego, Harry Hudson, he stutters and is a gloomy cuss. He lives with his wife in Long Beach; they have a grown son. The Chieu Hoi Saloon is his first novel.
"Mike Harris' novel has all the brave force and arresting power of Celine and Dostoevsky in its descent into the depths of human anguish and that peculiar gallantry of the moral soul that is caught up in irrational self-punishment at its own failings. Yet Harris manages an amazing and transforming affirmation—the novel floats above all its pain on pure delight in the variety of the human condition. It is a story of those sainted souls who live in bars, retreating from defeat but rendered with such vividness and sensitivity that it is impossible not to care deeply about these figures from our own waking dreams. In an age less obsessed by sentimentality and mawkish 'uplift,' this book would be studied and celebrated and emulated."
—John Shannon, author of The Taking of the Waters and the Jack Liffey mysteries
"Michael Harris is a realist with a realist's unflinching eye for the hard truths of contemporary times. Yet in The Chieu Hoi Saloon, he gives us a hero worth admiring: the passive, overweight, depressed and sex-obsessed Harry Hudson, who in the face of almost overwhelming despair still manages to lead a valorous life of deep faith. In this powerful and compelling first novel, Harris makes roses bloom in the gray underworld of porno shops, bars and brothels by compassionately revealing the yearning loneliness beneath the grime—our universal human loneliness that seeks transcendence through love."
—Paula Huston, author of Daughters of Song and The Holy Way
"The Chieu Hoi Saloon concerns one Harry Hudson, the literary bastard son of David Goodis and Dorothy Hughes. Hardcore and unsparing, the story takes you on a ride with Harry in his bucket of a car and pulls you into his subterranean existence in bright daylight and gloomy shadow. One sweet read."
—Gary Phillips, author of The Jook
—Charlotte Vale Allen, author of Daddy's Girl and Mood Indigo
By Benjamin Whitmer
Published July 2010
Size: 5 by 8
Page count: 224 Pages
Subjects: Fiction, Thriller
Douglas Pike is no longer the murderous hustler he was in his youth, but reforming hasn't made him much kinder. He's just living out his life in his Appalachian hometown, working odd jobs with his partner, Rory, hemming in his demons the best he can. And his best seems just good enough until his estranged daughter overdoses and he takes in his twelve-year-old granddaughter, Wendy.
Just as the two are beginning to forge a relationship, Derrick Kreiger, a dirty Cincinnati cop, starts to take an unhealthy interest in the girl. Pike and Rory head to Cincinnati to learn what they can about Derrick and the death of Pike’s daughter, and the three men circle, evenly matched predators in a human wilderness of junkie squats, roadhouse bars and homeless Vietnam vet encampments.
About the Author:
Benjamin Whitmer was born in 1972 and raised on back-to-the-land communes and counterculture enclaves ranging from Southern Ohio to Upstate New York. One of his earliest and happiest memories is of standing by the side of a country road with his mother, hitchhiking to parts unknown. Since then, he has been a factory grunt, a vacuum salesman, a convalescent, a high-school dropout, a semi-truck loader, an activist, a kitchen-table gunsmith, a squatter, a college professor, a dishwasher, a technical writer, and a petty thief. He has also published fiction and non-fiction in a number of magazines, anthologies, and essay collections. Pike is his first novel.
"Benjamin Whitmer’s novel Pike is the most exciting, kick ass debut of the year."
—Jedidiah Ayres, Hardboiled Wonderland
"Pike may just be the best noir novel that we’ve seen in years, a true black novel if there ever was one. I won’t name names but much of the purported noir class of crime fiction just can’t hold a candle to what is on display here, Pike is hardcore and the real deal all others are pale imitators."
“Without so much as a sideways glance towards gentility, Pike is one righteous mutherfucker of a read. I move that we put Whitmer’s balls in a vise and keep slowly notching up the torque until he’s willing to divulge the secret of how he managed to hit such a perfect stride his first time out of the blocks.”
"Benjamin Whitmer’s Pike captures the grime and the rage of my not-so fair city with disturbing precision. The words don’t just tell a story here, they scream, bleed, and burst into flames. Pike, like its eponymous main character, is a vicious punisher that doesn’t mince words or take prisoners, and no one walks away unscathed. This one’s going to haunt me for quite some time."
"This is what noir is, what it can be when it stops playing nice—blunt force drama stripped down to the bone, then made to dance across the page."
—Stephen Graham Jones
I-5: A Novel of Crime, Transport and Sex
By Summer Brenner
Published April 2009
Size: 5 by 8
Page count: 256 Pages
Subjects: Fiction, Thriller
A novel of crime, transport, and sex, I-5 tells the bleak and brutal story of Anya and her journey north from Los Angeles to Oakland on the interstate that bisects the Central Valley of California.
Anya is the victim of a deep deception. Someone has lied to her; and because of this lie, she is kept under lock and key, used by her employer to service men, and indebted for the privilege. In exchange, she lives in the United States and fantasizes on a future American freedom. Or as she remarks to a friend, "Would she rather be fucking a dog...or living like a dog?" In Anya’s world, it’s a reasonable question.
Much of I-5 transpires on the eponymous interstate. Anya travels with her “manager” and driver from Los Angeles to Oakland. It’s a macabre journey: a drop at Denny’s, a bad patch of fog, a visit to a “correctional facility,” a rendezvous with an organ grinder, and a dramatic entry across Oakland’s city limits.
About the Author:
Summer Brenner was raised in Georgia and migrated west, first to New Mexico and eventually to northern California where she has been a long-time resident. She has published books of both poetry and fiction and given scores of readings in the United States, France, and Japan. In addition to I-5, her nine books include: Ivy, Tale of a Homeless Girl in San Francisco, Dancers & the Dance, and The Soft Room.
"It has a quality very rare in literature: a subtle, dark humor that’s only perceivable when one goes deep into the heart of this world’s absurd tragedy, or tragic absurdity."
"Insightful, innovative and riveting. After its lyrical beginning inside Anya's head, I-5 shifts momentum into a rollicking gangsters-on-the-lam tale that is in turns blackly humorous, suspenseful, heartbreaking and always populated by intriguing characters. Anya is a wonderful, believable heroine, her tragic tale told from the inside out, without a shred of sentimental pity, which makes it all the stronger. A twisty, fast-paced ride you won't soon forget."
—Denise Hamilton, author of the L.A.Times bestseller The Last Embrace.
"I'm in awe. I-5 moves so fast you can barely catch your breath. It's as tough as tires, as real and nasty as road rage, and best of all, it careens at breakneck speed over as many twists and turns as you'll find on The Grapevine. What a ride! I-5's a hard-boiled standout."
--Julie Smith, editor of New Orleans Noir and author of the Skip Langdon and Talba Wallis crime novel series
"In I-5, Summer Brenner deals with the onerous and gruesome subject of sex trafficking calmly and forcefully, making the reader feel the pain of its victims. The trick to forging a successful narrative is always in the details, and I-5 provides them in abundance. This book bleeds truth--after you finish it, the blood will be on your hands."
--Barry Gifford, author, poet and screenwriter
By Gary Phillips
Published March 2009
Size: 5 by 8
Page count: 256 Pages
Subjects: Fiction, Thriller
Zelmont Raines has slid a long way since his ability to jook, to out maneuver his opponents on the field, made him a Super Bowl winning wide receiver, earning him lucrative endorsement deals and more than his share of female attention. But Zee hasn’t always been good at saying no, so a series of missteps involving drugs, a paternity suit or two, legal entanglements, shaky investments and recurring injuries have virtually sidelined his career.
That is until Los Angeles gets a new pro franchise, the Barons, and Zelmont has one last chance at the big time he dearly misses. Just as it seems he might be getting back in the flow, he’s enraptured by Wilma Wells, the leggy and brainy lawyer for the team--who has a ruthless game plan all her own. And it’s Zelmont who might get jooked.
About the Author:
Gary Phillips' twenty-five years of community activism in Los Angeles on issues ranging from affordable housing to gang intervention to neighborhood empowerment served him well when he began writing crime novels. He has worked as a union organizer, political campaign coordinator, radio talk show host and teacher. He has written op-ed pieces for the L.A. Times Magazine, San Francisco Examiner, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Miami Herald and other newspapers. His novels include: The Perpetrators (2002), Bangers (2003) and the seven books in the Ivan Monk and Martha Chainey series. Gary has also contribued to and edited many short stories collections such as: The Cocaine Chronicles, Politics Noir, Orange County Noir, and The Darker Mask.
"Phillips, author of the acclaimed Ivan Monk series, takes elements of Jim Thompson (the ending), black-exploitation flicks (the profanity-fueled dialogue), and Penthouse magazine (the sex is anatomically correct) to create an over-the-top violent caper in which there is no honor, no respect, no love, and plenty of money. Anyone who liked George Pelecanos' King Suckerman is going to love this even-grittier take on many of the same themes."
—Wes Lukowsky, Booklist
“Enough gritty gossip, blistering action and trash talk to make real life L.A. seem comparatively wholesome.”
“Gary Phillips writes tough and gritty parables about life and death on the mean streets--a place where sometimes just surviving is a noble enough cause. His is a voice that should be heard and celebrated. It rings true once again in The Jook, a story where all of Phillips’ talents are on display.”
—Michael Connelly, author of the Harry Bosch books