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The xerox machine: printing press of the people

Burn CollectorBy Jackie Wang
HTML Giant
December 15, 2010

Karen Lillis is currently serializing a memoir about working at St. Mark’s Bookshop called Bagging The Beats At Midnight: Confessions of an Indie Bookstore Clerk over at Undie Press. Her recent installment, titled “People Who Led Me to Self-Publishing,” discusses the inspiring and energetic figures she encountered, people who took artistic matters into their own hands by making sloppy, lo-fi xeroxed booklets that were sold on a special consignment rack at St. Mark’s. Karen reminds us that writers such as Anais Nin, William Blake, Walt Whitman, Kathy Acker, Gertrude Stein, and others all self-published at one point. There’s a certain magic about it—the immediacy of it, the openness, the way any wing nut or fanatic or obsessive outsider can be given an equal hearing on the consignment rack. No filtration or editorial process—just print, copy, distribute.

In a recent email I sent to Al Burian, I wrote that I was interested in bridging the gap between the small press/indie publishing world and the self-publishing/zine world. Al is kind of a cult figure in the self-publishing world, but is probably virtually unknown to small press and indie lit readers (although he did get some kind of honorable mention in The Best American Nonrequired Reading series one year). I’ve been reading his zines since I was 13 and I’m still totally obsessed with them. Since Al Burian was my favorite zine writer, over the years I let everyone I knew borrow his writings—teachers, friends, family. Some instantly became obsessive fans of his work as well. Since last month Al’s out-of-print collection of early zines, titled Burn Collector, is finally back in print after being republished by PM Press. (You should check it out—I’ve probably read it more times than any other book in my life.) Al’s zine Burn Collector and others like his inspired me to start self-publishing when I was 15.

In high school I would use the crappy copy machine at the grocery store I worked at to make little booklets of my writings and art. I would mostly give the shoddy cut-and-paste booklets to friends and trade with other people through the mail. I still do this kind of stuff—although now I use InDesign for my layouts and buy nice paper. Even in college I was running something like a covert small-scale printing operation out of the library of an art museum that I interned at. I helped friends—including HTMLGIANT’s Alec Niedenthal—make their chapbooks, band flyers, and noise music tape inserts using printers and a fancy color copy machine that I had the code for. Alec would also sometimes catch me leaving my ridiculous anonymous pamphlets around. The whole thing was joyful and exciting, even if it was kind of naïve and sloppy.

Dennis Cooper is another writer who started out self-publishing. In the 70s, he started a zine called Little Caesar, which was “a literary journal with an anarchist, punk rock spirit.” Now we worship Dennis Cooper (I do, at least). But we can easily forget Dennis’s DIY origins, like we forget about the way countless other cutting edge writers get their start: by putting it out there themselves. Regarding the zines he made in the 70s, Dennis said: “…the literary magazines, whether they were gay or not, were sort of hostile to Little Caesar when it was around. I gave it out free to most people. Stores wouldn’t carry it because it was too weird so I would stuff it under my shirt and put it in the bookstores.”

In regards to Anais Nin, Karen wrote:
Meanwhile her “Story of My Printing Press” neatly laid out the how’s and the why’s of self-publishing. You self-publish because the commercial world could take decades to catch up to your brand of brilliance, because it’s best to get your work out there while it’s fresh, and because as long as you’re able-bodied and don’t mind wearing different hats (writer, book designer, printer, binder, publisher, promoter, etc.), why the hell not?

When I was a naïve little adolescent self-publisher, I was interested in both the established literary avant-garde and the weird world of underground self-publishing. In high school I didn’t know many people who were interested in the kind of stuff I was into, but I had one friend who was the type of literary teenage boy who likes Bukowski and Henry Miller. We traded books and reading material but he never wanted to read anything I gave him that was self-published. He said he was repulsed by it before reading it because there was no “quality control.” He said, “When I get an issue of McSweeney’s, I know it’s all going to be good. But with zines—anyone can make them. It’s probably mostly garbage.” Fair enough. I knew that some of it was garbage, but I wasn’t asking him to sift through every zine ever made—I was giving him the ones I already thought were good. But since he had a stubborn mentality about zines being illegitimate, he wouldn’t even look at them.

I’ve come across this mentality constantly—the people that fear the tyranny of the “bad” cultural producers coming to dismantle their value-system. This paranoia is accompanied by an apocalyptic vision of a world where standards and systems used to police aesthetic value have collapsed completely, allowing for the terrible opportunity of a free-for-all of artistic creation. But I say that it’s also the absence of a regulatory filter aimed at controlling quality and commercial value that allows for a lot of weird and beautifully bizarre things to emerge—incoherent manifestos, angry diatribes, rambling poetry, copy machine art, feminist revenge fantasies, crazy crayon drawings, Harmony Korine’s whack misspelled stories, stick figure comics about DIY anti-depression techniques, etc.

The funny thing to me is, the actual production process of today’s small presses are not that unlike those of the self-publishing world. They’re even undistinguishable in certain cases. Many chapbooks are made at kinkos, friends start presses together and support their friends’ work, etc. Even offset printed books are often independently funded and distributed and still sometimes have typos, disproportionate margins, and so-so photoshop/design jobs. There is still a certain level of do-it-yourself zeal that keeps the process of making things lively in both camps. Perhaps the main difference comes down to the aesthetics: the clean, design-oriented look of indie lit vs. the high-contrast punk stylings of zines. But certainly, these caricatures do not adequately capture the wide range of small press and self-published works out there, though the subcultures remain largely separate.

Honestly, I’ve always welcomed the vision of cultural apocalypse espoused by the guardians of standards. I think any teenager, mental patient, mother, fanatic, amateur poet, or whatever should write if they want to. It doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily read it, but I’ll be happy they’re doing it because it creates more space for unfettered creative activity and contributes to the overall artistic energy of an environment.

I wrote a thesis on race, gender and the practice of writing and something I wrote about was how power operates through the internalization of standards (perhaps a form of “micro-surveillance,” in Foucauldian terms), and a kind of self-imposed dehumanization that makes us feel like we are unworthy of having a “voice.” When I was working on my thesis I was also journaling about my thoughts on writing. I was telling my professor about my anti-hierarchical perspective on writing. Since she was a high modernist, she got real pissed and said, “I don’t get it. You’re one of the GOOD ones! Some people are just stupid and shouldn’t write!” When journaling about the self-objectifying

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A Moment of Doubt on Spinetingler

A Moment of Doubt by Jim Nisbet - quick take
By Russel D McLean
Spinetingler Magazine
January 5, 2011

[Ed note: Yesterday I noticed that Russel had posted a series of tweets about A Moment of Doubt by Jim Nisbet that formed a mini-review. With his permission I've collected them here in the form of a quick take. He also has reserved the right to dig deeper into some of these thoughts. I for one hope he does.]

A Moment of Doubt
by Jim Nisbet is one of the most insane things I’ve read in a long time. But very interesting in its “attack” on detective clichés, even if I think that inherent argument is maybe a little limited in scope. I’m not sure that the genre limitations are as frustrating as Nisbet makes out unless one deliberately makes them that way. Although of course there are times I do understand the points he makes. But besides the contentious stuff about the genre, A Moment of Doubt is still a messed up literary fever-dream of a book & worth a look.


A Moment of Doubt is at turns hilarious, thrilling and obscene. Jim Nisbet’s novella is ripped from the zeitgeist of the 80s, and set in a sex-drenched San Francisco, where the computer becomes the protagonist’s co-conspirator and both writer and machine seem to threaten the written word itself.

The City as whore provides a backdrop oozing with drugs, poets and danger. Nisbet has written a mad-cap meditation on the angst of a writer caught in a world where the rent is due, new technology offers up illicit ways to produce the latest bestseller, and the detective and other characters of the imagination might just sidle up to the bar and buy you a drink in real life. The world of A Moment of Doubt is the world of phone sex, bars and bordellos, AIDS and the lure of hacking. Coming up against the rules of the game–the detective genre itself, has never been such a nasty and gender defying challenge.

Russel D. McLean is a part of the Do Some Damage blogging crew and is the author of The Good Son and The Lost Sister.

The San Francisco poet and novelist Jim Nisbet's new book is an old book, reportedly conceived in the mid-1980s as he was making a name for himself with crime novels while also feeling disgusted by the marauding prosaicism of detective fiction. From necessity, he came up with a different kind of noir-pulp novella: literarily neurotic, self-deconstructing, hardboiled private-dick lit. Perhaps to cover his tracks, Nisbet also took the trouble of rendering the thing obscenely hilarious.

Aptly, he called it A Moment of Doubt — a short moment at just over 100 pages, yet long enough to have stayed timely until its publication this month in a joint effort by the East Bay's PM Press and San Francisco's Green Arcade. It qualifies as a local-publishing event, if this town nowadays can accept as much from a writer who's inclined to make his protagonist another writer who's inclined to liken his penis to Coit Tower at Christmastime. (Yes, as A Moment of Doubt hotfoots its course, from anticipated junk-needle jab to a breakthrough of consensual sodomy, pricks will abound.)

This increasingly anguished narrator, toiling away in the '80s himself, is one Jas Jameson, "detective writer, a name that bears the onus of years of fictional violence, of sexual outrage, and lately of fraudulent endeavors." Habits include contorted, toilet-rattling sex with his landlady, skulking around vestigial Cow Hollow sleaze pockets in a bleary-eyed fog of depressive paranoia, and confusing familiar barflies with his own fictional creations. As regards the fraudulence, that refers both to the whole of Jameson's literary oeuvre — which contains some conspicuously familiar titles from Nisbet's own backlist, plus a few other invented doozies such as So Long, Pockface — and to the dubious means of his recent bestselling eminence. Jas has just discovered "the marvelous labor-saving capacities of modern word processing," through which the hack becomes a hacker, tinkering with his publisher's mainframe and turning its business operations to his own advantage.

"I'll even give you a hint, dear reader," he warns early on, "right now, right this very moment, as you're buying, holding, reading, thinking about this text, you're deep, deep within a SUBMIT routine, conceived, written, and implemented a long, long time ago, by me. Your dear chickenshit author. And as of now, because you found out about all this too late, you're lucky I'm benevolent. Consider."

Only gradually does the irony dawn that A Moment of Doubt isn't just about genre fatigue in general; it actually anticipates the Kindle-tested, microblogger-approved technological horror that's palpably underway in the book business now — with deep reading ditched for mobile-upload synopsis skimming, author confidence shot and the whole organism of literature apparently sickened nearly to death. Or as Jas Jameson put it more succinctly some 20-odd years ago: "A pre-ulcerous condition loomed. Automation became imminent."

Under the circumstances, Nisbet seems remarkably magnanimous. One might almost weep with gratitude for the vigor he puts into even the most quotidian descriptions, the way of mocking writerly indulgence while also delighting with it. He's like a more hetero Burroughs, or a more companionable Mailer, or both at once. His avidity is touching, and rewarding.

This has been a productive year for Nisbet, with the publication of his novel Windward Passage and reissues of The Damned Don't Die (known originally as The Gourmet) and Lethal Injection. Maybe it'll even be productive enough to release him from the qualification that although many Americans still don't know his work, he's huge in Europe. If anything, A Moment of Doubt reminds us that he's been doing right by the reader from moment one.

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Signal: 01 - Review

signal:01By Pete Willis
Last Hours
December 10, 2010

Much has been written about the need for alternative and underground cultures to take an active role in preserving their history, the amount that can be learned from it, the inherent solidarity in knowing you were never alone and instead operate as part of a long and rich history of struggle and that if we don’t no-one else will. Anarchists have been generally pretty good at this, regularly dipping back into the archives to re-print obscure texts and celebrate forgotten battles.

One aspect of anarchist history that has been over-looked in the past is the artwork it’s produced and that which has helped it function. The tides are changing, thanks in no small part to the work of Josh Macphee and others at the Just Seeds artist co-operative. There is a vital, fascinating and relevant history of politically  antagonistic graphics, illustration and printmaking aside from the usual reference points of may 68 and dada,  from Clifford Harper in the UK to the Mexican printmakers of Zapata’s day.

This journal is the first of a series edited by Macphee and illustrator Alec Icky Dunn put out by PM Press and works as a more contemporary and alive continuation of the recent AK Press volume Realizing the Impossible. With the recent waves of student occupations now finally spreading to the capitals art colleges the first issue of Signal couldn’t have arrived at a better time to reassure those of us using visual culture to enter a political discourse. It starts as it means to go on, covering both current artists and groups like graffiti writer Impeach and printmaking collective Taller Tupac Amaru with some lessons from a while back like the Mexico 68 movement and Rufus Segar the designer behind almost every cover of Colin Wards ‘Anarchy’ magazine. Each interview is long and highly illustrated as you would expect, and naturally is designed and printed to the highest quality. The few remaining empty pages are taken up with a piece about the dutch Red Rat comic and some thoughts on the origins and benefits of adventure playgrounds. This is a great indictment of what we can expect from future issues, relevant current thought, inspiration from former struggles and probing into how far anarchist creativity can and has affected wider social projects. Projects like this one are vital for a movement that can occasionally get bogged down in endless academic theory and serves as a great reminder that anarchism is above all creative, not destructive, and that that’s maybe our best weapon against those who’s curtailment of freedom starts at restricting expression.

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The Liberty Tree: Review: A Celebration of the Life and Writings of Thomas Paine

By Adam Sheets
No Depression
December 19, 2010

The most ridiculous and inappropriate trend in modern American politics has been the Tea Party's embrace of Thomas Paine, culminating with the publication of Glenn Beck's book Common Sense, which purports to be a tribute to Mr. Paine's seminal 1776 work. While Beck would probably be in agreement with Paine's assertion that "government, even in it's best state, is but a necessary evil," the similarities end there. I have a strong interest in American history and unlike Mr. Beck,  I have actually read the works of Thomas Paine beyond Common Sense and I'm willing to bet that the Tea Party would be shocked to learn that their hero was not only an early feminist and abolitionist (meaning that unlike many of the "Founding Fathers," he practiced what he preached), but also an outspoken opponent of imperialism (Rights of Man), a strong fighter against organized religion (The Age of Reason), and, perhaps worst of all, an avowed socialist (Agrarian Justice) who proposed taxing the rich in order to pay for social programs. Now, I mean no offense to conservatives. (Although I'm a sort of left-leaning libertarian myself, but many of my best friends are conservatives.) All I'm saying is to find a new icon. Maybe Alexander Hamilton.

Thankfully Leon Rosselson and Robb Johnson, two folk singers from Paine's home country of Great Britain are here to set the record straight with The Liberty Tree, an affecting mixture of music and the spoken word spread out over two discs, that serves as both a history lesson on Paine's life and work and a biting commentary on our present shortcomings. Much of the album consists of readings from Paine's best works tied together with a brisk repeated melody detailing his life from England to America to France where he took part in the French Revolution and, finally, back to America. In addition there are also 13 songs, adorned simply with acoustic guitars, dealing with our modern society. Whether these are supposed to be seen as the 21st century voice of Thomas Paine or simply a contrast to Paine's ideals is never clear, but, regardless, these are some of the best topical songs I've heard in years.

The brilliance of Robb Johnson lies in connecting the humdrum nature of everyday life to the sins of government, perhaps most effectively on the stark "Picking Up the Pieces" and the more upbeat but no less vicious "Oliver Twist." As a whole, his songs are almost morbidly bleak. Yet his crowning achievement here is "We All Said Stop the War," a beautiful fantasy in the vein of Ed McCurdy's "Last Night I Has the Strangest Dream" and Phil Ochs' "The War is Over," that envisions "the international sex workers of the world united with the girl and boy next door."

Leon Rosselson, who has been prominent in British folk circles since the 1960s, creates songs that are markedly different from those of Johnson. His songs are much lighter in tone, while still dealing with very serious subject matter. While "Stand Up for Judas" is a bit radical for my tastes, his other tunes, such as the humorous "Don't Get Married Girls" reveal hard truths in an accessible fashion. "On Her Silver Jubilee," for example, may be the most brutal attack on the royal family since the Sex Pistols, while "Palaces of Gold" seems to be the new national anthem for the U.S. government with the recent government bailouts and Obama's latest sellout on tax cuts for the uber-rich.

The styles of these two songwriters couldn't be more different, but both get the point across in their own way and, when working together, fashion a tale which not only does justice to the politics of Tom Paine, but also explores the man's complexities amidst our modern society. This album is in the tradition of Johnny Cash's historical albums of the '60s and '70s: great music that is likely to give listeners an interest in their heritage and their history. Listening to this album is a bittersweet experience that makes one proud to call Thomas Paine on of our "Founding Fathers," while at the same time lamenting how far we still have to go to live up to his ideals. While The Liberty Tree's audience will mostly see it as preaching to the choir, it is also an album that, if sent to Glenn Beck, would be unlikely to change his mind, but would probably make him pissed off at not only Mr. Johnson and Mr. Rosselson, but also his supposed hero Thomas Paine.

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WikiLeaks: Who Helped Shape Julian Assange?

George Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Among Writers Whose Work Influenced the Founder of WikiLeaks

By Christopher Torchia
CBS News
December 14, 2010

(AP)  At a California forum this year, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke calmly about justice and transparency. Then he described how his group once dealt with a legal challenge.

"We crushed them like a bug," Assange said, finger wagging. The belligerence, at odds with his smooth veneer, drew a murmur from the startled listeners.

Assange is an enigma, a mirror of what people want to see: A cyber-villain, or a force for open society. Quirky and complex, he cultivates mystery.

But a look at the thinkers who influenced him, ranging from a German anarchist to American President Theodore Roosevelt, reveals a man incensed by the perceived injustices of big power and fearful of persecution.

The gallery of figures who have influenced Assange, combined with his own writings, provide the intellectual playbook for a 39-year-old Australian with no fixed address who has jolted the world's most powerful country by unveiling the secrets of U.S. war logs and diplomatic cables.

He was arrested last week in a Swedish sex crimes case, and the United States asserts that he has undermined security and may have endangered people cited in the documents. Assange has said the accusations are unfounded, and that he is the victim of a politically-motivated campaign to discredit him and his organization.

His self-styled image as a lone, besieged challenger to the traditional order, one that is gaining currency in some circles, may owe much to his literary roots. Computers are his life, but so are books. George Orwell, who described the corruption of power and the lies that fuel a totalitarian vision, had a big impact. So did Kurt Vonnegut, an American author known for satire and non-conformism, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel laureate who wrote about the horror of Soviet labor camps.

"If there is a book whose feeling captures me it is First Circle by Solzhenitsyn," Assange wrote in 2006. "How close the parallels to my own adventures! ... Such prosecution in youth is a defining peak experience. To know the state for what it really is! To see through that veneer the educated swear to disbelieve in but still slavishly follow with their hearts!"

As a teenager in Australia, Assange hacked into computers. He was arrested in 1991, but got off with a fine in a case that was resolved several years later. His story is believed to be documented in Underground, a 1997 book about hackers that Assange helped to write.

Numerous media reports have identified Mendax, a hacker in the book, as Assange. In a preview of Assange's frequent travel and concern about surveillance in the months leading to his arrest last week, Underground describes how Mendax became increasingly fearful:

"He dreamed of footsteps crunching on the driveway gravel, of shadows in the pre-dawn darkness, of a gun-toting police squad bursting through his backdoor at 5 a.m. He dreamed of waking from a deep sleep to find several police officers standing over his bed. The dreams were very disturbing. They accentuated his growing paranoia that the police were watching him, following him."

Assange provided author Suelette Dreyfus with analysis and technical expertise to write Underground, though she declined to discuss the identities of people in the book. She recalled that Assange was "a big fan" of Orwell's Animal Farm, as well as Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon, which is about a man imprisoned and tried for treason during the Soviet purges in the 1930s.

"It is a classic work and perhaps hit a particular chord with him as it set the scene in a fictional manner for how societies without transparency and open government can go sour," Dreyfus wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

She said that, influenced by his mother, Assange came to love the Greek classics, including Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles, and that he read them to his own son, Daniel, who now works in software development.

Assange "found the writing very powerful. He knew that the literature of the ancient world provided a moral lens through which to view society, and a way to explore these issues with children while also entertaining them," Dreyfus said.

Underground details the psychology of the hackers, describing their rivalry and nocturnal hours, the egos and compulsiveness, the personal problems of some, and the intoxicating sense of power once they had gained mastery of a network and roamed its inner structure at will. One Australian hacker group that appears in the book calls itself The International Subversives - Assange is believed to have been a member.

"For Julian, the emergence of the Internet in the early 90s in Australia appeared to be the opening up of the lolly shop! He was a teenager and part of a collection of kids who were fascinated by the network and fascinated by the complete lack of security on computers at the time," Geoff Huston, a computer network expert in Australia who gave evidence at Assange's prosecution in Australia in the 1990s, said in an email.

Beyond technology, Assange was developing a keen political awareness at a time of anti-nuclear activism, as well as a sense of underdog individualism reflected in his writing.

"I grew up in a Queensland country town where people spoke their minds bluntly. They distrusted big government as something that could be corrupted if not watched carefully," he wrote in a column published last week in a newspaper, The Australian.

Assange is jailed in Britain on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion in Sweden, and the case could lead to his extradition. He was arrested after Interpol put him on its most-wanted list. His supporters allege he is a victim of a dirty tricks campaign; Swedish authorities reject the idea that the case is politically motivated.

Years ago, Assange prefaced entries on a now-defunct blog with a quotation from German Gustav Landauer, an anarchist thinker who was killed by troops in Munich in 1919. Assange alleged some giant corporations amount to virtual nation states, free of accountability.

Yet he counts an American president among his influences, citing a comment by Roosevelt about destroying "invisible government," the corrupt forces in business and politics. He also gave early, unvarnished insight into his thinking on information leaks.

"The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie," Assange wrote. "Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance."

Some former colleagues have commented on an autocratic, secretive streak in Assange, who extolled activism and self-sacrifice in a lofty blog post in 2007, possibly inspired by his literary icons.

"Try as I may I cannot escape the sound of suffering," Assange wrote. "Perhaps as an old man I will take great comfort in pottering around in a lab and gently talking to students in the summer evening and will accept suffering with insouciance. But not now; men in their prime, if they have convictions are tasked to act on them."

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From hell to Long Beach and beyond

Seattle Examiner
By Ray Murphy
December 30, 2010

Pacific Northwest readers, drenched and shivering in a literary winter of gray sameness, would do well to slip south of the 17th Parallel, or at least the 710 freeway, and smuggle back Michael Harris’ The Chieu Hoi Saloon (PM Press, 2010). 

Chieu hoi translates roughly as “open arms,” but like a canny survivor of the civil war in which it originated, the term seems to have taken two identities. Our protagonist, Harry Hudson, ex-soldier, ex-husband and father, now hack copy editor in SoCal's grittiest beach city, uses it as a verb: when he chieu hois, as so he often does, he punts. Indeed, early on, the novel reads like the story of a man who has come from a small town in Oregon to Long Beach to follow in that city's weaving civic footsteps, that is, to surrender -- in unspectacular if unpredictable fashion -- to internal divisions. But the term also can function as a noun: among the thousands of North Vietnamese who fled south as defectors from the Viet Minh were the infiltrators known as Chieu Hois, who would comprise the fifth column of the Viet Cong. As much as Hudson’s past threatens to undo him, it also serves as his clandestine strength.

As with most of us, the singular event that shapes Harry Hudson doesn't exist. “It was like triple exposure,” he reflects. Instead of the usual, carefully cropped, no-exposure digital image of "seminal event" clipped to the contemporary protagonist's pocket, the“it” here is a unique nexus of experience, and memories and dreams of experience,  that is not so much recollected as continually remade. What causes Harry to be Harry is none other than Harry, evolving. His mother’s death from cancer when he’s seven; his perilous memory of his two-year-old daughter at the edge of a swimming pool; the rueful affair he conducts in his imagination with a Japanese girl in high school; all this blends, and is blended into Harry’s moment of panic in Vietnam, as he ruins an ambush by killing an unarmed Vietnamese civilian on a  bicycle. “He opened his mouth, in Long Beach, in Vietnam, in all those other places, and nothing came out.”    

Oh, but it does. The Chieu Hoi Saloon is less a story (thank god) than a portrait, and less a portrait than a series of quietly magnificent, strobe-lit fragments showing us glimpses of a life splashing apart and coming together. In one flash we see Hudson’s wayward desire as he studies a swingers' newspaper in his rented room at the Reef, and in the next, guilt about his abandoned marriage and lost daughter. In another flash, Hudson leverages guilt as if practicing a technique (CBT -- Catholic Behavioral Therapy?) to control his lust, and in yet another flash, this technique cheapens the genuine pain he feels so that his guilt becomes too attenuated to combat desire, whereupon he's off to the swingers' club in La Mirada… No wonder Harry Hudson reads compulsively about the Civil War. He’s in one. He is one. He’s in one and is one, both double agent and conflict.  The novel’s fractured, incremental, stuttering form creates an organic momentum as eloquent as it is uncertain, like a peasant's bicycle built from spare parts gliding into gunfire.

For not only is this guy a veteran who hasn’t made it all the way home, and an Oregonian who’s never quite left.  He’s literally a stutterer. And as such, Hudson occupies a precarious Demilitarized Zone between silence and speech. The voice he inherits, that of his logger father, makes him susceptible to biases that don’t hold up in the crucible of experience.  The voice to which he aspires, that of a small-town newspaper columnist named Vance Foster, which he hears as “nothing less than the voice of the greater world,” threatens to reduce him to canned language -- you pull for Harry to go right on stuttering. In college, Hudson gets speech therapy from one Doctor Richardson, only to realize that the doctor’s method “had a built-in trap:”

The better he spoke, the more he was tempted to speak automatically, the way normal people did, and that was fatal.  The creature woke up, reached out an exploratory claw and touched his throat.

As ever, normalcy stirs the insurgent within, the stutter, the tongue’s Viet Cong, undermines Hudson, and at the same time, saves him from conventional speech.  If Harry’s world is sordid, it’s rich with newsroom repartee , with slang from Nam to Topeka to Long Beach Boulevard,

What’s so engrossing about this character is not that he’s bent on resolving his conflict, but that he’s bent on living with it.   Free of narrative predestination, Henry Hudson is a survivor, not only of conflict but of literary form, all the way to the end. With all his crazy troubles, he’s not quite like you and me.  But we, with our lesser crazy troubles, have in Harry a fictional peer for whom we feel genuine respect.
And in Michael Harris, we have a writer that readers unabashedly can champion.

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Lucasville Five Hunger Strike Begins --An interview with author Staughton Lynd

By Angola 3 News
January 3, 2011

Lucasville Five Hunger Strike Begins
--An interview with author Staughton Lynd

In 1993, the maximum security Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio was the site of an historic prisoner rebellion, where more than 400 prisoners seized and controlled a major area of the prison for eleven days. Nine prisoners alleged to have been informants and one hostage correctional officer named Robert Vallandingham, were murdered. Following a negotiated surrender, five key figures in the rebellion were tried and sentenced to death. Known since as the Lucasville Five, they are Namir Abdul Mateen (James Were), Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders), Bomani Hando Shakur (Keith Lamar), George Skatzes and Jason Robb.

The Lucasville Five are now back in the news with an announcement last week that four of the five will be participating in a simultaneous “rolling hunger strike,” beginning today, January 3. They are using the hunger strike to protest their convictions (having always maintained their innocence) as well as their living situation, which is more restrictive than for most prisoners on Ohio’s death row. The statement issued by the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network explains that “the hunger strike will proceed in an organized manner, with one prisoner, probably Bomani Shakur starting on Jan.3. The hunger strike becomes official after he has refused 9 meals. Therefore the plan is that 3 days later, Siddiquie Abdullah Hasan will start his hunger strike and 3 days later, Jason Robb will follow. Namir Mateen has a great willingness to participate and plans to take part to the extent that his diabetes will allow.”

Staughton Lynd is the author of the 2004 book, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising, which asserts that the Lucasville Five are innocent men, who were framed by the State of Ohio. In a review of Lucasville, the news website, Solidarity, concludes that “Lynd presents sufficient evidence and argumentation to cast more than reasonable doubt on the convictions of the Lucasville Five.” The book’s “immediate agenda is to mobilize public opinion to achieve amnesty for the Lucasville Five. In the 1970s, the governor of New York was compelled to grant amnesty to the Attica rebels based upon revelations of state malfeasance. Lynd contends the Lucasville Five’s death sentences should be wiped clean on the same grounds.”

In the foreword to the upcoming second edition of Lucasville, being released by PM Press in February, death row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal writes that the Lucasville Five "sought to minimize violence, and indeed, according to substantial evidence, saved the lives of several men, prisoner and guard alike…they rose above their status as prisoners, and became, for a few days in April 1993, what rebels in Attica had demanded a generation before them: men. As such, they did not betray each other; they did not dishonor each other; they reached beyond their prison ‘tribes’ to reach commonality."

Angola 3 News: Can you please give us some historical background on the 1993 uprising and the subsequent convictions of the Lucasville Five?

Staughton Lynd: There were revolts at the old Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus in the late 1960s. The state government decided to build a new maximum security prison in a town called Lucasville, just north of the Ohio River separating Ohio and Kentucky.

The new prison housed between 1,500 and 2,000 prisoners. More than half the prisoners at the new Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) were African Americans from cities like Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo, Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown. Lucasville was all white and inevitably, most of the correctional officers at the new prison were Caucasian.

'Luke' developed a well-deserved reputation for violence. There was a horrible incident in 1990 when, in a sequence of events that remains ambiguous, a black prisoner followed a white teacher into a women's restroom. White guards broke down the door to the restroom and, as they did so, the prisoner cut the teacher's throat.

The State sent in a new warden who instituted 'Operation Shakedown.' Prisoners were allowed one short telephone call a year, at Christmastime.

In April 1993 the new warden proposed to test all prisoners for TB by means of an injection. More than fifty Muslim prisoners protested. They said the injection would contain phenol, a form of alcohol; that this was forbidden by their religion; and that there were alternative means of testing for TB, by sputum or X ray. Warden Tate said it would be done his way, by injection, beginning Monday, April 12.

On April 11, Easter Sunday, prisoners returning from the recreation yard occupied one large housing block, L side. Guards were overpowered. Persons severely injured in the takeover, both guards and prisoners believed to be snitches, were carried out to the yard. Eight officers were held as hostages. In the course of an 11-day standoff, nine prisoners and one hostage guard were murdered. There was a negotiated surrender.

A3N: Why was this story so important to you that you decided to write a book about it?

SL: In 1996 my wife and I became aware that as a result of the Lucasville uprising, a new maximum security prison called the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) was being built in Youngstown. We organized a community forum at which one of the speakers was Jackie Bowers, sister of one of five prisoners condemned to death after the surrender. We met her brother, George Skatzes (pronounced 'skates.') His lawyer told us that we could best help by investigating facts not presented at trial and we have been doing that ever since.

The importance of the story is that the five men sentenced to death are three blacks and two whites. Two of the three blacks, Siddique Abdullah Hasan and Namir Abdul Mateen, are Muslims. At the time of the rebellion the two whites were members of the Aryan Brotherhood. One is still an AB leader although Skatzes has withdrawn. These five men have acted in solidarity during their almost eighteen years of solitary confinement. They have refused to 'snitch' on each other.

A3N: What facts do you cite for arguing that the State of Ohio deliberately framed innocent men?

SL: My allegation that the State of Ohio has deliberately framed innocent men is presented in a book, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising (Temple University Press, 2004), a second edition of which will be published in 2011 with a Foreword by Mumia Abu Jamal, and in a law review article, "Napue Nightmares: Perjured Testimony in Trials Following the Lucasville, Ohio, Prison Uprising," Capital University Law Review., v. 36, No. 3 (Spring 2008) The key fact is that the State made it clear early on that they wanted to put the alleged leaders of the disturbance to death, and built cases against the Five almost wholly on the basis of testimony by prisoners who, in exchange for their testimony, received benefits such as early parole.

A3N: Why you believe the trial itself was unfair?

SL: The trials were unfair for a variety of reasons, but the two basic facts were: 1) the Five were tried before so-called 'death-qualified' juries, that is, juries from which persons opposed to the death penalty were excluded; and 2) the prosecution's evidence, as I indicated earlier, came almost entirely from prisoner informants in exchange for bargained-for benefits like parole.

A3N: How has your 2004 book been received?

SL: My book was banned from all Ohio prisons and it provoked a good deal of discussion in Ohio. In 2007, a play based on the book was presented in seven Ohio cities. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed friend of the court briefs, based on the book, in the trials of Skatzes and Hasan.

A3N: Can you please tell us more about the hunger strike? How do prison officials publicly justify these conditions that are being challenged?

SL: As to the goals of the hunger strike, I refer the reader to Keith LaMar's statement. LaMar emphasizes that he understands the prison system's concern for security, but, he insists, a 'privilege" such as the opportunity to touch a parent or other relative does not threaten security. The more than 150 other death-sentenced prisoners in Ohio enjoy such privileges. On the other hand, the Lucasville Five are held alone in their small cells 23 hours a day, and when released for an hour of so-called recreation cannot be in the same space as any other human being.

A3N: Can you please explain why George Skatzes is not currently housed alongside the other four members of the Lucasville Five and how his conditions differ from the others?

SL: George Skatzes was transferred to OSP when it opened in 1998 along with the other members of the Lucasville Five. He was transferred out two years later because the authorities feared that he was so depressed that he might commit suicide. He is held with about thirty other death-sentenced prisoners considered seriously mentally ill at the Mansfield Correctional Institution, north of Columbus.

A3N: How can our readers best help to support the upcoming hunger strike?

SL: Readers can help by contacting Professor Jules Lobel, vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, , and Professor Denis O'Hearn, director of graduate studies in sociology at the State University of New York, Binghamton, They are circulating a statement of support nationally and internationally.

--Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. Our website is where we provide the latest news about the Angola 3. We are also creating our own media projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture, and more.

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Pike: A Review

By Jennifer  Jordan
Crimespree Magazine
September/October 2010

Over at his blog Benjamin Whitmer said that crime fiction is “supposed to be scary”.  He also says that noir isn’t “supposed to be the police procedurals and wisecracking detective serials that dominate the crime shelves” and that they should be something different: “This is nightmare, hunker-down-in-your-soul, how-deep-can-you-dig, release-the-fucking-bats territory.”
Benjamin Whitmer makes these tenants Bible truth in his debut novel Pike.  With this novel Whitmer announces his presence with a kick to the teeth and he is the real deal. 

One of the things that strikes me about Pike is the clarity of the writing.  It says what it needs to say in the clearest and most direct way possible.  The prose is so clear that it enhances the power of the story. 

Clearly this is a novel that has been carefully gone over numerous times to makes sure there are no snags.  

Pike strives for a level of realism in violent actions and weaponry that feels more blunt and powerful when compared to more stylized offerings.  There is something almost elemental in the character Pike as if he sprung whole from somewhere other, somewhere more powerful.  Pike is possessed of a deliberateness in his actions that that adds to this notion of him being more a force then a man – or at least a force of a man.  Pike as the titular character is the one we get to know the most.  We see from his past that he is not a good guy, at all.  But there is this barest hint of something approaching decency at this stage in his life.  He’s not good, he’ll never be good, but there are a couple of facets of him that aren’t totally bad.

Pike may just might 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.  In a just world Pike will salt the Earth, forcing others to re-examine what can be done with the form. 

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Psycho-Noir: Nigel Bird's Essential Noirs

By Nigel Bird
November 19, 2010

Nigel Bird is a Support For Learning teacher in a primary school near Edinburgh.  Co-Producer of the Rue Bella magazine between 1998 and 2003, he has recently had work published by ‘The Reader’, ‘Crimespree’ and 'Needle'.  He was interviewed by Spinetingler for their ‘Conversations With The Bookless’ series earlier this year, won the ‘Watery Grave Invitational 2010’ contest over at ‘The Drowning Machine’ and has recently made debuts at ‘A Twist Of Noir’, 'Pulp Metal Magazine and ‘Dark Valentine Magazine’. His story ‘An Arm And A Leg’ will appear in the ‘Best Of British Crime’ anthology (edited by Maxim Jakubowski) in 2011 and ‘No Pain No Gain’ has just been accepted by Crimefactory. His blog ‘Sea Minor’ is currently running the ‘Dancing With Myself’ series of interviews. He hopes to complete a draft of his novel by the end of 2010.

Nigel writes:
"My memory for names has never been good. I have to beat around the bush to get to where I need to get. 'That book, you know, the one where god comes down to earth as a human and they nail him to one of those wooden things...'. It’s something I’ve had to get used to. My top 20 noir novels, then, includes those titles that are unforgettable even to me. I’m not the most widely read of individuals, but I’m going to give it my best shot. I do this in the knowledge that my pile of To Be Read novels looks so good it there are definitely going to be a few that would have made the list had I got to them earlier. I’ve also tried not to pick a list of the obvious in a bid to keep the series interesting and in doing so I’m stretching both the definition of ‘noir’ and of ‘novel’ in some cases."

Here goes:
Georges Simenon – The Man Who Watched Trains Go By
Allan Guthrie – Slammer
James M Cain – Double Indemnity
Tristran Egolf – Lord Of The Barnyard
Paul Auster – Man In The Dark
Donald Ray Pollock – Knockemstiff
Benjamin Whitmer – Pike
Albert Camus – The Outsider
Franz Kafka – The Trial
Jim Thompson – The Getaway
Charlie Williams – Deadfolk
Lawrence Block – Eight Million Ways To Die
Patrick McCabe – The Butcher Boy
Raymond Chandler – The Big Sleep
Ray Banks – Donkey Punch
The Longshot – Katie Kitamura
Dashiell Hammett – The Maltese Falcon
Don Winslow – Savages
Paul Cain – Fast One
Kate Atkinson – When Will There Be Good News
Joe Lansdale – Bad Chili

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Book Report on Sober Living
Previously published in Law and Order zine #2, 2010
By Staffan Snitting, Marcus Källman and Fredrik Karlberg

Sober living

While Ross Haenfler’s excellent Straight edge hardcore punk, clean-living youth, and social change from 2006 attempts, and pretty much succeeds, to explain the broad phenomenon of straight edge in North America from a context of sub cultural studies, the brand new, fresh out of the presses Sober living for the revolution - hardcore punk, straight edge, and radical politics (from  now on Sober living) by Gabriel Kuhn (ed.) has a different objective.

Haenfler wrote both for the wider audience, not demanding much pre-knowledge from the reader, and the already sworn in who were given a chance to reflect upon their participation in the collective identity that is straight edge. Kuhn on the other hand presents a chance for the latter to deepen those reflections within a given framework: the revolutionary possibility of straight edge.

While all other books covered in this article have been limited to a specific city, country or continent, Sober living is the first to attempt a more internationalist perspective, deliberately collecting stories and views from Europe, South America and North America, and in the process often dealing with the differences and dynamics between these scenes. Many famous scenesters (Ian MacKaye, Dennis Lyxzén, Robert Refuse and many more) are interviewed and well known articles re-printed, but a lot of space is also given to less known activists of different kinds.

Kuhn does a good job at keeping the content interesting, thought provoking and polemic as different and very much conflicting views are presented. Hell, there’s even opposing opinions within included bands, as Michiel and Paul from Manilftingbanner give their take on straight edge and radical politics. And notes I make in the book’s margin, reflecting my disagreement with certain viewpoints, are on several occasions more or less expressed by others as I read on. Kuhn thereby, in all probability with a well thought out deliberateness, forces the reader to investigate his or her own position.

This being said, I would recommend Sober living not only for the politically interested, but very much also for the more generally historically curious. As in all the other books, there are some absolutely awesome stories in “Sober living” that by themselves, stripped from the political context of the book, would be more than enough to make Kuhn’s work a worthwhile read. I sincerely hope that it will be welcomed with as open arms as the books that only deal with what’s come out of North America.

And even more to come
For those who are not satisfied with the above mentioned books, there’s a lot more to check out. Siri C. Brockmeier has written a thesis at the University of Oslo called “Not just boy’s fun – the gendered Experience of American hardcore”. I have begun reading it but not come far enough to include it in this article. Revelation Records will release Why be something that you’re not in the summer of 2010, covering the Detroit hardcore scene from 1979 to 1985. Everybody’s scene: the story of Connecticut’s Anthrax Club by Chris Daily is an account on that classic club. Trapped in a scene: UK hardcore 1985-1989: frontline reports from the hardcore punk underground by Ian Glasper promises to an excellent and very extensive read (I have not been able to read it thoroughly enough yet to be able to include it in this article). Glasper has also written books on the early punk scene as well as the anarcho/peace punk scenes of the UK. There is also a book coming out that will gather all 22 issues of Touch & Go between 1979 and 1983.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Gabriel Kuhn's homepage


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