Columns > Published on March 31st, 2015

Why The F*ck Aren't You Reading Eric Beetner?

Image via Vince Keenan

When I first started publishing stories almost ten years ago (Yeah, fuck, it’s almost been a decade. Time sure flies.) it was a pretty exciting time to be part of the crime fiction community. Not that it still isn’t, but you know how it is when you’re new to something. Everything seems like there’s so much potential to be had, and to be blunt, ten years ago it really felt that way. There were dozens of online zines where you could publish (there still are, but most publications have gone print or eBook, which isn't a bad thing, because most of them pay in one form or another) and develop your voice and also get to know your fellow writers.

Zines like A Twist Of Noir, Bad Things, Muzzle Flash Fiction (which later evolved into Flash Fiction Offensive), Crooked, Demolition, Thuglit, Plots with Guns, Beat To A Pulp (PWG, Thuglit, and BTAP were the big dogs, and still are as far as I’m concerned), and there were, of course, a few print journals such as Hardboiled and Out Of The Gutter. (And for an all too brief, burning moment, there was Murderland, which I think made all of us up our game a bit, and helped spawn Out Of The Gutter.) And the writers who came out of this period—damn: Jedidiah Ayres, Jordan Harper, Hilary Davidson, Frank Bill, Greg Bradsley, Patti Abbott, Kieran Shea, Jake Hinkson, Mike MacLean, Glenn Gray, Chris Holm, Stuart Neville, and Scott Wolven just to name a few hard pipe hittin’ motherfuckers.

Amid this rabble of degenerates, there was this really nice guy, (and, you know, all the people I mentioned are all really nice, except Ayres) who also happened to write some of the most fucked up, depraved stories making the rounds in the zines. That guy's name was Eric Beetner, and to be blunt, he’s the 21st century’s answer to Jim Thompson. But, you know, without all the boozing and masochism.

He’s the 21st century’s answer to Jim Thompson. But, you know, without all the boozing and masochism.

The Skinny aka Just The Facts and Nothing But The Facts

Beetner has written around 1000 novels … No, of course it’s not that many, but he is the author of The Devil Doesn't Want Me, Dig Two Graves, The Year I Died Seven Times,White Hot Pistol, Stripper Pole At the End Of The World, the short story collection A Bouquet Of Bullets, co-author (with JB Kohl) of the novels One Too Many Blows To The Head and Borrowed Trouble, and he has written the novellas FIGHTCARD: Split Decision and FIGHTCARD: A Mouth Full Of Blood under the name Jack Tunney.

His short fiction has appeared in publications such as Kwik Krimes, Trouble In The Heartland, Pulp Ink, Pulp Ink 2, D*CKED, Reloaded, Beat To A Pulp Hardboiled Vol 2, Atomic Noir, Thuglit, All Due Respect, Hoods, Hot Rods and Hellcats, Discount Noir, Grimm Tales, Off The Record, Needle magazine, and the Million Writers Award: Best New Online Voices.

And when Beetner’s not writing he works as a television editor and producer, and as a chauffeur for his two future Olympian daughters, or he’s organizing the Noir At The Bar: Los Angeles readings. Needless to say, the man is prolific, and I’m fairly certain he never, ever sleeps.

The Work aka Why You Should Be Reading This Guy

Let’s have a quick raise of hands: How many of you folks read Thuglit on a regular basis? Or how about Duane Swierczynski, Victor Gischler, Charlie Huston, Christa Faust, or Joe Lansdale? If you read any of these folks, your going to be kind of familiar with Beetner’s writing style. I like to call it Hardcore Hardboiled. It’s basically hard hitting, fast paced, and character driven crime fiction. Hardcore Hardboiled is generally cinematically paced with a traditional three act structure. More or less it’s a style that’s not only rooted in hardboiled masters such as Hammett, Chandler, Thompson, Goodis, Higgins, and Leonard, but also in film noir and the hyper stylized crime films of the 1990’s.

So if you’re into any of the writers I mentioned above, or if you’re into the films of Quentin Tarantino (the films before Death Proof), Robert Rodriquez (the films before Sin City), or the Pusher trilogy from Refn, you’re going to really like what Beetner has to offer.

Where To Start aka What Book Should I Read First, Smart Guy?

Honestly, when it comes to the mountain of books Beetner has put out in the world, it’s kind of a coin toss. Personally, I’m a big fan of Beetner’s revenge/heist novella Dig Two Graves, which has probably one of the darkly funniest opening chapters I’ve read in the past five or six years. Here’s brief sample:

In the joint even the best of them—the roughest, the hardest, the baddest-assest—they fell into it the same as the fresh meat and the lifers. I’m not saying prison made me gay, I’m saying being there exposed me to a life I might not otherwise have known and, as it turns out, I kinda like having my dick sucked by Ernesto. So sue me.

Beetner’s cagey sense of humor is also what draws me to his writing. Yes, it’s dark as graveyard dirt, but Beetner stops it from getting mired in too much darkness by throwing out a line or two that will get you rolling before he plunges back into the murkiness.

My second choice would probably be Beetner’s latest novel, The Year I Died Seven Times. Originally serialized in seven separate chapters in 2014, the collect omnibus of Beetner’s take on the P.I. genre was just released a couple of weeks ago and contains some of his most mature work.

Now if you’re more of a See’s candy sampler kind of reader, Beetner’s short story collection, A Bouquet Of Bullets, is one hell of a solid read, and if you want just plain weirdness, checkout Beetner’s post-apocalyptic novella, Stripper Pole At The End Of The World. And if the mountain of books mentioned in this article isn’t enough for you, Beetner has another two novels coming out in 2015 for you to chose from.

Obviously, it goes without saying that when it comes to Eric Beetner, you’re going to find something that’s going to knock you on your ass.

About the author

Keith Rawson is a little-known pulp writer whose short fiction, poetry, essays, reviews, and interviews have been widely published both online and in print. He is the author of the short story collection The Chaos We Know (SnubNose Press)and Co-Editor of the anthology Crime Factory: The First Shift. He lives in Southern Arizona with his wife and daughter.

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