I had to keep quiet about this project for a long time, but seeing as it blew up Facebook yesterday, I guess I can talk about it here too.
Let’s roll the clock back a few years…okay, quite a lot of years. Its 1984, I’m fifteen and my face times its breakouts to co-inside perfectly with any social event involving the opposite sex. I steal cigarettes from my pal’s mom, because I think smoking them makes me look cool (trust me kids, it doesn’t, but you’ll probably still do it anyway.) I have a leather jacket, bad grades, and an unhealthy obsession with Pat Benatar. In the middle of all this, Bruce Springsteen releases the BORN IN THE USA album and for me, nothing is ever quite the same again. Here was a dude singing about Vietnam, blue collar Joes and the broken American dream. I may have been living an ocean way, but those songs spoke to me, and I mean directly to me. Dancing in the Dark? You better believe I was. Bruce told me how it was and I listened—I have been listening ever since.
Roll forwards again to 2014. I’m forty four. The acne is long gone, but now my face has a permanently bewildered look that comes from the realization I’m middle aged. I have a pack a day habit that I can’t kick, a wife that I love, a job I hate and an unhealthy obsession with Pat Benatar. I got to chase my own runaway American dream for a while and I know that my glory days are largely in the rearview mirror. I’m good with that (most of the time.) I’m still dancing in the dark, but I’m a goddamn writer now, so the world can go suck it.
Bruce Springsteen has now been providing the sound track to my life for better than 25 years and it should be pretty obvious to most of you that he is a huge influence on my work as a writer too. He’s the finest storyteller I know (and I know Isaac Kirkman.)
Anyhow, last year I was shooting the shit with Joe Clifford and we got to talking about how much we both dug Bruce Springsteen, and how his songs have many of the same qualities present in good crime fiction. Boom! We suddenly hit on the idea of a crime fiction anthology with stories inspired by Springsteen song titles. Joe was up for editing it, my ZP brother and fellow Springsteen fan, Brian Panowich was in like Flynn too. The rest of the Zelmer guys weren’t far behind. We started to invite a few people to contribute stories and the response was completely overwhelming. Who knew so many top crime writers were Springsteen fans?
What we first envisaged as a cool little anthology soon became something way, way bigger than any of us could have imagined. The eight months that followed have been full of lawyers, contracts, frayed tempers and frustrations, but thanks largely to Joe’s dogged determination and Ryan Sayles’ unfailing optimism, we made it. Like the song says: Talk about a dream, try to make it real.Chuck Regan has once again delivered a killer cover. This isn’t the final version, but it’s pretty close to it. TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND will be available from all good bookstores (and probably a few crappy ones too) this summer. Profits from the anthology will be going to The Bob Woodruff Foundation, who offer help and support to our veterans and their families, so there really will be no excuse not to hammer down on this one.