Friday, December 14, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tour round two done -- thanks!

Time to do some writing. Lately I've been doing more deleting. But many thanks to everyone who came out to the various fall stops. It was great to see everyone and I appreciate the support of the books. Thrilled to report that you will not see my ugly mug in public again in 2012. In January I will be in London, looking forward to that, and then teaching at the Eckerd College Writers Conference, which is always a wonderful time, and I can't recommend it highly enough to writing students. In the meantime, I'll report in with any updates on the next book as well as the film and TV fronts, assuming there are in fact updates to report at some point, and of course with the highly anticipated Christmas shopping list. Hint: you're going to be buying books for Christmas.

Interview with Matthew Ryan

Had the enormous of pleasure of chatting with Matthew Ryan in an interview for Paste magazine. Ryan's lyrics from "Return to Me" serve as the epigraph for The Prophet, and his music has been a consistent part of the writing soundtrack for years. I'd encourage you to check out both his new album, "In the Dusk of Everything" and Paste magazine, if you haven't already. It's a very cool arts mag with great features on everything from music and film to books.

Michael Koryta: In The Dusk of Everything is your 14th album. A long road, a lot of great work, a lot of different directions. Obviously, you’re doing what you love. Even in that scenario, though, producing consistently good work is a grind. It’s hard. What keeps your energy up, what recharges you, pushes you on toward a new album with the same passion and love you felt for the first and the fifth?

Matthew Ryan: First off, I wanna say how cool it is to do this with you Michael. I’m a fan of your writing, your stories. You’re an artist as well, so it will be interesting to see how far in we’ll go here. This first question alone is demanding with that intimate knowledge of just how hard the good work can be. As you know, it’s not digging ditches in the desert. But sometimes it feels that way. Truth is that my work comes in waves. Creativity and genuine inspiration illuminate something. [Leonard] Cohen said [“If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”] I spend most of my time living, experiencing, observing, thinking, feeling and probably drinking a little too much coffee or tequila sometimes. But the great work comes from really inhabiting life. There’s a lot of conflict in just being human—so much beauty and disappointment. I move through my life as honestly as I can. Every few miles I sit down by the side of the metaphorical road and write 10 or 12 songs. Those songs lift me above any trials or nagging doubts I may be under, or feel have accumulated. It’s just what art does. It does it for me, so I assume it will do it for some others. So as long as the songs keep coming, I’ll keep feeling like a phoenix in some fashion about once a year.

Koryta: In “And It’s Such a Drag” you sing, “Now you talk about the past like it was just some waiting room.” I feel—and maybe I’m miles off here—that a lot of your songwriting is driven by consideration of how you ended up where you are at the time pen is hitting paper. Themes of regret and a quality of the haunted are frequent visitors, which is one of the reasons I respond so deeply to the work. Can you talk a little bit about the way looking backward is important to moving forward in your work?

Ryan: That’s true Michael. It’s not something I set out to do, but that’s the space that inspires me. I’m fascinated by this essential truth that there are only a limited number of experiences as humans. Remove the superficial, like technology and wealth and skin color, break it down to things like longing and loneliness, desire and hope. It gets pretty cinematic and heartbreaking. Yet each of us navigate our lives in these epic plots. Volumes of struggle, boredom, love, fear, hate, violence, tenderness, quiet and victory. Our hearts are so simple they’re complex. There’s something beautiful about that. And while you’d think that that knowledge would connect us, somehow it seems to drive us apart. There’s something in there that scares us. I mean, what really motivates betrayal or selfishness? How do you define peace or happiness? Contentedness? I’m looking for some great resolution that’s probably never gonna be found. But through music I feel I catch a glimpse of it sometimes, and that’s what keeps compelling me to move forward.

Koryta: Wow, that’s fantastic stuff. Love what you’re getting at with the essence of the human experience and existence there. I’m interested in the idea that you are searching for a resolution, as you put it. Can you expand on that a bit? Are you talking about the macro or the micro there or both?

Ryan: Well, it’s offered as true in my work that the micro threads out to the macro, and vice versa, it’s all connected. The themes, the reasons we do what we do are essentially the same. There’s a collective beauty and a collective madness and the origin of either of those things is blurry. But we are peace and chaos simultaneously. By accepting that idea into my work I’ve found a wide and potent metaphor to wrestle with. As far as resolution, it’s the only deduction I can make. Why else would I continue to mine this kind of dark romance? I can assure you it illuminates me, it’s not a painful process. Well, at least most of the time when the words seem to just appear. I’m sure as a writer you understand how alive that flow is, it brings a beauty to everything. And I mean everything.

Koryta: Okay, let’s talk about the sound of the new album—In The Dusk of Everything is a beautiful, spare album of soft songs. Is that move, toward a more folk-influenced place, a long time coming?

Ryan: With each collection of songs I allow them to dictate to me what they want to feel like. In my mind, words are the scene, while the music is the weather. It’s almost funny because it seems the more that I plan an album, the further it drifts from my control. My work is defiant that way. But these songs came so quick, so precise that they felt done for the most part almost immediately. I wished I had recorded them at the moment they were written. I wanted them to stand before listeners as naked and as raw as possible in their distilled beauty. It’s like a woman stepping out of the shower, no make up and water still on her shoulders. Few things are as elegant as that. The last thing I wanted to do was to dress them up in some goofy outfit that would betray their divine palette, so to speak. This kind of album won’t be for everyone, but what does that matter? The truth is that real beauty requires no lighting or manipulation. I hope these songs pass that test. For me they do, and that’s why the record sounds and feels the way it does.

Koryta: I feel as if this sort of music, the more musically spare ballads, requires a high level of confidence. If you don’t believe in your words and your melodies, you can’t hide it behind the wail of a guitar or a killer drum riff, you know? You’re a little more exposed. Is there anything to this? Could you have written in this vein 10 years ago?

Ryan: I’ve written these types of songs before, but they were always used to fill gaps. I’ve wondered at times if the couple in “Sparrow” aren’t the same people in “Beautiful Fool” off of my first record. I believe they may be. Which is interesting to me. Probably only to me… Hahahaha… But you know, a little further on down the road with a more profound sense that some intimacies should be protected with an absolute vigilance, things are fragile—careful what you let in, or let out. I think listeners got the impression initially that I was more of a rocker than I actually was. And a part of me wanted to live up to that for a while. I love The Replacements and The Clash, they’re part of my vernacular. Anthems and distorted guitars set me on fire, make me wanna punch a hole in the ceiling. But you have to write what you’re writing. You gotta trust that thing that guides you. That’s what I did. This record, this collection is a mood piece from beginning to end. It occupies a space that is unique to my compass. There’s really no knowing where it’s headed next. But right now I’m appreciative of these songs, this feeling of having captured a particular hue of light.

Koryta: I’m as qualified to offer the following opinion as I am to fly jets, but that won’t stop me from doing so. (TSA always stops me from the latter). I listen to songs on this like “And It’s Such a Drag” and “She’s a Sparrow” and I think that you sound almost more natural, more at home, with the folk-inspired album. What did it feel like to you? Smooth fit, or were there awkward moments settling in?

Ryan: Ha! I felt like a beautiful woman coming out of the shower, I got to look in the mirror and take it all in. And of course I chose to air dry.

Koryta: You’re a veteran, been at this a while now, and yet I’m always impressed by how enthusiastic you are when discussing other musicians, whether it be a long-time influence like Steve Earle or more of an up-and-comer like Brian Fallon. How important is the work of other artists to what you do? I’ve found that nothing sparks my excitement to get back to my own work like coming across a book or a song or a single sentence that makes me think, “damn, I wish I’d written that!” Is that part of the process for you, as well?

Ryan: Art offers a sense of community. It can comfort, inspire and push you along further down your own road. When I sense someone’s work is hollering from the same ditch, or a staircase nearby, I’m helpless to it. All I ever want is some pure version of a truth, a truth I can believe in. Brian with Gaslight Anthem, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen… And there are those you haven’t maybe heard of, there’s a guy named Collin Herring or my friend Jeff Klein. Or the fella from Glasvegas or The Constantines. It goes on and on, this particular fire. Of course it doesn’t only exist in music. But music is like setting off an M80 in a room where people are caught up in minutia. It should make you jump up and engage with the present. That’s what I want from music, I want it to shake me into action. Oh, and The Clash, how could I forget? I don’t wanna be told how awesome I am or how damn good-looking I am, or some other junk operating via vanity. There’s nothing wrong with escapism or pop music, but I want music to tell me that I may be fucked but there’s still hope, there’s always hope. I want music that really understands the human conflict and still insists that you persevere. Because in my mind, that’s the truth. A cursory look over the last hundred years of history tells you we have a perverse migration towards damage. Great rock ’n’ roll, great art understands that that’s true, but always insists that tomorrow could be different, better.

Koryta: In that vein—give me a couple things you’ve heard recently, the past year or so, while you were working on In the Dusk of Everything, that you wished you’d written. Album, song, a single sentence?

Ryan: I’ve liked a lot of what I’ve been hearing lately. There’s an intensity surfacing again. There’s a band called Zulu Winter that I feel has a certain longing about it. Or “National Anthem” off of Gaslight’s new album. There’s an upstart named Bob Dylan that has a great song called “Roll On John” on his new record that I find irresistible, beautiful. “Conversation 16” from The National’s last record is great, as well as “Afraid Of Everyone.” There’s so much music I love. Movies, books, photography and poetry too. But one line that really hit me hard again this year (probably rattled back into me from the vulgar polarizations we currently endure politically, economically and socially); one I really wish I’d written and offered with such a perfectly simple melody and just a touch of blinding humor is Randy Newman’s “I just want you to hurt like I do” from the song of nearly the same phrase off of his record Land of Dreams. That line pretty much sums up so many of the big whys, it’s staggering.

Koryta: We share a lot of favorites—Gaslight Anthem and The National among them. I’d toss “Terrible Love” in there from The National as well. Speaking of lines we wish we had written: you generously offered a quote for the epigraph of my last book. So, first off, deepest thanks for that. But you tossed one out in an e-mail exchange recently that was perfect for the book. We were talking about the change of seasons, and you said, “Autumn is my church.” And I cursed you for it immediately, because it would have been the line of the book had I been able to steal it in time. Please explain what you meant by that, though; I’d love to hear it in your words.

Ryan: Melancholy is the opposite of joy. And while I love joy, it doesn’t seem as constant or as available to me in my daily life. Melancholy to me implies the knowledge of something else, the duality of living. Autumn is so rich on every level. Visually, aromatically, the wind and the promise of winter. A chill when the sun goes down and those impossibly red leaves that look like they were dyed in blood. I appreciate summer, particularly the dress of women when the weather gets warms. But let’s face it: There’s nothing cool about flip-flops or shorts that come halfway down your calf. All that green and heat is exhausting to me. But if autumn were a song it would be Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My,” so defiant in its explosive beauty, not unlike Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” I have so many memories attached to autumn. Again, it operates with a certain duality. If I weren’t such a realist I’d probably lean for Spring. But we don’t move in reverse.

Koryta: The epigraph quote I used was a line from “Return To Me.” I write with music playing, and I need to find music that matches the moods of my characters. That was a song that almost seemed to come from the character I was writing at the time, it seemed like his personal anthem. And I just think that kind of kinship is incredibly cool and incredibly unique to music. Because we all have those songs that we hear at the right time and we think, “Oh my God, this song is coming for me, coming from me.” They take on a really intimate connection; they work on emotions on a deep level. Is that something you’re seeking when you write—audience connection—or are you thinking largely about personal connection and then hoping that someone out there in the audience will share the emotion?

Ryan: Michael, your using of the lyrics to “Return To Me” in The Prophet meant the world to me. I have a strange amnesia about the work I do. I simply don’t think about it in my daily life. I really tend to think of it as vapor, particularly in the current culture and my story so far. That’s not a sad statement, it’s probably a form of coping or even managing my ability to remain instinctively creative. Even still there are few things that light me up as brightly as the confrontation of the intimate knowledge that my work has moved someone, or been part of the cinema in one’s life. Your reaching out to me about that lyric was one of those moments. For it to coexist with your story now somehow widens the depth of humanity art can inspire. In many ways, that’s all I would want for my work, to be there when one needs it and maybe even enhance one’s ability to feel what’s really going on inside. My process is fairly selfish; I don’t think about the audience when I’m being creative. I’ve said it a hundred times before, I’m just following trails to the most honest destinations that I can find. If a song doesn’t feel useful to me, or it doesn’t illuminate something for me, I don’t sing it. When a song or album is done, though, it still isn’t complete, I believe listeners and/or those who engage with art complete its potential energy. And that happens in people’s rooms and homes, cars and headphones. It’s a mysterious thing how a song can crawl inside you and make you feel 10-feet tall. All kinds of songs can do that—happy songs, sad songs, even songs with no words. That’s the work of art, to remind us of our limitless potential in both euphoria and despair. Books do that too. So do paintings and photographs and movies and poems, even architecture and nature. It’s everywhere, and the more we let it in, the bigger we become.

Koryta: I really, really appreciate that. And I agree 100%, too, because to me the fact that a song seems to hit the interior life of a character in a book widens the experience. And it helps the story, honestly. I think I understand more about a character when I can give them a soundtrack. So talking about this, about inspiration, tell us some wellspring we might not anticipate for you. What art has most effected your own? Is there a song that has its root in a movie, a book? What artistic inspirations can you point to with In the Dusk of Everything?

Ryan: Well, honestly with Dusk there were a handful of things that influenced what would become this collection of songs. Some of those influences were ethereal, some more direct. For instance, I have a friend named Jack Spencer, his photography is so human and spectral at the same time. The colors and uninhibited grandeur in his work and person had a huge affect on me and this record. I had just moved away from Nashville and I was missing seeing him on a daily basis, a couple photos he had given me before I left became particularly spiritually charged. But even more specifically was the score to Cinema Paradiso by Ennio Morricone. That film and its music has always moved me. And again my relocation away from the Nashville aquarium started to feel more like arriving rather than leaving even though there was a certain sadness about stepping away from people and a place that was such a huge part of my life. So I actually sat with my acoustic and played along with Ennio’s “Love Theme” from Cinema Paradiso. Something about that key and the changes, it’s a direct hit of the warmest lightning. “Sparrow” and a few others on the record are written directly in that key. I believe you could play “Sparrow” and “The Love Theme” together and something special might happen. Maybe! But there are so many things that go into songs. Some influences are more just human, I mean, this disconnect between so many people and ideas is nuclear with seeds for songs and stories, art and words. Much of Dusk came from trying to understand that disconnect and maybe offer some small version of reconciliation, some roadmap to unity.

Koryta: Along the lines of audience connection, let’s talk about performing live. When you’re writing the music, it’s a solitary thing. You no doubt hope for a connection but there’s no immediate feedback; it’s you and the work. Do you like taking it out there in the world and feeling the immediate feedback? And are there moments of frustration to it, when you play something that maybe cuts right to the core of what you wanted the album to say, and the crowd maybe doesn’t seem to feel it in the same way? I’m fascinated by this because it’s the dual role of a musician, you have to take the work out there and play it live once you’ve written it.

Ryan: Admittedly I have mixed feelings about doing shows. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when it’s beautiful. Sometimes you can feel the room expand with all that’s possible. And that happens with enough frequency to keep me road ready these days. But my songs aren’t for all occasions; they’re more like dusk in that they require listeners to see the beauty in duality. A lot of other music doesn’t operate that way and I think the audience has been conditioned to expect a certain amount of salesmanship. Now I’m confident in my ability to perform, but I’m not one of those that will do anything to get you into that car. For me it’s all about the songs and leaning for a pure experience with an audience. And sometimes that pure experience looks more like D-Day. More often than not I just wish I could get out of the bars and into small theaters where I believe the expectations from a show are different, where it’s more like seeing a movie or play where subtlety and poetry aren’t warring a din, so that a real sense of connectivity can emerge. That’s one of the reasons I keep working and pulling myself forward, I want to reach those rooms where beauty is more accessible. This is no slight on bars, I love a good bar, I just don’t wanna necessarily sing my songs in them. All of that being said, and I mean this genuinely, I’m lucky in that I have a smart and engaged audience that always shows up, even if they’re outnumbered at times by folks that aren’t fully enlisted yet.

Koryta: It’s been a rapidly changing industry in the time you’ve been around, to say the least. I think you came out around 1997? 1998? Curious what you miss about the way the music industry was then, and what you like about the way it is now? I’m assuming there’s something each side, but maybe not!

Ryan: I miss that feeling that there’s a gang of exceptional talents moving towards a shared goal. That’s been the hardest part of the new model; so much of it is online. It gets pretty lonely at times and it requires a certain self-obsession via social media that is really counter to my personality. Too often I just feel like I’m participating in the deluge. But I’m getting better at just leaning towards the things that feel good and productive. For the most part I’m my own engine now, and it’s kind of what I always wanted—to live or die strictly by the merits of what I created and offered without hype or silliness. I manage to make a decent living, and I still have this fundamental belief that I can write and sing something so pure and beautiful that it can overtake all the noise for a moment. I think that’s something worth fighting for, maybe even tweeting about every once in a while. But even further than that, I believe it’s becoming all the more important that we engage with our real communities, friends and compatriots. The Internet can be beautiful, but it’s vast and void of that timeless intimacy. There’s just nothing like sitting with someone over a drink talking about what’s on your mind and having them look right back at you with their breath nearby and their head nodding and responding to that look just behind your eyes. The other night I went and saw Steve Earle play, just him and a guitar. He started playing “Goodbye” and I got the chills. The whole room just sat there quietly listening, a few hundred of us. The place was warm and you could smell perfumes and laundry detergents floating around. I could feel the bottom-end of his guitar moving through my legs and the words were crystal clear. We were all really alive together, and it was beautiful. I wish there was even more of that in the music business today. We need to put the screens away sometimes, probably even more often than we think.

Koryta: Beautiful. And thinking of how well-written that is, how well you just put me in the scene, I’m curious about a sort of chicken-and-egg question: what came first, the desire to write a song, or the desire to perform it in front of a crowd, to have that moment like the one you just described? Or is there no separation, did you feel drawn toward both of those elements equally from the start?

Ryan: The desire to create and the desire to perform are at times contradictory impulses in my world. One I’m a natural at, while the other I often feel a bit at odds with what is expected from a performer. Writing is a quiet event; I love it. Sometimes shows are big and quiet too, it’s beautiful when it’s like that. Creativity and the expression of creativity can offer a profound sense of possibility and peace. But I’m sensitive, and I don’t mean that in a hallmark way. I mean that regarding awareness, I see everything. That can make it hard when there’s a war going on. I don’t put myself above the audience. I consider myself part of their gang. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind being the leader of a gang but I also don’t suffer fools kindly, I can have a temper when it comes to that. It’s an insult when someone doesn’t get your art or is too drunk to engage and feels it’s okay to yell and laugh and generally put a tension in a night that should have none. The right thing to do is to get your money back and go somewhere else. I used to confront people that altered the mood of a room like this; it got pretty ugly at times, and the truth is I often made it worse with my ability to physically or verbally hold a grudge. Nowadays I tend to look past it and sing for those that are listening, but even still it leaves a mark on the night that just feels like it underachieved what was possible. It’s hard to sleep on those kinds of nights. But like I said earlier, my goal is to keep working and writing so that one day (hopefully soon) I can graduate into rooms that suggest a more sublime and cinematic event. I love bars; I just prefer to drink in them. It’s strange because it’s so subtle. In many ways I feel I’ve had to communicate a different expectation from a singer/songwriter’s live performance over the years. Not because what I’m doing is so different from others, but maybe because my intent is different from others. This isn’t a weakness or a lack of confidence. I have plenty of confidence in what I do. I guess I identify more with you and how you go about your business. My shows are more like book readings. I want the room to come along with me through all that high grass and those glimmering moments of absolute deliverance because my work is absolutely dependent on an audience’s ability (and/or willingness) to lean into the beauty that the ghosts that tie us together offer. So to answer your question, the song comes first. Performance second.

Koryta: All right, last one, I’m already cheating on the length here, but your answers draw more questions, man! I could go on with this forever. You hear a lot of writers talk about how they love writing, not having written. That the joy is in the journey. What’s your favorite moment of the process—first lines on paper, first time you hear a track played back at you and know it’s what you wanted, first time you hear the album in totality, or something else along the way?

Ryan: Michael, this has been wonderful. Even if only for you and I to have chatted like this. It feels good to discuss these things with a compatriot via a different medium. I hope people that have read this have enjoyed it as much as I have. The written word that’s not dealing in brevity or slogans seems to be getting pummeled in the deluge. I believe a renaissance is inevitable, but it’ll be interesting to see just how far things will go before that happens. Talk about a thriller! As far as the joy I get from my work, one of the reasons I keep doing it is because it delivers something at every turn, at every stoplight, down every block. The initial surge of a new song is lightning. The chords and an effortless melody, lightning. Recording is like filming an aural movie, that’s lightning too. The artwork, the unwinding of my own intentions. All of it deals in mystery and I just follow the trail. It’s all beautiful. Even in disappointment sometimes there is a glowing beauty. I’ve said it before: There is a part of me that believe art can save the world. I know how arrogant, even self-important that sounds. But I know this speaking from experience. Who would I be had I never heard “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” [by Leonard Cohen] when I was 15? Who would I be had I not read Crime & Punishment or The Great Gatsby? This list goes on and on and on of art the ignited me in ways that maybe only the most honest kiss can. I mean, just recently I heard Gaslight Anthem’s “National Anthem,” and there it was again. What is that thing that art illuminates and why is it that our culture seems to want to obscure it? I’ll tell you why: Art is unpredictable, and it’s capable of toppling walls and kingdoms. After all that we are told about ourselves, art tells the truth and remains absolutely fucking indestructibly beautiful. And that’s why I do it, and that’s why every mile along the road is a gift because I might just offer something that tells someone to keep fighting—don’t you dare lie down on the side of the road, there’s beauty up ahead.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Prophet is a New York Times bestseller -- thank you!

Had a wonderful if exhausting tour, and want to thank everyone who came out to an event, pre-ordered a book at an event, and, most of all to those who HOSTED an event. The booksellers were, as always, fantastic, and it's a great chance to see people again and talk with readers. Even travel went well! For the first time, I wasn't able to shut down the entire eastern seaboard simply by announcing my intention to go on book tour, which was remarkable.

The Prophet appeared on the New York Times bestseller list at #26. Thanks to everyone who bought the book, sold the book, reviewed the book, and in general spread the word. Means a great deal.

Travel slows down but doesn't stop -- Decatur Book Festival appearance with Michael Connelly this weekend, and then stops at festivals in St. Petersburg and Portland, Oregon next month, and, of course, Bouchercon in Cleveland. I will also be returning to the Montana mountains and due to the popularity of my blog posts of the last trip (apparently people like to read about me making an ass of myself, interesting...) I will try to recapture the dramatic moments for you in blog form. Meanwhile, go read some good books. A few suggestions:

1) Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
2) Faces in the Crowd, ebook by Stewart O'Nan and Stephen King
3) When She Was Good, by Laura Lippmann
4) Five Skies, by Ron Carlson
5) Our Boys, and Soldiers First, both by Joe Drape for you football fans
6) Trinity Game, by Sean Chercover
7) The Thirtymile Fire, by John N. Maclean

That's a skimming and scattering of recent reads or re-reads. Oh yeah, Lake Country by Sean Doolittle. I've got it, I haven't read it, and I don't need to in order to recommend it. Doolittle just doesn't miss. He takes too much time off, but he doesn't miss. I'm saving that one for a September fishing trip, which seems appropriate, and of course the new Steve Hamilton will make the journey with me as well. Also, if you've made the inexcusable mistake of missing the early Harry Bosch novels, The Last Coyote is a $2.99 ebook this month. Not a bad deal, that.

Start the drum roll for the October 2 release of Dennis Lehane's Live By Night now. It's the best book he's written in years. And, yes, I realize that's rather bold praise, but I'll stand by it. You'll have to read the book to argue with me, at least.

Hoping to have some updates on various film and TV projects forthcoming, and don't forget that The Ridge is now out in a trade paperback edition that features my all-time favorite cover. The image is cool but doesn't do it justice, either. The new edition includes an essay about the real-life exotic feline rescue center, go check it out and consider a donation, it's an amazing cause and deserving of our support. A limited number of copies of both The Ridge and The Prophet are for sale at the center and if purchased there, 100% of proceeds go back to the cats.

For those of you who love collectible books (and who doesn't) I can't recommend Cemetery Dance highly enough, they do incredible, gorgeous editions, and I'm honored to have The Prophet on their list of upcoming publications. Check out the incredible artwork,

Hope everyone is having a great summer, and thanks for making mine a special one.

All best,


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A great price on Lincoln Perry e-books! $2.99 for a limited time

For the month of August, St. Martin's Press is doing a special promotional price on e-book versions of the Lincoln Perry novels "Tonight I Said Goodbye" (first in the series) and "A Welcome Grave." They are just $2.99 on all e-readers. "Tonight I Said Goodbye" was nominated for the Edgar Award and won the Private Eye Writers of America prize for best first novel and the Great Lakes Book Award. "A Welcome Grave" was nominated for the Quill, Shamus, and Barry awards. Check them out at a great price!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Interviews abound as PROPHET release week begins

Michael is on the road this week for THE PROPHET. Please check the "events" page to see if he is in a city near you! Remember that signed and personalized copies are available via mail-order from Murder by the Book, Poisoned Pen, Mystery One, and Big Hat Books. Phone numbers for the stores are available on the events page. Please call and reserve your signed, inscribed copy from these great independent bookstores! 

In the meantime, a few early articles about THE PROPHET:

Author Michael Koryta to visit Rocky River Public Library in support of new novel

Published: Thursday, August 02, 2012, 12:02 PM Updated: Thursday, August 02, 2012, 12:05 PM
Eric Sandy, Sun News
MIchael KorytaView full sizeMichael Koryta
With a new thriller fresh off the presses, author Michael Koryta is looking forward to talking with crime fiction fans and avid readers at an upcoming event in Rocky River.
“The Prophet” is a 400-page novel that filters the story of two estranged brothers through the shocking aftermaths of two violent crimes.
While the story reflects the author’s longstanding literary focus on gritty crime and the pain it inflicts on ordinary people, it also is one that’s been building in Koryta’s thought process for years, influenced by a tragedy his family experienced in Cleveland decades ago.
“You’re never guaranteed that you’re going to have another day with someone,” he said, offering a sobering insight into the horrors of crime.
Koryta began writing as a young boy, idolizing wordsmiths of all styles. His career first brought him to work as a reporter for the Herald Tribune in Bloomington, Ind. Early experiences as a news writer helped shape his professional foray into fiction and novels, he said. Both in terms of writing on a deadline and researching the facts of life around him, Koryta has taken what he learned in one career and employed it in another.
“That was invaluable — the chance to be an observer in a lot of different worlds,” he said.
For instance, when he decided mid-way through writing “The Prophet” that one character should be a high school football coach rather than a priest, Koryta spent time hanging out with the coaching staff of a local high school team in Bloomington.
But geographically speaking, his writing references places much closer to home for West Shore Sun readers. His novels are often set in Cleveland or other Northeast Ohio locales.
In fact, Koryta’s research into the world of crime and police procedure brought him into contact with Sgt. George Lichman of the Rocky River Police Department. Lichman had read several of Koryta’s books and offered to talk shop with him.
“He has become a good friend. He’s an incredibly bright guy and he reads voraciously,” Koryta said, adding that Lichman is one of the very few people he’ll trust with an early read of his books.
Koryta will host a book signing and launch event at 7 p.m. Aug. 7 at Rocky River Public Library, 1600 Hampton Road.
“It’s always fun to be in Cleveland. It feels like coming home,” he said.
The event is free and open to all. Barnes and Noble will ensure that copies of Koryta’s books are available for sale.

Gritty gridiron: Local author’s latest novel has family strife, murder, football
Special to the H-T
August 5, 2012, last update: 8/5 @ 12:52 am

Novelist Michael Koryta, photographed in downtown Bloomington in late July, divides his time between his hometown and St. Petersburg, Fla. His ninth and newest book, “The Prophet,” set in small-town Ohio, is out Tuesday. Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times

North head coach Scott Bless celebrates the Cougar win after the Bloomington South vs. North football game at Bloomington High School South on Sept. 9, 2011. Author Michael Koryta shadowed Bless for his new novel, “The Prophet,” out this week. Chris Howell | Herald-Times
BLOOMINGTON — The quiet man hanging out with the Bloomington High School North football team last year was not a scout, nor a parent or a lackluster assistant coach. He was Michael Koryta, a Bloomington native and bestselling mystery writer, doing research for his latest novel, “The Prophet,” which comes out Tuesday.The premise for the novel sprouted from a theme that Koryta had been wanting to tackle for a long time. He wanted to write a story about brothers torn apart, their relationship essentially severed, with football as a backdrop, he said during a recent interview at a downtown coffeehouse. Koryta approached his childhood friend Tyler Abel, the offensive coordinator at Bloomington High School North, to ask if he might be able to shadow head football coach Scott Bless.“It’s sort of a sentimental attachment, but they’re also playing the best football in town. When I was at North I don’t think we scored a point against South,” Koryta said. (That memory is correct, with North losing the four games from 1997 through 2000 — the author graduated in 2001 — by a cumulative score of 185-0.)Following footballKoryta, who is just shy of 30 years old and recently married, spent a year shadowing the team, focusing on the lives of the coaches. “I end up finding different worlds than I ever would have without the books; that’s one of the great blessings of what I do,” he said.Bless found Koryta’s presence fun and enriching. “It’s not every day that high school coaches and football players get to spend time with an author, so I thought it was a great cultural experience,” he said.It was also intriguing to see his professional life reflected through Koryta’s eyes in the pages of “The Prophet.”“Our coaching staff is very close and we’re around each other so much, so we probably think alike. So when someone spends time examining what you do, it kind of gives you a little perspective on it, and that’s really enjoyable,” Bless said.Staying connectedDuring his months of research, Koryta became very close with the North football community. “One of the things I’ve discovered is that once I get involved in one of these places for research, I find it very hard to walk away from them,” Koryta said. He frequently still attends Bloomington North football-related events, just as he continues to participate in rescues with the Exotic Feline Rescue Center, where he did much of the research for a previous novel, “The Ridge.” “The Prophet,” called “‘Friday Night Lights’ meets ‘In Cold Blood’” by Kirkus, the online review site, is a return to crime writing. Koryta had delved into supernatural fiction — “So Cold the River,” set in French Lick, featured ghosts. “The Prophet” instead deals with ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, and has been praised for its intricate plot. Back when Koryta was a student at North, he was already writing prolifically, intent on becoming a well-known crime novelist. When asked for advice he might offer to young writers, Koryta said it’s important to focus on learning the craft.“When you raise your skill level to a certain point, the audience will be there. If you chase the audience before you worry about getting better, you’re going about it backward,” he said.Help from HammelHaving a mentor can aid the process. Bob Hammel, then a Herald-Times sports writer, began serving this function for Koryta when the writer was 16 and interning at the newspaper.“He handed me something, and I couldn’t resist putting some marks on it,” said Hammel, now retired.“I had the impression that he might be one of those real cocky kids who thinks everything he does is gold, so I marked that first paper up pretty severely. I didn’t know if I would see him again, but not only did he come back, he wrote a whole new paper, incorporating all the changes right away. It was very impressive,” Hammel said.The mentoring relationship continued for years, and Koryta still sends Hammel manuscripts of his books before they are published. “I would probably be on my second published novel by this age if not for Bob Hammel, but instead I’m on nine, because of the time he spent teaching me,” Koryta said.All but one of his novels, including “The Prophet,” are being considered for film and TV projects right now. Koryta has partnered with writer and director Scott Peters to create a television series based on “The Ridge.” Peters is currently one of the directors of “Burn Notice.” And “The Prophet,” set in small-town Ohio, has been acquired by producer Nick Wechsler (“The Player,” “The Road”), with writer Reid Carolin (“Magic Mike”) set to adapt. “It’s really exciting,” Koryta said.When asked about his next project, Koryta’s answer is cryptic. “It’s going to be my wilderness feel-good story, like (James Dickey’s 1970 novel) ‘Deliverance.’ That’s the way I describe it.”
Meet MichaelWriter and Bloomington native Michael Koryta will read from and sign copies of his new novel, “The Prophet,” at two area locations this week. He’ll be at Bloomington’s Barnes & Noble, 2813 E. Third St., 7 p.m. Wednesday. And Koryta will visit Big Hat Books, 6510 Cornell Ave., in Indianapolis’ Broad Ripple neighborhood, 6 p.m. Thursday. See for more.

Nationally known author’s creative roots are planted in Cleveland soil

“My extended family is from Cleveland. Both of my parents grew up on the west side. My dad was born and raised on Clark Avenue, and my mother lived on Chatfield, near Rocky River Drive and Lorain Road,” said Koryta, during a recent phone interview. He will be visiting the Rocky Public Library on Tuesday at 7 p.m. talking about his latest book “The Prophet” and his Cleveland connections, which include Rocky River police sergeant George Lichman, who will introduce Koryta.

“I absolutely love Cleveland,” continued Koryta, who, in the process of packing for a move, has been reminded that this love, as well as a flair for writing, goes back a number of years. “It was interesting to see every story that I started to write from the time I was 8 years old all took place in Cleveland.”
He added that his favorite setting is the corner of Rocky River Drive and Lorain Road, better known to westsiders as “Kamm’s Corners.”

This inspiration came from the many holidays and school breaks spent visiting family here. “My friends would head for the beaches of Florida and I would head for the beaches of Lake Erie instead,” recalled Koryta, adding that instead of being disappointed, he stored up family tales to use as threads to weave through his novels.

“Part of being around family when you’re young is hearing stories and telling stories. Storytelling is paramount to the relationships I’ve had,” he said. Koryta especially remembers walking around the Clark Avenue area with his father and grandparents further nurturing his “storytelling roots.”

Aside from the family connection, Koryta said he was drawn to Cleveland’s atmosphere as a perfect setting for his detective novels. “I was always such a fan of detective novels and movies which are usually set in an urban environment. There’s something about Cleveland from the architecture and the bridges to the feel of the neighborhoods and the history that just felt very noir,” he recalled.
His interest in detective work led Koryta to a high school independent study project under the mentorship of noted private investigator Don Johnson. The study led to part-time, then full-time work as a private investigator.

With the writing muse still calling, Koryta got a part-time job with a Bloomington newspaper writing sports, features, columns and the police beat. “There’s nothing that prepares you more for trying to make a living as a writer than learning how to turn things around on a deadline,” said Koryta of the experience.

Transitioning between the factual world of journalism to fiction was not difficult for Koryta. “The jump is not hard. I’ve been trying to write fiction since I was a kid,” said Koryta, who observed that writing news stories actually recharged his fiction writing. In fact, he said his fellow reporters were “stunned” that he would work at the newspaper all day, then go home and write some more.

“For me it was such a different mental mechanism. It didn’t feel at all like what I’d been doing all day. It’s always been fun,” he stated.

After his early novels were published about five years ago, Koryta’s West Shore connections strengthened through his friendship with Lichman, who talked about their meeting. “His first few books were fabulous, so after I read them, I emailed him and told him I was a police officer and asked if he was interested in getting together the next time he was in town.”

The two met, and Lichman gave Koryta a tour of the Cuyahoga County jail and other points of interest. “Ever since then we’ve gotten together when he’s in town,” said Lichman who has assisted Koryta with his questions about Ohio legal issues.

“It’s so amazing to see than creative spark,” said Lichman.

“When a resource like that is offered, you’d be really foolish not to use it,” commented Koryta.

Recalling his first meeting with Lichman, Koryta added, “From that point on, George has not just been a big help with the books, but has become a really dear friend. He has a really special mind.”

Because of his love for writing, Koryta said there is not much self-discipline involved for him to get behind the keyboard. “That’s like asking where you find the discipline to eat ice cream every day,” he said with a laugh.

Aside from reading, Koryta advised aspiring writers to continually hone their craft. “It’s really important to get a draft done, then work on improving your craft. It’s easy now to get lost in epublications and things like that. Keep improving the craft and those things will come.”

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

An interview with Dean Koontz, author of ODD APOCALYPSE...and a few other bestsellers you might have heard of.

Had the true privilege of doing an author-to-author interview with the great Dean Koontz. Talk about a guy who can make you feel bad about your work ethic! It was an honor to have him take a little time out of those legendary 80-hour work weeks (he is NOT exaggerating on this, I assure you, the man is always writing) to answer a few questions. And we have a lot of fun with it, so I hope you'll check out the interview. It was awfully hard to limit it to 10 questions.

My interview of Dean is here.

Dean's interview of me is here.

The new volume in the Odd Thomas series might be my favorite yet. Highly recommended.

THE PROPHET named a "best book of August" by Amazon

Check out the full list of August's top mystery/thrillers.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

PROPHET tour stops

Hope to see you out along the trail! Please remember that many of these stores also are happy to ship, so if you would like a signed/inscribed copy and are not near a tour stop, contact a Murder by the Book, Big Hat Books, or Poisoned Pen, etc. and reserve a copy.

Saturday, August 4, 2012(Chicago, IL)
Anderson’s Bookshop
123 West Jefferson
Naperville, IL
Phone: 630-355-2665
Event Time: 2:00pm

Monday, August 6, 2012(Milwaukee, WI)
Mystery One
2109 North Prospect Avenue
Milwaukee, WI
Phone: 414-347-4077
Event Time: 7:00pm

Tuesday, August 7, 2012(Cleveland, OH)
Rocky River Public Library
1600 Hampton Road
Rocky River, OH
Event Time: 7:00pm

Wednesday, August 8, 2012(Bloomington, IN)
Barnes & Noble
2813 East 3rd ST
Bloomington, IN
Phone: 812-331-0669
Event Time: 7:00pm

Thursday, August 9, 2012(Indianapolis, IN)
Big Hat Books
6510 Cornell Avenue
Indianapolis, IN
Phone: 317-202-0203
Event Time: 6:00pm

Saturday, August 11, 2012(Tampa, FL)
Barnes & Noble
11802 N. Dale Mabry Highway
Tampa, FL
Phone: 813-962-6446
Event Time: 2:00pm

Tuesday, August 14, 2012
(Phoenix, AZ)
Poisoned Pen Bookstore
4014 North Goldwater Blvd
Scottsdale, AZ
Phone: 480-947-2974
Event Time: 7:00pm

Wednesday, August 15, 2012(Houston, TX)
Murder by the Book
2342 Bissonnet Street
Houston, TX
Phone: 713-524-8597
Event Time: 6:30pm

Thursday, August 16, 2012(Austin, TX)
Mystery People’s Noir at the Bar Author Series
(Also featuring Jesse Sublett and George Weir)
Opal Divine’s
700 West 6th ST
Austin, TX
Store Phone: 512-472-4288 x411
Event Time: 7:00pm

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"The world's toughest book critics" think you should not miss THE PROPHET

They also think you should not miss Elin Hilderbrand's "Summerland." Elin recently shared some kind words about "The Prophet."

"A delicious read, intricately woven, with characters who are impossible to forget. Michael Koryta excites and satisfies on every level."

We think you should trust her on this.

THE PROPHET makes Nicholas Sparks sad...but in a good way

KW:The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

NS: Prophet by Michael Koryta. It’s sad, but a really good story. [Chuckles] It’s not out yet, however. It’ll be published this fall. I got an advance copy.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Some early responses to THE PROPHET

Publishers Weekly thinks you should read it...a nice starred review.

After three supernatural thrillers, Thriller Award–finalist Koryta (The Ridge) triumphantly returns to crime fiction with this multilayered exploration of guilt and redemption. A momentary lapse has haunted bail bondsman Adam Austin all his life. Some two decades earlier, in his hometown of Chambers, Ohio, the then 18-year-old Adam chose to hang out with his latest love-interest one day rather than walk his 16-year-old sister, Marie Lynn, the five blocks home from school. A predator abducted Marie Lynn and killed her. Since then a gulf has existed between Austin and his then 15-year-old brother, Kent. Old wounds reopen after Adam unintentionally sends another teenage girl, Rachel Bond, to her death. The parallel events compel him to vow to not only catch but kill the person responsible. That Rachel’s boyfriend happens to be the star receiver for the Chambers high school football team coached by Kent forces the brothers to reconnect. Like Laura Lippman, Koryta has a gift for melding a suspenseful, twisty plot with a probing, unflinching look at his protagonists’ weaknesses.

And #1 NYT bestseller Scott Smith agrees, with an incredibly generous assessment:

"I've been an admirer of the hardworking Michael Koryta for many years.  I loved SO COLD THE RIVER's creepy gothic tone; I was enthralled by the eerie world of THE CYPRESS HOUSE.  Koryta is a fantastic writer, and a remarkable storyteller.  But his latest book, THE PROPHET, finds him at an entirely new level; I suspect it may be the novel that brings him the sort of widespread acclaim he's deserved all along.  A gridiron metaphor would seem appropriate, given the crucial role football plays in THE PROPHET.  It's as if Koryta has been wowing us with a brilliant running game for eight novels.  We'd be more than happy to see him keep driving the ball up the middle, but here, suddenly, he's gone to the air:  THE PROPHET is like a long, heart-stopping pass down the sidelines in the final seconds of a decisive game.  It's made me want to leap to my feet and cheer him on."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thrilled to announce sale of PROPHET film rights

To one of the best book-to-film producers in the business, Nick Wechsler.

Among others, Nick has adapted such works as Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD, David Benioff's THE 25th HOUR, Stephanie Meyer's THE HOST, and, a personal Koryta favorite, Ron Rash's brilliant novel SERENA.

Also attached and scripting will be Reid Carolin, who recently wrote the forthcoming Channing Tatum film MAGIC MIKE, produced by Wechsler, as well as, among others, an excellent documentary, EARTH MADE OF GLASS.

Come visit at Book Expo

BEA is open to the public for the first time, or so we are told, so come on down for Coffee With Koryta (really, this is what it is called, I'm not sure what it entails, but I'm guessing coffee) at the Javitz Center in New York on Thursday. Details below.

10:00 AM to 11:00 AM ET
Coffee with Koryta In-Booth Signing
HBG Booth 3627
Jacob K. Javits Center

And if you are one of those people who, you know, prefers to meet quality writers, you can STILL see Michael Koryta, cleverly disguised as someone who belongs with the following: Michael Connelly, Nelson DeMille, and Brad Meltzer. (Noted: I haven't told anyone I'm joining this panel, but they'll be fine with it. Trust me. They'll be fine. Nobody will call security). On Wednesday:

2:30 PM to 3:15 PM ET BOOK EXPO AMERICA 2012
Panel with Meltzer, Connelly and DeMille
Javits Center- 655 W 34th St
The Downtown Stage
New York, NY 10001
Contact: Sabrina Callahan

Nelson DeMille, Brad Meltzer, Michael Connelly and Michael Koryta on a panel moderated by Skip Prichard, President & Chief Executive Officer of Ingram

If you can't attend either of these events, fear not, I'll shame myself on a taped interview or two as well.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

THE PROPHET starred review

A very nice advance review of THE PROPHET, which now has an August 7 release date. A starred review from Kirkus and a very generous quote from Donald Ray Pollock.

"Friday Night Lights meets In Cold Blood in this powerful tale of distant brothers in a small Ohio town whose torment over the murder of their sister when they were teens is compounded by the murder of another targeted teenage girl—a killing one of the brothers is determined to avenge even if that means committing murder himself...Koryta, who drew acclaim with his 2011 supernatural thrillers, The Ridge and The Cypress House, returns to crime fiction with a gripping work. This book succeeds on any number of levels. It's a brilliantly paced thriller that keeps its villains at a tantalizing distance, a compelling family portrait, a study in morality that goes beyond the usual black-and-white judgments, and an entertaining spin on classic football fiction. A flawless performance."
Kirkus Review, starred

"Michael Koryta is an amazingly talented writer, and I rank The Prophet as one of the sharpest and superbly plotted crime novels I've read in my life."
Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff and The Devil All the Time

A few new covers...

New editions of SO COLD THE RIVER, THE CYPRESS HOUSE, and THE RIDGE will be out in June, July and September respectively. Take a look at the covers. I love them all, but there's no question that THE RIDGE is my favorite. Really like to see the West Baden Springs Hotel image captured on the cover of SO COLD THE RIVER as well...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A personal request

Below is a short, personal parody I wrote of a camping trip I took with friends a year and a half ago. We hiked across the Beartooths (they're plural, and it is tooths, don't argue with me) in Montana, a truly incredible trip and great experience. Along the way was a friend named Bob Bley, and in my parody account I captured something close to the reality -- he was in far better shape than any of us, with far better poise and trail skills and every quality you'd want in a fellow outdoorsman. He'd crossed the Atlantic in a two-man sailboat, biked the Canadian Rockies, hiked the Alps twice. You know, little things. He was planning more adventures. Then came a spring bike ride near his home, a slip in wet sand, an impact so powerful it shattered his helmet.

And left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Bob is in the mix for the opportunity to win a handicap accessible van right now, one that he could dearly use. Like everyone else in the mix, of course. So I'll share that link

and share my memories of a great trip with him, and encourage you to go to the site and vote -- if not for Bob, then for whatever story moves you the most. That's what he's encouraging, I know. It's certainly worth your time. Use promo code 967 to get five votes.

With thanks,


Bounce Across The Beartooths, September, 2010:
The daily log of an intrepid expedition.

Day One:
Easton and I are met in Minneapolis by the third of our four-man party, Captain Bob Bley. He mentions that his real first name is William, but that he changed it after “some issues with subordinates on a little trip we took once.”
In Minneapolis, our first delay is encountered, and Bley and Easton wisely counsel that it should be viewed as an opportunity for provisions. Thus several pints of provisions are consumed.

Following the flight into Billings, a rental Tahoe is procured and we begin the final leg of our engine-aided portion. Why we are not using engines for the entire trip, I cannot imagine. Captain Bley handles the wheel and we get our first glimpse of the Beartooths – visible in all their majesty for as many as eleven feet in front of the vehicle before disappearing into the blowing snow. A fine sign. Bley and I discuss the group’s readiness for such weather and arrive at a similar conclusion: it would be best to leave wills and testaments behind.

We clear the pass and arrive in Silver Gate just after six, where we find our host and commander, Mike Hefron, missing and the door to his cabin locked. Fortunately, he left no note. After admiring the beautiful sight of our breath fogging in the air for a time, we venture back into town in search of our commander. Unable to locate him, we determine that it is a fine chance to stock up on provisions. The Miner’s Saloon is our first stop, and all of the lights are off. It is unclear whether this is a power outage or simply a courtesy to those who dine on the Miner’s cuisine. We settle for a few bottles of provisions and then return to the cabin.
This time our commander is present. While he cooks us a light meal of 48-ounce strip steaks, he informs us that all supplies in the cabin are to be cleared before he leaves for the winter, including the contents of the beer fridge. Easton and I exchange a confident nod, knowing for the first time that Hefron has indeed called upon the right team for this mission. Easton has been training for months by drinking beer with sandbags on his back.

Day Two: We rise to a beautiful dawn, and I imagine the radiant sunlight could be seen for miles if not for the sleet and clouds. Having just had a large dinner, we settle for a light breakfast of a dozen eggs, seven pounds of pepper bacon, two loaves of toast, and a dairy farm’s supply of butter. Properly energized, a journey is made to see our outfitter, Jay, who apparently is nicknamed Jesus. I think this more than a good sign, as survival will clearly require the hand of the divine.

While Easton and Bley and I purchase our final goods (Jay has not the faintest idea of the prices of his own equipment, but he is willing to accept small amounts of cash for them, though he views the pieces of green paper curiously and would clearly rather barter for pelts and beads) Hefron learns how to assemble his pack. And then another pack. Before going back to the first pack. Or maybe it was the third. After a time, it becomes hard to keep track. Bley and I stand together at the window and watch as the day warms and the beautiful sleet turns to gorgeous hail.

Our outfitting complete, Jay wishes us well and assures us that the trip will be a wonderful time. Hefron, remarkably, seems to believe him, but I am able to detect a powerful sorrow in Jay’s gaze, perhaps because he knows he will never see us alive again, perhaps because he has traded perfectly good equipment for strange green pieces of paper.

We return to the cabin and ready our packs. With careful gear selection and wise choices on what to leave behind (one of the three sinks and the recliner) we get our packs down to an easily managed 230 pounds each.

Our final day at base camp concludes with a light five-course meal at the Log Cabin (also owned and operated by Jesus Jay). I am initially surprised to see that Bley orders yet another steak, but in conversation he reveals that he ordinarily burns 17,000 calories per day, done through a simple routine of 200-mile bicycle rides, log-rolling, and trapeze work.

We return to the cabin, where Easton and I continue to assist on emptying the beer fridge, reassuring Commander Hefron and Captain Bley that when given a task we will pursue it with dogged determination.

Day Three: To my deep horror, I wake to discover that the other three are actually intending to go on the hike. Perhaps they do not understand what this entails: hiking. With packs. And sleeping in tents. On the ground. And then hiking again.

We set out from the Clark’s Fork trailhead, and initially all seems well, as my perfectly balanced pack manages to keep my feet from actually touching the ground and allows me to move along using the vertebrae instead. Then, disaster: the trail begins to move on a strange incline. We take our first break, bewildered, and discuss the unanticipated appearance of an uphill slope on a mountain trail. I vote for giving up and turning back, as the Tahoe is only nine strides behind us and I believe I can make it that far before darkness, but I am overruled.

We march on, and Captain Bley casually mentions that he once crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a small boat with one other man. No, really. Bley has crossed the ocean in a two-man boat. Easton and I crossed Lake Monroe once, but it can’t really be considered a two-man effort since the guy who towed us had something to do with it.

The farther we hike, the steeper the trail becomes. Fortunately, Hefron is able to intimidate the slopes with spectacular shows of profanity, and they yield enough to let us pass. He sets the pace, and Bley follows, usually walking on his hands to increase the degree of difficulty. He is concerned because his heart rate has not moved from its standard resting rate of 30. I walk third in line, which is troubling because being wedged in the middle reduces the likelihood that I will be allowed to wander off the trail, fall to my knees, and wait for death.

I am overwhelmed by fatigue, and try to distract myself by engaging Bley into conversation, asking if he has ever hiked before. He mentions that he once crossed the Alps while blindfolded and carrying a canoe, but reassures me that “no, don’t feel bad, this trip is hard for me, too.” I would have an easier time believing him were I not slung over his shoulder at the time.

Following lunch we continue to climb. And climb. And climb. Initially, I attempt to gauge the elevation changes through the numbers on the topographic map, but then I determine that it is simpler to use Hefron’s sliding scale: the more profane adjectives (or verbs) attached to the word “mountain,” the greater its height.

We pause a few times along the trail, and at one point Bley and Easton are kind enough to prop me up onto a rock for a photograph so that it will appear as if I, too, have been walking. If they have tired of carrying me yet, they have not said anything.

We reach a campsite just past Ouzel Lake, which would be a lovely spot to spend the night if protected by four walls and a roof. Easton and I set up camp and prepare to lift the food bag to protect it from bears, using a simple technique involving seven trees, 600 feet of parachute cord, a camp saw and two guns. Things are going along just fine and we’ve hardly been at it for two hours before Bley wanders down and observes that the bag has been hoisted nine inches off the ground and is still at risk of being plundered by moles. He then suggests a technique using one tree branch, fifteen feet of rope, and thirty seconds of preparation. Easton and I exchange a bemused shake of our heads, as the man clearly thinks all of this is as simple as crossing the ocean in a 30-foot boat, but we know that it will be good for camp morale if the rubes are allowed to feel useful and involved, and so we decide to use his method just this once.

After dinner, we relax by the fire. Commander Hefron has demonstrated faint traces of fatigue at times, but he quickly buoys himself with analgesics and returns to form. He mentions that our outfitter, Jesus Jay, has just been married, and Bley asks if there are plans for any little jesuits. With our keen wits, it takes Easton and I only 39 minutes to get this joke and begin to laugh. Hefron takes the opportunity to do a bit of wondering aloud about religious theory.

We retire to our tents after the campfire burns down, and I am relieved by the knowledge that hypothermia is a silent killer and I should go peacefully in the night. Easton and I have shrewdly positioned our tent on a 70-degree decline, which allows us to slide gracefully into the foot of the tent throughout the night, thus helping to build a higher degree of warmth and keep the muscles limber. It’s working perfectly until I make the mistake of beginning my backstroke with the wrong arm and feel a neck tendon shear in half. Fortunately, this is where my pack strap will rest for the remainder of the trip.

In the other tent, Hefron carries on a fascinating, albeit hostile, dialogue with various zippers. Bley, exhausted from the rigorous day, performs only 5,000 jumping jacks before going to sleep. It is a wise choice – for the remainder of the night, their tent is filled with the sound of what is clearly an enraged grizzly and the occasional bugling moose. Bley insists this is only Hefron snoring. He has surprising wit.

Day Four: I am dejected to wake, having felt certain that death’s soothing hand would come for me in the night. Easton and I lower the bear bag, laughing at the absurd simplicity of Bley’s design, which allows the bag to be dropped from the tree without the use of even a single catapult. The temperature could not be lovelier; at times, when the wind drops to 50 miles per hour, it must reach nearly 0. Easton prepares for breakfast by boiling water, and it occurs to me that dipping my feet into the pot might warm my toes. Sadly, it causes the water to freeze instead.

The initial portion of this day’s trek is discouragingly vertical. I detect a new variation on Hefron’s altitude assessment formula: lack of creativity joined with redundancy = steepest slope. “This f&^%* up is f&^&^ up.”

The trail here is at least three inches in width, sometimes four, but with the night’s snow melting over the loose rocks it isn’t quite as safe it appears. The ascent is steep and the altitude makes the climb more difficult. Even Bley is affected; his heart rate has soared to 42.

While the others hike, I work on perfecting a technique known as the stumger, a unique personalized hybrid of the stumble and the stagger, designed to put maximum stress on the knees and ankles. It appears to working magnificently. Bley mentions that he recently completed a 3,000-mile bike ride through the Canadian Rockies and into California. It would be nice if he’d keep his mind on the intense difficulty of the task at hand, as these 26.5 miles won’t hike themselves.

Easton, still guarding the rear of the expedition from mountain lions, bears, and apparently the threat of insurgent combatants, routinely stops to pick up the jackets, water bottles, and food that fall from my pack. Eventually, I grow frustrated with his repeated hindering of my efforts to dump weight and give up that approach. Easton has shown remarkable strength throughout the journey, and I finally discover the source: he consumes a Power Bar every nine minutes.

After a pause for lunch, Hefron reveals that the “Bounce across the Beartooths” was not a nickname for the trip but a plan. I suspect, after the second rib breaks, it is a plan he regrets, but it does provide him with the forum for the line of the trip. After hoisting himself out of the rock pile in which he landed, he gathers his toilet paper and trowel and announces: “I’m going to go over that hill and take a shit.” And so he does.

Once we return to the trail, Hefron takes 11 prescription painkillers and suddenly is bounding across the rocks like an NFL kick returner. The rest of us struggle to keep up; even Bley begins to use both feet. This scorching pace lasts until we reach the lake where we will camp for the evening. If there was flat ground upon which to camp. Which there is not. Now phrases such as “we’re going to run out of water soon,” and “we’ll have to put on the headlamps to see the trail” are being said in total seriousness. I try repeatedly to plunge to my death but cannot move the weight of the pack enough to fall off the trail. After descending through a series of switchbacks that have to number in the hundreds, we actually reach a suitable campsite. Tents are assembled, dinner is cooked, and the bear bag is carefully stowed by leaning it against a tree branch that is at least four feet from the tent. Fatigue is savaging us all; Easton climbs into his sleeping bag fully dressed, deciding only after he is in the bag that he has enough energy to at least remove the camp saw. Considering that I’m sleeping four inches away and he thrashes a good deal in his sleep, I support this decision. Pondering the potential dangers of the day ahead, knowing that there’s much trail left to hike and that our commander is wounded, Easton and I take stock of our emergency equipment, and he is vastly reassured by the presence of cartoons on my cell phone. I have not gone into this mission without some forethought. We fall into an exhausted sleep, lulled by the wind in the trees and the sound of Bley counting out his one-arm push-ups.

Day Five: The homestretch looms ahead of us, and Commander Hefron, now known as “Mikeodin” breakfasts on painkillers and fearlessly leads the way. If the grinding of his shattered ribs over his internal organs is a problem, he does not speak of it. In fact, he does not speak of much at all, except to conjugate all possible forms of his favorite word. When it comes to grammar, the man has no equal.

As we near the end of the journey, it becomes clear that Easton has tired of the reconnaissance mission and hungers for combat. He engages a pine tree in battle and loses. Bleeding, he retreats to study its tactics and look for a weakness.

We pass a few fly fishermen who assure us that it’s all downhill from our current point. Interestingly, their version of downhill requires climbing. I establish a rhythm by counting along with the clicking sounds my knees make where once pesky cartilage existed.

It is but a few short hours more before we reach the trailhead and discover that Jay has indeed driven Hefron’s truck around the mountains, and it awaits us in beautiful splendor. Victory is ours. We head to the Grizzly bar and grill in Roscoe, driving like mad fools in our dash for beer. Bley runs beside the truck, finally pleased with the pace.

WINNER: Most fit, most competent, most responsible for keeping us alive:
Bob Bley.

WINNER: True Grit: Michael Hefron.

WINNER: Hardest-working, best-dressed: Ryan Easton.

WINNER: Best Bear Bait: Michael Koryta.

Pub date change!

Due to the overwhelming demand of readers who simply cannot wait for the next Koryta novel, and having nothing whatsoever, at all, in the least to do with the business machinations of publishers, I am delighted to announce that THE PROPHET will be available August 7.

Here's your teaser:

"I wonder if you possibly believed it when you looked into my eyes and told me that you had already passed your greatest test, that forgiving the man who raped and murdered your sister was that test. I disagreed with you then. I still do, coach. There are greater tests coming."

Two brothers in a small Midwestern town: one the high school's beloved football coach on the verge of a state championship, one scraping by as a bail bondsman. Their sister was abducted and murdered when they were teenagers, and they've been divided since that day. Now a new killing with ties to each of them has forced a painful and adversarial reunion. In a masterful return to mystery fiction, Michael Koryta has written a deeply haunting and suspenseful novel that proves why Dean Koontz has said, "He's now on my must-read list."

"Somehow, Michael Koryta gets better with every book, no small feat considering the quality of those he's already written. Here's a writer for the new century, one to read, admire and, yes, envy."
Tom Franklin, author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

"THE PROPHET is a relentless, heart-in-your-throat thriller about ordinary people caught in the middle of an extraordinary nightmare. It's about the sins of the past haunting the hopes of the present and the need to find redemption from the jury of your own conscience. It's also a quantum leap for Michael Koryta."
Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River and Shutter Island

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

THE RIDGE nominated as year's best thriller

By the International Thriller Writers Association, and alongside some pretty solid company, to say the least! Hear this Stephen King go is an up-and-comer to be watched.

Awards to be announced in ceremony in New York on July 14. I'd say cross your fingers, but with that competition, I'll just prep my "it's an honor to be nominated" speech.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Coming soon...