Reviews & Press

Blog, Reviews & Press

Learning from Booklist and Library Journal “Books for Dudes”

October 21, 2014 by

Not long ago a great Booklist review suddenly appeared on the Amazon Page of The Raven’s Gift. In today’s world it can be incredibly difficult to get a review anywhere and I was fortunate to land some incredible reviews here at home in Alaska and one giant one in The Washington Post. Naturally that one surprised the hell out of me, but this review came as a surprise because I never heard about my novel landing a Booklist review until the review appeared. I think most writers are savvy enough to have Google Alerts in place to catch reviews good and bad (and damn, I’ve been crazy fortunate in the good department), but one thing I’ve learned is to also have a few alerts for your name misspelled. When I figured that out I learned The Raven’s Gift had been selected as a Top Five Summer Reads for Dudes! And of course I learned this around October that same year. Things like this help with publicity, when you get a chance to publicize them, right? At times this sort of discovery can be frustrating when the news comes too late, but my agent has been keen to point out to me that good reviews and book lists don’t go away. I’ve remembered that.

Back to the Booklist review. I appreciate what the reviewer, Connie Fletcher had to say, and I really loved the imagery of the last line:

This is part dystopian survival tale, part Jack London wilderness saga, and part Stephen King/Michael Crichton–style suspense story. Holding it all together, and making this much more than a what happens when people can’t defend against a massive threat exercise, is Alaska native Rearden’s deep knowledge of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and the culture of the Yupik Eskimos living there. Rearden takes an adventurous, idealistic young couple (John and Anna), gives them jobs as first-year teachers, and plunks them in a tiny village in a tiny home free of all amenities. From the start, though, readers will know something is off: Why, in the scene before the couple’s job interview, are an unidentified man and woman crawling through the snow, looking for signs of life? The narrative consists of three separate time lines—what happened before almost everyone in the village disappeared; John and Anna’s first efforts to teach and adjust; and John’s desperate efforts to survive and return to Anna. This narrative mix is deliberately confusing, like following tracks in the snow, and just as engrossing. –Booklist, Connie Fletcher

I’ll take that review with a grin, and of course have no problems with the Jack London/Stephen King/Michael Crichton comparison! So who needs a timely “starred review” with those stars involved, right? Plus, this reviewer was kind enough to post the review on Amazon herself AND spell my name correctly.

ravens gift cover

Don Rearden grew up on the tundra of Southwestern Alaska, an experience that informed his critically acclaimed debut literary thriller The Raven’s Gift. While calling Don “a master of the cliffhanger” The Washington Post went on to praise the novel’s “hunter-hunted suspense of Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male, the post-apocalyptic bleakness of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and the haunting mysteriousness of The X-Files.”

Stay tuned for more posts from Don Rearden and his upcoming Alaskan thriller only from The Rogue Reader.

Blog, Reviews & Press

“Bangkok Cowboy” a Nook First Pick of the Day

June 6, 2014 by

Congrats to Ron McMillan – his Thailand set thriller “Bangkok Cowboy” is the B&N Nook First Pick of the Day!

NOOK First: Compelling Reads from Emerging Authors
When notorious Bangkok mobster Raymond Long approached private eye Mason to find his missing American accountant, he didn’t expect the missing person to be his friend Nathalie West. Together with his Thai partner Dixie, the duo are determined to find Nathalie before Long’s gang of goons find her-and the missing hard drive she’s taken with her in this first action-packed novel in a new series.


Bangkok Cowboy thumbnail cover



Blog, Reviews & Press

Why real cops don’t often make good crime writers

April 30, 2014 by

Courtesy of the Guardian Newspaper website, a hilarious assessment of what’s wrong with crime fiction detectives being portrayed as flawed individuals who lead less than perfect existences – and how such portrayals affect the performances of real cops in the real world. No, it’s not an April Fool spoof……

[Story below by Steven Morris]


Sam Spade


Crime writers should depict more detectives as clean-living and balanced rather than damaged and hard-drinking like the Inspector Rebus of Ian Rankin‘s novels, a chief constable has said.

Nick Gargan, chief constable of Avon and Somerset, said some police officers modelled themselves on fictional cops when they were interviewed on television in high-profile cases.

Speaking to the Guardian before a talk on crime fiction at the Chipping Norton literary festival at the weekend, Gargan said: “I’ve seen cops on the steps of court putting in rather theatrical performances for the TV cameras and I’ve thought: you weren’t trained to do that. It doesn’t represent any part of the rest of your working life. You’ve thought, tomorrow morning I’m likely to appear on the steps of the court, I’ll be expected to say something. What are my reference points, how am I going to come across?”

Gargan said he accepted Rankin’s view that a novel giving a realistic portrayal of police procedure would be “the most boring book in the world”, but objected to crime authors depicting one detective doing the work of what in reality would be that of up to 40 officers.

“You see a Rebus or Morse at the scene, recovering forensic exhibits, interviewing the suspect, comforting the family, arguing with the chief constable about resources. What can be a team of 20, 30 or 40 people is concentrated in the person of this one senior investigator,” he said.

Gargan, who worked on the investigation into Princess Diana’s death, said he did not accept the accuracy of another trait of fictional detectives – bending the rules for the greater good. “Do we have hard-drinking, heavy-smoking cynical people who make a few mistakes? Yes. But this slightly heroic bucking-the-system thing, I don’t think we have much of that.”

He said Rankin’s beloved creation would not like him. “I represent everything at the top end of the organisation that he’s contemptuous of, and I understand that.

“There are some pretty damaged individuals in too many of these books. I’d quite like to see some cheery, well-balanced, well-adjusted, equally successful investigators. I’d hate to think our investigators were modelling themselves on Rebus, but I think a few of them modelled themselves on Frost [RD Wingfield's creation Jack Frost, played on television by David Jason in A Touch of Frost]. You get a bit of Morse too.”

A senior detective in a neighbouring force, Steve Fulcher of Wiltshire police, was disciplined recently for breaking the rules on how a suspect should be questioned during the high-profile murder case of Sian O’Callaghan in Swindon.

In a scene that could have come from a crime novel (and Rankin has said Rebus might have acted in the same way), Fulcher questioned a suspect, Chris Halliwell, on a remote hillside without access to legal advice in a desperate attempt to crack the case. Halliwell admitted murdering O’Callaghan and led Fulcher to the body of a second woman who had vanished some years earlier. Fulcher was feted by some and criticised by others.

“The rules and laws are there for a reason,” Gargan said. “It’s not heroic to step outside the law. We shouldn’t do that. We’re the police.”

He said real-life detective work attracts interesting personalities. “In the world of investigation there are some real characters. It’s a magnet to individuals.”

He said crime writers did the police a disservice when they suggested officers had a propensity to corruption and were willing to break the rules. “But does that really shape people’s perception of policing? I think people’s experience of policing tends to be shaped by what has happened to them and their friends.”

As to whether it mattered whether writers got the forensic details right, Gargan said it wasn’t important unless there were jarring inaccuracies. He said that as a young constable he and his colleagues would watch episodes of The Bill and tick off the procedural errors. “But it’s the quality of the writing, the story that matters.”

Which detective novels would he take on holiday if forced to leave behind his management tomes and biographies? Gargan discounted Sherlock Homes and Agatha Christie – too much toxicology. Neither had he got into gruesome Scandinavian crime fiction. “There’s a rather depressing amount of pathology now,” he said.

“I’d take a Rumpole of the Bailey. It’s such good fun. I’d probably take an earlier Ian Rankin. I’d take a Colin Dexter too, a nice Morse.”

Blog, Reviews & Press

A New Rave Review of Tenderloin from Raven Crime Reads

February 24, 2014 by

Over the weekend, Raven Crime Reads posted a stellar review of Tenderloin that, as Ice Cube would say, “put a glide in my stride and a dip in my hip,” calling it, “A book that sits perfectly alongside Pelecanos and Lehane in my opinion, with its no-holds-barred  depiction of  urban American life and crime.” She also liked Tenderloin‘s surly protagonist, “In terms of characterisation, Sleeper Hayes, Haslett’s central protagonist, is a real find . . . Hayes exists in a world populated by criminals, bums, boxers, hookers and bent politicians- think a 70‘s set version of The Wire- but ingratiates himself into all these worlds through the vitality and doggedness of his character, which some take to more than others!” I always knew the Brits were smarter than us. Read the whole thing here:

Blog, Other People's Books, Reviews & Press

Don Rearden and The Raven’s Gift

August 15, 2013 by

I have been working with Don Rearden since he queried me for a novella entitled Permafrost Heart on March 23 of 2006.  I loved the story that blended unique glimpses of the “bush” country and the people of Alaska that Don so clearly loves told in cuts and flashes reminiscent of the film “Momento.”

Alas, the novella did not sell.  (how many do?)  But over the years Don kept writing, working, and disappearing into the bush only to return each time an even better writer.  His next book, a novel entitled The Raven’s Gift, eventually followed and is a true revelation of the beauty and horror of his world.

For several years Don’s fiction, like private dispatches from the edge of the world, have always thrilled and shocked me and often made me cry.  But now, finally after so much of Don’s hard work and so many revisions, I get to share his amazing work with others…

The Raven’s Gift was published by Pintail, Penguin Group this summer.  And judging from this amazing review by Michael Dirda in The Washington Post Don is finally getting the accolades and growing readership he deserves.


Pintail_RAVEN'S GIFT_cover

Any number of writers could have produced a fine literary novel about a young couple discovering Yup’ik culture. But only an exceptional writer could write that fine literary novel and then relegate it to backstory, using its fragments to heighten the eeriness and drama of what is an intense thriller. And yet “The Raven’s Gift” also remains a love story — in fact, two love stories. What more could you ask? — Michael Dirda, The Washington Post.




Reviews & Press

Ro Cuzon in Publishing Perspectives

July 17, 2013 by

logo_publishingperspectives_originalPublishing Perspectives invited Ro Cuzon to open up about his writing and publishing journey, including his success as part of The Rogue Reader.

I’m a high school dropout. I never studied writing. And when I first signed with an agent I don’t think I even knew what “plot” was. But over the past decade, I’ve learned how to write, learned how to revise, learned how to promote — essentially, I’ve learned how to be a professional author. My only instructor through it all: my agent. Every writer has his own story. Here’s mine.

Read the full story here.

Blog, Reviews & Press

Ex-junkie Fiction

June 13, 2013 by

Over at Eric Beetner’s excellent blog, Joe Clifford and Tom Pitts sit down to chat about books, crime, writing, and a whole lot else. Beetner asks some great questions, and gets some great answers. 3/4 of the way through, Joe and Tom give a nice shout-out to Ro Cuzon. We pull that quote below, but the whole conversation with these three excellent writers is worth the time. You can find it here.

What do you think about some of the ex-junkie fiction out there like William Burroughs or Donald Goines? Does it capture the truth of it? 

J: We all love William Burroughs, the man. But did anybody really enjoy Naked Lunch? Cool guy. I’ve just never been sold on Burroughs the writer. Jerry Stahl’s Permanent Midnight was pretty spot-on, although the writing didn’t hold up for me in subsequent readings. Which isn’t much of a knock. Like I said, my favorite writer is still Kerouac, and I can’t read him anymore either. There’s Ro Cuzon, another ex-junkie noir guy. I recently read hisUnder the Dixie Moon, which uses dope in the peripheral, and I think he nails it. But, again, it’s fiction, so you have some leeway. I suppose Jesus’ Son is fiction too, but it doesn’t read that way.
T: No shit. Good call on Burroughs. Junkie is his most readable book. He’s one of many who I realize I like the idea of better than the work of. Denis Johnson? I can appreciate Jesus’ Son, but it doesn’t compare to a master work like Tree of Smoke. But, really, the book I like best by Johnson is Nobody Move. It’s his take on noir and it’s great. His fans hated it, but it’s a clean, tight crime tale that’s worth picking up. I concur with Joe on Ro Cuzon’s book too. When I read Dixie I was amazed at how it kept getting better and better and better. The plot thickened to the point where I thought I was on the brink of its climax for three-quarters of the book.

Reviews & Press

Spinetingler Mag names Cuzon’s Under the Dixie Moon among best crime novels of 2012

January 4, 2013 by

Brian Lindenmuth of Spinetingler Magazine picked his best crime fiction of 2012 today, and elevates Ro Cuzon’s Under the Dixie Moon to his top ten.

“In the past I’ve written that the PI novel is the haiku of crime fiction, there may be only 17 syllables but in the right hands those syllables will sing; that there is the potential for a lot of power in that framework. Ro Cuzon has written one of the freshest PI novels in years. Great characters, great sense of place, and great action. The third person POV allows a wider cast and more interactions that pays off strongly as the story lines come together.”

Reviews & Press

Ro Cuzon in Library Journal as 2012 Staff Pick

December 7, 2012 by

HUGE congratulations to Ro Cuzon! Under the Dixie Moon is a Library Journal Staff Pick for one of the Best Books of 2012. Here’s what they say:

“A no-holds-barred, sexy and violent noir with a liberal dash of NOLA, Ro Cuzon’s Under the Dixie Moon is one part Charlie Huston’s Hank Thompson novels and one part Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder titles. It delivers an unblinking look at the dirty underbelly of a corrupt society, complete with ugly consequences and melancholy endings.”

Check out the rest of their excellent picks here.

Reviews & Press

GRUB STREET Publish It Forward on TRR

December 2, 2012 by

Eve Bridburg at Grub Street Writers in Boston asks Jason Allen Ashlock 5 questions about The Rogue Reader.

Is there anything in particular that you look for in successful submissions?

What we’re looking for most in our authors is that they be rogue storytellers. That they really know their genre, enough to know how to effectively break the rules. We don’t want to offer the expected or the predictable. We also want them to be advanced in their craft, gutsy in their storytelling. And we want publishing insurgents: writers who dare to do it differently, who are willing to directly engage with their audience and are already doing that.

Read the full piece here.


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