Thursday, December 26, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


(Click on quotes to go to full review).
"Another superior thriller — fast, tough and nasty – without a single extra sentence." – KIRKUS REVIEWS (starred review).

* "Lean, poetic prose ... For fans of noir, this is among the best of the current breed." – BOSTON GLOBE

* "You will want to read SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST at least three times: once quickly (you won’t be able to help doing so); once slowly, to savor it; and once simply to admire, line by line, how Stroby demonstrates how the job of writing noir crime fiction is fittingly and properly done." – BOOK REPORTER.COM

* "As taut and tension-filled as an aerial artist's tightrope." – DAVID MARSHALL JAMES

* "Continues the hot streak of this engaging series... SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST is a heist novel that breathes." – MYSTERY PEOPLE

* "Wallace Stroby knows how to move a story. Fast. ... At no point in the novel does Stroby give the reader a chance to wander off and wonder. You just keep turning pages." – THE STAR-LEDGER/NJ.COM

* "Stroby’s superb writing, scene-setting and characters take you into another world." – HEY, THERE'S A DEAD GUY IN THE LIVING ROOM

* "As the finale approaches, Stroby skillfully ratchets up the tension. We get taken down to the wire and then some. ... Like Elmore Leonard, he shows us how fragile the connection is between machismo and angst, bravado and dread." – OPEN LETTERS MONTHLY

* "The book is violent and often dark, and at times extremely touching .... The reader is sitting on pins and needles as the book hurtles toward its inevitable climax." – MYSTERY SCENE

* "One of the more compelling female criminals in mystery fiction... Stroby nails this taut, gripping contest between well-matched opponents." – PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (starred review)

* "Violence permeates the action-filled pages replete with fascinating characters in this excellent novel." – RT BOOK REVIEWS (4 out of 4 stars)

* "This is why genre fiction can be good. This book feels real." – JEN A. MILLER

* "As the finale approaches, the writing style burns down to its hard essence ... The shootouts have been staged in many a gangster - and western - tale. But when they're done as skillfully as this, who cares?" – BOOKLIST

Friday, November 29, 2013

Mystery Scene magazine on SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST

Mystery Scene magazine finds SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST "violent and often dark, and at times extremely touching ... The reader is sitting on pins and needles as the book hurtles toward its inevitable climax." Read the full review here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST audio cover art

Here's the very Bondian cover art for Blackstone Audio's forthcoming unabridged audiobook of SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST, read by the award-winning Coleen Marlo. Blackstone will also release unabridged audio versions of COLD SHOT TO THE HEART and KINGS OF MIDNIGHT in 2014.
(Click on image to enlarge)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

"On my blood-stream, I will carry you ..."

"Put out my eyes, and I can see you still,
Slam my ears to, and I can hear you yet;
And without any feet can go to you;
And tongueless, I can conjure you at will.
Break off my arms, I shall take hold of you
And grasp you with my heart as with a hand;
Arrest my heart, my brain will beat as true;
And if you set this brain of mine afire,
Then on my blood-stream I will carry you."
Rainer Maria Rilke

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NYC launch party for SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST

The official launch for SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST will be Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at The Mysterious Bookshop on Warren Street in TriBeca. Festivities will follow. If you can't make it, but would like a signed - or inscribed - copy, you can pre-order from the store here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST Goodreads giveaway

St. Martin's/Minotaur, in association with Goodreads, is giving away 25 copies of SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST, through Nov. 5, 2013. Enter to win here:

Friday, October 18, 2013


The Romantic Times gives 4 (out of 4) Stars to SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST in its latest issue.

by Wallace Stroby

Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Suspense
RT Rating: **** FOUR (out of Four) STARS

Professional thief and stone-cold killer Crissa Stone is back, lining up another caper in burned-out Detroit. Her long-buried conscience leads her further into danger and, perhaps, the end of it all. Violence permeates the action-filled pages replete with fascinating characters in this excellent novel. The plan is to steal more than half-a-million in Mexican drug money, helped by an insider, another friend and Crissa’s partner, Larry. Although they organize to the nth degree, it all goes terribly wrong when it becomes clear that the informant has turned on them. Ex-cop Burke has always played fast and loose with the law, taking and giving bribes and worse. Now that he’s an independent investigator, he alternates between doing impossible jobs and hitting the bottle. When an old contact asks him to track down the thieves that ripped him off, he says he’ll do it — for a price. When he discovers one of the perps is a woman, it puts him on Crissa’s trail.

(MINOTAUR, Dec., 288 pp., $24.99)

Reviewed By: Donna M. Brown

Thursday, October 17, 2013


(Here's the complete text of my interview with Publishers Weekly from their Oct. 7 issue. The Q&A was trimmed somewhat for space, but is presented here in its original form.)

 PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: Tell us a little about Crissa’s background and how she became a professional thief.

WALLACE STROBY: When I started doing research into professional criminals, I found that – almost without exception – all the women who were in that life had been drawn into it by a man, usually an older mentor/lover. So that was part of my first thinking about her, that she had a chaotic childhood and adolescence, followed by a series of bad and abusive relationships, and involvement in petty crime. And that this older man – Wayne Boudreaux – had taken her away from all that and, in doing so, brought her into his own criminal life, where he would gradually depend on her more and more for her intelligence, instincts and nerve. 

PW: Crissa Stone is a compelling character – she dominates even if she’s not always the one in charge of putting together a team for a heist. Did you envision this character as female from the beginning or did she evolve as you worked on it? 

A: I’d always wanted to write a complete novel from the point of view of a career criminal, to get under their skin and see what makes them tick. I’d done this a little bit in THE HEARTBREAK LOUNGE and GONE ‘TIL NOVEMBER, where half the story was told from the point of view of a criminal, but I really wanted to stretch out with it a little. And the idea of having the character be a woman made it more intriguing to me, because it opened up a whole realm of possibilities. A woman would do things differently than a traditional lone wolf male protagonist. She’d have loyalties and relationships, make alliances, and avoid violence unless she had no choice. That became very interesting to me. 

PW: In concept, putting together a new team specifically for each caper reminded me of Westlake’s Dortmunder without the comic setbacks his plans always encountered.
A: Well, Westlake was the undisputed master of the caper novel, whether it was in his Dortmunder books, or the more-serious heist thrillers he wrote as Richard Stark. Plenty of novelists have done classic one-offs in the genre, but I think only Westlake sustained that throughout his career.

PW: Two characters who play a large part in Crissa’s life are largely offstage in your books – her imprisoned lover and her daughter.

A: That goes back to the idea of having the character be a woman. I wanted someone who was committing crimes for money,but who was not personally greedy. She’s trying to get her lover out of jail, and financially support a daughter who’s being raised by a relative. These are the things she values, rather than personal gain, and, with them, she’s hoping to eventually achieve some semblance of normalcy in her life, which, to a certain extent, she’s fooling herself about. She starts to recognize that near the end of KINGS OF MIDNIGHT, and even more so in SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST.

PW: Many crime fiction series appeal primarily to either men or women, but often not both. Do you have a feel yet for the demographics of your readership?

A: Not really. I would hope it appeals to both. The books are about a smart, capable woman, but they’re still, I hope, realistic and honest when it comes to dealing with the crime elements. I’m just trying to come up with ideas and plots that feel true to the character, and that work in that context.

PW: Because Crissa has no real home base for her activities, she can go anywhere for her next job. Do you like the freedom of choice that gives you? What kind of problems result from needing to learn a new locale for each novel?

A: It’s both freeing and restricting. I’d like to write more about the Jersey Shore, which is where I live and where Crissa’s eventual home base is. The only thing is that she would never work close to home, so there’s only so much I can do with that setting. The challenge with the other locales is getting the details right, especially if I’ve never been there.
SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST is set mainly in Detroit. I’d only intended that the first couple chapters take place there, so I decided I didn’t need to go personally. Eventually, as the book grew, more and more of the action stayed there, and then it was too late to go. I didn’t want the reality of the city to violate what I’d written, strangely enough. So I had a Detroit expert vet the book, and I incorporated all her fixes and suggestions – and there were a lot. Nothing against Detroit though, it’s just the way things worked out. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013


This is a PDF of a featured Q&A in this week's issue of Publishers Weekly about SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST (click on image to enlarge). You can read the full text transcript of the interview here. (PW's online version was subscriber only):

Monday, September 30, 2013

SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST gets starred review from Publishers Weekly

The Nov. 30 issue of Publishers Weekly includes this starred review of SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST, which it calls "taut, gripping." (Click on images to enlarge).

Monday, September 09, 2013

KINGS OF MIDNIGHT trade paperback

The trade paperback edition of KINGS OF MIDNIGHT, the second Crissa Stone novel, is out this week from St. Martin's/Minotaur, It's available in stores as well as at Amazon (also at a reduced Kindle price), Barnes & Noble, Indiebound and all usual outlets (click on covers for larger images).

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Elmore Leonard, 1925-2013: Farewell to the master

Elmore Leonard passed away this morning at age 87, following complications from a stroke. I wrote about him today for my alma mater, The Newark Star-Ledger. You can find the story here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Talking "Bruce Noir" on N.J.'s 105.7 The Hawk

Here's an mp3 clip of host Tom Cunningham and I talking about the upcoming "Bruce Noir" film fest in Asbury Park on his Bruce Brunch radio show on N.J.'s 105.7 The Hawk Aug. 18, 2013 (opening is slightly clipped).

Details and schedule for the festival can be found here.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

GUN CRAZY - The story

Joseph Lewis' classic 1950 film noir GUN CRAZY is one of the titles at next weekend's "Bruce Noir" film festival at the Showroom Theatre in Asbury Park, N.J. (Springsteen has acknowledged the influence of the film on his songwriting, and you can really hear it in songs such as "Highway 29" and the still-unreleased "Losin' Kind"). Here's a rare look at the film's origin, McKinley Kantor's original short story as it appeared in the Saturday Evening Post Feb. 3, 1940. (Hat tip to "Czar of Noir" Eddie Muller for pointing me in the right direction).

(Click on images to enlarge)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Remembering the Big Man

Before she worked for Ted Turner & CNN and became a celebrated environmental activist, Barbara Pyle was a music fan who shot lots of candid photos of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band circa 1975. Most have never been published. She used some of them to put together this tribute to Clarence Clemons, who passed away two years ago today:

Salon asked me to write an essay about Clemons the night he died. You can find it here.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Coming this August to The Showroom Theatre in Asbury Park. I'll be hosting, with special guests. Film titles to be announced soon.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Letter from Guadalcanal

(Click for larger image)

A few years back, my cousin found this letter in a box in my late grandmother's basement, where it had sat undisturbed for more than 65 years. It was written by my father, William Wallace Stroby, in November 1942, shortly after his destroyer, the USS Cushing, was attacked and sunk by the Japanese in a major sea battle off Savo Island, in the South Pacific. Half the crew was killed. My father and his surviving shipmates were rescued at sea and taken to nearby Guadalcanal, where he quickly penned this V-Mail letter to his mother. He was 20 years old.

The letter reads:

Dear Mom, Just have time and paper for a few lines letting you know I am well and safe. Right now I am on Guadalcanal, Solomons. You will probably see by the papers why. Hope to be off in the near future, and maybe this time I will be able to come home for a few days. This is not such a bad place considering what it was a few months ago. Please don’t worry about me. I am well and safe. Not even wounded.

God bless you.

Love, Wally

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Where nothing is forgotten or forgiven

(The following is an abridged and edited version of an essay I wrote in 2009, reprinted here in advance of this weekend's Asbury Park Bookfest, where Dennis Tafoya and I will host a screening of the classic 1945 film noir DETOUR.)

It may seem a stretch to equate noir master Cornell Woolrich's doom-laden novels and stories with the music of Bruce Springsteen, but they share a lot of common ground.

Woolrich was, as his biographer termed him, "The Poe of the 20th century and the poet of its shadows." The dozens of novels and short stories he wrote over four decades, many of which were filmed, were almost always set in urban nightscapes, and shared a pervasive feeling of dread. His characters were often pursued for crimes of passion they didn't commit – or maybe they did. The titles alone set the mood – NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES, THE BRIDE WORE BLACK, WALTZ INTO DARKNESS, RENDEZVOUS IN BLACK, all evocative of the noirest of noir sensibilities. Woolrich's protagonists were haunted and hunted, tripped by fate and trapped by the night.

Along with their fondness for nocturnal imagery, the best of Springsteen's earlier songs often shared that haunted – and haunting – quality found in Woolrich's work. The narrator of Springsteen's "Stolen Car" (from 1980's "The River") is an archetypal Woolrich character, mourning a lost love while driving a stolen car "through a pitch-black night," wracked by guilt and fear that "in this darkness, I will disappear."

Many Springsteen songs could easily have been Woolrich titles – "Darkness on the Edge of Town," "Downbound Train," "Point Blank" "Because the Night," "New York City Serenade" (Woolrich had his own "Manhattan Love Song"). And years before Springsteen came along, Woolrich found his own muse in Asbury Park, setting several stories in that once-glamorous but forever-fading seaside resort. The best-known of these is probably 1935's "Boy With Body," which was reprinted as "The Corpse and the Kid" in the 1988 Woolrich collection DARKNESS AT DAWN.

One of the most Woolrich-esque Springsteen titles is "Something in the Night," from his 1978 album "Darkness on the Edge of Town." It's one of the great but lesser-known Springsteen songs, filled with evocative lyrics and existential angst. It's also one of his most geographically specific songs, set on Asbury Park's Kingsley Street, which at one time formed a oval with Ocean Avenue known as "The Circuit," where aimless teenagers cruised on hot summer nights. The Circuit is also mentioned in that other Springsteen song with a quintessentially noir title, "Night," from 1975's "Born to Run."

While listening to some archival Springsteen shows, I came upon the first-ever version of "Something in the Night," from a concert at the Monmouth Arts Center (now the Count Basie Theatre) in Red Bank, N.J., on Aug. 1, 1976. Springsteen and his E Street Band were performing a six-night stretch there, debuting new material while an ongoing lawsuit kept them from recording (other songs premiered that week included the equally haunting "The Promise.")

This earliest version of "Something in the Night" is even starker than the one on the album. Slowed down, with only a simple keyboard accompaniment, the Red Bank version is radically different from what was released, with bleak impressionistic lyrics and references to a night when the devil "will walk these streets like a man."

Springsteen refined the song further through the years, leading up to the "Darkness" version, which is the one he currently performs, albeit infrequently. The various live versions also offer an insight into his songwriting process, as he gradually reshaped both the lyrics and mood of the song. By the time of a widely-bootlegged performance at New York's Palladium in November 1976, Springsteen had added a mournful trumpet to the arrangement, along with a new final verse. The album track lyrics can be found here. The Aug. 1, 1976 Red Bank version follows.

Well, I'm riding down Kingsley figuring I'll get a drink
I turn the radio way up loud so I don't have to think
And I ease down on the gas, looking for a moment when the world seems right
And I go tearing into the heart of something in the night

I picked this chick up hitch-hiking, she just hung her head out the window and she screamed
Said she was looking for someplace to go, to die or be redeemed
Well, you can ride this road 'til dawn, without another human being in sight
'Cause baby, everybody's gone looking for something in the night

And me I gotta stop running, I gotta stop my fooling around
Well, I got this stuff running around my head, I can't live with or live down
She wants me to push this machine until the whole world disappears out of sight
And just me and you baby, we'll surrender to the kindness of something in the night

Now tonight no sins are forgotten, no sins are forgiven
And when I look out on these streets sometimes I can't tell the dead from the living
Just winners and losers, mumbling about some vague wrong and right
And kids like us, rumbling over something in the night

And now you people out on the island, lock your doors and take your children by the hand
Put on your black dress, baby, because tonight the devil will walk these streets like a man
I don't know about you, but I'm gonna bring along my switchblade, in case that fool wants to fight
If he wants me I'll be running down the highway, chasing something in the night.

Audio of the Palladium version below.

(TOP: Artist Larry Schwinger's cover painting for the 1982 Ballantine Books edition of Cornell Woolrich's THE BLACK CURTAIN.)

Below: Singer-songwriter Matthew Ryan's version:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

THE BARBED-WIRE KISS: First novel, First draft, First page

From the vaults: The first (typewritten) manuscript page of the first draft of THE BARBED-WIRE KISS, along with the final published page as it appeared (click on images for larger size) .

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

DETOUR in Asbury Park 4/19/13

Get ready for a bracing dose of tough dames, cheap booze and bad luck when Dennis Tafoya and I host a screening of Edgar G. Ulmer's classic 1945 fim noir DETOUR at the Showroom Theater in downtown Asbury Park, N.J., April 19 at 7:30 p.m., with fun stuff to follow. The event kicks off the first-ever Asbury Park BookFest, which runs April 19-22. More details here. You can buy advance tickets online here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

F. Paul Wilson's review of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

Back (way back) when I was the books page editor at The Asbury Park Press, I recruited best-selling novelist (and fellow Jersey Shore resident) F. Paul Wilson to write a couple reviews for the paper (I'm pretty sure I paid him, but that was a long time ago). One of those reviews was of Thomas Harris's SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. These are scans of Wilson's original typewritten pages of his review, which was published in the Press in 1988 (click on individual pages for a larger, more readable view).

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Five Best Crime Films You've Never Seen

Over at Australian author Andrew Nette's website, Pulp Curry, my picks for The Five Best Crime Films You've Never Seen.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Five Things That Changed My Life"

Crimespree Magazine quizzed me about five albums/books/movies/etc. that changed my life. You can read my answers here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Joseph's Reviews on KINGS OF MIDNIGHT

"Edgy and fast-paced ... intense plot immersion, and a strong sense of urgency." Read the full review here.