The Tone Poem Rides Again

LCCC-BoulderIn 1996 the Left Coast Crime Convention — held annually somewhere in the Western US — was held in Boulder, Colorado. Perhaps due to that Party Feeling that comes over a person in the hometown of the U. of Colorado it was a blast. One of the highlights was a variety show by writers at the Boulderado Theater, organized by former TV producer & writer, Les Roberts. Through glitches and backstage jitters I was one of the participants, roping several guys to back me up. Bill Moody played his jazzy drums perfectly in time. John Harvey shook the tambourine with panache. And what did I do? I recited a poem I’d written, a tone poem like a beatnik in a ’50s coffeehouse would do. It’s called Rides a Black and White Horse and is an ode to the mystery novel, in all its curious, spooky, imaginative wonder.

John Harvey, Lise, Jerry Healy, Alan Russell
John Harvey, Lise, Jerry Healy, Alan Russell

Now Denice Stradling, who narrated my novel, Blackbird Fly, has voiced the poem for everyone. Here it is. Enjoy– and send some love and help to Boulder and its environs. You will rebuild, Colorado.

UPDATE:   John Harvey weighs in… and misses his tambourine

In Memoriam, Enid Schantz

The death of Rue Morgue bookstore owner Enid Schantz, a longtime supporter of mystery writers all over the world, has made me remember. I remember the story Tom and Enid told of the mountain lions that lounged on their deck outside Boulder, trapping them in their house. I remember my first ever book signing  (with Jan Burke who was so cool and calm compared to me) back in 1994. And the many kindnesses over the years, the acceptance into the mystery world Enid and Tom gave me. I remember the piles of books they ordered for Left Coast Crime this year for me, in Santa Fe. And the sorrow I saw on Enid’s face there.

I also remember the Left Coast Crime in Boulder that Tom and Enid put on. It was really the best one (sorry other organizers!) with Kinky Friedman’s Texas Jewboys and a slew of other “talent” at the Boulderado Theater. And the tone poem I wrote for the occasion. In Enid’s memory here it is again. I wish I had Bill Moody again on drums, John Harvey on tambourine, and the other guys snapping their fingers. But this is for you, Enid.


By Lise McClendon

I am a book.
Sheaves pressed from the pulp of oaks and pines
a natural sawdust made dingy from purses, dusty from shelves.
Steamy and anxious, abused and misused, kissed and cried over,
smeared, yellowed, and torn, loved, hated, scorned.

I am a book.

I am a book that remembers, days when I stood proud in good company

When the children came, I leapt into their arms,
when the women came, they cradled me against their soft breasts,
when the men came, they held me like a lover,
and I smelled the sweet smell of cigars and brandy as we sat together in leather chairs,
next to pool tables, on porch swings, in rocking chairs, my words hanging in the air like bright gems, dangling, then forgotten, I crumbled, dust to dust.

I am a tale of woe and secrets,
a book brand-new, sprung from the loins of ancient fathers clothed in tweed,
born of mothers in lands of heather and coal soot.
A family too close to see the blood on its hands, too dear to suffering, to poison, to cold steel and revenge,
deaf to the screams of mortal wounding, amused at decay and torment,
a family bred in the dankest swamp of human desires.

I am a tale of woe and secrets,
I am a mystery.

I am intrigue, anxiety, fear,
I tangle in the night with madmen, spend my days cloaked in black,
hiding from myself, from dark angels, from the evil that lurks within
and the evil we cannot lurk without.

I am words of adventure, of faraway places where no one knows my tongue, of curious cultures in small, back alleys, mean streets, the crumbling house in each of us.

I am primordial fear, the great unknown,
I am life everlasting.
I touch you and you shiver, I blow in your ear and you follow me,
down foggy lanes, into places you’ve never seen, to see things no one should see,
to be someone you could only hope to be.

I ride the winds of imagination on a black-and-white horse,
to find the truth inside of me, to cure the ills inside of you,
to take one passenger at a time over that tall mountain,
across that lonely plain to a place you’ve never been
where the world stops for just one minute and everything is right.

I am a mystery.

Copyright © 2000 Lise McClendon

The End of the Januaries

I confess. I am one of those people who hate January. So today, its very last day, I am celebrating. I survived January and all I got was this damn cold. In reality January in Montana in 2011 was pretty mild. It started out fairly normal, days in the teens and 20s and lows overnight around zero. But then it got warm. And despite myself and my fears about global warming, I rejoiced. Highs in the 40s? Mark me down as “Like”! Now it’s cold again, we’re finally getting that arctic blast we get every year, but we’ve made it all the way to February so no worries. Spring is just around the corner.

My novel continues apace. Second winter now and not quite done. I’ve got over 80,000 words though and am closing in on the end. The end of a novel is important. The beginning is somewhat freer, when you can throw all sorts of plots and subplots at the characters and you don’t have to completely make sense. But at this stage reason is important. The various threads must be tied up. The major plot must rock. And its ramifications must vibrate through everything.

This book could be a series. I feel it. I’ve written mostly stand-alones the last few years. But this one has a great young policewoman who could be a series character. I like her. So that figures in how I end the book as well. I need to pull out all the stops on the ending but also leave a few things for future books. I’m hoping to be done before Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe at the end of March so I better get cracking.

Janus is the god of past and future, forward and backward, the two faces. I choose forward. The publishing biz being what it is that may be crazy. But I have a choice and I choose the future. What will it be? I can’t wait. What does yours hold?