More 2014 Happenings

Maybe the biggest 2014 happening is this: my name in a Table of Contents with Dennis Lehane, in a book of stories inspired by the Boss:

trouble in the heartland

Not on the cover, but I’m right there in the ToC, I promise! My story is a bit of country noir based (very, very loosely) on “The Promised Land.”

(Not my story.)

Here, I’ll let the anthology’s editor, Joe Clifford, wax poetic about the awesomeness of this anthology.

I also contributed a couple items to hot-shot lit site Electric Literature. First was an essay on the “new genre” of country noir.

el cn

Also at Electric Lit, I interviewed Benjamin Whitmer, who wrote one of 2014’s best books, Cry Father:

el bw


New stuff that happened in 2014

Wow, haven’t posted here in a while – all the action’s over on Twitter and FB, when there is action, which is irregular.

Which is not to say nothing has been going on. To wit:

My story “Bad Brother” went up at the always bad-ass Plots With Guns.


My story “The Cloud Factory” was translated into German. How cool is that????


The ever-cool Amanda Gowin interviewed me at Curiouser & Curiouser – coolest thing about the interview is we spend not one word talking about writing.


I also had a story called “A Straight Face” go up at the Chaing Mai City News site – for all I’ve written and am writing about Thailand, kinda crazy this is my first actual in-Thailand publication.

chiang mai cn

Finally, Liam Sweeny reviewed Moondog. In his words:

Most of the stories take place in Thailand, Laos, and other places in East Asia, while some are set in America. Thailand, specifically Bangkok, was a place that, before I read Moondog, was a place that seemed too chaotic and jumbled for me to hold it in my mind. When I realized the stories took place there, I was afraid I wasn’t going to like the collection. But Merrigan was able to capture the essence of it, to lift the veil of the Eastern world and show the grit and the grime, the hopes and crimes of a place that has a culture very different than mine, but nonetheless had the same heart. Merrigan was a perfect tour guide here.

md review

… and let’s hope there’s more, lots more, to come in 2015.

Work is a tonic

Earlier this year my 6 year-old was going through a rough patch. Normally she’s a sweet, compliant child, but day after day she’d been yelling at her mother, stamping her feet, pouting, sullen, untalkative, pushing her little brother down … so on a Friday night, I told her come next morning, we were going to burn that right out of her.

Got her up early. We ate breakfast in the dark and went over to the farm. I needed to clear the pivot pit of all the elm saplings that had grown up the last few years. We stopped by the Merc on the way for a pair of kid work gloves. One of those miserable Nebraska winter days, no snow and 50 mph winds, so that the dust gritted in your teeth and the corn husks felt like fastballs when they smacked into you. Temp hovering in the single digits. I gave her a pair of shears and pointed out the lines of little elm saplings and said, go to work. Gave her no directions beyond that.

She worked without a single complaint for 3 hours in that blistering cold. Stacked the saplings up neat (neat as was possible in that wind) and hauled them over to the pickup. Then we hauled all those damn elms including the ones I cut down to the burn pile and returned to the pit to admire our work. She did a good job and I told her so.

Then we went into town to a local joint for a cheeseburger and a milkshake and talked about everything under the sun. And in the meantime, the little demon girl was gone. Burnt out.

Work’s a tonic.

Tom McNeal nails the feeling of football fandom (sports in general, maybe): it matters

Especially if you’re in a small town that already has an inferiority complex:

Along the fence line, near the pep club concession stand, the men from Goodnight had been mesmerized by Tausen’s pass. They knew what it meant. They could already sense the unfair diminishment in self-respect that was on its way. In their farmers’ bones, in their shopkeeper’s bones, they had expected it. It was what living on small farms and in a small town taught them to expect. They would lose. They would walk away, muttering or maybe working up a joke, beginning to pretend it didn’t matter. But it did. Not in any way they could adequately define or defend, but still, it did. It mattered.

– Tom McNeal (Goodnight, Nebraska)

Just finished A Feast of Snakes

Now that was a sonorous way to end 2013 – just finished A FEAST OF SNAKES, by Harry Crews. Brad Watson recommended the book to me this past summer but I just now got to it. You know when you get up from reading a book and all the world seems a-tilt and off-kilter somehow, and it takes a few minutes before any semblance of good sense will return to your skull? That’s how it feels rising up from A FEAST OF SNAKES. Some don’t read for such purposes and I appreciate that, because neither do I, always, but when it happens, ain’t much you can do, but pass on the good word, that this is one of those books that will wallop you good, if you so happen to pick it up.

The realist in murder writes of a world in which gangsters can rule nations and almost rule cities … where no man can walk down a dark street in safety because law and order are things we talk about but refrain from practising; a world where you may witness a hold-up in broad daylight and see who did it, but you will fade quickly back into the crowd rather than tell anyone, because the hold-up men may have friends with long guns, or the police may not like your testimony, and in any case the shyster for the defense will be allowed to abuse and vilify you in open court, before a jury of selected morons, without any but the most perfunctory interference from a political judge.

It is not a very fragrant world, but it is the world you live in, and certain writers with tough minds and a cool spirit of detachment can make very interesting and even amusing patterns out of it. It is not funny that a man should be killed, but it is sometimes funny that he should be killed for so little, and that his death should be the coin of what we call civilization.

– Raymond Chandler

Gangster Paul Jaworski (among his other accomplishments: the first ever armored car robbery, in 1927) was a hard man. Though raised Catholic, when offered a chaplain before his execution, he said:

“I preached atheism since the day I quit singing the choir. A man is yellow if he spends his life believing in nothing and then comes crawling to the church because he is afraid his death is near.”