James Brown was all those things and so much more. Yet it can’t be denied his music impacted a generation of fans and influenced a grip of musicians who came after him –- from David Bowie, Janelle Monae to Usher just to name three. In this collection, GET UP OFFA THAT THING, you’ll find all new, all sensational and all entertaining stories of connivers and contrivers, backbiters and syndicators, stalwarts and strivers that are sure to keep you turning the page from each fevered tale to the next.
The collection includes stories by six-time Bram Stoker award winner Lisa Morton; Anthony, Barry and Macavity awards winner James Ziskin; Jim Fusilli, former Rock & Pop critic for the Wall Street Journal; and HBO Max Doom Patrol staff writer and comics creator Ezra Claytan Daniels.
Other contributors include Shamus award winner Gar Anthony Haywood; Mysti Berri, five-time Derringer and Golden Derringer award winner John M. Floyd; Lise McClendon, writer of the Bennett Sisters mysteries; cultural critic and short story writer Michael Gonzales; novelist and former Miami Vice showrunner and writer-producer on Hill Street Blues Robert Ward; co-creator of Spider-Man Noir for Marvel Comics and publisher of FairSquare Comics Fabrice Sapolsky; filmmaker and pioneer of Hip Hop horror Jeff Carroll; crime fiction novelist and Dark Yonder editor Katy Munger; and hardboiled novelist and co-producer on Snowfall, Gary Phillips.
Author Gary Phillips spent some time with TheBigThrill telling us about this new anthology inspired by the songs of James Brown, GET UP OFFA THAT THING:
Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?
The idea for this grew from previous anthologies of crime fiction inspired by singers or groups such as the Go-Go’s, Bruce Springsteen and Steely Dan.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope readers will be thrilled and entertained by these stories in GET UP OFFA THAT THING as they cover a wide range from hardboiled, touches of sci-fi to action-adventure.
What attracts you to this book’s genre?
In James Brown’s songs such as “King Heroin, “The Big Payback” and “Mama’s Dead,” there’s overt edgy lyrics and rugged undercurrents that are very much in the wheelhouse of crime and mystery. Even his more upbeat tunes have suggestions of what lies beneath and the writers in GET UP OFFA THAT THING tapped the unsaid.
What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?
The challenge of assembling an anthology is the stories might not gel as a structural whole, wildly out of sync one to another. In this case that was not the result. They are different beats if you will, but all entertain and draw the reader in – and therefore the biggest opportunity was met to make the pieces work together. The biggest opportunity is once the various stories are in, the wonderful surprise at how well they resonate one to another.
What was the most important criteria in your selection process?
That I chose some writers who are mainstays in the mystery community and others who are outside of our “thing.” Writers who brought a different flavor to the mix of creating this savory goulash of thrills.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
This collection makes a contribution to the sub-genre of music inspired crime fiction collections which is growing.
Without spoilers, are there any genre conventions you wanted to upend or challenge with this book?
Several of the stories are mash-ups of genres and I think that will be vibrant and engaging for the reader. They take turns into the weird and strange and invite you along.
Was there anything new you discovered, or surprised you, as you wrote this book?
As someone who has edited several anthologies, I’m always pleased to see how any given writer fids their way into the story and expressing the theme.
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
Aside from the pantheon of Hammett, Chandler and Macdonald, The Westlake Parker novels and artists-writers Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, Jim Steranko and Neal Adams in comics. To the one, they carried out their visions with dynamism and a singular voice and/or look. Which taught me to produce the story, the book, whatever it is, that captivates you and therefore hopefully others.
Son of a mechanic and a librarian, GARY PHILIPS has been a community organizer, a labor union rep, and delivered dog cages. He’s published various novels, comics, novellas, short stories, and edited or co-edited several anthologies including the Anthony-winning The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir. Violent Spring, his debut mystery nearly thirty years ago, was named in 2020 one of the essential crime novels of Los Angeles. Phillips was a writer/co-producer for the final season of the Hulu streaming show Snowfall, about crack and the CIA in 1980s South Central where he grew up.