The family and I were in a sprawling mall in Tijuana on a Saturday evening, killing a couple of hours until a circus tent opened—not a metaphorical circus, a real one.
I was walking around the mall in lock step with Mexicans, probably looking just as hopeless, slack-jawed, and without a clue. You could tell by the clothes, jewelry, and haircuts that these were for the most part working Mexicans, which meant they labored hard for twenty bucks a day.
No one at this Tijuana mall is on a shopping spree. Instead, the mall is a kind of mirage laid out for the underclass. I was sure that one day out of the week they mill around from one store to another, not buying much, inevitably ending up in the food court, where they buy a cheap burrito or some fast food from Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Subway. There aren’t enough tables to seat the mob so clumps of people stand holding plastic trays, waiting for a table to open.
The mall feels like a holding tank for the dispossessed. No one has to round up the powerless lower class and bus them here. They round themselves up and after a few hours at the mall they’ll return to their cinderblock casas with mattresses on the floor.
These people aren’t going to rock the boat. Most of them accept their fate—this is how high they’re going to fly.
And next weekend, they’ll head back to the mall and stare at all the merchandise on display, maybe examining a price tag or two, and settling for a lousy meal at the food court.
No one’s going anywhere.
Lots going on. Here’s an essay on how I came to write my crime novel, Koreatown Blues. The book will be published Feb. 1 2017 by Brash Books. The advance buzz has been phenomenal. Here’s a link to the essay:
Here I come:
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A note from my publisher:
As you know, Brash Books is dedicated to bringing you the greatest crime novels in existence, and we’re so excited to bring you a brand new voice that’s sure to rock the genre! Brash Books has just signed author Mark Rogers and will be publishing his inventive new crime novel, KOREATOWN BLUES, in February 2017.
Rogers’ debut thriller tells the story of Wes—whose purchase of a car wash in LA’s Koreatown comes complete with a young Korean wife he’s never met. Wes soon learns her five previous husbands were murdered before the honeymoon and finds himself with ring on his finger and a target on his back. Will he become the next victim of this centuries-old blood feud—or will he emerge as the last husband standing?
You’ll have to wait until February for more—but we can give you a sneak peek of the cover here. Trust us—this book is just as stunning as it looks
Greenburg was like a lot of northeastern towns. It was bankrupt, ugly and filled with ignorant people. The healthy ones fled and the maimed, in-bred and elderly stayed behind. Businesses failed. Job lot stores, secondhand shops and filthy, dimly lit restaurants did their best to extract nickels and dimes from the populace. If a newspaper was blowing and tumbling down Main Street in a humid wind, it was more often than not the National Enquirer. But Greenburg had something that other more successful towns didn’t: a preponderance of basements with high ceilings.
From the novel Basement
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He often referred to himself as Johnny of West New York. The bravado of the nickname masked a paralyzing fear.
John Langsdorf was the best writer I’ve ever met. Early supporters included Allen Ginsberg and City Lights Books. John was also the most damaged writer, addicted to alcohol and Valium and cloistered away in a Hoboken railroad flat, walled in by agoraphobia.
”When life gets too much that one’s breathing, after frantic hyperventilation, shuts down and a fella gladly takes his mitts and shits his final load. So Charlie stashed 3 bags of D and 20 Percocets and promised not to dabble. They’d be his ticket. He felt relieved and moved about more freely, like a geek in Harlem holding automatic pistols in each pocket. Shoot any badass down, get a bunch of ’em, then off some fucking cops, kill everybody and just before they break in take one real hot fix and blow off to the Lord’s left hand.”
John Langsdorf, from a handwritten manuscript
Down at 410 is the story of our friendship, mixing my prose with John’s writings and pre-dawn letters to me. These letters were never mailed; instead John would hand them over when I’d show up at his door with a six-pack of MeisterBrau. John should have had a brilliant career. It didn’t happen.
I imagined us squaring off down by the railroad tracks. Paper cups a blowin’ in the wind. Friends – some cruel, some afraid and disgusted – ringing ’round us. No sun. No cars. Standing on hard-packed earth that has thrown little pebbles to the surface. Ugly plants dot the ground, with prickly stems and five-starred leaves covered with little invisible needles like velvet. In the distance, as we raise our fists, are many wires of phone, train and telegraph lining the horizon; little ceramic insulators hang on the rubber wire. A PomPom box lies on the ground between us. John is frightened, sweating fear he can’t hide. Myself – all my sadism is riding high. I’m thinking: He doesn’t have a chance. I can hit him hard as I want. Hurt him. Serve him right.
I start hitting him. He covers up. I hit him in the trash heap. He’s in pain. I smoke him.
From the memoir Down at 410
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I didn’t grow up in the city. I grew up in the heavily wooded suburbs of New Jersey. As a young man of 24, while studying fine arts at Ramapo College, I heard that Hoboken was on the verge of becoming an artists’ community. This was in 1976. I was looking for the next step in my life and took the commuter train to Hoboken with my younger brother Rich.
Hoboken was a few years from becoming anything resembling a haven for artists. It was still shaking off the racial tension of the 1960s and there was an uneasy truce in the air between all of the ethnic factions, the old timers—the Germans, Irish and Italians—the relative newcomers from Latin America, Cuba and Puerto Rico, and the blacks from the projects.
It didn’t take but one visit to Hoboken to get me scrambling to secure the deposit on a two bedroom apartment on Garden Street. Rich and I moved in and I set to exploring the city. It was all new to me and I began writing down things I overheard and describing things I saw.
Breakfast Special isn’t anything like a classic memoir – there’s a lack of connective tissue. What the reader may want to keep in mind is I arrived in Hoboken broke and my first job was working as a cook at Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips, a fast food restaurant. I eventually got a job at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Manhattan, which led to me operating an outdoor bookstand for them in Central Park. During this time, I worked hard on my artwork. I began drawing illustrations for the NY Times Book Review; my etchings were commissioned by the Pace Gallery on Manhattan’s 57th Street; and some of the writings and illustrations in Breakfast Special appeared as a six-part series in the Village Voice titled City Confidential. Week by week saw writers, musicians, dancers and artists moving into Hoboken, until it actually did become a bona fide artists’ community.
Back in those days there seemed to be a bar on every corner in Hoboken and I probably had a drink in most of them. A thread running through all of those evenings huddled over a 35 cent glass of Rheingold was a desire for true connection with a woman.
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