Monthly Archives: September 2010


I haven’t found the Word file for Trouble Comes Back yet, so I probably need to find a scanner and some OCR software and get all the text out of the hardcover, but here’s how I’m thinking.

And here’s what the product description will say:


Jason Keltner, Robert Goldstein, and Martin Altamirano are lifelong friends. They eke out a living on the edges of the entertainment industry in Southern California and fall into thwarting an occasional criminal caper. This time out, a chance encounter with burned-out rock legend Dwight Cooper, aka Uncle Trouble, turns them into bodyguards for Dwight’s young daughter, who is in danger of being kidnapped. There’s art in the artlessness of this deft little crime novel. The plot and pacing seem a little haphazard, but the three main characters are well crafted, complex, and whole. Lesser characters are vividly drawn, and the interplay between characters is skillfully handled. Snyder has an especially fine way with dialogue, and the verbal shorthand that longtime friends might employ rings true. And, maybe best of all, the obscure, playful allusions to such philosophers as Godel and Heisenberg reflect the author’s respect for his readers’ intelligence. A delight for discerning crime-fiction fans.

—Thomas Gaughan


In a year that has already seen some excellent output in the mystery genre, Trouble Comes Back is one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve encountered.

The strength of the author’s book is not in the story — although that part is certainly adequate. Keith Snyder’s power is in his writing and his characterization. Any misgivings about not understanding or identifying with the three amigos he has created (Jason Keltner, Robert Goldstein, Martin Altamirano) were laid to rest with passages like the following, where Jason asks his recovering addict buddy what was the hardest part about giving up drugs:

“When you go on drugs… Whatever your emotional age was, stop
the clock. Say you start using when you’re fourteen, and you
stop when you’re twenty. You get to start the clock again right
where you stopped it. It was eight-thirteen in the monrning when
you stopped the clock? Well, guess what, bud, it’s eight-thirteen
now. Everybody else you know, they had that time to grow up, but
while they were making progress and doing the work, you were off
in a little suspended animation cocoon called ‘I’m getting high’.”

The relative age of the characters makes no difference in a book featuring that depth of insight. And throughout Trouble Comes Back, Keith Snyder pens sequence after sequence that advances three intensely emotional, intellectually solid young men to the pages before your eyes. Twentysomethings or not, these guys have values that are as powerful, and even politically correct, as you’re likely to find in earlier genre tough-guy tropes—a sense for family preservation, protective tenderness for children, attentiveness to work ethic, and what is necessary to move forward. Coupled to this underlying core of decency is a keen eye for the times and a sharp sense of humor…

Jason, Robert, and Martin remind me of Travis McGee and his buddy, Meyer — they just do their thing, and if they have an opportunity to help someone, and that opportunity might earn a few bucks, whatthehell. The theme of Trouble Comes Back deals with children caught in parental battles, the destructive nature of ambivalent love, and the value of friendship—all excellent, time-worn topics, well-told by a fresh new voice. From that perspective, there are no “gray areas” surrounding Keith Snyder’s book. It’s now on my Top Ten List for 1999.


This book has so much going for it. It’s literate, sophisticated, funny and fast. It gets inside LA’s struggling, freelance artist world completely and with real affection. It presents a model of male friendship that is unusually honest and deep.
—Ben and Julie Kaufmann

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Kindle storefront

The internal server errors should be gone now. If you’ve got time to test the link (click the graphic below), please let me know in the comments.

The product description for The Night Men hasn’t shown up yet, but this is what it’ll say:


Quirky, whimsical and musical, this fourth Jason Keltner mystery…weaves past, present and passages from a fictitious book into more of a magical mystery tour than a mystery.

The friendships forged in the fires of youth are often strongest, and those formed by Jason and Roberto and Martin, three California boys, have survived into adulthood. A call from a gay friend whose newly opened Brooklyn music store has been vandalized spurs Jason to action. And the likelihood that it was a hate crime calls to mind the events that caused three very different high schoolers to bond years ago. With an assist from Roberto, who flies in from the west coast, Jason embarks on a bizarre quest to find out who was behind the vandalism and determine the meaning of a strange Web site that uses the name of the music shop. The original adventure that brought the boys together and their current challenge are told in tandem with readings from a pulp novel of great importance to them. The resulting search for the mysterious Inscrutable Whom, the restoration of the Magic Music Shop and the resolution of the vandalism make for a “coming of maturity” tale that complements the coming-of-age story of their first meeting.

Snyder’s approach to the mystery is highly original, and both his characters and the setting he creates are engaging and effective. This is a title that needs help finding its audience, but it might win cult status when it does.


In his third [sic] outing, (Trouble Comes Back, 1999, etc.), Jason Keltner, musician, makes it clearer than ever that he is also Jason Keltner, wannabe warrior whose bible is his treasured copy of The Night Men, a pulp fiction novel in which Tom Carter—p.i., latter-day knight-errant, and authentic hard guy—takes a bare-knuckles approach to moral ambiguity that Jason would love to emulate, if only he had the same bare knuckles. But Jason’s no quitter. When the call for help comes in from his friend Zeb, proprietor of the Magic Music Shop, he rushes out instantly even though it’s the dead of an icy winter night, the Brooklyn Bridge is treacherous even for a foot crossing, and there’s nothing he can do to reverse the no-holds-barred vandalizing that has reduced Zeb’s shop to rubble. Is the trashing the mindless, homophobic hate crime that at first glance it seems? Or is it somehow uglier and more complex? Truly, it’s a case for intrepid Tom, whose motto, incidentally, is the unabashedly chivalric “when you can’t save yourself, save someone else.” Driven by healthy dollops from The Night Men, the story moves back and forth in time as Jason chases the answers. Tom’s terrific, sure, but flawed, floundering Jason is infinitely more likeable.

Though billed as “A Jason Keltner mystery,” it’s not much more than mystery lite. Instead, it’s really a belated coming-of-age story—Jason’s 30-something—that’s frequently funny and at times surprisingly moving.


Over the past 43 years, Walker has brought us such authors as John Creasey, John le Carre, Marcia Muller and, most recently, Keith Snyder — one of a handful of contemporary mystery authors willing to experiment with structure and style. In fact, Snyder’s book The Night Men stands as one of the best of 2001, despite its lack of formal award nominations. In it, Snyder took a true risk and penned a mystery novel without a murder, creating an homage to the form that featured a beautifully rendered book-within-a-book. By showing how his young characters are forever changed by their first experience with the hardboiled genre, Snyder vividly illustrated why crime fiction matters.
—Katy Munger

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That was faster than I expected

My Kindle storefront is now open for business!

(Click above.)

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And more author branding: INTO STONE cover

I’ll let you know when both stories are live. In the meantime, what do you think of this little campaign?


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Author branding underway: New DEAD GRAY cover

Once the new cover is out of review and up on Amazon, this is what book buyers will see:

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The Night Men is now available for Kindle

THE NIGHT MENThe Night Men at the Amazon US store for $2.99
The Night Men at the Amazon UK store for £2.20

Reviews and stuff at the hardcover page.


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Coming soon: THE NIGHT MEN on Kindle

Here’s a preview of the Amazon product image. What do you think?



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Old Saybrook

For the first two legs of the ride (five total), I was braced for the big hills that were going to take me out of the game. There were a lot of small-to-medium rollers in the first leg, call it forty miles or so, and I was getting winded from too-long undertraining and comfort eating. The website says 3000 feet of climbing per 100K.

I started 25 minutes late, having ridden the wrong way out of the hotel (cf. “Jews wandering in deserts,” previously), and then I lost more during the first leg because the street names on the cue sheet don’t match the street signs. When you’re not from around here and you think you’re on South Longyard, but then you hit the T intersection of Hillside and Granville, you need to answer a question: Did I take a wrong turn?

And then: Should I backtrack so that if I did take a wrong turn, I’ll be back on the course as quickly as possible, or should I press forward and hope I’m in the right place but the cue sheet’s wrong? Should I trust the cue sheet mileage over the cue sheet street names, or vice-versa? Or am I simply off-course?

Though a brevet isn’t a race, it’s still a time-dependent endurance event. If I’m late to a controle (they call them “checkpoints” in Massachusetts), I’m done. Cheap hotel and rental car were just wastes of already-scarce funds.

So who made the mistake? Me or them?

And if them, which mistake was it? Wrong street name or wrong mileage?

So out comes the iPhone, and I stand there at the intersection waiting for it to get signal, waiting for it to get my location—and on a 3GS running iOS 4.x in a lousy reception area, this is counted in minutes, not seconds—so even before I’ve had a chance to build my time cushion up to zero, the negative number is sinking lower.

And half the time, the answer after dinking around with the iPhone is: Still can’t tell. So think about consequences instead of likelihoods: Since backtracking will double my lost time if I’m wrong about it (each backtracked mile means two lost miles if it turns out I was in the right place to start with: one to backtrack, one more to retrack), I pushed off and rode forward. And in this case, I was right. The next turn happened where it was supposed to on the cue sheet.

I think somebody used Google maps to design the first and last legs of this ride.


If you imagine that the starting line is an actual stripe across the road, and you imagine it moving forward through the course at 9.3 miles per hour, that’s the line you have to beat to each controle. You can stop all you want, eat, take pictures, sleep, fix a flat, weld a frame, have an affair—but the stripe keeps moving.

I hadn’t eaten anything solid all day, hadn’t stretched, had done nothing but ride, panic, push, post a couple of quick photos for the people I hoped were looking, and then keep stopping and taking out the iPhone every time the world didn’t line up with the cue sheet while whatever time I’d built up leaked back out—and that moving stripe kept rolling inexorably away. When the possibilities are me screwing up or the world being wrong, I usually assume I’ve screwed up. Didn’t used to, but I’m 44 now.

The first controle was at a Citgo station, mile 54.7 in Hebron, CT, and I knew I was riding just minutes ahead of the moving stripe. One flat, a wrong turn, or a long, steep climb, and my entire attempt was toast.

There was no Citgo at mile 54.7.

There was some no-name gas station at what looked, possibly, like the beginning of a string of gas stations. So again: What to do? Is the Citgo up farther? Did I pass it already and not notice because I wasn’t to the specified mileage yet? Is this it, only it’s not a Citgo anymore? I rode another half-mile up Rte. 66 until it looked like there weren’t going to be any more gas stations, and then back to the no-name.

“Did this used to be a Citgo?”

“You’re an hour behind everybody else,” the counter lady said.


I didn’t see a single other randonneur on this brevet. There was a banana peel on the road at one point, and at 8:15 PM, nine minutes ahead of a DNF at the only controle with accurate cue sheet info, there was a trash can full of empty Gatorade bottles. Other than that, it was just me and the moving stripe.

What I did see, though, starting pretty soon after my first picture appeared on Twitter, was encouragement all day from friends, family, and neighbors. I’ve generally been a solitary person without a lot of need for cheerleading, but this year…well, let me say thank you without any irony. Thank you.


Turn Chkpt Total Miles Direction
1.7 18.7 73.4 LEFT, Hopyard Rd., Devil’s Hopyard State Park

All the brevets I’ve been on use pretty much this format on their cue sheets. Distance since the last cue (here called “Turn”), distance since the last controle (here called “Chkpt”), and distance since the beginning of the ride.


Leg 2 is much too prosaic a designator for one of the most gorgeous rides I’ve ever been privileged to experience.

The left onto Hopyard Road brings you into Devil’s Hopyard State Park and an endless, gentle glide over shallow rollers through green and gold. Beauty so often comes from nowhere—though in this case, it was by someone’s design. I just didn’t know it was coming. If I can afford to, I’ll do this ride again next year just for these few minutes of perfection.


The best apple I ever ate was in 2003, standing next to the St. Lawrence River in the dark, astride a bike I don’t have anymore. I’d taken it from the bowl on the counter of the hotel lobby, and I was on my way to the train station in Montréal, heading back to New York after a writing retreat.

The best watermelon I ever ate was on a 600K a couple of months ago, in sweltering heat, sitting on the ground outside an orchard in New Jersey.

On this ride, a mouthful of orange juice provoked such sheer, sweet, intense, shuddering pleasure, complete with involuntary vocalization, that it’s my main memory of the entire event. This was the same orange juice I thought was okay, nothing special, when I swigged some outside the convenience store an hour and a half earlier.


Leg 2 ends at:

Turn Chkpt Total Miles Direction
1.1 36 90.7 CHECKPOINT on Left at Park
OPEN: 09:18
CLOSED: 14:44

Except there is no park at mile 90.7.

The Citgo had been in the right place, just wasn’t a Citgo anymore. But here I am at the right place for a park, and there’s nothing but houses.

So either the cue sheet mileage was off, or my odometer was off (things can drift over 90.7 miles, though it’s less likely if you’ve measured your wheel diameter for the bike computer instead of using its presets), or I’d taken a wrong turn and I was on the wrong road. I was enjoying about 40 minutes of cushion at this point, and I really didn’t want to watch it trickle out of the sieve while I hunted for a controle; but when you go up a ways this way, and then back a ways that way, and then up a ways this way again, and take out the iPhone and have it look for “park,” which doesn’t help, and then dig out the brevet card and find that it says “Fort Saybrook Memorial Park,” and plug that into the iPhone and still get nothing, and then ask people in cars and walking their dogs, finally get a clear answer from a guy riding his bike, and haul ass up that way, that’s what happens.

The volunteers at these things are always terrific, and this guy was no exception. They’re randonneurs too, putting in time to make the ride happen for others, and they’re stuck there until the Lanterne Rouge (the last rider within the time limit) rolls in. I always feel bad when I arrive at a controle in the middle of the night and the volunteer is asleep with a paperback, partly because they could have gone home an hour earlier if not for me, and partly because life hasn’t allowed me to volunteer my own time like this—something I want to remedy as soon as possible.

Anyway, this time it was afternoon, and this guy (sorry, I can’t remember your name, dude!) was cheery and had the drink cooler and sandwich stuff all laid out on the tailgate for plunder, and understood that I was setting my own pace at the stop and would leave when I needed to. So the chitchat was brief (just long enough for butt and legs to feel good again when I remounted), simple (what saddlebag is that, my kids just got their training wheels off, yes I’ll take a banana), and enlightening (their serious 300K was a few weeks ago, the St. Petersburg).

That’s why no monster hills yet. They’re not coming.

If this had been their serious 300K, I’d have DNF’d already.

So: God smiles, or preparation has met opportunity, or—my view—I just flat-out lucked out on this last attempt to complete my first SR series. It would be too much to characterize this ride as the Massachusetts randonneurs’ last pleasant little spin of summer—I mean, it’s still 186 miles and not flat—but it also wasn’t the grueling endurance trial I expected would plink me off the fence without even aiming.

A dozen piccolos playing a mass of fast, random semitone trills probably sound a lot like a drivetrain or fender problem. The reason I know that is it’s the best way I can describe how the bugs along the roads sounded.

For almost twenty hours.


The Getty Mart the cue sheet called for at mile 113.9 didn’t exist, but by now I’d caught on, and went into the BP station and asked if it used to be a Getty. I was still riding at the edge of the DNF, and still feeling the undertraining and the extra belt notch, but this single goal I can still muster myself for could be within grasp. After that yes or no comes, we can see what might be possible next.


The arrivée closed at 1:00 AM. I got there at 12:38. Once my card is homologated in Paris (I don’t know why they don’t just call it “approved”) and it stops saying pending on this page (enter RUSA number 5538), that will complete my Super Randonneur Series, and I’ll be permitted to buy a little medal:


So I got lucky. But that’s still a finish.

Still, I did get lucky.

But goddamn, I’ll take it.


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