Category Archives: Books

Tacoma Pill Junkies, A Review

FrontCoverLast night I watched an old episode of the Chris Carter show, Millennium. The episode started with a church in Tacoma and a priest being burned at the stake. Of course it wasn’t really filmed in Tacoma. And the only reason I could see that they set it in Tacoma was due to its proximity to the main character who lives in Seattle (though the whole show was filmed in Vancouver). My point here is that the episode could have started just about anywhere and nothing would be different. This isn’t true with Joshua Swainston’s debut novel, Tacoma Pill Junkies. Tacoma Pill Junkies has Tacoma in its veins.

I first became aware of Tacoma Pill Junkies when I saw a poster downtown for it months ago. I’m someone who enjoys reading and writing crime novels and this site can attest to the fact that I love Tacoma. So a crime novel set in Tacoma is really something I have no choice but to purchase.

If you’ve spent enough time in Tacoma, you’ve met people like the characters in Tacoma Pill Junkies. There’s the hard working single mother. There’s the working man who gets high from time to time. There are the scheming junkies. And the loser with delusions of grandeur. If nothing else, Tacoma Pill Junkies is populated with authentic characters.

It’s difficult to pin down the plot of Tacoma Pill Junkies as it actually has about three or four inter-connected plot lines with overlapping characters and events. This too, feels so much like Tacoma to me that I can’t help but enjoy it. A woman gets robbed in the Tacoma Mall Parking lot. A guy starts selling his grandmother’s pain pills. A serial killer is strangely stalking and killing janitors. These unrelated things drift through the novel occasionally bumping into each other along with a few other subplots.

Tacoma Pill Junkies is a meandering crime thriller with a lot of humor. It’s less an edge of your seat nail biter and more like hanging out with some strange and occasionally dangerous people. (I don’t want to spoil too much so I’m deliberately being vague.)

Swainston’s writing is conversational and inviting. He doesn’t spend too much time on being overly descriptive. His dialog is witty and full of humor. He also manages to convey the thrill of the high along with the underlying desperation of being a pill addict. It’s never glamorous.

For locals who enjoy a good novel, Tacoma Pill Junkies belongs on the shelf next to Mark Lindquist’s King of Methlehem. For those outside of Tacoma, I recommend it as a glimpse at part of the underbelly of our fair gritty city.

You can find out more about Tacoma Pill Junkies and read a sample chapter at http://tacomapilljunkies.com

-          Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Joshua Swainston, author of Tacoma Pill Junkies

538148727_72d65b0626_mWelcome back to 5 Question Friday. I apologize for the lack of updates. I’ve had a lot going on personally and some things I really care about such as this site have been neglected, but that’s changing.

For those of you just joining us, 5 Question Friday is a column where I talk to someone in Tacoma and ask them 5 Questions. We’ve had everyone from a homeless street poet to the mayor of the city join us at one time or another. This week, novelist Joshua Swainston joins us to tell us about his debut novel, Tacoma Pill Junkies.

Joshua has been building his audience through a lot of hard work and self-promotion. A local bookseller recently told me that he was everything you want in a guest when it came to promoting his book.

Here’s Joshua:

1.      What is Tacoma Pill Junkies?

The Tacoma Pill Junkies is a novel about drug addicts and the working class of Tacoma.

It is a noir fiction true to the genre. The story is told from the perspective of minor criminals, in this case the pill dealers and takers. There are far more sinister activities underfoot. The story starts with a mugging and continues with stalking, theft, bribery, assault and murder. There are very few characters in the book without some sense of criminality.

The book also struggles with the plight of the working class in the changing reality of modern times. Since the Bush 2 era we have heard constantly of the dwindling middle class and building opposition to unionization (Though luckily not in Washington State. A sincere, thank you Sen. Murray.) The story builds from workers struggling in jobs that require little or no education (security guards, janitors, and shop attendants) and how they attempt to better their own lives. Though, a few of the methods might make Jimmy Hoffa uneasy.

2.      Where did you get the inspiration for the novel?

Can I plead the fifth? Let me just say, I have not always been the most upstanding member of the community. That time is over now. Pill Junkies started as a way for me to come to terms with the illicit aspects of those lost years.

As I tooled with the idea of the story becoming more than just a few pages regarding my personal drugged out haze, I wanted to say more. I added a few antidotes about my deep draft sailing experiences. Then I added some ideas I had about unionization, I think this is when the State of Michigan De-unionized. I had also just read a lot about the Brown Power Movement as well as my own union, the Inland Boatman’s Union. So I was really charged about workers’ rights.

3.      Why base it in Tacoma?

On the onset of the book the setting was split between Olympia, Seattle, Gig Harbor and Tacoma. The scope of the story just got too big. I wanted it tight. So, as T-town was the central local for much of the events that inspired the book and I live here now, I figured I would use it.

Tacoma also has the correct history for this story to function. On the drug side, Tacoma has always had its fair share of problems. When it has not had the problems, it’s had the stigma of the problems. Either way, we are not viewed by outsiders as the most pleasant place in the world. I find this odd because Tacoma is an amazing place. The people who live here are fiercely protective of it. On the workers side, Tacoma is historically overwhelmingly worker centric. You have the train unions, the waterfront unions, the brewery unions and the creation of Labor Ready. As a city we are people who get things done and work for a better tomorrow.

4.      What has the response been so far to your novel?

I think I am doing well. I don’t have much of a base to work from since this is my first book. I have gotten a lot of questions regarding what the book is about. Most of the time I answer: “Drugs.” Some people I have talked to about the book are shocked that it has so much illegal activity in it. Some people totally get it, but others scratch there head over the entire ordeal.

I think the cover gives readers pause. The cover was created by friends of mine at Sleepy Kitty Art. It was designed to be brash and unsettling. The vision for the cover was to tell the reader they might want to proceed cautiously.

Maybe it is my fault. When I finished writing the book I believed I had written a piece of Lit Fiction. I lived under the delusion that somehow I was loftier then genre work. In the last three months I have found out two things. 1) There really is no lit fiction any more. Everything is classified down so far that the general artsy Lit Fiction is totally gone. Jane Austin, in today’s world would be classified as Chick Lit. Joseph Conrad, maybe Adventure Fiction. Don Delillo writes Postmodern. Will Self writes Satire. Charles Bukowski gets pigeon holed as Dirty Realism, whatever that means. 2) I like writing Crime Fiction. I had not realized the novel was a Crime Fiction until after I had put it out. In the past, I had written a few shorts that were noir or hardboiled, but didn’t understand those terms in this specific context. When it all clicked upstairs I was able to stream pages of crime. Embracing the genre has giving me power. Now that I have focused on a specific audience the questions I receive about Pill Junkies are more pointed.

5.      What’s your next project?

I have started to assemble a tale involving a woman named Yvonne. She is a cross between Nico from the Velvet Underground and Bonnie Parker. I’ll be reading a short piece from her story as well as a sample of Pill Junkies at 3 pm, May 4th at Orca Books in Olympia WA. I will be joined at reading by Alec Clayton and Titus Burley.

BookCoverAsSeenOnAmazon

You can purchase Tacoma Pill Junkies at King’s Books in Tacoma, Orca Books and Last Word Books in Olympia, Elliot Bay Books in Seattle, and of course on Amazon.com. For more information on Tacoma Pill Junkies, you can go to the official website: http://tacomapilljunkies.com.

I’d like to thank Joshua for taking the time to join us.

As always, if you or someone you know wants to participate in 5 Question Friday, drop me a line at jackcameronis@gmail.com

-          Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Mark Lindquist!

Mark LindquistA couple of month’s ago, I was spending a lot of time at the County City Building. While waiting for a court room to be available, I waited in the Law Library, where I found a copy of Mark Lindquist’s King Of Methlehem. I enjoyed the book and wrote a review of it on my other site.

Also while at the County City Building, I ran into Mark Lindquist himself on a random elevator ride. Mark Lindquist, for those who don’t know, is the Prosecutor for Pierce County. He’s also a novelist.

This week’s 5 Question Friday is with Mark Lindquist. Since I’m betting he gets more questions in interviews about being a prosecutor than a writer, I chose to ask him about his writing. In typical lawyer fashion, his answers were quick and to the point. Enjoy.
1. King of Methlehem includes a lot of real places in Tacoma. How much of the events in the book are based on real events?
Less than people think, more than I will admit.

2. Besides your experience in the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, what other research did you do for your novel, King of Methlehem?
Not much, that’s part of the beauty of having the greatest job in the world.

3. Tacoma has been featured not just in ‘Methlehem’, but in stories by Raymond Carver and others. What do you think makes Tacoma such a great place to write about?
Port towns always seem to attract characters and generate stories.  Tacoma has the additional advantage of being small enough that everyone seems to know each other’s stories, and large enough that not everyone is bored with each other.   I love this town, and even appreciate the annoying characters because they add color.

4. Who are some of your favorite authors?
Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joan Didion, Bret Easton Ellis, Jay McInerney, Richard Ford, Peter Farrelly, Nick Hornby, Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving, Haruki Murakami, the aforementioned Raymond Carver, and many others.

5. What are your plans for your next book?
I’m writing a sequel to “The King of Methlehem,” creating a series for Detective Wyatt James.  I have a good title, which is a good start.
I’d like to thank Mark for taking time out of his busy schedule to participate in 5 Question Friday and I look forward to his next book.

If you haven’t read King of Methlehem, you really should check it out. It’s good crime fiction and it’s even better if you’re a local.
Do you know someone you think I should question for 5 Question Friday? Email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

Ruin Your Life For Under A Dollar

Cover of Ruin Your LifeMy book, Ruin Your Life is now available on the Kindle for 99 cents. If you’ve got a Kindle, you’re not going to find a better way to spend a dollar. If you don’t have a Kindle, I still have a handful of hard copies I’m personally selling for $5.00 plus shipping at jackcameron.com/ryl

While the book isn’t specific to Tacoma, this book was written and researched in Tacoma. It is my Tacoma Story of my twenties.

Rather than telling you what it’s about, I’ve decided to just post the introduction from the book below.

Into The Abyss

Go to any bookstore and you will find entire sections devoted to self-help books. After reading these books, you will have the tools to make your life better. No matter what problem you might have you can bet someone has written a book about how to therapeutically resolve the matter and live a healthier, happier life.

But let’s face it; most of us don’t really believe a book is going to help us. Most of us don’t want someone trying to tell us how to face our inner demons and nurture our inner child. And those who do need to grow up and try living once in a while. What is needed is not a voice to tell you how to live a healthy, happy life, but how to live an interesting life. When you go to the movies or watch your favorite TV show, do the characters have perfect well-adjusted lives?  Of course not. Perfect lives are not interesting lives. You want to know why people who have ‘everything going for them’ kill themselves? Because they are bored. They have achieved what they’ve been told to achieve. They have the good grades, good job, nice car, 2.5 kids, and the house in the suburbs. And they are bored off their ass. They’ve been to the mountaintop and found that it’s just really cold and lonely.

I for one do not want to live a healthy, happy life. I want things to be fairly screwed up. I want to have problems. I want to get myself in huge messes and then marvel at how I get out of them or how I live with them. I like making mistakes and doing things the wrong way if only to find out what will happen. One of my best friends in the world never agrees with my decisions and hates everything I do. But she also wants to hear about the latest thing that’s happened to me if only to live vicariously through my exploits.

My name is Jack Cameron. I’m a guy who got married at the age of twenty, divorced at twenty-one, and went on a bender that left my aunt’s house half-destroyed, a car on fire, and a high school girls swim team drunk and incoherent. I’ve been in twenty-six car accidents. I’ve been shot at on three separate occasions. I’ve woken up in an alley wrapped in a beer banner inSeattleon New Year’s Day. I’ve willingly walked through a two mile train tunnel knowing full well that a train was coming. I’ve woken up on an airplane over thePacific Oceanwith no idea how I got there. I have dined with millionaires with only two dollars in my pocket and made a thousand dollar decision with the flip of a coin. In other words, I am damn good at ruining my life and if you listen carefully to what I tell you, you can ruin yours too and have the best time you’ve ever had doing it. This is not self-help. This is self-destruct. In time, you’ll thank me.

-         Jack Cameron

Buy Ruin Your Life for the Kindle for 99 Cents

5 Question Friday With Betrayal, Murder, and Greed’s Pam Phree

A while back I read a book called Betrayal, Murder, and Greed by Pam Phree and Mike Beakley. It’s a non-fiction account of the bail bond and bounty hunter business and it all takes place in and around Tacoma. Since then I’ve had the chance to meet with the authors personally and I was happy when Pam agreed to be part of 5 Question Friday this week.

1. What is Betrayal, Murder and Greed?

Betrayal, Murder and Greed—those three words—sums up what our book is all about. There is a lot of filth, dirt and corruption in the world, in every industry including the Bail Bond Business. My co-author and Bounty Hunter, Mike Beakley and I, the Bail Agent, opened our personal case files to reveal our most interesting and dangerous cases. Since the book literally details true stories of Betrayal, Murder and Greed, that seemed an appropriate title.

 2. What are its ties to Tacoma?

Both Mike and I were born and raised in Tacoma. Mike was a Tacoma Police Officer for sixteen years—on the SWAT team and working undercover narcotics before the shootout that ended his police career. Afterward, he met me and became a Bounty Hunter. For over twenty years, Mike and I have worked in Tacoma for various Bail Bond Companies. Many of the stories in the book happened in and around Tacoma. Our hometown is liberally featured throughout the book.

3. Do you think crime is different in the Pacific Northwest and if so, how?

Sadly, crime is everywhere in every town, in every city. I wish I could say we’re safer living in the Pacific Northwest but that wouldn’t necessarily be true. Every city has its own set of challenges. I’d venture to say we’re no safer—but certainly not more dangerous—than any other city in the US. Fortunately, we have dedicated, hard-working police officers like Paul Pastor and prosecutors such as Mark Lindquist who are making a real dent in cleaning up the crime in our area.

4. What’s coming up in the next book?

Betrayal, Murder and Greed: The True Story of a Bounty Hunter and a Bail Bond Agent, our first book, introduces Mike and myself. Our personal story of how we got into the Bail Bond Industry is told as well as illuminating some of the cases we’ve worked on throughout the years.

Book 2, tentatively titled, “Shocking True Stories by a Bounty Hunter and a Bail Bond Agent”, tells the stories of our clients; those I’ve bailed and those Mike have had to chase after they jumped bail. The reader is introduced to characters from all walks of life, hears their own personal stories of Betrayal, Murder and Greed and over the course of twenty years, sees where life ultimately takes them. Some live, some die. Since these are true stories, the endings aren’t predictable. Readers will be surprised to learn who survives and who doesn’t.

5. What’s been the best experience since releasing the book?

Mike and I have been privileged to appear on television, film a book trailer and meet a lot of interesting radio personalities that otherwise we wouldn’t have met. But hands down, the best experience we’ve had since releasing the book is meeting other writers/authors in our area. There are a lot of interesting, creative, talented people in the writing business—such as yourself, Jack, that when we get together and talk ‘shop’, is exhilarating. That’s one of the reasons Mike and I jump at the chance to meet other writers at every opportunity. It helps get our own creative juices’ flowing with ideas for subsequent books.

Once again, I want to thank Pam for stepping in at the last minute to do this. I’ve been incredibly sick during the last week (thus the lack of updates) and I only got the questions to her this morning so I really appreciate her help.

Mike and Pam are selling and signing their book at the Tacoma Mall this Saturday, April 16, 2011 from 11am – 4pm outside Macy’s. If you’re in the area, you should drop by and say hello. 

For more information on their book, go to betrayalmurderandgreed.com

- Jack Cameron

A Life Well Lived: The Jennifer Paulson Story

Jennifer PaulsonOn the morning of February 26, 2010, Jennifer Paulson encountered a man in the parking lot of Birney Elementary School on South 76th Street in Tacoma. She had met the man years earlier in the cafeteria at Pacific University. Since then, the man’s interest in her had become so unhealthy that she’d gotten a restraining order against him. He’d even been previously arrested for violating the restraining order when she found he was following her. The danger this man posed became all too real that morning when the man shot and killed her. He left in a ten sedan and was confronted by police officers  hours later where he died after a brief exchange of gunfire. His death was ruled a suicide.

By all accounts, Jennifer Paulson’s death was a tragedy. In her thirty years of life, Jennifer Paulson had touched hundreds of lives. She was a special education teacher at Birney Elementary and it is not an overstatement to say that she was beloved.  She will not soon be forgotten. And now, writer Eric Lundberg is giving those of us who never met Jennifer Paulson a chance to get to know her.

A Life Well Lived: The Jennifer Paulson Story isn’t about Jennifer’s death, but the life she lived and the people whose lives she changed. It is a Tacoma Story.

All proceeds from the sale of the book go to causes Jennifer’s family feel Jennifer would have supported such as scholarships and educational support for children.

For more information and to purchase the book, go to http://jenniferannpaulson.com

-       Jack Cameron