Sunday, October 7, 2007

Test Your Cold Lessons I.Q.

I'm not sure why everybody thinks that all the place names in Cold Lessons have real-life analogs--maybe something to do with the fact that the name on the cover of the book has a real-life analog. At any rate, Sue Toth has put together a quiz on the subject for her book club. I believe this is the first time that my work has been the subject of a quiz, and I'm deeply honored. With permission, I reprint the quiz below. (I'm not sure I could score 100% myself, but I'll do my best to grade any submissions.)

(Note that (?) indicates that I am not really sure of the answer myself – Sue Toth)

1. Porte L’Enfer High School (&) Canyon = ______________________

2. Garden City = _____________________________

3. East Garden City = _______________________

4. St Philburn = ____________________

5. The Flatfoot Indian Reservation = __________________

6. The Flatfoot Lake = ________________________

7. Stone Creek = _________________________

8. The Buck Stop Bar = ______________________ (a roadhouse on the way to Pishkun, past Stone Creek) – I am not sure about this one (?)

9. The town of Reveille (with the windmill!) = ____________________

10. The Cambridge Bar = _______________________

11. The strip joint attached to the Cambridge Bar = ____________________

12. Mr. D’s Bar = _______________________

13. The Eggplant Stem restaurant = _____________________

14. The Garden City International Airport = ________________________

15. Copperhead Canyon (&) Wilderness = __________________________

16. The Three Star Restaurant and Bar = __________________________

17. The stretch of river that ran from where our "hero" was thrown in to where he got out; the 2 points of reference are from ______________________ to _______________________

18. The Castle Café = _______________________

19. The Foursquare Gospel Church = _________________________

20. The "What a Party" Party Rental = __________________________(?)

21. Shield Avenue = _______________________

22. The Sweetstem Valley = ________________________

23. St Ursula in the Field hospital, and Rehab Center = __________________

24. Stoner Pass, east of Garden City, right after Pishkun = ________________

25. Pishkun = ________________________

26. Our Lady of the Mining Industry = _______________________

27. The Double W Café (Pishkun’s equivalent to the Cambridge) = ________

28. Porte L’Enfer’s yearbook, The Beatrice = ______________________

29. Porte L’Enfer’s cheerleaders, the Sparklerettes = __________________(?)

30. The Monk Mountains = ____________________________

31. The town of Arles = _____________________________

32. The town of St. Paul = _________________________

33. The Garden City Gazette = ______________________

34. The Lewis Tongue River = _______________________

35. The Logville Police Department is the _________________ Police Dept.

36. The Sapphire Movie Theatre = __________________________

37. Bumper’s Casino (out the back door of the Sapphire) = _______________

38. Trudy’s Truck Stop Café (in the book, north of St Paul = ___________(?)

39. Sky View Display Advertising = ____________________ (?)

40. "Prepare to Meet Thy God; The Wages of Sin is Death," is located where: in the book __________________________; in Missoula ___________________

41. The St. Paul’s Warriors = ___________________

42. Which town currently (in reality) has "The Warriors?" _______________

43. The plastic sign in Reveille, which said "Welcome Stockmen," actually said: ________________________(?)

44. True or False: The reservation police cars in the book are reported to have a white buffalo in front of a blue lake. This is the same symbol in "reality." (?)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Photos from Montana

When we launched Cold Lessons in January, it was in Chicago--wrong zip code--but bitterly cold, at least. By the time I made it back to Montana--right zip code--it was the wrong temperature and the air was the wrong texture: it was hot and smoky. But I had a terrific time anyway. A few photos of the event at Fact & Fiction (Thursday, August 16), taken by family friend Glenn Junkert. Thanks, Glenn!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

On the Air (Is this thing on?)

I'm going to be on Donna Seaman's Open Books radio program this Sunday night (8 p.m., Central Standard Time). If you're in the Chicago area, tune in at 88.7 FM. If you're farther afield, you can listen online at And if you miss the show but want to hear it later, it will be archived at

Donna knows what she's doing, but I'm going to need practice at this whole interviewee thing.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

"A noirish feel...darkness pervading...touches of extreme violence"

Steven Sill has reviewed Cold Lessons in I Love a Mystery. Though he wishes my protagonist was less naive and more sober, he praises the "noirish feel" and the "cold weather." I wasn't exactly clear on where he came down on the "darkness" and "extreme violence," but he did call his concerns "quibbles," so I'm going to say he liked it. Thanks for reading, Steven -- and writing!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Photos from the Signing

A cold night for Cold Lessons -- about 8 degrees.

Standing-room only. (At least in this part of the store.)

Proof that, if you pay them, they will come.

Freed from the tyranny of the podium.

They do appear to be genuinely interested -- in knowing when it's okay to hit the buffet again.

Bill Ott, a veteran of the mystery scene -- and the author's boss -- gets an inscribed copy.

The author's wife shows her support.

Time Out Chicago Translates It into (Pig) Latin

I was too busy the day of the signing to post this -- and too pooped immediately afterward, but Time Out Chicago ("Eirkay Affgray," by Jonathan Messinger) ran a nice Q&A:
Keir Graff started writing his novel Cold Lessons (Five Star, $29.95) 14 years ago, and now that it’s finally being published, some guy named Michael McCulloch is taking all the credit.

Graff, senior editor for Booklist Online, chose to publish his crime novel under a pseudonym, in part because of his job as a book critic, and partly because the publishing industry eats its young. He certainly isn’t the first to do it: Joyce Carol Oates has famously written under various names, and this spring John Banville—2005’s Booker Prize winner—will publish a novel under the name Benjamin Black.

Why the pseudonym?
I’ve had some other friends publish books, where they come in with their first book and it’s a work of genre fiction, and then they get pigeonholed as doing that. And this is a fairly modest first effort; it’s not a big publishing deal or anything like that. I hope to write a lot of books, and I hope to do a lot of different things: genre fiction, nonfiction, general fiction.

How did you pick the name?
Michael is my middle name, and McCulloch’s my mother’s maiden name. And I just like pseudonyms even more when there’s some sort of connection or clue, not that anybody’s going to be searching the archives too carefully for the clues.

Was your mother psyched that you used her name?
It’s funny. I think she’s pleased, but I think that had I written a work of historical fiction set in Montana or something, she’d be more pleased than with a very hard-boiled crime novel.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Newcity Offers the 411

The new Newcity ("Lesson Learned") blurbs the reading/signing tomorrow:
Explains McCulloch, "I think 'Cold Lessons' will appeal to people who like dark but darkly funny takes on the detective story and stories that don't necessarily guarantee triumph at the end."
I forgot to add that it will also appeal to everyone who enjoys the act of reading.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Has He No Shame?

So there goes that Keir Graff guy again, taking credit for my good review.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

First Review!

The first professional review of Cold Lessons is in, and it's a doozy. In "Lessons Learned," Joe Campana of the Missoula Independent, my hometown weekly, has a lot of nice things to say. A few highlights:

But being local and knowing the genre don’t mean you automatically join the ranks of the city’s crime novelists. For that, you need talent, which McCullough seems to have in abundance.
In a genre where imitation comes cheap and easy, McCulloch has written his very own book, which is no small accomplishment for a first novel, or any novel for that matter.
McCulloch also tempers the gloom with an uncanny sense of humor. The jokes are sparse, but they come off with an absurdity and intelligence reminiscent of “The Simpsons.”
And the summation, which I quote at length:
Though he’s just a rookie, McCulloch is a surprisingly restrained and un-intrusive writer. He doesn’t hit the gas pedal too hard, the plot never lurches forward but gradually eases into gear and picks up speed in all the right places. What you get in addition to a first-rate thriller is a character sketch of a nearly hopeless man stuck in a lonely town during its dreariest season. Having Missoula reflected back to us this way may not be cause for good cheer. But this town has given rise to another talented writer. And that’s worth celebrating.
Campana offers positive comparisons to James Crumley, James Welch, George Saunders, and The Simpsons. That would make for a pretty weird cocktail party, but it's awfully good company.