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To End One’s Own Life

Dave Matthes Author Interview

Dave Matthes Author Interview

Sleepeth Not, the Bastard is a fascinating and thought-provoking look at suicide and how it affects the people around the tragedy. Why was this an important book for you to write?

While I myself have had no direct experiences with suicide, I’ve been around many people who have, and have also been stuck in situations surrounded by people who literally teetered on the edge of themselves with staying alive being on one side of that edge, and ending it all being on the other. It’s a sticky subject to talk about because so many people have a fixed concept in their minds that suicide is always, always, ALWAYS a bad thing. I’ve often questioned it myself, the idea of what it would be like to kill myself (albeit not seriously, just what the scenario would be and why and what would happen after the fact). I suppose it may be strange to think that yes, there can be reasons for one to want to end themselves. After all, we aren’t asked to be born, why can’t we have the freedom to decide when enough is enough? Then again, that’s not exactly the motive behind the suicide factor in this book. It’s become a wonder to me why so many people see victims of suicide as being selfish or even cowardly when it feels as though those left behind couldn’t possibly make that call themselves. To end one’s own life, depending on the circumstances of course, may be the most brave thing someone can do. I wanted to explore that with this book, because when Josh does take the leap, he puts into motion a train wreck that can’t, but also SHOULDN’T be stopped.

Your characters are always well thought out and often go through dramatic transformations throughout the story. What is your writing process like in developing your characters?

Generally, especially as of late, I can’t plan out from the start where my characters will end up by the end of the story. Most of the time I just start writing, and sometimes something in the background or from my memories will inspire me to expand upon said idea. The characters, as with all if not most writers out there, all have a little part of me in them. Sometimes characters turn into what I wish I could be. Sometimes they exist in a world in which I wish I existed, and so on. With “Sleepeth Not, the Bastard”, the characters just sort of came out of me; the dialogue, the exposition, the plot surrounding their actions and influencing their motives. I can’t describe it as well as I’d like. Maybe, if anything, I take the worst of me and put it into the story hoping the characters can figure out for themselves what would be the best course of action.

I understand that you work in the service industry and often travel from state to state. How has your work helped you write your books?

Travel has had a huge influence on my writing. Constantly being in a state of motion is more or less the cheapest drug I’ve ever been able to get my hands on, but with it also comes a slew of emotions. Being away from the people I love, not being able to feel the comfort of my own bed, things like that have a heavy effect on what goes on the page. Meeting people everywhere I go aids significantly in fueling the personalities and behaviors of my characters. As nasty as my job can get, even with the worst days I’ve had while on the clock, being on the road is more than enough to make up for it.

Your stories often cover a wide range of themes in many different genres. What is one genre or theme that you haven’t yet touched but want to write about?

I’ve dabbled in science fiction and fantasy in the way WAY past but don’t think I’ll ever go back, but that could change. I’ve considered tackling psychological horror, sort of in the vein of Edgar Allen Poe and Eli Roth, but there’s very little in the works in that department. Sometimes I’ll watch a horror movie and think, wow… I could definitely write something like that, and it’d be fun and terrifying. But then I get stuck on my other writing, my contemporary fiction kick that I’ve been on for a while. Who knows? After the book I’m currently working on, I might make a go at something completely different.

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Sleepeth Not, the Bastard

“The gravity of fate is nothing in comparison to the fleeting warmth of a loved one’s last kiss…”
….thus reads the final words of High School Senior Joshua Feranna.

Several years later, Lew, his father, currently working for a faceless loan shark, has dipped into a drug and lust-filled method of cope. Separated but not divorced, his wife Autumn finally tracks Lew down, begging him to come home to help take care of their identity-in-crisis daughter Zoey.

But when Lew’s friend from high school, Sarah Fox, having lived the life of a drummer in the all-but extinct rock band “The Bastards” returns to town stalked by a rumored “Resurrection Tour”, Lew’s world truly becomes a thing of legend….and doubt.

What transpires from then on is a continuing snowball effect that will inevitably lead to the cataclysmic destruction of one family and others as the world continues to busy itself around them in seamless melancholy.

“Sleepeth Not, the Bastard” is a story about people, each one steadily climbing towards a foreseeable yet undeniable end. Each person influencing the other in one massive string of events escalating and culminating at the end of their respective worlds whether those worlds be of mental, emotional, psychological, or delusional origin.

Part drama, part dark comedy, part rock ‘n roll epic, with a copious and perhaps endless helping of sex, drugs, and infamy… “Sleepeth Not, the Bastard” is a romp for this generation, an homage to those that came before, and a warning for those that follow.

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Sleepeth Not, the Bastard

Sleepeth Not, the Bastard by [Matthes, Dave]

Dave Matthes’s irreverent, profanity-laced, often hilarious novel, Sleepeth Not, the Bastard, is a fascinating work of writing. It’s half sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, and half a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at suicide and how it affects family and friends around the incident. Sleepeth Not, the Bastard follows two separate but surprisingly intertwined characters: Lew Ferranna, a deadbeat dad, drunkard, and generally unsavory character, and Sarah Fox, a famous drummer and rockstar from the all-female rock band, The Bastards. Matthes reveals in the opening pages of the story that Lew’s son committed suicide at the age of seventeen, and spends the rest of the novel’s tumultuous pages examining how that incident affected not only Lew and his family, but also how Sarah’s hardcore band, The Bastards, and their wild, rough-living producer, Wolfgang Stephanopolis fits into the mysterious puzzle of life.

I have had the privilege of reading several of Matthes’s works, and he has a skill that I have only seen before in Kurt Vonnegut. He is able to create completely unlikable, frustrating, and obnoxious characters, and turn them into protagonists that, for some unknown reason, you find yourself pulling for. The two stars of Sleepeth Not, the Bastard are superficially very unlikable: Lew has abandoned his daughter and wife after their son’s suicide; Sarah is standoffish, erratic, and crude. But perhaps what’s appealing about Matthes’s characters is the fact that they are so relatable. Though hopefully few of us know people who would commit some of the frankly horrible acts that Matthes’s characters perform, it’s a fact of life that everyone has flaws. It is refreshing to see characters dealing with problems that we, as readers, have likely seen or experienced ourselves: the demise of relationships, parental-child fights, addiction, depression, and death.

Fortunately, though, Sleepeth Not, the Bastard is not all doom and gloom. In his solid novel, Matthes manages to create humor (albeit dark) in the absurd situations he places his characters in. Whether it’s a tiger outside of Vegas, a minivan driving through the garage door, or the insanely gaudy (and proud of it) producer Wolfgang Stephanopolis, Sleepeth Not, the Bastard manages to bring a smile to readers’ faces in the most surprising moments. The story lacks only in a few small facets that irritated me personally, specifically the lack of double L’s in all of Lew’s parts of the story (meaning “walls” would be written as “wal s”).

Though it covers potentially disheartening topics, Sleepeth Not, the Bastard will not dishearten readers. Similar to Matthes’s other works, it manages to address the most unpleasant topics of life while also instilling a positive and motivating force in readers. It often feels as if Matthes’s charactesr are saying to readers what we all know but sometimes want to forget: Life can be ugly, hard, and miserable; but life can also be beautiful, surprising, and wonderful. As a reader whose family has experienced the pain and loss of unexpected death by suicide, I found this novel to be painful, at times, but overall uplifting and a reminder to appreciate the beautiful moments in life.

Pages: 453 | ASIN: B00N53IMWW

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One Demented Family Christmas

Dave Matthes Author Interview

Dave Matthes Author Interview

Lockless Doors weaves a brutally honest and incredibly unique story of a family in all its ugly and painful moments. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?

Initially, the entirety of the story was just going to revolve around one demented family Christmas, but as it always seems to happen… the plot thickened and I couldn’t exactly control what happened. And then, while exploring the backstory of Jean, I saw an opportunity to expand upon a favorite character of mine from another older book I wrote back in 2013-2014. And now I’ve pretty much got 2 to 3 books in the making to continue with the chaos that is the Ponces.

Lockless Doors subtly examines complicated relationships and skillfully reveals insights into the siblings’ connection to each other. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?

I wanted to establish a sense of foundation for the three main characters, so that the reader could sense that there was in fact a very complicated past. Little by little, I offered little tidbits as to just what that past entails, and each of which would (at least for this book) center around the death of their mother. Their own childhood, while growing up, was riddled with seeds that would eventually force them all to spiral out of control. And so the death of their mother, at least according to their mother, would hopefully begin to bring them back together again. If I could narrow it all down to one single word, I’d say this book is about forgiveness, and not just the simple “on-the-surface” kind. Self-forgiveness is probably the most important type out there.

Lockless Doors is both hilarious and heartbreaking, soul-searching and sarcastic. Was there anything from yourself that you put into the novel, and did you have fun writing it?

Honestly, I can’t think of anything I really took from real life experiences that would inspire the book. I just started writing it one day and it just kind of became what it is. As I’ve said to others who’ve asked, I never really plan out a novel’s plot, at least I can’t think of a time during which I actually sat down and outlined a story. Maybe dabble a few ideas here and there, jot down some quotes for characters to use at some point in the story. The Ponce siblings, Edgar, Jean, and Charlotte are far and beyond my favorite characters I’ve thus far shat out out my brain. And yes, I can say I had the most fun writing this book compared to my others, and I am currently having loads more fun writing the second book.

What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m actually working on the sequel to “Lockless Doors…” at the moment and have written about two to three chapters. I wouldn’t expect it to be finished until next year sometime, but I can say that the story and the characters will explode in a way that makes “Lockless Doors…” seem like an ABC Family special. If all goes according to how it feels it’s going, “Lockless Doors…” may end up being the first in a long and chaotic series that may or may not have a definitive ending.

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It’s Christmas time, again. Family gatherings. Company parties. Yule logs. Screaming fits of dysfunctional requiem. But for the three Ponce siblings, they’ll be burying their mother. Edgar Ponce, the family exile. His brother Jean, the west coast porn star. And their younger sister Charlotte, mother to four kids and wife to the richest orthopedic surgeon in Western Pennsylvania. Reuniting them for the first time in over a decade, the funeral of their mother will only serve as the mere whisper that starts the avalanche of the next month, entangling them in their own webs of insanity for a holiday season none of them will ever forget. ‘Lockless Doors in the Land of Harsh Angels’, a crossover/sequel to 2014’s ‘Sleepeth Not, the Bastard’, is at its core a story about family. Beyond that, it’s an examination on forgiveness, the relationship between Christmas trees and caskets; bliss with a little bit of chaos thrown in for good measure, and learning the importance of one of the holiday’s most heartfelt lessons: appreciating those loved ones around you while doing one’s utmost best at tolerating the rest of the family without murdering them.

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Lockless Doors in the Land of Harsh Angels

Lockless Doors in the Land of Harsh Angels

Dave Matthes’ vision of the holiday season is a beautiful thing: estranged and dying (or already dead) relatives, a Baby Jesus/eggplant switcheroo, and alarm clocks blasting out “Feliz Navidad” at ungodly hours of the morning. Lockless Doors in the Land of Harsh Angels spans just a few weeks in the lives of the Ponce siblings, primarily focusing on the black sheep, oldest brother Edgar, but, in reality, it covers a lifetime. Brought together by their mother’s not-completely-unexpected and not-really-saddening death, Edgar, porn-star celebrity brother Jean, and foulmouthed but well-intentioned little sister Charlotte learn to embrace what it means to be a family. As Matthes himself puts it, family is just “[being] together, through the shit and the worse shit.”

A worthy five-star examination of a truly modern family (though the Ponces and Matthes would likely chime in that they are not a modern family in the ABC Family sense), Lockless Doors is both hilarious and heartbreaking, soul-searching and sarcastic. The plot summary could read as clichéd: alienated brother is forced to reunite with his estranged family and ends up enjoying it. But Lockless Doors is far subtler and more complicated in its examination of relationships. Matthes skillfully reveals insights into the siblings’ relationships with each other, their parents, and significant others gradually, enabling highly interesting and thoughtful character development of all the main characters. Though it spans just one eventful holiday season, Lockless Doors examines life in all its stages, from open-eyed youth to rebellious teens, from mid-life crises to acceptance of death.

In addition to its fascinating story line and characters, Lockless Doors is impeccably well-written. Matthes fills the novel to the brim with clever plays on words and puns that could be overlooked by some readers, but are greatly appreciated by attentive ones. Admittedly, he also fills the novel with a plethora of creative curse words that may offend some neophyte eyes, but the obscenities fit naturally within the world of the Ponces that Matthes has created, and once you get past the first few hundred F-bombs, you hardly notice them. In Lockless Doors, Matthes also takes the time to create intriguing and frequently hilarious supporting characters and events. From the smirking funeral director in his bright pink tie or the super fit and hyper healthy dad in his skin-tight bike shorts, Lockless Doors creates a rollercoaster of emotions for readers, being at one moment laugh-out-loud and in the next a tearjerker.

But what readers will enjoy the most about Lockless Doors is just how fun it is to read. As you explore the world that Matthes had created, it’s both easy and amusing to see your own friends and family in the characters he creates (though hopefully your family is not quite as dysfunctional as that of the Ponce’s). Taken at a first glance, none of the characters seems like anyone you’d want to spend your Christmas with; but by the end, you’re cheering for their success in the New Year. Self-aware and self-deprecating, Lockless Doors weaves a brutally honest and incredibly unique story of a family, in all its ugly and painful moments as well as beautiful and loving ones.

Pages: 169 | ASIN: B073MP2QJ8

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The Mind and Heart of a People-Watcher

Dave Matthes Author Interview

Dave Matthes Author Interview

Return to the Madlands follows Arlo in the final chapter of the Mire Man Trilogy and brings to a close Arlo Smith’s wild and messy journey. What was your inspiration for the wild journey you take readers on in this novel?

Trilogies, by definition, usually sum everything that has transpired throughout the course of the story, if not most everything up in the final entry, and while that was of course my drive for finishing the story, it wasn’t necessarily the inspiration behind it. I once considered not writing it at all, and simply leaving the ending to Book II the way it was, sort of like a… “…and he got away” type of ending. Maybe it was out of greed on my own part that I wrote a Book III, because I wanted more of the character, I wanted him to engage more in the world around him at a different time of his life. I wanted Arlo Smith to finally be presented with the fact that death is in his, quite possibly near, future, and what that would mean for him in terms of deciding which one of these new, completely unprecedented paths he would take. I wanted Arlo to be presented with a final choice concerning Constance, and work in also the idea that there are no actual “final choices” in life, or at least there doesn’t have to be. And I think that reflects in a few of the supporting characters throughout the book.

Arlo often meets many interesting people on his travels. Were there any characters that you especially enjoyed writing for?

Arlo’s father, most definitely, considering the parallels of their individual existences and their already established roughness in what they think/thought of each other. I toyed with the idea of writing more for Arlo’s father in a separate novel, or short story, and even considering throwing in a twist at the end of “Madlands” that tied Arlo’s father to a character in a past novel of mine. There’s so much time that has passed since Arlo’s father left him until now, so much history and mystery that anything could have happened. I like to think though that sometimes it’s best to leave the mystery as it is; the idea of ascertaining the truth is not always as romantic as wallowing in the unknown.

Arlo meets his estranged father and forms a tentative relationship. Why was this event important to Arlo’s development?

Arlo’s chaos stems from his youth, and by extension if unintentional or not, his father had a hand in that. At this point in time, Arlo and his father, one has always assumed the worst had happened to the other, and in some ways, assumed they had been dead. So when they finally reunite, neither one of them wants to part with those assumptions because those beliefs have become such an essential part to their existences, that any interruption in said life has the potential to cause an insanity-driven rift. Neither Arlo or his father, in the beginning, wants anything to do with the realization that they are both still alive in the world. But as the story progresses, through intended subtlety and background “what-if’s”, Arlo’s father and Arlo himself in their own way begin to wonder if their reunion is fate, and even if it isn’t, why would that stop them from taking a chance at rewriting their futures?

How do you feel now that the Mire Man Trilogy is done? Did you accomplish everything you set out to?

I think I’ve said what I set out to say. The story’s been told and I don’t have any intentions of returning to Arlo’s world. That doesn’t mean any of the other supporting characters may or may not get a spot somewhere down the line, though it’s mostly unlikely. For me, “The Mire Man Trilogy” is a brief glimpse into the mind and heart of a people-watcher; someone who enjoys the company of people only as much as he can tolerate them. It’s a story within a story within a story within a story, and it could be that, more or less, to anyone who reads it. And even though it was me who wrote the story, I’ll never look at a glass of whiskey or listen to a piece by Miles Davis the same way again. People have said to me that they could never expect Arlo to have a happy ending, and maybe they’re right. I like to think of the ending of the trilogy as a reminder that it’s not important whether or not you leave the world on a happy note, but rather you instill in the people around you, and the people you’ve crossed paths with, some measure of self-inquiry, instead of simply letting the world and everything that it could be, slip through their fingers. Finding life’s answers isn’t as important as never giving up the search for them.

What is the next book that you are writing and when will that be available for readers?

Currently, I’m working on another volume of poetry and short stories alongside a novel. My fourth volume of poetry/short stories is titled “Slaughterhouse After-Party” and the novel is tentatively titled “He Showed Me All the Neon Tombstones and Together We Embraced the Abyss”, which is written in episodic form, in that each chapter deals with a different story in the life of the main character, who writes obituaries from the point of view of the deceased. Every chapter has to deal with a different client/family. The main character also has horrible anxiety and depression, for which he takes medication for. That medication has had a strange side-effect in that it more than occasionally causes him to hallucinate a version of himself, calling himself Chauncey, speaking in an English accent, with skin painted over its entirety, a deep, royal blue. Chauncey basically exists with the intention of mocking or critiquing every move the main character makes. So there’s some psychological bafoonery at play, along with the melancholy, always-present scent of death. Neither of these two books will be available for a while…maybe not for another year or two, depending on the stability of my own particular sanity.

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Return to the Madlands (The Mire Man Trilogy, #3)A decade or so following the events of “Paradise City”, Arlo Smith finds that he is still somehow clinging to life. Fueled by the revelation that Constance may also still be alive and waiting for him somewhere out in the world, Arlo Smith, now feeling older than ever, decides to make one last stand against himself. Obliging to the last wishes of a recently-deceased love one, and perhaps succumbing to his own obsessions, Arlo embarks on an open road quest one last time in hopes of finding what he’s been searching for since that fateful day near the end of his high school years. What he discovers is an unexpected , and obligatory companionship with his estranged father, self-exiled in a lonely Nevada town, and more revelations that could either cement his perception of his very existence, or tear it down completely, rendering him beyond saving. Feeling the promise of death in one direction and the lure of Constance in another, Arlo is forced to decide to stay or leave… to obey the itching bones of his lusts, or to do what is right… and finally put to rest what may have started him on his path to damnation all those years ago.Buy Now From Amazon.com

Return to the Madlands

Return to the Madlands (The Mire Man Trilogy, #3)3 StarsArlo is on a journey across the country to find Constance, a long lost love. Throughout his trip, the reader is treated to his interactions with random individuals, many of whom this reader wishes he could know more about. However, the brief glimpses are more than entertaining. The owner of a motel and the story behind his sword on display, the female police officer who pulled Arlo over for swerving while driving, and Lenny, the former man of faith who shoots a gas station iguana, they all help Arlo along on his journey. Aside from the cast of supporting characters, Arlo is also dealing with his health. With the years of whiskey catching up to him, it made this reader wonder if he would survive long enough to find Constance.

This story is more like a collection of stories, rather than a novel with a driving plot line. While Arlo is technically on a journey that has a defined ending, the real value of the text comes from the small stories that Arlo collects from the people he meets along the way. Many of them share experiences that give the reader plenty to think about, but too many of them are too ready and willing to give “advice”. Most readers will anticipate this pattern of meeting, backstory, lesson. Because of this pattern, many of the lessons lose their weight due to the seemingly formulaic inclusion. If these lessons had been blended into the story with a bit more tact, then they would have a stronger impact.

Regardless, there is still some beauty in watching Arlo learn from these characters. Many of them are from walks of life that do not get much respect in our society. Hookers, drug addicts, hitchhikers. All of these people are human, and they have experiences that Arlo asks about. When he asks, and if the character responds, then the reader is treated to some of the most well-thought lessons in our society

Overall, the novel is entertaining. Arlo is a main character that everyone loves to hate, with his poor decision making skills and general negative views of the world around him. His interactions with the side characters tell a different story, though, and we get to see him grow as a person because of them. Perhaps it is a wisdom that has come with the aging of his character, but Arlo’s transformation from the previous entries, and even from the beginning of this entry, is something to behold.

Pages: 302 | ISBN: 1530041619

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His Methods of Madness

Author Interview Dave Matthes

Author Interview Dave Matthes

Bar Nights is a chronicle of the life of Arlo Smith who walks away from his life after finding his wife in bed with another man. Arlo’s finds his life in a troublesome spot in the beginning of the novel. What was your inspiration for his family situation and how he removes himself from it?

The inspiration never really came from anything first hand. One day I just started writing the book because I had nothing else to do, and I had already scrapped several ideas for other books, some of which became short stories. I think mostly though, that feeling of desperation that comes with having had enough of a certain situation that’s been going on for far too long, was something I’ve been through before. How Arlo feels, that sense of apathy, but also pleasure, with starting over, was my biggest takeaway from my own personal life that applied to the birth of the character “Arlo Smith”.

The plot to Bar Nights seems simple, a man tries to bury his pain with alcohol, but there’s complexity in Arlo’s pain and the people he meets. What was your writing strategy in terms of plot design when writing this story?

Thoughts and thought processes. A lot of the time we don’t actually think about the process of “thinking”, and sometimes the point in which we change direction in our thoughts is lost completely. The way I employed the use of “chapters” in Bar Nights and the rest of The Mire Man Trilogy reflects that. The plot design really had no design, at least while writing Bar Nights. I just started writing it one day and kept going with it. There wasn’t really a story, in a literal sense, I was aiming for. Bar Nights was originally intended to be just a short book about a guy living in a bar and all of the people he met there, nothing more.

Arlo is locked in a vicious cycle of self-hate, addiction, and depression that is reflected in the people he meets. Did we get to meet everyone you planned to write or did you take out any characters?

I did take out a few, but at the time that they would have existed in the story of Bar Nights, they were very minuscule. Once I decided to make Bar Nights the first book in a trilogy, I placed those characters in the following books in the trilogy as supporting characters that would hopefully help Arlo more on his journey.

I feel like Bar Nights is an examination of addiction and desperation. How do you feel Arlo deals with these things that’s different from other people?

Different? I think that his methods of madness are only different because at first, he really doesn’t have much to lose. Once he finds his way to the bar “Purgatory”, that’s it for him. He really doesn’t have anyone who cares enough to tell him to stop. And if he never met Constance, for all we know, he would have died there. So in a sense, all he really uses to deal with his addictions, is apathy. Complete, pure, remorseless apathy. He knows he has problems, and he reflects upon them constantly, but he really doesn’t care enough to examine them on a level that may or may not lead to his redemption. Not yet anyway.

Bar Nights is the first book in the Mire Man Trilogy with Madlands being the third book. How do you feel Arlo has developed over the series?

Well, in Bar Nights, even though it’s the first book, we sort of meet Arlo at his middle. In the second book, Paradise City, we’re taken back to “where it all began”, so he’s still a child in those days, and definitely hasn’t reached that purified level of “sheer apathetic asshole”. By the third book, Return to the Madlands, Arlo is pushed passed his “breaking point” in the first book, and beyond to a point in which he is literally faced with the choice of “live your life like this and die like this” or “live your life like THIS, but still… die like this”. The difference being in the choice of the latter, he’d be taking a chance, forsaking what he “set out for” from the very beginning altogether. His story arc definitely reaches a point he never expected (and I never expected while writing it).

Bar Nights (The Mire Man Trilogy, #1)“Bar Nights”, the first volume of the “The Mire Man Trilogy”, is a story revolving around Arlo, a man who’s just turned 39. Fed up with the way his life has turned out thus far, he leaves his cheating wife, out of control preteen slut daughter and her “fiance”, his unbearably demeaning job, and hits the highway.

It isn’t long before his car dies on him, and he’s forced to take shelter in the only place available at the time: the for-rent room above a dive bar, named “Purgatory”, positioned seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

Convincing the owner to let him work off his rent, he spends his days drinking and care-taking the bar, running odd jobs for his boss, and spends his nights tucked away in his room drunkenly passing out to the sounds of whoever is playing the music downstairs…until one night he ventures out into the storm eternally encapsulating his world. And their paths unexpectedly converge.

The meeting sets in motion a relentless and remorseless onslaught of emotions, bringing Arlo to the absolute breaking point of insanity and introducing him to a realization that redefines why he ended up at “Purgatory” to begin with.

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Bar Nights

Bar Nights (The Mire Man Trilogy, #1)4 StarsBar Nights by Dave Matthes is the first book of the Mire Man Trilogy, a chronicle of the life of Arlo Smith. Arlo comes home from work to find his wife and another man in the throes of passion on the kitchen counter. He decides that’s as good as a divorce decree, packs a bag, and walks out. In the driveway, his daughter and her boyfriend spark his rage, and he trashes the young man’s car with a baseball bat before he leaves. Arlo drives until his car breaks down, walks to a roadside bar, and stays. The owner, Vance, hires him as the janitor and gives him a tiny apartment above the bar.

Arlo doesn’t want to start over. His soul is already crushed by his former life and marriage, and in this bar, ironically named Purgatory, he has the freedom to be as drunk and indolent as he cares to. His only pleasure is in music. While he gets drunk in his apartment, the piano player downstairs fills his room with music. almost every night. He clings to the music but doesn’t want to meet her. When they do meet, she becomes the catalyst that forces him to face his life, his lies, and the hell he created along the way.

The plot of the story is simple, but there are so many nuances that I’d compare it more to Jazz than literature. Some of the barflies that come and go are character studies of people on the edge, or close to it, and reflect Arlo and Vance’s personal demons. The flow of the chapters adds texture and rhythm. The language is lyrical, sometimes pulling me out of the narrative just to appreciate the prose. Finding these gems was something I enjoyed while reading the novel.

Outside my window, the snow fell like the ash from a volcano…. I remembered looking out my window on Christmas morning as a child, and seeing the snow…. Little moments like that stole me from time to time. Burps and hiccups of nostalgia. A staple of regret temporarily sewing the rips and tears shut.

The author uses chapters in an unorthodox way, some as short as two words. Sometimes this works beautifully, but on occasion, a chapter seems more like a side note, or stray thought. I felt that the novel was repetitive in places, revisiting events and even phrases a few too many times, but in retrospect, some of that was clearly intentional. Addicts can be stuck on emotions or trauma, and that broken-record effect gave more realism to the characters.

Arlo is locked in a vicious cycle of self-hate, addiction, and depression that is reflected in the people he meets. Through Arlo’s eyes, we meet the patrons at the bar, his interactions with them colored by his personal misery. He’s afraid to meet Constance, the piano player, for fear that his illusions will crumble. Of course, fate intervenes, and he finally meets her by accident. They’re not in love, but they need each other to get through the desperation of their lives. Constance shoves him toward rehab, trying to save his life before he kills himself or becomes just like all the other drunks at the bar called Purgatory. Even that irony isn’t lost on Arlo.

This is a book for adults, as the language and situations are not for readers who are easily offended. It’s an examination of addiction and desperation that doesn’t sugar-coat anything. The author doesn’t spare any of the senses on this dive into skid row, and I could see, feel, and smell every detail. If you like Bar Nights, also pick up Paradise City, the next book in the trilogy.

Pages: 209 | ISBN: 1506198961

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The Seed That Plants Itself Into His Heart

Dave MatthesParadise City begins with Arlo and his best friend peeping into a stripper’s window trying and see what any young boy hopes to see. But what they see instead changes them forever. Do you think there’s a single moment in everyone’s life, maybe not as traumatic, that is life changing?

I hate to think of myself as believing in anything absolute, as if the same sort of scenario happens to everyone in some way or form. However, I do believe that everyone at some point in their life experiences a moment that separates how they were before that moment, and how they live the rest of their lives as a consequence. For me, as I’m sure most people can relate to, it was the day my father passed away. I remember the day itself starting out like any other in the summer. I was with my friends and everything was perfect. Then it happened and I remember the feeling, like everything that I was was switched off like a light switch. And even as it was happening, I knew that everything would be different from then on. With Arlo, in the beginning of Paradise City, he experiences a similar event, but deep down doesn’t know what to make of it. Instead, it sort of numbs him and sets the stage for the climax. At the end of Paradise City, the confrontation with his best friend, that moment is the moment that is the defining “light switch”. At that moment, even Arlo can’t ignore the fact that everything after that day will be different. It’s the seed that plants itself into his heart which spreads its roots deeper into his body and soul throughout the rest of his life. So yeah, I do think that everyone in some way can relate to that sort of change in their life.

In a lot of contemporary coming of age fiction novels authors often add their own life experiences to the story. Are there any bits of you in this story?

Absolutely. Many of the party scenes were directly translated from memory to page, some of the adult characters were based off of some of my friends’ parents, and on a very subtle level, some of the parts involving Arlo’s mother were taken from my own experiences, though not quite in a literal sense. One thing that stands out the most though, is the feeling I think most kids grow up with, the feeling of wanting someone but never being able to have them. And also, I’ll never forget my first experience drinking whiskey. The feeling Arlo gets in the book when he drinks it for the first time… is pretty much exactly how I felt about it, if it could even be put into words.

Lot’s of bad things happen through Paradise City, but it makes you think about what one would do if in that same situation. What do you hope readers take away from the story?

The main theme of The Mire Man Trilogy, at least from my point of view, is being able to live with yourself after having done something excruciatingly horrible; so.. self-forgiveness in a way, and not letting whatever that thing is completely destroy you. In Book 2, being that it is an origin story, the main focus of the story was to give readers the notion that it’s actually okay to remember where you came from, whether it was a good place or bad place. Really, the only way to fill in the blanks of the future is to remember the past, remember how we got to where we are. We’ve all done horrible things, maybe not quite as bad as Arlo, but then again maybe Arlo didn’t really “do” anything. Maybe that something happened TO him. It’s that combination of question and consequence that drives Arlo forward. By the end of Paradise City, Arlo is left with that consequence, and he has no one and nothing to tell him or explain to him why he’s feeling the way he’s feeling. This is what really starts him on his path that leads to how we see him in Book 1- Bar Nights.

When is the third book in the trilogy due out and what will that be about?

Book 3 is titled Return to the Madlands, and the main theme of this final volume, besides the overall arc of self-forgiveness, will be something along the lines of “self-preservation”. Arlo will be confronted with the idea of death, and what happens after this event. Not necessarily to him, but to his memory. He’s lived mostly his entire life not really caring about what other people think of him, and to some extent that’s actually a healthy way to live, but he takes it to unhealthy and dangerous extremes. In Return to the Madlands, he’ll finally sit down with himself and do a little thinking on that matter. The story itself picks up about fifteen or so years after the present day events of Paradise City, and involves a recently deceased loved one imploring Arlo to hit the road one last time and experience life before he gets too old or dying to get that chance again. The twist here, which won’t ruin the reader’s experience, is that this loved one has been hiding something pretty major from Arlo, and only confesses to it after their death via handwritten letter. This leads Arlo to believe that Constance, the main woman from Bar Nights, (whom Arlo in his own way, fell in love with) is still alive and out there in the world waiting for him to come find her. The first big chunk of the story is all about this road trip, this journey to find Constance, and involves Arlo getting stuck or hindered by several bouts of misadventure. The road eventually leads to Nevada, where he runs into his still-alive, and very old and aging father, which sets in motion one hell of a torrential downpour of emotions for Arlo. Obviously I won’t say much more about what happens from there, but there will be a very, very bittersweet flavor of closure by the end. I’m about a hundred-ish pages written into the first draft, and am shooting for a much larger scale page-count with this final volume, not that the size of a book matters, that’s just how much is going to be going on. If my current work schedule is anything to go by, I’ll probably have the first draft finished by Christmas… maybe. I wrote Bar Nights in four months, and Paradise City in six; I may or may not have rushed through them, so I’d like to really take my time with this one.

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Paradise City (The Mire Man Trilogy, #2)Book 2 in “The Mire Man Trilogy”, “Paradise City”, tells the origin of Arlo Smith, and illustrates the first steps on his journey toward becoming the seemingly soulless nothing he is in “Bar Nights”. It is a story that narrates what it’s like to grow up against the grit and torment of youth while under the vengeful weight of inevitability masquerading beneath the guise of well-intentioned promises… and the price of what true friendship can sometimes require.

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