Duane Swierczynski, Crime novelist
Cool Tools Show 253: Duane Swierczynski
Our guest this week is Duane Swierczynski. Duane is an award-winning author of crime novels, comic books, audio dramas and other violent amusements. His story “Lush” was included in last year’s Best American Mystery Stories, edited by Jonathan Lethem and Otto Penzler.
Apple Notes app (Free)
At first, like everybody, I dismissed Notes as a very lousy word processor. But then, on a whim, I had my phone one day. This was maybe eight years ago and I just had an idea for a story and I jotted it down. And it was so handy having access to it wherever I was — home, on the phone — and it was forgiving. It was so simple that I couldn’t screw it up. Over the years, it’s kind of ballooned where it now becomes my spare brain. I’d actually have to plot things in Notes before I kind of jump to the Word document or the Final Draft document, which is bizarre, but it’s almost a psychological thing at this point.
This little yellow tablet is like my thing. I have to get all my thoughts out — all my lousy ideas — before they make it to my precious Word document.
Weber Q Gas Grill ($209)
I know it doesn’t sound revolutionary, but for me it was a game changer because at our apartment complex, we used to go down and share grills. It was awesome. We have just a tiny little balcony here, and no space to grill. But when the pandemic happened, grills closed, we were trapped inside and my entire repertoire of cooking went out the window. It’s like heating over flame. So I did some research and found this gas grill that’s just tiny. I call it the noisy cricket inspired by that Men In Black weapon. Remember that? The little tiny gun they have? So it’s just on the patio and it’s kind of wonderful. It’s like the grilling version of Apple Notes. It’s this tiny surface for flames. The way it’s designed, it’s almost bowl-like, so there’s not much width and depth, but there’s a height to it. You can actually fit in a rack of ribs somehow in there, defying space and time. And I can cook an amazing amount of things for my small family here. And that was a game changer.
Trejo’s Tacos cookbook by Danny Trejo and Hugh Garvey ($19)
Yes. This book is by Danny Trejo, the actor and restaurant owner. And Hugh Garvey actually wrote for me when I was an editor at Details magazine way back in the late ‘90s. So small world. It’s kind of strange. So when I saw his name, I’m like, “Oh, wow, this is going to be great.” But then again, Danny Trejo is like one of my heroes. It was, of course, a no brainer. There are great photographs of what the meal is supposed to look like and really clear ingredient list. When I bought it though and I started looking through it, it was so inviting and so warm and so kind of friendly, just like Trejo himself that it’s like, “Okay, I can do this. This Polish boy from Philadelphia can actually make halfway decent carne asada and not feel like he’s faking it.” So that was the best part of this. It expanded our repertoire of what to make when you’re stuck inside.
Esotouric webinars ($10)
Before this pandemic, Kim and Richard, would do these bus tours of LA and they’re sometimes literary or sometimes crime skewed. They’re always fascinating deep dives in LA’s history. But since the pandemic happened, they couldn’t, of course, safely put people in an enclosed space. So after months of trying to figure out what to do, they had the idea to do a webinar and basically it’s their tour distilled down. It’s like maybe an hour and a half or two hours. And it’s the best deep dive into given topics. And it’s 10 bucks. You sign up anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world, and tune in live, or you have a week to watch it later. For example, they did a Raymond Chandler tour two weeks ago. Now I’ve been reading Chandler for 30 years. I think I know everything about Chandler. This taught me like a dozen new things I had no idea about. So if you ever want a cheap vacation to LA for 10 bucks, this is what you do. No travel required. Fans of true crime, and crime fiction especially, I think would go crazy for this.
About Team Evie Foundation:
I don’t want to bum everyone out, but two years ago we lost our daughter Evie to leukemia. Every parent thinks, of course, their kids are the funniest and the smartest, but she really was. She was hilarious. Losing her was like a sitcom losing its guest star. It’s like Happy Days minus the Fonz. She was everything. She was a big reader like her parents. So in the hospital — Children’s Hospital LA is where she had treatment — there’s a program that was called Literally Healing where basically a book cart rolls up and every kid can choose a new book every day to help pass the time and escape from their situation. When we lost her, some friends said, “Let’s have a book drive in her honor,” and it kind of ballooned from there. This is our third year and every year it doubles and I’m very happy. Just the turnout from everyone all over who wants to put books in the hands of sick kids. It’s become our thing we do now to honor her memory. Last year, we raised 2,000 books. And that was pretty special. All the information is available at the Team Evie Foundation website and better than I can explain it, as far as where to send stuff.
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