The Last Rites reading series held its February reading on Sunday at the Baltimore Hostel in Mount Vernon. The hosts, as always, were local writers Nik Korpon and Pat King. The evening's theme was crime fiction, and the readers were Don Lafferty, Eric D. Goodman, Kieran Shea and Dennis Tafoya. The hostel's cozy atmosphere made an unusual setting for stories of desperation and murder, but contradictions like those are part of the fun. Goodloe Byron played a short acoustic set after the readings.
All four readers, as one would expect from their hard-boiled subject matter, kept things short and to the point.
Lafferty read first, and began by saying that “this is the first time I've ever read in public.” For his first time, he did just fine, sharing a Christmas-themed story that, in keeping with the theme, was full of obscenities and savage violence.
Goodman followed with an abridgment from his upcoming novel, Tracks. The selection was about a wayward youth who becomes a hitman for the mob. Goodman's prose and delivery were captivating enough that I forgot to take a picture of him, so I'm guessing his novel will be pretty good.
During intermission, I rifled through the hostel's shelf of free books, most of which are travel-related. However, I was able to find a copy of Party Monster, which ended up coming home with me.
Story South Million Writers Award nominee Shea read after the break, sitting on a piano bench and delivering a story about murder, car theft, suburban malaise and littering. He wanted to “read something Baltimore-based,” perhaps as an apology of sorts for being from New Jersey.
Tafoya, author of Dope Thief and The Wolves of Fairmount Park, read a short story from his laptop due to a printer error at his hotel. Korpon said he did an admirable job reading from the tiny screen, which was true, and the piece he read was classic noir storytelling—not surprising, since his two novels have gotten some pretty strong reviews.
Local writer, musician and ne'er-do-well Byron closed out the evening with a two-song acoustic set. Goodloe's blues stylings are just as warped and irreverent as his novels, which he should take as a compliment. He also had a few CDs with him, free of course, and I scored one. It's pretty good.
The Last Rites Reading Series takes place at the Baltimore Hostel on the last Sunday of every month.