THRILLVILLE: Will "the Thrill" Viharo's weird, wild world of Pulp Fiction, B Movies, & the Lounge Lizard Lifestyle.

Monday, January 25, 2016


To say the creation of my own imprint followed a circuitous path is a gross understatement. It’s basically 37 years in the making, beginning when I wrote the first draft of Chumpy Walnut age 16 in 1979.

Since then I’ve been both published by small presses and self-published; had a real New York agent (Marilyn Marlow of Curtis Brown Ltd.) for over a dozen years that did nothing for me; been courted by a major celebrity editor (Judith Regan of Simon & Schuster) that likewise let me down; had a movie deal with Christian Slater that failed to reach fruition after many close calls over a 13 year long option process; and meanwhile, I gradually made my own brand name, “Thrillville,” on which I’ve built my own social network.

Now it’s finally all coming together.

VOLUME ONE: A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge and
Freaks That Carry Your Luggage Up to the Room

VOLUME TWO: Lavender Blonde and Down a Dark Alley

VOLUME THREE: Chumpy Walnut and Other Stories

Fate Is My Pimp, Romance Takes a Rain Check, I Lost My Heart in Hollywood, Diary of a Dick
It’s time to take control of my own destiny. I’ve tried every other way, and none have gone the distance with me. Nobody’s fault. Everyone ultimately prioritizes his or her own personal agenda and survival over the concerns and interests of others. And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

I’ll be 53 in April. Any way you cut it, I’m on the downslope of my natural life span. No more time to waste.

These four anthologies, initially published by the suddenly and sadly defunct Double Life Press last year, comprise the bulk of my life’s work. I have four other books on the market from two other publishers (Gutter Books and Scott Fulks) that treat me right, so they’re in good hands. But these books belong entirely to ME. Together they comprise the foundation of whatever literary legacy I will eventually leave behind, for whatever that’s worth to anyone. It’s worth a lot to me, anyway, and that’s the one person I’m really doing this for.

This fantastic cover art – by Mike Fyles (Thrillville Pulp Fiction Collection Vol. 1), Matt Brown (Thrillville Pulp Fiction Collection Vol. 2 and The Vic Valentine Classic Files), and Dyer Wilk (Thrillville Pulp Fiction Collection Vol. 3 as well as the new Thrillville Press logo) – were all created based on my own crude sketches and basic concepts. (Actually, Mike produced the art that eventually became the cover of Volume 1 a while ago, on spec, but it was my idea to add the zombies!). So even there, I took command of my own vision.

The Thrillville Press logo was inspired by our official wedding logo!
My original crude concept sketch
Nothing feels better that to be in creative control of one’s own art. With all due respect, as it were, the founders of all these small presses out there don’t have anything I don’t have in terms of expertise or experience, but they do have higher overhead and a tighter bottom line. They’re basically just self-publishing collectives, relying on many of the same free DIY publishing tools as the rest of us indie entrepreneurs. What makes them each special is the boldness of their actions. They are devoted to publishing the best work they can find or produce, according to their own standards, regardless of profit margins. That’s my manifesto, too, except I’m exclusively investing in the single veteran author that I know and believe in the most: myself.

Sure, I’m breaking "the rules" by making and abiding by my own, but as they say, whoever they are, necessity is the mother of invention. Nobody else writes books like these. They’re completely unique and don’t fall under all particular genre. I’ve created my own alternate universe. As their creator, I understand and know these books more than anyone, which means makes me the ideal custodian of my own career.

Interior formatting for all four volumes by Rik Hall

I am way beyond requiring the validation of strangers. It doesn’t matter to me whether these books become bestsellers or win any awards. That would be swell, but the point is I’m not counting on the acclaim and accolades of others for my artistic and personal contentment any longer. I don’t need fame and fortune to feel fulfilled. It’s enough that these works exist, in the most pristine editions possible, the interiors and exteriors all professionally designed. I will mine my own two-decade experience as a PR man/publicist for other people’s dreams to promote them. But the rest is simply out of my hands. The world can now take ‘em or leave ‘em. Either way, I am very, very proud of them. And nobody can ever take that away from me.

Lesson learned: unless you live in a dictatorship, generally speaking the only power another human has over you is whatever power you give them. I’m taking mine back. It feels great not to be in direct or even indirect competition with anyone, not even myself.

Thrillville Press, like all of my artistic endeavors over the past thirty-odd (very odd) years, is purely a labor of love. I’m truly at the point where if anybody doesn’t dig who I am or what I’m about or the work I produce, it simply isn’t my problem. Self-reliance is the key to professional happiness, at least for me.

It was a long, rocky road to reach this place of peace and acceptance (as opposed to bitterness and resignation), and I’m never turning back.

More than anything, the founding of Thrillville Press represents my survival against all odds. It is manifest destiny in action.

Now back to dog walking and dreaming.

Onward! Cheers.
Artwork by Mike Fyles; photo by Jim Thomsen
Check out my ongoing blog series about the craft and business of writing/publishing for Digital Media Ghost.

Thrillville Press Facebook page.

Back story on The Thrillville Pulp Fiction Collection here. 

Backstory on The Vic Valentine Classic Case Files and The Space Needler's Intergalactic Bar Guide here. 

Backstory on Hard-boiled Heart here.

Backstory on Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me here.

Interview in the San Francisco Chronicle 12/24/15 
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Pre-bday cocktails with The Tiki Goddess, Tacoma Cabana, 4/1/16
"Every Woman I Love Is Undead" - original cocktail inspired by Vic Valentine,
created by Tacoma Cabana 
owner Jason Alexander

Twede's Cafe, the "real' RR Diner, North Bend, WA 4/2/16
Damn fine birthday cherry pie and coffee! Twede's Cafe, 4/2/16
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Snoqualmie Falls at "The Great Northern" (Salish Lodge & Spa), 4/2/16
Welcome to Twin Peaks!

Cocktails at Cutter's Crabhouse, Seattle, 4/2/16

Birthday dinner and drinks at Etta's, Seattle, 4/2/16

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Hosting and reading from Hard-boiled Heart at the
next Noir at the Bar Seattle, 2/16/15, Hugo House

Left to right, back to front: Michael Pool, Rob HartJohnny ShawOwen LaukkanenSam WeibeDietrich Kaltreis, Kat RichardsonLinda L. Richards, me (photo by Jim Thomsen)

Hosting Noir at the Bar Seattle, 4/14/16, Fireside Room, Hotel Sorrento
Pearce Hansen and me, Noir at the Bar Seattle, 4/14/16

"Thrillville," my official theme song by The Moon-Rays
"Director's cut" of Jeff M. Giordanos' documentary THE THRILL IS GONE! (2014)

Original book trailer for The Thrillville Pulp Fiction Collection, shot and edited by Christopher Sorrenti (2011)

Book trailer for Freaks That Carry Your Luggage Up to the Room,
animated by Vincent Cortez (2011)

Promoting the first edition of A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge on San Francisco's Creepy KOFY Movietime, 2010

Reading from Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me (2014)

Live reading of my short story "Escape from Thrillville" (2014, included in The Thrillville Pulp Fiction Collection, Volume 3)

Book trailer for It Came from Hangar 18 (2012)

Interview with Scott Fulks and me for Tiki Oasis TV, August 2015

You may also dig:

Bachelor Pad Magazine #35 featuring my movie column on "Women In Prison" movies!

The new Vic Valentine novel HARD-BOILED HEART now available from Gutter Books



My story SHORT AND CHOPPY and editor Craig T. McNeely's article WILL VIHARO: UNSUNG HERO OF THE PULPS featured in the premiere issue of the new pulp magazine

My story THE LOST SOCK featured in the second issue of DARK CORNERS (Winter 2014)

My story PEOPLE BUG ME featured in the third issue of DARK CORNERS (Spring 2015)
My story COOL RECEPTION featured in the fourth issue of DARK CORNERS 
(Summer 2015)

My short story BEHIND THE BAR is included in this anthology

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dreams of a Dog Walker

UPDATE: HARD-BOILED HEART now on sale, in print and Kindle editions - order here!

]You may have noticed if you follow this blog that my posts have become much less frequent since I relocated to Seattle in June, 2014. This indeed reflects the slower pace of my life now compared to my many fruitful (but often frustrating) Bay Area years, which comprise most of my adulthood to date. In fact, this is only my third post of 2015. It's not over yet, but it will probably be my final post of the year as well. Not that I don't have anything relevant to report. I do. But recent events just aren't urgent and momentous enough to share outside of my social media network, particularly Facebook, so I don't feel the need to update this blog on a regular basis. My daily existence now is a case of peaceful passivity and calm resignation, very quiet and uncomplicated, sans any adventure, surprises or glamour, and thanks to the ambient therapy of my beloved new home city, along with a daily dose of antidepressants, I'm relatively content with this low-key reality.Three years ago, I really, really didn't think that would be the case by now.

"The Movie That Never Was" (mock poster design by storyboard artist Matt Brown)
My ship arrives at last...?
In June of 2012, I thought my life had changed forever, and that my long-gestating movie deal with Christian Slater was finally about to bear fruit when he flew me out to Miami for location scouting, and then I signed a contract to revise his own screenplay adaptation of the first Vic Valentine novel, Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me. I thought my career as a novelist would take off at last after three and a half decades of desperate dedication, and I would simultaneously forge a new, lucrative professional path as a real Hollywood screenwriter.

Clark Gregg, Agent of SHIELD: Vic Valentine fan?!

With Crispin Glover at a private party in his honor in Seattle, 11/18/15 - he was our choice to play "Bobby Bundy" in the screen version of Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me.

Monica and me hangin' with our new friend El Vez in the Dead Elvis Tiki Lounge, Seattle!

Reading at Books Inc. in Alameda, CA, October 2013. I really thought I had it made, or rather,
 had "made it." I made it to Seattle, anyway.

Flash forward to this future: I'm a true Seattle dog walker. And in some ways, I've never been happier. Though I must admit, there is a huge void in my soul where my dreams of literary success resided for most of my lifetime. Letting go of hope has proved far healthier, mentally and spiritually, than clinging to dead dreams, I've discovered the hard way.
And it's not like my days as a novelist are totally kaput, even if they're not particularly lucrative from a livelihood standpoint. Far from it, in fact. Earlier this year, Double Life Press published a three volume set called The Thrillville Pulp Fiction Collection, with a fourth planned omnibus called The Vic Valentine Case Files, collecting the four sequels from the '90s, delayed but forthcoming. And this past summer, my second sci-fi collaboration with Scott Fulks, The Space Needler's Intergalactic Bar Guide, debuted with a symposium and book signing at Tiki Oasis in San Diego.

UPDATE: The Thrillville Pulp Fiction Collection Volumes 1-3 and The Vic Valentine Classic Case Files have been reissued by my own imprint, THRILLVILLE PRESS See my FICTION page for new purchase links (or scroll down to bottom). Full story in the next column!

Then I end 2015 with a big bang: the publication of my first Vic Valentine novel in two decades, Hard-boiled Heart, due this December from Gutter Books, with my friend, fast rising crime novelist Joe Clifford returning as my editor.

Final cover art by Scooter Harris

Some advance praise:

“Totally engrossing, a knockout read. Funny, emotional, and hypersexual, this book is another great installment in an amazing series that spans twenty years of writing. You’ve just got to love Vic Valentine, Private Eye.” — Michael Pool, author of Debt Crusher.

“Loquacious gumshoe Vic Valentine makes a welcome return in Hard-Boiled Heart, the sixth novel in Will Viharo's cult classic series. Valentine, with his bottom-feeding clientele and penchant for exploring the underworld's weirdest fringes, is like a West Coast cousin to the late, great Charles Willeford's serial detective Hoke Mosely (Miami Blues). As always, Viharo's pulp fiction prose rockets the reader through Valentine's adventures and as the pages turn, the author's encyclopedic knowledge and adoration of pop culture's kitschiest corners elicits gut-bursts of laughter.”— Pete Crooks, author of The Setup: A True Story of Dirty Cops, Soccer Moms, and Reality TV

"Vic Valentine is back with a lusty vengeance. Armed with the same world-weary street smarts and B-movie quotes that made him the perfect, quirky anti-hero in Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me, Valentine gets reluctantly lured out of retirement by a movie star turned murder suspect in this fast-paced thriller. It's a story 20 years in the making, and one that any pulp fiction lover will definitely not want to miss."— S.W. Lauden, author of Bad Citizen Corporation

“Will Viharo writes not just neo-noir but neon noir, his Vic Valentine novels brilliant paeans to Chandler, Hammett, and other aspects of pop culture that Viharo clearly loves, from old B-movies to Frank Sinatra. But his roots are only a backdrop for Viharo’s modernization of the detective genre. Vic Valentine is a detective who falls hard for his dreams, knowing full well that he shouldn’t. For Valentine it seems that the greatest defeat would be to give in to the idea that he cannot win. In Will Viharo’s fast paced, witty and wise Vic Valentine novels, there is always hope, however hardboiled it may be. As with its predecessor, Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me, Viharo’s Hard-Boiled Heart is a joy ride for the reader.”— Rob Pierce, author of Uncle Dust and The Things I Love Will Kill Me Yet

I've already detailed the rather painful genesis of this long planned sixth (and most likely final) installment in the series, so I won't rehash it here. In brief, it's my creatively proactive reaction to circumstances beyond my control, and as both an artistic and personal triumph, I'm extremely proud of this accomplishment.

Not only that, but the original "Vic Valentine" cocktail, created by Susan Eggett and served as one of the house drinks at Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge in Alameda, CA, my old stomping grounds, was selected as one of fifty specialty recipes included in the new edition of Bourbon Mixology! My literary liquid legacy has been secured! A good thing, since a lot more people drink than read...

As for what's next? I have absolutely no idea. That's both deeply terrifying and strangely stimulating.

Book-wise, I certainly don't have any ideas or plans beyond promoting the six books that have come out in a single productive year. I'm considering re-entering the arena of traditional publishing, but my distant history with the brutally apathetic New York industry still haunts me, and frankly I'm not sure I could come up with something commercial enough to warrant the attention of an agent or a major publishing house. The title "Dreams of a Dog Walker" popped into my head recently, and I always start with a title. If I pursue that project, it might be something unlike anything I've ever done before in order to directly appeal (pander) to a mass audience, like magical realism. Or it might be in the form of a memoir, a followup to my unpublished, epistolary autobiography "Graffiti in the Rubber Room: Writing for My Sanity," which I wrote at the request of celebrity editor Judith Regan over twenty years ago, before she unceremoniously dropped me after a two year courtship, during which time I feverishly wrote the first five Vic Valentine novels, foolishly believing my ship had finally sailed into port at age 30.

Pastoral peace.
Now, at age 52, my ship once again leaving me stranded on shore, I must admit: I've given up hope of ever being "rescued" from this little island of mine. But at least I finally live in a personal paradise, with my very own bold, beautiful, brilliant Tiki Goddess (now in her second year and kicking serious ass in the PhD program at the University of Washington School of Drama) and our two precious cats, Tiki and Googie. And now I'm making more furry friends with several canine clients around our apartment complex.

I was a graveyard shift desk clerk at the Hotel Europa when I first moved to San Francisco, age 22, 
circa 1985-86.
I embellished this cartoon from the SF Chronicle and sent it to my friend Greg Vargas back in L.A.
RIP Carol Doda, who erotic neon image still glows in my foggy memory.
"Waitron" at the UC Berkeley Faculty Club, circa 1987 (as you can tell by the hair...)
"Classified Ad Manager" at The Daily Californian, circa 1989. 
I had no idea what the hell I was doing. But I faked 'em out for over a year!
Delivery driver for the ACCMA Blood Bank in Oakland, circa 1993, when I was being courted by famous editor Judith Regan and began writing the Vic Valentine series.

Dog-walking is definitely my favorite non-writing gig ever (and I still write a regular blog about the literary craft and business for Digital Media Ghost, which I very much enjoy and appreciate; I also still work remotely for The New Parkway in Oakland as a social media admin/PR consultant). This epic forced employment list includes my 12 year stint as programmer/publicist for Speakeasy Theaters, my 18 years hosting and programming Thrillville Theater, my multiple happily worn hats for Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge (band booker/movie night host/publicist/weekend doorman), and of course the many, many crappy gigs I endured for the sake of survival since I was on my own at age 16, including blood bank driver/ medical courier/Aero delivery driver, dishwasher/busboy/waiter, hotel/bookstore/video store/clothing store/fast food/deli clerk, box office ticket taker, warehouse worker, banquet houseboy, Classified Ads manager, freelance journalist, freelance blogger, freelance film reviewer, social media admin, Mickey Rourke's personal office assistant (!), and others I can't even remember. I hated most of them, and they really made me feel insecure and basically worthless as a person.

I don't feel that way now.

Harper and me
Jean-Luc and me 

Mendel and me

Rocky and me

Yatzie and me
Monica and Jean-Luc on the Burke-Gilman Trail

This tune often plays in my head when I'm walking the dogs, for some reason.
It best expresses my tranquil but melancholy mood, I guess. 

Monica and me with the University of Washington's official mascot, "Dubs,"
at a Christmas party in the new campus president's private home.

But dog walking? Picking up puppy poop not only pays better than fiction writing (at least in my case), but it offers essential exercise as well as a sense of tranquility, since I live near Lake Washington, which provides serenely scenic atmosphere as I bask in the beauty of my natural surroundings as well as my pleasant four-legged company. My two lifelong passions are writing and animals, and since I don't have the medical acumen (or frankly, emotional fortitude) to become a veterinarian, this is the next best thing. I actually feel qualified for this "work," which I'd do free if I didn't need the money. This gig fell into place gradually by answering requests in the apartment complex newsletter and online bulletin board, and now I have several regular canine clients, along with a cat and rabbit I sit on occasion.

This also followed over a year of frustratingly fruitless job hunting, submitting resumes to every sort of business, from the local pizzeria (as a delivery driver; they turned me down with a gift card in the mail, which was nice) to various positions at Amazon. In each case, no dice. At my age, I'm grateful for whatever I can get, especially if it's something I can stand, and for which I'm qualified. I finally found it.

Despite my internal hell, I am in heaven. It's an odd dichotomy, one I wrestle with daily, but overall, life is sweet, mostly due to the one ingredient that makes it worthwhile anyway: love.

Monica and me toasting the first Noir at the Bar Seattle in the Fireside Room
The other excellent regular gig I've recently acquired is hosting (and reading) at the new Noir at the Bar Seattle live author series being organized by rising local crime writer Michael Pool, who reached out to me recently to recite some excerpts from Hard-boiled Heart at the first of these events, the Emerald City edition of a national, loosely connected "franchise." The location for the premiere was the Fireside Room at the Hotel Sorrento, a gorgeously elegant venue that offers many similar literary gatherings.

Hosting the first Noir at the Bar Seattle, Fireside Room, October 2015

Hosting the second Noir at the Bar Seattle, Alibi Room, 12/9/15 (B&W photos by Jim Thomsen)

Danny Gardner

Frank Zafiro 

I'll be reading from Hard-boiled Heart as well as hosting the third reading event scheduled for February 16 at Hugo House. I'm honored to be sharing the bill with an incredible roster of talent.

I recently appeared with my co-author Scott Fulks to sign copies of our recent collaboration The Space Needler's Intergalactic Bar Guide as well as Hard-boiled Heart at my old haunt Forbidden Island in Alameda CA, 12/27/15.

Interview in the San Francisco Chronicle promoting the event
This past October 30, we also hosted perhaps my final local Thrillville gig (at least as a movie show), Thrillville's Swedish Halloween Show at The Swedish Club, with a screening of the 1959 Swedish sci-fi monster movie, Terror in the Midnight Sun (AKA Invasion of the Animal People). Low turnout (another reason I'm retiring from this racket after 18 years), but tons of fun. We love that venue. But from now on, I'm probably save my "Will the Thrill" hosting gigs for Noir at the Bar. That's just more my scene and speed these days.


And of course we're still enjoying Seattle's thriving cocktail culture...

Sand Point Grill 
Ivar's Acres of Clams 
Zig Zag Cafe 

The Ram 
University of Washington Club
Monica and I just returned from a trip to Portland where she attended an academic conference and I just did my bit to keep it weird...

We also visited some favorite haunts down there...

Mecca: Powell's Books
Possessed by Voodoo Doughnut
Driftwood Room

Multnomah Whiskey Library 
With our friend Paddy at Hale Pele
Trader Vic's Portland

On the waterfront: "I coulda been a contender..."

We also spent Thanksgiving in Vancouver, British Columbia - my first trip across the northern border!

We stayed at a cool, renovated midcentury modern hotel called The Burrard, downtown Vancouver

Thanksgiving sushi & cocktails at Vancouver's famous restaurant, Tojo's 

Cheers from one of our favorite Vancouver bars, Prohibition

Cheers from fabulous Hawksworth Restaurant in the St. Georgia Hotel
Made it Ma, Top of Vancouver!
Drinking a "Donald Draper" at Vancouver's excellent cocktail bar L'Abattior
Vancouver's Gastown is a gas!

Aloha from the Shameful Tiki Room!

Otherwise, pretty much business as usual...

The rare Wrestling Were Husky stalks the Burke Museum during a grad student Halloween party hosted by Monica
Monica dragging me to a Mariner-A's game - I love my wife more than I hate sports...

Another regular ritual: Swedish Pancakes at The Swedish Club with friend Sonja and children

The Swedish Club on Lake Union
El Vez and me!

Halloween night at Grand Illusion Cinema, watching Invasion of the Saucer Men in 16mm!
With our friend Strephon Taylor at the Grand Illusion screening of his documentary,
Jack Pierce: Maker of Monsters. 

He also designed my Thrillville T-shirt.

Pike Place

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Catching SPECTRE at Cinerama (loved it)
Monica's 43rd birthday dinner at the classic Seattle restaurant Canlis, 12/15/15

Holiday dinner at the University of Washington Club
New Year's Eve at the Swedish Club

Mostly I'm happy these days because, after a brutally, historically hot summer, Seattle finally feels like the "Seattle" I signed up: dark, wet, lush, romantic, and mysterious. Just like living in Blade Runner.

And autumns here are gorgeous, cool and crisp, reminiscent of my youth in New Jersey, the opposite of the warm, sunny Indian Summers that always ruined my Halloween and holiday season every year back in the otherwise beautiful Bay Area.

I am home at last.

So there you have it: the latest from Chillville. Onward! Or whatever. Cheers.

You may also dig:


BACHELOR PAD MAGAZINE #34 featuring my tribute to my late friend Yvonne Craig

Illustration by Scooter Harris

VOLUME ONE: A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge and
Freaks That Carry Your Luggage Up to the Room

VOLUME TWO: Lavender Blonde and Down a Dark Alley

VOLUME THREE: Chumpy Walnut and Other Stories

Fate Is My Pimp, Romance Takes a Rain Check, I Lost My Heart in Hollywood, Diary of a Dick

The new Vic Valentine novel HARD-BOILED HEART now available from Gutter Books



My story SHORT AND CHOPPY and editor Craig T. McNeely's article WILL VIHARO: UNSUNG HERO OF THE PULPS featured in the premiere issue of the new pulp magazine

My story THE LOST SOCK featured in the second issue of DARK CORNERS (Winter 2014)

My story PEOPLE BUG ME featured in the third issue of DARK CORNERS (Spring 2015)
My story COOL RECEPTION featured in the fourth issue of DARK CORNERS 
(Summer 2015)

My short story BEHIND THE BAR is included in this anthology

"Director's cut" of Jeff M. Giordanos' documentary THE THRILL IS GONE!