May 30, 2006



A Hollywood star, a housewife, a nurse, a doctor, a G-man, an engineer…They were among the pitiful handful of survivors who faced starvation, disease, and something infinitely worse--the terror that roamed the ruins!

Just read this. Awesome. Looking it up, I found this list of books about the end of the world in L.A. I want to read them all. It’s what my next novel’s going to be about, partly.

Last Friday I sent off the last copy of North of Sunset to a reviewer. It went to Popmatters. I’m done. What happens happens. It’s liberating. I'm proud enough of that novel. Time to move on to other things.

I’m going to get back to the next novel now. On hold for a while. That’s all I want to say about that. I don’t really feel like I’m on to something unless I’m working on a novel. Which means I may duck out of here for a while. Or not.

May 25, 2006

Come One

New song. Been a while. This is the most recent song I’ve written, music and lyrics. Inspired by stuff I’ve written about here before. Some sloppiness but I’m thinking at this level it doesn’t matter.

Come One


come on inside
sit by the fire
it’s on tv
and we can make believe
we’re watching news.

let’s take a ride
on our hard drive
we’ll cure the virus
spreading like the measles
of our youth

don’t we both just paint a picture
of people who don’t want to be known
two people will make one except if
that person doesn’t reach out to the only one they know

come on we’ll
reap with a scythe
and detox the night
at home
come on we’ll
seem like we’re right
and be who we want to know

come on let’s fight
about our life
we’ll reach a truce
when we realize the world
is not alone

it’s a delight
to be alive
in time we’ll find that we
can be on top of
what we love

May 24, 2006


Rejoice! Montag has a Myspace page. 13 downloads yesterday. People are listening.

May 22, 2006

About the Author

From the library:

Craig Clevenger, The Contortionist’s Handbook
Craig Clevenger, Dermaphoria
Andrei Codrescu, Messiah
Andrei Codrescu, Wakefield
John Colapinto, About the Author
Wanda Coleman, A War of Eyes

I came for the Clevenger and on a whim got some other books in the C’s. I have to admit I’ve never read a Black Sparrow book besides Bukowski and Fante so I got the Coleman. I hadn’t heard of About the Author but I read it first. I love books about writers.


The novel’s about a failed writer who steals his roommate’s novel a becomes a literary celebrity. He spends the rest of the novel trying to cover his tracks. Enjoyed it, a real page turner. Very prescient considering what’s been happening recently.

I haven’t written about the plagiarism case with the Harvard girl because everybody else was. And also: I don’t care. It’s hard to get worked up about a book called How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got A Life. It sounds terrible even if it was original. It’s a YA book, right, not heavy literature. I figure they crank out YA books like potato chips. The book shouldn’t be taken seriously, real or not.

I didn’t like how self-righteous everyone was getting about the writer, gleefully jumping all over a teenager. She fucked up, she’s a kid. This is just the literary world’s version of a tabloid scandal, i.e. the response was petty too.

I don’t think plagiarism or Frey is excusable, but the anger at writers seems misdirected. Frey was pressured by his publisher to call it a memoir. He seemed to be scapegoated for a larger problem. It’s not excusable that it happened, but it is understandable. The same goes for the Harvard student. The problem isn’t only that she got $500,000 for a fake book, but that she got paid $500,000 for a book of weightless chic-lit.

I am obviously a little defensive because of the Shirley Shave thing. I still don’t think Shirley Shave falls into the same category as those writers. I didn’t steal anything. Getting published in Best Sex Writing crossed a line, but to a much lesser degree. For your commenting pleasure, Anastasia, or Ass for short, left a comment in which she insults every commenter on Ash Tree.

North of Sunset Reviews

I’m going to use this to post reviews of North of Sunset and interviews.


The first review was at Grumpy Old Bookman. The best thing came in a comment by Cantara Christopher: "It reveals the zeitgeist of Los Angeles with the understanding, even compassion, of a native son. It is the least cynical book about Hollywood I've ever read…I get the feeling that he’s attempting to stretch beyond Raymond Chandler, that he's going for Flaubert. I think in North of Sunset he succeeds. And he does it in only 270 pages, and one hell of a last line."

Dogmatika review. Best thing: "North of Sunset would make a fast-paced, successful movie, but don't be fooled in thinking that Baum's work is a pumped up script, it's most definitely not. The narrative is a taut as a drum and the dialogue effortless, making North of Sunset a page-turner and an example of an effective piece of storytelling that should be envied."

Poddy Mouth review: “The writing is stellar….I think you'll agree it is not so much who influenced the writing; it is who this writing will influence. Trust me when I say that this book is one you buy and one you keep.”

Compulsive Reader review: “Successful both as a suspenseful, engrossing thriller and as something more: a savage satire on aspects of modern American life in the vein of DeLillo‘s White Noise….Overall, North of Sunset is an outstanding feat of storytelling that will gain a wide readership.”

A review at Myspace’s Book of the Moment. She says: "Those of you looking for a fun summer read, here it is. North of Sunset has everything you need: romance, scandal, murder, mystery, contempt, happiness, fame and fortune."

Might make the book sound dumber than it is, but I’ll take it.

N. Frank Daniels, author of Futureproof, reviewed the book on his Myspace blog. "A uniquely crafted character study in the style of Elmore Leonard mixed with the social satire of Chuck Palahniuk."

Randy Radic's Sound of Meat review: “It's as if Raymond Chandler had been summoned from the afterlife by the Witch of Endor with the words, 'Send up the greatest, most profane noir-writer of them all'--and up popped Henry. It's that good.”

Mike Ferraro reviewed the book on “The cult of celebrity is a topic that weighs heavily on the author’s heart and he explores it throughout ‘North of Sunset’ with a thought-provoking deftness and lucidity…in this classic smart thriller.”

There’s a not so complimentary but well-thought-out review at Ready Steady Book. He says it's a "Gripping, readable story." Read my rebuttal to his review here and his response to my response here.

Read my book notes for the novel on Largehearted Boy. He says: “The rare piece of literary fiction that successfully combines a thriller with a healthy dose of popular culture. As the 'Vanity Plate Killer' roams the streets in the novel, Baum's insights into fame, film, and writing are ever present and welcome.”

A terrible review at Pod People that doesn’t bother me at all. He didn’t read the book as satire. Don’t get why people don’t see the satire—the book’s about a celebrity who kills people with vanity plates, that’s satirical enough.

A much nicer review at Podler. “A must read Hollywood thriller.”

Reader Views: "A compelling read, well-written and brilliant."

Odyssey Reviews: Five Medallions. "You will not be able to put this book down once you pick it up. Beautifully written. Buy it."

Winner of the 2006 Hollywood Book Festival Grand Prize

Listed as the #1 self-published book in Entertainment Weekly:

entertainment weekly

Bonus: here's a recent review of my songwriting.


"In North of Sunset, Henry Baum has pulled off something pretty amazing: he has written a tight, pacy thriller that manages to lose none of its momentum, even as it reveals itself to be a savage satire on the narcissism, emptiness and ugliness at the heart of the Hollywood dream." Tony O'Neill, author of Digging the Vein

"The best Hollywood novel I've ever read, including my own." Richard Rushfield, author of On Spec

“A satirical, yet eerily naturalistic L.A. fable.” –Kim Cooper, the 1947 Project


Dogmatika interview.

There’s an interview with me at Martha O’Connor’s blog.

Cesar Torres interview.


An excerpt at Scarecrow. Pages 178-181 in the novel.

Another excerpt at Storyglossia. It’s the second half of Chapter One.



May 18, 2006

Mop Men

mop men

This book rules. A disclaimer: we met on Myspace and traded books so it could look like I’m kissing up to him because he’s got my book in hand. But no, I really enjoyed this book.

A brief summary: the book follows around the owner and underlings of the Crime Scene Cleaners, guys who go around cleaning up the aftermath of suicides, strangely messy deaths, or murder scenes after the detectives have done their work. If someone takes a shotgun to his head, someone else has to clean it up so there’s no trace it ever happened. The stuff gets everywhere. Some very vivid and revolting imagery in this book, with pictures. It was profound to read about death talked about in this way: the physicality, the practicality. People don’t generally think about death in practical terms. It’s a tough and sometimes terrifying book, but necessary. The Hollywoodization of death has made death unreal.

There’s a thread in the book about the California gubernatorial election that elected Schwarzenegger, a man who has made a living out of making death meaningless onscreen. There are Dos Passos’ U.S.A.-like pieces of articles about the insane circus surrounding our ridiculous governor, mixed in with another jaunt to a horrific death scene. There are also courtroom transcripts which are in direct contrast to the glamorization on shows like Law and Order.

The book’s funny, if you’re wondering. Not non-stop grim. Though it did at times give me an uneasy feeling that there’s violence everywhere that I used to feel when I read true crime books about serial killers. I stopped reading those books a while ago. What’s best is watching the Crime Scene Cleaners from Emmins' point-of-view. He gets down and dirty and cleans up scenes himself and reacts like most human people would react: by throwing up and freaking out. So much non-fiction is overly objective and sterile. He’s unafraid to interject himself into the book, to have opinions. It's daring and alive. This is closer to Hunter Thompson, with more death than drugs.

It makes perfect sense that we should trade books. In some sense I could think that my novel trivializes death in the same way he’s pointing out. But in another way I think we’re writing about the same thing: it’s the unreality and desensitization that cause the movie star in my novel to lose it completely and start offing people. So I’m very damn glad to be in touch with this writer.

I’ve been reading a lot of books that have floored me recently, that I felt I needed to read. Great when that happens. Buy this book. He’s also in charge of the Spoiled Ink writing community. Check that out too.

May 17, 2006


L.A. is a strip mall. It’s like the bad neighborhood in everybody’s city, the outskirts, the sprawl. You watch people walking--there’s a guy with a leather backpack, colored purple and red, looking both bruised and colorful. His legs are tanned, hair yellow, he’s got a smile on his face that’s not quite happy. What’s in the bag? Where did he buy such a god-ugly bag and why? And he’s just one person among many. An overwhelming number of minds. You see enough millions of these people, so many private worlds, it feels like swimming in the ocean. Not drowning exactly, just water everywhere.

Feeling much better today. Got my microphone yesterday, another SM57. Recorded some last night. I don’t know why I always forget that I like doing that. Started working on a song that I like, about my wife and I, with lyrics that begin:

come on inside
sit by the fire
it’s on tv
and we can make believe
we’re watching news.

let’s take a ride
on our hard drive
we’ll cure the virus
spreading like the measles
of our youth

Our new plan is to get a smudge stick.
smudge stick
Pretty New Age-y but we’re not opposed to it. My wife has been coming home from the library with piles of books about detoxing. We’ve got too many bad habits built up in our home. Whatever works. We have this little box that is supposed to clear electromagnetic interference. I’ll believe anything for five minutes.

May 16, 2006


There’s a great interview with Noah Cicero at the Cesar Torres blog.

Snow White Tan

There’s a reason that I haven’t been writing too much about my life. We’ve reached a dead end here socially, absolutely tired of not meeting anyone here. As I’ve mentioned, my wife and I are deeply anti-social people, both writers, both made uncomfortable by many other parents. On Mother’s Day we went to a park--North of Sunset--where she listened to a set of parents boast about how many Audis they have. There’s a familiar look in their children’s eyes, a look of entitlement. I remember the look well from growing up around kids of the super-rich. Makes me feel bullied by a 3-year-old.

Olivia walked up to a group of girls, around five years old. One of the girls stood up and ran away, screaming, "I’m not allowed to talk to strangers! I’m not allowed to talk to strangers!" to a sweet 3-year-old. This is what happens when neurotic people have children. Parenting necessarily makes you both boring and neurotic, but some people embrace it more than others.

So we’re judgmental. We are just constantly alienated. And let it hit us too hard, instead of just laughing it off and moving on. We also both have had a tendency to make ourselves unconscious--not so much with drugs or drink, for the most part, just repression. Do our jobs, take care of our daughter, read a lot, write some, and don’t think about some of the emptiness. That, or we rail about how people suck so we can trade loneliness for self-righteousness, a way to gain power over people who make us feel low. We’ve been coming out of that bad dream recently, which is difficult, but more like being alive.

Had a fairly packed weekend. Went to my brother’s graduation for a social work degree at USC. That night, got a babysitter and went to the reading for Prisoner of X. Very tired by that point so I felt something like a social leper. I always feel like there’s more I should be doing socially, charming people, making friends. Saw an old friend that I knew back when I lived in Mpls. in a house full of slackers, which turns out was one of the more vibrant times of my life. Next day, there was a graduation party at my parents. I had some nice conversations, didn’t feel so much like I had leprosy.

My new plan is to start a rock band. It’s a good way to get me out of the house, meet some people. So I’m adding this to my Myspace page and trying to get the word out: If you live in L.A. and you’re interested in playing these songs and others, contact me. I also play drums so there’s that too. I don’t really want to play bass.

Let me know if you wanna start a rock band.

May 11, 2006


Justus Ballard, my labelmate on Cloverfield Press, started himself a blogspot blog. He links to a blog by someone who read both our stories, who’s also Reader of Depressing Books roommate. He writes:

The ones I got are "Gentleman Reptile" by Henry Baum and "The Cubist Infant" by Justus Ballard. I read each twice; both are very good. "Reptile" is the simpler story, about a man who finds out that his daughter has been appearing in internet pornography, then must reconcile his disgust with his own consumption of pornography and supercharged sexual appetite. Up until the end it's a decent story, but the closing paragraphs made me rethink it (although the final sentence is unnecessary, or maybe just too blunt), and the more I thought about it, the more I liked it, and it became a lot better than just decent.

And then a commenter goes and says, "I’m not sold on 'Gentleman Reptile.'" I can live with it.

Anyone sick of me posting interviews and reviews? I’m not, but it’s been quiet around here. It’s cool to be interviewed but I get the feeling that has more to do with flattering the ego than helping to sell the book. How do people sell books? I still don’t know. But maybe I shouldn't say that. Still, good things are happening and it has yet to fully play out.

Last night I had another apocalypse dream. I used to have them a lot more, around three years ago, explosions and planes dropping from the sky. I think I need to lighten up.

May 9, 2006

The Bitch Posse

bitch posse

Thanks go to Martha O’Connor for the interview on her blog. I bought her novel last summer when I went to see her reading at Barnes and Noble. This was in the middle of rewriting North of Sunset so I wasn’t reading much fiction at the time. Before that, we had a correspondence going where she gave me some good advice about publishing. I finally read The Bitch Posse over the winter and never wrote about it because I wasn’t really in the habit of writing about books I’d read. Now I seem to write about every book that crosses my path.

I have to admit that I was a little wary of her book at first. The novel is called "anti-chick lit" which reminded me of calling Avril Lavigne the anti-Britney Spears. This isn’t giving The Bitch Posse nearly enough credit, but I thought if it can be used in the same sentence, it’s sort of related to it. I’ve never actually read any chick lit. I imagine it’s something like "Sex and the City" and I’ve never seen an entire episode of that show. I caught part of a show where the main character’s main dilemma is tripping with her bags at Christian Dior. If anything is anti-that, I’m all for it.

The novel is kind of Anti with a vengeance. A dark read from start to finish. It follows the lives of three friends in high school, cutting well between the present and the past, the third and the first person. I enjoyed the book and read it quickly, which for me is saying a lot. So did my wife. It’s powerful and stuck with me these many months later. I’m looking forward to what she comes out with next. Buy the novel, it’s coming out in paperback.

May 8, 2006

Chaos Noir

There’s been some controversy regarding the Shirley Shave blog. A woman named Anastasia wrote a long post about it. Basically, she accuses me of having no integrity. She calls me an "amateur," a "disgrace," and "repulsive." She writes: It's a disgrace, and an insult to women who do work in the sex industry for a male to pretend to be a female sex worker. Overboard, but it is still interesting to debate whether it’s a bad thing to have posted the blog.

I replied:
Frankly, I don’t think this is that big a deal. I couldn’t get the novel published so I published it as a blog. It’s unlike the recent scandals because I didn’t make one dollar off the blog. I side with James Frey in the scandal. It’s the publishing industry’s fault that they prize memoirs over fiction and don’t give a lot of fiction a chance. No memoir is 100% true, so it shouldn’t make a difference. No fictional character is 100% false either. Shirley’s supposed to alive, she’s supposed to be real. There’s some truth to her story, or else nobody would have paid attention.

When do I ever call myself the "best" writer? You know what? It was fun to post the novel as a blog. You call it a "disgrace." It’s a blog, a writing experiment. I can understand some feelings of betrayal, but there are far more disgraceful things. This blog doesn’t hurt anybody--the same argument people make about porn. I admit to feeling guilty about the duplicity but it was also satisfying to finally get readers for a book which took a lot of years to write and a lot of work.

She wrote in the comments on her blog:

I think if I had not been aware of the pretense, that if Henry had been intelligent enough to eliminate that blog (rather than try to squeeze every little bit of life out of it for an ego boost to flog his story), then it would be no big deal.

I’ll give her that. I’m an opportunist. I want to be read, I want people to know I’m behind the Shirley Shave blog. It wasn’t just about getting "God’s Wife" read, it was about establishing myself as a writer.

She also wrote: He basically did what many do, thought he'd get his cheap thrills online through a blog, to compensate for his other inadequacies.

Am I missing something? I had been expecting this reaction. Some people would take it far too seriously. Others would have a sense of humor. People on my end thought it was a funny and interesting thing to do. Not a war on integrity. It was actually a really rewarding experience. Look at the comments to the post The Price of Admission. That’s cool if it’s fiction or not.

I can understand feeling betrayed if you got attached to her as a person and thought she was real. I can understand being embarrassed for being duped. But repulsive? I mean, really. It’s a blog, not rape. It may have been fraudulent, but it was also a way to experiment with a new medium. It was interesting to see how people reacted to a fictional character. I enjoyed it. Plain and simple. I’ve said my piece.

May 5, 2006

Beautiful Blemish


Kevin Sampsell is my hero. If you don’t know, he’s in charge at Powells Books in Portland, OR, and he runs Future Tense Books. At my reading at Powells in March, he told me he remembered me and my query letter. I inquired about sending North of Sunset to Future Tense. He said there wasn’t space on the list. This was two years ago. Unprecedented for me that someone in publishing would have that deep a memory. So he’s on my good side.

I ended up liking his book too. I found it inspiring. Made me want to write. I haven’t read much flash fiction. The stuff I’ve read seemed half-ass, not much more than a blog entry, called a "story," a paragraph long and submitted to lit sites. Seems like cheating to me. It's hard to do something in that small a space. Richard Brautigan did it well, Sampsell does it well too. These stories have actual weight, even when a page and a half or less. Sampsell knows how to end a story--the last sentence is always important in a short story and maybe even moreso in flash fiction.

Guess I’ve been reading a lot lately. I don’t know why I haven’t written consistently about books in the past. I like it. To answer Empty Drum’s question of how the hell I find the time to read, the answer is: Olivia, my daughter, goes to sleep at 7:30. I’ve basically got no social life so there’s plenty of time to read.

Here’s an update on my actual life, if you’re interested:

I only want things when I can’t have them. Just found out my microphone is broken. I brought it to record the Dan Fante reading recently and it died. Now I’m cursing fate because I’m not able to record, even though I might not have cared if the microphone was working. The time when I want to write fiction most is when I’m working a paying job. Cursing that all I want to do is write fiction. When I have actual free time, I waste it. I need to use my energy better.

Been working on a song about how my wife and I isolate ourselves. Sort of have since we met each other. We want to change that bad. I’ve inherited some agoraphobia from my grandmother. I’m a fairly self-conscious person out in the world. Assessing and re-assessing myself. And think other people are doing the same. Truth is, people are too busy scrutinizing themselves to wonder if I’m a trembling weirdo.

Last weekend, we were superior parents. Went to Shakey’s pizza on Friday night. Played a bunch of games where you win tickets and won Olivia some plastic rings. Saturday, went to the beach, saw dolphins, played in the cold ocean and the sand, went to the Santa Monica pier, tried to win Olivia a Curious George doll by knocking over some things with a baseball, did not succeed, bought a milkshake instead, went to the toy store with her later to buy a gift for a party the next day, where Olivia hit a piƱata and won some more plastic rings, later went to my parents where she played with her cousin, then we ate Mexican food. I guess we have some social life because we were invited to a real, live party. We need something to do this weekend.

May 4, 2006

Myspace Music Review

Because I’m a total addict for attention these days, I recently submitted my myspace page to the Myspace Music Review and didn’t think much would come of it. It was just reviewed and it’s the best thing anybody’s written about my songwriting.

Good thing: I can hear his up and down moods swinging like a metronome inside the melodies, and detect razors of regret, the pump of a busted heart, and even the rippling heat-glow of sexual as well as other present and future tensions. Strangely, all this agita makes me feel good – if only for the moments I’m listening, but that’s what it’s all about, right?

He also writes: There is a slight (f)riskiness about the music, like the tunes came to him first, and the lyrics are shyly unsure of their connection to the chords.

That’s pretty astute because that’s exactly what happens with most all of my songs. I write the music and melodies first and then struggle to fit them with lyrics. Interesting that he could hear that.

He also says: This is honest music that sounds like it was made by a once-uncool kid with uncommonly cool closet tastes. Music played by someone who loves listening to a lot of stuff.

He hears my inner life-long nerd who’s spent as much time collecting other people’s music as playing my own. Probably more.

Read the whole review here. If you’ve got a band with a myspace page, submit it here. Thanks go to the reviewer, who’s got a cool blog of his own.

May 3, 2006

Prisoner of X

prisoner of x

If you can look at that cover and still not want to read this book, then I don’t know what to tell you. What I would give to have a caricature of myself done by Dan Clowes. Actually, he sort of already did. It wouldn’t look much different than this:


I wrote an article for Hustler but I never met Allan MacDonell. I never even dealt with him. I got hired by the features editor. This is the best book about the porn industry I’ve read, and I’ve read a lot. All of my research for God’s Wife was in book form. I’ve never met a porn star in the flesh, never been to a porn set. I am sure I got a lot wrong. I was told that people in the porn industry were wondering who she was. So I got something right.

Great to read about the industry from the perspective of a writer. He sort of paints himself as a loser who the sex workers would mostly ignore. He was the editor of Hustler Magazine. Didn’t he have slutty, starry-eyed girls throwing themselves at him? Maybe this is my little boy fantasy of what it’s like to work at a magazine like Hustler. Mostly it’s a lot of hard work, like any magazine, with some very demented stuff thrown in, which is nothing like any magazine. Magazine Man should read this book. Can’t imagine he’s had the same experience.

He also paints the girls who pose as all depressed and soul-stripped. I have to imagine some of them were psyched to be in the magazine. Hustler is high end in a certain universe. I’ll take his word for it. He worked in the place for two decades, somehow. Larry Flynt seems like a terrifying nightmare. A hard-ass who gets delivered strawberry shortcake from a Beverly Hills bakery in bed. Amazing that A.M. was able to work under Flynt for five minutes, let alone 20 years. I would have folded early, like on sight.

My only criticism is that there are no paragraph breaks. A new subject will start and there’s no break in the action. Pretty minor. All in all, great to read about the sex industry from someone on the inside who’s not a sex-crazed lunatic.

Go to his Myspace page and make the book a friend. He’s also reading at Skylight Books in L.A. on May 12. I'll be there.

May 2, 2006

Bowie Burroughs

Found at Posthuman Blues. How cool is this. Burroughs and Bowie pictured together in 1974, for an interview in Rolling Stone. Somehow never seen this picture. I just got Diamond Dogs in the mail yesterday. I had it on L.P. but it was lost in a move. I love that record. It’s like Bowie doing Andrew Lloyd Weber but listenable. Crazy operatic, recorded around the time of the interview with Burroughs. Click on the picture for the interview.

bowie burroughs

May 1, 2006


The new Scarecrow is out. You can read a chapter from North of Sunset: pages 178-181 in the book. I haven’t read through the other stuff yet but Scarecrow is always good for good reading. Real glad to be a part of it. One of those places I saw and thought, man, if I could only be a part of that. There’s going to be a NoS review next issue. Things going well for the book recently.

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