Stay Thirsty, My Friends

Some of you know I have been working on a book deal with a new publisher in Chicago. I’m happy to say that I inked the deal today with Stay Thirsty, a great ebook publishing house run by Dusty Sang.

Dusty Sang, the founder and brains behind Stay Thirsty.

Dusty Sang, the founder and brains behind Stay Thirsty.

Dusty is a great story. He’s a former entertainment lawyer who worked with musicians and writers until he tragically lost his son, Ryan, who was just 24, to bipolar disorder.
“At that moment everything changed,” Dusty told Publishing Perspectives. “Suddenly I felt the need to leave my work as a lawyer behind and do something for Ryan.”
That’s when he started, an online magazine devoted to great writing. A few years later, he started Stay Thirsty Publishing. The name is a tribute to his son, whom Dusty says always had a thirst for life.
As my mother used to say, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
I feel really lucky to have found Dusty. He’s part father, part Father Confessor, and part press agent and promoter for his writers. In my brief experience with him, he’s taken a sincere interest in my new project, explaining the ebook market like no one ever has before, giving me a few gentle nudges in the right direction in terms of storyline and edits. In short, he has kept me from shooting myself in the foot.
So what is this new project, you’re asking?
Dusty has what I think is a brilliant idea: Short novels — novellas, really — that are the perfect read for a two-hour plane ride (or people who are just too damn busy to read “War and Peace”). It was the perfect fit for me.
I’ve put Nick Mattera aside for awhile (but not forever) and created a new character. Rick Crane is a somewhat flawed private eye in Upstate New York — think Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade with a better right cross. Rick handles the usual cases.
Cheating spouses:

Tonight was the third night I was getting a cramp in my thigh from sitting across the road made wet by the melting snowbanks that line the shoulders of the roads up here from November to April. My car, a black 1987 Buick Grand National, was nudged up against a line of bushy pine trees. Small clumps of snow still clung to the lower branches, making them look like Christmas trees that had been only half-decorated with tinsel. The strip mall has a tanning salon, a second-hand consignment shop, and a convenience store that probably makes the worst coffee in Chemung County.

Guys who borrow money from the local mobster and don’t pay on time.

Before he could stop laughing I put my hand on the back of his head and slammed his face down hard into the scratched up Formica tabletop, shattering his coffee cup with his cheek. His natural instinct was to pull up when the hot coffee scalded his face and neck and stained the top of the white undershirt that peeked out just above the top button of his blue bowling shirt. When he reared back, I let his momentum carry him and all it took was a light shove from me to send him onto his back. Before he knew what had happened, I delivered three sharp jabs to his midsection, knocking the wind out of him. Two more quick jabs to his face and one of his eye teeth was loose and blood was starting to trickle out of his nose.

But in each of these books, Rick will find himself on a case involving a minor-league or college sports team in Upstate New York.

Me standing outside the house in the Hollywood Hills where "Double Indemnity" was filmed.

Me standing outside the house in the Hollywood Hills where the noir classic, “Double Indemnity,” was filmed.

I chose Upstate New York because I know the terrain, I know the people. And, sadly, the industrial decay (OK, Rene Bixby, decline) that has been eating away at towns like Binghamton, Elmira and Corning lends itself to some very dark, very noir tales. And I chose sports because I’ve been writing about it, in one way or another, for 30 years.
The first story is “Cooper’s Daughter: A Rick Crane Noir.” (All the books will be subtitled: A Rick Crane Noir)
Darlene Cooper was a fast girl who hung out with the wrong crowd. Lately, she’d been hanging with Hector Rios, an up-and-coming pitcher for the Broome County Bats. When she’s found dead in a rail yard on the wrong side of town, no one seems to care, except her father. He hires the one man that he knows can get to the bottom of what happened to his only daughter.
“Cooper’s Daughter: A Rick Crane Noir” should be out this summer. Dusty and his crew are working on the cover now.
Stay tuned for updates. I’m really excited about this project — and think I’ve found the right publisher to make it the best that it can be.

He’s the ‘leading cannibus financial analyst’

By Mark Yost
The Houston Business Journal

Marijuana is a long way from being legal in Texas, but that hasn’t stopped two entrepreneurs from setting up shop here.
I recently wrote about Stuart Maudlin and his Marijuana Investment Conferences, which plans to host its first event at the Westin Memorial City in September. Shortly after that story appeared, Amegy Bank, Houston’s fifth largest financial institution with $9.6 billion in local deposits and a unit of Salt Lake City-based Zions Bancorporation (Nasdaq: ZION), politely told Maudlin to take his business elsewhere.
weedThat story prompted Alan Brochstein to contact me. Over breakfast at Kenny & Ziggy’s, the Houston native told me about how he went from being a bond trader for Kidder, Peabody & Co. in New York to the leading “cannabis financial analyst,” which is how he describes himself on his Houston-based website,
But where Maudlin is optimistic that his conferences can connect companies that make grow lights and hydroponic supplies with investors interested in making money in the legal marijuana business, Brochstein is more cautious.
“I see 2018, maybe 2020 before the big money gets invested,” said Brochstein, who launched his website earlier this year.
The problem, he said, is that in terms of federal law, marijuana is still a schedule I drug, in the same league as cocaine and heroin.
“Until that changes, Big Pharma’s not going to get involved,” he said. “It’s too risky.”
Indeed, Brochstein is quick to point out that while recreational marijuana has been legalized in Colorado and Washington state, and medical marijuana is legal in nearly two dozen states, it’s still prohibited by federal law. And while President Barack Obama has told Attorney General Eric Holder not to prosecute these cases, “how long is that going to last?” Brochstein asks. “Another two years?”
And let’s be clear, Brochstein is not an investor nor is he looking to connect investors with companies. He’s merely analyzing companies in this burgeoning industry, like he would the tech, retail or oil and gas sectors.
He started out with just a handful of readers who paid $22 a month. The price now for new subscribers is $54 a month and he has about 1,700 people reading his stuff. Mostly, they’re paying for Brochstein’s insights into this developing business sector. And one of his key views is how this market will develop.
“A lot of people think it’ll be Big Tobacco, others think it’ll be Big Pharma,” he said. “Both are wrong. It’ll be the alcohol companies, because they see legalized marijuana as a competitor.”

Amegy Bank to Marijuana Investment Conferences: We’ll Pass

By Mark Yost
The Houston Business Journal

Stuart Maudlin, the Houston entrepreneur behind Marijuana Investment Conferences, has closed his account at Amegy Bank, a unit of Salt Lake City-base Zions Bancorporation (Nasdaq: ZION) and Houston’s fifth largest financial institution with nearly $10 billion in local deposits, after receiving a letter that the account would be closed within 10 days.
Maudlin received a letter from Amegy Bank dated May 15, which he shared with the HBJ, that said, “Amegy Bank regrets to notify you that we will be closing the Amegy Bank account referenced above.”
stuart-maudlin-304xx720-480-0-25The account is listed as Silent Auction Services Inc., DBA Marijuana Investment Conferences.
“I can reasonably infer that they’re worried about having drug money show up in my account,” Maudlin said.
The bank declined to say why it was closing the account.
“As a matter of customer privacy, we are unable to comment on any customer’s account details or activity,” Amegy spokeswoman Jaime Moulle told the Houston Business Journal.
The bank said in the letter that it would wait 10 days for any outstanding transactions to process. Maudlin told HBJ he has already closed the account himself.
“I went down and got a cashier’s check,” he said. “I didn’t want them to dilly-dally around.”
Maudlin isn’t alone. Wells Fargo and Co. (NYSE: WFC) and Vectra Bank, also a unit of Zions, have told property owners in Colorado that they would not renew loans or finance new ones on properties that lease to marijuana shops. Banks have said that while marijuana is legal or decriminalized in some states, it’s still illegal under federal law.
“It’s just awkward because we’re all caught in the federal-law issue,” Vectra CEO Bruce Alexander told the Denver Post in February. “We’re seeing that when banks find out (about a marijuana business leasing a property), they are given an element of time to cure it, to get the tenant out or move on.”
But Maudlin isn’t running a head shop or hydroponics business. He’s merely organizing an investors conference.
“I’m running a perfectly fine business,” he told HBJ.
Asked if he’s going to close his other accounts at Amegy, Maudlin said, “I’m gonna take care of one problem at a time.”
“This isn’t a pot party,” Maudlin said about the business, which plans to host its first conference at the Westin Memorial City Hotel in September. “It’s about putting people together who want to invest in this new market.”
Maudlin also said the conference won’t be about lobbying for legalization here in Texas, even though Gov. Rick Perry said back in January that he supports decriminalization at the state level. HBJ readers also support legalization in the state, according to a Bizpulse survey.
“We’re agnostic on that,” Maudlin said.
Maudlin said he expects the conference to go forward and is currently looking for another bank.

Keels and Wheels Classic Car and Boat Show

Me with one of the great cars at Keels & Wheels.

Me with one of the great cars at Keels & Wheels.

Charitable giving in Houston usually comes with a lot of zeros attached.
But for the organizers of Keels and Wheels Concours d’Elegance, it’s not about the size of the check. It’s about the impact they have on Boys and Girls Harbor, a Houston-based nonprofit that helps kids and their families in need.
Keels and Wheels, a classic car show at the Lakewood Yacht Club in nearby Seabrook, Texas, will be held May 3-4 and will feature CEOs and their cool rides.
“Their budget is small enough that we make a big impact,” Bob Fuller, a retired executive recruiter who founded Keels and Wheels 19 years ago, told Houston Business Journal.
That first year, the event, modeled on the famed Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for classic cars and the Lake Tahoe show for wooden boats, lost $1,200.
Mark Yost, celebrity judge, presenting the Best in Show to the Keels winner, the owner of a vintage 1950s Chris Craft.

Mark Yost, celebrity judge, presenting the Best in Show to the Keels winner, the owner of a vintage 1950s Chris Craft.

“We still passed the hat and gave the Leukemia Society a check for $2,000,” Fuller said.
For several years, the event partnered with other charitable organizations around Houston, but what it was able to give paled in comparison to the organization’s overall budget.
“Some groups didn’t even come to the event,” Fuller said. “They just said, ‘Mail in your check.'”
Fast-forward nearly 20 years and Keels and Wheels has given “just shy of $1.3 million to Boys and Girls Harbor,” Fuller said.
“We meet these kids, form long-term relationships with them, and clearly have a big impact on their lives,” he said. “It’s very gratifying.”
Over the years, Keels and Wheels has grown from a local event to one of national renown. Houston’s veritable who’s who of car collectors will be joined this year by famed collector Wayne Carini, who pals around with David Letterman, tennis great Ivan Lendl, and the Dupont family. Carini will film an episode of his Discovery Channel series, “Chasing Classic Cars” at Keels and Wheels.
The chief judge will be Randy Ema, who hangs around with another famous late-night talk show host cum classic car collector, Jay Leno. And Keels and Wheels has become such a must-stop on the classic car scene that Ford Motor Co.’s (NYSE: F) Lincoln division will hold the national unveiling of its 2015 Navigator at this year’s event. Also expected to attend is Margaret Dunning, a longtime Keels and Wheels participant who has been profiled in the New York Times, along with her 1930 Packard.
George Yost, with one of his favorite pastarockets.

George Yost, with one of his favorite pastarockets.

Among the Houston boldface names that’ll be on hand: Billy Cain, president of Fishbone Safety Solutions and his 1966 Shelby 350GT; Jon Hodges, president and CEO of Evergreen Environmental Services, who’s bringing his 1962 Chevy Impala convertible; John Burkland, president of Technical Automation Services Co., who owns a 1923 Lincoln; Roy Shaw, chairman and CEO of Shaw Systems Inc., bringing his 1966 Cadillac DeVille convertible; and James Bartlett, director of executive communications at ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP), the proud owner of a 1932 Dusenberg convertible.

Talking Boston Bruins, Sports and Race — Segment 2

Varsity GreenYesterday on The Roy Green Show.

Good stuff.

Read all about the odds of making it to the NBA, and other issues of culture and economics in my book, “Varsity Green.”

Talking Sports and Race with Roy Green

Roy GreenGreat segment on The Roy Green Show on the Corus Radio Network yesterday, talking Donald Sterling, the NBA, rap culture and the N word.