Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Walk Among the Tombstones by Lawrence Block


(hb; 1992: tenth book in the Matthew Scudder series)


From the inside flap:

" 'One million dollars cash, or we kill your wife.' High-volume dope dealers make an easy mark for kidnappers. After all, what are they going to do, call the cops? But Kenan Khoury, heroin wholesaler to the five boroughs, haggled over the price, and his wife came back in pieces. The only person he can trust to avenge her is Matt Scudder, ex-cop, sober alcoholic, who wields his own brand of personal justice.

"Scudder enlists call-girl girlfriend Elaine [Mardell], a streetwise punk from Times Square [TJ], and two phone-phreak computer geniuses to track the killers through the backstreets of Brooklyn. But the killers' depravity is matched only by their cleverness, and their next target is a little girl. . ."


Review:

Walk is a compelling, suspenseful and hard-to-set-down read with a cast of believable and often-likeable characters. I appreciated Block's use of moral gray areas, where most of its characters -- aside from the main villains -- had grime, depth and wear in their personal histories. Entertaining book, this: worth owning.

Followed by A Long Line of Dead Men.

#

The resulting film was released stateside on September 19, 2014. Scott Frank scripted and directed the film.

Liam Neeson played Matthew Scudder. Maurice Compte played Danny Ortiz. Astro, billed as Brian 'Astro' Bradley, played TJ.
 
David Harbour played Ray. Adam David Thompsons played Albert. Laura Birn played Leila Alvarez. Sebastian Roché played Yuri Landau. Liana de Laurent played "Yuri's Wife". Daniel Rose Russell played Lucia Landau.




Sunday, December 28, 2014

Dark Corners (Winter 2014 issue) edited by CT McNeely, Emily McNeely and Steve Gallagher


(pb; pulp fiction magazine/anthology: Winter 2014, Vol. 1 Issue 2)


Overall review:

Another excellent issue of this promising magazine, this: it has twenty-nine pieces which range from down 'n' dirty crime and Western fiction (sometimes with a touch of the supernatural and the bizarre) to author, book and publishing house reviews (e.g., a review of All Due Repect Books, as well as several works by authors mentioned in the "Standout stories" section below) -- in short, Dark Corners magazine is something that all noir and pulp fans should purchase and otherwise support.  (Another purchase link for this issue on Amazon.com will be available soon.) 

Get your copy now, if you can.


Standout stories:

1.)  "The Rehab Tiffany" - Greg Garth: An ex-Marine-for-hire takes on a gang who put his friend's sister in the hospital. Straightforward, well-written and rough action-revenge story that's all appropriate attitude and no filler.


2.)  "The Lost Sock" - Will Viharo:  Mood-effective desperation, dread, eroticism and surrealism highlight this pop culture-savvy and lust-crusty work about a down-on-his-luck man trying to locate a missing sock. Excellent, Twilight Zone-esque tale, this.


3.)  "The Joe Flacco Defense" - Eryk Pruitt: A dissatisfied wife kills her Fantasy Football Idiot husband then covers it up - perhaps too enthusiastically. Darkly funny work that, in an updated, reworked and lighter spirit, reminded me (in a good way) of a similarly structured tale I recently read: Richard Stark's "The Curious Facts Preceding My Execution" (published in the 1962 anthology Alfred Hitchcock's A Hangman's Dozen). Fun piece.


4.)  "Davey Jones' Locker" - V.A. Freeman: Another fun read about a man (Pete) who become a sailor on a boat whose captain is not only incredibly brave, but might possess some disturbing - if somewhat out-in-the-open - habits. Eagle-eyed readers will likely see where this story is headed, but it's still an entertaining ride.


5.)  "I Don't Want You To See" - Thomas Livingston:  A low-level drug dealer gets an unwanted, dangerous promotion because of someone with a big mouth. Well-written, gritty story.


6.)  "Spare Change" - April Hawks:  Interesting piece about a life-lucky man (Calvin) whose blessed streak ends in tragedy, altering him in drastic ways. Fun, effective tone-twist shift at the finish.


7.)  "Zombies, F##king Zombies" - Max Sheridan:  In a country overrun by undead (who are only good for killing and sex), a man (Carmine) puts out a hit on his live-in mother-in-law. Things go badly, of course, and the combination of the above elements make this a fun read.


8.)  "Bellringers" - Emily Moore:  Darkly humorous Aesops Fable-esque tale about a physically-assaulted waitress, holiday donations and people in general. Good read.


9.)  "Burnt Wood" - Warren Moore:  A cowboy, after a long desert ride, spends the night in a Old Western town (Burnt Wood, Colorado) and finds that everything he has been led to believe about this town is wrong.

Moore takes what would be an Amateur Hour Cliché in lesser hands and turns it into an effective twist that makes this story memorable, when combined with its smart, humane finish. I enjoyed this story a lot.



Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Grim Detail by Henry Rollins


(oversized pb; 2014: nonfiction / memoir)


From the back cover:

"A Grim Detail shoulders the anchor, drags it onward from the end of 2008 and then hurls into the ground in 2010. A world tour, two documentaries and journeys that include North Korea, South Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia and many others are contained herein. 'Oh no, not another one!' was said or implied by almost everyone involved in the making of this book. Actually, no -- it was all of us. After three on and off years of proofreading and editing, A Grim Detail became the kid no one wanted to play with. Don't laugh. I was that kid, and I am this book, well, you know what I mean.

"But then, in the early days of 2014, work on A Grim Detail concluded. The relief was total, the contempt incalculable, the ridicule to come, too painful too imagine.

"Now, the damn thing is all yours.

"Have a good cringe and thank you for everything.
" - Henry Rollins"


Review:

Blunt, funny, angry and admirable in it intent, Grim is an intense, kick-in-the-brain journal read. Anyone who's familiar with Rollins' media-diverse and prolific work may find themselves nodding to themselves and thinking I remember him talking about that, and those readers who aren't familiar with his work (and aren't angry about his tough-minded, global-political mindset) may find themselves jolted into a new way of thinking.

Rollins' work is at times heartbreaking: he visits the site of the 1984 Bhopal Disaster (which happened in Madhya Pradesh, India), Vietnam and other politically and socially "hot" areas that most Westerners -- journalists included -- aren't visiting, to see first-hand the effects of these disasters, how it's affected those who were there (as well as their descendants). Other countries he visited are written about in a lighter tone.

Of course, as with all Rollins' work, there's a bit of self-deprecation, outrage (a pivotal event in his life is the unsolved 1991 murder of his friend Joe Cole) and the struggle for clarity -- social and personal -- that many of us, underneath all our layers of talk and other bullcrap, also strive for.

I cannot recommend this work enough. While it is not an light read it is a waste-no-words important book that could easily change some lives in a way other Western-culture books won't. Own this, already.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Firebreak by Richard Stark


(hb; 2001: twentieth novel in the Parker series)


From the inside flap:

"Parker put down the body and answered the phone. And from that moment on he had two jobs to do. One was to rob a remote Montana lodge where a dot-com billionaire hid stolen art treasures in his basement. The other was to find out why a hitman had come to Parker's home -- and who had sent him. Parker couldn't do one job if he didn't finish the other.

"The master thief wasn't the only one in his crew with scores to settle. Recently released from prison, Lloyd is the brains behind the Montana heist, the only guy who can crack the lodge's alarm system. But Lloyd had a quarrel with some former partners -- and a temper. And when he explodes, and shoots a guy through the eye, Parker just happens to be by his side.

"Now Parker and his would-be partner are both cutting swaths of destruction on their way to Montana. With broken bodies and broken promises piling up behind them, one question remains: is there enough room in this heist for both men to come out alive?"


Review:

Warning: possible spoilers in this review.

Parker and his crew have quite a few job-related fires to put out in the twentieth Parker novel. One of those metaphorical fires are two ex-heistmates who may or may not have something to do with a hit that's been put out on Parker (mayhem- and rape-inclined Matt Rosenstein and his partner Paul Brock, from The Sour Lemon Score). Then there's the uncertainty surrounding one of Parker's heistmates, an amateur and socially awkward hacker named Larry Lloyd. Add to this volatile situation a lot of cops and a high-pressure time window that's been placed on this Montana job, and you have another thrilling, fast-paced, cut-to-it and briefly disturbing book in this influential, lean-prosed and often edgy crime series.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Parker novel without at least one Parker confederate in the mix. This time, his confederates are Frank Elkins and Ralph Wiss, last seen in Butcher's Moon.

Like all the Parker novels I have read thus far, Firebreak is worth owning. Followed by Breakout.


Friday, December 19, 2014

I Spit on Your Graves by Boris Vian

 

(pb; 1946, 1998. Introduction -- titled The Dark Side of Boris Vian -- by Mark Lapprand.)

From the back cover:

"Published in Paris in 1946 as a thriller loaded with sex and blood, allegedly censored in the US and 'translated' into French, J'irai cracher sur vos tombes -- I Spit on Your Grave -- was a pure mystification, but also, a direct homage to American literature and movies, by a young author, Boris Vian (1920 - 1959).

"More deeply, it was also a violent attack on racism by a jazz fan who had already befriended many black musicians and was to become the closest French friend of [Duke] Ellington, [Miles] Davis and [Charlie] Parker. . . "



Review:

This hyperbolic pulp-noir genre work is a sometimes fun, way overlong riff on racism, sex and ultra-violent revenge. It is the fevered imaginings of a Frenchman writing about a country he had never actually visited.

Most of the book is comprised of Lee Anderson's first-person point of view, while he gets "revenge" on the white race by bedding every young woman he meets (according to Anderson, every white woman is a slut, just asking for rough sex), fooling those around him into thinking he's white (although he is a half-"Negro" who "passes" for white) by partying with them. At one point, he and a friend rape two twelve-year old children, who -- curiously -- are "Negroes" themselves.  (Yes, this is a morally icky book, written, as noted in the back cover description, as an "homage" to the American pulp novels and noir Vian loved.)

 The sex -- more euphemistic than explicit -- occasionally spills over into explicitness, especially near the nerve-jangling finish when Anderson achieves his ultimate, lust-murderous revenge on the white race with two women.

Spit isn't a terrible book, but it is considerably longer than it needs to be. If you can get past the hundred plus pages of Anderson's theme-repetitive rants about race, partying and sex, it might be interesting. If you can't, don't pick it up.

#

The film version of J'irai cracher sur vos tombes was released in France on June 26, 1959. (Note that imdb has erroneously listed it under the title I Spit on Your Grave when it is supposed to be I Spit on Your Graves.) 

Michel Gast directed the film from a screenplay by Boris Vian (the book's author) and Jacques Dupagne. The film's credits do not cite Vian's novel as the film's source material.  According to many sources, Vian hated the film so much he died of a heart attack while standing up to denounce it at its first screening. (This appears to be true.)

Christian Marquand played Joe Grant (cinematic stand-in for Lee Anderson). Antonella Lualdi played Lizbeth Shannon. Ferdinand Ledoux played Horace Chandley. Renate Ewert played Sylvia Shannon. Marina Petrova, billed as Marina Petrowa, played Sheila. Daniel Cauchy played Sonny. Catherine Fonteney played Virginia Shannon.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

**My latest poetry anthology, Mondo febrifuge: omnibus poems, was published today



I just published my second of two books this year - Mondo febrifuge: omnibus poems, which mixes older previous published (and reworked) mainstream verses with quite a few newer works penned within the past two years.

The poems are, per my usual style, rough and tumble free verse works that detail a tumultuous youth dealing with my own fictionalized dumbassery and growing up, a journey infused with the loving, often raw elements of familial discontent, religion, sex, horror films, heavy metal, nature (read: animals) and living in northern California and eastern Washington state.  While these poems are mainstream, many of them would sport hard R-ratings if they were films subjected to the MPAA film board.

Like Welcome to Horrorsex County: microstories, published earlier this autumn, it's a personal milestone book - a way for me to officially bid farewell to one phase of my writing and move onto the next, whatever its final form takes.

 Feel free to click on the above links if you (or anyone you know) would be interested in picking up the aforementioned books. They cost $9 or less (+s/h) apiece, and thanks for the support!


 (back cover of Mondo febrifuge)


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Flashfire by Richard Stark


(pb; 2000: nineteenth novel in the Parker series. Foreword by Terry Teachout.)

From the back cover:

"Parker hobnobs with the excessively monied citizens of West Palm Beach while impersonating a Texan oilman looking to buy property. The true object of his affection is a twelve-million-dollar stash of jewels that he aims to steal from under the noses of a hundred socialites, a hit man, and six other thieves who have an unhealthy love of explosions. When things go sour, Parker finds himself shot and trapped -- and forced to rely on a civilian to survive."


Review:

When three fellow heisters (Boyd Melander, Hal Carlson and Jerry Ross) cheat Parker out of his money, Parker follows them to Palm Beach, where he hopes to recoup his cash -- with interest -- from them.

Further complications arise when he's at the wrong place at the wrong time, resulting in a hit being put out on him, and a blond real estate agent takes interest in Parker, a.k.a. Daniel Parmitt, who doesn't strike her as a typical client.

Stark's writing is pulp icy, blunt and intense (character- and action-wise), his usual style. Tom Hurley, last seen in Butcher's Moon, also makes a brief "appearance" (he is heard on the phone) in this difficult-to-put-down thriller.

Worth owning, this. Followed by Firebreak.

#

Flashfire inspired the 2013 film Parker, which was released stateside on January 25, 2013. Taylor Hackford directed the film from a script by John J. McLaughlin.

Jason Statham played Parker. Jennifer Lopez played Leslie Rodgers (cinematic stand-in for Leslie Mackenzie). Emma Booth played Claire. Nick Nolte played Hurley.

Michael Chiklis played Melander. Wendell Pierce played Carlson. Clifton Collins Jr. played Ross. Carlos Carrasco played Norte.

Bobby Cannavale played Jake Fernandez. Patti LuPone played Ascension.

Micah Hauptman, billed as Micah A. Hauptman, played August Hardwicke. Kirk Baltz played Bobby Hardwicke. Mike Watson played "Sheriff on Boat". Rio Hackford, son of director Taylor Hackford, played Oliver.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Mind is a Razorblade by Max Booth III

 
(pb; 2014)
 
From the back cover:
 
"Drowning, he wakes besides two corpses. His memory has been wiped clean. He doesn't know his name, what he's doing here, who these people are or even why one of them is a cop. Nor can he explain his strange telekinetic abilities.
 
"Questions plague his mind like hellfire, questions that begin a journey leading into the rot of downtown America, a journey that will not end until every one of his questions have been answered, despite who has to die in the process. Even if those who have all the answers aren't human."
 
 
Review:
 
Mind is an excellent, heady genre blender of a novel, bringing together quirky humor, science fiction, horror and pulp-noir. Some of its twisty elements and revelations, taken singly, are familiar, but Booth's pulp-to-the-marrow, fast-paced and character-relatable writing makes this surprisingly warm-toned word stew come off as a fresh, often laugh-out-loud read that's worth owning. Get this, already.
 
 

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Backflash by Richard Stark


(hb; 1998: eighteenth novel in the Parker series)

From the inside flap:

"It's not in Parker's nature to gamble; he steals instead. So when it comes to ripping off a big fat floating gambling casino on the Hudson River, Parker leaves nothing to chance. From the phony politician to the getaway boat, from bringing the guns on board to getting the money off. Parker has it all planned out. There are only a few little problems. . .

"The guy who tipped off Parker in the first place is a bureaucrat who has a moral streak - or a yellow streak - plus a story that doesn't quite add up. The guy who's steering the getaway boat has some unsavory friends who happen to have plenty of guns. And a reporter on the casino has enough sense to know that something on this cruise isn't quite right.

"Suddenly Parker's surefire plan is blowing up like fireworks on the Fourth - only these bangs make people dead. Now with his luck going south and no one left to trust but himself, Parker will do what he does best: punch, claw and kill his way out of the night."


Review:

As Parker heists go, this is a relatively smooth one, meaning: there are a few character-based complications and a betrayal or two, but they are relatively minor -- this translates into a lighter-in-tone-than-usual Parker novel. (The writing is still sharp, concise and ruthless, of course, because this is a Stark work.)

Joining Parker this time around are a few series-familiar, distinctive faces: Lou Sternberg and Noelle Braselle from The Mourner, and Dan Wycza and Mike Carlow from Butcher's Moon. These returning characters add an almost-chummy feel to Backflash's thievery as well as its trifling post-heist bumps.

Like all the preceding Parker novels, this is worth owning.

Followed by Flashfire.

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Magnificent Wilf by Gordon R. Dickson


(pb; 1995)

From the back cover:

"When Earth is contacted by galactic civilization, our heroic couplet - diplomat Tom Parent, and his linguist wife, Lucy - prove  themselves to be just the pair to tour the galaxy representing Earth and learning the whys and wherefores of galactic civilization. There's only one tiny catch to this grand tour - on Tom and Lucy's performance hinges on our acceptance by the rest of the galaxy as a civilized world rather than as a ward of some more 'advanced' species. (You don't want Earth to become a galactic ward.) In the normal run of events this would be fine, because Tom and Lucy are the kind of folks any race might be proud to have represent them. The trouble is that while Tom is a regular fellow, Lucy is - or may be - a Wilf. And Magnificent or not, you know what that means. . ."


Review:

Magnificent is a clever, laugh-out-loud funny lark of a science fiction novel that builds on its episodic, character- and action-thrilling events. While the stakes are life-or-death high for Tom, Lucy, Rex (their dog) and this galaxy's alien races, Dickson maintains a frolicking feel throughout this superb and character-twisty work. This is one of my favorite reads in any genre, perhaps even an all-time favorite read. This is a book worth owning.

<em>Phantom</em> by Jo Nesbø

(hb;  2011, 2012: ninth novel in the Inspector Harry Hole series. Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett .) From the back cover...