Monday, December 31, 2007

Anniversary

Today is the first anniversary for this blog. I'm not big on anniversaries, and I'm not big on new year's resolutions. Change is a gradual process, and not something that you do on an arbitrary date each year. Trying to change just because it's the end of the year or your birthday is pretty much an invitation to failure, so I'm not making any resolutions. I never do. All in all, though, I'd have to say that 2007 wasn't an unmitigated disaster. I finally got out of the newspaper business, and the one story I published this year has been well received, and next year will see at least one more story with my name on it out there. You could say I'm cautiously optimistic, because that's the only type of optimism I've ever been able to manage.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Everything you Wanted to Know about Reginald Heade...

is available in handy blog-post form over at The Rap Sheet. Leave it to the prolific J. Kingston Pierce to come up with such a lengthy, information filled post on a guy about whom most of the world knows very little. Also, there are links to lots of Heade's pictures. Very cool.

And while I'm at it, let me note that Dick Adler has started blogging again, and he has a post in praise of small crime presses, which links to a longer post he wrote at The Knowledgeable Blogger about the same topic. All worth checking out.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Review of The Big O


Declan Burke’s second novel, The Big O (Hag’s Head Press, 2007), is a comic crime caper that is delivered in short bursts with an emphasis on snappy dialogue. It tells the story of Karen and Ray, who meet when Ray happens to walk into a store Karen is busy robbing. Ray’s more curious than put off, and he asks her out for a drink. He tells her up front that he works kidnapping people and painting murals, although not at the same time.

Burke goes on to introduce other characters, including Frank, a pathetic plastic surgeon and Karen’s boss, and Madge, Frank’s soon to be ex-wife and Karen’s best friend. There’s also Rossi, Karen’s ex and an ex-con, a cop named Doyle and a wolf. With the story told from many different points-of-view, there is the real potential for confusion. Burke handles it well, though. A reader can’t help but be a little confused at the beginning, but the feeling doesn’t last too long. Burke gets setup out of the way in short order.

The book’s plot hinges on a lot of coincidences, but it’s not too difficult to suspend disbelief. The characters are sharply drawn, and Burke keeps thing short, never letting any one scene drag out too long. The real treat in The Big O, is the dialogue, though. Burke has a knack for sharp banter, and it is a rare chapter that doesn’t have a witty exchange between characters.

The Big O has flaws, but Burke is an up and comer. He’s recently made the jump across the Atlantic, landing at Harcourt, the U.S. home of Allan Guthrie and Ray Banks. It’s clear that he’s a writer who deserves a wider audience, and will soon have a well-deserved shot at the big time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It doesn't matter who you vote for as long as you vote...

As you know, my short story 'Amphetamine Logic' was shortlisted for a Spinetingler Award in the Best Short Story on the Web category. Well, I finally got around to reading (in some cases rereading) the other stories that were nominated. They're all good. Very good, in fact. If you haven't read them, and you haven't voted in the awards yet, you should. Even if you don't want to vote in all the categories, there is no reason why you can't read the online stories and vote for one of them. It's not that big of an investment of time, and you might find yourself surprised. The stories are:

Amphetamine Logic
-Nathan Cain

The Leap-Charles Ardai

Breaking in the New Guy-Stephen Blackmoore

The Switch-Lyman Feero

Seven Days of Rain-Chris Holm

Shared Losses-Gerri Leen

The Living Dead-Amra Pajalic

Convivium-Kelli Stanley

For a list of nominees in other categories, along with instructions on how to cast your vote, go here. The deadline is Dec. 30, so you've got 10 days. You can read one story a day and still take two days to make up your mind.

Wednesday Paperback Cover


Better than chess club. Not as good as High School Sex Club. (from Vintagepbks.com)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Atlanta is Number One

Besides boasting the nation's worst traffic and what seems like the highest inventory of craptacular townhouses, Atlanta is now the nation's bank robbery captial. Suck it L.A. This town's got you beat in every category that matters. (Fun fact: The metro Atlanta area has 26 more banks than the entire state of North Carolina. This explains why I can never find an ATM when I go home to visit.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Missing the Big Picture

This past Sunday, in the Boston Globe, writer Steve Almond wrote an essay, using the recently released Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps to try to make a larger point about American culture. To wit,

" Pulps themselves may have vanished. But the underlying aesthetic of pulp, the moral assumptions they introduced and popularized, have endured. Those assumptions are not just shaping much of our popular culture: today, they are dictating how we understand our world."

Almond asserts that what he calls the "black and white moral universe of the pulps" has infiltrated our popular culture to such an extent that it even pervades out media coverage. With this statement, he shows he does not understand human nature or the nature of the media.

People, by nature, seek out patterns and look for evidence to back up their preexisting beliefs. One of the main ways we do this is by telling stories. Take The Old Testament. It's overarching narrative is that of the triumph of God's chosen people over those who would oppress them and keep them from the Holy Land. Now this is a good story. Large swaths of it are certainly questionable, but it served to unite a people who spent a lot of time wandering around in the desert and getting into fights with other kingdoms. Wandering around in the desert and getting into fights is not terribly inspiring, unless, of course, it's all part of some larger story that provides a "black and white" moral framework for dividing up the world into the Good and the Wicked.

I use the Old Testament as an example not to single out any particular religion, but because it's an example that everyone is familiar with to some extent, and because it makes it easier to make my point, which is that Almond is giving pulp fiction a little too much credit. Pulp fiction does not impact how we see the world, so much as reflect how we see the world. Everyone wants to identify with the good guy. Everyone wants to see justice triumph. Those moral assumptions were not, as Almond maintains, introduced and popularized by pulp fiction. They have existed since time immemorial, and they developed over and over in many cultures. Pulp fiction is just another manifestation of our deepest desire to see everything turn out all right in the end in a world where, no matter how hard you try, things are not going to turn out all right. Pulp fiction is a harmless manifestation of these desires when compared with religion. Unlike The Bible, no one has ever killed someone over differing interpretations of a story in Black Mask.

Almond also tries to tie pulp fiction to the state of the media today. While I tend to agree that news coverage today isn't what it ought to be, it's hard to blame that on Raymond Chandler. The news is a business, and the market dictates what you get. Again, people want to hear stories. Almond uses the Clinton impeachment as an example, calling it "a classic pulp fiction." Clinton, Almond states, is the corrupt pol and Ken Starr was the crusading hero. It's just as easy to cast Clinton as the hero and Starr as the tool of corrupt, jealous Republicans who were looking for something-anything-they could use to strike back at an immensely popular leader. Anyone who was paying attention to the Clinton story could have come away with either interpretation. So, the media did not package and sell a story. They packaged and sold a set of facts, which people were free to interpret as they saw fit. You can place the blame for the Clinton saga where it really belongs, either on Congress for trying to bring down a president out of spite, or with Clinton, for not keeping it in his pants. It all depends on what story you want to tell yourself.


Wednesday Paperback Cover


Is that Sean Connery?

Monday, December 10, 2007

See The Session Performed

A while back I reviewed The Session by Aaron Petrovich. It was billed as a novella, but reads like a play. Well, the author is going to perform his work at the City Lights Book Store in SF tomorrow.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Preview The Max



If you're like me, you loved Ken Bruen and Jason Starr's last collaboration, Slide. So you'll be thrilled to see thatThe Max, the third novel in their ongoing series, is up on Hard Case's Web site. It's slated for a September 2008 publication. Just check out the cover. You know the book is going to kick ass.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Your Wednesday Book Trailer

In lieu of your Wednesday Paperback Cover, I bring you the trailer for the forthcoming Hard Case offering Money Shot. It features bondage, violence and overt eroticism, so it's exactly like a Wednesday Paperback Cover, but it moves.

The Wednesday Paperback Cover is Delayed

Because of AT&T, who have managed to disconnect all of their DSL customers in the Southeast from the Internet because some IT guy got drunk and peed on a server in Texas or something. Then they lied to the media and said they fixed it, and now, two days later, they still won't answer their customer service line. Stay classy AT&T. If I get service back at home or haul my laptop to a Starbucks tonight I'll put one up, but don't hold your breath.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Review of Swansea Terminal


One of the cardinal rules of storytelling is that the characters must do something. Having characters who sit around doing nothing worked out for Beckett in one instance, but it is not generally a good idea. Robin Llewellyn, the alcoholic, terminally ill, homeless, Welsh private detective at the center of Robert Lewis’ Swansea Terminal, (Serpent’s Tail, 2007) is hopelessly passive. He lives, if it can be called that, only for his next drink, and he doesn’t have any real desire to change. As such, he does not make a very interesting protagonist.

For the first three-quarters of the book, the story involves Llewellyn staying drunk, getting involved with some small time gangsters, and ending up with a job sitting in the dark babysitting a warehouse full of smuggled booze. Although this is clearly a setup of some sort, Llewellyn is more than content to sit in the dark, drink warm lager and wallow in self pity and degradation. It’s difficult to care about someone who does not care about themselves, and Llewellyn doesn’t give a damn. Even his pitch black observations about life don’t make him any more interesting or sympathetic. By the time he finally gets off his ass and decides to do something about his situation it is too late for him to fully engage the reader.

Lewis is a young, promising author, and unlike his protagonist, he has a future to worry about. He might want to consider creating a character with a little more to lose.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Garth Marenghi's DarkPlace

Garth Marenghi is the greatest horror writer ever. In addition to penning the classic, Afterbirth, about a mutant placenta that attacks Bristol, he wrote, directed and starred in the television show Garth Marenghi's DarkPlace. (It has been called the most significant television event since Quantum Leap.) Watch an episode here. (The intro alone is worth it.) You can also go to Youtube and knock yourself out.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Modest Proposal

As has been noted, Charles Ardai's novel Songs of Innocence, is not eligible for the Edgar this year because it is, under the MWA's rules, self-published. James Reasoner's novel, Dust Devils, it turns out, is not eligible either, because Point Blank does not meet the qualifications for an approved publisher, although it is certainly not a vanity press. I can understand having rules and sticking to them, but I've got to say these two books are both excellent pieces of work and the authors are pros with plenty of publishing credits to their name. I'm going to have to say I agree with this comment by Mr. Reasoner:

'Now that I've slept on it, an idea that someone brought up over on Sarah's blog makes a lot of sense to me: if an author qualifies for MWA membership, then his or her books should be eligible for the Edgars regardless of publisher. This would disqualify most of the truly self-published and vanity press books, while allowing authors like Charles Ardai and myself, who easily qualify for MWA membership because of our other publications, to submit books like SONGS OF INNOCENCE and DUST DEVILS for consideration."

The reason I think this idea is a good one is because it takes into consideration the fact that distribution methods are going to change. The MWA already allows ebooks into consideration, which is a smart move, considering how things are changing, but let's say an established author wants to pull a Radiohead, and make their work available on the Internet on a pay what you want format, or they have a work that a they have trouble finding a big publisher for. What then? Authors who qualify for membership in MWA are unlikely to turn out crap, even if it is published by a very small press, or even self published. If a pro wants to take a try at something unconventional or outside the mainstream that's no reason to exclude them.

Amphetamine Logic-The Movie Update

As you may well remember, I optioned my Spinetingler Award nominated short story Amphetamine Logic to an independent film producer back in August. Well, Mitchell Cohen, the guy making the movie, just got his first short fim, Peter's Price, picked up for worldwide distribution. The article happens to mention that Mr. Cohen is currently in preproduction for the movie version of my 'acclaimed' story, so I take it the project is still on track. Just one more reason to vote for my story in the Spinetingler Awards, really. Who among my competition can say they sold the movie rights to their story?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Spinetingler Awards

I've been living under a rock since Thanksgiving, so much to my surprise, when I finally peek my head out and take a look around, there's all kinds of activity. First and foremost, the nominations for the Spinetingler Awards have been announced. They are gratifying on more than one level. First off, a lot of independent publishers got a lot of love, more than they usually do from more established awards. Just check out the nominations in these categories:



Best Publisher:

Bitter Lemon Press; Europa Editions; Hard Case Crime; Poisoned Pen Press; and Text Publishing



Best Editor:

Charles Ardai, Hard Case Crime; Stacia Decker, Harcourt; Alison Janssen, Bleak House; Barbara Peters, Poisoned Pen Press; and Dave Thompson, Busted Flush



I am also thrilled to note that James Reasoner's novel Dust Devils has been nominated for Novel of the Year in the Legends category. (I note that it hasn't yet shown up on the Edgar submissions list. (Point Blank Press isn't on the MWA approved publisher list. Why that is I don't know.)
Suffice to say, if you don't vote for Mr. Reasoner's book, I will punch you or at least make fun of your clothes and haircut.




I also note, with a certain degree of humility, that my story, Amphetamine Logic, is up for Best Short Story on the Web. The competition is stiff in that category. Charles Ardai has a story in that category, and he's already won an Edgar. I won't threaten you into voting for my story, the same way I'm threatening you to get you to vote for James Reasoner, because that wouldn't be kosher, but I'd appreciate the vote.



How do you vote, you ask? Well, I'm just going to let Sandra Ruttan, who organized this whole enterprise speak to that:



Voting is open. ONE E-MAIL PER PERSON ONLY. You cannot send another vote in, even for a different category – multiple votes from the same sender will not be counted. Take the time to consider your votes carefully. E-mails must be received by December 30, 2007 - authors, if you're putting this in your newsletter make sure you are clear about the deadline for voting. Many recommendations were not considered in the first round because they were sent late.You may vote for one winner in each category as long as all votes are submitted in one e-mail. Simply state the category and your chosen winner for each of the eight categories. Any votes that contain more than one selection per category may be removed from consideration completely. No ties. Send your e-mail to sandra.ruttan@spinetinglermag.com with AWARD NOMINATIONS in the subject line. It is not necessary to explain the reason for your vote.



While I'm at it I should note that it seems that Ardai's novel Songs of Innocence, seems to be ineligible for and Edgar because it is, under the MWA's new rules, "self-published." Sarah Weinman broke the story, and has an interesting discussion about the topic. I can see both sides, myself. I suspect that what it boils down to is the MWA is afraid that allowing Ardai's novel in will open the door for anyone to join, and that would pretty much make the MWA's existence moot. The entire point of clubs is to exclude people. Of course, Ardai's already got an Edgar, so it's not like he can't slap "From Edgar Winning Author" on everything he writes from here on out.

Wednesday Paperback Cover


Another by Reginald Heade

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What the Amazon search engine thinks of lawyers

I just finished Danny King's new book School For Scumbags, and went to Amazon to see when the book is scheduled for US release. Here are the search results.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wednesday Paperback Cover

This should have been the title of Khruschev's memoirs

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hard Case Crime in the Houston Chronicle

There's a nice article on Hard Case Crime in the Houston Chronicle. It's a little heavy on the Mickey Spillane angle, but still good.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Amphetamine Logic Featured at Chatterific

Gerald So, fiction editor for Thrilling Detective, has decided to feature my short story Amphetamine Logic at his blog Chatterific on his DetecToday discussion list, to which Chatterific is a companion. This is a pleasant surprise. He's also featuring the novel, When One Man Dies, by Dave White. (Thanks to Seth Harwood for pointing this out.)

Wednesday Paperback Cover


True Romance

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Odds and Ends

Author Anthony Neil Smith has signed a two book deal with Bleak House books.

The October Soho Crime newsletter is available.

The comic books series, which I wrote about here, has been optioned by Paramount pictures. The movie will be directed by David Fincher.

Thuglit's new issue is a good one.

And, have you ever wondered what it would be like if Renfield and Igor teamed up to work as private eyes in 50's LA? Neither have I, but you can find out here. (You have to click on channels and then select Strange Detective Tales. I can't figure out how to directly link to the episode.)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Interested in Crime Comics?

I'm not a huge fan of comics these days. I started collecting them when I was about 12 and gave it up when I was 16 or so, and discovered you know, girls and other stuff. Still, I like crime stories, and there are a fair number of crime comics. Where can I find these comics, you ask? Well, here. It's like Amazon for comics. Subscribe individual issues or, if you prefer graphic novel compilations, subscribe to those. Also, you can find out about a lot of stuff you didn't know existed. ( No I have no idea why Ed Brubaker's Criminal isn't listed.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Review of Die With Me


Die With Me (Macadam Cage, 2007), by first time novelist Elena Forbes, is a competent, but hardly compelling, thriller. It focuses on London detective Mark Tartaglia’s search for a killer who seduces young girls over the Internet and then tosses them from high places. If this were all Tartaglia had to deal with it would be enough, but his boss and best friend is in a coma after a motorcycle accident and the woman brought in to replace him rubs him the wrong way and she might have a stalker and his partner’s love life is unfulfilling and his sister wants him to come to Sunday dinner and he’s been sleeping with the coroner who neglected to tell him she had a boyfriend. One might be tempted to say that Tartaglia’s real problem is not the killer but the sheer number of needy women in his life. It’s a wonder he’s not the one chucking female members of the species off bridges.

Even if you just chalk up Tartaglia’s patience with what goes on around him to a preternatural tolerance for annoying, selfish women, it’s still too much. Forbes juggles too many subplots and too many points-of-view. She never does it poorly. It’s always easy to tell what’s going on and whose perspective is being presented, but it all takes away from the central plot. Despite repeated chapters presented from the killer’s point-of-view, the murder mystery almost feels like an afterthought. The result is that the killer, when he surfaces in the investigation, is easy to spot, unless the reader is just not paying attention. Forbes would have been well served to have spent more time cultivating suspects and leading her characters down convincing blind alleys than dwelling on their personal lives.

Forbes could have also crafted a more compelling villain. His motivations are textbook (he had a less than ideal childhood, don’t you know) and his choice of victims and method of killing are not exactly terrifying. Tossing Emo kids to their deaths might, in some circles, be considered a public service. The fact that Forbes ends her book with a setup for a sequel featuring the same killer, does not bode well for the next installment in the series.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Kiss Me, Stupid: What is Mickey Spillane's Appeal?


The recent arrival of Dead Street, the latest Hard Case Crime release, and the final crime novel by writer (not author) Mickey Spillane, has got me wondering, exactly what is the appeal of the man's work? I intended to write a review of Dead Street, but I don't think I'm going to be able to finish it. It's too corny. This isn't my first attempt at reading Spillane. I've tried a couple times before and always given up. I'm beginning to think it's him, not me. I posed a similar question on the mailing list Rara Avis, and no one has yet to offer a real defense of Spillane's work. There has been a lot of talk about how successful he was, and there's no arguing with that. He was a one man publishing phenomenon, and one of the most successful writers of the 20th Century. Still, he's not any good. His characters are all the same-psychopathic thugs. His dialogue is stilted and ridiculous (Was there ever a time when men called women doll?) and his plots don't exactly leave room for shades of gray. Violence is always the answer. In Spillane's world there's no problem that can't be solved with a gun. It's always the first resort. In Dead Street, in a particularly stupid scene, the protagonist fantasizes about shooting a veterinarian in the face. A veterinarian who bought him coffee and wanted to talk to him. The veterinarian's mistake is bringing up a traumatic event from the protagonist's past. That's all it takes to set this guy off. That's not tough. It's pathetic. But Spillane doesn't present him as the damage case he obviously is. No, there's nothing wrong with this guy. Now, I like a tough guy protagonist. Take Westlake's Parker, for instance. He's a guy for whom violence is always the answer. But he's a crook and a psycho. Westlake doesn't hold him up as a hero. Violence also causes Parker as many problems as it solves. In Spillane's world violence only solves problems. Is that what made him so popular? Is there really a longing deep in the hearts of men to shoot every guy who says the wrong thing and every woman who does them wrong? If so, Spillane's success says a lot about human nature, none of it good.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wednesday Paperback Cover


The first rule of high school sex club is don't write books about high school sex club.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Review of Reasonable Doubts


Reasonable Doubts (Bitter Lemon Press, 2007) by Gianrico Carofiglio and translated by Howard Curtis, is a thinking man’s legal thriller. The third novel to feature defense lawyer Guido Guerrieri, Reasonable Doubts centers on Guerrieri’s efforts to clear a man convicted of drug trafficking after having been caught entering Italy with a car packed full of cocaine. Complicating matters is the fact that Guerrieri’s new client may or may not be a former fascist thug who once beat up his new lawyer for wearing the wrong color coat, and the fact that Guerrieri finds himself hopelessly smitten with his new client’s wife. His client, called Fabio Rayban, because of the brand of sunglasses he used to favor, might also be guilty.

Carofiglio, a former mafia prosecutor in Bari, where he sets his novels, does not provide any easy answers. The legal system renders verdicts, either guilty or not guilty, but the legal system is just a social construct set up to help people deal with complex sets of facts, and, even after a verdict is rendered, questions about the truth often remain. The author’s background and experience help him paint a vivid picture of the ambiguous nature of much legal work.

The book is slow at points, however, and may be a bit underwhelming for readers whose tastes run to two-fisted action or sensational crimes. It’s truly a novel of the legal system, and most of the action takes place in offices and courtrooms. The denouement is also a little too convenient. The protagonist, after having brought unwanted attention to some organized crime elements while trying to clear his client, has all of the impending danger disappear through a stroke of coincidence. After a long story about how easy answers aren’t easy to come by, the ending is a little too convenient, but then again, it’s fiction, and if we are to be denied easy answers in real life, shouldn’t we be able to find them somewhere?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hiding Your Interest in Sleaze

William Smith of Hangfire Books in Brooklyn has an interesting post about the lengths some people will go to to disguise their interest in prurient reading material. I'm kind of puzzled. I mean, whoever owned those books could have just put them in a drawer or a closet or something. Seeing a bunch of blacked out spines on a bookshelf would make me quite suspicious.

And, in case you missed it the first time, Mr. Smith has a killer Flickr feed of paperback covers. (via)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I feel like I've been slacking lately

I realize there hasn't been a lot of new content here lately, and I feel bad about that, but I've been quite busy with work, and I've been wandering off the reservation lately. I've been reading quite a bit, when I haven't been listening to the new Radiohead album. I've recently finished Terrill Lankford's Earthquake Weather, which was an entirely entertaining novel that answered a lot of questions I had about the movie business. (Yes, it's evil, in case you were wondering.) I've also read Ed Gorman's western Bad Money, which I also enjoyed very much. It was a pleasant surprise because I'm not a huge fan of westerns. The only western movies I really like are The Wild Bunch and High Plains Drifter, so I was pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed Mr. Gorman's work. It was the first western I've read, although I plan to read James Reasoner's recent work, Death Head Crossing, in the near future, because if it's half as good as Dust Devils, it will still be kick ass.

Wednesday Paperback Cover




Similar titles, similar themes.

Friday, October 12, 2007

An Epiphany of Sorts

Bryon Quertermous has a revelation about the value of independent presses. He admits to past prejudice against indie publishers, which seems silly to me. If I were to publish a book, a small publisher who's going to actually pay attention to my work would seem attractive compared to a huge publishing conglomerate where it would likely languish midlist while all of the available marketing budget got redirected to promoting some book about a professor who happens to look exactly like Tom Cruise who discovers that Jesus was really a space alien and must race against the clock to stop Nazis from exploiting ancient alien artifacts disguised as religious relics to bring about the end of the world, while romancing a female grad student who happens to look just like Scarlett Johansen.

(P.S. Hollywood Producers: Feel free to use my story idea for your next summer "blockbuster." All I ask is 20 percent on the back end and a co-producer credit.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The I forgot it was Wednesday Paperback Cover


Two sides of the same coin. The title on the left, was by William S. Burroughs. The one on the right, by some guy.

Monday, October 8, 2007

And the Winners Are

Keith Rawson and Seth Harwood have both won a copy of Reasonable Doubts by Gianrico Carofiglio.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Reviews of Kill Clock and The Killer

Allan Guthrie’s latest offering, Kill Clock, (Barrington Stoke, 2007) is an adult story written so children could read it. The simplicity of style is intentional, as Barrington Stoke is a publishing house devoted to putting out books for reluctant readers. Billed as a novella, Kill Clock takes less time to read than many short stories written for less-than-reluctant readers.

The story follows Edinburgh thug, Pearce, from Two-Way Split and Hard Man as he tries to rescue his former fiancée from a local loan shark. Pearce is, as usual, reluctant to get involved. When his ex, Julie, shows up with a story about how her newly dead husband owed a lot of money, and she has to pay it back or be killed, he thinks she’s putting him on. After all, she ran off with the engagement ring he gave her years ago. Even after Julie is kidnapped in front of him, and her two children, Pearce is still skeptical about her story, but he feels he has no choice but to get involved because of Julie’s kids.

Kill Clock moves quickly, but it’s such a short story that it has to. It takes place after the events of Hard Man, but they are alluded to only in a vague way. The lack of background is understandable because of the nature of the writing Guthrie is doing, but Pearce is becoming problematic. He’s been through a lot. He found his sister dead of a drug overdose. His mother bled to death in his arms, and he watched a man get crucified. Through it all, he has remained the same hard headed tough guy. It’s beginning to stretch credulity. If Guthrie is going to carry on with Pearce, as seems likely, the character is going to have to grow and change to stay viable. In Kill Clock there are hints that Pearce may take. Hopefully, Guthrie will expand on those hints the next time he brings his fans another Pearce story.

The Killer (Archaia Studio Press, 2007) by writer Matz and artist Luc Jacamon, is a not terribly original story about a hitman who is struggling to stay sane while he tries to retire in peace. Crime fiction is full of hitmen who suffer existential crises and try to get out of the business only to find out it’s not easy to quit. The Killer would be boring if it weren’t a graphic novel. Comic books have a tendency to be over the top, which is only natural given that most of the characters in comics wear tights and have superpowers. It’s an over the top premise. The problem comes when comic artists and writers try to tell a story that should be done in a realistic fashion, but can’t leave the visual and verbal hyperbole behind. The Killer doesn’t have that problem. It’s subdued in it’s presentation, for a comic book. The title character isn’t some sort of super killing machine. He’s a man. A lonely man, and the violence, while graphic isn’t over the top. Aside from Ed Brubaker’s Criminal series, there isn’t a lot of crime fiction being published in graphic novel format these days, and for that reason, The Killer is a welcome volume.

If you're interested in The Killer, be sure to check out the online Flash version of the comic book, here.



Friday, October 5, 2007

Still Time to Win Reasonable Doubts

There's still time to enter my Reasonable Doubts giveaway. If you want to be entered to win one of two copies of this new book from Bitter Lemon Press email me at IndieCrime-at-Gmail-dot-com. Put contest in the subject line and your address in the body. Deadline is Sunday.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Win Reasonable Doubts by Gianrico Carofiglio



Okay people, I have now received three, count em, three copies of Reasonable Doubts by Gianrico Carofiglio. This book, put out by Bitter Lemon Press, is a legal thriller, and the author is a former organized crime prosecutor in Italy.
Since I only need one copy, I'm passing the other two copies to you. If you want to win one, just shoot me an email with contest in the subject line. Include your name and address. It's the same old story: I'll number the emails in the order they're received and then use a random number generator to pick the winners. The deadline is Sunday, Oct. 6.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Review of Slide

Slide (Hard Case Crime, 2007) is slick. With the follow up to last year’s Bust, Ken Bruen and Jason Starr have raised the bar. Bust, which introduced spineless businessman Max Fisher and his shallow squeeze Angela Petrarkos, was a black comedy of errors; noir with a grin. The sequel is comic, but it’s not just slapstick. It’s satire.

The latest installment in the planned trilogy follows Max, who is busy reinventing himself after losing everything, and Angela, who is busy in Ireland, trying to find a man to take care of her. Max reinvents himself as a drug dealer, and Angela, as is her custom, takes up with Slide, an aspiring serial killer, who’s having some trouble with the kidnapping business because he lacks the self-control necessary to not kill the victim before he gets paid. The novel is written in a breezy, casual tone, and there are plenty of laughs. After Slide and Angela hook up, he concocts a half-assed plan to kidnap…wait for it…Keith Richards. He doesn’t get Keith, but he does get someone else most readers will recognize. Another familar figure has a run in with Slide later in the book, and anyone who doesn’t laugh at these scenes probably has a sense of humor that runs to knock-knock jokes. Still, amusing as it is, the Slide and Angela storyline is not as compelling as Max’s story. He steals the show.

Slide
begins with Max Fisher at rock bottom. He wakes up after a world class drunk in a hotel in Alabama, with no money and no idea how he got there. This does not discourage Max, a self made man, who used to have it all. In no time, he has struck up relationship with Kyle, the dull witted desk clerk with a crack habit. In true entrepreneurial fashion, Max sees an opportunity, and he goes from penniless drunk to high living crack dealer in no time flat. Max Fisher is no more self aware than a cockroach, and, like a roach, he refuses to die. A legend in his own mind, Max, who starts calling himself “The M.A.X.”, is certain he is a celebrity. Fueled by coke, he daydreams about writing a column for The Wall Street Journal and having his own HBO series. His occasional glimmers of insight into the true nature of his situation are brief, and they always fade just as quickly as they arrive. Nothing can shake his relentless, delusional optimism. Max Fisher is an ugly American. He is a testament to economic opportunity and a cautionary tale at the same time. In that respect, he’s exactly like Donald Trump.

The authors’ aim, however, is not to make a point. They are out to have fun. Max was not created to make the reader contemplate the evils of capitalism or the insidious distortion of values that celebrity culture produces. Bruen and Starr set out to see how far they could push a stereotype. Max’s story not only satirizes American culture, it also satirizes noir. In noir, a character is usually undone by his desire. He wants money. He wants the woman. He wants peace of mind. When a noir character goes after those things, breaking society’s rules in the process, he is destroyed. In that sense, noir is a very conservative genre. The protagonist must suffer for his misdeeds. Not so with Max. He is greedy, gluttonous, slothful, lustful, prideful, wrathful and envious, and he still he slides by. People die because of his actions and he feels nothing. His existence a testament to the absurdity of the idea of justice.

When Max is hustled into a cop car, headed for a jail cell, he contemplates giving the cops a lock of his hair to sell on Ebay. Prison’s going to be great for his career, he thinks. He’s driven away with a grin on his face. He’s grinning at you, dear reader, because the joke is on you, and it’s pretty fucking funny.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

Saddlebums Interviews James Reasoner

Over at Saddlebums, a Western genre blog, there's a new interview with the one and only James Reasoner. Among the interesting things you will learn: He never did get paid for the first publication of Texas Wind, and (this is the exciting part) he's plotting another Texas set crime novel "along the lines of Dust Devils," which is surely a reason to celebrate.
(Thanks to (Gonzalo Baeza)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Review of Texas Wind

Texas Wind (Point Blank, 2004) by James Reasoner is a book that enjoyed cult status over the years and, in light of the author’s recent reemergence on the crime fiction scene with Dust Devils, it bears a second look.

The setup is simple. Cody, a private detective, is hired by the stepmother of a missing college student to find her. It seems like an open and shut case of elopement, until the girl’s finger shows up, along with a demand for ransom. Has she really been kidnapped? Are she and her boyfriend trying to get some money from her family? Or, is she dead? Finding the answer will bring Cody face to face with the mob, and the consequences of young love gone wrong.

Texas Wind is not as polished and perfect as Dust Devils, but that is understandable, considering Reasoner had 27 years between books to hone his skills. Still, Wind is well crafted, and there is no waste. In fact, the book is so economical that a subplot involving Cody and his admirer Janice seems squeezed in. The couple goes from first date to professions of love in no time flat. It’s a minor complaint. A fast moving, focused story is better than a bloated, turgid one any day. In writing, knowing what to leave out is just as important as knowing what to leave, and Reasoner knows.

Texas Wind is not as engaging as Dust Devils, but that does not really matter, since very few hardboiled crime tales can rise to the level of Reasoner's most recent effort. Texas Wind is still well worth reading.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hard Case Crime Partners with Barnes & Noble for Discussion Group

The latest Hard Case Crime newsletter is chock full of news. The biggest item being their new online crime book club in partnership with Barnes and Noble. It goes public Oct. 1, and Jason Starr, Ken Bruen, Allan Guthrie, Duane Swierczynski, Charlie Huston, and Megan Abbott are going to be participating. When it goes live it will be http://www.bn.com/crime, so set a bookmark if you're so inclined.

Also, HCC has announced two new titles. The first, by Max Allan Collins, is called The First Quarry, and will presumably be about the first adventure of the titular hitman. The second is The Max, the final installment in the Starr/Bruen collaboration that includes Bust and Slide. The Max will take the characters from the first two novels and drop them in prison, which is where they belong really.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Let's Have A War



Out of the Gutter has a television ad. Soundtrack by Fear.

Hat tip to Victor Gischler

Bonus Video
Fear's infamous Saturday Night Live performance of New York's All Right...If You Like Saxophones

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Beyond The Groovy Age of Horror

A big hat tip J. Kingston Pierce over at The Rap Sheet for bringing Beyond the Groovy Age of Horror to my attention. While there's horror stuff there, if that's your thing, but there's plenty of crime fiction covers and capsule reviews you can kill time reading. One of the posters also has a sideline in posting scans from Fumetti (graphic novels), that are disturbing on many levels. They're Western Civilization's answer to tentacle porn. (And, yes, those last four links may be NSFW, and your sanity. You've been warned.)

Wednesday Paperback Cover


Best title ever.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Story So Far...

I recap The Story So Far, for the latest episode of Seth Harwood's podcast Jack Palms II: This is Life. You can read my interview with Seth, whose first novel is coming out in March, here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

No Country for Young Men?

A week ago Bryon Quertermous asked a question on his blog about why the crime fiction story market seems lackluster compared to other genres, specifically, sci-fi, fantasy and horror. The ensuing discussion on his blog didn't really answer the question, but it did raise another one, which I was already pondering: Is crime fiction an old people's game?
What we generally think of as crime fiction started in the first half of the 20th Century. You can trace the genre back to Poe, sure, but most people would classify Poe as a horror writer. Even "Murders in the Rue Morgue" could be called a horror story. Sure, it featured a detective trying to solve a crime, but the killer was an orangutan with a straight razor. An orangutan with a razor is scary, but he's not exactly Professor Moriarty is he? In the 20's and 30's you had locked room mysteries and Agatha Christie, who topped Poe for half-assed endings and implausible scenarios with Murder on the Orient Express, where everyone on the train was guilty. It makes a homicidal orangutan seem plausible.
At roughly the same time as Agatha Christie and her contemporaries were writing about well heeled detectives and murderers Dashiell Hammett was, as Raymond Chandler put it, [giving] murder back to the alley, and the kind of people who do it for a reason." One only needs to read Red Harvest to know that Hammett's early efforts were not necessarily any more believable than Christie. Unlike Christie, however, Hammett's work changed over time, and he eventually wrote some believable stories.
And there you have it. The two schools of crime fiction: Cozies and Hard boiled. Not much has changed in crime fiction since the 1930s. As such, it's not hard to see why crime fiction fans may tend to skew old. My recent experiences tend to bear this out. Over Labor Day I went to the Decatur Book Festival where I attended a panel with three mystery writers. I'm 30, and I was, by far, the youngest person in the room. The next day I stopped by Dragon Con, a huge science fiction and fantasy convention, where I attended a panel on podcasting. The room was packed with young people, and Scott Sigler, an author/podcaster, was greeted like a rock star. So was the founder of Podiobooks.com, who wasn't even on the panel. He was just in the audience, but when someone pointed him out, the crowd burst into applause.
Why the young, enthusiastic crowd at the panel composed mostly of science fiction podcasters and the sedate, older crowd at the crime fiction panel? The answer, I think, is that science fiction has to reinvent itself every few years. The genre is based largely on technological developments, and, must stay fresh. Now that we've sent probes to Mars, little green men aren't really plausible anymore. Hell, with the advent of human/animal embryos, The Island of Dr. Moreau no longer seems all that far fetched. My point is that young people can see their world reflected in science fiction. With crime fiction, authors are still working largely off templates drawn up before the Second World War. The genre deals with actions and motives that are as old as Cain and Abel. Not a lot has changed since then. One thing that Seth Harwood said when I interviewed him him really stuck with me: "When kids stop reading Harry Potter they have to read something else. Hopefully we can get them to read crime fiction." To me, that seems like an optimistic statement. I'm not sure crime fiction is in a position to do that at the moment. Sure, it appealed to me when I was in high school, but I'm fully prepared to admit that my tastes aren't exactly mainstream. If I really like something that's a good indication it will never sell ten million copies. So, how do you make crime fiction appeal to younger readers? The answer is simple: Make it reflect the world around them. How, exactly do you do that without resorting to gimmicks or obscuring the essential truths crime fiction touches on? I wish I knew.

Wednesday Paperback Cover


As opposed to doing it for money

Monday, September 10, 2007

Somebody Owes Me Money





I always have fun checking out Hard Case Crime's Web site every month to see what their latest title is. Their June 2008 offering will be a reprint of Donald Westlake's Somebody Owes Me Money. The Hard Case cover, I think, represents a great improvement over the original, which is very 1969.





Saturday, September 8, 2007

Interview with Seth Harwood



Podcaster and novelist Seth Harwood was in town last week, and he took the time to sit down and talk a little about his work. Seth is currently in the middle of podcasting his second novel, This is Life, featuring washed up actor Jack Palms. He has podcasted Jacks first adventure, Jack Wakes Up, which will see print in March from Breakneck Books. He's also podcasted a collection of non-crime short stories called A Long Way from Disney.



What made you decide to go the podcast route, as opposed to what David Wellington did with putting his horror novels up on the ‘net?

I got really interested in the net about a year and a half ago. So first it was all about short stories for me. I published like a dozen short stories in small literary journals. They’re not crime, and it’s like I get my two copies and tell my friends about it and they say great, but no one can ever read it because no one can find it. There’s no distribution with them. Then I got a story accepted by this online place and all of a sudden everyone was reading it, and I could tell my friends go to this site and read it and I was getting a lot of feedback from that, so I got the idea to start my Web site and put my stuff there, and I wanted to put Jack Wakes Up there. When I started thinking about that I was in Boston, where I’m from originally, and one guy said I should do a podcast, and he connected me with Scott Sigler, who is huge in podcasting, and Scott basically walked me through how to get it started. I don’t know how Wellington did it, but it seemed to me like it was easier to get people to listen to a podcast right of the bat, than to read my stuff online.

What made you want to move into genre fiction, as opposed to staying with the short fiction?

I was working on writing a novel, and I was doing my best to read literary novels, and I started trying to write a literary novel and I didn’t know what to write it about. I got to a point where I was like, let me write a novel I’m going to have fun with. It’s going to have action. It’s not going to be 100 percent character driven. It’s going to have plot points. Things are going to happen. People are going to have guns. This is the type of stuff that excites me, so I said, ‘let me do something and have fun with it.’

Jack Wakes Up is getting published. How did that work? Did the publisher come to you? Were you shopping it around while you were podcasting? How did that come about?

I've been shopping this book around before, during and after I podcast it. My initial idea was that someone (an agent or an editor) would appreciate this initiative and my audience when I told them about it in a cover letter. That never happened. Bascially, I've come to see that they want something they can trust--an Amazon sales rank is what they feel they can trust. As a result of this, having the book published and selling it becomes a necessary part of marketing it. Seems odd, but what you're really marketing is yourself as a writer and a "brand." So be it. With that in mind, I started contacting smaller publishers, knowing that my own marketing through the podcast would be what sold the book anyway.

Luckily, Jeremy Robinson of Breakneck Books, a guru and a veteran of online independent publishing, realized that the audience I've created can translate immediately to selling books. Now we're working together: he's doing all the book-side stuff that I don't know about and I'm rolling out the podcast audience promotion. The listeners have already named the plan: it's called "Shake 'Em Down on Amazon.com!" after Jack Palms' fictitious big action movie, Shake 'Em Down. And with Jack Palms being the protagonist, there's no better day for the book to come out than Palm(s) Sunday!

How involved are fans of your podcast?

All my artwork is from my fans. Most of my cool marketing ideas come from my fans. Some of the fans are doing voices on the podcast. That’s another cool thing about podcasting. There’s so much back and forth with them (fans). The relationship with the fans is one of the best things about it (podcasting).

Do you write from an outline?

No. I’m a big believer in a lot of your best writing and material development coming from your subconscious. Whatever you know in your conscious mind there’s other stuff that’s back there and you just have to write it. You have to be writing to access that stuff. If you’re writing you can pull it out of there and it becomes the story. To me it seems like writing is an exploration, and often for me the most exciting stuff that happens are the things I don’t predict. The most exciting days are the days where I sit down and something completely blows me away and surprises me, and I have to stop writng and be like, ‘can this really happen? Am I okay with this? Can I deal with working this in?’ And those things often end up being some of the best stuff.

Talk about Jack a little bit. Where did he come from?

Have you ever seen The Transporter? It's a bad movie right? But here was this guy (Jason Statham) who I had only seen in this serious movie (Guy Ritchie's Snatch) where he was a funny character gets into this movie and kicks the shit out of hundreds and hundreds of guys. To me that seemed utterly ridiculous, and I was like ‘What would happen if a guy who was just a normal actor was in this movie and did huge amounts of ass kicking. What would happen to his life is he was suddenly perceived as this big ass kicker, and he wasn’t doing acting anymore and he had to deal with people on the street.

Who are your influences?

People like Elmore Leonard and Robert Parker. A lot of my early crime influences are people I would listen to. I’ve never read an Elmore Leonard book, but I would listen to them on tape in the car. A lot of my early influences came about from listening to them in the car, and now I’m doing podcasts. It’s sort of come full circle. When I was growing up I read a lot of Michael Connelly. I read a lot of comic books. Stephen King. Now, I’m into Chandler and Lawrence Block.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Noir Cat...

noir-cat-doesnt-mind-a-reasonable-amount-of-trouble.jpg

Yeah, LOLcats have been around for a while, but someone finally made a cat macro that's relevant to my interests.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Wednesday Paperback Cover


I acquired this book at the Decatur Book Festival this past weekend

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Cornucopia of Cover Art


It's been a while since I posted an honest to goodness book porn link, apart from my Wednesday Paperbacks. Well, that changes now. Hope you've got some time on your hands. (via.)

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Long Weekend


As I predicted, it was a busy weekend. I went to the Decatur Book Festival on Saturday, where I bought a copy of Wall Street Noir, from Akashic's booth and picked up some vintage paperbacks. I left my credit card at home, fortunately, otherwise I would have likely ended up with first editions of Miami Blues and Night of the Jabberwock. While I would love to have them, they would have set me back a total of $450. Someday.
I also attended a panel with James O. Born, Con Lehane, and a woman whose name I can't remember. It was getting late in the day by that point, and my blood sugar dropped suddenly and I had to get out of there and get some food, so I didn't stick around to make small talk or get a book signed.

On Sunday I went downtown to DragonCon and met Seth Harwood. We had a long, wide ranging conversation about all things crime fiction and podcasting, including Seth's podcast novels, one of which is being published in March. At Seth's invitation I attended a panel he was on about podcasting fiction. It was an eye opening experience. The room was packed. DragonCon is huge, and people have no shortage of choices when it comes to attending panels. A lot of them chose to come to this one, and they were very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about podcast fiction, most of which is science fiction and fantasy. Seth is, as far as I know, the only crime fiction writer making a go of podcasting.

Be sure to stay tuned. My interview with Seth will be up soon.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Based on An Original Story by Nathan Cain

In July, my story "Amphetamine Logic" was published in Thuglit, where it got the attention of an aspiring filmmaker named Mitchell Cohen. He's already made one neo-noir short film, Peter's Price, and he wanted to use my story as the basis for his next effort. Needless to say, I was flattered and, after seeing Peter's Price, I was certain he would do a good job interpreting my story. To make a long story short, it's official now, as we've come to an agreement, and a contract has been signed. I'm excited, and I can't wait to see how it will turn out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Busy Weekend

Atlanta's going to be a happening place this weekend. First off, there's the Decatur Book Festival, which will have more authors than you can shake a stick at, including an interesting looking panel featuring Con Lehane and James O. Born, which I plan on attending.
In the other direction, geographically and intellectually, downtown Atlanta will be host to Dragon Con. I'm not actually going to attend DragonCon because I'm afraid that I might hit the first grown man I see dressed as a Storm Trooper. I am, however, going to interview Seth Harwood, who will be in town for the event. Seth has garnered a loyal following with his Jack Palms podcasts, and recently landed a book deal for his first Palms novel, Jack Wakes Up, which will be published by Breakneck Books next year. Look for the interview here early next week.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Review of Tango for a Torturer

Daniel Chavarria’s latest novel, Tango for a Torturer, (Akashic, 2007) is more fairy-tale for aging communists than mystery. The novel tells the story of Aldo Bianchi, a successful Argentine businessman, and former victim of the military police in that country, who finds his old nemesis, Orlando Ortega Oritz, the notorious CIA trained torturer who made his life a living hell. With the help of a prostitute named Bini, who has a relationship with both men Aldo sets in motion an elaborate plan to destroy his enemy.

The story itself is straightforward, but Chavarria approaches it elliptically, and the constant diversions, detours and asides may try the patience of readers who are used to the more straightforward style of English language fiction. Chavarria’s story jumps around in time, and point-of-view, something that is apparently common in Spanish language fiction. Still, the novel is never too confusing, and if one is patient all will be revealed.

The main weakness of Tango for a Torturer is Chavarria’s naïve worldview. Communism was very 20th Century, and Chavarria, a Uruguayan living in Cuba, is in the awkward position of having outlived his own ideology. The book rightly condemns state sponsored violence, and Aldo’s revenge is certainly just, but the irony of writing a novel condemning such a thing while living in Cuba seems entirely lost on the author. It’s not like Castro has a history of caring deeply about the human rights of his opponents, or homosexuals or Jehovah’s witnesses. In the book, Aldo frames Triple-O for a hit-and-run. Triple-O is sent to a Cuban prison, which sounds more like a social club than a place of punishment. It’s a place, not fraught with violence and fear, but full of culture. One of Triple-O’s fellow inmates is memorizing the Iliad in five different languages. Everyone seems to think this is a laudable goal, and wants to hear him recite ancient poetry. In sunny Cuba, under Castro’s benevolent rule, even jail is a center of culture.

Bini, the prostitute, is a communist daydream as well. It is made very clear that she whores, not because of economic deprivation, but because she enjoys it. She’s a noble savage, poor, but committed to justice. When Aldo asks for her help in framing Triple-O, she does it for nothing, even though it means she must spend time behind bars. If this has the distinct ring of bullshit, that’s because it’s bullshit. Let’s not forget, however, that Castro has been known to jail people for publishing works abroad without official consent. Of course, if jail is so great in Cuba, one wonders what Mr. Chavarria has to worry about.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Anarchy and Old Dogs in the NYT

The latest offering from Soho Crime, Anarchy and Old Dogs,by Colin Cotterill, gets a positive review from Janet Maslin. Cotterill, in addition to being the author of a series of crime novels set in Laos, is also a cartoonist.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007