The Session by Aaron Petrovich (Akashic, 2007) is not a traditional crime story. It's not a traditional story of any sort. Billed as "a novella in dialogue," it could have just as easily been described as a play without stage directions. The story centers around detectives Smith and Smith, who may or may not be the same person, and may or may not be inmates in an insane asylum. The Smiths are tasked with finding out who killed The Mathematician, who was murdered while giving a lecture on Essencism, a new apocalyptic cult he proposed to found. Plot is of secondary importance, in the story, however. It is really a word game. Petrovich has clearly studied his Beckett and Stoppard. Much like Estragon and Vladimir or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Smith and Smith pass their time more consumed with banter and word games than with accomplishing anything. At his best, Petrovich 's dialogue is like an existential Abbot & Costello routine. There is a particularly funny passage involving a play on the words "patients" and "patience," that reads like a vaudeville skit. At his worst, Petrovich seems to be willfully pretentious, being vague merely for the sake of vagueness. Unlike Beckett's, Waiting for Godot, however, the mystery at the heart of The Session does have a solution. Petrovich is merciful in that respect.
If anything exists it is incomprehensible. If anything is comprehensible it is incommunicable. That quote from Gorgias precedes, and serves to divide, Charles Willeford's The Burnt Orange Heresy, which I reread this weekend. I reread it to put things in perspective. Some days you wake up and it seems like all the things you want for yourself, everything you've been working for is out of your reach, and only getting farther and farther away. I've been feeling like that a lot recently, so I went to the library and picked up Willeford's book. The story serves to remind you what kind of person you can become if you want something too much. Even though I knew what was coming, I still laughed when Figueras finally got into Debierue's studio and found out what the great genius had spent his life doing. Hell, I'm smirking thinking about it now. I think it's one of my all time favorite moments in fiction. Someday, I will commission a bronze statue of Debierue, and at the base will be a plaque with Gorgias' conclusions about existence. "Who is Debierue?" People will ask. "No. One." I will tell them. "What is that quote supposed to mean?" They will continue. "Nothing." I will say, and shrug.
Authors published by Midnight Ink, including Keith Raffel and Tim Maleeny, have come together to form a new group blog, Inkspot. This is, as far as I know, the first group blog with its memebership defined by publisher. It's an interesting idea, and hopefully, will benefit the authors and the publisher.
In their last newsletter Bleak House Books announced they would be publishing authors reading their stories from These Guns for Hire. Now, three weeks late, I finally noticed that, true to their word, they have posted Ken Bruen reading his short story "Punk." Enjoy.
There is a new interview with Charles Ardai over at Things I'd Rather be Doing. The most interesting thing I learned reading it is that they have ARCs of Slide, and they're going to be giving away a dozen copies to people on the Hard Case Crime mailing list. You can go to Hard Case's Web page to sign up if you want a chance to win. Just scroll down to the bottom of the page and put your email address in the box.
I will also take this opportunity to remind those of you in New York City that you will be able to see Jason Starr read from Slide at 7 p.m. April 22, at KGB (85 East 4th Street), as part of a Hard Case Crime reading event. Peter Pavia, Max Phillips, and Charles Ardai will also be on hand.
Speaking of Starr, I'm about halfway through The Follower, which comes out in August from St. Martin's Minotaur. No one does shallow and callow characters better than Starr. If you don't believe me read this, or this, and then get back to me. He reminds me of Bret Easton Ellis without the hype, and with more believable characters and plots. His characters are often unsympathetic, which I think has limited his appeal, but I think The Follower is going to change that. It's got a sympathetic character at its center and it's about beautiful young people in Manhattan. It's still got plenty of the self absorbed and completely oblivious characters that are Starr's trademark, but I think a lot people will find it more palatable than, say, Hard Feelings, which is my favorite Starr novel. I'll also be very surprised if The Follower doesn't get made into a movie.
Moving right along, Ray Banks has a redesigned Web site and is blogging again. I've got Donkey Punchon my to be reviewed pile, and I'm planning on starting it this week. It's getting released in the UK in May.
First, I started a blog. Then, I started fooling around on Myspace. Now, after a week or so of reading about it, I finally went and checked out Crimespace. It seems like a neat idea, but it's crashed Firefox repeatedly on two different computers, so I don't know how often I'm going to bust out IE or Opera and visit. As a raging introvert, I find it easy to be overwhelmed by the multitude of opportunities for social interaction that the Internet now offers. I thought computers were supposed to isolate us from each other dammit! Wasn't that how this was supposed to work? I think I'm just going to turn the computer off for a while.
Allan Guthrie (who has now appeared in a record three posts in a row) has a new interview up at Behind the Black Mask: Mystery Writers Revealed. I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet. My Internet connection has been acting up, but I'm downloading it now. Scroll one post down, or click here to read my review of Hard Man. It's one of the most disconcerting books I've ever read.
Allan Guthrie’s latest offering, Hard Man (Polygon, 2007), is a kick in the teeth. A novel about what it means to be tough, its unflinching depiction of violence is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness. Hard Man reintroduces Pearce, the unlucky thug who first appeared in Two Way Split, having been released from prison just in time to watch his mother get murdered in a botched post office robbery. Pearce has settled down, bought an apartment, and gotten a dog, which he has named after his mother, even though it is male. Pearce is drifting through life, with no particular plans, when he is approached by the highly dysfunctional Baxter clan, who want him to protect their youngest member, 16 year-old May, from her husband Wallace, who has found out that the child she is carrying belongs to another man. Pearce declines to tackle Wallace, but later changes his mind when his dog disappears and Wallace is the prime suspect. Hard Man starts out pretty tame, but once it get going it builds momentum until it goes off the rails. In that way, it resembles a Jacobean drama and, like those dramas, its greatest weakness is its unrestrained violence. At this story’s heart is an abrupt turn that rivals the final chapters of Jim Thompson’s The Getaway for sheer ugliness. The sudden shift in tone and direction is unsettling, and the act of violence that triggers it cries out for more explanation. It is not giving away too much to say that Wallace is the perpetrator, and that, while he does seem like a hard man, he never comes off as being the sort of stone crazy lunatic who is capable of doing what he does. Guthrie shifts point of view, offering the reader glimpse into the heads of each character, but the glimpses afforded into Wallace’s mindset are not enough to fully explain his actions. The more terrible an act of violence the more context it requires, and Guthrie should have let the reader spend more time with Wallace. While one character’s motives may fall short, Guthrie’s storytelling abilities are in full effect. Unlike his second novel, Kiss Her Goodbye, there is no whodunit element, and the plot barrels along at a breakneck pace, especially for the final third of the book, where there is enough violence and dark humor to satisfy every crime fiction fan. Once Guthrie hits his stride it's over. There's no going back. The sadism in this story will be disconcerting to all, and may be a deal breaker for those with more sensitive constitutions, but Hard Man is like a gory car crash. You look at the carnage. You look away, filled with horror. Then you look again. You can’t help it.
I was kind of stunned when I saw this today. I read Allan Guthrie's Hard Man a couple of weeks ago, and (Stop reading here if you don't want to learn a plot point of Guthrie's new novel.)
it also prominently features a crucifixion. What are the odds that two prominent UK crime writers would both use a two-thousand year old method of execution in novels that are coming out at the same time? Was there some real crime they were both drawing from for inspiration, or is it an instance of hard-boiled minds thinking alike? I'll be curious to see how Bruen handles it, because I've been wrestling with that particular incident in Guthrie's book. It was an unsettling plot development and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand I was repulsed, and felt like the act needed more explanation, but at the same time I couldn't quit reading. I'm very curious to hear what Guthrie has to say about it, and will be first in line to listen to his interview at Behind the Black Mask, when it is posted tommorrow.
I've got to hand it to the folks at Out of the Gutter Magazine. They've put together a helluva fun package with great content. I haven't read it all yet, but I've got to say Victor Gischler's story Final Tally, is worth the price of admission all by itself. It starts with a guy who kills someone for leaving a grocery cart in the middle of a parking space. Let me tell you, I know where Gischler got the inspiration for that one. People who leave their goddamn grocery carts in the middle of the parking lot are the lowest of the low. I Hate Them. Great Story.
I missed this, but Pedro Almodovar is going to direct an adaptation of Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet. Jonquet's novel has been translated from French into English by Donald Nicholson-Smith, who is also responsible for translating a couple of Jean-Patrick Manchette's novels into English. Tarantula sounds like an S & M affair, and Almodovar has experience with tht sort of thing.
Hard Case Crime has a Myspace page, but they only have three friends. Everyone at Hard Case Crime is no doubt sad and lonely and thinks no one likes them. Charles Ardai and Max Philips are probably sitting in their rooms listening to Disintegration and feeling sorry for themselves right now. Only Robert Smith understands their pain. So everyone with a Myspace page should go sign up to be their friend before they get really depressed and start listening to this.
Over at the Thrilling Detective blog Kevin Burton Smith notes that two Warren Zevon albums are getting re-released on CD this month. Neither The Envoy, nor Stand in the Fire, has ever been released on CD before, so either you hunted them down on vinyl, as I did, or you missed out. Rhino Records is now streaming both albums on their Web site, however, so go listen to The Envoy, or, Stand in The Fire now.
This weekend I was laid low with a stomach virus, so I laid out of work today. Luckily, with the publication of Brian Quertermous' Blog Short Story project, there was no shortage of reading material. I also got through Soul Patch, so it wasn't a bad day, despite the stomach flu.
I know I've got some Canadian regulars out there, and I'm asking for some input. None of the publishers I've linked on this blog are Canadian. I can't think of any Canadian crime writers off the top of my head, either. I'm sure Canada must have publishers and crime writers, so I blame myself for this lack of knowledge. What I want from you is to know who are some good Canadian crime authors and what are some good crime publishers based in the Great White North? Leave a comment or email me. (Note: You don't have to be Canadian to participate.)
Meet Obadiah. He's a pit bull, but not a mean one. In fact, he's so friendly he's a bit of a pain in the ass, kind of needy, you could say. What really pisses me off about him, though, isn't his neediness, which often manifests itself as demands for attention at 5 a.m., but his penchant for destroying packages. If Fed Ex or UPS delivers something and sets it on the porch, forget it. He will tear it apart. That happened today, with a package containing four ARCs from Serpent's Tail and Bitter Lemon Press. Any other day this week it would not have been a big deal, but today it has been pouring down rain here in Asheville, and all of the books are waterlogged. They are all sitting out, on an old copy of the Wall Street Journal in the hope that they will be readable when they dry out. If I handle them too much now they will fall apart. Fortunately, most books I get sent make it into the house fine, but every once in a while, Obie gets to them first. He isn't much of a reader.
And here's a piece from the Virginian-Pilot on Hard Case Crime. (Hat tip to Tim Lockhart on the Rara-Avis mailing list)
New UK imprint Ocean House Press is releasing two books by David Callinan. They seem a little far-fetched for my taste, but I wish them luck with their new venture.
Akashic books has launched a new imprint, Hotel St. George Press. It's not going to be crime focused, but The Session, their initial offering, promises detectives, missing organs and a new religion. The protagonists are described as Keatonesque. Presumably they mean Buster, not Alex P. or Michael.
Allan Guthrie has announced titles and publication dates for some new novels:
Kill Clock (a novella) Sept. 2007, UK. (There is no U.S. release date yet. Hopefully, someone will pick it up)
Savage Night Oct. 2007, UK; June 2008, US
Slammer April 2008, UK, June 2009, US
Also, Ray Banks' Donkey Punch, which is getting a May release in the UK will be getting a Fall 2008 release in the States.
Welcome to the Indie Crime Blog. As the name implies, this blog is dedicated to reviews of crime fiction published by independent presses. There are many books published every year that seem to be ignored for a variety of reasons. The books sections of newspapers are getting smaller. Bookstores give more shelf space to more established authors. I could go on, but you get it.My intent is to review books both old and new in the hopes that some deserving writers and worthy publishers will gain some exposure. I can be emailed at IndieCrime-at-gmail-dot-com