Friday, July 27, 2007
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Monday, July 23, 2007
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Remember when Ursula K. LeGuin responded to a negative review of Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union by writing about the genre zombie rising from the grave to terrify critics? Well, someone has come up with a suitably pulpy cover for the story.
You can go here to download the cover and Leguin's writing as a PDF chapbook.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
I've been slack on the blog this week, what with the new job, and new apartment and all the complications that come along with both of those, but don't forget you can still send me an email with your address and contest in the subject line if you want to win a copy of Donkey Punch by Ray Banks. You know you want it. It's IndieCrime At Gmail Dot Com. The deadline is Sunday.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
Entries will be numbered in the ordered received and I will use a random number generator to pick the winner. The deadline is Sunday, July 22. The winner will be announced the 23rd. Good luck.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Friday, July 13, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
It's an agonizing process. Some choices are easy. For instance, there are a bunch of books I haven't read yet. Those are coming. My Hard Case Crime collection is coming, if for no other reason than I like how they look lined up on the shelf. My copy of Finnegan's Wake? It can stay. I've got to be honest with myself at this point, I'm never going to read it. I've tried. The same goes for A Confederacy of Dunces. I tried. I really did, but it's crap.
I've whittled something like ten boxes down to four, and I've still got a bunch of books in storage I'm just going to take without sorting.
The entire process has made me realize how attached I am to all my books, even the ones I haven't read in a while, or didn't particularly like. My books are my most important possessions, and the contents of my bookshelves say a lot about me. I know that I always peruse people's book collections when I'm in their house for the first time, and I do make judgments about people based on their books. I can't help it. As such, I wonder what people will think if I leave my Will Self books in a box. Will they think I don't know who he is? That I've never read anything he wrote? No. They won't. They'll think I have a really old television.
Over at Crimeboss.com they have galleries of 40s and 50s pre-code crime comics, including Crime Does not Pay. See the first page of Crime Does not Pay images here, or go straight to page two. You can go here, and see the entire list of available images.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
James Reasoner’s Dust Devils (Pointblank, 2007) is a hardboiled gem. A Texas set tale of a heist gone wrong, this short novel is the equal of anything written by masters like Westlake and Leonard.
Reasoner, who has devoted much of his time to historical fiction in recent years, shows he has not lost his touch with crime stories. His prose is stripped to the bone, but still evocative. His dialogue is entirely believable. The plot moves at a breakneck pace, and Reasoner follows Chandler’s advice: Every time it seems like the story might drag, a man with a gun walks into the room. There are also some twists that will send readers reeling. To say anything else would spoil the fun.
Dust Devils is one of the best novels of the year.
Hard Case Crime has decided to steal a move from the old Ace paperbacks playbook and offer a two-fer. Next April they will publish Shooting Star and Spiderweb by Psycho author Robert Bloch at the same time in one volume. Two books. Two covers. Nice.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Sunday, July 1, 2007
This review comes on the heels of Kevin Burton Smith's commentary "Neo-Nah," which has inspired a great deal of discussion on blogs and the Rara Avis mailing list. To summarize, Smith finds a lot of what passes as noir these days tasteless and sadistic. While Smith has refused to name names so far, I'm going to go ahead and guess that Hard Man is one of the books he's complaining about.
Al Guthrie has posted a response to both the Chron review and Smith comments at his blog. He also talks about his influences. I'm gonna say straight out that I find Guthrie's taste in movies somewhat questionable. (Ichi the Killer?) I don't think that Hard Man is torture porn, however. As I said in my review, the books owes a lot to Jacobean drama, and Jacobean drama was a bloody mess. You don't believe me, read The Duchess of Malfi some time.
Ugly violence alone doesn't make or break a story. King Lear, which I consider the greatest work ever written in English, has an on-screen eye gouging that's still pretty shocking, even in our violence soaked culture. While Hard Man is hardly Shakespeare, it isn't torture porn either.
And let me say, while I'm on the topic, that I think Smith should name names. The thing about art is it's entirely subjective, so no intellectually honest person can stay angry at you for long if you say you don't like their work.
The private investigator is seldom an integral part of a detective story. He serves as a catalyst, stirring up other characters and prompting them to act, but never has any personal stake in the action. If the detective didn’t stir things up, someone else would. Sure, Lew Archer liked some characters more than others, and he even liked one enough to sleep with, but much of the time Archer is almost invisible, and even when he isn’t, the terrible secrets he uncovers never affect him personally. It’s always someone else’s life falling apart.
With private investigator John Blake, Richard Aleas (aka Charles Ardai), has made it personal. Blake’s first outing, the Edgar nominated Little Girl Lost, had him trying to find out who killed his high school girlfriend on the roof of a strip club. The sequel, Songs of Innocence (Hard Case Crime, 2007), finds Blake retired from sleuthing and deeply emotionally scarred by what he found during his search for Miranda Sugarman’s killer. He finds himself attracted to a woman who is his equal in the emotional baggage department.
Dorothy Burke ran away from an unhappy childhood, and straight into an unhappy adulthood. She earns living jerking men off and she hates herself for it. She and Blake form their own two person support group, telling each other the dark secrets they would never tell anyone else. They have an agreement to call each other when they’re thinking about suicide. When Blake finds Dorothy dead in her bathtub with a plastic bag over her head and a copy of Final Exit nearby he’s hurt. She didn’t call. Blake is convinced someone killed Dorothy, and he is soon sucked into New York City’s sex trade, trying to find out the truth.
As he gets closer to the truth, however, the already fragile Blake begins to fall apart. He is beaten up, threatened, chased and framed for murder. It’s more than he can handle. In the end, Songs of Innocence is a portrait of mental disintegration as much as it is a detective story. Blake’s descent is what sets the story apart from others in the genre. In Blake, Aleas blends the self-destructive streak found in protagonists of noir masters like Goodis and Cain with the relentless drive to uncover the hidden that motivates the likes of Marlowe and Archer.
The detective aspects are competent, with the right revelations in the right places, leading to the uncovering of a secret that would fit nicely into a Ross MacDonald novel. No one familiar with PI tales will be shocked by the final secret. It’s the denouement that will shock. Aleas makes a bold move at the end of the book, one that is probably unprecedented in a private eye novel. It won’t sit well with many readers, but ultimately it makes sense.