Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
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
Sunday, October 21, 2007
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
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
And, in case you missed it the first time, Mr. Smith has a killer Flickr feed of paperback covers. (via)
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
(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
Monday, October 8, 2007
Saturday, October 6, 2007
The story follows
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.