And lo, it was a Christmas miracle as angels descended from the heavens and provided a humble blogger with an extra copy of Dave Zeltserman's forthcoming novel Killer, and told him that, since he already had one copy, he should spread the wealth. And, lo, the humble blogger, said, "Why the hell not."
So, here's the deal. You send an email to IndieCrimeatgmaildotcom with "Contest" in the subject line. Include your name and address. I will number the entries in the order in which I receive them. Then, on Dec. 31, I will use Random.org to pick a random number. If your number comes up, I drop a brand new copy of what is sure to be one of the best books of the year in the mail to you.
Good luck and Merry Christmas you sons of bitches.
Whatever else you can say about burlesque performer Jonny Porkpie's novel,The Corpse Wore Pasties (Hard Case Crime, 2009), it certainly wins the prize for book with the most underwear similes ever. It's all bra straps and g-strings as Porkpie rushes around New York trying to solve a murder in this not quite roman à clef of a novel.
Porkpie is both the detective and the main suspect in the murder of performer Victoria Vice, after handing her what was supposed to be a prop bottle of poison during a performance. The bottle wasn't a prop, and Victoria was a serial thief, ripping off other burlesque performer's acts as a matter of routine, so there is no shortage of suspects.
Porkpie never takes the book, or himself, too seriously, which is good because he makes the debut mystery author mistake of telegraphing the culprit early on in the story to anyone who's paying attention. The novel works better as a ribald comedy than as a murder mystery. Fortunately, Porkpie can be pretty funny, and his sense of showmanship translates pretty well onto the page. He knows how to create and amusing scene and milk it for all its worth.
I usually avoid best of the year type lists, because I don't read enough to make a serious assessment, but I've looked back at my reviews for 2009, and I've decided that if you don't read the following books you are a loser and suck.
Allan Guthrie's Slammer is the book of the year. At first, I thought Zeltserman had the top spot locked up, but this one wins out on review. It's a real leap forward for Guthrie. As I said in the review, it's "Guthrie's first grown up novel." In terms of Guthrie's writing and storytelling, it's an improvement on a style that was already worthy. If this is a glimpse of things to come, I can't wait.
Speaking of Zeltserman, Pariah, was great. It was pretty much perfect in every respect. You can't ask for more than perfection, can you?
While, Of All the Bloody Cheek, was published a long time ago, and reprinted many years ago, I just got around to reading it this year. I've never read anything quite like this comic hitman novel, and I doubt I ever will. Augutus Mandrell is quite the creation, and it is a pity he has been forgotten. Murder doesn't have to be serious.
Snitch Jacket by Christopher Goffard is another novel I came to late, but is still a must read. The story of loser and his friendship with a fake Vietnam vet, it's funny and touching and repulsive all at the same time. A cut above.
And last, but not least, The Big Wake Up by Mark Coggins. The pulpy nature of this one combined with a more realistic element really worked for me. I want to read more August Riordan mysteries, so mission accomplished Mr. Coggins.
I have, for reasons not yet entirely clear to me, started a twitter account to go with the blog. I haven't decided how I'm going to use it yet, but it will probably involve synergy and leveraging the power of social networking to build an internet brand. Or maybe I'll just screw around. So, be sure to follow me, because if you don't you will probably miss out on life changing information. (Just to be clear, I don't mean to imply that it will change your life for the better. It will just change your life, so you assume some risk.)
Gil Brewer’s mini-revival (is the prefix even appropriate anymore?) continues with the republication of his 1952 Fawcett novel Flight to Darkness (New Pulp Press, 2009). The book represents the new publisher’s first foray into reprints, and it seems like a worthwhile effort. Brewer’s work usually follows a fairly straightforward formula: A desperate guy meets a bad girl and proceeds to make questionable decisions until bad things happen, and it’s too late to fix them. It’s easy to accuse Brewer of being repetitive, and it’s true, he was, but his books have a certain desperation about them which makes them seem more immediate than the countless other mass market paperbacks of the era that depended on the same basic plot. Brewer’s effortless conjuring of desperate heroes is because his own life was so full of desperation.
Still, he had his faults. His books often seem rushed, probably because he was under duress to crank something out to get paid and because back in those days no one wanted a hundred thousand word manuscript. The fact that he was an alcoholic probably didn't help.
Flight to Darkness aspires to be more than the average Brewer novel, and it sometimes succeeds, but it still suffers from its ending. Darkness is the story of Korean War vet Eric Garth, who has acted heroically in battle, saving an injured man while under heavy fire. The incident took its toll on Garth, though, and he suffers from what would now be called post traumatic stress disorder.
Eric, a sculptor, is constantly haunted by the thought that he murdered his estranged half-brother Frank with a sculpting mallet. As the novel opens, Garth is being released to return to Florida with his fiancee Leda, a nurse he met while hospitalized, to claim his half of the family business from his half-brother Frank. The happy couple's trip is derailed in Alabama when Garth is accused of a hit and run. Garth has no memory of the incident, and when his brother shows up, local law enforcement is only too happy to institutionalize Garth indefinitely.
When he finally escapes, he finds out the charges were dropped long ago, so he sets out for Florida, where he discovers that Leda has married Frank, who has conspired to screw him out of the family business. Matters are further complicated by Eric's old flame, Leda's professed desire for him, and the not insignificant fact that Frank soon turns up dead, his head bashed in with a mallet.
The desperation that pervades Brewer's stories works especially well in this novel, since the protagonist is not merely broke (as is often the case in Brewer novels), but of questionable sanity. It is a little difficult to dismiss some of Eric's actions late in the novel, however. After a good, if a little long setup, Brewer has his hero ignore about ten million red flags as the novel rolls toward its inevitable conclusion, and the conclusion is way too convenient. Flight to Darkness is missing the final part of Brewer's formula. At the end, everything turns out all right, which is just way too pat to be satisfying, especially considering the fact that Eric Garth spends ninety-nine percent of the novel doing his thinking below the waist. As is often the case, it seems like Brewer knew the necessary word count was close, so he just put a bow on it. A little more effort would have served this story well. The book has a rather well done pulp climax, but a little denouement would have fleshed it out just enough to make it have the resonance it should have had. It would have pushed this book from a good example of classic paperback fiction to an excellent one.
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