Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wednesday Paperback Cover

Unless, of course, you slip on a bannana peel while committing it. Then it's funny.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Review of Killing Mum

Allan Guthrie is the latest author to pen a novella for Five Leaves Press's Crime Express series. Killing Mum brings Guthrie back to some of his characters from Savage Night. Specifically, it puts death broker Carlos Morales in a tough spot. He's in the business of arranging to have people killed, so it's no surprise when he gets an envelope full of cash and a name. What is a surprise is the name is his mother's. Carlos can't figure why someone would want his mother dead. The only person he knows who hates his mother is his wife, and she's also the only person he knows who knows his mother is his mother. So, naturally he's suspicious. He sets up a little test, but things don't go as planned.

Killing Mum is quick and dirty read. It's probably about an hour's investment all told. It's remarkable for it's thematic similarity to Guthrie's latest novel Slammer. Characters in both novels have the the same sort of reaction to traumatic experiences. Guthrie spends quite a bit of time mining familial strife in his novels, so there's nothing here that will surprise anyone familiar with his work. It would be interesting to know, however, if this work was a dry run for Slammer, or Guthrie is revisiting a theme here. Killing Mum is rather tame by Guthrie standards, and it didn't quite pack the punch of Ray Banks' Crime Express entry Gun, but it's a solid effort nevertheless. It may serve as a good entry point for those who haven't read Guthrie's work yet. If you like this, then the novels may be for you.

And yes, the Kindle edition artwork I found on Amazon has a squirrel. I'm just as puzzled as you.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wednesday Paperback Cover

Apparently vice cops don't have to wear shirts.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

An Unpublished Westlake and Burying the Lede

Good news for those who thought the latest Dortmunder novel was going to be the late Donald Westlake's last published novel. In April, after taking a three month hiatus, Hard Case Crime, will return with Memory, Westlake's final novel.

From the desription:

It's a beautifully written, heartbreaking story about a man who suffers an assault (after being caught in bed with another man's wife) and wakes up in a hospital bed suffering from a peculiar sort of brain damage that doesn't make him unable to function but does make it hard for him to form new memories or retain old ones. Stuck far from home (and struggling even to remember where home used to be), paranoid about the attentions of the police, and desperate to reconstruct his lost life, Paul Cole sets out on an extraordinary private investigation: a missing persons case in which he himself is the missing person.

And I can't help but feel that the latest Hard Case newsletter has sort of buried the lede. Down toward the bottom, after announcing Westlake's book and teasing the still unnamed second December title, Ardai announces that Hard Case is going to go to bimonthly publication instead of monthly. He tries to spin, saying it will provide time to drum up more interest and allow readers to get to the books, but the message between the lines is, "If you like these books buy more of them. Times are tough all around, but they're still half the price of movie ticket."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Book: Since the Layoffs

I have no idea if anyone is even still doing the whole forgotten book thing, but I want to mention Iain Levinson's 2003 novel Since the Layoffs. I'd heard good things about it, and there's been a copy on the shelf of my neighborhood used bookstore for at least a year, so I brought it home last week.

Levinson's novel may not have had much resonance when it was published because in 2003 homeless people were making down payments on million dollar homes with spare change and everyone was going to be rich, rich, rich forever. A novel about an laid off factory worker in an anonymous Midwestern town who turns to contract killing to fill the void once filled by his job might not have seemed all that relevant when the unemployment rate was four percent. Now that it's nearer to 10 percent (and a little over 10 percent here in Georgia), Levinson's story of blue collar angst hits a little close to home, even for those of us who have it pretty good. I think we're all a little more cognizant of the fragility of our situations.

Levinson's no Westlake. Since the Layoffs is not as good as The Ax, but Layoffs was Levinson's first novel, so it's probably unfair to compare the two books despite their thematic similarity. Levinson does a great job getting into the mind of his unemployed character, though, and portraying the reality and desperation of a man without a job. Everyone has to do something, and a man who doesn't have anything to do starts to feel desperate, more for existential reasons than for financial ones. When the local bookie asks unemployed Jake the chance to kill the bookie's cheating wife, Jake is initially repulsed, but relents, as much for the opportunity to feel useful again as for the money the job will bring. Killing is liberating for Jake, more for psychological reasons then pecuniary ones. And killing people is work. Jake has to deal with incompenent help and unexpected complications, but the lack of glamour doesn't bother him. It is a job after all. It's Jake's work ethic that gets him through, and that's why, even though he's a killer, you'll pull for him.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Things have been quiet here lately. I've been really, really busy, and that's been paying off, but I haven't had a whole lot of time to read lately. I did, however, get around to watching Brick, the high school film noir from 2005. I had been putting off watching this film because, despite the praise it's received, it seemed like an idea that could easily go wrong. I sat down really wanting to like it, and the good news is I did. Going in I didn't know how putting noir style dialogue in the mouths of high school students would work out, but writer/director Rian Johnson made it work.

The film starts with a note slipped into a locker, which leads to a phone call, where the hero Brendan tells his ex-girlfriend it's been two-months when she opens the conversation by noting that it's been a long time since they'd seen each other. It's a great touch. In high school, two months is an eternity, and it works. The young actors all sell it, and when the movie has its ridiculous moments, like when Brendan and local drug dealer "The Kingpin" sit awkwardly and wait for the Kingpin's mom to leave the room so they can talk, the levity is intentional, and serves to underscore the fact that parents are often either completely oblivious to their teenagers' more adult proclivities or willingly turn a blind eye to them.

Overall this film hit pretty close to home in a lot of respects. I identified a lot with Brendan, a teenage loner who spends his time reading behind the school. I spent the last two years of high school sitting in the hall reading, and occasionally going to class, when I wasn't getting high. Speaking of which, Brick's depiction of a teenage drug underworld, while exaggerated, isn't that far off the mark. Overall, I think that's why the movie worked. It was rooted in reality.

Wednesday Paperback Cover

At least try to look interested, ladies.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

More on Tyrus books

The Tyrus Books homepage has Ben LeRoy speaking about his new venture. Here is Alison Janssen sharing her thoughts.

Tyrus Books

It looks like Ben LeRoy and his editor Alison Janssen of Bleak House are striking out on their own to form a new publishing house, Tyrus Books. LeRoy sold Bleak House to Big Earth Publishing in 2005. There's a lot more information at Sarah Weinman's blog. All I have time to say about the news right now is, huh. That's interesting.