In our last episode, our hero, announced he was giving away two copies of Darwyn Cooke's adaptation of The Hunter. As part of the contest, he asked would-be entrants to answer a trivia question. Upon reflection, the question may have been too difficult (or blog readers too lazy), because exactly no one sent in an entry. I've done giveaways before, and always had entrants. So, lesson learned, we're going to try this again. I still have two copies of this graphic novel to give away, and I'm still going to ask a trivia question, but I'm going to make it much, much easier.
To enter for a chance to win The Hunter, send an email to IndieCrime-at-gmail-dotcom with Contest in the subject line. Include your address and the answer to this question:
Who is the man Parker comes to New York to kill in The Hunter?
Can I make it any easier than that? Yeah, probably, but I'm not going to. Next Sunday, I'm either announcing the winners or I'm just going to give the goddamn things to homeless people.
(Yeah. That's only five. Wanna fight? I do. So bring it on.)
Now, for what I assume is the interesting part. I tell you ten honest things about myself. 1. I own a television and DVD player that don't work. They haven't worked for over a year. I'm in no hurry to replace them.
2. I have Bud Light with lime in my refrigerator (talk about embarrassing.) 3. I drive a Geo Prizm with 160,000 miles on it. 4. I never went to the prom. 5. If I had it to do over again, I'd still skip the prom. 6. I recently had to tell the person I love most in the world that I can't see them anymore. (How's that for personal and honest you vultures?) 7. I don't actually own a copy of The Maltese Falcon. I used to. Don't know what happened to it. 8. I bought a new bookshelf last weekend. There are still books piled on the floor. 9. I love old adventure games, like Space Quest and Day of the Tentacle. 10. I still want to be Sam Spade.
I just dropped in my local book/comic shop, The Book Nook on N. Druid Hills Road, in Atlanta (or Decatur, depending on who you ask), and I was very pleased to see a robust Richard Stark display up front. Not only, did they have Darwyn Cooke's The Hunter graphic novel, they were in the process of stocking the U. of Chicago reprints as well. One of the guys who worked there told me the graphic novel was going into a second printing, which bodes well for Cooke's adaptation of The Man with the Getaway Face, seeing the light of day. I should have taken some pictures of the display, but my Google Phone camera is shit. I may go back and do that tomorrow, just to show you that I was right about the coming Stark resurgence. Anyway, I bought two of the last copies of Cooke's adpatation, and I'm giving them away this time next week because I'm feeling generous.
To enter, all you have to do is answer this question: In The Handle, who are the final members of the team that carry out the island robbery. Email the correct answer to IndieCrime-at-gmail-dot-com by next Friday. Those who get it correct are entered for a chance to win one of the two copies. I use a random number generator to pick actual winners.
Akashic Books has a real cottage industry going, churning out city themed noir. As part of their promotion for the upcoming Boston Noir, they have produced a limited number of hardcover editions signed by the book's editor, some guy you've probably never heard of before named Dennis Lehane. It goes for a cool hundred bucks, and you can preorder it here. The site says it'll ship by the end of September.
There's a new Outfit in town, and they're laying claim to some turf. J.T. Lindroos, and Sean Wallace are in charge. They're both publishing veterans. Lindroos is co-founder of Point Blank Press, and Wallace is the founder of Prime Books, which is getting a relaunch along with The Outfit. The Outfit's first act is to smuggle the works of one Leigh Redhead (actually a brunette) from Australia into the states. The first book, Peepshow, about stripper turned P.I. Simone Kirsch, will be out in November.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be Sam Spade. Not Humphrey Bogart, although my first exposure to Hammett's character might have been through Huston's film adaptation of The Maltese Falcon. I don't remember, and it doesn't matter. I found Hammett's book soon enough, and for a miserable 14 or 15 year old kid who needed every ounce of willpower just to get out of bed and go to fucking high school every morning, it was a revelation. Every teenage kid wants to be someone else, to be something more than the confused loser he is. That's why there are still comic book stores and action movies are packed with guys in backwards baseballl caps dragging their less than enthralled dates in tow, every summer weekend. I collected comics. I had big stacks of The Amazing Spiderman and Wolverine, but once I cracked The Maltese Falcon, all those entertainments seemed inadequate.
Sam Spade wasn't some costumed hero, able to overcome because he could stick to walls or had conveniently placed claws. He was a grown man, a man with a job, a man who operated in an environment shaded with gray. There were no clear bright lines dividing good from evil. No saints. Just sinners or varying degrees, and Sam Spade caught in the middle, trying to claw his way out of a bad situation and maybe make a little money on the side, and, oh yeah, get a little justice while he was at it. He played for keeps. He had to. He didn't take any shit, and he kept his cards close to his vest. He was in control of his emotions, and he was always in control of his emotions. No one played Sam Spade for a fool. Now, I knew, no matter how badly I wanted them, I would never be a superhero, but Sam Spade wasn't a superhero. He was a guy. A guy who liked to drink. A guy who had bills to pay. A guy who wasn't immune to the charms of women, but didn't let them wrap him around their little fingers. And most importantly, he wasn't the sort of guy to lose his head and get all emotional. While everyone around him loses their head chasing after smoke, Spade keeps it all together, and when it comes down to it, he doesn't let sentimentality or emotion get in the way. He does what has to be done, even though it probably hurts him more than he will ever admit.
Brigid goes to prison, and Gutman and Cairo go back off on their wild goose chase. The worthless bird only making them more fanatical in their desire. It never occurs to them that it's all a lie, but Spade never gets sucked in. He never becomes a believer. It is the believers who run amok, taking lives, doing damage. The Maltese Falcon, isn't a detective novel. It's a religious one, and Spade is the only person who stands above the fray, never believing the unbelievable and still hanging on to some sense of right and wrong.
This preface is a long way of saying that, when I heard Joe Gores was writing a prequel to The Maltese Falcon, I thought it was a shitty idea. The Maltese Falcon stands alone. There's no need to explain Spade. He's there at the beginning of the story, and he's there at the end. What happened before and what happens after are irrelevant. In fact, the entire idea of prequel trivializes Hammett's greatest creation. Don't get me wrong, Joe Gores is a great writer. Interface is the closest thing there's been to a Hammett novel since The Thin Man. Hell, it's a better Hammett novel than The Thin Man. Still, I wanted to hate Spade and Archer. I wanted get ten pages in and throw the goddamn book against the wall. That didn't happen. Gores is too good for that. S & A is not The Maltese Falcon. It's a lot more puply than the pulp fiction on which it is based, but it is compulsively readable. Gores is an excellent storyteller, and it's almost impossible not to get sucked into his story, even if part of you wishes it didn't exist. He's that good. Still, now that I've finished Spade and Archer, I'm going to forget I ever read it, and I'm never going to to look at it again. I prefer the Spade I met all those many years ago.Sorry Joe.
Hard Case has announced their second December title. They're going way back to republish the final Sherlock Holmes book,The Valley of Fear, a description of which can be read here. I don't think Glen Orbik's artwork would have been approved for a cover of The Strand.
Since Victor Gischler deprived you of a review of The Deputy, by jumping ship from Bleak House to Tyrus Books, and pushing publication back to April, I'm bringing back my thoughts on the Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction. This week, "This World, Then Fireworks" by Jim Thompson. I have read much of Thompson's better known work, but I'm no expert. Much of his work is said to be uneven, and this posthumous work is a real head scratcher. I'm not sure if it's some sort of half-assed throwaway, a work of twisted, bilious genius, or a combination of the two. It's definitely going to bear another reading.
TWTF focuses on Marty and Carol, an incestuous brother and sister couple who obviously had, a troubled childhood, although the nature of their trauma isn't clear at the beginning. Marty has left his dying wife and kids to return home, after having been fired from a reporting gig for trying a little blackmail. Carol, who has been taking care of their elderly mother, is a whore. When Marty comes back to town, he gets a job with the local paper, gets promoted in record time, and then resigns, because he's perverse. Then he picks up a lady cop, and, well, the story's kind of a mess, and trying to explain it all would just confuse you. It does, in the end, make a twisted sense, to Thompson's credit, but many elements are too convenient, and feel lazy and rushed. There are still, however, moments of genius, like Marty's musings as he wonders through a cemetary:
"Yes, hell. Yes, oh God, yes, it was a wonderful place. The City of Wonderful People. Everyone in it was everything that everyone should be. Some has a little more on the ball, of course, than others; there was one guy, for instance, who was only humble. But think of that! Think of its possibilities! Think of what you could do with a guy like that on a world tour. Of if war prevented, as it indubitably would, you could put him on television. A nation-wide hookup. You could go to the network and say, look, I've go something different here. Something unique. I've got a guy that's-No, he doesn't do card tricks, he's not a singer or a dancer. Well, he does have a sense of humor, but he doesn't tell-No, I'm afraid he doesn't have big tits and his ass looks just like yours and mine. What he's got is something different. Something there's a hell of a need for. And if you'd just give him a chance. They'd never go for it. You'd have to nail him to a cross first. Only here, in The City of Wonderful People, was the wonderful wonderful."
Inherent Vice, reclusive wierdo novelist Thomas Pynchon's latest effort, is out. A detective story, Pynchon's choice of genre has focused attention on crime fiction. Malcom Jones at Newsweek has weighed in with a thoughtful (for Newseek) piece about crime fiction and why "literary" novelists seem to be trying their hands at it with varying degrees of success. Over at Slate, on the other hand, Ron Rosenbaum sees that Pynchon has written a detective novel and gets all bitchy, noting,
"But Inherent Vice is certainly a classic illustration of something or other, such as (maybe) giving up the project of being a serious novelist, albeit without offending anyone except for a few longtime and die-hard fans like me."
Mr. Rosenbaum is deeply offended that this novel is devoid of giant adenoids and invisible clockwork ducks. He is aghast that Pynchon seems to have written a novel that people who are not as intellectual as himself might actually enjoy. Now, when Rosenbaum goes into his local coffeehouse with a dog eared copy of V tucked under his arm he is deathly afraid that he may be accosted by some goddamn savage who will say something like, "Pynchon huh? I usually read James Patterson, but I really dug that detective novel he did. I read it while my wife and I were at Myrtle Beach last summer." Oh no Mr. Rosenbaum! David Foster Wallace wised up and killed himself, and now Thomas Pynchon is slumming it! Who will save you from the hoi polloi? Who?
I finally got my copy of Darwyn Cooke's adaptation of The Hunter this week. It's nice. I mean, really nice. I was expecting something like your usual graphic novel, but this is more like a nice hardcover book in both dimensions and quality. This presentation is perhaps fitting given the new respectability of graphic novels. I remember when the term was used to describe several issues of a comic book series cheaply slapped together to bring in a few extra bucks. Cooke's The Hunter is anything but cheap, and it certainly bears all the hallmarks of a labor of love. There's no attempt to fancy up the source material, or make it more modern. It's set in 1962, when the original book was set, and, with the exception of the ending, it hews closely to the original story. I suspect the bit Cooke saw fit to cut will actually show up in his planned adpatation of the next novel, The Man with the Getaway Face. The graphic novel's ending allows it work as a stand alone story, which strikes me as the author hedging his bets. The remaining three adapations showing up on store shelves is probably contingent on how well The Hunter sells, so a cliffhanger might leave people hanging forever.
Cooke's Parker inhabits a world that is black, white and blue. The choice works very well. Full color would have been too much, and black and white would have been a bit too stark (no pun intended). The color and the artwork, both complement the tone of the story. Cooke's Parker, who the reader does not see from the front for the first twenty or so pages. All in all, I was very pleased with this book. I hope it will turn some people on to some of these Stark reprints.
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