Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
We've got some big news to announce today: After a year's hiatus, Hard Case Crime will be returning to bookstores with new titles in 2011, thanks to a deal we just signed with UK-based Titan Publishing.
Titan is a publisher both of fiction and of gorgeous art books focusing on pop culture such as movie poster art, pin-ups, newspaper comic strips, and Golden Age comic books, and has worked with filmmakers such as J.J. Abrams, Joss Whedon, and George Lucas. Titan has been around for 30 years, has more than 200 employees, and in addition to publishing books also has a magazine division, a retail division (Titan owns the famous Forbidden Planet bookstore in London, and until recently co-owned the Murder One mystery bookstore with Maxim Jakubowski), and a merchandise division that produces items such as t-shirts, sculptures, and accessories.
We look forward to exploring ways we might develop some cool Hard Case Crime products with them! But first things first: books. Hard Case Crime will relaunch in September/October 2011 with four new books, including CHOKE HOLD by Christa Faust (sequel to her Edgar Award-nominated MONEY SHOT), QUARRY'S EX by Max Allan Collins (the latest in the popular series of hit man novels by the author of "Road to Perdition"), and two never-before-published novels by MWA Grand Masters (names to be announced shortly).
Additionally, Titan Publishing plans to acquire all existing stock of Hard Case Crime's backlist from Dorchester Publishing and to resume shipping these titles to booksellers immediately. New books will be published in paperback (possibly some in hardcover as well!); ebook editions will also be released across multiple platforms. Titan is distributed in the U.S. and Canada by Random House. We're very excited about working with Titan (indeed, we had offers from five publishers and chose Titan over several that were much larger and better-known) -- they love pulp fiction as much as we do and appreciate that in books like ours the visual dimension is just as important as the storytelling. It's hard to imagine a better home for Hard Case Crime.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I've been on a bit of a graphic novel streak lately, and my most recent read was Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips latest Criminal trade, The Sinners. This one picks up the story of Tracy Lawless, the hardass military deserter who came back to the city to find his little brother's killer, only to discover some ugly truths and end up working as a hitman for the city's chief crime boss. Turns out Tracy's heart isn't in paid killing, so crime boss Sebastian Hyde asks him to look into a string of killings of made men. Tracy is relieved to have some non-homicidal work, but he's also got the military on his tail, and he's been having an affair with Hyde's wife. After the last storyline, Bad Night, and its predecessor, The Dead and the Dying, both of which were innovative, touching and horrifying in their own ways, The Sinners feels a bit rote.
Lawless is your average antihero, the killer with the broken heart of gold who lives by his own moral code, even if society disapproves, and the story was also a bit of a disappointment. The identity of the killers felt like a stretch, and the choice of bad guys is hardly unique.
A priest who corrupts youth isn't exactly original, even if sex isn't involved (and really, hasn't the Catholic Church been kicked around enough? I'm no fan of Catholicism. I could expound on my criticisms at length but I won't. This blog is about crime fiction not religion.) Criminal usually tells unusual stories (Coward or Bad Night), or tells more conventional stories in unconventional ways (The Dead and The Dying). This particular story arc did neither. There was no big twist or ending that provoked sympathy for the lost souls Brubaker creates so well. I think this stems from the fact that Lawless just isn't that interesting of a character. His first story arc was saved by the ending, which was quite the punch in the gut for both the character and the reader, but now that he's found out the truth about his brother, and quit romanticizing his past, he's just another big man with a gun and an attitude. Hopefully the next story arc will be a little more engaging.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Darwyn Cooke's follow-up to his adaptation of Richard Stark's The Hunter, hit shelves this month. The book glosses over much of what happens in The Man With the Getaway Face, the second Parker novel, in favor of the more exciting third novel. While this choice makes artistic and economic sense, it does, however, leave the book feeling a bit stuffed.
The Outfit was a book which had a lot going on, and the book described many different robberies by many different thieves. Cooke cheats a bit when it gets to this bit of the story, which feels like a bit of a gyp, since the description of clever heists is part of the appeal of the Parker stories. At one point, Cooke merely excerpts an account of a crime directly from the novel, disguising it as a newspaper article. This little trick doesn't work because Stark's prose doesn't feel like a newspaper article, and because this is a graphic novel. I've already read the novel. I own it. I can read it any time I want. The entire purpose of a graphic novel is to see as well as read. The other crimes, however, are presented in unique visual styles of their own, separating them from the rest of the book, which is a good trick, even if the entire section feels a bit perfunctory. Fortunately, the book is just as gorgeous as the first one, and is, overall, faithful to Stark's famous character. The three color artwork, and Cooke's obvious attention to period detail make the book a pleasure to read. I just finished it, and I think I'm going to go back and read it again, just to pick up any details I may have missed.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Thompson had just sold his own indie imprint, Busted Flush Press to Tyrus Books, another good indie publisher. David did a great job of bringing books he believed in back into print. He's been championing underrated writers like Reed Farrell Coleman for a long time, refusing to let Coleman's Moe Prager books go out of print. He was also a tastemaker in his position as a manager at Murder by The Book, and I have no doubt he introduced many readers to many great books over the years.
My heart goes out to his friends and family.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
MADISON, WI— August 26, 2010 — Tyrus Books, Inc. today announced the acquisition of Busted Flush Press, LLC., in a move that brings together two of crime fiction’s most recognizable independent presses. “We’re very excited to add the Busted Flush brand to Tyrus Books. David Thompson is a dedicated and tireless advocate of crime fiction and I look forward to seeing the Busted Flush brand continue to grow,” said Benjamin LeRoy, Publisher and President of Tyrus Books.Thompson, Publisher of Busted Flush Press, will continue in his current role, selecting approximately twenty titles a year for publication. The combined companies will have approximately 45 books in print by the end of 2010 with another 20 titles scheduled for spring 2011.
I wonder if Thompson will continue to focus on reprints now that his press has been bought by Tyrus, or whether we'll see more new material.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
As a long time member of the Hard Case Crime book club, I was surprised when I read this news last week, as I had just received my copy of Murder Is My Business in the mail along with a new Dorchester catalog, which made no mention of the switch as far as I can remember. (I threw it out, so I can't go back and check). After Hard Case's earlier decision to scale back in the face of the economic difficulties that face us all, I was kind of disappointed. Now the news comes that Dorchester's decision has pushed publication of any further Hard Case Crime titles back until late next year. This is a bummer, and I hope not an ominous portent of things to come.
Publishing is definitely in flux at the moment, and it's hard to tell how I feel about it. On the one hand, the idea of a Kindle or Nook appeals to me. After all, I ran out of space for books in my old place, and then, when it caught fire, I ended up losing about four-fifths of my collection. If I had had an e-reader, insurance would have covered replacing the device, and I would have still had all of my collection. On the other hand, the part of me who likes owning books, the physical object, isn't ready to give them up. The whole point of Hard Case is that they're objects with original artwork that you can collect and keep on a shelf. It wouldn't be the same if they were just e-books. And that doesn't just go for Hard Case. I like having books around, even if they take up too much space, and I don't know that I'm thrilled with where it looks like publishing is going. Perhaps this makes me some sort of old crank, and I'm now in the same category as septuagenarians who get nostalgic for rotary phones, but I guess we all get old eventually, if we're lucky.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Saturday, July 31, 2010
In the Internet age, it's hard to imagine (at least for those of us of a certain age), that viewing pornography was once a collective experience, done in theaters. It's also hard to believe that one reel of celluloid featuring a rather commonplace sex act could cause a legal uproar, and become a cultural touchstone of sorts. But in 1973 that's exactly what happened in 1973 when a young lady who went by the stage name Linda Lovelace starred in a nasty little film called Deep Throat. Directed by a former hairdresser and financed by the mafia, the film became an unlikely success, ended up the subject of an obscenity case, and made the bad guys an obscene amount of money.
Charlie Stella's novel Johnny Porno (Stark House, 2010) is an entertaining snapshot of this particular period in history, chronicling the tough times of an out of work carpenter who has been reduced to ferrying around illicit copies of the film and collecting money for the mob as a way to pay the child support for his only son and keep his harridan of an ex-wife off his back. Porno suffers a little from having a huge cast of characters, which requires Stella to engage in a lot of setup, but once the book hits its stride, it doesn't fail to deliver.
John (who's last name is Albano, not Porno), has a lot to deal with. In addition to his wife, he has to deal with a loser wiseguy who hates him, the cops, his ex-wife's other ex-husband and a strung out ex-cop who wants him dead. All while trying to hold what's left of his life together and making sure the mob gets its money. Stella has a knack for dialogue, and the influence of The Friends of Eddie Coyle is evident. Stella even manages to work the novel into the book. The entire novel lacks glamor, and has the gritty feel of a 70's crime film with dirt under its nails and nicotine stains on its fingers. In a world where pornography has become mainstream, Stella reminds the reader that things weren't always that way, and that smut isn't pretty, and that sometimes there's no way for a good man to avoid getting his hands dirty.
Friday, July 30, 2010
And yesterday, I found out that Allan Guthrie will be self-publishing his next novella Bye-Bye Baby, which is certainly an interesting turn of events. Are these signs of things to come?
Also, if you haven't read Dennis Tafoya's story "Doe Run Road," you really ought to.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
It is the final novel chronicling the humorous exploits of well heeled killer for hire Augustus Mandrell, and it's quite funny and entertaining, even if it doesn't rise to the heights of Of All The Bloody Cheek. This novel, unlike Cheek, is not divided into "Commissions" as the droll Mandrell calls them, but constitutes one long tale of Mandrell setting up and executing a rather involved assassination in America. As such, the book drags a little in places, but it is filled with McAuliffe's singular wit, and his observations about American culture are surprisingly timely for a book that's been moldering in a drawer for years. Mandrell, to accomplish his goal, assumes the identity of one Clifford Waxout, a member of a right-wing group known redundantly as America's Americans. It was no doubt based on the John Birch Society, but it doesn't take much imagination to see a connection between the old right and the new Tea Party's yammering on about socialism. The more things change, the more things stay the same.
The story gets off to a bit of a slow start, with Mandrell putting in a lot of time and effort to seduce and opera singer in order to get an invitation to an event where the President will be present. While amusing, it is a little tedious. The good news, however, is that once the mayhem starts it is outrageous and laugh out loud funny. McCauliffe once again succeeds in bringing some much needed humor to the grim world of the contract killer.
(Let me apologize for a lack of a cover image. I seem to be experiencing technical difficulties in that department.)
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Stephen King's supremely shitty entry in the Hard Case Crime lineup has been optioned for a television show for the Syfy (I, know, I know, Syfy. Was there something wrong with Sci-Fi?) network for a TV show called Haven. Here's the show's description:
Syfy's all-new one-hour drama series Haven, starring Emily Rose (Jericho, Brothers and Sisters) is based on the novella The Colorado Kid from renowned author Stephen King. The series follows the shrewd and confident FBI agent Audrey Parker (Rose) who has a lost past, and arrives in the small town of Haven, Maine on a routine case. Before long, her natural curiosity lands her in the epicenter of activity in this curious enclave, which turns out to be a longtime refuge for people that are affected by a range of supernatural afflictions.
As the townspeople's dormant abilities begin to express themselves, Audrey helps keep these forces at bay while discovering the many secrets of Haven — including one surrounding her own surprising connections to this extraordinary place.
Now here's the description of The Colorado Kid:
On an island off the coast of Maine, a man is found dead. There’s no identification on the body. Only the dogged work of a pair of local newspapermen and a graduate student in forensics turns up any clues, and it’s more than a year before the man is identified.
And that’s just the beginning of the mystery. Because the more they learn about the man and the baffling circumstances of his death, the less they understand. Was it an impossible crime? Or something stranger still...?
No one but Stephen King could tell this story about the darkness at the heart of the unknown and our compulsion to investigate the unexplained. With echoes of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon and the work of Graham Greene, one of the world’s great storytellers presents a moving and surprising tale whose subject is nothing less than the nature of mystery itself...
Do these two descriptions even seem remotely similar? Call me cynical, but it seems like someone bought the only Stephen King novel not under option just so they could put his name on a new series in hopes of getting people to watch it.
Call me when someone options Money Shot for a television show. I'd watch that.
It's safe to lump Lynn Kostoff in with Pinckney Benedict and Madison Smartt Bell, which is to say he is a very talented writer who no one will read because they are too busy telling all their friends on Facebook how funny last night's episode of the hit sitcom "Two Bikini Models and an Adorable Puppy" was. This state of affairs does not fill my heart with hope.
Mere months after New Pulp Press resurrected Kostoff's -blink and you missed it- thriller A Choice of Nightmares, he is back with a new novel, Late Rain (Tyrus Books, 2010). The new novel is set in the low country of South Carolina, and centers around the events set in motion by the avaricious Corrine Tedros, when she conspires to have her father-in-law murdered so as to get her hands on his soft drink fortune and leave behind her sordid past forever.
When the murder is witnessed by a man in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's, former homicide detective and current beat cop Ben Decovic, who has, like Tedros, moved to the deep south to try and escape his past. It goes without saying that two characters running away from things they can't escape will eventually run right into each other with tragic results.
Late Rain is very different in tone that Nightmares, which was a truly disorienting novel that throbbed with decadence and menace on every page. Rain is more restrained, and more straightforward, in that there are good and bad characters, and its much easier to get comfortable with since you know who you're pulling for early on. It's much more accessible in that respect, but Kostoff still refuses to tie up the story with a nice comforting bow at the end, turning what could have been a by the numbers crime story with a warm fuzzy ending into something better. Yes, the murder gets solved, but the truly evil characters still run free, and there is no real justice, just the rough approximation of justice which we are all forced to settle for in real life all too often, and the good guy gets only the consolation prize of knowing that he did what he could. Not exactly life affirming, but then, very little in life is.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Seth Harwood, podcasting fiction pioneer is back with his latest offering Young Junius, which follows a character that those familiar with his Jack Palms novels will already know. Always at the forefront of Internet Age promotion, Harwood started out podcasting his work, and ended up seeing Jack Wakes Up, published after he had released it for free as an audiobook. He's done the same with Young Junius, and he's also teamed up with Tyrus Books to do a limited edition print run of the novel, which you can pre-order here. If you scroll down that page, you'll notice that Independent Crime is listed as an affiliate with a promotion code, so this post can technically be classified as a shill, but I'm being up front about it, and I wouldn't endorse anything I thought sucked. So, consider this my endorsement. Of course, if you don't believe me, you can always listen to the free podcast version and try before you buy.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Some time ago, I tried to get at the reason why Donald Westlake's enduring thief Parker, who's been going through a bit of a renaissance recently, is so appealing. I concluded it was his tenacity, and his ability to work through even the most difficult problems to come out on top. I have been recently working my way through the latest set of reprints from the University of Chicago, and, coincidentally, I've been reading up on the Myers-Briggs personality test or the Keirsey Temperament sorter, or whatever they're calling it these days. I'm sure you're probably familiar with the test, which is based on the work of Carl Jung. Psychoanalysis is, at best, a dubious endeavor, and I've always been skeptical of it in general, but I've taken the Myers-Briggs test several times throughout my life, and I've always found it to be uncannily accurate.
I always test as an INTJ. INTJs are long range thinkers and planners, who tend to be pragmatic. They hate small talk, and always (well, almost always) think in pragmatic terms. This often leads to a rather, shall we say, amoral outlook on life. Rules that are good are followed. Rules that aren't are ignored, especially if there's something to be gained.
The more I read the Parker stories, the more I see a lot of myself in him. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a cold blooded killer or a thief, but like him, I tend to be cautious and research all the risks before I take action, and I tend to have very little time for small talk, which is one of Parker's defining traits. I also value staying cool under pressure, and if anyone's the embodiment of that quality it's Parker. When things don't go as planned he switches plans, just like that. He never panics. He never stops thinking. He does what has to be done. All of this makes me wonder if Parker isn't so enduring because he's a modern day Jungian Archetype. Jung had story archetypes like the Hero, The Trickster and the Earth Mother, all drawn from myth. Parker isn't exactly believable as a real person, but he does represent something, unique to our culture. He is the ultimate businessman. His work is his life and his life is his work. It's almost like he's some monster representation of the negative elements of American society. He's a myth, just like Chandler's man who walks down the mean streets who is not himself mean.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Here is my long delayed review of Killer. It's the book I was reading when I had the fire. For some reason, I've been unable to pick it up again until recently.
Dave Zeltserman concludes his "Man out of Prison" trilogy with Killer, a much more subdued take on the story than his previous efforts, Small Crimes and Pariah. Where the first two novels were bloody messes all the way through, Killer is a much subtler affair. Leonard March was a hitman for the Lombard crime family for a long time, but when he finally got caught committing some non-murderous crimes, he managed to cut himself a deal with immunity before confessing to twenty-eight paid killings for crime boss Sal Lombard.
For his deal, March gets fourteen years in prison, and when he walks free, he tells himself he's going to go straight and live a quiet, anonymous life. Of course, it's not easy to live a quiet life when you've got a list of enemies as long as your arm, and March doesn't make it any easier on himself by inviting publicity when he foils a liquor store robbery.
Killer, while an entertaining novel, lacks the punch of Pariah. Pariah was as close to perfect as a novel can get, so comparing the two may be unfair. Still, Killer, feels almost perfunctory when compared to either of his previous studies in evil. March isn't as compelling as either Joe Denton or Kyle Nevin, both of whom were real pieces of work, and the story ends a little abruptly. It feels a bit rushed at the end, which is disappointing because so much of the novel is setup. Zeltserman also picks up a couple of plot threads that never really go anywhere, which isn't like him.
As I said, though, Killer is a letdown only when compared to Zeltserman's previous efforts. As an author, you're in a pretty good shape if the only competition you have is yourself. Taken on its own, Killer is still very good. It's just not great, and not a great introduction to Zeltserman's work. It would be possible for a reader to pick up this novel and wonder what all the fuss has been about. Do yourself a favor and read one of the first two novels in this trilogy before approaching Killer.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Plots with Guns
Crimefactory (the publication I've got my eye on for this next story. They're publishing some intimidating names, like Ray Banks and Dave Zeltserman, but I think I've got a winner here.)
Oh, and in case you're keeping score at home, this year I've had one fire, and now one attempted burglary (which is why I'm at home today. I'm kind of hoping they'll come back and try to finish breaking in. And yeah, I'm beginning to feel a little like Job.) The upside is that I've been experiencing a rather fertile creative period.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
So, today I bring you a guest post from Stephen D. Rogers, whose debut book of stories Shot to Death is available from Mainly Murder Press. In this post, he explains how he came up with the opening line for one of the book's stories.
SHOT TO DEATH Blog March They say blondes are dumb but then they also say that crime doesn't pay. - ITCHING FOR SCRATCH So begins one of the 31 stories contained in SHOT TO DEATH (ISBN 978-0982589908). Within that beginning lurks the ending to the story and everything that happens between the beginning and the end. Or at least it seems that way to me. What we have here is bad logic. The assumption seems to be that since people are wrong about crime not paying, they're also wrong about blondes being dumb. While it's been a long time since I studied logic, that reasoning seems faulty. Grid the statements out, and there are four possibilities. Dumb and not paying. Dumb and paying. Not dumb and paying. Not dumb and not paying. And while I know that blondes are not dumb, the particular blonde in the story may well be, just as the typically not-paying crime may in this story pay, or vice versa. Now complicate the matter by going three-dimensional. Is the narrator blonde or not blonde? Complicate the matter even further by throwing in bleached blonde. At least we can be fairly certain the narrator is a woman, since "blonde with an e" is generally used to refer to women and "blond without an e" is generally used to refer to either sex. Unless the narrator is from Britain, where "blonde with an e" is used to refer to both sexes. At this point, I'm scratching my head. Obviously, maybe, this story is going to be driven by wacky logic, the same type of wacky logic that makes people say, "Well, someone has to win the lottery" and "If you don't play, you can't win" as if playing means you're going to win and, anyway, aren't you part of the subset "someone"? So I've got a narrator who is a blonde or non-blonde or bleach-blonde woman or Britain who will commit a crime that may or may not lead to a lottery payoff. All that remains is the writing. For a chance to win a signed copy of SHOT TO DEATH, click on over to http://www.stephendrogers.com/
Friday, March 26, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Angela Choi's debut novel Hello Kitty Must Die (Tyrus Books, 2010) is a left of center crime story, reminiscent of early Chuck Palanhiuk (You know, the stuff he wrote before Choke, which is the point where he became unreadable). Fiona Yu is a 28-year old corporate attorney. She is intelligent and successful, but still lives at home with her traditional Chinese family, a situation that she finds stifling, to say the least. The book opens with Fiona taking her own virginity with a dildo as a sort of silent rebellion against carrying her family's honor in the form of her hymen. Upon discovering that her hymen is already broken, she seeks out a doctor to reconstruct it so that she can rip it properly. The doctor turns out to be her old friend, Sean, who she hasn't seen since he was sent away to juvie for setting a classmate's hair on fire. Fiona and Sean share a bond borne of mutual alienation, and Sean's behavior hasn't changed much from his school days. Under his influence, Fiona's soon turns her anger outward and begins striking back at those she sees as standing between her and happiness.
The titular Hello Kitty refers to the stereotype of the submissive, quiet Asian woman as personified by the ubiquitous, mouthless Japansese cat, which has found its way onto every product imaginable. Fiona has been ruthlessly pigeonholed her entire life, and it's warped her more than a little. Having to suppress her actual desires and personality in order to play a character has left her angry and bitter. It's easy to see why she wants to lash out, but a little more difficult to see why she doesn't just, say, move to the east coast, where she would be three thousand miles away from all of these crushing expectations, and would likely not have to murder anybody. Fiona's bloodlust makes her less than likeable at times, even if her motives are understandable. The book is more of a black comedy than it is thriller, or typical serial killer novel. Hello Kitty Must Die has its moments, and Tyrus books has done a good job in snagging a title out of left field, breaking away from their usual fare (not that there's anything wrong with their usual fare), and finding a new voice that's worth a listen.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
I lost the lion's share of Saturday to Breaking Bad. I'd been meaning to get around to watching it, but somehow I'd just never gotten around to it. Maybe the fact that the main character is played by Bryan Cranston, a guy I previously knew only as "The Dad from that Annyoing Show on Fox" plays the main character. Well, the show is better than it has any right to be. I went through the first season and part of the second yesterday while cleaning up and doing laundry. Of course, if I'd known it was going to rain today, I'd have spent more time outside yesterday when the sun was out, but I can't really say I regret parking myself in front of the TV. It's something I rarely do, and it's even more rare to feel like it was time well spent, but in this case, I have to say, the show delivered.
Breaking Bad swings wildly between being a hard boiled crime show and a family drama. Every time Walt goes out and gets involved in the drug business he has to take time out to deal with the consequences of his actions. His cancer serves as an effective metaphor for the way his destructive choices affect his family, as well as the nature of the business he's involved in. Cranston's performance as a desperate man looking at the end of his rope, and likely his life, is quite sympathetic. It's hard not to feel for a guy who draws up a pro and con list with "Judeo Christian principles" on one side and "He'll kill your entire family" on the other while contemplating whether or not kill a drug dealer. Even as Walter's decisions become more and more unjustifiable, and his actions start to threaten his family-the people he's ostensibly trying to help with his methamphetamine sideline-you still find yourself rooting for him. This show is way better than AMC's other original series, Mad Men. Why anyone gets all worked up over that one is beyond me. Of course, the fact that Breaking Bad is so good can only mean one thing: No one's watching it.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Robert Staples is, to put it bluntly, shit out of luck. A washed up B-movie actor he has landed in the sun blasted landscape of South Florida, where he ekes out a living being a generic "celebrity." As Lynn Kostoff's A Choice of Nightmares (New Pulp Press, 2010), opens he has even put that tenuous living at risk by chucking a barking dog into an alligator pit during a mall opening. His agent gives him a chance to redeem himself through the simple task of delivering an envelope, but Staples screws that up, and quickly finds himself pulled into the world of cocaine smuggling, where he bumps up against decadent, dangerous, and depraved characters. And he finds himself loving it. For a man with few options and fading dreams, the world of cocaine and easy sex offers what he needs: Escape.
Escape, however, is something that's not easy to come by. It's easy to run, but no man can hide, and Staples is eventually forced to confront himself, decide who he is, and see if he can the ultimate luxury: a way out alive.
First published in 1991, A Choice of Nightmares, sank without making many ripples in the publishing pond. New Pulp Press has scooped the other reprint houses by scoring the rights to this one. Although Hard Case usually reprints old novels, Charles Ardai ought to be kicking himself for not putting his imprint on this novel. It's certainly more than good enough for that imprint. Kostoff's story takes off from the first line of the first chapter, and his characters are well drawn. His femme fatale, Denise and his psychotic hitman Barry from Palm Springs, who could easily have been cardboard cutouts, turn out to be unexpectedly deep and very disturbing. Denise, in particular, is an enigma that proves resistant to analysis. In the end, it's the ambiguity that Kostoff maintains throughout the story that makes it such a compelling read. He refuses to give in to the temptation to provide simple answers, making the story all that much more satisfying, at least for readers who eschews easy answers and pat endings.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Friday, March 5, 2010
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Monday, March 1, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
Regardless, his "Go-Go" novels have been entertaining, but it’s good to see the man get back to basics with a straightforward crime novel. The Deputy is Gischler’s entry in the "corrupt town" subgenre of hardboiled fiction first pioneered by Hammett in Red Harvest, although Gischler’s novel makes a bit more sense than Harvest did plot wise, and his protagonist, part-time deputy Toby Sawyer, sure as hell isn’t the Continental Op. If he were, the book wouldn’t have gotten past the first chapter where Sawyer is called out late at night by the Sheriff of Coyote Crossing, Oklahoma and given the simple task of babysitting the corpse of a local bad boy who got himself murdered. Sawyer screws it up, turning his back and letting someone get away with the body. From there, it’s not long until Sawyer’s forced to go from hopeless screw up to axe wielding tough guy as he tries to survive the night and the desperate locals who are hell bent on keeping their secrets secret.
Gischler’s prose is deceptively simple. The book is short and to the point, and once it picks up momentum, it doesn’t slow down. Gischler’s been at this novel writing thing for a while now, and it shows. This outing is all muscle and no fat. It’s also a little more sober than Gischler’s earlier crime work. He made his bones with gonzo stories like Gun Monkeys and Pistol Poets. As such, it may disappoint fans who are expecting comedy. Sawyer’s life is pretty sad. He’s stuck in a shit town with no future, a loveless marriage, no hope, and a shitload of people who want his head on a stick. Sawyer’s got true grit, though, the one quality that will get a man through, and allow him to conquer a hostile environment and carve out a new life for himself.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
The adjective that comes to mind when considering Sergio Bizzio’s novel Rage, (Bitter Lemon Press, 2009), is Ballardian. That may seem like praise, but it’s hard to say. Ballard’s novels are novels of disconnection and alienation, of men and women who are ciphers even to themselves, drifting through the modern world distanced from any real human connections by technology and the strange, solitary, sanitized nature of modern life. In short, Ballard was preoccupied with the death of community, and the great lengths people will go to to feel something, anything. As such, they are often difficult to read. They're certainly not what Graham Greene would have labeled "entertainments."
While, Rage, is a novel of isolation, similar to say, Concrete Island, where a man is stranded in a secret world on an island in the middle of a highway, it is also shot through with a Marxist critique of a decaying society where the gap between the rich and the poor is so large that the poor can, quite literally, disappear in the huge, empty homes of the doomed rich. It is also a novel of strong emotions, as the title implies, and strong emotions are often lacking in Ballard's work.
Jose Maria, a construction worker, falls in love with Rosa, the beautiful, but poor housekeeper of a rich Argentine family. At first, things are going well, as the two find time to be together, but then Jose Maria kills his foreman in a fit of rage and goes into hiding. He picks, as his hiding spot, the huge home of Rosa employers, where he takes up residence in a room no one uses. In his new role as fugitive and voyeur, Jose Maria spies on his former lover as well as the family for whom she works. He learns their secrets, and witnesses their bad behavior. He uses the home’s second line to sneak secret phone calls to Rosa, but will not tell her his whereabouts.
He does adopt a role as her protector and avenger, however. When one family member rapes her, Jose Maria kills him and tries to make it look like an accident. The family quickly covers it up to prevent disgrace. When Rosa’s new boyfriend knocks her up and refuses to take responsibility, Jose Maria sneaks out of the house and murders him as well. From there, he takes up the improbable role of invisible father, forcing a shady relative to deliver money to Rosa, and sneaking time with the baby once he is born.
Of course, Jose Maria can’t hide from Rosa forever. Their reunion, and the end of the book overall, are somewhat puzzling. Without getting into spoilers, it’s a little difficult to decipher Jose Maria’s fate is supposed to mean. Then again, maybe that’s just another way Bizzio is similar to Ballard.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
The Disassembled Man is remarkable for its ugliness. It's hard to think of a book with a character as despicable as Frankie Avicious. It turns out he has valid reasons for being as twisted as he is, but his unapologetic homicidal mania may be difficult for some to stomach.
It would be very hard to imagine this movie as even a hard R, provided of course it ever gets out of development hell. Still, good on Nate. Hope it works out.
Well, over at noirboiled, there is an interesting post comparing the new version of I'll Bury My Dead with the Harlequin original. It's well worth reading. A lot of the changes are inexplicable. I mean, why bother?