Monday, April 30, 2007

Ain't that pretty at all

There's an article on the first (and so far only) Warren Zevon biography to come out at the NY Times Web site. It gives the thumbs up to the new work, and describes Zevon as "lovable but aberrant." I preordered a copy from Amazon, and hopefully it will be here before the weekend, because I am anxious to read it. Although the article is positive, I remain skeptical, because the book was put together by Zevon's ex-wife Crystal (at his request.) I hope it's a balanced look at the man and artist, and not a vehicle for bashing or glorifying him. We shall see.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Review of The Wounded and The Slain

David Goodis couldn’t find a publisher today. His novel, The Wounded and The Slain, (Hard Case Crime, 2007) is a mess. The storylines don’t run together, the dialogue is sometimes stilted, and he relies heavily on internal monologues to advance the story. In this day and age, an agent or publisher would toss it on the slush pile and forget about it. It’s enough to make one wonder exactly what kind of novels are being passed on, because, despite all its faults, The Wounded and the Slain is an admirable piece of work.
The story focuses on James and Cora Bevan, a New York couple who have come to Jamaica to try to revive their moribund relationship. Cora is frigid, and James is suicidal, wanting nothing more than to drink himself to death. Their vacation isn’t going well, and James finds himself wandering the slums of Kingston while Cora finds herself falling for another man. The situation goes from bad to worse when James kills a man in self defense while on a binge. To say more would give away too much, but suffice to say that Goodis created a storyline that drives James Bevan into the darkest recesses of his heart, and forces him to decide exactly what kind of man he is.
Cora’s storyline is another story. As the book opens, she is struggling with a buried trauma that makes her unable to respond to her husband’s advances, but also makes her uncontrollably attracted to certain other men. Any reader who can’t figure out what her terrible secret is the first time it comes up should be checked for a pulse. It doesn’t add much to the book, which is really about James.
Goodis’ habit of telling instead of showing can be annoying, especially since he can write a good scene. At his best, Goodis is cinematic. One scene where James Bevan stumbles blind drunk through a massive brawl that has broken out in a dive bar, is vivid and funny. It’s too bad Goodis doesn’t do it more often. A reader may find himself tempted to skip ahead a few pages when in the midst of one of the many extended internal monologues in which the characters engage.
Still, The Wounded and The Slain works because Goodis was such a good storyteller that the flaws in his writing don’t take away from the narrative, and sometimes provide a little bit of charm. Hard Case has found another winner for its growing list of reprints.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wednesday Book Cover

Your Wednesday paperback cover this week is a Beacon original from one Orrie Hitt, who turned out a huge number of sleaze paperbacks. Unlike writers like Lawrence Block or Charles Willeford, who also worked writing sleaze novels, no one, as far as I can tell, has claimed that Hitt wrote anything of lasting importance. His books did, however, sport some truly sordid covers.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

David Goodis Book Covers

I started The Wounded and the Slain the other day, so I've been doing a little research on David Goodis. I found this page, full of Goodis book covers. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Check it out. Clute and Edwards interview Reed Farrel Coleman over at Behind the Black Mask, and Bleak House has jumped into the podcasting game as well, with an interview with Evan Kilgore.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Your Wednesday Paperback Cover Two Days Early

You get your Wednesday paperback cover on Monday this week because I will be crazy busy tommorrow, and I have to be in Atlanta on Wednesday, so there won't be much blogging this week. This is a Crest paperback from the late, great Gil Brewer, whose novel The Vengeful Virgin was recently reprinted by Hard Case Crime. He's also been recently revived by Stark House. Dig it.

Links to Stuff you've probably already seen, but which bear mentioning here anyway

Sarah Weinman already linked to this article from the Library Journal, so everybody and their brother has already read it. If you haven't you should, provided you can get to the Web site. I could earlier, but I can't now so there's no link for the time being. It's got a lot of good stuff about independent crime fiction presses, and what they're out to accomplish.
Anthony Neil Smith has pointed out that Fuck Noir, now retitled to make it more marketable, will be released in November. I've been wondering when that was coming out. Can't wait to read it.
Bleak House's front list also has a new novel from Tony Spinosa, entitled Gun Bunnies. This makes me wonder, could Gun Bunnies take Gun Monkeys in a fight? Monkeys do have opposable thumbs, which would make it easier for them to pull the trigger.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Hard Case Crime en Francais

If you subscribe to Rara Avis you already know this, but Hard Case Crime has partnered with French paperback publisher J'ai Lu and is releasing some of its existing titles in French, and also publishing some completely original ones. Here are a couple samples. (There's no French Hard Case Web site yet.)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Story from Marcus Sakey

Click here to hear Marcus Sakey read his story "As Breathing" from These Guns for Hire. If you missed Ken Bruen reading his entry from the anthology click here. Have I mentioned that Bleak House has my respect and admiration for posting these? Now I have.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wednesday Paperback Cover

Here it is. As promised, the first weekly paperback cover. I chose Willeford because he's one of my favorite authors, and because I find it amusing that he was originally published by Beacon, which published sleaze novels. It just goes to show, you can't judge a book by it's cover, or it's publisher.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Al Guthrie in America

I thought Allan Guthrie was doing pretty well when he made it into three posts in a row on this blog, but Duane Swierczynski over at Secret Dead Blog has gone full-tilt crazy, and declared it Allan Guthrie week, since Guthrie is in the states to take part in a panel on "Tartan Noir." Ian Rankin and Denise Mina are also putting in an appearance.
What I want to know is, how did Allan Guthrie get a visa? I mean, who decided to let him into the country? If the Department of Homeland Security can't keep Scots out of the country what on Earth can they do? I mean, I've seen Trainspotting and Braveheart, so I'm an expert on Scotland, and I can tell you, I don't think it's a good idea to start letting heroin addicted broadsword enthusiasts onto our shores. We have enough native born heroin addicted broadsword enthusiasts, and they don't need the competition.

Monday, April 9, 2007

New Thuglit

There's a new issue of Thuglit available. Read it, unless you're some kind of wuss or something.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Owner of Crippen and Landru and Sisters in Crime Win George N. Dove Award

From the Rara-Avis Mailing List.

Douglas G. Greene and Sisters in Crime received the George N. Dove
Award from the Detective/Mystery Caucus of the Popular Culture
Association and American Culture Association on April 5. The award was
presented during the PCA/ACA's Annual Conference in Boston.

Greene, professor of history and former director of the Institute for
Humanities at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, is the
owner of Crippen and Landru, publisher of short story collections of
both classic and contemporary mystery authors. He is also the author
of the Edgar Award-nominated _John Dickson Carr: The Man Who Explained
Miracles_ (1995) on locked-room mystery master Carr. His work for
publishers such as Dover Publications, Harper, and Doubleday brought
back many Victorian-era and Golden Age detective works for the
enjoyment of fans and academics alike.

"Through his scholarship and extensive mystery publishing activities,
Dr. Greene exemplifies the spirit of George Dove," said Marty S.
Knepper, cochair of the caucus.

Sisters in Crime received a special Dove Award to mark its 20th year
in the support of female mystery writers, enhancing appreciation and
study of their work in both academic and popular venues. "All of us
who read, teach, and study women mystery writers owe a big debt to
Sisters in Crime," Knepper remarked.

The Dove Award recognizes outstanding contributions to the serious
study of mystery and crime fiction and is named for the late George N.
Dove, a pioneer in mystery scholarship. Past recipients include
distinguished author-critic H.R.F. Keating; the late John M. Reilly,
editor of _Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers_, and Margaret
Kinsman and Elizabeth Foxwell, executive editor and managing editor
respectively of the scholarly periodical _Clues: A Journal of Detection_).

The PCA's Detective/Mystery Caucus is part of the Popular Culture
Association and American Culture Association, joint organizations that
support the scholarly interpretation and critique of popular
literature, film, TV, advertising, and other forms of popular culture.
Many of the members of this large academic organization are teachers
as well as scholars.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Ficcion del Crimen en Espanol

Looking at my blog stats today, I discovered Sweet Home Alameda (or, as babelfish translates it, Sweet Home Tree-Lined Avenue), which covers English language crime and pulp fiction in Spanish. What little Spanish I learned has not been used in so long that I turned to a translation service to double check what I was reading (some of it said what I thought, some not so much), The blog's author, Gonzalo Baeza, has lots of links to English language independent publishers and crime fiction sites. So, if you happen to be bilingual check it out.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Noircon has a Web site

Start making your vacation plans now. It's in Philly, so there's a good chance anyone who attends might get to see a real shooting.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

I know a good idea when I hear one

so I think I will take J. Kingston Pierce's advice. Starting next week, I will feature a weekly book cover.

Hard Case Reprints and their original covers

I present, for your perusal, some Hard Case Crime reprint covers, and the artwork for earlier editions of those books.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Yet More Book Porn

I'm not sure how I neglected to post a link to this site yet, but if you like paperback covers you have to spend time there. It's got a huge selection of images organized by publisher. The titles range from stuff that you read in high school English to stuff you thought about in high school.

The Return of Book Porn

Book porn is back. This site has something for everyone. You want crime? How about sex? Maybe horror is your thing. This page (scroll down) proves that everything old is new again.

Bleak House Books to publish Eric Stone

Bleak House Books will be publishing two novels by Eric Stone. They will be bringing out a paperback edition of Living Room of the Dead, and they will also publish Stone's new novel, Grave Imports, about smuggling Cambodian Art.
You can read all about it at Bleak House's news page, where you can also listen to Victoria Houston read the first two chapters of her new novel Dead Madonna. That's not all you can do over there, however. Bleak House does a good job of keeping their site current, and putting up multimedia goodies. If you haven't been over there recently, you should check it out. Well worth your time.

Monday, April 2, 2007

New Spinetingler

If you want to waste some serious time, go check out the new Spinetingler, where Sandra Ruttan interviews Allan Guthrie and Ken Bruen. There's tons of good stuff, so go ahead and read it. Productivity is overrated anyway.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Review of Soul Patch

Secrets. They bind people who want nothing to do with each other together. They drive people who need each other apart. They bring uncertainty and guilt with each new day and, in the end, they are always impossible to keep.

In Soul Patch, (Bleak House, 2007) Reed Farrel Coleman’s follow up to the critically acclaimed The James Deans, private-eye cum wine merchant Moe Prager finds himself swallowed by secrets. He is haunted by the knowledge that he let his wife’s older brother slip away from him years ago when he had been hired to find him. Moe and his father-in-law, the only other person who knows, are engaged in a contest of wills, to see who breaks first.

While Moe is preoccupied with this secret, which threatens his marriage, his old friend, Larry McDonald, NYPD’s chief of detectives, comes around with a tape and asks Moe to listen to it. Moe does. It’s an illicit recording of a small time drug suspect offering to talk about the murder of a real drug kingpin who died years ago. Moe doesn’t get it, and when McDonald asks Moe to help try and cover up the fact that some old cops were the dead kingpin’s payroll back in the day Moe refuses. When McDonald turns up dead of an apparent suicide Moe no longer has the option of saying no. An offer of information regarding his long missing brother-in-law from Queens District Attorney Richard Fishbein, makes sure he stays motivated.

Coleman brings a depth of feeling to his PI that is often missing in the genre. Moe is a complex character pulled in many different directions by conflicting emotions. Boredom, loyalty, fear, anger and regret all combine in Moe’s breast to drive him forward. He is a different breed than fictional investigators like Lew Archer, or Philip Marlowe, who are largely absent from their own stories. Moe is tortured, but not in the clich├ęd drunken private investigator way. He’s made some mistakes and had some bad luck, but he’s a family man, not a brooding loner, whose comfort is found at the bottom of a bottle. He is deeply concerned about how his actions, and the secrets he is dredging up, will affect those around him.

Coleman has written a fine, elegiac novel, brimming with regret and sadness. Moe is a melancholy man and he is surrounded by a melancholy Brooklyn; a place Coleman knows so well it is more of a character than a setting. It is also a subject which brings out Coleman’s eloquent side. For Coleman,

Coney Island is a dirty, dark-hearted place, a place that once was and no longer is. Rain washes nothing but the good away in Coney Island. And when the rain drives the visitors back to their cars and subways, they take their happy memories with them. In their wake, only the truth of the place remains; the moldering garbage, the rusted and crumbling rides, empty arcades and sideshow spielers pitching their rigged games to a crush of absent hordes.”

It is writing like that which keeps Soul Patch from being just another private eye story.

Coleman’s novel is more character driven than plot driven, which is fortunate, since his plot in this outing is predictable. There are no last minute surprises, but that’s all right. Readers will come for the mystery, but stay for the company.

The Reed Farrel Coleman Update and some thoughts on book reviewing

Reed Farrel Coleman's follow up to The James Deans is out this month. One of the most striking things about the new novel, Soul Patch, is the way Coleman evokes a sense of place, and the latest issue of The Big Thrill Webzine, has an article from Coleman on Coney Island.

This article is a prime example of why I usually publish my reviews early. I finished my review of Soul Patch a couple of weeks ago, but I've been sitting on it, planning to release it when the book came out. This morning I boot up the computer and read this article, where, among other things, Coleman talks about how he wanted to make Coney Island more of a character in the book than just a setting. Well, this is a point I made in the review. Now, this means that Coleman was entirely successful, because I got it. I still cringe, however, because I hate the thought of anyone thinking that I take points for my reviews from anyone else-especially an author. I make it a point not to read anything about a book I plan to review until my review is done. A reviewer has a responsibility to give their impressions about the book, and only the book.
I was planning to start April off with my review of Hard Man, but I published that review early, because I knew I would break down and listen to Guthrie's interview at Behind the Black Mask. I really wrestled with what to write about Hard Man, and I knew that listening to the author talk about it would likely change my impressions of the book, and, in fact, my impressions of the book have changed a little. After I published the review, the author contacted me (to thank me, not to complain), and we ended up discussing the book. That discussion has changed my perspective somewhat, but I still stand by my review, and the criticisms I leveled, because those were my initial, honest impressions, and that is what a book review should be.