Thursday, August 30, 2007

Based on An Original Story by Nathan Cain

In July, my story "Amphetamine Logic" was published in Thuglit, where it got the attention of an aspiring filmmaker named Mitchell Cohen. He's already made one neo-noir short film, Peter's Price, and he wanted to use my story as the basis for his next effort. Needless to say, I was flattered and, after seeing Peter's Price, I was certain he would do a good job interpreting my story. To make a long story short, it's official now, as we've come to an agreement, and a contract has been signed. I'm excited, and I can't wait to see how it will turn out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Busy Weekend

Atlanta's going to be a happening place this weekend. First off, there's the Decatur Book Festival, which will have more authors than you can shake a stick at, including an interesting looking panel featuring Con Lehane and James O. Born, which I plan on attending.
In the other direction, geographically and intellectually, downtown Atlanta will be host to Dragon Con. I'm not actually going to attend DragonCon because I'm afraid that I might hit the first grown man I see dressed as a Storm Trooper. I am, however, going to interview Seth Harwood, who will be in town for the event. Seth has garnered a loyal following with his Jack Palms podcasts, and recently landed a book deal for his first Palms novel, Jack Wakes Up, which will be published by Breakneck Books next year. Look for the interview here early next week.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Review of Tango for a Torturer

Daniel Chavarria’s latest novel, Tango for a Torturer, (Akashic, 2007) is more fairy-tale for aging communists than mystery. The novel tells the story of Aldo Bianchi, a successful Argentine businessman, and former victim of the military police in that country, who finds his old nemesis, Orlando Ortega Oritz, the notorious CIA trained torturer who made his life a living hell. With the help of a prostitute named Bini, who has a relationship with both men Aldo sets in motion an elaborate plan to destroy his enemy.

The story itself is straightforward, but Chavarria approaches it elliptically, and the constant diversions, detours and asides may try the patience of readers who are used to the more straightforward style of English language fiction. Chavarria’s story jumps around in time, and point-of-view, something that is apparently common in Spanish language fiction. Still, the novel is never too confusing, and if one is patient all will be revealed.

The main weakness of Tango for a Torturer is Chavarria’s na├»ve worldview. Communism was very 20th Century, and Chavarria, a Uruguayan living in Cuba, is in the awkward position of having outlived his own ideology. The book rightly condemns state sponsored violence, and Aldo’s revenge is certainly just, but the irony of writing a novel condemning such a thing while living in Cuba seems entirely lost on the author. It’s not like Castro has a history of caring deeply about the human rights of his opponents, or homosexuals or Jehovah’s witnesses. In the book, Aldo frames Triple-O for a hit-and-run. Triple-O is sent to a Cuban prison, which sounds more like a social club than a place of punishment. It’s a place, not fraught with violence and fear, but full of culture. One of Triple-O’s fellow inmates is memorizing the Iliad in five different languages. Everyone seems to think this is a laudable goal, and wants to hear him recite ancient poetry. In sunny Cuba, under Castro’s benevolent rule, even jail is a center of culture.

Bini, the prostitute, is a communist daydream as well. It is made very clear that she whores, not because of economic deprivation, but because she enjoys it. She’s a noble savage, poor, but committed to justice. When Aldo asks for her help in framing Triple-O, she does it for nothing, even though it means she must spend time behind bars. If this has the distinct ring of bullshit, that’s because it’s bullshit. Let’s not forget, however, that Castro has been known to jail people for publishing works abroad without official consent. Of course, if jail is so great in Cuba, one wonders what Mr. Chavarria has to worry about.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Anarchy and Old Dogs in the NYT

The latest offering from Soho Crime, Anarchy and Old Dogs,by Colin Cotterill, gets a positive review from Janet Maslin. Cotterill, in addition to being the author of a series of crime novels set in Laos, is also a cartoonist.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ian Rankin was just kidding

Well, after making an offhand comment about JK Rowling writing a crime novel that managed to get international media attention, Ian Rankin has admitted it was a joke. That's a relief.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

J.K. Rowling Crime Writer?

Excerpt from the Associated Press:

Report: Rowling Writing Detective Novel

Associated Press Writer

J.K. Rowling has been spotted at cafes in Scotland working on a detective novel, a British newspaper reported Saturday.

The Sunday Times newspaper quoted Ian Rankin, a fellow author and neighbor of Rowling's, as saying the creator of the "Harry Potter" books is turning to crime fiction.

"My wife spotted her writing her Edinburgh criminal detective novel," the newspaper, which was available late Saturday, quoted Rankin as telling a reporter at an Edinburgh literary festival.

"It is great that she has not abandoned writing or Edinburgh cafes," said Rankin, who is known for his own police novels set in the historic Scottish city.

The rest of the story is here.

Now the question is, would anyone buy an adult novel from Ms. Rowling?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Alternative Noir

I haven't checked in with Behind the Black Mask in a while. I missed their podcast on Alternative Noir publications, including Thrilling Detective and Seth Harwood's Jack Palms.

Wednesday Paperback Cover


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hard Case and Soho Crime updates

The other day, I went surfing for information on Shepherd Rifkin the author of The Murderer Vine, which Hard Case will be publishing next year. I didn't find much. Little did I know that all I would have to do is wait. Here's the scoop from Hard Case's latest newsletter:

We've put our next new title up on our Web site: THE MURDERER VINE by Shepard Rifkin. It's a powerful book that fictionalizes the same historical events that inspired the movie "Mississippi Burning," with the addition of a really stunning crime fiction twist. The author has an interesting history himself: now 89, Rifkin served on the S. S. Ben Hecht in 1947 and was imprisoned by the British in Acre Prison (a fortress on the northern coast of what is now Israel) after a failed attempt to run the British blockade of Palestine while transporting hundreds of refugees from the Holocaust. Rifkin and his crewmates were released -- but not before smuggling a camera into the prison, enabling what has been called "one of the most spectacular prison breaks in history." None of which has anything to do with THE MURDERER VINE -- but what a great story!

Hard Case is also going to be reprinting Steve Fisher's No House Limit, another book there seems to be little info about on the 'Net.

In other news, The latest Soho Crime newsletter in now online, Read it here.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Point Blank Gets Profiled

The Louisville Courier-Journal has an article on Point Blank Press, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite publishers. I had never heard of them until I was lucky enough to run across a copy of Two Way Split on a library shelf a few years ago. They've got some great titles, including Cocaine and Blue Eyes and James Reasoner's brand new Dust Devils (which is incorrectly referred to as "Dust" in the article.) Dust Devils, as far as I'm concerned, is the best book of the year so far, and if you don't read it you're just cheating yourself.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Moonlight, Magnolias and Murder

While doing a little research on The Murderer Vine, the most recently announced title from Hard Case Crime, I came across this site from The University of Mississippi. It's got a good list of mysteries set in Mississippi, info on authors, and even an interactive map. They've got a good write up on Elliot Chaze, as well as a couple of better known Mississippi authors. It's well worth spending a little time there.

Bleak House Limited Editions

The latest Bleak House Books newsletter word that the Wisconsin publisher is introducing new, limited editions of each of its new titles. The Evidence Collection, as the new editions are called, will be limited to 250 copies of each title. Each copy will come with a police booking sheet with the author's vital info, including a fingerprint and signature. They sell for $45 a piece.
I have to say I'm disappointed. The fingerprint is a nice touch, but I like my limited editions signed in blood.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Review of Payback

Payback by Russell James (Point Blank, 2007) is a novel that, on the surface, shares a lot of similarities with Get Carter (a.k.a. Jack’s Return Home). You can start with the premise: A man with a checkered past returns home to investigate the death of his estranged brother. Both stories are set among the English working class. The main characters of both books share a surname. Both men commit acts of violence in their quest to uncover the truth. But Floyd Carter, the protagonist of Payback, is no Jack Carter. Jack is a hard man; a cold blooded killer, and Floyd, while he’s no angel, is not a Jack. He is an altogether more humane figure.

Despite their superficial similarities, Payback and Get Carter are very different stories. While the latter is a straightforward revenge tale, with bad people doing bad things to each other, the former is a story about the nature of family and friendship with a revenge element.

Floyd Carter returns from Germany to London to bury his brother Albie, a local drug dealer, who was killed in a hit and run. The police are the only ones who think Albie’s death was an accident, so when Floyd returns, all eyes are on him. He has a reputation, after all. Soon, Floyd finds himself embroiled in a war between two rival drug gangs competing for territory. Floyd has other concerns, however. His best friend has turned into a junkie. The woman he cares for has a teenage daughter headed for trouble, and his brother’s death has left him responsible for his retarded brother, Ludo.

Floyd feels compelled to find out who killed his brother, even though they had not spoken in years, and even though he worries about how his actions will affect his loved ones. It is this additional element that keeps Payback from being your run-of-the-mill revenge story. He’s not a single minded killer like Jack Carter or Donald Westlake’s Parker. He’s a man who wonders if his desire for revenge might end up hurting the ones he loves. The conflict gives the story depth it needs to stand out.

The heroin-addicted friend subplot doesn’t really go anywhere, but it does give James a chance to riff on the drug trade, which he writes about well, pointing out the absurdity of both the user’s attitude and the way the authorities combat drugs. His point is well taken, but it’s too bad the subplot feels tacked on.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Continue to Watch this Space: New Content Coming Soon

I realize the blog has been less than stellar lately, but I promise there's new content coming soon. I've got a huge pile of books I'm trying to work my way through, and the flurry of activity that moving necessitates is coming to a close. In fact, I'm confident there will be a new review posted this weekend. Bear with me.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007