Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Kiss Me, Stupid: What is Mickey Spillane's Appeal?

The recent arrival of Dead Street, the latest Hard Case Crime release, and the final crime novel by writer (not author) Mickey Spillane, has got me wondering, exactly what is the appeal of the man's work? I intended to write a review of Dead Street, but I don't think I'm going to be able to finish it. It's too corny. This isn't my first attempt at reading Spillane. I've tried a couple times before and always given up. I'm beginning to think it's him, not me. I posed a similar question on the mailing list Rara Avis, and no one has yet to offer a real defense of Spillane's work. There has been a lot of talk about how successful he was, and there's no arguing with that. He was a one man publishing phenomenon, and one of the most successful writers of the 20th Century. Still, he's not any good. His characters are all the same-psychopathic thugs. His dialogue is stilted and ridiculous (Was there ever a time when men called women doll?) and his plots don't exactly leave room for shades of gray. Violence is always the answer. In Spillane's world there's no problem that can't be solved with a gun. It's always the first resort. In Dead Street, in a particularly stupid scene, the protagonist fantasizes about shooting a veterinarian in the face. A veterinarian who bought him coffee and wanted to talk to him. The veterinarian's mistake is bringing up a traumatic event from the protagonist's past. That's all it takes to set this guy off. That's not tough. It's pathetic. But Spillane doesn't present him as the damage case he obviously is. No, there's nothing wrong with this guy. Now, I like a tough guy protagonist. Take Westlake's Parker, for instance. He's a guy for whom violence is always the answer. But he's a crook and a psycho. Westlake doesn't hold him up as a hero. Violence also causes Parker as many problems as it solves. In Spillane's world violence only solves problems. Is that what made him so popular? Is there really a longing deep in the hearts of men to shoot every guy who says the wrong thing and every woman who does them wrong? If so, Spillane's success says a lot about human nature, none of it good.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wednesday Paperback Cover

The first rule of high school sex club is don't write books about high school sex club.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Review of Reasonable Doubts

Reasonable Doubts (Bitter Lemon Press, 2007) by Gianrico Carofiglio and translated by Howard Curtis, is a thinking man’s legal thriller. The third novel to feature defense lawyer Guido Guerrieri, Reasonable Doubts centers on Guerrieri’s efforts to clear a man convicted of drug trafficking after having been caught entering Italy with a car packed full of cocaine. Complicating matters is the fact that Guerrieri’s new client may or may not be a former fascist thug who once beat up his new lawyer for wearing the wrong color coat, and the fact that Guerrieri finds himself hopelessly smitten with his new client’s wife. His client, called Fabio Rayban, because of the brand of sunglasses he used to favor, might also be guilty.

Carofiglio, a former mafia prosecutor in Bari, where he sets his novels, does not provide any easy answers. The legal system renders verdicts, either guilty or not guilty, but the legal system is just a social construct set up to help people deal with complex sets of facts, and, even after a verdict is rendered, questions about the truth often remain. The author’s background and experience help him paint a vivid picture of the ambiguous nature of much legal work.

The book is slow at points, however, and may be a bit underwhelming for readers whose tastes run to two-fisted action or sensational crimes. It’s truly a novel of the legal system, and most of the action takes place in offices and courtrooms. The denouement is also a little too convenient. The protagonist, after having brought unwanted attention to some organized crime elements while trying to clear his client, has all of the impending danger disappear through a stroke of coincidence. After a long story about how easy answers aren’t easy to come by, the ending is a little too convenient, but then again, it’s fiction, and if we are to be denied easy answers in real life, shouldn’t we be able to find them somewhere?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hiding Your Interest in Sleaze

William Smith of Hangfire Books in Brooklyn has an interesting post about the lengths some people will go to to disguise their interest in prurient reading material. I'm kind of puzzled. I mean, whoever owned those books could have just put them in a drawer or a closet or something. Seeing a bunch of blacked out spines on a bookshelf would make me quite suspicious.

And, in case you missed it the first time, Mr. Smith has a killer Flickr feed of paperback covers. (via)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I feel like I've been slacking lately

I realize there hasn't been a lot of new content here lately, and I feel bad about that, but I've been quite busy with work, and I've been wandering off the reservation lately. I've been reading quite a bit, when I haven't been listening to the new Radiohead album. I've recently finished Terrill Lankford's Earthquake Weather, which was an entirely entertaining novel that answered a lot of questions I had about the movie business. (Yes, it's evil, in case you were wondering.) I've also read Ed Gorman's western Bad Money, which I also enjoyed very much. It was a pleasant surprise because I'm not a huge fan of westerns. The only western movies I really like are The Wild Bunch and High Plains Drifter, so I was pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed Mr. Gorman's work. It was the first western I've read, although I plan to read James Reasoner's recent work, Death Head Crossing, in the near future, because if it's half as good as Dust Devils, it will still be kick ass.

Wednesday Paperback Cover

Similar titles, similar themes.

Friday, October 12, 2007

An Epiphany of Sorts

Bryon Quertermous has a revelation about the value of independent presses. He admits to past prejudice against indie publishers, which seems silly to me. If I were to publish a book, a small publisher who's going to actually pay attention to my work would seem attractive compared to a huge publishing conglomerate where it would likely languish midlist while all of the available marketing budget got redirected to promoting some book about a professor who happens to look exactly like Tom Cruise who discovers that Jesus was really a space alien and must race against the clock to stop Nazis from exploiting ancient alien artifacts disguised as religious relics to bring about the end of the world, while romancing a female grad student who happens to look just like Scarlett Johansen.

(P.S. Hollywood Producers: Feel free to use my story idea for your next summer "blockbuster." All I ask is 20 percent on the back end and a co-producer credit.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The I forgot it was Wednesday Paperback Cover

Two sides of the same coin. The title on the left, was by William S. Burroughs. The one on the right, by some guy.

Monday, October 8, 2007

And the Winners Are

Keith Rawson and Seth Harwood have both won a copy of Reasonable Doubts by Gianrico Carofiglio.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Reviews of Kill Clock and The Killer

Allan Guthrie’s latest offering, Kill Clock, (Barrington Stoke, 2007) is an adult story written so children could read it. The simplicity of style is intentional, as Barrington Stoke is a publishing house devoted to putting out books for reluctant readers. Billed as a novella, Kill Clock takes less time to read than many short stories written for less-than-reluctant readers.

The story follows Edinburgh thug, Pearce, from Two-Way Split and Hard Man as he tries to rescue his former fiancĂ©e from a local loan shark. Pearce is, as usual, reluctant to get involved. When his ex, Julie, shows up with a story about how her newly dead husband owed a lot of money, and she has to pay it back or be killed, he thinks she’s putting him on. After all, she ran off with the engagement ring he gave her years ago. Even after Julie is kidnapped in front of him, and her two children, Pearce is still skeptical about her story, but he feels he has no choice but to get involved because of Julie’s kids.

Kill Clock moves quickly, but it’s such a short story that it has to. It takes place after the events of Hard Man, but they are alluded to only in a vague way. The lack of background is understandable because of the nature of the writing Guthrie is doing, but Pearce is becoming problematic. He’s been through a lot. He found his sister dead of a drug overdose. His mother bled to death in his arms, and he watched a man get crucified. Through it all, he has remained the same hard headed tough guy. It’s beginning to stretch credulity. If Guthrie is going to carry on with Pearce, as seems likely, the character is going to have to grow and change to stay viable. In Kill Clock there are hints that Pearce may take. Hopefully, Guthrie will expand on those hints the next time he brings his fans another Pearce story.

The Killer (Archaia Studio Press, 2007) by writer Matz and artist Luc Jacamon, is a not terribly original story about a hitman who is struggling to stay sane while he tries to retire in peace. Crime fiction is full of hitmen who suffer existential crises and try to get out of the business only to find out it’s not easy to quit. The Killer would be boring if it weren’t a graphic novel. Comic books have a tendency to be over the top, which is only natural given that most of the characters in comics wear tights and have superpowers. It’s an over the top premise. The problem comes when comic artists and writers try to tell a story that should be done in a realistic fashion, but can’t leave the visual and verbal hyperbole behind. The Killer doesn’t have that problem. It’s subdued in it’s presentation, for a comic book. The title character isn’t some sort of super killing machine. He’s a man. A lonely man, and the violence, while graphic isn’t over the top. Aside from Ed Brubaker’s Criminal series, there isn’t a lot of crime fiction being published in graphic novel format these days, and for that reason, The Killer is a welcome volume.

If you're interested in The Killer, be sure to check out the online Flash version of the comic book, here.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Still Time to Win Reasonable Doubts

There's still time to enter my Reasonable Doubts giveaway. If you want to be entered to win one of two copies of this new book from Bitter Lemon Press email me at IndieCrime-at-Gmail-dot-com. Put contest in the subject line and your address in the body. Deadline is Sunday.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007