Friday, November 28, 2008

Review of Fifty-to-One

To commemorate the publication of the fiftieth Hard Case Crime title, publisher Charles Ardai has penned a comic what-if novel set fifty years ago about a not-too-ethical paperback pubisher who stirs up some trouble when he publishes a supposedly true account of the robbery of a mafia owned nightclub that was actually penned by a young dancer from South Dakota. Hijinks ensue when it turns out there really was a robbery at the club in question, and the owner is out for blood. To make the novel a bit more fun, Ardai has used the titles of each of Hard Case's fifty titles in chronological order as chapter titles. The result is an entertaining, if overly long, caper. Ardai does a pretty good job in working the book titles into the story, although there are some groaners (the Zero Cool chapter, for instance).

Fifty-to-One is not as good as the novels Ardai has published under his Aleas pseudonym, but it's not meant to be a masterpiece. It's meant to be a love letter to the golden age of paperback novels and a thank you note to the loyal fans of his publishing venture. With cameo appearances by some writers Hard Case aficianados will appreciate, joyful deployment of genre cliches and a color insert of Hard Case covers, this is a book for people who have shelves crammed with paperbacks old and new.


I am officially on vacation until sometime around the middle of December. That means a vacation from the blog too. I've got a couple of reviews set to auto post, but I'm gonna be somewhere else thinking about other things for a while. I will return, however.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wednesday Papberback Cover

I wonder how much he spends on hair gel each month.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An Interview with James Reasoner

Over at The Tainted Archive, there's an interview with James Reasoner. It's primarily about his Westerns, and the format of the layout can make it hard to read at times, but it's still worth reading. (via).

Wednesday Paperback Cover

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pulp on the Web

PBS has an interesting article about Sci-fi pulp magazines and how they're adapting (or failing to adapt) to the Web. It doesn't focus on crime or mystery fiction, but it does point out that Dell, which publishes Asmiov's and Analog Science Fiction also publishes Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines, and I think that they're pretty much in the same boat in terms of declining circulation and failing to attract new readers (I mean, how many people even know who the hell Ellery Queen was any more? Alfred Hitchock at least has some name recognition.) I know I tend to think of Plots with Guns or Thuglit as the places to go to read new crime short stories. I might pick up a copy of AHMM or EQMM if I happen to see them on a shelf (which isn't often), but it's hardly must read material.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Review of Chasing Smoke

Bill Cameron's Chasing Smoke (Bleak House, 2008), the follow up to his debut, Lost Dog, isn't a proper sequel to that book. It shifts the focus to Portland detective Skin Kadish, who played a supporting role in the previous book. Wracked by bladder cancer, Kadish is on leave and not looking to get involved in any investigations, so he is less than thrilled when his partner has him picked up and brought to the scene of an apparent suicide so she can get his thoughts. Kadish isn't interesed until he learns that the dead man's death is one of many, all apparent suicides, by cancer patients who happen to share the same doctor, who also happens to be Kadish's own oncologist.

Despite the fact that he might be dying, Kadish can't let go of the case once he starts thinking about it. Without any official police support, Kadish launches his own investigation, without being sure a crime has been committed, risking his job and his relationship with his partner to find the truth.

Cameron has crafted a solid mystery novel, and he does a good job of keeping the reader guessing as to exactly what is happening. Kadish is an appealing character who straddles the line between hardass detective and victim of human frailty, and the conclusion and fallout are satisfying. Overall, Chasing Smoke is an entertaining, well plotted mystery well worth checking out.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Twist of Noir

There's a new short fiction blog to check out. Christopher Grant has launched A Twist of Noir, which is taking submissions for crime fiction stories up to 3,000 words. There are only a couple of stories up right now, but I'm sure the number will grow as word gets out.

From the submission guidelines:

What I'm looking for are well-written, engaging and interesting crime and noir stories.

I will accept flash and short stories only; no novel-length tomes, please.

I will accept both unpublished and reprinted work. If it's a reprint, please let me know and, if possible, indicate where it was originally published.

Flash fiction up to 1000 words.

Short stories up to 3000 words.

And, of course, you retain all rights to your work.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday Paperback Cover

What does this title mean? Seriously. Someone tell me.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Amphetamine Logic at Crimewav

I know you've been dying to hear the sound of my voice. Well, your prayers have been answered. You can hear me reading my short story "Amphetamine Logic" at A big thanks to Seth Harwood, for 1) asking me to read it and 2) taking the time and effor to put it up. And no, that's not my pipe in the picture. Must be Seth's.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Altman's The Long Goodbye

I finally watched Robert Altman's 1973 version of The Long Goodbye, a film that tends to inspire intense feelings on the part of fans of Raymond Chandler. I can see how a movie buff would enjoy it. It's a well done film. I can see how a casual fan of detective movies would enjoy it. It retains enough of Chandler's novel to be interesting. However, I can't see how anyone who has ever read the book could like it.

The Long Goodbye is Chandler's moment in the sun. It's his greatest work. Sure, he's best known for The Big Sleep, but it cannot compare to The Long Goodbye. The Big Sleep is a great detective novel. The Long Goodbye is a great novel. It's Chandler's comment on a broken world full of disappointment dressed up as a whodunit.

Altman's adaptation captures none of the emotional resonance of the novel. It dispenses entirely with the relationship between Terry Lenox and Marlowe. Their friendship is the novel's driving force, and the movie puts them on screen together once at the beginning and once at the end. Elliot Gould as Marlowe is left trying to convince us of the depth of the relationship on his own. He fails. His protestations that Lenox was his friend ring hollow.

This hollowness affects the rest of the movie. With no background, Marlowe's quest to clear Lenox's name seems unbelivable, and when the final confrontation comes it has no resonance. Not only does the movie's climactic scene have no emotional resonance, it takes the easy way out, tacking a Mickey Spillane ending onto a Chandler story. The ending of Chandler's novel is a great moment. When Marlowe finally tracks Lenox down and confronts him it's all done with words, but Marlowe manages to eviscerate his former friend regardless, and the reader can feel the detective's heartbreak and Lenox's desperation. Altman managed to turn Marlowe into a cold blooded killer. It's disgusting. Chandler's detective was a lot of things, but he was never a murderer. It's a cheap, shitty Hollywood ending, and it deserves nothing but scorn.

There was a documentary that came with the DVD version of the film. In it, Altman says that he was worried when people started complaining that his film "wasn't Chandler," but quit worrying when he realized those people "really meant it wasn't Humphrey Bogart." Altman was wrong. People weren't complaining that it wasn't Bogart. They were complaining it wasn't Chandler, and they were right. It's not Chandler. It's not even close.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Gangster Squad

Here's something for the James Ellroy fans. An interactive video and slideshow gallery from the LA Times documenting the LAPD's post WWII Gangster Squad, a unit formed to combat organized crime in the city.

Say goodbye to your afternoon. (

Did you know that Max Baer Jr. (Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies) used to hang out with Mickey Cohen? You do now. Who the hell knows what Ellie Mae got up to?