So, is it three screenplays Victor Gischler has optioned recently? Seriously, I've lost count. First, he announced that Go-Go Girls of The Apocalypse had been optioned. Then he announced that Pulp Boy, which he has co-written with Anthony Neil Smith had been optioned. And now I see that the adaptation of Gun Monkeys is set to be directed by up and coming Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura. Someone's having a pretty good month. Will he move to Hollywood? Become notorious after he's a passenger in a car driven through a mall food court by a visibly intoxicated Lindsey Lohan? Will he replace Quentin Tarantio as Hollywood's writer of choice for over-the-top action films? Let's hope so. Gischer's stories tend to have a plot, which is more than you can say for Kill Bill.
In lieu of a review this week, I will bring you an entry in Patricia Abbot's Friday's Forgotten Books. Robert Edmond Alter'sCarny Kill is one of those now cliched tales of Florida weirdos written in 1966 before Florida weirdos were the most overexposed group of weirdos on the planet. (It's been reprinted twice, in 1986 and 1993, both times by Black Lizard, so it's easy to come by. I paid the princely sum of 54 cents for my copy.) Thax, a down on his luck carny (is there another kind?) wanders into Neverland, a Disneyland ripoff. He hits it off with the owner, gets a job, and then finds out May, his professional knife throwing ex-wife is married to the owner.
Thax is the laid back type, so he takes the news in stride and sticks around. When the owner turns up dead with one of May's knives in his chest, Thax starts looking into things, not because he feels anything toward his ex-wife, but becasue he knows the police will be looking at him because of his sordid past and relationship with May.
There's nothing particularly surprising in terms of plot in Carny Kill, but Alter is a clever writer and he makes Thax an appealing sleaze. The world of spielers, nautch girls and other hustlers is vividly drawn and it's a fun place to visit, although I wouldn't want to live there.
The New York Times has a blog about booze. More precisely, it is about alcohol in American life (allow me to sum up the role of alcohol in American life: Everyone loves it, even the self-righteous types who hate it because then they wouldn't have anything to be self righteous about.) Anyway, writer Brian McDonald has a post has a post about the evolution of his reading habits, that leans heavily on Hammett and Chandler. He also relates an anecdote about Hunter S. Thompson setting himself on fire. Don't get too excited, though, someone put him out.
The work of Wade Miller (the duo Bob Wade and Bill Miller, who also wrote under the name Whit Masterson) is an excellent example of the hard boiled paperback original ideal. The prose is lean, the stories are violent and the protagonists are, to be charitable, morally ambiguous.
The Killer and Devil on Two Sticks, originally published in 1951 and 1949 respectively, are two good examples of Miller's work, and repackaged side by side by Stark House Press, make for an interesting study in Miller's moral preoccupations.
On the surface, the two books are different. The Killer is about Jake Farrow, a professional big game hunter, who takes a commission to hunt a bank robber and murderer. Devil on Two Sticks is about Steve Beck, a mob enforcer in San Diego who has to ferret a rat out of his boss's organization. Farrow is a rugged outdoor type, while Beck is an urban sophisticate, but both stories revolve around the pride both men have in their work and women who make them ask unwelcome questions about the morality of that work and the validity of that pride.
Both novels are compact, muscular affairs, but Devil on Two Sticks stands out as superior, both for its more involved plot and its ending, which has more resonance than the happier ending of The Killer. Still, both of these books are the real thing.
Criminal writer Ed Brubaker has a new live-action Web series coming out this year. Angel of Death is about a hitwoman (is hitperson the PC term? Really, I have no idea.) who turns on her former employers after getting hit on the head and suddenly developing a conscience. I'm a huge fan of Criminal, and I'm anxious to get my hands on the recently released fourth trade paperback in the series, but I'm leery of this project. Does the world need more hitman fiction? It's getting to the point where professional killers are as trite as serial killers. Still, Brubaker's shown himself to handle crime fiction, so I might give it a chance. The trailer is below. (via.)
Hard Case's November title for this year is up on their Web site. It's by Max Allan Collins, who has now penned four original novels for Hard Case and had two novels reprinted in one volume (those two novels happened to be the first two Hard Case novels I actively disliked, so they kind of ended the honeymoon I was having with the series.) Overall, I have mixed feelings about Collins' work, but another Quarryshould be a welcome addition to Hard Case's lineup. The First Quarry and The Last Quarrywere both decent reads. Thank god it's not another Ms. Tree novel.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine came in from out of town. As she was going through my book collection, she made a comment about how we would be pressed to find space for all our books if we lived together. And it's true, I don't have space for all of my books now, and I continue to collect more. It's unusual for a month to go by without my dropping at least twenty bucks at Amazon, I get Hard Case Crime's new release every month, and I sometimes get packages of books from publicists for review. In short, by book collection continues to grow, and I'm not inclined to sell too many of them off, even though I'm sure there are any number that could go. Still, it probably wouldn't be enough to offset the growth.
In short, I'm exactly the sort of person Amazon is trying to reach with it's e-book reader The Kindle. So, why, when I was reading the coverage of Amazon's announcement of the new improved Kindle this week, was I left cold? When I shop Amazon, I often run across out-of-print offerings that are available on Kindle. Amazon's prices are reasonable, and an ebook reader would save a lot of valuable real estate. Still, it just fails to spark my desire. First off, I find it ridiculous that Amazon's promotional materials flog things like access to blogs and Wikipedia, which you can access from any smart phone, not to mention computers. But that's just silly marketing. I should be excited about this sort of thing, but I'm not. It just seems flat, and not in a space saving kind of way.
Hard Case Crime's Charles Ardai is getting to be quite the literary detective. Thanks to his efforts, books that would have never seen the light of day are finding their way into print. Hard Case recently announced the upcoming publication of a brand new Lester Dent novel, and there is also The Dead Man's Brother, a lost adventure novel from science fiction author Roger Zelazny.
Zelazny won six Hugos and three Nebulas, but never published a crime novel during his lifetime, so The Dead Man's Brother is a noteable artifact. The story follows Ovid Wiley, a former art smuggler turned respectable gallery owner who finds his former smuggling partner dead in his place of work. He is quickly picked up by the police, and then the CIA, which offers to make his trouble go away for a price. Wiley must track down a priest who has absconded with $3 million of the Vatican's dollars. This unwelcome assignment takes Wiley to Rome, where he meets up with his smuggling partner's ex-girlfriend, and then to Brazil, where he and Maria end up involved in local politics.
The story is solid, but not spectacular. Zelazny keeps everything moving along nicely, but it's all territory that's been trod before. It's entertaining, and it shows Zelazny could have easily branched out into other genres, but The Dead Man's Brother is remarkable mainly for it's status as a forgotten novel.
Busted Flush Press has reissued Reed Farrel Coleman's The James Deans, a novel that won Shamus, Barry and Anthony awards, received boatloads of critical praise and then disappeared without much notice by the wider world. The reissue alone is nice, but David Thompson has added some bang for the buck, including two short stories featuring Moe Prager, a foreward by Michael Connelly, an afterword by Coleman and an excerpt from the forthcoming Coleman/ Ken Bruen collaboration Tower. If you're going to reissue a book, this is how you do it.
Joe Gores is profiled in the San Francisco Chronicle on the occasion of the publication of Spade and Archer, his prequel (God how I loathe that word) to The Maltese Falcon. It's impossible to overstate what a horrible idea a book using Hammett's iconic character is. The only reason I'm willing to entertain the idea of reading the book is because Gores wrote it. If anyone could pull it off it would be Gores. He's the grand old man of West Coast detective fiction, and if anyone can pull it off he can, and the initial reactions seem to be good. Still, even if Spade and Archer turns out to be a great read, let's leave the past in the past. Don't make me mention Poodle Springs.
The only site on the Web dedicated to Donald Westlake's alter ego's greatest creation has relaunched with a much improved design. (You can see the old design here.) Be sure to catch the tribute page, which has a good collection of links to Westlake obit pieces. The page also has great collections of covers for each novel, including the Grofield novels. It's a good way to kill an hour or so.
Welcome to the Indie Crime Blog. As the name implies, this blog is dedicated to reviews of crime fiction published by independent presses. There are many books published every year that seem to be ignored for a variety of reasons. The books sections of newspapers are getting smaller. Bookstores give more shelf space to more established authors. I could go on, but you get it.My intent is to review books both old and new in the hopes that some deserving writers and worthy publishers will gain some exposure. I can be emailed at IndieCrime-at-gmail-dot-com