Thursday, April 29, 2010

Let's Psychoanalyze Parker!

Some time ago, I tried to get at the reason why Donald Westlake's enduring thief Parker, who's been going through a bit of a renaissance recently, is so appealing. I concluded it was his tenacity, and his ability to work through even the most difficult problems to come out on top. I have been recently working my way through the latest set of reprints from the University of Chicago, and, coincidentally, I've been reading up on the Myers-Briggs personality test or the Keirsey Temperament sorter, or whatever they're calling it these days. I'm sure you're probably familiar with the test, which is based on the work of Carl Jung. Psychoanalysis is, at best, a dubious endeavor, and I've always been skeptical of it in general, but I've taken the Myers-Briggs test several times throughout my life, and I've always found it to be uncannily accurate.

I always test as an
INTJ. INTJs are long range thinkers and planners, who tend to be pragmatic. They hate small talk, and always (well, almost always) think in pragmatic terms. This often leads to a rather, shall we say, amoral outlook on life. Rules that are good are followed. Rules that aren't are ignored, especially if there's something to be gained.

The more I read the Parker stories, the more I see a lot of myself in him. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a cold blooded killer or a thief, but like him, I tend to be cautious and research all the risks before I take action, and I tend to have very little time for small talk, which is one of Parker's defining traits. I also value staying cool under pressure, and if anyone's the embodiment of that quality it's Parker. When things don't go as planned he switches plans, just like that. He never panics. He never stops thinking. He does what has to be done.
All of this makes me wonder if Parker isn't so enduring because he's a modern day Jungian Archetype. Jung had story archetypes like the Hero, The Trickster and the Earth Mother, all drawn from myth. Parker isn't exactly believable as a real person, but he does represent something, unique to our culture. He is the ultimate businessman. His work is his life and his life is his work. It's almost like he's some monster representation of the negative elements of American society. He's a myth, just like Chandler's man who walks down the mean streets who is not himself mean.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

New Pulp Press in New York

New Pulp Press's latest offering, Bad Juju by Jonathan Woods has made New York Magazine's approval matrix. You can't buy that type of publicity (especially if you're a small press. It's cost prohibitive.) This makes me feel bad about not picking up this collection sooner. It's been sitting on my dresser for a while now.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Review of Killer

Here is my long delayed review of Killer. It's the book I was reading when I had the fire. For some reason, I've been unable to pick it up again until recently.

Dave Zeltserman concludes his "Man out of Prison" trilogy with Killer, a much more subdued take on the story than his previous efforts, Small Crimes and Pariah. Where the first two novels were bloody messes all the way through, Killer is a much subtler affair. Leonard March was a hitman for the Lombard crime family for a long time, but when he finally got caught committing some non-murderous crimes, he managed to cut himself a deal with immunity before confessing to twenty-eight paid killings for crime boss Sal Lombard.

For his deal, March gets fourteen years in prison, and when he walks free, he tells himself he's going to go straight and live a quiet, anonymous life. Of course, it's not easy to live a quiet life when you've got a list of enemies as long as your arm, and March doesn't make it any easier on himself by inviting publicity when he foils a liquor store robbery.

Killer, while an entertaining novel, lacks the punch of Pariah. Pariah was as close to perfect as a novel can get, so comparing the two may be unfair. Still, Killer, feels almost perfunctory when compared to either of his previous studies in evil. March isn't as compelling as either Joe Denton or Kyle Nevin, both of whom were real pieces of work, and the story ends a little abruptly. It feels a bit rushed at the end, which is disappointing because so much of the novel is setup. Zeltserman also picks up a couple of plot threads that never really go anywhere, which isn't like him.

As I said, though, Killer is a letdown only when compared to Zeltserman's previous efforts. As an author, you're in a pretty good shape if the only competition you have is yourself. Taken on its own, Killer is still very good. It's just not great, and not a great introduction to Zeltserman's work. It would be possible for a reader to pick up this novel and wonder what all the fuss has been about. Do yourself a favor and read one of the first two novels in this trilogy before approaching Killer.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Short Fiction For You

I've been slacking on the posting lately, but it's not because I've been lazy. I've been busy. Work is nuts, I'm still dealing with the aftermath of the fire, and I've been working pretty hard on fiction of my own. In fact, I think I just finished the best story I've ever written. I'm going to give it a couple of weeks and see how I feel about it. In the meantime, Here's some Web short fiction you should be checking out.


Plots with Guns

Crimefactory (the publication I've got my eye on for this next story. They're publishing some intimidating names, like Ray Banks and Dave Zeltserman, but I think I've got a winner here.)

Oh, and in case you're keeping score at home, this year I've had one fire, and now one attempted burglary (which is why I'm at home today. I'm kind of hoping they'll come back and try to finish breaking in. And yeah, I'm beginning to feel a little like Job.) The upside is that I've been experiencing a rather fertile creative period.