In the Internet age, it's hard to imagine (at least for those of us of a certain age), that viewing pornography was once a collective experience, done in theaters. It's also hard to believe that one reel of celluloid featuring a rather commonplace sex act could cause a legal uproar, and become a cultural touchstone of sorts. But in 1973 that's exactly what happened in 1973 when a young lady who went by the stage name Linda Lovelace starred in a nasty little film called Deep Throat. Directed by a former hairdresser and financed by the mafia, the film became an unlikely success, ended up the subject of an obscenity case, and made the bad guys an obscene amount of money.
Charlie Stella's novel Johnny Porno (Stark House, 2010) is an entertaining snapshot of this particular period in history, chronicling the tough times of an out of work carpenter who has been reduced to ferrying around illicit copies of the film and collecting money for the mob as a way to pay the child support for his only son and keep his harridan of an ex-wife off his back. Porno suffers a little from having a huge cast of characters, which requires Stella to engage in a lot of setup, but once the book hits its stride, it doesn't fail to deliver.
John (who's last name is Albano, not Porno), has a lot to deal with. In addition to his wife, he has to deal with a loser wiseguy who hates him, the cops, his ex-wife's other ex-husband and a strung out ex-cop who wants him dead. All while trying to hold what's left of his life together and making sure the mob gets its money. Stella has a knack for dialogue, and the influence of The Friends of Eddie Coyle is evident. Stella even manages to work the novel into the book. The entire novel lacks glamor, and has the gritty feel of a 70's crime film with dirt under its nails and nicotine stains on its fingers. In a world where pornography has become mainstream, Stella reminds the reader that things weren't always that way, and that smut isn't pretty, and that sometimes there's no way for a good man to avoid getting his hands dirty.
I've only been half paying attention to the publishing world lately, but it seems like more established authors are moving toward Seth Harwood's model of releasing their material into the wild on their own. Dave Zeltserman has recently taken a lighter turn by trying to expand on his novella Julius Katz, which originally appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. He briefly released the novella as a PDF, although the link now seems broken, and he has even started a blog where he interviews the character.
And yesterday, I found out that Allan Guthrie will be self-publishing his next novella Bye-Bye Baby, which is certainly an interesting turn of events. Are these signs of things to come?
Also, if you haven't read Dennis Tafoya's story "Doe Run Road," you really ought to.
Almost as good as a seafood sampler, Dave Zeltserman has made sample chapters of his three "man out of prison novels" (Small Crimes,Pariah, and Killer) available in PDF format. If you have yet to check out these novels, head on over and download it. You're missing out.
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