Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Darwyn Cooke's Parker: The Martini Edition

I was taking a little Amazon window shopping break when I ran across this, the yet to be released Parker: Martini Edition, which combines the first two of Cooke's Parker graphic novels, along with some new content. It also says it contains a "brand new story," and I'm not sure what that means. I would like to own this, but if I have to buy a deluxe edition to get the next installment in a graphic novel series I already own, I'm not going to be that happy. Hopefully, the new story is something separate from the project of interpreting the first four Parker novels.

Also, I'm not sure why they called it the "Martini Edition." The only thing I can see Parker doing with a martini, is dumping it on the floor, breaking the glass and then stabbing the broken stem into someone's neck.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Straw Dogs Remake

To my great horror, I came across the trailer for a remake of Straw Dogs today. I already have my issues with Peckinpah's adaptation of the novel The Siege of Trencher's Farm, upon which his film was based. In a nutshell, I think he sexed it up too much. Somehow, I don't think the remake will tone it down any, or draw on any of the parts of the novel Peckinpah ignored. In short, it looks like shit.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

L.A. Noire

I realize anyone who has followed this blog in the past has probably assumed that I ended up dead in a ditch somewhere long ago, but the truth is much, much worse. It's work. It turns out that writing all day for other people kind of makes logging onto a blog and writing at the end of a long day unappealing. And when I do have good intentions in that regard, I end up falling asleep on the couch or something. I have books I'm working on reading, I promise, but right now it's a slog. Reading is an activity that requires a certain level of alertness and concentration that I've been lacking, and I'm not going to review anyone's work unless I can give it the full attention it deserves.

So, let's start out with something a little more mindless: video games, specifically L.A. Noire. I bought a copy the day it came out, which I have never done for a video game before, but after seeing the previews and reading the reviews I realized it was as if a group of people had sat around and asked themselves "What kind of game would Nathan like to play?" Maybe they did. Maybe they broke into my apartment and realized I like fedoras and murders and adventure games and horrible crimes that expose the sordid underbelly of city life. Maybe.

Anyway, the game, so far is good. Not that I've had much time to play it. Hopefully, I'll be able to say more about it soon. In the meantime, enjoy these stories from a who's who of writers. And check out Charles Ardai's intro to the L.A. Noir short story anthology on BoingBoing. I'm glad to see the world of video games and literature coming together like this. They are, after all, both forms of storytelling, and there's no reason they can't complement one another. And, who knows, maybe these stories will lead video gamers to pick up a Hard Case Crime novel, or a James Ellroy book and see what they've been missing.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wednesday Paperback Cover

This cover for Hard Case's debut hardcover novel hit me right between the eyes.

New Dashiell Hammett

Are you ready to read some new short stories by Dashiell Hammett? I hope so, because 15 new stories have been discovered and are set to be published.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Stansberry's Noir Manifesto

Domenic Stansberry's Noir Manifesto has made it online. I'm not sure if it's really a manifesto. It reads more like an essay, but it's certainly thought provoking, and I'd have to agree with a lot of the points he makes, like that fact that noir used to be, or should be a genre sympathetic to the powerless, as opposed to thrillers, which are more concerned with re-establishing the status quo at the end of the story. There are many definitions of noir, and many writers and aficionados don't agree on what noir is, but there's a lot to think about in this essay. I'm still digesting it, and hopefully I'll have more to say later.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Post in Which the Author Admits He is Having Trouble Adapting to the Century in Which He Lives

So, I'm trying to get back on the reviewing and blogging wagon after having taken much needed break. While I've been away, lots of authors I enjoy reading, like Allan Guthrie, Dave Zeltserman, and Anthony Neil Smith have released electronic exclusives. After resisting the e-book trend for a long time, I finally broke down and downloaded Kindle for PC, and bought a couple of books I wanted to read. The problem is, however, that I'm having a hard time reading them. On many days, I spend the better part of eight hours staring a a computer screen, and when I get home I often find myself not wanting to spend another couple hours doing the same thing for recreational purposes.

And when I do fire up the computer, I always end up caught up in myriad distractions (I have four other tabs open in my browser as I write this.) As McLuhan said, the medium is the message, and I fear the Internet has conditioned me to jump around from one thing to the next, never staying in one place, or lavishing too much attention on any one thing. Sitting in front of a computer and trying to do something as straightforward and linear as reading a novel feels unnatural, and I'm having a hard time adapting. I recently read Grimhaven as a PDF, and it took me two weeks to get through. It's a short book, and I should have been able to sit down and read it in an afternoon, but I kept getting distracted, or feeling like I needed a break from staring at the screen. It wasn't easy.

Right now, I'm trying to decide on whether or not to shell out for a Kindle. I think that the portable format may be more book-like, and make me more comfortable with the whole electronic book concept, but I'm afraid it won't work, and I'll have wasted a bunch of money on something I'll never use. So, I'm asking anyone who's got one, how do you like yours? Was it worth the money? Is it similar enough to reading a book that you feel comfortable doing it? Or should I just forget it?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review of The Dead Women of Juarez

Debut novelist Sam Hawken's novel The Dead Women of Juarez (Serpent's Tail, 2010) is a surprisingly assured and skilled first novel. First novels are often works where you can see the seams, and watch as an writer shows hints of potential. It's a fairly rare that a first novel doesn't seem like a first novel, and Hawken's novel reads like the work of someone who's been turning out novels for a long time.

The Dead Women of Juarez starts out as the story of washed up boxer Kelly Courter, who has retreated south of the border after making some horrible decisions that torpedoed a once promising career. To get by he picks up the occasional unsanctioned fight and helps his best friend Esteban sell weed. He's also involved with Esteban's sister, Paloma, who works for Mujeres sin Voces, a group dedicated to bringing attention to the hundreds of unsolved murders of women in Juarez.

Hawken takes a rather bold turn when, halfway through the story, he has events sideline Kelly, and switches the story's focus to aging Mexican cop Rafael Sevilla, who struggles with the loss of his daughter and granddaughter, who simply went out one day and then vanished, just two more victims of the senseless crime that thrives in Mexico. While he switches characters, Hawken, doesn't switch stories, however, so the transition is smooth, and works well.

Overall, Hawken's prose is strong, the plot is well thought out, and the characters are well drawn. Kelly and Rafael both have affecting and convincing backstories, that make them seem quite human and explains their motivations. The fact that the story is inspired by the real life murders that plague Juarez (more famously the subject of Roberto Bolano's novel 2666), serves to make the novel even stronger.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lynn Kostoff Interview

Lynn Kostoff gets interviewed by South Carolina's NPR station about Late Rain. It's about time someone paid attention to this book. And if you haven't read A Choice of Nightmares, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Let's Read Grimhaven!

I've had a copy of Charles Willeford's unpublished novel Grimhaven for a while now, but I just got around to reading it recently. It is, without a doubt, one of the biggest Fuck You's that anyone has ever committed to print. It's easy to see why it never made it into proper circulation, and that is a shame. Aside from The Burnt Orange Heresy, it's probably Willeford's most harrowing work, and it has what can only be described as the most twisted happy endings in the history of literature.

Grimhaven isn't really a crime novel in the traditional sense. It bears no similarity to Miami Blues or any of the other subsequent Hoke Mosely novels where broken down old Hoke continues to be an unorthodox, false teeth wearing hero with a badge. It has more in similar with Camus' The Stranger than it does with any contemporary crime novels. That's really not a surprise, as Willeford is nothing if not the rarest of creatures: An American existentialist. Manifest Destiny, American Exceptionalism, the smiling, reassuring God everyone is so sure has some sort of grand plan, despite the fact that there is no evidence for this ridiculous assertion.

Grimhaven finds Hoke living a simple life. He has retired from the police force, works at his father's hardware store and spends his spare time swimming and working on chess problems. He is content until his ex-wife sends his two teenage daughters to live with him while she lives it up with a black baseball player in LA. The story is really about the lengths a man will go to get back what he has lost, and Hoke is willing to go a long, long way. He doesn't want his wife back. He doesn't want his job back. He just wants to go on living as he was, alone and with time to spend working on his chess puzzles without being bothered. The way he sets about doing this is harrowing and, well, grim, but it's also brilliant. I'm reluctant to say anymore because I don't want to give away the ending to a book that many people haven't read, but let's just say the ending made me laugh even though there's nothing funny about it. Hoke, the perpetual loser, turns out to be the winner after all, even though he's the only one who will ever know.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's a New Year, and I'm back

It's 2011. The last half of 2010 found me suffering from reading, reviewing and blogging burnout. As anyone who's followed this blog knows, it's been moribund for a while now. I haven't been happy about this, but I did feel I needed the break. When a hobby starts to feel like work it's definitely time to back off for a bit. I do this for fun. I don't do it because I need another job. So, now that I've taken my break, I just want to announce that I'm bringing Independent Crime back for 2011. So, stay tuned for reviews and news about small press crime fiction. I deliberately took myself out of the loop for a while, but I'm getting back into the groove. I've got a couple novels I really want to read and review, and I'm sure I can find some new Wednesday Paperback Covers, as well as other interesting tidbits to post. Stay tuned.