Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hardcore Hardboileder

Can I throw a little love David Cranmer's way? Can we all pause for a moment and send some gratitude and admiration his direction? How the fuck many books has he published now? And they really are beautiful tactile objects. I can't wait to get my mitts on the coming soon Beat To A Pulp: Hardboiled 2. Even if I didn't have a story in that one, it's some good company to be keeping (N@B alum Matthew C. Funk and Robert J. Randisi - plus, that Eric Beetner dude does N@B in some podunk backwash burg). Cranmer, you rock. Scott D. Parker, you're no slouch, yourself.

Y'know who else's put together a damn fine antho? Chris Rhatigan. He runs the short fiction blog All Due Respect has put together an anthology of the same name which also features Cranmer, Funk and N@B vet CJ Edwards - then there's some gutter nastiness from Ryan Sayles, Joe Clifford, Tom Pitts, Alec Cizak, Ronald T. Brown, Garnett Elliott, Pete Risley, Nigel Bird, Patricia Abbott, Andrez Bergen, Christopher Grant, Fiona Johnson and oh my... I can't type any more. Lotsa pasta for a buck twenty-five.

Settling in for a Sunday of brain-rot movies and books and not even a hint of exercise. Think I may get a peek at Julian Grant's Sweet Leaf, And this may be the day I stick a fork in Warren Ellis's Gun Machine.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

One Microscopic Blog In His Catastrophic Plan...

...designed and directed by his red right hand.

If you needed any further evidence that the Crime Factory is manufacturing the most complete package for criminally inclined interests, allow me to submit Crime Factory #12. Tell you what else, if reading Frank Wheeler Jr.'s contribution How I Got Back My Darlings doesn't give you criminal wood, you're reading the wrong damn blog.

But if it does...

Hey, don't hide that bone, show up and pitch a trouser tent with the rest of us campers in St. Louis at Noir at the Bar - March 23. Frank will be there with copies of The Wowzer, as will Clayton Lindemuth with acres of Cold Quiet Country. And, most recently added, Josh Woods - a writer I know chiefly as a co-contributor to Laura & Pinckney Benedict's Surreal South anthology series. He's also the editor of two anthologies - The Book of Villains and The Vs. Anthology (both of which I'll be having him scrawl upon).

March 23 will also be the first event featuring real, paper-ass copies of Fierce Bitches, so, unless you can make the official launch event in Melbourne, March 3, this is your best bet. Man, if you are going to be down under, pick up a copy of Lee, the new Crime Factory anthology which reads like a fictional memoir of Lee Marvin. N@B vets like Cameron Ashley, Scott Phillips and Erik Lundy, as well as a few hacks you mighta hearda like Adrian McKinty, Johnny Shaw, Ray Banks, Heath Lowrance, Jake Hinkson, Eric Beetner, Andrew Nette, Nigel Bird and on and on.

A few more events I'm looking at... February 22-23 is the Second Annual St. Valentines Massacre Weekend (film festival) in Las Vegas presented by Pollygrind will be screening Julian Grant's A Fuckload of Scotch Tape. February 23, Brian Posehn will be signing copies of Deadpool at Starclipper in St. Louis. March 7 at Subterranean Books in St. Louis, Clayton Lindemuth signs Cold, Quiet Country. March 8 Frank Bill's Donnybrook launch at Carmichael's Bookstore in Louisville, KY. March 20, Nina Corrado's short film Midnight Rider adapted from Jordan Harper's story (that kicks off American Death Songs) and starring Ryan Hurst, will be available for free online

Coincidence that I post about novellas a week ago and Fierce Bitches grabs a slot on this list with ridiculously good company? Aw-nerd, for sure. BTW - you read Tony Black's R.I.P. Robbie Silva? Dude named Jed in that one... Hmmm, seem to recall one in Megan Abbott's The End of Everything and Duane Swierczynski's Hell & Gone too. I hear there might be such a character in Kieran Shea's book... Glad to see the name outgrow The Beverly Hillbillys.

Benoit Lelievre posted a review of Fierce Bitches over at Dead End Follies, and A F*ckload of Shorts got a couple nice notices on Amazon recently. Thanks for keeping me stocked in ego-strokes, folks.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

2013 in Crime Flicks: January


Archer Season 3 - Adam Reed - Just the dirtiest show on TV. And one of my favorites. Best moment: legion.


The Bourne Legacy - Tony Gilroy - Jason Bourne, Treadstone and Robert Ludlum are only ghostly presences hovering on the perimeter of this sideways sequel that expands the fictional universe set up by the first three pictures, mostly satisfactorily, though the best thing about the first film was how unconventional the tropes were treated and now we're going in a much more standard (but solid) action movie direction - but compare the explosion-free car chase in The Bourne Identity to the motorcycle chase in this one. Identity wins on every level that counts. Best moment: fooling the drone.

Cosmopolis - David Cronenberg - Don Delillo's source material really did read like an ideal vehicle for Cronenberg's sensibilities - all the blending of technology and flesh, and flesh and flesh, the reek of progress and beauty of mutilation... the final product may not be a home run, but, like many Cronenberg works, I suspect that it will improve with time and appreciate with return viewings. Best moment: prostate exam.
Django Unchained - Quentin Tarantino - Dug it. Jamie Foxx onscreen usually gives me eyeball rash, but his Django is great to watch as he goes through the transitions from slave to freed man, righteous avenger, romantic lead, cold-calculator and super hero. Great turns all around. Best moment: Don Johnson and Jonah Hill lead a discussion on sheet etiquette.
Dredd - Pete Travis - Not bad. Not great. The only history I have with the judge is the 199? Sylvester Stallone turn, so I can't say from faithful, but I'm left with no motivation to further explore this world. Best moment: probably the rookie's trial-run sentence-pronouncements. 

The Driver - Walter Hill - Had it pointed out a few posts ago when discussing car-chase sequences that I'd included Drive, but failed to mention this one - one of the many films it had openly aped. I'd never seen it before. Yup, the film's opening is awful close to Nicolas Winding Refn's picture, and yeah, the Ryan O'Neal character is simply called 'Driver' just like in the James Sallis books, but the similarities end there. Good chase stuff, but Bruce Dern's 'Detective' is the least likely movie cop I've seen in... a loooong time. Fast and loose film making spirit, that I enjoyed though. Anybody seen Bullet to the Head yet? Best moment: opening heist/getaway sequence.

End of Watch - David Ayer - Pretty good patrolman flick continually and doggedly undermined by its found footage gimmick. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena have great buddy chemistry and the dashboard cam captured moments are the heart of the film, but every time a character speaks into a lapel camera or a handheld recorder, I wanna punch something. Forget the inconsistency of the application or the really substantial believability hurdle, I'm going to have a really hard time liking or wanting to spend time with any character so self-involved that they record every moment of their lives. Lots of good to almost great moments scattered throughout though. Best moment: discovering the death house.

"G" Men - William Keighley - It takes a mere 86 minutes to follow James Cagney through his decision to end his career as a lawyer, leave the old neighborhood and his criminal pals from around the block, join the FBI and get on the task force charged with bringing several of his old chums to justice. Borrowing heavily from recent real events in the lives and deaths of John Dillinger, Jelly Nash, Pretty Boy Floyd and the like, this 1935 flick plays like a recruitment campaign for the feebs, but that's forgivable for the entertainment value, and pace, pace, pace. Best moment: roadhouse shootout (just like Michael Mann's Public Enemies).

Homeland Season 1 - Howard Gordon/Alex Gansa - Perhaps a decade of having my dick yanked by color-coded security forecasts has desensitized me to the real and present dangers in homeland security (can you believe we've got a friggin federal agency with that handle? Just giving up on not sounding all empirical and fascist now, are we?), so hooking me on counter-terrorism shit is about as difficult as making me care about the average forensic team stopping another serial killer. Snore. Good thing the show isn't banking entirely on my buying into the national security stuff - don't get me wrong, they really want me to - but they have also given me, in Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin, a Riggs & Murtaugh for the now decade. Danes is compellingly compromised and bat-shit crazy, and I love the idea of the great American hero being a middle-aged nebbishy analyst. No spoiler here if you've seen any images from season two, but I think they blew a big chance to turn it into must-see TV at the end of the first season. I'll check out the second season, but I'd be a loooooot more excited to if they'd had the balls to kill off at least one, if not both, main characters in the climax, and set up the series as Saul vs. the terrorist mastermind. But no. Best moment: Saul rebuffs Carrie's advance.

The Paperboy - Lee Daniels - Adaptation of Pete Dexter's novel was a missed opportunity. Not a terrible film, but not even close to nailing the power of the book. Anybody looking for me to hang it on Zac Effron can go fuck themselves though. He did fine. His southern accent was pretty hammy, but then everybody's was and they were all still better than anybody on True Blood. Best moment: Everybody waits patiently as John Cusack instructs Nicole Kidman what to do with her mouth while he jacks off.

Papillon -  - Why had I never watched this one? Man, I loved this movie. Sweeping, grand-scale adventure film making, classic themes (script by Dalton Trumbo), plus Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in their prime. I wanna go again. Best moment: long dialogue-free escape and settling into island-life sequence (20 minutes?) 

The Passenger - Michelangelo Antonio - Great, evocative, moody piece about a journalist who, on impulse, abandons his life and switches identities with a dead man in his ass-end of the world hotel. The psychological implications for the character, who leaves behind a family and a solid career and picks up a young woman with a similar adventurous spirit, make a nice broth for the thriller plot to simmer in, as his new identity has a whole new set of consequences. Best moment: arms deal made in church.

Premium Rush - David Koepp - Another gimmick-flick whose extraneous elements outshine the pic's pitch so completely, the end product resembles a solar eclipse. Michael Shannon's sad-sack, degenerate-gambling cop in deep with Chinese gangsters is the sun in this analogy, and the hot-shot bike messengers silver-streaking their way through crowded NYC streets are the moon. Really, if instead of this tepid action flick, we'd spent the day stewing with Shannon and encountered the bikers only the way his character does, not only could the film have been astonishingly good (I mean it - astonishing - I believe it could have been, Shannon's just that good), the action scenes would have been so much more exciting, frustrating and darkly comic. Best moment: Shannon submits to a beating he has coming.

Seven Psychopaths - Martin McDonagh - Not a straight crime film, not a straight comedy. There's a meta-element to this one that isn't entirely successful, but the uneven ingredients couldn't make me not love the movie. McDonagh's use of profanity, language, violence, humor to turn screen writing and crime flick tropes on their heads is amusing, but the real gold is in the extended monologues. Best moment: Tom Waits and Colin Farrell chat on the phone.

Zero Dark Thirty - Kathryn Bigelow - Nuts and bolts espionage procedural that's... well crafted, if not terribly entertaining. I did appreciate a lot of the choices made (imagine how awful that climactic siege sequence would've been in the hands of a Michael Bay schooled film maker), but the nailing of Osama Bin Laden was never a goal the film ever got me to care about much. Each character is (intentionally) soley defined by their role in the manhunt to the point that the person we end up knowing the most about is the interrogated subject in the film's opening chapter. In fact, if the entire film had been Jason Clarke and Jessica Chastain going duo e mano with Reda Kateb, I would have found it much easier to invest in. But in the end, it's not a film about people, but ideas and ideals and what Best moment: Kateb's interrogation. 

January also found me fondly revisiting Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Cercle Rouge, Rian Johnson's Looper and Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.

Monday, February 4, 2013

2012: My Year in Novellas

I tell you I've got a novella coming out soon? Perhaps, I mentioned that somewhere. Yeah, my baby, Fierce Bitches, drops at the end of February and I've been pleased and a bit baffled by the early attention its had. Well, I think the novella is underloved as a medium and I'd like to give you some fine examples of the form from my personal reading last year.

Eric Beetner's Dig Two Graves - A convict escapes custody and embarks on a quest for his stashed cash and some righteous comeuppance against the the lover who set him up. This hardboiled and darkly comic tale of revenge is a single-sitting slice of wrong I wish I could write.



Garnett Elliot's The Shunned Highway - One of six crazy nasty novellas in the book Uncle B's Drive In Fiction (more from Jimmy Callaway, Matthew C. Funk, CJ Edwards, David James Keaton and Alec Cizak) is tasked with the job of setting the pace. Then everybody else has to try and keep up. Dark One-Percenters is a genre too little explored.


James Ellroy's Shakedown - Slight? Sure, this one's a single rib in his body of work, but the form (not to mention the platform - a Kindle Single) frees Ellroy up to get loose and go for yuks. Dig the Purgatory confessions of Hush-Hush head honcho and groove on the salacious and sin-sational dirty dishing.


Jake Hinkson's The Posthumous Man - Like Beetner, Hinkson is a fast study of mid-century hardboiled masters and brings their flavor into the twenty-first century with tweaks that only a crack-shot could pull off. Love the religious over/undertones of Hinkson's books too.



Kevin Lynn Helmick's Driving Alone - This one's a fever dream slice of lost highway haunting. Southern-fried and single-malted prose with a gut-shot ticking clock snaking through. Hell, I even got to blurb the damned thing. Here's what I said: Harboiled, hardbitten and haunting as well as lyrically libidinous and lovingly lascivious. Kevin Lynn Helmick tackles sex and death along the lost highway the way the damned do - alone.

Stephen King's 1922 - The opener from the collection of four novellas, Full Dark, No Stars, is simply one of the greatest noirs I've ever read. Period. A Nebraska farmer, afraid that he'll lose the one thing that he holds dearest (his farm) convinces his young son to aid him in the commission of an unforgivable crime, the consequences of which reverberate for the rest of his life.




James Sallis' Driven - Driver is once again the target of unwanted attention and readers attuned to stripped-down, impressionistic and lyrical style will sit back and go with it, while the un-initiated will boggle at story-telling and very pregnant negative spaces.

Roger Smith's Ishmael Toffee - More Cape Town/Cape Flats juxtaposing, but this time from the point of view of an ex-con with a winking sliver of soul about to be awakened from hibernation from beneath the mass of scar-tissue that may once have been a heart. Brutal, brutal shit. Break your heart tough guy.

William Styron's The Suicide Run - The titular story from this collection of marine fiction ties the whole book together emotionally and thematically, but really the whole collection deserves a read. Despite the battle-stance of the cover's soldier, each marine featured in the book is home on leave, back from the war or serving in prison. The greatest (next) generation gets a little sepia-veneer stripped back and look all the better for it.

Charles Willeford's The High Priest of California - Cad, rake, womanizer... spellbinder. The voice of Willeford's debut novel (novella) is just as assured and acidic as the work yet to come from the godfather of the asshole protagonist. Fun to return to ground zero and recognize the imprint Willeford's made on so many of my favorite writers of the last forty years.