Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Shea's Gotta Have It!

Sproing!!! That's what I'm talking about. Can't wait for Koko to take over the world. Kieran Shea is the man. Not out till next summer, but I'm already carving out time around it.

i09 has a nice little feature on Koko Takes a Holiday including an excerpt.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Peckerwood Cometh

Soon, from Broken River Books.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

This

Even as I write this N@B-TC (Twin Cities) is balls deep in its inaugural event featuring N@B-STL alum John Rector, Sean Doolittle & Anthony Neil Smith, plus Jess Lourey and emcee Paul von Stoetzel, and thanks to the Twitter updates from Kate and Dan Malmon I'm learning that Paul's next feature film will be an adaptation of Neil's excellent novel Hogdoggin'.




Fucking A.

This is excellent shit-a-brick news.

I mean that there's a Minnesota chapter of N@B, not that that guy who made a kick ass short film from my short story Viscosity is adapting one of my favorite books of the last ten years.

Anyway, best to everyone involved with both of those projects and I hope N@B-TC has a long, filthy life just like N@B-STL has. Four years now we've been doing our thing and alum Richard Thomas just interviewed me about the whole thing over at Walrus Publishing's website. In the interview I unveil plans for a line of N@B scented candles. Meanwhile, Scott Phillips, the other half of N@B-STL gets his interview in the L.A. Times. Read that shit here.

Twin Cities aren't the only ones with great live-reading events this week. Chicago area folks have the Booked Live event to look forward to Saturday - where you won't only get reading from Kevin Lynn Helmick, David James Keaton, Richard Thomas, Chris Deal and Joshua Alan Doetsch, you'll also have the opportunity to get your brand new copy of The Booked Anthology signed by the readers, Robb & Liv. Wish I could be there. And wish I could be in there too - looks like a solid collection.

If you're up for an exercise in anonymity and creativity J. David Osborne has got a proposal for you. His press Broken River Books is getting ready to launch later this year (and they've just announced one of their first releases - The Least of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones) and he's planning an anthology unlike any I've ever heard of... Here, you read the press release over at Sandra Seamans' blog and decide for yourself whether you're into it.

Did you see the lineup of the new issue of Needle magazine? Holy crap, Dennis Tafoya, Clayton Lindemuth, C.J. Edwards, Kieran Shea, Jimmy Callaway, Sarah Weinman... and on and on. Gotta hand it to that Steve Weddle cat. Keeps the hits coming. And a big official HBW congratulations to Stevie on his book deal. Looking forward to Country Hardball, sir.

Lastly, Nigel Bird gave me a shot of love over at Sea Minor this week. Thanks, Nigel. I appreciate the recent reviews of Fierce Bitches and A F*ckload of Shorts I've noticed popping up on Goodreads, Amazon and a blog or two. I'm not above checking them out

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Another Trailer Grouping

Out Of the Furnace - d: Scott Cooper, w: Brad Ingelsby, Scott Cooper
Filth - d: Jon S. Baird, w: Jon S. Baird, Irvine Welsh

Redemption - d/w: Steven Knight

Shadow Dancer - d: James Marsh w: Tom Bradby

Unforgiven - d: Sang-il Lee w: David Webb Peoples, Sang-il Lee

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Impotence of Being Earnest

I know it's not getting a terribly wide release, but it's available through a host of streaming platforms to rent or purchase, so I hope that when the box-office receipts call the Nicolas Winding Refn Ryan Gosling vehicle Only God Forgives a huge flop on Sunday,  you, friends, will be counted among the few that got out to support it or hunted down an outlet to experience this one through.

I hope for your sake because I think you could have a helluva great experience with it, but I hope too for the sake of cinematic arts. Yeah, it's got a big sexy movie star in it (and looking like a sexy movie star throughout - every fucking frame of this dude has potential to be an iconic image someday), but it's a good, long way from Gangster Squad or Crazy, Stupid, Love (the same way Blade Runner must have felt like a big ol' wet blanket draped over Raiders of the Lost Ark thirty years ago), and it's a damn site better than most anything out there currently gobbling up the summer movie bounty.

I'll have more to say next month in the July round-up, but I wanted to get out in front of this much-maligned picture up front and be clear that I'll give it a big thumbs up. Fans of David Lynch, Sergio Leone, Takeshi Kitano will find something worthwhile here. As will fans of Sam Peckinpah who dedicated a lot of time to deconstructing the American mythos of masculinity.

Scott Adlerberg nailed it tonight with this observation:

Funny, the abysmal reviews I've seen in NY papers of Only God Forgives. These geniuses write as if Winding Refn meant to make a typical thriller, and failed, or should have made a more conventional thriller, when that is so obviously not what he had the slightest intention of doing. Clearly Only God Forgives is a dream movie. Everything about it, from the languorous way it unfolds, to the lack of logic in the story, to the over the top violence, to the sleepwalking manner of the actors... That Winding Refn dedicates the film, at the end, to Alejandro Jodorowsky, should make it pretty clear what kind of film he wanted to make.

Perhaps Scott read comments like this one from Jeffrey Wells:

It's a shit macho fantasy, hyperviolent, ethically repulsive... deathly dull, snail-paced... possibly woman-hating...

Anybody who'd think this was a macho fantasy only watched the trailer. Gosling's impotence is perhaps his most distinctive character trait - and that climactic fight between he and Vithaya Pansringarm says it all. No dudes beating off imagining themselves as that guy.

Hyperviolent? It's violent, yeah, and perhaps that's not your cup of tea, but that's not really a criticism. Be like calling a slapstick comedy "very silly." It's a crime flick, man. If it's not violent, something's wrong.

Ethically repulsive? Terrible people and terrible events occupy a lot of screen time, but I'd hardly say they were endorsed by the film makers. I'm trying to find a way to let him off the hook with this one, but... What exactly was ethically repulsive? The actions of some characters? Absolutely. The attitude of the film toward them? Not at all. Sure, it's dealing in extremes, but the fact that the cop is basically embodying the wrath of God in hell, I found its moral center pretty righteous. Are we little children here? Do we really think that the pretty face on the poster, the main character, has to embody admirable qualities? Yeah, it's the antagonist who's the hero of the flick. Get over it.

Deathly dull and snail-paced? Just a stylistic choice, man. Maybe you'd say the same thing about Sergio Leone, Takeshi Kitano or the aforementioned Blade Runner, but I, the hell, wouldn't. I was riveted.

Possibly woman-hating? You can't throw that out there and not back it up. Just a lazy way of triggering a knee-jerk reaction from readers. What the hell does that even mean? Again, the actions and attitudes of the film's main characters don't necessarily echo the film's attitudes.

Mr. Wells didn't like it. Fine. Plenty of people won't. But for those with a more adventurous than average film-going spirit, or a tempered palette, it's well worth a go. There is a lot of onscreen unpleasantness, but it's also gorgeous, sure-footed and not in the mood to explain or defend itself. Maybe I should let it stand too...

I liked this one a bunch.

I also liked this interview with Winding Refn at Grantland.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Viral

Even as the good (and not so good) people of Los Angeles gather tonight in a communal pursuit of pleasure in words (specifically - salacious tales from Sara Gran, Tim Hallinan, Lisa Brackmann, Steph Cha & Anonymous 9) Plots With Guns has released a brand new issue that sports a banner proclaiming In Memory of Cort McMeel, and featuring a great piece from Gonzalo Baeza on the man who was, himself, one of the reasons that Noir at the Bar - that ever-expanding, ever-evolving community - came to be.
It sounds like Cort's publication, Murdaland magazine, had the same effect on Baeza as it did on me, and, I suspect, a great many voices just beginning to be, and not yet, heard in crime fiction. It was Murdaland, after all, that gave me the kick in the junk to write short fiction, and which helped me to connect with Scott Phillips, and led to the two of us picking up the still smoldering torch Peter Rozovsky lit in Philadelphia with the clever-ass rhymy name Noir at the Bar. And it was at N@B event in St. Louis where I finally met Cort and a hundred and three literary projects were conceived in a single weekend (though, I suspect that was the case wherever Cort went). After returning home from that weekend, Cort partnered with Jon Bassoff and Benjamin Whitmer to form a N@B-Denver chapter and he published his (last?) short story Kiev, Ukraine in the second N@B anthology - which featured his Baltimore boxer Nasty Jay, the titular character of his own story from the first issue of Murdaland.

There's a feedback loop of influence and thievery, gratitude and envy, admiration and mutilation that fucks up my senses when I try to disconnect the dots and make a straight line of the whole scene. Anybody whose been infected, touched, felt-up or otherwise molested by this subterranean crime community can trace the pathology of the current, mutated virus backward through several hosts without ever finding patient zero, but they won't have to through many strains before they run up against direct contact/contamination from Cort.

So, hey, welcome to the Twin Cities and Minnesotans in general as bastard's bastards and the latest carriers on July 25 when N@B alum Anthony Neil Smith, John Rector and Sean Doolittle (plus Jess Lourey) join host Paul von Stoetzel in bringing you the latest contamination - against which, there is no inoculation. May your infection spread, and your legend be printed.

(And big congrats to Sean & John on their Thriller Awards!)




Friday, July 12, 2013

2013 in Books The (rest of the) First Half

Looking back on my recent post of books I've read in the first six months of 2013, I noticed a few I'd somehow neglected to mention - some because I'd read them before the beginning of the year even though they weren't yet released and others due to general brain-fartiness. So, here's a few more.

American Death Songs - Jordan Harper - These are some hardboiled sweets here - just brutal, funny, ghastly heartbreakers of crime stories told in electric prose so lively it nearly reads itself. As the title suggests, Harper is specifically infected by and bent on exploring the myth and lore of the American outlaw, and it's as 'Merican as M-80s in your Apple Pie on the Fourth of July.

Bad Sex on Speed - Jerry Stahl - This one's marketed as a novella in stories, and for sure, the pieces are linked by subject matter and a recurring character or two, but it's more like a novella in riffs. Some of the chapters stand very nicely on their own and others play a supporting role adding flavor and texture and context to the sturdier ones. But, hot damn, there are passages here that I read too close to the page and they just scorched my eyeballs.

Cold Quiet Country - Clayton Lindemuth - This fella's got a good thing going, and I think several of my future favorites will have his name on the jacket. Creepy, bloody and righteously brutal - when the violence gets going good and proper, it doesn't let up till there's nobody left to die. And I should mention the prose somewhere - great mix of lush and harsh with plenty of make-an-appreciative-noise-when-you-read-them turns of phrase.

Donnybrook - Frank Bill - Wild ride thru the muddy, grey wilds of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio following an ensemble of desperate and grotesque characters converging on an underground prize fight and the purse at the ass end of the rainbow. Horror, humor, honor - a howler of a novel, so brisk you'll hear bones snap every time you turn the page.

Gun Machine - Warren Ellis - Those expecting Crooked Little Vein again will be perplexed by Ellis's latest while the rest of you will be perplexed for other reasons. While not as gonzo as CLV, there is still plenty of head-scratching oddity on the pages of this one - specifically the concept of the killer and his psychosis - is it supernatural? is it time-travel? is it necessary? Yeah, I think it is necessary. Without its unsettling, bizarre, baroque-ness what you'd be left with is just another cop vs. killer novel - though one with some undoubtedly, funny observations and a sometimes touching, but more often weary-wry voice behind the stoically suffering cop. I liked it, but didn't love it.

Hard Bounce - Todd Robinson - The only PI novel I've finished reading in a long time. What makes this one work? Voice. Wit. Consequence. A knack for making you laugh right before beating on you with a gnarly stick. Jeez, it really did have some of the funniest passages I've read this year right alongside really heavy shit - like using Johns Candy & Belushi as ankle weights. This one will be a big-shit movie someday and everybody'll say, 'It was good, but nowhere as good as the book.'

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

2013 in Flicks: June

12 Monkeys - Terry Gilliam - Hadn't seen this one in a decade. Pleased to say it holds up and might even improve. Amid the frenetic energy that is a trademark of Gilliam's films, it's easy to think of the atmosphere as chaos, but this viewing drove home for me just how tightly constructed it is, and how absolutely in control Gilliam always was. Best moment: Bruce Willis finishes Madeleine Stowe's voice message from memory ten seconds after she leaves it. Always gives me chills.

Blue Collar Paul Schrader - Terrific working class drama about three auto workers in Detroit who decide to rip off their corrupt union. In classic crime fiction tradition moderate to good intentions lead to hell, heck and hades in short order, and the final scene between Harvey Keitel and Richard Pryor will hit you pretty hard. Keitel is always watchable, while some of Pryor's asides into comedic territory fall flat, even if the anger beneath it never does, but it's Yaphet Kotto who really shines here. So light a touch with so much natural gravity - I think they call that charisma - and I'm genuinely curious why he never became a huge fucking movie star. Best moment: Union muscle break into a house to intimidate the residents and find Kotto waiting for them with a baseball bat.

Breaking Bad Season 5 - Vince Gilligan - Stage is set for the final act, and what a slippery, bloody stage it's become. If "I am the one who knocks" was the single most sum-uppable line from season four, "Say my name," does the job in season five. Walt has walked a long road to be the villain he's become, and Hank... Hank's destiny intrigues me almost as much at this point. Jesse? My Spidey-sense bodes ill for him. He may be the Shane Vindrell (Walton Goggins' tragic figure from The Shield) of the series. Can't wait to see the end. Best moment: The multiple-assassination sequence, the giant magnet, Mike's scene by the river  - all stood out huge, but I'm going with the train heist and its immediate aftermath as it sums up the excitement and fall-out of crime (and Walter's crime specifically) so perfectly.

Gangster Squad - Ruben Fleischer - The trailers were clearly aiming for an L.A. Confidential vibe, but looked far closer to The Untouchables in tone. After seeing the film I'm gonna say it's really more like Sin City than anything else. That is to say - style is the substance, and therefore it can't really be loved and defended or hated and attacked on any level worth investing in. Your flash judgement, like it or not, will be the correct one. Leave it at that. So I'll say this - it looks fantastic, it has a wonderful comic-book atmosphere and sharp editing, and is as hollow as a glass ornament. The story doesn't matter. It wants to be a gangster pic at heart, but not having a heart, becomes a glossily beautiful advertisement for gangster pictures instead. So, if you have an appetite to watch a better gangster film afterward - it succeeded on some level. If you never ever want to watch another - give it a week, a month, hopefully you'll come around. Best moment: Josh Brolin's rescue of the damsel near the beginning. Great-looking, editing that crackles, ridiculous bad-ass action.

Harlem Nights - Eddie Murphy - The reputation on this one finally reached critical mass and I had to give it a go. The reputation, as it reached me: misogynistic, foul-mouthed, mean-spirited, vanity project for writer/director/star Murphy. The reality, as I experienced it twenty-odd years past what could have been Murphy's brightest shining moment: foul-mouthed - yes, tho I liked a lot of that. Mean-spirited - no, tho some justifiable anger not bothering to be covered up. Vanity project - yes, but, let's face it, faaaaaaarrrrr from the worst example of that kind of thing that I can think of. In fact, faaaaarrrrr from the worst example in Murphy's career (I'm looking at you Party All the Time). No, by vanity project, this one was just a chance to dress natty and work with heroes like Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx, plus shoot a gun, get the girl and be the smartest guy in the room most of the time. Misogyny - pffffbbt. As Mike from Breaking Bad put it, "That's what I get for being sexist," when regretting sparing the life of a woman, who, had she been a man, he certainly would not have. Not a great movie by any means, but a lot better than the reputation its carried, I enjoyed several scenes quite a bit including just about every time Danny Aiello is onscreen in what's usually the thankless role of that terrible white guy keeping the minorities down - his first interaction with Pryor was just about my favorite scene, but... Best moment: Della Reese puts the hurt on Murphy and forces his hand... on her foot.

Hit & Miss Season 1 - Paul Abbott - I like Chloe Sevigny, a lot. She's got a drop-dead sultriness, and a sultry dead-eyed-ness that hints at so many salacious possibilities in any and every scene. So, how great a vehicle for her always simmering, occasionally exploding presence than a television show about a pre-op transsexual hitman/woman blindsided by the news from a dying ex-lover that she/he is the father of an eleven year old son, and that he/she has been named special guardian to the expiring lover's four children? Still with me? Well... the appeal of that high-concept is short-lived and then the project is saddled with it. Some shows can move past their elevator-pitch and become something bigger (who would call The Sopranos that show about a gangster seeing a shrink, now? And who thinks of Alias as Felicity-the-spy anymore?) On the other hand, that initial audacity can burden a budding project with baggage that just clutters and sinks it before it can bloom. Does Hit & Miss rise above and become something, or drown beneath its own weight? Eh, I'm not sure. So many of my favorite shows haven't really hit their stride till the second or third season, so I'm going to give the next season a shot, but similar to Rescue Me or Paul Abbott's other show Shameless - the poles of family drama and crime drama, rather than creating an electric tension that the two co-exist within, stretch each element to near transparency and exist as two separate watered-down elements that don't (yet) overlap and barely even touch in the middle. Best moment: Mia divulges his/her secret to a love interest. The show does give him an honest emotional response and the space to work through his conflicting feelings.

Miami Blues - George Armitage - My first introduction to Charles Willeford and Jennifer Jason Leigh. How could I not love this film? Kudos to producer/co-star Fred Ward for keeping the series character Hoke Moseley in the background and leaving Freddie Frenger Jr. (Alec Baldwin in one of his best-ever performances) front and center. Too bad Ward never got to make more Hoke adaptations, because this one had a lot going for it in tone. Never gonna say it's as good as the book, but it's a really fair translation to another medium, and not a bad way to be introduced to Willeford's weird worldview. Best moment: Susie feeds Freddy a litmus vinegar pie.

Miami Connection - Richard Park - God bless the too enthusiastic to ever be cool. God bless them more if they couldn't even give a shit about being cool. I think that the folks behind the 80s-est 80s movie ever probably did think they were pretty cool, and it's good for an easy laugh or two watching a scene here or there, but, friends, when you watch this opus beginning to end, it's an entirely different thing. The excitement and enthusiasm and just refusal to be self-conscious and put it all out there - your ultimate fantasy - for the whole world to see (and potentially mock) goes beyond being commendable and is actually a little inspiring. What really blows my mind about this weird-ass flick - about five adult men, all of whom are orphans and best friends and room mates and Tae Kwon Do students who play in a band called Dragon Sound and sing songs about being best friends and room mates and Tae Kwon Do enthusiasts and who become the house band at a Miami night club, and in so doing, inadvertently take jobs away from the current house band, who are so pissed about losing that gig that they hire a clan of drug-running Miami Ninjas to (wait for it) kill the dudes in Dragon sound - is that it's not some shot-for-nothing cheapo exploitation flick, it's got some polish and budgetary value on screen. It's no hundred million dollar blockbuster, but it's no Blair Witch Project either. Somebody, somewhere put some good money into it because it sounded like a hit... and it still does... and it may become one yet. Party movie of the year - I predict drinking games and costumed midnight-movie attending audiences in the near future for this rediscovered B-movie classic. Best moment: So damn many to choose from, but I keep coming back to Jim (Maurice Smith) telling his mother and father's tragic story to the fellas. Real tears, folks.

Mud - Jeff Nichols - Who's going to beat this shit? Who, I ask, will step up and eclipse this piece of American film making from Arkansas wunderkind Nichols? Whoever it is, I want to fucking see that shit right now because Mud has placed itself so far ahead of the pack in 2013, we might as well engrave the plaque now. I've not had so much pure enjoyment at the movies in... I don't even know. Where do I begin to talk about it? How about with the setting - southern Arkansas, northern Louisiana - a place that remains mythic yet, this tucked away corner of the civilized world where people still live off the land and fear the encroaching reach of a government that seems like a separate and hostile nation. Though I've never had a lifestyle like the characters in the film, I instantly recognized the setting as an America that I know - the small town details are spot on to the point that I could smell it (especially that air-conditioner-and-cigarettes scent that I just knew was the essence of one particular location). Next, how about character? Matthew McCoaughey's name and image are prominent on the poster, but the film really belongs to Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland as Ellis and Neckbone - an effortlessly contemporary Tom & Huck - two river kids who become involved in a very dangerous drama for all the right reasons: Ellis, for honor and Neckbone for loyalty, and their personal struggles with their decisions in the face of increasing danger and the demand of greater sacrifice even as the likelihood of their having been deceived and used grows. It's a great study that explores the best and worst of human capabilities without becoming treacly or bludgeoning. Lastly, how about the filmic chops? This movie will keep even the most astute film goer off balance and unsure, yet confident they are in the hands of a very capable and confident film maker with (more importantly) true vision. Man, vision trumps cleverness 9 times out of 10. Best moment: Impossible to nail down just one, but one of the most striking and memorable for me - Joe Don Baker leads a prayer.

Parker - Taylor Hackford - A piece of advice - don't go comparing this adaptation of Richard Stark's titular iconic professional thief to the numerous previous film incarnations if you want to enjoy it. I mean, who's going to argue for Jason Statham against Lee Marvin or Robert Duvall? And probably best not to take the previous films and try to make a cohesive universe out of them. Nah, best just to judge the picture on its own. That said, Parker is a slightly above average heist flick with a couple of stand out scenes. One of common pleasures of good crime fiction is the feeling of being in the know about the way things really work - no longer a hopeless square - and the best examples in film or literature (which the Parker novels certainly belong named amongst) take us behind the curtain apparent to the casually observing citizen and lay bare the inner workings of a plausible shadow economy - and there are just the briefest glimpses of that to be caught here, while most of the film's weight rests on pretty standard revenge fare and competent, if not particularly inspired, staging and execution. I'll also put myself out there now and say Jennifer Lopez was one of my favorite elements in this picture. She's aged nicely and I'd like to see her work with some first rate material. Best moment: Hell of a hand to hand fight scene two-thirds through.

Side Effects - Steven Soderbergh - There is a point of view switch halfway through the film, at which point, the mantle of main character also changes and everything about the first half is called into question. That everything about the second half is being called into question in real time as it's being shown to us requires us to suspend judgement until the end, by which time you may not care to re-examine everything that preceded. Which is fine. If a piece of entertainment carries you along to the end enclosed inside a bubble of willful suspension of disbelief, then it's done its job regardless your reaction come punch-line. Whether or not you choose to re-experience it more analytically is beside the point, or rather, an entirely separate and distinct measure of success (the first - that it cast its spell on you - already irrevocably decided). I went for the ride and come punch-line didn't feel cheated at all. Don't feel any need at this point to re-examine it, but it passed the first viewing easily. I really don't want to say anything about the plot, as it is probably best experienced in a cold viewing (like I did). I'll just divulge that it is a thriller and a twisty one... And that I really dig Soderbergh. Best moment: when final judgements are coming down at the end, one character's degree of malicious pleasure and ruthlessness were surprising.

White Lightnin' - Dominic Murphy - 'Inspired by the life of' notorious West Virginia tap-dancing outlaw Jesco White - this flick caught my attention with that line then diverted awfully quick from the straight and narrow of bio-pic narrative until it it climaxed in a fever dream of sin and redemption of the highest murderous backwood order. The opening scenes of young Jesco (Owen Campbell) are really great, especially once he starts his life-long love affair with huffing gasoline. Campbell is a compelling screen presence and I was disappointed to finish out his portion of the film. Edward Hogg's adult Jesco is harder to buy into for the tricky balancing act the role requires. Jesco is under-educated but speaks with a poetic quality, baby-faced and gentle and charming until he's not. Until he's a dangerous, brutal and psychotic - and he's required to be all of the above within the space of a few seconds multiple times in an hour and a half. But if you relax into the character and Hogg's stylized portrayal of the myth rather than the man, there's a lot to be enjoyed here. Shot in ethereal black and white, the whole film is steeped in a heavy atmosphere of dream logic. The dancing scenes are hypnotic and any scene with young Jesco, D. Ray (Muse Watson) or Cilla (Carrie Fisher) are worth looking at. Best moment: D. Ray teaches young Jesco to dance. The emotional and spiritual purity of exuberant expression are conveyed in just a few short steps, a pair of raised arms and an actor's face.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

2013 in Books The First Half


All the Wild Children - Josh Stallings - Heartbreaking stuff, masterfully delivered. What more do you want? This MemNoir is some quality shit, and affected me to the point where my own memories began to be framed in an aping style. Do yourself a solid and check out the CriMemoir piece Josh contributed here. If that don't hook you, I don't have the right bait.

Another Day in Paradise - Eddie Little - Fucking hell. How much did this book kick my ass? Nope, more than that. Always been a fan of Larry Clark's film version (and I still am), but now I understand you better if you're not. The book is brilliant, beautiful, powerful, electric, unsparing, compassionate - exactly the kind of beast you want to be mauled by when you pick up a crime novel.

By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne - Beautifully brutal passages bump up against hallucinatory stream of subconscious bits in and out of a collection of miserable souls doing time in a Russian gulag in the 1950s. The harsher the conditions, the more ruthless the survivors and most of the characters will have to answer for themselves where the line between survival of the body and of the spirit is drawn... and which they value more.

Dead Women of Juarez - Sam Hawken - Love the broken-down gringo fighter aspect of this one more than the Mexican cop bit, but both'll find a tender spot and kick you hard. Glad Fierce Bitches came out before I read it - I'd probably have been way too self-conscious about my own Gringo Noir if I'd read this first.

Fish Bites Cop: Stories To Bash Authorities - David James Keaton - If you've ever read a DJK selection in an anthology, you knew the cat could scribble, but I'd lay good odds you'll be unprepared for how strong his chops are when you stack his stories in a pile like this. Guy's gonna be huge someday. Believe it.

A Garden of Sand - Earl Thompson - Holy smokes. This is some heavy shit, and hilarious too. Just an amazing combination of emotions, transgressions and confessions the shortest distance betwixt is always the next straight line... after line... after line of the strongest, straightest prose I've read in an age. Can not wait to read Tattoo.

Low Down Death, Right Easy - J. David Osbourne - So many things to be excited about with this one. Style, tone, content, heart and a willingness to fuck it all up in a single sentence. Osborne uses words sparingly with great efficiency and proficiency - go ahead and read it again. You'll want to.

Painters - Cortright McMeel - A short story, really. Not a book, but sold for .99 as an eBook. I read this on the plane on my way to N@B-Denver's memorial to Cort who left us way too soon, and it was a double-edged experience. On the one-hand, I enjoyed seeing my friend come through in his characters, and on the other, I was angered and saddened all over again that there weren't going to be more of these coming.

Piggyback - Tom Pitts - Remember the good ol' days of gritty, pulp crime paperbacks that served up straight forward stories of bad choices and hard luck without side dishes or even garnish? They tasted something like this. Dig the streamlined story. Dig the nasty intent. Dig the economic word count.

Point & Shoot - Duane Swierczynski - After the ticking clock precision of Fun & Games and the Alice-down-the-hole trippy-ness of Hell & Gone, uncle Duane's back to finish out the Charlie Hardy saga by... doing many more really awful things to the hero. Gah, I love these books. I also get the feeling there may be more Hardy boys adventures somewhere down the line.

The Posthumous Man - Jake Hinkson - After Hell on Church Street, I'd have read Hinkson's follow up had it been a cook book. Luckily for me The Posthumous Man is another crime novel - and a damn fine one at that. One of the chief pleasures of Hinkson's work is the reader's awareness of his affinity for mid-century, American, hardboiled classics, that is more about state of mind than language, and his ability to bring those philosophies to the 21st century convincingly. The result is a simultaneous loving-familiarity with the outlook and perverse excitement anticipating his subversion. You know you are in very assured and qualified story telling hands, but have no idea where they are taking you. I also love that he's making Arkansonian Baptist Crime Fiction his own personal territory, though I wish I'd written my youth pastor crime story first (ah well, I won't mind being tagged as a rip-off artist so much - I am).

Rake - Scott Phillips - Not since Clark Griswold has a perpetually enthusiastic and optimistic American wreaked such havoc on Europe. The unnamed narrator of Rake is another randy sociopath blithely using any and every-body he meets to further his agenda which includes getting a feature film made and getting laid - a lot. These purposes cross rather frequently and dangerously culminating in consequences gruesome and hilarious. The particularly grotesque fate of the writer is, um... how you say, hitting too close to home?

The Rapist - Les Edgerton - Speaking of randy sociopaths blithely taking their own... Edgerton has wrought a helluva creation in Truman Ferris Pinter, the titular narrator of his novella. The weakness of any narcissist, his utter self-absorption, is also the source of Pinter's power, his prickly, but fascinating charisma. From his prison cell, the villain presents the case for his intellectual and moral superiority with equal parts eloquence and delusion, disarming in his frankness and infuriating in his audacity, it's an absorbing, unsettling and sweetly-brief read.

Twelve-Fingered Boy - John Hornor Jacobs - My first YA review. I read this one to my kids, but enjoyed it enough to give it a shout-out here. Jacobs doesn't shy away from terrifying adult material when writing for a young audience. His audience does factor in at times, particularly in the restraint of description of a pedophile's crimes, but I'd say that not getting specifics, the cloud of vagueness the crime is enveloped in, gives it (less shock, but) more power. Looking forward to the sequel.