Wednesday, July 29, 2015

2015 in Books

At the End of a Dull Day - Massimo Carlotto - The second part of the Giorgio Pellegrini story (this is the follow up to The Goodbye Kiss) finds our villain living the respectable life as the owner of a popular restaurant, currying power for and from his political connections while making most of his money as an international slave trader buying and selling women. He's married too. The detachment with which he describes his own cruelty is bracing, shudder-inducing and occasionally very funny. It's the voice that you'll either go hard for or be so repulsed by you'll hate the book. I belong to the former group. Imagine Scott Phillips' Wayne Ogden without so much mid-west warmth to him, crank his psychotic impulses and self-delusion up to eleven and you've got a thoroughly awful person and terrific narrator. If series characters are a drawback for you due to the repetitive nature of their exploits the Pellegrini books (only two) don't fall into that rut - distinctly different stories in the evolution(?) of a memorably despicable character. On to more Carlotto books for me.

Bad Penny Blues - Cathi Unsworth - A young policeman working a string of murders follows a trail into some pretty swanky and powerful shadows while a young woman's rise in the swinging '60s arts community has her elbows brushing against some unseemly types. Alternating plot lines like James Ellroy and Megan Abbott 
novels on a collision course had me reeling by the end. Gotta read more Unsworth.
Black Neon - Tony O'Neill - Sick City was such a blast, such an exciting, sick, horrific, hilarious, human mess that I couldn't imagine a sequel topping it. Thankfully, it didn't try to. As close to reserved as the author of something as crazy as Sick City could be capable of, but driven by the same desperation to fill the hole at the hearts of its characters, Black Neon is a helluva trip through skid row motels and Hollywood excess. Fuck, I love these books.

Black Cat Mojo - Adam Howe - Nothing but the most outrageous shit will make the cut here. A prodigiously endowed dwarf whose religiously-inclined mother dies after learning he's a porno legend, a messianic message in the asshole of a dog and more await in this collection of novelettes that start with the wheels off and then light the rockets. Howe's got a real heart that beats for his characters, but he puts them through his sick sense of humor's wringer. It's a fucking wild ride. Three actually.

Bust - Ken Bruen, Jason Starr - Blood is spilled, and tears are shed - though of a laughing sort - in this tale of a rich mark, a champion gold-digger, an IRA hitman and a disabled American vet meeting at the nexus of greed and avarice, a block down from the monuments to lust and vanity. Bruen and Starr kick off the Max and Angela series with style. Desperation was never so fucking hilarious. Or maybe that should read the other way around. However you take it, the pair of authors play to the other's strengths so generously a concoction not achievable solo by either is blended and served on ice with sides of grotesquerie and empathy enough for three books.

The Coldest Mile - Tom Piccirilli - Chase, the driver protagonist of a pair of Pic's crime novels (The Coldest Mile is the sequel to The Cold Spot) has been through a hell of a lot in his young life. After the events of The Cold Spot, he finds himself taking up with a third-rate mafia family he intends to rip off in pursuit of his new life's mission: find his toddler aunt and rescue her from a life with his grandfather Jonah - the coldest man alive. This pulp fiction at its most pure and potent. It's violent, propulsive, episodic entertainment encapsulated in real human tissue. Piccirilli was a fucking genre master incapable of writing an insincere sentence, who, even at his most commercially appealing, delivered heartache with the same blade he cut your throat. The Coldest Mile is an improvement on its predecessor, and one can see him working toward the Terrier Rand books The Last Kind Words and The Last Whisper in the Dark with each page. I prefer the Rand books, but I have nothing but love for the Chase saga. The Coldest Mile has a fantastic climax too. Fuck, I miss this guy already.

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