Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Fiends Without Means

I'm not saying junkie fiction is my favorite genre.

No way, not even close. In fact I wouldn't say it's one that I feel particularly drawn to.

But then how do I explain the fact that a good percentage of my like super high scoring outstanding reads of the past several years land very comfortably within that subgenre? I dunno, but sheeeeeit these books fucking rocked my ass (and yeah, most of em are opiates, but I mean drug fiction in general - I'm square).

In Case We Die - Danny Bland - Yes it has crime elements to it including bank robbery and murder, but this story of a porno-shop clerk perpetually losing his heart and discovering he has a smidge more soul to sell fucking ripped my heart out. I know it's only February, but it's hard to imagine I'll love anything else this year so hard. Gah! Lovely.

Homeboy - Seth Morgan - Sweet sizzlin' savior did this thing have it all. Hard crime, hard time, equal parts humor and horror with enough heart to make the tough breaks ache and the prose stylings to make it pop. Story of a striptease barker at the eye of a storm of dirty secrets, deals and needles. Just one amazingly memorable character and line after another. Easily my favorite read of last year. One and done for Mr. Morgan who died shortly after publishing this first novel.

Another Day in Paradise / Steel Toes - Eddie Little - Comfortably crime fiction and sadly the only titles completed by Little before his death. Fuck me, another one + one = done for a brilliant crime writer. Don't worry, if you've seen the Larry Clark movie version of Another Day In Paradise it won't spoil the experience of digging into the books. In fact they're so much better than that film (which I love) you'll be glad you saw it first and can feel free to enjoy both the movie and the book.

Sick City / Black Neon / Dirty Hits - Tony O'Neill - The first two are novels that are linked by characters, but not necessarily sequels and the other a collection of short fiction, but O'Neill has a few more titles I've not yet read. Based on the raw power of these though, I will be working my way through his body of work like a hot shot.

Dope Thief / Wolves of Fairmount Park - Dennis Tafoya - Crime fiction absolutely, but so much heart and hurt on the pages you could remove the armed robbery and murder and still have compelling reasons to turn the pages. Dirty characters, clean prose and somehow this guy hasn't become a gajillionaire bestseller yet. Dennis, dude... what's next and when?

Cherry - Nico Walker - Last year I also read this first novel of dirtbaggery in the armed forces, armed robbery and everyday hoodrattery. The tone shifts hard and the plot lurches and stalls like a badass junker or a skeez-fucked junkie - sometimes it's spinning wheels, but sometimes the gears catch and all that muscle picks you up and carries you away. Sometimes it really sings.

Stark - Edward Bunker - I suspect this one contains a bit more memoir as fiction than some of his other (better) books. There's probably a reason it wasn't published before he died, but c'mon, I'm gonna read posthumously printed Eddie, you'd better believe it.

Bad Sex on Speed - Jerry Stahl - This collection of short fiction covers the crank side of Stahl's impressive narco-awareness. Ho, shit, it's wild. There's enough amphetamine dust on the page to give you a fuckin sharp secondhand buzz and a harsh comedown later.

The Heroin Chronicles - Jerry Stahl ed. - So maybe follow it up with this terrific collection edited by Stahl and featuring stories by Gary Phillips, Lydia Lunch, Eric Bogosian, Nick Tosches, Nathan Larson, Zoe Hansen, Tony O'Neill(!) and more. Yeah, I dig those Akashic drug chronicles collections too.

Monday, February 4, 2019

2018 Crime Flick Picks: Honorable Mentions

Earlier I talked up my favorite ten crime flicks from 2018 and, like every year, it included a lot of obvious choices, but I like to follow up with the 11-20 slots 'cause hisotically that's where I can get into a few that may've slipped through the cracks. Here they are in alphabetical order.

American Animals - Bart Layton - True story of a group of suburban boys taking their shot at greatness by stealing some valuable books from a library and selling them to European gangsters told in a combination of dramatic recreation and talking head interviews with the real life characters (offenders, victims, family members). It's funny, alarming, suspenseful and manages to leave room for competing reactions like amusement, dread and withering scorn. Layton, the dude who made the great true crime doc The Imposter a few years ago is back with another true crime tale that plays with documentary/drama form and has impressive results

BuyBust - Erik Matti - Matti's been burning up my radar since On the Job and this one is another terrific Manila-set thriller that just doesn't let up. It suffers slightly from coming out the same year as The Night Comes For Us and also drawing predictable comparisons to The Raid, but there's no way this one isn't a great time for fans of those films too. So excited to see a sequel to On the Job is on the way!

The Euthanizer - Teemu Nikki - A mechanic whose sideline is euthanizing pets goes about his work in a humane and unflinching manner, but when some nazi assholes get in his way it's quickly apparent that he treats animals much kinder than people. Nikki is new to me, but I will definitely be catching up on his work after this one. Puzzling out the very specific code of honor the protagonist lives and dies by is a sometimes harrowing sometimes hilarious experience

Kills on Wheels - Attila Till - Two wheelchair bound boys find a mentor of sorts in a disabled gangster/hitman who takes them on as apprentices. It's a helluva premise and mostly works with utter nihilism not quite overtaking a healthy dose of teenaged fuck-the-world angst. The last ten minutes are a little disappointing, but make sense out of questions bothering me in the structure, and won't keep me from enjoying a revisit in the future

Let the Corpses TanHélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani - another exercise in extremely stylized and sensual violence and mayhem that's a whole lotta gonzo fun from the duo responsible for AMER and others. Based on the novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette

Like Me - Robert Mockler - This crime-spree/social media satire pushes the low-fi/hi-concept visuals to eleven. Addison Timlin and Larry Fessenden's kidnapper/kidnappee couple on the run are one of the best onscreen duos of the year. Never quite know where it's going

Lowlife - Ryan Prows - Prows projects leap to the top of my what the fuck comes next list after this mulit-narrative-strands gonzo crime/horror mashup feature debut. Whoa.

Sollers Point - Matthew Porterfield - This man out of prison flick is a crime and consequence drama whose low-key thriller elements nicely balance the will he/won't he get his life together elements that can feel preachy in so many other films - nice trick

Superfly - Director X - This update/remake is all attitude and style and if you do it right you'll not stop to think things through before you're whisked off to the next outrageous set piece. More fun than it has any business being. Imagine if Hype Williams watched a bunch of Michael Mann movies and decided that was what he was going for next

Unsane - Steven Soderbergh - Low-fi, slow burn psychological thriller - probably the best of its kind since Side Effects. If this is what retirement looks like here's hoping he quits again.