Over at Ransom Notes I'm talking border books. Specifically Sebastian Rotella's Triple Crossing, Tricia Fields' The Territory and the brand new stand alone from Craig McDonald, El Gavilan. I think Craig's taken a big ol' step forward with this one. It's not technically a border book as it's set in Ohio, but it revolves around illegal immigration and the sticky spot people from any point in the political spectrum are placed in when the neat and tidy policies they've constructed in the abstract are tested on the ground and they are face to face with the reality of human beings with an instinct to survive. The Hector books are fun, but this one gets down and nasty in a way that's difficult to take too seriously when it's Hemingway, or some other person of historical note doing the dirt.
I swear I was thinking of Ry Cooder while reading El Gavilan long before there's a mention of him near the end of the book. I just heard some of those shimmery guitar sounds echoing around the prose - probably, now that I think about it, has something to do with the fact that he composed the score for the 1982 Tony Richardson film The Border with Jack Nicholson and Harvey Keitel. I watched it again a little over a year ago and it hadn't aged well, but that soundtrack made an impression. Another movie I thought of while reading El Gavilan was John Sayles' Lonestar. Something about McDonald's salty dog sheriff Able Hawk conjured pictures of Kris Kristofferson in my mind and I thought of his great evil turn in that picture from 1996. Bet I haven't watched it in over ten years, but it's one I think of often and fondly. Oughtta revisit it soon.
Last week at Ransom Notes I was going on a bit about repo men as protagonists - why they seem such a natural for edgy crime shit - and wondering why the hell I couldn't think of more of them. Yeah, I mentioned Harry Dean Stanton in Alex Cox's Repo Man, Fritz Brown from James Ellroy's Brown's Requiem and even Jude Law and crew from last year's underrated Repo Men (Blade Runner rip-off, Brazil rip-off, cheap gimmicky one-trick-pony? Don't care. I really liked it). The whole thing was sparked off by my reading Rick Gavin's muy fun Ranchero about a Dixie repo man tearing ass through Mississippi after the asswipe who brained him with a shovel on the job (think I compared it to Hap & Leonard crashing a Cannonball Run movie, and maybe that's not doing it any favors, but it was quick, easy reading). Bryon Quertermous brought Joe Gores' Dan Kearney into the conversation and Lynn Kostoff offered up Mike Magnuson's Gunnar and Dewey from The Right Man For the Job, so thanks guys for those. I'll have to give em a looksee. Still... that seems like an awfully low count.
Anybody see Marilyn Stasio's Notable Crime Books of 2011 list in the New York Times? Some good picks there, including George Pelecanos, James Sallis, Phillip Kerr, Michael Koryta and her 'favorite noir'? Scott Phillips' The Adjustment. Fuckin A.
Julian Grant reports cops crashing the set of F*ckload during shooting the other night. The issue? Sound like, uh shooting. Guerilla film makers are no strangers to this kind of thing. Dunno how many times the Mosquito Kingdom sets were struck and stowed, packed or abandoned to avoid the law, but it were more than I cared for. Sounds like they're on track to wrap up production before Christmas. Can't wait.