Friday, August 31, 2012

Too Good

So, I'm looking over Noir at the Bar Volume 2 proofs and thinking how damned proud I am of this sick collection, when I notice that two of the contributors have been talking behind my back - rather, they've been talking to each other without me around. Thank God they recorded that shit. Go to Noir Nation for to read Cortright McMeel interviewing Benjamin Whitmer - it's good for you. Too good not to. I talked with Cort this week about a possible project that I'd be damned excited to see happen - but that's all I'll say. And, Ben, thanks for this. You're the best.

Friday, August 24, 2012

3 Links

Well damn. There are links to be had.

First - Byron Kerman at St. Louis Magazine interviewed Scott Phillips and I about Noir at the Bar a few months back and the story appeared in the August issue of the magazine. I guess the September issue is out now 'cause the story is now available online, as is this classy-ass picture of me and the Scott.

Second - Robb Olson said some kindly things about my collection A F*ckload of Shorts over at ManArchy magazine. Here's a sample:

Among the twisted characters are morbid starfuckers, depraved funeral home directors, a priest who has lost his way, and degenerate criminals. There are also lynchings, witch hunts, necrophilia and plenty of cannibalism.

I believe that's supposed to sound enticing. I dunno. There wasn't that much cannibalism. Really, just a tasteful dollop.

Thirdly - Jimmy Callaway turned me loose at The Criminal Complex to discuss my story A Fuckload of Scotch Tape's long strange trip from page to screen. I get to sing the praises of Julian Grant, Kevin Quain and even throw a little nod to Greg Bardsley. But absolutely the best part of the piece is Jimmy's introduction, 'cause he says some shit about me that I asked him to:

It’s no secret that crime-fiction authors often wear their hearts on their sleeves.  Even though the subject matter, the characters, the settings, it’s all pretty gross and slimy and amoral, most writers still manage to be clear about which side they’re rooting for, the moral of each story is clear.  But then there are writers who do away with all that, and those, dear friends, are my favorite types of writers.  From the class-A amorality of the works of Cormac McCarthy and Richard Stark down to their modern-day contemporaries like James W. Hall and Anthony Neil Smith and, yes, Jedidiah Ayres.  

Thanks, James. Thems some nice names to be keeping company with... And it's about damn time somebody threw my name up on a list with McCarthy - I'm sure he'd say the same thing.

Got some events stirring about in the vague future... Letcha know the particulars when I sense you've hit the breaking point of your anticipation.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Aural Sex

Over at Ransom Notes I'm getting into the chief benefit of professional manual labor - a mind free to wander - and its chief manifestation - playing shit I wanna listen to loud. Yeah, sometimes it's music, but more often these days it's audio books - of which I list a few recent listens over there including Stephen King's Full Dark, No Stars a collection of four novellas including the story 1922 - an absolutely black crime tale. Really, just stunningly bleak and terrifically moving. Ask John Rector, he'll set you straight. Anyway, I stuck to books over there, but the truth is I listen to podcasts too. Not enough crime fiction/film casts that I know of. I know the late-great Out of the Past film noir centered program and the newer Noir Cast from Shannon Clute and Richard Edwards, as well as Seth Harwood's CrimeWav, Rob & Livius at Booked, and I just found Crime City Central where I heard Ray Banks' story The Kindness of Strangers (from the upcoming Lost Children: Protectors anthology edited by Thomas Pluck) - nice - and I'm zeroing in on Mysterypod, but I need help. You know some quality crime podcasts? I need to know them.

I got the chance to see an advance screening of the new William Friedkin/Tracy Letts freak-out Killer Joe, and I'll have more to say about it later, but I wanted to give it the quick HBW official stamp of approval in case it's playing in your town this weekend. Even took my wife to see this sleazy-ass picture. I don't deserve her. You're the best, sweetie.

Monday, August 20, 2012

This Gun For Hire: Tony Scott

Not gonna get into the how, why or personal life and death of Tony Scott because I know nothing about them. All I know is that he was a film maker of considerable skill and craft (which I'll juxtapose with 'vision,' I suppose) who made unapologetically commercial flicks - action films, mostly - that went big, made a splash, were always pushing the limits of style and delivery, and though often ridiculous, never treated the material smugly, with irony or detachment.

I'm not sure he fits the criteria for the This Gun For Hire exactly - he was A-list all the way, could pick and choose his projects, I'm sure, and anybody worthy of an all-out parody by The Coen Brothers (which Burn After Reading clearly was), must be some class of auteur - but you got the feeling, looking at his body of work, that craft really was the thing, for him. He wanted to make kick-ass entertainment and grind that cutting edge to near invisibility. And for the most part, I think he did.

Top Five Tony Scott Movies

5) The Last Boy Scout - Shane Black worked that witty Black/White, tough-guy buddy banter in his scripts for Lethal Weapon, Long Kiss Goodnight, Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang and probably will in Iron Man 3. He could probably churn it out in his sleep (where the endless Weapon sequels were probably produced). He wrote scripts for the sensibilities of film makers like Richard Donner, Renny Harlin, John McTiernan and Walter Hill, but in Tony Scott was met more than half-way and together they turned out a highlight of both careers (as well as the peak of Bruce Willis's action-star trajectory. Die Hard is still the best, but it was a gently sloping descent into self-parody from here).

4) Domino - Ridiculous? Over the top? Juuuuust a bit, but holy hell, it's a lot of fun. The opening scene of the trailer park assault and severed limb and shit? Love it. By the end, this one's a mess (a Richard Kelly script, y'know), but it always errs in favor of entertainment value. Going for it: Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, true-ish story of Laurence Harvey's daughter - model-turned-bounty-hunter Domino Harvey - Tom Waits, Christopher Walken, Delroy Lindo and the best use of Three Dog Night's Mama Told Me (Not to Come) ever.

3) Revenge - Before Kevin Costner went supernova he had two of his best roles as the guy who comes between a powerful man and a beautiful woman. The first time he wriggled betwixt Gene Hackman and Sean Young in Roger Donaldson's fantastic No Way Out, but Revenge (adapted from Jim Harrison's book), where he uh, inserts himself into Anthony Quinn and Madeleine Stowe's marriage goes, for once,  for the smaller-scale fall-out (though, it's still plenny big). Love the old Mexico setting - always a favorite for gringos in trouble movies - and it doesn't skimp on the bloody come-uppence.

2) The Hunger - based on the novel by Whitley Strieber, but probably just as much on his brother Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. The style certainly begs for comparison with his sibling's here, more than any other of his films, and where Blade Runner explored what makes us human from the finite-ness of life angle, The Hunger gets at similar questions through the grotesque refraction of human life without end. The two films would make an excellent double feature, come to think of it. It is, in fact, the only vampire flick I can think of that really makes use of the horror of immortality, and makes me call bullshit on all tales of age-less predators falling in love with human teenagers.

1) True Romance - What's to say? If you haven't seen this one, you've got your no-brainer homework assignment. Anybody else working with this material from Quentin Tarantino would've turned in a smug, ironic, slacker-chic pose-off instead of the picture Tony gave us, which came by its humor, excitement and harrowing violence honestly (even though it's fantasy - don't know of any other examples of this kind of thing working well - not even Wild at Heart hit the mark so true). How many show-stopping scenes does this one have? Christian Slater and Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper, Patricia Arquette and James Gandolfini, and the everybody shoots the holy shit out of each other finale. Even the minor exchanges - the 'I'd fuck Elvis' intro, Gandolfini & Brad Pitt, Chris Penn & Tom Sizemore's back and forth, Bronson Pinchot with a wire in his crotch and a gun in his eye, Saul Rubinek making the deal... Fuck it, I'm gonna go watch it again.

It's testament to the consistent quality of his work that I had such trouble narrowing this list down to five, but these are the ones I'm most up for repeat viewings of. Just off screen - Crimson Tide, Man On Fire, Spy Game and Enemy of the State. Wanna see Scott having a blast? Check out his short film Beat the Devil - one of those high-concept BMW commercials that starred Clive Owen as The Driver. They recruited top-shelf talent film makers to make these short flicks that would feature Owen and some model of BMW, but everything else was up for grabs. Scott's was one of the best - with James Brown, and Gary Oldman's most excellent post-Drexel role.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Me 'n Tony 'n Mike

Alive magazine just put out a list of recommended reads for the fall. On that list - Anthony Bourdain, Michael Chabon, Ben McIntyre and Noir at the Bar Volume 2... cause that makes sense. Thanks, Gwen Ragno and Rob Levy.

Volume One was a deliciously dark collection of short stories by St. Louis and regional authors, with all the hard-boiled dialogue, violence and deviance that pulp fiction fans can’t get enough of. Volume Two, due out early this month, promises to give its predecessor a run for its money.

Thems accurate words. Number 2's about to live up to its namesake all over your bookshelf.

If I may recommend another title for your fall reading, Greg Bardsley's excellent Cash Out will be assaulting your sense of decorum soon. He's about unleash Crazy Larry, Calhoun and the rest of the irregulars upon the world at large and there's some folks that just won't be ready for that... But for those of you who can handle it - you're in for a treat.

And, finally there's a trailer for Martin McDonagh's Seven Psychopaths. Unbelievable cast looking like they're having a lot of fun. Can't wait for this one.

At Ransom Notes I'm taking a look at spy books and films from the likes of Matt Kindt, Gregg Rucka, Mischa Hiller, Derek Haas, William Gibson, Olivier Assayas and John Boorman's underrated Tailor of Panama from John Le Carre's novel of the same name. I dug this movie a lot. Very funny and Pierce Brosnan doing the anti-Bond thing right in the midst of his stint as 007 was great casting.

Also, at Ransom Notes some historical mysteries taking place in the early to mid 20th century coming this fall. On that list, I'm really stoked about Dennis Lehane's Live By Night and curious to give Robert Olen Butler's Hot Country a read too - sounds kinda like a lost Craig McDonald Hector Lassiter title. Laurence McMorrow's The Underground has my eye too. I especially like that he's giving us a novella-length offering, thanks, Larry.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ride the High Country

Charlie Stella's Rough Riders is out now - a ten year sequel (or continuance) to his early novel Eddie's World - and damn, it's just got so many great moments between characters - generally bad people doing generally bad things - who can't stop being genuine even (or especially) when the moment calls for them to be robotic and divorced from their personalities. I'm thinking of the guy who can't hide his sexual arousal while negotiating with the killer he's contracting to bump off his wife, or the college kid caught in a drug sting who shits his pants and the policeman chagrined that he's got to tell the kids' parents about it. Or how about the black guy doing a big deal with a big scary white gang leader and can't stop himself from addressing the dude's casual racism? These are the moments that sell this crime novel - and bring to mind the best of Elmore Leonard or George V. Higgins. Lovely.  Recently at Ransom Notes I was looking at Rough Riders and a few more crime books taking place in the northern plains. In that piece, I also listed some books that sprang to mind, fitting the mood, but not the geography of the post - one of them being Rusty Barnes' excellent collection Mostly Redneck from last year. I mentioned somewhere that I'd love to see a novel from mister Barnes and received the gift of this link to an excerpt from his recently completed novel. Hey big important publishers - take notice of this guy - he's the real thing.

Y'know who else is? You don't need me to tell you it's Kyle Minor. But you may not've heard that his next book of short stories (after In the Devil's Territory) is on its way. Titled Praying Drunk, it's not available till 2014, but glad to hear it's coming.

Also at Ransom Notes I listed my big book-to-film adaptation anticipations for the rest of 2012 (which didn't include Lee Daniels' The Paperboy from Pete Dexter's book because it'd made the first half of 2012's list - but hey there's a trailer out now).

Buuuut - what about crime films not based on books? Well, shit howdy, let's just take a look. How 'bout David Ayer's End of Watch?

or Craig Zobel's Compliance?

Can't decide whether Dax Shepard's co-directorial effort with David Palmer, Hit & Run Looks good or terrible, but I'm rooting for it. Reeaaaallly hard to find that yuck yuck comic tone that works with a crime story the way say Martin Brest's Midnight Run did or Peter Hyams' Running Scared (Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal have got to be the unlikeliest pair of tough urban cops to ever work in a movie) did, but that appears to be the kind of tone they're shooting for... don't hate me if this movie sucks. I just hope it doesn't.

But fuckin Looper looks to be the shit. Rian Johnson has got my attention anyway - Brick was brilliant and The Brothers Bloom a fine distraction if not a particularly memorable flick, but this looks like it could make Johnson the next big thing.

One more Ransom Notes link today and it's all about sex. I enjoyed writing the memorable prison-sex list a few months back and decided to write 'bout sex in crime books for B&N. I'd like to think I've contributed a couple memorable sex scenes to paper - Hoosier Daddy (which first appeared in Beat to a Pulp: Round One), and Viscosity (originally in Out of the Gutter #6) - both available in A F*ckload of Shorts BTW, ahem, come to mind. Anyway, I'm sure I've left off your favorite sticky passages, so let me know what they are.

Y'know whose got some sickly sexy bits in Noir at the Bar Volume 2? Hmmm, how 'bout Jane Bradley, Robert J. Randisi & Christine Matthews, Hilary Davidson, Nic Young and more. Y'know what else N@B2 has? Pretty, pretty pictures. After Matt Kindt's cover and sweet-ass illustrations for David Cirillo's story in the first antho, this time around, we're upping the ante with Spike, the graphic story by Tim Lane. If you know not Matt - check out his brand new monthly comic Mind MGMT, and if you don't know Tim, get a copy of Abandoned Cars right the hell now.

'Course if you likey the graphics, don't forget to pick up a copy of Julian Grant's graphic adaptation of his own film F*ckload of Scotch Tape for free. Also, the film is now available to rent or purchase for cheaps right here.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Coming Soon

Soon... very soon. Check out that design by Erik Lundy and the blurb from Victor Gischler.

Featuring stories by (in alphabetical order): Jedidiah Ayres, Frank Bill, Jane Bradley, Sonia L. Coney, Hilary Davidson, Les Edgerton, Nate Flexer, Matthew C. Funk, Jesus Angel Garcia, Glenn Gray, Kevin Lynn Helmick, Gordon Highland, John Hornor Jacobs, David James Keaton, Tim Lane, Erik Lundy, Jason Makansi, Matthew McBride, Jon McGoran, Cortright McMeel, Aaron Michael Morales, Scott Phillips, Robert J. Randisi & Christine Matthews, John Rector, Caleb J. Ross, Duane Swierczynski, Mark W. Tiedemann, Fred Venturini, Benjamin Whitmer and Nic Young.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Short Sharp Post

You hear the stink about Barry Graham and Brad Thor? No? Well, I'd recommend reading the story at Barry's blog - here and here - it's a corker, and it culminates with one of them being banned for life from a beloved mystery bookstore... Which is too bad. I've never read the one author (nor have I ever seen/heard or read Glenn Beck) so I offer no opinion on the content of the books, but I do enjoy a good baiting yarn, and, warranted or not - this was no exception. 

Victor Gischler's Kickstarter campaign to fund Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse II has wrapped successfully, which makes my nipples hard. Really looking forward to reading that. Did you participate? Do you like the Kickstarter thing? I was glad to hear success stories for short films based on the work of Craig Clevenger and Alan Heathcock, but man, trying to fund a feature that way is a big challenge. That's what Thomas Konkle is doing though. Check out the website for his feature Trouble is My Business if you're interested in supporting it. 

Features are covered, but come to think of it, the short film is an undertapped medium for crime stories. You wanna know what they can be? Check out Martin McDonagh's Six Shooter to see what I mean.

Or Nick Childs' The Shovel with David Strathairn, from Steve Hamilton's story A Shovel With My Name On It  (look for it on iTunes). Makes me waaaaant to see Paul von Stoetzel's Dennis Tafoya adaptation How to Jail. Kickstarter... you have phaled me.

Paul Brazill is busy as shit. He must be with all I see his name on. On top of being a swell writer, and y'know, gainfully employed, every time I turn around, the guy's got three new projects he's involved with or just generally cheerleading for. This week, I got to take part in his Short Sharp Interview series and, for that, and all the kindly attention he's given my work in the past three years, I thank him.

For those of you eReaders not of the Kindle persuasion, rejoice, for my collection A F*ckload of Shorts is now available for your NOOK as well. And for you strictly-paper types, dig out your dinero, 'cause the paperback approaches. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

eVailable Now

Did I really write a book with such an awful title? I apologize to everybody who's had the news of my collection A F*ckload of Shorts sprung on them without proper warning. I apologize to my family and my parents who really did raise me better than that. I apologize to my teachers who were sadly mistaken about me - it really was the height of my potential. Really. It's come to this.

That said - go buy the shit out my new book. I want your money.

Paperback to follow soon.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Smart Auss

What I'm looking forward to... from Aussies

Who - let's face it - have been teaching the world a thing or two about emotionally relevant, consequence-exploring crime film-making the last few years. Those folks at the collective Blue Tongue Films gave us Nash Edgerton's The Square

and David Michod's Animal Kingdom

have another haunted-looking crime-tinged drama making the rounds this summer - Kieran Darcy-Smith's Wish You Were Here

And while you may not get the chance to catch that one theatrically, here're some heading for a multiplex near you.

Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly adapted from George V. Higgins' Cogan's Trade and featuring a helluvan ensemble - Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, Sam Shepard, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini.

But not the cast and not even the source material sells me on the project like Dominik's name does. After all, this is the cat who gave us Chopper and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford from writing by Mark Read and Ron Hansen respectively. And, all due respect to Nicolas Winding Refn and Tom Hardy, but I'd take another round with Chopper ahead of Bronson.

But a Hardy project makes this list easily. The writing/directing team of Nick Cave and John Hillcoat are all you really need to hold my interest, after all they're responsible for The Proposition

But throw in subject matter like prohibition-era crazies with Thompsons and moonshine? Just take my money now. So, Lawless is waaaaay up there on the list.

The Beef aside (I wish the kid no ill will) the cast is, shall we say, promising, and I'm more than a little interested in checking out the source novel The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant - after all Mr. B. shares a name with one of the baddassed characters in crime fiction - Big Pete Bondurant from James Ellroy's Underworld USA trilogy.

Also, I've got Garry Disher's latest Wyatt - Port Vila Blues - threatening to jump off the book pile and put some choke on me.