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.'

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