Sunday, June 21, 2015

For Your Constipation

Strangerland - d: Kim Farrant w: Michael Kinirons, Fiona Seres

Stanford Prison Experiment - d: Kyle Patrick Alvarez w: Tim Talbott

Sicario - d: Denis Villeneuve w: Taylor Sheridan

7 Minutes - w/d: Jay Martin 

Thursday, June 18, 2015


So, the bad news is N@B-Indianapolis isn't happening tomorrow night. Sucks. I was looking forward to that. The good news? N@B-St. Louis is back on next month. On July 17 with a forthcoming lineup, but damn, it's been long enough, huh? In a dubious bit of synchronicity Jen Conley wrote a piece about N@B-Global for The Los Angeles Review of Books this week and it featured a couple quotes from me. I should point out that it did not anywhere say "Fuck Peter Rozovsky," so it can hardly qualify as accurately representing the brand, but I do appreciate it. Thanks, Jen. And though N@B's had international events in the past (our Canadian neighbors have been doing it for a while) it's officially global now that Jay Stringer and Russel D. McLean have got N@B-Glasgow under their belts. Feck. Wish I coulda. 

Speaking of Stringer, you know he's got a podcast where he interviews crime writers? Well. He does. It's called Hacks and I was gonna leave an odor there a couple weeks ago, but technical difficulties on my end prevented that. You can still listen to the episode I was gonna stink up right here and make do with Jay and Anthony Neil Smith shooting shit in a barrel. Among other revelations on the episode - Smith ain't gonna make Bouchercon this year. Hell. You all know who is, though, right? I'll be there to not buy Allan Guthrie's tee totaling ass a drink. Been damned excited for this opportunity to meet the man for years. Can't wait.

Did you hear the good news out of Guthrie's Blasted Heath camp? Douglas Lindsay's The Long Midnight of Barney Thompson has been adapted as the feature directorial debut of Robert Carlyle and co-starring Carlyle as the killer cutter alongside Ray Winstone and Emma Thompson. The Legend of Barney Thompson is coming soon.

You wanna get a jump on it - read the book before the flick is available - currently only 99cents!

If you read LARB regularly you're probably already hip to Lisa Levy's swell new crime fiction magazine The Life Sentence. Spanning genres, but focused on criminality it's a top-notch collective and gathering spot for those looking to know what's going on or what it's all about (crime fiction, that is). Give this profile by Paul French of Adrian McKinty's Sean Duffy titles a taste.

e-Zines are so where it's at now. The Life Sentence joins the ranks of quality crime sites like Criminal Element, Crime Fiction Lover and The Rap Sheet. All terrific sites and all free. Y'know what tho? I've just bought my very first subscription to a digital publication - Noir City published by The Film Noir Foundation and gotdamn, it's a beaut. Every quarter a brannew issue brimming with the best of the worst. You wanna subscribe? A year's subscription to Noir City is "free" with a $20 donation to The Film Noir Foundation, so you can ease your conscience while reaping the benefits of teh labor of so many better minds - Noir City features regular contributions by folks like Eddie Muller, Jake Hinkson and Vince Keene.

You want a sample of what you'll find there? Hinkson's collected non-fiction The Blind Alley from Broken River Books has essays culled from Noir City as well as other online sites previously mentioned above. And BRB jefe J. David Osborne will be throwing his hat in the e-Zine ring soon with the Broken River Annual (I think this is still on, yeah JDO?). Killer lineup of contributors I've got wind of.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Blood of the Wolf

When the idea for the Narrative Music series occurred to me, there were a couple of songs that immediately leapt to mind as perfect examples that I believed somebody'd jump on quick (still waiting for a piece on The Steve Miller Band's Take the Money and Run, everybody or hey, man, any ol' Leadbelly tune or fir-shits-ache Mack the Knife), but maybe the single best example of what I was looking for was Hammell On Trial's Blood of the Wolf.

The third track on Ed Hammell's 1996 album, Big As Life, it's two tales in one song.

First is the tale of an awkward 15 year old kid, named Frank, who conspires with his girlfriend to knock off the Kentucky Fried Chicken where she works. The kid is described as a lanky ball of nervous, twitchy energy already going bald and with no better defined motive than his teenaged acne, piss and vinegar. He and the girl hatch a plan for him to bust in in a ski mask while she's at the counter and demand the cash, only she poultrys out without warning him, calls in sick and when he makes his dramatic entrance she's left him to twist.

Realizing he's been betrayed, he pauses a moment and then improvises the heist by grabbing a fork and slamming it down on the counter, cutting his hand in the process, and demanding the cash. His ridiculousness is first laughed at, but his refusal to be ridiculous, the ferocity of his conviction and commitment to the act win the day and he gets away with a couple hundred dollars. No further information on the fate of the love affair.

The second story in the song is a survival tale of two buddies who drive a U-Haul truck, caught in a snowstorm near the Canadian border, wrapping themselves in grungy flannels found discarded from earlier warmer days in the cab and trying not to freeze to death. The pair are Ed and his buddy Frank who tells him the story of his teenage desperado act. The telling of the story, and Frank's Bon Scott impressions don't just pass the time, it gets the pair into stitches and maybe even saves their lives (I like to think it does anyhow). The pair are dug out of the blizzard alive and delirious after hours forever bonded by the experience and confession.

The first story features petty crime and desperation and insecurity turned to swagger. The second is almost a reversal - overconfidence turned to an accurate self-assessment - and the song ends with Ed hearing the sound of the truck, the wild cry of a wolf child and the vision of a ski-mask wearing teenager, armed with a fork forever running through the night. It's romantic and pathetic in equal measure and one of the best crime short stories I've ever heard.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Oedipus Wrecks Redux

Did you notice this - The Disassembled Man by Jon Bassoff has just been released by DarkFuse. Originally published under a Bassoff pseudonym and published by New Pulp Press. It was the first NPP book I read and it set the standard for Bassoff's interests/perversions/tone both in what he published at NPP (Pete Risley's Rabid Child, Heath Lowrance's The Bastard Hand, Jake Hinkson's Hell On Church Street, Jackson Meeks' While the Devil Waits, Stan Richards' Almost Gone) and the books that bear his name (and what a lead zeppelin that must be) Corrosion and Factory Town. Clearly influenced by mid-century voices of Americana-noir in the most ethyl-soaked nightmares of Jim Thompson and the Christ-hauntings of Flannery O'Connor, but brought into the new millennium with serious literary ideals and dark intent. So, here's the original review I wrote for the book and I stand by that shit today. Bassoff is a huge talent and a figure of terrible importance to my favorite corner of contemporary letters.

Nate Flexer’s debut novel The Disassembled Man, (New Pulp Press), is a wince-inducing front row seat to a soul shredding. It’s so unrelentingly dark, so hopeless and dank, that when the humor rears its fugly head you’ll want to wretch because you laughed. You will hate yourself for those laughs. But you will laugh. And then puke. And maybe chuckle sickly for a few days. And throw up in your mouth a bit. It's not funny. Sort of though.

Frankie Avicious has worked as a “sticker” at the Sunshine Foods plant for five short years. He slices the throats of the cattle that come down the line every few seconds, dangling from chains and hopefully dead already, but more often than not, just hurt and pissed off, crying and thrashing, before they’re skinned – again, hopefully already dead - at the next station. It’s a bloody, shitty job, but Frankie is an ex-con with a rather bovine wife at home to support – his needs are immediate and his options few. He’s also trying to prove himself to his disapproving father in law, the owner of Sunshine Foods, who seems more than content to let his only daughter and good for nothing son in law wallow in abject poverty while he enjoys the material rewards of clean living.

Frankie has also got some problems of a sexual nature including a non-functional marriage, an inappropriate relationship with his mother in law and a murky one with his own imprisoned mother, plus an infatuation with a stripper – an ugly one at that – who has two things going for her: she’s “one hiccup away from two black eyes” and bears a vague resemblance to a certain incarcerated family member… Frankie can’t quite put it together.

How does Frankie deal with it all? Binge drinking and biding time. After all, the old man can’t live forever right? He’s bound to die some day and leave his only daughter some dough, yeah? And a note on the drinking – Ken Bruen is famously frustrated when his Jack Taylor series is sighted as romanticizing the cups when his intentions are the opposite, but goodness gracious ol’ Jack’s blackouts sound like an Amish hay ride next to Frankie’s harai kari with a bottle.

Eventually his patience runs out and Frankie decides to get pro-active on a life improvement plan. This means money first – Pop’s got to go. The murder is simple, but Frankie is so bottled up that that first step into acting on his impulses really gets the better of him and he lets loose on the world with all the pain, rage and confusion he’s carried around for a lifetime. You will be amazed at the depths of his pain, rage and confusion. I dare say, you’ll get your fill of pain, rage and confusion. It’s a pain, rage and confusion fire sale, take all you can carry.

The prose is simple. There is no effort made to wow you with linguistics. Things are said simply or not at all, trusting the reader to read between the lines. Some authors write tough guys who are martyrs or thrill seekers of a macho or poetic leaning and good for vicarious punishment or cathartic suffering, but Flexer's Frankie is a tough guy just for getting out of bed in the morning, just for showing up at that horrible job every day and not once will the reader want to be him. In fact Frankie's problems will make you thankful for the shitty job, sour marriage or mother in law you've already got.

If Satan ever wiped his bunghole with a human being it was Frankie Avicious. At one point his nub of a conscience begins to irritate him when the bodies in the cellar "began rattling their bones. I was in the living room, drinking whiskey from a straw and cheating at solitaire, when I heard a faint "thump, thump, thump" coming from the basement. I didn't pay it any attention. It was probably just a rat, I told myself, or perhaps a harmless burglar. I kept on drinking, covering my ears with clenched fists. But the thumping became louder and more distinct. Footsteps. Human footsteps. I became paralyzed with fear. I didn't know what to do. I turned on the television."

When he’s bought his one way ticket and securely buckled in for his suicide trip, Frankie has a brief encounter with God.

“I close my eyes and suddenly felt His presence. My eyes welled up with tears. I dropped to my knees. To think that He had sent His only son to bleed and die on that cross for a wretch like me. I was overcome with gratitude. I didn’t deserve it, I know I didn’t deserve it. But I was going to make the most of it. I was going to go on killing and whoring and stealing and cheating, and there wasn’t a goddamn thing he could do about it. All my sins forever forgiven because of His never-ending love. Buyer beware…”

Whatever literary tag it's given, The Disassembled Man is a hell of a statement for New Pulp Press whose books you wont find on the shelves of your local bookstores. They're a small start-up group relying on word of mouth and internet orders to keep going - that said - they're far from the low quality print-on-demand, vanity presses that are springing up like weeds in the sunshine of affordable technology. Jon Bassoff and crew have put together a line up of hard bitten titles a step and a half removed from the main stream of crime writing and I expect good things.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Gnu Wans

Cop Car - d: Jon Watts w: Christopher D. Ford, Jon Watts
Black Mass - d: Scott Cooper w: Dick Lehr, Gerard O'Neill, Jez Butterworth, Mark Mallouk

Glass Chin - w/d: Noah Buschel

Legend - w/d: Brian Helgeland

88 - d: April Mullen w: Tim Dorion, April Mullen