As Noir Friday gave way to Small-Time Saturday and it's currently Cyberbully Monday and all three of those are where my bread is buttered I s'pose I'd better weigh in before the rest of you move on to Ruby Tuesday and don't pay me no nevermind no more.
I'd be remiss not to mention that Josh Stallings who embodies all three with verve and nerve (noir as fuck, self published and available almost exclusively online) has a brand new book available. Young Americans is a blast.
And y'know what would make a pretty terrific gift for the book dweeb on your list? A set - not just any old book set - a set of a run of some indie-crime lit journal. Y'know like the whole run of Needle or Thuglit or All Due Respect. That'd be some badass giftery right there. Just gonna put that out there. Lulu's always got some kind of deal going too... check em out.
Of course - single issues are nice too. Thuglit's even got a Holiday-themed special edition out now called Cruel Yule that features a murderer's row of their most thuggy bunch (Rob Hart, Jordan Harper, Hilary Davidson, Thomas Pluck, Ed Kurtz, Brace Godfrey (as discovered by Johnny Shaw), Justin Porter, Angel Luis Colón, Jen Conley, Terrence McCauley and even ol' Krampus hisself, Todd Robinson).
And All Due Respect - there's a bite-sized run that fits your budget. Seven issues. Seven - and the final one even has me interviewing crime lit's latest playboy, Steve Weddle. Done.
Down & Out Books has got a slew of Kindle deals right now too. Ebooks by Les Edgerton, Eric Beetner, Gary Phillips, Trey Barker, Ryan Sayles, Rob Brunet, Liam Sweeny, J.I. Abramo and more for less than a dollar. Do it.
Another eBook rarity - and a sweet-ass idea from a coupla sweethearts - Alex Segura and Rob Hart have co-written a story that brings Pete Fernandez and Ash McKenna, their respective series characters together forever sealing their fictional universes in unholy matrimony. Bad Beat is out now and you'd be stupider than you look not to pick it up.
Small presses do some of the best, most exciting and sharpest-edged stuff out there too. Who exemplifies this more than PM Press, I ask you. Nobody. Right now PM Press has got 50% off everything sale going on. So fuck right on off to scoop up titles by Benjamin Whitmer, Sin Soracco, Summer Brenner, Gary Phillips, Kenneth Wishnia, Nick Mamatas, Jim Nisbet, Barry Graham, John Barker and a hell of a lot more including CDs, DVDs and how about a motherfucking subscription for a friend? Check out their FB event page for details.
Indy bookstores are among my favorite place to go. A few of my favorites and probably because I've found my own titles on their bookshelves include Subterranean Books in St. Louis, Nightbird Books in Fayetteville, Arkansas, The Wild Detectives in Dallas, and I can't wait to check out The Bookbar in Denver next week. If you're around I'd sure love to see you there on Dec. 10 for N@B with Jon Bassoff, CJ Howell, Mario Acevedo, Jennifer Kincheloe, Michael Lion, J.I. Abramo, Mark Stevens and Benjamin Whitmer. Or you know, fuck you.
My kids want to see terrible movies and watch awful TV shows and read crappy books and I'm okay with that. They're important to development. Plenty of movies I'm not showing them yet because I want them to understand just how good they are when they do finally see them... and to get how special the good stuff is, they've got to wade through a lot crap first. The shitty stuff? If they don't watch it now, they'll never appreciate it.
Had a chat with Chad Eagleton and Terrence McCauley yesterday and had a good time compiling this list of very short-lived, low-quality (probably pretty bad - I mean I haven't seen them since they originally aired, but these video clips don't look promising - except that they look awesome) action and sci-fi television shows from the 80s/90s. Some shows (like say Twin Peaks or Firefly) are short lived because they're too awesome for their time. These... are not those.
Hardball (1989-1990 on NBC) - Buddy cop show starring Richard Tyson's hair and John Ashton's lack of. Ashton was a big part of this show's appeal to me, since his turn as Marvin in Martin Brests's Midnight Run was already one of my favorites.
Booker (1989 - 1990 on Fox) - Richard Grieco's 21 Jump Street character gets his own spin-off. Too much a loose canon to be a cop, he's now a private investigator whose greatest asset is his hair. It was 1989. Ok and attitude. I wanted to wear ripped acid-washed jeans and ride a motorcycle too.
The Highwayman (1987-1988 on NBC) - A mashup of Mad Max and Knight Rider if memory serves, starring Flash Gordon himself, Sam J. Jones as the titular badass and footballer and Energizer spokesman Jacko "as Jetto" his nutter Aussie sidekick. Oi!.
Misfits of Science (1985-1986 on NBC) - The A-Team meets The X-Men starring Courtney Cox and everybody's favorite Mark Thomas Miller as Bukowski or Johnny B. All the boys in my 5th grade class would take turns pretending to shoot electricity out of their dick while taking a piss... and some of us still do.
Max Headroom (1987-1988 on ABC) - MTV on network TV. Dystopian, cyberpunk satire with a lot of WTF going on. Honestly, I have no idea. It was fucking mesmerizing though... And I wanted to drink a lot of Coke.
Cop Rock (1990-1990 on ABC) - How can we appeal to fans of creator Steven Bochco's gritty cop shows (Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue) and Broadway musicals? Let's just go half and half, huh? It was serious-minded adult-fare punctuated by musical numbers sung or rapped by the equally confused and hapless cast for the benefit of generations of stoners and scoffers. Oh... it made an impression. I've chosen a clip from the show to demonstrate its awesome awkwardness, but here's the opening credits sung by Randy Newman.
The Greatest American Hero (1981-1983 on ABC) - A regular schlepp is given super powers by contact with an alien. He fights crime ineptly. The longest running of all of these shows and maybe for a reason - the cast included William Katt, Robert Culp, Connie Sellecca, Michael Paré and Faye Grant, but it's probably best known for its theme song Believe It Or Not performed on the show by Joey Scarbury and by half the dorks in America on their answering machines - believe it or not, I'm not hoooome. The idea that super powers and great abilities did not make your life better is one I latched onto.
Sledge Hammer (1986-1988 on ABC) - Dirty Harry as a comedy... for a year and a half. Bad ideas are the ones you learn from.
Blue Thunder (1984-1984 on ABC) - Based on the 1983 Roy Scheider movie, and starring pre-SNL Dana Carvey and post-NFL Dick Butkus this one lost out to Airwolf as the super-high-tech helicopter show to get a second season.
Airwolf (1984-1986 on CBS, 1987-1987 on USA) - Jan-Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine lead this badassery for 2&1/2 seasons before it was cancelled and USA picked up the rights and created a fourth season without the budget, the cast or the helicopter... yeah - here's a nice little piece at Cracked about that legendarily bad final season called 6 TV Shows That Completely Lost Their Shit (it's number one).
Alien Nation (1989-1990 on Fox) - Based on the 1988 James Caan/Mandy Patinkin movie about a Los Angeles human cop working with a new partner from out of this world. The TV show lightens the mood of the darker movie considerably. I'll stop right there.
And for fans of Terrence McCauley - if you'd like to know the true origins of his hardboiled fare like Sympathy For the Devil - apparently it can be found in TVs like -
BJ & The Bear - which Terrence suggests you find via Google Image searching with the 'Safe Search' filter turned off.
Manimal (1983-1983 on NBC)
Street Hawk (1985-1985 on ABC)
Matt Houston (1982-1985 on ABC)
And the whole conversation got started because Chad Eagleton reminisced about Renegade which ran longer than any of these other shows.
Probably worth noting that the late great Glen A. Larson created half of these shows along with bigger hits like Kinght Rider, Magnum P.I., Alias Smith and Jones and Battlestar Galactica. Thanks for the electric prod up my imagination's butt, man. I owe you.
Hey cats and chicks if you're interest is in flicks you can get your kicks every week at The Projection Booth podcast hosted by Detroit's finest, Rob St. Mary and Mike White. Every week they have a new in-depth exploration of film - one picture at a time. And not just the classics - whatever your definition of classic is - they cover high, middle, low, no and Brazilian-brow fare with the same level of obsessive nerdiness. The whole month of November they've delved into international noir selections and had guest hosts for each episode - check out N@B-Godfather Peter Rozovsky (fuck Peter Rozovsky) pull double duty covering Jean-Pierre Melville's iconic Le Samourai and its spiritual offspring Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: Way of the Samuraion episode 243.
The following week they had walking encyclopedia Cullen Gallagher on to discuss Jean Luc Godard's sci-fi noir Alphavilleon episode 244.
Where it all goes off the track is episode 245 where they brought my ignorant ass on to discuss Louis Malle's debut narrative feature film Elevator to the Gallows. This was a huge honor for me because I've been a fan of the show for years and of course I'm a crime film fan. I prove to be a philistine whose got little to say about French New Wave or jazz music (the film is perhaps best known for its groundbreaking improvised score by Miles Davis), but I hope it's clear how much fun I'm having. Thanks, Mikde & Rob - you're the best.
Next week they close out Noirvember with a Scottish accent discussing Danny Boyle's debut Shallow Grave with co-host Jeff Meyers.
While we're talking podcasts - The Crime Scene with Eryk Pruitt is a new monthly crime fiction-centered conversation that you ought to be a part of. Eryk's taking on topics each month from Race (with S.A. Cosby, Howard Craft and Danny Gardner), The South (with myself and David Terrenoire) and Religion (with J. David Osborne, Ed Kurtz and Clayton Lindemuth - this episode also features Soledad Medrano only days before her death and I've not wanted to promote this particular episode online because I haven't wanted to stir up painful issues for folks who knew and were close with her, but the truth is, it's a good episode with some interesting back and forth and you ought to give it a listen. Next month Eryk welcomes back David Terrenoire and special guest S.W. Lauden to discuss Music in crime fiction.
You know what other podcasts I'm digging right now? Criminal - they're short (usually under 30 minute) episodes that explore strange true crime stories and they more often than not find a unique angle to see it through - and they're not only interested in murder - no they take on smuggling and identity theft and orchid thievery.
Booked podcast continues to cover good shit including recent visits to work by William Gay, Chuck Wendig and Jon Bassoff. And Booked has a forever special place in my heart for their coverage of N@B events. And you know what? Now that Chicago's got its own regular N@B event, they get to stay home to cover them. Like last night when they went out in a foot of snow to see Bassoff, Frank Wheeler Jr., Jake Hinkson and I know Les Edgerton was on the poster (but I haven't seen him in the photos).
Blue Hill Avenue- Craig Ross Jr. - After Belly left me in a daze earlier in the year, I thought I'd give this 90s little crime flick that fell through the cracks a go. Unfortunately I found all the cliche without the dazzling wtf? factor of the other here. By the books low-budget urban crime drama with all the trappings of the decade -most welcome trope?- trenchcoats. Best moment: trenchcoat pose/shoot out.
Child 44 - Daniel Espinosa - Based on a novel of the same name that I really dug by Tom Rob Smith, adapted by Richard Price, directed by the guy who made Easy Money and Safe House and starring Tom Hardy, Vincent Cassel and Gary Oldman, why wasn't this a huge hit or even a year-end favorite of mine? As far as the huge commercial appeal goes, I think the subject matter is just too bleak, but as to why it wasn't more exciting to me personally, I'm not entirely sure. Visually it's striking - I loved all the creative license taken with cold war reproductions - and I really appreciated that the script minimized certain elements of the book that I thought were weak spots. The cast is capable and game and the tone is aptly drab, but it did not translate to an experience at all similar to the strange blend of emotionally wrecking, conscience-shredding excitement I was hoping for... which isn't to say it was a waste. It's a solid picture, one that might even grow on me with time and a repeat viewing or two. Best moment: Noomi Rapace tells her side of the love story - that was the closest the film came to recreating the dread of the book.
Cop Land - James Mangold - Probably my favorite collection of onscreen cop-body dumpiness. Holy crap, the bad haircuts and mustaches, the coked-out eyeballs and rumpled clothes - I love them all. And man, whatever happened to the Sylvester Stallone we were promised with this flick? Here he plays Freddy, a small town New Jersey sheriff whose dreams of being a big-city cop were dashed years ago when he damaged his hearing while saving a drowning woman (Annabella Sciorra) he's carried a torch for ever since. What has she done with her life? She went and married an asshole big city cop (Peter Berg) who doesn't appreciate her. Her husband is part of Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel's) crew of comfortably corrupt entrepreneurs who wear badges across the bridge. This crew includes Ray Liotta,Robert Patrick and Michael Rappaport who accidentally kills some dudes in a high speed pursuit while drunk off his ass. The ensuing bureaucratic clusterfuck looks like IAD investigator Moe Tilden (Robert De Niro's) big chance to nail Ray's crooked crew. All he needs is a little backbone from long-gone-to-seed Freddy to make his case. Stallone delivers a terrific performance at the center of an amazing ensemble lineup that also includes Noah Emmerich, Janeane Garofalo, Frank Vincent, Edie Falco, Robert John Burke, John Ventimiglia, Tony Sirico and a whole bunch more 'that guys', but maybe the better question than 'why didn't we get more like this from Stallone' is WTF James Mangold? What else in his filmography stacks up to this? I mean to say he made the best Wolverine movie is faint praise. Best moment: Ray Liotta gives Harvey Keitel a piece of his sweaty, coked out mind.
Miller's Crossing - Joel Coen, Ethan Coen - Homage, pastiche, genre-slumming - throw whatever cinematic snobbery term you like at The Coens, and specifically this masterpiece, and it slides off the no-stick coating in seconds and leaves not even a grease trail behind after minutes. This is the handsomest, most elegant gangster film ever. Of course it borrows and steals from decades of like-minded fare - from The Godfather and This Gun For Hire to Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest and James M. Cain's Love's Lovely Counterfeit and probably a dozen other films and books, but what it never does is beg. It simply takes the best bits and owns them, arranges them for optimal impact - building a monument to what all the potential inherent in the material. Between Carter Burwell's lovely and evocative score, Barry Sonnenfeld's opulent wide-lens photography, sharp set and costume design, the always spot-on casting and the dialogue that sounds simultaneously wholly familiar and unique, it's a perfect film - gorgeously violent, surprisingly funny and romantically sad. I re-watched it recently intending to pop it in for five minutes to clear away the funk I was in, but blinked and had watched the whole thing. Not the first time that's happened either. It's good for what ails you. Best moment:John Turturro begs for his life, "Look in your heart!"
Pickup on South Street - Samuel Fuller - Richard Widmark plays Skip, a professional thief and two-time loser picks the wrong pocket and ends up in the possession of a highly sensitive strip of film and under the microscope of a Russian spy as well as the United States federal government. Uncle Sam has to stop taking swipes at him if they want his cooperation in a sting operation to nail the spy and Skip plays all the angles to come out of the affair with his skin and then some. The underworld atmosphere is seedy and cool and the biggest pleasure of the picture. Widmark's an A-1 bastard who treats Jean Peters plenty rough and whose sense of patriotism isn't a high percentage angle to play. Will he choose to play for himself or throw in for his country's best interests? It's actually a great tension to play with and the time's red scare vs. today's climate of rampant patriotic paranoia makes it especially potent. Widmark seems he really could go either way and that's an invaluable quality. Best moment:Thelma Ritter's Moe gets pulled in and questioned by the cops. She's the most vibrant underworld personality in the film and pure pleasure every moment on screen.
The Salton Sea - D.J. Caruso - Self-conscious modern 'noir' often suffers from style rather than embodying Czar of Noir - Eddie Muller's line that noir is suffering in style. That said, few films of the last 20 years have managed to pack in so much style and end up with anything remotely watchable or affecting. The whole produced-in-a-can vibe is worked here to admirable effect and Caruso gives the actors just enough space to make some memorable moments and not just of the over the top variety Vincent D'Onofrio, Adam Goldberg and B.D. Wong deliver. Val Kilmer has a few priceless what-the-actual-fuck? reactions behind his glazed-over eyes that make you wonder whatever happened to that guy and the cast includes Peter Sarsgaard, Luis Guzman, Anthony Lapaglia, Deborah Kara Unger, R. Lee Ermey, Meat Loaf, Danny Trejo and the dude from Buckcherry, so there's usually something good to look at in any particular scene. The script is a bit too contrived and it feels like there are more than a couple sequences that could be dropped entirely without losing the story (the Bob Hope's stool-sample heist for example, the pigeon JFK assassination re-enactment for another), but most of those add something tonally or at least throw your concentration off enough to forgive the next bit of voice-over. All in all, I like this movie. It's messy, but not sloppy, and equal parts groovy and goofy, but there's nothing else remotely like it that succeeds as often as it does. Best moment: Sarsgaard's tattoo reveal is perhaps the truest emotional note in the whole silly picture.
The Salvation - Kristian Levring - It's a man of few words and just enough bullets revenge story you could anticipate the beats to in your sleep. Just another spaghetti western in a can. But it's a handsome can, no doubt. It's got that processed and packaged atmosphere that works swell when it works and distracts plenty when it doesn't. Luckily this one works most of the way through, atmospherically. It's limited instead by it's ambitions, or lack thereof. Nothing new here except that beautiful artifice and the beautiful people posing within. Best moment: the coach ride with Michael Raymond-James. Maybe because I'd recently re-watched Terriers, but man, I couldn't get enough of him on screen.
Slow West - John Maclean - The other western in this bunch (alongside The Salvation) is no less canned and processed, but manages a very fresh flavor and plenty of welcome surprises. After stirring up trouble back home, a Scot with a major heart-on for a wee lass makes his way across the wild, wooly west to find her. He is accompanied on his quest by a mysterious stranger whose motivations are unclear - is he a protector or just another cold-blooded bounty hunter hoping the boy leads him to his quarry? Along the way their trail is picked up by more bounty hunters without ambiguity to their aims and things get plenty messy at quest's end. The flourishes of color and poetry are juxtaposed with appropriate touches of blindsiding violence and terror. Both make lingering impressions in this beautifully rendered piece of cinema whose tone is clear and resonant after the last gunshots have rung. Best moment: getting stoned around the campfire.
White Heat - Raoul Walsh - After a long break from the fare that made him a big fucking deal, James Cagney returned to the gangster picture determined to remake an impression with this go-for-broke flick. Cagney plays Cody Jarrett a psychotic too enamored of his mother, who leads a crew who leave behind no witnesses. After he lands in prison the movie makes room for Edmond O'Brien's Treasury man to go undercover and attempt to infiltrate Cody's gang. Once Jarrett makes his inevitable escape and puts his string back together O'Brien means to take down the whole crew. The heist to hideout to prison to heist structure leaves no room for a dull moment and the ferocity in Cagney's eyes adds a palpable urgency to this desperado tale. Best moment: the entire chemical plant heist is a great example of thriller filmmaking - all the opposing agendas are played expertly off each other all leading of course to the top of the world.
I first knew Iain Ryan's work credited to another name. The Australian writer had a collection of stories that skated the lit/genre line admirably with an underlying dry humor and easy prose style that quietly let the reader know he knew what he was doing. A couple years later I had an email from J. David Osborne wanting to know if I'd take a look at this novel he was publishing soon and very excited about. I get many similar requests that I rarely make good on, but something about the way he talked about it piqued my interest and when he said it was short, I jumped.
Holy crap, am I glad I did. Four Days is a hell of a ride through some very familiar crime fiction territory - murdered sex workers, a fucked up and obsessed dirty cop, a culture of graft and corruption on every level-societal, familial, sexual, spiritual - that managed to make it all feel fresh and vital again. In short it was a crime-boner-seeking missile aimed squarely at my crotch and if your tastes generally line up with the stuff on this blog, it's absolutely for you.
I happen to know that the man behind the pseudonym has played some loud damn music in his life so imagine my surprise when I asked him for a Narrative Music piece and he delivered one on Lana Del Rey, whose penchant for whispered lethargy and a certain Saturday Night Live appearance that drew some attention a few years ago were the only associations I had with her name, but this piece has got me scrambling to investigate further...
I’ve Got A War In My Mind: The Endless Noir of Lana Del Rey by Iain Ryan
The video for Lana Del Rey’s seventh single Ride came at the end of a long two years in the limelight. On release, the clip was frequently condemned for just about everything — glorification of prostitution, antifeminism, cultural appropriation, boorishness — and yet I was drawn to something about it. Over repeated viewings, it brought to mind Otto Penzler's classic line from The Best American Noir of the Century, “Like art, love, and pornography, noir is hard to define, but you know it when you see it.” That’s what Ride looked and sounded like in 2012. An immense and obvious act of provocation, yes, and trading a little on each of those things Penzler mentioned, but more than anything else: it was noir.
The video for Ride was written by Lana Del Rey. Pop stars of her caliber seldom write their own treatments, nor have they any need to — the music video is an archetypal postmodern product, seldom reliant on a linear narrative — and yet Ride has a story of sorts. There’s voice-over narration, an opening and closing set piece (Lana rides a giant tire swing out into the red American desert) and a Lynch-esque set of character vignettes: Lana the burned out singer, Lana the prostitute, Lana the biker girl, Lana with a sugar daddy. There’s a sense that this is the story of someone’s life, told in fragments that seem to collide and overlap as the clip progresses.
The song, and Lana’s entire oeuvre, is an example of what literary scholar Susanna Lee has identified as the postmodern hardboiled noir narrative, an unsettling atmosphere where characters don’t so much confront “the sinister world, or an inescapably problematic atmosphere,” but become subsumed into it. Jim Thompson was a master of this. Of his work Lee writes, “What Thompson does, to more disturbing effect, is take the hardboiled maverick from a transcendent place and turn him into a source of disorder and danger.” This is a story structure where the central character is out of control. In this area of noir, the big bad world is a seamless part of the protagonist and the chaos that reigns supreme out there also runs havoc inside us all.
In Ride, Lana — all the Lanas — live in the same body and the only thing she can do is keep on moving. If Ride is about anything, it’s about a character who has taken a type of ownership over this chaos, much as Thompson’s Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford does in The Killer Inside Me. For example, in Ride’s voiceover, Lana says:
Are you in touch with all of your darkest fantasies? Have you created a life for yourself where you can experience them? I have. I am fucking crazy. But I am free.
In the clip, she kills a man and nothing is made of it. This could be The Killer Inside Me. That’s what that novel is about, for my money. Both Ride and The Killer Inside Me play on that most dreaded of fears: that the bad and the crazy and the untidy and the extreme are more liberated than the good, and there are no consequence nor justice. We fear that the wild are more powerful than the good. That they are free while we are not. That our lives are small, while theirs are wide and open. We all tamper our chaos for a reason. We’re all a little scared of our own dark potential and we’re scared of signs of it in other people.
But what if we didn’t have to be? What if we could be Lana Del Rey? For a mainstream pop star building a career this century — a century of social media and TMI and daily updates — Lana is almost an anonymous stranger. What is known about her — the real her — points in a certain direction, but there isn’t much: she has the word Nabokov tattooed on her, she’s a recovering addict but hasn’t partaken since her teens, she’s interested in Old Hollywood, Raymond Chandler, The Godfather films and, of course, she’s playing a fictional character. Born Elizabeth Grant, she rebranded herself Lana Del Rey in 2008 in much the same way Beyoncé tried on Sascha Fierce that same year. Beyoncé, of course, quickly returned to her deeply aspirational brand of pop idol-making. Meanwhile Lana Del Rey seemed to swallow Elizabeth Grant.
Ever since, Grant has wandered further and further into her shtick, often appearing more and more interested in the creative and commercial freedom that Lana allows. At the start of Ride she says as much:
Because I was born to be the other woman. Who belonged to no one, who belonged to everyone. Who had nothing, who wanted everything, with a fire for every experience and an obsession for freedom that terrified me to the point that I couldn't even talk about it, and pushed me to a nomadic point of madness that both dazzled and dizzied me.
And in a Rolling Stone cover story from last year, she is asked — in person -- if she wants people to hear and understand her lyrics, to which she replies:
"I just don't want them to hear it at all…I’m very selfish. I make everything for me, kind of. I mean, every little thing, down to the guitar and the drums. It's just for me… I don't want them to hear it and think about it. It's none of their business!"
This theme arises time and again.
Elizabeth Grant doesn’t want to be one person. She wants to be anything she can think up, including a dozen different iterations of Lana Del Rey. The huge fuss made about Lana’s lack of transparent feminism seems to ignore this. But Grant is not interested, not as an artist. She isn’t interested in presenting her personal life, her history, her ethics, her politics or her fame as any sort of corroborative narrative. She has no — and I mean zero — interest in modelling behaviour for young people, despite her popularity with teens. She does not want to be operationally independent or free from corporate influence either. Lana has sold her music and her image all over. Instead, what she wants is to be free from are cultural imperatives. She doesn’t want to do the right thing. Why? Because in noir, that’s not what characters do. As James Ellroy puts it — and damn, there’s a guy happily living outside the culture — “The overarching joy and lasting appeal of noir is that it makes doom fun.” The doomed don’t act with grace and nobility or favour progressive politics, as much as a generation of millennial music critics would like otherwise, not when they’re in character. And Lana always is. Lana is a character.
To me, Lana Del Rey is on her own trip, motivated entirely by her own demons and seeking out her own pleasures. “It's all I've got to keep myself sane, baby,” she sings during Ride’s colossal bridge. And as glossy as the video is and as pretty as the song sounds, it’s a massive fuck you to everyone who doesn’t get it, or doesn’t want to. That’s what I love about it. That’s the story I’m getting when I hear this song.
Iain Ryan grew up in the outer suburbs of Brisbane, Australia. He predominantly writes in the hardboiled/noir genre and his work has been previously published by Akashic Books Online (New York) and Crime Factory (Melbourne). Four Days, his first novel, was published in October 2015 by Broken River Books. He maintains a blog at www.iainryan.com.
Had a blast at N@B in Dallas last week. Huge thanks to David Hale Smith, The Wild Detectives, Eryk and the entire Pruitt clan for making it happen. If you ain't been to The Wild Detectives bookstore/bar in Dallas, you oughtta make the effort - curated bookshops that come equipped with fermented grain beverages are a precious resource.
During my time in Dallas I saw the spot Kennedy was assassinated, and was taken on a tour of Lee Harvey Oswald's final day, took a gander at an old home of Jack Ruby's, visited the spot Doc Holiday killed his first white man and saw haunts of Clyde Barrow, Gibby Haynes and the honorable Rev. Horton Heat (whose concert I regret conflicted with N@B). Also took an over-my-head, but straight to my gut (and hips and love-handles) gastronomical tour of the town from Eryk P. and David Hale Smith. Gracias, gentlemen I gained five pounds.
The main event was well attended by one of the most enthusiastic and difficult to ruffle crowds I've ever seen at a N@B event. I tip my hat at you, Dallas. I tried to offend and disturb, but you resisted me.
The evening started with the one and only Scott Montgomery reading a crime caper that included beheading by sword worthy of Conan-era Arnold Schwarzenneger. If you want to keep your digits on the pulse of modern crime fiction you would do well to start by following Scott's MysteryPeople blog or if you find yourself in Austin drop in at BookPeople and comb his lovingly attended shelves.
Rod Davis lent a professional's seasoned perspective to some seedy shit that produces corpses in New Orleans. His journalist background added weight to the scenic descriptions in an excerpt from his novel South, America - if you look for it be sure to insert that comma, kids (or hey, here's a link to his website).
Texas poet Opalina Salas was accompanied by some seriously Miles Davis-ian trumpet tones courtesy of Chris Curiel for her performance of I Like the Poets Who Are Raw that was anything but. Evoked the existential longings of some truly moody film noir and caused more than one pair of pants to tighten due to raging bonoir. (More on Salas here)
LitReactor columnist and bizarro crime clown Max Booth III brought a refreshing note of smartassery to his slice of service industry malaise that resides inside a work in progress. As a fellow night-shift wage-wrangler hip deep in hoi polloi and entertainer of the entitled I can't wait for a novel's worth of this shit. On the plane home I read his slim caper clusterfuck How to Successfully Kidnap Strangers and it's got me primed for more from his colostomy bag of criminal crap.
Bodaciously brawny bon vivant Eryk Pruitt spread hometown bluster abroad with his tale of a Texan in Ireland (where he lived for chapter of his biography). The protagonist gets involved in underground fights for cash and has some swagger stripped from his strut by a ballsy battler. Eryk's acting background enhanced his storytelling style - if you get the opportunity to follow him in a live reading I suggest you decline. Info on his stories, books, films and podcast can be gathered here.
When things get hairy send in Hunsicker. Harry Hunsicker who dubiously dubbed the evening's proceedings as "a literary celebration of poor life choices and inappropriate sex partners," provided a lot of all those elements with his story of drugs and sex and drugs and violence from the Clive Cussler edited anthology Thirller 2. His story Vivian and Bobby Ray appeared in Murdaland's final issue and made quite the impression on me upon its release. I fucked up and brought the wrong issue to get signed by him, but I remembered my copy of the Cheney anthology D*CKED, that I was proud to have published his story The Last Day in, and he signed that for me. Catch up with all things Hunsicker here.
In honor of Harry I nearly read my own D*CKED contribution, Suck It, but as Suck It is probably my most outrageous story I chickened out and decided to play it safe. Instead I read a rockabilly love story called Hoosier Daddy that first appeared in Beat to a Pulp: Round 1. I milked it for all I could, but, as I said before, Dallas audiences are some stout story receivers and batted nary an eye at my cheap attempt to scar them. Both stories will be included in the upcoming reissue of my collected short fiction Courtesy, Sympathy & Taste: or A Fuckload of Shorts from soon from Broken River Books.
Finally Joe R. Lansdale rocked the house with a Hap & Leonard sketch of violence in the wake of an indelicate and spurned sexual advance. Had the room in the palm of his hand and he makes it look so easy it makes me sick with jealousy.
Here's hoping the Hap & Leonard TVs bring a whole new audience to his work in 2016. Really loved James Purefoy as Mark Antony on Bruno Heller's Rome and Michael K. Williams has a shot to make a third iconic television character out of Leonard Pine following The Wire's Omar Little and Boardwalk Empire's Chalky White. Not sure who's getting credit as series creator, but I do see Jim Mickle is credited as a writer, director and executive producer and that's encouraging quality-wise as he's already proved a feel for Lansdale adaptations with last year's Cold In July.
On the flight to Dallas I read Pascal Garnier's The Islanders which fucked up my senses just a little and had me in such a weird headspace that Pruitt's airport welcome wagon threw me loopy. Thanks as well to Taylor Stevens, Clint, Paco, Javier, Julie, Misty, Mike, Bobby, Natalie and everybody who helped finally give Dallas new non-Debbie connotations.