Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sympathy For the Weasel

Talking up Christopher Goffard's Snitch Jacket at Ransom Notes.

Visited bookstore today, looking for Roger Smith. They'd sold out of Mixed Blood and Wake Up Dead. Good for Roger, too bad for me. Picked up Stuart Neville's Ghosts of Belfast.

This weekend - reading Duane Swierczynski's Expiration Date and writing a short story. Then tomorrow it's 44" Chest.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Red Hair, Black Leather

I first knew Kent Gowran's name when his story High Noon Boogie appeared in Plots With Guns alongside one of mine. Since then his blog Blood, Sweat & Murder where he holds forth on film, music and literature has been a regular stop for me. His tastes run off the crime reservation and on into horror and the dark beyond and he knows his shit. Go ahead, wander onto his blog with some half assed opinion you wanna vent and see what happens. Aside from PWG, his fiction has been published in Horror Garage magazine and A Twist of Noir. Kent is the contributor for this edition of the Narrative Music series.

1952 Vincent Black Lightning

Richard Thompson wasn’t the first name that came to mind when I thought about writing this. Truth is, Richard Thompson is one of those musicians I always seem to forget about. It’s just one of those things, I suppose.

A boy. A girl. A motorcycle. Those are the players in the doomed from the start love story in Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.”

We come in on the action as Red Molly speaks to James about his motorcycle and he admires her appreciation of the exquisite machine, and shows his own appreciation for Red Molly herself:

“Red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme.”

Right from the start we know this affair is doomed as James tells her he’s been running against the law since he was 17, and he’s 21 now, but 22 is a bit of a shaky prospect. He’s direct with Red Molly, no pretense of a long, happy life together, riding the Vincent Black Lightning in the country on weekends and filling a little cottage with kids. He can’t see the future, but even though barely more than a kid, his eyes are open and knows the road he’s put himself on can’t be beat, not even on a 1952 Vincent Black Lightning.

“And if fate should break my stride then I'll give you my Vincent to ride.”

And it isn’t long before James hits a dead end when attempts to pull off an armed robbery, and the police call for Red Molly.

“Shotgun blast hit his chest, left nothing inside. Oh, come down, Red Molly to his dying bedside.”

James is just about dead when Red Molly arrives, and here Thompson delivers one of my favorite lines of the song:

“But he smiled to see her cry.”

There’s something perfect about that line, it tells you what you need to know about the doomed love between these two characters:

Says James, in my opinion, there's nothing in this world beats a 52 Vincent and a red headed girl.”

It’s a short song, but a complete story. Spare and economical, yet full of pitch perfect detail.

As he’s dying there in the hospital bed, young James is true to his word and slips Red Molly the keys to the motorcycle. Thompson closes the song with angles swooping down from Heaven with leather and chrome, and James gives her one last kiss and dies.

I’ve always wondered what happens to Red Molly and the Vincent Black Lightning after the end of the song, just like I’ve always wondered what becomes of Jamalee Merridew after the end of Daniel Woodrell’s
Tomato Red, or of the kid Gary at the end of Joe by Larry Brown. But I don’t think on it too hard, because those stories are done, and there’s something special and true in the not knowing, if you know what I mean.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Not So Funny Pages

What the hell am I doing? I'm really not a comic book guy. I feel a little naked posting this, 'cause I'm no expert, just another underread asshole with an opinion, but for what it's worth, I'm recommending some comic books. And while I can hardly afford to get caught up in an ongoing series, I am excited enough by these examples of the medium's potential to be eager for more suggestions.

Also, in the mail this week, some exciting looking titles from Robert Randisi and Chicago hack Jack Clark. Looking forward to those.

AND... Victor Gischler announces a kickass new contest for any of you aspiring film makers and screenwriters. Checkerout.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Legend in Print

This is an expanded edition of my Ransom Notes post on Craig McDonald's new one, Print the Legend.

Hector Lassiter, the fictional mid-century, pulp writer who “writes what he lives and lives what he writes” first appeared in Craig McDonald’s short story called The Last Interview. In the story, an aging, broken down Lassiter capitalizes upon an interview request to exact some personal revenge, further his own legend and extend his authorial “long game”. The series of novels that have followed do the same.
The bulk of the third book in the Lassiter series is set in 1965 and places Hector in uncomfortable proximity to the legion of vultures descended upon Ketchum Idaho to feast on the body of work left behind by Ernest Hemingway. Four years after Papa’s life ended, the dissection of it has become an obsession for scholars, critics and writers looking to glean insights, unveil theories or just soak up the tattered remnants of his spirit by walking where he walked, eating where he ate and sleeping where he slept. Operating on his own agenda, Hector swallows his contempt for the whole affair and agrees to be the keynote speaker at the conference celebrating his late best friend.
The plot centers around discovering the truth behind Hem’s last days, when friends believed him to be paranoid or deluded and he sunk into a deep and devastating depression. It goes into the practice of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover to keep America’s greatest authors and artists under constant surveillance and hypothesizes on Mary Hemingway’s practices as executor of Hem’s estate and lost writings. In one passage, McDonald gives us a missing chapter to A Moveable Feast, one portraying Hector and Hem’s relationship through Papa’s eyes. The treatment of Hem’s unfinished manuscripts is clearly a sore spot for McDonald, but he refuses to handle Hem, the man, writer or legend with kid gloves, giving the lay reader peeks into the troubled psyche of one of our greatest novelists.
Print the Legend, the change-up in his repertoire, continues McDonald’s study of history, literature and masculinity through the eyes and against the backdrop of his central character. But Lassiter is evolving under the steady hand of his creator, adding layers of dimension, contradiction and depth with each book. The non-linear arc of each story and also of each novel in the cannon serves to highlight an aspect of the character, a point in history or an attitude held by author and character alike.
Print the Legend also expands the story, stepping, for the first time, outside Hector’s point of view and into the supporting cast: a scholar and his young wife, a demonically driven FBI agent and even Papa himself. This broadening of the canvas serves to deepen the reader’s appreciation of the earlier novels and certainly of those yet to come. The events of the next, (in order, but not sequence) novel Gnashville remain veiled, but are hinted at seductively, and those inclined to re-read Head Games, (the only one narrated by Hector – thus far) and Toros & Torsos, (not to mention The Last Interview) after Print the Legend will be rewarded with a multi-layered appreciation of McDonald’s rich and intricately conceived series.
McDonald baits his books with lurid subject matter taken from the shadows of recent history, weaving together disparate strands of the 20th Century into a singular narrative unfolding to the cadence and tune of a master storyteller. In the end, the true pleasure is Hector himself, a fictional creation admirably fleshed out and filling the cracks in your memory – someone the author hopes “will seem strangely missing from the actual history books and biographies pertaining to the real events and people who populate this series.”
He does.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Lots a snow recently and rather than making me crave escapist, tropical set stories, I've been drawn toward more snow and blankets of it that mute the desperation bleeding out pitifully where no one will ever find it. Jeez, maybe I need Spring break after all. You'd feel me if you've experienced Larisa Shepitko's relentless war film Voskhozhdeniye, (The Ascent) about two Russian soldiers freezing their nuts off fighting the German invasion. It's all black and white and subtitled and brutal, yes you will need to have a good cry afterward and perhaps join a fight club to work out some the frustration, but damn I couldn't tear my eyes off of it. I immediately added Sam Peckinpah's Cross of Iron to my flix cue for a more tarted up Russian front tale, (this one from the pov of German soldier in retreat).

I'm interested in Dominc Sena's Whiteout, (though the reviews aint been promising) based on the graphic novel by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber. I haven't even seen a preview for this one and could be waaaay off, but I'm hoping for a Smilla's Sense of Snow, (again, the film by Bille August as opposed to the book by Peter Hoeg), kinda experience there. Of course, I'm always up for another crack at John Carpenter's The Thing or Sydney Pollack's Jeremiah Johnson. Another type of blizzard is alluded to in John Schlesinger's Falcon and the Snowman, that I think I need to revisit soon and while we're onto that type of snow, I've just read Lynn Kostoff's 1991 novel A Choice of Nightmares which New Pulp Press is bringing back into print next month. Like the main character, Robert Staples, you'll feel you need to sweat half the Andes out of your system after that one.

Canuk, John McFetridge's Let it Ride is out now and today is also the official release of Craig McDonald's Print the Legend, more on that later. And my new post about Swedish writer Henning Mankell's new one is up.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

LA. Noir (Louisiana That is)

Every once in a while my enthusiasm and general nerdiness for this stuff is eclipsed by meeting someone better read, traveled and more passionate than myself and it's a humbling thing. Not as often that person turns out to be generous and warm and my tendencies toward pettiness are swallowed up by the sheer force of their good will. Rod Norman just wasted a whole blog post saying kind things about me, so hey, buddy, thanks. I look forward to more posts from his Signs & Wonders blog.

Over at Ransom Notes today, I celebrate the Saints' super bowl victory with some Louisiana and the region themed fiction. For those of you unmotivated to click the link, I recommended Barry Gifford, Daniel Woodrell's Rene Shade books, especially The Ones You Do, (and in case you didn't know, I'll letcha know Busted Flush Press will be bringing two excellent Ozark Woodrell titles back into print in the next year, Tomato Red with a new introduction by Megan Abbott and The Death of Sweet Mister with an intro by Dennis Lehane). I also suggested James Lee Burke, Johnny Temple's Akashic City Noir series New Orleans edition and for ex-pats and exiles Anthony Neil Smith's Yellow Medicine.

Those of you without an aversion to high culture would do well to check out the latest edition of Granta which includes a new piece by Donald Ray Pollock.

Two days in a row, I'm including a link to an essay and book excerpt from the excellent and compassionate Kyle Minor.

And Julian Grant, (who plans to make a feature from my short story A Fuckload of Scotch Tape - Out of the Gutter #5) has posted the first trailer for his new zombie flick The Defiled. Apparently there is no dialogue in the picture which sounds awesome. Who really needs talking in a zombie movie anyhow? I've been watching trailers for his work a bunch recently, especially this one, 'case Steve Guttenberg as a badass makes me smile.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Minor Key

On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 1 Corinthians, 12:22-23

For some reason that passage comes to mind, nearly every time I read a Kyle Minor piece. Minor's is a name you should go ahead and familiarize yourself with. Not long from now, you'll be wanting to tell people you've been reading his stuff for years. He wrings the purest essence of transgression out of the banality of human interaction and illuminates the dignity pulsing from each of his characters even as they sully their divine heritage in ways extraordinary and mundane.

I've been anticipating the non-fiction book about a kidnapping in Haiti he's been working on for a year or so now and when the earthquake recently devastated the Caribbean nation, the timeliness of it struck home hard. In a recent post, Kyle admitted that in the wake of the tragedy, his book is now further from finished than before, but he's published a quick essay and excerpt from the work in progress that does what I've come to expect from all of his work, produce an ache where I desperately need to know I still have the capacity to feel one and render with lyrical tenderness the stark horror of the evil that men do.

For more from Kyle, check out his book In the Devil's Territory as well as stories in Surreal South '07 & '09, and Plots With Guns.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Pride & Prejudice

Last night Jordan Harper's first episode of The Mentalist aired and I found myself tuning in to the show for the first time. I enjoyed it and it got me thinking about all the different shows/books/musics/films that hang around on my radar for a long time before I give em a shot, only to have them become my favorites. Over at the Ransom Notes blog today I've explored some of those books.

Okay, I've missed a few, but frankly, most of the time I am right on. Scalped by Jason Aaron is about the best thing I've come to late and lately so, go check that one out.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ransom Note

First things first. Got a contest this week with the best prize ever. Brit crime writer Jay Stringer has got a piece of the Do Some Damage blog that also features John McFetridge, Steve Weddle, Dave White, Russell D. McLean, Scott D. Parker and Mike Knowles. Over there he’s just published an interview with badass crime writer Scott Phillips in two parts. The prize in this week’s contest is an autographed, nay – personalized, copy of Scott’s story The Crow Killers. The story first appeared in the print anthology Plots With Guns edited by Anthony Neil Smith and features my favorite Phillips character – Wayne Ogden - as a young slightly amoral man before he blossoms into a complete psychopath in The Walkaway and later this year Supply Sarge. This is a parallel English/French edition out of print now and never available in the United States – a real collector’s item in other words – I have a feeling you’ll love it. So the contest? Go read the interview and count how many times Scott mentions my name (both parts)… How simple and self serving could it be? Just click on my profile on the right side of your screen and email me the answer by Sunday night Feb. 7 and you’ll be entered in the drawing… Awesome.

Next order of business. I’ve got a new gig, providing content for Barnes & Noble’s Ransom Notes blog and my first post went live today. I’ll be posting there Tuesday and Friday mornings. Look for more interviews, reviews and provocative topical, perhaps juvenile pieces like you’ve come to expect here. Not to worry, Hardboiled Wonderland ain’t closing shop – for one thing I can’t fuckin say fuckin shit over there and I needs to let a swear go once in a while. Shit. That goes for you too. You wanna leave a comment at Ransom Notes? Leave the potty mouth at home.

In case you’ve been locked out of the internets for a couple of weeks, David Honeybone’s formerly defunct publication Crime Factory magazine has been resurrected. It’s now available for free as a PDF or for $1 on your Kindle. It’s an exciting crime rag for the hardcore fans featuring articles by Gordon Harries, The Nerd of Noir, Scott Phillips and Adrian McKinty. There's also fiction by Ken Bruen, Frank Bill, Dave White, Steve Weddle and Hilary Davidson. Beyond that are reviews and opinionated shit from editors Keith Rawson, Liam Jose and Cameron Ashley as well as Patti Abbot, Jimmy Calloway and Kieran Shea. Dude – check it out!

Badass short fiction author Jordan Harper joined the writing staff of CBS’s The Mentalist and the first episode with his name in the credits airs this week, (Thursday @ 10). I’ll be tuning in. I always think of (the star of the show) Simon Baker as that guy who’s appeared in movie versions of two of my favorite books L.A. Confidential and Ride With the Devil (from the book Woe to Live On by Daniel Woodrell).

Speaking of Woodrell, (nice transition, no?), Winter’s Bone the movie not only premiered at the Sundance film festival recently, but took home the Grand Jury Prize. Director Debra Granik and co-writer Anne Rosellini also grabbed a screenwriting award.

Also Thuglit issue 35 is up, featuring twisted fiction from Graham Bowlin, Nicola Haywood, Nolan Knight, Nate Southard, Jordan McPeek, Tom Casatelli, Christopher E. Long and S. Craig Renfroe Jr.