Book Review: Quarry’s List by Max Allan Collins


Quarry is coming to Cinemax in the form of a new television series! Because of this, Hard Case Crime is re-issuing all the classic books by Max Allan Collins. These books are from the 1970’s and follow the exploits of Quarry, a Vet who has returned from Vietnam, but some of Vietnam has stayed with him. Not able to get a regular job, Quarry has become a professional hitman.

This book, the second in the series, takes place 4 or 5 month after the events of the first book. Because of those events Quarry is relaxing at his lake house when two professional hitmen come to his house to kill Quarry. Quarry of course survives, but he needs to find out who sent these killers and why. An old partner of Quarry’s is the only lead he has.

This book has a beautiful blond, is she a femme fatale? We also get one of Quarry’s ex-partners that is an entertaining character, I hope he shows up in future books. There is also a mob lawyer who seems to have a piece to the puzzle Quarry is trying to solve. This is another fun book in this enjoyable series. A series worth checking out for any noir fiction fan.

I highly recommend you read Quarry, the first book in this series, before you read this one. This is a direct sequel to that book and knowing the events of the first book will make this book that much more enjoyable. Here is my review of Quarry:

I must say, I am loving this series so far and look forward to continuing to read the books and also looking forward to the new T.V. series coming soon.


Favorite Tidbit: The new edition of this book by Hard Case Crime has an afterword by Collins where he talks about when these books where first printed, the publisher picked the titles.  Quarry was titled The Broker and this book was titled The Broker’s Wife(the title is a bit of a spoiler). He never liked these titles and re-named them with the titles they go by today on subsequent printings.


Review: The Bad Sleep Well


The Bad Sleep Well is a film noir from acclaimed director  Akira Kurosawa, released in 1960. Kurosawa maybe more known for his epic samurai films, but he did a handful of films noir.

This film starts out with an elaborate wedding, complete with a few arrests, some interesting toasts, and a flock of reports looking for a story as they tell us a little bit about the background of a few of the characters. This opening scene can be a bit overwhelming with the audience thrown into the middle of an intense scene with a ton of characters introduced and a lot of information in only a few minutes. While this scene maybe hard for the audience to keep everything straight, it is worth paying attention for the story to come.


From this scene we learn a man is marrying a handicapped woman who is the daughter of the Vice-President of a major corporation. The wedding party has members of two major corporations in attendance and they seem to be partners in some illegal activities together. Turns out to be fixing bids for government jobs. A suicide from 5 years ago is brought up by one of the reporters as well as a wedding cake that references this suicide.

As the film continues we learn of an intricate revenge plot on the corporation. This film is interesting for a number of reasons. The plot is intriguing as you want to find out what will happen. We also learn about the Japanese corporate structure and how Japan looks at suicide as a honorable way of saving your bosses and family.


Kurosawa uses William Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a structure for this film, and it has a Shakespearean feel to it. This is a long film that takes your full attention while you watch it, but it is worth it. Whether you are a fan of Kurosawa, a fan of Asian noir, or just a fan of great film, this is worth your time.


Review: Time Without Pity


Time Without Pity is a British noir from 1957. This film is directed by Joseph Losey. Losey has an interesting story himself. He was directing films for RKO and was in Italy filming The Stranger on the Prowl when he was summoned to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Instead of going back to the United States to testify, he stayed in Europe and eventually found steady work in Britain. His trouble with the Un-American Activities Committee may have started when he directed the re-make of M in 1951. This film was singled out by the Committee, here is a look at some of the history of that film here:

This film has an interesting plot with an amazing twist at the end. The story revolves around David Graham played by Michael Redgrave. David has been in an institution for his alcoholism, with no contact with the outside world. When he is released he finds out his son is in prison and scheduled to be hung the next day. He goes to visit him and is determined to find the truth and save his son.


Through out the film David fights his alcoholism, which is hard with the added stress he is under. David meets some interesting characters along the way and does whatever he needs to do to help his son.

This is a good film with some outstanding scenes. The opening scene of the murder of a young women is very well done.


I also loved the scene at the racetrack with one of the characters driving his Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing, getting it prepared for a race. Even though the scene really doesn’t make much sense, it is visually stunning and entertaining. I also truly loved the final scene, I will not talk much about this so I don’t ruin the film for those who have not seen it.


Favorite Tidbit: Peter Cushing plays a small role as the lawyer for David’s son. He would make The Curse of Frankenstein next, which would launch Cushing’s career as a Horror Icon.

Edit: A few clarifications should be noted: (1) THE PROWLER and THE BIG NIGHT were both filmed in the US and released after M in 1951. Losey was in Italy filming STRANGER ON THE PROWL when it was announced by HUAC that Losey was one of the witnesses it wanted to testify on September 17, 1951, and who had not yet been served a subpoena. He returned to the US in October, could find no work, and left about a month later to live permanently in England. (2) M is more akin to the culmination of Losey’s issues with the US government than the start. The FBI file on him began in late-1943, and he was under surveillance due to his beliefs, actions and associations. His two pre-’51 feature film releases, THE BOY WITH THE GREEN HAIR(1948) and THE LAWLESS (1950), demonstrate that his 1951 features were not a newly found consciousness. See “Joseph Losey: A Revenge On Life” (David Caute 1994), pp. 86-109.

Thanks for the clarification on Losey, Mr. Field.

Book Review: The Cold Spot by Tom Piccirilli


The literary world lost a good author to soon this past July when Tom Piccirilli pasted away. He wrote in many genres throughout his career being nominated and winning awards in the horror, mystery and sci-fi genres. This review covers the first book in his noir series, Cold.

The Cold Spot is an epic noir that starts in the metro area of the Northeast United States and travels to the Deep South and back. The story follows Chase through his young life.

This book starts out with a bang, literally. We find Chase playing poker with his Grandfather Jonah and his crew when Jonah shoots one of the team in the head out of nowhere. The crew just had a successful score robbing the mob. Jonah says the man was wearing a wire and had to die. This is the last straw for Chase who decides to branch out on his own and leave his Grandfather.

Chase is raised in a middle class home when his life is turned upside down. His Mother is murdered and soon after his Father, not able to live with the pain, committees suicide by taking a boat out in a big storm and never returns. Chase goes to a loving foster home, when his Grandfather shows up and Chase goes with him. Chase soon learns the ropes as a getaway driver for his Grandfather at the age of 15.

This book follows Chase through a lot of ups and downs and tells an amazing story of trying to go straight and finding happiness, but getting pulled back into the world of crime.

This is only the second book of Piccirilli’s that I have read and I have loved them both. The other book being The Last Kind Words.


The Last Kind Words also tackles the subject of a man trying to break free from his criminal family only to be pulled back in.

Piccirilli has built up a cult following over the years, but he definitely deserves to be discovered by a wider audience. I look forward to reading more by this incredible author. Piccirilli is the two time winner of the International Thriller Writers Award (one of those awards for the sequel to this book, The Coldest Mile), The four time winner of the Bram Stoker Award and a Edgar Award nominee for The Cold Spot in 2009. R.I.P. Tom Piccirilli and may your stories inspire a new generation of creative storytellers.


Review: Shield for Murder


Shield for Murder is a film noir from 1954 starring and co-directed by Edmond O’Brien. The other director is Howard W. Koch, his first film in the director’s chair. This film is based on the book by the same name, written by William P. McGivern.


Edmond O’Brien plays Barney, a crooked cop with a temper. The film starts with him following a man holding money for a local bookie. Barney drags him into the alley and shoots him. then Barney takes $25,000 off of him, and shoots a few bullets into the air. This was to make it look like Barney shot the dead man trying to escape arrest. Unbeknownst to Barney, a man in a second story apartment witnessed the whole crime. The witness is deaf and dumb to add an extra twist.


Barney’s girlfriend, Patty is played by Marla English. John Agar plays a young detective who looks up to Barney, but suspects something is wrong about the shooting involving Barney.


Will Barney get away with stealing $25,000 and murder? Will the local bookie track him down and teach the crooked cop a lesson?

Edmond O’Brien’s Barney is the most brutal and evil protagonist I have ever seen in a classic film noir. He only shows mercy or any kind of remorse once in the whole film.


This is a very good B-film noir. This is worth watching just for Edmond O’Brien’s performance. The interesting thing about Barney is that he has very little to no likable qualities. I don’t know if I would call him an anti-hero, but more of a villain who is the main character. Watch for the scene where Barney is eating spaghetti with a girl he has picked up at the bar for one of the most violent scenes I have ever witnessed in a classic film noir.




Review: Experiment in Terror


Experiment in Terror is an amazing film noir from an unexpected source. This film was Directed by Blake Edwards, a rare crime film from the man that brought us some of the best comedies ever. The film is based on the book Operation Terror by The Gordons, who also wrote the screenplay.

Some might argue this film isn’t a film noir because it was made in 1962, and maybe so, for those purists. If you don’t look at the release date, you are in for some of the best film noir cinematography I have ever seen. There are so many outstanding scenes and interesting shoots, I could not even begin to list them all.


This film starts out with Kelly Sherwood, played by Lee Remick coming home from work and opening her garage door to park her car. When she and the audience gets an eerie feeling. Soon a man hiding in the shadows takes her by the neck and explains how she is going to rob the bank she works at for him. The shadowy man explains how if she does not do this, her and her little sister’s life will be in jeopardy. Her little sister is played by a young Stefanie Powers in one of her first film roles.


When Kelly attempts to contact the F.B.I., our villain is waiting for it. He scares her good by assaulting her in her own house.


Luckily she tells the F.B.I. agent John ‘Rip’ Ripley, played by Glenn Ford, her last name before she is hit by our villain. When the F.B.I. tracks her down, they work with Kelly to catch the bad guy and save her and her little sister. Will our shadowy villain be one step ahead of the F.B.I. and our bank teller? Will the F.B.I. be able to catch our villain before he hurts one or both of the Sherwood girls?


I am not going to mention who the shadowy villain is played by, because when this was released, that was part of the draw. The actor who plays this role doesn’t get a screen credit until the end of the film.

This is an amazing film well worth watching if you are a noir film fan.  I wish Blake Edwards would have made more films like this during his career. His eye for shadow and using unique camera angles is beautiful. This film takes place in San Francisco, one of the best backdrops for a film noir, and Edwards captures it like no other. I highly recommend this film.


Favorite Tidbit: This film was a big influence on David Lynch. He used many things from this film in a number of his works. One great example of this is where Kelly Sherwood lives. Kelly lives in Twin Peaks and passes a sign stating so at the beginning of this film. This inspired Lynch to name his television series this and mimics the open scene on Twin Peaks.



Review: Black Coal, Thin Ice or Bai ri yan huo


Black Coal, Thin Ice is a 2014, neo noir from China. It is written and directed by  Yi’nan Diao.

This film’s story starts out in 1999 with our hero played by Fan Liao playing a police detective who is recently divorced. He is assigned a case where body parts are found all over the country at coal factories. When some bloody clothes and an I.D. are found, Liao goes to talk to the grieving wife played by Lun Mei Gwei. Liao soon gets a lead where a coal truck driver and his brother could be the murderers. When they confront the brothers a gun fight ensues. This leaves the suspected brothers and two police officers dead. It also leaves our hero wounded.


The film then flashes forward to 2004 where we find our hero not recovering very well from the events of 1999. He is drinking heavily and is now working security after leaving his job as a police officer. When, by coincidence, he runs into a ex-co-worker on a stake out, he joins him. They are following a woman who has had two lovers found murdered, both bodies are cut up and wearing ice skates. We soon learn the woman they are following is the wife(Gwei) of the victim from the 1999 coal truck case. This starts Liao’s own investigation into Gwei. Is Gwei a black widow like killer, who eventually kills all her lovers? Is she some kind of femme fatale? Does she have a psychopath killer for a stalker?


This is a good film with some great cinematography. This story is engaging, with some crazy twists and turns, most you will not see coming. I thought all was known a hour in, but we still had over a half hour of more reviles. If you are a fan of Asian Noir and are looking for something new to watch, check this film out.