Book Review: Tower by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman

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Tower is a unique literary experiment in noir fiction, published in 2009. The story is about two lifetime friends from New York City. The first part of the story is Nick’s tale about his friend Todd, who has been living in Boston, and has come back to Nick’s life and New York City. Todd has changed while out of town and now seems to be a violent criminal who has crossed an invisible line that Nick doesn’t want to cross, but may have no choice.

The second part of the book is Todd’s version of the same story and his hope to save his friend Nick from a life of crime. It also goes back a bit and tells us why he went to Philadelphia and Boston before coming back into Nick’s life and New York.

This was a fun read, as we read one author’s version of events from his main character and think we know what is happening when everything is turned upside down and find we never really had the whole story when we get the other author’s version with his main character telling us a different version of what is going on. Can a lifelong friendship survive lost love, crime, lies, betrayal, and even murder? As the first part lays down a great foundation and is a good story on its own, the second part adds to the plot with new information we did not see coming.

I’ve been a fan of Ken Bruen for awhile now and that is the reason I read this book, but have never read Reed Farrel Coleman. Coleman maybe best known for taking over Robert B. Parker’s Spencer book series and is an author I will have to read more from in the future. I’m always leery of books with more then one author and I don’t really know why. I guess I like one continues train of thought from one prospective and sometimes think using two authors to tell a story muddies the waters. In this case it works, because they don’t seem to be writing the book together, but rather each author is telling his version of the story and we read them back to back so we can take both sides of the story to come to our own conclusions. This was an unique journey worth reading if you are a fan of either of these writers.

Book Review: Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze

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Black Wings Has My Angel is a noir novel first published in 1953 by Elliott Chaze. This novel had gone somewhat unnoticed over the decades, but is getting a lot of talk lately. Part of that is due to a new edition from New York Review Books.

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The other reason is this book is maybe made into a movie starring Tom Hiddleston, Anna Paquin and Elijah Wood. Barry Gifford who helped with the screenplay wrote an introduction in the new edition of the book. I unfortunately read an older edition of this, so did not get to read this intro. This film took the makers more then a decade to obtain the rights to the book. It was supposed to be filmed in 2012, but due to Paquin having twins filming was postponed. The film is still in pre-production, but maybe with the boost in popularity that the book is getting we will still see a film in the future.

This book revolves around Tim Sunblade, who is an escaped convict and Virginia, who is a high class escort on the run from the law. After Sunblade gets done with a legitimate job, he knows it is time to move on before people start looking into his background. He has a pocket full of money and decides to get a prostitute for the night. When Virginia shows up, Sunblade is surprised by the classy woman that shows up at his room. They soon go on a road trip to Colorado. This leads to the idea of a armored car heist and that is only the beginning.

A bit of a Bonnie and Clyde story with Virginia being a femme fatale for Sunblade. Our leads have a love and hate relationship with some domestic abuse on both parts, but an attraction to each other that is disturbing on some level. This story is a big road trip for our two leads, going from the South to Colorado, back to New Orleans and then to Sunblade’s small hometown and back to Colorado. Sunblade has returned from the war and has changed into a violent criminal, a theme tackled in many noir books and films noir of the time.

This book is for fans of 1950’s pulp noir books and is a well written story. I feel fans of Jim Thompson will enjoy this book. It reminded me of his work a lot while reading it. A forgotten classic that we hope will never be forgotten again and hopefully a film that does justice to the source material.

 

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Favorite Tidbit: This book was re-published twice under different titles, in 1962 as One for My Money and in 1985 as One for the Money.(I found this information on Wikipedia, but this cover looks like it is from 1962 and is titled One for the Money.)

Book Review: Diesel Therapy by Greg Barth

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All Due Respect and Greg Barth are at it again! Diesel Therapy is book two in the Selena series and does not disappoint.

We find Selena paying for her crimes from the first book. She finds herself in a Federal Prison at the beginning of the book and that is paradise compared to what is to come. She soon finds herself in Diesel Therapy, a method of torturing prisoners…legally. They shackle and handcuff the prisoner, who is then transported from one institution to the next. As we learned in book 1, Selena is a tough cookie, but Diesel Therapy breaks her down. One night Selena meets a girl from back in her home town in a small town jail. She soon learns, the cause of Selena’s troubled youth is still going on. Revenge on those causing young women their pain drives Selena. This includes her Father and Uncle, as well as a handful of the evilest men you will ever come across outside a horror book.

Will Selena escape or get out of her tortured prison to seek revenge? Will she find help along the way?

The look at a violent and evil backwoods Southern breed of men is pretty dark on its own, double that with the torture Selena is going through makes for another gritty and dark pulpy noir story. If this sounds like a brutal story, I actually think book 1(simply titled Selena) is even darker and more violent. If you want to journey into the depths of the darkness, start with Selena and continue with this book. Selena is a character I look forward to reading more of, and we will not have to wait long, as book three is scheduled for release later this year.

Book Review: Quarry’s Cut by Max Allan Collins

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Quarry’s Cut is the fourth book in the Quarry series by Max Allan Collins. This one is an interesting installment in the series, but we will get to this in a minute. This story starts with pure coincidence…or is it? Quarry is eating dinner at his favorite local restaurant, when he looks out the frosted window to see his ex-partner getting gas. When he finds his ex-partner, Turner, is renting a room that has a view of Quarry’s little A-frame home on the lake, Quarry thinks he is Turner’s next hit. Though this might be enough for a short, under 200 page novel, you would be wrong.

Quarry soon enters a porn shoot and things seem to degenerate into a classic 70’s or 80’s slasher movie plot. In fact this book was originally titled Slasher. On reading this I figured Collins was inspired by movies like Halloween and the slasher films that followed, but since this book was published in 1977, a year before the release of Halloween, I would be wrong. Maybe he was inspired by the Italian giallo films of the early 1970’s and threw his hitman Quarry in the middle of one of these film plots to stir things up?

Collins hits on a number of topics in this book, like a homosexual romantic triangle, a serial killer, the porn industry and let’s not forget hired hitmen. This is a bit weaker book then the first three Quarry books, but no less entertaining and worth reading. It is a fun pulp noir that probably was a lot fresher back in 1977. A must read for Quarry fans and I can not wait to start a new Quarry book soon and looking forward to the new television series!

Dash’s Crib – Where modern crime fiction was born

A look at where it all started.

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by Eddie Muller

[John Huston’s film version of Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. Turner Classic Movies presents screenings Feb. 21 and 24 at theaters around the country. For more, click here and for the line-up of TCM Big Screen Classics.  And, as is our policy, look for extras after the article-ed.]

The first time I walked into Sam Spade’s apartment I thought my head would explode.

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Book Review: Chance by Kem Nunn

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Chance by Kem Nunn tells the story of Dr. Eldon Chance, a psychiatrists in the San Francisco area. Chance is on a downward spiral starting with a recent divorce and on top of that the I.R.S. is auditing him. To help get himself out of debt, he looks to sell some antique furniture. Turns out he can get more for the furniture if big D uses his wood working skills to make it something it quite isn’t.

Big D is a large man with a unique set of skills. He can work with furniture as well as wield a knife with deadly skill. He is a master of urban warfare, knowing where to be and when to be there.

Chance also gets involved with a femme fatale with multiple personality disorder. Chance’s love interest happens to be married to a crooked cop. You mix these four characters and you have a crazy noir trip through the Bay Area.

Kem Nunn is known for his surfer noir books and this is a bit of a departure for him, though we do get a minor character towards the end that is a surfer.

This book was released in 2014 and soon after Nunn started working on a screen adaption. Originally looking at a movie deal, it soon switched to a television series. Scoring major talent behind the camera for this series also attracted a major star for the character of Chance. Hugh Laurie will be playing Chance in a guaranteed two season deal. After a bidding war for the distribution rights to the series, Hulu won. The first season will follow the story ark from the book, not sure if season 2 will see a book first or if it will be an original story for the series itself. Nunn will be the writer either way. You can read all the details about the new show that will start filming soon here:

‘Chance’ Drama Series Starring Hugh Laurie Lands 2-Season Order At Hulu

This is a good book and I can see potential for a great television series. Noir fans should check out this novel and look forward to another great noir series coming to a television or computer near you soon.

 

Book Review: Quarry’s Deal by Max Allan Collins

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Thanks to the new Cinemax TV series and Hard Case Crime, the first 5 books in the Quarry Series is becoming available again. This is the third book in the series and the fourth one I have read so far. This book has just recently been re-released and the next one will come out next month.

This book is as all of the Quarry books is told in the first person from Quarry’s point of view. It is fun to learn what is going on as our hero does. Quarry is a professional hitman who used to work for the Broker. If you have read the first two books you know what happens there. The last book is called Quarry’s List, and without giving away any spoilers, Quarry’s List leads him to a woman that goes by Ivy or Lu or Glenna. Lu is a professional assassin as well and Quarry has tracked her down to a swinging singles apartment complex in Florida. Soon it looks like Lu is on her way to the Mid-West and Quarry is on her tail to see what her assignment is. Does Lu know Quarry is also a professional killer? Will Quarry figure out who her partner is and who her target is? Will he stop her?

Max Allan Collins does it again with this book. This book is pure 60’s pulp fun! With all the pop culture references and Collins’ great turn of words makes for a fun read with a good story. Lu is a bit of a femme fatale, or is she? Her friend Ruthy is definitely a man eater.

I truly love all the Quarry books so far and cannot wait to start the next one. I hope the television series is as good as the books. If it is, I believe a lot of people will discover this series and even prompt Collins to write more of these books.

 

Article: Dennis Lehane drops into St. Petersburg for a riveting reading

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Here is a short article about Dennis Lehane at a reading in St. Petersburg. It talks about what Lehane is working on right now, including a new book and a couple television series. I don’t know about you, but I’m always excited for new projects from this man. Read the full article here for all the details:

http://www.tbtpics.tampabay.com/blogs/media/dennis-lehane-drops-into-st-petersburg-for-a-riveting-reading/2262592

Article: ONE OF THE GREAT UNSUNG CRIME NOVELS OF THE 20TH CENTURY

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BARRY GIFFORD ON THE LONG WAIT FOR ELLIOTT CHAZE’S BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL

Here is an article by Barry Gifford, a former editor over at Black Lizard Books about the forgotten classic Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze. Another interesting author and book that time has forgotten. I actually heard about this book over on Goodreads and have it downloaded on my Nook. I hope to read it out soon after reading this article. It also looks like a film adaption is in the works. Maybe this book and author will be rediscovered by a new generation of noir fans. Read the full article here:

http://lithub.com/one-of-the-great-unsung-crime-novels-of-the-20th-century/

Book Review: The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

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The Long Goodbye is the 4th book I have read by Raymond Chandler and I have loved all four. This one was published in 1953 and is the longest and I got to admit, towards the end I wondered why Chandler didn’t just end the book at a few different points. I got to say I’m glad it continued on and the ending was worth it. Those that have seen the Altman film and read this book have argued through out the years which ending is better, the original book or the updated film? I got to say as a big fan of Chandler and the Marlowe character the book is my choice.

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I watched the film last year and here is my review of that film:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/06/19/review-the-long-goodbye/

The Long Goodbye of course revolves around the hardboiled private detective that all hardboiled private detectives to come would be influenced by, Philip Marlowe. In this book Marlowe is in his early 40’s but hasn’t changed much over the years. He is still a quick to respond smart mouth that can get him in trouble from time to time. He is still as tough as they come and mix that with his genius level of street smarts makes for an interesting character. Marlowe is still single and I think he prefers it that way. Marlowe is still in his world of Southern California mixing it up with street level crime and the rich that hire him.

The story starts out with Marlowe getting to know a new friend, Terry Lennox. Lennox likes his drinking and is married to a wealthy woman. Lennox has a mysterious past and the scars on his face to prove it.

Lennox calls Marlowe late one night asking for a ride to Mexico. He tells Marlowe not to ask any questions and Marlowe doesn’t want any answers anyway. When Marlowe gets back to L.A., he is thrown in jail after not giving any information about Lennox’s whereabouts. Lennox is wanted for the murder of his wife and the police are looking for him.

When Marlowe gets out of jail he is soon on to his next case, but he still has questions about Lennox and his guilt.

This book has a lot of twist and turns and Chandler’s writing is amazing as always. The reason I have not read this book before is because I was reading them in order. I read this one out of order and did not feel it mattered. I plan on going back and reading everything by Chandler in time. If you are a fan of noir and hardboiled fiction, it doesn’t get much better then this classic. A must read for everybody that reads books in my opinion, you will not be disappointed.

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I really wish a classic film noir adaption of this book was made in the 1950’s. Could you imagine Bogart reprising his role as Marlowe, with Sydney Greenstreet playing Lennox’s father-in-law. Maybe Robert Ryan as Rodger Wade and Lizabeth Scott as Eileen Wade? Oh the possibilities!