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.

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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: 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.

 

Book Review: Dog Eat Dog by Edward Bunker

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Dog Eat Dog is a novel by Edward Bunker. Bunker is an interesting character. His past involves a criminal career, a horrible childhood, a very high I.Q., becoming an author in prison and acting in some of the most classic neo noir films of the last 40 years. This book was released in 1995 and should be read by any crime fiction fan and especially any fan of noir fiction.

This story is about 3 ex-convicts who have been friends since juvenile hall. Mad Dog lives in Portland with his girlfriend and young daughter. Diesel has been working with a union in Sacramento and does the odd job for the local mob boss from time to time. He has a nice house, a wife and a brand new Mustang. Troy is our third man in this trio. Troy is a smart man that most criminals love. Troy has just got out of prison and is already got a plan in place to make some money.

This journey takes us to the underworld of Los Angeles in the 1990’s. We have drug dealers, crooked lawyers, kidnapping, murder, drug addiction and robbery just to wet your appetite for the dark corners this book goes to.

You can tell Bunker cribs from his own experience in crime for this book. There is a lot of parallels between Troy and Bunker. Bunker also covers some social issues in this book. One thing he covers is the disappearance of the middle class in Los Angeles. Something that continues to happen in many areas of the country today. Another topic is the Three Strike Law that went into effect in California in 1994, a year before this book was released. The law basically states that after your third felony you where going to go to prison for life. This book basically tells us that with this law, we are making people with two strikes willing to do anything not to go back to prison. This maybe a very good point and is something that has been changed in 2012, now it has to be a serious or violent felony for your third strike. I am no lawyer and don’t get into politics much, but for example, in one case a 2 time felon was caught stealing a set of golf clubs. He was sent to prison for life because of the 3 strike rule. Though he is a 3 time felon, and I have no idea what his previous 2 felonies are,(and he did already serve his time for those) life seems a little extreme for stealing golf clubs.

This is an amazing book and I could not put it down. Knowing a little bit about Bunker’s background made me interested in reading him. I was not expecting such a well written book. You will not be disappointed in this book! I highly recommend reading this before the movie is released later this year.

This movie could be amazing or it could be very disappointing. Lets look at the information we have so far. First off the material is second to none for a neo noir film. Second is the talent involved. Paul Schrader wrote the screenplay and is directing. His movie writing credits are some of the best neo noir films in the last 40 years. On the other hand his directing credits have been hit and miss, some are very good and some are unbelievable bad. Our main star, playing Troy is Nicolas Cage, if there is ever an actor in modern film that can be absolutely brilliant in one film and then over act and go totally campy in the next, it is Cage. Schrader promises a return to form for both him and Cage in this picture and I really hope he is right. Here is a link to a couple articles about the upcoming film:

http://deadline.com/tag/dog-eat-dog/

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One thing this film has me excited about is Willem Dafoe as Mad Dog. This casting should be worth the price of admission.

 

 

Book Review: The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

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The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock is a noir stew spanning over decades and consisting of many tough characters, thrown in a pot and put on boil.

This is Donald Ray Pollock’s first full length novel, published in 2011. He had a short story collection come out in 2008 called Knockemstiff. Knockemstiff  is the town in Ohio in which Pollock grew up. Knockemstiff  is also one of the locations in The Devil All the Time. Is there a better noir name for a town? Pollock worked as a laborer and truck driver until he turned 50. He then went to Ohio State University’s English program. I guess it is never to late to become a great writer.

The Devil All the Time has many story lines that criss cross each other until the final chapter. The best way to describe this book is by the characters.

Arvin starts out a young boy, growing up in the country. His father Willard is an ex-military religious nut. Arvin’s mother is dying and Willard is not taking it well. The local Sheriff is as corrupt and crooked as they come. The Sheriff’s sister is a prostitute/bartender and is married to a serial killer. They like to make road trips and find hitchhikers to take pictures of and kill. Arvin has a grandmother who has adopted a girl. The girl’s mother has been killed and her father is the main suspect. The father and his crippled friend travel with a circus. We later run into a Pastor who is married to a young women but likes even younger women. You throw all these ingredients in and see what happens.

This book has been described as Hick Lit, Ohio Gothic, Country Noir even Horror. whatever you call it, it is a dark journey worth taking. Lets hope Pollock has many more great stories to tell. If you are a fan of Jim Thompson you will probably fall in love with Donald Ray Pollock too.

Book Review: Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross

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Luther: The Calling is the first book in the Luther series, it is also the only one so far. It is written by Neil Cross, who is also the writer and creator of the television series Luther.

This book is a prequel of the first season of Luther. So if you are wondering who that man who falls from the cat walk and is put into a coma is, or who belongs to all those names Luther is yelling at him before he falls, like Emma and Adrian? This is the book for you. We also get some background on many of the other characters, like Luther’s wife Zoe, and Ian Reed.

This is a great read for fans of the T.V. series and adds a lot of knowledge to where the characters are coming from. This being a prequel to the first season, I can see this being a pattern for Cross. I would love to get a prequel to season 2 and learn about Caroline Jones and the case in which Luther arrests her husband and he commits suicide. The third season finds Luther and Ripley coming out of a garage with suspects cuffed and an explosion in the background, but we never find out what it was all about, this may make for another good book. Maybe the most interesting book would be a prequel to the latest season, season 4, where we find Luther on leave and living in the country, but there was definitely something happening between Luther and Alice between Season 3 and 4.

It looks like we will soon be getting a second book in this series and I look forward to reading it and learning more about this complex character.

We’ve heard ramblings about a Luther movie coming some day, and it sounds like that movie maybe based on this book. A Luther movie would be great. In fact, I will be lining up for anything Luther at this point, more books, more television, or a film, sign me up! There are rumblings of a possible American version of this great series and though Cross and Idris Elba would be involved, Elba would not star. I think half of what makes Luther great is Elba and I don’t know if I want a watered down version of Luther with somebody else playing the lead. This sounds like a bad idea. I will be sticking with the original Luther and patiently wait for more material.

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I will be looking at each season of the television series, starting tomorrow. So come back for even more Luther then!

Article: A Not-So-Golden State The detective stories of Ross Macdonald

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Andrew J. Bacevich has written an interesting and informative article on Ross Macdonald and his character Lew Archer over at The Baffler.  Ross Macdonald was born 100 years ago today! Take the time to read Bacevich’s article on the history of Ross Macdonald and the parallels between the writer and the character, Lew Archer, you won’t be disappointed.  Read the full article here:

http://thebaffler.com/salvos/golden-state/bacevich-lane-rossmacdonald-rgb