Book Review: He Died with His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond

One of my favorite authors, Ken Bruen, recently put this book on his favorite 10 noir novels. I posted that article here:

I happened to be reading this book when I seen this list on which it appears.

This is the first book in Derek Raymond’s Factory series of which there are five books. The book was originally published in 1984 and takes place in London. This book is very interesting in the way it is written. It is written in the first person with a protagonist with no name. He is a detective in “The Factory” or the Unexplained Deaths Division. This case is of a middle-aged man who has been beaten to death. The way he is beaten is very savage as the killer or killers broke many bones and beat him severely. His death was not a quick one and was very painful. Our victim is a writer and as our nameless hero starts his investigation he comes across cassette tapes with our victims thoughts on them. The story is told as our protagonist in the present investigates new clues and interviews more suspects, it is also told in flashbacks with the tapes of our victim. As we bounce back and forth between the two we learn more about each as we find our hero and our victim have similar lives.

I’ll be honest, when I first started reading this I thought “why do noir fans think this is so great” as it did not suck me in right away. I did continue on and after about 50 pages I feel I got the rhythm of Raymond and really started to enjoy the story. Raymond did an amazing job, keeping the present protagonist’s words simple and to the point and our victim, who was a writer telling his story on cassette tapes, has a more elegant style, making it feel like two different authors. This book did intrigue me and I hope to read the other books in this series soon.

Favorite Tidbit: A French film was made in 1985 starring Charlotte Rampling, I have not seen this, but would like to.

Men’s Journal Article: Don Winslow’s War

This is a fascinating article on noir author Don Winslow. Learn more about his background, his influences, his writing procedures and how he does his research. Written by Erik Hedegaard for Men’s Journal it is a little long, but well worth your time. If you are not a fan of Winslow’s you may be after this article.

Ken Bruen picks his 10 favorite noir novels of all time over at Publisher’s Weekly

Ken Bruen is one of my favorite authors, so when he picks his favorite books, I’m interested. I have read one of these and I’m currently reading another on the list. Looks like I have 8 more books to add to my “To Read” list. Check out the link below for the full list.

How many are you adding to your “To Read” list?

Book Review: 13 Shots of Noir by Paul D. Brazill

13 Shots of Noir is a short story collection from Paul D. Brazill. All 13 of these stories are very short and snappy. In most of these stories I felt if Raymond Chandler was writing today, it would read a lot like this. His characters have sharp tongues and use smart ass remarks mixed with popular culture references that put a smile on your face as you read them. These stories are obviously drenched in noir like the great story with a hardboiled private detective, but we also get a bit of other genre fiction. One story even involving werewolves and one of my favorites from the collection involving vampires, strip club vampires no less! This has a good mix of stories to keep you entertained, some are shots to the knee that may drop you, some might be to the gut, even a few head shots that will leave you reeling. There are a few stories that you are thinking one thing…and then you read that last sentence or two and you think “I did not see that coming.”  It’s amazing how some of these shorts can tell so much story on so few pages.

Paul D. Brazill is from across the pond in England and some of the language and references reflect that. I picked this up on my Nook for a whooping 99 cents, so not only is it a great read, it’s a bargain too. Snag a copy for your E-reader and you won’t be disappointed.

I think fans of good short stories, noir and even horror fans will enjoy this collection. I look forward to reading more from Brazill in the future.

Book Review: Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead (Claire DeWitt mysteries #1) by Sara Gran

I have heard a lot of good stuff about Sara Gran and the Claire DeWitt books from Goodreads and other sites and blogs. This book is the first in the series. Claire DeWitt is obviously our main character in this series and she is one of the best private investigators in the world.

This story revolves around DeWitt traveling from California to take a case of a missing lawyer in New Orleans. The missing lawyer disappeared during the Katrina storm. This gives us a look at how this city is doing after the horrible disaster as well as giving us an interesting backdrop to the story. We also flashback to DeWitt’s past, where we find DeWitt started learning to solve mysteries from an early age. She finds a book, written by the famous french detective Jacques Silette, called Détection. She uses this book as her life guide and often quotes from it. We also learn about her teacher Constance, who studied directly under Silette and lived in New Orleans. Though DeWitt does not live in New Orleans we learn part of her past is from this city.

I’ll be honest, the mystery of the missing lawyer was good, but I was way more intrigued with DeWitt’s past cases and history. The missing lawyer case does get solved, but a lot of interesting stories from DeWitt’s past are left open and I want to know more about her history. Her two best friends growing up, Silette, and Constance are all people I want to know more about and think I will in future books. I will be continuing this series for sure!

Sara Gran is a fun author to read, and I look forward to following this series and want to go back and read some of her stand alone books as well. I recommend this book if you are looking for a new series in the noir and mystery genre.

Book Review: Two Bullets Solve Everything By Chris Rhatigan and Ryan Sayles

Two Bullets Solve Everything is a double feature of noir novellas from All Due Respect.  Both stories are quite different from each other and unique in their own right.

Our first story is Disco Rumble Fish from Ryan Sayles.  This is written from a first person perspective of a SWAT team member.  A stranger who has bumped into a cop, while handing a mafia member a handgun.  This happens while the mafia member is in custody and being transported. The mafia member uses the hand gun on the officer and escapes.  The SWAT team is looking for the mysterious stranger who brought the gun to the mafia member.  This is my first story I’ve read about a SWAT team and it was interesting and action packed, as you would expect.

The second story is A Pack of Lies by Chris Rhatigan.  This story is about a small paper journalist, who is past his prime and basically going through the motions at his job.  He also bribes people to keep their stories quiet.  This story has him doing this twice, the first one may have him lose his job, the second may cause him to lose everything.  A Pack of Lies is interesting as our protagonist starts out in a bad place, but in control and we witness him make one bad decision after another on his downward spiral.

I really liked the first story and really loved the second story.  Disco Rumble Fish is action packed and has some good humor.  A Pack of Lies kept me turning the pages and looking at how few pages where left and kept wondering “how is this going to end?  Are there enough pages left to complete this story?”  The tension was strong and kept me on the edge of my seat all the way to the end.  I think noir fans will really like both of these stories.  All Due Respect delivers again with this book.  Check out their website for this book and other great books here;

I can’t wait to read more from this little publishing house!  Thanks for getting these great noir stories out to the masses!

Book Review: The Carrion Birds by Urban Waite

They say you can’t go home again, and man this book drives that point home with a gun shot to the gut.  This book was released in 2013 and has been on my radar for sometime.

Our protagonist is Ray who has left his hometown 10 years ago.  We slowly learn through out the book why he left in little flashbacks to the fateful time.  Ray has some military experience, and I felt this was important to the character’s background.  This explains why his boss hired him to begin with, his sense of loyalty to his family, and his never die attitude.

Tom is Ray’s cousin and is also an interesting character.  He was the Sheriff of Coronado, New Mexico our hero’s hometown.  He was kicked off the force 10 years ago and has been trying to get back on the police force ever since.  We soon find out the 10 year mark that we see Ray leave town and Tom lose his job are because of the same event.  Tom and Ray are the same age and though they are cousins they grew up very close and are more like brothers.

This story starts out with Ray taking one last job, classic last words in the world of noir.  Ray is to do one last heist with his bosses inexperienced nephew.  They are to heist a large amount of drugs near Coronado, this will give Ray a little money to start fresh back in his hometown and the 10 years away should have been enough time for things to blow over.  When the heist goes down, Ray recognizes the driver and soon realizes things are not going to be as easy as he imagined.

As Ray tries to finish his job so he can start over and get his family life right, things just continue to go wrong for him.  We also find Tom torn between doing the right thing so he can work his way back onto the police force or helping his cousin do what he needs to.

It took me longer then normal to get through this book, partly due to spring activities and partly because I could easily tear myself away from this book to do other things.  This wasn’t the page turner I was hoping for, this took some effort to read.  The story is very good and so is the story telling, but it did take me some extra effort for the payoff.  I think this is for fans of  people who like Cormac McCarthy.  I’m not the first to say this about Waite and maybe that stuck in my mind, but it seems to fit.  This book is in development to be made into a movie.  I hope this isn’t put in development purgatory like a lot of great books out there, because I think this could make a great film in the right hands.

Book Review: Love You to a Pulp by C.S. DeWildt


Love You to a Pulp is another great book from the small publisher All Due Respect.  This one is from C.S. DeWildt.

The story telling here is very interesting, it tells two stories, alternating from chapter to chapter.  Both revolve around our hero Neil.  The first story is about our adult Neil, a glue sniffing down on his luck, hardboiled private detective.  The second story is about a teenage Neil growing up.  I found this interesting because we find how he was raised and why he is a glue sniffing adult.

Like all the noir fiction I’ve read from All Due Respect, this book is very dark and this one made me cringe more than once.  The story starts with Neil taking a case from a father who wants his daughter back in his life.  The daughter and her boyfriend have ripped him off, the father owns a pharmacy and the pair has taken a bunch of drugs from the store.  He doesn’t want his daughter to get in trouble, and wants her taken away from her boyfriend.  The second story shows Neil growing up with his pimp father and whore mother.  To make a few bucks, his father enters him into illegal fights, reminiscent of dog or cock fights, but with young boys.  We learn as the story goes on and gets darker and darker how Neil grew up to be a man.  We also take a crazy voyage in the present, with Ex-wives, lawyers, shady motels, drug deals, suicides, strippers and on and on.

I enjoyed this book immensely, the characters were interesting and most were more twisted than Neil if you can believe that.   I think it is safe to say, after three books, if you have a weak stomach don’t read anything from All Due Respect.  If you like to go deep down that dark rabbit hole, All Due Respect is your one stop shop.  This is another amazing original noir for the hard-core fan.  I look forward to reading more from DeWildt and hope to soon.  Check out All Due Respect’s website to find this and other great books.

Book Review: Time to Murder and Create by Lawrence Block


Time to Murder and Create is the second book in the Matthew Scudder book series.  I recently read the first book in the series and reviewed it here:

I fell in love with this character after reading the first book and watching the new movie Walk Among the Tombstones, I reviewed this movie here:

Lawrence Block wrote this book in 1976 and reflects that time frame in New York City.  Some plot lines may not work today as well as they worked in the 1970’s, I’ll get to this a little later.

In this story there is only one returning character and that is Scudder himself.  I would say you can read this book without reading the first book and still enjoy it.  We do flashback to his “origin” story for a lack of a better word in this book, so if you are not familiar with what happened in book one, it gives you a brief synopsis.

Scudder evolves a little more in this book, but not much.  He is still very religious or at least looking at religion for some answers.  He is drinking very heavily in this installment as well.  He is our typical hardboiled ex-cop in a lot of respects, but very original in many ways, right up your alley if you are a fan of hardboiled and noir fiction.

This book puts our hero in a very unique situation.  He is approached by an old informant who feels Scudder is an honest man.   Jake “The Spinner” Jablon is the former informant turned blackmailer.  He gives Scudder the sealed envelope to open in the case of his death.  Of course we have seen this “if something happens to me the information will go straight to the Police” scenario.  What was unique is we usually see it from the blackmailer or the person being blackmailed, never from the point of view of the person holding the information in case of death.  We soon find out Spinner has been murdered and Scudder is on the case to find out who did it.   The problem is Spinner has been blackmailing three people, not just one!  So our hero must investigate all three to find the murderer, all the while keeping their secrets safe from the police.  Spinner only wanted the guilty party punished in this case and the other two set free of their past crimes.

Now back to why this works in the 1970’s but would never work today.  One of the three being black mailed used to be in the porn industry, she is married to a rich and powerful man and wants this kept secret from her new circle of society.  Another is a politician hoping to be Governor of New York someday.  His past is one of liking little boys and Spinner has the proof.  In today’s world of the internet, I would find it hard to believe a former porn-star who is rich and famous now would be able to hide that fact.  The second case I feel could be hidden from the public, but someone of that stature and with today’s politicians looking for dirt on their competition, this would be hard to keep secret very long.

This is another fun read and I look forward to reading more of Mr. Blocks work and the Scudder series in particular.  The stories may not be totally original, but Block always puts an original spin on them making them very unique and entertaining.  A good read for any fan of crime fiction.