Article: Jim Thompson wrote ‘hard-boiled existential noir’

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Jim Thompson is one of the greatest noir writers of all time. If you have not enjoyed his books, you have certainly enjoyed some the films based on his writing.

William W. Savage, Jr. has written a nice article about the man and his books. Check out the full article over at nondoc.com here:

http://nondoc.com/2015/12/11/jim-thompson-wrote-hard-boiled-existential-noir/

Book Review: Selena by Greg Barth

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Selena, written by Greg Barth is another fun pulp noir from the publisher All Due Respect. When I started reading this book, I didn’t know if Barth was a genius who understood damaged young women, or a writer making a strong but flawed female character. Is Selena an unreliable narrator? Could a character be this damaged yet this strong? Was Barth just writing some sick twisted male fantasy of a woman? I didn’t know and still don’t, all I know is I couldn’t put down the book and had to force myself to, or it was going to be a sleepless work night.

This book is split into three parts and each part has a different feel. The first part is a brutal revenge noir, the second is a country noir, and the third is a survival noir. All three parts are told in the first person by Selena herself with the exception of the third part which bounces from first person to third person and back.

Selena is an interesting character that has gone through a lot. She is a stripper, prostitute, alcoholic who occasionally partakes in drugs and was an abused child. Her Mother died when she was young and she has been struggling ever since. The book opens with Selena waking up from a one night stand and when she steals some cash and a CD, things get dark fast. Something is on the CD, but she doesn’t know it. She is attacked at the strip club she works at and is brutally beaten and raped. When she recovers and sets out to get even, we are lead on a violent journey where one act of revenge escalates to another, until we are in an all out war.

Selena is about as damaged a character I have ever read. As I was reading this, I couldn’t get past thinking if this character was based on any possible truth. After a few hundred pages I stopped analyzing Selena and just sat back and enjoyed the ride she took me on. After all this is pulp fiction, it doesn’t have to be based on any kind of reality.

I will warn you, this is a very brutal and violent book. If you are squeamish, this may not be the book for you. If you like your sex, drugs and violence brutal and bloody, you will enjoy Selena. Thanks to All Due Respect and Greg Barth for another dark pulpy entertaining book and can’t wait to tackle the recently released sequel Diesel Therapy soon.

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Both books are available over at http://allduerespectbooks.com/

News: William McIlvanney: Godfather of Tartan Noir dies aged 79

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Sad news coming out of Glasgow, Scotland today, December 5th, 2015. William McIlvanney has passed away at the age of 79. Known as the godfather of Tartan Noir, McIlvanney was a force in Scottish literature. Read the full news article over at The Guardian here:

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/dec/05/william-mcilvanney-not-just-godfather-of-tartan-noir-but-lion-of-literature

Book Review: Quarry’s List by Max Allan Collins

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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:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/11/21/book-review-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.

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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.

 

Book Review: The Cold Spot by Tom Piccirilli

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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.

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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.

 

Book Review: The First Quarry by Max Allan Collins

The First Quarry by Max Allan Collins is not the first Quarry book in the series, I know, that don’t make any sense. This book was published in 2008, the first book, simply titled Quarry was published in 1976. This book is actually the 8th book in the series, but is a throwback in time to Quarry’s first assignment. It is a kind of origin story if you will. This was published by Hard Case Crime, a publishing house which has brought back forgotten classics as well as new books from some of the best authors in the noir and crime fiction genres.

Even though this is not the first Quarry book, it is the first one I have read. I usually don’t like to read books out-of-order, but this was on sale and I could not pass it up. I figured since it is Quarry’s first case, it would be all new to me anyway and wouldn’t hurt the enjoyment of the book. Boy was I right! This book is pure pulp noir goodness!

This story starts with a young man coming back from ‘Nam and finding his wife in bed with another man. This man goes to visit his wife’s lover and finds him working under his car. The car falls on the man killing him. Soon this young man is contacted by The Broker who gives this young man the name Quarry. The Broker sets Quarry up as a paid assassin and assigns Quarry his first job. He must kill a fairly famous author who is also a professor at a Mid-West college. This is not a simple hit, he must also destroy all copies of the book the professor is currently working on after killing him. It gets even more complicated as Quarry runs into a number of people who get in the way of his job.

The only thing I was previously familiar with of Max Allan Collins’ work was from watching Road to Perdition based on Collins’ graphic novel of the same name. I thoroughly enjoyed that film and have been looking forward to enjoying his work since, I just wish I didn’t wait so long to do it. Here is my review of that film:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/03/08/re-watching-the-classics-road-to-perdition/

This book was a fun read with some great humor and an amazing story with a character I cannot get enough of. I cannot wait to start reading this series from the beginning. I think if Raymond Chandler was writing today, it would read a lot like Collins. I highly recommend this book for people looking for some fun modern pulp and you will soon be seeing my review of the first book in the series, Quarry. I hope to get as many of these Quarry books read before the new television series starts on Cinemax next year and look forward to watching the 8 episode first season.

Article: The terror is lurking either in the home, or just outside of it”: How women writers redefined postwar noir

“Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s and ’50s” editor Sarah Weinman did an interview with Scott Timberg over at Salon.com. This collection of novels looks great, with 6 of the 8 books being adapted to movies and the other two for television. This interview has a lot of great information about the women of crime fiction in the 40’s and 50’s. Check out the film interview here:

http://www.salon.com/2015/09/19/the_terror_is_lurking_either_in_the_home_or_just_outside_of_it_how_women_writers_redefined_postwar_noir/?utm_content=buffer2b960&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Book Review: Solomon’s Vineyard by Jonathan Latimer

Solomon’s Vineyard is a dark pulp noir, written by Jonathan Latimer in 1941. It was instantly banned as soon as it was released and not available in America for years. You can see why this book was banned, it is ripe with casual sex, drug use, alcoholism, a religious cult, over the top violence and racism, though that last one was probably not as big a deal in 1941 as it is when you read it today. Though this book was hard to come by in the past, today E-copies are available at a very reasonable price.

This is my first Latimer book and was not familiar with his work, even though I have enjoyed it in the past, even reviewing some of his past work right here, without realizing it! He worked in Hollywood for many years with much success. He wrote the screenplay for two amazing films noir I reviewed:

The Glass Key

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/06/28/review-the-glass-key/

The Big Clock

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/03/31/review-the-big-clock/

Though Latimer is mostly forgotten today, back in his pulp days he was writing best sellers and in the copy of this book I read there is an interesting interview with him where he talks about his contemporaries Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain.

Solomon’s Vineyard is told in the first person by Karl Craven. Craven is a private investigator, who has come to a small town to investigate his partner’s recent murder as well as finish the case his partner was working on. His partner was shot with no clues or leads to go on, except it probably had to do with the case he was working. Craven and his partner were paid good money from a father wanting to get his daughter back. His daughter is in a religious cult, whose leader has passed 5 years ago and is supposed to rise from the dead this year. Along the way Craven meets two beautiful women, one is the Princess from the cult and the other is the girlfriend of the local gangster.

When this book was written in 1941 it must have seemed pretty far-fetched. Since then we have had many cults, which seem to have a similar story to this book. The Mason Family came to mind and the author even brings this up in the interview in my copy of the book. I got to say, the new television show Aquarius has more than a passing resemblance to this book. I also got a bit of a Wicker Man vibe from this book. I’m sure both of these is more of a coincidence then anything, but it would be interesting to know if this book did influence these.

I would recommend this book to anybody that loves the early period of noir and hardboiled fiction. If you are a fan of those pulp fiction authors of the 1930’s and 1940’s you will love this book.

Article: Separating fact from fiction in Dashiell Hammett’s life and work

Dashiell Hammett maybe the first author of noir and he is one of the greatest. I have found his personal life fascinating. I’ve seen a few documentaries and have read many articles about his history with the Pinkerton Detective Agency, The Anaconda Company and his time in Butte, Montana. I live in this area and if you read Red Harvest and know Butte, you will recognize that the fictional Poisonville is Butte. Anyway, here is a an article in The Washington Post by Art Taylor about what maybe legend and myth and what is fact about Hammett. It also talks about the Nathan Ward book about Hammett. Check out the full article here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/separating-fact-from-fiction-in-dashiell-hammetts-life-and-work/2015/09/09/f69f30a2-477c-11e5-8ab4-c73967a143d3_story.html

Interview: I Write Pulp Because I Love It: An Interview with Josh K. Stevens

Here is an interview with noir author Josh K. Stevens. I have not read any of his books, but after this interview I look forward reading his books. Check out the full interview with his take on the history of noir, who has influenced him over the years and who he is reading today:

http://blog.bookstellyouwhy.com/i-write-pulp-because-i-love-it-an-interview-with-josh-k.-stevens