Tony Bulmer Author of Conspiracy of Fire

Tony Bulmer Live and direct from the cactus filled wilds of West Los Angeles

CZ: Last time we met, you in Las Vegas you had just released your excellent book The Fine Art of Murder. We were so excited by all the guns and gambling we didn’t think to talk about your very cool past.

T: Yeah, I have been lucky over the years and got to work for some very interesting folks. I spent five years at the legendary Fleetway Comics, publishers of Judge Dredd and 2000AD. I worked on dozens of titles there and developed amongst other things a young adult title called Mystery and Suspense. While it was cool to work there, it was also kind of sad as the British Comics industry was on its last legs.

CZ: How so?

T: Fleetway was bought out by a monster European Entertainment Corporation.

CZ: You also worked for Hard Rock Magazine Metal Hammer.

T: [Laughs] I will never live that one down. The amazing Felix Dennis sold the magazine pretty soon after I left. Felix was a publishing legend and an inspiration. Proof that you can still be a billionaire entrepreneur and a kick ass dissident. Sadly Felix died recently, but his poetry lives on. [Laughs]

CZ: When did you start writing?

T: I have been writing for as long as I can remember and reading too. I read a very wide range of writers from classics like Chandler, to just about every modern crime, mystery and thriller writer you can imagine. I also get a big kick out of literary classics and serious investigative journalism. Writers like Ahmed Rashid rock. I think the trouble with reading so many good writers is that one tends to set the bar very high in terms of personal literary achievement.

CZ: Hence your reputation for pushing barriers?

T: I worked for magazines and newspapers for years. Much of the work was quite dull. I swore that when I started writing for myself, I would write books that had character, backbone and a sense of humor too. Entertaining is a serious business and I treat it as such.

CZ: So you have another genre defying book out. Explain yourself.

T: Conspiracy of Fire is a high-concept thriller. I wanted push my creativity to the limits and offer a very commercial and highly entertaining book that readers would dig because it was so different. I have always been a massive fan of writers like Ian Fleming, who managed to balance a wry pulp sensibility with mass-market appeal.

CZ: This is your seventh book, Most of your other works have been strongly Crime/Mystery centered, how is this one different?

T: I think one of the major things about Crime and Mystery writing is that it shows readers just how bad things can get and then turns that around into a psychologically palatable form that reassures. I think that while a thriller such as Conspiracy of Fire deals with a different structure, the aims are fundamentally the same—murder and redemption, fear of the unknown and the ability of truth and justice to conquer all, despite the odds. I have been a massive fan of thrillers for years and it was always my ambition to write a really good one. I must say I have been disappointed in recent years how jingoistic and repetitive the genre has become. I wanted to kick that into touch and come up with something different.

CZ: How so?

T: I got sick of hearing about square-jawed special-forces loners who had got a political axe to grind. I wanted to develop a more complex and vulnerable character who had strength, integrity and a true moral compass despite the odds. Someone who had humor and decency but who still kicks ass. Someone who is a beacon for justice, freedom, integrity; Someone who supports and stands strong for democracy, but isn’t scared to break the rules when necessary. I think I managed to achieve that in my protagonist Karyn Kane.

CZ: A woman in a man’s world? Isn’t that the other end of the thriller cliché?

T: [Laughs] I think there are very many thriller fans of both sexes who are sick to death of hearing about some dude with his polo shirt tucked into his nomex under-crackers, waxing lyrical about firearms and “suspicious” foreigners with bad personal hygiene. There are exponents of the genre who have taken that stereotype to quite ludicrous extremes. Then, at the other end of the spectrum, there are others who paint their women protagonists as mad and drippy man wannabes, which isn’t very convincing either.

CZ: So tell us about Karyn Kane.

T: The character is in part based on my wife Jeanne, who is an internationally successful commercial Real Estate executive and entrepreneur. I also have a great deal of corporate experience and I wanted to reflect how the struggle against the corporate status quo can affect people of ambition. Karyn Kane, like my wife is a high achiever, like her, she has to deal with a mother who is dying of cancer. Kane is also obsessively dedicated to her work and has a young child who is living with her estranged husband and his feckless new wife. I think anyone who has had a bad divorce will identify very closely with that kind of personal crisis. Then of course there is her day job—Karyn Kane is a deep cover operative for the CIA. She works for the Deep–Five division, who specialize in operations that run outside of the limits of United States Law.

CZ: She sound like quite a gal. What is she up against?

T: Across the world, there is a great deal of anxiety about where the new political and social equilibrium will be. Also, where will the energy to power the future come from? I deal with this directly. Karyn Kane is pitted against a global corporation that has developed a limitless new form of energy production. But the worlds of money politics and power are closely intertwined, as she quickly discovers.

CZ; Politics? Barf. Good luck with that one.

T: [Laughs] We are living in a time where you have to stand up and be counted. Are you going to be part of the problem, or part of the solution? Writers I admire, like Dashiell Hammett and George Orwell understood that. That was in the 1930s and 40s. Well, desperate times are with us once again, and it is my sworn duty as a writer to offer a moral antidote to the horror of it all; something that will inspire and entertain and raise questions amongst anyone who is strong enough to care about anything other than the consume and obey rhetoric that tries to keep us powerless. In America right now there is a political malaise that prefers conspiracy over action. I wanted to draw out that puss-filled conspiracy into the open and offer uplifting and insightful alternatives that offer not only hope, but kick ass entertainment.

Conspiracy of Fire by Tony Bulmer is out now.

Black-eyed Blonde

John Banville as Benjamin Black with the Black-eyed Blonde

Top of the morning to you Crimeziners. It is over sixty years since Raymond Chandler’s last great novel the Long Goodbye kicked out the stained glass windows of metaphorical bishop’s residencies everywhere. But now, just as you thought it was safe to go into the confessional, there is a new blonde in town.

The last hired gun to tackle a Chandler reboot was Robert B. Parker with Poodle Springs & Perchance to Dream. And now once again, those nice people at the Chandler estate are opening up the great mans casket to see if there is a dime or three they missed. As luck of the Irish would have it, the pennies on the corpses eyes are pure gold this time out.

As Crimezine has previously mentioned Benjamin Black is the mystery-writing pseudonym of award winning Irish novelist John Banville, a man whose elegantly crafted noir mysteries set in 1950’s Dublin feature a grouchy pathologist known only as Quirke.

Now, Banville cuts an elegant figure in a fedora, but can he cut it when it comes to emulating -one of the most idiosyncratic—and widely copied—authors of the 20th century? Banville certainly follows the Philip Marlowe formula closely, almost too closely on occasion. Then, there is the phenomena of Humphery Bogart to contend with; without question the actor casts a long shadow that over the idea of just who and what Philip Marlowe is, so we should perhaps not be surprised to discover on occasion that Banville is channeling Bogart rather than Chandler. There are perhaps some folks who would argue that is a good thing, because genius though Chandler was, he also had certain faults as a writer, for example, his love of convoluted adverbs, and his ad hoc often whiskey addled, plotting. Thankfully Banville manages to keep such excesses in check.

A popular perception has developed that Chandler’s style consists entirely of clever metaphors and music-hall witticisms. In fact, his language is often far more complex and Banville does an admirable job of emulating the many idiosyncrasies found in Chandler’s work. He keeps the repartee brisk and well timed. This is to be admired but it also draws the clearest distinction between the work of Banville and Chandler as the great Raymondo was never shy of excess—in all its forms.

Hardcore Chandler fans will no doubt have a number of grumbles with this book, but given the quality of the novel as a whole, such complaints can be “walked off” as quickly as Marlowe tackles a crack on the noggin from a boulevard tough guy. Similarly, linguistic aficionados may spot a number of stylistic clangers but these niggle rather than annoy. Historical pedants will likewise find themselves computing the veracity of certain details. But the 1950s, that was a long time ago right?

Then of course there are the Angelenos. It is not clear if Banville has ever been to Los Angeles. He hired native help to “fill in the details”, but cold hard facts are never enough to compensate for the lyrical intensity of a city as complex and enigmatic as The City of Angels; chapter 13 of Chandler’s book Little Sister is a case in point. It is here that Chandler goes off into one of his famous digressions about the city he loved so much; The writing is so good, it made some dude called Michael Connelly want to be a writer—many others too no doubt.

But what of the Black-eyed Blonde, we hear you ask. Well, the trouble starts when hot strutting heiress Clare Cavendish hires Marlowe to hunt down her extra marital man-squeeze Nico Peterson. Unfortunately it transpires that Peterson has gotten dead in a street corner accident but whadya know—young Nico might not be as dead as we think. Marlowe says to the gorgeous young heiress, “As a private eye I’m not completely unknown, but why would a daughter of Dorothea Langrishe of Ocean Heights… choose me to find her missing man?” Why indeed Crimeziners, but we quickly find that this missing persons case leads to murder, betrayal, and the kind of corruption that the Bay City bretheran are only too familiar. Naturally, the wonderful Bernie Ohls makes an appearance, as do a gruesome collection of pugnacious toughs and feckless toffs. Naturally the crumpled and tenacious Marlowe runs rings around all of them with his usual brand of hardboiled wit and double-distilled deduction.

No doubt this book will draw new readers to the Chandler oeuvre, which is no doubt the intention behind this charming time-slip into the world of Philip Marlow. Hurrah to that we say. Start with The Little Sister, The Long Goodbye, and The Big Sleep, also try the short stories Chandler wrote for Pulp magazines like Black Mask—you can get them in collections now, such as the excellent Trouble is my Business. But first, you might want to dip your carefully manicured tootsie in to the brackish waters of nouveau noir from Dublin Ireland—buy The Black-eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black.

We leave you—as it is St Paddy’s day, with a Blackism worthy of Chandler himself. “I can’t decide which are worse, bars that pretend to be Irish, with their plastic shamrocks and shillelaghs, or Cockneyfied joints like the Bull. I could describe it, but I haven’t the heart.”

Crimezine Lee Child

Child (left) & “Dyson” one and the same person?

They are both called Jim, they are both British and they are both best sellers the world over, just a little bit too much of a coincidence Crimeziners? We think so.

Surely no coincidence either that Jim “Dyson” as he likes to call himself, has just brought out a new Cyclone Super Reacher. Obviously this is a blatant reference to Jack Reacher hero of nineteen crimetastic mystery novels penned under Dyson’s pseudonym Lee Child. Bestselling writer Child is no stranger to pseudonyms of course, born plain old Jim Grant in Coventry England, he figured that if he had a nice Ch-sounding name his crime thrillers would fit very nicely alongside the works of Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie in the book store. Smooth work Jim.

Of course when Child isn’t penning bestselling fiction, he is dreaming up crazy-assed inventions to inflict on the great American public. The Ball Barrow, the Airblade hand dryer, and the bagless big-bucks vacuum cleaner have all been invented by Child. And in 2013 he received a CWA Diamond Dagger award for his outstanding contribution to the world of household appliances.

Child’s new Jack Reacher book, Twenty Seconds Ago is out soon, And if you see Child/Dyson at a bookstore signing, tell him the blades have already fallen out of Crimezine’s brand new Air Multiplier fan.

Cormac McCarthy, Child of God Crimezine

Child of God Lester Ballard, always kisses on a first date.

Greetings Crimeziners. Can we interest you in a little violence and sexual deviance? It is the weekend after all—

Now, we know you are fans of serial-sicko Cormac McCarthy, who’s anatomically correct slabs of stomach churning darkness are the nouveau craze du jour in Hollyweird. No doubt you have already seen No Country For Old Men, The Road and star-studded enigma The Counsellor but you ain’t, as they say, seen nothing yet.

Enter Academy Award winner and pulchritudinous polymath James Franco. Now Jimbo, as many will know, has been trying for years and without a great deal of success, to make a movie out of Cormac McCarthy classic Blood Meridian. To date this hasn’t happened, so young Jimbo has upped the ante and is about to unleash another McCarthy based movie Child of God starring Scott Haze and Tim Blake Nelson. Oh goody, we hear you cry, an uplifting religious work—what is it about exactly?

Well, necrophilia mostly and serial murder figures heavily too. Imagine if you will Sevier County Tennessee in the not so swinging sixties. For it is here we find wild eyed protagonist Lester Ballard, a man cast very much in the Ed Gein mold. Now, young Lester, as you might expect is every bit the outsider. After finding a couple dead in a car wreck, the delightful young charmer falls head over heels in love with the deceased. And much kissy-kissy ensues.

Unfortunately for our hero his “first love” is consumed by fire, so he sets to work creating more corpses he can “fall in love” with. Unfortunately for Lester, too much is never enough and the cycle of cruelty, moral degradation, and isolation forces him into the barbaric existence of a cave dwelling savage.

Now, this delightful movie has already been released to much acclaim at the Venice Film Festival, but Crimezine is sad to report that this cinematic gem will not reach American cinemas in time for Valentines day.

For the more literary minded amongst you Child of God the novel, which first appeared in 1973, is a cult classic that scorns literary conventions in a similar way that it tackles social and moral conventions. As for the movie—watch out for cross burning protestors and switch out the king-size popcorn for a super-size barf bag.

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Raymond Chandler is an almost sacred figure to Crimeziners everywhere. But many have not read his final works, Playback and

Playback Raymond Chandler

Playback—started life as a screenplay

Poodle Springs. ‘Disappointing’ is a word commonly used when these books are reviewed. But given a little historical context both books make fascinating reading.

Chandler’s first professional work, “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot”, was published in Black Mask magazine in 1933 he was 45. His first novel The Big Sleep was published in 1939. By 1943, Chandler began working for Paramount, consorting over the next years, with both Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock. In 1946 the same year that Humphrey Bogart starred as Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep, Chandler moved away from Los Angeles to La Jolla, California, [pronounced Lahoyer] It is there that he wrote his final works.

The genesis for Playback & Poodle Springs starts with Chandler’s 1953 novel The Long Goodbye, for it is here Marlowe meets feisty sexpot Linda Loring, daughter of irascible moneybags Harlan Potter. Chandler considered [Edgar Award winning] The Long Goodbye, his best book. He wrote it whilst his wife Cissy was terminally ill. In 1954 Cissy, aged 84 [who was 18 years older than Chandler] died of fibrosis of the lungs—A tragic personal milestone that marked a dramatic decline in Chandler’s creative prowess.

Chandler was 70 when Playback, a story of murder, blackmail and revenge was published in 1958. The book started life as an original screenplay written for Universal some 10 years earlier. Chandler famously cannibalized many of his novels from short stories he wrote for Black Mask and other pulp magazines. But Playback was never a classic pulp story, which is perhaps why it failed to make it onto the big screen. Stylistically, Playback differs widely from Chandler’s other novels, the language is blander and less ambitious and the location—the fictional coastal town of Esmeralda [A thinly disguised La Jolla] is a very long way from the dirty boulevards of downtown L.A.

During the 30’s and 40’s, when Chandler wrote his classic works, America’s twin obsessions were the glamour of Hollywood and the demonic underside of that dream—the world of gangsters and organized crime. It is no accident that Philip Marlowe the fast-talking, hard-drinking private eye from Hollywood Boulevard epitomized the spirit of the age.

By contrast Playback has a curiously old fashioned—even Victorian edge to it.[Born in 1888, Chandler was a Victorian] In a country that had just been through two world wars, the Korean war and such horrific abuses as the MK ultra LSD experiments. The central premise of Playback seems oddly quaint. Would a man really pursue someone “to the ends of the earth” to seek revenge? Perhaps they would, but the way it is served up here it vibes like a handlebar moustaches at dawn dueling match, with a less than climactic third act.

In his early books Chandler clearly identifies with, and channels his wry humor through Marlowe. But, in the Long Goodbye—there is a curious divergence. In a personal and literary crossroads, three characters now emerge. Marlowe observes two variants of Chandler’s personality—Drunken author Roger Wade, a writer on the ropes and war scarred alcoholic Terry Lennox, a man who like Chandler had lived much of his life on the edge and spent a good deal of time in England. Perhaps, like Dickens Chandler was examining the ghosts of the past—Lennox, Present—Marlowe and future—Wade?

Unfortunately for Chandler, the prophecy of doom came true. Whilst he was writing The Long Goodbye his wife died and he finally became the kind of breaks-off alcoholic he long feared he would become. With age, booze and ill-health creeping up on him. Chandler must, in a similar way to his character Roger Wade, have sensed that his creativity was in steep decline.

In his booze addled desperation to regain creative inspiration, it must have been tempting for Chandler to imagine that he could shoot a jolt of life into the flat-lining screenplay for Playback, by turning it into a novel. He was quite wrong however. Whilst it must have seemed natural to use the story-arc skills he picked up in Hollywood and send Marlowe to a quiet little coastal town where “a dog could lay down in the road to sleep” This was most emphatically not what readers wanted. They wanted fast talking Hollywood gangsters and whiskey-soaked histrionics. Perhaps Chandler feared a descent into self-parody? Perhaps he believed readers would understand the personal transition he had made from the Hollywood fast lane, to the quiet suburbs of La Jolla?

Sadly, if Chandler still imagined himself as Marlowe, the public didn’t. Ever since The Big Sleep in 1946, the name and image of Humphrey Bogart was now synonymous with Phillip Marlowe.

Meanwhile, writers like Ross MacDonald had moved into Chandler’s territory and bloodthirsty pulp sensationalist Mickey Spillane had distilled the hardboiled genre, transforming it into a money-spinning formula for the modern age.

Raymond Chandler died in 1959, leaving behind four rather insipid chapters of a book he named Poodle Springs. In 1988—the hundred-year anniversary of Chandler’s birth, the Chandler estate hired American crime writing legend Robert B. Parker to complete the book. In the last chapter of Playback feisty little rich girl Linda Loring rings from Paris to propose marriage to Marlowe, a narrative anomaly that gongs louder than the untimely plunge of Sherlock Holmes over the Reichenbach Falls.


Robert B. Parker—We thought it was Poodle Springs Bob? Not Corgi sits.

The snidely titled Poodle Springs—a reference to the wealthy and pampered desert town of Palm Springs, where many Angeleno’s choose to retire, starts with Marlowe and Loring setting up home. The first chapters, exclusively written by Chandler, are entirely devoid of the wit and drama we expect. Worse, the ‘marital bliss’ of the Marlowe household seems unnatural and phony, leaving our hero gasping like the proverbial fish out of water.

Luckily,  Parker, who devoted part of his doctoral dissertation to the study of Chandler, leaps into the drivers seat after chapter four and begins ripping through the narrative gears.

Marlowe is quickly hired to find a gambler who skipped town, leaving a $100,000 debt. Marlowe finds the man’s rich, neglected wife, and is quickly back in Los Angeles where he discovers the missing gambler has a history as a seedy photographer and blackmailer. The labyrinthine plot is typically Chandleresque in construction, containing a heady mix of blackmail, betrayal and murderous intrigue. There is even an ingenious double identity plot sewn lovingly into the story line, which must surely be a jocular tip of the hat to Chandler’s involvement in the legendary screenplay for Double Indemnity.

It is a testament to Parker’s skill as a writer that he transformed the unpromising start of Poodle Springs into a novel of such stature. Fans of Parker’s Spenser series will be perhaps less surprised, as Spenser is unquestionably cut from the same cloth as Marlowe. Parker is a man who knows plot. He also did an admirable job inserting the kind of one-liners of which Chandler would be proud. But to the discerning reader, Parker’s work lacks the lyricism of the original. Chandler was so much more than a gag-man. He worked his audience like a music hall comedian, juxtaposing tragedy and pathos with complex sentence and paragraph structures—such as tricolon, laundry-list payoff gags and acerbic one-liners. He was also the master of the philosophical digression and he knew how to mix this formula up in a way that many have imitated, but few [including Parker] have succeeded in replicating.

So there we have it Crimeziners, Playback is strictly for completists only and Poodle Springs is an admirable effort that falls short on style and the noir milieu of the original Marlowe stories. And if we learn anything we must remember, “Guns never settle anything they are just a fast curtain to a bad second act.” And whilst we insist that all Crimeziners [unlike Chandler] drink responsibly, we remind you also that, “A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow.”

In 1991 Robert B. Parker followed up Poodle Springs with a sequel to The Big Sleep, which went by the grandly Shakespearean title, “Perchance to Dream”.


Cocaine glamorous, surely not?

Martin Scorsese has done cocaine before. He did it in the crimetastic 1990 masterpiece Goodfellas based Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, a book loosely based on the life and crimes of Lucchese crime family foot soldier Henry Hill.

Now, the diminutive Director is doing it again, this time in The Wolf of Wall Street a film based on the life and crimes of rogue stockbroker and professional asshole Jordon Belfort. This is no mean achievement, as Belfort’s book on which the film is based, is as cretinous and self-serving slice of drivel you are ever likely to read. Heavy larded with profanity, this semi-literate litany of stupidity is an A-Z glorification of vice and depravity in all its forms. “Oh goody” we hear you cry, Vice and depravity are the cornerstones of any successful weekend. But wait, there is more. This story, offers a distasteful glamorization of drugs and greed and demonstrates an understanding of the needs of women that falls somewhere between a gangster rapper and a priapic teenager.

But stop— We also get amusing anecdotes, smashed cars and helicopters, a sunken super yacht and more drug addled shenanigans than a night out with Ozzy Osbourne. And that means cocaine—lots of cocaine, in every scene, on every available surface, up every available nose and orifice and it is fun, fun, fun—at least that is what The Wolf of Wall Street would have us believe. Forget the swindled seniors, forget the monetary malfeasance and the spiral of personal tragedy—because glamorous Leonardo DiCaprio [Wolfie] and Jonah Hill, [as loudmouthed sidekick Donnie Azoff,] are the Laurel and Hardy of drugs & debauchery. What harm can come from such sleazy cinematic nonsense?

According to the United Nations, the global cocaine trade generates $92 billion per year, $20 billion more than the combined revenues of Microsoft, Kellogg’s and McDonald’s. The cocaine trade has destabilized national economies throughout Southern and Central America, causing a crisis of corruption at every level of government and law enforcement. The drug is largely responsible for the epidemic growth of Narco-trafficking and the emergence of the new breed of ruthless of super cartels who have murdered tens of thousands of people in order to ply their trade. In Mexico alone, there have been 47,515 Narco murders during the past two years.

For most cocaine users, Mexico and the Narco nations of South America seem very far removed from a weekend tootski. Forget about the decapitated bodies, the machine-gunned innocents and the Narco malaise that infects every level of economic, judicial, and governmental life. It’s just a little something for the weekend right? What harm can it do?

Cocaine permanently damages the heart, the brain, the lungs and the gastrointestinal tract; it can cause heart attack, stroke, intestinal ulcers, kidney failure and permanent sexual dysfunction. Habitual use leads to delusions, hallucinations & paranoia. Cocaine changes not only the chemistry of the brain but its actual physical structure, reordering normal priorities such as the need to eat, sleep, procreate and survive. The drug subjugates these needs, creating only one overriding priority—the need for more cocaine.

Of course naughty Jordon Belfort gets his comeuppance in The Wolf of Wall Street, after many long years stealing from the gullible and foolish and spending his ill-gotten gains on a heady mixture of drugs, hookers and luxury living, he gets a slap on the wrist prison sentence of three years, at what appears to be some kind of health spa/tennis club—if Martin Scorsese’s movie is to be believed.

Meanwhile, that other Scorsese stoner Henry Hill star of Goodfellas became a government fink, went straight and joined the witness protection program, living life out in the suburbs, to the soundtrack of Sid Vicious’ My Way. Right?

Not really. Hill got kicked off program due to his continued criminal activity and addiction to cocaine and other drugs. By his own admission, Hill was not only dealing cocaine during the Goodfellas period, but heroin too. No doubt that fact was missed out of the screenplay, as heroin—it’s not that sexy, is it Crimeziners?

Crimezine, Tony Bulmer

Welcome to Club Fed Mr. Wolf

Meanwhile, 50% of the US prison population is drug related. Almost 800,000 people incarcerated due to drug use, that is a $40billon cost to the US taxpayer last year alone, and the problem is increasing exponentially. Add the fact that Mexican cartels who murder an average of 50 people a day—every day, are importing 90% of cocaine into the United States and that little tootski at the weekend doesn’t seem like such good value does it?

As cocaine use is virtually unheard of in Hollyweird, Crimezine is certain that Mr. Scorsese and his lawyers have never “done” cocaine themselves. If however you are looking for a “good hit” this weekend, we would encourage you to see Scorsese’s new movie The Wolf of Wall Street. Consider it a cautionary tale.