Archive for the ‘Crime Fiction Books’ Category

Ah! Thank goodness you are here Crimeziners! There has been a veritable crimewave frenzy on Mulholland Drive this week! First, there was the now infamous lawn sprinkler incident over at Postman Always Rings Twice star, Jack Nicholson’s residence. Crimezine was not party to the inciting incident—but, according to local dogwalker/Cesar Milan look-a-likkeeee and Edgar Award-winning Crime poobah, Bonzo Bob Crais, it all started with an innocent delivery—

Unfortunately, delivering to the Nicholson residence is fraught with danger at the best of times. The Prizzi’s Honor star is well known locally for his large collection of military paraphernalia and armored vehicles—an obsession which has lead to several run-ins with real-estate leafleteers, xmas carolers, and the portly, super-annuated members of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

Crimezine, I am Death, Chris Carter

I am Death: The latest splatter platter from Crime Kingpin Chris Carter

According to Bonzo Bob, things kicked off big time when the parcel delivery dude got spritzed in the crotch area by an ill-timed burst of the Acadamy Award winning thesps rain-bird super soakers. Natch, the Missouri Breaks star rushed out directly, and the ensuing altercation resulted in the hapless delivery dude being Medivaced to a Cedar’s Sinai Proctologist, so that he might have several airmail packages and a full set of Augusta National match-play golf clubs removed from his alimentary canal.

Thoroughly shocking, we are sure you will agree. Then, of course, there were the murders—thirty or more, at last count—that’s so LA, right?

First off, there was the local babysitter: nice girl, so we understand, generic blonde college student studying to be a lawyer or doctor or something like that. Apparently no one really got to know her before she was brutally abducted and murdered by a “savage psychopathic home-invasion serial predator” There is a lot of it about these days. The Mulholland Drive Neighborhood Watch Association has petitioned the local authorities countless times to erect signs warning of such dangers—but still no action, what do you do?

Sadly, the aforementioned nanny/ babysitter/childminder, or whatever, was found at a generic murder scene over at LAX in a “fully naked” pose reminiscent of some pseudo-satanic pulp novel, with Thomas Harris style touches added to give those hopeless hacks in the LAPD ACRONYM unit some kind of chance of finding the perpetrator.

Crimezine was suspicious right away, of course. Who would do such a thing? Murder an innocent young woman, then transport her halfway across town, through the gridlocked streets and freeways of America’s busiest city, so that they could arrange the satanically defiled corpse in a “grass field” adjacent to the 24 hr traffic and law enforcement Hades that is Los Angeles International Airport?

Luckily, Detective Robert Hunter and trusty sidekick Garcia are the brainbox Holmes and Watson of the LAPD ACRONYM Unit. Phew, thank goodness for that Crimeziners, because frankly, Hieronymus Harry Bosch is getting a little long in the tooth for such cases these days. Especially now that he has been admitted to the Twilight-years-senior rest home for done-to-death crime protagonists.

But back to the case in hand: I Am Death is, as the title suggests, a dripping paper bag of anatomically correct ghoulishness. There is a schizophrenic tip of the hat to all the bowl-churning big-hitters of the genre—from the aforementioned Harris, to Cornwell, Reichs, Nesbo and many, many more. Aspirational author blah mentions Jeff Deaver, but Chris Carter is definitely on the nouveau edge of the crime-writing mainstream. So buckle on your gore-proof plastic wind-cheater, you will need it.

I am Death is Carter’s seventh book, and his reputation for visceral excitement is steadily building, but it appears marketeers are having trouble defining who the author is. Almost apologetically they describe him as a former criminal psychologist who ran away to LA to become a “bandana wearing rock guitarist”, before returning to London, England weeks/months/years later, to settle down to the serious business of writing crime fiction.

Clearly, Chris is more “heavy metal” than a night out with Gene Simmons’ flamethrower codpiece, although you would never know from the rather coy author photo that is provided with his publicity material. One wonders why it is so essential for authors to be “interesting” these days, especially when their writing is as fast-revvingly frenetic as Carter’s. There are burred edges to the language certainly—clanging Limeyisms that need to be eradicated by a good American Editor. But, for lovers of the high-octane police procedural, injected with the squealing splatter of power tools on human flesh, Chris Carter is the man to watch.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged, dear Crimeziner, that one should never make a purchase of any kind in an airport departure lounge. To ignore such advice is foolish indeed, as it invariably leads severe punishment of both the wallet and the gastro intestinal tract.

With this salutary warning in mind Crimezine hobbled into the departure hall at Tam O Shanter International, Scotland, swishing at the gills with near lethal quantities of premium Speyside malt and prescription meds. The faustian horror encroached, as wailing travelers struggled to negotiate the hordes of baton wielding air marshals, exploding Islamian extremists, and junk fondling CSA facilitators with a poor collective body image. How brave these heroic travelers were, struggling as they did through this Boschian landscape so they might squander their hard earned–tourist dollars in the overpriced sky mall.

Crimezine meanwhile, slunk to the very darkest corner of the airport bar for a twenty dollar cocktail that had received only the briefest acquaintance with hard liquor and came ready paired with a ghastly tummy ache sandwich that was surely sponsored by the gastric bypass industry.

Airports rarely carry books these days. The FAA and their corporate partners have no doubt decided that anyone who buys literature is a clear and present danger to national security. They have therefore replaced bookstores with a carefully selected range of bovine snack foods and overpriced city souvenirs featuring NFL teams and rainbow unicorns. We did however manage to find the latest crime masterworks by Conners and Coben, along with the latest Jimbo Patterson entitled, “Cross Legged”, lovingly knocked together by his army of crime elves, but then, the excitement suddenly peaked—

Talking with Psychopaths and Savages—a journey into the mind of evil by Criminologist/investigative journalist, Christopher Berry-Dee.

Hurrah, hurrah and thrice hurrah! “A chilling study of the most cold blooded, manipulative people on the planet”, the cover screams. “Look around you, because the person sitting right next to you could be a cold heartless murderer!” Gulp!

CBD, as we shall call him, is very important. He tells us this very clearly in the first fifty pages or so. He is involved with television and stuff. He has interviewed “Cold-blooded heartless monsters” and heinous horrible people about their horrific crimes! Yikes. How scary that sounds. So who is first up? Not so fast eager beavers. You need to know what a Psychopath is right? Because CBD has read books and done research stuff on the “World Wide Web” He’s also found a stack of well thumbed copies of True Detective Magazine and The National Enquirer in the abandoned surgery of the horrific and heinous serial killer Dr. Harold Shipman—he was a doctor who killed people and stuff—it was really horrible. “You should read the Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson,” blurts CBD. Really? What about your book CBD, the one we have just forked over ready cash for?

But, seeing as you mention it—Jonno Ronson’s book, “The Psycopath Test: A Journey through the madness industry” (2011) has been rejected as “Abject nonsense” by The Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy, and by Robert D. Hare, creator of The Hare Psychopathy Checklist. Hare has also described the Jonson book as “frivolous shallow and professionally disconcerting.”

Oh dear. But at least Johnno could be arsed to get out and actually interview some people. After a lackluster start In which CBD talks endlessly about “aggressive narcissism” and fails to see the irony of constantly tooting his own trumpet, we are treated to potted histories of Oscar Pistorious and the aforementioned Harry Shipman, both of whom have been yawnsomely over-exposed to media scrutiny in recent the years. CBD offers no evidence of talking with these men, no real insight or analysis either, just the same old yackity-yack you have heard a thousand times before.

Subsequent chapters do however reveal CBD has actually gone into jail to meet killers and spoken to their families which is progress of a sort. But oh double dear, virtually everyone he speaks to gives him short shrift. Worse, these ‘momentous events’ all happened many decades ago. CBD meanwhile boasts constantly about how much smarter he is than those he speaks with. Most of the folks he has met are little league murderers— nasty despicable, career felons you probably wouldn’t want to know about. CBD mentions he once visited notorious psycho serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, but he leaves it right there—one sentence—no details—nothing. This is what passes for “investigative journalism” in the world of CBD.

So, as you can see, this book has little to offer. And in that way it is very similar to an afternoon spent at an airport departure lounge. Right about now CBD would sign off with yet another moan about word count. Writing books for money is such an arduous job isn’t it? So much so that certain folks can hardly be bothered.

 

 

Mickey Spillane, Tony Bulmer

Mickey Spillane, Mike Hammer: Kiss me deadly baby.

New York City, the west fifties. Stair rods of rain hammer from the heavens, playing a devils drumbeat on the roof of “the heap” and Private Eye Mike Hammer is chaining back his fifth pack of Lucky Strikes. Across the rain swept street, there is a dame in a down market coffee shop. Her sad little life is swimming around the drain, but she is about to find love like she never found it before…

Mickey Spillane was the man who distilled hardboiled crime fiction into something new and addictive for the pulp crime market. While Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler provided an opiate for the thrill seeking masses, Spillane stripped the form to its white powder essence and mainlined it straight into the jugular.

The debut Hammer book I The Jury is a twisted story of revenge and murder, that Spillane says he wrote in three weeks; adapting it from a failed comic strip, Mike Danger that he worked up with illustrator Mike Roy. A none too enthusiastic E. P. Dutton & Co picked up the book in 1947 figuring there “might be a market for it” and by 1953, when it was made into a movie, it had sold 3.5 million copies. This book has it all: Dames in diaphanous night attire, twisted psychiatry, gonzo plastic surgery and more crimetastic caperings than you could catch in a cocked hat. The laughably brutal ending sets the standard for all the books that follow.

It is clear from the get go that Hammer is a .45cal kind of guy that you won’t want to mess with. Veteran of a “Jap-filled jungle hell” He affectionately names his Colt 1911 “Betsy” and you can bet he draws her out to “bark fire” at bad guys at every opportunity. I The Jury is aptly named. Mike Hammer is a one-man war on crime. He hates murderers and makes it clear to his long suffering cop buddy, Capt. Pat Chambers that “there ain’t no way in hell” the red-tape legal system is going to get chance to send any killers to the chair when Mike Hammer is in town. Big-lug irony of the most entertainingly unconstitutional kind.

My Gun is Quick? Damn right it is. Betsy is barking from the get go when horny Mike meets a redheaded prostitute at an all night coffee shop. He sweeps her away for a midnight assignation at the beach, where she writes V.D. in the sand. Mike pops the lucky lady one anyway, because he’s “not prejudiced” when it come to Dames. Naturally, the lucky girl falls deeply in love with our hero before he has even “stirred her coffee” for her. You can almost hear the wedding bells ringing before gunfire drowns them out. MEN WILL PAY FOR THIS! You betcha.

Vengeance is Mine! Damn that red tape loving liberal SOB at the DA’s office, damn him! Mike gets his gun permit and PI license revoked after one of his buddies carelessly loses the top of his head in a whiskey related incident involving Mike’s gun. Blackmailing underworld stereotypes of the “fat and slimy and suspicious” type must be involved. A veritable hail of gunfire ensues. Velda, Hammer’s long-suffering secretary, gets to pop her murder cherry. That babe is Hottttttt! Why on earth does Mike not see this? Is it because he is so driven by his mission to clean up the streets of Gotham? Is it because he has terminal halitosis? Or is it the charabanc of blondes, brunettes and redheads, [dressed in diaphanous night attire], who have just turned up at the office door—tearfully and pneumatically proposing marriage? [sigh].

One Lonely Night. Could it be true? Mike Hammer has a conscience? His tortured soul screaming into the endless snow filled night, as he balances on a lonely bridge contemplating the horrible existential choices he must make? Fear not dear Crimeziner. Clutch not your tear stained handkerchiefs! It is 1951, so Communists are at work! Stretching their nefarious tentacles of workers rights and organized labor into every orifice of the American dream—the deluded brainwashed saps. Wouldn’t it be great to twist them all on the end of a bayonet?

Right wing political crank and long-lost Addams family relative, Ayn Rand was a big league Spillane fan. No doubt she loved the unambiguous right wing politics and the chain-smoking histrionics. Rand singled out Spillane’s black and white morality as admirable. Praising Spillane publicly, she described him as, “An underrated if uneven stylist.”

The Big Kill. You got the idea by now. Murderers, they gots to die! Dames they get to walk past lamps and windows wearing see-through nylon scanties, and they are wearing nothing underneath! [Pant] Natch, all of them are “in love” with Mike. All of them I tell you! Even though he never bathes, [except in whiskey] has bullet riddled clothing, and chains back five cartons of Luckies a day.

But oh-no! What is this? A kid cramping Mike’s style? WTF! That snot-nosed little punk ain’t going to no lousy children’s home! He can stay home Chez Hammer with a goddamn wet nurse, fingering firearms until the big dénouement comes. Yay!

Until it meets the final furlong, Kiss Me Deadly is the best Mike Hammer story by far. The trouble with Spillane is he was never much of a hand with plot and endings in particular gave him a great deal of trouble. He tried just about everything: expositional blah-de-blah a la Agatha Christie; explosive, apocalyptic gunfight/car wreck finales, and twisted ‘brakes on’ revelations that leave the reader questioning the very nature of God and his relationship, or lack there of, to the Spillanian muse. Kiss me Deadly is an excellent read, but it is perhaps best remembered for the panting and high-wired 1955 film-noir adaptation by Robert Aldrich, featuring Ralph Meeker as Hammer and Maxine Cooper as the long suffering Velda. A glorious piece of movie kitsch that was described by morality Nazis in the Kefauver Committee as, “a film designed to ruin young viewers”. Which is recommendation enough in Crimezine’s view.

There you have it, the first six by Spillane. Why six ? Well you can buy them as two omnibus editions from the crimetastic New American Library. [determined readers will also dig a third omnibus edition in the series] There are those who will tell you that Spillane is a bad writer—by his own admission he only put pen to paper for money, and although you will find rich seams of wonderment within his work, you will also laugh yourself hoarse at the abundant failings. Many of the attitudes contained within his work are old-fashioned, although many are still worryingly prevalent: sexism, homophobia, bigotry and cliché are all well represented. But there is something much more vital and important on offer here: the distilled essence of crime fiction personified.

These influential books dictated the rules of crime fiction for many long decades, and there is not a single private eye book after 1950 that does not in some way pay homage to the legend that is Mike Hammer. Moneypenny in James Bond? That is Velda. Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry? That is Mike Hammer turned Cop. And those crazy- assed soliloquies by Marv in Frank Miller’s Sin City—every single one of them straight out of the Spillane playbook. Yes, Crimeziners, no one said it would be pretty. Matter of fact it is a dirty ugly business, but there is just no way it is possible to put crime fiction into any kind of context without reading Spillane. Do it today, tell ’em Crimezine sent ya.

Afterword: It is widely accepted that Spillane’s later work lacked the primal urgency of his early years. It should also be noted that Spillane’s literary executor, the awesome Max Allan [Road to Perdition] Collins, has done sterling work with the Hammer brand.

 

https://www.tonybulmer.com

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-mike-hammer-collection-volume-ii-mickey-spillane/1104312785?ean=9780451204257

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mike-hammer-collection-mickey-spillane/1102663286?ean=9780451203526

https://www.amazon.com/Kiss-Deadly-MGM-Video-DVD/dp/B00UGQ2EE8/ref=sr_1_cc_4?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1485473577&sr=1-4-catcorr&keywords=movie+kiss+me+deadly

 

The horror of it all Crimeziners. Awakening on blood-sullied sheets with a semi-decapitated stranger on the pillow beside you. A razor sharp hunting knife in your

William Hjortsberg Crimezine Tony Bulmer

Mañana by the legendary William Hjortsberg.

hand and the echoing question—What happened last night?

 

Deep in the winter, after the summer of Love and the bright bloom of Flower Power has faded to black. The week before, an unknown assassin guns down Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. Protagonist Tod meanwhile, is having a bad day. Super bad. Mexico, South of the border. Stoned in Barra de Navidad in the cowboy state of Jalisco. Blood drenched knife in hand, like a bad day at Altamont raceway. Worse, Tod’s wife Linda is missing and the junkie parole violators they hooked up with to party hearty are long gone too. Welcome to Mañana.

William Hjortsberg wrote Falling Angel [1978] the book in which a Mike Hammer like private eye makes a deal with the devil. A book which The Alan Parker movie Angel Heart featuring Mickey Rourke and Robert De Niro was based on . He also wrote the wild fantasy film Legend the Ridley Scott directed fantasy vehicle for Tom Cruise and Tim Curry. Mañana is Hjortsberg’s latest book.

Hjortsberg’s last novel the awesome Nevermore (1994) featured the wild tale of Harry Houdini teaming up with Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle to solve a series of murders, which eerily re-enact the stories of Edgar Allen Poe. The book was a work of conceptual genius. So what has the great man been doing for the last twenty years?

Living in Montana mainly, but also reinventing the literary wheel it would seem. There are no supernatural elements to Mañana as one might perhaps expect. Instead, Hjortsberg delivers a back to basics slice of noir nastiness that is straight out of the Jim Thompson playbook. It is hard to like the protagonist Tod or any of his drug-addled cohorts. But the quality of Hjortsberg’s writing reigns supreme; along with a pervasive love of Mexico that conjures a mood of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises [Fiesta].

The parallels with Hemingway are clear. Hjortsberg has already written a homage to bullfighting [Torro, Torro, Toro 1974] and now, many years later, we see echoes of Hemingway’s Lost Generation. As Hjortsberg replaces the decadent, dissolute, and damaged youth of World War I with the drug-addled outcasts of the Vietnam years.

Hjortsberg’s generation of slackers is far more malevolent than the lost innocence of Hemmingway’s time however. Drugs and nastiness of every kind are featured heavily. It is nothing we have not seen [very many times] before however, provided by writers such as Burroughs, Kesey and Hunter S. Thompson. In fact, if one did not know Hjortsberg’s long experience, one could be forgiven for thinking that this was the work of a far younger writer, someone who still imagined that life as a drug-addled drop-out was exciting and glamorous.

Unfortunately for the writer, the all-pervasive nature of drug culture has lost much of its mysterious cachet to today’s youth, and readers who are old enough to have been there-seen that-done that, will be unimpressed. If one switches out drug references for the phrase—And then we spent a night in front of the television, you might be close to recreating the ennui of the ceaseless stonerism, here in contained.

There is mystery here too though, and suspense, tinged with the horrible understanding that things are going to turn out very badly indeed for our young hero Tod. Will he ever find his missing wife, or his wasted friends? Will his dissolute outlaw life in Mexico fill the yawning emptiness that chasms within, or destroy him utterly? The twists are ugly and brutal, reminiscent of Getaway/Grifters era Jim Thompson. If you love that kind of writing you are going to love Mañana. If not, you are going to need a hot, bleach-filled bath, and a course of Naltrexone in the hope that some day soon you might be clean again. Don’t count on it Crimeziners. After you have read this book, you will feel the dirtiness crawling through your flesh for a very long time to come.

That is the Hjortsberg magic.

Here’s hoping he doesn’t leave it another twenty years before his next book.

http://williamhjortsberg.com/main.html

Home, Myron Bolivar, Harlan Coben

Home the new thriller from Harlan Coben

Al Bolitar swilled rocks of ice in his Chivas 12. Television roar filling the room now, with the Mets bottom of the ninth against the Phillies. Pundit chatter, as the game cut to yet another break.

“So how did you like your trip to Europe son?”

“Not so much. London is kind of dangerous these days—gangs of rampaging Cockney chimney sweeps roaming everywhere, kidnapping children and selling them into slavery.”

His father frowned, gave him a hard look.

“The red busses were nice,” continued Myron happily, “and the London Eye of course. The queues for ice-creams are very long though.” Myron beamed with the easily relatable touristic memories, then added quickly, “Win says the child kidnappers are being controlled by an overweight nerd known as Pranjeet the Portly Punjabi, a criminal mastermind, who is part Fagin, part Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Although he looks a little more like a fat Dr. Evil if you ask me.”

Win: Windsor Horne Lockwood III. Of course Win would be involved. Al Bolitar sighed, swilled the rocks of ice around his glass. “How’s the job hunt going?”

Myron pulled a face. “I got to stay home with you and mom, pops. You are getting older now. I need to be home to look out for you, in case you need me to go out to the shops or something. Besides, with the injured knee that ruined my promising career with the Celtics, I cannot begin to think about full time work, maybe just a little part-time sleuthing once a year, when Win needs me.”

Again Win. Al Bolitar frowned. “Win was in London with you?”

“Yes,” admitted Myron, reluctantly.

His father frowned harder. “You ask me, that Win is nothing but trouble. Every time you hang out with him someone tangentially connected with the neighborhood gets murdered or kidnapped.” Al Bolitar gave his son a hard look. “Win didn’t have that rocket launcher of his with him did he?”

“No, of course he didn’t.” Myron let the easy lie roll off his tongue. The words came a little too quick. He saw his father’s eyes rolling to the heavens.”

“I don’t like you hanging out with Win, Myron. His shoes are a little too smart, his hair just a little too sharply parted, and he has effete eyebrows. I suppose you have noticed that, Mr. Detective?” His father slugged Whiskey. “ Say the word and I’ll have my teamster buddies score you a job at the airport. Not the schmancy kind of gig you are used to, but it is good honest labor. The kind of work that will help you move out of the basement into a place of your own.”

Myron sat forward in his seat, his heart leaping out of his chest. “Move out of the basement; but what about my childhood memories: my Sports Illustrated collection, and my posters of Burt Ward and Adam West, the greatest crime-fighters the world has ever seen? And who would tend my shrine to Farrah Fawcett, have you even thought about that?”

His father frowned. “It smells like moldy gym socks down there. Besides, you are fifty years old, son. Maybe it is time you made an honest woman out of that girl of yours. What’s her name, Terese? You wheel ’em in and out of her so goddamn fast, it is hard to keep track.”

Myron clutched at his fathers arm.

“I cannot move out of the basement, not with my ruined knee. I need to be home, with you and mom. I belong here, don’t you see?”

His father winced, moved his whiskey out of range of his son’s clutching fingers. “Here’s the thing son—me and your mom, we got things we like to do. We got our sky diving lessons, then we got ourselves another anthropological trip to the Amazon rain forest, and ever since you Mom got into EDM, we got a whole bunch of festivals lined up too: Coachella, Burning Man and Electric Daisy.”

“But who is going to make my dinners?”

“We will stock up the freezer with frozen lasagna and hungry-man ready meals, same as usual.”

“I don’t like ready meals,” sniffed Myron, his voice sulky.

Al Bolitar double slugged his scotch and banged the glass down on the coffee table. “You should have thought about that before you passed up the chance to be the next Jerry Maguire shouldn’t you jackass? You could have been lording it on the upper east side now, with your own apartment and a stable full of millionaire sports celebrities at your beck and call—all of them cutting you a big fat pay check every month. But oh-no, you and your injured knee had to throw it all away didn’t you? You ask me, you should have never sold the agency.”

The agency is in the past, just like my career with the Celtics. All I have to look forward to now is the pain of my ruined knee and the solace of my closest fiends. Sleuthing is my life. I want to solve mysteries pops, can’t you understand that?”

Al Bolitar held his hands to the heavens. “Mystery solving? Where’s the percentage in that? That kind of thing is a young mans game. Why only last week I caught some show on TV about an ex LAPD detective: Hieronymus Harry Haller. I remember thrilling to his adventures back in the day, when he was young and full of vim. But these days, since he went in the nursing home, and is taking his food through tubes—well, lets just say I am not digging his adventures quite as much as I used to. I am warning you son, you don’t snap yourself together, get your life back on track, that could happen to you!”

Myron sniffed, his bottom lip trembling, his eyes growing wide with uncertainty. “Are you saying I should throw away everything I have ever believed in, to a world of ‘standalone’ mysteries? I won’t let it happen. I swear I won’t! I will go see Win’s friend, Harlan Coben—he is so tall and wise and handsome. He is an unerringly talented mystery writer to boot—he will know what to do—most surely he will!”

His father sighed. “Don’t be bothering the neighbors again Myron. We talked about this already!”

Myron rose from his seat “I will got to the city and talk to him now. Mr. Coben will know the answers!”

Al Bolitar shot his son a doubtful look. “This time of night? Those local government assholes have got the George Washington Bridge closed off again.”

“Then I will take Jones Road to Riverside Drive!”

“You got a job at the airport, you could change that POS Taurus out for a proper car you know that don’t you?”

Myron’s fists grew tight. “I will never sell the Taurus, never!”

Just then, Myron’s mom peered around the door of the den. “Who wants chocolate Yoo-Hoo and fresh-baked cookies for their supper?”

Myron stood there for a long moment, his game knee twitching with the unbearable tension. Finally, he raised his hand. “Me please mom.”

His mother smiled. “It’s nice to have you home son, you sit right there on the couch for your cookies. You want that I should fetch your blanky? I got it warming nice and cozy for you!”

Myron felt the warm tears of love and happiness welling from his eyes. He sank back onto the couch. “Thanks mom. You are the greatest. Can we all sit together and watch Jeopardy together when the game is done?”

His mother beamed back at him, her heart full of unending love. “Of course dear. I am sure the modern mystery reading demographic would be delighted, and we would too, wouldn’t we father?”

Al Bolitar made a horrible snorting noise, pouring another generous snort of Chivas 12 over the top of the glistening ice cubes, as the Mets game came live again.

 

Crimezine Thomas Mullen Tony Bulmer

Darktown by Thomas Mullen

Well how y’all doing Crimeziners? Those nice folks at Simon & Schuster just couriered over copy of Thomas Mullen’s latest Southern-fried crime thriller Darktown. Yeeehawwww! Mullen, it goes without saying, has cast iron cojones for tackling the subject of racial discrimination—even if that discrimination is contextualized within the framework of the pre-civil-rights South, a land where swivel-eyed torch carrying bigots and bitter-faced Jim-Crow racists murdered and lynched their way across the burning cotton fields at will.

It is surprising then, that in such a world of dirty judges, bent cops and Krazy Klanish Kookishness that there could ever have existed a unit of black law enforcement officers, dedicated to keeping the peace. How is this even possible we hear you ask—Welcome to Darktown Crimeziners, a world where Atlanta Police department hires its first black officers, Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith. Naturally, Klear Kut Kaveats hamstring our heroes from the get go—no arresting whites, no driving squad cars and definitely setting foot through the front door of Police headquarters—that is white man’s territory boy and don’t you forget it.

But wouldn’t you know it, Boggs and Smith meet murder head on, throwing themselves manfully into investigating the heartless slaying of a young black woman that sets them against the brutal regime of status quo racism they are expected to serve. Can they draw allies from across the color barrier and solve this vilest and most casual of crimes? Can they wrangle their way past their crooked colleagues, shady shine-swilling crooks and duplicitous madams? It is a crazy ride Crimeziners, but you are going to love every moment of it.

Darktown conjures the gumbo flavors of Dennis Lehane and Walter Mosley. The very title suggests more than a passing association with “James Devil Dog” Ellroy, but the sobriety of narrative thought is far removed from the Ellrovian world. Racial epithets are served here, but not with quite the same gusto as they are in the manic milieu of Ellroy’s City of Angels. The title is a not only a sophisticated play on the racial and moral climate of the Atlanta ghetto in the 40s but a reminder that in the “colored” part of town there were no street lamps, garbage collections or other comforts that whites took for granted—

Crimeziner’s will be no doubt aware that the fresh-faced Mullen already has a string of literary successes behind him  Atlanta native Mullen’s 2006 debut, The Last Town on Earth was named Best Debut Novel by USA Today, in addition it snatched Chicago Tribune Book of the Year, the New York Times Editor’s Choice award and the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for excellence in historical fiction. And now Darktown has been acquired by Sony Pictures for an upcoming TV series. Not bad for a skinny white guy.

Did you say white?

Yup—no doubt that will raise questions in the more politically correct reaches of the Whose Lives Matter movements. But Mullen doesn’t care. He has cast iron cojones after all. He is the kind of guy who can stuff the M80 of racial debate down the front of his Deliverance style dungarees and light the blue touch paper without blinking an eyelid.

Darktown—never mind the color of its skin, accept it for what it is—a damn fine crime novel.

Armando the Guatemalan pool boy has not been feeling himself of late, Crimeziners. It is as

Manitou Canyon, crimezine

Manitou Canyon by William Kent Krueger [No relation to Freddie]

though he has experienced a “wonderfully evocative examination of violent loss” or a, “Journey away from the shores of childhood, a journey from which he can never return as he experiences the heartbreaking price of adulthood and its wisdoms.” What manner of trauma has caused this, most perplexing condition we hear you cry?

 

Perhaps, you may muse, it is the nightly pursuit of our young hero by immigration and customs enforcement along the mean streets of West Hollywood’s boys-town barrio? Perhaps, the arduous task of fishing out party detritus and deceased starlets from the Crimezine swimming pool, or perchance it is the ardent and amorously unsolicited attentions of Crimezine cocktail wrangler Consuela, as she chases our Guatemalan Ganymede around the hot tub, in nothing but a cellophane tabard and a pair of heavily lubed pink marigolds?

Yet another sexual harassment case is something we are trying to avoid this month at Casa del Crimezine, after Jennifer Aniston and husband Justin Theroux dropped around for Mexican BBQ on the glorious 4th, and great uncle Eustace did his famous/notorious ‘drowned dolphin’ impression. Fortunately, after employing our finest Dónde está el cuarto de baño Spanish, it was established that the doleful, melancholia of our tan young Piscina niño has been facilitated by yet another mournfully evocative work from crime writer’s crime writer, William Kent Krueger [No relation to Freddie].

Having hungrily read his way through a dozen or more of Krueger’s Minnesota based masterworks, such as: Boundary Lake, Purgatory Ridge and the Edgar Award winning Ordinary Grace, Armando has been lapping up Krueger’s latest, Manitou Canyon, a mysterious mix of James Lee Burke, Tony Hillerman and just more than a hint of that lake loving Midwestern mad-man Ernie “Sure the gun ain’t loaded” Hemingway.

Naturally, the delightfully named Cork O’Conner features as protagonist. Half Irish, half Ojibwe American, our hero is this time out tracking down a mysterious missing person, as a perfect storm of family strife and merciless winter is closing in from the ever-darkening horizon. A high stakes finale ensues—of the kind that will have you sleeping with the lights-on and bracing the chasming darkness with a three-fingered shot of you favorite falling-down juice. Family struggles, hideous truths, baffling disappearances—it is no wonder that poor Armando hasn’t been himself. But fear not Crimeziners, as our proud hero sashays forlornly around the yard in shrink-wrap speedo’s, pool dredger in one hand, heavily thumbed Krueger tome in the other. We have already pried Crimezine cocktail wrangler Consuela away from the French doors with the aid of a fish-slice spatula and a very liberal spritz of Windolene, and instructed her to hit up our young hero with a generous Tanqueray Lime-Rita, or something of that nature.

“There are more things in the woods than a man can see with his eyes. More things than he can hope to understand.” Manitou Canyon by William Kent Krueger is available now.

Now, what was the name of that Krueger protagonist again? Donegal Fermanagh? Tyrone Wicklow? Kerry Kildare? Antrim O’Shaugnessy? Galway Roscommon? Monaghan McGrath? Wicklow O’Sullivan? Sligo Tipperary?

 

 

Ross Macdonald Crimezine Black Money

First edition of Ross Macdonald’s Black Money

As Crimezine exclusively revealed several months ago Hollyweird kook-mongers the Coen brothers are turning Ross Macdonald’s 1965 murder mystery Black Money into box office big-bucks. And about time too we hear you shout.

Those familiar with the work of Ross Macdonald will realize immediately the depth of ambition required to batter one of his deliciously enigmatic and smoothly circuitous books into a square-peg slab of cinematography. How will it be possible?

Macdonald’s writing was perhaps so influential because of its ethereal and compelling nature. Delightful similes drip from every paragraph. Learned allusions and literary in jokes lead to smarty-panted chortles and cloth-brained internet trawls—so the rest of us can dig what the great man was rattling on about. Because Ross Macdonald was not only a great writer—he was also a big-league brain-box and if readers were too goddamned stupid to keep up, they would have to rush back to the book store to dig out the latest pulp by Mickey Spillane or John Creasy.

Chandleresque is a word perhaps fist coined for the work of Ross Macdonald. Indeed his first novels were so slavishly Chandleresque that the owlish éminence grise of crime fiction managed to rouse himself momentarily from a drunken puddle on his kitchen floor to grumble with much ill-humor, that mild-mannered Macdonald was, “No sort of writer at all”.

Black Money, Ross MacDonald, Crimezine

Modern Black Lizard issue of Ross Macdonald’s Black Money

Unlike Chandler however, Macdonald had a monstrous work ethic and managed within his lifetime [He died in 1983] to channel out a glorious sub-genre of SoCal detective fiction that has been widely influential. Private eye Lew Archer is the thinking mans Marlowe, Sam Spade sans the Bogartian bluster. Archer is wry and relentless, a man consumed to discover the truth, no matter what it takes.

Black Money sees Archer summoned to the fictional town Montevista. [Which may or may not be La Jolla, a fact that must have rankled with local resident Chandler] to discover why the lithesome love interest of portly trust-fund toff Peter Jamieson prefers the company of a roguish Frenchie-foreigner named Martel.

It would seem like an open and shut case, as aside from cold hard cash, it would appear that whining windbag Jamieson doesn’t have much to offer a young woman of beauty and ambition. But wouldn’t you just know it—as soon as Archer arrives, the bodies start falling thick and fast. Yerk alors, mes amis!

The title has wide metaphorical implications, as you would perhaps expect with a novel by Ross Macdonald. But seeing as you are so desperate to know, it wouldn’t be too much of a spoiler to reveal that IRS-free Vegas skim money is involved.

In Black Money, as with all Archer novels, there is a confluence of greed and murder where great wealth meets endless waters of the Pacific Ocean. But it doesn’t end there. Hell no. This is a tale of twisted lust and fragile innocence turned cold and vampiric. Meet a parade of swinishness and Machiavellian nastiness the like of which you have never witnessed—everyone Archer encounters has an angle and a certain cold ugliness. The twists and turns are endless. Macdonald likes to change character names half way through—he likes to kill off lead characters and have us believe others are important when they are not. When it comes to convoluted ingenuity and twisted reasoning, Ross Macdonald is an unparalleled master of the genre.

ROss MacDonald Black Money The Coen, Brothers, Crimezine

Hollyweird Kooksters the Coen Brothers are dealing with Black Money

So what will the Cohn brothers make of all this bad craziness? Well, their off-the-wall humor and non-linear style is well suited to the work of Ross Macdonald. Joel Silver is set to produce the movie and the valiant escapade is being backed by [Black Money?] from Warner Brothers. So will Steve Buscemi and John Goodman be involved? Will Gorgeous George Clooney play Archer? Watch this space Crimeziners Because Crimezine is right on the Black Money every time.

 

http://www.coenbrothers.net

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/black-money-ross-macdonald/1102570653

http://www.tonybulmer.com/

Robert Crais

Bonzo Bob Crais: America’s greatest detective writer

Crimezine neighbor Bonzo Bob Crais is without question Mulholland Drive’s favorite crime writer come dog walker. The New York Times best selling author and Olympic level BBQer is a legend, not only in the City of Angels but in Crimezine community at large.

It is with great pleasure therefore that Crimezine can announce that the Crais silent- writer—that marvelous machine that fills the Mulholland night with the mellifluous music of mystery— has fallen quiet once again, heralding the arrival of The Promise, the latest installment of the Elvis Cole Saga.

Times have changed considerably since the original 1987 outing of the wise-cracking private eye, in the gloriously named The Monkey’s Raincoat and in the ensuing years Bonzo Bob has been collecting literary gongs faster than a Hollywood traffic cop can dole out parking violations. As the years zip past, the unfeasibly monikered Elvis has come up against just about every kind of criminal conspirator you could name and a few more besides.

Some things remain reassuringly constant however: the grumpy cat, the A-frame house, Falstaff beer and the glittering backdrop of the city of Los Angeles. No one writes about LA like the Craisy one, apart from Raymond Chandler or Crimezines favorite Floridian, the awesome Conners.

Yes, the characteristic Cole wise cracks have been missing in recent years, but readers can be assured they are back in The Promise; a turn of events that has had Mulholland residents cheering in the street.

So what of the plot we hear you ask? Well, there is the nasty Mr. Rollins, a nice lady whose son has been killed and a terrorist bomb plot of the kind that would have the NCIS crew soiling their jockey shorts.

Then on page 76 Joe Pike turns up. He is wearing sunglasses. His lip coils very slightly, but he says nothing. Cole fans go ballistic. Mulholland neighborhood watchers start howling at the moon. Pike is of course the taciturn Yang to Cole’s ebullient Ying and has been for many a long year—since the Vietnam days in fact.

Vietnam? The calculations swirl. Yes, that is right Crimeziners, Cole and Pike are the same age as legendary Connelly creation Hieronymus Harry Bosch; the LAPD veteran who wheezed and stooped arthritically into retirement some years ago. No doubt Harry has many mysteries yet to solve from the comfort of his bath chair. But so do Cole and Pike, because they are now ably assisted by thirty-something Delta force whipper-snapper Jon Stone.

Jon likes guns and technology. He does the stuff the old timers can’t figure, like program the video machine—[Surely video stream from the internet?—Ed] You get the picture. Pike, Cole and Stone are like the Larry, Moe, and Curly-Joe of Crime fiction—

NYUK—Cole drops gags and gets into terrible trouble.
CLANG—Pike screeches up in the red jeep.
SPROING—Stone pulls open trunk full of military grade weapons.

Carnage ensues.

It is a wonder bad guys bother coming to Los Angeles at all these days—they really don’t stand a chance.

It is entertaining stuff of course. The goofball camaraderie and set-piece histrionics never fail to delight. Crais is a master storyteller, whose ligature tight prose never pulls out of the fast lane. It must also be mentioned that The Promise sees a very welcome guest appearance from LAPD dog handler Scott James and his K9 companion Maggie; stars of the awesome Crais standalone novel Suspect. A book that had Crimezine cocktail wrangler Consuela quite literally sobbing into her Chablis. We are Pack Crimeziners. We are Pack.

Bonzo Bob Crais is without doubt America’s greatest detective writer. Get Craisy, Get The Promise. Tell them Crimezine sent you.

Crimezine patricia Highsmith

Patricia Highsmith at home in the village of Moncourt, France 1976.

Welcome once again to Casa del Crimezine. How do you keep a Crimeziner in suspense? Pull up a pool-chair, help yourself to a professionally poured Crimezine cocktail courtesy of Crimezine cocktail-wrangler Consuela and all will be revealed—

According to crime writing legend Patricia Highsmith, the key to writing suspense is the creation of an overwhelming impression of impending violence/murder. The author—who wrote crime suspense classics Strangers on a Train, [famously filmed by Alfred criss-cross Hitchcock] and The Talented Mr. Ripley, is a master of the suspense genre, although she says only half of the books she wrote are suspense stories in the true sense of the word. She also says, book trade typecasting more than any other factor is responsible for her reputation as a suspense novelist. They wanted to categorize me she says—so they called me a suspense novelist.

Highsmith goes some way to perpetuating this myth however; in her short but revealing book Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction. One imagines this short novella sized book will dish the secret recipe on suspense writing, sadly it doesn’t; at least not quite—What it does provide, is a series of invaluable insights to Highsmith as person, a writer and her writing methodology.

Laced in-between the kind of tips you would find in all those other books about writing—many of which you will have already, Highsmith explains her love of art and travel; she also uses case-study examples of her writing and explains the hows and whys behind what she does.

Panning through this book, there are many golden tips regarding not only suspense style, but writing in general. Highsmith advises writers to minimize description of surroundings, a couple of salient features in a room only she advises, she also talks of compounding dialogue into dramatic summery and creating the kind of fast-moving suspenseful sentence structures that make her writing so compelling.

As a strictly old-school, pre-word-processing writer, there is also much talk about the laborious process of dupe-sheets, editing to length and re writing every page of every novel up to four times. This is historically interesting, especially for those who have only know the world according to Microsoft Word—it is also rather horrifying—but it does get across the kind of work ethic and attention to detail that is needed to write a novel, of any kind.Crimezine favorite Patricia Highsmith

So aside from the double-sized type in this book, there are few real surprises other than Highsmith’s frequent revelations about her timidity—My heart always beats double time at customs, even though I would never dream of carrying contraband, she chokes. Highsmith is and will remain one of Crimezine’s favorite Patricias. Her admission that she is a devoted fan of Graham Greene only makes us love her more.

Suspense—Is that all there is to it? More next week Crimeziners.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/plotting-and-writing-suspense-fiction-patricia-highsmith/1000150932?ean=9780312286668

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/tip-sheet/article/63724-10-best-patricia-highsmith-books.html

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0383604/

http://chooseyourhighsmith.com