Archive for the ‘Crime Writers’ Category

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.

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.

Cocktail noir

Cocktail Noir—Gangsters, Gin joints, Gumshoes and Gimlets

Greetings Crimeziners, it is time once again to uncork the office bottle and enjoy the enchanted thrall of the shimmering golden optics, as we throw back a five-fingered helping of Scott Deitche’s boozetastic quaffing companion Cocktail Noir.

Connoisseurs of crime will undoubtedly know Scott from his marvelously named column Libation Lounge, a regular feature in Cigar City Magazine and his books such as The Silent Don a study of Floridian crime capo Santo Trafficante Jr.

It was with great pleasure therefore that Crimezine cocktail wrangler Consuela served up Mr. Deitche’s delightful tome along with our customary glass of smooth sipping breakfast Cognac.

This is an ambitious book and fast with it. We are treated to a mixocological methodology of every noirish cocktail you can imagine. If Bogart drank it, it’s in. If Chandler drank it, it is in. In fact, this book contains the recipe of every bad-assed beverage you can shake an AA meeting at, and more besides.

Given that just about every noir fan you can mention is an inveterate boozehound, one wonders if this service is necessary. But Deitche ups the ante, by giving us a fascinating run down of gangster bars, big screen boozing and favorite crime author tipples.

We get the usual suspects of course Hammett, Chandler, and Jimmy Cain. It is no secret these cats were hardcore boozers, as Chandler wrote in The Lady in the Lake—“I smelled of gin. Not just casually, as if I had taken four or five drinks of a winter morning to get out of bed on, but as if the Pacific Ocean was pure gin and I had nosedived off the boat deck. The gin was in my hair and eyebrows, on my chin and under my chin. It was on my shirt. I smelled like dead toads.”

Dead toads indeed—on a Bouchercon morning perhaps?

By way of contrast, author Dennis Lehane of Gone Baby Gone fame confesses, rather anticlimactically, that he enjoys an occasional bottle of Becks beer. One wonders what achievements Chandler et al could have made if they had forgone their dedication to the sacred sauce in favor of literary achievement.

Fear not though Crimeziners, Cocktail Noir is entirely devoid of killjoy questioning. Instead we get a breathlessly fast paced super-session of boozy indulgence. Czar of noir Eddie Muller is quoted as saying “Nobody made getting loaded look more glamorous.” He is talking about Dashiell Hammett’s sleuths Nick and Nora Charles, who swill back cocktails like they are practicing for a three-day weekend with Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald—but he could equally be talking about this crimetastic little book.

Like any good boozy session, this book is over too fast. For those unfamiliar with the noir scene Cocktail Noir will provide many revelations and deliciously sizzling starting point for further investigations; while more experienced boozehounds will no doubt value this tome as a compendium of crimeish cocktails that will jumpstart the very blandest of mornings.

As a postscript it should be mentioned, that the term Noir was coined by French film critic Nino Frank, while talking about the work of legendary author Cornell Woolrich. Many of Woolrich’s books, and the multiple films that were based on them, had black in the title—most notably Black Angel (1946), The Bride Wore Black, and The Leopard Man (1943) based on the book Black Alibi. In keeping with the Noir tradition, Woolrich died of alcoholism in 1968.

Cocktail Noir Crimezine

Cocktail Noir by Scott M. Deitche


Cocktail Noir is available November 2015 from Reservoir Square.
ISBN 978-1-94194-700-5

James Ellroy, Perfidia, Crimezine

James Ellroy: palaverous, pleonastic, perpetrator of Perfidia

Good evening peepers, prowlers, pederasts, panty-sniffers, punks and pimps. It is time to bark like a Demon Dog. James Ellroy, self-styled White Knight of the far right is back, with a perfidious new purveyance of faithlessness, treachery and betrayal. Perfidia is the fourteenth full-length Ellroy offering. A seven hundred page donkey choker of a novel set in the 23 days surrounding the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 1941.

A prequel to The L.A. Quartet, that includes The Black Dahlia and LA. Confidential and the Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy of American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand and Blood’s a Rover. Ellroy threatens from the very outset that this will be the first in a new quartet, featuring a cast of crimetastic characters from his earlier bestsellers.

All the gang are here: Bucky “Tojo teeth” Bleichert, Lee Blanchard, Dudley Smith, Kay Lake. Mickey Cohen—on and on. According to the Dramatis Personae at the end of the book, there are at least 87 characters, and it seems like we meet a new one on every page. That’s right Crimeziners—Perfidia pops, purrs and pontificates as the benzedrine buzz of perverse pomposity and brass-knuckle beatings hit heavy from page one. Things get ugly fast. But you knew that would happen. This is Los Angeles, City of Angels, the hardboiled home of James Ellroy, and he rules baby.

Racist epithets bounce like bullets. Note the rampaging right wing revelry. Kough as the Kitchy Kreator Koos Konstantly about a Karnival of KKK Kooks. Thrill as he creates a swirling nexus of bad ju-ju. Observe as he ravages the reader with ribald repetition: J@P. J@P. J@P. J@P; CH¡NK. CH¡NK.CH¡NK. JEW, JEW, JEW, Short sentences shift, as his nomenclature of nastiness runs out of control. Jews we learn are Commies who started the Russian Revolution. They are cynically responsible for World War II. No doubt many suspected this. Seig-heils abound. Nazi uniforms abound. Preposterous far right posturing goose-steps across every page.

Item: Hideous Hari Kiri. Seppuku slashings. J@p murder most horrid.

Japanese criminologist Hideo Ashida plays a central role in Perfidia. As do very many homogenous white LAPD cops—every one of them savage booze-addled haters and bitter racist homophobes. “Queer” humor features heavily. African Americans do not. They are called C**NS, Jigab**s, Nigg@s. They live in “Darktown or the “Jigab** Jungle.”

Item: Benzedine. Opium. Benzedine. Opium. Benzedine. Opium Benzedine. Opium.

But this is just a bit of fun, right? Raping rectums with right wing rhetoric. It is not to be taken seriously, is it? Ellroy is after all the Dr. Seuss of gross abuse. When he heaps on the homo hate and the perverted panty peeping putrescence—It is just dear sweet uncle Jim isn’t it? The night stalker of crime noir. You would invite him over for a slumber party sleepover with your troop of teenaged girl scouts in a New York second wouldn’t you? Of course you would. Squeeeeeeeeee.

But what’s this? A perverted peep inside the diary of Kay Lake? A narrative noodling? A feminist faux pas? A cynical sop to the bull-dagger community?

No need to worry Crimeziners the leitmotif is lusty and lascivious. We get lots of lovely “lesbos” and Kute Kate schleps schlong plenty long[time] with every man she meets—and tells us everything. [Pant!]

Item: Terpin Hydrate. Benzedine. Terpin Hydrate. Benzedine.

But the sexy shenanigans don’t end there my round-heeled friends.

Slanderous salaciousness swims forth as Ellrovian characters rut with real-life screen divas: Joan Crawford features. Bette Davis features—on and on. This is not a work of love. It is a work of megalomaniacal obsession, bordering on insanity.

Item: Booze-addled room-spin. Pints of Whiskey and Mezcal. Terpin Hydrate. Benzedine. Opium. Chained-cigarettes on booze and bennies.

Staccato sentence structures twist taboos with verboten verbiage—ravaging the reader with ribald repetition. Boo-coo big-words and kanji characters come rápidamente. Hep-cat crime slang and cop-jargon are trowelled across every page. Bow down the malignant milieu of the monstrous mensch. Submit to the power of his poetical dialecticism. He is verbose, putrescent and marvelously malfeasant.

Blood gout, brass knuckle work, beaten bloody with a beaver-tail sap and lead-lined gloves—when willllllllll it ennnnd? More pages to go—lots of them—many of them in italics. Bombastic. Grandiloquent. Loquacious. Circumlocutional. A veritable bow-wow’s breakfast of tautological rambling. A palaverous and pleonastic police procedural to end all others. Do you dig it nowwwwww? Of course you do. You worship. You kow-tow. You indulge his every whim. Ellroy is the master. He rules over your every waking breath and commands your nightmares. He is the man—the god—the bestial second coming—and he conquers all.

Only another three novels to go Crimeziners, unless the white-coated men with butterfly nets capture the old goat first. But even then, you just know Ellroy will be there in the Los Angeles home for the criminally priapic, scratching out his DeSadeian prequels until the Faustian muse snatches him from us. James Ellroy the deranged and garrulous king of crime fiction long may he reign.


The Alberto Domínguez song Perfidia popularized by Xavier Cougat (1940) and Desi Arnaz plays throughout the novel. Dig the “flashback to Paris” scene in Casablanca—Perfidia plays again—and more recently in the Wong Kar-wai flick Days of Being Wild. Crimezine prefers the Julie London version.

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.

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”.

Tom Clancy  Crimezine

Classic Tom Clancy

Bonsoir Crimeziners, welcome to yet another gourmet experience, for tonight we invite celebrity gourmand and thriller writing legend Tom Clancy for a very exclusive feast of thrills, spills and rollercoaster histrionics at chi-chi eatery du jour Casa del Crimezine.

It certainly promises to be an occasion to remember. The wine list alone runs to an astonishing 1800 acronym filled pages. As one would expect, former Soviet wineries are well represented, as are classic boutique terroirs from fictional Chinese and Middle Eastern Appellations.

After much perusal of the list, Crimezine selected a vintage oak-aged FLOTUS with a C37-5 afterburner, as we understand it pairs particularly well with red meat and military clichés of every description.

The menu itself is a carefully crafted classic carte, boasting a fusion of culinary influences from such gastronomic masterworks as Jane’s All The Worlds Aircraft 12 volume 1983 edition; The Harold Robbins omnibus of bestselling books for boys and Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn’s seminal seventies work on Soviet era nosh for overworked gulag moms on a budget—Damn Those Potato Loving Russkis, Damn Them.

Naturally, Crimezine opted for the chef recommended special tasting menu, a sumptuous affair of flavorful and earthy contrasts, specializing in the piquant Primavera flavors of new world opinion, matched with a cloying, almost buttery conservatism of old world tradition.

After being seated at our table, we were immediately treated to an executive order, of tantalizingly mouthwatering Storozhevoy vodka, mixed with a piquant and almost overwhelmingly cheeky sprinkling of Sabalin sauce, an unexpected treat, which proved too good to pass up.

This delicious  amuse-bouche  was immediately followed by a Brezhnev style mille-feuille of North Atlantic submarine croquettes, whose crisp crêpeishness was accentuated by a tart, intense, red sauce of endless complexity. This dish was fragrant, savory, and more than a little reminiscent of a Fricassé Das Boot with Alec Baldwin bouillon. Crimezine was as surprised, delighted and intensely puzzled by this gourmet feast as the first time we tried it, in the company of the Princess of Wales, at famous Marco Pierre White eaterie L’Escargot, London.

Next, the pre-main fish-dish consisted of a Court Bouillon of half-baked political opinion, folded lovingly into a savory stuffed crust of retro eighties moreishness. Such culinary delights present a clear and present danger of bloat, should they be consumed at one sitting, fortunately Crimezine is without remorse in whole heartedly recommending such culinary delicacies and we clearly owe a debt of honor to Chef Clancy in accentuating our palettes to his very unique and flavorful style of cooking.

Tonight’s main event came in the shape of a meltingly tender hand reared Entrecôte of unorganically farmed Bear and Dragon, garnished with six rainbow trout livers and the Chef’s famous Red Rabbit sauce. This classic dish was accompanied by a side of plump farm raised acronyms, cooked to perfection with a lightly braised order of seasonal bigotry.

Dessert was ably prepared by Sous Chef Mark Greaney and Patissier Grant Blackwood, presenting the kitchens much vaunted waffle surprise, an accomplished spécialité de la maison that has been widely described as a gooily-piquant crowd pleaser, both sinful and intensely chocolatey. This taste sensation was paired with a plane crash flambé so frightening it was accompanied by a brigade of fire Marshalls and a CNN news crew.

No meal is complete of course without a pungent cheese cart, and tonight Chef Clancy’s hand chosen selection of artisanal cheesiness, was offset by a large selection of unctuous and crumbly digressions, which provided an earthy and flavorful contrast to a dining experience that has been described by gourmands the world over, to be as intellectually complex as it is intestinally challenging.

A final mention must of course be made to the great Chef’s influence on younger purveyors of Nouvelle Cuisine, such as Vince Flynn and Brad Thor. Whilst the culinary skills of these younger Chefs is seen by many connoisseurs to be both thrilling and inventive, Crimezine feels that these pretenders to the Clancy throne rely rather too heavily on Middle Eastern dishes to be considered true masters of their art.

Naturally Crimezine tipped heavily, and fell asleep during the cab journey home, cuddling a signed copy of the Chef’s new culinary masterwork Command Authority,  available to an ravenous public December 2013.

Crimezine notes: This piece was written before the untimely death of Tom Clancy. Widely regarded as the Marcel Proust of the High Concept Thriller, Tom Clancy was always as kind and generous in life as he was knowledgeable on the subjects he loved so much. He will be greatly missed. But his substantial body of work will remain as fitting tribute and as a remembrance of things past. Rest in peace Tom.

Solo William Boyd, Tony Bulmer

James Bond creator Ian Fleming

Crimezine notes that since the untimely death of James Bond creator Ian Fleming in 1964 there has been a veritable plethora of criminal masterminds sent to plague the world, how appropriate then, that James Bond should now return in a new novel Solo penned by Brit author William Boyd.

Fleming died age 56 from the very lifestyle he portrayed in the Bond books. Although many of his books had hit the heights of the bestseller lists by then, Fleming got only the slightest taste of the success Bond would become. Fleming visited the set of the third Bond film Goldfinger but died before its release.

It is perhaps ironic then that the first Bond book Casino Royale, published by Jonathan Cape in 1952, only saw the light of day because Fleming’s brother Peter, a well known travel writer, persuaded Cape to publish the book, which was thought to, “lack suspense.”

The Bond series went on to sell over 100 million books, making Fleming one of the most successful novelists of the twentieth century. The success came in spite of mixed critical acclaim that took issue with the quality of Fleming’s writing and the political, social and sexual ethics of the character he created.

Publishers Cape got over their initial reservations very quickly, and after the success of the original Fleming novels conspired with the Fleming estate to keep the Bond novels coming. The result was a coveted writing gig, that saw many veteran writers clambering over each other for the lucrative honor of writing 007 stories.

Many have tried with varying degrees of success to keep the Bond legend alive, from grand literary windbag Kingsley Amis, (who wrote Colonel Sun under the pseudonym Robert Markham) to Draculian doppelganger Jeffery Deaver, who produced the post 9-11 Carte Blanche in 2011.

Interestingly, Cape asked Amis to make suggestions for The Man with the Golden Gun, which was still unfinished at the time of Fleming’s death. None of Amis’s suggestions were used, but the great man subsequently wrote two non-fiction books on Bond directly after Fleming’s death, The James Bond Dossier and The Book of Bond (both in 1965).

John Gardener was the most prolific writer of “new Bonds” however. Between 1981 and 1996 he wrote 16 Bond Books—more than Fleming, who only managed 14. (12 novels & two short story collections.) Gardener wrote novelizations of the movies Licence to Kill and Goldeneye and is perhaps best remembered for dragging Bond into the 1980’s. But Gardner took the books in an increasingly ludicrous direction, that perhaps mirrored the Roger Moore era Bond movies. The results included the resolutely British Bond slipping into an increasingly mid Atlantic way of speaking, and plotlines that became ever more unrealistic. A famous and widely mocked example of this can be found in the novel Win, Lose or Die, where Bond rescues Margret Thatcher, George Bush, and Mikhail Gorbachev from the clutches of the Brotherhood of Anarchy. The book included much “glove puppet” dialogue between Bond and the famously hard faced Thatcher. Chortle.

American author Raymond Benson was next to take on the Bond franchise, producing an impressive 12 Bond Books—six novels, three short stories and three novelizations, including Die Another Day, and Tomorrow Never Dies. Benson moved Bond into the naughty Nineties, but restored much of the Fleming feel that came with the original books.

Completists will no doubt raise the name of Christopher Wood, who wrote novelizations of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker in the seventies, Crimezine includes his name to avoid trainspotterish correspondence.

More recently,  Jack Reacher creator Lee Child has turned the Bond gig down on at least two separate occasions, after which Sebastian Faulks wrote the The Devil May Care, returning Bond to the Flemingesque 60s milieu.

But what of William Boyd? Boyd is an award winning novelist, screenwriter and Citizen of the British Empire. Although British, Boyd was Born in Ghana Africa and has written extensively on the continent of his birth, including the novel A Good Man in Africa, the story of a disaster prone British diplomat in West Africa. It is perhaps unsurprising then, that the new Bond novel Solo is set partly in West Africa, which will prove an interesting challenge, as many of Fleming’s original novels struggled with the idea of Britain’s place in the post colonial world. More reassuringly however, Boyd takes Bond back to 1960s London, a realm of glamour and excess that was the home turf for both Ian Fleming and James Bond 007, the worlds most famous secret agent.

Solo is released in the United States October 8th 2013.

Crime_writer Tony_Bulmer_The Fine Art of Murder

Crime writer Tony Bulmer at the world famous Voodoo Lounge in Las Vegas Nevada

Crimezine: So what brings you to Las Vegas Tony, you are from Los Angeles right?

Yeah, I drove in through the desert.

Crimezine: Like Hunter S. Thompson?

[Laughs] Yeah, Hunter would be proud. I drove through bat country to test fire automatic weapons—a pleasure trip flimsily disguised as research for my next book.

Crimezine: No machine guns in California right?

You got it. Despite what Hollywood might tell you, full auto weapons are illegal in the City of Angels—and throughout the State of California.

Crimezine: Not in Nevada though—

Yeah, they got it all here, Uzis, AK 47s, MAC 11s the whole nine yards. But I was specifically interested in test firing the Heckler and Koch MP5, a weapon used by Police and Special Forces throughout the world. It’s a real sweet gun, small and accurate, with low recoil and very rapid rate of fire.

Crimezine: So you are gun crazy?

Guns are a very serious business and they need to be treated with respect. I have trained with US Army Rangers and the LAPD. Unfortunately there are very many people who think the right to bear arms trumps not only personal responsibility, but the necessity of law enforcement to do it’s job. So while I am a gun advocate, I also believe society, particularly American society should do more to keep weapons out of the hands of bad guys.

Crimezine: What about the right to bear arms?

If you are a bad guy the only right you got is to put your hands in the air, end of story.

Crimezine: You have a new book coming out soon?

Yeah, The Fine Art of Murder. It’s the story of an old master painting that gets stolen from a Beverly Hills art collector. The narrative starts in the present day then trips backwards and forwards in time, tracing the murderous provenance of the painting and its owners.

Crimezine: Sounds very different from your previous books.

That’s right. I wanted to take a break from the Danny Costello series. I wanted to work with a wiser more time worn protagonist, so I came up with the idea of Professor Cornelius Franklin, an art recovery expert who is hired by the Vatican.

Crimezine: Is there a religious aspect to this book?

I wanted to discuss more than murder, or the resolution of murder in this book, I wanted to explore the redemptive aspects of characters conflicted by greed, obsession and the murderous conspiracy into which they are thrown. So there are religious analogies in this book, but they are subtle and thought provoking.

Crimezine: The book also has an historical aspect, and you deal with some very well known characters…

Yeah, history is an obsession for me, so is art. I wanted to create a crime novel that had never been done before, and I figured that if I was going to do something as crazy as travel five hundred years through time, I might as well explore characters and situations that would be known, although not overly familiar to readers.

Crimezine: For example?

Well, I start by discussing the way Niccolò Machiavelli commissions Renaissance legends Michelangelo Buonarroti & Leonardo da Vinci to compete in a paint-off, in the famous Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy. Machiavelli, uses this opportunity to bribe/blackmail Leonardo into painting a portrait of his mistress, Lucretzia Sfarzoso, A scenario that is based on actual historical events. Greed, treachery and murderous conspiracy are themes through out the book, and I follow the paintings subsequent provenance down the years as it effects and influences a whole succession of fascinating characters.

Crimezine: Like who for example?

Two of the biggest art thieves of all time are Napoleon Bonaparte and the Nazi leader Hermann Göring. I had to include them, as their impact on the history of European art is pivotal. But rather than retelling their story verbatim, I tackled their contribution tangentially, viewing their crimes through the eyes of strong minded female protagonists. In Bonaparte’s case I used Josephine de Beauharnais, who is perhaps even more fascinating than Bonaparte himself, plus her story is largely untold. In the case of Göring I used fictionalized secretary, Eva Bergen, to see events as they really happened and bring the story back into the modern age, where to a large degree art theft of the Nazi and Napoleonic era remains unresolved.

Crimezine: Really?

Where do you think all those cool Italian paintings in the Louvre come from? Napoleon stole them when he invaded Italy. Then the British stole a bunch of stuff from Napoleon, including many works by Leonardo da Vinci. Art theft is an eternal cycle. Plus, greed and acquisition are cornerstones of any criminal enterprise and it seemed to me that a book about art theft was not only a really natural and fascinating vehicle to discuss criminal motivation, but also cool way to create an original and unexpected murder story.

Crimezine: Sounds fascinating, we hear there has been movie studio interest?

That’s right, there is a good chance that will happen, but the gears grind slow in Hollywood, so we shall see.

Crimezine: When is The Fine Art of Murder released?

There have been a number of delays, but it should be available by the end of the month [September 2013]. Meanwhile, I am into my next project already.

Crimezine: Cool. Thanks for your time Tony. To close, what is your favorite gun?

Tony Bulmer

The new book by Tony Bulmer

Guns are like books, you show favoritism they get jealous, [laughs] but fun wise I would have two say the Chinese AK-47, it has a muzzle flash two feet wide and rears up like a King Cobra when you fire it. The AK certainly puts the lie to the idea that assault weapons are a means of home defense. If you unleashed an AK-47 in your living room it would cut your house in half, probably your neighbors house too.

Crimezine: So you don’t have an AK under the bed?

Hell no. If you can’t put an intruder down with a handgun or a Mossburg pump, you aren’t fit to carry a gun in the first place. As for this ludicrous idea we all need to carry assault weapons in case the government gets “out of hand”—guess what, the government is already out of hand, has been years and they have way sexier hardware than you can buy at your local gun store—even if you do happen to live in a full-auto State like Nevada.

The Fine Art of Murder by Tony Bulmer is available in paperback in September.