Posts Tagged ‘Crimezine’


Posted: August 27, 2021 in Uncategorized
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The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires.

By Selwyn Raab. • Review by Tony Bulmer

Pull up poolside with Tony Bulmer and enjoy a smooth sippin’ look at Five Familes by Selwyn Raab

Genovese, Gambino, Bonnano, Colombo and Lucchese. Crimeziners everywhere will no doubt be familiar with the five mafia gangs of New York City. Five Families covers them all. From the wild days of Lucky Luciano to Paul Castellano, John Gotti and beyond, the usual suspects and their nefarious henchmen are all here.

Crimeziners addicted to mafia documentaries will have seen Selwyn Raab providing commentary for shows like Making of the Mob on the History and Biography channels. Raab was a New York Times investigative journalist for twenty-five years. The 87-year-old grew up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The veteran journalist went on to work for NBC news and was nominated for an Edgar Award in 1968 for his novel, Justice in the Back Room, a book that was adapted into the pilot for long-running TV show Kojak featuring the lollipop sucking detective, portrayed by Telly Savalas. 

Five Families is Raab’s crowning achievement. He divides this 765page donkey-choker of a book

into three sections: one on mafia history to 1970; a second that covers the F.B.I.’s use of the RICO laws that culminated in the so-called Commission trial of 1985; and a final section that charts the subsequent fates of each of the five families, or borgatas, as they are more properly called.

Genovese, Gambino, Bonnano, Colombo and Lucchese—those guys were always an unwieldy flock of cats to herd, no surprise then that with so much history and so many characters to account for there are a number of narrative wobbles. But take heart, Crimeziners, this fat-fingered tome is perhaps the most valiant and all-encompassing attempt to catalog the history of the Cosa Nostra yet penned 

Raab traces the Mafia’s origin to 19th-century Sicily and its transition to the United States. Outlining the mob’s evolution in crime—from bootlegging, numbers and protection rackets, to pump-and-dump stock schemes, cement monopolies, and window fraud.

Natch, Raab reported through the Gotti era, so we get a heaping portion of scary third-rate mooks

like Anthony Gaspipe Casso of the Luccheses, Carmine the Snake Persico of the Colombos, and Joe the Ear Massino of the Bonannos. This book delivers a swirling stewpot of snake-eyed lowlifes who just keep on coming. In case you need it, we also get an angle on the well-worn story of Sammy the Bull Gravano, the mafia underboss who blew the lid off omertà by cutting a deal with prosecutors.

There is a certain “crime does not pay” comfort to this book. The rise and decline of the NYC mafia is admirably laid out, but the teasing promise to spill the gossip on the resurgence of the mafia, that is headlined on the cover of this new and updated edition [the original was published in 2005] is rather more sketchy. Today, all the big fish have flapped away to ranch-house retirements in the Witness Protection Program. Leaving the pondlife left-overs to crowd their way through the teeming shallows of organized crime.

Five Families is a seventies style blockbuster of a book that delivers a Puzzoesque history of the New York Mafia. It makes for satisfying if somewhat unsettling reading, but the real fear is delivers is the uncertain knowledge that a big mafia fish, that has not yet been caught, is still out there, waiting to put the spoilers on your beach holiday.

Five Families: Buy it already, youse guys. Tell ’em Crimezine sent you.

Trejo My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood

Danny Trejo is the most dangerous man in the history of cinema. He is the real deal. He is a face biter, neck stabber, and armed robber; he is a drug dealer, drunk, and survivor of the most dangerous prisons in America. He should be dead many times over. But God had other plans.

Miracles happen, the story of Danny Trejo is proof of that. As is the way with such biographies the story starts early. But Trejo’s up bringing was more fraught than most. His entire family were career criminals. Drug dealing from aged seven, he had his first shot of heroin age 12 [courtesy of his uncle]. Drugs, booze, and wild bouts of violence, car theft, holding up liquor stores when he was still a teen, it is little wonder he was in San Quentin by the time he was twenty. And what a horror show that was—fights, stabbings, death and insanity a constant shadow. It was here that Trejo saw his darkest hour and turned his life in a direction that was truly remarkable.

Many will have witnessed Trejo’s rise through the Hollywood talent grinder. He has starred in, and appeared in, literally hundreds of movies and television shows, until his battle-scarred countenance has become a cultural icon. Trejo is much more than a bad guys bad guy, he has become a true legend.

But Danny Trejo is much more than that. His time as a street gangster was abruptly curtailed when God reached out to him in the deepest seediest cell in San Quentin and showed him another path. A path of sobriety and recovery, and a dedication to helping others that few cinema goers, or gang-banging fight fans may know of. This part of his life—a world of meetings and talks and direct action to help substance abusers is by far the major part of his life. The business of recovery and helping others is a redemptive task he has dedicated more than fifty years to. Sure, he had other struggles too, family struggles, a battle against liver cancer, a double cerebral aneurism, and a painful battle against hepatitis that could have killed him. But Danny Trejo is one tough cat. He is still going at the hard to believe age of 77. 

He also has seven dogs and a thriving taco business. Matter of fact there is a lot about the guy you don’t know yet. Crimezine recommends you rush out and buy Trejo, My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood. Do it now, you will be glad you did.

Gunpowder Milkshake. Maraschino cherry with that, anyone?

Imagine if you will, dear Crimeziner, a world without “why”. A world where you can no longer ask how mom got to be a murder for hire killer. A world where that same mom would screetch out of the parking lot in a big black Cadillac, leaving you in the arms of a very bad man for fifteen years. Imagine this experience inspired you to become a killer just like mom. Every young girl’s dream, surely?

You can no longer ask questions, so it is best not to wonder about the bodies, and there are a lot of bodies. Hundreds. All of them men. Okay, one of them is a woman but you don’t get to ask about that.

Then there is the library. Everyone likes those. Why are there no people in it, aside from the glamourous/cantankerous staff of female librarians? You don’t get to ask. Nor can you ask why the books are all hollowed out to contain guns and other weapons. There are no customers either. But who really wants to go to a book emporium where all the reads are unreadable? You don’t get to ask, remember.

Talking of people. When was the last time you took a trip to the hospital emergency room and there was no one there? In this movie, there is no one in the street, or anywhere else either. This you might expect, as suited and booted bad guys are literally being bussed in to face their inevitable slaughter. [Either that, or Covid. Who really knows in the world without why?]

Slaughter features prominently in this bullet riddled shoot ’em up. The style and frequency of the cranial splatter is where inventive focus of the movie is centered. Nothing wrong with a little onanistic fetishization of guns and death, surely? Another question there, but that’s not allowed. The trouble for director Navot Papushado and co-writer Ehud Lavski is that the video game plot violence, and comic book nastiness of this movie has been recently out-plotted and out budgeted by a plethora of similar female shoot ’em ups, such as Red Sparrow. No doubt mention of such movies as La Femme Nikita and Leon the Professional had pulses racing at the Studio Canal development meeting. Sadly, this movie is not in that league, not even close.

Have no fear, Crimeziners, the Harley Quinnish silliness of the multi-talented Karen Gillan is admirably supported by a crowd of Crimezine favorites, including Paul Giamatti, Angela Bassett, and Michelle Yeoh. Shot in Berlin, the film has a refreshingly international look, despite the predominantly American cast. The CGI set pieces and athletic gun wielding will have John Wick fans swooning. Hurrah to that, says Crimezine. Who wouldn’t want bayonets attached to their handguns?

So why gunpowder milkshake, we hear you ask. Setting aside the fact that such questions may not be asked in a world without why, Crimezine can exclusively reveal there is a milkshake in the movie—and rather tellingly, that milkshake is vanilla.

Gunpowder Milkshake is available on Netflix and at selected cinemas, now.

Quentin Tarantino. You’ve got to hand it to him, Crimeziners. He is a man obsessed. And the best thing is, he wants to tell you all about it. The surprise is, he has taken so long to get around to it. His pulptastic new novel, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, is a glorious retrotastic indulgence, fatly crammed with out-take details, that the parental oversight and editorial control of studio overlords gave the cult cinema scamp the hard no to. This will prove an unmitigated delight to his legions of adoring fans, no doubt.

But here’s the thing, unfettered by editorial oversight this was never going to be a novel in the normal sense of the word. Like OUTH hero, Rick Dalton, Tarantino is a martyr to his own compulsions. Action hero Rick swills whiskey sours for breakfast, lunch, and supper, while Tarantino, left to his own literary devices, crams every available paragraph with stuff that he thinks is cool, regardless if the story needs it.

The fans are cheering him on from the matinee cheap seats, you can hear them roar. But what does the reader get? An approximation of the movie story, for sure. [It is de rigueur that you have seen the flick if you are going to attempt this book.] But we also get a bulging ball sack of other stuff too. And you better be taking notes, because Quentin name checks a dozen movies and actors on every single page, everyone from Gina Lollobrigida to Lee Marvin and a thousand more besides. Natch, we get gossip about directors too. One minute it’s Dino De Laurentis, the next it’s Otto Preminger, and a whole host of others. The reader should be warned, that a Quentinesque digression Kurosawa lasts forty pages or more, at least it seems that way. When slanderous anecdotes are thrown against the coffin lids of dead rivals, a wry chuckle is often the result. But when yet another italicized laundry list of action-hero acting greats swims into view, even the enthusiastic reader is tempted to skip past.

Profanity? Certainly. Not all the way through, but it is splashed around with school-boyish delight at every opportunity. In one instance the F-word appears close to thirty times in the space of a page. There is plenty of cartoonish misogyny to dilute the “shock” of the profanity. So sensitive readers are advised to stand at a safe distance once the blue touch paper has been ignited.

Then there is the style of writing. Third person, present tense, is a bold and striking choice. But it is also a difficult snake to wrestle, and Quentin has clear problems with it on a number of occasions. No matter. If it suits his purpose he will slip into omniscient asides, past tense, even second person if he feels like it. When this happens you can hear the less than spectral squeals of the ghost-writing community—hear the cheers of downtrodden authors the world over, as “publishing professionals” choke up their Cheerios into the Chicago Manual of Style. Yes, the style is impactful, but often distracting. There are, it must be mentioned, some unforgivable, sloppy around the edges, editing fails—repetition, often within the same paragraph or sentence for example. But the reader, especially one familiar with Tarantino’s enthusiastically pleasure gorged cinematic narrative, is inclined to forgive.

So how does this all turn out? Not as you might expect, you must be warned. Various aspects of the movie have been expanded, the background to Cliff Booth [Brad Pitt in the movie] is more shocking and unsympathetic. Rick Dalton’s [Leonardo DiCaprio’s] exchanges with child actor Trudi Frazer [Julia Butters] are investigated more fully. But spoiler-alert-shocker—as you approach page three hundred and fifty, you realize that the end of the novel is going to be completely different from the movie. For some this will be a disappointment, for others it will be a more natural segue into another book.

So will that happen? Crimezine can exclusively reveal that the answer to that question is yes. Quentin Tarantino has signed a two-book deal with Harper Collins. The upcoming book focuses in on the career of Rick Dalton, detailing his entire career. As with OUTH some of those acting gigs are entirely fictional, others depict Rick in real movies. Tarantino is currently working on a Bounty Law television series, featuring the Rick Dalton character, and word from the Hollyweird rumor mill is that long time Tarantino chum, Robert Rodriguez, may be considering a OUTH spinoff movie—Lancer. Hot? Of course it’s hot, Crimeziners, it’s a flamethrower, as Rick Dalton might say.

Downtown Los Angeles—just down the street from City Hall, the legendary L.A. landmark that appears on the badge of the Los Angeles Police department. The Bradbury building is no less legendary, you have seen it any times before, you just might not know just exactly where.

There are the movies it has appeared in, of course, the legendary 1945 noir Double Indemnity written by Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder. Chandler lived in the neighborhood back in the 20s/30s, but Chandler has lived in just about every neighborhood in L.A.

There were other classic noirs that involved the Bradbury too: The Unfaithful 1947, Shockproof, 1949, DOA 1949 and Mike Hammer vehicle, I the Jury 1953. But those movies were just the start, the Bradbury has featured in neo noir classic Chinatown, Blade Runner and a whole host of TV shows, everything from Perry Mason, 77 Sunset Strip, to Mission Impossible, Bosch, and CSI.

The actual tenants of the building are just as interesting as the cinematic residents. Marvel Comics has its west coast office in the building, as does the Internal Affairs Division of the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD board of rights holds disciplinary hearings in the building, which is nicknamed the “ovens” because officers see it as the place where careers get burned.

So why the Bradbury? The joint is named after gold mining millionaire Lewis Bradbury who ordered the place built in 1892. It cost half a million dollars to build around three times the original budget of $175,000 [and he died before it was finished]. If you want to visit the building it stands on the corner of West third and South Broadway in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Watch out, this can be a rough neighborhood, but there is a lot to see close by, including the LAPD building and the legendary Angel’s Flight cable car. So check out the Bradbury next time you are in L.A. They will be filming close by, I almost guarantee it.

Author Tony Bulmer outside the Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles

Rachel is not feeling too good. She thinks she might be going out of her mind. Sure, she has just killed her husband, but that is the least of her problems. Her mom’s dead too. Died in a T-bone car wreck just before she told Rachel about her dad. Where is Dad? Who is dad? What about those things that happened in Haiti—the visions of the dead girl. The hurricane, the Earthquake the cholera—the gun toting rapists? What indeed.

Since We Fell, Dennis Le Hane

A private detective? Sure that sounds like a good idea, if you want to make a bad thing worse. Rachel figures there might be the possibility of an outcome as long as she doesn’t lose her mind, live on camera, before the entire nation…

Yes, dear Crimeziners, Rachel has things tough—the anxiety is almost insurmountable, but we all have it tough in this current day don’t we now? What the hell do you do? Hang tough, dig deep—restart your life from less than zero? Rachel is sure a fighter, but will it be enough?

The past is always there. There are the bad people looking for your husband, the people you thought you could trust, who turn out to be something other than you thought they were. And now, guess what, there is another corpse in the living room and the police are knocking at the door. What was that husband of yours involved in?

Crimezine favorite, Dennis Le Hane, is certainly a crime writer’s crime writer. And this, his latest book, is no exception to his stellar record that has been cemented with a long track record of literary and screen writing success, that includes such classics as, Mystic RiverGone Bay Gone, and the Wire.

Since We Fell is dark, it is twisted, and the whiplash plot twists wilder with ever page. As you might expect, we get the famous Bostonian sense of place that Le Hane always delivers with such panache. We get a truly masterful sense of characterization, and we get a squelching stormfront of rain-soaked misery gushing from every page. You don’t need gumboots and an umbrella to read this book, but it is advised.

So the writing is good, but just how good is it? So good it veers to the edge of the precipice on two wheels—hub caps rattling at speed into the deepening canyon below. Le Hane always draws the story back though, in masterful fashion—twisting the plot, notching those stakes ever higher until you just can’t take it anymore. Yeah, Rachel has things tough, but for you, dear Crimeziner, that is a very good thing indeed.

Tony Bulmer takes a look at the ultimate biography on Raymond Chandler

Everyone loves Raymond. Raymond Chandler that is. And nowhere is that love stronger than in the Crimezine community. Chandler epitomizes so many things for crime fans and the crime writing community at large. Trumpet blowing critics the world over have micro-analyzed the reasons for Chandler’s often controversial popularity, and much hooting and sobbing has ensued, because when it comes to Chandler—everyone has an opinion.

Why should this be so? Chandler is more than a writer. It is not just who he is and what he has written that is so important, it is what he represents. There is the glamorous ideal of the iconoclast crime writer, there is his reputation as a booze-addled bad boy and pipe smoking pain in the ass. There is his involvement in the writing of such films as Double-Indemnity, the Blue Dahlia, and the Hitchcockian masterpiece, Strangers on a Train. There is also his fraught and unconventional personal life, and his unassailable position as one of greatest pulp-fiction innovators of all time.

The Tom Hiney book is a classic of its genre. There have been a number of other Chandler bios, but the Hiney book, first released in 1970, is the standard by which all other Chandler tell-alls are measured. Sure there is still a lot we don’t know—can never know—but Hiney does a Marlowesqe detective job filling in the blanks.

Raymond Chandler, A Biography, carries us through the author’s earliest days raised in Chicago, and Nebraska, followed by stints in Ireland and England, where he lived throughout his formative years, before moving back to the United States in his twenties. Many revelations are well documented. The fact he was fifty before he wrote his first book [The Big Sleep] The fact his wife Cissy was twenty years older than him. The fact he was financially responsible for his mother throughout most of his adult life.

Then there is the alcoholism. The full tragedy of which is laid out in some detail. The surprise is Chandler was not always the inveterate boozehound he is painted to be. His problems with drink manifested after he was injured in a frontline explosion during the first world war. Chandler served in a unit of 1200 men. 14,000 men had passed through the unit by the time he got there. A level of service and danger few modern readers will be able to comprehend.

After his service in the first world war, Chandler returned to the States, eventually landing himself a lucrative gig as an Oil company accountant. The job paid $3,500 per month which was a lot of money in the depression era twenties and thirties. Post-traumatic stress, the need to support his wife and mother in two separate households, and the misery of a job to which he was ill-suited to finally caused a booze-addled Chandler to get the sack.

So he quit the booze and started writing. But success didn’t come easy. In the early years he wrote between two and five stories for Black Mask Magazine and later Dime Detective, stories for which he only received a few hundred dollars each. Quite a come down compared to his oil company salary. This lack of success carried over into his novel writing. By 1950 Chandler had sold 3.5 million novels, 68, 000 of them in hard back and earned a mere $56, 000 dollars. Hollywood is what saved him. The acclaimed script he wrote with Billy Wilder for Double Indemnity almost won an Oscar, would have, it hadn’t been for moralistic censure by the catholic church. Instead, Chandler’s work on the script led to a steady gig at Paramount and lucrative work for the likes of Alfred Hitchcock. Chandler received $40,000 for eight weeks work adapting Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train—a sum that almost equaled that of his entire writing career to date.

Hollywood was the catalyst that got Chandler boozing again, and from there the descent was slow and tragic. Hiney lays it all out. For any true fan of Chandler it makes gruesome if essential reading. It’s all here, Crimeziners: An A-Z of the books, a reasoned examination of the man’s life and the various criticisms that stand against him on matters of race, gender etc. Like Hemingway it is popular in post-modern circles to hate on Chandler, but holding a writer born in the 1880s to modern standards—it’s the kind of thing that would make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window, isn’t it Crimeziners?

Raymond Chandler A Biography by Tom Hiney. Buy it today.

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.

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.