Monday, September 29, 2008

Pulp Poem of the Week

She pulled off her brassiere and
held it aloft. There were cheers,
and she turned from one side
to the other triumphantly.
Her breasts looked enormously
distorted in the moonlight,
their hard, clean crowns gleaming
and the shadows they cast hanging down
like ugly sinister forebodings
of the ruin age would bring
to their strength, their thrust.

David Karp

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Book Review: P. J. Wolfson, Bodies Are Dust (1931)

Part of the story of police inspector Buck Safiotte. I say part of the story because Bodies Are Dust does not have a neat plot of the beginning-middle-end variety. The novel begins seemingly at random in the middle of Safiotte's sordid life--characters enter the story in a confusing, half-explained way--and most of what follows lacks any kind of moral center. Indeed, reading Bodies Are Dust made me feel unclean, which is no easy trick for a novel published 1931. And while the end of the book may not bring a full sense of closure, it serves as a fitting coda to the world that P. J. Wolfson portrays. Bodies Are Dust is not noir for the weak of spirit. It shines an ugly, messy light on an ugly, messy world. Grade: A-

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pulp Poem of the Week

If you want to know
the truth that much,
go out and commit
a crime yourself.
That's the only way
you'll ever know.
Asa Nonami
The Hunter
(trans. by Juliet Winters Carpenter)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Book Review: Gardner F. Fox, Consider This Woman (1959)

Today Gardner F. Fox is remembered mostly as a prolific writer for DC Comics, but he was a prolific writer of fiction as well, including a number of titles for Gold Medal, mainly in the realm of historical fiction. Witness This Woman is a weak, though not incompetent, crime novel. The cover reads, "Was she faithless, a cheat? Kirwan didn't care--her testimony would make him the next District Attorney." Unfortunately, whoever wrote this cover copy seems not to have read the book. Assistant D.A. David Kirwin knows that he will have no trouble convicting the accused killer of Joe Farella, but the testimony of a woman has nothing to do with it. Furthermore, Kirwin may very well end up caring about more than just winning the case. The novel's plot centers around Kirwin's crisis of conscience: Is he willing to send a man to the electric chair if there is a 10% that the man is innocent? What if the conviction will put Kirwin on the fast-track to becoming governor? Regrettably, it is not worth reading the book to find out the answers to these questions. Grade: D

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pulp Poem of the Week

I looked down at myself.
It was like seeing
a technicolor rainbow shining
on a bushel basket full
of mangled bread dough.

Gil Brewer
The Squeeze

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Book Review: Natsuo Kirino, Real World (2006)

Near the end of Real World, a detective is talking to one of the book's teenaged protagonists. The detective speculates about what the teenagers may have done and why. The teenager replies, "Don't you think that's taking it a little too far?" The detective agrees and says, "I don't think even you all would do something that stupid." But the detective's speculations are absolutely right, and she sums up precisely what I was thinking as I read this book: what a bunch of stupid teenagers. So I felt my reaction was validated by the detective's comment while at the same time I naturally wondered if Kirino were making the point that some of us have gotten too old to recall just how stupid teenagers can be. If that is the case, then consider me reminded. Grade: C-

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Book Review: Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy (1925)

Upside: High literary noir. The respectable godfather of such disreputable godchildren as Seymour Shubin's Anyone's My Name and Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train. Downside: Reading Dreiser is like watching a world-class sprinter run the wrong way up the world's fastest escalator. You know that, eventually, he's going to get to the top, but you can't stop wondering why he didn't take the stairs--or, even better, the right escalator. Grade: B

Monday, September 8, 2008

Book Review: Jason Starr, Cold Caller (1997)

I always knew that telemarketers were sociopaths. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. Grade: B+

Pulp Poem of the Week

He shook tooth powder into his mouth.
His grandmother could smell liquor
like a dry sourdough in the Klondike.
Patricia Highsmith
Strangers on a Train

Monday, September 1, 2008

Pulp Poem of the Week

She leaned forward again
so quickly that
four things bobbed--
two of them earrings.

Robert Bloch
The Will to Kill