Saturday, November 29, 2008

Book Review: Jason Starr, Tough Luck (2003)

Mickey Prada is a throwback to the noir anti-heroes of old, a Seemingly Good Guy who gets in deeper and deeper after he makes one unfortunate decision, agreeing to place a bet with his bookie for a man who claims to be a member of the mob. As Mickey's life unravels, he makes more bad (and sometimes criminal) decisions, but he keeps reader sympathy because he is, after all, a Seemingly Good Guy. Jason Starr manages the affair with great skill and finishes with a closing line that is almost perfect. Grade: A-

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Book Review: Robert Terrall, Kill Now, Pay Later (1960)

Private eye Ben Gates must restore his good name after he botches the simple job of guarding gifts at a wedding. As pleasant and lightweight as a tale of murder and blackmail can be. If you like your crime dark, skip it. Grade: C

Footnote: I must gripe about this hideous cover. Robert McGinnis did the painting for the original 1960 paperback, featuring a deformed blonde who looked to be about nine feet tall with six feet of legs. For this reprint, Robert McGinnis was again hired for the job, and this time he painted a redhead who looks even more deformed than the original blonde. If ever a man thumbed his nose at a second chance, this is it!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pulp Poem of the Week

Roger knew well enough
what he wanted to do,
but he wasn't certain if
he would know just how
to go about it.

In the end
that didn't matter,
because Grace did.
James McKimmey
The Perfect Victim

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Book Review: Gil Brewer, —And the Girl Screamed (1956)

Cliff Reddick. Cliff Reddick. Cliff Reddick. As I was reading this book, I kept having to repeat the narrator's name to myself so that I would not forget it. Though this behavior is generally not the hallmark of a memorable book,
—And the Girl Screamed is by no means terrible. On the whole, reading it was rather like watching Gil Brewer cash a check. He's doing his job, going through the motions to earn his pay. Cliff Reddick is an ex-policeman who has been implicated in a murder that he had nothing to do with, other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thus, he works to solve the murder while trying to evade the police who want to arrest him for it. To my mind, this is lazy plotting: The book would have been much more interesting if Reddick had actually been connected to the victim in some way, rather than just happening upon the murder scene. As the plot progresses, Brewer mixes in some 1950s hand-wringing about the rise of juvenile delinquency, and then he wraps things up and heads to the bank. For diehards only. Grade: C-

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pulp Poem of the Week

They said the leg was going
to be as good as ever,
but it wasn't.
You could see that by
the end of the first week
of practice.
I couldn't pivot and
swing fast enough to
go with the play even
when I saw it coming,
and they ran through me
like B-girls through
a sailor's bank-roll.

Charles Williams
"The Big Bite"

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Books Review: Richard Aleas, Songs of Innocence (2007)

Richard Aleas (or Charles Ardai, if you prefer) is the inverse of Raymond Chandler: whereas Chandler was terrible with plotting while creating unforgettable characters, Aleas crafts his plots with great care while creating easily forgettable characters. As a creation, John Blake, the noir hero of Little Girl Lost and Songs of Innocence, is little more than the sum of the problems that he encounters (and creates for himself). He's not particularly smart, not particularly witty, has no interesting hobbies, does not smoke a calabash pipe or wear a deerstalker cap. Thus, we are left with the noir-whodunit plots. My experience with both Aleas novels is that if you think much at all while you are reading, then the books' alleged surprises are not very surprising, so I am left with the pleasure of having my suspicions confirmed, which is, of course, a lesser pleasure than being surprised. Grade: C+

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pulp Poem of the Week

As he took his woman,
the fire was solely his own fire
and there was the sordid and dismal feeling,
and finally the downright horrible feeling,
of being alone in the bed.

David Goodis
Cassidy's Girl

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pulp Poem of the Week

The ghosts
of sad, cheap souls
live on
in sad, cheap furniture.

Ryu Murakami
In the Miso Soup
(translated by Ralph McCarthy)