Monday, December 29, 2008

Pulp Poem of the Week

He was disturbed,
still trembling, still vibrating
with the throes of the crisis,
but he was the master;
the animal was downed,
was cowed for this time,
at least.

But for all that, the brute
was there. Long dormant,
it was now at last alive,
awake. From now on he
would feel its presence continually;
would feel it tugging at its chain,
watching its opportunity.

Frank Norris

Monday, December 22, 2008

Pulp Poem of the Week

It would be fun
to cut Katsu,
to see what it felt like
to kill with a knife.
He'd already shot
somebody today;
if he strangled Kyle afterward
it would be like hitting
the murder trifecta.

Ken Bruen & Jason Starr

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Book Review: Cornell Woolrich, Fright (1950)

Cornell Woolrich fans (myself included) are highly skilled at praising his strengths while discounting his weaknesses. Usually, this means reveling in the momentum of his plots while overlooking their inherent absurdities. Though I give Fright passing marks on the whole, its weaknesses are too great to ignore. Yes, the prose is overwrought, but the greater problem is that the book's protagonist, Prescott Marshall, is not a sympathetic character. I found him self-absorbed an unlikeable from the start, and his problems are problems of his own creation. He is not an innocent victim of the fates, as are many Woolrich heroes, and an unsympathetic Woolrich protagonist can make for tough reading. Grade: C+

Footnote: Fright makes an interesting pair with Seymour Shubin's Witness to Myself (Hard Case Crime, 2006), which covers a similar (but different!) noir landscape.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pulp Poem of the Week

She spoke broken, halting English,
but since I spoke Thai better
than she spoke my native tongue
we conversed in her language.
Though for the most part
we'd used body Thai,
which is something like body English
but more passionate.

William Knoles
Jade Brothel

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Book Review: William Knoles, Jade Brothel (1961)

Background: I became interested in William Knoles (a.k.a. Clyde Allison) as a result of reading Feral House's Sin-a-Rama: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties. Earl Kemp, famed editor of sex paperbacks, claims that Knoles "was the best writer I ever worked with" (putting him above Donald E. Westlake and Lawrence Block) and that Greenleaf house editors took turns with him because "everyone wanted to be Clyde Allison's editor." But total trash is total trash, right? We'll see. I bought a random Clyde Allison novel for a song on eBay to see what it is like.

Review: Jade Brothel is the story of Dave Owens, a thoroughly loathesome American living in Thailand. Owens will do anything, legal or not, to earn a buck, and in his spare time, if he is otherwise unable to find a sex partner, his visits the brothel that he owns. But this book is not about the brothel, its title be damned. Rather, the main plot centers around Owens getting into the movie business with a Hollywood refugee named Jaybee, whom Owens plans eventually to kill in the name of more money. If Knoles had written this novel for Gold Medal, it might have been pretty good, but the requirements of the sleaze paperback formula make that almost impossible. And it's not just that the sex scenes are too many or too long or too forumulaic--it's also the repulsive pride that Dave Owens takes in narrating his conquests, which makes the sex scenes repulsive, too. But at least ***SPOILER ALERT*** it was nice at the end of the book when he got chewed up by crocodiles. Grade: D

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pulp Poem of the Week

I'm not hard to hire.
All you have to do is
offer me money.

Robert Terrall
Kill Now, Pay Later

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Book Review: Ken Bruen and Jason Starr, Slide (2007)

Even moreso than its predecessor, Bust, Slide succeeds or fails (depending on your point of view) as noir comedy. The novel's third-person narrative is filtered through the minds of half a dozen characters, all of whom are caricatures and only one of whom (police detective Joe Miscali) is not a blathering moron. The idiocy and the jokes (which are often one and the same) come in an unrelenting stream. Though I found Bust a more satisfying novel, especially in its plotting, I cannot deny that Slide was entertaining. Grade: C+

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pulp Poem of the Week

I found it amazing
how many men,
when asked to supply
a photo of themselves
by a young woman
over the Internet,
responded by sending
a digital snapshot
of their penis.
Charles Ardai
Songs of Innocence