Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Book Review: John D. MacDonald, Soft Touch (1958)

When you read piles of noir PBOs (or piles of any fictional genre), many of them do, of course, start to seem the same, but this only heightens your appreciation of the ones that are really good. When the formula has worked its way into your DNA, you can see which writers are innovating and pushing boundaries and which ones are just going through the motions. In the early chapters of any genre novel, it is generally difficult to tell which kind of book you are reading. Is it one whose every move you will be able to predict, or is it one that will surprise you? Suffice it to say, this one surprised me. Grade: A

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pulp Poem of the Week

A one-dollar bill has
a humble and homely look.
A five-dollar bill has
a few meek pretensions.
A ten is vigorous and
forthright and honest,
like a scout leader.
A twenty, held to the ear
like a seashell
emits the far-off sound
of nightclub music.
A fifty wears the faint sneer
of the race track.
It has a portly look
needs a shave,
wears a yellow diamond
on the little finger.
And a hundred is
very haughty indeed.
John D. MacDonald
Soft Touch

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Book Review: Max Allan Collins, Deadly Beloved (2007)

I could write at great length about the ham-handedness of Max Allan Collins' Deadly Beloved, but instead I choose to look at the bright side: I'm betting that MAC's next contribution to Hard Case Crime, The First Quarry, is going to seem pretty damn great by comparison. Grade: F

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Book Review: Akimitsu Takagi, The Tattoo Murder Case (1948)

Dark, enjoyable Japanese whodunnit. The characters are somewhat bland in their polite Japanese way, and the solution to the murder mystery is interesting in the same way that the solution to a crossword puzzle is interesting. Strengths of the narrative are its evocation of post-war Japan and its portrayal of the Japanese art tattoo subculture. On the whole, worth your time if you are interested in things Japanese. Grade: B

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pulp Poem of the Week

Let's all
go kill
the scared
old man.

Will Cook
"Let's All Go Kill the Scared Old Man"

Friday, February 13, 2009

Book Review: Cornell Woolrich, Six Times Death [a.k.a. After-Dinner Story] (1944)

Collects six stories: "After-Dinner Story" (1938); "The Night Reveals" (1936); "An Apple a Day" (1944); "Marihuana" (1941); "Rear Window" [original title: "It Had to Be Murder"] (1942); and "Murder-Story" (1937).

This collection ultimately becomes a kind of noir comique. The stories are dark enough, but their premises are so silly that the narratives become as amusing as they are bleak: an eleavator crashes to the basement of an office building, and while its occupants await rescue from the dark, one of them commits murder; an arson investigator for an insurance company discovers that his wife is a pyromaniac; a diamond, stolen and hidden in an apple, is accidentally dropped into a baby carriage that contains four more apples; smoking pot triggers a murder spree; an insomniac, invalid Peeping Tom convinces himself that one of his neighbors is a murderer; a pulp writer somehow manages to describe an actual murder, down to the smallest detail. All of this is fun to read, but it lacks the emotional charge that Woolrich achieves in his better novels. Grade: B-

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pulp Poem of the Week

The Lieutenant flipped a lever
on a desk transmitter.
"Send Spillane in here."

Cornell Woolrich

Monday, February 2, 2009

Pulp Poem of the Week

He had greased black hair
parted in the middle
and a wax mustache;
wasn't tall and wasn't short;
and looked more like
his mother's side of the family,
but he didn't want anyone
to forget his father.
I made a bet with myself that
his parents never made it legal.

Earl Norman
Kill Me in Tokyo