Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Review: Day Keene, Framed in Guilt (1949)

Day Keene's first novel. Has Hollywood screenwriter Robert Stanton been framed for murder? He is accused of killing a woman he claims he never met to cover up fathering a child with a woman he claims has never met, but there is compelling evidence that he is lying on both counts. Will he be able to prove his innocence? A little bit of noir, a little bit of procedural, a little bit of whodunit, and a whole lot of cheese. Grade: D+

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pulp Poem of the Week

I'm not afraid
of dying.
Dying is
the easy part.

Nate Flexer
The Disassembled Man

Monday, September 21, 2009

Book Review: David J. Schow, Gun Work (2008)

I have seen one reader describe this novel as "gun porn," and I understand why: In Gun Work, a kidnapping-cum-revenge novel, David J. Schow describes a seemingly endless array of firearms with the sort of detail and enthusiasm usually reserved for desciptions of the female body in bad sex writing. Nevertheless, I found myself fascinated (and more than a little creeped out) by these guns and the men who love them so damn much. Schow's writing helped a lot: He has an elegantly dense hard-boiled style, and his action scenes are among the clearest and most vivid that I have read. But my enthusiasm for this book is in part due to its novelty to me: If I should encounter "gun porn" a second time, I susepct that I will find it fairly tedious. Grade: B+

Pulp Poem of the Week

He lay beneath a single white sheet
which still showed creases from the shelves.
This sheet had not been slept with--
and neither had Halquist.

Gil Brewer
The Bitch

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pulp Poem of the Week

Bookmakers have
remarkably little faith
in the inherent
nobility of man.

Charles Williams
Nothing in Her Way

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Book Review: Nate Flexer, The Disassembled Man (2009)

In the genre of noir sociopathique, drama commonly comes from two sources: the cat-and-mouse game between the law and the sociopath and/or the uneasy excitement that the reader may feel in vicariously participating in sociopathic behavior (and in wondering who the next victim will be). Neither of these, however, is much of a factor in The Disassembled Man. There is a lawman, yes, but he stays pretty much in the background, and the crimes of our sociopath, Frankie Avicious, are about as dramatic as the action of the buzzsaw. The focus of the plot, therefore, is mainly on watching Frankie deteriorate--but as the narrative becomes increasingly outrageous and surrealistic, readers may lose interest in Frankie as they become increasingly unsure how reliable his first-person narrative is. Beyond this, some readers may enjoy the novel as black comedy, especially in the aggressiveness of its metaphors, as in, "My throat got as dry and tight as a frigid virgin in bed with a bald insurance man," or, "I cried like a teenage prom-queen runner-up cutting red onions after burying her dog in the backyard." For me, though, a little of this goes a long way. Grade: C

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Book Review: Gil Brewer, The Bitch (1958)

Tate Morgan is a many-time loser who has long relied on his brother Sam to get him out of tight spots. In The Bitch, Tate faces his tightest spot of all after he betrays Sam's trust and helps to plot a robbery that goes horribly wrong. This novel resembles what I call Everyman noir, in which the main character is typically an ordinary, likable guy who, desperate for money, sets out to commit what seems a harmless crime (but then noir ensues). The Bitch is interesting novel of this type because Tate is an unusually unsympathetic protagonist. (As a title, The Bitch is just a gimmick to sell books--much more accurate would be to call it The Asshole.) Gil Brewer sets himself quite a challenge in trying to make readers care what happens to Tate Morgan, and he is, I think, at least partially successful. Grade: B+

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pulp Poem of the Week

It sure is awful
to die in Arkansas
with this circus.
Jim Tully
Circus Parade

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Book Review: Charles Williams, Nothing in Her Way (1953)

Charles Williams' Nothing in Her Way is a novel of the con game--one con involving mining sand for glass, the other involving horse racing--in which Cathy Dunbar and Mike Belen seek belated financial revenge on the men who ruined their fathers' business more than two decades before. A nice read with the obligatory twists and turns. Grade: B+