Thursday, October 28, 2010

Book Review: Richard Stark, The Mourner (1963)

After the series-opening trilogy featuring Parker vs. The Mob—The Hunter, The Man with the Getaway Face, and The Outfit—the fourth Parker novel is a letdown. Parker has substantially less at stake in The Mourner (other than his life, of course, which is always at stake), and there is nothing particularly inventive in the narrative given the novels that came before. Competent? Of course. Enjoyable? Well, sure. But that's as far as I'll go. Grade: C+

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pulp Poem of the Week

All who
knew him
for an hour
regretted it
a lifetime.
Jim Tully
Shanty Irish

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review: Richard Stark, The Outfit (1963)

The Parker novels are at their best when they are at their most restrained. While Parker and his cohorts are planning and executing their heists, the narratives are fascinating, but when the guns fire and the fists fly, things get much less interesting. So it goes with The Outfit: The action of the opening chapter tries too hard, and the shoot-'em-up climax is anti-climactic, but everything in between is just about perfect. Grade: B+

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book Review: John Riordan, On the Make (1929)

Fourteen stories, mainly about college boys and working girls. The prose is faux Hemingway; the plots are purposefully stagnant; and the characters are interchangeable. The overall effect is numbing. John Riordan's On the Make reminded me of Robert C. Du Soe's 1938 novel The Devil Thumbs a Ride, about which I wrote, "Much liquor is consumed, many sexual advances are made, and many lives are endangered, but never is there so much as a peek into anyone's soul." On the Make is superior, however, if only because it is a collection of stories: Just as readers may be tiring of one set of empty characters, the next set comes along. As well, Riordan strives for a sociological significance that Du Soe does not: While The Devil Thumbs a Ride feels unconnected to the real world, On the Make wants readers to wring their hands over its scandalous though understated portrayal of Jazz Age youth. More interesting than good. Grade: C-

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pulp Poem of the Week

You look like
you've just seen
your great-grandmother
driving a taxi.
Don Tracy

Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Review: Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)

For a variety of reasons, I find it difficult to have an authentic response to
The Talented Mr. Ripley. First off, of course, is the book's reputation. It has been anointed many times over as one of the Great Classics of Noir, so you read it expecting a Great Classic. An offshoot of this reputation is the book's presence in popular culture, which makes it almost impossible to read the book without already knowing at least a bit about Tom Ripley and his story. And for me, the crowning complication is Tom's portrayal as self-loathing closeted homosexual. I know how Tom's character reads to me in 2010, but what I would really like to know is how I would have responded to Tom if I had read this book in 1955. But here is what I do know: The first third of the novel is unnecessarily slow; in giving such a leisurely introduction to Tom, Highsmith is denying and not trusting her genre. Furthermore, it makes no sense to dwell on Tom's character because Tom has no character. When we meet Tom, he is an empty shell defined by a few desires and neuroses. Things get interesting only when he begins using this emptiness to his advantage, as good sociopaths do. Then, of course, the book gets much better, and this is when we actually begin learning about Tom. Grade: B+

Pulp Poem of the Week

If there was a million dollars
lying in the bottom
of a shallow dishpan of water,
I would sure as blazes
slip and fall on my face
and drown trying to get it.
Gil Brewer

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Now Available at!

Two books now available from that that everyone should buy: Gil Brewer's The Red Scarf, which many consider to be his best novel, and some other guy's Verse Noir. Click on their titles to go to their Amazon pages.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pulp Poem of the Week

This guy was so ugly
he could have got himself
a free scholarship into
a college for gargoyles.
Peter Cheyney
Poison Ivy

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Book Review: Richard Stark, The Man with the Getaway Face (1963)

In the first Parker novel, The Hunter, Parker thumbs his violent nose at organized crime, thereby necessitating the getaway face. By the end of The Man with the Getaway Face, however, Parker knows that his new face will not be enough; sooner or later, he will have to deal with "The Outfit." Therefore, the second Parker novel seems rather like killing time until this showdown, but it's a pleasant way to kill some time. The Parker novels are the noir equivalent of cotton candy—and I mean that in the best possible way. Grade: B