Monday, May 30, 2011

Pulp Poem of the Week

I felt too young.
I felt like a child
being bathed
by an evil nursemaid.
I felt that some
unspeakable thing
was coiling and vomiting
in her mind.
John D. MacDonald
The End of the Night

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pulp Poem of the Week

Yamsaki Asami undid his belt,
plucked gently at his zipper
slowly pulled it down,
a surgeon opening an incision.
Ryu Murakami
(translated by Ralph McCarthy)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Book Review: Richard Stark, The Sour Lemon Score (1969)

A solid Parker novel of the aftermath variety: A heist goes so sour that it resembles a lemon, and Parker is hellbent on getting his money back. The narrative makes one serious misstep early on: In a ludicrous sequence, a fellow career criminal drugs Parker and injects him with truth serum so that he can interrogate Parker to determine how much of a threat he poses. I mean, seriously? The man has no reason on earth not to kill Parker, plain and simple. Starklake tries too hard with the truth serum, but he is otherwise in fine form. Grade: B+

Pulp Poem of the Week

Whatever else she may lack,
which seems to be plenty,
the woman appears to have nerve.
Or maybe she hasn’t any nerves.
It is about the same thing.
Damon Runyon
“The Eternal Blonde

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Book Review: John D. MacDonald, The End of the Night (1960)

Having recently read Weep for Me (1951), which John D. MacDonald identified as the worst of his early novels, I felt obligated to follow up by reading The End of the Night (1960), which was his favorite of the early books. The End of the Night chronicles the so-called Wolf Pack, three young men and a young woman who go on a cross-country crime spree. Given that JDM thought so highly of The End of the Night, I was expecting a great read. I did not stop to consider that there is a compelling reason for suspecting that JDM may not have been the best judge of his own work. To wit: Many readers, myself among them, find that JDM’s novels are aging poorly because of his habit of interjecting sociological lectures into his narratives, and these are precisely the sections of his books that JDM liked the best. Therefore, I should not have been surprised to find that The End of the Night is dominated by a pair of pretentious first-person narrators, both of whom are more interested in understanding the world than telling a story. Of course, this is not to say that noir fiction cannot be a vehicle for understanding the world—in fact, this is what distinguishes much of the best noir. But when JDM indulges his love of pontification, he fails to recognize that a well-told story can be not just a sufficient but a superior way of deepening readers’ understanding of the world. Grade: C+

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pulp Poem of the Week

An old man dozed in the elevator,
on a ramshackle stool,
with a burst-out cushion under him.
His mouth was open,
his veined temples glistened in the weak light.
He wore a blue uniform that fitted him
the way a stall fits a horse.
Under that gray trousers with frayed cuffs,
white cotton socks and black kid shoes,
one of which was slit across a bunion.
On the stool he slept miserably,
waiting for a customer.
I went past him softly,
the clandestine air of the building prompting me,
found the fire door and pulled it open.
The stairs hadn’t been swept in a month.
Bums had slept on them, eaten on them,
left crusts and fragments of greasy newspaper,
matches, a gutted imitation-leather pocketbook.
In a shadowy angle against the scribbled wall
a pouched ring of pale rubber had fallen
and had not been disturbed.
A very nice building.
Raymond Chandler
The Big Sleep

Monday, May 2, 2011

Pulp Poem of the Week

There was the feeling
she would
spit on you.
There was the feeling
you wouldn't
care if she did.
Gil Brewer
Nude on Thin Ice