Monday, December 31, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

People who think
That yelling and screaming
Are the same thing
Have never screamed.

          David Rachels
          Verse Noir

Monday, December 24, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

Mme Ernestine Gapol,
dwelling in Vanves,
on Avenue Gambetta,
committed suicide:
two bullets in the head.

          Félix Fénéon
          Novels in Three Lines
          (translated by Luc Sante)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Book Review: Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye (1953)

In a 1945 letter, Raymond Chandler wrote that “it doesn’t matter a damn what a novel is about, that the only fiction of any moment in any age is that which does magic with words.” In 1947, he wrote that he was “fundamentally rather uninterested in plot” and that “the most durable thing in writing is style.” In 1953, Chandler showed that he meant it when he published The Long Goodbye, which was 47% longer than his previous Philip Marlowe novel, 1949’s The Little Sister. This extra 47% is almost all style—or, if you prefer, padding. If you agree with Chandler that “it doesn’t matter a damn what a novel is about,” then you will likely think that The Long Goodbye is his masterpiece. If you disagree, then you will likely find the book self-indulgent. I tend toward the latter camp. Marlowe is still Marlowe, but all the extra style gives him the chance for even more self-righteous speechifying than usual, rather as if he is pointing the way for John D. MacDonald to invent Travis McGee. In sum, I can read any page in The Long Goodbye with great pleasure, but there’s just too damn many of them. Grade: B 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

there’s no place to hide,
where you are.

     Richard Stark
     Ask the Parrot

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Book Review: Kenzo Kitakata, City of Refuge (1982)

Twenty-one-year-old Koji Mizui’s life spins out of control: his girlfriend turns out to be a minor; he (sort of) loses his job after spending time in jail falsely arrested; he kills one man, and then another, in semi-self-defense. As a result, he ends up running from the mob and the police, travelling with an abandoned six-year-old to whom he becomes a surrogate father. In sum, noir crossed with a buddy movie crossed with Sesame Street. City of Refuge tries to be moving but ends up bland. Grade: C+

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

The first impression was of
a slender, stylish, well-put-together
woman in her forties,
but almost instantly
the impression changed.
She wasn’t slender;
she was bone thin,
and inside the stylish clothes
she walked with a graceless
like someone whose medicine
had been cut off too soon.
Beneath the neat cowl of
well-groomed ash-blond hair,
her face was too thin,
too sharp-featured,

too deeply lined.
This could have
made her look haggard;

it made her look mean.
From the evidence,
what would have
attracted her husband
would have been
her father’s bank.

          Richard Stark
          Nobody Runs Forever

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

The third time,
the bottle smashed,
leaving him with
the jagged neck.
After that,
it got easier.

     Richard Stark

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

You had to
tell lies after
three years.

     Gil Brewer
     “Swamp Tale”

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

You want it all for free,
don’t you?
But the thing is,
you can’t get it for free.
You wanna learn about a person,
it costs you.
And the more you learn,
the more it costs.
Like digging a well,
the deeper you go,
the more expenses you got.
And sometimes it's a helluva lot more
than you can afford.

     David Goodis

     Down There

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

What I have come to realize
is that there is no hope
for poor people looking for help.
Thank you.
I am so sorry to have troubled you.
I won
t request your help again.

     Seicho Matsumoto
     Pro Bono
     (translated by Andrew Clarke)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

He wanted to
grab her,
squeeze her
into a ball,
hammer her
into his heart.

     Gil Brewer

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Book Review: Dave Zeltserman, Fast Lane (2004)

Dave Zeltserman morphs Sheriff Lou Ford into private investigator Johnny Lane with Lou's clichés replaced by Johnny's poppa's folksy aphorisms. The next time you feel like reading The Killer Inside Me, read this instead. Grade: B-

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

with need

     Gil Brewer

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

This was the way it
ended. You learned
everything there was
to learn, you took care
of every contingency,
you memorized,
you rehearsed—

and then some kid
locked a dog in a safe
a thousand miles away
and you were done.

     Charles Williams
     All the Way

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

It’s up to you
to be

          Richard Stark
          Butcher’s Moon

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

like a
with a
pet skunk

     Charles Williams

     Talk of the Town

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

always believe
a good

     Dave Cullen

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

only the lucky

are able to

     James Sallis

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review: Richard Stark, Ask the Parrot (2006)

I resented the beginning of this novel, was bored by the ending, and was thoroughly entertained in between. Ask the Parrot begins exactly where Nobody Runs Forever ends, with Parker in dire straits, and the defusion of the situation is totally, lazily deus ex machina. The end of the novel dissolves into a gun battle, which I always find to be a particularly anticlimactic way for a Parker novel to wind down, especially given my confidence that Parker is not going to die. In between, which is most of the book, Parker plans a heist while trapped in the middle of a Parker-seeking manhunt, which is, of course, great fun. Grade: B

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

Believe it or not I’ve never bought
a single piece of junk. 
I found it all
on the street. You
’d be surprised
what you find once you look.
Pennies, nickels, dimes,

safety pins, jacks, dice, mirrors,
small bottles, dresser handles,
screws, wire, cord,
mothballs, cigarette packs,
pens that say different things on them,
     Franz Lidz
     Ghosty Men

Friday, September 14, 2012

Book Review: Richard Stark, Nobody Runs Forever (2004)

The later Parker novels are busier than the earlier ones. The prose remains tight, but the plots have more moving parts, as if Starklake has become an increasingly skilled juggler over the years, and he wants to show off. In Firebreak (two books previous), this busyness felt a bit forced, but in Nobody Runs Forever, this busyness feels much more organic. Of course, Parker is an idiot to see this armored-car job through to its lemony end, but that's true of his jobs more often than not. With only two Parkers to go, I had planned to wait a while before the penultimate (Ask the Parrot), but that may not be possible. Grade: A-

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Book Review: Richard Stark, Breakout (2002)

Spoiler Alert! The following review reveals something very, very important that happens on page 6 of this book. Now, having said that, you may not think that spoiling page 6 can be spoiling much, but I found the image of (spoiler alert!) Parker putting his hands on top of his head and meekly submitting to arrest to be stunning (even though, given the title Breakout, I thought it might be coming). Taken collectively, the first 20 Parker novels (Breakout is the 21st) give the lie to the idea that Parker is good at his job. In fact, what they show is that Parker is extraordinarily lucky. Though Parker is portrayed as a smart, cautious thief, he takes so many outlandish chances in so many treacherous situations that he ought to get arrested every 1.5 books or so. (Indeed, it seems likely that it is impossible to be good at Parker’s job if “good” means “skilled enough to make a career out of it without ever going to jail”). But never mind that. It was oddly thrilling to see it finally happen, and then pleasantly surprising to discover that Breakout entails a series of breakouts—at least three, possibly more depending on what you think qualifies. My only regret about this book is that Starklake feels the need to have his characters joke about the fact the first (jail)breakout has simply created situations for further breakouts. Readers could have been trusted to catch on to that. Grade: A

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

From her eyes
wrinkles ran down
to the corners
of her mouth,

the scars of
ancient tears.

     Norman Klein
     No! No! The Woman!


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Contents: Gil Brewer, Redheads Die Quickly and Other Stories (2012)

Redheads Die Quickly and Other Stories (ORDER NOW!collects the best stories from Gil Brewers glory decade of the 1950s:

With This Gun— (Detective Tales, March 1951)
It’s Always Too Late (Detective Fiction, April 1951)
Moonshine (Manhunt, March 1955)
My Lady Is a Tramp (Pursuit, May 1955)
Red Twilight (Hunted, October 1955)
Don’t Do That (Hunted, December 1955)
Die, Darling, Die (Justice, January 1956)
The Black Suitcase (Hunted, February 1956)
Shot (Manhunt, February 1956)
The Gesture (The Saint Detective Magazine, March 1956)
Home (Accused, March 1956)
Home-Again Blues (Pursuit, March 1956)
Mow the Green Grass (Pursuit, March 1956)
Come Across (Manhunt, April 1956)
Cut Bait (Pursuit, May 1956)
Matinee (Manhunt, October 1956)
The Axe Is Ready (Trapped, December 1956)
On a Sunday Afternoon (Manhunt, January 1957)
Prowler! (Manhunt, May 1957)
Bothered (Manhunt, July 1957)
Smelling Like a Rose (Mr., July 1957)
Death of a Prowler (Trapped, April 1958)
Getaway Money (Guilty, November 1958)
Redheads Die Quickly (Mystery Tales, April 1959)
Harlot House (Mystery Tales, August 1959)

25 stories in all!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Gil Brewer Appreciation Society

If you’re a Gil Brewer fan
and you do Facebook,
please join us
by following
the link below.

Book Review: Richard Stark, Firebreak (2001)

Firebreak begins with two plot threads—Parker planning a heist, Parker trying to figure out who wants him dead—that Starklake soon ties together. The heist, involving stolen art secreted away in an isloated mansion, is a good one, and just when you think the plot has stablized, complications invariably arise. My only complaint about Firebreak is that the jack-in-the-box appearances of some complications feel artless. In particular, the inclusion two men on the job—Harry Corbett and Bob Dolan—desperate for money so that they can skip on bail only distracts from a solid entry in the Parker series. Grade: B

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week


     B.T.K. (Dennis Rader)
     “Shirley Locks

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

In the cool Mississippi
breeze he swung
to and fro from the dogwood tree to see
himself completely hung.
Ah! no conjure man
or ghost can
so neatly tread
this, God’s free air,
no fetish grant the steady stare
of these dead
eyes. But, oh, around my
neck the manila snake strangled the last cry
and boxed it in my throat
and what I had to say to them, I wrote
with pencilings of pain,
in blood that leaped through every vein;
I told then what I had to say
and last I stuck my tongue
far out at them to their dismay
while I flung my unwashed feet
in the last great kick; and the last great beat
within me
fled from Mississippi.
     Hal Ellson

     “Gumbo Hangs High

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Review: Seicho Matsumoto, Pro Bono (1961)

My first Seicho Matsumoto novel was Points and Lines (1958), the whodunit that made him famously popular in Japan. That mystery hinged on a detailed analysis of train timetables, a subject that Japanese readers love but that many American readers find tedious. Perhaps more to American taste—and certainly more to the taste of noir fans—will be Matsumoto’s Pro Bono (1961), which has just appeared in English for the first time. Kiriko Yanagida, a young woman from Kyushu, travels to Tokyo to solicit to the services of a famous lawyer to represent her brother, whom she believes has been falsely accused of murder. Kiriko has no way to pay the lawyer, and he briefly considers but rejects the possibility of taking her case pro bono. The bulk of the novel tells of the events that follow: the fate of Kiriko’s brother; how his fate affects her; and how all of this comes back to affect the lawyer. Grade: B+

Monday, August 20, 2012

Entire Cover: Gil Brewer, Redheads Die Quickly and Other Stories (2012)

(click on image to see it all!)

Pulp Poem of the Week

When you see
a woman writhing
in agony, laughter
is unimaginative.

     Fuminori Nakamura

     The Thief
     (trans. Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book Review: Charles Williams, All the Way (1958)

Noir believes in love at first sight—or at least that men are capable of love at first sight—or at least that men are capable of lust at first sight, which they convince themselves is love. Case in point: Charles Williams’ All the Way, in which narrator Jerry Forbes falls at once for Marian Forsyth, allowing her to manipulate him as she sees fit. As is often the case, readers will have difficulty accounting for Jerry’s obsession with Marian, who is not the typical noir sexual bombshell, beyond the fact that the plot requires it. Marian’s plans hinge on the fact that Jerry’s voice is indistinguishable from that of her former boss and lover, and therefore Jerry can impersonate him on the phone as per Marian’s instructions. The first half of All the Way is somewhat slow; the book establishes its premise quickly, but the plot takes a while to get moving. The second half is fairly intense as Jerry encounters unexpected obstacles in pulling off his impersonation. On the whole, this one is well worth seeking out. Grade: B+

Monday, August 13, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

If you pick up a starving dog
and make him prosperous,
he will not bite you.
This is the principle difference
between a dog and a man.
Mark Twain
Pudd’nhead Wilson

Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Review: Dave Zeltserman, The Dame (2012)

Two entries into the series, it is clear that the novelettes in The Hunted are very much parts of a whole. Thus, I feel odd reviewing them individually, rather as if I were reviewing individual chapters of a book as I went along, but I can say, at the very least, that they are entertaining chapters. With The Dame, we are squarely in Parker-Stark territory, and the reading is quick and good, even if Dan Willis lacks Parker's winning personality. Grade: B

Pulp Poem of the Week

Why don’t
people go to
the police?

     Gil Brewer
     “Home-Again Blues”

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book Review: Charles Williams, Talk of the Town [a.k.a. Stain of Suspicion] (1958)

Talk of the Town is an Everyman noir-cum-whodunit via a damsel in distress with occasional patter tossed in from a screwball comedy. The premise is vaguely similar to an earlier Charles Williams novel, Go Home, Stranger (1954), as both feature amateur outsiders attempting to solve crimes (though Bill Chatham, protagonist of Talk of the Town, is a former professional). The plotting of Talk of the Town is thin, largely because so many of Chatham’s decisions are based on there-was-a-small-chance-but-it-was-the-only-chance logic. Nevertheless, Talk of the Town is somewhat more engrossing than Go Home, Stranger because Williams does a better job of making his protagonist a participant in (rather than an observer of) the plot. Grade: C+

Monday, July 30, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

If someone steals your sandals
while you’re at the public baths,
you steal someone else’s.
If you’re upset about your brother’s death
why not kill a complete stranger?
Osamu Tezuka
(translated by Camellia Nieh)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

My Ten Favorite Noir Novels of All Time at This Moment

From out of the darkness, here I have found the greatest joy:

Frank Norris, McTeague (1899) 
Martin M. Goldsmith, Detour (1939) 
William Lindsay Gresham, Nightmare Alley (1946)
Bill S. Ballinger, Portrait in Smoke (1950)
Gil Brewer, A Killer Is Loose (1954)
Jim Thompson, A Hell of a Woman (1954) 
Charles Williams, A Touch of Death (1954)
James McKimmey, The Long Ride (1961) 
Richard Stark, The Score (1964)
Natsuo Kirino, Out (1997)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Best (and Worst) Novels of Gil Brewer

Between 1951 and 1967, Gil Brewer published 30 noirboiled novels.  Here are my picks for the must-reads and the must-avoids:

The best . . .

Hell’s Our Destination (Gold Medal, 1953): Brewer found his voice in his fifth published novel. Bleak House in the Florida swamp.

A Killer Is Loose (Gold Medal, 1954): Brewer thought that this tale of an everyman and a psychopath was his best novel. He may have been right.

The Brat (Gold Medal, 1957): The title character is perhaps Brewer’s most memorable femme fatale—and she’s got a lot of competition.

A Taste for Sin (Berkley, 1961): Or maybe this novel contains Brewer’s most memorable femme fatale. Conveniently, she happens to be married to a bank clerk.

Memory of Passion (Lancer, 1962): An ambitious narrative blending a busted marriage and a serial killer.

The worst . . .

Some Must Die (Gold Medal, 1954): Brewer’s attempt at a western. Much of the prose is incoherent.

The Angry Dream (Mystery House, 1957): Thin plot with a laugh-out-loud ending. Also published as The Girl from Hateville.

Appointment in Hell (Monarch, 1961): Even a plane crash in the wilds of South America cannot dampen the horniness of the human spirit.

Sin for Me (Banner, 1967): Brewer running on fumes, lurching his way to one last noirboiled paycheck.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

the money existed
Gil Brewer
The Tease

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Book Review: Dave Zeltserman, The Hunted (2012)

Manhunt and other noirboiled digests of the 1950s, unusually long stories, which often had short numbered chapters, were called “novelettes.” If the noirboiled novelette should become popular in the 21st century, it will be because these stories—too short to stand alone as novels, too long for most magazines—have found their perfect home: e-readers. Dave Zeltserman, the hardest-working man in noirboiled, gives the genre a go with The Hunted Series. The first entry in the series details the backstory and early career of hitman Dan Willis. My favorite thing about Zeltserman’s books is that his plots never go exactly where I expect them to, which is a joy when you spend your time rutting endlessly in the same genre. (The most important lesson that Zeltserman learned from Jim Thompson is this: Great writers take chances.) This time out, the unexpected twist nearly crushed my credulity, but I clicked through this novelette fast enough that I will surely read the next in the series. Grade: B-