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-

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Book Review: Gil Brewer, Sin for Me (1967)

Sin for Me marked the thudding end of Gil Brewer’s seventeen-year career as an author of noir paperback originals (1951-1967). Conventional wisdom says that the 1950s were Brewer’s artistic glory years and that his 1960s output was spotty at best. More accurate is to say that Brewer was more prolific in the 1950s and therefore wrote more good novels in that decade. (He wrote more stinkers in the 1950s, too.) Sin for Me has all the elements of a top-tier Brewer novel patched together ineptly. A pair of femmes fatale and $400,000 in stolen cash upend the life of Jesse Sunderland, an everyman realty agent whose woodenly introspective first-person narration plays a major part in spoiling the fun. Brewer justifies each turn in the narrative with a three-part formula: (1) Jesse has an intuition about a character or an event; (2) Jesse immediately decides that his intuition must be true; (3) therefore Jesse’s intuition is true. At times, you can almost hear Brewer whispering into Jesse’s ear, “Come on, man, we can make that word count—I know we can!” An unfortunate end to a great run. Grade: D

Monday, July 16, 2012

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

from the Winter 2012 catalog of the University Press of Florida
to see the full ad, click on the image

Pulp Poem of the Week

She is
totally irresponsible,
physically unattractive.
And yet
there is something . . .

     Jim Thompson
     The Golden Gizmo

Friday, July 13, 2012

Book Review: James Sallis, Drive (2005)

I had read so many raves for Drive that I expected something great, but here’s what I got instead: a standard-issue noir anti-hero from the Stark-Parker Division; a standard-issue noir plot made not much fresher by its chronologically jumbled narration; enjoyable tangets into the world of Hollywood stunt-driving; and a shout-out to Jorge Luis Borges. In sum, a disappointment. Grade: C+

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Book Review: Norman Klein, No! No! The Woman! (1932)

I may read Norman Klein’s No! No! The Woman a second time, not because I liked it but because I’m still trying to figure out what I just read. I mean, how many vintage hardboiled novels end by quoting Friedrich Nietzsche? I learned of this novel’s existence from a 1932 review in the New York Times. The opening sentence of the review declares that Klein “has aligned himself with the hard-boiled school of mystery writers, and he always calls a spade a spade except when he happens to think of some uglier term for it.” And the review concludes, “In brief, the tale has no moral and no morals.” Sounds promising, right? In the main, the novel is a sloppily plotted whodunit. Its protagonist, Leslie Cobb, returns stateside from Europe after the death of her great-aunt, Sophia Pollard. Cobb soon comes to believe that her aunt was murdered and begins amateur sleuthing. She resembles a hardboiled detective mainly in her irreverent wisecracking. It is easy to spot things that might have been shocking in 1932—though today, a foot fetishist (for example) will doubtless disturb fewer readers. Surprisingly, just when it seems that the narrative belongs entirely to Cobb, a conventional hardboiled detective (name: Lee M. Carnley) appears on the scene. Ultimately, however, the narrative becomes Cobb’s again. This is probably a good thing, but I wouldn’t swear to it. Grade: C+

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

If I just talked
without busting you first,
you wouldn’t

     Gil Brewer
     “With This Gun—”


Monday, July 2, 2012

Pulp Poem of the Week

what is more courageous
than a piece of steel?

     Ernest Crosby
     Captain Jinks, Hero