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+