Monday, December 30, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

Skeezo what?

          Richard S. Prather
          Always Leave ’em Dying

Monday, December 23, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

These chickens of mine are lucky.
They don’t know

what’s coming their way.
They may end up on a table
but they don’t have the newspapers
to worry them to death first.

          Seymour Shubin
          Anyone’s My Name

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Book Review: Richard S. Prather, Always Leave 'em Dying (1954)

Searching for a missing girl, Shell Scott does battle with Arthur Trammel, leader of a California cult. Always Leave ’em Dying is what it is: Fast-paced but featherweight, entertaining but absurd. I cannot deny that I enjoyed my first Shell Scott experience, but I cannot say that I crave another. Grade: C+

Monday, December 9, 2013

Book Note: Noir Erasure Poetry Anthology (2013)

Silver Birch Press has just published this really cool collection of noir erasure poetry that you should purchase by following the link that is this entire sentence. I contributed a poem from page 85 of Gil Brewer’s Hell’s Our Destination (1953). To read my poem from page 85, you have to buy the book. For free, you get to read poems that I made from the copyright page and page 145:

Friday, November 29, 2013

Book Review: Miyuki Miyabe, All She Was Worth (1992)

Honma, a police inspector on medical leave, is approached by his nephew to find the nephew’s missing fiancée. After this, nothing much happens other than an investigation and a primer in Japanese debtors. Worth a read if you have a particular interest in things Japanese. Grade: C-

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

You can’t erase it all,
not even half of it.
Half my life surrendered to gray
screens the size of my thumbnail,
each flare carelessly shot
from my phone to another
now rocketing back,
landing in my lap like a cartoon bomb,
its wick lit.

          Megan Abbott
          Dare Me

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

They can be dangerous,
that don’t look dangerous.
Not looking dangerous
what makes them dangerous.

          Terry Pratchett
          Thief of Time

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

A prisoner does one of two things:
(1) he goes along, or
(2) he escapes.
That’s all there is.
His keepers give orders and
he obeys them.
He doesn’t think;
he doesn’t argue;
he doesn’t engage
in philosophical discussion.
He does exactly what he’s told, and
all of his concentration remains
exclusively watching for a chance
to move onto (2).
Then he sees an opening, and
he coldcocks the economist from Yale, and
he’s gone.

          Donald E. Westlake
          Don’t Ask

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

Never joke with a
tired tramp.
No one gets as tired as a
tired tramp.

     Elliott Chaze
     Black Wings Has My Angel

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Book Review: Donald E. Westlake, Don't Ask (1993)

The International Parker Theorem states: The more Parker gets involved in international intrigue, the less interesting he becomes. Its corollary, the International Dortmunder Theorem, states: The more a Dortmunder novel becomes involved in international intrigue, the sillier it becomes. And this is Westlake’s constant artistic battle in the Dortmunder books: to negotiate the fine line between funny and silly, to not get lazy and descend into fart jokes. Don’t Ask begins in the general realm of the fart joke with Dortmunder riding in a fish truck. (A future Dortmunder novel, I can only assume, will begin with Dortmunder sitting in an outhouse.) The problem with International Dortmunder is that Westlake cannot resist the low-hanging fruit: silly names, silly accents, and so on. And Donald E. Westlake, of all people, has no need for low-hanging fruit. In sum, Don’t Ask is an acceptable Dortmunder, though a bit lazy. Competent, but not inspired. Grade: C

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

A hammer may be picked up
almost anywhere in the world.
Baseball bats are
very widely distributed.
Even a rock or a heavy stick
will do.

          CIA training manual

Monday, October 7, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

the attrition of honesty
varies inversely
with the square of the distance
and directly
with the mass of the temptation

     Charles Williams
     Girl Out Back

Monday, September 30, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

Three times
I have been mistaken
for a Prohibition agent,
but never had any trouble
clearing myself.

          Dashiell Hammett
          “From the Memoirs of a Private Detective” 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

He might be
he had a
worried look about him.

          Gil Brewer
          Memory of Passion

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

Were watching you so don’t pull
anything phoney—or else your
kid gets knocked off see. We
mean that Mrs. Cobb.

Now from filling station drive

straight to Darien —turn right
BEFORE going under R.R. bridge.
You turn your trip spedometer
to OOO.  Follow car line.

You go exactly ONE mile and STOP.

Have packages ready!!     If you
tip COPS its goodnight for kid.
How about it?     We’ll meet you.
     Norman Klein
     No! No! The Woman!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

I started toward him.
Not fast.
I was in no hurry.
The longer it lasted,
the more I would like it.

     Howard Browne
     “Man in the Dark”

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Donald E. Westlake, Drowned Hopes (1990)

In which Dortmunder must figure out how to retrieve money buried at the bottom of a lake. My pet peeve about the Dortmunder series has been that the lighter tone of these books (compared to, say, oh, I don't know, the Parker novels?) tempts Westlake sometimes to take the easy, sophomoric route (e.g., fart jokes). This time out, plot and execution are strong (the first major underwater scene, in particular, is brilliantly claustrophobic), and the proceedings stay mature . . . but Westlake cannot resist a certain silliness that sometimes mars the cumulative gravitas of the Dortmunder series. Exhibit A: Dortmunder at Mt. Rushmore, which is a deeply regrettable self-indulgence. Grade B+

Monday, September 2, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

Innocence is killing
For profit.

Guilt is killing
For pleasure.

          David Rachels
          Verse Noir

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

looks like a noose
if you stare at it
long enough

          Sherman Alexie
          “Indian Education”

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Donald E. Westlake, Good Behavior (1985)

Dortmunder + nuns = not my idea of a good premise. Grade: C

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

A smart lawyer knows
when to tell the truth.

     Donald E. Westlake
     The Hot Rock

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

The cross-eyed gods of
the universal cash register had
punched the No Sale key, and
the drawer was wide open—

          Gil Brewer
          Nude on Thin Ice

Monday, August 5, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

Always living in the garbage cans
of somebody else’s life.
I scavenge old souls.

     Steve Fisher
     I Wake Up Screaming

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

m an alcoholic,

will somebody
buy me a beer?

          Gil Brewer
          A Killer Is Loose

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

Not a kick was wasted.
Each of the two men received
two kicks in the guts,

by way of obtaining
temporary silence.

Each received
a kick in the temple,
by way of making the silence
more or less permanent.
Each received
three kicks in the face
as a lasting memento
of the kicking.

     Jim Thompson
     The Golden Gizmo

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

I awoke during the night
and she was gone.
Switching on the light,
I looked at my watch.
It was shortly after 3 P.M.

          Charles Williams
          Man on the Run


Monday, July 8, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

the bright light,
the soft sap,
the kick to the kidneys,
the knee to the groin,
the fist to the solar plexus,
the night stick to the base of the spine

          Raymond Chandler
          The Long Goodbye

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Book Review: Charles Williams, Man on the Run (1958)

Man on the Run begins with a man on the run for a crime that he didn’t commit. Russell Foley is his name, and he has the more-than-good fortune to break into the home of Suzy Patton, a stranger who is willing to help him. This is absurd even for a novel of this type, and the book’s ham-handed plotting as Russell and Suzy try to clear his name only heightens the absurdity. If I had not known that Charles Williams wrote this book, I would never have guessed it. I expect much, much better from him. Grade: D

Monday, July 1, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

I never knew a man

with a conscience
made a good con man.
And I never knew a conscience
to quit, either.
If anything, it grows on you
like some kind of
Mesopotamian wart.

          Gil Brewer
          A Devil for O’Shaugnessy

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dortmunder Footnote

In my review of Dortmunder #2, before I was sold on the series, I wrote that I would continue with Dortmunder until Westlake stooped to his first fart joke. Dortmunder #5 plays farts for laughs three times, but, mericfully, none decends to Blazing Saddles territory. Threat retracted.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: Donald E. Westlake, Why Me? (1983)

Upon finishing the Parker series, I began Dortmunder with a sense of desperate skepticism, and I have been pleasantly surprised. I was underwhelmed by Dortmunder #1 (The Hot Rock), but Dortmunder #2 (Bank Shot) was good enough to keep me going. Dortmunder #3 (Jimmy the Kid) was genius, which made mediocre Dortmunder #4 (Nobody’s Perfect) even more disappointing. Fortunately, Dortmunder #5 (Why Me?) is pretty great. The relationship between Dortmunder and his sidekick Andy Kelp deepens, which points to the remarkable strength of the series: Dortmunder’s sad-sack character develops a surprising gravitas, despite his status as a perpetual punch line. At first I was uncertain whether the Dortmunder novels should be read at all. Now I think they should be read in order. Grade: A-

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

you wind up paying
for things
you didn’t even know
had a price

          Warren Moore
          Broken Glass Waltzes

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Book Review: Gil Brewer, A Devil for O'Shaugnessy (1973)

(The following review does not contain spoilers; the plot element described below does not appear in the published version of A Devil for O'Shaugnessy.) In 1973, with his career in decline for more than a decade, Gil Brewer completed a new noir thriller, A Devil for O’Shaugnessy. A throwback, the novel would have fit as one of his lesser Gold Medal paperbacks of the late 1950s, memorable primarily for the appearance of a deranged pet monkey as a major character. Brewer’s agent submitted the manuscript to Coward, McCann, and the publisher sent detailed suggestions for revision, including the possibility that “there might be a neater ending in which Fisk and Miriam are killed together (in a chase scene, for example).” Brewer dutifully responded to the publisher’s criticisms, only to have his revision rejected outright. In their kiss-off letter, Coward, McCann made substantial (and legitimate) objections to aspects of the plot that they had implicitly endorsed previously. As well, they panned Brewer’s new ending, complaining that “the car chase, another cliché, seems an awfully familiar device. Haven’t we seen this already too many times before?” Feel Gil Brewer’s pain. Grade: C

Monday, June 17, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

on the stairs
muffled voices.

          Seymour Shubin
          Anyone’s My Name

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

Nobody gets
everything in this life.
You decide
your priorities and
make your choices.
I’d decided
long ago that
any cake I had
would be eaten.

          Donald E. Westlake
          Two Much!