Friday, May 26, 2006

An Interview with John D. MacDonald

I ran across an interview with the one and only John D. MacDonald (you know, the guy who wrote the Travis McGee novels, Slam the Big Door, The Damned and dozens of other tremendously successful novels) conducted by Ed Gorman. It was originally published in The Big Book of Noir in 1984. John D. talks about Travis McGee, writing, and life. There are also several scans of vintage John D. pulp art paperbacks--Gold Medal and Dell. You should check it out.

The interviewer, Ed Gorman, is one of my favorite writers and he does a bang-up job here. If you like his interview style you should check out his novels. His Sam McCain stories give John D's Travis McGee a run for his money.

The interview is currently online at Mystery File. Click here to read the interview.
Pulp Covers for Classic Novels

Is this the mark of the revitalization of 1950s pulp? First we have a major national publisher, Hard Case Crime, marketing classic and original noir novels complete with lurid and sleazy artwork (which I love!) and now is following the trend by bankrolling six mock pulp covers for classic literary works. Animal Farm is my favorite--when you see it, you'll know why. Click here to read the article and see the covers.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Parker is Back!

I just bumped into Richard Stark's latest Parker novel on Amazon--it is amazing what aimless surfing / time-killing will do for you. The title is, Ask the Parrot, and it is, according to Amazon, set for release on November 23, 2006.

If you are unfamiliar with Parker, or Stark, you should remedy that as quickly as possible. Parker is the quintessential tough guy anti-hero. He is a professional criminal who works only when he needs to, and isn't afraid of anyone, or anything. He is loyal, most of the time, reasonable and more than willing to kick your ass if you cross him.

You very probably saw him portrayed by Mel Gibson in the film Payback--and while I enjoyed the film, the novels are so much better!

Richard Stark is the pseudonym for Donald E. Westlake, and I have yet to read a Westlake, or Stark novel that I didn't enjoy. Hard Case Crime released a vintage-style mass-market paperback of Westlake's classic hardboiled novel, 361 last summer and they are set to release Lemons Never Lie in July. Lemons is another classic novel, this one under the Richard Stark moniker, which means it will be tough, hard and lean. It is high on my list of summer reading. The cover is great, too.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

New Jack Ketchum & Richard Laymon titles from Leisure Books

Good news on the horror front. Leisure Books has two new Richard Laymon titles coming later this year, and one Jack Ketchum. Okay, so they are all reprints. Picky, picky. First off, Leisure continues to publish classic Ketchum titles with, Off Season. This is the unexpurgated edition, which means that it has been expanded by the author to more accurately represent his original text before the editors / censors of the original publisher got ahold of it. I have read that Ketchum actually threw-out, or otherwise destroyed the original manuscript. Off Season was Jack Ketchum's first published novel, and it will be released in June--just a few weeks away. I can't wait. I read the Headline edition several years ago, and needless to say I'm anxiously awaiting this new revamped version.

Into the Fire by Richard Laymon will be released in July--this is the paperback reprint of Leisure's hardcover release last fall. It isn't one of Laymon's better novels, but it is entertaining, and contains the usual sexual titillations and humor Laymon is known for.

The Laymon title I really am excited about is his first published novel, The Cellar. It is the original Beast House novel and, from what I have heard, the best of the bunch. I can't wait to get my grubby hands on this one. It is scheduled for release in October, and it should make a great Halloween read.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Vengeance Valley by Richard S. Wheeler

I read a western a few months ago titled Vengeance Valley by Richard Wheeler. It is a mining camp story about a prospector named Hard Luck Yancey. It is a quiet story of perseverance, love and ultimately triumph. It won the 2005 Western Writer’s of America Spur Award for best paperback original.

And no one read it! The sales numbers were terrible. It got me to thinking—and on this subject I am less than original and far from expert—about why such a sweet and charming novel would do so poorly.

First let’s start with the title: Vengeance Valley. This is an obvious throwback to the heyday of the western. Those old Ace Doubles, Gold Medal and Signet originals (all of which I love) that portrayed the west as a palace of helpless women, bad men and loner heroes. Unfortunately in this case the title is so misleading that if that were the type of book you wanted, you would be angry that it never took shape. There is no valley in the story—the town of Yancey, where the novel is set, is literally on the side of steep mountain ridge. And as for vengeance? Nope. None. Maybe there is a touch of poetic justice when Hard Luck Yancey earns back his mine, wins the girl and saves the town, but not much in the way of six-gun vengeance here.

Now, how about the cover (see above). There is a duded-up gunman with six-shooters in hand getting ready to exact a bit of vigilante justice on the bad guys. When I got about halfway through this novel it dawned on me that I had yet read about a gun—any gun, let alone a six-shooter—so in fun I made a count of just how many firearms showed-up in the telling of this story, and there was exactly one: A shotgun that was pointed, but never fired.

The publisher (in this case Pinnacle) marketed this book for failure. It narrowed the audience to a group of about five rednecks in Arkansas (Bill Clinton not among them) by the title and cover art when it easily could have found a much wider audience. There is much in Vengenace Valley to admire: there is a tender and beautiful love story; a very basic good versus evil strain; great characters; greed and innocence. This is a novel that could easily be enjoyed by both men and women, so why is it marketed as an action novel for men?

Why do the major publishing houses insist on marketing westerns like it is still 1955? Vengeance Valley is but one example of how publishers are destroying the genre through incompetence, neglect, or outright literary snobbery. I guess the old saying is true: You truly can’t judge a book by its cover. Maybe those romance novels with bare-chested Fabios aren’t so bad either—well, maybe.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Welcome to Grave Tapping.

Summer has finally arrived on the high desert--it was an unusually wet winter. The ski resorts had an unbelievable base of around 150+ inches of snow in April, and Snowbird is still open! Anyway, today is beautiful. The sky is clear, the snow covered Wasatch range is seemingly clawing their way to heaven and it is all happening on mother's day.

Happy day to all the mother's out there. It may be a Hallmark (buy crap from us) inspired holiday, but this one is well deserved. Although, skip the stores and just let your mom know you love her. Leave the consumerism alone for a day. Wal-Mart will survive, unfortunately, without your presence and purchases for one holiday.

Now, off my soap box. If you haven't noticed already, this is my new blog! Oh the power--err, something. Anyone out there? Anyone?

This is the place for anything and everything me, all the time. Except, that one can only talk about oneself for so long before ennui sets in with all its bleak ferocity. In fact, now that I think about it, I am almost there already.

If you love books--popular fiction (mystery, horror, science fiction, western) you will love this site because I love it, and will try to discuss it a bit here. I also love non-fiction, quality literature (not so much what passes for literature today, but the good stuff: Hemingway, Conrad, Steinbeck, etc.) You know, the good old-fashioned writer's who realized there had to be a story involved before any meaning could be conveyed. Or reader's found. Do I dare say, that evilness, they understood and implemented plot?

Welcome, sit back and maybe, just maybe we can have a dialog, monologue, or something equally enviable. Welcome, and come back soon.