Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Crimes of Jordan Wise by Bill Pronzini

Bill Pronzini is best known for his spectacular Nameless Detective series, but his stand alone work more than holds its own. In fact, I look forward to his non-series books because they have a similar atmosphere and style of the old noir novels, but they are anything but cheap copies--they are unique, sparse yet heavy with meaning and melancholy, and all Pronzini.

The Crimes of Jordan Wise is a nifty thriller with an anti-hero who has committed three perfect crimes in his life, and as his life draws to a close he wants to share the story. Pronzini is an old hand at plotting and you can tell--there is nothing out of place; no missing segments, and nothing left hanging. The prose is simple, almost haunting in a melancholy way, and easily disguises the complexity of the story: the layers peel away to reveal something deep and meaningful. It says something about life, friendship, love, all while navigating the darkness that burrows its way into the human soul. The Crimes of Jordan Wise is sad, gritty and dark, at times sweet and tender, and always entertaining.

Bill Pronzini, particularly his stand alone novels, deserves a larger audience than he has. His writing yearns back to the old days, but his style, talent and voice are uniquely his own. The Crimes of Jordan Wise is, if not the best, one of the best novels I have read this year.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Mirror Lake Highway

Okay, I have been meaning to write this post for nearly two weeks, but alas it just hasn't happened. Well, it is happening now, I promise you. A few weekends back my girl--sexy and intelligent she is--her parents and I went for a day trip into the Uinta Mountains. While, as expected, it was beautiful, cool (somewhere in the mid-seventies) and fun it was also a much needed break from finals, work, the valley, and the heat.

Nature exists for one reason: To remind us of how simple life really is. It is about love, simplicity and reliance. The love and kindness we should extend to our families, neighbors and all living creatures. The simplicity of life: food, shelter, wonder and awe. The reliance we all have on each other.

I traveled the hills of the Uinta National Forest as a boy with my father and brother, a pack on my back and a few blisters on my feet. It feels very much like home when I broach its interior--it is more crowded, less peaceful than it was, but still it is a place of great wonder and awe.

I love the Uintas and hope our society continues to recognize the beauty of land and place so these wild places can remain intact. They are truly a treasure and if we don't protect them they will be beaten down and destroyed.

Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime by Robert J. Randisi

Good news. Robert Randisi has a new novel coming to a bookstore near you this Halloween--Oct. 31 for the mentally stunted out there. It is the first, of at least two, "Rat Pack" novels featuring, who else, but the rat pack? The Publisher's Weekly review is excellent--"Randisi (Arch Angels) provides a snazzy snapshot of a mythic 1960 Las Vegas in this enjoyable first of a new series."

I'm excited for a new Randisi for a few reasons, the most prominent is: I like this guy when he is writing well. I have been a shade disappointed with his recent output, with the exception of Cold Blooded, and I hope Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime represents the return of Bob Randisi to the form he held in his early Joe Keough novels.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

New Hard Case Crime Artwork--The Wounded and the Slain

New today! I just received an email from the fine people at Hard Case--Charles Ardai to be exact, or maybe his secretary. Who knows? They have just released the cover art (see right) for their upcoming David Goodis novel, The Wounded and the Slain. This title won't be on bookshelves until May, 2007, but it definitely is something to look forward to.

The next title coming from Hard Case Crime, the first week of September, is Pete Hamill's The Guns of Heaven. I thought this baby was an original HCC title, but alas, no. It was originally published some twenty years ago and HCC is bringing it back into print.

I love Hard Case Crime. The idea, the books, and the covers, but I have been disappointed with a few of the reprint titles--the Donald Hamilton title, the David Dodge title, and a few others. It's not that I didn't like them, but rather they didn't speak to me. My reaction was, "Hmm...well, at least I can add it to my books-read list." Not a great recommendation.

On the other hand I have absolutely loved all of their original novels--especially Kiss Her Goodbye by Allan Guthrie, and The Confession by Domenic Stansberry. They are of my generation, and they say something that I am waiting to hear--I empathize with the characters more, enjoy the excitement more, and just basically like them better--on the whole--than the reprints. So, needless to say, I am disappointed that The Guns of Heaven is a reprint.

If you are out there Charles Ardai, acquire more original novels--maybe a Bill Pronzini title, an Ed Gorman, another Stansberry, or Guthrie. Anything new. Please. I'll buy it, I promise.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Covers of Harry Whittington

Bill Crider, paperback collector and mystery / western writer, has put together a slideshow of his Harry Whittington collection. The covers are wild and vivid. Whittington has been called the king of the paperback, and when you see this impressive show, you will know why. Check the show out Here. I have about seven of these titles--boy, would I be willing to trade for Crider's lot.

There is also a slideshow of John D's paperbacks Here.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Weekend of Books: John D., Ian MacAlister & .357 Vigilante

Oh boy. It's Monday evening, and I'm still smiling. This weekend I made an absolute haul at a thrift shop and a used bookstore. I found no less than two vintage John D. MacDonald novels--Dead Low Tide and The Brass Cupcake. The Brass Cupcake is a Gold Medal reprint (R2139)--the cover art has changed, for the worse, from the original (see right), while Dead Low Tide is one of those beautifully gaudy paperback editions put out by Fawcett Gold Medal in the 1970s. While I know little about Cupcake, I have heard that Dead Low Tide is a masterpiece. I can't wait to read it--them, I mean.

I also came away with Ian MacAlister's Valley of the Assassins. MacAlister is the pen name of Marvin Albert, Gold Medal writer, and all around great storyteller. He wrote four slam-bang adventure novels under the MacAlister name very reminiscent of the good, early work, of Alistair MacLean. Maybe even his pen name was influenced? To read a great article, written by Bill Crider, about Albert follow This Link to Mystery File.

The other two paperbacks I picked up are less exciting, but still--
The Executioner #26: Acapulco Rampage. I haven't read a Mack Bolan book since I was sixteen--okay, you caught me, 26--and I thougfht it was damn time I tried one again. I thought I would go back to the original though, the new stuff doesn't excite all that much.

And, .357: Vigilante by Ian Ludlow. This is the first of a series cut short (three books released) when the original Pinnacle Books went bankrupt. I've never tried one, but thought it might be time. It is the work of Lee Goldberg and Lewis Perdue. Goldberg's novel, The Man with the Iron-On Badge was selected as a finalist for an Edgar for best novel this year, and it deserved it. While Lewis Perdue is the scorned and angry author of The Da Vinci Legacy--he claims Dan Brown lifted ideas, plot points and research for his novel The Da Vinci Code. Frankly neither of the books are very good, and Lewis Perdue (his The Perfect Killer is much better) should just be thankful that Brown's success brought Legacy back into print.

Here is to all the little flea-ridden, dust enveloped shops around the world that still find space for a few old paperback books.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Lisey's Story by Stephen King

I wish I could tell you that I have been a lifelong Stephen King fan, but I can't. Now don't get me wrong, I have never read a Stephen King novel I didn't like--although there have been a few I was mildly disappointed with: Hearts in Atlantis (the first 2/3rds was awesome, the last third unfulfilled), and his endings can be a little dicky at times.

My problem with Stephen King hasn't been his work, but rather his popularity--anything as popular as he is can't possibly be any good, can it? As evidence, think about the big blockbuster films of the last several years: Independence Day, Star Wars (the new trilogy), Pearl Harbor, and the rash of really shitty comic book movies (i.e. The Hulk, Sin City, etc.) Not to mention that dog of a movie, The Return of the King.

It's not surprising that somehow, somewhere, this relationship of popular equals crummy was ingrained in my mind not as post hoc, but as truth. So, I avoided Stephen King for years--popular is bad, so Stephen king must be awful. Then one day I picked up his novel, The Stand, and I have been a fan ever since. Hell, I even liked his much maligned, The Colorado Kid. So it is with some anticipation that I await his next novel, Lisey's Story.

It's long (528 pages), do we expect anything less from King? It is about love and violence with a touch of the paranormal thown in to keep it, well, different. It is due out in October--the end of October--from Scribner in hardcover. I already have a hold on it at my local library. What, you think I can afford 28 bucks? Yeah, right.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cavalry Man: Powder Keg by Ed Gorman

Ed Gorman writes a different kind of western--the characters are softer, lonelier and much more recognizable (they feel and act like people we know) than the standard fare. And the storylines run more towards the mystery genre than the western, and Powder Keg, the second novel in his Cavarly Man series, is no exception.

Noah Ford, the decent, almost philosophical recovering alcoholic federal man, is dispatched to the small town of Willow Bend. There is a bank robber hitting all the local banks and then turning the money over to small land owners to pay their mortgages, two other federals who are more apt to break the law than keep it, and a mysterious rash of murders that will keep Ford busy trying to figure a motive, and even more busy trying to keep himself alive.

Powder Keg is a mystery disguised as a western. Sure, the setting is set in the old west--there are cattlemen, saloons, livery stables, brothels, Sheriffs, and a whole lot of horses, but that's okay. A mystery is a mystery after all. It doesn't matter where or when it's set, does it? There are also a chain of murders, soft, sweet and sincere women, tough hard-drinking men and Noah Ford with a root beer in hand.

If you enjoy a good mystery, a western, or just like good, well-told stories, Cavalry Man: Powder Keg will sit well.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Ghoul by Brian Keene--The Cover Art

I just ran across the cover art for the next Brian Keene novel coming out from Leisure Books--the most progressive mainstream horror publisher running. The title is: Ghoul. The release date: February, 2007.

I was disappointed with City of the Dead, and I haven't gotten to The Conqueror Worms yet--although it is still very much on my list--but I thought Keene's Terminal was one of the best dark suspense novels of 2005. It was well plotted, filled with characters that felt true, and just good damn fun. You could say I liked it. In fact, you can read my review for Terminal at SFReader by clicking Here.

New Stark House Noir Classic Double--Harry Whittington

It's no secret I am a fan of the old crime thrillers of the 1940s, 50s and 60s--not to mention the westerns, the science fiction and just about damn near everything else written--which is why this little number excites the hell out of me for two reasons. The first, and the most obvious is: Stark House Press is scheduled to release two vintage Harry Whittington novels--A Night for Screaming and Any Woman He Wanted--this September. This release, like all the Stark House publications, is a trade paperback with great cover art and two complete and unabridged novels. The novel retails for $19.95, which brings me back to an old gripe. Where have all the inexpensive mass-market paperbacks gone? I would be much more excited if I could pick this baby up for seven or eight dollars as a mass-market. Oh well, at least Stark House is out there, operating and bringing some of these old classics back into print.

The second reason I'm excited about this news has nothing whatsoever to do with the Whittington book, but rather how I found out about it. I have talked about a website called Mystery File on this blog before--it contains loads of information about current and past mystery writers and their work including bibliographies, book cover scans, interviews, reviews as well as light intellectual inquiry into the crime and mystery genres. The good and exciting news is, Ed Gorman is back! He is no longer blogging, but he has a sporadic column ongoing at Mystery File--today's column was about Stark House's new Whittington release. So thee you have it. If you want to hear some sage advice from one of today's best mystery writers follow this trail and read a little Gorman.