Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nuts about nata

(Photos by your
humble blogkeeper)
Ever wonder what happened to all those riches explorers brought back from the New World?

Some of it went to build the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, or Hieronymite Monastery, in Lisbon's Belém parish, put up by Manuel I with a kick-start from gold Vasco da Gama brought back from his first voyage. The vast complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a landmark in the Manueline, or Late Gothic Ongapotchket, style.

Belém is also famous for pastéis (singular, pastel) de nata, warm custard tarts sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. If these tarts had been around in Vasco da Gama's time, he might never have left home.
(The most famous ruler
born in Libya before
Moammar Ghadaffi)
The ex-monastery's ex-church is also home to Portugal's National Archaeology Museum, a treasure house of finds from the Paleolithic period right up through the Roman period. Northern Portugal is especially rich in the former (as are Spain and southwestern France.)

Finally, since I can't let a day pass without your daily dose of hand-painted tiles, here's a bit of commuter azuleijo from Lisbon's Rossio metro station.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Azulejo, or tiles to go before I sleep

These are all azulejo, or hand-painted, tin-glazed tilework, and the Portuguese have been making the stuff for five hundred years.

(Photos by your
 humble blogkeeper)
Today it's everywhere: on the exteriors of the humblest houses and the grandest pubic and private buildings, in museums and metro stations and souvenir shops. Azulejos are applied art, they're decorative art, and contemporary artists have turned them into fine art. There's even a National Museum of Azulejo in Lisbon, and it's very much worth a visit. No need to look for azulejos if you visit Portugal; they'll find you.

Azul is the Portuguese word for blue, and when I first heard of azulejos, I thought of Delft blue tiles, and I figured the Portuguese must have learned the art from the Dutch.

Nope. it transpires that azulejo is from the Arabic al-zuleijah, which means tilework. The Portuguese learned the art from the Moors, though they eventually did produce examples in the Dutch style.

And now, goodnight.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Monday, November 28, 2011

A visit to the world's oldest bookstore

(Photos by your humble blogkeeper)
It's called Livraria Bertrand, it's on the Rua Garrett in Lisbon, and it was founded in 1732.

It's now the flagship store of a chain, and the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 destroyed its original home, but Bertrand has been operating at its current location in the Chiado neighborhood since 1773.

The staff is helpful, the selection looked good, and books in translation are available at more affordable prices than I've seen in other cities. I bought an English translation of O Crime do Padre Amaro by the nineteenth-century Portuguese novelist Eça de Queirós, but Bertrand has not stayed in business for 279 years by shunning the latest trends (above right).

The shop came in especially handy because I've discovered that taking a Kindle on vacation sucks. The difficulty of flipping back and forth in a Kindleized guidebook is a nuisance, but the real drawback is the alienating experience. You're sipping a coffee at a miradoura on a gorgeous November day, surrounded by locals, visitors, attractive, scholarly middle-aged women (OK, there was only one), and you're pecking away at a goddamn machine? A Kindle is better than a book on paper the same way a waterfront warehouse is better than the Parthenon: It holds more stuff.

On my way from Bertrand, I saw a bookbinder at work in a storefront shop and, with his kind permission, I took a picture of him. A scene like this  makes me want to reenact the first verse of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," throwing my Kindle from a rooftop instead of a watch to cast my vote for eternity outside of time. Except, as happened to the best minds of Ginsberg's generation, Kindles would probably rain on my head for the next decade.

Finally, here's an example of an architectural style I'll call Stripped-Down Gothic thanks to the 1755 earthquake.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Visigoths: Breaking the silence

(Photos by your
humble blogkeeper)
Completed a triple play this evening of getting lost in the medieval quarters of Seville, Tunis and now Lisbon. Lisbon's was the least worrying because of the city's physical situation: Just head downhill til the water laps gently around your ankles, then turn right.

And now, just because I have maintained this blog for more than five years without ever mentioning the Visigoths, here's Lisbon's old city wall, part of which they built.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Airline maps beyond borders

The first leg of my trip to Portugal was on Jet Airlines, a newish carrier based in India. That meant announcements and placards in English and what I presume was Hindi.

It also meant knee-length tunic-jackets as part of the female flight attendants' uniforms. But the real difference was a discreet note at the bottom of the screen that traced the flight's progress as a curving line across a map of the world. Superimposed on the lower left-hand corner was a note I had never seen on such a map: "Physical Features Map Only. No Political Borders Depicted."

Obvious? Redundant? Unnecessary? Maybe -- until one reflects that India has in recent years been involved in border disputes with China, Nepal, and, most notably, Pakistan. Perhaps Jet's caution is inevitable. In today's tight airline market, it may be more important than ever to keep the skies friendly.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Friday, November 25, 2011

They knew I was coming

(Photo by your humble blogkeeper)
That's from Terminal B at Newark International Airport, and this is not that airport's first mention in connection with international crime fiction.

Stuart Neville's novel Collusion brings Gerry Fegan to Newark Airport after a hair-raising escape from Manhattan. After dodging and dealing death, Fegan stops at an airport restaurant, orders a sandwich, and wonders why the hell Americans put cheese on everything. That's just one more reason to like Neville.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Grifters, or Mother Knows Best and other crime-fiction family matters

I wrote a few years ago about some of the ways crime writers portray families. The writers I cited were Swedish, Welsh, Dutch, and French, and their characters struggle to build or hold together families or family substitutes not always nuclear.

How do American crime writers take up the theme?  In the Father Knows Best/My Three Sons/Leave It to Beaver era of American popular culture, noir writers said nope!, there are scarier things in life than crotchety but lovable old Uncle Charlie.

I'm reading Jim Thompson's The Grifters (1963) now, and the last American noir novel I read from about the same era was David Goodis' 1954 Black Friday (which means I should be putting up this post tomorrow instead of today, American Thanksgiving).  Mid-century American noir is not my main area of reading, so I don't know how typical each book is of its author's work or of its period. But each thrusts its lone-wolf protagonist into an odd, criminal echo of a traditional family (more like a clan in the Goodis and Mother Knows Best in the Thompson), and that has to mean something.

It would be easy to read such books as protests against or twisted echoes of the cheerful picture of suburban family life presented elsewhere in popular culture of the time, but they're more than that. The Goodis especially betrays a longing for family.

So, what did family mean in post-war American noir writing, and why?
Happy Thanksgiving, whether or not you're spending it with your family.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Olha, que coisas mais lindas!: Gorgeous Portuguese crime-fiction covers

(Courtesy of
Luís Miguel Queirós)
I head for Portugal on vacation this week and, as usual when I travel, I'll try to find out a bit about the local crime-fiction scene.

My first search turned up a colorful blog post from Cullen Gallagher, a fellow Noircon attendee who is not from Portugal but who did post some eye-catching covers of American, English, and other European crime novels translated into Portuguese. The covers are courtesy of an acquaintance of Cullen's who also supplies background about their creator and publication history.

One of the covers illustrates this post. See the rest over at Cullen's Pulp Serenade.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lean, green Irish crime-writing machines

In other news, Alan Glynn's Bloodland won top crime-fiction prize at the Irish Book Awards last week, topping a shortlist that included Absolute Zero Cool by Declan Burke and Benjamin Black's A Death in Summer.

The Burke and the Glynn are high-water marks of this or any other crime-fiction year. The only reason I hesitate to call each an uneasy monument of our uneasy time is that they're so much fun — sometimes angry or chilling fun, but fun nonetheless.
And to the reader hungry for more scraps of Adrian McKinty's forthcoming Cold Cold Ground, here's one:
"`School's off. I just heard it on the radio!' I yelled across to them.

"`Piss off ya pervert!' a seventeen-year-old slapper yelled back, flipping me the bird as she did so.

"I'm the bloody peelers, ya wee shite!' I thought about replying but when you're in an insult contest with a bunch of weans at 7:58 in the morning your day really is heading for the crapper."

All crime writing should be this much fun.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gianrico Carofiglio's new eye for an old crime-fiction convention

This "new eyes" stuff is old hat for Gianrico Carofiglio.

Carofiglio, asked at the Bouchercon 2011 crime-fiction convention why he, a former prosecutor, had made his protagonist a defense lawyer, replied with Proust's statement about the only real journey being to view the world through others' eyes. He inscribed a version of the quotation on a book I had him sign for a friend after our Bouchercon panel.

And in Temporary Perfections, his most recent novel to appear in English, he applies the dictum to one of crime fiction's old chestnuts, that of the detective who can tell without fail, via some subtle clue, that a suspect is lying:
 "Ask him if he can tell when someone's lying. The ones who say they can tell, who think it's impossible to trick them with a lie, are the biggest fools around.  They're the ones a skilled liar can wrap around his little finger with the greatest ease and enjoyment."
What other crime novels and stories explicitly confront conventions of the genre this way?
Gianrico Carofiglio was a member of my panel "A QUESTION OF DEATH: HOW IMPORTANT IS WHODUNIT?" at Bouchercon 2011.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Pitch

The Pitch by John McFetridge is one of the odder crime-fiction items floating around the market: four stories based on scripts McFetridge wrote as pitches for three potential television shows.

The stories are about an ex-con and a crime writer who team up to write the ex-con's memoirs, each slipping gradually into the other's old role; a "police procedural about narcotics cops on the Maine-New Brunswick border"; and a Montreal-based story set in 1968 with a KGB agent as the hero.

The genesis and the possible future of the projects are at least as interesting as the stories. Here's some of what McFetridge has to say at his own site:
"I've had this idea for a while to write e-books as if they're TV series -- a `season-long' story arc playing out over 6 or 13 `episodes' but each one also having a self-contained story. Maybe publishing the `episodes' once a month and then also making them available as single collection, like a TV series box set of DVDs."
If that sounds like a television writer talking, it could be because McFetridge has written for TV in addition to his own novels and, according to this collection's interesting and surprisingly upbeat introduction, enjoyed the experience. The Pitch is also a thoughtful consideration of the possibilities e-books offer authors and readers. In this case, the future sounds like a return to the old days of short crime fiction.

The Pitch is available as a Kindle e-book for 99 cents. You can't afford not to buy it.
McFetridge was the first person to stage an out-of-town Noir at the Bar crime-fiction reading after I started Noir at the Bar. (The gentlemanly McFetridge even invited me up from Philadelphia to host the event.)  That's why I liked it when the noir-writer co-protagonist of The Pitch's "Pulp Life" stories puts the moves on a writer of cozy mysteries by inviting her to a Noir at the Bar.

And here's how McFetridge describes her:
"Danny looked at her, realized she was taller than he’d thought and then wondered if he’d been thinking of her as a little old lady. She didn’t look little or old, really, she looked the wife in one of those Viagra commercials, smiling a little to herself." 
© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Crime candy

(Photo by your humble
I bought the  chocoloate bar at right  this afternoon, an appropriate offering for a cafe/restaurant next door to Lower Manhattan's Mysterious Bookshop.

After the pre-opera meal where I bought that rich, enticing, sweet, yet ultimately bitter candy, I repaired to the bookstore and, for the first time in my several visits, saw owner Otto Penzler on the premises. I bought novels by Hans Werner Kettenbach and Thomas Pynchon as well as The Best American Noir Stories of the Century, edited by Penzler and James Ellroy.

But my three favorite bits of reading today are all from Fowlers End by Gerald Kersh (also the author of Night and the City):
"A Greek barber called Pappas cut up his girl friend in the barf, and put the pieces in a crate. Didn't have the common savvy to gag her first. Nobody paid any attention. Little tiff, they thought. 'Come Up and Saw Me Sometime' they called 'im later. That's the class of people they are, rahnd Fowlers End."
"Fowlers End is a special kind of tundra that supports nothing gracious in the way of flora and fauna. Plant a cabbage here in this soured, embittered, dyspeptic, ulcerated soil, and up comes a kind of bleached shillelagh with spikes on its knob. Plant a family, a respectable working-class family, and in two generations it will turn out wolves."
"He was a quick, hideously ugly little man, cold and viscous about the hands, with a gecko's knack of sticking to plane surfaces."
I'll be quoting that last line for years.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Great Baals of fire!

This evening's reading involves love, violence, and insanity in preparation for a full performance tomorrow. Here's an excerpt from the opening.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Adrian McKinty, Belfast tour guide

I'm honor-bound not to quote yet from Adrian McKinty's new Cold Cold Ground because I'm reading an uncorrected proof.  Still, a few remarks are in order:

  • The hardest-hitting passages in this novel, set in the violent days of Northern Ireland's hunger strikes in 1981, denounce not the violence but rather the bravado and hypocrisy that attended the Troubles and the culture in which they unfolded. And make no mistake: there are bits in this novel to tick off fierce partisans of any of the conflict's  sides.
  • The sense of what it might have been like to live in those times is vivid but, more than that, convincing. This goes especially for the book's homely details and the off-hand observations by McKinty's Sean Duffy, a Catholic member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Among other things, McKinty, a longtime friend of Detectives Beyond Borders, would make a hell of a tour guide to Belfast.
  • Duffy is an educated man, a Catholic living and working among Protestants beset by more than the usual crime-fiction protagonist's self-doubts but such a vital observer of the human and social landscape that he never becomes a bore.
  • Ken Bruen is no longer the master of popular-music references in contemporary crime writing. And McKinty's are a lot funnier.
With an OK from the source, here's how the book opens: "The riot had taken on a beauty of its own now. Arcs of gasoline fire under the crescent moon. Crimson tracer in mystical parabolas ... "

Aestheticizing violence? Yes, but ...
"But that was a week ago and Frankie Hughes, the second hunger striker to die, had none of Bobby [Sands]'s advantages. No one thought Frankie was Jesus. Frankie enjoyed killing and was very good at it. Frankie shed no tears over dead children. Not even for the cameras.

"And the riots for his death felt somewhat ... orchestrated."
© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Detectives Beyond Borders magical mystery bookstore tour ...

I have some vacation time coming up, and I thought I might spend it visiting mystery/crime-fiction bookstores, looking up from my books occasionally to see the country between stops.

Where should I go? What are North America's can't-miss mystery and crime-fiction bookshops?

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Morality and crime fiction, America and abroad

Eddie's World, Charlie Stella's first novel, has as a preface this angry denunciation of the American federal witness protection program:
"The federal witness protection program is a moral assault on our society. Deals with the Devil are evil by their nature. When people can trade up to nineteen lives for the opportunity to relocate from one coast to an Arizona desert (to ultimately establish a drug business), the government, whatever its original intent, has made fools of us all. Perhaps a more novel approach might be to rethink a Society Protection Program ... where someone who admits to killing nineteen people* might rot away in a cell before they burn in hell."
That reminds me of the ringing, righteously didactic voiceovers you'd get in some 1950s crime movies. But it also reminds me of Three Seconds, the Dagger-winning crime thriller by Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström, which meditates on the ethical hazards of using police informants — cheap ways of outsourcing intelligence-gathering, as one character says.

Another one of Stella's books has a similarly ringing preface, this time denouncing Enron and Arthur Anderson and wishing upon the perpetrators of that scandal a look at real prisons where real people go.  So you don't need to join an Occupy protest or the tea party. Just read Charlie Stella instead.
* Stella presumably refers to "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, whose testimony helped bring down John Gotti.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Charlie Stella's Charlie Opera

I'm a new Charlie Stella fan because the mobsters, cops, waitresses, and other Las Vegas and New York hangers-on in his 2003 novel Charlie Opera can be funny without making light of the violent circumstances in which they find themselves.

Here's the title character after his wife throws a hairbrush at him for singing opera in their hotel room:
“`What the fuck?'

 “`I’ve been calling to you for five minutes!' Lisa Pellecchia yelled. `From the shower. In the bathroom. Five minutes!'

“`I was listening to something,' Charlie said. He was still trying to reach the painful spot on his back. `That hurt, damn it.'
“He flexed both his biceps in the mirror and quickly dropped his arms when he heard his wife in the bathroom. When he thought he was safe again, he looked into the mirror and whispered, `Figaro, Figaro... Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Fi-ga-ro.'”

That's marvelous, but Stella turns down the jokes when Charlie gets into deep trouble later in the book, and he paces the storytelling so nicely that I was barely conscious of the change in tone as it was happening.

Stella has characters say outlandish things without ever seeming to be aware of their own outlandishness, which adds to the fun. He also manages to tell a story of operatic complexity without ever losing the thread,  alternating points of view in short chapters, the shifting viewpoints something like, I don't know, a series of arias.

Charlie surveys the Strip's tall buildings with respectful professional interest (he had previously run a window-washing company), and he acts heroically at unexpected times and calmly when many another protagonist might have gone nuts, thrown punches, or pulled guns. Charlie is one of the most endearing regular-guy protagonists who ever socked a mobster and wandered into the middle of gang strife and law-enforcement rivalries.

But he's Charlie Opera, after all, so the people who wind up dead in this book generally deserve it, a woman is rescued, and true love is rewarded, in the best opera buffa fashion.

(I'm not a brand-new Stella fan. His story "The Decider" is one of the highlights of Crime Factory: The First Shift, discussed in this space last week. But I'm telling you: In a couple of weeks I'll be talking about Charlie Stella as if I'd been reading him my whole life.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2011


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Set pieces in crime fiction

It  occurred to me as I relaxed under the shower today that countless crime-fiction protagonists had done the same before me, usually with the water turned as hot as they could stand to wash away emotional or physical scars, or else just to sober up.

The laceratingly restorative shower is a set piece of hard-boiled crime fiction, right up there with the protagonist who looks in the mirror and doesn't like (or else comments wryly on) what he sees or that classic, the dame who walks into the PI's office.

What are some other stock scenes in crime fiction past and present?  What is their purpose? How do you react to such scenes?

© Peter Rozovsky 2011


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Boy in the Suitcase is released

There is much to like about The Boy in the Suitcase by Agnete Friis and Lene Kaaberbøl, out this week from Soho Press. In addition to what I wrote here, herehere and here about the book, it avoids what I've come to regard as a wearying trademark of Scandinavian crime writing: the prologue that ends with the victim dead (or with everything going black,  the smell of the damp earth then ... nothing, the rope tightening, the blade approaching,  etc.)

Yes, this book has a prologue, too, but it's gripping without graphic violence, and it involves no death. It's more akin, in a way, to a thriller than to its Scandinavian crime-fiction brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and cousins.

Like many a Scandinavian crime novel, this book has a social/political agenda (which its authors readily admit). But its occasional explicit "message" passages, about missing children or the treatment of immigrants, are so neatly slipped in among shifting points of view that one never minds them. [Declan Burke takes another Scandinavian crime novel to task for message-mongering over at his Crime Always Pays.]

The book's ending is heart-rending and empathetic in a way you might not expect, and the novel even has a few jokes.
How could I have forgotten this when listing reasons to like The Boy in the Suitcase? A late chapter refers  to a pimp especially brutal toward women as "the man with the serpent tattoo."

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

What does noir mean to you?

I've been reading some harder-boiled crime fiction recently and I have no new post for today, so I'm bringing back this old discussion on the timeless — and, to some, exasperating — question of what noir means.
Centrifugal force generated by my recent discussion with Megan Abbott and some of the replies thereto spun off a few questions about noir.

Is noir about attitude? Atmosphere? Doom? Destiny? The term is French; the first and most prominent practitioners have been American. Who else exemplifies noir?

I can define noir no more precisely than that American Supreme Court justice defined obscenity when he wrote:
"I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it."
Without claiming to be an expert, and with little hope that my words will live as long as Potter Stewart's, I know noir when I feel it. It hits like a punch in the stomach when I see the protagonist going down, and down is the only direction in noir.

The protagonist may face his destiny (or hers) with resignation or with unnerving detachment. He may knowingly initiate his descent, and those stories may be the most chilling of all. The descent need not culminate in death. In fact, death may be too easy an end. The noir protagonist may not even recognize his own hopelessness (here my definition may part ways from those of other readers), but the reader does.
OK, that's a bit of what noir means to me.

What does noir mean to you?

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Cops at the circus

Two out-of-town visitors found their way to the Pen & Pencil Club this evening, where one of the regulars warned them about the rough treatment fans of the Philadelphia Eagles football team sometimes hand out to supporters of visiting clubs.

"But I wouldn't worry about these two," the regular said, turning to us while indicating the visitors. "They're Chicago law enforcement."

Imagine my delight, then, when I read the following in the last chapter of Jim Tully's Circus Parade:
"Gorilla Haley's skull was fractured. He became insane. He later became a member of the Chicago police."
© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Saturday, November 05, 2011

Jim Tully, a father of hard-boiled

Brian Lindenmuth recommended Jim Tully, and when Brian speaks, I listen.

Tully, who lived from 1886 to 1947, was  a "vagabond, pugilist, and American writer" who achieved commercial success and critical favor in the 1920s and '30s with a series of novels and hard-boiled memoirs. 

He was not a crime writer, but Harvey Pekar's foreword to Tully's Circus Parade (1927) says Tully's legacy is perhaps "most clearly seen in detective stories beginning about 1930. His work often had a rough quality, but it is genuine, not affected, like Ernest Hemingway's."

Circus Parade's first sentence is suitably Hammettian in its matter-of-factness and brevity ("It was my second hobo journey through Mississippi") and the ending of its third story/vignette is wryly humorous ("Cameron's loss was several thousand dollars. Finnerty had gained eighty cents"), a bit like Hammett's story "Slippery Fingers."

So if you like Hammett (and I know that you do), you just might like Jim Tully.

Thanks, Brian.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Friday, November 04, 2011

Blasted Heath: Cool name, exciting new e-book "imprint"

Allan Guthrie, author, agent, editor, noir scholar, and e-book evangelist, has now turned publisher, with Blasted Heath,  promising about thirty e-book titles a year.

The initial offerings include Anthony Neil Smith's All the Young Warriors, which humanizes international conflicts in a way that not even Twitter and Facebook can. Two Somali students kill a pair of Minnesota police officers, then flee to their native land to join the fight to liberate it, even though there seems little to liberate the terrified, anarchic country from. Disillusionment, love, and adventure ensue both in Somalia and back home, where an angry cop and the gang-leader father of one of the students team up.

Smith offers chilling descriptions of what religious fundamentalism does to both its targets and its believers, and even more chilling descriptions of Minnesota's winter winds, just what we need as we bid fall goodbye here in the Northeast.  Thanks, A.N.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Crime Factory: The First Shift rules!

Crime Factory: The First Shift (New Pulp Press) is fat with fiction, thirty-some noir stories from:

Dennis Tafoya, Andrew Nette, Jedidiah Ayres, Roger Smith, Josh Converse, Charlie Stella, Greg Bardsley, Hilary Davidson, Kieran Shea, Nate Flexer, Cameron Ashley, Patti Abbot, Chad Eagleton, Ken Bruen, Jimmy Callaway, Dave Zeltserman, Steve Weddle, Craig McDonald, Keith Rawson, Leigh Redhead, Anonymous-9, Jonathan Woods, Liam Jose, Dave White, Chris F. Holm, Frank Bill, Adrian McKinty, and Scott Wolven.

I've read Tafoya's, Smith's, and Stella's contributions so far. Tafoya and Smith are established Detectives Beyond Borders favorites, and Stella became a new one with his story "The Decider," an act of workplace wish fulfillment that management might want to keep out of workers' hands.

Smith's "Half-Jack" is marked by this memorable phrase that isn't even part of the main action: "...the carefully coded conversation of the sex-addicted." And Tafoya's story, "Stinger," opens the collection thus: "They met in Arraignment, and she knew he was the one."

And I still have twenty-five stories left to read. This is going to be fun.
© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Tony Hiss on Ross Thomas

I bought this 2003 edition of Ross Thomas' 1971 novel The Fools in Town Are on Our Side because of Tony Hiss' introduction.

I already had an older edition of the book lying around, but Hiss shed light on some of what I liked so much about Thomas' The Seersucker Whipsaw. Take it away, Tony:
"(S)o many new bad things have happened since 1995 that the Cold War years Thomas chronicled so brilliantly and mockingly have started to seem far tamer than they were. As `orphans of the Cold War'—Thomas’s own phrase, in an interview he gave during the last year of his life—his books have been slipping out of print, even though, as Thomas was quick to point out, `fraud and double-dealing for political or personal advantage are age-old themes that will not become extinct.' 
"... a biting, bracing wind blow(s) through Thomas’s books, sometimes at gale force, sometimes only stirring at the curtains, a kind of healing bleakness. ... The underlying tonic in Thomas’s books—his lesson plan for transcending the intolerable—isn’t pushed forward, and many readers may find themselves content in simply taking pleasure from his immense storytelling gifts, which dazzle all the more because they are so seemingly tossed-off."

And now, on to the book.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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