Thursday, April 30, 2009

Harper's Bizzare St. Louis

Patricia Abbott asked me to contribute to her blog’s Friday’s Forgotten Books which I was honored to do and you can read my entry over here. I thought it would be appealingly symmetrical to post at HBW not about a book that has had its time and undeservedly fallen out of the public consciousness, but rather about a worthy read that has not yet found an avenue to enter the public consciousness.

Jordan Harper
has been turning out slick, sick, tough stories with the steady, confident voice of an old hand for a couple of years now. Though he’s calling Los Angeles home these days, he grew up in Missouri and his work has almost exclusively dealt with the criminal element in St. Louis with occasional side trips into the hills to the south and west. His first novel, Dirtnap Avenue mines the same rich ground. Harper draws upon the sensationalized and mythologized elements of Missouri’s outlaw tradition and crime history from the James Younger Gang to Tom Egan and up to the Chain of Rocks Bridge murders and so does his protagonist, Jesse Priest, who sees himself as belonging to that tradition as a singular unfolding narrative and is seeking his place in it.

Jesse is a professional thief with a few problems. Two are his family: his father, Bennie, The Pope of St. Louis, who was an abusive SOB, pitting his two sons against each other in backyard fights when they were children, (he even christened them Frank and Jesse for crying out loud) just wont stop even though his kids are grown and he’s finally dying of everything he’s had coming after a lifetime of murder, thieving and extortion. And his brother Frank may live out in the county and play soccer dad on the weekends, but he’s stepped up his ruthless shit to the point that he’s offing citizens over small time debts.

Another problem is Deaner Gant’s daughter. Deaner is his father’s incarcerated enforcer who helped drive the Chicago mob out of St. Louis in one mythical bloody day during Jesse’s childhood and still has enough juice from the inside to protect or destroy your ass wherever it may be. As long as he’s a crook, Jesse is simply not good enough for Veronica Gant, but he’s got it in a big way for the unpredictable bad man’s girl. All that aside, Jesse’s problems don’t really begin until his crew is hired by Emil Kovics and the Bosnians of south St. Louis to retrieve a steel case currently handcuffed to the wrist of a redneck pimp across the river.

Turns out it’s not just the Bosnians interested in it.

Turns out bloody.

After the cork is popped the guttings, shootings and corpse disposals roll, and in my favorite bit of mayhem somebody is barbecued inside a car. Harper shifts the point of view frequently between supporting characters, each with their own code and agenda and we explore the city along the racial lines separating north from south, the class lines separating the new and the generations-deep immigrant minorities in the city, as well as the mind sets separating gangsters and professional thieves.

Our little city is as sleazy and classy as anybody else out there and in my humble opinion, this is the crime novel St. Louis deserves and Harper is a writer who’s time is nigh. Reading Dirtnap Avenue, I was reminded of the experience of taking a chance on the book with the strange cover and great title Rilke on Black by Ken Bruen some ten years ago – it was a voice steeped in the familiar traditions of hardboiled and noir fiction, but with its own accent and cadence – self assured and smart assed without ever becoming self conscious or showing off. It’s a helluva fun read and hard to imagine publishers aren’t beating down his door to get it.

With the big boys licking their wounds and praying that they can sell a gillion copies of their go-to crime guys and gals just so they can break even, it seems like a real opportunity for some ballsy press to snatch this one up and invest in the future of the genre, (I’m talking to you Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, Bleak House, Busted Flush, Akashic etc.)

For a sample of Harper’s style check out his Spinetingler Award nominee Red Hair and Black Leather. For more on St. Louis crime, check out Egan’s Rats by Daniel Waugh and regarding the Chain of Rocks Bridge murders, A Rip in Heaven by Jeanine Cummins.

Photo credit: Travis Hartman

Monday, April 27, 2009

Deadly Sin

Caught Cary Fukunaga's amazing Sin Nombre last night. Haven't had an adrenaline shot like that at the movies since Fernando Meirelles burst into the North American scene with Cidade de Deus, (City of God) or Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Amores Perros kicked me in the nuts. In retrospect all three films are infused with a vitality that comes from very real stakes and desperation. Sin Nombre chronicles a South American family's journey to the United States primarily sitting atop cargo trains. They are subjected to the best and worst of the elements as well as the best and worst of human nature. The drive to reach a life in the US where they will most likely live in relative poverty and work menial jobs is fantastic. American audiences will wonder Why? Why put yourself through all of that for a shitty job in McDonald land? They encounter a young thug who has reached bottom and abandoned the gang that was his family. He offers his protection to them, but ultimately increases their peril as he is marked for death by the gang. The stories of staggering violence and the influence of gangs and the drug cartels coming out of Mexico these days adds a layer of authenticity to the film going experience and if you can catch it on the big screen, I highly recommend doing so. Looking forward to more from Fukunaga and the young blood in the Mexican and South American new wave.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Unholy Toledo

"I know Ohio like the back of my hand." - Over the Rhine. From the song Ohio, from the album Ohio - the band named after the section of town they're from in Cincinnati Ohio.

Everything is coming up Ohio for me these days. Just a weird pile up of things related to the... uh... Buckeye state is Iowa, Potatoes is Idaho... whatever Ohio's state thing is - that state. I've recently begun author interviews for this site and three of the first authors aboard for them, Kyle Minor, Craig McDonald and Donald Ray Pollock are living there and I just watched this kick ass movie The Fourteenth Victim, (directed by Mark Wade Stone), a documentary about Eliot Ness and the Cleveland Torso Murders...
betwixt the writers, the music and the film - seems to me some serious dark clouds hovering over the heartland. BTW - there was an X-Files episode that named two characters after the husband/wife duo that is the back bone of the band Over the Rhine - Linford Detweiler and Karin Begquist - I think she got to be a scientist and he had a dog named after him. Cool tip of the hat, but took me out of the episode for sure. Another time that happened was the final season of The Shield when Shane and Mara and Jackson are on the run and take aliases - Shawn, Katy and Ryan, (the show's creator Shawn Ryan and his wife Cathy Cahlin Ryan who played Corin on the show) and speaking of Alias, (the tv show) - there was an episode featuring a sci-fi weapon called Ice Ten and it did exactly the same thing as Ice Nine from Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle... wait - it was Cat's Cradle right? To sum up: Ohio must be cool, look for more interviews coming to HBW and not just from Ohioans...OhioEns? Ohi-ans?, in-jokes are cool, but distracting sometimes and Kurt Vonnegut books kinda run together in my memory.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Minority Report

Kyle Minor is worth your precious time. His first book of collected stories, In the Devil’s Territory, will break your heart from a hundred different angles, but you’ll keep right on reading it. Sucker. I first found his work in the anthology Surreal South, (Press 53, 2007) edited by Laura and Pinckney Benedict and for that reason his name was associated in my mind with not only the Benedicts, but William Gay, Benjamin Percy, Tom Franklin and Daniel Woodrell, which is tall company to stand among. Recently his story A Day Meant to Do Less was selected for The Best American Mystery Stories 2008 edited by George Pelecanos and Otto Penzler and Donald Ray Pollock said “I would walk through Hell to be able to write like him.” Damn. Better pay attention.

I saw Kyle read at the SIUE campus in Edwardsville, IL. He read a passage from A Day Meant to do Less, and made the whole assembly squirm as he described a sexual assault on a young girl in his quiet, unassuming voice and used such a gorgeous selection of words the squirming audience couldn’t leave. I think he could poke people with sharp sticks and they’d stick around just for the privilege of hearing him string words. He’s just finished a tour with Kathleen Rooney, author of Live Nude Girl: My Life as an Object to support In the Devil’s Territory. The tour appropriately enough was called Live Nude Girl in the Devil’s Territory and if that don’t catch your eye, check your pulse.

Kyle graciously agreed to answer some questions I had:

How’s the tour going?

Pretty well. I write you from the couch where I’m sleeping in Baltimore. I spent most of yesterday in Manhattan with my tour partner Kathleen Rooney. We did twenty-three guerrilla readings throughout the city, then read in avant garde writer Tao Lin’s living room at 5 pm, then at Rose Live Music in Brooklyn from 8 o’clock to around ten-thirty, which made twenty-five readings in one day. Afterward, I hopped bars with new friends who came in from the city for the reading, caught the G train to Greenpoint by midnight, where I stumbled onto a small book club talking about Joyce Carol Oates’s Detroit novel Them, walked to a house party, stayed there until four in the morning, jumped into a livery with four friends, rode it to Park Slope, hauled my luggage up too many flights of stairs, slept one and a half hours, woke, showered, caught a ride to Chinatown, stood at the freezing bus stop for an hour while waiting for Kathleen to walk over from where she was staying in the East Village, rode to Baltimore, got off in an industrial wasteland (the bus had that day done away with downtown drop-off), waited for a friend to pick us up and drive us to a late lunch, ate a spinach omelet, drove to the Minas Gallery, walked upstairs, read from “A Day Meant to Do Less,” signed books, followed the audience to the after-party, drank, ate, met people, got back in the car, drove to the house where we’re staying tonight. If it sounds glamorous, it’s because you’re not doing it. I’m tired, man, but, like Kathleen and I keep telling each other: “We’re living the dream!”

So tell me about Kathleen Rooney? How were you two paired?

I met Kathleen Rooney through an anthology Random House put out a few years back, Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers. I liked her essay plenty, and wrote to tell her so, and we struck up a correspondence that way. As it turned out, her memoir Live Nude Girl and my In the Devil's Territory were coming out around the same time. It seemed to make sense for us to team up, and what book tour has ever had a better title than the Live Nude Girl In the Devil's Territory Tour?

With a tour title like "Live Nude Girl in the Devil's Territory" are you concerned that you're not pulling in your share of audience?

I guess the question answers itself!

Twenty-five cities sounds pretty ambitious for a small publisher, whose initiative was it? Would you do it again?

It was our idea, and when we asked our publishers to support it, they were glad to do it. Of course, we're doing it very cheaply, sleeping on couches and floors and blow-up mattresses, riding the MegaBus for eight bucks across three states at a time, taking public transportation in every big city, surfing the Internet for discount plane tickets. So far it's working. We're finding readers, and, town by town, we're greeting enthusiastic crowds, some of them larger than we could have expected. Of course I'd do it again; in a heartbeat!

Do you consider reading performing?

I do consider it a performance. I choose material that is emotionally charged, and I try my best to come as close as I can to the gold standard, which, for me, is Brad Pitt's performance of Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses in the two cassette abridgement I found in the used tapes rack at the Lake Wales Public Library in 2001. Listening to that recording was a Come-to-Jesus moment, and by God I hope one day to match it for somebody else.

Recently you took part in a panel on Postevangelical Literature and said you hadn’t heard a definition of the term yet. Any luck since?

I’ve heard plenty of definitions, and they don’t interest me much. I did the panel because my friend Scott Kaukonen (Ordination) had invited three other writers whose work is real, gritty, and true: Pinckney Benedict (Town Smokes), Angela Pneuman (Home Remedies), and David McGlynn (The End of the Straight and Narrow). The five of us have plenty of differences – aesthetic, temperamental, political, religious, commercial – but what we have in common is that we’ve decided it is brave and important to write about religion and religious people as forthrightly as the great Catholic writers (Andre Dubus, J. F. Powers, Graham Greene, Erin McGraw, etc.) have done before us, even though it runs us the risk of alienating, on the one hand, religious readers who don’t like it when people acknowledge how they are capable of pettiness and cruelty to match their generosity and goodness, and, on the other hand, literary readers of a particularly anti-religious bent who would just as soon have literature pretend that we don’t live in a country in which religion is a defining force for at least half the population, on account of some notion that talk about religion or religious people is bound to be vulgar, unsophisticated, unseemly. I guess it can be all those things, but those, anyway, are things literature is always involved in, when it’s doing its job. We ought to be writing about human trouble, not fantasizing about worlds of aesthetic and ideological purity.

Your voice sounds like it comes from experience, and not merely as a writer looking in. Just what is your fascination with evangelical culture?

I was raised Southern Baptist, spent fourteen years preschool to high school at an extreme fundamentalist high school where I was taught by graduates of places like Bob Jones University and Pensacola Christian College, went off to college planning to become a pastor, briefly became a pastor, rejected the role because of the dissonances my good and useful college education introduced into my understanding of the world, worked briefly in religious publishing, and finally decided to get out altogether and devote myself to literature instead. So: Yes. I lived it.

As for the question of my current relationship to evangelical Christianity, what I can say is that I haven’t gone to church for more than eight years now, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Many of my friends still do, and while I can’t reconcile their choices with my own worldview, I don’t disrespect them or say that they are in every way wrongheaded. Even if not-knowing (and we can’t, really, with things supernatural, by definition – if they exist, they are not directly observable) is a prerequisite for a loss of faith like mine, then it also precludes the possibility of strident atheism. If we can’t know, we can’t know. I don’t spent too much time worrying about these things, but I think that the psychodrama that informs the daily lives of people who do is among the most fascinating things a writer could explore.

Though you poke holes in the inconsistencies and delusions widespread in that culture, you seem to retain a genuine affection and warmth for the people immersed in it or affected by it tangentially.

I don’t really think evangelical Christians are as different from everyone else as they or their detractors think. I think they’re human. They eat, they drink, they want, they need, they get, they shit, they love, they hate, they give, they bicker, they scheme, they trust, and they try every way they can to find a place for themselves in the world, and then fight like hell to hang onto it. In other words, they’re as complicated and contradictory as everyone else, and as likely to be noble, and as likely to be horrible, and, often enough, likely to be both at the same time.

Do you get much feedback on the references to that culture in your work, (for instance: in “The Navy Man” Leslie reads Oswald Chambers and Genie recalls a summer camp experience with Elizabeth Elliot). Are they included for anyone but yourself?
My old teacher, Lee K. Abbott, used to talk about a man named Eric Haas who worked as a fact checker for fiction stories at The Atlantic Monthly, whose job it was to concern himself with whether there was in fact a bar with a red door at 2984 Alameda Drive in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The question this fact naturally raises is: Why is it necessary? It’s fiction. Who cares? And the answer is this: The guy who picks up the magazine, starts reading the story, falls into it, makes himself vulnerable to the emotional power of it, then falls right out of it when he realizes that the bar at 2984 Alameda Drive really has a blue door, not a red door, and thinks: This story isn’t true!

How are you feeling about the end of the world? (The publishing industry’s current hard times) Are there any unique opportunities to exploit therein? Are you still looking for work?

I read in San Francisco two weeks ago with one of my heroes, Daniel Handler, who wrote the Lemony Snicket books. He said this was just a panic, not a collapse, and that the winners would be those who stayed the course. I think he’s right, at least in the long term.

In the short term, though, I’m worried. I’m a visiting professor at a university where I thought I was pretty safe, but I just learned that my job class was cut due to budget reductions. In previous years, I would have thought I could float myself for a year by selling the nonfiction project I’ve been working on, but now I’m not sure anyone can command the advance they could this time last year. The short term is troubling, and I’m boning up on my manual labor skills, which, I’ll admit, are few.

What’s the importance or handicap of literary labeling?

It’s good for marketing. It’s bad for writing. My book is being marketed as literary stories and novellas, but there is a crime story in there, there is a story that made Best American Mystery Stories, there is a story that owes a debt to Alice Munro in its construction, there is a story that originally ran as an essay and could have fit right in at any food magazine on the supermarket shelf on grounds of its descriptions of ice cream making. But I worry that I’ll get painted as a literary writer of narrow scope, when, really, I’ve written all sorts of things, from reviews of books of poetry to a robot story.

What’s your attraction to Crime in literature?

Literature is all about our crimes, isn’t it? Sometimes they’re big, like murder, and sometimes they’re smaller, like telling a lie for personal gain. But those are the places where literature is situated – where a wrench is thrown in the progress of social nicety, and social nicety is replaced by the human impulse for retribution, and we get a chance to see what’s beneath the surfaces we’ve all been making out of our pretendings.

What’s harder to write, big crime or small?

I think it’s all hard to write. I’m having a harder and harder time writing. I keep thinking about the question of what kind of writer I want to be, and that keeps leading me to the question of what kind of reader I am. On the one hand, I can’t stay out of the work of the lyric masters like Denis Johnson, Mark Richard, Barry Hannah, Christine Schutt, Donald Ray Pollock. Stuff that is devastating, delivered by way of high-octane language much given to consonance and cadence and metaphor making that mines the dirty places and there finds beauty beyond what anybody could imagine up in the high places. On the other hand, I’m daily haunted by the work of the moral masters like Andre Dubus, Anton Chekhov, and Alice Munro, those plainspoken masters who rely upon accumulation and juxtaposition of the daily to uncover the frightening and powerful contradictions that rest just beneath the seemingly banal surface we all coast upon.

But, really, the more defining question for a writer might be: What kind of person am I? That’s where it gets messy. Man, forget all this crime and literature stuff. What I really wanted, when I was starting out, was to be Kurt Vonnegut or George Saunders or David Foster Wallace – to do a dance with language, to dazzle and delight, to be goddamn funny. But those writers are operating one hundred percent out of their real true selves, and that’s why their work rises beyond mere amusement and breaks the reader’s heart. Me, I’m not that person. When I really strip down to what’s inside me, it’s dark, and it’s ugly, and it’s hard to look at. To write truly, I have to acknowledge things about myself I don’t want to acknowledge, and invest my characters with that terrible knowledge.

What responsibility does the writer have to entertain the reader?

I don’t know. I don’t want to write a boring story, and I don’t want to read one, either. But there are different ways literature entertains, and the reader who defines them too narrowly does so at the cost of a whole lot of pleasure. I think readers and writers ought to keep open to every kind of thing. Like Zadie Smith says, literature is a big tent.

“Goodbye Hills, Hello Night” was inspired by true events?

Sure it was. When I was in the fourth grade, a young man close to our family participated in several evenings of rousting or bum bashing. A bunch of guys got in a car, drove around looking for vagrants, beat them up, had some laughs. One night it got out of hand. Somebody died, and a whole lot of other lives were near ruined, too. No one was the same after that. Me included, even though I was just a kid on the outside looking in.

“They Take You” ventured outside evangelical culture into a nameless Warren Jeffs type FLDS splinter cult, but it blended the familiar themes of your work into a corker of a crime story. Any more coming from that corner of Minor-land?

That story provoked a lot of response from readers of crime fiction. I want to go on record and say that, although that scenario had some things in common with Warren Jeffs and the FLDS cult it was not a story about any particular church or cult or whatever. It was its own thing, like Margaret Atwood’s things are their own things, you know? Sources get transformed into new things sometimes, especially in speculative stories like that.

I want to do more stories like that. I did one other one, an Appalachian robot story titled “The Truth and All Its Ugly,” which appeared in Laura and Pinckney Benedict’s Surreal South alongside wildish work by writers including Joyce Carol Oates, Daniel Woodrell, Chris Offutt, and Lee K. Abbott – heroes of mine, all of them. I like how it felt, I like how they turned out, I like the new kinds of readers the stories attracted.

Both “They Take You” and an abridged version of “Goodbye Hills, Hello Night” appeared on the Plots With Guns site. Why publish online? Do you encounter any resistance to your work because it was online, for free?

I publish some things online (at Plots with Guns, at Freight Stories, on blogs and so on), and some things in print (in literary journals like The Southern Review and The Gettysburg Review, in anthologies, and so on.) I like them both plenty. I like the prestige that attaches, rightly or wrongly, to the higher-end print outlets, and I like the broad readership a good online magazine like Plots with Guns can offer. I also like finding different audiences. I hope to take them with me from place to place, so they can discover new writers working in other genres and other publishing communities. These things are so hard to write, and they take a long time to get right. I want as many people to read them as possible, and I don’t care if the readers are literature professors or wellpoint foremen. Although, between you and me, maybe I prefer the wellpoint foreman a little, at least in theory. Maybe I’m romanticizing the wellpoint foreman. My grandfather was a wellpoint foreman.

What kind of feedback do you get on your writing in a female voice? How much do you worry about that kind of thing?

I got some letters from women about “The Navy Man,” to the effect that I must really understand women. My wife thought this was irritating and hilarious. These letters usually came on a day when I didn’t do any laundry or wash any dishes or prepare any of my own food, like the caveman I know I can be. But the response the story provoked made me feel like maybe I got that character right. The way I did it, by the way, was inverting everything about the chauvinist male protagonist of Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Pet Dog” including plot and gender, setting her in Florida, investing her with a few grievances borrowed from women I know and love, and marrying her to Leslie Ratliff, hapless nonhero of some of my other stories. It was a weird way to write a story, and I’ll never do it again, but once the idea came it seemed right. You never know where a story will come from.

You’ve been published alongside weighty names from a wide swath of contemporary literature. Where do you belong? Who would you call your contemporaries? Is there a community you belong to/to belong to?

I follow the work of contemporaries I admire: Christopher Coake, Benjamin Percy, Donald Ray Pollock, Edwidge Danticat, Holly Goddard Jones, Joshuah Bearman. And I keep my head in the generations before: Katherine Anne Porter, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Philip Roth, Peter Taylor, Andre Dubus, James Wright. I think a lot about the work of old teachers like Andrew Hudgins and Lee K. Abbott, and the distance between their work and what they have to say about the making of literary work, and how one might get from here to there like they did. I show my work sometimes to trusted friends with sharp eyes: Douglas Watson, Bart Skarzynski, Jane Bradley, Letitia Trent. So the company is large and diverse, and mostly a function of my own imagination. If it is a fiction, it is a very functional and generative one.

Why a short story collection? Why not a novel? Is there a novel on the way?

There is a novel on the way. It is set in Haiti. Some people from the story book find there way into it. That is all I can say at this time, for fear of spoiling something.

Until May, anyway, you are teaching writing. How do you teach that?

You help people avoid the mistakes we all make when we’re starting out. You introduce them to great writers. You teach them how to read. You talk about language and vision. You draw charts and diagrams. Sometimes it takes.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Aint That a Kick in the Hague

Nearly twenty years ago now Philip Kerr published a short series of novels featuring ex-cop turned PI, Bernie Gunther set against the backdrop of 1930s Berlin, (actually the first two, March Violets and The Pale Criminal were pre-war and the third A German Requiem was post and set in Vienna). I was working at a bookstore for several years and knew Kerr's name to recommend to folks looking for techno-thrillers in the vein of oh say Michael Crichton, but I knew nothing of the Bernie Gunther books which were out of print at the time until writer pal Mark Dischinger placed the collected novels in anthology form called Berlin Noir into my hands. This was somewhere around 2002 and friends lemme say they scared the crap outta me. Generally I'm not much for PIs or series books, but I make ready exception for Bernie Gunther. The Berlin backdrop is surreal and frightening and perhaps all the nationalist fervor in the USofA at the time lent to the nightmares the books induced in me, but I was hungry for more. I tried a couple other Kerr novels, The Grid and A Philosophical Investigation, but neither did for me what Bernie did. I haven't tried Hitler's Peace or The Shot, a couple of his other historical thrillers, but I'm curious if anybody else out there has. Then out of nowhere a couple years back, (something like fifteen years since German Requiem), Bernie Gunther was in a new novel called The One From the Other and I gobbled that shit up. Kerr gave Bernie even more baggage to deal with, exploring his time in the SS during the war including an episode that haunts him when he executed some Russian soldiers. The guilt he and all of surviving Germany live under, (in these novels) is incredibly rendered and watching him look at himself in the mirror is half the beauty of these books. True - it's a series and as such is susceptible to the main criticisms of most series - the suspension of disbelief gets harder with each incredible event that happens to one character, also, they tend to spiral out of proportion toward the end of the stories, (get bigger than they need to), but the research and period details are priceless and the yarns are ripping. Bernie's back in A Quiet Flame which has been receiving some nice reviews and finds our hero hunting nazis in South America. Dunno when I'm gonna squeeze it in, but rest assured, I will.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Your Pusher Man

WTF? All my favorite video stores are closing. I know the whole format is on its way out, but why why why do the good ones have to go first? I've yet to sign up for Netflix or any sort of on-line rental service because frankly it sounds barbaric to have to wait for a movie I want to see. I want what I want right the hell now. Plus without being able to stroll the aisles vaguely creeping out the employees with my hours of browsing I'll never come across some real gems like last year when I found Nicolas Winding Refn's Pusher trilogy. It's one of those rarities in the film or lit world when the sequels improve upon the original, (really the third is the best of the bunch, but wouldn't be as rich without the other two - neat). Pusher is about Frank, a low level drug dealer in Copenhagen who has to raise a lot of money very quickly in order to avoid being killed by the cops or Milo the kingpin he owes. It's a fast and rough and a tad too familiar, (think Danish Guy Ritchie rather than Danish Martin Scorcese as a quote on the box boasts), though the Danish setting is a nice change. Pusher II, follows Frank's partner Tonny, (the compellingly watchable Mads Mikkelsen) years after Pusher and his release from prison as he grapples with his father and girlfriend with whom he produced a child he's never met. Pusher III is about Milo, (the only character to appear in all three) and a single day in his life as he attends AA meetings while planning a lavish party for his daughter's twenty-fifth birthday and dealing with a large shipment of heroin that's been botched. It's a surprisingly rich and moving portrait of a bad man taking a hard look at him self and his life's work. After ripping through the trilogy I found an English language film of Refn's, Fear X with John Turturro, Deborah Kara Unger and James Remar and from and original script by Refn and Hubert Selby Jr. It's a complete change of pace from the Pusher films, measured and quiet, (for once someone displays the influence of David Lynch in a satisfying way) and strange. I miss you, Bijou Movies, Movie Set, and yes even chain stores when they're populated by movie people can be good ones - the late Rock Hill location of Hollywood Video and the Fayetteville, Arkansas Hastings, (pre DVD revolution). Movie Nut is across town, but I suppose I'll be making the pilgrimage to find the gems on the shelf that I don't know I want yet. BTW if you get a taste for Danish crime flicks check out Pistoleros directed by Shaky Gonzalez and featuring Zlatko Buric - Milo from the Pusher films, or the completely odd Adam's Apples starring Mads Mikklesen.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Thug Lite

I cannot stress enough the pride my parents took in telling their friends the first time I was published in a darling little journal called ThugLit. It looks great on resumes and gets you mad respect from traffic cops. I'm pleased to say Lady Detroit accepted my story 1998 Was a Bad Year for the latest installment of said ThugLit. If the story sounds a bit familiar it's because 1998 sucked Balzac or perhaps you read my story The Morning After in last summer's edition of Plots With Guns. Terry Hickerson plays an important role in my as yet unfinished novel, so familiarize yourself with him and all his glorious douchebaggery. Then read entries from Eric Beetner, Patrick Cobbs, Jason Duke, Hilary Davidson, Robert S.P. Lee, Sophie Littlefield and Myra Sherman. Also, take a gander at the cover of the new ThugLit anthology Sex, Thugs and Rock & Roll which'll feature one of my stories and pre-order that bad boy.