Saturday, July 31, 2010

I Started a Jook

First off, Keith Rawson gets my vote for hardest working man in crimebusiness. Forget, or try to, the sheer volume of short stories he's producing these days, I'm talking about the publisher/critic/journalist aspects of K-RAWS. For instance, the ever excellent reboot of Crimefactory just published issue four featuring HBW favs like Allan Guthrie, Scott Wolven and Kieran Shea plus fiction by Brian Murphy, Michael Gonzales and Graham Powell and features from fellow editor/publishers Cameron Ashley and Liam Jose, more from Chris La Tray, Andrew Prentice, Andrew Nette, Audrey Homan and the usual feature from The Nerd of Noir. And for exhibit number two, I'll direct you to the latest in his video interview series with Gary Phillips, editor of the new Orange County Noir and author of this summer's The Underbelly, which looks great. Phillips also had his classic The Jook updated and republished by Switchblade recently and they're looking like the future to me. Some really handsome PBOs of solid caliber, (check out Pike by Benjamin Whitmer - another heads up from Keith - if you wanna see for yourself).

Over at Ransom Notes I'm all about Edward Bunker one of America's greatest convict authors. I got to Bunker thinking about Jacques Audiard's relentlessly compelling A Prophet out on DVD next week. The film to beat this year, (though The Secret in Their Eyes already did for the best foreign language Academy Award).

And finally, need I remind yous about N@B Wednesday, August 4, 8pm at the Delmar Lounge? We'll be featuring graphic novelists Matt Kindt, Tim Lane and Scott Phillips - (Gary's twin brother). Tim's short film The Passenger will be shown - you don't wanna miss that. I'm talking to you, Ron Earl. Take that vacation early.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Too Graphic

ONE WEEK FROM TONIGHT, mofos, it's N@B with a graphic novel spin! Matt Kindt, author of Super Spy, 3 Story and the brand new Revolver will read. We'll have a preview of Scott Phillips's comic The Paradise and Tim Lane, author of Abandoned Cars and Happy Hour in America will screen his short film The Passenger - it's a very cool dramatic/animated/live-action mash up, (and if you losers can't get to N@B August 4 at the Delmar Lounge, you can catch Tim screening the film again along with author Joe Meno at Subterranean Books, Friday August 6).

Tell your friends and enemies! N@B wants you.

At Ransom Notes I call for all literature dealing with Florida to have its own section in bookstores. Carl Hiaasen's got a new out today and I revisited some of my favorites of his over the weekend, especially Skin Tight 'cause the new one Star Island brings back one of my favorite of his creations Chemo, the one handed, one weed-whackered, walking electrolysis cautionary tale. And here's a link to last week's Ransom Notes piece where I collected anticipation notes from Daniel Woodrell, John McFetridge, Roger Smith and Anthony Neil Smith.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Stona Free

At Ransom Notes I'm spreading the gospel of Don Winslow. His new one Savages could well be the one that fills the Winslow bandwagon to capacity. I've been a fan since The Death and Life of Bobby Z of his fast paced books, but they've not all been scores for me. Savages is one of the best though. Supposedly, Oliver Stone is sniffing around this one, but before he mounts, I'd like Mr. Ponderous to take another pass at it and perhaps giggle a bit. The Winslow/Stone hybrid is a bit difficult to imagine as successful, likewise the Winslow/Michael Mann combo that's supposed to be bringing The Winter of Frankie Machine to life. Tho, I'd wager more on the Mann project being a good film - it's not a team-up I'd dream up.

Also out today is The Rabid Child by Pete Risley for those of you who need a good whiff of dank with your dark. And staying in the oh-no-he-didn't vein, Matthew Stoeke has a new one too, The Empty Mile. And speaking of independent publishing, check out this interview with Stona Fitch of Concord Free Press. Radical ideas, sir.

Anybody out there catch Nicolas Winding Refn's Valhalla Rising on the coasts this week? Waiting for that one a tad eagerly. Not very cool, how much I wanna see it. And after my rant on American crime films a couple weeks ago, the trailer for Ben Affleck's The Town hits the webs. Great cast and I love the premise of workaday bank robbers in Boston, the love story is a question mark. We'll just have to wait and see what becomes of that. And did anybody catch Peter Craig's name in the writing credits of that one? I also see that an adaptation of Craig's Hot Plastic is on its way. Good on you, Pete.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Short Post

Today at Ransom Notes I've got recommendations or at least anticipations from the likes of Dave Zeltserman, Megan Abbott, Scott Wolven, Vicki Hendricks and Laura Benedict.

Also in N@B news, Wednesday, August 4, 8pm at the Delmar Lounge we're having a graphic novel themed evening with Tim Lane, Matt Kindt and possibly more. I'm trying to get Scott Phillips to read from his comic book The Paradise which I've seen some great art from.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Built Ford Tough

What is it about Casey Affleck playing killers named Ford that just seems to work? That delicately high-pitched voice always on the verge of cracking? Or the foamy layer of vulnerability floating atop the sea of malicious capability beneath? In The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford he went from number one fan to idolicide in a two hour slide and in The Killer Inside Me his Lou Ford switches on and off his murder mode, the shift barely visible in his eyes. I've heard people say that the filmmakers didn't seem to realize that the book was funny, but I'm not in that camp. I think the humor lives in Affleck's performance, though when I saw it, Scott Phillips and I were the only ones laughing... So, maybe it's not apparent to everybody.

Over at Ransom Notes I'm talking about John Brandon's new one Citrus County and Toby, the main character who may be a budding monster, a theory he tests by kidnapping a young girl and keeping her chained up in the woods. The tone of the book is quirky and almost too cute, but the crime and its consequences are dealt with head on and that saves it from being... oh... a Wes Anderson kidnapping tale. Brandon's first novel Arkansas is definitely worth checking out too.

But something that did not work at all for me??? The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movie. Never read Stieg Larsson's book. Can't comment on that, but what a pile of crap that movie was. Actually the film didn't completely fall apart till the last forty minutes or so, but it'd been going downhill for a while. Did not care about the "mystery" or the characters and the depravity that was supposed to make it gripping? Didn't go far enough to shock on the serial killer front and the abusive parole officer type relationship was more believably thus disturbingly dealt with in say Sherry Baby.

Save your time and money on that one. I can't imagine a Hollywood remake bringing any life to it either.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Weird Al's Shorts

Can we all agree that Allan Guthrie's short stories deserve to be collected in a convenient purchase format like a single book? The only drawback to such a volume that I can foresee is you'd miss their impeccable placement. The arrangement that frames the reading experience when you come across one in an anthology. Take, for instance, Haermund Hardaxe Was Here from Sex, Thugs & Rock and Roll. I love a good viking story (and this is a good one - I keep reading it in preparation for Nicolas Winding Refn's Valhalla Rising this summer), plus toss in a little brotherly love and it's a curveball you'll remember. But put that whole crusading, bi-sexual badass bit into the middle of a crime collection and you've made a name for yourself.

Likewise The Killer Beside Me from Damn Near Dead. The title is clever before you read it, genius afterward. Does it gain anything from being placed within an anthology of geezer noir? I think so. And The Turnip Farm from Uncage Me has not a single word that a family television program would object to - this is in the sequel to Expletive Deleted whose original title you'll recall was Fuck Noir - but not a single idea that could be described in the vaguest, broadest terms anywhere near those same families.

So, yeah, placement counts for something, but I want my Guthrie collection. And apparently, it's not an idea he objects to either, but he says the title must convey two concepts: Absurdity and Noir...

We've been thinking on it a bit. It's gone something like this -

AG: The Noir and the Absurd, Catchy!

JA: Tip-Toe Through the Turnips... Metanoirphosis... Big Al's Book O'Short Noir

AG: ... (crickets) ... I quite like Fat Al's Shorts

JA: or Weird Al's Shorts

Anyhow, you can check out the profile I did of weird Al over at Ransom Notes and feel free to leave suggestions for a title for a Guthrie collection here or there. Or edumacate yourself on Al with this interview we did last year.

And speaking of collections, I've got good news... Oh, but I can't. It's not officially out yet... It's really good news, though. And if you think you know what I'm talking about, you probably don't... Soon... ish.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Air Supply

"Cause, man, this is America."

When exactly did my country roll over and decide that we didn't want to compete on the global field of crime filmmaking? When did the motion pass that we only make films about people who are "the best" hitman, conman, heist crew, gangster, drug dealer, gunrunner, embezzler, lawyer, investigator, journalist, bounty hunter, security specialist etc? Or, and this is how you know it's a comedy - a real side-splitter - someone who's "not the best." Gah, I don't generally care about the elaborate mechanics of crime - yeah, they're nice details, condiments, but I'm sick of eating ketchup sandwiches. I'm here for the who and sometimes the why of crime, followed - nay pursued - by the consequences of it all. The human fallout.

C'mon, America, how many fucking amazing foreign crime films are we going to let go unanswered? I'm currently losing my shit over Aussie David Michod's Animal Kingdom which oughtta be arriving soon. Michod and pals Nash (director of The Square) and Joel Edgerton (writer on The Square as well as actor in that one and Animal Kingdom) appear ready to take on the world and I can only hope they can keep making crime dramas for a while and don't get co-opted into some fucking superhero/blockbuster franchise that they can never leave, (remember the Wachowski's made Bound first, Joe Carnahan once made Narc. Bryan Singer made The Usual Suspects. Chris Nolan made Following and Memento).

And I know there are exceptions. There are still good, small crime films coming out here, (I recently enjoyed Antwon Fuqua's Brooklyn's Finest and Brian Goodman's What Doesn't Kill You - both starring Ethan Hawke btw who was in one of the finest American crime films of the last ten year's - Sidney Lumet's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - when did the sniffly kid from Dead Poet's Society become this guy?) And The Nerd of Noir suggested a wicked recent 1/2 American double feature in Crimefactory 3.0 David Gordon Green's Snow Angels and James Marsh's The King But for every Shotgun Stories and Winter's Bone I seem to find three Pusher films. For exporting No Country For Old Men we import Amores Perros, Sin Nombre and City of God. For giving L.A. Confidential we receive Jerusalema and three Red Riding films.

But where is the American Baader Meinhof Complex or Il Divo? Surely James Ellroy has given us a template for this kind of fare. Who's got the balls to make them? How about Gomorrah? Or A Prophet? The gauntlet's been thrown, please please please, somebody score one for the home team.

To be fair though American television has answered the call. The Sopranos, The Wire, The Shield, Deadwood and Breaking Bad rank among the best crime fictions of any medium (and to a lesser extent, but still worthy of mention Brotherhood, Sons of Anarchy, Oz, Dexter and Justified are hold your head up moments for the USA). But dammit, we've lost our grip on the two-hour format. Put me in coach.

Okay, enough ranting.

To cleanse your pallet, may I suggest perusing Allan Guthrie's excellent list of favorite 200 noir books listed chronologically and stopping dead at a self imposed date of 1997. I'm officially intimidated.

Or how about checking out the all fiction supplement issue of Crimefactory (3.5) featuring stories by HBW friends Cullen Gallagher and Jason Dukes as well as Sophie Littlefield, Jonathan Woods, Jake Hinkson, John Kenyon, Garnett Elliot, Jay Stringer, Robert Crisman, Julia Madeline, Eric Beetner and Naomi Johnson.

Or better yet, go read John Rector's brand new The Cold Kiss. There's hope.

At Ransom Notes I'm talking about Arturo Perez-Reverte's The Club Dumas. A full 100% better than Roman Polanski's film version The Ninth Gate starring Johnny Depp. Which is not to say I hate the movie, I enjoy it on a certain level, but it's a lousy representation of the book.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Brownsville Blues

Steve Weddle has an MFA, but don't hold that against him. He reads a lot. He writes a lot. He teaches. He journalizes. One day he muses that this whole internet thing is nice and all, but he thinks there's something (gasp) special about reading ink on paper. Next thing you know he's a publisher. Needle magazine went from a newly fertilized brain egg to a dogeared book on my shelf in about six weeks. Holy crap.

Hey, young dudes, that's called follow-through.

And it wasn't all bad writing either. Steve and cohorts wrangled talent like Dave Zeltserman, Nathan Singer, Hilary Davidson and Sandra Seamans in that time and there's a second issue coming soon, (featuring, among others, Sarah Weinman, David Cranmer, Stephen Blackmoore, Mike Sheeter, Ray Banks, Nolan Knight and Frank Bill). I just hope that this much-wanted journal doesn't get in the way of his own output. His novel Lost & Found will hopefully be available to the masses soon. Meantime, his short fiction can be read in top crime publications like Crimefactory (go to archives- issue one), Beat to a Pulp and A Twist of Noir.

Steve Weddle is today's contributor to the Narrative Music series.

Brownsville Girl

Bob Dylan has some amazing Spaghetti Western songs, though that may be the wrong term as many of them take place in old Texas and Mexico, from Pat Garret to Durango. “Isis” is about a guy separated from his wife. He joins up with a tomb-robber. Then there’s “Senor (Tales of a Yankee Power),” a spooky, dreamy piece of tension and pain. And “Romance in Durango,” a tune he wrote with Jacques Levy, with this opening: “Hot chili peppers in the blistering sun/ Dust on my face and my cape,/ Me and Magdalena on the run/ I think this time we shall escape.” And, of course, many more played during the Rolling Thunder Revue in the ‘70s, with the stage filled with musicians in capes and boots and Dylan painted up like some insane Western take on the Japanese Noh theater.

But I don’t want to talk about those songs. The song worth your time is my favorite Dylan tune, one he wrote with Sam Shepard. One he recorded for 1985’s “Empire Burlesque.” The eleven-minute track didn’t make it on that album. Dylan reworked it, changing it from “New Danville Girl” to “Brownsville Girl.” The song found its way onto “Knocked Out Loaded,” one of two reasons to buy the album. (“Maybe Someday” isn’t bad.)

In the song, the narrator is telling the story of his romance, breaking that story up every so often with a re-telling of the 1950s Gregory Peck movie “The Gunfighter,” in which the old pro is hunted down by a young punk. Back and forth between the movie and the story of how the narrator and his gal got cornered in San Antonio, ran into trouble in Mexico, and, maybe, met O. Henry’s wife.

What I like so much about the song is the haziness of it, the fading into memory, into stories of gunfights and broken-down cars, into corrupt swap meets and the French Quarter, eternal loves and old heroes – and about the parts we play in our own movies:
Well, you saw my picture in the Corpus Christi Tribune. Underneath it,
it said, “A man with no alibi.”
You went out on a limb to testify for me, you said I was with you.
Then when I saw you break down in front of the judge and cry real tears,
It was the best acting I saw anybody do.

This isn’t a song about an old movie or an old love. This isn’t a song about what it means to grow old, to live your life looking back, wondering when you’re done. This isn’t a song about regret, about being chased, about the “dark rhythm” in a woman’s soul. This is a song about all of that, a song about a dying gunfighter, especially when it takes him a lifetime to die.

Brownsville Girl

Well, there was this movie I seen one time,
About a man riding ’cross the desert and it starred Gregory Peck.
He was shot down by a hungry kid trying to make a name for himself.
The townspeople wanted to crush that kid down and string him up by the neck.

Well, the marshal, now he beat that kid to a bloody pulp
As the dying gunfighter lay in the sun and gasped for his last breath.
“Turn him loose, let him go, let him say he outdrew me fair and square,
I want him to feel what it’s like to every moment face his death.”

Well, I keep seeing this stuff and it just comes a-rolling in
And you know it blows right through me like a ball and chain.
You know I can’t believe we’ve lived so long and are still so far apart.
The memory of you keeps callin’ after me like a rollin’ train.

I can still see the day that you came to me on the painted desert
In your busted down Ford and your platform heels
I could never figure out why you chose that particular place to meet
Ah, but you were right. It was perfect as I got in behind the wheel.

Well, we drove that car all night into San Anton’
And we slept near the Alamo, your skin was so tender and soft.
Way down in Mexico you went out to find a doctor and you never came back.
I would have gone on after you but I didn’t feel like letting my head get blown off.

Well, we’re drivin’ this car and the sun is comin’ up over the Rockies,
Now I know she ain’t you but she’s here and she’s got that dark rhythm in her soul.
But I’m too over the edge and I ain’t in the mood anymore to remember the times
when I was your only man
And she don’t want to remind me. She knows this car would go out of control.

Brownsville girl with your Brownsville curls
Teeth like pearls shining like the moon above
Brownsville girl, show me all around the world
Brownsville girl, you’re my honey love.

Well, we crossed the panhandle and then we headed towards Amarillo
We pulled up where Henry Porter used to live.
He owned a wreckin’ lot outside of town about a mile.
Ruby was in the backyard hanging clothes, she had her red hair tied back.
She saw us come rolling up in a trail of dust.
She said, “Henry ain’t here but you can come on in, he’ll be back in a little while.”

Then she told us how times were tough and about how she was thinkin’ of
bummin’ a ride back to from where she started.
But ya know, she changed the subject every time money came up.
She said, “Welcome to the land of the living dead.”
You could tell she was so broken hearted.
She said, “Even the swap meets around here are getting pretty corrupt.”

“How far are y’all going?” Ruby asked us with a sigh.
“We’re going all the way ’til the wheels fall off and burn,
’Til the sun peels the paint and the seat covers fade and the water moccasin dies.”
Ruby just smiled and said, “Ah, you know some babies never learn.”

Something about that movie though, well I just can’t get it out of my head
But I can’t remember why I was in it or what part I was supposed to play.
All I remember about it was Gregory Peck and the way people moved
And a lot of them seemed to be lookin’ my way.

Brownsville girl with your Brownsville curls,
Teeth like pearls shining like the moon above
Brownsville girl, show me all around the world
Brownsville girl, you’re my honey love.

Well, they were looking for somebody with a pompadour.
I was crossin’ the street when shots rang out.
I didn’t know whether to duck or to run, so I ran.
“We got him cornered in the churchyard,” I heard somebody shout.

Well, you saw my picture in the Corpus Christi Tribune. Underneath it,
it said, “A man with no alibi.”
You went out on a limb to testify for me, you said I was with you.
Then when I saw you break down in front of the judge and cry real tears,
It was the best acting I saw anybody do.

Now I’ve always been the kind of person that doesn’t like to trespass
but sometimes you just find yourself over the line.
Oh if there’s an original thought out there, I could use it right now.
You know, I feel pretty good, but that ain’t sayin’ much.
I could feel a whole lot better,
If you were just here by my side to show me how.

Well, I’m standin’ in line in the rain to see a movie starring Gregory Peck,
Yeah, but you know it’s not the one that I had in mind.
He’s got a new one out now, I don’t even know what it’s about
But I’ll see him in anything so I’ll stand in line.

Brownsville girl with your Brownsville curls,
Teeth like pearls shining like the moon above
Brownsville girl, show me all around the world,
Brownsville girl, you’re my honey love.

You know, it’s funny how things never turn out the way you had ’em planned.
The only thing we knew for sure about Henry Porter
is that his name wasn’t Henry Porter.
And you know there was somethin’ about you baby that I liked
that was always too good for this world
Just like you always said there was somethin’ about me you liked
that I left behind in the French Quarter.

Strange how people who suffer together have stronger connections
than people who are most content.
I don’t have any regrets, they can talk about me plenty when I’m gone.
You always said people don’t do what they believe in,
they just do what’s most convenient, then they repent.
And I always said, “Hang on to me, baby, and let’s hope that the roof stays on.”

There was a movie I seen one time, I think I sat through it twice.
I don’t remember who I was or where I was bound.
All I remember about it was it starred Gregory Peck, he wore a gun
and he was shot in the back.
Seems like a long time ago, long before the stars were torn down.

Brownsville girl with your Brownsville curls,
Teeth like pearls shining like the moon above
Brownsville girl, show me all around the world,
Brownsville girl, you’re my honey love.

Copyright © 1986 by Special Rider Music