Monday, April 30, 2012

Doing More With Les

Holy crap. Man, you weren't there and that's what you've got to live with foreverafter. I don't envy you. But you know who was there? From left to right, fuckin' David James Keaton, Matthew McBride, Frank Bill, some guy standing on a box, Cortright McMeel, Les Edgerton and Erik Lundy. More previous N@B ne'er do wells like Sonia Coney, Jason Makansi, Rod Wiethop were there soaking up the heavy scents of testosterone and shame hanging in the air, but that's what the booze is for. 

Incidentally, Les, aside from being a genuine badass, drink your milkshake writer and lucky bastard (you should meet his wife), is a hair stylist with an opinion. Here's one of many I picked up over the weekend: Mad Men is bullshit. Man was I bummed to hear that, 'cause I'd really been digging it for four seasons, but now that my eyes've been opened to the inaccuracies in the haircuts, dude, it's gonna be hard to tune back in. You heard right. Don't be coming up here with your fuckin' phony-ass haircuts tryin' to make me think it's the 1960's up in here. Bullshit. Some prissy-ass, vain, actorly bullshit. 

Les and his wonderful wife arrived in St. Louis last night followed a few hours later by Cort's Irish enthusiasm and the three of us had a sip or two at The Fox and Hound and talked some fuckin gooffy-ass shit about literature and the grace of an amazing wife. While at the Fox and Hound I ran into The Shield cast member Brent Roam and we talked about his upcoming appearance at The Tivoli midnight screening of Tobe Hooper's The Toolbox Murders in which he appeared alongside Sheri Moon (this week I watched hubby Rob Zombie's Halloween II and motherfucker managed to make an emotionally relevant  piece of work outta a damn sequel to a remake of a thirty-five year old movie like he was Lars Von Trier circumnavigating The Five Obstructions... gonna have to go to that screening... hmm)

I spent Saturday with Les, his wife and Cort, and we seemed to have called down the apocalypse by six o'clock when we had gales and hail outside the venue. The consensus seemed to be that as long as it looked like the end of the world as we knew it, there was nothing left to do, but soldier on. So Cort kicked things off with a brutal passage from his novel in progress Cagefighter (or something like that) - a gutsy bit about a MMA fighter's off-hours social life. Lundy followed up with his story Shootout at the K-Y Corral which is simply the most quotable story I've read this year. Les brought us all back to planet earth with his fucking hair-cut-correct story from Best American Mystery Stories edited by Lawrence Block. Shit man, only DJK could follow that piece and he did with his own bit of character rebooting Three Abortions

As Keaton was wrapping up Mr.'s Bill and Wiethop turned up spare from catching Ray Wylie Hubbard at The Old Rock House and we all had to start drinking again. Everybody who heard David's story needed a drink and a couple years of celibacy. Buuuut as the calendar changed numbers everybody made up - Cort and Keaton's smashed noses went a ways toward the reconciliation of their ancestors, Lundy and I buried the Fayetteville Purple Bulldogs Vs. Springdale Red Bulldogs hatchet between Les's shoulder blades, but he hardly noticed. 

A couple hours later, Keaton drove home (putting him in Louisville about... 5:30? 6AM?) and the surviving participants congregated for water filtered through stimulants with Scott Phillips an hour before his soon to be legend podcast phone call with Mike White about Charles Willeford's Miami Blues and George Armitage's film based on the book. 

Then today, I see that Guillermo Del Toro is tackling The Bloody Benders. Fuuuuuuck. Man, I dig del Toro's films, and I love the subject, but c'mon, Scott and I were looking to start adapting his fuckalicious little whore house on the prairie novel Cottonwood for the screen this summer. Cottonwood is a fucking great book with the notorious Bender family as the sticky filling in that Ogden donut. Trying to catch a break here folks. Oh well, commence advance ticket buying.... now.

Speaking of movies - it's just impossible not to do when you get nerds like me and David Keaton in the same room and there's nobody more entertaining to listen to riffing on 'em than DJK (you want an example? Check out this episode of the Booked podcast where he guest hosts with Robb Olson and Livius Nedin to discuss Stephen Graham Jones' Zombie Bake-Off. Copious amounts of zombie lore in print and on celluloid referenced - including Keaton's own Zombie Bed & Breakfast). Anyway, in the course of our conversation Saturday night we recalled the pleasures of VHS double features and I was put in mind of one from my past that keeps coming back to me: Doris Dorrie's Him & Me starring Griffin Dunne and Tom DeSimone's Chatterbox. Yup, both about people afflicted with talking genital syndrome. Seems there's another flick with DeSimone's title coming out soon, and I hope that there's a bit of overflow attention directed toward DeSimone's odd film about a woman named Penelope whose vajay begins making noise, calls herself Virginia and even becomes a singing sensation, leaving the rest of Penelope's body far behind in celebrity status. At the very least, I hope there's a DVD release soon. This clip is all I could find on the YouTube - check it out and tell me you believe it doesn't need to be seen. 

DeSimone had a career directing gay porn films as Lancer Brooks, but his output as DeSimone included the kind of direct to video sexploitation stuff that caught my eye as a youngster wandering the shelves like Reform School Girls with Sybil Danning and Wendy O. Williams, and Angel III: The Final Chapter, Concrete Jungle and Prison Girls, not to mention horror schlock like Freddy's Nightmares and Swamp Thing (TV) and Hell Night with Linda Blair and Vincent Van Patten - yup, the guy who hosted World Poker Tour and co-author of the poker-themed mystery The Picasso Flop with N@B alum Robert Randisi

And that's how we bring things full circle kids.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Had it Coming

You know I think that Google search phrases containing themes of Prison Sex are some of the most consistent in leading people to this blog, which I admit, makes me feel a little creepy. Hey, thanks to everybody who came here looking for an old fashioned cornholing tale and stuck around for something a little more disturbing - but this post is just for you. I'm tossing yous preverts a bone with my personal list of

Top 10 Prison Sex Scenes/episodes/whatever...

Jonathan Lethem's The Hardened Criminals is simply one of the most horrifying short stories I've ever read and you can find it in his collection The Wall of the Sky, The Wall of the Eye. But seriously, don't unless you want nightmares. Between that one and the collection's opener The Happy Man, they account for probably a solid 35% of my sleepy-time unease for the last fifteen years. On the other hand his novel Fortress of Solitude features a less horrifying, but just plain sad blowjob for drugs transaction in the er, joint that remains one of the only scenes I can recall from that book.

Tom Wolfe - A Man in Full. Why this one? Frankly, I dunno other than it was one of the first prison rapes of my personal reading career. You always remember your first, right?

Oz - The episode where Beecher's wife sees the swastika Schillinger tattoed on his ass was just... shudder... so awful. Beecher's last tether to shore was cut and he was still visible - drowning, not waiving. All we could do was watch him uh, go down.

Billy Hayes - Midnight Express - check this one against the conspicuously different version in Alan Parker's film adaptation.

Manuel Puig - Kiss of the Spider Woman. Yeah, I haven't read the book, but I saw the film and this one is in here to cleanse the pallet a bit.

Sin Soracco - Low Bite. Another leavener. Girl on girl prison sex that's neither sexy, nor violent. Mostly, so I can include...

Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks - Yeah, I'm covering the wet-dream section here and you just can't beat the Ilsa movies for prurient exploitation action.

Kurt Vonnegut - Breakfast of Champions. The casual disclosure about Wayne Hoobler - that he liked having sex with cows in prison - always stuck with me. Unfortunately for Omar Epps (who played Hoobler in the Alan Rudolph movie) I always think - that guy digs sex with cows - when I see him in other stuff (tho - I don't think the movie addressed that part of Hoobler's character).

Nick Cave - And the Ass Saw the Angel. Alright, not a prison book, but let's stretch the criteria even more and recognize that Euchrid Eucrow is imprisoned in that town and the gang-rape he suffers was about as unavoidable as any behind bars, and all about humiliation and degradation to boot.

Nick Santora - Fifteen Digits. Over at Ransom Notes I complained some about the difficulty of staying with the book (despite the guy's considerable writing chops) due to it featuring too many characters turning to criminal activity for a good cause. However, if you read the whole piece, I do mention that Santora leavens the cuddliness of his criminals with some truly grim consequences which I appreciate. One of them? (I won't spoil the who and the why here, but) there are actually two really awful dude-on-dude rapes in this novel (one in lockup) that, don't hate me, were probably my favorite parts of the book. The first because it was so horrifying and a long time coming for the character and the second because it was just so absolutely awful and set up as a revenge (as in, I'll pay you and your crackhead friends to go rape that guy)... yeah, terrible. Great.

Honorable mentions include some Charles Bukowski short story I can't recall the title of where a gang-rape is avoided by the sheer ugliness of the intended victim's asshole, and, I suppose that claymation Tool video for sheer creepiness. Les Edgerton's The Bitch probably shouldn't be on this list as it's really a shadowy event visited only "off screen" in a flashback, but it's the book I was thinking of when I started the list. Come meet Les on Saturday at N@B and ask him about it yourself. Also Tango & Cash for not going there.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

High Times For Low Lives

One week from today the badassery (not to mention the bald-assery and fat-assery) of Cortright McMeel, Les Edgerton, David James Keaton and Erik Lundy will descend upon Meshuggah Cafe in St. Louis for a night of cheap beer and cheaper laughs, buckets o'blood and grotesqueries galore. It's Noir at the Bar, muthafuckas. And I think we've got one of the best lineups we've ever had for this event.

The only excuse you've got for not attending is if you're checking out Ray Wylie Hubbard that night at The Old Rock House... and only then, if you swing by later for more drinks. Did you know that Ray wrote a movie too? S'right, Frank Bill told me 'bout it when he was in town last week. The Last Rites of Ransom Pride stars Dwight Yoakam, Kris Kristofferson, Scott Speedman, Lizzy Caplan, Peter Dinklage and motherfucking Dan Doherty his own self - W. Earl Brown.

Had a good time with the Bills, Sara J. Henry, Reed Farrel Colman and Duane Swierczynski when they visited the libarary the other night. Good to see Sonia Coney, Matthew McBride and Rod Norman there too. Hope I can get around for Philip Kerr this week too.

 That is all.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Risque Business

So Andrew Nette put together a list of some of his favorite criminal heroes over at Crime Fiction Lover and it's got a lot of overlap with my list from last week of stuffs Wallace Stroby's Crissa Stone books evoke for me. What do you know, but Ms. Stone makes Nettes' list and on the ol' FaceBook, Mr. Stroby officially concurs with my list of professional thievery fiction and film... and he's got another recommendation if you've seen all the flicks I mentioned - Le Cercle Rouge (or really, just about any Jean-Pierre Melville), Michael Mann's Thief & Heat, and Jules Dassin's Rififi - Claude Sautet's Classe Tous Risques which I immediately qued up and watched last night... again. Yeah, turns out I had seen this one before and somehow forgotten about it, but it all came rushing back as soon as Lino Ventura and his partner rob those guys on the street in the opening minutes of the film.
Oh, man, it's hard-bitten and hardboiled goodness. Watching the film last night, it struck me that betwixt Mr. Ventura, Jean-Paul Belmondo (who is also in the film) and Alain Delon you've you've pretty much got the three icons of French crime films of the fifties and sixties and I'm wondering if there's any French equivalent for the last twenty years?
Vincent Cassel? Jean Reno? I dunno...

No question for Korean crime flicks today, though. Kang-ho Song, Yun-seok Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi...

I dunno if any one of those fellas'll emerge as the Korean crime icon, but damn, they're showing up in the most consistently invigorating, envelope-shoving (hell, envelope-curb-stomping) genre films in the world. I watched Hong-jin Na's The Yellow Sea the other night and whooo. That was some attach the electrode-strobe to your nuts and and flip the switch stab-fest. Really stabby. The stabbiest. Looooved the stabbiness. No claw-hammers this time, it were all long-ass kitchen knives and tiny hatchets and let's just call it "anatomically-correct" stabbiness.

None of this Hollywood one-knife-wound-of-any-kind-anywhere-on-the-body-dispatches-anybody bullshit. Nope, you stab a motherfucker in this one, you'd better get behind the mule and plow. Keep stabbing, hacking, strangling till all the twitching stops, else that bloody pin cushion is gonna get back the hell up and do it to you.

And like Na's previous ass-kicker The Chaser, They Yellow Sea features some of the most kinetic energy released in foot-chases since, I dunno, Marathon Man, (the French scored in this category recently too with Fred Cavaye's Point Blank.)

Taking a break from movies tonight to catch N@B alum Frank Bill and Duane Swierczynski hold the swears to a minimum at the library with Reed Farrel Coleman and Sara J. Henry. Really, if you're in or around St. Louis, and don't show up tonight... You're crazy. Or Fred Venturini. Or both.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Les Edgerton's The Perfect Crime was free this week! Hope you got some. Then, for Peter's sake, went to get your mitts on The Bitch so's you won't be blindsided by his elecutionary prowess on Saturday, April 28th when he appears at N@B. Livius Nedin and Robb Olson at the Booked Podcast had David James Keaton on this week and he pimped his appearance at N@B and talked about meeting Les and Cort, but mainly he was there to discuss Stephen Graham Jones Zombie Bake Off and hey is it just me or are there a loooooot of N@B associates writing zombie tales? Keaton's got his Zee Bee & BeeJohn Hornor Jacobs' This Dark EarthLaura Benedict'The Devil's Oven, and Cort? Cort's publishing house Bare Knuckle Press just published this zombie book I've grabbed - Blue Bloodbath by Katrina Von Kessel. Plus, let's not forget Chris La Tray's N@B performance of Buster Lee & the Chucklehead That Wouldn't Stay Down from Kung Fu Factory, N@BLA's Stephen Blackmoore's City of the Lost and I just picked up N@BLA alum Gary Phillips' short story collection Treacherous featuring the story Disco Zombies - not a metaphor.

Man, these Little Brown reissues of Daniel Woodrell's backlist are a handsome lot. Check out this cover for Give Us a Kiss - and lookie that, N@B's own Pinckney Benedict wrote a new introduction. Phantabulous. There's a unique opportunity to interact with Pinckney next Wednesday and I'd signed up to take part before I realized I had really unmissable conflict with more N@B alum that night. Frank Bill, Duane Swierczynski, Reed Farrel Coleman and Sara J. Henry are at the St. Louis County Library HQ.

Over at Ransom Notes I'm talking 'bout Wallace Stroby's latest Kings of Midnight, a sequel to last year's Cold Shot to the Heart. I loaded up the piece with a list of films and books that compare well with the Crissa Stone series. They're all about thieves as working professionals. 

In the post this week - new Jonathan Woods, J.J. Connolly, Jim Nisbet, Tom Piccirilli, Joseph Koenig and a monster debut from Ariel S. Winter - ambidextrous and ambitious. A good week to get mail. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Slather, Wince, Repeat

What a tough year for American letters, eh? First William Gay and now at Ransom Notes, I'm touching on what the passing of Harry Crews means to me. In the piece I mention criteria I'm looking for to fill the voids left by those two and I mention some upcoming books that I'll be leaning on harder while trying to scratch a phantom itch. However... I should clarify, I don't expect Peter Farris's Last Call For the LivingFrank Wheeler Jr.'s The Wowzer or Sean Doolittle's Lake Country to read like a Crews novel. Newwww new new... Simply that I think they could fill the criteria described as darkly comic, bitingly satirical, grotesquely populated and almost preternaturally violent (thanks Margalit Fox) or emotionally honest (not omniscient, not necessarily correct) encounters with crime and human transgression, consequence and redemption told with a reckless enthusiasm for language, coupled with an amputee's respect for the power of the written word. They could. They might. They'd better.

Hey, here's another link to Paul von Stoetzel's coming of age biopic of yours truly, Viscosity. Previous working titles included Awesomsauce, The Mother of Invention, The Winner's Circle and Slather, Wince, Repeat. My mother in law has now seen this... I'm soooo outta the will. Did anybody out there actually read the story the film was based on? Anybody besides Benoit Lelievre, that is? No. Well, that dude took the time to read three of my stories - A Fuckload of Scotch Tape, Viscosity and Down, Down, Down, Burns, Burns, Burns and then write about them so's you don't have to read 'em yourself. That's very helpful. And very appreciated. Thanks, Benoit. Head on over to his Spinetingler award nominated bloggy blog Dead End Follies to read all about me.

Speaking of Spinetingler award nominations, look who got one for best cover - Owen Smith for D*CKED as well as Matt Kindt for Noir at the Bar! Other N@B cats nominated include Les Edgerton for The Bitch (he's reading from this one on April 28, yo), All the Young Warriors by Anthony Neil SmithAlready Gone by John RectorCrimes in Southern Indiana by Frank BillDavid James Keaton's story Either Way it Ends With a Shovel from Crimefactory, Matthew C. Funk's Silas' Good Run from Beat to a Pulp, Cort McMeel'Noir Nation, and a best opening line nom for Duane Swierczynski's Hell & Gone. It's been a year since I read Fun & Games... what the hell? Where's my fuckin Point & Shoot? I feel so raw and needy. 

So you know that Edgerton will be joined by Keaton, McMeel and Erik Lundy on the 28th for N@B, but knew you that Misters Bill and Swierczynski will be in St. Louis on April 18th with Reed Farrel Coleman and Sara J. Henry for Suspense Night at the library? And what's this? Decent lineup for the library's spring and summer including C.J. Box, Ridley Pearson, Philip Kerr and Craig Johnson. Not bad.

Watched Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.'s prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing titled, um, The Thing the other night, and damn if I didn't get my rocks off big time. So very nearly a remake (Carpenter's was also a remake of Christian Nyby'The Thing From Another World based on the short story Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr.), but not quite. This one deals with the demise of the Norwegian outpost whose ruins we're teased with in the 1982 version and yeah they take evvvvvery detail onscreen in Carpenter's and recreate them in this one, but pretty damn organically so we're not going 'Ooh, I bet I know where that axe ends up' the whole time, and even the end credits gave me the lead into Carpenter's opening credit sequence without triggering an eyeroll. Nice. The prequel does recreate a lot of the suspense and tension from the exact recipe Carpenter baked with, buuuut this one is quicker to the bloody mayhem and plenny disgusting with the special effects, and for that reason, takes on a tone different enough to the not exactly original to please me. Actually, I thought Joel Edgerton was playing the Kurt Russell role at first - never really thought about it, but he bares some resemblance. 

While we're talking 'bout resemblances in the 2011 The Thing to other films - I'll say that the disgusting alien effects look like creatures evolved from David Cronenberg's The Naked Lunch or hell, any Cronenberg monster. Loved 'em. I also thought of my favorite Canadian David watching Pedro Almodovar's sick-ass The Skin I Live In last week. Not often I really enjoy one of his films, but this one was awfully fucked up and watchable. Thematically, this one is a relative of Cronenberg's and that's a real good thing. All transgression and horror. Almodovar does a crime film once in a while too, I mean he adapted Ruth Rendell's Live Flesh for Peter's sake, so I'm thinking maybe I oughtta go back and give Volver a chance.

Another Rendell adaptation I ain't thought on in a decade or so is Claude Miller's Alias Betty, which I think I liked alright. Think I caught it around the same time as Lynne Ramsay's adaptation of Alan Warner's novel Morvern Callar, which was another weird crime-through-the-side-door bit that featured one of the most memorable bathtub dismemberment scenes ever. And I will always think of that picture when listening to that Mamas and Papas song. Callar was good and icky-squishy enough to nudge Ramsay's adaptation of Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin onto my Netflix que. But hey, back to Miller - I see here he's directed two Emmanuel Carrere adaptations?!? How the hell did I not know this? I've got to get my hands on The Class Trip and I'm Glad My Mother is Alive. Carrere writes reaaaal unsettling stuff about obsession and insanity all subtle and classy-like. You ever get the chance to read his true crime book The Adversary, I urge you to give it a go and then not call me when you can't sleep. Man, I hope the fact that I hadn't heard of either of these films doesn't mean they suck like Carrere's adaptation of his own novella The Mustache did. Seems there was an English language omnibus of The Mustache and The Class Trip available a couple years back. See if you can grab one of those while you're at it. Great short novels. Novellas. Whatever.