Friday, December 19, 2014

Bloody Seconds

Peaky Blinders

Boardwalk Empire

The Wire

The Sopranos

The X Files

Twin Peaks

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Year of the Doggleganger

My year in Dogglegangers... First off, David James Keaton's trippy mindfuck The Last Projector gets a prize for coining my new favorite term, doggleganger, but looking back 2014 has had a theme. Here's what I mean.

Everybody Has a Plan - Ana Piterbarg's drama about identical twin brothers, one of whom murders the other to fake his own death and then takes his brother's life only to find he's escaped one tight spot only to end up in a worse one. 

Enemy - Denis Villeneuve's paranoia noirsicle will haunt your fucking dreams. That is, unless you're already an android. Easily one of the best movies of the year - elements of David Lynch, Brian DePalma, Jose Saramago, Franz Kafka and Jack Finney go in a blender and emerge a perfect nightmare.

The Double - Richard Ayoade's adaptation of Dostoevsky's tale of the you you'd like to be leaving the you you are behind and the lengths the you you are might go to to ruin it for the you you're not.

The One I Love - Charlie McDowell directs Elizabeth Moss and Mark Duplass in this oddly dramatic comedy about predators from another dimension. Or something. Once again Duplass finds himself in the offbeat comic version of the year's thematic trump suit as he did a couple years back with Safety Not Guaranteed appearing in the same year as memorable offbeat time travel flicks like Looper and The Sound of My Voice. Hmmm. What's he doing next?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Wages of Sin

CrimeWav podcast has had some terrific selections lately - PM Press heavy content from Kenneth Wishnia, Barry Graham and this month fuckin Sin Soracco. She's so great. If there's any justice in the world, the whole Orange is the New Black crowd will be seeking out her novel Low Bite for a more satisfying, non-safe-route-taking portrait of the incarcerated American female population. Soracco's got a new short story too in the the Joyce Carol Oates edited anthology Prison Noir which I'm keen to check out.

Here's a bit I wrote previously about Soracco's Low Bite at Ransom Notes:

Morgan is the central character of Sin Soracco's Low Bite (the most memorable ensemble cast I've read since last year's Late Rain by Lynn Kostoff). She works in the prison law library where she's incarcerated for breaking and entering. Her job is to help other cons explore their legal position, but mostly she brews dangerous jailhouse moonshine and finds other distracting ways to pass the time, including participating in a plot to embezzle funds from another inmate's murdered husband.

That's more or less the plot. But plot-schmlot. It's more a collection of anecdotes converging on repeating themes than a straight narrative, but it is such a great collection of low-rent, high-drama characters struggling to hold on to or create a small patch of dignity in an otherwise utterly oppressed and debased atmosphere that I'd have been happy to keep reading another hundred pages without a central story line. These are women pushed to the brink of human experience and rendered with such obvious affection (yet nothing is precious) - they're impossible not to get behind.

The dialogue alone drips with the effortless, affectationless authenticity of someone in the know, (Soracco does know of what she speaks), and it's a true pleasure to listen. In the interview with the former convict and inmate that is included in the re-issue of her novel, Soracco recalls conversations with editors and publishers and their questions about where the ideas for her characters came from, "These are bits and pieces of my friends. Even the villains."

They've got to be.

And, not that I don't enjoy a good exploitation flick or book, and not that my pulpy bases don't need covering often and generously, (in fact I'm chomping at the bit for Anthony Neil Smith's third Billy Laffitte book - yes, it's in the works), but I do need a good dose of the real thing now and then. And when was the last time I got a straight forward dose of women's prison?

Which is not to say it's humorless. Far from it. The humor and the horror go hand in hand here and the faster the reader and inmate understand that, the better their chance of survival and sanity. It's angry and fierce, but you'd better believe it's not humorless. The scams and angles played are as dumb, doomed, effective, brilliant and entertaining as any.

Combine the flavors of Jim Nisbet, Barry Gifford and Edward Bunker all you like, but Soracco's is a unique voice and one I'm going to listen for from here on out. Low Bite has also stoked my anticipation of Notes From the American Gulag from Prison Stories author Seth Ferranti.

How about Wentworth? Anybody checked that one out yet? I've only watched the first episode and intend to go further, but it's not at the top of my que. If you've an opinion, lemme know. Meantime, go pick up Low Bite and Edge City by Sin Soracco, or hell, I-5 and Nearly Nowhere by Summer Brenner, Pike by Benjamin Whitmer, The Wrong Thing by Barry Graham,  The Underbelly by Gary Phillips, Sensation by Nick Mamatas or the one I'm reading now - 23 Shades of Black by Kenneth Wishnia, 'cause everything from PM Press is 50% off now thru December 31st at the website!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Old Mike Hits Bottom - Mike Miner: CriMemoir

Getting on to the end of the year, kids. Office parties. Family gatherings. Police check points. Good time to share this cautionary, confessional CriMemoir from Mike Miner. If you don't know Mike's name, you haven't been paying attention. His latest novel, Prodigal Sons, is out now from All Due Respect Books and his short fiction has appeared in all the places you'd be looking.

Old Mike Hits Bottom - A CriMemoir by Mike Miner

I hit bottom in the Beverly Hills Police Department on January 28th, 2001. The morning after my last night on the town. My last hangover. It was a hell of a night. What I remember of it anyway. And it was a hell of a hangover.

This was Old Mike. He has since retired. My memories of that morning are vivid. That familiar sensation, fuzzy brained, but certain that I was in big trouble and in no particular hurry to find out exactly how much.

Jail. Again.

Snapshots of the night before. A blur of bars up and down Sunset Boulevard. The Skybar at the Mondrian, The House of Blues, the VIP Lounge at the Sunset Room. Velvet ropes, top shelf liquor. Old Mike knew how to have a good time.

Other memories, less pleasant.

My BMW bouncing over a curb. The street turning into lawn, then a wide staircase.
A cop's flashlight in my face.

Jail. Again.

I knew the drill by now. Forward and backward.

This was my third DUI. Second within the past year. I remember because my probation had just ended on the last one.

As the police cruiser pulled away, with me handcuffed in the back seat, I considered the likely consequences.

Fines. Lawyers. Probation. Suspended license. Court ordered rehab. Shit. Shit. SHIT.

And worst of all, the wrath of my lovely wife.

I did not realize yet that there was mandatory jail time for a man in my situation. Ten days in Twin Towers county jail downtown. My wife will be pregnant at the time. But that's another story.

This is about me hitting bottom. I hadn't yet, not quite.

First, I needed to get processed out. They gave me back my watch, my shoes, my wedding ring. For some reason they needed another thumb print even though they took all my prints the night before.

I made bail, apparently.

I knew who paid it. Again.

I was free to go, they told me. She was waiting in the lobby. I walked down a lonely hallway, up a staircase, kept company by the sound of my footsteps and my own guilty thoughts. The door to the lobby had a window in it and I saw my pathetic reflection and thought, how on earth could anyone be here, ready to pick me up and take me home again. I looked at myself and wondered, not for the first time, what the hell she possibly saw in me worth staying for.

This wasn't the first time. Or the second. Five years of this, give or take.

I was in rehab when we met, for an arrest up in Boston. Had to attend group therapy once a week up in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. I guess she knew what she was getting into.

A deep breath before I pushed open the door. In the glass, I could see the scar above my left eye where I sliced it open in a drunken car accident on an icy road. I spent the night getting stitched up in an emergency room. Guess who was there to take me home?

And here she was again.

In the movie version, no doubt Tammy Wynette's voice would sing in the background, “Stand By Your Man.”

That was rock bottom for me, dear friends. Later, she'd tell me how she spent all night calling hospitals and jails looking for me until she found me. Think about that, boys and girls. Does someone love you enough to do that? Would you do that for someone? I picture her on hold, waiting, braced for the worst.

In the lobby of the Beverly Hills Police Department, she said, “What am I gonna do with you?

I said, “I'm all done, babe.” And I was. I didn't ever want to see that look on her face again.

She had no reason to believe me. But so far, so good.

Do I miss it? The bright lights and the big city? Sometimes. When my kids are howling at each other like wolves or my wife's handing me another honey do list. Sure. I remember the soothing bite of an ice cold martini at Musso & Frank's. The burn of a Maker's Mark, neat, at Bar Marmont. The sting of rum in a mai tai from the Formosa Café. I could go on. But I've been there. Done that.

I don't miss waking up in jail. Don't miss the hangovers, the lawyers, the rehab.

Of course, I write a bit. Which allows me to visit with Old Mike once in a while. Imagine what he would have done if things turned out different. If his wife hadn't stood by her man, like mine did.

Mike Miner lives and writes in Connecticut. He is the author of Prodigal Sons (All Due Respect Books), The Immortal Game (Gutter Books) and Everything She Knows (SolsticeLit Books). His stories can be found in the anthologies, Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT and Pulp Ink 2 as well as in places like Thuglit, Beat To a Pulp, All Due Respect, Burnt Bridge, Narrative, PANK, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey and others.