Saturday, January 28, 2017

John Hurt RIP

My first memorable encounter with John Hurt was in Bob Clark's Judd Nelson hotshot lawyer comedy, From the Hip, where he played the creepy client on whom the tone of the movie shifts. He was scary. After that I kept a wary eye on his character whatever movie he happened to pop up in. He just had that thing that made you pay attention. Happy he kept working up to the end of his life - he always seemed to be at the height of his powers.

Some more of my favorite Hurt performances include his turn as a hired killer and consummate professional in Stephen Frears' The Hit. His hitman Braddock endures the trials of his hotheaded punk partner, Tim Roth, as well as Terrance Stamp as the vexingly unconcerned quarry he's been charged with retaining and dispatching for the gangsters who employ him It's a long, bad day, roadtrip flick and Hurt's irritated cool is a big reason it works as well as it does.

He has the role of the bad man holding Roth's leash again in Michael Caton-Jones' Rob Roy, this time fopping out and oozing sinister sleaze so vile all the perfume and powder in her majesty's kingdom couldn't cover the stench.

And his bounty killer Jellon Lamb in John Hillcoat's hellish outback 'western' The Proposition may not be the main character in terms of plot, but he seems to have been screenwriter Nick Cave's favorite vehicle to take us in to the heart of darkness, break the moral compass and give voice to the madness.
Of course he had great warmth to convey as well and I suspect his turn as the gentle fatherly figure Broom in Guillermo Del Toro's Hellboy movies is the beating heart beneath the wisecracking that makes them (especially HellboyII: The Golden Army) such a pleasing mix of elements.

Already miss you, John.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Unmentionables 2016

The reason I really like year-end list time? It's a time for heated conversations and petty provocations. And of course to find a few gems I may have let go by un-noticed. Below I've listed some very worthwhile fare that may appeal to HBW readers, but doesn't quite fit in the smallish HBW box so won't be part of the discussion in the favorites of the year. Well, now they get their own list...

The Fits Anna Rose Holmer - Starting with the fare probably least likely to have otherwise been included on this blog as it's not remotely crime-centered. It's the story of a young girl coming into her own through participation in a community youth center's programs for competitive dance and boxing. It's a mesmerizingly sensual little film that relies little on its sparse dialogue and heavily on its star's face and physicality(newcomer Royalty Hightower) to tell its story. Why it makes this list - it may not be a crime story, but it reminded me acutely of the work of one of my favorite crime writers, Megan Abbott. In fact if you remove the crime and noir elements from her books Dare Me and The Fever and somehow mashed the two together and adapted the results to film... probably look a lot like The Fits. Also - it's short, like under 80 minutes - that's big in its favor. Interested to see what's next for Holmer.

Hardcore Henry -  Ilya Naishuller - The 2013 music videos for Biting Elbows' The Stampede and Bad Motherfucker, a two-part, first person-POV action flick about a bunch of black suit wearing motherfuckers trying to kill a slippery, elusive motherfucker for control of a teleportation device, was such an inventive, high-energy blast of cinematic blood letting somebody threw director Naishuller a bunch of money and a dare to do a feature length version. Naishuller then dared audiences to sit through it and I for one am damned glad I did. Specifically, I'm glad I did it at the theater where the impact of the giant screen was maximized and made for some nausea-inducing sequences of shaky-cam bloody mayhem. Yeah, it made me a little cross-eyed, but it's the most formally-inventive action movie since The Matrix - like an ultraviolent Looney Tunes episode that just keeps upping the chuck and I was more than a little titillated and knock-kneed afterward. I remember exactly fuck-all about the plot, and a lot of the humor falls flat, but every single action sequence felt like the big over the top finale of any other action flick and that's more than half the battle. It doesn't quite fit in the HBW sweet spot because of the science fiction elements, but holy shit it was one of the greatest movie-going experiences of my decade.

He Never DiedJason Krawczyk - This one doesn't fit the typical HBW fare because of a latent supernatural element, but it is one of the most conceptually satisfying vampire tales I've ever seen. It holds horror, humor and un-humanity in such a masterfully balanced execution of tone and timing I can't believe I'd never heard of writer/director Krawczyk before - dude has some serious chops. And fucking Henry Rollins? Damn. The perfection of his performance can't be oversold here. It is at once melancholy and hilarious, resigned and seething, nihilistic and sweet. Run, don't walk, to watch this one and then watch it again like I have.

I am Not a Serial Killer - Billy O'Brien - Based on the YA novel by Dan Wells this story of a high school student who believes he is psychologically pre-disposed to sport killing and hopes he is not pre-destined for infamy is an icky mix of morbid elements that bounce between clever and darkly funny to merely off-putting. The best thing about the picture is its intention to treat the subject matter as realistically and emotionally honestly as possible. It's not what I think when I hear YA novel adaptation, but it sure helps make this a remarkable experience, especially as the film morphs into supernatural horror. Solid performances help too.

The Lobster - Yorgos Lanthimos - If you, like me, were worried something would be lost when the director of Dogtooth and Alps started making English language films with movie stars, breathe a big sigh of relief, 'cause The Lobster is every bit as fucked and headscratchy as his previous work and even has new and welcome elements of warmth and John C. Reilly. Fuck yes, please. Why would this warrant mention at all on HBW? Fuckin totalitarianism has never been more relevant to the noirish nightmare we're living in now... oof. Don't forget to register.

Midnight Special - Jeff Nichols - Michael Shannon plays the father of a young boy he's apparently abducted and is on the run with, along with a friend, Joel Edgerton and later the boy's mother, Kirsten Dunst. On the run from whom? First, from the cult led by Sam Shepard, who worships/exploits the boy, and second from the government agencies (given face by Adam Driver) with an interest in controlling/weaponizing him. The boy's got abilities you see. Strange abilities that aren't easy to peg (or control). All of this can be gleaned from watching a trailer for the film, but I still feel a little dirty revealing that much about the plot because the film slowly peels back the layers of plot to reveal character and give context to the action we've already witnessed so expertly, so precisely and subtly, it's a pleasure to be in the hands of a film maker this in control of his medium. And it's exactly that acknowledged level of control that can make Nichols a thorny topic because as with Take Shelter, many people will have difficulty reconciling the end of the movie with what's come before. Does it ruin the mystery? Does it spell things out too clearly? If he's as terrific at everything that came before then you have to accept that he's made exactly the film he intended to even if it doesn't end up being the one you were hoping for. I've got my own issues with the way the final moments play out on screen, but I can't deny the power of everything that came before and I can't wait to watch it again. Nichols also gives the least likely cast members some of the best moments too, my favorite example here being Bill Camp as Shepard's henchman preparing to do something terrible and pausing to reflect on how he arrived at his station in life. Easy to peg this alien among us, big-hearted thriller as another Spielberg's-80s homage along the lines of Super 8 or Stranger Things, but it's so much more (and better) than any of those.

Mongrels - Stephen Graham Jones - This tale of a family of werewolves living in the shadows of America, nomadic along its southern and mid-western regions, is one of my favorite books of the year for its sharp take on lore and for lending fresh blood to the coming of age format with its structure and the ferocity of its feeling. Yeah, it's a werewolf book, but it's also a crime novel of sorts, as the clan make a fair amount of their living off of liquor store holdups other crimes of that stripe. Exciting stuff.

The Neon Demon - Nicolas Winding Refn - The first Refn film outside of Valhalla Rising that I couldn't quite squeeze into the crime picture category for the ol' blog is another brick in the wall of what is going to be an untouchable body of work at the end of his career. His commitment to his calling as 'a pornographer' is inspiring as the images so carefully and purposefully crafted are arousing and of premiere importance. Sound too. Holy shit, the sound. And editing. Another visceral theater-going experience I'm sure loses a little in the transition to smaller, lower-quality viewing mediums, it's far from my favorite among his films, but it's undoubtedly fun to watch an artist at the peak of his powers give no fucks for commercial concerns even as commercial concerns are clearly on his mind. Are you food or sex?

Skullcrack City - Jeremy Robert Johnson - Begins as a white-collar crime novel that quickly unravels in a dozen dizzying directions - drug-addled dystopia, paranoid conspiracy thriller, grotesque body-horror, bloody funny science fraction - and wraps up surprisingly satisfyingly without being too neat. Neat trick.

The Wailing - Na Hong-jin - The Yellow Sea and The Chaser are simply two of the best crime films of any era, so I was definitely on board with whatever Hong-jin did next sight unseen. Turns out it doesn't matter what you know about this one before going in, you won't be prepared for it. This is the most bat-shit horror film I've seen in a long damn time (I'm just leaving it at that - I can't remember anything more bonkers off the top of my head... Fire Walk With Me?) and I'm going to need a couple more turns to wrap my simple mind around it. Whatever the fuck just happened, I feel spent. Korea is still killing it.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

2016 Honorable Mentions

Last week I talked up my favorite ten crime flicks from 2016 and, like every year, it included a lot of obvious choices, but I like to follow up with the 11-20 slots 'cause that's where I can get into a few that may've slipped through the cracks. Again, not all are 2016 releases, but all of these are recent small or foreign flicks and they were all first-viewed last year. In alphabetical order.

Black Coal Thin Ice - Diao Yinan - Parts of a dismembered body are discovered inside a coal shipment and the investigation ends in a sudden, horrific bloodbath that leads the detective to retire. Five years into a new career as a half-assed private dick and full time drunk another killing with the same weirdly-specific M.O. has him looking into the murders with new ideas. The hoops this one jumps through plot-wise are maybe a twist too-far, but it's an effectively moody mystery with at least three memorable scenes. The aforementioned bloodbath is a wonderful set-piece that comes out of nowhere - a routine investigation scene jumps sideways - it's messy, brutal and shockingly funny, a character has his motorcycle stolen in another vignette of inverted expectations and the use of ice skates as a murder weapon is surprisingly effective. The filmmakers know their genre tropes and have fun playing with expectations all the way through while sticking to them faithfully, it's exactly the kind of measured, skillfully executed mystery film that I can enjoy without feeling like an asshole afterward.

Don't Breathe - Fede Alvarez - A trio of young thieves have a hot lead on easy score - a disabled vet with cash from a legal settlement hidden somewhere in his house. What they didn't count on was the lethal capabilities of the old blind soldier, nor the far reaches of his mind for revenge. A classic switcheroo where the villains become victims, the set up is pretty simple, but the extended suspense sequence that makes up the bulk of the film is so relentless and well done that minor quibbles with logic and tone are easily forgiven, plus fuckin Stephen Lang deserves some serious recognition for his almost completely silent performance as the glorious bastard with an inglorious baster.

Kill Zone 2Cheang Pou-soi - I can't recap the plot for you. I know it involves undercover cops, drug smuggling, trafficking in human organs, corrupt prison officials and a shit-ton of coincidence, but where all those pieces go I'm not the least interested in trying to recall. They're just excuses to move from one great action sequence to the next. A sequel in name only to the 2005 Donnie Yen/Sammo Hung flick, even the returning actors (neither Yen nor Hung) Wu Jing and Simon Yam play different characters so don't worry. Ong-Bak's Tony Jaa is foremost amongst the ensemble of ass-kickers doing what they do.

The Legend of Barney Thomson - Robert Carlyle's debut as a feature director is an adaptation of The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson by Douglas Lindsay, is a grisly comedy about a hapless barber who accidentally kills his boss and is relieved to find the murder mistkenly attributed to a serial killer currently working in Glasgow and then horrified to learn that he is suspected of being said serial killer. Carlyle shows an eye for detail that make Glasgow and its inhabitants pop off the screen and seem an alternately dismal and charming locale, and the cast, including Carlyle, Ray Winstone, Ashley Jensen and Brian Pettifer are fun, but it's Emma Thompson playing the barber's overbearing, alcoholic mother whom I charge with grand theft motion picture. She goes big and owns every scene she barrells through - couldn't get enough of her. Special notice to the props department for the lovingly detailed severed limbs and sundry liberated anatomical pieces that show up throughout - they add a good deal of punch to the goings on.

MarshlandAlberto Rodríguez - A pair of mismatched Spanish detectives are sent to investigate the disappearance of teenaged sisters from a remote village in 1980. The post-Franco setting is key to the tense atmosphere as the duo learn how to work together - one a fascist-era leftover and the other representing a new Spain, neither without a troubled conscience. Similar in tone and plot Memories of Murder or the first season of True Detective, it's dour, but stately and outfitted with a satisfyingly violent and bitter conclusion.

Mexican Gangster (aka Mexico's Most Wanted) - José Manuel Cravioto - This unwieldy film based on the true larger than life figure Alfredo Ríos Galeana, a bank-robbing cop who moonlit as a luchador-mask-wearing mariachi going by the name Charro Misterioso, is full of enough what the actual fuckery to compensate for its sometimes shaggy-dog script and obtuse structure. I'd never heard of Galeana before and looked him up immediately after finishing the film. Turns out writer/director Cravioto deserved more credit than I'd initially given him in getting the story onscreen in a more or less cohesive package. If the narrative had been presented chronologically it would have required a much longer running time to give proper attention to each element in the unbelievable story. As presented -like a blender full of incongruous liquified ingredients- it makes for a head-scratching take on an otherwise standard criminal bio-pic, but honestly, what was left out was even weirder and I think it showed great restraint on Cravioto's part not to even bother.
99 HomesRamin Bahrani - At first glance this slick picture starring recognizable white folks would appear to be the place Bahrani went hollywood, but the fact that it fits perfectly into his body of work serves as an alarming illustration of how big a sink hole the American middle class rests upon. Like Bahrani's previous features Chop Shop and Man Push Cart this one is a portrait of people existing in the places they land after falling through the cracks in society. 99 Homes stars Andrew Garfield as an out of work construction worker in Florida evicted from his foreclosed upon home by real estate operator Michael Shannon. Garfield's character reaches for an opportunity offered by Shannon's to work for him evicting other in default families and flipping the properties. Works well as a far more human companion piece to The Big Short showing the fallout of the housing market crash from the chaos on the ground. Shannon's Carver shows Garfield's Nash the ropes of his business which cross ethical, moral and legal boundaries like so many invisible and meaningless lines and delivers a brief back-story speech that sounded uncomfortably similar to Tina Turner's in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome driving home, perhaps intentionally, that this is a pre-apocalyptic movie. Both lead performances are engaged and worthy of their front and centeredness, but, as with Bahrani's other work, they are convincing stand-ins for the faceless subterranean we may all be on our way to becoming. With this one and Chop Shop Bahrani tackles the element of crime from a law of the jungle, basic human survival angle that I'm drawn to and stupid for, and I hope that the addition of A-list talent like Shannon, Garfield and Laura Dern means his star is rising and he gets to keep exploring his area of interest. Strong contender for opening scene/shot of the year... whatever year it belongs to. Fucking amazing and beautifully economic delivery of character and world-building. Did I mention Michael Shannon is in this picture?

Rabid Dogs - Eric Hannezo's French language remake of Mario Bava's 1974 heist/hostage/road movie is tense and elegant and turns nasty quick. The heist always goes wrong, right? Bank robbers pursued by police take hostages and drive across countryside arguing, plotting, sizing each relative-stranger up and weighing their options - none of them good. It's 100 minutes of tension relieved in an orgy of blood and ill-intent. Not having seen the original, I can't comment on how it stacks up and that's probably why I've placed it in the honorable mentions rather than in the top honors category (because I"m afraid you'll point out my total lack of credentials). Fuck you, it's really good.

Too Late - Dennis Hauck - Hauck's debut feature is an exciting high-wire act of filmmaking that is thrilling when it succeeds, but is not without its drawbacks. Let's stay positive up front though. I love the idea of this flick - 5 single-uncut*-shot scenes presented in non-chronological order tell the story of a private investigator looking into the murder of a young woman. The formal experiment is the real star here and the simplicity with which many of the scenes unfold mute some of the monumental orchestration achievements - one shot has a character placing a phone call which is answered by another character within the same shot by use of a telescopic camera zoom, said answering character then hangs up, exits his building and gets in his car which arrives at the scene of the placed phone call in time to conclude the vignette, another scene involves multiple locations and following a character through in and out of rooms, through crowds, up into a boxing ring where a fight is in progress and back and another involves multiple interiors including a strip club and a music venue (both featuring live performers) - it's audacious and bold and works very well and quietly... except when it doesn't. And oh boy, when it doesn't. The quality of the cast varies greatly - at the center is the ever-dependable and always compelling John Hawkes (the only character in every scene) who is joined by solid performers (Natalie Zea, Robert Forster, Vail Bloom and Dichen Lachman are particularly strong, while Jeff Fahey, David Yow and Joanna Cassidy are always welcome) and a handful of not-sos (Rider Strong and Dash Mihok are painful to listen to and Brett Jacobsen has either has uniquely unwieldy lines or is simply outmatched by the elevated writing - either way, I suppose that falls on Hauck's shoulders). The story too - like the speech - is, er, elevated (read - movie logic), the situation and characters within it are the things of fiction, not to be mistaken for actual people or believable behaviors - and that's okay - that's what we want from movies often. So hey, don't go looking for something particularly mindblowing here - when the final puzzle pieces are fit together, if it don't quite land like Chinatown, that's okay. I'm very much looking forward to revisiting this one for it's DePalma-ish camera and dream-like world - I loved the structure - the way the story unfolds and damn, I wish more films took the monster sized swings for the fences that this one does.

VictoriaSebastian SchipperLaia Costa plays Victoria, a young Spanish woman now living in Berlin who meets and flirts with a group of young men at a dance club and spends the remainder of a night in their company eventually being roped into committing a crime with them, which goes badly, and fleeing police and gangsters in a single un-broken 138-minute take. It's a gimmick film, so its success depends on the gimmick itself and in this case it's a hell of an ambitious gimmick that probably would have worked twice as well if it were half as long. I'm of an age now where the indulgences of the young tend to irritate more than inspire and there wasn't a single character among our group of five that I liked and by the time the idiots start to get what's coming to them I confess I was probably on the unintended side of the experience, but hey I'm drawn to material featuring all manner of unlikeable characters and this crew are guilty most of being young and dumb - there may be hope for those who live through the events of the next two hours to become people I would like just fine. The sheer excitement of watching the film making - the multiple locations, the 720 degrees of visibility and complexity of the choreography - is enough to get you through the rough patches. Those rough patches are pretty much the first half to 2/3 of the run time where we're sitting through a night of awkward flirtations over bad music and cheap drugs, but holy shit the unbroken take schtick absolutely elevates the tension of the final forty-five minutes - it's inspiring shit. I'll absolutely be revisiting this one, but I'm likely just to skip to that last section.

Friday, January 13, 2017

My Favorite Crime Flicks of 2016

Blood Father - Jean-Francois RichetMel Gibson turns in an engaged performance as Link, a dirtbag parolee just trying to stay sober while he ekes out a quiet living as a tattoo artist in a dusty ass-end of nowhere trailer park, whose runaway daughter reaches out desperate for his help. He takes her in for a few days and promises her some money if she sobers up, but trouble tracks her down in the form of a nasty pack of criminals she's on the run from before sobriety can really be established. Nothing special about the plot or set-up here, they're pretty standard. The pleasure is just how punchy a familiar tune can sound when played loudly by the right band in the right venue. The action is simple, but clear and quick and brutal. Gibson holds the center as a man left with only two emotions - anger and more angrier - and precious little in coping mechanisms since he's committed to sobriety and the rules of his parole. One of those commitments is ditched early (and not without pain) but Link confesses to his daughter that he's having fun living on the lam with baddies coming out of the woodwork after them, and that's our cue to jump in and chew this thing as a palatable piece of pulp (based on the novel by co-screenwriter Peter Craig) rather than a harrowing tale of crime and consequence. The subcultures of the film add tremendously to the atmosphere - the trailer park full of scraggly, well armed rednecks, the fleabag motel, peckerwood biker bar and the compound where Dale Dickey and Michael Parks run an internet business specializing in confederate and nazi paraphernalia. Note to filmmakers: if Michael Parks is available you fucking use Michael Parks.

Dealer - Jean Luc Herbulot - Director and co-writer Herbulot lifts the plot and title nearly whole-cloth from Nicolas Winding Refn's Pusher, and moves the action to Paris where Dan (Dan Bronchinson), a small time drug dealer, sees an opportunity for a one-time big cocaine job that will free up his finances enough to move out of the country and his current shitty life. Merde hits the fan from jumpstreet and Dan spends a nerve-wracking day crisscrossing the streets of Paris to keep plates spinning while avoiding cops and gangsters who all want a piece of him and his deal. Again - absolutely nothing new with the plot - it's just a sturdy as hell frame to hang a movie on and, oh my, they don't skimp on the nasty here. Both the general atmosphere and the tone of the violence will make you recoil, but the amphetamine kicking and ever-louder ticking on the game clock will keep you alert and paying attention. Don't pay for a whole seat, you'll only need the edge.

Dog Eat Dog - Paul Schrader - The novel by Edward Bunker is one of the first serious crime books I read to light a fire under my ass for the hardcore hardboiled stuff I love. For pure scorch factor I'd put it up there with the best of James Ellroy, Jim Thompson and Eddie Little. So let me say right up front that this adaptation from Schrader and company is a far fucking cry from the book in tone, impact and cohesiveness. Further - it's a mess. Uneven, ugly, silly, almost amateurish at points. And I love it. It's easily the most give-no-fucks straight-up entertaining flick Schrader's made in years and whatever you may find among its many faults none of it will be limp or lazy, luke-warm or disengaged. Schrader pushes his cast out onto the flimsiest limbs while he chops down the whole tree and sets fire to the forest. And God bless 'em they deliver some big moments, especially Willem Dafoe who teeters from loyal and wounded to pathetic and psychotic through high and amped down to strung-out and seething with a dim-bulbed, dumb-dogged sincerity that makes me wish he could stay exactly this age and ability/commitment level for a couple more decades. Christopher Matthew Cook is the anchor on the other end of the trio of hapless career criminals fucking up their lives with every new opportunity. They bumble from one cockup to the next staggering through stylistic changes as violent as Mad Dog's mood swings. For my money though nothing is better or funnier in the movie than the visual of a car that they've fixed up with reflective tape to look like a police cruiser and the sequence that ensues is the height of the film's suspense powers. The opening drug-jag, bumble-murder is the most disturbing and the Bogart finale takes it to a level of head-scratching whatthefuckery previously un-foretold. Nobody seems to agree on what movie they're appearing in, but everybody feels committed to the performance they drew from a hat back stage and, improbably, even Schrader himself is having fun onscreen. Watch it once scratching your head, but repeat viewings reveal a patchwork of disparate vignettes about characters all circling the same drain and taking more than a few of us down with them.

Green Room - Jeremy Saulnier - A touring punk band living by their wits take a sketchy impromptu gig at a remote skinhead compound to help with basic living expenses like food and maintenance for the van they travel in. While there they witness a murder and barricade themselves inside the venue's green room. The hostage/standoff situation eventually becomes a siege/last stand/escape kind of thing and a pile of bodies later you will need a keg of Pepto. Simple concept, brilliant execution. The award for stomach churner of the year goes here. Seriously this thing left me with a mouth full of powder where my teeth had been. Like Blue Ruin, each beat satisfies, but lands unexpectedly and the film unravels with a brutal elegance un-paralleled this annus horribilus. Saulnier's understanding of audience instincts and his trust of their engaged critical faculties are crucial ingredients that allow his films to engage and shock initiates while stimulating and still revealing themselves to repeat viewers. His treatment of violence is masterful too - there to deliver the goods, but never cheap - brutally and realistically rendered for maximum revulsion to lie beneath the adrenaline kicks whipped topping. Cast is strong and points awarded for the specificity of the world inhabited, but the real star is writer/director Saulnier's consistency. Not yet ready to put him on the tippy-top shelf of film makers making movie just for me (the body of work isn't yet large enough), but whatever he's working on next is certainly at the top of my eagerly-anticipated list.

Hell or High Water - David Mackenzie - A pair of brothers on a deadline pull off a string of bank robberies while a pair of Texas rangers pursue them. A simple, sturdy frame, well dressed with actors, action and good looking landscapes, it's another film on this list that brings nothing new to the table only executes solidly its functions without embarrassing itself or insulting its audience. What more do I need? Nothing really. Neither adversarial pair should get all that they want (and neither do), neither squander their screen time or wear out their welcome, the mix of victory to tragedy is pleasing and it changes based on which point of view you're partial to. The real standouts here though are the small moments and incidental characters who often feel like found objects in the landscape - I'd happily watch films based on Katy Mixon or Margaret Bowman's waitresses Kevin Rankin's financial advisor or Nathaniel Auguston and Ariel Holmes's bored armpit of America thugs. I've taken a little heat for comments I made sounding like I was not appreciating this one enough so, hey - look here, it's on my favorites of the year list - I appreciate it, and I'd love it if the critical success its enjoyed brings us more high-profile, adult crime fare - in the end that may be the accomplishment I appreciate most.

The Last Panthers - Johan Renck - A multifocal portrait of modern European crime and politics that makes the list for scope and ambition. It starts with a diamond heist and splits into several narratives -the thieves attempting to escape the country and get paid, the local police investigating the crime, an insurance investigator whose reach extends across borders and a politician financed by organized crime with nationalist roots. If that sounds like a lot to cram into a two hour movie, it would be, but this aired as a 6-part mini-series on the Sundance Channel. It's long enough to give every narrative strand room enough to develop independently so that when they tie together it has impressively strong thrust and impact, but each narrative strand has a singular focal character who holds the screen easily and brings a personal motive and reason to invest in so we don't lose the small scale in the big picture. Kudos to writers Jack Thorne, Jean-Alain Laban and Jérôme Pierrat as well as cast members Samantha Morton, Tahar Rahim and Goran Bogdan for that. Haven't heard much chatter about this one, but I'm hoping people catch up to it and we get more fare like this across the long-form narrative mediums of television and streaming content.

The Nice Guys - Shane Black - An L.A. detective partnered with a thug for hire scour the seamy side of the city looking for the missing daughter of a prominent member of the DOJ with ties to the porn industry, the auto industry and an incendiary fuck flick in 1977. Arrayed against them: a terrific trio of heavies in David Keith, Beau Knapp and Matt Bomer, gravity and alcohol. In their corner: a precocious kid, good luck and hard headedness. Of course a sharp script from Black, a groovy soundtrack, a bumble bee played by Hannibal Buress and some killer chemistry between Russell Crowe's bleary slab of beef and Ryan Gosling's bumbling ball of kinetic comic chops and a high-pitched squeal to take all comers don't hurt a damn thing. This is easily the most fun to have been had at the movies last year and it's yet another example of inexplicable poor box office performance that points to why we fucking deserve the coming four year shit sandwich buffet we've only just begun to tuck in to. We can't have (many) nice things, but you'll have to pry The Nice Guys from my cold dead hands.

Triple 9 - John Hillcoat - Armed robbery, murder for hire, vice rings and general street-level mayhem - this picutre covers organized crime playing out on both sides of the blue line like I'm always down for and rarely have delivered on this level. If this is Hillcoat's version of going Hollywood then I'm all fucking for it. The dude's been making high-profile, commercial vehicles with an un-commercial amount of attention payed to violent content since The Proposition crossed over. Seriously, this guy's got a David Cronenberg-level eye for gruesome detail captured lovingly with glossy production value that I cherish above most things. This one failed to catch on in its theatrical run, but I'd bet it's got some serious long-game and accrues cult status soon. Among its chief criticisms was "nobody to root for," and similarly, "not enough attention to character" to which I rebut a big juicy fart noise. Really? Instead of a fallacy in the script I see it as one of the best uses of a star-studded ensemble in a long time. These are faces that come with history, gravity and pre-infused with character. If you can't immediately jump into Casey Affleck or Chiwetel Ejiofor's corner you, sir or madam, lack a very basic level of empathy and deserve to be remanded to talky, arty, bloated with self-importance movie hell where they spoon-feed you hot-topic, approved-by-committee reasons to invest your precious reserve of human feeling for a guaranteed congratulatory pat on the back.

The TribeMyroslav Slaboshpytskyi - A new kid at a school for deaf/mute students in Ukraine falls in with a ruthless criminal element among them. This one makes the cut for the sheer audacity of its vision and execution as well as for the devastating impact of the violent finale. Oof. It stuck with me. Check the IMDb page and you'll find that the characters have names, but that doesn't help discussing it because none of those names are ever uttered aloud. In fact there is no spoken dialogue in the film - the characters communicate through actions and sign language and, without the benefit of subtitles, it is the viewers who find themselves on the outside looking in and forced to interpret for themselves the events on screen. The film is composed of a series of scenes captured in single shots - sometimes static and wide focus, other times fluid and complex tracking shots that follow characters room to room or through locations like a truck stop where they run a prostitution ring. Did I mention this thing was dark? Holy shit is it. The level of criminality engaged in is no ordinary juvenile hijinks. Nope. The waters tread are dark, dangerous and infested with teenaged nihilists whose antics should impress even the most misanthropic viewer and induce cringes of real humanity. This one is challenging viewing, but pays off with images of visceral violence caught in a haunting vacuum of sound.

The Trust - Alex Brewer, Benjamin Brewer - Nicolas Cage and Elijah Woods play a couple of Las Vegas cops who decide to capitalize on their position to rip off a drug dealer. Chief among the pleasures of this feature debut from brothers Alex and Benjamin Brewer are their sense of scale and control of tone that balances humor, suspense and dark drama in a mix that keeps you guessing and unsure of where we're headed. Cage's volatile presence is utilized to great affect and Woods never lets us quite pin him down either. They're not particularly evil police, neither are they desperate or disillusioned former idealists, instead they're bored professionals who happen to be cops casual enough about their corruptibility to play like people rather than stock characters and thus keep us off balance unsure of what kind of film we're watching. Is it a buddy comedy? A thriller? Yes. It works on all the levels it plays at, but it's the film's final moments that really drive home what a well-crafted experience it is. Looking forward to more from the brothers Brewer for sure. Here's hoping they keep crime in mind.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Murder Down the Street: CriMemoir by Susan McBride

I met Susan McBride a few years back through fellow St. Louisan Scott Phillips and was left with two impressions: I bet she's always the nicest person in the room, and I bet she thinks about murder a lot.

Well so does Jessica Fletcher ammirite?

Susan's been publishing mysteries for a while, but her latest, Walk Into Silence, goes a shade darker than her cozy past. This guest post gives me a little peek behind the curtain and confirms and explains a lot about why she's spent more than a little time thinking about violent crime.

Murder Down the Street
by Susan McBride

I was in sixth grade when I first learned about murder.
Not that I hadn’t read plenty of mysteries, being that I was a big fan of Nancy Drew, as well as Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen.
But this was real-life.
It was the night before Halloween in 1975 when someone bludgeoned Martha Moxley to death with a golf club. The event itself was shocking enough, even more so because it happened in exclusive Belle Haven, a posh neighborhood in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Our house was just up the street.
I can’t recall ever having heard of anything horrible happening in our ‘hood, which had little guard posts at the entrance (sometimes tended, sometimes not). I walked to piano lessons, to friends’ houses, and through the woods that bordered part of our lot, often unaccompanied, never with a second-thought. My sister and I were forever running loose, riding our bikes down to Long Island Sound and bringing back beach creatures that wound up dying and stinking in makeshift terrariums.
My mom would stand out on the porch of the turreted Victorian fixer-upper and holler for us if we weren’t home by dinner. There was no such thing as a smart phone, just the kind of phones with stretchy coiled cords that barely reached across a room. There was no social media, no chat rooms where creeps could lurk, looking for innocent victims.
It was a nice, safe bubble in which to grow up, for awhile anyway.

We were hardly blue bloods, but we sometimes rubbed elbows at local shindigs, like a big to-do thrown by a Reynolds tobacco heiress. Mort Walker, Beetle Bailey’s creator lived nearby and the house next-door had once belonged to the founder of the defunct Stix, Baer & Fuller department stores (then became residence to the CEO of a major corporation whose daughter was a good friend). I visited Victor Borga’s house and sat at one of his pianos while he was away on tour, as another friend’s parents managed his property.

It was a good time to be a kid.
Then someone murdered the pretty, blond teenager who lived down the street. I’d never met Martha Moxley: she was in high school, and I was still in sixth grade. If I had seen her around, I couldn’t recall.
But I knew plenty of girls like her in Greenwich, not much older than I, and I wondered how such a thing could happen in a place that had always felt so safe. I remember my parents reassuring us that we weren’t in any danger. I heard the name Skakel bandied about, though it would be years before I understood that the Skakels were Kennedy cousins. There were plenty of whispers back then, namely that a Skakel was the killer and had been sent out of the country, that a transient might have done it.
My parents didn’t buy that the murder was random. In fact, they were so certain that no madman prowled Belle Haven that they let my 12-year-old sister and I take my younger brother and his friend out trick or treating by ourselves the next night, Halloween.
There was noticeable police presence, even FBI agents at various checkpoints, who were very nice and humored us by using flashlights to look inside the pillow cases we carried, bulging with candy. Our little quartet tramped through the cold across acres of lawn to ring doorbells on every house we could reach. We were even invited inside a few foyers on occasion, so we could admire the morbid décor of life-sized skeletons and pots of witches’ brew steaming with dry-ice. At one point, we had so much candy that we had to go back home to empty our pillow cases.
I wasn’t thinking about murder back then. I was thinking about how lucky we were to go out on a night when so many eyes were watching out for us and when so many skittish neighbors needed to be reassured that life went on after tragedy.
And all the while we trick or treated, a family down the street grieved, having lost a precious child, doubtless wondering if anyone would ever be brought to justice in a place where privilege and money and a family name built a wall so high a killer would hide behind it for decades.

Susan McBride is the USA Today bestselling author of Walk Into Silence (Thomas & Mercer), the debut of a new series featuring Texas police detective Jo Larsen that Publishers Weekly called “Gripping.” Walk was #1 on the paid Kindle bestsellers list in the US and UK and reached #3 in Australia. For more on Susan and her books, visit her web site -

Sunday, January 1, 2017

N@B Newsletter for 2016

The annual N@B-STL newsletter is a single-edition this year with links if not much news. Read the links. Buy the drinks.

Cameron Ashley - Still the publisher of Crime Factory in Melbourne. Doing God's work in that fresh hell. I'm still looking for a novel or collection of Cam's short stories (with some new ones of course) - cause he's damn good. 
Jonathan Ashley - His latest is the wonky-western Out of Mercy, but I think we're going to have another book featuring the cast of The Cost of Doing Business soon. Look for more of his work in Crime Factory, A Twist of Noir, LEO Weekly, Kentucky Magazine and Yellow Mama.

Jedidiah Ayres - Hardly at work on a couple novels, screenplays and short stories. Had a story in St. Louis Noir in 2016, plus the DVD release of the only musical ever likely to be based on one of my short stories, Julian Grant's A F**kload of Scotch Tape. Look for the reissue of my collection Courtesy, Sympathy & Taste or: A Fuckload of Shorts in 2017.

Greg Barth - Book four in the Selena series, Road Carnage, is now available from All Due Respect, (catch up with Selena, Diesel Therapy and Suicide Lounge).

Laura Benedict - The Bliss House books keep rolling with number three, The Abandoned Heart (catch up with Bliss House, Charlotte's Story and the Kindle story Cold Alone).

Pinckney Benedict - Nice thing about this digital age - when an amazing book goes out of print they can often be found in an electronic version. If you've never read Town Smokes, The Wrecking Yard, Dogs of God or Miracle Boy that's probably why I don't like you.

Frank Bill - Haven't heard any updates about Frankie's next novel, The Savage, in a while, but damn, director Tim Sutton's Donnybrook the movie may be here sooner than I'd have guessed. 

William Boyle - There's a place called France that's no longer only where naked ladies dance. Y'know what happens when the little guy gets a voice there? He gets his beautiful, dark song of a debut novel, Gravesend, named alongside fuckin' Don Winslow and hey Joy Castro(!) in a list like this one of 20 best noirs of 2016.

Jane Bradley - If the first page of Jane's You Believers doesn't hook you deep you may just be shallow. Still eager for the next book, lady Jane.

Liam Cassidy - Ex-musician, podcaster, bartender and graphic designer for N@B, Liam's nipple deep in grad school write now and shit, I'm getting itchy for some new fiction from the dude. Everybody who caught his debut reading at the era-ending N@B event in July is too. Stay tuned and maybe license some of his artwork for your book cover, huh? Check it out at his website Cheap Fun.

David Cirillo - Has been building Terminal, a Kindle serial, and quietly turning out other strange tales that can be found for your eReader on Amazon.

S.L. Coney - From debut fiction publication in Noir at the Bar vol. 2 (2012) to St. Louis Noir (2016) one fucking (four year) step. Coney's got chops, teeth, big league chew. Get ready world. You can't handle the tooth.

Hilary Davidson - Back in the waning days of the Bush administration Hilary contributed a funny as hell story to D*CKED, an anthology of dark fiction inspired by Dick Cheney that became my go-to Davidson introduction for the un-initiated (always easier to get someone to read a short story). In the last few hours before the election went to the new guy she participated in a Trump-themed N@B in NYC and debuted a story I just hope I get to read some day... when the crying has stopped. Meanwhile, check out her novels here and if you are looking for alternate destinations to the U.S. to live - she's written a few travel books too.

Sean Doolittle - When will we get a new Doolittle novel? I dunno. When will I get tired of telling people to read the backlist? Fucking never.

J. Christopher Dupuy - Is mysterious... and has disappeared off the face of the earth. So check for him around  the nipples - that's always a good bet. Rumor has it, a long-time-coming novel is ready for to take on the Big Six New York Literati, which is a car right? So, I'm confused. I'm off to the nipples with some questions. Or hey - check in at his website

Les Edgerton - So you read the stylistically diverse, but equally compelling titles from The Bitch, Monday's Meal, Just Like That and The Rapist, but you want more Les? Get some here.

C.J. Edwards - Worker of sex crimes, breeder of pit bulls, writer of bloody street crime, Edwards remains our man in Indy until his breakout first novel, inevitable movie deal allow him to go Hollywood and leave us behind. For now - look up his short stories - hint: they're not the erotica titles as far as I know, and the picture on this Goodreads profile is a different author of the same name, but - these titles have actual contributions by the guy.

Matthew C. Funk - The world needs more of it, booties must be loosed. We want it, we gotsta gotsta have it. Where you at, Funk? 

Jesus Angel Garcia - Here's one you don't see every day: dude writes a religion/sex/southern culture satire and tours the country with a performance art bit, writes songs based on his own novel, forms band around same songs and then goes full steam ahead with the music. Soon you'll hear some kid at a dirty bluegrass festival say "I heard the singer from Three Times Bad wrote a book!" He did, son. Yes he did. Will he write another? Let's hope so.

Amanda Gowin - Oh me, oh my, oh N@B's Miss Ohio casts some darkly sweet sticky webs of stories and I, for one, am happy to keep it that way. Some folks pour everything into novels, but a well-wrought short can evoke a reaction as strong and in a fraction of the time and golly does Gowin's glow win. Her latest is included in the title Serious Moonlight along with one from Craig Wallwork and she's fiction editor for Menacing Hedge. Keep up with all things mandajoon at her website.

Kent Gowran - This Chicago metal man created Shotgun Honey and then gave it away. Thanks, man. Read his shit here.

Glenn Gray - He's the one I call Dr. Feelgood - my one-stop shop for gross anatomy. Go fucking read The Little Boy Inside and Other Stories already.

Kevin Lynn Helmick - Did you know in his novel The Rain King Kevin gave me my very own namesake? True he named a horse's ass after this horse's ass, but hey that's about as fitting a tribute as I could ever ask. Check out Kevin's other titles here.

Gordon Highland - When you thought there could be only one, another N@B renaissance man emerges. You can catch up the Highlander's writing, music and film projects at his website

Jake Hinkson - Sometime in the next twenty years when the whole Baptist Noir genre is inescapable in the mainstream, the original unfaithful will call Hinkson's Hell On Church Street ground zero for the whole movement. There may be blood, but there won't be dancing. Check out the cool new covers for Hell and The Posthumous Man and read about his latest adventures here.

Joseph Hirsch - What only three new books in 2016? He's finally slowing down. That's okay because his first of 2017 is Touch No One - a wild throw-back, fast-forward sci-fi pulp mystery with tons of gob thrown about. Deep breath, then dive in to the body of work.

John Hornor Jacobs - You know Playboy magazine is going downhill when they replace actual nudity with stories from the likes of Jacobs. See what I mean in the spring. While waiting for that and Infernal Machines, get your Grimoire at the Bar on with Southern Gods, This Dark Earth and The Incorruptibles.

Liam Jose - When not editing Crime Factory magazine (nineteen issues now), Liam can be found at the bookstore he runs in Melbourne Grub Street Bookshop. I hear the retail price of all items is Juan Hundred dollars.

Tasha Kaminsky - Tasha's first published piece of fiction, a short story titled Your Judaism, landed in Jewish Noir and her first N@B appearance was during the special Noir at the Bar-Mitzvah edition, our first intentionally-themed night. No idea if she intends to continue writing fiction, but she's doing good work in local communities and especially with the Anti-Defamation League

David James Keaton - I swear if Keaton and Greg Bardsley ever cross creative streams in the valley of silicon it's going to make for the fucked-uppiest office politics novel of misadventures in elevator pitching Face Book spyware we'll ever see. Fingers crossed for your favored outcome there, but meantime I'm eagerly awaiting Keat's first go as co-editor of a fiction anthology (alongside Joe Clifford) Hard Sentences due in 2017. 

Byron Kerman -  Byron won the night when he read his story that was runner-up in Heeb magazine's Fake Holocaust Memoir contest. You read that right. If you want to read more of Byron's work it helps to live locally cause he's all over the St. Louis dining scene for Sauce magazine and  St. Louis Magazine, but if Mein Chimpf is any indication of the darkness in his mind - it's something I want more of. C'mon, B. give us more.

Matt Kindt - You've collected all issues of Mind MGMT, got your hands on the early versions of Pistolwhip and have the supplemental Super Spy book. You know what you Kindt completists are lacking? The very rare and out of print Noir at the Bar anthology Matt did the cover (and provided a couple original illustrations) for. How'd we get so lucky? Keep that in the I just can't even files and keep up with the ridiculously talented and prolific dude if you can.

Tim Lane - The gorgeously written and illustrated books Abandoned Cars and The Lonesome Go can be ingested fairly quickly, but digesting takes a while. You know what else takes a damn long time? Creating books that beautiful. Luckily I follow Tim on social media platforms where he releases pages of new projects like those on Steve McQueen and Stagger Lee regularly for me to drool over. His comic series Happy Hour in America turns up with new issues once in a while too. 
Chris La Tray - Missoula's metal man, N@B's fuckbeastiest member and modern pulp's most probable werewolf La Tray continues to rove the wilds of the country making musical mayhem and slaughtering silence with aplomb. A little too quiet on the fiction front for my appetites, but please avail yourself of what's out there and don't forget to stop by the The Missoula Independent where Chris writes book reviews and other various arts-based non-fiction.

Clayton Lindemuth - Lindemuth's joined the swelling number of my friends who are loved in France. His novel Cold, Quiet Country was published there recently and is sure to be the first of many of his black novels to hit the Norman shores with about the same amount of artillery as last time. Find his books Tread, Nothing Save the Bones Inside Her and My Brother's Destroyer here.

Erik Lundy - Finally there's a collection of Lundyfied fiction for your eReader. Man, if you've not checked out Erik's fuckwittian fiction you're missing out. Small Timers is the perfect title for the collection and if you know me you know it's exactly my kind of thing - the kind of guy who'd do anything for money except work. Fuck yeah. Buy your copy here and keep up with Erik at Workplace of the Damned.

John Lutz -Unstoppable force of mystery and suspense keeps going strong. I will never have the fortitude to pound the keys like this guy. Damn. This is how a real pro does it.

Jason Makansi - Patriarch of the Makansi writing dynasty and super smart dude who frequently slums with the great unwashed at N@B, check out his story Tracks set in the old Italian neighborhood of my city in St. Louis Noir.

Matthew McBride - Reclusive N@B figure who gave up the wilds of Gasconade county, MO. for the muggy atmosphere of Bali for the better part of the a year. Recent globe trotting also included a stop in France where the translation of Frank Sinatra in a Blender was published. Last I heard of Matt... Y'know, I'll leave him to your imagination. It's good. Looking forward as always to whatever's next from McBride.

Jon McGoran - Is he tired of scaring the shit out of us with the Carrick books or writing as D.H. Dublin? Is that why McGoran's dipping his toe in the lucrative world of media tie-in novels (look for his original The Blacklist novel The Dead Ring No. 166 in the spring)? Don't worry I'm sure he'll be back to giving you everyday things to worry about every day any day now.

Cortright McMeel - HIs only Non-pseudononymously published novel, Short, remains as timely than ever. Still miss you, man.

Kyle Minor - Dear Kyle: I want to read about A Kidnapping in Haiti and The Sex Lives of Missionaries soon. Meantime, I'm still looking for my lent and not returned copy of In the Devil's Territory. Do you have it? Do you?

Aaron Michael Morales - Morales's next books Eat Your Children and Latrinalia anre somewhere in the works / edits / sales / publishes stage and regardless of subject matter, I have a prediction... incisive, and emotionally un-sparing. Check in here.

Derek Nikitas - Dude made a splash this year when his little book got crushed between publishing giants James Patterson and Stephen King. Well shit, I hope he got paid well anyhow. Hey, go read Long Division.

J. David Osborne - Because writer, publisher, freelance editor and world traveller weren't mantels enough to wear, Ozzy's taken up grocery bagging and podcasting this year. Also, he's announced ambitious new plans for Broken River Books and a relocation to Texas. Damn. Check out my appearance on his podcast The JDO Show.

Dan O'Shea - In an act of Penance for his Greed, O'Shea relocated from Chicago to Milwaukee. We'll see if the contriteness of his soul can pry his intellectual property from the clutches of a bunk publisher or maybe we'll just get something brannew from him soon. Y'know, as long as he continues to post movie reviews by his son, I'm good.

Ande Parks - Between straight up crime titles like Capote in Kansas, Union Station and Ciudad, Parks has worked on The Lone Ranger, Green Arrow, Green Hornet and Kato. Last we spoke he was working on another novel (prose). Here's hoping we can see that shit soon. Dude looks good in a hat too. 

Scott Phillips - Mi amigo and co-host of N@B-STL chapter edited a damn fine collection for Akashic's noir series. St. Louis Noir brought together some terrific talent from around the city, but coming from an idle coffee shop conversation, the suggestion that St. Louis son Jon Hamm should play the lead role in an adaptation of Rake is my most memorable impression related to Scott in the last year. Can't shake how great an idea I think that is. Somebody make that happen.

Tawny Pike - Have not heard nearly enough of/from Ms. P. Her fiction's a force of nature - you feel it and perceive its effects, but you can't quite capture and harness that shit... like in a book. I'd like that shit harnessed - printed and condensed into a clean-burning fuel source. Please. 

Robert J. Randisi - My favorite pulp master still publishing (and holy shit is he), it's been too long since I saw him. Doesn't keep himself in Missouri much any more. Look, the fuck, at that body of work, kids.

John Rector - Heard John aired his fucked up short story In the Kitchen With Rachael Ray (originally appearing in Noir at the Bar vol. 2) at the Bouchercon N@B... wish so hard I'd been there to witness that. It's such a great sick story. Also hear Paul von Stoetzel's shot a short film based on the story - looking forward to that. Meantime, you can pre-order Rector's The Ridge which is scheduled for an April release.

CalebJ. Ross - Good to see new by-gosh fiction from the twisted mind of Ross this year in The Soul Standard (along with some more terrific talents). Look for more here and keep an eye out too for podcasts, and videos that just keep coming.

John Joseph Ryan - Follow up Ed Darvis titles (after A Bullet Apiece) still on the horizon. Otherwise check out his story, Escape Clause featured in the Twelve Days of Christmas at Out of the Gutter recently.  

Joe Schwartz - One of my favorite sick fucks within arm's reach, I'm waiting for the rest of you to catch on to the bloody disgusting stylings of Joe's. Hopefully get another Schwartz at the Bar event soon. Meanwhile - dig these.

Theresa Schwegel - Hey, new Schwegel in 2017! Looks like another hardboiled Chicago copper from an author with a helluva track record in that world. Pre-order The Lies We Tell here and good luck holding out till July.

Anthony Neil Smith - Another year, another kick ass book and, shit yeah, Holy Death was a Billy Lafitte title. Excited for Neil's German publishing adventures with Castle Danger too. Keep 'em coming, man. 

Malachi Stone - Novel number eleven, How to Murder Your Trophy Wife, dropped in 2016. Stone will not stop writing. I'll let you decide if that's good news or not. Check out the back catalogue of dirty deeds dirt cheap!

Jason Stuart - Good news for fans of southern-fried pulp, I think Stuart's respite is over. I heard he's even considering reviving Burnt Bridge. Shit. Howdy. Hey look, 16 Tons is available in paperback again!

Duane Swierczynski - Mr. Philadelphia has gone Hollywood. What the everlivingfuck? Oh well, all those New Beverly Cinema double features are damn near irresistible to me too. Here's hoping the move means we get some movie shows from N@B's favorite Pollock. And congrats, big D. on all the acclaim from the last couple novels. I need to read Revolver.

John F.D. Taff - Here's hoping horror-meister Taff's crime thriller Kill/Off gets a new home soon, and thank goodness I've already got my copy 'cause it's no longer available. Shit, somebody snatch it up. Dude's a Stoker Award nominee after all.  Keep up with John at his website.

Dennis Tafoya - Without a new book in 2016 Tafoya's actually been eclipsed by his own kids (Rachel & Scout). He can join Dan O'Shea in the therapy sessions N@B is sponsoring (mail me donations). But me-thinks there's something new in the works and new DT is always worth waiting for. Fuckin-A right. Check in with him here.

Richard Thomas - Dude is a publishing machine. His baby, Gamut magazine, debuts January 2017 and looks like it'll be killer. Meanwhile his own fiction keeps coming and I hear he's even putting together a film series in multiple locations across the U.S. There's tons to keep up with at What Does Not Kill Me.

Mark W. Tiedemann - Mark stays busy, that's for certain. When he's not writing novels or to be found at Left Bank Books, you can find him keeping The Proximal Eye - a critical blog - as well as Distal Muse - an observational blog. I, for one, am holding out hope that one of his speculative novels will take off and he'll be rolling around in that sweet, sweet nerd money (which will trickle down to me). C'mon, make it rain.

Fred Venturini - This dude's been wined and dined and unjustly maligned for the last couple years since The Heart Does Not Grow Back was released, and I, for one, am looking the fuck forward to whichever semi-completed project is next. Dude's got too much to say to not have a couple books a year out... and they're waiting... One of my favorite ways to spend an evening is listening to Fred spin yarns over beers. I hope more of that is in store for 2017. Check in here.

Frank Wheeler Jr. - This Milwaukee transplant and demi-god of the psycho-cop genre has the most placid exterior for the roiling seas of deep, dark shit that surely lie beneath. Look at that face. Shake his hand. Receive an aw shucks smile and a how do you do. Then pick up The Wowzer or The Good Life and consider changing your name and burning your life to the ground hoping you've left no trace and can go on to some semblance of normalcy without fearing he knows you're still alive and is fixated on you somehow. Perhaps more than any other writer in the N@B community I can't understand why people aren't burning Frank's books and making a high holy stink over his lack of exposure. This guy doesn't just have the goods, oh crime fiction fan, he is those goods. Here's hoping Paul von Stoetzel's short film based on Frank's story Your Blind Spot is available to the public soon. And dammit, Frank, I want another book. 

Benjamin Whitmer - This motherfucker here says he's finished his third novel and begun work on the fourth. I'll believe it when my fingers are burnt and cut from turning the pages. God, I hope it's the jailbreak book I've been hearing about for an eternity 'cause that shit needs to be in me. Get some backlist here.

Lavelle Wilkins-Chinn - Your ego out of balance and maybe you want to be upstaged properly for your own good? I suggest appearing in an anthology alongside Lavelle. Or worse/better, participating in a live reading with her. Check out her story Fool's Luck in St. Louis Noir.

Tim L. Williams - To find the darkest, most  unnerving stories in Ellery Queen, Murdaland or whatever the hell publication you're reading, just check the table of contents for Tim's name and find his story. If you think you're up to it, check out his collected stories Skull Fragments.

Calvin Wilson - When he's not writing about the arts or film criticism for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, he may be fantasizing about killing you if his story Attrition from St. Louis Noir is any indication. 

Jonathan Woods - The short film based on his story Swingers Anonymous played at Noircon in October and his latest novel Kiss the Devil Goodnight is now available from 280 Steps.

Josh Woods - I heard Josh read an excerpt from his upcoming novel The Black Palace this year and holyshitfuckinghell that's gonna be a scorcher. Not just your average supernatural-S.W.A.T./witchcraft/werewolf thriller I assure you. Read his shit, I dare you.

Nic Young - I think my emails are getting stopped at the border, 'cause I keep suggesting that Nic and Roger Smith hop a flight from South Africa to do a special Cape Town edition of N@B, but sadly this has not and may never happen. I keep my eyes peeled, but have yet to find more Young to point you toward (so check him out in Warmed and Bound and Noir at the Bar vol. 2).