Friday, November 30, 2007

Crash and Burn

Well, damn. If Evel Knievel can kick the bucket, we're all in a lot of trouble.

Now what the hell did I do with my Daredevil Stunt Set? That was a great toy, back in the days when Chinese plastic didn't set off some kind of international incident every time one of these waterheaded modern-day youngsters gets the bright idea to wolf down a Transformer inbetween bouts of perpetual media barbardment.

Ah, well. It's a little quiet right now but I'll try to gather more thoughts on murder and mayhem after the frigid weekend.

See you on the other side of the Snake River Canyon.

Monday, November 26, 2007


cash advance

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tilda Swinton and The Raw Shark Texts

I hadn't realized this short film was out already (and I'm told may disappear at any moment) but enjoy Tilda Swinton reading from our boy Steven Hall's remarkable debut novel The Raw Shark Texts.


I'm preoccupied with an assignment that's requiring me to learn the modern history of Pakistan and a not-insignificant amount of information about nuclear proliferation, but I've decided to break radio silence before the American holiday to get rid of the idle links that are starting to stack up on my desktop like virtual cordwood. Peruse or ignore at your leisure.

CNN gives Walter Mosley the once-over about the end of the Easy Rawlins series. “I may be representative for somebody else, but not for me. I'm doing what I think is important. I love writing, and I write about black male heroes. I don't really want to write about anything else, so I don't." The Times reviews Blonde Faith and gets a tiny bit of self-inquisitive insight: “It could very well be that we critics fail to fully appreciate Mosley’s talents because his Rawlins mysteries appear to come off so effortlessly.” What? Writing might take work? Say it isn’t so.

Empire Magazine continues its much-appreciated month of crime with “The Wiliest Lawbreakers on Planet Film.”

I met Kurt Loder once, by accident, at some kind of post-Columbine event for teens in Denver. Always thought he was too thoughtful for MTV. But I suppose it gives him the opportunity to write things like this pensive review of Alan Moore’s new entry in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series, Black Dossier. I was waiting for paperback but I think Loder’s recommendation has tipped the scales in favor of picking it up this week.

Following my adaptive theme as of late, The New Yorker has a very weird feature on “The Ten Videogames That Should Be Movies,” complete with a nod to Michael Gondry and a clip of the famous “Hot Coffee” sequence from Grand Theft Auto. Kind of racy for them, don’t you think?

Meta link of the day: USA Today has a short and uninformative article about books about books. Let me get this straight: the newspaper written for people who don’t read has an article about books about books that people don’t read. Right? Right.

On an offbeat, somewhat related note, I skimmed a few pages of the recently released The Bookaholic’s Guide To Book Blogs this weekend, which was a source of endless amusement. Bookslut is in there. Apparently for years, I’ve been writing “Riot Lit.” Who knew?

My brother (an equally loquacious sports fiend) might be the only one to appreciate the hilarity of this headline: “FOOTBALL + TERRORISM + SPIES = PULITZER!” Apparently Broncos kicker Jason Elam has teamed up with his pastor to write the future bestseller Monday Night Jihad. No, seriously.

Cracked used to be Mad Magazine’s retarded sibling but it seems to be having something of an renaissance online, as demonstrated by features like “The 5 Most Unintentionally Hilarious Comic Strips.”

Geek-out link of the day: A few years ago, I made a fascinating trip to Bletchley Park in England, recorded in a feature I wrote called “The Secrets of Station X.” While I was there, I met a quiet and unassuming gentleman named Tony Sale, who had spent the past decade of his life trying to rebuild the wildly inventive early computer called Colossus, which had been used to break the German “Enigma” codes in the worst days of World War II. I’ll be damned if he didn’t get the thing up and running.

And off-topic, I’m fascinated by this story about a P-38 Lightning that has turned up on the beach in Wales. Eerie photo. Very Clive Cussler, but in a good way.

Adaptations, Part Deux

The first snow fell today, making it the kind of day you want to stay home and watch movies.

On that note, the Onion's A.V. Club, always a source of high praise, delivers a list of twenty-one books worthy of adaptation to film, which contains several odd but interesting choices. I think Jonathan Strange is utterly unfilmable but I could be wrong; some people say that about Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games and I think that would make an outstanding cop movie. People would be shoveling down popcorn for King Dork and World War Z, granted. But please don't invite me to see another bitter Cormac McCarthy adaptation or anything starring those freakish hobbits.

Surely we can do better than that. Here's my nominations for screen adaptation off the top of my head, ignoring books that have already been slated for production (Bangkok 8) or that have been simmering in movie purgatory for years (Ender's Game).

Miniseries: It will never get made because HBO's Rome has already stolen its thunder but I think Conn Iggulden's Emperor trilogy about Julius Caesar would have been tremendous. Starring Gerard Butler (300) as Caesar and Clive Owen as best bud Brutus. Also in this category would be an inspired adaptation of Charlie Huston's slow road to hell, the Henry Thompson trilogy, marking the former baseball player's escape with the Russian mafia's cash in Caught Stealing, his progression to becoming A Dangerous Man, and concluding with the violent denouement of Six Bad Things. Maybe you could do them as two hour films the way the British handle the Rebus novels.

Cinema, comedy category: The top of my own list will almost always include Hugh Laurie's The Gun Seller. Starring Paul Bettany as the Kawasaki-riding mercenary Thomas Lang. Laurie wrote a screenplay for the film for United Artists but whether it, like its theoretical follow-up The Paper Soldier, sees the light of day is anyone's guess.

Alternatively, I’d put good money down on a film of Night of the Avenging Blowfish by John Welter, starring a Grosse Point Blank-era John Cusack as beleaguered secret service agent Doyle Coldiron.

Cinema, crime: Hands down, Anthony Bourdain's vignettes of violence, redemption and cookery in Bobby Gold. The Open Critic thinks along the same lines. “The thought hits around page 75; Bobby Gold is perfect movie fodder….this collection of vignettes is perfect, each in their own low-life noir type of way. Jim Jarmusch would be a natural. Bobby Gold busting his uncle’s arm. The corpse in the bathroom. Nikki, tall and beautiful and sweaty at her chef station. They’re all cinematic. I’m guessing, Anthony Bourdain was seeing pictures in his head when he wrote this book.”

I’m having trouble picturing an actor in the role, though. Bobby’s a big dude, and you definitely need someone who pulls off that New York leather jacket, bone-breaking presence.

Cinema, uncategorizable: Anything by Warren Ellis. Hell, pick one. Transmetropolitan, which has reportedly been acquired by Patrick Stewart, who has made some noises about voicing the character as played by a virtual avatar. The debut novel, Crooked Little Vein, which would require a director with the visual acuity of Luc Besson, the temper of Sam Peckinpah, and the visceral sensibilities of David Fincher. Global Frequency even made it, briefly, as a television pilot and it’s still stunning to me that that idea – a global anti-terrorism force made up of whoever’s available at the time – didn’t pass muster.

Any other ideas? While you’re thinking, you can peruse these great fake movie posters by graphic artist Rob Kelly.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Adapt and Evolve

Leave it to Sarah to tell me my new Mystery Strumpet column has gone live, which she deems has an "adaptive quality." Feel free to pop on over to Bookslut to read "Audio Slave," a not-entirely straightforward rundown of the crime genre's better recorded adaptations.

It includes my take on the audio-only serial novel The Chopin Manuscript, read for your pleasure by our man Alfred Molina. Yes, you know him from someplace. He's Doctor Octopus, among many better dramatic roles. More importantly, he's the man who will live forever in our hearts for nine breathless words: "You throw me the idol, I'll throw you the whip!" You can also get a more cautious second opinion on the audiobook from David Montgomery at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Meanwhile, the column also allows me a moment to flog the brilliant and impassioned human rights activist-slash-comedian Mark Thomas, and touches on the thespian performances of books by Elmore Leonard, John D. MacDonald and other usual suspects, with special appearances by Darrin McGavin, Henry Rollins, and Burt Reynolds.

In utterly unrelated work, I published an interesting article this month on the curious resurrection of Florence "Pancho" Barnes, the groundbreaking aviatrix and hooch-monger to test pilots and astronauts at the Happy Bottom Riding Club.

A few other items of note...

Denise Hamilton lent me better words than my own a few months ago when I was ruminating on Los Angeles in a Mystery Strumpet column. Today at LA Observed, she revisits her city's past with Judith Freeman, the author of the new literary hybrid The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved. They walk the city in a fascinating slice-of-life piece that attempts to conjure up the departed writer and his somewhat mysterious spouse.

I work for the other guys, but it's worth glancing at Publishers Weekly's "Best Books of the Year" list (although it seems awfully damned early to go to press with it already). There's a few truly great novelists on the list (Mohsin Hamid, Denis Johnson) but it feels like a soft list to me. I'll give you The Collaborator of Bethlehem as one of the year's best books period, and I'm glad to see Charles Ardai on the mystery list, but that Ruth Rendell title is about as thrilling as watching grass grow and putting James Lee Burke and a ton of other crime/mystery/thriller writers in with the big kids in the general fiction category doesn't suddenly make them Graham Greene.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is reporting that the idiots prosecuting comics shop owner Gordon Lee (arrested for giving away an artsy-fartsy comic book by the gifted Nick Bertozzi depicting Picasso in the buff) blew their prosecutorial advantage already. It's a mistrial.

And someone in London thinks they've captured an image of the illusive graffiti artist known as "Banksy." Flower power, man.

Friday, November 2, 2007

You Think I'm Dead

…but I sailed away, on a wave of mutilation. I’ve been away on a mission of dire importance, hence no fuel for the fire. But I’m back in the lair, caffeined up, and ready to dance for your entertainment like some kind of Ebola-infected monkey raised by his malevolent circus masters to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting public. Hit it.

If you open up today’s Rocky Mountain News (virtually, of course; why on earth would anyone buy a newspaper when you can just read TMZ for free?), you’ll find my brief review of Dr. Robert Greer’s new CJ Floyd mystery, The Mongoose Deception. To his credit, Greer is swinging for the rafters here with a seriously complex, brain-pounding conspiracy that starts with a dead guy in Colorado’s Eisenhower Tunnel and quickly sends Floyd and his posse chasing no less than JFK’s killers. I think he's done better work but kudos to him for mixing it up.

What is it about the Eisenhower Tunnel anyway? The tunnel also figures largely in the denouement of Stephen White’s ice-dry Kill Me from last year. I used to live in Colorado. It’s a hole in a mountain. It’s not that exciting in real life. Maybe to Hitchcock, but what does he know?

Elsewhere in our slowly decaying semi-blue sphere…

Before I forget (for the American readers, mostly), the September issue of Empire Magazine is on newsstands now at the bigger box stores. Two words: kicks ass. Dubbed “The Crime Issue,” it features interviews with all the principals on American Gangster, reports on No Country For Old Men and the splendid Eastern Promises, and a brilliant deconstruction of Michael Mann’s Heat. It’s pricey but after the slow death of Premiere magazines, it’s the best ten bucks you’ll spend this month, I swear to God.

Online, Empire runs down the five writers who have had the most influence on the crime film: Doyle, Hammett, Chandler, natch, but also James Ellroy (who should puff up like a blowfish at the very mention of his name, as usual) and, in a surprising and dead-on final choice, Patricia Highsmith.

At the Philly Inquirer, David Montgomery celebrates the remarkable “last entry” in the Easy Rawlins series, Blonde Faith. On that same note, Walter Mosley gives a short but characteristically well-composed interview to the Miami New Times. You can get my take on what is possibly Mosley's best work in the most recent Mystery Strumpet column at Bookslut.

The Rap Sheet runs down all the news that’s fit to print about Elmore Leonard and his lovely new bound version of his Rules for Writing. It includes, no less, a hand-typed interview with the author passed down via his publicist, which is kind of weird considering that while he doesn’t use a computer, he does have a phone. And a lovely speaking voice, if I may add.

I’m soft on the humor of The Onion, but their A.V. Club interviews are outstanding. There’s a nice one this month with Peter Dinklage, who is slated to star as Mongo the Magnificent in a film version of George C. Chesbro’s An Affair of Sorcerers. More on the lost classics featuring Chesbro’s ferocious dwarf at Bookslut.

As I’ve indicated before, I think John Burdett’s Bangkok novels are wildly underrated. The International Herald Tribune did a terrific interview with the author in which it’s also revealed that the film adaptation of Bangkok 8 will be directed by James McTeigue (V For Vendetta).

Finally, there are things in the world that don’t involve guns, puzzles and other hard-boiled components.

Stephen King reviews Eric Clapton’s autobiography and invents a new literary term: drunkalogue. You’ll want to add that to your dictionary now.

At the Los Angeles Times, RJ Smith kicks the corpse of Gram Parsons in a really sad, caustic review of David Meyer’s The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music that is less of a critical drubbing than a microwave reheating. Get over the Nudie suit already.

Slate runs down the best books we never read.

David Sedaris is doing his thing in Boston tonight at the Symphony Hall. (Remember when authors used to come speak for free? And bring those things, what were they called again? Oh, yes. Books.) The Chicago Tribune interviews him about quitting smoking, the New Republic nonsense, and applying for British citizenship (Now there’s an idea).

Finally, check out this great letter to the editor. The brightest minds of Charleston, West Virginia have elected, in their inbred wisdom, to ban the great works of Pat Conroy (specifically The Prince of Tides and Beach Music). Pat’s not happy, nor should he be. Idiots like those shouldn’t be allowed around perfectly good children.

And if that isn’t enough to rattle your faith in mankind, I’ll leave you with the history of earth in a roll of toilet paper. How poetically appropriate.

I’m going to the movies for about nineteen hours in a row. Don’t wait up.