Tuesday, July 31, 2007

No Future

Don't you hate it when you're cruising someone else's neighborhood for cool new things to read and find your own stuff instead? That's what happened to me yesterday while trolling through the dark alleys of Sarahs' idiosyncratic mind, where I found that she's already linked to my new column at Bookslut. I swear, the woman is clairvoyant. It's like the ephemera of crime fiction gets beamed directly to her brain.

Anyway, enjoy reading "Future Imperfect," a roundup of all the futuristic, noir-tinged fiction that has buzzed the tower here this month. The column includes first glances at Warren Ellis' Crooked Little Vein, Richard K. Morgan's icy Thirteen, William Gibson's paranoid thoughts on our Spook Country, a chat with science fiction novelist Kevin J. Anderson, and a preview of Samedi the Deafness by the poet Jesse Ball. Yes, I know these aren't technically mysteries. I'm experimenting a little. And it's August, everyone is on vacation, and no one is reading the bloody thing anyway. Let it go.

I also beg that you contemplate, elsewhere in the August issue, Liz Miller's more clear-eyed take on Crooked Little Vein in her very well-composed full review. Delving deeper, you'll also find an interview with Matt Ruff about his new novel Bad Monkeys, Colleen Mondor's thorough look at a new anthology of interstitial fiction and her new column, "Last Chance At Escape." And in keeping with our bug-eyed theme for the month (entirely coincidental, mind you), Paul Kincaid takes a gander at the mainstream fiction of Philip K. Dick.

Here's a few other interesting items culled from my virtual sticky notes....

Speaking of Blade Runner, Yahoo has exclusive clips from the new "Final Cut" coming to DVD.

Warren Ellis gets a going-over at Newsarama. Back at his own site, he describes his jaunt to Arizona in wonderfully amputated prose: "Desert. Red Rocks. Brush. Valleys. Meth Labs." Reminds me of Denver on a sunny weekend. They're all sunny weekends, there, come to think of it.

Michelangelo Antonioni, the artist behind Blow-Up and Zabriskie Point, has gone on to the great screening room in the sky, a day after Ingmar Bergman. My memories of a hazy summer film class are just a little dimmer.

The new TNT miniseries adaptation of Robert Littell's CIA masterpiece The Company reminds the writer of this preview of a Caleb Carr novel. Which makes no sense at all if you think about it for a minute or two.

As expected, Little Brown ponied up $7.3 million for the rights to Keith Richard's autobiography. Tragically, the devilish guitarist is working with a ghostwriter. I personally was hoping for an audiobook-only version. Just 12 hours of Keef babbling into a tape machine and noodling around with a stratocaster. "Right....heh...Iz vis t'ing even on? Heh....."

Did you know William Gibson took a shot at the Aliens III screenplay? I confess, I did not. It's worth a look.

I'm going back to dozing and contemplating this new streaming cam of Picadilly Circus. Will put out an ABP if anything juicy comes up.



Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Spirit of Chow Yun-Fat Be With Us Now

I go back and forth on John Woo, having only sampled only a few of his movies, the most prominent being Mission Impossible II, which was crippled by Tom Cruise's typically craptastic performance.

I've been meaning to revisit his Hong Kong cinema for a while, starting with the Criterion version of The Killer, which turns out to be nearly impossible to find, and the two volumes of A Better Tomorrow. But in the meantime, I stumbled across a newly released two-disc version of Hard-Boiled, which I realized during last night's viewing that I had never actually seen.

Barring a few minor quibbles, it's great. Chow Yun-Fat is young, vibrant, just as good an actor as he is in his latter days, and kills just about everybody in his role as police detective Tequila - though he does have a sensitive, jazz-playing, romantic side that's a little less seemly than his two-gun, shoot everything that moves persona that comes out anytime the bad guys show up, which is often.

A word of warning to go into the viewing experience with the right state of mind. It's a Hong Kong action flick circa 1992, not The Bourne Supremacy. That means lots of aerobatics (read: better, more balletic versions of Cruise's rediculous rolls to cover in MI2), absurdly unrealistic firefights, and a body count that makes Westmoreland look like a pauper. I'm told the final body count - and you can believe it after watching the Triad just mow down bystanders like a blood sprinkler merely to get them out of the way - is three hundred and seven, total.

All this and you also get Tony Leung, who offers a great, cold counterpoint to the cocky Tequila. Those of you who know your cinema beyond the (admittedly very well shot and superbly performed) remake The Departed will recognize Leung as Chang Wing Yan in the superior Hong Kong original Mou Gan Dou (Infernal Affairs).

It's definitely enough to make me intrigued by Stranglehold, a new video game set in Hong Kong and Chicago that reportedly has convinced Chow Yun-Fat to revisit the role of Tequila, and perhaps will go a little ways towards encouraging a proper sequel to the film with or without Woo.

I'll say this, though: everyhing that was filmed before 1997 needs be rescored unless the original soundtrack was by James Horner or Vangelis. There is nothing more depressing than going back to dig up some cool old cop movie - let's take Black Rain, the Michael Douglas/Andy Garcia buddy-cops-take-on-the-Yakuza flick. Decent performances can get you past bad hair, but there's nothing worse than seeing some loner detective trudging along a rainy neon-lit street to somebody's bad saxaphone solo. Let it go.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

DIY

Yes, I'm sure I'm in a bar somewhere, reading something non-noir, but at least I can hide it behind one of these bitchin' do-it-yourself book jackets. (Forewarned, many are not safe for work. Or home, for that matter).

"Print these out and you can safely read your Potter in front of all those ex Navy SEALS at the local strip club."

It's worth checking out the fine print, too, to revel in the fictional reviews on the book jackets like "This book will cut your brain in half." I need to remember that line when I'm writing reviews of Dead Boys or Crooked Little Vein later this week.

Did I get this from The Rap Sheet? I'm sure I cribbed it from those distinguished gentlemen. Go read The Rap Sheet.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Murky Waters

I almost missed this one. You can peruse my latest review at the Rocky Mountain News, which is a brief but charitable examination of The Water's Lovely by Ruth Rendell. I know I should like it. Most other reviewers have liked it. It's well-written, tartly toned and acidic in that manner that only the British can convey. For my part, though, it's not terribly exciting. To borrow an observation from Eddie Izzard, it's much like a Merchant Ivory mystery in which characters spend whole chapters moving books slightly to the left. If you'd like a second opinion, though, there's a good one written by the wicked smart Jennifer Reese in the latest Entertainment Weekly.
In other news....

Warren Ellis has started penning an extemporaneous weekend column at Suicide Girls called The Sunday Hangover. His debut novel, Crooked Little Vein, hits the streets this week, which seems to have led to many, many profanities over at his website, most of them directed at one particularly well-liked children's book character. The first chapter of CLV is up at Amazon. You decide.

In other iconoclastic bulletins, the soft-spoken cyberpunk godfather William Gibson is starting to do a few interviews about his forthcoming novel Spook Country.

Oh, god, they're going to remake Bullitt. With Brad Pitt as Frank. There is no earthly way not to screw this up. Just shoot me now. I think Suicide Girls said it best with their headline: "Steve McQueen's Corpse Rolls Over, Cocks Loaded .45."

You've probably seen the trailer for Gone, Baby, Gone, the adaptation of one of the Patrick Kenzie/Angie Gennaro novels by Dennis Lehane, directed by...uh...Ben Affleck. The Boston Herald says Lehane approves, apparently. Crimespree Cinema also has a few tidbits and comments by Kevin Smith. I think the jury is still out on the movie and that creepy little brother of Affleck's, but I was wrong about Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash, too, so I'm not placing my bets yet.

In other literary-to-film-back-to-literature adaptations, James Bond's keepers at the Fleming Foundation has chosen Sebastian Faulks (Charlotte Gray, Birdsong) to pen a continuation of the Fleming novels set in 1967 that mimics Fleming's style. Entertainment Weekly (when did these guys become journalists?) managed to get a few details out of him. This is a notoriously tricky act to pull off (ask John Gardner and Kingsley Amis, among others). If you want to catch up, you can read my breakdown of the Bond canon at Bookslut called "The Spy Who Didn't Suck." I am glad to see that Daniel Craig and the filmmakers will be coming home to the UK to film at Pinewood Studios for the next movie.

Finally, former screenwriter Liza Lutz is allowing a pair of screenwriters to adapt her novel The Spellman Files. Their credits include the forthcoming Dane Cook / Jessica Simpson comedy "Good Luck, Chuck." This does not bode well for Izzy and the family.

I'm off to finish reading Joseph O'Connor. Wake me when the sun goes down.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown.

More accurately, it's Los Angeles in all its faded glory. Our city of fallen angels finds its neo-noir cynicism resurrected in the harsh light of my latest column at Bookslut. You can read all about lawyers, guns and money and bask in some thoughtful interviews with a couple of real pros: noir writers Richard Lange (Dead Boys) and Denise Hamilton (Los Angeles Noir). Just tune in to "Radio Noir."

Elsewhere in the issue, Tony Dushane conducts an enlightening interview with Miranda July (No One Belongs Here More Than You), Sarah Woehler Michaud talks with Ron Currie Jr. (God is Dead), and Alexis Wiggins deconstructs the bankruptcy of Publisher’s Group West. In reviews, a host of new titles are flayed alive including books by Chuck Palahniuk, Nicola Griffin, and Pagan Kennedy. Finally, in other columns, Jeff Vandermeer runs the alternative comics gauntlet, Colleen Mondor gives a posse of “Creative Souls” the once-over, and Paul Kincaid wonders if anyone knows what science fiction is anymore.

Next month, I’m diving into the deep end with books by William Gibson and Warren Ellis, among miscellanous other iconoclasts and misanthropes. Wish me luck; I think I’ll need it.

UPDATE: Little, Brown has posted the entirety of Richard Lange's story "Fuzzyland" online. Go read it.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Sandworms Rule!

I'm taking a little time off for the "holiday." And by holiday, I mean that brief time of year when I mourn the British abandoning us to our own misguided devices here in the New World.

That said, I'm pleased to report that Kirkus Reviews has posted up its Science Fiction and Fantasy Special, a publication to which yours truly contributed a few features. You can read the entire special online in .PDF format with a free Adobe reader. It might take a few minutes to load if you're on a slow connection.

It was a little outside of my area of expertise but I got to talk to some really fascinating writers who are genuinely dedicated and committed to these wild genres they inhabit.

My interviews included the wildly popular Terry Brooks (Sword of Shannara) and Brian Herbert, who has literally inherited the challenge of bringing the epic world of Dune to life since the passing of his famous father, Frank Herbert. It was also my pleasure to talk to Brian's partner-in-crime and prolific science fiction author in his own right Kevin J. Anderson, who enlightened me on the perils and opportunities of playing in the Dune and Star Wars universes. Kevin was also the only author in the special with two books selected to be featured, the second being Slan Hunter, his slam-bang completion of A.E. van Vogt's planned sequel to the classic Slan by A.E. van Vogt.

There are many other intriguing books in this special including the new Dresden Files novel by Jim Butcher, a selection of short stories by Alastair Reynolds, and plenty of other ruminations on orcs, starships and wormholes. Off you go.