Thursday, December 27, 2007

Show Me What You're Made Of.

Here's a confession that should come as no suprise to anyone. I hate all this confectionary end-of-year content that's slathered across every magazine, every television program, every possible entertainment delivery venue this time of year. Endless warmed-over remembrances of the marginally criminal offenses of teen pop princesses, eye-blink remembrances of the dead and half-hearted lists of books or movies that most people never delved into in the first place, punctuated by brain-reducing weight-loss advertisements don't interest me in the slightest. It's over. Moving on.

Every once in a while you'll get a decent attempt at revisitation without nostalgic rose-colored rubbish. Those of you wanting a second crack at 2007 might take a minute to peruse the Kirkus "Best Books of '07" special, currently available as a PDF file here. I always admire that the publication takes the time to go back and give a nod to books that maybe didn't get fully recognized the first time around. I had the interesting opportunity to talk with three distinctly divergent authors. Greg Behrman gave me the lowdown on his gripping historical reconsideration of The Marshall Plan, The Most Noble Adventure. Debut novelist Wayne Caldwell took me back to the rural savagery of North Carolina's mountain folk in Cataloochee. And French novelist Christian Oster delivered some rather esoteric observations about drink, death and the perils of life in The Unforeseen.

Plenty of other trippy selections lie within, and not a whiff of brownnosing Denis Johnson to be found. (Not to knock the novelist, who's terrific, but I'm sick of the dogpiling of acclaim from publications who seem to have perfect hindsight now that Tree of Smoke is a big, fat success).

I'm also digging David J. Montgomery's year-end project over at his eminently readable Crime Fiction Dossier. David has splayed open his rolodex, apparently, and asked a plethora of crime novelists, agents, publishers and other malcontents to name their three favorite books from 2007. A very cool, open-ended question as the books don't have to fall within our beloved genre or even have been published this year.

There's plenty of good crime fiction fodder including a lot of love heaped on James Lee Burke, Lee Child and Charlie Huston, among others. But it's the left-field choices that are fascinating me so far. Check out David Morrell revealing his newfound love of flight; Bourne inheritor Eric Von Lustbader getting all teary-eyed over Eat, Pray, Love, Robert Crais echoing my own newfound fondness for King progeny Joe Hill's immensely creepy book of short stories Heart-Shaped Box; and Charles Ardai putting the spurs to Elise Blackwell's acid remake, Grub. I was pleased to see one of my own choices, Dead Boys, was given high praise by no less than George Pelacanos, who calls it, "the best short story collection I've read in years."

I wasn't asked, but I'm willing to play. I don't keep too many of my affections for books to myself, so naturally most of these titles have made it into my Bookslut columns.

  • Dead Boys by Richard Lange. The real deal. The most startling debut fiction I've read in a decade.
  • The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall. Other critics seem to love or hate this book with equal passion but I thought it was an immensely gripping setup and a preturnaturally unusual debut novel.
  • Blonde Faith by Walter Mosley. If Walter never writes another word about Easy Rawlins and his bloody soulmate, I would be perfectly satisfied with the ten books in his series and its awful, elegant denouement.

It's deathly quiet right now, as Jessa notes: "All that's really left on the Internets are lists of authors that died, bad Best of the Year lists, and YouTube videos of pandas." But here's a couple of other items of interest to pass the time until Amateur Night on Monday.

It looks like Mosley is branching out even further with a three-book deal at Riverhead and a new series starring New York private eye Leonid McGill from last year's short story, "Karma."

January Magazine is doing the best-of thing in a more thoughtful fashion with its own rundown of the year's best crime fiction.

I'm ambivelent about running down the death queue but I'm always fascinated by Larry Kirwan's star-studded remembrances of the lions of the New York arts and music scenes. Here, he remembers getting cozy with Norman Mailer by fixing the man's Porsche.

Enough of you. I'm going back to performing linguistic surgery on a sticky interview with a fĂȘted but brutally brusque novelist and then it's a stiff drink and about ninety-seven hours of film class by watching the newly released five-disc version of Blade Runner.

Too bad she won't live...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

She's Just A Little Tease

I'm not sure the graphic here does the column justice but if you wander over to Bookslut, you can read my latest mutterings, "Books For Dangerous Women," which lands a few well-deserved blows aimed at those Dangerous Book knock-offs currently wasting space on bookstore shelves, gives a little tease of a newly minted female noir anthology, and points hard-hearted readers towards a few other femme fatales lurking in the mystery section.

It's a little light this month owing to the holidays but the issue also contains a pair of nice pieces by the effusive Colleen Mondor, a look at the highly praised new graphic novel Shooting War by Jeff Vandermeer and a shootout between Gourmet and Bon Appetit, no less. I imagine hurled cutlery and bloodsoaked aprons, but it's probably just me.

Bulletin ends. As you were.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Money Shot Aims to Please

How did I miss this when I was trolling around for column fodder related to femme fatale-specific noir novels last week? Run off to the Rap Sheet to get the full story but here you can enjoy the delicious DIY trailer for Christa Faust's debut novel for Hard Case Crime, "Money Shot." Yowza.

Monday, December 3, 2007

War, Inc.

It should be interesting to see how this comes off. Cusack is usually worth watching, especially playing off his wacky sister. But something about this revisit-the-hitman role is sounding an off note. Time will tell.

Fear and Loathing

I'm currently plumbing the depths of an entertaining but somewhat intellectually heavyweight volume on mathematical probability. You'll have to excuse me while I take a break to unload some of the accumulating reading material here at Bang!.

First of all, let's ponder this headline from the Sunday Times, an article that as far as I know hasn't even so much as earned a blink here on our side of the pond: "US says it has right to kidnap British citizens." You hear that, you cockney bastards? Better stay on the right side of Uncle Sam's naughty or nice list or we're sending Jack Bauer in with the full weight and authority of the well-defined and morally unambiguous (snicker) U.S. legal system to kidnap your grungy-toothed ass and drag it back to the land of milk and numerous prisons, bounty-hunter style, dog. He's bringing a lamp. Hide your nipples now.

Christ. Some days I wish someone from England would come kidnap me. "An American writer was subdued and brought back to London by a crack strike team from the Special Air Service. Once he stopped his whiny prattling, he was promptly served tea and crumpets and settled in nicely as an offbeat but tax-contributing member of British society." You hear that, Gordon? Come and get me. I could be a panelist on the News Quiz and get paid in pounds worth like, seven dollars apiece . That would be terrible punishment. Teach me a right lesson, that would.

I'm not the only cynic, it seems. Back in frigid Edinburgh, our man Ian Rankin is causing a minor stir. It seems he told a German newspaper - say it isn't so! - that governments use fear to manipulate their own people: "The fear of terrorism helps to keep the population under control," he said. "That is very useful for politicians, but no one actually needs that. First of all we had the Soviet Union, and we were all scared that they were going to attack us all with atomic bombs. When the Berlin Wall fell, everything looked OK for about five minutes. And all of a sudden we now have other wars there, such as climate change, terrorism. All these fears are being used to keep us in our places."

God, I'm depressed now. On with the news.

The devoted editors at the Rocky Mountain News are doing the best books for your bibliophile relatives thing, too. Because they're kind enough to employ me from time to time, Richard Lange is on that list. Give a copy of Dead Boys to Aunt Gertie, for chrissakes. She could use a little more graphic content in her life.

Also at the Times is a short but elegant profile of Mr. Donald E. Westlake, who is also sometimes the snarling crime novelist Richard Stark. “Parker came back to say: ‘I'm older than you but I'm still smarter than you. I'm better than you, faster than you and I'm still prettier than you.'”

At the Telegraph, Jake Kerridge drills down a nice list of the best crime novels to buy for your loved ones for Christmas. You know, for the ones you love that find themselves enflamed by tales of murder, autopsies, alcoholic Scottish misanthropes or, say, great bloody theoretical sharks.

Sarah has been murderously prolific lately. Check out her toast to alcoholic misanthropes at the Los Angeles Times and her newest thoughts on a subject close to my heart, murder in exotic places, in "Have Gun, Will Travel."

Good news from the virtual trenches: Plots With Guns is coming back to life in the new year.

I'm trying desperately to find a way to get rid of books before I wind up buried under them, wild dogs gnawing at my cheekbones, so I need to make a trip into the city. Somewhere out there is Kate's Mystery Bookshop, who is having a special Edgar Award visited upon it. This place bears investigation.

And finally, CommanderBond.net has gotten a copy of the cover art for the new James Bond book. No one has taken any notice of the oddly phrased credit, "Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming." I wonder why that is. Oh, that's right. Nipples ahoy! You people are so easily amused.

There you go. That should keep you busy for a few minutes. Bookslut column in a few days. Bunch of hot chicks in it, swear to God. You savages.