Friday, November 24, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, November 24, 2017

Heath Lowrance (from the archives)

“Forgotten book” might be the wrong way to describe Dan J. Marlowe’s The Name of the Game is Death. For hard-core fans of brutal, fast-paced noir, the book is anything but forgotten-- it is, in fact, considered a cornerstone of the genre. But despite that, in the fifty years since its first publication it’s been out of print more often than in, and most casual readers of crime fiction have never heard of it. For me, The Name of the Game is Death is one of the essential five or ten books in the world of hardboiled/noir.
The story: a career criminal calling himself Roy Martin (more on his name later) holes up after a botched bank robbery, while his partner sends him monthly allotments of their take. But when the money stops coming, Martin suspects the worst and sets off to find out what happened. The small town he finds turns out to be a cesspool of corruption and hypocrisy that makes even Martin’s twisted morality seem sane and rational by comparison.
In the hands of most writers, this rather simple plot wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy, but Marlowe paints a vivid picture of Martin, not just through his actions but also in a set of chilling flashbacks to Martins’ youth and young manhood, where all the signs of a sociopathic personality begin to emerge. And the steps Martin takes to find out what happened to his partner and to retrieve his money reinforce him as a deeply disturbed man.
Quite simply, he enjoys killing and hurting people; in one memorable scene, he’s unable to become sexually aroused for intercourse, and admits to himself that the only thing that really turns him on is bloodshed-- in a later scene, he brutalizes a woman who attempted to set him up, and he’s able to “perform” without a hitch.
So all in all, Roy Martin is a seriously messed-up sociopath, with barely a redeeming feature-- aside from a fondness for animals. Why do we find ourselves almost rooting for him? Because almost everyone else he encounters is a hollow, lying hypocrite. Martin is the only character who is actually true to himself… much to the horror of everyone else.
The climax to Th e Name of the Game is Death is stunningly violent, very dark, and totally chilling-- not the sort of ending that would cause you to expect a sequel. And yet Marlowe did indeed bring the character back a few years later for a book that was almost-but-not-quite as good as the first, One Endless Hour. In that one we discover that Martin’s name is actually Drake (which is how he’s often referred to when discussing The Name of the Game is Death).
More books about “The Man with Nobody’s Face” would follow, each one a bit softer than the one before, until almost all signs of the near-psychopathic Martin were gone, replaced by a repentant crook who now worked for the government.
But lovers of dark, violent tales will always remember him as the blood-thirsty killer calling himself Roy Martin.

Mark Baker, I IS FOR INNOCENT, Sue Grafton
Bill Crider. AMONG THE GENTLY MAD, Nicholas Brasbane
Martin Edwards, THE THIRD EYE, Ethel Lina White
Curt Evans, BLOOD FROM A STONE, Ruth Sawtell Wallis,
Richard Horton, MAIGRET HAS SCRUPLES, MAIGRET AND THE RELUCTANT WITNESS,    George Simenon
Jerry House, THE SHORT LIFE AND HAPPY TIMES OF THE SCHMOO, Al Capp
George Kelley, FIRST PERSON SINGULARITIES, Robert Silverberg
Margot Kinberg, DEAD LEMONS, Finn Bell
Rob Kitchin, CODEBREAKERS, James Wiley and Michael McKinley
Evan Lewis, A NOOSE FOR THE DESPERADO, Clifton Adams
Steve Lewis, Robert Briney, CASTLE SKULL, John Dickson Carr
Neer, THE FEVER TREE, Richard Mason
J.F. Norris, COMETS HAVE LONG TAILS, Madeleine Johnston
Todd Mason, Terry Carr, ed: SCIENCE FICTION FOR PEOPLE WHO HATE SCIENCE FICTION ; Harry Harrison, ed: THE LIGHT FANTASTIC  --Redux post from 2012
Matt Paust, MRS. MCGINTY'S DEAD, Agatha Christie
James Reasoner, THE NIGHT HELL'S CORNER DIED, Clay Ringold
Gerard Saylor, IT'S MY FUNERAL, Peter Rabe
Kevin Tipple
TomCat, THE CASE OF THE BONFIRE BODY, Christopher Bush
TracyK, NORTHANGER ABBEY, Jane Austen, FEAST OF MURDER, Jane Haddam

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Forgotten Movies




What brought this to mind was that we saw the play on Friday night. The cast here was excellent as was the cast in the version we saw. A play this elegant and profound has to touch you and it did.

Have you seen either the play or movie?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

It makes me happy that Kevin is always inventing games even if I never quite understand them!

Really enjoyed a local production of A RAISIN IN THE SUN, which is more powerful now than ever. Well, at least as powerful now as ever.

Happy to have lunch with some old friends that have been going through the same sort of hard times we have but have not let it beat them down. Janet was a professor of folklore before her retirement. Andrea, a professor Italian. It was fun to compare recent reads, movies, tv, trying to stay away from the BIG TOPIC. And fun to hear they are having their first grandchild soon. The parents have not asked the sex, which I find incomprehensible. Why talk about the baby as it when you could take about it as she or he?

How about you? 

Oh, and this from Ken Bruen.
  Patricia Abbott's collection of stories are just electric
Utterly amazing
In any collection there are usually a few duds.
Not here
no way
The short story form is perhaps the most difficult to achieve artistry in
PA joins the very select few
Like
Frank O Connor
Raymond Carver
De Maupassant
Dahl
who has not only mastered this art but brought something entirely new to the genre
A dark captivating compassion.
gra go mor
K



Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, November 10, 2017

(from the archives: Ed Gorman)

Forgotten Books: Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson


Let's begin with a tale of woe. Mine.

Years ago I was asked to contribute a forty thousand word novella to a YA series about shapeshifters. You know, beings humans and otherwise who can transform themselves into other kinds of creatures. I immediately thought of Jack Williamson's The Wolves of Darkness, a grand old pulp novella set in the snowy American West and featuring enough creepy
violence and tangled romance to make it memorable. It even has its moments of sweeping poetry.

Reading Williamson's piece showed me how to write my own. A few days after the young editor received it he called to rave. And I do mean rave. The best of the entire series. Eerie and poetic. Yadda yadda yadda. For the next forty-eight hours I was intolerable to be around. It was during this time our five cats learned to give me the finger. My swollen head was pricked soon enough. The young editor's older boss hated it. He gave my editor a list of reasons he hated it. I was to rewrite it. I wouldn't do it. I said I'd just write another one, which I did. Old editor seemed to like this one all right but he still wasn't keen on how my "characterizations" occasionally stopped the action. Backstory--verboten.

Shortly after this werewolves began to be popular. I spoke to a small reading group one night and told them about Wolves of Darkness and then about Williamson's novel Darker Than You Think. Everything I love about pulp fantasy is in this book. The werewolf angle quickly becomes just part of a massive struggle for the soul of humanity. As British reviewer Tom Matic points out:

"According to its backstory, homo sapiens emerged as the dominant species after a long and bitter struggle with another species, homo lycanthropus, whose ability to manipulate probability gave it the power to change its shape and practise magic. These concepts, fascinating as
they are, might make for dry reading were they not mediated via a gripping thriller riddled with startling plot twists, that blends scientific romance with images of stark bloodcurdling horror, such as the kitten throttled with a ribbon and impaled with a pin to induce Mondrick's asthma attack and heart failure, and the pathetic yet fearsome figure of his blind widow, her eyes clawed out by were-leopards. With its scenes of demonic mayhem in an academic setting and the sexual and moral sparring between the two main characters, it almost feels like a prototype of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer in a film noir setting."

Williamson couching his shapeshifters in terms of science fiction lends the story a realistic edge fantasies rarely achieve. The brooding psychology of the characters also have, as Matic points out, a noirish feel. And as always Williams manages to make the natural environment a
strong element in the story. He's as good with city folk as rural. And he's especially good with his version of the femme fatale, though here she turns out to be as complicated and tortured as the protagonist.

This is one whomping great tale. If you're tired of today's werewolves, try this classic and you'll be hooked not only by this book but by Jack Williamson' work in general..  

Sergio Angelini, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, Sergio Angelini
Yvette Banek, STAIRWAYS OF DOOM
Les Blatt, THE ORIGIN OF EVIL, Ellery Queen
Bill Crider, THE BEST OF ROBERT BLOCH 
Curt Evans, PSEUDONYMS
Richard Horton, THE ORDEAL OF GILBERT PINFOLD, Evelyn Waugh
Jerry House, ALL OUR YESTERDAYS, ROBERT B. PARKER
George Kelly, HARD-BOILED, NOIR AND GOLD MEDALS, Rick Ollerman
Margot Kinberg, NUNSLINGER, Stark Holborn
Rob Kitchin, A RISING MAN, Abir Mukherjee
B.V. Lawson, THE SLIPPER POINT MYSTERY, Augusta Huiell Seaman
Evan Lewis, CODE NAME GADGET, Peter Rabe
Steve Lewis, NOT A THROUGH STREET, Ernest Larsen 
Todd Mason, VENTURE: THE TRAVELER'S WORLD (Feburary, '65)
J.F. Norris, RESERVATION FOR MURDER, June Wright 
Juri Numellin, HOURS BEFORE DAWN, Celia Fremlin
Matt Paust, DESTINATION UNKNOWN, Agatha Christie
Gerard Saylor, DIG MY GRAVE DEEP, Peter Rabe
Kevin Tipple, THE KILLER WORE CRANBERRY: A SECOND HELPING, edited by J. Alan Hartman
Tomcat, DANCING DEATH, Christopher Bush and ANNE VAN DORN
TracyK, BROTHERS KEEPERS, Donald E. Westlake 
Westlake Review, DIRTY MONEY, Part 3

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Who are the biggest holes in your reading of crime fiction?

I have many holes, but about half the books I read are out of the genre. But in the genre, I have never read Ellery Queen, Michael Connelly or Hugh Pentecost. There are plenty more too.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Tuesday Night Music


The Saddest Movies

I thought about this a bit and decided, the movie had to be a good one. I wasn't going to highlight a movie that was sad but lousy. There are a lot of those--mostly romances. So my five saddest movies would be CALVARY, MOONLIGHT, PRIEST,ORDINARY PEOPLE and MANCHESTER BY THE SEA. I am sure given this task tomorrow others would come to me.

What movies would you choose?