Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday's Forgotten Books

Chris Rhatigan is a short crime fiction writer. His work has been published at
A Tw
ist of Noir and will be in the fall issue of Mysterical-E and the December issue of Yellow Mama. He reviews short crime fiction at his blog, Death by Killing.

The Crimes of Richmond City
by Frederick Nebel

One of the great things about a massive collection like The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps is I get to read authors I’ve never heard of, like Frederick Nebel. He was one seriously prolific dude. (Check out his bibliography.) Included here is a novel, The Crimes of Richmond City, which appeared as five episodes in the Black Mask from 1928 to 1929.

Our hero is Captain Steve MacBride, a no-nonsense vigilante police officer determined to dismantle corrupt forces that control the government and law enforcement. And his preferred method of dismantling these forces is gunfights.

I’m certainly no pulp fiction expert, but it seems to me that writers like Nebel are what the genre is all about. The characters are tougher than decade-old beef jerky. They drink hard liquor, smoke cigars, and toss around anachronistic phrases like “I’ll kick you in the slats” and Damn my stars.” The bad guys invariably out-number the good guys. But the good guys eventually prevail through using their smarts, beating low-level criminals into ratting on their superiors, and shooting a lot of stuff.

Nebel’s plotting is airtight, and usually Captain MacBride uncovers more than a few secrets at the end of each story. Nebel paints a bleak picture of this fictional town run by gangs thinly disguised as businesses and political machines. In the final story, Graft, MacBride finally strikes at the heart of the beast by taking down the mayor, though how much things will change is unclear. There is a looming sense of doom behind these stories, like MacBride’s quest will never be finished.

The one thing I didn’t like was the blatant (and frequent) racism, which is primarily directed toward Italian immigrants. Our hero is hell-bent on cleaning the town of all its immigrant blood. I would assume these sort of ethnic conflicts were common during this era, but still, every time I hear a racial slur I cringe.

If you can separate that from the rest of his writing, Nebel offers a good adventure.

Ed Gorman is the author of the forthcoming Stranglehold, the second in a series about a political consultant. You can find him here.

On The Loose by Andrew Coburn

There are so many neglected crime writers it's impossible to even begin to list them. But one writer who has been neglected for decades is Andrew Coburn.

I've spent two days trying to think of a tidy way to describe On The Loose and thus far my best shot is to imagine a collaboration between John D. MacDonald and Ruth Rendell. MacDonald for the page-turning excitement of following the most unique serial killer since The Bad Seed and Rendell for some of the quirkiest characters outside several of her own masterpieces.

Coburn is a profoundly American writer as he demonstrates in this novel that spans slightly more than a decade in the life of a small New England town. The storyline never lets you go. The murders are committed by one of the mostly stunningly enigmatic killers in mystery fiction. He is barely ten the first time he strikes. He is not much older the second time. The killings are what propel the storyline.

But Coburn's sense of the town and the lives of his people are what give the book the depth and range of a true novel. He does what Hitchcock did in Shadow of a Doubt--takes a story that has a death-grip on its readers and then walk thems around the lives and town that surround the killer. The fading beauty lost to excess weight and clinical depression; the police chief who believes he is beyond passion only to find it again and risk being crushed by it; the man dying of AIDs and the woman who befriends him; the divide between rich and poor that belittles both sides.

And the writing itself. Coburn plays all the instruments in the orchestra for this book which is, by turns, lyrical, funny, solemn, sarcastic, violent, terrifying and human in a way page-turners rarely are.

It's time for Andrew Coburn to be recognized for the master stylist and storyteller extraordinaire he has been for more than decades now. On The Run--and everybody in the book really is running from something--proves that he gets better with each new novel.

Patti Abbott: What I Read in 1987-88 in crime fiction

I don't remember the specifics of any of these books now read 25 years ago--so that truly makes them forgotten for me. But this is what I read in crime fiction that year. I wish I had kept track of other years better. Perhaps if someone had given me a log I might have.

A Taste for Death, P.D. James; Nightmare File, Jack Livinston; Master of the Moor, Ruth Rendell; Sleep While I Sing, L.R. Wright; Matthew Broccoli's bio of Ross McDonald; Die Again MacReady, Jack Livingston; Sleeping with the Enemy, Nancy Price; Nor Live So Long, Sara Woods; The Veiled One, Ruth Rendel; l D is for Deadbeat, Sue Grafton; Freaky Deaky, Elmore Leonard; Poison, Ed McBain; Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow; Pale Kings and Princes, Robert Parker; Past Caring, Robert Goddard; At the Hands of Another, Arthur Lyon;
Talking to Strange Men, Ruth Rendell; A Fatal Inversion, Ruth Rendell; House of Stairs, Ruth Rendell; Murder at Vassar, Barbara Taylor; Talking God, Tony Hillerman; Tourist Trap, Kate Wilhelm; F is for Fugitive, Sue Grafton; Long Chain of Death, Sarah Wolfe; Echo of Darkness, Joseph Wambaugh; The Cable Car Murders, Barbara Taylor; Lives of the Twins, Joyce Carol Oates; Dead on Arrival, Dorothy Simpson; Last Seen Wearing; Dorothy Simpson; Close Her Eyes, Dorothy Simpson; A Remembrance of Rose, MRD Mack; The Hamlet Trap, Kate Wilhelm

I read about double this number of books in non-crime fiction. I am ashamed at how my reading has declined. Blame it on a lot of things, but mostly the Internet. Which ones have you read?

At Todd's request what I read in non-crime January 87-May 88 along with the books above.

We Were Dreamers, James Lehrer (memoir); Silver Lining, Cohen (oh, I see that was a mystery too, missed it) The Beet Queen, Erdrich; New Jersey, Monniger, A Summons to Memphis, Taylor; Dreaming in the Dust, Chrisman, The Magician's Girl, Doris Grumbach; Only Children, Yglesias; Chamber Music, Grumbach, An American Childhood, Dillard, Bodies and Souls, Thayer; Painting on Glass, Auberbach; The Prince of Tides, Conroy, The Fifth Child, Lessing, A Loss for Words, Walker (memoir); Under the House, Linker; Night Lights, Theroux; Cassandra at the Wedding, Baker; Cold Sassy Tree, Burns; Keeping Warm, Gardner; You Say You Want Me, Cohen; Collaborators, Kaufman, Summer Light, Robinson, Jo Ann'es Husband, David's Wife; Mama, McMillan; Memoir of an Invisible Man, H.F. Saint (probably the best book I read that year); Good Hearts, Reynolds Price; Drea, Dredge, Roberta Sillber; So Long, See You Tomorrow, William Maxwell; The Moon Pinnacle, Thomas Williams, Recent History, Annette Joffee; The Houseguest, Thomas Berger; The Prodigy, Amy Wallace; The Progress of Love, Munro; Emperors of the Air, Canin; One More Time, Burnett; Fair and Tender Ladies, Smith; A Client Called Noah, Greenfield; Such Small Differences, Joanne Greenberg; Tethered, Martin; Just Another Kid, Haydn (I read a lot of books about damaged kids); The Little Red Rooster, Greg Matthews; The Education of Koko, Patterson (also books about apes); Duet for Three, Joan Barfoot; The Truth about Loren Jones, Lurie; Lovely Me, Seaman (Jacqueline Susann bio); Serigamy of Stories, Windham; A Yellow Raft on Blue Water, Dorris; Anywhere but Here, Simpson; Playing in the Shadows, Whelan; Homeplace, Siddons; Age of Innocence, Wharton; Inventing the Abbotts, Miller; Spirit Lost, Thayer; The Thanatos Syndrome, Percy, Private Demons (bio of Shirley Jackson), Openheimer, That Night, Hoffman, Breathing Lessons, Anne Tyler; Due East, Sayer; Who Wrote the Bible, Richard Friedman; A Handful of Dust, Evelyn Waugh; Jean Stafford (bio) Roberts; The Shrimp and the Anemone, Hartley; The Cape Ann, Sullivan; Mrs. Randall, Leland, Folded Leaf, Maxwell; Domestic Affairs, Maynard; Hollywood Studios, Mordden; A Wider World, Simon (memoir); Latecomers, Brookner; Vanished, Morris; Trust Me, Updike; Snowstorm in a Hot Climate, Dunnant; You Must Remember This, Oates; Those Who Hunt the Night; Hambly; Reflections in a Jaundiced Eye, King; The Evolution on a Psychiatrist, Parker, Midnight Sweets, Pesetsky; Illumination Night, Hoffman; A Narrow Time, Downing, The Elizabeth Stories, Huggan, A Prayer for Owen Meaney, Irving, As I Lay Dying, Faulkner; Self-Consciousness, Updike; Author From a Savage People, Pesetsky; Love Life, Bobbie Ann Mason; Swans on a Autumn River, Warner; Cat's Eye, Drabble; That Summer, Appleton; Final Harbor, Martin; Bio of Virginia Woolf, De Salvo; The Object of My Affection, McCauley; A Boy's Life, Wolfe; Families and Survivors, Adams; One Man's Obsession (founding of the Group of Seven Art Museum in Toronto), McMichael; The Joy Luck Club, Tan; Indian Country, Caputo; Beloved, Morrison; Professor Romeo, Bernays; Being Invisible, Berger; Country of Strangers, Shrives; Waiting for Childhood, Elliott; Summer People, Piercy; The Waiting Room, Morris; Swann, Shields, Testing the Current, MacPherson; Other Voices, Other Rooms, Capote; Crossing to Safety, Stegner; The Bean Trees, Kingsolver; Time Will Darken It, Maxwell; First Light, Baxter; Precious Bane; Southern Family, Godwin, Jerusalem the Golden, Drabble; Ellen Foster, Gibbons; The Newspaper of Clairmont Street, Jolley; Temporary Shelter; Bluebeard's Eggs, Atwood; How I Grew (McCarthy); The Age of Grief, Smiley; With or Without, Dickinson; The Great Santini, Conroy; Catamount Bridge, Metz; Points of Light, Sexton; The Second Bridge, Gildner; Crescendo, Kalpakian; Cantury's Daughter, Barker; The Small Room, Sarton; Museum Pieces, Tallent; Tidings. Wharton; The Hearst and Lives of Men, Weldon; A Long and Happy Life, Price; The Influence, Campbell,

Paul Bishop
Paul Brazill
Bill Crider
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards
Jose Ignacio Escribano
Glenn Harper
Randy Johnson
George Kelley
B.V. Lawson
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis/Curt J. Evans
Steve Lewis/William F. Deeck
Todd Mason
Russel McLean
Sam Millar
Richard Prosch
James Reasoner
Kerrie Smith
Kevin Tipple


Paul D. Brazill said...

I've never heard of Coburn or Nebel so that's a couple more that are new to me. I Patti's list it's nice to se Ruth Rendell who has written some marvellous books.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick correction - the Coburn novel is ON THE LOOSE, not ON THE RUN.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I've read over 25 of Rendell's books but none on your list. I have read the Graftons (I finally quit reading them after M), Leonard, McBain, Turow, Lyons, Hillerman and Dorothy Simpson titles. I liked her books.

As I've probably mentioned before I've been keeping notebooks of books read since the early 1970's and complete lists since mid-1975. Now it is all on two databases (fiction and non fiction).

In 1987 I only read 61 fiction and 16 non fiction books. Most of the former were mysteries. The ones that stand out are McBain, Ross Thomas, Jim Thompson and Max Allan Collins.

1988 was worse - 69 books (58 fiction, mostly mystery), including a bunch of Bill Criders early books.

My goal is always 200 books a year but I haven't reached that since 2002. Still, since 1990 I've read a minimum of 110 books each year.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I corrected that once and somehow it drifted back. Weird.
I read every Grafton until midway through and probably every Rendell until Road Rage.
I would guess I read under 75 books a year now. At one point, I was at 150. That was before I took up writing and blogging though.

Chris Rhatigan said...

Crap! You people read waaayy more than me. Though I'll blame it on school--the educational philosophy of John Dewey makes me never want to read again.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

This week I selected "Money Shot" by Christa Faust.

I think I am going to have to start a notebook deal of my own. The mind, not to mention the body, ain't what they used to be.

Todd Mason said...

Speed-reading isn't necessarily a better way of reading...and can contribute to everything running togehter/fading. I've read FREAKY DEAKY (which I remember reading back to back with TRUST ME ON THIS by Donald Westlake at lunches at work) and THE HAMLET TRAP out of that stack...did you read Wilhelm's DEATH QUALIFIED, Patti? And what did you read in non-CF?

Todd Mason said...

Also, when I actually manage to get my thoughts down in phosphor (maybe at lunch here), I do try to focus on books out of print or nearly so...but not by any means solely CF, which does seem to be the opposite of a lot of folks, particulary of late, who are focusing on widely-available classics. I might've been the most wide-ranging (or, simultaneously, most irrelevant to most contributors' interests) of the regular participants.

Anonymous said...

Good God.

How do you read so much so fast. The only time I ever came close to reading that many books was in the early 90s and was reading a lot of postwar American poetry. I could blow through a book by Ted Berrigan or Paul Blackburn in an hour but then I was a broke poet and couldn't afford to buy too many old "collector's copies."

Now I have young kids, a full time job, a mortgage AND I'm trying to freelance my writing. Most of the books I read now I review.

Dan Luft

pattinase (abbott) said...

87-88 was the last year I was a stay-at-home Mom and my kids were teens and not exactly taking up all my time. Now I am lucky to read a book a week.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Dan-have you done a review for here? I don't see your name but the list is so long now.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I used to do between 2 and 4 a week when not working the day job and about 2 a week when I was. If I was writing my own stuff, that usually meant about a book less either way.

Now, because of the health stuff, it is taking me about two to three weeks to read one book most of the time. Not only is that frustrating, but it also really messes up the book.

I may have to switch to audio books for at least some of them and that is yet another change I don't want to have to make.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Audio books can be wonderful though. My son does both and he says some readers bring more to the book than the sound of his own voice in his head--if that makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Patti, I think WE WERE DREAMERS was Jim Lehrer's best book. The amount of detail was amazing. How could he remember so much detail about operating a small bus line in Kansas when he was a kid at the time? Anyway, great book.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

Dan, in the early 70's when I was in college I read over 300 books a year a couple of times. A lot of them were plays as I went through most of O'Neill and Coward at that time.

Also read a fair amount of Erle Stanley Gardners, including 3 in a day once.

Jeff M.

Richard R. said...

Wow! I read a few of the crime books, not many of the rest. Now everything is getting packed away again, at least for a while.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I can never believe how much people remember from their early childhoods. Maybe they have family members who tell stories more than mine did.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I was mostly a mainstream novel reader at that period. Before and after, mostly crime fiction.
Good time to weed some out, Rick? I doubt it.

Iren said...

following Patti's lead, I posted my list of books I read in 1991 over on my blog.