Chris Rhatigan is a short crime fiction writer. His work has been published at A Twist 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.
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,
Jose Ignacio Escribano
Steve Lewis/Curt J. Evans
Steve Lewis/William F. Deeck