Friday, March 02, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Books, March 2, 2012

Timothy Hallinan is the Edgar- and Macavity-nominated author of the Poke Rafferty Bangkok Thrillers and the Junior Bender Mysteries. His next Poke Rafferty book, The Fear Artist, will come out in July.

Gitana, Dominic Martell

Gitana is the third and final book in an unhappily short series (the others are Lying Crying Dying and The Republic of Night) by Dominic Martell. The hero, Pasqual Rose, lives a life on the margins in Barcelona, working at a small bar in a dicey neighborhood. This isn't the Barcelona of Gaudi or even Woody Allen, it's a much tougher town, populated by Gypsies, skinheads, and the occasional slumming tourist, a maze of ancient alleyways, dark enough to cloak the worst of misdeeds.

Pascual is shielding an enormous secret: a more than a decade ago, as a young, impressionable man, he fell in with the Palestinian cause and committed acts of terror in its name before he recoiled from what he'd become and fled into hiding. He's ridden with guilt and hopelessly seeking some kind of absolution—but he's still got the reflexes and instincts developed by years spent looking over his shoulder. When an American man comes into the bar and calls him by name, alarms go off in Pascual's head; and when the American is murdered shortly afterward, Pascual knows that someone or something is sniffing him out.

And then there's Sara, who sings in the bar where Pasqual works, and whom he's fallen in love with, and there's Serrano, the cop who knows part of Pasqual's story, and there's Campos, the journalist who may know nearly all of it and wants to write a book. And back behind all of it, cranking on clockwork Pascual can only guess at, is someone who wants him dead and who doesn't care about collateral damage. And there's also the secret in Sara's past, that Pascual can't even guess at.

Gitana is beautifully plotted and written. Martell obviously knows Barcelona inside out, because I've rarely read a book with a stronger and more persuasive sense of place. The triumph of the book for me, though, is characterization—there isn't a character in the book, who doesn't leap off the page, who doesn't seem to possess a genuine subconscious. I read the book for the skill with which it's written and the spell of the setting, but I loved it because of the people in its pages, Dominic Martell, who also writes crackerjack Chicago thrillers as Sam Reaves, is (I think) a criminally underrated writer, and I'm delighted to see the Pascual trilogy gradually becoming available in ebook form. The first one, Lying Crying Dying is available now here on Amazon.

Ed Gorman is the author of the new Dev Conrad novel, BLINDSIDE.

Forgotten Books: BLACKMAILER by George Axelrod

BLACKMAILER by George Axelrod
There were few cooler guys on TV in the Fifties than George Axelrod. I didn't see him that often--he did a few talk shows; a few arts shows--but I always thought Now that's the kind of guy I wish I could be. Hip but accessible.

Not only had Axelrod produced such fine B'way and movie hits as "The Seven Year Itch" and "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?," he'd adapted such novels as "The Manchurian Candidate" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's" to the screen.

And on TV he was slick and and funny and serious about his craft.

Oh, and one more thing. He was the author of a genuine Gold Medal novel.

I bought BLACKMAILER a few years after it appeared...say forty-five years ago. Now you can get a Hard Case edition and even after all this time it holds up well, albeit as a tribute to a time long past but fondly remembered by some portions of my generation.

What Axelrod did here was take the elements of the standard hardboiled crime novel--good bad girls and bad bad men, the prospect of lots of cash--and mix them up with talent agents and movie stars. And relate all this in a voice that is both literate and a bit larky at times--and works surprisingly well, even in the scenes of violence. There's a faux Hemingway (who was God at that time), a faux Marilyn Monroe (who was Goddess at that time) and enough double-crossing to make you cross-eyed.

This is one of those kick-back novels. A beer or two, a night with nothing to do, a devout desire for pure escape. I enjoyed the hell out of it. Axelrod is one of those seminal figures of the fifties and early sixties (along with people such as David Suskind) who made talk show appearances lively and always at least a bit controversial. Intellectually controversial that opposed to today with its Snookis and Kardashians.

Sergio Angelini, The Mugger, Ed McBain

Yvette Banek, Cat and Mouse, Christianna Brand

Joe Barone, Cast a Blue Shadow, P.L. Gaus

Bill Crider, I'll Cry When I Kill You, Peter Israel

Scott Cupp, Ballroom of the Skies, John D. Macdonald

Martin Edwards, Dead Man's Watch, G.D.H. and Margaret Cole

Ed Gorman, Blackmailer, George Axelrod

Tim Hallinan, Gitano, Dominic Martell

Jerry House, Necropolis, Basil Copper

George Kelley, The Chalice of Death, Robert Silverberg

Randy Johnson, The Caballero's Way, O. Henry

Rob Kitchin, Incompetence, Rob Grant

B. V. Lawson, Murder Ink, Revised, Dilys Winn

Evan Lewis, A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs

Steve Lewis, The Language of Cannibals, George C. Chesbro

Todd Mason, The American Folk Scene, ed. De Turk and Paulin, Boby Dylan: Don't Look Back (Pennebaker), Dangerously Funny, Bianculli

J.F. Norris, The Hollow Skin, Virginia Swain

David Rachel, Blue Spring, Taiyo Matsomoto

James Reasoner, Bowie Knife, H. Bedford Jones

Richard Robinson, Playgrounds of the Mind, Larry Niven

Gerard Saylor, Wolves Eat Dogs, Martin Cruz Smith

Ron Scheer, The Fate of a Fool, Emma Ghent Curtis

Kerrie Smith, Eric Ambler, The Mask of Dimitrios

Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, The Clock Strikes Thirteen, Herbert Brean

TomCat, The McCone Files, Marcia Muller

Zybahn, The Erasers, Alain Robbe-Grillet


Kevin R. Tipple said...

Sigh....late again. I'm sorry.

Barry is back today with his review of THE CLOCK STRIKES THIRTEEN by Herbert Brean. The review it at

Casual Debris said...

Good morning,

Please include my review of Alain Robbe-Grillet's The Erasers.

Many thanks!

Anonymous said...

I read the Axelrod when Hard Case reprinted it a few years back and enjoyed it a lot. Good stuff.

Jeff M.