Thursday, July 30, 2015

Kevin Burton Smith review So Nude, So Dead Ed Mccain Hard Case Crime







So Nude,
So Dead
by Ed McBain
Hard Case Crime, July 2015/$9.95
ISBN:
978-1-781-16606-2

From small things, baby, big things one day come. And this,
the first mystery novel by Ed McBain, originally published as The Evil Sleep! by
Evan Hunter (one of his many aliases) certainly bears that out.

Not that
it’s a bad book — far from it. It’s just that it lacks the rich and incisive
characterizations and roll-with-it storytelling voodoo that McBain would become
known for later in his long, long career.

You can definitely see hints of it,
though, and almost imagine the young tyro, itching to break into then-new (and
lucrative) paperback market, doubling down on all things dark and pulpy: the
sleazy nightclubs and back alleys,  the damaged and busted dreamers waiting in
the shadows; the rough-edged cheap patter; the crimes, both petty and major; the
bruised and battered lives going nowhere. Already McBain/Hunter is playing with
form, upending stock characters, tripping up stereotypes of race and class,
futzing around with plot.

And so we get Ray Stone, a former piano hotshot
(and once-upon-a-time nice, middle-class kid) now living from fix to fix.


Yep, he’s a “junkie.”

He’s got a “monkey on his back.”

He’s hooked on
“H.”

As in “Horse.”

As in “Heroin.”

As in “really going nowhere.”

In
some ways this is still pretty much a typically cheesy fifties drug novel, with
most of the expected tropes and lingo present and accounted for (a formula Sara
Gran later milked for all its worth in Dope). Ray’s career has been pretty much
pissed away and his relationship with a token “good girl” just a memory. Even
his long-suffering father has more or less given up on him.

All that matters
for Ray now is that next blessed fix, and he doesn’t much care how he gets it. A
pickup in a bar leads to a night of sex and drugs and waking up in a strange bed
beside the “blonde” he followed home. She’s very nude, and very dead, of course,
courtesy of a bullet hole or two. Significantly, her stash of heroin (a very
large stash of heroin) is no longer around. Ray, of course, has no idea how any
of it happened, but knows he’ll  be the prime suspect in her murder. So he
flees, figuring he’ll have to track down the real killer if he wants to clear
his name.

Naturally.

But first? He needs a fix.

Things go as expected —
lies are exposed, people are betrayed, a few more bodies pile up, and Ray sweats
a lot. It’s all somehow pleasantly predictable. Yet Ray proves to be more
resourceful and tougher than he  — or the reader -- may have given him credit
for, and while some of the drug paranoia and knee-jerk moralizing of the era
creeps in, the author gets kudos for humanizing Ray, making him something more
than the two-dimensional patsy that usually comes with this territory. You can
almost feel McBain pushing and picking at the boundaries, trying to find a way
to — if not topple — at least bend those expectations towards the sort of stores
he wants to tell. And of course he nails New York City to the wall.

So, like
I said, a solid first effort, hinting of bigger things to come, and yet
satisfying in its own right; a strong example of a different time. Get your pulp

on, and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Gravetapping reviews Elimination


ELIMINATION by Ed Gorman


























Elimination is the fifth novel featuring political consultant Dev Conrad, and, contrary to popular belief (I’ve always wanted to say that) not the last. It is election season, and Dev is in rural Illinois helping Representative Jessica Bradshaw win re-election. Ms. Bradshaw is in a dead heat with her far-right (read, Tea Party) opponent Trent Dorsey. Dorsey has a billionaire uncle—

“‘Uncle Ken,’ as Dorsey always referred to him…”

—funding television attack ads and robocalls claiming Representative Bradshaw as a drug addicted-Commie-lesbian. Dev’s appearance in Jessica’s district, and home town of Danton, Illinois, is to stop the bleeding and prepare for the final debate. Jessica wins the debate, but the celebration is cut short by a badly botched assassination attempt. An attempt so poorly executed the local law thinks it may have been staged. 

Elimination is a nicely twisted mystery, and a poignant commentary on the current political environment. Dev is a wearied political strategist who often finds his clients lacking—megalomaniacs, narcissists, jerks—who just happen to, mostly, vote the right way. Dev is a light-hearted cynic (dubious but cautiously optimistic) with a dry wit and a tendency of self-deprecation—

“A lie, but what the hell. God had personally given me a daily allotment of one hundred and twenty-three lies. I was, after all, in politics.”  

The political is the center of the story providing servings of both horror and humor, and there is enough middle class angst to make anyone nervous, but it is the mystery—who shot at Jessica Bradshaw, and why—and Dev’s voice that make it pleasurable.       

Purchase a copy of Elimination at Amazon.
























Elimination is the fifth novel featuring political consultant Dev Conrad, and, contrary to popular belief (I’ve always wanted to say that) not the last. It is election season, and Dev is in rural Illinois helping Representative Jessica Bradshaw win re-election. Ms. Bradshaw is in a dead heat with her far-right (read, Tea Party) opponent Trent Dorsey. Dorsey has a billionaire uncle—

“‘Uncle Ken,’ as Dorsey always referred to him…”

—funding television attack ads and robocalls claiming Representative Bradshaw as a drug addicted-Commie-lesbian. Dev’s appearance in Jessica’s district, and home town of Danton, Illinois, is to stop the bleeding and prepare for the final debate. Jessica wins the debate, but the celebration is cut short by a badly botched assassination attempt. An attempt so poorly executed the local law thinks it may have been staged.

Elimination is a nicely twisted mystery, and a poignant commentary on the current political environment. Dev is a wearied political strategist who often finds his clients lacking—megalomaniacs, narcissists, jerks—who just happen to, mostly, vote the right way. Dev is a light-hearted cynic (dubious but cautiously optimistic) with a dry wit and a tendency of self-deprecation—

“A lie, but what the hell. God had personally given me a daily allotment of one hundred and twenty-three lies. I was, after all, in politics.”

The political is the center of the story providing servings of both horror and humor, and there is enough middle class angst to make anyone nervous, but it is the mystery—who shot at Jessica Bradshaw, and why—and Dev’s voice that make it pleasurable.    

Purchase a copy of Elimination at Amazon.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Outstanding new issue of Black Static

Current Issue

BLACK STATIC 47

2nd Jul, 2015
Shop link icon

Cover:

Item image: Black Static 47
The front and back cover art is by Richard Wagner

Fiction:

On the Road with the American Dead by James Van Pelt
illustrated by Richard Wagner

Item image: On the Road with the American Dead
Jeremy Lowe rested his arm on the open window, enjoying vibration and rushing air, solitude, and early evening Kansas cornfields. Engine and tire noise echoed from telephone poles and fence posts, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. He smiled, tapping the steering wheel in accompaniment.
He liked solitary drives from client to client, sticking to two-lane roads when he could, half his backseat and trunk filled with sales brochures and toner cartridges and copier parts. He liked his window down, even when it grew cold in the fall. He smelled little creeks that ran through shallow gulches, of miles and miles of wild sunflowers along the fields, and bar-b-cue from unseen backyards. He liked stockyards and political signs, which he’d sometimes stop to photograph. This morning he’d snapped a shot of a Second Amendment billboard that said turn in your arms: the government will take care of you printed over a picture of Indians in headdresses.
 

All the Day You'll Have Good Luck by Kate Jonez
Item image: All the Day You'll Have Good Luck
The sun sinks down behind a bank of puffy lavender clouds that are much prettier than dusty old broke-down Frederick, Oklahoma deserves. The carnival lights come on all at once like a mad scientist flipped one of those old-timey switches. This is the part of day I like best. Not too early; not too late.
There’s something about the way the yellow, red and white lights stand out against the sky that makes the scene feel more special than it is. Like this is a moment captured for a postcard that’s going to be sold at the newsstand up at the rest stop by the highway.

Razorshins by John Connolly
illustrated by Wayne Haag 

Item image: Razorshins
My grandfather’s name was Tendell Tucker, and he was a hard man. He ran liquor for King Solomon during Prohibition, taking care of the road runs from Canada through Maine, and down to Boston. Mostly he answered to Dan Carroll, who was Solomon’s partner, because my grand­father preferred dealing with the Irish to working with the Jews. He never said why. He was just that kind of fella.
A lot of people don’t know it, but Dan Carroll was a cautious man, which might explain why he lived so long. During Prohibition, most of his shipments came ashore from boats at night, and were met by trucks that brought his booze to warehouses for distribution, but he liked to cover his bets when he could. He wasn’t a gambler, not like Abe Rothstein, or even Solomon himself. Carroll would calculate his outlay, and the potential profit to be realized from each shipment, then split it accordingly. So if he’d invested $30,000 in Canadian liquor, and was looking at a return of $300,000, he would work out how many cases were needed to cover his initial costs, and then run them into Boston separately, usually in specially converted Cadillacs. That way, if the coast guard came sniffing, or the feds, and a shipment was seized, he wouldn’t be out of pocket.

The Devil's Hands by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
Item image: The Devil's Hands
A monster lived in Cocoa’s bathroom. It emerged when the sun went down, and she couldn’t sleep for the deep, rattled heave of its breathing. In the night she heard the heavy clomp of its pacing, and if she watched closely she saw its curved claws wrap around the edge of the half-closed bathroom door. With her eyes clamped shut she saw in her mind those same claws creep toward her body. She could never help but look, even though she knew that looking meant not sleeping for another night. In the morning, once light brought with it the courage to peep behind the door, the creature was gone.

When the Devil's Driving by Ray Cluley
illustrated by Dave Senecal 

Item image: When the Devil's Driving
What Lucy liked most about hanging out at the Devil’s Basin was the privacy. Nobody went there. A cluster of trees in a dip between hills hid an area of mud and swampy ground, a still pool of green-scummed water that swelled with the rain but did little else, and that was it. It wasn’t pretty. The trees were stunted crippled shapes that leaned as if to get away from the fetid water. The air had a strangely sweaty tang to its odour. Clouds of tiny biting things hovered over every rank pool and puddle spread between clumps of greasy flat grass. Nobody visited the Devil’s Basin but Lucy, and yet every­one at school had a story for how it came to be: it was the crater from a meteorite; it was the blast hole of a bomb dropped during the second world war; there was a mine that split open one day and flooded. The devil was in all of them, of course, riding the meteorite down from the heavens, calling the bomb, stamping his hooves to open rock. Whatever.

A Case Study in Natural Selection and How it Applies to Love by Eric J. Guignard
illustrated by Jim Burns 

Item image: A Case Study in Natural Selection and How it Applies to Love
Yesterday I saw Jamie Goodwin burst into flame.
He was just sitting on one of those cheap aluminum-back chairs we all have, eyes closed in the shade of Hester’s old RV, trying to get some relief from the heat, same as everyone else. I was checking the stock of coolers, seeing if any held even a bit of water left to siphon out, when Jamie let out a tiny gasp like he woke from a bad dream. If it was a bad dream he had, he woke to something worse, ’cause little glints of light popped and fizzed off him like the sparklers we used to wave around on Fourth of July. Smoke or steam or something else rose up, then Jamie’s eyes went cartoon-big and he turned into a fireball.

Comment:

Coffinmaker's Blues by Stephen Volk
ALFRED AND JACK: RIPPING YARNS
I re-watched Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972) recently. Apart from rediscovering what a truly macabre delight it is, I was struck that, though based on a book (Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur La Bern) this story of London in the grip of a serial killer, with its newspaper headlines, salacious gossip and heady mix of dread and titillation, reflects another more infamous killing spree perhaps closer to home, as far as the director was concerned. “Tourists expect London to be full of ripped whores” two city gents in a pub comment sardonically while waiting for their meat pies to arrive from the buxom barmaid, and “He’s a regular Jack the Ripper!” proclaims someone early in the movie, while Jon Finch’s character is known for beating his wife and becomes a suspect when she is murdered: exactly reminiscent of Joseph Barnett, common-law husband of Ripper victim Mary Kelly.

Notes From the Borderland by Lynda E. Rucker
IT KNOWS WHAT SCARES YOU
Lately, I’ve been thinking about fear.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Or this one: “I recognise terror as the finest emotion…and so I will try to terrorise the reader. But if I find I cannot terrify him/her, I will try to horrify, and if I find I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out.” I’m willing to bet that few horror aficionados will fail to recognise the oft-repeated words of Mr Lovecraft and Mr King. But how is fear achieved in horror fiction, and what purpose does it serve?

Reviews:

Case Notes: Book Reviews by Peter Tennant
Item image: Case Notes BS47
A THREE COURSE FEAST: THE RECENT FICTION OF RAY CLULEY
Probably MonstersThe Curse of the Zombie, and Within the Wind, Beneath the Snow, plus a substantial interview with the author
GRAY FRIAR PRESS
Terror Tales of WalesTerror Tales of YorkshireHorror Uncut
TANITH LEE
Blood 20: Tales of Vampire HorrorDeath of the DayColder Greyer Stones
NOT SO SMALL BEGINNINGS
The Spectral Book of Horror Stories

Blood Spectrum: DVD/Blu-ray Reviews by Tony Lee
Item image: Blood Spectrum BS47
The Strange Case of Dr Jeckyll and Miss Osbourne, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, The Haunting of Radcliffe House, The Sleeping Room, Dream Home, Whiplash, Kajaki, Twisted Tales, Can't Come Out to Play, Out of the Dark, Stonehearst Asylum, It Follows, The Voices, The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, The Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence, Tusk, Home Sweet Hell, Island of Death, The Cutting Room, Zombieworld, Girls Against Boys, The Loft, Digging up the Marrow, Girlhouse, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Unhallowed Ground

Where To Buy Black Static:

Black Static is available in good shops in the UK and many other countries, including the USA where it can be found in Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and elsewhere. If your local store (in any country) doesn't stock it they should easily be able to order it in for you so please don't hesitate to ask them. You can also buy the magazine from a variety of online retailers, or a version for e-readers from places like Weightless Books, Amazon, Apple, Smashwords, SpaceWitch etc.
The best thing though – for you and for us – is to follow any of the Shop/Buy Now/Subscribe links on this page and take out a subscription. You'll receive issues much cheaper and faster that way, and the magazine will receive a much higher percentage of the revenue.

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Coming Soon:

Novelettes by Jeffrey Thomas (illustrated by Joachim Luetke) and Ralph Robert Moore (illustrated by Ben Baldwin), stories by Simon Bestwick, Stephen Hargadon and others. Black Static 48 is out in September.
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