Thursday, March 31, 2016

Forgotten Books: The Crimes of Jordan Wise, by Bill Pronzini.

The Crimes of Jordan Wise, by Bill Pronzini.

Actuary Jordan Wise tells a joke on himself a third of the way through the novel: (paraphrase) an actuary is somebody who doesn’t have the personality to be an accountant.

If you watch many true crime shows, you see a lot of Jordan Wises. People who fall into crime through circumstance rather than those who go looking for it.

Jordan becomes a criminal only after meeting Annalise, a troubled and very attractive young woman who needs two things badly – sex and money. But in order to get the sex on a regular basis, Jordan must first provide the money. He embezzles a half million dollars and flees with Annalise to the Virgin Islands. In this first part of the novel, there’s nice James M. Cainian detail about how Jordan comes alive for the first time in his life. Some of this is due, whether he admits it or not, to the danger of committing a serious crime. But most of it is due to Annalise and his profound sexual awakening.

The central section of the book reminds me of one of Maugham’s great South Seas tales – lust, betrayal, shame played out against vast natural beauty and a native society that, thanks to an old sea man named Bone, Jordan comes to see value in – even if Annalise, her head filled with dreams of Paris and glamor, does not. Old Maugham got one thing right for sure – as Pronzini demonstrates here – a good share of humanity, wherever you find them, is both treacherous and more than slightly insane.

There are amazing sections of writing about sea craft and sailing that remind me not of old Travis McGee but of the profoundly more troubled and desperate men of Charles Williams who find purity and peace only in the great and epic truths of the sea. That they may be as crazed and treacherous as everybdy else does not seem to bother them unduly.

There are also amazing sections (almost diaristic sections) where Jordan tells of us his fears and desires, his failings and his dreams. In places he deals vididly, painfully with his secret terror of not being enough of a man in any sense to hold Annalise.

The publisher calls this a novel and so it is. Pronzini brings great original depth to the telling of this dark adventure that is both physical and spiritual. He has never written a better novel, the prose here literary in the best sense, lucid and compelling, fit for both action and introspection.

You can’t read a page of this without seeing it in movie terms. The psychologically violent love story played out against a variety of contemporary settings gives the narrative great scope. And in Jordan Wise and Annalise he has created two timeless people. This story could have been set in ancient Egypt or Harlem in 1903 or an LA roller skating disco in 1981. As Faulkner said, neither the human heart nor the human dilemma ever changes.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

BACKSHOT: 2012 by Tom Piccirilli from Gravetapping

Posted: 29 Mar 2016 02:00 PM PDT

Ben Boulden:

Backshot: 2012is the second of two related novellas. 2012was written by Tom Piccirilli and Backshot:1902 was written by Ed Gorman. The connection between the two is Marshal Delmar Royce who is a minor, but key, player in the latter parts of 1902 and the great3-grandfather of 2012’s antihero, Royce.

Royce is a professional thief lying in a hospital bed with a broken back and useless legs. His lifelong friend and partner, Quill, punched a bullet in his back after their last job and now Royce is looking at a painful future and a five-year prison stretch. The doctor tells him he won’t walk for a year, but Royce is on his feet in six months; it’s another three years before his release from prison and his planned revenge against Quill.

2012is a touch Richard Stark, but wholly Tom Piccirilli. The plotline is Stark—Royce is betrayed by his partner and spends the rest of the story getting even—but it is stylistically and thematically Piccirilli. Mr. Piccirilli’s literate, smooth, stark style is, perhaps, the finest in modern crime fiction—

“DeKooning sighed. It was the sigh that said you couldn’t believe people were so clichéd, so obvious, so average. You heard the story a thousand times before and here it was again, and you just couldn’t believe you were going to have to sit through it one more time. DeKooning frowned. It said more about him than anything before.”  

It is thematically complex with a heaviness of the past’s influence on the present. Royce is haunted by the image of a man he will never meet, Delmar Royce, and Quill is tormented by the shadow of his abusive father. The story never strays into predictability, and Royce is, if not exactly likable, understandable and even familiar.

Tom Piccirilli died in July 2015 from brain cancer. He was a talented writer who started his career in horror and then migrated to crime. He won multiple Bram Stoker awards for his horror fiction, including best novel for The Night Class, and he won the Thriller Award for best paperback original for his crime novels The Midnight Road and The Coldest MileBackshot: 2012 was published posthumously, and as I read it, I wondered if it is the last of Mr. Piccirilli’s original work.   

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Heart and Soul Pt. 2 March 29th, 2016 by Max Allan Collins

Heart and Soul Pt. 2

March 29th, 2016 by Max Allan Collins

Parody cover courtesy of Gene Eugene

The week I spent on the fifth floor – the rehab area – I remember clearly. The days weren’t bad, with Barb again visiting me from late morning till early evening, and bringing me in real food for lunch. Every day had me receiving a mildly demanding schedule, with O.T. (Occupational Therapy) and P.T. (Physical Therapy) sessions every morning and afternoon.
P.T. concentrates on the waist down, getting you walking again, building your strength up, utilizing such things as parallel bars, stationary bikes and a little flight of stairs. The P.T. trainers tended to be young, several of them working on their grad degrees. The one in charge was an attractive blonde named Tessa who had a deadpan sense of humor that Buster Keaton might have envied (not that Tessa would have any idea who Buster Keaton was). She took voluminous notes on her laptop while her grad school charges worked with me, and I accused her of moonlighting on a blog, which I speculated was called “Fit to Fit,” concentrating on fashion tips for the gym.
Another young woman, one of the grad students (whose name I unfortunately don’t recall), attempted to teach me how to get into and out of bed, without disturbing my chest incision (a big concern at the hospital). She demonstrated easily, using her abs since you’re not allowed to push up on your hands. I asked her how old she was, and she said, “Twenty-two.” Then I asked her how much she weighed, and she said, “One-hundred twenty.” I said last year I’d eaten 120 pounds of doughnuts.
The O.T. trainers who I worked with were all women, of various ages. The youngest, in her early twenties, had never heard of Bela Lugosi. I don’t remember how that came up, but she also had never heard of Boris Karloff. Nor Vincent Price. A somewhat older young woman was passing by, and I asked her about Lugosi and Karloff, and she’d never heard of them either. She did know Vincent Price, and explained to the younger woman that he was “the guy at the end of ‘Thriller.’”
O.T. concentrated on my hand, putting me to work with a Silly Putty-like substance and having me insert tiny pegs into slots. Early on we discovered I had lost my signature and could not use a computer keyboard. But we stayed at it.
One of the things various O.T. females did was guide me through my morning shower. This embarrassed me for about ten seconds. I looked like forty miles of bad road and humiliation was a way of life by now. The point was to demonstrate that I could do my own showering and such without help, or anyway much help. I did this pretty well, despite my dislike of showers (also, I had to sit on a bench in there). My funky right hand had me using my left for shaving, at first, but shortly I began forcing myself to use the right for that (electric razor, not straight razor!) and started brushing my teeth with my right hand as well. A big part of getting my hand back (I’m at about 80% now) has been forcing the right hand to do its work, as with eating utensils.
The bathroom had an oddity that I still can’t figure. The sink was narrow and long, putting way too much distance between your face and the mirror, making shaving very tricky indeed. I described this to one O.T. female as being like watching your neighbor across a courtyard shave out the window.
Another oddity, not in the bathroom, was the reclining chair in which a patient spent a lot of time, since the bed was so uncomfortable. The lean-back lever was incredibly hard to utilize – particularly for somebody who was not supposed to strain his chest incision. I think the guy who bought the sinks also bought the chairs. Musta got a deal.
Between the physical therapy sessions and my lovely wife’s presence, the days weren’t bad at all. Seeing Barb come in the door always lit up my world. But oh those nights, those endless, endlessly interrupted nights.
One of the worst began when my heart surgeon stopped by to ask about, well, my regularity since the surgery. It was a week since then and there hadn’t been any. He said cheerfully, “Well, we’ll hit it from both ends.” I will allow your imagination to help you interpret that, as well as spare you the discomfort and embarrassment that made that particular night the longest of all. But God bless the nurses who saw me through it.
The next day I was so weak and dehydrated that I couldn’t leave my room. The O.T. and P.T. people came to me and we soldiered on.
The last straw that led to Barb and me insisting on a release came on an even longer night. I was alternating short bouts of sleep with reading books and watching DVDs, and a nurse suggested that I take a sleeping pill.
A sleeping pill called Ambien.
Let me do a quick sidebar here, having to do with a gift my son gave me for Christmas, one of the best presents I ever received – a Blu-ray box from Japan of the complete COLUMBO in a cigar box. Fantastic! Barb and I, in the weeks preceding my surgery, watched a COLUMBO episode each evening.
Thus it was that during my hospital stay I dreamed my own brand-new COLUMBO episodes almost every night. Sometimes I was Columbo, sometimes I was the killer, other times I just watched. The most memorable episode was about identical twins who’d both had heart surgery and were sharing a room in the hospital. One brother sneaked out to kill somebody, and Columbo caught him because the two urine jugs in the room had both been filled by one brother.
Nate told me he doubted that would play very well on TV.
But you get the idea of the nature of my dreams in that place. Under the first-time influence of Ambien, I dreamed not of Columbo but of Miss Marple and her two talented nephews. Remember those great Christie characters? Me either. But they got themselves caught up in a gauzy European horror film right out of Dario Argento, with a serial killer slaughtering everybody left and right. I was suddenly in the midst of it all, trying to move through one sheer curtain after another while the killer pursued me.
Now understand that I was not allowed to get out of bed without assistance. That I was essentially in the process of learning to walk again. That I was required to ring for help to use the bathroom. Nonetheless, I apparently ran out into the hall, shouting, “Murder! He’s killing everyone! Murder! Save me!” I don’t think I fell down – I certainly had no signs of that, after – but I remember vividly being on the floor while a nurse bent down before me like she was giving a water bowl to her dog.
“Do you know where you are?” she asked.
“I’m not sure,” I said. “But I think I’m in Max Allan Collins’ room.”
Time to go home.
– – –
Check out the Wikipedia page for the QUARRY TV series.
And the official QUARRY series web site.
Speaking of Quarry, top writer Mike Dennis provides this great QUARRY’S VOTE review at his web site.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Can't we all just get along? Actors who hate other actors

Ed here: There's a long list of these on Movie Morlocks today - here are some highlights. For the rest go here:

3. Joan Crawford on Bette Davis: “She has a cult, and what the hell is a cult except a gang of rebels without a cause. I have fans. There’s a big difference.”
4. Bette Davis on Joan Crawford: “I wouldn’t piss on her if she was on fire.”
5. Sterling Hayden on Joan Crawford: “There’s is not enough money in Hollywood to lure me into making another picture with Joan Crawford. And I like money.”

7. Carol Lombard on Vivien Leigh: “That f–king English bitch.”

19. Walter Mattheu to Barbra Streisand during an on set argument while making HELLO DOLLY!: “I have more talent in my farts than you have in your whole body.”

25. Richard Harris on Michael Caine: “An over-fat, flatulent, 62-year-old windbag. A master of inconsequence masquerading as a guru, passing off his vast limitations as pious virtues.”
26. Frank Sinatra on Shelley Winters: “A bowlegged bitch of a Brooklyn blonde.”
27. Shelley Winters on Frank Sinatra: “A skinny, no-talent, stupid, Hoboken bastard.”

28. John Gielgud on Ingrid Bergman: “Ingrid Bergman speaks five languages and can’t act in any of them.”
29. William Holden on Humphrey Bogart: “I hated the bastard.”
30. Humphrey Bogart on William Holden: “A dumb prick.”

These insults were compiled from various books, magazines, newspapers and
Feel free to share some of your own favorite insults from classic actors below. I’m sure there are plenty more that I haven’t mentioned.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Malcolm Braly False Starts: A Memoir of San Quentin and Other Prisons

Rick Ollerman's intro to False Starts by Malcolm Braly, our February release:

Malcolm Braly
False Starts: A Memoir of San Quentin and Other Prisons
978-1-933586-94-x  $17.95

“Each morning you know where evening will find you. There is no way to avoid your cell. When everyone marched into the block you would be left alone in the empty yard. Each Monday describes every Friday. Holidays in prison are only another mark of passing time and for many they are the most difficult days.”
from False Starts, by Malcolm Braly

Following in the footsteps of men such as Jack Black and Jim Tully, prisoners and writers both, Malcolm Braly started out free but quickly fell into a sort of trap. He was born in Portland, Oregon in 1925. Like Black and Tully, Braly was cut adrift by his parents, in his case by a father who ran out on him and a mother that eventually simply gave him up. All three of these men grew up in the system, all three of them left it, and all three of them took up various degrees of the criminal life. Most importantly, all three of them grew up to write about their lives and experiences. They’ve given us the words that summon their ghosts.
Black was born in 1871, Tully in 1886. All three came from the same sort of broken families, all three took to the road early in life. But out of them all, only Tully avoided becoming the hard-core sort of criminal embraced by Black and later by Braly. They began their vagabond careers by taking to the road and falling in with the characters who rode the rails, both the bums and the hoboes, and had turned their backs on conventional life. Tully likes to tell us the difference between hoboes and bums is that hoboes, or ’boes, will work, and bums will not. However close a distinction this may be, it is the bums that turn to heavier lives of crime. Begging, burglary, theft, holdups, safecracking—these are ways not only to make money, but serve as training to become true vocations. And once taken hold, all too often they become the young vagabond’s only picture of life.
Tully found his love of books and literature early and this is perhaps what saved him from following the same path as Black before him and Braly afterward. He is often credited with founding the “hard-boiled” school of writing, which brought him notice by such men as H. L. Mencken, founder of Smart Set magazine, and later of that immortal pulp, Black Mask.
In his autobiography, False Starts (1976), Braly wrote, “The frontier is gone and the moon is a dead rock, but the dream of our old freedom dies hard.” This echoes Jim Tully, who in his first volume of memoir, Circus of Life (1924), said, “He sees the moon, yellow ghost of a dead planet, haunting the earth.” The difference between the two statements is that by the time Braly had written those words, he had spent nearly twenty years in various prisons.

It wasn’t until 1967 that On the Yard came out, bringing to Braly a certain amount of celebrity, including television and magazine appearances. The longshot he had long ago decided to take in prison had well and truly paid off. Felony Tank was published in 1961, Shake Him Till He Rattles in 1963, and then It’s Cold Out There in 1966. In 1976 his autobiography, False Starts, was published, sandwiched by novelizations of a pair of movie scripts (The Master in 1973 and The Protector in 1979).
Aside from a short story called “An Outline of History” (about a sort of prison experiment gone wrong) that appeared in Thomas M. Disch’s 1973 anthology Bad Moon Rising, Braly’s writing career was over. In April of 1980, Braly was involved in a traffic accident in Baltimore, Maryland. He was dead at the age of 54.

“I had served more time for a handful of inept burglaries than most men would have served for killing a police officer, and the prison, which I had hated so deeply and scored so bitterly for its every failing, was only my chosen instrument in the willful destruction of my own life.”
from False Starts, by Malcolm Braly

Both the novel On the Yard as well as his memoir False Starts will live on as classic examples of both the “prison novel” as well as the memoir. Braly’s relatively small body of work will last because it is real. The characters are based on real people, their actions based on real actions, their consequences based on real consequences. One can’t help but wonder what Braly would have written as an entirely free man, a writer who may have finally been able to shed all of his ghosts.

For Jim Tully, writing was quite possibly his pass away from being more than the occasional jailbird. He moved to his literary career much earlier in his life than either Jack Black or Malcolm Braly. Jack Black reflected on why he hadn’t been able to go straight. In You Can’t Win, he wrote:

I was wrong. I knew I was wrong, and yet I persisted. If that is possible of any explanation it is this: From the day I left my father my lines had been cast, or I cast them myself, among crooked people. I had not spent one hour in the company of an honest person. I had lived in an atmosphere of larceny, theft, crime. I thought in terms of theft. Houses were built to be burglarized, citizens were to be robbed, police to be avoided and hated, stool pigeons to be chastised, and thieves to be cultivated and protected. That was my code; the code of my companions. That was the atmosphere I breathed. “If you live with wolves, you will learn to howl.”

It is almost as though he was saying once started in the wrong direction, he couldn’t manage to turn. Braly put it this way in False Starts:

My problem is I can’t get up in the morning. I want, but can’t believe I deserve. My problem is I’m a rational and good-hearted man who does irrational and harmful things. My problem is there is no one out there in the wilderness who can tell me what my problem is. My problem is my life is already half over and I haven’t allowed myself to begin living it. My problem is I’m terribly afraid I can’t solve my problem. I feel I can, though I tremble for myself, and I live in this hope, but I have felt so, hoped so before and I have been wrong. My problem is that I don’t know what to say to you to explain myself. I meant no harm. I mean no harm. Please let me go now before it is too late for me.

Tragedy unfolded in the lives of all these men, and no less so for many of their victims. It is instructive to be able to read the words these men have left behind, to understand the truths they have to tell us, not only about the characters in their novels but about themselves. These works live on precisely because they contain the grains of that thing that all of us, throughout most of our lives, strive to understand: what is it that makes us do what we do?

I no longer brood over the right or the wrong of what was done to me—it happened—and I wonder if it isn’t the effort to contain our lives in a morality so simple which leads some of us into such terrible trouble. I can’t answer my own question. At the end of his long life, Jung wrote that the individual was the only reality. If I sense this truth precisely, it says my life, as all lives are, is unique. For myself, I would change nothing because it has all led me to become the man I hoped to be.
from False Starts, by Malcolm Braly

… my life passed as a dream that never quite came true
from “The Road,” an unpublished poem by Malcolm Braly, 1946

Beyond his books, Braly eventually proved a very important thing to himself. Though his life may have been cut too tragically short for him to realize it in full, his writings show that all of us, even the worst of us, can learn to live with our ghosts.

[Excerpts from the Introduction to False Starts:
DO YOUR OWN TIME: Malcolm Braly
by Rick Ollerman]

New works from Dean Wesley Smith!

A dead alien ship appears close to human space. But in millions of years, no alien race managed to leave its own galaxy.
The alien ship originated in a galaxy over two hundred thousand years of travel away. But the Seeders need to know about the alien race, in case they are a threat.
Star Mist takes on the vast scale of the Seeders Universe and expands it even more.
- See more at:
A dead alien ship appears close to human space. But in millions of years, no alien race managed to leave its own galaxy.
The alien ship originated in a galaxy over two hundred thousand years of travel away. But the Seeders need to know about the alien race, in case they are a threat.
Star Mist takes on the vast scale of the Seeders Universe and expands it even more.
- See more at:
A dead alien ship appears close to human space. But in millions of years, no alien race managed to leave its own galaxy.
The alien ship originated in a galaxy over two hundred thousand years of travel away. But the Seeders need to know about the alien race, in case they are a threat.
Star Mist takes on the vast scale of the Seeders Universe and expands it even more.
- See more at:

A dead alien ship appears close to human space. But in millions of years, no alien race managed to leave its own galaxy.

The alien ship originated in a galaxy over two hundred thousand years of travel away. But the Seeders need to know about the alien race, in case they are a threat.

Star Mist takes on the vast scale of the Seeders Universe and expands it even more.

Learn more about the Seeders Universe!

Learn more about the Ghost of a Chance series!

In this WMG Writer’s Guide, Dean takes you step-by-step through Heinlein’s Rules and shows how following those rules can change your writing—and career—for the better.

Simple rules, yet deceptively hard to follow. Do you have the courage to take a hard look at your writing process and follow Heinlein’s Rules? Dean shows you how.
Get valuable tips on fiction writing and fiction sales writing!

The Cold Poker Gang consists of a group of retired Las Vegas Police detectives getting together once a week to play cards and work to solve cold cases.

Retired Detectives Bayard Lott and Julia Rogers stand at an unmarked grave in the desert, about ready to close a thirty-year-old cold case of a missing woman.

But what appears from that grave keeps their case very much open, and shines a light on many other cold cases.

Another twisted mystery that only the Cold Poker Gang can solve.

Find out more about the Cold Poker Gang!

Visit the official Dean Wesley Smith website for more information about these and other works!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Gravetapping DOUBLE FAULT by Jack M. Bickham


Posted: 23 Mar 2016 03:25 PM PDT

Ben Boulden: 

Double Fault
 is the fifth novel featuring Brad Smith. It was published in 1993 by Tor. It is Brad’s most personal adventure, focusing on his, and America’s, experience with Vietnam. It is less espionage and more suspense than the other titles and it is the best of the Brad Smith novels.

Arnie Tubb is a head case. He has been in and out of military mental hospitals since leaving Vietnam. After his transfer to the cancer ward of Walter Reed hospital, Arnie takes advantage of its lax security and escapes. During the war Arnie was involved in the massacre of a Vietnamese village, very much like My Lai, which the Army wants to keep secret and Arnie wants to avenge. His vengeance is focused on a group of soldiers who refused to participate in the slaughter and his final target is a helicopter pilot named Kevin Green. Kevin was Brad’s mentor on his college tennis team and he is officially listed as missing in action. His name appeared on a manifest of returning prisoners at the conclusion of the war, but he never came home. 

Brad unknowingly gets involved when a member of Tubb’s group, disguised as an Army official, contacts him looking for Kevin and his copilot, Dave Wentworth. Brad insists, sincerely, Kevin Green is dead and he is unaware of Wentworth’s location. After the imposter leaves, Brad telephones Wentworth at his Kansas home and gets an odd reaction. Dave is frightened and abruptly ends the call. A few days and several dozen unanswered telephone calls later, Brad travels to Kansas where he finds Dave dead, his throat slashed, in his apartment. Brad, feeling responsible for Dave’s death, decides to start an amateur investigation and finds himself Arnie’s primary target and a useful tool of the U.S. Army.

Double Fault is a nicely developed suspense novel. The pacing creates something of a funnel. The early scenes rolling along the top, progressing deeper and deeper, narrower and faster until its climactic finale. Mr. Bickham expertly stalls the details of the Vietnam massacre, particularly Kevin Green’s role, until the final scenes, which keeps both Brad and the reader off balance. The unknown factors, Arnie’s motive, Kevin Green’s role, generate believable tension and allow Brad to be played by all sides—Tubb’s group and the government (Army, F.B.I. and to a lesser extent C.I.A.) But what separates this novel from the others is its rendering of Vietnam’s long term impact on the soldiers who fought, in a larger than life manner, and the consequence, or responsibility, of friendship. Brad’s friendship with Kevin Green and his C.I.A. pal Collie Davis at its center.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Forgotten Books: HIS NAME WAS DEATH by Fredric Brown

HIS NAME WAS DEATH by Fredric Brown

After the big war American lives were in flux. Millions trekked to the suburbs to begin an entirely new way of life. And many of the prohibitions that had been common before the war were now relaxed.

Kurt Vonnegut once remarked that the novels of John D. MacDonald charted the Fifties and early Sixties so well that students of sociology would be able to read them decades later and get a true feel for the era.

I feel the same thing is true of several of Fredric Brown’s novels, including His Name Was Death, a novel so cunningly crafted that Anthony Boucher in the New York Times said on publication, “You’ll be compelled to read through in one sitting to one of the very few endings that have genuinely surprised me in a long time.”

In addition to the stunning story there’s also Brown’s take on mid-Fifties. His mid-Fifties. While suburban mysteries came into fashion Brown frequently wrote about life in small cities, in this case a Midwestern burg where a series of murders has baffled police and terrified the citizenry. The city resembles aspects of Brown’s Milwaukee. The characters likely resemble the people he knew in his earlier life.

Fredric William Brown was born into the working class, educated in public schools and night school as well as a year at college. Brown spent nearly twelve years working as an office worker during the Depression. From there he became a proofreader at the Milwaukee Journal. Given his penchant for drinking and his fondness for bars, Brown certainly encountered the types—if not the actual people—he uses in His Name Was Death.

The prototype for Darius Conn, small-time businessman, might well have been one of Brown’s drinking buddies. Successful but not as much as he lets on; likes his nights out with the boys because frankly his marriage has gone stale; and talks a lot about the same kind of useless dreams/fantasies heavy drinkers always talk about.

That’s the façade Conn presents anyway. In truth he murdered his wife over a year ago. The police accepted it as an accident. And his plan for becoming an important businessman is being financed by his turning his printing business into a forgery operation.

But then one afternoon the fetching Joyce Dugan, his trusted Girl Friday, talks to a man who stops in to see Conn so he can pick up some money Conn owes him. Dugan calls around and finally locates Conn who tells her, yes, use the desk fund to pay him. And then have a nice weekend. Well, turns out the desk fund doesn’t have enough so she opens the safe and takes the extra money from there. Not knowing of course that it’s counterfeit.

Brown was clearly one of those writers who enjoyed amusing himself. This story could have been told in a straight-forward fashion but it wouldn’t have near the power it does. Brown tells his tale from nine different points of view. And with a dark chuckle up his sleeve, he shows how each one of them meets his or her fate because of Joyce Dugan giving the man (an old high school boy friend, as it turns out; and a far more preferable mate than the bullying gambler she married) just a few counterfeit bills. A remarkable narrative structure that Brown used at lest twice again.

In true page-turner fashion, Brown sets up his story in an intricate set of inter-locking cliff hangers. His depictions of raw fear, terror, rage, betrayl are played off against moments of black humor and even sweet romance.

This is one of Brown’s true crowd-pleasers and should have been one of his biggest sellers. But Brown, who was often referred to as a “writer’s writer,” was never a big seller. I once talked to the man who’d been the sales manager of Bantam Books during the Fifties. His favorite writer bar none was Fred Brown. He said he did everything he could to break him out but it never happened.

So I go back to my thesis at the top. Brown did the realistic every day of the working class so well it may have limited his appeal. The time was dominated by private detectives and the romance of the mean streets. Brown’s streets were mean all right but they were filled with many of life’s losers, the kind of in-laws most of us dread having. Philip Marlowe was handsome, brave and witty. Brown’s good guys were sixty dollar a week salesmen whose ambition was to move out of their sleeping rooms into real apartments. Getting laid in a sleeping room ain’t easy.

But time has been kind to the best of Fredric Brown’s novels and stories. He has yet to develop the cult he deserves but at least his name and discussions of his work are appearing with more and more frequency on websites of film and noir.

This is one of the finest crime novels of the Fifties, a decade rich with many true masterpieces.

--Ed Gorman

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Early reviews of the Warner Bros. release claim Zack Snyder tries to do too much in establishing cinematic universe

Early reviews of the Warner Bros. release claim Zack Snyder tries to do too much in establishing cinematic universe

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” better hope that bad reviews are not as dangerous as kryptonite.
The first in a planned series of DC Comics cinematic universe films currently holds a mere 40 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Of the 65 reviews counted at the time of this publishing, 39 are “Rotten” and 26 are “Fresh.”
Early reviews for the film, which opens this Friday, rip director Zack Snyder for cramming in as much story as possible, while also overdoing it with the visual effects.

TheWrap‘s Alonso Duralde wrote, “That face-off between two comics legends becomes but one in a series of big things bashing into other big things, which is what Snyder and writers Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer mistake for storytelling.”

Here are five more disappointing reviews.

Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune:
“‘You don’t owe this world a thing,’ [Diane] Lane tells Superman at one point. Maybe so. But at this point in the twinned mythologies of two extremely hardy DC heroes, humankind deserves a better blockbuster.”

Adam Graham of Detroit News:
“The movie crams together a Batman story, a Superman story and lays the groundwork for several side tales, all in the space of a cluttered two-and-a-half hour collision that aims to bludgeon viewers into submission.”

Mike Ryan of Uproxx:
“Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I was legitimately looking this forward to a movie that I found this dull. About halfway through this over two-and-a-half hour movie, I had to stop my brain from thinking about other things, like what groceries I needed to pick up at some point.”

Fionnuala Halligan of Screen Daily:
“Gorging on bombast and self-importance, swamped by its own mythology, ‘Batman v Superman’ is loud, sprawling, and distracted. The action jumps around almost as fast as a man can fly, but nowhere near as smoothly.”

Lou Lumenick of the New York Post:
“While ‘300’ maestro Snyder puts together some very striking scenes — which may be enough for many fanboys — they never really cohere into a whole. He literally throws in the kitchen sink in a film that frantically introduces characters and concepts while never clearly establishing the rules of the DC Comics universe.”

But chances are, bad reviews will do nothing to deter audiences from flocking to the tentpole feature. The film will skyrocket to north of $150 million in its much-anticipated opening in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, industry analysts projected on Tuesday.


"Shadow Games is a page-turning, gut-wrenching barnburner of a book."—Robert Bloch

Ed here: My first cousin Bobby Driscoll was a major child movie star of the late 1940s and early 1950s. He died at thirty of drugs. While I don't use any of Bobby's life in this novel I do look at child stardom here. This is a slightly revised edition of Shadow Games (1992) which I wrote at the time when I was writing scripts for two different directors and learning a little about the ways of Hwood. 
BTW Bobby is the star of the great film noir "The Window."

Cover art © by JT Lindroos

"Shadow Games unflinchingly examines the dark side of humanity and reaches a finale that is both moving and terrifying."
Ramsey Campbell

"What keeps you reading is not the traditional question of whodunit but the slick and artful ease with which Gorman portrays the alienated, uncaring world of his creations."
--The London Sunday Times

Cobey Daniels had it all. He was rich, he was young and he was the hottest star in the country. Then there was all that messy business with the teenage girl . . . and it all went to hell for Cobey.

But that was a few years ago. Now Cobey's pulled his life together again they're letting him out of the mental hospital and he's ready for his big comeback, but the past is still out there, waiting for him. Waiting to show Cobey a hell much more terrible than he could ever have imagined.

The American 90s come brutally alive: "Gorman knows how to shunt electricity into the raw nerve endings buried far below the reader's already clammy skin."

© Ed Gorman


"Ed Gorman's is a strong and unique voice."
—Richard Matheson

"Gorman is the poet of dark suspense."
—The Bloomsbury Review

"John D. MacDonald meets Jim Thompson in a maelstrom of malicious evil and perverse maipulation that doesn't let up until the final few pages...thoughtful, tightly knit and elegantly structured."
—Million (UK)

"This is a bleak moral tale but written with such hot feeling and such cool style that it entertains even as it keens."
—Morning Star (UK)


Title Details:

RRP Price: £11.95
Publisher: Short, Scary Tales Publications
Release Date: May 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-909640-52-8 (6" x 9" Trade Paperback)
First Edition
Pages: 354

This brand new edition is available for pre-order from the Short, Scary Tales website. The first 100 copies sold direct from the site will be signed by me and the cover artist, JT Lindroos!