Friday, October 31, 2014

Half-moon over Noircon

Half-moon over Noircon
NoirCon 2014 is up and running, and I am up and staggering, at an unaccustomed morning hour.

This small but perfectly formed noir festival here in Philadelphia really has attracted folks from around the world. Last night at the Mausoleum of Contemporary Art, I met fellow attendees Andrew Nette, from Australia, and Paul Charles, from Northern Ireland via London. Paul will be one my Northern Ireland panel at Bouchercon in two weeks.

Wallace Stroby
Christa Faust, Wallace Stroby
And now,  few Noircon photos to rest your eyes while I festivalize. See you soon.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Stacey Cochran is running

Not only does Stacey Cochran (left) run (1:14.03 in a ten-miler the day after he turned 40), he runs Bouchercons, too (top gun of Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, N.C.). Turns out he also writes, and his Eddie & Sunny: A Love Story is in the running for a publishing deal as part of the Kindle Scout program.

The way it works is that the surfing public votes for its favorite books, and the book with the most nominations stands a fair shot of getting a publishing contract with Amazon.  Learn about Stacey and about the Eddie & Sunny campaign. Cast your vote for Stacey here.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Noir at the Bar @Noircon

Sarah Weinman
A few photos I snapped at Wednesday evening's Noir at the Bar, MC'd by the guy who started Noir at the Bar (me), and featuring a roster of twelve readers that included four from the original Noir at the Bar gang, from back in 2008.

Jon McGoran
The evening was part of NoirCon 2014, that other great crime fiction happening that started in Philadelphia. (I think of the two as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitutional Convention of crime fiction.)

Jonathan Woods
More to come!

Oh, and %^%$! Jed Ayres and ^&*$#! Scott Phillips.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Welcome, Noirconians!: A photographic guide to Philadelphia

With crowds pouring into town for Noircon 2014, here's a photographic tour of Philadelphia (you know: dark underbelly, the things visitors never see, and all that crap), courtesy of Peter Rozovsky, you humble blogkeeper.

Noircon: It's like the Phillies winning the World Series, but without anyone flipping cars over in the street.



© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Noircons then and now

People tell me I'm too negative:
Your humble blogkeeper talks
about noir songs at the Philadelphia 
Mausoleum  of Contemporary Art
at Noircon 2012. Photo
courtesy  of Cullen Gallagher
With Noircon 2014 coming to Philly this week, here are some wise, entertaining, and interesting things that people said at previous Noircons. This year's version kicks off Wednesday night, with me MC'ing a Noir at the Bar back in the city where I created Noir at the Bar in 2008.
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 This is my first Noircon. What attracted me is that I was asked to be the Guest of Honor, and no one could resist that.”
Otto Penzler, 2012
***
"Bitch-slapping the synapses of your brain," upon which another fellow attendee, knowing what I do for a living, asked, "Does bitch slapping take a hyphen?"

— Overheard at the hotel bar, 2010 (I should have replied: "Bitch-slapping takes a hyphen — and likes it." )
***
"Chubby Cambodian hotties." 
Christa Faust, 2008
***
Fellow Noircon attendee: "Are you a dog person or a cat person?"

Me: "Neither. I'm a vegetarian." 
Exchange at hotel bar Saturday night, Noircon 2012
  © Peter Rozovsky 2012, 2-14

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Monday, October 27, 2014

My Bouchercon panels: The Wall Street Journal discovers Northern Ireland crime fiction

The Wall Street Journal this week writes about crime fiction in Northern Ireland, beginning the piece with a discussion of Stuart Neville, an idea that remains as fresh today as it was when I did the same thing three years ago. I'll discuss it again next month at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach, when I moderate a panel called "Belfast Noir: Stories of Mayhem and Murder from Northern Ireland." The panel will include Neville, Adrian McKinty, Gerard Brennan, and Paul Charles, and I look forward to seeing you there.
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My article "Trouble’s Aftermath: Northern Ireland’s Crime Fiction" is up on Macmillan's new Criminal Element Web site. The site includes fiction and features covering a wide spectrum of crime writing including a section called Writing the World devoted to international crime fiction. That's where my article appears, along with pieces on Japanese detective stories, Swedish crime fiction, John Burdett, an English cop's look at The Wire, and more.

Looks to me like the crime-fiction world has a worthwhile new magazine on its hands. Drop in, and leave a comment.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Friday, October 24, 2014

My Bouchercon panels: Charles Kelly and Dan J. Marlowe

Chapter 14 of Charles Kelly's Dan J. Marlowe biography reminded me that I attained my majority in a degenerate age:
"On March 23, 1976 ... Marlowe told a friend in a letter, `Gold Medal has just cancelled flat my Operation series.' Fawcett Gold Medal editor Joseph Elder had informed Marlowe, `Basically this kind of story is not working at all in today’s market. The mystery/ suspense novel as a paperback category is failing left and right, and very few of the category heroes are surviving.'” 
I was in my mid-teens then, which meant that by the time I was ready to start exploring crime fiction in a serious way, even reprints of those old paperback originals were going out of print, and the originals were often available only under plastic wrap, complete with brittle pages and high prices. (I have no figures to back me up, but I suspect that one benefit of electronic publishing is increased availability of books that had appeared as paperback originals. Gold Medal's decision to drop Marlowe, by the way, happened during CBS' takeover of Fawcett, which ran Gold Medal. No doubt CBS would have told worried readers that it was refocusing its crime offerings to better serve our customers. Always to better serve our customers.)

Kelly's book is called Gunshots in Another Room: The Forgotten Life of Dan J. Marlowe, and it's refreshingly free of lurid details, considering that Marlowe was a professional gambler, an amnesiac, a rambler, and a spanking fetishist who also befriended and collaborated with a bank robber who had made the EBI's Ten Most Wanted list. That Marlowe was also a Rotarian, a small-town Republican councilman, a hardworking businessman, a thoroughgoing professional, and a man who met setbacks with industry and equanimity are salutary reminders that real life is often more interesting and less sensational than the publicity machine (with our enthusiastic complicity) would have us believe.

Above all, Kelly knows that the writing is the thing, and he lards his book with excerpts from and summaries and discussions of Marlowe's work. And quite a body of work it is. The protagonist of the great The Name of the Game Is Death is scarier than Richard Stark's Parker, what Parker might have been had Stark chosen to get inside his (Parker's) head.

If you like Parker (I wrote in a previous Marlowe post), you might like Marlowe. If you like Stephen King's "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption," you might like Marlowe. If you like revenge stories and you want to see how a master wrote them, you might like Marlowe. If you like man-on-the-run stories, you might like Marlowe. If you like your sex scenes with a bit of an edge, you might like Marlowe. (Read a sample of Kelly on Marlowe from Allan Guthrie's Noir Originals.)
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Charles Kelly will discuss Dan J. Marlowe as part of a panel I'll moderate at Bouchercon 2014. The panel is called "Beyond Hammett, Chandler, and Spillane: Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Eras," and it happens at 3 p.m, Friday, Nov. 14. See you there.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

NoirCon 2014 is almost here // Noir at the Bar comes back home

I'll be part of another con before Bouchercon, the fourth incarnation of the event that introduced me to the joys of the con, Philadelphia's own Noircon.

This year's event happens Oct. 30-Nov. 2, and it has a more international flavor than the versions in 2008, 2010, and 2012, including several authors who will be part of my Bouchercon panels two weeks later in Long Beach. Stuart Neville will be here. So will Paul Charles, who will join Stuart, Adrian McKinty, and Gerard Brennan on my Bouchercon "Belfast Noir" panel.  Sarah Weinman and Charles Kelly will be here, sharpening their oratorical skills for their appearances on my "Beyond Hammett, Chandler, and Spillane: Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Eras" panel in Long Beach.

The gang from Soho Press is coming to Noircon to receive awards. The delegation will include author Fuminori Nakamura and Paul Oliver, whose current reissues of Ted "Get Carter" Lewis' novels are an event of high importance to noir readers. Trust me: You want to read these books.

I'll be doing my part by MC'ing a NoirCon edition of Noir at the Bar as N@theB returns to the city where I staged the very first ones in 2008.    The list of readers includes several of the original Noir at the Bar authors and moderators, so here's a special thank you to Duane Swierczynski, Jon McGoran (who set this event up), Dennis Tafoya, and Sarah Weinman. Welcome back.

NoirCon 2008 was my first convention, my first chance to meet authors and others in the profession. It's where I met Ken Bruen and Christa Faust and Scott Phillips and Sarah Weinman and Reed Farrel Coleman and Ed Pettit and Charles Ardai and Megan Abbott and more, and not just met them, but hung out with them and talked with them. The experience was so much fun that I signed up for that year's Bouchercon almost immediately, and the rest is history. 

NoirCon: Because Not Everything Great That Started in Philadelphia Was Run By Guys Who Have Their Faces on Money.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Bouchercon 2014 panels: Roy Huggins

First things first: The book 77 Sunset Strip is not a novel, its cover billing as "An original suspense novel by Roy Huggins" to the contrary. Rather, it is portions of three stories, two published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1946, one in Esquire in 1952, linked by the flimsiest, most cursory narrative thread imaginable and published as an "original" novel in 1958, which just happened to be the first season of the Huggins-created television series 77 Sunset Strip.

Fortunately, two of the portions are superb, easily justifying Max Allan Collins' assertion that Huggins was "a fine crime writer, and he may have become one of the giants of the genre had he not gone Hollywood." But, Collins goes on, "had he not gone Hollywood, we would not have 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, The Fugitive and The Rockford Files."

One often encounters the largely spurious distinction between storytellers and wordsmiths. Huggins was both. His writing is full of narrative or descriptive bits that would be routine but for Huggins' verbal twists, his knack of imparting a sense of foreboding to even the most trivial observations. His protagonist, a private investigator named Stuart Bailey, is knocked unconscious and — stop me if you've heard this before — comes to in a motel room to discover he's alone.   "Nobody lived in this room anymore," Bailey thinks, and that packs a melancholy punch that, say, "Harvey and Muriel were gone" or "the room was as empty as the feeling in my gut" just can't match. (The story has Bailey falsely suspected of murder, on the run, on his own, short of just about everything a man needs to survive. I'll give my right arm if that's not The Fugitive in embryonic form.)

The first story similarly demonstrates Huggins' flair for enlivening by verbal power alone a routine P.I. fiction set piece, in this case that of the slightly seedy investigator — in Los Angeles, naturally— reflecting wryly on the joys and hazards of his profession:
"Sunset Strip us a body of County territory entirely surrounded by the city of Los Angeles, a mile and a half of relentlessly contemporary architecture, housing, restaurants, bistros, Hollywood agents, and shops where the sell is as soft as a snowflake and just as cold."
Find me a word-picture of L.A. this side of Raymond Chandler better than that one. And how about Bailey's observation that "if a private investigator keeps an open mind and avoids drafts he can learn an awful lot about his fellow man."? I like creative twists on de rigueur crime-fiction scenes, and I love avoids drafts.

The third story-portion of 77 Sunset Strip is a piece of high-concept piffle, a strained English-style country-house mystery adapted to mid-century Los Angeles with a ludicrous solution and a touch of 1950s techno-paranoia thrown in. But the first two parts of the book are so good that the letdown in Part Three hardly matters.
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Max Allan Collins will discuss Roy Huggins on a panel I'll moderate at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach, Calif., next month. The panel is called "Beyond Hammett, Chandler, and Spillane: Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Eras," and it happens at 3 p.m, Friday, Nov. 14.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

P.S.I.P.O.: Rock and Roll Is Here to Pay, Part II

I wasted part of my Sunday watching YouTube clips of big rock and roll stars inducting other big rock and roll stars into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame™.

Mick Jagger was graceful, fluent, humble, enlightening and entertaining inducting the Beatles, and Paul McCartney moving in the recollections with which he inducted John Lennon. Ringo Starr's acceptance speech reminded me of a barroom soliloquy by an entertaining chap four drinks too amused by his own wit. And Pete Townshend? The man needs help and understanding, or at least he did in 1988.

This was the music of just before my youth, and it's the stuff I grew up listening to. Even Townshend's borderline tasteless jokes were leavened by his humility about the Rolling Stones, whom he inducted. There's something fascinating about watching musicians talking about their own favorite musicians. It's enough to give someone my age the feeling that he knows the people who provided the soundtrack of his youth.

Then the camera would cut to reaction shots of the audience, and I might as well have been looking at a Hollywood fund-raiser for a well-heeled Democratic presidential candidate. I wondered how much it cost to get a table at the front and how prominent a benefactor one had to be. I suspect no one under the age of, say, 45 will remember when listeners were fooled into thinking that rock and roll was about liberation and rebellion. And before you say, "Bruce Springsteen," know that he recently denied a college marching band permission to perform his music, according to the band's director.

Here's a blog post from Bouchercon 2012 and my visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame™, when I wrote that "rebellion has mellowed into concern for property rights." And I just can't bring myself to link to any of the numerous online lists of "The Top(sic) 5/10/20/50 Richest Rock and Roll Stars.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Port Richmond Books — For all your Bouchercon shopping needs

I needed a Doc Savage novel for one of my Bouchercon  panels, and I thought Port Richmond Books might have one or two if anyone did. "Oh, yeah," owner Greg Gillespie said, with a solemn nod. He ducked into an office and fetched not one, not two, but a box full of Docs and then, before I could pick my jaw back up from the floor, he handed me another armful, some omnibuses, some single-novel volumes, mostly 1960s reprints of the books, which first appeared in the 1930s and 1940s. (I bought two books, not two boxes of books.) Port Richmond Books   Your Doc Savage Headquarters.

I also bought 77 Sunset Strip, a novel by Roy Huggins, who created the television series of the same name.  Max Allan Collins will discuss Huggins on the same moderated-by-me Bouchercon panel where Sara J. Henry talks up Doc Savage's main author, Lester Dent. Port Richmond Books  For all your Bouchercon shopping needs.

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The panel in question is Beyond Hammett, Chandler, and Spillane: Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Eras, and it happens at 3 p.m., Friday, Nov. 14, at the Hyatt Regency, Long Beach. Gary Phillips, Charles Kelly, and Sarah Weinman will join Max and Sara on the panel. See you there.
I took some photos on the way to and from Port Richmond.  Can you detect a theme common to my photography ad my shopping?

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sara J. Henry joins Team Detectives Beyond Borders for Bouchercon 2014 panel

Sara J. Henry has joined the "Beyond Hammett, Chandler, and Spillane: Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Eras" panel that I'll moderate at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach, Calif.

Sara is the author of the novels Learning to Swim and A Cold and Lonely Place, the latter of which will be up for the best-novel Anthony Award at Bouchercon. For my panel, she'll discuss Lester Dent, the prolific principal author of Doc Savage, with a few remarks about Charlotte Armstrong, whose A Dram of Poison won the best-novel Edgar Award in 1957.

I met Sara at Bouchercon 2008 in Baltimore, where she made her first big crime-fiction splash when everyone but me mistook her for Sarah Weinman. That's why I'm especially tickled that Sarah Weinman will also be on the panel. (Get a sneak peak at Sara and Sarah here, and see what all the confusion was about.)
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Beyond Hammett, Chandler, and Spillane: Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Eras happens at 3 p.m., Friday, Nov. 14, at the Hyatt Regency, Long Beach. Not everyone on the panel is named Sara or Sarah, spent formative years in Ontario, or is haunted by a crime-fiction doppelganger. Max Allan Collins, Charles Kelly, and Gary Phillips will also take part. 

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Max Allan Collins on Jack Carter's Law

Max Allan Collins will be on a panel I'll moderate at Bouchercon 2014 next month in Long Beach, Calif. He'll discuss writers from the past (The panel is called Beyond Hammett, Chandler, and Spillane: Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Eras), but I decided to read some of his own work as part of my preparation. I read his Quarry novels, liked them, read the graphic novel Road to Perdition, and liked it.

Then I decided to take a break with Jack Carter Law's, second in Syndicate Books' welcome reissues of the great Ted Lewis' catalogue, and lo, this new edition of Lewis' chilling, funny, deadpan 1974 classic comes with an introduction by—Max Allan Collins.

Collins notes Lewis' bleak sense of place and Carter's deadpan first-person narration. (Carter is also the protagonist of Get Carter, published originally as Jack's Return Home, then retitled after the success of the celebrated movie that starred Michael Caine. He is also the protagonist of Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon, coming soon from Syndicate.) Did I mention bleakness?  Here's Collins comparing Lewis and Carter to Collins' beloved Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer:
"Spillane's fever-dream Manhattan is never as real as Lewis's London, and while Hammer is a good guy who defeats bad guys with their own methods, Carter is simply a bad guy with methods."
Maybe that bleakness, that deadpan is what makes so many of Carter's observations so unsettling and so funny at the same time, including this, about the two gangster bosses for whom he is an enforcer and planner:
"The room I am in is all Swedish.  It's a big room, low-ceilinged, and when Gerald and Less had it built on top of the club they'd let a little poof called Kieron Beck have his way with the soft furnishings. Everything about the room is dead right. The slightly sunken bit in the middle lined with low white leather settees ... the curtains that make a noise like paper money when you draw them—everything is perfect. The only things that look out of place are Gerald and Les. So much so that they make the place look as if you could have picked all the stuff up at Maple's closing-down sale."
Jack Carter's Law is. so far, bleaker and wittier than the just about anything in the great Richard Stark's bleak and witty Parker novels. And it has the style that modern-day makers of gangster movies such as Guy Ritchie can only dream about.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Monday, October 13, 2014

My Bouchercon panels: Joe Nazel's Street Wars

Race is not generally a laughing matter in America, so I was surprised and pleased to find some nicely executed humor amid the violence and misery and frenetic action of Joe Nazel's Street Wars. A co-protagonist with a huge appetite charges out into the street to save the day, but not before stopping for breakfast. His colleague charges out on an even more urgent mission, only to be detained by an insistent pastor. The robbery, chase, and car crash that set the novel's action in motion would make one of the great movie scenes in all of action cinema, if a director, cameraman, and editor could tell as many stories, present as many character sketches (including one of a woman who loses her pizza in the carnage), and capture as much speed and excitement on the screen as Nazel does on the page.

 Nazel also aimed satire at self-delusion among African Americans, mixing terror and humor, embodied in the crumbling Regal Arms hotel, almost a character in itself, where the protagonists run their security agency. "It was said," Nazel writes, that a black dentist built the hotel after being turned away from larger downtown Los Angeles hotels. But
"Aging street historians claimed to know the `real dirt.' The dentist, they said, had been passing for white in the East. He had built a sizeable and profitable practice in a well-to-do white community, and was doing quite well until his true colors were exposed. He, his white wife, and cocoa-brown, nappy-head, new-born son, were forced out of town, a few terrifying steps ahead of an angry lynch mob with perfect white teeth."
I'm pretty sure Nazel would have read Chester Himes' Cotton Comes to Harlem. He calls his heroes Terrence Malcolm Slaughter and Fred "Dead-On-Arrival" Hollis (Hollis is the big eater), and those monikers look to me like affectionate, over-the-top nods to Himes' Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson. Like Himes' book, Street Wars has a sprawling cast chasing loot through a big-city black community, Like Himes, Nazel targets thieving preachers and self-proclaimed revolutionaries (though Nazel, whose book appeared years after Himes' 1965 novel, calls his revolutionaries "left over from the Sixties.").

An obituary for Nazel, who died in 2006, appeared under the headline "Joe Nazel, 62; L.A. Journalist, Biographer of Black Luminaries." I'm not sure if that's a tribute to the range of his interests, or a snub for his crime, horror, and adventure novels.  For an idea of what Nazel got up to, read an appreciation by Emery Holmes II.

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 Gary Phillips will discuss Joe Nazel as part of my panel on Beyond Hammett, Chandler, and Spillane: Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Eras on Friday at 3.p.m. at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

My Bouchercon panels: Paul Charles, youse two perverts, and a question for readers

Paul Charles' Northern Ireland, or at least the version of it in his current novel, is different from the ones in much recent Northern Ireland crime writing, because its setting is a village with a population of 617, rather than Belfast's bleak, violent streets.

The book is The Lonesome Heart is Angry, and the opening chapters suggest that Charles loves his setting and knows how to create a convincing picture of village life.

Two brothers, farmers and twins, have reached their late twenties and have decided the time has come to marry. Times being hard, however, they can afford just one wife between them.  Here's part of the ensuing dialogue with the village matchmaker, explaining gently while that sort of thing is just not done:
"‘Maybe you’ll be introduced, find an excuse to say something, just make that vital connection. So next time you see her, no matter where it might be, you’ll have the confidence to talk to her a bit more. ... You might ask one of those hypothetical questions, you know, “Em, you know, so and so, well, em, I was thinking: do you know what would happen if I … There’s this friend of mine and he really likes her and he was thinking, and I said I would check for him, so do you think if he asked her out, you know, would she go, you know, out with him?” And the friend will probably answer, “Oh yes – where were you thinking of taking her to?” 
"‘Then you ask her out. You go for a walk, you talk a lot ... and maybe, just maybe, after a couple of years you will discuss marriage. ... But it’s important, vitally important, that the early stages are as natural as humanly possible. Do youse understand that?’ 
"The twins nodded. 
"‘So at what point in this procedure were youse two perverts going to tell the sorry lass that she’d be sleeping with both of you?’"
That reminds me a bit of Pierre Magnan's crime novels of rural France for its amusing sexual slant, but especially for the delicious, slow pace with which the scene builds up to its punch line (I omitted parts of the exchange for reasons of length.) I look forward to more.

What are your favorite recent crime stories with rural or village settings? And why? Does country life get a fair shake in crime fiction? Comments are especially welcome from readers familiar with village life. 
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Paul Charles will be part of my Belfast Noir: Stories of Mayhem and Murder from Northern Ireland panel at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach, California. The panel happens at 11:30 a.m, Friday, Nov. 14. See you there.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Brian McGilloway on the personal, the political, and the police

Brian McGilloway's novels address Northern Ireland's Troubles in striking, though oblique fashion.  His story "The Undertaking" gets the upcoming Belfast Noir collection off to a rousing start. And, in this Detectives Beyond Borders post from a few years back, he offers some thoughts on the personal and the political in Northern Ireland.
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I've pondered in recent posts Brian McGilloway's interesting choice of a police officer, or Garda, from the Irish Republic as protagonist of his two crime novels, both set along the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. I've also wondered about the place in the books of the North's bloody sectarian Troubles.

McGilloway, who grew up in Derry in the North, sent a thoughtful reply to my posts that reminded me of what Matt Rees likes to say when asked if he plans to include Israeli characters in his novels set in the Palestinian territories. No, Rees says, because to do so might lead to unseemly and distracting side-taking.

McGilloway's novels are Borderlands and the new Gallows Lane. Without further ado, here's what their author has to say about the personal, the political, the police and the hero of the books, Inspector Benedict Devlin:
"I know you've been questioning the issue of a Northern Irish writer setting his hero in the Republic, then working with the North's PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland). The main reason for it, I suppose, was to avoid the political. During the time of writing, policing was still a hot issue in Northern Ireland. I was aware that, as a Northern writer, people would rightly or wrongly look at the books for a political angle on the presentation of the PSNI. By filtering their presentation through Devlin's eyes, it allows Devlin to direct, to some extent, the reader's reactions and makes his response to the PSNI a personal rather than political one. I hope that makes sense.

"In addition, the PSNI was changing so much that, by the time the book would have been published, their presentation would have been out of date. Some Northern Irish politicians still complain if it's discovered that Guards are coming into Northern Ireland — on the ground it's happening much more frequently than people expect, I imagine. I thought that was an interesting and unique angle from which to approach a police procedural.
"And of course the Guards over here have had their own problems recently — considered more fully perhaps in the second Devlin book, Gallows Lane.

"As for the Troubles — I wanted to write a non-Troubles book but, around the Border, it would be unrealistic to assume that they're not there somewhere — thus the only representation of the Troubles in
Borderlands is the disembodied voice, talking about the past. It's there, but increasingly insubstantial. Or that was my intention, at least."
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My Belfast Noir: Stories of Mayhem and Murder from Northern Ireland panel at Bouchercon 2014, featuring Gerard Brennan, Paul Charles, Adrian McKinty, and Stuart Neville, happens at 11:30 a.m, Friday, Nov. 14, in the Regency B room at the Hyatt Regency, Long Beach. See you there.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008, 2014

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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

My Bouchercon panels: Requiems for the Departed

Sure, the messy birth of the political entity called Northern Ireland offers a rich setting for grim stories, but Irish crime writers can reach further back into their country's past for source material. Four years ago, a bunch of them did, in an anthology called Requiems for the Departed.
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Myths don't work unless they're with us, around us, even in us.

That's why the Requiems for the Departed collection is so powerful. Its stories invoke Irish myth, most of them updating settings and, often, names, but retaining what seems to this non-expert the unsettling power and bringing it to crime fiction.

The contributors are an all-star list of Irish crime writing, some of whom readers of Detectives Beyond Borders may know (Stuart Neville, Adrian McKinty, Ken Bruen, Brian McGilloway, Garbhan Downey) and others whose names may be new (Arlene Hunt, John McAllister, Sam Millar, and quite a number more).

He was around when the myths were real.
Bog body ("Gallagh Man"), National
Museum of Ireland
, Dublin. Photo by
your humble blogkeeper.
Bruen's story is brash and chilling, McKinty's. Neville's, and McAllister's the stuff to keep you awake at night, and McGilloway's a little police procedural with a delightfully comic ending. (The story features his series character, Inspector Benedict Devlin and offers evidence that myth can mix easily with a contemporary setting.)

Pop on over to Crime Scene. N.I. for all kinds of good stuff about the book from co-editor Gerard Brennan.
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Gerard Brennan, Adrian McKinty, and Stuart Neville, will be part of a panel I'll moderate at Bouchercon 2014 called Belfast Noir: Stories of Mayhem and Murder from Northern Ireland. The panel happens Friday, Nov. 14, at 11:30 a.m. See you there.

© Peter Rozovsky 2010, 2014

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Monday, October 06, 2014

Off the Cuff on names, plus why the hell am I flying to Bouchercon (when I could go by train)?

(Trees early in the morning in Fullerton, Calif., December 2013.
Photo by Peter Rozovsky, your humble blogkeeper)
I've been reading Max Allan Collins' Quarry novels, which makes Dietrich Kalteis and Martin J. Frankson's latest Off the Cuff post especially timely: It's about character names in crime fiction. "For example," writes Frankson:
"is it credible to have a twenty-year-old Edith or Beryl or Victor? It’s possible, but those names may be unknown in certain demographics. Similarly, how many fifty-year-olds are named Kanye or Jadyn? If one really wants to name a character as such, a bit of backstory behind the mismatching name-to-age might be interesting in the story."
I would add any name ending in -ee to that latter group, along with Jen, and all the world's non-Irish Brendans.

The photo, reproduced above, with which Dietrich illustrates the discussion, is also timely. I've been posting about Bouchercon 2014, which takes place next month in Long Beach, Calif., about 25 miles west and south of Fullerton, where I took that photo of palm trees at sunrise last year.

I took the photo from my compartment in the Southwest Chief, at the end of a glorious two-day train ride from Chicago to Los Angeles. So why, given the chance to repeat the trip for Bouchercon, am I willingly subjecting myself to the misery that is American commercial air travel?

(See all Off the Cuff posts.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Sunday, October 05, 2014

My Bouchercon panels: More on the great Dan J. Marlowe

(Photo by your humble blogkeeper; has
nothing to do with Dan J. Marlowe)
Earlier this year I called Dan J. Marlowe's first novel, Doorway to Death, "loaded with sex and adverbs," and for a while there I thought Marlowe, who published the book in 1959, was simply using hard-boiled syntax that came naturally to him from crime writing of the 1930s and '40s.  Then I started coming across examples like these:
"He sighed, stretched lengthily..."

"He stripped the bed, walked stiffleggedly to the bathroom.."

"Inside the panelled doors he rushed softfootedly past the drowsing drinkers..."

"Manuel’s dark eyes lingered fascinatedly..."

“`Come in, come in!' Lieutenant Dameron barked irritatedly..."

"Resignedly he dried his face and took down the electric razor."
and I began to suspect that Marlowe was having fun, bidding a fond farewell to the adverb-laden hard-boiled prose of his younger days, deliberately taking it over the top. A sentence from the great Name of the Game Is Death confirmed the impression:
"I backed out tanglefootedly under Mrs. Newman’s bright-eyed inspection."
to which I smiled not just amazedly, but also appreciatingly.  In any case, by the time Strongarm appeared in 1963, the extravagant-adverb count was way down, from Doorway to Death's 73 words ending in -dly to 43.

But Marlowe was more than just adverbs and odd word choices (“'You’re in trouble, Jerry!' she accused her husband.")  If you like Richard Stark's Parker, you might like Marlowe. If you like Stephen King's "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption," you might like Marlowe. If you like revenge stories and you want to see how a master wrote them, you might like Marlowe. If you like man-on-the-run stories, you might like Marlowe. If you  like your sex scenes with a bit of an edge, you might like Marlowe. A blog post by Ed Gorman sums up nicely Marlowe's ability to evoke so many of the great hard-boiled crime writers.
*
Charles Kelly's Gunshots in Another Room bears the subtitle "The Forgotten Life of Dan J. Marlowe," so I'll pick it up with the expectation of learning why that strange and interesting life has been forgotten. In the meantime, Kelly tells a short version of Marlowe's story over at Allan Guthrie's Noir Originals.
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Charles Kelly will discuss Dan J. Marlowe as part of a panel I'll moderate at Bouchercon 2014. The panel is called "Beyond Hammett, Chandler, and Spillane: Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Eras," and it happens at 3 p.m, Friday, Nov. 14. See you there. 

© Peter Rozovsky 2013, 2014

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Friday, October 03, 2014

The books my Bouchercon panelists die for

Five members of panels I'll moderate at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach next month contributed to Books to Die For, John Connolly and Declan Burke's 2012 collection of essays by crime writers about their own favorite crime novels and stories. Here's some of what my panelist/contributors had to say about the writers who influenced them:
"Dexter's books are essentially puzzles. He once said that he was as anxious for the detective to manage without a pathology lab as he was for the crossword puzzler to manage without a dictionary."
-- Paul Charles on Colin Dexter 
"For all the talk of Hammett and Chandler as the founders of the hard-boiled feasts--and I revere them as much as the next guy or gal--it's Spillane and [James M.] Cain who were the most influential."
-- Max Allan Collins on Mickey Spillane 
"As she grew more successful and confident, the humanity began to drain from her books. Most of us would not act like the unruffled, aloof Tom Ripley, but every one of us could see himself falling into the abyss of cowardice and mendacity that finally drives poor Guy Haines to kill."
-- Adrian McKinty on Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train 
"The greatest thing I've gained from Ellroy is the will to take my characters farther and deeper into the dark places than I, or the reader, might be comfortable with."
-- Stuart Neville on James Ellroy 
"This was not literature that uplifted the race. Cooper wasn't profiled in the pages of Ebony or, I imagine, discussed much, if at all, among the self-identified arts and literature crowd. The Urban League wouldn't be inviting him to speak at their annual dinner."
-- Gary Phillips on Clarence Cooper Jr.'s The Scene
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Paul Charles, Adrian McKinty and Stuart Neville will be part of my Belfast Noir: Stories of Mayhem and Murder from Northern Ireland panel at Bouchercon 2014 on Friday, Nov. 14, at 11:30 a.m.  Max Allan Collins and Gary Phillips will be part of my Beyond Hammett, Chandler, and Spillane: Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Eras panel Friday at 3 p.m..

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Thursday, October 02, 2014

My Bouchercon 2014 panels: Max Allan Collins just wants to have fun

Max Allan Collins will discuss other writers during a panel I'll moderate at Bouchercon 2014 next month, but his own work is worth reading as well. His three most recent Quarry novels, the latest in a series that began in the 1970s, suggest that Collins shared the savvy professionalism of the pulp and paperback-original writers who will be the panel's main subject.

The three books—Quarry in the Middle, Quarry's Ex, and The Wrong Quarry, each published by Hard Case Crime—begin with the hitman/entrepreneur protagonist, Quarry, embarking on a job. (Collins sets the books in the Reagan era and has just enough fun with the period's social, political, and, most of all, musical trappings to remind readers of the setting without getting in the story's way.)

Quarry became a hitman after military service in Vietnam, where he learned to kill; killed his boss after the boss cheated him; then created and exploited a niche in the murder market: He uses his boss' old files to track the contract killers long enough to figure out who their targets are, then goes to the targets and offers to kill the killers for a handsome fee—which he does in due course, about a third of the way through each book. And that's where the real fun starts, and Quarry is forced to turn detective and figure out who the bad guys really are.

This format lets Collins exploit any number of crime and adventure conventions. Quarry is a disillusioned Vietnam vet, though without the psychological baggage. He's a tough-guy ass-kicker with a bit of the wise-cracking self-awareness of the Saint. He's a mildly self-effacing babe magnet, with an amiable susceptibility to women, a Shell Scott with more sex and fewer extravagant anatomical similes. And, when compelled to figure out who's really who, and who wants what and why, he makes a more than credible detective.

Along the way, the books' (possible) crime-fiction references include Richard Stark's Parker: Quarry in the Middle has one character apprehensive that Quarry plans to rob a casino, a la The Handle. But Quarry laughs and reassures his nervous interlocutor that he, Quarry, is part of no plunder squad. (One of Collins' other series pays amusing tribute to crime and espionage classics in such titles as A Shroud for Aquarius and The Baby Blue Rip-Off.)

I don't know how the Quarry series has changed over the years, whether the earlier novels are more straightforward hitman tales than these later ones. Nor do I know whether those early books partake as freely of the crime-fiction smorgasbord. But Quarry in the Middle, Quarry's Ex, and The Wrong Quarry take a '50s-style tough guy, give him a '60-style back story, and set the results in the 1970s. Pastiche? Maybe, but by God, Collins pulls it off, and has lots of fun doing it.
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Max Allan Collins will be part of my Beyond Hammett, Chandler, and Spillane: Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Eras panel Friday, Nov. 14, 3 p.m. at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach. See you there.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Block on Westlake and his (non) jokes (or, the comedy is finished)

Lawrence Block remembers his friend
Donald Weslake during a celebration
at Mysterious Bookshop. Photo by Peter
Rozovsky, your humble blog keeper.
In addition to enjoying Donald Westlake's novels, I always found his remarks on movies, popular culture, and other subjects stimulating. So I was pleased when I learned that the University of Chicago Press, the same folks who are rereleasing all the Parker novels Westlake wrote as Richard Stark, has put together a collection of Westlake's nonfiction.

Now I'm pleased to find that some key people behind the book, titles The Getaway Car, think similarly about what made Westlake so good. "Don didn't write jokes," his longtime friend Lawrence Block said Monday at a celebration of the book. "He found amusing ways to say things."  Levi Stahl, the volume's editor, emphasized the point with a little game in which he had members of the audience read the opening lines of several of the Parker novels (and one featuring Alan Grofield).

Here are a few I liked and remembered fondly:
"When the guy with asthma finally came in from the fire escape Parker rabbit-punched him and took his gun away."
and
"When the woman screamed, Parker awoke and rolled off the bed."
and
"Grofield opened his right eye, and there was a girl climbing in the window. He closed that eye, opened the left, and she was still there."
Do you see the fun Westlake has with a common speech pattern in that last example?  Lawrence Block was right. Westlake didn't just say funny things, he said things funny.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ferdowsi is a bit like Max Allan Collins, too

Rostam rescues Bizhan from the pit,
from a 17th-century manuscript of

the ShahnamehLondon, British Library
I've been reading Max Allan Collins' Quarry novels in preparation for a panel I'll moderate at Bouchercon in November. I've also been reading the Shahnameh, Iran's national epic, a book in connection with which I invoked Raymond Chandler yesterday.

One of those books includes a sequence in which the hero falls for the wrong dame and winds up getting drugged, kidnapped, and imprisoned despite the following precaution:
"He always carried in his boot / A blue-steel dagger."
Can you guess where in my recent reading that's from? (Hint: The book was written in the 10th and 11th centuries.)

While you're doing that, join once again in a favorite Detectives Beyond Borders game, and name some great literature that shares elements with crime fiction.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Persia's 10th- and 11th-century Raymond Chandler

If Hakim Abu ʾl-Qasim Ferdowsi Tusi  (or Firdausi) had lived about 970 years later, and if he'd worked in Los Angeles rather than in a Turko-Persian Muslim dynasty, he might have rivaled Raymond Chandler for atmospheric beginnings:
'"The night was like jet dipped in pitch. there lent /
No planet lustre to the firmament /
The moon, appearing in her new array /
...
Through rust and dust she journeyed through the sky /
Night's retinue had spread out everywhere /
A carpet black as raven's plumes ... "
That's the beginning of "The Story of Bizhan and Manizha" from Iran/Persia's national epic the Shahnameh (Book of Kings), and it's a hell of a way of saying, "It was dark out." Think of it as a medieval Near Eastern counterpart to:
“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”
And now, readers, what are your favorite depictions of night, or your favorite pieces of atmosphere in general, in crime fiction or otherwise?

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Three authors in a dark and friendly place

(Photos by Peter Rozovsky, your humble blog keeper)
Once again, Dietrich Kalteis and Martin Frankson discuss aspects of crime writing at Kalteis' Off the Cuff site, this time with fellow author  Robin Spano as a guest. Once again, Kalteis illustrates the discussion with one of my noir photos (above).

This discussion  touches on a number of issues that have come up here at Detectives Beyond Borders, noticeably that off setting a crime story in a historical period other than one's own. So head on over, have a seat at the Friendly Lounge, and join the discussion.

And here are a few more photos.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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