Thursday, November 05, 2009

A rage in Houston

One thing I love about crime bookstores like Houston's Murder by the Book and Belfast's No Alibis or Toronto's Sleuth of Baker Street is the sense of community among workers and readers. Here in Houston, it's de rigeur to belong to at least two crime-fiction book groups, and some people are in more.

Tonight it was the noir group's turn, and they discussed Chester Himes' A Rage in Harlem and The Jook by Gary Phillips, led by the capable Anita Thompson.

Before and after, I bought books by Bill James, Peter Corris, Reed Farrel Coleman and Ken Bruen, and Colin Cotterill. David Thompson is no relation to Anita, but he does help manage Murder by the Book, and he founded Busted Flush Press, and he'll recommend mysteries if you tease it out of him. He suggested The Wooden Overcoat by Pamela Branch, and I bought it.

Oh, and Houston also has good Mexican food.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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14 Comments:

Blogger Brian said...

Dave is the owner isn't he?

November 05, 2009  
Blogger Brian said...

Oh, and a Chester Himes, Gary Phillips discussion? I'm jealous.

November 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Officially, it's his wife, KcKenna Jordan, who bought the store. "Technically,” he told Publisher's Weekly, “McKenna is the one buying the store, so I’ll be working for her.”

November 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

With my bias toward the past, I was surprised that the group spent more time on Gary Phillips' book than on Chester Himes'. And, though the shop does not have a comics section (yet -- it's coming), I did see Filthy Rich and a few others on the shelves.

November 05, 2009  
Blogger Barbara said...

What did I miss? Why are you in Houston? It's a great store, isn't it. The high point of the city.

November 06, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And why shouldn't I be in Houston?

I'm on vacation, and I got a hankering to see America. This is my first time in Texas. Tonight I ate dinner at an Italian restaurant called Spaghetti Western. And Murder by the Book has to be up there with the best mystery bookstores in the world.

November 06, 2009  
Blogger Barbara said...

Sorry, I assumed a trip to Houston had to be for a reason, probably an unpleasant one. It is an unusual instance of America. And yes, that i one of the best bookstores anywhere.

If you carry on due west, you'll find that Texas feels as big as all the states you crossed before getting there.

November 08, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I did get to Galveston yesterday, where I spent part of the evening on my back in the bed of a pickup looking at the sky (a pleasant experience, I might add). Today, though, I head back north, to transit-strike-marred Philadelphia.

November 08, 2009  
Blogger Barbara said...

Oh yes, the strike ... oi.

Terrific photos, by the way.

November 08, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

These are good days for taxi drivers when they're not snarled in rush-hour traffic.

Thanks for the kind words about the photos. I may post a few more. Houston has much of what other big cities offer, only more, and some things other cities lack. I'm glad I've started carrying a camera on vacations again.

November 08, 2009  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Peter, I've just finished reading Chester Himes 'The Real Cool Killers', and I think you mentioned you had that 'Library of America' 1950s crime novel anthology which includes it, - but reading it re-affirmed for me how much I love the man's writing.

But given that my search revealed two blogs, three years apart, where he was being discussed at venues on opposite sides of the Atlantic means that he continues to be appreciated.
Can you recall anything about the discussions about him?

I'm about to read the third novel in that Harpur-Iles compilation but, although I've enjoyed both so far, for me Himes is still 'The Man' when it comes to blending humour, and local colour, with snappy top-notch crime fiction.

Although I have both LofA crime novel anthologies, I chose to read my browned-pages paper-back with the sassy 'blaxploitation babe' cover

July 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I've mentioned the Library of America volumes occasionally, but I don't own them. I have read two of Himes' Gravedigger and Coffin Ed novels, A Rage in Harlem and The Real Cool Killers.

I hadn't thought of this, but dark, dark humor make the joint invocation of James and Himes an apt one.

July 18, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

I've read about a hundred pages of the third Harpur-Iles and I think its fair to say that they keep getting better: apart from locale, and characters, though, I think a major difference between the two writers is that Bill James seems to have two distinct 'agendas', if you will: the lampooning, almost satirical humour, on the one hand; and the dark, tense crime stories on the other; whereas with Himes its a sparer, 'Hammett-like' prose, and the humour is more seamlessly integrated into the stories.

Once again, though, the French say it best: 'vive la différence'

And Iles would make a great stand-up comedian, methinks: too many great, offhand, 'one-liners'

July 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You may find that James emphasizes the lampoon and satire more and the dark, tense crime less as the series goes on. Or rather, he replaces the latter in some measure with a human kind of comedy.

July 19, 2010  

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