Monday, June 27, 2011

Fly Me To The Morgue/The Writing Of Robert J. Randisi

Fly Me To The Morgue. Your Nobody Til Somebody Kills You. Luck Be A Lady Don't Die. These are some of the titles of the books in the Rat Pack Series written by Robert J. Randisi.

The setting is the gritty Las Vegas of the late fifties and sixties; long before Disney tried to ravage the strip with Mickey Mouse and their pirates. This is the Vegas of High Rollers, Hustlers and WiseGuys. And for this reader, it is a pleasure to visit.

The plot is centered around a pit boss named Eddie G at the Sands who is always being to called on by the Rat Pack to solve a mystery of some sort. To help with the legwork, Eddie gets the assistance of a low level gangster named Jerry Epstein. In the process of carrying out whatever assignment Frank, Dino, or Sammy give them, the two end up getting shot at, beat up, or shaken down by the local cops. Pure hard boiled fun!

This to me this is pulp fiction at its finest and I intend to read as many of these mysteries as I can get my hands on.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Philip Jose Farmer and Riverworld

Ok I have to confess I am not an expert on Farmer's body of work. But I did enjoy the first two books of the Riverworld series and he is on my summer reading list. So I expect to read the others in the series as well. Aside from that let me say that if you  get the chance and your deck is clear, read both To Your Scattered Bodies Go and the Fabulous Riverboat. These two books are the first in Farmer's Famous Riverworld Saga.

The premise of this story is that people who have died have ended up on this world that is one long continious river. They have all been cured of whatever they were dealing with on Earth and are outfitted with a small cup that they can put on these rock formations and they get food and whatever other sustinence they need. Add to that they are naked and hairless when they first get there.

The main characters are Sir Richard Burton the explorer and Mark Twain. Mark Twain in both stories builds a riverboat with the intent to explore. Both characters, sometimes together, battle people who wish to exploit them and they have harrowing adventures.

I read the Riverworld series when I was college and wonder if it still holds up to my 43 year old scrutiny. We shall see.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

reflections of the day

This is another mundane blog since I am in between books. I had a good day. It is good to mobile again. Looked at new edges and saw a red one that had my name on it. I went to the library and checked out some books--all research.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Just a quick hello and a reflection on the day

Hey folks. Just thought I'd drop in and say hello. Today my folks and I went to the St. Louis Art Museum. I would say my favorite pieces of art are on the third floor where the modern art is. I like the collection of expressionist paintings, with the exception of Max Beckman(sp)  My favorite exhibit was the room full Ian Munroe works. There will be a blog dedicated to him. He dealt with metal creations where he would paint images on pieces of sheet metal. I wouldn't mind owning one of his works but I am sure they are expensive. Well that's it for now.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ron Fortier and Brother Grim

There is alot to say about Ron and his writing--so, I am pretty sure that I will have to write another blog dedicated soley to his literary output. I stumbled upon him and his book Brother Grim back 05. And I'm glad I did. It was like reading a golden age comic or something that Will Eisner may have wrote. Some might compare him Frank Miller but I think he is in a class all his own. His writing is pure pulp and of the muscular quality; it gets the job done. I like the fact that he does not over do the purple prose. He also does a very good job at describing atmosphere. And the atmosphere is very dark-- it better be if you are going to name your fictional city Cape Noir(sp).

His hero Brother Grim is almost a Frankenstien character in that he was created from something bad into something worse. But despite that, he is what the city of Cape Noir needs to protect them from all of the supernatural wraiths and ordinary cuttthroats and crime bosses that walk the city every day.

The first story in the anthology is called Brother Grimm and deals with his creation. The other stories deal with other characters. Brother Grimm usually makes an appearance.
This is something that I like because it gives a different perspective on the main character. I have done that in my own work.

Fortier has written other books. The one I intend to read is The Hounds of Hells. He is not a mainstream writer but that's ok. He recalls the work of Lester Dent, Edgar Rice Burroughs and other pulp greats. He is proof that pulp fiction is alive.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mickey Spillane

Mickey Spillane is not necessarily noir, but he is hard boiled. I would say he is the quintessential hard-boiled writer. His Mike Hammer is not only tough as nails he eats them. He also peoples his stories with voluptious women and Mike's secretary is no exception. What is interesting is that even though there are all of these gorgeous women in the stories, Mike always has a hands off policy. This could be due in part to his allegience to Velda his secretary; in most of the early novels he is engaged to her. This to me is what adds to the uniqueness of the story; Mike's resistence to temptation. It also gives him a laser like focus on what he is doing, which makes the story straight forward from beginning to end.

What I also like about the stories is that every one of them with the exception of I the Jury contains a government conspiracy that involves communists. This gave Spillane's writing a definate Fascist bent which differentiated it from writers like Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler.  If I had to pick my favorite books I would list them as follows:

One Lonely Night

Kiss Me Deadly

I, the Jury

The Girl Hunters

The Girl Hunters so far is unique because it shows the passage of time and portrays a broken down Mike Hammer and also shows the consequences of the choices he made in past mysteries and stories. As for Kiss Me Deadly, you must see Robert Aldritch's version which he made into a 50's Sci Fi noir that gives you chills.

In the 80's Stacy Keach stared in the series Mike Hammer which was also very good. But if I had to choose I think Ralph Meeker portrayed the best Mike Hammer in Kiss Me Deadly.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Salutations and Hellos

Not much to report. Although reecently I've been enjoying this game on Facebook called Pawn Stars. Don't worry I won't appear on your news feed saying i need help in buying the confederate sword. But, what a time waster.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Richard Stark and Parker

I said this blog was dedicated to all the things that inspired Huey Dusk and my writing, so I can't think of better person and series of books to talk about than Richard Stark's Parker series.

The character Parker is an amoral Heist Man and every novel is about a big robbery that he and his crew pull off. Some are more successful than others. Even though there is nothing on the surface that is special about the heist, I find the planning stage very interesting, in that there are so many details to attend to and Parker is always having to aquire heavy equipment such as trucks etc. Also, he is always needing to purchase this equipment from alot of shady people and he is always worrying about making it less conspicious with the police. I also like the fact he is working with people that he can never completly trust. Every once in awhile one tries to double cross him. In fact the first The Hunter book is all about his going after the guy who crossed him on a job. In another book he tries to take down the Outfit. The books are never to violent but when there is killing the characters do not mess around. They are quick and brutal about it. especially Parker, he is amoral and if you get in his way he has no choice but to cool you. Despite this fact you somehow like him and are rooting for him to succeed, and the reason is because all of the characters surrounding him are worse-- and that is part of Richard Stark's magic.

Stark writes lean muscular prose and paints a brutal world. His landscapes are bleak and the people in habitting them are rough and emotionally weather beaten. Most of them will stab you in the back when it is turned. In order to survive in this kind world you need a man like Parker. This makes him sympathetic and someone to root for. As for me, Parker and Richard Stark have played a big part in influencing my own writing.

I thought of him along with Mike Hammer when I came up with my legendary clown character Huey Dusk. Also, in one Huey Dusk related story I almost modeled the main character directly after Parker. This series is one of the finest examples of crime fiction and Stark has influenced many author's and directors; two famous people of note ar Elmore Leonard and Quentin Tarratino. For example, read some Parker novels then watch Reservior Dogs and then tell me there is not an influence. Another good example, though not Tarrantino would be Michael Mann's movie Heat. The opening was very similar to the book the Plunder Squad. You will find Stark's influence all over the literary and film world where crime fiction exists. I urge you all to read this wonderful series which can be bought at most bookstores. Right now they are re releasing the series in some very nice looking trade paperbacks

Super 8

Yestderday Kim and I had the pleasure of going to see Super 8. It is directed by JJ Abrams of Lost fame and it shows. It was produced by Steven Spielberg and you can see that as well.

Super 8 is a Sci Fi movie... I would go so far to say that it is a B Science Fiction because it brings back the memory of movies such as Goonies and Gremlins. It takes place in the fictional town of Lillian Ohio and the story is centered around a group of middle schoolers shooting a horror move. While they are shooting they witness a horrific train crash that was caused by a person in a pick up truck driving onto the tracks and colliding with it head on. The train crash is quite impressive and even though kids are the stars of movie you are not sure they are going to survive. They do. And as they are rummaging the sight they find the man responsible who is miraculously still alive; they find that out when in horror movie fashion he pops his head up off the steering wheel and scares them. He manages to tell the kids to basically forget what they saw at the sight. However it is hard for the kids to walk away and one kid walks away with a mysterious cube like object. After of which the military shows up and the kids get away just in time. We then start to surmise there is a very sinister cargo aboard the train. The rest of the movie then deals with the town reconciling with the train crash and the mysterious cargo aboard which starts to affect the town adversly, for example, dogs start disappearing. Cars won't start and some have their engines mangled. We learn that what was on the train is an extra terrestrial being... and as I said before one of the trademarks of JJ Abrams is that you don't see the monster like in Lost and the black smoke.

Super 8 is an entertaining movie and what I especially liked about the movie was the accurate depiction of 1979-80. It put me right back in that period and I remembered wanting to make my own movie back then. They also did a good job of making the military sinister but not in a stereotypical way. If I had to nit pick i thought the kids dialogue was a little wooden. Kyle Chandler who plays the sheriff's deputy was good and this was despite the fact he is fresh from playing Coach Taylor from Friday Night lights. Other actors turned in good performances too. I don't think the movie will when any academy awards but it is entertaining. Super 8 opened this weekend and is playing at theater near you.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Charlie Varrick

Charlie Varrick is a movie starring Walter Matthau. It was directed by Don Seigel who also directed Dirty Harry.

The movie opens with Walter Matthau(Charlie) and his crew holding up a bank in a small town out west. As they are in the process of robbing the bank, the police become suspicious of the license plate on the car they are using as their getaway vehicle. When the police find out the car is stolen, a shoot out both with the police outside and inside the bank ensues. Charlie and the gang manage to shoot their way to the car and make their escape, but not without a car chase in which they fold up the hood on their car and get most of the crew killed except Charlie and another accomplice. From then on we learn that the bank they robbed was a mob bank and now both Charlie and his side kick have to hide out and eventually leave the area.

This movie was made in 1973 and it is one of my favorites because it is so unique for the following reasons:

  • The story is set in rural Northern Nevada which gives it a quirky feel.

  • The mob bank they are robbing is in a small rural town and the opening of the movie implies that residents are unaware of that fact.

  • It stars Walter Matthau in one of his finest roles. What makes it so great is that it was a part that could have been played by Clint Eastwood, but instead we get Walter Matthau delivering a edgy hardcore performance.

  • It also stars Joe don Baker of Walking Tall fame as a truly nasty bad guy, although he is very understated.
Charlie Varrick is definately a gem from the early seventies and is one that crime fiction lovers should see. Right now I've enjoyed streaming it on Netflix.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Killer of a Deal by Chris Bauer

Killer of a Deal is written by Chris Bauer and it is another story featuring his alter ego Cliff who is another everyman. And in this case, who we don't know much about except that he wants a new car and has a nagging wife. But that's ok for me since I know Chris is heavily influenced by Kafka who gives you little or know back story on his characters as he puts them in absurd and sometimes horrific situations.

The story starts out with Cliff ogling a car that an old man is selling He does the necessary and cursory inspections, but it is clear to see he wants the car. The man says it was his wife's car and she just one day walked away and never came back. Cliff remarks he wishes his would do the same. In the end he buys the car and takes it home to his wife.

Now I am not going to give away the ending. But, I will tell you this is no ordinary car. Christine? Stephen King?

What strikes me as interesting is that we gain true insight on Cliff based on his reactions to the behavior of this special car. He is not likeable. He is also very detached during this horrific situation with his wife.  I guess the one thing I would have recommended was that he be taught a lesson of some kind, but that never happens.

On balance I liked the story. However, I see it more as a dark comedy then horror. But, I urge all of you to read this anyway and draw your own conclusions.

Killer of a Deal by Chris Bauer can be purchased at

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Everything Must Go

On Sunday Kim and I took a trip to the Plaza Frontenac and saw a movie callled Everything Must Go.

It starred Will Ferrell and basically was  the type of role he played in Stranger Than Fiction where he's an everyman/loser.

The movie begins with him giving a speech about how to sell. Then he is called into his boss's office and is fired. From there his day goes progressively down hill and consists of his wife leaving him and locking him out of their house. She also dumps all of his stuff on his lawn. He then almost gets arrested and has to have a detective friend come and help him out in which it is decided that he has three days to clear his stuff off the lawn. Will he do it? That remains for you to see if you watch the movie.

Now to me the film's over all theme is selling and how it is big part of our lives. I think the big point that they drive home is that every chraracter is selling themselves on a life that either does not exist or is not available for them. The saddest part of the movie is that the way Will decides to clear his lawn is to have a yard sale and while doing that befriends a kid and has him help sell the merchandise. During this time he teaches him all the rules of selling; the same ones he espoused on the job. So, in a sense he is exposing this kid to the same behavior and life that failed for him.

All in all it is not a bad movie. It is a little slow in the beginning. I think it is worth putting on the Netflix que. It was based on a Raymond Carver story so I was honor bound to give it a chance.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Good Morning

Good morning friends... or as Henry Chinaski would say 'to all my friends!' Bukowski is another author I need to reread. Not much going on besides church and possibley another movie and a hotdog. These days though I am a crime fiction junkie... it's that there is so much to read so little time. But time obviously is mental, because in my situation I have plenty of it. But seriously, my plans are to read alot of books and review some of them. Well that's all for now.

God Bless


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Untreed Reads: Rebels with a cause

If you haven't already checked out the wonderful authors of Untreedreads, click and treat yourself to a smorgasborg of diverse authors with meanful things to say. Just don't submit anything for right now.