Friday, September 30, 2011
Icy Sedgwick is late of London, now back in Newcastle (not Liverpool, as previously noted). She’s been writing critically-acclaimed steampunk for a while now, but in her latest novel from the always-fearless Pulp Press, she treads new ground. And she comes up aces.
THE GUNS OF RETRIBUTION is a strong Western full of action, honor, betrayal, and fast guns. Our hero, Gray O’Donnell, is a bounty hunter with a strong sense of justice, on the trail of a criminal named Blackjack Bud Hudson. But his quest takes him a little too close to his old home in the town of Retribution, where some unfinished business in the form of Jasper Roberts awaits. Jasper is a scumbag who’s only lately become sheriff of Retribution, and he plans on using his newfound power to make life miserable for Gray—miserable enough that it can only end in a hanging.
Sedgwick has clearly done her research—the short novel is laced through with convincing bits of regional and historical asides. But to her credit, she doesn’t get bogged down in it. The story moves swiftly through a lot of very playful dialogue and action. There’s very little exposition, and that’s as it should be.
Gray is a very likeable hero; I couldn’t help but think he’d get along well with Edward Grainger’s Cash Laramie. Over-all, THE GUNS OF RETRIBUTION feels like a single episode in a longer saga, which I hope is an indication of more Gray O’Donnell to come.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
I already mentioned this on them there social media sites, like The Facebook and The Twitter, but I should say it here as well: this "less than 100 followers" thing is getting downright embarrassing. All the other bloggers are mocking me behind my back. So here's my offer...
If I can get to 100 followers... and beyond!!... I'll post an audio of me reading one of my stories here. You can close your eyes and listen to my dulcet tones and imagine James Earl Jones, Barry White, and Tommy Lee Jones all rolled up snug, reading a non-award-winning tale to chill yer hackles.
If you already follow, hey, thanks. If not, just click on that button somewhere over on the right. Or spread it around. I want them perks that come with more followers.
BROKEN BONES is the debut collection of up-and-comer Troy Lambert, and a fine collection it is. 19 stories total, most of them involving men at a sort of crisis point in their lives, events ranging from loss of identity to impending death. The drama in Lambert’s stories unfolds as we witness the true depth—or lack thereof—of the protagonists. Most of his protagonists rise to the occasion, and that’s the inherent optimism of the author. He has a good opinion of humanity, and that’s rather refreshing.
Lambert has included even his earliest, roughest work. The plus side of this is that you can see how much he’s improved as a story-teller. And he’s not afraid to take stylistic risks, most of which really pay off quite nicely.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
CADILLAC'S COMIN' is Mike Dennis’ love letter to rock’n’roll, that’s what it is.
Memphis, 1958, and rockabilly piano stomper Ike Thacker is on the verge of the big-time. A sort of cross between Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent, Ike has just released his hit single “Cadillac’s Comin’” and the world is opening up to him. Until a horrible and tragic accident derails everything…
The story picks up in the eighties, with a wanna-be musician whose life spirals out of control when he gets involved with the wrong people and finds himself immersed in the world of the Dixie Mafia. Ike Thacker, now an old, largely forgotten has-been, appears in a peripheral role.
I found the second part of CADILLAC’S COMIN' just a little bit weaker than the first, even though the actual crime story happens there—I just got so wrapped up in Ike’s career, and the wonderful atmosphere Dennis created. It felt very historically accurate, with appearances by real-life characters like Sam Phillips and Gene Vincent. Still, Dennis does a great job of weaving the two stories together so that by the end everything comes together nicely. I’d recommend this one, especially if, like me, you have a soft spot for roots music.
Just a quick note-- I'd planned on starting a new series of weekly posts today on the great writers of hard-boiled and nor lit from the '50's and early '60's. But I'm putting that off for another couple of weeks, at least. I've wound up unexpectedly busy these last few weeks with writing stuff, and to be honest, as much as I love posting here at Psycho-Noir, fiction writing takes priority.
The good news (good news if you like reading my fiction, that is) is that over the remainder of the year you'll be seeing three or four stories from me at various places. One that I can mention right now is a new anthology being put together by Luca Veste, called OFF THE RECORD. About 30 writers are coming together for it, and the proceeds will go to children's literacy charities. So... well-done, Luca, and I'm happy to be part of it.
Information on the other projects as they roll out.
I WILL get to the series on hard-boiled/noir writers as soon as time permits.
And just one more quick thing, while I'm thinking of it-- a thank you. The warm responses I've received to THE BASTARD HAND and DIG TEN GRAVES has been a real antidote to that crippling self-doubt that plagues most writers at one time or another. The positive reviews and kind words have left me feeling that maybe I'm doing something right. I feel very, very good about my work these days. Again, thank you.
...and that's as sentimental as you're gonna see me get, so don't get used to it, fuckers.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I was so impressed with Julia Madeleine’s Roman Dalton story FEAR THE NIGHT, that I immediately bought RAISED IN HELL, the first in a series of demonically-influenced peeks at the dark, secret history of rock’n’roll. And I was very, very glad I did.
First of all, it’s very clear that Madeleine knows her roots music. I know a thing or two about the subject myself, and can spot a fake ten miles away—Julia Madeleine is the real deal.
And the story? Sweet. It’s Depression-era America—Memphis, to be exact—and Sadie, the Devil’s very own daughter, is in town to collect a very particular soul. The soul is question belongs to a legendary bluesman (come on, you know the one—sold his soul at the crossroads?) but it seems he’s not quite ready to part with it yet.
Sadie is surprisingly likeable… okay, I know she’s the Devil’s daughter, but I still like her. Madeleine doesn’t go the easy predictable route by making Sadie dangerously seductive and evil--I mean, she IS dangerously seductive and sexy and all that… but she’s MORE than that, too. She’s sympathetic. She LOVES music. And she LOVES the souls she takes. Her motivation isn’t exactly evil.
To say any more about RAISED IN HELL would spoil it for you. Just take my word for it and read this one. Can’t wait to see where Madeleine takes Sadie next.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Keith Rawson writes with fire and fury, taking a sledgehammer to your comfort zones and exposing you to all manner of ugliness. And he also never mixes metaphors the way I just did.
THE CHAOS WE KNOW is an amazing and disturbing collection that drags you down (quite willingly) into the bowels of human suffering. Rawson’s characters are meth-heads, corrupt cops, pervs, trannies, cannibals. The earliest stories in the book are more like snippets, really, slice-of-life bits that serve as appetizers for the more fully fleshed out stories later. Rawson’s style is bold and aggressive and raw. We need more writers with balls like this.
Only one negative comment, and it has nothing to do with Rawson’s abilities as a writer: some typos and formatting issues that would occasionally pull me out of the story, especially toward the second half of the book. But these weren’t near enough to spoil the experience. THE CHAOS WE KNOW heralds the arrival of a major talent.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Picking up where Paul Brazill left off, two more exceptional writers continue the strange adventures of Roman Dalton, werewolf P.I.
In FEAR THE NIGHT, the amazingly talented Julia Madeleine takes Roman away from his usual stomping grounds in The City and to Quebec, where the search for a missing girl leads him into a direct confrontation with gruesome zombies. The climactic scene is one of the best choreographed I’ve read in a while, and beautifully gory. Great fun.
Allan Leverone picks up Roman’s story with style and flair in THE DARKE AFFAIR, which finds our hero back in The City and once again facing the undead hordes of an old enemy. But to complicate matters, a federal agent with shady motives appears—and disappears—forcing Roman on a rescue mission to save a man who may wind up being his own doom. Great, high-octane stuff.
Friday, September 23, 2011
BEAT ON THE BRAT is Nigel Bird’s second collection of stories, and it’s nice to see that he lives up to the high standards he set with DIRTY OLD TOWN. What makes this collection work, aside from Bird’s deft hand at pacing and creating believable, sympathetic characters, is the touching sense of humanity that shines through all of them. These are stories that make you feel pain, heartache, hope, fear. His characters really feel like real people, and reading BEAT ON THE BRAT connects you to them on a level that will startle you.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Paul Brazill has a beautifully understated sense of the absurd that is on full display in this remarkable collection of stories. There’s a fair amount of existential type drama, but it’s all delivered with such ease and good humor that it goes down smooth. The stories all seem related somehow, as they clearly take place in the same seedy underworld, where peripheral characters will occasionally take the spotlight in order to steer events toward whatever disaster looms. I’ve already mentioned in other posts and other places how much I admire Brazill’s skill with dialogue, and BRIT GRIT is no exception—the man writes with such flair and wit that it’s impossible to resist.
Royston Blake’s a doorman, a bloke what relies on his rep as a right hard bastard. So when some wankers start in that he’s lost his bottle Royston has to step up. Worse even, the Munston brothers are after him for events that well, let’s not go into that just now, right? Royston needs to re-establish his reputation, like, but using his Swede ain’t his cuppa, normally. And one thing you can bank on in the town of Mangel. Ain’t nothing gonna go right, ever.
DEADFOLK was writ down by some tosser what calls hisself Charlie Williams, and he gets it all right, mostly. He seems to be on intimate terms with Royston. Not intimate like a couple of poofs or nothing, but like, he don’t make no mistakes. And DEADFOLK, well, it’s the first book in a series, innit? You’re going to like Royston, despite yourself. DEADFOLK is a great fucking book. All right, mate? All right.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Okay, so I won’t bore you to death with all that whining about how I quit smoking and it’s so hard and waa, waa, waa. I only mention it because lack of nicotine has impacted my reading and writing this last week—it’s been hard to concentrate on anything at all, and so I haven’t accomplished much.
But it’s getting better now. And so I offer you this, my "future plans for the future":
On September 28, I’ll be starting a new feature here at Psycho-Noir as a sort of follow-up to the series on Hardboiled/Noir Writers I just wrapped up. It’s called Writers of Noir’s Golden Age, and it will focus on the scribblers from the fifties and early sixties. Why? Because that’s still my favorite era in this genre, and there were just TONS of them worth your time.
If you read Parts Four and Five of the previous series, you have a pretty good idea about some of the writers I intend to cover. Like the last series, posts will appear every Wednesday, starting on the 28th (which happens to be the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, according to my calendar, and no, that is not significant, just thought I’d mention it).
In the meantime, though… I’ll be a bit scarce around here. I have a great deal of catching up to do on my current novel, and I’ve also fallen way behind on my reading. So for a couple weeks I’ll be shutting off the lights at Psycho-Noir. Be sure, if you haven’t already, to hit the “follow” button over there on the right so that you don’t miss the first entry of Writers of Noir’s Golden Age.
One last note: starting tomorrow, my collection of short stories, DIG TEN GRAVES, is going up in price to 2.99. Right now, it’s still .99, though. Last chance to get it for cheapies.
And my novel THE BASTARD HAND is still garnering acclaim as a cult hit, but is selling like pork sammiches at a synagogue. If you’ve read the book and liked it, tell your friends. Write a review on Amazon. Help me get the word out about what a kick-ass book it is, okay? ‘appreciate it.
See you on Sept. 28!