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Hard Word Book Club takes on Samuel Fuller’s BRAINQUAKE

brainquake

HARD WORD BOOK CLUB TAKES ON TOUGH GUY AUTEUR AND NOVELIST SAMUEL FULLER

The Hard Word Book Club will wrap up this year with a hard boiled master of the screen and page, Samuel Fuller. Fuller was best known as a filmmaker with tough guy classics like Pick Up On South Street, Shock Corridor, and The Big Red One. He also wrote several novels, including The Dark Page. Hard Case Crime recently brought one of his last books, Brainquake, to the U.S. for the first time. We will be discussing it and all things Fuller.

Brainquake begins in classic Fuller fashion with a murder by baby. That odd rub-out starts a series of events that put a syndicate bag-man, who suffers from odd brain seizures, and a mob widow on the run from Father Flannigan, a hit man who dresses like a priest and crucifies his victims. It gets even more outrageous with the action moving from New York to France , with several reminders of Fuller films.

We’ll be starting our discussion of Brainquake on our third floor, October 29th at 7PM. After the discussion we’ll be screening The Typewriter, the Rifle, and the Movie Camera, a documentary on Samuel Fuller featuring Tim Robbins, Samuel Fuller, Quentin Tarantino, and Fuller himself. Books are 10% off to those who attend.

We will be taking a break for the holidays, but get ready to come back in January for our discussion of L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy.

3 Picks for October

Untitled
October is here, and as the weather cools, the end of the year stealthily approaches. But 2014 still has plenty in store for us, this month especially. Here are the three MysteryPeople picks for this month:


 

thicketThe Thicket by Joe Lansdale

One of the best from 2013 is finally coming out in paperback. At the turn of the last century in east Texas, a young man hires a bounty hunting dwarf, an African American tracker, and their hog find the outlaws who took his sister. Peter Dinklage just bought the rights to turn this into a movie. Full of humor and adventure, this book is loved by everyone who has read it.

 


final silenceThe Final Silence by Stuart Neville

Neville’s latest with Belfast police detective Jack Lennon. Lennon is asked by a former lover to look into go off the record to look into eight possible murders that may have happened and could compromise her politician father. Neville is a skilled storyteller who looks at the sins of his country with an unflinching and entertaining eye that becomes universal.

 


prison noirPrison Noir by Joyce Carol Oates

This may be the darkest book of the Akashic Noir series. The short stories, most written by current and former inmates, all take place in our country’s incarceration facilities. These are looks into life without freedom, both well written and unflinching.

Crime Fiction Friday: LET’S GET LOST by Lawrence Block

crime scene

If you’ve read my review or talked to me lately, you know I’ve become a huge fan of the adaptation of Lawrence Block’s Walk Among The Tombstones. For fans of the the New York PI, Matt Scudder, here’s a short story involving Matt from when he worked for the NYPD that appeared on the Mulholland Books website. Block gives the reader a good sense of what his hero’s morals were like at the time.

“LET’S GET LOST” by Lawrence Block

“When the phone call came I was parked in front of the television set in the front room, nursing a glass of bourbon and watching the Yankees.  It’s funny what you remember and what you don’t.  I remember that Thurman Munson had just hit a long foul that missed being a home run by no more than a foot, but I don’t remember who they were playing, or even what kind of a season they had that year.

I remember that the bourbon was J. W. Dant, and that I was drinking it on the rocks, but of course I would remember that.  I always remembered what I was drinking, though I didn’t always remember why…”

Click here to read the full story.

The Lookout: THE WOLF IN WINTER by John Connolly

THE LOOKOUT:
The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly

John Connolly’s latest Charlie Parker novel, due to release at the end of this month, has the author working in top form. This time the Maine detective (and possibly fallen angel) finds himself in a town of dark secrets. It is a story that lends itself perfectly to Connolly’s talents.

Charlie gets word that a homeless man he knows wants to hire him to find his missing daughter, a junkie who also finds herself on the street at times. By the time he is able to contact his client, he learns the man has been hung, with the death ruled a suicide. To fulfill the man’s last request, Charlie takes the case.

The trail leads to the town of Prosperous. The place seems to reflect it’s name, thriving in economic conditions that have ruined other towns, with citizens who have suffered little. The good fortune may be linked to some bad secrets, connected to a church brought stone by stone from Europe centuries ago. That secret is also tied to Parker’s nemesis, The Collector.

Connolly is at his best here. He’s created an involving mystery which the supernatural elements and social themes subtly settle into. The writing is so good, it will have you yearning for Parkers’ next next as soon as you are finished.


The Wolf in Winter will be released on October 28th and John Connolly comes to BookPeople  November 18th at 7PM to sign and discuss the novel. Pre-order your signed copy today in-store or via bookpeople.com

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: THE PLOUGHMEN by Kim Zupan

The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan

On the heels of Benjamin Whitmer’s Cry Father, comes another dark look at the modern west with Kim Zupan’s debut, The Ploughmen. The novel meditates on the subjects of death, violence, and evil, finding humanity, but not a silver lining in those dark clouds. Even its main theme of human connection brings up more cold questions than warm answers.

The book features two men on opposite sides of the law. John Gload is a hired killer, practicing his trade for over half a century until an accomplice rats him out. Valentine Millimaki works as a sheriff’s deputy in Central Montana with a marriage failing due to life’s pressures. Both men have a history with death. Gload killed his first man at fourteen. As a boy, Millimaki discovered his mother’s body after she hung herself and it seems the last several missing  persons he’s searched for have been found dead.

Valentine becomes John’s guard during the night shift, as the killer awaits trail, asked to pull more information of past murders from him. What develops is a relationship that drives the novel. Millimaki resists calling him a friend, yet realizes he’s the closest thing to a person who understands him. Zupan writes Gload with the right amount of distance from the reader for us to get his charm but never quite trust him, even though we want to. Much of the suspense in the book comes from the effect each man will have on the other.

Zupan uses the Montana winter setting for all it is worth. The harshness and desolation mirrors the lives of these two men. The bareness and lack of population also shows how the cold, wide, empty space can make people on opposite ends simpatico. Like a skilled western film director, the author often allows the landscape to speak for his characters.

There is a belief that friends are the only people you choose to be a part of your life. The Ploughmen questions that thought as well as the nature of friendship itself in an approach both realistic and poetic. I look forward for the next subject Zupan chooses to look square in the eye.


The Ploughmen is currently available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

Crime Fiction Friday: IN THE USUAL STERILE FASHION by Glenn Gray

crime scene
Glenn Gray has quickly gotten to be a favorite of ours. With his funny and often unsettling stories, usually involving the medical profession, Gray blends the lines between genres to produce something new and unique. This tale in Shotgun Honey is no different, and if you like this story, be sure to check out the MysteryPeople review of Gray’s collection The Little Boy Inside and Other Stories or our Q&A with the author.

“In the Usual Sterile Fashion” by Glenn Gray

“‘Dennis settled in his chair, the scent of cauterized tissue lingering in his nostrils. Stacks of medical texts loomed on the wood desk. One of the texts, a neurosurgical tome, was splayed open at his chest. Beside that, a dictaphone with mini-cassette.

He lifted the handset, began dictating the operative report…”

 

Click here to read the full story.

BOOK TO SCREEN: A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES

a walk among the tombstones
A Walk Among The Tombstones is a movie many crime fiction fans have been waiting for. It is one of the more admired books from Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder series, and one of the touchstones of modern private eye writing. The adaptation was placed into the hands of writer-director Scott Frank, who is responsible for two of the best Elmore Leonard adaptations out there (Get Shorty and Out Of Sight), while his directorial debut, The Lookout, is one of the best crime films of this century so far. On paper, it was a tantalizing match, but there were also some reasons for trepidation. The book is the seventh in the series with Scudder in mid-transition, making it an odd choice to adapt to film. It is also close to 400 pages with an important sub-plot involving Matt’s girlfriend, Elaine, that contributes to that arc. On top of that, you have a lead character who is incredibly internal. After viewing the film and especially thinking about it after, one realizes that Scudder was in the right hands.

The film starts with a well executed and defining gunfight for Scudder. Then, after one of the most disturbing opening credit sequences you’ll see, the plot begins much like the book. Scudder, an unlicensed P.I. and recovered alcoholic (one of the main differences in the movie is he quits the day after that shoot-out) is approached by a fellow AA member to work for his brother. The brother, a drug trafficker, paid a ransom for his kidnapped wife, only to have her returned in pieces, wrapped like butcher meat. He wants Scudder to find the men responsible and bring them to him. Matt turns him down first, but takes the job, realizing the perpetrators are psychopaths, in it for the hunt and torture, and that they will do it again.

Most of the changes from page to screen come from Scott Frank’s compression of the tale to reach a manageable running time. A sharp bit of craftsmanship comes in reshaping a part of the book where a witness mistakenly believes there was a third suspect during the abduction of an earlier victim. Instead of this, Scott creates an unsettling yet utterly human character who gives Scudder three leads in one scene, though it took Scudder close to hundred pages to gather these in the book. Frank also had to jettison two supporting characters, a hooker who survived the psychos and the lawyer who represents her. Both alone are worth picking up the novel for.

Another character missing is Elaine, the call girl Scudder is at the start of the relationship with. She helps Matt in the investigation and his involvement with her marks a particular turning point in the series. It is in this book where Scudder makes the choice to truly connect with someone again or not.

Here, Scott Frank does something interesting. Instead of using the arc from the book, he tackles a small step in Scudder’s stumbling soul search. This is dealt with in his relationship with T.J., a street kid who acts as Matt’s Baker Street Irregular, portrayed without sentimentality by Brian “Astro” Bradley. He also uses a device employed by Block, where the shoot outside the bar becomes clearer as Scudder tells it in a more honest way. We’re seeing a man as he begins to realize his position in the dark world he has chosen for himself.

Fans will truly appreciate Liam Neeson’s performance. The actor allows his presence and natural gravitas do much of the work for him as he underplays with a worn and weary edge. He and Frank take a cue from the author, realizing the hero’s complexity’s and subtle contradictions, they simply let the character run and let the audience, like the reader, bring themselves to him. Early on we get to witness Scudder’s detached realism when he is asked if the corruption on NYPD made him quit the force and Neeson delivers the line. “No, I couldn’t have supported my family without it,” with perfect tone. At that point, we know we have our Scudder.

A Walk Among The Tombstones is a harsh film. I flinched at things I knew were coming from having read the book. With little gore and violence, we get the the the full impact of the very mean streets this private eye walks down. Much like Lawerence Block’s series, it pulls no punches, telling a very adult story and treating its audience as such. That alone makes it a film worth supporting.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Mike McCrary

 

Mike McCrary’s Remo Went Rogue is a wonderful piece of mean, nasty fun with a slimy lawyer getting his comeuppance. It’s a book that never stops moving. We got a chance to catch up with Mike for a few moments to answer some questions.

MP: How did the idea for Remo Went Rogue come about?

MM: I’ve always been interested in defense attorneys and the special brand of absurdity that their jobs require. Don’t get me wrong, I know they are an extremely important part of keeping our legal system humming along. I don’t want to discount that, but as a writer, the idea of defending the worst people on the planet and, in some cases, getting paid a ton of money to do it presents a strange and wonderful morality playground to hang out in. So that’s where it started and I just tried to come up with a story to build around that basic idea. That and I love characters that are a complete mess. Remo more than qualifies.

MP: What do you have to keep in mind when you’re doing a book with no “heroic’ characters in it?

MM: I think you have to find something human and/or relatable about them. At very least they have to be interesting. The reader has to have something to cling to, something to keep the pages turning, make them want to keep reading. If there’s nothing, it makes it tough to slog through an entire novel. You might not agree with everything Remo does and you sure as shit don’t want him living next door, but he is interesting and fun to read about and has some qualities that are even noble, kind of.

MP: While the book has an original voice, it also has the feel of an old school hardboiled novel. Did you draw from any influences?

MM: Thanks man. Yeah, there are influences all over the place. I’m an average reader at best, but there are without question authors that have put their stamp on me. Not all of them crime/noir. Don Winslow, Savages to me is the gold standard. Charlie Huston, Caught Stealing really opened my eyes. Johnny Shaw, Big Maria = genius. Gillian Flynn is no joke, man. John Rector, his stuff is a master class in stripped-down prose and how economy of words can work wonders. Check out John’s Cold Kiss and Already Gone. Chad Kultgen,The Lie: just read it. There’s others, of course. Obviously Elmore Leonard. A couple more big ones would be Chuck Palahniuck, Richard Stark (Parker novels) and Duane Swierczynski (more about Duane later.)

MP: The shoot-outs are visceral and clear. How do you approach writing action scenes?

MM: Thanks again, man. I have a background in screenwriting so the visual stuff is a byproduct of that style of writing. I was a script reader years ago. So I’ve read a lot of action scripts and I started to see the way different writers attacked action scenes and took note of what I liked. But with books the biggest influence was Duane Swierczynski. I read Severance Package and it was like the world changed for me. I don’t think I realized books like that were out in the universe. His stuff is so big and fun to read that I sat back and said, Holy shit. You’re allowed to write like that? It was almost like that book gave me permission to try. So, thanks Duane. As far as approach? I basically drink a shit ton of coffee, crank the AC/DC and Nine Inch Nails and try to write down what I see in my head as fast as I can. It’s not much different from when I was kid playing with Star Wars action figures. Minus the coffee and the questionable music.
MP: What made Remo a fun character to write?

MM: Assholes are always fun to write, I think. Assholes in crisis are even more fun. Remo will say and do almost anything so you pretty much get to unleash and put the hammer down. At the same time there is a human quality to Remo that grounds him and makes him accessible to the reader. That’s the challenge, I guess, making an asshole fun and loveable. Haven’t worked that out in the real world, but I’m hopeful. Just kidding. I’m a expletive peach, ask anybody.


Copies of Remo Went Rogue are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

Crime Fiction Friday: JUNKYARD DOG by Thomas Pluck

crime scene
Seems like dogs are marking their territory (so to speak) on crime fiction as of late. With the popularity of the Chet and Bernie series and Dennis Lehane’s short story Animal Control being turned into the film, The Drop. A few years back Thomas Pluck wrote this pitch black hard boiled for Plots With Guns about the love between a tough guy and his dog. Not for the squeamish.

“Junkyard Dog” by Thomas Pluck

 

“I like hard work. It keeps my mind right. A cool day’s best for it.

It’s cool this morning and still dark when I park by Earl’s house. He’s got a place on Frelinghuysen. He’s not on the porch like he usually is, waiting to waddle to my truck in his overalls, with a list of jobs on a scrap of yellow paper. Not today.

I eyeball up and down the street. It’s quiet, barely dawn. I like this hour, have since I was a boy. Feels like it’s just me in the world, and nothing hurts. I climb out, and a lady hurries into her car, fear in her eyes.

I don’t blame her none. I know how I look. Six and a half. Three fifty. And I got a dent in the side of my head like a bruised apple. But I never hurt no woman.

I walk up Earl’s driveway slow. Maybe he’ll come out, tell her I’m good. I slap his front door, her car squeals off. It needs a fan belt. I could fix it. She won’t let me.

‘That you, Denny?’

‘Yeah.’ I put my face by the little hole he looks through.

His locks open, sound like a good break in pool.

Earl’s a head shorter than me. Big belly fills his overalls. Horseshoe of gray hair on his shiny brown head, and a beard to match. I shave everything clean; probation officer said it made me less scary. I been with Earl six months now, moving junk and scrap. Officer Fiore was right…”

 

Click here to read the full story.

HARD WORD BOOK CLUB discusses JADE LADY BURNING

On September 24th, the Hard Word Book Club goes overseas and back in time with Martin Limón as he helps us discuss his novel Jade Lady Burning. The book is the first in the series featuring George Sueño and Ernie Bascom, two CID Army cops stationed in Korea during the Seventies. In Jade Lady Burning they are assigned the case of a murdered Korean girl  with a G.I. as their prime suspect. They soon discover the soldier isn’t as guilty as he looks and both the US and Korean governments want the murder swept under the rug.

Not only does the book introduce us to Sueño and Bascom, but everything that makes this series great. Limón was stationed in South Korea and always gives an authentic look at Army life overseas. His love of the country’s culture comes though as it clashes with Americans dealing with it. He uses the setting and cases to show how justice gets lost in bureaucracy and politics.

Martin Limón will be joining us, via conference call for our discussion of Jade Lady Burning. The discussion will start at 7PM, Wednesday , September 24th. Copies of Jade Lady Burning are 10% off to those who will attend.

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