International Crime Fiction Friday, Late Night Edition: DIRTY SNOW by Georges Simenon

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– Post by Molly

As the night falls, the weekend begins, and the tourists, techies and students take to the streets, we bring you a late-night edition of Crime Fiction Friday. Each week in June, we bring you crime fiction from a different international author.

Tonight, from the archives of NPR, we bring you a review and excerpt from Georges Simenon’s noir take on occupied Paris, Dirty SnowI first read this novel in high school, when my sister brought it home from college. The novel follows a despicable pimp and gangster wandering about occupied Paris seeking either an escalation of crimes and pleasures or the redemption of resistance.

Dirty Snow was reissued by New York Review of Books in the early aughts in an excellent translation by Marc Romano. After I read the novel in English, I later read it in French. Aside from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Dirty Snow is the only crime novel I have read cover-to-cover in French and English. I’m not quite sure what that says about me, but for anyone who enjoys bleak storylines and revisionist WWII narratives, Dirty Snow is the book for you!

Excerpt: Dirty Snow

“It was years since he had been here, but it was impossible for his feet not to follow in his old footsteps. The watchmaker Vilmos and his watches, and his famous garden, these were perhaps his most vivid childhood memories.

Even before reaching the door, he seemed to recognize the smell of the house, which had always had old people in it, since as far as he was concerned the watchmaker Vilmos and his sister had never been young.

Frank took a dark handkerchief out of his pocket and tied it around his face below his eyes. Stan was about to protest.

“You don’t need one. They don’t know you. But if you like . . .”

Click here for the rest of the excerpt. 

Shotgun Blast From The Past: GBH by Ted Lewis

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Along with Derek Raymond, Ted Lewis brought British crime fiction to its gritty modern glory. Best known for his London enforcer, Jack Carter, he instilled working class anger and attitude in his books, before dying at forty. Along with the Carter books, Syndicate Books has republished his last and what many consider his best book, GBH.

The title refers to the acronym for grievous bodily harm, which there is plenty. The book moves between alternating chapters, entitled The Sea and The Smoke. We begin with The Sea, with our anti-hero George Fowler hiding out at an off season resort town, under an assumed name. He’s licking some wounds, possibly waiting for a confrontation, trying to piece together what happened.

We next explore The Smoke chapters, which take place earlier in London. They start out with Fowler in his previous role as head of a porn syndicate. He has the finest clothes, tons of cash, a smart, sexy wife (it’s hard not to be reminded of Helen Mirren in The Long Good Friday when reading her), and someone embezzling from him. The first time we see him in this period, he is trying to ferret out information on who it is, involving electrical wire and a tub of water. It gets more bleak and rough from there as Fowler alienates those around him.

It is best to read GBH in as few sittings as possible. The chapters are so brief it, can be difficult to keep track of the characters at times, if you just read one or two of them. When you hit that last hundred, you’ll want to push right through.

Lewis is a master at handling violence on the page. At the beginning of the book, he rarely shows it, though it is often strongly suggested. Brutality hangs over the story, ready to destroy someone at a moments notice. As The Sea and The Smoke chapters dovetail and interlock, violence does drop in graphically and often with as much emotion as shock. It reflects Fowler’s paranoia, focusing to full dread.

GBH is one of the best pieces of Brit crime fiction ever written. Syndicate deserves a medal for finally getting it over here to The States. It is sad to think of as his last book, making one wonder what he could have accomplished if he didn’t die so young.

You can find copies of Ted Lewis’ last novel, GBH, on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

MysteryPeople Guest Post: Peter Bowen on Du Pre and Montana

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Peter Bowen has just published his 14th Du Pré novel, Bitter Creek, where Gabriel Du Pré helps a wounded vet with a spiritual quest seek answers to a historical mystery involving General Pershing and a missing tribe of Métis. Peter Bowen has generously contributed a piece on the place that has most influenced his writing – Montana, where much of his writing takes place, and where Bowen has deep roots.

Post by Peter Bowen

The Du Pré mysteries come of living in Montana and wanting to write. Writers begin with wanting to write and then they have to find something to write about and it’s best to write about something you know about.  I grew up here in Montana and I live here now, and I was never happy anywhere else, so…….

Du Pré is a fictional Métis and he sort of went from shadow to substance in my mind over many years.  Since I was interested in Montana’s history from childhood, when Du Pré did become clear enough to speak I thought I would tell the story of the Métis as well, and a great, romantic, and often heartbreaking one it is.

“An editor I worked with for many years said once that the Du Pré books were good novels about Montana that had a mystery on top, like the peanuts on a Tin Roof Sundae.”

The Métis are the Children of the Fur Trade, French and Cree-Chippewa or Plains People, and there are over thirty million descendants of them in North America.  In the 19th century they occupied Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and twice rebelled against the British who wanted their lands for white settlement.  The Métis lost and many fled down to Montana and the Dakotas for more abuse.  A very old story……which Du Pré tells a bit at a time.

An editor I worked with for many years said once that the Du Pré books were good novels about Montana that had a mystery on top, like the peanuts on a Tin Roof Sundae.

The Montana that I knew as a kid and loved so well is gone, pretty much, now, as rural life dies out on the High Plains, victim of economic changes as water becomes more and more valuable. The small towns are going or gone already, the people having left as their livelihoods did.

In the fourteen Du Pré novels I have written about corporations poisoning the land and water, greedy “environmentalists” who want to make the state some sort of theme park, and all of the ructions a changing place stirs up — boomtowns with drugs and murders, and the odd crazies who pop up everywhere.

That’s what’s on top, but more important to me are Du Pré and the people around him, the byplay of a small town’s folks, and my memories of a Montana I knew a long time ago. Some of that still exists, and some will remain, of course, but it does need to be remembered for its lessons, and what those might be are up to those folks who read these books.

So there is Du Pré, who doesn’t say much and doesn’t miss much, with his fiddle and bandsmen, family and friends, in Montana, which is actually a real place.

America is running out of them.


You can find copies of Bitter Creek on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. May is Texas Writer’s Month – look out later in May for posts by Texas mystery writers about how their sense of place and plot intertwine.

Crime Fiction Friday: A TWIST OF NOIR by Steve Weddle

MysteryPeople_cityscape_72Steve Weddle has gotten a lot of notice from his crime fiction peers with his short fiction and debut novel, Country Hardball, published in 2013. In this chilling story, he shows how a lottery winner uses his money for revenge.

“A Twist of Noir” by Steve Weddle

“I’d carried the list around for years, every so often adding a name, moving it to a new scrap of paper in my wallet. I read it like some kind of mantra. Calming myself. Focusing.

Jake Martin. Junior year of high school. He punched me in the nose on a dare.

Mike Gibson. First job out of college. Weaseled his way into my spot and got me fired.

Chad Michaels. At the Tire Factory. Sold me three used tires, claiming they were new.

I guess they don’t seem like that big a deal to you. But that’s because they didn’t happen to you. This isn’t about you. This is about me. And the seventeen people on the list.”

Read the rest of the story.

Crime Fiction Friday: A WARM RECEPTION by Kelly Whitley

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Kelly Whitley is a great practitioner of crime flash fiction. In this story published in A Twist Of Noir, she shows how to set up a seemingly mundane opening that promises something more dangerous and delivers in spades.

“A Warm Reception” by Kelly Whitley

Bart and Lana walked into the Four Seasons Hotel. In the Aspen Room, the reception for the new Mr. and Mrs. Blake Potowski was well underway. Guests packed the ballroom, laughing, talking, and dancing. A long table against one wall held a cornucopia of wedding gifts ranging from large boxes festooned with ribbons to demure envelopes containing monetary gifts.

Lana froze in the doorway and gripped Bart’s sleeve. “I think we might be underdressed. Everyone here is decked out for black tie. We look like we don’t belong.”

Click here for the full story.

Escape From Winter with These Recommendations

Looks like winter is going out like a lion instead of a lamb. That’s why Molly and myself are each offering three novels to take you out of the cold and give you a warm vacation – with a little violence of course.

Scott M


THREE FROM SCOTT M.

TOURIST SEASONTourist Season by Carl Hiaasen

If the South Florida setting doesn’t warm you up, the laughter this book causes will. It starts with dead Shriner found on the beach with a top alligator stuffed down his throat and gets weirder from there. Hiaasen’s first use of the crime novel as a satire on his state pokes fun at those who live and visit there.

DAWN PATROLThe Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow

This is the first book to feature Boone Daniels, part time private detective, full time surf bum. Winslow dances with his reader, starting out as a fun action private eye novel, leading you through darker depths, then spinning you back into the light, weaving Southern California history with an engaging plot. You can feel the ocean breezes while reading.

DEATH IN MEXICOA Death In Mexico by Jonathan Woods

Inspector Hector Diaz looks into the murder of an artist’s model, found in the plaza where a number of American expats live. Diaz takes the investigation over the border with a cute cop helping him go up against the rich and powerful while interfering with his beloved vices. A Death In Mexico is a fun and often funny mystery with a hero who beautifully represents his country.


THREE FROM MOLLY

THE STRANGERThe Stranger by Albert Camus

There’s nothing like a re-read of The Stranger to make you realize that Camus’ great existentialist novel is also an extremely noir story about murder, and is considered by many to be the founding text of Mediterranean Noir. As the winter storms roll over the plains and into our beautiful city, let Camus’ boiling-hot Algerian sun act as a reminder that heat equates to short tempers and bursts of violence.

secret history of las vegasThe Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani

When escaping the cold of winter, what better to read than a book set in a desert? Chris Abani’s fantastic exploration of side-show freaks, mad scientists, South African war criminals, and a guerrilla army of atomic bomb radiation survivors may sound a bit like The Hills Have Eyes goes to Vegas, but Abani has written a thoughtful and carefully plotted detective novel that evokes more of Tod Browning’s Freaks or Kathryn Dunn’s brilliant satire Geek Love than C.H.U.D. Let Abani take you on a journey, from the sweltering heat of Vegas, to the stifling oppression of Apartheid-era South Africa, and back again.

smillas sense of snowSmilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg

This book does not take place anywhere sunny. Quite the opposite – the icy locales of the Arctic will remind you that Texas winter (especially this one) is a joke in comparison. This is not a book to escape winter, so much as to realize that we have automatically escaped winter, merely by living in Texas. By the end of this novel, you will learn that you in fact have no idea what winter is, nor do you ever wish to find out.  Journey from Copenhagen with Smilla, Greenlander, glaciologist, and grim avenger for a murdered child, as she ventures out into the arctic find her vengeance. Prepare to realize just how warm you are, and just how cold you could be.


You can find copies of the above listed books on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

Crime Fiction Friday: FLASHING TIN by Trey R. Barker

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Trey R. Barker will be joining Lou Berney, Bill Loehfelm, and Jesse Sublett for our Noir At The Bar, this Monday, February 16th, at 7 pm at Opal Divine’s down south. Trey is a great guy and an unflinching author. Like Jim Thompson, he takes a story to to the edge with no fear of falling off in books like Exit Blood and Slow Bleed. You can get a taste of his work in this story for Shotgun Honey.

“Flashing Tin” by Trey R. Barker

“He flashed tin and I laughed.

“Why’re you laughing?  I’m on the Merit Commission.”

As the junior member of minor commission that handed out minor Sheriff’s Office promotions.

“And?” I said.

“I gotta get home.”

“Road’s closed.  Whole town’s closed.”

“I know that.”  Red-faced, he shook his badge at me.

“Got some tin, huh?”  I made no move to let his minivan through the barricades.

“Your boss – the Sheriff – is a friend of mine.”

Pulling out my cell while my emergency lights cast us in red and blue shadows, I said, “A friend of yours, huh?  Well, then let’s call him.”

Two miles in front of us, the entire town seemed to burn, though it was really only the remnants of a freight train.  Better than twenty cars had derailed, most filled with ethanol.  The fire had been burning for two days now.  All of the town’s 350 residents had been evacuated, though only two houses had burned so far.  When I was doing a door to door search, I’d found this guy standing in his backyard watching the fire.  He adamantly hadn’t wanted to leave.”

Click here for the full story.