Three Picks for January

  • Picks from Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

If I Had A Nickel by Ben Rehder9781519132475

Legal videographers and sometime investigators Roy Ballard and Mia Madison are back, hunting down a valuable stash of hobo nickels belonging to a millionaire who died in an interesting way. Rehder blends humor, detective fiction, Austin color, and the lives of his heroes into one entertaining cocktail.  You can find copies of If I Had A Nickel on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

9780385350037


Shaker by Scott Frank

A hitman gets mistaken for a hero when he guns down some muggers during LAs biggest earthquake. This debut from acclaimed writer/director Scott Frank drops some truly hard boiled personalities into this satire of LA life. You can meet Scott Frank with authors Terry Shames and Josh Stallings at 7 PM, February 1st. You can find copies of Shaker on our shelves starting January 26th, or pre-order now via bookpeople.com


9781783294459Cut Me In by Ed McBain

Hard Case Crime plucks another one from obscurity. This early, by-gone novel from one of crime fiction’s grand masters has a publishing agent out to find his partner’s killer, in possession of a valuable stolen contract. It’s Mad Men meets Mickey Spillane. You can find copies of Cut Me In on our shelves starting January 12th, or anytime via bookpeople.com

Shotgun Blast from the Past: QUARRY by Max Allan Collins

  • Post by Scott Montgomery

Max Allan Collins’ hitman Quarry is a character who is more popular now than he has been since his debut over forty years ago. A few decades after the series ended and later developed a cult following, Hard Case Crime asked him to do one more book, The Last Quarry. That lead to at least five more books, a film, and a Cinemax series to appear in the fall. This has urged Hard Case Crime to bring the five original books back into print, starting with the first, simply titled Quarry.

Read More »

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: EASY DEATH

easy death

Hard Case Crime gives us a fun hard boiled entry for the holidays with Daniel Boyd’s Easy Death. Set in 1951, the book is written in the style from that era. It feels like you picked it off the spinner rack at a drug store instead the shelf of a modern bookstore. However, he weaves in a modern sensibility to keep today’s reader engaged.

The set-up is simple.  Two World War Two vets, Eddie and Walter, are ordered by the local crime boss to rob an armored car the week before Christmas in the middle of a blizzard. They get the money, but the crime and getaway are far from perfectly executed. With cops, criminals, and even a park ranger after Eddie,Walter, and the loot, the ensuing results are endlessly entertaining.

Boyd has definitely read his share of Gold Medal releases, famed in the fifties for their pulp paperbacks. There’s plenty of quality tough guy dialogue that never becomes anachronistic. It is tightly written, jumping back and forth with time and character (reminiscent of Lionel White’s Clean Break, later adapted into Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing) yet easy to follow. The plot naturally careens at times, with a pace that keeps it in check, especially when the threads rush into one another.

That said, Boyd refuses to make this a simple exercises in copying old influences. Though these guys talk tough and some actually are, he makes them utterly human. As the story progresses so does the humor as each character finds themselves in over their head. Instead of yielding to existential oblivion, each carries a reckless hope that, in the end, gets a few of them through. In short, Easy Death is It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with a lot more gunfire. There’s even a subtle self awareness, mainly with the use of Christmas songs.

Daniel Boyd and Easy Death are a perfect fit in Hard Case Crime. It is Robert Mitchum in black and white filtered through post-modern Tarantino (someone even loses an ear) without being overly self aware. This is a voice I look forward to hearing more from.


Copies of Easy Death are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

Mystery People Review: BRAINQUAKE, by Samuel Fuller

brainquake

Review by Scott

Writer-director Samuel Fuller was a filmmaker from the fifties and sixties whose work still seems fresh, modern, and bold. His grab-you-by-the-throat intensity of style influenced the likes of Goddard, Scorsese, and Tarantino. What some may not know is that he wrote novels from the 1930s up until the the time of his death in 1997. Hard Case Crime gives us a look into this side of his talent by bringing us Brainquake, a Fuller novel that has just been published in the US and in English for the first time.

Fuller’s belief, “If the first scene doesn’t give you a hard-on then throw the goddamn thing away,” is applied to the first line of the novel: “Sixty seconds before the baby shot its father, leaves fell lazily in Central Park.” The murdered father is a mobster. Before the baby and mother are killed, Paul Pope, underworld bagman, saves them. Paul suffers from mental seizures which he refers to as “brainquakes,” where his mind spins into pink tinted images accompanied by piercing flute music. It is easy to picture Fuller’s avant garde camera cut loose during these passages. Paul falls for the mob widow, who he refers to as “ivory face”, setting up a series of events that ripple through the New York crime syndicate that employs him. The mob puts Father Flannigan, a contract killer who dresses like a priest and crucifies his targets, on to Paul as Flannigan’s next target.

Brainquake has the feel of a Sam Fuller film. The detailed life of a bagman is reminiscent of the attention brought to the lifestyle of the pickpocket Richard Widmark played in Pick Up On South Street. It portrays New York City with gritty realism mixed with pulp stylization. The dialogue blasts out  like gunshots and his tabloid inspired prose has the punchy feel of his editing. The emotions are raw and heightened. Everything is heightened, yet retains the truth in its main characters.

Brainquake is full on Fuller. Those who have seen his interviews can hear his boisterous cigar stained voice in the writing. It is uncompromising, wild, tough, and goes right at you, giving a fresh perspective on a great, often under appreciated artist, while delivering a slam-bang read.


Copies of Brainquake are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

3 Picks for May

 

 

The Three by Sarah Lotz

There’s been a lot of buzz around this story of three children who survive four simultaneous plane crashes. Sarah Lotz takes a unique approach to the suspense thriller, looking at religion, media, and fear in the modern world. This could be one of the most talked about books of the summer.

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles

The wait for a Greg Iles book is over. His Penn Cage character is now town mayor, but when a local nurse is murdered and his father becomes a suspect, Cage becomes determined to prove his father’s innocence. Penn’s quest for the truth sends him deep into his father’s past, where a sexually charged secret lies waiting to tear their family apart. A comeback for the king of the Southern-set thriller.

Borderline by Lawrence Block

Our friends at Hard Case Crime have unearthed another Block tale. This one deals with the collision of several scheming and desperate characters in a sleazy town between El Paso and Juárez. The book also contains some short stories that appeared in classic magazines like Manhunt. Another work from one of our most acclaimed and highly decorated living mystery writers.

MysteryPeople Review: SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT by Max Allan Collins

Seduction of the Innocent by Max Allan Collins

Review by Chris Mattix

If you know me at all, you know I’m a sucker for comic books. I grew up reading comics and, as such, they hold a very special place in my heart. When powerhouse publisher Hard Case Crime sent me a copy of the latest Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition, Target Lancer novel I was pretty stoked, and then I read the description. Hot damn! This book is about comics!

Seduction of the Innocent is a Private Eye novel set during the 1950s witch hunt aimed at comic books and their questionable content. That’s right folks, those floppy little books most people think are just for kids were at one point considered a very real threat to the safety of America’s youth. Collins novel, while borrowing from the actual events of that time, is a fictionalized version–so don’t go quoting it as fact. The novel’s protagonist, Jack Starr, works as an investigator for Starr Syndication, a company who syndicates comic strips to newspapers. When a pop-psychologist is found dead after accusing Starr’s company of warping young minds, Jack finds himself in the midst of a crisis where everyone seems guilty and no one cares about the departed doctor.

Seduction of the Innocent is classic Collins. It’s punchy, funny, and fast-paced. It’s the kind of book you can’t help but finish in one sitting, and that’s what makes it so satisfying. Collins really hits the pulpy nail on the head. His characters are perfectly drawn, the violence is outlandish and nail biting, and the atmosphere is spot-on. The story takes place in New York City and Collins goes to great lengths to transport his readers there; using cross streets, landmarks, and cafes, Collins does the equivalent of dragging that little dude from the side of google maps and drops you right into the streets of old New York.

If you are a fan of comic books, PI stories, or just want a fun little mystery to spend an afternoon with, then you need to grab a copy of Seduction of the Innocent. It takes off like a rocket from the very first page and will having you grinning ear-to-ear until its clever conclusion. I really can’t say enough good things about Collins’ work here (and everywhere else for that matter). Get this book, grab an ice-cold coke (preferably in a bottle), and enjoy the hell out of Seduction of the Innocent.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Ariel S. Winter

~post & Q&A by Chris M.

One of the perks of working for a store like BookPeople (aside from tons and tons of free books) is getting the opportunity to talk to the authors we love about their work. Recently I was given the honor of interviewing Ariel S. Winter, the author of one of 2012’s best mystery novels, The Twenty-Year Death. Keep reading to see what he had to say about his writing process, crime fiction, and his future plans.


MYSTERYPEOPLE: I’m sure people have been asking you this constantly, but what made you decide to write The Twenty-Year Death in the style of three master crime writers?

AW: The seed that became The Twenty-Year Death started as a novella in a larger novel. In that novel, the frame narrative was about an introspective reader reading through stacks of books. As he read, the book he was reading was presented in full, and the first of those books I wrote was Malniveau Prison a Georges Simenon pastiche. So in the context of that book, it was supposed to be as if the main character was actually reading Simenon. Once I abandoned that book, I wanted to do something with Malniveau Prison, so I started by expanding it into a full length book on its own. But at the same time, I began to ask myself what a mystery series would look like if a character other than the detective travelled from book to book. There are many ways to approach that idea, but since I had a Simenon on hand, I followed through with the thought, what would happen if one of Simenon’s characters wound up in a Chandler novel? Then in a Thompson novel?

MP: You do such an admirable job emulating the masters, was there one style that you enjoyed writing over the others?

AW: The challenge of writing in another author’s voice while still making it your own is fun regardless of which author you’re working on, so I wouldn’t say I preferred one to another. Chandler was probably the most intimidating.

MP: I’ll be honest, Shem is kind of an asshole throughout the book, but in the end I found myself rooting for him. Do you think he truly got what he deserved, or did he get off easy?

AW: He definitely didn’t get off easy. No matter how boorish, alcoholic, and womanizing you are, nobody really deserves what Shem goes through at the end. I feel sorry for him, but I know I’m in the minority. He had flaws that he allowed to control him, and they dragged him down emotionally, personally, and professionally. Nowadays, he would have ended up on a mood stabilizer and so much of his pain would have been avoided.

MP: The novel is quite broad in scope; did you have a difficult time getting started?

AW: It helped that I had a third of it written before I decided on the final structure. When you have a full book sitting there, it takes some of the pressure off, because, if this new plan falls through (as the first one did), you still have this good book sitting there (like the first time). Once I did decide on writing the second two books, I remember knowing it was ambitious, but never doubting I could do it. My biggest concern was whether or not the through characters’ story would feel like its own book that justified the whole conceit. I still worry about that sometimes.

MP: The Twenty-Year Death is out via Hard Case Crime. How does it feel to be working with such a classic publisher?

AW: When I was writing the book, I knew it should be a Hard Case book. I told my agent right up front that Hard Case was the place for it. No one else could have edited it as well as Charles Ardai, and no one else could have gotten it the attention it has received. Stephen King blurb? I wouldn’t have that somewhere else. Hard Case has done their all, and I couldn’t be happier.

MP: This might seem like an obvious question, but I have to ask; what’s your next move as a writer?

AW: I’m rewriting an older novel about a family coming together for the eldest daughter’s engagement party only six weeks after the parents have announced their divorce. It isn’t a mystery, but that doesn’t mean I’m done writing mysteries. It just means a mystery isn’t the next thing I’ll be doing. As you may know, I also released a children’s picture book this year called One of a Kind, and I have several other picture book scripts that I’m hoping to sell in the near future as well.

Many thanks to Ariel S. Winter and his publicist for taking the time to do this interview. Be sure to grab a copy of The Twenty-Year Death at Book People!

MysteryPeople Review: THE TWENTY YEAR DEATH by Ariel S. Winter

Book: The Twenty Year Death by Ariel S. Winter
Reviewed by: Chris Mattix

Most writers have enough trouble coming up with a solid idea for a first novel that they tend to keep things simple. Most writers are not Ariel S. Winter. A newcomer to the world of crime fiction, Winter has managed to deliver a debut novel that is both broad in scope and painfully simple in message.

As an avid reader of modern and vintage crime fiction I will admit to being a bit skeptical when I read the press release for The Twenty-Year Death, Winter’s first novel for powerhouse publisher Hard Case Crime. The initial press for The Twenty-Year Death heralds it as a masterwork of storytelling that rivals the best crime writing of this or any age, but press releases are designed to do one thing and one thing only, sell books; and all the glowing reviews in the world couldn’t scare away my hesitation.

In The Twenty-Year Death Winter breaks his tale into three separate novels, each taking on the voice of a different master of the genre. The first novel, Malniveau Prison, is done in the style of ’20s writer Georges Simenon, the second, The Falling Star, in the voice on Raymond Chandler, and the third, Police at the Funeral, in the style of Jim Thompson. Winter’s writing is something of a marvel as he is able to capture the essence of the masters he emulates, while also offering a refreshing spin on their styles. If you’ve read anything by any one of those writers you will get a little more out of The Twenty-Year Death, but there really aren’t any prerequisites for cracking into this gem.

Each novel is both uniquely different from and crucial to the overarching plot of the book as a whole. In each novel we are introduced to new protagonists who narrate the story from their own perspective, and each novel satisfies the universal craving for murder and villainy found in fans of the genre. Mainiveau Prison begins with the discovery of a local baker found dead in the streets of a quiet French village, The Falling Star focuses on the brutal murder of a Hollywood starlet, and Police at the Funeral, in true Jim Thompson fashion, deals with the inner dialogue of the man who committed the murder.

While each novel is successful as a standalone story, the really amazing thing about The Twenty-Year Death is how Winter is able to weave them together to tell a single story about the deterioration of man. I’m trying my best not to give anything away, but let’s just say that there are a couple of characters who become more and more prevalent as The Twenty Year Death progresses. In the end this is a cautionary tale about the consequences of our actions, words, emotions, wants, and fears. It’s about the ease of making mistakes, and what those mistakes can drive us to do. I had an idea of the overall theme of The Twenty-Year Death when I began, but it wasn’t until I turned the final page that I truly understood what the title means.

I can’t begin to tell you have much fun I had reading The Twenty Year Death. It’s unlike any book I’ve read before and I am shocked at the skill Winter puts on display, especially considering this is his debut novel. I read a lot of crime fiction this year, but The Twenty Year Death is my hands-down favorite. It’s destined to become a classic, and you have absolutely no excuse for ignoring it. Yes it’s that good: believe the hype.

Copies of The Twenty Year Death are available on the shelves at BookPeople and on our website.

Get to Know David Goodis

~Post by Daniel

“Goodis is a crime novelist, but only in the way that Herman Melville is a nautical novelist and Cormac McCarthy is a writer of westerns.”

– Nathaniel Rich (The New York Review of Books)

My introduction to David Goodis was through the work of filmmaker Francoise Truffaut. In high school, I fell in love with French New Wave films. Godard was always my favorite director from that movement, but one film that always stood out for me as very important was Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player.

Shoot the Piano Player, I later discovered, was based on a crime novel titled Down There by David Goodis. After discovering this, I attempted track down any books of his I could get my hands on. Unfortunately, at the time, every one of his books had been out of print. It wasn’t until much more recently that people like Charles Ardai and Robert Polito, two very passionate crime fiction enthusiasts, have helped make his work more readily available.

Charles Ardai is writer and publisher at Hard Case Crime. In 2007 he gave us a Goodis novel which hadn’t been published in 50 years, The Wounded and the Slain. Then last year, Down There was republished under its original title for American Noir of the 1950s by the Library of America. Robert Polito, a devout fan of Goodis, was the editor responsible and went on to curate this year’s collection: David Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s and 50s, also published by Library of America.

After finally reading his work, I can understand why he has garnered a strong cult following. Goodis has been writing for the genre since the early days of pulp rags. His themes are dark and familiar, but there is more to Goodis than that. There is something in his prose that clearly separates him from his contemporaries. His writing is smart and never exhausting.

A sense of gloom is carried in many of his novels, a dark cloud that washes over many of his protagonists. Many believe this was reflective of Goodis himself. He worked a short stint in Hollywood, which made him cynical. As a result, his books became darker. The books collected in David Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s and 50s are a perfect example of this. The characters in the collection are often hopeless and lonely. He is the definitive “noir” writer. The word “noir” literally, and appropriately, meaning “black.” Oftentimes when something bad happens to one of his characters, and you think it couldn’t get any worse, he tops himself, the danger always escalating.

Goodis was never as highly revered as Chandler or Hammett, but he delivered a certain level of originality to the genre that makes him important. He undoubtedly belongs up there in the big leagues.

Hard Case Crime Remembers Donald E. Westlake

When The Comedy is Finished, the forgotten manuscript of master story teller Donald E. Westlake, was recently found, it luckily made its way to publisher Charles Ardai and his imprint, Hard Case Crime. Charles was a fan and later an editor and friend of Westlake. I recently had a chance to ask Charles a few questions about the book, on sale today, and its author.

MYSTERYPEOPLE: Did I hear right that The Comedy Is Finished was sitting in the drawer of author Max Allan Collins for over twenty years?

CHARLES ADIA: Well…not a drawer.  But it is true that Max had it packed away in a cardboard box down in his basement, and it was more like thirty years.  Don sent him a carbon copy of the manuscript around 1980 or 81, and then when Don decided not to publish the book, Max just put it away for safekeeping.  Then when we published Memory and claimed it was Don’s final unpublished novel, Max remembered this one and let me know there was actually one more.

MP: I heard the reason that Donald Westlake decided not to publish it because he saw similarities to the Martin Scorcese’s The King Of Comedy. Other than it’s about a kidnapped comic, I noticed no similarities in plot, characters, theme or anything. Did you?

CA: No – aside from the basic premise (famous television comedian gets kidnapped), the two are very different.  In one case it’s by a crazy stalker and a would-be TV personality, in the other it’s a group of domestic terrorists with a political agenda.  But I guess Don was still concerned about it.  It’s not as bad as the story I heard about Ellery Queen throwing away a completed novel because Agatha Christie released And Then There Were None and it turned out to have the same solution.  At least Don’s book got put safely into storage – the Ellery Queen novel is lost forever.

Donald E. Westlake

MP: It’s rare to get an unedited manuscript from an author after his death. How did you go about working on it?

CA: I’d worked closely with Don on the previous books we’d done with him, so I knew the sorts of things he liked and didn’t, what he would have gone for gladly and what he’d have pushed back on.  Of course it wasn’t the same without him, but I just sort of pretended he was there and tried to hear his voice in my head, guiding me.  Fortunately (and not surprisingly), the book didn’t need much editing.  A few spots where a passage could be tightened up a bit; a few inconsistencies or typos.  But Don was a great writer, and even if he’d been alive I doubt we would have done a lot more.

MP: What struck you most about the book?

CA: The way every single character comes to life.  It’s a big book with a lot of characters – the victim, the kidnappers, the victim’s agent, his wife and kids, the FBI agent hunting for him – and every one of them is a fully fleshed-out, vibrant, memorable character, even the ones who make only brief appearances in the book.  It’s really breathtaking.  In so many novels, even the main character feels two-dimensional and never really breathes, but here even the minor characters feel like people you know well by the end of the book.  And of course that makes it all the more painful when they start meeting violent ends.

MP: Westlake takes an interesting look at  Koo and the radical kidnappers as two different generations whose eras are both coming to an end, and there are some barbs at our TV culture. Is this the closest Westlake came to more overt social commentary in his books?

Charles Adai of Hard Case Crime

CA: I think Don had more social commentary in his books than people give him credit for.  Sure, many are just escapist fun, but look at a book like The Ax, which is about the lengths a man might be pushed to by protracted unemployment in a desperate economic downturn.  That book was written decades ago, but he might as well have been writing about the economy of 2012.

MP: You were a fan of Westlake as a reader, who later became his editor, putting some of his books back into print, and his friend. What should people know about him as a writer and a person?

CA:Don was such a joy to work with.  We did most of our work together by e-mail, and the man was incapable of writing an e-mail, even one tossed off in passing, without being witty.  My face lit up any time I saw a message from him in my inbox.  I miss it, and I miss him.