“Dirt under its nails”: Ted Lewis’s Plender

Confession time. I have not been reading a lot of new crime fiction in 2020 and, for reasons that I am sure many of you share, have found it hard to concentrate on reading anything during the Covid-19 lockdown. What I find has been working for me is just picking up something at random from the large number of unread books I have on my shelves and seeing how far I get. Sometimes I don’t get more than 20 pages before turning my attention to something else. Other titles I can’t put down.

Ted Lewis’s 1971 book, Plender, was definitely in the latter category.

I didn’t come to Plender completely cold. As regular readers of this site will know, I am a major Lewis fan. I have written at length about Lewis’s 1970 novel, Jack’s Return Home a.k.a Get Carter, and I reviewed Nick Triplow’s biography of Lewis by Nick Triplow, Getting Carter: Ted Lewis and the Birth of Brit Noir on this site here. Triplow had also recommended Plender at some point in our online correspondence, saying, “It’s got dirt under its nails”. I duly ordered a copy and left it on my shelf where it sat for several years.

Plender was Lewis’s follow up novel to Jack’s Return Home.… Read more

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Cover reveal: Dangerous Visions and New Worlds – Radical Science Fiction 1950 to 1985

Here’s the cover for the upcoming book I have co-edited with my friend, Iain McIntyre for PM Press, Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction 1950-1985. It follows on from Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular fiction l950 to 1980, and Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fictions and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980. Dangerous Visions and New Worlds contains some terrific writing and a heap of great SF cover art. Some of the authors covered in the book you will know. Others, I hope, won’t be so familiar. The book will around mid-2021, by which time my main concern is that the fiction featured in it will not appear nearly as dystopian the real world around us. More information as I get it. … Read more

Roger Donaldson double feature: Sleeping Dogs (1977) and Smash Palace (1981)

To the degree that I was familiar with the film career of director Roger Donaldson, it was probably because he made what I would argue is one of the best American thrillers of the eighties, No Way Out (1987).

Donaldson actually had a pretty lengthy and productive directorial career after he decamped to Hollywood in the early 1980s from his native New Zealand: The Bounty (1984), Marie (1985), Cocktail (1988 – a terrible but successful film which gets a pass from me only because it features another Antipodean who was making his way in the US film industry in the 1980s, Bryan Brown), the psychological thriller, White Sands (1992), the wonderful hot garbage that was his 1994 remake of Jim Thompson’s The Getaway, with Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger, and the better than average action sci fi film, Species (1995).

But over the weekend I finally caught up with the two New Zealand films that Donaldson cut his teeth on as a director and which got him noticed internationally, Sleeping Dogs (1977) and Smash Palace (1981). I don’t want to go into too much detail but having finally watched them I wanted to write a little about them, because both of them are excellent.

Sleeping Dogs was Donaldson’s first film and tells the story of a loner, simply known as Smith (a very young Sam Neill), who is estranged from his family and living in a remote part of the country when he is reluctantly swept up in an underground revolutionary movement that is fighting against a right-wing dictatorial government that has taken over New Zealand.… Read more

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They Made Me a Fugitive

I recently wrote a yet to be published article on the critical furore that greeted the 1939 James Hadley Chase book, No Orchids for Miss Blandish, and the 1948 film version. Among my research was an article by British film academic James Chapman which discussed the film version of No Orchids as part of a cycle of British crime films that drew severe condemnation from censors, moralists and film critics for their depiction of sex and violence and their bleak take on post-war British life. Another was the 1948 adaptation of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock. But it was the first of this cycle, appearing in 1947, that I had not seen and only vaguely heard about, They Made Me a Fugitive or I Became a Criminal, the title it was released under in the United States.

Fugitive stars Trevor Howard as Clem Morgan, a demobbed Royal Air Force pilot who joins a criminal gang headed by a flash gangster with a very nasty streak, Narcy (Griffith Jones). Narcy runs a funeral parlour business as a front for a black-market operation, the good smuggled in the coffins. Morgan and Narcy take an instant alpha male dislike to each other. Morgan is particularly critical of Narcy’s decision to traffic in what he calls ‘sherbet’, which I think is cocaine (although this is not spelt out in the film).… Read more

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Ghosts of Stories Past: Roachkiller Redux

I am very pleased to welcome back New York writer Richie Narvaez to Pulp Curry. Richie is a friend and he is also a hell of a writer, a fact I discovered when I read his first publishing effort, an anthology of noir stories entitled Roachkiller and Other Stories. It is a top notch anthology of noir stories, ranging from hardboiled crime pieces in the vein of Edwin Torres to dark dystopian tales. So when Richie told me recently that he had updated the anthology, I invited him to visit and talk about the process of revisiting old stories. Roachkiller is available at Amazon here. And while you are picking it up, can I suggest that you also get a copy of Hipster Death Rattle, he debut crime novel against the backdrop of the gentrification of Brooklyn, published by Down and Out Books. Both books are the perfect antidote to any lockdown spare time you may currently find yourself having.

Most of us, given a chance to go back in time to change something from our pasts, would do it. Besides obvious revisions to world history, we might save a loved one, reverse a career path, avoid that pub that one night. I recently had a time travel opportunity of sorts, although on a very mundane scale.… Read more

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