Category Archives: Crime Fiction and film set in Vietnam

My top 10 books of 2015

Bad Penny BluesIt’s time for my annual top 10 reads for the year. In no particular order they are as follows: 

Bad Penny Blues, Cathi Unsworth

Bad Penny Blues kicks off in London in the early 1960s. A young police constable finds the body of a murdered prostitute. His subsequent investigation into the crime and similar murders, spanning the better part of a decade, propels him into the heart of the city’s Soho vice district. Interspersed with this is the story of a young and up and coming fashion designer, Stella, who is plagued by nightmares about dead women.

The fact I found this book a pinch too long didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it. Bad Penny Blues is a solid piece of noir fiction and a great evocation of sixties London, taking in everything from the occult, teddy boys, bent cops, radical bohemians and debauched upper class aristocrats.

TattooMurderThe Tattoo Murder Case, Akimitsu Takagi

First published, albeit in a slightly different form, in 1948, a young forensic medical student with post-traumatic stress after a stint as a medic in the Philippines begins a passionate affair with a beautiful woman who is covered with strange, sexually alluring traditional Japanese tattoos. Soon after the affair begins, she is murdered, dismembered and her tattooed torso stolen from the scene of the crime.… Read more

Post traumatic noir – a note on the passing of Robert Stone

cover600spanThe death of US writer Robert Stone on the weekend has drawn me out of the break I planned on posting on this site over January.

Stone was the author of two tremendous works of neo-noir fiction, both of which I read when I was first getting into the genre.

The first, Stone’s debut novel, A Hall of Mirrors, was published in 1967 and partly set in New Orleans, where Stone lived briefly. It dealt with a dissolute, opportunistic right wing radio broadcaster and the desperate, doomed characters he associates with. It was turned into an excellent film called WUSA by Stuart Rosenberg in 1970 and starring Paul Newman, then in the throws of his battling his own alcoholism (I reviewed it on this site a couple of years ago here.

The second, the better known and probably more influential of Stone’s books, Dog Soldiers, was published in 1974. The 1978 film  adaption, Who’ll Stop The Rain (reviewed on this site here), is also very good.

Dog Soldiers concerns a liberal war correspondent in Vietnam, Converse, who disillusioned with what he has seen, decides to traffic heroin back to the US. He enlists Hicks, his friend in the merchant marines, to take the drugs back to Converse’s wife, Marge, in Los Angeles.… Read more

My top crime reads of 2012

What’s the end of a year without a best of post?

Recently, I was asked by UK site Crime Fiction Lover to list my top crime reads for 2012. They would only let me pick five, but obviously I’ve read a lot more books worthy of mention than that. Here’s the long list.

He Died with his Eyes Open, Derek Raymond

A police procedural like no other, it starts, like so many other crime novels, with the discovery of a body. The unnamed cop (the story’s narrator) who catches the case is a tough talking sergeant from the Department of Unexplained Deaths, also known as A14, at the Factory police station. There’s no apparent motive and all the cop has to go on are a series of old cassette tapes in the dead man’s property that contain the deeply unhappy ramblings of a deeply unhappy man. Most police procedurals deal with crime from the point of view of the police. What’s unusual about this book is that the cop concerned is more like his victim.

Raymond was the pen name of English writer Robert William Arthur Cook, who eschewed his upper middle class family for a life of odd jobs, bohemian travel and frequent brushes with the law. Although he wrote for years, success eluded until with the publication of He Died with His Eyes Open in 1984, the first of five Factory books.… Read more