Category Archives: Crime fiction

Book review: Clarence Cooper Jr’s The Scene

San Francisco based crime writer Domenic Stansberry recently sent me a copy of a book he has just put out through his very cool looking small publisher, Molotov Editions. The book is a re-released edition ofThe Syndicate by a little known Black crime writer, Clarence Cooper Jr.

I hope to write about the Molotov Editions reprint of The Syndicate, the cover of which is included below, in a future post. For now, however, I want to talk about the Cooper novel I have read, The Scene, also published in 1960. And if The Scene is any guide I am pretty sure I will dig The Syndicate.

The book set in a nameless US city, and deals with the bleak, dead end lives of the junkies, prostitutes and criminals who populate an area of it, known as ‘the Scene’.

A myriad of characters shift in and out of the story: there’s Rudy Black, a ruthless, showy pimp and up and coming pusher, part of a network of dealers working for a mysterious criminal called ‘the Man’, who controls the flow of narcotics in the Scene: Black Bertha, who also deals to support her and her daughters but doesn’t use herself; and Miss Dalton, the Man’s loyal secretary.

The novel also focuses on two cops.… Read more

Continental Crime: A YouTube reading

In late 2017, LA based author, Eric Beetner and I discussed doing a crime reading reading on YouTube to mark the release of novels we both had coming out earlier this year through the same publisher, Down and Out Books. The idea sort of grew from there to encompass an author either based in or who had written fiction from at least one country in continent on the earth (with the exception of Antartica).

In addition to myself reading from Gunshine State and Eric reading from his novel, Rum Runners, the list includes Matthew IdenSteph Broadribb, Mike NicolElka Ray and Claudia Piñeiro.

For reasons which are obvious in retrospect, but didn’t seem so at the time, putting this together was not as easy as we thought it would be and took a long longer than we planned. In particularly, my take home lesson is crime fiction from Latin and South American is really underexposed outside that region.

Anyway we decided to call our YouTube reading Continental Crime. Hopefully you find a new voice you like and get exposed to the wonderful world of reading books from different cultures. A big thanks to Eric’s editing skills for pulling the final product together.

Enjoy.

Pulp Friday: Guns with plots

Let’s make one thing clear. I don’t own a gun. Never have and never will. Indeed, the only guns I want to see are in film or on the cover of books like the ones featured in today’s Pulp Friday post.

For a while now I have been obsessed with the cover above of the 1964 Panther edition of Len Deignton’s The Ipcress File. The cover, done by influential English graphic designer, Ray Hawkey, who would go onto to do a number of paperback covers, exudes a style and tone I could never imagine being used today except as a deliberate retro homage.

It speaks to the everyday grime, drudgery and unglamorous boredom of the Cold War spy racket, which the Deighton novels featuring the working class spy, Harry Palmer, evoke so well. There is also the mess that comes with the trade: a cold cup of tea (probably cold); cigarettes, because in the sixties every fictional spy smoked; paperclips for the paperwork; and, a gun and bullets, because sometimes you have to kill someone.

It is a gritty, cluttered layout I associate with mass paperback novels of the type that were largely targeted at men in the 1960s and 1970s. As it turns out, a bit of a dig around reveals it was a style that was widely used in those two decades – but it also bled over into the 1980s – by mass market paperback publishers in the crime, mystery and espionage thriller categories.… Read more

Pulp Friday: The Riot

I am rather partial to a good paperback movie tie-in. And I love Pan paperbacks. So this book from 1969, which I had never previously seen before stumbling across it in a second hand bookshop this week, presses all the right buttons.

The Riot, the only novel credit I have been able to find for Frank Elli, was first published in 1966. It is the story of a cynical con who finds himself thrown into the centre of a brutal hostage situation when the prison he is incarcerated in, erupts in a riot. Apparently the novel was based on an actual riot in an Arizona prison in which Elli, a former inmate of the prison, had been involved in. Kirkus Review called it ‘powerful storytelling. It’s a brutal, black vision in which the cynical despair is offset by a cool, shrug shouldered presentation.’ That doesn’t sound too bad.

It was filmed as Riot in 1969 by Buzz Kulik, a director who appears to have spent most of his career doing television, starring Jim Brown in the main role, and Gene hackman. As was often the case with prison films in the 1960s and 1970s, the production utilised real life prison inmate and staff at the Yuma Territorial Prison that it was filmed in.… Read more

Being influenced by your favourite crime writer

As regular readers of this site will know, my second novel, Gunshine State, has recently been re-released.

To mark the occasion, the fine folks at my publisher, Down and Out Books, asked me to stop by their site and say a few works about the book.

Gunshine State has a number of literary influences. I am a big fan of the Crissa Stone books by Wallace Stroby and Australian writer Garry Disher’s Wyatt books. But my most obvious inspiration—and probably my desert island series—is the character of the master thief Parker, created by Richard Stark aka Donald Westlake.

For my post for the Down and Out Books site, I decided to talk about the very fine line between being influenced by your favourite crime writers and falling into a straight out pastiche or imitation. Doing the former without plunging into latter is something I was very conscious of, as I was writing Gunshine State – my attempt to do an Australian take on the heist gone wrong story – and the follow up, which I am currently in the midst of, Orphan Road.

The piece is available to read in full here.

And, if you are after a good weekend read, Gunshine State is available in all formats here.Read more