Category Archives: Jim Brown

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

Dark of the Sun

It’s always tempting to start a post about a movie like Dark of the Sun by saying they don’t make them like this any more. I say this about movies a lot, particularly movies from the 1960s and 1970s. But I’m not entirely sure they made many films like this all that often back then either.

Dark of the Sun (aka The Mercenaries) was directed by legendary British cinematographer, Jack Cardiff, and adapted from a 1965 adventure novel by the African-born British writer, Wilbur Smith, not really a regular fixture on my reading list but my late dad loved his books.

The movie stars Rod Taylor as Captain Bruce Curry – in what is commonly agreed to be his best role – as a cynical, tough as nails mercenary. Curry is paid by President Ubi (the wonderful Calvin Lockhart), the sleazy head of a teetering African state, and his fat Belgium mining company overlord, to lead a detachment of local soldiers on a steam train to a remote township and rescue the Europeans surrounded by rebels known as the Simbas.

Curry knows the real mission is to retrieve 50 million dollars in diamonds sitting in the township’s time-locked vault. Ubi needs the diamonds to weapons to fight the rebels. “I’m running out of time Captain,” Ubi tells to Curry.… Read more

The heist always goes wrong, part 1: ten of the best heist movies ever made

asphalt01I love a good heist film.

I love the genius and intricacy of their plots and the variations they come in, whether it be the all star team assembled for a job or the desperate ex-cons trying for one last score.

But most of all I love them because of the golden rule of all good heist films – for whatever reason, the heist always goes wrong.

What do you need for a good heist?

You need a plan for actual heist itself, the getaway, and moving, storing and fencing whatever it is you’ve stolen. The more complicated the plan, the more likely it is that something will go wrong.

You need a crew of people; one man or woman alone cannot do a heist. This introduces the human element and all the problems that come with it, the greed, suspicions, jealousies and uncertainties.

I’ve been thinking for a while now about what my top ten-heist films would be and the following list, in no particular order, is it.

The robbery itself is almost immaterial to how I rate a good heist film. What I like is the context and atmosphere in which the heist takes place and inevitable problems that arise after it’s been pulled off. And the darker and more broken things get, the better the film is in my book.… Read more

Parker and the art of hard-boiled crime writing

December 31 2010 marks the second anniversary of the death at age 75 of one of the masters of hard-boiled crime writing, Donald Westlake.

I’ve found myself thinking a lot about Westlake lately and his best known creation, the professional criminal Parker.

Westlake was a prolific writer. While he specialised in crime fiction, he also did science fiction, erotic stories and westerns under a myriad of pseudonyms of which Richard Stark, the name he used for the Parker books, remains the best known. He also worked on a number of screenplays, including the adaption of Jim Thompson’s The Grifters.

Sixteen Parker novels appeared between 1962 and 1974. For reasons I’m not clear about, Westlake took a rest from the character until 1997, then wrote another eight Parker books.

Several of the books were filmed, the best known of which is Point Blank starring Lee Marvin (later remade as Payback with Mel Gibson as the lead, but the less said about it the better).

I recently discovered via The Violent World of Parker website, The Outfit, an excellent 1973 adaption of Westlake’s novel of the same name, is finally getting an outing on DVD. (The details are here).

Robert Duvall does the honours as Parker or Macklin, as the central character in the film is called, alongside Joe Don Baker, Robert Ryan and the siren of seventies American B-movies, Karen Black.… Read more