Category Archives: Neo Noir

Book review: Beautiful Revolutionary

I first came across Melbourne author Laura Elizabeth Woollett’s work when she participated in a Noir at Bar event I helped organise last year. That night she read one of the tales from her short story collection, The Love of a Bad Man. It is tempting to view her debut novel, Beautiful Revolutionary, as an extension of that collection – twelve terrific stories told from the point of view of the lovers and wives of various bad men in history. Indeed, if I remember correctly, one of the pieces in The Love of a Bad Man concerned the Reverend Jim Jones, a very bad man and the central focus of Beautiful Revolutionary.

Woollett’s novel spans the period of history from the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in June 1968 to the events that occurred in November 1978, when over 900 people died from drinking poison at the People’s Temple Agricultural Project, better known as ‘Jonestown’ in Guyana, founded by cult leader, Jim Jones. When I was younger, I remember Jonestown being described as a mass suicide but, as relatives of the dead have since pointed out, it was really a mass murder, as all but a few drank the poison under duress.

Although we never hear the story from his point of view, the book revolves around Jones, a self proclaimed socialist saviour, but also a sexual predator, quack faith healer and an increasingly unhinged demagogue.… Read more

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

Projection Booth podcast #352: Kiss Me Deadly

It was a joy and a thrill to join film scholar Kevin Heffernan and Mike White, host of the terrific Projection Booth podcast, for an episode of his show on what is probably my favourite film noir, Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly (1955).

Kiss Me Deadly is one of those films I watch every year or so and always find something new to appreciate about it. Talking with my two co-podcasters, I discovered even more to like about it. Issues canvassed during this podcast include:

Mike Hammer (and Mickey Spillane) as the personification of the crisis in post WWII masculinity, and the women in the film as examples of females who are fighting against the confines of their role in American society in the 1950s.

Pulp fiction.

The film’s popularity in France, particularly within surrealist circles for its depiction of the incoherence of everyday life and mass commercial culture.

The Cold War nuclear state, paranoia and surveillance.

THAT answering machine.

Jack Elam.

Ernest Laszlo’s sensational cinematography.

Los Angeles’ former Bunker Hill area as the 1940s/50s B-movie/noir outdoor film shooting location of choice.

The psychiatrist as an archetypal villain in 1940s/1950s American film.

Other fictional noir detective equivalents to Mike Hammer, including Harry Moseby in Arthur Penn’s 1975 film, Night Moves (okay that last part might of been just me).… Read more