Category Archives: Robert Stone

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 year in books: Tom Vater


I’m pleased to welcome Bangkok-based journalist and writer Tom Vater as the next contributor to the ‘my year in books’ series.

Tom is the author of The Cambodian Book of the Dead, a great hard-boiled crime novel set in Cambodia, which I reviewed here on this site in early November.

The book is available here. You can find out more about Tom and his work on his on-line home, here.

Thanks for your contribution, Tom. I particularly approve of the inclusion of Robert Stone’s book, Dog Soldiers. That’s one I definitely have to re-read.

The Master and Margerita, Mikhail Bulgakov

I got to this incredible, magical tale by low-down pop cultural ways when I was sixteen and am currently rereading the book.  In this enduring Russian novel, the devil causes mischief amongst the atheist and greedy communist elite in 1920s Soviet Moscow, one of the world’s greatest love stories, between the Master and Margarita, plays itself out, and there’s an alternative narrative of the relationship between Pontius Pilate and Jesus. The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil is said to be partially inspired by the novel and that’s how I found Bulkakov’s subversive masterpiece.

“But would you kindly ponder this question: What would your good do if evil didn’t exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared?Read more

Pulp Friday: interview with Iain Mcintyre, author, Sticking it to the Man!

Today’s Pulp Friday is a fascinating interview with Melbourne-based social historian Iain McIntyre, author of a new book, Sticking it to the Man! Pop, Protest and Black Fiction of the Counterculture, 1964-75.

Sticking it to the Man! is a roller coaster ride through the lava lit streets of the counter-cultural pulp fiction of the late sixties and early seventies, a time when hippies, bikers, swingers and revolutionaries replaced cops and private detectives as pulp’s stable characters.

The book contains 130 reviews of pulps from the period covering all the major sub-themes: drug use, bikers, sleaze, blaxsploitation, hippies and dystopian science fiction. It also includes the covers in all their dog eared, price marked glory. It’s through books like this that the hidden history of pulp fiction is gradually pieced together. Sticking it to the Man! is a must read for every serious pulp fiction afficiando.

You can buy Sticking it to the Man! here. Copies will also be on sale at the launch of Crime Factory’s Hard Labour anthology, this coming Monday, October 8. Iain will also be talking about his book at the launch.

What is it about pulp fiction between 1964 and 1975, the period covered in your book that you find so interesting?

I’ve long had an interest in troublemakers, militants and odd-balls, and this was a period in which those normally relegated to the margins were able to have a major impact on culture and society.… Read more

Post-traumatic noir part 2: Who’ll Stop The Rain

A while ago on this blog I wrote about the 1981 Ivan Passer movie, Cutter’s Way.

Based ased on the 1976 cult novel Cutter and Bone by Newton Thornburg, it’s one of the best crime films to deal with the impact of America’s war in Vietnam.

But it gets a run for it’s money by a little known film I’ve recently discovered, Who’ll Stop the Rain (AKA Dog Soldiers) made several years earlier in 1978.

Who’ll Stop the Rain a paranoid, hard-boiled road trip through America’s counter-cultural underbelly and a devastating indictment of the impact of the conflict.

The film opens with war correspondent John Converse (Michael Moriarty) trapped in the middle of friendly fire. His voice over as he surveys the resulting carnage tells us:

“Military command has decided that elephants are enemy agents because the Vietcong use them to carry supplies. So now we’re stampeding the elephants and gunning them down from the air…In a world where elephants are pursued by flying men, people are just naturally going to want to get high.”

A former liberal disgusted by the war, Converse decides to buy two kilos of uncut heroin in Saigon and smuggle it back to California, where he plans to sell it at an enormous profit.… Read more