I've never been a big fan of audio books, mostly because I haven't had much use for them. Sitting in a room, listening to someone talk tends to put me to sleep (ask my college professors), so when given the choice of an audiobook or book to read, I always pick the option I can hold.
But it's summertime, or as close as Maine can get, so I've once again started walking to work. In the past I've filled up that time with podcasts or music (Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks is a walking favorite) but I'm going to try something new.
A friend of mine constantly rents audio books from the library, and 90% of the time his selections are questionable at best. I've made many recommendations, but somehow James Patterson still ends up on his listening lists. But the other day he rented a book called Three Seconds. I wouldn't have given it a second thought but on the bottom of the cover was a very important sentence.
"Winner of the Best Swedish Crime Novel."
I'm sold. So many good crime authors come from that area (it must me the cold) that any book named the best deserves a read, or in this case, listen.
It will be an interesting experiment, as my total walking time is only about 35 minutes, so it will be a slow process. But hopefully worthwhile. I'll let you know if I get hooked.
And since I forgot to post this yesterday, I certainly do not feel lucky. But a belated Happy 81st Birthday to Clint Eastwood, the baddest man in Hollywood.
Not only did he help create the most iconic vigilante cop in the history of cinema, but turned what could have been a one shot movie into a series with the fantastic and gritty Dirty Harry movies.
He could have rode those coattails for as long as he wanted, but instead chose to branch out and become a successful actor/director creating gems such as Play Misty for Me and the Academy Award winning (and best western of all time) Unforgiven.
Did I forget to mention that he also did the whole politics thing WAY before Arnold, becoming the mayor of Carmel-by-the-sea back in 1986.
At this age, many a people would be slowing down and riding off into the well deserved sunset, but Clint continues to make movies, with his biopic J. Edgar currently in post production.
So I'm incredibly sad to see that The Chicago Code has not been renewed for the upcoming fall schedule. I have yet to see every episode, but it's safe to say with most of the toilet water that passes for television, this show should have at least been given a second season. I don't expect the cash cows that are reality programming to disappear, but certainly their easy money should be able to pick up the tab for some quality shows. It's a sad state of affairs when the man who created The Shield has had two decent shows axed recently. (He also executive produced Lie to Me, another casualty.)
"When I was on the job," I said, "it was said of me that I was like a dog with a bone. Just because I've let go of something doesn't mean I can keep from thinking about it."
I wouldn't be reading crime fiction if not for Lawrence Block. My reading interests have always been varied, from the required classics to Chuck Palaniuk, but prior to Mr. Block, I hadn't touched a single page of crime other than Sherlock Holmes. The genre was not shunned on purpose, I just hadn't given it a fair shake. That changed the day I picked up A Dance at the Slaughterhouse. Within those pages I was introduced to the burned out ex-cop/not private eye Matthew Scudder. His world was bleak, dangerous, and completely captivating. By books end I had promised myself to read every word printed concerning him.
It's about ten years later, and sadly I have a few books left unread. But in preparation for A Drop of the Hard Stuff's arrival, I dug out my books, picked up a few more and proceeded to read:
The Sins of the Father
Time to Murder and Create
In the Midst of Death
A Stab in the Dark
Eight Million Ways to Die
When the Sacred Ginmill Closes
A Ticket to the Boneyard
A Dance at the Slaughethouse
The Devil Knows Your Dead
Thats a pretty full two months, and in all honesty it was worth the time to catch up with an old friend. To me, Matthew Scudder is like that grizzled old uncle who shows up a bit drunk at the reunion, tells amazing stories, sneaks you a beer, and ends up punching someone. The rest of the family might be slightly embarrassed by his antics, but you can't help wanting to be him just a little.
The earlier Scudder novels were filled with booze, broads, and endless cases. Matt was the first private investigator, unlicensed or not, who tried as hard as possible to never ever take a case. But like the opening quote stated, when he took a job, he stayed on until it was finished. His personal life would suffer, his friendships would suffer, and in the beginning his sobriety suffered.
And then Lawrence Block went and did something completely unexpected, he sobered Matt up. Sent him off to AA and put him through the steps. Would a clean and sober Matt be as interesting?
Cut to the book that arrives in stores tomorrow, A Drop of the Hard Stuff.
It might not be Block's best book, but it's a welcome addition to the series. Taking place entirely in a previously untold flashback, it tells the story of a case Matt takes on as he nears his one year sobriety anniversary. An old acquaintance of Matt, former criminal "High-Low" Jack Ellery has turned up dead after recently reconnecting with Matt at a meeting. Jack's sponsor believes it has something to do with a particular AA step, making amends to those he might have wronged. It seems Jack wronged quite a few people. Instead of turning over Jack's list to the police, the sponsor hands it over the Matt, hoping he will clear names that the police would instead look into.
As one would guess based on past experience, Matt is reluctant, but takes the money and the job. In typical Block fashion, Matt works the case slowly and methodically, asking all the right questions to all the right people (including a few welcome series regulars like Danny Boy Bell) and before long he's dug deep enough to unravel the mystery. It should come as no surprise, because Scudder has always been good at what he does.
And like the past books, it's not always about the mystery. Matt is a complicated character, and it's his struggles with the bottle, women, and his life that always keep me coming back. He's not that hard of a man that you can't help but feel for him as he is tempted by the neon promises of local bars. Having gone through similar problems, Lawrence Block lends the book much needed realism behind Matt's struggles.
The only problem I had with the book was it's ending. Back in the day Matt handed out some rather unusual forms of justice, and he wasn't above coaxing a suicide or letting a man like Mick Ballou take care of the dirty work. Sometimes he did what needed to be done himself. It's a trait of Matt's I always admired. Sadly, without giving aways the ending, I found the last few pages of this book to be rather passive. Perhaps Block has moved past the need to have Matt dole out some justice on his own terms.
I, however, have not, and it left me wanting a little more.
Would that stop me from recommending A Drop of the Hard Stuff? Not a chance.
It's official. Javier Bardem has officially signed on as Roland Deschain in the Ron Howard adaptations of Stephen King's Dark Tower series. I haven't yet read all of the books (I stopped after book 4 because of fears the series would never be finished) but I think this is fantastic news.
If you haven't heard, Howard's plans for the series are rather ambitious, mixing a trilogy of films along with television mini-series. It's something that could be completely amazing or fail spectacularly, but I have to admire Howard and producer Brian Grazer for their moxie. Personally, I'm hoping it's a wild success, and the casting of Bardem ensures a commitment to quality.
But not surprisingly, the internet isn't happy about this. After reading the comments on Imdb, (I know, glutton for punishment) I was absolutely shocked to hear many people crying about Javier's accent. Really? This is an Academy Award winning actor signed on for a part he should absolutely kill, and people are fretting about his accent? Do people expect him to sound like he's in a Spanish language film? He's an actor, lets allow him to act. Besides, the Dark Tower series is fictional. Where does it say he has to sound American?
I hope he sounds like he usually does because I actually like his voice. To hell with the complaints.
For the first time in a long while, I'm at a loss of what to talk about. I'm in the homestretch of Daniel Woodrell's The Bayou Trilogy (hell of a book) and just starting the comic book 5 Days to Die. I haven't been able to sit down and watch a movie for a few days and I just got back from Boston at 3am last night (went to see The Kills; great band), so my energy is approaching E on the meter.
Then I notice today would be my 500th post since starting this blog January 1st, 2010.
So I'm just going to celebrate that fact and little else today while I recuperate.
He might not have made a decent film in the past ten years or so, but for my money Mr. Pacino was THE actor of the 70's and early 80's. And yes, I'm putting him over DeNiro, Gene Hackman, Robert Duval, and Jack Nicholson.
It the final day to highlight the fantastic pieces over at Reelizer.com, so we might as well go out with a Showcase! Here are an assortment of posters for the Orson Welles/Joseph Cotten/Carol Reed/Graham Greene classic The Third Man.
If you've never read any of the Dylan Dog Casefiles, you owe it to yourself to do so.
Nightmares can't hurt you. There's no such thing as the walking dead. Monsters are all in your imagination. We tell ourselves these things to make us feel safe at night, to give us strength against the unknown. But there are things in the dark that can hurt us. Just ask Dylan Dog. An ex-cop who now battles against evil as a "nightmare investigator," Dylan Dog is unlike any private eye you've ever met. If creatures from beyond the unknown are after you, and if you can hire him, he just might save your life.
And I am very excited about this movie. Brandon Routh is a terribly under-appreciated actor who deserves more roles. His Superman was spot on and he nearly stole Scott Pilgrim in the ten minutes he had of screen time. And with Dylan Dog that gives him three comic book films, moving him into the pantheon of geek heroes alongside Chris Evans and Ryan Reynolds.
Marcia Clark's debut novel, Guilt by Association, has all the makings of a fantastic novel. Her characters, specifically plucky L.A. deputy DA Rachel Knight, are all well rounded, realistic characters. Even the bit players have memorable quirks. The dialogue reads true, as does the inner thoughts of Rachel. These words were not written to sound "cool," but instead to be as realistic as possible. It's obvious that Clark had an ear out as she walked the halls of her workplace.
And it's in the details that the authenticity of her experience comes through. Buildings are well described down to the tiniest, but important, minutiae. I've never visited any of these bars or courtroom, but after reading the novel, I feel as if I could recognize them should I walk on by.
The plot of the novel is also quite compelling. Rachel's friend and co-worker is found dead under rather unusual, and damning, circumstances. She's determined to work the case even after she's been warned off, needing to prove that her friend was not the man he is made out to be. Instead of her crusade, she's forced to work another case involving the sexual assault of a young woman whose father happens to be rather rich and powerful. Each case is interesting in it's own right, and Clark balances each story rather well.
So why didn't I really like this book?
Honestly, I'm not sure I know the answer. Like I just explained, there isn't really a weak spot in the novel. It's well written, well thought out, and well paced. It has all the makings of a terrific book, and it may well be, but it just wasn't for me.
You might damn me for saying this, but perhaps it was just a bit too girly? Much attention is paid to Rachel's clothes, her feelings, and her nights out with her gal pals. Others might eat this stuff up with a spoon, but for me it got a little to close to a Sex In the City/Law & Order mash up. I prefer my protagonists to be a little more hard boiled and a little less well adjusted. This probably says more about the reader that the novel itself.
But pick up the book and decide for yourselves. Perhaps you won't be as strange as me.
I've extolled the virtues of Beat to a Pulp before, but for those of you that might be unfamiliar, here it is again. Beat to a Pulp is a website run by David Cranmer. It's home to tons of fantastic hardboiled crime fiction and other pulp goodies. There is a "weekly punch" which features a new story, as well as a lengthy archive of past stories. Just recently they published Round One, a collection of some of the best works published to date. It's a collection worth checking out.
Should you be an aspiring writer, it might be worth your time to visit the submission guidelines because on May 1st you can submit the best you've got and hope to see your namepublished alongside some terrific writers.
When I got my Blu-ray player a few months ago the first thing I did was to look over my sprawling, nearly unmanageable, DVD collection and promise myself one simple thing; no more. If I already own it, I'm not buying it again. If you are anything like me, you know what happened next.
I was able to hold off for maybe two weeks before I "needed" Gone Baby Gone on BR. It was used and only $10. That's not too bad, right? My ability to rationalize myself out of any situation astounds even me. Now half my collection of higher end discs consists of 50% of films I already owned on DVD and VHS. If I could I'd own a reel of Taxi Driver just to have it on one addtional format.
I'm sure this must be a diagnosed sickness.
So all this got me looking at my collection, wondering what films I'd buy again should they come out. I was actually surprised by the amount of great movies not available yet. So here is a cursory glance at my collection and the films that the moment they hit the shelves will be mine...again.
2. Streets of Fire
4. The Conversation
5. The Game
6. City of God
7. Out of the Past- could mention numerous film noirs but why is this not available!
8. Kill Bill-The Whole Bloody Affair
9. Raising Arizona/Miller's Crossing/Blood Simple/Man Who Wasn't There
10. Bringing Out the Dead/Mean Streets/King of Comedy
11. The Boxer
12. The Talented Mr. Ripley
13. The Grifters
14. Get Carter
15. Point Blank
Sure, the movies sucked, but nothing can take away how cool this game was when it first appeared. I specifically bought a Sega Genesis so I could play Mortal Kombat II.
Now there seems to be a new spin on the central idea, and it's intriguing. I remember seeing this a year or so ago, and I'm happy to see what once could have been a failed movie pitch is turning into a web series.
I've been a fan of Warren Ellis for the past decade or so, ever since I got back into reading comics. His work on The Authority and Planetary was revolutionary, bringing about a new type of superhero, one that DC comics might not have been ready for.
These books led me to his masterwork, Transmetropolitan. Published by the Vertigo imprint of DC comics, Transmet ran for 60 issues and was a glorious combination of Hunter S Thompson and Philip K Dick. It presented a twisted, corrupt future world which frighteningly is starting to appear. It's angry, smart, and an amazing work of fiction.
Since then, The Old Bastard (as he is affectionately known) has created the detective series Fell, the intelligence thrillers Global Frequency and Red, and countless other work for hire for Marvel that I'm not going to mention.
But when Warren Ellis's game is on, he's a true modern wordsmith.
His first novel, Crooked Little Vein was a modern update of the classic hard boiled noir, complete with sexual fetishes, a secret Constitution, and every dirty little thing his mind could conjure. While it follows the tropes of the traditional private eye novel, it quickly distinguishes itself from most anything you'll ever read. It can be a bit over the top at times, but it never fails to entertain.
The first few times I saw a Sidney Lumet film, I didn't realize he had directed them. At that time I was still a young pup of 17 and raiding the library of the local small town video store. I was only allowed to rent them because my mother had given the okay for me to rent the very grown up Rated R films. But Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon blew my pre-adult mind, and soon enough I knew his name.
He might not have been the greatest director, but he was damn good, and for those two films alone he deserves to be celebrated.
Check out a wonderful piece the New York Times did on his career here.
Those of you who know me accept me, for the most part, as the radical-pinko-commie-bleeding heart-hippie-leftist-liberal that I am. I believe in things like free speech, choice, abolition of the death penalty, socialized medicine for all, better funding for the arts, and a hand up for those in need. All of these qualities immediately identify me and move me to my seat on the left, where I rightly belong. But guess what? I also love guns.
I feel everyone, with the exception of the mentally unbalance, the criminally convicted, and men named Myron, should own a gun. (Should I mention that I don't currently own one?) It's an important right, and as my friend Joe often says, it's the only thing that keeps us from being subjects instead of citizens. He's not screaming to the mountains calling for armed revolution and stapling tea bags to his hat, but I understand what he means. If the government should one day become far too powerful (and yes I hear you Far Right Wing People, but fuck off, they are not that powerful) a gun is the only thing that might keep you free. That and a well stocked bomb shelter.
So despite not owning a gun, I thoroughly enjoy shooting them with my friends. My lack of firearms is forgiven, and my chums allow me to fire their vast collection of weapons. Seriously, should there ever be a Zombie Uprising, I know exactly whose house to run to.
Today, I am going to pop off a few rounds at a local sand pit/deserted piece of woods. This is Maine. I'm sure there are indoor ranges and gun clubs, but here, we shoot in nature. Don't worry. We don't shoot at small woodland animals, and as of yet, no people. Okay, we shoot at cardboard standees of people. A few years back a Matt Damon/Jason Bourne and Lindsay Lohan/Mean Girls display saw the business ends of a few rounds. And Joe has a mean-on for quarters.
It's not in theaters yet, but you can watch it now on Amazon instant video. At $9.99 it's not that bad of a deal. If it makes some cash that way I'd love to see smaller budget films attempt the same distribution.
I already have the hardcovers of both The Hunter and The Outfit books by Darwyn Cooke, but the oversized hardcover whore in me simply cannot resist double dipping when IDW releases this:
It will include both adaptations, the Man With The Getaway Face story, sketchbook material, an eight-page story that will only be available in this edition, plus other goodies. It will be 9" x 13" instead of the usual 6" x 9" and will be slipcased. And with at least two more adaptations on the way, it's a safe bet this doorstop of a book will eventually have a shelf mate.
AMC might have been grabbing headlines recently for their battles with Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, but lets not forget they put out some quality original programming. Besides Mad Men we are treated with Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and now The Killing, which premiered last night.
I don't have cable, so I didn't get a chance to view it yet, but I'm getting good vibes from the previews and television spots. The "Who Killed Rosie Larsen" is a good start, because it automatically conjures up images of Twin Peaks.
My friend Brad always brings this site to my attention, so I'm going to share it with all of you. The posters on this site are consistently amazing, and my only complaint is the prints are usually not for sale. Each Sunday this month I'll show another one or two, but please go to Reelizer.com and browse through them all.
Here are two Scorcese classics as interpreted by Steve Dressler.
When Paz Vega is the star of your film, you are about as B movie as you can get. Written by two people I've never heard of (Nick Ball, John Niven) and directed by John Stockwell (The jock in Christine), I have little hope for this movie to ever find an audience.
Bad title. No stars. Weak trailer. How do movies like this get made and released? Who exactly was it made for?
If you don't know him, he's the creator of the excellent Sons of Anarchy as well as an executive producer/writer/director on The Shield. He's got a blog over at SutterInk and he's not afraid of expressing himself. His posts are quite candid, and as you will see, colorful. This was posted yesterday, but I think it works for April Fools Day. Go check him out.
I'm only adding this because I've been asked a few times, but yeah, I always accept review/preview copies. Who turns down free stuff? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for my mailing address. And thanks.
Dan Fleming is the writer/co-creator of Warrior Twenty-Seven, the independant comics anthology. He's been known to bury his nose in books since the earliest of ages, and has been busy writing a crime novel for a few moons. His comic work can be viewed at www.warrior27.thecomicseries.com. He is also one half of the podcasting duo, The Potato League Podcast, which can be found on Podbean. He can be contacted at either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org