Some book covers have spectacular covers and some are just terrible. This one is neither. I call this a Ronseal cover. It does what it says on the tin. Or in this case the cover gave me a good idea of the twisted and bloody crime noir contained inside.
I like hard-hitting stories, especially the kind that has an odd slant to it. These stories are seriously weird. Most elements of these stories are perfectly normal and expected within the genre and that is the rub. Everything seems as it should until you get slapped in the face with a wet kipper. There were several points where I exclaimed in public places whilst reading this book. Bill Gates holding up convenience stores for the adrenaline rush stunned me but nowhere near as much as the was that The Boss ends the story. Yes you did just read that. Bill Blinking Gates is a gun-toting nutcase in that story.
This collection shouldn’t work as noir. It should come across as too silly. I’ve read most of the stories twice and I still can’t understand how the author managed to maintain the gravitas I’d expect in this kind of book. I found myself thinking about the stories and the writing for several days after I finished this book. It is well worth a read and a great example of subject being less important than the quality and voice of the storyteller.
There is a uniquely British feel to Brazill’s noir. Even when his characters are right at home in Poland there is a feel that is unmistakably tied to the way the working class traditionally (and still do in many cases) manage their weekly pay. That is to say that as soon as work finishes they head to the pub until they are tossed on to the street and wander home. This adds a vivid feel that somehow manages to evoke unpleasant smells as well as the expected sights.
This book is a series of linked stories. I’m not sure if it was a deliberate technique to throw the reader back towards the previous story but I personally found that the couple of times a phrase was repeated it knocked me out of my reading rhythm and I had to re-focus. That is about the only negative thing about this book for me. I don’t normally quote from a book in a review but I just have to in this case because this snippet stopped me dead. I thought about it for quite a while before continuing and for me it gets to the heart of Brazill’s writing.
“Anonymous hotels attract interesting peoples but only anonymous people stay in interesting hotels since they hope it will add a bit of colour to their dreary lives.”
This is a thoughtful look at the seedy underbelly of cities across Europe and is well worth a read.
This cover perfectly sums up the washed up drifter detective Jack Laramie. Like a lot of detectives in noir stories Jack Laramie is drinking to forget. I find this frustrating in some books because there seems to be no reason and it is just a sulky response to a hard life. Portions of the back-story are scattered through this book in a way that draws you in and puts Jack’s drifting in to context. I really appreciated that.
Although there are two stories in this book they are inter-connected and this led to an ending that was completely unexpected but absolutely perfect. The first story is set at a beauty contest that is scarier and more extreme than those reality show versions on recently. Jack gets screwed in more ways than one and ends up in the cooler. This leads him nicely in to the second story. This one is set in a bohemian estate and showed that it doesn’t matter how rich or well bred people are the same impulses hold sway.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anybody that enjoys crime noir.
The Lizard’s Ardent Uniform
The editor’s nephew Kyle J. Knapp was a talented poet and all round creative person until his tragic death. Fragments from his dream diary were used as prompts for short stories. The stories in this collection all stand apart but are somehow bound together by the surrealism of a dreamscape. I’m not describing it very well. These stories should not work well together and yet even the way that they jar is founded in the land of dreams. Have I even read this book or was that a dream?
I’ve said it before but it is worth saying again, any collection with a Patti Abbott short story is going to be worth a read. I’m yet to be proved wrong on this. Abbott’s story about twins was as creepy as it was enthralling. My favourite story though was Dust to Dust by Terrie Farley Moran. Dust to Dust is one of those stories that can’t fail to illicit an emotional response. It is a quality piece of writing.
I enjoyed this book immensely and I think that David Cranmer has done an outstanding job honouring Kyle J. Knapp.
Exiles: An Outsider Anthology
I’m going to start at the end of this book. Nowhere other than at the very end of this book is it mentioned that all proceeds from this book go to the Marfan Foundation. If you don’t know what Marfan’s Syndrome is go have a look. It is a worthwhile cause and makes this book a guilt free purchase.
Jumping back to the beginning I do like the cover. It is clean, simple and most importantly I knew what type of book I was going to be reading. I knew I was going to enjoy this book by looking at the list of authors. Any collection that includes Patti Abbott and K.A. Laity is going to be good read.
At first glance the title of this collection is a little odd as noir stories are normally about outsiders, right? There are however outside of even those circles. Those quirky bit-part characters hovering on the outside that we barely notice, those are the characters these stories are about.
At times this collection was a bleak and uncomfortable read but there was just enough hope and justice to keep the reader smiling. These stories were fascinating and unusual. That was due to the characters. If you are looking for something different and refreshing then the characters herein will ignite your imagination.
The Axeman of Storyville
I often start off by talking about a cover but before I even got that far the title had me hooked. Nothing quite says gruesome killed like having the word ‘Axeman’ in the title. This is not a splatter-fest horror book and so the minute details of the damage caused are mainly in the readers sordid little mind (I’m speaking for myself there). I really enjoy the fact that my mind was left to create the details from the just enough details given.
If you have read any of the Cash Laramie stories from Beat To A Pulp you have probably heard of Gideon Miles. Miles is billed as the first African American in the Marshall Service. If you do some quick research you can find real people such as Bass Reeves that really were in that situation. This story takes place in the prohibition era. Miles is no longer a Marshall and has come back from The Great War to settle down as a club owner in New Orleans.
Miles is a minor celebrity for his exploits as a Marshall and a soldier but is in his 60’s and looking for a quiet life. Not much chance of that for Miles. There is a scene where Miles gives a lesson to some young bloods that accost him on the street. It made me chuckle because I remember reading a story about a WW2 veteran that did a similar thing with his cane to some horrid little bullies. It is touches like this that add a realism that makes the story come alive.
I already loved the character of Gideon Miles but in this guise I found him compelling and want to read more about this period of his life.
WHITE RABBIT Book Cover
I love this cover. It screams Art Deco like a bakelite phone (there is one mentioned in this book). Did I mention how much I love this cover? This needs to be a poster, with shell shaped up-lighters.
Down the rabbit hole we go. Sorry. It just wasn’t possible to start with that. For most of this book the Alice references are not spoken aloud. Until the final part where you realize that even the structure seems to bear similarities. Even down to giving evidence at the end. Of course this could just be my warped little mind.
This book is crime noir, but not as you know it. Nothing in this book is as it first seems. It has more levels than Chuckie Egg. For example the main character is a fake psychic detective, except he isn’t either. There is also the mute assistant that comes across as a mute Lennie from Of Mice And Men but is a lot smarter than he seems. I got so engaged in this story that I deliberately got on a later and slower train yesterday so that I would have a longer reading session. I know.
I’m not really sure how to describe the story. No, really. I’ve been sitting here for about twenty minutes. Story aside I knew I was going to enjoy this book at the mention of the luminiferous ether. Twisting the medium for light to mean the space between this world and the next is a clever touch and I do love me an Einstein reference. There are other references in this book, some literary and some historical. I probably didn’t spot some of them. That doesn’t surprise me as K.A.Laity is really well read and it adds a roundness and depth to her work that sucks the reader in.
For me this is a fun and thrilling read that is the best offering yet from Fox Spirit.
The Education of a Pulp Writer
I usually like the Beat To A Pulp (BTAP) covers. This one I’m not to keen on. I don’t like smoking for various reasons. It doesn’t normally bother me if there is somebody smoking on a book cover but on this one it seems to be the whole point of the cover. I know some people will like this, but for me it is an instant turn-off. I would have read it sooner if it had a different cover.
The BTAP books are pulpy in a refreshing and modern way. This is no exception. These stories are punchy and direct with the kind of snappy one-liners I really hope for when I read this kind of book. The first line of the first story knocks you back and read it again. Surely he didn’t start a story with that? Yes he did. Awesome. I must read more. That’s how this book started for me and it carried on in much the same way. Each story is very different from the last with the final one being one of Mr Cranmer’s excellent Cash Laramie stories. Wild West noir is so much better than I thought it would be. Blubber was probably my favourite though as it really does hit you hard and was a great way to start the collection.
The biggest problem with this book though is that it is way too short. I wanted at least two or three more stories in this book as I finished it way too quickly.
SALT: A Post-Apocalyptic Thriller
I quite like the cover for this book. I’m not sure it does the book justice though. It doesn’t really setup you up for the tension within. The title on the other hand is perfect. This book takes place in a world where the water levels have risen to a point where there is little or no land mass above sea level. I can’t help but make the inevitable reference to Waterworld at this point. That’s kind of how things seemed to me as the book started. As the plot unfolded it became increasingly clear that it was only visually similar to the 1995 blockbuster. This thriller is all about the tension and there is plenty of it. I started to feel a little claustrophobic reading parts of this book. Not quite the stifling insanity of Das Boot but there was the same feeling of being trapped and doomed to a slow and frustrating end.
This is not the kind of mystery that is obvious from the outset and is slowly revealed. There are some real surprises in the plot and it was very difficult to put this book down. This is a polished and thoroughly engaging thriller. The attention to detail, particularly on the survival and nautical aspects are really interesting and even had me going away to read about desalination.
As always with this author the characters have a realism that manages to be gritty and yet hopeful at the same time.
The only negative thing I’d say about this book is that I personally prefer the Cyberpunk books by Mr Barnes.
Overall this is a fresh and thought provoking thriller that showcases the author’s versatility and talent in yet another genre.
This story takes place in a fictional place called noirville. When I read this book I saw a place very much like the Harlan portrayed in the re-imagining of Leonard’s work. That is just in my mind though. There are so many opportunities to read between the lines and create your own city that I’m pretty sure nobody will see noirville in the same that that I do. I love that.
Like any good noir there is a lot of happening and most of it is bad. This book starts at quite a pace and it doesn’t let-up for an instant. Like all good noir this story is more about what is not said. There is a really hard edge to this story. There are some really screwed up characters doing or having done to them some really horrid things but beneath all of that there is that special sibling bond. It doesn’t matter what your sibling does or is like, they are who they are and you can’t help loving them.
This is an engrossing read. I’ve read a few stories by Eric Beetner and I’m yet to find anything that doesn’t leave me wanting more. This is a fine example of hardboiled modern pulp.