Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sammi Blue and the Express Air Ship to Nowheres

Here it is my entry for the Jason Duke's sweet writing contest

Sammi Blue and the Express Airship to Nowheres

      They sent me to Shatter City to drop a fading pop star named Ginger Blue. A white girl with a thin voice, gym sculpted bod, and shinny full copper hair. Her sales were down, her fan base fading, and her Q factor slipping big time. She had her five years, it was time for her to go. I am sure she knows that, she signed up for it after all. They all sign up for it. The Man needed one last hit from her, He needs just enough of a bump for the greatest hits package to sell through. And dead girls sell.

    I got off the rail at Outer Ring Station and wandered in with the early shifters, pavement pounders, truant teens, loose loafers, and the random dezins of Shatter City. The station was messy but maintained; the recycle bins half full, the tile floors swept and little in the way of Kippel swirling in the slight wind before settling on the ground. The royal blue circle, with the words Outer Station were faded and the walls stained with chemical wash remains. Faint stains were all that remained of the layers of graffiti removed over and over, their messages now obscured.   

    To blend in on a job, I dress in basic work clothes, nothing fancy, just bland and neat, neat, neat. I carry a black nylon shoulder tool bag packed tights with all my tricks. A couple of basic A.C. repair items and general tools poking out for the eye balls to see, I keep a single roll of black electrical tape hanging off a loop in the back. In side are my gloves, glasses and the Pill Popper.

    I transfer more trains and worked my way to the Ring 1 station monorail loading platform, and waited for the station to station express. Around me the sounds of feet and voices carried, ringing off of the steel walls, returning as distorted echoes. The noise, the hollow cries of the city dwellers melding into a roar. On the platform a poster for newish pop sensation Emerald had already started to peel and tatter. She's what a year and a half in, maybe more? I wondered if I'll be seeing soon, or just a little down the line? One thing’s for sure, sooner or later someone will get that call. Just another cog that’ll need replacing.

      The Station to Station Express Monorail carried me over the Ring 3 and Ring 2 Zones, and through the heart of the Aramaghetto. It’s like a theme park ride over the end of urbanian. Below me I could see the cracked streets and dissolving stone buildings, the new world of Gangs and Pimps, Hustlers and Weirdoes, but mostly the dispossessed and the thrill seeking outsiders.  I don't need to look, I have done my time there. I did my years my hard scrabble race, and I fought to climb over the walls, reaching not Ring 1 but out. Over that outer wall and beyond, from the ashes, to begin a new.  


    I looked out at the sky, watching for the shafts of light that periodically make their way though the steel grey cloud cover. I have always found solace in that steel grey sky, and even if it is dull and cold, it goes on forever like a blanket. I couldn't help but glance down at the Aramaghetto below; I had to make sure it is still there. I picked out Freestreet, and The Stiffs Inc office, with it's black stone slab obelisk entrance. I watched as bars and liquor stores pass by and then as we screeched over the scorched asphalt of the Transmainacon square, blackened by a fire of unknown origin. I looked away back to the afternoon sky and the memories of the Arameghtto days started fade away.

    Ring 1 Station, huge royal blue circle on the platform wall. Circle One, official name, is neatly stenciled inside. The station is clean and neat, gleaming tiles and empty rubbish bins. It is a testament to housekeeping. The only scar is a faded chemical wash on the cement walls can't hide the latest graffiti. "What we do is Secret?" in a sloppy spay paint font can still be seen. It’s a scar on the white polished walls. I didn't know that tage, it was new. I knew it from somewhere but could not place it. The tage hadn't made it to Terminal City, where I had been working. Tages are viral, germs, they spread, it ended up on the coast soon enough.

    I made my way to the Four Winds Bar ordered a shot of Sammi Blue with a G.A back. I could see the Sammi Sliver label behind the bar, up on the shelf. Someday I will try it. The licorice liquor numbed my mouth and warmed my core. It lulled me slightly, and I savored it’s mystical taste. I let it sit on my tongue and for a moment I can slip away somewhere with dark storm filled sky's and crackling energy. I chased the Somnambulistic numbness with the G.A. Shatter City serves a stronger G.A. than you find other places, a local brew going back a century and a half. Ginger Ale tends to be too sweet, syrupy, weak and pale everywhere else. The local stuff, they call it Ver-Norse, is a darker amber and fuller flavored carbonated confection. It stings and chokes you if you are not ready. It's effervescent and full of life, you can hear it jump and sizzle when it's poured. It will wake you up. It is real stuff, no chemicals no cancer.

    I walked the two blocks to her place, Klean Khannel housing. It’s on the way up, on the way down, on the fade, on the way to the barging bin housing. The location let’s you know you are on the precipice. The building is  set right on the edge of Ring 1, it faces the fading wall to Ring 2, as if saying; you can always go back over. The wall is plastered with the fading one sheets of fading cogs, it’s a slap to remind them how many things of apple juice they failed to sell.


The building was a modest cement slab on the outside. No attention is to be attracted to the aging and anonymous residence, nor the young up and coming kids warehoused inside against future earnings, of course. They have a lobby guard, retired Kopier, he takes his rounds on the hour, he knows the deal. I slipped into the hallway and headed for the back. The numbing aftertaste of The Sammi still on my tongue, the sweetness of the Ver-Norse filling the rest of my mouth and the back of my throat.

    The place they gave her had to have obviously been conceived as a fuck pad. In the back of the building, with a blind entrance, ground floor, hidden, discrete. Perfect for slipping in and out undetected, It will also do for a murder pad. Gloves on, I pulled the Pill Popper from my bag and make sure it's set. Newish tech then, early model when it still started with the Stim blast overloading the taste buds and filling the target with the sweet or sour psychedelic anesthetic. A spoonful of sugar, they said. Next came the poison pills, the early rough blood burners. They broke the flesh, burrowed under the skin and burned the O-Two right out of the blood and body. There was several moments of fizz until they gave out, you could hear the little pop and it was all over. They could'ave take out a gorilla, if there were any left. 

     I knocked.

    She opened the door, her not so coppery hair piled on top of her head. A Tee-shirt flowed over her curves, Kick out the Jams sweet Rebus! It screamed in electric blue neon on slate grey jersey. It was an old dance number she'd hit with. Light fluffy gray sweatpants hovered just above her hips and hung to her knees. Leningrad Cowgirls in black letters flowing down her right leg.  A few pounds had filled her out over her final year or so, and she didn't look like the skinny new girl from her last video. Her eyes were glassy and dulled but she still knew how to twist. 


    "Nein disbatcher says zere iss problem mit deine A.C." I held up the tool bag, she looked and noded.

     "Mr.?"  She stepped back into the apartment.

     "Tuttle" I stepped  in, pushing the door closed behind me. 

     "A.C. is fine.." she walked over to her fading purple couch and picked up a smoked triangle glass. I could see the last inch of inky onyx liquor and smell it's odor, Sammi. 

     "For the next door unit" I started, she shook her head side to side. 

     "I know why you are here, my records didn't make it, time to go back to the factory" She drained the glass; I could see the empty bottle on the counter Sammi Gold, expensive good stuff, the best they say.


    She set the glass down and let loose her hair. It fell and framed her face for just a moment. I saw her old product in that instant. She gave me the look, that posed you need to think this is sexy look. A smirk crossed her face. She pushed the hair back over her ears and peeled off her tee shirt. Standing topless in front of me; I looked, I saw only the tired eyes, the little tummy starting to sag. She crossed her hands over her breasts and turned away offering her back.

     "Five years, I got my five years...." she said to the wall and looked to me over the shoulder. She pulled the hair to one side, exposing her bare back.  

     "Sweat or Sour?" I'd already selected Sweet, no one chooses sour.

     "Sweet," I nod and raise the Pill Popper


    "Zammi Vilenskkii, that was my old name, a good Neo-Fin name, they said I had a Vagina made of glass," her nose wrinkled, a little light came into her eyes. My hand started to shake for just a second.

    "It's all over now Ginger Blue," it's the scripted line the bean counters gave me. I wasn't going to say it, didn't think it was dignified or professional, but it's all that comes out of my mouth.

    "what did you think a bunch of mums and da's started naming their girls Ginger 20 odd years ago? what's the flavor kennet?" she turned her head away, back to business, only she can't turn all the way she has to look at me, look into my eyes, the eyes of a stranger.  

    "Butterscotch!" I said keeping the eye contact.

     "Sure?" I press the beam projector pre-trigger and watched as the little crackle of light tracked along her exposed spine.

    "It's raining in the in-soul-lation," She moaned, a look of pure pleasure took a hold of her. 

    "feel like I could sleep forever here, I'll live forever now" she started dreamily, pauses "ten thousand roads all lead to..."

    Pft Pft Pft the pills are away, tracking across her shoulder line, 3 little holes appeared and welled up with blood. She gave a jerk and a little yelp and pitched forward onto the couch. I watched as smoke rose from the holes and then the stench of burning blood hit me. I opened the door, the hallway was empty, I closed the door and I am away.

    "Shadowdrive," I whispered the last word for her.

    I hit the Garlic and Shots on the corner and have another Sammi. This time I had to go with the Silver Blue and a G.A. It is just one step up the ladder, middle shelf. I took my glass to the phone terminal called in on the drop line.

    "Twelve Seven Seven, express to the big H" I said and listened for the clicking tone on the other end of the line and then hang up.

    I had time to finish my drink, to take the time with the mid grade Sammi, I had to down the G.A. to keep schedule and I end up leaving the Ver-Norse half drunk. It was a brisk 3 blocks to the Underground station, 20 minutes to the central ring terminal and at 7 o'clock I'm on the express Air Ship to Nowheres.

Eric Peterson 2009, 2010

FFB: THE SPECIALISTS by Lawrence Block

FFB: THE SPECIALISTS by Lawrence Block

I picked up a copy of this one recently and finally got around to reading it this past week. As with many of the other Block books I have read I found it to be a fast paced, fun read. In my mind I have kinda thought of it as The A-Team '69. Here's the overview from Block's website--

Five former Green Berets and their one-legged colonel knock off a mob-run bank in the aid of truth, justice, and the American way---not to mention a lot of cash.

Originally published by Fawcett Gold Medal, in 1969-- it's exactly what it needed to be, filled with not only the bank job but about bit about the cover stories/ day to day lives of the five men who are going to carry out the mission. I like that day to day stuff, the idea that there are people out there in the world who look like they have the average life, but every so often they head off and do something adventurous. I know that isn't uncommon in the crime fiction of the time and those who have written in homage to that era. Westlake's Parker has some of the same allure and I recently read Max Allan Collin's Quarry in the Middle which also includes that fixture of having a criminal life and a normal life. Maybe it's that when that type of fiction came into the market it's audience was mainly men who had experienced WWII, Korea and Vietnam who were settled into lives much like the cover lives of our heroes and these stories were an escape to feed that adventure and action impulse in lives. I wonder if as we get more and more Iraq vets rotating back to the world if we are going to see another spike in the audience for adventure fictions. I'd also love to see Block revisit these guys, it's been a bit over 40 years where are they now? and how did they get there?

My copy is from Foul Play Press, and has a nice minimal cover that I could not find an image of on the web. I have a couple of other books from them by Block and I think they did reissue of the Richard Stark Grofield books, which I have the set of as well. Anyone out there know anything about Foul Play? Thoughts, Comments, ect?

more forgotten book goodness HERE

Forgotten Music: Life Sentence to Love by Legal Weapon

Life Sentence to Love by Legal Weapon is a special little forgotten an in all honesty flawed album, It bombed when released, it's over produced, it's a little to slick, and when you play the tunes many of which are rerecorded version of songs from their earlier indie album versions they just lack the roar and grit of the original, but I love this record anyway. I am not sure why, it's got all of the stuff that I mentioned going against it, but still it endures in my collection, not only on compact disc, but on LP as well.

Musically it's cleaned up west coast 80's punk rock, it's what a major label, a studio and a producer can turn a band into... hell honestly, I wasn't there, I don't know what really happened. I suspect that the label heard in the band what many of us fans out there (and there are fans) heard, a great bluesy slightly country rock sound, with a strong voiced woman out front. They saw a punk group that had survived the LA scene with the core intact (and a seemingly ever changing get of players in the background), who were different enough from the Hardrock Blues Metal (read Hairmetal) pack to stand out, but still in the same ballpark and might sell to that market.

Released in 1988, and come to think of it that was about the time that I was on the prowl for Legal Weapon stuff (it would be almost 5 years before I could track anything down, and then I would have to special order it), but I never saw this album anywhere around. Come to think of it there was a lot of punk rock stuff that had somehow slipped into the world of the bigger entertainment industry ( the film world had The Runnin' Kind and Dudes, the soundtrack of which is where I found out about Legal Weapon)... and most of it floundered. Maybe it just wasn't time, maybe it's not anything that will ever have a time.

There is a little place in my heart where I want to believe that this album would have been a hit. At least a underground hit, if it had been released at another point in time, if what ever happened with the label hadn't, if only. if only...But.... but.... here it is, I remember it, and while I don't play it every day or even every month, it is one of those records that every so often I pull out and play, spin and enjoy... ok and sometimes maybe, just a little it helps me remember what it was like finding the music, and feeling that first rush of excitement and pleasure of having discovered not only the band, but the power of the music.

More Forgotten Music over at Scott Parkers blog here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

FFB: Yellow Dog Party

FFB: Yellow Dog Party by Earl Emerson

Opening line: "IT WAS RAINING WHEN THEY ROLLED ME OUT OF the big Lincoln and into the ditch"

I picked up Yellow Dog Party after spotting it at the local friends of the library sale. There was just something that called out for me to pick it up, and I am glad that I did. What's it about? well---

From Publishers Weekly (via Amazon)

The hard-boiled, wisecracking detective with a heart of gold is alive (just barely) and not well at all when we first meet him in this clever, well-paced mystery. Hired by four area businessmen to locate the women of their dreams, Seattle private eye Thomas Black (last seen in Deviant Behavior ) soon finds himself up a tree, nearly lynched, by three thugs in Miss Piggy masks. What began as a routine--if somewhat odd--case immediately becomes for Black a cause. Determined to ferret out the identities of the hangmen to settle his own vendetta while on a case tracking down the "dream woman" who got him into trouble with them in the first place, he uncovers long-buried secrets that quickly lead to murder. Emerson, a lieutenant with the Seattle fire department, doesn't miss a beat in carving out his detective's niche in the genre: from the stunning sidekick--Black is much too proud to admit his love for her--to the missing woman's abandoned daughters--whom he takes in and comes to adore--we see a man who is far more than just some remote sleuth out to get a job done.

It's safe to say that I devoured this book, with it's driving narrative, quick wit and the Pacific Northwest setting. The Pacific Northwest is one of my favorite parts of the country, and while I haven't made it to the coasts I really want to go back out that way. There is a flavor of the culture of that area in the book, a sensibility that is at once the last remnants of the old west, but tempered with a sustainable way of life. I loved the smart ass patter from our hero Thomas, which is some of the best I have run across in a while. This is the first Emerson I have read, but it won't be my last.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

No Friday Forgotten Book this week-- but.

Well, I don't have a new one this week-- ok ,ok, I have a work in progress one that I hope will be ready next week-- but until then I figured why not post the link to my older FFB reviews for you all to check out. So Make with the Clicky HERE.

You can check out all the new ones over HERE.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Icehouse: The Heartbreak Kid

Icehouse: The Heartbreak Kid by Icehouse
It's said in many circles that there are three main reasons that people kill- Money, Madness and Passion. It could also be said that those are the three main reasons that people write songs, so it should be no surprise that those three themes show up as topics in music, and this months Crime Tune is a little know 80s tune that about murder for passion. Icehouse, from Sydney Australia is remembered in the main stream for their album Man of Colours from 1987. In the USA it's best recalled for the single Electric Blue which was a hit reaching #7 on the American Billboard Hot 100 chart. Like many listeners that single was my introduction to the band, and I wouldn't have cared about the band of the album beyond that if my best friend hadn't forced me to listen to the song The Heartbreak Kid while sitting in his car one evening.

Dusty wind blew 'cross the high plains
as a stranger rode into town
with a certain reputation
for the ladies and a gun
he walked to the bar so casual
just as easy as you please
he was bound to do some damage
with those valentino eyes

well, the barmaid was an angel
and she looked so out of place
and she said her name was 'Sunset'
she was different from the rest
and she couldn't help but notice
the moment he walked through the door
that the gunman was something special
and the bullet found a score

and the one mistake you make is just enough
and that one mistake is "Boy, you talk too tough"

only takes a single bullet
bring the fastest trigger down
only takes a pretty woman
put a gunman underground
and you may hear the same old story
in ev'ry town, on ev'ry street
the story of 'Sunset'... and the
Heartbreak Kid

dirty rain soaked through the doorway
of an upper westside bar
and the TV news was talking
to the crowd of people there

"...well the kid was always reckless
he said "I'll never stay too long..."
"..and when she knew that he would leave her
Sunset shot that gunman down..."

"Oh, the story of 'Sunset'...
and the Heartbreak Kid."

Musically Icehouse was Rock/Post-punk/New Wave with a Synthpop edge, so it seemed strange that they would record a song that has a very strong country vibe, so strong that I am a little shocked that it hasn't been covered by one of the current wave of Alt Country singers. I would love to hear a woman's take on the song. If you read the lyrics you get a pretty straight reading of the story, it's classic noir. Boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy is ready to move on and the girl isn't, so she ends him. I would also point out that as with my first entry in this series Stan Ridgway's The Big Heat there is a time confusion element in both songs. In this one the song starts out like a Western, with the image of a Romantic Cowboy figure, not the John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart or Randolph Scott kind of cowboy, but the more Playboy Cowboy figure-- then we get to the part about the TV News and suddenly it's a contemporary setting. At any rate it's a song the I find I am drawn to time and time again, admittedly for the personal nostalgic value as much as the song these days.

Thoughts, Comments, casting of Sunset or The Heartbreak Kid?

previous 12 Crime Tunes entries Here

Thursday, April 8, 2010

FFB: Video Trash and Treasures by L.A...

FFB: Video Trash and Treasures by L.A. Morse

Like the video store, video rental guides were booming business in the 80s and just as on line options have and are killing the video store the net is also killing the video guide book.

For today's Friday Forgotten book I have pulled out my copy of Video Trash and Treasures Volume I, which appeared in 1989 and for my money was one of the better examples of fringe video rental guide books. Divided into festivals, the book looks not only at the individual films but the genre or more often sub-sub genre the film most belongs to. For instance there is a post apocylpse chapter that starts off talking about Mad Max and Road Warrior giving the reader basis for understanding the type of film the chapter is going to cover. Films, mostly ones that were made to cash in on the success of the better known films in the genre, are each given a synopsis and then a review. What I like about this format is that it's pretty easy to identify which festival you need to look at if you are looking for; a Star Wars rip off, a Conan wanna be, or a flick that's riffing on Jaws. I don't always agree with the reviews, I have happy memories and still enjoy watching many of the films that Mr. Morse didn't care for, but I have to respect all the dreck he was willing to sit through for this book.

Video guides have come and gone over the years, each seem to be fading faster and faster into obsolescence with the weekly release of new films on DVD and Bluray. DVD of course has mostly supplanted the VHS most of us grew up with, and is showing every indication of being on it's way out. As the formats have changed and titles have gone out of print, books like Video Trash and Treasure which started out as guides have now become histories, covering films that all too often are once again out of print, and may of which are largely forgotten. Honestly, a lot of them are worth forgetting. but there is plenty that is worthy of redisovery.

There was a second volume of in the series, I still have my copy of volume I, but I gave away my copy of Volume II years ago.

Thoughts, comments, favorites from the video fringe?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

FFB: Texas Wind by James Reasoner

FFB: Texas Wind by James Reasoner

If it wasn't for the Friday Forgotten books I might never have heard of James Reasoner and I might never have read his first book Texas Wind. I think I am better off for having discovered James and his books. Texas Wind is the story of-- well hell, here's the synopsis from amazon

When Cody, a Texas private investigator, is hired to look into what should be a straightforward missing person case, he soon realizes that he's taken on more than he bargained for. The facts surrounding the disappearance of Fort Worth businessman's daughter, twenty-year-old Mandy Traft, are far from clear. Did she run off with her boyfriend? Or has she been kidnapped? With each step Cody takes, the case becomes increasingly dangerous. Before long, he's been warned off, and bodies are starting to tumble. He knows he should get out while he still can. But he can't. Not until he finds Mandy. TEXAS WIND is James Reasoner's debut novel that has achieved a legendary status since its publication in 1980. Considered by many to be one of the best private eye novels ever written.

PI novels are all over the place and for one to rise to the top of the form in this day and age (let alone back in 1980 when the book first published) it has to have something special. In this case I think it's the direct style and lack of too much extraneous plots and sub pots. We get a nice balance of the private life of Cody and his work. I liked the clumsiness of many of the characters and their actions, the professional thugs are good at what they do, but the amateurs are just that, making mistakes and blundering to often to their own dooms. I also liked that there was a real sense of place and time in the book. Good Stuff.

Pulp Serenade review of Texas Wind here