Monday, January 31, 2011

Jan 2011 Monthly reads

Books Jan 2011

King of the Wood: John Maddox Roberts

An alt history where it was the Vikings/ Norsemen that first settled North America. This was for a future FFB installment --- so more to come on this one.

Lawrence Block book of the Month: Hit Man

Existential, there I said it; it’s really what it seems that all great hit men stories are about, or at least a good chunk of them. It’s not the hit’s, it’s the in between Much like Ken Bruen did in Once Were Cops. There are the jobs, but in between there is a constant search for home, a family, there is a dog and stamp collection. Along the way there is are mistake, changes in the work place and thoughts of leaving. I enjoyed this book a lot and look forward to next month’s Lawrence Block book.

Stark House Press novel of the Month:

A Devil for O’Shaughnessy by Gil Brewer

Why is Florida such a destination for 50s Noir? Is it because it became the new La La land of that era? Was it the clash of culture with the rich and the poor? This is a classic noir set up with a looser meeting a woman; getting caught up in something illegal, and of course very little is what it seems. This is my second Brewer, The Hard Case Crime edition of The Vengeful Virgin, and it’s not going to be my last. This was a later Brewer that was previously unpublished, likely written in the early 1970s. The prose a clear but not overly poetic, they move the story along at a solid pace. Brewer manages to slip in

Dead Skip by Joe Gores

I had planned to read more Joe Gores since I had read Spade and Archer a couple of years ago. I have been picking up the odd paperbacks of his when I see them and have amasses a small stack of the Mysterious Press DKA Files books with those great Art Deco/ Art Nevo covers. For the last several months Dead Skip has been hovering around the top of my To Be Read pile and it’s strange that it would finally make it to the top in the days after Gores passing.

Thoughts, comment?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The C Word: A Discount Noir

The ‘C’ World a Discount Noir

“Clamp, Center, Child, Clan, Chipper, Clipper, Chirp, Church,” Mave hissed at Matt, her auburn hair falling into her eyes. They were clear eyes, and Matt never tired of looking into them. He only wished that she felt the same.

“Captain, crisp, chiller, corpuscle, capsule, conundrum, commander, crimson,” Matt answered.

He pulled the return bin off the rollers and started walking among the go back carts, dropping the returned items into carts for their departments. It was like a big puzzle, toys, house wares, and clothes tended to be easy to sort, it was those little odd items that you had to stop and wonder. Did close line go to outdoors or hardware?

It was a standard Monday evening at Mega Mart, the second shift tended to be dead until right after dinnertime. He and Mave had the mind-numbing task of sorting and then calling for the full carts to be picked up. It being the start of the week, the carts filled up fast with the weekend returns rush, there would be another during the weekend, but

Matt sorted the bin: Twine, garbage bags, a box cutter, duct tape, an unopened package of mini candy bars.

“Couple, corpse, canned, cane, clingy, clergy, carbon, charred,” Mave rattled off the words and grabbed the next bin from the belt.

From across the room, Roberta looked at them. She was older and never got their word little games.

“How do you guys do that?” She called as she pulled the big trash bin out of the back door to returns. Matt and Mave looked back at her and shrugged. Roberta disappeared into the back of the store, headed for the trash room.

Mave turned back to her bin and riffled though the items: Plastic sheeting, zip ties, underwear for a pre-teen girl, bubble bath, and a unopened two pack of black electrical tape.

“Condor, candy, color, crash, crass, crimped, condemned, curtail, critical, crop, charm, chagrin, cucumber, cold, Cloistered.” She rattled off as she dumped the items into the correct bins. She caught her toe on the pallet where they stacked the big items that went back the staging area for oversized items. She silently cursed and paused to look over the room.

The clock on the wall said it was almost 8:00 PM, just one more hour to go.

“You alright?” Matt picked up the next bin. Wire Cutters, Dish Soap, 10 huge 30-cent nails, a packet of multi colored sharpies, duct tape, and a coupe of paperbacks. Matt put them into their correct bins.

“Crap, crap, curses,” Mave shook her foot a bit. Her shoes covered her toes so Matt assumed that she hadn’t been cut.

“Yeah, I just caught it at the joint, it’s gonna be fine in a moment.” She limped over to the desk and sat for a moment.

Matt grabbed the next bin and started to sort. He let his mind wander for a moment.

“Comics, Culture, cubs, crumbs, card, coffee, cola, cream, charge, cross, chump, cleared, classic, cinema, cutlass, cutter, chalk, cheaper, cheese, charred…” mechanically Matt put the empty bin on the stack and looked over to the belt. Only one bin was waiting for sorting, it could wait a little longer.

“Are we done yet” looked at the clock as she walked over to the last bin. The clock said 8:30 PM; soon it would be time to close. Soon the LP Receptionist would come on the speaker and start making the closing announcements. Mave surveyed the carts, was it time to take them to the back, time for the department staff to collect them and shelf their rightful place.

“Continued, counted, condensed, cardboard, collected, collated, collar, centipede, calamity, chapter, closed” Mat called as Mave sorted.

The little wheels started to rattle and the last bin to be sorted rolled down the track into the room. Matt and Mave both turned to look, there was a crackling as the overhead speaker was turned on. They listened as the first of the three closing announcements were made. There would be no more returns tonight. It didn’t make much sense, but it was company policy.

Matt grabbed the past bin, having just made it in under the wire. Matt started his sort. A Patricia Cromwell paperback, a packet of crayons, an unopened season 2 set of Veronica Mars DVD set, Duct Tape, an unopened starter make up kit for teen girls, a unused Polaroid and a box of rubber gloves.

Matt set down the bin and started to move the go back carts around, lining them up for the department workers to come and collect them. Looking into the hardware departments go backs cart he just shook his head.

“What’s with all the duct tape returns? Really it’s not like it goes bad and it will all get used at some point,” Matt held the up a roll from the last bin of the evening, before dropping it back with it’s mates.

Mave glanced over at him and shrugged, they both headed for the back door and up the towards the employee coatroom.

“Crime, it’s all a crime,” Mave winked at Matt as they headed for the time clock, their shift over.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

26 Soundtracks: Pushing Dasies

It’s amazing how your mind can play trick on you, I had remembered the music from the late lamented ABC TV Show Pushing Daisies, as being kind of cool, loungy, bright jazz/ exotica. I was thinking real Martin Deny or Les Baxter type stuff. The show was a fun, cartoony looking take on the slight wacky detective formula. The music in the show was great and along with the set design and the off kilter cast of charters add to the fun feel, and I was excited to pick up the sound track…

Only, this turned out to be a case where the score and the music cues didn’t seem to hold up much on their own. There are a few bits, mostly riffing on Big Band, that I do like, but overall the find it all just to be ok…. Or so I thought at first. Having listened to the album several times for this review it really has started to grow on me. And honestly this isn’t the first time that it’s taken more than a handful of listens for something to grow on me.

I wonder how much we have all written off because something didn’t hook us the first time? I like to think that there was a reason we sought out a film, or book or album, and if we don’t immediately get that jolt of pop culture buzz off of it, do we leave it behind? I also tend to think that as culture consumers that things that he have expectations of disappoint us most. If I am sure that something is going to just be ok, and that’s exactly what it is, I tend to shrug it off as, what else did I expect?

I am glad that I have rediscovered this album and it will serve to remind me that I need to go back and give another listen to anything that I was really disappointed by. Anyway, I haven’t yet mentioned the three Glee like production numbers (Moring has Broken, Hopelessly Devoted and Birdhouse in you Soul) sung by cast members, all of which are first rate. I think this would be great for the mini van on the way to or from school, or just stuck in traffic on the way to or from the office.

Next time: Hiding Out the original film soundtrack

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stark House Press- Orrie Hitt

I think I mentioned that I am planning to take a break from my 1 Hard Case Crime a month plan to catch up on the Stark House Press titles that have been hovering around my TBR pile. I have about half a dozen of their books, and have access via the local library to a couple of more, but I am looking to pick up a couple of their newer titles on my own. I was checking their site and noted a new title on the list.

This fall 2 from Orrie Hitt will be coming out, and I for one am looking forward to getting my hands on a copy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

26 Films: The Outfit

The Outfit


Directed by John Flynn

Tag Line: Nobody Plays Rougher than The Outfit…

The plot from wiki:

Released from prison In Illinois after serving 2 years and 3 months for carrying a concealed weapon, professional thief and bank robber Earl Macklin (Robert Duvall) is told by his girlfriend Bett (Karen Black) of his brother's execution by the Outfit. It seems a bank Earl and his brother robbed was a "front" for the Outfit, who, having killed Earl's brother, now want to kill him. Earl teams up with old partner Cody (Joe Don Baker) and starts to hit the Outfit to accrue $250,000 compensation he feels he's due for his brother's murder. Promised the pay-off, but then double crossed by the Outfit's Godfather figure (Robert Ryan), Macklin and Cody decide to topple the whole organization.

It is Duvall who really carries the film, playing Macklin as a professional who is tough and brutal when working, but having a hard time being human during his down time. Duvall is balanced out by Joe Dom Baker playing his partner Cody as a more laid back and playful tough guy who isn’t sure he wants to be part of what Macklin is doing at first. Karen Black as his girlfriend is the portrait of a lost young woman of early 70s. She is weak, and susceptible to manipulation. There is a great scene where she calls home, that I think really captures just how disposed she is. She is juxtaposed with Joanna Cassidy as the trophy wife of crime boss Robert Ryan, and in her few scenes she is shown as a young woman who is tough, in control, and who has made life work for her. She might be the real fem fatal in The Outfit.

There are also a slew of cameo’s by actors and actresses best known for their Noir work in the 1950s. These include: Jane Greer, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook, Jr, Timothy Carey, and Richard Jaeckel. The direction by John Flynn is above average, he keeps the story rolling along, and at the same time manages to capture a couple of great moments that others might have on the cutting room floor.

My only complaint is that in the book there are several heists that are used in the film, but the context provided in the book is missing. There is also a great scene where Macklin and Cody are buying a car…. Which in the book pays off differently, but is set up and not followed though in the film.

I also like that it’s a film that reflects the 70s push for artist to have more control. Macklin and Cody have operated outside of the Outfit and like any big business they don’t want anyone else horning in on their territory (or in this case, hitting one of their banks). Much like in the classic film ‘M’ it’s the crooks that are after the indie operators. I am not sure that Stark had any of this in mind when he wrote the book in the early 60s, but by the time the film was made we were already starting to see the emergence of the Outlaw Country movement, the rumblings of the punk movement and the arrival of the director/ auteur in Hollywood. All of these movements had at their core the idea that the artist should be in control of their art.

It should be noted that The Outfit is the third book in the Parker series; the first The Hunter has been filmed as Payback with Mel Gibson, as well as Point Blank with Lee Marvin. In many ways The Outfit feels like a sequel to Point Blank, it doesn’t quite reach the love of Point Blank in terms of film making, but like any good sequel it’s got enough of the elements of the previous film to make it worth checking out. I highly recommend the film and expect it will one that I will watch again.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Films Discovered in 2010

Over at Rupert Pumpkin Speaks there has been a wave of posts showing non-2010 films that people discovered during that year.... so here is mine.

Women in Trouble
14 Hours
The Missing Person
Passing Strange
Harry and Tonto
Noise (Aus)
Running on Empty
Trouble Waters
Cool Ideas
Shotgun Stories
The Nomi Song

Friday, January 21, 2011

FFB: The Trailsman No. 248 Six Gun Justice


It has always felt to me that for a long time the western was a fairly squeaky clean genre. Sure there was plenty of violence and racial stereotypes to be found, but sex and foul language, along with really graphic violence was missing from Western books, films and music of the form. … and then came the 1970s, with the newly created film rating system that allowed for greater use of sex and violence in film. Looking back at the Wild Bunch, you can see the seeds of what was on its way.

Naturally this overflowed into books and the ‘Adult Western’ was born. The Trailsman series wasn’t the first or the last of the genre, but since we are talking aobut volume #248, it’s safe to say that it was profitable for someone, and that there are enough readers who want adult Westerns for the market to keep printing them.

Plot wise there really isn’t much off the beaten path going on in the book. The Trailsman rides into town, makes friends, has some fights, gets drafted into being part of the town government, and helps to get the town on the right track. Along the way he has some medium core sex, and PG 13 rated violence.

As with the plot there isn’t much to the character, or any of the characters. They are all pretty standard people, they serve their purpose and do what they need to keep the plot moving, and everything ends, as it should with the Trailsman back on the trail. It’s a entertaining enough read, but why bother writing about it? Is there something going on in the book that caught my fancy? Yes and no.

The reason that I am writing about this book is, well I read it for starters, and I am pretty sure that the author is going to be a long to read this review at some point and I wanted to talk about that. As I think most of us know, John Sharp is a name that the company uses for these books and they are written on a work for hire basis by working writers. I am sure they have helped to pay for new alternators for the car, a new water heater, or just plain bill for plenty of folks slugging it out in the trenches. The nature of work for hire writing also keeps these wordsmiths from straying to far afield, getting to fancy (did I really use that word twice in this review?) or even investing too much beyond what the editors of such books want. Is there really any reason for a writer for hire to deliver anything too far out of the bible for a series like this?

I have had a number of authors pop up and leave comments when I have written about their books here, and most of that has gone pretty well. I want to make sure that they all know that I am writing about their books, because they have stuck with me, or left me with something of value. It might have been a way to pass a couple of hours, or a scene or moment, but it’s something. Even as I have spoken about the nothing out of the ordinary (note I didn’t say fancy) story of this book, I don’t disparage it for being what it is… mass market, plot driven, work for hire that is intended to get the readers dough, put some cash in the writers pocket (and help him or her network and maybe get their own books out there via connections with editors and publishers) and hopefully entertain whom ever sits down to read the book.

The Trailsman, he’s a wander, who I have spent a couple of hours reading about, watching him wander though this adventure. I have a couple of more of his adventures by the same author, and maybe sometime down the road I’ll catch up with them… fancy or not.

This is the second of twenty six Friday Forgotten Books, you can find past entries HERE. Patti Abbot has been collecting these posts on her blog for the last couple of years, she can be found HERE. This weeks collections of posts are going to be rounded up by Evan Lewis and he can be found over HERE.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

26 Soundtracks: Crime Story

Crime Story: The Original Soundtrack

Full disclosure, I do not now or have I ever owned the soundtrack for the TV Show Crime Story. I know that one existed because I saw it in the stores several times, held it in my hands, but never bought a copy and when I finally had the money it was no where to be found. One of my friends even gave me a tape (now long gone) that was called Crime Story and claimed to have tracks from the show, but was not the soundtrack.

Strangely I can’t find ay real info on the soundtrack on the web, no track listing, no release date, or cover image, just the above You Tube clip of the shows opening credits with the 1986 version of the Del Shannon Classic Runaway. The original cut of Runaway is a high-energy rave up, a bit muddy but clearly a pre- Fab Four Frat Rock Classic. The Crime Story version is a clean, crisp, mournful and while there is sadness in the original the Crime Story version has element of a dirge in it. It’s more Endless Sleep than Double Shot (of my Baby’s Love).

As for the rest of the soundtrack, I’m not sure what’s on it. Most likely it’s a compilation of the tunes of the era, maybe a few forgotten tracks, maybe a few gems… but really it’s the fact that in 1986 I heard Runaway. It was that moment that I think I really became a musical archeologist. It was that event that sent me looking back beyond the pop gloss of 80s music to find that primal rumble of Rock and Roll that I craved. I recall listening to the oldies show that they used to have on the local top 40 Radio Station WIQB (which is long gone) and waiting to hear something as magical as Runaway.

I’m starting this year’s projected 26 soundtracks with Crime Story for two reason; first this films this month, Boiling Point and The Outfit are both Crime dramas, but also because it represents the discovery of something that has passed from the current mass continuous, just like the rest of the soundtracks that I am intending to write about. It’s only though looking back that we often come to understand where we have been as well as where we are going.

Next time: Pushing Daisies (Original Television Soundtrack) which is unique in that it will be the only other TV soundtrack I have slated to write about, and one of the few that is a musical score and not a collection of songs.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

26 Films Boiling Point

Boiling Point, 1992

93 minutes

Tag line: He’s a Cop that has reached the… Boling Point

The boiling point of lead is 2022 K and the boiling point of Treasury agent Jimmy Mercer is the murder of one of the agents on his team. The box art for my VHS copy of this film we see Wesley Snipes with his Smith and Wesson Model 13 .357 Magnum pointed outward, his badge barely visible below the pistol. The image is very telling. It’s an outdated duty weapon (or thought to be) from an outdated era of Law Enforcement, or I should say the dregs of the era, as the torch was being passed from the Greatest Generation to their children and the madness of the 80s and 90s.

This is a noir via the James Ellroy explanation of Noir as being ‘Your Fucked!’. The criminals are going to get caught, but so are the treasury agents who after a buy goes wrong find themselves with just 24 hours to catch the killers. In many ways it’s a throwback and a different era of crime film.

The film stars a very miscast Wesley Snipes who can’t seem to pull off the world weary at the end of his rope treasury agent. It’s not that Snipes is bad in the film, just that the role really calls for someone more gritty more worn out.

On the other hand the late Dennis Hopper is perfect as the recently released old school con man with big plans and big ideas. He’s a man out of time a man who has been passed by and who has at least a idea of what is right and wrong. Stealing the film is Viggo Mortensen, playing a psycho thug, the new breed.

The film unfolds as Red and Mercer are set on a path to collide. Along the way the film drags a bit in the middle and there is a muddled sub plot or two that get a little more screen time then they should. Over all it is a solid B Crime film with a couple of great moments, including a final shot that is one of the most pure noir moments in film during the 90s.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2010: My Year of John D MacDonald

2009 was the year when I read a book by Donald Westlake, under his name or one of his pen names, each month. For 2010 the plan was to read a John D MacDonald each month, and well it didn't go that entire well. Not that I don't like MacDonald's work, it was just that I struggled to sit down and read his work several months during the past year.

Here is the list of what was read:

Dec: I started to read The Neon Jungle in December but didn’t finish it

Nov: A Deadly Shade of Gold

Oct: Murder in One Syllable by John D. MacDonald (short Story)

Sept: On the Run by John D MacDonald

Aug: Barrier Island

July: Deadly Welcome by John D MacDonald

June: The Quick Red Fox

May: Purple Place For Dying

April: Soft Touch

March: A Man of Affairs

Feb: The Brass Cupcake

Jan: Nightmare in Pink

I gave up on Write for More Details part way though, and I think that might give a hint to the fact that I had a hard time with MacDonald. Some of the books I really liked, and some of them just dragged. I think the shorter earlier books were the ones that really held my attention, however I really did like Barrier Island. What I found that MacDonald excelled at was the financial and business end of crime, and not just crime but white-collar crime.

Will I read another MacDonald? I will at some point, there are a few on my shelf that I am interested in, but over all, I don’t think he is going to be like Donald Westlake where I a looking forward to each and every of his books.

Friday, January 7, 2011

FFB: Down the Long Hills by Louis L'amour

By the time I has graduated from High School in 1991-I think I had read the majority of the books that L’amour had published at that point. Down the Long Hills first published in 1968 wasn’t the first of his books that I read, but it is one that sticks out, mainly because I fondly recall the the TV Movie made from it in 1986.

The plot…. (From

“After the massacre Hardy and Betty Sue were left with only a horse and a knife with which to face the long battle against the wilderness. A seven-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl, stranded on the limitless prairie. They were up against starvation, marauding Indians, savage outlaws, and wild animals. They were mighty stubborn, but the odds were against them--and their luck was about to run out.”

What we have is a classic tale of adventure and courage. It’s as western as you can get, a kid having to make their own way, having to survive without the benefit of civilization and adults. L'amour as always (ok almost always) is very readable and a good entry point for younger readers into the world of pulp fiction.

In thinking about the book again, I am wondering if there are teens out there that are still reading L’amour’s books, or westerns in general. When I was growing up the adults in my life, mostly teachers and school administrator types, seemingly had written the western off as a chauvinist, imperialist form that degraded native cultures, minorities, and women while glorifying violence and colonialism. To them John Wayne was just a right wing nut who taught boys all the wrong ways to be a man, and anything that smacked of a Western was trash… I wonder how many of those types of teachers are still out there discouraging young readers?

As I said I read many of L’amour’s books, but only a handful have stayed with me all these years and Down the Long Hills is one of them.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Books : Dec 2010

Dec 2010 Reads

I really don’t have much to say, I am going to be writing about most of these at some point in the near future. I will just say that the MacDonald book was my MacDonald for November….. and I didn’t make it though a second one of his during December.

A Deadly Shade of Gold (1965) by John D. MacDonald

The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women by James Ellroy

Murder Is My Business by Brett Halliday

Six Gun Justice: Trailsman #248 by Jon Sharpe

Thoughts, Comments, ect.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Restless Kind 2011

For most of the history of this blog I have been working with out any real plan. I just post when I feel moved to do so, but for 2011, I have a roadmap for what I want to post over the course of coming year.

I am not going to go into exactly what I am going to cover, but I hope to have:

26 Friday Forgotten Books which will be posted ever other Friday

26 Film reviews which will be of older mostly forgotten films and will be posted on the Tuesday of the week opposite the Forgotten Books.

26 Soundtrack Reviews will appear on Thursdays following the film reviews and will often be related to the films from that week, but will mostly also be for films that have fallen off the radar.

12 Flash Fictions which I am still working on and will most likely be posted when they get done.

In 2009 I read a Hard Case Crime paperback and a Donald Westlake book each month, in 2010 I carried on with the Hard Case Crime book along with a John D MacDonald book. This coming year I am planning to read a Lawrence Block book each month, and instead of catching up on my Hard Case Crime collection I am going to read a Stark House Press book each month. As Stark House books contain more than one novel, I am only going to read one of novels from each collection each month.

I am also going to do my month reads posts around the end of each month, and what ever else catches my fancy.