Review: Jack Wakes Up by Seth Harwood

Jack Wakes Up by Seth Harwood
Jack Wakes Up by Seth Harwood

Jack Wakes Up
Seth Hardwood
Three Rivers Press, 2009

First Line: Jack Palms walks into a diner just south of Japantown, the one where he is supposed to me Ralph.

Continuing my little hard-boiled project this week makes for a bit of a departure as I step away from the detective field into the straight up crime thriller. (I’ll return to detective fiction with my subsequent reads since I’ve decided I want to attempt a novel for each decade since I have the 40s/50s well covered.) Like his contemporaries Scott Sigler and J. C. Hutchins (both contribute reviews on the book’s Amazon page) Seth Hardwood comes from the growing numbers of “podcast writers” that are, if not prevalent, at least a rising trend in the current fiction market (much like the Inklings often receive scholarly attention now I suspect that years down the road there will be some much deserved attention given to the collaborative and promotional power of the internet writing community). In Jack Wakes Up Harwood delivers a high octane crime thriller with a charismatic main character.

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k.flay’s MASHed Potatoes

This is one of those instances where I downloaded something and forgot about it only to be reintroduced to it via the magic of shuffle.  In this case it was the track “boom boom pow KUNG FU” that reintroduced me to k.flay’s “mix tape” MASHed Potatoes. MASHed Potatoes contains tracks chopped up and remixed by k.flay with original lyrics.  The results are stunning.  Opening track “ON the bridge” remixes the main riff from Red Hot Chilli Peppers “Under the Bridge” into a laid back hip-hop track about a sunny drive from Oakland to San Francisco.  “NO Ignorance” remixes Paramore’s “Ignorance” into a fast, head nodding braggadocio.  (To be honest my lack of knowledge regarding popular music means I don’t really recognize much else)

There isn’t a bad track anywhere on the mix.  While most of the tracks are all in good fun k.flay does delve into more socially conscious territory with tracks like “CRAZYtown” about psychotropic medication, therapy and basically the business of living.   There’s “heavy CROSS OUT” equally about the creative process and ennui of youth (“I am just some twenty something feeling like a piece of shit / I can see the pie ahead, wanting just a piece of it / Writing in my room I’m sure nowhere is where’s I’m heading”) and “MONEYmakerZ;” an excoriating commentary on the current economic situation.  I could describe more but really each track is frickin’ fantastic and this is the type of music that, literally, speaks for itself.

Did I mention that MASHed Potatoes is free?  It most certainly is.  You can grab the download link from k.flay’s page here and really there isn’t any reason you shouldn’t.  Unless, of course, you’re predisposed against things that are AWESOME!  If you’re still not convinced perhaps you should check out the video embedded below.  The song “Carry On” doesn’t appear on MASHed Potatoes but I’ll be damned if the intimacy of the performance and the subject matter doesn’t move you.

Last, but not least, don’t forget to check out k.flay’s blog and twitter page for news and info!

Review: I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane

I, the Jury by Mickey Spilane
I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane

Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye with its lyrical prose and distinct voice is a tough act to follow.  It is no small surprise then that I, the Jury, the first of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer novels, falls a bit short when viewed alongside Chandler’s work.  Despite being roughly 30 years apart in age both Chandler and Spillane were publishing hardboiled fiction at the height of the genre’s popularity throughout the late 40s and fifties.  I, the Jury was published in 1948 just one year before the 5th Marlowe novel, The Little Sister and just two years after The Big Sleep starring Humphrey Bogart hit theaters.  In a bit of a reversal, it is interesting to note that just as The Long Goodbye was hitting print I, the Jury was hitting the silver screen in 3d (bizarre right?).  There has been a Mike Hammer novel published at least once a decade, there is a ten year gap between Kiss Me, Deadly in 1952 and The Girl Hunters in 1962 and the tail end of Spillane’s life is sparse in terms of publishing, with the latest novel The Goliath Bone completed by Max Collins and published posthumously in 2008.

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Music Review: Kitty, Daisy and Lewis

Kitty Daisy and Lewis
Kitty Daisy and Lewis

Kitty Daisy and Lewis
Kitty Daisy and Lewis
Downtown, 2009 [US]

While I tend to talk more about metal and progressive music here on this blog I have, over the last several years, been fostering a growing interest in the blues.  I prefer the acoustic blues styling of Mississippi John Hurt (if you don’t own or haven’t heard Avalon Blues, do yourself a favor and do so) but the emergence of electric delta blues in the 1950s (mainly through the work of John Lee Hooker who, despite being born in Mississippi, recorded and played in the Detroit and Chicago area at the start of his career) produced some of the best music in American history.  Music whose influence can still be heard today; whether it be in contemporary blues acts or in the hard rocking tunes of bands like Black Label Society.  While discussing my interest in blues, and Chuck Berry, with a co-worker one day he mentioned a new British trio: Kitty, Daisy, and Lewis who had recorded and released an album of 50s era rock, blues, and R & B tunes.  While it took me a while to finally pick up a copy of their debut I’m certainly glad I did.

A sibling trio from the UK whose self titled debut hit US shores last year, Kitty, Daisy and Lewis recorded all tracks using analog audio equipment.  Each track, every one of them, sounds absolutely one hundred percent fantastic.  Part of that is the timeless quality that 50s American roots music seems to have and the rest is the energy and vitality that the siblings bring to the preceding.  Quite simply these kids (ages 17-21) rock.  They’re young, their myspace page even lists their parents Graeme and Ingrid as the guitarist and bassist for the group, but they are phenomenally talented and enthusiastic about music and music history.  I’m not going to do a track by track break down, check out the samples over on their myspace page as I’m of the opinion the music sells itself better then I could.  If you’re a fan of good music and American Roots music then I think you’re going to enjoy what you hear.

A Short Look at a Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye by Ramond Chandler
The Long Goodbye by Ramond Chandler

The Long Goodbye
Raymond Chandler
Vintage Books, 1988

First Line: The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lennox he was drunk in a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith outside the terrace of the Dancers.

I am perhaps doing myself a bit of a disservice by skipping Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, the 1930 novel originally serialized in Black Mask, which even Chandler admits helped throw open the doors on the hard-boiled detective novel.   The focus of my project is on Chandler’s template for the hard-boiled detective a fact that invalidates Hammett’s Sam Spade.  As such I am starting with Raymond Chandler’s own iconic detective Phillip Marlowe.  My first exposure to Phillip Marlowe was in college where I took a class on American Crime Fiction and read the utterly fantastic The Big Sleep, probably the most well known of all the Marlowe books.  This time around I went with The Long Goodbye a slightly more twisting tale that manages to squeeze in some social commentary amidst the murder, mystery and mayhem.
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Ebooks for a Snowy day

Most of this made the rounds on twitter a couple a days ago but Night Shade books sells their titles through the Baen Webscription page at $6 a piece.  Even cooler is that it bundles monthly released title into discounted packages ranging from about $20 for 5 titles up to $32 for 8 titles depending on the package.

The Baen titles are nothing to sneeze at either!  Indeed it’s hard to argue at every Vorkosigan title by Lois McMaster Bujold at $5 a piece!  There’s also the Honor Harrington series from David Weber.  Or maybe every book in the Lord of the Isles series by David Drake for $15?  Don’t forget Baen’s Free Library titles as well.   On the slightly more expensive side, though still a nice deal if you ask me, is the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser collection on sale for $35 (7 books).

Some neat stuff and definitely a service I’ll be keeping my eye on in the future.  Happy reading!

A Not So Simple Art

The Simple Art of Murder is both an essay and a collection of short stories by novelist Raymond Chandler.  As I begin to delve into my detective reading project it is the former, Chandler’s criticism of the detective genre and discussion of the nature of art in general, that is most pertinent to my own needs.  Chandler begins his essay by exclaiming that “Fiction of any form has always intended to be realistic.”  He delves rather quickly into the elements of his own genre, detective fiction, that seem to subvert fiction’s drive towards realism.  He says of detective fiction that it “….has learned nothing and forgotten nothing” and looks towards the classic authors of the British style with a harsh critical eye.  He dissects A. A. Milne’s The Red House of Mystery, lambastes the ridiculous nature of Murder on the Orient Express and, almost as an aside, comments that Sherlock Holmes is less a person and more of an idea and an attitude.  He succinctly sums up his opinion of British authors with this gem of a quote: “The English may not always be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers.”

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Angry Robot

This hit the web news the other day but Angry Book has an interesting offer for for the upcoming Walking the Tree. For print readers who purchase the title they are providing some sample chapters from a novella featuring one of characters from the novel.  In fact the novella, as far as I can tell, features a portion of the novel from that character’s, Morace’s, point of view.  The book will feature a website and download code for the rest of the novel while ebook purchasers will get the ebook already downloaded and ready to go when they purchase Walking the Tree.

Of course that would require Angry Robots’ books being available here in the States.  That won’t be happening until May.  Angry Robot Books is an exciting new imprint as far as I’m concerned and I am more than a little frustrated about the slow crawl across the Atlantic.

More info on the deal and the Angry Robot’s authors and titles can be found here.

Review: The Rookie by Scott Sigler

The Rookie by Scott Sigler
The Rookie by Scott Sigler

The Rookie
Scott Sigler
Dark Overlord Press, 2009
First Line: Micovi’s three tiny moons hung in the evening sky like pitted purple grapes.  (Technically, that’s the second line).

Having listened to both Infected and Contagious on audio you’d think I’d have noticed Sigler’s football fandom in the person of Perry Dawsey.  Obviously that wasn’t the case and the appearance of The Rookie, if you’ll pardon the mixed sports reference, came out of left field.  A Blood Bowl type D&D Encounter designed by ChattyDM and the appearance of new Blood Bowl video game this last year certainly had my attention primed for sci-fi/football mashups.  Indeed, despite having never played a game it was Blood Bowl I first thought of when reading the synopsis of The Rookie with some vague memories of Mutant League Football worked in for good measure.

The Rookie takes place in a universe where the dominant alien species has “pacified” the various other races of the galaxy by letting them take out their aggressive tendencies through playing football.  The Galactic Football League is divided into 3 “tiers” Tier 3 being the small time bush league, Tier 2 being the minors, and Tier 1 being the big show.  The book follows the rising star of the titular rookie, quarterback Quentin Barnes.  Barnes, in the opening act is recruited by the Ionith Krakens a tier 2 team.  There are some serious hitches to this seeming turn of good fortune as Barnes suffers from a vicious brew of arrogance and racism ingrained by his hardscrabble upbringing in the mines of a close-minded human supremest world.

Fantastic alien creatures.  Personal human drama.  Football heroics.  If any of these sound interesting to you then you should head out and pick up a copy of The Rookie.  Everyone else?  Read on…

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A look at January

January was full of odds and ends. The tale end of my space opera reading and a hodge-podge of titles I’ve been meaning to get to. Two titles just missed the January cut and I’ll hopefully have them up this week before I head into my hard-boiled reading. People who have been sticking around likely noticed that I added the first line of each book to my reviews. I’ve long been a fan of Locus‘ “Opening Lines” section of their New Books feature. In fact a number of time it has spurred a purchase or interest where there previously was none.  So I’ve borrowed that for my reviews.  Below you’ll find a list of the reviews I’ve posted this month.  All books this time, but I have a growing backlog of audio, both music and fiction, that I’ve been putting off writing about.  Keep an eye out for some of that this month since I plowed through the audiobooks of Already Dead and No Dominion both of which should fit quite nicely under the hard-boiled theme.

Captain’s Fury by Jim Butcer
Redemption Ark by Alistair Reynolds
The God Engines by John Scalzi
Nyphron Rising by Michael J Sullivan
Arms-Commander by L. E. Modesitt Jr.
Gabriel Hunt at the Well of Eternity by Gabriel Hunt as told to James Reasoner