Vacation Imminent

Tonight I jump an a train to Philly so that tomorrow morning I can jump on train to Boston for PAXEast! For those of you out there keeping track I’m still working through my Hard-Boiled reading project.  I’m somewhat relieved to announce that I have only one title left to review.  Relieved not because I haven’t enjoyed the project but because the pile of science fiction and fantasy novels I want to read has been growing considerably in the meantime.  So, before I head off, below you’ll find a list of all the posts related to by genre switch up:

A Not So Simple Art

A Short Look at a Long Goodbye

I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane

Jack Wakes Up by Seth Harwood

The Crazy Kill by Chester B. Himes

The Mystic Art of Erasing All Signs of Death of by Charlie Huston

The Zebra Striped Hearse by Russ McDonald

The Promised Land by Robert B. Parker

LaBrava by Elmore Leonard

Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt on Audio

A Dance at the Slaughterhouse by Lawrence Block

My last read was a difficult choice but I decided to go with The Black Hand by Will Thomas.  My initial impression is extremely positive and would never have expected one could set a hard-boiled novel in 19th Century.  I’m hoping I can plow through it on the Amtrak ride tomorrow morning.  This is a vacation I’m really looking forward as management changes at my part time job combined with potentially devastating (for libraries) New Jersey State budget cuts have left me a bit stressed.  It’ll be nice to not think about all this crap for a couple of days at least.

If you’re going to be in Boston for PAXEast feel free to drop me a line via twitter or keep an eye out on lines for the bearded dude with his buried in a nook/book.  I’ll try to get a post or two up while I’m away but I make no guarantees.  See you all on the flip side!

Review: A Dance at the Slaughterhouse by Lawrence Block

Last Dance at the Slaughterhouse by Lawrence Block
Last Dance at the Slaughterhouse by Lawrence Block

A Dance at the Slaughterhouse
Lawrence Block
Avon, 1992 (HC: Morrow, 1991)

First Line: Midway into the fifth round the kid in the blue trunks rocked his opponent with a solid left to the jaw.

A Dance At the Slaughterhouse is the ninth novel to feature Lawrence Block’s private detective, Matthew Scudder.  Scudder, an unlicensed detective and currently sober alcoholic is hired to find out if (or how) a TV producer manged to stage the rape and murder of his own wife.  Of course, as with most of the detective novels I’ve read so far, that really only describes the plot at the outset.  Rivaling only The Long Goodbye with its twisting plot A Dance at the Slaughterhouse takes many turns before it finally arrives at a satisfying, thrilling, and morally ambiguous conclusion..

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Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt on Audio

Already Dead by Charlie Huston
Already Dead by Charlie Huston

A couple of months ago I popped in the audiobook version of Charlie Huston’s Already Dead and was immediately impressed by its inventive vampire turf war set amongst the 5 boroughs of Manhattan as well as the noir styling and hard-boiled attitude to Joe Pitt himself.   Pitt isn’t really a private detective, he’s more Hawk then Spencer, an enforcer, a hired gun, and occasionally a detective.

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Review: LaBrava by Elmore Leonard

LaBrava by Elmore Leonard
LaBrava by Elmore Leonard

LaBrava
Elmore Leonard
Harper, 2009 (orig. Penguin 1985)

“A while ago somewhere
I don’t know when
I was watching a movie with a friend.
I fell in love with the actress.
She was playing a part that I could understand.”

-Neil Young, “A Man Needs a Maid”

It took a chapter or two, after we’re finally introduced to Jean Shaw and what she means to secret service agent come photographer Joe LaBrava, that Neil Young’s song “A Man Needs a Maid” came to mind.  I’m sure we all have that actress, or actor, who we’ve seen and who in our youth we maybe fell a little bit in love with.   There might have come a point when that actress and the parts she plays have become nigh inseparable in our hearts and minds.  Of course, given today’s fascination with celebrity and the constant vulture like circling of paparazzi the illusion that films provided is somewhat lost.  The mystery and magic of actors and actresses is shattered by the flash of the camera  and the thunder of gossip across television screens and computer monitors.  A belief that is at least somewhat thematically related to LaBrava which, while being a crime thriller, is as much about the reality of of modern times shattering the illusions of the past as it about crime.

As a historical side note Labrava, published in 1983, was written just 4 years after the area was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places (1979) and only 3 years after the Miami race riots and after some 25 years of population increases resulting from Castro’s takeover in Cuba in 1959 .  To say it was an area in both deep economic and demographic flux is perhaps putting it mildly but I think it is worth noting.  It is perhaps interesting to note as well that two years later, in 1985, Miami Vice would take home four Emmies and would remain an example and monument to eighties New Wave culture for years to come.  The bright colors of Miami Vice stand in stark contrasted to faded glories described in Labrava.

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Review: Promised Land by Robert B. Parker

Promised Land by Robert B Parker
Promised Land by Robert B Parker

Promised Land
Robert B. Parker
Dell Books, 1992 (Orig. 1976)

I’m from an generation for whom Avery Brooks is best known for playing Captain Sisco of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  For another generation, and a different set of genre fans, he is perhaps better known for his 65 episode run as Hawk, PI Spenser’s sometime companion (who even had his own short lived series A Man Called Hawk), in the TV’s Spenser for Hire.  Hawk, though present in Promised Land, makes a fairly limited (and first) appearance; though it is an appearance the certainly leaves an impression.

Promised Land like many a detective story before it begins with a fairly simple missing persons case.  PI Spenser is hired by a suburban businessman to find his missing wife.  As things progress the plot takes a dramatic shift in two different directions when the missing wife gets entangled with some shady characters while her husband must fend off local toughs.  The plot is fairly light on the actual mystery elements shifting away from the hermeneutic mode towards a greater emphasis on examining how Spenser reacts to the situation  (thus creating apprehension and excitement via the proairetic code).

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Review: The Zebra Striped Hearse by Russ Macdonald

The Zebra Striped Hearse by Russ Macdonald
The Zebra Striped Hearse by Russ Macdonald

The Zebra Striped Hearse
Russ Macdonald
Vintage, 1998 (orig. 1962)

First Line: She was waiting at the office door when I got back from my morning coffee break.

When trying to fill out my detective fiction reading with a broad spectrum spread across more than two decades I stumbled across the names Russ Macdonald and Lew Archer.  While The Underground Man seems to be most frequently cited as Macdonald’s best work to feature PI Lew Archer (along with The Chill) I was unable to acquire a copy and instead “settled” for the Edgar Award Winning The Zebra Striped Hearse.  While it lacks the incisive social commentary frequently attributed to The Underground Man it is still a taught, thrilling, mystery that keeps you guessing until the end; and then some.

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Review: The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston

The Mystic Signs of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston
The Mystic Signs of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death
Charlie Huston
Ballantine, 2009

Web Goodhue, an unemployed former school teacher, spends most his days harassing his best friend.  Web is a bit of a jerk, a fact tolerated by his few friends because of the traumatic events that led to his unemployment and the fact that he is suffering from post-traumatic stress.  However, when an acquaintance named Po Sin offers Web the opportunity to work at his “Clean Team” post death/trauma cleaning company, Web accepts.  From Web is drawn into the strange underworld of crime scene cleaning as well the problems and shady dealings of one of Po Sin’s clients.
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Review: The Crazy Kill by Chester B. Himes

The Crazy Kill by Chester Himes
The Crazy Kill by Chester Himes

The Crazy Kill
Chester B. Himes
Vintage Press, reprint 1989 (orig. 1959)

First Line: It was four o’clock, Wednesday morning, July 14th, in Harlem U.S.A. Seventh Avenue was as dark and lonely as haunted graves.

Well last week’s snow left me plenty of time to get ahead on my reading but the general malaise and lethargy engendered by a snowy couple of days certainly put a damper on my writing.  The next couple of reviews should mark the tail end of my little project and each (barring this review, and the upcoming Mystical Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death review) should cover a different decade (a late minute addition to the experience).  Now, however we’re looking at another crime thriller by the oft-overlooked (though less so in recent years) Chester Himes.  I first experienced Himes’ fiction in college while reading A Rage in Harlem (originally titled For Love of Imabelle) and found his work fascinating though, for my tastes at least, less compulsively readable then other authors of the same genre thanks in part to Himes’ tendency towards the surreal and outright absurd.

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Nerdcore Twofer

Unless I’m mistaken I have found no traces that anyone at all has reviewed or spoken about Schaffer the Darklord’s

Manslaughterer
Manslaughterer

2009 release Manslaughterer.  Schaffer, or STD, is one of the best rapper….excuse me rappists operating in the nerdcore scene and has put out another fine entry with Manslaughterer.  Schaffer is at his best when he is both irreverent and over-the-top (Night of the Living Christ, F*ck this song, Revenge of the Attack of the Clone Fuckers, being some of the best things I’ve heard in recent years) and that is a trend that continues in Manslaughterer. Standout tracks like Godammit, a tongue-in-cheek exploration of an oft-used expletive, and Very Bad Man evidence Schaffer’s penchant for ignoring boundaries and tackling topics head on and knuckles first.  Indeed Schaffer’s penchant for foul language and occasionally disturbing though oft-hilarious lyrical imagery is even mentioned in a short skit with MC Frontalot.  Schaffer even pokes fun at internet hate mail with H-Mail, in many ways a tongue-in-cheek rendition of Eminem’s Stan, compiles a rock-and-roll super creature with MC Lars in Monster of Rock and narrates the epic battle royale to determine who is the top font in Battlefont.  So, if you’re looking for quality, diverse nerdcore rap that embodies the elements that make it such a fun genre then look no further then Manslaughterer by Schaffer the Darklord available via your download service of choice and the ever awesome CD Baby.

Of course, if you’re looking for something a little more free perhaps you might consider checking out Kabuto the Python’s free EP Shed Skins for a sampling of this distinct rapper’s work.  He has a unique voice, laid back style, and undeniable talent.  God of War, Mad Rappers, and Star Wars LOL are some pretty sweet tracks worth listening to; especially at the grand total of 100% free. 

Shed Skin
Shed Skin

Shed Skin even includes acapella versions of its contents which are fascinating to listen to.  Of course, Kabuto also put out a free full-length back in December that I’ve yet to have a chance to listen to so if you like what you hear on Shed Skins you might want to give the Parseltongue Mixtape (also free!) a try.  Kabuto is one talented dude and well worth your time; trust me!   You can, of course, sample the enigmatic Kabuto the Python at his myspace page.