Movie Whorehouse

Check out Movie Whorehouse, my new site that will be filled with reviews of movies of all sorts.

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I’m Not There

I have reviewed I’m Not There for Target Audience Magazine (the issue is a bit late going on line, but looks great).

Jonny Kelly has a new blog worth checking out.

I wish I could attend THIS.

The first half of my interview with Riley Michael Parker is up at Magazine of the Dead.

Everything

I reviewed Everything Was Fine Until Whatever. I agonized over this review. It is clear that Ms. Martin has talent, but this book did not seem to display it. I was not moved and did not care for the effort. I always feel like an ass giving a negative review. Sometimes I hate reviewing books.

Over at my favorite HTML Giant Sam Pink asked a question about editors. The comments have turned into a firestorm about Lee Klein and Eyeshot (which sadly may be going away). Take part here.

I had whiskey for lunch and am having beer for supper.

Is it wrong to pay for sex? I mean, even if she’s a friend and needs the money? Weigh in.

The Killer Inside Me

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson. A review:

Jim Thompson may well have been one of the most filmic writers ever to work. His books have inspired quite a number of films including Grifters, The Getaway, The Getaway (yes, I said it twice. It’s been filmed twice. Once wonderfully with Steve McQueen and Allie McGraw, once terribly with Alec Baldwin and Kim Bassinger), Coup de Torchon, After Dark, My Sweet and to some extent From Dusk Till Dawn. He also wrote the screenplay for Stanley Kubrick’s film Paths of Glory.

Thompson worked in a well worn genre. He walked the same fields as James M. Cain, Dashiel Hammet, and more recently, Elmore Leonard. Thompson wrote real tough guy fiction. In the pages of his books bad men do bad things, and are often undone by bad women (or sometimes unlucky women).

To clarify, Thompson wrote Noir. These are bedtime stories for the criminally insane. Thompson’s work will appeal to people who enjoy Chinatown, The Big Sleep, American Psycho, and gritty stories that take place in dark alleys, and rain swept streets. His novels are best read by lamplight, with a glass of Jack Daniels close at hand.

The Killer Inside Me is no exception to this rule. It is the story of Lou Ford. Lou is a cop. He’s not Dirty Harry. He doesn’t carry a gun, or a club. But he’s no Barney Fife, Either. He’s a small town deputy with a problem. Lou has a dark secret. Something in his past hangs over him like a black cloud. Most people in town consider him good natured, but dull. He’s the kind of person no one ever gives a second thought to. But, he has that secret. It has something to do with an unexplained death. I’d like to say more, but I don’t want to give it away.

Lou has a girlfriend. She’s a local girl next door type. She’s a real good girl (and in this type of story, that spells trouble). He also has a little something on the side, in the parlance of our times. This second girl isn’t so good. She’s a rather stereotypical bad girl. This difference in Lou’s two lovers creates an interesting dichotomy. It’s as if these two women (who obviously satisfy different desires) represent two sides of Lou’s personality. They each speak for half of him. Lou is, as it is easy to see, a man in conflict. He wants to be that dull, good natured fella, that treats everyone nicely. He has built this reputation, going so far as to treat with respect and kindness even those unfortunate criminals that he must arrest. Yet, there is a part of him that struggles for control. This is a dark part. The portion of his psyche that worries about that skeleton hidden in his closet. There is a battle going on within Lou. And considering the type of book this is, we can easily guess with side will win.

Yes. It does end in an orgy of destruction. Yes. Lou does suffer the final breakdown. The sickness, as it were, does get the better of him. Everyone around him pays in full.

That is the plot. Of course, plot isn’t everything. We’ve all seen hundreds of stories that play out the same way. What is important here is style and substance. Thompson chooses to use a first person narrative. This places the reader squarely inside the mind of our anti-hero. We are privy to every thought, every bent intuition, every nuance of madness that streaks through Lou Ford’s fevered brain. We cannot escape the twisted version of reality that Lou experiences. This fact lends an immediacy, a reality to the story that makes it hard to turn away from.

Thompson uses a tight, precise style of writing. This is characteristic of all of his novels. He does not mince words, or waste space. He keeps the reader firmly rooted within the story he needs to tell. And, there is a sense of need within the writing. It is as if Thompson is haunted by these characters, and must exorcize them by telling their story.

The quick pacing, and rapid development of the plot help to create a sense of tension that begins on the first page, and never lets up. This tension builds right up until the inevitable end. We can see the end coming. But, and this is a real strength, Thompson manages to make us wish for a different ending than the one we expect. That’s right, he makes us feel empathy for Lou. We hope against hope that things can work out for him. Despite his vicious nature, despite the evil acts we have witnessed, we long for him to “get away with it”. We long for the happily ever after. We should really shower, and watch a Disney movie. Dumbo, maybe. This could bring us back to the reality in which we’re nice people who don’t root for the villain.

The greatest strength of this book lies in the unexpected moments. Thompson is able to surprise, to elate, to transcend his genre. At one point, right in the middle, in the midst of sickness and madness, and abhorrent violence, we are treated to something different. Suddenly, and out of nowhere, Lou is musing about couples. He talks about those odd couples you see (Skinny Man/ Obese woman, Tall woman/ short man, Old man/ young woman, you get the idea). Lou thinks about how at some point these two mismatched people saw each other, and what they saw was everything they had ever wanted. This moment in the book moves beyond crime fiction. It elevates itself into the realm of literature. Not just literature, but great literature. Nobakov would have been proud of this moment. Martin Amis would kill for a moment like that.

The novel’s end is also of note. I wont give it away, obviously. I know, I know, we can guess the end. Never the less, I wont tell you the specifics. But, despite writing the denouement we expect, Thompson manages to approach it in a way that is unexpected. He surprises us.

I like this book a great deal. I have read it twice, and plan to read it again. I imagine that if you like crime fiction (by this I mean good crime fiction, not the Nora Roberts, or John Grisham variety), that you’ll enjoy this novel as much as I have.

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My story, Kevin James Bleeds in the Dark, got mentioned at What To Wear During an Orange Alert. That feels good.

The Brains of Rats

I have long loved the collection The Brains of Rats by Michael Blumlein. Here is the review I wrote :

Once in a great while you stumble across a work of fiction that makes you reevaluate everything you think, everything you feel, even everything you think you know. Michael Blumlein’s collection The Brains of Rats contains twelve such works. Nine of these stories were previously published, and three of them were new when this collection was released by Scream Press.

upon reading these twelve stories the first question you will find yourself asking is: “what genre is this?” I can’t answer that question. Blumlein can’t answer it either. These stories are largely unclassifiable. They are truly Sui Genres, that is, they are their own category.

These stories defy comparison. While reading them one begins to think of Swift’s most acerbic and caustic satire (think of A Modest Proposal), or Gibson’s Cyberpunk (Mona Lisa Overdrive), or Saunders’ Post Modern satire CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, or perhaps Lewis Carroll. But none of these are quite right. And yet, these stories call out toward all of these styles, and more. I guess the closest comparison is Roald Dahl (not the kid’s books we all know, but his adult collections such as Someone Like You, and Switch B*tch), or perhaps the films of
Luis Bunel.

So, what are these stories about, you ask. Well, the title story concerns a doctor. He’s male, but effeminate. He’s married to a masculine woman who controls him. Sometimes he likes to cruise for men who will abuse him sexually. It seems that the doctor has discovered a way to insure that all children born from now on will be of a single sex. That is, he is going to choose which gender to eradicate. It never occurs to him that his decision (either one) will spell extinction for the human race. Along the way we get discussions of Jean D’Arc’s sex, sexual deformities, and gonorrhea. This tale is presented in a paranoiac first person style that draws the reader into the skewed psyche of this very unreliable narrator. It is a queasy, yet exhilarating experience.

A few of the other stories include:

Best Seller is about a writer who’s down on his luck. To support his family he begins selling parts of his body to a rich old man. Told in the form of diary entries, this story always remains distanced. This distance sucks all emotion from the story. It is cold, calculated. Beautiful.

Tissue Ablation and Variant Regeneration: a Case Report is presented like a paper written for a medical journal. Blumlein is, in real life, a practicing MD. It shows in this story. With cold, dispassionate precision he recounts how a patient “Mr. Reagan”, is dissected while awake and un-anesthetized. This is done so that portions of his body can be used to produce much needed goods for the third world. This story reads as the most vicious satire I have ever encountered. In this instance, Jonathan Swift aint got nothin’ on our boy here. If you thought Network was angry satire, think again. If you think MAD magazine is satirical, well, not by these standards. Maybe you think South Park is strong satire? Have they ever dissected a live, conscious human on South Park? I don’t think so. The point being made here is not a subtle one. This is clearly meant as redress for the foreign policy adventures of “Mr. Reagan’s” administration. This story is powerful.

Drown Yourself is a sort of Cyberpunk whodunit? Kind of a `guess who’s an android’ tale. Nicely done, even if the idea isn’t particularly new or novel.

Interview With C.W. is a surreal little gem. Impossible to get a hold on, this story just twists around in your mind. Like all those tubes on Star Trek, it goes nowhere, does nothing. But it does it nicely. Entertaining in a nightmare inducing way. In fact, this entire book is like a nightmare that has gone terribly out of control.

Freud would have loved Blumlein’s work. He would have relished all the scarred psyche’s, the out of control Id’s, the unresolved sexual tension, and the (dare I say it?) Perversion. Somewhere, buried inside the plots and characters that inhabit these stories, is a moral. It is this: we hurt each other. We break each other. We leave scars, and other distinguishing marks. We bruise, and batter and break the minds and souls, even of those we love. Perhaps of those we love most of all.

Blumlein slips into and out of different writing styles effortlessly. He is a master of the written word. He is a genius (I think that word is much over used these days, but in this case it applies). Each of these stories will grab you by a vital organ (or, at least one you think is vital), and drag you along. You will hate Blumlein for forcing you to look at the delicate terrors he has presented (a decaying corpse, a horny android, a wet suit and a sex swing, and a man who is making himself a defacto leper are just a few that will haunt you). But, in the end you will be glad you took the journey. You will finish this book, and you will be different.

A word about the physical aspects of the book itself:
Released by Scream Press, this hardcover is beautifully designed. Bound in black, with silver inlaid writing along the spine, it is a lovely book. The dust cover, faded blue with slightly grainy images of faces, set into these pictures are close-ups of faces and brains. The book contains nine wonderful illustrations by Stephen Elston. These drawings have the feeling of some strange collage. They depict cruelty and gruesome violence, mixed with odd Victorian sexuality. These illustrations perfectly fit the mood, and tone of the stories.
One illustration of note features a revolver and a microscope fused into one deadly piece of scientific equipment.

As a final note: this book was published in 1989. It was never a best seller. Most people have never heard of it. The world isn’t fair.

The None Project

Amazon lists an unavailable book, titled None by “None”. I am getting people to review this undescribed, non-existent book. You should review it too. It will be fun.

Brandon Book Crises

I reviewed The Brandon Book Crises for Magazine of the Dead.

Now I can get back to the novel