Incident Report

Incident Report No. 84

What follows are some highlights from the Small Crimes posts I run almost every day, but it’s still the Incident Report. If you don’t have the time to read the daily missives then this might just be for you.

I am not a fan of American football and less of a fan of the National Football League’s yearly draft. Draft Day, which spans out several days, has approximately 50 million viewers. It’s a big deal with U.S. sports nerds. (For you non-Americans, Draft Day is akin to football’s Deadline Day.)

When I stumbled across Christoph Paul’s LitReactor essay “What Writers Can Learn From Watching The NFL Draft“, I immediately passed it by with nary a thought.1 But if Paul was willing to die on this analogy’s hill, I should at least give it a go. And I’m glad I did. It almost had me turning on the NFL Draft on Thursday night.

Michael Pool’s essay on the similarities and dissimilarities of the fictional and real private eye is worth your time. Pool talks about the clothes, the car, and, yes, the drinking.

Far from drinking on the job, real-life P.I.s are more likely to be snacking in the car between interviews. Or listening to podcasts to pass the time out on surveillance. Even after work, most of us tend to keep the alcohol intake lower than you might expect. Morning comes early in this job. Those early mornings can turn into long days, sometimes in the range of 15-18 hours. That’s a tall order with a hangover, so I rarely over-indulge.

In a Los Angeles Review of Books interview, Steve Weddle talked with William Boyle on the release of Boyle’s latest book “City of Margins”.

City of Margins is set between 1991 and 1994. I was ages 13–16 at that time, walking everywhere, taking the bus to school, making regular stops at my regular video store and pizza joint, getting into fights in the schoolyard, playing stickball at dusk, discovering the records and books and movies that would change my life, learning about evil. It was a really important, transitional time for me. I don’t know if it’s about the feeling of something being lost now that wasn’t lost then, but there was definitely a deeper sense of wonder and distance. 

K.A. Laity examined the origins of Patricia Highsmith’s most famous character Tom Ripley. In this Bristol Noir essay, Laity tied some of her thoughts of the literary Ripley, not the cinematic one, with “Eel in the Bathtub”, a short story she published in college literary journal in 1940.

Over at Punk Noir, Laity wrote about “Detour”, the book and the two movies–yeah, I didn’t know there was a remake of “Detour” in 1992. Martin H. Goldsmith’s 1939 is less famous than its 1942 classic film noir version, but like most books, in my opinion, it’s far better.

If you’ve never read or watched “Detour”, do yourself a favor. The movie is readily available, the book not so much.

I reviewed Jason Beech’s new novel “Never Go Back” (Close to the Bone, 2019). The book follows a man’s return to home and its ramifications.

“Never Go Back” is told from Vine’s perspective, a man driven by outside forces throughout, though he would disagree, he believes he is in complete control. This confusion between Vine’s reality and his interpretation is one of the great conflicts that propels the reader through this gritty crime novel.

There’s a new Twitter parody account everyone should follow, it’s @PublishrsWeakly. The folks at Electric Literature interviewed the duo behind the account.

There’s an elitism to publishing that stems from the product it produces. Books are “art,” books can “change the world,” and therefore publishing is necessarily good and just, that we’re all doing noble work, when that’s not exactly the case. Publishing is a business like any other, and so that comes with the trappings of many other industries, i.e. wealth inequality, mistreatment of workers, and racially segregated workforce, often determined by the disparity in wages. Publishing is an industry that very much believes in paying one’s dues, and then once those dues have been paid, they expect you to turn around and uphold that same system.

Daniel Vlastay’s “Stay Ugly” (All Due Respect Books) was reviewed at This Desperate City.

If you didn’t get a chance to read Greg Levin’s essay, “Why We Read (and Write) Dark Fiction Even During Terrible Times“, please do so.

If you’re looking for some fun to read, there is, of course, “The Exquisite Corpse”, a multi-author novel at Do Some Damage. The ebook, edited by Nick Kolakowski and Steve Weddle, is available for as a free download.

featured books

Never Go Back
by Jason Beech (Close to the Bone)

The Exquisite Corpse
edited by Nick Kolakowski and Steve Weddle (Do Some Damage)

Some Awful Cunning
by Joe Ricker (Down & Out Books)

All Kinds of Ugly
by Ralph Dennis (Brash Books)

Southern Cross Crime
by Craig Sisterson (Old Castle Books)

The Last Scoop
by R.G. Belsky (Oceanview Publishing)

The Aosawa Murders
by Riku Onda,
translated by Alison Watts (Bitter Lemon Press)

  1. People don’t say “nary a thought”, but man do they write it. Is it one of those phrases that make the reader notice the writing too much?

Small Crimes: Thursday Reads

K. A. Laity on “Detours”, the book by Martin H. Goldsmith and the two films based on the book (Punk Noir)

If you’re angry at a person and you want to kill them in your book, Peter Derk proposes an alternate way to deal with that anger (LitReactor)

Portrait Of The Artist As A Consumer: Renato Bratkovič (Punk Noir)

Interview with Max Allan Collins (Criminal Element)

Book Review: “Stay Ugly” by Daniel Vlasaty (All Due Respect) (This Desperate City)

Scott D. Parker to read and record the entirety of his book, “Wading into War” (Scott D. Parker)

“Revolver”, a short story, by Jim Hamilton (Shotgun Honey)

Podcast: James L’Etoile interviewed by Dana King (Wrong Place, Write Crime)

X release a new album called “Alphabetland” and you can listen to it for free (Pitchfork)

“The Last Scoop” by R.G. Belsky (Oceanview Publishing)


A New and Different Kind of Pain by Daniel Vlasaty

Writing about hired muscle is difficult without devolving into clichés or creating rather large, thick clunky cardboard cutouts that have no meaning. Enforcers do not have a bad rap, it’s a limited rap: dull-witted, strong, slow, and not so much brave, just stalwart.

Daniel Vlasaty gets the tough guy right in his latest book, A New and Different Kind of Pain (All Due Respect Books). Vlasaty introduces us to David, the pseudo-adopted son of Anthony ‘Ant’ Benedetti, a north side Chicago gangster, and now his hired hand. We get glimpses of Vlastay’s crime soldier as a child surviving an abusive father, building a relationship with the Benedetti family, and becoming a husband and father as well. As A New and Different Kind of Pain progresses, this background becomes the novel’s drive, rather than David’s criminal activities — don’t worry, they do have something to say about what’s going on.

When we first meet David, he is in Cicero, Illinois which smells “of wet ass and death and sewage hanging heavy in the air”. On the job for Ant, David is sent to deal with a chronic wife beater and given David’s past this visit will not go well for the abuser. Ant’s instructions are clear, don’t kill him, “not unless you absolutely have to. Just fuck the motherfucker up.”  With this job completed,  David’s services are immediately needed by Ant again, so he heads to Wrigleyville hoping to this job done before the night is over.

The dude’s pretty big. But he has the body of a person who spends a handful of hours a week at the gym. Not the body of a guy who gets in fights for a living.

And I’m too tired and stressed out to deal with his fucking bullshit.

I just want to go home.

I just want to be anywhere other than a fucking hipster bar in a yuppie neighborhood at two in the fucking morning.

I just want this motherfucker to give me what I came here to get so I can get the fuck out of his place.

He gives me a little smile. I’m just waiting for him to reach out and twirl his mustache like the fucking douche I know he is.

Like Vlasaty’s Only Bones (review), we are thrust into the fringes of Chicago, a place where most fear to tread. Even though Vlasaty’s staccato-like style of Only Bones is gone in A New and Different Kind of Pain, the writing is still direct and urgent. Vlasaty engages us by pressing David forward through the streets of Chicago in a compact, one-sitting book. It isn’t till the reader puts down the book that we get to catch our breath and say, “Well, fuck.”

Amazon: AU CA UK US


Only Bones by Daniel Vlasaty

The main character in Daniel Vlasaty‘s Only Bones (All Due Respect Books) has only three things that drive him: snorting amphetamines, thinking about where his next batch of pills, and riding his bike through the streets of Chicago.

Daniel, the protagonist of Only Bones, is a bike messenger and is running out of pills to pop, so he heads over to his dealer’s apartment with only a few dollars in his pocket and a larger amount fronted — the dealer’s hook, the junkie’s lifeline. His dealer, Lawrence, is his only friend or as close to a friend that any junkie can have. Daniel starts working off his debt by delivering and picking up packages for his dealer. First stop a drug dealer named Elf.

My spit nothing but a thick paste. Dry and clumpy.

I try to work up some saliva in my mouth to wash away the dry-mouth taste. But I’ve got nothing.

All these pills for all these days have left me shriveled and crispy.

They’ve dried me out from the inside.

For a second I’m able to forget that I have an envelope full of cash in my bag.

Right on my back.

No idea how much cash is in it. Never thought to ask.

I don’t even know what I’m buying. What or how much.

I’m just the delivery man. I don’t need to know all the details.

But the cash in this envelope is definitely more than I’ve ever had in my possession.

If you add up all the money I’ve ever had or made in my entire life it’s still probably less than what I have in my bag right now.

It’s a lot of money.

A lot of money that Lawrence has trusted me with.

We’re either better friends than I thought we were or Lawrence is the stupidest motherfucker to ever do business in this city.

Why would anyone trust some junked-out asshole like me with probably thousands and thousands of dollars?

Vlasaty writes in a stream-of-conscious Ode to Speed. Whether he writes about the rush of the amphetamines hitting a junkie’s blood stream or the drool of a drug addict’s body shutting down or the shit that Daniel and Lawrence get into with Elf, Only Bones makes for some fast-paced good reading.

Amazon: AU CA UK US