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: Wednesday Reads

PJ Parrish on why making mistakes is so important (Kill Zone)

My review of Jason Beech’s “Never Go Back” (Unlawful Acts)

Kevin Tipple reviewed the anthology “The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes From The Panhandle To The Piney Woods” edited by Michael Bracken (Kevin’s Corner)

Marilynne Robinson, The Art of Fiction No. 198 (The Paris Review)

How to support your local bookstore instead of Amazon (McSweeney’s)

Still shots from the movie “Small Crimes”, based on David Zeltersman’s book (Fragments of Noir)

Review of Scott Dadich’s “Abstract: The Art of Design”, a Netflix documentary (Broad Street Review)

Joe Ricker’s “Some Awful Cunning”, a novel (Down & Out Books)


Never Go Back by Jason Beech

Could any disrespectful English tale exist without trains? Trains are to England as cars are to Springsteen, they’re fucking everywhere. At the beginning of Jason Beech’s “Never Go Back” (Close to the Bone), we meet Barlow Vine on the 3:15 from Manchester to Sheffield. Vine is fleeing both Spain and a woman, but there’s the immediate problem of a passenger, a beast of a bald man, looking to bully anyone weaker than himself.

Instead of the classic good-hearted bad guy trope, Beech constricts the space around Vine forcing him to react to the bully. True, he had those tropish feelings already, but the fun, and writer’s work, is how you get there. Beech gets us there in style.

After the altercation, the train leaves Vine off at Sheffield, and Vine’s best only friend’s lame-ass welcoming home sets his mood for an evening of dark pints. Hell, Beech even works out a well-executed Dad joke with “Bollocks to that. I needed a drink now, and I’d learned how to drink Han Solo.”

Vine gets into a few tussles, but in Beech’s “Never Go Back”, each of these encounters has ramifications. Turns out, if you get your head slammed up against a brick wall, there are symptoms for that. So as Barlow Vine skulks about the the streets of Sheffield, his head is swimming in the delirium of post-concussion syndrome.

Too much to think about in my dehydrated state. I could drink a lake and eat the ducks which faffed around on it. I limped to the little window on the legs of an astronaut who’d been in space too long. My nose demanded attention now my headache had subsided. The grey light outside hit me like sunburst. Forced me to turn away. I squinted away the sear and tried again.

No shoulder wound cliches here.

“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.

Englishness oozes out of “Never Go Back” like Royal blood drips out of a Parisian car accident. There were times I found myself on Google street view following in Vine’s footsteps or pining for my English pub during the quarantine.

Beech scores a perfect hat trick with “Never Go Back” with writing, execution, and story all at a top-notch level. Great lines like “The bar heaved” or scenes like “The pub across the road invited me back in. So warm. Good beer. Too crammed, and occupied by a few arseholes, but isn’t that life?’ had me turning the pages swiftly and ignoring the handful of typos and formatting issues I came upon.

Buy: Amazon US |Amazon UK | Amazon CA


Small Crimes: Wednesday Reads

John Prine dead at 73 (No Depression)

“Insurance Adjuster” by Matthew Masucci, a new short story (Shotgun Honey)

Poor Mouth Writers’ Night reading live tonight featuring Lee Matthew Goldberg, author of “The Desire Card” (Zoom)

Interview with Michael Farris Smith, author of “Blackwood” (LA Review of Books)

“Invocations” by Ed Kurtz, a new collection of short stories (Amazon)

Jason Beech is giving away his three short story collections (Amazon)

Submission window open for short stories (All Due Respect)

Big Lonely City #94, a noir photography series (Fragments of Noir)