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Incident Report

Incident Report No. 89

“ggrrrrrrr”, photograph by francois karm, CC-BY

Fuck Otto. I hate giving him any attention, but there he is. There he is. Gabino Iglesias said it best:

 He [Otto Penzler] has been in publishing for decades, which means his inability to see the need for diversity and his denial of the obvious biases that have shaped the publishing world for decades are things that stem from one of two things: pure stupidity or racism. I have time for neither.


The Exquisite Corpse wrapped up its second volume. The editors are looking for participants for the third.

Close to the Bone has released its first online magazine and it’s a good one featuring Holly Rae Garcia, Oliver Brennan, Paul Heatley, and the beginning of a serialized novel by Paul D. Brazill called “The Seatown Blues”. If you’ve never read Brazill before, here’s your chance to read wonderful lines like “Bryn immediately recognised Detective Inspector Slipper, a copper so bent you could use him as a pipe cleaner.”

https://downandoutbooks.com/bookstore/goldberg-slow-down/

Articles

Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick, a celebrity book curator critiques celebrity bookshelves (Town & Country)

Michael J. Seidlinger interviewed by Tobias Carroll (Vol. 1 Brooklyn)

“A Day in the Life ~ Cassandra Raines” by Tracy Clark (dru’s book musings)

Interview with Art Taylor, author of “The Boy Detective & The Summer of 74 and Other Tales of Suspense” (Madam Mayo)

“Why P.I.s Are Cool” by D.P. Lyle (Kings River Life Magazine)

“AloneStarCon”, a funny piece by Michael Bracken (SleuthSayers)

“Do You Torture Your Metaphors? The Problem of Self-Conscious Writing” by Jessi Rita Hoffman (Jane Friedman)

Rob Pierce, author of “Tommy Shakes” (All Due Respect Books) interviewed (Col’s Criminal Library)

Interview with Bernard Schaffer (Writers Who Kill)

Interview with Laird Barron (Book & Film Globe)

K.A. Laity on some classic noir by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding (Punk Noir)

Author Spotlight: Scott Adlerberg (Eight Million Books to Read)

“Maigret’s Room: The Home Life of Inspector Maigret” by John Lancaster (London Review of Books)

More about Otto (One Bite at a Time)


Short Stories

“Transcendent Ramblin’ Railroad Blues” by Michael Martin Garrett (Shotgun Honey)

“8 Thrilling Horror Stories You Can Read Online Right Now” (Chicago Review of Books)


Book Reviews

“Lockdown” edited by Nick Kolakowski and Steve Weddle (Polis Books) (BOLO Books)

“Rock -N- Noirror: Horror and Noir from the Seedy Side of Rock -N- Roll” edited by Wolfgang Potterhouse and Todd Morr (10th Rule Books) (Eight Million Books)

“Lost Tomorrows” by Matt Coyle (Oceanview Publishing) (Sons of Spade)

“Cold Water” by Tom Pitts (Down & Out Books) (Col’s Criminal Library)

“Tropical Heat” by John Lutz (Open Road Media) (Kevin’s Corner)

“The Life and Times of Malcolm McLaren” by Paul Gorman (Little Brown) (Hyperallergic)

“Bonekeeper” by Luca Veste (The Tattooed Book Geek)

Flash Bang Mysteries: Spring 2020 Issue 19 (Kevin’s Corner)

“I Know Where You Sleep” by Alan Orloff (Down & Out Books) (Men Reading Books)

“Mystery Weekly Magazine” February 2020 (Kevin’s Corner)

“Gender Justice” by Nicky Charlish (Punk Noir)

“Clean Hands” by Patrick Hoffman (Col’s Criminal Library)

“The Lantern Man” by Jon Bassoff (Down & Out Books) (Black Guys Do Read)

“A Small Sacrifice” by Dana King (Messy Business)

“The Blues Don’t Care” by Paul D. Marks (Down & Out Books) (Lesa’s Book Critiques)

“Cutter’s Fall” by Julie Morrigan (Col’s Criminal Library)

“Evergreen” by Howard Owen (Kevin’s Corner)

“Worse Angels” by Laird Barron (MysteryPeople)

“Into Bones Like Oil” by Kaaron Warren (Meerkat Press) (Just A Guy Who Likes to Read)


True Crime

“Murder in Old Barns” by Linsday Jones (The Walrus)

“What Do You Do With a Stolen van Gogh? This Thief Knows” (The New York Times)


Podcasts

Interview with Ivy Pochado (The Maris Review)

ECR Minipod 2.5 “Wally Steakhouse” by J.D. Graves (EconoClash Review)


Other Media

Big Lonely City #102 (Fragments of Noir)

New live album by Margo Price (Bandcamp)

Raymond Carver reading (YouTube)

Interview with Graeme Manson, creator of “Orphan Black” and the new “Snowpiercer” (LA Review of Books)

Big Lonely City #103 (Fragments of Noir)

How The Bryan/Brian Schism Worked For Roxy Music (Quietus)

“Grant the Mini-Series – A Popular Reassessment” (Scott D. Parker)

“How the Banjo Put Down Roots in North Carolina” by Kara Kundert (No Depression)


Featured Books

“Lake County Incidents” by Alec Cizak (ABC Group Documentation)


“Rigged” by D.P. Lyle (Oceanview Publishing)


“The Lantern Man” by Jon Bassoff (Down & Out Books)


“River Bottom Blues” by Ricky Bush (Fahrenheit Press)


“Mister Trot from Tin Street” by Pablo D’Stair (All Due Respect Books)


 “The Mark” by Simon Maltman (Close to the Bone, UKUS)


Thanks for stopping by to read Incident Report No. 89. If you’d like to read more posts like this, please click here.

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Crime, Lockdown, and Margo Price

Small Crimes: Monday Reads

“Crime, Lockdown, and Margo Price – Smal Crimes: Monday Reads” features a celebrity book curator criticizing Zoomed bookshelves and more.

Article: Incident Report No. 88 came out yesterday (Unlawful Acts)

Article: Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick, a celebrity book curator critiques celebrity bookshelves (Town & Country)

Article: Michael J. Seidlinger interviewed by Tobias Carroll (Vol. 1 Brooklyn)

Article: The experiment continues (The Exquisite Corpse)

Article: “A Day in the Life ~ Cassandra Raines” by Tracy Clark (dru’s book musings)

https://downandoutbooks.com/bookstore/goldberg-slow-down/

Book Review: “Lockdown” edited by Nick Kolakowski and Steve Weddle (Polis Books) (BOLO Books)

Book Review: “Rock -N- Noirror: Horror and Noir from the Seedy Side of Rock -N- Roll” edited by Wolfgang Potterhouse and Todd Morr (10th Rule Books) (Eight Million Books)

Photographs: Big Lonely City #102 (Fragments of Noir)

Music: New live album by Margo Price (Bandcamp)

Book: “Lake County Incidents” by Alec Cizak (ABC Group Documentation)

Thanks for stopping by Unlawful Acts and reading “Crime, Lockdown, and Margo Price”. For more Small Crimes, click here.

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Small Crimes: Monday Reads

Interview: Max Allan Collins interviewed by Nick Kolakowski and the talk inevitably wanders to Mike Hammer (Mystery Tribune)

Short Story: “I Guess You’ll Do . . . ” by Mick Rose (Punk Noir)

Book Review: “TV Noir – Dark Drama On The Small Screen” by Allen Glover (Abrams) (Stiletto Gumshoe)

Book Review: “The Tooth and the Nail / The Wife of the Red-Haired Man” by Bill S. Ballinger (Stark House Press) (Bookgasm)

TV: Jim Nesbitt took aim at some problems with the Bosch series (Jim Nesbitt)

Movies: Jedidiah Ayres rewatched “All The President’s Men” (Hardboiled Wonderland)

Business: Unsurprisingly, Barnes & Noble is having money problems (The Digital Reader)

Business: Data issues with Amazon and the Democrats want to investigate (Politico)

Pre-Order: “Recoil” edited by Ron Earl Phillips (Shotgun Honey)

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Books

Shoulder Wounds #8

Maybe it’s the darkening of the days, or the drawdown to Election Day, or the deepening unease I feel about my coming cross-country drive (Seattle to Gainesville, Florida) on a death-march budget, but I’m been doubling down on comfort-food reading.

For a week, I listened to nothing but actress Laura Linney, my crush to end all crushes, reading the first several Nancy Drew mysteries on Audible. Then I powered through all eight Great Brain books, favorites ever since I was a fifth-grader in Toughskin jeans and Farrah-feathered hair that frequently got tangled up not in blue but in headgear braces. And I realized that they could easily categorized as crime novels, given that Tom Fitzgerald is an incurable con man, and that his crimes are mitigated only by his occasional solving of crimes by others.

Then I read several volumes in the Chet-and-Bernie detective series by Spencer Quinn. And as I do every time I read one of these books, with their cutesy-typeface, punny titles, I remember that cozy mysteries are not usually my jam, and then I remember that Spencer Quinn — a.k.a. Peter Abrahams, who’s written many dark thrillers for many decades — has adamantly argued that these novels, told from the POV of Chet, the dog, are not cozies. And I decide, as always, that they’re both cozies and not cozies, and then I decide, so what, because they’re fun, and dammit, what’s wrong with fun? Especially these days, at this particular time of year?

The genius of the Chet-and-Bernie series is in their baked-in conceit, in which the work of the hardboiled detective is softened by the “I sort of get what’s going on but sort of don’t, and here I am, doing something dramatic or hilarious but always plot-advancing while everybody else is standing around contemplating the guns in their pockets, and why is that man’s bloody leg between my teeth” voice of Chet. And when you think about it, how else would a dog look on the world, but with a bemused mix of befuddlement and repetition-driven wisdom? Quinn/Abrahams is too much of a stone pro to let this silliness over-season the storytelling, which is always sturdy and salted with pleasurable uncertainty in all the right spots.

If you are a fan of Peter Abrahams’s work — THE FAN, which became a film with Wesley Snipes and Robert DeNiro, is his best known; and END OF STORY, a pocket master class in literary suspense, is his best — you’ll see his signature darkness in these books. But if you take your crime fiction straight with no comedic chaser, you might decide these aren’t the kind of bones you’d chew on. My admiration of Abrahams is such that I’ve found my way with the dog days of his career, a phase that extends into spinoff series for younger readers that are just as fun in their way as the Great Brain stories. If so, start with the first in the series, DOG ON IT, and continue through every eye-rolling cozy-not-cozy pun title.

The collision of comedy and crime also comes into play when considering the career of Ross Thomas, a cult figure of admiration for his colorful Cold War caper novels. Occasionally someone online, like crime author and critic Sarah Weinman, talks about their love of Thomas’s work, which began in 1966 and ended with the author’s death in 1994.

I am a Ross Thomas admirer too but I understand why he’s been left behind while new generations of crime readers find and fall in love with the likes of Elmore Leonard. As much as I enjoy the hell out of novels like THE FOOLS IN TOWN ON OUR SIDE, from 1970, Ross Thomas is 9,000 percent of his time, which is always heavily informed by pre- and post-WWII mores, cultures and politics. As is, unfortunately, his John D. MacDonald attitudes toward women, which almost always paint females as sex kittens, shrews, scolds, saints or shrieky-sobby simpletons. (Elmore Leonard rarely gets credit for this, but I’m convinced that part of the reason he endures today is that he created women it’s impossible to not admire.) If the Cold War was a sinking ship, Ross Thomas is the lifeboat that couldn’t quite escape the suction. He’s strictly a nostalgiagasm for me.

That said, THE FOOLS IN TOWN ARE ON OUR SIDE is first-rate Thomas, full of audacious schemes, stiletto-edged dialogue, and secret pockets of sentimental depth. It’s also quotable for days. One example, from a scene in which a man has taken a precocious eight-year-old under his wing as they flee wartime China on a roundabout route to the United States: “Okay, let’s agree that you’re smart. You can shill a crap game, pimp for a whorehouse, speak six or seven languages, roll drunks and hustle the rubes. But you can’t read or write, and you’re goddamn well going to learn how.”

It’s hard to describe the plot without giving away the pleasure, but imagine being asked to take a corrupt American city the size of, say, Spokane or Schenectady, and make it even more corrupt for the benefit of a powerful few who have decided they can never be powerful enough. It’s all tremendous fun, but I can’t imagine recommending it to someone raised on today’s terse military-guy thrillers or operatic-pitched domestic suspensers.

Speaking of operatic-tinged domestic suspense, I recently read Nic Joseph’s THE NIGHT IN QUESTION, a much-praised new work of psychological suspense that hails from the trendy “twist-a-minute” school. And it is the rare novel sunk by its very first page. Prologues are a high-wire act to begin, easy to screw up and leave the reader stranded at the gate. And for that reason it’s only occasionally done, and even more occasionally done well.

This prologue, which begins with the words “I decided early on that telling the truth — the whole truth — was out of the question,” is annoying on two levels. One, it announces its intention from the get-go to jerk around the reader, all but saying “Look how fashionably unreliable I am! Awesome, right?” And two, it fails to follow through on its promise of twisty unreliability. Paula Wileson, the narrator, attempts to blackmail a pop-music star cheating on his wife, and her ham-handed efforts to get closer to him collide with a murder of a woman who lived in The Other Woman’s building. Paula, a rideshare driver whose efforts are driven by an attempt to raise money for a surgery that may enable her husband to walk again, has reason to be circumspect and even coy with the cops. But she turns out to be a much flatter and more conventional character than the prologue promised, and the novel’s failure to develop the other characters undermines its big reveals.

Paula is an intriguing character until those last chapters, and Joseph is canny enough to keep us invested in how this well-meaning Chicago woman keeps getting herself into and out of trouble she can’t quite handle. But Paula is nowhere near as devious or unreliable as those first pages portend, and in the end THE NIGHT IN QUESTION turns out to be like dozens of books in its genre — well-crafted but unable to convincingly get out of the corner it paints its characters into. (I’d also dock it another star for going to the bother of creating a pop star with complicated motives and failing completely to find extra dimensions — or page space — for him.)

Altogether different is Nick Kolakowski’s latest hardboiled tale, BOISE LONGPIG HUNTING CLUB. (I moderately admired his first novella, A BRUTAL BUNCH OF HEARTBROKEN SAPS.) I give him points for being a New York City author who takes on — and pulls off — the challenge of realistically setting a novel in Idaho. Would that more authors made similarly audacious leaps out of their comfort zones.

Points, too, for writing a pretty good novella, if one for all its audacity with setting, is composed of fairly familiar parts. Jake Halligan is a bounty hunter and ex-soldier with two primary human assets — his almost-not-quite-ex-wife Janine, and his sister Frankie, the local badass-bitch-on-wheels gun runner with a private army and a propensity for creative violence. When they run afoul of the local powers-that-be, the three find themselves the objects of a Most Dangerous Game run by every right-wing rich-guy stereotype you can think up.

It’s all good fun as far as it goes, if a tad light on character depth. It also has a tendency to whipsaw uncomfortably between low-key domestic scenes and high-voltage, high-body-count blowups.

But the real takeaway is Kolakowski, a writer who in my mind seems to be building up to a breakthrough novel that will get him broader notice. In BOISE LONGPIG HUNTING CLUB, his considerable chops are on full display: crisp pacing, light-on-its-feet action, a deft touch with snarky dialogue, and considerable powers of narrative observation. (“She wore as much black clothing and eyeliner as a high school Goth, and nobody made jokes about it, because she liked to do things like shove pens through necks.”) I get this funny back-of-the-neck feeling that, like Lou Berney, who followed up two conventional plot-in-a-blender novels with the exquisite and enduring THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE, there’s a quantum leap in similar quality lying in wait for us from Kolakowski.


Jim Thomsen is a writer and editor who divides his time between Florida and his hometown of Bainbridge Island, Washington. Learn more at jimthomsencreative.com.


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Books

The Station by Nick Kolakowski

The-Station-by-Nick-KolakowsiThe full title to Nick Kolakowski latest is “The Station: A Horror Story in Tweets”. It can only be read on Medium’s app on your smartphone.

I recently returned to reading articles in the Medium platform as they seemed to have shed their earlier stories like “You Don’t Know How to Read” or “Everything You Know About Housekeeping is Wrong”. But I’ve drifted back because of people like Nick, Neliza Drew, Angel Luis Colón, and, of course, Electronic Literature. Now I need to decide where this platform is worth the $5 a month . . . A nickel here, a nickel there, soon turns into real money.

Kowalski’s story is presented in Medium’s card series format which is new to me. A card series is a collection of individual pages connected together that you just read and swipe to see the next card. Simple. Kowalski’s “The Station” mimics tweets from Jay Arnold Coover, who soon finds out that he’s on a subway train that is not stopping and the tunnel they’re in has no stations to stop at anyway.

“The Station” progresses as somewhat expected throughout the first half of the story with Twitter keeping track of the time slipping by and the stakes getting raised as the train speeds on. Around the halfway point, Kolakowski has the story go delightfully sideways. Worth your time to download the app and create an account if you don’t already have one.

Medium: “The Station: A Horror Story in Tweets”

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Books

Slaughterhouse Blues by Nick Kolakowski

cover-kolakowski-slaughterhouse-blues-500x800pxNick Kolakowski’s Slaughterhouse Blues is the second in his Love & Bullets Hookup books, the first being A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps both of which feature Bill and Fiona, an ex-mob accountant and an ex-mob assassin on the run. The first book was a frenetic dance of violence and gunfire, while Slaughterhouse Blues, though wild and unpredictable, is not as similar as one would expect a follow-up novel to be – it is almost like the second book was written by a different author.

Maybe it is the tropical climate of Managua and Havana that slow the pace of Bill and Fiona’s adventures down, but Kowalski takes a bit more time showing us who they are and what motivates them. I guess it’s time to catch up if you haven’t read A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps and you should as the e-book is going for .99¢ right now. Where was I? Bill decided to steal from the Rockaway mob. Fiona was sent to kill Bill, except they had a history and now they are on the run together in the Caribbean. When Slaughterhouse Blues begins, Fiona is off to Managua to do a little job for some cash. While things don’t go well for her in Nicaragua, Bill is having his own troubles in Cuba.

I didn’t think it possible for Kolakowski to out do himself with the gun-wielding Elvis Presley impersonator in A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps, but he has with Ken and Barbara, two ruthless killers on the hunt but also in love. As one character notices, Ken and Barbara are two “lone wolves, and yet they found each other somehow.” Kowalski probably did everything in his power not to name them Ken and Barbie, but that’s okay, that’s what I called them in my head. And the fight scene in a car driving down New York City’s Park Avenue is worthy of the price of admission.

Slaughterhouse Blues wasn’t the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am book like its predecessor, but I wasn’t disappointed. With Bill and Fiona as our guides, Nick Kolakowski’s Slaughterhouse Blues takes us on a raucous ride filled with craziness, violence, and peculiar characters.

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A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps by Nick Kolakowski

A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps by Nick KolakowskiI was born too late to become a card-carrying member of the Elvis church, all I got was fat Elvis, Elvis shaking hands with Nixon, and Elvis pumping gas somewhere in northern Arkansas long after he died. I wasn’t one of those who was crying in the chapel when he died. Beyond the music, the other legacy Elvis left was impersonators.

But Nick Kolakowski’s A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps (Down & Out Books) is about Elvis impersonators as much as Citizen Kane is about a sleigh. When you do get to the Elvis part of A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps, I mean, holy fucking hell, just surrender: “A figure stepped through the haze, gleaming white. Bill thinking this must be some weirdass pain-dream, Elvis Presley coming for him in a spangly jumpsuit, assault rifle in each hand.” Kolakowski leaves nothing on the table, enjoyable so.

A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps opens with an unnamed hitman describing his new target’s upcoming worst day of his life.

Listen.

At some point, a poor sap will look at you and say, “This is the worst day of my life.”

But as long as you have breath in your lungs to say those words, you’re not having your worst day. You haven’t even hit rock bottom, much less started to dig. You can still come back from a car wreck, or that terrifying shadow on your lung X-ray, or finding your wife in bed with the well-hung quarterback from the local high school. Sometimes all you need to solve your supposedly world-ending problems is time and care, or some cash, or a shovel and a couple of garbage bags.

If you see me coming, on the other hand, I guarantee you’re having your worst day. Not to mention your last.

Let me show you how bad it can get. How deep the hole goes. And the next time your idiot friend says something about worst days, as the two of you stand there watching his house burn down with his pets and one-of-a-kind porn collection inside, you can tell him this story. It might even shut him up.

Let me tell you about Bill, my last client.

Laughably, Bill thought he could rip off the mob and get away with it. A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps follows Bill on his weak-ass attempt of an escape from New York and the troubles he runs into.

Bill awoke, as one sometimes does, dangling upside-down over a pit, ankles wrapped in heavy chains, sweat stinging his eyes, head throbbing like a dying tooth. He heard a dog bark in the night, and the muted roar of what he guessed was the Interstate, but the only light came from a bare yellow bulb bolted to a corrugated-metal shed far below.

Circumstances frequently deteriorate in absurd fashion in A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps until, believably, Elvis arrives to save the day (or not). Kolakowski writes with wit painted in darkness and gunfire. Adeptly crafting a plot that borders on the incongruous, Kolakowski makes A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps crazily convincing. I’m definitely looking forward to the second in this series.

Amazon: AU CA UK US