I came to know author James Renner through his wacky, engrossing, bewitchingly unique novels - The Man from Primrose Lane and The Great Forgetting. An I came to know author James Renner through his wacky, engrossing, bewitchingly unique novels - The Man from Primrose Lane and The Great Forgetting. And while he has a noteworthy talent spinning wild and crazy tales of speculative fiction, Renner is also a dedicated true crime writer. In fact, the journalism and true crime writing came first. And now he's returned to these stomping grounds in a big way with his new release True Crime Addict.
What sets this true crime book apart from most is not only the exceptionally sharp, punchy, lucid writing, but that Renner very much writes himself into the story as an observer, participant and one could even argue collateral damage to the unsolved Maura Murray missing person case. We realize almost from the opening paragraphs, that this is going to be a very personal journey for Renner, where he not only loses himself down the addicting, obsessive rabbit hole of trying to solve the mystery of a young woman's inexplicable disappearance into seemingly thin air, he also lays bare his own personal demons, that include his young son's struggle with uncontrollable violent outbursts (and quite possibly prescient abilities). This book really is one man's unflinching look into the abyss, and what stares back at him.
Renner is not the only person to have fallen down the rabbit hole of the Maura Murray case (a quick Google search will prove that), but given his personality and dark obsessive tendencies that he comes by quite honestly, Renner is arguably the one who's fallen the hardest and most completely. The publication of this book is the culmination (and hopefully for him) an emotional catharsis of a very long journey that Renner has recorded in detail on his Maura Murray blog that he launched in June 2011.
This book really could not have come at a better time. We seem to be in the midst of a true crime renaissance with recent cultural watershed phenomena like Making a Murderer, The Jinx and the first season of Sarah Koenig's podcast Serial which I became obsessed with when it ran in the fall of 2014. And you might as well throw The People vs OJ on that pile too, because it was also fantastic and drew a huge viewing audience.
I want to thank karen for putting a copy of this book in my hands and it is with great enthusiasm I write this review in the hopes it brings even more much deserved attention to what Renner has accomplished here. ...more
It's easy to compare this one to The Girl on the Train or even Gone Girl. It definitely has that vibe of psychologically damaged minds perpetrating da It's easy to compare this one to The Girl on the Train or even Gone Girl. It definitely has that vibe of psychologically damaged minds perpetrating dark deeds in the midst of a twisty, sinuous plot. It also shares the multiple POV narration, which when done well, can add SO MUCH to these types of stories.
As it does here. I would actually argue that The Kind Worth Killing is an even stronger and more page-turning book than The Girl On the Train (whose underwhelming ending left me sort of underwhelmed by the time I was done, especially after such a great build-up).
If you're going to write a page-turning psychological thriller piece like this you had better stick the landing, otherwise all your hard work leading up to the main event is going to feel wasted. It's all a house of cards, an illusion built using smoke and mirrors; you are asking the reader to suspend their disbelief and come along for the crazy ride. When it's all over, don't leave them feeling like they've been had. Play fair. Don't cheat.
The Kind Worth Killing has a very noir sensibility in its tone and execution that I just lapped up like cream. And no surprise because the author is channeling Patricia Highsmith's classic crime novel Strangers on a Train that Hitchcock adapted into one of my favorite film noirs. When people start talking and planning the perfect murder, you know anything can -- and usually does -- happen.
Along with its noir vibe, The Kind Worth Killing is also reminiscent of the old pulp fiction crime novels churned out on cheap paper during the first half of the 20th century -- where sex and violence are expected to go together like PB&J -- a marriage made in heaven if you will, or more accurately, hell. The characters are not meant to be likable, or even relatable, and the dialogue and writing style is strictly utilitarian -- nothing fancy -- just let's move the plot along here, we've got places we need to end up. It's not always easy getting from A to Z leanly and meanly.
I really enjoyed the multiple POV narration here. It's probably what the novel does best. Sometimes there is some overlap too -- you get the same event described to you again but this time by a different character. It would be easy to screw that up and just have things seem repetitive. Here it's executed with aplomb and adds depth and interest to the story. At least it did for me. I would love to see this as a movie, especially if they fully committed to a noir style.
Show me the way to go home, I'm tired and I want to go to bed...
Sooooooo, here we are. Back to the more soap-opera-ish, plodding plot with a few in
Show me the way to go home, I'm tired and I want to go to bed...
Sooooooo, here we are. Back to the more soap-opera-ish, plodding plot with a few interesting "twists" (for lack of a better word) thrown in. I was not riveted. Maggie going toe-to-toe with dickhole parents of dickhole kids is a less than inspiring sub-plot. More scheming by disgruntled community members. Eh, we've seen that number before too.
The Whisperers are sorta kinda interesting and new, I suppose, if you look at them with your eyes scrunched and squinting. It makes sense to me that there would be a group like this that would come along eventually. The real surprise is that it's taken this long, and perhaps how many of them there's rumored to be. Thousands? Really? That would be shocking indeed. For now, it's just a rumor and my fingers are crossed that this new "threat" turns out to be more than what they appear to be which is a step above same shit different day.
And Carl? Sweet jebus. (view spoiler)[After nearly bashing in the skulls of two douchebag out-of-control violent teenagers, he gets hit on by a strange new girl from the Whisperers group. And she's totally got a kink for Carl's empty eye socket. As in, she's totally into it. So much so she French kisses the damn thing (ewwwww)
Yup, like that. Then she takes his virginity. For the record, Carl doesn't put up a fight. But what should have played out as a nice sweet innocent scene has a twisted underbelly cause you know this young woman has got some serious problems and that she's been abused and raped by her group. Great. Cause the one thing the Walking Dead has been missing is some good 'ol pedophilia. (hide spoiler)]
Sometimes this series feels like an albatross around my neck, a monkey on my back, Sisyphus's Rock. I NEED THIS TO END!!!! I NEED AN ENDING!!!! Do you hear me Kirkman???? For godsake man, take mercy on all of us and please JUST FUCKNG END IT.
I am familiar with Richard Chizmar because A) I *love* Cemetery Dance Publications (which he founded) and B) Chizmar has launched a massive King re-read and you can follow his progress (not to mention fabulous guest posts) here at his blog Stephen King Revisited.
So in my Twitter feed this evening was a link to this short story. Who can resist a short story called "The Box"? Every time I see that title I give a little shudder and give in to a lot curiosity, because WHO DOESN'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT'S IN THE BOX?!
I'll ALWAYS need to know what's in the mothereffing box. Yeah, curiosity. She's a real bitch.
So this story? It's gooooood. Pulpy good and creepy (if a little derivative and predictable). Still, at 15 pages, definitely worth a read. Go check it out now! Don't you want to know what's in the box too??? ...more
I don't know how to describe the mad, dark, mash-up genius contained in the pages of Nick Cutter's upcoming release The Acolyte -- but I've found myse I don't know how to describe the mad, dark, mash-up genius contained in the pages of Nick Cutter's upcoming release The Acolyte -- but I've found myself in a similar state of speechlessness with other titles released by the incomparable ChiZine Publications. Their motto is Embrace the Odd and embrace it they do with abandon. ChiZine's book covers alone are enough to send this bibliophile into paroxysms of delight. Here are a few of my favorites:
ChiZine has also recently gotten into the graphic novel game and I adore this cover too:
Let me wrap up the fangirling over cover art to conclude that ChiZine is a wickedly weird and dangerous publishing house ruthlessly seeking out unique voices in speculative fiction. There is nothing safe or sanitized or boring about them. And while I'm not always in the mood to enter into the wacky landscapes they pimp, I'm very grateful that they exist, and very proud that they are Canadian.
Fans of either or both of those books should not expect the same kind of story in The Acolyte. I'm not surprised it was ChiZine who published it for him because it is an odd, intense mixture of horror, police procedural, dystopia, and noir. It is violent, contemplative, thematic, and disturbing. It's not a book you 'enjoy' or 'savor': it is one you endure and survive.
And that's all I'm going to say about it. Read the plot summary if you want, but it's not going to help prepare you for what lies in wait in its pages. If you are feeling adventurous and brave, and want a taste of something not so mainstream that will take you off the beaten path into a darker part of the forest, then by all means take The Acolyte home with you.
An advanced reading copy was provided by the publisher for review....more
My reading/reviewing year is really getting off to an excruciatingly, abysmal slow start. I blame my Netflix addiction that includes a recent binge viMy reading/reviewing year is really getting off to an excruciatingly, abysmal slow start. I blame my Netflix addiction that includes a recent binge viewing of The Shield (from which I'm still recovering). In November, I became obsessed with Sarah Koenig's Serial podcast and literally lost weeks. Archer is back in full throttle splendor -- "We need a minute Captain Shit Nuts!" -- soon to be followed by the return of Season 3 of The Americans on the 28th.
Throw in work, sleep, eating, alcohol consumption and Words With Friends, and it's no wonder I've fallen way behind.
I don't have a real penchant towards reading about serial killers. I don't even like them in my movies usually. However, like most things, there are exceptions. One of my favorite films of all time is David Fincher's Zodiac (2007). It's an incredible movie that takes a cold case with a million moving pieces that went unsolved for decades and distills it down into this cerebral and frightening coherent narrative about obsession and loss of self. To this day, the Zodiac killer remains unidentified and the lingering torment and regret laid on the shoulders of the men who chased him in vain cannot be underestimated.
The Green River Killer was another notorious serial killer who almost got away. Gary Ridgway was eventually convicted of murdering 49 women but it's believed his kill count is much higher. The Green River murders began in 1982 and hit their peak in 1984. However, Ridgway would not be identified and arrested until 2001 thanks to DNA evidence.
The lead investigator for The Green River Killer was a man by the name of Tom Jensen. When the Green River Task Force was eventually disbanded, Jensen became the sole investigator. It was a case that would continue to haunt and obsess him right up until the day of Ridgway's arrest. It's a story that Jensen's son wants to tell, an intimate look at his father's entanglement with evil and desperation, frustration and determination.
I never would have believed this story could be contained in the black and white panels of a 200 page graphic novel. But contained it is. Jensen's version is a remarkable example of gritty police procedural balanced with a son's touching tribute to a father he obviously respects and cherishes deeply. The storytelling is sharp and rhythmic, bouncing back and forth from past to present in a seamless montage of events that is impressive. There are hardly any visual or textual clues to orient the reader in time; nevertheless, I was rarely left wondering 'where' and 'when' in the story I was.
This is one graphic novel that packs an emotional wallop. Not just because of the subject matter, but for the way in which the story is told....more
I wasn't super hopping crazy for Beukes's The Shining Girls, but with Broken Monsters this woman has now got my full attention. I'm here to tell you t I wasn't super hopping crazy for Beukes's The Shining Girls, but with Broken Monsters this woman has now got my full attention. I'm here to tell you the lady's got mad skills.
It helped a lot I think that I picked this book up at the exact right time. I was ready. I was primed if you will. That kind of timing doesn't always work out. But I'd just come off my binge listening, over analyzing obsession with Sarah Koenig's Serial podcast where I lost countless hours pondering motives, cell phone logs, cell tower pings and an anti-Glee cast of Baltimore teens. I was in an arm-chair detective frame of mind. I was already down in the rabbit hole before the first page was turned. The exact right place to be for where Beukes was going to take me.
And where was that exactly? Broken Monsters is unique and surreal and dark and weird, but there's some lingering familiarity of remembrances past that give the story texture and resonance. And what the hell do I mean by that?
Well, think of the gritty procedural elements to be found in True Detective, Seven or Silence of the Lambs. That's a start. There's a substantive case here and a seasoned kick-ass woman detective chasing down clues and following a trail that's twisted (and broken!) and could run cold at any moment. There's pacing and reveals. Tension and release.
Then there's the atmosphere, mood and vivid -- vivid! -- descriptions of crime scenes, urban decay, and violence that bleed across the page -- an artistic fusion of destruction with creation -- visual feasts in the mind's eye both terrible and beautiful.
The following images may be offensive to some so I shall hide them behind a spoiler tag. However, fans of True Detective and NBC's Hannibal should click (because you know you want to).
I mention these two television shows not just for the obvious authentic procedural similarities found in Broken Monsters, but for each show's masterful artistic vision and gobsmacking cinematography. Whatever inky black well these kinds of hellish tableaux originate from, Beukes has a bucket of her own and is drinking her fill to bursting.
Something else she's mastered with Broken Monsters is a rich cast of characters whose stories intertwine and crash together then rip apart again. She is a maestro here -- a mad puppet master -- creating a symphony of action and reaction. I surely do not want to be Job when this woman is God.
With so many characters running around you really have to sit up and pay attention as a reader. Beukes is not slacking so we can't either. It's easy to get a bit lost and confused in the early stages getting to know everyone and their back stories. It wasn't a smooth transition for me -- I had to go back and re-read a few sections just to orient myself before I read on. But that's okay. With that kind of investment comes huge reward.
I can't say I was completely satisfied with the crashing cacophony that was the book's climax. In some ways it was effing brilliant -- in others it was a hot mess (get on board the Lindsey Lohan/Charlie Sheen train to hell!!!!) Still, as Charlie would say: WINNING!
I agree Charlie. This is definitely a check mark in the win column for Lauren Beukes. I'll be coming back for more.
(Sorry, but nobody puts Charlie in a corner under a spoiler tag. Deal with it people) ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
What a nasty piece of work this turned out to be living as it does at the seedy intersection of pulp and pornography, violence and depravity. I though What a nasty piece of work this turned out to be living as it does at the seedy intersection of pulp and pornography, violence and depravity. I thought I was a big girl and could handle stepping over the borderline into such dark corners, but this one shook me up quite a bit and left me feeling a bit sick and dirty. The only thing I can compare it to is how I felt after watching Requiem for a Dream.
I blithely walked into this one expecting a lighter, fluffier piece of pulp fiction -- an exaggerated "put your lips together and blow" Hollywood-style noir. Instead I got closer to a Larry Flynt fantasy than I ever wanted to get in this life. Kemper perfectly describes the experience this way:
This is a solid little piece of pulp with an edgy nastiness to it, like popping a piece of candy in your mouth and finding out it was actually a hunk of broken glass.
Yup. And I can still taste the blood.
So giving this a star rating is tough. I didn't enjoy it and found most of the story and the characters vile and despicable. However, the fact that I was so unsettled and left feeling so out of sorts is a testament to Block's ability as a writer. I'm really, really happy he found another way to make his living as a novelist however. ...more
It puzzles me -- and sometimes frustrates me to no end -- how or why some books get categorized/released as Young Adult. These days it seems the label It puzzles me -- and sometimes frustrates me to no end -- how or why some books get categorized/released as Young Adult. These days it seems the label has become so loosey-goosey all that's required is that there be a teen protagonist. Content, language, themes -- all of the meatier, important elements of any book are blithely ignored in the rush to market and movie deals.
There are definitely books that walk the hinterland -- the very, very outer reaches of YA and upon reading them you realize that there's way more 'Adult' in the pages than 'Young'. On any given Sunday it shouldn't really matter ....except for when it does. In the case of Scowler it makes me think about how many people will ignore it and miss out turned off by its YA label, and then it makes me think about the young teen readers who will lack the emotional maturity and mental resilience to process such a dark and disturbing tale.
Yes, it's that good and that dark. Patriarch Marvin Burke is as chilling and disturbing a villain as any I've encountered and belongs in the pages of a Frank Bill novel. The language is vibrant and pulsing -- a living, breathing thing:
The cracks in the dirt now yawned to proportions slutty with thirst...
There it was. A miracle, really, finding this speck of bone in a world of dust. There was a brown spot of blood on the tooth's root, and to Ry it seemed the encapsulation of the bum deal of life: a once-perfect thing plucked and bloodied and tossed to the dirt.
I had originally shelved this as 'horror' but am now removing it because while Scowler is horrific in parts, it has much more in common with realistic, gritty fiction that has a psychological underbelly.
If the plethora of J-horror coming out of Japan the last 15 years hasn't convinced you of the country's own unique brand of crazy pants in the best, m If the plethora of J-horror coming out of Japan the last 15 years hasn't convinced you of the country's own unique brand of crazy pants in the best, most entertaining way, then this book will. And there's a movie! Which I now have to hunt down.
Because crazy pants, did I mention? So much crazy pants.
This isn't horror, but it is really messed up. It's a revenge tale about screwed up, damaged narrators who each get to tell a piece of the story, so you won't have all the pieces of the puzzle until the very end.
No one is likable. If you are a reader who wants an emotional story and characters that you can relate to, then skip this one.
But if you're like me, and you like the crazy pants, then definitely check this one out.
Is it wrong to be totally fangirling over such depraved and bloody storytelling? Probably. But fuck it. I'm not going to apologize. PREACHER is like n Is it wrong to be totally fangirling over such depraved and bloody storytelling? Probably. But fuck it. I'm not going to apologize. PREACHER is like nothing else I've ever read or seen, crossing boundaries of decency and good taste while at the same time offering up compelling characters and kickass world building.
This volume brings together two very different storylines each with its own sense of brutality and redemption. The first half is the revelation of Jesse Custer's twisted and blood soaked past, a family tree steeped in abomination and cruelty, abuse and murder. It's anything but pretty, as heartbreaking as it is frightening and sickening. Having met evil incarnate Grandma L'Angelle and her trusty sadistic sidekicks Jody and T.C. I can say with all honesty I'd rather take my chances dining with Hannibal Lecter or spending the weekend with Leatherface.
The 'Angelville' subplot has a distinctive backwoods, Southern Gothic meets Deliverance vibe that reminded me a lot of today's redneck noir or hillbilly lit. It's gritty realism shot through with supernatural elements that play as straight and normal. None of those elements, including appearances by God and The Duke himself feel out of place or ridiculous. They're seamlessly woven into the story's patchwork without any self-consciousness whatsoever. They belong there, just like the Genesis entity riding Custer's ass imbuing him with the power to bend minds to his will and words.
Custer's ex, Tulip has a much more defining role in this volume. Actually, she's pretty awesome; I just hope she turns out to be more than just Jesse's snuggle bunny. The vampire Cass also returns in all his drunken Irish glory injecting much needed comic relief. The scene with the cat and the toilet made me howl. Bad kitty!
The second half of this volume is quite the departure from the first, introducing a whole new cast of characters including a super secret religious group known as the Grail (think Da Vinci Code) and a pasty white, rich lunatic who could pass for Caligula calling himself Jesus De Sade. If the first half is rural The Walton's meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the second half is all urban decay and hedonism. It's the last days of Sodom and Gomorrah in 20th century America and Jesse Custer is all tangled up in the thick of it, whether he wants to be or not.
And oh yeah, he's still got that bone to pick with God, now more than ever.
Do I want more PREACHER? You're goddam right I do.
After reading Kemper's awesome review I knew I'd be getting to Preacher eventually -- now after having read the first volume I'm left wondering why th After reading Kemper's awesome review I knew I'd be getting to Preacher eventually -- now after having read the first volume I'm left wondering why the hell did I wait so long?!
It's bloody, gory grit and gasoline pulp Texas style, with demons and angels and a possessed preacher, an Irish vampire and a supernatural gunslinger known as the Saint of Killers -- who reminded me instantly of Roland Deschain crossed with Randall Flagg.
Something has gone very wrong in heaven: a terrifyingly powerful entity (the offspring of an angel and a demon known as Genesis) has escaped to earth and binds itself to a mortal man -- Jesse Custer (redneck preacher of a small Texas parish). Jesse needs answers fast as the dead bodies start to pile up around him and the po-po are hot on his tail. Joining him on his quest (and evasion of the law) will be his ex-girlfriend Tulip, and a ninety-something year old Irish vampire called Cassidy.
There's a vicious serial killer on the loose too just to keep things from, you know, getting boring.
The word from up on high is that God has left the building. Literally. Fucked off and left humans to fend for themselves. That's not going to stand for Jesse, and he's decided it's time to smoke God out of his hiding hole and get some answers. Maybe even a little payback, who knows? I surely don't, but I can't wait to find out.
Yeah so make no mistake: this thing is profane. It's violent. But there's an energy and an aliveness running through the story that's absolutely addictive. I can see why this series has stood the test of time (and will continue to do so I'm sure).
But don't take my word for it: in his introduction to the series Joe R. Lansdale calls Preacher "scary as a psychopathic greased gerbil with a miner's hat and a flashlight and your bare asshole in sight." Heh heh. An effective metaphor to make any butt clench up I'm sure. But this is what really got me:
Because there is only one PREACHER, a tale out of Ireland, dragged through Texas with a bloody hard-on, wrapped in barbed wire and rose thorns.
If that doesn't make you want to pick this series up then check your pulse, because you just might be dead.
Picking this one up I was not prepared for such a trip into dark and depraved waters. This is more than Scudder has ever gone up against previously an Picking this one up I was not prepared for such a trip into dark and depraved waters. This is more than Scudder has ever gone up against previously and definitely the strongest in the series since Eight Million Ways To Die. While we've moved along in years out of the 80's into the early 90's, New York City continues to be a seething trap of anger and violence and desperation with all those ways to die and Scudder has stumbled upon yet another one. This time, he didn't even go looking for it, not really. It sort of finds him in a weird, chilling series of coincidences.
Two words: snuff film. Yeah, like I said, dark and depraved waters.
Scudder is moving along nicely in his life these days. He's sober and regularly attending meetings. He's got his girlfriend Elaine (who one dewy-eyed reviewer wistfully and with no irony whatsoever refers to as Matt's snuggle bunny) no matter that she's a call girl and continues to see clients. He's also forged a pretty meaningful friendship with Mick Ballou, the Irish gangster who may or may not have carried around some guy's head in a bowling ball bag, the man who proudly wears his father's blood stained butcher's apron (and which of those stains are man or animal, nobody knows).
I keep coming back to these books mostly for Scudder. He's such a great character to spend time with. But also for the sense of time and place that Block is able to conjure. I find the Scudder books act like time capsules in a way. So much of the plotting of this story relies on VHS tapes and renting them from a video store. It made me remember what that was like and how long it's been since I've actually done it.
I remember when my family got its first VCR ever and it was this huge exciting moment, like we had finally arrived at a Jetsons' version of the future. And with Block, it's so authentic, because he's not writing these books from a 21st century perspective and recreating 1991, he actually wrote this one in 1991 without the long view and hindsight that we have as readers. I love that. That doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to Scudder aging and getting Block's take on a 21st century New York. I can't wait actually.
I'll wrap this up with a note on the ending -- holy shit snacks. (view spoiler)[If Scudder had done this in his heavy drinking days, I would have blamed it on the booze, but to do it stone cold sober, I'm positively shocked. Yet pleased. Satisfied. There was a time early on when I was so angry at Scudder for letting a child rapist walk free (forcing him to donate money to Boys' Town). I was so disappointed with his lack of action then. Well, no one can accuse him of lack of action here. Decisive. Unequivocal. Was this justice or cold-blooded murder? I loved when Scudder tells Ballou about his mentor who told him you don't ever do something with your own hands you can get somebody else to do for you. Well I guess Scudder decided that wasn't for him. If this was going to happen, he was going to have blood on his hands to show for it. I can respect that. (hide spoiler)]
Now I think I'll go for a walk among the tombstones. ...more