The good folks at Hard Case have served up a heaping help of holiday hell in the form of Daniel Boyd’s heist novel, Easy Death. The story follows twoThe good folks at Hard Case have served up a heaping help of holiday hell in the form of Daniel Boyd’s heist novel, Easy Death. The story follows two hired goons charged with the unenviable task of robbing an armoured truck just days before Christmas. Will they succeed in their mission or will a brutal snowstorm throw their plans awry?
A relatively new name in crime fiction, Daniel Boyd is a pseudonym for a retired police officer and Easy Death is his first novel with renowned publisher Hard Case Crime. Easy Death follows a handful of characters, often switching from first person to third person narration and while the story itself is both solid and plausible, the narration shift is often jarring. Full disclosure: I'm never a fan of this so it’s likely I’ll complain every time I see it.
While I enjoyed the peppering of Christmas songs into the story at first, I felt Boyd went back to the well too often, to the point the lyrics became a distraction (and this is coming from a guy who LOVES Christmas). I felt Ernest Cline did this to great effect when he injected the 80s sound into his novel, Ready Player One whereas this feels like Boyd is hitting you over the head with a giant candy cane.
Despite those complaints, I thought Boyd put forth a good effort in creating a fun story for the holiday season. Is it something I’ll read again? Probably not, but it’s worth a look - it is Hard Case after all.
“Wherever I went, whatever I did, this was what I would come back to. A blank wall in a meaningless room in a meaningless house.”
Philip Marlowe is ta
“Wherever I went, whatever I did, this was what I would come back to. A blank wall in a meaningless room in a meaningless house.”
Philip Marlowe is tasked with tailing a young, rich and beautiful woman. The catch? He has no idea why and neither does the shady lawyer who hired him.
That is about as short a summary as I’ve ever written, and I suppose that fits given this is the shortest of the Marlowe novels. I’ve heard from Chandler fans and through various reviews that although this was Chandler’s swan song (he died the year following its publication), it’s the most disappointing of the Marlowe books. Because of this, I’m not sure if I had lower than normal expectations going in but when it was all said and done and all the dust had settled, I was left with a feeling of satisfaction.
While the plot in Playback might be the most straightforward of all the Marlowe tales, the strength of Chandler’s writing is front and center with such memorable lines as:
“Me and you could get along,” Goble said indifferently, “if you had any brains.”
“And if you had any manners and were six inches taller and had a different face and another name and didn’t act as if you thought you could lick your weight in frog spawn.”
“Guns never settle anything,” I said. “They are just a fast curtain to a bad second act.”
“Our eyes met across great gulfs of nothing.”
I can’t get enough of Chandler’s writing; it’s so sharp and succinct.
There are three non-Chandler Marlowe novels that follow Playback and while I'm cautiously optimistic, I have a feeling they won’t be able to recreate Chandler’s excellent prose. It’s one thing for a director/screenwriter to put his own spin on a character or a series in a remake of a classic film but when you’re trying to capture the essence of what makes the Marlowe character so memorable – the writing – I can imagine it being a challenging endeavour with a lot of risk and very little reward.
"Once upon a time, I would have said we choose our paths at random: this happened, then that, hence the other. Now I know better.
There are forces."
Aft"Once upon a time, I would have said we choose our paths at random: this happened, then that, hence the other. Now I know better.
There are forces."
After a less than stellar shot at crime fiction, King makes a triumphant return to his bread and butter: old school, balls-to-the-wall horror. In his new novel Revival, we follow Jamie, a burned-out rhythm guitarist, destined to be forever tied to Charlie Jacobs, a man he met when he was younger. Jacobs was a youth minister stationed in a small Maine town when he made an indelible impression upon Jamie and his family. Leaving town and burning bridges along the way, Jacob’s philosophy on life changes and as years go by, he becomes a very different man from what Jamie so fondly remembers.
I was worried that Revival would suffer from the dreaded hype machine that seems to follow all of King’s work these days and after Mr. Mercedes left me feeling underwhelmed, I certainly had my reservations going in. Luckily, while it didn’t knock my socks off, I was left with an overall feeling of satisfaction along with an ending that had me gripping my Kindle a little harder than I would’ve liked.
With Revival, King presents a pretty wide cast of characters and does his best to fully flesh them out. I liked the style in which he presented the story, having Jamie seemingly write a memoir, trying to get everything out of his system in an effort to cleanse his soul from the madness. Jacobs is truly a character that I can see King having a blast writing. Jacobs goes through so many changes that in the end, he is hardly recognizable from when we met him in the first dozen or so pages.
I should note that Revival is the first “blockbuster” novel I have purchased for my Kindle on its release day. As you move through the text, it shows you specific lines or passages that other readers have highlighted – moments that stuck out to them while going through the story. While it’s something you can no doubt turn off, it was interesting to see what grabbed a lot of King’s fans. It felt like I was reading along with hundreds of others.
While I can give Revival a firm recommendation, I wouldn't suggest it for anyone looking for nightmare material. The ending is chilling – there’s no doubt about that – but if you’re looking for something to scare you stupid, check out Nick Cutter’s The Troop, a book that will make you want to sleep with the lights on.
Nick and Nora Charles are staying at a swanky hotel in Manhattan when word arrives of a missing man. Content to leave his old life behind as a privateNick and Nora Charles are staying at a swanky hotel in Manhattan when word arrives of a missing man. Content to leave his old life behind as a private detective, Nick wants no part of the investigation. However, it isn’t long before Nick is forced into the case and in order to deal with the cast of characters circling the search, he keeps the liquor flowing.
Ah, the 1930s, when alcoholism was considered a charming personality trait as well as the social norm rather than the life-destroying disease that it is today. Seriously, I have no idea how Nick Charles was even standing at points let alone aware enough to piece together clues and solve a murder mystery.
It goes without saying how tremendous a character his wife Nora is as the author makes her just as important a character as Nick. She exists in an era that I do not imagine had many strong female protagonists. Outside of the two main attractions, the cast is filled with characters with their personalities turned up to eleven. Don’t get me started on the always hysterical Dorothy.
While I didn’t like this as much as Hammett’s classic Sam Spade novel The Maltese Falcon, it was still a fun, whodunnit featuring hilariously witty dialogue along with two memorable leads. While Hammett is considered the Godfather to all hard-boiled fiction, Chandler certainly perfected it with his Philip Marlowe series.
The threat of violence in the small Texas town profiled in Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me is so low that the patrolling sheriff, Lou Ford, doesn'The threat of violence in the small Texas town profiled in Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me is so low that the patrolling sheriff, Lou Ford, doesn't even need to carry a gun. Lou doesn't worry because hell, who’s more dangerous in Central City than good ol’ Lou himself? While he speaks in clichés and exudes a friendly demeanour, Lou’s true nature exists behind this social mask; a chilling homicidal maniac who could kill at any moment.
This was my first Jim Thompson and although the brutality of the violence and the pleasure Thompson’s Lou Ford receives in administering beatings and committing murder will stay with me for some time, the writing style kind of threw me off. I guess I haven’t read all that many West Texas noir novels and the language coupled with the manner of speaking came across as disjointed and difficult to identify with. Maybe it has something to do with being a Canadian living on the eastern seaboard born some thirty two years after this book was published. Who knows?
I'm definitely interested in checking out more of Thompson’s work and perhaps giving this one a re-read sometime, after all it is only a few hundred pages. Stephen King writes the foreword (where he self admittedly rambles) and it’s listed as a crime classic with its influence reaching many of the top writers in the genre.
When Bob McKenzie decided to write his first book about the National Hockey League, he chose to do so in a rather unexpected way. Rather than write abWhen Bob McKenzie decided to write his first book about the National Hockey League, he chose to do so in a rather unexpected way. Rather than write about his years of experience covering the game, he shone the spotlight on those who sit outside the game; a select few who through their actions, influence the way the game is played and talked about in today’s modern era.
This was an easy book to digest and despite the array of topics, I was never overwhelmed with information. McKenzie did a great job choosing interesting topics that cover a wide spectrum of the hockey industry. Featured are stories about near death experiences, Don Cherry’s work with minor hockey, the rise of advanced statistics, Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie’s love of the Boston Bruins, and so much more.
With hockey, I’ll never consider myself a hardcore fan of the game. I’d like to think I’m a notch above the casual fan and while I do follow it closely, I don’t live and die by the day-to-day operations of the hockey world. Sure, I love my Maple Leafs and I enjoy catching a game or two every now and then but I’m finding I enjoy the inner-workings and the behind the scenes aspects of the industry just as much as the story the players tell on the ice during those sixty minutes of action. In Hockey Confidential, McKenzie presents an equal balance of both that leads to an immensely readable book.
Ellie Bennett is out on the streets following a thirteen month sentence behind bars. Having been set up by a rival prison guard, Ellie was imprisonedEllie Bennett is out on the streets following a thirteen month sentence behind bars. Having been set up by a rival prison guard, Ellie was imprisoned for unnecessary assault on an inmate. Enjoying the sweet taste of freedom, it isn’t long before Ellie is offered a job. Tasked with locating a missing woman who served alongside Bennett, the Fundamentalist Christian group that hired her only wishes for the woman’s safe return. However, Bennett’s employer isn’t the only one interested in the woman’s whereabouts.
Jake Hinkson returns with a swift punch-to-the-gut of a novel. Bennett is a fine protagonist. Despite having a lifelong ambition to work alongside the police, she really has no experience as a detective, which gives her investigation a messy and brutal feel. But Ellie is a survivor; a scrappy, persistent woman who will do anything to keep her head above water. The violence is raw and Hinkson doesn’t pull punches when subjecting Bennett to the consequences of her actions.
While it’s not Hinkson’s strongest effort, it’s still a great who-dun-it in the spirit of an old school noir. Bennett takes a real beating – both mentally and physically – but Hinkson’s strong character development gives her the backbone to keep moving forward.
If you’re not reading Hinkson, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Acclaimed novelist Paul Sheldon, badly injured in a car accident, is held captive by deranged super-fan Annie Wilkes. A former RN, she vows to aid himAcclaimed novelist Paul Sheldon, badly injured in a car accident, is held captive by deranged super-fan Annie Wilkes. A former RN, she vows to aid him back to health until he’s well enough to make the trek to a hospital. However, it’s on one condition; he write a new novel featuring his signature character Misery Chastain - just for her.
Outside of the legendary Randall Flagg, Annie Wilkes has to be the most terrifying villain King created. Mentally unbalanced and completely unpredictable, she’s everything you want in a horror novel “bad guy”. Driven by an insane goal, to see Misery Chastain resurrected from the dead and once again placed into the literary world, Annie will do anything to make sure Paul Sheldon “makes it right” with a novel written just for her. If Paul decides to make this process difficult, well, she has ways of making him write.
Having not seen the classic 1990 Rob Reiner film, I went into Misery blind. I knew next to nothing about the story other than Kathy Bates taking the Oscar for best actress and that very famous “wooden block scene”. If you think that was hard to watch, try giving the book a read - things get graphic and Annie’s punishments are downright brutal.
Seeing as Misery - for the most part - is a two person show, King writes both characters with a tremendous sense of depth. These are two characters who are far from cookie cut-outs of the “heroic” protagonist and the “crazy” antagonist. King kept me guessing right up to the very end, wondering what would happen - would Paul kill himself? Would Annie kill him and then herself out of desperation? Would Paul kill his captor and escape? I honestly didn't know - which was fantastic.
After a particularly brutal finale, in which King blew my mind with the sheer ugliness of it all, he’s still intent on scaring the crap out the reader. Lesson learned - King isn't truly finished until the book is closed. Misery is loaded with suspense and despite the story taking place over a period of several months, a sense of absolute urgency is constantly at the forefront. King should teach classes on pacing alone.
RD Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez’s critically acclaimed 2004 book “The Death of WCW” hit its tenth anniversary this year and to celebrate the duo releaseRD Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez’s critically acclaimed 2004 book “The Death of WCW” hit its tenth anniversary this year and to celebrate the duo released a new edition that is approximately forty percent larger. The two took on the task of diving deep into the history of the Ted Turner owned wrasslin’ organization to analyse just how a company that had been packing upwards of forty thousand people into giant stadiums in 1998 went to losing over $60 million in one calendar year in 2000.
How could this happen? How could a company so successful just shrivel up and die so quickly? The authors do their best to provide a multitude of reasons. In fact, here’s just a few examples of how much money the company threw away:
WCW’s flag ship show, Monday Nitro, had a weekly broadcast length of three hours. Despite only needing maybe two or three dozen performers for any given week, the company would often purchase plane tickets for almost 160 performers to be flown in on a weekly basis.
A yearly pay-per-view performed at a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. Attendance was free so the cost of flying in performers, transporting sets and equipment and satellite broadcasting fees all led to a guaranteed yearly loss.
$25,000 paid to legendary R&B artist James Brown to appear in a one-off unadvertised segment that ultimately did nothing for the program nor led into anything for the future.
$100,000 spent on the first (and last) Junkyard Battle Royal in which nine guys fought in.. well, a junkyard over the WCW Hardcore Championship.
$200,000 per appearance for hip hop star Master P to just show up (not wrestle). Five appearances were booked totalling $1 million. On top of that, one of his posse members – an impossibly large man with no wrestling experience named “Swoll” – pulled in $400,000 a year.
$500,000 for Kiss to play a song on a random episode of Nitro.
Huge guaranteed contracts for legendary performers such as Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall that did more to hurt the company than help it. In years prior, contracts offered by WWE (WCW’s competition) were structured with performance based incentives. Therefore, if a performer succeeded in producing memorable in-ring work, moved merchandise or basically became immensely popular, they could see a bump in their pay. With this removed, guys had no real reason to put on a good show, which led to a poor product.
Not only is this book a great learning experience in what not to do when running a wrestling promotion, it’s hilarious as well. The year 2000 within WCW contained some of the most nonsensical television programming ever produced. Reading the two authors try make heads or tails of the matches, the storylines and the hiring/firings was entertaining and had me laughing out loud.
As you probably know by now, I’m a junkie for pro-wrestling. I’ve been watching since I was six years old and while I no longer watch everything WWE produces (honestly, there’s just way too much out there), I still keep up with it. Nowadays, what interests me the most is how the industry works and the decisions made by those in power. I love seeing how “the machine” operates and stories about events behind the scenes will always be way more interesting than what plays out on camera. If this sounds like you, don’t hesitate to pick this one up.
The Death of WCW is a tightly researched, well written autopsy on the demise of one of pro wrestling’s greatest success stories and mind-boggling failures. Now, to sit back and wait for The Death of TNA Impact Wrestling.
Jude Coyne, a middle aged former front man of an immensely popular metal band, is obsessed with the occult. His assistant finds a post online advertisJude Coyne, a middle aged former front man of an immensely popular metal band, is obsessed with the occult. His assistant finds a post online advertising a ghost-for-sale and being the collector he is, Jude decides that he must have it. When a heart-shaped package shows up, it contains nothing but an old raggedy suit. However, it isn't long before the suit brings about unexplained events and spooky behaviour throughout Coyne’s mansion. With his sanity hanging by a thread, can Jude exorcise the demon from his home or will he himself soon be knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door? (Sorry, not sorry)
I had my mind made up by about page fifty that Jude was going to be this irredeemable asshole. I mean, who pays a thousand bucks for a ghost and then is outraged to find that he actually bought a ghost? However, after spending more time with the metal-head, turns out he wasn’t such a bad dude after all. Hill and this other writer he’s related to like to do this a lot. They present their characters through these complex shades of grey to create people who will make the readers question their own interpretations of good and bad. Same goes for Jude’s ever present girlfriend Georgia who starts out quite bratty but settles down and becomes a great, interesting character throughout the rest of the story.
Hill’s ghost, the former hypnotist and downright crazy Craddock McDermott, is a blast to read. Craddock puts Jude through the wringer with trippy dream sequences and deadly mind games. As the reader, it’s hard to get a handle on what’s happening when Jude passes out and the ghoul takes over but I suppose that adds to the fear gripping Jude’s beat-up brain. Craddock can also seemingly take possession of TVs, radios and telephones to freak out his target making certain scenes unsettling.
There’s a few minor gripes like the constant references to pale skin and the umpteen Trent Reznor shout-outs but those are small in scale. It’s clear that Hill was destined for greatness from his first novel onward and while Heart-Shaped Box is certainly frightening fiction, it only gets better from here on out.
After the hellish events that took place in North Korea, Deadpool decides it’s time for Shield to come clean with the money they owe him for knockingAfter the hellish events that took place in North Korea, Deadpool decides it’s time for Shield to come clean with the money they owe him for knocking off all those zombie presidents. When the coin doesn’t show, Deadpool takes matters into his own hands and pursues the keeper of the cash himself, rogue special agent Gorman. The bad news? Gorman puts a ten million dollar price tag on the head of Deadpool and every villain sets their sights on the Merc with a Mouth. Can Deadpool push through the gauntlet of gore to get his payment?
This is such a fun series. Posehn and Duggan have been kicking ass and clearly having a blast writing for this character. There’s a lot of development on the part of Deadpool and while the series does move ahead steadily, it just didn’t come across as strong as the first three volumes. Then again, it’s hard when you’re coming off an arc as excellent as the North Korean madness in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
I will say that I very much liked seeing this other side of Deadpool. While I’ll always prefer the joke-cracking, murderous side of the mutant mercenary, seeing a complicated and downtrodden version of Wade Wilson helps to expand his personality and create a more complex character. It’s not all gloom and doom though. There’s a few panels that had me laughing out loud, one in particular involved perennial loser Batroc the Leaper.