James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice is a structurally sound tent pole of the noir genre. While it inspired an entire generation of crime wr...moreJames M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice is a structurally sound tent pole of the noir genre. While it inspired an entire generation of crime writers, you’ll be shocked to know that it was met with a fair share of criticism when initially published. Due to a high volume of violence and sexuality (for its time), the book was shunned by critics and even so far as banned in Boston. Despite best efforts to keep the novel out of the hands and minds of American readers, the book’s originality and Cain’s undeniable talent ushered the novel into instant classic territory. It is now widely regarded as one of the most important crime novels of the 20th century.
Frank Chambers rolls into town with nothing more on his mind than his next meal. He finds himself in a quaint roadside diner and after jawing with the owner, he finds himself with a job. Before long, an attraction sparks between Frank and the owner’s wife, Cora. The two conspire to knock off her husband and hit the road but as one knows, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
Frank and Cora are made for one another; the two are about as rotten as politician’s promises. They’re blinded by desire and consumed with the idea of life on the road and it certainly doesn't do them any favors considering how likable their mark is. In the end, I guess that’s the key to really great noir fiction; you've got to make your protagonists as irredeemable as possible and ain't nothing worth saving when it comes to these two.
For those like me who were a little bewildered by the meaning behind the novel’s title, there’s an excellent explanation on Wikipedia that made me love the book that much more. Obviously there’s spoilers ahead if you choose to check it out but I recommend giving it a look.
A body is found near a local swimming hole and the brutality of the murder is frightening. Deputy Danny Upshaw is charged with finding the perp and cl...moreA body is found near a local swimming hole and the brutality of the murder is frightening. Deputy Danny Upshaw is charged with finding the perp and closing the case. When it’s discovered the victim was gay, Ellroy brings the reader into the homophobic culture of 1950s Los Angeles while pushing Upshaw to his limit in his drive to tag the guilty party.
Elsewhere, both Mal Considine and Buzz Meeks become entwined in the communist red scare. Mal is using it to his advantage in an attempt to advance his fledgling career while Buzz Meeks is shaking down unions accused of spreading red propaganda.
It isn’t long until all three men are frying together in the same pan.
With The Big Nowhere, Ellroy was cooking with all the same ingredients used in The Black Dahlia: the seedy crime culture of 1950s L.A., snappy hard boiled dialogue, and compelling characters. So what was missing? It took me a while to pin it down but I think it eventually boils down to the narrative style. For whatever reason, I seem to prefer my crime fiction told in a first person narrative style. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad but I like to really get inside the head of the protagonist and uncover the case with him/her. I’m not saying that if a crime fiction author chooses the third person style he/she fails immediately; I just find it difficult to become fully immersed in the presented case.
Why does it matter so much with this novel? I think it suffers due to my own comparisons with Dahlia and just how much I enjoyed that experience. That being said, The Big Nowhere is itself a compelling story that has everything you could want in a dark, gritty gangland tale. While in my opinion it falls short of the tremendous Black Dahlia, it shares a similar tone and fans of the first novel in the L.A Quartet series should find some enjoyment in its followup.
Since his incarceration, Daniel has been dubbed Saint Homicide by fellow cellmates. The man does not believe he is innocent; he fully understands why...moreSince his incarceration, Daniel has been dubbed Saint Homicide by fellow cellmates. The man does not believe he is innocent; he fully understands why he’s locked up. Declaring that he acted only in the service of God, Daniel did something very, very wrong and he’s going to explain why.
Daniel believes he is a good man. He studies the bible, cares for his ailing wife, and protests outside of abortion clinics by declaring the procedure murder. He says he allows the Lord to work through him, giving him strength and providing him with guidance. It isn't until the disappearance of his sister-in-law, that his life begins spiraling out of control.
I’m a big fan of Hinkson’s first two efforts, Hell on Church Street and The Posthumous Man, and Saint Homicide brings with it an author at the top of his game. Hinkson weaves together some outstanding storytelling and clocking in at only fifty-six pages, you get a sense that not a word is wasted. Throughout the story, I was carrying a sense of dread for what laid ahead for these characters and if a writer can grab me like that, they've got to be doing something right.
Suffering from amnesia, Jo stumbles into the lives of a struggling grunge band in mid-1990s Seattle. Initially unaware of her power over the opposite...moreSuffering from amnesia, Jo stumbles into the lives of a struggling grunge band in mid-1990s Seattle. Initially unaware of her power over the opposite sex, the musicians become inspired and begin writing new, powerful music that could break their status as “one-hit wonders”. Unfortunately, these flannel-wearing rockers are not the first men who have fallen under Jo’s spell as a figure from her past threatens their newfound success.
When I finished the final page of Pray for Rain, I had to go back and check out my thoughts on trades two and three to make sure I was reading the same series! This was a huge step in the right direction and could easily be considered the best of the four so far. I never doubted Brubaker and Phillips but I did feel like something just wasn't clicking. However, the dynamic duo is back in fine form and have given me several reasons to stay tuned in.
Phillips is just stellar here creating the gloomy, rainy atmosphere of Seattle which in turn fits well with Brubaker’s hopeless story. Not taking anything away from the narrative but Phillips’ work is probably the best reason to check this series out. As far as the story goes, there’s a lot of twists and turns involved that keep things interesting. The series established a weird Lovecraftian tone early on so when things take a turn to the supernatural, you’re never questioning the direction.
I’m excited for where they go from here. I may have to make this a monthly read rather than waiting until the trades are out.
When Mob enforcer Bobby Silver killed masked hero Doctor Daylight in cold blood, it sent shock waves through the Masked community. Now, in the eyes of...moreWhen Mob enforcer Bobby Silver killed masked hero Doctor Daylight in cold blood, it sent shock waves through the Masked community. Now, in the eyes of the heroes, the mob is their #1 enemy – and it’s war!
I wanted to write my own intro but I had a hard time coming up with a summary better than the one provided by the publisher.
It’s not often that I go to the library and check out something that has been both completely off my radar and without a single written review on Goodreads. My girlfriend found Masks & Mobsters nestled in the stacks and handed it over to me thinking it looked like it was right up my alley. How could I argue? It has superheroes and mobsters? It’s set in the mid 1900s? Sold.
I like the idea of putting the focus on the mob as they struggle against the peacekeeping superheroes rather than the other way around. The artwork is slick and the splatter style black on white treatment of blood is used effectively. There’s one chapter in particular near the end that opens up the storytelling in a creative way by showcasing the important dialogue and action in the background while an unconnected story plays out in the foreground. I’d like to see the creators take similar chances going forward.
It’s not perfect but the series has promise. Keeping with the majority of comics, single issues are released first and later collected into trades but with Masks & Mobsters, it’s strictly digital distribution through Comixology first and physical releases later.(less)
After the hellish events of World War Terminus, humanity decided to jump ship and establish colonies on Mars using the assistance of organic based and...moreAfter the hellish events of World War Terminus, humanity decided to jump ship and establish colonies on Mars using the assistance of organic based android slaves. Not everyone booked a one way ticket though, several have stayed behind; forced to live among radioactive dust and the ruins of a once prosperous planet.
Despite the bleakness of life on Earth, the one true solace you can take comfort in is owning an honest-to-goodness real life animal. As you can imagine, the price to bring one home can be astronomical and for Bounty Hunter Rick Deckard, taking down eight escaped androids – or andys as they’re dubbed – could potentially fund his animal owning dream. Or at least provide him with a healthy down payment.
I was so disinterested during the first fifty pages that I worried I would have to force myself to get through this – which is never a great feeling when you get around to picking up a novel so universally loved. When a classic fails to strike that same chord with you as it does with so many other readers, you begin to question your own literary pallet.
Thankfully, that particular brand of anxiety doesn't last long. As soon as Deckard is given his assignment and ventures out in pursuit of his prey, the story picks up and Dick starts to ask some very interesting questions of his audience. Just what exactly does it mean to be human? When does a life become significant and cease being expendable? He’s not going to give you an answer either. It’s all subjective anyway. I have friends who can empathize with animals more than they probably can with other humans – does that mean that as a species, we’re all going to become vegetarians? Probably not. The author just wants you to consider how self-righteous we are and if we have the capacity for change.
For all the importance Deckard puts on the Voight-Kampff scale and determining whether or not an android is capable of empathy, we sure shit the bed on that one ourselves by blowing up the whole damn world and everything in it.(less)
He leans over toward her. She smells his breath. It smells of roadkill ripening in a wet ditch. He taps the end of the feather on the dashboard, click...moreHe leans over toward her. She smells his breath. It smells of roadkill ripening in a wet ditch. He taps the end of the feather on the dashboard, click, click, click. "I’m just warning you Miriam Black. Forces have been aligning against you for a while. You’ve been fucking with this Jenga tower for too long, and it ain't long before it all comes clickety-clackety falling down."
Responding to a Craigslist ad she wasn't aware had been posted on her behalf, Miriam finds herself travelling to Florida to meet up with a man wishing to know how he will kick the bucket. In exchange for her services, the unknown party is offering up a cool five grand – thus making it an offer she can’t afford to refuse. Of course, the whole thing sounds shady to begin with and when Ms. Black finds out who’s really pulling the strings, you can bet your ass shit is about to hit the fan.
The third book (and thankfully not the last) in the Miriam Black series is an outstanding read. If you've read what I have written about the first two (Blackbirds, Mockingbird) then you’re aware that I’m a huge fan of these books. They’re fast paced, witty and consistently entertaining – a true page turner by the very definition. At this point, I feel like Wendig would need to have been given a frontal lobotomy to screw this up.
If you liked the first two in the series, I can guarantee you’re going to like this. Miriam is still her tried and true self, spewing verbal harpoons at both friend and foe. The road that lies ahead of her is no less bumpy nor is it a straight drive as it’s littered with both twists and turns galore. Wendig explores more of Miriam’s past and what makes her tick by bringing her mother into the present day for the first time in the series. Given their tumultuous past, their back and forth is awkward and rough around the edges. As we all know by now, Miriam isn't one who exactly forgives easily.
While it was touched upon in Mockingbird, The Cormorant kicks down the door on the fact that Miriam isn't alone when it comes to her special “gift”. In fact, it’s known that there are indeed others out there that possess altered versions of what Miriam can do and they aren't always friendly.
Following the acknowledgements, Chuck states that Miriam’s due for a return in the fourth novel of the series, Thunderbird. I was spoiled in being able to read the first three books back to back to back – now I have to wait. And I’m not a man known for patience. Write faster!(less)
You can say what you want about Miriam but you could never take away the fact that above all else, she’s true to herself. So when Ms. Black knows some...moreYou can say what you want about Miriam but you could never take away the fact that above all else, she’s true to herself. So when Ms. Black knows something’s not working out for her, she turns tail and seeks out a more desirable environment. Unfortunately for Louis, settling down with him in a tin coffin of a trailer isn’t exactly her idea of heaven on Earth.
It isn’t long until Miriam is on the road again and back in the hot seat. While using her “gift” as a favor to see just how a friend of a friend is going to kick the bucket, Miriam is unexpectedly thrown into the hunt for a serial killer with his eyes on young girls. Can Miriam put a stop to his murderous ways?
I knew the second I closed the book on Blackbirds, I had to get my greedy little hands on its sequel, Mockingbird. There were more than enough reviews out there that suggested that not only would I be pleased with the follow-up but that it may be better than the original. Having given Blackbirds an easy 5 stars, there really wasn’t anywhere Wendig could take this series for me but down. Not only was I rewarded for having faith in ol’ Chuck, I finished this one with the very same hunger for book three.
Miriam’s adversaries this time around are just as dangerous, if not more so than those in Blackbirds. Seeing as Wendig plays things pretty close to the chest until nearly the end, it’d be rotten of me to share details that could lead to spoilers. Trust me, when the motives behind the killings are revealed, it’s a doozy. They also just about destroy Miriam on several occasions, leaving her broken, beaten and scarred. Mockingbird is as violent and vulgar as its predecessor and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Chuck Wendig may just be one of the most exciting writers out there right now. Between his Miriam Black series and the recently created Mookie Pearl series (The Blue Blazes) as well as a slew of other novels, he’s an author you need to have on your radar.(less)
Before I even begin this review, I’m checking my opinion of Mr. Harper at the door. I’m strictly going to review the book based on the book itself and...moreBefore I even begin this review, I’m checking my opinion of Mr. Harper at the door. I’m strictly going to review the book based on the book itself and not touch on the character of our Prime Minister.
Is there anything more Canadian than this? The Prime Minister of Canada writes a book about hockey. Regardless of your feelings on Stephen Harper the politician, Stephen Harper the author, is a driven, research heavy machine.
Before I read this, I had no idea that there was such a fierce battle fought against professionalism in hockey. At the turn of the 20th century, there were a few people who staunchly believed that the sport should only be contested by pure amateurs; that once players began receiving money, it would corrupt the heart of the game. And for a while, they could have been considered correct. Once cold hard cash was up for grabs, all players were considering themselves up for grabs. They could accept offers from all clubs regardless of where they last laced up their skates thus creating a wealth of consistent free agents.
Unfortunately, Harper spends too much time delving into detailed play by play analysis of the hockey games themselves and while he does a very good job emphasizing the atmosphere of the crowd, the horrific ice conditions and the intense level of play, it isn't long before it begins to feel repetitive. Games began to blend together and I found my mind wandering, wanting to get back into the political battles off the ice.
Returning home to attend a funeral, our unnamed protagonist seeks out a farmhouse that played an important part in his early years. Upon finding it, h...moreReturning home to attend a funeral, our unnamed protagonist seeks out a farmhouse that played an important part in his early years. Upon finding it, he takes a stroll through the property and rests next to a pond. Memories come flooding back as he recounts a tale involving suicide, spirits and terror from his youth.
Originally intended to be a short story or novella, Gaiman slowly realized that the subject matter deserved the full novel treatment. However, expectations were high considering this was his first adult novel since 2005’s Anansi Boys. Did he expect the level of critical praise that would meet him at the end of 2013? Maybe – I mean, he IS Neil Gaiman after all, I’m sure he’s aware of his legions of supporters. In the end, I’m sure it didn't matter. Although he was writing this specifically for his wife, Amanda, I’m sure he’ll take the awards.
Gaiman has gone on record stating that the novel certainly has its autobiographical elements. I mean, just by reading the way Gaiman gushes about the protagonist’s love for the written word, you know there’s real passion there. He steals away any time he can to read, whether he’s climbing into a tree, hiding in the backyard or just reading by the light of the hallway at night. If anything, it makes me really regret not being a bookish kid.
Last month, The British National Book Awards declared this the top novel of 2013 as did a whole slew of others. Personally, I’m not sure I would go that high myself but it was certainly memorable nonetheless.(less)