" ... and again I dreamed of cable TV and air conditioning. That's all anybody wants, isn't it? They may claim they want world peace or justice or dem" ... and again I dreamed of cable TV and air conditioning. That's all anybody wants, isn't it? They may claim they want world peace or justice or democracy or family or self-esteem, but what they want is to feel nothing, to feel nothing all the time."
Nice, bleak modern noir. An everyloser who works in a convenient store and his two equally-nobody friends are drinking beer in a bowling alley when they each confess to the worst thing they've ever done. Soon after, the worry that the bartender may have overheard turns into worry that one of the friends may turn on the others. As paranoia escalates, no one trusts anyone, and ultimately the bad deeds from the original conversation pale in comparison to what is to come. ...more
Strange was written in the '70s, but it has a decidedly '50s vibe. The quartet of single men living in a singles-only apartment building and swillingStrange was written in the '70s, but it has a decidedly '50s vibe. The quartet of single men living in a singles-only apartment building and swilling martinis by the pool have a swank vibe that must have seemed like a throwback, even when the book was written.
The men spend most of their conversation in talking about women and the procuring of them, and a good-natured argument about the best place to pick up women soon turns into one about the worst place to pick them up. After various suggestions are discarded (even church is deemed a good place to get lucky, at least to one bachelor), it's agreed that the drive-in is the worst. Women don't tend to go to one alone, and if one did, she'd probably not take kindly to being mashed on.
A bet ensues, and while one man attempts to score, the others hang around to witness what they think will be his failure.
This is noir, so of course they get more than they bargained for, and a sequence of events lands a dead, overdosed 14 year-old girl in their apartment.
What sets this cool story apart is the matter-of-factness with which it's told. It all seems so ordinary, yet there's a nasty streak that runs through it. The grime isn't hidden down some alley; it's right out in the open.
I didn't know when I read it that the book is actually the opening segment of The Shark-Infested Custard. It stands well on its own, but if you aim to read all things Willeford, skip this one, and go straight to Shark. ...more
A cool little western noir about a piano player who sees and hears all the dirty goings-on in a place called the Bad Dog Saloon. Like any true noir, tA cool little western noir about a piano player who sees and hears all the dirty goings-on in a place called the Bad Dog Saloon. Like any true noir, there's a blurring of the good guys and the bad guys. Just the right size for the waiting room at the doctor's office. ...more
Short and wicked story that begins when a woman picks up a man in a bar. If you know Lawrence Block at all, you know there's a nasty twist, and even iShort and wicked story that begins when a woman picks up a man in a bar. If you know Lawrence Block at all, you know there's a nasty twist, and even if you see it coming, you won't see it all. Block always has at least one card up his sleeve.
"If You Can't Stand the Heat" is one a few short stories Block wrote about Kit before making her the heroine of Getting Off, and I defy anyone who reads this short to not seek out more of her.
With that in mind, I do wish Block would make this one a permanent freebie. I'm all for writers getting paid, but this is only 15 pages, and it's such a brilliant promo for his longer works that it would surely pay off in the end....more
Two shorts from a 1953 issue of Manhunt. "The Blue Sweetheart" concerns a protagonist whose bad luck has turned good with the finding of an enormous sTwo shorts from a 1953 issue of Manhunt. "The Blue Sweetheart" concerns a protagonist whose bad luck has turned good with the finding of an enormous sapphire, which renews the interest of a woman who once jilted him for a wealthier man. He'd be stupid not to assume she's on the make, but his feelings make things complicated. Despite some slick writing by Goodis, this story is more action-romance than noir, missing the bleakness that usually defines the genre. Worth it for the style and language, but a little pat.
"The Cop on the Corner" delivers a bit more of a noir punch. If noir is "losers losing," as it has sometimes been defined, Elrick, a fat cop who will never get promoted, is an apt protagonist. When a man is murdered on Elrick's usual corner, he notes a connection to some old acquaintances, and is pretty sure who might have done it. Seeing his chance to advance, he works the case on his own, hoping to bring in the perp before the detectives even get moving.
There's some great writing as Elrick questions Gladys, a cheap slattern in an even cheaper room. She fights back physically with everything she's got (mainly sharp fingernails and a gin bottle). Even with his insider knowledge, if he's going to crack this case, he's going to need a little luck. Alas, luck has never been on his side....more
“The Imaginary Blonde” is actually a short story, though you can buy it through Amazon as a 99-cent e-book. Whether or not you think that’s a good pri“The Imaginary Blonde” is actually a short story, though you can buy it through Amazon as a 99-cent e-book. Whether or not you think that’s a good price for one story may depend on how much you like Ross Macdonald.
When the story was first published in the February, 1953 issue of Manhunt, Macdonald had less than a handful of novels under his belt. If you’re dying for a paper copy of “The Imaginary Blonde,” you can save a few bucks by finding it in the collection My Name Is Archer, released two years later, and pretty common in paperback. (The story appears there under the title “Gone Girl.”)
The action starts immediately, and it’s clearly hard-boiled territory (“I was tooling home from the Mexican border in a light blue convertible and a dark blue mood.”) It was a nice surprise a few pages in to discover that this was indeed a Lew Archer story, not to mention a solid one. After Archer loses the car he’s tailing, he ends up sleeping in a border town motel, only to be awakened by a screaming woman outside the room next door, her hand covered in blood from what turns out to be a pool of it in the bathroom. With no actual body, the woman playing dumb, and her father (the motel owner) doing some obvious covering up, Archer has his work cut for him. He follows the trail of lies from lingerie shops to be-bop clubs to ultimately find resolution—and the body.
Archer is cool as they come, whether flirting shamelessly with the lingerie store clerk, or giving as good as he gets with the cool-cat jazz piano player who only talks in rhyme. After a tedious string of the musician’s sing-song jabber is going nowhere, Archer fires back: “Where did she lam, Sam, or don’t you give a damn?”
The only weak spot in the story is the fact that clues are sometimes easily come by, which may be the author’s way of condensing the mystery into a short story. While thought to be knocked out, Archer overhears some thugs talking, and it's the sort of conversation where every detail is revealed, along with the names of all the speakers. Earlier, a woman’s slip found at the crime scene is monogrammed not only with an initial, but with a full first name, if you can believe any woman ever owned lingerie with “Fern” emblazoned on the chest. Sure is handy for cracking cases, though.
Archer’s at his best when he’s doing the actual work, rather than having the clues delivered in tidy wrapped packages. He does get to do some of it in “The Imaginary Blonde,” but if you’re craving more? It’s time to break out one of the novels.