Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
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Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Reviews: Choice Cuts … Tartan Noir … Charleston, S.C. … Barry Graham!

Booksellers delineate all forms of literature for the purpose of organizing their sales shelves. So be it. I’ve always stuck to the theory that a good read is a good read, regardless of its so-called genre. I’ve always preferred dark over light, but not nearly exclusively. There was a good discussion about the classification of literature on author, Ben Whitmer’s, FB page a week or two ago (click on link here). Ben stated the following: I can have all the theories about noir that I want, but for most people it just means kinda darkish crime fiction. I’m one of those who believe that’s what noir essentially is (darkish crime fiction, sometimes minus the crime) … for me it’s a protagonist caught in a downward spiral that spins faster and darker with every attempt to extricate him or herself from it) … some might think Nabokov’s Lolita is more noir than straight literature. I don’t, but I sure can see why one might view it that way. Can it get darker than Crime and Punishment? Dostoyevsky certainly wrote dark enough to label his works Noir. I’d say, hell yeah, but there’s no denying the upside of Raskolnikov’s eventual atonement. For this reader, what counts (regarding a good read), no matter the classification, is whether or not I’m interested enough to keep reading; whether or not I’m engaged enough to want more. Although the NHL playoffs took a lot of time from my daily reading and I haven’t jumped back in with both feet, mostly because I’ve been in a writing frenzy since the finals ended), I do read a lot.

The last two books I read, somewhat simultaneously, were Joe Clifford’s very dark and wonderful collection of short stories called Choice Cuts, and Len Wanner’s incredibly interesting (and well researched), Tartan Noir.

Choice Cuts … there are 16 Choice Cuts in Clifford’s collection, a few of which are classic tales of irony and/or the darkest of crime fiction--noir, if you will. These tales of human angst are told from different locations, to include Hollywood, the edge of the Arctic Circle, the Bowery, Florida, etc. I was seeing Rod Serling throughout my reads of these stories, especially Tripping for Biscuits (a story about a story (literally) of a guy so enamored with the hardboiled film genre, he had the ability to see color blanched from his eyes) … in The Meat, three prisoners escape the joint and have to traverse the frozen tundra with very little in their bellies until survival kicks in … The Exterminator features bug man whose best intentions will leave one remembering the often told (rarely adhered to) parental advice we’ve no doubt heard while growing up—to mind our own business. An Iraqi war veteran hooked on model railroading (his therapist’s idea) deals with PTSD in Nix Verrida, my favorite until a reread had me thinking: “Yeah, this is fucking inevitable someday.” I speak of Rags to Riches, a reality television show about the homeless vs. the homeless doing battle over a fat cash prize. Let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time before that’s another reality nightmare come true.

There’s even an MFA nightmare tale in the collection called Red Pistachios that made me smile despite the dark ending. Choice Cuts left me interested in the author’s novels, which I’ll be reading in the near future. There’s no skimping on irony in this collection, no matter the best intentions and/or pursuit of goals. Like I said, Rod Serling would’ve had a blast putting these babies to screen. Very Highly Recommended.

Tartan Noir … I highlighted so many passages in Tartan Noir (things I wanted to reproduce here on the blog), I’d come close to reproducing the entire book. Want an idea of how well-researched this expose was? How about 464 ENDNOTES. Wanner has produced an authoritative academic study of Scottish crime novels. His study is broken into four themes: The Detective Novel, The Police Novel, The Serial Killer Novel, and the Noir Novel. Wanner examines a virtual who’s who of Scottish crime authors (bestsellers and otherwise) to both document and challenge the preconceived notions as to what Tartan Noir may be. Ascribed the title by bestselling author, Ian Rankin, in his introduction, Wanner asks why Rankin chose a word (noir) which initially described stylized, black and white melodramas in American fiction and film of the 1940s, but as a literary term soon took on dark shades of meaning such as ‘working class tragedy,’ ‘transgressor fiction,’ and ‘psycho thriller’?

Alexander Trocchi’s Young Adam made an appearance in Wanner’s brilliant study. So did one of my contemporary favorite, Barry Graham.

And then there’s Lee Horsley’s The Noir Thriller, Wanner references often. “Likewise, as Lee Horsley points out … the predicament of the noir narrative typically has ‘less to do with a desperate search for some way out of an economic impasse than with an irremediable sense of exclusion.’ … Paraphrasing Horsley, Wanner states: “ … what the suspense of most noir narratives comes down to is just how alone the protagonist can bear to feel – how lonely in love, how disconnected from work, how separate from the social order, how out of touch economic prosperity which seems to work so well for a privileged class which is ever so tantalizingly beyond his grasp, but not beyond his sight …”

As I stated earlier, I could go on quoting from the book itself, but you’re all much better served reading it. Incredibly interesting, with a reading list I’ll be delving into big time over the next year or so--books I can’t wait to read--Tartan Noir is a must read for writers and readers alike.

Very Highly Recommended … I had to wait for it to come from amazon UK …yous can get Tartan Noir here:

Charleston, S.C. … some conservatives, but especially GOP presidential hopefuls, have the gaul to suggest this slaughter of African-Americans cannot be described as the most extreme form of racism. Hell, they don’t want the word racism used at all. Now that the killer’s racist manifesto has been found, I can’t even bother to hear (or learn) if GOP types will walk back their purposeful shit stirring. Let’s face it, they were appealing to our worst (and most ignorant) selves … you don’t think the killings in South Carolina were racist based? Well, sorry then, you’re a moron ... do not pass Go or collect $200 ... and whatever the fuck you do, do not breed.
If the picture above didn’t move the GOP, one wonders how they feel about this picture …
The fact the state of South Carolina continues to fly the Confederate flag is pretty telling. Watching their Governor, Nikki Haley, cry about the killings a few days ago, she then permitted her ass-backwards state to continue flying the Confederate flag. I call bullshit ... on her crying.

Yeah, the confederate flag has to do with the history of South Carolina (as well as American history) … and it's a history of racism.

South Carolinians defending that piece of cloth toilet paper they take so much pride in (i.e., the confederate flag) … need to get over it. They lost.
Two more Political Pictures of the sad times we survive ... the first has to do with one myth.
And this picture has to do with another, even more dangerous myth (about fracking) ...
The only problem with the above poster isn't in the text ... Mr. Obama and Madame Hillary are all for fracking as well. ONLY Bernie Sanders stopped oil companies from fracking inside his home state ... and he'll do his best to put an end to it if elected President.  Unless you're into earth quakes, you might want to consider the alternatives ...

Speaking of Barry Graham, I love this interview Keith Rawson gave the Scottish author and zen master … truth to power: