Thursday, July 13, 2006

Past business:

    In my last post I mightily praised the website Bookgasm as a site pulp fiction lovers of every kind have to revere.  Little did I know that the very next day editor Rod Lott would post a very enthusiastic of my collection Different Kinds of Dead.  I promise – I had no idea.   But thanks, Rod.  I really appreciate it.

Regrets, I’ve had a few:

    One of mystery’s truly great men, Allen J. Hubin, was usually kind to my books in his capacity as a reviewer for various magazines.  The one book of mine he definitely didn’t enjoy was Several Deaths Later, a serio-comic mystery about a syndicated TV game show being produced on a cruise ship.  Allen, as I recall, found the people depressing and amoral.  I’d spent time in syndicated TV myself for a time and thought I was reporting my experiences honestly.  I even dissed him in passing years later for taking what I thought was a moralistic rather than literary objection to my people. 

    But recently when a foreign publisher picked up  rights and wanted reviews, I thumbed through the book – years since I’d read it – and have to say I now see what Allen didn’t like about it.  These were my drinking years (the protagonist is an alcoholic film critic named Tobin) and the grief and anger of that time of my life come through all too well.  I still count the book as one of my better ones but I now see why Allen didn’t like it.  It’s something of a raw wound.  My apologies for the diss, Allen.

Letters, I get letters:

    Dave Burke wants to know if I really believe that Lawrence Block is as good a stylist as Ross Thomas was.  Yes, I do.  For me, Larry writes the best sentences in the business.  Clear, concise, evocative, they demonstrate the rare  artist who is almost always in complete control of his language.

Recommended web site:

    I’m not even sure that the editor knows what he’s going to post the next day.  Comics, old radio shows you can tune into free, science fiction, mystery, horror, erotica – beautiful things, ugly things but always (for people into free range nostalgia) this one is total fun.

Writers to read:

    I’ve been reading Norman Partridge’s collection The Man with the Barbed-Wire Fists for the third time in a few years.  Not a story in there lets me down.  Partridge gets compared to other people but there’s really nobody like him. Now matter how familiar the story may feel at the outset, don’t count on guessing where it’s going. 

    Take “The Pack.”  The opening page, a beauty, sets in motion what seems to be a mean-deputy story.  He means to wail on the man he’s taken into custody.  But what’s this?  Werewolves?  And what about all the men poking the waitress over at the small-town cafe?  And how come the lady barber knows everything that all has eluded all the good old boys?  And damned if there isn’t talk of a werewolf again?  And why are Barney Fife and a long list of other TV stars constantly being referred to?  And where’s the expected confrontation in the pay-off?  Because since he’s turned  every other bad-deputy trope on its head, Partridge is going to give you something a whole lot fresher than a dopey shoot-out.  He’s going to give you some unexpectedly human and humane and put a sly smile on your face while doing it.  He’s a wonderful, wonderful writer.  And the best thing of all – an original.   

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