Monday, November 22, 2010

Freedom's Just Another Word for No One Else To Kill...

I posted this on Ed Gorman's blog the other day as a comment on a provocative and thoughtful post he made about guns -- and why he won't own one. He thought my little contribution was worth re-posting, so I thought I might as well post it here (in slightly altered form), as well.

"The couple that own the local comic shop down the road have, on three different cases in the last eight years, hauled out their guns to defend their store from being burglarized in the middle of the night. In each case, they were in the store (in the middle of the night?). They've killed two of them (he got one, she got one) and in another incident, initiated a high speed chase that ended with them pulling a gun and forcing the guy off the road.

Evidently, they prefer sitting in their store at night in the dark (in each case, the store appeared deserted), and killing people, rather than putting a couple of bars on their windows."

Now, I'm not going to claim Americans kill more of each other per capita than any other nation on the entire planet -- they don't -- but for an allegedly civilized, God-fearing country that's part of the West and that allegedly treasures life and liberty, its citizens sure do like killing. Preferably foreigners, of course, but fellow citizens will do in a pinch.

You could look it up...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Twits are for Kids...

And grumpy old web monkeys, evidently. You can now keep up to date on what's happening in the P.I. world -- and my take on them -- by following ThrillDetective on Twitter.

Actually, it's all part of my plan (as much as I've ever planned anything) to rejuvenate The Thrilling Detective Web Site.

To those of you who've been followed the site through the years, you've probably noticed it's been pretty dormant until recently.

But that's about to change. If you head on over to the site you'll see I'm well into round two of our special, "We're Not Dead Yet" transitional phase.

I'm still tweaking things, but here's a quick recap: unfortunately, due to severe time constraints, part of our previous concept (or was it conceit?) of semi-regular "issues" featuring a handful of original stories and selected excerpts, has -- after a lot of soul-searching and hand-wringing over the last year -- been taken out to the woods and gently tucked into a shallow grave. Temporarily or forever, I'm not sure, but currently I just don't have the dime or the time to devote to the fiction side of this site. Or at least in any sort of way that will ensure the quality you've come to expect.

I will, however, continue to try to keep -- with renewed energy, I hope, and your encouragement -- the reference portion of the site going. That, in fact, was the original idea for the site: a big P.I. reference site. And actually, non-fiction has always been the less glamorous but major portion of this site -- and plenty time-consuming in its own right. But I intend to keep it going for as long as I can. Or until the wheels inevitably fall off.

To keep this site current and moving along -- and to make sure I don't slack off -- I intend to maintain a short list of ten or so items detailing happenings in the P.I. world. This Just In... will feature short, mostly snappy blasts (I hope), with appropriate links, that will direct you to -- or give you my take on -- some of the things that have caught my eye lately and that may be of interest to you. Abbreviated versions of them will also appear here on this blog and on our Twitter feed occasionally.

I've also introduced a Quote of the Week, just for fun. Feel free to submit suggestions. If I choose one of yours, I'll send you a P.I. book or something... Lord knows, I have too many books.

For those of you who despair that you'll never read fiction on the site again, please note that, like Sean Connery, I never said "never".

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

"Toronto" "Noir"... Again

A while back, I ranted about what I felt was the, um, dubious selection process employed by the editors of Toronto Noir, Akashic's first foray into the Canadian crime scene. At the time, I was disappointed that so few "crime" writers had been chosen for the project, the editors instead opting for more "literary" writers.

One of them claimed he'd tried to include more genre writers; at least a couple of crime writers told me their queries had been ignored. What the hell, as Dan Turner might have said.
But that was long ago and far away. Recently, I've read two noirish books by Toronto -- or at least Toronto-area writers -- that have stuck in my craw. Hell, they might even be accused of being "literary." But don't let that scare you. They're actually readable. So maybe the editors were on to something.

Although, going back to my copy of Toronto Noir, I see neither of these two writers made the cut, either. Still, in a better world, maybe they'll be allowed to participate in Toronto Noir II.

Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall (could he sound any more Torontonian? He sounds like a subway station) is an award-winning journalist from the Queen City, and while there is a crime novel of sorts in Ghosted, his first full-length stab at fiction, it’s buried under the rubble of a crazy, blackhearted maelstrom of desperation, suicide, drugs, Bob Seger, memory and delusion.

Fortunately, there’s enough gloom and doom and crime here – everything from gambling and drugs to murder and horse theft -- to keep noir fans happy, but this is, more correctly, a novel of bleak self-discovery and dark redemption. Mason Dubisee, a Toronto journo and would-be novelist whose life went off the rails years ago, staggers home after years of gambling, booze, drugs and squandered talent to be taken in by childhood friend and drug dealer Chaz. The action follows Mason’s quixotic struggle as a vendor of hot dogs near Toronto's City Hall, a coke-fuelled gambler on a major losing streak, an addict sweating through recovery and eventually, a potentially lucrative career as a professional writer of suicide notes. It’s the latter that ultimately puts Mason in the crosshairs of Seth, a charming but sadistic sociopath – and finally lights a fire under the sputtering plot.

Lucky for us, the finely rendered rogues’ gallery of memorable but damaged characters -- the beautiful wheelchair-bound junkie Willie; the sad, shy, guilt-ridden Warren; the unloved, obese Sissy; the suicidal performance artist Soon, and Chaz, the always amiable criminal, among others – and a barrage of pop culture namedropping (hey, it’s a Toronto novel, after all) will keep patient readers turning the pages. In fact, with its lovingly drawn but fucked-up characters, ruminations on the act of writing, the fragility of life, the lies we tell ourselves to keep on going and a GOTCHA! climatic confrontation between Mason and Seth that finally KrazyGlues all those disparate threads together, this bleak, frequently nasty literate novel comes off like a film noir pounded out by a pissed-off John Irving suffering from a nasty hangover.

Shaughnessy will be touring the States, hitting NYC, Philadelphia, Chicago, Iowa City, San Francsco and Portland and who knows where else in the next few days, and I'll warn you right now: he's a man who likes to talk to a man who likes to talk. If you'd like to download and view his full itinerary, click here.

But I digress...

I'm not even sure if London, Ontario qualifies as "Toronto area" (certainly not to anyone who lives in London, anyway), but since at least a few, mostly American reviews have tagged fantasy author R. Scott Bakker as a "Toronto" writer despite his residence a couple of hours drive west, that's good enough for me.

And Bakker's foray into crime fiction should be good enough for you. Disciple of the Dog introduces private eye Disciple Manning, and it's one hell of a debut. Because, you see, Disciple's not your average gumshoe.

As though being named Disciple (and living in Newark) isn't enough of a handicap, he's also cursed with perfect memory.

Cool, right?

But it t'ain't necessarily so. As Manning puts it, "You wonder why I'm cynical. I've literally seen it all before. The truth is we all have, every single one of us past the age of, say, twenty-five. The only difference is that I remember."

There's a price to pay for all that total recall, you see. It seems you can't forget anything. Even if you want to. And it's left poor Manning with a pretty dim view of not just humanity, but life itself. "We keep waiting for something Shakespearean to happen," he explains, but we end up with "the Jerry Springer Show. Squalid. Cheap. Mean-spirited."

Which probably explains his disastrous relationships with women, his periodic substance abuse binges and the occasional suicide attempt. Only pot-smoking, the task of journal-keeping that his latest therapist has foisted upon him and the slight chance that a case will expose him to something new that will actually challenge his "mangy capabilities" keep him from just turning out the big light.

So when Jonathan and Amanda Bonjour ask him to look into the disappearance of their missing daughter, Jennifer, who had recently journeyed to the small, one-horse town of Ruddick, Pennsylvania to join a doomsday cult, Disciple jumps at the chance. Not because he's heroic or noble or even because he gives a "fawk" but simply because it might not be boring -- and there might a sizable fee. Drugs and bimbos don't come cheap, after all.

And while Disciple may not always the most likable of human beings and the book runs a little long, there's something rather enjoyable about watching this self-destructive scuzzball square off against small town cops, assorted true believers, a slew of neo-Nazis, a sexy journalist who sniffs a career-changing story and the charismatic but possibly insane psychology professor turned cult leader. Toss in a few clever, pulpy plot twists, and Disciple's constant stream of occasionally nasty wisecracks, put downs, wry observations and philosophical asides (and shout-outs to The Tragically Hip) and you've got one of the more memorable P.I. characters of the last year. You might even say unforgettable.

Both Ghosted and Disciple of the Dog are fine, dark stabs at the beast we call noir -- check 'em out!

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