Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top Ten Books of the Year

Mine, Brian Lindenmuth's and Keith Rawson's Top Tens are up at bookspot.

Currently, my list is in the wrong order. I meant for Slammer to be number one (if they need to be numbered at all, that is) and Bury Me Deep at number ten.

But whatever. They all kick ass. Check that shit out.

The Long Division by Derek Nikitas

My review of The Long Division by Derek Nikitas is up a bookspot.

Check it out, dear reader.

I mean, it's not like I'm asking you to take a quiz on my personality or some boring shit like that...or am I?

Find out HERE.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Longshot by Katie Kitamura

My review of The Longshot by Katie Kitamura is up at bookspot.

Glance all sideways-like at that shit right HERE.

I play Santa Claus to the children of the world in this motherfucker so you best check it out.

That's right, the Nerd is warming heart cockles and shit this Christmas, whatever the fuck those are supposed to be.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Vampire A Go-Go and The Deputy by Victor Gischler

I reviewed Victor Gischler's Vampire A Go-Go and his forthcoming The Deputy for bookspot.

To give that shit a looky-fucking-loo, click right here.

Yes, I just tried to make the term looky-loo seem badass.

Excuse me while I go hang myself.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Slammer by Allan Guthrie

My review of Slammer by Allan Guthrie is up and blowing some minds.

Well, probably not.

It'd be more mind-blowing if I didn't cream my pants over a Guthrie novel.

Give it a look-see right HERE.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Catching Up #48: The Big O by Declan Burke

If you’re an Elmore Leonard or John McFetridge fan (which, let’s face it, if you’re not, what the hell are you doing here?), the Nerd has some shit to toss on the top of your TBR pile. Declan Burke’s The Big O is twisty, hilarious, sharp, dialogue-heavy, and a fucking breeze to read. The Nerd isn’t normally one to dip into romance novel review clichés, but there’s no getting around the fact that The Big O has a very real charm that is no-bullshit irresistible.

In the novel we follow a group of characters whose lives intersect in hilarious, highly improbable ways. There is disbarred plastic surgeon Frank, a desperate fellow going through a nasty divorce. With his shady lawyer, Frank works out that if he hires someone to kidnap his wife, he could collect half a million in insurance, then fake paying it off as long as he paid the kidnappers. Meanwhile, his secretary Karen (who is a part-time armed robber), unwittingly strikes up a romance with the kidnapper in question, a cool cat named Ray. Then Karen’s ex-boyfriend Rossi is released from prison, his aims being to get his Ducati, gun, dog, and sixty grand back from Karen.

And if you’ve lost your way already, dear reader, no fucking worries. There’re a billion twists and turns in The Big O but Burke keeps shit nothing less than fucking crystal, no doubt. Thing is, there’s a billion and a half coincidences in this beast, so much so that it’s like Burke is fucking daring you to call bullshit on him. It’s never overtly stated, but there’s clearly some sort of hilarious fate or destiny shit going on here, but it’s handled so straight and nonchalantly that you’ll forgive him at every gleefully implausible encounter and connection.

And even if the wild-ass plot bugs you, there’s no getting around how beautifully drawn the characters are or how absolutely hilarious the dialogue is. I don’t toss around Elmore Leonard references lightly, and this shit would make the Master proud. By the way, quick question, is “the painters are in” as a euphemism for “on your period” a common phrase in Ireland or is that just something within this world Burke has created? It’s my favorite euphemism since I read about “using the tradesman’s entrance” in Crooked Little Vein (which, for those whose minds aren’t consistently in the gutter, means to have anal sex).

One thing you should be aware of, my fellow noir addicts, is that this isn’t some big-body-count-ultra-violence extravaganza. There’s lots of crime shit and a crazy plot, but it’s not intense thrill ride you might expect from that plot description. That said, you’ll be carried along just fine by said dialogue and complex story regardless. Like I said, we’re in Elmore Leonard territory, and you never had trouble finishing his shit in a flash despite his lackadaisical style, did you? You did? You fucking lie. Well, unless you’re talking about Maximum Bob. Jesus, that one was a bit of a slog.

So get on board with this Declan Burke fella. He’s got some fucking chops, no doubt about it. I mean, what the fuck do I have to do to make you pick up this fucking book? Mention Elmore Leonard again? Cause I’ll do it, don’t you make me bust out that necessary cliché yet again, you bastard!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Flight to Darkness by Gil Brewer

My review of Flight to Darkness by Gil Brewer is up at BSC.

Feast your eyes on that shit right here.

Hard Case Crime reissued his The Vengeful Virgin a while back and now New Pulp Press is pumping out this bad boy.

In other words, it's high-fucking-time you got to know Gil Brewer, dear reader.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Top Five of 2009 - Nothin' but Noir Edition

I wrote up a top five of the best non-print crime shit of 2009 for the good folks over at Crimespree Cinema.

If you're looking for shit to watch that is badass and just plain bad for the soul, I'd advise you to check that shit out right HERE.

If you find a better top five out there this year, either you're an idiot or the writer is dead-fucking-wrong.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tom Piccirilli's Shadow Season

My review of Shadow Season is up at bookspot.

It's by Tom Piccirilli, a rising star in the crime fiction world if ever there was one.

So yeah, you'd be well-fucking-advised to check that shit out.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Last Known Address by Theresa Schwegel

My review of Theresa Schwegel's Last Known Address is up over at bookspot.

Check it out here.

Schwegel pretty much owns the police procedural genre these days so the Nerd advises you best keep up with her shit.

And that's advice from a dude who isn't even a fan of the genre - her stuff is that re-fucking-freshing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Catching Up #46 & 47: Tomato Red & Give Us a Kiss by Daniel Woodrell

Like my last post on Daniel Woodrell, I’m doubling up reviews. Also similar to the last post, again there is one novel that I’d recommend to anyone looking for fucking hoot and one that is devastating and dark as all hell. But this time out, I’d say that anyone and everyone should read Tomato Red, the more tragic and noirier (totally a word, don’t worry about it) of the two, because it is one of the absolute finest novels I’ve read in a long fucking time, a no fucking joke classic.

But let’s kick shit off with Give Us a Kiss, Woodrell’s most personal novel to date. It’s the story of crime novelist Doyle Redmond returning to the Ozarks to convince his brother Smoke to turn himself into the cops seeing how their parents are being harassed daily by the cops. When he finds his brother, instead of getting all bounty hunter on his Smoke’s ass, Doyle ends up involved in a scam.

Smoke, his girlfriend Big Annie (named not for her weight but for her massive breasts), and Big Annie’s gorgeous daughter Niagra (like the honeymoon destination but spelt wrong) take on Doyle as security for their harvesting of a fat weed crop. The Dollys (the Ozark family we meet later in Winter’s Bone) have been snooping around Smoke is worried they’re gonna rip them off. Turns out Smoke’s instincts were correct and Doyle ends up murdering one of the infamous clan. Now the foursome is really in the shit.

Woodrell is clearly having a blast telling this tale and it’s filled with funny descriptions and hilarious dialogue. A great part of the book’s appeal is just the sense of fun that permeates much of the book (Jesus, I just wrote permeate like some kind of learned reviewer fellow. I'm a douche). Hanging out drinking in the warm night air, golfing on a woodsy course where the holes are just stacks of cow pies, going down on a beautiful hillybilly babe – it’s all rendered with love and longing. Even in Woodrell’s darkest works, there’s always a bit of escapist, man-I-wish-I-was-a-dirt-poor-hillbilly fantasy going on. Yeah, life may be hard in the Ozarks but a lot of the time it looks like some good old fashioned fun.

But it’s not all fun and games, dear reader. Shit gets violent and exciting and revelations happen and all that good shit you expect from a crime novel goes down, to be sure. Like Winter’s Bone, it’s clear that shit is never going to get all tragic on your ass, and that’s just fine because you’re happy to go along for the fun, pot-clouded ride.

There’s a lot of fun to be had in Tomato Red as well, but when shit goes dark it makes your heart absolutely fucking break. It’s the story of Sammy Barlach, a drifter who stumbles West Table and also into a fucked up but extremely tight-knit family and becomes an honorary member. There’s the adorable Jamalee Merridew, a smart young gal with her eyes set on high society, her gay hairdresser brother Jason, the most beautiful boy in the Ozarks, and their mother Bev, the local whore.

Figuring Sammy for one of them “rough types,” Jamalee enlists Sammy as a bodyguard of sorts, protection for when she gets her blackmail business off the ground. Her plan is to have Jason fuck married rich women then extort them for money, eventually netting them enough cash to move to some fancy place like Florida or Hollywood. Naturally, things don’t go as planned and this sad little family gets broken up toot-fucking-sweet.

Family is a major theme in all of the Woodrells I’ve read so far, and in Tomato Red that shit really hits home. Sammy is just searching for some place to fit in and be loved and it looks like the Merridews are as good a bunch as he’s likely to ever find. As with The Death of Sweet Mister’s protagonist Shuggie, when it looks like he’s gonna lose his pathetic family, the evil in him is released. The good times and hope that Sammy experiences before it all goes to shit make it hurt twice as hard.

Tomato Red is a breeze to read but tough to take. There are scenes in here that no shit devastate so if you’re looking for something a little lighter, I’d read Give Us a Kiss first. That said, be sure to get around to Tomato Red eventually because if you don’t, you’re missing out on – yeah, I’ll just fucking say it already – a modern classic.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dealing with The Troubles: Stuart Neville's The Ghosts of Belfast and Brian McGilloway's Gallows Lane

My reviews of Stuart Neville's The Ghosts of Belfast and Brian McGilloway's Gallows Lane are up at bscreview.

Give that shit a glance right HERE.

You should already be caught up with Belfast seeing how it's the talk of the town (if every crime fiction site on the web put together makes some sort of town...), but you might not be familiar with McGilloway's shit.

In other words, your excuses for not clicking the link are fucking weak.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Catching Up #45: Brotherhood: Season Three by Blake Masters

The third season of Brotherhood, Showtime’s series about a Providence congressman and his Irish mob boss brother, is also the show’s final season and that’s a damned shame. It wraps up nicely and all, but there’s no getting around that it feels rushed, like nobody at Showtime knew what they had. Then again, most television viewers probably didn’t even know it existed so it’s no wonder they cut that shit short. Still, it’s a damned shame all around because Brotherhood was more than just the poor man’s Sopranos.

This time out, Tommy Caffee is basically the Speaker of the House’s bitch, doing the man’s dirty work and losing his soul more and more every day. Soon enough, Tommy sees a way to get out of politics and off the Hill all together in the form of a waterfront project that he is in a position to get a nice chunk of down the line. His brother Michael is running things now that Freddie Cork is in the can, and he’s having a tough go at it. He’s cheating on his wife and paranoid that his cousin Colin is fucking his girlfriend, and his paranoia is kind of warranted. Colin is deeply in love with Kath and she’s feeling slighted enough by Michael to maybe take him up on a good fuck.

Meanwhile their mother Rose is suffering from Cadmium poisoning from her many years working at the jewelry company and Tommy’s wife Eileen is pregnant with their fourth child. Also, Freddie Cork eventually makes bail and Michael’s not sure if he knows that yes, it was him who served Freddie up to the Feds. The Caffees’ friend Declan is working homicide and trying to put his marriage back together, but Tommy gets the bright idea to assign Dec to a puppet task force investigating corruption in the House. Little does Tommy know that Declan isn’t just a fuck-up drunk anymore, he’s trying to do right, so it’s a bit of shock when Dec starts getting closer and closer to Tommy’s own illegal dealings.

So that’s a lot of shit to deal with in eight short episodes, but creator Blake Masters and crew make it flow nicely and in an unforced manner. Because this is essentially Showtime’s answer to The Sopranos, there’s plenty of sex (including the most graphic and hot sex scene I’ve ever seen on television) and some kick-ass violence and mob stuff, while also some sharp satire and knowing depictions of middle-class life. But if you’ve watched the previous seasons, you’ve come to expect that shit.

What really surprises this time out is how fleshed out not only Colin becomes, but Freddie Cork. We got to see some of the inner-depths of Cork last season when his gay son died, but in the third season the fan favorite (or is “Fuckin’ Moe” the fan favorite since Pete died?) really gets to shine. When he’s released on bail, his lawyer strongly advises him not to do any shady shit. Cork’s assets are all tied up as well, so he needs to earn somehow. Seeing how on his tax returns he’s a car salesman, he calls in his chips and works at the dealership for real, only to find that he’s actually a bit of a natural. Of course, he eventually gets back in with Michael and the rest of his old gang, but instead of the hot head we’re used to, he shows himself to be extremely wise and self-sacrificing, the kind of leader that Michael Caffee will never be.

Colin gets lots of airtime this season as well, at first drinking and drugging himself into oblivion to take Kath off his mind, then trying to hide his feelings and actions from Michael, who will surely kill them both if he gets wind of their affair. Shit, Michael’s so fucking crazy these days he doesn’t even need a good reason to suspect anything is going on.

It’s all very smart and exciting and promises to come to a very gory head at end (and I mean, you’re expecting the-end-of-the-world-style tragedy by the close of the show), but like The Sopranos, the writers decide subvert your expectations somewhat. It’s still a disturbing and sad wrap up, as is fitting for such a dark show, but not the bloodbath you might’ve expected.

So I’ve mentioned The Sopranos like thirty fucking times in this review and to be honest, that shit isn’t fair. There are similarities to be sure, but it’s a lot to lay on a show that is really great on its own terms. Despite the revisionist assholes out there who say The Sopranos was over-rated, it truly isn’t. It is the most painful, smart, satiric, entertaining, bleakly true and ballsy exploration of American upper middle class life we’re likely to see ever again (yes, that statement is huge, but it’s true – and I love me some The Wire but there’s no getting around the greatness of The Sopranos), so pitting the decidedly modest but still wonderful Brotherhood against the show is not really fair at all. Its aims are smaller, but its aims are true as fuck.

Actually, because this is, you know, my fucking blog and I can do whatever the fuck I want, let me use some space in this review of shit you’ve probably never seen before to plead a case for The Sopranos. I don’t think we’ll ever see such a viewpoint properly expressed in television again. I mean, the show was basically an anti-drama in a lot of ways. Where damn near all stories are about a character changing, The Sopranos stayed brutally honest to a theme we rarely see handled well: man’s inability to change. The show is essentially about people who have shots at redemption, only to turn it down because it is hard to change, because they’re lazy or financially satisfied or their family and friends are terrible influences. I mean, think of Vito Spatafore, Carmela, Tony himself, both of their fucking kids – they all give in to the temptations of either the mob lifestyle or American middle-class life in general.

Then there’s just the writing itself, how eventually the show became about brilliantly undercutting and subverting your expectations of the storylines. They’d build something up to look like it was going to lead to the biggest pay off of all time, then fuck you over with an even more random turn. Shit, the randomness of life is something an entire other blog post could deal with as well. Then there’d be major plot things that would just pop up out of nowhere and be handled in that very same episode (I’m thinking particularly of numerous season five episodes – the most entertaining season of TV of all time, a close second being season three of The Wire). But through all the randomness and fuck yous, the mob shit was always engaging and violent and approachable and the suburban shit was painfully familiar. And it was probably the funniest show of all time too.

Okay, I’ll wrap this shit up now because you can probably find similar views elsewhere on other blogs that do this shit better. What was I talking about again? Oh yes, how Brotherhood season three was really fucking good, if a little shorter than it should’ve been. See that shit. Also, respect The Sopranos. Or see that shit as well, but if you haven’t seen it yet, what the fuck? Are you fucking culturally illiterate or some shit? Wow, this turned into a fucking mess, but like I said, it’s my blog and I can do whatever the fuck I want.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Catching Up #43 & #44: Daniel Woodrell's The Death of Sweet Mister and Winter's Bone

Don't even start - you know what the Catching Up series is for, dear readers. It's for, like, catching up and shit. Pretty self-fucking-explanatory. So yes, until recently I, the self-proclaimed Nerd of Noir, had never read a fucking Daniel Woodrell novel. Ever. I'm ashamed, indeed I fucking am, but I am fixing the situation as best I can. Besides, maybe there's some of you out there in the noirosphere that have yet to read Woodrell either. Maybe I'm doing the world a favor by admitting that yes, even dark crime junkies like myself make an oversight, can leave something deathly important and exciting at the bottom of the TBR pile for too long.

Or maybe I've just lost the respect of my discerning readership, doomed myself to never being read again. I'd understand that backlash because, no fucking shit, Woodrell is that necessary, that fucking amazing. But blogs are part masturbation and part nobody-fucking-cares confessional so here we go irre-fucking-gardless (I know that irregardless isn't a word, but it rules, you know, irregardless).

I've got two reviews rocking and rolling for you today that showcase that Woodrell is both for the basement crazies but also for, well, fucking everyone, I suppose. First, let me sate the basement crazies with The Death of Sweet Mister, a nasty little slice of awesome that will make your skin crawl and your noir boner rage.

It's the story of Shuggie Akins, a fat boy who lives with his sexy mother Glenda and junkie thief "dad" Red in the Ozarks of Missouri. Well, Shug and Glenda live together anyhow, Red is usually off with junkie pal Basil ripping off pharmacies and shut-ins for pills then partying for weeks at a time. And when Red is around, he's either ragging on Shuggie or beating him, though sometimes they'll do "men stuff," i.e. Red forces the boy to help in his latest score. But when Glenda gets involved with a classy chef with a fancy car (well, for West Table, MO he's classy), Shuggie's shitty life begins to get even shittier.

The Death of Sweet Mister starts out as a by turns funny and sad slice of life story about white trash in the Vietnam era South, but as this short novel races to the end, it becomes a classic noir story, then a much more twisted, disturbing thing all its own. It's a coming of age tale where your protagonist doesn't become older and wiser, but more hardened and evil than we initially thought possible. It's a complex work and at times awesomely creepy, but also reads like a fucking dream.

Woodrell's prose is sharp and his storytelling skills sly as all hell. And the dialogue? Fucking hysterically true. And don't get me started on the man's details and lore because I'll fucking blab all afternoon. Dude just plain knows how much to leave in and how much to take out. This shit is as direct and fast-paced as the best thriller while also managing to take the time to wow you with some "writerly" touches that don't bug the shit out of you in the least.

But if you're looking for something to stuff in stockings this Christmas (look at the Nerd, getting all Oprah's Favorite Things on your ass), you should really pick up Winter's Bone, a book that I'd recommend to anyone, no fucking reservations. It's the story of Ree Dolly, a sixteen year old hillbilly gal from Rathlin Valley in, again, the Missouri Ozarks. Ree takes care of her touched-in-the-head mom and two younger brothers in their shit shack while her pops is off cooking meth and generally raising hell. But one day the sheriff drops by and warns Ree that her old man is due in court for a drug charge in a week and nobody's seen hide nor hair of his ass in quite sometime. Shit of it is, the dirtbag used their house as collateral for his bond so if he doesn't show, the bail bondsman takes the house and Ree's shaky family is left in the cold.

Thus begins Ree's search for her father, a journey that will put her in all kinds of danger seeing how it puts her at odds with the rest of the Dolly clan, a powerful old hillbilly force in those parts. But Ree's got the sand to confront the old ones and the old ways when it comes to saving her family - shotguns, meth-crazies and beatd0wns be damned.

There are a billion things to recommend in Winter's Bone, but what struck me first is Woodrell's ability to make you feel like you're getting an inside look at a culture you didn't know existed anymore. The rules and heirarchies of the Dolly clan are absolutely fascinating, from their weird religion to the story behind why certain boys are named what, it's all so exciting and fresh and fucking alive.

But just shining a light on a little known culture is not enough to recommend a book (though when you look at what's popular at your local bookstore, apparently it is these days), so thankfully Woodrell's characters come alive and the story never disappoints. Ree is one of the most hilarious and believably tough and totally human characters I've come across in good goddamn while and there's nary a supporting player who doesn't ring true as well. Yeah, shit doesn't get as fucked and dark as it does in The Death of Sweet Mister but I had absolutely no problem with that because no shit, you come to love Ree Dolly like she's your kid sister.

And did I mention that this shit is fucking sly as all hell? There's this blink and you miss it reveal at the end of the book that just makes me fucking red with envy. Jesus, it's fucking perfect (if you've read it, you know what I'm talking about. Or you missed it and I'm totally smarter than you. Excuse me while I pat my own back).

But like I said, this book is fucking for everyone you know. It's fun enough, dark enough, smart enough, and just plain fascinating enough that I dare anybody to talk shit about it. I saw it's being made into a movie (with Deadwood favorites Garret Dillahunt and John Hawkes as part of the cast!) but don't fuck up and see that shit first. I mean, book's not even two hundred pages, for fuck's sake.

So there you go, dear readers. I'm catching up with Woodrell slowly but surely. And if you are like I once was and ignorant of the man's work, here's two perfectly good excuses to get fucking de-ignoranted or some shit like that. Yeah, you're fucking welcome.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Crime Comics for One and All (Except Cozy Fans, regrettably)!

My review of Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth's Stumptown (issue one); Garth Ennis, Jimmy Palmiotti and Mihailo Vukelic's Back to Brooklyn; and Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jacques Tardi's West Coast Blues.

You've got no excuses to strike out at the comic book store these days, dear reader. Unless you're looking to get laid there, I suppose...

Check it out right HERE.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Books: Bird Dog by Philip Reed (1997)

While reading the new graphic novel Filthy Rich by Brian Azzarello and artist Victor Santos, a story in which the protagonist works for a car dealership, I was reminded of Bird Dog, the first “Car Noir Thriller” by Philip Reed featuring Harold Dodge. Reed would only write two Dodge novels (the other being Low Rider) before…well, I dunno what the fuck happened to him. Whatever the reasons may be, it’s a fucking shame he’s no longer cranking out kick ass crime novels anymore because I think the motherfucker could no shit hold his own with some of the nasty boys and girls of noir today.

Bird Dog starts out with middle-aged nobody Harold Dodge being asked by a sexy co-worker to help her get her trade-in back from the shithole LA dealership that sold her a true lemon. You see, it’s known around the office that in a past life Dodge used to “bird dog” for a dealership, hell he even wrote a book on how not to get robbed, got published and everything. Seeing how a good-looking young thing like Marianna wouldn’t give a guy like Harold a second glance in a normal situation, Harold comes to her rescue toot-fucking-sweet. But sure enough, things don’t go well with slimy salesman Vito Fiorre at Joe Covo Matsura and next thing you know Dodge ends up with a body in the trunk…

Though you initially think you’re entering into some sort of off-beat private eye series, Bird Dog turns out to be more of an Elmore Leonard-style crime novel, only with more graphic sex and violence (which, come to think of it, is what most of the best crime novels of the nineties were like. There’s a paper there somewhere...). In other words, you have your sharp prose, your dead-on dialogue, cool good guys, funny bad guys, and a zippy pace. Good time had by fucking all, right?

That’d certainly be enough to get my vote, but Bird Dog takes shit in slightly sicker, more noir-than-merely-hard-boiled direction later in the book. Naturally, I don’t want to spoil shit for you, but to put it in movie terms, this shit gets more Blood Simple than Get Shorty, if you know what I mean. If you don’t know what I mean, see more films, you fucking elitist.

If I don’t have your interest yet, I honestly don’t know what the fuck to say to you, aside from hit the supermarket and snatch up a Grisham when buying your fucking white bread. But if you need just a little bit more of a push, let me say that there’s plenty of great car salesman lore and car porn in this beast too, not to mention a fantastic sense of place for its LA locations.

There you go, there’s your fucking icing on the awesome cake. So go and get yourself some Bird Dog, then some Low Rider, then join me in mourning the death of the Harold Dodge Car Noir Thriller series.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

My review of Dark Places by Gillian Flynn is up at bookspot.

If you would care to read that shit, click right here.

If you're not up for it, what can I tell you? It's a big interweb out there and you'll probably find something cool elsewhere. But fuck you all the same.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tower by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman

My review of Tower is up at bookspot.

Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman tag team like they're the fucking Nasty Boys to give you this kick ass book.

Check that shit out right fucking here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dark Entries by Ian Rankin and Werther Dell'Edera

My review of the latest from the Vertigo Crime imprint, Dark Entries.

It's written by Ian Rankin of the Rebus novels fame and drawn by Werther Dell'Edera.

So, you know, it's one of them graphic novel things.

This is a fucking long one so don't say I didn't warn your ass.

Check it out right here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Filthy Rich by Brian Azzarello and Victor Santos

My review of Filthy Rich is up at bookspot.

Dude that wrote Filthy Rich is the same feller behind 100 Bullets.

It's also the first of two books from Vertigo Crime.

As awesome as that info just provided is, the results were less than boner-inspiring.

Check it out right here.

Pariah by Dave Zeltserman

My review of Dave Zeltserman's Pariah is up and blowing some fucking minds over at bookspot.

Check that shit out right HERE.

If you're short on time, let me save you a click and a peek:

This shit fucking rules.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Catching Up #42: Off Season by Jack Ketchum

Okay so this post ain't exactly noir, but it sure a shit is for the fucking basement crazies. If you're a fan of the more macabre and intense shit (like the great Allan Guthrie's novels) the Nerd raves about, you're gonna love horror writer Jack Ketchum. The guy is hands-down one of the gutsiest motherfuckers working in genre fiction today. Two of his novels (Right to Life and The Girl Next Door) I had to read in single sittings for fear that I wouldn't have the sack to pick them back up again. And make no mistake: the Nerd is not just being characteristically hyperbolic here - the guy's shit is seriously that fucking inense.

Also let the Nerd make clear: this ain't no Halloween-is-coming post either. Just like I don't need a holiday to drink a bunch of booze, I don't need a holiday to make me like horror either. Both are great any time of year.

Off Season, Ketchum's first novel (now available uncut and uncensored!) from 1980, proves that Ketchum has had those globe-sized balls since the beginning of his career. If you like your thrills with a gigantic fucking safety net, then you best leave this one to the fucking professionals.

Off Season tells the story of three NYC couples who go to a remote cabin in coastal Maine for a week of sex and drinking, only be preyed upon by a feral family of cannibals that live in a cave.

Seriously - that's all there is to it. Sounds like the plot of a forgettable horror film that you pop in late and pass out before it ends, never bothering the next morning to see what you missed. But Ketchum makes that shit come alive, dear reader, alive in ways you probably didn't want to ever think about.

Essentially, this is the ultimate Deliverance-style story. You take a bunch of realistic, recognizable characters with common insecurities and problems then throw them into the most extreme situation imaginable and watch all that petty shit melt away till nothing is left but the will to survive. In addition to the struggle of the couples, Ketchum also sheds some light on the lives of the in-bred cannibals, even dropping almost plausible hints as to how such a clan has managed to stay hidden and fed for so long.

Like most of Ketchum's work, there's no supernatural shit going on in Off Season if that kinda stuff bothers you. Basically, this is a disgusting, agonizing story story told breathlessly and without compromise. After all the players are laid out for us, the attack goes down and the second half of the book takes place over just a few hours and good fucking God is it hard to put this beast down once you're in the shit. For a book with a shit-ton of action and suspense, you're never less than completely clear about what's going on and how while also never skipping ahead because you're bogged down in details. You ever notice how in a suspense sequence, authors will always over-explain shit to the point where it takes a lot of will-power to not just skip ahead to see what the outcome of the scene is? That shit never happens with Ketchum, dude is always on-the-money.

And according to an afterword by Ketchum in the edition I read (Leisure Books June 2006 edition), the original version of Off Season did not have the perfect, devastatingly bleak ending that the current version does. So if you read this book years ago, I strongly suggest you pick it up again. You gotta admire a book that, in addition to being cannibals raping, cooking and eating people, manages to have an even more dire climax than you could have ever imagined.

Like I said, dude goes all the fucking way. If you think you've got the stomach for it, the Nerd strongly suggests you follow his ass.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Panic Attack by Jason Starr

I reviewed Panic Attack by Jason Starr over at Bookspot.

Give that shit a look.

In said review I fully admit to being in the wrong.

Intrigued? No? Give it a shot anyway. Don't cost nothin'.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Silent Hour by Michael Koryta

My review of Michael Koryta's The Silent Hour is up over at bookspot.

You should check out Koryta's shit, dear reader.

He's not much of a curser and he never goes "full dark" as they say, but he kicks Connelly's ass, far as the Nerd is concerned.

Check it out right HERE.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Catching Up #41: Real Time by Randall Cole

Holy shit, dear readers. You should just click over to your netflix account right now and slap fucking Real Time onto the top of your queue (you didn't really wanna watch that documentary on climate change, no matter how good the cheese kid at Whole Foods said it was). Seriously, fuck my review, just do it, done and done.

Okay, so that was rash. Read and cherish every fucking word of my review, then shoot it to the top of your queue.

Why should you do all this shit sight un-fucking-seen, you ask? Well, because I have fucking impeccable taste and you know this to be the scout's-honor-fucking-true. But for the unfaithful: go fuck yourselves. Nah, don't do that - pay someone else to do it for you.

Let's try that again: For the unfaithful, let's sleepwalk through this fucking plot summary dance yet again:

Real Time is a Canadian feature directed by Randall Cole starring Jay Baruchel (Seth Rogen's fellow Canadian roommate in Knocked Up) as a degenerate gambler and Randy Quaid (ummm...if you don't know who Randy Quaid is, see more movies) as the hitman who has come to make him pay. Instead of just shooting Baruchel and calling it a day (the deadbeat owes 68,000 and has sixty bucks to his fucking name), Quaid gives him an hour to make amends, do whatever he wants before he takes one in the back of the head. And it's in, you know, real time (which makes it a short fucking movie, remember when they used to make those?).

Now, I know what you're thinking, you're all like thanks but no thanks, Nerd. I don't fall for high-concept bullshit movies. Well, skeptical reader, you're only cheating yourself because Real Time is hilarious, engrossing and heartbreaking.

And when I say it's hilarious, I fucking mean that shit. It's basically these two dudes running around some Canadian shithole (in other words the shitholiest of shitholes) spouting some of the best dialogue I've heard since In Bruges. Good God, go me! That was a very apt comparison on my part (*pats self on back*). Real Time is very much in line with Bruges, another hilarious off-beat crime film that is both absurd and profound.

I really don't wanna get too much into the specifics of this one because I don't feel like many have seen it and it would be hindered by knowing much more beyond the concept, but come on. I went out there with an In Bruges comparison, a movie I love almost as much as prime rib.

So check out Real Time, a true fucking sleeper that deserves your rheumy eyes and cauliflowered ears for its short, blissful fucking running time.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield

My review of A Bad Day for Sorry is up at bookspot.

Check that shit out right HERE.

I fully confess my love of the first Stephanie Plum novel in this review.

Yeah, I just said that.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Catching Up #40: JULIA by Erick Zonca

As evidenced in the 2008 film Julia, Tilda Swinton has some of the biggest balls in Hollywoodland. Her performance as the titular (nice) character in this bug-fuck sleeper is one of the most fearless I've seen in years. The movie itself ain't too bad neither.

Julia follows an alcoholic party girl who has lost her job and the trust of her few remaining friends. At an AA meeting she meets a crazy-eyed young woman who offers her a job: If Julia helps her kidnap her son back from his wealthy grandfather, she'll give her thousands of dollars. After the initial stakeout of where they plan to take the boy, Julia does the job on her own with the intent to get millions out of the grandfather instead. But, you know, that shit just ain't that easy...

What really makes Julia such an intense experience, is that Julia is shown to be such a fucking drunk wreck that we're constantly in fear for this little kid's life. I mean, if you can't handle child-in-jeopardy stories, this movie is definitely not for your ass. Director Erick Zonca knows how to keep you twisting in your seat throughout, every scene offering some terrible possibility to make your fucking guts turn.

He also shoots the film in a naturalistic style, the look helped out by the improvisational feel of the dialogue and performances. Julia is constantly lying, be it to authority figures, friends. accomplices, or - most often - her hostage, and Swinton truly sells the idea that she's just coming up with bullshit off the top of her head. Zonca's film is the rare crime film not concerned with great zingers and sharp dialogue so much as it is with people sounding natural.

The movie might run a little long (it's damned near two-and-a-half hours), but you're never bored because you're convinced that all bets are off, that anything - no matter how horrible - can fucking happen. So if you like you can handle a decidedly fucking un-slick crime film that has the power to make you woozy with dread, you better netflix yourself Julia toot-fucking-sweet.

Also, don't trust that lamer-than-fucking-lame poster. I fucking hate that shit. I mean, sell the movie for what it is: a crime film, not some sappy fucking...what the hell kinda movie is that poster trying to sell? Whoever was in charge of publicity for this film is a fucking assclown, as evidenced by the fact that this movie never opened anywhere near me here in the Twin Cities. Crime films are perfectly fucking marketable, you movie-biz douches!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Amateurs by Marcus Sakey

Marcus Sakey has got another book out.

I fucking reviewed that shit.

It is up over at bookspot.

You should read it.

Here's the fucking link.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Catching Up #39: Officer Down by Theresa Schwegel

I've been hearing about Theresa Schwegel for a good goddamn long fucking time now, but never got around to reading any of her shit. Being the fucking completist obsessive that I am, I naturally started back at the fucking beginning with her debut, Officer Down. Gotta say, dear reader, this is some good shit.

Good cop shit - and you better believe that that is a fucking distinction, dear reader.

Because it's a fucking big deal to write a good police procedural. First off, savvy that I'm talking about shit that isn't about out-and-out corrupt cops, either, hence taking out of this particular canon the works of James Ellroy and Ken Bruen. No sir, I'm talking about normal everyday cops. Kent Anderson did the definitive beat cop novel over a decade ago with Night Dogs, Richard Price has no doubt dropped a bunch of amazing cop characters on us over the years, and John McFetridge has shown himself to have a keen ear for the way cops talk, but who else can really lay claim to their level of awesomeness in the cop genre?

I give you (and you really shoulda guessed this shit by now, dear reader): Theresa Schwegel.

Her cops have full lives that extend beyond the work place, and they don't get all "hot shot" on your ass for no reason, and - best of all - there's no questioning the motives of why the lead cop is working so goddamn hard to crack the fucking case. Time and again - and it's my theory that this is why so few thriller writers successfully write about cops - we see the dogged-fucking-detective busting his ass and using ridiculous detection skills to crack some case because of old psychic scores to settle or some other vague ingrained sense of justice.

In Officer Down, yeah Samantha Mack "takes it personally" and goes against the chief's orders or whatever, but it's just to clear her name, not because she's a slightly down-played superhero or some bullshit like that. And the dialogue feels lived in, not forced or overly cool like an episode of CSI or some other shitty cop show (speaking of CSI, Sam has better digs than her co-workers and more money, but that's because of an inheritance, not like in those shitty shows where they wear two thousand dollar suits and drive seventy-thousand dollar cars - how is that shit possible unless they're totally corrupt or moonlighting like a motherfucker).

But look at the Nerd's ass - talking all about some notion of what Schwegel's goal for writing cops is when you, the reader, have no idea what her fucking book is about (or you do, in which case, you're hip to this shit already and no doubt cooler than the Nerd). Officer Down tells the story of Samantha Mack (a.k.a. "Smack"), a young cop only a few years on the Chicago PD, who manages to get her partner killed while on duty. Scratch that, according to ballistics, Smack herself shot her partner dead. The brass and her fellows boys in blue are willing to call it an accident, but Smack knows that's fucking bullshit, so she uses her suspension time to hunt down the real killers.

Trust the fucking Nerd, dear reader - this shit is not as fucking typical as it sounds.

A major part of that, as I've obviously been fucking saying, is that Schwegel writes cops in a very specific, smart way, but all the good cop dialogue and lore in the world can't save a book that doesn't have solid main character, and Smack is as solid as they fucking come. She's got grit and smarts, but she's also flawed in ways that cost her in numerous ways throughout the story.

But as is often the case with the best thrillers, Schwegel not only has a great central character, but she knows to let Smack lead the action, not some inorganic sense of what a thriller plot should be. It takes a good while for Smack to really be in the shit, but that's fucking great as far as the Nerd is concerned, because Schwegel was busy setting up this character and this world in an authentic, purposeful way. And then when the mystery plot-type shit actually does get really fired up and raging, Schwegel never takes it too far, there are no scenes of "this goes all the way to the mayor" type of fucking bullshit to make you roll your eyes till they fall outta your fucking head.

So let's do a fucking check-list here, dear reader: good character, smart cop shit, not-too-crazy mystery you really need more? I mean, maybe Schwegel's sitting on some hot stock tips or a fucking recipe for snickerdoodles, but it wouldn't have fit in with the story...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Catching Up #38: Cruel Poetry by Vicki Hendricks

Jesus fucking Christ it's been a good goddamn fucking while since I did a review, ain't it? Did you miss my ass, dear reader? No? Not so much? Barely noticed? Fair enough. I respect your honesty. I mean, I'm hurt, but I'll get over it. Hookers-n'-Blow still think I'm the fucking bee's knees, naturally.

But for the true fans, the folks that have not read a goddamn thing since my hiatus, the people who require the Nerd's seal of approval before venturing out to the bookstore, for you - the invisible, non-existent few - I will now drop a bit of fucking gold in your laps in the form of Vicki Hendricks' latest novel, Cruel Poetry. Okay, so I'm not dropping the actual book in your laps. (that would be fucking sweet, though, wouldn't it?), but I am dropping a review onto your computer screens, which is almost as a not-nearly-as-fucking-good sort of way...

I know what you're thinking, dear reader. You're all like, Surprise sur-fucking-prise, Nerd. You like a Vicki Hendricks novel. Well, weary-of-the-world-douche reader, I...I guess I have no proper response. I likes what I likes and Vicki Hendricks fucking writes said shit I like like the mean motherfucker she is. Sex, violence, obsession, and dark, twisted comedy. How can a basement crazy like myself resist such a sick, heady brew?

I could just stop this fucking review right there, say read that shit, good night, 2-for-1's end at midnight, the lamb chops here are amazing but I'm a man of excess who likes to pad his reviews with curses. So let's move the fuck on to the plot description already, waddaya say?

Cruel Poetry is the story of a Miami hooker named Renata, a gorgeous piece of ass who seems to put a spell on all who get within a hundred yards of her. Julie, the shy struggling writer who lives in her building, is fast becoming obsessed with her, as is Richard, a married poetry professor and Renata's best customer. And really, how could they not want Rennie? She's beautiful, dangerous and just a slight breeze gives her a head-shattering orgasm.

But Renata's reckless lifestyle soon leads to dead bodies and vicious castrating gangsters, and both Richard and Julie gladly sacrifice everything to help her out of her increasingly bloody problems, even if it means their own doom...

And so the blood and other sticky bodily fluids flow (What? You thought the Nerd was above a fucking cum reference?) until it all comes down to a great and truly fucked up, deliriously operatic final act. A novelist known for her explicit sex scenes and a willingness to take her noir-soaked characters to the very fucking edge, Hendricks outdoes herself with Cruel Poetry.

Holy shit! Did you just read that last sentence? That was almost like a printable fucking blurb or some such bullshit. I gotta watch myself or I'll be on every other book cover like I'm fucking Connelly or Child or something (because I'm so fucking obviously that huge in the publishing world...). And would you look at that. Connelly is blurbed on the cover of this boo already. Color me fucking shocked.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Cruel Poetry. It kick ass. You read now. Nerd need beer.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Vanilla Ride by Joe R. Lansdale

I review Vanilla Ride by Joe R. Lansdale over bookspot.

To read that shit, clicketh here.

I probably give a little too much information about myself in this review.

I've gotta watch out for that that shit otherwise, next thing you know, I'm like Harry Knowles, talking about how much I cried at Return of the Jedi or some bullshit like that.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Killing Mum by Allan Guthrie

Allan Guthrie's novella Killing Mum is reviewed by yours fucking truly over at bookspotcentral.

Check that shit out.

Gotta prepare you, faithful readers: I totally take a dump all over this one.

Nah, I'm just fucking with you. It's Allan Guthrie for fuck's sake. Unless he does a cat mystery or some shit, I'm aficionado numero uno.

Actually, I'd probably dig a Guthrie cat mystery, truth be told...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Don't Call Me a Crook! by Bob Moore

My review of Don't Call Me a Crook! is up over at bookspot.

And no, you don't need a fucking map to find the review - I have provided a link for your lazy ass right here.

Yeah, I know: I'm reviewing true crime. But it's exceptionally kick ass and hilarious true crime so it's okay. Honest.

So pull get your thumb out your ass and check that shit out.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Uncage Me - Edited by Jen Jordan

My review of the transgressive fiction anthology Uncage Me from Bleak House Books is up over at bookspot.

Check that shit out right HERE.

It's got all kinds of kick-ass shit in it from NON faves like Allan Guthrie, Scott Phillips and more.

Also, it's edited by Milwaukee's own Jen Jordan, who you'll remember put together Expletive Deleted a couple years ago.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott

My review of Megan Abbott's Bury Me Deep can be found HERE.

If you've been reading this site a while you'll know that I dig Abbott's shit a whole helluva lot.

That said, I think you'll be surprised by what I have to say this time around...

Nah, I'm just fucking with you. It's awesome.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Catching Up #37: King of the Road by Charlie Williams

Been waiting on this one for a good goddamn while - no joke, it's a tough book to get in the States these days - but the good folks at Uncle Edgar's in Minneapolis finally snagged a copy for me. Now I am officially all caught up with Charlie Williams's Mangel trilogy, and dear God was it worth the wait. This book is hands-down the best of the fucking bunch, and book three being the best is rarely ever the case.

Just look at, well, almost every trilogy ever - The Godfather, The Matrix, Star Wars, Hank Thompson, Spiderman, Evil Dead, Indiana Jones (Crystal Skull never happened), Lord of the Rings (would it have killed Tolkien to kill a couple of fucking characters?) - it's a fucking huge rarity is what I'm getting at here, dear reader. King of the Road is incredibly dark, heart-breakingly sad, thrillingly violent, and fucking hilarious as all hell. It's a fucking shame that that's the end of our man Blake, the toughest bloke in Mangel (fingers-tightly-fucking-crossed Williams will revisit Blakey on a later date).

King of the Road kicks off with Royston Blake being released from the funny farm after a few years stay. He's all set to have a few pints, smoke a few cigs, be a good dad to Sal's and his kid, and take up his old post as doorman for Hopper's, the most respected pub in all Mangel. But Mangel has changed something fierce while he was away. There's a big gleaming shopping mall erected where Hopper's once stood, and Blake's doctor has gotten him a job as the "doorman" (read: mall security guard) at the behemoth, a job that makes all kinds of different Mangel citizens get ideas for our Blake.

Struggling "old guard" merchants like Nathan the Barman and Doug the Shopkeeper want Blake to bring down the mall from the inside. His old pal Don wants him to play a central role in heisting the mall. And the mall's owner Mr. Porter wants to use Blake as an enforcer, a thug whose purpose is to beat those that mean to destroy Mr. Porter's empire. But Blake being Blake, none of these well-laid plans are going to go down smoothly...

You see, the genius of Royston Blake is that he's so hilariously retarded that he never fully understands what he's into. Since he's our narrator, Williams allows Blake to express just enough information that the reader fully understands the implications of what he's involved in, but Blake almost never does. It allows for a lot of consistent laughs throughout the story, and one shockingly sad "revelation" at its end.

And that is a major part of why this book worked for me so fucking well. Deadfolk was a nasty piece of work that had plenty of solid crime shit going on, while I thought that Fags and Lager - though hilarious - was sometimes too wacky and ridiculous to fully work as a noir novel. King of the Road manages to be funnier than both novels and also more dark and tragic too somehow. It's the best of both books, no fucking joke!

In case you're not getting this, dear reader, I'm saying that you should pick up this fucking book toot-fucking-sweet. Damn it, read the whole trilogy. You'll thank me. Least you will if you're a sick fucker who likes shocks, laughs, and poop-mouth in your reading material (which is kind of a pre-requisite for this site, you know). And though I've expressed it many times over, let me say I can't fucking wait for Williams' return to novelifying with Stairway to Hell this August. Three long years is two years too fucking many.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Butcher's Granddaughter by Michael Lion

My review of Michael Lion's The Butcher's Granddaughter is up over at bookspotcentral.

Give it a shot right HERE.

So I've read one psycho noir and one PI novel from New Pulp Press.

Wonder what other sub-genres they're gonna cover...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Catching Up #36: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Yeah, I'm a johnny-come-ridiculously-fucking-lately with this book but whatever. The truth is out now and there's no fucking going back whatsoever. Besides, I wonder if others of you out there in noir-land passed up Gillian Flynn's debut when it came out same as I did, thinking it wasn't really up their alley. If that was the case, dear reader, I say make fucking amends toot-fucking-sweet cuz Sharp Objects will rock your mangled, bloody shit guaranteed. And if you have already read this book, I guess fucking bully for you then, with-it reader.

Sharp Objects is the story of Camille Preaker, a reporter for a fourth-rate newspaper in the Chicago area who is sent by her editor to her hometown in southern Missouri to cover a story the big papers seem to have missed. Two little girls have been killed within the last year and the police are baffled. Both were strangled and both had all their teeth pried from their mouths after death. Now it's up to Camille - with the help of a handsome St Louis cop brought in to aide the local sheriff - to solve the crime and save the day!

But don't let that poor description steer you away, dear reader. You read that shit and you think this is a typical-ass serial killer thing and say, "Fuck that shit. The Nerd is half a retard and this book looks lamer than that pony I killed with my bare hands." I assure you, reader-who-should-get-help-before-this-problem-gets-any-worse, that Sharp Objects is much more than it first appears.

And that's because Camille and her fucked up little family are the real stars of this creepy fucking monster of a book. I'd say more but that's the fun of this novel, discovering just how messed up Camille, her family and the little town as a whole turn out to be.

It should also be said that despite how dark the novel is, I'd really reccomend it to anyone who reads fiction. It's one of those creepy fucked up books that's fun for the whole family - like Running With Scissors. Also, I think David Cronenberg could adapt the living fuck out of this book. It's all about the body, secrets, below-the-surface worlds - all those themes that he seems attracted to (Hollywood: You're welcome).

So don't fear the "popular fiction sleeper" sticker that Sharp Objects seems to have plastered all over it, my little basement noir crazies, because if you do, you're missing out on one sick fucking good time.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


My review of Road Dogs by Elmore Leonard is up over at Bookspotcentral.

Read that shit HERE.

I apparently have a need to show off my deep knowledge of Elmore Leonard novels in this motherfucker.

What can I say? The Nerd craves acceptance from the smart kids.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Catching Up #35: Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis

This is yet another edition of "diluting the brand with the Nerd of Noir," where I review something that is only very loosely noir fiction. That said, going into Crooked Little Vein I was under the impression that it was very much up this site's alley, what from the way all-a youse dorks out there in internet-land had talked about it. I'd basically heard it was a fucked-up take on the PI-genre filled with dark, perv-y shit. I'll take it.

Well, dear reader, after burning through this motherfucker, I can say that that shit was fucked-up and it was definitely perv-y, but dark? Not so much. Essentially Warren Ellis' novel is a celebration of the American Freak Flag and the Information Age - and a love story to boot! By using the private eye novel structure (hero going around interviewing various characters to solve the case) Ellis has found an entertaining way to talk about what makes the current generation the truly greatest generation. It's a weirdly positive novel about the aspects of modern culture that the shittier members of society would think of as not so positive - but then that discourse alone is positive in itself and...

I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's do the whole plot description thing and then I'll show you how fucking smart I am or whatever.

Private eye Mike McGill gets a break from being shit on when the White House chief of staff drops by his office offering him a major case: find the "real" constitution of the United States. You know, that one that Nixon traded for sex back in the fifties? The one that - when you're in the presence of it - turns you into a straight, upright, non-degenerate? Yeah, that one.

Why does McGill, the losingest of losers, get this case (and a half million untaxed dollars) you ask? Well, precisely because he has such epically rotten luck. No one but God's-Favorite-Toilet Mike would possibly be able to find such an object seeing how it no doubt is in possession of one of the very perverts it could potentially un-perv.

So McGill follows the trail with a sexually adventurous grad student doing her thesis on underground sex culture in tow named Trix who he quickly falls for. The search for the book (or is it McGill's shit luck?) leads them to all kinds of weirdoes with all kinds of crazy kinks stretching across America. Trix is as open to each odd experience as McGill is mortified by it.

Will these two crazy kids fall in love? Will McGill find the book? And if so, will he really give it to the White House so they can blast us all back to the Mad Men days? And just how much saline can one man fill his sack with before his balls pop out?

So it's obviously a fucking looney-ass book and totally ridiculous, but like some sort of cock-eyed optimist Vonnegut, there's a method and a message to Ellis' madness. Yeah, there's lots of funny and gross scenes of weirdoes doing sick shit rarely seen outside of the Savage Love column, but the laughs come with sharp commentary. He brings up great points about the greatness of our sick society, this place we live in where anybody can find whatever they want and where anybody with internet access can be part of the media.

Thankfully, the preachifying isn't as simple and boring as what I just typed. There are many much more interesting and challenging observations made in Crooked Little Vein, making for a highly enteraining romp (dear god) through the underground-that-isn't-really-underground-because-it's-on-the-internet-right?-so-it's-obviously-gotta-be-mainstream of America.

In other words, it's a lot of fun. But dark? Nah. If you disagree with the sentiments (and if you do, realize that you're reading a fucking BLOG from some nobody right now on the INTERWEB with somebody with a CURSING problem), then maybe it'd be kind of considered dark, but mainly it's a comedic satire with little danger and a sweet, atypical romance at the center of it. Not complaining or anything, but still. The Nerd can't help but dilute the brand these days.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I-5 by Summer Brenner

My review of I-5 by Summer Brenner is up over at Bookspotcentral.

Give 'er a glance right over here.

I mean, just one little glance can't hurt...


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Catching Up #34: Craig Davidson's The Fighter

Yeah, that's right, dear reader: The Nerd is doing yet another catching up post on some shit that ain't quite noir/crime. Right now you're no doubt thinking, What the fuck, Nerd? You're diluting the brand! A short story collection and now whatever the fuck this book is? What next? Are you gonna start reviewing fucking cat mysteries or some such bullshit?

Well, irate-as-all-hell reader, let me well-fucking-assure you that I will never post any shit up here that isn't dark as fuck. I mean, my poop-mouthing and ranting wouldn't make any sense if I were reviewing a Lillian Jackson Braun classic ("KoKo's badass clue-sniffing skills will have you licking your filthy fucking paws while Yum Yum is one hot-ass piece of feline tail!") or some other tame piece of shit. I would also never throw away your trust by pontificating on the latest Philip Roth novel I've read (love the shit out of his books though I do) or any other similarly non-violent novel. I mean shit, have a little faith in the Nerd, dear reader.

Especially when it comes to The Fighter, Craig Davidson's Canadian Fight Club for Generation Y. Shit, that should be all I have to say about this mofo, but I'll go on. The Nerd's got time to bloggify and he's gonna use it up thusly.

The Fighter is the story of twenty-something Ontario rich boy Paul Harris and working class upstate New York amateur boxing teen sensation Rob Tulley. Rob wants out of the life but he's too much of a born natural (and his uncle and father have invested too much time in his training) to shit on his ticket out of blue collar-dom. Paul has been coasting through life working for his old man's winery business until he gets the shit kicked out of him one night, an event that makes him want to see just how much punishment he can stand. Rob trains and looks for excuses not to fight while Paul gets more and more masochistic (and 'roid-filled) until the two come together in The Barn, a place for modern day gladiators on the Canadian-American border.

As with Fight Club, there's plenty of angry-young-man-who-fights-to-feel-something stuff in The Fighter. Paul's life gains a purpose once he discovers fighting. He figures he can never out-do his father's more traditional masculine achievements - building a successful wine business from the ground-up, wife-and-kids and all that - but he must know if he could thrive in a more primitive masculine way - taking and giving out punishment with his bare-fucking-hands (Speaking of Fight Club, there's a sly reference to the earlier classic in the form of a rich kid who Paul himself beats up who then becomes a radical animal rights activist who lives on Paper Street...).

But enough with the masculinity discussion bullshit. I mean, what next? The Nerd's gonna start pontificating about James Dickey and Cormac McCarthy or some such hoidy-toidy douchery? What stands out in this ass-kicker is the violence, which is plentiful and painful. If you find better descriptions of carnage, send that shit the Nerd's way. On second thought, I'm not sure I could handle shit much rougher than The Fighter. Yeah, I just said that shit. This shit hurts that fucking much.

Plus, this shit is funny, moving and full of awesome lore. There's shit in here about the good old days of traveling fighters going town-to-town betting they can take any man in the county along with shit about modern underground fighting circuits where they douse their wrapped fists in lye or worse. I mean, there's enough awesome fighting lore in this bitch to fill a hundred books. Then there's shit about steroids and boxing training and...goddamn this fucker Davidson has a ton of fucking cool ideas.

Crime novel or not, the Nerd guarantees that The Fighter will give you your sick noir jollies from page one onward. It's violent, it's challenging, it's sick, it's sad, and it's a fucking fast-as-all-hell read. Trust the Nerd, dear readers. It's not like he's asking you to pick up a quilting mystery here, for fuck's sake.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


There’s only one word for Gary Phillips’ The Jook and that word is fucking cool (you had to believe the Nerd would spice up said word with some Grade-A poop-mouth, am I right?). This fucking beast is just oozing with cool. I haven’t read any other shit from Gary Phillips yet, but if his other books are half as cool as The Jook, you can bet the fucking farm the Nerd’s gonna be on top of that shit toot-sweet.

The Jook tells the story of Zelmont Raines, a Super Bowl-winning wide receiver that’s fallen on hard times. He’s just been sent home to L.A. after getting the boot from the European leagues following his hip getting out of whack for the umpteenth time. Dude’s got bills and no money to pay them with, what with blowing all his NFL coin on drugs, alimony and lawyers (He swears she said she was legal). But Los Angeles is getting a new franchise called the Barons and nobody - not even the devoutly Christian NFL commissioner that hates the shit out of him - can stop Zelmont from trying out.

Surely he can make the team and start living the high life once again, fucked up hip or no.

But then a pretty little thing working for the owner of the Barons named Wilma Wells starts whispering in ol’ Zelmont’s ear, saying that there’s an easier way to gain the green. Namely, by ripping off some mobbed up NFL big wigs for cool millions…

So you have this classic femme fatale noir story with the neat twist of the main character being an ex-bad boy (well, not so “ex-“ I suppose) football player. That’s enough for me to recc this shit right there, but Phillips also loads this motherfucker up with tons of crazy sex scenes and gloriously violent, cinematic action sequences. Then there’s the fucking nutso heist shit towards the end and…

So yeah, you could say the Nerd dug this shit.

But what really makes it all work is Zelmont Raines himself. He’s telling his own story in a voice that is tres fucking cool, every other line dripping with distilled badassery. Zelmont’s a cocky motherfucker with flaws out the ass, but he’s so fucking enviably awesome (only a God like Jim Brown or Fred Williamson in the seventies could truly do him justice on the big screen) that you’re totally with him to the bitter end.

Like a double of Maker’s on the rocks, The Jook goes down easy then rocks your shit something fierce right afterward. It’s straight up hot sex, blazing action, and classic noir told in a bracingly modern, unabashedly cool way (I wish there were more words capable of expressing “cool”-ness, but there just fucking isn’t, dear reader).

So trust the Nerd, dear reader: your ass wants some of this shit right here. Your ass wants it in the right fucking now.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Catching Up #33: KNOCKEMSTIFF by Donald Ray Pollock

I dunno if this is every english major's experience, but it seemed like every young man in my college workshop classes was trying to be the next Bukowski. Every other class we'd be going over some douchebag's story about a down-and-out young man who gets fucked up, fights some guy and then cheats on his girlfriend. That'd be all well and good if any of the fuckers could write worth a good goddamn, but shit, you know how it is (or you don't in which case the Nerd envies you).

So you'll forgive the Nerd if he was a bit skeptical of Knockemstiff, a collection of stories about down-and-out losers in the down-and-out town of Knockemstiff, Ohio by a first time writer named Donald Ray Pollock.

Well sir, the Nerd fully admits that he was wrong to doubt. There's a reason everyone and their mom is talking about this Pollock's debut. That reason is that it is fan-fucking-tastic.

Unlike the poor saps in my writing classes (love you guys!), the stories of pain and debauchery in Knockemstiff feel like they were written by a survivor of such times. Now I don't know if Pollock has ever fucked a retarded girl and hated himself for it or smoked shitty weed that made his mouth bleed, but if you told me he did I would believe it, dear reader. I'd believe that shit in a fucking heart beat. Knockemstiff may be juicy and lurid and bleak but it always feels real, no matter how fucked up the story is.

And this shit is fucked up, dear reader, very much so. You're probably wonderin what the Nerd is doing reviewing some "literary"-sounding short story collection, thinking I've gone NPR on your collective asses or some shit.

Let me assure you of this: if you dig noir, you're gonna dig Knockemstiff.

The language of Pollock's stories is occasionally poetic but never unnecessarily so. It's the poetry of the down-trodden, the losers, the...fuck, I got all literary on your asses, didn't I? Sorry about that. Pollock's language is always about character (and his characters are always wonderfully scuzzy and grotesquely tragic) and never about wowing the eggheads.

And these stories aren't subtle character sketches where jack-shit happens, either. No they're violent, cathartic and horrifying stories, like a godless paint-huffing Flannery O'Connor or some shit.

But what especially makes Knockemstiff work for the Nerd is that it feels like you're reading a novel. I mean, yeah, I like a good short story as much as the next guy (Plots with Guns, Thuglit - that stuff consistently rocks my shit), but more often than not I'm not gonna pick up a book unless it is a novel (though I did love Expletive Deleted which was...goddamn it, what is the Nerd without hard and fast fucking rules!?) and Knockemstiff works both as something you dip into at your leisure or read in a fury like a kick ass novel.

And you better believe the Nerd tore through this beast like it was great fucking pulp.

So don't fear Knockemstiff, my dear crime junkies. Sure, it's a change of pace, but I guarantee you'll read it as fast as you would a fucking Huston novel.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Jason Starr’s Fake I.D. was just released in the U.S. by Hardcase Crime after nearly a decade of only being available in the U.K. The wait has been hard on the old Nerd, but the timing of its release is kind of fucking perfect, really.

You see, dear reader, I’m scared for where Jason Starr appears to be heading. His last book (sans Ken Bruen, that is) was The Follower, no doubt a good book but way too “mainstream thriller” for the Nerd’s taste. Starr’s biting brand of yuppie douchedom peppered many of the main characters and the suspense was top-notch, but in the end it was a very traditional stalker novel, a plea for a new, less fucked-up readership.

Shit, The Follower even got a mass market paperback deal after long runs in hardcover and trade form. Obviously, somebody in the publishing world thinks Starr’s on the right track.

I wish the dude all the success in the world and everything, but I can’t seem to get excited about his new one, Panic Attack which is coming in August. I’ll fucking read it, for sure (no doubt it’ll be suspenseful as all hell, it’s what the dude does, for fuck’s sake), but I no longer have that raging nerd boner for his work like I used to, that old faith that his shit will go all the fucking way.

Fake I.D. is the old Starr doing what made me love him in the first place. It’s dark, nasty, hilarious, and undeniably hard-fucking-core.

It’s the story of bouncer, degenerate gambler and wannabe actor Tommy Russo, a cocky son of a bitch who thinks he’s got the world coming to him. One day at the track he gets an offer to join a horse-owning syndicate from a fellow degenerate gambler. Thing is, his stake in the ownership would be ten large, a lot of money for a New York bouncer to cough up. Then he remembers that the safe at the bar he works at has to have at least that much sitting in it…

Nobody writes asshole protagonists quite like Starr. He could really give a fuck whether you like Tommy Russo, just knows that the dude’s actions and general scumbaggery are going to draw you into the story regardless.

And that’s because, like I’ve said all along, the guy is a master at suspense. Fake I.D. is one of those rare books where you’re saying Oh fuck! and Oh shit! aloud through the whole thing, your heart just fucking racing from the tension. Goddamn it felt good to read some of the old nasty shit again.

I knew that Starr couldn’t do these types of books forever. There’s only so many ways to do his brand of updated yuppie James M. Cain novels before any self-respecting author would want to move on to something different. Personally, the Nerd could read this shit till the fucking cows come home and never give a shit about the same-y-ness in the fucking least.

But that’s, you know, just me in all my fucked-up glory, I suppose.

So pick this shit up toot-fucking-sweet, dear reader. Fake I.D. is a pleasant (in a nasty and sick sort of way) trip through Jason Starr’s old stomping ground: Noir York (Jesus fucking Christ - did I just type that lame shit?). And oh yeah: fingers well-fucking-crossed that Panic Attack is more Fake I.D. than it is The Follower.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Dennis Tafoya manages to have his cake and eat the shit out of it too with his debut novel Dope Thief. What starts out at as an ass-kicking noir actioner eventually turns into a thoughtful, honest and Pelecanos-esque (Pelecanish?) search for redemption. The real fucking kicker of it is, dear reader, is that Tafoya is able to pull that shit off in fucking spades.

Dope Thief is the story of Ray, a thirty year old ex-con who rips-and-runs a la Omar Little with his junkie pal Manny. The pair try to keep it light, never killing, and stealing only from small-time players around Pennsylvania who won’t be out for some get back. The beauty of their operation – and what keeps dealers from acting stupid – is that they dress as DEA agents while they rob (echoes of the cult classic blaxploitation flick Across 110th Street). Naturally, the two eventually rip off the wrong drug dealer and bodies happen while mucho dinero is scored. Next thing the boys know there’s a vicious motorcycle club after their stolen money and Manny and Ray’s blood.

First off, let the Nerd say that Tafoya is top-fucking-notch at writing action sequences. The violence in this beast is fucking cinematic as all hell and there are some set-pieces in here that bring to mind Charlie Fucking Huston – no joke, dear reader. There’s a scene where it’s Manny and Ray versus two pissed off bikers that just fucking rocked my shit – almost as hard as the molester house shoot-out in Gone Baby Gone did (the book, not the film, hands-down the best action sequence I’ve ever read).

Now you’re thinking, Silly Nerd, a novel cannot thrive on violence alone. What of the other elements of the text? Well, hoidy-toidy-pretentious-douche reader, here we fucking go:

Naturally, all this extremely well-done violence wouldn’t be worth the paper it was printed on if it weren’t for the reader caring about those that are affected by it, and Tafoya’s hero Ray is one hell of a complex protagonist. He’s smarter and wiser than the career he’s chosen for himself, where the most common retirement options are death or imprisonment. He’s also racked with guilt over a lover who died because of him back in his high school days, the pain of the loss fucking up all his present female relationships. Then his imprisoned father comes back into his life due to the old bastard being diagnosed with a terminal illness. And then there’s the bookstore girl that Ray falls hard for despite worrying that his father’s abuse of his mother means that he himself will be a piece of shit wife-beater…

So yeah, there’s a lot of shit outside of Ray’s crime life that is covered in the novel and that’s what makes the book really fucking sing. We grow to really care about him and become heavily invested in his efforts to leave his lawless days behind him. Thankfully, all that shit is handled with a sobriety that keeps shit from getting too touchy-feely lame on your ass. Like I said up top, dude’s Pelecanistic or whatever the fuck the term should be.

In case you’re just not fucking getting me, dear reader, I’m fucking well saying that you should check this shit out. Dope Thief is emotionally involving and bloody-as-hell to boot. What the fuck more could a crime fan ask for?