Monday, March 23, 2009


Matt Novak, the wunderkind behind the nerd-tastic Paleofuture blog, recently asked me to write a piece for a new section of his blog entitled "Chuckles."

I took him up on the offer and thus Pershing F. Gooseberry III was born. Pershing was an infamous hedonist who wrote lascivious, opium-clouded articles for the early-20th Century men's magazine The Merry Fornicator.

If this experiment is popular with his readers, I will dutifully unearth more Gooseberry articles from my collection of dusty old copies of The Merry Fornicator. Or maybe I'll write something completely different for the site.

Matt is still tinkering with the section, but I have assured him that I will contribute shit to the "Chuckles" page whatever direction it goes.

Whenever some shit goes up over there, I'll give you a heads-up here at the home-base, the safe-haven, the dank-and-dingy basement that is Nerd of Noir.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Beast of Burden by Ray Banks

My review of the fourth Callum Innes novel Beast of Burden by Ray Banks is up over at Bookspotcentral.

If you're not reading the Cal Innes shit, you are no shit missing out on the most original PI series running.

Beast of Burden just came out in UK so it probably won't get to the US for two whole fucking years or some bullshit, but you can still check out the great Saturday's Child and Sucker Punch.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Catching Up #24: Snitch Jacket by Christopher Goffard

Snitch Jacket will undoubtedly make you want to punch Christopher Goffard in the balls.

Shit, it's the dude's first novel and he's just got ideas to burn. And he does, over and over. He just tosses off ideas on page after page, usually through dialogue but sometimes through description, tosses the fuckers out on the scrap heap like they're nothing.

And these are ideas to base entire books around, little nuggets of information, pieces of lore, small scams and tall tales that are just fucking gold, and he just uses them to pass the time, to build characters, not as the basis for a plot. Guy's a show-off and frankly I want to punch him in the balls and then give him a sharp kick to the sternum while he's down.

But long ago I made a promise to my sensei only to use my ball-punching skills for good, not out of bitter fucking jealousy. And Snitch Jacket makes my ass fucking green.

It's the story of Benny Bunt, an ex-tweaker in a shitsville part of Orange County with a dumpy wife and a shit job as a dishwasher. He's also a shameless follower who serves as a hanger-on to both an obviously-full-of-shit-Vietnam-Vet-Hitman named Miller and an obviously-full-of-shit-corrupt-cop named Munoz. For Miller Benny serves as an attentive ear for Miller's bullshit war stories/contract killing stories at their local, the Greasy Tuesday. For Munoz Benny serves as a snitch, ratting out all the other patrons of the bar for things like stolen tennis balls and other lame scams.

But then one day Miller puts his money where his mouth is and asks Benny if he'd be up for coming along on a hit with him. Benny naturally obliges, then naturally tells Munoz about the hit, leading to some fucked up situations, naturally.

Now I should say right now that this is a lazy little book. Truth be told, the plot doesn't even really move until about two-thirds the way through the book. Until that point it's all just Benny's crazy memory spouting facts and talking to bar bums and being generally pathetic. At least that's what it looks like.

It turns out in the end that what seemed like a shambling, lazy old slice of life of a book was actually a rather complex crime story where every event that came before has a purpose for being in the story. Now I say that not to be a douche and spoil shit, but to lay to rest any fears you might have about reading a slow-paced crime novel. Personally, if the book hadn't been anything more than it was on surface level, just the reader following Benny Bunt, the lamest criminal anti-hero in the history of anti-heroes, I would have been fine with it.

Because this book has a sack hanging off the spine, no fucking doubt.

Snitch Jacket is in a lot of ways a sort of anti-crime novel. The narrator's voice is not clipped and economical but colorful and windy. The main character is not someone whose badassery we admire but whose cowardice we detest. The world of the story is not one where danger lurks around every corner but where it can be easily avoided - shit, Newport Beach is right around the corner, for christ's sakes. The plot is not an adrenaline-charged super-sprint but an aimless stroll on Venice Beach - the particularly bum-riddled stretch.

But despite of all that - or fucking because of all that - I dug the shit out of this book. Snitch Jacket is its own thing and there is most definitely something to be said for that.

I hope Goffard continues to do crime and I hope he returns to the world of the Greasy Tuesday. Shit, I hope his next book elaborates on one of the billions of ideas he fucking drops throughout Snitch Jacket.

Fucking show-off.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Coldest Mile by Tom Piccirilli

Even if Piccirilli never did another Cold novel (and with the way he ends The Coldest Mile, his sequel to last year’s The Cold Spot, you fucking well hope he’s got another one coming our way), I fucking pray he sets another book in this world that he has created. It is one of the most nerd-boner-inducing places a noir fan can go, where gangs of thieves are called “strings” and they’re always “grifting” and looking to set up another “score” and keeping tabs on other strings through “drops.” Yeah, the players in The Coldest Mile talk like that - no joke. But it’s not in a self-conscious sort of way like something Tarantino or Frank Miller would dream up. It actually feels kind of authentic in a crazy-ass sort of way.

In other words: Piccirilli has some fucking chops.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, letting shit get away from me. I’ve got to tell you just what the fuck you’re dealing with plot-wise if you smartly choose to pick up Pic’s brand-spanking new novel, The Coldest Mile.

The book picks up a few weeks after ending of The Cold Spot with top-notch wheelman Chase signing on with the Langan syndicate for what is apparently more of a chauffeur gig than his usual getaway driver stint. The Langans are a decidedly WASP-y crew in the NYC area that is on the decline. The boss is about to check out and his kids, Jackie and Sherry Langan, are scrambling for the top seat and organizing a move to Chicago where they hope they’ll gain some much-missed respect. Since there’s no score to be had and Chase is more of a string man than a syndicate soldier, he decides to rip off his new employers instead to raise some money before heading off to find his young aunt Kylie and wrest her away from his hard-ass grandfather Jonah.

But Jonah isn’t an easy man to find or, you know, wrest shit away from, and the mob, as all good readers know, doesn’t take betrayal lightly…

So if you don’t know who the fuck Jonah is and what that whole back story is about, fucking read The Cold Spot already. That shit rules and will make your enjoyment of The Coldest Mile increase ten-fucking-fold. The mythology that Piccirilli is creating with this series is what it’s all about anyway and yeah, like any good novel you don’t have to read the predecessor but shit, once you read this one you’re just gonna go back and read the first anyway so fucking do it up right from the start - read The Cold Spot first.

But as good as Spot was, Mile truly ups the ante. In Spot Pic had to get some heavy exposition out of the way for the first half of the novel so that we could really see how much Chase loved Lila and how far he fell once she was murdered, seeing what it would take to actually him to go back to the life. With The Coldest Mile Chase is in the life the whole fucking time, beating ass or racing down the freeway on ever other page. I’m not fucking around when I say that The Coldest Mile runs on equal parts dread and adrenaline for three-hundred some pages.

And this book really brings it with the action, showing that Piccirilli is one of the new masters of the action sequence, on par with the likes of Huston and Swierczynski - no fucking lie, dear reader. His violence hits hard and hits often, making you feel every busted molar and desperate eye gouge. Also, as with the terms and organizations that I mentioned admiring above, even the rules of combat in Piccirilli’s world seem both grittily authentic and classic-film-noir-bat-shit crazy at the same time.

I haven’t ventured much beyond Piccirilli’s very recent foray (ha! I’m a douche!) into straight-up crime/noir, but the guy writes the genre like he’s been doing it since the Gold Medal days. Here’s hoping he keeps running with it for a long-ass time. And if there’s not another Cold book sometime in ’10, the Nerd is gonna be hunting down some motherfuckers, Chase-style. Bank on that.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Catching Up #23: TRIGGER CITY by Sean Chercover

Sean Chercover deserves every bit of praise that is rained down upon him with the force of a fucking tsunami. His Ray Dudgeon PI series is shaping up to be something totally its own thing. And not only do I love the shit out of this series, but my mom does too!

Okay, so that isn't exactly high praise on this site, I know. You come here because you want the Nerd to talk about the down-and-dirty, to convince you that yes, this book he is reviewing is up your sick, dark fucking alley and that you, fucked up noir crazy that you are, should read said book. But don't stop reading, dear devoted reader, don't shake your head and say, "This book is for the cat cozy set, and I shall look elsewhere, thank you very much." Don't do it, I say! Just fucking don't, reader-who-talks-to-themselves-for-some-reason-while-online.

Because Chercover's Dudgeon series walks that fine magical line that I happen to love just as much as the crazy, seems-like-it-was-written-just-for-a-psycho-like-me stuff. I don't mean to blaspheme but I think that Dudgeon will soon be likened to Patrick Kenzie of Lehane's Kenzie and Gennaro books, a character also beloved by my mom. See, Dudgeon just sprints down the same high-wire that Kenzie did. He's a violent man who all too often embraces his violent side, but he's also looking for love and trying to do the right thing. He's just dark enough that I love the hell out of him, but not so dark that my mom - who is a fanatical mystery reader but not much for male writers - can't follow him as well.

In other words, Trigger City deserves to be read by fucking EVERY genre fan.

The book picks up many months after the end of Big City, Bad Blood. Dudgeon and his british ladyfriend have called it quits and now Dudgeon is hiring his own apprentice, ex-mob thug Vince from Big City, to keep an eye on her new beau. Yeah, it's creepy, but Ray's lovesick. Lay off him.

He's also taken a new case, one that should be open and shut (but if you've read a book before, you know it ain't that easy). A woman was murdered by a crazy co-worker who then took his own life. There's no doubt that he did it whatsoever, not even in Ray's mind. But regardless, the woman's father, an ex-military man of great wealth, wants Ray to look into it, even gives Ray fifty grand flat if he'll take the case - and no others - for six weeks straight. Ray, whose rep has been tarnished since a bunch of folks around him got killed last go around, needs the money and it seems like an easy gig - just let the old man know what he discovers about his daughter.

But of course, it turns out there was more going on here than what the cops came up with. Turns out the woman and her co-worker both were previously employed together at a Blackwater-like military corporation. So it's cover-ups and conspiracies galore and this shit goes all the way to higher-ups, I tells ya! But this is a Ray Dudgeon book, so it never gets too crazy, never gets too implausible.

Now you're thinking, "A somewhat plausible conspiracy book, you say Nerd? I don't believe you."

Well, believe it, skeptical-douche reader. Chercover never steps wrong in Trigger City, gives you just enough crazy but not so much that you guffaw out loud (GOL anyone?). Like I said above, dude knows how to walk fine lines, and his ability to make the PI novel into something of the real world is one of said fine lines.

But again, you don't read the Dudgeon books for the plots, good as they may be, but for Dudgeon himself. This time around he's even more tortured than usual, not just because he fucked up his love life but because he was well, tortured last time around and can't get through the night without a fucked-up nightmare. He also straight-up murders another person in this book with truly sick results that will no doubt come back around to haunt him in the next book. It's a great twist that will leave you reeling, no doubt about it

So grab yourself a copy of Trigger City and then lend it to your mom. And no, that ain't a slam. This is the good stuff, the dark stuff, the cream-your-pants awesome stuff...that EVERYONE should be reading, fan of the site or not.

Ray Dudgeon LIVES!

Catching Up #22: SMALL CRIMES by Dave Zeltserman

Dave Zeltserman has just blown my fucking mind. Small Crimes is unlike anything I have read in the noir genre since the Goodis days (not that I was alive in those days or anything, just, you know, it's similar to stuff written know what I mean!). What the hell am I talking about, you ask? Example henceforth, motherfuckers!

So the plot synopsis is something like this: Ex-cop Joe Denton has just been released from county lockup after serving seven years of his sentence for mutilating DA Phil Coakley while on a coke binge. Yeah, that's right: county lockup. Dude held onto some friends tight enough that he didn't have to leave the county to serve out his sentence, just sit and play checkers with the sleepy old officer on duty day-in-day-out. No butt-rape for Joe Denton, no sir.

So Denton gets out and is immediately accosted by Coakley, whose face is now a disgusting mess thanks to Joe. Coakley says that Joe shouldn't get used to freedom because he's not long for it. See, Coakley's been talking to the local mob boss Manny Vassey, who isn't long for this world. Coakley's been reading the bible to him and is just days from getting him to give a deathbed confession implicating Joe in all kinds of shady shit. So much for a homecoming.

Then Denton talkes to his old boss, Sherriff Dan Pleasant - the shadiest of the shady - who says that it's up to Denton to take out either Vassey or Coakley in the next few days so that he doesn't bring down the whole fucking Bradley PD, Pleasant especially.

And then he meets Vassey's psycho son, who is taking over for his father, and wants Joe to pay up some old gambling debts toot-fucking-sweet...

So yeah, from that description you would expect a rip-fucking-roaring crime novel, ticking-clock shit and shoot-outs and murders and all kinds classic crime novel shit like that. Well, you'd be right to expect that - Small Crimes delivers on the pulp goods for sure - but this book has so much more subtle, painful themes going through it. It's both a devastating character study and slam-bang hum-fucking-dinger of a book. It has its cake and eats the shit out of it too.

See, what makes this bitch really sing is the smaller troubles Denton has. Yeah, he's got the crooked cops, the legit cops, and the mob out for his blood (even some really pissed off women get some licks in), but that's nothing compared to the horrible greif he gets from his family.

Denton's interactions with his parents are absolutely heart-breaking. They never visited him once in prison - not in seven years - but they let him shack up at home until he's on his feet again. But don't mistake this for a good thing. The pain he feels when talking to them, seeing the disappointment in their eyes, what's said and what's left unsaid - it's just so bleakly depressing and realistic that it is staggering.

Then there's his encounters with his estranged wife and kids. She doesn't want anything to do with him and he's not even allowed to get a fucking glimpse of his daughters. Thing is, Joe knows that she's right, but that doesn't mean he's not going to make a go of it, that he's not going to try and be a better man for all the people he has let down, his daughter especially.

But then, you know, there's this hit he has to do...with a deadline hanging over his head...

Small Crimes is basically a quest for redemption by a person we're never sure deserves it, but who you root for nonetheless. This book is a goddamn triumph for the genre. It will satiate ANY reader who likes good storytelling (and if you don't like good storytelling, then why the hell do you read novels?), but also please the nutjobs who like their genre shit to go to eleven.

Apparently this is the first in a "man just out of prison" trilogy by Zeltserman. You better believe I want a copy of Pariah in my grubby mitts like fucking tonight. Zeltserman, you've deservedly won yourself another die-hard fan in the Nerd of Noir.