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.