Tuesday, March 26, 2013

An introduction of sorts

So, very slowly, I've been piecing together an anthology.  All reprints, all tales from pulp fiction's heyday.  I've been loving it.

While it's not the best (it certainly could be better), I decided to post my introduction here.  Why, you ask?  Because, well, I just plain feel like it.  So here you are.  My introduction (at this point, anyway) to Dames, Booze, Guns and Gumshoes: Classic Tales from the Dawn of Crime.


Pulp fiction.

Usually when these words are uttered today, people immediately think of the Quentin Tarantino movie, which, my God, is already twenty years old.  To my recollection, though, the movie did little if anything to remind people of, or help bring back, the type of literature the film was inspired by.  Pulp Fiction the movie, to me, was Tarantino’s well structured if not overly stylized tribute to mostly a literary genre that, in many respects, had fallen by the wayside.

Whether it was his fresh take on the genre or complete and utter ignorance by the world at large that the genre had already existed for more than half a century, I don’t know.  What I do know is that, while a very good movie, Pulp Fiction did not create a new genre, as many people said at the time.

Tarantino’s now seemingly obvious tribute appeared to have been pretty much lost to viewers at the time—myself being one of them.  I was in my late teens when the movie came out, and I don’t recall anyone in my peer group—or anyone older, for that matter—suddenly discovering the old pulp crime novels from the thirties through the sixties, or getting into the genre’s movie counterpart, Film Noir.  What I remember is everyone owning the soundtrack, quoting snippets of dialogue, and talking about the violent and gory scenes.

All fine and good.  I owned the soundtrack.  I own the movie now on DVD.  I’m neither slamming Tarantino or America’s collective consciousness.  It’s just that I wish that, at the time, the popularity of the film would have spawned more knowledge of the vast number of books and short stories and movies that inevitably inspired the film.  (I use the words “movie” and “film” interchangeably, by the way; to do otherwise, I think, is to be a snob… or a beatnik.)

You can go ahead here and state a few of the obvious folks.  Hitchcock, Chandler, Hammett, Cain.  Again, all fine and good, but these dudes have always been consistent in their level of the mainstream.  The earliest writers of quote-pulp-fiction-end-quote, for the most part, achieved critical acclaim while they were still alive.  They were put on the same level as Faulkner and Hemingway.  Cornell Woolrich, it seems, kind of blurred between the two, for a long time seemingly only known as the guy who wrote “Rear Window.”  And I mention Alfred Hitchcock because you simply can’t ignore him (he also directed the movie Rear Window).  Since this piece all started with talking about a movie, it wouldn’t be fair not to mention at least one filmmaker, especially one as brilliant and obvious as Alfie.

Today many of the old pulp crime writers have achieved success to one degree or other.  Sadly, like so many artists, they had to die before anyone took their work seriously.  Thanks to Stephen Frears’ film The Grifters (1990, adapted for the screen by one of my favorite writers, Donald E. Westlake), Jim Thompson climbed out of the muck a bit earlier than most, and has come to be regarded as a relatively important literary figure.  David Goodis is another who has managed to achieve a level of success, over forty years after his death (remember that movie with Bogart and Bacall where Bogart walks around with his head wrapped in bandages for half the movie?).

Hard Case Crime has been, without a doubt, the best publisher for helping to bring many of these authors back into the spotlight, to a degree, anyway.  Without them I may not have ever found some of the authors I now love deeply—Day Keene and Gil Brewer, for example.

These days anyone can write a full-length novel and get it released, thanks to ebooks and print-on-demand companies (Hey, look at me right now).  I’m not going to go into the ups and downs of this.  That’s a subject for another time.  What I’m saying is, back in the day, and up until only about ten or fifteen years ago, the means for a writer to get their work out there was very different.  Literary magazines are essentially dead now, but through the entire twentieth century they were the primary way for a writer to get out there.  Send short stories to magazines, get rejected, rewrite, resend, etc., until you started getting accepted and published.  From there, keep doing it until enough readers look forward to seeing what it is you have to say, then hope for that book contract.

Gold Medal, Dell, Fawcett, much like the major publishers of popular fiction today, were interested in product.  That’s fine.  What is a writer doing if they’re trying to get published?  They’re trying to sell a product.  Duh.  Even the writers who’ve turned their nose up so many times that they resemble the “people” in the Twilight Zone episode “Eye of the Beholder” are trying to sell.  If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be publishing or trying to publish their work.  (On that, Dean Koontz was very correct in saying—total paraphrase here—that writing for a select few is very easy compared to writing for millions of people.)

The old magazines, as well as the publishers, usually had strict and required word lengths if the author wanted to get paid his penny a word.  At times this clearly hurt a story, but at times it very well might have helped it.  I was not one of these authors, so I really don’t know for sure.  But what matters here is the entertainment.  People were not picking up Thrilling Detective to study Heidegger’s hermeneutics transmuted by extraterrestrial rabbits with an emphasis on Kant’s categorical imperative as defined by reindeer who had survived Santa’s slaughter house.  They were picking it up to be entertained, to escape the dreadful reality that surrounded them, or if not to escape, then simply to get a glimpse of what it was like to look at the world through another person’s eyes.

Is that philosophy?  Don’t ask me, I’m making this up as I go.

Anyway, in between the covers of these old magazines were short, snappy tales of dames and booze, guns and gumshoes, double-crosses and triple-crosses.  Action!  Suspense!

These days if you say pulp fiction, and someone doesn’t go immediately to Tarantino’s movie, they might come up with Jim Thompson, they might come up with Robert Bloch, but more than likely they’ll come up with something ignorant and/or snobby, like trash, or those old cheesy throwaways with the sleazy covers.  It has gotten better with time, and writers like Michael Chabon have helped considerably.  It’s very unlikely, however, unless you’re speaking with an aficionado, that you’ll hear names like Joe Archibald, William O’Sullivan, Charles Einstein, Norman A. Daniels, Gil Brewer, or Jerome Severs Perry.

My director is pantomiming cutting his throat, which means I need to wrap this up.

Too late to make a long story short, there were many great writers in pulp fiction’s heyday, many who have slipped beyond unknowing.  I hope in the pages that follow, you are not only thoroughly entertained, but that you find some writers worth researching a bit, and that while at times you might say to yourself, “The writing could be better,” you might also consider something like, they had to do it this way, because if they didn’t, they weren’t gonna get paid, and everybody needs to eat.

Bon app├ętit.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Anthology Review: Mirages – Tales from Authors of the Macabre

It went up a little bit ago, but this was such a great review, speaking a little bit about each author's story (which are all fantastic, by the way; I should know), that I wanted to post it here for y'all to read.

Thank you, Dave Brendon!

Anthology Review: Mirages – Tales from Authors of the Macabre (Edited by Trent Zelazny)

01 Feb
 
 
 
 
 
 
2 Votes

I received this anthology a couple of months ago from one of its contributors, Curt Jarrell, a fellow bookseller and champion of all things Speculative. :-)
I’m really glad that I got an opportunity to read this anthology, because it’s one of the best collections of dark, unsettling tales that I’ve ever read. I won’t say that it was a pleasurable read -I’m not sadistic or masochistic- but it was definitely an eye-opener, and supremely memorable.

The anthology kicks off with The Conclusion by Tom Piccirilli, which was, for me, a beautiful and heartbreaking tale about how one man deals with the impending death of someone very close to him – the story was dark and, in places, unsettling, but quite beautiful.

The next tale, American Chinnamasta by Jeffrey Thomas, was insanely twisted and yet deeply affecting – we become a passenger on a girl’s journey toward getting the love and acceptance from her father she always believed she lacked, and it’s what happens during this journey, what she does, that really shocked and held me.

Dumb Luck by Barb Lien-Cooper and Park Cooper was awesome – a truly speculative look at luck which I really enjoyed! Sort of still boggles my mind. :-)

Poor Old Soul by Lee Allen Howard gave me a new perspective on those old ladies everyone seems to know – the nosy ones, those who always have opinions, who’s loneliness seems sadder for all that; very good tale. :-)

No Name, No Voice by Tina Swain was sooo damned good – an excellent exploration of the kinds of thoughts we hide from everyone, those bloody, murderous, deviant thoughts.

Reprieve Eve No. 33 by Joe S. Pulver Sr. was incredibly unsettling and different to anything I’ve ever read – I felt like I was in the midst of a deeply fractured and ill psyche, where very little made sense, but with sights and thought paths that kept on drawing me deeper. Very strange and darkly brilliant.

Switchbitch by Gerald Hausman answered the question for me – what would it be like in someone else’s body, and the answer isn’t as cool or exciting as what I envisioned. A short but excellent tale.

Bastard by Billie Sue Mosiman was quite scary, in that it showed me how badly the search for answers can sometimes go, or even how sometimes that search shouldn’t even be undertaken.

Angela & the Angel by Scott Bradley and Peter Giglio was, to my mind, the saddest tale in the collection, because it illustrated -in stark and jagged-edged lines- just what can happen when what you get is not what you wanted, or the idea behind something is more powerful than the disappointing reality.

Offline by Kealan Patrick Burke was terrifying and very, very creepy – after reading this I just didn’t look at electronic communication (email, social networks, etc) the same way. It’s a tale that’ll probably haunt you a bit, too.

Fairy Tale by Lori R. Lopez was dark and sometimes brutal, a tale of a desperate woman and a desperate man, and how both find release of a kind, very cool.

The Sum of Spectacle by Jason S. Ridler was a fun, almost frantic tale, about the realizations concerning loss and how, sometimes, we find our way back – yet the path and the destination might be darker than we imagined.

The Descent Upstairs by Leigh M. Lane is a tale that I’ll probably remember for a long time – I certainly wouldn’t want to be pushed as far as the poor woman in this story was. Sort of makes me think that the fantasies we have regarding how to deal with people who irritate us and enrage us could be dangerous fantasies to have…

The Pit by Joe R. Lansdale was the most difficult story for me to read, which might sound strange to you once I explain why – I abhor violence and cruelty against animals, and there’s a scene in this tale which is pretty damned hectic; which means that it’s incredibly well-written, and not just that scene but the entire story. It focuses on the battle of one man to survive in to-the-death battles that lead to absolutely no kind of victory, even for the survivor. It’s bleak and brutal and brilliant.

Jagged Night by Curt Jarrell was brutal, too, and sad. It’s the tale of a man who loses it and does something terrible, who then runs and tries to not only survive but to live, dogged the whole time by what he did. It’s a dark tale, very unsettling, but honestly so – we can never escape our mistakes, can we?

Shattering the Meat Tunnel by E. A.Black was a really distasteful story, but a damned good one, too. Two lonely people are randomly thrown together, one of them desperate for any kind of contact, the other made angry by the loss of this contact – both of them hurtle towards a climax that is terrible and brutal.

Beast: A Fable for Children by Edward Morris is definitely not for children, not young human beings, if you get my meaning, but a tale for the frightened child in all of us who has had to experience something that was levels above what we could understand at that age. But it’s also a tale about how that frightened child will deal with this experience, and how the outcome will change them forever and in ways that they probably won’t even understand with a grown-up mind. It is sad and beautiful.

Taken together, this anthology is an exploration of the darker, more distasteful aspects of being a thinking, feeling human being. It doesn’t shy away from disturbing imagery or ideas, doesn’t pull any punches at all – every tale was something new and thunderstorm-incredible, something that momentarily stole my breath, and I can only applaud Trent for bringing together these awesomely talented authors. It’s an anthology that lingers and taunts and, sometimes, disgusts, but it is an excellent collection, and all of these authors are now on my radar.
Bravo!

10 / 10

Saturday, March 23, 2013

MAN RULES

Came across this this morning and felt it was worth sharing. It is quite funny, and I do agree with most of it, especially #1. But whether right, wrong, true or false, it is amusing. Enjoy.


WE ALWAYS HEAR 'THE RULES' FROM THE FEMALE SIDE
NOW HERE ARE THE RULES FROM THE MALE SIDE

THESE ARE OUR RULES!

PLEASE NOTE. THESE ARE ALL NUMBERED #1 ON PURPOSE!

1. MEN ARE NOT MIND READERS.

1. LEARN TO WORK THE TOILET SEAT. YOU'RE A BIG GIRL. IF IT'S UP, PUT IT DOWN. WE NEED IT UP, YOU NEED IT DOWN. YOU DON'T HEAR US COMPLAINING ABOUT YOU LEAVING IT DOWN.

1. CRYING IS BLACKMAIL.

1. ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT. LET US BE CLEAR ON THIS ONE:

SUBTLE HINTS DO NOT WORK!
STRONG HINTS DO NOT WORK!
OBVIOUS HINTS DO NOT WORK!
JUST SAY IT!

1. YES AND NO ARE PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE ANSWERS TO ALMOST EVERY QUESTION.

1.. COME TO US WITH A PROBLEM ONLY IF YOU WANT HELP SOLVING IT. THAT'S WHAT WE DO. SYMPATHY IS WHAT YOUR GIRLFRIENDS ARE FOR.

1. ANYTHING WE SAID 6 MONTHS AGO IS INADMISSIBLE IN AN ARGUMENT. IN FACT, ALL COMMENTS BECOME NULL AND VOID AFTER 7 DAYS.

1. IF YOU THINK YOU'RE FAT, YOU PROBABLY ARE. DON'T ASK US.

1. IF SOMETHING WE SAID CAN BE INTERPRETED TWO WAYS AND ONE OF THE WAYS MAKES YOU SAD OR ANGRY, WE MEANT THE OTHER ONE.

1. YOU CAN EITHER ASK US TO DO SOMETHING OR TELL US HOW YOU WANT IT DONE. NOT BOTH.
IF YOU ALREADY KNOW BEST HOW TO DO IT, JUST DO IT YOURSELF.

1. WHENEVER POSSIBLE, PLEASE SAY WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO SAY DURING COMMERCIALS.

1. CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS DID NOT NEED DIRECTIONS AND NEITHER DO WE...

1. ALL MEN SEE IN ONLY 16 COLORS, LIKE WINDOWS DEFAULT SETTINGS..
PEACH, FOR EXAMPLE, IS A FRUIT, NOT A COLOR. PUMPKIN IS ALSO A FRUIT. WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT MAUVE IS.

1. IF WE ASK WHAT IS WRONG AND YOU SAY 'NOTHING,' WE WILL ACT LIKE NOTHING'S WRONG. WE KNOW YOU ARE LYING, BUT IT IS JUST NOT WORTH THE HASSLE.

1. IF YOU ASK A QUESTION YOU DON'T WANT AN ANSWER TO, EXPECT AN ANSWER YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR..

1. WHEN WE HAVE TO GO SOMEWHERE, ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING YOU WEAR IS FINE...REALLY.

1. DON'T ASK US WHAT WE'RE THINKING ABOUT UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED TO DISCUSS SUCH TOPICS AS FOOTBALL OR MOTOR SPORTS.

1. YOU HAVE ENOUGH CLOTHES.

1. YOU HAVE TOO MANY SHOES.

1. I AM IN SHAPE. ROUND IS A SHAPE!

1.. THANK YOU FOR READING THIS. YES, I KNOW, I HAVE TO SLEEP ON THE COUCH TONIGHT.. BUT DID YOU KNOW MEN REALLY DON'T MIND THAT? IT'S LIKE CAMPING...




Why I added a picture of Nien Nunb, I've no idea.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

So, yeah...

There are times when it seems nothing is going your way and the world has it out for you. Then there are times when things go pretty middle of the road. There are also, however, times when things are great.

Is my life great? It could certainly be better.

Does it seem that nothing is going my way? No, some things are going well and some not as well as I'd like.

Are there any terrible, horrible things in my life right now? No, not that I can think of.

Are there any wonderful things? Yes, there are. One of them even has a name, but at this point I shall refrain from giving it.

Why am I posting this? Because I've barely been online at all. Not just the social networks, I've barely been on the Internet at all. And I've found I prefer it.

Something I've learned not cruising the Internet hour after hour: the sky, trees, the sun, the moon and the stars are not only available in a JPEG.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Three Ebooks for $10

Hola,

Been a while. Just wanted to let you all know that, if you're interested, I'm selling a bundle package of Too Late to Call Texas, Mirages: Tales From Authors of the Macabre, and Fractal Despondency right here. You can choose between either EPub or Mobi. Simply go to the "Donate" button, toss in ten bucks, and in the message specify which format you want and, if needed, what email to send them to. It's that simple. This offer is good until ... well, until it's not, I guess.