Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Obligatory End of Year List of Books I Done Read

Well, everybody else is doing it. Of course this is the kind of thinking that, before you know it, your girlfriend's launching ping-pong balls as part of the opening act of a Tijuana donkey show and you're selling blood to sustain that crank habit you promised your mom you could kick any time.

I haven't had the time to read everything I would have liked this year, so there are a lot of novels I've missed, and a lot on my TBR pile to catch up on. Fortunately, I have managed to catch a few great books, a handful standing out enough in my memory that I can actually talk about them.

So, here they are. And if you haven't read any of these, then you're a horrible, illiterate philistine. Plus you smell funny.

Saturday's Child by Ray Banks

I was lucky enough to get a copy of Saturday's Child shipped over by tramp steamer and pack mule from the UK. At turns lyrical and gritty, Saturday's Child takes the PI story and flips it sideways. Banks writes from the points of view of two different characters, Cal Innes, an ex-con playing at being a PI and, Mo Tiernan, a foil as psychopathic as they come.

Banks manages to keep the characetrs straight for us without resorting to tricks, trusting the reader's intelligence without having to explain himself, earning my undying respect right there. Cal's and Mo's voices are so distinctive, and so different, there is no possibility of getting lost between characters. Noir at its best.

L.A. Rex by Will Beall

I won't go into this one, since I just rooted around it the other day. But I will say that this is one of the best L.A. novels I've ever read. This man knows his shit.

Already Dead by Charlie Huston

There are too many vampire novels out there. Especially in romance. The fuck is it with bloodsuckers that makes mid-west housewives cream their jeans? And for that matter, what is it with all the Scotsmen? Is it the kilts, the claymores, the sheep?

Anyway, like I said there are too many vampire novels. But Charlie Huston's addition to the pot makes you forget all the rest. Noir first and a vampire novel second, Huston creates a protagonist and a world that is both engaging and fun, in a really nasty way.

I hate him.

A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read

Cornelia Read's novel, unleashing her protagonist Madeline Dare onto an unsuspecting world, is one of the most enjoyable debuts I've caught. Madeline is a fascinating character that, beyond simply being an intelligent and fascinating sleuth, is one of those people you just want to party with. Read's prose is slick and enjoyable and her dialog has that biting kind of banter that makes you not want it to end.

Pale Immortal by Anne Frasier

I got an ARC for this completely by accident, by being my usual obnoxious self over at Anne Frasier's blog. See, ma, I AM good for something!

It's not a vampire novel, though it tries to fool you into thinking that it is. It was the horror novel I didn't know I was looking for, the kind where the horror comes not from some invisible beast running loose, though there is one of those, but rather from the people having to live and deal with it, and the truths in themselves and their friends that they have to come to terms with.

I was hooked from the first page and burned through it like Sherman through Georgia. She captures the empty, dreamlike feel of a small town at night, the isolated loneliness of a man, Evan Stroud, confined to the dark by a disease that prevents him from going out into the sun, and the confusion and turmoil of his teenage son, Graham, who has only now met his father.

An excellent novel that I can't recommend enough.

While I Disappear by Edward Wright

This is the second in a series that started with "Clea's Moon", about a washed up cowboy actor in 1940's Hollywood whose problems with anger management got him blackballed and landed him in prison for two years. Now he's collecting debts for his friend and movie side-kick turned casino owner Joseph Mad Crow and trying to come to terms with the direction his life has taken him.

Wright captures a long gone Hollywood and the struggles of a has-been just trying to be left alone and live his life. When Horn meets a woman he used to know in his movie days and finds that she's murdered the next day, guilt and an almost unwavering moral compass takes him into ugly territory he's got no business digging into.

Rain Dogs by Sean Doolittle

Tom Coleman, a heavy drinking reporter from Chicago reeling from the death of his daughter and the disintegration of his marriage inherits a canoe rental business in Nebraska, where he goes to drink himself deeper away from his past. Things don't go quite the way he's hoping, of course.

Unlike his previous books, Dirt and Burn, Rain Dogs feels like a much more mature novel. The pace is slower, and the book unfolds slowly rather than burning itself out on the page. The humor evident in his previous novels is kept at a lower level and the characters feel more solid and realistically messy.

Cypress Grove by James Sallis

A retired homicide cop finds himself dragged back into cop work when the sheriff of sleepy Cypress Grove, Tennessee, comes to him for help in investigating an unusual murder that has his stumped.

Cypress Grove isn't a new novel. Came out a couple years ago. I checked it out after several recommendations. The voice is beautiful, in a laconic, low-key way. It takes its time getting where it needs to go, and the prose is so wonderful and enjoyable you just enjoy being along for the ride. Beautifully written, thoroughly enjoyable.

Good Day In Hell by J.D. Rhoades

The second in a series about North Carolina bounty hunter Jack Keller, Good Day In Hell twists around the story of a couple of Bonnie and Clyde wannabes, Keller's confusion in a relationship he doesn't know how to handle and his constant struggles with a PTSD so severe you're never quite sure how intact he's going to be on the other side of the story.

Rhoades does an excellent job of captures the aftermath of violence in a way that's unexpected and by no means celebratory. No one walks away unscathed in this book. He creates a cast of characters who feel as though they have lives stretching back long before the book, and, hopefully a long way past it.

Beneath A Panamanian Moon by David Terrenoire

Beyond amazing, I'm not sure what to call this book. Imagine The Tailor of Panama with Abbott and Costello. It's a spy thriller, it's an action flick, it's like watching the Marx Brothers run around with Claymores.

John Harper is an ex-spook turned piano player, tickling ivories and the various parts of bored wives of D.C. senators, when he gets pulled (yanked, really) out of retirement to head to Panama City and investigate the goings-on at a rundown resort inexplicably full of mercenaries.

The humor is high, but it isn't slapstick (though the parts with explosives are pretty goddamn ingenious), depending more on Harper's dry sense of humor in the midst of insanity. One thing that Terrenoire does well is switch back and forth from humor to a political analysis of Central America to the deeper emotions of people caught up in a nasty situation. Yes, it's funny, but it's still a spy thriller, with a spook far and away more complicated and interesting than James Bond could ever be.

Kiss Me Judas by Will Christopher Baer

Also not a new book, and also a book I got by accident through the lovefest that is blogging. Andy over at NoirBlog, which, by the way, has the coolest logo ever, sent it to me after I mentioned I'd never read any of Baer's work. I hope some day to return the favor.

Phineas Poe wakes up in a bathtub full of ice missing one of his kidneys after getting picked up by a psychopathic knockout named Jude, beginning a journey as bizaare and hallucinatory as they come.

The style is tight and beautiful, using a confused and confusing narrator that makes it read like some twisted mash-up of Alice in Wonderland and The Black Cat. This is the kind of book you read when the drugs have run out.

I've missed a lot on this list, I know, more because I got tired of typing than any problems with the books. And there are more books I just haven't had the time to finish (Duane Swie... Sweri... fuck. The Blonde, Ferrigno's Prayers for The Assassin), or worse, start (Sara Gran's Dope, Megan Abbott's The Song Is You, Anthony Neil Smith's The Drummer, and on and on and on).

I'm hoping to keep up in 2007 with all the new books coming out, particularly from the Killer Year bunch, but we'll see. So, go read these books if you haven't, yet. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

L.A. Rex by Will Beall

L.A. doesn't forget its tragedies. It just ignores them.

I found myself thinking that after finishing L.A. Rex by Will Beall the other night. The story is about LAPD rookie Ben Halloran, who has been teamed up with veteran Miguel Marquez in Los Angeles' ugly 77th Street Division, and Halloran's efforts to hide his real self from his hard as nails partner.

It's convoluted and dark. Digs around the sewers of gangland culture and police brutality. I've heard a lot of comparisons to Ellroy, but I don't think they really do justice to the book. Believe it or not, I'm not a big Ellroy fan. His prose always feels flat to me, and, much as his interweaving of history and fiction is amazingly well done, I just don't much like his books. I much preferred L.A. Rex to L.A. Confidential, for example.

The book is brutal and vividly realized, Beall's experiences as an LAPD officer in the 77th coloring the book with a thick coat of harsh reality. Overall, L.A. Rex is one of my favorite books this year. It captures a part of Los Angeles that I'm happy to say I know largely only through secondhand accounts.

My wife used to be a surgical tech at King Drew Medical in their trauma ward in the early '90's pulling bullets out of boys and girls whose whole lives have been nothing but the wrong place and wrong time. It's interesting to hear what essentially amount to the same stories from the other side of the fence. Beall pulls in a visceral sense of what the streets are like. Amazingly, he does it with a humanity that is absent from similar books, like Gary Phillips' "Bangers", and manages not to demonize even the most fucked up characters.

It's this sense of humanity that gives it a feeling of hopefulness. The good guys are not good, but they're bad in the way they need to be bad. It's a shade of gray that coalesces in one scene where Marquez explains to his rookie partner that you can wear a badge for fifteen years, but you're not a cop until you break the law.

Though in reviews, some of the prose has been criticized as over the top, I personally loved the voice. It's rich and Beall has a knack for description that brings a beautiful lyricism and violent brutality together on the page. Yes, there are a few moments where the dialog feels a bit much, but overall it works.

I think the book's greatest strength is its non-linear pacing. Beall moves the reader back and forth through time revealing just enough of the characters to let you know what's happening, but not insulting your intelligence by feeling as though he has to throw it all out onto the page before he's damn good and ready. It works up to a point.

Where it started to break down for me is after a scene in which a pregnant woman is shot by an officer, causing the inevitable community backlash. From that point on the book feels rushed, as though Beall were trying to make a cinematic climax worthy of Bruckheimer, and cramming it into too small a space.

Without giving anything away, I first thought some of the events from that point on felt far fetched and over the top.

And then I remembered the Northridge Quake in '94, the riots in '92.

If you don't believe things can go over the top and straight to shit in a hurry in this town, read the transcript of the radio traffic of the North Hollywood shootout in '97.

And that's what I mean by L.A. ignores its tragedies. We don't forget about them. They're very real and very present. But like an alcoholic with a day job, the city has to put it all aside in order to function. The place is full of little nightmares and an odd sense of hopefulness, that it can still pull itself together. It can quit anytime. Really.

If nothing else, L.A. Rex captures that singular essence, that contradiction of Los Angeles and makes you take a long, hard look at it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Mack Reed Is A Bastard

Los Angeles, CA

So, I'm sitting there at the computer huffing paint and surfing porn, when I get this email from Mack over at LA Voice. I don't remember the details. Something about underage hookers and a donkey show in Thailand, I think. Anyway, he finally gets to the point and tags me with this Five Things You Didn't Know About Me crap.

Fine. It's the holidays. Peace on Earth, good will toward men, yada yada yada. So I'll play along.

1. I don't speak Spanish

I know what you're thinking. How the fuck is someone supposed to operate in this town when they can't even speak the language? I spend a lot of time talking loudly and slowly. Because, you know, that always works. For some reason I'm constantly met with odd comments people must have learned from a phrase book, like "Fuck you, I'm a goddamn Harvard grad, asshole". Then they slap me.

Sure, it's my own fault. I took French in high school. Language of love, my ass. Language of indecipherable vowel movements. No, sorry, the first three letters are silent and the last two must be spoken through a specialized wine funnel while gargling sparrow piss. Want to know what I learned in French class?

Ou est le toilette?

Je n'a pas su elle était votre soeur.

For the record, that second doesn't help you much when her brother catches you with her panties on your head.

2. I have never been to jail

So far as you know.

3. I have yet to learn to drive a stick shift

If god had meant us to drive with both hands he wouldn't have given us cup holders and drive-thru Starbucks. What is it with you people? Might as well have a horse and buggy. What, are you Amish?

Look, it's simple. Stomp on the gas, drive the car. None of this mucking about with 1st and 2nd or 5th or 12th or whatever the fuck it is you people do with those things. How's a guy supposed to do balloons of nitrous when he needs more than one hand to move the fucking vehicle?

Goddamn Luddites.

4. I once painted a giant, plastic cow for a production of Oklahoma

"Surrey With The Fringe On Top" still haunts my nightmares. As do songs from Cats, A Chorus Line, Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Anything Goes, and, dear sweet Jesus shoot me, Pippin. I've had others surgically burned from my memory. Amazing what you can do with a lighter and a coat hanger these days.

If he weren't already dead I'd hunt down Cole Porter and beat him over the head with a Leko. Musical theater. This is why Bob Fosse drank.

5. I was a Boy Scout

Scary, no? Made it to two ranks below Eagle.

Don't believe the hype. There are no more dangerous a group of thugs than the Scouts. Like Lord of the fucking Flies. Especially when they're run by your Army drill sergeant father. Think of a weekend long cage match in the Sierras. With wild boars and rattlesnakes. There's a reason they teach us how to use knives.

Explains a lot, doesn't it?

'Tis The Season

Los Angeles, CA

Like the best, or perhaps most ruthless, retailers, violence never really takes a holiday break.

A 187 in Silver Lake. Neighbors heard shots and when they went out to check, they found a man dead by his car. No name, yet, and there don't appear to be gang affiliations. Shot on Christmas down by the river. Makes the Baby Jesus sad.

Another shooting in Boyle Heights. No details.

Mixing it up a bit, we have somebody bringing a knife to a gunfight. Seems somebody finally snapped and went after his roommates with a 6 inch butcher knife, ignoring calls to stop by the police. It ended in the inevitable fact that the guy with the biggest weapon (and greatest rate of fire) usually wins.

There's the Christmas murder of Jaime Serafin-Reyes, 48, who was found in an industrial area down by the railroad tracks in Santa Ana. Coroner hasn't cracked him open, yet, but from the external wounds they're pretty sure it's a homicide.

Then we have a manhunt for Oscar Gabriel Gallegos down in Long Beach. Seems he took some shots at LBPD officers Abe Yap, 35, and Roy Wade Jr., 39, on Christmas Eve after being pulled over for running a red light.
According to police, Gallegos surprised Yap and Wade when he jumped out of his sport utility vehicle after being stopped and immediately started firing. He struck the patrol car's windshield at least six times. Yap and Wade were unable to return fire or get out of their vehicle.
Yeah, no shit. They're in critical condition breathing with ventilators.
Gallegos was described as 5 feet 9 and 250 pounds, with tattoos on both forearms and short hair or a shaved head.
Five feet nine and 250 pounds? How do you call that in? "Suspect is a tattooed beach ball armed with a 9mm semi-automatic. Bounces if pushed."

Nothing yet on toddlers taking a round being shot into the air, but as Tom Waits says, it's only twenty-five 'til nine.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Party's Over, Move Along - Flashing In The Gutters Is No More

The ever popular Flashing In The Gutters has pulled the plug.

Some assholes decided to bring down the party and Tribe, with a kind of no bullshit attitude that will always have me on his side in a barfight, has decided to take it down.

I don't know the details beyond what he has posted in his blog. But ya know, I don't have to.

Sad as I am to see the site go and all the fiction on it disappear into the aether, I have to agree with his decision to take it down. When it stops being fun, when the pissiness and bullshit get too much, it's time to walk away. And as he says, "I’m too fucking old to be scolded."

One more reason to like the man.

Graham Powell Appreciation Day

Graham Powell, one of the hardest men in show business... No, wait. That's Ron Jeremy, isn't it?

Well, at any rate, one of the hardest working men in blogosphere crime fiction. How about that? As to the size of his schlong, though, I couldn't tell ya.

His site, CrimeSpot is a repository of all, or at least many, of the crime fiction related blogs out there. You want to know what's going on? Check CrimeSpot.

Graham has worked his ass off in putting it together, keeping it live. It's like one stop shopping for murder, death and destruction. I'm proud and delighted that he's stuck this site on it. I mean, it says a lot about a guy who'll let titles with FUCK in bold letters appear next to blogs on cat cozies.

Clearly, it's not a family show.

Thanks Graham. Thanks for all the hard work, for all the time you've spent dealing with code, and RSS feeds and the various ups and downs of Blogger Beta.

And in appreciation of Mr. Powell, I think it's only fitting that we say a few things about this hardcore man's man (not, you know, that way).
  • When Graham Powell cries he cries tear of liquid fire that flows from his eyes and engulfs his enemies.
  • Graham Powell is not only bulletproof, but also immune to knives, staph infections and the clap.
  • Graham Powell once turned back the Might Mississippi River, just by peeing in it.
  • Graham Powell's presence is such that women swoon the moment he walks in... to the county.
So go visit the site, boys and girls. You won't be disappointed.

Because that's the only thing Graham Powell doesn't know how to do.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Solstice - Now Stop Fucking Killing Each Other

Los Angeles, CA

Don't you just love this season? The mistletoe, the christmas trees, the murder/suicides. On this brisk, sunny Winter Solstice, let's take a look at what we've got.
And, of course, the obligatory warning that shooting bullets into the air is a bad idea.

Well, as a counterpoint, here's a picture of three young choirboys readying themselves for Father Chickenhawk.

Happy holidays.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat. "We're all mad here."

Los Angeles, CA

Occasionally I look up writers I'm reading to see what else they've done. In the midst of reading L.A. Rex, I'm finding myself on a bit of a Will Beall kick. Partly because he's a hell of a writer and partly because he understands Los Angeles.

People ask me sometimes what's so great about L.A.? It's a fucked up town to be sure. Well, Mr. Beall sums it up perfectly in a piece written last month for AOL news.
Case in Point: About a year and a half ago, in a wildlife sanctuary just outside of town - a kind of retirement home for movie monkeys - St. James Davis and his wife Ladonna threw a birthday party for their pet chimpanzee, Moe. "Pet" might be the wrong word here because the Davises had raised Moe like an adopted son. The thing had grown up wearing children's clothes and eating cereal in the Davises' home, but they'd been forced to place Moe in this sanctuary after he'd blown a gasket, run amok in their neighborhood and bitten a cop. Gloria Allred, the same attorney who represented Amber Frey during the Scott Peterson trial, represented the long-suffering Davises in an unsuccessful suit to free Moe from the sanctuary. The Davises still dropped in on Moe almost every weekend, the way you'd visit a relative in prison.

At his birthday party, the Davises had a little cake for Moe. Candles. They might have had party hats. I mean, why throw a party for a chimpanzee if you're not going to put him in one of those conical hats? Anyhow, some time during the party a couple of Moe's cellmates got loose and attacked St. James and Ladonna. The chimps ripped off St. James' nose, plucked out his right eye, gnawed off his fingers and part of his foot. There were heartbreaking rumors that one of the attackers was Bear from BJ and The Bear.

I want you to think about that for a moment: This dude had his face eaten off at a birthday party he threw for his wrongly-imprisoned chimpanzee.
That, my friends, is Los Angeles.

When I think of this town and the crazy shit that goes on here I find myself thinking, beyond the obligatory Alice In Wonderland references, of Hunter Thompson. "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." And this town is their office.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Head Bangers In Leather

Somewhere In The Dark Soul of Maine

Over at Hillbillies And Hitmen, The Good Mr. Bagley is holding a fiction contest.

The topic is Heavy Metal Noir.
All stories must relate in some way to the heavy metal music of 1970 to 1990 (though stories can be set today, as long as there is some reference or flashback to that time period). The characters need not be musicians themselves, as long as they have something to do with the metal scene. They can be roadies, guitar techs, managers, groupies, drug dealers, club owners, girlfriends, boyfriends, relatives, record producers, concert promoters, fans, record store clerks, deejays, irate parents, religious leaders who hate the music, etc. If your characters are band members, they can be anything from stadium headliners to a Tuesday night opening act at The Troubadour to a garage band in some hick town. And, hey, don’t forget the noir aspect, either…keep it down-and-dirty, dude.
And there's prizes, too. An autographed copy of The Drummer by Anthony Neil Smith of Plots With Guns fame as well as a CD from Mr. Bagley's personal stash.

So check the official rules and get crackin'. I got my eye on some Motörhead.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Plea For The 77th

Los Angeles, CA

Will Beall is the author of L.A. Rex, a novel about cops and crooks in Los Angeles' 77th Street District.

I'll talk about the novel later since I'm not done with it yet, but so far it's one of the best I've read this year, and that's saying something.

One of the interesting things about Mr. Beall is that he is also Officer Beall. He patrols the same 77th that he writes about.

The 77th Street District is the harshest, most ugly part of Los Angeles, hands down. It's 12 square miles and holds about 175,000 people. As of the latest published Compstat (warning .PDF), the 77th has had 64 homicides, 83 rapes, 1457 robberies and 1483 aggravated assaults this year alone.

Everything is worse this year. Though AA's look like they're down, the LAPD stopped reporting domestic violence cases along with AA's earlier this year in keeping with the FBI reporting guidelines. If you mix those two up you'll see that AA's have actually jumped to 2425, a sharp spike upward from last year's 1792.

A few days ago the L.A. Times ran an op-ed piece by Mr. Beall on the progress made by the LAPD to shorten the trust gap between the LAPD and Los Angeles' black community.
Black men have bled and died down here for generations. When you process crime scenes in 77th and collect the empty shell casings from the ground, sometimes you find older casings, tinged with rust — the leftovers from some earlier, unreported shooting. Tragedy heaped upon tragedy, death upon death, and the trail of blood stretches back further than most of us care to look.

Many people are content to let poor black men kill one another. Fortunately, the men and women I serve with are not among them. Our vigorous pursuit of black perpetrators is legendary; we're less famous for our corollary efforts on behalf of black victims. Officers work in 77th Division because they believe the powerless are worth protecting.
It's beautifully written. And sad. A stark reminder of a reality in Los Angeles for far too many.

Read it. And if it doesn't make you cry just a little, then you're a harder man than I.

From The Guys Who Brought You The "Chicken Dance"

Anaheim, CA

Fifty-seven suspected members of the white supremacist gang Public Enemy Number One were arrested Friday in a sweep by Anaheim police after a month long investigation into death threats against local law enforcement.

Looks like they're pretty much throwing everything at them. Possession of illegal weapons, narcotics violations, forgery, identity theft, among other things. The group has ties to the Aryan Brotherhood, too, not that that's illegal, but it certainly can't be helping their case any.

I used to work with a guy from South Carolina who would go on at length about interviews with local Klan leaders on the radio. One story I recall is an interviewer confronting the Grand Poo-Bah Anal Dragon Fluffer, or whatever the fuck they call themselves, on his stance that everyone who wasn't white should leave the country because the whites got here first.

"Well, what about the native Americans? The ones who were already here."


"Well... they can stay 'cause they make nice beads and thangs."

Ah, yes. The Master Race.

Dukes of Hazzard, Tijuana Style

San Diego, CA

Jovanni Mendoza, a Tijuana man who has had a ten year run moving people, drugs and god knows what else across the border, has been sentenced to 19 years in the hoosegow for 10 felony counts of smuggling.

He's been cited as being responsible for a series of high speed chases through San Diego county throughout his decade long career shuttling contraband into California. Early last year they finally snagged him, picking him up after he was caught going the wrong way on a freeway with 5 illegals and 700 pounds of marijuana in his truck. He crashed into a CHP car and somehow managed to limp away, only to be picked up the next week at a checkpoint on the same freeway.

Score one for Boss Hogg.

New Body Dumping Ground Opens On 10 Freeway

Coachella, CA

Caltrans workers doing cleanup on the eastbound 10 Freeway found a dead man, Saturday morning. According to Riverside police, he was dumped after being assaulted and killed somewhere else.

I'm actually kind of surprised I don't hear more of this sort of thing. It makes sense when you think about it. Why dig a shallow grave when the crows are going to lead the cops to it, anyway?

It's back breaking work. The digging, the hauling, the covering over, the realization that you misjudged by a foot and a half in all dimensions and there's a pair of blood slick Doc Marten's sticking straight up into the air.

But now we live in the age of convenience. Just do 80 down the freeway and toss it out the back and let the road crews clean it up. Now if only they'd offer pick-up service we'd be set.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

They Just Don't Make Ninjas Like They Used To

Laguna Niguel, CA

Timothy M. Clinch, 31, was arrested after allegedly breaking into a house in Laguna Niguel and threatening a woman with a samurai sword.

The woman went downstairs when she heard a suspicious noise and was confronted by Clinch, who put the sword to her throat. He then goes on to tell her that her husband, who was asleep upstairs, was tied up in the living room. When he was confronted with the reality of that, he told her, "Oh, so your husband thinks he's a fucking hero?" and ran outside to go look for him.

So she locked him outside and called the cops.

They found him hiding under an SUV when deputies saw his hand sticking out from underneath it.

He Knows If You've Been Naughty

Moreno Valley, CA

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And he's a narc.

A Moreno Valley sheriff dressed as Santa Claus nailed 23 motorists for failing to yield to a pedestrian at a crosswalk. He dressed in the suit to make himself more visible to the drivers and then walked back and forth along the sidewalk.

What a wonderful idea. I think all police forces should do the same.

Santa SWAT units, Santa homicide detectives. Undercover Santas stealthily moving through the night, protecting the innocent and downtrodden like a fleet of red-suited superheroes. Nobody would suspect that Santa is actually our nation's latest law enforcer as he stands on the street corner with his little bell and hawk-like gaze scanning the streets for evil-doers. Then opens up a can of Christmas whoop-ass on the rapists and robbers plaguing these mean streets.

I wonder if he has a utility belt like Batman.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

NyQuil, The Gateway Drug

Temecula, CA

Three students from Temecula High were taken to the emergency room after OD'ing on, get this, cold medicine. Police aren't saying what cold medicine it is, but the news reports posits that it's probably dextromethorphan, a common cough suppressant found in NyQuil, Robitussin etc.

Wow. There's so much stupid here I don't know where to start.

Why are the police involved? Last time I checked being an idiot wasn't a crime, though maybe it should be.

How desperate do you have to be to want to down a gallon of Nyquil? Shit's like Jaeger and gasoline mixed with llama spit.
Poison control experts have reported four deaths nationwide from the misuse of the cold medication, according to Adams, who could not be reached to elaborate on his prepared statement.
Dear God! Ban it! It's dangerous! Keep the children who are clearly too fucking stupid to live safe from their own pinheaded idiocy!

Let evolution take its course. Let 'em kick. Because you know what's going to happen, right? They're going to get out of the hospital and say, "Wow. That sucked. I'm sticking to ecstasy."

OD. On cough medicine. Fuckin' lightweights.

Dye Packs - The Whoopee Cushion Of The Banking Industry

Santa Fe Springs, CA


1) Walk into Bank

2) Hand note to teller

3) Get bag of money

4) Leave

4a) Have bag blow up in face
Police could not immediately confirm an eyewitness report that the suspect demanded $20 and $50 bills and wore a blue hat and blue jacket.
Was that before or after the dye pack went off?

A Day For Rewards

Los Angeles, CA

The Los Angeles county Board of Supervisors has renewed two $10,000.00 rewards and the Los Angeles City Council has set up one $75,000.00 and one $50,000.00 reward for information on 4 murders.

Back in July, Dr. Esfandiar Kadivar, 64, was gunned down at his ranch in Lancaster. No suspects and no motive. The County has renewed their reward for leads in his death.

And in June, Edward Politelli, 72, of Canyon Country was stabbed to death outside of a pizza place in Santa Clarita. The reward on his killers has also been extended.

The city has created the rewards to find the killers of Christopher Fragoso (gangland killing on October 14th) and Zelvin Reyes (popped at a party on Figueroa July 22nd).

If any of these names ring a bell give it some thought. It could be worth a few bucks.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Horror and Noir

A word of warning. This one's a little more rambling than most of my rants. Be forewarned.

Tribe, a remarkably intelligent and literate gentleman (why he publishes my crap is beyond me) has an interview with author Christa Faust. Aside from several tie-in novels, Snakes On A Plane, Final Destination III, etc, she's also an accomplished novelist in her own right, exploring pulpy noir stories with the likes of Hoodtown (warning: PDF), Money Shot and soon Choke Hold.

She's good. I think I may hate her for how good she is. Fun and pulpy and nasty and no-holds-barred, as all good noir should be.

This part of the interview struck me as very interesting, and something I wholeheartedly agree with.
But yeah, I do think horror and noir are kissing cousins. They both deal with the darker side of human nature, though horror often uses the metaphor of the supernatural while noir sticks to the horrors of the real world. Of course, there is a quiet, more traditional subgenre of horror in which brave humans always beat back the evil monster and restore normality, (the horror equivalent of “cozies”) but edgier, morally ambiguous horror leads the reader on that noirish downward spiral in which nothing is what it seems and everyone is, to quote James Ellroy, “fucked.”

I’ve always seen a clear parallel between the Splatterpunk horror writers of the 80s and early 90s and the hardboiled Black Mask writers of the 20s and early 30s. Both groups pissed off their predecessors by breaking all the rules. They both thumbed their noses at proper English and used vulgar, “common” language. Both depicted graphic, realistic violence and sex in a way that was quite shocking to readers of their respective eras. And both changed the course of history while many of their more traditional, rule-obeying contemporaries have since fallen into obscurity.

Over the last few years we've been getting a lot of cross-over with paranormal and horror. I make the distinction only because a lot of the paranormal cross-overs seem to be driven more in Romance than anywhere else. Horror Romance won't sell. Paranormal Romance, well, there's a different story. Not a lot of people are exploring horror and noir, however.

There's Charlie Huston's Already Dead and it's follow-up, No Dominion, hard-boiled vampire action.

But other than that there's not a lot out there. Cross-overs are tricky. Everyone wants to pigeonhole a book. It's how they get sold. Is it horror? Is it noir? Look at Anne Frasier. Her latest book, Pale Immortal definitely crosses over from Thriller to Horror and back again very well. I think it was marketed wrong as something between mystery and thriller and it never really truck me as either. The publisher should be bitch slapped for that. The horror is understated, but very much a part of the story. I would go so far as to say that it drives it, in fact.

Oh, and as a plug, buy the goddamn book. It's remarkably well done and one of the best horror novels I've read in years. Strong character driven plot, lots of dark secrets and moody as all get out. She's working on the sequel. Buy that one when it comes out, too.

In this post on her blog she admits that she is, in fact, a horror writer. God love ya, Anne. There aren't nearly enough GOOD horror writers out there.

This whole lack of cross-over both saddens me and makes me happy. On the one hand, there aren't a lot of those sorts of books done well that I particularly enjoy. Already Dead is hands down the winner so far. But it's noir first and horror second. I like reading horror and crime. like Reese's they're two great tastes that taste great together.

But on the other hand, I've got a vested interest in horror noir. It's what I'm writing. By the time Zombie Joe is ready to sell (yes that's really the title) I want there to be a market for it. Of course, if Ken Bruen writes a zombie story I might as well just hang it up.

So where do we draw the lines? When is it horror and when is it noir? If you throw a demon into the story is it horror? or is it just a cartoon characterization of a noir antagonist? Thoughts? Comments? Rude opinions about my personal hygiene? Sound off, people. Let me know what you think.

If Someone Asks "Where You From?" Just Fucking Shoot Him

Norwalk, CA

That simple question seems to have become the gangbangers calling card.

A recent example is 15-year-old James Bagsby, who, it was announced last week, is going to be tried as an adult, asked that question of a group of 10 year olds playing basketball right before firing randomly into the crowd, killing one boy and seriously wounding his brother.

Another is this one out of Norwalk where the passenger of a car was shot several times by men who pulled up alongside and asked the immortal question.

Okay, look, I'm not particularly conservative. Really. I'm pro-choice, most times I vote Democrat, I almost never vote Republican. Worst case is that I'm a moderate leaning Libertarian.

But I think we need to all be licensed to carry handguns. A safety test, an effective registration system, thumbprints, retina scans, I give a fuck. But something to allow the innocent people who are just trying to get home from a party to not get blown away from some fucking Dogpatch or Rude Boy taking potshots for points.

The existing laws to restrict handgun ownership do fuck all to keep weapons from criminals. They're not buying them from gun shops, folks. Last year's Guns For Gifts program in Compton netted over 200 weapons, many of them severaly illegal in any state. We're talking Uzis and Destructive Devices, here. Saturday Night Specials are the least of our worries these days.

Because We Just Don't Have Enough Stabbings In This Town

Los Angeles, CA

No name on this one, yet. A twenty-five year old man was found at West Olympic and South Broadway stabbed five times in "an apparent gang-related attack".

No shit. Gang related? In 18th Street territory? The hell you say.

Grocery Stores and Thunderdome - In Riverside There's Not Much Difference

Riverside, CA

Denaya Marie Shanks, 19, and Michael Edward Benge, 24, were shot and killed outside a Stater Brothers grocery store. Multiple gunshot wounds. Ms Shanks was dead on scene and Mr. Benge kicked later that afternoon at the hospital.

Regular readers here should know by now that I hold Riverside with the same contempt I have for colonoscopies, prostate exams and the French.

Not that there aren't cool people there. But, as the saying goes, friends don't let friends live in Riverside. Move out for god's sake. Sure the violence is just as bad out here, but there's less dirt.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mugshots - The Final Lineup

I got six, count 'em SIX! damn fine stories sent over here based on the Mugshots post a couple weeks ago.

Thanks go to Mr. Bagley for starting the idea.

So, in case you missed them, here they are.

Mugshots #1 - The Luck of the Irish - by Gerald So
Mugshots #2 - # Free Wheeling - by Sandra Seamans
Mugshots #3 - # Spinout by Kari Hayes
Mugshots #4 - # Under The Influence by Anne Frasier
Mugshots #5 - # All Blondes Look Alike by Lyman Feero
Mugshots #6 - # The Smurf by Patrick Shawn Bagley

Enjoy, boys and girls. They're all wonderfully done and deliciously fucked up. Just the way I like it.