Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bar Brawl Etiquette

Lakewood, CA

Now, I don't get into bar fights. I bruise easy. And squeal when hit. A lot. But one thing I've learned is that it's all fun and games until somebody grabs a pool cue. Looks like Richard Lee Thompson, 47, is new to that lesson.

Back on St. Patty's Day, seems Mr. Thompson had a bit of a tiff with one Steven Toole at the Breakers Bar in Lakewood. Something about a mis-delivered beer. Anyway, voices were raised, shoves exchanged, until, finally, Mr. Thompson whacked Mr. Toole with the aforementioned pool cue, killing him.

Thompson was picked up then released, as prosecutors dug into the assault. Now, with coroner's report firmly in hand showing that Toole kicked from blunt force trauma to the back of the skull, they've charged him with involuntary manslaughter. Four years at the outside if convicted.

Really, sometimes it's just better to walk away.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Buy These Books

For they are the roxxors. Or whatever it is you wacky kids are saying these days. Get off my lawn!

Anyway.

Books officially out yesterday from two of my favorite people. Bobbie Faye's (kinda, sorta, not exactly) Family Jewels by Toni McGee Causey and Severance Package by Duane Swierczynski.

Go read these. Now. Seriously.

Why are you still here?

There are books out there, dammit. On paper and everything. What is wrong with you? Go to a bookstore and buy the goddamn books. Oh, don't look at me like that. It's not my fault you can't spell Swie- Swre- Whatever the hell his name is.

Look, just ask the guy at the store. Yes, the one with the pimples.  No, the hot chick in the glasses reading Tolstoy is not going to talk to you.  She doesn't talk to anybody.  I've tried.  I--

Okay, fine, so she talked to you.  And you got her number.  Whatever.  I-- What?  Fuck you.  I am not a stalker.  She totally did not call me that.

... Yeah, okay.  So there's a restraining order.  What of it?

Look, just go buy the books, already.  Jesus.

And get off my lawn.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Guns Don't Kill People, Kids Kill People

Los Angeles, CA

It's nice to see children being enterprising, isn't it? God knows we don't have enough juvies in lockup.

A kid shot three people outside a Rite-Aid in Garvanza. Did you know there was a place in L.A. called Garvanza? Bet the shooter didn't know that, either.

Anyway, he tagged his target twice in the arms, and nailed a fourteen year old girl in the head in a nearby car. She's brain dead.

Fourteen years old.  Can we have a do-over, please?

The 8-Hour Stand-Off Is The New High Speed Car Chase

Woodland Hills, CA

Used to be you could count on some asshat in a stolen El Camino running meth from Lancaster to make L.A. traffic his bitch. Today they don't even need to leave the house.

The 101 freeway was shut down between Topanga and DeSoto for 8 hours Saturday morning after police were called in on a domestic dispute at a nearby residence.

I wonder sometimes if SWAT gets brought in less to end the standoff and more to keep pissed off drivers from heading over to beat the shit out of the suspect. Pull this shit on a weekday and you'll see just how murderous a 9-5er can get.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Mother's Day Nightmare

Palmdale, CA

Thirteen-year-old Stevona Campbell was last seen at a Mother's Day party at her family's home Sunday night.  She went out around 7:00. She was found about 12 hours later in a ditch and wrapped in a rug.

Her name has just been released and her death ruled a homicide. Cause of death is pending the coroner's report.

I cannot imagine the incredible loss and pain the family must be feeling. To lose a child on Mother's Day has a sick irony that just makes this so much more tragic.

If anyone has any information please call the Sheriff's Department at 323-890-5500.

I'd Like To See Tiger Do This

Santa Ana, CA

Golf. Such an idyllic game. You can get exercise, fresh air, a gun waved in your face by manic Sheriff's Deputies.

Raymond K. Yi, a former reserve deputy for Orange County and the martial arts instructor for ex-Sheriff Michael Carona, was convicted yesterday of making criminal threats and is faces 3 years in prison.

He was arrested in 2005 at Los Serranos Golf & Country Club in Chino Hills for allegedly pulling his gun and badge while threatening two other golfers. Seems they were playing too slowly and when Mr. Yi hit his ball twice (TWICE! OMG!!1!1!) into their, what do you call it? Green? Purple? Something? Seems that's a major faux pas. I think. The fuck do I know about golf? So they hit his ball out of the way, prompting Mr. Yi to respond in the only appropriate manner.

I've never been a big golf fan. Obviously. I'm more a blood sport kind of guy. If someone doesn't leave the area bruised or bleeding what's the point?

But if you're bringing guns into golf, hell, I might have to rethink this.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lawyers. Who Needs 'Em?

Los Angeles, CA

Anthony Pellicano, that's who. Betting he's wishing he'd sprung for one instead of trying to represent himself. What's that phrase about a fool for a client?

Mr. Pellicano, as he referred to himself throughout the trial, has been convicted of racketeering and conspiracy using illegal wiretaps and intimidation tactics. He's up for a host of other charges, too. No word yet on whether he's gotten tagged with those. Right now he's looking at 8 to 10.

Now the real fun can begin. He now has an interesting opportunity to really fuck with some of Hollywood's high and mighty. After all, sentencing hasn't happened, yet.  

If you take a big whiff, you can smell the deal cookin'.

Pictures Are For Terrorists

Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles has some of the most photographed landscapes in the world. You've seen its freeways, its beaches, its botoxed porn stars (yes, they're landscape - have you seen those boobs?). The city has appeared in more movies than the Wilhelm Scream. So you'd think the idea of walking around and taking pictures of it would be kind of, you know, not a problem.

You'd be wrong

Boing Boing has two posts on people being accosted by law enforcement for taking pictures. One at the Port of Los Angeles, which though I don't agree with it I can see where some people might get a bit idgy, and one at a Red Line Metro station, which makes no fucking sense at all.

Seriously, is anybody actually riding the Red Line? As subways go it's pretty weak. And it's not like it actually interconnects the city. I can think of a dozen easier, more effective targets to hit just off the top of my head. Stick a bomb in a taco truck and you've got your pick.

Sadly, this little drama is being played out all over the place, not just here. Welcome to America in the 21st Century.

Now it seems to me that the problem here is not so much with law enforcement, though they play their part. It's the panicked civic workers who are short on knowledge and long on hysteria. I would be surprised if any of them ever got specific training on what is and is not legal. As opposed to what is and is not sanctioned by their employers. You need to know fuck all about law to run cable through tunnels.

So when some freaked out maintenance worker / security guard / yoga mom with a stroller and a latte reports "suspicious activity" the LEO's gotta check it out. That's their job. I wish more of them would check it out from a distance and realize that the emo kid with the $4K Leica isn't exactly, you know, the terrorist type, and tell the panicked maintenance worker / security guard / yoga mom with a stroller and a latte to shut the hell up and let him worry about important things.

People are freaked out these days and they need to calm the fuck down and learn a little bit about what is and isn't a threat. Maybe a little education would help.

Or hiring people who aren't fucking morons.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Take Your Medicine

Anthony Neil Smith's new novel, Yellow Medicine is out today from Bleak House Books.

Go grab yourself a copy.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Great Psychobilly Blog Road Trip of 2008: Day 6, Part 3

I thought I was safe.

When Anthony Neil Smith announced he was going round to spread the word about Yellow Medicine I figured he wouldn't head out this way. But then he grabbed Patti, Dusty and that crazy fucker in Maine.

But still. He wouldn't come out here. There are laws against that kind of shit. I thought I was safe.

I was wrong.

---

Last stop: William Boyle's The Narrow Margin Blog

We'll soon need toothpicks to prop our eyelids open. But here we are again, West Coast, Los Angeles, sun and sparkle hiding a seedy underbelly (obviously), looking for noir pulpster Stephen Blackmoore. How do we find him? Easy: we follow the sound of the guitar.

Well, not his guitar, but Eddie Van Halen's, as I remember the great title of his story that won him a free signed copy of The Drummer: "Like That Japanese Chick What Broke Up Van Halen". It's been taken off the web now, but you can find plenty of stories just as or more than solid flung out far and wide. Like Sumo, or A Fire in Her Eyes, or (my fave of course) Come to Jesus. The first line: "Heather does a lot of cocaine." That's a keeper. And he keeps it real. His blog is not just a place for us to wallow in the glorious muck of crime fiction, but also to feel the pang of real crime having an impact on real people. You get that connection in his work, too. Fun, wild, but with an emotional core that makes you nod and say, "Yeah, I understand. Sure as fuck do."

We pull up to the curb to find him with his two enormous dogs, both straining at the leash, snapping, growling, as we try to exit the vehicle. Stephen's got a Cheshire Cat grin as he watches us cower before their might--that was the idea all along. "They can come too, right?"

You don't need a dog to be a Crimedog, but it doesn't hurt. And you don't need to be from Minnesota or Mississippi to appreciate the conflicted anti-hero Billy Lafitte, either. We've all been cold in our lives, but Billy's been colder. We've all been in over our heads, but Billy's been in...um...more over. Did I mention the fact that he also intimidates a drunk doctor who claims to have slept with Billy's ex-wife? Yeah, you don't do that to a guy with a gun, a badge, and no sense of decency. Yellow Medicine. *Psychobilly Monday, May 12. All up to you.

Stephen and the dogs climb aboard this outlaw party barge of ours and on we go. By sunrise tomorrow, we'll be at the next stop, deep in the East Texas woods, where the legendary Bill Crider is waiting.

Driving Time: A New York Minute
Tune for the leg: "87 Southbound" by Hank III

---

"You know they're gonna catch ya?" I say, taking a swig from the nearly empty bottle of Wild Turkey. I've hidden all the scotch in the house. No way these bastard's are getting into my Macallan. One of the dogs farts. Or maybe it's Gischler.

Smith laughs. Kind of laugh makes your blood run cold. Pulls the Hummer-sine away from the curb.

"Us," he says. "Catch 'us'. Best you get to used to the word."

I thought I was safe.

Friday, May 09, 2008

'There Was A Ship,' Quoth He

Patty Abbott has been asking some folks to talk about old favorite books on Fridays. Those ones we might have forgotten, but never for long. Even if it seems the rest of the world did.

Like Tim Powers' On Stranger Tides.

Long before some spastic 21 Jump Street reject traipsed around the Caribbean in too much mascara, Tim Powers did it better. This is Treasure Island the way it should have been.

On Stranger Tides tells the story of John Chandagnac, an 18th century puppeteer traveling from Europe to the Caribbean to confront the uncle who cheated his father out of a fortune. When pirates attack the ship he's sailing on, an inside job orchestrated by the story's antagonist, a mad, one-armed Oxford professor who carries a severed head in a box, he's forced to make The Choice. Become part of the crew or part of a shark's lunch. Chandagnac becomes 'Jack Shandy' and, despite his best efforts to not run with the wrong crowd, finds himself getting deeper and deeper into the life. And deeper into some supreme weirdness.

Powers seeds the facts of Blackbeard, Ponce De Leon, and life on the high seas with voodoo magic, the walking dead, sword and sea fights so brutal you wince just thinking about them. His characters are vivid; jaded pirates, English sorcerers, a voodoo priest named Woefully Fat who won't die until he's damn good and ready. Crews long dead come back to finish a fight they started a hundred years before.

Powers does secret histories well. His research is meticulous, taking the facts and tying them together in magic and mayhem as if to say, "That's what you think happened. This is what really happened." He weaves truth with fiction so well that it's sometimse difficult to tell where the lines lie between the history and the fantasy.

Now this isn't world changing literature, I'll admit. But it grabbed me when I read it twenty years ago and it's never let go.

The book came out in 1987, faded away, was reprinted by Babbage Press in 2006 and got a hardcover reprint by Subterranean just last month.

If you pick up a copy I encourage you to grab the Babbage Press printing. The publishers ran Dangerous Visions on Ventura Boulevard for years before it closed shop in 2002 and moved to the web. They deserve some love. You can find their virtual storefront now at Infinite Worlds.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

This Rant Brought To You By The Fucktards At Medicare

Okay, rant time again. No, this has nothing to do with noir or writing. Just so you know.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have proposed adding nine new conditions to a list of things it wouldn't pay for treatment of if they're contracted during a hospital stay. To save money.

Okay. Fine. I can actually accept that. My problem here isn't that there's a list, but rather what's on that list.
  • Surgical-site infections after total knee replacement, laparoscopic gastric bypass and gastroenterostomy, or ligation and stripping of varicose veins.
  • Legionnaires' disease.
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis, nonketotic hyperosmolar coma, diabetic coma or hypoglycemic coma.
  • Iatrogenic pneumothorax.
  • Delirium.
  • Ventilator-associated pneumonia.
  • Deep-vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.
  • Staphylococcus aureus septicemia.
  • Clostridium difficile-associated disease.
Everything there is not only common, but in many cases expected. Surgical site infections HAPPEN. Period. It's built into the treatment protocol. You're on a ventilator for very long, guess what you'll get? Especially if you have any respiratory issues to begin with. Like the kind that might have brought you to the hospital in the first place and put you on a ventilator.

Staph is the most common bug found in hospitals. Unfortunately, it's been turning into something called MRSA - Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. It's that superbug that's been running rampant through hospitals all over the world because we've been taking so many goddamn antibiotics. You know, the one that fucking kills you when your immune system is down? Like, say, after surgery? In the hospital?

And this one's my favorite. Clostridium difficile-associated disease. You've probably had a mild bout of it at some point. This happens when the bugs in your gut that keep you shitting right get wiped out from the antibiotics you're on. Oh yeah, and if it's severe enough IT CAN KILL YOU.

Is it preventable? Sure it is. Easy to prevent. Don't give your patients any antibiotics. Really, who needs 'em?

Now, to play devil's advocate with myself, some of these can be prevented. Keep your A/C units clean and you can pretty much knock out Legionnaire's Disease. MRSA could be reduced severely by changing some of the ways patients are handled and seen by doctors.

So, let's take the argument that these are preventable, which in some cases isn't necessarily true, but work with me.

What happens if someone does come down with something on this list? Does the hospital not treat it? Fuck no. This shit's life threatening. If you're in the hospital it's because you're sick. If you're sick your immune system's compromised. If your immune system's compromised any of these things, say it with me, CAN KILL YOU.

No, what happens is that the hospitals bill the fuck out of you for the 400 mg of Metronidazole every 8 hours they put you on to keep you from shitting out all your electrolytes and dehydrating yourself to death. 'Cause, you know, that's bad.

But that's okay. Because Medicare only covers the people who don't really need it. The ones with plenty of cash lying around. Bucketsful of the stuff, in fact. Hell, these people wipe their asses with a stack of Benjamins every goddamn day. They-- Oh, wait.

That's right. The people who are most susceptible to this, the ones who will really need the help are the ones who are going to get fucked.

Let's take this horror story a step further. Let's say that the hospitals, because they're taking it in the shorts since Medicare isn't paying them for the medications they're giving people to keep them alive when this stuff happens, let's say they start treating these things less.

Yay! You've saved costs! And sure maybe some people have died from MRSA, but more likely you've just shoved them out the door before that can happen. I mean, they're on Medicare. Some of them, quite a few of them actually, are homeless. It's not like you're going to get your money back. Shareholders and taxpayers are gonna be mighty pissed if you go all the way and spend that money.

What's the worst that can happen?

Beyond releasing potentially fatal infectious diseases back into an already unhealthy and immune compomised population? I'll take Disease Vectors for 800, Alex.

Well, that's one way to combat homelessness. Hey, it worked on the American Indians, didn't it? What, you thought all those smallpox infected blankets grew on trees?

Now, I know that's an extreme. I know that's not going to happen. No one in this nation could be so callous. No hospital in their right mind would ever just take a patient, drive them up to Skid Row and dump them, right? People couldn't possibly be that cru--

Well, fuck.

The thing that really gets me about this is this line in the AMA article.
Some hailed the Medicare proposal.
Really? They did? Who are these fuckers? Seriously, I'd like to know.

I want to see these people stand up and say that MRSA, the single most dangerous infectious threat facing hospitals today, is something they don't think our nation's last chance health care option should pay to treat.

Preferably in open, well lit conditions with no cross breeze.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Bullets Won't Stop Her

The Edgar Award winners were announced last night, and though I know these are all excellent books, only one name really stands out to me.

Megan Abbott took the award for Best Paperback Original for her novel, Queenpin. It's so well deserved, words fail me.

Seriously, if you haven't picked this up you need to go get it right the fuck now. Along with her previous two novels, Die a Little and the haunting The Song Is You. The woman's a goddamn force of nature. Jim Thompson without the alcohol. Ellroy without the hubris.

So I'm going to stop now before I start getting all poetical and shit. But seriously, get these books.

Congratulations, Megan. Couldn't have happened to a nicer gal.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Because Crime Stories Matter

The Intarwebs

In case you hadn't noticed, I have a lot of respect for sick bastards. Like Anthony Neil Smith. He edited the crime / noir issue of Storyglossia.  Turned it into a den of sin, sex and cruelty, God love him.

Nineteen stories from the likes of Vicki Hendricks, Megan Abbott, Greg Bardsley, Ray Banks and more. Strippers, monkeys, backstabbing cheerleaders. A businessman with nothing left to lose. A Craigslist prank gone horribly wrong.

Check it out.  You'll like it.