comin atcha

Blue Murder, by Brett Halliday (1973)

I’ve read quite a few Michael Shayne mysteries over the years. They’re mostly brain candy whose plots you’ll forget within a day of reading the last page. Davis Dresser wrote them during the 40s and 50s. At their best they were competent mysteries. At their worst they ranged from ridiculous to dull.
The most ridiculous aspect of the books always wound up being Shayne himself – an arrogant know-it-all who always radiated macho bravado. Women adored him. Cops worshiped him. And those that didn’t always seemed to eventually get punched by him should the plot call for Shayne to briefly become a murder suspect. And he’d always skate on those charges (of roughing up cops, that is).

By the early 60s, various house authors took over, still writing under the Brett Halliday name. The most prolific was Robert Terrall. Terrall was a decent writer (seek out his Ben Gates novels). I’d already read a handful of his Mike Shayne novels and they’re generally better. Shayne is more human, more fallible without losing his toughness.

But – holy cow let me get to the point – this book. Tonal shift, is what surprised me. Seriously. If you’ve got the time, go read one of Dresser’s efforts from the 40s. And then read Blue Murder. You’ll get whiplash.

The series had always been a bit PG-rated. There was violence, sure, but nothing gratuitous. And whatever sex there was always happened “offscreen”. Shayne fights the good fight, clobbers the baddies like the comic book character he bordered on and ends the book laughing over a glass of cognac with his his ‘best gal’ and his pals.

Enter the 70s. Blue Murder is set in the pornographic film industry. To solve the mystery, Shayne effortlessly insinuates himself with the adult movie crowd, shares more than a joint or two while asking questions, and even sleeps with a porno film actress. In another chapter, a suspect tries to walk away from him. So Shayne calmly pulls out his gun and shoots him in the leg (the “war era” Shayne would have just tackled him). This book is gritty and sometimes dirty. Shayne is a bit of an amoral guy. People drop the f bomb! More than once!

Lest you think I’m a pearl-clutching prude – I’m not. I was so happy from cover to filthy cover.

(I should probably also mention that this book was the basis for Shane Black’s The Nice Guys.)

I had previously avoided the late Mike Shayne novels from the 70s solely because of the bad photo covers. What a silly reason. Now I’m going to track down as many as I can find.

comin atcha

Dear Livejournal,

Wednesday night after rehearsal was really pleasant. A dreary, occasionally passive aggressive fight rehearsal had just ended. I walked outside and the rainstorm, that had just ended, had made the weather pleasant. And a little cooler. The previous 48 hours had been pretty sweltering. I was now looking forward to a relaxing, stress-free bike ride home with absolutely no pressures.

Less than a minute into my ride I had caught up with another cyclist - a gentleman about a decade older than me, dressed like a wannabe Lance Armstrong (on a budget). He was moving at a nice clip for a guy his age, but still too slow for me. Still not-in-a-hurry, I hung back anyway, enjoying the night air.

But after another two minutes of this, I had to pass him. He was moving just a little too slowly for me and I didn't feel like shadowing him indefinitely. So, moving at a reasonable speed (and not a lunatic like some cyclists do), and giving him reasonable space I passed him on his left (passing a fellow cyclist on the right hand side is kind of a dick move).

Reasonable, right?

Within ten seconds I could see the reflection of his front bike light jiggling furiously up and down on the asphalt in front of me. His gears had speeded up suddenly. Really?, I thought.

Yeah. I heard him grumble something. I couldn't make out the words, but they were definitely unfavorable. He gave me the fish eye as he passed me. On the right hand side.

What the hell?

I called him a passive aggresive douchebag, and as I turned onto a side street to continue my trip home, I sarcastically shouted,"Thanks for sharing the road!" while waving. He whipped his head right and left in a hyper defensive posture at that.

I just don't understand some of the cyclists in this city, where everything has to be a race or an occasion to one-up another. If he thought he was making me feel put in my place by his act he was wrong. It just soured the rest of what I initially wanted to be the pleasant act of riding my two-wheeler home. Because all I could think about on the rest of the journey was that one toolbag.

Which seems like a somewhat apt analogy to my relationship with livejournal these days. It's just not fun anymore. To be honest, I haven't really enjoyed it in months.And I think it shows. Entries posted just so I can say I posted something that day.

Also, let's face it livejournal itself is mostly awful these days. The loading time, posts being lost, russian spambots. I know I made a comment before about how it seems silly to be complaining about something I get for free, but the aggravation ain't worth it, man. If something stops being fun, stop doing it. You're just wasting time.


I think a co-worker (or co-workers) have found and lurk here. One day...ooohhh, about 2+ years ago one turned to me and said (obviously paraphrasing here)," Hey, didn't you say that (NOUN) (TRANSITIVE VERBED) (PREPOSITION) (ADJECTIVE) (NOUN) once?"

I did a mental double-take as - outwardly - I tried to show no surprise at his/her comment and answered,"...Yeah." while, inwardly, thinking, I am only 30% certain I said that out loud, but I am 100% sure I blogged about that. THIS is why I haven't blogged about work for years.

Now. I don't have anything against any of my co-workers (coughmeaculpacough), but I don't write on this livejournal for them. I write on it for my lj peeps and non-lj-but-still-on-the-internet homies. I am somewhat weary of having to constantly edit what I'm saying because of what someone who doesn't post here, but nonetheless who could be sitting a few yards away from me Monday through Friday reads here anyway. Most of the fault is mine for not adequately covering my internet tracks, but still, thanks anyway, co-worker, for tainting this for me!

I will still stick around cuz I still like reading what you guys have to say (although I'll probably be deleting my communities to make the friends page more manageable), but as far as journal entries go, I'm done.*

Later, gators.

One more for the road!

Officer Down, by Theresa Schwegel (2005)

Pretty good!

*Disclaimer, because I'm a big fat liar, I may decide to do the blog thing again (cuz I'm a liar), but if I do, it WON'T be on fucking facebook.

The Mammoth Book of Pulp Fiction, edited by Maxim Jakubowski (1996)

A fuzz is a fuzz is a fuzz when you awaken from a wino jag. God, I'd drunk three pints of muscatel that I know of and maybe more, maybe lots more, because that's when I drew a blank, that's when research stopped.
(Opening lines from The Wench is Dead, by Fredric Brown)

A nice find at Myopic. I think this would be a good primer for those just entering the genre. I also found someone new/old to look for - a guy by the name of Jack Ritchie. His story was good (not great). And there's a Howard Browne/Paul Pine short story!


The Shotgun Rule, by Charlie Huston (2007)

     -Kid, let me tell you, under normal circumstances, I wouldn't be going through all this just to get my hands on one measly half kilo of meth. Under normal circumstances, someone steals from me, I'd just have them knocked unconscious and dragged out by the quarry and their legs or an arm laid across the train tracks and to hell with the half kilo.
     He sighs.
     - But these are not normal circumstances.

Four teenaged friends come into possession of some drugs after a "kerfuffle" with some local dealers. Shitstorm descends.

One of the "pull quotes" on the back of this novel compares it to Stand By Me. I would say, Sure. But add in some more swearing, set it in the 1980s and add a strong father figure (something missing from at least the movie version - I've never read the print version).

I would add more but I'm currently suffering from an eye infection. No, seriously, it feels like someone's rubbed a red chili pepper all over my left eyeball, and I want to lie down somewhere and close my eyes for 15 hours. So this is a great book, Kthanx bai.
comin atcha

Marked Woman (1937)

It bugs me that my favorite actor isn't well represented on the DVD front. You may argue that he already is - Casablanca, The Big Sleep, The African Queen, et cetera...Fine, I say. Time to roll out some of his lesser-knowns, instead of re-releasing an exorbitantly-priced box set of the same old stuff.

Finding an out-of-print DVD featuring the guy is still cause for joy for a sad completist like myself. Even if he does make his first appearance in this morality flick at exactly the half hour mark as a district attorney. It's an unusual role for Bogie. Unusual because of the decade. He'd go on to play a lawyer or two in his later years, but in the 30s he was generally saddled with yer usual tough guys, thugs, and/or all-around scumbags who usually wound up meeting his fate at the wrong end of a gat (usually held by James Cagney or Edward G Robinson). Very rarely during that decade would he get to play against that type. Off the top of my head I can only think of one - Stand-In, where he played a drunken - yet likeable - lush of a movie director.

Here he comes to the defense of a group of clip joint party girls (polite slang for the period for prostitutes) led by Bette Davis (probably at the peak of her beauty IMO) that are being victimized by their new boss.

Allen Jenkins, who was also frequently cast as hoodlums, gets a one-scene comic relief turn as a walking one-man pawn shop. Also appearing is Mayo Methot, Bogie's soon-to-be third wife as one of the party girls.

The actor playing the movie's villain is a bit stiff. And the character of Bette Davis' sister undergoes a bizarre personality change just for the sake of plot contrivance halfway through the movie, but it's still a decent watch.

Dead Hero, by William Campbell Gault (1963)

I have certain peasant superstitions my conscious mind has abandoned but my unconscious stubbornly refuses to surrender.
     I still half believe in patterns, in the full cycle, in the inevitability of retribution, the artistic necessity for revenge. They are not theories respected by the enlightened and I will not defend them. I half believe in prescience.

Heady thoughts from an ex-NFL guard-turned-private detective. But he doesn't flash his intelligence that much and as a result he's constantly underestimated by others.

Another ex-teammate of Brock's approaches him and asks him if he can tail his wife one night. He has suspicions. The conversation is an awkward, embarrassing one for both men, but Brock grudgingly agrees to do his friend this favor, pro bono. He is godfather to their son.

Much to his disappointment, he discovers that the wife is having an affair with yet another ex-teammate - one who is younger, more successful post-football career, and already goes through several "girlfriends" on a weekly basis.
Rather than break his friend's heart, he decides to approach the homewrecker after the wife has left for the night and informs him that the affair has to end. The man laughs in Brock's face, so Brock punches him in the stomach and stomps off, feeling disgusted even with himself.

Of course, the homewrecking ex-teammate is dead by the next morning, killed with a fireplace poker before the house is burned to the ground. And someone witnessed Brock's visit to him the night before.

So Brock spends most of the book hiding from the law. It doesn't stop his girlfriend from hanging out with him at one point.

"...Tell me you love me, Brock Callahan."
     "I love you," I said,"all the ways there are. Come closer and let me enfold you in my enormous arms."
     "Oh, boy!" she said. "What a corn pone!"

They are starting to become a corny couple. In a good way. And they don't (temporarily) break up (again) in this one! Hope for them yet...

Goes without saying that I enjoyed this one. I've never been disappointed with a Gault yet. Definitely a palette cleanser after the last few books.


Strangler's Serenade, by Cornell Woolrich writing as William Irish (1951)

This book accidentally fell out of my coat pocket as I was taking some pictures. I didn't notice it was missing until a half block later; and only because some dude in a U-Haul drove past shouting at me that I "dropped your book!"

I was like, How cool. Dude didn't have to do that. Could've driven on with out saying a word. Glad he did, though. Book cost me twenty bucks.

That's my interesting story regarding this book. Sorry.

As with a lot of Popular Library books of the period, the cover is a lot more racier and jucier than the actual ingredients (the killer is also crazy for male victims...and doesn't necessarily strangle them). But it was Cornell Woolrich. And I was semi-prepared.

But under a pen name, he's a bit more...jovial. When the book isn't a mystery about a serial killer, it is kinda a romantic comedy about a New York detective trying to vacation in a sleepy New England town.

Well written, but not really my cup of tea.