Review: Sunburn – Laura Lippman

I inhaled this book. What a great tag line: She has nothing to lose. And everything to hide. The cover is slathered with glowing reviews from big names, big papers (and the Daily Fail) but you know that Lippman’s got a career that has more than earned those plaudits.

This is neo-noir yet as fresh as summer rain (I say with relief that we’ve finally got some this morning — a hot Scotland is just unnatural). Sure it’s got a sexy woman with secrets, private investigators and all kinds of people out to get something and damn the consequences. Lippman takes these sometimes self-conscious tropes and plays with them. Polly actually discovers noir during a bad marriage and it’s literally a lifesaver for her. Adam is no Sam Spade and hurrah for that, but he’s no Walter Neff either.

It’s an irresistible joy to watch two people fall for each other when they’re not sure they can trust each other and everything is against them — but you’re not sure what’s true and neither are they. Lippman alternates between a variety of characters from chapter to chapter and you learn things you didn’t know as well as wrong assumptions they’re making about others. Sometimes you just want to shout at the characters (or maybe that’s just me).

Some quotes:

The problem is, when a man wants her, he usually won’t stop trying to get her. They wear her down, men. She starts off by taking pity on them, ends up feeling sorry for herself.

It’s a special art, asking people to do things, yet making it seem as if you never asked at all.

How had she even figured out what he was planning to do? A witch, that one. She’s a witch.

Sometimes he used to wake up in the middle of the night and find her looking at him. The light from the streetlamp threw a stripe across her eyes, and it was as if she were wearing a mask that allowed her to read his every thought.

Maybe she should write an advice book for men, one that tells them everything they want to hear, as opposed to all those books for women, which tell them to be the opposite of what they are, no matter what that is.

I could keep quoting but this gives you a great idea: lean, mean, addictive — up to the last pages you won’t be sure how things will go. What a pleasure.

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FFB: Rhode Island Red by Charlotte Carter

carter_3_collage_1527285657After reading this fabulous write up on Charlotte Carter by Michael Gonzales, I knew I had to give her a try. Rhode Island Red arrived promptly — one advantage of Carter having a greater following in the UK than in the US, I guess.

41p84k7b6wl-sx160-sy160From the get-go this a book that will drag you along. With chapter titles looted from Thelonius Monk and a voice that’s both knowing, mordant and a little too hopeful, Nanette will keep you reading. I’m one of those readers for whom voice will keep me engaged in a way that clever plotting and intricate detail will not. Carter has a great skill for making the story jump into action right from the start , of filling in the life of the characters without ever giving way to boring exposition. Every one is so vivid through Nanette’s eyes — and so is the NYC that no longer exists, one that was just starting to be gentrified and was still full of life and art.

Nanette is the kind of character that offers richness for crime writing. Insatiably curious, sexy and confident, she’s also smart without always being wise. She has the habit of many clever people of assuming they’ll know when things are getting bad and that they’re always ahead of the game — and suffer doubly when they’re wrong because they ought to have known better. It’s to Carter’s credit that she shows us all the clues but being on Nanette’s side, we might just as well misinterpret them.

The mystery is tied up in cops, criminals and of course music. Nanette is musician, though she doesn’t think much of her abilities it is what she lives for. The uncanny lure of a melody is something she can’t resist. And like a lot of imaginative people, she has a tendency to believe what she wants to believe. Yet there’s a frank evaluation of contemporary racism that permeates the city — especially the police. The matter-of-fact way Nanette negotiates it chills. It’s a simple matter of life and death that she faces daily.

Why no one has optioned this for a film I don’t know. Her pal Aubrey alone should be enough to get some execs in a lather. Nanette is a great character with such a distinctive voice — I’m going to be reading more. I’ll leave you with one quote that took me by surprise, late in the novel. So steeped in jazz is this book, that Nanette pulling out some Satie, told me something — connected to her love for Paris, but also the complexity and wide-ranging curiosity she has. Never assume.

I put on some Erik Satie, for a change of pace from the Billie songs to commit suicide by, a change from the junk-sick Parker ballads and the post desolation Bill Evans stuff. It’s funny how heartbreaking Satie can be, and at the same time soothing, focusing, And then he’ll go off on one of those surrealist tangents, where he sounds like a spoiled brat having a tantrum, or the inside of a mad trolley conductor’s head. He was one weird looking man, Satie. I think I probably would have had a lot of fun with him.

Check out all the overlooked books at Patti’s blog.

Review: Last Year’s Man

cover-brazill-last-years-man-300x480pxLAST YEAR’S MANPaul D. Brazill

A troubled, ageing hit man leaves London and returns to his hometown in the north east of England hoping for peace. But the ghosts of his past return to haunt him.

Last Year’s Man is a violent and blackly comic slice of Brit Grit noir. PRE-ORDER NOW! Available 06/22/2018

Praise for LAST YEAR’S MAN:

“It’s all here, everything you’ve come to expect from a Paul D. Brazill caper—the fast pace, the witty banter, the grim humour and the classic tunes—except this time he’s REALLY outdone himself. Unlike the lament in the song the title takes its name from, Paul’s best years are surely still ahead of him.” —Paul Heatley, author of Fatboy

REVIEW

I was chuffed to receive a pre-publication ARC of the latest from Mr B. Always a pleasure to read one of my favourite contemporary authors. Rest assured this is exactly the kind of mordantly witty caper you expect. From blood-soaked shenanigans to effortlessly clever banter, there’s everything you’d expect and more. The motif of the hitman haunted by his past gets a fresh angle as disgraced Tommy Bennett returns to Seatown, the northern coastal city where his past awaits him. A wild mix of musical and pop culture references come at you thick and fast. I was chortling by the end of the first page.

But under the laughter there are a few dark threads (as with all great comedy). There’s a serious undercurrent dealing with age and regrets, of finding hope — but don’t let that put you off, crime fans. There’s plenty of mayhem gone wrong, drugs and drink, plus a pale gangster named Drella (who manages to be both ruthless and hen-pecked) and a wealth of murderous mistakes. The Hancock-esque hitman Bennett (he even wears a Homburg!) seems ready to shuffle off this mortal coil just give up the life of crime, but there’s a cockroach persistence to Brazill’s characters, who have the curiosity worthy of a cat to know what will happen next.

Some great lines:

I watched dark clouds spread across the sky like a cancer.

I placed a bottle of London Pride on the grave. My wife hated flowers because of her hay fever.

‘Then the world is your oyster.’ ‘Yeah, but I’m a vegetarian,’ I said.

‘We all have our own double-cross to bear.’

I woke up when someone stabbed me.

The carriage shook like a junkie in rehab and dragged me painfully awake.

The church clock struck thirteen as I crossed the road.

Patsy, the pasty-faced barmaid…

‘Sartre got it wrong, I tell you,’ he said. ‘Hell is IKEA.’

My advice to you is pre-order this and get your London Pride in now for some summer reading. I think I might just read it again. Now where’s that audio book version?

Out Now: Satan’s Sorority

Those devilish girls of Sigma Tau Nu —

There’s simply nothing they wouldn’t do!

Get this pulpy fun now for just 99p! Drop by Fahrenheit Press for all the cool books and merch.

A smart, witty and marvelously well written slice of pulp fiction. Full of great lines and clever asides, Satan’s Sorority is another winner from Fahrenheit 13.”  -Paul Brazill (author of Guns of Brixton and Cold London Blues) 

“Wynd delivers the usual excellence in Satan’s Sorority. The hopes and dreams of college life distilled brilliantly into devil worship, orgies and murder, deftly handled by the order to leave the readers thinking ‘damn, I really picked the wrong University’. I think what I love most about this book is that Wynd still manages to capture the hope, excitement and frustration of being away from home at last! Indeed as dark as the subject matter is, the tone implies this should not be considered out of the ordinary for our life experiences. Therein lies the genius of Graham Wynd, the ability to make the reader think ‘I wonder who was doing this at my University and why wasn’t it me?’”  -Adele Wearing (Fox Spirit Books)

“Having read some of Wynd’s shorter fiction I had a good idea what to expect. I wasn’t disappointed.  Dark humour, the occult, loss of innocence and sex are all themes that featured strongly in this novella. Wynd has well developed, intelligent and believable characters. The flow of the story is perfectly paced with no overly verbose passages which made all the action and tension so much more effective. The novella is not for the faint of heart with a couple of quite graphic scenes and sexual references, but these are neither gratuitous or overdone. I read through the quickly – a sure sign that it’s a thumping good read. Top marks here, Wynd is a talent I’d love to read more from.”  – Darren Sant (author of The Bank Manager and the Bumand Tales from the Longcroft)

“A refreshing change… For those more learned than me there are plenty of literary and occult references in this story.  Putting a twist on Goethe’s famous character by making it female was interesting and also made the ending more surprising.  I enjoyed the ending, even if it was more of a beginning. Sometimes when I read a book I find a single line sums it up perfectly. The poets often claimed that death wore a mask, but they never said it wore a sorority pin. Not yet anyway.”  -Tony Lane

Bill is Dead #FallFriday #FridayFlash

An oldie that mashes up the odd Fall lyric, Peter Cook ramblings and a little Dud:

‘Bill is Dead’ at Pulp Metal Magazine

Friday Flash: ‘And it Felt Like a Kiss’

blink
‘And it felt like a kiss…’

‘Do it again, Johnny,’ Annette said wiping the blood from the corner of her mouth, but he had no intention of pressing his lips to hers again. ‘I can take it.’ She ripped the skirt the rest of the way off and lay on the bed.

God, he hated Norwich.

[Originally appeared in Blink|Ink 8 Noir Issue, Sep 2011]

Double barrel song inspiration:

Film for a Friday: Elevator to the Gallows

There are a few holes in my film diary: an embarrassing one has now been remedied. Criterion has an absolutely mesmerising release of Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows with the radiant Jeanne Moreau. I swear there’s not a frame that doesn’t sing. Of course there’s the fine soundtrack by Miles but you probably already knew that. If you haven’t seen it — or haven’t seen it lately — it’s about time, don’t you think?