© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page
City of the Lost by Stephen Blackmoore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I love pulp. I especially love well-written pulp, and this is great pulp. It's also my kind of urban fantasy: a bad-ass hard-boiled crime tale that begins with a living death worse than zombies, delves into Nazi mad scientists with razor-fanged homonculi, demonic barkeeps and a sharp urban bruja. Blackmoore keeps you guessing and the story is full of surprises, from this world and the beyond. He keeps it on the level and never wipes out into the realm of the ridiculous. I hope there are more Joe Sunday tales in the haunted L.A. that Blackmoore has envisioned in this balls-out entertaining psychotic romp through the underworld.
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Cars are part of the American DNA. Other countries have car culture, but the closest to America's suicidal romance with hot rods is Australia, home of Mad Max. The open space helps. In Britain, they can tell your caste by your accent. In America, it's often by your car. And if you ride the bus, you're at the bottom of the pole. In suburban New Jersey 'riding the bus' is racial code for poor and black.
Killing Floor by Lee Child
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I had to see what all the fuss was about. Jack Reacher is coffee-junkie drifter who strolls into a sleepy Georgia town looking for the grave of an old bluesman. He's also a retired Marine MP, so when the cops converge with riot shotguns to frame him for murder, he convinces them he's not the killer, and decides he'll solve the crime himself. He charms a hot policewoman, and when the bad guys play rough, he churns through them like a harvester. The story is good, light fun. The novel is now 15 years old, and we've come to appreciate shorter, faster thrillers, but this one still holds up. Oh, there's one coincidence to swallow when we find out who the murder victim is, but Reacher is an amicable hero and I like a novel that admits killing people is not all that difficult with the proper weapons and inclination. The tricky part is getting away with it. When it comes to unstoppable killing machines, I prefer Joe Pike, but Reacher is a good read if you know what you are getting into. And to get into the movie discussion, Tom Cruise is a horrible choice. I imagined Reacher as a big blond chunk of American prime for the ladies (and 10% of the men). That dude playing Captain America should have fought for the part.
Verdict: This is a good story that feels a bit dated and unsure of itself, the shaky start of a series that eventually defined its thriller genre. If I'd read it in '97, I'd give it another star. The teaser for the 2nd Reacher novel, DIE TRYING, felt like a huge leap forward. I'll be giving it a try soon.
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You talkin' to me?
No matter what, make good art.
Fake it until you make it.
Enjoy life, especially the success.
You'll do well if you are pleasant to work with, good at what you do, and submit your work on time. And you'll likely do fine if you only do two of those.
Make up your own rules. The rules are changing; no one can predict them. So go do amazing things, successes and mistakes, and make your own rules.
© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page
Several books by authors I admire have hit the streets recently. But first, let me get this out of the way. My friend Sabrina graciously opened the door of her blog to me, and I have a guest post up about why I wrote "Little Sister," my story for last year's Lost Children Charity Anthology. Sabrina is a great friend, and my ideal reader: a passionate fan of crime fiction, who likes a story fraught with action, real stakes, and bloody thrills. She always puts her heart into her reviews, and if you like thrillers and noir, I highly recommend you follow her blog.
First up, my friend Nigel Bird- one of my favorite short story writers- has written his first novel. Some are calling it "teacher noir," about a Scottish schoolteacher who tries to help one of his troubled students, and ends up in over his head. Nigel is the author of the excellent story collection Dirty Old Town, and last year's smashing novella Smoke. In Loco Parentis is available at Amazon.
Megan Abbott is one of noir's rising stars. She began with powerful nods to the classics, and last year she wrote The End of Everything, a daring novel about an abducted girl in the Detroit chi-chi suburbs. I first read her in the L.A. Noire story collection, where her tale of Hollywood sleaze "The Girl" knocked me out of my socks and into next week at the same time. Now she's tackled the high octane and brutally competitive world of high school cheerleading with DARE ME, and Dave White gives it a great review at his new blog, Beer 'n Books. Dave is an IPA hound, but he has great taste in beer. He also writes a pretty good yarn himself, like Witness to Death.
Buy Dare Me at Indiebound
Beat to a Pulp Round Two is out, and editing superstar David Cranmer has put together another stunner of a collection. This time Charles Ardai, Bill Pronzini, Patricia Abbott, James Reasoner, Glenn Gray and Steve Weddle are on the card, among other champs, contenders and ringers. And look at that cover. David is one of my favorite editors to work with, and he really knows how to rope together a collection. Maybe he learned a little from Cash Laramie, his western marshal?
And last but not least, the first author to influence me and make me pick up the pen was Harlan Ellison. Maybe you've read of our infamous correspondence? Well, Harlan began writing juvenile delinquent tales, before he broke the chains from pulp SF and created his own audacious flavor of speculative fiction. And some of those tales were racy, collected as "Sex Gang," under the pseudonym Paul Merchant. They've been out of print, until now. Kicks Books is releasing them with the only slightly less squirmy title, Pulling a Train.
Before we begin, no matter how long you've been writing, hie thee to these two excellent resources for vetting publishers, editors, agents and other professionals:
The Absolute Write Water Cooler
I came across this horror story on Facebook, shared by F. Paul Wilson.
The short version:
Writer submits to an anthology, signs contract, never receives her comp copy; a friend mails her a copy at considerable expense, and she finds her title has been changed with a typographical error to "She Make's Me Smile," and a superfluous scene of animal abuse, a suggestion of rape, and other edits have been made without her approval. She writes to the editor, saying in polite terms, "What the hell?"
Her questions, paraphrased (If this was me, it would make Chuck Wendig's colorful vulgarian exclamations seem tepid):
1- Why there was a mistake in the titleThe publisher's response:
2- Why my bio was shortened? There were much longer ones (like his own) so it wasn’t for space issues.
3- Why the story was changed?
lets see.on the contract, it clearly says publisher has the right to EDIT work. you signed it. are you saying you are a dishonest and immoral person and will now try to deny you signed the contract? well i have a copy right hereand as for the story. the editor had a hard time with it, it was very rough and he did alot to make it readable. despite what you think, your writing has a long way to go before its worthy of being printed professionally.we did what we had to do to make the story printable. you should be thankful, not complaining. ah, the ungrateful writer, gotta love itNow, writers can be a touchy lot. We are very eager to see our work in print. Not everyone responds to edits in a professional manner, but you do NOT make edits without approval unless they are correcting typographical errors, streamlining usage to the publisher's stylebook, or other minor changes. And you do not write your own paragraph to insert into someone's story and call it an edit. It is not an edit, it is a collaboration. Or in this case, a defacement.
Ugh. For one, this is just awful writing, and awful characterization. If you want someone to be erotically aroused by animal abuse, it does not happen from seeing your neighbor do it once. May I recommend this fine article, if you want to incorporate this sort of life-changing event in a disturbed character's life: Frenzy, at Alice Miller's site.) But it doesn't matter if it was brilliant; this is not Mrs. DeGeit's work. This isn't an edit, it is an insertion, without approval. The lack of professionalism in his response is galling. Pluck smash!!
“Something strange happened then. I recalled a moment when I was a boy. I was playing in my backyard when the dog in my neighbor’s yard escaped through an open gate. My neighbor, an elderly man who lived alone and spoke in a thick accent (I later discovered that is was German), managed to corral the dog back into his yard. I watched, fascinated as the man ripped his long black belt from the loops at his waist and brought it down with a hellish fury upon the dog’s back. The dog slunk down and rested it’s head upon its paws, resigned to its fate. Why didn’t it fight back? Why didn’t it bite the hand of the master?
With the only friend I ever truly had writhing between my legs, I became aroused.”
I have a confession to make.
I never read comic books as a kid.
The earliest I remember was picking up an issue of Star Brand for 35 cents in junior high, trying to get into it, and failing. I always liked the Hulk, but that was from the TV show. Same with the Superman movies, and the Batman TV show. I came into it second hand. I've enjoyed many comics and graphic novels since, from The Dark Knight Returns, to the first Marshal Law books, to Kurt Busiek's excellent Astro City, which remains my favorite superhero series. And if you don't like superheroes, his standalone "The Tarnished Angel" is a great noir story.
But as someone who didn't grow up with comics, or love them wholeheartedly later, I have some unpopular opinions. I think Zak Snyder's ending to Watchmen was an improvement. I like Ang Lee's Hulk movie better than the Ed Norton one. I find the X-Men annoying, because the mutie as race minority allegory is patronizing and doesn't make sense when mutants can zap you to dust by forgetting to wear their sunglasses. We have reason to fear them. But that's an argument for another day, maybe when the Wolverine movie comes out.
I was not sold on Marvel's lead-ups to the Avengers. Iron Man, I loved that movie. The rest were all flawed in some way. Captain America probably the least, but it needed more action and less montage. And he should have punched out Hitler. Thor was good fun, but there was a lot of running and silliness and the Devastator was a boring villain. The Incredible Hulk had its moments, but I doubt I'd watch it again.
|Angola Prison Rodeo|
|No, not that Tingler!|
This is how they do it down under...