Been getting a lot of spam comments recently

Obviously the demons are getting past the Captchas, alas. They all seem to be coming from the same source too. All are well spelled with a single word exception; every single one of them. I presume there’s a reason for this, some technical reason, and if I wasn’t too tired and lazy maybe I would Google it, but I am. So there.

However, if one of you good folks wishes to tell me the reason for this I’ll be most grateful.

Adios. Another favourite crime novel update to come soon

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My Favourite Crime Novels – No. 19

Shoot Shoot, by Douglas Fairbairn, is one of those novels that was a bestseller in its day but was slowly forgotten by readers until it eventually stopped being reprinted (in the UK, at least). Frankly, it deserves better than languishing unread on the bookshelves of second-hand bookstores.

Shoot is a strange novel, almost too difficult to categorise, which might account for its current out-of-print status. It is a crime novel, yet not a crime novel – it deals with a crime and its aftermath, setting the reader up for a bigger crime at the climax, but it doesn’t have the feel of crime fiction, even if it does have the spare, clipped prose; It is more suspense than thriller, although ultimately it isn’t quite either – the finale is pure thriller, but the lead-up is all about suspense, and yet it isn’t really either, it seems to be something else entirely; it isn’t strictly a character study, more a study of America’s odd relationship with guns – Rex Jeanette, the narrator, is the only character we really get to know and even he remains mired in obscurity, only really coming alive when he’s discussing guns or previous exploits.

If I had to classify Shoot I would call it Gun Noir. Jeanette and the rest of the characters are unsatisfied with their middle-aged lives; financial success, women, children, sex, consumerism, none of these things quite fill the void that seems to have been left by their wartime exploits. In fact, you get the feeling that none of these men really like each other, despite the fact that they have been friends for years. The only common bond they share is their war exploits and a love for guns.

It is a superb piece of work – a novel that makes you think, a novel with an ending that stays with you – but don’t necessarily expect it to fulfil your expectations. In some respects it reminds me of Harry Crews’ A Feast Of Snakes, but without the element of the surreal which makes Snakes such an original. If you can get hold of it, please read Shoot – it’s definitely a one of a kind.

What in the name of all that is Holy…

…is going on with this poster for Drive?

I can’t wait for this film to be released – it looks like it’s gonna be a good ‘un. Except somebody made a serious fucking font malfunction with this bloody poster. The script font (not sure what it is offhand, although I do recognise it) in a garish pink that makes it look like Ryan Gosling is about to do some cruising rather than getaway driving. It’s hardly the most masculine of design choices, is it? A bit of a faux pas for a film that’s meant to reboot the masculine cinema of the 60s and 70s. It’s truly awful stuff, like somebody gave the office junior a chance to strut their stuff, but forgot to proof it afterwards and remove the hideous pink script font and replace it with something suitably cool and modern…

For shame, creative director, for shame.

Apologies…

…for the lack of recent updates, folks. I’ve been hard at work on my novella, The Hunters, and several short stories featuring the Stanton Brothers, who are likely to be the main focus of my work over the next year or so, which means that I simply haven’t had as much time as I would like to devote to the website (I will add another of my favourite crime novels in the next few days, honest).

Normally, finishing the first draft of a work would be less of an issue, but as I am going travelling in October for several months (and leaving the comfortable job I’ve had for over five years) there is a hell of a lot to do to ensure that the novella and stories aren’t a massive pile of semi-literate crap. Added to which I need to ensure I have things in place to smooth my return to London, assuming I decide to come back (who knows what might happen whilst I’m travelling?).

So it’s go-go-go at the moment.

You know it’s just one of those days…

…when you can’t stop eating. I mean, really, I’ve been hungry all bloody day. I had a breakfast bar, and then a muffin that was going spare for breakfast, then I had a large vegetarian buffet thing for lunch, followed by crisps and a mini chocolate Swiss roll later in the afternoon. Now I’m sat here contemplating what to make for dinner and my stomach is growling like crazy, making the kind of sounds you might expect your stomach to make if you had been starved for a week. I’m actually in some pain here.

Sod it, I’m off to make something to eat!

Take a gamble…

If you fancy a prime slice of gritty, urban noir and a fast-moving good read, then The Gamblers is still for sale. Imagine Ted Lewis crossed with Jim Thompson updated to the 21st century and you’re getting close to what The Gamblers is all about…

Get it on Kindle in the UK for 99p here: http://amzn.to/muNLwa

Get it on Kindle in the US for $1.99 here: http://amzn.to/liVZLs

For those who prefer their books printed rather than digital, get the paperback for 10% off at Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/pjbnn0

Go on, take a gamble…

My top ten favourite film noir

I was thinking about this recently, though not sure why. Possibly because I have been shunting a few DVDs out of the door to make space and discovered a few old film noir discs floating about and because I’ve noticed that a few others have done similar lists recently. The list is in no particular order:

1) The Set-Up – Great little B-pic by Robert Wise, with an excellent performance from Robert Ryan as an aging boxer whose manager throws a fight without his knowledge, because he’s a complete loser and will obviously fail anyway… as in all great plans, this one comes a cropper.

2) The Maltese Falcon – Everything about this picture is brilliant; the direction; the performances; the lighting; the pacing. But it wouldn’t work without Bogart, despite the fact that he’s nobody’s idea of a ‘blond Satan’ – somehow he adds a layer of humanity to Sam Spade that Dashiell Hammett never intended; his monologue to Mary Astor at the end is much more heartfelt than it reads in the novel. Neither Bogart, nor director John Huston, ever looked back after this classic.

3) Kiss Me Deadly – Director Robert Aldrich’s Mickey Spillane adaptation is better than the source novel in my humble opinion and Ralph Meeker is easily the best Mike Hammer, because he remembers that Hammer is ultimately a vicious bastard, which later Spillane adaptations appeared to forget. Aldrich’s sense of pace is superb too; this bugger moves along like an out of control freight train. And the apocalyptic ending is just brilliant.

4) Out of the Past – Robert Mitchum is probably the supreme noir lead. His world-weary delivery always made the quips and wisecracks that were part of the noir territory just a little more special, and the humour just a little more bitter. Kirk Douglas was a superb move villain, on the few occasions that he chose to, and OOTP was no exception – cheerfully nasty and thuggish. Jane Greer makes one of the great femme fatales, partly because much of her evil is done through greed and selfishness rather than any Machiavellian plan. Add in Jacques Tourneur’s direction and Daniel Mainwearing’s awesome screenplay and you have one of the finest noirs ever.

5) The Killing — People often make the mistake of thinking that this was Stanley Kubrick’s first feature film. It wasn’t, although Kubrick and his estate would love folks to believe that this was the case. Fear and Desire (an atrocious war film) was his first feature, followed closely by Killer’s Kiss (which is flawed, but beautifully shot on a super-tight budget). The Killing partnered Kubrick with noir legend Jim Thompson, who wrote the screenplay (despite his ‘dialogue by’ credit), and ace cinematographer Lucien Ballard. It also helps that the film has several noir stalwarts on board to spit the dialogue out at each other: Sterling Hayden, Elisha Cook, along with consumate character actors like Timothy Carey and Ted de Corsia. It is the classic tale of the perfect heist that goes badly, badly wrong. It is almost perfect – if it didn’t have that bloody voiceover, it would be.

6) Touch of Evil – Orson Welles has always been considered the consumate ‘one-hit wonder’. Even today, his back catalogue is dominated by Citizen Kane, with everything else relegated to the other stuff that he did. This is rather unfair, because Touch Of Evil is as impressive an achievement as Kane but without the generous budget. The tracking shot at the beginning of the film is still a brilliant piece of technical genius, even in this age of steadycams and swooping crane shots. The cinematography and lighting are astonishing and the performances (even Charlton Heston’s controversial Mexican) are all very good. This is one of those films that I will happily watch again and again. Speaking of which…

7) Sweet Smell of Success – Blessed with one of the greatest screenplays ever written (by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehmann), career best performances from Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis and brilliant direction by Alexander Mackendrick (who also directed the superb Ladykillers), there was no way the film could fail. It tells the story of gossip columnist JJ Hunsecker (who holds far more power than somebody like him should ever be given) and Sidney Falco, an obsequious press agent, who is given the enviable task of breaking up the relationship of Hunsecker’s sister, because JJ doesn’t approve of her boyfriend. It’s as dark as the night-time cityscapes it shows and as poisonous as a cookie full of arsenic. Brilliant stuff!

8.) Double Indemnity – Billy Wilder’s classic does away with the much eerier ending that James M Cain used at the end of the novel and goes for a much more standard ending. But it’s still a classic film noir, with an excellently written screenplay by Raymond Chandler and brilliantly direcion from Wilder. The lead performances from Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck are stellar, with a nice supporting turn by Edward G Robinson. It was hard to choose between this and Sunset Boulevard, believe me.

9) The Third Man – Carol Reed’s masterpiece, from a brilliant screenplay by Graham Greene, has so many things to recommend: Robert Krasker’s astonishing cinematography, Anton Karas’ catchy score, the lead performances by Joseph Cotton, Trevor Howard and Alida Valli and a stunning cameo by Orson Welles, along with the Vienna sewer finale, mark this out as one of the finest films ever made. The Third Man is a film of brilliant moments: the cat in the doorway, the fingers poking through a sewer grating, the ‘Cuckoo Clock’ speech, Alida Valli walking past Joseph Cotton without even acknowledging him at the end. It all adds up. Stunning!

10) The Asphalt Jungle – John Huston’s film was an obvious influence on Kubrick’s The Killing, but the difference is in the telling. Huston has more affection for the protagonists than Kubrick does and the fractured timelines in The Killing give it a more edgy feel. Sterling Hayden as the lead is the other thing that links the two films, although his performances couldn’t be any less alike. In The Killing he’s the brains behind the heist and the man the others turn to; in Asphalt he’s a strong-arm grunt who isn’t exactly blessed with much upstairs. Also, Huston’s film plays up the tragic element, whereas Kubrick lets everything go off with cool detachment. Either way, both films are brilliant and deserve inclusion in this list.

Like most lists this is purely personal. There’s plenty of others I could have put in there, but didn’t. If you have any faves you feel should have been included then please do let me know!