Books, Reviews, Short Stories

Reading Room

08.02.06 | 2 Comments

I finally finished up Damn Near Dead, an anthology of geezer noir featuring writers such as Victor Gischler, Sean Doolittle, and Megan Abbott. It’s the brainchild of editor Duane Swierczynski and publisher David Thompson, and yes, alcohol was involved.

The verdict? Damn near great. One of the best anthologies I’ve read recently, in fact. Gischler’s story is flat-out terrific, as is Abbott’s, and the rest are entertaining at the very least.

One guy I have got to read more of: John Harvey. His story “Drummer Unknown” from Robert J. Randisi’s Murder And All That Jazz was the pick of the litter, and his story here (forgot the title – sorry!) is just as good, and, incidentally features another jazz drummer. Harvey is best known for his Charlie Resnick series, and I think that’s one I’ll enjoy.

One of the books I came home from Con Misterio with was Mongo’s Back In Town by E. Richard Johnson. I was told it was an ultra-hardboiled crime story, and as a lover of old paperbacks, I was really looking forward to it, but as it turned out, I hated it! Loathed it, even! It sucked!

Much of the story is told through narrative summary rather than action and dialog. The characters are stupid and cruel, which is not usually a drawback, unless they’re stupid, cruel, and boring as they are here. Not only that, but the author isn’t too swift either. A crucial plot point concerned the identity of a corpse. He’d already given Character A a freshly broken nose, which Character B didn’t have. But he didn’t use this to differentiate them. So run the other way.

A paperback I did like was Ralph Dennis’ Hardman #4: Pimp For The Dead. Despite the unfortunate title and the packaging which implied a men’s adventure yarn, Pimp is actually a pretty straightforward detective story, set in Atlanta and making full use of local color. Jim Hardman is hardly (heh) a tough guy – instead he’s middle-aged and fat, though he knows how to swing a fist if he has to.

Richard Moore recommended the series, and also wrote up a short bio of Dennis and a summary of his work. It’s well worth checking out.


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