Monday, November 30, 2015

Why you should read Dirtbags and John McFetridge

Eryk Pruitt's Dirtbags is a tall tale, a couple-on-the-run story, a moving noir story as Jim Thompson or, especially, David Goodis might have written it, a rural roman noir, a dark comedy with a touch of Southern Gothic, and satire without hitting the reader over the head to make its point.  It's also a serial-killer story for readers who hate serial-killer stories, thanks to its blessed absence of interest in abnormal psychology.

One review calls the novel "sort of like a book about a serial murderer written by Carl Hiaasen, only a lot darker," but don't let the Hiaasen comparison stop you; this book is funny without, however, degenerating into a cheap yuk-fest.
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I wrote Saturday about Dietrich Kalteis' The Deadbeat Club, so this is a good time to remind you to read A Little More Free, by Kalteis' fellow ECW Press author John McFetridge, Nobody is better than McFetridge at seamlessly blending big crimes, small crime, social/historical setting, and an appealing protagonist.  This and Tumblin' Dice are my favorite McFetridges.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Zero Hour in Phnom Penh, and what one can learn from crime novels

Christopher G. Moore's novel Zero Hour in Phnom Penh, written based on travel to Cambodia during that country's administration by the United Nations in 1992 and 1993, is full of didactic and journalistic passages:
“`So I’m going to fill in a gap in your knowledge. We French have been here since the last century. We imported the Vietnamese to run the civil administration of the colony."

“`The French were in Cambodia for fifty years before they built the first school,'” said Calvino."
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Photos by your humble blogkeeper, Peter Rozovsky
except for the one obviously by someone else.
"This was Ratana’s Thai way of not just showing loyalty for her boss but taking a much larger step, bringing him into the kinship fold—where family looked after family, checking and double-checking on their safety, consulting with other family members."
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"Cambodia in the 90s was a second chance, a new frontier, a new gold rush. And guys like Hatch and Patten weren’t going to miss out this time around."
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"These strongmen had the unquestioned right over the peasant population. Who among them would have cared about the fate of one such girl? Hundreds of Khmers were stepping on land mines every day of every week, and it looked like that would keep on happening for the indefinite future."
Me and Christoper G. Moore
at Bangkok's Check Inn 99.
I would not like that sort of thing in most crime novels; I'll read a history book instead. But Moore has two things going for him: Cambodia is, in fact, a mystery to many, if not most, Western readers, who could use a bit of background, and he is forthright about his role as a cultural explorer or rather a cultural detective, to borrow the title he used for his book of reflections about life as a writer in Southeast Asia (a book to which I was honored to write the introduction).


So the didactic moments are pretty easy to get used to. Even if you disagree, you might like Moore's borrowings, of which one, when the protagonist, Vincent Calvino, finds a naked news reporter in his bed, is this:

 "She giggled. `You’re cute.'"

That just might remind you of Philip Marlowe and Carmen Sternwood in The Big Sleep.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

I write about eight women crime writers in The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Philadelphia Inquirer published my review of Women Crime Writers: Eight Novels of Suspense from the 1940's and '50s, edited by Sarah Weinman for the Library of America.
I had fun writing the piece, especially quoting this timely bit from Vera Caspary's Laura:
"I have never stooped to the narration of a mystery story. At the risk of seeming somewhat less than modest, I shall quote from my own works. The sentence, so often reprinted, that opens my essay 'Of Sound and Fury' is reprinted here:  
" 'When, during the 1936 campaign, I learned that the President was a devotee of mystery stories, I voted a straight Republican ticket.' " 
 © Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Six crime writers and a monkey in Southeast Asia

Newark Airport. All photos by Peter Rozovsky
My flight left just as darkness fell in Hong Kong. We followed the night across the Pacific and North America before arriving at Newark International Airport around 11 p.m. I was so drained when I got home that I slept all day.  I have not seen sunlight for 38 hours, and, after a week and a half of 90 degree heat in Cambodia and Thailand, I had to bundle up against the cold.  If only I drank and smoked to excess, I'd have all the prerequisites for writing a Scandinavian crime novel.

Tom Vater
Until then, here are some of the crime writers I met Sunday evening, when Christopher G. Moore, the host for my Thailand visit and a dean among expatriate crime writers in Southeast Asia, interviewed me on stage at Bangkok's Check Inn 99.


A non-crime-writer
outside Phnom Penh
The list includes Moore; Tom Vater, who also wrote the guidebook I used in Cambodia; Harlan Wolff, who chose his pen name at an Irish friend's suggestion after declaring that his writing career would either take off like Hemingway's or sink like the Titanic; James A. Newman, who did a fine job as the evening's MC; and the irreverent Collin Piprell, who asked lots of questions; and Kevin S. Cummings.

Also in attendance was a man billed as the only person to circumnavigate the world five times by motorcycle. Upon hearing I was from Philadelphia, he walked up and said, "Temple University. South Street."

All in all, not a bad evening.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Crime and vice in Cambodia

I got some good monkey shots outside Phnom Penh today. In the human-being department, I looked up "China white" after my tuk tuk driver offered to get me some. He also offered "Girl, anything. Cambodia has lots to make happy-happy."

Had he offered to hook me up with some good loc lac or sticky rice with mango, he might have had a customer As it was, I declined with thanks.

And now, the monkeys, with a guest appearance by a human from the Russian Market.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Monk's cell, Phnom Penh

(Photo by Peter Rozovsky)
© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Photos from Phnom Penh





© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Detectives Beyond Borders on stage in Bangkok

Good fun at Sunday evening's noir fiction event at Check Inn 99 in Bangkok. I took no pictures of the evening's featured interview because I was its subject, talking about noir, crime fiction, Southeast Asia, noir and crime fiction in Southeast Asia, crime conventions, and other interesting topics. Many thanks to my interlocutor (and my host in Bangkok), Christopher G. Moore, and to the crowd of writers and publishers of crime fiction in this part of the world. You'll be reading about some of them in the coming weeks at Detectives Beyond Borders.

Check Inn 99 has quite a past. Suffice it to say that while my interview and its follow-up audience questions were a blast, they were not the most exciting happenings in this site's history.

Tom Vater
Soi Cowboy (Photos by Peter Rozovsky)
One nice touch: Among the attendees was Tom Vater, who writes crime fiction, is one of the folks behind the Hong Kong-based Crime Wave Press, and also wrote the guidebook I am using for the Cambodia legs of my trip.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

The path to a higher state, then and now.

Not from the museum. This is on site at the Banteay Srei temple,
whose ensemble of stone carving has to be among the greatest
and most breathtaking on the planet.
Weirdest experience so far in Cambodia has been the Angkor National Museum in Siem Reap, whose layout, like those of the country's celebrated Buddhist/Hindu temples, leads the visitor on a path that symbolizes a larger journey. In this case, that journey's successive steps are marked by swelling music, heavy on strings with occasional minor-key passages to signify that this is serious stuff, and other passages that sound like Zamfir's pan flute.   Oh, yeah: there are some good pieces of Khmer sculpture, too,

The museum is run by a private company in conjunction with Cambodia's Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, and it reminds me of the trend in some American museums of turning, likely because of declining government support, to blockbuster exhibits and multimedia presentations that appeal to a limited attention span.  In science museums, this takes the form of lots of stuff about dinosaurs and Star Wars. At art museums, it means lots and lots of exhibitions of the Impressionsts. One guidebook calls the museum "edutainment," and that seems about right to me.

In the temples from which the museum's sculpture is taken, the journeys replicate a path through life and attainment of a higher state. Here, the journey ends in the souvenir shop.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Some photos from Cambodia

I haven't forgotten about you or about crime fiction; I've just been busy shooting. All photos by your humble blogkeeper.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015




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Saturday, November 07, 2015

Rick Ollerman captures the spirit of paperback originals without copying it

Shallow Secrets, a novel by Rick Ollerman published in 2014, captures the feeling of paperback original crime novels published 50 or more years earlier without, however, resorting to showy nostalgia.

How does it accomplish this? On the one hand, its narrative is more leisurely than, say, Harry Whittington's. On the other, Ollerman uses the Whittingtonian technique of giving his protagonist, a cop named named James Robinson, a recurring physical ailment to which he can resort when he needs an ultra-econmical description of the character's physical and mental state.

On the one hand, the old device of using newspaper headlines and stories to mark significant events in the novel; on the other, the recent dates of those headlines and stories: 1989 and after.  And the novel's narrative arc, about which I'll say no more in order to avoid spoilers, reminded me of one that occasionally turns up in paperback originals of the Gold Medal era.

If you like Whittingon or Dan J. Marlowe or Charles Williams, you might like Shallow Secrets. Ollerman likes them, too, I'd bet, but without aping or idolatry.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Thursday, November 05, 2015

Who, what, when, where, and wai: Detectives Beyond Borders to talk crime fiction in Bangkok

Bangkok Noir Authors - International Crime Meetup
If you happen to be in Bangkok on Nov. 15, I'll be appearing at a pretty special event there that evening.  The handbill for the event (above/right), to be held at Check Inn 99, says Christopher G. Moore will interview me, but I'll probably ask more questions than I'll answer.

Sunday 15 Nov 6-9pm. A special inaugural meetup hosted by Christopher G. Moore featuring Peter Rozovsky the man behind Detective Beyond Borders. Peter is a well known Crime Fiction Critic whose blog is read internationally.
 

A relaxed and informal atmosphere to hear about trends in international Noir hardboiled mystery novels and how the community of writers in South East Asia fit into this genre. This will be a chance to join others who share similar interests and to meet locally based Crime and Fiction Authors, ask questions and otherwise enjoy yourselves. This will follow on from the popular Sunday afternoon Jazz Jam at Checkinn99. Entertainment after from Music of the Heart Band. More details on https://www.facebook.com/bangkoknoirauthors.

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If you're in the area, Check Inn 99 is at 97 Sukhumvit Road, right across from the Landmark Hotel. See you there.  

Read about the Bangkok Noir short story collection at http://www.heavenlakepress.com/books/BangkokNoir.htm

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Detectives Beyond Borders talks movies on The Projection Booth

I'm a guest on Episode 243 of Mike White and Rob St. Mary's Projection Booth podcast, discussing Jean-Pierre Melville's splendid and seminal 1967 gangster movie Le Samouraï, starring Alain Delon, and Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai.

The show is just as much fun as Mystery Science Theater 3000 but with more insight and fewer robots, and you can download it or listen to is at the Projection Booth website. When you're done, go back and listen to earlier episodes. I especially like Mike and Rob's discussion of The Limey.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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