Sunday, May 27, 2018

GETTING CARTER; Brit Noir Fiction and Non-Fiction

Jack's Return Home, more popularly known as Get Carter by Ted Lewis is a classic noir commonly referred to as the book which birthed British noir. Getting Carter by Nick Triplow provides insight into the troubled authors life, from his early struggles at school to his rise in working on studio animation and, his eventual claim to fame - the film adaption of his debut novel starring the famous actor Michael Caine.

Getting Carter explores and exposes Ted Lewis' inner demons; the same ones which contributed to his eventual death are the same ones, one could argue, which contributed to his success (though short lived it was). 

It's a shame to see the work of Lewis years after his death get the recognition and appreciation it deserves. Genre peers are quoted throughout the book as referencing both Jack's Return Home and GBH as critical works in the crime sub genre. I, for one, really enjoyed the bleak and raw nature of Get Carter (review below) and have added both GBH and the prequel to Jack's Return Home, Jack Carter's Law to my read-list. 

This non-fiction look at the life of Ted Lewis, his rise and fall, and other pieces of work, of which he's less renowned for, is a must read for fans not only of Get Carter but for fans of noir in general. 

Book Review, Get Carter by Ted Lewis (published 2013 (first published 1970 as Jack's Return Home)):

Hard-man Jack Carter returns home to Doncaster following the unexpected death of his brother Frank. Straight away the scene doesn't seem on the level; firstly, the cause of death (Frank, drunk, allegedly drove his car of a cliff) doesn't fit given Frank hardly touched the hard stuff, secondly, Jack's bosses, the criminally inclined Les and Gerald don't want Jack putting noses out of joint down in Doncaster for fear of him endangering their criminal enterprise. 

What follows is a rampage of violence as Jack steadily draws lines through names of his former associates on the path to a kind of street justice. Sure, he can't reverse Frank's death but he can put a whole lot of hurt on those responsible.

Get Carter is the book which epitomizes British noir; the protagonist is a criminal (though we don't know what exactly he does for Les and Gerald) whose morals are questionable (he's sleeping with his boss's wife, prone to violence against women, and is happy to abuse the kindness of strangers), while the undercurrent of crime is exemplified by police corruption, prostitution, murder, assault, and under-aged pornography - all this circling the drain surrounding the death of Frank.

My rating: 4/5 stars. I enjoyed Get Carter and would've given the book 5 stars had it read as a second in a series; I felt like I was dropped into Jack's life without a lot of backstory surrounding his current employer or the seemingly meaningful relationships he has with people who crossed Frank.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Review: A LESSON IN VIOLENCE by Jordan Harper

Publisher Simon & Schuster
Length 257 pages
Format softcover
Published 2017
Series standalone
My Copy borrowed form the library 

Nate McClusky, near the end of a bid murders a member of Ayran Steel, a white supremacist gang, following a prison altercation. He’s immediately ‘green lit’ for execution along with his estranged wife/partner and 11yr old daughter on the outside. His slice of freedom soon soured by the coppery taste of blood and smell of violent retribution. 

A Lesson in Violence is a shot of adrenaline laced with speed and topped off with a liberal sprinkling of blood. The protagonist flips the hunter/prey dynamic on its head as he strives to save the lives of those closest to him. Whilst his fatherly love has always been at arm’s length, his determination and brute force nature nurtures and cultivates a relationship with daughter Polly which is endearing and true; an evolution breed by bonding over violence.

The common theme throughout is violence, both on account of the victim and perpetrator yet the more endearing qualities encompassing that father/daughter relationship and progressive path to reconciliation is what stands out. It also helps that both key cogs in the machine are  well written; Nate is the stereotypical hard-man, Polly is a quirky preteen with spunk in spades – together, a perfect character combination.

My rating: 5/5 stars, A Lesson in Violence is a fast paced, quick read which manages to both convey a deep emotional connection to its characters while also delivering an action packed blood fueled romp.        

Note. this title has also been published as She Rides Shotgun

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Review: CULPRITS edited by Richard Brewer & Gary Phillips

Publisher Polis Books
Length 352 pages
Format ebook
Published 2018
Series standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher

Culprits is a crime anthology centered around a band of professional criminals who pull off a career heist. The short stories each follow a member of the crew in the aftermath of the opening stanza which introduces the characters and sees them execute their plan. 

There's some top talent in crime fiction contributing to this well paced and plotted anthology including David Corbett, Zoe Sharp, and Gary Phillips to name a few. Each bringing a unique perspective to the fallout.  

I really liked the structure of this anthology and consistency in the way the characters are portrayed throughout. While the number of characters is initially hard to follow, each is clearly defined by their role and individual circumstance following in the aftermath of the heist. 

My rating: 4/5 stars, I was looking forwarding to reading Culprits and wasn't let down. This book has appeal to both readers of long and shorter forms of crime fiction. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pick Up A Pulp [34]: NONE BUT THE LETHAL HEART by Carter Brown

The dizzy blonde bombshell and private eye Mavis Seidlitz finds herself involved in a crazy caper involving a corpse concealed in the trunk of a car and a murderer so dreamy she can't refuse to aid; an accidental but willing accomplice in a fun piece of pulp from Carter Brown. 

None but the Lethal Heart (published in 1959, by Horwitz) is a slapstick pulp which is as entertaining as it is cringe-worthy. The protagonist, Mavis Seidlitz is all to willing to use her god-given assets to confuse and muddle the opposite sex while her partner at the PI firm, Johnny Rio is the epitome of the male chauvinist - his dialogue offensive and loaded with derogatory remarks towards an all-too happy go lucky Mavis. 

The plot is pretty straight forward; a 'prowler' is murdered by an acquaintance of Mavis who is in L.A. to guard a foreign dignitary who is visiting the USA to borrow money for his fledgling president. It later turns out that the prowler was actually the money-man, and his death a major bump in the road in the deal.

It's up to Mavis, to 1. help the murderer hide the corpse, and then 2. find out why the money-man was moonlighting as a prowler. There's a lot of finger pointing and smoke and mirrors as other characters come into the fold but in the end, the finale was ultimately disappointing. 

My rating: 2.5/5 stars. I do love a pulp, and taken on face value as a pure satire, None but the Lethal Heart is pretty fun. However this one is really for Carter Brown and Mavis Seidlitz fans. 

Other pulps which have a similar feel include:

This Girl For Hire by G. G. Fickling

Pick up a Pulp [6]: Seudlitz and the Super Spy by Carter Brown


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Review: THEORY OF BASTARDS by Audrey Schulman

Publisher Europa Editions
Length 416 pages
Format paperback
Published 2018
Series standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher

Part tech-fi, part social study, Theory of Bastards is wholly entertaining. But it's not due to a fast paced plot or nasty piece of technology threatening to end the world. No, the beauty in this book lies with its literary qualities, perfect prose, and complex characters; bonobo and human alike. 

Frankie is a scientist, wooed by The Foundation to study bonobos. She's recovering from a life long battle with endometriosis which has crippled her personal life, yet allowed her to focus her energy in the field of science. Becoming a live-in resident of The Foundation whilst undertaking her study, Frankie learns much about the mating, playful qualities, and hierarchy in the group of bonobos. Gradually she earns their trust through a series of experiments in learning, along with co-worker Stotts, a former solider. 

As the characters depths unfold so does the omnipresent threat of danger. There's a dark side to the story waiting to shatter Frankie's enjoyable existence within the confines of The Foundation's secure walls.

Theory of Bastards has elements of futuristic tech-fi embedded into the story which adds depth and gives it a unique place among other books I've read this year. The tech angle works really well and the author does a great job at conveying its practical Altered Carbon-like uses (advertising built into lenses direct on the eyes for instance); it flows into the study of bonobos to form a unique and unsuspecting combination. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. I would've given Theory of Bastards 5 stars if it weren't for the somewhat abrupt ending. I can see why the story finished where it did, however, as a reader I thought the story deserved closure.   

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Pick of the Month [April 2018]

I read 14 books in April with half of those book rating as 5 stars reads. A pretty decent month if you ask me.

I also rekindled my love for fantasy, reading 3 books in the genre, strangely, these 3 were my first fantasy reads of the year! 

Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks (Lightbringer #4)

Prophecy's Ruin by Sam Bowing (Broken Well Trilogy #1)

Furyborn by Claire Legrand (Empirium Trilogy #1)

However, the cream of the crop goes to the new book by Charlie Donlea, Don't Believe It. Much like last year's The Girl Who Was Taken, which also happened to be my Pick of the Month for March 2017, this book kept me guessing and was an engrossing read all the way through. I can't wait to see what this author does next. 

Other top reads for the month include, in no particular order:

Sunburn by Laura Lippman (Crime) - also my favorite audiobook of the month

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Review: THE HUNTER by Richard Stark, adapted by Darwyn Cooke

Publisher IDW
Length 140 pages
Format paperback
Published 2012 (this edition, third printing 2017)
Series Parker #1
My Copy I bought it

Illustrator Darywn Cooke's adaptation of the classic blood soaked revenge fueled noir, The Hunter by Donald Westlake's most renowned pseudonym Richard Stark captures the essence of the novel and manages to better it by adding a layer of grit to the grime, in the process creating a visually perfect picture to compliment he prose. 

Parker is a professional thief, taking only the most profitable jobs; its high stakes, high risk, high reward. 

When an opportunity arises to take a cut of a cool 90k, he goes all in only to be betrayed by the women he loves and double crossed by his partners. 

Left for dead, Parker emerges like a hellfire Phoenix and sets out to get revenge on those who wronged him. 

My rating: 5/5 Stars. Parker is a great character; his brutal nature perfectly captured in this adaptation. If you're a fan of the novels, this is a must read graphic novel. 
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