Thursday, May 19, 2011
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
It's been quite a while since my last post, but I haven't forgotten all of you. I've been looking forward to today in particular, as it's the release of one of the most highly anticipated video games in video game history. Not that I know very much about gaming in general, but it's hard to miss this one. L.A. Noire billboards are everywhere and the commercials they're running are fantastic. I've never had the urge to play a video game before, but I'm pretty sure this is about as close as I'll come. If any of you have been the first at the doors of GameStop, be sure to let me know what you think of the experience as soon as you've played for an hour or two.
Since most people picking up L.A. Noire this week aren't necessarily familiar with noire as a genre, I may be running some introductory posts here in the coming week to get you started. But if you live in the L.A. area, I'd suggest getting in your car and driving some of the roads you'll be seeing in the game. There's still a lot of the old world left in these starstruck streets.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Hammett defined hard-boiled detective fiction in his day, setting the standards for authors ever since. His works were frequently translated into film, and found success wherever they went - both for his spare, conscientious writing style and the seemingly unsolvable mysteries it conveyed.
If you're looking for a writer to learn from, he's one to top your list. Any new finds in the deep drawers of his imagination, no matter how far from their original source, are worth our time, attention, and excitement.
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
This past Saturday also saw me joining ZOVA Books publisher Molly Lewis for a conversation on women in the book industry. As a past board member of Sisters in Crime LA, it's a subject I've been familiar with for a while. We talked about changes in the publishing industry, the process of writing, and what resources are available for women in the industry today. There are more discussions lined up at the Ovitt Family Community Library in Ontario, CA, and you can check out the calendar of events here. It's always a pleasure to take part in the writing community at a local level, and I'm excited for more opportunities like these.
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
I've got plenty of books on mine that I haven't gotten around to reading yet, but I thought I'd list a few that I've been interested in for a while, along with some reviews I've been reading that have peaked my interest.
The first would be David Peace's Nineteen Seventy-Four. Small wonder why I'm interested in this one. The book is the first of a quartet, and Peace's debut novel. Set in the title year, it's a gritty, noirish character driven story that subsequently landed David Peace a Granta nod and a series of film adaptations in the UK. There's an excellent blog review here.
The book industry has been experiencing what we could curiously call a "Swedish Invasion." Cynical readers might refuse to look twice at the broadening library of crime novels coming from the otherwise peaceful northern nation, but there's a reason these Swedish novels are experiencing significant attention. They're just good. Box 21, by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom is no exception. The writing duo has been getting a lot of attention from serious readers since Publishers Weekly, the New York Times, and a host of other reviewers gave the book a standing ovation upon its release.
T. J. English's The Savage City is a historical narrative of New York City in the '60s and '70s, told with the attention and suspense of a dramatic police procedural. Being a man of Los Angeles, the Big Apple holds a whole different kind of narrative novelty to me. I'd put this book in the queue with Erik Larson's The Devil and the White City in terms of taking the history of a city, finding it's pulse, and turning its narrative into a kind of cult object.
My reading list is always long, but ever open to suggestions. Feel free to add to my list in the comments below. In the meantime, what's on your Kindle?
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
There has been a lot of blog buzz about the tendency of the Academy to favor warm and fuzzy over gritty and edgy (like the year that Dances With Wolves beat out Goodfellas, for example), but it's hard to imagine anyone characterizing most of the "gentler" Oscar winners as warm and fuzzy when they were first released. They're usually only considered tame in contrast with something else remarkably un-tame. And this year is no exception.
For all my love of gritty, film noir, I can't help but be glad The King's Speech won. It was a pitch perfect movie. The other films in the line-up were impressive, and I'm glad the Academy has expanded the best picture list to give well-deserved attention to otherwise poorly acknowledged films. But there is something so satisfying, so delicately successful about The King's Speech. Not a moment of that movie was wasted, and every actor delivered every line with excellence.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
The event on March 5th is hosted by the Ovitt Family Community Library in Ontario, CA. I'm looking forward to it for a number of reasons - because book sales from the event will benefit the library itself, and because the author discussions every Saturday during the month of March will highlight women writers from all parts of the industry. Please feel free to join me and my publisher in just over a week, but also mark your calendars for the other events that month, from debut novelist Jenny Bellington to seasoned mystery and literary fiction writer, Michele Scott, as well as my good friend Teresa Burrell. Their books will be on sale at every event, which should give everyone plenty of opportunities to support the library with the profits on every sale.
Events like this are also exciting because they give book clubs, reading groups, and writers' organizations a chance to take a fresh look at literature in a focused setting. So spread the word, and I'll see you there!
Thursday, February 17, 2011
I'll be there, as I usually am, along with my editor, Mike Sirota, who will be a guest speaker at the event. Mike is a constant figure at writing conferences from San Diego all the way to Alaska, and this weekend will mark the first event he has scheduled since his book launch last week for his most recent novel, Fire Dance. I'm personally looking forward to his presentation on Saturday morning, as well as the panel on the current and future state of the publishing industry from my own publishers at ZOVA Books.
The conference is a must-attend for any writers within driving distance - if not for the extensive critical help it gives one's own writing, then simply for the sense of community it provides. Writing can seem like a lonely business, and the Southern California Writers' Conferences prove that it simply doesn't have to be that way. I look forward to seeing you there!
Monday, February 14, 2011
You can read more about the Blogathon over at Ferdy on Films (and take a look at her take on Detour from several years ago), or over at the Self-Styled Siren. Both blogs are excellent archives for film noir fans, but I expect we'll be finding several more go-to sites as the blogathon continues.
Whether you've been drawn to film noir for years or are only just recently discovering it, the Film Noir Foundation is a wonderful resource. I'm looking forward to the attention the blogathon will bring to the genre, the Foundation, and the incredible blogging community that supports it with wit, intelligence, and commitment.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Proof of the growing attention to film noir isn't hard to find. Let me just throw down the upcoming video game from Rockstar Games, L.A. Noire. Heralded as one of the most visually stunning games of this generation and the most heavily anticipated game of the year, I need hardly suggest that a renewed interest in the genre will be cropping up on a number of fronts.
My own Detour to Murder is a small testament to that interest. My love for stories began with film noir - watching them at the cinema as a kid - and bringing that into the Jimmy O'Brien mystery series has been very satisfying. If anything, my hope has been that such efforts will serve to remind a new generation about the gems of both film and fiction that lie waiting for lovers of good stories, if they have the mind to look. I'd be interested to hear your own noir discoveries, the detours you may have taken from contemporary film to classic - or the other way around.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Headquarters for Silverman Investigations Incorporated in Downey took up the entire top floor of the office building that housed Rocco's Restaurant. Although Sol had a large staff of operatives and secretaries on his payroll upstairs, he hung out at the restaurant on the ground floor. Rocco's had even installed a separate telephone line in his private booth at the back of the dining room.
Andre, the maitre d', was at his station by the entrance jotting a name in the reservation book when I walked into the restaurant. He looked up at me and waved as I strolled past him. Andre knew I was the only person Sol allowed to go to his booth unannounced.
Sol stood to greet me. "Shalom, my friend," he said. "Now, sit and we'll enjoy a nice lunch."
Sol was taller sitting down than standing up, his chest was huge and matched his stomach, but his legs were short and skinny. His large round head hunkered down directly on his shoulders without a suggestion of a neck. Today he was wearing a rust colored turtleneck that fit tight across his torso, but the folds of the sweater at the top were baggy and covered his chin. He tugged at his collar as he wedged himself into the booth.
I slipped into the booth across from him. "Did Mabel call?"
"Why are you always late?" Sol said.
"Yes, you are, Jimmy my boy, but I've got a system with you."
"What kind of system?" Sol had systems for everything, especially at the track.
"When you say you're going to meet me at a certain time I always show up fifteen minutes later."
"Oh, Sol, I know you do that. And that's why I'm always late, because you're late."
"Yeah, but now you're late being late."
He had me there.
"I can see on your face, you have a problem," Sol said, "and you need my help. Is that why you came to break bread with me?"
"I came to have lunch with my friend. What else?"
A small smile appeared on Sol's face, but his dark eyes bored into me. "Nothing else, I'm sure, but first tell me what you need."
Buck's death was nagging at me. Sol had contacts everywhere, his 'spies', and I thought he might be able to get a copy of the sheriff department’s report. I couldn't come right out and ask him for a favor, but if I told him the story, he’d volunteer his services.
"Guy can't eat with a friend without needing something?" I said.
"Of course, but I know you, Jimmy. Go ahead, lay it on me."
"Yeah, I guess something's bugging me."
"Ah, ha, I knew it! You came here for a favor."
"No, Sol, I just found out about it. My client — "
Sol's bushy eyebrows rose. "A client? You have a client?" The eyebrows fell. "Wait a minute. Is this a paying client or another one of your freebies?"
"This client is dead."
"Oh." Sol paused for a moment. "Dead men pay no bills."
Janine came to the table with a drink for Sol and a cup of coffee for me. She was wearing a new uniform more in keeping with the prevailing feminist movement than the low-cut miniskirt outfits that the waitresses used to wear. "Like the new getup?" Janine did a slow twirl showing off her loose fitting white blouse buttoned at the neck, and her plain black skirt.
"Sweetheart, on you, a gunnysack would look sexy," Sol said.
"Oh, Sol, aren't you the sweetest thing." Janine glanced at me. "How about you, good lookin'? Do you like it?"
Before I could answer, Sol piped up. "Why do you always call him good looking? I think you wore out that joke."
Here we go again. I've been through this before.
"Well," Janine said, angling her head in my direction, "he's got those baby-blues, like Paul Newman. Kinda looks like him too."
In response to the same compliment I’d gotten since my third birthday, I rolled the baby-blues. It was embarrassing. As a kid, when guests came to our home, I wanted to run and hide. Did Paul Newman have the same problem? Nah, he'd love it. That's why he's a star, and I'm me.
"Don't you think he looks like Paul Newman, Sol?" Janine continued.
"Looks more like Ronnie Howard."
"Who's Ronnie Howard?" she said.
"Opie on the Andy Griffith Show. You remember — Mayberry, and all that."
"Thanks, Sol," I said.
Janine laughed. "Maybe you're right. Opie, only taller," she said, giving me the once over. "But he sure has a better build than Barney Fife."
"Cut it out you guys," I said. "Let's order."
"Sure, Opie," Janine said. "What'll you have?"
When they stopped laughing, I ordered a hamburger. Sol told Janine to bring him a new dish he was keen to try. I couldn't pronounce its name, but Sol said it had slices of veal sprinkled with sage, covered with wafer thin prosciutto, sauteed in sweet butter, and then braised in a Pinot Blanc. He told Janine to have the chef toss in some black truffles for an additional flavor boost. Sol ordered a bottle of La Tache '62 to go with the meal. Janine rushed off to instruct the chef how to prepare Sol's lunch.
"Now, Jimmy. What does this dead guy want me to do for him?"
I told Sol about Buck Simpson, my call to the deputy D.A., and my feeling that I wouldn't get the facts. "Sol, the guard said Simpson committed suicide, but — "
"So, maybe he did."
"Maybe he didn't."
"Take it from an expert, Jimmy, if you want to find out about someone, you have to talk to his friends, people he knew. Go to his home, see how he lived. It takes a lot of time."
"Maybe you could find out what really happened from the Sheriff's Department," I said.
"Why should you care what happened?"
"I dunno, Sol. Shouldn’t somebody care?"
Sol took a sip of his drink. "Look, my young friend, the guy was a goniff. The State was going to pay you a few bucks for his hearing, no offense." Sol spread his arms out. "Even with your fine eloquence, I'm sure he was doomed, going back to prison," he said. "Isn't it just your job to see that his rights weren't violated?"
"Yeah, now he's dead. What does that say about his rights?"
"Let's enjoy lunch. No more talk of dead guys, suicides, jails."
I felt a little down. I figured Sol didn't think the matter was important enough, or maybe Buck's death wasn't worthy of his time. "What do you want to talk about?" I asked.
Sol wanted to talk about the commodity market. I guessed he wanted to brag a little. I didn't mind. I enjoyed listening to his stories.
Janine appeared with our food, and Sol continued rambling on. We ate, and I listened.
It was almost two o'clock when I slipped out of the booth and got up to leave. "Thanks for lunch, Sol," I said.
"Thought you wanted to know about the dead guy."
"Then sit down."
I sat and Sol picked up the phone. "Julie, get Bob Morgan on the line at the Sheriff's Department in East L.A. and put him through to me. I'll hold."
"Morgan?" I asked.
"The undersheriff, good friend, he'll tell us what he knows, but it'll cost me a dinner at La Scala's. Expensive, but they got the greatest steak tartare, and you wouldn't believe the ..." Sol stopped talking and raised his hand. "Hey, Bobbo, my boy. I need a little help." He paused for a second and nodded. "Thanks, you too." Another short pause. "Whaddya know about a Buck Simpson? Supposedly committed suicide in your jail last night."
After a few grunts, a couple of 'I understands', and one 'You know me, Bob, won't happen,' Sol hung up.
"What did he say?" I asked, perhaps a little too fast.
Sol drained the last of the wine from his glass, picked up a napkin, and wiped his mouth. "The official line is that he committed suicide. Hung himself," Sol said. He stopped right there, but of course, I knew there was more.
We just sat and stared at one another for about fifteen seconds. We were playing one of Sol's little games. I figured in a minute he'd order dessert or something, just to keep the suspense up a little longer before he told me what really happened.
"Want more coffee, Jimmy?" he said turning his head. "I'll get the waitress."
After a moment or two, Sol said, "Yep, hung himself, all right. After he was stabbed in the back...three times."
Thursday, January 20, 2011
My greatest hope with ebooks is simply to reach out to a wider audience of readers, and perhaps to get even more feedback from the readers I already have. I love to hear from you. You are the ones who inspire me with new stories and more interesting characters. Feel free to drop a comment or shoot me an email with your thoughts. You are why I do what I do.