Thursday, July 17, 2014

REVIEW: Long Lost Dog of It by Michael Kazepis

Long Lost Dog of It is the fascinating debut novel from Michael Kazepis published by Broken River Books. I know you've heard this before, but this is truly not like anything I've read before. It certainly doesn't fit into any genre, and it reads more like a collection of tenuously connected short stories/flash pieces than a novel.

Set in Athens during the financial crisis protests, the book begins from the perspective of a vagrant, an appropriate choice to establish the narrative's wandering nature. Yet Kazepis also creates a strong sense of place, which connects a set of different characters' storylines. He possesses a deep understanding of the city and its people; the book's international setting is one of its strongest components.

Another strength is the writing. Kazepis writes like he's chiseling in stone--his prose confident and clear. Just look at how it begins:

The vagrant woke in plateia Monastiraki and wasn't sure when or how he arrived. His name was Ciprian Varia. He was dressed in salvaged clothes and boots that barely fit. Every part of him hurt. 


A grimy, lonely atmosphere pervades the book, as each of the characters (a hitman, a young lesbian couple, a dive bar manager, among others) struggle to create meaning and to simply get by.  As the vagrant says at one point, He felt goddamned lobotomized by survival. 

While there are shades of noir, this is more contemplative, less plot-driven fare than ADR's usual tastes. But it's a vivid, captivating title worthy of your attention.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

INTERVIEW: Paul D. Brazill

Paul D. Brazill is known for his crime writing and is the editor of the new anthology, Exiles. The book contains "stranger in a strange land" stories by writers like Patti Abbott, Ryan Sayles, Carrie Clevenger, Chris Leek, Richard Godwin, Jason Michel, and myself. He also recently released A Case of Noir, about Luke Case, a boozy English hack with a dark secret who starts a dangerous affair with a gangster’s wife. Case escapes to the sweltering Spanish heat where he meets a colorful cast of characters, including a mysterious torch singer and a former East End villain with a criminal business proposition. It's another shot of international noir from the master. I talked with Paul about living and writing overseas.

All Due Respect: You’ve lived in Poland for a number of years, how have you felt like an outsider? What was the biggest culture shock for you?

Paul D. Brazill: I think I’ve always felt like an outsider, even when living in Hartlepool and London, but I suppose when you’re living in a foreign country that ‘state’ is more pronounced. Certainly when I first came here. Quite a pleasant feeling, of course. The purpose of self-imposed exile not to have to fit in.

I had no expectations so there was no real culture shock. I was surprised by the lack of pub culture, though, in that most pubs are ostensibly places for young people. There’s little of the mish-mash of age, sex, class that you--at least used to--get in the best British pubs.

ADR: Have you begun to feel more at home in Poland? 

PDB: I ‘negotiate’ the place better for sure. But I’ve always lived in my own bubble. It doesn’t matter where I am, I’ll never feel like I’m in on the joke.

ADR: How has living abroad changed your view of your home country?

PDB: Well, I’m sure it’s made me appreciate the good things and dislike the rubbish things even more.

ADR: Do you feel like your writing has changed due to living abroad?

PDB: Apart from a lost screenplay, I didn’t write before I moved here. I’d been living here for 6 or 7 years before I started knocking out stuff. I doubt I would ever have got any writing done had I stayed in England, though.

ADR: What are some of your favorite stranger-in-a-strange-land books/stories? 

PDB: Adrift In Soho Colin Wilson
Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley books and plenty of her other books.
The Comedians Graham Greene
Fierce Bitches Jedidiah Ayres
Morvern Caller Alan Warner
Cocaine Nights J G Ballard

ADR: What's Blackwitch Press got cooking these days?

PDB: Nothing. I don’t intend to do anything with BWP for quite a while. Next year there may well be a Roman Dalton book but whether I do it through Blackwitch Press or elsewhere, we’ll see. It takes a lot of time—and money—and I have even more admiration for indie publishers now I’ve seen how difficult it is. But I want to concentrate on getting my own writing finished and out into the world.

Friday, July 4, 2014

REVIEW: Thuglit Issue 11

I'm going to come right out and say it: This is the best single issue of a crime magazine that I've read. Thuglit is always excellent, but Issue 11 is about perfect, right down to the artful formatting and cover--and that there isn't a single proofreading error. (All of this is testament to the work of editors Todd Robinson, Allison Glasgow, and Julie McCarron.)

This was one of six books I ordered that were waiting for me when I returned to the States. That's a pretty exclusive list--the vast majority of my reading material is electronic because I live in India and the (English language) crime fiction available on the subcontinent is limited.

Anyway, this one was just a joy to read. While Thuglit consistently publishes strong work, every story in here is memorable.

Matthew McBride opens with the disturbing, graphic, and tight-as-a-fucking drum "Sounding." I've long been a fan of McBride's straight forward style and can't wait to read his new book, A Swollen Red Sun. 

Another favorite is Angel Luis Colón's "Dinner Rush," about a chef trying to maintain his vision despite the moron he works with. Colón has quickly established himself on the crime fiction scene--I'm interested in whatever he's writing. Same goes for Jessica Adams, who has a wonderful, original entry in "Black Pearls."

I also really dug Scott Grand's " A Bottle of Scotch and a Buck Knife." Writing from a kid's perspective is challenging--especially in a crime story--but Grand pulls it off, crafting a believable and compelling story about friendship, tradition, and justice.

But I could have written about any story in this issue--it's that good. I strongly recommend that you not only buy, read, and love this issue, but that you get it in print

Monday, June 30, 2014

TRUE CRIME: Guilty Footprints by CJ Edwards

Guilty Footprints: A True Crime Story
By CJ Edwards

It was January, and I was assigned as a patrol officer on East District day shift on the Indianapolis Police Department. There was eight inches of fresh snow on the ground, and I was scheduled to get off in about an hour when I was dispatched on a domestic disturbance between a female and her ex-boyfriend. Wonderful, it was just what I needed to ensure I wouldn’t get home on time. My back up and I arrived and found that the boyfriend had already left. I spoke briefly to the female. She told me her ex-boyfriend, Lamont, had been pounding on her back door but ran away when she called 911. I was relieved. Lamont was gone, his ex-girlfriend didn’t demand a report, and it was looking like I might get home on time after all.

Not five minutes after leaving I was dispatched to the same house, but this time the dispatcher informed me that the ex-boyfriend was now breaking out the back window. I hurried back as quickly as the snow would allow, determined this time to catch Lamont. I knew if I didn’t he would keep harassing his ex and we would keep getting called there. When I arrived the second time, the female was on her front porch barefoot wearing a t-shirt and underwear with a blanket wrapped around her shoulders waving frantically, screaming, “He’s around back. He’s around back.” I ran around the side of the house to find an empty back yard. When I looked at the window next to the back door, I saw that it was broken, and glass was lying in footprints freshly pressed into the deep snow. They led away from the window toward the alley. While the backup officer spoke with the girlfriend, I began following Lamont’s trail.

At the alley they turned north and I followed. Lamont had to be hiding close by. The tracks led me past three more yards stopping at a privacy fence. Many of the yards had fences separating them, but they did not completely enclose the side of the yard facing the alley. This allowed residents to park their cars in the back yard. The privacy fence where the tracks stopped was no different. As I walked around the open side of the fence, I discovered that the tracks continued toward the house.

Lamont’s footprints finally ended at a door on the back porch of a home four houses away from where his ex-girlfriend lived. Walking around to the front of the house I used my radio to call for the other officer to come and assist me. He stayed by at the back door while I knocked at the front. A female in her early twenties answered, and looked out at me with her big brown eyes opened wide. “Is Lamont here,” I asked? The girl shook her head no. I explained to her that I had followed Lamont’s footprints to her back door, and I knew he was there.

She then nodded, glanced over her shoulder towards the hallway and whispered, “He’s in the closet,” and pointed to one of the back bedrooms.

As I walked through the living room, I noticed soggy footprints leading toward Lamont’s hiding place. I let the other officer in the back door and together we followed the trail. In the bedroom, we stood to one side of the closet, and quickly slid the door open. Like a small child, Lamont was lying half buried in a pile of dirty clothes with his hands covering his eyes pretending not to know we were there. After dragging him out of the closet and handcuffing him, we walked him to the living room so he could put on his shoes, and then marched him out to our cars. Lamont had a warrant for theft. He stood resignedly by my car while I filled out the arrest paperwork, and called for a wagon.

As he stood there he asked me, “Man how did you find me? Did my girlfriend tell you what house to go to?” I shook my head and told him his ex had not told me where he was because she didn’t know and I had simply followed his footprints.

“Nah she told you where I was,” Lamont said.

I looked up at him, “No I followed your footprints.”

Lamont kept denying that I could have followed his foot prints, and I was starting to get frustrated. I finally stepped out of my car yelling at him, “Lamont! You see all that white stuff on the ground? It’s called snow, and when you walk in it you leave behind these things called, footprints. I followed your footprints through the snow to the house you were hiding in. That’s how I found you.”

I stared at Lamont as he shook his head. “No way man. That’s impossible.”

Dumbfounded I asked “What are you talking about? How is it impossible that I followed your footprints?

He looked at me and said, “Because. I took my shoes off.”


Guilty Footprints originally appeared in American Blue: Real Stories by Real Cops.

C. J. Edwards has been a police officer in Indianapolis, Indiana, since 2000 and is currently assigned to the Sex Crimes Unit in Criminal Investigations. His work has been published in Esquire (Ukraine), All Due Respect the Anthology, Beat To A PulpPlots With Guns, Pulp Modern issues 1, 5, and 7, and Needle: A Magazine of Noir. He maintains a blog at Fulldarkcity.com.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

REVIEW: Tentacle Death Trip by Jordan Krall

My two main fiction interest are crime (duh) and bizarro. Most of the time, these two interests don't intersect. I'm not under the impression that most crime fans are big fans of, say, Tao Lin or Sam Pink.

But Jordan Krall's the kind of author more crime fans should try, and the wild, original Tentacle Death Trip is a good gateway drug.

It's the post-apocalyptic American future, a Mad Max nuke wasteland of mutants, criminals, religious freaks, and a few hard-core survivors. A sadistic billionaire decides to throw a bone to the bloodthirsty masses in the form of a no-rules race to the death through New Jersey.

From there it's a balls-to-the-wall pulp fest. I mean, the characters are named things like Mama Hell (a bible thumper ready to exact God's Old-Testament wrath on any asshole man who gets in her way) and Drac (a glass-skulled sociopath in a tentacled car). One hundred percent badass.

Yet the end of the book--when the characters who survive the death race reach the lost city of R'lyeh--is genuine, beautiful, and cathartic.

This is the third Krall book I've read--along with Squid Pulp Blues and Squid Kills--and I'd highly recommend any of them to fans of bizarro or pulp.