Nov 072014
 
Written by Devin O'Leary
Illustrated by Jason Waskey

2 Color, Graphic Novel

Comico, 1992


This slender, 48-page graphic novel from '92 is a bit of an oddity. It's a 40's-styled film noir pastiche with subtle sci-fi overtones that possesses some minor similarities to Alex Proyas' 1998 motion picture, Dark City.

Trench coat-clad P.I. Vin Dressler searches for a missing girl in an unnamed city/police state divided into a red sector and a blue sector, where it "rains every day." Like the aforementioned Dark City, the town has numerous billboards scattered around, advertising luxurious, tropical vacations, but no one seems to have ever left the city, nor does there appear to be any world beyond its borders.

The plot is thin and straightforward, the script by O'Leary rife with captions and dialogue loaded with the stereotyped similes and metaphors generally associated with private eye voice-overs. So loaded, in fact, that it's almost a parody of the Raymond Chandler style, though I somehow doubt that was the intent. The writer tries for a Kafka-esque tone of surreality, but is only partially successful. It's not terrible, just kind of half-baked.

The art by Waskey, apparently rendered in black & white pastels with occasional spots of red, is nicely done, atmospheric and moody, although there's a heavy reliance on photo reference. In fact, various noir icons make appearances in the book – copied directly from classic film stills – including Peter Lorre, Ingrid Bergman and Alfred Hitchcock. Some panels (the heavily referenced ones) are nicer than others, but the overall effect is quite pleasing, and is the book's main selling point.

For fans of classic film noir, Falls The Gotham Rain is a decent homage, but offers very little in the way of anything new. Its sci-fi elements are so slight as to be easily missed, and have little effect on the story itself, effectively amounting to nothing. Still, the art is nice, it's a quick read, and its heart seems to be in the right place.

If you stumble across a copy in a back issue bin somewhere, its worth picking up.

Three out of Six Bullets.
Oct 242014
 
Written by Jamie S. Rich
Illustrated by Joelle Jones

B&W, Hardcover Graphic Novel

Oni Press, 2009


Modern authors who attempt period private eye stories often end up turning out pale pastiche or unintentional parody. Or their stories are so heavily infused with the author's historical research that they read dry and artificial. What is often forgotten is that the private eye mystery - regardless of period - revolves around character more than plot. This is different from most other sub-genres of mystery fiction, where plot is all; a puzzle to be solved. In a P.I. story, it's all about people; their secrets, their motives, their passions.

Jamie Rich and Joelle Jones' You Have Killed Me is a private eye tale that remembers that, and is filled with deftly-drawn (in all senses of the word), richly-developed characters.

Private investigator Antonio Mercer is hired to find an old flame, a high society gal from his past, who has gone missing on the eve of her wedding to a down-on-his-luck gambler. It's no surprise that Mercer's investigation leads through smoky jazz clubs and dark back alleys, to various and sundry unsavory individuals, nor that it ultimately becomes very personal for our protagonist.

Rich's script is sharp, with terse dialogue and narrative captions that don't fall into the trap of trying to emulate Chandler's distinctive - and easily parodied - flair for simile. Instead, the first-person captions are employed sparsely and used to provide a bit of insight into Mercer's private worldview. The story treads very familiar ground, but that's okay - while familiar, it is feels fresh and is skillfully constructed.

Jones' art is clean and well-composed. Backgrounds are occasionally sketchy, but the characters are all distinctive and expressive, and her storytelling is clear and cinematic. Overall, it's beautiful stuff.

Oni Press has done a really nice job on the production of the book, with striking, attractive graphic design and high-quality paper and binding. It's a truly gorgeous book.

You Have Killed Me is an excellent period P.I. tale, extremely well told. Highly recommended.

Six Out of Six Bullets.
Jul 262014
 
On October 14th, Scorpion Releasing presents the 1963 film, The Girl Hunters, starring author Mickey Spillane as his own hardboiled P.I. hero, Mike Hammer, on Blu-ray and DVD. The Blu-ray version will be a limited edition and will be sold only on the Kino-Lorber website. It will feature a brand new 16x9, 2:35 HD master, as well as an audio commentary with Max Allan Collins, and vintage on-camera interviews with Mickey Spillane and Shirley Eaton (Goldfinger). MSRP for the Blu-ray is a hefty 29.95, while the DVD edition will retail for 19.95.

I am deeply annoyed that this will be an expensive Limited Edition online exclusive, but I'll have to get it anyway. I'm a big fan of the movie, and it'll be nice to finally have a quality video edition

Interesting note: back around '95, when I was working at TeknoComix as editor of the comic book series, Mickey Spillane's Mike Danger, I gave Mickey my personal VHS bootleg of this movie because he didn't have a copy and said he hadn't seen it in a decade or two!

Now, if only somebody could release the 1982 version of I, The Jury on Blu-ray...
Apr 092014
 
Paperback 762: Gold Medal 645 (PBO, 1957)

Title: Case of the Cold Coquette
Author: Jonathan Craig
Cover artist: George Mayers

Yours for: $11

GM645

Best things about this cover:
  • Cold? Maybe if she put her shirt back on …
  • Oh, *that* kind of iceberg. The ones that are beautiful and are thawed by money. I was thinking of the ones that are made of ice and float in the ocean and are thawed by the rays of the sun. But I get it now. Good analogy.
  • If you're looking for your right shoe, lady, it's under the bench … there … toward your left … no, not in the corner—down … straight down … are you even trying? 
  • Seriously, what is she doing? Some kind of weird half-naked bench yoga?

GM645bc

Best things about this back cover:
  • "I'm a cop." Original!
  • Champagne tastes … but caviar guts-on-the-track!
  • We get it. Cold, thaw, etc. Give the metaphor a rest; I think it's tired.
  • I always say, the best leads are succulent leads. Like aloe. A great lead, aloe.

Page 123~

"The mark is so hotted up he can't think straight."

~RP

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]
Apr 062014
 


I like to believe that I write crime fiction for the same reasons I’m a newspaper crime reporter — no other stories have the depth and breadth of life, the joys, the sorrows, or the bittersweet poignancy that crime stories do.

Sometimes, if we do our jobs right, we are able to unearth the beautiful in the tragic.

For instance, last weekend at the newspaper was a rough one. I pissed someone off — someone who was grieving the death of a friend. When I came in to work the night shift I was handed a story about some college-age kids whose home had burned down. One kid was in critical condition at the hospital.

Shortly after I got to work, we got the news — he didn’t make it.

All his friends were talking about it on Facebook. I left a message on one page saying I was sorry for their loss and that if anyone wanted to talk to me about their friend, here was my number. I thought it was unobtrusive, but it made one girl very angry.

She asked why I didn’t wait longer before I left my message.

I couldn’t tell her the truth, which was that if we waited a day or two, at that point, a new tragedy would have captured reader’s interest. It’s awful, but true. I couldn’t tell her I had a limited amount of time and a limited amount of space to let people know a few details about this young man, to tell them something that would make him seem real to readers, so he was more than just a faceless victim. That is my job.

It isn’t always easy, but I feel a great responsibility to do this, so that when someone dies they are more than just a name in the paper.

So I just told this girl that I was very sorry for her loss and wished her well.

I also couldn’t tell her the story that makes me reach out to grieving friends and family, even when I don’t want to do so:

Years ago, I was at the Monterey (Calif.) Herald newspaper when I noticed a husband and wife had died within 24 hours of one another and decided to write a story about it.

I reached the couple’s daughter-in-law who told me what had happened: the wife had a stroke and died instantly. When the husband saw her body being taken away, he had a heart attack and died a few hours later.

This woman, Diane, told me about the love her in-laws had shared for the past 50 years. How they came over from Mexico and had worked in the fields picking lettuce since they were 18. How they raised six children and sent four of them to medical school this way.  I was immediately captured by this love story — this couple’s life story, really.

Diane invited me to come to the wake the next day so I could talk to the couple’s other children.
When I arrived, I was told Diane was on her way and to wait inside. The house was packed with mourners. I stood in the corner feeling about as awkward and out of place as I ever have in my life.

Finally Diane arrived and herded all the siblings and me into a bedroom to talk. I explained that I wanted to write about their parent’s great love story.

One of the couple’s daughters glared at me and said, “I’m not talking to you. I got nothing to say to you!”

Saying she was hostile is an understatement.

However, before long everyone was sharing stories with me and laughing and crying — everyone except the one daughter who continued glaring at me.

I went back to the office and wrote my story, adding in some quotes from doctors who said they truly believed someone could die of a broken heart.

About a month later, I got a little envelope in the mail. Inside was a thank you card:

“Thank you so much for writing about my parents. I was the one who didn’t want to talk to you. But I’m so glad you were there. Your article is now a treasured keepsake in our family. Thank you so much.”

And so that, that right there, is why I make those painful calls and visits to grieving family and friends. It’s about finding the beauty, the hope, the love, and the basic goodness of people in a tragedy. And if I don’t care enough to make that call, then who will?

My question for you writer and reader friends:

What speaks to you about crime fiction? Why do you pick up these types of books over and over or — if you are a writer — continue to pen these types of novels?
 Posted by at 6:00 am
Apr 052014
 
Paperback 759: Signet 1188 (1st ptg, 1955)

Title: Inspector Maigret and the Strangled Stripper
Author: Georges Simenon
Cover artist: Robert Maguire

Yours for: $9

Sig1188

Best things about this cover:
  • That guy has the best "[sigh] Dames…" face ever. Ever.
  • His hands are amazing. This pose is so weird, the framing of the stripper so unusual. I kind of want to shout "Get Out Of The Way, Dude!" but then I remember a. she's dead, so that's kind of wrong, and b. artistically, this cover is original and cool.
  • It's hard to believe she's dead with her right arm in that position and her right knee up like that. I say she's alive, and therefore, "Get Out Of The Way, Dude!"

Sig1188bc

Best things about this back cover:
  • "Yes, I smoke a pipe. Why? Because I'm manly and Belgian—what the fuck do you care, buddy?"
  • Mmm, "dark bistros" and "smoke-filled dives" … tell me more.
  • Simenon is one of those writers I keep meaning to read and never do. I read one novel, I think: "Maigret à New York." In French. I enjoyed it. The end.

Page 123~

They had only about five hundred yards to go in the nearly deserted boulevard. The nightclubs, their signs glowing in the rain, couldn't be making a fortune in this kind of weather, and the bedecked doormen stayed under cover, ready to unfurl their big red umbrellas.

~RP

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]
Mar 302014
 
By Kristi Belcamino
I’m just going to say right off the bat that I’m a little bit intimidated to even attempt to fill Joelle Charbonneau’s shoes on this amazing blog.
Why? Well, because she’s a rock star.
Joelle is one of the most dedicated and talented writers I know. And for some reason, I’ve been lucky enough to have her in my corner for the last few years. Damn lucky.
We first met when she judged a contest I entered. She wrote her name on my judging form, and asked me to keep in touch. Ever since that day, she’s been one of the most supportive and nicest writers I’ve ever met. And as I got to know her, I soon realized she was by far one of the hardest working writers out there, as well.
So when Joelle asked me to take her spot here at Do Some Damage on Sundays, I was floored, flattered, and thrilled at the same time. She’ll be back to guest post and I made sure to tell her if she ever changes her mind, this spot is really and truly always hers.
By now, though, you’re probably wondering who is Kristi Belcamino.
I’m a crime fiction writer, Italian mama of two feisty little girls, and a part-time newspaper reporter living in Minneapolis. My first novel, Blessed are the Dead, goes on sale June 10th. It’s inspired by my dealings with a serial killer when I was a full-time cops reporter working the San Francisco Bay Area crime beat.
When my editor and publicist found out I’d been asked to join Do Some Damage, they immediately suggested I reveal the cover for my new book here first. (Just shows how respected and beloved this blog is.)
Steve Weddle was gracious enough to give me the thumbs up on revealing my cover as part of my first post and the stars aligned.
Before I do so, I want to thank Steve and Joelle and all you loyal readers for allowing me to take over the Sunday spot on this blog. I’ve got a bunch of ideas for posts, but am also very excited to hear what you’d like to read about, so feel free to shoot me an email at kristibelcamino@gmail.com and tell me your thoughts and ideas. You can also find out more about me at my website, www.kristibelcamino.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/kristibelcaminowriter.
Thank you so much for allowing me to be part of Do Some Damage!
Here is the back cover copy for my book, Blessed are the Dead

To catch a killer, one reporter must risk it all...
San Francisco Bay Area newspaper reporter Gabriella Giovanni spends her days on the crime beat flitting in and out of other people’s nightmares, yet walking away unscathed.
When a little girl disappears on the way to the school bus stop, her quest for justice and a front-page story leads her to a convicted kidnapper, Jack Dean Johnson, who reels her in with promises to reveal his exploits as a long-time serial killer to her alone. Gabriella's passion for her job quickly spirals into obsession when she begins to suspect Johnson may have ties to her own dark past: her sister’s murder.
 Risking her life, her job, and everything she holds dear, Gabriella embarks on a path to find answers and stop a deranged murderer before he strikes again.
Perfect for fans of Sue Grafton and Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan series!

If you want to preorder a copy of the book you can do that here.  
If you don't want to wait, keep an eye on my Facebook page. You might just have a chance to win an early copy. 
And (drumroll please) here is the cover:




 Posted by at 6:00 am
Mar 262014
 
Paperback 757: Dell 223 (1st ptg, 1948)

Title: Hammett Homicides
Author: Dashiell Hammett
Cover artist: Gerald Gregg

Yours for: $30

Dell223-1

Best things about this cover:
  • Taste the (lead) rainbow!
  • Uh, guys? I think it's probably dead now.
  • I see a pretty butterfly.
  • Gerald Gregg is my favorite early, semi-abstract, non-sleazy cover artist.

Dell223bc

Best things about this back cover:
  • [ahem] … MAPBACK!
  • So iconic—Hammett's S.F.!
  • Sausaleto? What the?! … aw, I can't stay mad at you, mapback! Come here!

Page 123~ (opening paragraph of "The Main Death")

The captain told me Hacken and Begg were handling the job. I caught them leaving the detectives' assembly room. Begg was a freckled heavyweight, as friendly as a Saint Bernard puppy, but less intelligent. Lanky Detective-Sergeant Hacken, not so playful, carried the team's brains behind his worried hatchet face.

~RP

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]
Mar 022014
 
Paperback 748: Graphic 142 (PBO, 1956)

Title: Fair Prey
Author: Will Duke [pen name of William Campbell Gault]
Cover artist: Oliver Brabbins

Yours for: $22

Graphic142

Best things about this cover:
  • Will duke for food.
  • She is sporting some pretty serious shoulder muscle definition. 
  • It's like fair play. Only it's prey. Get it?
  • It's all kind of chaotic. Too crowded, too many things happening. Like some reality show where people compete to see who gets to be the actual cover subject. Dead man is very convincing, but the lady is going full axilla … that's going to be hard to beat. But wait, here comes a cop … with a drifter in his wake, trying to impede him … this is tough to call, Jim.


Graphic142bc

Best things about this back cover:
  • Golf. Huh. Didn't see that coming.
  • "Out of my way, baby. That breakfast buffet's calling my name."
  • This is some pretty low-grade cover copy. I'm at least vaguely familiar with golf terminology, but … can you be "in" par? Is that a recognizable play on words, or just faux-sensational nonsense?

Page 123~

I remember the gulp and the moisture in my eyes, but I don't remember what I said. 

"The Gulp and the Moisture" was, of course, Norman Mailer's far, far less successful follow-up to "The Naked and the Dead."

~RP

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]