Headlines that shouldn’t be true but aree

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Aug 292014
Florida pastor lashes out at atheists because he wants school prayer
‘like the Constitution says’

Teacher reprimanded for tweeting desire to stab students...

Georgia cop accused of killing woman he met online, then burning her

Bounty hunter attacks woman with Taser as her family arrives home from

Police chief defends cop in video threatening to ‘put a round in your
ass’ during traffic stop

Stephen Colbert rips Fox News for blaming media for Ferguson violence

Detroit Girl Finds Rifle, Fatally Shoots 4-Year-Old Boy

Georgia student’s family disowns and assaults him in nightmarish gay
‘intervention’ video

COPS: Teacher receives cocaine delivery at school...

Woman Discovers Her Cat Is Cheating On Her

Florida mailman calls cops on meth cooks fending off imaginary invaders
with real guns, toilet

Stephen Colbert mocks GOP for believing ISIS can be defeated with the
power of make-believe

Police altered video showing what happened before cops shot WV man 23
times: lawsuit

Notorious Serial Arsonist Is 11-Year-Old: Fire Chief

Neighbor Hellbent On Shutting Down Kid's 'Illegal' Lemonade Stand

Aug 292014

In their roundup of the summer’s best fiction, The Daily Express says of THE BURGLAR WHO COUNTED THE SPOONS:

You cannot fail to be entertained by the latest Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery which follows the New York-based bookshop owner as he helps the police to track down the killer of a rich widow. So assured is the writing, with plenty of wisecracks and literary in-jokes, you almost forget Bernie is trying to solve a crime. Block at his very best.

Click here to read the article


“Longmire” Cut Short

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Aug 292014
This news comes as something of a surprise:
Longmire, A&E Network’s most-watched original drama series of all time, will be ending its run on the cable network after three seasons. In a surprising move, the network has opted not to renew the series for a fourth season. I hear Warner Horizon, the studio behind Longmire, will be shopping it immediately. “We would like to thank the phenomenal cast, crew and producers of Longmire, along with our partners at Warner Horizon, for their tireless work on three seasons of quality dramatic storytelling,” A&E said in a statement. “We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved together.”
That Deadline Hollywood report, by Nellie Andreeva, notes Longmire’s viewer numbers declined somewhat during its recently concluded third season, but observes that fans of the show are unlikely to take this cancellation casually. “Especially since they are being left hanging by the recent Season 3 finale, which ended with a cliffhanger, the sound of a fired shotgun.” You can read the whole piece here.

I hope some other network does pick up Longmire, which Andreeva says “logged A&E’s largest viewership for any series this year behind only flagship Duck Dynasty.” Although I am still two or three episodes short of having watched all of Season 3, Longmire--starring Robert Taylor, Katee Sackhoff, and Lou Diamond Phillips, and based on Craig Johnson’s best-selling mystery series--has certainly proved itself to be among the boob-tube’s more interesting, least predictable crime dramas of recent years. It deserves a longer run.

(Hat tip to Crimespree Magazine.)
Aug 292014
From the Shameless Self-Promotion Department:

Revived and Reissued! Brand Spanking New! Eye-catching Design!

It's the latest reprint of a (somewhat) forgotten pulp classic from Raven's Head Press. Bury Me Deep (1947) by Harold Q Masur was the first of eleven fast paced, semi hard-boiled, detective novels featuring the hip and with it Manhattan lawyer Scott Jordan. Taking his cue from Raymond Chandler who he admits was his inspiration to write for the pulp magazines Masur pens a tale of avarice, manipulation, duplicity and murder. A new trade paperback edition was released a few weeks ago and is now available for purchase from amazon.com or by visiting Raven's Head Press. Our new cover design by artist Doug Klauba is a nod to the original 1st paperback edition (see below) published by Pocket Books back in 1948. Verna Ford, the blond in her underwear, has served as the inspiration for two previous paperback covers. Why not? Scantily clad women -- whether lounging and drinking from a brandy snifter or being threatened and menaced by dark men with guns -- have been the iconic imagery for pulp magazines and paperbacks since the 1920s.

It opens with Jordan discovering Verna in her lingerie helping herself to expensive brandy in the appropriate snifter. She's been waiting for someone in Jordan's apartment but it cant' possibly be him. He was away in Miami and cut his trip short to come home. No one was expecting him. Verna tries to put the moves on Jordan but he won't have any of it. Then she downs her brandy and immediately passes out. Jordan foolishly takes her to a cab, bribes the driver to babysit her until she comes to, and asks him to let her off at her home. But the driver soon discovers Verna is not dead drunk, just dead. The lawyer is immediately suspected of doing her in and trying to dispose of the body. So he decides to find out who she is, why she was in his apartment and who poisoned her brandy. The case becomes a lot more complicated when it turns out Verna was involved in a legal battle involving a will that leaves millions of dollars to the proper surviving relative of a husband and wife who died in a car crash. Lots of down and dirty action that turns pretty nasty. Villainy and double crossing galore! It's a corker, gang.

GIVEAWAY TIME! A full review of the book will appear tomorrow, but I wanted to take the time to help promote the Raven's Head Press release of this new editions. As usual I'm giving away three copies of Bury Me Deep. Don't all raise your hands at once. (First of all I can't see you. This is the internet, you know) Sorry, but this giveaway is confined to USA and Canada. If you'd like to be considered simply leave a comment below. Three names will be selected by a highly irrational process involving a blindfold and a dart board. OK, not really. Winners be selected at random, etc, etc. You know the drill. I'll announce the winners probably next Friday to allow for Labor Day revelers who may be drinking and BBQ-ing and whooping it up away from their computers to catch up on their blog reading.

If you like the good old pulp style action of fist fights in a barroom, slinky dames pawing the detective hero, no good skunks and slimy gangster types, sleazy dives and smoke filled saloons then the Scott Jordan books are right up your alley. I was genuinely surprised that I found Bury Me Deep one of the best of the Chandler imitators. Plus it's set in New York! How can you beat murder and deceit and treachery in late 1940s Manhattan? Harold Q. Masur was quite the interesting guy, too. Read this fascinating interview he gave Gary Lovisi back in 1992 when Masur was 83. Among many intriguing anecdotes he talks about how Bury Me Deep came to be written, his inspiration in Chandler, and how he walked into Simon and Schuster's offices with the manuscript in hand daring them to publish it. What chutzpah! He was also one very involved with the Mystery of Writers of America serving a stint as president in the 70s and as their legal counsel throughout his lifetime.

 Posted by at 3:32 pm

Fred Blosser reviews Spaghetti Westerns

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Aug 292014

The Fourth Sergio

Sergio Leone pioneered the Spaghetti Western.  Sergio Corbucci and Sergio Sollima made significant contributions to the genre in Leone’s footsteps.  When fans think of Spaghettis, those are the three Sergios who usually spring to mind.  But there was also a fourth Sergio in the Italian West  – Sergio Martino – who directed two interesting entries on his way to bigger fame in other Italian B-movie genres in the late ‘70s and the 1980s with “Slaves of the Cannibal God” and “2019: After the Fall of New York.”

Nominally, “Arizona Colt Returns” (1970) was a sequel to an earlier Spaghetti, Michele Lupo’s “Arizona Colt” from 1966, also known as “The Man from Nowhere.”  Both movies were written by prolific screen scribe Ernesto Gastaldi, and both feature character actor Roberto Camardiel as comedic sidekick Double Whisky, but different actors star in the title role – Giuliano Gemma in the original, and Anthony Steffen in the sequel.  Steffen does a pretty fair imitation of Clint Eastwood’s flinty stare under the lowered brim of his hat.

Bandit Keene (Aldo Sambrell) kidnaps Paloma (the sultry Rosalba Neri, hubba hubba!), the daughter of wealthy rancher Moreno (Jose Manuel Martin) and steals Moreno’s gold in the bargain.  Moreno tries to hire gunslinger Arizona Colt to recover daughter and gold.  Colt declines until Keene captures and nearly kills Double Whisky – and now it’s personal.

It isn’t a top-tier Spaghetti, but there’s plenty of action, which becomes non-stop in the last fifteen minutes when Colt stalks Keene and his outlaws.  Like other Italian Western directors, Martino borrows a lot from Leone in his camera placements, stunt choreography, and visual gags.  You may remember Camardiel’s face from other Italian Westerns: among other supporting roles, he was the cynical sheriff in “The Big Gundown” and the snide station master in “For a Few Dollars More.”  Here, he delivers a lip-smacking performance that may give you a greater appreciation for the relative subtlety of Gabby Hayes and Andy Devine in similar roles in American Westerns. 

There are at least three DVD editions on the market.  The one I have is a widescreen Koch Media DVD edition from Germany under the title “Der Tod Sagt Amen” (which translates to “Death Says Amen,” I think, but I may well be wrong).  The visual quality is pretty good if not spectacular, and although the DVD has an Italian soundtrack, there are optional English subtitles. 

You may want to put your TV on mute as the title credits roll; otherwise, you’ll be doomed to have the bouncy bubble-gum title song (“I guess I gotta get … my gun. /  I guess I gotta shoot … someone”) loop endlessly through your mind all day.

Martino’s second and last Spaghetti, “Mannaja – A Man Called Blade” (1977), was one of the final Italian Westerns as the genre sputtered to an end in the Disco era.  I’m not even sure it had a U.S. theatrical release, at least not widely.  Maurizio Merli plays the title character, a hatchet-wielding bounty hunter who rides into a ramshackle town run by mine owner McGowan (Philippe LeRoy) and McGowan’s scheming topkick, Voller (John Steiner – who looks a bit like American actor John Beck).   

McGowan is a puritanical tyrant who rails against saloons and dance-hall girls while his mines pollute the valley and his workers cough out their lives from lung disease.  Any commentary on the intersection between religious hypocrisy and greed is coincidental, I’m sure.

Where “Arizona Colt Returns” came from that period in which Spaghettis were still pretty much modeled on Leone’s “Dollar” movies, “Mannaja” reflects a wider range of inspirations.  As critics have noted, there’s a Sam Peckinpah influence in Martino’s slow-motion scenes of violence (Sam did it better, of course), and something of Robert Altman’s “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” in the muddy, raw look of the sets and locations.

Nevertheless, among the Peckinpah and Altman touches, the echoes of the earlier Spaghettis are still evident.  The relationship between Blade, Voller, and McGowan is very similar to that of the characters played by Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda, and Gabriele Ferzetti in “Once Upon a Time in the West.”  A plot twist involving Blade, Voller, and McGowan’s daughter is similar to one involving Arizona Colt, Keene, and Paloma in Martino’s own earlier Spaghetti.  Several familiar Spaghetti veterans appear in the cast, including Donal O’Brien and Nello Pazzafini.  

Where “Arizona Colt Returns” was scored by Ennio Morricone’s frequent collaborator Bruno Nicolai, the “Mannaja” score by the DeAngelis Brothers seems to be modeled on Bob Dylan’s score for “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” and Leonard Cohen’s for “McCabe.”  The croaking vocals and druggy instrumentation are off-putting at first, but like “Mannaja” as a whole, they grow on you after repeated viewings.  I believe the excellent 2003 DVD edition from Blue Underground is still available.  It’s too bad the genre didn’t survive long enough for Martino to explore it some more.  A meeting between Arizona Colt and Blade would have been interesting.

Aug 292014
“I’ve read enough John le Carré and Eric Ambler and Robert Ludlum to grow suspicious when people carrying valuable items die moments before they reach their meetings with important officials.”

- David Shafer connects the dots between his grandfather, the CIA, a sudden death, and a mysterious photo album in an essay for the New York Times.
Aug 292014
When Joe Lansdale mentioned on Facebook that an e-book edition of this collection was available, I knew I had to get it. My copy of the original edition is gone, and I wanted to read the introductions by Joe and Lew Shiner again. They're the best part of this book for me. Not that the stories themselves aren't very good. They are. Some of my favorites, in fact. PRIVATE EYE ACTION AS YOU LIKE
Aug 292014
I might have missed a Friday, or two, of round-ups but I think the 'irregular' bit covers me for that. So, without further blather, here's the, er, blather ...

The Last Tiger, shortlisted  for Not the Booker.
That newspaper of note, The Guardian still has The Last Tiger shortlisted for its Not the Booker prize at the moment and the latest step in the judging process is a very level-headed review from Sam Jordison. There's four more shortlisted books to be reviewed - all the very best of luck to the authors and their publishers - and readers can enter the debate via the comments box for the reviews during that time.

The Last Tiger continues to rack up the reviews - breaking the 20 five-star reviews mark on Amazon recently - and landing some very nice plaudits from the folks at Upcoming4.me.

"Poetically written, The Last Tiger is likely to make you very sad and melancholic but sometimes those books are the best kind there is. Black speaks about important things and through the tale of the final throes of this wild but wonderful species, he actually talks about humanity itself and the need to accept the very things we don't really understand." 

In the coming weeks I'll be talking about The Last Tiger - and other things - to students at Edinburgh Uni and I'll be doing a Hunting the Last Tiger event in Elgin.
Meanwhile Artefacts of the Dead, my new Ayr-set crime novel has been featured in the Cumnock Chronicle, where the origins of DI Bob Valentine get an airing for the first time. The book also picks up some very nice reviews at Undiscovered Scotland and Crime Review.

The Undiscovered Scotland reviewer pointed out I wasn't making too many friends at the Ayrshire Tourist board, and is probably right. But I liked this bit best: 

"Artefacts of the Dead is Tony Black's latest venture into Tartan Noir and deeply noir it is too… The result is a thoroughly enjoyable read that keeps you guessing right to the end."

Crime Review called Artefacts a "superbly told tale" and added that it: "treads the fine line between dramatic license and realism with a sure-footedness close to perfection with often unrelenting violence finessed by surprising emotion and compassion."

Hard Truths is out now in paperback.
In other news my compilation of crime writer interviews - Hard Truths - has now made its way into paperback.

This series was something of a labour of love, spanning about five years' worth of interviews with the likes of Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin and Andrew Vachss. The interviews cover a host of topics from the writing process to more personal anecdotes and featured in a number of newspapers, magazines and on my own, now defunct website, Pulp Pusher.

You can catch an edited version of my interview with the legendary Godfather of Tartan Noir, William McIlvanney on YouTube now.