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. 




 
Aug 292014
 
Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         


THE INVISIBLE RAY. Universal Pictures, 1936. [Boris] Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Frances Drake, Frank Lawton, Violet Kemble Cooper, Walter Kingsford, Beulah Bondi. Director:
Lambert Hillyer.

   The Invisible Ray is a science fiction/horror film starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi as rival scientists. To no one’s surprise, Karloff’s the completely mad one and he’s out for revenge.

   And when it comes to B-film genre film tropes, this one’s got even more than just a mad scientist. It’s got forbidden love, cosmic rays from beyond space and time, a Carpathian castle, African tribesmen, a blind old woman, a Parisian Gothic setting, betrayal, revenge, and murder. All in less than ninety minutes. Did I mention it’s one the strangest films I’ve ever seen?

   Karloff portrays Dr. Janos Rukh, a creepy looking scientist who lives in his Carpathian home/laboratory with his blind mother (Violet Kemble-Cooper). Rukh has invented a telescope that allows him to see so far into space that he can see Earth’s ancient past.

   And one of the things he sees is pretty amazing – a meteor that crashed into Africa some millions of years ago. So Rukh, along with his wife Diana (Frances Drake), rival scientist Dr. Felix Benet (Lugosi), Ronald Drake (Frank Lawton), Sir Francis Stevens (Walter Kingsford) and his wife, Lady Arabella Stevens (Beulah Bondi), head out to Africa to find the giant rock and to do some experiments.

   Or something. It’s not exactly clear.

   What is clear, however, is that Rukh finds the meteor remnants and becomes poisoned by them. He calls his discovery Radium X because the meteor is an element out of this world! He ends up glowing in the dark and develops the ability to kill people with his touch. (Just go with it.) Benet (Lugosi) gives Rukh an antidote and they’re off back to Europe.

   But what happens in Africa doesn’t always stay in Africa. Rukh’s wife Diana has fallen in love with one of the expedition members, the boyish Drake. So Rukh stalks around in the Parisian fog and kills some poor sap that happens to look like him (although he really doesn’t) and fakes his own death, allowing his wife to marry Drake. Then he goes on a killing-and-revenge spree. The Stevens couple and Benet are the first to go. Rukh also uses an invisible ray, powered by Radium X, to destroy sculptures.

   If it all sounds both convoluted and ridiculous, that’s because it is. The movie tries to pack in tons of science fiction concepts into one movie, making it feel as if it’s really about four different short films in one tidy Karloff and Lugosi package.

   But that’s not to say that it’s not entertaining, because in a way it is. It’s just not one of Karloff’s, or Lugosi’s, best movies. Not by a long shot. But if you happen to watch The Invisible Ray with no expectations, preferably after midnight, you might just find yourself relishing the utter ridiculousness of it all.

 Posted by at 1:27 am
Aug 282014
 
"You're propositioning me?"
"That's right Marc, help me start a revolution...."

Marc kept a downtown rendezvous with a dame and finished up investigating her murder, or maybe it was an accident. But either way one could not forget she was associated with Sophia Nesbitt, the dame who had everything a man wants. Except one could not trust her and she was tied  up with a South American revolution conspiracy that made a murdering double cross look like a kid's game. So when Marc gets talked into the plot, and if there's a faster way of dying than in South American revolution, don't let him know. But, as Raymond Thompson said, it was a big story. So here he is in the middle of a revolution fighting on the wrong side, and the way it looks. If he wins or loses he would have to face either Karin Hedberg or General Tutay and his two murderous offsiders. Anyone traveling North?

Printing History
Written by W. H. ‘Bill’ Williams

Horwitz Publications Inc.
for and on behalf of Transport Publishing Company

Marc Brody Series
June 1957
 Posted by at 3:47 pm

HALF IN LOVE WITH ARTFUL DEATH by Bill Crider

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Aug 282014
 


Half in Love with Artful Death
  Every time I finish one of Bill Crider's fine novels about small town Texas Sheriff Dan Rhodes, I think I've just read the finest one yet. So let me say that HALF IN LOVE WITH ARTFUL DEATH (which is an excellent title by the way) is Crider's most nuanced, wry, sly and entertaining Rhodes adventure yet.
  Here's why (and I mean not just because there's a hilarious scene of Rhodes having to lasso a donkey)--Crider has created a series that is as droll and laid back as the "Andy Griffith Show" but is not  superficial. Beneath the wonderful humor the Rhodes books give us realistic depiction of humanity in a small Texas town. 
  Take Burt Collins the irritating jackass who instigates not only the book's set up but also the mystery. Every small town has at least one Burt Collins--and irritating and irritable man who imposes his opinions and sanctimonious judgements on everything and everybody. And they do this without shame, seemingly unaware that their public pronouncements are embarrassing and laughable. He's a buffoon but Crider subtly shows us that he's more, a dangerous man in his simpering way.
  This time Collins is complaining about the artists who've shown up to take lessons from two instructors. He claims they're not the kind of people who should be here. More, he pronounces their work terrible and their attitudes sinful. When their work is defaced Collins is the number one suspect. After all he's long been suspected of other acts of vandalism in the past. 
  Crider makes all his this own by having Rhodes being as baffled by some of the artwork as Collins is. But Rhodes, being a professional law man, keeps his opinions to himself and soldiers on.
  In the course of his murder investigation, Rhodes is distracted by other cases (in case you thought that lassoing donkeys was all he had to contend with) including a naked woman displaying her wonders publicly, convenience store robberies and meth dealers. The latter is an example of the grit Crider always brings to his Rhodes books. Meth is a scourge on our society. No pratfalls here.
   Bill Crider is a very gifted writer who deserves a much larger audience. The prose here is crisp and even eloquent in places. The characters while comic (the amateur investigator Seepy Benton being my favorite) are never cartoons and the world he gives us is detailed with a journalist's eye. And has blunt force trauma ever been inflicted by a more symbolic weapon (for a small Texas town) than the bust of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, Junior?  
  So whether you're returning to the series or just starting it, you'll enjoy seeing a master storyteller working at his very best.
   
      








Aug 282014
 
Here’s a newsletter that just went out yesterday. Please note that the free reviewer downloads of the THIRTY audiobook are no longer available. I had 19 in hand when I launched the newsletter, and an hour and a half later they were all gone. ~LB
Print! Audio! Film!
8milarborhousefirstAh, hello there! I hope you like this template. I found it irresistible, perhaps because it reminds me of our storeroom, piled high with books. For months now the inestimable David Trevor has been alternately threatening and promising to offer up some of our choicest items at auction, and wouldn’t you know it? He’s finally come through, and a thief’s dozen of our very best went up for bids Tuesday evening. There’s plenty of time, the eBay auctioneer’s gavel doesn’t drop until sometime Sunday—but there’s no time to waste.A thief’s dozen? Eleven items? Oh, I get it.

I’m glad to hear it. I got the phrase from Donald Westlake, who coined Thieves’ Dozen for a collection of 11 Dortmunder stories. But let’s steal our way back to the subject at hand. Here’s what David found for y’all:

suchmenfirstThe Burglar in the Closet and The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling, first printings of the Random House first editions. First editions of each of the three Paul Kavanagh novels, Such Men Are Dangerous, The Triumph of Evil, and Not Comin’ Home to You. The Dell first edition of Scudder #3, In the Midst of Death. The Gold Medal first edition of The Specialists. A library reference volume from the Contemporary Authors Autobiography series, with a 10,000-word memoir of mine that has appeared nowhere else. A first edition of my first hardcover novel, Deadly Honeymoon. A signed-and-numbered small-press limited edition of Random Walk.

That’s only ten.

What did I forget? Oh, right. A mint first printing of Eight Million Ways to Die.

Follow the links to the individual listings for full and precise descriptions. All books are autographed, as you very likely imagined. And all lots are offered without reserve, with a 99¢ opening bid.

Well, I’ll probably have to pay more than 99¢ for Eight Million Ways to Die. But that’s okay. What’s next? Audio?

CoverF_Block_Thirty_AudiobookSure, why not? I’ve begun self-publishing audiobooks through Audible’s ACX division, and I’m sure I’ve told you about Mike Dennis’s iconic rendition of Borderline, which went on sale the end of June. It’s since been joined by Thirty, the first of three Jill Emerson ventures in literary erotica for Berkley in the form of a diary covering a woman’s thirtieth year. Voice artist Emily Beresford loved the book, and it shows in her sensitive and spirited narration. (Emily’s current project is Jill’s first book, Warm and Willing, and I’ll be eager to see—no, better make that hear—what she does with it.)

I blogged recently about Jill Emerson’s entire body of work, and won’t repeat that here. But I will say, as I said a few days ago to my Goodreads followers, that Thirty has been largely neglected by reviewers. ACX furnished me with a small batch of one-time download codes, and I’m happy to distribute them while they last. You’ll get the audiobook free of charge, and all I ask in return is that you contrive to review it somewhere—at Amazon, at Audible, on your blog, or all of the above. (I wouldn’t presume to tell you what to say about the book, or how many stars to give it—though I’d certainly hope you’ll elect to err on the side of enthusiasm. Jill’s one of my favorite people, and she’s flat-out mad for stars.)

We gave away free downloads for Borderline, and they didn’t last long. I don’t expect these will either. For your free download of Thirty, just send an email requesting it to lawbloc@gmail.com. Either David or I will get your code to you….while supplies last, that is.

[[[Note: They didn't last, but were all snapped up within 90 minutes!]]]

Also coming soon is Defender of the Innocent: The Casebook of Martin Ehrengraf. Subterranean Press will publish their handsome hardcover edition on September 30th, and right around that time we’ll be releasing ebook and audio versions. (Don Sobczak has already delivered the audio, and I think you’ll enjoy how he’s voiced the little lawyer.) The stories in the new book are neither a thief’s nor a baker’s dozen; there are twelve of them, and two make their first appearance here.

Great. Two down, one to go. Tell us about the film, will you? Puh-leeze?

photo-6Unless you’ve spent the past month in one of those sensory-deprivation tanks, floating your troubles away, you’ve probably been blitzed to a fare-thee-well by lobby cards and trailers and bus-and-subway posters and TV commercials, all in aid of A Walk Among the Tombstones, which we insiders call AWATT to save a few pixels. It’s based on the tenth Matthew Scudder novel, it’s the brilliant work of writer/director Scott Frank, and stars Liam Neeson; the supporting cast includes Dan Stevens, Boyd Holbrook, Seb Roché, Brian “Astro” Bradley, David Harbour, and Danielle Rose Russell. It opens worldwide Friday September 19, and a week or so later Liam Neeson will present AWATT in the Gala Premieres section of the Zurich Film Festival.

And yes, it’s very exciting. I like everything about the picture, not least of all the outstanding score. The opening’s over three weeks away, and it’s already driving book sales. Hard Case Crime’s mass-market tie-in edition, with the movie poster on its cover, went on sale yesterday, and should be all over supermarket and airport racks as well as chain and indy bookstores. Trade paperback and audio editions are selling briskly, and the ebook is striding toward bestseller status on Kindle and Nook. (If an autograph’s important to you, we’ve got a limited number of signed trade paperbacks in LB’s eBay Bookstore, for the list price of $14.99.)

I bet they’re talking about a sequel, aren’t they?

Liam has said he’d like to do another, and Scott’s been thinking series all along, even as a number of Gentle Readers have stepped up to urge their favorite books on us. At this stage, however, it all seems a bit previous; how AWATT does at the box office will be the chief determinant as far as sequels are concerned.

Meanwhile, I’m off to Los Angeles soon for a guest spot on The Late Late Show on CBS with Craig Ferguson. That’ll be Wednesday night, September 10, and after a couple of days talking to film and TV people, I fly back home for the AWATT opening. This is as close as my life gets to glamour and excitement, and I intend to enjoy every minute of it until my limo turns back into a mouse-drawn pumpkin.

Cheers!

LB_logo

PS: As always, please feel free to forward this to anyone you think might find it of interest. And, if you’ve received the newsletter in that fashion from a friend and would like your own subscription, that’s easily arranged; a blank email to lawbloc@gmail.com with Newsletter in the subject line will get the job done.

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Twitter:  @LawrenceBlock

 Posted by at 11:56 am
Aug 282014
 
Deadlier Than The Male, by Jim Conaway No month stated, 1977  Belmont-Tower Books J.C. Conaway returns as “Jim” for the first of a two-volume series that comes off like a female-fronted equivalent of Conaway’s earlier Shannon series. Our hero is Jana Blake, a hotstuff blonde (despite the brunette on the cover – and Jana doesn’t wear a trenchcoat or carry a gun, by the way) who lives in