Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Short Ride To Nowhere

Tom Piccirilli
Short Ride To Nowhere

Crossroad Press, 2010

When Jenks finally goes on the trail of his friend Hale, he was already dead - killed himself in a madhouse. Jinks and Hale were neighbors before their lifes were almost simultaneously crashed. Both were on the street, without a wife, children, home, work and money. Both earned a living that way they could afford. But Hale was suddenly found rugged with the blood all over him with the murdered girl. The police have no clues who and how could commit a crime. Detectives even suspect that the girl could have been killed by Hale. Police had no time to interrogate him: the man kills himself. When Jenks met with the police, he understands that he should not wait for some sort of investigation: lifes such as his and Hal’se are not worth anything, they will die and no one will notice. Jenks himself begins to find out what happened to his neighbor. The chain of questions leads Jenks to a homeless shelter.

Despite the fact that this novella (noirella, if we use the definition of the author) in length is only 60+ pages, you have the impression that you have read the novel, so fleshy Piccirilli prose is. «Short Ride To Nowhere» is a dark, very male thing. Human life can cost a few dollars, and the American dream turns to sand within several minutes. The voice of Jenks is often the voice of Piccirilli himself: people are mired in sins, basking in the luxury and spitting on other people's problems. Human qualities are no longer valued, survive as best as you can. Jenks for entire novel is on the verge of anger and despair, for themselves and the world, he almost kills those who did not harm him.

From the viewpoint of the mystery is all very well plotted. Piccirilli really gave a reader a short ride to nowhere. This trip is not a pleasant one, but I'd still ride.

(This is digital-only novella, never published in print form.)

Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened

Postcards: True Stories That Never Happen
Ed. By Jason Rodriguez

Villard, 2007

This comics anthology had an interesting concept, but the final result was not impressed. The essence of the project was to invited authors and artists have painted the detailed stories, based on the old postcards. The failure of the project, perhaps, is that the authors had too little space, so that did not work to create a decent story. All the postcards at the same time belonged to the first half of XX century or second half of XIX century. Because of that is the monotony of the times and characters.

Most often in the course of reading of «Postcards» I admired the art, but remained totally cold to the stories themselves. Only two stories-postcards art and plot story had a resonance. In «Homesick» by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Micah Farritor husband and wife, escaped to Paris during the Great Depression in the U.S., go through the city streets hoping to find a new life in a new place. The wife suffers from a cold and misses home, her husband does not intend to return. For him, France is a paradise. «Quarantined» by Jason and RJ Rodriguez and Seamus Heffernan is a story of a father and daughter. Plague stalks a small town, so that the girl's father treats patients, holding the child at home under lock, trying to protect the baby from the deadly pestilence. But once a girl leaves home and goes to the ward for the sick. Heffernan accurately depicted the metamorphosis that has occurred to the girl: before the disease she is a big-eyed curly child, when she is infected, she looks like a small death with the abyss in the eyes.

The subtitle of the anthology reads: ten stories that never happened. It would be not bad if they really did not happen.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Girl in the Polka-dot Dress

Beryl Bainbridge
The Girl in the Polka-dot Dress

Little, Brown, 2011

Posthumous novel by Beryl Bainbridge begins with how Washington Harold awaits the arrival of Rose, woman from England and friend of Dr. Wheeler, with whom Harold is familiar too. The entire novel is essentially a road movie, the pursuit of a kind of phantom, Dr. Wheeler.

Both the heroes of the novel are familiar with a doctor, but the reader, except fragmentary memories of Wheeler, did not meet the doctor at all. Motives for characters in a novel are hidden somewhere under the weight of their past. Rose wrote a letter to Harold, who hardly know each other, indicating the purpose of the visit. Harold invites, once it has relation to Wheeler, Rose in the U.S., paying for a ticket and living expenses, although Rose is almost unknown to him. Harold himself does not seem very eager to meet with a doctor, but that their trip with the Rose did not look as if Harold accompanies Rose out of some sense, providing comfort to her, pretends as if he, too, need to see Wheeler. The chase for the doctor - closer to the end of the novel we begin to suspect that there are no doctor at all - turns into a chase, or rather escape from oneself.

This Bainbridge’s novel is a surprisingly old-fashioned thing. Despite the fact that it was written last year, it seems that the author actually wrote it about 50 years ago, but now only pulled out a drawer. And this old-fashioned style is what makes the novel truly outstanding. This book is the highway to nowhere, back to the future. The past of two heroes of the novel, Rose and Harold, - this is what they live in, but in their past there is no joy or indeed something that could pull them back, though the past does not leave them, so that the reader gets the first puzzle: why are they so obsessed with the past? Their past is elusive Dr. Wheeler, the man seemed to define their lives, especially Rose, but really Wheeler is only stain on their memory, and both of them from time to time doubted the importance of doctor for their lifes. So they try to catch up with the past, and they would not succeed.
Between Rose and Harold throughout the novel sparks and discharges fly and such electicity keeps novel in tension. For Harold Rose replace his deceased wife. For Rose, Harold replace Dr. Wheeler, he is a reminder of Wheeler, the opportunity to be with someone who knew Wheeler in the situation of the absence of Wheeler. We are from different backgrounds, said Harold. This is so, they are quite different people with different past, but they are united by one figure from the past, and this is enough to attract them to each other. The relationship between Rose and Harold can hardly be called love, but it is sparkling relationship.

On the background of a travel of lonely souls, we also see the life of the U.S. at that time. The murder of King, Negro’s strikes, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the assassination of Robert Kennedy at the end of the novel. Why do Americans kill each other? - Asked Rose Harold. Before us is a portrait of the collapse in the country. On the example of Rose and Harold, we see that in their souls is emptiness. The same is happening with the country.

Final seems to be open, but it is frustrating and confusing. Was Harold killer of Robert Kennedy? And if so, what was the reason? And what Rose felt when she saw the murder? The novel was left unfinished. These questions will be a long time to simmer in head after reading this very exciting novel.


Eamon Espey

Secret Acres, 2008

«Wormdye», a collection of interconnected stories of the same world, starts out as a family chronicle with a fair amount of violence: two brothers put their cat in a microwave oven, heated, and then throw the corpse into the toilet. In the next episode we see how these same brothers, their mother and sister standing at the grave of the father. The father, however, is not dead, but in the post-mortem travels gets all the pleasures of life that he has not had time to get in his time. In the next episode we see crime scene, when the scientist conducting the experiment on mutants (people-larvae), is killed by a group of masked robbers, who then kidnapped the mutant girl.

Such oddities can lasts and lasts, and they are not going to end. Among the other defendants in the events - the Pope, eating spaghetti with worms, wolf devoured the woman, puking children, the aliens. Eamon Espey has a great imagination. Imagine Bosch, who had read Philip K. Dick, the ancient legends and had seen enough of reality shows - this nuclear mix will be called «Wormdye». Plots of stories often are legends remakes - with Romulus and Remus, the Vatican, the ancient Greek voyages. But the classic stories change under the influence of modern culture. This is an ancient world, but with a TV and microwave, postcards and aliens. You won’t understand the nature of this world after reading the book, so I think, as the author himself. Espey certainly is the chronicler of strange times: between the novellas in the book often there are pages in the form of the ancient wall maps. It is not only a world map of Wormdye, it is maps of the entire universe. These huge paintings, which occupy page or two, dispense with the plot as such, but contain a bottomless pit of information. Emon Espy saturate the page with so many small details, from people to the quaint lines, that you can not look away a glance from a page for a few minutes - an abyss of information is mesmerizing.

Espey’s art is in harmony with the wild and crazy world of «Wormdye». The art is both primitive, simple, full of small details. When you look at the picture, you do not believe that it has drawn by a human, our contemporary. Likely to believe that this is done by someone from another civilization that lived long before us.

«Wormdye» is an artifact from another world and another time. This is a world that can be admired on paper, but you do not want to be there for a moment. And is this not the best compliment to the book.


Noel Tuazon

Self-published, 2010

This small book is a collection of short comics written and drawn by Noel Tuazon. All of them are drawn in usual Tuazon’s style - black and white sketch-y illustrations. Tuazon usually acts as an artist, but in this book he shows himself also as the author of the plots. All the stories collected here are delicate stories with a touch of fantasy.

The most successful of all turned out, oddly enough, the first and last stories. In the first one, «Door», a person gets into some cave and sees the front door, entirely composed of human heads. No way out, and we can only guess that the heads in the door belong to the same, like this man, strangers who find themselves in a cave - and stayed here forever. The last story in the book, which has remained without a title, is much easier and more fun (although it only seems so, the last panel changes everything). In a post-apocalyptic world, a man in sunglasses and a little Asian girl somewhere go in the desert, hoping to find refuge. The man is clearly not the father of the little girl, but worries about her. The girl also keeps dangerous secrets.

The author without the use of color creates a very old-fashioned stories, with thick lines making drawing more convex. In «Ribstallments» Noel Tuazon established himself also as a fairly good writer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Broadcast

Eric Hobbs (writer), Noel Tuazon (artist)
The Broadcast
NBM, 2010

In 1938 Orson Welles’ radio show «War of the Worlds» stir among many Americans. In a small town in Indiana, this show led to the massacre. When at night a terrible storm begins, residents think that the Earth was indeed attacked by aliens. People can hide in a shelter in the house of a local rich man, but a place of refuge is limited: only 5 people can be saved. The serious struggle for a place begins. In this situation, all the discontent open, conflicts erupt. Gavin, a worker on a farm, propose a rich man's daughter Kim Shrader, but the father of the bride even does not want to hear that his only daughter will be married to a beggar. Shrader once raised the city, but after that has enslaved all his employees. And here is another conflict: workers do not mind to get rid of a tyrant. Later there is another character, a wounded negro Eli, and Gavin’s father helps him. Others begin to look suspisionly at Eli, and Shrader, guessing that the Negro is associated with gangsters, uses the man in his intrigues. All they want to survive, to save their loved ones and not lose the human face, but doing it will be extremely difficult.

«The Broadcast» gets you for the throat from the first page and do not let go until the very end. This is partly melodrama, part crime thriller, but because of the "War of the Worlds" even want to add – partlu science fiction, all ingridients are well mixed. The story reveals the major conflicts of prewar America, social, racial, class. Portrayal of the characters of the book turned out not quite impressive. For example, the daughter of wealthy Shrader is a writer, but we only at the very beginning see how she prints on a typewriter, but otherwise she remains the only daughter of her father. Eric Hobbs makes not the most original story a much more tense by adding a storyline with a black gangster Eli implicated in a double murder near the home of Shrader. Eli enjoys the hospitality and hides in a house together with everyone, but Eli is a hesitant gangster, incapable of meanness.

Art of Noel Tuazon is veryfitting to the raging weather. Blurry black-and-white sketches give the impression that the heroes of the book are always in the rain, even when they are indoors. Incompleteness of the picture does thr narrative more emotional, so that you can feel that all participants in this event are very nervious. Nuazon never gives close-ups, keeping the reader at a distance and not doing anyone special: it is not specific Shrader, Gavin, Eli, etc., they are a rich farmer, a rural worker and a gangster as such. Blur of the picture gives to the story surrealistic features.

Brilliant work.

Mineshaft #26

Mineshaft #26

The new issue of the small magazine Mineshaft is better than the previous one. If Mineshaft number 25 suffered from an excess of strange materials, are often so bizarre that it was hard to even understand what it was and for whom it has been written, in this issue the proportion is observed: half of the issue is weird pieces, while the other part is comics - and a very high quality comics.

Definetely, the best material there is a single strip, for some reason, unsigned, titled «Batman and Robin Meet the Great Depression». Batman and Robin are depicted there as a couple of homeless people, who beg, steal, sleep on the benches, and spend money on booze and cigarettes. Incredibly funny.

In his autobiographical comics by Dennis Eichhorn and David Collier «The Geriatric Comic» protagonist is an old stand-up comedian with a cane and a cape, and he is far better than younger comedians. Another comics in this issue, too, is partly autobiographical - «August 1976" by Nina Bunjevac. Her art almost entirely filled with black color accompanies the text between the panels: it’s two letters, first from the father to his wife and daughter, and then from the daughter to her father. This seems to be a quiet story but with high voltage, preparing the reader to something tragic.

A good number, but there is no limit to perfection. We’ll wait what happen in the next issue.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Florida Gothic Stories

Vicki Hendricks
Florida Gothic Stories

Kitsune Books, 2010

Nowhere on the cover of this book states that it is a collection of noir short stories, so Vicki Hendricks is called the queen of modern noir. And rightly so, that it is not specified. Vicki Hendricks is not queen of noir, she is queen of neonoir: Now, when the term "noir" clings to all the books and movies, where there is murder, it had already lost its original meaning and actually depreciated. Period of film noir was - and passed. On his shift neonoir came, so it's fair to replace queen of noir to queen of neonoir.

And it's really the royal collection. Typically author’s collections and anthologies are vulnerable because in them one half is good stories, the other one is bad stories. And I think I first saw the author's collection, where there is no bad story. That is, in general, not one at all. All the 11 stories collected here are damn good (some of them reprints, there are a couple of originals).

All three words in the title of the book could not better describe what the full collection is. Florida in stories exists on an equal terms with the heroes of stories, becoming a full participant in the events. Crocodiles, tornadoes, beaches, ocean, luxury homes, monkeys - Florida is rich in exotics. Not all stories are realistic, and in general, noir has never been a separate genre, and often contained in itself the elements of different genres, from science fiction to melodrama. In «Stormy, Mon Amour» heroine, tired of the bad boyfriend, gets bonded with a dolphin and becomes pregnant by him, and later hopes to escape with a dolphin. A loser and a married man, Gregory Waxman is left by his wife and gets cold-blooded mistress - an iguana, in the «Cold-Blooded Lovers». Too intelligent and sexually preoccupied chimpanzee named Big Man takes the former master into the sex slavery, in «Must Bite!».

But above all - Hendricks can tell a good story. Catchy, original (the elements of the old film noir are the same, but the new scenery of the old stories so refreshes a story that you forget about the original), tough and brutal. Heroes of the stories in this book are most often women. They can be cunning, deadly dangerous, resourceful, independent, but they all at heart want to be affectionate and want to have a little wealth, if only in their lives was a man. However, the men these women often choose are not ideal: spoiled, rude, cruel, power, recognizing a woman not as fully human being, but merely a sex toy. In «Gators» wife plans to frame her own husband for killing the husband of his sister:

«It was a goddamned one-armed alligator put me over the line. After that I was looking for trouble».

In «Must Bite!» as a means of revenge it’s chosen a giant ape, for a meal ready to devour the man. In «The Big O» to get rid of the boyfriend a woman against the backdrop of an approaching tornado pits boyfriend with a local drug-dealer.
Finals of stories are often instructive: If you use illegal methods to fix your life, life most likely will use a forbidden method in relation to you, too.

Incredibly good book.

Abolisher of Roses

Gary Fry
Abolisher of Roses

Spectral Press, 2011

Peter is a man of business, the holder of the factories and he is not interested in art. But his housewife Patricia has interest in art, recently got into a bohemian jet. While her husband makes money by covering all costs, including the whim of his wife, a woman stands at the canvas, painting a picture. When the exhibition is arranged by the forest, Peter accompanies his wife only because he does not want to seem like a bad husband. But at the exhibition, husband and wife quarrel, and Peter goes into the woods for a walk. He does not know yet where this will lead.

Good story, in which first and foremost it is worth noting an excellent style of Gary Fry and his ability to create a credible character. The author convincingly shows what type of people Peter belong to. He is a materialist, who knows the price of money, but not knowing inestimable value of the art. Fascination of his wife, whom painting has changed dramatically, he sees painting as yet another whim, and this maggot still needs to be paid.

«Abolisher of Roses» is a delicate story, not able to scare, but able to get to think about. I always enjoy reading fiction by Gary Fry and was happy to read this story. Recommended.

Toys in the Basement

Stephane Blanquet
Toys in the Basement

Fantagraphics, 2010

At a costume party for young children a boy sits on the couch alone: instead of a pirate costume his mom bought him a costume of pink bunny, and now the other kids laugh at him. Another boy, a bespectacled cock with a comb on his head, complains that he has a broken leg and asks the Rabbit-boy to come down to the basement to check his girlfriend dressed as a cat, she somehow delayed. When the Rabbit comes down to the basement, the Cat-girl shows him to dump toys. Basement is full of old broken toys for destruction. Toys, however, begin to move, and the green bear, without one eye and with damaged head, takes a boy and a girl for real toys, not the costumed children. The bear and the other toy, armless superhero, say the children that they need to be rescued and they all dig a tunnel to crawl back to where all broken toys hide. Children are in a big danger.

This slim graphic novel is nominally novel for children, but the art of the Frenchman Blanquet takes a children's story to an unexpected level. Costumes worn by the boy and girl, are as if one whole with the children so that children look like more as an animals capable of violence without explication. Not without reason toys are so afraid of children: a mangled dolls know who made them disabled, who scoffed at them. All faces of those heroes of the novel, both children and toys, has some wild expression, both horror and disgust.

For children who are reading this book, toys have been brought in a completely different light than they are accustomed to see them. They live and they have an instinct for survival, too.

This surrealist book by writer-artist Blanquet brings to the young reader a simple message: retribution will come, and you never know from which side.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Forgotten Waltz

Anne Enright
The Forgotten Waltz

Jonathan Cape, 2011

It all started with a child: a girl Evie sees her father kissing Gina, the narrator, while girl’s mother cleans up after the guests. Continuation of the story, however, does not begin with this scene, but several years earlier.

First time Gina saw Evie’s father, Sean, in the garden of her sister. Numerous relatives, friends and children gather in the garden of the new home of Gina's sister Fiona, to celebrate a housewarming. 2002, Gina has recently returned home from Australia to Ireland, she is on a party with her husband, Conor. At that time, Gina is in love with her husband. And at that time Conor seems perfect man for her. The next time when Gina saw Sean in the yard is 2005. Again, the nature and children, Sean and his wife Aileen and their daughter Evie. Gina feels that it is something wrong with the girl. Evie is not like Megan, Gina’s niece, even though the girls are the same age. Maybe it's because of the fact that Evie is unusually fat, Gina thinks. When the two couples, Gina and Conor and Sean and Eileen, swim and sunbathe on the beach, Gina and Sean steal glances at each other's bodies.
The sudden meeting between Gina and Sean happens at a conference on Internet technology in Switzerland. They know each other. So Gene and Sean begin an affair.
Actually, any retelling of the novel does not convey a tenth of his charm. It can not be retold, because the best part of it hid not even between the lines, but between the letters. The book is very lyrical, intentionally repeats some inexplicable tenderness in the language. Enright put into the mouth of his protagonist Gina a truly unique voice.

This seems to be a quiet novel (and in fact it really is, almost no high tones and high-sounding words) and it begins in his own shocking way and ends shockingly, too. We read the same story twice in fact. The first time we do not yet know what happened to Evie. The second time we look at the story of the relationship between Sean and Gina - and Ivy - already knowing the so-called history of the disease and how it has affected. At all - on the girl's father, her mother, Gina herself. The whole story here is how we see through a prism, whose name is Evie. This is key to the whole book, to all relationships. Girl herself remains a mystery, but it becomes the answer for everything else. Evie is an angel in the guise of the devil and the devil in the guise of an angel.

«The Forgotten Waltz» is not a novel about adultery, but nevertheless this is the best novel about adultery since the "The End of the Road" by John Barth. «The Forgotten Waltz» is not a novel about fathers and children, but this theme there is very well served.

Not being a thriller, the book still holds in suspense until the very end. This waltz will never be forgotten.