Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Name Under Alfred Hitchcock's Photo

Today, I received my subscriber's (as opposed to author's) March 2012 copy of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (and by the way, the publication vacillates about that possessive apostrophe; it's easier to just write AHMM), and my latest story, "Sheltered Assets" is included. This is my first story in AHMM, though I have had two in the sister publication, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

Of course, rush out and get the magazine (or subscribe to it). The best place to find the print magazine used to be, alas, Border's. Now you have to find it elsewhere -- or buy it digitally. (As I understand, AHMM and EQMM are doing well with digital sales, and both magazines are starting to offer ebook collections.)

A few words about the story: it's my first published story to be set in New York City. I've written a couple of other New York stories, but they remain unpublished. I'm glad to have the chance to mine, vaguely, my year living in New York. This story also has a woman protagonist, a matronly society woman, who volunteers at an animal shelter. My previously published story, "Bridget's Conception" (in West Coast Crime Wave), also has a woman protagonist (a young, expecting mother). I don't want to give anything away, but I guess I should say that I just look at the world and think, women should be committing more crimes. The story has the economic crisis as its backdrop, and I'm especially proud of the title itself, "Sheltered Assets," which I hope resonates in several directions.

When I launched this blog (when my first EQMM story was published), I thought I would write more about my writing and the process, and I haven't done that, except to make a few publication announcements. I'd rather write about other people's books (and movies) in my legacy and phantom role of "critic." I don't have a lot of (or any) writing or publishing advice that can't be found elsewhere. But since I'm in a reflective and self-promotional mode, I'll give a short update: My first novel, Jailhouse Pale, remains unpublished. My agent received a fair number of kind rejections (and I felt like I got a fair reading from several notable editors), and he is planning to send it a few more places. I am now about half-way through writing a second novel, with the same heister protagonist. The new book has more complexity and higher stakes than the first, and I hope to finish it some time next spring or thereabouts. And after that, I've threatened to work on my drawing and painting instead.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fun Bleak Fun: Scott Phillips's The Adjustment

Scott Phillips's new novel The Adjustment is really too new to be an entry in Friday's Forgotten Books, but this post is meant to be a preemptive strike: this novel shouldn't be forgotten or missed.

Phillips returns to his native ground of Wichita, Kansas, in this violent, amoral, darkly funny yarn of ex-serviceman Wayne Ogden's return to civilian life after World War II (that's "the adjustment" of the title). Wayne, however, had a somewhat non-traditional tour of duty in England and Italy, where he focused on pimping and black marketeering. He's quite proud of (and nostalgic about) his wartime activities:

"If you are a reasonably competent and ambitious individual with a bit of initiative and creativity, and a willingness to look at strict regulations as loose guidelines to be skirted when necessary or convenient, there is no better job for you than Master Sergeant in the United States Army Quartermaster Corps"; "The QM Corps gave me thrilling and lucrative work. Men needed the things I offered for sale. Women, some of them beautiful women, relied on my for protection and income, and the army relied on me to distribute whatever I wasn’t able to reroute and sell elsewhere. It was a good life, and by the time it came to its violent end I could see my sweet situation beginning to unravel."

Wayne maintains this wonderfully blithe tone throughout the book -- even when he is committing atrocious acts. Indeed, he seems reminiscent of some of Charles Willeford's great "blithe psychopaths" -- entrepreneurial (and thereby wholly American), funny, seemingly well-intentioned, and smarter than everyone else in the book.

Back in Wichita, Wayne becomes bored with his corporate job at Collins Aircraft as "a bag man and babysitter for an alcoholic skirtchaser" (the company boss, Everett Collins). He's also bored with domestic life and fears his impending fatherhood. Hi-jinx ensue, to say the least.

Interestingly, this book was published by a relatively small press, Counterpoint, which inevitably makes the book easier to miss. Phillips's first novel, The Ice Harvest (great stuff), had a Big Six publisher and was adapted into a so-so, too Hollywoody film. The Adjustment is a fine novel, but maybe its lack of moral compass and distasteful protagonist made it too commercially risky. Who knows, but I'm hoping this book reaches the audience who will dig it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

West Coast Crime Wave

I'm back and harried. I'll say more about West Coast Crime Wave later. For now, I'll just note that the e-book is out and available (now on Amazon and soon at other e-book outlets). The book features stories set in west coast locations written by west coast authors. I'm the Portland guy. As part of the promo, the publisher is highlighting different authors on its website. Today is my turn. The interview can be found at this link.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Death and Heroin in a Nameless City: The Scene

A Friday's Forgotten Book entry: A friend recently thrust a book into my hands -- The Scene by Clarence L. Cooper, Jr. -- and said that he had bought it as a naïve, suburban youth at a garage sale for 10 cents or a quarter. It had shocked and appalled him -- and he thought I might like it. He was right.

The Scene is something of a social/realist (or even naturalist) novel, masquerading (or, I suppose, passing) as a crime novel. The back jacket copy provides a pretty accurate synopsis: “This explosive novel sweeps bare the festering jungle of addicts, pushers, stoolies, prostitutes, pimps, killers, and cops-on-the-take to reveal that murky half-world of narcotics known as THE SCENE.” It also includes some honest cops, leaning on street dealers for a big arrest, as well as a nice, relatively clean-cut girl (who falls in love with a junkie).

The crime/policing plot keeps the story moving along, but the book is largely made up of snapshots of users, dealers, boosters, and so on. The nice, respectable people are a little flat as characters, whereas the junkies are harrowing and vivid. Several scenes depict characters who are “bogue” (there is a glossary in the back), which here means sick (or getting sick) from withdrawal. Check out, Rudy Black, who has a heavy habit, suffering from withdrawal in his jail cell: “He lay groveling on the floor, his body jerking uncontrollably, his eyes twitching, his mouth yawning until the bones in his face felt as though they were slowly breaking, the mess from his nose streaking and drying on his face in tight, slick bands. He crawled over to the toiled and threw up blood in it.”

And it gets worse. I don’t think I’ve read a book with so much vomiting -- from withdrawal and after shooting up.

Cooper wrote a handful of other novels, several of which were reprinted by Old School Books. The Scene was published by Crown (Random House) in 1960; his subsequent books came out (mostly, I think) from pulp publisher Regency House. Wikipedia tells me that Cooper -- writer, ex-con, junkie -- died in 1978 at age 43 or 44. I’m going to keep an eye out for some of his other books.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Joe Gores's Dead Skip: Bay Area History and the Missing Parker Scene

Back to crime fiction (and a wannabe Friday's Forgotten Books entry, a day early). Joe Gores -- crime fiction writer, Edgar winner, Hammett aficionado -- died earlier this year, and I had never read any of his books. I started with his first DKA series book, Dead Skip (1972). DKA stands for Dan Kearny Associates -- a PI agency that repos cars.

At the outset, one of the repo men Bart Heslip gets clocked and put in a coma, and his buddy Larry Ballard investigates. It's a straightforward, procedural-oriented book -- with Ballard chasing down leads, following clues, pounding the pavement, and solving some riddles, along with his boss, the gruff Dan Kearny and his fetching colleague Giselle Marc.

I enjoyed the book, but it really shone in two (subjective) areas for me. First, the book is a great time piece of the San Francisco-Bay Area in the early 70s. We see seedy and fancy parts of San Francisco, and then the book rotates out to the East Bay -- my old stomping grounds. Ballard ends up in the dumpy burbs/burgs of Concord and Martinez, complete with a visit to the decrepit Contra Costa County jail. (I visited this jail a couple of times in the 1980s, but it was a newer version.) We also see a neighborhood gutted and gouged for construction of BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), which began service in 1972.

I had this same experience of regional familiarity when reading Plunder Squad, one of the late first-phase Parker heist novels by Donald Westlake (writing as Richard Stark); Parker ends up in Concord and the Oakland hills. In one Dead Skip scene, Kearny knocks on a door -- and a big, mean man comes out to talk with him. Sure enough, it's Parker, set into this book. Gores does a great job capturing Parker's authority and expertise. It's a little gimmicky -- but really works. I felt like I had unexpectedly run into an old friend (a killer and heister, albeit) and found a lost bit of a favorite character.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Another War Documentary: Winter Soldier; and Some Books

As a semi-counterpart to Shoah (see previous post), I watched Winter Soldier (streaming on Netflix) -- a documentary containing footage of Vietnam veterans discussing their experiences in Vietnam -- as well as some boot camp stories, etc. The vets all participated in the Winter Solder Investigation (actually an anti-war event, not a government investigation), which took place in Detroit in January and early February 1971. The film includes some still photography from Vietnam, but it mostly shows men sitting at a microphone in a hotel conference room describing what they saw and did in Vietnam.

To say the least, this is a depressing film, but it should also be necessary viewing for anyone interested in the Vietnam War or warfare and soldiering in general. I've seen a lot of Vietnam War films (dramas) and read a fair number of books on the topic, but I had never heard of this film until recently. Apparently, its 1972 distribution was limited. It is also a testament to how powerful testimony can be (as in Shoah).

A few themes and details emerge, some of which are well-known but receive clear articulation here. First, there is a great deal of testimony (with supporting photos) about village destruction and displacement of civilians. It's absolutely devastating (and at least serves some contrast to destructive but more moderate and controlled activities in Iraq and Afghanistan). The dehumanization of the Vietnamese -- and the American soldiers -- also figures in much of the testimony.

I had intended this blog to be more about writing and books (mostly crime fiction), so in that spirit, I'll name a few somewhat related titles. Kent Anderson, who wrote what is probably the best Portland cop novel (Night Dogs (the protagonist is a Vietnam vet, too)), also wrote a Vietnam War novel that is worth reading: Sympathy for the Devil. (Anderson was a two-tour Green Beret in Vietnam.) On the theme of U.S. servicemen in Asia, Martin Limón's police procedural Jade Lady Burning (set in South Korea) is worth checking out. Karl Marlantes monumental Matterhorn (my post about that book is at this link) is now out in paperback and might be the best combat novel I've read. If you want to read something heroic -- and uncritical of the war, but still fascinating -- check out Charles Henderson's Marine Sniper (discussed here), a non-fiction account of Carlos Hathcock, the titular marine sniper.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

War Crimes: The Film "Shoah"

Last Sunday (Memorial Day Weekend), I (and a neighbor and brother-in-law) spent most of the day and some of the evening in the basement of the Portland Art Museum watching the 25th anniversary re-release of the Holocaust documentary (though filmmaker Claude Lanzmann rejects the term "documentary") "Shoah." The total running time was about 9.5 hours.

The length contributes to the impact of the film, to the immersive nature of the experience; I was glad that I saw it all it once (it was screened in two halves, with a 45-minute break between). The film ultimately should be separated from the information that it contains. The facts and figures of the Holocaust go only a very small ways to representing the event.

"Shoah" in part creates its effect by what it is not: Lanzmann makes no attempt to explain political history. Few if any Nazi leaders are named. The film is limited in its scope -- there is no mention of France, none of Scandinavian countries, little of the USSR. There is no historical footage at all -- just interviews (survivors, perpetrators, witnesses) and location shots of Corfu, Polish villages, Warsaw, and extermination camp ruins from when the film was made (over 11 years, footage from 70s and 80s). There are a lot of sinister shots of trains, which provide continuity and transition. There are also shots of lush, bucolic countryside, where millions were killed.

Most of the film focuses on the minute operations and even physical dimensions of the murdering operations at Auschwitz, Chelmno, and Treblinka. There is a small section in Corfu -- a sunny, Mediterranean contrast to Poland. The Corfu Jewish community (of about 1,800) was rounded up in June 1944 (shortly after D-Day) and sent to Auschwitz by ferry, then train. It was, as the film discusses, a logistical challenge, but the train finally made it; only 5% of Corfu's Jewish community survived.

There is also a section about the Warsaw Ghetto, built mostly around interviews with a Polish diplomat and courier, Jan Karski. He spent a few hours over two days visiting the ghetto, seeing bodies on the street and a scene that he described as not human.

But the Corfu and Warsaw parts seem almost like sidebars: the heart of the film is testimony from Jewish survivors who worked at the gas chambers and crematoria. The start of part II of the film includes about 20 minutes of a barber talking (while cutting a man's hair in a Tel Aviv barbershop) about cutting hair of women in the gas chamber a few minutes before they were killed. A Czech Jew named Filip Müller describes one of the Auschwitz gas chambers at length. Two survivors -- the only two -- discuss Chelmno, where 400,000 people were killed in vans in which the exhaust fumes were fed back into the vehicle.

Lanzmann also talks to a couple of Reich bureaucrats as well as a Treblinka guard. At one point, the guard corrects Lanzmann, saying that it is an "exaggeration" to say that as many as 18,000 people could be killed a day at Treblinka. Lanzmann insists that figure is in the court records, but the guard tells Lanzmann that, no, the most they could kill in a day was 12 or 15,000.

Lanzmann also interviews the Reich's assistant commissioner of the Warsaw Ghetto; he went on to be a publisher of mountaineering books. At one point, he says something like, "This topic has been discussed at length. We're not going to come to any new conclusions." And Lanzmann agrees, "No, I don't think we will." This is part of the point: to hear people discuss what they witnessed, but not to reach for any containable findings.

There is a good deal of overlap and repetition -- for instance, where a survivor's testimony is echoed by a perpetrator's testimony (e.g., about the "infirmary" at Treblinka, where older people were treated with a single "pill" -- a bullet to the neck). Lanzmann also continually takes the viewer back to the ruins at Auschwitz, back to Chelmno and Treblinka. The camp ruins function as magnets -- pulling Lanzmann and the viewer obsessively back to a place that must be seen but cannot be explained.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hanging with David Goodis and Cassidy's Girl

I'm back for what appears to be about a once-a-month post. So it goes. A kind soul (Murlmeiner McStogheimer) sent me an extra copy of the NoirCon 2010 program, which takes the form of a pulpy 50s paperback, with an illustration of David Goodis on the cover. Goodis is basically the patron saint of NoirCon, which began as GoodisCon in 2007.

The NoirCon 2010 program/book has some great selections, including two chapters from Charles Willeford's unpublished (but later cannibalized) book, A Necklace of Hickeys; there is also a Woody Haut article about Willeford's library; and excerpts (with commentary by Francis Nevins) from Goodis's deposition when he sued United Artists TV, alleging that the show The Fugitive infringed on the copyright of his novel, Dark Passage (known for its Bogart film adaptation).

So, the little NoirCon 2010 book got me interested enough to read Goodis's 1951 novel Cassidy's Girl. (I had known a bit about Goodis, but had only read Shoot the Piano Player (aka Down There) and seen the Truffaut film adaptation (as well as Dark Passage).) The novel tells the story of Jim Cassidy, a well-meaning, alcoholic bus driver with an extremely unlucky past and a wild wife, Mildred. Cassidy falls in love with another woman, Doris, and then winds up on the run, wrongly accused of manslaughter. The story and characterizations are excessive and unbelievable, but nevertheless, they get under your skin. This, I believe, is the David Goodis experience: you descend into a chaotic but poetic world of dissolution, drunkenness, violence, and sexuality.

Goodis writes vividly, and occasionally his writing is peppered with strange, original, rhythmic descriptions. Here, for example, Cassidy and his friends sit in a dive drinking and talking: "...and then for a while it was quiet while all of them concentrated on their drinking. The interlude of quiet was like a strange lack of noise on the deck of a slowly sinking ship, with strangely unexcited people climbing into lifeboats. They were unaware of one another, quietly concentrating on their drinking." Notice the repetitions, the twist on the sinking ship trope, and finally, I would call out the adverbs -- slowly, strangely, quietly. Here the adage about avoiding adverbs is dead wrong. This passage also puts to rest decisive arguments about the necessity of sparse prose for noir effect.

Goodis is also known for his depictions of -- and male protagonists' obsessions with -- well-rounded women. Here is Mildred, in all her pulpy glory: "He [Cassidy] was seeing the night-black hair of Mildred, the disordered shiny mass of heavy hair. He was seeing the brandy-colored eyes, long-lashed, very long-lashed. And the arrogant upward curve of her gorgeous nose. He was trying with all his power to hate the sight of her full fruitlike lips, and the maddening display of her immense breasts, the way they swept out, aimed at him like weapons. He stood looking at this woman to whom he had been married for almost four years, with whom he slept in the same bed every night, but what he saw was not a mate. He saw a harsh and biting and downright unbearable obsession."

I've got more to say about Goodis, but I'll save it (if I remember) for later. I should note that the (Creative Arts) Black Lizard reprints of a handful of Goodis titles include a very illuminating introduction by Geoffrey O'Brien (now the editorial chief of Library of America and the author of the pretty fun book, Hardboiled America: The Lurid Years of Paperbacks).

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Bayou Trilogy and the Woodrell Revival

Several years ago, I’d hear occasional whispers, passing virtual mentions, that I should be reading this guy Daniel Woodrell. That he’d be right up my alley: crime, noir… and something else.

I read a lot of crime fiction -- that is, books that are marketed as such and shelved in the mystery section in bookstores and libraries. I have partially, but not entirely, forsaken books that are categorized by the categorizers as mainstream or literary fiction. Why? That’s another topic, but for now, I’m usually reading books whose plots involve murder, robbery, investigation, and so on.

So, I got on to Woodrell because of these genre markers, but I’ve stuck with him and have been evangelizing his works because of the “something else.” Woodrell has a following among crime fiction readers, but I could also see readers being disappointed because Woodrell sometimes spectacularly thwarts genre expectations (see my earlier comments on Tomato Red, his favorite of mine).

Woodrell has now gotten more attention because of the film adaptation of Winter’s Bone. He also recently won the Clifton Fadiman Medal for The Death of Sweet Mister (which I haven’t read) given to “a living American author in recognition of a work of fiction published more than ten years ago that deserves renewed notice and introduction to a new generation of readers.”

Mulholland Books has now reissued (well, later this month) what it’s calling The Bayou Trilogy (sometimes referred to as the St. Bruno trilogy for the fictitious town where the books take place). In these books, Woodrell skews closest to traditional crime fiction: cop Rene Shade investigates local crimes, while balancing family obligations and his love life.

The stories/plots per se aren’t quite so important: instead, Woodrell thrives on evocative and colorful characters, odd scenes, sharp dialogue, and just plain electrifying prose. You can open his books at just about any random spot and find a funny, original, insightful, vivid turn of phrase. I still laugh whenever I think of Big Annie (in the bucolic noir Give Us A Kiss) who puts on a shirt that our narrator describes thus: “The shirt proclaimed that she preferred Dukakis in the upcoming presidential pissin’ match” (funny, reflective of characters, a commentary on politics -- and just listen to that sentence).

Woodrell also seems to have bits of Flannery O’Connor running around his imagination. In the last book of the trilogy, The Ones You Do, there is an unforgettable villain named Lunch Pumphrey -- vicious, principled, and amusing at once.

It’s great to see the Bayou/St. Bruno books back on the shelves. Busted Flush Press also recently reissued Tomato Red. I hope that more readers and Hollywood interest have a liberating rather than a confining influence on Woodrell. In Give Us A Kiss, there are a couple of great scenes of the narrator’s time in the military, and Woodrell told me last October (I accosted him at Bouchercon, and he let me buy him a drink) that he might like to write something growing out of his time in the Marines. I’d like to read that book -- even if it’s not a crime novel.

Required FTC blogger disclosure: Hey, thanks to Miriam Parker, the super-cool marketing director at Mulholland Books who sent me an advanced copy of The Bayou Trilogy, when I lamented that I couldn’t find a copy of the middle title, Muscle for the Wing.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Formal Blog... and then Goodreads

I've fallen off posting here -- partly because I have wanted to maintain a certain formality -- or at least some semblance of polish. But formality and polish are both (and with some reason) out of style. Meanwhile, I've been posting these blathering comments on Goodreads.

I find Goodreads -- a book-reading social network or "social cataloging" service -- a little hard to navigate. Also, reviews are between 1 and 5 stars, and I'm giving almost everything a 4 or 5. Basically, with a few exceptions, if I don't like a book, I'm going to put it down and not write about it or rank it. So, I would be better off with a different scale. I've also ranked books that I read years ago -- as well as books I've recently read. And anyone looking at my list can't really tell the difference.

So I could round-up what I've written on Goodreads, but you can also just check it out there ( I guess the two best new (or semi-new or new to me) books I've read this last month were Dave Zeltserman's Small Crimes and Daniel Woodrell's Muscle for the Wing (now part of a new trilogy volume, The Bayou Trilogy, out next month from Mulholland Books); I'll write more about the Woodrell book (in a more formal post!) soon. Now I just have to hook up this blog to Goodreads and both of them to Facebook, and they can all talk to each other, while I read books, write, work, and saw wood.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Shock of Recognition from Richard Selzer

I've been gone again nearly a month... idly reading, writing a bit, working. I've read some good books, but a "Readings" selection from the March 2011 Harper's Magazine really got under my skin today. Part of the effect -- pleasure, recognition, nostalgia, sadness, and fear -- was turning the page of the magazine and unexpectedly finding the piece: an excerpt from a new book, Diary, by Richard Selzer. It begins:

"Yale's Sterling Memorial Library is chock full of loonies, of whom I am one."

Selzer goes on to describe shushing, rescuing, and defending the library loonies. And then he muses about falling asleep at the library and the chance that he might die there, "with my head resting on the desk, half-hidden behind the partitions of the cubicle.... It's as happy as death can arrange itself to be."

Selzer is a marvelous, mysterious, introspective writer. He was a surgeon, whose writing first grew out of his medical practice and then wandered elsewhere.

But this reading experience was personal -- a mirror biography of sorts. I remember well falling asleep in my carrel, head on desk, in the stacks of this very library. But to be honest, I am not so much Selzer as one of his library loonies. Or am I mistaken?

I pull a couple of books off my shelf that have been gathering proverbial dust for some time. I think they might be signed, but I can't remember. Sure, the loopy graduate student talks with Dr. Selzer, but would he foist books for signature upon the kindly man?

They are inscribed, and there I am again in the cavernous library being unknowingly ministered to by his warm conversation: "For Doug, To remember our visits at Sterling Library[...] Richard"; and "For Doug, my friend and colleague To remember our many visits at the Yale Library[...] Richard."

Image: Sage Ross, Wikimedia Commons

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Hardboiled Academics" Postscript

Last Friday, I had another piece up on the Mulholland Books website -- this one entitled, "Hardboiled Academics." The piece was built around my discovery that there are (and have been) a lot of crime writers with academic/scholarly backgrounds. Why is this and how does this background influence crime writers? In retrospect, the path from academia to crime fiction makes sense: people like to read; they read through school; they keep going to school; they take up writing because they like to read; and so on.

I pitched the idea to Miriam Parker, the marketing director at Mulholland, and she liked it, so I wrote the lead-in section and then asked a few other writers to share their thoughts. One passed, but Kenneth Wishnia and Bill Crider responded. Miriam contacted Denise Mina and Megan Abbott, and they both threw in their two cents (or bob), and the piece was born. (And thank you to everyone.)

I would like to answer my own question, but I think I'll let my thoughts fester a little longer. A while back, I thought that my academic work had made me a better reader, and that I could bring these skills to bear when writing and evaluating my own fiction. Now I'm not so sure. I also have this idea that I can generate a certain beat in my prose after years of careful (or at least, slow) reading (and sub-vocalizing). I'm not so sure about that either. I'll think about it some more.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Graphic Adaptation of Richard Stark's The Outfit

Okay, I'm back. The holidays bore into my reading and writing time, but I survived. More importantly, Richard Stark's supreme heister Parker is back -- in The Outfit, the second graphic novel adaptation of a Parker book by Darwyn Cooke.

Cooke first adapted Stark to the graphic novel with 2009's The Hunter -- the first Parker novel (1962; the source for the films Point Blank and Payback). I liked this first adaptation pretty well, but I like the second one even better. (By contrast, The Hunter is a stronger novel than The Outfit.) I'm no authority on graphic novels, but Cooke's illustrations reflect the speed, menace, and seedy appeal of the source novels. Cooke's style in both books also smacks of the style of some illustrations from the period when the books were written -- that 60s hipster type of illustration.

The Outfit tells the story of Parker's effort to get the mob -- the Outfit -- off his back. The middle portion of The Outfit features these great faux outtakes from period magazines such as The Lowdown: Crime Confessions Weekly and Turf and Sport Digest. The outtakes tell capers in short form. Parker, to hit the Outfit where it hurts, has his heister acquaintances knock off various operations, which are recounted in these magazines. This technique provides a fresh way to tell a story within a story.

Finally, Cooke goes a long way to echoing the spirit and emphases of Richard Stark (Donald Westlake's best-known pseudonym). Parker is a loner, but honest and loyal in his way. He also functions as a hard workingman criminal, in contrast to the soft and corporatized mobsters of the Outfit. It sure is refreshing when Parker solves a problem with a gun. When Westlake died, it was a real blow to me and a lot of other readers. On and off, for a couple of years, and then later again, I got a lot of nourishment from Stark's Parker books. It's great to experience a faithful version of Parker in this new form.