Saturday, May 31, 2014

#16: The Master of Knots by Massimo Carlotto

The Alligator, an Italian sort-of criminal turned sort-of detective, and his knockaround pals try to help a client who is  involved in murderous games with an S&M group in Massimo Carlotto's The Master of Knots.

The author has had a colorful life of his own, and some of it has obviously seeped into his writing.  In this, the second novel I have read in this series, he and his old-school pals find themselves shocked at the world they uncover, including the sinister criminal of the title.  The reader too may be shocked by some of the plot developments, not for all tastes.

But center to the story is the relationships between the three detective friends.  My favorite character is Rossini, an aging, genteel strongarm with his own curious code of honor.  I could very easily see Rossini based on the Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni (as seen in Big Deal on Madonna Street).  Their scenes are veined with humor.

Carlotto's world is full of dishonorable lawyers, crooked cops, and gangsters with hearts of gold.  I enjoy visiting this world, through the World Noir line.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

#15: Total Chaos by Jean-Claude Izzo

Three guy friends, and the girl they all love, grow up poor in Marseilles; one guy becomes an average cop, and the other two guys become average criminals.  But when murder tears the group apart, the average cop becomes an avenging angel in Jean-Claude Izzo's Total Chaos.

The World Noir line of novels has largely focused on what is called "Mediterranean Noir," and the father of this movement is often pointed out to be Jean-Claude Izzo, so after enjoying several of these novels I sought him out myself.

Izzo's Total Chaos is an exceptional noir, and not only a good representative of the genre but a great novel in its own right.  It is dark and fatalistic, but also darkly humorous and crackling with energy.  Izzo tries to make Marseilles a character the way others have tried to make L.A. or New York characters in their own detective novels, and it adds to the flavor.

I highly recommend Total Chaos and think I can argue it as one of the best noirs of the second half of the twentieth century.

Friday, May 16, 2014

#14: Doctor Who: A History by Alan Kistler

I used to read Terrance Dicks Doctor Who paperbacks in the 70s without ever having seen the program, yet still enjoyed them; so I was pleased to find out, when I moved to Wisconsin in the late 80s, that Doctor Who was shown on PBS Sunday afternoons. 

The first I saw of the series was Tom Baker and The Keys of Time storyline, which was an awful good place to start.  I have been a fan ever since.

That made me eager to read Doctor Who: A History by Alan Kistler, a guy who is a bigger fan of Doctor Who than me.  This nonfiction account of the first 50 years of the program has a lot of interesting stories and sidebars for the more serious fans of the program, but is a good primer for new viewers.

I listened to this on audiobook, read by the author, and enjoyed it immensely.  Recommended for fans of the current and classic programs.

Monday, May 5, 2014

#13: The Magician by J.R. Roberts

Clint Adams, an Old West gunslinger called the Gunsmith, mixes it up with a traveling circus under the thrall of a mysterious magician in The Magician by J.R. Roberts.

The Gunsmith is a very long-running series of "Adult Westerns" written by J.R. Roberts, the pseudonym of author Robert J. Randisi, an author whose work I enjoy. 

I believe Randisi has written one of these a month for several decades, and this one is somewhere around 150-something, so you sort of know what you're getting if you've read many of these.  It's a standard enough western with some mild sex scenes mixed in, overall just an okay affair.

I found a few of these at a flea market and thought I would try one and read it very quickly.  Your mileage may vary.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

#12: Trap for Cinderella by Sebastien Japrisot

Two French girls, one wild and outgoing and one a follower, are caught up in a house fire, with one survivor; but which one, and why? 

Mix in a mysterious nanny and some creepy boyfriends and Trap for Cinderella is a solid French noir with an ending that isn't fully revealed until the final sentences.

I had heard of this classic noir of the early 1960s but had never seen a copy until I found one while wandering along the South Bank in London a few summers ago.  I had this one salted away for a rainy day and was sorry I waited so long.

The author, Sébastien Japrisot, is apparently well-known in France but not known as much here.  I will definitely look for more from his bibliography.