Monday, November 13, 2017

Hard Case Crime comics: Triggerman, Peepland

I've purchased three of the graphic novels Hard Case Crime has published: The Assignment, Triggerman and Peepland. It's interesting to notice that the director and screenwriter Walter Hill has now stepped into a new career as a script writer for the comics, as The Assignment and Triggerman are based on his scripts. Will there be a novel as well?

I have The Assignment floating around the apartment somewhere, but I don't know where, so I haven't read it. It's based on a film he made, which has had only a limited release. The film hasn't had very good reviews, I'm afraid, but I'm still interested in the story. Hill's other graphic novel script, Triggerman, is based on a script he says he wrote 30 years ago and tried to sell as a screenplay for a film. The story resembles Hill's later film, Last Man Standing - at least the milieu and the characters are from same era: the gangster-filled prohibition era of the 1920's. The story about the gunman searching his lover is a bit sentimental and patronizing, but there was enough gunplay and violence to keep me reading. The graphics by Matz and Jef, two French artists, is very stylish, at least to my eye. The era is created convincingly.

There's nothing patronizing about Peepland, written by Christa Faust (Money Shot, Choke Hold) and Gary Phillips (the editor of Black Pulp, and author of over a dozen novels) and illustrated by Andrea Camerini. The story is set in the same age and milieu as the new HBO series, The Deuce, which Faust knows so well: the Times Square peep-show and porn shop blocks of the 1980's. (Why are these both set in the past, though?) The hero of the story is a punkish lap-dancer called Rox, who gets hold of a VHS tape containing evidence on a famous man doing some evil stuff. There are of course lots of other evil men after the same tape. There's lots of violence in here, as befits a Hard Case Crime graphic novel, but there are also lots of touching moments as well. There's lots at stake in the middle of the ruckus. You can feel the tension and get almost to live in the Times Square hoods. Very well made and gripping as all hell, and with strong, convincing female and African-American characters.

I noticed when I started to write this entry that Hard Case Crime is publishing also another graphic novel version of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. I don't know why this is, since there's also the Denise Mina scripted version from some five or six years back. I have no interest in Larsson, but I might read a good graphic novel version of his 10,000-page series. I do have lots interest in Megan Abbott's and Alison Gaylin's Normandy Gold, which is also due from Hard Case Crime.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Celia Fremlin: Hours Before Dawn

I remember Sarah Weinman mentioning Celia Fremlin as one of the domestic suspense writers who she needed to pay more attention to. When I found one of Fremlin's books in Finnish translation, I picked it up. It was one of those books I'd always known existed, but hadn't paid any attention to them.

But boy, what a good book Hours Before Dawn is! I read it almost in one sitting. I had to take care of some business during the reading, but I really wouldn't've liked to. I heard later that The Times Magazine had included the novel in their list of hundred best thrillers, and I couldn't agree more.

Hours Before Dawn was first published in 1959, and it is a perfect embodiment of domestic suspense: the lead character is a still youngish woman with three kids and an impatient husband, and the mystery concentrates almost entirely on what happens inside their little house. Her smallest kid clearly has colic, and he shouts and screams all the time when he should be sleeping. This bugs the husband and the neighbour and keeps the mother awake. I don't know of any other crime novel that deals with colic - and actually makes the colic baby the center of the mystery.

There's indeed a mystery, but Hours Before Dawn is still a crimeless novel. There are no murders, stabbings, thefts, frauds, shakedowns or what have you. Yet this is one of the most powerful crime novels I've read in a long time.

I read the Finnish translation (see the picture; the Polish-style cover is by Finnish graphic artist Heikki Ahtiala), but the book seems to be readily available in affordable reprint.