Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Craig McDonald & Kevin Singles: Head Games

I've never read any of the Hector Lassiter novels by Craig McDonald, but have read several good reviews of them, so I picked the graphic novel version of his first novel, Head Games, up in the comic book store my friend runs here in Turku. The drawing style looked stylish, and the story line sounded good.

I wasn't disappointed. The story about Pancho Villa's severed head and people hunting it is funny and tragic, and it reminded me of several other novels and films, such as Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. I liked how the father George Bush Sr. was brought into the story.

Hector Lassiter himself is an interesting character, a bit macho adventurer, cynical but still humane, good-looking but aging. Lassiter's sidekick, free-wheeling poet and reporter  Bud Fiske is maybe even more intriguing: with him Mcdonald brings up points about the whole era and its change during the late fifties and sixties. The art of Kevin Singles is quite nice, retro but not too retro, which is fitting, since the story takes place in 1957 (there's also an epilogue that takes place in the early seventies). The pictures are black & white with only one process colour (not sure if this is the right word), which works quite well. The style in all is a bit reminiscent of Darwyn Cooke's great Richard Stark graphic novels. It's not only a film noir pastiche.

There are quite many crime graphic novels coming out at the moment. There have of course always been crime comics, but this seems like a boom or a trend, starting perhaps with Road to Perdition, 100 Bullets and Scalped and going on with the Hard Case Crime comics, My Friend Dahmer and what not. Head Games is an entertaining addition to the cycle, which seems to concentrate on hardboiled and noir.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Book: Bill Crider: Outrage at Blanco

The Brash Books reprint.
Don't think 
they have sunglasses in the book...
I've known Texan author Bill Crider for twenty years. I joined the Rara-Avis e-mail list I think in 1997 (not 100% certain about this, it could be 1998 as well) and found Bill's postings to be knowledgeable, funny and not besserwisserish. (Is that a word?) We have swapped e-mails on and off about all things hardboiled and noir, and we've commented each other's blogs for years now. I think Bill is one of my most permanent readers.

So I was actually quite sorrow-struck to learn that Bill is in hospice care. I'd known that he has cancer (he writes about it openly), but still this made me sad. I'm glad to be able to participate in this Friday's Bill Crider commemoration.

With the help of Evan Lewis, I got my hands on Bill's 1999 western novel Outrage at Blanco. It suited me just fine, since I'd been thinking I'd like to read me a good solid western story, and I knew Bill would deliver it. And yes, he does. Outrage at Blanco is a fast-moving tale with multiple point-of-view characters, and each and every one seems like a whole human being, though some of them are merciless bastards with no meaning in life. There are two bank robbers and rapists, there is an old patriarch on the brink of his own death and his cowardly son who's after his father's money, there is a frontier woman whom the bank robbers rape in the beginning of the novel (Bill handles the scene with compassion, I don't anyone could accuse him of using rape as a titillation), there is the woman's husband, an ordinary man who suddenly feels a burst of rage when he hears about what happened to his wife. Some of the folks in the book die suddenly, which keeps the reader guessing who will come out alive.

This was the first Bill Crider's westerns I've read, but I certainly would like to read more. He writes very fluently and effortlessly, like the best of them, and the story keeps moving without a pause, yet there's enough room for building a tension or characters or their backstories. Nothing ever gets in the way of the story. Here's Bill talking about the book.

I've read some of Bill's crime and horror novels earlier, here's my review of Blood Marks, and here's Goodnight Moom. In my book Pulpografia (in Finnish only) I have a reviews of Bill's Nick Carter novel (his first book!) and another horror novel as by Jack MacLane. (There's a side character called Jack MacLane in Outrage at Blanco.) Mind you, I've also published a short story by Bill, namely "Evening Out with Carl", in the anthology Kaikki valehtelevat/Everybody Lies.

By the way, here's a little something most people have probably forgotten: Bill's short story in the form of a blog.

More posts about Bill Crider and his books coming your way on Patti Abbott's blog here.