Tuesday, August 26, 2008

EVENT: Kerrytown Bookfest

The 6th Annual Kerrytown Bookfest is Sunday, September 7th in Ann Arbor, and a number of Detroit Noir contributors will be on hand.

Here’s the Detroit Noir-centric schedule of events:

1 PM, Kerrytown Concert House
The Art of the Short Story

Moderator: E.J. Olsen
Panel: Peter Ho Davies, Dorene O’Brien, Joe Borri & Lolita Hernandez

2 PM, Main Speakers Tent
Four Guys and a Doll (Mystery Fiction)

Moderator: Jamie Agnew of Aunt Agatha's
Panel: Loren D. Estleman, Theresa Schwegel, Peter Leonard, Chris Grabenstein & Rob Kantner

4PM, Main Speakers Tent
Fresh Faces in Historical Crime Fiction

Moderator: Jo Ellyn Clarey
Panel: Megan Abbott, Cordelia Frances Biddle, Suzanne Arruda & Kathryn Miller Haines

The full official schedule is here.

Don’t miss out!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Read | Bought | Reading | On Deck

Small Crimes, Dave Zeltserman
Baby Moll, John Farris
Severance Package, Duane Swierczynski
A Dance At The Slaughterhouse, Lawrence Block

Keeper, Greg Rucka
The Max, Ken Bruen & Jason Starr
Nothing To Lose, Lee Child
Body Rides, Richard Laymon
Devil In A Blue Dress, Walter Mosley
Gold Coast, Elmore Leonard

Leather Maiden, Joe R. Lansdale

On Deck:
The Moving Target, Ross MacDonald

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Local Production

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm recently offered a number of tax incentives to film productions and brought Clint Eastwood, among others, to the Detroit area for shooting, as it were.

So the hour is nigh.

This is the consensus in Detroit, anyway: The film version of the Kwame Kilpatrick story cannot be far off.

My casting suggestion -- Anthony Anderson as the Mayor. Terrific actor. He can be charming, he can be threatening.

Reassemble the creative team from L.A. Confidential and I think you've got a winner.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Book: The Sophomore

Detroit's own Patti Abbott recently started Friday's Forgotten Book, a boon to readers -- and content-stumped bloggers -- everywhere.

Thanks to Patti.

The Sophomore, Barry Spacks (1969)

I read the Fawcett paperback twenty-five years ago, probably the same week I read Richard Farina’s Been Down So Long It Looks like Up To Me – the summer before I started college. When my subsequent college experience didn’t include daytripping through revolution in Cuba (Farina) or barricading myself inside the campus radio station to play “Night in Tunisia” continuously during an all-request program (Spacks), I just knew I’d missed out on the salad days of American higher education.

The book is still readily available via ABE; one seller offers this synopsis: “A fast paced and amusing lyrical novel telling of a few days in the life and crisis of a 23 year old aging college sophomore, neither square nor hippy, but caught between and confused.”

I remember wondering, while reading the book, if it wasn’t a product of the success of The Graduate – if the book wasn’t an assignment the publisher had handed to a writer who’d been producing house-name series paperbacks for them, and he’d taken this shot to produce something a little more literary, or at least closer to his own experience. That was how it felt to me at the time - a real professional writer's novel, compared to the loopy prose and plotting of Pynchon-classmate Farina.

I do not know if the Barry Spacks who wrote The Sophomore went on to become Barry Spacks, the American poet and teacher(thanks, internet), but I suspect it is so. Nevertheless, I prefer my original backstory --"Kid, I got something for ya! Put Nick Carter #238 on hold for a couple weeks!"

At any rate, I enjoyed the book every bit as much as I enjoyed the hipper, more celebrated Farina novel.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Double Feature

Is there anything more played-out in the mystery genre than the serial killer? Five minutes spent with any of the current most-watched cop shows and I’m beyond tired. I feel like I’ve been running from a knife-wielding maniac – who’s smarter than you or me – since about 1988. So why look at Mr. Brooks? I like Kevin Costner, and at this point in this season, I’ll do practically anything to avoid watching the Detroit Tigers. If you like this sort of thing, Mr. Brooks is smart (or what passes for smart) about it.

Déjà Vu is the first Tony Scott film in a decade or more, maybe ever, that won’t induce a petite mal seizure in anyone born before 1980. We start out with some 9/11 and Katrina imagery before veering off into a high-tech remake of Laura slash apologia for the Bush Administration Surveillance Program. (So, The Dark Knight was actually the second action-film Bush-apologia...) The writer/physicist Brian Greene is listed as a technical advisor, but they must have hustled him out of the room quickly, because the filmmakers and the cast don’t even bother to pretend they understand the weird science they’re spouting. Denzel Washington, God love him, has never turned his back on junk, but not all junk is created equal. Zero-Sum World sez: Rent Out Of Time instead.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


An evocative piece from Luc Sante;

sick brilliance courtesy of Muzzle Flash;

and the world's greatest music festival (buy tickets now for 2009.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Double Feature

Played is a British underworld revenge thriller that stars writer/producer Mick Rossi, who looks like a sullen, sleep-deprived Dudley Moore. For long stretches, the movie, which is mostly improvised, looks like it was shot on cell-phone video. Sounds terrible, right? But the movie has narrative drive to burn, and inventive editing that is never merely distracting; any number of real actors (Gabriel Byrne, Val Kilmer, Patrick Bergin, Anthony LaPaglia, Bruno Kirby) popping up to slap our protagonist around; the lovely Patsy Kensit and the always-mysterious Joanne Whalley; a genuine tough guy for a villain (Vinnie Jones); a fine score, and a great sense of story. (I only know that the movie was largely improvised because I watched the extras on the DVD.) If you’re interested in making a movie with no money, this is how you do it; if you’re merely interested in seeing a good crime story, you could do far, far worse.

I’ve started but never finished a couple of Dennis Lehane’s PI novels, but after watching Gone Baby Gone I’ll give them another try. As with Played, narrative drive is the key here: It keeps the material – a missing-child case – from becoming manipulative or maudlin. The performances are all terrific, and the ending tough, with the wrong thing done for the right reasons and the right thing done for (perhaps) the wrong reasons. Couples everywhere, no doubt, start bitter arguments (of substance) as the credits roll.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

First Lines

Favorite first lines by decade (my decades):

‘70s: “Call me Jonah.” Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle – Brevity really is the soul of wit. And important to a teenager.

‘80s: “A screaming comes across the sky.” Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow – I can’t recall why I ever admired this sentence. Wait, I do: It was the drugs I took.

‘90s: “Cities at night, I feel, contain men who cry in their sleep and then say Nothing.” Martin Amis, The Information – The Clinton Administration let me feel free to prize melancholy above all else.

‘00s: “Keller flew United to Portland.” Lawrence Block, Hit Man – With so many contemporary writers – apparently not trusting their readers’ attention spans – stocking their opening sentences with pulled triggers and decapitated heads, it’s more than a relief to come across this: Five words that say, “No, really, just keep reading, I trust you, enjoy the story, I know you’ll like it. I’ll attend to the sentences.”