Thursday, November 29, 2012

Last Night Everything Broke

It hits you late at night. You're finishing up the dishes, listening to a BBC4 series on European detective fiction or some old Merle Haggard or Wilf Carter you got hanging around. So you throw it up on Twitter.
Sounds good, right? Then Edmonton's great crime novelist Wayne Arthurson (he writes the Leo Desroches books) checks in with
and next thing you know, you feel like maybe you're on to something.

I've been reading a lot of Crumley lately, so, you know, I'm not surprised that I'm wrapping the genres around one another like two ends of a reef knot. This is rattling around in my head a few days later when I pick up The Muddy Forks & Other Things, a small press collection of Crumley's short fiction and non-fiction that I've been picking at like it was someone else's Halloween candy for the last few months, and read his 1990 profile on Clint Black, "Anybody Can Write a Sad Song".

"I can finally admit," Crumley writes, "that for reasons I don't understand, exactly, I have always believed that country music belonged to me and mine.
"Me and mine, of course, referring to those unruly and always tiresome clans of Celtic hill people, people who pretty much refuse to believe in civilization, people who have been making trouble for the civilized world ever since they first painted their butts blue and rolled downhill with the velocity, arrogance, and ignorance of stones, breaking the civilized heart of Pax Romana, firm in their belief in the clan, the blood feud, and their odd, wailing music, pipes and bad, bad drums, wild music designed for love and war, cursed to confuse the two, losing all their wars, eventually, and most of their love, the keening cry of the permanently dispossessed, outsiders proudly bemoaning their fates..."
Obviously, those are my people too. The triple Celtic knot of my first, middle (none of your business) and last names has doomed me to one of three possible career paths: writer, country singer or shamus. Some combination of all three would be lovely, really, but I'm not holding my breath--despite requests from those who've heard me sing.
In the space of a paragraph, Crumley admits to liking both X and Reba. Reba McEntire, huh, I may have to reconsider in this light. Gotta admit I really only know of her as the star of Reba. But, y'know, she was good in Tremors--good as anyone else. And X, well, X is maybe the most Country Music Punk Band in Country Music Punk Band history.

But, uh, Detective Fiction and Country Music. You know, it's not an exact parallel. Oh, it's fun to play at like, James Ellroy:Merle Haggard, Patricia Highsmith:Patsy Cline or, uh, Lee Child:Blake Shelton, but that's where I want to take this. I mean as a whole, not as any individual moving parts. But, Emmet, you don't get to have the whole without all the individual parts, you ninny.
Okay, right, this is about Genre or maybe more precisely Genres I Happen to Like, so obviously they're the same thing, because my aesthetic values are inflexible.
Country Music and Detective Fiction--first of all, I guess I must love them both as genres, and as such am curious about everything that goes on within them. The excellent writer David Cantwell once said something like “Country music was never as much a chronicle of rural life as an ongoing, post-migrant eulogy to that life.” That always sounded awfully Noirish to me. And I think, in a way, that Detective Fiction is a eulogy to a life as well, a lament for the post-industrial fuck-up in which we live, a metaphoric record of how gutless and greedy we could be.
But as much as I love both genres, what I love the most, I think, is watching/hearing them get snapped over someone's knee. Or twisted around a tree like a cartoon bodybuilder might do to a No Parking sign. On a record or on the page, I love the sound of breaking glass. I love the sound of expectations thwarted. As the California Writer Antoine Wilson said:
I like it when masterplans go wrong—when humanity in all its forms asserts itself against rigidity and misguided ideals.

BUT, y'know, I love those misguided ideals too. You have to love and understand them intimately if you're gong to thwart them with any power. I love Maigret and I love George Jones as much as I love Nathan Larson and Danny Barnes.
 I can't find it anymore, but I read something Jerome Charyn wrote, writing advice, about how the thing to do is do build your own canon, your own pantheon, study those masters who appeal to you, and that's how you figure out what it is that you've got to do. I don't know, I think I remember it wrong or I'm misapplying it--two things I'm good at.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Justin Bieber: Conservative Heartthrob

I was surprised to see a backlash against Justin Bieber from Canadian conservative (or libertarian, as some of them prefer to imagine themselves) pundits following the Bieb's performance at the Grey Cup.

The Bieber Narrative follows the conservative fantasy so closely, I can only imagine their objection to him is because he represents an affront to their Middle Ages concept of masculinity. Justin Bieber, born to an unwed teen mother, pulled himself up by his Youtube bootstraps to become the moment's biggest pop star--all without the help of Big Government handouts like Canadian Content or Factor Grants. Bieber is notoriously against women's reproductive rights and has a dangerously dim concept of aboriginal treaty rights. He's basically Tom Flanagan with hair gel.
But the conservatives of the Twittersphere were unhappy with Der Biebenkindl. They say they have a problem with the fact that he was lip-synching, one of them even suggested that Nickelback (last year's heteronormative Grey Cup entertainment) "haters" were responsible for this. But, as with most conservative pundits on Twitter, their memory is pretty short.
Bryan Adams did not sing live at the 2003 Grey Cup at Taylor Field, and I swear to the Based God, I didn't see a single complaint on Twitter.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Under the Eye of God by Jerome Charyn

The first thing you notice is the thickness of this book's jacket. You have never held a trade paperback with such satisfying heft. The cover feels like it's coated with some kind of velvety space-age plastic that makes it durable and pleasant to the touch at the same time. Like it was published by IKEA.
But it wasn't published by IKEA. It was published by the Mysterious Press, founded by a guy I took exception to not that long ago. It's also been home to some of my favourite books by people like Paco Ignacio Taibo II, James Crumley, Donald Westlake--and, not to mention, ten other Isaac Sidel novels* by Jerome Charyn
You're just going to have to trust me when I say I've got a lot more to say about the other ten books, going all the way back to 1974's Blue Eyes, and that I'd hoped you'd have already had the chance to read that before you read this blog post, but you didn't and you don't so this is where we are. 
Under the Eye of God is the first Isaac Sidel book since 1999's Citizen Sidel, which saw Isaac win the office of Vice-President of the United States in the 1988 election. If we've learned anything from the previous ten Isaac books, it's that Isaac is second banana to no one. Certainly not President-Elect J. Michael Storm, his running mate who was introduced back in 1997's El Bronx. I'm not spoiling anything to say that squeezing a character the size of Isaac Sidel--who spent most of his term as Commissioner of the NYPD doing battle with a tapeworm he'd been stuck with as revenge for taking on a Peruvian pickpocket clan--into the Vice-Presidential Suite is the equivalent loading a pistol onstage in the first act of a play by Chekhov.
Under the Eye of God picks up just after the election as Storm realizes how he pales next to his Veep and dispatches Isaac on a goodwill speaking tour of Texas--accompanied by the incumbent president's personal astrologer. What follows is classic Charyn: crosses, double-crosses, and even a few reverse-double-crosses all set against a passionately constructed piece of New Yorkiana.  While some of the action does indeed take place in Texas, notably the Alamo, the main thrust concerns shady goings-on at the historic Ansonia Hotel (currently appearing as "The Drake" on TV's 666 Park Place) on West Broadway.  Sidel is chasing the ghost of Arnold Rothstein--"AR", as Isaac calls him--the man believed to have convinced the Chicago White Sox to throw the 1919 World Series (New York and baseball are inextricable in Charyn's universe), biographed not too long ago by Nick Tosches in King of the Jews, and through this quest gets closer to understanding the true threat against the Bronx that's been brewing over the last few books in the series.

*Those ten other Isaac books were reissued as eBooks last spring by Mysterious Press. You can pretty much read them in whatever order you feel like if you're hunting for them in used bookstores, but reading them in order is more rewarding, and super easy in the eBook format. Start with Blue Eyes.

This post is part of a Blog Book Tour organized by Tribute Books. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Baby the Vote

Can you imagine if babies could vote? What a nightmare world that would be.
First of all, every election campaign would start pandering to babies, because they're easily manipulated. You'd start seeing billboards that read: "Taxes are poopy. Poopy old taxes." or "Who's a good little voter? Want a banana?" or "phbbdhheztt", because babies can't read anyway.
The next thing would be that babies would start voting for other babies because--have you met babies? Total chauvinists, as far as other babies go. Babies literally believe that babies' shit doesn't stink. And once you start putting babies in the ballot, well, forget about it. Are you gonna vote against a baby? What are you, some kinda asshole?
So you'll have these all-baby debates. Which will be awful. You'll have a right-wing baby going "baba" and a liberal baby going "googah" and then some libertarian baby going on about how the government has no business telling him what he can or can't put in his mouth.
The worst, the worst thing is that even though you elect a baby, they won't stay babies for very long, certainly not through a four-year term. Babies are bad enough; they're selfish, they're helpless, they don't clean up after themselves. But toddlers are worse. Toddlers are all that, plus a bad attitude. Did you ever see a toddler throw a two-hour tantrum because you didn't cut their toast the way they wanted? That's your new national defense policy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Writers hang out.

"Writers hang out."
It's like my mantra. Richard Price said it in, I think, a New York Times profile. Yeah, there it is. My mantra should be "Writers write" but here we are.
Life being what it is, I don't get much hang out time lately. I actually write more than I hang out. Which is sad, because I don't write as much as I should. So when events conspire, as they did the other day, I try to make the most of the opportunity and really hang out.
I had spent the morning with Daniel Zomparelli's poetry collection Davie Street Translations. In the afternoon I had to be around St. Paul's Hospital. It was a standard transport job, which means wait, wait, wait. I passed most of the time in the waiting room with James Crumley's classic The Last Good Kiss. I don't read poetry on the job, I can't afford the risk of existential crisis. Poetry is great for the in between time, waiting for the phone to ring, procrastinating paper work, that kind of thing. But once I'm on a job, I like something with forward-moving action, if only as a way to mark time.
I've been a Crumley fan since The Final Country came out in paperback. It called to me from the bottom shelf Mystery section at Buzzword. I've always had a thing for Texas, and the cover was impossible for me to pass up.
By some weird quirk of fate, though, I'd never read his most famous book until now. I guess I didn't need to. I guess I had to read everything else first. Especially Ross Macdonald's The Chill. But I'd been on a Crumley kick lately; The Mexican Tree Duck, The Muddy Forks. After reading 11 books of claustrophobic urban paranoia for a project, I've used Crumley's picaresque meandering as a good tonic.
The point, though, is that if you haven't The Last Good Kiss, you should read The Chill first. And if you have read The Last Good Kiss, you should read The Chill next. Or whenever. You do what you do. I've never been good at reading books that someone told me to. I've had Jamie's edition of A Confederacy of Dunces on my shelf for nearly three years. It's one of several Crumleyesque qualities I have.

Spent most of the five hours inside that The Last Good Kiss. But when I saw my chance, I ducked out to grab a bit to eat. I hadn't been to St. Paul's since last October, when the twins were born. Nearly a year to the day since the farce of finding parking and getting a labouring woman through the afterhours admittance. Locked doors aplenty.
I thought about winding my way up to the maternity ward, revisiting those halls I haunted for four sleepless days as my son sorted out his blood sugar levels. I know where they keep the popsicles up there. The maternity ward at St. Paul's stocks a white grape popsicle that will blow your mind. Worth having twins for.
But I had no business up on the second floor. The people up their don't need an audience for the dramas that are playing out. Plus, I didn't trust myself to not get lost in the corridors.
So I hit the street. Burrard first, thinking there must be something quick and decent to eat nearby. All I saw was 7-11. So I crossed the street and went through the automatic sliding doors. I don't remember the last time I was in a 7-11. Probably the last time I had to escort someone to St. Paul's. When I was paying my dues on graveyards, I ate there regularly. I used to get apple fritters from the Sev at Main & 14th. I ate taquitos from the Sev in the International Village. Once I even had a hot dog from the Sev at Dunsmuir, loaded it with onions and ate while I walked through Gastown when Gastown was still scary.
But that was a lifetime ago. Three, really.

I stared through the plexiglass at at some formerly-frozen, possibly-deepfried, rotating meat cylinder and I didn't have it in me to put it in me. I guess it's easier to eat crap like that at 3 in the morning.
I grabbed a green Gatorade from the cooler, paid for it, and split.
I drank the whole thing as I walked south to Davie.
I noted with some pleasure that there was still office space for rent upstairs from Celebrities. I remembered seeing the sign a year ago on one of our trips to St. Paul's for monitoring near the end of the pregnancy. I thought then, and I still do, that it would make an ideal spot for an independent detective, fictional or otherwise, to share an office.  Maybe with an upholsterer, a plumber and a sewer engineer.
I haven't spent much time on Davie. I used to meet Mike for coffee or sushi on Davie sometimes, when I used to get out. Most of my time on Davie has been spent in transit to Denman or English Bay. So, I've got nothing invested in it. But Zomparelli's poems are lingering.
There's Odyssey, there's the Fountainhead. There's Denny's. I didn't even know there was a Denny's on Davie. And Hamburger Mary's, yeah, Hamburger Mary's. I went there with my brother after seeing Jim Gaffigan. 
I'm a tourist here, gawking at these places I've read about in Zomparelli's poems, so plain in the early fall, early afternoon sun. I'm a tourist in Davie Village, same as I would be in Paco Ignacio Taibo's Mexico City or Martin Beck's Stockholm. Detective fiction is a form of tourism, I think, and Zomparelli's poems scratch me in the same places as Richard Price's Lower East Side walkaround Lush Life did.

I took a writing class from Zomparelli. Or rather, I sat in on a class he led. I had stopped writing in 2006 after about a decade of trying to have a writing career. In the spring of 2009, not long after my first daughter was born, I realized I had to write again. I didn't know what I was going to write about. I didn't have to go back to music writing, I was free. I started going to writing classes. All of my writing teachers in Vancouver have been from the queer community. That sounds so patronizing. But it means something. I don't know what. I was beat up and called "fag" so much as an adolescent that I've always felt--I dunno, fondness? kinship?--solidarity with queer people. Still sounds patronizing.
I'd fluked upon Zomparelli's class at an interesting time in my writing, where I had no agenda and was more open to learning new things than at any other point in this mess of writing life. I learned a lot, and my writing went in directions I wouldn't have necessarily taken it on my own. And most importantly, Zomparelli--Daniel, was very encouraging at a time when I was still a little bit on the fence about allowing writing to resume it's position in the captain's chair on the control deck of the  Starship Emmet. Whatever that's worth.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

John Gormley's double standard

Back in June, John Gormley wrote movingly in his newspaper column about the need to "tear away the stigma" from people who "selfmedicate to try and make the pain go away." The disease that afflicts these people, Gormley writes, "is not a character flaw. It is not a weakness."
Damn, I remember thinking. Gormley finally gets it.
But it turns out Gormley doesn't get it. This week, on his radio show and his Twitter feed (maybe on his LinkedIn network as well), he's been railing against public health initiatives that are proven to save both lives and taxpayer dollars.
It's confusing. Or it was. Until I realized that Gormley's compassion when it comes to mental health and addiction issues only extends to folks like Darren Wourms or Dave Batters, who look like Gormley. People who do street drugs don't look like John, so why should he care?
Even as Saskatchewan's HIV rates soar, to the point where the province has even developed its own strain of the virus, Gormley continues argue against sane public health policy. Gormley perpetrates absolute myths about needle exchanges and demonizes the people--daughters and sons, mothers and fathers--who use them. This isn't just Gormley's usual brand of cheap, hollow political rhetoric. His deliberate dissemination of misinformation puts lives at risk. At best, it's irresponsible. At worst...

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Otto Penzler is wrong.

Last week, Publishers Weekly posted an op-ed by esteemed publisher and bookseller Otto Penzler entitled "Why the Best Mysteries Are Written in English". It is one of the most wrong-headed and detestable things I've ever read on the subject of crime or mystery fiction.

First off, let me say that I have nothing but respect for Penzler as a publisher and editor. I have been a faithful reader of his annual Best American Crime Writing (later Reporting) collections since 2002, and the creepy signpost logo of his Mysterious Press imprint is, to me, a guarantee of quality. Mysterious Press has published some of my favourite crime writers: James Crumley, Jerome Charyn, Paco Ignacio Taibo II. So when Penzler has something to say, I am damn well paying attention.

Unfortunately, what he has to say here is ridiculous, and frankly, beneath him.

He begins with a thesis and a disclaimer:

It is an inarguable fact that virtually everything of interest and significance in the history of detective fiction has been written in the English language, mainly by American and English authors.
This is not chauvinistic, racist, insular, or opinionated; it is merely reportage.

Racist? Okay, it's not racist. Chauvinistic, insular or opinionated? And how! Reportage? In a very broad sense, it is, but it's also poor reportage.
Penzler's argument starts off silly, claiming that fictional detectives can only be successful if they are based on real-life models. To me, this unqualified bunk. Fiction is, by its very definition, made-up. The factuality of its origin is entirely irrelevant. Richard Price, who describes his writing style as "photo-realistic", told Paris Review this:

Actual writing is no fun for me. Going out and hanging out and getting impressions out there on the streets, that’s fun. I was running with everybody. I was like one of those guys who jumps off the stage into the audience and gets passed around. I got myself passed around for three years. So you’ve got all these good lines in a notebook, but then what? I think it was Norman Mailer who said that the fact that something really happened is the defense of the bad novelist. At some point I got so hooked on research that after a while it seemed out of the question to make things up. Ultimately, everything in Clockers was pure fiction, but in the beginning I had to learn enough about the texture of truth out there in order to have the confidence to make up lies, responsible lies.

Penzler goes on to describe how these models of proper detective fiction can only exist in democratic societies. Very excellent books--written in English, mind you--by Dan Fesperman, Martin Cruz Smith and Philip Kerr put the lie to Penzler's weird claim that heroic police protagonists can only exist under British or American democracy. Then he brings up poor old Auguste Dupin, Edgar Allan Poe's amateur sleuth, and it becomes clear that Penzler is talking here about a very specific kind of detective story but, infuriatingly, he never really pins down what that is. Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" is the only English language story he cites.
The column devolves from there into broad generalizations about detective stories of other countries. Russians write "novels of simplistic sex and violent crime"; Asian mysteries "tended to be of the Arabian Nights variety"; Scandinavian potboilers are "depressing, with dark skies, cold winds, self-destructive alcoholic detectives, and an utter lack of humor."
"If you want to wallow in noir," Penzler writes, ScandiCrime books are "a good bet."
Whatever argument Penzler is making here reeks of whatever we're going to call the crime fiction equivalent of Rockism. He's not really arguing that the best detective stories are written in English, by Americans or Brits, he's tautologically saying--reporting, going back to his disclaimer--that detective stories in the style of American and British writers are best written by writers who are American or British. Which is a fine thing to say. You know? If he had written a column that started along the lines of "Hi, I'm Otto Penzler, one of the most important behind the scenes figures on the American crime fiction scene of the last 40 years. Here's what I like and here's why I like it." I would have read that with gusto and learned something. Instead, we've got this muddled mess of ill-got conclusions from ill-considered premises that Penzler's own work as an editor and publisher disprove.
As I mentioned before, many of Paco Ignacio Taibo's books--among them Leonardo's Bicycle, my personal favourite detective story ever--were published in English by Penzler's Mysterious Press, translated from Spanish. Granted, L's B definitely falls outside of the tradition of Poe for which Penzler seems to be claiming exclusive authenticity.  But it was because of Penzler that this book became readable to me, an act for which I am obscenely grateful. Reading Taibo opened my eyes to what sort of writer I could be, what sort of writer I wanted to be. (Read him, he's great.)
But--and this is most definitively my opinion, I make no claims of reportage here--two of the finest series that do adhere to the Anglo-American police procedural tenets were written in languages other than English. From Sweden, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's ten-volume Martin Beck series remains unsurpassed in the police procedural subgenre. Contrary to Penzler's accusations, the series is full of humour, as the following passage from The Fire Engine That Disappeared shows:
Ten yards away stood a lone dismal figure, a pipe in his mouth and his hands thrust deep down in his coat pockets. This was Fredrik Melander of the Murder Squad in Stockholm and a veteran of hundreds of difficult investigations. He was generally known for his logical mind, his excellent memory and unshakeable calm. Within a smaller circle, he was most famous for his remarkable capacity for always being in the toilet when anyone wanted to get hold of him. His sense of humour was not nonexistent, but very modest; he was parsimonious and dull and never had brilliant ideas or sudden inspiration. Briefly, he was a first-class policeman.
For more on the Beck series, go read Canadian critic Rohan Maitzen's excellent essay over at the Los Angeles Review of Books.
And then there's Belgian Georges Simenon and his inexhaustible Maigret novels.
By my reading, the Beck books and the Maigret books defined the contemporary crime novel and I rate them, on a whole, higher than the works of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald. And I like those guys a lot. But that's me.
I'm not nearly as well read as I'd like to be, but here's a quick rundown of a few other non-English crime writers I enjoy.
And then, if you want to go even further, dig Akashic's great international noir series, and meet really good crime writers from far-flung reaches of the globe like Barcelona, Mumbai, Haiti or Toronto.
Speaking of Toronto, Penzler made absolutely no mention of a certain crime-writing country that shares a common language with the UK and America. As my Internet friend, acclaimed Ottawa-based crime novelist Peggy Blair tweeted to me "And no mention of Canada, which has produced some pretty incredible mystery writers. Like our own award-winning Louise Penny."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Growing Up Robin Hood

I grew up in the shadow of Robin Hood. The old 1928 Robin Hood flour mill towered over the industrial buffer between where I lived and where I went to school. Up at the top, a beacon in the foggy darkness of January mornings, the red and green Robin Hood sign was my own version of Dr. Eckleburg's eyes.
My mom held on to her childhood love of Richard Greene's TV Robin Hood. Hopefully she still does. She used to tell me about how it was one of the few places--because it was produced in Britain, I guess--where writers blacklisted in Hollywood could get work in those dark days. No doubt this contributed to a nascent image in my imagination of the Writer as Radical Hero.
--Was there a Muppet Robin Hood?--
Along with tales of TV's Robin Hood, my mom also big-upped the 1930s Errol Flynn movie. Such was the state of my childhood: TV and movies were folklore passed down in the oral tradition by elders. This is how I learned the word Swashbuckler. (My dad's preferred swashbuckler was the Scarlett Pimpernel.) Our family was friends with a family of Flynns; descended from swashbucklers, no doubt.
By the time I finally saw these live action adventures of Robin Hood, the bar had been placed impossibly high, not just by the bedtime stories my mother told, but also by repeated exposure to the high production values and rich character development of Rocket Robin Hood, seen every Saturday morning between Hercules and Spider-Man (all from the '60s) on CFQC-TV/QC8 from the time my parents finally caved and brought a (black & white) TV into our home until an geological era later when they relented and signed up for cable(our TV was colour by then), adding three American networks airing brand new cartoons to the Saturday morning mix. You have no idea the paradigm shift that led to. After years, YEARS, of the same two dozen or so episodes of Rocket Robin Hood, The Mighty Hercules and Spider-Man--along with quasi-educational interstitials like Captain Nemo of similar vintage--I could finally watch the cartoons that adorned the lunchboxes of my classmates: Thundarr the Barbarian, Blackstar, Snorkles, The Littles! Truth be told, most of these shows were awful and left little to no mark on my psyche, while here I am, waxing prosaic on the finer points of Newton the Centaur, my eyes dewy at the memory of Betty Brant's geometrically implausible coif.
Ironically, the one cartoon that did stick was even older than Rocket Robin Hood. The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, piped in from Detroit on Channel 7, was the title bout of the Saturday morning fight card. After that it was Wide World of Sports or Detroit news or something else I was not interested in. After The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, Saturday morning was over.
This was in contrast to the old QC8 days when the cartoon oldies block was followed by a movie of interest to a kid brain-starved by cost-conscious animation. Abbott & Costello, Pippi Longstocking, Swiss Family Robinson...the Adventures of Brian Keith in a Motorboat AKA Flipper, benign junk.
That was Saturday. Sunday had a Robin Hood of its own. That was typically the day we'd go visit my grandparents on my dad's side. Back in our pre-TV days, this was where we watched The Wonderful World of Disney and The Beachcombers (brought to you by Kraft!). At some point--after my grandparents had moved back to the city following a stint on an acreage, a stint which took pla e early enough in my life that I've always kind of considered myself part farm boy, even though I'm all city boy--when the VCR had adequately saturated Western Civ, they started playing the all-animal Disney version of Robin Hood on a constant loop at Grandpa & Grandma's. I have a lot of cousins, all of them younger than me, so there was always someone around to watch it. This is a guess, based purely on emotions, but I'd guess that movie repeated itself over and over and over from 1986 to 1991. There were pauses for Christmas specials, hockey games and Grey Cups...and I have a vague recollection of my Great-Grandfather in my grandparents living room having an opinion on the Colin Thatcher trial. But that would have to have been before the Robin Hood Era. There were also attempts at usurping Robin Hood's reign. I remember The Sword in the Stone made a valiant effort but didn't have the songs.
The songs! With Roger Miller as the troubadour rooster. Roger Miller's sublime easy listening/country soundtrack would eventually be mutilated by dancing hamsters, I shit you not.
And then there was Green Arrow.

Window Dressing

I know, I know, it's incidental. You can't judge a book based on the musical taste of its author. But I'm like, damn, how nice is it to read about detective story about a guy who can chapter-and-verse Bad Brains and Wu Tang?
Yeah, yeah, George Pelecanos name-dropped Lungfish in--which one was it? Couldn't have been King Suckerman, musta been, um, Shame The Devil?--but this is different. Dewey Decimal doesn't just happen to hear these sweet jams on the radio while casing a joint or whatever. The music matters to the plot, the character development, the book itself.

No surprise, considering the source. Nathan Larson, writer of this book I'm reading with great gusto and pleasure The Nervous System (as well as its predecessor, The Dewey Decimal System) is a stone cold musician. Used to play guitar in Shudder To Think, a band I listened to a lot in high school, currently does scores for the movies and plays in A Camp.
I've had to learn patience with the musical tastes of writers of detective stories. I threw my copy of G.M. Ford's otherwise excellent Fury across the room when the male and female leads canoodled to the tortuous strains of that horrible Santana, featuring Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 song. I had mellowed by the time I got to my hero Paco Ignacio Taibo II's Santana obsessing in Leonardo's Bicycle. I even checked out some Santana, and though I'm still no Santana fan, I can dig it.
And, y'know, for all that I worshipped and emulated the writing style of Richard Meltzer during my rock crit salad days, I almost never liked the music he liked, or said he liked. So there's that.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Movie Time!

A list of movies I'm certain I saw in theatres up to around age 20. I'm not including movies I saw as matinees at the Broadway Theatre, because they were somehow more informal, though often better movies. Same goes for drive-ins. Same goes for the second-run theatre in downtown Saskatoon in the early 90s, the Paradise? In approximate chronological order:

The Rescuers
Return of the Jedi (twice)
A Fine Mess
Moon Over Parador
Cadillac Man
Bird on a Wire
Air America
Thelma & Louise
Regarding Henry
Three Men and a Little Lady
Paper Mask
L.A. Story
Last of the Mohicans
Night and the City
Blade Runner
The Good Son
Dumb and Dumber
Pulp Fiction (twice--maybe three times)
Seven (or is it Se7en?)
Broken Arrow (twice)
Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud
Mission: Impossible
The Man Who Knew Too Little

Check, 1, 2...this thing on?

Just clearing my throat, here. Seeing if this thing still works.
They've changed the layout since I was last here, but you probably can't see that. It probably still looks like the shirt of a dude on the cover of a Louis L'Amour paperback, right? That's what I'm going for. That's what I was going for.
Honestly? Don't know what I'm going for now. We'll see.
Just figured I dust this thing off, and start up again, just to do it, just to put my hands in motion.
I've been busy. Yes, I have. If you wanna catch up, start at the top HERE and work your way back. Then, dig what I've been reading HERE. Some scattered musical mutterings HERE. I was blogging HERE for most of 2011 and did some good work, occasionally.
I've got a couple of big things on the go--and a couple of small things, too, I guess. But, um, the more I write, the more I write. So watch this space.