Bloody Knuckles Newsletter

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Hard Case Crime Review #2: 3 6 1

The second in the reading series for me. It was a much better hard-boiled crime read, which is what I had been looking for, than The Colorado Kid. Donald E. Westlake was new to me, although years ago I happened upon the Lee Marvin tough guy movie Point Blank which turned out to be written by Westlake as well.

361 is a hard hitting revenge story that sends its young protagonist, Ray Kelly, out after the men that gunned down his father and the man who hired them to do it. Kelly works his way into the organization by being as tough as the men he has sworn to kill, never letting on what his plans are.

It's a quick, entertaining ride. It's like a left hook before the right upper cut, knocking you almost out as you come into the final round. Good stuff.

Four out of five bullets.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hard Case Review #1: The Colorado Kid

The Colorado Kid was the first Hard Case Crime novel I read. I didn't realize it was going to launch me on a journey through nearly the entire run of the Hard Case line. I remember seeing it at a mall bookstore, amazed that King's name was on the spine. I took a chance on it and while I didn't think it was the greatest mystery novel ever, there were elements of it I found intriguing.
King pulls a fast one on the reader, even going so far as to point it out in the Afterword. He warns us we'll either go along with him for it or hate him for it. I went along with him. Look, some of King's best work is not in the horror genre. He has a great ability to make a reader feel like he is eavesdropping on the people in the story. The characterization is rich, the settings quaint with just the right amount of dread creeping in like a Maine fog. Plus, the cover artists for this line of books know just how to play a lady's curves.
So while the mystery is thin, the story is engaging through its three main characters- a couple of crusty old timers and a young cub reporter who could be either's great-granddaughter.
Three out of five bullets.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fire at the Auto Show

I should have known something was up by the squeaking of the People Mover as it inched along its track. I kept thinking of that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine gets stuck on the subway, although nothing like that happened. Even when we slowed to go through the Cobo tunnel we didn't come to a stop until we passed through it. All in all, Kegger and I rode an uneventful PM from Greektown Casino to Cobo.

We had a two-for coupon for the day. So for twelve bucks, we thought the day was ours. We wound our way down from the station into the exhibit hall and got in line for tickets. While we waited, I noticed what I thought was a man pouring coffee into a recycle bin. It wasn't coffee, just coffee colored. The man was projectile vomiting into the recycle bin and not just a little bit. This was Mr. Creosote from Monty Python's Meaning of Life vomiting. As far as I could tell, I was the only one seeing this in a crowd of thousands.

I was about to say something to Kegger when it was our turn at the ticket window. We got our tickets, Vomit Man was gone, and we made our way to the entrance, commenting on how odd it was that the fire alarms were flashing. But we've lived through drills before and blew it off.

We headed for the Hyundai exhibit looking for Panooch's wife who is a spokesmodel for the company. We were hanging around looking at the cars when a distorted P.A. announcement came on telling us there was smoke in the building and we needed to move calmly to the doors to evacuate...once we got our hands stamped.

Turns out there was an electrical fire at the Audi display. Cobo was closed for about three hours. Kegger and I moved from the show to the Post Bar, which at that point was jammed. We had a beer each and then walked over to the Detroit Hard Rock where there were other Auto Show Fire wanderers sharing their tales. One guy had some really impressive video on his phone. I told him he should call the local stations and sell it.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Big Jake

Speaking out against the Duke is like saying I hate baseball, apple pies, and the one time leading domestic car Chevrolet. Still, yesterday while wtching one of my all time favorite John Wayne films, I couldn't help but notice that two dogs were used to play Dog. I know it's not uncommon, but using two different types of dog to play the same one has to be. In the non-violent scenes, Dog (character name) is a Lassie collie. In the violent scenes, the dog is jet black and smaller. It's like shooting a car chase with the bad guys first in a Corvette and then later in a Dodge Ram then back again to the Corvette all during the same chase.

Okay, so after watching this film for almost 40 years, a little continuity slip up from the 70's doesn't ruin it. Richard Boone as the black-hatted villan opposite the Duke makes for some classic good guy/bad guy tension, kind of foreshadowing their final film work together in The Shootist. Patrick Wayne and Chris Mitchum do some of their better acting in the shadows of their dads, and Robert Mitchum isn't even in this one but for some reason, his presence is felt. Maureen O'Hara is proud and stoic and looks admiringly at John Wayne in their scenes together. The Duke had nearly all of his surviving friends in this film, which would explain Bruce Cabot as a Native American. Only ones missing were Forrest Tucker, Ward Bond, John Agar, and Andrew Prine.
And I can't helpt but think that the writers of Escape from New York borrowed a key phrase from this movie. As soon as John Wayne shows up, people start echoing, "I thought your were dead." Snake Pliskin probably learned a thing or two from Big Jake McCandles.

Four and a half bullets outta five.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Review: Carny Kill

First thing I noticed, after the disturbing cover of his book, about Robert Edmond Alter was he dropped his characters into a poor man's Disneyland. Alter's alternative to Anaheim was a bunch of swampland in central Florida. Carney Kill came out in 1966, right about the time Walt and company was buying up patches of land under a pseudonym and a year after Alter died. In the story, Cochrane's carnival park is littered with attractions like Tarzan's Tree House instead of the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House and a pirate attraction based on Treasure Island instead of a group of marauders invading a Caribbean villa. Not surprisingly, Alter grew up in California.

In a nutshell, the anti-hero of the book is a wise-cracking grifter who takes a job with Cochrane only to find out the owner has married the grifter's ex-wife. Not even a day later Cochrance turns up dead on a small inlet of the jungle river ride with enough planted evidence to point the finger at the grifter's ex. Soon to enter the plot is a crusty police detective who on one hand likes the grifter for the crime and then on the other seems to be partnering up with him to solve the case. Pretty soon the grifter is hooking up with one of the burlesque dancers from one of the shows. This comes with its own set of baggage as she is being courted by another guy from the grifter's past, one who is out to enact vengeance against the grifter.

Our grifter hero has his own quirks. He likes to egg on his marks to the point he cheats them out of their money just to make them look stupid in front of their dates. He never seems to light his own cigarette; when he takes one out, he rolls it between his fingers until someone lights it for him. And he is never short with making wise with the cops or the people out to kill him.

The secondary cast of characters is great: a literature major who likes to drunk gin, a midget who speaks to no one but plays the part of Cheetah the Chimp, some torpedoes, and a bunch of molls all add color and depth to the book. Some will be killed, some will kill, and others are just there to entertain.

I'm big on pulp literature. Carny Kill became a favorite. I'll read it again.

Four out of five bullets.