Saturday, November 15, 2008

PrimeTime Crime, Thyme

For reasons that no doubt pertain to my life story (yawn), I hold The Killing of a Chinese Bookie alongside seminal personal texts like Ulysses, Spiderland, and Larkin's Collected Poems. It's worth noting that the curatorial gods at Criterion have released the film in a deluxe, two-dvd package that includes Cassavettes' original cut, the theatrical version and a whole bleeping bunch of features. I'd've put it on one of my holiday wish lists, but I couldn't wait. Sunovagun is coming my way, asap! (Read the "Customer Review" for high praise from a civilian.)

Ross Macdonald, The Instant Enemy
The great thing about Ross Macdonald's coming-after Chandler is how, by extension, Macdonald's gumshoe protagonist Lew Archer confronts the late-60s, early-70s milieu that only a genius satirist like Roger Altman was capable of contriving for Philip Marlowe (in the film version of The Long Goodbye). Anyway, I inhaled this Archer gem in one sitting, another dry and eerily thoughtful installment in an unfuckwithable noir series. It deals with a poor little rich girl and LSD against the archetypal backdrop of rich and fucked up Southern California. What else could I want?

Richard Price, Lush Life
Wow, how haven't I read this guy before? He's the last of the hot shots from the Wire dream team (avec Simon, Pelecanos, Lehane) I've gotten to, and probably the one with the most critical esteem behind him going into that project. I read a lotta crime novels, kids, and let me tell you that this thing is as near-flawless as anything not attached to the name Mankell, albeit of a totally different style/tone/diction.
Holy shit! Set on the Lower East side, Lush Life is filled with cops, kids from the projects and a deep ensemble of "arty" also-rans living out their vie boheme in the believable, wage-labor terms we're all so familiar with. More than Pelecanos (and this is saying something, for me), Price rivals David Simon when it comes to serving up multiple socioeconomic strata at a time with his storytelling. And his dialogue is pitch-perfect, sonorous and just like life.

Lawrence Block, A Long Line of Dead Men
Another admirable installment in my beloved Matt Scudder series, though the plot centers on a contrived silly secret society that is below Block's usual standard of reasonableness. That said, even without a completely A+ plot line (it's an A-, no worse), there's still plenty to enjoy in Scudder's first person narration and Block's really fluent manner of setting things up. If you're interested, and don't want to start at the beginning, I recommend a Eight Million Ways to Die/When the Sacred Ginmill Closes book 7", both of which may be in my top 10 detective novels of all time.


Clark said...

I had the good fortune of seeing R. Price read from Lush Life at Powell's last year. Dude is fucking hilarious in person as well as a brilliant writer (and yes, he did talk about The Wire when prompted by a couple of rabid fans during the Q & A session.)

gabbagabbahey said...

Pelecanos is superb, though only the first of the Wire writers that I've read - I shall look for some Price next time I'm in a library or bookshop.

I like that 50% of your personal texts are Irish (and conventionally literary - we probabaly have more of the gift of the gab - ! - than any other talent). You mentioned Muldoon before, but I'm more of a fan of Larkin, or at least more familiar from his work, from schooldays.

that said, Spiderland is nothing to sneeze at. I was discussing it just last night at a gig, 'cos Mogwai was on the PA. I'm also really liking that New Year album you hipped me to, btw.

lex dexter said...


you were made for Pelecanos cuz yr bound to be tickled by the occasional circus lupus, et. al. in addition to the writerly greatnesss. he's such a name-dropper!

yeah, my taste in lit is the most conservative. the poems i (used to) write - even the crazy ones in collab. with evil r + b guy - are totally formal and metered, or at least metered-ish. what can i say?

at bottom, half the time i act like a (spiritually) pear-shaped, dour librarian like larkin. i sometimes pursue medical care when life starts to resemble a cassavettes movie too much.

i'm not an anti-semite or a john coltrane hater, tho. larkin has been accused of being both.

and when i say "(spiritually) pear-shaped," i'm trying to imply that my spirit resides mostly from my belly to my upper waist.

and slint, to me, is like the book of Genesis, you know. and Spiderland, as a thing, is bigger than slint. it's like a landmass. or a film about landmasses made out of music.

dr said...

Chinese Bookie is about the only Cassavettes I would watch for pleasure.

gabbagabbahey said...

"you were made for Pelecanos cuz yr bound to be tickled by the occasional circus lupus, et. al. in addition to the writerly greatnesss. he's such a name-dropper!"

yes, the last one I read featured a Scream gig.

Ky'all McCaterbear said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ky'all McCaterbear said...

Sure, Roger Altman's great and all. The dude really drove it home with Gashville, McCain and Mrs. Driller, and especially California Slit.

These days, I find myself leaning more towards Milton Scorcese's Boxmunch Bertha and Lonnie Hellman's Cockbiter for my hard-70's needs.

lex dexter said...

"california slit."