2011 – A Year in Pop Culture: Part I

Well, here we are, sitting in the fresh fields of an unblemished new future.

2011 was a great year for me: I got married and went to London, lost 30 pounds, spent another year free from cigarettes, and waded in a veritable ocean of pop culture excellence.

I thought I’d try to once again to attack this blog in a more frequent manner and what better way to start than with a Best of…thing. Here is a perfect jumping on point for new readers and old thyme fans alike.

To those of you who have been riding this ship since the start, feel free to question my intentions; “Aren’t you the guy who hates end of year/best of lists?”.

You can scream and finger wave at me but yes, I’m a slave to the internet peer pressure and I would like to remind you of some of the things we here at the House of Bibliodiscoteque have enjoyed.

Marvel Comics and the latent Sense of Humor:

With all of the serious-adult-minded relaunches over at DC, it seems Marvel’s reaction was to incorporate a smile and wink. That’s right, thanks to writers like Dan Slott, Zeb Wells, Mark Waid, and Jason Aaron, fun has reentered the vocabulary of comics. For too long, too many books have brooded and punched their way onto shelves and forgone levity for ‘intense deconstructions of what makes heroes tick’.

Can 2012 be the year we move beyond hero hatemongers who draw a paycheck from the industry they mock?

WinnersAmazing Spider-man, Daredevil (also supporting the BEST COVER of the YEAR), Avenging Spider-manWolverine and the X-men

Uncharacteristic Female Characters:

There was a great gnashing of teeth and rending of clothing over the new 52 DCUniverse and its *cough* relaunch. From the soft-core ending of Catwoman to Starfire’s newly discovered smuttiness to the pantless first issue of Wonder Woman, it seemed to be a tough year for the ladies of the pop culture world.

Alas, some creators have ventured to step beyond these oversexed stereotypes and provide women who are not only written like women, but also hold their own as action heroes.  Yes, I’m looking at you Christa Faust (Supernatural: Coyote’s Kiss and Choke Hold), Duane Swierczynski (Birds of Prey and Fun&Games), Garth Ennis (Jennifer Blood), and Jason Aaron (American Vampire). With 2012’s Fairest spin-off coming out in a few months, let’s see if it can hold up.

   Winners: Coyote’s Kiss by Christa Faust, Birds of Prey by Duane SwierczynskiRachel Rising by Terry Moore 

Noir is the new Black

I did a small victory dance with the relaunch of Hard Case this year. The promise of new books by Max Allan Collins and Lawrence Block was too much to stoically contain. However, the discovery of Victor Gischler, Image Comic’s Blue Estate, the latest installment of Ed Brubaker’s Criminal series, and the limited edition of Steve Niles Cal McDonald Criminal Tales simply pushed it all over the edge.

 WinnersBlue EstateThe Deputy by Victor GischlerHell&Gone by Duane SwierczynskiChoke Hold by Christa FaustQuarry’s Ex by Max Allan Collins

 

 

 

 

See you around for Part II…

Something Nice – Hard Case Returns

Hard Case Crime’s relaunch at Titan Publishing is officially into its second month with four new novels for fans of Two-Fisted Hard-Boiled detective tales. The flagship title for the relaunch is Lawrence Block’s Getting’ Off: A Novel of Sex & Violence.

Its’ a saucy read (if the cover doesn’t provide that insight the abundance of the c-word should) about Rita the serial killer who has more aliases than Block has pen names and decides to revisit her past love affairs. Imagine a sociopathic retelling of High Fidelity except instead of insightful romantic foibles, Rita wipes hers from the face of the planet. Grade 4/5

The second release, Quarry’s Ex by Max Allan Collins is a perfect entry into the Quarry series full of irony, sarcasm, and violence. Ex-hit-man Quarry, now in possession of his bosses’ list of employees, has found the perfect way to use it to his advantage: find the intended hits and hire himself out a fixer. Not only does he insure their victim’s protection, but for a few dollars more he’ll even make sure you are never bothered again. I can’t rave enough about what a great take this is on the ‘anti-hero redemption’ trope. Quarry doesn’t sacrifice any of his viciousness or aggression, he is simply aimed at a different target. (Mr. Collins, the new direction for Quarry is exciting and engaging, but should you find the time, PLEASE do more Ms. Tree books. The world needs a protagonist like her.) Grade 5/5.

Sadly, I can’t really say the same for Collins’ co-authored Mickey Spillane novel, The Consummata. With a fantastic title and intriguing plot this book sails along aimlessly trying to find a steady gust of wind to sustain it. Morgan the Raider is back and on the run from, well, everyone in the world . While attempting to lay low, he is hired by a groups of Cuban exiles to track down a con man who made off with 75,000 bucks. Morgan wanders around Miami thinking aloud and trying to figure out if he is hunted or hunter. While the action sequences are exciting and worth the read, the build up for the S&M goddess, the mysterious Consummata,  is so obvious the reason for waiting so long to reveal her seems like a convenient way to sustain the story to minimum page length.

As a lover of both Spillane and Collins, I felt this fell flat. I finished it mainly because the plot was so interesting and the settings so well crafted I couldn’t not read it. It just felt as though it really wanted to be a great short story instead of a ‘good’ novel. Grade 3/5.

As for Christa Faust’s Choke Hold, well, I’m saving it for an intended sick day from work when I can read the entire thing without interruption.

Episode 19 – The Manly Art

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This is the podcast that Garagepunk Hideout built.

When I decided to turn Elliot J. Gorn’s The Manly Art into a podcast it seemed like a great idea. I would do a bunch songs about Jack Johnson, John L. Sullivan, and other famous boxers. Hell, I’d even connect it to Christa Faust’s new book Choke Hold. Yeah, that was the idea.

About halfway through I realized that as popular boxing is and how it SHOULD be a theme for rock’n’roll songs, most rock songs are simply about fighting.

Episode 19 is three rounds depicting three very different aspects of fighting and music variety. Round 1 is all about bare knuckle boxing. Round 2 focuses on professional boxers and Round 3 examines general fisticuffs. What makes this podcast unique is that members of Garagepunk Hideout suggested most of the songs and did the grunt work for me. To them, I am thankful. I’m even considering doing a request show at some point as a result of the great taste of my internet peers.

Enjoy this month’s episode. There is some pretty amazing stuff on the horizon and a spin-off planned before the end of the year.

Rage well.

Episode 19 – The Manly Art

Round 1:
Last Night in Town – Lucero
John L. Sullivan (Bare Knuckle Fighter ) -The Cuffs
Bare Knuckles – Sniper
Street Fighter  – Link Wray
Fists Up! – The Forgotten
Knocked Out – Cave Catt Sammy
Showdown – Tony Casanova

Round 2:
Song For Sonny Liston – Mark Knopfler
Jack Johnson – This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb
Jack Johnson – The Revelators
Jack Johnson – Barrence Whitfield, Tom Russell
Willie Meehan -Manby’s Head
Bongo Beatin’ Beatnik  -Joe Hall and the Corvettes
Bumble Bee -Heavy Trash
He’s In The Ring (Take A) -Memphis Minnie

Round 3:
Mean Fist -Street Dogs
The Crusher – Novas
Brass Knuckles -Personal and The Pizzas
Talk Shit – si si si
Your Ass (Is Next In Line) – The Mummies
Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonite – Fleetwood Mac
力石 の テーマ [ OST ]

Something Nice – Lawrence Block and Vince Keenan

The cover for Lawrence Block's novel Getting Off out in HC from Hardcase Crime in September

Vince Keenan, who runs the Vince Keenan blog, interviewed famed crime author Lawrence Block. It is a fantastic interview and sheds some light on the allure some authors feel to use pseudonyms:

“I wanted an open pen name for the book for the same reason I wanted the “A Novel of Sex & Violence” subtitle: so that no one would pick up the book by mistake, hoping for something fluffy about a charming burglar and his stubtailed cat. This is not to denigrate the Burglar books or their readers, and indeed I’m sure there’ll be plenty of overlap. But I got email calling me to account for the erotic content of Small Town, by people who felt they’d been ambushed, and I didn’t want that to happen again. I want to sell books, but only to people who are likely to enjoy them.”

From the Mysterious Bookshop website: Wednesday, September 21st, 6:30-8:00pm. Celebrating the re-launch of Hard Case Crime!  Featuring Lawrence Block (Getting Off) and Christa Faust (Choke Hold).  Also on hand will be Richard Aleas/Charles Ardai (Little Girl Lost and Fifty-to-One), Russell Atwood (Losers Live Longer), and Peter Pavia (Dutch Uncle).

Something Nice – Summer Reading and Listening

This summer I have been keeping busy and hiding from the heat by listening to great music and reading some fantastic novels.

To start, I’d like to mention the miraculously soothing and made-for-summer sounds of Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three. Pokey, for those of you who may not already know, plays authentic ragtime with some great hokum (“Shake Your Cans, The Garbage Man is Here”) added for good measure. Pokey’s authenticity knows no bounds; swing by Pokeylafarge.com’s Online Shoppe to see the R. Crumb inspired limited poster or the sticker featuring Mark Twain indulging in the dulcet sounds of Pokey. It is the perfect soundtrack for rolling down a cold river in an oversized inner-tube or grilling steaks the size of your head.

What makes Pokey stand out is that he is not simply playing the music, but he, and the band practie what they preach. Watching them live this past week, one gets the sense that they were abducted by aliens and dropped off half a century later in St. Louis. Unaware of what to do in this strange new world of Gagas and auto-tuneing, they decided to go on tour and bring respite to those who crave authenticity with their music.

Pokey may have the high tremble of an old tyme cowboy and some killer song writing abilities (how is it possible to breathe life into love songs?), but the South City Three, two of whom are in the also impressively brilliant Rum Drum Ramblers, do not simply back him up, but become brothers in arms. Joey Glynn’s bass skills dig deep grooves which provide the structure for  Adam Hoskins’ solos to dance around and Ryan Koenig’s harmonica to scream over. There exists a cohesion within  the band and, despite Pokey’s name in the front, there is unity.

Starch your finest shirt. Run an iron over your sundress. Shave close and clean and thank god for Pokey LaFarge.

Christa Faust – Supernatural: Coyote’s Kiss

I have never been much of a television guy. I know it exists, but it doesn’t hold much interest for me outside of a few shows. I’m not trying to be holier-than-thou or an elitist (trust me I can be elitist, too), but the whole experience often leaves me cold and I get the feeling that I am waving farewell to my life.

When I discovered that Christa Faust was writing a Supernatural tie-in I had work to do. I spent a great deal of time at the local comic shop researching the past seven seasons of Supernatural. I watched the first two seasons to get a feel for the characters and the mythology. From what I gather, Faust nailed it.

The dialogue in Coyote’s Kiss mirrors the dialogue of the show and the action flows smoothly and violently. The introduction of hunter  Xochi Cazadora also introduces Aztex mythos to the universe and Faust does a spectaculer job of explaining why the Winchester Boys can’t elicit the help of Christendom’s angels or devils. Faust has clearly thought about what the universe needed as well as what the ripples would look like in the contained realm of Supernatural. This type of world building is what I constantly applaud Faust for. The book read quickly (it was devastated in one sitting) and kept me entertained.

I’m not too sure I’ll venture back into the TV show, after seven seasons and going, it is a bit of a commitment, but Coyote’s Kiss showed me what the series is capable of achieving.

 

Pic via ChristaFaust.com

Something Nice – The Wheelman Cometh

Sometimes I hit literary speed bumps. There are the novels that look great on the shelf, but after kicking the tires a bit and taking it around the block for a few chapters it tends to bottom out on literary pot holes or simply runs out of gas. It is the lemons that usually send me running back to certain authors who I can trust to get me there in style: Ken Bruen. Christa Faust, Max Allan Collins. Megan Abbott. Lawrence Block. Donald Westlake.

I consider these authors the ‘E’ class luxury machines of the literary world who, as their pages pass by seem to do so in slow motion. The cadence and rhythm of their words echo through the dark empty streets of the imagination. They are reliable, sleek, and get great mileage from the written word.

Today, I am adding another author to this car lot of excellence: Duane Swierczynski. I got to know his stuff mostly through his work on Cable over at Marvel Comics and his implausibly beautiful novel Severance Package. Last night however I decided that, to prepare myself for his forthcoming crime trilogy from Mulholland Books (read an interview between Swierczyncki and Ed Brubaker of Criminal fame), I would reread The Wheelman to get me in the mood.

Swierczynski’s work provides a fine mix between Ken Bruen’s level of violence and James Ellroy’s snappy narrative asides. In The Wheelman, a mute Irish getaway driver rips apart Philadelphia seeking out the Russian mobsters who stole his money and left him for dead. The book screams from one incident to the next without seatbelts and devoid of airbags. It is gritty, violent, and pure escapist fun. Those looking for depth will be left sucking fumes. Incidentally, Swierczynski’s descriptions of Philly’s streets and traffic patterns are more accurate than Google Maps. Should you ever wish to visit the City of Brotherly Love or simply lie and say you have, his novels are second only to the Lonely Planet Guides.

This year, Swierczynski is releasing the first two books of a proposed trilogy. The first is Fun & Games. The second is released at the tail end of the year amidst a plethora of other potentially potent pulps. My recommendation is start early so you don’t get lapped.


Pic Via

Something Nice – New Faust

Christa Faust’s Supernatural tie-in is out this July from Titan Books.

A truck full of illegal Mexican immigrants slaughtered with supernatural force is found by the side of a road. Trying to find answers, Sam and Dean are plunged into the dangerous world that exists along the Mexican border.
They encounter a tattooed, pistol-packing bandita on a motorcycle who seems be everywhere they go before they get there. Xochi Cazadora draws them into a whole new world of monsters…
A Supernatural novel that reveals a previously unseen adventure for the Winchester brothers, from the hit TV series

 

 

 

Ellen Willis, one of the most profound rock’n’roll critics, who died in 2006, has a posthumously released collection of her reviews out this month.  From her obituary in the New York Times, “At its core, Ms. Willis’s work was rooted in the three R’s, which for her were radicalism, religion and rock.” Owing allegiance to neither side of the political fence, she dug up both yards equally.

 

 

Something Nice – Hard Case: Round 2

Hard Case Crime is back! The greatest name in crime fiction since Black Lizard has gotten itself into fighting trim, landed itself a new home, and entered the ring with such a vicious combo that if you read any other book this year you are backing the wrong fighter.

Charles Ardai has lined up four sure-to-be-amazing novels to round out the year:


GETTING OFF by Lawrence Block in September 2011

QUARRY’S EX by Max Allan Collins in September 2011

THE CONSUMMATA by Mickey Spillane, Max Allan Collins in October 2011

And CHOKE HOLD by Christa Faust in October 2011

 

Don’t be a moop.

Don’t trust your local library.

Beg your local retailer to get it for you.

I Hate End of the Year Lists

End of the years list tend to grate on my nerves.

For the most part these lists showcase the media darlings and popular trends…unless you write for a blog or stalk message boards in which case people tend towards the most esoteric album, unread book, or a comic so devoid of plot or artistry that only the most elite and serious readers pretend to milk enjoyment from it.

Perhaps this opinion comes from jealousy. I am not on any publisher’s or distro list. Brown envelopes do not appear in my mailbox and wait menacingly for review. I don’t get Charles Burns new book two weeks before release. In the words of Joey Lawrence, “Wooow!”

Sadly, I must purchase my reading material and listening materials as some of you do…with my hard-earned money. What it boils down to essentially is sour grapes. That is why I hate these lists. Sour grapes.

Should any of the wonderful companies below wish to try and bribe me for a space on next year’s list, I am entertaining all queries.

For you my noble and curious readers my unique and elitist contribution to this e-pollution shall consist of entertainment enjoyed, but not necessarily released, during 2010.

Not Necessarily the Best of 2010 books.

1. The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death: A Novel by Charlie Huston

2. Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard

3. Memory (Hard Case Crime) by Donald E. Westlake

4. The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck

5. Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

6. Hoodtown by Christa Faust

7. A Princess of Mars  by Edgar Rice Burroughs

8. The Song Is You: A Novel by Megan E. Abbott

9. Crossroad Blues  by Ace Atkins

10. The Murderer Vine (Hard Case Crime) by Shepard Rifkin

Not Necessarily the Best of 2010 music.

1. Delany Davidson – Self Decapitation (Voodoo Rhythm)

2. The Mountain Goats – You Were Cool (song – youtube.com)

3. Reverend Beat Man – surreal folk blues gospel trash vol.1(Voodoo Rhythm)

4. Mama Rosin – Brule Lentement  (Voodoo Rhythm)

5. Movie Star Junkies -Melville (Voodoo Rhythm)

6. Persian Claws – Clever Way to Crawl (Song )

7. Those Darlins – s/t (Thirsty Tigers)

8.  Bob Lee  – Wanted for Questioning (Song)

9.  The Spirits of Rhythm – Mr, Watson and Mr. Holmes (Song)

10. Langhorne Slim – s/t (Kemado) – Restless is the best track

Not Necessarily the Best of 2010 Funny Books

1. Xenozoic by Mark Schultz (Flesk Publications)

2. Incognito by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Marvel)

3. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec: Pterror Over Paris / The Eiffel Tower Demon (Vol. 1) by Jacques Tardi (Fantagraphics)

4. Judge Dredd: Case Files 01~by John Wagner (2000 AD)

5. B.P.R.D. Volume 14: King of Fear by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Guy Davis, and Dave Stewart (Dark Horse)

6. Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Volume 12 Eiji Otsuka (Dark Horse)

7. Criminal Vol. 5: The Sinners by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Marvel)

8. Scarlett by Brian Michael Bendis (Marvel)

9. Naruto vol. 47 by Masashi Kishimoto (Viz)

10. Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura (Dark Horse)

Episode 3 – Christa Faust

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Christa Faust has worked with the best.

She has written tales of such exotic locals as Camp Crystal Lake, Elm Street, and the Twilight Zone. Hell- she has even worked the friendly skies.

What is amazing is the legitimacy and level of ethos she brings to these novels. But the worlds that she walks best in are the ones she creates herself.

In 2004’s Hoodtown, Faust operates as a tour guide through one of the most imaginative and well-thought out worlds in contemporary literature. X, a former Mexican wrestler must fight to bring justice to a world no one outside the community wants saved. A great many reviews on Amazon credit Christa Faust with creating one of the best heroines ever. I say forget that! She has created one of the best characters ever. Period.

The world and the characters are compelling enough that despite the in-depth approach to the world, I would still love to walk around the streets of Hoodtown some more. Perhaps one day.

It would be easy enough to dismiss creating a brilliant enigmatic neophyte detective as a stroke of luck, but Faust does it again with flawless ease in Money Shot (spoken about in greater detail in the podcast itself).

With the state of Hard Case Crime in flux (at least when this was written), it is difficult to say when Money Shot’s Angel Dare will return in Choke Hold. Until then, use this time wisely: Listen to this podcast, brew some coffee, and spend next weeks gas money picking up Christa Faust’s books. If you like it brutal and truthful, you’ll love her work.

–Updates
1) I am now on iTunes. Subscribe and get each new podcast delivered FREE to your iTunes account monthly.

2) Next month – Another double-header:
Part 1 – Manly Wade Wellman
Part 2 – Mary Shelley

3) January 22, 2011 – In an effort to replace Valentine’s Day (which no one celebrates and everyone complains about), Bibliodiscoteque suggests Bibliophile Day! Take a book you love, wrap it in brown paper with twine, and mail it to friend (put a return address so the USPS doesn’t freak out). Choose one friend. This is about giving, so choose well and don’t be mad if you don’t get a book. If enough people do this the USPS benefits, book stores benefit, and your brain benefits …as does the writer.

Setlist
It Ain’t The Meat – The Swallows
Pink Pedal Pushers – Carl Perkins
Bad Woman – The Fiends
The Bad In Me – Rumble Club
Burlesque Is Dead – Big John Bates
Burlesque Queen – The Dustaphonics
El Corredor Quemado – Los Peyotes
Girl Of Matches – Thee Headcoats
I Believed Your Lies – Mickey & Ludella
Queen of the Wrecking Ball – Candye Kane
Dose of Hell (1) – Congregation
Shot Down – Bantam Rooster
Ain’t Gonna Wash My Face – Dorothy Wright
When Sin Stops – Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings
Bye Bye Love – Collins Kids
All the Stars – Demolition Doll Rods
Don’t Give A Toss – Krewmen
Make You Say Wow – Bob Log III
No Teasin’ Round – Royal Pendletons
Fool About You – Little Porkchop
Don’t fuck around with love – Blenders

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