Thursday, January 16, 2020

Dreary: "Knuckledragger" by Rusty Barnes

Dreary: Knuckledragger by Rusty Barnes, 2017, 9781946502070.

Sheesh, that was a bit dark.

Short version: Small time goon for a Boston crook falls into big trouble with his boss.

Long version: Jason "Candy" Stahl likes eating candy, lifting weights, and works as a collector and people pounder for his loanshark boss, Otis. Otis has a diversified portfolio of crime operations and Candy is on the lower half of the staff rankings. Candy is a big dude and was hired by Otis after Otis beat up a few guys as a bar bouncer.

Candy's sorta girlfriend is a curvy Puerto Rican (Dominican?), Rosario, who is more into Candy than Candy is into her.  One day Candy is hanging out at a public park used by the gang as a meeting place. Candy has made some big collections and is there to pass off money. While waiting he says hello to a comely woman and her young son, Candy then meets with the boss guy who introduces the woman as his wife, Nina.

Turns out Otis the Boss is a very jealous man. Turns out the Wife likes to cause trouble and sleep around. A day later while, Candy is on a short vacation funded by a cash gift form Otis, Otis and a couple goons show up in Candy's hotel room and beat Candy bloody. Otis thinks Candy was making eyes at Nina.

Wellll.... I'm thinking Candy needs to change jobs. Rosario is thinking Candy should change jobs. Candy is thinking he just wants to heal up and maybe get even. Then a couple goons from Boston start following and threatening Candy for Candy's work with Otis that involved pounding on another crook. Things are looking dicey. Candy and Rosario's trip to New Hampshire (Vermont?) is getting spoiled. Rosario is making girlfriends sounds.

Things happen. Things devolve. Candy and Co. go on the run. Murders happen. Fear is deep.

A decent novel. I enjoyed it. Violent and scary but with a happiness from Candy and Rosario's relationship. A relationship that grows against Candy's initial wishes.

A low-end-gangster-on-the-run-with-his-girl story. Candy is not a guy who plans ahead very well. He at least had some cash and guns secreted away and he is not stupid. Candy ends up in a crap situation with no way out.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Short French: "Frantic" by Nol Calef

Short French: Frantic by Noel Calef, 1956 for France and 2019 from Stark House, 9781944520663.

When this started I was expecting a murder thriller as the protagonist tries to clean up the mistakes he made in the murder. That main character - one of several - has murdered a loanshark in the office building both men use. Murderer is leaving the building for the weekend when he recalls he left evidence behind. He rushes back into the building and is taking the elevator up to a top floor when the building manager shuts down all the power in the building. Murderer is stuck there.

Meanwhile Murderer's wife is eagerly awaiting the cad. She's a nervous and troubled woman. She is expecting the philanderer home after a loving phone call with him where murderer was feeling lovey-dovey. Murderer was feeling intense relief by dodging his debt to the now dead loanshark and made promises to his wife. when Murderer does not appear the Wife goes looking for Murderer at his building. She sees his car parked on the street. While she checks inside a Teen Jackass steals the car. Wife comes out, sees the car gone, fears her husband split with his latest dolly.

Anyhoo things happen. The guessed at thriller of guy-stuck-in-elevator turns into something else. Wife runs to her ever attentive brother. Brother has a habit of fixing her problems. Brother's own wife is pissed at Wife for being such a over emotional and manipulative pain in the ass.

Meanwhile Teen Jackass takes his girlfriend for a drive in the stolen car and a weekend in the country. Teen Jackass is full of himself as a soon-to-famous film director, as a man of great intelligence and insight, as a fighter of all that is bourgouise. Girlfriend is pregnant and just wants a reliable guy - her bad luck is to be in love to a jackass.

More things happen, there is another murder, and we mostly leave Murderer in his elevator box. Mid '50s France isn't so bad. Society and economy are still being rebuilt after the war. Manners and morals are changing.

Calef explores different relationships among couples:
- the young lovers with Teen Jackass.
- the disintegrating marriage of Murderer and his unstable wife.
- the Brother's marriage and the tensions caused by his needy sister
 - an older couple who own a rural hotel where Jackass and his girlfriend stay. The older couple love each other and still have their differences
- a final couple where the husband is trying to care for a mentally ill wife.

1. The weekend at that time is a lousy one-day weekend. "Weekend" just means a day off for Sunday after a 6 day work week.
2. I made notes about the How the Dead Live and that both world wars were still a part of daily life. Dead Live is set 30 years after this novel and the war is never much an issue in this story.

Belfast Noir: "Belfast Noir" edited by Adrian McKinty and Stuart Neville

Belfast Noir: Belfast Noir by Adrian McKinty and Stuart Neville, 2014, 9781617752919.

I went along with my wife to her job a week or two ago because a snow storm was predicted. I hung out for four hours and prowled the stacks a bit. I ran across this and took it home. I've enjoyed McKinty and Neville's novels so that was a big selling point on trying the collection.

Akashic has done so many of these damn books. I've been kinda hesitant to try one because I presume the authors have to have a relationship with the chosen city. For places like Los Angeles, New York, London, etc. that should not be a problem because those places bred or housed are a ton of authors over the years. With smaller cities I figure they gotta hunt for writers and stories. Expanding into the rest of Northern Ireland makes sense.

I did enjoy several of these stories but have to say a couple tales were duds. I'm glad not everything had to be an IRA or Provo story. I also don't have the book to hand so you're shit out of luck if you're expecting me to list favorites. But, I'll check the list of story titles and give it a shot - Hey, I found it on Google Books and it is letting me read through.

Lee Child: Child is one dark motherfucker.
Brian McGillory: an undertaker is forced to smuggle something across the Irish border. Interesting but not fantastic.
Lucy Caldwell: a story about the narrator as a teen girl besotted with a HS teacher. She acts horribly and manipulatively.

That is it. Fun reading - except for a couple duds - but no work that really impressed me enough to track down more of their work.