Wednesday, November 28, 2018

KNOW ME FROM SMOKE by Matt Phillips

"Does the past ever stay where it should?"
This started out as an A-book for me, with writing and subject matter that was right up my alley, telling the story of a lounge singer who's got the blues because of her murdered husband and the .45 caliber bullet in her hip, an ex-convict trying to go straight after being in prison for 20 years, and their efforts to pull each other out of the muck they've found themselves in on the streets of San Diego. I love reading about troubled characters like this and these two were particularly compelling. It was bittersweet seeing them fall in love with the knowledge that soon I would have to watch it all fall apart when the kept secrets between them begin to blow things apart in true noir fashion. But the final half of the book dropped a grade once it started to get a bit repetitive and I also couldn't understand why someone that seems as smart as Royal is would allow himself to get so caught up and controlled by someone like Phoenix. But maybe that's the point...maybe Royal not as smart as he should be, and destined to go down the bad path again.
"The fishmonger smells like fish and the bartender smells like sex. And what is it, Stella asked herself, that the devil smells like? 
Like a match struck and shaken back into darkness—that old devil smells like sulfur."

Saturday, November 17, 2018


I shouldn't even need to review or recommend this. If you see a book written by Ed Brubaker with art by Sean Phillips, you should just get it and read it because it more than likely is awesome. At this point it's like preaching to the choir. But this is so enjoyable that I want to talk about it so it might as well be with you!
The way he felt about was out of touch with the world. It was unfair to everything and everyone else.
Brubaker focuses on the archetypal "femme fatale": that stock character in so much of noir fiction, the seductive woman that helps to lead the hapless protagonist down a destructive path. But in an original and inspired turn, Brubaker has the awesome idea to focus on the fatale herself and explore the notion that the femme fatale title might be supernatural in origin, a curse on the woman bearing it. In a potent mix of noir and horror, Brubaker tells of the cursed Josephine, the creepy cult that hunts her, and the men that fall in her path, in parallel stories set in 1950's San Francisco, 1970's Los Angeles, and the modern day.

As usual, Phillips's art is moody and expressive, and Brubaker never spoon-feeds the reader, peeling back the layers of his story at just the right pace. I loved seeing the femme fatale trope turned on it's head and into a sympathetic woman who doesn't want the influence that she has on men, but it's also cool to see that the tragic inevitability of noir is still there as she can only watch as these men destroy their lives. Memorable writing, great characters, and atmosphere to burn prove once again why Brubaker and Phillips and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser are three of the best creators in comic books today. And as usual this Deluxe Edition from Image is simply gorgeous.

Collects the first two story arcs: "Death Chases Me" and "The Devil's Business"


Friday, November 9, 2018

COUNTRY DARK by Chris Offutt

This is a striking novel with a potent sense of place, surprising narrative momentum, memorable prose, and most impressive, a sense of humanity and authenticity that sets it apart from other more run-of-the-mill stories in a similar vein. Throughout the book, you can feel the love that Offutt has for each and every character that populates these small Kentucky hollers. Every character is very well-drawn, no matter how small, almost immediately getting a sense of who they are, all due to Offutt's storytelling talent. The main characters, Tucker and Rhonda are honorable people with a way of life that is tied to the land on which they live and without concern for outside trifle. And Offutt's lean, simple, but effective prose is a great fit for these characters and makes for an affecting read.
"People don't know they're lucky until the bad luck comes along"

Friday, November 2, 2018

POINT & SHOOT by Duane Swierczynski

*Book 3 of the Charlie Hardie Trilogy*

This is the slam-bang finale to Duane Swierczynski’s Charlie Hardie trilogy! At this point, if you thought that Swierczynski had already put ex-badass/house sitter/super-prison escapee Hardie through every insane situation his twisted mind could think of, you will discover immediately how wrong you were when the book opens with Hardie stuck on a satellite in freakin' outer space. When a familiar face visits the satellite, this sparks Hardie on one last adventure to finally defeat the shadowy organization that’s been plaguing his life once and for all. 

This whole series of books have been a joy to read because of Swierczynski’s sheer audacity in storytelling and his talent for riding the line of absurdity and almost never falling off into silliness. And although it’s not as well-structured in its approach and some of the ideas don’t land as well as the other books, this is still a fun conclusion to a series and a story featuring not only a man having to confront an unstoppable organization but a man having to confront himself ;).