Book Review: Tampa Bay Noir

There is something comfortable or maybe not so comfortable reading dark tales about where you live. So I was excited to discover “Tampa Bay Noir.”  I was equally disappointed by the book. Not because the stories are bad, they are not, but if you looking for noir, well, at best there are a few noir lite tales. With the title, and the long running series that it is part of, I was expecting darker tales. The stories give us a view of modern Tampa Bay filled with subdivisions, malls and homes by the water. Edited by Collette Bennett, book reviewer for the Tampa Bay Times, who contributes a story,  the collection gets off with a good start with Michael Connelly who brings the iconic Harry Bosch to Tampa Bay to help an old friend. Lori Roy follows with another interesting tale, one of the darker ones. Other highlights include stories by Tim Dorsey, Lisa Unger, Ace Atkins, Gale Massey, Danny Lopez, and the previously mentioned Collette Bennett. There is not a bad story, but the dark noir streets are missing.

Latest Review on THE LATE SHOW

Below is the latest rave review on THE LATE SHOW AND OTHER TALES OF CELLULOID MALICE

Available at Amazon  and Smashwords 

The Late Show Kindlw Cover-004

Interplanetary Funksmanship

Reviewed in the United States on June 21, 2020

Verified Purchase

Author John Greco’s book of short stories, “The Late Show,” ties together the writer’s passion of old movies (mostly Films Noir, peopled by the likes of Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and Edward G. Robinson) and tales which end in some twist of fate for their protagonist, anti-hero, or villain.

I don’t want to go into too many details, because reviewers who give spoiler alerts are missing the forest for the trees. But, there are husbands and wives whose marriages have soured; spoiled rich kid heirs and random innocent bystanders; a beloved fixture of the community who finds his purpose in life suddenly and sadly obsolescent; a vegetarian hitman who got into his line of work by turning some tables; a hippie-dippy chick whose crystal ball needs some new batteries; someone who lost his temper, and leaked a little blood on his way into the Bijou; and, to borrow a line from Johnny Cash, some of Hollywood’s has-beens, would be’s and never weres.

Greco expertly taps out some dark tales on his typewriter, but even the darkest have a light touch — he doesn’t bog the reader down in excessive gore and depravity. Drawing upon the experiences of his youth and early adulthood, many of his tales are set in New York City and Upstate. He has an uncanny knack for conveying these locales not unlike crime thriller writer Mickey Spillane.

This is the first book of Greco’s I’ve read, and his stories are quite entertaining, written in the style of the golden age magazine fiction of midcentury. Definitely recommended

 

 

Book Review: The Big Goodbye

Goodbye

Chinatown is one of the golden apples of 70s cinema. Sam Wasson has written an interesting, if sometimes overly detailed history on the making of the movie. Wasson brings you into the minds of the creators and participants: Robert Towne, Robert Evans, Roman Polanski, John Alonzo, Jack Nicholson, and Faye Dunaway. It’s also an intimate portrayal of Los Angeles and the Hollywood of the 1970s. Like the movie,  it’s convoluted at times. But the story is fascinating. It took Towne years to write the screenplay and he didn’t want to give up control. But filmmaking is a collaborative art, and the director, especially a director of Polanski’s caliber, has the final say. Wasson writes that the film’s ending is more Polanski’s doing than Towne.

The Big Goodbye is more than about Chinatown. It’s about the end of a golden era in films. Soon movies like Chinatown, The Conversation,   Marathon Man, The Godfather, and Network would give way to mindless blockbusters. There was more money to be made with trashy, splashy lightweight entertainment, lots more money, and after all, that’s what the business is about. Making money and box office trends, not art.

 

 

Latest Review on The Late Show

The Late Show Kindlw Cover-004

Interplanetary Funksmanship

Reviewed in the United States on June 21, 2020

Author John Greco’s book of short stories, “The Late Show,” ties together the writer’s passion of old movies (mostly Films Noir, peopled by the likes of Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and Edward G. Robinson) and tales which end in some twist of fate for their protagonist, anti-hero, or villain.

I don’t want to go into too many details, because reviewers who give spoiler alerts are missing the forest for the trees. But, there are husbands and wives whose marriages have soured; spoiled rich kid heirs and random innocent bystanders; a beloved fixture of the community who finds his purpose in life suddenly and sadly obsolescent; a vegetarian hitman who got into his line of work by turning some tables; a hippie-dippy chick whose crystal ball needs some new batteries; someone who lost his temper, and leaked a little blood on his way into the Bijou; and, to borrow a line from Johnny Cash, some of Hollywood’s has-beens, would be’s and never weres.

Greco expertly taps out some dark tales on his typewriter, but even the darkest have a light touch — he doesn’t bog the reader down in excessive gore and depravity. Drawing upon the experiences of his youth and early adulthood, many of his tales are set in New York City and Upstate. He has an uncanny knack for conveying these locales not unlike crime thriller writer Mickey Spillane.

This is the first book of Greco’s I’ve read, and his stories are quite entertaining, written in the style of the golden age magazine fiction of midcentury. Definitely recommended.

Available at Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble

Book Review: Love it or Hate it – it’s Brian DePalma

snakes

Published by Hard Case Crime, Are Snakes Necessary? is Brian DePalma’s first novel. It was co-written with journalist Susan Lehman. Like DePalma’s films, I think people are either going to love this book or hate it.

Okay, first things first. I am a big Brian DePalma fan. Ever since I first saw Sisters way back when. Accusations of Hitchcock imitating have haunted him throughout his career. Well, artists have always borrowed styles from other artists and in film, few are better to steal from than Alfred Hitchcock. Are Snakes Necessary? is a quick thrill ride: a political thriller wrapped in a noir like piece of pulp fiction that much like his films is stylized and at times disjointed. Not surprisingly, there is a cinematic flow and much of the book is dialogue driven. In the words of Elmore Leonard, they left out the boring stuff.

Book Review: The Perfect Daughter

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I have never lived in Maine, but if you follow and read my blog posts, you know that it’s one of my favorite destinations. It’s scenic, for my photographic endeavors, and it has the inner aura of a place I’d like to live. Shepard’s Bay, a fictional coastal town in Maine, is divided. There are lifelong locals, mostly lobster fishermen and there are the wealthy newbies who are getting prime real estate to build their large new home. It’s also driving up real estate values, forcing many long-time local folks to worry about their future. It’s the type of situation where resentment can easily build up. When a wealthy teenager, Dakota James, goes missing followed by two teenage girls, life in town soon changes.

The Perfect Daughter is a twisty story of a town divided by financial status and secrets, plenty of secrets: love affairs, drugs, wild parties, jealousy, gossip, regrets, and more.

The two teen girls, Katie, from the poor side of town, and Willow, from the wealthy side, have become best friends. After Katie’s disappearance, Ilsa, Katie’s mother is in a panic. A search party is formed and two days later Katie’s found, though bruised, bloodied and with a loss of memory. But where is Willow? The local police, led by Karl, Ilsa’s high school sweetheart, is overwhelmed by this type of situation. He toughest job ususally is handing out parking tickets. Ilsa’s husband, Ray, is a drunk and rarely ever around.

As one secret is revealed, a new layer of secrecy pops up. The secrets, the twists, and turns continue throughout this multifaceted and riveting tale of small-town life on the brink. Author Joseph Souza knows how to keep you on the edge, and just when you think you have it figured out, he smacks you with another twist that leaves you misdirected and wanting for the answers.

Book Review: Double Feature

hardacsw

Hard Case Crime recently brought back Donald Westlake’s 1977 book Enough under a new title called Double Feature. The original book was hard to find unless your local library had a copy. That’s where I originally discovered it some years back. Double Feature consists of two short novellas; A Travesty is the longest and best of the two stories. The second story, Ordo is decidedly less interesting. With the recent publication under its new title, I reread A Travesty and still found it a fun read. Attached is a link to a post called A Slight Case of Donald Westlake, I wrote a few years back that includes a review of Enough/Double Feature.

Book Review: The Night Fire

ConnellyHarry Bosch and Renee Ballard are back in Michael Connelly’s excellent and latest police procedural. The chapters switch back and forth between Bosch and Ballard. Harry is investigating a 20-year cold case. Retired detective John Jack Thompson “borrowed” a murder book that Thompson’s widow hands over to Bosch. Why did Thompson take the murder book? He didn’t seem to investigate the case. Bosch gets Ballard involved in helping find out more about the case which first appears to be a homicide about a drug deal gone bad. There is much more to it as we will find out.

While both are juggling the case, the duo get themselves involved in other cases. Bosch helps his half-brother Mickey Haller, find out who killed a judge. Haller’s positive his client is being set-up.  Ballad meanwhile finds herself being squeezed out by her superior in a case that killed a homeless man in a fire.

Connelly remains at the top of his game in this gritty novel that continues to set up Renee Ballard as Bosch’s successor as our hero ages out.

Book Review: The Burglar Who Smelled Smoke

Smoke

Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr is one of my favorite fictional characters. This short story, co-written with Lynn Wood Block who as Mr. Block explains came up with the original idea and did the research. He later sat down and wrote the story.

Bernie Rhodenbarr, used bookstore owner and master thief, meets with Karl Bellermann, an eccentric book collector. Karl’s books are the most important things in his life. Bernie’s there to offer Karl a rare special edition to add to his collection in return for a nice price. Upon his arrival Karl shows Bernie his private library containing his massive collection and tells him of the great lengths he has gone to protect his books from any sort of thief or man-made or natural disaster.

Bernie and Karl have lunch together. Afterward, before any transaction can proceed, it’s time for the eccentric collector to lock himself in his library to read for four hours, something he does like clockwork every day from 2PM to 6PM.

During this four hour interlude, Bernie gets a bit “familiar” with Karl’s beautiful wife. The time passes quickly. When Karl’s wife realizes it’s almost 6PM and her husband will be exiting his book room right on time like he always does, it’s panic time! She jumps out of bed, gets dressed and runs downstairs. The panic increases when the always punctual Karl does not come out of the library at exactly 6PM as he always does. Something’s wrong. Something’s very wrong.

Lawrence Block has written a fascinating short story, a locked room mystery both absorbing and with an ending carefully explained. The one problem is there are only a few characters making the ‘who done it’ part rather evident but that does not negate from enjoying this tale.

Book Review: The Sublime Life

Sublime  In Jenna Moquin’s short story, The Sublime Life, we meet Deke Mueller. Deke is an aspiring writer, but he fears success. He learned early on bad things can happen. You see, Deke’s mother was an author too and right after she became a success she died of pancreatic cancer. Deke fears life will repeat itself and his life will also be cut short if he is successful. He rather be a living failure than a dead success. Jenna Moquin has created a cautionary tale focusing on the fear of success. You want it but at what cost. Many creative artists fear both failure and success and will easily relate.