Category Archives: Books

The Lives of Evan Hunter

I love this old Evan Hunter cover posted by Nancy A. Collins to her Facebook page. The book appears to be a pretty obscure one; I found it on Amazon here, but there’s no description. Pulp of the Day has the cover as the source for a caption contest but nobody seems to have read it.

It looks like a hell of a pulpy potboiler. I was under the vague impression that Evan Hunter’s work under his own name tended toward the, er, literary, but this sorta undermines that idea (which is based on nothing, anyway). Then again, even Hemingway had some awesome covers back in the day, so who knows?

In case you don’t know, Evan Hunter is the man who wrote the novel The Blackboard Jungle, made into a 1955 film starring Glen Ford and featuring a young Sidney Poitier. Hunter is now probably better known by his pseudonym, Ed McBain, under which he was the author of about a bazillion novels in the 87th Precinct police procedural series, beginning with 1957’s lovably simplistic and powerfully satisfying Cop Hater.

The 87th Precinct books are what they are, and I’ve enjoyed several of them. If you’re a fan of straightforward police procedurals, well…they’re a model for many later works (and plenty of crappy TV shows). To my reading, Cop Hater feels dated in a way that many of the sleazier, more violent and duplicitous crook-not-cop books from the same era and a little later just don’t. Enjoyable as it is, Cop Hater‘s uncomplicated morality hasn’t aged well. I’m more given to eye-rolls about that moral simplicity than I am about its clunky prose, which I find charming.

If I found Cop Hater‘s prose clunky, however, it isn’t because McBain couldn’t tear up the keys with the best of the ’50s noir badasses. He sure as hell could. His style is crystalline in a much more interesting book, at least to me: The only stand-alone work of McBain’s I’ve read, The Gutter and the Grave. It was reissued in paperback by Hard Case Crime a few years back. Gutter is a classic ’50s down-and-outer private eye story in the general style of the Fawcett Gold Medal books I love so much.

Since the current page on Amazon claims an April, 2011 publication date for it, The Gutter and the Grave appears to have been re-re-reissued by Hard Case‘s new incarnation, distributed by Titan Books in the UK but still helmed by cofounder Charles Ardai. I believe I read the HCC paperback back in about 2006 or 2007, so 2011 must be the Titan Books edition.

However, it pains me to say, nowadays paperbacks give me hives. I avoid bookstores the way a cleaned-up dope fiend avoids NA meetings. As a lifelong hoarder, I finally made the jump to e-books and GOD DAMN my life has never felt easier. The $250 I made unloading books at the garage sale was no compensation for feeling like I was having my liver ripped out every time some squid from down the street pawed an old John LeCarre paperback and forked over 50 cents for it, but all that liver-wrenching agony was salved by the ensuing exultation as I discovered I could, for the first time in years, actually walk around my goddamn apartment. It was as if I’d spent 30 years being harried by drifting piles of leprechauns who turned my every step into a stumble whether I was trying to hit the john at 3 a.m., romance one of those nice ladies passing out Watchtowers, or pack for a quick Manteca vacation. Now, those ankle-biting fuckers have to make their asses scarce when I hit the OFF button. It’s glorious.

Sad to say, I couldn’t find a Kindle edition or other e-book of The Gutter and the Grave; as far as I can tell, there isn’t one. For what it’s worth, if you’re slightly less obsessive than me, but obsessive enough to give a damn in the first place, Gutter is well worth tracking down in the recent Titan/Hard Case paperback. It’s a great read.

In the meantime, the Thomas & Mercer e-book of Cop Hater is easy to grab for little more than a mouse-fondle and a small bit of damage to your Visa. As much as I might badmouth McBain’s early prose, he was OG. Cop Hater is well worth a read if you like old pulpy cop novels.

McBain’s 87th Precinct novels also hold an absolutely incomparable place in cop-novel history, so armchair scholars and cranky old men like me are advised to ignore them at their own peril. I may have joined the space age by switching to e-books, but inside I’m the same old sweater-wearing son of a bitch with loafers and a scowl. You’ll find the 87th Precinct books stacked up on the virtual table next to my recliner, right next to the Dewar’s, the improbably complicated TV remote and the .38 Police Positive just in case those hoodlums from the local middle school try playing stick ball on my lawn again anytime soon.

If you’re walking by the fridge, can you grab me some ice?

Ross Lockhart's 'Chick Bassist'

 

Ross E. Lockhart, Managing Editor of Night Shade Books, was my editor on The Panama Laugh, and a damn fine one he was. He wrote the short novel Chick Bassist, which just came out from Lazy Fascist Press to so far pretty rave reviews. I haven’t read it yet, but it looks bad-ass.

Chick Bassist welcomes you into punk rock hell, the friendless disillusionment of waking up in a shitty motel room in California with half a joint and an empty six-pack, radio blaring Lou Reed, concrete ocean on all sides and a blazing inferno within.

Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power by Robert Kaplan

Monsoon

I finally read Robert Kaplan’s Monsoon after quite a while wanting to and never getting around it. I’m glad I did, but it wasn’t quite the work of genius that I thought it would be.

As far as I can tell, Kaplan is a fairly balanced moderate, politically speaking, when it comes to world affairs. More importantly, Kaplan seems to have traveled extensively around the area and many of his country portraits are utterly fascinating.

However, the book’s weakness is that format…it sort of starts with an argument, then jumps from country to country. I love that, but it inhibits the book’s coherency. In a sense, Kaplan fails to make a coherent series of arguments because there are so many competing influences to paint portraits of.

That said, it does make one convincing argument: American single-superpower global hegemony is eroding in favor of a more diffuse distribution of power.

I would add the observation, which Kaplan doesn’t make, that the ascendant nations of the Indian Ocean region have very different concerns and challenges than the U.S., but in many ways their expectations are framed by the U.S.’s largely unsustainable model of consumer behavior. Ooops. There’s no way to distribute resources with current technology and not engender disaster within the next fifty years. Without some revolution in sustainable energy, and a second revolution in the use of water, life on Earth is going to get… interesting.

That’s not Kaplan’s focus, however. His focus is geopolitics, and to a lesser extent culture. In that context, it’s an invigorating read.

Its central arguments are in pretty much the same territory as The Post American World by Fareed Zakaria. However, Zakaria was born in India, and strongly focuses on India in that book. This one, while professing a smaller focus, actually covers more ground.

Kaplan’s perspective doesn’t differ that much from Zakaria’s, but Kaplan goes deeper into the culture of the countries of the region other than India.

One of the most important points I get from all my reading on the region is that U.S. policy toward India during the Cold War was problematic. I also consider it tragically wrong-headed. Yeah, that could be said about a lot of places, but in the case of India it’s particularly disappointing.

I could write another 10,000 words on why that is, but I’ll give you the short version. The U.S., with its Cold War view, was pissed off by India’s insistence on remaining non-aligned. Successive U.S. administrations saw the developing flavor of socialism in India to be “pink.” The U.S. spent the next fifty years punishing India politically in various contexts.

It should also be added that Indian immigration to the U.S. was considerably less than it was from other countries, population-for-population.

However, India was NEVER in the Soviet orbit, so the Sino-U.S. Chinese relationship becomes that much more bizarre when compared to U.S.-Indian relations. Anyway…it’s all changing radically, and in fascinating ways. A book worth reading.

Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power

Monsoon

I’m finally reading Robert Kaplan’s Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power.

So far, I like it. It seems pretty balanced and Kaplan seems to have traveled extensively around the area. Pretty much the same territory as The Post American World by Fareed Zakaria (who was born in India). Their perspectives don’t differ that much, but Kaplan goes deeper into the region. That’s understandable since Zakaria was covering, supposedly, the whole world.

One of the most important points I get from all my reading on the region is that U.S. policy toward India during the Cold War was utterly inexplicable. Or maybe explicable…just tragically wrong-headed. Yeah, that could be said about a lot of places, but in the case of India it’s particularly weird.

"What Vacations Are For" in Best Bondage Erotica 2013

Best Bondage Erotica 2013

Rachel Kramer Bussel’s Best Bondage Erotica 2013 is coming out December 11, 2012 from Cleis Press. My short story “What Vacations Are For” is in it. It’s a romantic tale of public bondage set at an overlook just north of the Golden Gate Bridge; it’ll probably be familiar to anyone who’s traveled much around the SF Bay Area.

You can preorder the print edition or the Kindle edition at Amazon. Check out the table of contents on the book’s blog at bestbondage2013.wordpress.com. Here’s the blurb:

Some say bondage is the ultimate intimacy. Once you have allowed yourself to fully explore your fantasies of giving in and surrendering to pleasure, you may find you need a firm but gentle hand to guide you. Let Best Bondage Erotica 2013 be your guidebook of everything BDSM. Editrix Rachel Kramer Bussel and her writers put it all out on the page in stories using everything from silk ties rope to shiny cuffs, blindfolds, wires and everything you can imagine and MORE. Best Bondage Erotica 2013 offers erotic insight for newbies and experienced players alike. These stories of forbidden desires and sexual fantasies, penned by the “masters and mistresses” of the genre, will shock, scintillate, and mesmerize.

Review of "2 p.m. Biker Bar" in 'Morning, Noon and Night'

Morning, Noon and Night

 

Steller erotica writer Sophia Valenti wrote a lovely review of my short story “2 p.m. Biker Bar,” which appears in Alison Tyler‘s anthology Morning, Noon and Night, which comes out November 13 from the wonderful Cleis Press. I am flattered beyond all reason. Sophia says in part:

Thomas is a tease—in the best possible way. His story “Two P.M. Biker Bar” is a sensual piece of verbal foreplay.

There’s more; check it out here, or just buy the anthology here and get a whole day’s (and night’s!) worth of hot stories!

Thank you, Sophia, and thank you, Alison! And thanks to all of you who read and enjoy.

Lips Like Sugar: Women's Erotic Fantasies

Lips Like Sugar

I wrote the introduction to a new edition of my good friend Violet Blue‘s Lips Like Sugar: Women’s Erotic Fantasies, due for release on October 16 from the wonderful Cleis Press. It is an excruciatingly hot book, and it was a pleausre to write my exploratory essay about what women’s erotic fantasies mean, or can mean.

It also got me a nice mention over at Alison Tyler‘s blog, Trollop With a Laptop — the second in as many days, which makes me realize how remiss I am in blogging. Hi, Alison!