Thursday, 31 December 2009

DAVID LEVINE: THE GUARDIAN OBIT

My obituary of David Levine is online at Guardian.co.uk, you can link to it here. It ought to be in the next print edition, and has a lovely Eisenstadt photo portrait of Levine at work. Sadly, they changed my description of Henry Kissinger 'screwing' the world in one of Levine's most memorable caricatures to 'copulating' with her, thus losing the double entendre, which I heard Levine describe in an interview, in a sort of cackle: 'he was screwing the world and they kept giving him more chances to do it!'. It's also the expression on Kissingers' face, pure childish bliss and greed, which helps make the drawing work so well.

The change suggests a bit of respectability that somehow echoes the New York Times' editorial page killing another of Levine's Kissinger drawings, to which I refer in the obit. On Alter.net there's a fascinating piece about those killed cartoons; they've now been collected by the long-time art editor of the Times, Jerelle Kraus, in a book called All The Art That's Fit To Print, published by Columbia U, and you can link to that here. According to the article, a 1991 Levine cartoon they didn't kill raised a huge negative response; it showed the descent of man, from Clark Gable to Saddam Hussein, via apes and chimps, thus offending any number of people, as well as, the Groucho Marx in me calls out, apes and chimps.

I would have loved to go on about his 'serious' art: his watercolours on the shoreline remind me of Winslow Homer, a little bit of Hopper, and they have a wonderful sense of the open loneliness of the coast. His Brooklyn paintings, of architecture that marks the borough, cross Demuth and Marin, and it's a fascinating combination. They are not hugely original, but they are very satisfying. I would also have loved to detail many more of his non-political subjects, his John Wayne or Ted Williams (he was a huge Dodgers' fan...of course the Brooklyn sports' ground to which the Guardian refers was Ebbetts Field, where Marianne Moore was among the regulars.

It's hard to explain just how important Levine's art was to a certain kind of American--the kind who read what Esquire, I think, once lampooned as the New York Review of Us. If the magazine's articles sometimes meander, Levine's art inevitably got you straight to the point, and his point was inevitably right on. I was impressed to discover that, although he grew up in Flatbush and had worked his way up to the Heights, he remained a real Brooklynite to the end. It makes me want to find a place to start a breakfast club too....which reminds me, last Sunday we saw Alan Greenspan chowing down in Dan Snyder's box at the Redskins' game, and it reminded me of one of my favourite Levine drawings, which you can see to the right. It was a privilege to be able to write an appreciation of Levine's life, especially on the last day of 2009.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

TARANTINO'S INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS ON DVD AT CHRISTMAS

British tradition used to reserve Christmas TV for films like The Guns Of Navarone, so it felt somehow appropriate to settle in Christmas night with Nate's two uncles to watch Inglourious Basterds (hence, IB to avoid terminal irritation by spellcheck), which has just be released on DVD (Universal, Dec 2009). The film was hailed as a return to form for Quentin Tarantino (henceforth QT), but it seems to me more of a transitional work, as there are two separate movies pulling at each other here, and when QT finally brings them together, he needs a good twist to make it work. But the set-piece portion of the film works brilliantly, more than enough to carry you through to the end of Christmas evening.

The first and less interesting strand of the film is the story of the IBs themselves, and oddly it is the bit which received the most attention. This is partly because it features the star, Brad Pitt, and partly because of the politics of having Jews massacring Nazis. Those considerations aside, it is also the bit which is very much in the vein of QT's last few films, all of which have been big budget star vehicles which transmute the low-budget shlock he admired in his video-counter days. This one is a hommage to an Italian rip-off of The Dirty Dozen; the IBs are eight Jews and one German led by a red-neck officer from Tennessee played by Pitt as if trying to channel Clark Gable before George Clooney can claim him permanently. Like Clooney, Pitt's approach to comedy is mugging and over-egging, and in this context that almost works. But the whole conceit of this Jewish version of Sgt. Fury going round France scalping Nazis pales after a short while, though one can see why it might appeal to the Weinsteins, who produced it. In the end, the Basterds wind up being primarily a plot device, as their plot to assassinate Hitler is far less interesting than the other one, initiated by cinema-owner Shosanna Dreyfuss, who has escaped massacre herself, at the hands of SS office Hans Landa.

The more interesting story revolves around Landa, played with great relish (and really as a Gestapo officer) by Christophe Waltz. It is, as I said, a series of set-pieces, all of which involve interrogations by Landa in which he twists his interrogees in a kind of verbal torture. These are, at first, the highlights of the film, and by the time they have paled QT realises it and lets the last one dissolve to violence. Interestingly, there is one parallel interrogation by an 'actual' gestapo officer involving the IBs, which recalls the 1940s film OSS, where one character was exposed to the Gestapo when he switched his fork from left to right hand. This scene's shootout foreshadows the massacre in the cinema that is the climax of the film.

As usual, one can see scenes from movie history played with, everything from To Be Or Not To Be to The Eagle Has Landed, and one hears music which is taken from other films, most obviously Ennio Morricone, whose presence also echoes the hommage to Sergio Leone in the title of the film's first 'chapter' 'Once Upon A Time In Nazi-Occupied France'. This is less of a problem than it might seem, because the scenes themselves are brilliantly written and almost as well played.

But it's also because the film is not about war as much as it is about the cinema of war, most specifically the pleasure audiences get from watching large numbers of Nazi bad guys mowed down by their heroes. Its most interesting conceit is a German version of Audie Murphy, a baby-faced sniper whose heroic killing of scores of Americans in Italy is being turned into Goebbels' greatest success as a propaganda film, A Nation's Pride. The soldier, played by Daniel Bruehl, falls in love with the cinema-owner, and gets the Paris debut of the film scheduled for her theatre. And there in a nutshell is the plot. The British (Rod Taylor as Churchill and Mike Myers as the inevitable plan-ridden general) bring British, devise a plan to send a German film scholar, Archie Hicox (Archie Leech, Alfred Hitchcock) to meet up with the German actress who's a British agent, Bridget von Hammersmark, and you can guess where it all goes from there.

The irrelevance of the Basterds themselves to all this is obvious in the way four of them simply disappear from the film, and another pops up again only when Brad Pitt is arrested, with no explanation of where he was or when he was arrested himself. One assumes there was much footage left on the cutting room floor (or intended for a more complex DVD reissue later on—in fact, I saw that Maggie Cheung had a role as the original theatre owner, who leaves the cinema to Dreyfuss, her 'niece'). The only extra in this DVD is a bit from the German propaganda film itself, powerfully effective and every bit as modern as anything in QT's work propre.

In the end, it's only Pitt's Aldo Raine who is willing to settle for less than ultimate revenge, an odd sort of compromise that merely points out the bloodthirsty-ness of all that has gone before. In the Kill Bill films, QT looked at over-the-top violence and cartoonish body counts, and we smiled until we got bored. Here he's looking at the context in which such things are acceptable, and the seriousness of that point is reinforced by the seriousness of the set-pieces, which remind us of the awful reality which underscores all World War II memories.

Tarantino gives Waltz a showcase, though the moment he pulls out the Meerschaum pipe to show he's really not a Jew-Hunter but a 'detective' is more out of Airplane than anything else. Bruehl is excellent also, and Diane Kruger (as Bridget) and Melanie Laurent (as Dreyfuss) are equally good. But the real star is cinematographer Robert Richardson, Oliver Stone's one-time cameraman, who gives the whole production a look which encompasses the history of war movies, as well as casting a lush, dream-like feeling over the whole thing. It gives the film a lustre which helps carry you along, but in the end, like so much else of QT, it's unsatisfying, not stretching you beyond the narrow boundaries of its own exploitation. At least in parts. I await its revival at countless Christmases to come.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

I, SNIPER: STEPHEN HUNTER

Stephen Hunter's history of the Swagger family has, over the years, been engrossing. It was a Hunter novel Bill Clinton was carrying when he stepped down from Air Force One on a visit to Britain; it appeared in newspaper photos, and because John Coldstream remembered my offering a review of the book to him I wound up reviewing it for the Telegraph; the Times, meanwhile, to whom I'd forwarded the offer in the meantime, and who had put the photo on the front page, declined to even discuss Hunter's new noteworthiness.

The series was at its best when it was involved with historical facts, which was more when it starred Bob Lee's father Earl; things like the corruption in Cold Springs, Arkansas, or mob-controlled Havana in 1953 (I always thought the Swaggers and the JFK/MLK hits were a good match, but the timings just never worked out!) and it has always benefitted from the aptly-named Hunter's interest in guns and sniper lore. There is a fine line between interest and obsession, however, and although I Sniper is admirable in the way it integrates the minutiae of armament apparatus into its plot devices, it never seems to allow for the idea of a reader whose own interest may be slightly less technical.

The title itself is interesting. It refers, obviously, to Swagger himself, who is simply the best at what he does, even if he's been content to do it in obscurity. When a more-reknowned sniper goes off on what appears to be a deranged attack on 1960s war protestors, Swagger is called in by your friendly FBI sniper turned special agent, to check his own suspicion that something doesn't feel quite right. The key clue turns out to be a device called I Sniper, a computerised scope which doesn't actually exist, but, according to Hunter is eminently possible. Finally, however, one can't help but think that I, Sniper also refers to Hunter himself, and that Swagger, who in this book is all-seeing, all-knowing, all-American, and always moral, is a wish-fulfillment more than a brilliantly conceived character.

Here he seems much more of a plot device, two-dimensional apart from his macho capability and his devotion to honour. This is something critics of war (in general, in Iraq, in Vietnam, whatever) appear to lack, and that signposts the villainry in the story far too openly to keep it suspenseful. This is a shame, because Hunter's skill at having Swagger anticpate and outthink his rivals remains undaunted; were he to invest Swagger with a bit more depth, as he had in earlier novels, he might have been able to rachet the suspense higher. Less is more in plot sometimes.
What Swagger becomes here is a kind of thinking man's Rambo; meanwhile, the fate of Nick Memphis, the FBI sniper/agent who is set up by the villain is the most suspenseful part of the story. Hunter, once a film reviewer for the Baltimore Sun, seems to take great pleasure in making a Washington Post (the paper to which he moved from the Sun) journo the real villain of the piece, and the twist that resolves that story is perfectly judged, especially if you are a devotee of the small print of small arms.

I have followed Hunter with great pleasure for many years, but in the end I Sniper is a book for the already converted; it has the feel of a series novel, a plot-driven Ludlum or Clancy maybe, and it's too device-centric by half. Bob Lee doesn't lose his swagger, but it would be nice to have just a small glimpse of the man behind it.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

JACK O'CONNELL: THE AMERICAN EYE INTERVIEW

After far too long a hiatus my latest American Eye column, an interview with Jack O'Connell, is up at Shots (the link I originally posted to that has now expired). Jack was over to promote his latest novel, The Resurrectionist, which was one of the very best books of 2009 and deserved far more attention than it got.

If you missed my retrospective review of O'Connell's first novel, Box Nine, last month, you can link to it here or just scroll back through November's entries. In the meantime, here's the original interview:

JACK O'CONNELL

 
The thing that stands out about Jack O'Connell is his sheer enthusiasm for the art and craft of writing. As we reduced the world's stock of Guinness, and a bitter named The Fall, whose Biblical overtones impressed us, in an Irish pub nestled in a West End alley, O'Connell spun out the pleasures of reading which, for him, grew into the pleasures of writing. That we appeared to share the same tastes, indeed many of the same experiences with the same editions of the same paperbacks of our younger days meant the two hours became an exercise of head-shaking agreement, each punctuated by another drink.

O'Connell was born, educated, and has spent his whole life in Worcester, Massachusetts ('within a three-mile radius, really'), which provides the geographical basis of his fictional Quinsigamond, but it is his reading that has provided Quinsigamond with its unique mix of rust-belt America, Weimar Germany, and futuristic LA. Although it's easy to see the influence of any number of modern cult-favourite writers in O'Connell's work, it is sui generis, never derivitive, and at least two of his five novels, his first Box Nine, and his latest, The Resurrectionist, deserve to stand alongside names like Pynchon, DeLillo, Disch, Dick, or and Burroughs.

Like many cult writers, though, none of O'Connell's books has found commercial success to match their critical acclaim. His problems may have started when Box Nine won the Mysterious Press first novel award. Prestigious as the prize was (and appreciated as the $50,000 prize was as well), it saw him labeled as a 'crime writer', and although it fit into that category, it also resisted it. Genre labels don't quite work for O'Connell; there are significant elements of sf, and stylistic experiment which put much 'serious' fiction to shame, which makes it difficult for them to appeal to the 'hard core' crime reader, while at the same time making it almost impossible to reach beyond the genre boundaries created by the 'mystery' section of bookstore shelving.

Along those lines, I noticed Jack was carrying the new US paperback edition of The Resurrectionist, and I commented that the covers of that book reflected his dilemma of classification. constant nodding in agreement and digressing into tangential concerns that seemed to be mutually apparent immediately....

JOC: I loved that first cover (the US cloth edition), but the publisher thought it was not quite right.

MC: It emphasized the circus/freak show sub-plot; it reminded me of Glenn David Gold, or maybe a book like The Prestige or The Illusionist.

JOC: And this cover (which features cards) is along the same lines, but less mysterious. I think it reflects part of the problem with my books. I was doing a tour recently, and in Denver I was in the general fiction section, in Phoenix I was in crime, and in San Francisco I was in horror/sf...

MC: Which might tell you more about San Francisco than your books! But the British edition really looks great, like a mainstream novel, perhaps historical, that John Banville or someone might have written. Maybe we should call it 'slipstream'...

JOC: No Exit have done a great job with my covers...

MC:...and they've always GOT the book; the Box Nine cover is much more sf than anything else! I saw you mentioned Harlan Ellison as an early influence. I didn't see Ellison the writer as much as Ellison the editor, because everything you've written would fit nicely into Dangerous Visions.....

JOC: Oh yeah. I loved those books, Disch, Delany, Aldiss. I sort of stumbled into sf as a kid, but then this stuff seemed so radical, and those writers led me, naturally, to finding Gravity's Rainbow, and wow! There's an anthology of stories out now, called the Secret History of Science Fiction, and it's based on a piece Jonathan Lethem wrote about ten years ago, speculating on what would have happened if the Science Fiction Writers had voted the Nebula to Gravity's Rainbow in 1973, when it was nominated, instead of Arthur Clarke's Rendezvous With Rama. From Pynchon to Delany's Dhalgren was a natural step.

MC: And where does the crime fiction fit in?

JOC: As a kid I loved Hammett and Chandler, and the next generation of pulp writers, the Jim Thompsons and David Goodises. But my first fictions were two Pynchon-type novels, long and dense, and they never sold. Then I did Box Nine, which is at heart a dark city noir, and has a female detective, and after it sold the first question was, can you make it a series? Is the main character coming back? And I said 'sure', because in my mind the main character was the city, Quinsigamond, not the woman! Both my agent and the editors were disappointed, but I said, did you see where Leonore winds up at the end of the book? And they said, well, send her to rehab! From a strictly commercial point of view they were, as usual, righter than I was. I think the problem is that I'm generally a little too dense for the dedicated crime reader, and there's no way to make the jump to 'literary'. There have been some relatively brief windows into what they call the 'slipstream', the cultish books just off the mainstream, but now my attitude is I've written five books, I'm turning 50, and I'm just gonna write what I write. You never know what's going to come out...

MC: The Resurrection is your first book in nearly a decade. Was it very carefully planned?

JOC (laughing): Just the opposite! Partly, I was working days, editing the alumni magazine at Holy Cross, and I'd get up at four ayem to write. But the first draft did not contain Limbo ((the comic book story which Sweeney reads to his comatose son)) and I wrote it in a white heat, in about 8 months, which all began after a cafe crawl around Poitiers, at a festival with Francois Guerif, or Rivage, my French publisher. It was inspired by the Gold Medal guys I love, particularly Gil Brewer, and it was the story of Sweeney and his son and the gang of bikers. I'd written maybe 90% of it, and I was really excited and I sat down to write a simple scene, where Sweeney reads a comic to his son, and the questions started. I took a left turn. Six months later, the wife says 'how did it go?' and I say 'we're going to have to get rid of Sweeney,' and she looks at me and says 'Let's not do that, alright?'. But the Limbo story just grew and grew, and in the end it was double the length it is now in the book, as I had to select just the best bits.

MC: How direct is the Gil Brewer influence?

JOC: It's partly conscious and partly organic evolution. I knew from the beginning that the only thing I wanted to do was write, but I had this terror because it didn't seem a career option to a kid growing up in Worcester! But it was the verve of those guys, the Brewers, and Ellisons, and also Richard Matheson, which I wanted to emulate. Eventually, I was able to marry it to more metaphysical themes, and more epic scope, but it took lots of experimentation, false starts, and frustration; not least those two novels which are up in the attic somewhere. Box Nine finally started to do it, I think by leaning more toward the genre electricity side of things.  The crime element of The Resurrectionist is mainly one of character; Sweeney is a real noir hero, he's disturbed, he's needy, and above all he's vulnerable, with a weak spot that the ruthless can take advantage of, and there's a black widow femme fatal, in Nadia, a seemingly virginal blonde in Alice and a creepy shrink, a Dr. Ampthor type, in her father.

MC:  And the Limbo Comics stories are so wonderful. I'm amazed someone doesn't jump at adapting them in comics, it's very much like Alan Moore..

JOC: And how great would that be. Comics, and then the movies!

MC: I'll drink to that.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

ROY DISNEY: THE GUARDIAN OBIT

My obituary of Roy Disney is up at Guardian.co.uk (click here) and should be in tomorrow's print edition. It was shortened somewhat, and what was lost was my observation that Roy's life in the Disney business was re-enacted in many of the Disney films he supervised, most notably The Lion King --his resemblance to his uncle Walt was striking, and he twice exiled himself from the Disney board, only to return both times and, if not assume the role of leader that his uncle had, at least keep the company running the way he thought Walt would have wanted. Although he was ruthless as a corporate raider, when it came to Disney he had a firm belief in the company's traditional core values. I was also not surprised at all when Bob Iger survived the Eisner purge; I worked for Bob at ABC Sports and watched his ascent through Capital Cities/ABC, and throughout that time what stood out to me was Bob's belief in doing well what the company was created to do. It would have been nice to have more time to discuss Roy's personal life, or the very bitter feud with Jeffrey Katzenberg (in many ways, more than Eisner, Roy's polar opposite--or polar express opposite) or the books by Bob Thomas and James Stewart on the two Disney crises (the Stewart is the better), or to discuss the changing nature of the Disney enterprise in terms of Walt's original conception of a controlled, self-contained, Disney world (or Disneyworld!). But life is long and space is brief.

Friday, 11 December 2009

RICHARD NORTH PATTERSON'S RACE

I've suggested before that in Richard North Patterson's political thrillers the politics usually was more compelling than the 'thriller' portion of the story, and at one point I compared him to Allen Drury. This can lead to problems, because the more involving your background story, the more mechanical seem the devices of the thriller. In his last novel, Exile, Patterson moved into current affairs. The book was set amidst the perpetual conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and full of well-researched in depth analysis of the struggle, extremely balanced, carefully nuanced, and deeply sympathetic. Of course, although the book was resolved, the issue could not be within the framework of a thriller.

With The Race, Patterson returns to more straightforward electoral politics, and dispenses entirely with the thriller format. Patterson writes with a firm sense of narrative, and can wring out the suspense from the long process of the Republican presidential primary. But by setting the novel so firmly in the present, and with such easily-identified characters, he creates a whole new problem for himself. In his earlier trilogy, Kerry Kilcannon was just enough not a Kennedy to be believable, just enough of a middle-road Democrat to be part of the process. The second and third of those novels, Balance Of Power and Protect And Defend, engaged with single issues, and the fact that he approached those issues from a position of 'right' and 'wrong' allowed him to focus the narrative better than The Exile. And they dealt in 'real' politics, as practised by more or less 'real' people.

Paradoxically, Patterson's new presidential candidate Corey Grace, Gulf War hero and POW, is too obviously crafted from a base of John McCain to be real. Though Patterson acknowledges that Grace's good looks and liberal outlook are taken from former Maine senator, 'defense' secretary (and thriller writer) William Cohen, it is McCain's background that resonates through Grace. And though Patterson claims Grace (the name is revealing) is a 'politician as we wish politicians would be', he is a character from a romantic fantasy, in which Republicans can be more liberal than their Democratic rivals, yet still believe in the party that has long-since jettisoned any pretense toward such values. Those guys died with John Lindsay, who was, as mayor of New York, a sort of soft-shelled version of Grace (the mayor of the Big Apple lives in Gracie Mansion, by the way, unless, like Giuliani, his wife throws him out!). There's also an honourable Republican general pitched somewhere between James Earl Jones as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to President Harrison Ford and Colin Powell.

This is a more serious problem than it seems, because the novel's main impact is its final twist, a truly brilliant one, but only someone as uncorruptable (that is, fantastic) as Grace would be able to pull off what he does. Yet it becomes difficult to believe in the character, because he is such an impossible construct. Even his girlfriend, Hollywood star, liberal, and black, notices this problem, though being the fantasy man he is, he overcomes her reservations.

But the meat of the novel, the machinations between the 'mainstream' candidate (loosely based on Rick Santorum, with a little Mario Cuomo perhaps) and the evangelicial preacher candidate (who turns out to be almost as honorable as Grace, which is another flight of fantasy) and their campaign advisers, is gripping, so gripping I would have perferred more of the primaries, rather than the jump straight into the convention. There must have been a temptation to include an assassin and amp up the straight-forward thriller element, but Patterson's been there and done that.This is book is better for that, but by opting to anchor his political story so firmly in reality, and then turning to fantasy politics, he's lost the element of ambiguity which would have made this a political novel up there with Advise And Consent, or The Last Hurrah (both of which I read when I was 12 or 13, along with Fail Safe and Seven Days In May...and you wonder where my cynicism about the American system comes from!).

Bill Clinton has a lot to answer for, as I suspect Patterson is yet another former 'liberal' disillusioned by the Clinton presidency, and turning to the moral certainties of the Republicans as a result. The Exile suggested Patterson favours those who recognise, if not favour, grim reality. I wonder how Barack Obama, whose dating a black woman couldn't become a campaign issue as it did for Grace, but whose politics, at leaast before he took the oath of office, didn't match Grace's, nor the character who's the thinly-disguised Colin Powell, fit into Patterson's paradigm when he got elected president?

The Race, by Richard North Patterson
Pan Books, £6.99, ISBN 9780330440158

Monday, 7 December 2009

JACQUES CHESSEX: THE GUARDIAN OBITUARY

My obituary of Jacques Chessex is in today's Guardian, you can link to it here. In a very moving piece of synchronicity, a copy of A Jew Must Die, which is published in February, arrived in the post this morning from the estimable Bitter Lemon Press, and moves to the top of my reading list. You can also read my September 2008 review of The Vampire Of Ropraz by linking here.

A couple of small points about the obit: L'Ogre was published in English as A Father's Love, but only in America, by Bobbs Merrill. It's an interesting title switch, because of the ironic ambiguity, but what is lost is the fairy-tale sense of a dangerous childhood. The Guardian added the French titles of books which basically have English cognates, like The Vampire Of Ropraz, which seemed redundant to me, but in the case of Les Aveugles du seul regard left the title as is, as I suggested they might, since my own translation as The Blind Who Only Glance may not be the best.

I had also mentioned a collaboration he did with the sculptor Manuel Muller, A Night In The Forest, which when I wrote the piece had yet to appear, but now presumably has been published. I'm hoping Bitter Lemon will publish The Last Skull Of M. De Sade in English eventually; in Donald Wilson's translations one gets the feeling of Chessex's French prose, a style which reminds me somewhat of the prose of poets like Robert Creeley, and with the atmospheric feeling of a number of Quebecois novelists, particularly Marie-Claire Blais.


Sunday, 6 December 2009

DOUGLAS HORNE'S NEW LOOK AT THE JFK ASSASSINATION

Robin Ramsey, editor of Lobster (to which I contributed occasionally, and which is soon to re-appear as an on-line journal) forwarded on a link to some background information about a new JFK assassination book. Oh no, I hear you groan, but Inside The Assassination Records Review Board, Vol IV, by Douglas Horne, is a comprehensive review of the medical evidence written by an AARB staffer. You can get some background to the book in the review posted here, at the JFK Countercoup blog, but following that is an interview with Horne in which he sets out the major pieces of new evidence, or new interpretation, he uncovered, you can link straight to that here.

Reading that interview, I'd be tempted to put Horne's book up with James Douglass's JFK And The Unspeakable (my essay on that book from Lobster can be linked to from the Bullseye's listings on the right, or just bang it here) and the LaFontaines' Oswald Talked as the past decade's most substantial and convincing books showing a conspiracy and a cover-up (not necessarily in concert) in the JFK assassination. He's very convincing on the autopsy, and though there aren't any answers provided, when you combine it with the long-ignored evidence in Douglass' book, and the strong case the LaFontaine's make for Oswald's thinking he was a government agent infiltrating subversives, the conclusion that the assassination was not the work of a lone crazed assassin, or even a few crazed assassins, becomes inescapable.

IAN VASQUEZ IN THE HEAT COMPETITION

Ian Vasquez's novel In The Heat won the 2008 Shamus Award as best first PI novel, and his publisher, Regal Literary, is celebrating that by giving away five signed copies of that book and his second novel, Lonesome Point.

To enter, you have to join Ian's Facebook page, and send an email to vasquez@regal-literary.com, with the subject line I'm A Facebook Fan, by 31 December. Sounds easy enough, especially if you're on Facebook. You can check the page out here. Ian's own homepage is here too.

Look for a review of a non-signed copy here at Irresisitible Targets soon...

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

LIONEL DAVIDSON: THE INDEPENDENT OBITUARY

My obit of Lionel Davidson, whose eight adult novels won three CWA Gold Daggers, is in today's Indpendent; you can link to it here. I suspect Davidson will be one of those rare writers who gets revived cyclically; his work is firmly rooted into its various settings, and times, and this, along with the intricacies of his plotting will probably intrigue new audiences.