HAPPY EASTER 2014

Easter Doxies

SAY HELLO TO MY LI’L FRIEN’

SCARFACEMy latest audiobook, Scarface: The Ultimate Guide, written by Damian Stevenson, has gone live on Audible.com, Amazon, and iTunes. It basically tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the groundbreaking 1983 movie starring Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer. Stevenson delves headfirst into how the movie got made, a detailed comparison with its 1932 predecessor, Scarface, which starred Paul Muni, and the tortuous path to finally landing director Brian DePalma and screenwriter Oliver Stone. He also dishes out the true story surrounding the crew’s problems in Miami, how the key roles were cast, and the film’s improbable rise to cult status after a miserable opening, during which it was lustily panned by critics and audiences alike.

This book was a lot of fun to narrate, especially since I’m a big fan of the movie. One of the best features of this book is a shot-by-shot voyage through the entire movie. I have to admit, I hadn’t seen the movie in about ten years, although I owned the anniversary edition 2-disc DVD version. When I was about one-third of the way through the narration, I pulled the movie out and Yleana and I watched it. After that watching, and after narrating Stevenson’s well-researched book, I have a completely new appreciation for this movie, and it has vaulted into my all-time top 10 favorite list. I also have recognized it as a film noir classic, as Tony Montana is a great noir protagonist, constantly blindsided by events and always choosing the wrong course of action.

Best of all, this audiobook is only $6.95! How can you say no?? Go to its page on Audible.com and check out an audio sample, and then buy it.

INTRODUCTION TO HARRY WHITTINGTON

you'll die next 280 stepsBack a few months ago, I agreed to write an introduction for a re-release of Harry Whittington’s tense noir novel, You’ll Die Next!, published by 280 Steps. I wrote a review of it back in 2010, and the folks at 280 Steps spotted it and were kind enough to ask me to do the introduction. The book will be out in April, along with a slew of other Whittington classics. Those books come with introductions by the likes of Joe R Lansdale, Ed Gorman, Bill Pronzini, Duane Swierczynski, and Bill Crider. Mighty heady company, if you ask me, and I’m thrilled to be among them. I’m also thrilled to be involved with 280 Steps in their pursuit of keeping alive the work of the great crime/noir writers of the mid-20th century.

If you’ve never read Whittington before, this is the perfect place to start. As noir as it gets.

WHISKEY. AND LEAVE THE BOTTLE.

I just calculated my average ranking in the Amazon Kindle store, and it comes to 535,424. This is the average of the ten paid titles I currently have on Amazon (there are two more, but they’re free for the moment, so they weren’t figured in). Now, for those of you who know about this stuff, you know this is a pretty dreadful statistic, not one which offers much hope for my writing aspirations. To the others, let me put it into perspective. If you sell even one copy of a book per day, that book will probably be ranked somewhere around 80,000-100,000 on Amazon. So what this 535,424 figure means is that I’m currently selling far fewer than one copy of each book per day. In fact, the number is closer to around sixteen one-hundredths of a copy of each book per day. When you consider there are more than a few self-published writers, some who started the same month I did, and are now selling around one thousand books a day, every day, without having any kind of a breakout hit, the mountain looks pretty steep, no?

Although I’ve been given much good advice, as well as many thought-out theories as to what my problem is, I don’t really know the reason for all this, and I probably never will. It’s one of those things, you know, like a restaurant that opens up, serves great food, gives great service, all at a good price, and can’t draw a crowd. Pretty soon, they’re folding up. There’s no shortage of excuses, but no one knows exactly what the cause was.

What I’m trying to say is, there is definitely a concrete reason for my failed attempts, but I’ve not been ordained to receive that reason. I can either drive myself crazy by guessing (which I won’t do) or simply shrug and say, “Just unlucky, I guess.” But that would be lying to myself, since I know luck has absolutely no role in a writer’s initial success. I wrote what I think is a pretty insightful blog on it some time ago in response to those writers who attribute their phenomenal out-of-the-gate sales to “luck”.

Anyway, maybe these figures will improve. Now, where’s that bottle?

 

“GRIND JOINT” BY DANA KING NOW AVAILABLE AS AUDIOBOOK

Layout 1My new audiobook narration has just appeared on the horizon. After a slight delay with various Amazon subsidiaries, Grind Joint, written by Dana King, is now available. You can get it on Amazon, Audible.com, and iTunes. Here’s part of the official description:

A new casino is opening in the rural town of Penns River, Pennsylvania but just where the money is coming from no one really knows. Is it Daniel Hecker, bringing hope to a mill town after years of plant closings? Or is the town’s salvation really an opening for Mike The Hook Mannarino’s Pittsburgh mob to move part of their action down state? Or could it be someone even worse?

In fact, the book is actually a penetrating tale of the struggle faced by natives and longtime residents of a small town near Pittsburgh as they cope with tough economic times. These are the people who make up the spine of America, and it is their values and desires which occupy the soul of this novel.

This is an exceptionally well-written book, with sharply-drawn characters and an appeal not limited to crime fiction fans. If the stars align properly, it could easily break author King out of the pack. If you’ve never listened to an audiobook before, but are considering it, try this one. You won’t be sorry.

Check out an audio sample here.

FILM NOIR, MY TOP 10, POST-1970 (2014 edition)

Here we go again. Everyone line up as we get ready to board the 2014 train for another trip down my own personal memory lane of favorite films noir from 1970 to the present. As I’m sure you all know, I’ve done a list of pre-1970 noirs which included such classics as Out Of The Past, Night And The City, and Raw Deal. Now we lurch forward into the more recent past, looking for those films that helped redefine the genre.

Again, they’re in no particular order. He-e-e-e-ere we go.

220px-The_Friends_of_Eddie_CoyleTHE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE (1973) / Robert Mitchum, Peter Boyle. Director: Peter Yates. This powerful tale of a small-time street guy (Mitchum) facing a prison sentence is the flip side of The Godfather. Shot entirely in the Boston area in the most nondescript locations, totally deglamorizing the criminal life. Dreary autumn scenery adds to the proceedings rather than subtracting from them. Characters kiss their wives goodbye in the morning and then go to “work”, in other words, they hang around grimy coffee shops and bars and parking lots talking endlessly to each other. Based on a novel by George V Higgins, whose ear for dialogue has never been matched (not even by Higgins himself in subsequent books). Director Yates wisely lifted most of the novel’s dialogue verbatim. Without question, this was Mitchum’s finest hour. His muscular performance of a working-stiff street criminal stays with you forever. One of the greatest noirs of all time.                                                                                                                                                                                                          

 

 

 

Go_for_SistersGO FOR SISTERS (2013) / LisaGay Hamilton, Edward James Olmos, Yolonda Ross. Director: John Sayles. Ross is a ghetto druggie just out of jail, Hamilton her probation officer.  Childhood-friends-gone-in-different-directions story is remade with new urgency by Sayles in this riveting drama. Hamilton’s son has fallen in with the wrong crowd and disappeared, causing her to ask Ross for help. Ross brings in Olmos, a former cop who was thrown off the force, and together the three of them head to Tijuana to find Hamilton’s son. First-rate characterizations by the three leads, all of whom are emotionally invested in their roles. Sayles’ Tijuana is grimy, dangerous, and unforgettable. Easily his best film since 1987′s Matewan.

 

 

 

 

220px-Sexy_beast_ver1SEXY BEAST (2000) / Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Ian McShane. Director: Jonathan Glazer. Winstone is a world-class safecracker living the quiet life of retirement in Spain. He lays out in the sun, sips cool drinks with his friends, and loves up his woman. One day, however, Kingsley shows up on behalf of British crime boss McShane, trying to lure Winstone into one more job. Kingsley’s character is a violent sociopath, and his menacing presence throws everything off-kilter. Glazer’s debut feature is a knockout, as he extracts top performances from these three great actors. Winstone is properly nervous throughout, and after watching Kingsley swagger around in his short-sleeved shirts, it’s hard to believe he once played Gandhi!

 

 

 

 

Across_110th_StreetACROSS 110th STREET (1972) / Anthony Quinn, Yaphet Kotto, Anthony Franciosa. Director: Barry Shear. Three men rob a numbers bank in Harlem and it’s only a question of who gets to them first, the cops or the mob. Not the cops and robbers movie it appears to be, rather a compelling, noir-drenched tale of desperate men, each driven by different forces. Quinn is the aging tough-guy cop who has outlived his time, Franciosa the Mafia enforcer called upon to retrieve the money and teach the robbers a real lesson, while the stickup men just wanted a little money to better their own lives. Film looks like it started off in producer meetings as blaxploitation, but with the addition of Quinn and Franciosa, quickly superseded that genre. Director Shear shows a real feel for the material. Title song by Bobby Womack is memorable.

 

 

 

 

220px-TheGriftersTHE GRIFTERS (1990) / John Cusack, Angelica Huston, Annette Bening, Pat Hingle. Director: Stephen Frears. One of the best of the post-1970 noirs. Tense tale of small-time swindlers and their tangled relationships. Cusack is satisfied with making a few bucks a day on short cons until he meets up with sexy Bening, who has big things cooking. Complicating matters is Cusack’s mother, played with relish by Huston. She works for racketeer Hingle and struts around like she means business, inserting herself between Cusack and Bening at every opportunity. Penetrating look at the underbelly world of the con artist. Donald E Westlake’s script closely follows Jim Thompson’s 1963 novel. Harrowing finale comes out of nowhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

220px-City-of-Industry-PosterCITY OF INDUSTRY (1997) / Harvey Keitel, Stephen Dorff, Timothy Hutton. Director: John Irvin. Retired thief Keitel returns for one last score with his brother (Hutton) and getaway driver Dorff. Things go very wrong, and Keitel heads for LA looking for those responsible. Director Irvin provides plenty of sweaty scenes in this hard noir tale. His sense of pacing keeps things moving and lets the viewer know that no matter what happens, no good is going to come from any of it. One of Famke Janssen’s early films. Elliot Gould appears unbilled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

220px-Afterdarkposter1990AFTER DARK, MY SWEET (1990) / Jason Patric, Bruce Dern, Rachel Ward. Director: James Foley. Patric escapes from a mental hospital and falls in with Ward. Enter Dern, who urges them to pull a high-profile kidnapping job. Classic noir tale of a guy who’s in way over his head. Set in a California desert town, where no one knows anyone and no one cares. Moody, dark film, even though much of it was shot in blinding sunlight. Patric and Ward are perfect for each other. Dern is remarkably restrained. Based on the 1955 novel by Jim Thompson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

220px-The-Last-Seduction-PosterTHE LAST SEDUCTION (1994) / Linda Fiorentino, Peter Berg, Bill Pullman. Director: John Dahl. Fiorentino rips off her drug dealer husband Pullman to the tune of $700,000 and all hell breaks loose. She flees to a Buffalo suburb, of all places, and attempts to melt into society unnoticed. Pullman, however, is in hot pursuit. She eventually hooks up with Berg, and supposedly becomes involved in a murder plot. Plenty of twists in this one as the walls begin to close in on Fiorentino. Sharp direction and grade A performances make this an outstanding 1990s film noir.

 

 

 

 

 

220px-Theif_1981THIEF (1981) / James Caan, Tuesday Weld, James Belushi, Robert Prosky. Director: Michael Mann. Early Mann effort centers around Caan as longtime jewel thief who wants to start a family with Weld. Unfortunately, however, he falls in with Prosky, who forces him into a big job with big promises of milk and honey on the other side. Needless to say, things don’t go exactly as planned. Everything about this one is noir to the max. Story probes deeply into the mindset of a professional thief, with great attention to detail and the tools of the trade. Outstanding score by Tangerine Dream. Film marks the debuts of Belushi, Prosky, Dennis Farina, and William Petersen. Caan carries the film in fine fashion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

220px-HouseofGamesHOUSE OF GAMES (1987) / Lindsay Crouse, Joe Mantegna, JT Walsh. Director: David Mamet. Psychologist specializing in addictive personalities gets drawn into the personal problems of one of her patients, a compulsive gambler. What follows is a nightmare trek into the demimonde of the grifter. Mamet’s directorial debut. He also wrote the screenplay, but the cast brings his difficult, unorthodox dialogue to life. Performances are top-notch, with Mantegna a standout. Look for William H Macy in a small role.

“FIRED UP!” AUDIOBOOK GOES LIVE

FIRED UP!My latest audiobook narration is now live on Audible.com. It’s called Fired Up! Memoir Of A Deranged Arsonist, by Thomas Weston, and believe me, the title doesn’t begin to tell the story. “Deranged” is a kind word I would use for the central character, whose life we follow from his abuse-filled childhood through his spin into adult madness. Weston takes the reader on a Jim Thompson-esque first-person voyage deep into the mind of a psychotic, delusional sociopath, whose every weakness is laid bare and raw. In spots, it evokes Thompson at his most harrowing. I have to admit, it takes guts for a writer to go this far in the first person, but Weston pulls it off. A couple of times during my narration, I actually got chills.

I won’t go any further into it, except to say you can get it now on Audible.com and, in a few days, on Amazon and iTunes. Check out the audio sample, as well as a full description of the book, here.

“COLD BLOODED” AUDIOBOOK NOW AVAILABLE

61-Od901ZVL._SL300_Cold Blooded, a tense action thriller written by Bernard Lee DeLeo (RJ Parker Publishing), is my latest audiobook voiceover narration and production, and it just went live on Audible.com. It’s also available as an audiobook on Amazon and iTunes. First off, here’s a brief description:

Nick McCarty decides after ten years of black ops assassinations it’s time for a change. Against the wishes of his shadow government bosses he has inexplicably managed to become a best-selling author with a string of novels about an assassin named Diego. The novels have made him world famous and provided a cover for his overseas sanctions. But Nick feels something’s missing. An employer Nick sometimes takes sanctions from, when they coincide with the wishes of his government sponsors, orders the death of a woman in the witness protection program. This kickstarts the story.

This is the first installment in the new Nick McCarty series, and I’m excited to have been selected to narrate and produce this novel as an audiobook. Bernard Lee DeLeo is the author of some twenty novels, spread out over several different series, all of them doing very well. I’m quite confident the Cold Blooded audiobook will find great success. I’m hoping for the opportunity to do the sequel when it’s released this summer.

Right now, it’s a steal at $19.95 on Audible.com. You can check it out, along with an audio sample, here.

 

“FULLY LOADED” REACHES NEW HEIGHTS!!

USED CARSYes, we knew it would happen sooner or later. Fully Loaded, my gripping noir short story set in a Mississippi used car lot in 1984, is finally breaking out of the pack. As of this writing, it has raced all the way up to #679,067 in the Amazon rankings. Based on this groundswell of sales, I’m fully expecting to crack the 660,000s by sundown. And … they’re rumored to be looking at it in Brazil and Japan.

So if you don’t want to be left out of the charge, hurry and get your copy now. Only 99¢ on Kindle. That would be here.

AUDIOBOOKS AND DANA KING

Grind Joint audio coverFellow crime fiction writer Dana King has posted an interview with me over at his website on the subject of audiobooks, a fast-growing segment of the book world. I just had the pleasure of narrating Dana’s excellent small-town crime novel, Grind Joint (Stark House, 2013), and the audiobook is now in the pipeline headed toward Amazon, Audible.com, and iTunes. We’ll both be letting you know when it’s live, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, check out the interview.

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