It's 1948. Charlie Parish, a screenwriter and "part-time reprobate," wakes up with a hangover in a bathtub he doesn't recognize. As flashes of the previous night's bacchanalia go through his dulled mind, Parish wanders through the abandoned bungalow, trying to piece together the bits into a coherent timeline. But he gives up when he spots the body of starlet Valeria Sommers sprawled across the floor. She'd been the star of the movie he wrote, the one currently being shot at Victory Street Pictures. The bruise marks on her neck make it clear she was strangled. In shock, Parish realizes he can't call the police (why not?). He wipes his prints off everything he's touched in the bungalow and slips away inconspicuously.
This happens in the first few pages of The Fade Out, a new comic book series by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, the duo behind the fantastic hardboiled-crime-meets-Lovecraft comic series called Fatale. To capture the look of 1940s Los Angeles, Baker and Phillips hired a research assistant, Amy Condit, who runs the LA Police Museum and curated the recent exhibit of the Black Dahlia case. She is worth whatever they paid her - the look and mood of The Fade Out is like a trip in a time machine to a Los Angeles built by Chandler, Fante, Hammett, and Nathanael West.
In addition to the murder mystery, it looks like this series is going to explore the endemic corruption of movie studios of the era, anti-Semitism, racism, and the effects of the House Un-American Activities Committee on screenwriters. Read the rest
Hard Case Crime publishes hardboiled crime fiction by Stephen King, Donald Westlake, James M. Cain, Michael Crichton, Mickey Spillane, Max Allan Collins, and other greats. Here's an exclusive excerpt from their new title, The Secret Lives of Married Women, by Elissa Wald. The paperback is only $5.97 on Amazon.
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Two identical twin sisters - one a sexually repressed defense attorney, the other a former libertine now living a respectable life in suburbia - are about to have their darkest secrets revealed, to the men in their lives and to themselves. As one sister prepares for the thorniest trial of her career and the other fends off ominous advances from a construction worker laboring on the house next door, both find themselves pushed to the edge, and confronted by discoveries about themselves and their lovers that shock and disturb them.
Elissa Wald is the author of Meeting the Master (Grove Press) and Holding Fire (Context Books). Her work has also been published in multiple journals and anthologies, including Beacon Best of 2001, Creative Nonfiction, The Barcelona Review, The Mammoth Book of Erotica, Nerve: Literate Smut, The Ex-Files: New Stories about Old Flames, and Brain, Child Magazine. Previously, she worked as a stripper, ran away to join the circus, and spent a summer working on a Native American reservation.
I don't remember how I found out about Munseys. It's a website with links to thousands of out-of-print books, with over 1,500 pulp era novels. There's a lot of good stuff to be found here, as well as much that fits somewhere between excellent and awful. I downloaded and read a so-so novel called Alley Girl, by Jonathan Craig. There's no "alley girl" in it, which I didn't care about anyway. It's a about a hard-boiled sociopathic cop who tries to set up an innocent man for the electric chair so he can profit in more ways that one. It took me about an hour and a half to read and it made me forget about my 18-hour plane ride last week.
At the top of the chart, get Charles Willeford's Whip Hand (he ghost wrote it for Frank Sanders, or at least wrote most of it). It's about a kidnapping/murder seen through the eyes of different characters, and takes places in Texas. Willeford is one of the great hardboiled noir writers. I read everything of his I can get my hands on.