Culture Court Books


Cc Audio mp3 features »

Julio Cortázar | Raymond Chandler | Percy F. Westerman | Schuiten-Peeters | de Giovanni | Donna Leon | Leighton Gage | Andrea Camilleri | Alfred Noyes | Robert Westbrook | F. Scott Fitzgerald | Paul Theroux | Jim Thompson | Jean Raspail | Jack Kerouac | Tom Graves | Cornell Woolrich | Mark T. Bassett | Ben Marcus | Georges Simenon | Alan Furst | Andre Agassi | Moehringer | Modiano | Sciascia | Buzzati | JG Ballard | Leonora Carrington | Ruben Fonseca | D.F. Bailey | Paco Ignacio Taibo II | Martin Cruz Smith | Celona | Colin Wilson | Rick McGrath | William Burroughs | Helmut Newton | Malaparte | Edgar Rice Burroughs | Hodel | Saul Wolfe | B. Traven | Lawrence Russell et. al.

LR talks with Ottmar Liebert nuevo flamenco guitarist extraordinaire about his recent recordings, the coming impact of AI, Zen Buddhism, the Japanese composers Sakamoto and Takemitsu... movies... touring... Aldous Huxley... and the beauty of sake for what ails you.

RAIN POEMS: conversations with Ottmar Liebert: »»

Unauthorized Departures, Terminal Press  2024

WORK [2022]

by Richard Makin

§ Tired of the old lockstep narratives where 'B' must follow 'A' and 'C' is a major disappointment when you get there? The cop trapping the murderer (yawn) or the young bird who doesn't know she's an heiress and ends up getting it all including the chump who saves her (yawn, yawn)? Relax, dear reader -- the non-linear non-determinst narrative is alive and well.

Writing about Richard Makin's new novel Brother Paul Green says: 'And editors who commission novels, whether ‘literary’ or commercial, continue to favour beginnings, middles and ends, insisting that this offers the reassurance readers desire in a contingent and chaotic world. In his Work, Makin follows a very different lineage, recognising perhaps that beginnings are a mystery, middles are a dark matter and all the ends are dead... '

Read all about it here »»»

Richard Makin: WORK

SNOW SHADOW AREA. Released from the CBC's Vanishing Point vault, here is LR's mid-eighties cult horror radio drama, based on his early seventies short story. Nominated for the Prix Futura.

LR: The Secret Island

the Secret Island (2020)

Lawrence Russell

§ With a narrative as tricky as a Rubik's Cube, LR's new novel navigates the natural mysticism of the Vancouver Island ethos with dystopian shadings and the ugly beauty of noir crime. Follow the adventures of geologist Dr. Dot and her partner David Belmondo as they monitor a volcanic vent on a local aboriginal reservation in the treacherous landscape of the post-pandemic world.

Get the eBook here: Amazon Canada | USA | UK

Dream Clips of the Archon

house of the bicameral mind

Lawrence Russell

§ Julio Cortázar (1914-1984) is considered to be one of the greatest Latin American fiction writers. Is he really that good? Many of his characters could be considered schizophrenic, Jaynesian puppets of the bicameral mind.

Read LR's examination of this fluent Argentine master of the surrealist short story »»»

Julio Cortazar

booze, babes & bullets

Lawrence Russell

"His eyes measured me for a coffin"

§ Mystery remains at the core of Chandler's fiction, as if he was dealing from an incomplete deck. He tried to shoot himself close to the end, although it was probably booze, insomnia and loneliness that got him. He was 70. Still copied today, even when the writers who do say they've never read him.

read the article here »»»

Raymond Chandler

Lawrence Russell Temple of the Two Moons

Recent 2023 novella by LR. Get it directly for a discount at the Terminal Press or from Amazon anywhere.

Percy F. Westerman: Jingo Fiction or Science Fiction?

Lawrence Russell

Captured at Tripoli | The Flying Submarine | The Sea-Girt Fortress | The Dreadnaught of the Air | The Dispatch Riders | In the Thick of the Fray at Zeebrugge | Billy Barcroft R.N.A.S | Rounding Up the Raider | Unconquered Wings | The Black Hawk

Re: Westerman | H.G. Wells | F. Hernaman-Johson | Edgar Rice Burroughs | Capt. W. E. Johns | Hugo Pratt (Corto Maltese)

§ Percy F. Westerman (1876-1959), although forgotten today, was at one time Britain's most prolific author of adolescent boys' fiction, having published 174 novels between 1908 and 1959 and selling 1.5 million copies internationally. While many of his books used the Royal Navy and various nautical settings, many dealt with early aviation which was seen back then as an arm of the Admiralty. He wrote both naturalistically and speculatively, so that many of his stories are more science fiction than fact, although fact is always the fundamental. He knew a lot about naval matters as he was a keen amateur sailor and during WW 1 served as a navigation instructor in the Navy and the Royal Flying Corps. He also lived most of his adult life on a converted Thames River barge moored on the River From at Wareham, Dorset... which might confirm his debt to G.A. Henty (1832-1902) who also lived on a yacht in nearby Weymouth and exalted the British Empire as a sacred calling.


Percy Westerman, author

a memoir

Tom Graves

So if your baby leaves you, you got a tale to tell
Just take a walk down lonely street to Heartbreak Hotel

§ What was it like to grow up in the 50s/60s racially segregated South, become a rock journalist, later a creative writing Prof? What was it like to pluck the forbidden fruit, i.e. cross the race line for love and romance? Premier Memphis rock journalist, novelist, and publisher Tom Graves tells all in this fascinating (and sometimes disturbing) memoir, White Boy.

read LR's review »»»

BLOOD CURSE (2008/14)

The Springtime of Commissario Ricciardi

Europa Editions

Maurizio de Giovanni

trans. by Antony Shugaar

'the perfume of spring carried by the wind'

§ Even the poets are writing detective fiction these days. Maurizio de Giovanni is a poet -- you can see it in his language, his characters, his world view. In fact, in Blood Curse, characterization and language take precedence over police procedural detail, often to the point that you forget that there are any policemen in the action at all, save as something a couple of characters do as a day job. The main cast are given near equal stage time, events seen from their POV in an alternating sequence of short scenes, and psychological soliloquies.

A cop, a prostitute, a barber, a pizza man (pizzaiolo), a suicide, a fortune teller, a professor, a murderer, a building site apprentice, a tenor lothario, a lovestruck aristocrat with a little red car, a suffering shop girl, a neighbourhood enforcer (camorrista), a mutilated beauty... and over the horizon, Mussolini.


de Giovanni: Blood Curse

Montalbano's First Case & Other Stories (2016)

Andrea Camilleri

§ 'Montalbano's First Case' will appeal to all who find the Montalbano series addictive, as it fills in historical gaps without messing up the embedded fantasy. It won't replace The Shape of Water or The Terracotta Dog as "the beginning of it all" -- the shaping of Salvo Montalbano, genius cop, neurotic loner, social chump, and apprentice mystic -- although it does confirm the obsessions and character types. For example, the damsel in distress is a familiar Camilleri woman, the erotic illiterate who only makes sense speaking body language: Rosanne Marullo, zombie girl on a mission. Or there is the Honourable M.P. Torrisi, mafia lawyer, a snake-tongue just like Guttadauro, the another loquacious mafia lawyer seen in Excursion to Tindari.

As usual, Camilleri's portrait of the Sicilian underclass is photo-electric:

"Mr. Inspector, try to think. Isn't it enough to have a whore for a daughter without having a bastard for a grandchild?"

read more »»»

Montalbano's First Case

BY its COVER (2014)

Donna Leon

'Oh, if only his mother could see her boy now, kissing the hand of a contessa. Her palazzo wasn't on the Grand Canal, but Brunetti was certain his mother would not mind in the least: it was still a palazzo, and the woman who had offered him her hand was still a contessa'

§ Everyone is a detective these days, it seems. Take this bird Donna Leon -- she's written 27 or 28 of these Commissario Brunetti novels set in Venice. That's obsessive, isn't it? Junkies used to talk about feeding the monkey, and you wonder, who is the monkey here, the reader or the writer? But she's good. Smooth, bourgeois, evasive, calligraphic like Henry James, never quite getting to the point, domestic rather than industrial, escapist rather than revelatory, yet educational and atmospheric nonetheless. She has style, like the light in Venice, Canaletto or Turner, take your pick. This one, By its Cover, number 23 in the progression, is a real bibliophile's dream, gives credence to the maxim that literature is by the bourgeois for the bourgeois. You know, like poets writing poems about poetry or librarians lending to no one but themselves and a few select friends.

The obsessive madness of beauty and possession.

read more »»»

Donna Leon: By Its Cover

Six Characters in Search of a Killer

Lawrence Russell

§ As the man said famously back in 1945 when slagging Agatha Christie, "Who cares who killed Roger Ackroyd?"

Maybe with the Italian author Andrea Camilleri it's different:

'In the second Montalbano novel, The Terra-cotta Dog (1996), some characters from The Shape of Water carry through, most notably Ingrid, the Swedish bombshell rally car driver who becomes the detective's undercover agent, perhaps in more ways than one. The Terra-cotta Dog is a very clever work, aspires to be literature rather than crime fiction doggerel, indeed, is literature and not just because Camilleri drops some heavy names into his hero's downtime reading list. It's a story-within-a-story, where one crime becomes displaced by another, the present by the past, the news by history.'


Andrea Camilleri: Death in Sicily


D.F. Bailey

Remember Jonestown, Guyana, 1978?

'The children went first, died first. But imagine if two escaped, returned to the US, were given new identities, the chance of a ‘second life.’ How would it all turn out? Would they escape the memory of Jonestown, embrace the rituals of a normal life, grow up, have families, pay taxes, argue with the TV … or would they become occult messengers of the fatal theosophy preached by the Reverend Jim Jones? This is the question, the premise of D.F. Bailey’s latest crime novel, Second Life.'

More powder blues writing from the Canadian master. Dig it.

Available now from Amazon | US | Canada | UK

DF Bailey: Second Life

Blood of the Wicked

Leighton Gage

"Senhora, I've been in the service of a corrupt legal system for all my life. I'm nothing if not a pragmatist... but I'm also a realist. And any evil I do, I attempt to do it for the greater good."

§ The seven novels that Gage wrote before his untimely death in 2013 are like westerns with a modern art feel. Much the action -- the sweet and the profane -- is driven through the dialogue. Nevertheless, despite the script-writer minimalism, and the jump cuts, imagery exists: that flashy, beautifully profane Brazilian landscape with its lurid atmosphere of luxury and poverty, of predator and prey, and the technicolor of life and death.


Leighton Gage: Blood of the Wicked

Lawrence Russell: Outlaw Academic 2016

Outlaw Academic: Selected Non-Fiction [the Terminal Press] from Lawrence Russell, former Professor of Writing at UVic, now retired, free from the institutional shackles, loose somewhere in the rain forest. Read what he really thinks of Fellini, Charles Manson, Alice Munro, J.G. Ballard, Roman Polanski, George Cosmatos, Bill Haley & the Comets et. al. Some autobiography, some meta-criticism, some gonzo. You've read him at Culture Court, now find out who he is.

Available now from Amazon USA | Amazon Canada | Amazon UK »»

'This is a terrific book - exhilarating, provocative, often wildly funny. But underneath the laconic asides and rapid-fire aphorisms, there's a wealth of cultural knowledge and lived experience, even a certain gravitas as Russell considers the follies, absurdities and moral chaos of a post-modern world.'

read the full Good Reads review here »»

DEEP ENDS: the J.G. Ballard Anthology 2016

edited by Rick McGrath, The Terminal Press, Toronto

PDF: What do you make of the Green Movement?

JGB: Touchingly naive, a special kind of infantilism. One might as well try and save the smallpox virus.

[Paul Di Filippo 1991 interview with J.G. Ballard]

§ What can anyone possibly say about J.G. Ballard that hasn't already been covered off by the excellent Deep Ends series, edited & published by Rick McGrath of the Terminal Press? Especially the latest, the fattest, possibly the greatest, volume of all, Deep Ends 2016?

You get all kinds of essay narratives here, including interviews and profiles: M.L.A. (academic), Inverted Pyramid (old school journalese), Interview (when the fame clock hit midnight, Ballard only spoke in interview mode), Memoir (I knew him when it mattered or I knew one of his friends), Gonzo (shotgun personalism), Conversation (just let the recorder run while we have a drink), Poetic (Ballard is just a passing simile for my solo), etc, etc... they're all here, like hacked memos from the Id, the contrasting styles clear markers of the professional societies their authors inhabit. The power of the collection is in its diversity, the anarchy of its allegiance. As usual, you can read it any old way you like, sample it like a large box of chocolates, loving it, confident that even if one item makes you sick, the greedy indulgence is worth it.


Ballard: Deep Ends 2016

Robert Westbrook: the Torch Singer 2014

Book 1: An Overnight Sensation

§ I'm on a cruise ship heading down the west coast for Catalina Island, the old playground of the Hollywood crowd back in the 40's and 50's Golden Age, and I'm passing the time on my private balcony reading "An Overnight Sensation", the first book of Robert Westbrook's projected trilogy, The Torch Singer.

Came across it by accident, when doing some background research for a piece on F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon. Robert Westbrook is Sheilah Graham's (the famous Hollywood columnist) son and wrote a book about her romance with Fitzgerald during the last three years of his life, 1937-40, when FSF was in Hollywood writing scripts for MGM, and more significantly, writing a novel about the film industry. Sheilah Graham is the template for the femme fatale in The Last Tycoon, and you know, I'm picking up some similarities, not only in the romance figure, and the Hollywood milieu with its seedy politics, but also in the narrative method Westbrook uses -- the lst person alternating with the 3rd person, a film noir frame narrative, which is what Fitzgerald uses in Tycoon.

It's good...


Westbrook: the Torch Singer

F. Scott Fitzgerald: the last chapter

The Last Tycoon (1941) reconsidered

"The Last Tycoon is thus, even in its imperfect state, Fitzgerald's most mature piece of work. It is marked off also from his other novels by the fact that it is the first to deal seriously with any profession or business." [Edmund Wilson]

§ There used to be a joke in creative writing that when you finished a story you should lop off the first page and then the last page because you always did too much explaining at the start and too much moralizing at the finish. When considering whether Scott Fitzgerald's final fiction The Last Tycoon is just a tantalizing fragment of what might have been his best work since The Great Gatsby or is in fact a complete narrative with its own mystical architecture despite its interruption by his death in late 1940, it's useful to keep this old joke in mind.

The plot as exists is fairly simple, although the sociology of the setting is complex. The story is about Monroe Stahr, a "boy wonder" Hollywood film executive in charge of a large studio, three years a widower, a workaholic and loner, despite the fact that he's surrounded by legions. Most of the novel is told from the point-of-view of Cecelia Brady, the nineteen year old daughter of Stahr's fellow producer Pat Brady, with the 'off-camera' action about Stahr and his personal life in the 3rd person, possibly reconstructs by Cecelia after the fact based on gossip and perhaps conversations with Stahr himself. Cecelia is in love with Stahr, despite the age gap and the baggage he carries... although, like Gatsby, his attraction is in the romantic loneliness of the figure on the terrace who makes the parties happen but never enjoys them himself.

read the full article »»

Fitzgerald: the Last Tycoon


Francois Schuiten (illustrations) & Benoit Peters (text)

Casterman (French) 1984 | IDW (English) 2017

the Obscure Cities series

§ Samaris is a short graphic novel where the landscape has the archaic charm of Jules Verne and the dream menace of Franz Kafka. The debt to Kafka is acknowledged as the hero is called "Franz" and his frustration in fulfilling his mission to Samaris is similar to K.'s frustration in trying to access the governing authorities in The Castle, that Kafka masterpiece of inter-war claustrophobia and dread. The Verne feel is in the graphics, the old world architecture, the whimsical mix of early technology, and the sense of adventure when journeying into the unknown. So, the narrative has science fiction inclinations, although its main business is the exploration of the unwilling hero's psychology via symbolic imagery and a peculiar, inverted sense of happenstance.

read more »»»»

Shuiten-Peeters: SAMARIS

Jim Thompson: Murder at the Bijou [a.k.a Nothing More Than Murder, 1949]

DeVault-Graves Agency eBooks

§ This is an easy read. Fast, minimalist pulp fiction with a superb plot and a completely authentic setting. Stoneville -- could be Texas, could be anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line, sometime in the 1940s. Seedy, ruthless cut-throat characters, where murder is just an opportunity for blackmail and business is just business and sex the strangest business of all. Could be a movie, reads like a movie and indeed the author, Jim Thompson, was a screenwriter later in his career. Worked with Stanley Kubrick, although one has to look hard to know it, as Kubrick claimed the premier writing credits, as directors are wont to do. Thompson wrote The Killing (1956), a semi avant-garde crime drama, and the better known WW 1 war film Paths of Glory (1957), both of which have gained in critical stature in recent years.

Jim Thompson: Murder at the Bijou

So Thompson has chops and it's no surprise that there's been a revival of interest in his work... or shall we say, an emancipation from the crime fiction ghetto. The crime in Bijou has some resemblance to the scam in James M. Cain's Double Indemnity, although Cain is a romantic compared to Thompson.


Paul Theroux: The Bourgeois Beat

The Old Patagonian Express (1979) reconsidered

"I was more interested in the going and getting there, in the poetry of departures"

§ This is a masterpiece by a writer who has written several travel books that have masterful moments, although this is the one I call a masterpiece. Read it shortly after it was published in 1979, thought it was pretty good then -- I mean, who would've dreamed of getting on a subway train in Boston on a snowy day and riding consecutive trains like a Pony Express rider until you reached Patagonia at the southern tip of South America? Was it even possible? It was an incredible idea (not one suggested in any travel brochure) almost as incredible as the 'Long Rider' Aimé Felix Tschiffely's ride from Patagonia to Washington, D.C., in 1925-8, using a pair of gaucho mustang (Criollo) horses, Mancha and Gato. Tschiffely's feat was a masterpiece of human endurance and while his book is a fascinating social document, it lacks the turn of phrase to make it literary; still, it's a classic of a different sort, and makes a good comparison as the terrain covered is almost exactly the same -- different direction and forty years earlier, of course, but almost exactly the same.


Theroux: Old Patagonian Express

Jean Raspail: The Camp of the Saints

As the crash in commodities prices spreads economic woe across the developing world, Europe could face a wave of migration that will eclipse today’s refugee crisis, says Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

“Look how many countries in Africa, for example, depend on the income from oil exports,” Schwab said in an interview ahead of the WEF’s 46th annual meeting, in the Swiss resort of Davos. “Now imagine 1 billion inhabitants, imagine they all move north.”

[Bloomberg, January 18, 2016]

§ Imagine they all move north... well, someone already did: the French writer Jean Raspail in his 1973 dystopian novel The Camp of the Saints, which starts with a flotilla of rusting freighters anchoring somewhere off the Côte d'Azur loaded with a million refugees escaping a famine in the Ganges Delta. They soon overwhelm a passive French State, compliant in its own economic and cultural suicide. Why? Because its liberal humanitarian instincts -- based on the Christian principle of self-sacrifice -- leaves it easy prey for the invading migrants.

Jean Raspail: the Camp of the Saints

Prophetic? Certainly seems to be when you look around, see what's been happening... the 1 million march from Syria, the African boat migration via Lampedusa, the Central America Latino migrations, the South Pacific migrations... all the undocumenteds who arrive in Western cities by container, jet airliner wheel-well or any old method the human smugglers can dream up.

Is Saints any good? Is Raspail a visionary or just another reactionary fascist with the gift of the gab as many proclaim? You might detect an influence from Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange or the dystopian novels of J.G. Ballard. Starts with a retired Professor (Calgues) who's listening to Mozart and various radio bulletins as he watches the army burning the bodies of dead migrants on the beach, those who didn't survive the journey. He's surprised by a neo-Jacobin hippy who has taken advantage of the chaos to loot his house but the Prof is no dummy, has a shotgun, blows this doper socialist freeloader to oblivion.

Too Hollywood? Too polarizing with its political innuendo? It is, to be sure, an Orwellian attack on multiculturism and celebrity guilt appeasement (you know who they are). Perhaps the polemic overpowers the scene enactments and the point-of-view might move around too much for some people. Raspail calls it a parable, takes his title from the Book of Revelation. Guess he's smiling these days. He's still alive, has won a lot of prizes, despite the International League Against Racism trying to take him down in 2004. The League lost the court action, Raspail continues to rack up the royalties, but you can bet he won't be winning the Nobel any time soon.

Love it or hate it, you can get it here »»

Tom Graves: Louise Brooks, Frank Zappa, & other charmers & dreamers

Tom Graves | Devault-Graves Digital Editions eBooks

§ Have a Jack Daniel's, maybe a Colt on the side. Tom Graves is this kind of writer. Southern... Memphis, clear and personal, always courtly, with a sense of Southern Gothic ruling his tastes. A bit dangerous. He likes his femme fatales from the trailer park or the lost mansions of urban America; he likes his gunfights in the cinema; he likes his women for eyeshot ESP, and sitting close on the bench seat of a big Cadillac cruiser; he likes books for gonzo, barbecue ribs for a long life, gospel singers for religion, impersonators for Elvis... likes Roger Miller, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Cajun women, Cajun singers... biography assassins... and, believe it or not, Paul Revere and the Raiders.

How do you know? Just read Louise Brooks, Frank Zappa & other charmers & dreamers, a compendium of his greatest hits as a journalist. It's all there, although sometimes you have to read below the lines.

Hemingway. The "iceberg effect".


Graves: Louise Brooks, Zappa

Jack Kerouac: Tristessa

afterword by Tom Graves | Devault-Graves Digital Editions eBooks

§ Maybe you're feeling nostalgic, remembering the days when guys just hit the road looking for adventure and something to write about, rather than tortured recollections of childhood or contempo 3rd person refits of the Bible. It's all TV scenarios posing as novels these days, isn't it? You want something raw, not ghost writers in the sky. You want something real, not university cw pretty, all dolled up and boring as hell.

How about some Jack Kerouac? "The first thought is always the best thought," he said, and just let the words spew forth in a metabolic vomit, achieving poetry as heady and real as the smell of leaded gasoline. Worked for W.B. Yeats...

read LR on Kerouac's Tristessa »»

Jack Kerouac: Tristessa

Blues of a Lifetime: the Autobiography of Cornell Woolrich [2011]

edt. with fore/afterword by Mark T. Bassett

§ What a fascinating artist, this Woolrich. Lived in hotel rooms most of his life, starting in Mexico with his father during the Revolution, and then after his parents split, living with his mother hither and yonder, mostly in New York (Harlem) or any city that took their fancy... could be Paris, could be Seattle. He was like a Samuel Beckett character, always trapped in the same room where space is both finite and infinite, waiting for the end, and to amuse himself, messing around with a typewriter.

In fact, the first piece in Blues is about his typewriter, Remington Portable NC69411. So this isn't a conventional autobio by any means in the sense that we can take it as the whole truth and nothing but, etc. It's a series of five recollections written in the fiction narrative, so that they appear as short stories, only connected by 'I', whom we suppose is Cornell Woolrich. The manuscript was left in his papers at Columbia University, written for his own edification and not for publication. Anyone who has taught creative writing for any length of time knows that fiction writers either can't or would rather not write essays; writing outside the first person is a struggle, although if we've read any Woolrich, we know he could write in the 3rd. To find narrative unity without fiction is a drag, although a straight-forward autobiography doesn't need much unity beyond the facts.

Here's the issue: Cornell Woolrich didn't consider his cloistered world all that interesting....


Cornell Woolrich: Blues of a Lifetime

Ben Marcus, edt: New American Stories [2015]

§ If you want to get power in the Lit scene, you can, a) have sex with a publisher, b) commit a heinous crime and write it up, or c) put together a big fat anthology of your peers (let them fight and kiss ass to join your club).

Got your attention? It’s called a ‘hook’ in the writing business, and writers who try the short story better have one as there isn’t much distance or time to make a move.

'...there isn't much distance or time to make a move' -- or so I thought before reading this interesting collection compiled and edited by Ben Marcus. If your idea of 'short' is something like a Raymond Carver story or an Alice Munro or something by one of the ancient masters like Chekhov or Maupassant... O'Flaherty or X, Y, and Z, you'll find that most of these new writers are proto-novelists who write episodic narratives across Time rather than find an axiomatic situation that contains -- as the photographer Robert Frank called it -- "the decisive moment".

read LR's review »»

Ben Marcus: New American Stories

Georges Simenon: The Train [1961]

§ Georges Simenon knew how to tell a story, and The Train (1961) is among the very best by anyone about the Second World War. It concerns the invasion of France following the 'Phony War' (Sept '39-May '40) when German troops overran Holland and Belgium, then by-passed the Maginot Line by attacking through the forested hill region of the Ardennes. Marcel Féron, a radio repairman with a pregnant wife and daughter, is living in Fumay, a sleepy town right on the Belgian border and in the path of the advancing Panzers. He's an unremarkable type, with an invalid's past (pleurisy as a child) whose family was wrecked by WW 1 (his mother was shorn as a German whore), so he grew up as a quasi-orphan and as such, has a detached way of viewing things. Whether you call it trauma or alienation or survivalist compartmentalization, it seems to be a European characteristic of the times. As such, it makes Marcel the ideal protagonist for this authentic and entirely credible story of just what happened to people as they fled the advance.

read LR's review »»

Simenon: The Train (1961)

Georges Simenon

Tropic Moon 1932

Mr Hire's Engagement 1933

The Widow 1942

Monsieur Monde Vanishes 1945

Dirty Snow 1948

The Train 1961

§ Georges Simenon: one of the greatest fiction writers of the twentieth century, without a doubt. LR writes on some of his romans durs (hard novels)... 'that Simenon ambiguity, that romantic sadism that separates his work from the sentimentalists and liars' (and his other self, Inspector Maigret).

LR: Radio Brazil

LR's new novel available worldwide from Amazon or eBay »»

'This is a journey that maps the distance from dread to terror to war; an expedition from imagined terrors to mass murder.... Thorsen himself is the brightest star in this fresh, sparkling dreamscape. He's a century 21 hep-cat, a literary descendent of Jack Kerouac, writing in clipped sentences and fragments that aren't out of place in today's Twitterverse. Thorsen's voice never lags and young readers will quickly synch to the pace of this story as it winds its way to an existential finale reminiscent of Albert Camus.' [reader at Amazon USA]

'The masterly exposition of the complex storyline is full of as many twists and dark surprises as the river itself. For Thorsen’s first-person narration is terse, fast-moving, a film noir monologue always on the alert for a pretty face or the glint of a knife at the dark end of the street. Yet his laconic asides have an epigrammatic quality and also hint at his ethical qualms about the increasingly surreal savageries that he witnesses. He has an acute visual sense, whether scanning a villa full of Brazilian grandees or the squalor of the favelas. He evokes not only the visceral horrors of combat but the seductive fascination of military hardware - revolvers, rifles, biplanes, flying boats, the Zeppelin that flies him over the canopies of the rain forest. And above all, there are the characters, all sharply delineated, like ‘Senhor Prolific’ the seedy agent distributing his subversive pornographic cartoons or Brother Voss, the monk with an alter ego as an SS Obersturmführer.' [Bookserf at Amazon UK]

Geoffrey Household: Rogue Male [1938]

"I cannot blame them. After all, one doesn't need a telescopic sight to shoot boar and bear; so when they came on me watching the terrace at a range of five hundred and fifty yards, it was natural enough that they should jump to conclusions."

This is a strange one: an anonymous Big Game hunter infiltrates the Bavarian forest, stalks Adolf Hitler (unnamed) at his mountain retreat in Bergof. While the whole mission is an unofficial "sporting stalk", that's not what the Nazi guards think when they find him on a cliff with their Führer in his sights. The Hunter is given a choice: either sign a document admitting that this was an assassination attempt sanctioned by the British Government or endure torture and who knows what else. His interrogator is a smooth fellow sportsman called Major Quive-Smith, who is well aware of who this famous rogue hunter is, and while skeptical about the claim of a "sporting stalk", is eager to exploit the propaganda advantage presented. But the hunter refuses to sign, so he's given back his documents and taken back to the cliff and thrown over; the plan is that Quive-Smith will find the body the next morning while on a hunting excursion, and announce to the world the bungled assassination attempt by the greatest safari hunter in the world.

read LR's review »»

Household: Rogue Male

Alan Furst: Mission To Paris
Random House 2012

§ Ah, France... where communists and fascists compete to prove who is the most liberal. But what the heck -- great wine, great women, ridiculous cars... and where every traffic cop looks like Charles de Gaulle. Too bad the Vichy crowd shot some Americans when the Allies landed in Morocco in 1942. A misunderstanding, obviously, just like Vichy. That France was largely Nazified following its occupation by the Germans in June 1940 is well known, but just how did this situation evolve? Was it really the rape and subjugation of one sovereign state by another... or was there a culture of compliance within the French government and public gestated by fear, ennui, and Nazi money? Was this collaborationist desire obvious and manifest in Paris in 1938-39, say? This pre-WW II Euro-schizo landscape is what Alan Furst chooses to explore in his latest spy novel, Mission To Paris.

read LR's review »»

Furst: Mission to Paris

Andre Agassi: Open, an autobiography
Vintage Books 2010

"Opponents are mere road cones"

§ This is a damn good read. In fact, when you pause for a sip of Primitivo, you think, how could Agassi have written this? It's fluid, literate, so hip and in the moment it could be a Beat novel, somewhere between I Jan Cremer and The Subterraneans... o.k. maybe it's a bit schmaltzy here and there, so let's say On The Road. How could a tennis player who says he dropped out in Grade IX have written this? Maybe Steffi Graf gave him a Vulcan mind meld. You have another sip of Primitivo, maybe a potato chip. You think, this guy won all the slams and some, and when he was mere 10 years old whipped Jim Brown the NFL and Blaxploitation movie star mano o mano for five hundred bucks at some private Las Vegas club. Unreal... although he says he lied to the ATP panel about the circumstances that led to his failure of a routine drug test. He says he deliberately tanked games, lied routinely during interviews. A ghost writer maybe? No such name on the jacket. An editor who does more than edit? Possibly. The street eloquence is stunning, the dramatizations and string dialogue ace copy... yet didn't Hemingway say anyone could write a novel in the 1st person?

Andre Agassi: Open

Well, when you get to the end -- and you will get to the end -- you'll find a page of acknowledgments, and the secret is revealed: Agassi hired himself a writing coach (of course, of course) called J.R. Moehringer. What a team! Just get Andre on the couch with some Tequila, get him to spill it all into a recorder, and rachet it down from there. Brooke Shields... hmm, wasn't she the Blue Lagoon chick? While their relationship wasn't exactly The Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman, Brooke is a big woman, so it was easy for her to mess with Andre's head, i.e. when he watches her lick "Joey's" hand during a guest spot shoot in the TV series "Friends", flees the studio, drives like a madman to Vegas, trashes his pad, throws his Wimbledon and US Open trophies through the window. "It's just acting, Andre," says Brooke later. Sure, baby. You can understand the Champ's way of thinking when you realize tennis is 50% head games.

But forget the soap operas, forget Barbra Streisland and AA's questionable taste in music. There are some powerful psychological insights about what it's like to play championship tennis. "Tennis is just a form of pugilism," says Agassi. You believe him, especially when it comes to Jimmy Connors, who never cracked a smile in his presence. As he was beating Connors in the US Open, a fan shouts, "He's just a punk, Jimmy -- you're a champion!" Connors never gave up the rivalry graciously, and years later is still looking at Agassi with the cold homicidal stare of The Rifleman. Even Boris Becker -- and he and Agassi had a big mutual hate -- swallowed his bile and phoned his congratulations (via John McEnroe) when AA first won the French Open. Well, he had to. Agassi had his number: Boris always stuck his tongue out in the direction he was going to serve.

US Open, 1995. Grudge match against Becker. "The crowd is now wild. They seem to have figured it out, that this is personal, that those two guys don't like each other; that we're settling old scores.... Becker feeds on their energy. He blows more kisses at Brooke, smiling wolfishly. It worked once, why not do it again?" But Agassi outlasts Becker, wins the match, and when it comes to the final handshake at the net, "I leave him standing there like a Jehovah's Witness on my doorstep." Ugly... funny ugly.

We don't all play tennis, and if we do, we don't all play like champions. But most of us like to think we play life like champions, so there's a lot of common human insight in this autobio, a lot of truth. Agassi makes a great protagonist. Maybe you're driving along in your car and you hear him doing an interview on NPR. He's eloquent, speaks well and maybe you're surprised when you learn it's that punk Agassi and he's not only talking about the old days but today, his marriage to Steffi Graf and the charter school for disadvantaged kids he's started up in Vegas. He's pure rock and roll. You think, I'm gonna get this book... and maybe I'll get two or three because I know others who will dig it.

Andre Agassi: Open. Autobiography or novel?

Get it at Amazon: USA | Canada | UK | Australia

Dale Pendell: Seeking Faust
Published by Scarlet Imprint 2014

§ Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, like Goethe’s, sought power, pleasure and, above all, knowledge. In Dale Pendell’s extraordinary re-invention of the archetypal drama, it is Faust’s servant Wagner, reborn in a modern setting, who seeks his master’s ‘secret intercept twixt world of matter and the world of mind.’

Brother Paul reviews »»

who is it?

Matthew Levi Stevens: The Magical Universe of William Burroughs
Published by Mandrake of Oxford 2014

§ Since he wrote his Last Words in July 1997, only to die of a heart attack weeks later, mythologies of William Seward Burroughs have continued to morph and multiply in magazines, documentaries and, increasingly, via critical studies. As long ago as 1971 Eric Mottram’s The Algebra of Need had analysed Burroughs’ discourse of addiction as a metaphor for consumerist society and its media - ‘the black magic of mass communications’.

Now - to name only a few publications - we have academic papers on ‘Burroughs in the Age of Globalisation’, a survey of his literary influences by Michael Stevens in The Road to Interzone, and an ‘authorised biography’ Call Me Burroughs by London counterculture survivor Barry Miles who had access to the archives of WSB’s literary executor James Grauerholz.

Matthew Levi Stevens, however, has chosen to explore a previously taboo zone of the Burrovian mythos - not Burroughs’ interest in guns, nor the accidental shooting of his wife Joan Vollmer, nor his cameo role in the events surrounding the death of David Kammerer...

read Paul Green's full review »»

Burroughs Magucal Universe

Patrick Modiano: Suspended Sentences
three novellas translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti [2014] | originally published as: Chien de printemps (1993), Remise de peine (1988), and Fleurs de Ruine (1991)

§ Patrick Modiano. French, won this year's Nobel. Writes chick lit, you might think, as his work lacks serious conflict and thrives on the adolescent sensibility, that is, nostalgia for the first impressions of life. Literary writing tends to be "I-remember-when" -- indeed, the fading past is probably the most dynamic source of all art, except for near-field trauma such as war or love or illness. The relaxed feel to his writing has to be a large part of his appeal, the poetic placement of his imagery within the recollection. He paints rather than reports; he photographs rather than judges; he smiles rather than frowns.

read LR's full review »»

Patrick Modiano: Suspended Sentences

Martin Cruz Smith: Stalin's Ghost [2007]

Was coming back to the house with some supplies around noon, stopped at the lights to wait for the left-turn signal. In the rear view mirror I see a guy in a gold compact SUV behind me, got a book in one hand and something in the other... hand goes to the mouth and he puffs some smoke and I'm thinking what's this, one of those electronic cigarettes? He rolls down the window. Notice a couple of those pine scent danglers hanging above the dash, so I guess he does a lot of smoking and toaking. He sets down his book and it's a small pipe he's got, hash or crack or something. Lights a match, fires it up again. Young guy. Glasses. Looks professional, a bit like my son, but younger. Thirty-five maybe. The green arrow starts flashing and I make my turn.

He pulls up beside me at the next light, and he's still multi-tasking, no hands on the wheel. He hangs his hand with book out the driver window, like he's shaking some ash from it. Holy Christ, it's Stalin's Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith -- I just finished reading that!

more »»»

Martin Cruz Smith: Stalin's Ghost

The Terminal Press

Deep Ends: The JG Ballard Anthology 2014 [The Terminal Press]

§ The enigma of JG Ballard -- who was he really? The man who claimed he never wanted to leave the Japanese prison camp outside Shanghai where he spent his childhood during WW II, was then repatriated back to England, later to become a famous counter-culture writer? A prophet in a white linen suit who drove his saloon to the Mediterranean every summer, a single parent who cooked sausages and mash with one eye on the TV, the other on the kids... or one of the few writers of his generation who was literate enough in scientific culture to write fictions that transcended CP Snow's famous 'Two Cultures' (Science vs. Humanities) abyss? Or was Ballard all of this and more?

For scholars and deep cover fans, perhaps the contributions by JGB's daughters Beatrice and Fay are the best clues. A memoir from Bea, an interview with Fay. At times you might be left uneasy by some of the questions and some of the details, yet the portrait that emerges is as luminescent as a disembodied Magritte head sphere. If the closest to a Science Fiction life-style Philip K. Dick ever got was a junkie's hypodermic needle, for Ballard it was driving a zombie Armstrong-Siddley and relaxing with a book below some fake silver palms on a beach recliner in his study. Crazy... fun crazy. Academic Mods and Rocker voyeurs rejoice: Deep Ends delivers the mother lode.

Deep Ends: Ballard Anthology 2014

Well, it even gets crazier and madness is always a good sign. Would you ride through London on the public transportation system accompanied by a JGB dummy? In the late 1960s Andy Warhol hired impersonators to stand in for him and do a series of talks at public galleries and universities. Needless to say, he didn't view it as fraud, even when he used a dwarf who bore no resemblance to him at all. It was all part of the art mojo, part of the expression, and Ian Sinclair's reprise of a 2002 London reading at the Barbican to celebrate the work of JGB is like that. JGB was too ill to attend, so a life-size photo dummy was used as a stand-in. Not quite as avant garde as Jeremy Bentham's post-mortem taxidermy as an auto-icon... JGB's totem is more Blackpool than Egyptian, more Warhol than Francis Bacon perhaps.

It's this kind of performance art that makes Deep Ends such a treat. At times it's a photo-montage of splatter art, photo documentary, literary autopsy, Space Atlas eclecticism, counter-culture randomness, and outlaw impressionism in search of a theme. You can open the book and start browsing and reading anywhere, sometimes in reverse. You can read it sober, you can read it drunk; in fact you don't have to read it at all, you can just look.

It's as McLuhanesque as you can get in the print medium. A lot of the material is like the Blues 'call and response' narrative, many of the contributors working within the Ballardian echo. You think you know The Terminal Beach? Mike Bonsall provides a cgi mapping of the nuclear dream island. D. Harlan Wilson delivers a metafiction based loosely on the Wind From Nowhere and goes from there. And Ana Barrado is once again in the infra-red dream mode, delivering phototropic images that are at once both Floridian pop art and Ballardian fantasy.

You want to know about Ballardian movies? There's a thoughtful interview by Rick McGrath with filmmaker Solveig Nordlund [Low Flying Aircraft] and an analytical profile of James Runcie's Shanghai Jim by Pippa Tandy. There's... well, there's so much interesting comment and expression... Paul Green on The Watchtowers... Christopher Cokinos on A User's Guide To The Millennium... so much, so much... even a poetic Shintoism supposedly written by JGB as an introduction to a 1980 Ikko Narahara photography book. Did Ballard really write this piece, herein called Crystal of the Sea? You be the judge.

An uncle of mine once led a book burning of The Naked Lunch. In those days he slept with a revolver below the pillow as he was a municipal politician somewhere in Northern Ireland. If he was alive today and tried that with Deep Ends, it would explode in his face. Amigos, this stuff is hot.

Editor Rick McGrath has gone with the title "Deep Ends" to play off Ballard's aesthetic obsession with abandoned swimming pools and (perhaps) the intellectual responses of this year's contributors. Once again this "all you need to know about Ballard and some" exceeds its own mytho-synergic mandate. It's nice lookin' product: 75 lb paper in the 12 by 9 format with some beautiful art work and Wharholic media design, pretty enough for the coffee table, yet sturdy enough to whack an Agatha Christie reader or a West Nile mosquito.

Get your copy here: Amazon USA | Canada | UK »»»

Or eBay: US hardcover | US softcover | UK hard | UK soft »»»

Leonardo Sciascia: EQUAL DANGER [1971]

"All my books are the story of a series of historical delusions seen in the light of the present"

Sciascia (1921-89). Sicilian. Beautiful writer... and you wonder why he never won the Big One, as he's better than most. Might be the genre -- crime -- or the salon impressionism of his style, the old world rhetoric underlying the modernism. Borges comes to mind -- acrostic plots that solve nothing, leave you out of words this side of the metaphysical horizon. This isn't Lee Child, isn't fiction for dummies. Early Sartre... Stendhal, certainly. The conversational voice, the aesthetic discoursing that moves between the essay narrative and the dramatized exchange.

§ Equal Danger: it's like a pyramid scheme, where each victim confides his situation to the next victim, and Death follows like a virus. A DA prosecutor called Varga is shot; the body is found, a flower in its hand. Inspector Rogas, a cultured bon vivant, is summoned, but barely is his investigation underway when a judge is shot in a nearby town. The same assassin is assumed. Rogas quickly fixes on revenge as the likely motive and a convicted pharmacist as the most likely suspect. More assassinations follow, always members of the judiciary. After seven, Rogas' superiors transfer him to the Political Crimes Department, even though he's convinced it's Cres, the pharmacist who's gone underground, may have assumed a new identity, even modest plastic surgery.

"The way it happens in asylums, Rogas thought, where you always run into the man who stops you to confide about his Utopia, his Civitus Dei, his phalanstery."

Sciascia: Equal Danger

Strangely, the "political" and "revenge" hypotheses converge. Rogas interviews a neurotic magazine editor called Galano -- a guest of Nocosis, a Voltairian author -- who is convinced his phone is tapped. Even when Rogas intrudes on a soiree at the Minister of Justice's apartment and finds Galano present with a number of revolutionaries, he raves against the police, claims he is a victim of a conspiracy. True enough, he is. It's funny stuff; one suspects Sciascia had specific targets in mind with a couple of these characters. In his afterword, Sciascia says, "I sketched the story of a man who goes about killing judges, and of a police officer who, at a certain point, becomes the man's alter-ego... but then I went off in a different direction...." No kidding. There's Nocio's free verse diatribe and a polemic about middle-class writers -- which might be the point at which the story collapses for some readers, but for others, gets really interesting. There's a "phalanstery" of sorts in an urban forest where not only the Minister and the President of the Supreme Court have apartments, but also the suspect Cres who is now masquerading as a wealthy Portuguese businessman. Or so Inspector Rogas thinks.

In LS's brilliant novel To Each His Own (1968), the amateur investigator Professor Laurana ends up dead in a sulphur mine for his trouble. In The Day of the Owl (1961) Bellodi the Caribinieri Captain is shuffled off the case by the "Establishment" in Rome when he gets too close to a solution, but at least he retains his life. Rogas ends up in a museum gallery, mired in symbolism and... well, you'll have to read the novel to find out.

Great lines, old world cynicism, with a narrative that unfolds like a series of suspended chords. Not too long -- maybe a novella, maybe a novel -- like all of Sciascia's works. You can find it here:

Amazon Canada | USA | UK »»

Dino Buzzati: The Tartar Steppe (1945)

"On the northern plain there was no longer anything suspicious to be seen on the fringe of the eternal mists"

§ For those who aren't wild about naturalist detail and prefer a more allegorical narrative, the Italian writer Dino Buzzati (1906-72) might be your man. Not widely known in the English-speaking world, he is gaining respect following the republication of his novel The Tartar Steppe in paperback. His style? Somewhere between the paranormal imagery of Stephen Crane (Blue Hotel/Red Badge) and the dream journey logic of Franz Kafka (The Castle). Some say The Tartar Steppe owes everything to the example set by Kafka, although this strange novel probably owes more to Lermontov (A Hero of Our Time, 1841) and the Tartar adventure-romance novels of the 1905 Nobel Prize winner Henryck Sienkiewicz, a Polish author who excelled at historical Tartar stories involving the Golden Horde. Quite possibly Buzzati read a lot of Sienkiewicz as a child. Certainly The Tartar Steppe often reads like a fairytale for adults, although there's nothing childish about its modernist metaphysical narrative.

Buzzati: The Tartar Steppe

The 'first impression' sensibility, the anxious naivete of the protagonist Lieutenant Giovanni Drogo is like that of a child dispatched on a long journey. His destination? Fort Bastiani, a forgotten outpost in the mountains facing the mysterious desert known as the Tartar Steppe. Even though he arrives at the Fort, he never really reaches his destination as he longs to be somewhere else. He believes his posting is a mistake, so will be temporary. The Fort has stone walls, ramparts, battlements, courtyards, stables... redoubts -- the details are generic, yet poetic like a painting. The soldiers have names, swords, guns, dream of being somewhere else, but who are they? What nationality? They could be toys or chess pieces, even though one or two die by misadventure. At first, reality is two-dimensional, then three-dimensional, with the fourth dimension -- Time -- barely understood, like the white desert and the Northern Kingdom somewhere beyond the horizon. In a sense, the characters are paralysed by Time. They hallucinate, they procrastinate, act out rituals, exchange passwords, respond to trumpets, play chess, play bridge, drink, long for another garrison, the city -- but what city? What Time?

"On the yellow courtyard they (the 7 guards) made a black pattern that was good to see"

The Tartar Steppe was written on the eve of WW II, so one is tempted to lock it into an Italian context. A garrison on the North Shore (Libya), perhaps, and the Tartars as a euphemism for the wild unknown of the Italian colonial adventure. The soldiers are waiting for a war that never seems to come. Yet it's elusive, like a dream that includes amnesia. As so much of the action is psychological and the landscape metaphysical, it could be anywhere, yet the author was Italian. The mystery of its being is the mystery of modern man. Even though we are preoccupied with the cliches of everyday living, we dream in mythologies as we wait on the edge of the great unknown. We put childhood behind us, but in fact we never leave it. We long for love -- maternal, romantic, cosmic -- but love is not for a soldier posted in the desolate regions of the Frontier. And yet we know this place, even if our passports deny it.

Some might find the home stretch a bit preachy and predictable, therefore mildly disappointing. But the eloquent style remains consistent.

So, The Tartar Steppe -- literary ephemera or masterpiece?

Easy to find in Italian or French... but English? While you might want a 1st Edition, the hardcover (US 1952) is almost impossible to find at any price and collections of Buzzati's short stories are pulling hundreds of dollars on the Internet. Fear not, as you can find a cheap paperback of The Tartar Steppe new or used at Amazon (usually from a UK reseller) »»

Paco Ignacio Taibo II: An Easy Thing (A Hector Belascoaran Shayne Detective Novel Book I)

"It was up to him to defend himself against the myth of the super-detective, with its cosmopolitan and exotic delusions...."

§ Yes, you know: detective novels are a global pandemic and they're all the same, thank you very much... yawn. True, but this Mexican guy Taibo II (a.k.a. "PIT") can actually write outside the genre without the cliches killing your brain. It's fast food lit extremely well delivered, smoothly written with great figures of speech and a soft surrealist action driven by a likeable anti-hero called Hector Belascoaran Shayne (Spanish father, Irish mother) who perambulates around Mexico City at night (yes, he's an insomniac) listening to a DJ called El Cuervo (yes, he's an old school friend) on the radio as he goes about solving the crimes (or mysteries that could be crimes) with the dogged persistence of a Joycean Jackie Gleason. He shares an office with a plumber and a sewage engineer, so while satire is never far away, the action is more post-modern than farcical, and quite realistic unlike most post-modern narratives.

If Godard had written novels instead of making movies, this is the way they would've turned out.


PIT II An Easy Thing

§ If you graduated in the 1960s, there were a number of things you could do. You could join the army, or you could stay home and get stoned... or you could get stoned and write for an underground newspaper. What would you write about? How about the only thing that matters, that is, rock n roll.

Straight Man: Interviews & Photos from Vancouver's Underground Press 1970-1973 by Rick ("McDog") McGrath [Terminal Press, 2014] lays it all out in the unexpurgated voice of the 'new journalism', up close and in yer face as if you're a member of the band and left the tape recorder running long after the gig was over.

"McDog" was the best of the Straight's rock journalists. There were others later, such as Bob Geldof (Boomtown Rats) and Doug Bennett (Doug and the Slugs) but McDog was the best, he was the man when Middle Earth was Vancouver, B.C.

Remember when a short glass of draught was 10 cents, a baggie of weed 15 bucks? The Hippy Trail, Highway 101 between Middle Earth and SF? Your first piece of Free Love? Donovan? Smoking banana skin? Led Zeppelin 1? The Georgia Straight, Vancouver's voice of underground outrage, sold 50/50 outside the liquor stores & on the streets of the west coast by long hair hustlers...?

Rick McGrath: Straight Man

The Georgia Straight was started by Dan McLeod (and others) in 1967 in Vancouver, became one of the more famous underground newspapers spawned by the West Coast counter culture, like the Berkeley Barb, Good Times, The San Francisco Oracle, The L.A. Free Press and many many others, most of them short-lived productions dedicated to sex, drugs and rock n roll, with a strong anti-Vietnam/anti-draft political slant. In essence they were the street children of The Village Voice (New York) and The Realist (New York). The writing was usually raw lst person accounts (a revolt against the faceless 3rd person narratives of the institutional newspapers) which came to be known as "the new journalism", so personalized the writer would either let the subject hang himself or just hang him later. Little or no censorship. Psychedelic art, psychedelic music, psychedelic lit, psychedelic clothes, psychedelic sex, psychedelic death.

The Last Streetfighter: The History of the Georgia Straight »»

Read his interviews with Van Morrison, Led Zeppelin (Page and Plant), Savoy Brown (Kim Simmonds), Gordon Lightfoot (Gordie himself, at the Bayshore no less), Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels (crazy, crazy), Crowbar (listen to Kelly Jay whine about John Lennon because he wouldn't jam with them), Pentangle, Fleetwood Mac... perambulate with Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet), Pearls Before Swine (Tom Rapp), Al Neil... even Red Robinson, Vancouver's premier rockabilly DJ. Some of the stuff is hilarious. Not much of it is about music, yet it certainly reveals a lot about life on the road, being lost between cities and outer space.

Straight Man also includes articles about the Rolling Stones' movies Gimme Shelter and C**ksucker Blues, the complete Prisoner TV series and Sam Fuller's Shock Corridor... Plus unpublished photographs of Bob Dylan and The Band, Van Morrison, Larry Coryell, Tim Buckley and The Tubes.

Rock n Roll is like a mushroom: it grows best in the dark. Some great photos here, so dramatic and personal they almost glow. The book cover itself is a psychedelic cell, a world etched in acid by madmen and witches. Nice. Design by McDog himself.

Well, 'eat the document', folks. It'll take 40 years off your life.

Get Straight Man at Amazon »»»

§ Leonora Carrington, painter, novelist and short story writer. Women like this artist, recently deceased at 94, and men should, although they might find her fantasies too close to the nursery, too much of a Freudian coffin.

A Mexico City recluse, the 'bad debutante' was born in England (affluent northern industrial family), did the Left Bank, fled the Nazis, was confined for a period to a Spanish asylum (love sickness and/or war fear), found refuge in Mexico. It was through art school in Paris and London that she gravitated to surrealism. Ran off with the cradle-robbing Max Ernst who was, perhaps, her biggest technical influence. You might think she's another forgotten treasure, but in fact she was written about quite a bit, and her own works were published internationally. Yet she remains relatively unknown except to a few travellers and female academics.

Like Remedios Varo, her close friend, she found refuge from WW II in Mexico City, came under the muralist spell of indigenous Indian mysticism which blended easily with her atavistic primitivism. And like Remedios Varo the uterine quality of her fantastic imagery is rendered with a soft feminine touch, highly detailed draughting, and a Bosch-like dark humour. Sometimes cluttered, sometimes simple, her compositions are like elegant autopsies... could be Alice (in Wonderland) or an alien from an unknown planet... or a bagpiper levitating a fish. Birds morph as humans, humans morph as animals, and the totems of ancient civilizations invade the dreamscapes.

Lots of women figures -- always in "dress-up' -- robed and veiled like priestesses guarding the holy egg of life, conducting witchcraft ceremonies. Birds, horses... birds, dogs, cats... LC is the Beatrix Potter of the spirit world. Her mysticism is a paranoid mysticism, as if flesh dies when exposed to light. Fascinating.

read more »»»

Leonora Carrington

§ Rubem Fonseca. Very honest. Honesty and hypocrisy are perhaps his favorite themes. Line by line an excellent writer, strong oral voice (loves the 1st person confessional). Women are spared no mercy, and their men are often criminals, regardless of birth or place in society. His stories are frequently violent in a contemporaneous way without succumbing to ethnic conceit, even if the anthropological barbarism appears uniquely Brazilian. Rio is his landscape, yet his characters could be anywhere in the industrialized world. Behind the elegant machismo, there are often hints of sentimentality, pity, and moments of pure love. The humor is black, but never so black you can't share the criminal impulse, sympathize with the protagonists. Some are victims, some are opportunists, some are sociopaths, some are just plain mad.

Fonseca: the Taker & other stories

Fonseca: Winning the Game

Sometimes Fonseca's tales wobble on the edge of fantasy, like the daydreams of passive males longing to be free of anger or boredom. Incorrigible womanizers, homicidal drifters, homicidal professionals, geriatric victims, hitmen, hookers, philanthropists, nouveau riche, favelados... uninitiated boys, poets, and women... women... women. Beautiful women, not-so-beautiful women, slags, society queens, sexual servants, murderess', artists... the whole carioca palette. The stories? The soft cynicism of his narrative is relentless. Man visits the dentist to have a tooth pulled, considers the fee exorbitant, goes on a killing spree. Trio of geriatrics stage a revolt in an Orwellian hospice run by an Order of unnamed Brothers, take the Director hostage. Early morning commuter bus collides with a cow, plunges off a bridge, and as the rescuers deal with the dead and injured, hungry locals ignore the tragedy below, butcher the cow. A bored lawyer slips out in the evenings as his wife watches soap operas, uses his new car as a recreational killing machine. A Copacabana hit man becomes the hit. A man walks the old streets of Rio, maps the memory like Borges. A young boy comes of age in a ritual act of family cannibalism. A man cuddles his dying pet like a spouse in a final act of loneliness and love. A naive retiree volunteers to help the homeless, ends up as a organ donor. Etcetera.

Sick of ghetto lit, fat novels than read like chocolate, leave you gorged and stupid? Try the original narrative, the short story. Try Rubem Fonseca. Exotic, hip, poetic, clean and swift, leaves you with enough room in your brain to fill in the dots yourself.

The Taker & Other Stories is available from AMAZON »»

Winning the Game & Other Stories at Amazon»»

Saul Wolfe: The Space Virgins of the Third Reich [Gamaliel Publications 2014] [Amazon eBook]

'Virginal student Ruth loves vintage clothes and old movies - and lusts after her authoritarian Film Studies lecturer Mr Steel. She’s desperate to impress him by researching the obscure nineteen-fifties sci-fi B-movie ‘Space Virgins of the Third Reich’. Instead our heroine stumbles upon a sinister conspiracy rooted in the occult sciences of the Nazis, launching her on a voyage of wild sexual adventure....' So says the blurb, but --


§ J.G. Ballard never won the Nobel... but then, if you look at a list of those who did, you understand why. His heroes invariably choose to head in the wrong direction through the ruined landscapes of the soul, lost adventurers who are often swallowed by the raw unknown of the quantum universe. While he thought his fiction was optimistic, its scientific colorations hold no appeal for the bourgeois literati. No genuflections to the literary masterpieces of the past, no near-field homages to life in the welfare state, no easy Anglican moralizing, no feminine propaganda. His imagery comes from telescopes and microscopes, scientific papers and pulp fiction, old encyclopedias and the galleries of the surrealists. The secret of his writing is to be found in the metaphysical power of his metaphors and his ability to reconcile the unknown with the known.

more »»»

McGrath: The JG Ballard Book

Nightfreight: a post-modern blending of the crime comic narrative with the photo psycho optics of the pop-art blowup and the photo roman. Hot chick steals some serious art from a Montreal mafioso, hides out on the west coast. Anything can happen....

As the man says, it's "like roulette or blowing a chorus over some wild fiery rhythm...."

Check out a few panels from this sexy new graphic novel by John & Alexis Celona »»

Get NIGHTFREIGHT at Amazon »»

DF Bailey: Exit From America

America in decline, symbolized by its satellites falling from the sky, riots in the major cities, sexual corruption, ad hoc families, incest, apostasy, religious mania, madness... and cast of characters from the TV bourgeois to the urban homeless. Street drifters, hacker revolutionaries, artists, smug social workers, dopers, criminals, aging hippies... and into this societal illness wanders a recently widowed Canadian called Doyle on a nostalgic visit to San Francisco who is slowly but surely mobilized to restore the New Age dream of his youth.

Read a scene from this fine new novel by Don Bailey »»

Get EXIT FROM AMERICA at Amazon »»

§ Alfred Noyes: The Last Man

§ Everyone knows The Highwayman (1906) by Alfred Noyes (1880-1958), one of the more famous poems in the English language.

But did you know Alfred Noyes actually wrote a science fiction novel? His now forgotten 1940 tale, The Last Man (a.k.a No Other Man, USA) is like an Art Deco fairy tale for adults, and so it should be no surprise to learn that when Noyes taught at Princeton as a visiting Professor in the 20s, one of his students was F. Scott Fitzgerald. In common with many other writers of the period, Noyes was anti-war, and the poetic simplicity of The Last Man makes it a testament to human loneliness. The hero survives the death ray (similar to a neutron bomb -- people die, but not the landscape) because he's being held prisoner on an enemy submarine submerged just off the Isle of Wight.


Oedipus S: My Father's Doppelgänger Was A Serial Killer

Not only did his father murder the Black Dahlia in 1947, says retired LAPD detective Steve Hodel, he also became the Zodiac Killer... and his m.o. was art.

Steve Hodel: Most Evil

§ The recent death of Colin Wilson (1931-2013) was a classic 'Houdini' move -- 31-13 -- worthy of the New Age savant. CW wrote prolifically and compulsively, dared to go where many hadn't or wouldn't, combing the garbage dumps of human expression for signs of obsession, good or bad. Yes, he gave the Establishment the finger by seeking a new classicism. Mad men and women, serial killers, UFO mystics, circus acts... dangerous artists, dangerous writers, bent literary figures from history, pulp fiction, true crime, the occult and the paranormal... New Age before anyone thought of the term. CW's iconoclasm was a thing of beauty. Often denigated, his first book The Outsider (1956) is one of the masterpieces of his generation, a "novel" in non-fiction form whose shape-shifting protagonist defined us all in the Age of Nuclear Anxiety.

Revisit Brother Paul's (Paul Green) CC essay on the great existentialist Colin Wilson »»»»

Nostalgia For Unknown Cities. Londoner Ken Edwards' new book could be "fractal fiction" says Brother Paul.

London: City of Disappearances. Anthology by Iain Sinclair about the historic city using the impressions of various leading U.K. writers.

One Train Later. Police guitarist Andy Summers writes a classy memoir.

Malaparte: Portrait of a Surrealist. Ever wonder about the Axis writer Curzio Malaparte a.k.a Kurt Erich Suckert? His famous villa, his writing, his legend?

Helmut Newton: Death of A Voyeur. Lawrence Russell takes a retrospective look at Newton's life & work.

Glasgow Central. In search of Alexander Trocchi, the legendary Scottish underground writer.

Poetry Buzz. July 22 2005. The UK avant garde celebrates poet Allen Fisher against the tableaux of the London Tube bombings.

Acapulco. LR and friends relax in Mexico in the Garden of Sylvester Stallone.

Bergen. Brother Paul in Norway.

Rio de Piranha. Paddle with Mark Friesen along a jungle river in Ecuador in search of the deadly cayman.

Books: Kingdom Come [JG Ballard] Duende [Jason Webster] Dreaming to Some Purpose: The Autobiography of Colin Wilson [Wilson] Highrise [Ballard] Millennium People [JG Ballard] Light [M. John Harrison] Landor's Tower [Iain Sinclair] Super Cannes [JG Ballard] Before Night Falls [Reinaldo Arenas] Junk Mail [Will Self]

Trials: Lawrence Sutin's book on Aleister Crowley [Bro. Paul]
B.Traven's Mexican novel The Bridge [Cicero & Iago]



CC Audio Features


Culture Court | CC Features

CC Books | © 1998-2025 | Lawrence Russell