Sunday, May 27, 2018
Lot of housekeeping to get through today, so bear with me.
1. My friend Lawrence Maddox is making his second appearance in this column. He sent me a free e-copy of this book, which includes the title piece and another story.
2. If you published (or were published in) a book of mystery stories this year, you can send me a free copy if you want, just like Maddox. I promise to start reading it. If it's the best story I read that week I'll review it here. Contact me for instructions.
3. Is this a short story? What's the defining factor? The classic definition is fiction that you can read in one sitting. It would take a lot of sitzfleisch to read some of the stories at the end of this list in one round. Another definition used to be that it was something too short to publish as a book, but e-books can work at any length. This one is 25,000 words, which is long for a novella, short for a novel. I'm going to review it. If you disagree with my verdict, as I have said before, get your own blog.
4. (Trust me, we're getting closer.) I'm sure you have heard or read someone say that in a dangerous situation it felt like time slowed down. A few years ago a scientist decided to test this concept. How could he do that? Well his hypothesis was that when it felt like time was slowing down what really happened was that the brain sped up. He found a clever way to test that and alas, found that it wasn't true.
Why am I bringing this up? Because for Frank, the narrator of Fast Bang Booze, it's true. His nervous system really does work faster than everyone else. For example, he can see a punch coming and get out of the way. That makes him a heck of a driver, and good in a fight. Unfortunately it also makes his voice come out as a "schizoid turkey gobble."
He can slow his brain down with a depressant, i.e. alcohol, which allows him to talk like a normal person. But then he loses his, well, super powers, too. What a dilemma.
As this tale starts, he is being discovered by Popov, a Russian gangster who decides such a fast fighter would be a useful addition to his crew. Popov is arranging that noir cliche, One Last Job, in this case a drug deal which will make him or break him. This being noir, a whole lot of people and things will get broken, shot, tied up, crashed, stolen, drugged, whipped, etc. It's a wild ride and it reads a lot faster than 25,000 words sounds.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
"The Last Sitcom" by Lawrence Maddox, at Beat To A Pulp, 2013.
I remember reading a supposedly-true story (maybe in the I, Anonymous column of The Stranger?) about someone who found a cell phone on election night 2008. The owner had been texting and receiving viciously racist jokes. The finder composed a note in the owner's name confessing that his racism was a disguise for his sexual longing for Black men. He sent it to everyone on the owner's mailing list except his mother.
I was reminded of this by Maddox's story (freely available, by the way), about a sitcom writer who wanders into a computer cafe in L.A. and discovers that the previous user hadn't signed out. Turns out he was a member of a band called the Hillbilly Death Squad.
Doug, our alleged hero, decides to amuse himself by sending out some inappropriate emails in the name of the musician. As you can guess, bad things result.
It's a funny story, a sort of good luck/bad luck roller coaster as Doug and the musicians strive to get the upper hand. As for who wins, well, it isn't so much that have to find out for yourself, as that you have to decide for yourself.