Possible Group Reads

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Possible Group Reads

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aug 5, 2006, 5:39 am

I'd be happy (with thanks to TheBlindHog, cogitno, and papalaz) to read a Jim Thompson work together, if you're interested; I'll surely pick him up on my own if you're not. Charles Willeford sounds rather fun... I've also wanted to read some Cornell Woolrich (whom I have only in short stories) or David Goodis.

Meanwhile... if anyone else is as interested in better understanding the film or literary genres of the group as I am - I do have some suggestions for us.

On film noir:

The volumes which look most appropriate for a group read in general, and in length, price, and relevance to our discussions are...

Film Noir by Andrew Spicer

Blackout: World War II and the Origins of Film Noir by Sheri Chinen Biesen

Street With No Name: A History of Classic American Film Noir, by Andrew Dickos

Both of the latter are well-reviewed on Amazon, though no copies seem to be present in LT. I'd also consider More than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts or The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir if one of those was strongly preferred. The trio I've listed doesn't appear to require as intense an interest in film as, say, most of the books written or edited by Alain Silver, etc.

On harboiled/noir books:

I suggest Hardboiled America: Lurid Paperbacks and the Masters of Noir, by Geoffrey O'Brien. I've seen nothing to rival it, and both genres are covered. It's supposed to be illustrated with a number of vintage covers, as well as discussing the authors and books of the pupl era.

Do any of those sound good? Or do you know of something better? First choices, second choices, or no choices at all?? Comments, please! ;)

aug 5, 2006, 5:40 am

Sorry, guys - I did mean the pulp era, of course!

aug 5, 2006, 5:44 am

(And by the way... do you notice how noir just seems to breed hyphenated titles? It's even worse than most subjects. I'd ascribe it to some deep inner conflict in America in the 40s, but.... I'll spare you. ;) )

aug 5, 2006, 5:57 am

A Jim Thompson group read sounds like fun. Which one though? May I humbly suggest After Dark, My Sweet because I've got a copy :)

aug 5, 2006, 6:58 am

And I'd be happy to get one. :)

Anyone else for Jim Thompson? After Dark, My Sweet's fine with me, but I'm open to doing one of his others; whatever we can get the best group together for.

And... a non-fiction read could be concurrent, or previous, or following, depending. :) These don't have to be mutually exclusionary. I know it may be up fewer people's alley, but if even two or three people are interested (besides me), it might be well worth going ahead. What do you think?

aug 5, 2006, 7:04 am

You mean you want to read some sort of academic study of the genre concurrently. Fine, but your reading suggestions might be hard to get hold of this side of the pond.

aug 5, 2006, 7:16 am

Hardboiled America: Lurid Paperbacks and the Masters of Noir - sounds really cool to me especially since I love the paperbacks and the covers. After Dark My Sweet huh? Okay I'm going to have to try and find that! I like to own rather than borrow when it's available. Who knows I might already have it! Going to upgrade my account this weekend and start really loading the books in.

aug 5, 2006, 7:26 am

More or less.

I mentioned 'concurrently' as an option, but think after might be easier. Also, I tried to stay with the intelligent, yet steer clear of the most arcane and overly-academic (as well as the fan books and film guides). The only book I mentioned not available at Amazon UK is More than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts.

As the prices will mean more to you than to me, if you or any fellow readers-over-the-water happen to look - let me know whether any of them are in a good (acceptable) price range for you. - Presuming you're interested! :)

aug 5, 2006, 7:27 am

devilbuny: So do I. Both love to own my books, and love old paperback covers (often).

aug 5, 2006, 11:02 am

UK publisher Orion has been releasing noir titles under the CrimeMasterworks imprint. They've been showing up at the local B&N bargain bins at $5 each. I haven't seen After Dark, My Sweet but it has been reprinted a number of times and shouldn't be hard to come by, so I am all for it.

aug 5, 2006, 6:02 pm

Great! Glad to have a few of us. :)

aug 6, 2006, 6:49 am

All right I will begin my hunt here. With two kids, two dogs and working full time - sometimes it's easier/quicker to buy it on the internet. So it might take a week or so for me to get my copies.

aug 6, 2006, 6:53 am

Ohh another thing - in my searches for After Dark, My Sweet I see that there is also a movie. Anyone see it? Any good?

aug 6, 2006, 7:32 am

Well - as I said in my first post about it, on the original thread, I'll be gone starting Wednesday, and not back till the 19th/20th. I thought starting either then or at the first of September would give us plenty of time on books. Mine are also likeliest to be ordered. Is that ok? Otherwise, I'll scour the local bookstores, and check in (as able) on my trip. What sounds best to you - devilbuny, tartalom, TheBlindHog, and anyone else who's interested?

aug 6, 2006, 8:33 am

roger. wilco. 1st sept it is

aug 6, 2006, 11:16 am

I saw the movie not long after it came out, about 20 years ago or more, I think. I recall it being suitably dark with plenty of crosscurrents and subterfuges. What I very much doubt is that it accurately conveyed the inner dialogues and motivations of the central characters. I am anxious to read the book and make the comparison (albeit my memory of the movie is a little fuzzy). Happily, I saw the movie before reading the book, which is the model I find works best for me.

If you are a movie buff, The Grifters is another of his books that was later turned into a film.

aug 6, 2006, 11:18 am

Regarding message 14, count me in for the Sept 1 start date.

aug 6, 2006, 8:01 pm

Grand. I'll go on that assumption, unless we hear massive protest. ;)

aug 7, 2006, 5:31 am

Sept 1st - good for me!

aug 7, 2006, 8:57 pm

I will unlikely be able to obtain a copy of After Dark, My Sweet within the designated time frame. Order times are 4 - 6 weeks. Experience tells that 6 weeks is a likely minimum.

While this is moderately disappointing, I was very surprised when I found that not one of the three suburban bookstores I visited contained a single copy of Chandler, Hammett, Thompson, Cain or Ross MacDonald. This is more than a disappointment, it is sad. One complete shelf to Patricia Cornwell, not a single slot for Chandler.

It appears that retailers have completely replaced booksellers.

aug 7, 2006, 9:58 pm

Our kindly uncle, ABE, has 135 copies of the book with prices beginning at $3.17:


aug 7, 2006, 10:15 pm

Mmm... Cogitno, I'm sorry. I was thinking of usual timing here: from used sellers, one to four weeks; new, 2 to 5 days. Either we can defer even further, or plan to read or discuss over a long enough time you can still join, if you'd like to.

Also, in that case, we may want to think ahead (quickly) about subsequent reads. If we plan one or two now, it'd allow you time. Anyone up for thinking about it?

aug 7, 2006, 10:57 pm

No, Please go ahead! Four to Six weeks in more than adequate. As TheBlindHog pointed out, uncle ABE has sources for me. There are three local sellers listed (within say 2000 miles), and they represent a reserve position. I sought alternatives given that their prices for used books is more than the Publishers listed new price; which was annoying rather than prohibitive.

My post was more a reaction to disappointment with the state of suburban booksellers, than it was with the difficulty of sourcing After Dark, My Sweet. Disappointment may be an understatement: I am obliged to return to one of these retailers this afternoon with an apology.

aug 8, 2006, 1:41 am

Well, I'm glad you have the decency to make apologies when you need to. Not everyone does. I agree with you that that state of affairs is something close to scandalous; and even maddening. Fortunately for me, I've no memory of looking in the booksellers you'd expect to be useful here and finding them so denuded of important genre authors. Used bookstores are, of course, hit or miss, in contrast... but to find none of them is sad, indeed.

We'll go ahead on a Sept. 1st schedule, but hope your own book arrives quickly, and not hurry our conversation. (It's so slim a volume, I expect the actual reading will be quite fast.)

aug 8, 2006, 5:38 am

I ordered my copies of After Dark My Sweet and the big old Hardboiled America from Ebay yesterday. I sent in Best Offers and they were both accepted! So hopefully depending on the seller I should see both of mine sometime next week or early the week after.

For future reads I have two Chandler's I haven't read - Pick up on Noon Street and The Simple Art of Murder and it looks like from the touchstones those are both short story collections! Damn. All my other Noir-like books are either by obscure authors or borderline genre. I guess I'll be ordering more books! :)

aug 8, 2006, 5:48 am

Glad to hear it, devilbuny! :)

As the former (Pick Up on Noon Street) seems simply an excerpt from the latter (The Simple Art of Murder), I'd go with The Simple Art of Murder. Anyone else interested in this, or do we have other thoughts for the third book?

Hardboiled America seems an eminently appropriate second.

aug 8, 2006, 5:56 am

Actually, I'll hazard a couple of thoughts on a third book: David Goodis' Shoot the Piano Player, or Cornell Woolrich's Rendezvous in Black. Both classics, of a kind.

Only five of us have Rendezvous in Black; a number of others (13 to 15) have Shoot the Piano Player. That's still a minority, though, and the ratings tended to be high. Any takers?

aug 8, 2006, 6:31 am

Shoot the piano player looks interesting, was that made into a film starring Charles Aznavour?

aug 8, 2006, 8:17 am

Yep, aka 'Shoot the Pianist' in the UK. Thanks to IMDB.

aug 8, 2006, 9:21 am

I'd welcome an excuse to re-read some Derek Raymond - anyone else?

aug 8, 2006, 10:43 am

Sure The Devil's home on leave is the only one I've read so far. I'd welcome the excuse to try another one

aug 8, 2006, 12:57 pm

If it's something easier to come by than I was Dora Suarez, sure...

aug 8, 2006, 1:22 pm

How about How the Dead Live? NOT the Will Self crap that touchstones gives me. Or the devil's home on leave?

aug 8, 2006, 1:23 pm

Sorry - scrub that Tartalom's already read that - dead man upright?

Factory series definitely

aug 8, 2006, 2:05 pm

dead man upright ok papalaz, I'll try and land a copy. And in defence of Will Self, I like his restaurant criticism ;)

Redigerat: aug 8, 2006, 2:59 pm

My longer message disappeared, and now I have to go; but I CANNOT join a read of Dead Man Upright; costs for US copies are totally out of my range... with shipping from the UK, even a cheaper copy may be too much. I'd made a list of about five Derek Raymond books I could afford. - But if you really want to read this one together, I'd hate to discourage you. I just can't join.

aug 8, 2006, 3:05 pm

Oh! Oh well. We'll find summat else then.

aug 8, 2006, 3:53 pm

Come on Eurydice - give us a clue, we want you in on this

aug 8, 2006, 3:55 pm

Tartalom, Will Self isn't as bad as I make out - he couldn't be

aug 8, 2006, 7:57 pm

Alright, papalaz - I am home now, and how can I resist being wanted? So, the books I can afford to get are: He Died With His Eyes Open, Crust on Its Uppers, A State of Denmark, Devil's Home on Leave, or the aforementioned How the Dead Live. Nightmare in the Street is being reprinted and released December 1 (here at least). If it were out now, I'd add it.

Any of those appeal?

aug 8, 2006, 8:57 pm

(message 27) I just finished Shoot the Piano Player. It went down smooth and fast, as noir should, albeit with a bit of a pulpy aftertaste. I've never read Raymond Derek (message 40) and am willing to give him a try. Horace McCoy's They Shoot Horses, Don't They is supposed to be a high spot and may be worth a future look as well. There are 185 copies on ABE starting at under $2.

aug 8, 2006, 9:08 pm

TheBlindHog: excellent. I'd be happy to take on They Shoot Horses, Don't They... or pretty much anything in terms of covering the high spots of noir (and hardboiled) writing. If we did read Shoot the Piano Player, would you enjoy contributing to the discussion anyway? I'm afraid you've only further whetted my appetite.

Anyone interested in a more ambitious project to read great noir (and a bit about it), or shall we stick to a three-book trial run?

aug 8, 2006, 9:48 pm

I've just had a look at Derek Raymond's wiki bio. His life reads like a Noir novel!

I'd be happy to take on a more ambitious review of the "genre". But I'm in the (maybe) unusual position of only taking on assignments when they suit me. In a prior life it would have been very very difficult.

What would be the critical mass? 4 or 6 participants? or more?

aug 8, 2006, 10:11 pm

Five or six, I think. More would be great, but five or six would mean not too much strain on any of us, and a nice variety of views.

We're what, 2/3 of the way there? ;)

I'd also say, no one would have to do every book we chose - so long as most of us did most of them, and perhaps once in a while others joined in for a particular read. I'd just hate to get below four. (For any given book.)

aug 9, 2006, 5:37 am

Those all sound really good - haven't read any of those authors so I can't pipe in with comments. I would have to go in search of all those books but that is okay - it's fun. And it's an excuse to buy more books!

He died with his eyes open and They shoot horses, don't they just have such great titles that I am game for either of those.

After we get through the popular authors we should target some of the more obscure - does anyone know do they do any reprints of Vin Packer? I have a few of her books - I only think one in my collection is Noir though, but she did write some good ones that fit in the genre.

aug 10, 2006, 4:41 pm

I ordered After Dark, My Sweet yesterday. Hope I can keep up with you guys!

Redigerat: aug 10, 2006, 8:59 pm

(Message 46) There are 346 results for Vin Packer on ABE. There are 11 reasonably priced copies of Dark Don't Catch Me. Here is a link to the results page: http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?bx=off&sts=t&ds=30&bi=...

And to a page devoted to Vin Packer covers: http://www.mekerr.com/vinpacker.html

Vin Packer is a pseudonym of Marijane Meaker, AKA M.E. Kerr, AKA Mary James.

Under the Packer pseudonym, Meaker wrote about the people and headlines of the day. Thus, one novel was loosely based on Peyton Place author Grace Metalious and another, The Evil Friendship, was loosely based on the childhood misadventure of Anne Perry.

Dark Don't Catch Me was written in response to the murder of Emmett Till in segregated Mississsippi. There is an informative piece here: http://www.sarahweinman.com/confessions/2005/01/some_books_real.html

A very nice find, devilbuny!

aug 10, 2006, 10:40 pm

Hey guys - the Vin Packer does sound good. I'd be fascinated to read the one on Anne Perry, especially. My vacation's wonderful so far, but I wanted to poke my head in. I'll catch you on any other active threads...!

aug 11, 2006, 4:18 am

Vin Packer Yes, that does sound interesting. Maybe we can have one of these for the second group read.

aug 11, 2006, 5:07 pm

One of you - devilbuny, maybe? - took me up on the idea of Hardboiled America, which I suggested as a second group read, and already ordered it. So... I'm not sure the touchstone is going to the same book, but it's here somewhere. In any case, I'd like to do the book, though if only two of us are interested, there could be a concurrent group read of something else. Otherwise, Vin Packer could come in somewhere soon thereafter.

aug 12, 2006, 1:42 pm

I have my copy of Hardboiled America coming soon! I think that book will give us some other ideas for future reads.

Vin Packer has always fascinated me because she was a woman writing in the forbidden genres and she used her pseudonym so her fans wouldn't know it. I have three of her books currently, I have Spring Fire, Dark Intruder and The Damnation of Adam Blessing. I still haven't read any three of them - bad me, need to get to those also. But I do know Spring Fire is about an illicit love afair between two women. Dark Intruder is about a love triangle involving a father/daughter. The Damnation of Adam Blessing I believe is a Noir book, has sex and crime in it. Also I have heard The Thrill Kids and The Young and the Violent are really good Noir books.

Thanks BlindHog for the websites - really great!

aug 13, 2006, 2:16 pm

Hm... I have to confess, the Vin Packer work doesn't fascinate me as much as, say, Dorothy B. Hughes - also writing in this genre, but not hiding it. Which I think is even rarer. So many women have written under androgynous or 'obviously' male pseudonyms over time - to maintain saleability, privacy, reputation - that it's almost more surprising to find a woman writing in a distinctly 'masculine' sub-genre under her own name. And In a Lonely Place is interesting partly for being centered on 'commonplace' situations: not the deeply forbidden, but the suddenly menacing appearance of normal reality. :) Just my own taste, here. I doubt I'd have any takers on reading her, but I need to do so soon.

Ride the Pink Horse is a little more exotic... but seedy... and I've never read The Blackbirder. Has anyone else?

aug 14, 2006, 5:38 am

Eurydice - she sounds interesting too. Do you know, did she have good book sales or were they lower because she was a woman and didn't hide it?? I know at that time, society expected women to be home with the kids, usually not writing books - especially Noir-style books. There are a few of her books out on Ebay - but none that you mentioned.

aug 14, 2006, 6:00 pm

Got my Hardboiled America today - still waiting for After Dark my Sweet - I'll just go ahead and start this one (get a jump start on number 2) with the other two I'm already reading!

Redigerat: aug 18, 2006, 7:41 am

Finally got my copy of After Dark My Sweet - looks like a quick read, I'm going to start that one this weekend. I am also very happy to say I just picked up a lot of ten Raymond Chandler books on Ebay for a really good price! So if anyone wants to pick him next that works for me! I now also have a duplicate of The Simple Art of Murder - a short story collection by him. It's in need of a good home, for just the price of shipping it can be yours!

Lets see I thnk we should sum up the books that are mentioned and then take a vote on them so we can pick up the next one.

David Goodis' Shoot the Piano Player - Once upon a time Eddie played concert piano to reverent audiences at Carnegie Hall. Now he bangs out honky-tonk for drunks in a dive in Philadelphia. But then two people walk into Eddie's life -- the first promising Eddie a future, the other dragging him back into a treacherous past.

Cornell Woolrich's Rendezvous in Black - On a mild midwestern night in the early 1940's, Johnny Marr leans against a drugstore wall. He's waiting for Dorothy, his fiancee, and tonight is the last night they'll be meeting here, for it's May 31st, and June 1st marks their wedding day. But she's late, and Johnny soon learns of a horrible accident--an accident involving a group of drunken men, a low-flying charter plane, and an empty liquor bottle. In one short moment Johnny loses all that matters to him and his life is shattered. He vows to take from these men exactally what they took from him.

The Devil's Home on Leave by Derek Raymond - The series is a grim view of London's criminal underground and a policeman who understands it completely. The sergeant works for a small division of the force that deals with whatever the serious crime unit deems to be too low-profile: vagrants, prostitutes - the forlorn and the forgotten. The sergeant investigates the revolting murder of a man with only his memoirs as a guide, the killer having reduced the corpse to unidentifiable fragments.

He Died with His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond - It follows the narrator, a nameless English detective, during his pursuit/descent while trying to find those guilty of a violent murder. Through writings and tape recorded thoughts recovered from the victim, the detective becomes increasingly attached to the persona of the deceased. The prose is stark, elegant, incredibly philosophical, and yields a wealth of great quotes.

Horace McCoy's They Shoot Horses, Don't They - A series of extended flashbacks recalled by a prisoner as he stands before a judge pronouncing sentence upon him. But although the novel's structure drew considerable comment at the time, HORSES is best recalled for its vivid portrait of the depression-era fad for Marathon Dances and the gritty tone in which it sketches its desperate characters.

The Evil Friendship by Vin Packer - Lesbian novel from the 1950's based on a true crime, it is a fictionalized account of the New Zealand Parker-Hulme case, filmed by Peter Jackson as Heavenly Creatures.

The Blackbirder by Dorothy B. Hughes - Born of American expatriate parents, Julie Guilles was a pretty, sheltered rich girl growing up in Paris, a favorite of the "Ritz Bar" set. But everything changed when the Nazis rolled into the City of Lights. After three years of life underground, Julie is hiding out in New York; but she knows trouble is coming when the corpse of an acquaintance appears on her doorstep. With a host of possible dangers on her tail-the Gestapo, the FBI and the New York cops-she embarks on a desperate journey to Santa Fe in search of her last, best hope. "The Blackbirder"is a legend among refugees, a trafficker in human souls who flies under the radar to bring people to safety across the Mexican border-for a price.

So everyone vote for your first and second choices and we shall see who the winners are! I tried to pick books that seemed to peek everyone's interest and that it seemed very few of us have read - the snopsis for each I found on various places on the internet.

My choices:
1stThe Evil Friendship - because I love books based on true crime and I don't know much about this murder case.

2ndRendezvous in Black - because I love revenge stories.

aug 20, 2006, 3:12 pm

Devilbuny, my thanks. :) You've done an excellent job. My own top choices (and I give three, as it's easier and we may be planning for two more reads) are:

1st The Blackbirder

2nd Rendezvous in Black

3rd He Died With His Eyes Open

I'd be open to others, of course, but those are more or less accurately the 'favorites.'

Anyone else?

aug 20, 2006, 3:25 pm

Looks good to me.

aug 20, 2006, 3:28 pm

:) I'm glad, tartalom - but which ones?

aug 20, 2006, 4:41 pm

the books in Message 56, in the order listed ;)

aug 20, 2006, 10:06 pm

Ah, excellent! :) Thanks.

aug 25, 2006, 1:20 pm

Seems to be pretty quiet recently! We need suggestions! I would go with Rendezvous in Black next but that's just me. :) I finished up After Dark, My Sweet - that was a very quick read, I started and found myself hooked. I'm also halfway through Hardboiled - it is really interesting. I"m learning a ton of stuff I never knew about and it's got great pictures. Makes me jealous that I don't have all those great vintage books. So are there any other votes out for the next read??

Redigerat: aug 25, 2006, 6:04 pm

Well, I finally found much cheaper copies of After Dark, My Sweet and Hardboiled America, and ordered them. This may make me tardy, by a couple of days, in joining a discussion of the Jim Thompson, but at least I'll be on target for the hardboiled bit. Speaking of which, I'd love to get Hardboiled Writers: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross MacDonald: A Literary Reference someday.

More urgently, I'd be delighted to go with Cornell Woolrich's Rendezvous in Black, if we can muster any other readers. :)

Even past readers willing to discuss it would flesh our numbers out nicely. Anyone willing? (Besides tartalom, devilbuny, and me?)

aug 26, 2006, 2:34 pm

I'm ready with After Dark, My Sweet. I'll be interested in everyone's opinions. I'm looking for Rendezvous in Black.

aug 26, 2006, 5:10 pm


aug 31, 2006, 4:58 pm

Will try and hunt down a copy of rendezvous in black this weekend. Just thought I should mention that Serpent's Tail are in the process of re-issuing the Derek Raymond back catalogue starting with (I think) He died with his eyes open

aug 31, 2006, 5:09 pm

Thanks, tartalom: both for the info, and for joining the hunt for copies of Cornell Woolrich. I'm looking forward to it, and meanwhile waiting in thinly simulated patience for my Jim Thompson to arrive.

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