Saturday, July 26, 2014

Cassidy's Girl by David Goodis (Blackmask 1951)

Cassidy turned. He looked at Shealy. He said quietly, “What's wrong with you?”

Shealy did not reply. He was sending his eyes through Cassidy's eyes and trying to see the core of Cassidy's mind.

“All right,” Cassidy said. “Let's hear the sad music.”

The white-haired man folded his arms and gazed past Cassidy's shoulder and said, “Leave her alone, Jim.”

“For what good reason?”

“She's helpless. She's a sick girl.”

“I know that,” Cassidy said. “That's why I won't leave her alone. That's why I'm staying with her.” He hadn't meant to state his complete plans, but now, as though Shealy was challenging him, he met the challenge and said bluntly, “I won't be going back to Mildred. I'll never be with Mildred again. From now on you'll find me living with Doris.”

Shealy moved toward the ladder and gazed up at the top shelf where the sweaters and working pants were stacked. His eyes were appraising and finally he seemed to be satisfied with the arrangement. But he went on looking up there at the merchandise as he said, “Why not take it further than that? If you're out to help all the poor creatures of the world, why don't you found a mission?”

“You go to hell,” Cassidy said. He started toward the door.

“Wait, Jim.”

“Wait nothing. I come in to say good morning and you give me the needles.”

“You didn't come in to say good morning.” Shealy was with him at the door and not allowing him to open it. “You come in because you want assurance. You want me to tell you that you're doing right.”

“You? I need you to tell me?” Cassidy tried a sarcastic smile. All that showed was a scowl as he said, “What makes you so important?”

“The fact that I'm out of it,” Shealy replied. “Entirely out of the show. Just a one-man audience, sitting in the balcony. That gives me a full view. I can see it from every angle.”

Cassidy grimaced impatiently. “Quit the syrup, will you? Talk plain.”

“All right, Jim. I'll make it as plain as I can. I'm just a worn-out rumhead, slowly rotting away. But there's one thing left alive in me, one thing working and holding me in line. That's my brains. It's my brains and only my brains telling you to keep away from Doris.”

Here we go, Cassidy said to the wall. “Now it starts with the preaching.”

“Me preach?” And Shealy laughed. “Not me, Jim. Anyone but me. I lost my sense of moral values a long time ago. The credo I hold today is based on simple arithmetic, nothing more. We can all survive and get along if we can just add one and one and get two.”

“What's that got to do with me and Doris?”

“If you don't leave her alone,” Shealy said, “she won't survive.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Leader by Gillian Freeman (J. B. Lippincott Company 1965)


"Who's that? Jessop?"

"Yes. I'm at the house. It's happened."

"You mean Pearman?"

"You were quite right. He's played himself out. He's just taken an overdose. The ambulance is on its way."

"Why didn't you let him die?"

"What's the point? He's nothing. Nothing. Just pathetic. comic. Let them pump him out. Are you listening?"


"Well, we've got quite a salvaging job to do. I want you to handle the press. As soon as the ambulance men remove him, I'm going up to Birmingham. You can report to me there. All they need is the right leader."

The bell on the ambulance, growing louder, stopped outside the house. It was replaced by the urgent ringing of the doorbell. Jessop went to answer it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Love on the Supertax by Marghanita Laski (Cresset Press 1944)

This is the story of the spring of 1944. But it does not tell of that jocund season as you know it in Finsbury and Hoxton, where, after their day's work is done, clear-eyed, confident men and women meet to discuss the Trades Dispute Act or to visit the latest exhibition of paintings by left-wing Artists at the Klassical Kinema, nor of spring where the first warm rays of the sun strike down on the bountiful barrows of Bermondsey, the colourful backyards of Shoreditch. This is not a story of that spring of 1944 as it came to strong, vigorous citizens with an ample present and an assuarance of the future, but of spring as it came to the needy and the dispirited, to the fallen and the dispossessed, spring as it came to Mayfair.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hell to Pay by George P. Pelecanos (Little Brown 2002)

Garfield Potter sat low behind the wheel of an idling Caprice, his thumb stroking the rubber grip of the Colt revolver loosely fitted between his legs. On the bench beside him, leaning against the passenger window, sat Carlton Little. Little filled an empty White Owl wrapper with marijuana and tamped the herb with his thumb. Potter and Little were waiting on Charles White, who was in the backyard of his grandmother’s place, getting his dog out of a cage.

“It don’t look like much, does it?” said Potter, looking down at his own lap.

Little grinned lazily. “That’s what the girls must say when you pull that thing out.”

“Like Brianna, you mean? Your girl? She ain’t had no chance to look at it, ’cause I was waxin’ her from behind. She felt it, though. Made her forget all about you, too. I mean, when I was done hittin’ it she couldn’t even remember your name.”

“She couldn’t remember hers either, drunk as she had to be to fuck a sad motherfucker like you.” 

Little laughed some as he struck a match and held it to the end of the cigar.

“I’m talkin’ about this gun, fool.” Potter held up the Colt so Little, firing up the blunt, could see it.

“Yeah, okay. Where’d you get it at, man?”

“Traded it to this boy for half an OZ. Was one of those project guns, hadn’t even been fired but once or twice. Short barrel, only two inches long, you’d think it couldn’t do shit. But this here is a three fifty-seven. They call it a carry revolver, ’cause you can carry this shit without no one knowin’ you strapped. I don’t need no long barrel, anyway. I like to work close in.”

“I’ll stick with my nine. You don’t even know if that shits works.”

“It works. Yours jams, don’t be askin’ me for mines.”

Potter was tall, light skinned, flat of stomach and chest, with thin, ropy forearms and biceps. He kept his hair shaved close to the scalp, with a small slash mark by way of a part. His irises were dark brown and filled his eyes; his nose was a white boy’s nose, thin and aquiline. He was quick to smile. It was a smile that could be engaging when he wanted it to be, but more often than not it inspired fear.

Little was not so tall. He was bulked in the shoulders and arms, but twiggish in the legs. A set of weights had given him the show muscles upstairs, but his legs, which he never worked on, betrayed the skinny, malnourished boy he used to be. He wore his hair braided in cornrows and kept a careless, weedy thatch of hair on his chin.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Soul Circus by George P. Pelecanos (Little Brown 2003)

“Like Granville Oliver?” said Quinn. “That just a job to you, too?”

Only Janine knew the truth: that Strange had been responsible for the death of Granville Oliver’s father, back in 1968. That Oliver had spared the lives of two killers at Strange’s request, in exchange for Strange’s help, less than a year ago.

Strange looked into his drink. “It’s more complicated than that.”

“You were making a living before you took Oliver’s case. You didn’t have to take it.”

“I know you think it’s wrong.”

“Damn right I do. Piece of shit killed or had killed, what, a dozen people. He infected his community and he ruined the lives of all the young men he took on, and their families.”

“Most likely he did.”

“Then why shouldn’t he die?”

“It’s not him I’m working for. For me, it comes down to one thing: I don’t believe any government should be putting its own citizens to death. Here in D.C. we voted against it, and the government’s just gonna say, We don’t give a good goddamn what you want, we’re gonna execute this man anyway. And that’s not right.”

“Maybe it will make some kid who’s thinking about getting into the life think twice.”

“That’s the argument. But in most civilized countries where they don’t have the death penalty, they’ve got virtually no murders. ’Cause they’ve got the guns off the street, they’ve got little real poverty, and they got citizens who get involved in raising their own kids. The same people who are pro–death penalty are the ones want to protect the rights of gun manufacturers to export death into the inner cities. Hell, we got an attorney general sold on capital punishment and at the same time he’s in the pocket of the NRA.”

“Well, yeah, but he doesn’t think people should dance, either.”

“I’m serious, Terry, shit doesn’t even make any sense. Look, an active death row doesn’t deter crime; ain’t nobody ever proved that. It’s all about some politicians lookin’ to be tough so they can get reelected the next time around. And that makes it bullshit to me. I’d do this for anyone who was facing that sentence.”

“What about McVeigh?”

“You know what they do in prison to people who kill kids? McVeigh got off easy, man; that boy just went to sleep. They should’ve put him in with the general population for as long as he could live. Trust me, wouldn’t have been long. But they did him to get the ball rolling on this wave of executions we got coming. Wasn’t nobody gonna object, for real, to McVeigh’s death. A week later, they put that cat Garza down, and nobody even blinked an eye. Now that the ice got broke, next thing, a line of black and brown men gonna go into that chamber in Terre Haute, and bet it, it’ll barely make the news.”

“Here we go.”

“Look here, Terry. Out of the twenty men they got on federal death row right now, sixteen are black or Hispanic.”

“Could be they did the crimes.”

“And it could be they got substandard representation. Could be they found a death-qualified jury that’s more likely to find guilt than the other kind. Could be the prosecutors used those Willie Horton images to convince the jury that what they had was another nigger needed to be permanently took off the street. And I’m not even gonna talk about where these men came from, the opportunities and guidance they didn’t have when they were coming up. You gonna sit there and tell me that this isn’t about class or race?”

Monday, July 07, 2014

Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s by Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein (Abrams Books 2014)

Lori Majewski: Not sure if you realize it, JB [Jonathan Bernstein], but The Lexicon of Love is the reason we became friends. When you told me it was your favorite album of all time—back in the early nineties, when we were the only people who’d admit to liking new wave while working at a grunge-obsessed Spin magazine—I thought: Now, here’s a guy I can hang with. While I love Spandau and Culture Club, neither ever released a flawless long-player like Lexicon. The talky bits were my favorite parts, like in “The Look of Love,” when Fry says to himself, “Martin, maybe one day you’ll find true love.” He always came across as such a hopeless romantic—it was the beautifully tailored suits, the way he referenced Cupid and Smokey Robinson in his songs, how he pined for a more chivalrous era. For an eighties teenager experiencing the thrill (and then heartache) of her first crush, ABC offered a vision of love that I could only hope the real thing would live up to.

MARTIN FRY: Decades don’t always begin at zero. They begin a couple of years in, the mood and style. A couple of years into the eighties, when I was forming ABC, I realized no one could be more Sex Pistol–y than the Sex Pistols or more Clash than the Clash. I loved punk, but it never seemed to go as far as it could have. Maybe Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes or Tony Hadley and Gary Kemp might say something different, but for me and for a lot of my generation, it was really frustrating the Clash were never on Top of the Pops. I wasn’t going to try and be a proto-punk. I wanted to do the opposite.

That’s why I got so excited by disco, which was a really dirty word at the time. I wanted to make music that was funky and radical. The early ABC was the “Radical Dance Faction”—that’s what we called ourselves. I’d also grown up loving Motown, Stax, and Atlantic, along with Roxy Music—Roxy performing “Virginia Plain” on Top of the Pops in 1972 was my road to Damascus. So it made natural sense to try and fuse those worlds. When I think back, looking at stuff like the Pop Group, James Chance and the Contortions, Pigbag, and all the bands that came through just before and just after ABC—Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Depeche Mode—there was a whole generation itching to make dance music, populist music. I don’t think it was any accident that all those bands became internationally known.

I interviewed Vice Versa for my fanzine, Modern Drugs, in 1979. They were kind of a fledgling Human League, only younger and less revered. When I went to interview Steve Singleton and Mark White, they said, “We’re going on a train from Sheffield to Middlesbrough to open up for Cowboys International. We’ve not got a drummer, but we’ve got lots of synths in our holdalls. You can stand onstage with us.” We got bottled off by these skinheads who didn’t get us. We were mohair sweaters and post-punk and ironic, but I loved it. After that, they let me join the band.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Futility: A Novel by William Gerhardie (Melville House 1922)

When the train arrived at Omsk, the new regime of Kolchak had been established. The Admiral was distinctly pleased with the change; for he no longer believed in granting the Russian people a Constituent Assembly because he had grounds for thinking that the Russian people, if given this opportunity, would take advantage of it and elect a government other than that of Kolchak. And the Admiral was rather fond of little Kolchak, whose interpretation of democracy was that of denying the people the choice of government until such time as by some vague, mysterious, but anyhow protracted system of education he hoped their choice would fall upon his own administration. We lived in our train, a verst or thereabouts from the station — a thoroughly unwholesome place; and the Admiral diverted most of his time by throwing empty tobacco tins at the pigs that dwelt in the ditches around the train. ‘You have no conception what a pig a pig really is,’ he said, ‘till you see an Omsk pig.’

‘Splendid!’ said Sir Hugo. ‘Splendid!’

‘There she goes again!’ yelled the Admiral, and hit an old big sow with a Navy Cut tobacco tin.

‘Splendid effort!’ said Sir Hugo. ‘Splendid effort!’

‘I give dem h-h-hell!’ roared General Bologoevski. ‘Dam-rotten pigs!’ But, as usual, his threat remained an empty one.