Monthly Archives: January 2014

More on Noir

Yesterday I mentioned how wonderful I found the Spartacus TV show. Today I’m confessing that I finally got around to reading Raymond Chandler’s first Phillip Marlowe novel, The Big Sleep. Wow. Talk about lovely, evocative writing. Sure, I’m  just as puzzled as everyone else about who really killed the chauffeur, but what fine, fine prose.

My fascination with noir continues and I’m bouncing back and forth between Hammet stories of the Continental Op, Frederick Nebel stories about MacBride and Kennedy, Marlowe novels, and the Quarry books by Max Allan Collins. Collins is impressing me more and more, sort of the way Donald Westlake/Richard Stark did, in that the more I read of his work the more I come to appreciate how finely tuned the engines are in what seem, upon first glance, pretty simple vehicles. They’re not really simple at all, no more than a still life by a master painter is simply a snapshot of a bowl of fruit.

I came upon the Quarry books at just the right time, because I see that a TV series based around the character is now in the works. Should be interesting. I can imagine, though, that like Spartacus and Justified, it probably won’t be something I can watch with the rest of the family.

Watching Spartacus

Finally got around to watching Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

It’s just as bloody and sexual as I’d been told… but what very few have mentioned to me is how fine the writing is. Great, revealing dialogue. These are very, very fine character arcs. Reversals, double-crosses, surprises, slow burns… it’s just really impressive stuff. The acting is likewise top-notch, sometimes amazing.

I tried watching a little bit of it with my wife at my side and, alas, she couldn’t see past the stylized violence — or all the swearing. There’s a lot of both. But just as I learned to look past some of the conventions of anime that struck me as peculiar, I just tune out some of the other stuff. Your mileage may vary. It’s pretty manly.

Highly recommended, with appropriate caveats.

Parker Graphic Novels

File under “cool things to read.”

While at the library yesterday I chanced upon three graphic novel adaptions of the Richard Stark Parker books, all done by Darwyn Cook in all the stylish ’60s glory that talented artist/storyteller can manage.

What’s interesting to me is how much these adaptions showcase Stark’s work in a different way — highlighting phrases, for instance, that I hadn’t even noticed were pretty awesome until they were pulled out of the text and highlighted. The panel on the left, from Cook’s adaption of The Score, is a perfect example. Starks’ style is so understated I didn’t catch all that those simple lines implied until Cook’s illustration called it out.

Fantastic stuff. Go read it. Heck, here’s a link to a preview. Go read that.

The First Day

And so it begins. Arbitrary designation or not, it’s one noted by human society, and the New Year is a good chance to pause for personal reflection.

I spent the first day of the New Year with my wife and children. As usual, I woke early. I tried to watch the first episode of Spartacus on my computer (that’s where I’ll have to be watching it, owing to the fact it’s too edgy for the wife and kids) but discovered that it will only work on the Blu-Ray player, which will make watching it a little more challenging. I’m not sure how I’ll manage. I watched Justified on the computer with earphones while the rest of the family was watching an anime I didn’t care for, but the only time I’ll have access to the Blu-Ray by myself is during writing time. Maybe I’ll reward myself when I finish the rough draft of the next book.

After Spartacus failed, I shrugged my shoulders and did some writing until people woke, then we lazed about the house together, made some delicious food partly compiled from leftovers but bulked up by the “buy one get one free” lobster sale from the eve of New Year’s Eve, took the dogs for a walk, then watched a movie from Studio Ghibli that wasn’t by Hayao Miyazaki. I didn’t expect much of it, but The Cat Returns had us laughing aloud at numerous points along the way. It was just as weird as Miyazaki films usually are, but less trippy, and gentler. Fine for younger kids and older ones as well. Unlike, say, Miyazaki’s own Spirited Away, which my family loves, but I’m afraid might seriously creep out younger children.