Friday, July 31, 2020

Writers to Read

Please recommend an author who may not be widely known to readers and tell us about them and their book(s). In addition, what books are on your bedside table for July and why did you select them for summer reading?

by Paul D. Marks

I’m not sure these authors are “widely unknown” to readers, but I also don’t think they’re widely known, at least in the larger realm. And I’ll stick with crime writers here, with one exception at the end.

Carol O’Connell:

On the Penguin Random House page it calls Carol O’Connell a NY Times best-selling author, but whenever I mention her to anyone almost to a person they haven’t heard of her. She does stand-alones but is best-known for her tough-as- nails NYPD detective Kathy Mallory. In the first Mallory book, Mallory’s Oracle (1994), NYPD detective Kathy Mallory is a hard-as-nails cop and not just because of her bright red nail polish. As the first in the series, Mallory’s Oracle is probably the best place to start. Even Mallory’s creator, O’Connell, describes Mallory as a “sociopath”. I’ve talked with people about Mallory and recommended the Mallory books to several people over the years. And it seems people either love or hate her. I’m in the former category. I love her no-nonsense, doesn’t suffer BS approach to her job. Nothing, including the law, will stand in her way, at least in this fictional world. Not that I’d necessarily like to be friends with her if she suddenly came alive and jumped off the page. I think the Mallory books would be good for someone who likes solid crime stories, strong female characters and doesn’t mind one who’s a sociopath…

According to Wikipedia, O’Connell started as an artist, but when she couldn’t make it there she started writing mysteries. The art world’s loss is our gain.

Kem Nunn:

Photo by Etonnants Voyageurs - Philippe HUET, Kem NUNN, Leonardo PADURA, Justo VASCO : Regards noirs at 06:20, cropped, brightened, CC BY-SA 3.0Link

Nunn is another successful writer that a lot of people haven’t heard of, though when I mention him to others there is more recognition than with O’Connell. These days he’s arguably better known as the co-creator of the TV series John from Cincinnati, as well as a writer on Sons of Anarchy and Deadwood. But he’s also the author of, I believe, six novels. Tapping the Source (1984) is his first and is something special. If it’s not the novel that invented the “surf noir” genre it’s certainly an early and foundational entry. This is not the Beach Boys’ version of sun, sand, surf and surfer girls, but a much darker vision of life on SoCal’s storied beaches. Ike Tucker, a naive and innocent young man from Bakersfield, treks to Huntington Beach (a.k.a. ‘Surf City’) to find his missing and possibly dead sister. There he gets hooked up with bikers, sex and drugs. No Gidgets or Moondoggie’s here. And Ike will be lucky if he gets out alive. Tapping is good for anyone who loves surf, sun and murder. I liked this book so much that I wanted to option the film rights for it. I had them checked out, but they had already been optioned/bought. That had to be at least 25 years ago, probably more, a lot more. But to this day there is still no movie version of this story. It is, however, said that Point Break, with Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves was, uh, inspired by Tapping the Source. The story is different and imho not nearly as good.

Several decades ago a friend of mine in the WGAw turned me onto Nunn and some other authors, telling me how terrific they were. Thank you, Elliot. Tapping the Source is Nunn’s first novel and with it he pretty much invented his own genre: surf noir. I guess I’m not the only one who likes it since it was a finalist for the National Book Award.

David Goodis:

Goodis, who I’ve probably mentioned before, has been called the “poet of the losers” by Geoffrey O’Brien and his stories of people on the skids certainly bear that out. I came to Goodis through the movies, which is how I’ve come to several writers and/or novels. I’m a fan of the Bogie-Bacall movie Dark Passage, so after having seen it a couple of times I decided to check out the David Goodis novel it was based on. I liked it enough that I began to read pretty much anything of Goodis I could get my hands on, but this was before he came into vogue again so mostly I had to pick up very scarred paperbacks (many, though not all of his books were only published in paperback), and I devoured his whole oeuvre. And, though I liked pretty much everything to one degree or another, Down There (1956) (a.k.a. Shoot the Piano Player, after the Truffaut movie based on it) really stood out for me. It’s the story of a World War II vet, a former member the elite Merrill’s Marauders who, for a variety of reasons, is down on his luck—way down. Francois Truffaut made the book into a movie called Shoot the Piano Player which, to be honest, I don’t like very much, but that’s why the title of the book was changed from Down There and is probably better known today as Shoot the Piano Player. I think it would be good for fans of classic noir, old movie buffs, and others.

When it comes to noir, David Goodis is the man. His stories deal with failed lives and people who are definitely on the skids. They’re often people who weren’t always in this position though and the interesting part is seeing how they deal with their downfall—not always so well. Goodis inspires me so much that I wrote a story that might be considered an homage to him. Born Under a Bad Sign was originally published in Dave Zeltserman’s Hard Luck Stories magazine, but is now available in LA Late @ Night, a collection of some of my previously published stories.

Dan Fante:
Dan Fante photo by Camila Emar
As a bonus, I’ll add Dan Fante, yes Dan, not John. Dan is John ‘Ask the Dust’ Fante’s son (And Ask the Dust is one of my favorite novels in any genre.) Dan’s books are what I would call an acquired taste. They can be rough and gross in a lot of ways. But I turned my mom onto him, thinking she probably wouldn’t like his work. So imagine my surprise when she did. You might want to start with Mooch (2001) and Chump Change (1998).

Oh, and another lesser-known writer you might want to check out is some dude called Paul D. Marks, who just had a new book come out in June that’s getting pretty good reviews:

"I hate saying a book transcends the genre and I honestly usually don't like books that do. This one however does and might win some awards because of it."
                                                                          —Jochem Vandersteen, Sons of Spade


And now for the usual BSP:

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Dietrich Kalteis said...

Excellent choices, Paul.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Dietrich. Have a good weekend.

JP Bloch said...

Rachel Ingells writes novellas that feature the shadow side of the self. Can be murder, kidnapping, Sci Fi, psychological thrills. Her novella, Mrs. Caliban" deservedly is her one single story in its own volume. Check her out on Amazon UK as well.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Jon.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi Paul,

Very interesting choices! I'll add my latest mystery novel to this group since I'm certainly not well-known. BLOOD FAMILY is my 5th novel in the Kim Reynolds series. All 5 star reviews on Amazon and a lovely review from Lelia Taylor at Buried Under Books. Available from Encircle.

Paul D. Marks said...

Cool, Jacqueline. And a good choice.

Dj Adamson said...

Looking forward to some new reads.
Thanks, Paul

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, Diann. Hope you'll enjoy them.