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Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Disassembled Man

In Books, Crime and noir fiction on August 27, 2009 at 8:56 pm


Nate Flexer’s The Disassembled Man is a hot mean streak of a novel that gleefully descends into howling, fiery hell.

Influenced by Jim Thompson (The Killer Inside Me), The Disassembled Man tells the first-person story of a slaughterhouse worker who rebels against his dead-end existence in a rampage of violent crime.

The book begins with a punch to the face and leaves the reader battered all the way to its nihilistic climax. It’s abrasive, vulgar, surreal, and profane. The overall tone reminds me of Buddy Giovinazzo’s Combat Shock and Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). The ending is pitch-black perfect.

Indie publisher New Pulp Press followed The Disassembled Man with two more exceptionally dark, alienated crime novels: While the Devil Waits, by Jackson Meeks, and Almost Gone, by Stan Richards.


While the Devil Waits recalls Camus’ The Stranger. It opens on the unnamed narrator as he’s fired from his clerical job for making co-workers “uncomfortable”. Passively accepting his fate, the marginalized loner agrees to ride along on a petty robbery as the accomplice to a childhood friend.

The ill-conceived crime turns into a killing spree that takes him across the country and lands him in a prison cell. The narrator’s maladjusted, detached personality makes the book bleak and compelling.


Evocative of James Ellroy, Almost Gone is about an alcoholic cop investigating his own mother’s murder. When he suffers a brain injury in a car accident, he begins to flash on suppressed memories that suggest he might have been the killer.

Tormented and boiling with anger, the protagonist jabs his skin with rusty nails to stop his bad thoughts…but the ugly Oedipal trauma of his past won’t stay buried. In a bruising, booze-soaked downward spiral, he confronts the unpleasant truth.

Highly recommended, harsh stuff. For more info on these and other upcoming titles, visit New Pulp

Grindhouse Movie Posters

In Exploitation, Grindhouse, Horror, Movies on August 26, 2009 at 6:02 am

Here are some vintage grindhouse movie posters, courtesy of the late Bill Landis of SLEAZOID EXPRESS. Enjoy!


Before he was TV’s “Major Dad”, Gerald McRaney played a shook-up, misunderstood nut in the 1969 ax-murder flick NIGHT OF BLOODY HORROR. The same filmmakers produced NIGHT OF THE STRANGLER, starring Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees.


Amazing ’70s ad for the roadshow-style reissue of Larry Buchanan’s tame Texas nudie film THE NAKED WITCH. Distributor Claude Alexander double-billed the movie with L.Q. Jones’ THE WITCHMAKER.

Savage Abduction

From Jerry Gross and Cinemation Industries, 1972: “CAPTURE NICE YOUNG GIRLS. Drag them to a house in the woods. Brand them. Beat them. Turn them on to everything. Someone’s willing to pay $10,000 for them.”

SAVAGE ABDUCTION features a twisted performance by Joe Turkel, familiar to moviegoers as the ghostly bartender who serves Jack Nicholson in THE SHINING. Turkel plays a wealthy deviant with a necro fetish. After a sleazy lawyer hires him to kill and rape his wife (in that order), he blackmails the guy into delivering him a couple of teen girls for snuff kicks. The attorney pays bikers to make the snatch. The forced pot-smoking sequence is hysterical, and the original music by Salt Lick is ’70s bummer gold.

And here’s another very special presentation from Alexander International Films:


In the time-honored tradition of Kroger Babb’s MOM AND DAD, this is a carny-style “birth of a baby” show. HIGH SCHOOL HOOKER is an alternate title for Gary Graver’s THE HARD ROAD (1970). Chris Poggiali has info on THE STEPDAUGHTER at Temple of Schlock.

More to come!

The Jason Starr Interview

In Books, Crime and noir fiction on August 24, 2009 at 10:25 pm


Jason Starr writes some of the best and bleakest noir fiction on the market. His books make for compulsive, fast reading, filled with black humor, hellish plots and hopelessly dysfunctional characters.

The author made his crime fiction debut with COLD CALLER (1997), a “white-collar noir” about one chump’s doomed attempt to slash his way to success in a Manhattan telemarketing office. The first-person narrative gives readers a rat’s-eye view of a maniac caught in a glue trap of self-made misery.

Starr’s latest novel PANIC ATTACK shows a middle-class family crumbling as their flaws are exposed in the aftermath of a home invasion. Jerry Stahl calls it “the perfect thriller”.

In this exclusive interview, Starr discusses the genesis of his new book, his upcoming projects, and what inspired him to write noir.

HF: PANIC ATTACK is a great read! How did you approach the plotting of this book; what was the original seed of the idea, and how did the narrative evolve as you went along?

Hey, thank you! The original seed of the book was the idea of this guy waking up in his house during a robbery and going for his gun, which turns out to be a very bad decision. This is how I usually think of my ideas at the beginning: no characters, just a situation. I also wanted to put the action up front in this book, to start the tension almost immediately, rather than building toward the first act of violence. Then, when I actually started writing (really, with the first dialogue) the characters came to life, and “the guy”, Adam Bloom, started to come into focus–I knew who he was, what his attitude was–and I saw that his wife and daughter would be major players, too. Then I was able to see how the plot for the book was going to develop.

HF: Like LIGHTS OUT and THE FOLLOWER, PANIC ATTACK very effectively switches between multiple viewpoints; you also employed this technique in your early novel NOTHING PERSONAL. Did you make a conscious decision to break away from the first-person psycho mold of COLD CALLER in order to tell a different type of story?

One reason I’ve done this is to mix things up from book to book. As a writer, I don’t want to get into a rut, repeating what I’ve done previously, and I want to keep things fresh for readers, too. Changing points of view has its advantages, because it allows for different levels of suspense. First-person books are more limited and claustrophobic. Recently I’ve been excited and obsessed by the thriller form, but I don’t want to write typical thrillers. I think in my recent books, like THE FOLLOWER and PANIC ATTACK, I’ve aimed to write contemporary thrillers with a satirical noir twist. I’d love to write another first-person crime novel, but at the same time I want to keep pushing myself into new directions.

HF: You write in a very no-bullshit, New York style, often to darkly humorous effect as your characters voice their most venal, callous and delusional thoughts in a matter-of-fact way. Do you sculpt your words to achieve this quality, or does it simply flow onto the page? How much rewriting do you do?

I do rewrite a lot as I go along, sometimes spending entire days rewriting, but my style is naturally matter-of-fact. You won’t see a lot of metaphors or flowery prose in my books. I don’t want the language to take readers out of the story, and I think my writing is most effective when it’s as simple as possible. Maybe you’re right and it’s a New York attitude coming through…But I think the best compliment I can receive as a writer is a review that doesn’t mention my writing at all. I think the writing should be virtually invisible, and it should all be about characters and action, so the reader can imagine the story like a movie.

HF: Obviously, you have fun with your characters’ foibles – the character of Adam Bloom is a good example. Some reviewers have complained about lack of “sympathetic” characters in PANIC ATTACK; what’s your response to this criticism?

Most readers seem to get that PANIC ATTACK is a thriller with satire. The plot is a pure thriller, but the story at its core is about how this external event, the robbery, is the impetus that brings out other problems in the Bloom family, and the biggest threat is that the family is going to implode from within….Whether characters are sympathetic or not–in my book, or any other books–is so subjective that this criticism is pretty much arbitrary and meaningless to me. Just like I might like a person in real life that another person doesn’t like, we all have our own taste in characters. I will say, though, that I think there are more interesting ways to grip readers than by creating inarguably, universally sympathetic characters. Most readers aren’t concerned about sympathy–they just want to read a good story and to be entertained. They either like a book or they don’t…and then they move on.

HF: You also excel at getting behind the eyeballs of a compulsive, doomed character, as in COLD CALLER, FAKE I.D., and others; the reader identifies, even as the protagonist slides off the rails. How much do you empathize with your pathological narrators yourself?

I love all my characters, especially the most twisted ones–Tommy in FAKE I.D. is a perfect example. The deeper he fell, the more fun he was to write. It’s interesting to me when I occasionally hear a comment like, “Jason Starr must really hate his characters or he wouldn’t torture them so much.” I don’t see a correlation and, as you say above, I think it’s pretty obvious that I have fun with my characters. Just because a character does bad things and makes bad decisions doesn’t mean he isn’t enjoyable to write about. Does anyone assume that the writers who created Tony Soprano didn’t like Tony Soprano? It just doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I never research anything to do with psychology. I’ve read that Highsmith used to read case studies of psychopaths. I think that’s an interesting approach, but I like to make it all up.

HF: You’ve said that your experience working as a telemarketer partly inspired COLD CALLER. Similar office scenarios show up in HARD FEELINGS and TWISTED CITY. What were the most frustrating real-life situations and characters you encountered at your various day jobs?

Dealing with idiot bosses. Realizing the person you work for is a total asshole, but having to suck it up day in and day out because the asshole has control over your career. I think this feeling of powerlessness at work is something that everyone can identify with…

Once, at a financial magazine I was working for, I had a query about an article I was working on. I went into the editor’s office and he screamed at me to “Get the fuck out of here!” He’d just come back from a “martini lunch,” but he was a prick on a daily basis. I tried to funnel that frustrating feeling of powerlessness into my fiction.

HF: TOUGH LUCK is a hysterical goombah tragedy about a poor kid from Flatbush who makes bad, and LIGHTS OUT is a true Brooklyn noir opus. What was your neighborhood like when you were growing up, and how has it changed?

I grew up in Flatbush, and that neighborhood really hasn’t changed all that much–at least demographically. There was a lot more crime back then, as it was the late Seventies and early Eighties. This was when the whole city was in chaos, with a huge fiscal crisis and out of control drug use. In junior high school, kids were routinely mugged and had their jackets and sneakers and bus passes stolen, and once, on the way home from school, I saw a kid get stabbed repeatedly in the face…

Now, parts of Brooklyn have changed drastically. Growing up in these neighborhoods now would be a completely different experience from what I went through.

HF: You’ve earned comparisons to Jim Thompson, and I also see a lot of Charles Willeford in your work. But as Bret Easton Ellis has noted, your take on the genre is very contemporary. What influences you aside from classic noir?

Wow, thank you for putting me in the company of three of my favorite authors. When I wrote my first novel COLD CALLER, I didn’t set out to write a noir novel. I just wanted to write a contemporary story about an angry telemarketer and express a lot of anger I had at the time about work and, I guess, life in general. It was only when I started sending the book out and got a rejection stating “we don’t publish noir at this house” that I realized I’d probably written a noir novel. Yes, Willeford and Thompson and the classic noir novelists were big influences, but it wasn’t just noir. Writers like Camus and Paul Bowles were influences. I have an M.F.A. in Playwriting and was big into theater in the ’90s, so I was influenced by the existential playwrights, like Beckett, Fo, and Ionesco. I also loved David Mamet’s plays. I was probably influenced by a lot of film noir too, which I’ve always loved, and the horror movies I was watching. Contemporary fiction, too. I’m glad you mention Bret Easton Ellis. I think, with his themes, subject matter and style, he’s had a tremendous influence, not only on my writing, but on a whole generation of writers. I think we will look back and see he influenced his generation the way Hemingway and Stein influenced theirs.

HF: I love the ghastly parting shots in your books — the “disinhibition” dialogue in TWISTED CITY, the line “See you tomorrow!” in FAKE I.D., Richie’s fate on the final page of HARD FEELINGS. I imagine you cracking an evil smile when you type that last sentence… “Gotcha!” The effect is awful yet hilarious, almost like the punchline to a sick joke. Do you have your ending in mind when you start out?

Ha, yes, I love to kick the reader when he’s down. I think this is probably when the Thompson influence comes out strongest in me. A perfect ending (in my mind) is one that is ironic, angry, bleak, exciting, sad, funny all at once. Most importantly, though, I think an ending should stick with a reader. Even if a reader gets so angry when they finish a book that they want to fling the book against the wall, I think it’s a positive sign, because it means the ending had an effect on them. For example, I’ll never forget the ending of Thompson’s THE GETAWAY, but there are so many books I’ve read that I can barely remember at all…I don’t have the exact line of the ending when I start writing, but I always know vaguely how the story is going to end. Sometimes when I’m writing an ending will come to mind and I’ll write it. Usually, though, it’s only when I get to the last chapter that it starts to come into focus.

HF: Your collaborations with Ken Bruen are raucous fun. They read like Jason Starr novels with a perverse Bruen twist – for example, the Irish hit man in BUST seems like a Ken creation. Did the two of you ever disagree on which way to go with the story? Did he take the books in unexpected directions?

These books (BUST, SLIDE, and THE MAX) have been a blast to write, and I hope it’s obvious that Ken and I love all of these characters. BUST was loosely based on a novel I’d written after NOTHING PERSONAL but kept in the drawer [originally called PETTY CASH – Ed.], and then Ken and I went in and basically rewrote it from scratch, keeping the basic plot and some of the characters. The Irish hit man, Thomas Dillon, a.k.a. Popeye, was actually originally a Puerto Rican guy named Tony Lopez. We thought if we made him into more of a Ken Bruen-type character it would take the whole plot into an exciting new direction. We kept one scene with the original Popeye. It’s a scene where Angela takes her top off at a bar and a guy named Tony tries to pick her up.

We never disagreed once on which way the plot should go; that’s what made it work so well. Once–in SLIDE–Ken came up with a new character, a cop, halfway through. It was a challenge for my plotting to fit this guy into the rest of the story, but I think it led to the best scenes in the book.

HF: I’m looking forward to THE CHILL – what can you tell us about the book, and what was it like working in the graphic novel format?

THE CHILL, from DC Comics/Vertigo Crime is my first graphic novel, on sale in January 2010, though you can pre-order the book at bookstores everywhere. The jacket copy says it a lot better than I can:

It’s summertime in New York, but a “chill” has settled over the city–a serial killer is on the loose, and the ritualized murders are becoming increasingly sadistic….The NYPD and the FBI have a suspect: a gorgeous woman named Arlana. The only problem is that every witness provides a different description of her. None of this makes any sense to anyone except Martin Cleary, a beaten-down Irish cop from Boston with a whopper of a secret in his past–a past that may go back a century or two….

I loved writing in this format, and I’m doing more, as I have a Punisher story for Marvel due out in 2010. But, yeah, writing THE CHILL opened up so many new possibilities with my fiction. I felt unrestrained, like I could take risks I’m not able to take in my crime novels. In a graphic novel, you can get as dark as you want to get, because you don’t have to worry about offending your readers. People who read graphic novels want to be offended and challenged in that way.

I think in the book industry, there is a trend where publishers think that readers want “vanilla” crime stories. I really think they’re behind the curve and misjudging their readership, as people actually love dark crime fiction (which is why cable TV is doing so well, marketing the dark and edgy stuff). I can go on about this because I know I’m right.

HF: What can you tell us about the next book?

I can’t really say anything about it, as I’m still working on it, but it’s taking me in a very, very new direction. I’m really rolling the dice with this one. I’m doing what I’ve done before, but with a whole new approach.

* * *

Many thanks to Jason for taking the time to answer these questions.

For more info on the man and his work, visit

Happy Birthday, Selwyn Harris

In Uncategorized on August 21, 2009 at 10:02 pm


Today is a holy day for HARD FEELINGS, as we celebrate the birth of Selwyn Harris.

We first envied Selwyn as the publisher of Happyland and adopted miscreant son of Gore Gazette editor Rick Sullivan. He went on to an in-house job at HUSTLER, where he worked with the brilliant Allan MacDonell (Prisoner of X), and wrote screenplays for porn director Greg Dark.

These days, the self-described “psychedelic noisemonger and devotee of occult obscenity” runs The site has quickly become the leading Internet source for all things bloody, rude and nude.

Read him and weep.


Love Butchers and Plastic Nightmares

In Uncategorized on August 21, 2009 at 9:11 pm


Awash in booze and sexual frustration, Richard Neely’s The Damned Innocents conjures the early ’70s California sleaze of a Crown International Pictures movie.

French director Claude Chabrol adapted Neely’s cynical potboiler for the screen as Dirty Hands. But it’s easy to imagine the tale of betrayal, marital hatred and murder as one of Peter Carpenter’s infamous adult-themed thrillers (Blood Mania, Point of Terror). Somehow, the entire book reeks of fake wood paneling and a housewife’s cabinet full of prescription drugs.

“Neely always caught the sorrow of sexual betrayal with a kind of suicidal wisdom, ” writes fellow crime author Ed Gorman. “While his books aren’t kinky by today’s measure, they’re dark in the way only sexual themes can be. Love kills, baby.”

That downer theme resonates in the alcoholic backstabbing of The Damned Innocents (1971), the black-gloved erotomania of Death to My Beloved (1969) and the bizarre Daddy-daughter incest affair of The Japanese Mistress (1972). Gorman once called Neely “the de Sade of crime fiction.”

Neely delivered his creepiest work in The Walter Syndrome (1970). Although it takes place in the 1930s, the sickie psycho-killer story deliberately echoes the hysteria surrounding the Boston Strangler and the Zodiac Killer. The New York Times made note of the book’s “nasty details of sexual mutilation.”

The Walter Syndrome is about a repressed telephone solicitor who stalks, rapes and kills women in New York City. The guy can’t score with the opposite sex and looks up to his suave misogynist friend, “Charles Walter”. Of course, the “shock ending” reveals that Walter is a figment of his imagination. Bloch’s Psycho is the obvious source of the multiple-personality twist; a close exploitation movie parallel can be found in The Love Butcher (1975).

Neely’s The Plastic Nightmare is a paranoid mystery about an amnesiac, filmed in the ’90s under the title Shattered and soon to be reissued by Millipede Press. Gorman nailed the reason for the novel’s HARD FEELINGS appeal:

Plastic is a snapshot of a certain period, the Seventies when the Fortune 500 dudes wore sideburns and faux hippie clothes and flashed the peace sign almost as often as they flashed their American Express Gold cards. Johnny Carson hipsters. The counter culture co-opted by the pigs.”

Speaking of which: Have you watched Weekend with the Babysitter lately?

Devil Dolls

In Uncategorized on August 18, 2009 at 3:50 pm


In memory of the late Joseph Gober Nazel (1944-2006), here is the cover art for his rare horror novel DEVIL DOLLS (Holloway House, 1982). Nazel’s many paperback originals include THE BLACK EXORCIST (1974, later reprinted as SATAN’S MASTER), the ICEMAN series, and MY NAME IS BLACK (Pinnacle, 1973). An author bio from one of his mid-’70s slugfests calls him “a product of Watts and the war in Vietnam.”

Nazel was the most prolific writer for Holloway House, the L.A. publisher known for the classic ghetto novels of Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim. Many of Joe’s books read like blaxploitation flicks; in addition to his own stories, he banged out novelizations of THE BLACK GESTAPO (1975) and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson’s FOXTRAP (1986).

In DEVIL DOLLS, a poor black family is tormented by a voodoo curse after they unexpectedly inherit a house from an evil honky witch. Hundreds of grinning, black-faced rag dolls attack the mother, using miniature pitchforks to shovel straw into her vagina. She wakes up pregnant.

A longtime editor for Players magazine, Nazel also penned biographies of Martin Luther King, Richard Pryor, Langston Hughes, Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, Paul Robeson, Ida B. Wells, B.B. King, and Magic Johnson.

But it’s Nazel’s pulp fiction that endures. The Afro-Manson devil-cult antics of THE BLACK EXORCIST and the violence of his street action sagas make him a HARD FEELINGS favorite.

Sample quote: “The Magnum boomed a scorching round that slammed into Benny’s forehead. The force of the slug threw the nearly headless mass of blubber across the room.”

Now that’s the kind of sentiment I can get behind.

Nazel’s legacy extends far beyond the pages of his books. His son Kim, a.k.a. Arabian Prince, was a founding member of N.W.A.

Stay tuned for interviews with a few folks who counted Joseph Nazel as a good friend, along with an in-depth analysis of his angry masterpiece EVERY GOODBYE AIN’T GONE. Meanwhile, dig a review of THE BLACK EXORCIST at The Groovy Age of Horror.

Dark Starr

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2009 at 6:49 pm

“There are characters who are universally sympathetic; they’re in Greenpeace and rescue cats from trees. They might be nice in real life, but they’re also boring as hell to read about. Personally, I enjoy reading about people who are sick and twisted, or damaged in some way.” – Jason Starr

Kill Your Boss