FRIEND OF THE DEVIL by Brubaker & Phillips – Now Available for Pre-Order!

Two days ago I shared the cover above for Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ next Reckless graphic novel: Friend of the Devil.  It wasn’t available for pre-order, but I said I’d keep you posted.

It’s now available for pre-order and below is the synopsis…

The next book in the red-hot Reckless series is here!

Bestselling crime noir masters Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are back with another new original graphic novel featuring troublemaker-for-hire Ethan Reckless.

It’s 1985 and things in Ethan’s life are going pretty well… until a missing woman shows up in the background of an old B-movie, and Ethan is drawn into Hollywood’s secret occult underbelly as he hunts for her among the wreckage of the wild days of the ’70s.

“No one does crime fic like Brubaker and Phillips, and their collaboration has never felt more new. Explosive. Vital. And yes… reckless.” – Damon Lindelof (LOST, HBO’s WATCHMEN)

Another hit graphic novel from the award-winning creators of PULP, MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES, CRIMINAL, and KILL OR BE KILLED — a must-have for all Brubaker and Phillips fans!

And look for the next standalone book in the Reckless series in October!

As you can imagine. I’m in.

RIP James Randi aka The Amazing Randi

James Randi aka The Amazing Randi died on Tuesday at the age of 92.  Mr. Randi began his career as a magician (that’s where the Amazing part of his name came from).  He was a different kind of magician though.

Sure, he could perform mind-reading stunts, bend spoons just as those who claim to do so via mental powers, escape from padlocked chains and the like, but The Amazing Randi claimed no supernatural powers.  In fact he offered his own money (eventually getting the amount to one million dollars) own money to anyone who could show scientific evidence of supernatural powers.  No one ever collected.

James Randi became famous for debunking spiritualists, mind readers and the like who claimed supernatural powers to defraud people.  He had his own radio show, television specials and was a popular guest on television shows.  Randi was also the author of ten books.  By all accounts he was a fun guy to be around.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to James Randi’s family, friends and fans.

Tax Collector (2020) / Z-View

Before we get into my review of Tax Collector, let me say that I’m a David Ayer fan and after seeing the poster and trailer for Tax Collector back in July, I posted them both saying that I looked forward to seeing the movie.

ComingSoon.net  recently had a contest for a free DVD of Tax Collector.  I entered and won a copy.  That copy is what I am reviewing.

Tax Collector (2020)

Director: David Ayer

Screenplay: David Ayer

Stars:  Bobby Soto, Cinthya Carmona, Shia LaBeouf, Jose Conejo Martin, Cheyenne Rae Hernandez, George Lopez and Brian Ortega.

The Pitch: “David Ayer is ready to make another movie!”

Tagline: From the Creator of  “Training Day” and “End of Watch”

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

David Cuevas (Soto) and his crime partner, Creeper (LaBeouf) are tax collectors for a crime lord known as The Wizard.  They collect a 30% tax on all illegal gang activity in the city.  If the money isn’t on time or the count comes up short, Cuevas and Soto resolve the issue so it doesn’t happen again.

Cuevas is living a double life of sorts.  He has a beautiful wife and two children. He wants to be a good husband and father.  The life Cuevas lives has given him a nice house, lots of money and respect, but the things he does to earn them are hard to justify.  While Cuevas is a religious man, his partner, Creeper has come to terms with who they are and what they do.

Things go smoothly until a Conejo (Martin), a rival gang lord, returns to the city with intent to take over the Wizard’s operation.  Conejo meets with Cuevas and offers him a choice: join Conejo or Cuevas and his family will be killed.

To tell more would be to give away too much.  The movie contains more than a few twists, but it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone going to see Tax Collector that there are scenes of brutal violence.  If you’re a fan of David Ayer, then you know what to expect.

As a screenwriter, Ayer got my attention with Training Day.  As a director, it was with Street Kings.  Then as a writer/director he brought us Harsh Times, End of Watch, Sabotage (one of Arnold’s best), and Fury just to name a few.  Ayers’ films take us into a world where men are placed in violent situations and there are consequences to their actions.

I’ve never been a big Shia LaBeouf fan, but man, he owns every scene he is in.  His character, Creeper, is a stone cold killer, and LaBeouf was perfect for the part.  Remember No Country for Old Men and the character Anton Chigurh played by Javier Bardem?  Remember the universal praise Bardem rightly received?  I’d rate LaBeaouf’s performance at the same level.

Other standout performances include Cheyenne Rae Hernandez as Gata and  Jose Conejo Martin as Conejo.  It was also cool to see George Lopez playing against character and Brian Ortega from the UFC in a supporting role.

I really liked the Tax Collector.  If you’re a David Ayer fan, you probably will as well.


Rating:

RIP: Jacqueline Stallone

Jacqueline Stallone passed away this morning at the age of 98.  Best known as the mother of Sylvester and Frank Stallone, she was much more than just the parent of famous brothers.

Here is part of what Frank posted on his Instagram

This morning my brothers and I lost our mother Jackie Stallone . She was the mother to four children, Tommy, Sylvester, Frankie and my late sister Toni Ann. She was a remarkable woman working out everyday full of spunk and fearless . She died in her sleep as she had wished. It was hard not to like her, she was very eccentric and flamboyant person.

Jackie, as she was known, was indeed a remarkable woman.  She was always into fitness and training.  As a young woman she performed as a trapeze artist!  She was also a nightclub dancer.  Jackie Stallone was the first woman to have a daily exercise and fitness show in Washington, D.C. Later in her career she owned Barbella’s, a gym for women.

Jackie became a popular guest on talk shows where she discussed not only her famous sons but also her astrology books and psychic hotline.  She also became involved with GLOW – the Gorgeous Women of Wrestling!

Jackie Stallone was a powerhouse.  Frank was right in describing her as eccentric, flamboyant, fearless and hard not to like. 

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jacqueline Stallone’s family, friends and fans.

JOE LANSDALE’S HAP AND LEONARD: An Overview by Scott Montgomery


THE EVOLUTION OF JOE LANSDALE’S HAP AND LEONARD by Scott Montgomery at CrimeReads is well worth a read.  If you’re already a fan, you might get a little more insight into the stories and if you’re not a fan, you should be.  Well done, Mr. Montgomery.

Our header art today is a detail from the cover of the Subterranean Press trade edition for Dead Aim and was created by Glen Orbik.

The Black Terror: Seduction of Deceit by Beau Smith & Chuck Dixon & Dan Brereton

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of The Black Terror: Seduction of Deceit mini-series written by Beau Smith & Chuck Dixon with art by Dan Brereton.  I’ve been calling for a nice trade reprint of the original series for years.  (Dan Brereton hinted that one may be coming in the next year.)  Even still, from time to time I need to remind everyone what a great series it was.

Consider this today’s reminder.  ; )

“Deliverance” Trivia!

Rob Hunter at Film School Rejects posted 31 Things We Learned from John Boorman’s ‘Deliverance’ Commentary.  Before you click over, here are three of my favorites…

9. Dickey took Boorman aside, made him promise not to repeat this, and said, “I’m going to tell you something I never told a living soul, everything in that book happened to me.” The director later learned that he did the same with other members of the cast and crew. “When I got into a canoe with James Dickey and he capsized it, I realized that nothing in this book had happened to him.”

(Dickey was not well liked on the set — there’s another quote in the piece that talked about Dickey’s drinking and interfering with the movie and Burt Reynolds has a funny response. – Craig)

15. “I had no doubles, no stuntmen,” says Boorman. “I don’t like the idea of stuntmen because if a shot is dangerous enough that you need a stunt man then you shouldn’t be doing it.” He acknowledges that there are exceptions including one instance where Voight was doubled (while Reynolds insisted on doing his part himself), but in general he prefers doing the scenes with the actual actors.

(Reynolds, as most folks know always wanted to do his own stunts and respected the stunt crew.  But stunts were not the only differences between Voight and Reynolds are you’ll see in the next quote. – Craig)

26. While Reynolds preferred to move quickly through every scene, Voight challenged almost every decision in need of explanation and reason which dragged things out. Voight would also require three minutes before shooting scenes where he’s meant to seem exhausted because he would run around the area to tire himself out. Reynolds, by contrast, would spritz his face to simulate sweat and then breath hard. Boorman found the two to be good influences on each other.

(They have two different schools of thoughts in preparing for a scene.  Some like to prepare, research and stay in character and others are able to just do it.  I can’t remember the actor and I’m paraphrasing but when asked how he was able to just jump into a scene and take on whatever emotion without first preparing, his response was, “I act.” – Craig)

Of Mice and Minestrone: Hap and Leonard: The Early Years by Joe R. Lansdale / Z-View

Of Mice and Minestrone: Hap and Leonard: The Early Years by Joe R. Lansdale

Trade Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Tachyon Publications

First sentence…

I must have been six or seven at the time, and it was an event that went on for years, this gathering of relatives.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Of Mice and Minestrone: Hap and Leonard: The Early Years contains five short stories about Hap and Leonard during their, you guessed it, early years.  As an added bonus, there’s a section titled Good Eats: The Recipes of Hap and Leonard by Kasey Lansdale (Joe’s daughter).  Let’s take a quick look at each…

The Kitchen is, as Lansdale says in the intro to the book, more of a vignette than short story.   Reading it you get a sense of where Hap got his moral foundation and why family is important to him.  If you’re lucky it will also bring back memories of another time when things moved slower and family get-togethers were special events.

Of Mice and Minestrone is divided into two parts.  In part one, Hap (a 16 year old high school student) has a run-in with a thugish man at a gas station.  Hap apologizes for his part, but the bully wants a fight.  When the thug’s wife tries to calm her husband by saying, “He’s just a kid.  He didn’t mean nothing -” it’s obvious she has overstepped.  The gas station owner comes out and the man and his wife leave.

Later, when Hap unexpectedly sees the woman in town he can tell that she’s been beaten up.  Hap wants to help her, but she’s afraid and Hap is just a kid.  Together they devise a plan to save her.  Part II Of Mice and Minestrone deals with the fallout from their plan and as you can guess things don’t end up all sunshine and roses.

The Watering Shed was a dive bar located a ways from town.  It was a rough place where you could get a drink even if you were under-age, if you had the cash.  Hap and Leonard had some coin and a hankering for a beer.  Had Leonard not been black, there wouldn’t have been a problem.  But he was and there was and it led to two murders.

In The Sparring Partner Hap and Leonard are offered some easy money to assist a promoter in getting his new fighter ready for his next match. Unfortunately the promoter isn’t on the level and his fighter is in waaay over his head.  Hap and Leonard could take their sparring partner money and walk away but we know that won’t happen.

The Sabine was High takes place when Leonard arrives home from Viet Nam and Hap has recently gotten out of prison (for refusing to be drafted). They go on an overnight fishing trip and share stories about the hell each of them has been through.

Good Eats: The Recipes of Hap and Leonard is exactly what you’d imagine, recipes for preparing food from the stories.

Of Mice and Minestrone: Hap and Leonard: The Early Years provides a look at events that shaped Hap and Leonard into the men they would become. You don’t have to be a H&L fan to enjoy the book, but if you are you’ll enjoy it all the more.  My favorite story gave the book it’s title.  Lansdale sets up a classic situation and then throws in twists along the way (doesn’t he always) that will leave you smiling at his storytelling ability and sad at the situations the characters are in.  There’s not a weak story in the book and even though I’m not much of a cook, I think I’ll give a recipe or two a shot.

Rating:

“Death on the Nile” – The Trailer is Here!

Although I’ve never read an Agatha Christie novel, I enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express starring Kenneth Branagh.  After seeing the trailer below for his return as Hercule Poirot (along with an all-star cast) in Death on the Nile, I’m looking forward to the sequel even more.

Maybe I should check out one of Christie’s novels. Hmmm.

Murder was just the beginning. Watch the new trailer for Death on the Nile, in theaters this October 23.

Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot’s Egyptian vacation aboard a glamorous river steamer turns into a terrifying search for a murderer when a picture-perfect couple’s idyllic honeymoon is tragically cut short. Set against an epic landscape of sweeping desert vistas and the majestic Giza pyramids, this tale of unbridled passion and incapacitating jealousy features a cosmopolitan group of impeccably dressed travelers, and enough wicked twists and turns to leave audiences guessing until the final, shocking denouement.

Death on the Nile reunites the filmmaking team behind 2017’s global hit Murder on the Orient Express, and stars five-time Academy Award® nominee Kenneth Branagh as the iconic detective Hercule Poirot. He is joined by an all-star cast of suspects, including: Tom Bateman, four-time Oscar® nominee Annette Bening, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders and Letitia Wright.

Death on the Nile is written by Michael Green, adapted from Christie’s novel, and is produced by Ridley Scott, Mark Gordon, Simon Kinberg, Kenneth Branagh, Judy Hofflund and Kevin J. Walsh, with Matthew Jenkins, James Prichard and Matthew Prichard serving as executive producers.

Criminal Deluxe Edition, Volume 3 by Brubaker & Phillips is Coming!

Fans of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips will be glad to hear that on October 27, 2020, the Criminal Deluxe Edition, Volume 3 Hardcover will be released!  I can’t wait.  Here’s what it will contain…

This oversized deluxe hardback collects several short stories and novellas from the most award-winning team in the history of comics in a fantastically-designed book full of extras — illustrations, selected articles, interviews, behind the scenes looks, painted covers… and much much more! Collects the SAVAGE SWORD OF CRIMINAL and DEADLY HANDS OF CRIMINAL magazines, the novellas MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES and BAD WEEKEND, and issues 1 and 4 of the newest run of the CRIMINAL monthly series, two full length short stories about the LAWLESS family.

A true collector’s edition must-have for any fan of the best in crime comics.

The Criminal Deluxe Edition, Volume 3 is available for pre-order now.  

Later Stephen King’s New Crime Thriller is Coming!

Stephen King is coming back with another Hardcase crime story.  Later will drop on March 2, 2021.  Here’s the synopsis…

#1 bestselling author Stephen King returns with a brand-new novel about the secrets we keep buried and the cost of unearthing them.

SOMETIMES GROWING UP
MEANS FACING YOUR DEMONS

The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine – as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.

LATER is Stephen King at his finest, a terrifying and touching story of innocence lost and the trials that test our sense of right and wrong. With echoes of King’s classic novel It, LATER is a powerful, haunting, unforgettable exploration of what it takes to stand up to evil in all the faces it wears.

Pre-orders are available now!

More Better Deals by Joe R. Lansdale / Z-View

More Better Deals by Joe R. Lansdale

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Mulholland Books

First sentence…

I folded the check and put it in my shirt pocket and tried not to grin.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Ed Edwards is a used car salesman and a big believer in buyer beware.  Ed’s not above rolling back an odometer, telling little lies or flirting with a customer if it means a sale.  Ed’s doing okay, but is okay ever enough?  Ed dreams of bigger things than being top salesman in a two man used car lot.

When Ed’s boss sends him to repossess a Cadillac, he meets Nancy.  At first Ed just wants the caddy, but Nancy is beautiful and flirty.  When Nancy invites Ed in for a drink, he doesn’t hesitate.  Sure, she’s married, but that’s on her, right?  Unhappily married as it turns out.  Even better.  One thing leads to another and before too long Ed and Nancy’s hot affair turns to thoughts of murder.

See if Nancy’s big, dumb brute of a husband wasn’t in the picture, she and Ed could make some real money with the drive-in and pet cemetery businesses that her husband owns.  You can guess the rest… except you can’t because Joe Lansdale is writing this tale!

Joe crafts More Better Deals with the dark humor and memorable characters that we’ve come to expect from this master storyteller.  I blazed through loving every page and unexpected twist.  If you’re a fan of noir and stories like The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity then More Better Deals is for you.  (And don’t say I didn’t warn you about a scene so creepy it will stay with you for days!)

Rating:

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry / Z-View

Rot & Ruin by Scott Frank

Hardcover: 458 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

First sentence…

Benny Imura couldn’t hold a job, so he took to killing.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Rot & Ruin is the first in a five book series geared to teens and young adults.  Set nearly a decade and a half after the zombie apocalypse, humanity is still struggling.  Most of the surviving humans live in small fortified strongholds fenced away from the “rot and ruin” of the zombie wastelands.

Benny Imura was just 18 months old the night the zombies rose.  Both of Benny’s parents were killed. Benny would have been as well if his teenage half-brother, Tom hadn’t saved him. For that Benny has never forgiven Tom.  Benny believes Tom is a coward for running away and not trying to save his parents.

Benny spends his days talking with friends (especially Nix, a girl that has a crush on him) and dreaming about life beyond the fences that protect them.  He looks up to the bounty hunters that venture into the rot and ruin to find food, supplies and lost souls.  Benny thinks that maybe one day he’ll become a bounty hunter.

When it is discovered that a group of bounty hunters have killed two of the townspeople and kidnapped Nix, Tom and Benny head out into the rot and ruin hoping to save her.

Maberry scores again!  I look forward to reading the other books in the series.  (PS – If I was a younger reader I know I would have scored Rot & Ruin even higher.)

Rating:

Midnight of the Soul / Z-View

Midnight of the Soul is a paperback that collects the five issue mini-series published by Image Comics.

Writer: Howard Chaykin
Artist: Howard Chaykin
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Letters by: Ken Bruzenak
Cover Artist: Howard Chaykin

*** Beware – spoilers may be found below ***

Joel Breakstone, a GI liberator of Buchenwald and brutally damaged goods, follows a path of vengeance that leads to redemption in a violent journey into his own heart of darkness―in a spiritual adventure from comics’ contemporary master of crime and punishment, HOWARD CHAYKIN.

Joel Breakstone is having a bad night.  Of course every day and night since coming back from the war five years ago has been rough.  Breakstone can’t shake the memory of an incident that nearly killed him.  He and his buddy had come upon a Nazi about to execute a POW.  A shootout occurred and when the smoke cleared his buddy, the POW and the Nazi were dead and Breakstone was severely wounded.  He lived, but came home with a drinking problem.

But back to Breakstone’s bad night – After a bad argument with his wife, she leaves for work. Breakstone while looking for some booze finds evidence that his wife has been working as a hooker.  Still half drunk, Breakstone grabs his gun and jumps on his motorcyle to find her.

His wife is with one of her best clients, a musician under contract to mobsters.  Suddenly a man busts in and kills the musician.  Breakstone’s wife barely escapes.

Breakstone is on the hunt for his wife.  The killer and the cops are also looking for her.  Before the night is over she will be found.  Who will get to her first?  And will it matter?

I’m a big fan of Howard Chaykin stories and art.  Often Chaykin doesn’t hold back on the adult situations in his tales and this is one of those. If that’s offensive, this yarn isn’t for you.

Midnight of the Soul has a lot going on besides the hunt for Breakstone’s wife.  There is also the mystery of why the musician was murdered.  Plus Breakstone’s foggy memory of the incident that left 3 people dead and nearly killed him.  All will be resolved before the night is over.

I like that the action takes place over the course of one night.  As Breakstone tracks down his wife his journey takes him across the city to strip bars, diners, and jazz clubs.  Along the way we meet a wide variety of characters some who are also looking for Breakstone’s wife.

Chaykin is at the top of his game with the art in Midnight of the Soul.  Jesus Aburtov’s colors enhance the story without drawing attention to his work in a “look at these hues” sort of way.  Often I think Chaykin’s art works best in black and white, but not this time!  The story reminds me of an old movie with a modern sensibility (or an “R” rating).  Chaykin’s heroes, or in this case, anithero, don’t always do the noble thing, but they do what is right for their character.


Rating:

Shaker by Scott Frank / Z-View

Shaker by Scott Frank

Hardcover: 335 pages
Publisher: Knopf

First sentence…

A swarm of nearly seven hundred small earthquakes – most in the 2.0 to 3.0 range – rattled the Mojave Desert between June and September.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Following a major earthquake, Ray Cooper is sent to LA to kill a man.  Cooper has the experience and a reputation for getting the job done efficiently without blowback.  Despite the chaos the quake caused, the hit goes well.  As Cooper walks back to his car he stumbles on to a mugging. Given the option, Cooper would prefer to keep walking, but the muggers see him and things quickly escalate. An old man is killed and Cooper is shot twice as the gangbangers run away.

It doesn’t take long for the police to show up at the hospital where Cooper is recovering.  A video surfaced showing Cooper standing up to the hoods as they kill the old man. Cooper is seen as a hero!  The press is running with this angle and the video has gone viral (which is the last thing a hit man would want).  The cops and the press have questions.  Cooper knows that it won’t be long before the police are able to figure out his alibi for being in the area doesn’t hold water.  Once that happens it’s an easy connection to the man he executed a few blocks away.  Despite his weakened condition Cooper has to go on the run.

Running won’t be easy.  The gangbangers that Cooper disrespected (for the world to see thanks to the viral video), want revenge.  The cops want Cooper for questioning.  And Cooper knows that someone far scarier than him has been sent to LA to “fix” the situation.

Scott Frank has created a crime novel with twists you won’t see coming by developing a believable cast of characters.  Many authors hint at backstory, but Frank has the ability to move the story forward while at the same time showing us past events that have shaped the characters.  I look forward to more novels from Scott Frank.

Rating: