Cool stuff I want, Part 100,000,016: Stephen King’s Joyland (Signed Lettered Limited Edition in Traycase )

Posted in Books, Stuff on June 21, 2013 by thebigsmoke

That hoodie I liked is back in stock, but now I’m not so keen.

Anyway, Stephen King’s Joyland is out and Hard Case Crime has brought out a beautiful limited edition hardcover with a cover by Robert McGinnis.  The regular paperback has art by Glen Ortik and looks great, but the hardcover is something special.  Unfortunately, the signed and numbered versions of the limited edition were completely sold out by the time I found out about it.

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I had to settle for the standard limited edition (limited to 1,500 copies).  I’ll probably read it this month.

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52 pick up: May update!

Posted in Books on June 1, 2013 by thebigsmoke

A weak month in terms of finished books, but that’s partly because I only half-finished some stuff.  It’s also because I had about half a week where I didn’t feel like reading.  Ah well, the important thing is that I’m on track to hit my target.

22. The Hot Rock by Donald E. Westlake

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A stone cold classic from Westlake.  I’d also seen the brilliant movie adaptation with Robert Redford, so this one held few surprises.  It was fun nonetheless and at least now I’ve got the ball rolling with reading his Dortmunder books.

23. Pimp: The Story Of My Life by Iceberg Slim

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This was a probelmatic book for me, but easily the most interesting thing I read this month.  I don’t think I have ever read a more misogynistic book than this autobiography.  The pimping code is shocking by any standards, built as it is upon systematic exploitation using a combination of mental and physical abuse.  The intricacies of this abuse system are detailed with unflinching honesty and that is possibly enough to make it compelling.  However, it’s the introspection in the writing which elevates it to something beyond simple schlock.  For Iceberg Slim, the enduring legacy of a ghetto lifestyle is regret, shame and guilt.

Almost as good as Edward Bunker’s Mr Blue, which I read earlier this year.  Almost.

24. A Killing In Comics by Max Allan Collins

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The first part in a trilogy of books starring Jack and Maggie Star, comic strip publishers with a penchant for solving murder mysteries.  I read the third part in the trilogy last month and it was good enough for me to want to read more.

This one was less predictable than Seduction of the Innocent, but otherwise it really felt like more of the same.

25. Honey In His Mouth by Lester Dent

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Lester Dent is the man behind Doc Samson.  This was a decent noir tale about a small-time crook hired to take the place of a South American dictator.

Cool stuff I want, Part 100,000,015: Vault 101 hoodie

Posted in Stuff, Video Games on May 19, 2013 by thebigsmoke

The very first “Cool stuff I want” which I posted was Fallout-related.  Here’s something new which I like from Bethesda, the Vault 101 hoodie.  Not sure about the quality of the “101” on the back, but otherwise I love it.

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All the Write Moves

Posted in Stuff on May 2, 2013 by thebigsmoke

You seriously have no idea how many shitty puns on the word “write” I went through before I finally said to myself, “Fuck it, nobody cares the way you do.  Just give your post a damn title, write it and go to bed.”  It was many puns and I probably spent more time thinking about that than it will take me to write what I have to say.  Sadly, in the end I saddled myself with “All the Write Moves”, which is terrible but whatever.

What I wanted to say is that I have noticed over the last few months that my blog actually gets some decent traffic.  Not only does almost every post I make get a “like” from some random blog browser, but I have amassed a fair number of followers.  I’m pretty sure that the majority of these poor, lost souls only came to my blog to promote their own sad ramblings.  However, I’ve done enough detective work to establish that some of them are real people with, in a few cases, interesting things to say.  I sometimes feel bad for the followers I don’t already know offline, because they don’t know what they are letting themselves in for.  They might be fans of books or comics, but they probably don’t care about my vinyl purchases.  Or else maybe they like obscure rave music, but probably they don’t care about hard boiled detective fiction.  Not many people share even close to the same tastes as me, but this blog is an entirely selfish collection of comments about things which excite me.  I do enjoy entertaining people if possible, but I update it for my own amusement ultimately, because I like collecting my thoughts and writing dumb lists.  The end result is pretty schizophrenic and I apologise to anyone who has been forced to endure some pretty random updates.

Most other bloggers seem to take a different approach to me.  Either they have a specific thing they write about (books or movies or religion or, well, you get the idea) or else they treat their blog like a public journal, writing about themselves and their own particular brand of armchair philosophy.  This is not always completely boring and I can understand the temptation, but that’s never really been what I’ve wanted to write about.

Browsing through the blogosphere, I have also noticed that the vast majority of bloggers have creative aspirations.  Hardly surprising, I guess, but it’s interesting to me to see people go about unleashing their creative urges.  And it’s inspiring to me.  Not in the way that looking out at the cosmos is inspiring, but inspiring in that I see other people’s attempts and it makes me think about how I would do it.  What I would would write about.  Which brings me to my conclusion.

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My thoughts about the limitations of blogging, combined with all the reading I have been doing recently, have given me the urge to write something substantial myself.  I’m not sure what exactly, but something.

Personally, I like giving myself nerdy challenges and in the last couple of years that has been watching vast numbers of movies.  This year, I’ve set myself the task of reading a minimum of 52 books.  Next year I’m going to set myself a writing challenge and I’m already excited; excited and motivated enough to blog about it; exited enough to add wording to an image from Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch in order to better express the sentiment.  That may not be such a good thing and I will now decide whether to nip any further introspection in the bud.

52 Book Pick up: April update!

Posted in Books, Film, Television on April 30, 2013 by thebigsmoke

I don’t think I’m going to finish another book before the end of the month, so here’s my April update.

18. The Rat On Fire by George V. Higgins

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Higgins has probably always been best known for The Friends of Eddie Coyle, although he also wrote Cogan’s Trade, on which last year’s Killing Them Softly was based.  Higgins’ stories are told mostly through different exchanges; meetings between the main characters, who discuss what has happened and what it means.  There are long passages of dialogue.

Although I am familiar with his work, this is the first proper book of his that I have read.  I found it to be a good, entertaining read, if not exactly action-packed.

19. Seduction Of The Innocent by Max Allan Collins

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I did’t realise until I began reading that this is the third part in a trilogy of books from this prolific crime writer.  This book, like the earlier two, focusses on Jack and Maggie Starr, an unlikely pair of detective-cum-comic book publishers.  Collins has dabbled with comics in his other work (most notably Road to Perdition and Dick Tracy), so the mix of comic book history and murder mystery in Seduction of the Innocent is not so unusual as it might seem at first.

Each book in the short series revolves a dramatised version of a real life event in comic book history.  The focus in this one is the backclash against the comic book industry in the wake of publications by  Dr Fredric Wertham durig the 1940s.  Under pressure, the industry began regulating itself and the Comic Code was born.

To me at least the history is fascinating, so I enjoyed Collins’ alternate version of events set against a whodunnit.  How could I not enjoy this?  It’s a well-written amalgam of things I love.  My only major criticism is that, fascinating as the history was, the whodunnit was clunky and the outcome far too predictable.  Still, this was definitely good enough that I want to read the earlier parts of the trilogy now.

20. Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets by David Simon

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I only managed a measly four books this month and Homicide is the reason why.  This tome took a little over two weeks for me to read, leaving me with half a month to read anything else.  Still, it was totally worth it and this is book of the month for me.

Although it was written in the late 1980s, the book only really became popular in the last decade.  The author, David Simon, is creator of the phenomenal hit TV show The Wire.  As you can see from the cover above, Homicide has more recently been promoted as a sort of addendum to The Wire.  Consequently, it’s been rediscovered by readers and critics alike, who have come to it with a new kind of appreciation.

However, Homicide is a journalistic work, written when Simon was working for the Baltimore Sun.  He spent a year with the Baltimore’s Homicide Unit and then catalogued the investigations which he witnessed first hand.  Although the events described are all real, the book reads like fiction.  Even writing this short review I have to keep stopping myself from saying it was “based on” or “inspired by” true life, because Homicide is not a novel.

It is, however, a spellbinding snapshot of the stranger-than-fiction process of murder investigation.  Simon’s writing is thoughtful and it’s his reflections on the bigger picture which allow you to see the germ of the ideas which were later explored in The Wire.  This one definitely deserves its critical acclaim.

21. The Blackbird by Richard Stark

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The third of the four Grofield novels by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake).  I thought the second was a little off piste when I read it in a couple of months back, but this one was way off.

I always loved the Grofield character in the Parker novels, but in The Blackbird he’s shoehorned into a James Bond-style role that just doesn’t quite work.  Better than readable, but this one simply missed the mark for me.

Recent vinyl purchases, Sunday 28 April 2013

Posted in Music on April 28, 2013 by thebigsmoke

I’ve kept it pretty hardcore this weekend.  I wasn’t sure whether to post up all my purchases or just the a selection of the best tracks.  In the end, I thought fuck it and am going to post them all.  You be can be the judge of which were worth buying (if any).

Smooth But Hazzardous: We Are The Creator

My most expensive purchase this weekend.  The sample is from the first Star Trek movie.  Love this one.

The b-side isn’t too shabby either:

Smooth But Hazzardous: Push Up The Levels

Those are Ice-T vocals, by the way.  The sample’s from ‘I’m Your Dealer’.

Anyway, moving on, I also got this awesome track:

Secret Squirrel: The ‘X’ Men

It’s weird, I only heard this one for the first time about a month ago listening to one of the pirates.  I assumed it was some nu skool production and couldn’t have been more wrong.  It was only when shopping for records that I stumbled across the original vinyl.  I was very, very happy when I got that ID!  Honestly, I love all the Bogwoppa and Dance Bass releases (especially the Secret Squirrel and Undercover Elephant releases), but somehow this one had managed to completely pass me by.  I have absolutely no idea how I missed it before.  The ‘Boogie Down Bronx’ sample makes it an instant winner for me.  I also love that little MC sample before the breakdown, the same one that Dance Conspiracy used on this track:

Dance Conspiracy: Dub War (Chapter 2)

Not too sure what event the sample came from.  It might have been the UK Soul All Dayer Of The Century back in 1987.  “Shout to all the Forest Gate fly girls” anyway.  That was an awesome event.  I recommend listening to the available recordings on YouTube.

Vibes & Wishdokta: Sweetest Love

Another bit of hardcore plastic.  On a happier tip, with a big Anita Baker sample in the middle.

Finally, some drum ‘n’ bass:

Dope Skillz: Controlled Freak

I got this one for peanuts.  It’s part of a double pack by DJ Zinc under his Dope Skillz alias.  I was listening to some of DJ Hypes old shows and he was playing this, promoting the Tru Playaz label as he tends to do.  For whatever reason this track never became particularly popular, hence the low price tag; but it caught my attention.  It’s got a nice bubbling techno type of sound that I like.

Zack Once Again: The Man of Steel Trailer

Posted in Comics, Film on April 28, 2013 by thebigsmoke

To avoid my blog becoming nothing more than a list of records I’ve purchased, I’m going to squeeze in some thoughts on the new Man of Steel trailer.  It’s trailer number three, I think, which means the movie is beginning to run the risk of becoming another Prometheus; where everyone seemed to have seen about a third of the movie before it was even in cinemas.  Anyway, here it is for anyone who hasn’t seen it:

There are a bunch of cool trailers doing the rounds to get audiences excited for this year’s batch of Summer blockbusters.  I can’t say I’m especially excited for Man of Steel, but the trailer is kind of intriguing and raises some interesting questions.

I’m really not a huge fan of Zack Snyder.  He is a go-to director for comic book adaptations and is constantly working on things I should enjoy.  Yet again he’s managed to snag another great comic book project and take the helm.  He’s obviously a gifted director technically and it comes throught that he likes the comic book subject matter, but he just hasn’t been able to win me over.  On the other hand, I love Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, and his involvement in Man of Steel is encouraging.  In the latest trailer, I think you can see the influence of both directors, which is curious.  Snyder is pretty good at handling special effects and I love the look of Krypton and all the associated technology.  Maybe the movie will work if Snyder has focussed on the technical side and allowed himself to be steered by Nolan a little.

After all, the movie has a fantastic cast.  Henry Cavill seems to be a good choice for the lead role.  Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon make for magnificent support.

I am a little upset that they chose to make General Zod the main bad guy over Brainiac.  I fucking love Brainiac.  Michael Shannon is a great character actor, but even he will have a little difficulty following in Terrence Stamp’s footsteps.

Apparently there’s no Kryptonite in the movie, which I’m okay with.  As a plot device it does end up taking over sometimes, as it did in Superman Returns.  Ugh, Superman Returns.

Talking of plot, it looks like they have taken a few tips from the old Incredible Hulk TV show.  I’m not sure how I feel about a tortured Clark Kent bumming about the United States trying to find himself.  Call me old-fashioned, but I like Clark Kent the journalist.  And I mean when he was a proper journalist.  Not a blogger.  Anyone can be a damn blogger.  This post is testament to that sad fact.

And why do all movie superheroes have costumes that look like they have been made from stitched-together basketballs?  I know the Christopher Reeve Superman costume is sort of goofy by today’s standards, but it was more Supermanery somehow.  God, I sound old.

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