Grifter’s Game (Lawrence Block)

Rating 4/5

Grifter’s Game previously published as Mona cements my love of the noir genre, indeed Grifter's Gamethree out the last four books I have read have all fallen in to noir, if you look at my good reads profile (Markdini) you may notice a string noir novels to be read. So not only is The Hard Case Crime books a must for me there are a must for fans of detective fiction from the 1940’s up to the present day. I will go one further and name the out the last four book I have read including Grifter’s Game have all be from the Hard Case Crime label the moving tale of loss and the only Stephen King book I have enjoyed Joyland, The story of ex porn star come femme-fatale Angel Dare in Money Shot which is a solid modern tale of mobsters, the porn industry and money.

Exploring the femme-fatale theme Block’s Grifter’s game follows likable con man Joe Marlin, who hops from hotel to hotel stealing and grifting his way through life. Until he “borrows” the wrong mans suitcases. What’s more there is dame who is to Joe but will Joe do what is needed to keep Mona?

Block is a master of his genre Grifter’s Game is example of noir from the 60’s that holds well now. Joe Marlin develops through out the book and when the ending comes although you may not agree with Marlin you can understand how he got there. Block’s character development and story arc is tight the book weighs in at a mere 200 pages. Block writes with a rhythm akin to Elroy, in fact Block is somewhat darker than Elroy in places.

At he heart of Grifter’s Game is how far would a man go for love? And how far would someone go to be free? Despite it’s brevity Grifter’s game incorporates more in to it’s pages than most stories double the length can muster, a true testament to Block’s writing.

Joyland by Stephen King a book review

Ratting 4/5

So if you have read my review of Titanic Thompson the man who bet on everything.you will know I have an affinity for the grifter and con-man being interested in such matters, I also have a passing interested in carnivals (fun fairs if you are from UK like me). If you have been following this blog you will also know that I am a fan of noir as Money Shot by Christa Faust and The Moving Target will attest to, you may also might have noticed a like a good horror story along the lines of A Head full of Ghost. You might have also have read that me and Stephen King have not the best relationship Stephen King’s IT: A book that that I couldn’t finish. So if you take a Noir story set it at a carnival, with a ghost written by Stephen King, I am not going to know what to to, could I suffer another 280ish pages of King again?

Joyland at it’s heart is a murder story against a backdrop of a carnival the titular Joyland. Add a dying child in a wheelchair who has a gift (I believe the King fans will call the is the shining), mix  in a young man’s story of love that was lost, drop in a story of friendship, whisk then add a ghost. You have one of the most unique pieces of noir fiction released by the Hard Case Crime Publishing house.

It’s hard to review Joyland with out spoilers and it is a story that I want you discover on your own. I would be doing you a disservice if I told you too much.

Devin Jones, has just had his heart broken by a woman, he decides to get a summer job at Joyland to take his mind of things. The old timers of the carnival speak of a murder in the fun house, Devin decides to delve deeper, whats more there is talk of a ghost as well.

Now in his 60’s Devin tells his story of working  at Joyland way back in 1973. Devin’s story covers loss, love and untimely closure, King weaves his story with enough carny slang draw you in to the world of the carnival, he brings the emotions to table and sets out a truly moving story. That’s all you need to know before you pick this up, fans of Kings non horror will enjoy this, fans of noir will enjoy this too, it might not be the hard boiled we know but it works.

Joyland  does 3 things.

  1. questions what  exactly is noir
  2. Sets up enough emotion to move and hook the reader
  3. Achieves the status of being a Stephen King book I like

Not being a King fan in a world where most Horror readers are, I may be a minority but Joyland is one of Kings works to the Contrary.  Enough elements to keep everyone’s interest going. And not a demonic clown in sight.

Money Shot by Christa Faust a book review

Product DetailsRating: 4.5/5

Smut, when I was a lad in the early to mid 90’s porn was a taboo subject, Pammy and her sex tape was doing the rounds on VHS and for a young lad like me if you wanted boobs on the box, venture on to channel 5 late at night you would be treated to such films as Private Obsession, Lady in waiting or a whole host of Mills and Boone rejected titles. Other than that there was usually torn-up copy of readers wives in a bush somewhere.

Then the internet exploded: porn, blue movies smut, holiday snaps, party films; well they become main stream. The girls of porn went to Hollywood. Porn was no longer a taboo. With that in mind Christa Fuast’s Money Shot explores what happens when porn goes main stream, what happens to the stars when they are washed-up, all wrapped up in a neo-noir mid 2000’s tale. Of murder, sex trafficking and the somewhat sleazy side of L.A.

Faust introduces us to her reluctant fem-fettle Angel Dare by having our heroine locked in the trunk of a car. Angel’s story unfolds, now a retired porn star and owning her own talent agency. Angel is asked to do one more job, you know for old times sake, for a friend he will pay big and put her on the cover of the DVD too. How can she refuse?

And that is the set-up to one of the best noir stories i have read for a while, conjuring up Thompson, MacDonald and chandler all at once Faust creates a world that is a contrast of darkness and light. A contrast that runs alongside Dare throughout the book. It is a bit paint by numbers at times but that is why we read noir, it is familiar. Dare is both Sassy and vulnerable. Able to deliver lines such as :

“My brain had decided enough was enough. It had simply put on a hat picked up two suitcases, and fucked off to parts unknown.”

It is easy to take something as porn and turn it in to a postcard pastiche a carry-on film if you will. But Faust stays away from this, porn can be seedy and porn can take it’s toll on the body. Faust explains this but it never comes across as a hatchet job. The book at the time of writing is 9 years old, time moves fast in the digital world. Faust manages to catch the mid 2000’s porn scene and display it for all in the book. Now dear reader for a book about porn stars you may think this would be one of your full on, pre fifty shades novels, sex on every page, people reading it behind a copy of Cosmo. But no, you will need to get your thrills of that nature some where else.

The subject matter may turn some off (no pun intended) but this is a tightly plotted, action packed piece of noir that fans of the genre should embrace.