Tag Archives: pulp fiction

Red Night Zone by James Newman

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A neon ballerina hits the stage in the savage world of Bangkok. She’s grinding her body on stripper poles and trying to take the right kind of men back into hotel rooms, because from the gutter, she can see her million dollar dream glinting in the tropical night sky. She seduces a man out of a briefcase he says is loaded with everything he’s worth. Later her body is found with the head cut off inside her ragged apartment. The briefcase is gone from the scene of the crime. Private investigator, Joe Dylan, is hired to retrieve the missing briefcase from Bangkok’s seedy criminal underbelly.

The city is a savage jungle of sex, black magic, and murder—the Nirvana of debauchery. The clues lead Joe Dylan into the dark and dangerous quagmire known as Demon Dreams, a shadowy S&M brothel for high profile clients with unusual needs. The madam, a gorgeous transsexual, and her brother, a mute kick-boxer who sees demons, hold a grim secret that connects a string of murdered women and the missing briefcase.

James Newman has commented, “The Red Night Zone is an acid trip, where the loose ends don’t tie up. Or if they do then not the way one expects.

Red Night Zone is a voyeuristic pulp fiction that’s always on the verge of dissolving into madness but keeps it together. Newman is a literary risk taker. He gambles hard with his storyline and subject matter like a strung out Vegas junkie betting his wedding ring and bus ticket back home. There’s a dread looming over him, but he manages to say something funny about the way people die. Newman’s style is morbidly funny with a clean prose that reminds me of Stephen King. His journalistic portrayal of Bangkok and his insider knowledge of everything weird is homage to Hunter Thompson’s gonzo journalism. Red Night Zone is the second book out of his Bangkok series. You don’t have to read the first book to enjoy this one, but they’re better together like a pair of stripper breasts.

In the 1950’s Raymond Chandler gave pulp readers Philip Marlowe. James Newman gives us a private investigator for our generation, Joe Dylan. His book is available on Amazon.

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The Rip-Off by Jim Thompson

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I was hesitant about reading The Rip Off because of everyone claiming how much it sucked. Well, after reading it I can definitely say it is only they who are doing the sucking. This book cracked me up! I had to do a fake cough several times to cover up my laughter. Thompson knows how to write dialogue. It’s witty, original, and occasionally outrageous. Likewise is the cast of desperate characters who are big enough to speak them.

The Rip Off is about a guy out in the country who is screwing around on his wife. He isn’t very bright, in fact he’s a moron. Well, sticking your thing into everything that walks is bound to get you in trouble and that’s exactly what happens. The dude get’s caught up with these crazy dames that don’t know if they want to screw him or kill him.
The biggest gripe against this book is that it’s lacking the blood and guts violence from his other novels. Ok, that I will give to you. There isn’t very much violence, it’s more of a flirtation with disaster. It’s refreshing to see Thompson write a hard-boiled comedy without dumping a bucket of blood on top.

The plot is a little so-so, but as Stephen King says about plot: “The good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice.” What makes this book shine are the character interactions and risky situations.

Good pulp doesn’t have to be all gore.

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POP. 1280 by Jim Thompson

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I decided to keep the pulp fiction train going with another classic. POP. 1280 by Jim Thompson is a story takes place in a small, racially segregated, god fearing town called Potts County. Nick Corey, the High Sheriff, is known to the townsfolk and his wife as the easygoing moronic lawman that’s too cowardly to arrest anybody. What nobody knows is that hidden underneath his goofy exterior lays a mercilessly sinister and manipulative personality. One day Nick gets tired of the corruption in the town and decides to do a little vigilante work which opens a can of worms. Nick’s other problem is that he can’t quite keep it in his pants. Eventually the juggling act is set to blow up in everyone’s face.

Besides being a classic pulp that beautifully weaves murder, sex, and betrayal, POP. 1280 is a biting satire of American culture. There are several scenes in which lawmen debate the issue of “Nigger” politics and law with an air of total sincerity. The hypocrisy of Christian brotherhood is hilariously depicted when a character is literally assaulted with a bible. Thompson cracks the mask of the good American citizen which then breaks away, piece by piece, to reveal the true American character: animalistic and absolutely shameless. But Thompson doesn’t get on a high horse. His critique of society is almost a concession to the amorality at the core of our being.

You want some pulp? Here it is. Pop 1280 takes no prisoners and makes zero apologies. It’s crude, vulgar, and sadistic as hell. For a tiny pocket book of merely 215 pages, it’ll grab you by the throat and drag you through the woods. It’s funny. I laughed out loud multiple times. The murders are always personal. Like all of Thompson’s writing, this one is deeply psychological. It puts you in the passenger seat alongside a charming psychopath. What a ride…what a ride. Who are we going to run over next? The suspense is killing me.

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The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett

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The last three books I reviewed were a little heavy on the brain so I decided to read something purely for fun. Fun for me is old school noir. The genre is fascinating because the writing in some cases is both masterful and cheesy. The masterpiece of cheese I picked up was The Dain Curse by the granddaddy of hardboiled crime, Dashiell Hammett. The story is about a detective who is called in to solve the case of missing diamonds. It starts off pretty slow and I’m expecting a straightforward detective read. Our guy meets Gabrielle, a beautiful young woman with an addiction for the occult and morphine, and suddenly it’s like this straitlaced book decided to drop a couple hits of acid and fill body bags like Christmas stockings.

The plot gets crazy. New characters and plot twists are fired at you with inhuman speed. Hammett pushes the story to the point of disintegration then pulls it off incredibly every time. The tough guy talk and longwinded confessions by the villains were all there. Everyone had a gun in his book. I think even a dog accidently shot a key witness. Yet with all this madness going about, Hammett keeps a straight face the entire time which makes it hilarious. Mind you this book isn’t a comedy, just like old kung-fu flicks weren’t made to be funny—and yet, there they are. Even the racism is so over the top that I couldn’t help laughing out loud.

I couldn’t see the hand that was exploring my inside coat-pocket, nor the arm that came down over my shoulder; but they smelled of the kitchen, so I knew they were brown.”

I literally dropped my taco and felt guilty for stealing this wonderful book, especially since I had just received my welfare check.

This book may come off a little bizarre to some of the noir purists, and rightfully so. As for me, I see the early roots of pulp in this blood soaked gem. It’s sort of a hybrid between vintage crime and pulp. Hammett is better known for his work, The Maltese Falcon. I can honestly say I enjoyed this one better.

 

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Bangkok Express is a bloody good ride

Indie pulp writer James A. Newman gives us a guided tour into the criminal underground of Bangkok, Thailand in Bangkok Express. It’s a tropical pulp fiction with an international cast of characters caught in a spider web of corruption–with coldblooded murder for cash at the center. Newman’s depiction of Bangkok makes the city come alive in all its beautiful savagery. It is a strange place that is both burning with poverty and drowning with dirty money. There’s no such thing as corruption in Bangkok. You either swim with the sharks or get eaten by piranhas. No money means no mercy. Bangkok, baby, hope you’re ready.

The book opens up with one of the most uniquely depicted murder scenes I’ve ever read. Newman portrays the act of murder in a way that I can only refer to as a work of art. It’s a style in which panic, adrenaline, fear, and confusion exist in a vacuum. From the first chapter, I knew I was hooked on this savage tale. This book is definitely a fast-paced thriller, and the only time you ever get to relax is in some sleazy sex mall with Thai ladyboys offering a cheap walk on the wild side. Or perhaps you would care for a comfy couch and a little heroine? Fear in Loathing in Bangkok, why not? This book definitely has that Hunter Thompson “gonzo” quality.

I especially enjoyed the brand of characters that were caught up in the mix. Together they formed just the right formula for everything to go to hell in a hand basket. Put a couple million British pounds up for grabs, and let the backstabbing begin. In some ways, Bangkok Express is a bit of a demented comedy. There’s some character dialogue that really captures the essence of dark humor that pulp fiction is loved for. How Newman’s characters manage a good laugh with a gun shoved in their faces is commendable. Although the plot can get a little tricky with so many players off completing their piece of the puzzle, the story stays tight and never becomes messy (that is until somebody’s brain gets a bullet massage).

I’d recommend this book to all you crime lovers out there. All the sick minds that can appreciate murder with a little bit of irony sprinkled over it and a splash of tropical paradise. The book does push the cheese factor on a few occasions, but I guess things just have their own way of unfolding in Bangkok. Newman lives in Thailand; he’s seen (and done) some stuff that we can only guess. It’s that firsthand experience that gives Bangkok Express that genuine gritty authenticity. Sniff hard enough and you can suck in the smells of diesel fumes and fresh mangos, and have the pink glare of neon lights softly stinging your eyes. According to his bio on bangkokbooks.com, he’s currently working on another book while awaiting the apocalypse. Now that’s the kind of attitude that produces books worth reading.

James A. Newman

Bangkok Express can be found at bangkokbooks.com and amazon.com. His books are available in paperback and for e-format. He has also written other pulp works Bangkok City, Lizard City, and his short story collection Thailand After Dark.

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