Saturday, September 4, 2010

Comic Review: Joker by Brian Azzerello and Lee Bermejo

by Scott D. Parker

Of all the things Heath Ledger did for the character of the Joker, making the Clown Prince of Crime a thug tops my list. I’ll not go so far as to say that the comic book version of Joker was genteel. He was always a murderous character, more so in the last twenty-five years. But you always got the sense that the Comic Book Joker didn’t want to get his hands dirty. Sure, he’s shoot you but he’s leave it up to someone else to clean up the mess.

Not so with Ledger’s Joker. He’s a thug. He’s dirty. He’s vicious. And he’d just as soon stab you with a knife and have you bleed on his hand as shoot you. It was a characteristic of Joker that I welcomed. It’s the difference between noir and pulp. Pulp is fun, gritty at times, but, in the end, kinda light. Noir is dark, brutal, always gritty, seamy, unsettling.

With the original graphic novel, Joker, that sensibility is alive and well. Joker is noir.

The graphic novel is about Joker but it’s also about Jonny Frost. He’s the narrator, a young punk who doesn’t know what he’s getting into when he agrees to go pick up Joker from Arkham Asylum. It seems someone thought the Joker cured and got him released. Wonder if that doctor isn’t an inmate in the asylum. Nonetheless, Frost picks up Joker and starts his crash course in revenge, Joker-style.

Another difference with Ledger’s Joker is his obsession with controlling the crime in Gotham. As that stack of money burns, Ledger’s Joker announces he controls Gotham now. In the comics, you never really got the sense that Joker was after power or control. He was just out to have some demented fun at everyone else’s expense. Azzerello’s Joker is, again, more in the Ledger vein than previous incarnations. Joker, upon his release, discovers that his organization has gone to the crapper. And he’s out to fix that situation no matter how many bodies pile up.

The first body is that of Monty, the man who is a lieutenant in Joker’s army who didn’t please the master well during the master's absence. Literally, Monty is skinned alive. Frost is shocked (as are we readers) but then Joker gives a little speech. And Frost is…awestruck. The artwork by Lee Bermejo is painted, not your typical four-color art. Every frame is beautiful despite its occasional grisly nature. The frame with a starstruck Jonny Frost tells more than an hundred words. Jonny Frost is in the spell of the Joker.

The story progresses as we watch Joker, Frost, and Harley Quinn (a stripper) go see various members of Gotham’s rouges gallery. “Killer” Croc is a big-ass black man with acne scars. Croc is drawn so huge on the page that it feels like the white frames surrounding the artwork won’t be enough to hold him in. Abner (aka Penguin) is the moneyman of Gotham, something Joker doesn’t have enough of and something that he craves. Two-Face is here and he seems to be as vain as Harvey Dent used to be before a punk threw acid on his face. He’s the big cheese, too. It’s all about Joker getting back what’s his from Two-Face. And the Riddler, er, Edward Nigma, is here and he’s, well, weird.

All this is to say that this is almost an alternate universe kind of thing but it speaks to what makes the Joker tick just as good as 1988's The Killing Joke or other famous Joker-centric stories. There’s a few scenes of honest empathy if you’ll allow yourself to feel for a psychopath. In one crucial four-page sequence, Joker takes a broken bottle to the face of another thug, blows up a building, and then, is seen crying and hugging on Harley. This is almost as shocking as the violence.

If Joker’s involved, you just know Batman will eventually make an appearance. For the most part, however, he's merely a looming presence off-screen. To be honest, the way the story moves, I didn’t need Batman to show up. I knew he was coming...and I almost didn't want him to. Just as I enjoy the Gotham Central comics (featuring the police officer of the G. C. P. D.), I was quite enjoying all the criminals without the hero. But he’s called (you’ll never guess by whom and how) and dispatched. Quick as lightening, the story wraps up.

A bit too quickly for my tastes. The ending, while decent, wasn’t the gee-whiz ending of, say, The Killing Joke or Branded Woman by Wade Miller. It was just an ending. It spoke to why the Joker was released from the asylum but never really answered the question why he was released. Unless the answer is in some subtext, I missed it.

Azzarello can do believable dialogue with the best of’em. It’s fun seeing these hardened, yet flamboyant criminals talk trash to each other. In a cast full of insanity, it’s even fun to read two of them joke about a third person:
Abner/Penguin: Someone is very sore at you.
Joker: Really? That’s wonderful news. I just like to make him sore. It’s what drags me out of bed.
Abner/Penguin: No, not him. Though I’m certain he’s not very happy about what you’ve been up to either. I’m speaking of Dent.
Joker: Harvey’s mad? Which one?
Abner/Penguin: Ha!
Joker: You think it’s funny, Abner?
Abner/Penguin: I think it’s a fair question. I don’t know how to answer it.
What about Jonny Frost? Well, let’s just say he’s us. He’s the “us” who looks at the movies and comics and sees all the havoc created by a man who looks like a clown and thinks “That’s cool. I want to be like the Joker.” Jonny Frost thinks that, too, at the beginning. He gets his first row seat to the madness that is Joker. Jonny looks into the abyss and makes a decision. It’s the most crucial decision of his life.

What this book boils down to, for me, is this: it’s a kind-of sequel to 2008's “The Dark Knight.” Visually, Joker is drawn as the perfect blend of Ledger’s Joker with the comic book Joker. Characteristically, he’s more Ledger’s Joker than the gentlemanly version from the comics. You get in the head of a killer. And you see things you never expected. Just be sure to go into the story with an open mind. It’s a good story and well worth your time.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Coming to America...

By Russel D McLean

First time I went to the states I was 12. My memories are a hazy blur, if I'm honest, but more than a few images stick in my mind. Food mostly. My first proper buffet experience, Denny's breakfasts (hey, I was tweleve and breakfast here is like, a bowl of cereal), tacos the size of my head and so many other delights.

Since then I've been back several times... once during an unsuccesful application to NYU (I was going to my PhD there and foolishly decided Bristol uni offered a better course) and again for Bouchercons in Chicago, Madison and then Baltimore. I've been to NYC twice now, and still love the city, because it lived up to everything I imagined and then some. Something in the air excites me about the place. Its the people, too. I've made so many friends over the course of these trips, and one of the reasons I love going back is to see them and also to see who else I can bump into. Also, I dig the US indy bookstores, and maybe it says something that after the Madison Bouchercon I was followed home by seven large boxes of books that came via the mail.

"So, Russel," I hear you say, "What is the rambling of your love for the US leading us to?"

Oh, you're well ahead of me, you terrible smart people. Yes, I'm just wrapping things up now, but I am proud to announce a small US tour prior to what will be a wonderful event in San Francisco, this year's Bouchercon.

Its only a few dates, but I'd like to thank all the stores who have been willing to let me invade their premises. So if you're in the US and find yourself in need of coming to see a beardy Scotsman, then check out these locales:

7 October, I'll be kicking things off with the lovely folks at Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis. I've never been to Minneapolis before, but let me tell you this: I'm looking forward to it. Come along and hear me ramble at 7pm.

On October 8, I'll be heading out early to make a beeline for Texas where in the evening, I'll be appearing at Houston's wonderful Murder by the Book. Again, I've never been to Houston, but they tell me its fairly hot out that way. This means I will not be wearing my big leather jacket.

A few days rest (I'll be seeing some friends at this point, more than likely) means I'll be in Scottsdale, Arizona for an event at The Poisoned Pen on 11 October. This last gig thanks to a wonderful reader I met at this year's Harrogate who pleaded the case for my appearance at the store.

And then?

Well, then its San Fran, baby, where it'll be a blowout for Bouchercon, baby. Although I'll be very nervous about going in any cars through the city just in case this happens:

So if you find yourself at any of these places on any of these dates, do come along and say hello. I'll look forward to seeing you! And do keep an eye on my other blog just in case some other dates appear (or I can give you info on places where I'll be simply leaving behind signed stock)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It's Been a Busy Week

And now school's starting, so I'm going to repost and old Dave White Blog post and see what you guys think:

From 2009:

What Movie Got Your Into Writing?

One of the questions I often ask writers is: What book got you into writing?

There are a lot of answers, naturally. Writers range from Lehane to Chandler to Mosely to Hemingway to Shakespeare.

And all are understandable.

But I've been thinking about it, and while there are several books that got me into writing (and I'm sure I've mentioned them here), I can only think of one movie.

I saw In the Line of Fire in the theaters with my parents. It was probably in the summer between 8th and 9th grade. I also remember seeing the preview for it when I saw GROUNDHOG DAY.

The preview was John Malkovich, in a voice over, talking about killing the President. While that was happening, all you saw on screen was 1963. The sound of a ticking clock. The "6" spun around to become a "9." At the end of the voice over, Clint Eastwood slams down the phone and says "That's not gonna happen."

I was all in.

We saw it in the theater, and my heart was in my throat as Clint looked through the SEATING CHART (!!) to find Malkovich. When he got dragged on to the elevator at the end. Hell, the rooftop chase. Learning the correct way to spell "ukulele."

Great movie. Still holds up.

And I remember renting the movie and watching it again with my family. And I remember a scene--a montage--late in the film where the Secret Service is planning for the President's arrival and Malkovich is putting on his fatsuit disguise.

And I absently said, "I wonder how this would read in a book."

My parents started talking about how they'd do it, chapter by chapter with about twenty pages of description. How it would be all about building suspense and pacing. I started to play with it in my mind. How would I word those two scenes? Would I try to intertwine them or split them up? Had I read a book like that?

Afterwards, I started to track down political thrillers. I remember reading a book by Jefferey Archer about Saddam Hussein stealing the Declaration of Independence. Something by Christopher Hyde. Trying to get through PATRIOT GAMES by Clancy.

None of them brought the same feel that the movie did. At least not to my freshman mind.

So... now I'm trying to write a book with that feel.

What about you? What movies have inspired you?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Stephen King

John McFetridge

This week I'm on a family vacation and tonight we're stopping in Maine so that makes me think of Stephen King -- and Patrick Shawn Bagley, but mostly Stephen King.

I haven't read every Stephen King novel but I've read a lot of them and I really like them. When we talk about writing we always say it's really about the characters and Stephen King gets into the hearts and souls of more characters than any other writer. And these are characters I can relate to, characters we might call, "everday." When the world ends in a Stephen King novel the survivors are never black belt, super secret assasins who've been in deep cover, they're a nerdy kid with pimples and a truck driver and a waitress.

As we drove through Maine today my wife and I were telling our two sons the story of The Stand but then I told them the story of when I first read The Stand.

It was the late 70's and I was working as a night shift security guard in an office building in Calgary (I was very young, like a six year old secuirty guard, really, someone should have called a social worker). I clocked in at 11pm and was the only person in the building until 7am. So one night I arrived and sat at my desk in the quiet lobby and started reading The Stand. On the first page the car crashes at the garage and the virus is let loose. By three o'clock in the morning when I was supposed to do my rounds of the empty building most of the people in the world had died and the survivors were moving west.

I put the book down and walked through the lobby, my footsteps echoing like they nevr had before and I pressed the button for the elevator. Of course the damned thing was already on the main floor so the bell rang right away and I just about dropped a load. The doors opened and I got on the elevator. I rode up to the top floor. I was supposed to get off the elevator and check every floor but the top couple floors of the building were still being finished and looked like the constuction site they were. Or, they looked as if they'd been trashed.

And from the elevator I could see all the way out the windows and at that time Calgary was going through one of its boom periods and was very much a work in progress. There were a dozen half-built highrises and a dozen more like the one I was working in that were half-filled. So the whole city looked half-built.

Or half destroyed.

I decided the the whole building was fine and rode the elevator straight down to the lobby.

In fact, for the next month I decided the building was fine and never left the lobby.

Right up until the day I left at 7am and got called by my boss a couple hours later wanting to know why I didn't know a homeless guy was sleeping on the couch in the lobby of a law firm. Apparently he'd been in the bathroom when the building closed and he made himself at home.

It was time I looked for another job anyway.

That effect Stephen King has on readers is why he's a great writer.

So, anyone else care to share a story about reading Stephen King?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Goldfish Heist

By Freewheelin' Jay Stringer

A friend recently reminded me of this story. I wrote it a couple of years ago for a competition by The Scotsman. I didn't win but it did get me published, and I got to meet with Ian Rankin and the other finalists. I also got my picture in the paper, which pleased my nan. Okay, it was only the back of my head, and the focus of the picture was the Rankin fella, but still. My nan.

Anyway. It got published, and that's about it. There's not much of an afterlife for these things unless they get collected somewhere else. But it's a story that I'm proud of, so I thought I'd give it one last airing before it goes to wherever stories go. Is there a retirement home for these things? Should I be scouting out the best care-package for it?

The Goldfish Heist.

“Big man, how can I tell if a goldfish is dead?”

“What’s it doing?”

“Well, it’s just sort of lying there.”


“Where is it?”

“Um, it’s in my hand.”

“Yes, it’s dead.”

These are the conversations you have with Cal when he’s high. He’s high most of the time.

Answering the phone got me a lot of dirty looks in the library, but it was raining outside and I didn’t want to get wet. I stayed in my seat, counting the looks I was getting from the bookish types. None of them would have the balls to call me on it, but they’d blog about it later.

Callum is the son of Mike Gibson, my boss.

Not a man to mess with.

“Okay, where are you?” Fixing Cal’s messes was my main preoccupation.

“I’m at my Da’s house.”

Damn it. Why did I answer the phone? Why does it have to be my problem?

“Where’s your dad?”

“He’s at work, I think, I don’t know.”

Here’s the problem: Mike Gibson, loan shark, filth merchant and owner of baseball bats, doesn’t own any goldfish.

He does have a prized collection of Koi Carp.

“Cal, have you killed one of your dad’s fish?”



“When you say it like that, it sounds bad.”

“Okay, sorry, but is one of your dads special fish now dead?”

“Umm. Yes.”

“When is your dad due home?”

“I don’t know, soon maybe. Joe, I’m cold.”

Oh god. Don’t ask.

“Cal, are you in the pond?”




Why did I answer the phone?

“I’m on my way.”

Cal, cold and shivering, was sat on the wooden deck chair in the garden, feet in the pond. Skinny little bastard, his skin was pale and his eyes sunken. He was wearing football shorts and a faded t-shirt, and he was blaring out tinny annoying music on his mobile phone.

I asked him what time his dad had left. I didn’t ask him why he’d picked up the fish, it’s pointless asking a smackhead why they’ve done something stupid. They’ll give you an answer but it wont be anything that helps.

“Uh, I don’t know, man. Like, a while ago.”

His favourite baseball bat had gone from his collection in the kitchen; that meant he was out collecting.

“See, I was thinking,” Cal said. “That maybe if we killed all of them others, like, da’ wouldn’t notice that this one was dead.”

He offered up the dead fish to me like a peace offering.

“I’m not touching that thing.” I brushed his hand aside and the fish flopped onto the patio.

“Cal, are you trying to tell me, you’ve killed one of your dads prized pets, and the only way you can think to make it better is to kill all of his other pets?”

“Well, I mean, we could fix it like a burglary, aye? Someone comes over the back wall, nicks some stuff, tv an’ shite. They killed the fish on the way out. To make a point, like.”

He stood there, grinning.

“What kind of a point is that then, to kill some fish?”

“I don’t know, burglars, man. They do crazy shit all the time.”

He had me there, I suppose.

“Look, Cal, you’re not going to do any good here. Get a shower and sleep it off.”

Why did I pick up the phone? Now this was on me.

Well, time to share.

“Baz, mate.” Barry had answered on the twelfth ring. He had a new girlfriend and, at any other time, it was funny how much touching they were doing. “Look, can you just put that girl down for five minutes? I need your help. What do you know about Koi Carp?”

Barry turned up 15 minutes later, with the lazy grin of sex. He had his laptop tucked under his arm, and a litre of vodka, ‘just in case’.

I took him straight out to the back patio. He nudged the dead fish with his foot.

“This is not good,” he said. “I think that one was Gibby’s best fish.”

“He had a favourite?”

“Yeah, well, its the same colours as Dundee United. He liked that one most.”

We both talked for a few minutes about all the fanciful acts of violence we could try out on Cal, but that wasn’t getting us anywhere near safe.

“You never seen what happened to the last person to mess with his fish, did you?” Barry scratched his chin and laughed as he told me.

“His name was Dave something, I forget his second name. He makes a whistling noises when he talks, because of the amount of damage Gibby done to his jaw.”

“Why did he mess with the fish?”

“Oh, it was accident. He was painting the wall back there, and some of his paint got into the water. Hate to think what he’d do to someone who messed with the fish on purpose. Where were you when Cal was doing this, anyway? Aren’t you meant to be baby sitting the wee shite?”

What could I say?

“I was in the library reading some big textbook about psychology,” is not something they’d want to hear. If they knew I was putting myself through open university to become a teacher, they’d look at me as if I’d just told them I was gay. And that wasn’t going to be happening either.

“I was getting laid,” is what I said.

Barry grinned and scratched his crotch. “Me too,” he said.

“So how much do these things cost?”

I was knelt over Barry as he searched the internet for information.

“Apparently,” he said, “ the word ‘koi’ actually means ‘carp’. So we really sound dumb when we call them ‘koi carp’.”

“I don’t care how dumb we sound. I want to know how much they cost.”

“It doesn’t really say. I guess it varies, there’s a lot of different kinds. I mean, these little ones on this site, they cost less than a tenner.”

“And Gibby’s carp?”



“They look like....ah.”

He shut down the lid on his laptop and reached for the vodka.

“What is it?”

“They look like the top breed, the real showy ones.”

“What we talking, twenty five? Forty?”

“You know when you visit a car showroom, and all the fiestas have prices on them, but, say, an Aston Martin doesn’t? None of these websites are listing a price for Gibby’s koi.”

I took a long pull from the bottle, before letting out a long sigh that turned into a swear word.

“Where can we get one?”

Barry lifted the lid on his laptop and did another search.

“Dobbies, in Paisley.”

Paisley? Why the hell did I answer the phone?

We parked up out of sight from the front door. Barry’s Fiesta is a better getaway vehicle than the number nine bus. Inside my coat I had a plastic bag full of water, the way you carry goldfish. It was a cold and heavy against my side. We walked around the garden bits first, playing it about as casual as you can when you’re thinking of stealing an expensive goldfish. They had wooden patio furniture of the same sort found in Mike Gibson’s garden, but I doubt he got it there. They also had some fun gnomes, the sort of garden ornaments that everyone wants, but nobody will admit. And some of those strange statues you can buy to put in a pond.

“You ever seen the point of these?” I asked Barry.

“The fountains?”

“Well not so much that. You want a fountain, that’s fine. But why would anyone want a wee little naked boy holding the fountain?”

“Its not a boy, its a cherub, or a fairy, or something. Like in a fairy tale.”

“You’re telling me you don’t look at that, and see nothing but a statue of a naked little boy?”

“Well, now that you say it. Damn, Joe, now that’s all that I can see.”

We found the place where they kept the fish, an aquarium section that was both too warm and too damp. Tanks full of goldfish, tropical fish and stupid plastic castles.

And a big fake pool full of Koi.

“Anyone of those look like the one we need?”

“Easy way to find out,” said Barry as he pulled the dead fish out of his coat.

I’d wondered what the smell was.

We knelt close to the waters surface and compared the Koi to the smelly thing in Barry’s hand. There was one that was the right colours, but the patterns were different.

“That’s not going to matter,” I said when Barry mentioned the difference. “ I mean, its not as if he’s going to pick it out of the pool and fuss it. It just needs to look close enough from a distance.”

“What do you think? I drop this one in, we pick up the live one, and then on the way out tell them one of their fish looks ill?”

“I don’t know, I can’t see a way of getting that fish picked up without drawing attention. We’d need a diversion.”

“What kind of diversion can we create in a garden centre? A runaway lawnmower?”

“Lets try the honest way.” I called over someone in the shops uniform. A gormless looking kid with spiky blonde hair and blood shot eyes.

“How much is the Carp?” I asked.

“Koi,” said Barry.

“Depends, there’s a couple of rare breeds in there. Which one?”

“That one with the tangerine bits on it, the fat one.”

The kid stooped low to look at the fish we were pointing at, then straightened up with a grin.

“That’s the rare one. A hundred, pal.”

It was the way he said it, that’s what annoyed me most. Like he knew we couldn’t afford that. If Gibson was going to be paying me back, a hundred quid would be no problem. But out of my own pocket? No chance.

“Any chance of a student discount?”

Barry flashed his student ID, 5 years out of date.

The blonde kid shrugged a refusal.

“Expensive, these carp.” I said.

“Koi.” The kid said.

We got the distraction we needed when I broke the kids nose with the heel of my fist. While I pushed him face first through the nearest tank, asking him how much the goldfish in it cost, and if the plastic castle came free with them, Barry slipped about in the pool and picked up the koi.

We got it into my bag of water before dropping it, and ran out through the main entrance. Laughing at all the stunned shoppers, frozen in the act with their potted plants and miniature plastic wheelbarrows.

Back at Gibson’s house, Cal opened he front door. He was washed and alert.

“What ye got, man?”

We pushed past him and through to the garden, where I opened my coat and tipped the bag upside down into the pond.

The koi, fat, tangerine and lifeless, floated on the surface.

“Fuck.” I managed to say it calmly enough. “You put the wrong one in the bag.”

“No, that’s the right one. It must’ve died in the bag. I guess we needed a special tank to carry it in, or something.”

“Well I would’ve thought that was obvious,” said Cal.

I stood and breathed slowly for a moment. Then went with the only option left.

“Barry, load the television, DVD player, and anything else you fancy into the car. We’re going to make this look like someone broke in, and killed the carp to make a point.”

Cal laughed and started to help, picking up fish.

Once we were finished, and Barry had gone, I dialled a number into my phone.

“Mike? It’s Joe Pepper. Listen, you’ve been robbed. Sorry man, the bastards killed your fish. What? Yeah, sorry. Cal tried to stop them, wee trooper, but they set about him.”

I hit Cal hard enough to bruise. And again.

It felt good.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Young Adult Books for Adults

By Steve Weddle

So we're chatting on Twitter last week about adults reading young adult books. MOCKINGJAY had just come out at midnight and folks were excited.

It's possible that if you search the basement of DSD, you'll find an archived post in which I might have made what could be considered a "snide" remark about adults who read the TWILIGHT books about the 120-year-old guy seducing a teenage girl.

But many adults read young adult books. OK. As DSD's Jay Stringer said, "A good book is a good book." Of course, he should know. He wrote OLD GOLD.

I asked folks for a good recommendation for a young adult book that I might like. I said I'd listen to suggestions and pick one and then report back about how cool it was -- or wasn't.

Kent Gowran mentioned Robert R. McCammon's Boy's Life.

McCammon says this at his site:

I say Boy's Life is not about lost innocence, because I believe we all maintain the pool of innocence and wonder inside us no matter how far we get away from our childhood. I believe this pool can be revisited, and we can immerse ourselves in its healing water if we dare to take the risk of knowing again the children we used to be. This is a risky thing, because once we look back---once we let that wonderful pool take us in again---we may not ever fully return to being the adults we are now.
This is part of what Boy's Life is about: the rediscovery of magic, of wonders that lie drowning and half-forgotten in our souls. Boy's Life is about the dreams and terrors in the life of a Southern boy in 1964, but I hope it is more than that, too; I hope it is a universal key to yesterday, and by the opening of that door for a backward look we may all see today tomorrow in a much clearer, brighter light.

What it's about: The year is 1964. On a cold spring morning before the sun, Cory Mackenson is accompanying his father on his milk delivery route. Without warning a car appears in the road before them and plunges into a lake some say is bottomless. Cory's father makes a desperate attempt to save the driver, but instead comes face-to-face with a vision that will haunt and torment him: a dead man handcuffed to the steering wheel, naked and savagely beaten, a copper wire knotted around his neck. The lake's depths claim the car and the corpse, but the murderer's work is unfinished as, from that moment, both Cory and his father begin searching for the truth.

OK. That sounds promising. A few other folks suggested that one too, or agreed with Mr. Gowran. Well, let's put that one in the running.

How about JERNIGAN, also recommended by Mr. Gowran? 
"Self-pitying, alcoholic widower Peter Jernigan, unable to communicate with his confused teenage son and emotionally distanced from his live-in lover, narrates this depressing first novel."

Well I like the sound of that. I don't know from the work of David Gates, but this looks promising. No idea how this is young adult, but 'tis intriguing.

Hilary Davidson mentioned Sophie Littlefield's upcoming BANISHED. Now, I don't need much convincing to read a book from Sophie Littlefield. Of course, for those who could use a push in that direction, here's an excerpt you'll dig.

John Hornor Jacobs has a YA book, which I'll of course read because his THIS DARK EARTH is such a great novel. 

Allan Guthrie said Jess Mowry is worth looking up. He suggested WAY PAST COOL, which looked good and has an excerpt here.

THE NEW RULES OF HIGH SCHOOL by Blake Nelson was the suggestion of JimmyTheWorm. According to the Booklist write-up at Amazon, "High-achieving students may question whether Max's voice and lifestyle really belong to a Yale-bound kid, but many teens will recognize the book's rapid dialogue, school politics, and the young man's wandering, often painful ambivalence."

Amy Boggs may or may not have suggested MOCKINGJAY.

Tom Piccirilli said "Try Peter Abrahams's Reality Check or Bullet Point. Very strong, dark YA material. And Robert Cormier, of course, including FADE." 

How could you go wrong with Robert Cormier, right? The Library School Journal people said of FADE: "Those who find Cormier's novels bleak, dark, disturbing, and violent will not be disappointed with his latest."

Dave White said THE OUTSIDERS. I think I read that one when I was a kid. I think I liked it. You'd think I'd remember a book with Sodapop and Ponyboy Curtis.

That's the thing, though. I didn't read much young adult when I was a kid. Maybe it wasn't as popular. Maybe it wasn't a genre. Maybe it wasn't capitalized as YA, and I just didn't notice.

I read Salinger. I read Harry Harrison's STAINLESS STEEL RAT books. I read Piers Anthony. I read Dr. Strange comics. I read Spider-Man. 

When I was a young adult, science-fiction was young adult. There was fiction on the left-hand side of the Waldenbooks in the mall. There were children's books in the back right corner, along with some "merchandise." In the middle was all of the non-fiction. The biographies. The sports books. Cook books. And along the right-hand side of the store was the science-fiction and fantasy. That's where they kept the Steven Brust, the Isaac Asimov.

Maybe I need to head into the new stores and look in the YA sections. Maybe I need to see what all the fuss is about.

I still can't imagine a noir hero in a YA book, though. Someone who loses. Someone who doesn't [SPOILER ALERT] defeat Voldermort at the end of the book, or whatever the YA equivalent is.

Is it possible that Young Adult Noir even exists? I mean, yeah, there's the Glass family in Salinger's works, but anyone else?

Forget the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Or maybe don't. I don't know. Young Adult mysteries. Thrillers. Noir. OK, DSD friends and neighbors. What have you got?

Bump and Giggle

I was in a car accident the other day and still ache and don't really feel much like sitting here to bang out the long post I envisioned. So instead let's talk about what's paralyzed you in your life either writing-wise or other. I found it hard to get back behind the wheel right away after the accident. Also a couple years ago I was paralyzed by an awful block for most of the year due to a number of factors. So tell me about your shit. What's screwed your brain in life?

(PS - Hopefully some time tomorrow or today or whenever you're reading this I'll get a burst of percocet-laced inspiration and put up the post I originally intended to write. There's always hope, right?