In my previous blog I mentioned a few of my favorite crime-comedy movies. This led me to wonder, which writers from our own community might also be considered frightfully funny.
So that I might include a more sweeping list of authors, I reached out to a few of my favorite writers and requested their opinion. Christa Faust, Beau Johnson and Steve Lauden were kind enough to give me a hand.
Ms. Faust is also an avid reader and collector of vintage paperbacks and a Film Noir enthusiast; she is clearly and uniquely qualified to give good opinion.
“Modern or vintage? Modern I'd say Alissa Nutting. Her TAMPA is blackly hilarious and disturbing as fuck. Vintage, of course I'd go with Richard Prather's Shell Scott novels, STRIP FOR MURDER being a superb example. Though you could probably say those are more hardboiled than noir.”
Alissa Nutting - Tampa
In Alissa Nutting’s novel TAMPA, Celeste Price, a 26-year-old middle-school teacher in Florida, unrepentantly recounts her elaborate and sociopathically determined seduction of a 14-year-old student.
TAMPA is a sexually explicit, bold and intelligent satire. A portrait of a sociopath with dangerous and predatory desires. Rampant with black humor and calculatedly sexualized prose, Alissa Nutting’s TAMPA is a chilling and compelling read.
“The writing is often excellent, hilariously dark, and mean…Reading about [Celeste] was honestly disturbing and fun.” (Entertainment Weekly)
Richard Prather - Strip for Murder
Shell Scott, a not-so-private investigator, has a new type of case; he has to bare it all. But this case requires no fancy P.I. accessories...in fact, it doesn’t require any accessories: he’s got to find a murderer in a nudist colony. Wearing nothing but his gun, Shell has to reveal the murderer in this entrancing mystery novel...and that’s the naked truth.
“STRIP FOR MURDER is a full-out hoot, a screwball masterpiece, a loopy romp that features our man undercover at a nudist colony and a naked Scott landing a hot air balloon in downtown Los Angeles .” (thrillingdetective.com)
In 2017 Down and Out Books released Beau’s first book and story collection, A BETTER KIND OF HATE. His maiden project a hit, 2018 saw the release of his follow-up, THE BIG MACHINE EATS. A collection of stories featuring the continuing adventures of Bishop Rider. Rider is a former policeman who’s seen too much … and suffered through rough times. Mentally twisted by his experiences, driven by his demons, Rider decides to spend his days dispensing his unique and brutal brand of justice.
“Beau Johnson is a lawless writer. Several—but not all—of the stories in his collection, A BETTER KIND OF HATE, feature his renegade cop alter ego Bishop Rider, a battered and bruised, world-weary hero forced to operate outside a corrupt system to find justice. And that’s just what these stories have in common: justice, in all its muted, corrupt glory. Whether showcasing Rider or another flawed hero, Johnson operates in shades of gray, where sometimes all it takes is for a bad man to kill a worse one. A stark and sobering reality, and a stellar debut.” (Joe Clifford, author of the Jay Porter Thriller Series.)
“Beau is back, once again proving he is the alchemist of conflict as he continues to peel back the fingernails of human frailty and forces us to stare into the darkness found there.” (Tom Pitts, author of AMERICAN STATIC and 101.)
“I remember Beetner's DIG TWO GRAVES made me chuckle out loud at times. I also recall laughing at certain dialogue in Nick Kolakowski's A BRUTAL BUNCH OF HEARTBROKEN SAPS.”
Eric Beetner - Dig Two Graves
In DIG TWO GRAVES we meet Val. An ex-con recently out of prison and back on the streets. He’s also hatched a new plan to pull off “perfect” bank robberies. All is going well until the cops come calling. Soon it becomes crystal clear who set him up, is his prison lover, Ernesto. The jailhouse affair comes out and Val’s wife is not pleased, but nothing matters much to Val except payback.
Sprung from custody, he ends up on the run with the cops after him while he is after Ernesto and a few dangers from his past on his heels. Populated by small time crooks and petty parasites, DIG TWO GRAVES is tough and sharp. Lean. The humor is dark and the pace is like whiplash.
"DIG TWO GRAVES is everything you want a blackly comic revenge tale to be: fierce, fast, funny, and deliciously foregone. You'll know on page one that this story isn't going to go well for anybody involved, but read that page and see if you can look away. I couldn't. It's all in the voice, and Eric Beetner's got a live one. I look forward to hearing more of it." (Sean Doolittle, author of THE CLEANUP and SAFER.)
Nick Kolakowski - A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps
Bill is a hustler’s hustler with a taste for the high life. He pulls off big scores for one of New York City’s more vicious gangs…until he suddenly grows a conscience. Pursued by crooked cops, dimwitted bouncers, and a wisecracking assassin in the midst of a midlife crisis, Bill will need to be a quick study in the way of the gun if he wants to survive his own getaway.
Who knew that an honest attempt at redemption could rack up a body count like this? A BRUTAL BUNCH OF HEARTBROKEN SAPS is a insane noir look into obsession, violence, and the power of love.
“Kolakowski’s got a gift of scratching his readers’ itch for pulpy, gut-wrenching narrative that moves a mile a minute and never lets you go. A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps is a hell of a yarn that sets the stage for what should be an essential series for fans of the genre.” (Angel Luis Colón, author of NO HAPPY ENDINGS, THE FURY OF BLACKY JANGUAR and HELL CHOSE ME, due out June 25.)
“Ruthless, off-the-wall and surprisingly heartfelt, A BRUTAL BUNCH OF HEARTBROKEN SAPS is much more than a heist book, and showcases the skills of an emerging writer in Nick Kolakowski. Featuring memorable characters, a down-on-his-luck protagonist and a story that’s equal parts insane and sincere, Saps is the kind of book you read fast and revisit immediately to savor the experience again.” (Alex Segura, author of DANGEROUS ENDS, DOWN THE DARK STREET and the fifth book in the Pete Fernandez series, MIAMI MIDNIGHT, due in August.)
S.W. Lauden is the Anthony Award-nominated author of the Tommy & Shayna novellas, CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). His Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, GRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is the co-host of the Writer Types crime and mystery podcast. His latest book, THAT'LL BE THE DAY, was recently released to many great reviews.
In THAT'LL BE THE DAY, A POWER POP HEIST, Lauden introduces us to Jackson Sharp. Sharp is a former guitar player fresh out of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. He's on a mission to settle the score with his dead beat dad, but needs to collect some cash from his younger brother and former bandmate, Jamie. He finds Jamie at his struggling Tulsa record shop, but the cash is long gone. Jamie offers up a heist instead—steal a rare copy of a pre-Beatles 45 from a wealthy collector in Memphis.
The road trip that follows is the violent family/band reunion that Jackson never wanted.
“Pistol popping power pop pulp fiction. I loved it!” (Paul D. Brazill author of LAST YEAR'S MAN and editor at Punk Noir Magazine.)
Very cool. Mike McCrary 100%.
Mike McCrary - Separate Checks
Former lovers, Jackie and Hunter, meet for dinner. A trip down memory lane. A blast from the past. Unfortunately, no amount of time can erase their mistrust of each other. As the meal progresses, their suspicions about the other’s intentions grow to alarming heights. One believes the other is there to murder them. The other can’t wait for their former lover to try.
Have they made a deal with the devil or will their rocky history prove to be a thing of the past?
If you dig pulp thrillers, dark humor, and wickedly entertaining antiheroes, then you’ll love Mike McCrary’s fast and funny SEPARATE CHECKS.
"Either somebody set Chuck Palahniuk and Elmore Leonard up on a blind date or we have a new mad genius on our hands. Mike McCrary delivers a mini-pulp masterpiece with prose that pounds with the best of 'em..." (Peter Farris author of LAST CALL FOR THE LIVING.)
"Mike McCrary is a dynamic new talent on the scene and quite honestly, I'd read his rewriting of PRIDE and PREJUDICE as long as it's written in the same prose..." (Benoît Lelièvre, Dead End Follies.)
Finally, my take…
Paul D. Brazill - Last Year's Man
Paul’s books include LAST YEAR'S MAN, TOO MANY CROOKS, A CASE of NOIR, GUNS of BRIXTON, THE LAST LAUGH, and KILL ME QUICK. He was born in England and lives in Poland. His writing has been translated into Italian, Finnish, Polish, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST BRITISH CRIME.
LAST YEAR'S MAN follows a troubled, ageing hit man as he leaves London and returns to his hometown in the north east of England hoping for peace. But the ghosts of his past return to haunt him.
This tale is a violent and blackly comic slice of Brit Grit noir.
“It’s all here, everything you’ve come to expect from a Paul D. Brazill caper—the fast pace, the witty banter, the grim humor and the classic tunes—except this time he’s REALLY outdone himself. Unlike the lament in the song the title takes its name from, Paul’s best years are surely still ahead of him.” (Paul Heatley, author of FATBOY, GUILLOTINE, and the newly released BAD BASTARDS.)
He is the host of the popular true crime podcast: The Long Dance. He lives in Durham, NC with his wife Lana and their cat Busey. When taking a break from his new film, Going Down Slow, Eryk plays owner to a very noir establishment, Yonder, for those lucky enough to live in Durham, NC.
TOWNIES is a collection of riveting, funny, and captivating southern fried crime stories from Eryk Pruitt, one of the best new crime fiction writers working today. Townies, and Other Tales of Southern Mischief collects, for the first time, Pruitt's short fiction in a single volume.
“A masterly storyteller, Pruitt pulls the reader into a world that zings with authenticity and life. A sterling collection.” (Publishers Weekly. (Starred Review))
"Pruitt combines the characters you would find populating the works of Tom Franklin and Cormac McCarthy with the situations and sensibilities of a rural Charles Bukowski...the stories you find in TOWNIES are as real as they can get.” (Bookreporter.)
Share or comment below on your favorite dark comedy reads.