SLOWER BEAR by Anthony Neil Smith — a Punk Noir Magazine Book Review

Punk Noir Magazine

Anthony Neil Smith is one of my favorite crime writers and if you read SLOWER BEAR it’ll be easy for you to see why.

By far, this is Smith’s best work to date, and looking over his prolific career that’s a big statement.

Compared to its predecessor Slow Bear — Slower Bear is rightly all the comparatives. The story is darker (this time dealing with two young girls who have been abducted by some twisted and sick child-smuggling mormons). The story is bloodier. The prose is bolder, tighter and greater than anything I’ve read since Slow Bear.

How about that for an opening?

The flow, pace and rhythm of Smith’s writing is a joy to read, as well as a refreshing kind of playback to 1970’s and 1980’s pulp crime, which (sadly in my opinion) we don’t get chance to read so much of nowadays.

I also liked how Smith used Covid as a very cool plot device. Hell, he pretty much made the bastard illness an antagonist in the novel.

Micah Cross is still the loser with a heart of dirty gold. He still can’t seem to catch a break and you’ll groan as you’re reading for the foolish decisions he is still making, however this rendition of the typical hero story plays much more realistically than so much of the stuff that is on bookshelves and that’s what makes SLOWER BEAR a must read.

The real crime being committed here is that Smith hasn’t yet got a contract with one of the top five. His writing deserves a helluva lot more praise for sure.

SLOWER BEAR is slated for August 19th so go and preorder your copy now!

https://fahrenheit-press.myshopify.com/products/slower-bear-anthony-neil-smith

Review by Stephen J. Golds

Villagers of Ioannina City: Zvara/Karakolia by Anthony Perconti

Punk Noir Magazine

One of the wonders of living in the digital age is the ability to practically stumble across great bands that you would not have had the opportunity to do so during analog’s reign. Don’t get me wrong, I love the hell out of wax. Everything from the warm sound, the cracks and pops, and the expanded cover art all add so much charm to the object. Music shops (especially those second-hand record shops) are like used book stores for me: they are labyrinths to get lost in for hours and hours, with the hope that you make it out with a small horde of treasures. But if analog’s strength is a quality physical product, the digital medium provides access to countless bands, scattered throughout the world. In many cases free of charge. The band, Villagers of Ioannina City, hail from the mountains of Epirus, Greece. They are a doom/ psychedelic metal band that infuses their heavy riffs with traditional instruments. Take for example their song, “Zvara.” This combination of plodding sonic sludge, coupled with wailing clarinets is absolutely trance inducing. “Karakolia” opens with some bouzouki (or is it mandolin?) chords and goes real heavy, real quick. All throughout “Karakolia,” that traditional stringed instrument is ever present, acting as a spine to the vocals, drumbeats and doom-laden guitars. I admittedly don’t speak a single damn word of the Greek language, so I have no idea what the lyrics mean. For all I know, singer Alex Karametis could be reciting his grandmother’s famous grilled sardine recipe (lemon, mint, olive oil). All kidding aside though, that is the innate power of music. It has the ability to convey moods, feelings and emotions, irrespective of the fact that the listener can understand the language. When I groove to Zvara/Karakolia I am transported to a land of rugged mountains, warm sunshine and wine-dark seas. Where heroes cross dangerous waters and pit their wits, mitts and wiles against all manner of adversaries. Villagers of Ioannina City may very well be the inventors of Homeric psychedelic metal and we are all the richer for it.

BANDCAMP LINK-Villagers of Ioannina City: Zvara/Karakolia

https://vicband.bandcamp.com/album/zvara-karakolia-ep

 

IMAGE-Villagers of Ioannina City: Zvara/Karakolia

A Perfect Teenhood: Teenager by Bud Smith ~ A Punk Noir Book Review by Scott Cumming

Punk Noir Magazine

There is a rarified air to seeing a stalwart of the indie lit scene making it to the major leagues and it’s the type of thing that ought to be supported by the whole of indie lit, both as a glimpse at the possibility and as a way to make it more frequent.

Bud Smith has written the runaway doomed lover saga for our increasingly fraught and bizarre times. Kody loves Teal, but he is locked away in juvie for calling in a fake bomb threat and receives a letter from her dad advising she’s being sent away and he’s never to see her again. Kody embarks upon an escape and sets out to Teal’s home only to kill her parents and our lovers run from there.

Smith grabs you by the scruff of the neck with short, propulsive sentences that keep you reading before delving you into the many delusions of young Kody. Are they the delusions of a seriously ill man or youthful whimsy? In some instances, they anticipate a coming seizure with any sighting of pink mist a warning sign for our protagonist.

I feel that Smith shows off the fallacy of youthful thinking throughout the novel and without anyone to defy, Kody and Teal drift through the United States seeking answers and a future without fully understanding the questions. Becoming a cowboy and possibly being related to Elvis (felt like a nod to Wild at Heart and True Romance) show us what America once was and how these things are undoubtedly of the past.

This is a bold novel that sets out to demythologise America and doomed, desperate lovers on the run and succeeds in doing so. Whether the relationship we see is a metaphor for America itself is up for debate, but it is built upon a rocky foundation seemingly not meant to last, but is never argued against even when Teal has her doubts about Kody, she dare not voice it to him.

One thing I would urge is for anybody to seek out podcast episodes where Bud is the guest as he speaks so well about the book and another topic that may come up. Down to Earth and with a soothing voice, he is easy to listen to for hours on end. And so it is with his writing as he has managed to write what is a literary novel that runs with the pace of a thriller bringing wit, mystery, whimsy into play along the way.

30 Albums I Couldn’t Live Without by Stephen J. Golds

Punk Noir Magazine

I’m a big believer in that idea of what books you like say a lot about you as a person.

But more than that, I believe it’s what music we love that says a lot.

No Books, No Life.

No Music, No Life.

So here are the top 30 albums I couldn’t live without and have meant a lot to me throughout my life. And, still do.

Am I really going to do this? Yes, yes, I am. Was it difficult as hell? Yes, yes it was.

Hell, here they are!

30. Alkaline Trio — From Here to Infirmary

29. Jimmy Eat World – Bleed America

28. The Chi-Lites – A Lonely Man

27. Bloc Party – Silent Alarm

26. Dr. Dre – 2001

25. Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

24. Damian Rice – O

23. Jay Z – The Black Album

22. The Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

21. REM – Automatic For the People

20. Counting Crows – Hard Candy

19. The Notorious BIG – Life After Death

18. Alanis Morrisette – Jagged Little Pill

17. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

16. Elvis Presley – Blue Hawaii

15. Eminem — The Marshall Mathews LP

14. Van Morrison — Blowin’ Your Mind

13. 2pac — All Eyez on Me

12. Elliott Smith — Either/Or

11. Johnny Cash — The Man Comes Around

10. The Rolling Stones — Exile on Main Street

9. Bob Dylan — Desire

8. U2 — The Joshua Tree

7. The Smiths — Louder Than Bombs

6. Billie Holiday / Billie Holiday

5. Bruce Springsteen — Born to Run

4. The Beatles — Abbey Road

3. Nirvana — MTV Unplugged

2. The Beach Boys — Pet Sounds

1. Sam Cooke — Live at the Harlem Square Club

What do you think of this list? Are there any you agree with? Don’t agree with? What albums are in your top 30?

Let me know. Nothing better than sharing great music.

Stephen J. Golds was born in North London, U.K, but has lived in Japan for most of his adult life.

He writes loosely in the noir/crime genres, though is heavily influenced by transgressive fiction and dirty realism.

His three novels are a trilogy of connected but stand alone novels that deal in themes of mental illness, trauma, betrayal and twisted love.

He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, traveling the world, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs. His books are Say Goodbye When I’m Gone, I’ll Pray When I’m Dying, Always the Dead, Poems for Ghosts in Empty Tenement Windows I Thought I Saw Once and the story and poetry collection Love Like Bleeding Out With an Empty Gun in Your Hand.

15 Novels I Couldn’t Live Without by Stephen J. Golds

Punk Noir Magazine

We all have those novels that are close to the heart. The novels that we would run into a burning building for. The novels that we’ve read cover to cover countless times.

The novels that inspired us, shaped us and took our breath away.

Here’s my top fifteen novels of all time. These novels blew my head back, devastated me and became part of me.

I hope, if you haven’t read any of these, that you’ll head over to your nearest bookstore or library and get your hands around them posthaste!!

You’re lucky. What I wouldn’t give to be reading one of these for the first time again.

15. THE MAD AND THE BAD by Jean-Patrick Manchette

Stylized, cool as hell crime fiction with undertones of existentialism and poetry. Manchette does for crime fiction what Tarantino does for cinema.

14. REVENGE OF THE LAWN STORIES by Richard Brautigan

Absolute poetry in short stories. Brautigan is hugely underrated. There is so much melancholy, bitterness, bewilderment in these stories but there’s a lot of love there too.

13. 4:48 PSYCHOSIS by Sarah Kane

A book to break the hardest hearts. This was written while Kane was undergoing therapy for bipolar disorder in a London King Cross mental facility. Sadly she took her own life after finishing it.

12. THIS BOY’S LIFE by Tobias Wolff

This was one of the books I read while growing up that spoke to me the most. It still does. Wolff writes perfect prose that speaks directly to the reader. A haunting but triumphant memoir of growing pains.

11. BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL by Elliot Chaze

The absolute noir of noir. This novel defines noir like no other.

10. THE POWER OF THE DOG by Don Winslow

A novel, in my opinion, that knocks Puzo’s The Godfather off of the top spot for greatest crime saga.

9. THE SHINING by Stephen King

This needs no introduction. Quite possibly the best horror novel ever written.

8. THE GETAWAY by Jim Thompson

No one did crime fiction like Thompson. I loved the surreal ending to this novel. A crime classic!

7. 1984 by George Orwell

More relevant today than ever before. If you haven’t read this yet, I don’t know what to say.

6. THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN TOWN by Charles Bukowski

This collection of stories is without a doubt the most inspiring book I’ve ever read. There’s so much beauty and ugliness in Bukowski’s prose and this collection is without a doubt the definition of what Bukowski was all about.

5. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by James M. Cain

A hopeless drifter and a beautiful woman. A love affair, a betrayal, money, and of course, a badly planned murder. Another absolute classic.

4. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOOS NEST by Ken Kesey

Quite possibly the most perfect piece of literary ever written.

3. ASK THE DUST by John Fante

An ill-fated love story as much about California than it is the two protagonists.

2. HAM ON RYE by Charles Bukowski

One of the two novels that has travelled the world with me. This novel is heartbreaking, funny, disturbing and truly poetic. A memoir of growing up poor and beaten down.

1. THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O’Brian

Don’t let the cover confuse you. This novel isn’t a war novel. Yes, it is set in a war zone, but it’s a novel about people and the scars we carry all our lives. It’s about what makes us human. I know it’s a hackneyed expression but while reading it I DID laugh, I did cry, I nodded my head in agreement, I fell in love and most of all I had my heart broken.

So that’s it. My top 15 books of all time. The books I couldn’t live without. I wanted to squeeze Raymond Carver in but he just lost out.

If you haven’t read any of these books, I hope you will asap!

Or if you’re looking for some “transgressive” crime noir spanning the 1920’s to the 1960’s, please check out my trilogy from Red Dog Press

https://www.reddogpress.co.uk/product-page/the-dead-the-dying-and-the-gone-a-trilogy

😉

Stephen J. Golds was born in North London, U.K, but has lived in Japan for most of his adult life.

He writes loosely in the noir/crime genres, though is heavily influenced by transgressive fiction and dirty realism.

His three novels are a trilogy of connected but stand alone novels that deal in themes of mental illness, trauma, betrayal and twisted love.

He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, traveling the world, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs. His books are Say Goodbye When I’m Gone, I’ll Pray When I’m Dying, Always the Dead, Poems for Ghosts in Empty Tenement Windows I Thought I Saw Once and the story and poetry collection Love Like Bleeding Out With an Empty Gun in Your Hand.

15 Novels I Couldn’t Live Without by Stephen J. Golds

Punk Noir Magazine

We all have those novels that are close to the heart. The novels we would run into a burning building for. The novels we’ve read cover to cover countless times.

The novels that inspired us, shaped us and took our breath away.

Here’s my top fifteen novels of all time. These novels blew my head back, devastated me and became a part of me.

I hope, if you haven’t read any of these, that you’ll head over to your nearest bookstore or library and get your hands around them posthaste!!

You’re lucky. What I wouldn’t give to be reading one of these for the first time again.

15. THE MAD AND THE BAD by Jean-Patrick Manchette

Stylized, cool as hell crime fiction with undertones of existentialism and poetry. Manchette does for crime fiction what Tarantino does for cinema.

14. REVENGE OF THE LAWN STORIES by Richard Brautigan

Absolute poetry in short stories. Brautigan is hugely underrated. There is so much melancholy, bitterness, bewilderment in these stories, however there’s a lot of love there too.

13. 4:48 PSYCHOSIS by Sarah Kane

A book to break the hardest hearts. This was written while Kane was undergoing therapy for bipolar disorder in a London King’s Cross mental facility. Sadly she took her own life after finishing it.

12. THIS BOY’S LIFE by Tobias Wolff

This was one of the books I read while growing up that spoke to me the most. It still does. Wolff writes perfect prose that speaks directly to the reader. A haunting but triumphant memoir of growing pains.

11. BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL by Elliot Chaze

The absolute noir of noir. This novel defines noir like no other.

10. THE POWER OF THE DOG by Don Winslow

A novel, in my opinion, that knocks Puzo’s The Godfather off of the top spot for greatest crime saga of all time.

9. THE SHINING by Stephen King

This needs no introduction. Quite possibly the best horror novel ever written.

8. THE GETAWAY by Jim Thompson

No one did crime fiction like Thompson. I loved the surreal ending to this novel. A crime classic!

7. 1984 by George Orwell

More relevant today than ever before. If you haven’t read this yet, I don’t know what to say.

6. THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN TOWN by Charles Bukowski

This collection of stories is without a doubt the most inspiring book I’ve ever read. There’s so much beauty and ugliness in Bukowski’s prose and this collection is without a doubt the definition of what Bukowski was all about.

5. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by James M. Cain

A hopeless drifter and a beautiful woman. A love affair, a betrayal, money, and of course, a badly planned murder. Another absolute classic.

4. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOOS NEST by Ken Kesey

Quite possibly the most perfect piece of literary fiction ever written.

3. ASK THE DUST by John Fante

An ill-fated love story as much about California than it is the two protagonists.

2. HAM ON RYE by Charles Bukowski

One of the two novels that has travelled the world with me. This novel is heartbreaking, funny, disturbing and truly poetic. A memoir of growing up poor and beaten down.

1. THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O’Brian

Don’t let the cover confuse you. This novel isn’t a war novel. Yes, it is set in a war zone, but it’s a novel about people and the scars we carry all our lives. It’s about what makes us human. I know it’s a hackneyed expression but while reading it I DID laugh, I did cry, I nodded my head in agreement, I fell in love and most of all I had my heart broken.

So that’s it. My top 15 books of all time. The books I couldn’t live without.

Honorable mentions:

Raymond Carver

Thom Jones

Celine

Jack Kerouac

Albert Camus

Knut Hamsun

Billy Childish

If you haven’t read any of these books, I hope you will asap!

Or if you’re looking for some “transgressive” crime noir spanning the 1920’s to the 1960’s, please check out my trilogy from Red Dog Press

https://www.reddogpress.co.uk/product-page/the-dead-the-dying-and-the-gone-a-trilogy

😉

Stephen J. Golds was born in North London, U.K, but has lived in Japan for most of his adult life.

He writes loosely in the noir/crime genres, though is heavily influenced by transgressive fiction and dirty realism.

His three novels are a trilogy of connected but stand alone novels that deal in themes of mental illness, trauma, betrayal and twisted love.

He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, traveling the world, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs. His books are Say Goodbye When I’m Gone, I’ll Pray When I’m Dying, Always the Dead, Poems for Ghosts in Empty Tenement Windows I Thought I Saw Once and the story and poetry collection Love Like Bleeding Out With an Empty Gun in Your Hand.

February’s Son by Alan Parks ~ a Punk Noir Book Review by Scott Cumming

Punk Noir Magazine

Alan Parks is the kind of author who makes me tired. Tired from staying up way too late reading his work. Inspector Harry McCoy is back from three weeks leave only for the body of a Celtic FC star to turn up on the top floor of an office building under construction. The victim’s footballing exploits are, however, not the most notable aspect of his life, but the fact he was soon to be gang boss, Jake Scobie’s son in law.

It’s not often I wallop through a couple of books in a series in a week, but after taking in the sample chapter for this one there was no turning back. The combination of Parks’ writing and the character of McCoy have lit the touchpaper on a series I am sure to be caught up with in a matter of weeks. 

The highest praise I can heap upon the books is that they’re as close as I’ve gotten to the quality of series writing as the Matt Scudder books by Lawrence Block. Parks unashamedly lathers his opening book of the series, Bloody January, with tropes of the genre in order to build a fully fledged cast and environment around McCoy, which pays off in this sequel as it allows Parks to raise the stakes with minimum fuss and still maintain the tone and quality.

The supporting cast are as distinct as McCoy and you’re as excited for what lays in store for them as much as McCoy. Murray is simultaneously McCoy’s boss and father figure with the Chief Inspector prone to expletive filled rants in Harry’s direction. Wattie is the junior detective brought in to learn from McCoy who brings lightheartedness to the story. Stevie Cooper brings the opposite. Cooper is a gangster, but McCoy is loyal to him for the protection and friendship he offered while the two were under the “care” of the Catholic Church.

There’s drink, blood and drugs galore as McCoy rides the line between doing right and casting himself into oblivion because of the things he’s seen and been victim to. He’s heroic and he’s not and for all the bravado there is a tenderness to him that does not always exist in the genre.

Frankly, I should have read these a long time ago, but I have found myself neglecting Scottish noir in favour of more transatlantic efforts. This is classic noir in all its shades that’ll make Parks a must read for years to come.

February’s Son by Alan Parks ~ a Punk Noir Book Review by Scott Cumming

Punk Noir Magazine

Alan Parks is the kind of author who makes me tired. Tired from staying up way too late reading his work. Inspector Harry McCoy is back from three weeks leave only for the body of a Celtic FC star to turn up on the top floor of an office building under construction. The victim’s footballing exploits are, however, not the most notable aspect of his life, but the fact he was soon to be gang boss, Jake Scobie’s son in law.

It’s not often I wallop through a couple of books in a series in a week, but after taking in the sample chapter for this one there was no turning back. The combination of Parks’ writing and the character of McCoy have lit the touchpaper on a series I am sure to be caught up with in a matter of weeks. 

The highest praise I can heap upon the books is that they’re as close as I’ve gotten to the quality of series writing as the Matt Scudder books by Lawrence Block. Parks unashamedly lathers his opening book of the series, Bloody January, with tropes of the genre in order to build a fully fledged cast and environment around McCoy, which pays off in this sequel as it allows Parks to raise the stakes with minimum fuss and still maintain the tone and quality.

The supporting cast are as distinct as McCoy and you’re as excited for what lays in store for them as much as McCoy. Murray is simultaneously McCoy’s boss and father figure with the Chief Inspector prone to expletive filled rants in Harry’s direction. Wattie is the junior detective brought in to learn from McCoy who brings lightheartedness to the story. Stevie Cooper brings the opposite. Cooper is a gangster, but McCoy is loyal to him for the protection and friendship he offered while the two were under the “care” of the Catholic Church.

There’s drink, blood and drugs galore as McCoy rides the line between doing right and casting himself into oblivion because of the things he’s seen and been victim to. He’s heroic and he’s not and for all the bravado there is a tenderness to him that does not always exist in the genre.

Frankly, I should have read these a long time ago, but I have found myself neglecting Scottish noir in favour of more transatlantic efforts. This is classic noir in all its shades that’ll make Parks a must read for years to come.

Two Poems by Rusty Barnes

Punk Noir Magazine

Rusty Barnes is a 2018 Derringer finalist and author of the story collections Breaking it Down (Sunnyoutside Press 2007), Mostly Redneck (Sunnyoutside Press 2011) and Kraj the Enforcer (Shotgun Honey/Down & Out Books 2019), as well as four novels, Reckoning (Sunnyoutside Press, 2014), Ridgerunner (Shotgun Honey/Down & Out Books, 2017), Knuckledragger (Shotgun Honey/Down & Out Books 2017) and The Last Danger (Shotgun Honey/Down & Out Books 2018), His fiction, poetry and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in many jourrnals and anthologies, like Dirty Boulevard: Crime Stories Inspired by the Songs of Lou Reed (Down & Out Books 2018), Best Small Fictions 2015, Mystery Tribune, Goliad Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Red Rock Review, Porter Gulch Review and Post Road. His poetry collections include On Broad Sound (Nixes Mates Press, 2016) and Jesus in the Ghost Room, (Nixes Mates Press 2017). He founded and edits Tough, a journal of crime fiction and occasional reviews. He lives in Revere, MA. You can find him on Twitter @rustybarnes23.