Photography by Margot Stillings @MargotStillings

Punk Noir Magazine
Basement / Portland, OR, USA
Kook Van / Encinitas, CA, USA
Brume Muir Woods / Marin County, CA, USA
Causeway / San Fransisco, CA, USA
Pacific Heights / San Francisco, CA, USA
Vintage Sunburst / Portland, OR, USA
Perpetually Coffee / Portland, OR, USA
Headlights Eastbound / Leucadia, CA, USA
Post-Poe / Richmond, VA, USA

Voodoo By Patrick Whitehurst

Punk Noir Magazine

“For the love of God, make it stop…” Sam’s plea came off like a bad Charlton Heston impersonation. 

He arched his back, writhing like a snake. Mr. Felt kept the pin in the doll. Pushed it in deeper.

Sam growled. “Pull it out, Mr. Felt. Works like a charm. Damn it all to Hell.”

The old man did as he asked. The tiny weapon slid cleanly from the wad of cloth.

“Just act one, Sam my boy.” Felt may have been a little too excited. Seemed almost turned on. Sam stared sideways at the doll. Not that it looked like one. More like a stuffed sock with Sam’s hair on it. He pulled up his green flannel and rubbed the bare skin above his ass. Just where the pin had been in the doll fabric.

Felt carried the puppet to an alcove in the wall behind him, opposite the cash register. The old man ran an antique storein San Francisco’s Castro District, but as Sam learned, his passion was pain, at least the sort he had no business inflicting. Pale as a gallon of milk, dotted with age spots, the shop owner had more in his ears than up top, all of it gray. Dressed in a wine-red V-neck sweater and black slacks, he seemed no more an expert in the occult than Sam, who knew only enough to stay away.

Karma could be a bitch and a half. And only morons go asking for that shit. The bills in his pocket kept his mouth shut.

The store, tucked under one of the city’s iconic Queen Anne style homes, didn’t get sun. A lazy rain meant there’d be no warmth anyway. Place was swollen with Turkish rugs and Victorian furniture.Rainwater made the gutters rattle outside.

The nook held Felt’s altar. To Sam it was nothing more than three black candles and a bowl full of Hershey’s kisses, an offering Felt said. He explained the process to Sam just after slipping him two grand. Sam’s usual fee for odd jobs.

They were always fucking odd. 

Felt wanted Sam for some voodoo. He’d emailed that morning with the time and place. Had to bring a gob of his dirty brown hair with him. Not much hair, justenough for the hocus pocus to work. Felt called it magic. Sam called it bullshit. But he had his kid chop some off before heading over. Two grand is two grand.

Felt lowered his eyes. “Now for a little heat.” His bony, saggy-fleshedfingers held the doll to the center candle. Sam gritted his teeth. Felt rotated the toy, dipped it lower to the dull yellow flame, and Sam hissed. “Getting warmer, Sam?”

He sputtered. “Like being in Phoenix inJuly. All the same to you, Mr. Felt, let’s not get any closer to the candle.”

“Quite understand, my boy!” He pulled away, turned, and plopped the doll on the counter next to the cash register. Sam saw the strands of his hair stapled to the doll’s chest. Following his gaze, Felt nodded knowingly. “It’s the hair of course. Creates a direct link with you. Used a sharpie to draw your eyes and lips at the top. Set it outside to get washed clean this morning.”

“Sure know your shit,” Sam lied.

Felt pushed his thumb into the doll’s neck. Watching, Sam craned his neck to the side, straining the muscles there. Old manpulled the thumb away.

“Spirits, the Loas, channel the energy from the doll. The chocolates you see are for them.”

Sam snatched the bad resemblance offthe counter. “Think I’ll hold onto this. Where can I get your ex-husband’s hair?”

“Prefer his old socks. He loves those ugly, fucking argyle socks. Really just need one for the model. I’ll shoot over his address in a text.”

Sam made for the door. Damn doll felt heavy in his Dockers. Not bad for a shitty actor. Only it wasn’t all pretend, Sam realized. 

His neck hurt like hell.

Lost in Translations by Scott Cumming — A Punk Noir Book Review

Punk Noir Magazine

One criticism I could perhaps level at myself, among others, is that I am not the worldliest of readers tending to stick with natural English authors for the most part. Coincidentally, I’ve read a couple of South American authors in short order and found myself mesmerised by both.

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez is a book of stories set in and around Buenos Aires. Parts of my misspent youth were used on reading copious amounts of music magazines and this rears its head in my penchant for the use of snappy labels in order to identify pieces of art. For these, I’d describe them as Supernatural Realism owing to a writing style reminiscent of Haruki Murakami in which our protagonists find ordinary lives invaded by supernatural phenomena for which they are never given definitive or conclusive answers to.

Angelita Unearthed really sets the tone for the collection as a young woman recounts growing up with her Grandmother and the body of her Gran’s baby sister that is buried in her garden. Meat adds some bones to modern day fanaticism as the death of an emerging rock star sets off his teenage fanbase into ever more disturbing behaviour.

Kids Who Came Back sits as the crown jewel of the collection detailing the return of missing children to the parks of Buenos Aires, but many of those returning were confirmed as dead.

Each of the 12 stories offers an ordinary life upended by some form of supernatural going on. The tales are told succinctly and almost conversationally without a hint of melodrama.

When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut may sound like an intimidating prospect as it dives into the lives of physicists across the 20th and 21st Century, but its ultimately a very human book, both clever and resonant.

The names of our most eminent physicists are either not as well known or synonymous with cats (dead or alive), drug dealers and sleeping with Marilyn Monroe. Labatut takes us back to their discoveries and the importance they continue to hold. In part, the book is like a giant wheel of coincidence or cause and effect reminiscent of the work of Paul Auster.

Labatut hints at the way the discoveries continue to form what we know as modern life, while delving into the the thin line (be that particle or wave) separating the genius from madness. Heisenberg, Schwarzchild, Schrodinger, Grothendieck, Mochizuki, et al. have all found themselves in a state of pulling away from societal constructs and relationships either in the chase of physics-based enlightenment or because of it. 

Labatut’s work is fictional in terms of who these people were/are, but how they have shaped how we live is certainly not and provides a feast full of food for thought.

Lost in Translations by Scott Cumming — A Punk Noir Book Review

Punk Noir Magazine

One criticism I could perhaps level at myself, among others, is that I am not the worldliest of readers tending to stick with natural English authors for the most part. Coincidentally, I’ve read a couple of South American authors in short order and found myself mesmerised by both.

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez is a book of stories set in and around Buenos Aires. Parts of my misspent youth were used on reading copious amounts of music magazines and this rears its head in my penchant for the use of snappy labels in order to identify pieces of art. For these, I’d describe them as Supernatural Realism owing to a writing style reminiscent of Haruki Murakami in which our protagonists find ordinary lives invaded by supernatural phenomena for which they are never given definitive or conclusive answers to.

Angelita Unearthed really sets the tone for the collection as a young woman recounts growing up with her Grandmother and the body of her Gran’s baby sister that is buried in her garden. Meat adds some bones to modern day fanaticism as the death of an emerging rock star sets off his teenage fanbase into ever more disturbing behaviour.

Kids Who Came Back sits as the crown jewel of the collection detailing the return of missing children to the parks of Buenos Aires, but many of those returning were confirmed as dead.

Each of the 12 stories offers an ordinary life upended by some form of supernatural going on. The tales are told succinctly and almost conversationally without a hint of melodrama.

When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut may sound like an intimidating prospect as it dives into the lives of physicists across the 20th and 21st Century, but its ultimately a very human book, both clever and resonant.

The names of our most eminent physicists are either not as well known or synonymous with cats (dead or alive), drug dealers and sleeping with Marilyn Monroe. Labatut takes us back to their discoveries and the importance they continue to hold. In part, the book is like a giant wheel of coincidence or cause and effect reminiscent of the work of Paul Auster.

Labatut hints at the way the discoveries continue to form what we know as modern life, while delving into the the thin line (be that particle or wave) separating the genius from madness. Heisenberg, Schwarzchild, Schrodinger, Grothendieck, Mochizuki, et al. have all found themselves in a state of pulling away from societal constructs and relationships either in the chase of physics-based enlightenment or because of it. 

Labatut’s work is fictional in terms of who these people were/are, but how they have shaped how we live is certainly not and provides a feast full of food for thought.

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.