26 June 2013


Rummaging through the Wal-Mart blu-ray sale bin recently, I came across a Jason Statham movie called Blitz. We love Jason Statham movies around here. Naturally, we watched it and enjoyed it. Not much in the way of kung-fu, or car chases, the usual Statham staples, but plenty of laconic, tough-guy charm. The character is a sort of Dirty Harry for 21st-century London, a cop who breaks the rules but gets things done, in this case stopping a cop-killer. Even if the plot is a bit hackneyed, the acting throughout is terrific, and the film is brisk, stylish, and lots of fun, despite the graphic violence. Oh, and did I mention the female lead is played by the beautiful and talented Zawe Ashton? Statham plays an Irishman--he goes after his first set of baddies with a hurley--who drinks too much, fights too much, and generally fails to give a shit about anything other than cracking the heads of criminals. When the credits were rolling I noticed the movie was based on a book by none other than Ken Bruen, who happens to be one of my favorite writers. What a combination: Ken Bruen and Jason Statham! Although I've read quite a bit of Bruen's Jack Taylor series, I've never read any of his South East London series featuring Detective Sergeant Tom Brant (Statham in the film) and Chief Inspector James Roberts (Mark Rylance). I suppose I'll have to, now!

24 June 2013


It means "darkness" in Spanish, as in the darkness of Genesis:
Y la tierra estaba desordenada y vacĂ­a y las tinieblas estaban sobre la faz del abismo.
(And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. 1:2, KJV)

My dad was always bringing home boxes of books from yard sales and thrift shops. Lots of crap, of course, but enough gems to keep us interested. One of the most memorable was a contemporary paperback novel with a loud red cover and weird art by a guy named R.M. Koster. It was called The Prince, in deference to the famous tome from Sig. Machiavelli, but being a mere lad of thirteen at the time I wasn't too hip on Renaissance literature. It was one of those books that held sway over me--I kept trying to read it but could not. It was too strange, too daunting. My tastes in those days tended to Alistair MacLean, Isaac Asimov, and MAD Magazine. The book began with a listing of all the rulers of the fictional Republic of Tinieblas and their succession of terrible fates, the most benign of which were "deposed." Then there was a dreamy opening sequence, a fantasy of revenge and torture involving a well-lubricated revolver and a hog-tied victim. It was heady stuff for a kid, even if it was the seventies. I was not ready for Mr. Koster and his twisted protagonist Kiki Sancudo. Eventually, when I'd just about finished high school, I decided to read the entire thing. And it blew my underdeveloped Catholic schoolboy mind. After Kafka, in college, I read it again. The book and its two successors (now called The Tinieblas Trilogy) were re-issued in 1989, and I read The Prince again. As well as The Dissertation and Mandragon, the concluding volumes. Both were, to no surprise of mine, brilliant.

Overlook Press is re-issuing the set.  I suggest you get your hands on these books and read them, they are unique, and fittingly, overlooked. Part fantasy, part noir, part political thriller, part fable, part crime caper, The Prince is wildly audacious, searingly funny, achingly sad, and strikingly original. It has swagger, bluster, and machismo aplenty, but it is also chest deep in the terrible tragedy that is Latin American democracy, and you can't help but feel the suffering of the real people that live in real places not much different than Tinieblas. Mr. Koster is 79 years old and says another book is coming. I can't wait. The rest of you have some reading to do.