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Black Lens: Part XVIII

Story by Ken Bruen and Russell Ackerman

Ken Bruen is one of the most celebrated crime novelists of our time.

Black Lens is his most secret project.

Read on as the unveiling continues.

Every Wednesday on Mulholland Books.

With art by Jonathan Santlofer.

Fade in…

Read Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11,Part 12, Part 13Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, and Part 17.

 

I’M A FIVE AND DIME BASTARD.’

RANSOM ON HIS HERITAGE.

 

Before his final release, at the age of 32, Ransom, met, in the joint, a former inmate of

Alcatraz

And

Key member of Ma Barkers gang. Continue reading “Black Lens: Part XVIII”

Black Lens: Part XVII

Story by Ken Bruen and Russell Ackerman

Ken Bruen is one of the most celebrated crime novelists of our time.

Black Lens is his most secret project.

Read on as the unveiling continues.

Every Wednesday on Mulholland Books.

With art by Jonathan Santlofer.

Fade in…

Read Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11,Part 12, Part 13Part 14, Part 15 and Part 16.


OLIVER CROMWELL.

( 1600 – 58)

Ireland’s first and only commoner Lord/lieutenant. Backed by a massive army, best known for his merciless destruction of the town of Drogheda and his policy of ‘No Prisoners’ He styled himself as a

Liberator

From

Irish barbarism

Royalist misrule

And

Catholic hypocrisy.

*

Rattigan came round, sitting in a hard chair, in his room at Sundance.

A beat.

Then, the image of the headless body flooded his mind and he screamed.

Opened his eyes, lit on Cromwell, who was sitting by the head, smoking a cheroot, his minder, to Rattigan’s left.

It was then that he noticed that the initial terror, horror, seemed to be receding, and a strange calm was building up from his chest.

Cromwell said

‘The sedative should be kicking in now, chilling you way down.’

It sure as hell was.

Continue reading “Black Lens: Part XVII”

Black Lens: Part XVI

Story by Ken Bruen and Russell Ackerman

Ken Bruen is one of the most celebrated crime novelists of our time.

Black Lens is his most secret project.

Read on as the unveiling continues.

Every Wednesday on Mulholland Books.

With art by Jonathan Santlofer.

Fade in…

Read Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11,Part 12, Part 13Part 14 and Part 15.

The Cop, the Girl… and Scott

More confident after t the second bout, he noticed a large mark, like a badly healed skin graft just across her abdomen.

He didn’t want to ask,

lest,

she tell Him?

She followed his eyes.  Picked up the thread of his thoughts:

‘You want to know?’

He sat up, the urge for a cigarette nigh ferocious said

‘I don’t know.’

She gave a bitter smile, said

‘Nothing is worse, nothing, than not knowing.’

The moment had fled and he would always regret not asking. She got out of bed, began to pull on clothes, said

‘We need to prepare for tomorrow.’

His murder?

Continue reading “Black Lens: Part XVI”

Black Lens: Part XV

Story by Ken Bruen and Russell Ackerman

Ken Bruen is one of the most celebrated crime novelists of our time.

Black Lens is his most secret project.

Read on as the unveiling continues.

Every Wednesday on Mulholland Books.

With art by Jonathan Santlofer.

Fade in…

Read Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13 and Part 14.

‘Blood is our only permanent history, and blood history does not admit of revision.Or
So
Some
Of us
Believe.’
–Harry Crews

The Cop

The hotel was, he’d tried to warn her, a shit hole.

C’mon, if he knew he was going to, um … score, would he have been there?

Yeah, right.

Said

‘You ever read the English writer, Patrick Hamilton?’

No.

But on the side of etiquette, she asked, like she could give a fuck-

‘What did he write?’

Where to start, ok, go with the movie, always an in,

‘Rope?’

Nope.

Moving on

Continue reading “Black Lens: Part XV”

Black Lens: Part XIV

Story by Ken Bruen and Russell Ackerman

Ken Bruen is one of the most celebrated crime novelists of our time.

Black Lens is his most secret project.

Read on as the unveiling continues.

Every Wednesday on Mulholland Books.

With art by Jonathan Santlofer.

Fade in…

Read Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, and Part 13.

The Cop

He felt an ice chill down his spine, thought

‘Jesus, touchable.’

He’d been tracking the Cabal, obsessing over them, like some damn schmuck rookie, he’d never figured, they

They

Knew about him.

She saw his fear, said

‘Use it.’

Took him a moment then

‘What?’

She drained the glass, the gal could sure put the shit away, said

‘Creepy –crawl, Ransom’s term for instilling fear based on Ransom’s credo, ‘Do the unexpected, No sense makes sense, you won’t get caught if you don’t got thought in your head.’

And she smiled, that ravishing radiance, said

‘Sounds like Ransom’s utter crap but it persuaded those middle class all American girls to butcher a pregnant woman and those attendant.’

His mind was reeling, a black lens of evil potency, and he asked

Had to

‘Why are you warning me?’

Continue reading “Black Lens: Part XIV”

Black Lens: Part XIII

Story by Ken Bruen and Russell Ackerman

Ken Bruen is one of the most celebrated crime novelists of our time.

Black Lens is his most secret project.

Read on as the unveiling continues.

Every Wednesday on Mulholland Books.

With art by Jonathan Santlofer.

Fade in…

Read Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11 and Part 12.

‘CHERCEZ LA FEMME.’

The cop was getting excited.

Seriously excited.

He’d read the news about the Manson interview.

He was , as was now his habitual London gig,

sitting at the corner table in the Earl’s Court’s pub,

The Nelson.

It had two major bonuses:

1…..The ubiquitous Ozzie community shunned it.

2. ..It had ice cold Bud.

Thank fook. In a country that prided itself on tepid to warm bitter, a CHILLED Bud was a true find.
He’d learned the custom of asking the barman:

‘Something for yerself?’

Their system of tipping he figured.  What the hell ever, you bought the guy a brew, he treated you like you mattered. Meaning,

His corner table was reserved for him, the next Bud brought to him as he finished the previous.

Got to love it.

His bottle near full as he poured over his research. The birthday of the beast, Alistair Crowley was close.

The same day Manson had been arrested.

And now the interview.

Continue reading “Black Lens: Part XIII”

Black Lens: Part XII

Story by Ken Bruen and Russell Ackerman

Ken Bruen is one of the most celebrated crime novelists of our time.

Black Lens is his most secret project.

Read on as the unveiling continues.

Every Wednesday on Mulholland Books.

With art by Jonathan Santlofer.

Fade in…

Read Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8, Part 9, Part 10 and Part 11.

BLACK LISTED

Sundance was wonderful, the starlet’s flocked round him.

Back of his mind was the niggling thought,

Cabal.

But fuck ‘em.

He was a

STAR.

Redford even said hello.

Chugging Tequila’s, listening to The White Stripes, he figured

‘Top of the freaking world Ma.’

Continue reading “Black Lens: Part XII”

Black Lens: Part X

Story by Ken Bruen and Russell Ackerman

Ken Bruen is one of the most celebrated crime novelists of our time.

Black Lens is his most secret project.

Read on as the unveiling continues.

Every Wednesday on Mulholland Books.

With art by Jonathan Santlofer.

Fade in…

Read Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8 and Part 9.

Having delivered his ultimatum Cromwell paused.

Watched his flock

Some calm

Resolved.

Some on edge

Clearly nervous

Steeling  themselves for

The foreordained

A collective bloodletting.

Continue reading “Black Lens: Part X”

A Conversation with Andrew Vachss

On the occasion of the publication of Andrew Vachss’s new novel The Weight, Ken Bruen and Andrew Vachss talk about the blues, justifiable rage and writing for the streets not the critics.

Ken: Would you consider Two Trains Running your seminal work?

Andrew: Retro-seminal, in that it dissects events which have already occurred. Seminal was probably A Bomb Built in Hell…after all, who was even thinking about the possibility of a disaffected, marginalized young man walking into a high school with a knapsack full of weaponry, and killing a whole lot of random targets before taking his own life in 1973? Or Chinese youth gangs taking over from the traditional tongs in Chinatown industries such as gambling, drugs, and prostitution? Or what would happen in Haiti were someone to put a round in Baby Doc’s head before he fled to that bastion of art, France? You know, the same country that is now harboring Roman Polanski?

Ken: I know I miss Burke; do you?

Andrew: I don’t. Burke—who, by the way, suffered the same fate as Bomb when it (finally) did get published—got the job done. I needed a guide to Hell, and an angel wouldn’t do. So when Burke had a conversation with a predatory pedophile who was modem-trafficking in kiddie porn, the (cloistered) reviewers fell all over themselves dismissing the book (this was the second volume, Strega) as the work of a “sick imagination.” That was 1986. Now it’s a fairly standard plot device for the “noir” crowd. Of course, that crowd doesn’t like the word “seminal,” as only the very best Jim Thompson imitators qualify as “real.”

Damn, this is a long answer. But I don’t miss Burke in the “literary” sense. For many years, his only reason to live was hate, and his only religion was revenge. He was not a “vigilante,” as some twits have decided; he was a mercenary. But hiring him for some jobs would have been a suicidal act. Then he found his “family of choice.” They chose him; he chose them. And he became blood-bonded to this true family to the point of psychosis: endanger any of them, either you die, or Burke dies trying. The goal of a true family is not that their children follow in their footsteps, but that their children surpass them in all ways. For Burke’s family, the arc was complete when their children—raised by career criminals—left the underworld and stepped out into the light.

Look, who but a terminal narcissist would set out to write an 18-book series? I expected Flood to be my one chance in the ring, which is why it is so long: I threw every punch I could in the first round. But one of the significant ways Burke differed from “private eye” crap is that he aged. As did the world around him. I love those boys who “keep it real” via a protagonist who is the same in 2010 as he was in 1950. Oh, the surroundings change, but the narrator is still the strong, handsome, White Knight of the Chandler clones. It was time for Burke to go, and I was not going to keep him on life support. That wouldn’t have been his choice, and I had to respect that.

I know—not because I’m prescient; because I can read the letters that keep coming in—that ending the series was not a popular move. But I didn’t—such accusations to the contrary—“kill off” Burke. He’s gone, not dead. For those who felt they were losing part of their own family, I apologize. But I also want you to ask yourselves: is Wesley dead?

Continue reading “A Conversation with Andrew Vachss”

Insulting Your Intelligence (“Just gimme some noiriness”)

toys'r'usI sometimes wonder if the popularity of noir isn’t largely due to the fact that no one seems entirely clear on what the hell it is.

Not that a busload of perfectly smart people haven’t ventured a definition or two. A great deal of thought is expended on virtually a daily basis trying to pin this sucker down, but it’s proved too supple a creature for that. One might even say noir’s ambiguity is its genius.

Is it?

Noir’s resurgence hasn’t taken place in a vacuum. Call it noiriness. So-called reality programming has become the middlebrow darling of TV executives and viewers alike. Not only has documentary filmmaking enjoyed a renaissance as well, its techniques have infiltrated TV comedy: consider The Office, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation.

There’s a trend here: a desire for the lowdown, the real deal, the inside dope. A craving for the authentic — or at least its veneer.

Noir responds to the same impulse, though the underlying need is edgier. Trace the trend back, and you’ll find Frank Miller reinventing the Daredevil and Batman franchises in the 1980s, and Alan Moore creating Warrior and V for Vendetta. And before that, in the late 1960s and early to mid-1970s — when Lennon was belting “Just gimme some truth” — the lunatics were running the Hollywood asylum, giving us such neo-noir masterpieces as Mickey One, Bonnie and Clyde, King of Marvin Gardens, Scarecrow, Klute, Mean Streets, Midnight Cowboy, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, The Sugarland Express, Thieves Like Us, Dog Day Afternoon, Taxi Driver, and Chinatown.

I use the term neo-noir grudgingly. It’s become a truism that these films were in the noir tradition, but in fact many were simple, honest tragedies. Just as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman falls prey to the delusion of making it in America, Jake Gittes in Chinatown is betrayed by the mistaken belief that we can figure things out (in Polanski’s reworking of Towne’s script, anyway), and Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy is misled by his conviction that a perfectly devised mask can shield him from the pain of being unloved.

Nearly all these films had tough, blatantly tragic endings, and even the ones that didn’t had a sense that if the hero survived, he did so through luck or guile, not virtue. These stories appeared in the context of the Vietnam War, when America was searching for a deeper understanding of itself, something that would remain once you tore away the paranoia and the swagger and the teary, knee-jerk flag-waving. Watching wood-hut villages napalmed before our eyes on nightly TV, we were obliged to confront a much different America than we’d grown up to believe in; it showed in our art.

Here, yes, neo-noir echoed classic noir, which was rooted in the Second World War and its aftermath, when soldiers stripped of their illusions returned home to a country desperate for normalcy. Inwardly, many of these vets recoiled from their portrayals as heroes, for they knew what it took to survive combat, and often it was luck, or something much darker, not fit for a chat with the wife and kids or Reverend Tim.

And the graphic-novel noir of Miller and Moore simply continued this thematic thread, yes?

Not exactly.

Continue reading “Insulting Your Intelligence (“Just gimme some noiriness”)”