The SFFaudio Podcast #020

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #020 – Today Jesse and Scott talk with James Powell, a terrific Mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Crime writer. He was first published in April 1966 and has approximately 140 published short stories in such magazines as Playboy and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. But most of his tales, including his most famous have been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine! His tales are relentlessly logical, often hilarious, and swift. He is an absolute master of the short story. Powell is what’s known in the business as a “Pussycat writer” which means he doesn’t put sex and violence on the page, it all happens off-stage. Look for his latest tale, Clowntown Pajamas in the February 2009 issue of EQMM.

Talked about on today’s show:
A Cozy For The Jack-O-Lanterns, A Dirge For Clowntown, Clowntown Pajamas, Monaco, France, Crippen & Landru, The Friends Of Hector Jouvet |READ IT|, Peter Sellers, A Murder Coming, the review in which I first mention A Dirge For Clowntown rules for what Powell calls “Elf Economics”, The Theft Of The Valuable Bird, Midnight Pumpkins (Cinderella as Hard Fantasy), Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock style stories, Clowntown Pajamas, the hidden but clear rules of clown and mine behavior, Toronto, 1940s, QUESTION: Who does James Powell read? ANSWER: Charles Dickens, Jorge Luis Borges, J.R.R. Tolkien, and lately Michael Swanwick‘s The Edge Of The World, as wells as A Passage To India, E.M. Forster, Bouchercon, Frederic Dannay, Santa’s Way, The Tamerlane Crutch (a takeoff on the Maltese Falcon and A Christmas Carol), Lawrence Block, Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, The Quest For Creeping Charlie, 1950s, George Orwell, Winter Hiatus, Iced: The New Noir Anthology of Cold, Hard Fiction edited by Peter Sellers, The Dawn Of Captain Sunset (a superhero champion of the elderly), round robin style short stories, The Best Fantasy Stories Of The Year: 1989 edited by Orson Scott Card and Martin H. Greenberg (ISBN: 1556561431), the difficulty of writing a Science Fiction Mystery story, John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, of A Dirge For Clowntown Scott says: “[it is] one of the finest mysteries I’ve ever read set in a different world,” Dercum Audio, Durkin Hayes, The Book Of Lies, Brad Meltzer, A Murder Coming edited by Peter Sellers (ISBN: 0886466377), calling all publishers: COLLECT JAMES POWELL!

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #019

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #019 – Julie Davis (of the Forgotten Classics, StarShipSofa and Happy Catholic blog) joins us for a potassium filled show.

Talked about on today’s show:
Forgotten Classics, The Hidden Adversary, Agatha Christie, Temptation, David Brin, Recorded Books, Sundiver, Different Seasons, Stephen King, Frank Muller, Daemon, Daniel Suarez, Microsoft Zune’s 30gb brick = DRM, Librivox’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, Craftlit, Craftlit podcast, Another Beowulf & Grendel, Iceland, Greenland, The Fall, Encounters At The End Of The World, Antarctica, Chicago, Dreams With Sharp Teeth coming to DVD, Harlan Ellison, Voices From The Edge, City Of Darkness, Ben Bova, A Wizard Of Earthsea, Ursula K. LeGuin, The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury, A good book badly read: IBM And The Holocaust, Edwin Black (have a listen to a sample) |MP3|, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman, Tony Smith from StarShipSofa, the worst news of 2008/2009: Donald Westlake is dead. The Hunter, The Sour Lemon Score, Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr Burglar books, Richard Stark’s Parker novels, Spider Robinson, The Hook, The Ax, Humans, Samuel Holt, Grofield, Lemons Never Lie, Hard Case Crime, Somebody Owes Me Money, The Risk Profession, Tomorrow’s Crimes, Anarchaos, Theodore Bikel, Westlake’s “nephew novels”, Smoke, Ross Thomas, Dick Francis, an incomplete but wonderfully annotated bibliography of Westlake novels, My Own Worst Enemy, Money For Nothing, The Cutie, Lord Valentine’s Castle, Robert Silverberg,

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #003

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastGenerally, this is our third podcast. Furthermore, it is a podcast of deep functionality. It’s universal really. Long story short, we talked about stuff. Join us in our secret society [book readers] where I (Jesse) say things like: Dune shot Science Fiction in the head.” and “Why I don’t like Science Fiction movies anymore.” and “You don’t name a king Augustus.” and “I hope the Earth explodes.”

In other words, the podcast’s length is commensurate with a function of your desire to listen to it.

Topics discussed include:

Crazy Dog Audio Theatre, The Zombies Of Dr. Krell, Roger Gregg, The Sonic Society, Radio Drama Revival, Whipping Star, Frank Herbert, Tantor Media, Dune, The Road To Dune, Children Of Dune, Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, MP3 to iPod Audiobook Converter, iTunes 8.0, zombies, StarShipSofa, SFSignal.com, Ian McDonald, The River Of Gods, Lawrence Block, Donald E. Westlake, Stephen King, John Scalzi, Old Man’s War, Anathem, Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, BBC Audiobooks America, Hard Case Crime, Ed McBain, The Lies Of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch, Dragon Page: Cover To Cover, Roger Zelazny, Locus, The Dead Man’s Brother, Robert McGinnis, Glen Orbik, Behind The Black Mask: Mystery Writers Revealed, Christa Faust, Money Shot, public libraries, secret societies, Podiobooks.com, Evo Terra, The Book Of The New Sun, Gene Wolfe, Grifter’s Game, Random House Audio, The Colorado Kid, Aural Noir, Sunshine, 28 Days Later, I, Robot, I Am Legend, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, Fortress Draconis (a book with a king named Augustus), Robert Capa, John Searle, Brian Cox (physicist), IMDB.com

Posted by Jesse Willis

Aural Noir Review of Grifter’s Game by Lawrence Block

Aural Noir: Review

Grifter’s Game is book number 001 in the Hard Case Crime library.

Crime Fiction Audiobook - Grifter’s Game by Lawrence BlockSFFaudio EssentialHard Case CrimeGrifter’s Game
By Lawrence Block; Read by Alan Sklar
5 CDs – 5 Hours 17 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
Published: 2006
ISBN: 9781602834538
Themes: / Crime / Noir / Femme Fatale / Drugs / Murder / Atlantic City /

Con man Joe Marlin was used to scoring easy cash off of gullible women. But that was before he met Mona Brassard — and found himself holding a stolen stash of raw heroin. Now that Joe has fallen hard for Mona, he’s got to pull off the most dangerous con of his career: one that will leave him either a killer — or a corpse.

Before he settled into the comfortable (and profitable) serial novels, starring the characters you love to love, Lawrence Block was writing crime novels. With every turn of the page, you could almost hear the peeling the wallpaper off of even the swankiest of hotel room walls. These are the gritty, acidic, abrasive early novels of Lawrence Block. The characters in these fifty-thousand worders were hardened criminals. Unrepentant, unlovable, more disposable, but ultimately just as magnetic as those who would come later. Block’s first novel (under his own name) featured just one such criminal. Joe Marlin is smooth and hungry. He’s no ageless, cuddly Bernie Rhodenbarr, solving murders between burglaries. He can’t relate the moral greyness that comes from too many years as a cop, like Matt Scudder. And he doesn’t contemplate the American lifestyle whilst planning murder for hire, like Keller. He’s just one low-down and dirty sonofabitch, telling as compelling a crime tale as you’ll ever likely to hear. Marlin’s story was first published by Gold Medal in 1961 under the title Mona. In 1986, it was released as Sweet Slow Death. And most recently it was republished with a third title: Grifter’s Game, this time by Hard Case Crime. Block himself fancied The Girl on the Beach, as the novel’s title. But no matter what name the novel goes by, it’s a fast and dirty, and shoots a strong enough curve to throw even the most hardened of modern readers off their game. At 47 years old it’s still one of Block’s strongest novels.

Reader Alan Sklar grows into the voice of the narrator as Marlin’s plans turn darker. We like his Joe Marlin, he’s clever and slick, he lingers on the details and teases us. The only thing is that Sklar sees it all coming – he knows, he tells us he knows, but doesn’t telegraph, and so, when the killing blow ultimately comes, it doesn’t hit us until we’re too close, until we can really feel it, until we own it. Until we live it.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Commentary: Very Bad Deaths

Commentary

Science Fiction Audio - Very Bad Deaths by Spider RobinsonScott originally reviewed Very Bad Deaths in May – click here to see it. I finished it myself and wanted to comment:

I finally got a chance to listen to this one! I had a smile tattooed on my face while I listened to Spider spin his SF web. I knew I would be interested to hear this one especially because it is set in and around Vancouver, British Columbia, where I live and it is chock full of local details. But after hearing it, and realizing that most people who don’t live in BC probably couldn’t care less about the setting what I really wanted to talk about is something a lot of listeners/readers might have missed that they should care about. Spider Robinson wrote this novel as homage to Crime Writers Of America Grandmaster Lawrence Block. Most SF readers probably don’t know who Block is but they should. Block is a prolific and talented author working in the crime genre. In VBD Robinson uses many turns of phrase that are ones Block uses almost unconsciously in his many stories. Other giveaways include the theme of a horrifically understandable serial killer and a deep and abiding love of coffee. Robinson has done this sort of thing before – his novel Callahan’s Con was an homage to Block’s contemporary – fellow Crime Writers Of America Grandmaster Donald Westlake and Callahan’s Key was inspired by the writings of Robert A. Heinlein. Another neat feature of Very Bad Deaths is that it contains the only reference in fiction to the philosophical writings of Daniel Dennett that I know of – he also manages to tie Dennett’s concepts into the book’s plot.

Spider is currently “collaborating” with Heinlein on a novel titled Variable Star, I hope Blackstone Audio acquires the audio rights to that one and that they get Spider to narrate! Oh and a sequel to Very Bad Deaths is also in the works.

XM Satellite Radio: Audiobook Cafe

January 2nd 2005 sees the first broadcast of a new hour-long radio program called Audiobook Cafe. Set to air once a week on XM Satellite Radio, the show is hosted by full time author and part time audiobook narrator Lawrence Block. Block is mostly known for his award winning mystery and crime novels but his lengthy career has also included a few ventures in to the science fiction, fantasy, and horror realms.

Each installment of Audiobook Cafe includes two author interviews and several audiobook reviews with audio exerpts from the audiobooks covered. Authors already recorded include fantasy authors Peter Straub and Neil Gaiman! This is by no means a program focusing on science fiction and fantasy audiobooks – we wish – but it is still very cool.

Of peripheral interest to this story: The Lawrence Block word factory has produced an interesting article for the New York newspaper The Village Voice, entitled “Abridge This!”. Find it here!