Grace Of My Heart by Allison Anders.


One of the things I did during my brief jaunt to The Big Apple in 2001 was to walk from Times Square- where I was staying – and down Broadway to place my hand on the Brill Building. And I did. It was a hot summers day and I burnt my hand.

It’s a fantastic looking building, of course, but that wasn’t the reason for my pilgrimage.

You see, not a lot of people know this- not even Michael Caine – but once upon a time, I wanted to be a songwriter. Indeed, after the band Oceans 11 split up in the mid ‘80s, guitarist Peter Ord and I decided to write songs together. Like Bacharach and David. Goffin and King, Fagan and Becker. But, of course, nothing came of it.

In the 1960s the Brill Building, though, was a hit factory that  housed some great songwriters. Including the ones that I mentioned above plus Paul Simon, Laura Nyro and more.

And Allison Anders’  wonderful  Grace Of My Heart is the story of that era, that great period of musical creativity. Well, it’s a fictional amalgam of a couple of people’s stories-mainly Carole King, I think – and it’s a gem.

Music is by Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell, Burt Bacharach and others and it’s a smashing story, very well told, with fine performances from Ileana Douglas, John Turturro, Matt Dillon and others.

Guest Blog: What happens in Mexico …. eventually gets posted on the internet by Doug Gelsleichter

dougBio: Doug Gelsleichter. I’m 30, seen some crazy shit and enjoy writing about it. Hopefully you enjoy reading it. You can find it all – fiction and real fiction – at Enoy~

So my girlfriend and I went to Mexico last summer – late June – same time all the protests and shit were going on in Iran. In fact we watched most of that story unfold over the weekend on the news. Neither one of us had a vacation since we’d met and with me on midnights and her on days, saying hello in the morning as we passed each other was about as much contact as we had with one another till Friday night each week.

She’s a travel agent and whenever she sells a certain amount of nights to a particular resort or hotel they give her complimentary nights and she brought this brochure home – showed me all about Isla Mujeres, Mexico. The pictures were beautiful, of course – great rooms, excellent view and all inclusive. There were just random bungalows and beds – with linens – laying on the beach. It was a toss up between this or Jamaica, but she’d gone to Jamaica the previous year on a resort site inspection so she wasn’t too keen on going back again that soon. She left it up to me and in the end we went to Mexico.

All in all it was a fun trip and was more than worth it – had a great time and took lots of pictures, but found in the end that coming home is always the best part of any trip.

Just fucking with you – we did go, that part’s true. But come on, who would bother to tell that story – it sucks. The real story is much, much better – and I might add, humiliating as shit, for me.

So, we got down to Mexico – flew into Cancun – and after wading through a sea of topless college girls made our way to the tour van that gave us a ride to the resort. Fast forward thru the stupid, chit chatty shit and we’re at the resort, stepping thru these huge oak doors that took two guys to open. And they did, opened them for each arriving customer before a young women would come over with a glass of champagne for each of you.

She was kind enough to shoo the white guy trimming the hedges when he tried to make eye contact.

We go thru the whole check in process and get our bags up stairs, blah blah blah, check the place out and finally get settled in. And I mean this place was amazing – although they had metal safes in each room they recommended you place your valuable in, which gives off the wrong impression I think, but nonetheless. So we take the first day to just hang out, enjoy the room and roam the grounds – which I might add were huge, and secluded. We were at the very tip of the Yucatan Penninsula and from what I was told later, could spit on Cuba. The water was great, the pool was warm and the bar was in the pool. Yes, a swim up bar, fully stocked and free – remember all inclusive. But we kept it safe and kinda boring the first night, and retired early, trying to shake off the late flight and the fact I’d worked a midnight before we boarded the plane.

The next day, however …..

We woke up early and immediately went into Cancun to the flea markets. We were specifically warned to take no other taxi than the one the resort called for us – never said why, but I assume because they didn’t want some Man on Fire shit to go down. Either way, we were called a taxi and headed out into the wilds of Mexico. I will say this, it is a beautiful country, one I would visit often given the chance – culture is beautiful. But I did notice one thing. There was a very thin line dividing rich and poor, or at least it seemed. The entire drive into Cancun, which took about twenty minutes, was rife with large, upscale looking villas with shacks and shanties in their front yards. Seriously, it was like poor people built ramshackle nests in Beverley Hills, and it struck me as odd.

Then we reach Cancun and the cab driver parked and waited for us – just put the car in park, lit up a cigarette and hung his arm out the window.

So we went to check out the flea market which was more or less two perpendicular loops of shops – some outdoor only, others indoor and outdoor. And they had everything, so while my girlfriend was off buying Mexican Vanilla (which is supposed to be excellent) I wandered over to a small strip selling everything that was cock. No shit, this guy had a whole strip of wall devoted to dicks. Dicks of all sorts too – some were big, others small, each with just two balls. In all seriousness however, I had managed to stand next to the Willie Wonka of, well willies. I almost asked if he had any wickedly inappropriate children’s boat rides handy, but stopped when I wasn’t all that sure whether he’d whisk me away and mutilate me in some vague metaphoric way.

And he was a strong salesmen too – really stuck with me and pushed his newest stuff, and as uncomfortable as it started out, I will say he knew his product – the statues, not dicks themselves. He didn’t dive into cock philosophy or anything, he just knew what was up there, ya know, knew his stock. He showed me a statue of an Aztec jaguar warrior, with an erection bigger than him – hugging the damn thing and leaning in so the statue would stay up (no pun intended). Just to be clear on that last part the boner was bigger than the statue – not the guy selling it.

They had dick paperweights, penis salt and pepper shakers, phallic ashtrays, and even a cock clock – which is everything you’re imagining right now, including a swaying set of balls to tick tock the seconds away. At first it was surreal – especially so when I realized this stuff appeared to be all hand made  again no pun intended – seriously). They had a pipe – made of wood and carved by hand – had to be, cause you could see the shave strokes. I mean, it could have been bullshit and if it was he must’ve kept the others in the back cause most all the items on his cock wall were singles – no mass-produced penises here.

But this trip – and story – isn’t all about Senior Peepee. That’s just what I did while my girl was buying vanilla and she eventually made her way back to me, noticing herself that we were in the midst of Dr. Cockenstein. The novelty wore off for her quicker than I would have guessed and we were making our way round the loop again. Basically that part of the story was just so I had a platform to discuss the Doctor up there, so that’s really it for that. No real ending either – except us looking at some ponchos with football teams on them and heading back to the resort.

Transition material is something I’ve made a note for myself to work on.

We’re back at the resort and ready to hit the one of seven different pools. I made a comment of that being excessive, which of course started a fight because she didn’t think I appreciated the trip, which made for an argument heading to the pool, and that started a series of back and forth stink-face looks, which then saw some quips back and forth before we had a drink or so each in us and decided to get along again.

I was drinking Greygoose and cranberry juice and she was drinking Long Island Ice Tea.

However, I will say this now – I am not a drinker. I will drink, socially or with friends to relax, but the instances where I have found myself drunk are few and far between. And the instances I have found myself in the condition I will describe shortly have been as rare as good amputee porn – which is to say not at all. I will also go on record as saying that when you don’t have to reach for your wallet while attempting to get drunk its very easy to do so – like hiding from a blind man. There’s very little effort that needs to be expended to achieve your goal – no monetary issues keeping you from it, and once I put my drink down it was almost immediately topped off.

Either way my girlfriend and I stood in waste deep water, warmed to a perfect temperature by the sun, drinking and talking to the many different people that swam by. A bulk of the first few conversations were with a newly married couple who had been drinking prior to meeting us. She was in the Navy and gorgeous – trailer trash gorgeous though, so take it for that. He was a classic looking Marine without the spaced out, fuck wad hair cut and was very articulate and well spoken. Good looking enough for me to regret the shift worker gut I was trying to hide under the surface since the sun had been overhead.

We – all four of us – pretty much kept one another company for three rounds and a bathroom break on my part – and as I broke the seal and pissed for what seemed like awhile my girlfriend got to see Mrs. Seabound topless, as – in a drunken state – she decided it was all well and good to just pop her top off. Her husband laughed, from what I was told, and helped her back into the bathing suit, informing my girlfriend she had been drinking and in the sun most of the day. I got an awkward smile and excuse when I got back and they left without taking their drinks.

Then it was on to a serious buzz and the company of a Canadian couple and a California couple. California guy said Hey and dude a lot and I mainly stuck with his skinned skeleton wife and talked about container shipments and ports of entry – which was tolerable because I hadn’t gone over the line yet, was still pretty well in control of sober. But by the time I got to the Canadian husband I thought it wise to bring up socialized medicine, while drunk – completely at this point. Lets call it shitfaced – but, I will say this – I feel I was fairly articulate. I say fairly because there are parts of the conversation where I was lucid and remember him giving me thoughtful answers that lead to more questions – I grew up with a drunk and this guy didn’t lead me to a soft landing with ahuh, ahuh, ahuh’s – he fucking thought before he answered.

So drunk or not, at least I was personable.

Now it was sometime within or after the socialized medicine discussion that I decided I needed to piss again – so, and this is all I remember, I got to the bathroom somehow and pissed. Next conscious memory that comes out of the blackness is me being heaved out of the pool by my girlfriend, after – I’m told – I had somehow wandered back to her from the bathroom. Then she had to basically pull my blacked out ass from the pool. I was later told I was vaguely conscious and at least attempting to help, although she said it hadn’t made a difference. Then, back into the blackness with a few flashes of going into the elevator. I remember seeing a maid but that might have just been the booze. Next thing I am aware of was being stripped down and put into bed.

Luckily Shaina had seen me slurring my way through the finer points of socialism and stopped drinking, probably looking at me passed out and shacking her head in retrospect.

Again, this was all fading in and out but what I do remember I remember vividly – besides it being corroborated later with the only other person in the room at the time. And I do remember her helping me pee – although I feel bad saying help, cause all I did was relax, the rest was all her and when that ended up spraying around like a firehose I remember her laughing and walking away. After that it’s a sea of blackness, and I went for a nice long swim. There were bits and pieces of what was going on when I turned over or repositioned, but, and thank god for her here, she put me back in bed before going down to the restaurant and getting dinner.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

She eventually made her way back upstairs from dinner and I remember her coming in and getting undressed. I was rousing, trying to shake off the spinning long enough to get on my feet.

There was a nice jacuzzi bath in the corner that had a large sliding window leading to the deck so she ran a nice hot bubble bath – lighting some incense and relaxing, finally.

Now, when I found out we were going to take this trip and we discussed the features and all that shit she asked me what I would like to do most. The first thing that came to mind was shit on the bed. I know, that may come as off putting but hear me out on this. If its a five star luxury resort that, and this was in the booklet, advertises itself as paradise, you would think shitting on the bed would be a viable option. Personally I’d know if I was in paradise if I shit on my own bed and someone other than myself came in and cleaned it – new sheets, pillow cases, even the fucking ruffle at the bottom – didn’t even have shit on it, but it got changed. That – at least in my eyes – should be on the list of paradise amenities. Anyway, I wanted to shit on the bed. She got a laugh and so did I, but in the back of my mind I was still thinking about it up until about five minutes after she got into the jacuzzi. Just enough time to get settled and really begin to relax – just enough time to lean her head back and close her eyes – and apparently enough time for me to get up and out of bed, see her doing those things, and think it would be a good idea to go bounding over and hop into the jacuzzi – a ball of naked – with her. She had filled it high to begin with and I basically cannonballed a full tub, spilling the better part of its bowl out and onto the floor, soaking the nice white shag rug, the side of the love seat close to the jacuzzi, as well as filling most of the room with about an eighth inch of water.

Thank god for marble floors – otherwise they’d wish I had shit on the bed.

There was the usual girlfriend ‘you’re a dumb ass’ speech and huffing and puffing as we laid down some towels, but we almost immediately – both of us – had a good laugh.

Now, the bookend for this interesting evening was to be a sexual mishap I – THANK GOD – can blame on being, still, shit ass drunk. You see the television has a porn channel – and not what you’re thinking. This is Mexico buddy, and American does their porn with commercials and phone number ad sales for what basically amounts to you jerking off while someone talks you thru it. No way – not a chance – this porn channel was non-stop, looping, no commercial, no bullshit introduction, just fuck scene after fuck scene after fuck scene after fuck scene. Anal then blow job – orgy then three way – they were mixing it up with complete chaos on this fucking channel. So it was about a second knuckle deep into one of these movies that she managed to get that spot – and again, I decide I’m motivated enough to ruin the evening, so I proceed to saunter over and position my face against her crotch – and I shit you not on this one – gnaw on her clit. Ok, it was really her pubic bone but still, I was aiming for the clit. It didn’t take long either – I knew better, and even skunked out I still knew this wasn’t going to get anyone off. So I waited for her to wave me away and call in the relief pitcher – she rubbed one out and I ordered room service. Had beef consommé for the first time – it was nice.

The next day was recovery and relaxing. We took our flight out the following morning and as my girlfriend made her way thru the duty free liquor store I flipped through the pictures we had taken. It didn’t take long for me to – and this was a few pictures past us at the flea market – to stumble upon two pictures of me, curled around the marble toilet, quiet possibly in my own piss, completely naked and out like a broken light bulb. I say possibly in my own piss because I can’t remember which side of the toilet I fire-hosed, and it doesn’t really matter I suppose, least not at that point anyway.

I got a good laugh, and asked her to marry me a month later. See, I figure if she’s good enough to help me thru that while smiling AND fucked up enough to stop and take two, TWO, pictures of me laying in my own piss – then I need to be around this girl as long as I can be. She actually stopped and took a second picture to get a better angle – that’s either love or psychosis – so let’s cross those fingers for love, people.

We got back on the plane and came home, and she showed everyone who would look the pictures. She has more complimentary nights coming so we’re planning on going back next summer – and I can tell you this – this time I’m just shitting on the fucking bed.

She said yes – by the way. Assholes.

The Hardboiled Collective – zup?

What’s happening with the members of The Hardboiled Collective, you may well ask?

Well, over at the THC blog,  Zoe Sharp  talks about flying and her forthcoming trip to Bouchercon.

THC founder Jochem Vandersteen has a look at Chris Knopf’s Dead Anyway at Sons Of Spade.

And Micheal Haskins has let us know that his  short story “Vampire Slayer Murdered in Key West” has been nominated for a Shamus Award!

It’s all happening!

Small Town Creed by Paul D. Brazill

When You’re Growing Up In A Small Town/ You Hate It And You Want To Get Out.’ Lou Reed.

The lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.’Sherlock Holmes

And small town America seems to be even worse. If we go by films, books and television – Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, The Killer Inside Me, Lolita, Red Rock West – then small towns are dark and sinister places. Claustrophobic and repressive, they are much more suited to noir than the bright lights of the big city with its limitless possibilities. Noir is for losers, after all…

Maggie Greenwald’s cracking film version of Jim Thompson’s small town noir novel ‘The Kill –Off’, for example, starts with a shot of dozens of intersecting telephone lines buzzing with gossip and small town prattle, criss crossing and trapping you. Thompson’s novel is just as smothering with its multiple POVs and every character having a finger in someone else’s dirty pie.

Dave Zeltserman’sSmall Crimes’ shows a man trying to escape the past but his home town keeps dragging him back like an umbilical cord tied tight around his neck!

And as for getting out …

In Scott Phillips’ dark comedy of errors ‘The Ice Harvest’, the hero Charlie Arglist has big plans to get away from his small town blues but those old faces, places and habits keep hauling him back.

And look at Frank Capra’s terrifying noir classic ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’.  Poor George Bailey has plans the see the world and have adventures. But will those resentful hicks of Bedford Falls let him go? No! So, he tops himself. But even in death he can’t escape. A supernatural creature appears and drags him back ‘home’! It’s like that Sartre play where hell is other people, it really is.

And scariest of all, Bill Murray starts Groundhog Day as a funny and intelligent man but after being tortured by repeating the humdrum routine of a uber-bland town he loses his spark and his wit so much that he even fancies Ali Macdowal, or whatever she’s called. Now that is chilling!

(This post first appeared at CrimeFactory’s Day Labour blog.)


Noir Nation is an eBook journal of high quality crime fiction, essays, and author interviews, illustrated with living art: tattoos.

Issue No. 2 is rich with stories that tell of being stopped at a tense Israeli checkpoint, a man reflecting on the death of his sadistic mother while getting a tattoo, hunting jaguars in the Chimalapas jungle, a fatal conversation between a married couple on a Japanese mountain cliff, the consummation of a macabre wedding in Tangiers, a German psychopath who thinks himself a werewolf, a missing prostitute in Cambodia’s red light district, a Boston businessman trying to survive a murderous economy, barroom pickups that turn deadly, soldiers captured in World War II taking grisly revenge on their guards, the renovation of a theater that hides a crime, a pistol-packing Harlem grandmother who fends for
her young, a road trip from New Orleans to Vancouver that ends in a Pulp Fiction style shootout, and hitchhikers who should have kept hiking.

Contributors hail from no less than sixteen countries: Finland, Japan, Australia, Thailand, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Israel, Cuba, Canada, Columbia, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Entries include stories by classic noir writers such as Edogawa Rampo, considered by many to be the father of Japanese crime fiction; Paul Calderon, an actor who appears regularly on the television show Law & Order and who played Paul the bartender in the film Pulp Fiction; and first-time authors Mary Therese Gattuso, Hubert Osprey, and Pierce Loughran.

Afficionados of hardboiled crime noir will see new works by Nick Arvin, Ray Banks, Paul Calderon, Atar Hadari, Sophie Jaff, Susan Lercher, Julia Madeleine, Court Merrigan, Joe L. Murr, Andrew Nette, Thomas Pluck, Victor Quintas, Stephen D. Rogers, Ulrike Rudolf, Bob Thurber, Ruben Varona, Corinna Underwood, and Tom Vater.

The issue also contains an interview with Madison Smartt Bell talking about blowing his knees with Tae Kwon Do and the influence on his fiction by Harry Crews, Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain and Dostoyevsky. And darkly disturbing entries from 400-year-old London’s Criminal Court logs that show how little has changed in the human drive to murder, maim, and enslave others.

Tattoo photos by Miguel Angel, Madeline Keller-Yunes, Julia Madeleine, Ilya Shchanikov,, Aroon Thaewchatturat, and Chris Willis.

Translations by Andrew Kirk, Rowena Galavitz, Mary Tannert, and Eddie Vega.

You can get Noir Nation 2 from Amazon UK, as well as loads of other places.

And while you’re there, you can pick up the first issue of Noir Nation, which includes stuff from Les Edgerton, Scott Wolven and me.

Stories For Sunday : Black, Krohn, Laity, Rosmus.

There are lots of juicy slices of short fiction out and about the interweb at the moment.

Get stuck into this little lot:

Christopher Black makes his debut at Thrillers, Killers n Chillers with a visceral and lyrical tale of one man’s descent into HELL.

Bydgoszcz born globetrotter Magdalena Krohn is over at Litro with DREAM GUN. A man returns to Thailand to come to terms with the past in a vivid and hard hitting story.

The past hurtles towards the regulars at O’Malley’s bar as fast as a speeding bullet in K A Laity’s ASBO BAMBI which is over at Pulp Metal Magazine.

Pulp Metal Fiction have recently published Death Takes A Snow Day, a collection of short stories by Cindy Rosmus. If you want a sample of Cindy’s writing before buying her collection, then pop over to Shotgun Honey where she gives us a corking bit of flash fiction called BANG,BANG.

There you go! That should help your hangovers!

(The pic is of Warsaw Old Town, by the way)

Recommended Read: Don’t Call Me a Crook! A Scotsman’s Tale of World Travel, Whisky, and Crime by Bob Moore

If you look up the word ‘ bounder’ in the dictionary you won’t see a picture of Bob Moore (what you will see is this definition: ‘a morally reprehensible person; cad’) but you really should. Don’t Call Me a Crook! A Scotsman’s Tale of World Travel, Whisky, and Crime was written by Bob Moore in 1935 and originally published by the same people that published Mien Kampf. Moore wrote ‘Crook!’hoping to make a packet although it’s doubtful that he made a penny from the book. It was discovered dishevelled and ignored in the ‘Tramps’ section of the New York Public Library by Dissident Books’ Nicholas Towasser and is an absolute cracking read. It starts off brilliantly: “It is a pity there are getting to be so many places that I can never go back to, but all the same, I do not think it is much fun a man being respectable all his life.” It then recounts the fantastic globetrotting adventures of a working class Scotsman who makes his way around the world wheeling and dealing, wining and dining and working as a marine engineer, building superintendent, a moonshine runner and a gun runner. Moore’s adventures take him to the U.S., England, Australia, Egypt, South America, Japan, and China. The book has an afterword by Booker Prize-winning novelist James ‘Chuckle-Chops’ Kelman but don’t let that put you off. Moore and his book are far from respectable. A thief, a liar, a cheat and, yes, a bounder, this is a hell of a yarn.

Rosso Esperanto by Paul D. Brazill (Out Now!!!)


La notte invernale si era drappeggiata intorno all’Aleja Jana Pawla di Varsavia come un sudario, e un’affilata falce di luna garrotava il cielo nero come la morte. Io ero totalmente immerso nei postumi di una sbornia e cominciavo a sentirmi decisamente claustrofobico nell’angusto appartamento di Tatiana, intriso di sentore di deodorante.
Infilai le dita tremanti in una fessura fra le assicelle della veneziana polverosa e contemplai la costellazione di insegne al neon che delineava il viale ribollente di attività: sex shop, peep show, bar aperti 24 ore, rivendite di liquori e di kebab erano praticamente i soli edifici che riuscissi a vedere, a parte The Westin Hotel, con il suo vertiginoso ascensore di vetro. Il solo guardarlo mi faceva sempre contrarre un poco lo stomaco.
Mentre ricacciavo indietro un’acre ondata di bile, vidi un taxi nero bruciare un semaforo rosso e tagliare attraverso la strada, mancando di stretta misura un tram sferragliante. Una sirena della polizia prese a ululare, trapassandomi come uno stiletto la testa pulsante, poi una seconda auto della polizia si unì all’inseguimento e ben presto entrambe raggiunsero il taxi, deviando con uno stridio di ruote per fermarsi davanti a esso. Il conducente del taxi cercò a sua volta di arrestarsi, ma il veicolo scivolò sulla strada ghiacciata ed evitò a fatica un altro tram prima di bloccarsi sul marciapiede, davanti a un peep show dipinto a colori sgargianti. Un’alta bionda che indossava soltanto scarpe rosse a tacco alto e giarrettiera si affacciò sulla porta, vide le auto della polizia e tornò subito dentro, sbattendosi la porta alle spalle. ‘

A Film For Friday: Somebody To Love by Alexandre Rockwell

Palookaville (1995)

Taking its title from a quoted-to-death  line in ‘On The Water Front,’ Palookaville is  the  story of Jerry, Russ  and Syd – three friends who feel  so trapped in their  no hoper jobs and one horse town that they decide  to escape the rut by embarking on a life of crime, at one point using the1950  b-movie ‘Armored Car Robbery’ as their instruction manual.
Palookaville was directed by  Alan Taylor who has since  directed some impressive TV shows such as Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos and Deadwood. This genuinely charming and touching film  was written by David Epstein who based the splendid screenplay  on a story by Italo Calvino. Reminiscent in tone to early Bill Forsyth, especially  That Sinking Feeling, or a downbeat Ealing Comedy, Palookaville  is more than a little close to my heart. As far as I know, Epstein has written nothing since, which a shame.
William Forsyth, Vincent Gallo and even Frances McDormand are part of the wonderful cast, along with a cracking bunch of character actors who play a collection of quirky but painfully true characters.

Guest Blog: Maxim Jakubowski – Courmayeur’s Noir in Fest Festival

Festivals in Europe are big business. Unlike conventions in the English-speaking world, European festivals are usually organised with the assistance of much in the way of subsidies, public and private funding, to the extent that the competition between cities and organisers is savage and that festivals almost take on a political nature. Versailles has an event devoted to films about aviation, Spoleto features opera, Pordenone silent films, Saint Malo has travel writing, etc… and woe is the town or city that does not feature an artistic festival of some sort on its calendar.
At last count, there are almost 2000 art festivals in Europe alone every year, with subjects ranging from the popular to the most arcane. And crime fiction has its share: Gijon in Spain, Cognac, Lyon, Frontignan, and a much-lamented event in Grenoble and many others in France, Mantova, Trevi and Brescia in Italy. But one of the most important ones is Courmayeur’s Noir in Fest, which takes place every December in the trendy ski resort at the bottom of Mont Blanc on the Italian side of the tunnel under the mountains. Where all these festivals differ strongly from the Anglosaxon model is that they mostly organised by professionals rather than fans, although access is free to the general public and no costly registration is involved. Balancing the budget is not the organiser’s main aim, and as long as the event generates enough press and media, both regional and national, the funders appear to be satisfied as do the hosting cities and towns.
I was invited in the early 1980s to Cattolica on the Italian Adriatic when the festival was still called Mystfest (and still continues to this day under that moniker, although with a different emphasis) when the year’s event was focused on Jim Thompson. I had earlier as a publisher revived Thompson in the UK in my short-lived Black Box Thriller imprint (alongside David Goodis, Horace McCoy, Cornell Woolrich, Anthony Boucher, Fredric Brown, W.R. Burnett, Marc Behm and others). This was a whole year before my buddy Barry Gifford also picked up on Thompson and some of my other rediscoveries with his Black Lizard list) and Stephen Frears was in the process of filming THE GRIFTERS from Don Westlake’s script, and was asked to speak about him. I wrote a piece on Thompson and his legacy for the festival’s programme book and also managed to bring along some rushes of the movie which was still being edited as a preview. The festival offered both film and literary events and allowed me to meet a number of Italian and French attending writers and critics, as well as Roger L. Simon, Stuart Kaminsky, Julian Semyonov and other mystery writers who had also been invited,. Lasting friendships were made amongst a most convivial atmosphere of sea, sun, Italian food and wine and culture.

During the course of the following year Elisa Resegotti, who then organised the festival’s literary events, and her colleague Marina Fabbri would occasionally call me back in London asking for addresses and phone numbers of US and British authors or filmmakers they wanted to contact, as well as for advice and recommendations about future guests and possible movies they could screen. A year almost went by when I had another telephone call, which ended with a friendly “See you in 2 weeks, then”. My reaction was “Are you inviting me back?” After all, the festival (and most European events likewise) was in the habit of paying for guest’s fares (and their companion), and also paid for our hotels and meals, so this was a wonderful freebie to say the least.

“Of course” was the answer and I was informed that I could pick up my ticket at the Alitalia offices on Regent Street. There was no need to ask me twice! On arrival at that year’s festival, I picked up the complimentary copy of the lavish festival souvenir book cum programme in my hotel room, and lo and behold I was now listed as one of the festival’s official overseas advisers.
To cut a long story short, I’ve been attending the festival every year since for the last 21 years and it is always one of the highlights of my criminal and personal year. The initial directors of the festival were two major Italian film critics, Giorgio Gosetti and Irene Bignardi. Following my second year of attendance (other guests included James Ellroy, Derek Raymond, Agatha Christie’s grandson Mathew Prichard and J.G. Ballard amongst others), the organisers had a fallout with the city and transferred the festival to the Mediterranean resort of Viareggio, with Bignardi moving on to take over the Venice film festival (and later Locarno) and Giorgio promoting Marina to co-director. The two years in Viareggio were splendid, with guests including Krizstof Kieszlowski, Nicolas Roeg, Quentin Tarantino, Frederick Forsyth, Robert Bloch and many others, and the entertainment budget on the extreme side of munificence what with all guests being given passes to the best restaurants in town and as much time spent at bars and meals as at specific film and lit events. It was therefore no surprise that after 2 years in Viareggio, we heard that a handful of town notables responible for the funding had ended up in jail for corruption and the festival no longer the recipient of such generosity had to decamp. After some nervous months, Giorgio and Marina soon informed us they had come to an agreement with the town of Courmayeur in the Valle d’Aosta to move the festival to the mountains, and from June to December. In 2010 we will be celebrating twenty years in Courmayeur and what an adventure it has been.
In my next piece, I will discuss two memorable decades of Noir in the snow and write about the 19th festival which took place in December 2009.

MAXIM JAKUBOWSKI ( his Wikipedia entry is here: ) is a publisher and former owner of the world-famous Murder One bookshop in London’s Charing Cross Road. As well as being a writer and editor of various cult publishing imprints, he is acknowledged as a disturbing and controversial voice in contemporary fiction. His collections have sold massively, he is a regular on TV and radio where he is an expert on crime, erotica and film, and a Guardian columnist. He is literary director of the prestigious CRIME SCENE festival held at London’s NFT.

“An unholy mixture of Jim Thompson and American Psycho” – Time Out
“It memorably evokes the ghosts of Cain and Hammett and delivers some of the scariest writing since American Psycho” – City Life (UK)
“The hard sexy edge of Henry Miller and the redeeming grief of Jack Kerouac.” – Mystery Scene
“Proudly pornographic… the most comprehensive rendering of S&M variations ever to make it in to mainstream fiction” – The Literary Review

Books by Maxim Jakubowski
Life in the World of Women (1997)
It’s You That I Want To Kiss (1998)
Because I Thought I Loved You (1999)
The State of Montana (2000)
On Tenderness Express (2001)
Kiss Me Sadly (2002)
Confessions of a Romantic Pornographer (2004)

Edited by Maxim Jakubowski (with Mike Ripley):
Fresh Blood
Fresh Blood 2 (1997)
Fresh Blood 3 (1999)

Fresh Blood Set (2001)