Archive for February, 2012


Upcoming Event: Barrelhouse Launch Party

February 29, 2012

To celebrate their just-released Crime Issue, the good folks at Barrelhouse are hosting a launch party on Wednesday, March 7, at the Black Squirrel, 2427 18th Street NW (Adams Morgan) in Washington, DC. The evening kicks off at 7 p.m. and features three readers: Michelle Dove, Tara Laskowski, and me (the first time, to my knowledge, that my wife, Tara, and I have read together). I’ll be sampling from my story “Blue Plate Special,” and Tara will be reading from her story “The Etiquette of Homicide,” part of a series she’s been working on. For full details, visit the event’s website here. — Art Taylor


Essay: “The Celebrate Poirot” in Mystery Scene

February 22, 2012

Mystery Scene has just updated an older essay I did on Agatha Christie’s famed detective Hercule Poirot; the original appeared in the online journal, but I’m glad to see it get new life and a fresh audience in print—and such a beautiful layout with great archival photos!

Here are the opening paragraphs:

Our collective image of Agatha Christie’s famous detective, Hercule Poirot, started with the mystery stories themselves—33 novels in all, as well as 65 short stories. Poirot has also, of course, stepped off the printed page and into films, plays, radio presentations, and television productions. In the last 40 years, we’ve seen Albert Finney’s brilliant portrayal in 1974’s Murder on the Orient Express and rotund Peter Ustinov’s roll through Hollywoodizations of Death on the Nile Evil Under the Sun (1982), and Appointment with Death (1988), not to mention the subsequent television films. And, of course, starting in 1989 and continuing to the present day is the very popular Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot starring the superlative actor David Suchet in a lavishly produced series of television films. 

But Christie fans may best remember the first description of the mastermind detective in her debut novel, 1920’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles: “Poirot was an extraordinary looking little man. He was hardly more than five feet, four inches, but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. The neatness of his attire was almost incredible, I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound.”

Check out the full issue’s contents here and pick up a copy at newsstands now.


Review: Elizabeth Hand’s Available Dark in the Washington Post

February 15, 2012

Elizabeth Hand’s Available Dark, a follow-up to her highly acclaimed Generation Loss, takes could’ve-been-somebody photographer Cassandra Neary from New York to Finland and Iceland—first as a consultant on several photographs of graphically murdered corpses, then in a reunion with an old lover, now a dealer in vintage vinyl records in Reykavik. Nothing is coincidental, of course, and the world of death-obsessed photography quickly intersect with history of black metal bands—all of it taking the reader into some pretty dark places as well. Here’s an excerpt from my review in the Washington Post:

The title of Elizabeth Hand’s second Cass Neary thriller plays on the photography term “available light,” but there’s little light — either physically or metaphorically — in the six photos that set this plot in motion. They’re grisly portraits of corpses whose methods of murder were inspired by the Yuleboys of Icelandic folklore, figures with names like Door Slammer, Spoon Licker and Meat Hook. The circumstances surrounding the deaths have been obscured, though famed photographer Ilkka Kaltunnen has immortalized them with his signature “phantom novas” of white radiance. He spares the victims no empathy: “They deserved to die,” he says. “They were unclean: Their own darkness had invaded them. Whatever light they possess now, it came from me.”

Read the full review here. — Art Taylor


New Fiction: “Blue Plate Special” in Barrelhouse

February 9, 2012

The D.C.-based literary journal Barrelhouse has recently published its special “Crime Issue,” including my story “Blue Plate Special” and a story by my wife, Tara Laskowski, too; hers, “The Etiquette of Homicide,” actually appears online in an annotated version as well. A special section on Small Town Noir includes several fine writers: Stewart O’Nan, Randall Brown, Stephen Graham Jones, Brian Evenson, and others. Check out the complete issue description and links here. — Art Taylor


Review: John Hart’s Iron House in North Carolina Literary Review

February 7, 2012

In addition to its annual print publication, the North Carolina Literary Review has just debuted a mid-Winter electronic supplement—and I’m pleased to have a review of John Hart’s Iron House in its pages (er… screens). Here’s the opening paragraph of my review:

John Hart’s first three books, The King of Lies, Down River, and The Last Child, so firmly established a pattern of thematic concerns that it will come as no surprise to find those same motifs and messages at the heart of his latest novel, Iron House. Hart’s books regularly explores how the ties of family and of class don’t just bind but often constrain, examine how men burdened by guilty secrets struggle to atone and forge ahead, and exalt personal sacrifice as an often noble path to redemption. While Hart’s first two novels limited themselves to single perspectives—privileged men, haunted by the past, facing an uncertain future—his third book, The Last Child, broadened that canvas to plumb the perspectives of people across a wide range of age, race and class, and Iron House seems to mark another stage of growth, expanding beyond the milieu of troubled North Carolina families to include as well the dangerous world of organized crime on the mean streets of New York.

Check out the full issue here. — Art Taylor

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