Cover to Cover: Murdaland
I took the most recent- and only the second ever- issue of Murdaland Magazine with me on my vacation a month or so ago (it seems like a lifetime ago) and read most it with great pleasure. I just finished reading the rest of it today. The cover here on the left is of the first issue. The magazine is based in Pittsburgh, which makes me love them. This is noir, crime, fucked up stuff, with a little Jayne Anne Phillips thrown in (Mary Gaitskill was in their first issue) and a very interesting non-fiction thing from a soldier in the Middle East. The new issue’s cover is even more badass than this one here, but I couldn’t figure a way to put it in the post. After the jump, I’ll briefly summarize the stories:
The Emerson, 1950 by Scott Phillips– This has a nice LA Noir feel to it, told in the first person from the POV of a crime scene photographer. A lot of the narrative jumps around from crime scene to crime scene- sort of randomly, but then the whole thing is held together nicely by a thread regarding his aging, difficult Aunt Ivy. Nice piece.
Roachkiller by R. Narvaez–Narvaez runs a poetry site called Asinine Poetry. “Roachkiller” involves a Dominican-American guy named- well, nicknamed- Roachkiller who is just getting out of prison. He wants to stay clean, but as anyone who reads this stuff know, it’s not easy, especially where your “abuelita” is concerned. I loved this one.
Vivian and Bobby Ray by Harry Hunsicker-Bobby Ray is a bad cop, the kind who robs liquor stores and shoots people. Vivian suffers from Apotemnophilia. They love each other, which is not a good thing. This one is really twisted.
Zebulon by Rudolph Wurlitzer- “Zebulon” is and excerpt from Wurlitzer’s forthcoming novel, The Drop Edge of Yonder, which will be published by the excellent small press, 2 Dollar Radio. This is historic crime, very Annie Proulx or Denis Johnsony or Tom Frankliny (who was in their last issue, which led me to read Poachers, which was brilliant). Loved it. Over the top but heartfelt. I’m buying his book.
Bo Sau (Vengeance) by Henry Chang- Nicely rendered New York Chinatown revenge story. Some gore in this cold-blooded one.
Sinny and the Prince: A Fairy Tale by Vicky Hendricks- Hookers, twins, murder, porn stars, fake identities! Oh man. I took notes on this one- and it made my brain click into gear for another thing I’m doing. Not sure why- can we ever be?- but this was the most inspiring.
Larry The Swollen and Manny The Art Gimp by Rupert Wondolowski-Reads a bit like Bukowski, but sleazier and more “cartoony”. These are sad, broke barflies in Baltimore, who are absurb but loveable in their patheticism.
Chuck and Bob: A Letter From Kuwait (Non-fiction) by Anonymous- Fascinating addition. Anon doesn’t get into the gore of war here, but rather discusses the strange Chuck Norris obsessed graffitti in all of the toilets on base, at every base. Here’s a taste: “There are no extinct species, only those that Chuck Norris allows to live”, or “Chuck Norris has re-written the Periodic Table of the Elements. The only Element that matters is suprise.”
And excerpt from Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips–Set in 1959 West Virginia, this excerpt uses the same dense, slightly digressive language that made Black Tickets so great. Lark is the older sister to a handicapped boy, Termite. This scene culminates in a flood, which is eerily drawn. That said, I wasn’t really feeling it. Could be my bad, for sure. I have a dusty printout of an essay Phillips wrote called “On Not Having a Daughter” ( I think, that’s what it is about, not sure, as I am not going to find it right now because my office is hell) that meant a lot to me. Not sure if I’m going to read this one, though. I’ve never finished any of her novels, just Black Tickets.
And lastly, a classic reprint, and excerpt from Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter–mind blowingly good stuff. His shit is barely in print??!! I see a Jim Thompson or Patricia Highsmith-like revival coming. Here is a quote from this excerpt, to give you an idea how Carpenter chews on big ideas while writing his brand of crime fiction:
Jack nodded and drank some of his beer. He did not add that he had also bucked logs, worked in a cannery and a furniture factory, robbed gas stations, rolled drunks, and lived in a half a hundred arid furnisehd rooms, pretended the vacuum was freedom, wakened almost daily to the fear that time was a dry wind brushing away his youth and strength, and slept through as many nightmares as there were nights to dream. He just sat and smiled at Denny and saw what time had to him and wondered, now comfortably, why he was so bothered with time. It happens to everybody this way, he thought, we sit here and get older and die and nothing happens.