Archive for crime

An Appreciation: “This is How I Murdered the Librarian” by Michael A. Arnzen

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , on April 13, 2013 by Scott Emerson

As part of The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly’s blog tour for April I thought I’d offer a few words in appreciation of Michael Arnzen’s poem “This is How I Murdered the Librarian.” Like most of Arnzen’s verse, it’s a doozy–read it here.

What I love about this piece, aside from the obvious ghoulish glee that permeates each line, is how Arnzen turns the cliched librarian details–like the shushing finger–on themselves in grim parody during the act of murder, while corrupting classic childrens’ characters by making them complicit in the act before eliminating them in fiery death.

In his note after the poem, Arnzen says the piece “may be more about crimes against books than anything else,” and it’s where “This is How” strikes its most brutal chord. Is there a bibliophile capable of reading this poem without experiencing a sickening lurch in the gut while the narrator destroys an entire library along with his victim? (I also suspect we’re supposed to be more aghast at that than the murder.)

Many readers, like I did at first glance, will see this poem as a comment on the print-vs.-ebook debate. Arnzen gives us precious few details about this killer–implying a surly youth so beholden to technology that dusty old books are beneath contempt–without really giving a clear motivation for the murder. But then I re-read the first stanza, which ends with a line about “a private show and tell,” and saw that perhaps this is a much-deserved revenge. And the librarian, who used books to her own sinister means, meets a fitting end.

That, right there, is what makes this poem great.


Review: Fuckin’ Lie Down Already by Tom Piccirilli

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , on October 7, 2012 by Scott Emerson

A deceptively simple and straight-forward revenge tale, Tom Piccirilli’s FUCKIN’ LIE DOWN ALREADY draws its strength not from its matter-of-fact plot (an honest cop with a gangrenous stomach wound from the attempted hit that claimed his wife and son settles the score with the mobster that wanted him dead), but rather its raw, unflinching look at death, loss, and retribution.

Clay, the protagonist (“our hero” just doesn’t sound right in this context), should by all rights be dead–he’s leaking important fluids and his insides are scrambled from his assassin’s bullet–but with grim determination he fights through the agony, both physical and emotional, to avenge his family. And with his keen sense of detail and deft characterization Piccirilli makes us feel it, too, submerging us into Clay’s pain until we’re ready to pick up our own throwaway .38.

A bracing slice of noir grimness, FUCKIN’ LIE DOWN ALREADY is short, not at all sweet, but damn fine reading.

Review: Every Shallow Cut by Tom Piccirilli

Posted in Books, Writing with tags , , , , , , on March 13, 2012 by Scott Emerson

EVERY SHALLOW CUT ranks among Tom Piccirilli’s best work. For some of you, that’s all you need to know.

The nameless narrator, a midlist writer recoiling from a stalled career and failed marriage, finds himself adrift in a merciless economy with litte more than his trusty bulldog and a pawnshop pistol. Traveling cross-country to seek help from his estranged brother, he embarks on a secondary journey through his past and a headspace that grows increasingly bleak.

As abrupt and vicious as a kick to the shin, EVERY SHALLOW CUT plays very much like TAXI DRIVER, were Travis Bickle a talented but “uncommercial” author. Piccirilli’s protagnist picks at some heavy emotional scabs, but his rumination of a writer’s inability to stay afloat (despite critical success and no lack of skill) really slices to the marrow.

A marvelous noir-flavored character study. Not to be missed.