Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Writing Life: Blood, Bone and Marrow- A Biography of Harry Crews by Ted Geltner

Harry Crews has long been one of my favourite writers. He's also one of the few writers whose books I've, over the years, avidly collected. I count myself fortunate in having spoken to him on a few occasions, if only by telephone.  One time was for a Guardian  article, which, for some reason, the paper decided not to publish. The other occasion was about a screenplay I'd written for The Knockout Artist. Despite his reputation, he was generous with his time, and, according to my wife who answered one of his calls,ever the gentleman. I had wanted to know about the status of The Knockout Artist, and if Sean Penn still had the option on the book. He told me Sean Penn would  come up with a workable screenplay for his novel. "The trouble with Sean," he said, "is he can't write." Now I learn from Ted Gleaner's excellent and readable biography published by University of Georgia Press, exactly what Crews meant by that statement. Because, according to Geltner, Penn's screenplay ran to an incredible 800 pages. No wonder he never made any progress with the film. As for my 110 page screenplay,  it  still sits in a desk drawer, waiting for someone to read it.

 Of course, there are many stories about Crews, not many of them all that flattering.  Not that Geltner shies away from detailing them. He also details Crews' early brushes with death, which most readers will know about from Crews's incredible autobiography of his early years, A Childhood. No matter how disreputable Crews's behaviour- the drugs and alcohol abuse, the physical and verbal confrontations, etc.- he was still able to churn out one excellent novel after another, mostly about outsiders and freaks. After all, that was how Crews viewed himself. Like his novels or personal behaviour or not, Crews, who learned his craft from rewriting Graham Greene's Heart of the Matter but is more likely to be compared to Flannery O'Connor, lived to write and wrote to live. Granted, the quality of his books tended to tail off somewhat, becoming slightly cartoonish, towards the end of his writing career. But even the likes of Mulching of America is a delight to read and no Crews fan would want to pass it by. And his journalism never failed to be interesting. Some say- I'm not one of them- that he was at his best when writing for one up-market magazine or another. And he could be, as Michael Connelly in his introduction, suggests, an inspiring teacher. This is a warts and all portrayal that will  interest any dedicated reader of Crews's fiction and non-fiction. It also adds to Crews's autobiography of his early life. With interviews with all the relevant parties, and straight forward prose, this is probably as thorough a biography as one can expect about this eccentric, self-destructive, but excellent, even Swiftian, writer, who, in novels like The Knockout Artist, Scar, The Gospel Singer, Scar Lover, Car, The Hawk Is Dying, delved as deep as anyone into the heart of America.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Inside the Outside/Outside the Inside: Letters Against the Firmament by Sean Bonney, Poetical Works 1999-2015 by Keston Sutherland


When it comes to testing the poetic space squeezed between Tom Raworth and Jeremy Prynne, Sean Bonney and Keston Sutherland must be ranked amongst the most adept, not to say amongst the most interesting. In negotiating that terrain, they don't exactly shy away from exposing their individual styles, defined not only by their limitations but what the contours of their work allows. This they do from different perspectives, addressing, for one, the political world at a personal level, and, for the other, the personal world at a political level, yet without sacrificing anything so obvious as poetic content.

Insistently, even obsessively, political, Sean Bonney, on the basis of this superb collection, seems to move within the crevices of a public language, on the inside of the outside, while discoursing on the immediate, particularly when it comes tocivil insurrection, present and past. To do this he references poetic responses (Baraka, Henderson, Sanchez, etc.) and music (Cecil Taylor, Coltrane, etc.) accompanying the black uprisings of the 1960s, but also back to the likes of Rimbaud. Written with a sense of urgency, these poems respond to recent British history, whether the riots in the recent past, the police shooting of Mark Duggan, or the corruptions of the current Tory government, whether David Cameron ("The songs of heaven, the secrets of history, the kidnap and murder of David Cameron. Steal away.), George Osborne ("his little mouth moving at unpleasant angles") and Iain Duncan Smith ("that talking claw"). Though here Bonney's preferred mode is the mock-letter, his poetics delineated not so much by stanza, line and image but by paragraph and page.

"Memories. It was like we were a blister on the law. Inmates. 
Fancy-dress jacobins. Jesters. And yes. Every since one of us 
was well aware that we hadn't won anything, that her legacy 
'still lived on.' and whatever other sanctimonious spittle was 
being coughed up by liberal shitheads in the Guardian and 
on Facebook. That wasn't the point. It was horrible. 
Deliberately so. Like the plague-feast in Nosferatu. 
I loved it. I had two bottles of champagne, a handful 
of pills and a massive cigar, it was great..."
                                         (Bonney, Letter Against Ritual)

Not that he neglects the more customary form. Taken together, it all goes to further his inquiry, which he clarifies at the start: "the possibility of a poetry that only the enemy could understand." Though concentrating his anarchist ax on the likes of  Teresa May ("remember Teresa May, that guillotine/Unemployed families were slaughtered/remember Teresa driving through London in crackling human Tar/about legal channels, hot pink and petrol flare"), he lets no-one off the hook, not least New Labour.
"I bet she did I bet she
 got up & performed his ambitions
 my malevolent shine
 gonna build me a log cabin
 night of the living dead
 jokes about gordon brown
 something called the english democrats
 on fire..."
                    (Bonney, Set One, The Commons)

Of course, Bonney isn't so gauche as to make false claims about political poetry changing the world. Rather,  he  seeks "an absolute distribution of the senses." Revising Rimbaud as revolutionary, his Season In Hell writing in tandem with the Paris Commune, and "I is an other" a call to collectivity, not to mention ammunition when confronting neo-liberal austerity:  "Poetry is stupid, but then again, stupidity is not the absence of intellectual ability but rather the scar of its mutilation." In an era of corruption and criminality, Bonney demands the right to make essential poetic statements, filled with not only rage but humour.

The more mid-Atlantic Keston Sutherland,  no less political, takes a different route in his articulation of a politics not dissimilar to Bonney's. More responder than proclaimer, Sutherland, unlike Bonney, prefers deploying a private language to express public concerns, working  on the outside of the inside, shifting between the personal and the political. Yet his work, such as when addressing  the war on terror, contains images from the world of porn, fast food and haute cuisine. While his odes to white goods convey the world in metallic form, implying that commodity fetishism might just be another form of torture, and torture remains the most blatant expression of the free market.


"This is the honest account of the passion of Ali Whoever, read it
 deep in the words, general Vampire, fashioning from this trance
 in metal colours an idiot life to blank, taking the time that
 declines to rhyme in synchrony with yours conscious forever
 of limits and where in the end they lie, general jurisprudent,
 the limits to meaning and power, and as innumerable stresses rise
 in a pyramid of lyric ash and flame, keep your eyes out."
                                                 Sutherland, Stress Position

Sutherland opts for articulating his concerns in the form of  verbal onslaughts, semi-torturing the reader with their unrelenting linguistic fury. Sometimes pornographic, brutal, manic, demanding, manic, even lyrical and often humourous, he prefers to focus on the body as it intersects with the machine. The result is a series of  poetic interventions more often than not scatological, but constituting a potent weapon never more than a linguistic cluster away from the abyss. However, it's his Odes to TL61P- the product ordering code for an obsolete Hotpoint washer-dryer- that represent Sutherland at this most effective, if only because it was the first work by Sutherland I happened to come across.

"Each time you unscrew the head the truths burn out
  and fly away above the stack of basements inundated
  in aboriginal mucus, elevating the impeccable,
  hereafter congenitally depilated Janine rescaled to a
  grainy blank up on to the oblong top of the freezer..."

Bonney might be more direct and the less satirical, but Sutherland loves to shift gears on the page, tweaking divergencies with an abandonment bordering, if it were not for sheer pleasure of his attack, on the megalomaniacal. While Sutherland creates an intricate and ingenious framework of false equivalencies, structures which, despite their penetrative nature, work to obscure a familiar form of address, Bonney prefers to put the reader, as well as the culture on trial.

"obviously they read books in hell:
 they are passionate and scared,
 intersected at bitter angles /
 the British anarchist movement
 its scales and documents
 splintered under a false full moon"
                                        Bonney, Set One

"In 1983, over 13,000 workers'  compensation claims
 to Erato I stutter this bloodless anathema
 a veto on forklifts'  trussed talons in face scrub
 tossed out of the world
 of which you were actively sick,
 waxing anaemic, brandishing fire-hose,
 social with anxiety but actually sick."
                                  Sutherland, The Proxy Inhumanity of Forklifts

Together these two poets represent opposite sides of a poetic coin, whose value is non-negotiable, but legal tender when it comes to poetry as an extreme sport, whose currency demands redistribution, one according to need rather than means, the other according to the weight of the word. While Sutherland might cloak the plainly political in the clothing of aesthetic sensibility, if not distance, beneath that cloak lurks a dagger of lethal shape and sharpness. Bonney, on the other hand, feigns dispensing with  the cloak, though never completely abandons that apparel.

"Our money is where your mouth is, clammy as that
 strict blip of successive exit holes, into the light over
 which is dubbed the light in filth-blistered orthognathic 2D flying
 elf neon crossbar 261. To buy it if you see
 what we mean is to see by it: nothing matters more
 any time, just kick back / any time, in moccasins..."
                                           Sutherland, Roger Ailes

"I've been getting up early every morning, opening the curtains and
 going back to bed. There have been rumours of anti-unemployed
 hit squads going around, and I don't want some fucker with a
payslip lobbing things through my window. Especially not when when
I'm asleep. Though I don't expect to be able to fool them for long -
my recent research involves an intense study of certain individual
notes played on Cecil Taylor's 1966 album Unit Structures..."
                                           Bonney, Letter On Work and Harmony

Whether by appearance, linguistic material and juxtaposition, line of attack or implication, these poems have their roots not only in the Cambridge school but in the  debates from some six decades back in the publication The British Intelligencer, which briefly appeared in the mid to late 1960s, centred around the likes of Crozier, Peter Riley, Prynne, John James, etc..  Discussions that, amongst other matters, focused on the fact that aesthetics are invariably as political as they are verbal. To their credit,  Bonney and Sutherland update  the parameters of that discourse, taking it to its most use-oriented point. While dealing with current use and abuse, whether eulogizing a machine or destroying a decaying body politic, both tend towards the justified block, rhythmic in the extreme, influenced by music, as the body moves through a thick mire of repressive politics. This is how such murkiness will be negotiated. Their differing line breaks, even when inhabiting familiar territory, become, in that context, irrelevant, because the impact is so sharp, so similar and so engaging, at least to anyone who might still content that aesthetics (the poem) and ethics (the politics) are, or should be, one and the same.



For a detailed history and discussion of the extremely important if short-lived British Intelligencer, see Alex Latter's Late Modernism and The English Intelligencer, published by Bloomsbury, and Certain Prose of the English Intelligencer, ed by Reitha Pattison and Luke Roberts, published by Mountain. The latter is an anthology of BI prose, while the former is more a historical analysis of the publication.

And here you can watch Bonney and Sutherland participate in an over-lapping reading:




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Monday, March 28, 2016

Taking the Low Road: Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto

Don't worry, I have no intention of boring anyone with yet another take on True Detective.  Enough has been said about that one-  at least the first season- and how it was influenced by the likes of Thomas Ligotti and E.M. Cioran.  And I have little interest in adding to the babble.  I've enough on my plate at the moment- the after-effects of a downpour of water from the flat above, health issues, etc.. Suffice it to say that when the going gets tough, the not-so- tough turn to crime fiction. In this case, Galveston by True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto. It's been some six years since its publication, which makes it even older ground to go over than True Detective.  Luckily, I'm not someone who feels they have to fight off the competition to deliver their mots justes on the latest publication. Though it is true that I've been meaning to get to Galveston for some time now.

That Galveston managed to take my mind off things- whether that's its purpose or not is another matter- is, at this moment, high praise. After all, sometimes, when fate is dogging your ass, the best you can do is take cover and hope for the best. Which, in one way or another, is a theme that Pizzolatto's novel dances around. Firmly in that noir tradition of doomed men and fallen and abused women that goes back to Jim Thompson's The Getaway and Elliott Chaze's Black Wings Has My Angel (see my review of Chaze's book here), Pizzolatto's novel, perhaps not as complex but equally engaging, focuses on bag-man Roy Cady. It opens with Cady discovering he has cancer, after which he's sent by his boss, who unfortunately has also stolen his woman, on a deadly errand to a New Orleans apartment where he's meant to apply some necessary muscle. Things turn sour, but Cady survives, escaping with Rocky, a young sexy prostitute, whom he finds cowering in the apartment.  Roy, a "do your own time" type of guy,  ends up driving from New Orleans to Galveston with Rocky and her three year old "sister," seeking sanctuary if not solace.  Pizzolatto's narrative is set up in such a way that the reader knows something bad, that is other than  cancer will eventually happen to Cady, though that will come as no surprise to any dedicated reader of noir fiction. Facing death, Cady becomes more introspective than your usual bag-man. However, he does his best to not let his thoughts get the better of him: "I remember a buddy of mine once telling me that every woman you loved was a mother and sister you didn't have, at once, and that what you were always really looking for was  the female part of yourself, you female animal or something. This guy could get away with saying something like that because he was a junkie and read books." Despite his past, Cady  does his best to resist temptation, specifically Rocky. With a metaphorical gun pointed at his head, Cady finds his world is partly dictated by fate and partly of his own making. Eventually he realises he has the capacity to create  his own narrative:  "When I read I got involved in the words and what they were saying so that I didn't measure the passing of time in typical ways. I was surprised to learn that there was this freedom made of nothing but words. Then I felt like I had missed some crucial point, a long time ago."

Roy stares into the abyss with such gusto that he took me back to when I first began to read  noir fiction, and why I was attracted to it.  Not only  The Getaway and Black Wings... and  Dan J. Marlowe's The Name of the Game is Death, but right on up to  present day narratives by the likes of James Sallis and now Nic Pizzolatto. Moreover, I can't help but speculate on how and why one gravitates to certain books at certain times. Perhaps to divert is to heal. As Roy Cady says early on in Galveston, "I read a writer who said that stories save us, but, of course, that's bullshit. They don't. But stories do save something..." http://www.facebook.com/facebook-widgets/share.php

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Ca Suffit: Manchette's Fatale.

Jean-Patrick Manchette's books seem perfect for graphic novel adaptations. If for no other reason than they are primarily about imagery, with a short punchy existential, often poetic, prose that purports to be only surface-deep, but which, in fact, delves further down than few crime writers seem able or willing to go.  I remember reading Fatale in French about fifteen years ago and being somewhat perplexed by it. Though its line "Vous-bridgez?" has, for some reason, remained, for me, as memorable as anything in Manchette's oeuvre. Since then I've read the novel in English and now in the present graphic novel adapted by Max Cabanes and Doug Headline (Manchette's crime writing son), translated by Edward Gauvin, which Titan has recently published in the UK by Titan. With the results now in, I can say the latter is almost as effective as the original.  


Maybe more effective. Though much of Manchette's writing has been edited out, there is still enough to get the story across, aided by Headline's textual selection and Cabanes's images and cinematic eye, which are about as noir as it gets. And no wonder I was perplexed by the novel. Whether a scorned woman's revenge on a corrupt and bourgeois French town, or something deeper, I'm not sure. For the femme fatale's motives remain ambiguous- even though we eventually learn that "she saw herself wearing a scarlet evening dress... climbing with ease an endless snow-covered slope."

Cabanes and Headline's adaptation  made me wonder how the work of other  crime writers might fare as graphic novels. Early stylists like Hammett and the Black Mask School seem best suited. Though Chandler, being mostly about language, would be a bit tricky.  Spillane, I hate to admit, would probably work as well. Of present writers, the only one I can think of who would be well-suited would be James Sallis, who, in some respects, comes across like an American Manchette minus  the political edge. And  if I'm not mistaken, there is a graphic novel of  Drive.

But who else? For instance, I doubt if Ellroy would translate all that well. Of course I could be wrong. For all I know there might be any number of such adaptations around these days. But I still think Manchette is better suited  than most. And better suited to b.d.'s than he is to the cinema; that is, based on  recent evidence, i.e., Pierre Morel's glossy 2015 The Gunman (from The Prone Gunman). For me, the best Manchette adaptations for the screen were those stylish if somewhat ridiculous films released during  the 1970s and 80s, like  Jacques Bral's 1984 Polar (from Morgue Plein), Chabrol's The Nada Gang and Yves Boisset's Mad Enough to Kill (from O dingos o chateaux). Not that Manchette's work is enmeshed in a  time warp, but one can't help but conclude that there is an element of artifact to them, one which conjures up a particular era.  Of course, in France there are now any number of graphic novels by Manchette, illustrataed, for the most part, by Tardi, like La princess du sang, Le petit bleu de la cote Ouest, O dingos, o chateau, and La position du tireur couché. All of them deserve English editions. But on those and others we'll have to wait... In the meantime, Fatale will more than suffice.  


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Monday, February 01, 2016

Jake Hinkson: Pictures From Life's Other Side

The stories in Jake Hinkson's recent volume might well be retitled- apologies to Hank Williams- pictures from life's other side. Of course, that other side depends on which side the perceiver is situated. Pictures of which being, for the most part, in the eye of the beholder, dependent on perspective, point of view, place, class, etc. All key elements in noir fiction and film, with which Hinkson is both conversant and exploits to great effect. Moreover, that perspective is reflected, more often than not, in the first-person, the narrator's camera-eye and a subjectivity embedded in working-class culture (marginal), mood (downbeat), geography (southern) and historical drift (chaotic).

Hinkson's short fiction (I've yet to read his novels) takes place in a world in which religion invariably rubs up against reality, with a thin line separating good and evil, lawfulness and lawlessness. Which means the stories are firmly in the tradition of noir,  in which  a black and white manichaeism is replaced by the relativity suggested in the book's title. Of course, noir aficionados will know about that deepening shade, deployed adeptly by the best noir writers, directors and cinematographers. Consequently, I was hooked from the first story, in which a burnt-out police officer gets increasingly drunk behind a gas station before shooting someone who's attempting to rob the place. It reads like it could have jumped out of a Drive By Truckers songbook. These stories about killer cops but psychos, religious obsessives, lowlifes, abusive relationships and the already-wounded also contain some great lines, like the opening sentence of The Big Sister, about a stripper who helps her young sibling who has just killed a man: "I was shaking my tits at the Friday night crowd when I saw my kid sister walk through the back door of The Fur Trap." Like a cross between Harry Crews and James M. Cain, with an attitude summed up in a line from another story, Cold City, about a cop in debt to a local bad-news loan shark: "If God wanted us to have moral clarity he wouldn't have created us blind and stupid."

So it's hardly surprising that Hinkson should be as knowledgeable as they come regarding film noir. But, then, he has over the years written on the subject for publications like Noir City, L.A. Review of Books and Mulholland Books. It's those articles that have been collected in the appropriately named The Blind Alley. And the book is every bit as good as one might expect. But, then, maybe I'm biased, because anyone who mentions, as Hinkson does in his introduction, the 78 blues record collector and eccentric James McKune (on whom I based the character Felix in my novel Cry For a Nickel, Die For a Dime), is going to be of no small amount of interest to me.  Covering considerable ground, Hinkson divides his book into four parts: 1) The Beginning and The End, which functions as an  introductory essay on the subject, one in which he lays out his approach, aesthetics, key movies, as well as various likes and dislikes; 2) Blind Alley, which tackles  particular themes and unexplored or misunderstood areas of the genre; 3) From the Shadow Gallery, which explores overlooked figures in film noir; and 4) Mug Shots, devoted, for the most part, to character actors.  I particularly liked his thematic essays: All Kinds of Women: The Lesbian Presence in Film Noir; Through the Camera's I: Noir's Experiment with the Subjective Camera; Hearing Voices: The Varieties of Film Noir Narration: and Women In Trouble: The Crisis Pregnancy in Film Noir. But there are also excellent entries on children in film noir, as well as profiles of Welles, Garfield, Mitchum, Peggie Castle, Frank Lovejoy, Richard Quine, Norman Foster, Felix Feist, Elisha Cook, and, in Hard Luck Ladies- on Thelma Ritter, Linda Darnell, Martha Vickers and Barbara Payton. In each Hinkson links his  subject with a theme or tendency, as in  What Shows and What Doesn't:  Frank Lovejoy and the Cult of Masculinity. And he does all this without engaging  in needless academic jargon, or appealing to the lowest common denominator. Nor is Hinkson afraid of voicing an  unpopular opinion, as in the opening chapter, 1944 and the Birth of Film Noir, in which he admits to not caring all that much for Barbara Stanwyck and Double Indemnity. Some might say a lapse, but more than made up for a few pages later when  he pinpoints the missing scene in Preminger's Laura and cites Dymtryk's  Murder, My Sweet as the visual template for future film noir.

Of the two books, I suppose I marginally prefer The Deepening Shade. After all, credit to anyone who can manage the tricky terrain of the noir short story. Not that such stories don't proliferate on the internet these days; it's just that so few live up to the tradition of which they claim to be a part. Finally, it's worth mentioning that both The Deepening Shade and The Blind Alley are published by  small presses: the former by All Due Respect, the latter by Broken River Books. It's  publishers like these who appear to be producing some of the most interesting crime fiction around. I wonder if that could have anything to do with the fact that they operate outside the restrictions and contractual obligations of corporate publishing? My guess is that just might be the case. http://www.facebook.com/facebook-widgets/share.php

Saturday, January 09, 2016

On the Snap: Three Decades of Snapshots From the World of Jazz, Film and Crime Fiction by Brian Case

Anyone familiar with the British music press from the 1970s through the 1980s- specifically  the Melody Maker and New Musical Express- and Time Out  in the 1990s, where he held down the post of books editor, will be familiar with Brian Case's writing. I guess I first came across Case in Charlie Gillett's short-lived early 1970s magazine Let It Rock, and have been reading him ever since. Also the author of The Users, an evocative jazz-tinged noirish novel set in the 1960s, and first published at the end of that decade, Case's journalistic forte has always been jazz, crime fiction and films, subjects he has long held forth on an idiosyncratic, opinionated and straightforward manner. Born in 1937 to a lower middle-class Deptford family (his father was a copper), Case's attitude and tastes (predominantly American) have, to me, always seemed  particular to London at street-level.  

Though it passed me by at the time, On the Snap came out last year, published by Caught By the River, a small London press. This slim- some sixty pages- but handsome collection of portraits of various musicians, crime writers, actors and film-makers that Case encountered during  his more than three decades as a journalist. Pretty much just Case in conversation mode, On the Snap- a euphemism, one supposes, for the quick fire writing that his kind of journalism entailed- kicks-off with a Foreward by Guardian writer and Case's one-time Melody Maker editor Richard Williams, who says the following about Case:
 "He had a reputation as a stylist, which can be a euphemism for sins committed in the name of creativity. But his writing was surprising, funny, allusive, erudite, emotionally engaged, every paragraph containing an unexpected verbal firecracker, all stitched together with a degree of care and craftsmanship that shaped the narrative and sustained its drive."

What follows are concise takes that hit the reader from odd angles. Amongst his subjects are the following:
-Art Blakey ("waiting for the big oil crisis because it would cut off the electric instruments, leaving only the Jazz Messengers.").
-Art Pepper ("a fragile man to look after....wasn't what you'd call a solid citizen.").
-Chet Baker ("There's a certain sort of trumpeter who seems to exude a lot of self-pity- Chet did, sometimes Miles did.").
-Gerry Mulligan  ("He was amused that I liked that first bassist, Joe Mondragon's wig the best...").
-Duke Ellington ("one time I was glad of my baggy eyes...").
-Dexter Gordon ("Mr. Gordon, I'm your chauffeur...").
-Ornette Coleman ("...there were places he lived where one side of road there'd be hailstones and on the other side of the street it would be sunny. He felt white people were like that to him.").
-Jimmy Smith ("The reason why you don't see a lot of interviews with Jimmy Smith is because he swore all the time- 'motherfucker, motherfucker, motherfucker'....").
-Johnny Griffin ("re-entry goggles all round").
-Al Pacino  ("I thought I mustn't take my mac off. I guess I thought the bullets would spill out of my pockets...").
 -James Elroy ("He was like a junkie, his leg tapping all the time.").
-Michael Caine ("I hadn't really cared about all that swinging London stuff and, of course, he'd been in all that. Then I saw the one set in Newcastle- Get Carter- and I thought, 'Fuck, he's good...").
-Sam Fuller ("He never really realised he was an artist, which was good because he never got pretentious. I loved him.").
-Ian Dury ("We both loved rhyming slang.").
-The Sex Pistols ( Johnny Rotten reminding him of  Pinky in Graham Greene's Brighton Rock, and  Malcolm McLaren, "a hustler of the highest order in fluffy pink jumper.").

To his credit, Case stays clear of the usual  sort of thing you read about when it comes to dead jazz musicians. Says Case, "Writing about fallen angels is a shtick for  journalists." And though his habit of forming a personal rapport with his subjects tends to be a bit predictable, that's part of the charm and no doubt comes with the territory. In the end, you probably won't agree with all his assessments, but you can't help but be entertained by these short narratives, like getting stuck in a Danish hotel with Tom Waits where he tries to figure out if Waits' Louis Armstrong growl is for real.  Or, playing on the fact that he's more fan than critic, when tenor player Ronnie Scott, owner in those years of the Soho club bearing his name, says to Case who'd complimented him on what Scott thought was an inferior set, "But you can't read fucking music, can you!"


That Case was more fan than critic no doubt gave him a certain freedom in his writing. Which perhaps is why for me he has always been near the top of that list of journalists who worked for the NME, Melody Maker, Time Out, Uncut, etc.. The likes of  not only Richard Williams, but Nick Kent, Vivien Goldman, Penny Reel, Paul Morley, Nick Kimberly, Jonathan Meades, Angus Mackinnon, etc..  One thing for sure, Case not only had, and based on these short takes, continues to have, more soul than most, but he seems to have been influenced by no one other than himself. Not if only some publisher, large or greenhorn, were to bring out a collection of Case's journalism. Wouldn't that be a treat?

Listen to Case reading from On the Snap here.

And here's a Brian Case playlist on Spotify of Case's jazz favourites:
https://play.spotify.com/user/heavenlyrecordings/playlist/1Qv2FZv5r6ZaKFMvMYsedZ

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