Pulp by Charles Bukowski

For newcomers to the world of Charles Bukowski, be forewarned: Pulp (Ecco, 202 pages) is probably not the best place to start.

I say this, not because it doesn’t rank right up there with his other books, or because greener readers will fail to grasp the allusions to earlier work it contains, but rather because as his ultimate novel (completed months before his death) Pulp can easily be seen as Bukowski’s final farewell. In it, the aged author takes his readers on one last foray into familiar territories of sex, madness, and death, while at the same time expanding on those themes in brilliant and often unexpected ways. Drawing on science fiction and hardboiled noir elements as well, the end result is a bizarre send-up of genre fiction that is just as hilarious and insightful as anything else he wrote. Continue reading

Tales of Woe by John Reed

John Reed’s most recent book, Tales of Woe (MTV Press, 204 pages), structured in novelistic intertwined short stories, is actually a work of non-fiction. Each tale is entirely true, which perhaps is ultimately what makes the book so difficult and simultaneously profound. We walk with Reed through the murky depths of the worse angels of our nature.

Part crime-log, part historical map, we follow countries in contemporary time into the psyche of many cruelties. Reed’s tight minimal prose reads poetic, ultimately serving the work both in realistic relay of information, but also in Continue reading

The Bait Shack by Harry Hughes

In The Bait Shack (BeWrite Books), Dale Cooles is a mathematician ready to tie up some messy ends. He’s quit his fancy university job, said goodbye to his last fling, and applied himself to his new life as unemployed, kept husband of Lacy Chamblet. Lacy is secretary to robber baron Henry Meredith, who makes his living cheating his tenants, avoiding tax, and hiring low-cost street kids too unemployable to blow the whistle on him. But this time, he’s teamed up with mobster Johnny Avalino, and his plans take a nasty turn. Are Dale and Lacy smarter than Meredith thinks they are? Is thwarted conservation officer Continue reading