Saturday, September 29, 2012

Noir: Move Over Sweeney Todd

The renowned Smithfield Meat Market in East London is hosting a pop-up art installation sponsored by Capcom called Wesker & Son Resident Evil Human Butchery to promote the release of the game Resident Evil 6.
Once at the butchery, members of the public will be invited to sample and purchase a dizzying array of edible human limbs including hands, feet and a human head, which will be available to buy directly from the shop.  As well as these specially created products, gamers will be able to buy 'Peppered Human & Lemon Sausages' and 'J’avo Caught Human Thigh Steaks' along with some specially made pots of Red Herb and Green Herb.  All proceeds from the sale of the meat will be donated to the Limbless Association, which provides information and support to the limb-loss community.

In addition to the pop-up human butchery and morgue, Resident Evil fans will be invited to attend two days of lectures at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Pathology Museum, which have been designed to explore some of the themes in the game and their links to real life.
The "butcher shop" will be open through Saturday the 29th. Resident Evil 6 will be released to the public on October 2nd. Continue reading to see more pictures, but be warned they may be disturbing.

The make-believe butchery will open for two days, September 28 and 29, in a very real location -- London's famous meat market, Smithfield's -- and will offer some edible items for purchase: "Peppered Human & Lemon Sausages," "J’avo Caught Human Thigh Steaks" and specially-made pots of "Red Herb" and "Green Herb."


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Noir: To Russia With Love and Дэвид Гудис (David Goodis)

четверг, сентября 20, 2012

Моэм и Гудис. Приключения веб-фотографий.
Сомерсет Моэм.

У.Сомерсет Моэм (1877-1965) – один из величайших мастеров расссказа и автор культового романа “Бремя страстей человеческих” (‘Of Human Bondage’, 1915, статья в википедии). Причем роман, бестселлер начала века, стал опять культовым уже в 60-е, когда писателю было хорошо за 80. В авторском предисловии к изданию 60-х, которое мне досталось от родителей, Моэм пишет: “мне трудно сказать, что я там такого особенного написал, потому что сам я роман не перечитывал уже лет пятьдесят”.

У писателя характерная английская внешность: большие голубые глаза, маленький подбородок, тонкий крючковатый нос, светло-каштановые волосы. Есть множество фотографий Моэма в разном возрасте, анфас, в профиль, в три четверти, есть множество живописных и скульптурных портретов. 

Поэтому я так удивился, когда увидел на одном сайте вот эту фотографию (ниже) с подписью У.С.Моэм. 

Поиск в интернте еще больше удивил. Оказалось, что на множестве сайтов эта фотография публикуется, как портрет Моэма. Но кто на ней на самом деле? 

Благодаря интернету охотиться пришлось не так уж долго. На снимке другой писатель, намного моложе Моэма, – американец Дэвид Гудис (David Goodis, 1917-1967, статья в википедии), известный мастер жанра “нуар” и один из самых плодовитых авторов двадцатого века. По продуктивности (он иногда писал по 10 тысяч слов в день) его можно сравнить разве что с молодым Чеховым. 

У Гудиса интересная и во многом таинственная творческая и личная судьба. О нем и его романах и сценариях можно прочитать на сайте Shooting Pool with David Goodis. 

А путаница возникла, вероятно, потому, что Гудис работал в Голливуде над киноверсией пьесы Моэма “Письмо” (The Letter, статья в википедии). Наверное, кто-то неаккуратно посмотрел и спутал. Фотография пошла гулять по сети с подписью “Моэм”.

Гудиса я записал себе в список “прочитать”, а фотографию его публикую здесь для ясности и еще в виде интернет-эксперимента. Посмоторим, удастся ли перебороть спайдеры-поисковики, если запустить файл с пометкой “не Моэм, Гудис”.

Дэвид Гудис,  не Моэм.

Фото Дэвида Гудиса публикуется с любезного разрешения Ларри Уидерса (Larry Withers), работающего с произведениями писателя, и издательства Centipede Press.

WS Maugham and David Goodis.

This is a web experiment, please republish this photo of David Goodis (1917-1967), an American writer, but please don’t change the name of the jpeg file.

Here’s why. 

The English writer William Somerset Maugham has a memorable face, with piercing blue eyes and a thin hooked nose. Born in Victorian times, he became a fashionable playwright at the beginning of the last century, a popular novelist later, in the twenties, and his reputation as one of the greatest masters of the short story is unshakeable. His opus magnum, the coming-of-age novel Of Human Bondage, is one the rare examples of a literary work that acquired a cult status twice, first when it was published in 1910s and again in 1960s, when the writer was still alive and wrote a witty preface to the new edition of the book, where he complained that he can’t remember the story because he hadn’t reread it for nearly fifty years.

Unfortunately, Maugham is a bit unfashionable these days, probably because he is associated with British imperialism, unfairly. This is, perhaps, why a few websites, including in Russia (where his novels and stories are widely used as language learning aids), got into a muddle with his portrait, publishing the picture of a different writer, the American David Goodis, about forty years younger than Maugham. The picture below shows results of a Google image search for Maugham. (click on the picture to repear the search)

I didn’t know anything about Goodis, but the wrong photo annoyed me so much that I decided to find out who was in the picture. I don’t regret an hour or two I’ve spent compulsively searching on the internet and finding out that it was of Goodis. It turns out that he was a prominent novelist of the noire genre and had a successful career in Hollywood writing scripts and screen adaptations of existing literary works, until he suddenly and mysteriously quit and retired to his native Philadelphia where he carried on prolifically writing pulp for New York magazines. He sometimes churned out up to 10,000 words a day. 

While in Hollywood Goodis worked on a screen adaptation of Maugham’s play, The Letter. This is probably why the mistake with the photo attribution occured.

I look forward to reading Goodis and I love Maugham. This is why I want the photo with the file name ‘Goodis, not Maugham’ to circulate on the net and get noticed by search engine spiders. Help.

The photo itself shows Goodis working on a script at Warner Brothers and, apparently, is in free domain. I have contacted Centipede Press, who deal with Goodis’ work, and Larry Withers, a designer and photographer, who has published work on Goodis, and got their approval for republishing this photo of the writer.

Read more about him on Shooting Pool with David Goodis.  Wikipedia also has an article on the writer.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Noir: Can You Keep A Secret? Not This One!

Watch and listen to "Busted Valentine: Written with a Clenched Fist"

Frank De Blase

These three words hearld the arrival of classic noir writer. 

You are about to witness one of the best  writers around today!

Frank has done it all and continues to do it all.

You will hear this name again and again.  Do not miss noir history in the making.

A true noir master has arrived!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Noir: NoirCon or BUST!


As if I don’t have enough going on crime fiction-wise at the moment, with my debut novel Ghost Money and the upcoming launch of Crime Factory’s all Australian crime antho, Hard Labour, I’ll be attending Noir Con in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, in early November.
Noir Con is a biennial three day festival of noir crime writing and culture. Philadelphia is a fitting host city, being the birth place of the influential noir writer David Goodis, author of Dark PassageStreet of No Return and Shoot the Piano Player, amongst many other novels.
The best way to get a feel for Noir Con is to check out the program, which you can find here along with an interview with the mastermind behind the event, Lou Boxer.
Among the writers attending I’m keen to see are Megan Abbott, Vicki Hendricks, Lawrence Block and Wallace Stroby. I’m also looking forward to checking out the authors I haven’t heard of, as well as meeting some of the people I’ve been communicating with for a while now on social media.
In the lead up to Noir Con I’ll be spending a week and a half in New York, a city I have never been too but always wanted to see.
I am going to be like the proverbial pig in shit.
There’ll also be a little election going on while I’ll be there. I looking forward to being in the US to see Obama kick Romney’s Presidential ambitions back into the last decade.
Anyway, as part of my preparations for the trip, it occurred to me it would be a great idea to feature some of the US writers I like on this site, particularly writers from around the New York area, where I’ll be visiting.
It’s a way of giving regular Pulp Curry readers a little taste of the crime writing scene in the US.
So, I asked a group of people whose work I dig whether they would be prepared to write me something to post on Pulp Curry. So far all of them have said yes. Most of the people I’ve asked, in fact probably all of them, aren’t well known in Australia crime fiction circles. But they are all people whose work I like and respect and who doing interesting things.
The first of these posts will appear next week.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Noir: Mike White's Projection Booth and NoirCon 2012

Coming to you from the City of Brotherly Love, the streets that David Goodis (author of Down There aka Shoot the Piano Player) walked, comes this special episode recorded at the 2012 Noircon celebration.

Francois Truffaut's sophomore film brings out the pathos and absurdity of Goodis. 

We'll be joined by Prof. Richard Edwards, co-author of The Maltese Touch of Evil and co-host of the Out of the Past podcast. 

Podcast episode available starting 11/14/2012 via iTunes, Stitcher, or

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Retreat To Goodisville 2013



Are you ready to become A THUG 4 LIFE?

Now is to reserve your seat on the Goodisville Express for January 5, 2013.

$50 insures you will be on the bus for an all day literary adventure and salute to David Goodis on the 46th Anniversary of His Death.

We will visiting sites in historic Port Richmond that coincide with DOWN THERE as well as visiting all the old familar places:

Roosevelt Cemetery
The Goodis Homestead


Saturday, September 15, 2012

THE HOT COUNTRY is sizzling!

When Christopher Marlowe Cobb (“Kit”), an American newspaper war correspondent, travels to Mexico in 1914, he expects to be covering some of the most news-worthy events of the decade: the country’s civil war, the American invasion of Vera Cruz, and the controversial presidency of Victoriano Huerta, El Chacal (The Jackal). Covering the war in enemy territory and sweltering heat, Cobb doesn’t expect to fall in love with Luisa, a beautiful young Mexican laundress, who is not as innocent as she seems…

Cobb soon witnesses a priest being skillfully shot dead in the cross he wears around his neck. Cobb employs a young pickpocket to help him find out the identity of the sniper and, more importantly, why important German officials are coming into the city in the middle of the night from ammunition ships docked in the port. The investigation will lead Cobb into the heart of war and behind hostile lines in an epic adventure novel. An action-packed chronicle of passion and war, Robert Olen Butler’s THE HOT COUNTRY is powerful thriller not to be missed from one of our most revered writers.
Robert Olen Butler is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of twelve novels, including Hell and A Small Hotel. He has twice won a National Magazine Award in Fiction and has received two Pushcart Prizes. He teaches creative writing at Florida State University.  
Butler is also the Key Note Speaker at NoirCon 2012!

Noir: Swierczynski does it EXECUTION STYLE

Friday, September 14, 2012

Noir: Bagpipes at the septic tank


As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a
Funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless
Man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a
Pauper's cemetery in the back country. As I was not familiar
With the backwoods, I got lost and, being a typical man,
I didn't stop for directions.

I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently
Gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the
Diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch.

I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the
Side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in
Place. I didn't know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around.
I played
out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends.
I played like
I've never played before for this homeless man.

And as I played 'Amazing Grace,' the workers began to weep. They wept,
I wept, we all wept together. When I finished I packed up my bagpipes
And started for my car.
Though my head hung low, my heart was full.

As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say,
"I never seen nothin' like that before and I've been putting in
septic tanks for twenty years."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

NoirCon: An American Tradition

Noir—An American Genre:
A Conversation with Lou Boxer, Chris Cagle, and Robert Polito
Monday, October 8, NOON
Paley Library Lecture Hall, 1210 Polett Walk

The hardboiled detective story is a decidedly American—and urban—creation. These tales of sorid crime, the femme fatale, the fallen artist, and the hero have made an indelible narrative and visual mark on American culture - first, through the bright and alluring illustrations and covers of noir novels and pulp stories, then, through quintessential Hollywood films that told noir tales. Philadelphia’s own David Goodis is one of the great authors of noir, first carving his space as an author, then in Hollywood, as some of his most famous stories were adapted to film. On October 8, join us to explore Goodis and noir with Lou Boxer, founder of Philadelphia’s NoirCon, Chris Cagle, assistant professor of Film and Media Arts at Temple, and Robert Polito, Director of Writing Programs and Professor of Writing at the New School, who edited the Library of America’s David Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s and 50s (2012). His latest book, Detours: Seven Noir Lives is forthcoming from Knopf. Polito has also written for The New Yorker, The Yale Review, Art Forum, Bookforum, Paste, Black Clock, The LA Times Book Review, The Boston Globe, 02138, PEN America, The Poetry Foundation Website, Critical Mass, LIT, BOMB, Verse, Pequod, Open City, Ploughshares, New York Times Book Review, AGNI, and VLS, among other magazines.
THIS JUST IN: Barrelhouse Literary Magazine and the Temple Graduate Creative Writing Program team up to bring you exclusive first-look readings of stories, essays, and poems based on true crimes of the past. Before the lecture begins, these writers will draw you in to the sordid world of noir with their brand-new creative works.

This program precedes NoirCon, Philadelphia’s four day festival of everything noir. If you love Goodis and the genre noir, be sure to check out

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Noir: Elvis' Holy Bible Underwear on the auction block

elvis bible underpants

ELVIS PRESLEY - 1977 Jumpsuit Underwear. The briefs were worn on stage in 1977 and appear to be unwashed with some stains apparent. The following information came from the owner of the ELVIS-A-RAMA MUSEUM before he sold the museum to Graceland: "Elvis Presley`s 1977 jumpsuit underwear - this pair of light blue dance briefs was worn by entertainer Elvis Presley in 1977 while on stage. Elvis didn`t want any lines visible while he was on stage wearing his vast array of dazzling jumpsuits. This pair of underwear was obtained from the estate of Vernon Presley, Elvis` father". The underwear had been on display at the world famous ELVIS-A-RAMA MUSEUM for many years. The ELVIS-A-RAMA was later bought by Graceland and retired. The underwear was obtained by the museum owner from Hobart and Bonnie Burnette. During the early 1960`s Vernon purchased a home 1266 Dolan Dr, which is adjacent to Graceland along the southeastern wall. Elvis had a gate installed so that he could walk from his backyard directly into his father`s house. After Elvis` divorce in 1973, Elvis spent more time over there to occasionally escape Graceland and its inhabitants. Elvis would sometimes stay over late into the night talking with his father about the old days, his philosophies about life and his family. After Elvis` death, Vernon moved into Graceland and sold the Dolan home and all its contents to Holbart and Bonnie Burnette who owned the Hickory Log Restaurant across the street from Graceland.

Elvis Presley BibleElvis Presley Bible

Elvis Bible sells for £59,000 (including buyer premium)
Lot 345: Elvis Owned Holy Bible given to him in 1957 on his first Christmas at Graceland (estimate £20,000 - £25,000). Elvis Presley's personally owned and used Holy Bible 1957-1977 with Elvis' handwriting, annotations and underlining throughout. This was Elvis Presley's most precious book throughout his life from Christmas 1957 to that final day on 16th August 1977 and he read and wrote in this Holy Bible over many years. This sixteen hundred page bible with Elvis Presley and Holy Bible, embossed in gold on a leather cover was given to Elvis by his uncle Vester and Aunt Clettes Presley as a Christmas gift on December 25th, 1957 at Graceland. The bible contains Elvis' personal annotations throughout its fragile pages. This bible was published by. The John A. Hertel Co., Chicago, IL ©1941.The bible is accompanied by a letter of authenticity hand signed from Vester Presley (Vernon Presley's brother) in which he explains when he gave this bible to Elvis for Christmas 1957 and about Elvis' handwriting in it. Also accompanied by a Elvis Presley Museum certificate of authenticity hand signed by Jimmy Velvet, Elvis' friend of twenty two years and the president of the world famous Elvis Presley Museum.

Omega Auctions

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Noir: Move Over Steig Larson, Kent Harrington has arrived!


A brand new pickup truck, radio blaring, sat in the middle of a huge Southern California Ford dealership at 1:30 A.M. on a Sunday morning. The radio was on because Chip Rogers, the owner of the dealership, had been demonstrating to his sales manager, Fred Cooley—a tall, good-looking black man—what a fully-loaded Bose package could do when you “cranked the motherfucker up, baby. ...You can sell this rig to the deaf, man!” Chip had joked, punching his friend Fred playfully on the arm. The men were waiting for Chip’s dope connection, because Chip Rogers, besides being a major Ford dealer, was also one of Southern California’s biggest heroin dealers, and Fred was his lieutenant in both enterprises. The Rogers’ gang broke down kilos of high quality heroin into ounces for sale to street gangs in the Greater Los Angeles area. Demand was high and business booming as heroin use had been steadily rising all over Southern California for the past decade or more. Chip’s dope business was protected by a corrupt group inside the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, who not only provided him with the heroin, via a trusted and secret source, but got a slice of Chip’s action, too. It was all good. And if you screwed with Chip Rogers, you were screwing with a guy who could call The Man down on you; what Chip liked to call his personal “Noriega Corps.”

Less than an hour later, Fred Cooley was laying on the clean showroom floor, bleeding to death, while the same Bose speakers wailed a new song crystal-clear and mostly unheard: turned your back on hu-man-i-ty ... talkin’ ’bout you an’ me ... and the games people play. Fred watched the blood from one of his wounds roll under his chin, inky-looking. He could still smell cordite from the short but brutal gunfight that had wounded him in the stomach. And sadly, he could feel himself “walking towards the Lord”, as the preacher in his black church would say, six days later, when Fred’s mother buried him in a Montgomery Ward’s suit she bought on credit. His mother insisting that the undertakers put a smile on Fred’s twisted face, because Fred wasn’t smiling when he died, that’s for damned sure.

That Saturday night Fred was lying gut-shot, unable to move, realizing just how fragile life is when you get right down to it. What Fred desperately wanted was to stand up and run home and be safe—the way he’d done when he was a kid. But that was impossible. He felt the fingers on his outstretched right hand getting warmer from the blood pooling under his finger tips. He realized at that very moment that he was probably going to die, and the enormity of it terrified him, as death had been the furthest thing from his mind only an hour ago, when life had seemed so very good indeed.

Fred had woken up that Saturday with a coke hangover and a lot of cars to sell. He had marched through the day like the tall, competent man he was, cracking the whip on his sales force, most of whom respected and liked him. His salesmen—a lot of them Vietnam Vets—walked customers through a carefully-crafted process designed to get resistant buyers to sign a contract with every possible extra thrown into the deal—it was the American Way. Now Fred was bleeding-out on the highly polished white linoleum floor of the dealership, eyes bugged-out in shock, his mouth twisted in pain, as he watched the little shit who’d shot him in the stomach moving slowly toward the tall glass exit doors.

The twenty kilos of pure heroin—the root of all the murder and mayhem—was stacked neatly right beside Fred on the floor, three bales high and wrapped in green plastic. The body of a man, one Willie Cole by name, was laying face up on the heroin, stone dead. They’d all just been getting to the pay-for-it part of the transaction, with Chip walking toward his office to get the money out of his safe to pay Willie Cole, Sheriff’s Deputy and secret member of the Vagos motorcycle gang. The deputy had been talking to Fred, whom he knew very well from their days together in high school. Everything had seemed so normal.

That’s exactly when Tommy Joy came on the scene. Tommy was a young ex-con who’d happened to overhear Fred talking on his telephone that morning while getting a blow-job from his Mexican-American girlfriend who just happened to live next to Fred’s condo unit. The flimsy walls in modern condominiums, it could be said, were the basic cause of Fred’s problems later that night. Tommy had overheard the whole conversation between Fred and Cole, which sounded to him like a dope deal, and from which he developed his simple plan. Rip the sons of bitches off. Then he’d muttered “Oh yeah,” for two good reasons.

Tommy Joy, nineteen, walked into the scene that night using the dealership’s employee entrance, carefully easing past the shuttered and dark Parts Department. As soon as Fred saw the showroom’s side door swing open, he knew there was some bad shit coming down. Fred pulled a twenty-two caliber Saturday Night Special and opened up like he was starring in a TV Western. There was a moment when Fred and Tommy were looking at each other, firing, trying to kill each other in the worst kind of way, but neither one was a good shot. Tommy, who was no coward, walked straight towards Fred and Willie Cole, firing the 1911 Colt .45 that he’d bought two days after getting out of prison at a gun show in downtown Los Angeles—ammunition extra. His father had loaned him the hundred and twenty bucks to buy a fresh start in life.

Now the corrupt sheriff’s deputy was dead and Chip was, too. Chip’s body, half- kneeling, was propped up against his big black jeweler’s safe. He’d been shot in the head; his lower jawbone exposed by the bullet that had killed him. Yet somehow the now- exposed muscles in Chip’s face grotesquely animated his dead lips—twitching them obscenely. Chip Rogers was trying—it appeared—to explain just exactly what had gone wrong with his plan.

Tommy Joy, who’d shot them all and was going outside to die on the asphalt of the thousand-car parking lot, had thought that Chip had definitely opened the safe. But Tommy had shot Chip “one turn of the dial too soon”. A good title for a country song, but the end of Tommy’s dream of instant riches. An overweight San Bernardino city homicide detective had sung that lyric to everyone in Chip’s office that Sunday morning as he questioned them. Chip’s office was, by then, full of cops, including some of the Sheriff’s Department’s finest, but they seemed preoccupied, angry, and not in the mood for dumb-ass jokes from the homicide guy, who was not part of their crew anyway, but who had figured out what had gone down—almost. The homicide cop may have been fat, but he wasn’t stupid. It was that same day, too, that the detective figured out that the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department had some serious problems and was probably bent as all-hell. He told the DA about the situation a few days later, but was waved-off, as the DA was up for re-election and didn’t want any trouble with the Sheriff, a two-pack-a- day leathery old cowboy type who never spoke an extra word about anything, let alone corruption. He rode a white horse every Fourth of July in Apple Valley’s well attended parade, holding a giant American flag and wearing a white Stetson cowboy hat. For a lot of people the Sheriff was America. 

What the homicide detective’s reconstruction had missed was that Tommy had fired at Chip only because Chip had tried to kick him in the head. Tommy was nervous and wounded in the liver and right kidney when he left Chip’s office. Mistakes happen, especially when it feels like your insides are being sucked out through your asshole, but that was a big one, not having checked for sure that the safe door was in fact open, before he shot Chip dead. He’d walked over to the brain-splattered safe and tried to open it and couldn’t believe that the asshole car dealer he’d just killed had lied to him. The safe was still locked with the money inside, and that was the way it was going to remain. Even Tommy Joy knew that jeweler's safes were impossible to peel unless you were a real box- man, and Tommy was basically just a strong-arm robber with a big set of balls for a kid.

“Is that it?” he’d asked Chip, who had made a show of turning the dial on the safe and pretending it was open.

“Yes ... that’s it. ... It’s open,” Chip had said, making eye-contact with Tommy, looking straight at the kid, still on one knee. Chip was a car salesman, so lying came naturally to him and he was good at it. Chip’s plan had been to step away from the safe and then go at the kid anyway he could—he sure as hell wasn’t going to give up two- hundred and fifty G’s in cash without a fight. Chip had studied karate on Friday nights at a local dojo for years, working up to a brown belt, and thought he was bad. His plan quickly failed, however, when it lost “operational flexibility,” as they say in the military. Translation: Tommy shot Chip in the head after just managing to duck a round house kick aimed at him from the enraged car salesman. It was a “Game over”-type head-shot.

Tommy, despite knowing better, out of frustration, which isn’t uncommon with men of his type, tried to work the safe’s brain-splattered handle a second time, just in case, hoping for a miracle. His shoes were getting spongy from the blood running down his leg. One of Fred’s twenty-two caliber slugs had bounced off Tommy’s third rib and torn through his intestines before taking out the kidney where it was presently lodged.

The linoleum floor around the safe was slick with a mixture of Tommy’s blood— originally similar in viscosity to car oil, but already starting to congeal—and a goodly portion of what had recently been Chip’s grey matter. Tommy frustrated and in pain now finally realized The Plan would have to change and he would have to drive himself to the hospital and go back to jail. That would be the case if he were really lucky, he thought. It had all seemed so easy that morning, sitting there with his girlfriend, eating cornflakes in their clean underwear, both of them happy and red-faced from having sex all morning.

His girlfriend, Carmen, worked at the “Jag in the Rag,” as the local high school kids called Jack in the Box, and she asked if they could go out after Tommy got back from the robbery—after all, it was Saturday, and she felt like doing some partying. Tommy had said Why the hell not? He liked to party as much as anyone else, especially since he’d missed a lot of his youth stuck in the penitentiary for holding up a 7/Eleven when he was drunk, all that time and effort to bag a whole nine dollars! He’d been seventeen when he went to the joint.

“Mother fucker!” Tommy looked down at Chip, who he recognized from his thousands of appearances on late-night television commercials; at his half-a-skull with the trademark long blond hair still attached to what was left of his head. He’d shot a minor celebrity! “You stupid fucking lying sack of shit!” Tommy had said out loud.

Then he’d turned around and made it out of Chip’s tidy, grand, well-lit office, complete with a big plaque from the Better Business Bureau that said Chip Rogers was an upstanding member of the community. Tommy had left a trail of bloody footprints on a brand-spanking-new and very expensive oriental carpet. He headed back out toward the brightly-lit showroom, with its spotless cars and bleeding guys lying on the floor, the green bales of heroin looking like a playground “Jumpy.” Tommy heard the radio playing a different song, now, and he was starting to feel woozy and weak and a little sick to his stomach.

“Okay, Tommy, get your ass to a hospital, because you fucked this way up.” He said it out loud over the music. He’d started talking out loud to himself when he was in lockup for days at a time in Chino State Correctional Facility for fighting with his fellow Hispanic prisoners because he was white and that’s just how it was there at Chino.

Tommy started to walk by Fred, who looked like he was about one short minute from having his show cancelled, but he stopped, trying not to step in the growing pool of Fred’s blood that reflected the showroom’s high ceilings, festooned with “deal banners,” American flags, and interest-rate offers. Tommy stepped into the reflection so he could see himself, too. He was a good-looking kid, blond and stocky. Girls thought he was cute. He tried to stop his own bleeding by pressing his left hand over the small hole in his side.

“I was just going to steal the money, man. ... I didn’t even want the fucking dope!” Tommy said, looking down at Fred, who tried to say something back to him. Tommy spoke earnestly, as if telling this particular fact to the dying black man on the floor was going to change anything, now. “I got nothing against you,” he said as an afterthought. Then Tommy passed the big knuckle-head who he had intended to shoot, right after he’d seen the scary motherfucker pull up to the back of the dealership and unload the drugs from a brand new white van, deciding right then that that fucker was no civilian and would have to go pronto. The big white guy had died coming at him saying he was a sheriff, no less, reaching for his ID and apparently expecting Tommy to believe him. Tommy fired a tight group of shots into Sheriff Willie Cole’s white T-shirt just above the heart, knocking him back onto the heroin bales and killing him almost instantly. There was the proof, some of the cops said later, that the 1911 Colt .45 was worth the extra you had to pay for one.

Tommy Joy, his blood pressure plunging dangerously, pushed through the big clean glass doors of the Ford dealership and out into the warm August night. Little white moths were flying everywhere, and the air felt soft and was perfumed by the nearby orange groves, but that bit of nature would soon be removed, after the orange trees were bulldozed to make way for a new Wal-Mart where Tommy’s little sister would work for the next twenty years without a raise, finally becoming a meth addict. He could feel the heat on his clean-shaven young face. He’d taken a shower and put on a pair of new jeans and a stylish “Madres” shirt before he’d driven down to the dealership with all the hopes of a quick score and the excitement the young bring to most endeavors. He headed toward his pickup which he’d parked on the street. He thought that, if he ignored absolutely everything, he might make it to the hospital. But there are some realities in life that put an end to wishful thinking, and Tommy dropped to the ground half-way to his truck, his plan collapsing with him.

Tommy, who was no stranger to bad situations, sat for a moment on his knees and envisioned himself getting up, but his blood pressure had zeroed out and the last few molecules of H2O passed to the active frontal lobes of his brain. “It’s true what they say,” Tommy said out loud—now clinically dead. He was seeing people he’d known as a child: his grandma, who’d been a Dust Bowl Okie, carny whore, and “paper-hanger,” who had raised him and been very loving, the way some people can be despite grinding poverty, bad lawyers, mean cops, and stone-hearted judges she’d faced all of her life, all of them seeming to hate her for one simple reason: she’d been born poor. But Tommy was very sure she hadn’t come with him to the dealership. Then Tommy died, still on his knees. The next morning, on the way to the new drive-in church, a new wrinkle in mass-religion that was getting very popular, whole families saw Tommy kneeling like an alter boy, frozen in time, staring off towards Los Angeles. A lot of people thought he was praying. A billboard with Chip Roger’s face plastered on it sat directly above Tommy. Chip was smiling down at everyone who passed. “Jesus, folks ... drives a Ford,” the billboard said. It was a lie, of course. The fact was that Jesus Christ, son of a carpenter, didn’t give a good god-damn about The Ford Motor Company.