Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Meet Ed Holub at NoirCon 2012

Noir: Cranioklepty and Prescott Bush

Thomas Browne’s Eerie Premonition of His Burial

The skull of Sir Thomas Browne resting on two volumes of Religio Me­dici. The photograph, which appeared as the frontispiece to the 1904 edition of The Works of Sir Thomas Browne, was probably taken by Charles Williams of Norwich Hospital, around 1900.
Thanks to James Eason.

The first half of the nineteenth century was the golden age of a practice that I call "cranioklepty," or skull-theft. Throughout the nineteenth centu­ry, sc­ientists­ and other interested parties became increasingly cavalier about disturbing the final resting places of famous men, collecting the skulls of the exceptional and the noteworthy. This lust for skulls came in part from the burgeoning science of cranioscopy, originated by Franz-Josep­h Gall, and its more well-known offshoot, phrenology, a term coined by Gall’s protégé, Emile Spurzheim. The Enlightenment’s preoccupation with vision as a means to knowledge led to a desire to see how the brain functioned; for Gall and Spurzheim, the skull could act as a recording surface for the brain’s inner workings, mapping its contours and revealing how aspects of personality were imprinted spatially in different areas of the brain. Given that cranioscopy had been born at the University of Vienna (where both Gall and Spurzheim taught), the disinterred skulls of Viennese composers—including Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and Schubert—received special attention from phrenologists interested in confirming the existence of the "music bump," the node on the brain that supposedly corresponded to musical genius. 

Viennese composers were not, however, the only ones to suffer this fate. The English doctor and philosopher Sir Thomas Browne (1605—1682) stands as something of an icon in the history of cranioklepty, because of the anxiety he seemed to express about the desecration of his own final resting place. "But who knows the fate of his bones, or how often he is to be buried? Who hath the oracles of his ashes, or whither they are to be scattered?", Browne wrote in 1658, arguing that "To be gnawed out of our graves, to have our skulls made drinking-bowls, and our bones turned into pipes to delight and sport our enemies, are tragical abominations."­2 Because of statements like these, Browne might be considered the patron saint of stolen skulls, speaking for the collective indignity of all those whose heads were shuffled between museums, collectors, and anatomists throughout the nineteenth century. 

The "tragical abomination" visited upon Browne began in 1840 when his coffin in St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norfolk, was inadvertently disturbed while a vault was being dug next to his plot. Sensing an opportunity, the sexton George Potter absconded with the skull, later selling it to the surgeon Edward Lubbock. When Lubbock died in 1847, he deeded Browne’s skull to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital Museum, which put it on display. Over the next few decades, the church made repeated entreaties to the museum to have the skull returned, to no avail.

In response to a request in 1893, the hospital’s board, after a "prolonged and careful consideration of all the circumstances which pertained to the request," refused the vicar’s entreaty by a unanimous vote, citing as their reasons:

That as there is no legal title to, or property in, any such relic, so there can be no question that this and all other specimens in the Hospital Museum belong inalienably to the Governors. That no instance is known of such a claim for restitution having been made after nearly half a century on any museum, and were the Governors to yield to this request they might be unable to resist similar claims. That the presence in a museum of such a relic, reverently preserved and protected, cannot be viewed as merely an object of idle curiosity; rather it will usefully serve to direct attention to, and remind visitors of, the works of the great scholar and physician3

It was not until 1922 that the St. Peter Mancroft Church was finally able to rebury the retrieved skull. At time of Browne’s second interment, the vicar recorded the age of the deceased as "317 years." 
St. Peter Mancroft’s burial book, showing the reburial date of Sir Thomas Browne’s skull, and the "317 years" entered in the age column. Photo Tanya McCallin. Courtesy Norfolk Record Office, PD 26 189.
  1. Instances of cranioklepty continued into the twentieth century—stories persist that Prescott Bush (grandfather of George W. Bush) paid Emil L. Holmdahl $25,000 to steal the skull of Pancho Villa in 1926, after Bush himself had stolen Geronimo’s skull in 1918 (both are supposedly housed in Yale’s Skull and Bones fraternity)—but it is primarily a nineteenth-century phenomenon, when phrenology was at its height.
  2. Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, Hydriotaphia and The Garden of Cyrus, ed. Robin Robbins (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), pp. 91, 117. For another take on the history of Browne’s skull, see W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn.
  3. Quoted in Charles Williams, "The Skull of Sir Thomas Browne," in Notes and Queries, series 8, vol. VI, pp. 269–270
Colin Dickey is a writer based in Los Angeles. He is the co-editor (with Nicole Antebi and Robby Herbst) of Failure! Experiments in Social and Aesthetic Practices, and his work has appeared in TriQuarterly, the Santa Monica Review, the Journal of Aesthetics Protest, and elsewhere.

Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall’ by Sir Thomas Browne. 224 pp. NYRB Classics. $15.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

R.I.P. Wilhelm Brasse

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The images are haunting: naked and emaciated children at Auschwitz standing shoulder-to-shoulder, adult prisoners in striped garb posing for police-style mug shots.
One of several photographers to capture such images, Wilhelm Brasse, has died at the age of 95. A Polish photographer who was arrested and sent to Auschwitz early in World War II, he was put to work documenting his fellow prisoners, an emotionally devastating task that tormented him long after his liberation.
Jaroslaw Mensfelt, a spokesman at the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum, said that Brasse died on Tuesday in Zywiec, a town in southern Poland.
Brasse, who was born in 1917 and was not Jewish, was sent to Auschwitz at 22 as a political prisoner for trying to sneak out of German-occupied Poland in the spring of 1940. Because he had worked before the war in a photography studio in Katowice, in southern Poland, he was put to work in the camp's photography and identification department.
The job helped to save his life, enabling him to get better treatment and food than many others. Because he worked with the SS, the elite Nazi force, he was also kept cleaner "so as not to offend the SS men," he recalled in an Associated Press interview in 2006.
After the war, he had nightmares for years of the Nazi victims he was forced to photograph. Among them were emaciated Jewish girls who were about to undergo cruel medical experiments under the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele.
"I didn't return to my profession, because those Jewish kids, and the naked Jewish girls, constantly flashed before my eyes," he said. "Even more so because I knew that later, after taking their pictures, they would just go to the gas."
In the AP interview, Brasse said believed he took about 40,000 to 50,000 of the identity photographs that the Nazis used to register their prisoners — part of the Nazi obsession with documenting their work. These pictures are among some of the notorious images associated with the camp.
Brasse was not alone in documenting prisoners. Mensfelt said there were other photographers as well and that an estimated 200,000 such pictures were probably taken. Most were destroyed.
Now it's difficult to say which of the surviving photos were Brasses's because they generally did not carry the photographer's name. Some he remembered and was able to identify later.
At the war's end, with the Soviet army about to liberate Auschwitz, the Germans ordered the photos destroyed. Brasse and others refused the order and managed to save about 40,000 of them.
Though Brasse early on in his captivity was the only professional photographer in the SS documentation office, eventually some other prisoners took over taking ID photos. Brasse was given new assignments, including taking the pictures of prisoner tattoos and pictures for Mengele.
Mengele ordered pictures of various prisoners he planned to perform his experiments on, including Jewish twins, dwarfs, stunted people and people with noma, a disease common in the malnourished that can result in the loss of flesh.
"I had to take close-ups. He said sometimes you will be able to see the whole bone of the jaw, and that I have to do close-ups of it. I did the close-ups, in harsh light, and you could see to the bone," Brasse said. "Later, my boss called me in, and Dr. Mengele expressed his happiness with the pictures I'd taken, that I'd taken them just as he had needed them to be done."
Brasse said he never had the right to refuse what Mengele or the other Germans demanded.
"It was an order, and prisoners didn't have the right to disagree. I couldn't say 'I won't do that,'" he recalled in 2006. "I only listened to what I had to do and because I didn't harm anyone by what I was doing, I tried to address them politely."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

NoirCon 2012 Countdown.

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Friday, October 19, 2012


If you do not get a chance to meet Kent Harrington at NOIRCON, be sure to catch him at The Noir City Film Festival.

Kent Harrington’s debut for The Rat Machine will be sponsored by Green Apple Books this January and take place during the Noir City film festival at the Castro Theater. The Noir City film festival is international and is very well attended. Green Apple Books is the official bookseller for the event and will be selling the book—and hosting a signing— at the event which is a week long festival running at the Castro theater. There will be major press coverage.

NOIR CITY X, the 10th Annual San Francisco Film Noir Foundation, presented by the Film Noir Foundation 
 Below is the festival’s web site for details

Wednesday, October 17, 2012



Many, many thanks to everyone who participated in the Atomic Noir Short Fiction Contest! Duane Swierczynski and Lou Boxer were overwhelmed by the deluge of astonishingly good stories that captured the mood and style of post-World War II crime fiction, and deciding among them was often a painful process.

But it had to be narrowed to four, and we are ready to announce our winners. I would advise you to hang onto your fedoras, but that headgear was largely out of style in the era we're focusing on, so maybe I will just say crawl under your desk, get into a fetal position, and wait for the nuclear blast to obliterate the world as you know it...but, somehow, that doesn't sound right either.

Fuck it. Here goes. The winners of the 2012 Atomic Noir Short Fiction Contest are.....Drum roll.....

#1 A BRAVE NEW WORLD by  Terrance P. McCauley

#2 THE NEON COME-ON by Eric Beetner

#3 THE 107 by Tim P. Walker

#4 FIREFLIES by Richard Godwin

Aaand big applause.

Congrats to these four dynamite writers. The volume is dropping, like, out of the sky, with imminent impact that will leave the world a nightmarish, glowing wasteland, November 1, in print and Kindle editions.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Noir: Cassidy's Girl comes to NoirCon 2012

Meet Ed Holub at NoirCon and see why Goodis belongs everywhere!

JAMES CASSIDY, 36 compact stocky  and muscular, dark, eyes and hair, a nose broken twice, red leathery skin. a fallen hero.  A college scholar and star football player, a WWII bomber captain, a pilot for the first trans-continental air cruiser, a dashing New York playboy, his glory was ripped out from under him when he was wrongfully blamed for the airship’s crash. He then plummeted into a downward spiral landing him in New Orleans as a functional alcoholic bus driver for a small-time operation.  Sexually obsessed with his wife Mildred, he now thinks only in fundamentals because everything else is too complicated.  He needs his job in order to have any kind of life direction. The bus is the one constant which enables him some degree of control. Angry about the injustices life has dealt him, he hopes to change his fate.     When he faces his greatest challenges, he retreats into flashbacks and fantasies for his future, which reveal his futile hope against all odds.  Ironically, these tragedies cause him to find his inner voice, and ultimately allow him an emotional epiphany that gives him a shot at getting his life back.
MILDRED CASSIDY, Jim’s Wife of four years, a ravishing cheap slut with a bodacious body, who can pack a mean punch, and isn’t afraid to use either. She works as a part-time hairdresser and full-time drunk.  She is an even match for Cassidy, and has long raven black hair, long legs, large breasts which she points like weapons, slim waist, luscious red lips, and dark brandy colored eyes with long lashes.  Intense passion, both violent and sexual, defines their marriage.  They are compelled to be with one another.  She exerts an outwardly dominant, tough presence, yet inwardly she has a need to be conquered, as only Cassidy can.  She can be possessive, fierce, strong, and stubborn.  She seems self involved and thrill-crazy, but she ultimately realizes how much she loves her husband, and she finally will do anything to make the marriage succeed.
HANEY KENRICK,  43, Cassidy’s nemesis, who desperately needs Mildred, sells merchandise very successfully door to door.  He weighs in at over 200 pounds, mostly blubber, stands 5’11”, has a fat shiny face, sparse greased down light brown hair, and likes to wear loud hard pressed cheap suits, and shoes polished like enamel.  He spends his free time  at Lundy’s bar, which is located near the small rooming house where he lives.  He hangs out there so he can be the big man, flashing money around.  He needs the ego gratification and the sense of superiority it gives him.  Beyond everything else, he must satisfy his intense singular desire to conquer Mildred who taunts and teases him, but will never give in.
SHEALY, white haired at 40, thin, pale, one-time Economics professor, now he works behind the counter at Crescent City Ship Chandlery.  He is a determinist philosopher who tries to teach his friends what he sees as the ‘truth’.  He mostly sits and drinks with them at Lundy’s.  Cassidy is his best friend.
DORIS, 27 years old, a recent Strip-tease dancer at the clubs on Bourbon Street. Frail, small breasted, ninety eight pounds, blond hair, an angelic air, hard-core alcoholic, drinking herself to death.  From Nebraska, where she was responsible for a fire which consumed her husband and children, she will never escape her past.  She has a short-lived affair with Cassidy.
SPANN, 30s, a waterfront idler and part-time barker on Bourbon Street, with a long rap sheet who is straight as a ruler with people he likes, and he carries a long mean switchblade for the ones he doesn’t.  He is thin and wiry, and he likes to drink and fight with his girlfriend.
PAULINE, Spann’s girlfriend, thin, small, secretly lusts after Cassidy.  She also likes to tell it like it is, and she can spot bullshit a mile off.  She likes to gossip and meddle in other people’s lives.  She drinks heavily, and has for most of her life.  She loves to provoke Spann to the point of violence. She is a celebrated wacko who bums cigarettes “for later”..
LUNDY, owner of the corner bar, he’s old dull and hollow. He doesn’t care what happens in his bar. He allows fights, after-hours drinking, back room prostitution. He  doesn’t gossip, stays out of disputes, and collects his money for the drinks he’ll serve anyone.
CAPT. ADAMS,  Captain of the freighter bound to South Africa.  A complex man who has also seen his share of career misfortune and has paid dearly.  He becomes sympathetic to Cassidy, a compatriot in misery.  Adams is a tough old sailor with a full head and beard of silver hair, smokes a meerschaum pipe, and can be both compassionate and non-judgmental, willing to go out on a limb for a  good cause.
NEW ORLEANS, 1954, watches the downfall of Senator Eugene McCarthy on TV during a heavy rain. Grimy, grey, polluted, the city is a dark urban cesspool, the backstreet fringes of society where the great post-war American dream will never penetrate, where hopeless despair and cultural apathy eternally rule. The 9th ward open air market area is an underlit, cobblestoned dirty landscape which crawls with vermin, human and animal.
THE BUS DEPOT: a miserable shabby garage shared with a shady trucking company, features a small, cramped passenger waiting area, a cramped office and locker- room.  The bus line operates three busses which make several daily round trips to Baton Rouge.
CASSIDY’S APARTMENT: a three room flat facing the peirs. It’s windows open to a small dilapidated balcony.  It’s small separate kitchen, bedroom with two closets,  bathroom, and livingroom are usually unkept and dirty mess.
LUNDY’S BAR: A dirty yellow glow from unscrubbed windows beckons patrons.  Light filters from the stained windows through the smoke filled room like old film on a cracked screen.  It’s a large, dull, colorless, shapeless place with high ceilings, and a splintered grey bar, the floor mossy.  The place resembles an old saloon, left to decay for over fifty years.
THE ROOM OVER LUNDY’S BAR: reserved for drunks sleeping it off, unfurnished. Cracked plaster, splintered wood showing through, torn wall paper, floors made of wide dirty old floor boards, the only light comes from a single bare bulb dangling from a wire.
DORIS’ APARTMENT:  small, clean bachlorette studio with a small alcove kitchen and separate bathroom.  It faces an alley, and has a window that leads to a tiny balcony.  She has one trunk filled with her costumes, and a few advertising placards featuring her as a Strip tease performer.  The room seems like a hotel room she could vacate anytime.
THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI RIVER, near Baton Rouge, is by contrast, a lush warm springtime wonderland where the weather is fine, the marshes roll by in verdant greens, and the air is clean and fresh.  The roads are quaint, dusty, small, and ride the crests of the levees.  Bridges are low single lane, metal structures. There is a dark side to this terrain when rain makes it a treacherous driving danger, and the  muddy, swampy untamed jungle becomes a veritable hell especially on foot.  The swamps are filled with alligators, quicksand, where little light passes through the trees. The river itself is wild, huge, difficult to navigate, filled with undertows and snake infested backwaters.
The CABIN aboard ADAM’S SHIP is a small, comfortable room with a double bed, a rug on the floor, a chair and a washstand.
THE STATE TROOPER STATION, somewhere upriver, is a new (1950’s) simple single story structure just off a main highway, located near the swamps and river.

            Cassidy’s Girl is about a man’s unconscious quest to find himself, and the hell he must endure to face up to it.  Cassidy’s odyssey begins as he blames his wife for his misfortune, using her for violent sexual release, too selfish to realize she loves him, and only after a deep epiphany, will he discover the truth within their relationship.  All the action and anguish they suffer through serves as a mere prelude to this defining moment.  The ‘happy ending’ comes unsentimentally, hits you like a brick, and turns on a dime in the last minute. The story moves with an unconscious psychological force.  Cassidy cannot be defeated.  He’ll take all the punches life gives him, and he lives with no questions asked.  Cassidy is the quintessential existential hero. Cassidy’s Girl is a deliberation on human will.
Beyond theme, the visuals mirror pulp cover art: a strong vibrant oversaturated color pallet reflecting the color scheme from the period: Mustard yellow, Moss Green, Cerylian blues, Chinese red, Deep rose, Peachy fleshtones, and dense Blacks, roughly drawn.  Wide angle orients us into the surroundings, and emphasize their inert claustrophobia and loneliness.  First Person camera is a devise used from the bus crash until the escape from the police, to show Cassidy has entered a new unreal world, and is hyperfocused on his current reality. The viewer is forced to see through his eyes, his beliefs, and become part of it.  Flashback and memory appear as blinks of the eye, where images shoot quickly and strangely (black and white, out of time sync.) in staccato flash cuts triggered by the senses, a smell recognized, a sound, or maybe a photograph.  Cassidy’s fantasies are detailed pulp studies. This project is based on the work of one of noir fiction’s greatest luminaries and deserves current film production.

Noir: That's Italian

Funny Totino's Mom Up Ecard: I love pizza more than I love certain members of my family.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Whether you've already registered for NoirCon 2012 and want to know what to look forward to ...
Or if you haven't registered and need a little more convincing ...
Here's a sneak peak of the attendees and guests at NoirCon 2012!*

Megan Abbott Jessica Argyle Erik Arneson Sandra Balzo Charles Benoit  Lawrence Block Jack Blundis Andrea Boxer Arthur Boxer Louis Boxer Anthony Bruno Margery Budoff Robert Olen Butler Jared Case Melanie G Dante Frank de Blase Stacia Decker Steve Del Ray Mike Dennis Glenn Dragon Gail Dragon Richard Edwards Chris Fanny Peter Farris Cullen Gallagher Kate Gallison Jay Gertzman John Grant Kent Harrington Robin Hathaway Heide Hatry Jeremiah Healy Vicki Hendricks Jake Hinkson Thomas Kaufman Joel Klein Robert Knightly Deen Kogan Nik Korpon Michele Lang Nathan Larson Will Lavender Lulu Lollipop Susana Mayer Jon McGoran Joyce Carol Oates Stephanie Patterson Otto Penzler Edward Pettit Robert Polito William Dylan Powell Eric Rice SJ Rozan Peter Rozovsky Jonathan Santlofer Joan Schenkar Timaree Schmidt Oren Shai Grover Silcox Raymond Simon Rob Smentek Wesley Stace Joe Samuel Starnes David Henry Sterry Wallace Stroby Duane Swierczynski Dennis Tafoya Mike White Thomas Whitehead Kenneth Wishnia Jeff Wong Jonathan Woods Ira Harri Yanoff 


Register now for NoirCon 2012!
November 8, 9, 10, and 11
Philadelphia, PA
Visit for more info!

*Attendees and guests subject to change. We hope it doesn't come to that, but the world of noir is perilous and full of unpleasant surprises, violent thugs, devious dames, and many other pitfalls.

NoirCon 2012

Whether you've already registered for NoirCon 2012 and want to know what to look forward to...
Or if you haven't registered and need a little more convincing ...
Here's a sneak peak of the panels at NoirCon 2012!

-The Art of Noir
-Noir and Music
-Deranged Preachers, Crazed Cops and Other N’er Do Wells of Southern Noir
-Sex, Noir, and Chandler
-L.A. Noire
-True Crime
-Jewish Noir
-Burlesque Noir
-Crime in Primetime: TV’s Most Innovative Noir Series

Noir Scholars Extraordinaire Robert Polito and Joan Schenkar
Dual Masters of Ceremonies Charles Benoir and Ed Pettit
Scholar/critic Peter Rozovsky
Filmmaker Oren Shai

If that ain't enough ...
Duane Swierczynski interviews Lawrence Block, recipient of our 3rd David L. Goodis Award
Jeremiah Healy interviews Otto Penzler, recipient of our 3rd Jay and Deen Coogan Award
Keynote Address from Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Oren Butler

And a cast of noir luminaries so large one email can't contain them all!

And much, much more!

Register now for NoirCon 2012!
November 8, 9, 10, and 11
Philadelphia, PA
Visit for more info!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

RAT MACHINE is here!


The two are sent into the Los Angeles underworld to pose as heroin dealers for reasons that are, at first, unclear to them. What they discover is a highly organized criminal enterprise spanning the globe with long-standing connections to Western Intelligence agencies-and some very nasty characters. The two friends must fight, not only to stay alive, but to keep from being corrupted themselves.

The Rat Machine, based on historical facts, weaves a complex story of the International Heroin Trade, the Sicilian Mafia, and the use of ex-Nazi spy rings by Western Intelligence services during the Cold War-this story cuts deep. 

The novel is the first book in a planned three-part Rat Machine series.

Pre-order yours TODAY!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Noir: NoiR Leans with Ed Holub

Amber Martin, New Orleans Child Protective Services, makes a difficult discovery when she is assigned a new case. Her past haunts her and drives her to an emotional fever pitch. How she handles her dilemma will determine her future.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Noir: Hotel Noir on October 9th

A new throwback joint featuring the talents of Danny Devito, Carla Gugino and Mandy Moore. A smooth noir crime tale spun by talented people, on demand October 9th.