Many of my latest (and future) blog posts are about novels I’ve written and am releasing. But this post is about someone else’s novel. One I fully intend on talking up to everyone I know until I get the eye rolls that let me know I’m going on about it too much. And I need to buy a few copies and give them away. This is a 1945 novel that has drifted out of print for long stretches while, I’m overjoyed to say, it’s back in print on July 7 of this year.
Joel Townsley Rogers’ incredible novel The Red Right Hand opens with the aftermath of a crime. A young couple on a scenic trip have encountered a frightening stranger, the story beginning with the narrator trying to sort out exactly what happened. This description is no spoiler, for it’s merely how the book opens and I will say no more about the plot or the characters. I truly want to ruin nothing about the experience of this novel for anyone who hasn’t read it.
What I will say is that The Red Right Hand is a feverish, hallucinatory nightmare, dripping with nocturnal atmosphere, recurring dread, and much more. Written by a prolific, master pulp writer, it’s much appreciated by writers and genre enthusiasts, but seems to have never crossed that far into the mainstream. Maybe now is the time for that to change. If you like mystery, crime, or the more psychological brand of horror, you need to read it, preferably on a hot summer night with open windows, a darkened screen door nearby, and all of nature’s unearthly sounds drifting in.
Don’t take my word for it, just trust Donald Westlake: “I believe Joel Townsley Rogers’ The Red Right Hand should be reissued every 5 years forever.”
The music of Rush is supposed to be a love-it-or-hate-it thing, but somehow I managed to fall in the middle. Long-term, devoted fans don’t always love their early ‘80s material but I think the Permanent Waves-Moving Pictures-Signals era was magnificent. Alex Lifeson’s guitar had a lovely chorus pedal sound which meshed with the synthesizers that the band was experimenting with, and brought out the best in some of their best songs.
It’s thanks to Neil Peart that I learned something about music. A couple of high school jazz band friends had whatever the current Rush concert video was at the time, and could not say enough about Peart’s drumming. One of these guys was a drummer, and the other a serious Rush fan, and I realized that some folks like music not for any song by that artist, but because of the sheer musicianship.
And I hope Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson keep going in some form.
Two more novels in the Maize Noir world of Midwestern themed crime fiction are coming, Spider’s Wine and Attack Therapy. They are written and on the way this year, but now is the time for Part 1 of this loosely connected trilogy. So, without further ado, let’s close with an excerpt from Screw Punch:
She had nothing left to do but help Kim find her tool and get out of there.
So she paused to look into a wall mirror above the little microwave that sat on the inadequate table. Her hair had been pulled up in a pony tail that she now released to shake her hair around and regather in her hands.
As she shaped her hair together into a thick stream, she noticed absentmindedly that the closet door was open by a small crack.
She looked up critically at the mirror, noticing straight white-blond hairs that were escaping her pony tail and that she smoothed back over her scalp with both hands. Then she pulled off the hair tie, rested it on two fingers, and grabbed all of her hair and bunched it all within one petite fist.
And then she stopped, frozen, and hair began to drift down. In the mirror, her eyes enlarged and her mouth opened silently.
A pair of eyes was staring back at her from the closet.
Leading lady of so many westerns, and of course Creature from the Black Lagoon. Not to mention being an all around working actress with many credits and an always classy presence in the public eye. Rest in peace.