Modern Pulp Jan 17 2009
BEAUTY AND THE BIKE
Daniel Chavarría's Cuban crime novels evoke the island as only a longtime resident could.

Uruguayan author Daniel Chavarría was a miner, a model, and a museum guide, before landing in Cuba and launching a literary career. He’s since won the Dashiell Hammett Award for his novel Gijón and the Edgar Award for Adios Muchachos. His fiction is political, comical, and suspenseful, but most of all it is palpably tropical, the product of a languid and overheated island where material riches are few but passions run high. Read Chavarría and you’ll immediately perceive the difference between fiction written by foreign authors who maybe spend six weeks in Cuba, and a man who has lived there for decades and calls it home. For instance, what foreign author could hope to explain the concept of bicycle hookers, and all the subtleties associated with their trade? Chavarría does exactly that in Adios Muchachos. In fact, he writes primarily about hookers. They’re his obsession, his muses, and he depicts them both unflinchingly and reverently. We won’t tell you more—except that we very much enjoyed the above two books. The English versions commissioned from Carloz Lopez and the award winning translator Peter Bush have all the flavor of the originals. And as a bonus, illustrator Owen Smith’s cover paintings serve as perfect encapsulations of the strange, dark beauty of Chavarría’s prose. More on Smith later.

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Intl. Notebook Jan 1 2009
WILD WESTLAKE
One of the most prolific thriller writers ever dies.

Novelist and screenwriter Donald E. Westlake died Friday of a heart attack at age 75. Westlake who began publishing in 1960, wrote more than 100 books under his name and several pseudonyms. He won three Edgar awards from the Mystery Writers of America, and his screenplay of Jim Thompson’s novel The Grifters earned him an Academy Award nomination. Fifteen of his novels were adapted to film, including 1972’s The Hot Rock, with Robert Redford, and 1999’s Payback, with Mel Gibson.

Like many pulp authors, Westlake wrote a few erotica novels, these under the pen name Alan Marshall. Curiously, a visit to Westlake’s official website finds no mention of Marshall, which we count as an official disavowal. Nevertheless, you see an Alan Marshall cover below. Westlake said he published under so many names because it would have been unbelievable that one person wrote so much. His feverish output will continue even after death—his latest novel Get Real is due to be published in April.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 14
1935—Dust Storm Strikes U.S.
Exacerbated by a long drought combined with poor soil conservation techniques that caused excessive soil erosion on farmlands, a huge dust storm known as Black Sunday rages across Texas, Oklahoma, and several other states, literally turning day to night and redistributing an estimated 300,000 tons of topsoil.
April 13
1953—MK-ULTRA Mind Control Program Launched
In the U.S., CIA director Allen Dulles launches a program codenamed MK-ULTRA, which involves the surreptitious use of drugs such as LSD to manipulate individual mental states and to alter brain function. The specific goals of the program are multifold, but focus on drugging world leaders in order to discredit them, developing a truth serum, and making people highly susceptible to suggestion. All of this is top secret, and files relating to MK-ULTRA's existence are destroyed in 1973, but the truth about the program still emerges in the mid-seventies after a congressional investigation.
April 12
1945—Franklin Roosevelt Dies
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies of a cerebral hemorrhage while sitting for a portrait in the White House. After a White House funeral on April 14, Roosevelt's body is transported by train to his hometown of Hyde Park, New York, and on April 15 he is buried in the rose garden of the Roosevelt family home.
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