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Ann Rule and the Green River Killer

Not a single victim wore shoes like this; they tended to wear tennis shoes.

Not a single victim wore shoes like this; the dead tend to wear tennis shoes.

I read Green River, Running Red by Ann Rule book a while ago.  The book left me a lot of questions. I was puzzled by Ann Rule’s own handling of her role in the events. There is a meta aspect to the story where as the author of the story, she considers that doesn’t have the chops to handle, nor does the entire True Crime genre have the chops to handle Gary Ridgeway’s story and the nearly epidemiological causes of the environment that gave rise to Ridgeway, the teen age runaways, and the initial reluctance of the law enforcement and community to do anything about it. Ridgeway himself was aware of his future fame as the Green River Killer and was partly a serial killer fan boy. He anticipated his notoriety. In that sense, then, Ann Rule, contributed to his crimes. She doesn’t have the answer to that, and she does focus the narrative on the stories of the children who ended up murdered by Ridgeway.

One of the puzzles of Ridgway’s story is how he settled down with his third wife and moved to Auburn and essentially stopped killing because of his happy home life. I can imagine Rule interviewing his third wife and asking about the strange bumps on the Green River Killer’s penis. Did you notice any bumps? It is this sort of tasteless, lurid, and trivial that is essential to the True Crime genre. The first season of HBOs True Detective works so well because Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle manages to infuse the closer observation of the trivial with existential angst; his rambling autodidactic musing are rooted in the trivial, and in turn the trivial is lifted and connected to the larger movements of a fictional serial killer. Rule however struggles with the banal killings of a killer who is not captured partly because the task force didn’t take Ridgeway seriously as a possible killer: he was too stupid, too ordinary. And this ends up being the enigma at the center of the narrative of Green River, Running Red, the killings are routine for the killer. Ridgeway would sometimes kill while out running an errand. At one point he picks up a victim with his young son in his truck, drives to a vacant lot off of Pacific Highway, has sex with and kills his victim, and then returns to the truck. Continue Reading →

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The Stranger Reviews The Strong Man

The Strong Man by Matt Briggs reviewed in The StrangerThe Stranger‘s book critic, Paul Constant, has written a review of The Strong Man.

Like Catch-22The Strong Man looks at the army and sees a laughable sort of institutional insanity, a stew of jargon and bureaucracy and young men wrestling with order, chaos, and mortality. Unlike Joseph Heller’s language, which sings and leaps forward and explores weird avenues at a moment’s notice like the world’s longest Yiddish joke, Briggs’s is full of the terseness and the staccato sentences of Raymond Carver. The difference between Heller and Briggs is in the language, and that difference bespeaks a larger rift between the two.

You can read the entire review here.

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Review of The Strong Man by Charles Dodd White

The Strong Man by Matt BriggsA review of my new novel, The Strong Man, at Charles Dodd White’s Blog. White writes, “Briggs is brilliant in his moments that address the removal of the human element from modern warfare, the commonplace absurdities of set-piece battles.” — for the full review.

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Review of The Strong Man in The Oregonian

Strong Man reviewed in The OregonianKatie Schneider reviewed my new novel The Strong Man in The Oregonian this morning.

The Strong Man is a novel of absurd inaction, where dealing in black market bacon takes on as much significance as an aerial bombardment. Briggs has a keen eye for detail, whether it’s a line of Douglas firs at Fort Lewis or the anachronistic scent of beer being brewed in a Saudi Arabian hospital. He isn’t afraid to write moral ambiguity. Wallace is neither hero nor villain — more than anything, he’s malleable and not too bright. As such, Briggs has created a character that reflects our uncertain, narcissistic, post-Cold War age.

For the entire review.

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Novel Review – Shya Scanlon on Shoot the Buffalo at The Rumpus

The Rumpus

The Last Book I Loved - The Rumpus

Poet and novelist Shya Scanlon wrote a review of my novel re-issued first novel Shoot The Buffalo at The Rumpus:

The other core strength of the novel is Briggs’s ability to conjure the voice and perspective of an intelligent, watchful child, with all his limitations intact. Aldous Bohm is a brilliant portrait of youthful consciousness in its attempt to negotiate the complex emotions of early adulthood. To watch him grapple especially with a generous measure of misplaced guilt around which much of the book revolves, is nothing short of heartbreaking.
for the full review

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Review of Pissing in the Snow at Fictionaught

nothing terrible in that

My latest review for “Rediscovered Reading” at Fictionaught’s Blog has been posted.

Pissing in the Snow by Vance Randolph was originally published by the University of Illinois Press in 1976, and reissued as a rack-sized mass-market paperback by Bard in 1977. In the late seventies, it was a best seller. The edition I have has a roller-rink-style ring of concentric circles around the title on a yellow background. It shows sparsely forested slopes with tracks in the snow. You can buy a copy from Amazon for a penny. (full review)

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Recent Reviews: Dawn Raffel, Julie Weston, and Gregory Hofmann

Cult of the Sentence

Cult of the Sentence

I recently reviewed Dawn Raffel’s excellent first collection of short stories from 1995, In the Year of Long Division, at Fictionaut. A while back BR Meyers wrote an essay in The Atlantic, “A Reader’s Manifesto,” which took contemporary writing to task for its focus on the cult of the sentence. He found some choice passages from some very well regarded writers such as Cormac McCarthy, Don DeLillo, Annie Proulx, and others. Although these quotes supported Meyer’s point, I never felt really satisfied that the focus on the sentence and syntax in prose is necessarily a bad thing. Raffel is a case in point. I think Dawn Raffel is a great example of  a writer who can write anything: a sentence, fragment, a word. Raffel has a new collection of stories, Further Adventures in the Restless Universe, coming out from Dzanc Books.

At Reading Local: Seattle I reviewed two books. The Good Times Are All Gone Now was a straight-forward history of an Idaho mining town. Julie Weston’s book is rich in interviews and particular observations of the working conditions in the mines and the lives of the miners, pimps, prostitutes, gamblers, and high school students during the hey-day of extracting ore in Kellogg, Idaho. The other book, no surrender, was a Lulu.com produced book by Seattle’s Gregory Hofmann that was a model of how to use Lulu’s frustrating 6 x 9 trade format.

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GoodReads Note: The Castle by J. Robert Lennon

Castle: A Novel Castle: A Novel by J. Robert Lennon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
First 10 pages of this book are okay .. and then the next first 150 are amazing. The book works on withheld mysteries which can often feel like a kind of trick, but the absence of any clue to the narrator’s story becomes creepy, vivid, and mind bending. The book degrades significantly when these mysteries are revealed. The writing uses the narrator’s stuffy self-conscience to both ironic and oddly self-revealing ends, but once things are shown the story becomes a knowable trope. The book’s connection to Vietnam and Iraq feel even more remote and unconvincing despite the compelling detail. I wonder if this is the problem of all puzzles, rebus, and stories that are essentially puzzle pieces being put together as a narrative? Twin Peaks had this same issue. As soon as Bob was explained, the show lost its compelling inner workings. As Lost winds up its seasons long narrative it becomes less and less compelling. I wondered in reading the last half of the book how satisfying it would be read a book where the withheld mystery was never actually revealed? (Five stars because I ended up reading this book in 2 sittings, and was on the edge of my seat in utter lit angst the firs time.)

View all my reviews >>

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Review of How I Came West and Why I Stayed by Alison Baker

West

West

New review for “Rediscovered Reading” at Fictionaut Blog, How I Came West and Why I Stayed by Alison Baker.

The idea of the tall tale is to make the listener believe what they are hearing and then at some point to break the frame and say something like “Gotcha.” Although I suppose in a masterly tall tale, the author or storyteller may never let you know. Although they have a lot in common with myths, tale tales I think have less to do with allegories and more to do with surface of the story and the confusion of reality.

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Four Book Reviews

Thats right.

That's right.

I’m not sure if it is the summer heat or that fact that I started running again or maybe a better brand of coffee, but in the last week or so I’ve published four book reviews.

1) At Fictionaut Blog, my third installment of Rediscovered Reading has been posted with a look at Jim Heynen’s should be classic You Know What is Right. Although Heynen has published several formulations of his stories about “the boys,” over the years, this is the book of his that I think is, well, pretty much perfect.

2 & 3) At Reading Local: Seattle, I posted a double review of two books by Seattle writers who also write for HTML Giant: Matthew Simmons’s A Jello Horse and Brandon Scott Gorrell’s during my nervous breakdown i want to have a biographer present. Typing the title of Gorrell’s book I keep thinking it should say, “my biographer,” but having read the book I guess he could mean he biographer, for instance the biographer of Lew Wallace or Theodore Roosevelt would qualify I guess. Publishing Genius’s Web site noted that Simmons’s book is currently sold out and will be back in stock sometime in August. This means the book has sold out its first print run. Nice work Publishing Genius and Matthew Simmons.

4) Also at Reading Local: Seattle I posted a review a week or so back about Midge Raymond’s very excellent debut and prize winning colleciton of short stories, Forgetting English.

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