On The Nightstand: The Frank Marr Series By David Swinson


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Philip Marlowe drank Old Forester. Sam Spade drank a premixed Manhattan from a paper cup. Lew Archer drank, well, pretty much anything. But Frank Marr prefers uppers over downers. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t hit the sauce, uppers are just a preference, a powdery, snortable preference. And if all of those fictional Private Eyes but Frank Marr ring a bell, well, you should treat yourself to David Swinson‘s series.

How good is the Frank Marr series? Well, let’s just say that if these books were coke, Frank Marr would probably break into your house and do a line or two right then and there. These books are frankly addicting and each chapter leaves you wanting the next. Sure, you might say, “Just one more chapter and then bed time,” but pretty soon you’ll find yourself with bloodshot eyes wondering what the hell the sun is doing up. And before you know it, you’re done and itching for the next one.

Who’s this David Swinson guy anyway?

David Swinson is a film student turned music promoter turned decorated cop turned author. As a writer, he has published four books:

Why should I read these books?

Do you love crime and detective stories? Well, there you go. But if you need more of a push than that, I’ll give you a few reasons. Frank Marr, while cast from the Hard-Boiled Detective mold, isn’t your typical private investigator. Sure, he is a retired cop who doesn’t play by the rules, but there is a little more to him than that.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Raoul Duke and Dirty Harry had a baby? No? Oh well, that kid would probably turn out something like Frank Marr.

Frank Marr, as stated, isn’t just your momma’s (grandma’s?) Marlowe, Spade, or Archer either. And, despite the drugs, he isn’t any iteration of Sherlock Holmes. He is an honest shady character. Whether his actions are good or bad, legal or illegal, Frank is open about them in his narration and juggles these actions and choice as only a human can. At times, he knows his actions are affecting people, people he cares or doesn’t care about, in negative ways, but he handles them with the tools and skills he has on hand to varying ends. Frank is an addict but he isn’t blind to the addiction and the problems caused by it. It is a rough duality of character. In the first book, The Second Girl, Frank breaks into a drug dealer’s house looking for a score. Besides some drugs, what he finds is a kidnapped girl and a lode of internal conflict. Frank the addict needs and wants his score while Frank the retired cop/private eye has to save the girl and come up with a pretty damn good story as to how he found the girl.

One of the reasons I love good crime novels is that they discuss society and social issues as they are. And maybe David Swinson’s career as a Washington, DC detective adds to the realism of the setting and topics of the novels in such a way which elevates these stories from just good to great and memorable books. These books aren’t just about a crime but about who does the crime, who is affected by the crime, why people are drawn into it, and how there is a lot of grey area to be explored that is often overlooked. These stories take you from the inner city to the suburbs and explore themes like the effects of gentrification, how shitty high school is, police culture in the modern times, addiction, and redemption.

The Frank Marr series ticked all the boxes for me and I recommend it to anyone whether you’re interested in the genre or not. But if you are interested in the genre, it is a must read. After picking up the first book, I barely put it down and when I did, it was to get the next book. The third book came out in February and I stopped reading whatever it was I was currently reading and read it instead. They’re that addicting.

Score: A++ (yes, that’s an extra plus)

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You Were Never Really Here: A Review For People With No Time For Reviews


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I try to read for fun every night and for at least an hour. Earlier this week, I picked up You Were Never Really Here by Jonathan Ames (creator of Bored to Death and Blunt Talk). I finished it in one go, which is something I’ve rarely done in the past few years. Granted it was a quick read at 112 pages. If you’re into noir, especially noir with a hard-boiled kind of protagonist who carries a hammer, this might be right up your alley. The subject matter is also a bit dark (I’m not a good judge of this as I spent years studying German and Austrian literature which has a tendency to being pretty dark and grim itself), so enter at your own risk. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good, quick read.

Alternative Movie Poster for You Were Never Really Here

The film adaptation will also be released soon.

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Super Short Movie and TV Reviews #2: Comrade Detective, Space Dandy, The Dark Valley, & GLOW


Comrade Detective, Ep. 1 The Invisible Hand

Do you like making fun of Americans? Or if you are an American, do you like being made fun of? If yes, then this is the show for you. Channing Tatum, Nick Offerman, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt dub a Romanian crime show form the Cold War era and tap into the darkness of my nightmares: A killer in a Ronnie Reagan mask… and capitalism. Mainly the Ronald Reagan mask, though. Shit, that’s creepy…

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Grades

Story: B+ (Funny and great but more novelty than instant classic)
Visuals and Sound: A (see Visuals and Sound for Glow)

Where to Watch:

Amazon.com

Space Dandy

“Space Dandy is a dandy in space.” From the director of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo comes a space opera about every D and D character I’ve ever played traveling through space trying to collect rare aliens with the help of a vacuum cleaner robot and cat-alien.

And he loves butts. Like really, really loves them.

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Grades

Story: A- (It will make you laugh, cry, and question yourself as to why you are watching this)
Visuals and Sound: A- (Music and animation: よくやったね!)

Where to Watch:

Hulu.com

Dark Valley (Das finstere Tal*)

Unforgiven meets The Sound of Music, except they’ve replaced all the music with straight-up murdering people.

Grades

Story: A (If you’re into revenge films, this will be right up your alley. If not, then maybe let’s call this a B+)
Visuals and Sound: A

Where to Watch:

DVD and Blu-ray available on Amazon.com

*Austrian-German with English subtitles

GLOW

Laughs, leotards, and liberation: Women in the ’80s search for empowerment and equality… with the help of wrestling, spandex costumes, and two men.

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Grades

Story: A (Binged watched in one day)
Visuals and Sound: A (for Aesthetics)

Where to Watch:

Netflix.com

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Super Short Movie & TV Reviews #1: Dunkirk, Ozark, Castlevania, & LEGI⊗N


Dunkirk

A bunch of British doppelgängers try to leave a beach while Tom Hardy’s eyes kill Sky-Nazis.

Grades

Story: B+ (Too many cooks in the kitchen to be attached to any character and, seriously, is it just me or do all young British men all look the same? Was casting call for skinny, pale guys with darkish hair?)
Visuals and Sound: A+

Ozark (Episodes 1-5)

Breaking Bad Season 2 with Rednecks.

Grades

Story: B- (Originality a C+, Character development B)
Visuals and Sound: B (Better than average)

Castlevania (Netflix)

This is getting good… and it’s over. Like eating a good meal and the waiter takes it away after 4 bites.

Grades

Story: A- (Overall a solid B but the humor is A+)
Visuals and Sound: A (Above-average animation)

LEGI⊗N

Did I take acid? I must have taken some acid. When did I take acid?

Grades

Story: A-
Visuals and Sound: A (for a TV show this was good stuff)

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