Book Review: Brainquake -

Book Review

Mania Grade: A+

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  • Author: Samuel Fuller
  • Publisher: Hard Case Crime
  • Book Genre: Crime/Noir
  • Format: Paperback, 320 pages
  • Series:

Book Review: Brainquake

Gritty, unflinching crime noir at its best.

By Chuck Francisco     August 21, 2014

Brainquake by Samuel Fuller
© Hard Case Crime,
Paul Page was the perfect bagman. He lived alone; had no family; abstained from women, wine, and narcotics; kept his mouth shut; and Paul Page never, ever looked inside the bag. This dedicated service made him a well respected cog in the organized crime machine, and allowed him to keep his debilitating brain disorder off the radar. But Paul's brainquakes have begun getting worse, and just as he's fallen for a beautiful mod widow too. Now, with his back against the wall and time running out, how far will he be willing to go, how many rules will he break, and can he escape Father Flanagan, the hitman with a brutal predilection for crucifying targets?
All of this and more is promised to readers of the newly released pulp novel Brainquake, by Samuel Fuller. Unlike some confused patsy printed on the pages of a pulp novel, your eyes are not deceiving you; this is a newly published book from writer/director Samuel Fuller (who passed away in 1997). The Big Red One, Verboten!, Underworld USA, The Naked Kiss, Pickup Street Story- these and so many more  films sprung from the mind of a man who spent time as a crime reporter and was hardened in the fires of World War II. His seminal noir style inspired more than one generation of filmmaker, with Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Jim Jarmusch, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, and countless others considered to have been inspired by Fuller. 
And so it's a wonderful occurrence when new work by an old master makes its way to the foot of the stage. Fuller's Brainquake is a brutal, uncompromising chase, steeped in the seedy, hard boiled world of organized crime. The characters are unflinchingly real, believably mortal, and realistically motivated. The prose flows as a cold rain on a funeral march, quickening toward that inevitable ending. There have been many attempts to ape this style throughout the decades following the heyday of noir pulp fiction, but Fuller was the master. I'm tempted to say that he callously blends the debilitating nature of Paul's rare brain disorder with the maladjusted nuances of a socially awkward bagman, but "callous" implies a thorough disregard for the the subject; Fuller knew exactly what he was setting up and, with intricate precision, has set this deadly clock to ticking. We are the lucky recipients of his gritty genius. 
Fuller's final novel, Brainquake, receives its first English language release thanks to the excellent folks at Hard Case Crime. They're an imprint dedicated to publishing hard-boiled detective fiction, including reprints of classics from the golden age of pulp crime novels, new works from modern masters (Stephen King's Joyland was my favorite book of 2013), and lost works from the best in the business (like Samuel Fuller). I've been quite the fan of Hard Case Crime novels for some time. If they're a new entity for you, Brainquake is the perfect jumping off point. As a ride it's non-stop, as a thriller it's brutal, as an organized crime yarn it's uncompromising, and as a crime novel it's hard hitting. You will not want to put this book down until the final bloody pages score across your brain pan. While I hesitate to ever proclaim a novel perfect, Brainquake makes quite the violent case for the designation
 Brainquake by Samuel Fuller released last week from Hard Case Crime as a pulpy paperback for $12.95. Hit it before it hits you.


Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Shock-O-Rama, which looks into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous  Colonial Theatre  in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.


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