Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Post of The Day: Steve Hockensmith

I've never seen so eloquent an admission of career fecklessness as Steve has written here. And by fecklessness I mean working in three or four genres before you're well known in your primary genre. I've done the same thing so it's painfully hilarious or hilariously painful to see it laid out so well. For the whole shebang (and be sure to read the whole thing) go here:


Not that I got into this business to be known, heralded and rich. I got into it because I like to make up stories and write them down and have other people read them. Still, as a guy who likes to make up stories and write them down and have other people read them, I do sometimes wonder why more people aren't reading them.
I think I know the answer. It goes back to those seven habits I don't have. I'm guessing one of them is "staying focused." (I have to guess because I haven't gone to Wikipedia to see what's really on the list. In addition to being only Mildly Effective, I'm also Rather Lazy.)
I've written historical whodunits and horror/romance satires and middle-grade mysteries and sorta-kinda cozies. And my thought process about what to do next usually looks something like this:
8 a.m. (driving to work): You know what would be fun to write? A Western!
10:44 a.m. (daydreaming during a slow moment at my desk): You know what would be really fun to write? A screwball comedy about coke-snorting 1970s stunt men!
12:53 p.m. (daydreaming during lunch): You know what would be even better? A nostalgia-soaked YA coming-of-age novel!
3:12 p.m. (daydreaming during another slow moment at my desk): You know what I should really do? A sci-fi/thriller/"men's adventure" mashup!
5:55 p.m. (driving home): Why aren't I trying to write the Great American Novel?
9:37 p.m. (daydreaming while helping my son get ready for bed): You know what would be fun to write? That Western!
Then 10 p.m. finally rolls around, and for the next hour I know exactly what I'm doing: working on whatever's due next. But as of 11:01 --
You know what would be really fun…?
(Sidenote: I'm not joking about any of those ideas. Those are all projects I'd like to get to eventually. Well, maybe not the Great American Novel. But I totally want to write about those coke-snorting 1970s stunt men.)

The New Fiction River: Alchemy & Steam

Alchemy changes more than dross into gold. It changes steampunk stories into stories of magical transformation. These thirteen stories combine science and magic into do-not-miss alternate history stories that span the globe. Travel with a soul-stealing carnival, meet the Grand Dangoolie, put on some perfect perfume, and sample some magical chocolate. These adventures grace the pages of the most creative volume of Fiction River yet.

Table of Contents
“The Rites of Zosimos” by Angela Penrose
“Heart” by Leslie Claire Walker
“Pennies for Portents” by Diana Benedict
“The Order of the Golden Grapefruit” by Sharon Joss
“The Perfect Perfume” by Anthea Sharp
“The Grand Dangoolie” by Ron Collins
“The Whirring Dreams of Aberrant Blood” by Cindie Geddes
“St. Jean & The Dragon” by Brenda Carre
“Weight in Gold” by Dory Crowe
“Heaven’s Flight” by Leigh Saunders
“Blood Moon Carnival” by Kim May
“Makes the World Go ’Round” by Kelly Cairo
“Myrtle’s Boxes” by Louisa Swann 

Kerrie L. Hughes has edited thirteen anthologies: Maiden Matron Crone, Children of Magic, Fellowship Fantastic, Dimension Next Door, Gamer Fantastic, Zombie Raccoons and Killer Bunnies, Girls Guide To Guns and Monsters, Love And Rockets, Chicks Kick Butt, Westward Weird, and forthcoming in 2016, Fierce, co-edited with Jim Butcher. With Fiction River she has done Hex in the City, Alchemy & Steamand the upcoming Haunted.
Fiction River series editors Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch are award-winning editors as well as award-winning writers. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Great post on Roger Moore

SUNDAY, MAY 24, 2015
from the great website

Already tired of summer TV offerings from the major networks? Then, you're in luck because the Timeless Media Group will release all six seasons of Roger Moore's The Saint in a deluxe DVD set on May 26th. If you watched one of the 118 episodes each day, that would kept you busy through the summer!

Author Leslie Charteris introduced Simon Templar in his 1928 novel Meet the Tiger, though he considered the short-story collection Enter the Saint (1930) to be Templar's literary introduction. Sometimes labeled the "Robin Hood of modern crime," Templar traveled the globe to deal with gun-runners, corrupt officials, gangsters, and spies. He collected "fees" from the bad guys, keeping some of the money and returning the rest to its owners or donating it to charity. His nickname, The Saint, was derived from his initials S.T. and his calling card featured a stick figure with a halo. Charteris wrotes dozens of Saint short stories and a handful of novels from 1928 to 1964. 

George Sanders played The Saint.
The debonair troubleshooter seemed like an ideal candidate for the silver screen and Hollywood came calling in the late 1930s. Louis Hayward became the first actor to play Simon Templar in The Saint in New York (1938), based on a 1935 novel. It's a respectable "B" picture, though I prefer RKO's follow-up Saint films starring the always suave George Sanders. Sanders starred in five Saint films before departing to play a similar detective called The Falcon in another RKO film series. Additional actors who played The Saint on the big screen include Hugh Sinclair (who was quite good), Jean Marais, and Val Kilmer. On the radio, The Saint was voiced by Vincent Price, Tom Conway (Sanders' brother), Brian Aherne, and others.

Roger Moore as Simon Templar.
However, the man that came to own the role was Roger Moore. Surprisingly, Moore was not the first choice for the lead in the 1960s television series The Saint. British TV mogul Lew Grade, who owned the ITV network, originally wanted Patrick McGoohan to play Simon Templar. However, in Burl Barer's comprehensive book The Saint: A Complete History, producer Robert S. Baker said: "We had a talk with Patrick, but we didn't see eye to eye...He 's a marvelous artist, but we thought he didn't have the right sort of panache for The Saint. He didn't have the humor. We wanted to do the show slightly tongue in cheek, we had to have plenty of humor."

Moore as Beau Maverick.
Despite his youthful looks, Roger Moore was a 35-year-old film and TV veteran when he became The Saint. His best-known previous role was as Beau Maverick in the Western TV series Maverick (he essentially replaced James Garner during the show's final year). Prior to that, he had starred in two other TV series: The Alaskans (playing a character called Silky Harris) and Ivanhoe, based on Walter Scott's novel. Moore slipped into the Simon Templar persona effortlessly. Whereas some actors grow into a role, Moore was seemingly born to play The Saint (although his TV character aligned more closely with Charteris' later books as opposed to the earlier ones featuring a tougher Templar).

The first season of The Saint quickly establishes that Simon Templar is both well-known and independently wealthy. In fact, many episodes start with someone recognizing him as "the famous Simon Templar"--at which time a halo appears above his head and the credits roll. The third episode, "The Careful Terrorist," introduces a gruff sidekick named Hoppy (Percy Herbert)--but Hoppy is never seen again. Instead, Simon solves crimes and helps people in need on his own. This meant that Roger Moore was the only series regular for the show's entire run. The only recurring character of note is Templar's nemesis, Inspector Teal (Ivor Dean), who appears in 24 episodes.

Julie Christie in the episode "Judith."
Since Templar was not strictly a detective, the plots could vary widely. Thus, any given episode might find The Saint uncovering a devious scheme to poison a friend ("The Talented Husband"), dealing with kidnappers ("The Latin Touch"), stealing the plans for an invention ("Judith"), or recovering counterfeit plates ("The Work of Art"). By the mid-1960s, The Saint began to reflect the influence of the James Bond movies and The Avengers. In "The Helpful Pirate", British intelligence sends Simon on a mission. And in one of my favorites, "The House on Dragon's Rock," Simon confronts a mad scientist and his creepy creation in Wales (think Them!). There was even an episode about the Loch Ness Monster—which was a popular “guest star” in many 1960s British TV series (e.g., The Avengers, Stingray). 

In the U.S., The Saint originally aired as a syndicated TV series, often showing after the local late news. In 1967, with the spy craze fueled by the 007 films, NBC picked up The Saint as a summer replacement series. Its ratings success led to a regular spot on NBC's midseason schedule. The later Saint episodes were filmed in color and shown in over 60 countries. By then, Moore had expanded his role to unofficial co-producer and occasionally director. 

When The Saint ended its run, Lew Grade paired Roger Moore with Tony Curtis in a similar series called The Persuaders. Unfortunately, the two actors never clicked and The Persuaders, which only lasted one season, wasn't very good (though it featured a cool John Barry title theme). Moore, of course, went on to play James Bond--a career move that even eclipsed his success as The Saint.

Simon and his Volvo P1800.
Timeless Media's DVD boxed set is nicely packaged in four separate attractive cases. The image quality is excellent (keep in mind that these shows used stock footage for some exteriors, which looked grainy to start with). Roger Moore, with other members of the cast and crew, provides commentary on several episodes. Speaking of guest stars, the lineup is an impressive one and includes Julie Christie, Samantha Eggar, Donald Sutherland, Anthony Quayle, Jean Marsh, and 007 veterans Honor Blackman, Shirley Eaton, Walter Gotell, Julian Glover, and Lois Maxwell. (Click here to check out our video tribute to The Saint's leading ladies.)

The guest stars, the plots, and Simon's iconic P1800 Volvo coupe (with the "ST 1" license plate) are all excellent reasons to watch The Saint. However, you really need just one--and that's the likable, charismatic Roger Moore.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Gravetapping: SNOWBOUND by Richard S. Wheeler

Posted: 24 May 2015 04:07 PM PDT

Gravetapping review by Ben Boulden

Richard S. Wheeler won a Spur Award for Best Western Short Novel for his 2010 novel Snowbound, and it was a well-earned, and deserving honor.Snowbound is less Western and more historical. It chronicles John C. Fremont’s ill-fated fourth expedition, which was ostensibly to find a railroad route across the Rocky Mountains at the 38th Parallel between St. Louis and San Francisco.

The expedition was privately funded by a group of St. Louis businessmen—with the support of Fremont’s senator father-in-law Thomas Benton—and while its claimed purpose was to find a railroad route its true purpose was to rehabilitate Fremont’s public reputation after his court-martial, and ultimate resignation from the United States Army. The route crossed the high and rugged spine of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, where a railroad passage was unlikely at best, and, to prove something to his detractors, it was attempted in winter.

Snowbound is effectively told in an alternating first person narrative. The narrative perspective changes from chapter to chapter. It is told in the words of several characters, including Fremont, and several of the expedition members—Dr. Benjamin Kern, Alexis Godey, its lead scout Old Bill Williams, and others. It reads much like a diary—the dialogue is minimal, and the story is primarily told with the internal observations of the narrating characters. It is, through the horror of the failed expedition, a character study of John Charles Fremont. Fremont is presented as an enigma. He is narcissistic, admired—idolized, really—complicated, and, in the end, loathed by some.

The novel’s true power is its powerful description of the oppressive, brutal cold of the snowbound high Rockies, and the hardship of the expedition—

“We all looked pretty grim at times, with icicles dangling from our beards like chimes and ice collecting in our eyebrows and a rime of frost around our nostrils.”

“This was a tumble and rocky land, with giant gray outcrops, steep slopes, somber pine forests, groves of spidery cottonwoods and aspen, fierce, cruel creeks. And snow lazily smothered the country. It had caught and settled in every valley and dip, so that we were crossing spots that were ten or twenty feet deep, perilously working upslope in a tamped-down trench that reached our heads.”

“Somehow, we made camp and got fires going in protected snow pits where the wind would not snuff them. The snow had diminished, but the heavens scowled at us, and I had the sense we were trespassers, invaders of a place that was sacred to others, where no mortal should pass by.”  

The hero of the story is Alexis Godey, a former fur trapper and scout, who is Fremont’s second in command. He is developed as a quiet, competent, and ethical man. Godey was responsible for saving the bulk of the expedition’s men when he led the relief party—after reaching Taos with Fremont, and a few others—back into the Mountains to rescue those stranded by hunger and cold. While Godey is leading the relief party, Fremont recuperates in Taos planning the next leg of the expedition to California, and preemptively blaming the scout Old Bill Williams for the disastrous expedition.

Snowbound is a powerful novel of survival, and calamity. It is an introspective interpretation of one of the most eccentric and dishonest topographical expeditions of the Western United States. It is a beautifully rendered piece of literature that captures the stark beauty of winter on the high ranges, and both the hubris and nobility of men.     

Paul Simon will not care for this interview.

 Ed here: I was never a huge Simon & Garfunkel fan. And the times I saw them interviewed I liked them even less. Too much sophomoric posey like the Beatles at their worst in their work for one thing. And Garfunkel's sad insistence that Simon didn't have the right to go out on his own. There's a documentary about Simon producing his Broadway show that demonstrates to the point of hilarity how an ignorant egomaniac can destroy a show. Simon being the egomaniac of course.  

FromThe Telegraph UK  by  Nigel Farndale
for the entire interview go here

 But when I ask him to describe himself he says: “I’m a misanthrope.” There is something in that, given what he will go on to say about Paul Simon. But I would also add “eccentric”. Take his habit of listing on his website every book he has ever read. “You notice it’s heavy sh*t,’ he says. ‘It’s not fluff.”

Since Simon & Garfunkel split up in 1970, he has married twice and raised two sons, had a film career, walked across America and Europe – ”to get away from people” – and continued recording. Although his solo hits (Bright Eyes, I Only Have Eyes for You) were written by other people, and though Paul Simon wrote all the Simon & Garfunkel songs, he does write. Prose poems, mostly. In long hand. “I never bought a computer or a cell phone.” He also does a lot of mathematics, having read it as a student at Columbia. “I’m precise. I think in proportions. I play games with numbers and I proportionalise. I imagine we have now done 1/8th of our interview.” I check my watch.

 I ask about the Beatles, specifically George, who felt his talents were overshadowed. “George came up to me at a party once and said “my Paul is to me what your Paul is to you.” He meant that psychologically they had the same effect on us. The Pauls sidelined us. I think George felt suppressed by Paul and I think that’s what he saw with me and my Paul. Here’s the truth: McCartney was a helluva music man who gave the band its energy, but he also ran away with a lot of the glory.”
Shortly before they split up, Simon & Garfunkel released what was to become the (then) biggest selling album in history, Bridge Over Troubled Water.


Why did they walk away from that phenomenal success?
“It was very strange. Nothing I would have done. I want to open up about this. I don’t want to say any anti Paul Simon things, but it seems very perverse to not enjoy the glory and walk away from it instead. Crazy. What I would have done is take a rest from Paul, because he was getting on my nerves. The jokes had run dry. But a rest of a year was all I needed. I said: ‘I’m not married yet. I want to jump on a BMW motorbike and tour round Europe chasing ladies.’”
Paul Simon once said that it upset him that audiences thought Garfunkel had written his masterpiece, the song Bridge Over Troubled Water – because Garfunkel sang it as a solo, with piano accompaniment. “I saw that quote, too. But how many songs did I sing upfront and have a real tour de force of vocal? Does he resent that I had that one? I find that ungenerous.”
He’s a hard man to get the measure of, Art Garfunkel. On the one hand he still seems eaten up by bitterness about his divorce from Paul Simon, yet he also talks about his old friend (they were at school together) with deep affection. He can seem vainglorious, too, referring to his own “beautiful” voice and being a “helluva singer”, but egomania is not incompatible with self-doubt, or misanthropy. 
Actually, another question strikes me. I speculate about whether Paul Simon might have a Napoleon complex. Is there a height thing there, between them? “I think you’re on to something. I would say so, yes.” He adds that at school he felt sorry for Paul because of his height, and he offered him love and friendship as a compensation. “And that compensation gesture has created a monster. End of interview.”