Thursday, December 21, 2006

PRO-File Jack Bludis; Fred Blosser; Ed Lynskey

Jack Bludis has published more than 40 novels and over 400 short stories in several genres using various pseudonyms. His latest novel, Shadow of the Dahlia is set in the Hollywood during the time of the infamous "Black Dahlia" murder. It received a Shamus nomination. His story “Munchies” was nominated for both a Shamus and an Anthony. Jack has lived in Baltimore most of his life but travels often, particularly to NYC and Southern California.

Tell us about your current novel?
It’s a police procedural about a religious
crime—absolutely NOT child abuse, too much of that going
around. I wrote it about NYC about 20 years ago, when I
didn’t know what I was doing. I have taken the basic story
and I am rewriting it set in a small, Western Maryland
City. I’ve taken longer on this than and two or three other
books combined, but it is a lot longer—about 500 ms pages.
It has substantial changes from the original.

Can you give us a sense of what you're working on now?
Working on the above novel. I generally only write stories when
someone specifically requests one or I really, really want
to be in something. 3500 word stories take me longer than
most novellas and even longer than 6,000 word stories.

What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?
The first two--Getting nominated for the Shamus for my
story “Munchies” one year and my novel *Shadow of the
Dahlia* the following year.
But I think the biggest thrill, not pleasure, was when I
was completely surprised that I was nominated for an
Anthony for “Munchies.” It was one of those moments when I
looked at the e-mail several times before it sunk in. In
truth, I was hoping for the Shamus nom, never dreamed I’d
get an Anthony nomination.

The greatest DIS-pleasure?
On the book I’m working on now. Years ago, I was called
from the shower on a Sunday morning by an agent who said I
“had a best seller.” A week later I received a letter
telling me he wasn’t going to handle it. That is

If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world,
what is it?

Take a lesson from Harlequin and Charles Ardai. Set lines
for various types of books. Harlequin covers just about
every female taste with different lines. Charles Ardai at
*Hard Case Crime* appeals to the noir readers among us. One
of the biggies, St. Martins, e.g. should have a line for
PIs, another for Police Procedural, another for noir,
another for Amateur Detectives and even a one for
Crime-solving Cats. Let the reader know what she or he is
getting not just by cover art, but by naming the subgenre.

Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd
like to see in print again?

I think *Hard Case Crime* is taking care of that end of the
hardboiled and noir readers. I don’t, and haven’t read much
in other lines, but one of my all-time favorite books is
*The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh,
Prop.*, a long title, by Robert Coover.

Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never
forget that moment.

I learned of my first novel sale and my first short-story
sale on the same day. The Story had already been published
without a by-line and I had to search for a story that
still had the previous months copy. Three months later I
received a checks for $50 for the story. They paid my
advance for the novel almost immediately. In those days,
1970s, they were not so quick to get mags and books

A lesson for other writers: when the publisher of the book
and two others of mine went under, my fourth book came back
with a rejection saying: “We’d love to publish this, but we
need a cleaner manuscript.” I worked hard, sent it back and
sold it.

It’s a pleasure answering these questions. It brings back
the good thoughts, and the bad things don’t seem so

Jack Bludis
*Shadow of the Dahlia* available at

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx From Fred Blosser

Ed, I was looking at a couple of past blogs and felt compelled to add further to the discussions, despite the time lag between then and now. If this email were a carton of milk, it would probably be past its "use by" date. But if things are otherwise slow and you think the comments are worth considering, here they are:

JOHN FORD (posted Nov. 26-27):

I find it difficult to take Ford's extremes -- the sentimentality on one hand and the rowdy slapstick on the other. Even in the '30s and '40s, they probably drew snickers and groans from some sections of the movie theater. But even in regard to the sentimentality -- when Ford doesn't try to push it, and lets a scene carry its own weight, he's hard to beat. Example: the scene in YOUNG MR. LINCOLN in which Lincoln talks to Ann Rutledge, clearly in love with her and she clearly receptive to his attention, in youthful, awkward ways, and the best the abashed Lincoln can say to express his love: "You have purty hair, Ann. I always did like red hair." Then cut to a montage of seasons, and Lincoln trudging through snow to lay flowers on her grave. Never fails to choke me up. Ford had the genius of letting character speak through a few well-chosen words, a facial expression, a way of standing, a certain placement against the backdrop. In contrast, today's Westerns want to talk the viewer to death -- maybe one reason why so few of them do well at the box office, let alone get made anymore. I don't think the ending of THE SEARCHERS is necessarily untrue to history or to the protagonist's character as it was developed in the movie. And at any rate, I can't conceive that THE SEARCHERS would have been any stronger or more satisfying dramatically had Ethan dusted Debbie at the end, or tried to, as in the original novel. Wayne's most jingoistic roles weren't those in the Ford movies, they were the ones in the later movies that Wayne produced and had written for him, first by his pet screenwriter, James Edward Grant, and then by others after Grant died..


I also think highly of Mr. Breen's talents and insights as a critic, and have for many years. But one of his tenets in the comments on CASINO ROYALE is open to question: " James Bond, certainly in the movies and maybe in Ian Fleming’s novels as well, is a larger-than-life comic-book sort of figure who is not meant to be taken too seriously." The scriptwriters for CASINO ROYALE followed the structure, mood, and downbeat ending of Fleming's novel -- his first -- fairly closely. After Vesper commits suicide (overdose of sleeping pills, which the movie amped up to a big blow-'em-up set piece), Fleming says of Bond, "His eyes were wet, and he dried them." In Fleming's novels, Bond is pretty consistently a morose figure whom Fleming, at least, seemed to want readers to take seriously. The movies added the insouciance to the character, beginning with FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. (Connery's freshman Bond in DR. NO was pretty much the usual Brit attempt in the late '50s and early '60s U.K. thrillers to imitate American tough-guy.) Some observers seem to want Roger Moore to take the fall for adding a cartoonish tone to the series, but it actually began in the Connery era, and I don't see much of a shift in tone from Connery's final Bond for Eon Productions, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, to Moore's Bond in LIVE AND LET DIE. In addition to the sole Lazenby outing that Jon mentioned, Eon also tried sporadically to rein in some of the cartoonish excesses and add some dramatic heft to Bond in FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, in the two Timothy Dalton vehicles, and in the Pierce Brosnan films, especially GOLDENEYE But clearly, conditioned by 40 years of splashy stunts, outsized special effects, and sillly double-entendres, the public pays $10 a ticket for a Bond movie to see action, not drama. And so, the somewhat uneasy fit in CASINO ROYALE between bang-bang and sob-sob, made especially uneasy because Vesper's demise in the movie is crammed into one of those big show-piece scenes of everything getting blown to hell.

INFLUENCE OF GOLD MEDAL BOOKS (article posted Nov. 16; observations by you, Mr. Wheeler, and me posted Nov. 17):

Although I don't have any particular expertise on Gold Medal, I've read enough GM product and enough about the line that I didn't find much in the essay that I didn't already know. Regardless, "the unwashed" was an unfortunately snide choice of phrase, especially since any number of real experts could blow me out of the water with their knowledge. Fact of the matter is, it never hurts to remind people how great the GM line was, especially those under 40 who never knew the glory days. I'll cede the discussion about Elmore Leonard to your good points about VALDEZ IS COMING and THE BIG BOUNCE, and anyway, the article simply said that Leonard was published by GM, a factual statement. I may have misinterpreted the author's intent in saying "what if you could trace ... Sam Peckinpah ... back to [GM]," but I inferred the reference to mean that Peckinpah's own artistry, or public interest in his artistry, could be associated directly with GM. I think that's overstating the case, in the absence of any reference to Peckinpah being a GM fan in anything I've ever read about him. THE DEADLY COMPANIONS was based on a GM novel by A.S. Fleishman, and THE GETAWAY was based on the Jim Thompson novel (from Lion, not GM, if I remember correctly), but both properties were brought to Peckinpah by others, according to the biographies. If instead meant that Peckinpah's vision and the GM vision reflected a similar world-view of post-WWII cynicism and disillusionment, I'll go along with that. But in context, it appears to me that the essayist was a little carried away by enthusiasm. Aren't we all sometimes.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx From Ed Lynskey

Hi Ed,

The above in your December 11th blog re: Len Zinberg (a.k.a. Ed
Lacy) caught my eye. As usual, I'm behind in my posts. Anyway,
I hadn't read this L.Z. story. I'm racking my brain, trying to
recall if I read any such themes emerge in his other stuff. I
remember he wrote a series of "GI-returns-home" vignettes for
THE NEW YORKER right after WW II. Maybe in those pieces. (Now,
Bart Spicer was damn homophobic in his novel, ACT OF ANGER.
Those views later moderated a bit.) L.Z. is an interesting
writer. Thanks for the heads up -- I'll look for this

1 comment:

I. Michael Koontz said...

Ed: More on Bond from a film nut.

The downhill slide for Bond came with YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, the first of the really ridiculous films with supervillains on an island, rockets, submarines, etc.

It worsened with DIAMONDS, which nowadays is barely watchable. And I'm mean barely watchable, even though Jill St. John is continually about to spill out of her cocktail dress.

And then there's a blip of competence when they made ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, which turned out to be a TERRIFIC little Bond film. He seems to be a real, feeling, emotionally complex character, complete with fears and weaknesses. It's my second favorite after FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. I wonder what would have happened if Lazenby had stuck with it a bit longer?

But basically after DIAMONDS, it was straight to the trash-bin for Bond. No nuance or layering to the man; just throw-away lines, supervillains on remote islands, females with suggestive names, and car chases, space chases, and idiotic plots to rule the world.

The books began their roots in Fleming's actual experiences with MI6 (trumped-up to excite the masses) but all that is lost now. CASINO ROYALE is a huge step in the right direction, but I think the big question one should ask when seeing a Bond film is this one:

Would it still work if the character's name was Bill Smith? Or Mike Johnson?

Or look at it this way: which generates more suspense, a desperate man driving a Lamborghini in a car chase, or the same man driving an old VW?

Bigger isn't always better. And it's usually not as clever, either.

My dream has always been to see a modestely-budgeted Bond film set back in the fifties, when there was SMERSH, the Cold War, and a divided Europe, all wrapped in a reasonably true to life espionage-action package. Have David Mamet write it. Have Scorcese direct it. Have Daniel Craig star in it.

Well, I ain't holding my breath on that one. Perhaps THE GOOD SHEPHERD will have to suffice for now.