Tuesday, July 31, 2007

No recommendations before their time

I'm going broke from reading recommendations.

First James Reasoner recommends a Longarm that read like a Three Mesquiteers, an oater series that all small-town kids my age are familiar with. I haven't read a Longarm in twenty years but that made me curious so I ordered it.

Then I read a review of Christopher Golden's new book and being a big Golden fan I ordered it.

Then I read through Entertainment Weekly and their pick of the week is a debut novel that is a comic riff on the 50s formula of Lesbians in Big Business and they also exulted over a new noir DVD that contains several interesting films so I ordered them both.

This after dropping considerable coin at Half Price where I found, among too many other things, a very nifty collection of Clifford Odets plays as well as a collection of Robert Bechley essays and a collected stories of Katherine Anne Porter.

Tomorrow I'll review the new collecton of Ross Macdonald stories published by Crippen & Landru with a long and fine introduction by Tom Nolan.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bob Randisi; Tom Snyder

I can't remember who said (paraphrase) that life is what happens while you're making other plans but Bob Randisi has cleverly made a thought much like that relevant to mid-listers:

"I'd often thought over the years that I was writing something I didn't want to write because my more serious career had not been successful, until I realized . . . this IS my career." RJR


Tom Snyder, R.I.P.

He was everything and all things--witty, wise, stupid, inane, pompous, gracious, boorish, coy, even boring--but Tom Snyder was nearly always great TV. Sometimes he was all those things on the same sixty minute show.

Any number of times he hit on pretty female guests; and any number of times he sounded like a parish priest when he criticised young men for their sinful ways. He was, to use the phrase Norman Mailer applied to Jack Kerouac, sentimental as a lollipop but like Kerouac he had that great big sloppy American heart pounding away at all times. And a kind heart it was, too.

One of the traumas of the Seventies was when the local station delayed running Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman so that it ran against Snyder. I alternated nights until Hartman was put back against Carson.

He wasn't mean, he wasn't angry, he was just a modestly self-involved man who had a great time being a TV interviewer. And his pleasure was catching. He was almost always fun to watch.

About all we're left with now are those dead-on Dan Akroyd lampoons of him. As I recall, Snyder invited Ackroyd on and they laughed together over a couple of the lampoon segments they played that night.

How innocent he looks twenty-five, thirty years later. All too soon came the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Charles Grant

I didn't know Charlie Grant well. He wrote a number of columns for Mystery Scene and we did some business on a few other matters and that was about it. I always had the feeling that he didn't quite approve of me or my stuff. And amazingly, for somebody as occasionally over-sensitive if not paranoid as I am, I didn't really care. And I can't even tell you why. I just don't know.

Grant had one of those careers that, at least from the outside, was frustrating. He was cerainly one of the best horror writers of my generation. I don't know how good he was at the horror tropes because that isn't why I usually read read horror but I do know that he had a true and abundant sense of troubled people like me and, I suspect, himself. His best work was indelibly touched with a sense of working class and middle-class tragedy. Serious and nuanced writing.

The problem seemed, to me anyway, that the early novels that publishers tried to break out weren't his best or at least most representative work. And that true his blockbusters somehow didn't seem to them right for the big push. In A Dark Dream and For Fear of The Night came relatively late in his career, for example, but they're so well-observed, so taut and emotionally brutal as horrorific-suspense that can they bruise you for life.

This isn't to say that he didn't so superilative work from the very start of his career. But as the years passed, and this happens to many of us mid-listers, he had to do work he might not have wanted to if his more serious career had been more successful. Throughout his time he edited the excellent Shadows series of grown-up horror stories.

I'll tell you, see if your local library has a collection (it's been reprinted many times) of a Grant story called "If Damon Comes." I read it last night and it won't let go of me. Except for a few stories by Richard Yates and Stephen King's The Shining, I've never read a more crushing story about a selfish and guilty father. Nor a story about the husband-wife issues particular to my generation. Grant was a hell of a good writer.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Clues Summer 2007

A while back I wrote a piece about Charlotte Armstrong, pointing out that her best books and stories are notable for their skill at finding the sinister in the everyday.

In a fine piece called "The Mean Streets of The Suburbs, The Kindness of Strangers--A Tribute to Charlotte Armstrong" Jan Burke does all of us the service of making the case that Armstrong is well worth reading. I like the phrase Burke uses to describe Armstrong's work--"suburban noir."

There is great dark menace in much of Armstrong's work. Burke takes the time to make a list of story hooks that demonstrates just how true this is. But at the same time, as with Dolores Hitchens, Margaret Millar and Elizabeth Sanxay Holding, in Armstrong you get a sense of real lives being lead in a realistic fashion making the menace, for me anyway, all that more menacing.

I suppose that's why Ross Macdonald is my favorite private eye writer. The more Lew Archer becomes (the two usual put-downs) a camera or a tape recorder the more the reader is allowed to view the lives he's dealing with. His wasn't an enormous canvas (a very narrow take on an element of California society) but it was certainly a brilliant one.

My favorite Armstrong is a short novel called Mischief which made a fair to middling good movie with Richard Widmark and a young Marilyn Monroe. The book is worth looking up for sure and the movie is worth seeing.

I hope Jan Burke's piece convinces a small publisher to begin reissuing some of Armstong's books. They need to be read.


The Burke piece is contained in the Summer 2007 issue of Clues and it's an exceptional issue. Chesterton, Allingham, Christie are studied from new angles as are the subjects of some current historical mysteries. There's also a remarkable piece on a 1902 story/article that confronted the scandal of prison life .

Even by Managing Editor Elizabeth Foxwells high standards, this is an enjoyable and memorable issue.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Don D'Ammassa

Ed here: Most of us mid-listers look for the break, large or even middling, that will bring us a substantial number of new readers. Not necessarily the Big Break itself but the a slot near the top of the genre bestseller list. There are number of good sites that offer excellent advice on the subject of writing and promotion, everybody from M.J. Rose to Doug Clegg to Holly Lisle and Paperback Writer (which you can link to from my site).

Don D'Ammassa http://www.dondammassa.com/index.htm is both a very good writer of fiction and an excellent reviewer of it. His books can be found on shelves as various as mystery, science fiction and fantasy. In one of his recent reviews of the latter, he opened with a paragraph that I think speaks to fiction writers of all kinds in this cluttered and sometimes dismaying marketplace. I think he speaks to most of us.

Don D'Ammassa:

In most cases, the difference between a "ho-hum" and an "ah-hah!" in fantasy fiction boils down to whether or not the author has found a new schtick. The vast majority of fantasy novels - and the same holds true of other genres as well - are reasonably well written, competently plotted, and potentially entertaining. But if you read a lot in any one field, there is a tendency for that big glut of books in the middle of the spectrum to get blurred together, and if you read enough of them, they start to feel stale and unsatisfying. That's not really the fault of the authors, and since the turnover of readers is presumably self sustaining, there will always be some component of the audience that won't be as jaded. On the other hand, for those of us who read quite a bit, what really sticks in our memories alongside the really great few are those from that fall just behind, but which exhibit something new or interesting.

Ed here: I think this raises a question most of us need to ask ourselves each time we're planning a new novel. Even raising the issue will likely make some writers uncomfortable but whether we like it or not editors in houses large or small are certainly raising it when they look at each submitted mansuscript.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Voice in fiction

Both Nancy Pickard and Patti Abbott recently talked about voice in fiction on their blogs. A Robert B. Parker paragraph is generally easy to spot as is one by Raymond Carver. Strong clear voices.

A few reviewers have said that I have "a" voice but I don't think so. I think I instinctively adapt my style and choice of words to the story at hand. A few months back I went through the galleys of two volumes of my Collected Stories and if there's "a" voice there I must have missed it. I don't know if not having "a" voice is good or bad but the fact is that I can't do much about it. I hate precious mannered self-conscious writing that strains for voice and effect and that's the only way I could ever get a singular literary voice.

Patti also spoke about how reading certain writers while you're working on your own stuff can be disastrous. I agree. There are people I stay away from when I'm really going at it. Raymond Chandler's style rubs off on me instantly as does anything by William Faulkner, Derek Raymond, Elmore Leonard to name just three of a hundred.

On the other hand I keep certain writers on a shelf above my desk. When I'm stuck on any spect of the page in front of me, I pull down a particular book and read a dozen or so pages. Sometimes I'm looking for guidance on how to get into or out of a scene and Ed McBain is always helpful; sometimes my words have started to sprawl and I need help with both precision and concision and Margaret Millar never fails me; and for atmosphere there's Woolrich, Matheson, Koontz, King and a fantastic horror novel called Kane by Doug Borton--to name just five of several hundred.

I know there are fiction writers who don't read fiction because they're bored with it and/or they're afraid they'll be too influenced by somebody else's stories. Fair enough. But not for me. Reading has always been an inextricable part of writing for me.

All of this plays into voice, of course. If you believe as I do, that voice is there to serve the story rather than the other way around. Not everybody seems to agree with that.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

SAVAGES by Bill Pronzini

F. Paul Wilson once noted that private eye fiction offers the reader a snapshot of a certain time and place. We read Raymond Chandler not only for his fine prose but also for his portraits of Hollywood in the Thirties and Forties. Ross Macdonald showed us a very different Los Angeles due to the differences in time and temperment. And if you want to know what it was like on the angry lower-class streets of Depression Hollywoodland, you could do worse than read a lesser writer named John K. Butler, whose hardboiled cab driver functioned as a private eye without a license.

Today the definitive take on San Francisco and environs are the Nameless novels and stories by Bill Pronzini. The influence here, if there is a singuar one, would be Hammett and not Chandler. Nameless is working class, competent and only occasionally up for doing the kind of favors that the more romantic Marlowe did so often. Nameless, like the Contintental Op, is a professional not a dashing knight.

A few decades from now the Nameless books will give readers a fascinating look at the past thirty-forty years of life in San Francisco. The social upheavels, the econmically and culturally stratified society, the endless experiments in modern living.

And you can find all this and much more in the latest Nameless novel SAVAGES. Pronzini tells three stories here. He goes back to work for a wealthy client he never much liked only after she convinces him that there's at least a possibility that her sister was murdered by her husband, a man Nameless couldn't turn anything sinister about when he first investigated him. Nameless not only comes to suspect the husband but several other people who were in the life of the dead woman. He draws these characters with clear and deserved contempt.

The second story deals with an arsonist pursued by Jake Runyon, the partner in Nameless' agency. The trail leads him to a small town where the feel is that of a western town of a hundred years ago. Pronzini, writer of many fine westerns, seems especially at home here with the good lawman and the bad lawman and the townspeople eager to get stampeded into believing any piece of gossip they hear. Interesting that he mixes this sensibility with that of young people into drugs, violence and MTV ennui.

The third story concerns Nameless' woman Kerry and the aftermath of her surgery for breast cancer. She's been pronounced all right but nobody who's had cancer ever quite believes that. Pronzini is especially adept at dealing realistically and unsentimentally with the subject.

Thus we encounter three kinds of savages here--those of the city elite--those of rural blue collar life--and those of the human body, the cancer cells that destroy without fear or favor.

Another excellent entry in one of the most consistently excellent series of the past forty years.

Forge $24.95

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Carl Franklin; Capital Punishment

By Jeremy Smith Copyright 2007 CHUD website
Contributing sources: Variety

It's been four years since Carl Franklin directed his last feature, the above-average thriller Out of Time (worth watching for its crackerjack second act alone). Though toplined by Denzel Washington, the film limped to a $40 million domestic gross, i.e. $10 million short of the production budget. Factor in tepid foreign box office, and it's safe to say Out of Time lost money for a studio (MGM) that could not afford to lose money. So if you want to know why a skilled director like Carl Franklin hasn't called the shots on a studio gig for a while, this plus the overall crappiness of 2002's High Crimes (an exceedingly lame entry in the Ashley Judd-Morgan Freeman co-starrin'-but-not-miscegenatin' genre) should explain everything.

for the rest go here http://www.chud.com/index.php?type=news&id=11165

Ed here: This leads into a couple of pargraphs about the work Franklin has just picked up, a film with Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry. I'm happy for Franklin but sad because the project doesn't sound nearly as good as Devil in A Blue Dress or, more importantly, One False Move.

I say this every chance I get: One False Move is one of the few films I've ever seen that presents crime as it really plays out in our society. I think it is a work of genius and I think it is a far far better film than all the tricked-up neo noirs that get such play and praise in the press. Selfishly, I wish nothing but the best for Carl Franklin and hope he can shock and stun us once again.

Sometimes I want to change my mind about being against capital punishment and kill the bastards myself

Boxer is shot after asking drinkers not to smoke
24.07.07 copyright 2007 this is London on-line

James Oyebola: shot after he asked three men to stop smoking

A former heavyweight boxing champion was shot after asking three men to stop smoking in a wine bar.
James Oyebola, 47, was having a drink in the garden area of the venue when a dispute erupted over the new smoking ban.
One of the men pulled out a gun and fired at point-blank range into his face and leg.

Mr Oyebola, a father of two, was critically ill last night on a life support machine. His partner of 15 years and their children are keeping a vigil at his bedside.

The 6ft 9in ex-boxer, known as Big Bad, had been working as a bouncer at the door of another club and had dropped in at Chateau 6 in Fulham, South-West London, for a drink with the owner, who was a friend.

Witnesses said Nigerian-born Mr Oyebola had politely stepped in to help staff who had asked the three men to observe the smoking ban. One said: 'He wasn't being aggressive. He pointed out that smoking was now against the law.
'He was just being a good citizen but the three saw it as a sign of disrespect. On their way out one pulled a gun and started firing at James.'

Monday, July 23, 2007

711 Ocean Drive

Ed here: Turner Classic Movies now lists thei forthcoming cult films. This is a heads-up for one of my favorite minor noirs. Nobody played desperate better than Edmond O'Brien and in this movie he's got plenty to be desperate about. Make a note of the date and time. You'll have some fun.

Saturday, September 8,2007 8:00 AM
711 Ocean Drive
Synopsis: Mal Granger is a telephone company lineman with a penchant for gambling. When Granger’s bookie, Chippie Evans, talks him into working for Vince Walters’ racing wire service, his experience with electronics makes him a valuable asset. Not only does Granger like the increased cash flow, he immediately eyes Walters’ assistant Trudy. Walters’ sudden death at the hands of a bookie leaves Granger in charge of the wire service, only to attract the attention of the mob. Granger soon finds himself caught in a murderous web with a ruthless gangster and his attractive wife.

Despite a heavy-handed framing device, 711 Ocean Drive (1950) remains a better-than-average example of the Fifties crime film due to an effectively staged climax on Hoover Dam and an especially strong lead performance by Edmond O’Brien. Usually considered a character actor, O’Brien (1915-1985) stood out in supporting roles for such films as 1954’s The Barefoot Contessa (for which he won an Oscar®), Seven Days in May (1964) and, most memorably of all, The Wild Bunch (1969). While perhaps not as well known as his lead role in the cult noir favorite D.O.A. (1949), O’Brien’s performance here as Mal Granger is, if anything, even stronger. The likeably gruff working-class persona he establishes at the beginning of the film makes his transformation into a mobster--and murderer--credible and involving.

for the rest go here http://www.tcm.com/thismonth/article/?cid=160931

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Ed here: I have fond memories of the old NBC Sunday Night Movies. My favorite was Dennis Weaver as McLoud. The site of him racing up Broadway on a horse ready to leap aboard a fast-moving stagecoach--not even Roy or Gene had ever done anything like that. Columbo I liked sparingly and McMillan and Wife I liked only when Nancy Walker was featured. Banacek was never a favorite but I did enjoy the locked-room mystery format. Come to think aboutit, most of my fond memories of the revolving series center on McLoud.

From the New York Times this morng:

A Slick Sleuth From the ’70s Is Back, on a Budget
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

GEORGE PEPPARD — a dashingly handsome leading man who never quite became a big-screen megastar despite his memorable turn as Audrey Hepburn’s love interest in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” — has this distinction: He had the best haircut of any TV sleuth ever.

But “Banacek,” the 1972-74 series that brought him (and his haircut) to prime time a decade before “The A-Team” enshrined him in pop culture infamy, never really got the respect it deserved. The glory went to “Columbo,” “McCloud” and “McMillan & Wife,” the three detective dramas that beginning in 1971 rotated under the umbrella title “The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie.”

“Banacek,” about a vintage-Packard-driving, panatela-smoking insurance investigator from ritzy Beacon Hill in Boston, was part of the network’s attempt the following year at a second whodunit anthology, on Wednesday nights. To say the midweek offerings never duplicated the success of the originals is an understatement. (Even I don’t remember Richard Widmark in “Madigan” or James Farentino in “Cool Million,” and I live for this kind of middlebrow 1970s television.) Now that the first season of “Banacek” has come to DVD, it’s time to render unto that Caesar haircut what is due that Caesar haircut. While not classic television, “Banacek” is modish fun that holds up 35 years later.

for the rest go here http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/22/arts/television/22deca.html

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Dorothy Parker+

One reason I check out ComicMix twice a day is because you never know what'll turn up there. Here's a fine Martha Thomases piece on Dorothy Parker:

Brilliant Disguise #14

Dorothy Parker was a poet, short story writer and critic for The New Yorker in its heyday. When I was first writing, I wanted to be Dorothy Parker. Well, actually, I wanted to be Nora Ephron, who wrote a column in Esquire at the time, and who said that she had once wanted to be Dorothy Parker.


Mostly, however, she was celebrated for being the only woman at the Algonquin Round Table. In a group that included Robert Benchley, Harold Ross, George S. Kaufman, Harpo Marx, Alexander Woollcott and others, Parker was the only woman considered witty enough to be a regular (although Edna Ferber and Jane Grant, Ross’ wife, sat in occasionally).

It was an attractive fantasy for an unpopular girl in boarding school. I was not a person who got to sit at a table with boys. The only males who listened to me were my teachers, who were paid for it. Naturally, I looked for a way to be sought after, instead of merely tolerated. I spent the next twenty years writing, trying to earn my place at the table. If only I had known that the easiest thing to do was to work for a comic book publisher.

For the rest go here http://www.comicmix.com/news/2007/07/21/martha-thomases-dorothy-parker/

Friday, July 20, 2007

Ray Bradbury; Alan Guthrie

Ray Bradbury has done something rare among writers. He worked on the same manuscript--on and off--for more than fifty years. It was worth the wait.

Somewhere A Band is Playing is an evocative, luminous story of reporter James Cardiff's discovery of a place called Summerton and one of its most beautiful residents, the elegant and lovely Nefertiti. Never mind that the town is not listed on any map,nor that the place didn't have any children. Cardiff suspects even stranger truths and senses that Neff can, if she chooses, reveal them to him.

The story is riveting and the writing some of Bradbury's best. Accompanying the short novel are fragments of the book that Bradbury never finished and the start of script scrapped later, giving us a fascinating look at the process of creating fiction. William F. Nolan contributes a knowing and helpful introduction.

This is among Bradbury's best work. Gauntlet Press should be congratulated for bringing it out. And Ray Brabdury should be thanked for writing it.


Allan Guthrie's Hard Man is actually a couple of books, both of them excellent. There's the storyline with Pearce, the Guthrie man we've met before, avenging the murder of his dog in a serio-comic (and occasionaly black comic) pursuit of a lunatic named Wallace. And then there's Edinburugh, the city where it's set, itself.

The violence of the story plays well against the violence of the city, which Guthrie manages to make seem much smaller than does Ian Rankin. This is because Guthrie and his multiple cast of characters all inhabit a very small psychological (if not physical) section of the city. If Rankin's cop is looking for something resembling truth, Guthrie's characters are looking for nothing more than satisfying the immediate needs of their rather amusingly diseased minds. Jim Thompson with the heebie-jeebies.

This is a quick, compelling novel that proves that Guthrie is as restless as his characters. I don't think he's a writer who'll settle for doing the same book over and over. This is a calculated and successful departure from his first two books. Interesting to speculate on what he'll do next. Harcourt/Otto Penzler

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Having Wonderful Crime

I'm about halfway through Craig Rice's 1944 novel Having Wonderful Crime. Rice is, of course, the grand dame of mystery mixed with screwball comedy. I hadn't read the novel in thirty years so I came to it fresh. And I was surprised.

Yes, it's larky in its plotting, and usually smart-ass in its dialogue but there are moments that are serious and amazing.

As an alcoholic, I became all too familiar with blackouts and hangovers that kept me in bed for two and three days. Rice opens the book with a long scene involving a man who lacks the strength to get out of bed. He is beseiged by the furies and terrified of what he might have done. This is one of the most powerful morning-after scenes I've ever read. I think most alcoholics would agree with me.

Then there's part of a scene in which Rice (using interior monologue) assess a room full of glamorous people and their worth on the glitz scale. Her observations are worthy of Tom Wolfe at his best and nastiest.

This book makes a good case for what we call today the traditional mystery. It's a pleasure to read as pure entertainment but there's a also a wicked social voice relating the reality of this particular time and this particular strata of society. Despite her reputation, I don't think she's hardboiled. At least not in this book. She's just a very good storyeller reporting back from the eyries of the wealthy and privileged. And laughing up her silk sleeve.

Monday, July 16, 2007

(repeat) Popcorn Novels

Friday, January 13, 2006

"Popcorn books" is Bill Crider's apt description of books that are fun if you're in the right mood for plot stories that are entertaining to read despite all their failings. I hope I'm doing service to Bill's phrase anyway.

I used to read Stuart Woods until one of his Stone Barrington novels had a scene (from memory so don't hold me to exactitude here) where at something like midnight he decides he needs an armor plated Mercedes Benz. He's in Manhattan. Somehow he contacts the dealer and, assuring the man that price is no object, says he needs it the very next day. The dealer is in a tizzy. Who stocks armor plated Benzs? Stone leans hard and the guy has one flown in from somewhere. Now I don't mind larger than life every so often but man an armored plated Benz in a few hours? Uh-huh. And the fact that STONE BARRINGTON (how's that for a soap opera name?) needs one in the US of A...where he's going? Newark?

A slight jag here. Whenever I'm facing a day of medical tests, I usually take a popcorn novel with me. Last week I stopped at the library before hitting the oncology building and just grabbed a large print book quickly and took off with it. James Patterson and Howard Roughan's Honeymoon. I hadn't tried a Patterson in a long time, not since he had some dude living in an air conditioning duct directly above a teenage girl's bed for many many nights..and she didn't hear him. Right.

Honeymoon surprised me. This is larger than life I can accept. It's all impossibly plotty of course--I'd hate to have to outline this baby--and some of it seems (but maybe not) influened by from the Debra Winger-Theresa Winger movie (which I really liked) Black Widow and there's more sex in the first hundred pages than most people have in ten years and just about everybody's rich and beautiful and trendy...

But there's bad bad and good bad and this is excellent good bad. I flew through it because if you accept the premise then it offers real suspense. And the extensive dialogue scenes read like reasonably good TV dialogue, something ole Stone Barrington never quite mastered. But mostly it's the suspense I liked and the killer, the beautiful Nora who in places is ALMOST a real human being, and the Sidney Sheldonesque world they all live in... It's sort of fun to inhabit such a glitzy world when you live in a place that's surronded by cows.

What can I tell ya? I have to take back at least a few of the derogatory things I've said about Mr. Patterson over the years. Either his standards have gone up or mine have gone down (most likely the later). Or maybe it's this Roughan guy. Maybe he took the Patterson formula and gave it a little more style and humanity.

Whatever, this is a just about perfect popcorn novel.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dry September

As some of you know, I've edited a number of crime story anthologies over the years, usually with Marty Greenberg. I grew up reading anthologies. It was a sure way to discover writers new to me, writers whose work was worth pursuing. The great thrill was to come across one of those little masterpieces that that had an almost religious impact on my mind.

One of the problems with editing genre anthologies is that the money is seldom sufficient to buy reprint rights to literary stories. If I had the money, my ideal anthology would be balanced between crime story writers and literary writers including John O'Hara, Dorothy Parker, F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner.

Faulkner in particular There's a story of his called Dry September that is the single most terrifying piece about a lynching short of Richard Wright. All the more terrifying because it is from the white point of view with only a single white objecting to it. You look at the kilers and realize that you are watching a species of sub-humans. It is also, at the same time, a portrait of a small Southern town and a very particular Southern spinster that reminds me of Shirley Jackson.

The language is as evocative and dazzling as any in Light in August or in any of his best novels. It is so dense emotionally that it has the power of a mini-novel.

Well worth the trouble of looking it up.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Cage of Night

Back in the 90s I wrote a novel called Cage of Night. I liked it but many many publishers didn't share my enthusiasm. The complaint was that they couldn't figure out if it was a crime novel or horror fantasy. How do you market it? The publisher that finally took it on decided to experiment with their returns policy. I'm told, though I don't know this for a fact, that when they told the chains no returns, the book was still born. I do know that I received three large boxes of paperback copies from their warehouses. I'm assuming that a number of other boxes of them were also stuck in the warehouse. Again all this is second and third hand so I can't swear to it.

The other day while looking for a different box of books I came across twenty copies of Cage of Night. If you'd like a copy please send me $11. I'll sign it, inscribe it, whatever. All four of my readers, in their more sober moments, have expressed great entusiasm for this book--and who am I to argue?

Here are a couple of reviews:

C.S. Thomspon on Allan Guthrie's Noir Originals Website

"A different type of noir horror tale can be found in Ed Gorman’s Cage of Night, which manages to be genuinely chilling even though the horror is essentially an illusion. In this story there is no detective or urban setting, only a young man named Nick Morrow and a very memorable femme fatale named Cindy Brasher. Nick is rather naively in love with Cindy, who believes that an old well in the forest contains a trapped alien visitor. Nick is convinced that Cindy just needs to be rescued, even while the murders around Cindy keep piling up. It’s unclear whether or not there really is an alien outside of Cindy’s mind, but the demonic combination of the well and her charms is still fatal.

"The small-town setting is reminiscent of Jim Thompson, but many of Thompson’s narrators are hitmen, sociopaths or con-artists, viewing the small-town world through their own twisted mindset. Nick Morrow is basically a boy-scout, and the world he lives in is one of keg parties and high school crushes, which makes Cindy’s underlying eeriness even creepier by contrast. Nick’s innocent and likable personality is only pitiable in the world of noir, and in the end he is as morally compromised and trapped as any anti-hero."

Charles de Lint The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction:

"Ed Gorman has penned a riveting thriller...He presents his story in matter-of-fact prose that lends a harrowing element to the proceedings. There are no flashes of fantasy or whimsy here, only an ever-darkening spiral that draws Spence into a place where he stands to lose everything.

"Aliens or Shared Psychotic Disorder? In the end it doesn't matter because people are still dying, but the question and how Gorman's characters have to deal with it make for fascinating reading."

Ed Gorman
3601 Skylark Lane SE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52403

Friday, July 13, 2007

John Carpenter

Interesting discussion going on tonight on the Shocklines blog about the career of director John Carpenter. Doesn't matter what kind of fiction you write or direct, the pressure's the same. What happens when the creative moment you dread happens to YOU--you can't put together a book anybody's interested in or you publish book after book that shows how far you've drifted from your best work.

Carpenter is a sad example of this. Even if he's as hostile as some reports insist--and that may have some effect on how he's perceived these days--he did turn the psychological suspense genre upside down with Halloween. And, lest we forget, he did give us several other excelent movies, not least being The Thing.

So you wonder what could've happened to him. And you wonder if it could happen to you. Or if it's already happened to you and you just don't know it.

I remember Evan Hunter/Ed McBain noting in Mystery Scene a long time ago that he didn't like to talk much about the process of writing because it was this gift you were granted and it was best not to examine it too carefully. A lot of us who write fiction believe this, I think. Is my talent, small or large, a payday loan or do I own it lifelong? To quote Joanie Mitchell: "I've seen some hard hard places come down to smoke and ash."

Scan the past decade of bestselling fiction and you'll see a fair number of careers faded or vanished altogether. Any number of things could have caused these careers to falter, of course. Illness, age, bad agenting, fear of the machine.

But whatever it is it's the ghost that haunts a good number of us. You sit down at the machine and nothing happens. Or something comes out but it's not a good something.

Carpenter gets kicked around a lot these days. But let's be fair to him. He did some damned good work early on and maybe he's still got one or two good films left in him now.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Norman Patridge; Anthony Mann

I've seen the remark "Please do not understand me too quickly" attributed to so many different people I won't even try to attribute to anybody.

Howsomever: I got three more off-blog comments about my hypocrisy in writing violent books while putting them down.

A) Yes, I've written violent books and will undoubtedly write more. B) I LIKE many violent books/movie. C) What I don't like is violence for its own sake, the kind of showing off that seems popular these days. D) I don't hate Quentin Tarrentino's movies. In fact I think some of his work is extraordinary and important.

E) If you want to read one of the finest contemporary American writers, one who combines poetry with wry dark insight into our people and our times, one who can be as tough as the best of them, I'd recommend Norman Partridge. His sly dialogue alone moves him to the head of the class. I've probaby read his collection The Man With The Barbed Wire Fists three times over the years.

Here's a Wikipedia "stub" about him:

Norman Partridge is an American author of horror and mystery fiction. He has written two detective novels about retired boxer Jack Baddalach, Saguaro Riptide and The Ten Ounce Siesta. He is also the author of a Crow novel, The Crow: Wicked Prayer, which was adapted in 2005 into the fourth Crow movie, bearing the same name. His 2006 novel Dark Harvest, published by Cemetery Dance, was voted one of Publishers Weekly's 100 Best Books of 2006.

His short stories are collected in the volumes Mr. Fox and Other Feral Tales, Bad Intentions, and The Man with the Barbed Wire Fists.

He's a major writer and a lacerating storyteller. And yes, his tales are often violent.


Ed here:I've been looking through Cinema Retro and comking across some very nice pieces. He's Dean Brierly's take on The heroes of Telemark. The following are his opening general comments on Anthony Mann.http://www.cinemaretro.com/index.php

Our Man Brierly turns his sights on a couple of key films in the career of director Anthony Mann

Anthony Mann’s filmmaking career lasted nearly three decades, during each of which he mastered a different genre. He came to prominence in the forties with a string of film noirs (1948’s Raw Deal and 1949’s Border Incident but two among many) that rivaled Hitchcock’s for style, suspense and hard-boiled atmosphere. In the fifties, Mann applied his noir sensibility to a series of lean, hard-bitten Westerns starring James Stewart, Winchester ’73 (1950) foremost among them. As the sixties dawned, Mann proved himself one of Hollywood’s most adept directors of big screen blockbusters with the likes of El Cid (1961) and The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964). Linking such disparate films and genres was Mann’s trademark blend of narrative-driven visuals and keen psychological insight.

Although never regarded as an auteur during his lifetime, his films were popular at the box office and generally well received by critics, his last two features being notable exceptions. Both The Heroes of Telemark (1965) and A Dandy in Aspic (1968) have long been considered failures. The former is a war film about Norwegian resistance fighters; the latter one of the bleak spy thrillers common during the sixties. Intriguingly, Mann invests both films with a paranoid tone reminiscent of the nail-biting noirs he cut his teeth on during his first Hollywood decade. A close reading of the films also reveals their stylistic and thematic consistency with his previous, more celebrated work. Now that both are available as Region 2 DVDs, it’s time for a long-overdue reappraisal.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A few words about Phil Karlsonv

Ed here: We talk a lot about mid-list writers. But in the studio days of Hollywood there were also mid-list directors. Phil Karlson is one of the best examples. Yesterday the NY Times ran a piece on some new DVDs and I thought writer Dave Kehr wrote a interesting mini-piece on Karlson.

Published: July 10, 2007
copyright 2007 The New York Times

Digging into the murky depths of the United Artists film library, MGM Home Entertainment has come up with four significant films noirs, all independent productions released in the ’40s and ’50s.


“Kansas City Confidential,” an imaginative little noir from 1952, exemplifies the bread-and-butter UA film of the ’50s. a meeting point for the up-and-coming and the down-and-out. It was directed by Phil Karlson, a gifted filmmaker who had recently graduated from the Poverty Row studio Monogram, and starred John Payne, a popular crooner of the ’40s who was working his way down from Technicolor musicals at 20th Century Fox.

The producer, Edward Small, had been involved in independent features since the early ’30s, and “Kansas City Confidential” proved to be the one and only film made under his short-lived Associated Players and Producers label. Even he appeared to have forgotten it; at least he forgot to renew the copyright. The picture slipped into the public domain and has been available only in terrible prints through budget DVD distributors. But now MGM has returned to its original elements and produced a copy that is an immeasurable improvement over what had been available.

At the center is a standard wrong-man story: Mr. Payne plays Joe Rolfe, an ex-con with a job delivering flowers in the Kansas City business district. When a criminal gang robs a bank using a truck disguised to look like Joe’s, he’s arrested, beaten into confessing and then released when the phony truck surfaces. Joe needs revenge, and sets out to find the bad guys responsible.

Mr. Karlson, interestingly, concentrates on the story within the story: The leader of the gang is an embittered former police captain (Preston Foster, another ’30s star aging into character parts), who dons a mask when he interviews prospective collaborators whose names he has drawn from police files. His taste is impeccable. The recruits are three young actors who would come to define menace in the ’50s and beyond: Neville Brand, Jack Elam and Lee Van Cleef, who here has his best role before “For a Few Dollars More.”

Mr. Karlson’s filmmaking has few of the standard noir flourishes: the dark and brooding shadows, the bizarrely canted camera angles. Instead he works through gigantic close-ups and an unusually visceral treatment of bare-knuckle violence. With refinements, he would continue to pursue this theme (revenge) and this style, right up through his creative resurgence in the ’70s: “Ben” (1972), “Walking Tall” (1973) and “Framed” (1975).

(for the rest go here http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/10/movies/homevideo/10dvd.html?ref=movies)

Ed here: While Karlson never created any masterpieces as did his friend Joseph Lewis, he created a solid and occasionally exceptional body of work. He spent his life in films and had his biggest hits near the end of his run. By that time Lewis had put himself through the punishment of a decade and a half in television. But the punishment made him wealthy for the first time in his life and he always seemed grateful for the money if not the rather routine work.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ken Bruen; HELP

From Tom Piccirilli:
Hey Ed:

Got to hand it to the Craig Ferguson show. He's had on a number of writers, including Lawrence Block. Last night Ken Bruen was on promoting PRIEST and he kicked major ass. Cool, humorous, witty, and swift enough to keep up with Ferguson, who is one seriously hopped up guy. Bruen talked about a blurb he got from the Hell's Angels which was, of course, bleeped out. And there were times when he reverted to Irish lingo and Ferguson had to "translate" for him. Bruen mentioned, "Oh, you speak American!"

It's always great when somebody's actually out there promoting the damn fine writers.


On Galleycat today Sarah Wineman spoke with science fiction writer Walter Jon Williams about his theory that one thing you need to break out the midlist is--help.

"What has to happen, it seems to me, is that I need a certifiably famous person to say that I should be more famous and popular than I am. Elmore Leonard was a fairly obscure writer until George Will wrote an entire column about how good Elmore Leonard was. Then Leonard became famous, and book and movie deals descended like unto manna from heaven... Does anybody out there know a truly famous person who could be persuaded to tell everyone that I should be famous, too?"
The analogy isn't perfect—attention from Will and others thrust Leonard back into the spotlight in the mid-1980s, but he'd had some success with Hollywood in the late '50s and early '70s—but the basic principle is reasonably sound, as the contemporary example of Stephen King's enthusiasm for Ron McLarty and Meg Gardiner demonstrates. So far, Williams hasn't been able to get that kind of nod, although fellow science-fiction writer Lawrence M. Schoen did quip in the comments, "Among a subset of Trek and Klingon fans I have a small amount of name recognition. I know it's not much, but I routinely push your titles to the Klingon-speaking community and I'll happily continue to do so." Qapla' batlh je, sir!

Ed: While I'm in general agreement with Williams, I've been unable to play that 5000 word piece that Charles Manson wrote about my work. When even Hustler turns you down, there ain't much hope. And who's more famous than Charles Manson?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Excellent Matt Helm article

Ed here: Even though I'm no fan of Dean Martin or the Matt Hem movies, Mathhew Bradley, one of the best of all writers on popular cuture, manages to make both subjects a lot more interesting than they deserve to be in his long piece now availavble on Cinema Retro.

Matthew Bradley:

When JFK revealed his fondness for the James Bond books by Ian Fleming, and 007—ably embodied by Sean Connery—struck box-office gold with Dr. No (1962) and its sequels, the resultant “Bondmania” set off a spy craze manifested in everything from atmospheric adaptations of Len Deighton and John le CarrĂ© to tongue-in-cheek secret agents on screens small and large. Perhaps the most successful of the latter was Matt Helm, a singing and swinging spy played in four films for Columbia Pictures by Rat Pack member Dean Martin, who unlike Connery shared in the profits from the outset via his own company, Meadway-Claude Productions. The former partner of Bond producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli - Irving Allen - was playing catch-up after deeming Fleming’s work unworthy of filming, which speeded his breakup with Broccoli. But ironically, his quartet of quintessential spy spoofs was actually based on a series of gritty Gold Medal paperback originals by Donald Hamilton that had been launched by Fawcett before Kennedy was even in office, or Connery started shaking his martinis.

For the rest go here: http://www.cinemaretro.com/index.phple

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Rune novels

Jeffery Deaver is a celebrated bestselling novelist. He's also a versatile and cunning shoirt story writer. But you probably know all this.

Whenever somebody brings him up I ask if they've read the Rune novels. Many people say they haven't. They're my favorite among all his books. Here's what his website has to say about the first Rune book Manhattan is My Beat:

Manhattan Is My Beat (1988)

"Five feet two inches of slick repartee, near-purple hair, and poetic imagination, twenty-year-old Rune hasn't been in Manhattan for very long. But she's crafty enough to have found a squatter's paradise in an empty TriBeCa loft, and a video store job that feeds her passion for old movies. It's a passion she shares with her favorite customer, Mr. Kelly, a lonely old man who rents the same video over and over. The flick is a noir classic based on a real-life unsolved bank heist and a million missing dollars. It's called Manhattan Is My Beat.

"That's the tape Rune is picking up from Mr. Kelly's shabby apartment when she finds him shot to death. The police suspect a robbery gone wrong, but Rune is certain the key to solving the murder is hidden somewhere in the hazy, black-and-white frames of Mr. Kelly's beloved movie. But as Rune hits the mean streets of New York to find answers, she gets caught up in a dangerous adventure more chilling than anything Hollywood could dream up. As her story draws to its terrifying conclusion, Rune's final close-up may include the killer of a co-star."

Clever as the plots are (and you'd expect nothing less from Deaver), it's Rune herself who carries the three novels-- the other two are Death of A Blue Movie Star and Hard News--in her pursuit to a) find out Who She Really Is in the Existential Sense b) keep recreating herself until Something More Appealing Comes along. She's genuinely tough, too, in a wryly belligerent sort of way. One way or the other she does what she wants to.

One other feature of the novels is the view of late-80s early-90s Manhattan as seen through the eyes of a punk rocker who also channels the 60s on occasion. She makes a great sradonic reporter from the war zone.

These are early Deaver books but the skills that have taken him to the bestseller lists are already in place. He is a sleek gifted storyteller and the Rune books are among the best of his tales.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A couple of Bs

I watched two Bs this afternoon.

Th first, and certainly the lesser, was "The Mark of The Whistler," a Columbia crime drama based on a Cornell Woolrich story and directed by none other than William Castle. 1941. Simple set-up. Guy claims money that doesn't belong to him and quickly comes to regret it. A nice tidy movie with two brilliant Woolrichian twists to keep things going and a rather odd first act that gives it some superficial but entertaining character. I bought this years ago, don't know if you can find it anywhere these days. Richard Dix is the lead. If he'd been a better actor he'd have been perfect for early Eugene O'Neill, the sea plays. A really mournful face that could become brutal in an instant. Robert Ryan in "The Iceman Cometh."

The second was "The Leopard Man," the Val Lewton RKO unit with Jacques Tourneur directing. This is based on the Woolrich novel The Black Alibi. Some extremely nice work done on so small a budget a few scenes looked as if they'd been shot at Monogram (and I'm not being sarcastic). Dennis O'Keefe does a good job as does the female lead Jean Brooks. If you like noir lighting, this is your movie. It has the longest traveling shot I've ever seen done with '"expressionistic" lighting. This is the one about a small community terrified by an escaped circus pather and the bloody deaths attributed to it. But are the deaths really the work of a human being? Unlike the novel which, for me, contains some of Woolrich's best writing, the movie offers us only one real suspect so the whodnit aspect isn't all that nifty. But everything else sure is. There's a second version of the movie narrated by William Freidkin discussing camera shots, plot points and the careers of the various actors in the film. Excellent stuff. The Val Lewton Collection DVD.

Friday, July 06, 2007

An emminently sensible letter from Fred Blosser

Fred Blosser said...

Ed, I don't read enough contemporary crime fiction to know what may or may not be Tarantino-influenced. I tend to stick with the stuff I know (Block, Westlake, Collins, Leonard, McBain while he was still with us ...)and -- unfortunately -- I'm not as adventurous as I should be in trying unfamiliar writers.

Of the novels I've read in the last 3-4 years, I guess I would point to Bruen and Starr's BUST and Gischler's GUN MONKEYS as two that seem to have some affinity with Tarantino's universe. On the other hand, I suspect that it's more a matter of Bruen & Starr, Gischler, and Tarantino all reflecting a common fondness for the low-life settings of Elmore Leonard, Jim Thompson, and such.

When I got into reading hardboiled in the late '60s, the field was still dominated by 1) the classic PI novel or similarly macho-oriented variations thereof (JDM and the other Gold Medal guys, Ross Mac, Dennis Lynds under his various pennames, Spillane, etc), and 2) the big caper novels put together by guys like Westlake/Stark and Marlowe -- steely protagonists and clockwork heists.

Into the '70s, the pattern still held, and the young turks like Al Collins and Loren Estleman somewhat modernized the genre but still paid respect to the conventions, more or less. Then into the '80s and early '90s, as the old guys passed away and newer (if not always younger successors) came on the scene, and as Elmore Leonard hit the big time, it seemed to me that the pattern changed somewhat. Fewer take-charge protagonists like Travis McGee and Lew Archer, more goofy or oddball supporting characters, more wacked-out bad guys, and grungier settings. I think the Thompson revival of 1986-96 bolstered this trend, as did SCARFACE and MIAMI VICE. Willeford and Woodrell helped fill the ranks, and Tarantino pulled freight in the movies.

The other big shift in detective fiction, seems to me, is the stuff that derives from Thomas Harris and CSI -- the hunt for effete serial maniac Hasdrubal Manticore by burned out FBI Special Agent Roger Mortis that hinges on Agent Mortis finding Mom's undigested big toe in the stomach of the autopsied cadaver that was pulled out of the Hudson River yesterday.

I've tried to avoid most of the movies that clearly seem to tip their hat to Tarantino but I must admit that of the ones I've seen, some I liked. For example, SMOKIN' ACES, which has a couple of outrageous scenes that made me laugh out loud.

I wonder if the dismal showings for GRINDHOUSE and HANNIBAL RISING suggest that the popularity of Tarantino and Harris has about run its course?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Follow up on lit crit

I keep getting off-line e-mails about my posts on some of today's crime fiction. I've pretty much said my piece about the Tarrentino-influenced books I get for review. One writer noted that these books represent a "movement" that I don't seem to grasp and that there will be, if there haven't been already, some good books to come from it.

I agree. There will likely be be a number of good books to come from it, just as there have always been good books coming from a variety of literary movements. In popular fiction, there was the New Wave in science fiction, for instance. A lot of it looks silly or prepostorously pretentious from this point in time but it also produced a fair number of real masterpieces that are still read and revered today. And will be for many many decades to come.

Splatterpunk in horror also produced some masterpieces, though far fewer by my lights, and if they're not much read and revered today, they were still important and influential and a few of them will certainly endure.

As I said many times in my years editing Mystery Scene, it all comes down to what gives us pleasure as readers. You can make arguments for and against--you can throw out ibids and Latin phrases--you can compare this one to Hemkngway and that one to Chaucer--but in the end we read what we enjoy reading, all other matters aside.

And that's all I was saying, really. Saying that this I enjoy and this I don't.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A melancholy note for older movie fans

Ed here: As I've said before, Mark Evanier's site News From Me is one of the best of them all. Here's Mark today talking about one of the great Hollywood studios...at least when the dreaded Harry Cohn was running it.

Mark Evanier:

So...what's about to happen to the Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood?

Sunset Gower is what they call it today but once upon a time, it was Columbia Studios. The area was nicknamed "Gower Gulch" because back then, it housed a lot of cheap, low-budget studios that made B-Movies, many of them westerns. Columbia started out as one of those ratholes but through the tenacity of its president, Harry Cohn, and filmmakers like Frank Capra, it became a major player. A lot of wonderful movies were made on that lot.

Cohn died in '58. They held his funeral on two adjoining stages at the studio. That was where Red Skelton reportedly looked around at the huge mob scene that had showed up and made the famous remark, "That just proves what Harry always said. If you give the public what they want, they'll turn out for it." Mr. Cohn, obviously, was not well-liked...but his absence seemed to harm his studio. Throughout the sixties, its fortunes declined. Even with a couple of hit TV shows, it couldn't support that huge studio complex and between 1970 and 1972, Columbia began closing it down, step by step, moving their ongoing production to other facilities, primarily the Warner Brothers Burbank lot.

The operation at Sunset and Gower was almost a ghost town for a few years there. Around 1977 however, a producer named Nick Vanoff and some partners purchased the lot and began to run it as a rental facility. I worked on that lot for a few years in the eighties and it was a great, albeit seriously old place to produce shows. It's been upgraded a lot since then and has remained a busy place...but one wonders if that's going to continue. Or if something else is in the wind as an add-on.

For the rest go here http://www.newsfromme.com/

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Writers reviewing writers

An old friend of mine asked me recently why I only write positive book reviews. He said he always thought that that was one of my shortcomings as the editor of Mystery Scene. I guess he forgets a few of the scorchers by other MS reviewers that caused such an uproar.

My belief on the subject is simple. I'm a writer and I don't feel comfortable criticising another writer's book. I speak only for myself. This doesn't mean that I write puff reviews. If I don't enjoy a book, I don't review it.

But when I see one writer tear apart the work of another I always wonder what's really behind the nastiness. Envy? Arrogance? Careering? (One quick way to make a name for yourself in book reviewing is to become a quick-draw artist.)

I'm sure I'm wussy about this but there are so many good books out there why bother reviewing ones I don't care for?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Cop Lit

On Galleycat today Sarah Weinman reports--

"Cop Lit" Takes Center Stage in France

The Guardian's Paris correspondent Jason Burke reports on a new publishing phenomenon, where police officers of all stripes are storming the bestseller lists with a variety of novels, graphic novels, memoirs and other types of book formats. Philippe Pichon, the 37-year-old chief superintendent and bestselling poet and novelist, offered his insight into the glut of so-called 'creative cops.' "A poet can be a policemen and a policeman can be a poet," Pichon, chief of a police station with 85 staff, told The Observer last week. "I am an exalted humanist. Every day on the streets I see the true humanity of things, and I recount them in my work."
for the rest of the story go here http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/

Ed here: Both Ed McBain's 87th and the tv show Barney Miller had cops who were writing books. Easy to envision a sit-com situation where a squad room full of detectives are all at work on novels and screenplays.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Turner Classic Movies has been running the William Wyler film Dodsworth for the past month. It's based on one of Sinclair Lewis' most popular novels. I assume it will now go into general rotation. I've seen it three times. I think it's that good.

Previously only two Wyler films interested me, The Best Years of Our Lives and The Letter. His other films never moved me. But now I see that the problem was mine not his. The power of the drama, the acuity of the social and psychological themes and the sheer beauty of scenes themselves make this for me a major film.

And was it ahead of its time. Walter Huston, always good but here great, plays Dodsworth, a wealthy automobile manufacturer who has just retired with his millions. His wife of twenty years, played with equal skill and range by Ruth Chetterton, admits she's "afraid of getting" old and wants to go to Europe. She is twenty years younger than her husband.

She likes Europe so much that she stays for a few extra months and sends her husband, who is content to stay in the midwestern town of Zenith, back home alone. She then proceeds to have two affairs with very "continental" men. One of whom asks her to divorce Dodsworth long distance so that he may marry her. In the meantime Mary Astor becomes Dodsworth's love interest. God she was gorgeous.

The writers clearly want us to identify with Dodsworth and we do. Huston and Wyler give him a simple goodness that we have to admire. And he is certainly indulgent of his wife. Even after seeing her through her affairs he loves her and wants her back.

But by the end I felt sorry for his wife, too. He was happy sitting in his home library in Zenith, playing golf and going to the same dinners and cafes the rest of his life. And she is younger and quite attractive and if she's foolish in some respects it's only because the mid-like crisis is not his but hers. Wyler emphasizes how much she fears getting old; and fears death.

I don't think I can oversell this movie. Most novelists complain that Hollywood films do them in. Sinclair Lewis had to be awfully proud of this one.

Sinclair Lewis (novel)
Sidney Howard (dramatised by)
Release Date:
23 September 1936 (USA) more
Drama / Romance more
Plot Summary:
A bittersweet tale of the increasing estrangement of a retired automobile tycoon and his wife. Increasingly... more
Plot Synopsis:
This plot synopsis is empty. Add a synopsis
Plot Keywords:
Affair / Divorce / Europe / Grandparent / Industrialist more
Won Oscar. Another 2 wins & 6 nominations more
User Comments:
They don't make such adult films anymore. more
(Complete credited cast)

Walter Huston ... Sam Dodsworth

Ruth Chatterton ... Fran Dodsworth
Paul Lukas ... Arnold Iselin
Mary Astor ... Mrs. Edith Cortright
Kathryn Marlowe ... Emily Dodsworth McKee

David Niven