Friday, November 30, 2007

The sins of private eye writers

I ran across this from the editors of Thrilling Detective today. Great stuff. And of course being the simpleton I am I've used several of these trite devices myself.

Any story that begins with the P.I. sitting at his desk, drinking from the office bottle.
Any story that begins with a sultry woman walking into a PI's office while he's sitting at his desk, drinking from the office bottle.
Any woman with "legs up to here."
The Mafia. C'mon, guys, get with it. Give the Sicilians a break. There are tons of hard-working Russians, Iranians, Irish, Jamaicians, Hiatians, Greeks, Jews and WASPS who'd like proper respect paid for their great contributions to organized crime.
Arab terrorists (see above).
Any P.I. who flashes a photostat of their license. I mean, photostats? Who uses that term anymore? Hello! It's not 1929, anymore. And by the way, gunsels aren't actually guys with guns...
Excessive references to jazz. Nothing wrong with jazz, really, but jazz snobs are a dime a dozen these days. Anyone fifty or under who listens exclusively to jazz is probably a geek or a snob. It's more likely they grew uplistening to the Stones or the Sex Pistols or Garth Brooks or Elton John or Nirvana or Motown or soul or Public Enemy or the Beatles. And chances are they're still listening to 'em. There's no shame in admitting pop culture exists. Name-dropping Mingus or Charlie Parker doesn't make you an intellectual.
The detective should be a man or woman of their times. At least Amos Walker KNOWS he's an anachronism.
Private eyes who drive classic automobiles or brightly-coloured sports cars. C'mon, forget Magnum, P.I. What sort of idiot tails someone in a car that draws attention to itself? Can't you just see it? "Hey, Mugsy, isn't that the same 1955 cherry-apple red T-Bird convertible in immaculate condition, with the mag wheels and the white pinstriping that was behind us yesterday?" "No, Bugsy, it must be another one."
And be very careful before using any of these:
(These are from our mailbag, compliments of our readers)
The bourbon in the drawer
The fedora and the trenchcoat
The stacked secretary
The psycho sidekick who does all the dirty work that the virtuous P.I. won't.
The treacherous femme fatale (this is probably the most predictable plot twist of all).
Obsessive fitness. All that jogging is tiring us out...
Tedious subplots and tragic pasts force-fit into the story to make the P.I. look more human, or have more depth, with no connection to the main plot.
Faux literary self-reflection after using violence.
Extensive Vietnam flashbacks. Okay, so Vietnam was to another generation of PI's what WWII was to Hammer. I recognize this. I understand it. I don't even mind the occasional reference to service. But guys, if I wanted to read a friggin' war novel, I'd read a friggin' war novel.
Let's put political correctness on the hanger next to the lime green leisure suit. And gratuitous political uncorrectness right beside it.
Serial killers. Hammett gave murder back to the people who commit it for a reason, remember? Serial killer stories are too often just cozies with more blood and less tea.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Troubled waters

Martin Edwards has posted a nice tribute to Peter Haining, the anthologist who seemed to be everywhere from the 70s well into this decade. I had one direct experience with Haining. He bought an original story of mine. He was professional in every respect and not afraid of flattery. I appreciated the breadth of his anthologies. I probably own twenty or more of them. His pulp books are especially fine.

In the course of his post, Martin remarks on a dilemma I've mentioned here before. He talks about trying to secure permission for certain stories:

"The co-operation I received from the families of such writers as John Creasey and Leslie Charteris was generous indeed. Sadly, the agents of one deceased writer - popular in the past, but now out of print - demanded such a high reprint fee that it wasn't possible to include the story. This struck me as short-sighted, for there was a chance to introduce a new generation of readers to a gifted practitioner of classic detection. And it's salutary how quickly even very popular writers slip out of the public eye within a few years of their death."

I know there are some people who think the process of reprinting old stories is easy. Most of the time, yes. But there are always pieces you have to do battle for, usually, in my experience, with descendents rather than agents, though I did have an agent ask fifteen thousand dollars for a novel that had been out of print for nearly forty years.

My most unpleasant experience came with the sharp-tongued widow of a once-prominent writer who said that I was trying to "steal" her husband's story. A 1936 story, never reprinted, for which I offered one hundred dollars. The story was three thousand words long. She told me how how much he used to get for novels; and she told me at great length how much he made writing for the studios. I wanted to point out that nothing of his had been in print for more than twenty years but by then I was too tired of the whole thing to argue anymore.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Robert E. Howard

You either love Robert E. Howard or you hate him. That's the way it always seems, anyway. I like some of his stuff a lot and some of his stuff not at all. When he was bad he was unreadable. To me.

One of the characters I think might work especially well for the screen is Solomon Kane. Here's a note from Mediabistro:

Posted by Ron | 11:41 AM | Book Fairs | Email this post

Pressed to name a Robert E. Howard character, some people might be able to come up with Conan the Barbarian; ask for two, and they might mention Red Sonja (although that's only half-right). If you've got a hardcore Howard fan, though, he might mention Solomon Kane, the protagonist of a series of stories written for Weird Tales in which a 16th-century Puritan wanders the earth, like Cain in Kung Fu, fighting evil with his sword and pistols.

Ed here: In the hands of the right screenwriter, the Puritan angle could give the storyline the depth most adventure movies lack. Not that I don't find The Fanastic Four deeply and profoundly moving, you understand.

Monday, November 26, 2007

City Heat

The always interesting Cinema Retro pointed me to a Nathan Rabin piece on City Heat, the excrutiatingly terrible movie that co-starred Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds. Rabin mentions that some bad movies are remembered and some totally forgotten. He thinks City Heat is one of the forgotten ones and I have to agree. I haven't thought about it in years.

I remember watching it in disbelief. It was a piece of crap in just about every way a movie can BE a piece of crap. There's nothng worse than bad comedy and this--except for the opening, as Rabin points out--was about as bad as any comedy I've ever seen.

Here are some quotes:

"At the time City Heat was filmed, Reynolds and Eastwood were two of the biggest box-office attractions in the world. So their pairing must have filled the minds of studio executives with ecstatic images of cash registers c-c-chinging happily. As Hit And Run, a book I recently read about Peter Guber and Jon Peters’ disastrous reign running Columbia-TriStar, makes abundantly clear, perception is as important, if not more important, than reality in Hollywood. So the studio execs must have been able to wow peers at cocktail parties for months by crowing, “So, we’ve got Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood in a period action-comedy from Blake Edwards.” Of course, if their partygoers were to ask “Yeah, but how’s the script?,” they’d just blankly stare at them and repeat, “Yeah, so we’ve got Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood in a period action-comedy from Blake Edwards. How cool is that? It’s gonna be huge.” (Ed note--Eastwood replaced Edwards inexplicably with Richard Benjamin presumably because Benjamin would take orders.)


"Eastwood became an archetype while even at the height of his powers; Reynolds always felt ersatz. I have a lot of respect for Reynolds’ minimalist work in movies like Deliverance, Semi-Tough, and The Longest Yard, but Reynolds nevertheless went from being a very poor man’s Marlon Brando, all coiled intensity and internal brooding, to a K-Mart version of Clark Gable.

"Both men worked extensively with co-stars lower down the evolutionary ladder than them. Eastwood famously worked with Clyde The Orangutan on Any Which Way But Loose and Every Which Way You Can. Reynolds worked extensively with Dom DeLuise until the corpulent cut-up’s feces-throwing, agitated screeching and baboon-humping made further collaborations impossible. Both men found their romantic travails splashed across tabloids. But where Eastwood’s acrimonious break-up with Sondra Locke only added to his aura as a tormented artiste, Reynolds’ high-profile fling with human Barbie Doll Loni Anderson made them the proto-Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson."

This is an entertaining pice both about a bad movie and two careers that veered off in very different directions. For the rest go here:

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Literary Immortality

Sarah Weinman has an interesting piece about all the American writers who've died in the past year. She wonders which of them well continue to be read in the future. She mentions everybody from Mailer to Styron to Sidney Sheldon. I'd agree with her that the smart money is on Vonnegut. I'd also agree with her (as I noted here earlier) that all the condescending obits to the contrary ("not a stylist"), no other writer had the popular culture impact of Ira Levin. Can you say Rosemary's Baby. Can you say Stepford Wives. For the rest of her fine piece read here:

I was shocked when I saw how quickly John D. MacDonald started to fade after his death. I've given his books to several thirty-somethings and to a person they find him "slow." Ross Macdonald faded just as quickly following his death but he's certainly had both a critical and commercial resugurence. Plus Tom Nolan's written an outstanding biography of him.

Of course there's literary immortality and there's literary immortality. There are writers who will not only be read beyond their years but taught as well. There was a David Goodis convention last year. (The Baker Street Irregulars aren't all that different from the David Goodis fans in intent, though I'm pretty sure that Conan Doyle was a wee bit different in personality from David Goodis.) Some of the more scholarly magazines (Clues, for instance) still deal with writers long passed. These are the benchmarks of literary immortality as it's been known up now.

But the egalitarian nature of the internet guarantees hundreds of writers at least a shadow of remembrance. Ed Earl Repp was one of the most god awful writers who ever hacked out a living for the pulps (and later for Hollywood) but I just Googled him and he's got four entries and he's been dead since 1979. I doubt the entries get many hits (even when I was nine I knew that The Radium Pool was bad news) but for those interested, he's there.

And Thrilling Detective, to name just one site, has catalogued and examined at some length the careers of dozens of hardboiled and noir writers who--in an earlier age--would have been remembered by only a handful of ardent fans.

Take your choice. Mother Internet loves all her writers.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Interesting letter

Dear Mr Gorman,

I'm glad to see that Max Allan Collins' "Ms Tree" is back and in novel

Growing up in Scotland in the 50s and 60s American comics were a real
splash of colour and excitement in a country that still had war-time
rationing in the year I was born. Even at my present age (52) I still
have a real fondness for them.

The extra-sized "Ms Tree" quarterly series that DC produced was top
notch and I was sorry to see it cancelled. Your own "back-up" feature
using the golden-age character "Midnight" was superb and led to me
reading any of your books that I can get my hands on.

Glasgow, being a busy port way back when (in the Victorian era often
called "the second city of the British Empire") as kids we used to
pick up very quickly on American books, comics and music. It was also
known as "cinema City" because it had more cinemas per head of
population than any other european city. Westerns and crime films were
the favourites.

There is a street market called the "Barras" ( the vendors used to use
wheel barrows for their merchandise) in the East end of the city where
I used to be able to pick up comics and books as a kid. I was down
there for the first time in ages a week or so ago and managed to find
a couple of your Westerns ("The Sharpshooter" and "Graves' Retreat")
for £1 each. For just a few minutes it was like being 14 all over
again! Really enjoyed both of them. I always find that your Westerns
read more like historical mysteries than more traditional "oaters".

Anyway, I just wanted to drop you a line to say how much I enjoy your
work and really look forward to reading news on your "blog". I'm just
about to head off to see my team (Glasgow Celtic) playing in our
football ( or soccer) league.

Best wishes,

Bill Carlin.

Ed here: Thanks for writing, Bill. And for the interesting glimpse of Glasgow. And of course for the compliments. I've never thought of my westerns as historical mysteries but I guess that's what they really are. Thanks for pointing that out.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Deadly Beloved

One of the great things about the Ms. Tree comic books by Max Allan Collins and artist Terry Beatty was that they actually told a story. In the age of "blow `em up real good" super-heroes that's saying something (my favorite super-hero movie is Galaxy Quest, if that tells you anything).

What's especially fine about Deadly Beloved, the Hard Case introduction to Ms. Michael Tree in novel form, is that Max is able to bring the same hard-boiled rough and tumble flavor and tension of the comic books to the printed page. And the bonus is that he's able, in this form, to give us a richer portrait of Michael Tree, who took over her husband's private detective agency after his death.

Marcy Addwater is accused of killing her faithless husband and his bimbo lover. The police feel that there's enough evidence--Marcy caught them together--to charge the woman. Ms. Tree steps in to help. This looks like too much of a frame to satisfy her, especially when she begins to learn a few deadly things about the husband and his girl friend.

This is a one-sitting read because the suspense is so good (Max creates great mystery plots) and the writing sizzles all the way through. I'd be surprised if this isn't the first in a series.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A story of heartbreak

I'm rereading The Lonely Silver Rain by John D. MacDonald. It's certainly the most mordant of all the McGees, many bloody deaths and a far more somber McGee who is much aware of his own mortality throughout. The structure's always fascinated me. It seems to start and stop at three different points. But JDM wraps it up neatly. There's one very funny bit.
McGee had warned this local woman about marrying a local TV weatherman. McGee spotted him immediately for the bounder he proved to be. McGee runs into the woman and here's how she tells her story about how they moved Philadelphia for a better weather job. But once there he dumped her.

"The bad thing about the situation in Philadelphia, that sports girl (his latest flame to quote Elvis) is a little thing with hips out to here and a tiny mustache. I mean it hurts your pride along with everything else. Stu was okay until he started getting fan mail. He never got any down here because he had the wrong haircut. In Philadelphia they fixed him up. The mail started coming in. He grinned into every mirror he saw and he kept doing things with his eyebrows. And taking an interest in sports. He always hated sports. He throws like a girl."

That is a novel in very few words.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

From Fred Blosser - John Trinian


You commented on John Trinian a few weeks ago. By coincidence, I rummaged through my DVD library a couple of days ago and plucked out a 2000 Image Entertainment edition of Henri Verneuil's 1963 French heist movie "Any Number Can Win" ("Melodie en sous-sol"), and noticed that it was based on a Trinian novel, "The Big Grab." Not having read the Trinian, I don't know how closely the movie followed the book, but it's a good flick, Jean Gabin as a tough old ex-convict and Alain Delon as the younger troublemaker whom he enlists in a plan to rob a casino.

As usual with the French crime movies from that era, there is little violence (wouldn't even show up on today's Richter Scale of Blow It Up Real Good), but plenty of cool ambience. The interplay between Gabin's methodical old pro and Delon's hothead is a pleasure to watch, and the plot drives straight ahead, toward the inevitable stinger of an ending, with nary an ounce of fat.

I'm waiting for the retro interest in the '50s style of the Rat Pack to spill over to a revival of Gallic crime films. Luckily, there are a fair amount of titles on DVD or still available in VHS -- "Rififi," "Le Circle Rouge," "Bob Le Flambeur," "Touchez pas au Grisbi," "Le Samourai," and "Le Doulos." Verneuil's "The Sicilian Clan" from 1969, also with Gabin and Delon (a moderately successful release in the U.S.) is available on DVD from the U.K. and runs occasionally on the Fox Movie Channel, I'm told. I've found another Gabin, "Rififi in Panama," on DVD from France. One that I keep waiting for -- with no luck so far -- is "Riff Raff Girls" ("Rififi Chez les Femmes") from that long-ago year of 1959.

A happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bruno Fischer

Carol and I spent a very enjoyable afternoon lunch (three hours) with Bob Randisi and Marthayn Peligrimas; and Barb and Max Collins. This is the most fun I've had since our previous lunch three months ago. Great folks and great friends.


One way you can tell you're getting old is when the good girl in the Gold Medal novel appeals to you more than the femme fatale.

Somebody wrote me about a review I'd written a few years ago of Bruno Fischer's House of Flesh. In my review I was agreeing with science fiction writer Dave Bischoff's contention that the book is a mystery that combines gothic elements with some really horrorific moments. It's one of Fischer's best novels, a very sleek, dark whodunit that lags only at the very end because he runs out of suspects. There is a particularly nasty scene wherein dogs set upon the remains of a dead horse, the carcass having rotted before they got to it. The word "flesh" has multiple meanings in the novel.

Before responding to the letter I decided to look through the book again. Held up very well. But as I read it I realized that Fischer had made the good girl so appealing--smart, funny, winsome, clean cut--that the protagonist seems sort of dotty to obsess over a rather odd woman whom he finds unattractive (but inexplicably sexy of course), aggravatingly mysterious and frequently irritable.

I know, I know--this is noir land where gonadic response to fate is not only standard but mandatory, thanks to the Law of The Crotch as writ large and eternal by James M. Cain.

The only way I can explain this misjudgement is my age. But an evening with the sweet, amusing good girl promises so much more fun than a few hours in the clutches of The Dragon Lady...

By the time they plant me Ill probably be reading those old-fashioned Harlequin romances. The clean ones.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Jimmy Sangster

For some reason I've owned Jimmy Sangster's autobiography Do You Want It Good Or Tuesday? for years but never reviewed it. I picked it up agaain yesterday and read parts of it and was entertained and enlightened as to the ways and wiles of show biz at every level.

Sangster wrote the early Hammer films including the first Dracula and the second X The Unknown. Those two credits alone put him the driver's seat of the white shimmering Shell Scott Caddy Convertible waiting for him in Pulp Heaven.

He went on to write dozens of more screenplays in England then came over here and wrote even more dozens of TV scripts. The book reads as if it was taken directly from journals. There's no way he could have remembered so many details otherwise.

Sangster comes off as an amiable pro, a man as good at survival as he is at writing. Along the way we meet at least fifty famous people he worked with or for. My single favorite moment is when he is working with William Castle (whom he likes) on a project and Castle produces a script for another project. He says he's having trouble with it and would like Sangster to make some notes and have a meeting with the writer. You know, basically tell this guy how it hould be written.

No author name on the script. Sangster takes it home, makes his notes, Castle sets up a meeting for the following day. Just as the man is coming up the walk, Sangster asks who he is and Castle says "Dalton Trumbo."

Trumbo was sort of the Hemingway of film writers. Talent and street cred to the highest power. He went to prison rather than rat out people to the House UnAmerican Committee. Academy Awards. Usually called brilliant. A giant and among giants.

And, as Sangster says, the guy then writing the Dan'l Boone show for NBC is going to give Trumbo writing advice?

"Listen, Dalton, baby, about this second act, kid..."

It's a fun read.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Today's Washington Post carries an article about the TV series Mannix. Seems that the only way to buy copies of the once-popular show is to buy bootleg on the web. For some reason it has yet to appear on DVD.

I'm sure I'm in a minority when I say that I always found Mannix to be one of the dullest, blandest private eye series I've ever seen. This may have something to do with the fact that its ten year span span coincided with the worst of my drinking and drugging years (I probably mention those years too often but they certainly tainted my take on things) so I don't pretend to offer any kind of objective opinion. He always seemed to be tumbling out of cars--as I was frequently trumbling off couches/chairs/the planet. I recall that he wore a lot of different sport coats and that his attractive black secretary seemed tokenesque even by the standards of the Sixties and Seventies ("Here, let me lick that stamp for you, Mr. Mannix" and assorted other vitally important jobs).

But mostly it was the blandness of the stories and Mannix's reaction to them. Even when he was getting beaten up by the thugs-of-the-week he looked a little disinterested. Maybe I didn't like it because it was never wry or true to the times like Rockford. And it wasn't hokey sociopathic fun like Hawaii 5-0 (McGarrett really needed to be Xanaxed several times a day, preferably by injection).

I was surprised when I saw the Mannix headline. I probably hadn't thought of that show in several years. If it had really been terrible I would've remembered it. But that seemed to be the problem. It wasn't good and it wasn't bad. It just was.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Used books

I see that the subject of buying used books has become a topic again on a few blogs. I suppose it's more relevant than ever given the per centage of books now sold used in both stores and on-line.

I know that there are some writers who feel that we should get royalties ala the way lending libraries of the Twenties, Thirties and Forties paid writers in a few countries. I also know that there are some writers who feel that used bookstores are the enemy.

Speaking as someone whose net worth is way yonder of a million dollars, the bookstore I spend most of my time in is Half Price. Selection, friendly employees and--half price.

I don't know about most of you but I grew up haunting used bookstores. They offer a special thrill because you never know what you're going to find there. My greatest stumble-upon was Richard Matheson's Someone is Bleeding in the original Lion edition, good condtion, one thin dime.

On the recommendation of Martin Edwards, I bought Green for Danger the other day at Half Price for two bucks. Wasn't available in the library nor the chains. Nor can I find Ace Doubles, Gold Medals, Zeniths, Ballantines with all the fantastic (in every sense) Richard Powers covers, the Carter Browns with the McGinnis covers, the Dells with the Maguire covers at and etc. anywhere but used stores.

I realize that I'm probably losing hundreds of thousands of dollars every day by not getting royalties from used bookstores but I guess I'll just have to live with the misery while enjoying those old Dell mapbacks.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson's body of work--suspense, science fiction, western and yes horror--is one of the most inventive, stylish and important in the history of popular fiction. That it will live forever--however you care to define forever--is guaranteed by such seminal works as I Am Legend and The Shrinking Man. Among many, many other achievements.

Gauntlet Publishing has spent a good deal of its existence producing fine volumes of Matheson work that most of us would never see otherwise. The latest is Visions of Death: Richard Matheson's Edgar Allan Poe scripts edited by Lawrence French.

Not only do we have scripts for The Fall of The House of Usher and The Pit and The Pendulum (accompanied by photographs of the actors and others associated with the productions), we also have an introduction by producer Roger Corman, an excellent overview by editor French and a wry afterword by Joe Dante. All of it packaged in the usual slick Gauntlet fashion.

I've been reading Matheson since I was thirteen or fourteen. His work stays not only fresh for me but even more impressive and imposing as the years roll on. It's a particular thrill to read two of the Poe scripts that showed even the fine folks at Hammer how it all should be done.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Congratulations to Bill Pronzini; News from Carolyn Hart

Ed here:

Bill Pronzini hs long been one of my favorite people and favorite writers. If my Jack Dwyer novels have a single overriding influence, it is certainly Bill's Nameless books. Not only do I read him, I study him. And that goes for his short stories, too. He truly gets better and better. He's also truly a master. What a great moment for a great guy and a great writer.

From MWA:
And the 2008 Grand Master is...
Author Bill Pronzini has been selected to receive the coveted title of Grand Master, Mystery Writers of America's (MWA's) highest honor bestowed on an individual. He will be honored at the 62nd Annual Edgar® Awards banquet on Thursday May 1, 2008 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. The "Edgars," as they are commonly known, are named after Mystery Writers of America's patron saint Edgar Allan Poe and are awarded to authors of distinguished works in more than a dozen categories.

The Grand Master Award represents the supreme level of achievement in the mystery field and was established to acknowledge important contributions to the genre, as well as significant output of consistently high-quality material.

"Bill Pronzini is not only a passionate author and reader of crime fiction – he is also one of the most ardent proponents of the genre," said Daniel J. Hale, Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America. "For forty years he has distinguished himself with consistently high-quality writing and editing in all areas of the field, including creating one of the longest lasting detective series ever."

Bill Pronzini started down his path toward the Grand Master in 1969, when he embarked upon his professional writing career. Since then, Pronzini has experienced a prolific career, penning more than 70 novels and non-fiction books, including 32 novels in his popular "Nameless Detective" series and three novels written in collaboration with his wife Marcia Muller (MWA's 2005 Grand Master).

Pronzini is no stranger to critical acclaim for his achievements. He is a six-time Edgar® nominee, including a nomination in 1987 with his wife Marcia Muller for Best Critical Biographical Work, "1001 Midnights: The Aficionados Guide to Mystery Fiction". He is also a recipient of three Shamus awards and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America. Pronzini’s suspense novel, "Snowbound", was the recipient of the Grand Prix de la Litterature Policière as the best crime novel published in France in 1988.

Pronzini joins a notable list of previous Grand Masters. Past recipients of this distinguished Award also include: Stephen King, Ira Levin, Mary Higgins Clark, Donald Westlake, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene and Agatha Christie.

Mystery Writers of America is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre. The organization encompasses almost 3,000 members in three categories of membership that include publishers, editors, literary agents, and screen and television writers, as well as authors of fiction and non-fiction books.

# # # #

The EDGAR (and logo) are Registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by the Mystery Writers of America, Inc.


News from Carolyn Hart

Dear Ed,

I was invited to write a piece for "The Writing Life" in the Washington Post Book World. It will appear this coming Sunday Nov. 18.

There will be two new books in 2008:

DEATH WALKED IN Morrow March 25 2008 -18th in the Death on Demand series. Annie and Max Darling are restoring an antebellum home. Gold coins are stolen from a nearby house and a murder occurs. The crimes seem linked to their house. Annie discovers the secret of Franklin house but death walks in.

GHOST AT WORK Morrow Fall 2008 - 1st in the Bailey Ruth Raeburn series. The late Bailey Ruth Raeburn, an impetuous redheaded ghost, returns to earth to help someone in trouble. She moves a body, investigates a murder, saves a marriage, prevents a suicide, and - in a fiery finale - rescues a child who knows too much.

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving.

Best Regards - Carolyn

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ira Levin; Deborah Lipp

I've now read six Ira Levin obituaries. Only two of them, thank the Lord, informed us that he wasn't much of a stylist. I don't know from style but I do know from cultural impact. When one man writes seven very short novels (A Kiss Before Dying, his masterpiece, being the exception) that have the social impact of Rosemary's Baby, The Stepford Wives and The Boys From Brazil, I'd say he was an amazing and truly important writer. So long, Ira.


That very cool website Cinema Retro led me to culture commentator (and Wiccan and cat lover) Deborah Lipp. Commenting on the original The Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three she said something simple and profound about movies (though I'd disgaree that Sierra Madre doesn't have a theme and a powerful one):

"The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is probably best known today as the source for using color-coded pseudonyms during a heist, lifted by Tarantino for Reservoir Dogs. Which is a shame; the movie should be known for its own merits.

"One way to describe Pelham 123 is to tell you what’s not in it. No one on the subway car is related to, or in a relationship with, anyone working in the transit office or for the police. None of the hostages are Lt. Garber’s mother, sister, or childhood sweetheart. There are no coincidences in the plotting or characterization at all. No one in the movie looks like they’re in a movie; no one has perfect features, or exquisite skin tone, or flawless makeup. There’s no romance. But it’s not a “guy” movie, either; the hostages are as likely to be female as male, and there are an unusual number of female roles for a heist movie.

"All of which makes it kind of hard to describe. Some movies are great because they have a sweeping theme, or are startling or innovative, or are romantic, or incredibly witty. But a handful of movies are great because they’re just great movies. They tell interesting stories with a rich array of embellishments. You walk away from them thinking not about love or truth or family or death, but about storytelling, and authenticity. The Man Who Would Be King is such a movie, a great yarn, you might say. So is Treasure of the Sierra Madre. And so is The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. "

for the rest go here

Ed here: Storytelling! What a concept!

Monday, November 12, 2007

How The Western Was Won

Yesterday's NY Times magazine carried several articles about the western film. A.O. Scott has the most interesting take on the matter. I mention this here because over the past few months several non-western fiction blogs have carried debates about the western and what, if anything, it means to today's popular culture.

A.O. Scott:

"The movie western had retreated from its position as a quintessential and vital form of American storytelling, undone by the same cultural tumult that had put paid to other manifestations of midcentury consensus. The newer westerns, the ones made since Vietnam, were either revivalist or revisionist, seeking to bury the old myths or to exhume them.

"And yet the very content of those myths was always, to some degree, their own passing. From the beginning, the western has been saturated with nostalgia, mourning and the sorrowful reckoning of lost things and times past. The sun has been setting for as long as anyone can remember. The official death of the West, after all, was virtually synchronous with the birth of the movies.

"In 1890, the Office of the Census announced the closing of the American frontier, and three years later, in a paper presented at the World’s Fair and Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Frederick Jackson Turner of the University of Wisconsin argued that the Westward push had provided a “safety valve” preventing social tension and class conflict from festering in the American body politic. Over the next century (and to this day), the frontier thesis, as it came to be known, has been debated, debunked, rehabilitated and refined by critics and historians. However dubious or simplistic Turner’s claims have come to seem — American history contains plenty of class struggle if you know where to look for it — he provided a template from which a thousand wagon-train spectacles and cowboy fables (to say nothing of Ph.D. dissertations) would be struck, a sketch of the democratic, individualistic, entrepreneurial ethos of the 19th-century frontier that would find its fullest elaboration in 20th-century Hollywood. The wagon train comes across the prairie, and a little town springs up with wooden sidewalks, hitching posts, swinging doors and plate-glass windows. The honest folk who shop at the general store and read the local newspaper are tough and self-reliant, but also vulnerable, easy prey for bandits and marauders. And then one day a stranger comes to town."

For the rest go here:

Ed here:

I don't know if he says anything new exactly but it's a good an overview of the western movie (and fiction) as I've seen in many years. Even non-western fans will enjoy it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer & other matters

I first read Mailer when I was fourteen or fifteen. The Deer Park. For a prairie boy this peek into the decadent lives of Hollywood outcasts was difficult to understand in a lot of places. But what kept me going was the voice. I'd never heard a literary voice quite like that one. And I've stayed with that voice the rest of my life. His talent was so enormous it overwhelmed him sometimes. He was brilliant, sloppy, infuriating, daft, full of shit, profound, generous, mean, ingenious, scary, pissy, powerful, weak, ugly, hilarious, and fascinating in both his art and life. He put his stamp on American letters more deeply than anybody else in his generation. When I saw him a few months ago in a wheelchair I was shocked. Age comes to us all--except to Norman Mailer. Somehow I'd never thought he would get old and die. What a body of work. What a great troubled spellbinding genius he was. For me he was the last of the literary giants. Franzen me no Franzens, please.


A few weeks ago I reviewed the really cool magazine Pulp Fanatic. It's been pointed out that I gave the wrong e address. Here's the correct one.


Volume two of the Joel Townsley Rogers short story collections has just appeared. It's even better than the first. When I reviewed the first volume last week I forgot to mention publisher Fender Tucker and his excellent publishing company Ramble House. This is a list unlike any other. If you're interested in pulps, older mysteries and the occasional oddball writer memoir (the notes of Jack Woodford) get thee to the following address post haste. You'll have a ball just looking through the website.


Several months ago some film students wrote to ask me if they could make a short film of my story The Long Silence After. They sent me a cut (the credits have to be added to the end). I think they did a good job. Carol can't seem to get on the address they gave me. Maybe you can.

Friday, November 09, 2007


I've been reading Rick Hautala since the early 1980s when he was writing some of the most memorable novels in the old Zebra horror line. His Moonstone sold more than one million copies. Deservedly. He also wrote a number of fine suspense novels, Impulse being my favorite.

Rick's books work because they balance story, character and milieu perfectly. He creates real people who live in real worlds even when some of the effects are supernatural. And then he proceeds to scare the hell out of you. That's why I never miss a new Hautala book.

The publisher Breakneck Radio has reissued one of Rick's best novels Moonwalker in a handsome trade edition for only $14.95.

The set-up is a grabber. In a small Maine town there's an auxillary work force that picks the potato crops with such tireless force they seem not to be human. Think a very special kind of illegal alien. The strange thing is that the townspeople seem strangely unaware of the workers. At least they never seem to talk about them. But then comes a visitor to the small town and he begins to question the screams at night. And the fact that the townspeople simple accept the workforce without being curious about it.

Amazon called it "fresh and creepy" and indeed it is. It's also a fine novel about a cross-section of workingclass and middle-class people making their uncertain way through this most confusing and dangerous of centuries.

Put this one on your to-buy list.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Turner Classics

Who knew: I watched about twenty minutes of a Turner rerun of one of their four Philo Vance movies...he's more obnoxious on film than he is on the page. I remember when Fawcett reissued several of the Vance novels in very nifty packages. I made the mistake of buying two of them instead of the more cautious one. Whoa. Every once in a while I can enjoy a Golden Age Brit but a faux Golden Age Brit doesn't cut it for me. The only thing interesting was that even with all the hoity toity they managed to work a dumb NYC Irish cop into the story.


Later I caught a 1935 Bob Hope short introduced by Robert Osborne. He set it up by saying that the short was shot in Brooklyn and was a result of Hope's Broadway hit Roberta. He came complete even back then, the sort of mincing mannerisms, the wise guy patter, the dame-chasing and of course the cowardice. As Carol said Maybe that's really Hope writ large for the stage and screen. He was interesting but the rest was just tired vaudeville gags.


For western fans--I thought I'd seen all the major silent and early talkie stars in the various small town theaters I haunted after the war. But if I'd seen Hoot Gibson I have no memory of him. I watched a Hoot film--most of it anyway--on TCM and I have to say he's a worse actor than Autry and just about a as unlikely a star. If Gene reminded me of an insurance salesman old Hoot reminds me of a bartender. Roy looks better all the time, that sort sappy teenage enthusiasm wasn't so bad after all.

Carole Nelson Douglas

Ed here: On his blog the other night Martin Edwards talked about how many good writers were being let go by their publishers only to find themselves unable to sell their books anywhere. A few writers I know have simply given up. They've even lost the will to sit at the machine any longer. Most of us battle on.

Carole Nelson Douglas and I have been friends for more than twenty years. She's a smart, hard-working and very talented woman whose books are known and loved around the world. She's worked successfully in mystery, suspense, science fiction, fantasy and romance. And what's more impressive is that she's brought something fresh to each genre. So I wasn't surprised when she wrote a paranormal novel that is witty, unique in concept and a hell of a lot of fun to read--as the title itself tells you: DANCING WITH WEREWOLVES.

Carole updated me yesterday about her recent success and I asked her permission to share it with our readers. It shows you that there are many paths to heaven--especially for writers who don't give up.

From Carole:

Ed, thanks for your ear and advice all these years. I thought
you'd like to know that what I expected to be a mild down-sizing
in 2004 turned into 3 1/2 years of being publishing poison. But
Katharine Hepburn came back from being box office poison and
so have I made a comeback finally, I think.

Dancing with Werewolves, the first of my new Delilah Street,
Paranormal Investigator series, just out from a new imprint of
a small press, debuted at # 20 in its category it's first week out on
Nielsen Bookscan and has maintained this week. And the _names_
it sits next to there and on all the Amazon lists! Wow.

DWW is an urban fantasy/noir paranormal set in a slightly futuristic Las
Vegas from Hell. The reviews are great, including a starred one in
Publishers Weekly. It's hung in the mid-hundreds on Amazon for
the three weeks it's been available there. And all this without yet
being available in Barnes and Nobles stores. (Due later this month.)

Speaking of Las Vegas, feline PI Midnight Louie's Vegas-set
mystery series kept on going strong through all this; it was a
replacement for my Irene Adler suspense series that proved
to be an unexpected problem.

Happily writing Louie and Irene for seventeen years, I noticed a
softening in the mystery market, so wasn't surprised when it came
time to drop my Victorian Sherlockian series. Others had ended
even earlier.

I hadn't been to market with a book since 1990, so was startled
to find that even after 50 published novels in several genres, a New
York Times Notable Book of the Year citation, and more than 50 fiction
and nonfiction awards or nominations, I had to write an entire novel on
spec to sell in the current market.

In fact, I ended up writing three, and none of them sold.

Oh, sure, the editors were willing to read the books. And for each
spec novel, one of the ten-to-twelve editors showed a twinge of interest,
or even, in one heart-breaking case, extreme enthusiasm and a thirst
for a series. But everything melted away in the face of "committee"
decisions and editors being overruled.

I really shouldn't have been surprised, but I was: I'd always sold
everything I wrote before. And the rejections didn't hurt my ego so
much as my pocketbook. Writing has been my livelihood for decades.
Suddenly, I wasn't being _allowed_ to work, to prove that my career
had built an audience.

I was surprised when my "DaVinci Code for Smart Chicks" novel was rejected
in 2005 by all the major editors available these days, but with respectful
mentions of my good characters, writing, and research. One editor even
went into a flurry over it, copying it to everyone and asking for time, but
that suddenly iced over into nothing.

One editor contacted my agent, raved about me, and suggested I try an urban/
paranormal fantasy. Thank you, ma'am. We went back and forth on a proposal for
two weeks before she vanished off my email forever. (I discovered the house had
made a surprising major move Upstairs at the same time.)

I pitched a partial of the urban fantasy to another editor who'd read and rejected
the first spec novel and mentioned liking the Adler novels. She accepted a partial to
read, but rejected it with high praise, citing overbuying in the genre in recent months.
Thank you, ma'am. Now that I know book buys are committee decisions these days,
I'm guessing she was overruled.

I finished Dancing with Werewolves and it went to market in March of '06. These
rejections were particularly bad. They said that it had too many ideas and social issues.
Um, the sf/f genre used to be noted for ideas, besides, this was basically a fun,
imaginative, adventuresome read. The only male editor on the list was inclined toward
buying and "fixing" it, but was overruled.

The funny thing is, my first high fantasy novel back in the '80s was roundly rejected until
one house bought it. Six of Swords became a "surprise" bestseller, it and its sequel selling 375,000 paperbacks with no marketing. But that was in the old days when sales figures weren't common knowledge and my super-success in fantasy was secret.

So I commissioned a gorgeous cover for Dancing with Werewolves from retired sf/f
artist David Cherry, the kind of guy who'll help out a friend. I decided to self-publish it.

Last year at this time, at the World Fantasy convention in Austin, Texas, near my home,
I spotted some great covers on a new imprint focusing on women fantasy writers, Juno Books, associated with Prime and Wildside Books, long active in the sf/f world. I decided to try Dancing with Werewolves with editor Paula Guran. When she expressed interest, I asked my agent if he'd handle a small press book, and he did.

Suddenly, I was small-press published. A key factor was Juno moving from trade
paperback format to more highly distributed mass market paperback, through the encouragement of its distributor and the chain bookstores.

That's how it happened that last weekend, exactly a year after I crossed paths with
Juno, Dancing with Werewolves debuted as # 20 in its mass market category on
Nielsen Bookscan. I'm now getting reviews that make one wonder what those editors
were thinking:

"the fantastic first of a new paranormal series . . . fresh . . . spectacularly stylish . . . fabulous."-- starred PW review

“This is a smartly written, plot driven, original novel that deftly combines the elements
of fantasy, mystery, and romance to the well sated delight of the reader. Enthusiastically recommended."--Midwest Review of Books

"With a brilliant eye for detail, Douglas demonstrates her creative talents with a captivating storyline and some of the most unique supporting characters around. This is truly a fantastic start to a series that paranormal romance readers are sure to enjoy."--Darque Reviews

Juno and artist Tim Lantz did a stunning cover. The concept and title are strong, and my name is proving to have lots of pulling power in fantasy and romance as well as mystery. Five wonderful bestselling paranormal authors knew, or knew of, my work, and gave me great quotes: Kelley Armstrong, Heather Graham, Sherrilyn Kenyon, mystery star Nancy Pickard, and Rebecca York. I had a lot of help from my friends and long-time readers who have never forgotten my fantasy roots.

This story, which has a happy ending, so far, is not really about me "knowing best" and
being ahead of the curve, although I am a pretty savvy marketer, and you'd think
I'd get some credit for that after all these books and years.

It's about the industry needing to trust the time-tested creative artist, including their editors.

Clint Eastwood had a great quote in Parade magazine, which I saved and therefore lost, about Hollywood nowadays being cautious and following formula and thereby creating the surfeit of unoriginal products that disappoint and lose audiences. Only he said it much

If even "Dirty Harry" is having trouble getting support for his work, it's a wicked world.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Burt Reynolds

Today I watched about ten minutes of a late-career Burt Reynolds picture called Malone. Though it's in modern dress and has to do with scientific secrets it's really a western, Reynolds as the disinterested cowpoke who gets mighty interested when things go wrong in Dodge. This is my recollection, anyway. Believe it or not I saw it in a theater back when Carol and I went to two or three movies a week. I remember it being much better than it should have been. A strong B.

But when I saw Reynolds today I wondered again why he handled his career the way he did. Deliverance, Semi-Tough, Starting Over...these were Movie Star pictures and he did well in them. One story goes that he constantly needed cash to support a) an expensive wife and b) his theater in Florida. Maybe.

Whatever happened he suddenly started turning out crap at an assembly line rate. Where his buddy Clint Eastwood chose material carefully, Reynolds seemed to take the least bad thing on his desk. Smokey 1 was hokey enough. By the end the Smokey were more like a Dean Martin Roast than a movie--knocking out the fourth wall, the actors all doing numbrs on each others so the yokels (us) could see How Real Hollywood People Behave. Yuks galore.

I saw him interviewed at length a couple of times. He's a bright enough guy but I never sensed any real commitment or interest in craft other than stunt work. Eastwood, though I think he's over-rated as a director and certainly as an actor, has a decided world view and the talent to turn that world view into entertaining and sometimes disturbing pictures.

Maybe all he wanted to be was a movie star. A male fold out. A smart ass on Carson. A seemingly self-deprecating ass bandit.

Too bad. I think he had a modest amount of real talent that he never let himself use.

For once I can beat Bill Crider to a scoop!

Danger: Beware of Falling Cows
Nov 6 02:27 PM US/Eastern

Couple Escapes Injury When Falling Cow Hits Minivan

MANSON, Wash. (AP) - Charles and Linda Everson were driving back to their hotel when their minivan was struck by a falling object—a 600-pound cow.

The Eversons were unhurt but the cow, which had fallen off a cliff, had to be euthanized.

The year-old cow fell about 200 feet from the cliff and landed on the hood of the couple's minivan, causing heavy damage.

A Chelan County fire chief, Arnold Baker, said the couple missed being killed by a matter of inches in the accident Sunday on a highway near Manson.

The Eversons, visiting the area from their home in Westland, Mich., to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, were checked at Lake Chelan Community Hospital as a precaution.

Everson, 49, said he didn't see the cow falling and didn't know what happened until afterward.

He said he kept repeating: "I don't believe this. I don't believe this."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I was never A Man From Uncle fan and today Turner Classic Movies is reminding my why. They've been running Uncle movies and Uncle compilations peddled as movies all day. If Flint was a K-Mart version of Bond at least it had James Coburn and a certain merry Cold War cynicism. Uncle had Robert Vaughan, who always struck me as a singularly uninteresting mid-level corporate executive, and some of the chessiest sets outside of an Irwin Allen TV series. I watched a half hour of one of them today and the only fun was seeing Dorothy Provine again. Damn she was good looking. Those facial bones were perfect. Jack Palance was the overwrought bad guy and David McCallum looked sort of lost in all the to-ing and fro-ing. I didn't get it back then and I still don't.


My old buddy John McCarty was on NPR this afternoon talking about the American fascination with mobsters. He did a damned good job as usual. I hope they have him on again soon.


I have a link to Martin Edwards' blog. Very good writer, very good reviewer. He's of the old Brit school, which is to say he honors the past as well as the present. A few days ago he reviewed the first two volumes of my Collected Works, for which I've thanked him. But this isn't log-rolling. I really do like his fiction, which is rich with character, incident and a serious look at the world around us. He should be much better known in the States. I'm hoping we publish him in Five Star again. Poisoned Pen has done a few of his novels, too. Try the link. I think you'll find him interesting and erudite.


I see that one of my favorite Elmore Leonard novels Killshot has been turned into a film with Diane Lane. Now that' may be worth seeing.

Monday, November 05, 2007


In my recent review of Otto Penzler's mammoth collection The Big Book of Pulp Fiction I mentioned that it is the only such book that gives the reader a real sense of what pulp fiction was really like because it includes so many different types of stories. Not just Chandler-Hammett but a cross-section of worthy lesser knowns who wrote just about every kind of suspense story a feller could think up.

And the good stuff keeps on coming:

MAX BRAND: Ten Crime Stories edited by Wm. F. Nolan, Jr. Nolan has edited some masterful collections previously and this is one of his best. Brand was one of the most famous of all pulp writers. But he also made extraordinary money in the slicks and in Hollywood. Whatever the format, Brand was up to the task as these stories, culled from both the pulps (including Black Mask) and million-selling magazines The American and Colliers. Whether he was writing westerns, sea adventures or suspense (or his famous Dr. Kildare novels), Brand emphasized character as well as action and it's the people that keep these stories fresh for readers today. An excellent addition to The Lost Classics Series from Crippen & Landru.

JOEL TOWNSLEY ROGERS: Night of Horror and Other Stories. Rogers is remembered today for one of the strangest and most compelling mystery novels ever written, The Red Right Hand. But like Brand he was a writer who worked for the pulps as well as the slicks. These stories, from sources as well-known as The Saturday Evening Post and as forgotten as Mystery Book Magazine, show that Rogers, like Brand, was a first-class yarn-spinner. No matter what the tale, though, there's always an effective hint of the macabre or ironic in Rogers' material whether that be in the straightforward "The Hanging Rope" from New Detective or "Pink Diamond" from Argosy. This is another example of what magazine fiction was really like back in the Thirties and Forties. And if you've got a taste for it, this is a book you'll want to have. Volume Two is already on the way.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

From Fred Blosser - ho ho ho - sort of

Ed, you've probably already seen the article by Caryn James in today'd NY TIMES that discerns a trend in the movies slated to open this holiday season: "There is blood on the snow in “Lions for Lambs,” blood on the living room carpet in “American Gangster,” blood just about everywhere in “No Country for Old Men.” The more lighthearted “Sweeney Todd” has its singing, throat-slitting barber. “There Will Be Blood” may be the title of a film opening the day after Christmas, but it could be the slogan for this entire holiday season."

Ms. James may not remember (or may not be old enough to remember) the Christmas movie season of 1971, when the big holiday fare consisted of "Dirty Harry," "The French Connection," "Straw Dogs," and "A Clockwork Orange." Also "Diamonds Are Forever" (if you count Bond-movie violence as violence), "The Last Picture Show" (no violence per se that I can remember, but a real ultra-downer), and "Man in the Wilderness" (mountain man Richard Harris gets mauled by a grizzly, left for dead by his partners, recovers, and sets off for revenge).

I'll leave others to (psycho)analyze the endless sociological implications. For me -- not being a fan of the current Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn school of movie "comedy" -- the most depressing sentence in Ms. James article: "And every holiday season needs to fill its bad-Santa/grown-up elf slot; this year that movie is “Fred Claus,” with Vince Vaughn as Santa’s underachieving brother."

Fred B.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


This is why I shoudn't make lists--I listed some current innovators in crime fiction tonight and somehow overlooked Allan Guthrie, one of the best.

Follow Up

"I agree with what you say about contemporary crime fiction. There are a lot of fine technical writers who turn out overblown stories with self indulgent hero(ine)s. Everything seems to strive to be Tarantino smooth instead of simply realistic. mtm"

The above was one of the responses to my post last night about the sameness of too much current crime fiction in subject matter if not technique as well. I think it says exactly what I should have said. (Please keep in mind that my First Rule of Reading is--we read what gives us pleasure no matter who says it's good or bad--and that includes Gorman's bloviating. I don't need to remind you that these are my opinions as a reader, nothing more.)

I was responding to stopping by a fairly sizable paperback stand yesterday and looking through the the crime fiction titles I found there. Without an exception they were all about troubled FBI agents, troubled macho cops or troubled heroines threatened by some person from the past. They were outnumbered of course by the number of titles about vampires diddling each other.

As mtm says, most of these books are undoubtedly skillfully crafted and entertaining to read. All I wonder about is how the same tropes can find an audience again and again. This isn't to say that there aren't fine serial killer novels--try John Lutz's a In At The Kill, a particularly fine example of the sub-genre. As for troubled heroines, try anything by Patricia MacDonald. Like Lutz, she's a real writer whose books have true inner lives. Macho cops...Michael Black stands the sub-genre on its head. He's something fresh in the field.

As a writer, I'm not an innovator, either. Real innovators sometimes come along in groups. Right now you can find most of them in the group that includes Ken Bruen, Jason Starr, Vicki Hendricks, Duane Swierczynski, Dave Zeltersman etc. It's significant that I've never seen any of their books on a supermarket/pharmacy/Wal-Mart bookshelf. This may simply be because I live in Iowa where the distributors never stock anything that isn't on The List. We get a very narrow spectrum of titles out here except, of course, for the chains.

It's not that I don't enjoy nail-biters or adventure novels. Love the damned things. I just like them when they're not same old same old. There are a number of crossover horror writers doing dark suspense these days who deserve mainstream audiences, Tom Piccirilli chief among them. And I wish somebody would backlist Norm Partridge. He's done some extraordinary work in the suspense genre.

In mystery and suspense I still like books that have some relevance to everyday life. I mentioned King's Cujo. The belly fire in that book is how it shows us decent, common people struggling not just against the problems of the plot but with their own difficulties as human beings. Yes, poor Cujo is memorable as hell. But so are the people.

Nancy Pickard and Laura Lippmann are two of the best writers we have. They give us books about us. The Way We Live Now was a book title in the sixties. That's what these two writers bring to the table every book out.

There's a whole hell of a lot going on in mystery fiction...I just wish more of it was available where we buy milk and shaving cream.

Friday, November 02, 2007


I should note that Saddlebums was nice enough to interview me a week ago. I'm somewhere down the scroll line It's my usual interview in which I discuss my plans to turn the subject of quantam physics into a musical, why I think the Carter Brown has it all over that Chandler guy, and how I'm doing here on the seventh floor violent ward.

Got a funny off-line message from a woman I used to know. She was amused by my comments about beaver-flashing starlets. She pointed out that we're all getting older and that in the old days I would've paid big dollars to see such things. I noted that I was just agreeing with what Kathy Griffin said on her current special that to show yourself while getting out a car takes a) some very shrewd and unnatural body movements and b) beaver-flashing is now so common it's getting passe. Mostly I was responding to the NY Times article about the reality show of some daughter of some vaguely prominent guy who said that she began her climb to stardom by having a sex tape made with some dude and putting it on the internet. I was laughing out loud as I read this, thinking back to the studio days when fixers would pay big bucks to supress "dirty" photos of the movie stars on the studio roster. My God is that Helen Hayes flashing her--?


I started reading Cujo by Stephen King last night and have been getting back to it every chance I've had today. He really is the great storyteller of our generation. I've probably read Cujo ten times over the years and not because of the rabies or even the suspense. The woman and man at the center of the story, how she confesses having an affair and the way he responds. I think that's why I'm not much interested in so much popular crime fiction today. All these FBI agents; all these serial killers who creep back into vulnerable (and predictable) lives; all the macho cops. The same thing over and over and over. And there's seemingly no end. If you want to read a real novel try Cujo. There's no supernatural for people who don't dig such.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Samuel Fuller, Novelist - Turner Classic Movies

Ed here: Not only does TCM offer the best cable selection of movies, its website is packed with interesting mini-essays. Here's its commentary on Sam Fuller's The Dark Page:

(copyright 2007 TCM)

THE DARK PAGE - Samuel Fuller's 1944 Noir Novel is Available Again!

Coming soon to a bookstore near you, Samuel Fuller's pulp novel The Dark Page is being republished by Kingly Reprieve. As director and writer, Sam Fuller is revered for raw films noir like Pickup on South Street and searing war movies such as The Big Red One, earning a devoted cult of fans that has included filmmakers from Jean-Luc Godard to Quentin Tarantino, and writers from James Ellroy to George Pelecanos. Before movies, however, Fuller was a newspaperman, and a prolific novelist, blasting out books for the disreputable pulp market.

Drawing on his own experience, Fuller sets this story against the vividly rendered world of Manhattan’s ravenous tabloid newspaper industry. The Dark Page is the tale of Carl Chapman, a powerful city editor turned murderer, who finds himself hunted through the pages of his own paper by the young star crime reporter he personally groomed.

First published in 1944, this fantastically readable murder story has been unavailable for decades, and never published in the UK before. A bestseller in its day – when it was awarded “Best Psychological Novel of 1944” - the novel’s page turning pace, hardboiled stance, cynical wit and grit remain surprising, as do the cinematic eye and powerhouse story-telling of its author. A gripping noir snapshot of its era, with still-pertinent observations on the workings of the tabloid press, it is one of the great rediscoveries of the year.

Director Wim Wenders in his introduction to this edition wrote: "For Sam Fuller the world condensed into stories. That’s what he saw wherever he looked. Whatever reality, incident, fact or event presented itself, he saw it as narrative material. Rereading The Dark Page I hear Sam’s voice, very clearly, as if he was talking to me, intense, excited, passionate, honest. I never met anybody else who would actually talk the same way he would write, let alone anybody who would also make movies with that very same impetus and attitude. One of the great movie directors of the 20th century, sure. But most certainly its greatest storyteller. In my book, at least."