Bullets Over Hollywood; Jim Harmon
When my buddy John McCarty published his fine book on American gangster movies I gave it twenty-seven stars. Or maybe twenty-eight. It's packed with intelligent observation, lots of insider stories and a look at how gangster films reflect American reality as much as more mainstream fare.
Now John's done a trailer that's almost as good the book.
THE MAN WHO MADE MANIACS & SILENT SIREN
Last night I wrote about Robert Bloch's love-hate relationship with Hollywood.
Back in the late Fifties and early Sixties when I was publishing a science fiction fanzine the fans most envied were those who were starting to sell their stories to the professional magazines of the day. Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg had made the leap a few years earlier. Several others were slowly walking the path blazed by brilliance of those two.
One of those writers was Jim Harmon. He was definitely one of Us. Fanzine-publishing. Convention-going. And writer of increasingly notable sf stories in the magazines.
He was five years or so older than my group and one industrious guy. He not only excelled at sf he excelled at the soft-core porn of the day--i.e., real novels with prim sex scenes as ballast. The soft-core market coincided with three or four people in my group (Illinois people) heading for Hollywood as their majority approached.
One of those was Ron Haydock, a notable fan, nice guy and talented writer. I lost touch with him after he landed in LA though various fanzines noted that he was getting involved in motion pictures. He also managed to keep his rock band, which got some very nice reviews, in steady work for a time.
Here's Wikipedia's take:
In the Hollywood B-movie industry, Haydock was an actor and screenwriter, working with director Ray Dennis Steckler, and he also worked as a magazine editor. Haydock used a variety of pseudonyms -- Arnold Hayes, Lonnie Lord, Vin Saxon, Don Sheppard, Jerry Lee Vincent. As Vin Saxon, he was the author of adult fiction paperbacks during the 1960s and 1970s. As Arnold Hayes, he wrote graphic stories for Warren Publishing.
Haydock's life came to an end in 1977, when he was struck by a truck while hitchhiking after visiting Steckler in Las Vegas. He was buried without any publicity. Norton Record's Miriam Linna has written extensively about Haydock for liner notes, magazine articles and the book Sin-A-Rama (2004).
I thought of Ron as I was reading the Jim Harmon novels because, published in 1961, they reflect The Dream as it was defined in those days. Harmon is not only a good storyteller and a hipper version of Carter Brown, whom he resembles in these books, he's a pretty funny observer of the Hollywood scene. Easy to imagine Ron and a few of the other fans who disappeared into LA playing out a few of these moments.
The Man Who Made Maniacs and Silen Siren are available in handsome editions with randy covers by Gavin O'Keefe from Ramble House. They're a lot of fun and weirdly nostalgic. Even then La-La Land was a sink hole of sorts but as Art Carney's private eye character Ira Wells says to LillyTomlin in The Late Show about his generation of Hollywood folk, "We did it better back then."