Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Poker Club

I just got this information yesterday about The Poker Club being slotted at The Austin Film Festival

http://aff.bside.com/2008/films/thepokerclub_aff2008 :00 P.M.

Sunday October 19 2:00 P.M.

The Poker Club
Tim McCann
Categories: Marquee
Run time: 81 min.
Adapted from the novel by Ed Gorman, The Poker Club tells the story of four old friends who discover a burglar in the house during their weekly poker night. Things take a turn for the unexpected when he is killed trying to escape. But the intruder may not have been alone. Tim McCann (AFF 2005 Narrative Feature Winner for Runaway) has crafted a compelling suspense thriller about friendship and betrayal.

Tim McCann
Johnathon Schaech
Richard Chizmar

Jana Kramer
Johnathon Schaech
Johnny Messner
Judy Reyes
Loren Dean

Monday, September 29, 2008

Craih Shaw Gardner; Magazines

Prominent science fiction-fantasy writer Craig Shaw Gardner responded to a letter I wrote about Gregory McDonald on The Big Adios:

"About 30 years ago, I took a mystery writing course in Cambridge MA. that had guest lecturers. A very large number of mystery writers live in the Boston/Cambridge area, and a lot of these folks were quite famous (Lawrence Block, for example) But the guest I remembered best was Gregory McDonald, becauses of his thoughts on character. McDonald said that he first came up with the bare bones of his plot, but he would not feel comfortable writing the book until he understood each of his characters inside out. He would then take an object or piece of clothing that he believed would fit each character, and then keep it by his desk -- or wear it while he was writing -- as a sort of talisman (although he didn't use that word) the get inside his characters. Once he had done that, and figured out how his characters spoke and thought, the actual writing was relatively easy."


Strong December issues from both Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock:

EQ is packed with some of my favorite suspense writers including Clark Howard, Melodie Johnson Howe, Tom Tolnay. A special treat is a short story from Kevin Wignall who, to me, is one of the finest new crime writers in the world. With Jon L. Breen on books and Bill Crider on websites. A bargain as always.

AH The lead story "Guilt" by Gilbert M. Stack is one of the strongest stories I've read this year. And the other pieces, especially "Grave Trouble" by R.T. Lawton remind us are why we read mystery and crime fiction in the first place. There's even an Agatha Christie short story that holds up very well and reminds us that she was high concept long before that term came into fashion.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Don Westlake on Jim Thompson

I don't know if Bob Randisi remembers the day we met and had lunch with Patrick McGilligan up there in the wilds of Wisconsin--twenty-some years now I suspect--but Patrick has gone on to become a major writer on the subject of Hollywood. His collections of interviews with screenwriters called Backstory are now staples in film schools. I was reading #4 today and ran across an extraordinary interview with Donald Westlake who not only articulated my feelings about Jim Thompson but also made me think about all of us who started in the 60s, 70s and early 80s writing for downmarket men's magazines and long ago forgotten paperback lines. Sure I can get it you by Monday--it's only Friday afternoon isn't it?

Donald Westlake on adapting Jim Thompson to the screen (The Grifters):

"(Thompson) always wrote from his guts--too fast but from his guts. He was usually doing stuff for too little money in secondary markets. Every one of his books was published one draft too soon...

"I did some of that in my early days of writing, so I know how it happens. You're going along until you get to a point in the story where you say -`Oh my gosh, this story isn't going to work unless she was married before...' You can solve it two ways: you can go back and put the marriage in where you should have put in the first place, or you can just stick right in: "She was married before' and keep going. That's what Thompson does."

Ed here:

Long before there were computers we only had White Out!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Movie Day

I spent a good share of the day watching two movies. I'd been waiting for the Independent Film Channel to run Claude Chabrol's Story of Women (1990 USA) again. Here's a partial review from IMDB:

Abortion in Nazi-occupied France

Author: Dennis Littrell (dalittrell@yahoo.com) from SoCal

"Claude Charbrol's stark and unsentimental masterpiece about the last woman to be executed in France--she was guillotined for performing abortions in Nazi-occupied France during World War II--forces us to see a side of war not often depicted. What does a woman with two little children do when her country is occupied by the brute forces of the enemy? How is she to find enough to eat, to buy the increasingly scarce and costly necessities of life? How is she to find joy in life? Women often turn to prostitution during such times, but Maire Latour does not. Instead she aborts the foetuses of the prostitutes and of other women impregnated, often by the Nazis. In a sense this is her "resistence." However she prospers and takes up with a Nazi collaborator. In the process she reduces her husband to frustration and humiliation.

"Isabelle Huppert as Marie Latour is mesmerizing in a role that allows her talent full latitude. She is clear-headed and sly as a business woman, warm and ordinary as a mother, cold and brutal as a wife, childish and careless as an adulteress, resourceful and fearless as an abortionist, and unrepentant as she awaits the executioner (foreshadowed, by the way, by her son, who wants to be an executioner when he grows up). "

Ed here:

The more movies I watch the more I feel drawn to Chabrol and his seminal actress Isabelle Huppert. I know I am in a minority for admiring what the two of them did with Madame Bovary but I think that film will have its day eventually. In terms of both intelligent and sexual beauty I can't think of another actress who comes close to Huppert. I could imagine her face dominating the days of silent films; with her gentle hesitant style given voice she's all the more remarkable. A lesser actor would have donned masks to show us all the different sides of Marie. But somehow Huppert integrates all contradictory aspects of Marie into one believe whole. This is a masterpiece.

------------------Libeled Lady (1936)

IMDB "Warren Haggerty is the chief editor of the New York Evening Star. He keeps on delaying his marriage with Gladys because of problems his newspapers must face. When it is filed a 5 million dollars claim by Connie Allenbury for having printed she is a marriage-breaker, he organizes the unconsummated marriage of Gladys and the don Juan Bill Chandler. The goal is to catch Connie alone with a married man... Written by Yepok"

I laughed all the way through this screwball comedy that could never have been made after the Hayes office took power. Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow as editor and fiance reminded my of why I never much cared for the Tracy-Hepburn pictures. Too chaste. Harlowe takes the picture for me. This is the best I've ever seen he and I'm a big fan. Funny, sexy, a little bit trashy and cunning in the way she battles Tracy, who keeps breaking his promise to marry her, they dominate the screen in a way the more staid William Powell and Myrna Lowe don't. The latter two are good but predictable. Harlowe and Tracty spill real blood. The last six minutes give us three plot twists.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Jack O'Connell

Tom Piccirilli is not only one of the leading noir writers of our time he also hosts one of the most interesting and entertaining websites, The Big Adios. I'm sure you'll like it. http://thebigadios.yuku.com/forums/61 In addition to disussion topics, Tom conducts excellent interviews. Here's an especially notable one.

From The Big Adios:

Jack O'Connell is the author of four critically acclaimed novels (BOX NINE, WIRELESS, THE SKIN PALACE, WORD MADE FLESH) which have earned him something of a cult status. His work has been praised by James Ellroy, Neil Gaiman, Katherine Dunn and Jonathan Carroll, among others. Another fan, George Pelacanos (author of THE NIGHT GARDENER), wrote, "In [his] remarkable books, Jack O'Connell has riffed on language, fire-cleansed genre conventions, and stripped the artifice from the modern noir novel, creating a body of work both exciting and entirely original." The author lives with his wife and two children in Worcester, Massachusetts.

PIC: Jack! You're known for your unique novels, which often mix fantastic, surreal, or horrific elements in with your full-throttle noir sensibility. I know that after your last novel some nine years ago, WORD MADE FLESH, which is an immensely dark book, you wanted to take a break from that kind of bleakness. But seriously, is the story of a traumatized father searching to help his long-term comatose son at a strange clinic where the staff are all lunatics, an area motorcycle gang steals brain fluid, and a child's comic book features rape, murder, and lethal discrimination all that much lighter, bro?

JO: That whole "lightness" break didn't work out too well, did it? In fact, I did write a non-noir novel between WORD and RESURRECTIONIST -- a first-person, lyric road novel, of which I am still fond. But my advisers, who are much wiser than I am in such matters, recommended that I refrain from taking that story to market. Its composition, however, provided a much needed sabbatical from the horrors of Quinsigamond, my relentlessly noir city. By the time I finished the unpublished road book, I was ready to make the trip back into Q-town.

PIC: The novel alternates between Sweeney's story and issues of the comic book, Limbo, which follow the adventures of Chick the chickenboy, Bruno the strong man, and the rest of the Goldfaden Circus Freaks as they try to escape from the mad Dr. Fleiss and find a land where they are no longer persecuted. I know you wrote the Limbo storyline as a single piece you later cut up and inserted into the book at the appropriate places. Did you ever have doubts that you were straying too far from your original vision or did it always seem right to expand the Limbo story to such an extent?

JO: Oh, sure. As with so many writers I know, doubt is my primary impulse. I continue to have doubts about the dueling storylines. But at day's end, I find myself clinging to the lifelong notion that instinct is the storymaker's most valuable asset. I'm glad you asked this question, Pic, because it allows me to chew on some residual concerns that have been with me since the book debuted. I did about three weeks on the road after the novel hit the street and my biggest surprise was to hear that the majority of readers seemed to prefer the freaks' story to the "primary" Peck Clinic story. I did not see that coming. I figured that whatever small readership I'd built up in the previous novels would be looking for the familiar Quinsigamond landmarks and hardboiled (but recognizable) mayhem.

Occasionally, attendant to that preference, I heard of a reader's difficulty in imagining the freaks' story as a comic book - or, alternately, a reader's desire that the freaks' storyline had been presented as an actual comic book. (Something Jodi Picoult would go on to do in THE TENTH CIRCLE.) Which my agent and I did discuss briefly. But I never intended the Limbo sections to serve as, let us say, a novelization of the comic book. Rather, I intended them as glimpses into the over-arcing narrative of the totality of the freaks' story. At some stage, we decided that this might be too confusing. That we needed to situate the reader a bit, to spell out each narrative jump. And so, I nailed "Limbo Comics" titles to each Limbo section. In fact, the comic book is just one medium in which the freaks' story is conveyed.

I have a complex relationship to massive, world-creating narratives. I'm completely intrigued by this kind of ever-expanding franchising of story. But I'm also edgy as regards the outer frontiers of such stories - the places where it becomes a morphing, communal enterprise. Where the base-story is cloned and cloned again. Where it is spread out across mediums. Where strangers usurp the story's history and its future. Where fanatics know more about the overall integrity of the myth than does its creator. Because, you know, clearly, Quinsigamond is set-up to function as that kind of narrative universe. I gnaw weekly on the question of whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

PIC: Although you use some aspects of the comic book and carnival mythos in the story, you really break from the romanticized notions and go off in your own direction right from the git-go. The story is very adult and even vicious, you chose to write the comic book in prose, and despite the freaks being from a carnival you don't focus in on the standard carny atmosphere. It was all incredibly daring for you. Was it a conscious decision or simply part of the organic process?

JO: I'm a research geek. I love wandering in libraries. I'm thrilled when one book leads to another, which, in turn, points the way to another and so on. I love experiencing those moments of faith, the sense that if you do the work, the exactly correct bit of information will be given to you. That if you spend the time, you will be rewarded at some point with the perfect images. I was delighted to find a useful array of reference material on circus freaks, traveling carnivals, sideshows. I bulked up on all of it. (This was one of those great instances in which I discovered that I had loaded in bits of my research arsenal years before the idea for the novel landed. I'm delighted when that happens - when you find physical evidence that the subconscious was preparing for your story long before your conscious mind acknowledged the idea.)

My longstanding method is to read broadly in the appropriate area and then just let all that material sink into the back of the brain. I tend not to plug the research directly into the narrative. Once I start writing, I simply try to hook into the voice and the rhythm of the story. There's a sense of "appropriateness," a feeling of interior "correctness," when the process is working, when the cylinders are all firing. And when that's happening, I find that things will just slide into the story as needed. That as you're working away, building a scene, the brain will just reach up into the attic and grab little bits of fodder from that pile of pre-composition research. I instinctively grab what feels right and slap it into place to shore up the story, or to create the milieu, or to build a little verisimilitude.

PIC: I've read the book twice now and I'm fairly certain there isn't a single truly sane character to be found within its story proper. You've got emotionally stunted and traumatized folks, psychopaths, sociopaths, mad medical doctors, nymphos, nutcases, and newts. Every cast member is highly complex who falls under the umbrella label of "loony." Do you agree?

JO: We could argue as to whether or not Nadia is sane. But I feel certain that Rene, the salamander, is utterly sane. He's a herald and a shaman. His kind arrived in Quinsigamond with the first colonists. They're in Q-town for a specific reason. The newts are agents in the dense schematic of the city's myth.

The fact is, Quinsigamond will make you crazy. Over time, something about the city itself will trigger what you, on the outside, would define as insanity. But remember that your definition of that word might not match up with the definition embraced by those of us within the city's borders. Someone sent me a comment from a tellingly angry blogger who was put out that, in the story, a six-year-old was reading a comic book that featured, as you note, rape, murder, hermaphrodites. Six year olds would never read such a thing, this reader fumed. Well, I'd rather you not attack the messenger, but I've been lodging in Quinsigamond for a quarter century now. Wandering, observing, scribbling in my notebook. I understand that it violates the mores of mom's basement, but I've seen six-year-olds reading exactly such things in my dark city.

PIC: What is it that drives you to such a unique take on speculative fiction? Don't you ever worry about what agents and editors might think?

JO: I worry all the time. And I try to respond to such worries. I swear that I'm not being weird for the sake of being weird. I genuinely value the reader and I think, at this stage, I have some sense of the marketplace. I'm not a masochist and I'm not being perverse. I'm also, pointedly, not an elitist. I have always hungered for input from informed, wise readers. You could ask my agent and my editor and my wife (my first reader) - I desire and value editorial dialogue. And 90 percent of the time, I acquiesce on all requests to make the stories more accessible, more reader-friendly, even more market-friendly.

When I sit down to begin a book, my outline tends to be very straightforward. Clear, concise, exciting, engaging. What I strive for, every time out of the gate, is to be professional. I know that you and I share a fondness for the paperback noir-ists of the last century - Thompson and Goodis and Brewer and Rabe and Marlowe. For me, one the things I love about those writers is their obvious understanding of their job and their ability to execute. I have an admiration for genre masters, for pros, for writers whose craftsmanship is impeccable. I think a lot about our uncles (or older, wiser big brothers) - Ed Gorman and Bill Pronzini. Stark and Gores and Crumley and Block. I read a Loren Estleman a while back and just marveled at the sheer craftsmanship - nothing wasted, everything balanced, the engine of story humming perfectly. I just want to genuflect in front of these guys. For me, there's often a moment as I'm reading one of their books when I experience a bittersweet rush - an almost physical reaction - that I think is a manifestation of this simple understanding: Jesus, this bastard knows what he's doing. That's the sweet part. The bitter part is the understanding that, whatever my modest talents, that kind of ease of solid, polished, tight overall control (let us say), is not among them. I suppose what I'm saying is that when I launch a story, my ambition is to build the sleekest, most efficient, most accessible mousetrap on the shelf. And almost inevitably, in the middle third of the book, my inherent weirdness overrides my control systems to some extent. And I end up chasing and pulling and chasing and pushing the story into the territories where time and space become a little unstable.

Let me say it: I'm a goddamn Martian. I have a warped sensibility. We could spend hours trying to uncover why that is. God knows, I've spent my adult life and about 10,000 notebook pages trying to do just that. But the fact is that the core of the stories that I'm compelled to spill onto the page gestate within and emerge out of that warped sensibility. Now, the folks who like my work appear to think this is a positive thing. That this warped perspective, this skewed vision, is what gives the books whatever power and meaning they possess. Some days, I agree.

PIC: I know your noir comes from a number of surprising places not usually associated with noir, including the music of Springsteen, 70s TV shows a la The Prisoner, and films as diverse as Soylent Green and A Boy and His Dog. What are some of your more acknowledged film noir or fiction favorites?

JO: I love the whole of the noir canon. But I actually came to neo-noir before classic noir. I've written about this before: when I was an adolescent, during my most impressionable years, early 1970s (a fine time, in my opinion, for a noir writer to come of age), there was what we now call a grindhouse cinema in the heart of my downtown. Friday, Saturday nights, my friends and I would hike down to The Paris and, for a buck, see a double feature. So, at 13, 14, 15 years old, I was gorging on Dirty Harry and Assault on Precinct 13 and The Getaway and Hustle and Vanishing Point and The Laughing Policeman. I remember being knocked out by Karel Reisz's The Gambler. All those great, gritty neo-noir pictures with their antiheroes moving through washed-out colors and barely visible night scenes. I just fell for it completely.

Now the thing was, when the movies got out, my pals and I would tramp the couple miles back to the neighborhood. This is early 1970s in a rust belt mill city. So for me, with my inflamed imagination, the streets we were walking looked more than a little like the locales we had just seen up on the screen. And I started thinking of my hometown as a setting for that kind of edgy, grimy, shadowy crime story.

Like a lot of my cohorts, I got my classic noir from the late show on the tube. My favorites change from month to month, but I guess the two films that had the most lasting impact on me might be The Asphalt Jungle and Night and the City. The look of those films, the sense of the city itself as a crucial character - that stayed with me.

As far as fiction goes, a few years after those ritual trips to The Paris, I read THE BIG SLEEP and THE MALTESE FALCON - both of which I love - but it wasn't until I was in my 20s and Barry Gifford launched Black Lizard that I glommed onto Thompson and Goodis. Black Lizard was my graduate school in noir. For me, Gifford was like some revivalist preacher who transfixed and then converted me against all odds. On the day I wandered into Gifford's tent, I was a cradle postmodernist. My trinity was Pynchon, DeLillo and Robert Stone (though, like many, I'd argue that DOG SOLDIERS is a neo-noir). I came out of the tent worshiping Willeford and Paul Cain and Dan Marlowe.

Interestingly, almost as much as any novel or film, there were three works of biography - of all things - that helped to shape my identity as a noir writer: Robert Polito's life of Jim Thompson, SAVAGE ART, completely captured me. I can't count the number of times I've read that book. Likewise, Jim Sallis' DIFFICULT LIVES, which contains haunting, beautifully written essays on Thompson, Goodis and Himes, is something I go back to yearly. And Bill Pronzini's essay on Gil Brewer actually launched me on several years of Brewer mania. (Big thank you to Charles Ardai and Greg Shephard for bringing GB back into print.) What was important about those bios was that they taught me how to have my cake and eat it, too. That the gutter is the best place to brew subversive art. That it's possible (as I think Ed Gorman said) to give the reader what you owe her and, simultaneously, to do your secret work deep inside that transaction.

PIC: Was it difficult wrapping the book up? The last few chapters combine the two storylines in an unexpected fashion that broaches slipstream. Was that always your intention?

JO: The ending seems to polarize readers. I've heard that it elevates and transforms the entire story. And I've heard that it explodes everything that preceded it. Here's what I can say about the book's conclusion: I cannot imagine any other ending. The conclusion is the very point of the book. And I am a guy who is always tempted, in a very real way, to rewrite every book I've written. Ideally, I would like to establish a recall department in my writing office: When you buy one of my books, you register at the point of purchase. Over the life of the book, as I discovered ways to fix defects and enhance the story, I would send out periodic notices to the customer asking him to ship back his original copy, which I would repair and upgrade and return free of charge. But I'll never be tempted to change the ending to THE RESURRECTIONIST. Because to do so would make it an entirely different story. To do so would change the meaning of the book. Would cancel the very reasons it was built.

PIC: What's next for you? Any chance we'll see some short fiction?

JO: I would love to write more short fiction. I'm regularly deluged with story ideas. Most of them only make it as far as the notebook mulling stage. Back in April, I spent a rainy day in Portland, Oregon, all alone in the wonderful Living Room Theater, across from Powells, watching the movie, Boarding Gate. I exited the theater and walked feverishly through the following week mapping out a longish short story whose muse looks suspiciously like Asia Argento. I'd give several pints of blood for the time to knock that one out. But I'm under contract with the fine folks at Algonquin for another novel, which I've promised to deliver in a timely fashion. So that has my full devotion right now.


[Jack O'Connell interviewed by Tom Piccirilli 9/20]


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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Political statement

From TPM Muckraker tonight (I still think McFogey is going to win) but at least this gives me passing pleasure:

Polls: McCain Seen As Negative Candidate; Number Who Think He's "Honest" Drops
By Greg Sargent - September 25, 2008, 5:24PM
If two new polls are any indication, all the lying and adver-sleazements coming out of the McCain campaign could be starting to take a toll on his maverick straight-talker image.

Some advance numbers from a new New York Times poll tell the story.

Fifty-three percent say McCain is attacking the other candidate, versus only 35% who say that Obama is the attacker. Meanwhile. only 38% say McCain is explaining what he would do as president, while 56% say that about Obama.

Obama is also winning among independents on these questions: Forty-four percent of them say McCain is attacking Obama, while only 36% of them say Obama's attacking.

Separately, Steve Benen has a nice catch from the new Washington Post poll. Obama has a double digit lead on the question of which candidate is seen as "more honest and trustworthy," 47%-36%. Interestingly, this is quite a shift: The two candidates were roughly tied on this question in July and August.

The McCain campaign gambled that it could take the campaign to unprecedented heights of dishonesty, no matter what the press said about them, without it dragging him off the pedestal he's been placed on by a decade or more of glowing media coverage. Maybe not so much. We'll see.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mystery Scene Number 106; Entourage; The Office

This has to be one of the two or three best issues of MS ever published. Art Taylor's article tracking crime novels written during the Civil Rights era is not only fine scholarship but also a reminder of several novels that deserve to be read even now; Gary Phillips' piece on the black singing and screen star Herb Jeffries provides a complementary look at other popular culture in last century's history; Kevin Burton Smith reminds us that whether you like his work or not Robert B. Parker has been the dominant influence on private eye fiction since the publication of his first novel (I wonder if there'd even BE a private eye market if Parker hadn't come along); and I interview Don Westlake who talks at length about the history of the Richard Stark books. With Jon L. Breen on reference books, Dick Lochte on audio books and Ron Miller discussing tv shows (and all the regular columns and book reviewers), the new issue should be snapped up by mystery fans of every kind.


I probably should ask Lee Goldberg about this but I suspect that when a show has run as many seasons as Entourage there's a tendency to up the ante dramatically. You know, to compensate for creeping familiarity. Last Sunday night's episode had so many over the top moments I felt the show was starting to lose its grip on reality. And most of the big moments felt contrived. What I always liked about the show was its wry sly observation of the Hwood scene. But last Sunday's episode was damned near operatic. The hell of it is I suspect that this is just the beginning of the soap opera antics.

--------The Office

To show you how hooked Carol and I are on this show we now own all four seasons on DVD and watch them over and over. We were like this with Monk for three years. At first I preferred Ricky Gervais' BBC original to the American version but now I actually think the Steve Carrell take is richer, deeper. All hail Dunder-Mifflin.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Shameless Hustling: PS Publshing in the UK has brought out my novel Cage of Night in a limited edition hardcover. The price is forty dollars but I suspect that you can get it several dollars cheaper on Amazon very soon. I also imagine it'll go to collectors instead of the general public. I've run some quotes below. Duane Swierczynski was nice enough (after I paid him several hundred dollars and agreed to wash his car) to give me an extended quote that was almost a review. The one thing we suffered in the recent flood was the crash of our computers. I lost Duane's quote along with several others, my mom's among them.

One of my favorite writers, UK novelist and screenwriter Stephen Gallagher, was kind enough to write the introduction to this edition of Cage. I'm quoting three paragraphs here because they state exactly (and eloquently) the type of book I like to read..

"There’s a type of writing which I grew up loving, which made me want to be a writer myself, and which for a while I thought was gone forever. I'm talking about spare, intelligent commercial fiction. Pan paperbacks, crime novels, spy fiction, postwar British thrillers... writers from Gavin Lyall to Graham Greene, from John Le Carré to John D MacDonald. Well-paced novels that were as long as they needed to be and not a page longer, from authors with a grip on the English language as precise as a sculptor's on his chisel. Like a sculptor they wasted no strokes, and like a sculptor they had little margin for error.

"Their work is light, racy, and full of substance. By “light”, I don't mean frivolous. I mean with a deceptive lightness of touch, an easy sense of direct connection, a sense that the writer’s first job is always to engage the reader. Rather like the effortless people-person who spots you arriving at a party, makes you feel instantly welcome, and starts introducing you around. You know the type. Born diplomats. Even if you don't know them well, they seem to know you. It's a special thrill when they remember your name.

"Ah, those books! Well-crafted popular fiction. They came out of a tradition going all the way back to Dickens and beyond. It was storytelling, pure if not always simple. The best writers understood that storytelling wasn't some lower form of literature. It was the ticket to ride, allowing any and all of the freight of literature to be checked in to ride along with it."

"A terrific novel." - Alan Guthrie

"Twenty-one-year-old Nick Morrow returns to his
> hometown after two years in the Army and falls in
> love with Cindy Brasher, Homecoming Queen and town
> goddess to a long line of jealous men. A string of robberies
> put Nick at odds with his obsessive love for Cindy.
> One by one Nick's rivals are implicated in horrific
> crimes. Nick wonders how much Cindy knows, and why
> shewants him, like her past boyfriends, to visit the
> old well in the woods...
> "The book is full of Gorman's characteristic virtues
> as a writer: sympathy, humour, commitment to the
> craft of storytelling, and a headlong narrative drive. A
> real writer is at work here and there aren't many of
> those to go around." >

"Cornell Woolrich would have enjoyed Cage Of
> Night."
"A different type of noir horror tale can be found
> in 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."
> 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."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bestselling Gold Medal writers

I ran across this list of top-selling Gold Medal writers again (compiled by Jeff Vorzimmer) and was surprised to see Aarons so near the top and Brewer at the bottom.

> > 1. John D. MacDonald
> > 2. Richard S. Prather
> > 3. Edward S. Aarons
> > 4. Donald Hamilton
> > 5. Stephen Marlowe
> > 6. Peter Rabe
> > 7. Vin Packer
> > 8. Wade Miller
> > 9. Charles Williams
> > 10. Jonas Ward
> > 11. Harry Whttington
> > 12. Philip Atlee
> > 13. William Heuman
> > 14. Bruno Fischer
> > 15. Louis L'amour
> > 16. Gil Brewer
> >
> > I crunch numbers when I'm bored.
> > Jeff

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dave Stevens

The contemporary comics world baffles me. I take my grandson to the comic book shop and need an hour just to isolate six or seven comic books I may want to buy. So much good stuff, so overwhelming. But one artist-writer whose work I always snapped up was the late Dave Stevens who died way too young at fifty-two of leukemia. If you've never read his work--or seen it--pick up The Rocketeer. I still remember reading my first Rocketeer story in the back of a Mike Grell comic book was back in the 80s. Had never seen anything like it, nostalgic but cutting edge at the same time. Note Stevens' own comments on the frustrations of the creative process. He spoke for a lot of us I think.

From Tor: Com

Stevens, Brush with Passion
Irene Gallo
Arnie and Cathy Fenner have announced that Brush with Passion: The Art and Life of Dave Stevens is off to the printer and will be available in December,“Weighing in at 288 pages and featuring a veritable wealth of classic and previously unpublished artwork, Brush With Passion tells the Dave Stevens story, mostly in his own words...” I didn’t know Stevens or his work well enough, but by the reaction his passing evoked in so many artist friends of mine, I know this was my loss. I’ll be looking forward to this compilation to get to know him better.

From Wikipedia:

"Dave was truly one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life... and was certainly among the most gifted. Our first encounter was at Jack Kirby's house around 1971 when he came to visit and show Jack some of his work. As I said, Kirby was very encouraging and he urged Dave not to try and draw like anyone else but to follow his own passions. This was advice Dave took to heart, which probably explains why he took so long with every drawing. They were rarely just jobs to Dave. Most of the time, what emerged from his drawing board or easel was a deeply personal effort. He was truly in love with every beautiful woman he drew, at least insofar as the paper versions were concerned." – Mark Evanier [1]

"Well, I do expect a lot of myself. I'm a harsh critic because I know what I'm capable of. I have hit those occasional peaks amongst the valleys, but the peaks are so few-things like genuine flashes of virtuoso brush inking, like I've never executed before or since-I can count on one hand the number of jobs where I've been able to hit that mark. The same with penciling. Sometimes it just flows, but more often than not, it's pure physical and spiritual torment just to get something decent on paper. I often get very discouraged with the whole creative process." – Dave Stevens[3]

Friday, September 19, 2008

Gateway To Paradise

There aren't enough superilatives to do justice to the fine science fiction and fantasy books Haffner Press has been publishing for several years.

The latest is Gateway To Paradise, the sixth volume of The Collected Stories of Jack Williamson. This is my favorite Williamson so far because it contains the original novella that later became Darker Than You Think" still, to me, one of the five best novels ever written about the werewolf culture. Also included is the novel "Gateway To Paradise" which became one of the earliest of the Ace Double Novel, Dome Around Americas. An exciting adventure story and an grim reminder of Cold War days. There is an afterward in which Williamson discusses the stories and the era that produced them and a forward by Frederik Pohl who talks about his friend, a man credited with developing modern concepts of artifcial intellogence, anti-matter and genetic engineering. Several other tight, colorful pulp stories fill out the book.

Like previous volumes in this series, the full-color endpapers reproduce the original magazine covers (with artwork by pulp masters including Belarski, Cartier, Rogers, Bergey and Scott) of the stories herein, and the binding is designed to match the 1940s editions of Williamson's works published by Fantasy Press. The book is smythe-sewn, bound in full cloth, and printed on acid-neutral paper, with full-color endpapers reproducing the original pulp magazine cover art.

A gift for yourself or for a friend over the holidays. A fine addition to a fine line of books.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

James Crumley; Cinema Retro; Seinfeld-Gates

I never had any sort of contact with James Crumley so I'm speaking here strictly as a reader. I've read most of his novels at least three times. I agree with Otto Penzler that he was the finest hardboiled writer of the last three decades. His literary skills were enormous and all his own. When the dust settles on our time I expect it will be Crumley future readers and writers will acknowledge as the master. A terrible loss.

----------Cinema Retro

The best issue yet of this fine magazine. Two major interviews with Robert Vaughan and Joe Dante. The Vaughan is especially interesting. A life well lived by a man intelligent enough to appreciate it yet view it with a certain objectivity. The Dante interview is packed with memories of his long and successful run in Hollywood.

Pinewood Studios, Goldfinger, The Chase as exemplary chase film, David McCallum and a stunning reprise of the films of 1971. Think of this in a twelve month period the following films were released:

The Anderson Tapes
Carnal Knowledge
A Clockwork Orange
Dirty Harry
Fiddler on The Roof
The French Connection
The Last Picture Show
McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Summer of `42
Sunday Bloody Sunday

And each film is assessed with insightful commentary.

What a great issue.


I had no idea how powerful this blog is. Remember how I was complaining last night about the lame Jerry Seinfeld-Bill Gates commercials?
This morning they were pulled. Permanently.

The spokesman said this was "planned" but since one of them has only been in rotation for a week we know bullshit when we see it.

Now I'm going to see what else I can get canceled.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Hard to believe there's a bigger fan of the Seinfeld show than I am. Or of Jerry Senifeld in general. But I've now seen two of his new tv commercials with Bill Gates and I have to say that they're a) pretty damned boring and b) pretty damned narcissistic on both their parts.

A-Sometimes it's fun to not know where you're going in a commercial. But these are so "hip" there is no real hook and there no real conclusion. You just amble through dull witless dialogue and seemingly endless set-ups and then the spots end.

B-Both these guys seem to think that they're worth watching just because they happen to be Seinfeld and Gates. They don't have to earn or reward our interest. They're just such cool dudes they can dink around and their presence alone will carry the load.

I'm surprised that Seinfeld of all people is happy with this campaign.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fredric Brown; Ed McBain

Fredric Brown:

I walked into Mystery Cat Books, my excellent home town mystery bookstore owned by two fine people, Ruth and Todd Myers by name, and Todd said, "I've got something for you."

And man what a Something.

He'd found a sign copy of my favorite Fredric Brown novel The Far Cry (I'd argue that it out Thompsons Jim Thompson in many respects). And he gave it to me knowing what I think of Brown and especially this novel.

The inscription reads:

With Tears
Cry Baby Brown
(or Fredric Brown)

Obviously a very personal (and thus obscure) inscription but a book I'll treasure the rest of my life, Brown being one of my five favorite crime writers of all time.

Thanks very much to Todd and Ruth..

-----------------Ed McBain

Stuart Evers makes the case for Ed McBain being the grandfather of all well-regarded police dramas--even though he often doesn't get the proper credit. As I recall Evan Hunter most resented Hill Street Blues for a) stealing the 87th whole without apology or credit b) turning it into a ridiculous weepy.

Here's Evers:

"Joseph Wambaugh first staked out the territory since occupied by Price and Pelecanos. Wambaugh was an ex-cop whose novels and non-fiction count among the most realistic, pugnacious and nuanced of all police procedurals. Starting in the early 70s, he shone a new light on the dark humour of the cops who patrolled a decaying Los Angeles. His novel The Choir Boys, which was preceded by the masterful non-fiction work The Onion Field, stand out from his early work, but was followed by a patchy run of novels. Only his return to the police of LA in Hollywood Station (a suggestion, or plea, from James Ellroy being the impetus) restored his reputation as a real master of genre.

"But If Wambaugh honed and shaped this more messy, character driven-crime writing, then Ed McBain invented it. His 87th Precinct novels - all of which begin with the epigram: "The City in these pages is imaginary. The people, the places, are all fictions. Only the police routine is based on established investigatory techniques" – are the books to which so much detective fiction indebted.

These tales – short, violent, meticulously plotted – show the police as more than just an ace detective surrounded by stooges and sidekicks. Here was a company of men and women trying to make it through each shift, through each case, with their humour and their lives intact. The series' brevity, wit and ear for the vernacular of both the tough and the weak are as cracking in their understatements as Chandler and Hammett were with their wise-acre shtick."

for the rest go here:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ruth rendell on A. Conan Doyle

Ed here: How can you go wrong with Ruth Rendell writing at some length about Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes?

Ruth Rendell
The Guardian,
Saturday September 13 2008

Authors are often asked where they get their ideas from. Some will say that their plots come from newspapers, others simply from their imaginations. Most often, I think, fiction is derived from an anecdote told by a friend, though not perhaps with the intent of its being used as the basis of a story or novel. So it was with the journalist and folklorist Bertram Fletcher Robinson, who entertained his friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with horror stories of Devon while they were together on a golfing holiday. He told him legends of the spectral hounds that were said to roam Dartmoor, phantom creatures with red eyes, whose huntsman is Satan.

"My dear Robinson," Conan Doyle wrote to him later, "It was your account of a west country legend which first suggested the idea of this little tale to my mind. For this, and for the help which you gave me in its evolution, all thanks.

"Yours most truly, A Conan Doyle."

The story was The Hound of the Baskervilles and, to the great delight of Conan Doyle's readers - they were legion - Sherlock Holmes was its protagonist. Nothing unusual in that, perhaps, but for the fact that his creator had apparently killed Holmes years before. In 1896 he wrote of his detective: "I have had such an overdose of him that I feel towards him as I do towards pâté de foie gras, of which I once ate too much, so that the name of it gives me a sickly feeling to this day."

for the rest go here:


Sunday, September 14, 2008


I've been getting rid of books that have reprints of my stories. Need the room. For some reason I picked up a Best Of from the early 90s and while looking at the table of contents saw a Peter Robinson story. I keep hearing how good he is so I sat down and read it and I'll tell you I want to kill the guy out of pure jealousy.

"Innocence" is the story of a drab man in a drab office world who has a few mostly unsatisfactiory sexual alliances with women he doesn't feel emotionally close to. He goes out of town to visit a friend but because of his witless secretary he doesn't get the message that the friend's mother has died and that the friend has rushed away. So the man finds himself stranded in a drab, rainy little English town that doesn't like strangers. His sole pleasure here is his dreamy glimpses of pretty school girls of fifteen and sixteen. He wonders if these feelings are proper. Then decides they're normal. People stare at him as if he's a beast. A real threat.

When he returns home he finds two detectives at his door. One of the girls he admired (though would never think of apporaching) was found dead. Ultimately he is charged with her murder and put on trial. So many things he considered innocent--he likes soft core video in an age of very hard core, wanting romance more than sex; a remark he made about high school girls said to a friend from work who echoed his feelings; doing what a woman wanted thim o now described by her under oath as all his idea--all innocence lost.

When I say that this is Ruth Rendell territory I don't mean to take anything away from Robinson or his story. I consider Rendell the finest writer of crime fiction in the world. But Robinson puts his own stamp on the piece and does so with a grace and power that are stunning.

Right after I finished the story I drove to the bookstore and picked up my first Peter Robinson novel. Long overdue.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Bill at Subterranean was nice enough to send me a copy of the limited edition of Kull: Exile of Atlantis, the limited edition ($150). As a piece of book craft it is one of the most beautiful volumes I've ever seen, complete with stunning illustrations by Justin Sweet that echo in certain ways John Allen St. John's work but are very much Sweet's own.

No matter what you're reading, settling down for an evening of Mr. Howard is bound to clear your sinuses and put a gleam in your eyes.

So far I've read the seminal Kull story "The Shadow Kingdom" and I have to say that while many who came after have done sword & sorcery very well nobody, at least to my taste, has quite created a world as believable as Kull's treacherous and bloody kingdom.

Raymond Chandler once remarked that Erle Stanley Gardner was able to make his unlikely plots seem real by the sheer force of his storytelling. There was something to say, Chandler felt, for the kind of speed writing that was Gardner's hallmark.

I suspect the same thing is true of Howard's fantasies. The battle scenes, the marketplace scenes, the brooding thoughts of Kull, the almost noirish descriptions of night and its hidden dangers, fill the senses with sharp and often stunning images. I know he did a lot of historical research. And he was able to turn that research into real pulp poetry.

This is one of those collections that make me feel as if I'm spending a weekend in my old hometown. I grew up reading Howard and I'm always happy to discover that his Conan and Kull stories especially still hold their magic for me.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Kay Francis

Delightful & Sophisticated!, 1 August 2002
Author: sabrina1396 from Harlem, NY (USA)

First of all, let me say that this film is as close to perfection as one can get---look at the "throw away gags", the play with words, the wardrobe (Miriam Hopkins stole the show; especially in the Opera scene when she comes out of the "Parlour des femmes" & asks her "Sugar Daddy" for some "francs" to give to the ladies room attendant---that black dress was haute couture at its best!), the gait of the actors, the snappy dialogue. They all look so-o sophisticated & worldly.


It took me 5 years to get this film & it was worth every minute! This is MY FAVORITE film!

Ed here: Turner Classic ran several Kay Francis pictures yesterday. The only one I caught was Trouble in Paradise and I'm glad I did. It is flat out a masterpiece. Ernst Lubitch who directed this and several classics including Ninotchka said that this was his favorite film.

The picture wasn't much seen once the Breen office held sway in Hwood. Several of the people in it are merry adulterers and two of the three principals are thieves.

One surprise, for me if nobody else, was learning that Herbert Marshall wasn't a corpse after all. I'd never seen a performance of his that didn't need to be re-animated. Here he's light, deft, engaging. I think Sabrina, author of the review above is right that Miriam Hopkins probably steals the show. Damn was she cute and damn she wore clothes well and (as with Elaine in Seinfeld) her steely nerves dominate the men in the film. And did I mention she was cute? There are a couple of scenes where she dons these large eyeglasses and you get fixated on her face. You want to freeze frame it. And with that mop of blonde hair she's very sexy.

But Kay Francis fascinated me. There is something in her languid self-conscious style that gently mocks the melodrama of the love scenes and gives the humorous scenes a subtle sexuality. She was very much of the theater but used those particular skills to provide a center for all the festivities. Even when she's off camera her presence is felt. I wouldn't say that she was beautiful exactly but she was so elegant beauty became beside the point. You wait for her to come back.

As for the story, Marshall and Miriam Hopkins are thieves trying to defraud Kay Franics. I'm not kidding when I say the plot has as many twists as a comic caper by Don Westlake. The pacing is extraordinary. Lubitch gives us a long scene and then tops it with a jab of screwball comedy. I'd bet that Billy Wilder considered this one of his essential films. Any number of Wilder films can be felt in the picture.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gregory McDonald, R.I.P.

Before posting this I checked with Matt Bialer who at the time was my agent at William Morris. He is now at Sanford Greenburger Associates..

From Matt:

"Gosh, you remember the Fletch project better than me. I vaguely remember and what you said sounds right. And if it is not right, I don't think anyone will tell you that you are wrong!"

Gregory McDonaldonald Dead
Written by Edward Champion
Posted on September 9, 2008
Filed Under Fletch, Obits, mcdonald-gregory
Giles News is reporting that Gregory McDonald, the tremendously talented author of the Fletch series has died. I am now making efforts to confirm this. If this is true, this is a tremendous loss to American letters.
[UPDATE: I have confirmed by phone with Charlie of the Giles County Ambulance Service that Gregory McDonald passed away on Sunday. As soon as I have a chance to collect my thoughts and feelings, I plan to offer a full-length tribute here. I'm still in shock.]

Ed here: I was a big Gregory McDonald fan. He did something fresh with the mystery novel and did it with great style and wit. I still reread the first six or seven of the Fletch books from time to time. My favorite is Fletch and The Man Who. McDonald had obviously hung around (maybe worked for) a few political campaigns in his time. An excellent mystery and given the family at its center probably the darkest of the Fletch books.

If you'll forgive me my chemo-brained memories, sometime in the 90s (I suspect the mid-Nineties, maybe a bit earlier) McDonald had an idea for a series he didn't have time to write. He may have been in Hwood in those days. This was to be unlike the Fletch books. I don't quite remember how this came about but anyway I was contacted by Matt Bialer and asked if I'd look at McDonald's outline and try a few chapters. I did and McDonald seemed to like them. He revised them slightly and we went to market. But for some reason the book didn't sell. He wrote me a nice note for my work. As I think back on it I suspect he/we were about five years ahead of the curve. It would have worked nicely near the end of the decade or now. Plus it was such a break from his other books that I suspect publishers weren't quite sure what to do with it. It was essentially a cozy but with a dark undertow, the kind of book Nancy Pickard would write in turning cozies into a more serious direction.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

True Blood; Fringe

I'm beginning to watch episodic TV again--aside from my usual Seinfeld, Monk and The Office--so I looked forward to both True Blood and Fringe.

True Blood I liked a good deal except for two aspects. Either the lovely and sexy Anna Paquin has to come up with more expressions or they've got to quit shooting her in close up so often when the director wants to make a point. She's winsome as hell but she has only one face. You could take one close up filled with her usual business and paste it on all her other close ups. But that's not a big deal. Nor is the political message--I get it and certainly agree with it; people different from you deserve as much or as little respect as you're willing to give those of your own kind--which was bludgeoned home like a commercial. Other than that it was thrilling, fresh, cool and dazzling. Can't wait for next Sunday night.

Fringe I wasn't crazy about once I figured out that it was really a steroid version of the X-Files and not nearly as much fun. Or charming. The melodrama--are there any FBI agents who haven't been spiritually wounded?--and all the clunky clues pointing to a Big Business Conspiracy were taken from an endless number of novels and screenplays done in the last two decades. I stuck with it but by the end I felt cheated. I don't care that it was nothing new but I do care that there was nothing fresh inside the nothing new. Not a single interesting grace note, not a single action scene (the fricking endless car chase sequence) we've haven't seen dozens if not hundreds of times before, not a single plot variation on the source material it was ransacked from. This is exactly what I was afraid it would be. Chris Carter did it a whole lot better.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Captain Must Die

Couldn't sleep last night and ended up grabbing The Captain Must Die for a reread. It never lets m down. Here's what I wrote about it earlier slightly expanded.

The Captain Must Die

I've seen a few recent references to one of the great overlooked Gold Medal novels, The Captain Must Die by Robert Colby. If you want a feel for the real Fifties in the form of a grim caper novel, this is your book. It's tight, deftly plotted and one of those hardboiled novels that is genuinely tough without showing off.

There's a sweaty post-war anger on every page. For some the war was fading into memory. WW11 had ended but Korea came along all too soon. But for these men the war wouldn't end until they dealt with the captain they hatde. This could easily have been a John D. MacDonald but JDM wouldn't have infused it with quite so much rage and nihilism. I really recommend it.

Bob Colby was a nice guy who struggled through a four decade run as a free-lancer. He never had the hit he deserved. He had a bittersweet sense of the failed man in a society that despises failure, the man always looking for the long chance who never seems to understand--or even anticipate--that the long chance will do him in. Like JDM he wrote middle-class noir, the sort of thing Claude Chabrol does in his best crime movies.

I got to know him in the last six or seven years of his life. He'd spent his early life in radio and tv and you could tell that by the smooth, almost courtly way he did business. They were gentlemen back then. His glory days were with Richard Carroll at Gold Medal. Apparently Knox Burger didn't like his stuff and he was soon shuffled off to places like Monarch.

He's worth looking up. If you read nothing else, make it The Captain. It's damned fine book. He had a journalist's eye for his times. This was especially true in the novels he set in Hollywood. Captain is his masterpiece.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Dave Zeltserman

I'm way behind in mentioning that writer Dave Zeltserman has posted his collection of store free gratis at http://www.davezeltserman.com/index.html I've now read all of them and I'll tell you he's as impressive as shorter lengths as he is with novels. There's already talk that Small Crimes should get an Edgar nomination. Right now I'd say it's in the top three or four 2008 novels I've read so far. Maybe higher.

From Dave: 
In anticipation of the US release of my first Serpent's Tail novel, Small Crimes, I'm making available free a new anthology of my crime fiction. Seven contains stories that originally appeared  in Alfred Hitchcock, Ellery Queen, Hot Blood, Bullet and Futures, as well as the never before published sequel to Money Run.  Click to download Seven.pdf.
Stories appearing in Seven:
Closing Time originally appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. The concept for this one: a guy spending a night buying drinks in a Dublin Bar. Anyone who thinks Alfred Hitchcock doesn’t publish dark nasty crime fiction needs to think again!
Dave Stevens, I presume? originally appeared in Alfred Hitchcock as a hardboiled story with an interesting metaphysical twist. I'm including my original more horrific ending, which changes the nature of the story entirely!
Forever and Ever originally appeared in Hot Blood #12, Strange Bedfellows. Written initially as a pure noir story, I went back and forth with the editors of Hot Blood several times until I snuck in enough explicit sex to satisfy them.
View From The Mirador was published in Futures and inspired by a trip to Acapulco. While the tone of the story has kind of an old-fashioned cheery quality to it, this is one of the sickest stories I’ve written.
Nine-Ball Lessons was originally published in Bullet #7. This one’s short and sweet about two hoods philosophizing over life-lessons that can be learned from a game of nine-ball.
Money Run originally appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Money Run is a fun, light con man story and  gives a slight tip of the cap to Jim Thompson’s great Mitch Allison stories. It also pulls off not a double— or triple cross, but a quadruple cross
Man Friday is my sequel to Money Run, and starts with Toni having flown the coop with the all the ill-gotten gains from Money Run, while our hero, Pete Mitchel, finds himself down and out in Miami. This is the first ever publication of Man Friday.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Carolyn Hart; Hitchcock-Disney; Palin

My friend Carolyn Hart has launched a brand new series and pretty obviously it's going to be a big hit. It sounds like a lot of fun.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred review
Ghost at Work: A Bailey Ruth Mystery
Carolyn Hart, Morrow, $24.95 (304p)
ISBN 978-0-06-087436-0

A ghost turns sleuth in the intriguing first of a new series from Hart (Death on Demand), who’s won Agatha, Anthony and Macavity awards. When Bailey Ruth Raeburn and her husband die on their cabin cruiser during a storm, Bailey joins the heavenly host. Later, she returns to earth via the Rescue Express to her hometown of Adelaide, Okla., to help the rector’s wife, Kathleen Abbott. After finding the body of a dead man on her back porch, Kathleen fears either she or her husband might be accused of the crime. Bailey Ruth helps her to move the body, inaugurating a search for the killer that proves difficult as the victim was despised by many. As Bailey Ruth uncovers more than one crime, she must contend with her own violations of the Precepts for Earthly Visitation and adjust to her powers on earth. Hart blends an enjoyable fantasy with realistic characters and an engrossing plot that’s sure to charm even ardent materialists.

------Hitch & Walt

Johnathan Coe writes an intriguing piece in the London Sunday Times about how Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney, men who knew and admired each other, showed a sadistic streak in their films.

Coe notes that Hitchcock always "tortured the heroine" in his films, both early and late, but for many decades Hitchcock used this approach carefully. But then:

"Eventually, this instinct got the better of him. You can trace a line from the brutal staging of Janet Leigh’s death in Psycho, through the real-life brutalisation of Tippi Hedren on the set of The Birds, to the showdown Hitchcock had with the screenwriter Evan Hunter over the rape scene in Marnie. Hunter argued passionately that the Sean Connery character should not rape his wife on their wedding night in that film, and in his memoir, Hitch and Me, gives a chilling account of Hitchcock’s response: “Hitch held up his hands the way directors do when they’re framing a shot. Palms out, fingers together, forming a perfect square. Moving his hands towards my face, like a camera coming in for a close shot, he said, ‘Evan, when he sticks it in her, I want that camera right on her face!’ ” A few years later, when he was making Frenzy, censorship relaxations finally allowed Hitchcock to film a rape in all its protracted glory; and very nasty viewing it makes, too. "


"... I still shudder whenever I read Disney’s reported expression of delight as he imagined the effect the death of Bambi’s mother would have on all those youngsters: “You know she’s dead, but the little guy just comes back to that thing and the snow begins to pick up and he’s crying, MOTHER!, and it would just tear their hearts out if you could get that little guy crying MOTHER.”

for the rest go here:


-----Sarah Palin

A friend of mine insists that the entire Palin family will someday end up io the Jerry Sprnger show throwing punches and having to be restrained from killing each other. My question is--will this be after she loses the election or (if she and Two Gun win) will this be after she's impeached for making Creationism rallies mandatory?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Thanks; Celebrity Assistants

Thanks to all of you who've written me about my stepfather. I really appreciate the thoughts and prayers for my family. Ed

------------Celebs folks

As you might imagine there aren't many job openings for celebrity assistants in Cedar Rapids. I doubt there's been even one at our lobal job fairs. So I've always been curious about what these pople do. Cinema Retro led me to an interesting article on the subject from Radar On-Line. These examples are a little lurid but but they're the shortest ones in the well-done piece. Not a job I'd care to have. Or would probably last at much longer than two hours.

Radar: copyright 2008

"The director's girlfriend was a costume designer on the film they were working on. One day, Newcomer says, he was clearing out one of the GMC Suburban SUVs used on set when he found a large bag of what he thought was wardrobe. He handed the bag to one of the girlfriend's assistants to give to her.

"I didn't look carefully, but it was a bag of sex toys," he says. "[The director] had been fucking another girl in the movie. [The girlfriend] thought I was trying to tip her off. So when that came out, I got fired. I didn't really care though—that was like a $500-a-week job."

Another assistant relates the tale of working for a major celebrity in L.A., where part of her duties included grinding cocaine, mixing it with water, and putting it in nasal spray so the celebrity could easily take it to the bathroom.


"There are certain celebrities who think just because you're working for them that it's reward enough, and you don't need to be paid for the 24 hours a day you're going to be working," the writer's assistant says. "I've heard of salaries that range from $40,000 to $55,000 a year. The range for jobs I've gone in for are typically $80,000 to $100,000. Did I get all those jobs? No. One of them was for an absolutely insane person, and I literally would have been traveling 10 months out of the year. Literally, when she wakes up, someone's got to be there, whether that's 3:00 in the morning or 6:00 in the morning—she literally needs someone to hold her hand."

for the rest go here:


Friday, September 05, 2008

My stepfather; Appaloosa

My stepfather died around three forty-five this morning. My mom had checked him at three thirty but had a feeling she needed to check him sooner than the half hour. She found him dead. She woke my half sister Linda and then called for the ambulance. The funeral is Monday. As I've said he was one of the most honest, decent, compassionate people I've ever known. Quietly humorous and modest to a fault. I'd known him at least ten years before, at my mom's urging, he showed me his WW11 scrapbook. He was a much decorated soldier who'd fought in the South Pacific. He never mentioned it again after that day. Nor was there any evidence of it in their apartment. I will sure miss him.


I mentioned Jeffrey Welles' Hollywood Elsewhere the other day. I find his take on movies and show business sensible and sincere (as opposed to the show off style of too many reviewers) so I take him seriously even when I disagree with him. Bill Crider and I both talked up the trailer for Appaloosa. Very exciting stuff. Here's Welles' opinion. I have no idea if I'll agree with it when I see the movie. This is the only review I've seen.

" Ed Harris's Appaloosa is just okay. No, that sounds dimissive. It's a decent...too negative again. It's a solid piece of work -- how's that? But dammit, the words "not half bad" keep creeping into my head, which sounds, I realize, like damnation with faint praise. I don't mean to put it down; I was never in serious pain. But ten minutes in I knew this was no Open Range, which in my book (and the books of many others) is the finest, best-written and most believably recreated western since Unforgiven.

"I would put Appaloosa on the level of 3:10 to Yuma, more...Read More"

for the rest go here


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Whit Bissell

I happened to catch actor Whit Bissell in two TV show reruns within four hours of each other and I decided to look him up on IMDB. Here's a guy I've seen dozens of time over the course of my life and I didn't know anything about him.

Mini Biography IMDB
Whit Bissell came to Hollywood in the 1940s, and by the time he retired he had appeared in more than 200 movies and scores of TV series. He is best known for playing the evil scientist who turned Michael Landon into a half beast in the 1957 cult classic film I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957). Bissell specialized in playing doctors, military officers and other authority figures. On television he was a regular on "Bachelor Father" (1957) and "The Time Tunnel" (1966). He also served on the Screen Actors Guild board of directors for 18 years and represented the actors branch in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences board of governors.

Ed here:

If you want to see a staggering filmography (and tvography if there's such a word) go here http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000946/

No wonder he was always so trim. He didn't have time to eat.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Couldn't resist-politics

Over at Librarian.net, one of the commenters listed the books Palin tried to ban from the library including such literary gems as:
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Anything by Stephen King
Everything by J.K. Rowling
Most of William Shakespeare's work
and my personal favorite
Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the Merriam-Webster Editorial Staff


Mike Murphy and Peggy Noonan are two long time Republican stalwarts. Nonnan was Reagaen's speech writer and is a long time conservative columnist. Murphy is a long time GOP operative, ran Dole's campaign. Since Friday they've both been all over the air talking about what a great thing it is that Palin has beee named VP candidate. Well...they were caught with an open mike during a commercial break. Their real feelings are the opposite of what they've been saying publicly.

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/ log on here and scroll down for the video.

Here's the transcript:e

Chuck Todd: Mike Murphy, lots of free advice, we'll see if Steve Schmidt and the boys were watching. We'll find out on your blackberry. Tonight voters will get their chance to hear from Sarah Palin and she will get the chance to show voters she's the right woman for the job Up next, one man who's already convinced and he'll us why Gov. Jon Huntsman.

( they then cut away away for the commercials)

Peggy Noonan: Yeah.

Mike Murphy: You know, because I come out of the blue swing state governor world: Engler, Whitman, Tommy Thompson, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush. I mean, these guys -- this is how you win a Texas race, just run it up. And it's not gonna work. And --

PN: It's over.

MM: Still McCain can give a version of the Lieberman speech to do himself some good.

CT: I also think the Palin pick is insulting to Kay Bailey Hutchinson, too.

PN: Saw Kay this morning.

CT: Yeah, she's never looked comfortable about this --

MM: They're all bummed out.

CT: Yeah, I mean is she really the most qualified woman they could have turned to?

PN: The most qualified? No! I think they went for this -- excuse me-- political bullshit about narratives --

CT: Yeah they went to a narrative.

MM: I totally agree.

PN: Every time the Republicans do that, because that's not where they live and it's not what they're good at, they blow it.

MM: You know what's really the worst thing about it? The greatness of McCain is no cynicism, and this is cynical.

CT: This is cynical, and as you called it, gimmicky.

MM: Yeah.

--Josh Marshall

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Published: September 2, 2008 Compiled by Julie Bloom
Stephenie Meyer is delaying indefinitely the completion of the final installment of her “Twilight Saga” after an unfinished partial draft was leaked online, The Los Angeles Times reported. “I did not want my readers to experience ‘Midnight Sun’ before it was completed, edited and published,” she wrote on stepheniemeyer.com last week. “I think it is important for everybody to understand that what happened was a huge violation of my rights as an author, not to mention me as a human being.” Ms. Meyer posted a link to the incomplete draft: “This way, my readers don’t have to feel they have to make a sacrifice to stay honest.” The leak follows the publication in August of “Breaking Dawn,” the fourth installment in Ms. Meyer’s young-adult series about vampires. The movie version of the first book, “Twilight,” is scheduled to be released in November.

copyright 2008 The New York Times

Ed here:

I am hopeless and helpless when it comes to understanding how computers as simple as a Mac work. Several of you poor souls who've tried to help me know how true this is. So maybe you people understand the process involved in the leaking of the partial draft.

Did somebody she trusted leak it? Did somebody hack into her computer? How is this possible?

Insufficient minds want to know.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Sherlock Homie

Jeffrey Welles' Hollywood Elsewhere is a website I log on to at least twice a day every day. I don't always agree with his opinions but he's such a good writer, a wise critic and a witty insider that he's worth the occasional irritation (his trashing of director Bob Clark when Clark and his son were barely twenty four hours dead really pissed me off) I thought I'd share an example of his work with you tonight. Especially since it bears on our field.

Sherlock Homie copyright 2008 by Jeffrey Welles

"There's a story up today about Russell Crowe, 44, thinking about accepting a second-banana role as Dr. Watson in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, subordinate to star Robert Downey, Jr. If true, it simply means that Crowe has moved into that 40-plus phase in which a top-dog actor figures (a) "if I like the part, I like the part" and (b) "I don't have to be the big star every time out."

"Jack Nicholson went through the same thing in the early '80s (when he was also in his mid 40s) when he took supporting roles in Reds and Terms of Endearment.

"A few minutes ago I mistyped the title of the Ritchie film as Sherlock Homie -- and the instant I did that it hit me that this would be a much better vehicle for Richie and Warner Bros. than a Baker Street period piece with the hat and the pipe. We all know Ritchie isn't going to respect the trappings of the original Arthur Conan Doyle character, so why even go there? But a brilliant modern-day London detective with perhaps an old-fashioned sense of reserve and decorum going up against the malignant criminal animals who've appeared in previous Ritchie films? That I would pay to see! Especially with Downey."

for the rest go here:


Ed here: Does anybody else sense that this movie as proposed will be another huge Sherlockian embarrassment?t