Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Forgotten Books: No Way To Treat a Lady

I remember picking up the first edition of No Way to Treat A Lady by one Harry Longbaugh. The year was 1968 and everybody I knew was pretty much booze-and-drug-addled. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were dead, LBJ was stepping down and Tricky Dick's star was once again rising. The much-overrated (to me) Bonnie & Clyde was filling theaters and Hair was the subject d'jour for the mass media.

And man, did William the writer behind the Longbaugh pen-name, ever do it.

All you had to do was scan the layout of the pages. The story was told in newspaper headlines, partial newspaper stories, long stretches of dialogue, and the demented but hilarious monologues of the killer.

And this was no ordinary killer. Oh, no, as later envisioned on the screen by Rod Steiger, we have an overweight mama's boy who loves to put his victims at ease by disguising himself as various trustworthy people, including a priest. Who said killers can't be kind?

Reflecting some of the same mama's boy problem we have the detective Morris Brummell (on screen played by George Segal) whose own mother constantly rags him about getting a more respectable job like his brother.

And then there's a love interest for Morris Brummell, whom Mom, in her endearing way, may not accept.

Unique, original, one-of-a-kind, unduplicatable...however you care to describe it No Way To Treat A Lady holds up almost fifty years later. The book is superior in every way to the movie, which gets too self-indulgent (for me) with Steiger's hamminess.

William Goldman has had one of the most successful Hollywood runs of all time. The Princess Bride is the only novel of his to stay constantly in print. But he's written numerous masterpieces, including Lady, which is perfect example of taking apart the standard tropes and shocking your readers with your reconfiguration.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dave Zeltserman's Julius Katz

Ed here: I'm a big fan, along with many other people, of Dave Zeltserman's character Julius Katz. Here Dave's discusses Julius and how he plans to integrate him into his blog.

Tell us about Julius Katz the character.

I originally wrote 'Julius Katz' as a novella for the Black Orchid contest that's run jointly between The Wolfe Pack and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. As such 'Julius Katz' was meant as pastiche on one of my favorite series in the mystery genre, Nero Wolfe. Julius is a brilliant, eccentric Boston-based detective, living in a townhouse on Beacon Hill. His drink of choice is wine, which he collects. He's every bit as lazy as Wolfe, and also like Wolfe, he's a gourmet, but unlike Wolfe, he's handsome, physically fit and a martial arts expert, as well as a ladies' man. He's also a gambler--especially poker. There's a bit of a con man in him--he's more larcenous than Wolfe ever was. Like Wolfe, Julius has a sidekick named Archie—although in this case Archie isn’t flesh and blood but a two-inch rectangular piece of advanced technology complete with a self-learning neuron network. With his experience and personality programmed using all of the important private eye novels of the 20th century, Archie has the heart and soul of a hardboiled PI. There's also an innocence to Archie, and as with the Nero Wolfe books, what drives this novella is the humor and relationship between Julius and Archie.

Where can we find Julius Katz.

'Julius Katz' was originally published in the Oct. 2009 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. More Julius Katz stories will be also be appearing in Ellery Queen, with 'Archie's Been Framed!' scheduled for later this year, and I'm also working on the first Julius Katz novel, which is just about done. I've made 'Julius Katz' available as a Kindle Download for $0.99, and it will also be sold by Ether Books for the iPhone and iPad, and will also later this year be in a best mystery stories anthology edited by the ever discriminating Ed Gorman and Martin Greenberg. And anyone who wants a free PDF for it, just email me.

Isn't Julius Katz unlike most the characters in your other books.

The editor of Ellery Queen, Janet Hutchings, told me she found 'Julius Katz' charming, and that's the feedback I've been getting from just about everyone who's read it and emailed me back, which is probably why the novella won an Ellery Queen Reader's Choice award and the 2010 Derringer for best novelette. I think it would be hard for any reader to not find Julius, and especially Archie, charming and fun. I don't think there's a reader anywhere who could find my hero of Pariah, Kyle Nevin, charming. While 'Julius Katz' is lighthearted, most of my published crime novels tend to be on the darker side of noir. Not all, though. Bad Karma is more of a new age hardboiled PI and The Caretaker of Lorne Field is something completely different that so far seems to be appealing to all readers, and Killer is also a much quieter crime novel from me than say Pariah or Small Crimes. I really should've used a pseudonym for Caretaker and Julius, because those two are going to surprise any readers familiar with my darker crime fiction.

What inspired you to have Julius take over your website and do the talking for you?

I have more Julius Katz stories coming, with the hope also of publishing a series of novels with these characters, so I thought I'd put together a fun website where Archie and Julius are real and I'm simply chronicling their cases. In other words, just doing what I can to help more people discover these characters and give the novella a try. It's simple, people who try the novella tend to become fans of it, so hopefully this will be a fun way to spread the word.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A great new Mystery Scene

Summer 2010, Issue #115 Contents


Michael Koryta: Take Me to the River
Koryta charts a new course with his supernatural thriller So Cold the River.
by Kevin Burton Smith

Stefanie Pintoff: In Old New York
Broadway lore comes to life in Pintoff’s follow-up to her recent Edgar winner.
by Lynn Kaczmarek

Thriller Must Reads: Peter Straub’s Koko
The horrors of the Vietnam War inform Straub’s chilling novel, which helped usher in the era of serial killer as enigmatic antihero.
by Hank Wagner

Scott Turow
The new sequel to Presumed Innocent lives up to Turow’s already impressive body of work.
by Jon L. Breen

Carolyn Hart: Parables for Our Time
Traditional mysteries weigh the moral choices of everyday life—and that’s what makes them powerful.
by Oline H. Cogdill

Vital Link: William Link Revisits Columbo
Lieutenant Columbo moves from screen to printed page.
by Tom Nolan

The Magnificent Brain of Alvin Fernald
This kid detective uses his noggin to nab bad guys.
by Steven Nester

The Murders in Memory Lane: Remembering Henry Kane
Kane was an entertaining writer and an engaging gentleman.
by Lawrence Block

What's Happening...With Aileen Schumacher
by Brian Skupin


At the Scene
by Kate Stine

Hints & Allegations
Writers on Reading: Elizabeth George; 2010 Edgar Awards, Anthony Awards, Arthur Ellis
Awards, Derringer Awards.

Our Readers Recommend
by Mystery Scene readers

Writing Life: Gormania
Anne Perry; An editor’s day; John D. MacDonald; Gail Russell
by Ed Gorman

New Books Essays
Getting Old is Murder
by Rita Lakin

Son of Big Brother
by Reece Hirsch

The Panic Zone
by Rick Mofina

Killer Careers
by Simon Wood

Mirror Image
by Dennis Palumbo

Sounds of Suspense: Audiobooks Reviewed
by Dick Lochte

Robert Culp’s Hickey & Boggs; Graphic novels by Greg Rucka and Joshua Hale
by Kevin Burton Smith

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed
by Lynne Maxwell

Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered
by Bill Crider

Child's Play: Books for Young Sleuths
by Roberta Rogow

What About Murder? Reference Books Reviewed
by Jon L. Breen

Small Press Reviews: Covering the Independents
by Betty Webb

Mystery Scene Reviews


The Docket


Mystery Miscellany
by Louis Phillips

Most Popular
What’s Happening With... Michael Kahn?
by Brian Skupin

Sizzling Sixteen
by Janet Evanovich

The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing
by Tarquin Hall

All Content Copyright 2010 Mystery Scene | Terms of Use | Permissions | Privacy Policy

Saturday, June 26, 2010

From Dave Zeltserman - The e book debate

From Dave Zeltserman

I've been having this same discussion for months with a friend of mine from my old technology world. This guy is very bright, normally very insightful, and he does make some good points as he keeps trying to argue that ebook revolution is going to be a boon for writers--one of his points being that while we're very spoiled living in the Boston area and having access to so many great bookstores, a large part of this country doesn't have this kind of access and being able to buy a book with a click of the button will lead to far more books being bought. Where we keep hitting a brick wall with these arguments is how are readers going to find books among the millions of self-published books that are going to get dumped into these ebook stores? He keeps arguing that the diamonds among these millions will find a way to be reviewed and noticed, and I keep asking him how that's going to happen and he'll mumble that some mechanism will be created, and then we inevitably switch topics to the Patriots or mutual friends of ours in the industry.

While it's far from perfect, there is a filtering system in place today. First line are the agents, then the publishing houses, then the prepub reviews, then newspaper and other reviewers, then the booksellers who'll handsell the books they truly love. And when someone goes into a bookstore today, there's a valid expectation that every book in the store meets some minimum standard, and that expectation is going to be wiped out in this ebook world.

I fully understood the frustration a lot of writers feel and the temptation for writers to self-publish their works this way, especially when you have a few writers for their own self-interest trumpeting loudly and frequently how you can make money hand over fist by self-publishing any ebook as long as it has an attractive cover and a catchy book description (remember that old saying if it sounds too good to be true..), and I'm also sure a few self-published ebooks will occasionally pop up and have some success. The reality is for most new writers, and probably for most midlist writers also, your best chance is to be traditionally published, as hard as it might be. And it is hard, and it takes years, but at least this way you're getting the prepub reviews, newspaper reviews, booksellers discovering your books and handselling, and all this gives you a chance of finding an audience and building a writing career.

There are a couple of points from Ms. Miller's excellent article (and since she's making the exact same arguments I've been making for months to my technology friend, how could I think it's anything but excellent??) that I'd like to point out:

"Also, bloggers or self-appointed experts on particular genres and types of writing are, in my experience, just as clubby and as likely to plug or promote their friends and associates as anybody else."

This is very true, but it has to be very true. People only have a limited bandwidth. How many books can the average person read a year when reading through slush is not their livelihood? 50-100 books, maybe? So it's only human nature for people to limit these books to people they know or heard about from their circle. In current traditional publishing there are 1000s of people sifting through the slush, and you can't expect this burden to be dumped on this new generation of bloggers and "self-annointed experts" and not expect them to be clubby. Hell, even though my last two books were picked by Washington Post as best books of the year, I still can't get a certain mystery trade magazine to review me--but I understand this clubbiness exists and will continue to exist because of people's limited bandwidths.

"Writers who are charming in person and happy to promote themselves and interact with fans will prosper, while antisocial geniuses may fail. (It's unsettling to wonder how the Salingers, Pynchons, Naipauls and David Foster Wallaces of tomorrow will fare in a world where social networking and glad-handing are de rigueur. Why should extroversion be required of a great novelist?"

This is another reality. In this new world where there will be a sea of self-published books out there, is it only going to be those who make the most noise who get discovered and read? Is that the way it should be? And if we then have a sea of desperate writers making noise, how is anyone going to be noticed?

"Instead, if they aren't utterly paralyzed by the prospect, their decisions become even more conservative, zeroing in on what everyone else is buying and grabbing for recognizable brands because making a fully informed decision is just too difficult and time-consuming. As a result, introducing massive amounts of consumer choice leads to situations in which the 10 most popular items command the vast majority of the market share, while thousands of lesser alternatives must divide the leftovers into many tiny portions. This has been going on in the book world for at least a couple of decades now, since long before the rise of e-books: Bestselling authors continue to sell better and better, while everyone else does worse and worse."

I think this is the key. Far from liberating writers + readers, I think our sea of ebooks will only be driving readers even more to the biggest and most recognizable names. ebook stores will look a lot like Walmart today, where 100 or so of the biggest names will be pushed heavily, and buried underneath will be pages containing millions of other books, where most readers (99.9%??) will never venture.

Friday, June 25, 2010

"When anyone can be a published author" by Laura Miller

Ed here: My friend Dave Zeltserman sent me this link to Laura Miller's take on Salon about how "self-published books" are everywhere on the net these days. She also refers to the old-fashioned slush pile. I've read slush for two magazines and two book publishers and I agree with Laura's take. About 2% of slush has any chance of being published. A lot of it is flat out horrendous.

Who will be the gatekeepers in this self-indulgent new world? Are we throwing out all the rules just so people can proclaim themselves "authors?"

In case this sounds snarky let me say that among the biggest thrills of my life was being able to tell three people whose books I found in slush that we'd be buying their first novels. I found a short story and was so knocked out by it that we sent it to the late and great Roger Zelazny for an anthology we were doing. Roger liked it so much that he wanted the young writer's name so he could call him and tell him how much HE liked the story. Four months later Carol and I took the writer and his wife out to dinner where I informed him that Baen had bought his first novel. I'll always remember how happy they looked in those first moments. Editors WANT to find good material. They can't exist without it. But it's going to be a very different world now.

From Laura Miller:

"Digital self-publishing is creating a powerful new niche in books that's threatening the traditional industry," a recent Wall Street Journal report proclaimed. "Self-published books suddenly are able to thrive by circumventing the establishment." To "circumvent" means, of course, to find a way around, and what's waiting behind all those naysaying editors and agents, the self-publishing authors tell themselves, are millions of potential readers, who'll simply love our books! The reign of the detested gatekeepers has ended!

"How readers feel about all this usually gets lost in the fanfare and the hand-wringing. People who claim that there are readers slavering to get their hands on previously rejected books always seem to have a previously rejected book to peddle; maybe they're correct in their assessment, but they're far from impartial. Readers themselves rarely complain that there isn't enough of a selection on Amazon or in their local superstore; they're more likely to ask for help in narrowing down their choices. So for anyone who has, however briefly, played that reviled gatekeeper role, a darker question arises: What happens once the self-publishing revolution really gets going, when all of those previously rejected manuscripts hit the marketplace, en masse, in print and e-book form, swelling the ranks of 99-cent Kindle and iBook offerings by the millions? Is the public prepared to meet the slush pile?

"You've either experienced slush or you haven't, and the difference is not trivial. People who have never had the job of reading through the heaps of unsolicited manuscripts sent to anyone even remotely connected with publishing typically have no inkling of two awful facts: 1) just how much slush is out there, and 2) how really, really, really, really terrible the vast majority of it is. Civilians who kvetch about the bad writing of Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer or any other hugely popular but critically disdained novelist can talk as much trash as they want about the supposedly low standards of traditional publishing. They haven't seen the vast majority of what didn't get published -- and believe me, if you have, it's enough to make your blood run cold, thinking about that stuff being introduced into the general population.

"Everybody acknowledges that there have to be a few gems out in the slush pile -- one manuscript in 10,000, say -- buried under all the dreck. The problem lies in finding it. A diamond encased in a mountain of solid granite may be truly valuable, but at a certain point the cost of extracting it exceeds the value of the jewel. With slush, the cost is not only financial (many publishers can no longer afford to assign junior editors to read unsolicited manuscripts) but also -- as is less often admitted -- emotional and even moral."

for the rest go here:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Forgotten Books: The Killer by Wade Miller

Wade Miller was of course Bob Wade and Bill Miller. They collaborated on a few dozen novels until Miller died of a heart attack in the office they shared. He was forty-one.

Much of their finest work was done for Gold Medal. The Killer is a fine example. A rich man named Stennis owns a number of banks. His son works in one of them. During a robbery his son is killed. Stennis hires a big game hunter named Farrow to find the notorious bank robber Clel Bocock and his gang. When Farrow locates them he is to call Stennis who wants to be there to watch them die. Farrow is a unique character and not just because of the big game angle. He's middle-aged and feeling it, something rare in that era of crime fiction.

The search for Stennis--and the love story that involves Bocock's wife--takes Farrow from the swamps to Iowa (including, yes, Cedar Rapids) to Wisconsin to Colorado. The place description is extraordinary. Probably too much for today's readers but the Miller books are filled with strong cunning writing. Same for twists and turns. For the length of the first act you can never be sure who anybody is. They're all traveling under assumed names and with shadowy motives. The only thing that binds them is Clel Bocock.

For anybody who thinks that Gold Medals were largely routine crime stories, this is the noel you should pick up. Stark House published this a few years back (still available) along with Devil On Two Sticks, one of the most original mob novels I've ever read. There's also an excellent David Laurence Wilson introduction on the careers of the two writers.

Wade Miller got lost in the shuffle of bringing back the writers of the fifties and sixties. This book, so strong on character and place and plot turns, will demonstrate why more of their books should be in print.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Had to happen...Dc goes digital

From The Wrap today:

DC Comics Goes Digital
By Daniel Frankel
Published: June 23, 2010

DC Comics is going digital.

The publisher of Superman, Batman and the Green Lantern has entered into several deals that will make its comics available on online and mobile platforms.

DC and Warner Bros. Digital Distribution jointly announced on Wednesday separate digital distribution deals with comiXology and Sony’s PlayStation Networks. In addition, DC also touted new apps for Apples iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that will make its wares immediately available on those platforms.

In hopes of not compromising its brick-and-mortar retail constituents, DC will offer a digital 10-page preview of the much-anticipated 700th issue of “Superman.” That issue will be made available day and date in comic book stores.

“At DC Comics, it has been a top priority that DC forges a meaningful, forward-looking digital strategy,” said Jim Lee, co-publisher for the company. “As both a comic-book creator and co-publisher, it was incredibly important that our plan includes not only creator-incentive payments, but also an innovative component that supports comic-shop owners. We see digital as an opportunity to grow our entire business.”

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Good Guys; Picnic canceled; Lady Gaga

I'm not sure, under any kind of scrutiny, "The Good Guys" is much of a TV show. It sure ain't no "Burn Notice" which in some ways it clones, birthed, as it was, by the same guy who created "Burn.". I mean how many explosions can you have in a single episode? Last night they were pushing for the record apparently. That said I like it because it makes me laugh out loud, something few shows do. Bradley Whitford's hammy spoof of all Clint Eastwood cop movies is awkward but truly funny in a corny way. He's got a cool mustache comb, too, a tad metrosexual for a raging bull like himself. Colin Hanks by contrast comes off a bit like a high school history teacher, the straight arrow you like because he's just as much of a nerd as you are. Last night's show with the Chinese hit man who needed a translator whenever he wanted to threaten (and ultimately shoot) people was a hoot. The guy who played the (understandably) cowardly translator forced at gunpoint to travel along with various killings and `splosions was really good. I really like this show and I think a fair share of you might, too.


I know a lot of you were planning on attending my Joy Behar picnic and softball outing this Saturday but as Jeff Pierce pointed out in the comments on last night's blog...who knew she was so controversial? Joy was planning to be there of course but since I couldn't afford what the security firms want to charge for protecting Joy...I'm afraid it's canceled.

----------Jerry Seinfeld and Ed agree on Lady Ga-Ga

(I'm ten years older than Seinfeld but it looks as if we got the same Geezer Arise! home video tape)

From Huffington Post:

Twelve days after Lady Gaga wound up in his box at Shea Stadium during a Mets game, Jerry Seinfeld has called her "a jerk" and then some. Joking or no? Read and decide.

"This woman is a jerk. I hate her," Seinfeld said during a WFAN radio interview on Monday, perhaps . "I can't believe they put her in my box, which I paid for."

Gaga, dressed in bra and swilling beer, was moved from her front row seat to Seinfeld's empty box (without his knowledge) after flipping off photographers.

"You give people the finger and you get upgraded? Is that the world we're living in now?" he said.

Seinfeld first said when asked about the June 10th incident, reports the NY Post, "I wish her the best.. you take one 'A' off of that and you've got gag."

"I don't know what these young people think or how they promote their careers," Seinfeld said. "I'm older, I'm 56. I look at Lady Gaga the way Keith Hernandez watches these kids when they pull the pocket out, they wear the inside-out pocket. ... Do you think he understands that? He can't understand that. That's a new game, that's kids."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Joy Behar

We were watching Joy Behar when she was a stand-up in the eighties. She was on every small-time cable show there was, most notably Robert Kline's. She was very funny.

For that reason, bored and needing some tv, I tried her show a couple of times again last week and I'll tell you if you can get past some of the guests she's good. Very quick and funny. I heard a lot more than I cared to about the Miley Cyrus underwear photo "scandal." Who's the dude who linked to it and may be facing legal problems? He actually made sense in defending himself though he strikes me as a pretty smarmy guy.

Then came Lady Gaga at Yankee stadium. I give her another year and then she's smoke. She's a Madonna imitator who lacks Madonna's sense of fun and cunning. Even Madonna reached a place where she couldn't shock people any longer. Gaga's a much better singer than Madonna but not even close as a showbiz phenom. I enjoyed watching Madonna kicking all the mobbed-up record executives around for two decades. It was strictly a boys club till she came along.

Ms. Behar recommended Larry King's interview with Mick Jagger which I finally caught up with last night. I'll tell ya I like Larry King. He's always been a crazy bastard with all his wives and all his gambling and his endless tales about his impoverished boyhood in Brooklyn (we get it, Larry). But anybody who can stay on the air with huge audiences (now in decline) doing interviews with absolutely no prep...I mean he walks into the studio, a staffer hands him the questions and he goes on. He's a dope but a likable one. Oh I'm sorry Aaron Burr, I thought you were RAYMOND Burr. We'll be right back after this message.

I was afraid his Jagger turn would be like his notorious interview with Sinatra. I mean Sinatra was a true asshole all his life. But King elevated him to sainthood. It got to be hilarious and is still joked about forty years later.

In honor of Jagger Larry wore a blazing red shirt, black suspenders and jeans. Hey, man, let's go clubbing at the old folks home tonight. (I'm old, too, Larry.) The outfit was corny but endearing. Larry was trying hard.

None of the questions were particularly interesting but Jagger turned them into fascinating insights about the Stones and himself. Jagger is a very smart guy. I mean you don't hear many rockers quoting Somerset Maugham twice. The interview reminded me of Boz Scaggs on a radio interview talking about noir and Graham Greene's influence on it.

I'll likely watch Joy again. I wish she'd reprise her stand up bit about how the Brit Royal Family is actually German and how many of them secretly supported Hitler. Now there's a stand up turn that got your attention.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

George Orwell's opinion of "No Orchards for Miss Blandish"

In a fine review of 40s and 50s British thrillers now appearing on DVD Dave Kehr discusses George Orwell's opinion of James Hadley Chase's "No Orchards for Miss Blandish" and it sure ain't pretty. Read the entire article in the NY Times;' movie section today. Go here:

No Orchids for Miss Blandish

James Hadley Chase’s novel “No Orchids for Miss Blandish” was published in 1939, but as George Orwell wrote in a censorious essay, it “seems to have enjoyed its greatest popularity in 1940, during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz.” Described by Orwell as “a header into the cesspool,” Chase’s book — written with an American slang dictionary and a copy of James M. Cain’s “Postman Always Rings Twice” open on his desk — is an outlandish pastiche of American pulp fiction, set in an infernal New York and packed with murder, rape, sadism and intimations of exotic perversions. “It was,” Orwell wrote, “one of the things that helped to console people for the boredom of being bombed.”


But the film is fascinating for its vision of America, which is less a real place than a projection of all the fantasies, anxieties and resentments the British had been building up for a decade in regard to their bumptious allies. As the mostly English cast struggles gamely with their accents (most poignantly, there is Sid James, the archetypal good-hearted cockney of the British cinema, attempting something like Brooklynese), it becomes clear that Clowes has cleverly transposed England’s rigid social structure to an abstract space where the rules of class relations can be thrillingly violated.

The scandal no longer lies in beatings and burnings but in the spectacle of an aristocratic woman falling in love with a lower-class man. Orwell despised the book because of what he viewed as its fascistic reverence for sexual power, but the movie substitutes something more topical and subversive in those unsettled postwar years: an erotic dream of democracy. (VCI Entertainment, $19.99, not rated)


Saturday, June 19, 2010

And you thought The Producers was a comedy

from the guardian

Why Bollywood's film about Hitler is profoundly misguided
Indian directors have as much right to make movies about Hitler as anyone else, but a forthcoming film about the Nazi dictator's 'love' for the country displays a shocking ignorance of history

A first-time Indian director, Rakesh Ranjan Kumar, has announced that he will make a movie about Adolf Hitler. Dear Friend Hitler stars Indian actors Anupam Kher and Neha Dhupia as Hitler and Eva Braun, and will focus on what the director claims was "Hitler's love for India and how he indirectly contributed to Indian independence".

Western productions have occasionally attempted to make fun of Hitler, ranging from successes like The Producers to fiascos like Heil Honey, I'm Home. But Dear Friend Hitler is not a traditional Bollywood musical, and makes no claim to comedy. "It aims to capture the personality of Adolf Hitler and his insecurities, his charisma and his paranoia during the last few days of his life," Kumar says. In other words, this is Downfall – but with a positive spin.

For many westerners, Hitler remains history's ultimate evil. In India, awareness of the Holocaust is limited. Characters in Bollywood films jokingly refer to bossy family members as "Hitler" – provoking a sharp intake of breath from many western viewers, who associate Hitler with crimes significantly worse than telling you to do your chores. In 2006, a Nazi-themed cafe opened in Mumbai with the name Hitler's Cross. Bollywood actor Murli Sharma attended the launch party. Asked whether he found the name troublesome, he said: "I am not really agitated as I have not read much about the man. However, from what I know about Hitler, I find this name rather amusing."

For the rest go here:

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ed Lacy coulda been a contender

Ed here: Ed Lacy was an excellent writer. Money pressure forced him to write some books that weren't his best but when you put Room To Swing and The Men From The Boys and Harlem Underground and five or six others together you're looking at a significant career. was going to write about Ed Lacy (thank you in advance, Ed) but then I remembered that my buddy Ed Lynskey had already done a much better job than I would have anyway--so here from a fine long article that is really worth your time is a small excerpt:


On Sunday, January 7, 1968, crime author Leonard “Len” S. Zinberg, perhaps better known by his Ed Lacy pseudonym, suffered a fatal coronary in a laundromat near his 75 St. Nicholas Place residence in north Harlem. He was 56. A widow Esther (1910-86) and a daughter Carla (born in the late 1950s, possibly adopted, and presumably still living) survived him. Zinberg had had a medical history of heart trouble dating back as early as 1960.

Zinberg wrote about his heart ailments as “a form of therapy” as well as “a source of story ideas.” As early as 1946 in a New Yorker piece titled “The Convert,” he wrote about an apartment dweller whose heart is “pretty bad.” One year after his first heart attack, he brought out Bugged For Murder (Avon, 1961) about PI Billy Wallace with a bad ticker who becomes a couch potato. In The Hotel Dwellers (Harper & Row, 1966), Howie Fisher managing a hotel gift shop leads the sedentary lifestyle of a recovering heart patient. Looks are deceptive. On the same novel’s rear dust jacket, a grainy black-and-white portrait of the burly Zinberg (who resembles a begrizzled Alan Arkin) glowers back at us any thing but sedate.

Little is known of Zinberg’s early life. He was born on August 25, 1911 in New York City (some sources say upstate New York) to Max and Elizabeth Zinberg. This marriage ended in divorce a few years later. Max Zinberg, 88, died in Newark, New Jersey in November 1972. Elizabeth remarried to Maxwell Wyckoff and Len went to live with them in Manhattan from age ten on. “Mac” Wyckoff, a Yale graduate, worked as a banking lawyer at the firm Livingston, Livingston, & Harris. Len as a teenager lived in a fairly affluent family at 450 West 153rd Street on the fringes of Harlem.

Alan Wald, a professor at the University of Michigan, points out that Len’s interest in African American culture and leftist politics stemmed from his 1920s Jewish heritage. During the late 1920s, Zinberg attended the College of the City of New York. During the 1930s his wanderjahr throughout the United States included working at a series of odd jobs (once as a butcher) to support himself. By the early 1940s, Zinberg returned to The Big Apple where he married and resided for the balance of his life.

for the rest go here:

you can read Ed Lacy's Edgar winning novel Room To Swing free on line

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Forgotten Books: The So-Blue Marble

I'm not sure exactly when Freud became an influence on popular culture but certainly in the Thirties and Forties his beliefs could be found in crime fiction and crime movies. Hitchcock sanctified him in Spellbound and many lesser directors followed suit.

One of the most prominent of Freudian tropes was phantasmagoria, the sense that the protagonist is lost in a chaos that may or may not be real. A nightmare or is he really about to die?

Dorothy B. Hughes certainly plays with this trope in her famous novel The So-Blue Marble (1940). Her lovely protagonist, saddled with the unlovely name Griselda, decides to visit New York and stay in her ex-husband's apartment, at his request. They haven't seen each other for four years during which he's become a major reporter for NBC worldwide and she's become both a writer and an unlikely (and unhappy) movie actress.

This is the Vogue magazine world just before the war. Everything is ridiculously expensive, everything ridiculously elegant, people, clothes, cars, apartments alike. There are always limos standing by and champagne to be drunk.

Griselda is accosted in chapter one by a pair of diabolocially handsome twin brothers, one blond one dark haired, called the Montefierrow Twins by everybody who knows them. They most frequently are seen in tops hats, tails and carrying gold-handled canes, one of which has a dagger on its tip. In any kind of company other than their international che-che world these two would be dead in under five minutes.

The lads want a blue marble that they believe Griselda has. This is the McGuffin. A lot of people want the marble. Only the twins are willing to kill for it, something they do frequently. The marble isn't just a marble of course and there are hints that spies from three different countries have been searching for it, too.

The phantasmagoric aspect comes in when you realize that at times the story teeters on the brink of being unbelievable. It really does have the quality of a nightmare. The writing and social observation are so well done--Hughes, a Yale Young Poet in those days, obviously knew this turf well--you're swept up in all the calamity without worrying about some of the stranger twists and turns.

The most interesting character in the book is Missy, Grisedla's seductive sixteen year old sister. A true psychopath and the lover of one of the those god awful twins. Humbert Humbert would find her enchanting no doubt.

This is the novel that set Dorothy B. Hughes on a career that would include two of her novels becoming Bogart pictures, the best of which, In A Lonely Place, is a noir icon. This is a swift, tart, dark novel set in the months before Pearl Harbor. The coming war is felt on every page.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

From the introduction by Max Allan Collins
(Thanks to Max for letting us use this--and thanks to Lynn Meers for making this book a reality)

As a teenager running out of Mike Hammer books, in my unceasing effort to find methadone to replace the heroin of Spillane, I found two writers who did the trick. One was Ian Fleming, whose James Bond was originally sold to the American public as a British Mike Hammer, and the comparison was apt; in fact, the first paperback publisher to successfully do Fleming and Bond was Spillane’s – Signet Books, who used artist Barye Phillips (who had done the most recent Spillane covers) to further make the sale to Mickey’s audience.

Among the American writers, only one caught Mickey’s magic – only one managed to create a fever-dream world of sadistic gangsters, willing women and larger-than-life tough guys. Only one was able to match Mickey’s speed, and race to a shocking conclusion that brought each tale to a quick, satisfying halt – with nothing of Perry Mason’s final-scene nonsense, explaining to Della why he’d sent Paul Drake out searching for a buffalo or whatever-the-hell.
No, an Ennis Willie novel – particularly the ones about his former mobster, Sand – brought you to the finish line and let you fall breathlessly to the cinders on your own. He didn’t help you recover. He just retreated to smile and laugh to himself and concoct another outrageous yarn.

For many, many years, and in many, many conversations, the topic of "Who was Ennis Willie?" was explored by Steve Mertz, Ed Gorman, Lynn Myers and myself, among others. I wrote about Willie a few times, notably in a book edited by Bill Pronzini in which I discussed the wonderful 1964 Sand novel, And Some Were Evil. The common theory was that he was African American; I believe a black poet named Willie Ennis was a prime candidate. A few floated the notion that this had been a deep-cover Spillane himself, publishing under the radar to avoid criticism from his fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I never bought the latter, because Willie was one of those rare imitators who was ultimately his own man – his vision was out of not just Spillane but his own vivid imagination, and his third-person approach to this kind of intensely personal narrative was uniquely his.
Now, delightfully, thanks to the Internet, Ennis Willie turns out to be alive and well. Back in ‘65, he went into another field, most successfully, and his fabulous run of pulp novels lasted less than four years, a creative flame that burned quickly and bright. One hopes he’ll get back to the typewriter (or computer keyboard) soon and, if so, one hopes the world will be smart enough to know how lucky it is.

Excerpt from Max Allan Collins' introduction to SAND'S GAME by Ennis Willie

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Onion claims Publishers `Desperate" for Vampires

Ed here: Only The Onion, the best humor site going, could reveal the startling truth about NYCs crazed search for new vampires.


'Minotaurs The New Vampires' Says Publishing Executive Desperate To Find New Vampires
JUNE 14, 2010 | ISSUE 46•24

NEW YORK—In a desperate effort to find a trendy new fantasy subgenre to succeed the ebbing vampire craze, Razorbill Books executive Graham Childress decided this week to throw all his professional weight behind a new series of novels featuring minotaurs, the bull-headed, human-bodied creatures of ancient Greek mythology. "Everywhere I go, I hear people talking about minotaurs," Childress said at a publishing conference, frantically trying to drum up enthusiasm for the planned trilogy about a bad-boy minotaur who transfers to a new high school and eventually falls for the one girl who can see the pain and sensitivity behind his brooding exterior. "Plus, labyrinths are really hot right now." The first installment of Razorbill's minotaur series is slated to hit shelves on Dec. 14, the same date three rival publishers will release novels featuring a bad-boy mummy, a bad-boy cyclops, and a bad-boy Mayan vision serpent.

Monday, June 14, 2010

R.I.P Al Williamson

Al Williamson is being mourned today by comic book fans around the world. He was one of the first illustrators whose name and style I looked for because he was so cool. Same for Wally Wood. For years I kept the EC comics they worked on together. God alone knows what happened to them. At least Al lived a good and long life. Those ECs are still my all-time favorite comics. So long, Al.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Nice Tribute to Steven Spielberg

James Wolcott talks about Steven Spielberg and then reprints a piece of Tom Shone's book How Hollywood Learned To Stop Worrying and Loved The Summer.

Tom Shone:

What was so different about Jaws? In one sense, nothing at all. “This is Universal’s extraordinary motion picture version of Peter Benchley’s bestselling novel....” intoned the trailers, with the sort of silver-platter flourish that now seems as quaint as three-colour disco lights: they thought Benchley was the attraction? The book? Benchley’s novel was that most curious of seventies artefacts: the misanthropic best-seller, full of such loathing for the common herd, you wonder why on earth the common herd bothered with the thing: “They had no body odour,” notes police chief Benchley of the bathers he watches over. “When they sweated, the girls smelled faintly of perfume; the boys smelled simply clean. None of which is to say that they were either stupid or evil...” Peter Benchley, please step forward and accept the 1975 People’s Friend award! Spielberg cut out the sourpuss posturings and gave the part of Brody to Roy Scheider, telling him “I don’t want to feel that you could ever kill that shark.” Charlton Heston had wanted the part, but as Spielberg’s screenwriter, Carl Gottleib pointed out, Heston had just saved a jetliner in Airport 75 and he was going to save Los Angeles in Earthquake, so “it just didn’t seem right for him to be wasting his time with a little New England community.” The blockbuster would eventually become synonymous with the effortless accomplishments of singular superheroes, but Jaws, from the outset, was an exercise in dramatic downsizing, attuned to the scruffy, low-slung heroism of ordinary men, and engaging in pitched battle with just a single shark, which kills only four people in the entire movie — and not at a single stroke, like an earthquake, but in four separate courses, from soup to nuts. It was, in other words, a repeat offender, in whom Spielberg had found a perfect reflection of his own restlessly kinetic instincts as a director. When the Orca is going at full throttle to catch up with the shark, Richard Dreyfuss’s admiring head shake of disbelief is entirely genuine: “fast fish!”

You'll definitely want to read it all-just scroll down past the first entry:

In honor of Bill Crider's site-Filrtatious Cows

Balinese Teen Forced to Marry Flirtatious Cow
An 18-year-old Balinese man, Ngurah Alit, was caught in a rice paddy sexing up a cow doggie style after it had flirted with him. To cleanse his village he was forced into marrying the cow—but he passed out.

Yesterday was to be the big day for Alit, a young unemployed man from a coastal village on the Indonesian island of Bali. But, according to The Jakarta Globe, the cow had to pay for his sins and was drowned in the ocean as part of the ceremony. An understandably nervous Alit passed out and it is unclear whether vows were exchanged before the cow was killed. According to one villager, Alit was symbolically drowned, and "only his clothes were thrown into the sea." The village chief, Ida Bagus Legawa, said that the village had been "cleansed."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Clu Gulager as "Vic"

I always liked Clu Gulager. No matter how straightforward the role Gulager would take you to some mysterious place in his bemused contemplative mind. There was so much intelligence in his performances that you didn't mind him creating his own little story within the larger story.

Sarge Stallone, a young filmmaker of growing prestige, uses Gulagher to great effect in a short film called "Vic." Ever wonder what happens to actors--as opposed to stars--when time and taste requires them to retire? Well, you'll find out here and it ain't pretty. "Vic Reeves" former legend is on the downside.

The story in this slice of life comes when a young director calls Vic late at night and offers him the possibility of a role in a nee film. If he gets the part he can pay his bills and start eating right again. Right now the only two things he's got going for him are his Medicare card and his dog.

Gulager is great from start to finish. If I have a reservation it's that Stallone always goes for the Big Moment. You can only have so many Big Moments in a film, especially a short one. That said, the film is a well-observed tale of not only being old but being old in LA. Stallone has a reporter's eye for details, a virtue that will take him far.

Gulager's son Tom plays the director and does well with the role. Stallone fills out the cast with names from the past including Carol Lynley, John Phillip Law and Peter Mark Richman.

Gulager and company give us a moving look at a real life here. Everybody involved should be congratulated.

Friday, June 11, 2010

More on blurbs. "A great stupendous article % Stars!"


Publishers 'missing a trick' with blurbs
11.06.10 | Victoria Gallagher

Publishers are "missing a trick" by not perfecting blurbs on jackets despite the fact they are "commercially valuable", delegates were told at The Bookseller Cover Design Conference yesterday. The importance of blurb and other copy on book jackets was highlighted at the conference held yesterday (10th June) at The British Library Conference Center, and attended by 200 delegates.

James Spackman, sales and trade marketing director at Hodder & Stoughton, said: "There is time and effort and strife that goes into finishes, foil and shine, etc - but think about how many books are sold online these days and this means nothing. We're missing a trick." He added: "The words are commercially valuable . . . We can afford to be positive about this, we have a chance to add value."

Spackman discussed research from Book Marketing Limited which found that the blurb makes 62% of consumers buy a particular book. He added: "It's a vital motivating factor in why people decide to buy a book and it is totally in control of the publisher."

For the rest go here:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rex Stout & Kindle

I've had four doc appointments this week. Fortunately I've bought four Rex Stout books (three novels and a collection) for my Kindle and it's like going home again. Stout was one of the first adult mystery novelists I read and I've never lost my fondness for the world and characters he created.

Right now I'm reading The Golden Spiders which has got a twist every ten pages or so and contains some of the funniest dialogue Stout ever wrote for Archie and Nero. Archie wants to piss off Nero--payback for Nero pissing off Archie of course--and their dueling barbs are classic, especially when Archie forces Nero to take on a twelve year old as a client.

Then there are those sentences. I know Stout said that his books were all first draft and I have no reason to doubt him but assuming it's true he wrote polished and sometimes intricate sentences that put the lie to all those who boast of laboring lover their manuscripts.

The most recent TV series sometimes came close to capturing the Wolfeian world. I'll have to check them out again. Meanwhile I've got the books to read again and again. And I have to say, as much as I bitched about e books, the Kindle is an easy way to transport a small library.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Cinema Retro; Forgotten Books

What're you waiting for? The new Cinema Retro is packed with goodies. Of major interest for me is the lengthy piece on The Haunting with commentary by director Robert Wise. But you can read the cover copy for yourself. get it now!

----------Forgotten Books Women of Wonder ed. by Pamela Sargent

Duffers like me seem to have a difficult time reading a fair share of contemporary science fiction. I always says it's because we're not smart enough to appreciate it and I'm only half-joking. The majority of sf I've read in the past five years is better written and generally better conceived and contrived than most of the work I read when I was a major fan of the stuff.


Pamela Sargent is one of my favorite sf writers. She's been at it for decades and has produced a major body of work. She writes with a style and grace that makes reading her a real literary pleasure. Same for her characters. They are complex, sometimes even unlikable but always real and relevant.

She's done double-duty as an anthologist of note. For no particular reason I took her 1974 anthology Women of Wonder ("SF Stories By About Women")down from the shelf and damned if it didn't remind me of how much I enjoyed and admired the sf of the late 60s and all the of the 70s.

While there are classics here such as Judith Merrill's That Only A Mother and The Ship Who Sang, the splendor lies in the women shrugging of the strictures of the old male-dominated field and kicking some ass all on their own. Kit Reed's The Food Farm is flat out startling and as pertinent today as it was several decades ago. A scathing commentary on body image.Then we have Kate Wilhelm and Carol Emshwiller ransacking coventional notions of gender and sex and Ursula K. Le Guin establishing her genius with a single story, Vaster Than Empires and More Slow.

There's even a pulp story not intended for the faint of her. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's False Dawn (The basis for her later novel of the same title) is a grisly but effecting adventure story set in a future earth turned back to savagery.

So many different styles, structures, tones. And so much fine storytelling. If you want to wander off the crime reservation for the length of one excellent anthology, pick this one up. I think you'll like it as much as I did.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The new The Killer Inside Me

Ed here: Charles McGarth has a notably wise take on the new version of Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me. He also includes an interview with Bertrand Tavernier who did the finest Thompson film of all "Pop. 1280." This is Celine without the self-pity and kvetching.

Like many Thompson novels “The Killer Inside Me” is told in the first person, and the reader eventually discovers that Lou is himself dead: he’s speaking to the reader from beyond the grave, as it were, and his narrative voice is as seductive and elusive as the one he uses to sweet-talk his victims. How can we believe a word he says? Robert Polito, Thompson’s biographer, explained in an interview: “Thompson isn’t like the writers he’s often compared to. He’s not like Hammett, Chandler, Cain. The books aren’t realistic. They’re much closer to phantasmagoria.”

Mr. Tavernier suggested recently that one reason Europeans make better Thompson movies is that they regard him as a serious, literary author, not just a pulp writer. Speaking from Cannes, where he was promoting his new film, “La Princesse de Montpensier,” he said: “There’s a metaphysical element in Thompson, and Americans always leave that out. They take out everything that makes the books great: the dialogue, the great humor. I see him more as a writer like Alfred Jarry, Henry Miller, Celine.”

He also complained about the two movie versions of “The Getaway,” and said about the portion of the book that had been cut, “You could make a very interesting film just from that part alone.”

For the rest go here:

Monday, June 07, 2010

William Campbell Gault - J. Kingston Pierce

I've mentioned before the extraordinary job Jeff Pierce does not just with The Rap Sheet but his other site Killer Covers. This time he covers the life and career of William Campbell Gault. I got to know Bill reasonably well during the eighties and into the nineties. A more wonderful guy is impossible to imagine. No guile, no ego tantrums. I came to see him as my uncle. He had a lot of tales of other writers, 98% positive. He always said that one of his regrets was that the falling out he had with his old pal John D. McDonald. JDM was a hawk about Viet Nam, Bill agin it completely. They finally made up about a year before Bill died but that the political divide ran deep.

The guy was a great writer (Don't Cry For Me belongs in any top ten private eye list) and a working class hero.

I can hear him laughing with pleasure about Jeff Pierce's fine overview. He woulda loved it.

Read the whole article here:

Sunday, June 06, 2010

From Crime Space

Ed here: I got this letter from Dave Zeltserman today and thought I'd pass it along. I happened to scan the Garrison Keillor piece referred to here. As readers of this blog know, I'm no Keillor fan. Winsome County wore out plumb quick for me and when I heard Keillor--along with Prof. Matthew Bruccolli and Christopher Hitchens discuss The Great Gatbsy--I knew that Keillor and I lived on different planets. He insists that the famous green light at the end of Gatsby is a symbol of America's promise--of riches and adventures of untold. So Gatsby is one of those think positive! novels, eh? Of course while the green light may symbolize those things it is a false promise, an illusion, a delusion, the very same delusion that destroyed Gatsby and left a number of other people dead, too.

From a Gatsby website:
Favourite line:
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made....

Last line:
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Ed here: This doesn't much like the Rotarian version of Gatsby Keillor peddles now, does it?

From Dave:

Ed, there's a discussion on Crime Space on Garrison Keillor's recent
article about on the state of publishing, and someone named Peter
Steiner posted this excellent post:

"I'm a little late to the game--both in responding to Keillor's piece
and in becoming a writer--but here goes anyway.

First off, Keillor seems more than a little disingenuous, acting as
though he were just folks at a swank party. He got invited because of
a well-connected pal. Really? He's written "a couple or books"
himself? Please.

Self publishing may be part of the problem with our modern world--it
is, as Keillor suggests, the way around the gate keepers. But the
publishers and editors--the gate keepers have given up being gate
keepers, by which I mean finding and nurturing interesting writing.
They gave up being people who first of all love books, to become
people who first of all love profits. Who knows whether, if they had
continued actually promoting writers who did something of their own,
if they encouraged and helped writers, if they actually trusted
writers, yes, who knows whether self-publishing would be making such

And Keillor and the star writers? Well, it's complicated, and they're
only human. Being invited to a penthouse party with the stars is
probably too enticing to resist. I'd almost certainly succumb if it
were offered. After all you can be your plain, genuine self among your
fellow celebrities. And the price of admission is so small, one hardly
notices. In fact most of the celebs subscribed to the success formula
from the very beginning: write what sells.

Write what sells has always been a part of things. But there was also
write what's good, what's interesting, what's you. That was, of
course, back when publishers actually loved books, and Keillor was
dancing through the corn waving his big check."


Saturday, June 05, 2010

A letter from Robert Ryan

Ed here: The Night Editor is an essential site for noir fans. It linked to two excellent pieces about Robert Ryan. This one details Ryan's acting life but also the family scandal that darkened his boyhood. This is from The Chicago Reader copyright 2009. Here's The Night Editor By coincidence I saw two John Garfield pictures within the last couple of weeks and as I watched I thought of how much Garfield and Ryan were the ying and yang of noir. Garfield oppressed by grief quiet, insular, melancholy; Ryan also deeply aggrieved and insular as well but haunted and volcanic. I wish these two great actors had done a picture together.

The Actor’s Letter
A reminiscence from film noir icon Robert Ryan, newly unearthed by his daughter, sheds light on his Chicago childhood—and his family’s connection to a tragic chapter in the city’s history.
By J.R. Jones

The full autobiographical letter that Robert Ryan wrote to his children can be found here; for more on Ryan's filmography and an appreciation of his work, see "The Essential Robert Ryan."
On-screen, Robert Ryan was a man with secrets. Film noir fans remember him as the bigoted army sergeant concealing his murder of a Jewish man in Crossfire (1948), or the small-town projectionist eaten up by his love for another man's wife in Clash by Night (1952), or the seething detective whose closed-door brutality against witnesses has begun to soil his reputation in On Dangerous Ground (1952). Born in Chicago on November 11, 1909, Ryan enjoyed a 30-year career in movies, and by the time he died of cancer in 1973 he'd played everything from romantic leads to western heavies, from Jay Gatsby to John the Baptist. But the persona that lingers is that of a strong, intelligent man guarding some storm of emotion—fear, guilt, helpless rage. Even in broad daylight he seemed cloaked in shadow.

Offscreen, he was also something of a mystery. In Franklin Jarlett's Robert Ryan: A Biography and Critical Filmography (1990), even Ryan's closest friends describe him as moody and intensely private. Interviewed for this story, his children concurred."He was a very sweet guy," remembers Lisa Ryan, who lives in San Francisco and works for a green nonprofit. "He was incredibly shy, although—I guess this is what actors can do—he could just turn on when the situation called for that. But basically he was a very quiet, introverted guy. You wonder, looking at some of the parts that he played in movies, what it was in him that was able to access those really dark, scary characters."

Friday, June 04, 2010

So Philip K Dick needed a co-writer eh?

Ed here: Attacking Philip K. Dick's literary style is becoming a popular sport. Clunky he was in his early ulp days but he became a much better stylist as he worked along. But why let that spoil the fun?

What Philip K Dick needed was a co-author
by Darragh McManus
Despite his brilliant imagination, Philip K Dick's prose was often dreadful. But who are the other literary greats who could have done with a helping hand?

And there was a view out. Limited, no larger in fact than a comb of bees' wax. But still the thick plastic revealed the emptiness beyond, and he went over to fixedly peer. Sol, blinding, filled a portion of the panorama and he reflexively reached up to click the black filter into use. And, as he did so, he perceived his hand. His artificial, metallic, superbly efficient mechanical hand.
The above passage is from an established classic by a revered author, but what an awful piece of writing. Especially its nadir, that syntactical atrocity, "to fixedly peer"."

To fixedly peer? Shudder. How can three short words form such a clunky, unwieldy, barely readable piece of English? More to the point, how did it ever pass Philip K Dick's editors, or his own internal censor?

Rereading The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch recently, I had a rather strange thought: Dick should have written factual, rather than fictional, books. He obviously had a brilliant mind, with one of the most fantastic, and fantastical, imaginations I've ever come across. His ideas seemed to come from some bizarre but divine repository only accessible to this most unique of writers.

Dick took outlandish, almost inconceivable ideas and worked them through, making them real and plausible through the strictures and structures of a formidable intelligence and singular aesthetic. Churning out fascinating, distinctive books at a fierce rate, he was hugely ambitious and original.

for the rest go here:

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Pro-File: Simon Wood

Pro-File Simon Wood:

1. Tell us about your current novel.
My current novel is TERMINATED and it deals with workplace violence. It centers on Gwen Farris who is a middle manager at a biotech firm who falls a prey to one of her disgruntled employees, Stephen Tarbell. Tarbell resents Gwen and her position, so he takes it upon himself to ruin her life. Gwen tries to use the corporate system to help rid her of this problem, but when it fails her, she’s forced to take some unorthodox actions to save herself and family.

I tackled this subject after discovering that some companies are turning to private security firms to handle workplace violence claims. These firms investigate, provide security and in some cases make advise the guilty party to leave to eradicate the problem. Workplace violence claims can cost a firm so much in lost man-hours, lawyers and trials, etc., that it’s more cost effective to bring in a third party to make the problem disappear. I looked up government statistics and on average, someone is killed at their place of work every day. It made it a subject worth pursuing. The more I dug the crazier the real life incidences became.

2. Can you give a sense of what you're working on now?
I’ve just finished a book very close to my heart called, DID NOT FINISH. It’s what I hope will be the first in a series of mysteries set in the motor racing world. I used to compete during 90’s in the UK and I witnessed a number of incidents that would make the basis for crime stories. DID NOT FINISH is the first in a story arc that will catalog a character’s motor racing career from its humble beginning to its international heights. I’m hoping to do for motor racing what Dick Francis did for horse racing.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?
Writing the first draft. There's nothing finer than laying down page after page on a new story. I’m excited because I know no one has read it and I can't wait for my first readers’ reactions to the piece.

Receiving a contract comes a close second. It’s proof that the story was a good one and that someone is willing to commit time, money and resources to turn it into a book.

4. What is the greatest DISpleasure?
Revising. I find writing a first draft emotional experience and it’s exciting because of it. An objective eye takes over during rewrites and it’s never that fun. It would be nice to write the perfect first draft, but I can't see that happening any time soon. 

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?
Write. Revise. Submit. Repeat.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in print again?
I’d like to see Hammond Innes get a resurgence. I’ve been picking up his books in junk shops. I recently read ANGRY MOUNTAIN and it blew me away. It was a fantastic setup with an amazing protagonist. I think he’s such a forgotten man. Someone else in the field who is well known but whose books aren’t that readily available is Alastair Maclean. I love the boldness of his tales and I wish I could come up with something that could rival them.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that moment.
My first novel sale was a comedy of errors that was filled with way too much angst. I’d pitched my first novel to Don D’Auria at Dorchester at a convention. He liked my pitch so much he asked for the complete manuscript. I mailed it on a Tuesday and Don called the following Monday morning. Unfortunately, I was in the shower getting ready for work when he called. I didn’t check the machine until I came home that night. I hit play and got “Hey, Simon, it’s Don. I’m calling about the B--” before my machine crapped out on me. “What about the B--?” Was it good? Was it bad? It was too late to call. I spent the next twenty minutes listening to the message over and over again trying determine whether Don sounded happy or annoyed. I didn’t want to get carried away. I estimated he’d only had the book two or three days at the most. He could be calling to say he dropped coffee over it or it was so bad he wanted to call me to tell me it was the worst book he'd read in his life. Naturally, I couldn’t sleep and just lay there in turmoil. The second it was six am (on the west coast), I jumped on the phone because I wanted to catch Don as he got into the office. He asked me if I got the message. I said no, and he said he'd called to offer me a contract.

“I started reading it on Friday and couldn’t stop,” he said.

I was so emotionally spent from obsessing for the last twelve hours there was nothing in the tank, all I could say was, “That sounds nice.”

Don kinda picked up on this. “Normally people sound a little more enthusiastic when I give them good news.”

I said, “I am enthusiastic,” not sounding enthusiastic one iota. “I just don’t know what to say.”

“Oh. Well, I’ll send you a contract.”

I saw my New York publishing breakthrough crashing down around me because I couldn’t sound happy. I ended up sending a gushing email after we ended the call explaining that the situation had simply overwhelmed me. I’m not sure if Don bought it or not, but I’ve never told him this story.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Forgotten Books: Murder Among Children by Donald. E Westlake; Committment

Back in 1967 when Donald Westlake, writing under the name Tucker Coe, published Murder Among Children (second in the series about disgraced cop Mitch Tobin) the Summer of Love had yet to arrive. Hippies were still these strange beings who did little more than fornicate freely and toke on as many joints as they could find. The mainstream press loved them. So did paperback writers, sociologists and people who made their dough standing at pulpits. Hippies were proof positive that this country was disintegrating. Hell, these miscreants wouldn't even go overseas to fight in a war that should never have happened. Billy Graham and Norman Vincent Peale (I preferred the stripper Norma Vincent Peel) made muy money trashing them.

Donald Westlake, who was not only a master writer but a master observer of our society, wrote a novel in which an older man, the former cop Mitch Tobin, is forced to defend a young hippie girl accused of murder. Tobin's wife insists because the girl is related to them.

In each book we see Tobin building the wall in his back yard. He literally wants to wall himself off from the world. He has good reason to. Tobin had a mistress he couldn't leave alone, He'd sneak up to see her while his squad car buddy covered for him. Then one day his buddy needed back up while Tobin was in bed with his mistress--and his partner got killed without Tobin there to back him up.

So now Tobin is forced back into the world to find out who really killed the charismatic young man who ran the hippie hangout, the young man Tobin's relative was in love with. Westlake takes us on a tour of hippie life in NYC `67. He has the eyes of a good reporter and the constitution of an honest broker. Tobin sees a lot he likes and a lot he doesn't. I especially like the intersection he sees between crime and the hippie lifestyle. Some very bad people hid out with the somewhat naive hippies.

The book is a pleasure to read just because of those Westlakian sentences. Never a word too many; language that illuminates every situation.

The Mitch Tobin novels are essentially private eye books and flalwess examples of the form.




Confinement, a 30-minute independent film written, directed and edited by upstate New York filmmaker John McCarty, is now available for streaming and purchase on a worldwide, non-exclusive basis through the online distribution facilities of Indieflix, the web’s largest and most experienced internet distributor of independently-made feature films, documentaries, and shorts.

Confinement is a modern re-telling of the classic weird tale The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935). It is about a woman whose physician husband has determined she is suffering from depression following the birth of their only child and has installed her in the upstairs bedroom of their rental house to recuperate. There, she becomes fixated on the color and design of the paper that surrounds the room. The film portrays the impact of this confinement on her mental state and feelings about marriage and motherhood. Or is it a ghost story?

In the years since it was initially published, The Yellow Wallpaper has frequently been reprinted in collections of 19th Century American literature, women’s literature, and horror fiction. Confinement is produced by Audrey Kupferberg who teaches film history at UAbany (SUNY).

For more information about Confinement, please visit the official website ( where you can download the electronic press kit, the film’s IndieFlix page (, or contact John McCarty ( or 518-477-6076).

Best wishes,
John McCarty

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Henning Mankell, Swedish Crime Writer On Gaza Aid Ship

Ed here: I just ran across this on Huffington Post. Haven't seen it anywhere else. Now 3,427 of you will tell me you've being reading it all day on numerous blogs.

Huff Post:

Henning Mankell, Swedish Crime Writer On Gaza Aid Ship, Held In Custody In Israel
First Posted: 06- 1-10 11:12 AM | Updated: 06- 1-10 11:12 AM

Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell, author of the Wallander detective series, is one of nine Swedes held in Israel Monday after landing from a Gaza-bound aid flotilla attacked by Israeli commandos, Sweden's foreign ministry said.

Richard S. Wheeler: The Long Decline

The Long Decline

When I first began writing westerns in the 70s, for Doubleday's library line, the genre was already in decline, though I was unaware of it. The Louis L'Amour factory hid the decay from the world for another decade.

Westerns were suffering from two things: one was the sheer exhaustion of material, so that each story iterated previous ones. The other, and equally grave one, was that the world was swiftly leaving the frontier behind. Urbanization, technology, changing social mores, made stories of the Old West seem quaint, and people's lives and interests focused on the present.

Still, even before I entered the field, the western novel was important, influential, and widely enjoyed. Grey and Max Brand had popularized it. Haycox had refined it. Mainstream houses published it. Knopf published W. R. Burnett; Random and Lippincott published Will Henry. Morrow, Doubleday, and other houses published single titles.

Most of the paperback houses had western lines that produced several titles a month. Bantam put L'Amour into a separate category, but also had a western line that published several authors each month. Ace and Charter published them by the dozen, some of them the famous Ace Doubles, two novels under one cover. Fawcett had its line; Ballantine did also. Warner published them. New American Library had an extensive line. Zebra and Pinnacle churned them out. So did Berkley. Pocket Books had a fine western line. So did Avon. Then there was Comstock Editions doing specialty westerns, and Pyramid, and Ivy. Leisure was cranking up a line.

There were three main library lines, Doubleday's Double D, Walker and Company's, and M. Evans, plus several other intermittent library publishers. The Five Star library line, largely reprints but with some new titles, was also producing.

These were reinforced by scores of TV western series, which also reached exhaustion and faded away swiftly in the cultural upheavals of the sixties. Some atavistic westerns, more violent and earthy, kept the film western alive, while Berkley's erotic westerns kept the print western going through the eighties.

But the great lines were gradually dying away, and rack space was shrinking and western fiction ended up the least of the genres. Today you rarely find a western at all in a Border's store, but you will in WalMart. The genre has gone from thousands of titles a year to maybe a couple hundred, and these are badly distributed because wholesalers ignore them. Bantam tried to groom a replacement for L'Amour and utterly flopped. No amount of corporate publicity and favor could do that.

Today the remaining hardcover general trade publisher, Forge, has scaled back, and what remains is a pale ghost of what once was. Leisure mixes reprints with new titles, at reduced royalties; Pinnacle publishes a few new William Johnstones; Bantam keeps L'Amour in print. Five Star continues to mix reprints and new titles, at low royalties. Berkley's line continues, fueled by erotica. Matt Braun commands a readership. The great western novelists are dead and gone. All this is best described as a stable niche market.

Several publishers attempt to keep western fiction alive with ever-increasing levels of violence and brutality, which actually is a sign of the genre's deep decay and debasement. Ask any cultural historian about what the coarsening of an art form means. That is one of several reasons I believe the genre western's time has come and gone, and the regional literature of the west can best be told in new forms. There are gifted people recasting the West, including Margaret Coel, Craig Johnson, Mark Spragg, and Chuck Box. Let the living live, and give the dead a decent burial.
MONDAY, MAY 31, 2010