Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Top Ten Stupid Comedies for Intelligent People

Ed here: Today Salon ran a piece called The Top Ten Stupid Comedies for Intelligent People. Some pretty good choices. You can find the rest on the link below. But for me the number 10 entry is my favorite. I wrote a lot of really bad plays when I was in my late teens and early twenties and was involved with numerous little theater groups filled with daydreamers, misfits and dead-enders very much like myself. This movie depicts these yearners with a gentle comic touch than only makes them seem all the crazier. I'm not an Eddie Murphy fan (he was great early on) but he takes this one away from Steve Martin. Plus the subplot with Heather Graham, looking gorgeous, is hilarious--esp. the payoff.

10. "Bowfinger" (1998)
The title character's big idea is about as stupid as they come: down on his luck filmmaker Robert K. Bowfinger (Steve Martin) decides that his next film must star the world's biggest action icon, a paranoid, racist basket case named Kit Ramsay (Eddie Murphy). But Ramsay is both ungettable and certifiably insane, so Bowfinger decides to shoot him from a great distance away with telephoto lenses ("This film is only for Madagascar and Iran, neither of which follow American copyright law"), then cut the footage together with shots of Kit's nerdy twin brother, Jiff (Murphy again). That's enough silliness to fuel a movie; director Frank Oz ("Dirty Rotten Scoundrels") and Martin, who wrote the script, push "Bowfinger" in the realm of the sublime ridiculous. The movie is a bumper crop of bizarro moments: a dog walking through a parking garage in high heels; the hapless Jiff letting himself be talked into crossing a six-lane freeway, and most of all, Kit's freaked-out rants. "A black dude who plays a slave that gets his ass whipped gets the nomination," he grouses at one point. "A white guy who plays an idiot gets the Oscar. That's what I need, I need to play a retarded slave, then I'll get the Oscar!"

Friday, July 30, 2010

When Titans Collide

Ed here: I thought this might be of interest. Two big shots in a shoot-out. Just like all those old Whip Wilson movies (I wonder how many of you remember Whip--he always struck m as the laziest movie cowboy of all. He didn't walk, he moseyed. :) BTW you'll note that the link reads "when assholes collide." I'm sure Huff Post nixed that for the headline.

When Titans Collide by Matt Stewart

Two publishing industry titans smashed into each other last week, and it couldn't have come sooner.

Basically, Random House has been screwing authors by assuming ebook rights they were never contractually awarded--because ebooks hadn't been invented in contracts negotiated fifteen-plus years ago. It's the equivalent of a horse and buggy salesman assuming a Ford dealership for free. Also, Random House has dictated a 25% author royalty rate for ebooks, even though the Authors Guild says "knowledgeable authors and agents...are well aware that e-book royalty rates of 25% of net proceeds are exceedingly low and contrary to the long-standing practice of authors and publishers to, effectively, split evenly the net proceeds of book sales."

Andrew Wylie's a literary agent representing some of the biggest names in publishing--Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, the estate of Norman Mailer, etc. He's now screwing Random House by going around them to sell his clients' ebooks straight to the public via Amazon. In a bit of asshole oneupsmanship, Random House responded by announcing they won't cut any deals with the Wylie Agency until this spat is resolved.

Both parties are behaving like assholes here. Fortunately, one of the assholes is on my side (I'm an author - turns out the Author's Guild agrees with me). And that, unfortunately, is exactly what's needed.

Let's get to the essence: Random House essentially stole rights here. They're enormous, and they can get away with things, so they tried to. They pissed off a lot of authors, and some of the biggest authors have channeled their anger through one really powerful author representative, Wylie, to fight back.

to read the rest go here:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A spectacular new Cinema Retro

Ed here: This is a SPECTACULAR issue and not only about Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone but about the entire movie making process itself. I was laughing out loud when I came to the bit about the trepidation Italian movie makers felt when they had to put their films in the hands of the Roman labs of that time. The film you submitted might not be the film you got back!

From Cinema Retro:

Cinema Retro's eagerly-awaited limited edition Movie Classics tribute issue to the Sergio Leone/ Clint Eastwood Dollars trilogy is now shipping worldwide. All pre-ordered issues have now been mailed.

In the footsteps of Cinema Retro's landmark Movie Classics special edition tribute to Where Eagles Dare, publishers Dave Worrall and Lee Pfeiffer present their most ambitious release yet: the most extensive tribute to the Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone 'Dollar' film trilogy ever published. Years in the making, with contributions from prominent film historians from around the globe.



Full coverage of 'A Fistful of Dollars', 'For a Few Dollars More' and 'the Good, the Bad and the Ugly' - and why these films remain timeless cinematic classics.
80 full pages (16 pages more than the standard Cinema Retro issue)
Packed with hundreds of rare production stills, collectibles and international movie poster art culled from archives from around the world.
Many photos never before published - including rare behind the scenes production stills from people who acted as extras in 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly'
Special foreword by Leone biographer Sir Christopher Frayling
The legendary film locations - then and now
Coverage of the rare, deleted sequences
Cast and crew biographies




The fee (which includes postage costs) is as follows: UK: £8.00. Europe: £9.50, Rest of the World: £11.50. Payment by cheque (to Cinema Retro, British funds only, please) to -

Cinema Retro
PO Box 1570
BH23 4XS
or by Pay Pal (our UK/European recipient address is:

For USA and Canadian orders: Price is $15 (includes postage)

ALL OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD (EXCEPT FOR UK AND EUROPE): Price is $20 (includes postage)

Please send check (US funds only, please) to:

Cinema Retro
POB 152
Dunellen, New Jersey 08812

If you wish to pay by Pay Pal, please address to:

Regardless of where you live, credit cards will be processed by our American office. Please send details to the address above or by E-mail to split your card # into two separate E mails for security purposes.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Guest blogger Carolyn Hart - For Love of Cats

Ed here: This is reprinted from Dear Reader

Today's author is Carolyn Hart. Carolyn loves cat, old mysteries, the verdant South Carolina Lowcountry, hot and dusty Oklahoma, and dark chocolate. She's written 44 books. GHOST IN TROUBLE will be debuting this coming October. Carolyn would love to hear from you and she's giving away 10 signed copies of LAUGHED 'TIL HE DIED. Email her at:

Thank you Carolyn...


One of my earliest memories is of Baby Face, a gray tabby with a round face and huge green eyes. She was the first of many cats I have known and loved through the years.

Little Cat, another gray tabby, was a skilled huntress. She developed diabetes when older and patiently permitted me to give her injections twice daily. As an aged cat, she tottered slowly into the front yard, enticing blue jays to attack. Pretending to cower, she dropped to the ground. When a blue jay dived, she turned on her back and reached up to grab her tormentor.

Blackie, with all black, silky fur, was an engineer. In winter, she watched as I turned on a space heater. When the heater was off, she touched the control knob with her paw. I'm sure she was puzzled to see the coils light when I turned the knob and must have wondered why it didn't work for her.

Dainty black-furred Sophie with four white paws was small, almost fragile, but she dominated her world. She was my cherished companion for seventeen years. Now we have brown tabby brother and sister, Bro and Sis, and new this past year an abandoned huge orange tabby, Rockingham. Bro is reclusive, our professorial cat. Sis is eager, interested, and communicative. Rockingham needed reassurance that he was loved and has slowly lost his defensive, don't-hurt-me wariness.

We have loved them all. They are intelligent, interesting, and affectionate. Cats are sometimes described as aloof, cold, and remote. In fact, the cats we have known are loving and keenly attuned to us. Admittedly, they are not dogs, who look to humans as leaders. Instead, cats lead and their humans follow. But they are always looking over their shoulders to be sure we are with them.

My love affair with cats has permeated both my life and my work. In my view, there is nothing lonelier than a house without a cat or dog. In one series, the protagonists have two cats, an imperious black bookstore cat and a fluffy white homebody cat. This tells readers that Annie and Max Darling are settled members of a community. They may travel, but they will be coming home.

Several years ago, I bought a number of cat books, thinking I might start another series with cats in a major role. I have enjoyed the books, and the knowledge gained from them afforded a fun exercise in a book which will be out next spring. The protagonist's mother-in-law, who approaches life with a flair, creates Cat Truth posters with captions beneath photographs of various exotic breeds. I am especially fond of one Cat Truth poster: An American Short Hair Snow Shoe with intent blue eyes and the tell-tale four white feet was perched on a brick wall, oblivious to pelting rain, fur plastered down, drenched to the skin. He peered at a svelte Siberian Forest Cat, elegant and unattainable behind a window pane. The caption reads: Hey, Babe, come on out, the weather's fine and I'm a heckuva a guy.

And yes, one long ago winter night, a tom cat came calling at our house despite the sleet and inside was a gorgeous black cat...

I've learned a lot from cats: Enjoy the moment. Move fast or don't move at all. Love and be loved.

Carolyn Hart
You can email Carolyn at
Visit Carolyn on the web at

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Whistler with Vince Keenan

Ed here: Be sure to get your copy of the new Noir City Sentinel. It's the best issue yet packed with everything from articles on British B movies to articles on Elisha Cook and Billy Wilder. And much more more. All you need do is make a contribution to Eddie Muller's Film Noir Foundation

One of the most interesting pieces is Vince Keenan's well-researched and very well written piece about the B-movie series, The Whistler. Vince and I are both fans of the Whistler movies and hope that they show up soon on DVD. Vince was kind enough to let me interview him on the subject of The Whistler, star Richard Dix, William Castle and much much more.

Vince Keenan

Tell us about the transition of The Whistler radio show to a Columbia series of B pictures.

The Whistler began on radio in May 1942, and for most of its thirteen year run aired exclusively on the West Coast. In each episode, the title narrator – who knew many things, for he walked by night – would recount the story of an ordinary person forced by circumstance into committing a crime only to be delivered to justice in some ironic fashion. The Whistler’s presence made the series unique; he was omniscient but indifferent, occasionally taunting or encouraging the poor souls he already knew to be doomed. He also made the program easy to adapt for the silver screen, delivering exposition and smoothing over transitions. Columbia snapped up the property, put its B-movie factory to work, and cranked out eight movies from 1944 to 1948. It’s the only film noir series produced by the studio system.

Why was Richard Dix an unlikely choice for star of the films?

Dix was one of the few actors to make the transition from silent to sound films successfully. He was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award in 1931 for Cimarron. But even during his peak he was a performer of limited range. He’d always been a prodigious drinker, and by the time of the Whistler films he was in poor health. Somehow the foggy aura he’d acquired at this stage of his life helped the Whistler series. Dix genuinely seems beset on all sides in these movies.

In your article in the Noir City Sentinel you talk about William Castle and his use of Hitler to drum up business for one of his plays.

It’s an early example of the carny-style moxie that would later make Castle’s reputation. In 1941 Castle had taken over Orson Welles’ theater in Connecticut. He’d signed a well-regarded German actress to appear in a play by a new German author. (Castle had actually written it himself over two days in order to sidestep union regulations about casting foreign talent.) When his leading lady was invited to return to the Fatherland to perform Castle responded on her behalf, sending the rejection directly to Hitler and making sure the press heard about it. He then vandalized his own theater and placed the blame on phantom Nazi sympathizers. Hollywood called soon after.

You feel Castle did a fine job with the Whistlers, right?

Absolutely. Harry Cohn handpicked him to direct the first entry in the series, and Castle would make three more. He established the tone for the entire run of the films. He might have tortured Richard Dix by forcing him to quit smoking and playing mind games with him on the set, but it lead to some compelling performances. Castle is primarily remembered for promoting horror movies with gimmicks like seat cushion joy buzzers, but the Whistler films are a reminder that he was an accomplished director of suspense who could create thrills on a budget.

You wrote: “It’s no surprise that the series turned next to Cornell Woolrich.” Would you explain that?

Woolrich and the Whistler share a deeply fatalistic worldview. They both walk down the dark side of the street. They inhabit a universe where no one is safe, where chance is a constant factor, where doing the right thing may only dig you in deeper.

A number of writers have said that the series is almost oppressive in its darkness. Would you agree with that?

Largely, yes. Most of the films resolve themselves into happy endings, but fate plays a disconcertingly large role in that outcome. Things could have very easily gone another way. And the isolation of modern life is a frequent subtext.

Which do you think are the two best and two worst of the series?

The critical consensus pegs 1946’s Mysterious Intruder as the top Whistler movie. In the 1970s a film magazine even called it “perhaps the best of the non-Chandler private eyes of the period.” But my favorite is The Mark of the Whistler, a Woolrich adaptation from 1944. Dix is a transient who learns that when you claim money belonging to someone who shares your name, you inherit that person’s enemies as well. I’m also partial to Voice of the Whistler (1945), with Dix playing a man who fears he might actually die of loneliness. It’s easily the strangest of the eight films, with an almost Gothic quality.

The worst film is easy: The Secret of the Whistler (1946). Never ask a cowboy actor to play a foppish artist. And the final entry, 1948’s The Return of the Whistler, is a non-starter in spite of being based on Woolrich. It’s the only one of the movies that Dix isn’t in, and for all his limitations the big lug is genuinely missed.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out by Lee Goldberg

"For him suffering was a way of life, a vocation and an art form..."

Who else could be be talking about? Adrian Monk, of course, as seen through the eyes of his weary assistant Natalie in the latest Monk adventure Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out.

I've given up trying to decide which is the best book in the series because they all seem to be equally funny, clever and cunningly quirky. That said maybe this one is the best because here we have the spectacle of Monk, who never pays attention to the news or the problems of those around him, broadsided by the economic collapse that has ruined millions and millions of lives. Seems Monk invested his savings with Reinier Investments, Reinier being one of those larger-than-life financiers who are like TV evangelists only with better haircuts. Trouble is Reinier was running a Ponzi scheme. And Bob Sebes, the financial planner for the company who ran the scheme, happens to be a killer. But the gods aren't done with Monk yet. Because of all the budget cuts necessitated by the economic collapse Monk gets laid off.

The first murder set-up is a classic: a locked car. The only person in the vehicle was the driver, who was about to testify against his boss Reinier. He was somehow strangled with piano wire. This is solved quickly. The main mystery concerns another impossible crime-how can Sebes be a killer when he's wearing a monitoring device and cops and press are there to see that he never leaves. More mystifying than even the locked car.

One of the things that makes this series so distinctive is the full and realistic portraits we get of Natalie and her daughter Julie. The writing here is especially strong. Lee Goldberg is good at describing the way we live now.

The old wrestling come on "This time it's personal" applies here because Monk plans to trap, humiliate, debase and defoliate the "dude" (who said Monk is out touch?) who took his money.

A truly artful comedy that has a lot to say about the people who robbed us blind over the past three decades.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Too stupid not to be true

From Gawker:

Man Stabbed at Comic Con Over Resident Evil Panel Seating Dispute

A guy in a Harry Potter shirt stabbed someone in the eye with a pen at Comic Con last night over a seat at the Resident Evil: Afterlife panel. Now he'll never get to ask his incredibly pedantic question![CBR]

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The home of Nero Wolfe

Ed here: Carolyn Kellog of the LA Times' Jacket Copy appears to have found Nero Wolfe's actual home.

Carolyn Kellog:

Last week, Jacket Copy looked at a various projects focused on authors' homes. Today, we bring you something slightly different -- the real-life home of a fictional character.

When I was in New York for the Book Expo publishing conference, trundling to Javits Center from the subway, I stopped in a shadow for no particular reason and found myself face to face with a plaque declaring that I was before the home of Nero Wolfe.

Wolfe was a rotund, cranky, orchid-growing genius detective, notorious for never leaving his house. His assistant Archie Goodwin did the legwork around the city -- as well as narrated the stories. Goodwin was a snappy dresser, slick with the ladies, and by turns respectful of and frustrated by Wolfe, who was both brilliant and difficult.

for the rest go here:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bill Crider on Murder in the Air

Bill Crider on Murder in the Air

A couple of years ago, Joe Lansdale and I were having dinner in the Raven Grill, just down the street from Murder by the Book in Houston. There were others there, too, of course, but I remember that at one point in the conversation around the table, Joe asked me what I was working on. I told him that I was thinking about a book for the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series, but that all I had was the name of the murder victim and the title.
(Digression: I’ve written before about the fact that I’m not much of a planner. I usually start a book with only a vague idea of what it’s going to be about or where I’m going with it. Those are things I trust that I can figure out after I get started. So far, it’s been working. End of digression.)
“What’s the title?” Joe asked.
“It’s based on the name of the victim,” I said. “His name is Lester, and the book is going to be called No Les, No More.”
“That’s a great title,” Joe said, and I must admit that I agreed, even though I’d stolen it from a well-known Boot Hill epitaph:
Here lies Lester Moore
Four slugs from a .44
No Les
No More
Other people get their titles from Shakespeare, but I steal only from the lesser poets.
Anyway, when I started working on the book, I had a talk with my brother about an environmental problem in our home county (factory chicken farms), and that gave me an idea to hang the plot on. I killed off Lester and got started on the rest of the story. Eventually I finished. The book comes out on August 3, and of course it’s already available for pre-order at all the big on-line stores or your favorite local independent bookseller.
Hold on a second, you’re saying. You’ve searched those on-line stores and inquired at your local independent, and there’s no such book as No Les, No More coming out on August 3. There’s no such book coming out at all, at least not by Bill Crider.
You’re right. There’s not.
Instead, there’s a book called Murder in the Air. It has a very colorful cover, and it’s obviously about chickens. Could it be somehow related to No Les, No More? Indeed it could. It is, in fact, the very same book. Only the title has been changed.
Don’t look at me, though. I didn’t change it. As it was about to go into production, I got an e-mail saying that the title I’d given the book just wouldn’t do.
“Why not?” I asked.
“People will think it’s a typo.”
“I think they’ll get the joke,” I said.
Unfortunately, I was the only one involved who thought so. No amount of persuasion on my part could convince anybody at St. Martin’s that my original title was not only a good one but a brilliant one. A stroke of genius. They remained unconvinced. I even thought about having Joe Lansdale call them. He’d have done it, too.
In the end, however, I decided it wasn’t worth it. Some battles just aren’t worth fighting, and the book’s still the same even if the title isn’t.
Or maybe I should’ve fought for it. You’ll have to buy the book and read it. Then you can decide for yourself which title is better. Or buy the book and don’t read it. Just as long as you buy the book. You see, I read the other day that Janet Evanovich was thinking about leaving St. Martin’s because they’d offered her only $12 million for her next four books. I’d like to kick my sales up a little just in case she does leave. I’m willing to sell my next four books for a mere $8 million, and I figure it Murder in the Air sells enough copies, St. Martin’s will go for the deal. It’s up to you to make it happen. As always, I thank you for your support.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Forgotten Books: Plunder Squad by Richard Stark

Forgotten Books: Plunder Squad by Richard Stark

One of the ways Donald Westlake kept his Parker novels fresh was to vary the the success his man had as a professional criminal. Sometimes the magic worked, sometimes it didn't.

Plunder Squad is a long (for a Parker novel) and intense study of how things can go wrong in trying to plan and execute a robbery. Not anywhere as easy as you thought.

Parker is near broke and in bad need of money. As often happens he's forced to deal with people who overestimate their worth as professionals. In this novel we meet a number of them. We also meet a woman who is familiar to readers of Parker books, the sullen horny slut who has affixed herself to the man who has the idea for the heist. Parker knocks several points off the man's score for even having her around. Inevitably she means trouble not just for her honey bunny but for all of them involved in the robbery. She is contrasted, later in the book, by the crisp, pretty, bright young woman who is a helpmate to her criminal boyfriend.

Plunder Squad is a maze of false starts and bad turns. The heist Parker eventually settles on is complicated and requires the kind of skill and oversight only he can bring to the job. As usual the story is enriched by all the men involved, each with different needs and capabilities. And with different degrees of trustworthyness. In a book of this length you really get into Parker's head and pick up on his paranoia and general distrust of those terrible creatures known as human beings.

This is a major addition to the Richard Stark canon, a relentless and often bleak look at life on the wrong side of the law. Though in the Stark books cops often have fewer scruples than cons.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Last Deep Breath by Tom Piccirilli

In his protagonist Grey Tom Piccirilli has created one of his finest characters. A drifter who latches on to a way to track the troubled girl whom he considered his sister, Grey ends up in the Hollywood porno industry looking for the man she was last linked with.

The prose is immaculate. Not a word wasted. Same with the dialogue. It furthers the story but is nuanced so that it also reveals character, sometimes ironically.

The actress Kendra helps Grey by introducing him to her agent, a weasel who comes up with a request that blasts the storyline wide open. She's a fascinating creation, too, a woman of parts and as mysterious in her way as Grey is in his.

The short chapters propel the story at lightning speed so that surprises, and there are several, are all the more shocking. There's an early scene of Grey's boyhood that should be read by everybody who writes violence. It isn't there to titillate; young Grey's reaction is powerful and hangs over the entirety of this short novel.

Tom Piccirilli has given us a small but absolute masterpiece that is the kind of work that all neo-noir should aspire to.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Books Piece: Rabid Child by Pete Risley


Available from New Pulp Press

From Pete Risley:

*Rabid Child* was written over a number of years, and repeatedly set aside
for long periods of time in favor of (somewhat) less unpleasant fiction
projects of mine. My unease over *Rabid Child* has been mostly because of
the nature of the main character, a young man named Desmond Cray. Desmond,
to put it mildly, is less than cuddly. You'll have to read the book to see
what I mean. I invented Desmond, but somehow he developed in a way that
disturbed me.

In fact, it's Desmond's unsavory qualities that make *Rabid Child* a good
fit for New Pulp Press. From the NPP website: *"Veering away from the
assumption that a protagonist must be a sympathetic character, our books are
centered around con-men, losers, and sociopaths." *

The final, published version of *Rabid Child* is written in third person,
and told entirely from Desmond's point of view. But at times, in the course
of writing the thing, I got so creeped out by Desmond that I kept trying to
find different ways to 'get some distance' on him. For instance, I found I
was inclined as I wrote to step away from his viewpoint to make what are
known as 'authorial comments' about him, a no-no in the eyes of many readers
(and editors) today. As an alternative to that, I considered having some
chapters of the story told from the viewpoints of secondary characters.
However, I judged after some efforts along this line that it wasn't going to
work. I was stuck with Desmond. And he does get 'sticky' in more senses than

As for crime-fiction influences, I read some Mickey Spillane novels when I
was a kid in the early '70's, around the same time I was reading, say,
Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut and whatever else caught my fancy. I
believe the first Spillane I read was actually *Day of the Guns*, not a Mike
Hammer novel, but a spy thriller featuring Tiger Mann. I enjoyed this
and the other '60's - early '70's Spillane stuff I read (including *The Body
Lovers, The Twisted Thing, Survival - Zero! *and* The Erection Set*) though
I had a notion that I shouldn't, and was inclined to tell girls in granny
glasses whom I wished to impress that I liked, umm, Brautigan and Vonnegut.

A bit later, I read Chandler, Hammett, James M. Cain, Horace McCoy, and
discovered that I not only preferred them to Spillane, I tended to get more
engaged with their work than with some other types of fiction I sampled,
like say, the novels of John Barth and John Updike.

Then in the early '80's, I read the critical study *Hardboiled America* by
Geoffrey O'Brien, and became very intrigued with the whole idea of
tough paperback original writers like Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Cornell
Woolrich, Charles Williams, and all those guys. I scarfed up an early '80's
reprint of Thompson's *The Killer Inside Me*, and soon was smitten with
that. When I learned that a company in the UK called Zomba Books was putting
out a line of reprints of works by some of these American writers, titled
'Black Box Thrillers.' I went to some trouble to acquire copies through the
mail from a bookstore in NYC (I live in Columbus, Ohio.) Shortly after,
Black Lizard started publishing reprints of swell titles as well, some
by writers I hadn't heard of before. After awhile, crime fiction of this
sort became my favorite stuff, and I decided I wanted to try and write some
of it myself.

All these years later, *Rabid Child* is the first-published result of my
enthusiasm and my efforts. It's definitely unfair to reach 'way back and
blame it all on Mickey Spillane, but one thing I've learned from crime
fiction is that dead guys make excellent scapegoats. So, if anyone puts me
on the spot and asks how I could write about a character so horrid as this
Desmond Cray, I'll just reply *"It was easy."*


Monday, July 19, 2010

Wow. UK lawsuit over "fake" Amazon reviews

From the Guardian
Historian Orlando Figes agrees to pay damages for fake reviews
Orlando Figes posted reviews on Amazon praising his own work and rubbishing that of his rivals, Friday 16 July 2010 19.21 BST

Orlando Figes: 'I have made some foolish errors.' Photograph: Eamonn McCabe

One of Britain's leading historians, Orlando Figes, is to pay damages and costs to two rivals who launched a libel case after a row erupted over fake reviews posted on the Amazon website.

The award-winning Figes, professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London, admitted in April to posting critical reviews of books by a number of authors, including fellow historians Rachel Polonsky and Robert Service, praising his own work and rubbishing that of his rivals.

Initially, Figes denied the allegations, threatening legal action against colleagues, journals and newspapers that suggested he had written the reviews.

for the rest go here:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Shirley Jackson not good enough for Library of America?

Ed here: As you've probably guessed by now I'm a big admirer of Laura Miller's reviews and literary criticism. Here she writes with particular insight about the snobbery of literary elitists.

From Salon:

Is Shirley Jackson a great American writer?

The author of "The Lottery" is still not getting the respect she deserves

The Shirley Jackson Awards for excellence in "literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic" were awarded over the weekend, and the results are a refreshing mix of well-known and emerging writers, from large and small presses working in both literary and genre traditions -- or, rather, in the wild and fruitful territory between the two. The awards are only 3 years old, but have already proved a fitting tribute to a writer who roamed freely over similar ground and has never quite gotten the respect she deserves.

In fact, it's a banner year for Jackson's legacy: the Library of America has just published "Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories," edited by Joyce Carol Oates and containing 47 short stories in addition to her two most celebrated novels, "The Haunting of Hill House" and "We Have Always Lived in the Castle." Yet these laurels were tarnished a bit in April, when Newsweek critic Malcolm Jones used the publication of the Jackson volume as the occasion for an essay asking whether the LOA was running out of important writers to publish. "Shirley Jackson?" he wrote. "A writer mostly famous for one short story, 'The Lottery.' Is LOA about to jump the shark?"

The question of whether a figure like Jackson is sufficiently "Rushmore-sized" (Jones' term) to deserve inclusion in a series of collections dedicated to such writers as Mark Twain and William Faulkner was again brought to mind by a blog posting by Lee Siegel at the New York Observer. "Where Have All the Mailers Gone?" it was called, and in it Siegel lamented the irrelevance of fiction since the heyday of such titans as "Bellow, Updike, Mailer, Roth, Cheever, Malamud" and pointed to the ascendancy of nonfiction in its stead. Even the commercial fiction of yore, Siegel maintains, "mattered to people" more than today's bestsellers. The soapy epics of Herman Wouk and Marjorie Kellogg "illumined the ordinary events of ordinary lives ... and they were as primal as the bard singing around the pre-Homeric fire."

While Siegel's posting was for the most part too silly and uninformed to bother responding to, it serves as a reminder of just how arbitrary, unreliable and tiresome the Literary Greatness Sweepstakes can be.

for the rest go here:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Betrayers by Pill Pronzini

Bill's Pronzini's Nameless series is not only one of the finest private detective series ever published, it is also the most unique. To a very real extent the books are Bill's autobiography, not in the specific incidents but in the way Nameless feels about living in the world of San Francisco and environs.

In the earliest novels Nameless dealt with the counter-culture many times; then came the Seventies and (god forbid) the "Me" generation; and who can forget the greed decades of the Eighties and Nineties? During the course of these novels Nameless was Shackled, feared he had lung cancer and was bitterly heartbroken at least once. He gained weight, he lost weight. He found solace in his pulp collection and once in a while in the bottle. In other words what Bill has done with his Nameless books is offer us a realistic look at a man of many parts living through the second half of the last century and on into the new one.

And a few books back he once again recreated the Nameless novels by giving more and more on-stage time to the people who work for him. In his newest Nameless, number thirty-five if you're counting, Nameless takes it easier by letting Tamara Cobin and Jake Runyon handle the heavy lifting on the adopted daughter has a box of cocaine in her drawer. These sequences are Bill at his best--powerful and terrifying as only familial problems can be.

Meanwhile Tamara learns that (per the title) she has been betrayed both by a man and herself. The man has been cheating blacks in Tamara's neighborhood. And Jake Runyon naively believes that a bail jumper he's seeking will make for a simple case. And did I mention cat poisoning and maybe a ghost?

Betrayers demonstrates why the MWA made Bill Pronzini a master. His work not only entertains but tells us a great deal about soldiering through this vale of tears--but not without humor to keep us company.

Buy it!

Friday, July 16, 2010

"Thrillers: The 100 Must-Reads," by David Morrell and Hank Wagner

From the TheWashington Post
Review of "Thrillers: The 100 Must-Reads," by David Morrell and Hank Wagner
By Michael Dirda
Thursday, July 15, 2010; C03


100 Must-Reads

By David Morrell and Hank Wagner

Oceanview. 378 pp. $27.95

With his very first novel, David Morrell created an iconic character, now as famous as Tarzan or James Bond: "His name was Rambo, and he was just some nothing kid for all anybody knew, standing there by the pump of a gas station on the outskirts of Madison, Kentucky." So begins Morrell's electrifying and morally unsettling "First Blood." Some of his other books include the horror classic "The Totem" and one of the most exciting Ludlumesque thrillers I've ever read, "The Brotherhood of the Rose."

Hank Wagner may not write novels, but he certainly knows modern horror, fantasy, mystery and science fiction. He's the co-author of "The Complete Stephen King Universe" and of "Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman." His articles have appeared in publications ranging from Cemetery Dance to Mystery Scene to the New York Review of Science Fiction.

Both novelist and critic are members of the six-year-old International Thriller Writers organization. Its goals "include educating readers about thrillers and encouraging ITW members to explore the creative possibilities of the form." To this end, the group decided to compile this annotated guide to essential thrillers. Enjoyable in itself, the book also offers 100 possible answers to that perennial summertime conundrum: What book shall I pack for the beach?

"Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads" opens with the Greek legend of Theseus and the Minotaur and, by fudging the supposed cutoff date of 2000, closes with Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code." Each of the chosen titles -- one book per author -- is accompanied by a brief biographical note, followed by a two- or three-page essay of reminiscence, analysis and appreciation by a member of ITW. Among the essayists are Lee Child, Sandra Brown, James Grady, R.L. Stine, David Baldacci, Katherine Neville and F. Paul Wilson.

for the rest go here:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Forgotten Books: Baby, Come On Inside by David Wagoner

David Wagoner is a celebrated poet who has written a number of novels. My favorite is Baby, Come On Inside for the simple reasons that it's so instructive aout the male ego. It also deals well with the spiritual meaning of the so-called mid-life crisis.

The fifty-year-old pop singer Popsy Meadows couldn't exist today. He's a lineal descendent of Sinatra and all the other bar room crooners who came after. But back when the book was new in 1968 crooners could still be seen all over TV variety shows and making major bucks in Vegas.

Popsy has big problems. He's afraid he's losing his voice and he's sure he's losing his mind--the booze has caught up with him and he finds it difficult to remember exactly what has been happening to him. Desperate, he returns to his home town in search of The Perfect Girl and to resolve his bitter relationship with his parents.

Popsy rents the entire floor of a hotel and invites many of his show biz friends--including some of his wives--for a drunken binge that will certainly never be forgotten by this burg. Wagoner deftly finds the sorrow in all the excess as his foolish and forlorn Popsy attempts the impossible--to not be so "Popsy" any more.

For me the seminal scene is when Popsy goes to visit his parents in the dingy bar they run. The extended scene reminds me of a similar one in Jim Thompson's Texas By The Tale. Bleakness and anger played off the seeming frivolousness of much of the book. One critic at the time compared the novel to a Preston Sturges movie and that is an apt comparison.

I've reread this two or three times over the years and it always gives me pleasure. Wagoner knows almost too much about fractured people and how they delude themselves. He also knows how to show the reader a hell of a good time.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Costanza-Steinbrenner Saga

Ed here: Maureen Dowd has posted what's for me the funniest bit yet about George Steinbrenner. This concerns his run-ins with the Seinfeld crew. Since I can never get enough of George Costanza or his parents this one had me smiling all the way through.

July 13, 2010
Sultan of Swagger
Big George Steinbrenner could be hard on his employees, especially little George Costanza.

In the hilarious fictional Yankees world depicted on “Seinfeld,” Steinbrenner once had Costanza hauled off to a mental institution.

The Yankees owner testified in court that Costanza was a Communist — “as pink as they come, like a big juicy steak.”

The mercurial billionaire made poor Costanza fetch eggplant calzones and listen to paranoid rants, including one about Babe Ruth: “Nothing more than a fat old man with little girl legs. And here’s something I just found out recently: He wasn’t really a sultan!”

The Steinbrenner doppelganger — shown only from behind and voiced by the brilliant “Seinfeld” co-creator and Yankees fan, Larry David — even scalped his own tickets.

“Who else could be a memorable character on a television show without actually appearing on the show?” Jerry Seinfeld told the OnTheRedCarpet blog after hearing that the larger-than-life Steinbrenner had died of a heart attack on Tuesday, the day of the All-Star Game.

But how did the Yankees owner feel about Big Stein, his oddball yet finally lovable caricature in “Seinfeld”?

for the rest go here:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Author posts her vampire novel online for free — and gets an awesome book dea

from Huffington Post

Author posts her vampire novel online for free — and gets an awesome book deal

Can posting your unpublished novels online for free still lead to a nice book deal, now that the web is saturated with free fiction? It worked for author Marta Acosta, whose young-adult vampire novel will come out from Tor Books.

Acosta says she got tired of waiting for her YA novel, The Shadow Girl Of Birch Grove, to get a book deal. So she posted it online at Scribd, where it became the #1 selling YA novel and got some rave reviews from vampire sites. ( called it "Bloody brilliant.") Acosta, who also writes the successful adult vampire series Happy Hour At Casa Dracula, tells us:

My book had been with Tor and a few other publishers since last October. We hadn't heard anything back and I was beginning to despair. That's when I put the book online as a free read. I don't know that having it on Scribd inspired the offer, but I was able to get reviews that were presented to the editor who expressed interest. Also showing her the number of reads made a difference.

And now, it'll be coming out in hardcover as well as paperback. Of course, it probably helps that her novel includes boarding schools as well as vampire intrigue. Here's the description, via Acosta's blog:

for the rest go here:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Haters challenge Comic-Con as Devil Worshippers

Ed here: Someday somebody's going to take these maggots down. They're going to ruin one too many funerals of a young dead soldier and then THEY'll know what hell is really all about. (This is from Comic Book News)

Westboro Baptist Church

• Rich Johnston catches word that Westboro Baptist Church, the small but vocal anti-gay extremist group best known for picketing funerals and Jewish institutions, will protest Comic-Con on Thursday -- if only briefly. The Kansas-based congregation, which is headed by Fred Phelps, is in San Diego to oppose the appearance by former Vice President Al Gore at the 2010 AHA Health Forum Leadership Summit. However, members are squeezing in time from 1:15 to 2 p.m. to take a run at nerds, who "have turned comic bookcharacters into idols, and worship them."

"The destruction of this nation is imminent," the group's website reads, "so start calling on Batman and Superman now, see if they can pull you from the mess that you have created with all your silly idolatry..

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why is Phil Spector giving us the finger?

Ed here: over at MUBI Glen Kenny talks about the Phil Spector documentary. Well worth reading. Here's a long paragraph from the post. I should note here I'm a big fan of Phil Spector's music.

"Jayanti's interview with Spector is the film's fulcrum. Conducted in Spector's castle, with the man sitting in front of the white piano he claims is the "Imagine" piano of John Lennon fame (although I myself saw a white piano that I presumed to be same in Yoko Ono's Dakota apartment when I interviewed her in 1993; rock scholar and critic Kurt Loder drolly speculated, after the screening we attended, that like the many Goldfinger Aston Martins, there were a large number of "Imagine" pianos out there), it certainly is, what do you call it, fascinating. Spector seems to have traded in his actual soul for a welter of resentments a long, long time ago. Of the various tall tales he tells and the people he rags on, the most creepily amusing object of his irritation is the singer Tony Bennett, to whom he returns several times. Nobody ever talks about how Tony Bennett did this and that all through the '70s. Everybody likes Tony Bennett even though he did all these drugs. How come Tony Bennett gets to do duets with Bono? And so on. At a certain point you wanna slap the guy and say, "Hey Phil! Guess what? Tony Bennett didn't ever bring a girl to his house to have her end up with her brains blown out with one of his guns! Maybe that's why people like Tony Bennett better than you! Oh, and also that you have an over thirty-year history of being a lunatic asshole!" Who else doesn't he like? Well, Buddy Holly got a stamp in his honor, and he was only "in rock and roll for three years." Somebody else got an honorary doctorate. Like anybody gives a damn about an honorary doctorate. All the while ignoring the elephant in the room, Spector sits comfortably in luxury's lap, at liberty on bail, and wonders what the world has done for him lately. It's a staggering portrait of blind egotism run rampant."

For the rest go here:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

More on the controversial Mark Twain autobiography

Ed here: It'll be interesting to see how America responds to publication of a book that spits in the face of many of our most sacred beliefs, including religion and the military. If as this piece in the NY Times suggests Twain's work has a real timeliness given today's politics, I imagine we'll hear a lot about it.

Dead for a Century, Twain Says What He Meant
Published: July 9, 2010

Wry and cranky, droll and cantankerous — that’s the Mark Twain we think we know, thanks to reading “Huck Finn” and “Tom Sawyer” in high school. But in his unexpurgated autobiography, whose first volume is about to be published a century after his death, a very different Twain emerges, more pointedly political and willing to play the role of the angry prophet.

Chris Hardy for The New York Times

Whether anguishing over American military interventions abroad or delivering jabs at Wall Street tycoons, this Twain is strikingly contemporary. Though the autobiography also contains its share of homespun tales, some of its observations about American life are so acerbic — at one point Twain refers to American soldiers as “uniformed assassins” — that his heirs and editors, as well as the writer himself, feared they would damage his reputation if not withheld.

“From the first, second, third and fourth editions all sound and sane expressions of opinion must be left out,” Twain instructed them in 1906. “There may be a market for that kind of wares a century from now. There is no hurry. Wait and see.”


In popular culture today, Twain is “Colonel Sanders without the chicken, the avuncular man who told stories,” Ron Powers, the author of “Mark Twain: A Life,” said in a phone interview. “He’s been scrubbed and sanitized, and his passion has been kind of forgotten in all these long decades. But here he is talking to us, without any filtering at all, and what comes through that we have lost is precisely this fierce, unceasing passion.”

for the rest go here:

Friday, July 09, 2010

Beware of Blurbs

Ed Gorman: Laura Miller of Salon posted a column about blurbs today. It's (to me at least) an even-handed take on the subject. She even cites some UK publishing figures that insist blurbs are useful. I dunno. Once in a while a blurb will get me to buy a book but usually I'm more impressed with review quotes (even from small papers) unless they're like the one Damon Knight always cited. ""

, JUL 9, 2010 07:01 ET
Beware of blurbs
From back-scratching to overpraise, why author endorsements are so bad -- and so unreliable

Over at the Guardian site, they're holding a contest for who can write the most ludicrous blurb for a Dan Brown novel, with predictably hilarious results. The inspiration for this antic is a pre-publication blurb written by Nicole Krauss, author of "The History of Love," for the new novel by David Grossman, "To the End of the Land." The literary blog Conversational Reading lodged the initial objection to Krauss' blurb, which was prominently printed on the front cover of the advance reader's copy:

"Very rarely, a few times in a lifetime, you open a book and when you close it again nothing can ever be the same. Walls have been pulled down, barriers broken, a dimension of feeling, of existence itself, has opened in you that was not there before. "To the End of the Land" is a book of this magnitude. David Grossman may be the most gifted writer I've ever read; gifted not just because of his imagination, his energy, his originality, but because he has access to the unutterable, because he can look inside a person and discover the unique essence of her humanity. For twenty-six years he has been writing novels about what it means to defend this essence, this unique light, against a world designed to extinguish it. "To the End of the Land" is his most powerful, shattering, and unflinching story of this defense. To read it is to have yourself taken apart, undone, touched at the place of your own essence; it is to be turned back, as if after a long absence, into a human being."

Even the book's publisher seems to have realized that Krauss' praise is over-the-top and a bit icky; a commenter at Conversational Reading reported that his ARC of the novel featured an abbreviated version of the blurb.

Most of the people involved in this system are well-meaning: Blurbers want to help other authors, publishers want to win more attention for their books, and authors want to do everything they can to prove that their publishers' faith in their work has been justified. The result, however, is broken and borderline (sometimes outright) corrupt.

A few celebrated authors have made a point of regularly seeking out and championing books by writers with whom they have no connection -- Stephen King is the most prominent example. (That said, I haven't found King's recommendations particularly useful.) But overall, blurbs just aren't very meaningful. Yet, apart from a minority of skeptics, much of the public still seems to take them at face value. One British publisher claims to have seen research showing that as many as 62 percent of book buyers choose titles on the basis of blurbs.

for the rest of the article go here:

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Mark Twain's Autobiography will piss some people off

Ed here: Twain was adamant about his autobiography--it wasn't to be published until one hundred years after his death. The Huffington Post explains why.


Mark Twain's autobiography will be published this November, 100 years after his death, per Twain's own dying wishes. A fear of being shunned for the shocking and controversial opinions that he voices in the document left Twain unwilling to release his autobiography until long after his death, but the time has come to unveil Twain's revelations about his own life. The documents, which have been housed at UC Berkeley for decades, were long considered unfinished, but after six years, scholars have been able to piece the autobiography together to reveal a fully-formed book.

The book contains some shocking opinions which would have been extremely controversial in Twain's day, including a criticism of Christianity -- "Ours is a terrible religion" -- and of Teddy Roosevelt. It also reveals Twain's insights into his own writing process, such as a description of how he overcame writer's block while writing "Tom Sawyer."

The autobiography will be published in three volumes, the first of which will hit the shelves in November.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Forgotten Books: Looking For Mr. Goodbar by Judith Rossner

When Looking For Mrs. Goodbar was published in 1975 it was such a sensational hit that I put off reading because I assumed it would be not much more than trendy titillation. When I finally got to it I was stunned by how fine a writer Judith Rossner was and how truly her novel reflected the times.

Based on a particularly ugly murder in New York City, Rossner offers us the life of one Theresa Dunn, a lower class but good looking Irish Catholic teacher much respected by her colleagues and much pursued by the men she finds in the singles bars she haunts looking for sex and a release from her self-loathing and depression, the by-product (she has always thought) of polio that left her with a warped spine. Even though surgery corrected the spine, it did not correct her image of herself as as a freak, especially when she contrasts herself with her glamorous sister.

To me this is the definitive novel of the 70s, the so-called "me" decade. Theresa has always sought out men she believes can rescue her in some way--from the bastard professor she had an affair with as a student to the numerous hot shots of various kinds (Madison Avenue, theater) she meets on her nightly excursions. Her illusion is the illusion of the decade, as Rossner suggests, that the freedom she revels in is a spiritual prison. Waiting in the wings was AIDs of course.

Then comes the time when she meets the drifter who will kill her the very night he meets her. Rossner, both her and in all of her novels, demonstrates that serious literature can find mass appeal when the story is as powerful as this one. An overplayed movie version appeared soon after publication of the book but its ham-handedness destroyed the subtle and ironic truths of Rossner's brilliant novel.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Interesting hook for a mystery

This is from New York magazine today. Doesn't take much imagination how this would turn into the kind of material the late Ed McBain loved to work with.

Someone Is Killing Off Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, and Frank Lautenberg
7/6/10 at 6:00 PM Comment

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
A mysterious prankster has been trying to fool news outlets into thinking that very alive Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy, and Frank Lautenberg have died. It started yesterday, when California media outlets received an e-mail from Feinstein's office saying she had died of cancer. Then today, Vermont news outlets were sent similar e-mails claiming Leahy had died of cancer. They looked authentic and official, as if they had actually been sent from Leahy's office. The hoax was also perpetrated against New Jersey's Frank Lautenberg, who just announced last week that he had vanquished lymphoma. The Capitol Police are investigating, but for now, it appears that government computers were not hacked. And Senator Leahy, at least, is taking it in stride; he was joking about the whole thing with Vermont Public Radio today. Patrick Leahy is not intimidated by thugs.

Notices of Senators’ Deaths Are Hoaxes [Caucus/NYT]

Monday, July 05, 2010

Tana French turns the detective story inside out

Ed here: Reading Laura Miller is one of the real pleasures offered by the website Salon. Here she does an intriguing profile of Tana French's novels.

"Faithful Place": Tana French turns the detective story inside out
Part Raymond Chandler, part Roddy Doyle, crime fiction's rising star takes it into mesmerizing new territory

You know Frank Mackey's type. You've met him many, many times before, in hundreds of films and TV series and in dozens of crime novels. He's a police detective, in Dublin, and he's street-, rather than book-smart. He Doesn't Play by the Rules, which means that he's always ticking off The Brass, and, yes, he's something of a hothead, but that's because he can't stand the politics, and justice is so hard to come by for the innocent victims of this dirty world. He Gets the Job Done, Whatever the Cost, and his obsession with this has left him with a broken marriage under his belt. He has a lot of dark, haunted moments. But then there's Holly, his 9-year-old daughter, the one unsullied thing in his life; he'd do anything to protect her from the ugliness he's witnessed.

In other words, Frank looks like one of crime fiction's stock crusader types (although, thank god, he hasn't got a murdered family to avenge, the cheapest, tiredest device in the TV screenwriter's toolbox). He's the guy Raymond Chandler was talking about when he wrote, "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid."

Frank, however, is in a Tana French novel, an environment that makes Philip Marlowe's L.A. look like a church picnic. French herself doesn't play by the rules, and the prime rule of crime fiction, no matter how grisly, cynical or edgy, is that the plot begins with a disruption of order (the crime itself) and ends with the restoration of it, albeit in some slightly battered form. The guilty parties are identified and usually punished, secrets are unearthed and, above all, the world returns to intelligibility, however bitter the message it has to tell.

for the rest go here:

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Hickey & Boggs

I finally caught up with the film Hickey & Boggs after all these years. Amazon offers a buy for ten bucks and a rent for three. I may be wrong about this but the version I saw may be the tv edit. There are a few odd breaks that might be at the service of a truckload of commercials and the language is awful clean.

But whatever this is one fine film. The script is by Walter Hill back when he cared as much about character as he did action set pieces. Robert Culp stars in and directed this unique and troubling private eye film. The biggest shock to me was the quiet, nuanced performance by Bill Cosby, who walked away with the movie. I've never much cared for Cosby's acting. He mugs too much. I suspect that he and Culp had long conversations about how to approach this part. Or maybe Cosby did it on his own.

The set-up is a suitcase with four hundred thousand dollars stolen from a Boston bank a few years before the film opens. A gay guy who plays it a little too stereotypically gay hires Hickey & Boggs to locate a woman he'd like to see again. He doesn't say why nor does he tell them that she happens to be the one with all the money.

The scenes with Cosby and Rosalind Cash have the painful truth of a marriage gone bad. Cash is as good as Cosby here. Robert Mandan (tv and stage primarily) really works as the bully boy businessman who also happens to be a crook. You can imagine him on Wall Street today.

Hill gets in a wry dig at rich liberals who like to walk on the wild side just to show how liberal they really are. The very attractive and very white widow of a rich man let's a version of The Black Panthers stay in her house and basically take it over. There are many honest black people who need help. Hill and Culp make it clear these guys ain't among that number.

Culp's camera never rests. This film MOVES. Among many, many excellent set-pieces the trap-and-chase in the football stadium stands tallest. Culp's camera sees the stadium seats as shifting mathematical symbols. The finale is one of the most exciting--I actually jerked in my seat at one point, something I rarely do--in years.

Michael Moriaty is good as a well-dressed hired killer and Isabel Sanford does well with her brief moments. My only objection is to Vincent Gardenia's scenes as the cranky homicide chief who keeps threatening (yelling) to yank the private eye licenses of Hickey & Boggs. I mean this was a hoary trope back when this was filmed in `72. It had no power then. Amazing that it's still on so many tv shows yet today.

Go out of your way to see this movie. It is a fine film in nearly every regard and a testament to both Culp and Cosby.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Couch potatoing gone CRAZY

From The Wrap:

Movie Blogger Supersizes Himself
By Daniel Frankel
Published: July 2, 2010

“I definitely feel like Morgan Spurlock right now,” concedes Chuck Walton, a thirtysomething editor for online movie-ticket seller Fandango.

Certainly, 55 days into his quest to see 100 movies at 100 different theaters in 100 nights, Walton’s physiology and personal life are starting to resemble those of famous documentarian Spurlock, in the latter self-experimental stages of his groundbreaking fast-food expose “Super Size Me.”

Dining on buttery popcorn, nachos and hot dogs, Walton – an athletically built surfer of Samoan lineage – has gained 15 pounds.

“I would challenge the fast food stand as the quickest way to gain a lot of weight fast,” he said. “You can do it a lot faster at the movie concession stand.”

His girlfriend hasn’t broken up with him … but she’s not necessarily down with the whole movie plan, either. She’s currently in Chicago, staying with her mother.

At Fandango – where managers have underwritten, marketed, encouraged and dared along Walton’s quest – several interns have been hired to help prop up the editor’s suffering work performance.

“This has been a little tougher than I thought it would be,” conceded Walton, who posts daily updates of his nightly viewing experiences at

“I’m in a movie theater four hours a day, but nobody took away my regular job,” he said. “I’m trying to fit this into all the birthdays and weddings and everything else that goes on in my life.”

for the rest go here:

Friday, July 02, 2010

Mel Gibson pisses off even more people

Ed Gorman: Way back in the eighties I stayed up for some reason and watched Carson. On came Mel Gibson. Previously I'd only seen him on a movie screen. A few minutes with him and I realized here was a prime asshole. He exuded assholishness the way Matthew Machonohay exudes stupidity (go on you tube and watch Matt Damon's parody of walking down the street with dim bulb Matthew). Then we hear about his old man's anti-Semetic "Old'fashioned" Catholic church (you have to score at least a 95 on the hate-o-meter to get in) and then of course he blames Jews for all the wars (which came as news to a lot of historians) and now...well old Mel swung for the fences and scored. He offended SEVERAL groups of people this time. Now I'd be hypocritical if I didn't admit that I too have spoken harshly to women in moments of anger...but ole Mel spoke for wife beaters everywhere when he threatened to a) blow up the house and b) wished his wife to be raped by a gang of black guys. Mel you've got quite the imagination--you should be in the movies. Anyway this is from The Film Blog of The Guardian (UK):

The Film Blog:

Could Mel Gibson's latest controversy end his career?

The actor's alleged sexist and racist outburst may end a career that has only just got back on track. But Hollywood has a history of forgiving almost anything – as long as you pull in an audience

War of words ... Oksana Grigorieva and Mel Gibson in 2009. Photograph: Jeff Vespa/WireImage
A cartoon in a recent edition of the New Yorker shows a man walking down the street in a business-like manner, talking into his phone. "I can squeeze you in between my public apology and my book deal," he says. The gap between opprobrium and opportunity can appear vanishingly small these days – a symptom, perhaps, of the insatiable news cycle, ever hungry for fresh rounds of scandal, prostration and onward-and-upward resolution.

This week, Mel Gibson finds himself at the start of a potential new cycle, with reporting details, taken from a tape the publication claims to have heard, of a violently sexist, racist tirade Gibson is alleged to have directed at Oksana Grigorieva, the estranged mother of his young child. According to Radar, Gibson can be heard calling Grigorieva a "cunt", a "bitch" and a "whore", making threats ("I am going to come and burn the fucking house down ... but you will blow me first") and telling her: "You look like a fucking pig in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of niggers, it will be your fault."

So could this be the end of a career that has only just got back on track? These latest reports, which remain unsubstantiated, can't help but bring to mind Gibson's 2006 arrest for drunk driving, during which he told police that "the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world" and referred to one officer as "sugar tits". After that incident, and the eventual mea culpa, Gibson was barely to be glimpsed on screen until Edge of Darkness was released this year.

for the rest go here:

Thursday, July 01, 2010

To Kill A Mockingbird Under Attack

Ed here: Jesse Kornbluth is one of my favorite writers. Like him I've noticed of late a number of attacks on the novel and movie To Kill A Mockingbird. To be honest I didn't give any of them much thought--the writers seemed very angry and very political--but Jesse has and in his Huffington Post post he elaborates on his thoughts. These graphs are from the middle of the piece. He begins by talking about all the things that dismay him today, things he never thought would come to pass. Then he addresses Mockingbird.

Jesse Kornbluth:

But then I never thought I'd see the day when "To Kill A Mockingbird" --- a novel that has inspired readers for half a century --- would be derided as a book about "the limitations of liberalism" (by Malcolm Gladwell, no less, in The New Yorker, of all places) and "a sugar-coated myth of Alabama's past" with a hero who's "a repository of cracker-barrel epigrams" (by Allen Barra, in the Wall Street Journal)

But as we approach July 11th --- the 50th anniversary of the publication of "To Kill a Mockingbird" (to buy the paperback from Amazon, click here; shamefully, there is no Kindle edition) --- it's probably not surprising that we're seeing one of America's best-loved books criticized for its "politics."

And it's definitely no surprise that the downgrading is done by men.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is a woman's book.

Written by a woman, Harper Lee, but more, written by a woman who dared to see herself as her region's Jane Austen. Told by a six-year-old girl. With a hero who's not, in any traditional sense, manly. With a message of kindness and empathy generally associated with female values.


And one more female value, once common in the heroes of Western movies, but less and less common by the time Harper Lee wrote her novel --- a willingness to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences. Readers often forget, but this is the foundation of the character of Atticus Finch: He takes on the legal defense of an African-American, knowing he can't prevail in court.

"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand," he tells his children. "It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do."

I'm not one for stereotyping, but how many men do you know who step up to confront unpleasantness and conflict? Here's Atticus: "Best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open."

Atticus Finch is --- let's just say it --- a feminized man who appeared a decade before America started hearing about feminism. No wonder he appeals to English teachers, who tend to be idealists. And no wonder the film is a "family" favorite --- mother choose it in the hope it will make their kids kinder. (To buy the DVD from Amazon, click here.)

In the long clock of history, we stopped killing each other over resources only a moment ago. Since then, we make progress, we take a step backward --- civilization is a recent, fragile concept. But I take it as an unvarnished Good Thing that readers have persistently loved "To Kill a Mockingbird" for as long as it's been in print. I think it's just great that Mary Murphy has written a book about Harper Lee's book: "Scout, Atticus & Boo: A Celebration of 50 Years of 'To Kill a Mockingbird.'" (To buy the book of "Scout, Atticus & Boo," click here. To buy the Kindle edition, click here.)

And it pleases me no end that, in a year when men denigrate Thurgood Marshall and get off on carrying guns in public and blame the poor for every failing of men in expensive suits, that some of the most passionate defenders of a book you'd think needs no defense are male.