Saturday, October 30, 2010

My favorite horrorfic film

l'll say again, even though I've never known anybody to agree with me, that The Seventh Victim is the finest of Val Lewton's pictures.

I say this because its sense of evil is pervasive. And because the evil is suggested rather than demonstrated until the very end. Even the first act, which is essentially a detective story, concludes on a darkening note despite the setting of the cosmetics business for which the sister worked. There's a decadence to the business itself.

I don't want to spoil the story so I'll say that what fascinates me on third and fourth viewing is how subtly the theme is played out--the young woman hoping against hope that the evil she suspects doesn't exist--and the forces against her who have dedicated their lives to discovering evil and feeding on it. And then the reverse--it is the young woman who understand real evil and the Diabolists who are pathetic pretenders.

Kim Stanley had a troubled career. For me she was too smitten with The Method. But this was apparently before acting school got hold of her. She does excellent work here.

I like enjoy and admire all the Lewton pictures and watch them over and over. But this one has stayed with me as none of the others have.

Here are a few notes from IMBD:

The story as filmed:

Mary Gibson, a naive orphan, goes to Manhattan to find her missing sister Jacqueline. Her investigation leads her to Jacqueline's secret husband, and also to a strange cult of Diabolists who are also hunting Jacqueline. Written by Ken Yousten {}

The story that wasn't filmed:

The original story for the film (outlined by DeWitt Bodeen) was to be about an orphaned heroine caught in a web of murder against a background of the Signal Hills oil wells. If she didn't find out the killer's identity in time, she would become his seventh victim. Producer Val Lewton wanted the story to go in a different direction and called in a second writer to help reshape it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Alan J. Hubin & Victor Berch; Rolling Thunder; Sears

Ed here: Last night I thanked Steve Lewis for giving me the phone number of writer Charles Runyon who is, happily, still alive despite my presumption that he'd passed. I was remiss in not thanking two of the great chroniclers and researchers of the mystery field, Alan. J Hubin and Victor Berch. My apologies, gentlemen. Here's a note from Steve Lewis.


Re Charles Runyon. Credit Where Credit is Due Department: Al Hubin, Victor Berch and I spent yesterday morning swapping emails back and forth trying to track him down until Al decided that the direct approach was just that. was all it took!

-----------------------ROLLING THUNDER

I was also mistaken in saying that Rolling Thunder is available on DVD. It ain't. But it is available for free on Hulu. Thanks to Matt here's the link

I watched it last night and found it as powerful as ever. If you like revenge movies--and a timely look at America during the Viet Nam war--this is your movie. I got interested in Linda Haynes, the lovely fine actress who co-stars in the film. I didn't remember anything about her but I found it hard to believe that anybody with her looks and talent (she's really good in this) didn't go on to have at least a solid run. Not so. Some good performances in unremarkable films with the exception of the blacksploitation film Coffey.

When I Goggle a name I generally just start opening sites without paying attention to what I'm opening. Most of them are misleadingly titled anyway so you might as well try them all. Soon enough I ran into a site that claimed to be a site listing all the "bisexual actresses in Hwood." I tells ya the guy who put this list together seems to believe that virtually if not literally every Hwood girl-woman-dowager is/was bi-sexual including the Columbia Pictures logo lady holding the torch. As I scrolled down for Haynes I started laughing out loud and saying yeah, right. Yeah, right. Yeah, right. I believe the gentlemen was later swept away on an alien ship and sent to Venus to make a similar list of Venusian stars.

Linda Haynes gave up after eleven years and became a legal secretary. If you watch Rolling thunder I think you'll agree with me that she's as talented as she is beautiful.

---------------------------SEARS & ROEBUCK
As James Reasoner has pointed out, I try to depict in my westerns the everyday frontier rather than the mythic one. I own a facsimile edition of an 1880 Sears catalog and it's an invaluable tool. I'm partial to Sears because during the big war the local one put on some great liberty bond shows plus sponsored free Saturday afternoon cartoons in local theaters. Anyway I've always been fascinated by the fact that you could order a house from the Sears catalog. The example here is from the turn of the new century. But they were selling catalog houses for several decades previous.

$107 Sears catalog home, 1908 (assembly required)
Andrea James at 11:22 AM Wed
Andrea James is a Los Angeles-based writer and troublemaker.

Image: Click to embiggen. 1908 Sears mail-order house No. 115 for $725.

I used to write ads for Sears, and I always admired their influence in American DIY/maker culture. They had a huge influence on reducing local general stores' price-gouging practices, and they gave consumers access to goods that were hard to come by (they started when there were no cars and only 38 US states). Back when Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Montgomery Ward were battling it out over who would be the analog version of Amazon, Sears offered increasingly ambitious and specialized catalogs. One of their most ambitious projects was mail-order homes, inspired by success of The Aladdin Company. Last year, Cory blogged about Thomas Edison's similar prefab concrete home venture. But Sears Modern Homes had huge success with their wood-framed homes from 1908 through the Great Depression. Their cheapest model was $107 in 1908 (about $2,000 today). Unlike a lot of modern prefab, these were made to last; you can still find these homes here and there around the country.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Forgotten Books: A Purple Place For Dying by John D. MacDonald; Charles Runyon

Forgotten Books: A Purple Place For Dying

Of all the Travis McGee novels, this strikes me as the one that would have been right at home in Black Mask magazine in its prime. This is McGee just before he goes all Iconic Hero on us. Here he's a little grittier, a little humbler and a lot angrier for a good sound reason--the buxom blonde rich woman who hires him to get some dirt on her husband (she suspects he's embezzling her money) is blown away before his eyes in a grim stretch of Southwestern desert.

I mention Black Mask because as all of those boys (and those few girls) knew you had to keep twisting and turning your tales to keep audiences interested. And this book has enough surprises, blind alleys and shocks to rival the most calculated beach book. Plus it's interesting to watch how McGee has to outwit not only the mysterious people who killed the woman but also the law. You have to go all the way back to Erle Stanley Gardner's fine Whispering Sands series to find a novel where the desert is as much a a character as most of the people in the book.

JDM also shows us a slice of desert life, how so many aspects of daily life are calibrated to compensate for the troubles and dangers of living here. As always his portraits of people are spot on. He was one of the first crime writers I read who was able to create characters who were a mixture of bad and good. And here we meet people we shouldn't like much but are forced to because of circumstances.

I've never been sure why A Purple Place For Dying is rarely mentioned in the McGee honor role. To me it's a fine, grim take on the classic desert story as seen through the eyes of a weary, nearly broke, often perplexed McGee.


I mentioned the other night that I (and others) assumed the fine writer Charles Runyon was dead. Well Steve Lewis sent me a phone number to try and I ended up talking to Charles for fifteen minutes. He's teaching writing at a college in Texas and has finished two novels that he's sending me to read. He's one of the good ones, man and writer alike. I'm happy to report that I was wrong.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Unsung directors - John Flynn

Peter Dragovich writes an interesting article about the late director John Flynn in the new Crimespot. He cites The Outfit and Rolling Thunder as Flynn's best pictures (there's a third with Steven Segal).

I believe that Don Westlake said that The Outfit's characterization of Parker (here called Macklin) is the closest to the novel Parker. Robert Duvall is excellent. You buy him as a tough amoral guy because he doesn't play him as a tough amoral guy. He's just going about his business. I dubbed this off on tape years ago and I still watch it two or three times a year. Karen Black is sexy and sad; Robert Ryan lends his usual melancholy to the action film; Joe Don Baker is in his prime here and particularly strong--and as if he he wants to salute the crime film in general Flynn uses many familiar actors for some of the smaller roles, among them Jane Greer, Richard Jaeckel, Sheree North, Marie Windsor and even Elisha Cook, Jr. Duvall's intelligence and mystery carries the film. Flynn' direction is absolutely on the money. This should have been on tape and/or DVD years ago.

The second picture is Rolling Thunder which I've always considered one of Paul Schrader's finest scripts. This is one of those films you don't watch--you inhabit it, sometimes against your will. The star is William Devane . He plays a returning Viet Nam vet with only one thing on his mind, revenge. This and most of Karl Reisiz's Who'll Stop The Rain are the two best films I've ever seen about the era of Viet Nam played out on the American streets. The rage, the dislocation, the sucker's game fate of so many of the characters, Schrader and Flynn really give us the bleeding wound of that time. An amazing, disturbing movie.

My choice for Flynn's third best would be Best Seller, a starring vehicle for both James Woods and Brian Dennehy. Woods plays a hit man who wants to get back at an old enemy. To do it he needs the help of widower Dennehy who wrote a bestselling book about a murder investigation he was involved in as a detective. Unfortunately he's stalled on a second book and running out of the funds he needs to support his teenaged daughter and himself. Dennehy loathes Wood and doesn't trust him when he says that he knows who killed Dennehy's old police partner. He also claims that this will give Dennehy the biggest best seller he can imagine--killer and scandal are one and the same. There is a particularly moving and very strange scene where Woods takes Dennehy back go the small town where he grew up. Larry Cohen's script is excellent and Flynn's direction is flawless.

Rolling Thunder and Best Seller are easy and inexpensive to come by. Just light a lot of votive candles and pray that someday somebody will put The Outfit on DVD,

Monday, October 25, 2010

First Chapters - Kiss Me Deadly

I know people collect first lines but how about first chapters? I thought about this as I dug through a box of old paperbacks the other day. There among the various novels was Kiss Me, Deadly by Mickey Spillane. A battered first edition of the Signet paperback of 1953. Al Collins was kind enough to give me a hardcover copy of it twenty-some years ago. It's on my keeper shelf.

For me this is one of the most amazing first chapters I've ever read. Night, fog, a beautiful woman hitch hiking and nearly getting Hammer and herself killed by standing in the middle of a narrow mountain pass where he's forced to slam on the brakes. We soon learn that she's naked under a trench coat. We also learn from her behavior that somewhere back there a car is following her. There is a road block at which we hear that the woman has escaped from an asylum. In order to win Hammer's favor, the woman places his hand between her legs as Hammer talks to the cop. A few miles later the car descends on them. Hammer and the woman are dragged unconscious to a location where the woman, because she won't reveal certain information, is brutally murdered.

I think I read this in 1954 and it was the first time I became (dimly) aware of narrative drive. I wasn't old enough to understand all the innuendos but my God the action alone was enough. Spillane was always a master of mood (try the opening chapter of One Lonely Night) and he was never better than in Kiss Me, Deadly. (The movie is one of the great true noirs; Ralph Meeker is sneeringly masterful.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bomb To Bust Bad Movies

Since I'm a fan of Nathan Rabin's work for The Onion I'm looking forward to buying his new book My Year Of Flops despite a somewhat tepid review in the NY Times this morning. I'm giving you a few hundred words of the review here plus my favorite photo of John Wayne. As I've mentioned before, even as a kid I didn't like Wayne. He always seemed fake to me, more blowhard than Real Man. Like a few of my neighbors.

From Bomb to Bust
Published: October 22, 2010

There’s been lots of ink and oceans of pixels spilled on the question of whether the Internet has killed film criticism, but the very short answer is that serious (if unpaid) criticism has thrived on the Web. The problem is that it’s all too serious: you don’t have to strain your Google finger to find a knowledgeable enthusiast expending 8,000 words on Ozu or Leone. Locating someone who can write succinctly and intelligently on, say, the 1985 Christmasploitation extravaganza “Santa Claus: The Movie” is much harder.
Enlarge This Image

Everett Collection
John Wayne as Genghis Khan in “The Conqueror.”
The A.V. Club Presents One Man’s Journey Deep Into the Heart of Cinematic Failure
By Nathan Rabin
264 pp. Scribner. Paper, $15

Intentionally or not, that’s a gap that Nathan Rabin, the head writer for The Onion’s A.V. Club, filled by embarking on a yearlong blog project in 2007, the results of which — rounded out with a few extras — are collected in “My Year of Flops.” Rabin applied what he terms “three ­unyielding/slippery criteria” in choosing the films: Each had to be a critical and commercial failure upon its release. Each “had to have, at best, a marginal cult following.” “And,” he adds, gearing up for the zinger, each “had to facilitate an endless procession of facile observations and labored one-liners.”

“My Year of Flops” covers some 50 underappreciated pictures; every troubled orphan is assessed and deemed a Failure, a Fiasco or a Secret Success. Rabin scrutinizes stinker after stinker, from the 1956 Howard Hughes-produced anti-miscegenation screed “The Conqueror” (he refers to its central figure, played by John Wayne, as John Wayneghis Khan), to the dismal 2005 film version of “Rent” (which he describes, aptly, as starring “fake 20-somethings playing fake bohemians in a wholly inauthentic take on la vie bohème”), to Cameron Crowe’s woebegone 2005 “Elizabethtown” (which confounded Rabin so much he wrote about it twice).

for the rest go here:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hollywood's Hypocrisy? Mel Gibson is Fired

Ed here: This week actor Zach Galifianakis and other name actors on Hangover 2 insisted that Mel Gibson, who'd been scheduled to do a cameo in the picture, be fired. A number of journalists have noted that they seemed to have no problem with Gibson being in the film until somebody leaked the fact that he would be appearing. At least that's one theory. Now Gibson is one reprehensible son of a bitch. The joke is that we'll have to create new minority groups because we're running out of ones he can insult--Jews, blacks, Hispanics, Catholics and probably some others I can't think of at the moment.

But a number of Hwood columnists have turned not on Gibson but on Galifiansks and Cooper and Helm (the stars) for indulging in what the writers see as Hwood hypocrisy.


If artists should be publicly censured and denied employment on the basis of offenses they commit in private life, how come Gibson is a pariah right now for threatening and hitting his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, while Alec Baldwin, who verbally abused his 11-year-old daughter on the phone, lashed out at a photographer, and has a long record of frightening behavior toward his ex-wife Kim Basinger, is currently one of the most beloved figures on network TV?

And while we're keeping score, how is it that Roman Polanski -- in theory a pariah after fleeing the United States to avoid prosecution on charges of drugging and raping a barely adolescent girl -- got a 2003 Oscar as Best Director (in absentia) and a standing ovation, while a 1999 honorary Oscar for director Elia Kazan was preceded by months of protest over Kazan being a rat for the House Un-American Activities Committee? One wonders, how many of the actors that made a big show of sitting on their hands when Kazan got his award applauded loudly for Polanski four years later? And does anyone doubt that if Polanski offered Galifianakis the lead role in his next film that the actor wouldn't happily accept? Or that if Tyson invited Galifianakis to his birthday party, that he'd show up with a bottle of Jagermeister, then re-enact the infamous punch-out from "The Hangover" while guests snapped pictures with their cell phones and posted them on Twitter?

Why is Lindsay Lohan, substance abuser and intoxicated driver, borderline-unemployable right now, but Kate Moss, a one-time cokehead blasted as a toxic role model for young women, still a sought-after model, appearing in a Valisere lingerie campaign and on the cover of Bryan Ferry's new album "Olympia"? And how is it that Charlie Sheen, who was accused of strangling his wife Brooke Mueller and holding a knife to her throat on Christmas Day, 2009, is still the star of the CBS sitcom "Two and a Half Men," and recently signed a new contract guaranteeing him two more years of employment? And if indeed a star's repugnant private life should affect the public's perception of him, why is Sheen's sitcom beating "Dancing with the Stars" in the ratings?

A bit of voice-over from the Vietnam epic "Apocalypse Now" applies here: "Charging a man with murder in this place is like giving out speeding tickets at the Indy 500."

for the entire article go here:

Josh Dickey from The Wrap

Everything, that is, but the timing. UnlikeTom Cruise, who had laid low for awhile, this was way, way too soon.

Loath to be associated with Mel in any way, the cast and crew of “The Hangover,” inarguably the moment’s coolest kids in comedy, made a big fuss when he was invited to their table. The on-set tension got to be too much, so Robinov and Phillips bagged the idea.

Now, the next group of actors who find themselves in that position will have this to consider: Do they want the added shame of being the ones who accepted what Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms would not?

When Mel heard the news that he lost the gig over a cast revolt, he was “as gracious as a person can be in a situation like that,” a person close to the production told TheWrap.

But no amount of grace and image rehab can wash away the shame of being humiliated by the cool kids in front of everybody.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ed here: I ran this back in ought seven. Chuck Runyon has passed by now sad to say but my admiration for Steve Lewis' site is today even stronger. An invaluable history of the entire mystery-suspense genre with such heavyweights as Alan J. Hubin, David L. Vineyard and Francis M. Nevins among the many fine contributors. Not least Steve himself.

The care and feeding of yesterday

While there are many good sites dealing with current fiction, there are only a few that deal with the fiction of past times with any intelligence. Nostalgia is riveting for up to ninety seconds. Then you want much more.

Steve Lewis' Mysteryfile blog is my favorite site for a serious look at the mystery fiction of the past century. Many well-known writers including Bill Pronzini have contributed fine articles about forgotten writers and forgotten books. Virtually every day Steve runs a new piece, often illustrated with book jackets, as he works his way toward the ultimate collection of mystery criticism.

Today he's running a long interview I did with Charles Runyon. Chuck was in the last wave of the Gold Medal suspense writers. For me he was the best of that group. As his interview attests, he's also led a life most of us probably view with a bit of envy and even more of a bit of shock. Thanks to Stark House, one of his best novels THE PRETTIEST GIRL I EVER KILLED will soon be back in print. With others, hopefully, to follow.

Steve recently reviewed an Edward S. Aarons Sam Durrell spy novel. Even though the book was published in 1956, Steve assesses it with the same zeal and insight he would a new novel. No gauzy nostalgia here.

And that's what makes his site so valuable to me. There are so many new books I want to read that I need some guidance into the past. You can waste a lot of time and money on old books that aren't worth reading. But with the Mysteryfile blog you usually get a hepful judgment on the book at hand.

And there's always the bonus that it's just a hell of a lot of fun to read and look at.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Forgotten Books: His Name Was Death by Fredric Brown

HIS NAME WAS DEATH by Fredric Brown

After the big war American lives were in flux. Millions trekked to the suburbs to begin an entirely new way of life. And many of the prohibitions that had been common before the war were now relaxed.

Kurt Vonnegut once remarked that the novels of John D. MacDonald charted the Fifties and early Sixties so well that students of sociology would be able to read them decades later and get a true feel for the era.

I feel the same thing is true of several of Fredric Brown’s novels, including His Name Was Death, a novel so cunningly crafted that Anthony Boucher in the New York Times said on publication, “You’ll be compelled to read through in one sitting to one of the very few endings that have genuinely surprised me in a long time.”

In addition to the stunning story there’s also Brown’s take on mid-Fifties. His mid-Fifties. While suburban mysteries came into fashion Brown frequently wrote about life in small cities, in this case a Midwestern burg where a series of murders has baffled police and terrified the citizenry. The city resembles aspects of Brown’s Milwaukee. The characters likely resemble the people he knew in his earlier life.

Fredric William Brown was born into the working class, educated in public schools and night school as well as a year at college. Brown spent nearly twelve years working as an office worker during the Depression. From there he became a proofreader at the Milwuakee Journal. Given his penchant for drinking and his fondness for bars, Brown certainly encountered the types—if not the actual people—he uses in His Name Was Death.

The prototype for Darius Conn, small-time businessman, might well have been one of Brown’s drinking buddies. Successful but not as much as he lets on; likes his nights out with the boys because frankly his marriage has gone stale; and talks a lot about the same kind of dreams heavy drinkers always talk about.

That’s the façade Conn presents anyway. In truth he murdered his wife over a year ago. The police accepted it as an accident. And his plan for becoming an important businessman is being financed by his turning his printing business into a forgery operation.

But then one afternoon the fetching Joyce Dugan, his trusted Girl Friday, talks to a man who stops in to see Conn so he can pick up some money Conn owes him. Dugan calls around and finally locates Conn who tells her, yes, use the desk fund to pay him. And then have a nice weekend. Well, turns out the desk fund doesn’t have enough so she opens the safe and takes the extra money from there. Not knowing of course that it’s counterfeit.

Brown was clearly one of those writers who enjoyed amusing himself. This story could have been told in a straight-forward fashion but it wouldn’t have near the power it does. Brown tells his tale from nine different points of view. And with a dark chuckle up his sleeve, he shows how each one of them meets his or her fate because of Joyce Dugan giving the man (an old high school boy friend, as it turns out; and a far more preferable mate than the bullying gambler she married) just a few counterfeit bills. A remarkable narrative structure that Brown used at lest twice again.

In true page-turner fashion, Brown sets up his story in an intricate set of inter-locking cliff hangers. His depictions of raw fear, terror, rage, betrayl are played off against moments of black humor and even sweet romance.

This is one of Brown’s true crowd-pleasers and should have been one of his biggest sellers. But Brown, who was often referred to as a “writer’s writer,” was never a big seller. I once talked to the man who’d been the sales manager of Bantam Books during the Fifties. His favorite writer bar none was Fred Brown. He said he did everything he could to break him out but it never happened.

So I go back to my thesis at the top. Brown did the realistic every day of the working class so well it may have limited his appeal. The time was dominated by private detectives and the romance of the mean streets. Brown’s streets were mean all right but they were filled with many of life’s losers, the kind of in-laws most of us dread having. Philip Marlowe was handsome, brave and witty. Brown’s good guys were sixty dollar a week salesmen whose ambition was to move out of their sleeping rooms into real apartments. Getting laid in a sleeping room ain’t easy.

But time has been kind to the best of Fredric Brown’s novels and stories. He has yet to develop the cult he deserves but at least his name and discussions of his work are appearing with more and more frequency on websites of film and noir.

This is one of the finest crime novels of the Fifties, a decade rich with many true masterpieces.

--Ed Gorman

News about Hard Case Crime

From Charles Ardai:

We've got some big news to announce today: After a year's hiatus, Hard Case Crime will be returning to bookstores with new titles in 2011, thanks to a deal we just signed with UK-based Titan Publishing.

Titan is a publisher both of fiction and of gorgeous art books focusing on pop culture such as movie poster art, pin-ups, newspaper comic strips, and Golden Age comic books, and has worked with filmmakers such as J.J. Abrams, Joss Whedon, and George Lucas. Titan has been around for 30 years, has more than 200 employees, and in addition to publishing books also has a magazine division, a retail division (Titan owns the famous Forbidden Planet bookstore in London, and until recently co-owned the Murder One mystery bookstore with Maxim Jakubowski), and a merchandise division that produces items such as t-shirts, sculptures, and accessories. We look forward to exploring ways we might develop some cool Hard Case Crime products with them!

But first things first: books.

Hard Case Crime will relaunch in September/October 2011 with four new books, including CHOKE HOLD by Christa Faust (sequel to her Edgar Award-nominated MONEY SHOT), QUARRY'S EX by Max Allan Collins (the latest in the popular series of hit man novels by the author of "Road to Perdition"), and two never-before-published novels by MWA Grand Masters (names to be announced shortly).

Additionally, Titan Publishing plans to acquire all existing stock of Hard Case Crime's backlist from Dorchester Publishing and to resume shipping these titles to booksellers immediately.

New books will be published in paperback (possibly some in hardcover as well!); ebook editions will also be released across multiple platforms. Titan is distributed in the U.S. and Canada by Random House.

We're very excited about working with Titan (indeed, we had offers from five publishers and chose Titan over several that were much larger and better-known) -- they love pulp fiction as much as we do and appreciate that in books like ours the visual dimension is just as important as the storytelling. It's hard to imagine a better home for Hard Case Crime.

If you'd like more info about any of the above, feel free to drop me a note (you can also take a look at the attached press release we'll be putting out shortly). Feel free to grab copies of any of our cover art from our Web site ( if you'd like to run something about the news; if you need high-res versions, let me know.

Many thanks in advance for helping us to get the word out that Hard Case Crime is coming back!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Harry Whittingyon

Ed here: I saw two short pieces on Harry Whittington so I thought I'd reprint my own from 2006 when Stark House published a Harry two-fer.

Back in the 1950s you could run but you couldn’t hide from Harry Whittington. Those were the days when many if not most paperbacks were sold in wire racks found in drug stores, grocery stores and what were then called dime stores.

Harry told me that he’d once seen five books of his displayed on the same rack, all published that month. He worked for everybody, from Gold Medal all the way down to Carnival. He did westerns, nurse romances, tie-ins, war stories and of course crime novels. The last was his true calling. There there was no sub-genre of suspense/mystery he didn’t like. Or apply himself to.

I mention Harry because Stark House Publishing has just published two of his best in a single attractive volume, A Night for Screaming and Any Woman He Wanted. I should also mention here that I’m a free-lance editor for Stark House, though I’d be reviewing this two-fer with the same enthusiasm even if I weren’t.

Harry’s world was not one of ratiocination. There wasn’t time for that. Most of his white working class protagonists were on the run from cosmic forces that would have given Lovecraft pause. In Night, for instance, the villain is so oppressive you seriously begin to wonder if the protagonist will survive. Seriously. The setting is one of those labor camps where drifters and small-time cons are forced to toil for the local politicians who make money on them. There are two scenes that literally made me wince. Harry knew the Deep South all too well.

Any Woman is a working class nightmare of a different kind. A once crooked cop stumbles on to a situation even he doesn’t want to cover up and joins his former enemy the DA in trying to right it. But the DA dies mysteriously and the cop is forced to go after the mob that runs the town by himself. Although this is a familiar 50s theme (the crooked town), Harry throws in a complication that makes the story personal and harsh. Harry always said that he knew how to do two things – plot and create characters. And this book proves that wasn’t any empty boast.

Here’s the Stark House website: Publisher Greg Shepard is bringing back the favorites of the 50s including Malcolm Braly, Gil Brewer, Stephen Marlowe, Day Keene, Vin Packer, Doug Sanderson and now Harry Whittington. He needs your support and I feel he deserves it, which is why I’m lending a hand. As I mentioned on my blog the other day, I recently paid $15 for a paperback from ABE. Well, I just got it today. It’s yellowed and the spine cracked when I opened it. Stark House sells two-fers (two books per volume) in handsome, sturdy editions for $19.95 that will last much longer than most pbs. I have no financial stake in this, I merely want to see the line thrive. Check out the website.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gee I sure have been waiting a long time for a reply...

Thanks to Todd Mason for sending me this and thanks to Barry Malzberg (a fine fine writer and author of one of the the truly GREAT novels about being a writer, Herovit's World) for letting me use it here. Donald Wollheim was one was one of the most important editors of science fiction in the history of the genre. He edited Ace Books for years then started his own publishing company DAW Books.

Martin Morse Wooster reports on FictionMags:

The October 13 MONTGOMERY (County, Maryland) GAZETTE has a profile of sometimes
fantasist Alice McDermott which reveals that the pay rate for reading
"unsolicited short stories" at REDBOOK in 1979 was 60 cents per short story.

Barry Malzberg adds:

Which post reminds me that the always cheery Donald Wollheim recalled for
me in 1968 COSMOPOLITAN fiction department attitude toward the slushpile.
Editor greeted an ex-Ace employee (an acquaintance of Don's) on her first
day of slushpile duty with these instructions: "You can do anything you want
with these. Read, reject, write letters on revision, write letters of
comment, have a little bonfire off the premises...just make sure that I
never see any of them for any reason, ever."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Shamus Winners (Lifted from The Rap Sheet)

Ed here: Congratulations to everybody, winners and nominess alike.

Best Hardcover P.I. Novel: Locked In, by Marcia Muller (Grand Central)

Also nominated: The Silent Hour, by Michael Koryta (Minotaur); Where the Dead Lay, by David Levien (Doubleday); Schemers, by Bill Pronzini (Forge); My Soul to Take, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (William Morrow)

Best First P.I. Novel: Faces of the Gone, by Brad Parks (Minotaur)

Also nominated: Loser’s Town, by Daniel Depp (Simon & Schuster); The Last Gig, by Norman Green (Minotaur); The Good Son, by Russel D. McLean (Minotaur); Chinatown Angel, by A.E. Roman (Minotaur)

Best Paperback Original P.I. Novel: Sinner’s Ball, by Ira Berkowitz (Three Rivers Press)

Also nominated: Dark Side of the Morgue, by Raymond Benson (Leisure); Red Blooded Murder, by Laura Caldwell (Mira); Vengeance Road, by Rick Mofina (Mira); Body Blows, by Marc Strange (Dundurn)

Best P.I. Short Story: “Julius Katz,” by Dave Zeltserman (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, September/October 2009)

Also nominated: “The Dark Island,” by Brendan DuBois (from Boston Noir, edited by Dennis Lehane; Akashic); “Deadline Edition,” by S.L. Franklin (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, April 2009); “Blazin’ on Broadway,” by Gary Phillips (from Phoenix Noir, edited by Patrick Millikin; Akashic); “Suicide Bonds,” by Tim L. Williams (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March/April 2009)

Lifetime Achievement Award: Robert Crais

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Keith Richards writes the book Keith Richards WOULD write

Richards: Mick Jagger was "unbearable"

Reuters – Rolling Stones Mick Jagger smiles on stage upon the screening of their film 'Shine A Light' during …

– Fri Oct 15, 11:04 am ET

LONDON (Reuters) – Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards says in his new autobiography that Mick Jagger became unbearable over the years and reveals he also calls the imperious lead singer "Your Majesty" and "Brenda."

The memoir is peppered with references to other celebrities -- from Johnny Depp to John Lennon -- but it is the prickly dynamic between Richards and Jagger that dominates the 527-page book, which is to be serialized in The Times newspaper.
Richards, 66, who met Jagger at the age of four, says he has not stepped foot in Jagger's dressing room in 20 years.

"It was the beginning of the Eighties when Mick started to become unbearable," Richards writes in the memoir, "Life," which brought him an advance of 4.8 million pounds ($7.7 million) after a massive bidding war among publishers.
Richards and Jagger were two of the Stones' founding members in 1962 and wrote its hit songs, leading the group to sales of more than 200 million albums worldwide.

"Sometimes I think: 'I miss my friend,'" Richards writes. "I wonder: 'where did he go?'"

But Richards told the Times that his bandmate had read the book and wanted to take out only one thing -- a reference to Jagger using a voice coach.

Richards refused, saying: "I'm trying to say the truth here."
He added about Jagger: "We've had our beefs but, hey, who doesn't? You try and keep something together for 50 years," adding the band was considering going on tour again.

"I think it's going to happen. I've had a chat with ... Her Majesty. Brenda."

The band's last tour ended in August 2007, sparking the customary speculation that there would be no more.

for the rest go here:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Forgotten Books: Golden Blood by Jack Williamson

For Forgotten Books this week James Reasoner discussed some of Gardener Fox's sword and sorcery-science fiction work. As much as I liked Fox's comic book work (he was my favorite DC writer from the late Forties through the early Sixties) I never quite took to most of his novels.

But mention of him made me pick up one of my all-time favorite adventure novels, GOLDEN BLOOD by Jack Williamson. I'm now about a hundred pages in and I'm enjoying it as much as I did in my early teen years. It's set in the Arabian desert right after World War One, features a fabled city that has been whispered about for longer than five centuries, and is protected by fanatics who must guard a selected few who may or may not be immortal. Williamson's descriptions of the desert and fights and pursuits across the sands at night are spectacular. And so are his people. I don't mean in any Chekovian way but for adventure fiction stereotypes they're memorable simply because each of the major players plans to double-cross all the others as soon as they find the fabled city of gold. Williamson brings everything alive; everything.

I'm enjoying this in a way I haven't enjoyed simple pure storytelling in a long time. For those who like adventure, I'm sure you can find an inexpensive copy on line. Lancer did two editions of it in the Sixties, one for sixty cents and one for seventy five. Williams was always one of my favorite sf-horror writers. Darker Than You Think still ranks in my top ten werewolf novels of all time. This was pure pulp at its best.

The book was originally a two-part Weird Tales serial in 1933. The famous John Allen St. John did both the covers and the interior illustrations.

Thursday, October 14, 2010





Dev Conrad—the cynical yet hopeful political consultant from Ed Gorman’s 2008 novel Sleeping Dogs—returns in Gorman’s latest novel Stranglehold. Conrad is a Chicago-based political consultant who has one serious flaw; he has a conscience. He plays to win, but he has an antiquated sense of fairness. A trait that isn’t in high demand in American politics.

Susan Cooper is an ideal candidate—she is attractive, intelligent, well spoken and personable—but as the election nears she becomes erratic and secretive. Dev Conrad is called in as a trouble-shooter to find out the problem and put a leash on the candidate. It’s not a quick fix however—Cooper is unmoved in her strange behavior and the clues Conrad finds lead him both to and away from his target.

Stranglehold is everything a mystery should be: dark, witty, plot driven, but populated by characters that matter, and it is never generic. Gorman takes a standard plot—murder, blackmail, lust—and breaths new life into it with twists that surprise the reader and invigorate the story. It is a murder mystery, but its cock-eyed slant tracks the story into unexpected territory.

The opening line reads: “All roads lead to motels.” A standard theme in detective fiction—the seedy motel where unspeakable madness occurs—but Gorman uses it as a kind of foil. Not a trick by any standard, but he turns the trope against itself as well as the reader.

Ed Gorman is the most reliable writer of suspense currently working. His plots—see above—are always clever and tight, his prose is smooth and hard at once, his narrative his steady and his dialogue is crystal. But his real power is with the people that populate his stories. His work has a dark cynicism about it, but that cynicism is rarely projected onto his characters. There is hope in the behavior of his characters—they tend to be kind, solid, melancholy and very real (flawed). The hero is as flawed as the antagonist, but it is the flaws, and how the character manages them, that generate compassion and interest from the reader.

Stranglehold is different from the first Dev Conrad novel: Sleeping Dogs. It is darker. There is less humor, although there is plenty if you enjoy your humor dry and subtle. The differences between the two novels is interesting only on an intellectual level because both are entertaining. The bottom line is, Stranglehold is the real deal. It is another example of just how good Ed Gorman is at his craft. It is also a reminder of the injustice that his name isn’t on the same lists as Stephen King, Dean Koontz and the rest of the high quality bestsellers.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Forgotten Books: The Crimes of Jordan Wise, by Bill Pronzini.

Forgotten Books: The Crimes of Jordan Wise, by Bill Pronzini.

While this fine novel was published in 2006, I think it's appropriate here because while it got its due critically it deserved a much larger audience.

Actuary Jordan Wise tells a joke on himself a third of the way through the novel: (paraphrase) an actuary is somebody who doesn’t have the personality to be an accountant.

If you watch many true crime shows, you see a lot of Jordan Wises. People who fall into crime through circumstance rather than those who go looking for it.

Jordan becomes a criminal only after meeting Annalise, a troubled and very attractive young woman who needs two things badly – sex and money. But in order to get the sex on a regular basis, Jordan must first provide the money. He embezzles a half million dollars and flees with Annalise to the Virgin Islands. In this first part of the novel, there’s nice James M. Cainian detail about how Jordan comes alive for the first time in his life. Some of this is due, whether he admits it or not, to the danger of committing a serious crime. But most of it is due to Annalise and his profound sexual awakening.

The central section of the book reminds me of one of Maugham’s great South Seas tales – lust, betrayal, shame played out against vast natural beauty and a native society that, thanks to an old sea man named Bone, that Jordan comes to see value in – even if Annalise, her head filled with dreams of Paris and glamor, does not. Old Maugham got one thing right for sure – as Pronzini demonstrates here – a good share of humanity, wherever you find them, are both treacherous and more than slightly insane.

There are amazing sections of writing about sea craft and sailing that remind me not of old Travis McGee but of the profoundly more troubled and desperate men of Charles Williams who find purity and peace only in the great and epic truths of the sea. That they may be as crazed and treacherous as everybdy else does not seem to bother them unduly.

There are also amazing sections (almost diaristic sections) where Jordan tells of us his fears and desires, his failings and his dreams. In places he deals vididly, painfully with his secret terror of not being enough of a man in any sense to hold Annalise.

The publisher calls this a novel and so it is. Pronzini brings great original width and breadth to the telling of this dark adventure that is both physical and spiritual. He has never written a better novel, the prose here literary in the best sense, lucid and compelling, fit for both action and introspection.

You can’t read a page of this without seeing it in movie terms. The psychologically violent love story played out against a variety of contemporary settings gives the narrative great scope. And in Jordan Wise and Annalise he has created two timeless people. This story could have been set in ancient Egypt or Harlem in 1903 or an LA roller skating disco in 1981. As Faulkner said, neither the human heart nor the human dilemma ever changes.
posted by Ed Gorman @ 1:06 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Interesting idea: Kindle "singles"

Amazon Apple books e-books iPad Jeff Bezos Kindle Kindle Singles Media
Amazon to Launch Story-Length 'Kindle Singles'
By Dylan Stableford
Published: October 12, 2010 @ 1:42 pm

Amazon announced on Tuesday the launch of “Kindle Singles,” e-books that bridge the gap between magazine features and novel-length works – and what the company hopes could do for book publishing what the $.99 “single" did for iTunes.

In its announcement, Amazon described the “singles” as “Kindle books that are twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book.” The company said they will be between 10,000 and 30,000 words, or roughly 30-to-90 pages in length, and will be priced accordingly.

Amazon did not specify what that pricing would be, and the company did not immediately respond to a pair of requests seeking comment. Full-length e-books typically cost $9.99 in the Kindle Store.

“Kindle Singles will have their own section in the Kindle Store and be priced much less than a typical book,” Amazon said.

The company is calling on “serious writers, thinkers, scientists, business leaders, historians, politicians and publishers to join Amazon in making such works available to readers around the world.” Amazon is asking “interested parties” to contact

for the rest go here:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lundvquist

I read a pretty compelling review of this novel so I thought I'd give it a try. I'm glad I did. This is the source for Swedish film of the same name that won all the awards at festivals. The film was remade here as Let Me In but was apparently not as good as the original and tanked.

The book is often compared to Stephen King's wildly enjoyable Salem's Lot which it definitely resembles. The difference is that King used all the colors to recreate his Maine town and its inhabitants. There is great humor and warmth in his vampire tale. Plus it scares the hell out of you.

Well, Let The Right One In scares the hell out of you but writer John Ajvide Lindqvist uses only different shades of gray (and black) for his tale. The setting is a small town in Sweden, one that is far down the economic scale. And that informs everything in the book. Twelve-year-old Oskar is the central character and largely through his eyes we see a series of serial killings so savage they'd make Hannibal Lechter blanch. Ultimately the killings touch on everybody in the small town, from the bullies who pick on Oskar constantly to the mother who overprotects him to the police detectives who are afraid to admit to themselves what is really going on.

This is a vampire novel without most of the usual vampire tropes. Lindqvist gives us a look at a cross-section of Swedish citizens who live lives of quiet desperation we hear so much about over here. But it is the strange girl Eli who fixes Oskar's attention and who teaches him to not just defend himself but to anticipate the bully attacks and make them afraid of him. The relationship of Oskar and Eli is pretty rendered and creates a vampire myth that should endure.

An amazing work of popular fiction. Now I'm on to his second novel.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Vince Keenan interviews Ed Gorman

For the interview go here: (Thanks, Vince)

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Pick a Pair of Penzlers

Otto Penzler's editorial hand can be found on two important collections this fall. The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories by Otto Penzler and Keith Alan Deutsch is a massive anthology that is an ideal companion to his earlier The Big Book of Pulp Stories. The centerpiece has to be the version of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon as it was published in serial form in Black Mask.

But even given such names as Raymond Chandler, Erle Stanley Gardner and John D. MacDonald, the most interesting material comes from the writers who never quite broke out of the pulps. Writers such as Fredric Brown, Day Keene, William Campbell Gault, Lester Dent, Norbert Davis demonstrate not only how good Black Mask was but also how varied it was in subject matter and approach.

Another feature of this giant book is the artwork from the original publication. I don't have to say any more, do I?

The Best American Noir of The Century edited by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler starts in 1923 and comes all the way up to 2007. Cornell Woolrich, David Morrell, Jim Thompson, Ellroy himself number among the more prominent names but there are treats to be had from writers of every stripe. If you've never read William Gay, for instance, here's an opportunity to see just how fine a prose stylist and how devious a storyteller he is. I was particularly interested in the MacKinlay Kantor story that was the basis for the iconic noir film "Gun Crazy." (I have a story in here, too.)

Ellroy and Penzler have managed to show how rich the noir tale can be. There are literary stories, pulp thrillers and, as with the William Gay story, a take on the clash of old and new Americas in a quietly horrorific tale that is not only appropriate to our troubled times but also has the power of myth in its ending.

A collection that belongs on the shelf of every reader of crime fiction.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Amazing statistics

Ed here: We've been told since the seventies that romance novels of various kinds outsell all other types of genre fiction. But this new Harris poll contradicts this.One question I have though is--what constitutes thriller/mystery and what constitutes romance?
For instance Is a paranormal romantic thriller a romance or a thriller? Anyhow here are the results:

Harris Poll Finds Mysteries, Thrillers Edge Out Romance Novels
By Publishers Weekly Staff
Oct 07, 2010
ShareThis | | Reader Comments (0)
A new Harris Poll is out, and among its findings are that mysteries, thrillers, and crime novels beat out chick-lit and romance novels by a large margin; and that more women than men read mysteries, thrillers, and crime novels.

The poll, conducted among 2,775 U.S. adults online this past August, found that among those who say they read at least one book in an average year, equal numbers—about eight in 10—said they have read a novel or nonfiction book in the past year. Almost half (48%) of fiction readers said they read mysteries, thrillers and crime novels, while a quarter read science fiction (26%) and another quarter (24%) read “literature.” One in five said they read romance novels (21%) and one in 10 have read graphic novels (11%) in the past year. Chick-lit (8%) and western (5%) books are less popular among respondents.

for the rest go here:

Thursday, October 07, 2010

New Books: Jan Grape, Carolyn Hart

From Jan Grape

Each writer has their own method to begin a book or story. For me, the majority of the time, I hear voices in my head. And the best thing is that no one calls the men in the white coats to carry me away.

In What Doesn’t Kill You, recently released by Five Star, I began hearing a young woman’s voice. Shortly thereafter, I realized this was a grown-up version of a little girl I had actually seen several years ago.

I was in a large chain bookstore when I noticed a little girl, probably eight or nine years old. She was skinny, had a long blonde pony tail and both her ears stuck out like the open back doors on a car. She was with her grandfather and I overheard him asking a clerk for help in locating a reference book on legal documents.

The little girl picked up and looked longingly at several books, but I could tell they probably didn’t have the money to buy one. She finally angled over to the bookmarks and picked out two. But when her grandfather came back he said, “No,” they couldn’t buy anything today.

I wanted to buy the bookmark for her yet I knew that if I offered, the grandfather would be highly insulted. So they left, but I vowed that one day I’d write a book for her.

A young girl who told me her name is Cory is talking to her best friend, Ty-Ty. She, of course, is not that little girl from the bookstore except in my imagination. When both her parents were killed in a car wreck she went to live with her bachelor uncle, Giff Purvis in the small town of Bent Bell, Texas. She loves her Uncle Giff and her horse, Miss Dumpsie, but she can’t help thinking about leaving this small town and heading out into the big wide world.

Cory and her friend Ty-Ty find a body in the old Whalen house and shortly afterwards, Ty-Ty, nineteen and a half-native American, is accused of the murder. Cory is determined to prove otherwise despite all efforts to stop her investigating.
She did give me several moments of apprehension because it has been a very long time since I was Cory’s age. But I grew up in a small West Texas town and knew the wonderful folks that populate small towns so I could relate to the people who popped up in What Doesn’t Kill You and started talking to me.

----------------Carolyn Hart

The late Bailey Ruth Raeburn struggles to protect a beautiful, willful woman determined to play hunt-the-killer in GHOST IN TROUBLE.

Bailey Ruth, an impetuous redheaded ghost, is up to her coppery curls in challenges as she deals with a recalcitrant charge, a fraudulent medium, a mother's heartbreak, old passions and new, and a telltale rawhide dog bone.
Heaven help her!

Merry, Merry Ghost, second in the series, will be available in paperback October 26. Bailey Ruth's debut novel - Ghost at Work - is available in paperback, E book, and Books on Tape..

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Moonchasers - optioned again

I'm not sure how many times my short novel Moonchasers has been optioned but it's got to be six or seven times by now. It was prominently announced by the producer of The Shawshank Redemption as her next production the morning after she won an Academy Award. There is an Evelyn Waugh novel in the travails that ensued.

Next a then-hot producer-writer said he was sure we could get a big name director and funding because of his adaptation. The trouble being that I hated his script so much I refused to sell him another option. Then a couple of falling A stars whom I admired very much tried to get funding but couldn't. And then a TV dude who saw it as Lassie with guns came up with a script that had me laughing out loud even through the supposedly melancholy scenes. Yadda Yadda Yadda.

Pam Susemiehl is and has been David Mamet's assistant for a number of years. She's worked on many of his films and produced some of his Tv projects. She's also a screenwriter. Her intention is to write and produce what I assume would be a low-budget version of the book. She is talking to directors now. I wish both of us good luck.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tony Curtis

Ed here: With all the Tony Curtis pieces on the web you'd think there would be nothing left to say. But Esquire's Tom Junod's piece may be the most incisive.

Tom Junod:

He made quite an impression on me, Tony did. I still remember sitting in Spago with him and Jill, and what he said after Jill St. John came over to his table, with Robert Wagner, and made nice to him: "What a piece of shit." I still remember what he said about younger women, and fidelity to older ones: "Can you imagine Tony Curtis with a woman my age?" I still remember the story he told about Billy Wilder — about what Billy Wilder said to him after Tony's son OD'd and Tony stumbled one night back to Spago, nearly blind with guilt and grief and remorse, and wound up kneeling in front of Billy Wilder at his familiar table, asking, "Billy, how could this happen, how could my boy do such a thing?": "You, Tony. You showed him how." The Hollywood Tony lived in was that kind of place — a barbaric place, in which the cost of being as beautiful as Tony Curtis or Marilyn Monroe or even Jill St. John was putting your beauty in the hands of someone as merciless as Billy Wilder — and yet Tony survived it, because he never forgot that it was the beautiful ones who got laid, and never ceased delighting in the fact that he, Bernie Schwartz from the Bronx, got to fuck Marilyn Monroe.

Read more:

for the rest go here:

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Autumn Mystery Scene

Ed here: I have to say that as someone who spent nearly eighteen years along with Bob Randisi working on Mystery Scene the issue that Kate and Brian have put together is especially notable. Not only are the articles and features something every mystery lover will enjoy--the pages are all slick and there is four color from cover to cover. A huge step forward and a milestone in the magazine's history.

Table of Contents


Kathy Reichs: Bones and Beyond
Her bestselling novels about a forensic anthropologist, Temperance Brennan, and the hit TV series they inspired are only the beginning for this powerhouse.
by Oline H. Cogdill

William Kent Krueger
Long known as a “writer’s writer,” the word is spreading about this author’s richly characterized, densely plotted,and emotionally resonant novels.
by Lynn Kaczmarek

Murder on the Menu
There’s nothing more delicious than crime writers cooking up trouble—and writing down recipes.
by Kevin Burton Smith

Lester Dent: The Man Behind Doc Savage
As the creator of an iconic hero, Lester Dent was hugely successful, prolific, influential—and virtually unknown.
by Michael Mallory

The Write Stuff: Authors in Crime
The literary life is thrilling, dangerous, even deadly—well, at least it is in these films.
by Art Taylor

Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Sister
There’s a strong case to be made that Enola is the best detective in the Holmes family.
by Cheryl Solimini

The Murders in Memory Lane: Charles Willeford
A writer as idiosyncratic as his characters.
by Lawrence Block

What's Happening...With C.C. Benison
by Brian Skupin


At the Scene
by Kate Stine

Hints & Allegations
Writers on Reading: Deon Meyer. 2010 Thriller Awards, 2010 David Award, 2010 Ned Kelly Awards, The New Hawaii 5-0.

Our Readers Recommend
by Mystery Scene readers

Writing Life: Gormania
Forgotten Books; Nancy Pickard; Frenzy; Perry Mason.
by Ed Gorman

New Books Essays
Bowling for Rhinos
by Betty Webb

Back Home
by Michael W. Sherer

Dateline: Hemingway
by Diane Gilbert Madsen

Boston, Inside Out
by Rosemary Herbert

Crime Scene Crazy
by L.J. Sellers

Sounds of Suspense: Audiobooks Reviewed
by Dick Lochte

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

Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered
by Bill Crider

Small Press Reviews: Covering the Independents
by Betty Webb

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed
by Lynne Maxwell

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

Mystery Scene Reviews


The Docket


Mystery Miscellany
by Louis Phillips

Advertiser Index

Advertising Info

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Good Reads: The Ghost

I've always liked urbane cynical narrators.The Brits are especially good at the game and that's certainly the case with Robert Harris and his novel The Ghost, which Roman Polanski filmed successfully as The Ghostwriter.

I can't see Tony Blair lying his ass of on TV while book touring without thinking of this novel for The Ghost is clearly about him (some in the British press accused Harris of everything but treason for publishing this novel).

What we have here is a writer who's ghosted a number of autobiographies of celebrity figures. In prestige and money writing for a recently resigned Prime Minister is an enormous step up. He will earn ten million to step in and write the book in a month. The reason for the rush? The previous ghost drowned under strange circumstances and wrote a dull draft that wouldn't sell even with a huge promotion.

Adam Lang, the former Prime Minister, is presently residing in a mansion on Martha's Vineyard. It is here the ghost Rick begins to interview him. Rick soon learns that Lang has at his beck and call his wife, his loyal chief staffer and mistress, and enough armed security men to start a small war. The atmosphere is not unlike that of a horror film. Whispers, harsh voices behind closed doors, threats.

He also begins to understand that Lang is an empty suit. Bright, handsome, fashionable, there is no there there. Except for one thing. The International Court has indicted Lange for rounding up British citizens during the Iraq war and turning them over to the American authorities where they were water boarded. One of them, a nineteen-year-old, died. The British public and pols despise him and want him punished. America is protecting him, which is why he's here, hiding out in the mansion in a bitter winter that Harris evokes stylishly and hauntingly.

If you want a good, angry, occasionally droll (Harris has a lot of fun skewering the publishing industry) this is well worth the paperback or e book money. A truly enjoyable book.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Locus - Pulp Fiction

Really entertaining and informative discussion of pulp fiction in the new issue of Locus. Robert Silverberg, Richard Lupoff and Frank M. Robinson discuss the topic at length. Also an excellent interview with Barry Malzberg. Plus all the usual great Locus news stories and reviews.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Knopf Buys 4 Great Pages For $2.5 Million

Knopf Buys 4 Great Pages For $2.5 Million

By MIKE FLEMING | Wednesday September 29, 2010 @ 7:27pm EDT

Tags: Alfred Knopf, Andrew Wylie, Book Publishing, Book Publishing Deals, Kiran Desai, Orhan Pamuk, Robin Desser, Sonny Mehta, The Loneliness of Sonia and Sunny

EXCLUSIVE: The deals are popping this week, and publishing is not immune. On the basis of a 4-page proposal, Alfred Knopf's Sonny Mehta has paid $2.5 million for The Loneliness of Sonia and Sunny, the new novel by Kiran Desai. She's the Booker Prize-winning author of The Inheritance of Loss. Robin Desser is the acquiring editor. This is the time for big book deals in the run up to the Frankfurt Book Fair, which gets underway in Germany next week. The publishing crowd was also buzzing over the fact that the deal was brokered by Andrew Wylie, who signed her 2 weeks ago from Inkwell Management. She left to join Wylie because he reps her partner, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk.