Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tom Piccirilli URGENT Fundraiser

Please help anyway you can.  Small or large contribution just join with all of us who are trying to help Tom and Michelle.

American Movies are Not Dead: They are Dying

Ed here: This is an excerpt from a long piece on American movies by David Thomson that appears in the current The New Republic. An amazing piece of work.

"THOSE FILMS from the late 1950s had another sour attitude in common: they seemed to wonder whether the movies have gone on and on for long enough, so don’t we know every story by now? If you look at Rio Bravo (and this held even in 1959 when it opened), it offers a whimsical, affectionate example of a “suspenseful” Western. (Will the sheriff win? It was intended as a corrective to High Noon.) But that is perfunctory compared with its witty and digressive parody of such a Western, and its cheerful admission that this is really some actors, writers, and a director questioning and mocking the cockamamie routines and rituals of a Western. It isn’t a story, it’s a movie commentary, edging toward pastiche and camp. Similarly, Anatomy of a Murder is less an authentic trial story than variations on the hackneyed theme of the courtroom film. North by Northwest and Psycho tease us for believing in their absurd stories while delighting in the trickery that prompts that belief. As for Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot, it was the first candid admission that movies came out of a madhouse, stupefied by inside references, but unaware and uninterested in any external reality."
"How far did those directors understand the abandonment of narrative earnestness? I’m not sure, but it hardly matters. Film has always had a technological drive and a money habit that undermine the artistic solemnity of its auteurs. So when it comes to regretting the death of the movies and the way digital imagery and projection have put a blue-steel armor on the passion of light in photography, I have to insist that we were killing the medium long ago by grinding story down to sawdust, and encouraging the self-consciousness of disbelief, and undermining the innocence of sincere sentiment."

For the rest go here:

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tom Piccirilli

Tom Piccirilli e mailed me last night with the following information: Doctors have found a tennis ball-sized cancerous tumor  on his right frontal lobe. Apparently a very aggressive cancer but a good spot to have it  on because  it shouldn't interfere with memory, reasoning, creativity or motor skills.  He will be operated on (I believe) on Monday. This will be followed by weeks of chemo and radiation. And then physical rehab.

I don't have to tell you how serious this is. Tom has been one of my best friends for years. One of the nicest and funniest people I've ever known, After years of paying his dues he's only lately been recognized (widely) as one of the major new voices in crime and horror fiction. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

-------------------------------------------RICHARD JESSUP

An agent wrote me asking me if I knew how to contact anybody involved in the estate of deceased writer Richard Jessup. I always liked Jessup's wprk and was glad to see it when books such as his The Cincinnati Kid became big hits. Can anybody help with  this?

------------------------------------------KAREN DOWNES

A woman named Karen Downes wrote me an actual letter asking me to point her to an agent. I've misplaced the envelope so can't get back to her but invite her to write me at

Friday, September 28, 2012


TUESDAY, MAY 22, 2007


One of the more familiar knocks on mystery fiction is that it rarely treats death seriously. That too often murder is simply the device that propels the story and not much more. I think that's a fair criticism and I certainly include my own work as being guilty of that particular sin. Murder, even literary murder, should HURT.

I'd also add to that criticism the various addictions common to the genre, namely alcoholism and drug addiction. Only Lawrence Block and a few others have taken us into the real world of recovering alcoholics. For the most part addiction has become just another keystroke common to the world of mystery fiction.

I've read three novels in my life that have described accurately--in my experience as an alcoholic--the horrors of being drunk most of your life. Certainly Under The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry, After the First Death by Lawrence Block and a novel you've probably never heard of, though alcoholic Raymond Chandler pushed it as one of the finest suspense novels of his time.

For some reason, much as I've pushed her here, I'd never read THE INNOCENT MRS. DUFF by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding. It is remarkable in many ways, not least because the protagonis. Jacob Duff is drunk for virtually the entire novel. And we see 95% of the book through his eyes. Functionally drunk for most of it but also falling-down drunk in places. Holding's genius was to sustain a sense of dread that I don't think even Ruth Rendell has equaled. There are times in her novels when I have to put the book down for a few minutes. They are that claustrophobic in mood and action.

That's the first most remarkable aspect of the book. The second most remarkable is the fact that we see the book through the eyes of one of the most arrogant, self-invoved, cold and self-deluded man I've ever encountered in fiction of any kind. I hated the bastard so much--I'm not enamored of the upper-classes, alas, and Duff embodies everything I loathe about them--I almost gave up after chapter three. I wasn't sure I wanted to learn anything more about this jerk,

But Holding has the voodoo, at least for me. She makes me turn pages faster than any best-seller because what you're rushing to discover is the fate of her people. All the good folks in this one are women, especially Duff's younger, beautiful and very decent wife. He constantly compares her unfavorably to his first wife, though we soon learn that he didn't care much for his first wife, either. At age forty he's still looking for his dream woman. God have mercy on her soul if he ever finds her.

As always with Holding, as with much of Poe, what we have is not so much a plot (though she's as good as Christie) as a phantasmagoria of despair, distrust and suspicion that consumes the protagonist. Is his wife cheating on him? Is she setting up his death so she'll inherit his estate? Is she turning his young son against him? Has his wealthy aunt, his life-long mentor and mother confessor, taken the side of his young wife? Has his drinking disgraced him in his small town and are all those smirks aimed at him? And finally, is he a murderer? And why does he have to sneak around these days to drink?

If you're curious about Holding, this is a good place to start. Anthony Boucher always said that she was the mother of all psychological suspense novelists. What's intresting is how few, fifty-some years after her death, have come close to equaling her enormous powers.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Forgotten Books: An Accidental Novelist by Richard S. Wheeler

An Accidental Novelist- Richard S. Wheeler

Every once in a while somebody says to me that they're thinking of writing their autobiography. I try to ease on out the door and run screaming across the prairie until I can find a suitable place to hide in the woods.

Yes, I know YOU'RE fascinating. And so am I. God, I'm fascinating. The trouble is that for most of us, that fascination doesn't travel very far. In my case, if I published an autobiography it would sell only to my blood kin and our cat Tess, though in her case it would take some nudging. She prefers romance novels about horny vampires and vampirettes. I guess all her graduate work on Chaucer (which we had to pay for) was for naught.

But you know what? Richard S. Wheeler has written an emminently readable, interesting, entertaining memoir about how he stumbled into becoming a writer of fiction after having a very rough time trying to be a) a newspaper writer and b) an actor in Hollywood. and c) a real impoverished guy wondering what to do next. Well, thankfully for all of us, he struggled through a first novel he ultimately threw away and then hit the premiere western imprint of the time, the Doubleday DD brand.

This is the real story of a real writer. I've never read a a clearer fever chart of the ups and downs of a person who tries to sustain himself financially and emotionally as a full-time writer. We meet other writers, editors (a very warm tribute to the late Sara Anne Freed); agents (an equally warm tribute to Ray Puechner who was my first agent and who had in his stable at that time Joe Lansdale, Loren Estleman and Gary Paulsen among many others); and even Hwood windbags (who may well have stolen one of his movie ideas).

Into all this is tucked the story of Richard Wheeler human being. Life hasn't always proved easy for him and (if I'm not overreading) you sense a real loneliness in the man, a loneliness that has driven him for much of his life. He's the F. Scott Fitzgerald hero--the man who looks but never quite finds. Until, as in the ending of Fitzgerald's "Winter Dreams," he realizes that his life has been richer than he imagined.

I really recommend this thoughtful and rewarding memoir.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Talented Newcomers


Talented newcomers

Most writers get far too many requests to read the manuscripts of unpublished authors. There just isn't time in most circumstances.
But the other side of this is discovering somebody who really can write and helping them get started--as Max Allan Collins helped me.
There was a time when I put in appearances at writers' groups and spent evenings talking about aspects of professional writing. Over the course of two or three years of this I met four people who went on to publish both short stories and novels in a variety of genres.
To a person they were shy about asking me to read samples of their work. I always said I'd read two chapters of a book or one short story under five thousand words.
My first discovery told me that here was a story that probably wasn't that good, that in fact after he'd finished it, he'd just stuck it in a drawer. That was a year ago or so. I read it that night and soon enough it was not only sold but Roger Zelazny himself was on the phone telling him what a wonderful piece of work it was.
Since then, as I said, I've met three other people who showed me short stories that were sold within a fairly short amount of time.
It's a good feeling when you see their first few pieces in print. You can kind of relive your own first sales through them. Whoever said that you can never equal the joy of your first was right.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Jake Masters is the spiritual descendant of Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, and all those other fallen angels who wander down today’s dark alleys. They know they’ll be lied to by their clients, betrayed by their friends, hunted by their enemies, paid late if at all – and yet they stick to it, because they possess what all around them have lost: a sense of justice.
In Jake’s case, some four millennia from now, those dark alleys have become dark spaceways, and his allies and enemies aren’t always human, but like his predecessors he’s got an urge to cut through all the lies and corruption in search of the truth, no matter the consequences.
Come join him as he becomes the “Guardian Angel” of a criminal kingpin’s son; watch him tackle the puzzle of “A Locked-Planet Mystery”; learn how a man in his business sometimes has to deal with “Honorable Enemies”; and watch him do whatever’s necessary “If the Frame Fits…”
Rounding off his adventures is a never before published tale, “Real Jake”. 

Ed here: Yes there have been numerous attempts to write private eye science fiction stories, some notably more successful than others. I've always thought Mike Resnick's Jack Masters stories managed this fusion of genres best of all. He's got the characters, the mystery elements, the attitude and the pacing of all those p.i. novels of the Fifties and Sixties down just right along with shiny new sf adventure inventions and worlds that lend an exoticism to the milieu.

But I want to emphasize what knock-out tales these are. Mike is a master storyteller and if you've never read him here is a good place to start. The man can work in numerous genres and sub-genres and work well in them. I'd only read two of the stories here so this was a particularly enjoyable book for me. I should note here that Mike lists me as one of his p.i. references. I appreciate the shout out. But given the iconic names that fill out the list make me wonder wonder a bout him. I said he was a great storyteller--I didn't say he was sane did I?

A fail-safe book for p.i and sf readers alike. It comes with the Gorman Guarantee of Full Reader Satisfaction.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Details on "Doctor Sleep," sequel to Stephen King's "The Shining"

The sequel to The Shining, Stephen King's classic horror story turned into a movie starring Jack Nicholson, will be released on September 24, 2013, the author announced on his website today.
On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and tween Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.
Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”
Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted readers of "The Shining" and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.
Nearly a year ago, King read a chapter of the book at an awards ceremony at George Mason University. You can watch that video above.
Are you excited to read 'Doctor Sleep'?
go here for the very cool trailer:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Michael Connelly Reviews THE COCKTAIL WAITRESS by James M. Cain

From the New York Times by Michael Connelly

When you strike a match the flame burns blue closest to the source of combustion. For most of his prolific career James M. Cain had the blue flame burning in his explorations of greed, passion and murder. Novels like “Double Indemnity” and “The Postman Always Rings Twice” sizzled with it. And Hollywood always came calling. His work drew the best and brightest talents, and the results were classic. As recently as last year “Mildred Pierce” was produced for the second time in 60-plus years, in an Emmy-winning television run. Cain expertly mined the fine line between desire and lust and the consequences incurred by crossing it. And that skill is timeless, whether on the page or on-screen.
Now along comes the author’s “lost” and last novel, “The Cocktail Waitress.” While this story of a femme fatale with a gut-turning cosmic comeuppance at the end smolders and burns bright at times, it doesn’t quite sustain the blue-hot source of human combustion found in the author’s earlier work. It certainly entertains, but it also disappoints.
Cain died in 1977 at age 85, his immense popularity long on the wane. “The Cocktail Waitress” was the manuscript he labored over in his final years. Or perhaps manuscripts is a better description. The published novel was drawn together by the editor Charles Ardai from multiple manuscripts and notes found in places thousands of miles apart. Set in the early 1960s, the story follows the travails of a beautiful young mother, Joan Medford, who finds herself with nothing but the suspicions of police and family when her abusive husband dies in the crash of a borrowed car.

For the rest go here:

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Life & Times of Bob Randisi

Bullets and Lies
“Everybody seems to be looking for the next Louis L’Amour. 
To me, they need look no further than Randisi.”
—Jake Foster, author of Three Rode South

“[Randisi] doesn’t waste a phrase or plot turn…his prose 
is supple and never flashy.” —Publishers Weekly

“The Western genre needs more writers like Randisi, 
an original voice who’s still going strong.”—Bookgasm 

“Each of Randisi’s novels is better than its 
entertaining predecessor.”—Booklist

Ed here: By the time I  finish typing this sentence Bob Randisi will
doubtless finish a novel that will put him very close to the five hundred 
mark. Yes, five hundred novels written and published in virtually 
Speaking Volumes LLC lowered the prices of the...every genre though his main concentration has been crime and western.

Amazing as the number is what's much more startling is how consistently
good and sometimes GREAT his work is. The Gunsmith series, one of the
oldest and most revered of western series, would tucker most writers out
after book thirty or so. Not Bob. The series, written as by J.R. Roberts, 
has just notched number three hundred and sixty-eight. 

And the hooks are just as strong as the writing. In the new Bullets And Lies, 
Talbot Roper helps prove that a man he knows, a man who 
stands accused of lying about his record in the Civil War, is telling the truth.
Never thought of that before. I guess all wars produce men who lie about 
their courage and honor.

Fast-paced and action-packed, rich in humanity and lore, this is a fine 
sample of Bob's work. If you like realistic adventure, you'll want this book.   

Robert Randisi3:03am Sep 21
Speaking Volumes LLC lowered the prices
of the Gunsmith ebooks 
from $9.99 to $2.99. The same goes
for my Angel Eyes, Tracker and Mountain
 Jack Pike books. Finally, they are affordable!
 Big Adult Western. Here's your chance
to get in on Gunsmith right from #1.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Forgotten Books: The Handle by Richard Stark

I hope The Handle by Richard Stark was a pleasure for Donald Westlake to write because it sure is a pleasure to read.

The Organization has decided that it's tired of this German guy running his big casino on an island in the Gulf of Mexico. He's beyond the jurisdiction of the Feds and it's unlikely Cuba will do much about him. Thus Parker is hired to take the casino and its other buildings down--literally. To blow them up.

Now while The Handle is every bit as tough as Dick Cheney's heart, the hardboiled aspect is played off against the sorriest group of human beings Parker may ever have had to work with. And the sardonic way Westlake portrays them had me laughing out loud at several points.

Take your pick. There's the alcoholic hood who talks as if he's auditioning for a Noel Coward play; the mob gun dealer who had to quit drinking several months ago and has increased both his cigarette intake (four or five packs a day) while maintaining both his cancer cough and his enormous weight; the pedophile who turns out to be a ringer sent to spy in Parker and his friends; the Feds who are so inept both Parker and Grofield play games seeing who can lose their tails the fastest. And then there's the the married Grofield, Parker's professional acting buddy, who never passes up a chance to impose his charms on willing women. In this case he endeavors to put the whammy on the very sexy blonde Parker himself has been shacking up with. Isn't that called bird-dogging?

And then we have Baron Wolfgang Freidrich Kastelbern von Alstein, the man who owns the island and the casino and who, over the years, has managed to make The Third Man's Harry Lime look like a candidate for sainthood. Westlake spends a few pages on the Baron's history and it becomes one of the most fascinating parts of the book, especially his days in Europe during the big war. 

The book is filled with the little touches that make the Stark books so memorable. My favorite description comes when Parker and the sexy blonde sit down to a dinner that Westlake describes as "viciously expensive."

A fine fine novel.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Did Albert Einstein Secretly Lust After Della Street?

Mathew Paust said...
Years before we had a TV (probly before anybody had one) my lawyer dad introduced me to Perry Mason. He was a huge fan and belonged to a book club. Had I'm guessing most if not all of the early ones. What I wouldn't give to have them now. I remember him telling me Gardner would dictate the novels into a tape recorder while driving to work, then have his secretary transcribe them.

A friend, Bill Tangney, was reporting for the Princeton College paper when Einstein died. Einstein had an office at Princeton, so Bill rushed up to the office, soon as he heard the news, braced a chair against the door in case any other news hounds had the same idea, and began looking for something that would give him a "scoop." He started looking thru a bookcase, pulled out some serious tomes and found Einstein had stashed a couple of Perry Mason paperbacks behind them. Scoop de doop!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Perry Mason DVD; New York Times


Perry Mason DVD; New York Times

The Case of the Canny Counsel

Article Tools Sponsored By
Published: December 31, 2006

IN memory the old “Perry Mason” was campy and obvious. At the end of each hour Raymond Burr would rise commandingly from his courtroom chair and, with just a question or two and perhaps a peeved glare, elicit a detailed and tearful confession from a witness with more aptitude for murder than for perjury.

Those Perry Mason moments are as awkward and unrewarding today as they were in 1957, when CBS began broadcasting the series. But almost everything else about the show is splendid, and the 39 episodes from the first season recently released on DVD are a box of L.A. noir chocolates, well constructed and satisfyingly dark.

They start with that swaggering theme music, by Fred Steiner, and some irresistible episode titles (“The Case of the Cautious Coquette,” “The Case of the Restless Redhead,” “The Case of the Vagabond Vixen,” “The Case of the Lazy Lover”). The setups are brisk and racy, usually involving an attractive young woman, the suggestion of ill-considered intimacy and, in short order, a corpse.

Beautifully filmed in black and white, the shows have become period dramas over time, stuffed with relentless smoking, skinny ties, hard-to-get divorces, propeller planes and the threat of the gas chamber. All this was just scenery at the time, but it has now imbued the show with a real sense of place, of a California draped in shadows and suffused with gaudy ambition and sexual jealousy.

“Perry Mason” was also, week in and week out, a well-made television show, the work of professionals. It moves a little slowly for modern tastes, but it was precisely constructed, sophisticated and intricate enough to reward careful attention.

For the rest of the article log on here:

Ed here:

Owing to various hospital stays over the past five years, I've logged a lot of hours watching the Perry Masons referred to here. This Litvak review is excellent. And I certainly agree with it. Most of the hokum comes at the end when the light bulb appears above Perry's head and sometimes in the somewhat strained dialogue between Perry and Della and Paul Drake, which sometimes sounds like three people on morning TV making chirping sounds at each other.

What struck me most about the shows was how adult and seedy they are. A lot of the seediness is between the lines but boy is it there. As I mentioned here last week writing about the early Mason novels (those still influenced by Black Mask), the stories are packed with sex and the villains are frequently business men. You could be forgiven for thinking you're reading Upton Sinclair or Sinclair Lewis in sections of the early Masons. He sure didn't trust trust big business and he he had an almost socialistic scorn for the greed success inspires (I watched Treasure of Sierra Madre earlier today--a pure straight shot of B. Traven's rage was something Gardner would likely have understood).

Litvak's best point is that the early Mason TVs have become historical dramas. They are one of the most accurate depicitions of the Fifties I've ever seen. Lordy the fetishes we made of our clothes, cars, home furnishings. And the way we looked at poor people--rarely to be trusted, rarely able to speak with any clarity, lost in booze or self-pity or just plain despicable laziness. The Lonely crowd, The Man in The Grey Flannel Suit, The Status Seekers--some of the observations in the Masons are as acute as these bestsellers of the Fifties. There's a whole book waiting to be read on the sopciology of the first three or four Mason years--not that I'd read it, you understand. But it's mildly interesting to think about up there on my Unread shelf.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Ken Levine looks at forthcoming movies


Fall Movies Preview Part 1

A blog tradition -- the Fall Movies Preview -- mini-summaries of the films that will be released this season. Disclaimer: Not that this has any particular relevance to my comments but I haven't seen any of these pictures. And probably won't see most of them.

BREAKING DAWN – The eighth chapter of the TWILIGHT trilogy. Very tough shoot for Kristen Stewart because the director is gay and she couldn’t sleep with him.

LOOPER – Joseph Gordon-Levitt must go into the future to kill Bruce Willis who is really him. Trying to save the world from DIE HARD 17.

TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE – Baseball movie with Clint Eastwood that no Democrat will now pay to see.

THE WORDS – Bradley Cooper takes credit for a discovered manuscript only to have the real author, Jeremy Irons suddenly surface. He discarded it originally because he thought, “Who’s going to buy a piece of shit like FIFTY SHADES OF GREY anyway?”

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER – You never have to dance the Macarena.

WON’T BACK DOWN – Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis take over an inner city school in order to make a difference and get some Oscar nominations. 
For the rest go here:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Judy Rohrig on John D. MacDonald

The Green Ripper.JPG

There's been a lot of talk about John D. MacDonald on the blogs lately. Here's Judi Rohrig's take from 2006.


Introduce yourself as a writer, and then brace yourself for the obvious first question. Where do you get your ideas?

Not why on earth would you be idiot enough to waste all those hours one-on-one with a keyboard/pen and paper when you could be playing basketball, knitting, watching TV, listening to ambulance runs on the radio, petting the cat, or (insert -ing action-word here followed by noun)?

The better question would be where "don't" ideas come from?

One of my favorite writers is John D. MacDonald. Dean Koontz turned me on to him. (In fact, I blame Koontz for all the hours I've spent with the pens drippings from John D., Ed Gorman, Joe Lansdale, Norman Partridge, and James M. Cain.) Koontz -- in his biography -- claimed MacDonald's writing had a profound effect on his own storytelling.

MacDonald obviously plucked his ideas from life. His is the eye focused well on the 50s and 60s, moving from post WWII male-domination mind-set to the burgeoning sexual revolution. Sometimes he did this through his continuing character Travis McGee.

"Most readers loved MacDonald's work because he told a rip-roaring yarn," Carl Hiassen says in his Introduction to a reprint of MacDonald's DEEP BLUE GOOD-BYE. "Every McGee saga guarantees such splendidly mordant commentary. The customary targets are greedhead developers, crooked politicians, chamber-of-commerce flacks, and the cold-hearted scammers who flock like buzzards to the Sunshine State. For John D. MacDonald, these were not just useful fictional villains; they were villains of real life."

Inspiration? Where is it not?

Yet even the master had his walls. It was said John D. would begin typing somebody else's story word for word until his own story took form in his mind. Whatever stokes the creative fires.

Every writer would well to study MacDonald's way with words. The Late Richard Laymon thought so. In fact, he shared his own joy at reading John D.'s stories several years ago in Baltimore with some young writers gathered in Brian Keene's living room during KeeneCon 2000, the precursor to the HorrorFind Weekends.

Laymon wasn't alone in his feelings for MacDonald. Most every good writer I know readily names a favorite MacDonald title. Joe Lansdale claimed SOFT TOUCH as his favorite; Ed Gorman named DEAD LOW TIDE. Koontz offers out SLAM THE BIG DOOR; CRY HARD, CRY FAST; LAST ONE LEFT, and THE END OF THE NIGHT. Add to that list Dallas Mayr (Jack Ketchum), Jay Clarke (Michael Slade), the late Ian Fleming, and scads of others. And don't forget to include Stephen King on that list.

King has said that MacDonald was "the great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller."

What can be learned from John D. MacDonald is.. well, most everything: style, plot, character, description, suspense, location, politics, tenderness, and capturing much like a photographer, a period of time. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. said: "To diggers a thousand years from now... the works of John D. MacDonald would be a treasure on the order of the tomb of Tutankhamen."

MacDonald zeroed in on Florida at a time when the place was being mined for its riches: its lush paradise of clear water, sandy beaches, and plenty of warmth year round. And yet for every manatee slipping through sparkling waters, John D. held up Lysol-pungent backwater motels, stiletto-heeled Trixies, and furtive-eyed, underhanded operators. The seamy side, the lost side of paradise exposed on those sandy beaches.

Even his hero, Travis McGee, was eventually unleashed, revealing his full unbridled torrent of personal and most savage revenge in THE GREEN RIPPER. The novel won both awards for such a well-told story and scorn for its violence. Many fans claimed Trav would never had acted like that. I trust the author knew precisely what he was doing.

But this is about ideas, and John D. was all about that. Seeds of birth for THE EXCUTIONER, which eventually was renamed CAPE FEAR, came from another writer's taunt that John D. couldn't write a bestseller or a story that would become a film. He dashed those notions in one work.

But really, why do people want to know where your ideas come from? Writing is creating, and "creation" remains mysterious. Or… they think they want to write. Fame and fortune and all that.

John D. MacDonald did a truly wonderful job of handling that hot potato as he offered in his Introduction to Stephen King's NIGHT SHIFT:

"I am often given the big smiling handshake at parties (which I avoid attending whenever possible) by someone who then, with an air of gleeful conspiracy, will say, 'You know, I've always wanted to write.' I used to try to be polite. These days I reply with the same jubilant excitement: 'You know, I've always wanted to be a brain surgeon.'"

You may try that answer on for size, though please remember that most people aren't being snarky. They actually might envy you for entering where they fear to tread.

Seek and find stories by John D. MacDonald. You won't regret it. In fact, you just might be inspired. Reading does that.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Ten Best Larry Sanders episodes


Ed here: Thanks to Mark Evanier for the links to this three part article from the Chicago Sun-Times.

---------August 15 marks the 20th anniversary of the debut of "The Larry Sanders Show," episodes of which are available on Netflix Instant, Amazon Instant, iTunes, and DVD. This is the first part of Edward Copeland's extensive tribute to the show, including interviews with many of those involved in creating one of the best-loved comedies in television history.

by Edward Copeland

Over the course of my lifetime, I've watched a lot of movies -- an old computer contained a program with an editable database of titles and allowed for the addition of new films. Back when I used that PC, my total hovered in the thousands. "The Larry Sanders Show" produced a mere 89 episodes in its six season run from 1992-1998 that began 20 years ago tonight on HBO. "I know it sounds cliché but -- honest to God -- it seems like it was just about a week ago. It's so odd that it's 20 years," Jeffrey Tambor said in a telephone interview.

Despite the vast disparity between the quantity of films I've viewed and "Larry Sanders" episodes, when I recently took part in The House Next Door's"If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot" series, I found it far easier to prune those pictures down to my ten favorites than I did when I applied the same task to "Larry Sanders" episodes. (Picking a clip or two from each show proved even more difficult as inevitably I'd want to include the entire half-hour.) Three or four episodes I knew had to be on the list, but then it got tough. I considered making a list of the best episode for each character such as the best Brian episode ("Putting the 'Gay' Back in Litigation"), the best Beverly ("Would You Do Me a Favor?"), the best Phil ("Headwriter"), etc. With all the priceless episodes centering on Hank and Artie, I imagined those two characters conceivably filling all ten spots alone.


A series that broke as much ground as "The Larry Sanders Show" deserves a grander tribute to mark the two decades since its birth than just a recounting of a handful of episodes -- and I had that intention. Unfortunately, my physical limitations and time constraints thwarted my ambitions. Rest assured though, that salute shall be forthcoming (MESSAGE TO BOB ODENKIRK: YOU STILL CAN TAKE PART NOW). As with any list, I'm certain my fellow "Larry Sanders" fans shall express outrage at my omissions (I already hear the shouts of "Where is the one with Carol Burnett and the spiders?" "No 'Hank's Sex Tape!' Hey now!"). Believe me, I'm as livid as you are and may join in the comments to give myself the thorough tongue-lashing I so richly deserve for these unforgivable exclusions. First, though, I'm going to fix myself a Salty Dog, using Artie's recipe of course. I want to be able to grab those olives, not fish for them. So, for good or ill, I submit my selections for my ten favorite episodes of "The Larry Sanders Show." Since bestowing ranks only leads to more trouble, I present these ten in chronological order.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

From Noir of The Week: The Clay Pigeon

Ed here: Really interesting review of this move from that fine site Noir of The Week. I remember seeing this in a theater.


The Clay Pigeon (1949)

The year 1949 was pivotal for RKO Radio Pictures. Just two years earlier, their balance sheet had showed a healthy, $5.1 million profit. But in 1948, that number had tumbled to $500,000, and the studio executives were desperately trying to find a way to reverse their financial misfortune. They weren't placing much confidence in Robert Mitchum, their number one star, because he was still dealing with some serious image problems. In the Fall of 1948, Mitchum was arrested and convicted for marijuana possession and spent nearly two months incarcerated, serving most of his term on a prison farm. Life magazine was nice enough to show up and snap some pictures of him mopping the floors in his prison uniform.

The studio was also dealing with some serious changes at the executive level. In March of 1948, Howard Hughes took over RKO and promptly fired most of the employees. He also shelved several “serious” pictures that were either set to shoot or already in production. He thought it was time to take the studio in a new direction. Starting in 1949, RKO would place a much higher priority on cranking out low-budget B films.

The Clay Pigeon was one of the first noirs that RKO released while Hughes was steering the ship, and it can be viewed as a template for many of the noirs that RKO released over the next several years. If you're watching a noir from the late forties or early fifties that runs approximately one hour, features little-known actors in the lead roles, moves the action along at a nice clip and ties things up neatly by the end, then you're more than likely watching an RKO film. And the chances are also good that it was directed by Richard Fleischer. Fleischer, who had worked for five years at RKO exclusively as a shorts director, got his big break in 1948 when, shortly after he completed a directing job on So This is New York(1948), the studio gave him the chance to direct Laurence Tierney in Bodyguard(1948). He impressed the brass enough that they gave him two B noir directing gigs in 1949 – The Clay Pigeon and the highly enjoyable Follow Me Quietly.

The Clay Pigeon fits neatly into a very distinct category: amnesia noir. At its most basic level, amnesia noir takes the typical elements of a noir and throws an amnesiac protagonist (usually a WWII vet) into the mix. The Clay Pigeon wasn't the first noir to attempt this type of story: Somewhere in the Night (1946) andHigh Wall (1947) both preceded it, and The Crooked Way (1949) was released in the same year as The Clay Pigeon. Because the amnesia element can be difficult to implement in a convincing way, these films vary in their levels of success. Fortunately, The Clay Pigeon is one of the better entries in the amnesia noir canon.
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Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Interrogator and other Criminally Good Fiction



The Interrogator

And Other Criminally Good Fiction

Edited By: Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg

Published By: Cemetery Dance Publications

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

When I read the promotional material for The Interrogator, I knew I wanted to get my hands on this book. Featuring short stories by such well-known and loved authors of fiction like Lee Child, Jeffrey Deaver, Mickey Spillane, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Connelly and more, The Interrogator promised to be an intriguing read. Happily,Cemetery Dance Publications was nice enough to send me an advance copy for review.

It all begins with an essay about the fiction of 2010 by Jon L. Breen who brings about some good points on the new authors of fiction and gives us some tips on which 2010 books are worthy reads. I happen to agree with Breen's assessment in regards to the age ofeReaders. Prior to these gadgets, many folks, excellent writers in their own right, would have found it difficult to get their works published. After all, to get published before the electronic reader age, you had to have an agent and to get an agent, often times, you had to be published. A conundrum to say the least. But now, with the ability to publish books and short stories specifically for electronic reading devices, would-be authors can publish their works for all to read (for a little cash of course) and thus, become exposed to the world. Some writers find great success using this avenue, success that may be well deserved and might never have occurred otherwise.

After this interesting essay comes the real meat and potatoes of the book - the fictional short stories, beginning with The Interrogator by David Morrell in which a CIA interrogator begins to doubt his methods of extracting information from terrorists. Could it be that his sensory overload methods might not be as effective as the brutal methods others use? With the lives of millions at risk, now is definitely not the time for doubts. The Interrogator is quite interesting, forcing the reader to think about the various forms of interrogation out there and decide for his/herself which is the most humane and affective way to extract information. A perfect story for the times.

The Interrogator is followed by twenty-eight more stories varying in style, genre, location and era. Of course, I had some favorites. Take, for instance, The Scent of Lilacs, by Doug Allyn. I love reading all I can about the Civil War and that includes historical fiction. Doug Allyn's tale about a family just trying to survive a war that has divided their country, let alone their own family is dramatically gripping. When the story reached its conclusion, I found I wanted to know what happened to the family after the war comes to an end. Perhaps Allyn will grace us with another tale about the McKee family in the future.

Then there was The Lamb Was Sure to Go, a detective flashback tale by Gar Anthony Haywood. This story has some surprising twists and turns with a detective noir style that I rather enjoyed. This is followed by Luck, a story about lost love and desperate acts by T. Jefferson Parker. Even though you are certain what will happen in the end, by the time you get there, you still find yourself somewhat shocked at the story's outcome. I enjoyed the table turning outcome of Trade Secret by Bill Pronziniand the suspicious death investigation in Jeffrey Deaver's The Plot.

David Dean's The Vengeance of Kali was quite entertaining in a surprising way. I found myself just wanting to reach into the book and smack the lead character around, but at the same time, I felt sympathetic towards his plight. Then there was Marcia Muller tale, Sometimes You Can't Retire about the unusual ways one man finds to rescue animals. Although the topic was a bit spooky, I couldn't help but chuckle a bit at the ending. Escape from Wolfkill by Clark Howard had me angry and surprisingly rooting for an escaped convict who always seemed to be down on his luck. The outcome of the story had me so mad that I had to put down the book and remember that this wasn't a true tale. Funny how good fiction will do that to you.

The Performer, by Gary Phillips is an interesting erotic tale of greed and grift. Christine Matthews' The Winning Ticket is also a tale of greed and grift performed along much tamer lines and with quite a different outcome. Sleep, Creep, Leap, by Patricia Abbot, is a creepy tale of tables turned in quite an interesting way. What People Leave Behind, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, was a shocking tale of revenge murder. I was unprepared for Rusch's style in this novel. I had read other Rusch works, but still was surprised when she got me invested in the life of a character only to have that character be the subject of a murder investigation...a rather dead and dismembered subject.

I liked the Gran Torino style of Old Men and Old Boards by Don Winslow and truly enjoyed the serial killer tale,Plainview by David Hong, that the editors decided should be the last tale in the book. Plainview was a terrific way to wrap things up.

The Interrogator was a great read, offering up exactly what the title says it will - some criminally good fiction. The book was an incredibly fast read, featuring a plethora of enjoyable fiction. The fact that I enjoyed so many of the stories collected in this book attests to the terrific job the editors did in picking the tales. I find it sad that this would be Martin H. Greenberg's last time editing a compilation of this magnitude (The book is dedicated to his memory as Marty Greenberg passed away in 2011). I truly hope there is a follow-up to this fiction compilation and that it is just as good as this one - a fun read from start to finish!

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