Thursday, April 30, 2015

Strip for Murder Max Allan Collins Gravetapping


STRIP FOR MURDER by Max Allan Collins

From Ben Boulden Gravetapping
Ben is New Improved's Co-Reviewer
No comments:

It is 1953, and comic strips are big business. Jack Starr, “vice president, chief troubleshooter and occasional bottle washer” for Starr Newspaper Syndication Company is on the job. Starr specializes in comic strips, and its biggest player is Sam Fizer’s Mugs O’Malley, but Starr is in negotiations to pick up a new strip from another big hitter named Hal Rapp, which could be a problem since Fizer and Rapp despise each other.

Things heat up when Fizer is found dead in his Waldorf-Astoria residential suite. It is staged as a suicide, and poorly at that; Fizer is right handed, but the gun is in his left, and the suicide note is a comics-style inked affair (making handwriting analysis useless). The obvious suspect is Rapp, but Jack is skeptical and with his “troubleshooter” fedora firmly in place, his private eye license in his back pocket, he starts his own investigation.

Strip for Murder is cleverly plotted, humorous—tongue firmly in cheek from beginning to end—whodunit with a twist that needs reading for believing. It is heavy on dialogue, in a good way, and the descriptions of 1950’s New York, Broadway in particular, and the syndication business are great fun. The prose is spirited in a smooth and whimsical manner—

“Maybe ten seconds later, Maggie stuck her head in; more than her head, the uppermost, most exposed part of her. Very distracting neckline, that red gown.”

Even more distracting, Maggie is his widowed step-mother, and President of Starr Syndicates. His boss, you could say. The characters—from Maggie to Hal Rapp to a Police Captain named Chandler—are charmingly eccentric and make a compelling juxtaposition to Jack’s hardboiled tendencies. A relationship that generates more humor than black eyes.       

Strip for Murder 
is the second in Max Allan Collins’ comic book trilogy; subsequent to A Killing in Comics (2007), and prior to Seduction of the Innocent (2014). It was originally published in 2008, and Dover Mystery Classics has brought it back as a very nice trade paperback with all the trimmings—fully, and very nicely, illustrated by Terry Beatty.
Posted by Ben Boulden at 4:39 PM Description:

Seven Obscure TV Shows That I Curiously Remember Classic Film TV Cafe

from the great website

Blue Light
(1966) – With gadget-laden secret agents dominating the TV landscape, ABC offered an old-style spin on the genre. Robert Goulet starred as David March, an American correspondent supposedly working for the Nazis at the start of World War II. But, hey, Robert Goulet can’t be a bad a guy—so it turns out March is really an uncover agent. Larry Cohen (The Invaders) co-created it.
Q.E.D. (1982) - Quentin E. Deverill was a Harvard University professor who had various adventures (e.g., thwarting a rocket attack on London) in England circa 1912. Sam Waterston (as Deverill) and Julian Glover (as the villainous Dr. Kilkiss) headed a fine cast and the show had plenty of style. Alas, it lasted only six episodes.

Search (1972-73) – I’m not sure I’d want to work for the World Securities Corporation, a private firm that outfitted its “probe agents” with implanted audio devices and tiny telemetry/camera devices. Talk about no privacy! Still, this series recruited Hugh O’Brian, Tony Franciosa, and Doug McClure to play the lead agents on a rotating basis. Burgess Meredith ran the Probe Control Unit with Angel Tompkins. Leslie Stevens (The Outer Limits) created this entertaining show (which also featured a catchy theme). The pilot film was called Probe—a better title in my opinion.

Strange Report (1969) – Anthony Quayle starred as Adam Strange, a forensics-minded criminologist, in this British import that aired on NBC. Kaz Garas played his associate Hamlyn (Ham) Gynt. Some of the mysteries were conventional, but others showed some flair—such as the one where a 30-year-old murder was covered up by a World War II bomb explosion.

The Senator (1970-71) – Long before The West Wing, Hal Halbrook played a crusading American senator that battled air pollution, the use of National Guard troops to squelch anti-war protests, and the displacement of Native Americans. This show was part of the umbrella series The Bold Ones, and rotated with The New Doctors and The Lawyers.

The New People (1969-70) – A 45-minute TV series? Yes, networks were more adventurous in the old days! This oddity was about a plane crash on a deserted Pacific island that killed all the adults over 30 years old. That left a bunch of college students to establish a new society in this obvious ode to Lord of the Flies. The show’s creators included Rod Serling (who wrote the pilot) and Aaron Spelling. I don’t recall the series being particularly good, but, hey, it’s one I’ve never forgotten.

Coronet Blue (1967) – One of my fellow Café contributors wrote a fine post about this show and offered this concise description: “In the pilot episode, Frank Converse portrays a young man who is attacked aboard a luxury liner and tossed overboard. He is rescued, but with no memory of his past except for the words ‘coronet blue.’ He is taken to a hospital for treatment of his memory loss, where he adopts the name Michael Alden, and sets out to determine the truth about his identity.” I remember enjoying this series, though an episode I watched on YouTube was only so-so. Incidentally, Larry Cohen created this show, too.

Posted by Rick29 at 6:30 AM 6 comments 

Mystery Writers Key West Fest Announces Competition and Award to Honor Acclaimed Late Author Jeremiah Healy

Mystery Writers Key West Fest Announces Competition and Award
to Honor Acclaimed Late Author Jeremiah Healy
Key West, Florida Keys -- The inaugural Jeremiah Healy Mystery Writing Award - “The Jerry” – will be presented at the 2 nd Annual Mystery Writers Key West Fest, August 14-16 in Key West, Florida. The winner will claim a book-publishing contract with Absolutely Amazing eBooks, free Mystery Writers Key West Fest registration, hotel accommodations for two nights, and a bobble-headed Jerry trophy.
Sponsored by Absolutely Amazing eBooks, the award salutes the author’s legacy as a beloved and influential mentor credited with helping and advising many aspiring writers. Candidates wishing to compete for the Jeremiah Healy Mystery Writing Award are invited to submit the first three pages of a finished, unpublished manuscript no later than June 30, 2015. There is no fee to enter, finalists will be notified August 1, and will have until August 10 to submit full manuscripts.
"Jerry Healy was a terrific mystery writer and a good judge of mysteries,” notes Shirrel Rhoades, co-founder of Key West Writers Bloc, producer of the Mystery Writers Key West Fest. “Jerry often said a book either captures a reader in the first three pages … or it doesn’t. We agree and have decided to use that as a yardstick for a writing competition in Jerry’s honor. He helped us get the first Fest off the ground, and this way we will keep him as a part of it in future years.”
Healy served as moderator and panelist at the first Mystery Writers Key West Fest in 2014.  He is the late acclaimed author and creator of the John Francis Cuddy private-investigator series and the Mairead O'Clare legal thriller series (under the pseudonym Terry Devane). A graduate of Rutgers College and Harvard Law School, his career path included stints as a military police lieutenant and a trial attorney. He launched his writing career while a professor at the New England School of Law, where he taught for almost two decades.  Subsequently, he established himself as a multi Shamus-Award winning mystery writer, penning eighteen novels and more than sixty short stories. 
The award judging committee will be led by Healy's fiancé, mystery author Sandra Balzo, and includes Shirrel Rhoades, author, film critic, media consultant and publisher of Absolutely Amazing eBooks; Ted Hertel, attorney, author, reviewer and immediate past executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America; and Gary Warren Niebuhr, library director, reviewer and author of numerous nonfiction works on crime fiction, including Make Mine a Mystery: A Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction and Read 'em Their Writes: A Handbook for Mystery Book Discussions.
“Jerry introduced me to Ted and Gary, who became my writers group, as well as close friends,” says Balzo.  “It was the kind of thing that Jeremiah Healy was known for in mystery circles—unflagging kindness and making newcomers feel like they belonged. I think Jerry would be thrilled that Gary and Ted are joining us in judging the award that bears his name.”
This year’s Mystery Writers Key West Fest –“Murder & Mayhem in Paradise” –includes multiple workshops, presentations, panel discussions and social events with acclaimed crime fiction and true crime writers. For information on the 2 nd Annual Mystery Writers Key West Fest and complete Jeremiah Healy Mystery Writing Award competition guidelines and submission details, visit

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Jeff Pierce's tremendous Ross Macdonald interview with Tom Nolan

The Rap Sheet

Fore the entire interview go here:

What does it say about 20th-century crime novelist Ross Macdonald that he finally--as of this week--has a Library of America volume dedicated to his early work? “That he’s taking his rightful place amongst the acknowledged masters of American literature,” says Tom Nolan, the Los Angeles writer and Wall Street Journal books critic who gave us Ross Macdonald: A Biography (1999), certainly the best-yet study of this author’s life and literary endeavors. As Nolan told me during a recent interview--the first part of which was posted today on the Kirkus Reviews Web site--his new Ross Macdonald: Four Novels of the 1950s comprises some of the most “beautifully written” books Macdonald (whose real name was Kenneth Millar) produced during the post-World War II era: The Way Some People Die (1951), The Barbarous Coast (1956), The Doomsters (1958), and The Galton Case (1959). It also features several “other writings” that illuminate the author’s work on those novels, recount his discovery of detective fiction, and tell of his deliberate efforts to enlarge the genre’s scope.

Even for somebody as familiar with Macdonald’s work as I am (the first crime novel I remember consuming was 1949’s The Moving Target, which introduced his series protagonist, L.A. private eye Lew Archer, and I’ve since enjoyed reading and re-reading the entirety of Macdonald’s oeuvre), holding the brand-new, 900-plus-page Library of America collection in my hands is a treat. Macdonald wasn’t only a terrific crime novelist; he was a terrific novelist who used fictional illegalities as his entry into telling stories--sometimes braided with Freudian issues and Greek tragedy--about families in trouble. As author-playwright Gordon Dahlquist opined in HiLobrow
Simply in terms of the hard-boiled mystery, the books are audaciously accomplished. Macdonald’s intricate plots are like Sophocles by way of a boa constrictor. His subtle reconfiguration of the detective character tips the Archer books toward social portrait and social critique without the burden of any particular axe being ground. Archer isn’t an avatar of tough virtue for the reader’s vicarious thrill. He may be a catalyst within the stories, but most profoundly and more simply he’s a witness. If [Raymond] Chandler’s novels are about [gumshoe Philip] Marlowe, then Macdonald’s--despite Archer’s fuller realization--are about California. But most remarkable is the compassion with which these unsparing tales are unwound. The compassion is never soft, but feels truthful without being cruel.
Macdonald made Archer a sharp observer of the social condition, a questioner who unpeeled layers of familial strife, jealousy, and disappointment even as he sought answers to whatever obvious mystery lay at the heart of his current yarn. The author, having endured ample woes himself (both as a youngster and as the father of a “wild” daughter, Linda, who killed a 13-year-old boy in a car wreck and later disappeared from college for more than a week) and undergone psychoanalysis as a result, could--through Archer--empathize with his hardship-plagued characters. Not all imaginary shamuses on the clock during the first three quarters of the 20th century demonstrated such understanding. National Public Radio’s Maureen Corrigan, recalling the opening of The Doomsters--in which “a troubled young man bangs at Lew Archer’s door in the wee hours of the morning”--suggests that “Sam Spade would have rolled over in bed and ignored the knock; Philip Marlowe would have been out walking the L.A. streets in the rain; later on, Mickey Spillane would have just shot that annoying predawn visitor. But Lew Archer is as much a social worker, a counselor, a father confessor as he is a private eye. Macdonald gave us a detective with psychological depth; a gumshoe capable of throwing around words like ‘gestalt.’”

That capacity for compassion, Archer’s willingness to excavate the tumbledown remains of a family’s history (and in so many of Macdonald’s later novels, the roots of contemporary misfortunes are traceable to injustices and failures in the past) was one thing that drew me, as it did so many other readers, to Lew Archer’s adventures. After managing--through some miracle that could only have been available to an individual as young and callow as I was at the time--to arrange an interview with Millar/Macdonald in 1980, what I wanted to do most as I sat with him in the dimly lit study of his Santa Barbara, California, home was ask him for a deep analysis of his sleuth-cum-shrink, and inquire where Archer’s path might lead him in the future. Unfortunately, by that point Macdonald was already enduring

the affects of the Alzheimer’s disease that would kill him (in July 1983), and he couldn’t always remember the nuances of his fiction.

(Left) Editor Tom Nolan, photographed by Hal Boucher

Much later, in 1999, when I first had the opportunity to interview Tom Nolan, about his Macdonald biography, I asked him how much his subject’s troubled past had influenced his choice of a career writing about troubled people. “Oh, enormously,” said Nolan. “I think that initially he read certain kinds of books--not just fiction, but non-fiction, psychology, philosophy--to some extent, because he was trying to find ways to deal with life and with his problems. As far as fiction, I'm sure that [Charles] Dickens and that sort of fiction appealed to him because he could identify with the travails of Oliver Twist, and I think authors like [Edgar Allan] Poe and [Nathaniel] Hawthorne, people who probed the psychology of good and evil, or good and bad choices, appealed to him because he was wrestling with these things himself. Eventually, he tried to take the detective story and make it more interesting psychologically, able to explore some of these things that he was very interested in.”

More than a decade and a half has passed since then. But when I learned that the Library of America planned to issue a selection of Ross Macdonald’s early Archer cases--to help celebrate this year’s centennial of the author’s birth (he came into the world in Los Gatos, California, on December 13, 1915)--and that Nolan had served as its editor, I knew I had to interview him again. I also wanted to ask Nolan, though, about his work on a second volume, Meanwhile There Are Letters: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald, which Arcade Publishing will debut in July. Co-edited with Eudora Welty biographer Suzanne Marrs, it draws on an abundance of letters--more than 300 of them!--exchanged during the 1970s and early ’80s between Macdonald and Mississippi Pulitzer Prize winner Welty (The Optimist’s Daughter). “Though separated by background, geography, genre, and his marriage,” explains the back-jacket copy on my bound galley of this book, “the two authors shared their lives in witty, tender, and profoundly romantic letters, each drawing on the other for inspiration, comfort, and strength.”

And Nolan’s centennial-year offerings don’t stop there. He’s also awaiting this summer’s paperback release of an expanded version of The Archer Files, his 2007 collection of Macdonald’s previously unpublished Archer short stories and story fragments.

for the entire piece go here:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Thrift Shop Book Covers: "Needle in a Timestack" Gravetapping

by Ben Boulden Gravetapping

Posted: 26 Apr 2015 04:50 PM PDT
Needle in a Timestack was a paperback original published by Ballantine Books in 1966, which is the very edition that caught my attention. It is a collection of ten early Robert Silverberg stories. The artwork is intriguingly reminiscent—to my naïve eye—of Wassily Kandinsky’s expressionist paintings. It is vivid, stark, and muted; a contradiction that works well. The artist: Richard Powers (1921 – 1966).

The opening paragraph, of the story “The Pain Peddlers”:

“The phone bleeped. Northrop nudged the cut-in switch and heard Maurillo say, ‘We got a gangrene, chief. They’re amputating tonight.’”

Needle in a Timestack includes the following stories: “The Pain Peddlers” (1963), “Passport to Sirius” (1958), “Birds of a Feather” (1958), “There was an Old Woman—“ (1958), “The Shadow of Wings” (1963), “Absolutely Inflexible” (1956), “His Brother’s Keeper” (1959), “The Sixth Palace” (1955), “To See the Invisible Man” (1963), and “The Iron Chancellor” (1958).

This is the fourteenth in a series of posts featuring the cover art and miscellany of books I find at thrift stores and used bookshops. It is reserved for books I purchase as much for the cover art as the story or author.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Charles Paris by Simon Brett


Charles Paris

(Thanks to Sarah Weinman for the link here)

-------------------------CHARLES PARIS
Gillian Reynolds Telepgraph UK

"Charles Paris, the original creation of Simon Brett, exists in 17 novels. Brett was 28, working as a producer at BBC radio, when he first imagined him. Surveying his small pile of unpublished manuscripts he thought he’d try writing something other people might want to read. Up to then he’d been terrified of crime fiction, the perils of holes in the plot, the matching of character to dialogue. From his day job, working with lots of actors, came the idea of a fictional actor, middle-aged, resting more often than working, with a hopeless private life but the kind of cunning that solves crimes."

for the rest go here:

Ed here: F. Scott Fitzgerald once noted that his sometime friend Ernest Hemingway spoke with the "authority of success" while he, Fitzgerald, spoke "with the authority of failure."

I've always imagined that Charles Paris was a background player in Fitzgerald's best work--a man of no particular note who drank at Gatby's mansion, perhaps. A bit old for the rest of the crowd but earnestly pursuing young women who, like him, were of no particular note, either, his charm not nearly as frayed as his suits. A man who knows all about "the authority of failure."

Most of us have favorite fictional detectives and Charles Paris has always been one of mine. He's a decent man adrift in drink and long years, the very things that help him solve crimes. He's drunk it all and seen it all so it's dfifficult to deceive him.

Most of the early Paris novels I've read three or four times over the years. The later ones are very good, too, but I'm partial to the first five because Simon Brett was learning about Charles right along with his readers. If Charles was a bit inconsistent from book to book on occasion, that just made him more human.

The books are packed with the lore of theater and radio in particular. Brett is such a deft storyteller that his backgrounds never slow the pacing even though they always play vital roles in the plot itself. Brett obviously reveres working actors like Charles. The pubs where they drink, the dusty offices of their agents, the old friends who still manage to get the kind of work that eludes Charles... Brett makes the workaday world as interesting and entertaining as the murders.

Brett has a good ear and a good heart and it's always amusing to watch him go up against some of the more irritating aspects of modern media culture. God knows he never wants for targets.

It's a funny thing about Charles Paris. Of all the fictional detectives I've encountered over my lifetime he's the only one I imagine to be a real person. Brett has given him vivid life and me a long shelf of excellent mystery novels.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

From Pulp Serenade: "North Beach Girl" (1960) and "Scandal on the Sand" (1964) by John Trinian

now available from Stark House

Cullen Gallagher Pulp Serenade:

John Trinian is not your typical Gold Medal author, and North Beach Girl (1960) and Scandal on the Sand (1964) are not your typical Gold Medal paperback originals. Far from ordinary, these two titles are among the most unique and extraordinary Gold Medal originals I’ve had the pleasure to encounter. Once again, thanks must be given to the team at Stark House Books for rediscovering these should-be classics, and collecting them in new volume with three illuminating essays by historian Rick Ollerman, close friend Ki Longfellow, and daughter Belle Marko.

A radical blending of 1960s counterculture and noir sensibilities, Trinian’s novels evoke the West Coast spirit of the times with the doomy melancholy of Goodis. The plots vaguely touch on murder, but they're more like hangout books, with the characters drunk or stoned most of the time. Booze, drugs, and art flow freely through these pages—at times the inebriation is a pure high, at others it’s a hazy attempt to block out reality. But unlike something like Lawrence Block’s A Diet of Treacle, these books aren’t Beatnik-sploitation, or caricatures of the scene. Trinian, who was pals with Richard Brautigan, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac, lived the lives he writes about. With each passing page, there’s an authenticity to North Beach Girl and Scandal on the Sand that can’t be faked—it gives the books their realism, but it also gives them their sadness. Trinian feels for his characters, their troubled pasts, their hazy futures, and their lost present.

Though at first glance, the title North Beach Girl might sound like some Frankie and Annette sandstorm, it is nothing of the sort. Erin, the main character, just quit her job as an artists’ model. She crashes as a garage paid for by another woman named Bruno, who runs a local art gallery. The gallery has attracted a local crew of beatniks, drunks, artists, wannabes and has-beens, including Riley, a painter who comes knocking on Erin’s door late one night, piss drunk, wanting to hire her as a model. Bruno, who obviously has some sort of affection for Erin, is resentful and jealous. Deep in debt and looking for a way out, Bruno wants Erin to borrow money from her dying grandmother in order to invest in a larger gallery space. And Erin, indecisive in life and love alike, hasn’t made up her mind what to do about anything.

“The bitter confusion of her life became magnified and it seemed to melt into a solid lump of nothingness. Why should she think about it? Life was wretched and disgusting. It was mean for the stupid idiots who could swallow its lies and shadowy promises. Only fools lived in peace. She thought of the cemetery where her mother was buried. Give and take, old ashes to even older ashes … have another drink and the hell with it. One negated the other.”

It’s as gloomy as any of Goodis’ gutter monologues, a pure mainline dose of 100% noir.

Trinian’s first line in North Beach Girl establishes the theme of entrapment that runs throughout the novel: “Erin covered herself with the pale green robe and sat on the empty packing crate by the narrow barred window.” From her workplace to the garage to the gallery to her grandmother’s house—and of course the variety of places where she goes to drink—Erin never has a place of her own. Always in between, borrowing, crashing, or killing time, she lives in a permanent state of impermanence. While she may be an anti-establishment figure of the time who has dropped out from mainstream society, Erin isn’t a romantic or idealistic character at all. She’s realistic as hell. Most of us have either known an Erin, or been like her (at least for a little bit). And that’s where the power of North Beach Girl is—in the characters. Unlike Riley who likes his “entertainment real simple,” where “the good guy wears a big white hat and the bad guy wears a black one,” Trinian writes ambiguous characters who are neither good nor bad, neither heroes or villains, nor even anti-heroes. They’re screwy people who drink too much and say stupid things and waste time and never seem to figure out what they’re supposed to do. And that’s why Trinian’s characters are among the most recognizably human—and modern—in all of the Gold Medal paperbacks.

Though sex, drugs and murder are very much a part of the story North Beach Girl, the novel isn’t plotted like your standard head-first-into-the-action thriller. Trinian takes his time, slowly developing the characters, their relationships, and their inebriated trajectories. North Beach Girl is structured like an extended bender, coming out of the haze for brief moments of recognition and sobriety, only to drive back into the fog once they see the bleakness of their circumstances.

“Hell,” Erin said softly, “people drink a lot.”

One aspect of Trinian’s writing that does remind me of Lawrence Block, and also anticipates the work of Ed Gorman, is the portrayal of alcohol and drugs. These aren’t people who drink to have fun, or get high to have a good time—they’re just sad wrecks of people. Trinian has great sympathy for them and their constant need substances—and he never pities them, perhaps because he was something like them, himself. As his daughter, Belle Marko, writes, “He was popular and unreliable, his own worst enemy in many ways, getting in his own way with self-sabotage and isolation, depression and bouts of rage and horrible remorse. He was plagued with demons …” One of the biggest clichés of noir literature is its senseless and unrealistic celebration of alcoholism. Trinian, on the other hand, hammers home the unpleasantness of what it really is like.

The second book in the anthology, Scandal on the Sand, also sounds like a Frankie and Annette movie, but it is even less like one than the preceding novel. It begins with a great, and totally surreal, first line:

“In the deep, in cold darkness, a hundred feet below he rocky cliffs and half-hidden among the fan fronds and greenly-waving fields of sea grass, the great gray whale hovered, his tail fins moving now and then to maintain his depth.”

The first couple pages are all from the whale’s point of view—an unorthodox narrative as exciting and it is insane, and yet Trinian pulls it off perfectly. The story is set into motion when the whale washes up on the beach, gets stuck, and can’t get back to the ocean.

An ensemble narrative like John D. MacDonald’s Cry Fast, Cry Hard, Scandal on the Sand follows a group of characters on a single afternoon that all come together because of the spectacle of the beached whale. There’s Karen and Hobart, a hookup from the night before that Karen resents and that Hobart thinks will lead to marriage. There’s Joe Bonniano, a wanted hitman whose picture is on the front page of the newspaper and who is hanging around for a delivery of money. Also near by is Mulford, a cop whose stupidity is matched by his ego and quick temper. Out for a stroll are Fredric, a one-time Hollywood star-turned-dope addict, and his wife, Becky; Riley, an ex-con tow truck driver; and even a sleaze photographer named Earle and his two bikini models. And overseeing all of this is Alex, a lifeguard too hungover to notice what is unfolding on his beach.

Scandal on the Sand is, in my eyes, an even greater accomplishment than North Beach Girl. Structuring the novel around the beached whale is just a magnificent, maverick concept that borders on the avant-garde. The whale functions as a unifying symbol for all the characters: a manifestation of their collective problems, disappointments, uncertainties, and pains. Confronting the whale brings out their true character—in some it reveals compassion, in others indifference, opportunism, and violence.

Like in North Beach Girl, Trinian’s characters are distinguished by their waywardness and uncertainty. In Scandal on the Sand, the action may be compressed into a single afternoon, but the characters experience years of life through their reveries and regrets. Unable to actualize any change in their lives, they’re stuck in a limbo consisting always of nights-before and nights-after-next; days are spent forgetting and planning, and rarely doing. Of Karen, Trinian writes, “She felt a terrible need to search for something, anything, inside or outside herself that would help erase the idiotic outcome of the night before.” Trinian also has Fredric ask his wife, “Becky, do you think that if I can manage it on pills today, pills alone, without anything else, that I’ll still be all right by this evening?” These aren’t characters living for the day so much as they’re struggling to just make it through. As Earle sums it up, “Sometimes I do good; sometimes I don’t. Beer one day, champagne the next. Up and down, and down and up. That’s life.”

Scandal on the Sand also has its moments of hardboiled noir philosophy, like this line that reads like something out of Richard Hallas’ You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up:

“What had Herb said? That Joe wouldn’t even break away from the post? That the odds weren’t in his favor? That was a laugh and a half. Joe had known that all along. Because that’s the way it had always been. Not matter what. Dice, roulette, poker, the horses. Everything always ended with a bust-out.”

North Beach Girl and Scandal on the Sand have whetted my appetite for Trinian, and convinced me that he is one of the true unheralded greats of the Gold Medal canon.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Two Classic Shows, Two Unusual Takes on Jack the Ripper

From the great website

The suspense master Robert Bloch 

Numerous TV series and films have offered imaginative twists on the mysterious murderer that terrorized the Whitechapel district of London in the late 1880s. Two of my favorite big screen versions are the time travel fantasy Time After Time (1979), which pits H.G. Wells against the Ripper and A Study in Terror (1965), which has Sherlock Holmes facing off against Jack (a premise borrowed by the later Murder By Decree). Two of the most intriguing small-screen Ripper tales appeared as episodes of Thriller and the original Star Trek. Interestingly, Robert Bloch--best known for writing the novel that became Psycho--had a hand in both TV series.

John Williams in Thriller.
The Thriller episode "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper" starred John Williams (a Hitchcock semi-regular) as an expert engaged by the Washington, D.C. police to help apprehend a modern day Ripper-like murderer. As the gruesome killings mount, a fantastic theory emerges: Is the murderer actually Jack the Ripper himself, who has used black magic rituals to defy ageing? It’s a clever premise and the big twist at the end works pretty well (even though you’ll guess it). Although Bloch wrote several episodes of Thriller, this teleplay was written was Barré Lyndon and based on a Bloch short story. Published in 1947, the story “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” originally appeared in Weird Tales. It was the first of several literary works in which Robert Bloch incorporated Jack the Ripper.

This episode also features several Hitchcockian connections. First, it was directed by Ray Milland, who played the killer in Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder. The police inspector in that film? That would be John Williams. Decades earlier, Hitchcock also tackled Jack the Ripper with his 1927 silent film The Lodger, which was adapted from a short story and play by Marie Belloc Lowndes. And, for one final connection, the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode “The Hands of Mr. Ottermole” boasts some Ripper overtones with its plot about a strangler running amok in a very foggy London.

John Fiedler in Star Trek.
Star Trek seems like an unlikely destination for Jack the Ripper, which is precisely what makes “Wolf in the Fold” a compelling season two episode. While on shore leave on the planet Argelius II, a bewildered Scotty is  found—bloody knife in hand—standing over the corpse of a nightclub dancer. He has no recollection of what happened, but the evidence is damning and chief administrator Hengist (John Fiedler) seems convinced that Scotty is guilty.

For many years, I listed this as one of my favorite Star Trek episodes. I viewed it recently, though, and while still good, it hasn’t aged as well as others. Still, Fiedler is very good (he’s perhaps best remembered as Piglet in Disney Winnie the Pooh movies and TV shows). This time around, Bloch wrote an original teleplay and borrowed the central premise of “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper.” There are some nice touches, too, such as the foggy streets on Argelius substituting for London and Kirk’s use of the ship’s computer in revealing the murderer’s identity.

Television continues to sporadically visit the Jack the Ripper murders, with season one of the 2009-2013 British TV series Whitechapel focusing on a copycat  killer.

Posted by Rick29 at 6:00 AM 6 comments 

Recommend this on Google

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Gravetapping: ROUGH RIDERS by Charlie Stella

Posted: 22 Apr 2015 04:48 PM PDT

Reviewer: Ben Boulden Gravetapping

Rough Riders is a follow up to Charlie Stella’s 2001 novel Eddie’s World. This time around Eddie Senta spends the bulk of his time in a coma. His old nemesis James Singleton, called Washington Stewart since he snitched for a new identity, put a hit on Senta that went sour. Senta’s wife hires former NYPD detective, and current private eye, Alex Pavlik to find Singleton. The trail leads to North Dakota where there is something of a cold spell—30 below and holding—and a crime wave.

There is also a cast of real characters: a former Miss North Dakota tending bar, an ice cold Air Force Colonel who is both a pilot and M. D., a drug dealing airman about 20 points shy of a hundred, a couple gangsters, and a lineup of lawmen. Not to mention a college kid dead of a heroin overdose, and his strung out girlfriend.

The plot has a bunch of moving parts, and the action sprawls between New York and North Dakota. The bad guys, with Singleton at the center, cleverly plot their riches and ultimately their escapes. The good guys are mainly trying to get in the game, or even worse figuring what the game is, and who the players are. It is something close to humorous absurdity—the good and bad guys occupy the same places, but their paths rarely cross; Washington Stewart is missing an eye and one side of his face is caved in, but he is hard to find.

The dialogue, as always with Mr Stella, is something special. It is sharp, humorous, and revealing. The prose is stark as a Dakota winter, and the journey is a pleasant, entertaining, and involving distraction. Rough Riders is great fun. 

Rough Riders was published as a trade paperback by Stark House Press in 2012, and Eddie’s World is scheduled to be republished in mass market by Stark House’s imprint Black Gat Books in May 2015.