Monday, March 31, 2008

Shooting Star and Spiderweb

Though Robert Bloch made his reputation with horror or horrorific stories and novels, he worked steadily throughout his career in the mystery and crime genres. Shooting Star, one half of the new Hardcase Crime double book (more of these please), is not only crimonious it's also set in Hollywood, one of Bloch's abiding fascinations.

The hook here is novel for those of us who can remember how actor William Boyd bought up all his Hopalong Cassiday movies when they fell from popularity in th Forties and later sold them to TV. Buy low sell high. They brought him millions. Failed literary agent Mark Clayburn, now paying the bills as a private eye, is hired to prove that a Boyd-like actor wasn't the decadent man the press revealed him to be following his murder. The man who hires Clayburn bought up the dead star's Hoppy-like movies and expected to make a fortune. But since the films are aimed at kids...who wants to see a hero whose tastes off-screen were, to be gentle about it, sleazy.

In Spiderweb failed actor Eddie Haines is hired to be a "psychiatric consultant" to the stars by a rather arch villain named Professor Hermann. By blackmailing Eddie, Hermann has found the perfect tool for his racket. There are moments that reminded me of Nightmare Alley throughout the book and more than a few scenes that move the novel into the kind of realistic horror of Psycho. Shooting Star is driven by its mystery storyline; Spiderweb, though the storyline is less focused, depends on shock material to keep you turning the pages.

Neither of these novels is major Bloch but both deserve reading. For one thing they encapsulate a good deal of the obsessions, sociologically, of the Fifties. For another we see the dark side of Bloch's obsession with Hollywood. In such masterpieces as his short story The Movie People we see his almost innocent sense of what the movies gave to him as a youth. When he speaks of Chaplin and Keaton and Lloyd it's as if he's speaking of secular saints. The movies of his boyhood are holy to him.

In these novels and many short stories he deals with the business side of Hollywood. The voice becomes by turns sardonic and angry as he witnesses the passion and beauty of the great films and film artists reduced to power plays and dishonest deals rendered by men who have no idea what they're defiling.

I enjoyed both of these books enormously.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Movie Movie

From Roger Freidman's great column copyright 2008,2933,342109,00.html

Richard Widmark: 'I Don't Have a Great Movie'

Richard Widmark died on Wednesday at age 93. I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing him in January 2002 at his home in Connecticut with my friend John Connolly.

The consummate actor and gentleman, Widmark should have been given a Lifetime Achievement award by the Oscars a long time ago. He was only nominated once, in 1947, for his debut as Tommy Udo in "Kiss of Death."

He laughed when we talked about that film — and the famous scene in which he pushes wheelchair-bound Mildred Dunnock down a flight of stairs.

"You make 50 movies over a lifetime and that’s the one they remember you for," he chuckled.

He told me that he never had "a great movie," but I differ. He had several: "Night and the City," "Pick Up on South Street," "The Street With No Name" and "No Way Out" are all classics. Today, you can see a lot of Widmark in Viggo Mortensen’s face. He was the king of film noir; Mortensen seems sometimes to be echoing his pathos.

Widmark was married for 50 years to the same woman, his beloved Jean. When she died in 1997, he married one more time to Susan Blanchard, the third wife of the late Henry Fonda. They were friends and neighbors. It was through Peter and Becky Fonda that I got to talk to Richard; Peter still considered Susan his "mom." I am so grateful it worked out.

Here are a couple of things he told me for our interview: Karl Malden was his oldest friend. They’d met in 1938 doing radio work. About his contemporary, Robert Mitchum: "I liked old Bob but he was a real bullshitter. We were in different worlds. He was in the booze world."

Bette Davis, he said, was "tough." Marilyn Monroe "was a ding dong. I liked old Marilyn. No one could get her out on the set."

Widmark’s last film was "True Colors" in 1991. After that, he didn’t see the need to continue. His favorite actors? "Spencer Tracy, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart. I’d go back to work if I could work with those guys. I loved them."

Just a great guy, and such a wonderful actor. His death marks the end of an era.


We watched it on TCM last night. Despite the barqoue qualities of the script (both dialogue and plot) it did present the Old World in such detail that at moments it had the qualities of a documentary. James Wolcott nailed it all this morning:

Crystal Blue Persuasion

"Watching Grand Hotel on TCM, it occurred to me, not for the first time, that the world was never more beautiful than it was in classic Hollywood black and white. Certainly women never were. Black and white gave their eyes and skin a glisten, their hair a backlit aurora, that now seems to belong to some now-gone mechanical age of the gods. Grand Hotel seems all ink and ivory, with little intermittent gray. The image of Garbo's ballerina, crumpled on the floor, her tutu a luminous tissue paper white, intercut with John Barrymore's profile as he tenderly spies on her, his presence shielded in shadow--it makes you wish the movie could dispense with the Old World weariness of the dialogue and just keep on contemplating itself. (Dinner at Eight, so much more fun.) In Joan Crawford's scenes with Wallace Beery, you can see each eyebrow, mouth corner, pupil, and shapely ankle individually doing its dramatic bit to create a composite portrait of a secretary to a tycoon type leveraging her assets while maintaining a cool deposit of pride and reserve. Inspired by the Siren's Joan Crawford birthday wishes, NYCweboy unveils his shrine to Cukor's The Women, where Crawford and Shearer had their memorable slag match over some dope named Steve."

for the rest go here

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Night and The City

Vince Keenan and I have been trading a few letters about Richard Widmark in the astoundingly good Night and The City. I made the point that it's rarely included on Top Twenty noir lists because it doesn't employ any of the standard noir conventions.

Vince followed up with a savvy little review of the picture:

"I think you nailed it, Ed. Night and the City may be the perfect distillation of noir's mood, but without the staples. There's not much real crime on display, for instance. Just the petty betrayals of everyday life, the lies we tell ourselves and our loved ones.

"On the splendid Criterion DVD of the film, there's an interview with director Jules Dassin that includes a fact that always amazes me. The film was rushed into production before Dassin could be blacklisted. It came together so quickly that Dassin didn't read Kersh's novel before he started shooting. He claims he still hasn't read it."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Emerald Hell

Mike Mignola's Hellboy is one of the great comic book-graphic novel creations of the past two decades. Christopher Golden has written several exceptionally fine novels in the Hellboy world and he's now joined by Tom Piccirilli whose Emerald City is a delightfully dark take on the mystical and mythical South of Manly Wade Wellman and Robert E. Howard.

Here's what the publisher has to say: "Hellboy comes to the crossroads in Enigma, Georgia, a small town beset by strange occurrences. Sent to keep an eye on Sarah Nail, a young girl hiding from the curse of her family, Hellboy becomes entangled in the blood debt of evil mystical preacher, Brother Jester. Stuck between human malice and the mysteries of the occult, Hellboy comes up against an intrigue of ghosts, demon trees, talking bullfrogs, and a race of lost mutant children."

Here's what the publisher doesn't say: Tom Piccirilli is becoming one of the most compelling stylists in current fiction. He possesses the gifts of a true poet as you'll discover simply by opening the book at random. He couples this with his ability to show us people we've never met before. They're Piccirilli people, exclusively so. And to take us places we can never quite escape. They stay with us long after we close the book.

This book is rich with a variety of pleasures.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

John Hughes; Letters

From time to time I wonder whatever DID happen to John Hughes...

Whatever Happened To John Hughes?
LA Times | Patrick Goldstein | March 25, 2008 08:30 AM

JOHN HUGHES hasn't set foot in Hollywood for years, but his influence has never been more potent. The king of 1980s comedy, Hughes now qualifies as something of a Howard Hughes-style recluse -- he doesn't have an agent, doesn't give interviews and lives far away, somewhere in Chicago's sprawling North Shore suburbs where most of his films were set.

But he has an entire generation of fans in the industry who grew up infatuated with his films, especially a string of soulful mid-1980s teen comedies that helped capture the eternal drama of modern teenage existence. They include "Sixteen Candles," "Pretty in Pink," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "The Breakfast Club," which no less an authority than Courtney Love once called "the defining moment of the alternative generation." Any number of successful actors and filmmakers, from Judd Apatow and Kevin Smith to Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller and Wes Anderson, are fans, having soaked up Hughes' keen observational humor, love of mischief and shrewd dissection of social hierarchies.

"John Hughes wrote some of the great outsider characters of all time," says Apatow, the writer-director-producer whose new film, "Drillbit Taylor," is loosely based on an old Hughes story idea. "It's pretty ridiculous to hear people talk about the movies we've been doing, with outrageous humor and sweetness all combined, as if they were an original idea. I mean, it was all there first in John Hughes' films. Whether it's 'Freaks and Geeks' or 'Superbad,' the whole idea of having outsiders as the lead characters, that all started with Hughes."

Hollywood is full of older masters who've been mentors to younger acolytes. But Hughes, 58, is the only one who's disappeared without a trace; he quit directing in 1991, moved back to Chicago in 1995 and has basically stayed out of sight ever since.

for the rest


Dear Mr. Gorman,

Thank you for sharing your enthousiasm for mystery writer Margaret Millar on your blog. I discovered this highly original author some years ago and since then I have been searching for her novels. I admire Millar not only for her dazzling plots but also for her very economic style of writing, her lively and real dialogue and the way she creates atmosphere: from the first to the last page you have the feeling something very uncomfortable is lurking somewhere in the background and there is an unseen plot working between the lines of her stories. Her work stands firmly on its own feet and it always irritates me that she is mostly only mentioned as Ross Macdonald's spouse. She deserves better than to be a foot note to Macdonald.

I also do not understand why the books of Millar don't have a greater reading public, when I discuss crime literature with fellow readers I always recomend Millar but since so few people have heard of her, my efforts are mostly in vain. Still, I keep trying, perhaps the fact that you have to look for her books between the paperbacks dating from the 1950s and 60 in second hand bookstores (at least here in The Netherlands), doesn't help to increase her popularity.

Well, for me she is the real thing, her work gets better with a second or even third reading. There are still some of Millar's books I haven't read (difficult to find) but I know I will eventually get them and I also know I will not be disapointed.

Kind regards,

Mr. Peter Eykelenkamp
The Hague / The Netherlands

Hi Ed,
I know i begged you years ago for more Sam McCain books. Will you be
doing another soon? I have read them darn things at least 6 times each
and of course I am now begging for more.
Thank you for the ones you have written,

Doug Trombley

Ed here: There'll be one published in 09. It's yet to be written. Thanks for your loyalty to the series. I really appreciate it.


Your recent comments about Moorcock and Clarke were interesting because
I rarely read new SF, and so the old hands from the '60s and before --
Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Moorcock (liked his WARLORD OF THE AIR
pastiches, not so fond of his New Worlds stuff), Brackett, Dick, Laumer,
Farmer, Harrison, Anderson -- are the ones I mostly remember, along with
a lingering fondness for the even older names -- Burroughs, Verne,
Wells, Stapledon, O.A. Kline. Other than Ben Bova, Jerry Pournelle,
and Joe Haldeman, I can't think of any SF writers who hit their stride
after 1970 whom I've sampled to any extent.

I don't feel qualified to knock modern SF because I've read so little of
it, aside from sporadically keeping up with the familiar names (I read
and liked Haldeman's latest novels), but the plain fact of the matter
is, it doesn't generally grab me. I don't have enough interest in the
Luke Skywalker mythos (or in further lining George Lucas' pockets) to
pick up the endless STAR WARS novelizations and spin-offs. Gung-ho
military space operas don't appeal to me as a rule any more than
military thrillers do. The stuff that seems to have higher-brow appeal,
China Mieville and the like, leaves me shaking my head when I flip
through the pages; whatever wavelength it's on, it doesn't compel me to
invest any time or money.

Same in regard to fantasy. How many female vampire hunters can the
market carry? How many books can Mercedes Lackey write?

Makes me wonder -- am I simply getting old, and I'm not the generation
these guys are writing for? Has the market itself changed so much? Are
there books that I would like as much as the ones I liked at age 16 or
18 if I just looked harder? Would I like the books about vampire hunter
chicks if I gave them a chance?

I'm encouraged that some of the older stuff gets reprinted occasionally,
but I suspect that it will be the last go-round for the
second-tier-sales guys like Laumer, who, however good, lack the brand
name of a Heinlein or Bradbury.


Ed here: There's a lot of good stuff being published today, including some of the takes on vampirism. I read in just about every sub-genre of sf and fantasy but my "sense of wonder" days are long behind me I'm afraid. Nothing will ever match the thrill of first reading Bradbury or Matheson or Heinlien or Asimov or Clark. What's the cliche--the golden age of science fiction is thirteen? I think that's probably true.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Glass Key

As much as I like and admire The Maltese Falcon, I've always felt closer emotionally to The Glass Key. I've always had the sense that the conflicted hero Ned Beaumont was the closest Hammett ever came to writing directly about himself.

While I occasionally miss some of the sardonic qualities of Falcon, Key is the more powerful book. Virtually every scene is charged with anxiety, anger and a fatalism not evident in any of Hammett's other novels. This is ultimately a book about doom.

I happened to read several Raymond Chandler stories before I picked up Key. At this point in my life I see Hammett as the more talented and true of the two icons. Chandler is certainly the more pleasing of the two as far as style goes. But when you compare his skills as a social observer you realize (I realize I should say) how false most of his stories are, the B movie done in high style. The exception for me, in addition to numerous short stories, is The Long Goodbye where he finally comes close to the reportorial skills of Hammett. He's confronting life not scenes from other books and movies.

I don't mean to set up a false contest here. My opinion doesn't matter, number one. And number two they are both seminal figures and fathers to us all.

But I was struck, this time through, with the bitter ruthless truth of The Glass Key.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

And my Mom likes it too!

Pub Date April, 1 2008

Sleeping Dogs
Ed Gorman. St. Martin's Minotaur/Dunne, $23.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-36784-8

“Shamus-winner Gorman puts his experience as a political speechwriter to good use in this entertaining first of what appears to be a new series…While Gorman presents our electoral choices and processes in an often dispiriting and unflattering light, readers will hope his appealing hero will return in future outings beyond the current real-life political campaign season.’’
Publisher’s Weekly

“Veteran Gorman provides rewardingly dry-eyed political savvy without the bloat of most novelists who patrol this turf. The prose is pared so close to the bone that it makes Elmore Leonard look positively garrulous.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Ed Gorman, seasoned veteran of the mystery genre, returns with the ingenious Sleeping Dogs…This political satire appears just in time for the election. Let’s hope that reality doesn’t mirror fiction!” [LM]
Mystery Lovers Bookstore

(Dev Conrad’s) internal conflicts, moral complexity, and wry, self-deprecating sense of humor make him an outstanding character and Gorman’s other characters are equally well-developed. Written in Gorman's terse style…this well-written story moves quickly and is compelling reading.”
Mystery Scene

“Sleeping Dogs, a hard-hitting,suspense-filled ride…an innovative, wry, and hard-edged novel that arrives just in time as a timely diversion (and a bit of comic relief) from the currently performing three-ring circus in American politics: the presidential primary season.”

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Worst motion pictures

Joe Queenan is one of those gadflys who can be amusing even while he's irritating you. Like Christopher Hitchens he traffics in the risible. He's literate, clever and many times dead on. Here's a pretty funny piece from a recent Guardian.

Joe Queenan braves Paris Hilton, porcophilia and men who eat themselves to death as he goes in search of the worst movie of all time

Friday March 21, 2008
The Guardian

Painful ... The Hottie and the Nottie

The release of the Paris Hilton vehicle The Hottie and the Nottie has revived the debate as to which is the worst motion picture ever made. Because the film logged in with some of the worst receipts in history - $250 per screen on opening weekend - there is a temptation to accord it the mythical status of such universally ridiculed motion pictures as Attack of the Killer Tomatoes or Plan 9 From Outer Space, to welcome it into the dark, Bizarro World pantheon inhabited by phantasmagoric disasters such as Showgirls, Ishtar, Heaven's Gate, Battlefield Earth, The Postman and, most recently, Gigli and Swept Away.

That is not fair. It is not fair to Kevin Costner, it is not fair to Jennifer Lopez, and it is certainly not fair to Madonna. Though it is a natural impulse to believe that the excruciating film one is watching today is on a par with the excruciating films of yesterday, this is a slight to those who have worked long and hard to make movies so moronic that the public will still be talking about them decades later. Anyone can make a bad movie; Kate Hudson and Adam Sandler make them by the fistful. Anyone can make a sickening movie; we are already up to Saw IV. Anyone can make an unwatchable movie; Jack Black and Martin Lawrence do it every week. And anyone can make a comedy that is not funny; Jack Black and Martin Lawrence do it every week. But to make a movie that destroys a studio, wrecks careers, bankrupts investors, and turns everyone connected with it into a laughing stock requires a level of moxie, self-involvement, lack of taste, obliviousness to reality and general contempt for mankind that the average director, producer and movie star can only dream of attaining.

for the rest:,,2267064,00.html

Friday, March 21, 2008

News You Can't Use

From Cinema

Clint Eastwood has come a long way from the rough-and-tumble action and Westerns star we all first loved. Now he’s Oscar’s favorite person in the world, and is busy directing prestige projects and taking small roles in them rather than kicking ass and taking names.

…Or is he? Variety announced yesterday that Eastwood would be directing and starring in Gran Torino, a movie set for release this December but with absolutely no plot details. All we had to go on was the fact that a Gran Torino is a 1972 Ford car, kind of a classic of the era (you can see more images of it here.)

Now Ain’t It Cool News has a scoop on the plot, and it may be a dream come true for Eastwood fans. Because what do Clint Eastwood and the 1970s mean to most people? That’s right, Dirty Harry.

--Sallis Novel To Be Filmed

20 March 2008 Copyright Empire Online
Marshall Set To Drive With Jackman
Source: Variety

Although there was some disappointment over the performance of his latest movie Doomsday in the US, director Neil Marshall is hopping right back in to the driving seat. Or at least he'll be putting Hugh Jackman in the driving seat.

Marshall has signed a deal with Universal to direct Jackman in Drive, an adaptation of a book by James Sallis. Jackman will play a stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway man in heists. His already quite exciting life gains a new edge when he discovers that there's a contract out for his life.

Marshall tells Variety that he plans to shoot this by summer, which probably means that it's going into production before Sacrilege, a Western horror that he also recently set up at Universal.

--Heavy Metal Lives!
From Daily Variety

Par, Fincher put pedal to 'Metal'
Eastman, Miller to direct animated segments

Paramount Pictures will make an animated film inspired by the '70s sci-fi fantasy magazine Heavy Metal, with director David Fincher spearheading the project.

"Heavy Metal" will be stamped by the erotic and violent storylines and images that remain the trademark of a magazine that debuted in the U.S. in 1977. The mag introduced the works of American artists and writers such as Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison and H.R. Giger.

The film will consist of eight or nine individual animated segments, each of which will be directed by a different helmer.

Fincher will direct one of the segments; Kevin Eastman, the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" co-creator who is now owner and publisher of Heavy Metal, will direct another. So will Tim Miller, whose Blur Studios will handle the animation for what is being conceived as an R-rated, adult-themed feature.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Vince Vaughan

In the course of my young and innocent life I've been fortunate to be spared seeing--let alone participating in--a flame war. You know, where somebody is really taken down. For that reason I rarely look at comments following a news story. Too much ugliness. Niki Finke is a Hollywood reporter and columnist and (to me) one of the best. Here's her story about Vince Vaughn leaving his talent agency followed by some of the comments from readers. I have to admit I don't understand how Vaughn ever got work. There's something so seedy about him he's repellent to me. Personal taste. But as the following responses indicate, he has as many admirers as detractors. I don't know if this is an actual flame war but it'll do till the real thing comes along.

From Nikki Finke:

I've confirmed that Vince Vaughn has axed both his manager Eric Gold and his agency United Talent. Someone close to Vince just told me he did it by cell phone. He's still with his attorney Debbie Klein. He'd been a UTA client since 1993 (three years before his breakout Swingers, which was partly filmed in the apartment of an agency assistant) and a Gold client since 2005's Wedding Crashers. Vaughn's last movie, Fred Claus did little business. A $20 million a pic star, he recently pacted for a two-year, first-look producing deal with Universal and his Wild West Picture Show Productions which is run by his sister.
UPDATE: Vaughn is telling people today that he made the moves because his manager and his agency "didn't get along at all" and it was too much drama in his life. However, I've heard from a lot of moguls in Hollywood that Vaughn was quite adept at making his own off-camera drama on nearly every recent movie he did.


vince is a lunatic. his reputation as the most insane, difficult guy to work with in town, is well earned. uta started his career and made him a $20m star. he needs to look inside and get it together; he’s a mess, regardless of who represents him.

Comment by ts — March 18, 2008 @ 10:50 am

Why isn’t this hack in rehab yet?

Comment by 40yearoldstitzer — March 18, 2008 @ 11:16 am

he’s a drunk, bitter, pathological, paranoid, republican

Jeez, what a bunch of bitter gripes. The guy’s funny and fun to watch and has had a bunch of big grossing movies. What he may be like on the set (good, bad or indifferent) doesn’t matter.

Comment by Richard — March 18, 2008 @ 1:34 pm

What is with all of the hatred on all of these asinine entertainment blogs? You’re all losers! How pathetic that you feel the need to spew your sh*t on the internet.

Comment by MB — March 18, 2008 @ 1:48 pm

Vince is rad. You people are morons…or are you just bitter UTA employees who will no longer get that sweet 10%?

Comment by Common Sense — March 18, 2008 @ 1:54 pm

Vince, were you forced to make ‘The Breakup’?
Then why did you do it?
For the money?
I think it was supposed to be a comedy, but it sure didn’t come out that way.
And that thoroughly fake romance with Aniston, Puh-Leeze!

Just what is it with all these stupid actors that take it out on their agents & managers for the crappy choices they made both in choosing the movie & the wretched acting style in that movie?

Comment by Unindicted Co-conspirator — March 18, 2008 @ 2:14 pm

I agree with Richard. Vince is fun to watch and has been in some great movies. Too much jealousy out there. My Momma always said, “If you have nothing nice to say, keep your mouth shut.” Vince, if you read this and need a new manager email me at We would welcome you to our team.

Comment by phil dale duckie — March 18, 2008 @ 2:19 pm

Who cares!!! He isn’t the first actor to do this. I’m sure he’ll be fine and so will his ex-manager and ex-agent. Sometimes people need a sense of new and improved energy.

Comment by ND — March 18, 2008 @ 2:22 pm

No, Vaughn is an example of the grotesquely inflated, unjustifiable salaries earned by actors that damage the industry at large. There’s nothing to show for it either except bad offensive movies.

Get over yourselves, Vaughn defenders on this site. Tell your buddy you posted a good word for him and be on your way.

Comment by Exec — March 18, 2008 @ 2:31 pm

Vince Vaughn may be ok as a character actor, but as a lead? Puh-leeze. Hope that romance with Aniston was fake - how could she touch him? Echh.

Comment by Viewers — March 18, 2008 @ 2:50 pm

Yeah Phil, I’m sure Vince will get right on that. Especially since we all know how reputable management firms are that shill for new clients on the message boards of entertainment industry gossip sites. He’ll be calling you within the hour…

Comment by JB — March 18, 2008 @ 3:11 pm

Comment by buddysattva — March 18, 2008 @ 3:27 pm

none of you guys have a clue how hollywood works do you?

Comment by ghostface — March 18, 2008 @ 3:30 pm

as a director who has worked with him and having heard first hand his nasty, long-winded rants about every other working actor in the business this seems like typical behavior for a star gone out of control

Comment by TP — March 18, 2008 @ 3:40 pm

fuck him, move on asshole.
there’s a lot of us out here that will work for half.
I didn’t see him out there with our fellow strikers.

Comment by richie rich — March 18, 2008 @ 3:58 pm

wow. vince vaughn leaves uta after he makes a bomb. what a surprise. i have worked in this town for 20 years and if any of you could hear what uta agents and gold had to go thru to expain this guy’s behavior, you wouldn’t believe it possible. vince is a very bad boy and he knows it. yes, he is an original talent but life is way too short.

Comment by noway — March 18, 2008 @ 4:00 pm

I’m sure there are plenty of agents foaming at the mouth to get him on the roster, so don’t shed any tears for him.

Comment by Wendy — March 18, 2008 @ 4:28 pm

he is vin diesel in one minute

Comment by zz — March 18, 2008 @ 4:29 pm

I will never understand why people keep hiring this asshole, and that he made it to the $20M level. He never makes it to the set on time, he never shuts the fuck up, doesn’t learn his lines (so he can improv his shtick) and sexually harrasses everyone (women AND men.)

He needs to go away for a while. Or longer.

Comment by Client # 9 — March 18, 2008 @ 4:43 pm

does Mr Vaughn remember where he was before UTA nowhere
maybe he made 3 million a pix he makes 20 million now
i would say UTA and its agents made him a star
even thoug he looks and acts like a unkempt drunk
low life

the real fuck up here is Eric Larry Gold, he is talentless (he convinced VV to do Fred Claus, nice)
parasite chronic pot smoker who sucked off all the sweat and blood that
Jimmy Miller put into Jim Carrey, then when Jimmy couldn’t
stand being around toxic (hey Ellen nice work having such a woman hating manager on your team) Eric anymore and they split. Jimmy has rightfully gone on to a well deserved career as the biggest comedy manager and film producer in the biz. This is eating Eric Larry alive
and driving him to smoke even more pot and other shit
than before. For whatever VV short comings might be,
he has saved his career by stepping off.

Eric try not to pop a vein you can’t afford another open heart surgery again.

Comment by Anonymous — March 19, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

Well, thank God there are no moronic, untalented, sexist, egotistical, loud-mouthed, hypocritical, back-stabbing, unjustifiably rich and ungrateful Democrats in LA.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Richard Neely (originally published Nov. 2005)

I happened to read The Damned Innocents by Richard Neely last night. Kiny crime pulp circa 1970s. Enjoyed it very much. Thought I'd repost this piece on Neely.

Richard Neely (originally published Nov. 2005)

The first time I ever spoke to Richard Neely, suspense novelist extraordinaire, he kept trying to place my name. "It's so damned familiar--wait a minute, you're the guy who called me the de Sade of crime fiction."

Loose lips sink ships. So can old reviews. I figured that our busines would sink if he ever remembered that long ago review. But he laughed. "I think I was just ahead of my time."

Actually, I'd meant that remark as a compliment because I was pointing out that Neely, despite the Irish name, took a very French approach to the psychological machinations of sex in his books. Three of his books became French movies. Somebody apparently agreed with me

Neely, a very sleek and successful advertising man, is gone now and so, undeservedly, are his books. The Walter Syndrome, his bestselling suspense novel, was almost ruined for me when I guessed the ending on page two, something I never do. But I pressed on and it was well worth it. This was a take on Psycho set in Thirties and the storytelling is spellbinding. The voice is worthy of Fredric Brown at his best.

I was thinking of Neely last night because I was finishing up his novel The Plastic Nightmare, which became an incomprehensible movie called Shattered. Neely loved tricks as much as Woolrich did and Plastic is a field of land mines. He even manages to spin some fresh variations on the amnesia theme. It's as noir as noir can be but mysteriously I've never seen Neely referred to on any noir list. My theory is that his books, for the most part, were presented in such tony packages, they were bypassed by mystery fans. They looked mainstream.

The Damned Innocents became a fair French flick. What it missed was the sorrow. Neely always caught the sorrow of sexual betrayl with a kind of suicidal wisdom. While his books aren't kinky by today's measure, they're dark in the way only sexual themes can be. Love kills, baby.

Not that he didn't have a sudsy side. He wrote a couple of big sexy workplace novels that I could never plow through but he also wrote The Ridgeway Women which was SUPPOSED to be a big sexy workplace book that was undermined in a good way by the riveting neuroses and desperation of all his best books. This was Arrested Development played as drama.

A Madness of The Heart suffers from a style Neely seemed to have invented from scratch for this particular novel. It's another dazzler--a really convincing story about a rapist and the human debris he leaves in his wake--but the prose gets in my way every once in awhile. It isn't that it's fancy-schmancy, it's just that it gets labored sometimes. And gives us more information than we need.

I liked Neely, man and writer, and I liked his books, too. Somebody should bring him back. He's my kind of noir writer--down and out in the dark underbelly of the success-driven American middle class, like non-Trav John D. MacDonald only doomed without hope of salvation.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Resurrectionist

"Jack O'Connell has labored in obscurity for many years; this will be the novel that garners him widespread sales and critical acclaim. The Resurrectionist—a brilliantly tuned, mesmerizing labyrinth of a quasi-real world as only a master artist could draw it—will jazz you, floor you, grab you and shake you and leave you hung out to dry in that world. A brilliant break-through novel."
—James Ellroy

The Resurrectionist

Sweeney is a druggist by trade; Danny, his son, is in a persistent coma, the victim of an accident. Hoping for a miracle, they have come to the Peck Clinic, a fortress-like haven in a post-industrial city overrun by gangs. Doctors there claim to have resurrected two patients who were similarly lost in the void.

Gradually, Sweeney realizes that the cure for his son’s condition may lie in “Limbo,” a fantasy comic-book world into which Danny had been drawn at the time of his accident. Plunged into the intrigue that surrounds the clinic, Sweeney searches for answers and instead finds sinister back alleys, brutal dead ends, and terrifying rabbit holes of mystery.

Full of puzzles and surprises, The Resurrectionist is a surreal, gothic meditation on identity, the nature of consciousness, the power of stories, love, mad scientists, circus freaks, and ultimately forgiveness—both giving and receiving.

Ed here: I've been reading Jack O'Connell since the 90s. With his first novel BOX NINE O'Connell staked out turf that is very much all his own. While the "cyberpunk Hammett" description is useful as a a hook it doesn't do justice the dazzling assaults O'Connell makes on language, reality and the political structures and structures of our time.

It also doesn't do justice to the fact that with all the Philip K. Dickian terra-forming you find especially in The Resurrectionist, the novel works most profoundly on the level of sheer great storytelling. It's a great and moving tale about a father and son.

Jack was kind enough to answer some questions.

1. Jack, I have the sense that the central drama of the book came to you first--the father and son. That you built everything else around it. I say this because it could easily have been a polemic but it's not. It's a powerful and in some ways simple story.

My son was 5 or 6 years old when I started working on the book. He turns 13 next month. So, all the while I was noodling away on the story, I was also, always, brooding about the endless intricacies of fatherhood. You’re exactly right: so much of this story just grew, organically, out of that relentless sense, really, that worry, that you’re not up to the immensity of the task of protecting, shaping, understanding. Of course, in the end, none of us are. And that may be the only reason we’re all able to find our own identities.

2. The way you've worked out the storyline for "Limbo" makes me wonder what you think about our society's obsession with gaming and giant movies that don't bother with character or any kind of emotional reality.

Well, as you know from e-mails we’ve swapped over the years, I never feel more elderly than when I go to the Cineplex. (I particularly can’t bear the way action movies are edited – it’s just plain perverse to me. As if some insane person started teaching film classes about 10 years back and told the future cutters: make it as obscure as possible; make the perspective utterly illogical; and cut so fast that no one can follow any POV. Okay, rant over.) I mean, it’s undeniable, just self-evident, that characterization has been sacrificed on the altar of spectacle. I think back to a conversation I had about 15+ years ago when a friend said his kids couldn’t sit through High Noon because it was too slow. All I could think of was the first time I saw High Noon – that sense of slowly mounting dread, that sense of inevitably fate rolling toward you. I felt what it was like to be in Cooper’s skin. And to me, that was a triumph of popular art. That ability to use story to make our understanding of our own humanity fully visceral. That was the achievement, the big grace, the heart and the art and smart of that film.

3. The Peck Clinic certainly plays into our fear about secret and deadly forces at work in our society. Your novels have been called "paranoid" but given the present administration's taste for shredding constitutional guarantees, do you feel that you may not be paranoid at all?

Ha! What was that bumpsticker we used to see on microbuses – “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” Yes, I’m a functional paranoid. But one would have to be ferociously ignorant of, blind to, recent history to deny the rabid, geometrically growing lust for all manner of technological social control exhibited by both the state and the (probably more frightening and problematic) transnational congloms. My gut says we’re racing toward some pretty ugly decisions in the near future. And concurrently, our capacity for ethical courage – not to mention depth of thought -- seems near empty. Most saddening is the rise of the idiocracy – we’re more literate than ever, have fairly easy access to an abundance of real information – and civic discourse races for the gutter every day.

4. The Resurrectionist is certainly your most daring and accomplished novel. How long did you work on it and what was it like trying to balance family, work and writing (and I mean this) a masterpiece all at the same time?

Took me a full 5 years to write this one. Longer – by double – than any of my other books. (For a while the title was “The Book That Killed Him,” because I figured that’s how my kids would refer to it in years to come.). The fact is, looking back, I didn’t balance any of those things that make up my life. You know, you just sort of see which fire is most in need of some put-out each day. But as tends to happen for me, the process of composition is the thing that allows me to gradually understand what my story is really about. In a lot of ways, that ideal balance to which you refer is in the marrow of this book. And writing the story helped me to learn to accept, maybe even embrace, a truth that is always somewhat less than the ideal. In a funny and unexpected way, I think writing the book helped me to understand my real priorities and, once I’d done that, to integrate aspects of my life that had been fairly compartmentalized.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Stephen King's new column in Entertainment Weekly takes up the subject of blurbing. One of his better columns, I think. He tries honestly if ruefully to deal with how established writers can help promote worthy books and films without turning into a whore. Not always easy in this age of Blurb-0-Matic.

As he notes, movie blurbists are the worst. Esquire once ran an article about a handful of blurbists the studios can always rely on. King comes up with two more names, Earl Dittman (which sounds made up) and Pete Hammond. These guys have apparently never seen a movie they didn't like. And they like everything in !!!!!!!! exclamation points.

Time, health, crankiness have slowed my own willingness to read manuscripts in order to blurb them. And sometimes I feel guilty about this because when I started out so many writers were so damned nice to me and so willing to give me quotes, sometimes when I didn't even ask for them.

One thing I always say to writers who ask for blurbs is that I don't know how helpful my name will be. In the grand scheme of things I'm nobody and so while it's probably all right to have " " on a cover I don't know how useful it is when consumers ahve never heard of the young writer or me.

For the novel I'm hopefully wrapping up soon I was planning on asking Mr. King for a blurb but I'm sure he's too busy. Does anybody have an e mail addrss for Earl !!!!!! Dittman?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

City of Beasts

Black Gate Staff
From the Black Gate website

City of the Beast
By Michael Moorcock

A Review by Ryan Harvey

Copyright 2007 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.

Planet Stories (160 pages, September 2007, $12.99)

“I enjoyed it enormously. It was kind of a holiday for me,” Michael Moorcock once remarked about writing the “Kane of Old Mars” series. Reading the first of these novels, City of the Beast, is exactly like taking that holiday with Mr. Moorcock. Imagine chucking all your possession so you can buy a fancy red convertible and then tearing out to Florida without a care in the world. That’s City of the Beast. It has that “hell with it, let’s go for a ride!” feel. The book is a rare case of genuine escapism, and one of few times I can use the word “escapism” without thinking that I am ducking my responsibilities as a reviewer.

The hero of City of the Beast and the two following novels (Lord of the Spiders and Masters of the Pit) is the valiant Michael Kane. Kane is an incarnation of Moorcock’s Eternal Champion, but readers do not need to know anything about this overarching concept to enjoy the book. Kane’s science-fantasy adventures on a quaintly impossible Mars unabashedly imitate Edgar Rice Burroughs’ tales of John Carter, with dashes of other early pioneers of scientific romance like Leigh Brackett.

for the rest

Ed here: There may be another writer who enjoys the esteem of both high and low lit people to the degree that Michael Moorcock does but at the moment I can't think of any. Many of his novels are shelved along with contemporary masters; some, as with City of Beasts, appear next to Edgar Rice Burroughs. Seemingly odd company, that, for a man who was a key figure in the evolution of science fiction's New Wave back in the Sixties and Seventies.

I've heard varying versions of how much time was spent on each book in the trilogy. It averages out to be about a week per book. Believable given Moorcock's output in his early years.

I read the above review awhile back and just happened to bump into a copy of City of The Beast (as by Edward Bradbury) at Half Price. I finished it about an hour ago and enjoyed the hell out of it.

It makes no pretense to be anything other than an ER Burroughs-like romp through the Mars that Burroughs and Brackett gave us. There is no spectrally beautiful moment such as John Carter in that cave in Arizona being summoned to Mars and there is no invention quite the equal of Brackett's dangerous canal towns. But there is a Dumas-like splendor in the derring-do and the elegant maidens and these decsriptions of the soaring marble buildings catching the last of the red planet's daylight..

Many of the adventure books of my youth are difficult to go back to now. Too many flaws. But City of The Beasts works just fine because of its wit and refusal to take itself seriously.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Comedians; Smoking your last; Pigeons from Hell

Comedy is hard

In today's NY Times Matt Weiland givs a mixed review to Richard Zogolin's Comedy At The Edge, a study of the comedians who emerged in the seventies. Here's a sample of the well worth reading longish review.

"Still, Zoglin is a clear and informative writer and a good synthesizer. (In these qualities he is the very definition of what he is: a Time man.) His book starts with Lenny Bruce, but once the floodgates for free speech in public are open, Bruce comes across as less imitated than admired. George Carlin and Richard Pryor, by contrast, stand out as the crucial influences on the others. Zoglin hails Carlin as “the indispensable role model” in carrying on Bruce’s “crusade against hypocrisy, cant and social injustice. ... His early takeoffs of D.J.’s and TV commercials set a gold standard for scores of media satirists to follow, and his jokey newscasts provided the template for news parodies from ‘Saturday Night Live’s’ ‘Weekend Update’ to Jon Stewart’s ‘Daily Show.’ His riffs on schoolroom pranks and bodily functions and the little absurdities of language showed the next crop of ‘observational’ comics that nothing was too trivial or mundane — or tasteless — to become fodder for smart comedy.” And Pryor’s out-of-control persona, his self-destructive appetites, his ambivalence — even animosity — toward the audience, his obsession with selling out, and his crossover success in concert albums and comic and serious film roles became a touchstone for a whole generation of comedians. It is strange, though, that Zoglin doesn’t rate Woody Allen, a virtual contemporary of Carlin and Pryor, in their company. The schlemiel as hero, the rapid neurotic delivery, the mix of philosophy and pop culture, the angst over emotional, career and relationship success, the shift in the ’70s from stand-up to writing, acting and directing — is any comedian of the period more influential?

"Zoglin is good at describing the appeal of the white Everymen: Albert Brooks, Steve Martin, Robin Williams and Andy Kaufman. Their styles may have varied from manic to comatose, cerebral to brainless, but they shared similar suburban backgrounds, and they brought a studied irony into the comedy mainstream. He recounts how Williams thrived when the mike went dead at the Laff Stop in Orange County in 1976, and how appealing was his “deconstruction of our overstimulated, media-dominated culture.” Kaufman was so original he was the only person Lorne Michaels deemed not cuttable from the first episode of “Saturday Night Live” in 1975."

Smoke smoke smoke that cigarette:

I've noted several blogs taking poor Patrick Swayze to task for continuing to smoke as he fights pancreatic cancer (and saying that he looks awful--he's being bombarded with chemo, folks. That don't exactly make you pretty.) I say this seriously A) There is no time more difficult to quit smoking than in a crisis (remember Lloyd Bridgess mocking this notion in Airplane) and B) The stats on surviving apncreatic cancer aren't very good.

Jeffery Wells on Hollywood Elsewhere made this point:

"You're on the ropes with a life-threatening illness and it doesn't look good, what difference does it make if you have a cigarette? It's a tough situation, but if I was Patrick Swayze's best friend and he pulled out a smoke and lit up, I'd shake my head but my main attitude would be, "Whatever, man.""

Ed here: for those who suffer mutliple myeloma, the incurable cancer I have, there's a website that tells you, among other things, the symptoms that will tell you're starting to die. I'm not trying to be morbid. I hope I've got many good years left. But I'll tell you when death is no longer in the rear view mirror but right in front of me up the road...I've told Carol not to be surprised if I started buying Lucky Strikes by the carton. And I met several other guys at Mayo a few summers ago who said the same thing. Haven't smoked for thirty, forty years they said--but man lead me to them there Pall Malls.

Good luck with it all, Patrick.

A book by any other name:

I ordered a copy of a Robert E. Howard book called Piegons from Hell, that being one of my four all-time favorite REH stories and one of the finest horror tales I've ever read. And guess what? The book shows up without the story Pigeons inside. I've been wanting to read it for months, having misplaced mine awhile back. I wonder which Howard book I order to get Pigeons included.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Seventh Victim

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.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

largest assemblage of crooks, morons & liars - house

I don't usually run political stuff but you gotta read this. From TPM the finest pol site aorund. These bastards are making laws for US.


Pelosi Gets Reform Bill While GOPers and Some Dems Kick and Scream
By Paul Kiel - March 12, 2008, 11:23AM
Last night, the House passed an ethics reform bill, which will create an outside panel to review ethics complaints against lawmakers. It's a noted improvement over the current setup -- which isn't saying much since the House ethics committee has been a punchline for many years.

The outside panel, which will have six members (3 GOPers, 3 Dems), won't have subpoena power. And it will simply forward recommendations to the actual House ethics committee for further action after investigating. That's why some critics like CREW's Melanie Sloan call it a "paper tiger." Other good government types have given their support on the theory that something is better than nothing.

As The Hill reports, the Dem leadership pushed hard for the reform bill despite Republicans and a number of senior Democrats digging in their heels and doing what they could to prevent the vote. As The Washington Post reports, "Even with two House members under indictment, two others sent to prison, and several others under federal investigation, nearly half the House did not want to submit the body to the scrutiny of a panel not under its control." Some of the choicer quotes from last night's debate:

Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS): "If you have a single ounce of self-preservation, you'll vote no."

Mighty reform foe Rep. John Murtha (D-PA): “We have a New York governor in the news right who shows that you can’t legislate ethics. It always comes down to the individual.”

And most quotable of all:

Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, registered his displeasure with the proposal by using a parliamentary tactic to delay the vote. Just after 8 p.m., Abercrombie forced a vote on a motion to adjourn, which only served to delay the vote on the ethics resolution until an hour later. The vote failed 177 to 196, with 14 Democrats voting in favor of it.
Afterward, Abercrombie railed against the proposal to resounding applause on both sides of the aisle.

“With this proposal we are indicting ourselves, yielding and retreating to those who would tear this House down and denigrate us as crooks and knaves and hustlers…we cringe before our critics,” he said. “If we have no respect for ourselves—how to we expect it from anybody else?”

Tess; Jack Warden

A sad day here. I finally forced myself to take eighteen year old Tess to the vet and have her put to sleep. She'd lost half her weight in the past three months and had stopped eating the past few days. She was the scamp of the Gorman cats. We came home one day to find that she'd jumped from the mantle of our fireplace on to a hanging plant. She was just a kitten and not greatly skilled in such matters so she was splayed out across the plant and unable to get down. One of dozens of Tess stories.

I had to make the decision myself. Carol's in Poland as a visiting writer. The cell phone contact she was reassured we'd have doesn't work. Today she visited Auschwitz. We usually e mail back and forth but tonight she's traveling. She'll be home Friday.

One of my favorite writers, John O'Hara, describes it as the funeral age, that point in life when people beginning falling away, when you see old frinds only in churches and mortuaries.

Of course O'Hara, a grand Irish drunk who had to give it up because it almost killed him by age thirty, had other ages, too. I recently read an autobiography of the man. One night at the old 21 Club in NYC he got loaded and got himself goaded into a fist fight with a midget. All us alkies, practicing or recovered, know how insane things like that can happen sometimes.

Staying with my melancholy mood, I've recently seen three pictures with one of my all-time favorite character actos Jack Warden in them. I thought I'd reprint what I said on his death.


Back in the days when I had my own blog, I noted the deaths of actors who’d given me hours of particular pleasure. Ted Knight, Robert Mitchum, Teresa Wright were among my favorites. We need all the momentary pleasures we can find in this vale of tears. And even though I didn’t know any of the people I bade goodbye, I felt the loss on an almost personal level.

Tonight I’m saying my goodbye to Jack Warden, certainly one of the two or three best character actors of his generation. While the movie sites are listing all the A+ movies he appeared in, I have my own list of his great performances – BYE BYE BRAVERMAN; USED CARS; SHAMPOO; THE SPORTING CLUB; THE APPRENTICESHIP OF DUDDY KRAVITZ, to name just a few.

And ... for true Jack Warden fans ... his CBS-TV Sunday night series Crazy Like A Fox. I know – it wasn’t The Rockford Files. It was TV-lite. But he made it wonderful. Carol and I would tape the shows so we could see them again the very next night. Just to watch him act. He was a wonderful comic actor as well as a powerful dramatic one. He had a particularly great line when his frustrated son told him that his office was a mess as was his life. Harry Fox: “Son, you gotta learn to rise above the details.” That is the wisdom I live by. I rise above the details every day.

Hours and hours and hours of Jack Warden dating back to the the mid-1950s and live TV. Never saw him phone one in or not know exactly how to inhabit the character. So long, Jack and thanks for all pleasure your immeasurable talent gave me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sleeping Dogs Plugola; Sex and Scandal

I've got a new novel called Sleeping Dogs coming out from St. Martin's in three weeks. Here be the first of several plugs.

Publisher's Weekly:

Sleeping Dogs
Ed Gorman. St. Martin's Minotaur/Dunne, $23.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-36784-8

Shamus-winner Gorman (Fools Rush In) puts his experience as a political speechwriter to good use in this entertaining first of what appears to be a new series. Dev Conrad, a cynical yet idealistic political consultant, signs on for the re-election bid of Sen. Warren Nichols of Illinois after Nichols's longtime consultant and ally, Phil Wylie, leaves in a bitter dispute with the candidate and later commits suicide. Nichols, facing right-wing conservative Jim Lake, finds himself in a tightening race with a major debate looming. The race becomes nasty with dirty tricks, blackmail and even campaign sabotage likely emanating from inside Nichols's staff. While Gorman presents our electoral choices and processes in an often dispiriting and unflattering light, readers will hope his appealing hero will return in future outings beyond the current real-life political campaign season. (Apr.)

From Kirkus:

"Gorman provides rewardingly dry-eyed political savvy without the bloat of most novelists who patrol this turf. The prose is pared so close to the bone that it makes Elmore Leonard look positively garrulous.""


Over at Cinema Retro tonight you can learn all about the latest Hwood scandal trial. The article comes replete with a large illustrative photo of the fatale femme mentioned here.

"The corruption trial of "private eye to the stars" Anthony Pellicano heated up with the testimony of his assistant, a sexy bombshell who seems right out of a Dashiell Hammett novel and whose name sounds like that of a James Bond girl. Tarita Virtue (we're not making this up) testified that she transcribed conversations from wiretaps placed by her boss."

For the rest go here:

Monday, March 10, 2008

Doris Day

I saw a lot of movies in the late Forties and early Fifties. Crime and westerns when my Dad chose, musicals and comedies when it was my Mom's turn. So my movie going sort of coincided with the rise of Doris Day. She had one of those studio careers that are entertaining to read about because the moguls were so sure-footed (for once) in bringing her to prominence. I'm talking about her first career. The later one with Rock Hudson was a very different one. Philip French is an excellent biographer and essayist. Here's a portion of his take on Doris Day.

Philip French's Screen legends
No 7: Doris Day 1924-

Philip French
Sunday March 9, 2008
The Observer

She was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1924 as Doris von Kappelhoff and first made her name as a teenage singer, fending off the advances of musicians while touring in the big-band era. In her early twenties, she attracted the attention of Hollywood and was put under contract by Michael Curtiz, top director at Warner Brothers.

He directed her as a tough, gum-chewing chanteuse in It's Magic (aka Romance on the High Seas, 1948), which made her a movie star and for some years she alternated between playing band singers, usually exploited by the men she worshipped (as she was in real life) and serving as Warner's resident 'girl next door', a freckled ingenue with corn-fed charm. Her screen persona came to reflect the tug between professional independence and domestic submission that characterised postwar life in the Western world.

One of the best vocalists of her generation, as adept at mournful ballads as at cheerful, upbeat numbers, and a natural comedienne, she developed rapidly as an actor, holding her own with Cagney, Sinatra and Gable. A couple of her 1950s films were tough stuff: the 1951 melodrama Storm Warning in which she plays the shabby, abused wife of a Ku Klux Klan man in the Deep South (in effect A Streetcar Named Desire turned into a Warner Brothers social-conscience picture), and the 1955 biopic of Ruth Etting, Love Me or Leave Me, where Cagney played her abusive lover.

For the rest go here,,2263661,00.html

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Shots; Bruen; Marvin Wald

The new Shots magazine is out with all its usual nifty interviews, reviews, opinions. As always my favorite part is Mike Ripley's Getting Away with Murder, which is a magazine in itself. This time he mentions me, which I appreciate.


For those of you who've never read Ken Bruen but are curious about his work, one of Dave Zeltersman's fine Hardluck Stories webite contains a Bruen story that demonstrates why his work is so original and powerful.


A letter from our friend Bob Levinson:

Hi, Ed...

Wanted to be sure you were aware of this death. Malvin was a dear friend, whose successful career ran well beyond the credits cited in the obit, but, of course, as he knew and we often joked, it would be one line of dialogue from one of his screenplays that insured Malvin's place in the memory book...


March 9, 2008
'Naked City' Writer Malvin Wald Dies

Filed at 1:03 a.m. ET

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Malvin Wald, a screenwriter who was nominated for an Academy Award for the 1948 movie ''The Naked City,'' has died at 90.

Wald died Thursday at Sherman Oaks Hospital from age-related causes, said his son, Alan.

Wald wrote dozens of scripts for motion pictures and TV shows including ''Peter Gunn,'' ''Daktari'' and ''Perry Mason.''

He wrote the story for ''The Naked City,'' then co-wrote the screenplay with Albert Maltz, who was one of the ''Hollywood 10'' of blacklisted writers during the McCarthy era.

''The Naked City'' was a groundbreaking, gritty drama, filmed on location in New York, about police investigating a murder. It ended with the now-famous line: ''There are 8 million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.''

Wald, a Brooklyn native, researched the story by following real New York homicide detectives.

''No one had done a film where the real hero was a hardworking police detective, like the ones I knew in Brooklyn,'' Wald told the Hollywood Reporter last year. ''We knew we were making a new genre that became the police procedural.''

In addition to Wald's nomination, the movie won two Oscars for film editing and cinematography. It also spawned a popular television show of the same name that aired from 1958 to 1963 and inspired countless others.

''What we see all over our TV screens today originated in large part in that movie,'' film historian Leonard Maltin told the Los Angeles Times on Friday. ''It was a novelty then, deglamorizing Hollywood's depiction of crime-solving, taking it out of the hands of glamorous or exotic private investigators and following the day-to-day, mundane activities of the police.''

During World War II, Wald was in the Army Air Forces and helped make more than 30 training and recruitment films in Culver City. He also taught screenwriting at the University of Southern California.

In addition to his son, Wald is survived by a daughter, Jenifer Wald Morgan.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Zero Cool

At some point in his life--perhaps subconsciously--Michael Crichton set out to conquer the world. Not enough that he was becoming a doctor. He had to write pulp fiction while still in med school. And not enough that he write pulp fiction, he had to write bestsellers. And not enough that he write bestsellers, he had to put his imprint on Hollywood by creating some of the most enduring popcorn movies of all times. Poor guy.

But for all his triumphs, I still like his early work better somehow. I enjoy Westworld more than Jurassic Park (I even prefer the somwhat messy Looker to some of the Big pictures) and his John Lange pulp stuff more than any of his later books (though The Great Train Robbery, Rising Sun and Sphere still work fine for me).

So I had a great time with the new Hard Case Crime reissue of the John Lange novel Zero Cool.

This time out our hero is a radiologist named Peter Ross who, who visiting Spain, manages to pick up a lot of women and a trio of nasty and mysterious men who want him to perform an autopsy on a dead man who turns out to have been a gangster.

You have to admit. This is a pretty unique set-up for a crime novel. Ross and his elegant lady are dragged across Europe looking for an invaluable artifact. Lange was already a master of pacing. Ross is never quite sure what is going on as two different factions need his help to find an invaluable object.

Lange has more fun with this one than his other early books. The dialogue is breezier, the villains are a notch or two up the vermin scale and some elements of the unending race through various countries has the feel of Hitchcock directing Cary Grant.

This is one of those little gems of pure pulp pleasure, long on plot twists and derring do, and honed to lean perfection by a major storyteller.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Hardboiled America

One of the books about hardboiled fiction that rarely gets mentioned is Hardboiled America by Geoffrey O'Brien. He's a literary writer of real distinction (as well as the editor of The Library of America) but he's not slumming. He loves and understands the material. And he writes with real elegance.

His assessment of such major writers as Hammett, Chandler, Woolrich, Gardner are very much his own, and all the more fascinating because of it. He also takes the time to illustrate how literary fiction influenced hardboiled and how hardboiled influenced literary and mainstream.

For me he's at his best with the second generation of hardboiled writers, namely the Gold Medal girls and boys and how they spun off into Lion, Graphic, Ace, etc. I wish he wasn't so dismissive of John D. MacDonald. Here he takes the familiar path of the neo-noir critics who complain that JDM wasn't tough enough in his viewpoint. Most of his books concern middle class or working class men and women confronting crime. They're not gumshoes, they're not criminals. They bring their manners and mores with them when they try to extricate themselves from their problems. It's not that he isn't hardboiled; it's that he doesn't use all the cliches of hardboiled.

O'Brien shines when discussing Day Keene, Harry Whittington and, especially, Charles Williams. In fact I think his piece on Williams is definitve. Hard to imagine anybody handling Williams' career any more shrewedly.

The Hardboiled Checklist at the back of the book (1929-1960) is the most intelligent, exhaustive such list I've ever seen. Makes you wish you had three lifetimes just to read every book he takes note of.

This belongs on the shelf of every hardboiled reader and writer. It doesn't get any better than this.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


I happened to watch a somewhat dated documentary about rap music. One of the people interviewed was Quincy Jones. This is a man I truly repect and admire. His contributions to serious popular music are unequaled. From working with Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Sinatra, Helen Merrill (one of my favorites) and so many others he has a legacy that will endure far beyond his years.

But one of the things he said about rap bothered me. "Rap is the music of the streets."

I don't think that's true and if you'll allow me my usual cynicism I think that at seventy-plus he says such things in order to try stay relevant.

The only convincing segment in the piece was of an early rap group in LA. No bling; no tough guy. Moving songs about the streets.

Rap to me isn't music as I understand the word. But that doesn't matter. I'm probably wrong, as tin-earred as elders in the Fifties were when they heard the "jungle music" of Chuck Berry and Little Richard.

What I object to is the idea that it's the music of the streets. The hell it is. I've heard enough of it to know that it's mostly about accumulating money and power. It's an inner city fantasy--what too many youngsters apparently aspire to.

Let me recommend reggae. THAT's the music of the streets. The kind of reggae I listen to isn't about showing off buff bodies ("street cred" translates to selling records to white kids driving their daddy's cars); or talking about bling; or selling the most CDs.

There is a lot of reggae that is violent, to be sure. And some of it that is repellent.

But when you listen to Bob Marley and the singers he inspired, you hear the sorrow of the streets, the yearning not for things but for some kind of salvation. You hear about children and families and poverty. In other words, you hear about the things that concern real artists.

There's a great Leonard Cohen line I've always remembered. "You are locked into your suffering/and your pleasures are the seal." There is innate sorrow in rap music but it is obscured by all the commercial silliness of bling bling.

The pleasures of big cars and street cred are the pleasures that cheat the suffering and keep rap false and empty.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Yandro, DuBois & Gorman

Back in 1957, when I was fifteen, I subscribed to my first science fiction fanzine, Yandro. Published by Buck and Juanita Coulson (yes, the Juanita well-known for her science fiction, fantasy and mystery novels) the monthly fanzine regularly featured articles and letters by Robert Bloch, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Philip Jose Farmer, Gene DeWeese, (occasionally my idol) Robert Silverberg and many, many more. Heady stuff for a teenager. Then Roger Ebert started appearing there followed by outlanders like me. Yandro remained my most-sought fanzine for well over a decade. In later years another now familiar name started appearing there, too, one Brendan DuBois, one of the finest writers in the entire field of crime fiction.

Well, today,two Yandro graduates, DuBois and Gorman, got a very cool nod from the sf field. Locus critic David Truesdale, listing his favorite short fiction for 2007

in short stories:

The Unpug War by Brendan DuBois

and in novelettes:

Moral Imperative by Ed Gorman

(both from the anthology Man vs. Machine from DAW edited by John Helfers and Martin H. Greenberg)

Tonight I got an e-mail from Brendan which reads, in part:


What a kick, eh? With my long time love of SF, I always get a thrill
being in an SF anthology, though I have *yet* to break the American SF
magazine market, after (gasp!) thirty years....

Ed here: And it really is a kick. Yandro forever!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Pulp Fanatic #6 - Correction

Difficult as it is to imagine, I made a mistake in my review of the new and really important issue of Pulp Fanatic #6. I said that the Skinhead series died quickly. Here's a correction from Justin Marriott that is also an interesting take on the culture of the time.

Thank you for the kind words Ed. Somewhat taken aback at being described as one of the most important non-f genre mags ever! I know you were involved with the guys at the superb The Scream Factory in one form or another, so I'll take it as a huge compliment.

The James Moffatt Skinhead novels DID become a huge success, selling in their millions. At one point the book gatecrashed the 10 Most Popular books for teenagers amongst classics such as Black Beauty and Call of the Wild, which caused somehing of a tabloid furore. They are now amongst the most collected of UK paperbacks (mainly by people who don't collect any other paperbacks) and fetch good money on e-bay. A near mint condition of a reprinting of Skinhead is currently fetching $30 with at least 2 days bidding to go.

Although the books did contain racist language and violence, this was at a time before the skinhead cult exported itself to the US and turned into some sort of monster. (The most disturbing sight of recent memory was at a punk concert I attended with my younger brother when he lived in Organce County. A large group of large skinheads covered in swastika tattoos were sieg heiling and were. No relevance to the bands playing. I so wanted to confront them but it would only had lead to me getting my teeth kicked in at best. Stabbed at worst.) In the late 1970s an extremist political party The National Front would recruit skinheads to undertake their dirty work, but thankfully the NF never got a real foothold here. It's most bizarre as it's universally acknowledged that the skinhead identity originated from young Jamacian immigrants in the 1960s, so by becoming racist they are denying their roots!

I'm currently working on a piece about Laurence James who spent his early years as Peter Haining's right-hand man at New English Library. He got so fed-up with having to edit out the racism in the Skinhead books that he refused to have anything to do with Moffatt.

Jim Moffatt will also be the subject of a feature in The Fanatic at some point!

All the best.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Fredric Brown

Noted author and book columnist Dick Adler has an especially fine article about the crime fiction of Fredric Brown in general and The Fabulous Clipjoint in particular in today's edition of the Chicago Tribune. This is a must-read.,1,4147554.story

By coincidence I'm about halfway through one of the Browns that very few people seem to like, Five Day Nightmare. Yes, the ending is a cheat (but then it was a cheat when Christie introduced the ploy forty years earlier) and it's in no way major Brown, reading more like a solid but not great "lead novel" in one of the pulps.

But I like it because of Brown's usual wry but gritty take on this ship of fools. Unlike most of his lead characters, our narrator is a businessman, an investment consultant no less. Also unlike most of Brown's milieus, this one is middle-class circa 1962. If you're curious about that era here's a tourist guide--golf, martinis, weekend trips to Vegas. Sounds like today, doesn't it?

The aspect common to much of Brown is the failed marriage that makes the kidnapping all the more bitter for the husband. He is haunted by the the angry last words he had with his wife.

Except for the end, the plot shows off all Brown's skills with storytelling. He was occasionally possessed of genius; and he was almost always a superior craftsman.

This is the third or fourth time I've read this book over the years and I like the hell out of it.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Act of Violence

I'm rerunning this review because I saw the movie again and it still knocked me out. Look it up for sure.

From Mystery*Files -- Ed Gorman


Wednesday, July 20, 2006

Mary Astor in ACT OF VIOLENCE.

I usually eat lunch around twelve thirty, catch the news and then go back upstairs to my office to write again.

Yesterday I happened to be channel surfing when I saw the billboard for a Turner movie called ACT OF VIOLENCE. I’d never seen it but as soon as I saw Robert Ryan (my favorite noir actor) l knew I’d watch the whole thing.

I mostly want to remark on Mary Astor’s performance. Astor is famous for two things, being in THE MALTESE FALCON with Bogart and having her diaries admitted as evidence in a divorce case. She certainly got around.

ACT OF VIOLENCE is hijacked in the middle of act two. Previously the picture belonged to Van Heflin and Ryan. But Astor, who figures prominently in the action far into act three, just walks off with the picture. TCM ran several movies of hers a while back and she was usually a giddy spoiled heiress or somesuch in glitzy comedies. She was always approriately irritating (the movies encourage us to hate giddy spoiled heiresses).

But in VIOLENCE we see a side of Astor that is, to me at least, astonishing. As a middle-aged hooker, she manages to be a decent person and a con job at the same time. Her faded looks are spellbinding. She’s got those great facial bones and the still-slender body but she plays against them with a weariness that makes her the most interesting character in the movie. I couldn’t stop looking at her. She’s every bar floozie you ever met and yet she transcends the stereotype by having a kind of hardboiled street intelligence. And at least a modicum of honesty. And, to my taste anyway, she’s sexy as hell.

This is one of those movies you enjoy because you soon realize that you have no idea where it’s going. It’s the standard three-act structure but the writers and director Fred Zinnemann aren’t afraid to introduce new plot elements right up to mid-way in the third act. That rarely works but it sure works here.

The only melancholy part for me was knowing how bitter Ryan was about playing psychos. He needed the work but considered it his jinx. He was among the finest film actors of his time but never really got his due. It’s his savaged face (he was dying of cancer at the time) that haunts the final moments of THE WILD BUNCH. Grim Sam Peckinpah knew what he was doing. And nobody's ever been better in The Iceman Cometh than Ryan was a mere three months before his death.