Saturday, October 31, 2009

Short stuff

I've been reading a lot of short stories lately and thought I'd recommend a few tonight.

On Tuesday I received the new Alfred Hitchcock double issue dated January/February 1010. I've been reading through it and found a number of particularly strong stories:

"Game" by Janet E. Irvin is a classic suspense story with some truly chilling moments. Very precisely observed.

"The God of Right and Wrong" by Steven Gore is a dark, twisty piece of work with exactly the right kind of payoff. Gore's s good a writer you find yourself lingering on his sentences.

"Midnight" by K.J. Egan takes us into a judge's chambers and give us a look at what his employees do--very nice

"The Case of The Vanishing Boy" is my special favorite. Kristin Kathryn Rusch, equally at home with mystery and science fiction, takes us to a modern science fiction convention and introduces us to a pair of fascinating and very weird protagonists. The story is a hoot.

Since I skip around in my reading I haven't read all the stories in the issue as yet.

Yesterday I received the new Ellery Queen for January 2010.

So far I've read only "Who Knows Where It Goes" by Lawrence Block, a devious and ironic comment on the current economy, Bloch showing us how it should be done.

"The Death of Ramona"--a brand new motive for a private eye story

From Hottest Blood 1993 (anthology edited by Jeff Gelb and Michael Garrett)

Nobody writes as powerfully and elegantly about the borderline separating obsessive sexuality and madness as Thomas Tessier. In "The Last Crossing" Tessier presents the kind of mid-life crisis that makes the readers of The New York Post positively orgasmic. A knock-out.

From Thriller 2 edited by Clive Cussler

So much "dark" fiction strikes me as contrived from other books and stories--not "Iced" by Henry Hunsicker. One of the most disturbing word-perfect crime stories I've read in a long, long time. It has a police blotter reality to it that's undeniable. Somebody should give it an award.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ed Gorman, Gunfighter

Mystery and western writer Evan Thomas was nice enough to doctor this cover with my face substituted for the gunfighter's and titles of some of my westerns listed instead of the real stories in the magazine. I tried to e mail Evan to thank him but found that I had the same trouble I have a lot of times with comments--they just don't get sent. I try all the various ways of sending them but apparently I'm not signed up for any of them. And when I do try to sign up it doesn't register. It isn't easy being a computer moron believe me. Anyway, here's the e mail I tried to send to Evan:g

Thank you so much for all your hard work, Evan. The cover is a hoot. I don't keep accurate records of what I've published so I was surprised to see how many westerns I'd written. There are some house name books too but I don't have copies of all of them. Yes, Bill Crider stepped in when I was going into the hospital and wrote the second half of Fast Track and did his usual wonderful job. Bill's one of my favorite people AND favorite writers. Thanks again for the time and care you took with this post. If you're interested you can find the cover and my western bibliography over at

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Henry Kuttner

Henry Kuttner wrote every kind of pulp fiction there was. He excelled at science fiction and fantasy. He also wrote three mysteries that I've always enjoyed as well as an original paperback series about a psychiatrist.

He was friend and mentor to both Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson. With his wife C.L. Moore he produced a large volume of stories, a long list of which are considered classics today. He died way too young at age forty-four. I still remember reading about his death one eighth grade afternoon when I picked up the new Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I was shocked and saddened. I'd read so many of his novels and stories I felt as if he'd been a personal friend.

Since we are in an era where vampires and werewolves and warlocks are fashionable I thought I'd introduce many of you to Kuttner (and probably C.L. Moore's) legendary short novel The Dark World currently available from Paizo in a handsome new edition.

Edward Bond returns from World War Two to be confronted by his identical twin with whom he shares a body--a twin from another dimension into which Bond is cast. There can't be many more strange and colorful worlds than the one he finds here. From the trade paperback: "Sucked through a portal to the Dark World, Bond finds himself trapped between two warring factions. On one side is the Coven: a werewolf, an immortal, and a beautiful witch eager to acknowledge Ganelon as their sinister ruler. On the other is the white sorceress Freydis and her band of forest rebels that want nothing more than to see the warlock’s head on a spike. Will Edward/Ganelon join with the rebels to release the oppressed world from the grip of a tyrannical, sacrifice-hungry god—or embrace the Coven to become the world’s greatest villain?"

If you're into fantasy, this book offers mystery, a real sense of dread, myriad wonders and some of the niftiest plotting you'll find this side of--well, Henry Kuttner.

To say that "The Dark World" has been "homaged" to death over the years would be to understate the case. It shows up in a number of famous novels. Here's an irritable quote from the excellent site Science Fiction and Fantasy reading Experience.

"MZB (or, Marion Zimmer Bradley, for those unfamilliar with this "fiction factory" brand) said: "I consider the works of Henry Kuttner the finest fantasy ever written"; Roger Zelazny cited "The Dark World" as a seminal influence on his Amber series; now - both these writers have contributed to many 300-pages-plus reworkings of the same ideas that Kuttner put in 100 pages here. When reading the novella (for that is what it is, really) today you will be struck how often you may have read same stuff in modern "door-stopper" trilogies - diluted and laundered for a publisher's fun and profit. However, here is the genuine article, the novel that started it all. It has color, adventure and the sense of wonder needed (required!) for publication in "Startling Stories" and the accompanying brevity. God bless Henry Kuttner. Wish he was more often reprinted nowadays."

If you're a fantasy pulp fan, this is a book you'll enjoy reading again and again.


Todd Mason forwarded me the following list of writers' favorite scary stories. I reply after the list

Martin Morse Wooster reports to the FictionMags list:

In their October 28 WASHINGTON POST fiction page, the editors of BOOK WORLD
asked writers, "What story scares the hell out of you?"

Anne Rice: M.R. James, "Count Magnus"
Scott Smith: Stewart O'Nan, A PRAYER FOR THE DYING
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child: Karl Edward Wagner, "Sticks"
Jonathan Carroll: W.W. Jacobs, "The Monkey's Paw"
Dan Chaon: Joyce Carol Oates, "Is Laughter Contagious?"
Charlaine Harris: Shirley Jackson, THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE
Joe Hill: Kelly Link, "The Specialist's Hat" and Neil Gaiman, "Bitter
Lemony Snicket: "anything by Charles Krauthammer"
Sarah Waters: W.W. Jacobs, "The Monkey's Paw"
China Mieville: Saki, "Sredni Vashtar"
Audrey Niffenegger: H.G. Wells, THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Elizabeth Hand: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper"
Peter Straub: Shirley Jackson, "The Daemon Lover"
William Peter Blatty: Bram Stoker, DRACULA

Ed here: Maybe I don't scare easy. I can't watch slice and dice movies but that's because gore puts me off, it's not really being scared. There are some mighty fine stories on this list but except for Drac and the Shirley Jacksons none scare me. The Father Thing by P Dick scares me and so does Smoke Ghost by Fritz Leiber . S King's early short stories (most of them in Night Shift) scare me. C.L. Moore's Shambleau, speaking of nightmares, never fails to trouble me--she really gets to the heart of Other. And of course Henry Kuttner's strange tale of childhood Call Him Demon. I would also include several stories by Ramsey Campbell (Campbell can really upset your mental equilibrium) and Karl Edward Wagner. Many Conan stories by Robert E. Howard scare me too. The King In Yellow is a story I can't read after sundown--Robert W. Chambers really hit a nerve.

In the summer of 1960 I worked as a bag boy. After the store closed at nine I'd usually play poker or pin ball for money. It was always late when I walked home. Late and street-empty. I made the mistake of reading Richard Matheson's fine novel A Stir of Echoes. Some of those two a.m. walks home really spooked me.

The most frightening story I've ever read is by Oliver Onions, The Beckoning Fair One. To me it's the most masterful terror tale of all. I have no idea why it scares me but it has every single time I''ve gone back to it. He struck some kind of spiritual nerve in me.

Here's Wikkpedia on Onions:

George Oliver Onions, (pronounced by his family as in the vegetable, not oh-NY-ons. It should also be noted that he was harassed as a child regarding his last name) (13 November 1873 – 9 April 1961) was a significant English novelist who published over forty novels and story collections. Originally trained as a commercial artist, he worked as a designer of posters and books, and as a magazine illustrator, before starting his career in writing. The first editions of his novels were published with dust jackets bearing full-colour illustrations painted by Onions himself. He married the writer Berta Ruck in 1909 and they had two sons, Arthur (born 1912) and William (born 1913). Onions legally changed his name to George Oliver in 1918, but continued to publish under the name Oliver Onions.

Besides detective fiction, historical fiction and a science fiction novel, New Moon (1918), Onions wrote several collections of ghost stories, of which the best known is Widdershins (1911). It includes the novella The Beckoning Fair One, widely regarded as one of the best in the genre of horror fiction, especially psychological horror. On the surface, this is a conventional haunted house story: an unsuccessful writer moves into rooms in an otherwise empty house, in the hope that isolation will help his failing creativity. His sensitivity and imagination are enhanced by his seclusion, but his art, his only friend and his sanity are all destroyed in the process. The story can be read as narrating the gradual possession of the protagonist by a mysterious and possessive feminine spirit, or as a realistic description of a psychotic outbreak culminating in catatonia and murder, told from the sufferer's point of view. The precise description of the slow disintegration of the protagonist's mind is terrifying in either case. Another theme, shared with others of Onions' stories, is a connection between creativity and insanity; in this view, the artist is in danger of withdrawing from the world altogether and losing himself in his creation.

Onions was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his 1946 novel Poor Man's Tapestry.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Buy this book-I need the money

from Gravetapping by Ben Boulden

Another older review. I posted it about a year ago, but Leisure has just released Death Ground in a new edition. It should either be on bookstore shelves or on its way. It is a Western that anyone and everyone will enjoy. The cover art is terrific, and the novel is even better.

Leo Guild is an aging bounty hunter. He is a former lawman, father and husband, but that is all behind him. Now he rides alone. He is melancholy, intelligent and violent; when he needs to be. He also has a past that sticks with him. He killed a little girl. The courts forgave him, but he can’t find the heart to forgive himself.

Death Ground opens on the evening of Guild’s 54th birthday. In lonely celebration he makes a date at the local brothel with a young “straw-haired” girl. Things don’t go as expected with the girl and his birthday truly turns for the worse when he is summoned to the Sheriff’s office.

Two men are dead. One—Merle Rig—hired Guild as a bodyguard and the other—Kenny Tolliver—was technically Guild’s employee. He hired Kenny to protect Rig while he paid a visit to the "straw-haired" girl. As he looks at the cadavers on the heavy mortician’s tables he figures his job is gone and it is time to ride on, but first he pays a visit to Kenny’s mother. A scene that unsettles Guild and also piques his interest; Kenny’s mother knew Rig and Kenny palled around with a couple local deputies.

Leo Guild decides he can’t leave town until he figures who really killed the pair and why. He has a feeling it is not the violent mountain man being blamed by the Sheriff, but he doesn’t have many suspects. He doesn’t have anything but a hunch, really.

Death Ground isn’t a traditional Western. It, like all of Gorman’s Westerns, is a noir mystery wrapped in the trappings of the Old West. That is not to say that the historical element isn’t accurate or interesting, because it is. It is also central to the story, but an Ed Gorman Western is more of a historical mystery than anything else. A hardboiled historical mystery at that.

The prose is tough and tender in varying shades. It defines the story, action, and protagonist with a lean, smart and melancholy and literate style:

“Then he started digging snow up with both hands, and he covered them good, the two of them, and then he stood up and looked out on the unfurling white land. There was blue sky and a full yellow sun. Warmer now, there was even that kind of sweetness that comes on sunny winter days. It made him think of pretty women on ice skates, their cheeks touched perfect red by the cold, their eyes daring and blue.”

Leo Guild is an everyman. He is the man who does what needs to be done. He isn’t a hero, or a villain, but rather he is simply a man; a man who has seen much, done much, and lost much. Guild is an example of what makes Ed Gorman’s fiction so damn good: characters that are measured and three-dimensional; characters that act, feel and sound real. His male characters are strong and pitiful, lustful and scared, vain and dangerous, lonely and weak—generally all at the same time—and more importantly they are recognizable. And his female characters exhibit the same steady qualities. Neither wholly good nor bad, just human.

Death Ground is a Western that should have wide appeal. It will please the traditionalist with its rugged description of frontier life and the people who settled it. It will also introduce readers of hardboiled crime fiction to a new genre, but mostly it will please any reader who wants something tangible and meaningful mixed into a well-told, excellently plotted and immensely entertaining novel.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Marcia Muller: Locked In

Marcia Muller has been chronicling the life of Sharon McCone since Edwin of The Iron Shoes way back in 1977. What has kept the series at the forefront of contemporary detective fiction has been the growing depth of the writing and Muller's observations on character and milieu.

I'd be remiss if I didn't note the way Muller has frequently varied McCone's circumstances. The regular characters around McCone have changed and multiplied over the years. McCone got her pilot's license. Her love life has changed occasionally too. None of these turns has been gratuitous. They have evolved with McCone evolving over the thirty years and the twenty-six books in which she's shared her life with us.

All that said, there's never been as radical a departure in the McCone canon as LOCKED IN. Here we have McCone shot in the head early on and lying near death in a hospital--what the docs call locked-in syndrome--able to communicate only by blinking.

So it's up to the regular cast including Hy Ripinsky (Sharon's husband), Julia Rafael and Mike Savage, McCone's often unreliable nephew--these and a few others are McCone's "legs" as they rush to discover who shot her. Give the number of cases she's worked on over the years. it could have been anyone. But blinking in response to questions McCone aids the investigation.

As much as I've always admired McCone's first person voice, I'm also a fan of her work in third person going back to The Tree of Death (1983) and The Cavalier in White (1986). And her expertise with third person is stronger than ever here as her friends tear through the night for the truth. The third person also allows Muller to give us richer backgrounds on the regular cast--we're seeing things now through their eyes rather than Sharon's.

This is a fine, exciting and novel novel. An essential addition to Marcia Muller's body of work.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The `Mulzini Place'

(I found this link on Sarah Weinman's blog. Thanks, Sarah.)

Welcome to the 'Mulzini' place
Published: Monday, Oct. 19, 2009 - 12:00 am | Page 1D

Is Northern California big enough for both Marcia Muller and her husband, Bill Pronzini?
For the "Mulzinis," as their friends jokingly call them, there's always a new chapter ahead in a remarkable collaborative life of mystery. The Petaluma-based writers are two of the most widely recognized names in crime fiction – he for his "Nameless Detective" series, she with her Sharon McCone thrillers.

Both series, like many of their stand-alone novels, are set throughout Northern California. And both series' protagonists are private investigators with residences and agencies in San Francisco.

Thus the question: Is there any possibility that the couple – he a Petaluma native, she a transplant from Detroit who came to California in the early 1970s – might run out of settings in the region?

"I don't think so, though between the two of us, we've carved up California," Muller said on the phone from their Petaluma home. "Places change so fast, and San Francisco is a whole different city than it was. We revisit other places and notice the changes, which gives us a fresh perspective."

Both were named grand masters by the Mystery Writers of America – she in 2005, he in 2007. They married in 1992 after meeting at a gathering of the Northern California chapter of the MWA when Pronzini was vice president.

Their longtime writing arrangement suits them just fine, said Muller, adding with a laugh, "My office is a loft upstairs. Bill works on the bottom floor, at the other end of the house, so we're safe."

For the rest go here:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mystery Scene update

Mystery Scene Update

The ad reservation deadline for Mystery Scene's Holiday Issue has been extended to October 31. Please let me know if you'd like us to save space for you.
We'd need the finished ad by November 5th. Design services are available for $75.
The Holiday Issue #112 publishes November 15th and stays on the newsstands until February 15th, 2010.
1. Lawrence Block's new column of literary reminisces, "The Murders in Memory Lane," debuts in this issue. Block is, of course, a New York Times bestselling author, an influence on several generations of writers, and one heck of a raconteur. This new feature is destined to be a reader favorite.
2. The monthly MS Newsletter is up and running. Sign up at our website!
There is still 4-color ad space available in the upcoming Holiday Issue, but it's going fast!
Full page $1,500; two-thirds page $1,200; half-page $850.

- Sara Paretsky, the pioneering female private eye writer, will discuss her VI Warshawski novels in our cover profile.
- "Book Collecting Terms," the third installment in our new Building Your Book Collection series.
- A round-up of current legal mysteries and legal thrillers by Jon L. Breen.
- The popular annual Mystery Scene Gift Guide will offer an array of diabolically fun gifts.
- Articles about THE MENTALIST (CBS), Ed Gorman's conversation with xxx, Lawrence Block's new column, and Mystery Scene's expert assessments of books, reference works, film, TV and audiobooks.
The attached media kit has demographics, specs, and an insertion order form. And just let me know if you'd like to see a current issue.
Posted by Bill Crider at 3:22 PM

Thursday, October 22, 2009



From Publishers Weekly

This is a western for grown-ups, written in a lean, hardboiled style that should appeal to readers who "don't read westerns." In the waning years of the frontier, in an unnamed territory, bounty-hunter Guild celebrates a joyless 54th birthday in a brothel. Guild is acting as bodyguard for Merle Rig, a very unpleasant man who is soon murdered, along with a teenager whom Guild had reluctantly hired as an assistant. Suspicion points to Kriker, a notoriously violent mountain man, bank robber and leader of a secluded settlement of former low-lifes. The laconic Guild, carrying his own personal guilt about a dead child, sets out to bring Kriker to justice, accompanied by the nasty Bruckner brothers, sheriff's deputies. Kriker, meanwhile, is nursing his adoptive daughter, using a "granny woman's" folk medicine that is useless against what turns out to be cholera. Gorman ( Guild and the Jack Dwyer mysteries) uses the period setting effectively and draws his characters with a deft hand.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc

From Somebody Dies

Death Ground by Ed Gorman (Leo Guild Western)
This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on Ex Libris Reviews. Copyright 2005. Reprinted with permission.

Ed Gorman writes my favorite kind of Western, at least as far as I can tell from the example of Death Ground. I really enjoy dark fiction like horror and hard-boiled crime novels. There, characters unrepentantly operate by their own set of rules. This was the first Western I read that didn't appear to be peopled entirely with black-and-white characters either trying to do the right thing or blatantly the opposite.

Everyone's motives in Death Ground are questionable. Even the protagonist is a bounty hunter named Leo Guild who is more interested in collecting the reward for returning the spoils of a bank robbery than in bringing the robber to justice — although that would be okay, too, as long as the reward was worth it.

Gorman puts enough plot into the 200 pages of Death Ground to fill a much longer novel. At least four of the characters undergo some type of change, a cholera outbreak wipes out half of a settlement, and all of the bad guys are punished — usually with a bullet or six.

Somehow, Gorman manages to make each individual sympathetic (like the priest who isn't really, two brothers with an incredibly dysfunctional relationship, and a murderer who adopts an orphan) in an emotionally resonant narrative. With the existence of three other Leo Guild novels to help ease the transition via familiarity, Death Ground also acts as the ideal introduction to Westerns for the horror or crime fiction fan.


Ed here: Very interesting piece in the LA Times Hero Complex on artist Adam Byrne:

Hero Complex

Very interesting piece in the LA Times Hero Complex on artist Adam Byrne:

Adam Byrne conjures up the dark magic of 'H.P. Lovecraft' [UPDATED]
October 22, 2009 | 6:01 am

This is the second installment of our new series Artist at Work, where we put the spotlight on a single artist and have a conversation about craft, inspiration and process. Last time it was Dean Haspiel, an established star of the New York scene, but for this edition the focus is on a building success story here in Southern California: Adam Byrne, whose vivid work on "The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft" has caught the eye of a lot of industry observers (myself included) as well as the attention of Ron Howard and Imagine Entertainment, who are now developing the property as a film.

H.P. Lovecraft began skittering around the edges of Adam Byrne's imagination at the start of this decade, which is why he jokingly calls "The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft" his "10-year overnight success."

It was in 2000 that Byrne crossed paths with Mac Carter and Jeff Blitz, a pair whom he viewed as "the best-kept secrets in Hollywood" (and he may have been right considering Blitz later got an Oscar nomination for the documentary "Spellbound"). Carter and Blitz hatched an idea that intrigued Bryne as an artist: A supernatural tale that would use the cosmically creepy author Lovecraft (who died 72 years ago) not just as an influence, but as the main character.

"I knew immediately this was the project worth dedicating myself to ... as time wore on, I stubbornly refused to let go of Lovecraft," Byrne said. "It took on many unfinished forms; The animated short, a video game pitch and my own pass at the miniseries until we realized the workload was too much for a struggling artist with a mortgage."

for the rest go here:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Forgotten Books: Hardboiled America

How's this for a resume (from Wikipedia): "Geoffrey O'Brien (b. 1948) is a widely published author, editor, book and film critic, poet, and cultural historian. In 1992, he joined the staff of the Library of America, (later) becoming editor in chief. He has been a contributor to Artforum, Film Comment, The New York Times, Village Voice, New Republic, Filmmaker and, especially, to the New York Review of Books."

With cred like this you might expect his writing to be hoity or at least toity. Nope. No matter what he's writing about O'Brien is a pleasure to read. He has a voice and style all his own. And he's never more compelling than when he's writing about "Lurid Paperbacks and Masters of Noir," the sub-title of Hardboiled America.

There is no equivalent to this study of the largely forgotten writers who were conduits to the present day likes of Lehane and Pelecanos and Zeltserman. Even if these men never read the paperback writers of the Fifties they could not escape their influence. It was everywhere, adapted to radio and movies and comic books. And O'Brien is masterful at tracing the hardboiled vision from generation to generation.

O'Brien takes seriously the writing of such people as Day Keene, Harry Whittington and Brett Halliday and many other paperback men and women. He's opinionated of course. His take on John D. MacDonald and Dorothy Hughes never fails to rankle me. But his observations on the work of Jim Thompson and W.R. Burnett and Ross Macdonald and Charles Williams are eloquent and so well reasoned I reread them several times a year. He also brings in literary writers whose work was sometimes in the spirit of hardboiled. Nelson Algren is a natural. But I'm glad he referenced Calder Willingham, too. A fine novelist whose short stories in particular are so dark they can disturb your sleep for a few nights.

Then there is a checklist of hardboiled novels from 1929-1960. Again there is nothing like this anywhere else. You'll encounter names you've never heard of as well as the paperback staples of the various eras. I was so taken with the checklist I once called O'Brien and asked him if he'd let me reprint it in a coffee table book I was editing on noir. He didn't bother to hide his irritation. His checklist, he said, was one of the selling points of the his book. Why would he let me reprint it? He was right of course. But what the hell, it was worth a try.

If you don't have this book in your collection then you don't have a serious collection. Period. O'Brien is a savvy and witty writer and his words are complemented by a healthy number of black and white paperback cover reproductions. Get this book

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Patricia Cornwell loses $40 Million

From The Daily Beast

Patricia Cornwell's Latest Mystery
by Lloyd Grove

Newscom How did the acclaimed crime novelist lose $40 million? She’s suing her accountants and business advisers to find out.
Murder victims have met grisly ends for less obvious reasons in Patricia Cornwell’s bestselling Kay Scarpetta novels.
But—after suffering estimated losses of $40 million due to the alleged negligence of her accountants and business advisers—Cornwell is taking the nonlethal approach, and simply suing.

The famed crime writer claims that Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP—a blue-chip New York financial-management firm that specializes in “privately held businesses and high net worth individuals,” including such celebrities as Robert De Niro—mishandled not only her own money, but that of her spouse of two years, Harvard neuroscientist Staci Gruber. Their home state of Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2004.

for the rest go here:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Interesting stuff David McCallum on his life in show business I was never much interested in Arsenio Hall but this is a solid interview's It's not a good day if some political hack isn't in trouble I'll never go for the death penalty but some people sure put a strain on my beliefs

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Let's see Bill Crider beat this-

Ed here: Mark Johnson sent this to me with the headline "Let's see Bill Crider beat this."

Wrestling midgets killed by fake hookers

The world of Mexican midget wrestling is in mourning after two of its most famous stars were apparently poisoned by fake prostitutes.
Brothers in armlocks Alberto and Alejandro Pérez Jiménez were found dead in a hotel room after being drugged and robbed.
The women who spiked the twins' drinks are thought to be members of an organised crime gang who pose as prostitutes to attract victims.
They normally just knock out their victims but the dose proved too much for Alberto – aka 'La Parkita' (Little Death) and Alejandro – aka 'Espectrito II'.
The 36-year-olds were veteran stars of the 'Lucha Mini' world of midget wrestling.
They began their fighting careers 17 years ago in a tag team called the Small Devils and sometimes crossed over into American WWF/WWE wrestling.
Skeleton-masked La Parkita fought at the WWF Royal Rumble showpiece events in 1997 and 1998 in a tag team alongside Lucha Mini legend and Hollywood actor Mascarita Sagrada.
The luchadors picked up the two women after filming a TV fight show and took them to a hotel, according to police in Mexico City.
But while preparing for their 'bouts' they appear to have had their alcoholic drinks spiked before being robbed.
The pair were found by cleaners at the hotel on Monday. Tests suggested they had not had sex with the women.
It is thought their size made them more vulnerable to the drugs the women put in their drinks.
Police suspect a gang known as The Leak or The Drops was involved in the incident and said 20 people were arrested for similar crimes last year.
Yesterday, there were conflicting reports as to whether the 'prostitutes' had been ­arrested.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Red Dawn

Peter Bart of Variety informs us that the movie Red Dawn is going to be remade. He liked it even less than Carol and I did. I think I remember us leaving after about forty-five minutes or so. The jingoism was loud, clumsy and inane. Bart explains what happened:

Peter Bart:

MGM, for example, is recrafting a curious ’80s movie called "Red Dawn," and I can’t quite figure out why. I’m embarrassed to admit I was involved in putting together the first "Red Dawn" in 1984. Indeed, the original movie was a classic example of a good idea gone bad.

When I first pounced on the project (I was MGM’s senior VP for production at the time), it was a sharply written anti-war movie called "Ten Soldiers" written by a bright young filmmaker named Kevin Reynolds, then a Spielberg protege. The movie was set in the near future as a combined force of Russians and Cubans launched a surreptitious invasion of the Southwestern U.S. Ten kids take to the hills when their small town is captured and they turn into a skilled and lethal guerrilla band.

In due course, the movie started as a sort of "Lord of the Flies," but then the chieftains at MGM got a better idea. Instead of making a poignant little antiwar movie, why not make a teen "Rambo" and turn the project over to John Milius, a genial and rotund filmmaker who loved war movies and also loved war? The idea was especially popular with a member of the MGM board of directors, General Alexander Haig, the former Nixon chief of staff, who yearned to supervise the film personally and develop a movie career.

For the rest go here:

Ed here: General Haig of "I'm in charge here!" (meaning the United States) when constitutionally he wasn't in charge of anything excepted his rather dramatically tailored uniform? Gee, how could a film with him go wrong?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The boy in the balloon

From Tom Piccirilii:

Hey Ed: so an experimental helium balloon built by a storm chaser in his backyard took off with his six-year-old son inside. Family lives five minutes from us. Talk about life mirroring fiction. It's my story "Between the Dark and the Daylight"!

Balloon finally landed after two and a half hours in the air and having traveled something like 100 miles, sometimes as high as 10,000 feet. Kid wasn't in it. The news copters started following within 20 minutes of it lifting off, so now it looks like the kid jumped or fell shortly after take off, though he still hasn't been found yet.

Tom Piccirilli

Ed here: Tom's right about the connection between his story and the balloon story today. But since I just learned that the family was on a tv reality show...I wonder what's going on here. I hope the kid's all right. That's the important thing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Revoltin' Development?

By Jeff Rivera on Oct 14, 2009 03:30 PM
From Galleycat

As the publishing industry undergoes economic changes and lay-offs, a growing number of former editors from major publishing houses have taken their love for guiding and developing writing talent to another level; they have become literary agents.

Because successful literary agents must possess an understanding of the publishing world while they maintain relationships within the industry, former editors can easily transition into the world of agents.

For the rest go here:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Max Allan Collins Quarry In The Middle

If the novels about hit-man Quarry continue to be this good, they may rival Max Allan Collins' most famous series, the Nathan Heller books.

The two series have one thing in common, that being Collins' skill in bringing past eras alive. In Quarry In The Middle Quarry is at work doing the Reagan administration. Collins' snapshots of that time--from hair style to attitudes--are almost as entertaining as the story itself. He does sociology on the run, defining the various kinds of hierarchies he sees--tough vs. faux tough; important vs. self-important; sexy vs. buffonish.

But above all there's that relentless storytelling, Quarry hiring out to learn who's trying to kill a mob-connected Brit who runs an upscale nightspot with a big casino attached. The portrait of the Brit's estranged wife is particularly well done as are Quarry/Collins' comments on a music industry that no longer values the kind of music that Rodgers and Hart, Duke Ellington and Cole Porter made so famous.

And the twists keep on coming. As usual Quarry finds himself at moments in the Twilight Zone, trying to figure out who is who and why is why. But that's what keeps you turning the pages of this sleek, savvy, killer story.

-----------THE COLLIDER

As someone who grew up reading science fiction and took such novels as Jerry Sohl's great Costigan's Needle seriously, I was properly interested and terrified (seriously) when one of the theories about the Large Hadron Collider was that when it started up it would swallow our entire planet in a kind of black hole. Remember, these are serious scientists making these kinds of speculations.

But now there's an even more bizarre if less deadly theory. From the NY Times this morning:

More than a year after an explosion of sparks, soot and frigid helium shut it down, the world’s biggest and most expensive physics experiment, known as the Large Hadron Collider, is poised to start up again. In December, if all goes well, protons will start smashing together in an underground racetrack outside Geneva in a search for forces and particles that reigned during the first trillionth of a second of the Big Bang.

Then it will be time to test one of the most bizarre and revolutionary theories in science. I’m not talking about extra dimensions of space-time, dark matter or even black holes that eat the Earth. No, I’m talking about the notion that the troubled collider is being sabotaged by its own future. A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.

for the rest go here:

Monday, October 12, 2009

I finally beat Bill Crider to a story

Texas man found asleep with corpse inside closet

Oct 12th, 2009 | HOUSTON -- A Houston man found asleep with a corpse inside a closet of a vacant home has been charged with misdemeanor drug offenses, authorities said Monday. Cody Jean Plant, 21, was discovered Sunday after the owner of the house reported hearing voices and seeing signs of forced entry at the home in Cypress, about 25 miles northwest of Houston, according to a Harris County Precinct 4 Constable official. Authorities did not immediately release the dead man's identity.

"There were two guys in the closet. They appeared to be sleeping, one was snoring and the other was deceased," said Assistant Chief Deputy Mark Herman. "It appeared that they were doing some sort of narcotics, at least the one that they woke up."

Plant was charged with one count of possession of a dangerous drug and two counts of possession of a controlled substance of more than three grams and less than 28 grams. All are punishable by up to a year in jail. It was not immediately clear what kind of drugs Plant allegedly had in his possession.

Plant also had been charged with abuse of a corpse after prosecutors alleged he treated the body "in an offensive manner," but that charge was dropped Monday during a probable cause hearing.

Plant remained in the Harris County Jail in lieu of $15,000 bail Monday. Jail officials did not know Monday night whether Plant had an attorney.


Information from: Houston Chronicle,

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The co-authored Frankenstein

Thanks to Cinema Retro for the link:

Cinema Retro: The original 1818 edition of the novel Frankenstein was published anonymously. Five years later, its author - Mary Shelley- decided to put her name on all future editions of the work, capitalizing on the sensation it caused in the literary world. From the start, however, there were skeptics who doubted that an 18 year-old woman could have conceived such sinister goings-on. Shelley tinkered with future printings of the novel and never hid the fact that her husband Percy gave her advice and editorial assistance. The extent of his participation has long been debated among scholars. A new edition of the book from Random House will list Percy as a contributing writer, albeit in parentheses next to his wife's name. For the full, fascinating story click here

Ed here: I remember when certain academics insisted that Zelda Fitzgerald had helped to write some of husband Scott's work. Anybody who'd read Zelda's work--she was an accomplished writer--knew that any such collaboration was unlikely but the theory was pushed forth with great defiance until, I believe, it crashed back to earth. The Frankenstein case seems more logical but we'll see. Victoria Rosner's column makes its case perfectly.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Stuart Kaminsky; Leonard Cohen; Gerald Kersh

Stuart Kaminsky died yesterday. I didn't know him well at all but when I was starting out going on twenty-seven or so years ago I wrote him a letter telling him how much I loved the Toby Peters books and how I'd published a lot of crap in the down market men's field but now wanted to try mystery novels. He wrote back with advice I still honor today. I still love the Toby books and almost all of his other books, too. I'm not sure why but his death shocked me more than any other recent one. I'm still sort of stunned by it. Peace, Stuart.

------------------Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen's early 60s novel sold three thousand copies hardcover. I was one of the three thousand buyers. And I was hooked for life. A fair number of people don't like his work because it's a "downer" but I've always found his struggles to be those of an intelligent and way articulate man trying to make sense of of our short time here. In The Nation this week David Yaffe posted a very long and extremely enlightening piece about Cohen. It's well worth reading.

"In 1966 Cohen was a poet and novelist--he had sold a few thousand copies of his novels and collections of verse in Canada--who was just learning to perform. The poetry world was small, the Canadian one even smaller, and Cohen was seeking a bigger stage. A chance encounter with Judy Collins led to his serenading her, on the phone, with "Suzanne." She recorded it almost instantly. Shortly thereafter, Cohen found himself giving an impromptu performance for Hammond in his room in the Chelsea Hotel. Hammond later pressed Cohen to reproduce in the studio what he had heard in that room, but it didn't work out that way. Cohen needed to be almost hypnotized to be so hypnotic on songs like "The Stranger Song," "Master Song" and, really, all the tunes that ended up on Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967). Cohen was no folkie; according to Hammond, Cohen felt that he needed to augment his voice with strings, with odd distracting timbres and windup toys, and even with amateurish white backup singers who sounded like they were harmonizing in a schoolyard. (Later, the Cohenettes would become sassier and more racially mixed.) It was the artist, not the label, who wanted to sweeten his dark songs with fiddles and studio trickery. The album has endured for more than forty years, and all its eccentric features heralded the shape of Cohen's sonic choices to come."

For the rest go here:

------------------Gerald Kersh

I have six collections of Gerald Kersh stories. His Night and the City remains one of my favorite novels and movies of all time. And his short stories are masterful. The mind that could construct "The Queen of Pig Island" is rare indeed. But today in an old Ellery Queen annual I stumbled on "The Scar." I'd never heard of it before. Most of it is related by a down and out old entertainer who's time is long past and who is probably a bullshit artist in the extreme. The bulk of it is a tale the old fart tells the man who lives in the same shabby rooming house. It's an interesting view of Britain right after the war and of what life was like for a man who never made it. But the ending--wow. It's a great twist that writers especially will appreciate. Well worth looking up.

Where're they ever going to find an actor with Jack Lord's monsoon-resistant hair? He could run along a beach during a hurricane and nary a single hair would fall out of the place. Now that's acting.

Friday, October 09, 2009


The Max All Collins website and blog new and updated by Max and his son Nathan


Before we start discussing the history of Quarry how about you telling us how the noted novelist Richard Yates helped you get your MFA at the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop?

I lived in Muscatine, Iowa -- still do, as you know -- with a real sense of this famous writing school being in my back yard. In high school I was really into what was then called "black comedy," notably Joseph Heller's CATCH-22 and everything of Vonnegut's. And Vonnegut was teaching up there, so I just naively figured I'd have no trouble getting in. In my high school, I was the writing guy -- had won all sorts of contests, and written plays and so on.

Anyway, to my disappointment, Vonnegut left just before I enrolled at the University of Iowa, as a junior (I went to community college in Muscatine). I'd written three or four crime and spy novels in high school, and now finally had a novel written that I thought was publishable -- MOURN THE LIVING. I had applied for the undergrad workshop, and drove up there and tracked down Yates in his office at the English Philosopy Building. I went in bubbling, intense and enthusiastic, telling him how much I looked forward to being in the class. And I handed him the novel.

He gave me his sorrowful look and said something like, "I'm afraid you're out of luck. This isn't the kind of writing we believe in here."

Deflated beyond words, I slunk back to Muscatine, fairly crushed. Then something wonderful happened: Sunday night, he called me and apologized.

"I've just read your book," he said. "You are very serious about what you do, and more professional than any other applicant, and I owe you an apology for being a snob. I would love to have you in my class."

I hadn't realized had hard it was to get in -- there was just one undergraduate workshop section.

So he became my mentor, reading and working with me on everything I did. He got me my first agent, Knox Burger, who he pitched me to as the next Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler. Burger, in his typically crusty way, said, "More like W.R. Burnett, but I'll take him on, anyway." I wrote BAIT MONEY, NO CURE FOR DEATH and began QUARRY under Yates' guiding hand. What he taught me was to write from experience, not from other books I'd read, and to view all my characters as "victims" (which was my original title for NO CURE FOR DEATH). Once you realize that everyone is justified from their own point of view, your writing opens up into something more real, even working a pulp vein.

He wrote me and congratulated me when BAIT MONEY sold, and I wish I still had that letter. I do remember he said, "I'm not surprised you've sold it," saying that he still remembered a minor character from MOURN THE LIVING and by name (Sid Tisor), and said that of the thousands of student manuscripts he'd read, that was one of the few things that had stuck with him. He was a fine writer and, to me, a wise, nuturing teacher.

The first novel you sold was about your other series character Nolan,
Bait Money. Were you also thinking about Quarry at the time?

The first novel I sold was BAIT MONEY, the Nolan. Right away I sold NO CURE FOR DEATH after that, though it wound up not being published for a number of years. So Quarry, in a book I called QUARRY (published as THE BROKER), was third to bat, and reflected a lot of thinking on my part about finding something of my own. Nolan was a Richard Stark pastiche, so much so that I got Don Westlake's permission before agreeing to write sequels. And the Mallory character was really a reworking of the standard private eye hero out of Chandler, even if he wasn't literally a P.I.

What inspired Quarry?

I grew up wanting to be a private eye writer, specifically wanting to be Mickey Spillane, but by the late '60s, the P.I. seemed played out and anarchronistic. So my enthusiasm shifted to so-called "crook books."

I was very interested in Westlake's Parker novels but also Jim Thompson, who I started reading in high school around '64, and also W.R. Burnett's ASPHALT JUNGLE and HIGH SIERRA and Horace McCoy's KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE. I think Yates got me thinking about crime fiction as potential literature, and I was aware, early on, of the movement toward taking the genre more seriously. A particular influence was James M. Cain and his first-person criminal heroes, who (as Yates had always said) had less than a full grasp on who and what they really were.

Specifically, as much as I liked the Richard Stark novels, and my own Nolan and Jon characters, I felt the Parker sort of novel had an element of cop out. You are identifying with a bad guy, yes, but Westlake used an almost Hammett-like stingy third-person, which cushioned the reader, and Parker really only killed other criminals. Parker and Stark never really went over a certain line, despite threatening to all the time. I thought, "What if it's not a bank robber? What if it's a hired killer? And what if we are in the first-person, locked in his point of view with nowhere else to go, and no one else to root for?"

My strategy has always been to have Quarry do something fairly terrible very early on, giving the reader the chance to bail. Then the trick is to have Quarry (a) behave at least vaguely like a noir anti-hero thereafter, and (b) encounter a woman who rekindles his humanity. Finally, toward the end of the book, Quarry does something else fairly terrible, and reminds me you just who the hell you've been identifying with.

Did you have a difficult time selling a series about a hit-man?

It was a one-shot. The ending implied Quarry would probably be tracked down and killed. But, of course, when they asked for more, I gave them more -- three more, in the mid-'70s. And it became the first hitman as protagonist series.

Did you have an agent at the time?

Yeah, Burger sold that novel, and that series.

What did you think of the Berkley packaging of the first group of

Lousy. They changed my titles without asking me, the first two anyway. My title QUARRY became THE BROKER, and HIT LIST became THE BROKER'S WIFE, a title that betrayed the book's major surprise. It's like re-titling PSYCHO as THE BOY WHO DRESSED AS HIS MOTHER AND KILLED PEOPLE.

Did you get a lot of letters from readers about Quarry?

Quarry has always generated a fair amount of fan mail. My decision to do another one in the '80s was influenced by how many readers had expressed an interest in the series. I have to say at the time, I thought I'd really come up with something unique. I was disappointed that no one except Jon Breen noticed, and I actually stopped writing for a year or so, if I recall. Just played music professionally.

You must have been happy when Foul Play Press reissued all the Berkley
titles in very slick paperback editions.

The late great and very gracious Louis Wilder was responsible for those. They're lovely. I wish I had a box of them, though -- they go for more than the original printings.

After the Berkley series and the novel Primary Target, Quarry
disappeared for awhile. Did you get tired of him?

I didn't get tired of Quarry, Berkley just didn't ask for more; but I never really pursued doing him again. The problem was that I felt like I had to keep topping myself with the nasty things Quarry did. By the fourth one, THE SLASHER, the series had become primarily black comedy. That element was always there, and quite intentional, but it should be secondary.

Still, Quarry was always one of my favorite characters, probably second only to Nate Heller, and I wrote the occasional short story. One of those, "A Matter of Principal," has been anthogized more than any other story of mine, and led to a short film, a novel and a feature film.

You and Hard Case Crime brought Quarry back in a big way. I'm not alone
in thinking that The First Quarry is not only the finest of the series
but also one of your own finest novel period. You obviously have a good
relationship with Charles Ardai at Hard Case.

Charles is terrific. Sharp and smart and unfailingly pleasant and professional. I can be a problem child and he doesn't mind at all. He understands that Quarry is a labor of love for me, at this point, and appreciates that my fussiness is for a reason.

And now Quarry, under an assumed name, is starring in a motion picture.
Tell us about that.

A young filmmaker, Jeffrey Goodman, discovered the short story, "A Matter of Principal," and for several years hounded me about making a short film out of it, for the festival circuit. I was getting involved in indie film at the same time, and finally said yes to him, if I could write the screenplay and be a producer. The film, which I like very much, did extremely well at festivals, and Jeffrey hired me to write a feature-length version.

I did, and he set about raising the money, while I turned it into a novel for Charles Ardai, who had requested a Quarry. I never have faith that movies will get made, so I figured, "At least it will be a book." That was THE LAST QUARRY. The book reflects my screenplay, the first draft anyway. At the insistence of a producer, who raised a lot of the money, Jeffrey brought in another writer after I'd done two drafts of the screenplay, though I was brought back in to do a polish. The film is very, very good, and Tom Sizemore an excellent Quarry, called Price in the film -- for the same reason Parker is Walker in POINT BLANK -- as as not to grant sequel rights, which is partly why the film is called THE LAST LULLABY.

Jeffrey has done extremely well on the festival circuit, lots of awards and attention, and it had a limited but successful theatrical run, mostly in cities where it had won festivals. A limited edition DVD has just become available. Anybody who likes my stuff at all will like THE LAST LULLABY.

There's a new Quarry on the way. Where does this one find Quarry?

QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE is about to come out. Let me back up -- I did THE LAST QUARRY, fully intending it to be literally the last one. But the reviews were excellent, and it sold well. Many a critic and reader said, "It's a shame Collins can never write another Quarry, having written the final story." I thought -- nobody tells me what I can and can't write. So I came up with THE FIRST QUARRY. What we call in comics an "origin" story.

QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE is a pun title, puns being an obvious weakness of mine, as it takes place midstream in his life and career. In the last two Berkley published Quarrys, I set up a clever premise -- Quarry kills hit men with his clients being their potential victims -- that I didn't get to fully explore. As for the other meaning of the title, let me tell you how I pitched it to Charles (and sold it) in a single word; that word was YOJIMBO. Charles bought it with one word, too: "Cool!"

Has Quarry ever made any comic book appearances?

No. I've been approached. As of now, I don't believe I've ever adapted any of my prose characters to comics. The opposite, however, is the case -- ROAD TO PERDITION led to two prose novels, ROAD TO PURGATORY and ROAD TO PARADISE, and the Ms. Tree comic books became DEADLY BELOVED for Hard Case.

What does the future hold for Quarry? The good news is that you've
contracted for two new Nathan Heller novels. Will you have time for
more Quarrys?

I will soon write QUARRY'S EX, another mid-stream novel in which we meet Quarry's ex-wife. That's all I know about the story at present. I have at least one more I want to do, called THE WRONG QUARRY. And that might be it. I love doing these, I have way too much being that character...but it's a limited concept, so I should probably cap it.

Of course, if I write that final novel, and somebody says, "It's too bad Collins can't write another," then all bets are off.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Paranormal Activity

Hero's Complex (LA Times) ran a very interesting article on how carefully the movie Paranormal Activity (The next "Blair Witch Project") is being marketed. I like stuff like this. Once an ad man always a...

'Paranormal Activity,' a study in careful execution
October 8, 2009 | 9:17 am
John Horn, who covers film for the Los Angeles Times, has been mapping the curious path of "Paranormal Activity," the dirt-cheap horror film that may shape up as one of the unexpected success stories of 2009. Here's his analysis of the movie's marketing -- and the secret message conveyed by long lines at movie theaters.

The positive buzz about this micro-budget spectral thriller started building at a Park City, Utah, film festival, word of mouth spread quickly via the Internet, early nationwide college-town screenings sparked even more interest, and a slowly expanding theatrical release fed the flames.

It's the model that made "The Blair Witch Project" a cultural phenomenon and box-office blockbuster exactly a decade ago, and it's a carefully crafted plan that Paramount Pictures is following nearly to the letter with “Paranormal Activity.”

While there are minor differences between the releases -- "Blair Witch" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, "Paranormal Activity" played at the smaller Slamdance Film Festival -- the similarities are striking. What's also noticeable is how well both films performed in the initial weeks of their theatrical premieres.

For the rest go here:

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Forgotten Books: In Dubious Battle

It's bracing to remember, in this time when mega-corporations control our lives, to recall a time when people fought back against those who enslaved them.

In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck, a novel I prefer to the preachy and over-calculated Grapes of Wrath, is set in a tiny California town where apple pickers are angry at the growers' association for cutting wages by fifteen cents. The year is 1936 and the forces of the rich and powerful are at war with the powerless workers. Mac and Jim are the lead characters and it is Mac who takes Jim to a meeting of the Communist Party, which wants to convince the workers to strike. They are joined by Doc Burton, a medical man who keeps the worker camp clean so that the cops can't close the place down because of sanitation violations.

Steinbeck's passion can be found on every page, in every detail. The camp and its people are depicted realistically. Steinbeck is not writing a tract. Some of the workers are here just to make trouble; others are stalking horses for the Communists. Others for the growers' association. The poverty, the despair and above all the rage are palpable. As is the sorrow.

For me Jim is the most interesting character in the book because he changes over the course of his experiences. He begins to see that the concept of "the working man's friend" is a lie. The Communists exploit the workers just as the Capitalists do. Doc has his vision of how things should be; Mac believes in political movements; but Jim finds no comfort. The misery he has seen in his years seems a brutal and irrefutable fact of life.

Steinbeck was long ago judged as second-tier to his enemy Hemingway. I never quite knew why. Good as he was, Hemingway could not have painted on a canvas this large and done it with such grace and power. You'll never forget the people you meet here.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A fine writer and a great guy

Tim Powers is well known in science fiction and fantasy circles but it appears that a much wider audience awaits him. As I said in the title Tim is a fine writer and a great guy. Congratulations, Tim.

Here's from the LA Times' Hero's Complex today:

Surprised author Tim Powers finds himself setting sail with 'Pirates of the Caribbean'
October 6, 2009 | 7:28 am

Last month, Johnny Depp walked on stage at the Anaheim Convention Center in his Jack Sparrow costume and delighted a surprised audience of Disney fans with his rummy buccaneer's trademark mutter. Within an hour, in San Bernadino, an award-winning fantasy author named Tim Powers found a flurry of emails from surprised friends and fans filling his inbox.

The reason for the e-mail barrage: Depp's theatrical appearance at Disney's D23 Expo included the announcement that the fourth Sparrow film will be entitled "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," which echoes the name of a 1987 fantasy novel by Powers about pirates and the Fountain of Youth. Everyone wanted to know if Powers had hit the Hollywood jackpot -- or if he needed to be in touch with his attorney.

Powers was in a tricky spot -- he wanted to publicly celebrate a career windfall but the folks at Disney had made it clear that he was supposed to keep everything under wraps. He was more surprised than anyone that the title had been trumpeted at Disney's new promotional convention.

"I was still -- as far as I understood -- not free to talk about it," the author told me Monday. "Then about a week ago my agent wrote and said, 'You're now able to say that in fact Disney did option the book.' That happened a while ago, it'll be three years in April."

The novelist, with a dozen books to his credit, is still a bit dazed by the fact that a book he published during the Reagan administration will setting sail in May 2011 as new edition of a Disney franchise that has racked up $1.78 billion in worldwide box office since hoisting its flag in 2003. "Yes, I'm thrilled," Power said, "I think it's great."

For the rest go here:

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Night of The Hunter

Cinema Retro linked to a fine Roger Ebert tribute to Charles Laughton's The Night of The Hunter. Here's the opening:

It's a thin line between LOVE and HATE.
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
by Roger Ebert / November 24, 1996
cast & credits
Rev. Harry Powell: Robert Mitchum
Willa Harper: Shelley Winters
Rachel: Lillian Gish
John: Billy Chapin
Pearl: Sally Jane Bruce
Birdie: James Gleason
Icey: Evelyn Varden
Ben Harper: Peter Graves
Walt: Don Beddoe

Directed by Charles Laughton and produced by Paul Gregory. Screenplay by James Agee and Charles Laughton, based on the novel by Davis Grubb. Running time: 93 minutes. No MPAA rating. (Recommended for mature audiences).

Charles Laughton's "The Night of the Hunter'' (1955) is one of the greatest of all American films, but has never received the attention it deserves because of its lack of the proper trappings. Many ``great movies'' are by great directors, but Laughton directed only this one film, which was a critical and commercial failure long overshadowed by his acting career. Many great movies use actors who come draped in respectability and prestige, but Robert Mitchum has always been a raffish outsider. And many great movies are realistic, but ``Night of the Hunter'' is an expressionistic oddity, telling its chilling story through visual fantasy. People don't know how to categorize it, so they leave it off their lists.

Yet what a compelling, frightening and beautiful film it is! And how well it has survived its period. Many films from the mid-1950s, even the good ones, seem somewhat dated now, but by setting his story in an invented movie world outside conventional realism, Laughton gave it a timelessness. Yes, the movie takes place in a small town on the banks of a river. But the town looks as artificial as a Christmas card scene, the family's house with its strange angles inside and out looks too small to live in, and the river becomes a set so obviously artificial it could have been built for a completely stylized studio film like "Kwaidan" (1964).

For the rest go here:

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Bloom County

I was a loyal reader of Bloom County for a long time but somehow I lost touch with Breathed and what he was doing. Turns out he was doing quite a lot. Here's an excerpt from Hero Complex, LA Times.s

Berkeley Breathed, drawn back to 'Bloom County' but looking forward
October 3, 2009 | 8:38 am
TODAY: Berkeley Breathed is appearing at the Long Beach Comic Con.

Berkeley Breathed, the creator of the comic strips “Bloom County,” "Outland" and “Opus,” lives on a high hilltop in Santa Barbara — yes, the money from all those Bill the Cat T-shirts has added up nicely — but on a recent afternoon when he looked down at the churn of the blue-gray ocean, he seemed to feel the undertow of nagging regret.

“When you’re young, you miss things, you just don’t see them,” said the 52-year-old Breathed, who walked away from comic strips last year because the Digital Age had eroded his newsprint audience and, worse, his artistic vigor and sense of whimsy. There are other pursuits now: Breathed has written and illustrated an entire shelf of bestselling children’s books, including last month’s “Flawed Dogs: The Novel,” and he has some promising Hollywood ventures in play. But a lavish new collection of his past work, “Bloom County: The Complete Library,” stirred up some bittersweet reflection as he gave a tour of his home studio.

“Not to sound like someone swinging their cane, but in the 1980s there weren’t a thousand other voices screaming to be heard at the same time,” Breathed said of the decade when his “Bloom County” was featured in more than 1,200 newspapers and he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. “There was a quiet in the room that made being a commentator very exciting. There was no Web, there was barely any cable TV. If you were looking for humorous topical commentary, you would go to the Johnny Carson monologue, ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ‘Doonesbury.’ That was it. After you have the silence of that room, you get really weary with the screaming it takes today. There’s also this bitterness in the public square now that is difficult to avoid. I never did an angry strip, but in recent years I saw that sneaking in.”

for the rest go here:

Saturday, October 03, 2009


Polanski seems to be fighting Letterman for newspaper space this morning.

We know everything about the Polanski story but not very much about the Letterman. I have a feeling much more is to come. I also have a feeling that somewhere there's one of Letterman's old lovers who's been contacted by a lawyer (or who has contacted a lawyer) and is thinking of both payback and payday. I wouldn't be surprised (seriously) if she's already called Gloria Allred.

Then there's the question of the public's response. I haven't seen any general polls of Americans about Polanski but I think he was ill-served by Debra Winger calling those who thinks he should be jailed "philistines." He may even be ill-served by having so many Hwood people come out for him.

Letterman's another matter for two reasons. One the public hasn't had time to form an opinion and since he's on five nights a week their final decision make take weeks if not months to form. I've never liked Letterman much as a person. His arrogance rivals Carson's and for years he was always late night's numero uno homophobe. And his interviews with people of a darker hue always made me squirm. He might have been talking to Martians. And I never thought he was half as bright as he obviously thinks he is. That said he's the most gifted all of late night hosts, to me much better than even Carson ever was. He can be brilliant. And he's turned into an excellent interviewer, comfortable, informed, almost never stepping on the interviewee's moment. His recent interest in political has made him water-cooler fodder again.

I can't seem him losing much of his audience. NBC managed a two-fer when they went with Leno in prime. They killed Leno and they killed Conan behind him. I've seen Leno three times and I feel sorry for him. He's on the Titanic of gigs with a very bad show and stupid time slot.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Forgotten writers

I was glad to see that two of Patti Abbott's Forgotten Books today were John D. MacDonalds. Bill Cameron reviewed The Last One Left while Randy Johnson discussed Wine of The Dreamers.

We've been talking about how quickly writers fade after their deaths. I still can't believe how John D. went from best seller and exemplar of the commercial American story to near obscurity (not to mention ignominy) in just a few years. As Bill Crider noted yesterday the same thing seems to be happening to Evan Hunter/Ed McBain. I suppose writers my age have an ego stake in these two men particularly. Not only did we enjoy them, they taught us so much. Everybody from Tony Hillerman to Charles Willeford acknowledged their debt to John D. And you had to stand in line to praise Evan Hunter. When I read writers my age I can spot his influence all over the place. So their fading is sad for us both as readers and acolytes.

Of course the generation coming to prominence will face the same thing in twenty years or so. Literature of every kind is a continuum. The sweet Harlequin of yesterday has passed through many stages and can be found today in paranormal romance with frank sex and a fair amount of violence. The western has all but disappeared. And thoughtful political novels such as Fail-Safe have given way to screeds from both the left and right.

As I've said before, that's why I appreciate the democratic nature of the internet. John D. will never be truly forgotten nor will Evan Hunter.