Thursday, December 31, 2009

30 Eock

Our New Year's--we watched four episodes of 30 Rock tonight. We'd only seen one of them before. So many great lines. Alec Baldwin: "I haven't laughed that hard since I saw Ann Coulter's shoulders." But the best was Duffy, Liz Lemon's stupid faithless ex boyfriend. He's trying to get back with her so he when his pleading doesn't work he says: "I went on WebMD and diagnosed myself as a sex addict. It says I have to make amends for all the hurt I've caused. So here goes Liz: 'I'm sorry I used my incredible sexual charisma to seduce you and ruin you for any other man.'"

You know, I've actually known fellers that dumb.

Happy New Year

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I've never heard of Slamdance either but what the hell

The director of the short film has asked me to post this. One of the prizes they're offering to winners is that they don't ever have to have any indirect or direct contact with me. Now that's a prize worth having.

> Ed Gorman, Rick Hautala, Rich Chizmar and Mark Steensland want
> your vote, and they’ve got the prizes to prove it. No, they’re not
> running for political office. Their movie, THE UGLY FILE, is
> competing in the Slamdance Film Festival’s Anarchy online
> competition where viewers decide the winner. And voters will have
> a chance to win one of TEN prizes including such items as
> autographed books and/or DVDs from Ed, Rick, Rich and Mark.
> To enter, you must first register as a user of To
> do that, click here
> Then click here
> to visit the page for THE UGLY FILE. Click on the “VOTE FOR THIS
> FILM” button.
> Once you receive an email confirmation of your
> registration, forward it (including your user number), along with
> your name and telephone number, to
> .
> You must vote before January 23, 2010, so don’t delay. The ten
> winners will be announced on February 1, 2010.

Yes, he's still peddling his book

From Gravetapping:


The eighth, and reportedly last, Sam McCain novel opens in 1965 at a Vietnam peace rally in Black River Falls, Iowa. The rally is held in the local Presbyterian Church and after 90 minutes of the same arguments—being spoken by different people—McCain is ready to leave the rally for the comforts of a double feature at the drive-in. But then as the newest local superstar, a pretty boy named Harrison Doran, is speaking a man takes the stage and asks to rebut the protestor’s arguments.

The man is not only the father of a casualty of war, his son died in Da Nang, but he is also a prominent and wealthy resident of Black River Falls. His name is Lou Bennett, and it doesn’t take long for boos to start and the scene to turn ugly. There is an altercation between Doran and Bennett, and then later that night Bennett is found dead. Harrison Doran is the likeliest suspect. McCain doesn’t like Doran, but he is enlisted to defend him, and it is a position that makes Sam less than popular amongst the mostly conservative population.

Ticket to Ride is a real treat. It features all of the regulars; the town’s pornographer, writer of sleaze, and McCain buddy Kenny Thibodeau, Judge Esme Anne Whitney, Jamie Newton—McCain’s guileless, but less than competent secretary—and the obnoxious and usually wrong police chief Clifford (Cliffie) Sykes, Jr. Mr Gorman perfectly captures the essence of small town America and he does it with a subtleness that never succumbs to cliché or stereotype. His characters are living, breathing people, who are never clearly good or bad—he shows their humanity in brief and poignant moments of vulnerability, weakness, and strength.

The plot is smooth and sharp; the prose is understated, readable and powerful—

“I wanted to say something smart, but his honesty surprised me. He was admitting that all the scorn hurt him. He had no right to tell me this, because, at least for the moment here, I had to feel bad about making fun of him all the time. Cliffie was supposed to be a cartoon. It pissed me off that he’d forced me to see him as a human being.”

The amazing achievement of Ticket to Ride is that it is written with a humor and innocent cynicism that allows the story a power of both place and time, and also a social commentary that is relevant for the story's Vietnam-era setting, as well as that of modern America. It is simple a brilliantly rendered private eye novel that is a wonderful addition to the series and the genre.

Ben Boulden

---------------------From Pulp Serenade

"Ticket to Ride" by Ed Gorman (Pegasus Books, 2009)
The eighth and final entry in Ed Gorman’s Sam McCain series, Ticket to Ride (Pegasus Books, 2009) finds the Iowan lawyer enmeshed in a web of local, national and international politics, all of which are converging right in the heart of Black River Falls. It’s 1965, different stances on the Vietnam War have divided the town, and the anti-war Sam McCain seems to have found himself on the unpopular side.

Things start to heat up when Lou Bennett, whose son was killed in the war, crashes McCain’s anti-war rally and starts a fight with the charismatic young protester Harrison Doran. From there, things only get worse: Bennett is found dead the next day, and Doran is arrested under suspicion of murder. With the whole town convinced of Doran’s guilt, McCain begrudgingly agrees to defend Doran as a favor to a friend. Complicating things even further are McCain’s crush on Bennett’s daughter-in-law Wendy, and a skeleton in the family closet revels a web of secrets that Black River Falls would have preferred to keep buried and forgotten.

The reasons for Gorman’s reputation as a first-rate novelist are on full display in Ticket to Ride. As in The Midnight Room (released earlier this year and reviewed here), here he mixes suspenseful plotting with a humanistic sensibility that makes us sympathize with the characters, regardless of what moral/political side they are on, and what things (good or bad) they may have done. “Cliffie was supposed to be a cartoon,” our narrator says, “It pissed me off that he’d forced me to see him as a human being.” Character is one of Gorman’s strongest suits, and Ticket to Ride is brimming with lively characters, such as a Midwestern wannabe beach-bum surf rocker named Turk, and a pulp writer named Kenny (“One of Kenny’s best serious stories was called 'Grudge Humping on the Amazon.'”).

While the author’s sense of humor is more pronounced here than in The Midnight Room (McCain’s wry observations are an integral element of the narrative’s pacing), it would be a mistake to call this book merely “lighthearted.” As the book’s prologue illuminates, Gorman is investigating not just the murder of Lou Bennett, but also the larger cultural and political climate of the 1960s, which affected the small towns of America as much as they did the nation. It makes a fascinating comparison to our own times, in which much of the nation still remains divided on current political issues, and in which heated arguments and polarizing rhetoric can often muddle the possibility of constructive debate (as is the case in Ticket to Ride).

For all of its humor and cultural insight, for me Ticket to Ride is at its most effective when dealing with the emotions of its characters—wounded lovers trying to move on in their lives, and particularly McCain’s own struggle to come to terms with his father’s mortality and understand their own misunderstandings: “There were times I’d resented him…but these times were always forgotten in the respect I had for what he’d been through and the love I felt for all the patience and encouragement and love he’d given me. Hell, I’m sure there were times when he’d hated me.”

This may be the final Sam McCain book in the series, and while it happened to be my first, it most certainly won’t be my last.

And now for a few favorite quotes from the book:

“It was an afternoon of heat and lawn work and little kids cooling off with moms aiming hoses at them and teenage girls in bikinis sunning themselves on towels and hoping to put a fair number of men in mental hospitals.”

“But Molly’s fetching looks were misleading. She was like dating a character from an Ibsen play.”

“Turk had the looks and sneer of most teen idols. What he didn’t have was the talent. So he tried to compensate for it by mixing James Dean and Marlon Brando. We weren’t having a conversation. We were having Acting class 101.”

“I felt like an encyclopedia salesman who’d just been rejected for the sixteenth time that afternoon.”

“Decades of smoking, drinking, screwing, and being sick in various ways tattooed the air forever.”

“Time overwhelmed me sometimes, how one era appeared bright and fevered, only to dim with another new era suddenly there, bright and fevered, in this long, unending continuum.”

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

No Ayn Rand; lotsa John D. MacDonald

I want to thank Brendan DuBois for sending me this insightful Boston Globe column about Ayn Rand vs. John D. MacDonald.


Corporate greed and disaster? Like pages from a crime novel
By Garry Emmons
December 15, 2009

DECADES LATER, the gig with the economy would end badly for the erstwhile saxophone player. But in the 1950s, jazz musician Alan Greenspan was just another cat under the spell of a dame, bewitched, bothered, and bewildered, in thrall to the novelist Ayn Rand and her torch song of laissez-faire business, free markets, and capitalist elitism.

If only the Fed chairman-in-training had swung to a different drummer. In 1957, for example, instead of Rand’s pie-in-the sky “Atlas Shrugged,’’ imagine if Greenspan had taken to heart another book published that year, John D. MacDonald’s “A Man of Affairs.’’ (The two authors were contemporaries and both sold well, but MacDonald was “the best novelist in America,’’ according to writer Pete Hamill.)

If only young Alan had shrugged off Rand for MacDonald, maybe we’d all be better off today.

A hard-boiled crime writer who maintains legions of fans decades after his death, MacDonald had no illusions about how people and institutions behave when big sums of money are around. And because MacDonald actually knew how business works, he had a more trenchant view of American enterprise.

The son of an executive, MacDonald earned an MBA at Harvard (Robert McNamara was a classmate) and then spent several years in factories and industrial plants procuring matériel for the Army, an experience he later used in plots involving business.

MacDonald is best known for his paperback series starring Travis McGee, a private operative who takes care of violent bad guys but also rights financial wrongs perpetrated by slippery businessmen and corporate malefactors. To do this, McGee often calls upon the financial acumen of his brainy buddy Meyer, a “retired economist’’ who lives on a boat named the John Maynard Keynes.

But MacDonald also wrote nonviolent novels of contemporary American manners featuring organization men in corporate middle management or family businesses. These characters are dragged down by their own moral failings but also by the numbing impersonality of business and by predatory corporations and financiers. So while “Atlas Shrugged’’ is Rand’s paean to unbridled, heroic capitalism, personified in the character John Galt, in “A Man of Affairs,’’ MacDonald’s capitalist icon is a corporate raider named Mike Dean. In a tirade directed at the novel’s protagonist, Dean lays it out: “You sicken me. You pollyanna boys want to go around thinking the business world is honorable and reasonably decent . . . . Listen to me. There’s no more morality or ethics in industry than there is in that pack of barracudas out there . . . . I tell you that the only limitation is the law. And everything else goes.’’

for the rest go here:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Free e Books--good thing or bad?

Ed here: I try to keep up on the ever evolving e-books story but I bring so little understanding to it I'm afraid to offer an opinion. So let me pose my misgivings here as a question. If Kindle keeps offering free books, and if Kindle customers keep insisting that $9.99 is too high a price for an e book, how will book publishers ever make serious money on line?

From Galleycat:

4 of the 100 Top Kindle Store Bestsellers Are Free
By Jason Boog on Dec 28, 2009 09:23 AM

By GalleyCat's count yesterday afternoon, 64 of the 100 eBooks currently topping the Kindle bestseller list were priced at $0.00.

The number one bestseller was "Midnight in Madrid" by Noel Hynd, another free Kindle book. The list changes every hour, but these are fascinating and anxiety-producing statistics for publishers. With more than 60 percent of the one hundred most popular books in the eBook store priced at 0.00, how can publishers interact with this new readership and still earn money?

We took an informal count after reading a Washington Post article that explained: "Amazon's customers have made it clear that $9.99 is still too high for their taste. Most titles in the company's list of top 100 Kindle bestsellers are priced below $9.99, and the most popular price point is $0.00. But publishers can't hear this, because they're a little distracted right now."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

All That Fosse; Facebook

While there are dozens of Broadway songs I like, watching the shows they come from is another matter. I've never gotten used to people suddenly breaking into song. It embarrasses me and/or looks pretty damned silly.

I mention this because way back in 1979 the woman I had a date with one Saturday night insisted that we see "All That Jazz," the essential Bob Fosse story as written and directed by Bob Fosse and starring Roy Scheider. As far as I was concerned this would be people suddenly breaking into song to the highest power.

Well, I not only enjoyed it, I was convinced that I'd seen a true piece of art, high or low I didn't care. For one thing Scheider, who never quite got the break he deserved (and who is a brother of sorts in that he died of multiple myeloma) gave a performance I'm not sure anybody had thought him capable of. Not easy to make a guy like Fosse, brilliant, egomaniacal, ruthless appealing on any level. I don't know anything about dance but by the end of the film Fosse (he wrote it, remember) had convinced me he was a great innovator if not a genius. It is also a chilling foreshadowing of a tormented man rushing to his death.

For hayseeds like me "All That Jazz" is enlightening because we get to see just how difficult it is to be a musical performer, whether dancer, singer, actor. And for another breaking into song started to seem a little less silly to me than it once had.

If I had an objection to the film it was that Scheider-Fosse's relationships with women cast him a little too coyly as the heartbreaker. Yeah, I'm sure he did get around but a celebratory air sneaks into these moments and spoils them for me. These scenes struck me as the the kind of writing most guys would do about themselves if they knew nobody else would ever read it. In other words a macho fantasy and that would shrivel in daylight.

All this from memory. I probably haven't seen the movie for at least a decade. But a piece in the NY Times this morning sent me to the video store--which didn't have it. I'll try Net-Flix.

From the New York Times this morning:

ember 27, 2009
All That Fosse: All Those Echoes of ‘All That Jazz’

“IT’S showtime, folks.”

That’s the mantra of Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider), the boozing, chain-smoking, pill-popping, womanizing, workaholic filmmaker-choreographer hero of the 1979 drama “All That Jazz,” a hopped-up American variant of Federico Fellini’s navel-gazing fantasia “8 ½” (1963).

Those three words — recited by Gideon into the bathroom mirror each morning after downing a breakfast of Dexedrine and Alka-Seltzer and listening to Antonio Vivaldi’s “Concerto Alla Rustica” — sum up both the character and his real-world counterpart, Bob Fosse, the choreographer, theater director and filmmaker, who died in 1987 at 60. He was a Gideon-level workaholic who ended “All That Jazz,” a self-written advance obituary, with a shot of his alter ego being zipped into a body bag while the soundtrack plays Ethel Merman’s definitive version of “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

But Gideon’s mantra also summarizes that movie’s significance within narrative film, a mode of storytelling that rarely dares venture beyond the linear for fear of confusing the viewer.

Released 30 years ago this month, “All That Jazz” set a new standard for speed and complexity, its structure boasting as many temporal pirouettes as the headiest art house fare. Yet the film never feels labored. It’s not homework. It’s showtime.


I won't belabor my computer stupidity. I've lost my Facebook security code and can't find--after literally hours of trying over the past week--any way to retrieve. They have no customer service phone number and the frequently asked don't deal with this question--unless I'm missing something. If there's a wizard or wizardess out there who could help me I'd appreciate it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

KILLER by Dave Zeltserman

Before I say anything about Dave Zeltserman's new novel I have to note that a) Dave is a friend of mine b) the novel is dedicated to me and c) somebody not unlike me makes a brief appearance in the book.

Leonard March is a mob hit-man who turns state's witness to avoid a lifetime in prison. Despite giving evidence he serves fourteen years and emerges a much older man and not just physically. People familiar with his case are amazed that his former employers didn't manage to have him killed while behind bars. And only now, as he emerges from prison, is the public told of just how terrible a man he is. His photograph is everywhere. He is a pariah. He is even dragged into court on civil charges instituted by the loved ones of some of the people he killed. The press, loving a good story, depicts the victims as good citizens even though they were scum just like March. His prison counselor arranges for March to work quietly as a janitor at nights so he can pay rent on a seedy apartment and buy a few groceries.

Several times while reading Killer I forgot I was reading a novel. The book has the feel of an autobiography. Laid out in alternating chapters of present and past we see March at virtually every stage of his life. His father, his mother, his wife, his children are vividly and vitally portrayed here. His quiet father was a blue collar worker whose sixty and seventy hour weeks led only to a melancholy cynicism about the capitalist system. March's wife's death by cancer while March is in prison is especially haunting. She and the children spurned him after the DA's office revealed that he was a hit man. March in his early twenties was a street punk who, despite his self-denials, savored the deaths he visited on his targets.

All the mob tropes are here to be sure. Sleazy stupid parasites who do with pistols and knives what Wall Street and others do with computers and fancy boardrooms. Zeltserman makes you feel each death and there are plenty of them.

But what you take away from the novel is not the mob melodrama but the rich details of March's life. Zeltserman forces the reader to grant March his intelligence, his occasional eloquence and the remorse he feels but cannot understand. In some respects the man who took all these lives is even more monstrous because he's not a psychopath--as he reminds us several times--but a man who has convinced himself that he's just doing a job. His painful love for the children who have deserted him; the last time he spoke to his dying wife on the phone, her laughing despite her enormous pain, always trying to keep everything "nice;" the young waitress who comes to like this "crazy old man" until she finds out who he is--and is then horrified and angry--grueling, perfectly realized scenes . And then then are the shopping scenes where March buys a new bed, sheets, towels, etc. to make his tiny apartment tolerable--the homeliness of the shopping and the cleaning he has to do is the kind of touch that gives the books its unique truth. You don't find many hit-men scrubbing bathtubs and buying used furniture.

These are just a few of the indelible scenes that make the book so fresh and powerful. Killer is a major novel of crime and likely the book that will win Dave Zeltserman a much wider audience.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

And to all a good night

I just want to thank everybody who's taken the time to read my blog this year. And to all of you who've written so many informative and entertaining responses. I hope this holiday season finds you and your loved ones well. Here's to another year of reading good books new and old. Happy holidays everybody!

The Management

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Festivus

Ed here: Of all the Seinfeld lines and set-ups I've memorized none resonate more at holiday time than" Festivus for the rest of us" and Frank Costanza's immortal line "As I was raining blows upon his head (I realized) there must be a better way." Thus was Festivus born. Apparently I'm not alone.

Here's a story from CNN

(CNN) -- Long before company celebrators bench-pressed fax machines, partygoers performed competitive face-plants into ice water, or family members gathered around an aluminum pole to wield complaints at one another, the common people of ancient Rome began to act up.

They were the unruly lot during official religious holidays, the ones who were "raising hell on the streets" while the "elite were putting on their robes," said journalist Allen Salkin. The adverb to describe their behavior, he said: Festivus, the Latin world for "festive."

A few thousand years later, and thanks to a "Seinfeld" writer whose father had made Festivus a quirky household tradition, a 1997 episode of the famed sitcom popularized the peculiar day.

To hear it from Frank Costanza, the character played by Jerry Stiller, the December 23 observance calls for little more than the erection of an aluminum pole, the airing of grievances and the demonstration of feats of strength -- which preferably culminate in wrestling down to the ground and pinning the head of the household.


The Festivus faithful have gathered across the globe and have come together in places as various as seedy bars, campus squares and corporate boardrooms. Citizens, with varied degrees of success, have petitioned to raise Festivus poles beside public nativity scenes. Social networking sites and holiday-specific venues -- like and -- are go-to places for those who want to share the cheer, or jeers.

for the rest go here:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bad Reviews

There's been a particularly intelligent discussion on the Tie-In Writers site about responding to bad reviews. When I first began publishing novels twenty-five years ago negative reviews ruined not just my day but my week and sometimes my month.

Back then my friend Charlotte McLeod was still vividly alive. I asked her about a nasty review I'd gotten and told her that I wanted to write the reviewer a letter. She said don't do it. She'd been at it for a quarter century longer than I had so I took her advice. In the ensuing years I've only once alluded to a reviewer in print. He made a moral judgement about my characters that I felt was pretty high-handed. But after I made the reference I realized that that's his job, to make judgements like that, even though I may think they're pretty damned stuffy. I apologized to him. This is a man who has done so much important work in the field that I felt I owed it to him. He wrote me a very pleasant response. Not that I changed his mind. I hadn't expected to.

Things have changed today of course what with the internet and the other means of communication I don't understand--Blackberries and Twitter etc. This, I think, has changed the relationship between writer and reviewer. I'm told there are a number of sites where reviewers write under pseudonyms. I'm also told that there are such things as flame wars. And I've witnessed a number of grudges being carried on under false names.

I guess I feel this way: though there are a handful of reviewers in newspapers and news stand magazines I don't care for, they generally conduct themselves professionally. Their reviews are signed, they write literate reports on what they've read and they rarely make their judgements sound personal. There are some professional tics I hate of course--this direct please to the writer "C'mon, Ed, you're not a mastermind but you can do better than this." This makes the reviewer equal to the writer and no matter how bad the book might be, the writer is the star here. There are also reviewers--and we've all caught them--who obviously haven't read the book. All they've reviewed is the flap copy. You have your own list of professional reviewer tics that really irritate you.

On my blog I list the sites that I think are thoughtful and entertaining in their reviews. I'd use any of them as an example of how I think net review sites should be run. On the other hand I've accidentally bumped into a few sites that pissed me off. None of them were mystery sites. The so-called reviewers slipped into that "C'mon, Dave, you know you can do better than that. You're a moron but even you have done better books than this." And the letters that followed were of a similar tone. Inane, childish.

If you get a negative review that is thoughtful and well-written and the reviewer's name is a real one, I don't see any justification in writing the reviewer. Hard as it is to imagine, some people just don't like our books. On the other hand if the review has the feel of an axe job or obviously reveals that the reviewer hasn't read the book or even makes up things about the book--you can ask Max Collins about that--hell, yes, I think it's legitimate to register a complaint on your blog or in a private letter. Personally, I've been treated to a couple of shots like that but all I did was boil for a few hours and forget about them. But if I ever got something that sounded as if I'd slept with the reviewer's wife and then shot both of his puppies...yeah, he'd hear from me. He'd hear from me real good.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Brittany Murphy, R.I.P.

I didn't follow Brittany Murphy's career. I mostly knew of her from Clueless where she was very good and from the TV series King of The Hills where she voiced one of the animated actors. I liked her looks. There was real sweetness there. But there was always an air of agitation the few times I saw her interviewed. She seemed scared. The internet is 24/7 with pieces about her. The Wrap's Steve Mikulan had the only sensible things to say.

Brittany Murphy’s Law: The Grim Fame of Death

By Steven Mikulan
Published: December 21, 2009

It’s not as though Brittany Murphy changed the face of Hollywood or the way we look at movies.

She was certainly known to a large demographic of moviegoer who saw “Clueless” or “8 Mile” on a college date, and certainly to fans of “King of the Hill” who knew her as the voice of Luanne.

But most people at today’s multiplex couldn’t pick her out of a lineup of other troubled blondes who are no longer young yet nowhere near mature, and whose acting careers are more often charted by gossip columns than by reviews.


At this moment Murphy is lying in a cold room on Mission Road awaiting to be taken apart by the coroner’s office. So far the only word from assistant chief coroner Ed Winter is that there was no sign of trauma on Murphy’s body and, therefore, there are no plans to issue a preliminary report on the autopsy that will take between four and six weeks to complete.


When they put her back together again, the coroner’s people may have a better idea of what led to Murphy’s reported cardiac arrest, but they will have no understanding of what brought her to the point in her life where she was unable to focus on film shoots.

That will require another kind of dissection. For now Brittany Murphy is getting the kind of fame that only comes with being dead at age 32.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Year's Best TV

Reading through several Best Of lists today reminded me of out of it I am. The lists in the new Entertainment Weekly are probably the best example. No matter the category there were thirty per cent of the winners and losers I'd never heard of before.

Since I don't see many movies first-run or buy many CDs or read the books that seem to dazzle most people the only list I can compose is my TV choices.

30 Rock is still my favorite comedy, though they've had a bumpy year. I enjoy the cast of The Office so much that I'll watch them even in poor scripts though this seems to be a show that has lost its way. PBS Frontline. The Leher Report. Rachael Maddow. Keith Olbermann (though he can get awfully full of himself). Flight of The Conchords had some of the year's best writing. All the PBS mysteries. I'm probably overlooking something but as for the rest I watch politics, history and TCM.

Yes now I know why they call me Mr. Excitement.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Patricia Highsmith, comic book writer

I'm pretty sure the NY Times has now published three reviews of Joan Schenkar's new biography of Patricia Highsmith. This must be quite a book. The latest review, by Jeanette Winterson, makes fleeting note of Highsmith's days as a comic book writer.

"Highsmith had a kind of archive- attachment disorder; she adored lists. She chronicled, mapped, numbered and cross-referenced everything in her life, and even rated her lovers, but she wiped out what didn’t suit her and only vaguely acknowledged, when pressed by the more ferrety kind of interviewer, having conjured up a few story lines for Superman and Batman.

"In fact her job was much less glamorous than plotting for those superheroes, but the comic strip formula of threat/pursuit/fantasy life/alter ego/secret identity was the formula she used in all her work. The four-color, six-panel comic strip shaped Patricia Highsmith the crime writer like nothing else — however much she cared to cite Dostoyevsky and Henry James."

For the rest go here:

I got curious about her connection to comic books and looked around on the web to see what I could find. Here's from Wikpedia:

"In 1942 Highsmith graduated from Barnard College, where she had studied English composition, playwriting and the short story. Living in New York City and Mexico between 1942 and 1948, she wrote for comic book publishers. Answering an ad for "reporter/rewrite," she arrived at the office of comic book publisher Ned Pines and landed a job working in a bullpen with four artists and three other writers. Initially scripting two comic book stories a day for $55-a-week paychecks, she soon realized she could make more money by writing freelance for comics, a situation which enabled her to find time to work on her own short stories and also live for a period in Mexico. The comic book scriptwriter job was the only long-term job she ever held.[3]

Friday, December 18, 2009

Yes you can buy it now-nobody will stop you-honest

Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof
Issue: January 1, 2010

Ticket to Ride.
Gorman, Ed (Author)
Jan 2010. 25 p. Pegasus, hardcover, $25.00. (9781605980706).

In the eighth entry in the Sam McCain series, set in 1965 and following
Fools Rush In (2007), the small- town Iowa lawyer becomes a lightning rod for animosity when he helps to
organize an antiwar rally.

Retired army colonel Lee Bennett is outraged at what he perceives to be the demonstrators’ disrespect for the many young dead soldiers, among them his own son. When Bennett turns up murdered, suspicion falls on the rally’s leader, Doran. Although McCain regards Doran as a poseur, he agrees to represent him because he knows none of the town’s other lawyers will step up.

When Bennett’s business partner is also murdered, McCain realizes there’s a lot more to the case than politics.
Gorman casts a sardonic eye on characters from both sides of the political aisle even as he astutely
captures the fractious era’s divisiveness. Meanwhile, McCain is unafraid to go toe to toe with the town’s leading
citizens, many of whom he grew up with, as he digs for information.

An absorbing mystery that offers an insightful portrait of small-town dynamics and plenty of deadpan humor.

— Joanne Wilkinson

Thursday, December 17, 2009



MAX ALLAN COLLINS, a frequent Mystery Writers of America "Edgar" nominee, has earned an unprecedented fifteen Private Eye Writers of America "Shamus" nominations for his historical thrillers, winning for his Nathan Heller novels, True Detective (1983) and Stolen Away (1991). Currently he is completing a number of "Mike Hammer" novels begun by the late mystery writer, Mickey Spillane, starting with The Goliath Bone (2008).

His graphic novel Road to Perdition (1998) – basis of the Academy Award-winning Tom Hanks film, directed by Sam Mendes – was followed by two acclaimed prose sequels and another graphic novel. His other comics credits include the syndicated strip "Dick Tracy"; his own "Ms. Tree" (co-created by artist Terry Beatty); "Batman"; and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, for which he has also written video games, jigsaw puzzles, and an internationally bestselling series of novels.

He has been termed "the novelization king" by Entertainment Weekly, penning such titles as Saving Private Ryan, The Mummy, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, GI JOE: The Rise of Cobra, and American Gangster, winner of the 2008 Best Novel "Scribe" Award from the International Association of Tie-in Writers. His TV novels include DARK ANGEL, BONES and CRIMINAL MINDS.

An independent filmmaker, he wrote and directed the Lifetime movie "Mommy" and a sequel, "Mommy's Day." He wrote "The Expert," an HBO World Premiere, and "The Last Lullaby," starring Tom Sizemore, based on his acclaimed novel, The Last Quarry. His "Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life" – currently airing on PBS stations nationally – and documentary, Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop, are both available on DVD.

Collins lives in Muscatine, Iowa, with his wife, writer Barbara Collins; as "Barbara Allan," they write the successful "Trash ‘n’ Treasures" mysteries, with Antiques Bizarre coming out in 2010. Their son Nathan works in the video game industry translating Japanese into English.

1. Tell us about your current novel.

Several books will be coming out early next year -- in the Spring.

One is the latest "Trash 'n' Treasures" mystery by "Barbara Allan," which is my wife Barb and me -- ANTIQUES BIZARRE It's as funny as the previous entries, I think, but maybe a better mystery. I think some of my readers avoid these, because they figure the books are cozies. But Jon Breen and several other reviewers understand that the books are to a degree spoofs of cozies. It's a hardcover from Kensington.

Collaboration seems to be taking up a lot of my time, but in a good way. I've co-written a new thriller, YOU CAN'T STOP ME, with Matthew Clemens, who has worked on my CSI and CRIMINAL MINDS novels with me, and there will be a sequel as soon as we get around to writing it. Matt and I decided to do a CSI type novel of our own, and the premise is very cool -- it has a reality TV show host, like John Walsh, announcing on air that the next season will be devoted to assembling a forensic superstar team and tracking down the killer of his family...on the air. This is from Kensington, too, a mass market paperback.

Later in the spring, THE BIG BANG, the second of the Mike Hammers I'm writing, from unfinished Mickey Spillane manuscripts, will be out. The fragment, which was substantial, dated to 1964, and that's the year the story is set in -- hippies, discoteques, LSD, the works. The first one I did, THE GOLIATH BONE, was Mickey's last book and featured an older, somewhat mellow Mike Hammer. This one is vintage Hammer all the way. I'm really excited about it. Harcourt is doing it in hardcover -- it's an Otto Penzler book.

And I just finished the first Nate Heller in about a decade -- BYE BYE, BABY, the murder of Marilyn Monroe. I'm hoping it will be out from Forge/TOR late next year, but haven't been given a pub date yet.

2. Can you give a sense of what you're working on now?

I'm just starting the third of the Mike Hammer novels. This is a terrific story from the late '70s. I have two substantial manuscripts representing two very different takes on the same story. I will be weaving these Spillane fragments together into what I think will be another vintage performance from Hammer. For Hammer fans, here's an interesting tidbit -- Hammer and his secretary/partner Velda have broken up at the start of this yarn.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

Avoiding real work. I haven't had a real job since I sacked groceries in high school. I did teach at a community college for the first five years of my career, but only half-time and that was also not a real job by my definition, at least the way I did it.

I find writing fairly hard -- emotionally and physically taxing -- but I love having written, and there's nothing better than holding a fresh copy of a new book of yours in your hands.

4. What is the greatest DISpleasure?

I hate the uncertainty -- having to scramble for gigs, having nothing vaguely like security, and the climate in publishing seems to have gotten tougher with every passing year.

I also have a capacity for petty jealousy that I try not to give into. But when I see somebody whose work I abhor have great success, I feel like somebody dropped a hot rivet into my brain. I also resent (and do not work at all to restrain this feeling) writers who have made it big, very early on, and have no sense that they were at all lucky. In show business, which writing is, luck plays an enormous role. I have been exceptionally lucky twice -- once, when the DICK TRACY strip came my way, and again when the graphic novel ROAD TO PERDITION got made into a movie. I am always ready when opportunity knocks, but a lot of the time I am out there doing the knocking.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

Don't give up on books. Do not release books directly to the Kindles and Nooks (or whatever they're called) -- make the electronic delivery the paperback of the 21st century. Readers should have to wait six months or a year to read a new book in that fashion.

I will cheat and add a second one, and this goes to booksellers, particularly buyers at the big chains: stop looking at computer read-outs and consider the book itself. Who cares what an author's last book sold? The question is, how good is this book.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see
in print again?

Max Allan Collins
Max Allan Collins
Max Allan Collins


Ennis Willie
Mike Roscoe
Ted Lewis

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget
that moment.

My first novel, BAIT MONEY, took a year or two to sell. I was at the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop, and my mentor, Richard Yates, got me lined up with Knox Burger as an agent. Burger wanted me to change the ending (the lead character, Nolan, got killed) and I refused. He sent it out a bunch of times, and then somebody at (I think) Pyramid Books spilled coffee on the manuscript. In those days, early '70s, you typed up a manuscript -- no photocopies yet, and certainly no carbon could be sent. So if a manscript got slimed, physically I mean, you had to retype it. And Burger said, "As long as you have to re-type the thing, why don't you take the opportunity to change the lousy ending?" So I did. Nolan lived, and the book sold next time out, to Curtis Books. And Nolan went on to star in a series of novels.

The news arrived on Christmas Eve, 1971. When I told Don Westlake (another mentor) about it, he said, "Sometimes God acts like O. Henry, and there's nothing you can do about it."

8. You have one of the great websites. Between Nate's work and yours it is
not only eye-catching but really informative. You get a real sense of
YOU, the notion that there's a real person writing these books and
screenplays and playing in a band.

I appreciate that. It was always pretty good, but Nate and I decided a few months ago that it needed a serious overhaul. I was doing updates once or twice a year, and that wasn't cutting it. Now we're once a week (appears Tuesday morning), and it's turned into a kind of blog, because I don't always have career stuff to talk about. People are responding well. Nate is very, very sharp -- he just landed his first really big gig as a translator of Japanese, doing an entire book for Viz.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Herbert D. Kastle wrote a number of science fiction stories in magazines of the 1950s. That's where I first read him. Later in the 1960s he was writing those fat sexy bestseller-type novels that owed more to marketing and Harold Robbins than his presumed muse. Then in 1974 he wrote CROSS COUNTRY. Here's a quote from one of the reviews: "This novel seems to occupy the same dark and twisted territory as the works of Jim Thompson. Characters interact in a dance of barely suppressed psychopathological urges and desires that is as grotesquely fascinating as a multi-car pileup on the freeway. It may leave you feeling unclean afterwards, but chances are you will not forget it."

Damn straight. It really is a sewer of sex and terror and blood-soaked suspense. I read it in one long sitting. If it's trash, as some called it at the time, it is spellbinding trash.

IMDB sums up the story line succintly: "After a woman is found butchered in her New York apartment, suspicion falls on her estranged husband, an ad executive who has suddenly left town on a cross-country road trip. He takes along a beautiful girl he met in a bar and a drifter he picked up along the way. A cop sets out after the husband, but he's more interested in shaking him down than bringing him back."

Kastle masterfully controls his long nightmare journey and you buy into his paranoia. He shows you an American wasteland of truck stops, motels, convenience stores connected by interstate highway and darkness. By book's end everyone will betray everyone else. This is survival of the fittest enacted by a Yuppie businessman, sociopathic hippies and a crooked cop. The sheer nastiness of Kastle's existential vision make this book impossible to forget. Thirty-some years after I first read it I still think of it from time to time when hundreds of other novels have fled from memory.

It's a vision of hell that fascinates you as it troubles your conscience.

-------------------------------Book Biz: It gets worse

I owe Dave Zeltserman a thanks for steering me to a two-part Huffington Post piece William Petrocelli (Huff has started a publishing segment I keep forgetting to check). I'm not wise enough to agree or disagree with its major points but it is certainly an incisive look at the pitfalls publishing faces today. In Part Two Petrocelli offers some very interesting ideas for improving the lot of publishers--and writers.

This is on the day when it was announced that bestselling business writer will write a book directly for Amazon/Kindle, bypassing traditional publishers (though Covey says he wiil also continue to write for them). Now that a bestseller has opened that door, won't others follow?

William Petrocelli:
"There are many people inside the major publishing houses -- those, at least, who have survived the industry lay-offs of the last few years -- who may be wondering the same thing. The best-seller price war that is being waged by the mass merchandisers is the latest symptom of a problem that has been growing larger and larger. The major publishers are in a difficult position: they are service companies that function like manufacturing companies -- 20th century businesses in a 21st century economy. The control of the book business is gradually slipping out of their hands.

"Thirty years ago, publishers dominated the book business. Thousands of retailers carried their books, but even the biggest among them -- the regional chain stores and the department stores -- were not large enough to impose their will on the publishers. Publishers -- mostly family-owned businesses -- could do what it took to develop new authors and promote a full line of books.

"All of that has changed. Walmart, Target, Costco, and other mass merchandisers now control about 30% of the book market; Barnes & Noble and Borders have another 30%; claims another 15%. The publishers have long since lost the upper hand in dealing with this group. The mass merchandisers return books to publishers at a rate of 40% or more, and the rate of returns from the chains is often considerably higher. The demands of each of these players for sweet-heart price terms and additional promotional money are incessant..."

Part Two

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

James Reasoner

James Reasoner recently posted a short piece about his amazing year--this year he wrote and published a million words. I've been meaning to acknowledge that (to me) staggering accomplishment so I'm reprinting James' pst as well as a Pro-File I did with him awhile back. Congratulations, James.

A Million and Counting
Around the middle of the day today, I passed the million-word mark for this year. That makes five years in a row I've written at least a million words. I don't say that to brag. I've been extraordinarily lucky to have had the opportunity to write that much, and I owe it to the readers who buy the books and the editors who've had faith in me, and I want to thank all of them for making it possible.

Still . . . a million words a year . . . five years in a row . . . I'd be lying if I didn't say I think that's pretty cool. (And no, before you ask, that's not Livia and me in the picture.)
Posted by James Reasoner at 5:22 PM


Pro-File: James Reasoner

Ed Here: I supsect that James Reasoner would have been happiest back in the Twenties and Thirties when the pulps dominated newstands. This doesn't mean that his books read like old pulp. On the contrary, his cult novel Texas Wind remains one of the finest private eye novels I've ever read and brings a distinctly modern viewpoint to the dusty truths of Texas. And that modern viepoint and style can be found in almost all his books. I think what he shares with the pulp boys and girls is their spirit and the simple love of telling good stories. You find this spirit and love in virtually everything he writes--and he writes virtually everything--westerns, mysteries, war stories, tie-ins, mainstream...and I'm sure I'm leaving out a couple of categories here. The pro's pro, James Reasoner.

1. Tell us about your current novel.

CALL TO ARMS, the first book in a new Civil War series entitled THE PALMETTO TRILOGY, was published in the fall, and the second book will be out in the spring, with the third and final book scheduled for next fall. These are in collaboration with my wife Livia, who is using the pseudonym Livia Hallam on them.

2. Can you give a sense of what you're working on now?

I just finished a house-name Western and plan to write a fantasy short story next, before moving right on to a historical novel which will also be under a house-name.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

Seeing a new book of mine and knowing that people will be reading it and I hope enjoying it.

4. What is the greatest DISpleasure?

Waiting. You send the books in and then wait for all the other steps in the process to unfold.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

Stop cancelling books -- and entire lines -- that make money, provide livings for their authors, and entertain their readers, simply because they don't make *enough* money.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in print again?

I don't know if they're forgotten, but how about Ed Lacy, George Harmon Coxe, and Henry Kane (the early novels, not the later stuff).

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that moment.

I had a post office box at the time, and one day there was a large manila envelope stuffed in it. Inside were several copies of a contract from Manor Books for my novel TEXAS WIND. No letter, just the contracts. But I didn't need a letter because I knew from the contracts they were actually going to buy and publish my book. I rushed home to tell Livia instead of going on to the real-world job I was holding down. The euphoria was tempered a bit when I actually *read* the contract and saw how little they were planning to pay me. We looked at each other and said, "That can't be right. That's all they pay for an entire *book*?"
Little did we know. They actually paid us even less.

But in the long run it was okay, because Manor published the book, and although I had sold short stories before, after that day I was an honest-to-gosh novelist.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Leigh Brackett-Edmond Hamilton -The Big Sleep

Dave Truesdale at Tangent on-line has posted an extraordinary and very long 1976 interview with Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton, the last before their deaths. The interview is accompanied by appreciations from jack Williamson and James Gunn.

Here's an excerpt with Leigh Brackett discussing her work on the first film of The Big Sleep:

TANGENT: In The Big Sleep, Leigh, there's always a question Bogart fans seem to ask: Whatever happened to the chauffeur? He just dropped out about halfway through.
BRACKETT: The whole thing is confusing; the novel is confusing. I was down at the set one day and Bogart asked me who killed Owen Taylor, the chauffeur, and I said I didn't know, and they asked Bogart and he didn't know, and Hawks said let's send Chandler a wire and find out, and his answer came back, “I don't know.” It's a very confusing plot and one of my favorite novels because the forward momentum is so tremendous and the characters are so interesting that you really don't care.
HAMILTON: The Big Sleep appeared in the summer of 1946. I was assiduously playing court to this young lady, and so I was living with my sister in Arcadia and I had to go all the way downtown---not having a car at that time―to see that. Well, I got in on the middle of that damn picture, and let me tell's confusing enough when you get in on the beginning of that picture. But the picture improves; by that I mean that when you overcome all the mind boggling difficulties with plot and so on-- I liked it better than I ever used to. It really had a beautiful tempo.

TANGENT: What was it like working with William Faulkner? I've heard a lot about his peculiarities.

BRACKETT: Well, he did used to disappear in the middle of a script from time to time. It didn't bother me because in any real sense we didn't work together. This was my first big job; I had had one job at Republic a month or so before doing a thing called The Vampire's Ghost, and I was three weeks on the script with another writer, and they shot the film in ten days and that was two days over schedule (laughing). They fired the cameraman after the second day because he was taking too much time. But uh, it was not the greatest film ever made.

So then this thing was dropped into my lap because Howard had read the book and liked the dialogue and put me under contract, and I'm making this thing with Humphrey Bogart, who, you know, is my favorite actor, and William Faulkner's already on the script. I walk in, you know, feeling about this big and I think how in the world am I going to work with Faulkner. Well, there was no problem. He greeted me courteously. He put the book down and said, “We will do alternate sections. You will do these chapters and I will do these chapters,” and so on. But that's the way he wanted it done. He turned around and walked into his office and I never saw him again, except to say good morning. He lived behind a wall about eight feet thick. I think you could have worked with that man for ten years and never known him. He had a few close friends... He did, he disappeared occasionally.

for the rest go here:

Sunday, December 13, 2009


We've always assumed that our eldest granddaughter Shannon was the family's drama queen. Most of the time she kids the role which makes it funny. We hadn't counted on her five year old sister Maggie upstaging her. They stayed with us and Saturday morning Carol introduced Maggie and her seven year old sister Reagan to Go Fish. My God, those silent screen ladies had nothing on Maggie when it came to dramatically demonstrating her various reactions.

When Maggie was doing all right she laughed and beamed but when she wasn't doing all right she'd slap both hands over her face or throw her arms up in the air or hang her head and shake it. The fact that neither of them quite grasped the game didn't matter. For a time Maggie wanted to see if Reagan had any "one" cards. We had to remind her that cards started at two. And neither of them got the idea about the face cards. Kings were K and Jacks J etc. At the end when Reagan won Maggie looked at me and said "This is the worst day of my life!" She had the grace to laugh with the rest of us. All we can figure out is that while all the other kindergartners are sleeping on their rugs Maggie is watching soap operas somewhere.

----------Dave Zeltserman's Pariah has made the Washington Post's Best Books of 2009 list. He made the list last year too.

----------Bob Randisi has a mighty fine new story on Beat To A Pulp.

----------I watched a two hour History Channel documentary on the Protestant Reformation. Fascinating. The most interesting part concerned the split that came a century later between Protestants ministers on the subject of slavery. Some ministers owned slaves and were in the trade. Others despised it. But what interested me most was the discussion with Bible experts. Nowhere in the Bible is slavery condemned. On the contrary most references advocate slavery. Even Christ with the parable of Ham seems to encourage it. One more reason not to take the Bible seriously.

---------Singer/musician John Pizzarelli and his singer/musician wife Jessia Mulaskey have a great jazz radio show called Radio DeLuxe. Yesterday John talked about a recent event honoring a famous jazz musician. Enormous stars of several generations were there that night. Pizzarelli and a handful of other singers took the stage and offered songs. Pizarelli said that every single one of them (himself included) blew the lyrics and that a few just sort of wandered around inside the music, including Tony Bennett. That would've been a hoot--of a kind.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Available now: A wonderful novel by a truly wonderful guy

From Gravetapping: Ben Boulden


The eighth, and reportedly last, Sam McCain novel opens in 1965 at a Vietnam peace rally in Black River Falls, Iowa. The rally is held in the local Presbyterian Church and after 90 minutes of the same arguments—being spoken by different people—McCain is ready to leave the rally for the comforts of a double feature at the drive-in. But then as the newest local superstar, a pretty boy named Harrison Doran, is speaking a man takes the stage and asks to rebut the protestor’s arguments.

The man is not only the father of a casualty of war, his son died in Da Nang, but he is also a prominent and wealthy resident of Black River Falls. His name is Lou Bennett, and it doesn’t take long for boos to start and the scene to turn ugly. There is an altercation between Doran and Bennett, and then later that night Bennett is found dead. Harrison Doran is the likeliest suspect. McCain doesn’t like Doran, but he is enlisted to defend him, and it is a position that makes Sam less than popular amongst the mostly conservative population.

Ticket to Ride is a real treat. It features all of the regulars; the town’s pornographer, writer of sleaze, and McCain buddy Kenny Thibodeau, Judge Esme Anne Whitney, Jamie Newton—McCain’s guileless, but less than competent secretary—and the obnoxious and usually wrong police chief Clifford (Cliffie) Sykes, Jr. Mr Gorman perfectly captures the essence of small town America and he does it with a subtleness that never succumbs to cliché or stereotype. His characters are living, breathing people, who are never clearly good or bad—he shows their humanity in brief and poignant moments of vulnerability, weakness, and strength.

The plot is smooth and sharp; the prose is understated, readable and powerful—

“I wanted to say something smart, but his honesty surprised me. He was admitting that all the scorn hurt him. He had no right to tell me this, because, at least for the moment here, I had to feel bad about making fun of him all the time. Cliffie was supposed to be a cartoon. It pissed me off that he’d forced me to see him as a human being.”
The amazing achievement of Ticket to Ride is that it is written with a humor and innocent cynicism that allows the story a power of both place and time, and also a social commentary that is relevant for the story's Vietnam-era setting, as well as that of modern America. It is simple a brilliantly rendered private eye novel that is a wonderful addition to the series and the genre.


Friday, December 11, 2009; The Thrilling Detective site

This is a shout-out to two of the finest mystery sites on line. Steve Lewis' is as close to a mystery history course as anything I've ever seen. Same for Kevin Burton Smith's Thrilling Detective site.

In the last week or so alone on Mystery.File we've seen pieces on a Mary Pickford mystery film, a Wade Miller novel and a very funny piece on Bill Pronzini's hilarious Gun In Cheek. And the start of an overview of early films about Women In Prison, a sub-genre of great interest to dudes I'd guess.

Thrilling Detective offers fiction, reviews and enough historical information about private eye fiction to qualify as graduate course with tenure maybe in the offing. I appreciate being able to look at the entire p.i. field in all its permutations down the years. The author biographies are packed with information you probably won't find elsewhere.

Do you yourself a favor. If you're any kind of mystery fan, you'll want to look at these sites at least once a week. They're rich with treasures.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

John Trinian

John Trinian

I keep trying to remember where I saw a relatively recent review of North Beach Girl. The writer likened the novel to Malcolm Braly's Shake Him Till It Rattles, noting that both books deal with the intersection of Beat culture and crime in the late 50s and early 60s.

Two of you have asked me off-line to recommend a couple of Gold Medals that I consider noteworthy despite the fact that they get overlooked in most GM overviews.

Try North Beach Girl and Shake Him Till It Rattles. Fine novels and serious historical documents.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Forgotten Books: Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

Bonjour Tristesse - Francoise Sagan

In the summer of 1958 I was sixteen years old and going through my first real heartbreak. My only solace was in books and movies. Seeing people was too painful. I mention this because my state of mind had a good deal to do with my reaction to a slender Dell paperback I'd been hearing about.

Bonjour Tristesse had been written by a seventeen-year-old French schoolgirl and it had the good fortune to become a scandal in both Europe and the United States. The story concerned seventeen-year-old Cecile whose wealthy and handsome father is what one might call, in crude Yankee tongue, an ass-bandit. His latest young thing is Elsa whom Cecile likes because she's the kind of trivial beauty her father will dump after a few months. But then Anne appears and Cecile must plot to get rid of her. Anne is serious competition to Cecile. She will take Cecile's father from her, at least mentally and spiritually. From here the story deals with Cecile's attempt to destroy a fine woman--and one of her deceased mother's best friends--before her father falls in love with her. The end is tragic.

The novel is about pain and betrayal and loneliness and is told so simply and directly it has the effect of a stage monologue. It was condemned by most of the old farts--the French Catholic novelist Francois Mauriac reviewed it and sounded as if he was making the case for Sagan's execution--while the more charitable critics found it earnest and compelling if not quite as important as all the fuss would have it.

There was an Iowa angle, too. Otto Preminger discovered eighteen-year-old Jean Seberg from Marshalltown, Iowa and starred her in his catastrophic production of St. Joan. The critics loved her melancholy beauty (who wouldn't?) but she certainly wasn't up to a role this difficult. This could have ended her career but she was quickly cast in Bonjour Tristesse--which wasn't much of a movie--and did a fine job. Later she would become a French film icon when she did Breathless with Jean Paul Belmondo.

But Seberg had a troubled life very much like that of a Sagan heroine. At least one of her husbands beat her and J. Edgar Hoover had his creeps stalk her here and in France. He tried to destroy her by feeding tales to the press of how she just might be seeing a black man and showing a definite interest in left-wing politics. She died at forty-one in circumstances that the authorities believed pointed to suicide. She had long struggled with depression.

I followed Sagan's career to the end because Bonjour had given me so much comfort that terrible summer. In France she was seen, at least early on, as a kind of J.D. Salinger, though I always thought her take on this vale of tears was far richer than his. And by the time she wrote Those Without Shadows a few years later she was far out of his league. And she certainly never disappointed the media. Here, from Wikipedia, just a bit of her life story:

Personal life

Sagan was married twice; to Guy Schoeller ( married 13 March 1958, an editor with Hachette, 20 years older than Sagan, divorced June 1960), and to Bob Westhof ( a young American playboy and would-be ceramist, married 10 January 1962, divorced 1963.

Their son Denis was born in June 1963.)[3] She took a lesbian longer term lover in fashion stylist Peggy Roche; and had a male lover Bernard Frank, a married essayist obsessed with reading and eating. She added to her self-styled "family" by beginning a long-term lesbian affair with the French Playboy magazine editor Annick Geille, after she approached Sagan for an article for her magazine.[1]

Fond of travelling in the United States, she was often seen with Truman Capote and Ava Gardner. She was once involved in a car accident in her Aston Martin sports car - (14 April 1957) - which left her in a coma for some time. She also loved driving her Jaguar automobile to Monte Carlo for gambling sessions.

Also, in the 1990s, Sagan was charged with and convicted of possession of cocaine.

Sagan was, at various times of her life, addicted to a number of drugs. She was a long-term user of prescription pills, amphetamines, cocaine, morphine, and alcohol.When police came for inspection in her house her dog called Banko showed cocaine to them and also licks cocaine. Sagan told police " Look! he likes it too."

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

E-books: Richard Curtis, Nat Sobel

Ed here: I've always thought that two of the coolest guys in publishing were agents Nat Sobel and Richard Curtis. Their track records speak for themselves. Here's Curtis writing about Sobel on E-Reads.


Agent Nat Sobel Challenges Publishers to Hold Back E-Reprints
Literary agent Nat Sobel, one of the most respected figures in his field, has issued an appeal to book industry leaders urging them to resist the temptation to release e-book reprints of hardcover books too early. Noting with alarm that movie exhibitors had recently pulled a film after learning that an early release of the DVD had been scheduled, Sobel draws the analogy with booksellers whose hardcover sales are cannibalized by early release of e-book editions.

The issues Sobel raises reared their head last summer when Dominique Raccah, publisher of Sourcebooks, put the brakes on simultaneous e-print of a hardcover YA thriller, Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse by Kaleb Nation. When pundits questioned the wisdom of waiting to release the e-edition, Raccah wrote a lively defense of her decision in a posting for E-Reads called Are E-Books the New Cheap Paperback Reprint Edition?

Now Sobel is advancing Raccah's argument with a plea for publishers to hold back e-prints to give hardcovers their moment in the sun without fear of being undercut by a cheap digital edition. "I suggest that the electronic versions not be made available for six months after initial publication, eventually being released when the paperback hits the market," Sobel writes. "I’d like to believe that electronic book sales can and should be the mass market of the future."

For the rest go here:

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The New Pulp Press

The New Pulp Press:
An interview with publisher Jon Bassoff

First of all what made you decide to become a publisher in these economic

I have a history of buying high and selling low. Actually, the state of
the economy didn't play a big role in my deciding to go through with this
enterprise. My goal has always been to make just enough money to replace
the stolen hubcaps on my '83 Toyota Tercel. I've got one replaced already.
Truthfully, our company is not an extremely high risk venture. The
advances we pay are embarrassing. And fortunately we've gotten enough
positive feedback and enough positive reviews to keep the racket going.

How long have you been reading hard-boiled and noir?

Well, I hated reading until I started devouring the Hardy Boys at age
eight or so. Okay, so the Hardy Boys are not exactly hard-boiled, but it
led me in that direction. My father was a big fan of all the old Film
Noirs and indoctrinated me to THE MALTESE FALCON, DOUBLE INDEMNITY etc.
But it wasn't until I got an eyeful of Jim Thompson when I was in college
that I became obsessed with hard-boiled and noir. He took things in such a
different direction, playing against type, and it made me see the vast
boundaries of crime fiction.

Name some of the writers you hope to publish.

Wish list? Well, there are obviously an unbelievable number of talented
crime fiction writers out there. I think we're in something of a golden
age for the genre. I tend to prefer what Dave Zeltserman coined "Psycho
Noir," or having an extremely warped and unreliable narrator. Give me
Jason Starr, Dave Zeltserman, Allan Guthrie to name a few. I actually
broached the subject with Jason Starr. He said he'd be interested--but he
needed enough money to pay the rent. Unfortunately, he lives in Manhattan
so our negotiations were not very successful.

What attracted you to Gil Brewer's Flight to Darkness?

I've been a huge fan of Gil's for some time. I think he's really one of
the under appreciated crime writers of the 50's. I knew from the beginning
that I wanted to get some of his books back into print. I contacted his
family and asked them what they'd like to get back into print. We settled
on the well-known THE RED SCARF and the little known FLIGHT TO DARKNESS. I
liked the idea of a narrator who may or may not be insane. A narrator who
may or may not be telling us everything. And a femme fatale that rivals
Ann Savage in Detour for pure cruelty.

What books comes after Flight To Darkness?

Next up we've got a book of short stories called AS I WAS CUTTING from a
maniac named L.V. Rautenbaumgrabner. I can't tell you much about it except
to say that it is one of the more disturbing books I have ever read, and
that includes BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY. I probably shouldn't have
published it, but I felt bad for the author who I am convinced is not well
emotionally. In February we're reissuing Lynn Kostoff's A CHOICE OF
NIGHTMARES which initially came out in the early 90's and was not marketed
at all by the publisher who became squirmish by the noirish themes. It's a
hell of a read, and people like Megan Abbott, Marcus Sakey, Charlie
Stella, and Sara Gran have read it and fallen in love with it. After A
CHOICE OF NIGHTMARES, we'll be releasing a couple of books from first-time
and RABID CHILD by Pete Risley. BAD JUJU is a book of pulpy short stories
(Ken Bruen calls the book "astonishing") while RABID CHILD is what I would
call Gothic Noir. After that, we'll be putting out a few more reissues.
The plan is to put out Brewer's THE RED SCARF, Lionel White's HOSTAGE FOR
A HOOD, and Day Keene's SLEEP WITH THE DEVIL. So we've got quite a year
ahead of us.

How successful have your titles been so far?

More successful than I expected, less successful than Hard Case Crime. I
hope that we can continue to build our reputation and improve the sales
numbers, although I don't expect us ever to gain entry on the New York
Times best seller list.

Given the fact that there are several small press publishers reprinting
material similar to yours, what niche are you hoping to make your own?

Our niche group? Probably prisoners and the criminally insane. We try to
stay away from mainstream noir and push our books toward the
aforementioned "psycho noir." But in the end it comes down to us
publishing books that we want to publish. You can only sub-categorize so
many times.

Thanks very much, Jon

How low can you go?

An old friend of mine sent me a link to a brief overview of bottom line studios such as Monogram and PRC. I've always known there were studios even more bottom line than these two but I'd never heard what they paid for their movies. Wow

"Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) was founded by a former film exchange manager, Ben Judell, in 1939. PRC's first release was the timely Beasts of Berlin (1939), one of the first dramatic films to deal with Hitler's Germany. PRC profited even more when it later reissued the film to capitalize on the stardom of its male second lead, Alan Ladd (1913–1964). The company produced westerns, mysteries, horror films, and even some musicals and costume films. Sam Newfield (1899–1964) directed so many films for PRC—more than fifty over the course of seven years—that he used several pseudonyms in addition to his own name. Films made by Monogram, Republic, and PRC were made in only a week or two, usually for less than $100,000—sometimes considerably less.

"Finally, there were those ragtag companies that existed on the fringes of the motion picture industry making Poverty Row quickies. If films from Monogram and PRC often looked threadbare, Poverty Row quickies were the bottom of the barrel. Generally made for under $25,000 and in less than a week, movies made by companies like Empire, Peerless, Puritan, and Victory were poorly shot and often verged on incoherence."

Read more:

Friday, December 04, 2009

Block; Monk; Zeltserman; Piccirilli

I've just finished reading the spectacular new issue of Mystery Scene. Of particular note is Lawrence Block's new column which he devotes to his memories of the people and places of his literary past. He writes here of the late short story genius Stanley Ellin. A fascinating portrait of Ellin's working methods. Larry is the last of the giants (we lost Don Westlake, Mickey Spillane and Evan Hunter all too soon) and his Proustian take on the decades of his career will be the first thing I read when MS arrives.


I don't think I've ever seen a finer finale--and Mary Tyler Moore me no Mary Tyler Moores etc--than the two-part Monk that concluded last night. The writing and the acting were superb and both dug deep. I haven't seen Carol cry like that in front of the tube in a long time. I used to think that Rockford was my all-time favorite crime show. Now I'd have to have a two-way winner for first place. Monk was done with enormous talent and enormous love. It is a true classic and one I'd put up with any crime show that's ever been on television.

---------------VAMPIRE CRIMES

I'v just read the manuscript of Dave Zeltserman's new novel, Vampire Crimes. This is one of the few fresh takes on vampirism I've read in years. It's as if Charles Bukowski sat down and said, OK, Bram Stoker, how about this? Here's a piece from it:

"That day started off worse than most of the others. He had hooked up
the night before with another addict, a deathly thin blonde woman about
twenty years older than him. He didn't remember much about her other
than how damn hollow her eyes looked, how her lips were so unnaturally
pale with this hint of blue tingeing them and hard it was for her to
find a vein to tap. When he woke up the next morning she was gone along
with his roll of over three grand and his stash. There was nothing in
her apartment worth any money. She wasn't coming back. His cash and
junk were long gone. He was just lucky she didn't take his clothes, and
even luckier she didn't take his army-issued boots. He sat on the floor
for a long time holding his head, needing a fix as badly as he ever
did. Eventually the stench of garbage got to him and he staggered out
of the apartment.
Most of what happened that day was lost to him, but he remembered that
night ending up in a diner. He tried to palm a couple of bucks from the
counter and that was when a burly tattooed arm went around his
shoulder, corralling him."

----------------------Tom Piccirilli

Tom Piccirilli was generous enough to interview about my new Sam McCain novel TICKET TO RIDE
on his website The Big Adios. You can read it here:

The 25th Hour; Don Congdon

I saw Spike Lee's 25th Hour the day it opened. I was was jazzed for it because I'd read the novel in galley and thought it was brilliant. The novelist David Benioff also wrote the screenplay. I left the theater thinking this had to be one of the finest films I'd ever seen. Then I started reading the reviews. Most of the major ones trashed it. I couldn't believe it. Like Vince Keenan and many others I kept pushing the movie over the years. Slowly I saw appreciations starting to appear on the net. This year with Decade's Best lists appearing I see that it's in many top tens and top fives and even number ones in--as I recall--one or two. People like to chatter about how all the indie movies break rules and take chances. Spike Lee and Benioff throw most of the rules away and in so doing get performances from Edward Norton, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin, Barry Pepper and Brian Cox you will never forget. If you've never seen it, now's the time when it's finally getting it's due.

--------------Don Congdon, Longtime Literary Agent for Ray Bradbury, Dies at 91

Ed here: I had four or five long conversations with Don Congdon over the years. I could never meet his prices for things I wanted to reprint but I always seemed to catch him in a talkative mood. He had a lot of great stories and was a generous man in sharing credit with others. A fine tough gentleman from the time when publishing was really publishing.

By WILLIAM GRIMES (from the New York Times today)

Don Congdon, a literary agent who spotted the talent of Ray Bradbury early in both their careers and whose long list of celebrated authors also included William Styron, Jack Finney, Evan S. Connell, William L. Shirer and David Sedaris, died on Monday at his home in Brooklyn Heights. He was 91.

The death was confirmed by his son, Michael.

Mr. Congdon, who started out as a messenger at a small New York agency, developed an enviable reputation as a skilled editor, tough negotiator and shrewd judge of talent. While still a young editor at Simon & Schuster, he tuned in to the early stories of Ray Bradbury, who became one of his first clients after he set up as a full-time literary agent in 1947.

In 1966 he caused a stir in the publishing world, and precipitated a celebrated lawsuit by Jacqueline Kennedy, when, after spirited bargaining, he sold Look magazine the serial rights to “The Death of a President,” William Manchester’s study of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, for more than $600,000.

for the rest go here:

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Forgotten Books: The Evil Days by Bruno Fischer

Bruno Fischer had one of those careers you can't have any more. There's no market for any of it. He started out as editor and writer for a Socialist newspaper, shifted to terror pulps when the newspaper started failing, became a successful and respected hardcover mystery novelist in the Forties and early Fifties, and finally turned to Gold Medal originals when the pb boom began. His GMs sold in the millions. His House of Flesh is for me in the top ten of all GMs.

Then for reasons only God and Gary Lovisi understand, Fischer gave up writing and became an editor for Colliers books. But he had one more book in him and it turned out to be the finest of his long career.

Fischer shared with Howard Fast (Fast when he was writing mysteries under his pen names) a grim interest in the way unfulfilling jobs grind us down, leave us soulless. Maybe this was a reflection of his years on the Socialist newspaper. The soullessness features prominently in The Evil Days because it is narrated by a suburban husband who trains to work each day to labor as an editor in a publishing company where he is considered expendable. Worse, his wife constantly reminds him (and not unfairly) that they don't have enough money to pay their bills or find any of the pleasures they knew in the early years of their marriage. Fischer makes you feel the husband's helplessness and the wife's anger and despair.

The A plot concerns the wife finding jewels and refusing to turn them in. A familiar trope, yes, but Fischer makes it work because of the anger and dismay the husband feels when he sees how his wife has turned into a thief. But ultimately he goes along with her. Just when you think you can scope out the rest of the story yourself, Fischer goes all Guy de Maupassant on us. Is the wife having an affair? Did she murder her lover? Is any of this connected to the jewels? What the hell is really going on here?

Sometimes we forget how well the traditional mystery can deal with the social problems of an era and the real lives of real people. The hopelessness and despair of these characters was right for their time of the inflation-dazed Seventies. But it's just as compelling now as it was then when you look at the unemployment numbers and the calm reassurances by those who claim to know that the worst is yet to come.

All this wrapped in one hell of a good tale by a wily old master.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The new Mystery Scene!

At the Scene, November 2009 Solving the mystery of what to read next!
In This Issue
Greetings from Kate
Legal Thrillers
Gift Guide
Quick Links
Current Issue
Book Reviews
Mystery Scene Blog

Follow us at...

Holiday delivery! Mystery Scene #112
on its way to a mailbox near you
Sara Paretsky, Larry Block, Peter Lovesey, MS Gift Guide

Hello everyone,

The holiday season is just getting started, and it's the perfect time of the year to ponder peace... and justice. MS contributing editor Cheryl Solimini does just that in her interview with author and social crusader Sara Paretsky, who tackles civil rights and racism in her latest V.I. Warshawski novel, Hardball.

Jon L. Breen also rounds up the best new legal thrillers (for a taste see below); Tom & Enid Schantz sit down with Britsh mystery luminary Peter Lovesey; Nate Pedersen continues his informative series "Building Your Book Collection" with an installment on booksellers' terms; and we embark down memory lane with Lawrence Block as he relates how the writer Stanley Ellin once put one over on Crime Club editor Lee Wright...

And last, but not least, check out the killer gift ideas in the eclectic "Mystery Scene Gift Guide." Happy holidays everyone!

Kate Stine

P.S. If you'd rather not receive these emails, just click here.

Read Anything Good Lately?
Lisa Boushehri says: "All 17 Phryne Fisher mysteries by Kerry Greenwood are quick, fun, witty, and the other day, one of them even made me cry!"

Lisa won a free book for her recommendation. Email us your fave raves for the "Our Readers Recommend" feature and be entered to win!

Legal Eagle: Robert Rotenberg
Just one of the many picks from "Criminal Sentences: Outstanding Legal Thrillers" in MS Issue #112

The best first novel in my stack is Robert Rotenberg's Old City Hall (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26.00). Canadian radio broadcaster Kevin Brace, charged with the bathtub stabbing murder of his common-law wife Katherine Torn, told his newspaper deliveryman "I killed her," but thereafter refused to speak, communicating minimally with his defense lawyer through notes. Solicitor/barrister Nancy Parish and her opponent Crown Attorney Albert Fernandez are each arguing a murder case for the first time. The style, characters, courtroom combat, and vivid and loving portrait of Toronto (including an unlikely run for the Stanley Cup by the Maple Leafs) are all fine, and the wild closing action leads to a possibly unique in-court climax. The multi-twist plot may be too over-the-top nutty to take seriously, but sequels are worth watching for. - Jon L. Breen

Photo credit: John Narvali

"I think of lots of things while I'm walking, and a few while I'm sitting still, and I don't generally hurry to the computer to share them with the world. In this particular instance, however, it struck me that I might very well be the only person left to tell the tale. Lee Wright and Stanley Ellin both died in 1986, Don Westlake on the last day of 2008. Who else is left to remember?"

- Lawrence Block, from his debut column "The Murders in Memory Lane" in Holiday Issue #112

Pictured: Stanley Ellin (1916-1986), a master of the mystery short story.
MS Gift Guide! Tasty treats for
mystery fans and more...
From books to games to spy gadgets - we've got you covered this holiday

For those who like their mayhem sunny side up, MS gift guru Kevin Burton Smith recommends this killer egg frying mold as a stocking stuffer. Find this and much more in our biggest gift guide yet.

And did you know that Mystery Scene gift subscriptions come with a personalized holiday note on festive snowflake cards? Simply purchase your gift subscription here and enter whatever message you choose in the "Gift Card text box." New gifts will receive a hand-mailed holiday issue with your special message. For guaranteed holiday delivery, please place your gift order before December 16, 2009. Any orders received after Dec. 16 will begin with Mystery Scene Winter Issue (mid-February 2010).

Mystery Scene Magazine
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New York, NY 10019

© 2009 Mystery Scene Magazine

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Rita and Bob; Mensa List

Yes that IS Bob Levinson, highly-regarded novelist and former major music biz publicist. If Bob made a list of all the famous people he's met and known over the years you'd need two big packs of paper to run it off. Seriously.

--------------------Thanks to John Helfers and Marty Greenberg for sending me this Mensa List

This is the Washington Post's annual Mensa Invitational, which once
again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter and supply a new definition. Here are the winners:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which
renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which
lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops
bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer,
unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the
purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high

8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit
and the person who doesn't get it.

9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these
really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes
and it's like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.): The gruelling event of getting through
the day consuming only things that are good for you

13. Glibido: All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem
smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after
you've accidentally walked through a spider web. (I do this
in my garden often. Quite a sight. )

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that
gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half
a worm in the fruit you're eating.

The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its
yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings
for common words. And the winners are:

1. coffee, n. the person upon whom one coughs.

2. flabbergasted, adj. appalled by discovering how much
weight one has gained.

3. abdicate, v. to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. esplanade, v. to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. willy-nilly, adj. impotent.

6. negligent, adj. absentmindedly answering the door when
wearing only a nightgown.

7. lymph, v. to walk with a lisp.

8. gargoyle, n. olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. flatulence, n. emergency vehicle that picks up someone
who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. balderdash, n. a rapidly-receding hairline.

11. testicle, n. a humorous question on an exam.

12. rectitude, n. the formal, dignified bearing adopted by

13. pokemon, n.. a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. oyster, n. a person who sprinkles his conversation with

15. Frisbeetarianism, n. the belief that, after death, the
soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. circumvent, n. an opening in the front of boxer shorts
worn by Jewish men.