Sunday, May 30, 2010

From Richard S. Wheeler

This is a post from Richard Wheeler's blog The Curmudgeon's Diary. You can find it here.

A New Western Anthology

Roundup!, an anthology produced by Western Writers of America and published by La Frontera Publishing, has appeared and is selling well. Unlike previous western anthologies published by the organization, this one largely features contemporary stories. One of mine, "The Great Filibuster of 1975," is included.

A superb introduction by Paul Andrew Hutton, distinguished professor of American history at the University of New Mexico, examines the history of western fiction. The regional literature of the West has taken many forms, but the best known is the genre western, which is now in decline. In fact traditional westerns have virtually vanished and their sales are no longer tracked by marketing organizations.

The new anthology is populated by gifted novelists, poets, and historians of the West. Even as the traditional western story has all but vanished, a new regional literature has replaced it. That is all to the good. The sooner the genre western vanishes, the better. The world has had its fill of crack-brained males wandering through unsettled country butchering one another. The new literature of the West is much richer, more honest, more entertaining, and more perceptive. That is why this anthology is the most rewarding of any I've read that deal with the American West.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Great news for a great writer - Bill Pronzini

BOOBYTRAP by Bill Pronzini

BOOBYTRAP is an action thriller to be directed by the veteran second unit director and stunt coordinator Nicholas Powell (“Bourne Identity,” “28 Days Later,” “Gladiator,” and “The Last Samurai”). Based on the novel of the same name written by award-winning author Bill Pronzini, the script is written by Michael A. Simpson, executive producer of the Oscar-winning “Crazy Heart.”

"Mr. Powell has directed many of the most amazing action sequences in recent history including the famous car chase through Paris and the intense fight scenes in the 'Bourne Identity'. He will bring the same intensity to BOOBYTRAP with a vision that will give a new kick to the thriller genre," says Michael Simpson. Mr. Powell has worked with many outstanding actors and directors including Paul McGuigan, James Franco, Russell Crowe and Matt Damon.

Boobytrap is the story of Patrick Dixon, a highly successful prosecuting attorney. When a judge and a police detective are murdered by explosives, Dixon knows he might be the next target. All three men were involved in the conviction of Earl Latimer – a ruthless, mob hitman sentenced to life in prison for murder using booby traps. Now Latimer has escaped prison and Patrick fears for his family's safety.

Before Patrick can get his wife Kimberly and six-year-old son Matt out of harm's way, his family is trapped inside their home -- captives of a series of elaborately devised, intricately executed booby traps. Battling against a ticking clock, Kimberly fights to keep her son alive and find a way out while Patrick and the police feverishly work to find a way into the house without tripping the ultimate trap that will kill them all.

Too late Patrick discovers they've been fighting the wrong opponent -- the real killer is a much more intimate enemy.

This thriller is a fight against a clock that never stops ticking with a complex lead character thrust into a violent world. Just who the villain is, will keep the audience guessing until the last frame.

The film is financed and ready to go pending cast. Robbie Little of The Little Film Company is handling international sales. Toronto-based Original Pictures is producing. OP’s Kim Todd is the producer. Executive producers include Michael A. Simpson and Howard Meltzer of Informant Media, the company that produced “Crazy Heart,” and Ken Atchity and Chi-li Wong of Atchity Entertainment International.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Not Exactly a New Books piece-Bob Randisi; Linkletter


Below is really an email I wrote you about why I could NOT write a new books piece. Seems to me it turned out to be a new books piece. I've attached the cover.

Every time I start a new books piece about this is sounds like I'm tooting my own horn. I mean, I have to say how every book I've ever sold--all 540+--has been sold on the basis of an outline. I'd never written a book on spec and then tried to sell it--until this one.

I decided one day just to see if I could do it. Write a book I didn't KNOW I was going to get paid for. It took a while, because I had to fit it in between the books I WAS getting paid to write. It also took time because it's the hardest thing I've ever tried to do. So hard that the book didn't come out the way I wanted. I was trying to write what would be a big successful thriller. What I got was a pretty good mystery novel about a father and son coming to terms with their relationship while they both work to keep the father alive.

I put the book in a drawer. It wasn't so different from everything else I'd done. It was in a drawer for years until I made contact with John C. Boland, a writer I knew in the 80's. In 2009 John was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best Short Story. He had also been nominated in the same category in 1984. I emailed him to say congrats on the two noms so far apart. We got to talking and he mentioned that he was starting Perfect Crime Books. Did I have anything I wouldn't mind letting a small press publish? We made a deal for a short story collection, THE GUILT EDGE. And then I said, "Well, I have this book . . ."

John turned out to not only be a good writer and a new publisher, but a damned good editor, as well. And the rest, as they say . . .


------------------------Art Linkletter

Last night I talked about how I never really cared for Art Linkletter. I was being hypocritical. I once lashed out at Jeffrey Wells for doing the same thing about Bob Clark when Bob and his son were killed in car crash. Wells didn't even wait twenty-four hours. I waited a few days but the same lesson pertains. Who really gives a shitwhat Wells' opinion--or mine?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Art Linkletter

Ed here: If you have any serious interest in show business and don't read Mark Evanier's News From Me, an exceptionally wise and rich take on subjects ranging from cartoons to comedians to films...snap to it. Mark has been a major force for several decades in comics, in tv shows (as writer and producer) and observer of our culture. Here's his take on Art Linkletter.

I share Mark's perception of the man. Even when I was eight or nine I sensed he was a phony. Mark uses the right word...unctuous. I might even say treacly in certain situations. I always assumed that he somehow, back stage, manipulated those kids into speaking their lines when he did his Darndest Things. I was more the Garry Moore type--laid back and not always going for the big manufactured laugh.

Here's an excerpt from Mark Evanier's News From Me:

I'm afraid he was never a favorite in our household. Much of America saw him as warm and genial and beloved, I suppose...but everyone I knew saw him as unctuous and enormously condescending to the people who got plucked from his audiences to appear on his shows, House Party or People Are Funny. He just had this way of acting like they were all colossal boobs and that it was his job to make sure they came across that way. There also seemed to be no product he wouldn't sincerely endorse if they were paying him enough.

Some of the obits are recalling the event that turned him into a staunch anti-drug crusader. In 1969, his daughter Diane jumped to her death from an apartment window. Dad blamed it on LSD and the drug culture and permissiveness...this, despite the fact that the coroner determined she'd had no drugs whatsoever in her system at the time. Some campaigns to curtail drug use are admirable but Linkletter's just struck me as self-serving. Half of it seemed like a desperate attempt to convince everyone, himself included, that his daughter's death was not a suicide and he had therefore not been a bad father; that she was murdered by drug-pushers. The other half of the message seemed to be that to fight the plague of drugs, we had to all vote Republican.

At the time, I was rabidly anti-drug and reasonably Conservative and even I found Mr. Linkletter's little speeches offensive and counter-productive. To his credit, he eventually backed way off them. I seem to recall a brief news cycle years later wherein he recanted his position on marijuana, decided it really didn't lead inevitably to "the hard stuff" and even endorsed its legalization. But by that point, he was just a guy who sold cheap life insurance to seniors in commercials and no one particularly cared what he said.

For the rest go here:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How did Bill Crider miss this one?

From Gawker:

Carla Bruni Asks for a Finger Up Her Butt, in Seven Different Languages

France's first lady is tres embarrassed that an old, raunchy episode of a talk show called Eurotrash has surfaced online. Now the French government is scrambling to get it yanked from YouTube. Here's what they don't want you to see.

Apparently the French government fought to remove a longer version of this video—in which Carla showcases a pair of "hot international sex guides" that teach international tramps how to say phrases like "Do you like my titties?" and "Put your finger in my bottom" in seven European languages—from YouTube. Eurotrash hosts Antoine de Caunes and designer Jean-Paul Gaultier (in the hot pink sailor suit, obviously) ooh and aah at the multilingual promiscuity of "Italy's most elegant export."

The yanked version apparently showed Carla discussing celebrity affairs with Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton. The Daily Mail reports Carla is "shocked and dismayed" at the video's "sudden reappearance." [DailyMail, Telegraph]

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

E publishing- PW & J.A. Konrath

Ed here: Interesting disagreement about the state of publishing and how to improve its fortunes for all concerned. First the piece from Publisher's Weekly then a response from writer J.A. Konrath

Agents Weigh the Growth Of Alternate Publishing Options
By Rachel Deahl
May 24, 2010

In a week that saw Barnes & Noble announce a new selfpublishing unit, one small deal that had the publishing industry paying attention was J.A. Konrath's decision to do his next book, Shaken, with Amazon's publishing arm, AmazonEncore. Reports quickly surfaced that Konrath would be making a roughly 70% return on the list price of his forthcoming e-book— $2.10 off a $2.99 Kindle edition. While a rep from Amazon confirmed that royalty does not apply to Konrath's deal with AmazonEncore, the deal still had some in the industry saying the move signaled a "game changer" for corporate publishing. Since Konrath is presumably getting a high digital royalty rate on Shaken, many wondered whether the big six should be quaking in their proverbial New York City boots.

Konrath, a midlist crime novelist whose series featuring detective Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels has been published by Hyperion in paperback for years, is an active self-promoter who's repeatedly spoken of the financial success he's had self-publishing his backlist as Kindle editions.

One thing that made the Konrath deal, in some peoples' eyes, less of a groundbreaking moment was that none of the major New York houses were interested in his new book. A look at Konrath's sales numbers shows a steady decline in his print sales. According to Nielsen BookScan, the first book in the Jack Daniels series, Whiskey Sour (2005), sold 32,000 copies, while the latest, Cherry Bomb (2009), has sold 4,000 copies. So Konrath essentially took a book no one wanted and instead of fully self-publishing it, signed with Amazon-Encore, which will bring the book out in paperback a year after the Kindle release this summer and at the very least e-mail all those who downloaded his last book.

for the rest go here:

------------------J.A. KONRATH RESPONDS

Publishers Weekly Epic Fail

Publishers Weekly has done some terrific reviews of my books over the years. But they just did a relatively unflattering article about me that misses a few key points.

You can read it HERE.

Welcome back! That article certainly makes me seem like a loser, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, PW's version of the truth is lacking in many areas. Let's shed some light on those areas.

My six Jack Daniels books have earned US royalties in excess of $200,000. They are all still in print, some in multiple printings.

The first three have more than earned out their advance of $110,000. The second three should should earn out their advance of $125,000, but all the the books haven't been released yet. CHERRY BOMB, my last book in the contract, is not coming out in paperback until June.

The hardcover of Cherry Bomb did sell well enough to go into a second printing. The hardcover release was also mistakenly messed up--one of the major bookstore chains didn't get copies in their stores until more than two weeks after the publication date. There was a demand for Cherry Bomb that was unfortunately not met.

for the rest go here:

The Wrap: Lee Child and Douglas Preston

From The Wrap:

Michael Bay to Produce 'Gideon's Sword' for Paramount

By Jeff Sneider
Published: May 24, 2010
Best-selling horror/thriller authors Lee Child and Douglas Preston have teamed for a new series that will follow investigator Gideon Crew, and Paramount has optioned the first novel, "Gideon's Sword," for Michael Bay to produce through his company Bay Films, reports Variety.

While Grand Central Publishing isn't releasing any details yet, they must be pretty juicy to be worth the reported seven-figures the two writers earned for their efforts.

I'm an avid fan of crime stories and mystery novels, preferring James Patterson's Alex Cross series (which Paramout is familiar with having released "Kiss the Girls and "Along Came a Spider") and Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme series myself, but I've heard good things about Child, and plan to pick up "Gideon's Sword" when it hits bookshelves in February.

The story is apparently a spin-off from Child and Preston's popular FBI Agent Pendergast series, which features the brash, young upstart Crew, who Grand Central Publishing executive editor Jaime Levine said "deserves his own series."

It's encouraging to see that Bay and the studio felt the same way, as it could provide a nice change of pace from their usual action-packed blockbusters.

The duo's initial collaboration, "Relic," was adapted as a fun but forgettable 1997 movie starring Penelope Ann Miller and Tom Sizemore. Their last book, "Fever Dream," debuted at No. 3 on the New York Times bestseller list when it debuted earlier this month, which is business as usual for Child and Preston, who count 13 N.Y. Times bestsellers among them.

Additionally, Tom Cruise is developing a big-screen adaptation of Preston's nonfiction book "The Monster of Florence."

Bay is currently recasting Megan Fox's role in Paramount's "Transformers 3," which will assault theaters on July 1, 2011. He's also producing DreamWorks' big-screen adaptation of 'Pittacus Lore's' "I Am Number Four," which D.J. Caruso is directing with Alex Pettyfer and Timothy Olyphant starring.

Bay and the authors are represented by WME.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

No posts till Tuesday

Carol and I are leaving early Sunday for Green bay to see Marty and Roz Greenberg. I'll post Tuesday night.

Thanks Ed

Extremely funny Parnell Hall video

Thanks to Charlie Stella's blog, I learned about Parnell Hall's song about the mid-list blues.

It's great.

Go here:

Friday, May 21, 2010


ED HERE: For science fiction fans this volume is a particular treat. A fair number of solid sf names disappeared after the war because they couldn't write for the audience just then emerging. J ack Williamson not only appealed to that audience he became one of its favorites. I've read just about half the stories in this book and each one highlights Williamson's virtues as a writer--a tight, dramatic style that satisfies those looking for both action and the kind of interior life common to all his characters.The introduction by Robert Silverberg is excellent. This is number seven in the Collected Works of Jack Williamson and, as with the earlier volumes, there's pleasure in just holding it. You rarely see this kind of craftmanship today. There's so much to cover I'm just going to run the catalog copy. Check out their very cool website.

Haffner Press:

With Folded Hands . . . And Searching Mind,
The Collected Stories of Jack Williamson,
Volume Seven
Jack Williamson
Foreword by Robert Silverberg
Cover art by Hubert Rogers
ISBN 9781893887374
584-page Hardcover

Full Color Endpapers

The ambitious program to collect the short fiction of Grand Master Jack Williamson continues! The 15 tales in this penultimate volume cover Williamson's entry into the US Army in 1942 through to his very successful effort to integrate into the post-WWII science fiction market.

Featured is the 1948 3-part serial ". . . And Searching Mind," which Williamson re-wrote into his most famous work, The Humanoids. Other classics in this volume include the first "Humanoids" story, "With Folded Hands . . ."; "Breakdown," set in the same universe as his novel co-authored with James Gunn, Star Bridge; and his much-reprinted classic, "The Equalizer." Appearing in either book-form or hardcover for the first time are "Cold Front Coming," "Hocus-Pocus Universe," "The Hitch-Hiker's Package," and "You Can't Beat a Marine." Also included is Williamson's afterword with his recollections on the genesis of these tales and the World War II-era science fiction field.

As with previous volumes in this series, the full-color endpapers reproduce the original magazine covers (with artwork by pulp masters including Hubert Rogers, Earle K. Bergey and Frank R. Paul) of the stories herein, and the binding is designed to match the 1940s editions of Williamson's works published by Fantasy Press. The book is smythe-sewn, bound in full cloth, and printed on acid-neutral paper, with full-color endpapers reproducing the original pulp magazine cover art.

With a foreword by legendary author, editor, and long-time friend of Williamson (and fellow Science Fiction Grand Master), Robert Silverberg, With Folded Hands . . . And Searching Mind represents the changing state of mid-20th Century American Science Fiction and continues the documentation of Williamson's unparalleled career.

Table of Contents

Related Books
The Worlds of Jack Williamson
In Memory of Wonder's Child
The Metal Man and Others
Wolves of Darkness
Wizard's Isle
Spider Island
The Crucible of Power
Gateway to Paradise
The Queen of the Legion
Table of Contents
"Foreword" by Robert Silverberg
"Backlash" (Astounding Science Fiction, Aug '41)
"Breakdown" (Astounding Science Fiction, Jan '42)
"Conscience, LTD." (Unknown, Aug '43)
"Cold Front Coming" (Blue Book, Jun '45)
"The Equalizer" (Astounding Science Fiction, Mar '47)
"With Folded Hands . . ." (Astounding Science Fiction, Jul '47)
". . . And Searching Mind" Astounding Science Fiction, Mar, Apr, May '48)
"The Moon and Mr. Wick" (Comet, Sum '50)
"The Cold Green Eye" (Fantastic, Mar/Apr '53)
"Hocus-Pocus Universe" (Science Stories, Oct '53)
"Operation Gravity" (Science Fiction Plus, Oct '53)
"The Hitch-Hiker's Package" (Fantastic Universe, May '54)
"Guinevere for Everybody" (Star Science Fiction Stories No. 3, 1954)
"You Can't Beat a Marine" (El Portal, May '56)
"Beans" (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nov '58)
"Afterword" by Jack Williamson

Thursday, May 20, 2010

J.A. Konrath's original Kindle novel

Three of the writer's blogs I check out every day are filled with comments about J.A. Konrath's decision to publish his next novel first on Kindle. This is an interesting story with important implications for the future of publishing. Novelist Jason Pinter wrote a piece for Huffington Post that looks at many of those implications.

Jason Pinter:

Jason PinterBestselling Thriller Writer
Posted: May 18, 2010 11:34 AM

The Konrath Effect: Will New Technology Ruin Talented Authors?

A long time ago, I ran a poll on Twitter asking who some of the greatest living novelists were in a certain genre. I offered a few well-known authors as examples. I received many responses, all valid, many of them wonderful talents. One self-published author, however, responded to me with great annoyance. Annoyed that he had been left out of my initial tweet as one of the greatest living writers in that genre. When I asked his rationale for inclusion on the list, he told me that as an e-publishing phenomenon, his current success was equal to, if not greater than many authors I'd mentioned. The author in question has never been published by a traditional publisher, and has instead listed many of his unpublished works online for free. One of his free e-books broke the Amazon Kindle top 100. For that, he declared himself a revolutionary, and took offense to my neglecting his genius.

I bring this up because on May 17th, it was announced that J.A. Konrath (aka Joe Konrath, aka Jack Kilborn) reached a deal with Amazon Encore to publish the 7th book in his Jack Daniels mystery series. Hyperion had published the first six installments in the series, which have seen a reasonable amount of success and been nominated for several awards. To his credit, Konrath has made himself into something of an internet and social networking behemoth. He maintains a hugely popular blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, in which he opines quite openly and honestly about his career trajectory, ups and downs, the peaks and valleys, with frank and often valid criticisms of the publishing industry. According to Konrath, he and his agent shopped the 7th Daniels book, Shaken, only to find no takers. For most authors, having a book rejected might mean it never seeing the light of day or selling a single copy. However over the last few months Konrath has blogged about the enormous success he's had publishing nearly a dozen of his previously unpublished novels, novellas and short story collections on the Kindle, Nook and iPad. Books that had been rejected dozens of times, but were now on pace to earn him upwards of $100,000 in royalties in 2010 alone.

I use these two authors as examples of two sides of the self-publishing coin. It is clear that many methods of traditional publishing are undergoing seismic shifts. The notion of self-publishing does not carry the same stigma it did just a few years ago. Yet there is a danger in self-publishing that becomes clear when you compare these two authors, and how they got to where they are. I wonder, with the incredible ease in which authors can now publish their rejected manuscripts online, whether fewer authors are going to take the time to hone their craft, get good at what they do, and achieve their full potential. Will new technology stifle budding talent?

for the rest go here:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Forgotten Books: A Case of Need by Michael Crichton

Forgotten Books: A Case of Need by Michael Crichton

A Case of Need was published under the name Jeffery Hudson and won the Edgar in its year, 1968. My assumption, and I may well be wrong here, is that Crichton wanted to use a new pen-name. His previous ones had appeared on adventure paperback originals and men's adventure magazines. Need was certainly a more complex and ambitious book.

The first thing to remember here is that Crichton was a doctor. While this whodunit revolves around the apparent framing of a doctor for performing illegal abortions in the Boston hospital where the narrator works (abortions as controversial then as now), what drives the novel is Crichton's guided tour through the lives and egos of doctors of all ages. Two or three of them presented here could well be the surgeon (true facts) who left his patient unfinished on the table while he "ran" to the bank to do some business. Ah, yes, that old Hippocratic oath really gets in the way sometimes, doesn't it?

All mysteries should be this suspenseful. Crichton was particularly good at dialogue and knows how to move a story with it. His people are real and his take on them judicious. If he doesn't like someone, he justifies his take by laying out an interesting (and sometimes snarky) backstory. Yes, dreaded word--backstory!

Some of the technology is dated here. A few scenes would today include the MRI if nothing else. But since the narrator is a pathologist and takes us through many moments of his day, the outmoded technology doesn't matter much. What does matter is the good docs vs. the bad docs and the resolution of a fascinating fair clue mystery. Crichton was a masterful storyteller and this novel certainly deserved its Edgar.

Alabama Bully Boy

One of the most obnoxious and silly ass political commercials of all time showed up last week when a loud mouth bully boy from Alabama running for ag secretary there came on the air with a spot that everybody is lampooning. Here's the best one I've seen so far. The site offers both the spoof and the original. If you haven't seen the real thing watch it first--though it comes of like a parody itself--then watch the spoof which is slotted first.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Three fine novels from Richard Matheson & Forge

It appears that Forge is reissuing many Richard Matheson books in attractive trade editions that only enhance the quality and superiority of the books themselves.

Hunted Past Reason is a remarkable suspense novel because it shows what a master can do with a relatively simple story. Screenwriter Bob Hansen asks his friend Doug Crowley if he can accompany him on a three-day camping trip for research. Doug's an accomplished outdoorsman. The reward for Bob is that his wife Marian will meet them at the end of their trip.

But there's something Bob doesn't realize--Doug, an actor who can't get work, blames Bob for not helping him with his career. Entirely irrational but that's how Bob's rolling these days. And his irrationality only grows on the trip, grows to the point where he not only attacks Bob but then tells him they'll have a contest to see who reaches the cabin first. Doug's plan is to stalk and kill his former friend. Bob, alone, sometimes lost, unwise in the ways of nature, must fight not only the daunting forest but various attempts by Doug to murder him.

This is one of Matheson's most powerful novels. Not a word wasted, not a scene rung false, not a plot twist predictable. Major Matheson.


Richard Matheson once said that he doesn't consider himself a horror writer or science fiction writer or suspense but just "a writer." He demonstrates why with these westerns. How can you categorize a man who can write virtually anything and do so with great innovation and skill?

The first of these westerns won the Spur award for Best Novel in its year. Journal of The Gun Years tell the life story, in journal form, of gunfighter Clay Halser and how he drifted through the west after a brief bitter return to his home after the Civil War caused him to encounter just about every kind of trouble a frontier man could run up against. The most stunning aspect of the story is how Matheson eschews the cliches of the standard western and show us the effects of gunfighting has on a single life. By book's end we're in a kind of Conradian madness unequaled in western novels.

The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hitchcock debunks the numerous myths about the famous man. Here Matheson looks at how the journalism and dime novels of the time took their toll on Hitchcock. You can smell the smoke and whiskey and perfume of the dives he hung out in; and you can see how minor incidents became the stuff of legend. Expert storytelling and a fascinating take on the real old west.

Hunted Past Reason and Legends of The Gun Years are Matheson at his best. If you've somehow never read Matheson, here's a good place to start.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Plots are for pussies part deux

Ed here: Years ago the Farrelly brothers (mediocore but occasionally funny film makers) remarked that "plots are for pussies." If you want a more refined take on that sentiment here's a man named David Shields saying much the same thing. I will say that from time to time I do prefer non-fiction. There are small periods of time when all fiction, from great literature to detective fiction, does seem predictable and unrewarding. But that passes and I'm back to two or three novels and half a dozen stories a week. My problem with Shields' proposal is that I'm not sure his sort of anti-novel would be something you'd really want to sit down know, actually read.I picked this up on Huffington Post from a site called The Millions.

Long Live the Anti-Novel, Built from Scraps
By DAVID SHIELDS posted at 6:14 am on May 17, 2010 20

Both of my parents were journalists. My mini-rebellion was to become a fiction writer. I wrote three novels, but trying to write my fourth, I couldn’t commit the requisite resources to character and scene and plot—apparently, pretty important elements of a novel. This book, Remote: Reflections on Life in the Shadow of Celebrity, became a literary collage, and that was my Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole moment. I’ve never touched terra firma again. All of my books since have been literary collage.
I love literature, but I don’t love stories per se. I find nearly all the moves the traditional novel makes unbelievably predictable, tired, contrived, and essentially purposeless. It’s not clear to me what such narratives are supposedly revealing about the human condition.

We live in a post-narrative, post-novel world. Plots are for dead people. Novelly novels exist, of course, and whenever I’m on a plane, it’s all I see everyone reading, but they function for us as nostalgia: when we read traditional novels, we get to pretend that life is still coherent.

Twenty years ago I was hired by the University of Washington creative writing program to teach fiction. However, by the mid-1990s I had stopped writing or reading much if any fiction. I felt after a while as if I were taking money under slightly false pretenses, so in order to justify my existence to myself, my colleagues, and my students, about ten years ago I developed a course in the self-reflexive gesture in essay and documentary film. The course reader was an enormous, unwieldy, blue packet of hundreds upon hundreds of statements about nonfiction, literary collage, lyric essay. That course packet was my life raft: it was teaching me what it was I was trying to write.

for the rest go here:

-----------------------------CLOWN TIME

Most of the political sites I read cover the dumbest political commercials they can find. This is my choice for the dumbest so far. This loud mouth bully boy is laughable. I'll bet his horse can count higher than he can (Trigger could count higher than Roy.)

-----------------------------MYSTERY SCENE

Here's the url for the terrific new Mystery Scene site

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lena Horne; TMI; California

The Daily Beast published this except from James Gavin's biography of Lena Horne:

Leno Horne's Horne's Stormy Past
by James Gavin

The legendary singer, who died Sunday, was no wallflower when it came to defending herself against racial slurs. In an exclusive excerpt from Stormy Weather, James Gavin tells the story of when she attacked a racist man at a Beverly Hills restaurant.

Monday, February 15, 1960, was Lena Horne’s day off in a two-week engagement at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles. Around midnight, she and her husband Lennie Hayton dropped by the Luau, a faux-Polynesian restaurant in Beverly Hills. Playwright Mart Crowley, who wrote The Boys in the Band, recalled the place “kitsch and camp—all these blue strobe lights and fake rain that came down over the bar.” But it gained a touch of Hollywood cachet from its owner Stephen Crane, one of Lana Turner’s ex-husbands; and a show-bizzy crowd found it an amusingly unfashionable place to hang out. The Haytons were shown to a corner table, then Lennie went to phone their friend Kay Thompson from a booth to see if she were free. Horne waited alone, amid a soft murmur of conversation.

“I’m sorry he had to learn in such a violent manner that people don’t like to be insulted. But I don’t go for that stuff.”

From the lower level, just a few feet away, a drunken voice cut through the quiet. It belonged to Harvey St. Vincent, the 30-year-old vice president of an upscale engineering firm. He sat with a friend, Norman Wynne. St. Vincent shouted for a waiter.

One of them promised to come soon; first, he said, he had to serve “Miss Horne’s table.” Wynne looked up. “There’s Lena Horne,” he told St. Vincent, who glared in her direction. He raised his voice for all to hear.
“So that’s Lena Horne, huh? Well, she’s just another black nigger … there ain’t nothing they can do for me.”

Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne. By James Gavin. 608 pages. Atria. $16. According to some reports, Horne leaned over the partition and responded with dignity: “I can hear you, and I want you to stop making those insulting remarks.” Other versions had her answering much more bluntly.

“Well,” he barked, “all niggers look alike to me and that includes you.”

for the rest go here:


When Newsweek published Ramin Setoodeh's piece claiming that gay actors are pretty much limited to certain (i.e. non-leading romantic roles that requite straight actors) I agreed with most people that he was a bit balmy. Apparently Setoodeh, who says he's gay, discounts the number of gay actors who've played straight romantic leads since the time of silent movies. He also said some other stupid things not worth mentioning here. I saw him on TV after the push back began and the guy looked like all three of the Stooges had worked him over with frying pans.

But in the course of his piece he did make a point of how we have Too Much Information about our stars. We've gone from the days of studio controlled puff press releases to starlets flashing their beavers when they're exiting cars to male stars throwing up as they leave night clubs.

And man the confessions. I used to admire actors who came forward and talked about their drug problems and health problems and even romantic problems. Back when this sort of thing was new it seemed refreshing. And maybe even instructive. But now, no matter how truthful it might be, the tell-all, whether in print or on the tube, is a cliche. It's like John D. MacDonald said about pornography--when you start to write it you realize how limited the human body is. Very soon you're repeating yourself, even after including all the bizarre configurations you lifted from the Kama Sutra. Speaking of which even sex tapes are now passe. Really? Another one? An of course the vultures have moved in to exploit all this, including Dr. Phil, who has always reminded me of Hannibal Lechter.

Setoodeh's point--I'm really asking your opinion here--is that TMI gets in the way the audience looks at the actors when they're acting. A good current example is Lindsey Lohan. I caught her Disney stuff when she was younger because in those days I babysat my oldest granddaughter. She was--like her brother and two other sisters--a Disney child, no substitutes allowed. Lohan is a good actress. Sometimes damned good. But I can't imagine the role that would help us forget her recent and sad demise as both an actress and a human being (at this point she'd probably be better off in county jail for her own sake). Linda Lovelace just confirms the very image she needs to shed (unless the script turns out to be Oscar worthy).

Even one of our Official Sweethearts such as Jennifer Aniston has created a subtext for herself that seems to be catching up to her. Looking For Love; The Loser at Love. Her movies are usually inane romantic comedies but maybe they fail because in life she's always portrayed as as adrift on the chilly seas of despond.

I've never been a big Russell Crowe fan so I'm going in with a bias. But every time I see him on screen an image of him hurling a telephone at some poor hotel clerk crosses my mind. As Richard Pryor remarked comedy--the form used to be about the poor and powerless attacking the rich and powerful. But today we see a lot of meanness aimed at people and groups that can't defend themselves. Crowe is an asshole and it's hard for me to forget that when I watch his performamces.

Do any of you have actors whose lives get in the way of their craft?

--------------------------------- You Play The Black and The Red Comes Up

While the author of this famous cult novel is officially Richard Hallas, it was of course written by the Brit Eric Knight, who came to Hwood and did well for himself, creating, among other successful properties, Lassie. It's often said that You Play The Black is a parody of the noir novel. I dunno. For one thing, as Stephen Crane always argued, parody can be taken up and as well as down. In other words you can lift a form from the popular books or movies and deal with the form seriously. Mostly I don't give a damn. I think it's a hell of a good book and the recent entertaining and spot-on review in Mystery-File bears me out. Her's one of the many memorable passages:

""I think it was true what Genter once said: that the minute you crossed into California you went crazy. And I think the minute you cross the mountains coming back, you change again… I remember him saying that some lands were father to a man; and some were mother to him, and loved him; and some were a wife, and had to be loved; but California was just a whore who dropped her pants to the first man who came along with a watering-pot."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Update: Leonardo DiCaprio not Matt Damon

Six of one half dozen of the other...After I posted this I started thinking maybe I got confused...the people talking about making McGee are (are you ready?) Leonardo DiCaprio and Oliver Stone--worse than I thought.

(previously and incorrectly--not Damon, DiCaprio but same problem)

Matt Damon's a good actor and can be a funny guy in interviews. So nothing against him but I can't see him as Travis McGee, as the trades are saying he will be.

I'm probably speaking for those of us who started reading the John D. MacDonald McGees as they began appearing in the early Sixties. I can remember how the first three popped up without warning except in the Fawcett-owned Cavalier magazine (when it was a real magazine and not just another t & a outlet).

Now admittedly McGee wasn't my favorite JDM character by a long shot. Ole Trav, as I once said to the irritation of several readers, was a Rotarian's idea of a cool guy. The way he talked about himself could be irritating--always reminding us of how he was "gnarly" and a "knight errant" and so on--but when he wan't lost in his mirror or pontificating on the then-modern world or bedding women to "cure" them of their depression, the JDM craft came through and they were damned good adventure suspense novels. The novels are filled with melancholy for that time; McGee is pretty much disgusted about what he sees in the Sixties. That disgust is the basis for all his sermonizing.

People of younger generations won't have any trouble imagining Matt Damon as McGee. But for older people McGee was a man who had been shaped by the second world war, the bust and boom of the late forties and early fifties and the old fashioned code of macho--very different from the one today.

And what about Meyer? At least he'll still be relevant given his gloomy (and accurate) financial predictions.

I'm seeing car crashes and `splosions and fast-cutting and and sound tracks that threaten trolling o leave you deaf and the kind of heroics McGee never even attempted. In other words another Matt Damon adventure movie off the assembly line with no reverence for the old Gold Medals that spawned it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Kate Stine: News From Mystery Scene

From Kate Stine:


We're spreading the word about recent developments at Mystery Scene.

The new MS website has just launched. It's pretty gorgeous! The site is updated daily and offers original content as well as selected material from print.

The website joins the MS Blog, Facebook Fan Page (950+ fans), monthly e-newsletter (5K subscribers), and MS Twitter feed.

Reaction from our readers has been very positive. It's a brave new world!

Hope all is well with you.

Best wishes,

Kate Stine, Publisher

Solving the Mystery of What to Read Next
331 W. 57th Street, Suite 148
New York, NY 10019-3101
Tel: 212-765-7124 Fax: 212-202-3540

Upcoming Issues: FALL #117: September 15th, 2010 | HOLIDAY #118: November 15, 2010 | WINTER #119: February 15, 2011

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Forgotten Books The American Vein; Rockford

Christopher Wicking and Tise Vahimga set out to do for American television what Andrews Sarris did for American films. Sarris had the problem of tracking down films long lost in vaults somewhere in sunny L.A. But Wicking and Vahimga had an even more difficult task. Remember when NBC decided to tape over all those years of Johnny Carson Tonight Shows so they wouldn't have to pay for new tape. Brilliant! Some shows are just about impossible to find, even among collectors.

But somehow they persevered and got hold of enough shows to give tv scholars a fascinating assessment of the directors who worked in tv from 1949 through 1975. They laid out their book much like Sarris did. The Pantheon comes first, those men (and a few women) who made ground breaking contributions to the medium. And they work down from there.

As you read their these biographical assessments of the directors you quickly get a sense of how much good, solid and occasionally brilliant tv came and went over the years. They quickly prove their case that a good director can take a trite show and make it at least a fresh piece of work if not a masterpiece. They also track themes and obsessions that certain directors (usually the better ones) share. They even cite certain shows you wish you could find. They outline a Christopher Knopf script for a Movie of The Week. If the film is even close to the outline this had to be a stunning piece of suspense.

There's also a nostalgia factor. Just looking at the name of all the series that have come into our homes over the The titles bring back memories the way old songs do.

If you have any interest at all in the history of television, this is your number one book. Wicking wrote a number of cult film scripts including Scream and Scream Again. Vahimga wrote numerous articles for horror magazines. They had the talent and temperment to turn a massive piece of work into a enjoyable, informative and occasional wistful read.

------------------THE NEW ROCKFORD FILES

Ed here: None of the following surprises me. James Garner is James Rockford. Period and forever. Leave it alone.

From New York Magazine's Vulture section:

Vulture Exclusive: Details on What Went Wrong With NBC’s Rockford Files Reboot
5/12/10 at 11:50 PM 16Comments

Do not defile this man's legacy.
Photo: Will Hart/NBC
NBC's planned reboot of the seventies private-eye classic series The Rockford Files, with mildly beloved rom-com prince Dermot Mulroney taking James Garner's iconic role, was one of the most hyped pilots of the fall. Many said it was a gimme to make the lineup: It's based on the iconic James Garner series, and was produced by Steve Carell and House executive producer David Shore. What could go wrong? Oh, wait, this could: A pilot so bad that it seemed like a crime. In fact, if it weren't for Carell and Shore's involvement, NBC would have written off the project days ago. Now, as the execs consider what to do, and with their upfront just four days away, this much is clear: If the show does make the fall schedule, it will be in a vastly different form from what was just shot.

What went wrong? NBC isn't talking, but two people familiar with the situation said Rockford turned out to be more rehash than reinvention. The insiders place most of the blame on pilot director Michael Watkins (a TV-drama veteran who has helmed episodes of everything from Quantum Leap to NYPD Blue to Justified), saying he severely weakened a solid script with lackluster, even listless direction.

"The pilot looked like it was shot in the seventies," said one person familiar with NBC's response, claiming everything from the lighting to the pacing looked dated — and not in a cool, retro way. "You didn't even know it was the current day until Jim pulled out his cell phone. It looked like Stephen J. Cannell directed it himself."

While much of the criticism of the Rockford pilot seems to center around the direction, there have been complaints about Mulroney's take on Rockford. Some people who've seen the pilot praise his work — "Dermot's adorable," said one viewer — while others suggest he simply didn't pop. One wag suggests (only half-jokingly) that NBC should start over from scratch and replace Mulroney with Lost star Josh Holloway. After all, he did acquit himself well as a cop in the "Sawyer and Miles: On the Case!" flash-sideways episodes this season.

Dawn Parouse, the Prison Break producer who was hired to take control of the day-to-day on the pilot just days before shooting began, apparently did her best to turn things around after seeing the disastrous first version. She personally supervised a marathon recutting session, working for nearly a week to get the pilot in better shape, one source said. But while the new cut played much better with NBC brass, it wasn't enough to convince them to give Rockford an early pickup. (They'd already given four other new dramas go-aheads.)

If NBC chooses to rework Rockford, it'll almost certainly be because of entertainment president Angela Bromstad. She made the reboot one of her top priorities shortly after she returned to the network last year, ordering a pilot script last July, far ahead of most orders. She's also good pals with Shore (while House airs on Fox, the show is produced by NBC's studio arm, overseen by Bromstad), and if she wants to keep Carell on The Office longer than season seven, when he's itching to leave, perhaps dumping his show isn't the best incentive. The combined weight of both of these men's involvement could be enough to convince NBC to give producers more time to investigate ways to make Rockford work.

By: Josef Adalian

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Good Time Was Had

Carol and I spent a little over three and a half hours having lunch with Barb and Al Collins, Bob Randisi and Marthayn Pelegrimas, and Barbara and John Lutz. The Collins' and Bob and Marthayn are old friends; we'd never met the Lutzes before. Very nice, bright, funny people, which meant they fit right in with all the storytelling and laughs that both the Collins' and Bob amd Marthayn always supply in these quarterly get-togethers.

As I told John I was glad to meet the writer I'd lifted so much from. I've virtually memorized a half dozen of his short stories over the years and taken away some vital lessons about working with the form. His novels, too, all the way back to his first one which we were lucky enough to reprint at Five Star. His current novels with Kensington are NY Times bestsellers.

There was the usual shop talk. Al's new collaboration with Mickey Spillane (an unfinished Spillane manuscript) is sensational, The Big Bang being its name. And there'll be another Quarry, one of my all-time favorite series. Bob talked about movie interest in his Rat Pack series about Vegas in the time of Sinatra; he wants to make the next book about the friendship between Wm Faulkner and A. E. Bezzerides. Severn House is doing the next two. These are among the finest books Bob has ever done.

Great time and looking forward to the next one three months from now.

Monday, May 10, 2010

New Books: Mississippi Vivian by Bill Crider and Clyde Wilson

From Bill Crider:

Mississippi Vivian

Clyde Wilson was one of those bigger-than-life Texans that you read about in books or see in movies. You wonder if they really exist, and then you meet somebody like Clyde.
He was the most famous private-eye in Texas for a good many years, a real Houston legend. His wife used to say that whenever he introduced himself, he’d say, “I’m Clyde Wilson. Do you know who I am?” Nearly everybody in Houston would answer “yes” to that question.
Clyde did all the things you read about in books. He worked undercover during his army days, caught a serial killer, negotiated a hostage situation in Africa, and put a shotgun squad in convenience stores to stop a series of robberies. And a whole lot more.
He told me that once when he was questioning a suspect, he needed to use the restroom. So he took out his glass eye, put it on the table, and said, “I have to go to the toilet, but I’ll be watching you the whole time I’m gone. Don’t you try to get away.” When Clyde came back, the guy was a nervous wreck. The eye was still there, staring at him. Clyde put his eye back in, and the guy confessed everything.
When he retired from the P.I. game, Clyde decided he’d like to write. He’d always been an avid reader of crime novels, and James Lee Burke was a particular favorite. He even liked my books, which is how he and I came to collaborate.
Our first novel, Houston Homicide, was published by Five Star, and while it went into a second printing, it didn’t make either of us rich. I thought that book would be the end of our novel-writing career, but one day Clyde called me and told me he was working on a new novel called Mississippi Vivian that he’d like me to help him with. I couldn’t resist a title like that, so I agreed.
Like Houston Homicide, the new books is loosely based on one of Clyde’s cases. I say “loosely” because Clyde did have a tendency to exaggerate. I’m sure that everything he told me about himself was true, but it was the truth filtered through his unique personality. So while the stories in the novels might have a foundation in truth, they’re really purest fiction.
Except maybe for the character of Mississippi Vivian herself. Clyde insisted that she was a real person, and she certainly alive for me when I read the pages he’d written.
Clyde Wilson died only a couple of weeks after Mississippi Vivian was accepted for publication. I’m sorry he’s not around to see it. I think he’d be proud of it.

Frank Frazatta; Lena Horne

From Paul Kupperberg on Bryant Street this afternoon:

Word just reached me that Frank Frazetta died today. He was 82. A sad day,
that also saw the death of the great Lena Horne, at 92.


Ed here: I first saw Frank Frazetta's work in comic books and was duly appreciative of it. But I have to say appreciation turned to awe when he started doing those Ace Edgar Rice Burroughs covers in the Sixties. There had never been anything like them. Frazetta gave us a world of violence, lust and empires that not even the most skilled prose could capture. There's an hour long documentary about him that's well worth watching.

--------------------------Lena Horne

I own a number of Lena Horne CDs. My favorite period of her work is from the late Forties and early Fifties. She was a woman of parts, a beautiful and talented artist who came up when blacks in every way were second class citizens. She made movies but always had to come in the back door and could never eat with whites. So much for liberal Hwood. Nightclubs were somewhat more tolerant though I remember her saying that in the early Sixties Harry Belafonte and Johnny Mathis still had to eat in the kitchens of the big Vegas palaces. I'm sure Nat King Cole had to, too. There was a biography of her published last year (?) that depicted her (this is from memory) as an angry, isolated and somewhat bitter woman. Given all she'd been through I don't see how she could have been otherwise. To me her "Stormy Weather" is still the definitive one. 1954.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


As much as I enjoy The Rap Sheet, I have to say that J. Kingston's Pierce's other website runs a very close second. Each week Killer Covers deals with paperback writers and artists of various stripes. Because Jeff does so much homework I always learn something new even about people I'd been reading about for years. If you haven't logged on yet now's the time.


Child Murdering Robot is the name of Ricky Sprague's tart, funny, well-informed take on various aspects of show business. Sprague is a highly acclaimed web cartoonist whose humor is hip, hilarious and occasionally dangerous. This is a site worth investigating.


Evan Lewis' Davy Crockett's Almanack is always worth reading. Writer and historian Lewis loves the old stuff and proves it by reprinting numerous stories from pulp magazines. Knowing my interest in the late pulp writer and legend Norbert Davis (one of John D. MacDonald's favorites) Evan was nice enough to reprint an entire Davis western novelette. Until I read it today I'd known only Davis' crime fiction, which was among the best of the Chandler generation. While the western Evan offers isn't exactly Shane, it's fun to watch a pro slip into another genre and do so well by it. This would have made a fine half TV program back in the heyday of thirty minute westerns.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Learning To Kill

This is reprinted from the date below. I read several of the stories in it again last night and thought I'd pass along my comments from nearly four years ago.


Thursday, July 6, 2006

Evan Hunter, Ed McBain and Learning to Kill.

A year or so before he was diagnosed with cancer, Evan Hunter seemed intrigued by my idea of doing a massive collection of some of his earliest tales. Intrigued enough, anyway, to have somebody make copies of sixty-some stories and send them to me.

The stories covered virtually every pulp genre – crime, western, adventure, science fiction, horror – done under seven or eight pen-names.

We had everything ready to go when Evan had second thoughts. There were just too many of these stories he didn’t want to resurrect.

In Learning to Kill (Harcourt, $25) Evan and Otto Penzler have brought together the very best of those early stories in a stunner of a hardback package. This shows you how early Hunter was a master of both form and character.

The stories are divided into categories: Kids, Women in Jeopardy, Private Eyes, Cops and Robbers, Innocent Bystanders, Loose Cannons, Gangs.

He wrote well across the entire spectrum of crime and suspense stories, so well in fact that several of these stories are true classics that will be reprinted for decades to come – “First Offense,” “Runaway,” “The Merry Merry Christmas,” “On The Sidewalk Bleeding” and “The Last Spin” aren’t just for readers. They’re also for writers. These particular stories yield great insights into use of voice, plot, character and milieu. I could teach a full semester of writing using just those stories I mentioned.

Hunter/McBain was one of the two or three best and most influential crime writers of his generation. Otto Penzler has paid tribute to that fact with this hefty and important contribution that belongs in every mystery collection.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Poker Club on TV; Call Him Demon

Johnathan Schaech was nice enough to write and say that NBC has picked up the movie version of my novel The Poker Club. Johnathan of course starred in, co-wrote and produced the film and did a great job on all accounts.

Johnathan isn't sure which NBC channel it'll be on. We're both pretty sure it won't be on the Saturday morning cartoon fest.

--------------CALL HIM DEMON

I ran cross the piece John D. MacDonald wrote about pulp writer Norbert Davis and how JDM tried to duplicate the opening of a Davis story. He admitted he could never match it.

I was asked to select a horror story for an anthology so I went with Call Him Demon by Henry Kuttner, one of the finest story tellers, to me, who ever came out of science fiction and fantasy. Call Him Demon is a terrifying story, especially when you consider it deals with an incident that changes the lives the four children forever. What I love about it is how gently Kuttner gets into it, capturing an experience many of us have when we revisit places of our youth. The opening of Call Him Demon:

A long time ago she went back to Los Angeles amd drove past Grandmother Keaton's house. It hadn't changed a great deal, really, but what had seemed an elegant mansion to her childish, 1920 eyes was now a big ramshackle frame structure, gray with scaling paint.

After twenty-five years the--insecurity--wasn't there any more, but there still persisted a dull, irrational, remembered uneasiness, an echo of the time Jane Larkin spent in the house when she was nine, a thin, big-eyed girl with the Buster Brown Bangs so fashionable then.

Looking back, she could remember too much and too little.

Ed here: You may not agree but for me but Kuttner's melancholy tone and the smoothness of the of the writing is the perfect way to introduce horror, a lesson not lost on Ira Levin for one. And boy do I wish I'd written it..

Thursday, May 06, 2010

At The End

I'm having a Salute to Val Lewton in my family room. Watched the The Seventh Victim for the 343 time then The Cat People then I Walked With A Zombie. Somewhere in the middle of this I read a review of Night Creatures, a terrible B movie, over on Mystery-File and that started me thinking about Tom Conway.

As the older brother of George Sanders, he was bound to be the lesser actor in the family. He wasn't as good as his brother and his love for the bottle probably diminished chances for moving up. But he certainly had a respectable B career in the Forties. He was in all three of the movies I mentioned above and at the same time he took over the role of The Saint from brother George. Leslie Charteris, good writer and crazed self-promoter, insisted that RKO get Cary Grant (then huge star) to play the Saint if the series was to continue. Yeah, right.

RKO bought a book about The Falcon and plunked Conway into the role. They're fun Bs and Conway's just as cool as he needs to be except when he's throwing a punch. He's a little casual about it.

Booze eventually took over his life. By the late Fifties it was rehab, divorce, no work. George wouldn't have anything to do with him; Zsa Zsa Gabor (George's ex) felt so sorry for him she brought him $200 cash in the hospital so he could bribe the nurses into being nice to him. He took the money and fled the hospital to his girl's friend pad where he died. I don't know for a fact but wouldn't be surprised if he hit a liquor store on the way to her place.

So he's in Night Creatures. And when I saw that I thought of all the established actors who decide at the very end of their runs to take literally anything they're offered.

While I was never a fan of John Carradine, he was a major character actor for a long time. And to see in in all those godawful D-movies he did ("The New Hampshire Chain Saw Massacre") was pretty sad. I mean Ray Milland major major star in The Incredible Two-Headed Man? Wow. I caught that one at the drive-in and was so stoned and drunk I could barely walk--and still couldn't stop wondering how he'd ended up in this monstrosity. Gambling debts? Blackmail payments? When I was a kid Yvonne DeCarlo was one of the Sultry and Sassy beauties of The Cinema. a true babe and good actress. Big star on TV, too. I know she did at least one and maybe two or three of those D-movies ("The Iowa Chain Saw Massacre"). And many more of them. John Ireland, Aldo Ray, Karen Black. And poor Lon Chaney, Jr. God Almighty, that poor sad bastard.

Maybe it's simple. Maybe it's just that they like to work. Maybe it doesn't have anything to do with money (which couldn't have been much anyway).

That's one advantage writers have. We can work under pen-names.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A new book about Peckinpah

Over on Cinema Retro the estimable Lee Pfeiffer discusses a new book about Sam Peckinpah:

"Entered His House Justified: The Making of the Films of Sam Peckinpah" may have one of the longest titles of the year, but anything relating to the master maverick director is difficult to summarize. The latest in a line of shelf-breaking volumes dedicated to Peckinpah is from author Jeff Slater, who has amassed an impressive list of interviewees to shed new light on one of the film industry's most analyzed personalities. Peckinpah, like so many other geniuses, was not completely appreciated in his own time, partly due to the inability of studio executives to recognize his innovative filmmaking techniques and partly because Peckinpah- like Orson Welles- specialized in forming circular firing squads. His own excesses often did more damage than did the legendary studio interference with the classic movies he produced.

"Slater's book is niche market in the best sense of the word. As an author, he has gone the self-publishing route through Booksurge. As such, he has not had to make the kind of literary compromises his subject had to in order to pacify the corporate "suits". The book features insights from Peckinpah scholars and associates, but what really justifies the book's hefty $72.95 price tag is the abundance of stunning photos, many of which will be rare to even the most fervent Peckinpah collector. Particularly impressive are some wonderful candid photos taken of Peckinpah behind the scenes on some of his most famous films. Peckinpah was the ultimate independent movie maker trapped in an era in which one had to play ball with the studio moguls in order to get financing for his films. Thus, some of his more personal works were cut without his consent and watered down in the process (i.e Major Dundee, The Wild Bunch and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.)"

for the rest go here:

Ed here: I feel sorrier for Peckinpah than I do Welles. Too often Welles seemed to be a jerk just because he felt he was entitled to by rights of his genius. I've mentioned before an audio tape of Welles cutting a voice over for the wine company he represented in the 70s or 80s. I've been in dozens of such sessions myself. The people from the ad agency, the talent and the engineers want to get the best results in the easiest way. It's generally a pleasant atmosphere (though as the great Herschel Bernardi showed in his famous spoof tape about cutting a spot, sometimes it gets insane--"Could you goose the word `Good" a little more? The client is trying to copyright `good?'") but not with Welles involved. He breaks out with one of the most abusive and extended spoiled brat rages I've ever heard. He singles out the agency boys and rubs their faces in his opinion of their copy and their suggestions for reading it. He makes it very personal and he makes them grovel. This is a guy whose ship had sailed long ago and who should be grateful that he's making big bucks for very little work--I mean, c'mon, voice overs anin't exactly like working in coal mines. Or anywhere near as dangerous.

Peckinpah on the other hand was a stubborn drink, true, but unlike Welles he did his work despite the odds. They cut his pictures but he went on anyway. He was a prick on the set and a prick in meetings with the suits but that never deterred him from realizing his vision. Welles fans always talk about how the Magnificent Ambersons was cut by Robert Wise at the studio's request and direction. Well, maybe if Welles had stuck around for the editing in the first place (I mean, he was the director after all) he might have been able to buck the studio. But he was off on another (failed, as I recall) project. I don't mean to demean Welles. Citzien Kane is one of the two or three finest films ever made. No doubt about it. And I love several of his movies. And I don't doubt he was forced to work with idiots. But this myth about him as this suffering matter how brilliant you are you have to stay focused and do your work. And you have to somehow make deals with the devil as Peckinpah somehow did in his sad and ragged career.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Laurel K. Hamilton

I always get to the phenoms late. Very late sometimes.

Laurel K. Hamilton is an enormous bestseller. She is largely (if not singly) responsible for the kick-ass vampire/werewolf/monster hunter/heroine who terrorizes the paranormal world in a search for justice. Or something resembling it anyway.

I was at the library yesterday and saw a collection of her stories, Strange Candy, and decided to give it a try. I ended up reading most of it at a single sitting. This woman is a world class storyteller.

My favorites are "Here There Be Dragons" which is a near-perfect science fiction story about the use of telepathy in identifying sociopaths. There are at least four startling scenes in it.

"Stealing Souls" will stand as a primer on how to write GOOD high fantasy. Usually I'm not able to get past all the cutesy that's kidnapped the form over the last decade but Hamilton uses none of it. She even does a very funny parody of one of those "paranormal" swords so dear to the lovers of BAD high fantasy.

She gives us a novelette with her most famous creation, Anita Blake Vampire Hunter, "The Girl Who Was Infatuated With Death," which has a true noirish feel crossed with some very nasty urban fantasy. A finely wrought dark tale.

If you want something different and are willing try the world of high fantasy, this is a good place to start.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Bizness as usual - I say your thong is on fire!

5 killed while playing soccer in southern Mexico

MARK STEVENSON | May 3, 2010 03:41 PM EST |
Compare other versions »

MEXICO CITY — Gunmen drove up to a soccer field and shot five men to death as they played early Monday near the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco, police in southern Mexico said.
It was unclear why the five men were playing so late, but the region of Guerrero state is often so hot and humid by day by day that athletes wait until night to compete. Many people also work unusual hours in the local tourist industry.
The men were playing in the hamlet of Xaltianguis, on the northern outskirts of Acapulco, when gunmen in three vehicles pulled up beside the field and opened fire.

Man Dies After Eel Is Inserted In His Rectum
First Posted: 05- 3-10 10:36 AM | Updated: 05- 3-10 01:08 PM

A Chinese man has died after an eel was inserted in rectum by friends as, reports claim, a joke.
Doctors in Sichaun, China, apparently found the creature, a 50cm Asian swamp eel, in the 59-year-old man's rectum after he had died from internal bleeding.
The eel had reportedly done severe damage to the man's intestines.


Tom Emmer
We normally think of secession and nullification coming from dead-enders from the South. But really, why should they get all the fun. With the backing of Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty, the Minnesota Republican party just nominated for Governor Tom Emmer who says no federal laws should apply in Minnesota unless 2/3 of both houses of the state legislature approve the law in advance.
--Josh Marshall

Jim Traficant, Ex-Con, Running For Ohio Congressional Seat He Once Held

WARREN, Ohio — A former congressman from northeast Ohio wants to make a political comeback after serving seven years in prison for corruption.

James Traficant (TRAF'-eh-kehnt) filed petitions Monday morning to run as an independent in his home turf in the Youngstown area. The seat is currently held by Democrat Tim Ryan, who once worked for Traficant.
In responding to Traficant's filing, Ryan didn't mention his old boss. Ryan says his re-election campaign will focus on jobs and on his work to create new business opportunities.
The 68-year-old Traficant was convicted of racketeering, bribery and other crimes. He left federal prison in September.

Erotica gives book publishers surprising boost

"Thong on Fire" may sound more painful than sexy, but erotic books like it may just help keep the struggling publishing industry afloat. The popular novel is by Noire, a “twenty-something” writer of urban erotic fiction who has sold hundreds of thousands of books since she started publishing just a few years ago. Her book sales are huge numbers in the world of publishing and have made her something of a minor celebrity.

Mainstream publishing has gone sexually wide-open. Seventy-seven years ago it took an order by a federal judge, John Woolsey, to overturn the government’s obscenity ban on James Joyce’s classic novel "Ulysses." But in the past few years, Random House, Penguin, Kensington, Simon and Schuster and others have all inaugurated erotica imprints.
Exactly why erotic literature has become so popular now is a matter of speculation, though it doesn't seem entirely coincidental that the creators were mostly raised in the era of Madonna videos on MTV, open discussion of sex during the initial HIV scare, and the mainstreaming of porn. Much of the new erotica is simply porn moved to the printed page, only smarter and largely aimed at women.

from msnbc

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Blood Marks by Bill Crider

Serial killer novels have to run a close second to vampire novels in popularity. And serial killer novels have been with us at least since the grandaddy break-out of The First Deadly Sin by Lawrence Sanders back in the early Seventies.

Tiresome as the sub-genre can be (though there are always good ones; the John Lutz books for Kensington are particularly notable) one of my favorites was first published in 1991.

Nine women are savagely murdered. They don't seem to have anything in common. Police psychologist Dan Romain teams up with a investigator named Howland to find the connection that will lead them to the killer.

Crider alternates chapters between the killer, the investigators and Casey Bruckner, a newly divorced mother who's moved to Houston seeking a teaching job. They live in an apartment complex that allows Crider to demonstrate his skills with creating people. If you've ever lived in one of these complexes you know the neurotic responses people have to being stacked on top of each other, especially people with dissimilar interests, tastes and values. One of whom just might be the killer. The ying and yang of sitting around the apartment swimming pool allows Crider to shine.

The police procedural aspects of the novel are believable throughout. No Zounds! discoveries. No faux tough guy talk. And a close examination of a type of killing that is almost too violent to contemplate for very long.

Bill Crider has had a long and successful career working primarily in mysteries but also excelling in horror and westerns. This is Crider at the very top of his form and making the serial killer form all his own. It's a book you'll remember for a long, long time.

And if you don't believe me listen to what Kirkus said at the time: "A striking addition to the serial- killer subgenre--gory, repugnant, and gripping to its last ugly reverberation. "

Saturday, May 01, 2010

All About Eve

I finally caught up with "All About Eve." TCM ran it on a night when I just wanted to zone out and it was Eve or several mindless action flicks. I enjoyed it but the central premise--that here was this seeming innocent young woman whom nobody but Eve (at first) recognized as a scheming little bitch--wore thin fast. Anybody who has any talent for spotting psychos would have picked Eve Harrington off in twenty minutes. She put the unc in unctuous.

I have to say that two of Hollywood's most boring actors, Gary Merrill and Hugh Marlowe, had way too much screen time for me. Solid 10s on the snore-o-meter. George Sanders was more sinister than usual and great as always. Old pro Celeste Holmes was on the money as always. But the picture belongs to Bette Davis, of course, who chewed the scenery as if she hadn't eaten in a year. Wow. She started at over the top and worked up from there. But she was damned good. As for Anne Baxter as Eve...I never understood Baxter's popularity. There's no cunning her in her performances. She seems happy with doing all the obvious things a part requires. She's pretty bland here.

For some reason the movie reminded me a lot of the novels Hugh (who did the books for "A Little Night Music" and Sweeny Todd") Wheeler wrote as Patrick Quentin. That kind of B'way bitchiness. You know, the penthouse and the glib glittering guests and then somebody's murdered and so we've got a mystery novel on our hands? One of those deals? (Personally I would've opted for a suicide pact between Gary Merrill and Hugh Marlowe).

I liked it but it was like one of those blind dates where both parties know fifteen minutes in that they'll never see each other again.

By coincidence the next day Vanity Fair ran a great piece on Claudette Colbert. Eve was written for her but because she was sick for quite awhile the producers gave up and turned to Davis. Here's a bit of the article:

"In 1982, at the American Film Institute’s tribute to Frank Capra in L.A. (Colbert and he had finally reconciled), the actress was waiting for an elevator when Bette Davis suddenly stung her with the barbed remark “I got even, didn’t I?” Colbert recalled to Reed, “She never recovered from the fact that in 1934, when she was up for Of Human Bondage, I won the Oscar for It Happened One Night. Then, years later, she got the role of Margo Channing, which would have been one of the plum roles of my career. She had been sitting on this thing for 50 years and I had forgotten all about it! Oh well, as I have always said, the best roles were bitches, and she proved it.”"