Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dick Lochte's Top 20 Private Eye Novels

Ed here: In addition to being both a fine novelist and short story writer as well as a very perceptive critic,  Dick's is list especially interesting to me because he includes novels I've never seen on any other list before. And now I want to read or reread them. Keep scrolling down after the Top 20 Novels because Dick gets into movies and tv. Cool stuff. (This was originally published in the PWA newsletter)

TOP 20 PRIVATE EYE NOVELS (in alphabetical order – one per author or Chandler, Hammett and Macdonald would use up the 20)
1. Charles E. Alverson - Goodey’s Last Stand
2. Lawrence Block – Eight Million Ways to Die
3. Howard Browne – The Taste of Ashes
4. Raymond Chandler – The Long Goodbye
5. Robert Crais – L.A. Requiem
6. James Crumley – The Last Good Kiss
7. Stanley Ellin – The Eighth Circle
8. Earl W. Emerson – The Rainy City
9. Loren D. Estleman - Every Brilliant Eye
10. Joe Gores – Dead Skip
11. Sue Grafton – ‘K’ Is For Killer
12. Dashiell Hammett – The Maltese Falcon
13. Arthur Lyons – Hard Trade
14. Ross Macdonald – The Way Some People Die
15. Walter Mosley – Devil in a Blue Dress
16. Warren Murphy – Trace # 1
17. Robert B. Parker – The Judas Goat
18. T. Jefferson Parker – Silent Joe
19. Brad Solomon – The Open Shadow
20. Jonathan Valin – Day of Wrath

TOP 20 PRIVATE EYE MOVIES (in order of preference)
1. The Maltese Falcon (Huston/Bogart version)
2. Chinatown
3. Murder, My Sweet
4. Out of the Past
5. The Big Sleep (the original, not the Mitchum-Winner remake)
6. Twilight (with Paul Newman, not the vampire crap)
7. The Big Lebowski
8. Vertigo
9. Hickey and Boggs
10. Zero Effect
11. Kiss Me Deadly
12. Devil in a Blue Dress
13. Gumshoe
14. Farewell, My Lovely
15. The Thin Man
16. Harper
17. My Favorite Brunette
18. Night Moves
19. Tony Rome
20. PJ
I’m probably forgetting at least a half-dozen masterworks. There are a few other PI films that, while not quite top of the line, I do think are DVR-worthy: The Big Fix (adapted from Roger Simon’s debut novel), Michael Shayne Private Detective (with Lloyd Nolan), Fast Company (Melvyn Douglas in adaptation of a Harry Kurnitz thriller), The Runaround (Rod Cameron), Face Down (Joe Montegna), Nick Carter Master Detective, Hammett (from the Joe Gores novel) and Shamus (an all-but-forgotten Burt Reynolds movie, portions of which are like a Big Sleep rewrite).

TOP 20 TV PRIVATE EYES (in order of preference)
1. The Rockford Files - Jim Rockford
2. The Outsider – David Ross
3. Goodnight My Love (movie) – Francis Hogan and Arthur Boyle
4. Peter Gunn
5. Veronica Mars
6. The Dain Curse (miniseries) – The Continental Op, here named Hamilton Nash
7. Harry O – Harry Orwell
8. One Shoe Makes It Murder (movie) – Harold Shillman
9. The Underground Man (movie) – Lew Archer
10. City of Angels – Jake Axminster
11. Mike Hammer (Darren McGavin version)
12. Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (Stacy Keach version)
13. Tenspeed and Brownshoe – Lionel Whitney and E.L. Turner
14. Murphy’s Law – Daedalus Patrick Murphy
15. Vincent (miniseries) – Vincent Gallagher
16. Philip Marlowe (Phil Carey version)
17. Vengeance Unlimited – Mr. Chapel
18. The Equalizer – Robert McCall
19. Mannix
20. Nero Wolfe (Maury Chaykin, Timothy Hutton version)
There are many others worth a Netflicks or Hulu download, if available: 77 Sunset Strip’s Stu Bailey (preferably the very last episodes, minus the other regulars), Remington Steele, Moonlighting, Spenser For Hire, Simon & Simon, Magnum PI, Banacek, Charlie Grace, Hawaiian Eye’s Steele and Lopaka, Bourbon Street Beat’s Calhoun and Randolph, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), Dick Francis’ The Racing Game’s Sid Halley, Eyes, Snoops and two of the earliest sleuths, Martin Kane Private Eye (with William Gargan) and Man Against Crime’s Mike Barnett.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I say this without a whit of exaggeration TIED-IN edited by Lee Goldberg and written by Lee and other members of the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers is the most fascinating, entertaining and honest book about the writing life I've ever read.

With writers such as Max Allan Collins, Tod Goldberg, Nancy Holder, Donald Bain, Greg Cox, William Rabkin and many others dealing with their experiences of converting movies, tv shows, movies and games into novels, we see the pleasures and frustrations of this particular craft. And in the process we see what life is really like for professional writers. Max Collins' piece on converting his own Road To Perdition to conform to the movie script for the tie-in; his dealings with the Dick Tracy movie were even stranger. Nancy Holder's take on visiting the set of the tv show she was novelizing shows just how brutal fourteen hour days are for everybody involved in creating the episodes. A number of writers use a page or so of script to show how it looks as prose after they've done their work--extremely helpful.

Greg Cox tells some fascinating stories about writing sequels then prequels and keeping storylines straight; and Lee does an excellent job setting the book up with his piece called Tied In: The Business, History and Craft of Media Tie-In Writing.

TIED-IN is rich with humor, lore, wisdom about the writing life and Lee Goldberg is to be commended for editing it with such verve and style.

And his brother Tod is to be commended for writing the best line in the book. Lamenting that his literary novels have not sold a great number of copies, he writes "I'd need the Jaws of Life to pull me on to the bestseller list."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hey, Big Spender: Hollywood Isn’t in the Mood

Hey, Big Spender: Hollywood Isn’t in the Mood

Published: August 28, 2010

Joel Silver’s office at Warner Brothers was built for Frank Sinatra in 1963. Mr. Silver refurbished it and has settled in.
JOEL SILVER stands on the Warner Brothers lot and points to the remnants of a house where he filmed parts of four “Lethal Weapon” movies. “We blasted a toilet out of that window,” he says, smiling proudly. “Over there, we drove a car straight into the living room.”

Ah, the glory days.

Behind Mr. Silver, the flamboyant producer of some of the biggest action hits of the last 30 years, is the modest set for one of his current films, an R-rated comedy with no stars, almost no budget and — for now — no title. Not that Mr. Silver was ready to call the production small. “It’s a little movie, but it’s a big little movie,” he says.

And therein lies Mr. Silver’s challenge: How does a larger-than-life, free-spending producer fit into a movie business that has been tightening up — and cutting some of its more grandiose characters down to size?

In the new Hollywood, stars count for less, whether in front of the camera or behind it. Financial firepower and technological wizardry matter more. And a generation of producers — whose principal assets were their industry connections and a remarkable degree of personal force — are having to adapt.

Mr. Silver, 58, has been a dominant studio moviemaker for over three decades, delivering blockbuster franchises like “Lethal Weapon,” “Die Hard” and “The Matrix.” The 59 movies he has produced have generated almost $10 billion in ticket sales, adjusting for inflation. The money he has made for Warner alone has won him lavish treatment from the studio — not just in compensation, but also in perks. To make him happy, Warner once went so far as to send movie props to his Brentwood mansion for his son’s birthday party.

for the rest go here:

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The film that killed a career - Telegraph UK

Michael Powell's 'Peeping Tom': the film that killed a career
The critics poured scorn on Michael Powell's 'Peeping Tom' when it first came out 50 years ago, but now it is regarded as a masterpiece.

By David Gritten
Published: 10:37AM BST 27 Aug 2010


Half a century ago, in the early months of 1960, director Michael Powell enjoyed a reputation as one of Britain’s most respected and beloved filmmakers. Under the aegis of their production company The Archers, he and Emeric Pressburger made some 15 feature films in as many years, some of which are the most prestigious and revered in British film history: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, A Canterbury Tale, A Matter of Life and Death, Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes. Powell split from Pressburger in 1956, but his standing seemed unassailable.
This all changed swiftly and radically in May 1960, with the release of Powell’s Peeping Tom – a horror thriller that marked a surprising change of direction for him.

London critics unanimously loathed it, and so scathing were their reviews that Powell found himself abruptly cast out into the wilderness; he was effectively persona non grata in the British film industry, which had previously praised his work to the skies. Peeping Tom ranks alongside David Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter and Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate as a film that caused a disastrous setback to its director’s career.

It was the subject matter of Peeping Tom that needled the critics. Its lead character, Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm), works as a focus puller with a film crew, and in his spare time is an amateur filmmaker. But he has a compulsion to murder women; he stabs them with a knife concealed in the tripod of his camera, and derives his kicks from filming the horrified expressions on their faces as they come to realise their fate.

For the rest go here:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Detour To Otherness

Ed here: As regular readers of this blog know, one of my favorite writers is the late Henry Kuttner. And of course you can't mention Henry without mentioning his wife and writing partner (Catherine) C.L. Moore. Good as they were individually they were great as a team. In his fine introduction to this volume Robert Silverberg relates a story that shows just how indivisible they were. For lovers of science fiction, fantasy and the type of story only the Kuttners wrote, this is one of the most important books of the year, a large, beautifully made book that celebrates the writers who had such direct influence on the careers of writers such as Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson, to name just a few. As usual congratulations to publisher Stephen Haffner
for producing a masterful book.

Detour to Otherness
Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore
introduction by Robert Silverberg
Afterword by Frederik Pohl
Cover art by Richard Powers
ISBN 9781893887183
588 pages Hardcover

In 1961, Ballantine Books published Bypass to Otherness, a paperback collection of some of Henry Kuttner's (and C. L. Moore's) best short stories. Several selections were drawn from Kuttner's popular series such as the "Hogbens" (comedic otherworldly hillbillies living in America), "Gallegher Galloway" (scientist who invents technical marvels only when intoxicated), and the "Baldies" stories eventually collected in Mutant. Bypass was projected as the first of three "Otherness" collections of Kuttner's short fiction. Return to Otherness followed in 1962 with 8 more stories. And then . . . nothing. The third "Otherness" collection never appeared. Now, almost fifty years later, Haffner Press announces DETOUR TO OTHERNESS: a massive hardcover assembling the contents of both Bypass to Otherness and Return to Otherness, and adding 8 additional stories selected for their scarcity, quality, and sheer entertainment value. Grand Masters Robert Silverberg and Frederik Pohl provide introductory and afterword materials to the book, and the whole affair is decorated with an unpublished painting by Richard Powers.

Table of Contents

Related Books
Terror in the House

Table of Contents
Introduction by Robert Silverberg
Bypass to Otherness
Cold War
Call Him Demon
The Dark Angel
The Piper's Son
The Little Things
Nothing but Gingerbread Left
Housing Problem
Return to Otherness
See You Later
This Is the House
The Proud Robot
Gallegher Plus
The Ego Machine
The Sky Is Falling
Detour to Otherness
Open Secret
All Is Illusion
Rite of Passage
Baby Face
Happy Ending
The Children's Hour
Dream's End
Near Miss
Afterword by Frederik Pohl

5005 Crooks Road • Suite 35
Royal Oak, MI 48073-1239
ph: 248-288-4765

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Books: Caretaker of Lorne Field by Dave Zeltserman

From Dave Zeltserman:

Caretaker of Lorne Field Day

My 8th novel, The Caretaker of Lorne Field, is available at bookstores everywhere today. I can make two guarantees about Caretaker:

(1) this book is going to surprise anyone familiar with my crime fiction

(2) this will be the best allegorical fable/horror novel dealing with weeds which might or might not be world-destroying monsters that you'll read all year!

Below is some of the early response to Caretaker. I hope folks check this one out.

"Superb mix of humor and horror" Publishers Weekly, starred review

"delicious horror-ish novel" Newsday

"superbly crafted horror story" Booklist

"Harrowing. Zeltserman colors it black with the best of them." Kirkus Reviews

"a very darkly funny dark fantasy" Locus Magazine

"Crime writer Zeltserman has produced a nail-biter...The narrative is straightforward and gritty, reminiscent of works of Dashiell Hammett...gripping and actually 'horrifying,' this title is recommended for horror fans and readers who may relish unpleasant surprises." -- Library Journal

"The Caretaker of Lorne Field is a fabulous amusing tale that grips the reader with a need to know whether the monster is real, a centuries old con, or generational lunacy" -- Midwest Book Review

"If Stephen King had a true Noir calling and Peter Straub added contemporary horror... and Dean Koontz threw in his fine depiction of ordinary life on the edge of the unknown... then bring the specter of James M. Cain to write the narrative, you'd come close to describing the whole effect of this stunning slice for the zeitgeist wondrousnovel and the writing is... pure dark bliss."-Ken Bruen, author of
London Boulevard

"The Caretaker of Lorne Field is a magnificent novel, with truly believable characters and suspense that keeps building to an explosive climax. There it is, plain and simple." -Seymour Shubin, Edgar Award finalist, author of Anyone's My Name

"The Caretaker of Lorne Field is a wonderfully weird, gritty, and pitch-dark legend, perfect for New England. Weaved in the compulsively readable narrative is a heavy dose of our current society's meanness, unease, and ambiguity: kind of a nightmare-noir zeitgeist. The thing of it is, the reader is never safe in Dave Zeltserman's hands. I love that. You should too." Paul Tremblay

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Forgotten Books: Missionary Stew by Ross Thomas

Forgotten Books: Missionary Stew by Ross Thomas

Our story opens in a grubby African prison with an American named Citron who will, in the course of this introductory chapter, and I'm not making this up, eat a child. It seems the sociopath who is the exalted grand wazoo leader of this country is a cannibal. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Citron, a decent guy, asks what happened to the little kid who came around the prison. The henchman in charge of the prison tells him that the grand wazoo was displeased with him for some reason. Citron says the stew tastes funny. The henchman watches him eat with a broad smile. It is only afterward the Citron realizes what he has just consumed.

Welcome to the wold of Ross Thomas. I can't think of a better story teller than he was. The language is so deft and graceful, the characterization so perfectly etched even though much of the novel is the blackest of comedies, that you are swept away into a very believable world of government treachery, incompetence and viciousness all the more startling because of the ironic tone of the writing.

The novel was published in 1983 thus the U.S. government in power is quite Reaganesque and the dilemma it finds itself in not unlike (prescience on Thomas' part) Iran-Contra. The McGuffin here is intriguing--the incompeents of the CIA and the FBI want to silence anybody who can tell the tale of our goverment's atrocities. And "tell" is the correct word. None of the evidence is written down but there are a number of participants who can tell the story.

One of the funniest running gags in the book is how when Citron is returned to the United States everybody he meets asks him the same question, "Was that grand wazoo guy really a cannibal?" He doesn't tell them about his last meal in captivity; all he says is that "I'ms not sure."

And I dare you to find another book where the lead female is named Velveeta Keats. Her parents were once hippies who believed in their stoner wisdom that you should name things after other things that give you pleasure. Since they weren't exactly gourmets, they called her Velveeta. Of course later on they changed horses and became as evil as the Cheneys.

There is no other writer like Ross Thomas and no other novel like Missionary Stew (or most of his novels for that matter). Treat yourself to two nights of amazing reading. While he exposes the practices of our government with comedic effect, he also constructs a novel of inter-locking cliff hangers that keep you flipping pages long after you should have grabbed your teddy bear and gone to sleep.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Virginia Quarterly scandal - suicide

Thanks to Todd Mason for sending this. From The Wrap.

After staffer's shocking death, accusations fly; future of the Virginia Quarterly Review, once an National Magazine Award darling, is in doubt

By Dylan Stableford
Published: August 23, 2010
The suicide of the managing editor at an Ellies-winning [1] literary magazine late last month has sparked an investigation into alleged bullying by its editor -- and is putting the publication’s long-term future in serious doubt.

Kevin Morrissey, the 52-year-old managing editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review [2], took his own life on July 30. According to his family and several VQR staffers, in the weeks leading up to his death, Morrissey (pictured, right) had been subjected to bullying by his boss, 38-year-old editor-in-chief Ted Genoways (pictured, left).

“It was a toxic environment for Kevin,” VQR Web editor Waldo Jaquith told NBC News. “Ted’s treatment of Kevin during the last few weeks of his life was just egregious.”

And Genoways’ treatment of Kevin on the day of his death appeared to push Morrissey over the edge.

Shortly before 10 a.m. on July 30, Genoways sent an e-mail to Morrissey “accusing him of jeopardizing the life of a writer,” according to one account reported by The Hook, a local newsweekly [3]. At 11:30 a.m., Morrissey called 911 to report a shooting near a coal tower in Charlottesville, Virginia. When police arrived, they found Morrissey dead, the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

for the rest go here:

Source URL: http://www.thewrap.com/media/column-post/vqr-magazine-editor-accused-bullying-morrissey-genoways-suicide-20318

Monday, August 23, 2010

A book packager/author goes e-books

From Seth Godin's blog:

Linchpin will be the last book I publish in a traditional way.

One of the poxes on an author's otherwise blessed life is people who ask, "what's your next book," even if some of them haven't read the last one. (Jeff did, of course). To answer your question, this book is my next book. I think the ideas in Linchpin are my life's work, and I'm going to figure out the best way to spread those ideas, in whatever form they take. I also have some new, smaller projects in the works, and no doubt some bigger ones around the corner.

A little background: For ten years or so, beginning in 1986, I was a book packager. Sort of like a movie producer, but for books. My team and I created 120 published books and pitched another 600 ideas, all of which were summarily rejected. Some of the published books were flops, others were huge bestsellers. It was a lot of fun. As a book packager, you wake up in the morning and say, "what sort of book can I invent/sell/organize/write/produce today?"

It took a year or so, but I finally figured out that my customer wasn't the reader or the book buyer, it was the publisher. If the editor didn't buy my book, it didn't get published. Here's the thing: I liked having editors as my customers. These are smart, motivated and really nice people who are happy to talk with you about what they want and what they believe. Good customers to have. (In all of those years, only one publisher stole any of my ideas, no check ever bounced, and no publisher ever broke a promise to me).

for the rest go here:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Comic books and prose; Bob Randisi

Ed here: I thought this was an interesting piece on how, in this age of the graphic novel, one novelist readily admits his debt to comic book writing. This is from Mulholland Books


Batman Is My Mr. Miyagi

by Brad MeltzerAug 11, 2010 in Books, Comic Books, Guest Posts

I write mysteries. I love writing mysteries. And I also write comic books. So when I was recently at Comi-Con, someone at one of the panels asked me how comics have influenced and/or seeped into my mystery and novel writing. Indeed, one of the editors at Mulholland Books asked if the action-packed nature of comics helped develop the action and pacing I use in the novels.

So let me tell you the answer.



And the best part? I had no idea I was doing it.

You see, when you do your first novel, it goes out, and you hope people read it. Same with your second. But by the time you hit your third, people start looking at all the books together. It was then that the smart readers stepped forward. One e-mailed me through my website and said, “I’ve now read three of your novels. What are your issues with your father?” And later, someone else wrote about how reading my novels was like seeing the underbelly of the pacing in a comic book: short chapters and a cliff-hanger, short chapters and a cliff-hanger.

To be honest, I was surprised. But the moment I heard it, I knew it was true.

for the rest go here:

------------------------------A letter from Robert J. Randisi


Yours are the blogs I read, almost exclusively. For that reason I'm sending you this email to correct any misinformation that might be available about my next Rat Pack book.

After 4 books with St. Martins Press the series has moved to Severn House. I'm very pleased with the move. Since Severn is a Britain-based house, the books will be published in both the U.K. and the U.S. For this reason there are two pub. dates. In the UK it will be a September book. In the US, a Jan. 2011 book. However, it will be available for preorder, and will carry a 2010 copyright date. I've attached the cover. As you can see, the book features the Rat Pack and Ava Gardner. And, or course, Eddie G. and Jerry. I am already at work on Book #6.

Thanks for your time.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Film Review: Quest for Honor

Writer Seamus Scanlon will be contributing occasional film reviews for this blog. This is his first review. Thanks, Seamus. Ed

Quest for Honor. NR, 67 Minutes, In English and Kurdish with English subtitles, USA/Iraq, 2009, Mary Ann Smothers Bruni (Dir).

This sobering documentary, which has just had a release in New York and Los Angeles after being screened at the Sundance Film Festival highlights the twisted logic and bleak cruelty behind honor killings – a pernicious misnomer if there ever was. These murders estimated at over 5,000 per year by the UN is likely to be higher since reporting, detection and follow up judicial intervention is unlikely since they are community crimes where the concept is tolerated by the community and because these murders are family affairs which are difficult to unravel even if the police and judicial system were active in combating this murders.

The murders are usually committed by the woman’s own family after a family council, where the victim may be present. The father or male guardian (brother, cousin, uncle, grandfather) of the woman or girl child is the murderer. The murders are done to atone for the woman/girl child besmirching so called family honor. The murders restore family honor.

These transgressions can be minor like, talking to boys, being too Western, refusing to abide by arranged marriages (often to male relatives decades older), keeping company with men, keeping company with me from different social classes, sexual relations with men.

There is fairly anemic follow up the authorities in general in Muslin countries but justice is more vigorous in Europe and North America but can be easy to conceal since the family of origin will not be requesting police assistance to locate a missing daughter, wife, mother, aunt, cousin. Killings include live burial, drowning and may include torture and rape.

Most honor killings are carried out in Muslim countries or by Muslim communities in the West. It is a cultural rather than a religious phenomenon that has existed for millennia so it is difficult to counteract. It is part of the larger arid landscape of violence against women and girl children making it perilous to traverse in safety. (See recent study titled Worldwide Trends in Honor Killings by Phyllis Chesler in the Middle East Quarterly; Spring2010, Vol. 17 Issue 2, p3-11.)

The film crew of this documentary were in the Kurdish area of Iraq on another assignment when a phone call came in about the discovery of a woman’s body which had the hallmarks of an honor killing. The director abandoned the original project to follow the story as it developed. Interviews with family members of the murdered woman including the mother-in-law were disquieting since she condoned the killing although denying involvement. The family of origin usually commit the murders but often after the instigation from the family into which the woman is married. The children of the woman were interviewed and said (especially the son) that she deserved to die thus continuing the cycle for another generation. It was obvious they had been coached because her young daughter said she missed her hugs after just answering that her mother was a ‘bad’ woman.

The film also follows the story of a woman whose husband, cousin and brother tried to kill her. The lethargy of the police and the prosecution did little to convince that she would get justice or even live in safety but the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was not only open, but was extremely helpful to the film makers. The KRG itself is fighting the problem of “honor killing” with laws by creating better safe houses and establishing a special Agency to Prevent Violence Against Women

Official Website: http://questforhonor.com/home/







Friday, August 20, 2010

Mystery Scene; Ray Bradbury; Tom Piccirilli; Stranglehold

Hi everyone,

Brian and I are very pleased to announce that Mystery Scene will be printed in full color beginning with the Fall Issue #116 in September.

This is a big step but we believe that it will allow Mystery Scene to better showcase writers, books, films, etc., while also attracting more readers, advertisers, and retail sales.

And it's definitely going to be fun!

Best wishes,

PS The single issue or subscription prices will remain the same.

----------------------------Ray Bradbury-
The wildest author tribute ever filmed


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

Tom has written an eloquent and moving piece about the real meaning of noir fiction.


Kirkus dinged me once in the review but then ended with a sensational line:

"Gorman (Ticket to Ride, 2009, etc.) creates such a deliciously knowing portrait of the down and dirty of political campaigns and family secrets that you forget the people are just made up."

Here's one for Bill Crider

Gawker (of course):

Woman's Anus Sewn Shut by Angry Midwife

A woman in Shenzhen City, China, apparently had her anus sewn shut "with black threads and needle" by a midwife who hadn't received a good tip. The midwife claims she simply sewed up a bleeding hemorrhoid. Please: Tip your midwives.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Forgotten Books- On The Road

ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac

I was sixteen when I first read On The Road. At that time my three favorite writers were F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nelson Algren and Graham Greene with many crime and science fiction writers vying for a slot.

Kerouac's novel had the same effect on me that George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London had. It presented a world I knew something about but so vividly I realized how blind I'd been in my observations of it. I'm not talking here about being Beat (which I wasn't) or being on the verge of starving (we were very poor at times but never that poor) but rather about the sense Kerouac offered of a world that was not only on the margins but was unknown to most people. Algren knew it of course but he came at it as a novelist would. People argue with me but for all the liberties Kerouac took with language (which I liked and admired) On The Road like Orwell's book can be seen as journalism as well. It certainly antcipated and inspired writers such as Hunter S. Thompson..

Kerouac's folks were people of the underclass I'd grown up with. Orwell's people were there because of corrupt and indifferent governments. The Beats were there by choice. In Kerouac there was a larky, naive joy in being the college boy who'd thrown it all over to hang out with the likes of true outsiders Alan Ginsberg and Neal Cassady. The difference was that Kerouac was the somewhat frightened, reluctant reporter along for the ride with two real madmen. It is a coming of age story in the grand American tradition. Not a few of the people we meet along the way have the some of the same traits as Tom Sawyer and Holden Caulfield.

On The Road opened me up to language, poetry, drugs, animal joy, a kind of religion I could understand, Henry Miller and sense of sprawling America I'd never had before. Kerouac was a genius of a kind and On The Road was his masterpiece.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How did Barnes & Noble all so far so fast?

Ed here: This appeared in The Wall Street Journal this morning. James B. Stewart is a very heavy duty financial reporter so this is well worth reading not only for what it says about B&N but the entire publishing world facing the e book age.

Clearance Sale: Barnes & Noble Didn't Evolve Enough
by James B. Stewart
Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How did Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS - News) fall so far so fast?

The giant bookstore chain, whose superstores once struck fear into the hearts of independent booksellers everywhere, put itself up for sale this month, rendering it the corporate equivalent of the remaindered books it sells at a discount.

The company said it made the move because its shares are undervalued, but to me there was an air of desperation about it.

The simple explanation for Barnes & Noble's decline is the Internet, which spawned Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN - News), e-readers and digital books. But that didn't have to be the end for B&N, which had a dominant market position and should have out-Amazoned Amazon, leveraging its brand and innovating when it began marketing and selling books online.

I know exactly when B&N lost me as a customer. Some years ago, to compete with Amazon, B&N began offering free same-day delivery in Manhattan if you placed your order over the Internet by 11 a.m. I did so several times -- and not once did the books arrive when promised. Everything I have ordered from Amazon has arrived on time or earlier. Then came Amazon's game-changing Kindle, and instant delivery. Nothing I've read about B&N's belated rival Nook has tempted me to try it.

for the rest go here:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Barnes & Noble landlords nervous

From The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

A buyer for the book retailer could write a horror story for mall owners in a fragile retail economy.

Last update: August 15, 2010 - 4:04 PM

News last week that giant book retailer Barnes & Noble is putting itself up for sale sent tremors through a commercial real estate industry that's already struggling with record-high vacancy rates.

As a "bricks-and-mortar" business in a bookselling world that's rapidly adopting digital downloads, fears are creeping in that a new Barnes & Noble owner would seek to shed or downsize the leases of many of its 700-plus stores nationwide. And some pundits are speculating B&N and other mall-based bookselling chains ultimately could go the way of video rental and record stores decimated by digital downloading.

The nervousness is understandable in the wake of recent events in the bookselling space. B&N's main competitor, Borders Books, last year announced the closings of 200 of its smaller-format Waldenbooks outlets. B&N itself early this year shut down the last remnants of an iconic Minnesota brand, B. Dalton Booksellers, which in the 1980s numbered 800 stores.

for the rest go here:

Monday, August 16, 2010

The PW review of Stranglehold; Jack London light and very, very dark

Publisher's Weekly:

Ed Gorman, Minotaur, $24.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-312-53298-7

In Anthony-winner Gorman’s engaging second mystery to feature Chicago political consultant Dev Conrad (after 2008’s Sleeping Dogs), Dev steps in to help stumbling congressional incumbent Susan Cooper right her floundering campaign. A former army intelligence operative, Dev joins the campaign in Aldyne, Ill., where he has to deal with the candidate’s dragon lady stepmother, who uses the purse strings like a whip, and the opposition’s unscrupulous consultants, Monica Davies and Greg Larson. Susan’s efforts to conceal a secret from her past and fractures among her supporters don’t help. When Monica is murdered in her hotel room, saving the campaign may be the least of Dev’s worries. In addition to offering plenty of suspects and some nifty complications, Gorman makes campaign strategy, from dirty tricks to spin control, an integral, highly interesting part of the story. Dev’s strong showing in this sophomore campaign should guarantee that he’ll run again. (Oct.)

---------------Jack London: the good, bad, and repellant.

Jack London's Dark Side
A new biography confronts the good, bad, and repellant.
By Johann Hari
Posted Sunday, Aug. 15, 2010, at 6:59 AM ET

The United States has a startling ability to take its most angry, edgy radicals and turn them into cuddly eunuchs. The process begins the moment they die. Mark Twain is remembered as a quipster forever floating down the Mississippi River at sunset, while his polemics against the violent birth of the American empire lie unread and unremembered. Martin Luther King is remembered for his prose-poetry about children holding hands on a hill in Alabama, but few recall that he said the U.S. government was "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

But perhaps the greatest act of historical castration is of Jack London. This man was the most-read revolutionary Socialist in American history, agitating for violent overthrow of the government and the assassination of political leaders—and he is remembered now for writing a cute story about a dog. It's as if the Black Panthers were remembered, a century from now, for adding a pink tint to their afros.

If Jack London is chased forever from our historical memory by the dog he invented, then we will lose one of the most intriguing, bizarre figures in American history, at once inspiring and repulsive. In his 40 years of life, he was a "bastard" child of a slum-dwelling suicidal spiritualist, a child laborer, a pirate, a tramp, a revolutionary Socialist, a racist pining for genocide, a gold-digger, a war correspondent, a millionaire, a suicidal depressive, and for a time the most popular writer in America. In Wolf: The Lives of Jack London, his latest biographer, James L. Haley, calls London "the most misunderstood figure in the American literary canon"—but that might be because he is ultimately impossible to understand.

for the rest go here:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Romantic Comedies' Golden Age, When Wit Was Front Row Center

Romantic Comedies' Golden Age, When Wit Was Front Row Center

Ed here: Here's a long piece about the state of romantic comedies today. As somebody who generally prefers the screwball comedies of the Thirties and early Forties to today's films, I was all ready to disagree with Cannon but after reading his argument I have to agree with him. At the end of the piece he lists a number of contemporary romantic comedies that hold up very well.

Executive Editor

It's easy to say that no one is making romantic comedies like "Philadelphia Story" (1940) anymore, because it's true. But is that really the test? Maybe we're being too hard on contemporary filmmakers who, after all, reflect their times just as much as politicians and journalists do. I'm getting ahead of myself, however, so let's back up.

Earlier this week, in a column headlined the "Tragedy of Comedy," New York Times luminary Maureen Dowd treated her readers to an engaging back-and-forth with Sam Wasson, the author of a new bestseller about the making of the classic 1961 movie, "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Their online lament about the state of the romantic comedy is entertaining from the first exchange.

Maureen Dowd: "How did we get from "Two for the Road" to "The Bounty Hunter" and "He's Just Not That Into You"?
Sam Wasson: "This is the question I ask myself every morning and keep asking all day, and annoy all my friends and lovers with . . . "

With that, Dowd and Wasson are off and running. They agree on the basics: namely, that when it comes to the genre of romantic comedy, Hollywood isn't showcasing writers such as Preston Sturges or directors like Ernst Lubitsch much anymore, not to mention Billy Wilder, who produced, directed, and wrote screenplays. It's also clear to Ms. Dowd and Mr. Wasson that no equal to Cary Grant walks among us today, and that the Hepburns -- Audrey and Katharine -- are a lost breed.

They'll get little argument with these assessments, or with their joint declaration that 1930s and 1940s represented the "golden age of American wit." But why is that so? This is worth another conversation. It just might be that Sturges and Lubitsch and their contemporaries had a more hospitable environment for drollery. If so, maybe -- just maybe -- today's screenwriters and movie-makers are to be commended for their effort.

for the rest go here:
Romantic Comedies' Golden Age, When Wit Was Front Row Center

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The script for The End of It All

In thirty years I've had eight, maybe nine scripts made from stories and novels of mine. Two pictures (one a tv movie) and a movie were made from them.

The biggest disappointment, which I've mentioned here before, was Moonchasers. After a certain producer announced that this would be her next picture two years of nowhere resulted. The second biggest was for the script of my novel Black River Falls. ABC paid some good money for it, the script was excellent, a good tv movie director was attached and a very good actress signed as the lead. W. Morris expected it to be green lighted over the next two weeks when it would then become a Sunday Night Movie. A week later ABC laid off something like 200 people and canceled the Sunday Night Movies.

A couple of the other scripts were ludicrous. One was so bad that when the director-writer called wanting/expecting to hear me call him a genius I told him all the things wrong with the script. I also told him I wouldn't renew his option. He got so pissed he told me (honest to God) "that I would never work in this town again" and that he would send copies to every studio in town and destroy its novelty. Huh? To his credit he overnighted me a long letter and apologized. I still wouldn't renew the option. It was that bad. He just wasn't right for the book.

Well a few years back a guy at HBO called and asked if I'd read his adaptation of Black Wings Hath My Angel by Eliot Chaze. He was test marketing it. I read it and was knocked out by it. Great work.

I heard from him four months ago and he said he wanted to option a story of mine for a feature film. This is a project he wants to do on his own not for HBO, though he'll probably show it there. I told him up front that of all the short stories I've written this is the least likely to make a picture. It's a wild black comedy about the difference between sex and love I realize that's an old-fashioned idea; they complement each other but there are differences). But he told me some of his ideas and I was amazed at how he planned to shape the material (it's twelve thousand words long) into a120 page script.

Well, he sent my his third draft as an attached file last night and I read it and I was knocked out by it. I laughed all the way through. He managed to keep my story and many of the scenes but he very skillfully upped the ante in all the right places.

This will probably never get made. It's Hwood after all. But even if it doesn't it's flattering to have a piece of my work handled with such wit and style. And he never once told me I'd never work in Hwood again.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Otto Penzler: Noir is about losers, not private eyes

Ed here: I thought this was a fine piece by Otto Penzler about noit fiction. It appears on Huffington Post.

Otto Penzler:

Noir fiction has attracted some of the best writers in the United States (mostly) and many of its aficionados are among the most sophisticated readers in the crime genre. Having said that, I am constantly baffled by the fact that a huge number of those readers don't seem to know what noir fiction is. When they begin to speak of their favorite titles in the category, they invariably include a preponderance of books and short stories that are about as noir as strawberry shortcake.

Look, noir is about losers. The characters in these existential, nihilistic tales are doomed. They may not die, but they probably should, as the life that awaits them is certain to be so ugly, so lost and lonely, that they'd be better off just curling up and getting it over with. And, let's face it, they deserve it.

Pretty much everyone in a noir story (or film) is driven by greed, lust, jealousy or alienation, a path that inevitably sucks them into a downward spiral from which they cannot escape. They couldn't find the exit from their personal highway to hell if flashing neon lights pointed to a town named Hope. It is their own lack of morality that blindly drives them to ruin.

Noir fiction has its roots in the hard-boiled private eye story that was essentially created by Dashiell Hammett in the pages of Black Mask magazine in the 1920s. There are tough guys in his stories, and lying dames, and violence, double-crosses, murder, and nefarious schemes.

But--and this is where the private detective story separates itself from noir--it also has a character with a moral center. Sam Spade knew that when somebody kills your partner, you're supposed to do something about it. Raymond Chandler, whose splendid prose illuminated his novels and stories, compared his private detective to a knight, describing his as someone who walked the mean streets but was not himself mean.

for the rest go here:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Albert Zugsmith on making TOUCH OF EVIL with Orson Welles

Ed here: In the late fifties and early sixties Albert Zugsmith produced such films as Sex Kittens Go To College, Platinum High School, High School Confidential, and The Beat Generation. Nothing that would make Fellini insecure about his place in motion picture history. But Zugsmith had previously produced some excellent film such as The Tarnished Angels (Faulkner's Pylon), Written on The Wind and The Incredible Shrinking Man. Oh--and one other--Touch of Evil. Here's an excerpt from a long excerpt (one well worth reading) with Zugsmith discussing his work with Welles.

Producer Albert Zugsmith on making TOUCH OF EVIL with Orson Welles
Orson is primarily an artist — a great one.

—Albert Zugsmith


One of the great unsung heroes behind the making of Touch of Evil has to be Universal staff producer Albert Zugsmith. As can be seen in Zugsmith’s comments below, he and Welles had a wonderful working relationship on the two pictures they made together and it was most probably due to Zugsmith that Welles got to shoot Touch of Evil with so little studio interference.

Unfortunately, Zugsmith had left Universal and moved over to MGM by the time Welles began editing Touch of Evil, so Zugsmith was no longer around to protect Welles from the meddling of studio executives. In fact, given Welles own comments about how much he looked forward to continue making films at Universal, one wonders if he may have been thinking about his talks with Zugsmith, who probably represented Universal to him. For his own part, Zugsmith was eager to continue making films with Welles.

The following interview with Zugsmith is taken from Todd McCarthy and Charles Flynn’s wonderful 1975 book King of the Bs.


ALBERT ZUGSMITH: The story on Orson is: I became sort of a troubleshooter and a script doctor at Universal. They’d throw me all the properties they were having difficulties with. There were also certain people I could handle, and work with. Jeff Chandler was becoming a bit difficult and he was their second biggest star at that time. I guess one of the reasons he was difficult was that he was the biggest, and then Rock Hudson came along! So they had me make some pictures with Jeff. They also had me make Westerns, which I’d kind of duck and avoid; they even made Ross Hunter make a Western, which was a terrible flop! It was the last picture Ann Sheridan ever made!

Anyway, I was assigned to a picture called Man in the Shadow. Jeff Chandler was in it and we had $600,000. to make it with. With studio overhead, that means you get about $375,000 on the screen. Jeff Chandler played the sheriff, and we had a new girl under contract, Colleen Miller, a beautiful girl, as the female lead. We were trying to cast the heavy, the girl’s father, the rich rancher who oppresses the Mexicans, and so forth. We were pretty much sold on Robert Middleton who did such a great job for me before (in The Tarnished Angels.) So then I got a call from the William Morris office. Evidently they knew this part was open, and Jack Baur (Universal’s casting director) asked me, “How would you like Orson Welles to play the heavy?” “You’re kidding,” I said. He had been out of this country for some time. He was back, and he needed $60,000 very badly for taxes, and he’d play the heavy. “Has he read the script?” I said. “I don’t think so. But he’s got to pay his taxes or he’ll be in big trouble.”

for the rest go here:

Monday, August 09, 2010

a/k/a James Reasoner

Ed here: My buddy James Reasoner posted a piece today about all the pseudonymous writing he's done over the years, particularly that of "house name" work where many writers (ala "Jake Logan") share the same name on a series. Someday somebody will write a book and/or a novel about this (as Westlake and Block have about the soft core world) because there are a lot of great tales to be told on the subject as James indicates here. Some very famous writers did a lot of work in these series but few have ever spoken about it.

Who Am I Today?

By James Reasoner

At last count, novels and stories I’ve written have been published under at least 35 different names. I say “at least” because back in the Seventies and Eighties I sold a few short stories that I never saw when they were published in various men’s magazines, but I know they appeared under other names. Some of these other identities were personal pseudonyms, some were house-names. Long before I ever became a writer, I used to read the Mike Shayne mystery novels by Brett Halliday. At that time I never had any idea that one day I would actually be “Brett Halliday”. But I was, contributing 36 novellas under that name to MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE during the Seventies and Eighties. To me, things like that are among the great pleasures of being a writer. (Along with not having to commute and being able to go to work in my pajamas if I want to, of course.)

The first Western I ever wrote was an entry in a house-name series: PECOS, #27 in the Stagecoach Station series, published by Bantam under the house-name Hank Mitchum. Since then I’ve written books in a number of different Western series, and in many cases, I was already a fan of the books before I ever joined the stable of authors. Working under a house-name has its advantages and disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage is that you receive little or no credit for the work you’re doing. Your name is nowhere on the book when it comes out, and although some people (mostly in the industry) know who writes which books, the vast majority of the readers have no idea and don’t really care. They just want an entertaining story, and I can’t blame them for that at all, since I was once the same way.

For example, back in the Sixties, I used to read paperback Westerns featuring Texas Rangers Jim Hatfield and Walt Slade. The Hatfield novels were published under the name Jackson Cole, the Slades as by Bradford Scott. I didn’t know the history of these novels, didn’t know that the Hatfields originally were published in the pulp magazine TEXAS RANGERS or that Walt Slade first appeared (although in shorter works) in the pulp THRILLING WESTERN. I certainly had no idea that the same author who wrote the Walt Slade novels as Bradford Scott (real name: Alexander Leslie Scott) also created the Jim Hatfield character and wrote many, but by no means all, of those novels by Jackson Cole. I just knew that I enjoyed the stories. The same holds true with the house-name Western series being published today. (As an aside, the Stagecoach Station series was created by long-time Western author D.B. Newton, and he was the first “Hank Mitchum”. During the Forties and Fifties, Newton wrote some of the Jim Hatfield novels for TEXAS RANGERS as “Jackson Cole”, though none of the ones that were reprinted in paperback. Still, as a fan of the Hatfield series, I found it very cool that I worked on a series created by one of the Hatfield authors and even shared a house-name with him.)

for the rest go here:

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Villains (from May 23, 2009)

In the Guardian (UK) Michael Hann responds to David Thomson's piece about movie villains. The major and minor ones of different types.

"David Thomson thinks it's Robert Shaw – even when, as in Jaws, he's on the side of the angels, David believes Shaw to have the been the scariest man to stride across the cinema screens. So who are the greatest villains in cinema history? They must be characters who compel us to watch, people who make us wonder: what happened to make them that way?

"So those villains who are set up purely to teach us about the hero – as in the likes of Zodiac or Rear Window – don't work. Not least because you never get to encounter them as real characters. Nor do "supervillains" – the likes of Blofeld or the Joker in either his Ledger or Nicholson guises – because we know they are not and can never be real. They are cartoons, and we know they exist only to entertain.

"The villains who truly terrify are those who we might plausibly encounter, if we are unlucky, if our lives go right off the rails, if we simply happen to be in their path when they come through town. They are those who bring disorder, the thing that those of us whose lives follow patterns fear most. They are the likes of Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men, who holds the life of a petrol station attendant in his fingers, even if the hapless old man doesn't realise it. We are horrified, because of the discrepancy between our knowledge and the petrol pumper's. Or Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas, who turns from genial to petrifying in the blink of an eye, and – worse for us – does so without recognising the distinction. Or Tommy's homegrown cousin, Trainspotting's Begbie, whom an awful lot of YouTube posters seem to regard, worryingly, as a role model."

Ed here:

"The villains who truly terrify are those who we might plausibly encounter, if we are unlucky, if our lives go right off the rails, if we simply happen to be in their path when they come through town."

If that's the measure I'd go with Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear and Joe Pesci in Casino. Mitchum is controlled madness, Pesci is a psychopath with no control whatsoever. Mitchum's lizard looks and Pesci's compulsive explosions are what we hear about on the news today. For instance, in NYC yesterday a man ran his car into a traffic agent about to give him a parking ticket; a few days ago a man tore out his small son's eye; a woman threw her four month old baby out the window of a speeding car.

The other night I quoted Robert Bloch about his crime novels and how he tried to cope with "The terrible inability to understand the irrational behavior of certain human beings, what is it that impels that sometime senseless sadistic cruelty."

There's been a merging of horror and crime fiction and you'll find many examples in both genres. The stuff of this merger scares me (as a reader and viewer) far more than the traditional approach of haunted houses and spooky trappings. Stephen King is largely responsible for this. Carrie terrified because the emotional center of the fear was Carrie's reaction to the horrors of high school, horrors many us us have suffered.

A fair share of King's short stories give us nightmares because they're rooted in reality. Even a complete fantasy such as The Mangler--about a laundry press machine with murderous intentions--gives us the creeps because many of us are luddites and suspect that we aren't using machines, they're using us. Hell, look at our relationship with our computers. A fair share of us work every day at their mercy. They can take a day off and tell us to shove it. They just might be be able to do a lot of to do a lot of other things, too. Things we don't like to think about especially when we see what the Japanese are starting to do with robots.

All this bears on the villains we create today. The original Cape Fear had the power to shock because audiences had rarely seen a madman like Mitchum on the screen. And each decade since then has built on that Mitchum icon, trying to put him in a more contemporary setting without losing any of his animal lunacy. Some of these versions work; far too many don't. The Bad Guy has become a cliche. But true villain--the real Boogeyman--has likely been with us since (in whatever form) we crawled from the sea.

I grew up with men like Robert Shaw--dangerous and unpredictable Irishers. Scary men. I also knew a few guys, later on, who were at least shirttail kin to the Mitchum icon--breathtakingly cruel. One of them ended up being stabbed to death by the wife he'd beaten over the course of many years. She had her leg in a cast thanks to him the night she killed him. He came at her and she picked up a butcher knife and that was that. The jury was out less than an hour. She walked. It was way past time.

To me the most haunting villains have this streak of almost inhuman cruelty in them, a king of cruelty that makes them unrecognizable as people. . I think that's what Robert Bloch was talking about. Think about Lou Ford in Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me.

Hell just take a minute and study Dick Cheney's face. It's all there.

How do you folks feel about villainy?

for the rest of the Michael Hann article go here:


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Forthcoming Books: The Night of The Living Dead by Joe Kane

Forthcoming Books: The Night of The Living Dead by Joe Kane (Kensington/Citadel)

-They-re coming to get you, Barbara-- These five words unleashed a terrifying movie classic on an unsuspecting public in 1968, stunning audiences with endless nightmares. George A. Romero-s Night of the Living Dead raised the bar for onscreen violence. Moviegoers were bludgeoned with horrific scenes of zombies blood-feasting on human body parts. Nothing was taboo. A six-year-old child nibbling on her daddy-s arm! Plunging a garden tool into her mother-s heart! More blood spewed onscreen than ever before! And yet, people returned for more-in hordes. The zombie movie phenomenon had officially been spawned. This is the true story of the flesh-eating classic that started it all.

Special Features

Dozens of photos too shocking to be seen until now
Stomach-churning details behind the groundbreaking FX
Compelling, revealing interviews with cast and crew
The legacy of Night of the Living Dead for today-s horror directors
-George Romero-s zombies. He influenced a whole culture.- -John Carpenter
-A new standard for horror.- -Variety

Forthcoming Books: Night of The Living Dead Joe Kane

Joe Kane Q & A:

For the few readers who may not know who you are, Joe, will you tell us why you're referred to as `The Phantom of The Movies?'

I’d used my real name when I edited and wrote for The Monster Times back in the day (1970s), but when The New York Daily News hired me as their guerrilla-style genre-movie columnist/critic in 1984, my editor had the idea to add an air of mystery and create a character, kind of an urban grindhouse haunter. We came up with the name “The Phantom of the Movies,” which sounded cool to me.

Wes Craven, in his introduction, says that Night of The Living Dead liberated him to write and produce his own Last House On The Left (the original) Did seeing it the first time have the same liberating effect on you?

When I first saw Night at the Museum of Modern Art, direct from its Times Square playdates and before its midnight run at NYC’s Waverly Theater, it totally knocked me out. I’d never seen a film that so caught the quality of a pure primal nightmare. Like Joe Dante says in my book, it’s like watching a documentary about the end of the world. The characters feel so real; the threat so mundanely horrible and inescapable—your dead neighbors are shambling around looking to eat you—to paraphrase Pogo, “We have met the monsters and they are us”; the efforts of the distant authorities so feeble, clueless and confused. There’s no help on the way and we’re all probably on our way out. The theme and atmosphere are devastating, the incidents unbelievably transgressive for the time, like Kyra Schon’s little zombie Karen chowing down on her on dead dad’s severed arm, and it’s also packed with traditional monster-movie “jump scares.” Plus it’s a metaphor for the Vietnam War that captures the era’s anger and frustration. It scared the hell out of me for sure; I had a hard time walking home alone after the screening.

I don't think I've ever read a single-subject book this exhaustive. You cover every aspect of the filming and history of the movie except for how much the vendors made on popcorn. Was it your intent to write the DEFINITIVE?

There had been some very good material written about Night, with John Russo’s The Complete Night of the Living Dead Filmbook being the most inside and exhaustive to that point. But that book came out 25 years ago, so I hoped to chronicle the full story both of the making of that movie, from many different perspectives, and all the related films that followed—Romero’s entire oeuvre, all the major films influenced by Night and Dawn of the Dead--and their ongoing cultural resonance. Plus I was lucky enough to get later cult-movie directors, like Frank (Basket Case) Henenlotter and Larry (Wendigo) Fessenden, to contribute mini-memoirs about their first encounters of the Night kind.

Can you chart some of the more obvious influences this movie had on horror films?

It didn’t create but it helped popularize the “unhappy ending” film and blazed the trail for future genre films that would incorporate overt sociopolitical messages, whether serious or satirical, into their stories. It upped the shock value, paving the way for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and other transgressive horror films, was a major player in kick-starting the midnight movie concept, and became a virtual cottage industry for imitators both here and abroad, especially in Italy. Though the living dead are never referred to as “zombies” onscreen, Night and, to a possibly even greater extent, Dawn of the Dead fashioned a fresh genre that’s still flourishing today, in movies (Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland), print (World War Z, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and video games. Most are direct descendants of Romero’s first two Dead movies.

You quote Richard Matheson as saying that Night is basically his classic I Am Legend but that he doesn't hold a grudge against George Romero, in fact likes the guy. Do you think it's I Am Legend?

Night definitely owes a major debt to I Am Legend situation-wise but opens up that premise with more characters and internal conflicts, while the basic siege situation marries the horror film with Western movie motifs, with humans and zombies replacing the cowboys and Indians of yore. Plus it has a tone all its own. The 1964 I Am Legend adaptation The Last Man on Earth, for example, has some striking imagery and atmosphere but lacks Night’s intense, fever-dream quality. And Night’s highly charged late-‘60s overlay can’t be underestimated.

In addition to John Russo's original screenplay you've also included a list (and some discussion) of zombie movies that came after Night. While zombies seem to be doing reasonably well in book form there hasn't been a notable zombie film in some time. Is the theme fading at the box office?

I don’t think the theme is fading at present. Shaun of the Dead (Romero’s favorite Night homage) is now a popular midnight movie, while 2009’s Zombieland represented the high-grossing zombie film to date. The promised zombie epic, the film version of Max Brooks’ World War Z, has yet to materialize but its eventual appearance should give the zombie biz another big boost. In the meantime, Romeroesque zombie films have become a staple of the direct-to-DVD horror scene, with dozens of new titles appearing each year.

What do you think of George Romero's career since Night of The Living Dead?

It’s been checkered but there have been some true blasts of brilliance. I think his The Crazies is vastly underrated, despite the recent remake, which, while a sturdy action piece, failed to capture the original’s high-energy hysteria and despair. Living Dead lightning definitely struck twice with Dawn of the Dead, something extremely rare in a sequel; James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare are other examples. Martin is a strong variation on traditional screen vampire lore. Creepshow is fun, but much of his for-hire work, like Monkey Shines and Tales from the Darkside, seems uninspired, more the fault of the source material than his approach, I think. Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead have little of his earlier zombie films’ impact but are still interesting variations for his fans. It’s tough to top a cultural milestone like Night, though.

Thanks very much, Joe.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Christopher Hitchens - human again

Ed here: I'd really recommend going on the Vanity Fair website and reading Christopher Hitchens' essay on how he's dealing with what may be a lethal cancer. Powerful stuff. Here's a reaction to that piece from Salon. For what it's worth I pretty much agree with writer Mary Elizabeth Williams. I too have hated Hitchens from time to time. Wanted to hit him in is booze-sweaty face. But he's such a brilliant thinker and writer I've never stopped reading him. As someone dealing with incurable cancer I was both moved and enlightened by his reactions to facing death.

From Salon:
Sympathy for Christopher Hitchens

The famously hard-living writer contemplates dying -- and becomes human again

Detail from cover of "Hitch 22"
When my friend Michele was a lifeguard, people used to ask her, "Are there sharks in the ocean today?" And she would reply, "There are sharks in the ocean every day." Christopher Hitchens is swimming with the sharks. The possibility of death -- the reality of mortality -- became less abstract for him in June, when, on the brink of publishing his new memoir, "Hitch-22," he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

In a brilliant, beautiful and, fittingly, darkly hilarious essay for the new Vanity Fair, the most seemingly indestructible man in journalism describes his "very short-lived campaign of denial" and "the new land" of sickness with his trademark gimlet eye, chronicling "the way that my razorblade would suddenly go slipping pointlessly down my face, meeting no stubble."

Is this meditation on life's finite nature the beginning of a softer side of a legendarily boozy, cantankerous scribe? Thankfully, no. The 61-year-old Brit who has, in just the past few years, declared women unamusing, wholeheartedly supported the war in Iraq, gone gunning for Mother Teresa and bragged that he drinks enough every day "to kill or stun the average mule" continues to declare "war on Thanatos" and turn a phrase so deftly it'll make your eyes water. He remains a big, fat jerk and a goddamn genius, acknowledging with brutal clarity, "In whatever kind of a 'race' life may be, I have very abruptly become a finalist" and complaining that this whole "boring" cancer thing might spoil his plans "to read -- if not indeed write -- the obituaries of elderly villains like Henry Kissinger and Joseph Ratzinger."

While the contemporary field of journalism is riddled with pigeon-chested tweet monkeys, Hitchens remains the last of the larger-than-life scribes. You won't find too many magazine writers -- let alone men his age -- whose exploits inspire Onion parodies. And so we wouldn't want the iron man to go all Ram Dass now. Yet the eloquent feistiness of Hitchens' story, it turns out, makes a stunning counterpart to author and doctor Atul Gawande's hauntingly stark New Yorker piece this week on "Letting Go." "Ultimately, death comes," Gawande explains, "and no one is good at knowing when to stop." He writes of a difficult conversation with the sister of a terminal patient, who asks him plaintively, "Is she dying?" Are there sharks in the ocean today?

for the rest go here:

Thursday, August 05, 2010

How a brutal rape and a lifelong burden of guilt fuelled Girl with the Dragon Tattoo writer Stieg Larsson

Ed here: The Daily Mail online (UK) published not one but two long articles about Stieg Larsson. Well worth reading.

How a brutal rape and a lifelong burden of guilt fuelled Girl with the Dragon Tattoo writer Stieg Larsson

The chapel in southern Stockholm was packed on that icy December day in 2004. We filed past the coffin to pay our respects, whispering final messages to Stieg Larsson.

The Stieg we were mourning was a tireless hero in the fight against neo-Nazism, but the man the world now remembers is someone quite different - the author of one of the biggest, least expected publishing successes of modern times.

His crime novels - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest - were published after his death, have sold 30million copies and have made Stieg Larsson a global celebrity.

Private: Stieg Larsson, right, who died in November 2004, and his partner Eva Gabrielsson are seen relaxing over a cup of coffee at cafe in the city of Strangnas, Sweden

People beg me to sign his books, simply because I was his friend. A critically-acclaimed Swedish film version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has already been released and now Hollywood is planning its own take, with Carey Mulligan and Daniel Craig rumoured as stars.

Despite the acclaim, however, Stieg remains a man of secrets. Before his death few people knew he was writing his novels, and he was intensely private, rarely talking about the first 20 years of his life. On one occasion though, he told me a chilling story about something in his past that drove his passion and creativity.

I did not know the whole story but I was given the bare but brutal details. As a fellow journalist and former colleague of Stieg's, I wanted to know more. In short, who was Stieg, and what fuelled his writing? I found out - and uncovered the dark secret behind The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

A year after Stieg's death from a heart attack, the journalist in me was still asking questions. No human being is capable of working as hard as he did. Did he do it to achieve ambitious goals or was it a form of escapism?

Stieg had so many secrets - the most extreme was the trilogy that he wrote at night. That was unusual enough, but stranger still was the fact that he waited to complete three thumping great novels before submitting them to a publisher.

for the rest go here:

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Forthcoming Books Christmas at The Mysterious Bookshop


Each year, for the past seventeen years, Otto Penzler, owner of the legendary Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, has commissioned an original story by a leading mystery writer. The requirements were that it be a mystery/ crime/suspense story, that it be set during the Christmas season, and that at least some of the action must take place in The Mysterious Bookshop. These stories were then produced as pamphlets, 1,000 copies, and given to customers of the bookstore as a Christmas present.

Now, all of these stories have been collected in one volume—Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop. Some of the tales are humorous, others suspenseful, and still others mystifying. This charming one-of-a-kind collection is a perfect Christmas gift, appropriate for all ages and tastes.
Contributors include:
Charles Ardai
Lisa Atkinson
George Baxt
Lawrence Block
Mary Higgins Clark
Thomas H. Cook
Ron Goulart
Jeremiah Healy
Edward D. Hoch
Rupert Holmes
Andrew Klavan
Michael Malone
Ed McBain
Anne Perry
S. J. Rozan
Jonathan Santlofer
Donald E. Westlake
About the Author

Otto Penzler is the proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop, the founder of The Mysterious Press, the creator of Otto Penzler Books, and the editor of many books and anthologies. He lives in New York City.

Questions for Otto Penzler.

Were you surprised by how many different approaches the writers were able to develop for your Christmas tales?
I'm always amazed at what writers can do. When I edit novels and stories, I sometimes see a plot hole or other problem and think, "oh, no, this is hopeless" but the author almost always says it's not a big deal and instantly knows how to fix it. I'd have thought the constrictions of a story confined to a specific location at a specific time of year would cause too many stories to be similar, but they aren't at all.

Were the Christmas pamphlets immediately popular?
Yes. It was gratifying to see and hear the enthusiasm of our customers. The best was from Stephen King got a Christmas story after shopping at the store. He liked it so much he asked if he could write one. As you will immediately guess, I said yes. For several years after that, he assured me he'd write one. Sadly, I'm still waiting, though optimistic.

You make appearances in several of these stories? Do you have a favorite appearance?
As I tried to point out in the introduction, I'm a real person but the guy in these stories is fictional. Still, I like the ones where I'm portrayed as brave, smart, cool, wealthy, and to whom good-looking women are attracted.

Will the series continue now that the previous ones have been collected?
Yes, that's the plan. When I started this series, I didn't know that they would be collected in a book. The motivation was merely to thank my customers for thier business. There are, unhappily, fewer customers than there used to be, but I'm no less grateful for the fact that they buy books from my store.

In your introduction you note that The Mysterious Bookshop, like most independent stores, is engaged in a "mighty struggle" to "endure" if not flourish. Since the Mysterious is the flagship of indie mystery stores, what does this say about indie mystery stores in general?
What it says for too many of them is good-bye. Most independent mystery stores have gone out of business. A lot of people lament the passing of a favorite store, but it doesn't stop them from shopping at Barnes & Noble or Amazon, and then they're shocked when their local independent closes its doors.

You mention that both the chains and e-books have doubled up to make life even harder for indies. What do you make of Barnes & Noble allegedly being put up for sale? Are they having the same problem with Amazon that indies have?
Barnes & Noble is engaged in a battle over shares with two major stockholders battling it out for control. B&N has nothing to do with books. A huge B&N opened right down the street from The Mysterious Bookshop a couple of years ago and I went in to check it out. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why anybody would shop there, unless it's for coffee. The staff knows nothing, and that's been true for every branch I've visited. Borders is already doomed and B&N may follow. Amazon won't be happy until they are the last "store" left. What irritates me is that they are good at what they do. Of course, so were the German Panzer divisions; that doesn't mean I want to root for them.

Do you have one or two favorite stories about incidents in Mysterious over its first twenty-sevenyears?
We celebrated our 31st anniversaary on April 13. How many spectacular moments are there? Donald Westlake and Brian Garfield building my bookshelves. Our annual Christmas parties. Hosting signings for Eric Ambler, John le Carre, Stephen King, William F. Buckley, Jeremy Brett (signing posters), Walter B. Gibson (signing Shadow books and magazines); an evening of magic with Richard Levinson and William Link (the creators of Columbo) trying to top Harry Blackstone and other magicians; giving Elmore Leonard his first autographing event outside of his home town; serving as the location for a television pilot for a movie titled Murder Ink--31 days of filming and location fees that kept us from going bankrupt in my second year in business; taking my baseball bat down the stairs to confront a thief (and not getting my brains beat out). Oh, that's more than one or two. Sorry.

Thanks very much, Otto

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

COMMUTABILITY; Top Actresses Takes A Thief

edited by David Jack Bell and Molly McCaffrey
A 2010 MSR Short Fiction Anthology
Edited by David Jack Bell and Molly McCaffrey
ISBN 13: 978-1-59948-243-9, cover price $14.95

The stories in this anthology cut across genre lines and introduce readers to a variety of experiences: Goats being used as shark bait. Skydiving. Stealing a boat during a zombie apocalypse. A farm where women--not cows--produce the milk. An awkward young man's fantasy encounter with the B-actress of his dreams. And the book features work by many of today's best authors including Sandra Scofield, Thomas F. Monteleone, Faye Moskowitz, Scott Nicholson, Eric Goodman, Norman Prentiss, Darrin Doyle, Kelcey Parker, Ed Gorman, Lisa Williams Kline, Yelizaveta P. Renfro, and many, many more.


Forbes Top Earning Actresses

1.) Sandra Bullock, $56 million
2.) Reese Witherspoon, $32 million
3.) Cameron Diaz, $32 million
4.) Jennifer Aniston, $27 million
5.) Sarah Jessica Parker, $25 million
6.) Julia Roberts, $20 million
7.) Angelina Jolie, $20 million
8.) Drew Barrymore, $15 million
9.) Meryl Streep, $13 million
10.) Kristen Stewart, $12 million


It Takes A Thief on DVD

Hi, Ed

I'm not sure if your readers would be interested, but "It Takes a Thief" has finally made it to DVD, albeit in Germany. A company called Polyband just released Season One on Amazon's German affiliate. Although it's a Region 2 disc, there is an optional English-language track. I broke the story this morning on Cinema Retro's website. Here's the link if you want to read the article:



Monday, August 02, 2010

Forthcoming Books: Quarry's Ex

There are few thing more difficult in writing mysteries than keeping a series interesting to both reader and writer. Max Allan Collins' first wave of Quarry novels, published way back in the distant Seventies, were some of the best hardboiled fiction I've ever read. They were what made me a fan of his work initially.

Even more remarkable is the quality of the new Quarry novels Collins has written the past few years for Hard Case Crime. These new books are even richer and darker than the original ones. And in the case of the latest one, Quarry's Ex, even funnier. (This book will be published in October.)

In this one Quarry is hired to put the hurt on another hit man, one he knows from his long ago days with The Broker. He first runs into his target's cohort--and another graduate of Broker University--a demented drunk Quarry dispatches with gut-wrenching brutality. But Collins is too shrewd to do lingering gore; the scene is a few sentences long, almost a side-arm pitch, and all the more brutal and memorable for it.

Twist upon twist leads Quarry to pretend to be a public relations man on a direct-to-video movie. He convinces the director he's going to be killed and needs protection. The mystery behind the identity of the person who REALLY hired the man is worked out skillfully. But the real fun is in Collins' blackly comic take on the people involved in making the movie. There's enough sleaze and cheese to keep the website Gawker in business for five years.

Quarry often refers to his ex-wife in the novels. Here he meets her again and honorably enough--even though she's a hard selfish woman--Collins gives her real depth so that her self-perceptions ring true if not admirable.

A compelling and wry take on the movie business and life in general seen through the eyes of a man who prides himself on only taking out bad buys. I wish I had Quarry's phone number. I'd send him my list.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Lazy actors, distracting actors

Ed here: On the A.V. Club there's a discussion about actors who are either a) always the same no matter what role they're playing and/or b) so distracting that their mere appearance takes you out of the movie. The most interesting comment came from a woman named Tasha Robinson. I think she articulates the problem very well. for the full discussion go here:

Tasha Robinson

"I recently pitched an Inventory on once-talented-and-diverse actors who have fallen into a rut and just play the same character over and over, essentially serving as parodies of themselves. Keith said “What, you mean ‘movie stars’?” Oh. Yeah. Right. I guess that is a lot more common than I thought. After a certain point, I tend to find really big stars distracting in a film because of the likelihood that they’ll just be going through the motions of the familiar role that made them famous. Much as I love Samuel L. Jackson’s charisma, I’m with you on him as someone who can no longer disappear into a role. (Which for anyone who saw him in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever is a serious pity.) I also get this from Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, George Clooney, Al Pacino, and Keanu Reeves, who all these days either feel like themselves in roles or themselves shouting “Look at me putting on a mask!” But the two actors who most throw me out of movies are Jim Carrey and Robin Williams. In their comic roles, they’re both so mannered and routine-bound and artificial that they tend to throw off even the most mannered, artificial movie. (A Series Of Unfortunate Events, for instance.) I recently re-watched The Truman Show, and I felt more than ever that it’s a really good film that could have been a masterpiece, if not for Jim Carrey doing the exact same gestures and grimaces and squinting and flailing he does in all his other comic roles. "