Thursday, September 30, 2010

Forgotten Music: Dakota Staton

Born in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she attended George Westinghouse High School and studied music at the Filion School of Music in Pittsburgh. Later she performed regularly in the Hill District, a jazz hotspot, as a vocalist with the Joe Wespray Orchestra, a popular Pittsburgh orchestra. She next spent several years in the nightclub circuit in such cities as Detroit, Indianapolis, Cleveland and St. Louis. While in New York, she was noticed singing at a Harlem nightclub called the Baby Grand by Dave Cavanaugh, a producer for Capitol Records. She was signed and released several singles, her success leading her to win Down Beat magazine's "Most Promising New Comer" award in 1955. In 1958, Staton wed Talib Ahmad Dawud, a black Antiguan Muslim trumpeter and noted critic of Elijah Muhammad[3].
She released several critically acclaimed albums in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including: The Late, Late Show (1957), whose title track was her biggest hit, In the Night (1957), a collaboration with pianist George Shearing, Dynamic! (1958) and Dakota at Storyville (1961), a live album recorded at the Storyville jazz club in Boston. Staton moved to England in the mid-1960s. She continued to record semi-regularly.

Ed here: I've been listening to Dakota since the Fifties. She sang beautifully about nighttime, infusing songs with her own melancholy take on our vale of tears. Two or three times I thought she was ready for the kind of breakout that Dinah Washington enjoyed at the same time. But it wasn't to be. She's well worth listening to.

Sometimes in the 90s somebody wrote me a letter, said they'd read my novel The Autumn Dead and particularly appreciated my riff on Dakota Staton. She said she was a friend of Dakota's and that Dakota was very pleased that I had written about her. Really. Listen to her.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Forgotten Books: THE DEAD BEAT by Robert Bloch

I've always admired the novel that Robert Bloch wrote immediately following publication of Psycho. I am one of four people on the planet who can make that claim.

What I've always liked about it is the way Bloch took a sleazy no-good psychotic bastard and set him right down in the middle of a Midwestern family that could have doubled as sit-com people. Bloch really makes you care about these folks and how they are so slow to catch on to the psychotic jazz musician they make the mistake of trying to help.

The title signals the era, the early sixties when the Beats were so much in the news. Bloch shows us a kind of faux beat existence with the musicians we meet early on. Bloch gets the one night stand life (in both meanings of that phrase) down just as well as he gets the middle-class days and nights of the family the musician will ultimately turn on. For Bloch this is a return of sorts to his Fifties paperbacks such as The Will To Kill and The Kidnapper. Jim Thompson country before anybody knew who Thompson was. (Bloch bristled when I asked him once if Thompson had ever been an influence--he said he'd never heard of Thompson until much, much later.)

Reviewers of the time didn't like the relatvely slow pace. They also complained that the novel didn't offer the shock or sass of Psycho (I say sass because the novel is very funny in places--something Hitchcock picked up on immediately). I like the treachery and the darkness here. I didn't used to believe in evil. But now I do. Robert Bloch brings to life the kind of evil all around us.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Strangehold - Pulp Serenade

From Pulp Serenade - Cullen Gallagher

"Stranglehold" by Ed Gorman (Minotaur, 2010)

Dev Conrad is that rarity among literary characters, a warm narrator whose inimitable voice quickly becomes as familiar as an old friend. And if you’ve read Ed Gorman’s first novel about Dev, Sleeping Dogs, then the reunion in Stranglehold is all the more joyous.

As the Stranglehold opens, political consultant Dev Conrad has been called away from his home base to intervene in the campaign of one of his company’s clients, Congresswoman Susan Cooper. She’s been acting out of character, disappearing mysteriously, but she refuses to tell anyone what is going. With her reelection on the line, it is up to Dev to get to the bottom of things.

Cooper’s campaign and personal life quickly begins to fall apart. First Dev follows Susan to a crummy motel room and discovers blood around the room, as well as the business card of a ruthless political consultant. Next, he finds himself being questioned for the murder of someone that might have been involved with Cooper’s rivals. And Natalie Cooper, Susan’s tyrannical mother, is very unimpressed with the skeletons that Dev is dragging out of the family closet.

Gorman is a humanist in the tradition of Margaret Millar. Both draw readers in with their strong, tightly-plotted mysteries. However, the real treasure of their books is in their ensemble of characters (even the minor characters are treated with the utmost respect and craft), and in the maturity and acuity of the writers’ voices. Dev’s patience and hardboiled insight embodies so much of what we’ve come to admire in Gorman’s own writing.

Dev wants to see the best in people, but he is wise and weary enough to see the worst, and to recognize that people are human and they make mistakes. But what makes him trustworthy is that he is even quicker to spot his own weaknesses and errors. This blend of idealism and realism is what makes Dev such an endearing persona – he is never looking down at those around him, and never looking but, but always looking them right in the eye. And when another character returns that look – now those are special moments. Many of them involve Gwen – naïve, well-meaning, and brave, and who was unwittingly drawn into the Cooper campaign chaos; and others involve Ben, Dev’s colleague, another fallen idealist with plenty of regrets about failing his own family, with whom Dev shares an unspoken bond.

Gorman doesn’t just write stories, he puts them in worlds in which many stories are colliding. The book you’re holding just happens to contain a couple. Here is an example: Dev spots a mother in a Toby Keith t-shirt, her husband in a NASCAR shirt, and a chubby child. Their clothes are ratty, and their car is in worse shape. There’s almost a hint of caricature in Dev’s observation – until he notices the husband’s limp, and the wife’s attempt to help him. “It was the sort of thing that could break your goddamned heart because it was so simple and loving and said so much about their years together. They were playing a shitty hand, one the dark Lovecraftina gods were probably still laughing about, but they were bound up and redeemed by their loyalty.”

In these politically divisive times, we need a hero like Dev Conrad. Someone who’s concern goes beyond party lines, and who can see beyond all the campaign and media hoopla. Heck, I’d vote for Dev, but I think he’s too smart to run. In the meantime, I eagerly await the next installment in Ed Gorman’s latest series.

As always, here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book. Gorman has some really wonderful turns of phrases, and shows a real love of language.

“Fog rolled down the streets on my way to foundation headquarters. Streetlights were dulled by ghosts and stoplights burned like evil eyes through the mist. A long stretch of fast-food places shone like a cheap carnival midway in the rolling clouds. And always there was the relentless cold rain, gutters and intersections filling up fast.”

“After my years in army intelligence, when I’d functioned pretty much as a detective, I’d thought about joining a police force somewhere. I’d spent three nights in a squad car riding around Chicago. The dangers I’d seen were tolerable; there’d been moments when they’d been exhilarating. But the heartbreak was what I couldn’t handle. The beaten wives and the forlorn children, the sad junkies, the prisons of poverty, the fear of people afraid to walk the streets of their own neighborhoods. I didn’t have the gut for it.”

“Then she started her awkward, belly-bumping slide out of the booth. I was thinking how good it would be when my own daughter was pregnant. I had so much to make up for. I wanted to do it right this time.”

“And no, it wasn’t the drinking; it was the fact that I spent so much time away from home working on campaigns. I wasn’t faithful and neither was she. She had a good excuse for it, I didn’t.”

Monday, September 27, 2010

Secret Vengeance by F. Paul Wilson

In the last few years young adult novels have become popular with many adults as well. F. Paul Wilson, one of the finest storytellers of my generation, has turned his hand to showing us the youthful days of Repairman Jack, the enormously popular namesake of his award-winning Repairman Jack adult series.

Wilson has his own style and voice, a vivid, evocative style that touches on all the senses to create a full, real world. In addition he paces his work the way a contemporary film editor would, knowing how to get into and out of a scene nimbly while demanding that the reader move quickly on to the next set-up. He's also got a great ear. His people sound like people, something I see less and less of these days.

All these writerly virtues are on display in SECRET VENGEANCE, the third in the Young Jack YA series. Here Jack helps defend a classmate named Weezy who has been sexually assaulted by a popular boy named Tolliver. But Weezy can't tell people the truth about what happened because of problems with her parents.

In the meantime Tolliver spreads the rumor that he had a great time with the "willing" Weezy. Her name quickly becomes "Easy Weezy" among her classmates. Wilson is particularly good here with the world of school, the cruelty of gossip and the fate of outcasts.

So Young Jack goes after Tolliver. Wilson knows how to build suspense and in trying to bring Tolliver to some kind of justice--and packing a number of surprises along the way--he points his story to the inevitable and surprising showdown.

A swift, compelling page-turner with some wise takes on the ways of teenagers.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

5 Mean Reviews

"The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" by Steig Larsson

Review by Susan Cohen:

"This is easily one of the worst books I’ve ever read. And bear in mind that I’ve read John Grisham."

Ed here: Most of us have gotten our share of bad reviews; a good number of us have even gotten the occasional savage review. Salon is claiming that these are the meanest reviews ever which is bogus. But they certainly didn't make the writers under review feel very good.

5 Meanest Book Reviews Ever: Franzen, Foer, Larsson And More (PHOTOS)
Posted: 09-24-10 09:01 AM

It has been said that any publicity is good publicity. But when someone describes your writing as "like reading a bad newspaper or a bad piece in a magazine. It makes you wince," as John Irving said of Tom Wolfe's "A Man In Full," that credo loses a bit of credibility.

Book reviewers, generally speaking, tend to keep their heads when assessing a book's worth. They are, after all, charged with the task of objectively analyzing a work. Sometimes, however, professionalism and decorum give way to vitriol and downright disgust. The words in these hateful reviews are less letters on a page and more the transcript of a critic's frenzied ravings.

So, here are the worst of the worst, the most dispiriting, and the meanest. But what did we leave out? What are the meanest reviews you've ever read?

Disclaimer: We apologize if you are the author of one of these books.

See all the reviews by going here:

Friday, September 24, 2010


Ed here: For me this is THE best issue so far. The lengthy history of Psycho alone is worth the entrance fee. All kinds of material on Hitchcock and Bloch and the cast in depth. BUY IT NOW!

Posted by Cinema Retro in Entertainment News on Thursday, September 16. 2010

Our final issue of Season 6 has now been mailed to subscribers worldwide, and the general feeling is that it's one of our best yet.
Gary Giblin offers an extensive, in-depth tribute to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho to commemorate the film's 50th anniversary. He shares little-known facts about the movie and also examines its legacy, including the sequels.
Matthew Field offers part one of his recent interview with director Lewis Gilbert, who discusses his war movies such as Sink the Bismarck! and The 7th Dawn.
Dean Brierly's ass-kicking interview with ass-kicking Blaxploitation legend Fred ("The Hammer") Williamson
Coverage of Cinema Retro's Movie Magic Tour of England: Richard Johnson joins us at the mansion seen in The Haunting and we catch up with Sir Roger Moore, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Richard Kiel and George Lazenby at a major London James Bond event.
Howard Hughes' special tribute to the life and career of Lee Van Cleef
Gareth Owen's unpublished interview with screen legend Sir John Mills
Ian Brown interviews Roger Corman and analyzes his film adaptations of the stories of Edgar Allan Poe that starred Vincent Price
Tom Lisanti celebrates the cult B movie Once You Kiss and Stranger and star Carol Lynley shares her memories of the film.
Lee Pfeiffer looks back at the British film noir crime movie Never Let Go starring Peter Sellers in a rare dramatic role.
Dave Worrall tracks down the film locations from the British serials based on the Famous Five stories
Raymond Benson reveals his choices for the best films of 1977
Rare unpublished photos from the Suzy Kendall/Dudley Moore groovy comedy hit "30 is a dangerous age, Cynthia..."
plus the usual extensive reviews of soundtracks, DVDs and movie books.
All subscriptions to Cinema Retro begin and end with the same issue. This is the last issue of season #6. If you would like to subscribe, click here for information or click here to subscribe directly through our affiliate store on Ebay.You will receive issues 16, 17 and 18 with free postage in the USA, Canada and the UK.

If you are a current subscriber, you will receive a renewal notice with issue #18. Please renew your subscription ASAP so you won't miss any of the excitement in season 7.

bare.boones is back with a vengeance

Ed here: Bare. Bones was a cool magazine that lapsed publication some years ago. Now editors Peter Enfantino and John Scoleri have brought it back as a website. And it's tearing up the land with in-depth articles about the origins of the post war magazines and paperback lines that paved the way for a good deal of the crime fiction that was to come. Here's their take on Manhunt.

The Complete Guide to Manhunt Part 1

Manhunt was the best crime digest ever published. I've been working on a book on the magazine for well over ten years. One of these days, I might just finish it. Bits of it have been published here and there but most of what you'll see here on this blog has never been published. It's a massive project, featuring a lot of words (the chapter on 1953, its first year, is 13,000 words alone), lots of graphics, and it's getting bigger every day. I'll present this project a bit at a time, beginning with a (revised) piece I wrote for Paperback Parade several years ago explaining my obsession with Manhunt.

by Peter Enfantino

First the numbers:
- 14 years (1953-1967)
- 114 issues
- over 500 authors
- over 1100 stories
- over 13,000 pages
- over 6,000,000 words
- countless writers influenced

Some of the guilty parties: Charles Williams, Donald E. Westlake (and Richard Stark), Ed McBain (and all his aliases), Gil Brewer, Craig Rice, Jonathon Craig, John D. MacDonald, Mickey Spillane, Richard Prather, Leslie Charteris, David Goodis, Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, Harry Whittington.

January 1953

April/May 1967
First published in January 1953, Manhunt’s rep was built on the contributions of Spillane, McBain, Whittington, and Goodis. That’s why these digests are so collectible. Most of the Manhunt elite never had their short stories collected. That’s why you’ll pay big dollars for key issues. But there are those of us who collect the digests for more than just the beautiful cover art of Dick Shelton or Ray Houlihan, or a rare Harlan Ellison appearance, or just the general musty odor of the pages. For those of us who actually read the gritty crime stories between the covers, Manhunt is a treasure trove of great writing.

for the rest go here:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Forgotten Books: PEEPER by Loren D. Estleman

I've probably read this books five or six times and reviewed it two or three. It always gives me an instant high because Estleman has created a character so despicable you keep wishing somebody would shoot/stab/strangle/burn him. And he's the protagonist.

Even though I know a fair share of the book by heart I still laugh out loud through a good share of it. Dirt-bag Detroit private eye Ralph Poteet is so sleazy you just got to laugh at him. And the big problem is for all the laws he breaks his renumeration wouldn't buy him a good meal at Olive Garden (if there is such a thing).

PEEPER is a witty take on many private-eye clichés. It's filled with people you wouldn’t want to meet without wearing a biohazard suit, including a monsignor who dies in a whorehouse.

Poteet is asked to help secret the man’s enormous body to a more discreet location. And he decides while he’s at it … to snap a few pics of the corpse. Never know what kind of money they’ll bring on the open market. This gives Estleman the opportunity to put the big time nasty on Catholic Church politics. The prelates are even scuzzier than Poteet, no easy accomplishment.

What makes this work is Estleman’s enormous skill. Nobody writes a better classical private-eye story better than Loren, even when he’s having fun with the tropes. This book is a triumph of bad taste and hilarity in equal parts. I'm serious here--this would also make a great TV series.

Trust me. You’ll like this one a lot. And you'll re-read it as many times as I have.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Stephen Marlowe and Richard S. Prather DOUBLE IN TROUBLE

Ed here: Here's another Stephen Marlowe piece from a few years ago. This time he talks about collaborating with Richard Prather on DOUBLE IN TROUBLE.

Stephen Marlowe on collaborating with Richard Prather

Almost exacty fifty years ago, Richard S. Prather and I decided--with a nudge from our mutual agent--to write a novel pitting our two private eyes, Shell Scott and Chet Drum, against each other until they could realize, almost too late, that they both were working the good side of the street in a complex case with nationwide implications. This was the novel that would become DOUBLE IN TROUBLE, published by Gold Medal in 1959 at just short of double the length of a standard Gold Medal book.

There were circumstances that made the first draft, when we finished it, half again as long as that.

For one thing, until then, we had never met. We developed the plot as we went along, mostly by long-distance phone call. There were telegrams too, including one that went something like "Body of Hartsell Committee lawyer found in Rock Creek Park" that must have startled the Western Union operator.

For another, our work habits couldn't have been more different. Dick liked to plan carefully as he went along, writing a detailed outline, chapter by chapter, from which he developed a first narrative take and then an expanded one that would become his first draft. I liked to work by instinct, writing as the ideas came, and outlining a chapter only when I'd finished drafting it. I'd got to calling this a post-outline, and it would prepare me for subsequent chapters, and it is still the way I write.

Well, we finished that first draft by writing alternate chapters, as those of you who read the book may remember, Scott narrating chapter 1, Drum chapter 2, and so on--to a total of more than eight hundred pages--enough for three Gold Medal books. Drastic measures had to be taken.

Ever been out to the Coast? Dick asked me by phone. Nope, I hadn't. Well, said Dick, come on out and we'll help each other cut. How? I said. There was a silence. Maybe, I suggested half-heartedly, I cut your deathless prose and you cut mine. Maybe, Dick said. Come on out.

So a couple of days later I flew out of Idlewild for LA, and was met at the airport by Dick Prather and his wife, Tina, in a snazzy pale blue Caddy.

"It's yours while you're here," Tina said.

"Well, you see, we'll work together at the house but we figured you'd like some privacy, so we booked you a room at a seaside motel."

"So the car is all yours while you're here," Dick explained.

The Prathers were like that--private people but the best hosts I'd ever known.

Their house was a modernistic, mostly glass cube high on a cliff overlooking Laguna Beach.

We couldn't wait. We set right to work in the brilliant Southern California sunshine. It went like this:

"How about this paragraph in chapter two, where Drum says--well, take a look. Not exactly deathless prose, is it?"

Dick asked. "And it doesn't really advance the plot, does it?"

I bristled. "What about here on the very first page, where Scott says..." I countered.

Dick pointed out something else that needed cutting in chapter 2; I did the same in chapter 1.

Tina suggested, "Why don't we have a drink?"

We had gin-and-tonics on the terrace. I watched a hummingbird hover over an exotic tropical flower. "Nice view," I offered. I had never seen a hummingbird hover before.

"We can go for a drive in the hills later," Dick suggested. "Pretty nice country up there."

We both smiled.

"Boys," Tina said. "You have a book to cut."

Either Dick or I sighed instead of saying, "Sure, and he wants to cut my part to ribbons."

It was as if Tina heard the words. "I have an idea," she said. "But maybe you won't go for it."

"What's that?" either Dick or I, or maybe both in unison, said doubtfully.

Tina smiled disarmingly. She was very pretty. "I'll sort of be the referee," she said.

And we finished our drinks. And the hummingbird veered off with its nectar. And we went to work.

By dusk we'd done a first pass through the first two chapters, cutting excess verbiage. In a tie--at first they were almost always ties--Tina supplied the deciding vote. And pretty soon it became clear that she was as objective as could be. We had to cut a couple of hundred pages, and it didn't matter to Tina whether they were her husband's or mine. We all wanted the same thing, after all.

It took two weeks, with an occasional half day off for a drive or walk, an occasional night on the town. The Prathers were a team, their love for each other obvious, their ability to work together and bring a third person into that work remarkable. I was going through a bad patch at the time with my first wife, and I envied them. Looking back on it from this remove, I think they became the template for my second marriage.

The Prathers were unassuming and always gracious. Even our political differences--they were conservative, I liberal--didn't seem to matter.

And Dick, as we made our way chapter by chapter through the revision, tried to give too much of the credit for the detection to Chet Drum. So I began to give more of it to Shell Scott. Turned out a dead heat. We were friends.

The book? DOUBLE IN TROUBLE went through several printings and made an appearance on the NYTimes softcover best-seller list.

Tina Prather died a couple of years ago, Dick earlier this month. Working with them meant a lot to me in more ways than one, and I'll never forget them.

--Stephen Marlowe

Big setback for Barnes & Noble

Ed here: I'm sure this kind of news seems like too much inside baseball to some of you but if the Riggios lose control over the direction of B&N we're likely to see some heavy duty changes in the company. From The New York Times.

September 20, 2010
Bookseller Has Setback in Struggle Over Board

Barnes & Noble sustained a setback on Monday when a powerful proxy advisory company endorsed directors proposed by the billionaire investor Ronald W. Burkle over the company’s own slate, which included its chairman, Leonard S. Riggio.

The endorsement by Institutional Shareholder Services could be crucial, coming just a week before the annual shareholder meeting on Sept. 28. Some large institutional investors are required to vote their shares in accordance with I.S.S.’s recommendations.

Barnes & Noble has been battling Mr. Burkle for nearly a year since his investment firm, Yucaipa, began rapidly accumulating the company’s shares. Barnes & Noble instituted a poison-pill plan intended to limit the size of Mr. Burkle’s holding; the plan was upheld by a Delaware Court of Chancery judge last month.

But Mr. Burkle appears to have won the latest round. In its 25-page report, Institutional Shareholder Services supported Mr. Burkle’s contention that Barnes & Noble’s corporate governance needed to be improved.

for the rest go here:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stephen Marlowe remembers Evan Hunter

Ed here: I want to run a few older pieces for newer readers. I've always liked this one especially. Stephen Marlowe's autobiography will be out in 2011.

Stephen Marlowe remembers Evan Hunter

In the early 1950s, when we first met, he was still Sal Lombino and I was still Milt Lesser. Sal, a Navy veteran and sometime schoolteacher, was working the phones for a wholesaler of lobsters in New York, taking orders from restaurants, and I was working as chief editor–at the grand old age of 23–of a large literary agency, having been hired straight out of college because the agent, Scott Meredith, didn't like to advance editors through the ranks and dreaded resorting to a classified ad in the New York Times, knowing it would result in a couple hundred wannabes storming his office. I'd got the job on a tip from sci-fi writer Damon Knight the day before Meredith would have placed his ad, and I worked a year or so before deciding to give up the munificent salary of 40 bucks a week (raise to 50, if I stayed!) to freelance full-time–this on the basis of a couple of sci-fi stories I'd sold to Howard Browne at Amazing Stories.

I well knew the problem of those wannabes storming the gates, because interviewing for staff positions had become one of my jobs at the Meredith office. How to winnow the applicants? Well, I wrote a short story called "Rattlesnake Cave," intentionally the worst short story ever written, though on the surface it seemed plausible. Applicants for the job, before being interviewed, wrote a critique of the story, and it swiftly cut the number from hundreds to a handful.

The wholesale lobster salesman, Sal Lombino, showed an immediate and instinctive grasp of all I'd intentionally done wrong in the story–and maybe a few things I hadn't realized I'd done wrong. He wryly observed that this story hadn't come in over the transom, as I'd claimed, but had been concocted for the purpose, and dared me to deny it. I didn't. Milt Lesser became the freelance writer and Sal Lombino the editor who wrote nights.

The Meredith office in those years was a spawning ground for writers, some of whom stayed on for years, some hardly long enough to hang their hats. Two who come immediately to mind are Lester del Rey and Don Westlake, but there are others.
By the mid-1950s, after a couple of years that Sal spent at the agency and I in the army, we were both freelancing. Sal/Evan lived in Hicksville, NY, with his wife Anita and their three children, and I a few miles away in Syosset with my wife Leigh and our two daughters. We had drinks and dinner every month or so, until it became apparent that Leigh and Anita disliked each other. Both were New Yorkers born and bred, both were brash and bright. Possibly they saw in each other aspects of themselves that less than pleased them.

Sal by then had written a couple of suspense novels and a short story that in 1954 became his groundbreaking first straight novel The Blackboard Jungle. Earlier, when Popular Library was about to publish the first suspense novel, Sal had put the pen name Evan Hunter on it. Nice name, I said. He smiled, waiting for me to ask how he'd come up with it. I asked. "Simple," he said. "I went to Evander Childs High School and Hunter College." He would sometimes later deny the origin of the name, but that was what he told me then.

And so a writer with a brand-new name was born, and he made it his legal name (half a dozen years before I changed mine). He quickly needed another one, as Ed McBain split off for the 87th Precinct.

Evan was the easiest writer I ever knew. By this I mean that his stuff just flowed, as they say, swift as a mountain stream, letter perfect, as fast as he could type. And he avoided revisions like the plague. I wrote that way too, when I was young. Evan wrote that way the rest of his life, and the quality of his work never diminished.

One morning out of the blue he phoned me to ask for a short-short story to fill a hole in Ed McBain's Mystery Magazine, which he was editing. When did he need it? That afternoon. We batted it around for a while, and I sat down and wrote "Drumbeat" in about an hour, took the train to New York, and gave it to him. We both smiled. In a way I'd accepted his challenge, as he'd accepted the challenge of "Rattlesnake Cave." "Drumbeat" has been anthologized more times than I can count. Evan was contagious that way.

But our friendship got hung up for a time on the rock of geography and our wives' mutual dislike. I began to wander the world in search of background material for my globe-trotting private eye, Chet Drum. Evan, meanwhile, was a quintessential New Yorker. How he loved that town–and showed it in every page of his nameless 87th Precinct city. The geography may have been turned on its side so that Isola was a sort of horizontal Manhattan, but the entire city itself was straight-up New York, though in the 87th Precinct's fifty novels he never called it anything but this city.

When I next saw Evan, in the 1980s, it was not in New York. After some phone tag, we caught up with each other in London, where I was lunching at the Groucho Club with my second wife, Ann, and Liz Calder of Jonathan Cape to celebrate the publication in the UK of my novel The Memoirs of Christopher Columbus, and Evan was at Claridge's with his second wife, Mary Vann. I had reason to thank Evan. A couple of years earlier, I'd begun to write Columbus but felt very insecure about such an offbeat novel. I wrote to Evan and he urged me on. After I finished it, four good U.S. agents said its anachonistic tone made it unsalable. It was many months–by which time Ann and I were in Spain with scarcely a peseta–before a Brit agent saw it, loved it, and sold it at auction. Other countries followed, including the USA, with advances of the sort I'd never seen before. Evan didn't know any of this until I wrote him a long letter that seemed to be saying, "You and your advice, thanks for nothing, pal"–until I divulged the good news at the end. The letter didn't fool Evan. Hey, he wrote back, I write mysteries too and I know how to foreshadow happy endings, but I didn't peek at the ending, I read your letter in the order you wrote it.
In London we had lunch, and I met Mary Vann for the first time. She was very much the Suth-ren belle, and my wife Ann had been born in a village on Canada's Gaspe Peninsula, literally within sight of spouting whales. Both had done some writing–Ann had published a trio of romantic suspense novels, Mary Vann a literary novel. As they felt each other out, a look passed between Evan and me, as if to say, Is it happening again?

Evan and I stayed in touch, and back in Connecticut for a spell, where the Hunters owned a splendid house in Norwalk and the Marlowes rented one in Madison, we got together periodically. Evan and I talked nostalgically about old times and with great optimism about what we still planned to do. (Like most writers, we both lived as much in the future and the past as in the present.) Our wives remained as studiedly sweet to each other as only women who disdain each other can.
Ann and I wandered overseas again, and came back to find that Evan and Mary Vann had split, and Evan had found the delightful Dragica (called Dina early on, until Evan decided people could handle Dragica's real name)–and Ann and Dragica liked each other!

In all the years I knew him–half a century and more, on and off–Evan's writing never changed, except to get better. "One and only," indeed. Long friendship aside, he was the sharpest, clearest, and best suspense writer I ever knew.
posted by Gormania at 5:42 AM
posted by Ed Gorman @ 7:52 AM 1 comments

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Marlon Brando In Rebel Without A Cause? TV Dinners?

Ed here: Today Movietone published a list of prominent actors' screen tests. Scroll down to find Brando's audition for Rebel Without A Cause. I've never seen or heard Brando like this. Very young, not so confident. Some of the other tests are interesting, too.

My buddy Harry Shannon was nice enough to remind me of one of the questionable joys of boyhood.

From Parade magazine

Heat, Tray, Love
by Connie Schultz

Imagine my horror when one of my friends told me recently that she had no childhood memory of eating TV dinners.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “You mean you never had thinly sliced pieces of turkey smothered in gravy resting on two scoops of cornbread dressing, with baked apples for dessert?”

“Um, noooo,” she said slowly, raising a cautious eyebrow.

for the rest go here:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Stranglehold Reviews

Ed here: I'll be upfront with you here. I wrote my friends James Reasoner and Bill Crider and asked them how much they'd want to give me good reviews for my novel Stranglehold which will be out mid-October. Before I always paid them $1000 each. But this time they demanded $14,563.27 and in American dollars only. Be that as it may I want to thank them both for being such good buddies and for posting these reviews.

Stranglehold - Ed Gorman by James Reasoner

A couple of years ago I was in real reading funk, and the book that snapped me out of it was Ed Gorman’s SLEEPING DOGS, his first mystery novel featuring political consultant Dev Conrad. I’ve just read the second book in the series, STRANGLEHOLD, and even though I’ve been on a run of good books lately and didn’t need a funk-breaker, this one is just as much fun as Dev’s debut.

Maybe “fun” isn’t the right word to describe it, though. There are some moments of sly humor, of course, but what really comes through is the sense of melancholy and compassion that you find in all of Ed’s books. In this case, Dev’s firm is running the re-election campaign for an Illinois congresswoman, and when she starts disappearing at odd times and seems bothered by something, he’s called in by his associates to find out what’s wrong. A former army intelligence officer, Dev functions a lot like a private investigator in these books, while at the same time having to deal with the frustrations of a political campaign.

The congresswoman has a convoluted family history and secrets of her own, and when one of the campaign consultants for her rival winds up being murdered, she’s not a suspect herself, but it seems likely that the crime will be blamed on one of her relatives. With the police convinced they know who the killer is, Dev has to launch his own investigation and find the real murderer in order to have any chance of salvaging the congresswoman’s campaign. Naturally, Gorman piles on several more twists, including another murder, before Dev straightens everything out and discovers the truth.

While the mystery angle is top-notch, as usual, the real appeal of this book, as was the case with the first one, is Dev Conrad himself. Cynical, pragmatic, a little bitter, yet clinging to the hope that there really is some goodness still to be found in the world, he’s a great narrator and definitely the sort of guy you want to have on your side if you’re in trouble, whether it has anything to do with politics or not.


Stranglehold by Bill Crider

Stranglehold -- Ed Gorman

A couple of years ago, I reviewed Ed Gorman's Sleeping Dogs, a crime novel about political consultant Dev Conrad. I commented at the beginning of the review that I seemed to be reviewing the same books as James Reasoner at about the same time and that I often seemed to feel the same way about the books. Well, here we go again.

This time Dev's firm is working for Natalie Byrnes on the campaign of Susan Cooper, Natalie's stepdaughter. Susan's running for reelection to congress, and she's been behaving strangely. Dev's associates call him for help, and when he starts looking into things, he discovers a tangled mess of family secrets that are likely to hurt his client's chances. This could happen to any consultant, I guess, but then people start getting murdered. Something like that can really liven up a campaign.

Stranglehold is cynical about politics and the political process, and it's full of pathetic characters. But it's also very funny at times. Dev's a decent guy who's trying to make a living while working with people who are, shall we say, a bit less than decent. His observations have a lot of bite, and the depressing thing is that they're probably accurate. This isn't the kind of book that's going to make you feel any better about the campaigns that are going on all around us right now, but it's bracing entertainment just the same. Gorman's writing is, as usual, clear, concise, and trenchant. Don't miss this one.
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Friday, September 17, 2010

Interview with Otto Penzler in Library Journal

Ed here: Very interesting interview with Otto Penzler from Library Journal.

Q&A: Otto Penzler on The Best American Noir of the Century
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By Mike Rogers Sep 16, 2010

Otto Penzler is a household name to mystery lovers. Editor, publisher, bookshop owner, and mystery aficionado extraordinaire, he is the driving force behind two new volumes, The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories, a collection of vintage hard-boiled mysteries, and The Best American Noir of the Century, coedited with James Ellroy. Most readers mistakenly interchange hard-boiled with noir, but Penzler contends they're different animals. LJ's Mike Rogers, a hard-boiled and noir man himself, probed Penzler about what really defines noir and more. [See also "Otto Penzler's Future Masters of Noir."—Ed.]

What's your definition of noir?

Like art, love, and pornography, noir is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. For the purposes of the book and my longtime working understanding and definition of it, noir stories are bleak, existential, alienated, pessimistic tales about losers-people who are so morally challenged that they cannot help but bring about their own ruin.

The French may have coined it, but is noir fiction really an American thing?

I think the Germans invented film noir as a visual style. The French gave it a name. But the Americans created the fiction, mostly finding its roots in the despair and casual or desperate criminality of the lower classes during the Great Depression.

for the rest go here:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Writer Matthew Bradley - Kevin McCarthy R.I.P.

Snatch Me If You Can by Matthew Bradley

September 13, 2010 by bradleyonfilm

I was saddened to learn this morning that Kevin McCarthy had gone to that great Green Room in the sky—saddened but not shocked since he was, after all, 96 and had enjoyed, by any standard, what could conservatively be called a good run. His screen career stretched over more than sixty years, and got an early boost with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination as Biff in Death of a Salesman (1951), which by a bizarre coincidence I just saw on stage with Christopher Lloyd. He also had the honor of starring in a genuine Classic of the Cinema, Don Siegel’s original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), which led to my becoming acquainted with Kevin a few years ago.

Prior to that, my friend Gilbert Colon and I had been invited to contribute to “They’re Here…”: Invasion of the Body Snatchers: A Tribute, edited by McCarthy and the redoubtable Ed Gorman, and published by Berkley Boulevard Books in 1999. I interviewed W.D. Richter, screenwriter of the 1978 version; Gil tackled Abel Ferrara, the director of Body Snatchers (1993); and Kevin was represented with a lengthy interview by my sometime mentor, John McCarty. When Ed planned a new and somewhat different version of the book, released by Stark House Press as Invasion of the Body Snatchers: A Tribute in 2006, I was again asked to contribute, and therein lies the tale.

Ed retained our Richter and Ferrara pieces, but wanted a new interview with Kevin, which was kinda cool because it meant that between us, Gil and I would speak with participants in all three versions made at that time (and if you’re listening, Nicole Kidman, I’m ready for our one-on-one to talk about 2007’s The Invasion). Naturally, I didn’t want to rehash what John had done in the first edition, so I tried to come up with a new angle. With Gil as my able research assistant, I interviewed Kevin regarding what we called his “second career as a genre icon,” particularly his work with Joe Dante in the likes of Piranha (1978), The Howling (1981), and InnerSpace (1987).

Of course, McCarthy figures in Richard Matheson on Screen for his role as Uncle Walt in “It’s a Good Life,” Dante’s segment of Twilight Zone—The Movie (1983), and he made another notable genre appearance in the original Zone episode “Long Live Walter Jameson.” No less impressive, his mainstream credits include John Huston’s The Misfits (1961), written as a vehicle for spouse Marilyn Monroe by Salesman playwright Arthur Miller, and Robert Altman’s Buffalo Bill and the Indians (1976). But it is Dr. Miles J. Bennell in Body Snatchers, a role that he repeated in a cameo for Philip Kaufman’s 1978 version, for which Kevin will inevitably be best remembered.

Having known him, I can attest to the fact that there never was a man less like a pod person than Kevin, full of energy and enthusiasm well into his nineties, and when we did the interview it was not so much a question of interrogating him as simply of unleashing him to tell his anecdotes of Montgomery Clift and Stanley Kubrick. The hardest thing was to get him to stop tinkering with it and approve it for publication, so I finally just gave him the transcript and let him run with it. Siegel’s preferred title for Body Snatchers was Sleep No More, since the pods took people over while they were sleeping, but now, at last, Dr. Bennell can rest in peace; we’ll miss you, Kevin.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mystery Scene Fall issue -

Fall Issue #116
Kathy Reichs, William Kent Krueger, Mystery Cookbooks, Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Sister
and much more!

Forthcoming Fall Issue

Hi everyone,

We've got a terrific Fall Issue in the works. Kathy Reichs, whose forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan stars in both print and TV, has taken multi-tasking to unprecedented levels. She's a fascinating person and a great interview. We also talk to William Kent Krueger, long known as a "writer's writer," but now a general favorite. Sherlock Holmes gets his comeuppance from a source close to home in Nancy Springer's terrific Enola Holmes YA novels and we review hundreds of the season's best books.

When Brian and I took over Mystery Scene in Fall 2002, our first issue coincided with the one-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks. In remembrance, that first issue offered essays from several crime writers. SJ Rozan's contribution, "My New York," is one of the finest pieces to ever appear in Mystery Scene and one we're proud to offer now at the MS Website.

Look for more contests and giveaways in this newsletter, at our website and in the magazine!

Monday, September 13, 2010

So long, old friend--Kevin McCarthy

There are a number of Kevin McCarthy obituaries on the net today the best being the NY Times one which you can find here.

I've written before about our friendship with Kevin and I do mean "our." He was much taken with Carol and they had long talks when I was gone. Kevin was an old school gentleman and a very kind man. In the sixteen or seventeen years of our friendship I only heard him say something unkind about one person, a famous agent he'd encountered during the war. He knew everybody and everything. He'd absorbed a world of knowledge and wisdom in his seventy year acting career.

As he always said, he loved to work. When he was in his late eighties he had a recurring role on a CBS series that shot in Chicago. One day he flew out to see us. He had a lot more energy than I did.

Late in the game he got interested in the business of going to conventions to sign autographed photographs. He was a wry but never condescending observer of all that went on there. I think that as his health began to fail the conventions gave him a physical and spiritual boost. He was after all the star of the science fiction picture voted again and again one of the ten best of all time and was treated accordingly.

I last talked to him maybe a month and a half ago. He was confused part of the time and I could tell it was difficult for him to speak. When he laughed he was the old Kevin. When I described our conversation to Carol she was sad and said maybe we'd never hear from him again. As we didn't.

So long, old friend. Your made our lives singularly better with your charm, your wit and your very agreeable take on life and all its foibles.


Kevin and I did a book about his life and Invasion of The Body Snatchers. I can't be impartial but I will say that I'm proud of this book and and proud of the reviews we got. As I said a fair amount of the book is Kevin being interviewed about his career--his early days with Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift starting the early version of The Actors' Studio are especially interesting--and then many well-known writers looking at Invasion of The Body Snatchers from various angles. There's even a a sort of grudge match here between producer and director of a later version of the movie. You can order it from Stark House.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers: A Tribute
Edited by Kevin McCarthy & Ed Gorman
1-933586-07-9 $17.95
Features essays by Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Jon L. Breen, Tom Piccirilli & more, plus interviews with Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Philip Kaufman, Robert H. Solo, Abel Ferrara, Stuart Gordon and W. D. Richter. Completely revised from the original 1999 edition and includes many photos from the first two films.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Claude Chabrol, R.I.P.

Claude Chabrol

Les Biches (Chabrol's "comeback "film)

Ed here: At least part Chabrol's work was like Simenon's in that it deals with the intersection of crime and the middle class. A directior sent me a DVD of a Chabrol film and asked my opinion of it as something we might adapt and work on together. It was only available in French so I had to go with the sub-titles. I watched it several times and each time got something more from it. It was that rich. We did a treatment but couldn't get anybody interested in doing it. Not enough "bang bang" as one producer said. I felt the same way about Long Day's Journey Into Night. I even admire (and have seen several times) Chabrol's Madame Bovary which is the only film of the novel that makes any human sense to me. What a fine career.

Roger Robert posted a long fine piece about Charol today. Here are some pieces from it.

Roger Ebert's Journal
Claude Chabrol, RIP. The death of a master
By Roger Ebert on September 12, 2010 1:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Claude Chabrol, who died Sunday, Sept. 12 at 80, was a founder of the New Wave and a giant of French cinema. This interview, which took place during the 1970 New York Film Festival, shows him at midpoint in his life, just as he had emerged from a period of neglect and was making some of his best films.

Claude Chabrol's "This Man Must Die" is advertised as a thriller, but I found it more of a macabre study of human behavior. There's no doubt as to the villain's identity, and little doubt that he will die (although how he dies is left deliciously ambiguous).

Unlike previous masters of thrillers like Hitchcock, Chabrol goes for mood and tone more than for plot. You get the notion that his killings and revenges are choreographed for a terribly observant camera and an ear that hears the slightest change in human speech.

For this reason, particularly, it's necessary to put up a squawk and insisted on the film's original subtitled version; without the rhythm of the sound track, the movie simply doesn't work. New Yorkers saw the subtitles, of course, but Allied Artists apparently decided to let the rest of the country see a wretched botch of a dubbing job.

I wouldn't be surprised if the dubbed version flopped; "Z" ran for months in its exquisite subtitled version, but flopped in the neighborhoods because a lousy dubbed version was substituted.

Let's face it. Movies by director like Chabrol or Costa-Gavras are intended for the more literate section of the movie audience. You can dub a spaghetti Western and nobody cares, but mess with Chabrol and you're eliminating the very quality audiences respond to in his work.


But just then, when his career as a serious director seemed most in doubt, Chabrol arrived at the 1968 New York Film Festival with "Les Biches." It was an artful combination of lesbianism and very Chabrolian irony, with a nice bit of murder at the end, which forced you to re-think all the characters. And Chabrol, the first of the New Wave directors to be hailed and the first to be dismissed, was very clearly back in business again.

for the rest go here:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Matheson Uncollected Volume Two

In many ways Matheson Uncollected Volume Two (Gauntlet Publishing) is the most unique of all Richard Matheson collections inasmuch as it contains two horror novels that Matheson decided to set aside plus his own screenplay for "What Dreams May Come" as well as ten short stories, two of which have particularly interesting histories.

"Now Die In It" was the short story that sparked the novel Ride The Nightmare, one of Matheson's tightest, sharpest suspense novels that was later turned into a very good full-hour Alfred Hitchcock TV episode.

The real discovery here is the western "The Hunt," which was forgotten by the author himself and unearthed by Gauntlet. Suspense, character, color and surprise all packed into one of those short stories that are flawless gems. Hopefully this will now start showing up in other Matheson collections.

There's a collaboration with his son Richard Christian, another previously unpublished short story and overall--and this is what makes this collection important--an overview of a a long and brilliant career. The book reveals the ingenuity and craft that has made Richard Matheson one of the truly great and enduring American storyteller. The handsome collection is a pleasure in every way.

Table of Contents are as follows:

Mountains of the Mind (an unfinished novel)

"Now Die In It" (a short story)

"Where There's a Will" (a short story written with Richard Christian Matheson)

"Getting Together" (a short story)

"Person to Person" (a short story)

"Portrait" and "Portrait Illustration"

"Haircut" (a short story)

"An Element Never Forgets" (a short story)

Red is the Color of Desire (an unfinished novel)

The House of the Dead (an unfinished novel)

"What Dreams May Come" (an unpublished screenplay)

Lettered Edition Only:

"The House of the Dead" (alternate version)

Numbered edition without slipcase is
$75 + p&h

Friday, September 10, 2010

New Books: Esperanza by Trish J MacGregor.

Names by Trish J MacGregor.

Ed asked me to write something about my novel Esperanza (TOR, September 14, 2010). So this piece about names seems appropriate.

For most of us, the name we’re given at birth is the one we use until death. Women sometimes change their last names when they marry, but retain their first names.

I was born Patricia, but have nearly always been called Trish. My last name at birth was Janeshutz, a name few could spell or pronounce. I wrote my first two novels as Trish Janeshutz and my editor finally called and asked if I would write my next book under a different name because book owners were confused. Was Jane my middle name? Shutz the last name? And how was that name pronounced, anyway?

By then, I was married. I had my bank account in one name, my driver’s license in another, and all my names on my will. Talk about an identity crisis. I asked my editor if I could write the next one as Trish MacGregor. No, that won’t work, he said. It’s best to use initials. Books by men are selling better right now than books by women - this was in the late 1980s. So I became TJ MacGregor.

In the early 1990s, when books by women began to sell as well as or better than books by men, I started a new series and thought, OK, now I can be female again. Well, yes, my editor said, but since this is a different series, choose a pseudonym. I became Alison Drake and wrote four novels under that name.

Along the way, I finally got to use my name – Trish MacGregor – for nonfiction books. In the late 1990s, I had an opportunity to do some ghostwriting and thought, why not? When you’ve had so many names, becoming someone else isn’t a big deal. So I became Jamie Cromwell – a book that was contracted, but never saw the light of day because Jamie disliked the way I wrote a sex scene. Then I became Victoria Gotti. Actually, my husband, Rob, and I both became Victoria for a while. That book was published.

In 2008, I started my thirty-second novel, on speculation, and it was completely different than anything else I’d written. My agent advised me to use a different name. The name I initially used on Esperanza was Megan King. Megan is my daughter’s name. She objected. King I liked because of Stephen King.

When the book sold to TOR, I chose my newest incarnation: Trish J MacGregor.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

NBC bringing 'The Dark Tower' to both TV and movie screens

Ed here: This is one of my favorite Stephen King projects. Really rich powerful storytelling. This could be amazing esp. if Ron Howard directs.

Los Angeles Times:
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Stephen King overload? NBC bringing 'The Dark Tower' to both TV and movie screens
September 9, 2010 | 11:06 am

In an unconventional move, Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" -- comprising seven novels, short stories and comic books -- will be made into both three films and a television series.

The unique deal will have Ron Howard directing the first film in the trilogy and the first season of the TV series, Universal Pictures and NBC Universal Television Entertainment announced Wednesday afternoon.

"The Dark Tower" centers on the sole survivor in a line of knightly gunslingers, Roland Deschain, who has been charged with finding a Dark Tower in order to save humanity.

The first film will be quickly followed by the television series, which will lead to the second film. The TV series will then resume until the third film is released. No word yet on when production is slated to begin on the first film.

For more on the project, visit our sister blog 24 Frames.

--Amy Kaufman

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Who knew? Jimi Hendrix & Philip Jose Farmer

Ed here: Thanks to my friend (and fine writer) Tracy Knight I was able to talk to Philip Jose Farmer and correspond with him. I'd been reading him since I was thirteen. He was and remains one of my heroes. And as a Jimi Hendrix fan I'm glad to see they connected intellectually if in no other way. This is from Galleycat..


Jimi Hendrix and His Science Fiction Bookshelf

By Jason Boog on Sep 08, 2010 02:23 PM

Most people don't remember anymore, but rock legend Jimi Hendrix was a science fiction book junkie. We caught up with one the guitarist's biographers to find out more about his science fiction bookshelf.

In the new book, Becoming Jimi Hendrix: From Southern Crossroads to Psychedelic London, the Untold Story of a Musical Genius, authors Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber take a deeper look at the guitarist.

According to Schreiber, Philip Jose Farmer's Night of Light had a big influence on Hendrix. "Night of Light was a science fiction book that in 1966 inspired Jimi to eventually write 'Purple Haze.' Farmer's story had to do with sunspots having a disorienting effect on a distant planet's population. Jimi wrote pages and pages of lyrics for 'Purple Haze,' originally an epic tale of the history of warfare for the control of the planet Neptune," he explained.

He added: "Producer Kim Fowley told us that when he met Jimi early in 1967 in the UK, Jimi had a trunk of books, all science fiction."

for the rest go here:

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A very nice piece about reading Vonnegut

Jacket Copy The Los Angeles Times
(scan down to find it)

The Reading Life: Rediscovering Vonnegut
September 7, 2010 | 7:00 am by David L. Ulin

The rental house on Cape Cod where I've spent part of nearly every August since I was 9 years old has an amazing library. It's one of the appeals of the place: the opportunity to dig around in all those books, familiar and unfamiliar at once. They're not my books -- and yet, after all this time, I know them so intimately that it almost feels as if they were.

I discovered Georges Simenon in this house, one rainy afternoon when I was in my teens, and also P. G. Wodehouse, read Steinbeck's "Burning Bright" and "The Moon Is Down," worked my way through Bellow and Dickens and the collected writings of JFK. Many of these authors I've come to gather on my own shelves, but there is something about the randomness, the serendipity, of what a friend calls the guest house library, a way of simultaneously getting outside of and coming closer to oneself.

This summer, I found myself drawn to Kurt Vonnegut's 1969 novel "Slaughterhouse-Five," which I hadn't read in at least 20 years. As a kid in this house, I nurtured a Vonnegut fixation, devouring his books in their uniform Dell mass-market paperback editions: "Cat's Cradle," "The Sirens of Titan," "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater," "Welcome to the Monkey House." I spent decades hunting for his out-of-print collection "Canary in a Cat House," and even made a few tentative adolescent efforts to track him down.

for the rest go here:

Monday, September 06, 2010

THE WALK by Lee Goldberg

I once said that I "bought" Lee Goldberg's novel THE WALK for Five Star Books. Not so. What I did was recommend that they buy it. It had to go through the usual process. The Tekno editor had to read it and approve it then the Thorndike editor had to read it and approve it. Everybody in both offices loved it. I mention this so you'll know that I did play a hand in the book's publication.

Then and even more now that I've read it again I feel it's a book far richer than most suspense novels. The main story here is that Los Angeles is struck with The Big One it's been dreading for a century. Imagine that most expensive disaster movie ever made and you'll have an idea of what the city looks like.

Marty Slack is the protagonist, a TV executive whose largest burden is being himself. As much as he resents and hates the grasping, greedy, treacherous people at the top of the TV ladder, he has to reluctantly admit to himself, in the course of his journey to reach home after being stranded miles away, that he is an awful lot like them. Slack is a character we get to know as well as we know people in the best of mainstream novels. Goldberg gives us a real live person here. And he doesn't cheat. We come to like Slack but there are moments when we see him as shallow, selfish and even pompous. But he's fascinating because he's so well detailed.

The journey home is a quest. There are scenes of people dying that make you look away from the page. There's nothing he can do for a woman trapped under rubble. He has to walk away and let her die. He has to go a ways before her screams for help fade. Then there are scenes as insane (and comic) as anything in Philip K. Dick as when he runs into "Kent Beaudine, King of Stock Footage." Then there is the traveling companion he doesn't want, a man named Buck who is trying to sell a him a TV series based on his own life. Buck you see is a combination of Rambo, John Wayne and just about every beer tavern psycho you've ever met. But curiously Buck, as we learn in the course of the novel, is also a teacher. There are many fine serio-comic scenes with him.

And then there's Marty Slack's marriage. This storyline is another example of what I mean about Goldberg pushing against genre boundries. This isn't just a cliche portrait of a marriage in trouble. This, and at some length, is the dissection of two people who've realized that their marriage may be beyond repair. The scenes of recrimination, rage, despair hurt to witness. Beth Slack is just as painfully real as Marty Slack.

Finally there is the storyline about historical LA and it's just as funny as the exchanges between Marty and Buck. LA is taken apart here with a scalpel, hitting the pretentions of a city that has always tried too hard to seem superior to New York.

This is a magnificent novel--by turns hilarious, scary, sad, witty and ultimately wise on its judgments about the way so many of us live these days. And it's one hell of a page-turner, too.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Publisher's Weekly Review of Noir 13

From Publisher's Weekly:

Noir 13
Ed Gorman, Perfect Crime (, $14.95 paper (252p) ISBN 978-0-9825157-5-4

Gorman (Stranglehold) showcases the darker side of his talents in this solid collection, a mix of previously published and original stories. Gorman is comfortable with futuristic settings ("The Baby Store," in which a couple deals with the loss of a child and the prospect of having another) as well as fantasy ("A Little Something to Believe In," in which a changeling seeks the secret to paradise), but he's at his best in a crime story like "Flying Solo," in which two elderly Midwestern men facing a death sentence (cancer) embark on a new career of crime in the service of protecting others. In "The Long Way Back," successful brother Giff visits struggling brother Michael in their Cedar Rapids hometown and bails Michael out when his weakness threatens his family's well-being. In the chilling "Killing Kate," a husband decides on a unique way to punish his wife for her infidelity. Three of the 13 tales are collaborations. (Oct.)

Coming October 25, 2010

250 pages $14.95
ISBN: 978-0-9825157-5-4

13 dark tales of murder and revenge

"The Baby Store" "Comeback" "A Little Something to Believe In" (with Larry Segriff)
"Flying Solo" "Aftermath" "Loose Ends" "Killing Kate" "Favor and the Princess"
"Heritage" (with Terence Butler) "The Long Way Back" "Rafferty's Comeback"
"That Day at Eagle's Point" "Such a Good Girl"

Saturday, September 04, 2010

This article was adapted from a Q&A Don Winslow conducted by screenwriter Shane Salerno on the Mulholland Books website.

From Jason PinterBestselling thriller writer
Posted: September 2, 2010 10:13 AM

Let's change direction a bit. As much as we all love controversy and feuds (real or imagined), sometimes the most interesting stories are the ones behind the books. With that in mind, below is an original post from New York Times bestselling author Don Winslow on his new novel Savages. Winslow is a brilliant stylist, unflinching in detail, and his books jab a fountain pen in the eye of anyone who can read one of his tomes and state with conviction that crime fiction isn't literature. So without further ado, Don Winslow.

'Fuck you' was the first sentence I wrote in SAVAGES, even before I had characters or a plot. I heard this book in my head. I saw it in front of my eyes in a certain way, and it felt very radical, especially for the crime genre, which has a whole set of rules, but I really felt like throwing elbows to create a little bit more space for myself to create a book the way I heard it, the way I saw it.

If I thought that a reader might experience a scene better as a film than as a novel, then I wrote it in screenplay form; if I thought that a scene would read better as poetry than as narrative prose, then I wrote it as poetry. Oddly enough, some of the most poetic scenes are the most violent scenes because my experience of having been in a couple of wars as an observer, was that you don't remember it as flowing narrative prose.

for the rest go here:

Friday, September 03, 2010

Dave Zeltserman on ebooks

This first appeared in Kevin's Corner, Kevin Tipple

From: Kevin's Corner

Guest Blog--E-Books and The Future by Dave Zeltserman
Please join me in welcome Dave to Kevin's Corner with his thoughts on E-books and the future of publishing.

There’s a lot of fear and loathing right now among authors and publishers regarding eBooks. Is this the beginning of the end for print books? The death of publishers? Will eBooks be a boon or the final stake in the heart for the midlist author? Nobody out there has a clue how all this is going to shake out. I certainly don’t, but I’m going to throw out some random thoughts on the subject and see where that leads. I’ll also be tossing out a few predictions. If I toss out enough, I’ll get lucky with one and will later proclaim myself the next Nostradamus!

First, eBooks are conceptually brilliant. Have one device replace 1000s of physical books, being able to buy books at the touch of a button, easily magnifying the text so those of us with declining eyesight can read without magnifying glasses. All this is great, but there are problems lurking in this. Right now the cost of eBook readers (Kindles, nooks, iPads, etc.) is between $139 and $829. This gets worse when you think that each reading member of the family will need a device. So the old paradigm was you buy a book and share it among family and friends; new paradigm, each family member has to buy an expensive eBook reader before they can share their books. This becomes even more problematic as eBook readers break, are lost or become obsolete. Think of it, you lose your eBook reader, you lose your library, at least until you replace it. You drop your eBook reader while on vacation, you lose your library and all the books you wanted to read. You might not even have to lose or break your eBook reader to lose your library. A glitch in their software might lose your library for you. Can’t happen? Hah! Happened to me and the tunes I bought for my iPod from Apple. And there’s little doubt that technology and the marketplace will march on and your eBook reader will at some point (probably a lot sooner than you ever imagined) become obsolete (think 8-track tapes, cassettes, etc.) and you will need to replace both your reader and library. Not going to happen? Ebook formats will always be supported by the next generation of eBook readers? If you believe that I’ve got some swamp land to sell you. Now some people are predicting that eBook reader prices are going to come down dramatically, which leads to my first two predictions.

(Prediction 1) Dedicated eBook readers, like Kindle and Nook, will try to lower their prices to gain marketshare, but they will go the way of the 8-track as consumers gravitate towards multifunction devices like iPads, which will not be lowering their prices substantially.

(Prediction 2) You think ATD is bad now, just wait until we have a generation of readers constantly interrupting their reading to check Facebook and email.

I can’t see the Kindle and Nook surviving, not when consumers can buy devices like an iPad which gives them also movies, games, and thousands of other applications, especially websurfing. Plus the iPad solves the biggest problem dedicated eReaders like the Kindle and Nook have now, mainly graphics, which children's picture books and textbooks need.

How are eBooks going to affect bookstores? I’ve read predictions that the tipping point is 25 percent, and bookstores can’t survive, and that this will happen by the end of 2011. Namely, once 25% of the book buyers have moved to eBooks, that will be the death of bookstores, and enough iPads will be given out as Christmas presents by 2011 that we’ll hit that 25% number. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but there’s no doubt that eBooks are putting pressure on bookstores. Amazon announced earlier that they’re selling more eBooks than hardcovers. For anyone who thought Amazon was stretching the truth, Harper just announced that for the first week of Laura Lippman’s latest book, they sold roughly 4800 ebooks compared to 4000 hardcovers. We’re in the midst of a recession, and this is not making it any easier for bookstores to survive. It would be a very sad cultural loss for bookstores to disappear, and as an author, it would be devastating. This leads to my next two predictions:

(Prediction 3) Large publishing is starting to diverge where they’ll be publishing in print only books for the large box stores, everything else will be digital only.

(Prediction 4) Small independent bookstores that can integrate themselves into the their neighborhoods will survive and flourish, and will sell mostly books from small independent presses.

Over the last year I saw a statistic that the large box stores (Walmart, Target, Costco, etc.) sell 60% of all books. I don’t know if this is still true, but it sure seems as if the large publishers are rapidly increasing their blockbuster only mentality. With the chain stores struggling and the increasing pressure caused by eBooks, I see them only printing the so-called blockbusters that they can continue to sell to these box stores, and all other books will be put out only as digital with maybe small POD runs. On the other hand, the independent publishers will increasingly publish the books that these large houses ignore, and these are the books that will excite readers sick of the same old formulaic blockbusters being constantly recycled by the large houses. These more exciting independent press books will help allow smart independent bookstores to flourish during these uncertain times. But what about publishers in general? On the one hand they must love the distribution costs associated with eBooks ($0) as opposed to the high distribution costs associated with print books. But here’s the thing, if readers get sick of these large blockbusters, or stop buying them from box stores and instead buy them as eBooks, then these large publishers are dead. There’s no reason in that scenario for bestselling authors to cut them in. They’ll do it themselves. Which leads me to my next predictions.

(Prediction 5) The large publishers who continue to follow their current blockbuster only mentality will die.

(Prediction 6) The smaller, independent publishes who keep publishing the books they love instead of chasing after blockbusters like the big six, will flourish as they form a symbiotic relationship with like-minded small independent bookstores.

So this begs the question why wouldn’t the authors being published by the smaller houses do it themselves like the big boys will? Simple, the support by these publishers and small bookstores are critical to us smaller known authors. You look at the bestselling crime authors today, and few of them would’ve made it without small bookstores handselling them for years and developing them a readership. That’s what has been happening to me over the last few years as bookseller who discover my books recommend them to their customers. This is going to be needed more than ever for writers in the eBook free-for-all that’s coming.

So these are some of my thoughts and predictions. While I think it’s clear things are going to be changing rapidly, I do see a glimmer of hope. Is #6 wishful thinking or an honest prediction? We’ll see.

Dave Zeltserman lives in the Boston area with his wife, Judy, and his short crime fiction has been published in many venues. His third novel, Small Crimes, was named by NPR as one of the 5 best crime and mystery novels of 2008. His novel, Pariah, was named by the Washington Post as one of the best books of 2009. Killer, the 3rd book in his 'man out of prison' noir trilogy was published in the US this May. His most recent book, The Caretaker of Lorne Field, is out now, which Publisher's Weekly in a starred review calls "a superb mix of humor and horror" and Newsdays calls "a delicisious horror-ish novel". His upcoming novel, Outsourced, is currently in development by Impact Pictures and Constantin Fil

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Forgotten Books: Pity Him Afterwards by Donald E. Westlake; HARRY SHANNON

Forgotten Books: Pity Him Afterward by Donald E. Westlake

Every once in awhile I get stoned just watching a literary master do his work. The last two nights I was flat out dazzled from beginning to end with Donald Westlake's 1964 novels PITY HIM AFTERWARD.

The story concerns an escaped madman who takes the identity of a man who is headed to a theater that does summer stock. While we see the story several times from the madman's point of view, we're never sure who he is. This is a fair clue mystery.

In quick succession, a young woman who works summer stock is found murdered in the house where the young, struggling actors stay. A part-time chief of police appears to find the killer.

Two points: writers owe their readers original takes on familiar tropes as often as possible. The madman here is no slobbering beast but rather a deranged and sometimes pitiful lunatic (the opening three thousand words are among the most accomplished Westlake pieces I've ever read). And the police chief Eric Songard is one of the most unique cops I've come across in mystery fiction. He works nine months of the year as a professor and summers as a police chief. The small town he oversees usually offers nothing worse than drunks and the occasional fight. Murder is another matter. Westake gives us a cop whose self-confidence is so bad all he can do is try and hasten the appearance of the regular cops from a nearby district. Meanwhile he has to pretend he knows what's going on. He could easily have gone to series. He's a great character.

As the story is told, we get a beleivable look at summer stock with its low pay, brutal hours, frequent rivalries. The payoff is that some of the actors will get their Equity card at the end of the nine week run and thereby become professional actors.

Then there is the telling. The craft is impeccable. Precise and concise and yet evocative because of the images Westlake constantly presents us. You also have to marvel at the rhythm of his language, watching how'll he'll shave an anticpated word here for a certain effect, add a word there for the sake of cadence. These sentences are CRAFTED.

There are so many great Westlake novels it's impossble to rank them. But given what he accomplished, I'd have to say this is one of his early best.

-------------------------HARRY SHANNON
Ed here: Since there's more and more crossover from dark suspense/horror to suspense and mystery, some of you have picked up on writers you've met on this blog. Harry Shannon is a must-read. His novels and stories are filled with suspense and fascinating takes on society (he's a psychotherapist). The touches of horror make them all the more modrant (though Harry has a wild sense of irony.)


Just to get it out of the way, and solely off the top of my head, Roald Dahl, John Collier, Ambrose Bierce, Saki, Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson. At least those are the names that come to mind when I think of my childhood in Nevada . If memory serves, I got most of those books of short fiction at the library. Used to go there and read for hours to get away from the mess at home.
Perhaps in part due to that mess, I've had a taste for the macabre since I can remember. I think there's something in those of us who struggle to write horror that appears one millisecond after having been deeply affected by a story (for example the gory foot at bottom of the stairs at the conclusion of Collier's deliciously creepy "Sredni Vashtar," or the children blithely chatting while their doomed parents scream at the end of Bradbury's "The Veldt"). That mysterious something that suddenly appears? The urge to write your own. Try your hand at creeping someone else out.
I've always thought of myself as more of a long distance runner than a sprinter, so "A Host of Shadows" is only my second collection in ten years. I'm beyond pleased that so many people appreciate these tales. And I hope at least a few of them are similarly moved, and promptly put my book to one side to try out their own idea. That may be the highest compliment of all, that we have inspired someone else. Believe me, I've thanked Richard Matheson and Ray for that on several occasions.
I'd thank Saki and Ambrose Bierce and Collier, but for some reason they never answer my damned emails.
-- Harry Shannon

Harry's books are now available at

Amazon Kindle Smashwords

A Host of Shadows
Harry's first collection of short stories
in almost 10 years
ETA August 2010
Dark Regions Press
Pre-Order Today

Includes the Bram Stoker Award Nominated short story, "The Night Nurse"

"Master craftsmanship." - CEMETERY DANCE

"Harry Shannon takes age-old themes and gives them a new and fearsome bite. Vividly realized, his writing is controlled, assured, and filled with the kind of spooky atmosphere that used to make you hide your head under the bedcovers on wind-wracked nights."

"A literary muscle rarely seen in the horror field these days; in fact, the last time I can remember reading novels that were both this action-packed and this smart was in the heyday of Robert McCammon. Shannon is a writer of incredible energy who never blinks his eye for detail."

"Shannon writes with an assured level of control, pace and experience that sings off the page. In fact his writing knocked me off my feet ... and I'm still reeling."

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Advance Booklist Review of Stranglehold

Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof

Gorman, Ed (Author) Oct 2010. 240 p. Minotaur/Thomas Dunne, hardcover, $24.99. (9780312532987).

Dev Conrad, a political consultant, is curious why his client, a congresswoman seeking reelection, is behaving oddly and disappearing for hours at a time. Following the woman to a motel, he observes her entering a room and then leaving it again, 10 minutes later. When Dev checks out the room and finds (literally) a bloody mess, he starts to wonder just what his client is hiding. This is a neat little political mystery with a likable protagonist—Dev Conrad, who also starred in Gorman’s Sleeping Dogs (2008), evokes some of Ross Thomas’ savvy political fixers—and a nicely rounded cast of supporting characters. The congresswoman, Susan Cooper, is very well drawn, as is her domineering stepmother, Natalie Dowd McConnell Cooper Byrnes, whose antics distract us from some of the subtle things the author is doing beneath the surface of the story. (Expect some surprises.) Gorman is an experienced and accomplished storyteller, and genre fans will not want to miss his latest.
— David Pitt