Saturday, December 31, 2011

Great Duane Swierczynski take on Heist novels from Alan Guthrie's NOIR ORIGINALS


by Duane Swierczynski

Consult this survey of sure-fire bank robbery novels and curl up with a good 211.

"Parker is very popular in prison," wrote 1960s-era bank robber Al Nussbaum. "Despite the fact that almost everyone can find some nit to pick with the criminal methods he describes, the strength of the Parker character overshadows any small flaws." Nussbaum was referring to the hardboiled crime series by Richard Stark (a pseudonym of mystery writer Donald Westlake) featuring a professional heister named Parker—no first name, thankyouverymuch. The Parker novels are crisp, cold, suspenseful—and apparently, inspirational. "I’ve not only read them," wrote Nussbaum, "I’ve even tried to live a couple of them."

Of course, Nussbaum wasn’t your average crime buff—he had a vested interest in the topic. But what might modern-day Nussbaums be reading in the slammer these days?

Blood Money (1927) by Dashiell Hammett. The hero of this short novel—and many other short stories, first published in Black Mask magazine during the 1920s—is a balding, middle aged operative who works for the Continental Detective Agency (think: Pinkerton Agency). In Blood Money—which is actually two related novellas, "The Big Knockover" and "$106,000 Blood Money"—the Continental Op tangles with a criminal mastermind named Popadopalous who organizes an audacious double-bank heist perpetrated by no less than 150 (!) criminals. The $106,000 refers not to the take from the robbery, but rather the bounty on Popadopalous's head. Hammett's seminal hardboiled novel Red Harvest also features a bank robbery as a subplot.

Thieves Like Us (1937) by Edward Anderson. Three escaped convicts resume their careers as bank robbers in Oklahoma, but things become complicated when the youngest bandit, Bowie A. Bowers, falls in love with a cousin of one of the older robbers and decides to make a run at the straight life. Anderson got the idea for the novel after interviewing his cousin Roy Johnson, who was in the Huntsville State Penitentiary for armed robbery; the original title was They’re Thieves Like Us. The novel was later filmed as Nicholas Ray’s They Live By Night (1949) and Robert Altman’s Thieves Like Us (1974), starring Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall.

Hell Hath No Fury (1953) by Charles Williams. A drifter named Madox wanders into a small town and finds work at a used car lot, but is just biding his time until he can devise the perfect bank robbery by setting diversion fires all over town. But someone’s already set a fire for Madox: the used car lot owner’s wife. In 1990, Hell was turned into a Dennis Hopper-directed movie called The Hot Spot starring Don Johnson (as Madox), and Virginia Madsen (as the boss’s wife, Dolly Harshaw).

The Big Caper (1955) and Steal Big (1960) by Lionel White. White was the king of pulp caper novels—his racetrack robbery thriller, Clean Break, was the basis for Stanley Kubrick's early film noir The Killing. In The Big Caper, White details a complex bank heist, complete with a safecracker, an arsonist, a pair of tough guys, and a phony husband and wife whose job it is to case the bank. But what happens when that couple decides they'd rather live as man and wife for real than pull the bank job? White described another bank heist gone south five years later in Steal Big, where a hardened con named Donovan puts together what he considers the ultimate bank robbing gang—but all of them turn out to be the ultimate collection of sociopathic losers. White has some fun with in-jokes; one Manhattan black market gun dealer operates under the front, "Kubric Novelty Company."

The Getaway (1958) by Jim Thompson. A bank heist perpetrated by a pair of married ex-cons—Doc and Carol McCoy—goes sour, and suddenly a clean getaway is the only thing that matters. Of course, this is a Jim Thompson novel, and in Thompson’s sordid little corner of the universe, nothing is clean or easy. Still, Doc McCoy has a few clever heist techniques up his sleeve. Explains one thug named Rudy early in the novel: "First, [Doc] looks for a bank that ain’t a member of the Federal Reserve System."

"Oh. Oh, I see," says another criminal. "The Feds don’t come in on the case, right, Rudy?"

"Right," says Rudy. "So anyway, he checks that angle, and then he checks on interest rates. If a bank’s paying little or nothing on savings, y’see, it means they got a lot more dough than they can loan out. So that tips Doc off on the most likely prospects, and all he has to do then is check their statements of condition—you’ve seen them printed in the newspapers, haven’t you?"

for the rest of this vey groovy (that's right--I said groovy) article go here


Friday, December 30, 2011

Start the New Year BLINDSIDE!

"A fascinating glimpse inside a bruising election campaign replete with ambitious staff (and) odious candidates." Booklist


"In such an amoral world, nothing, it seems, can save the Ward campaign—unless of course Dev discovers that his opponent has fallen victim to the same blackmailer too. Perfect.

Another caustic indictment of electoral politics at its most American. No wonder it’s hard to muster much moral outrage when Dev, efficient as ever, identifies the blackmailer and the killer, who act just like everyone else."

Publisher's Weekly:

"Shamus Award–winner Gorman’s absorbing third mystery...(analyzes) the good and bad--mostly bad--in current political campaigns...cynical, sharp witted."


"In the third Dev Conrad mystery, veteran Shamus Award winner Gorman does what he does best. His characters are never less than fully realized, his dialogue crackles, and the plot is clever and credible. Using his past experience as a political speechwriter, Gorman provides a fascinating glimpse inside a bruising election campaign replete with ambitious staff, odious candidates, and idealistic volunteers.

Praise for Dev Conrad STRANGLEHOLD

"The most frightening revelations in `Stranglehold' may be the unseemly truths it seems to tell about the status quo of our electoral process."

Severn House
Price: $19.11 from Amazon

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Forgotten Books: Black Friday by David Goodis

"In fact, the craftsmanship (David Goodis) mastered in all those years of turning out fiction for the pulps was sometimes all that salvaged his books from a morass of aberrant psychology and obsession." --James Sallis

Black Friday is proof absolute of Sallis' comment. It's a crime novel only by default. Here we have the typical Goodis loser loner protagonist, this time named Hart who is on the run from a murder charge. Through a cosmic coincidence he is taken in by a murderous big time burglar named Charley. And his gang.

The story arc deals with a pending huge burglary of fine art and jewelry that Hart will be allowed to join in if he can prove to Charley that he is a "professional"--i.e. a man who never kills for passion but only for money. Loopy at this measure is Goodis makes it go.

But please don't confuse this heist with the book's real import. I remember reading a lot of August Strindberg in my college days as a wanna-be playwright. Goodis has pulled a Strindberg. What a feckless loveless hopeless cast of oddballs and freaks he offers us.

The gang doesn't like Hart so we have scenes of frequent intimidation except for the gangster who starts to like Hart because Hart finds the man's artistic skills impressive (or claims he does), Then there's Freida the obese sad crazed dangerous vamp of Goodisworld. Repellent as he finds her he has to sleep with her because she needs the kind of sex her man Charley can't deliver. He's impotent most of the time. Hart is using her--he literally grimaces when he touches her--but she falls in love with him and Charley figures it out. Charley is not happy.

Then there's Myrna the forlorn faded woman whose brother Paul Hart killed because he seemingly had no choice. She despises Hart at first but eventually they come together. The interplay of all these relationships accounts for seventy-five, maybe eighty per cent of the novel. I couldn't stop flipping the pages though several times I wanted to. This is the only book I've ever read that makes Orwell's Down and Out In Paris and London read like a B'way musical. It's past grim. It's a violent ward of wanton treachery and despair.

It's as close to Grand Guignol as crime fiction gets.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


by Gary Lovisi

One of the great things about publishing Paperback Parade, my magazine about collectable paperbacks and paperback publishing is all the wonderful articles and interviews it contains with so many artists and authors. My writers and I do a lot of research to find vintage era artists and authors, but sometimes they find me. Like when I received an email from Patti Boeckman, the wife of legendry pulp writer and jazz musician Charles Boeckman, Jr., who wrote under the name Charles Beckman, Jr.

When Patti asked me in her email if I knew who her husband was, I just blushed with joy and told her -- do I! Of course I recognized his name! In fact, I had many of his stories and books in my collection. From then on I had many back and forth emails with Charles, now 92. I eventually interveiwed him for Paperback Parade #77 and we became fast friends. He's a fine geltleman, a master jazz muscian for over 6 decades and a vintage era pulpster who has been writing for over half a century. The issue also featured rare excerpts from letters to him from his pulp editors of the 1940s, all about him and his work that open a fascinating window into the pulp writing business of that era. Charles wrote westerns for the 1940s pulps, crime stories for the 1950s digest mags and one early novel from 1953, Honky-Tonk Girl, which I feel is a minor hard crime and noir masterpiece, a classic crime novel.

Honky-Tonk Girl tells the tough story of Jazz musician Johnny Nickles and the members of his band adrift in a crooked town where every hand is played against him and his band. Beckman gives us great characters all awash in his authentic jazz background -- he is after all a longtime jazzman and knows all the riffs -- then he mixes in murder, mystery, and not one, but 3 femme fatales! It's a furiously churning noir soup. A very cool and fun novel to read. After I read it I immediately knew this was a book that was ripe for reprinting and deserved a new edition so it could be enjoyed by today's noir and crime fan audience.

Now, through the graces of Robert Reginald at Borgo Press / Wildside Books, $18.00 Honky-Tonk Girl has been reprinted in a new and attractive trade paperback. This is the first and only edition in over 60 years! This new Borgo Press edition features my introduction and the classic bad-gal sexy cover art from the original rare Falcon Books digest paperback edition. That original digest is rare today and sells for a hundred bucks or more, but this new Borgo edition really hits the mark and brings back to life a very underrated crime noir novel at a very affordable price.

Anyone interested in Honky-Tonk Girl can order a copy through Wildside Press. If you are interested in vintage and collectable paperbacks, I know you will get a kick out of my magazine Paperback Parade; a 4-issue subscription is just $35 in the US. You can find out more at my website


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Very Cool Books From The Pulps; Black Dog Books

Yes there actually were pulp writers other than Hammett, Chandler Gardner worth reading and studying. Tom Roberts Roberts at Black Dogs Books has heroically set about demonstrating that with his line of sturdy, attractive trade paperbacks that highlight some of the lesser known scribes who filled the pages of pulps major and minor.


Roger Torrey isn't somebody I knew much about. I'd read a few of his stories but hadn't been impressed enough to hunt more down. My loss. In this collection of hardboiled crime stories we find a storyteller whose tales go down as smoothly as a chocolate malt. He knew how to keep excitement at a high pitch but what keeps his tales memorable is a mordancy you don't find in a lot of routine pulp crime. There's a grittiness and sense of doom in these pieces that make you realize you're reading about real human beings instead of the usual stereotypes (though you'll find those here too).

The biographical piece by Ron Goulart is excellent and gives amply motive for the mordancy I mentioned. Torrey died whenhe was not quite forty. He never met a bottle he didn't like.


As readers of this blog know, Norbert Davis is my favorite pulp writer. Not only was he masterful at plot and pace his sly and wry take on humanity oddly enough gave his stories a reality his more melodramatic peers rarely equaled. As a fan of forty years, I've read as much of his crime fiction as I could find. I learned through various biographical studies that Davis had also written for western pulps but except for a few odd samples here and there I'd never read any.

Once again Tom Roberts and Black Dog Books have rescued a major writer's lesser known work and published it in an attractive durable edition complete with one of Bill Pronzini's unequaled portraits of a pulp writer.

What sets Davis' western fiction apart from standard fair is once again his take on humanity. I recall reading a long time ago a criticism of his work that claimed his stories suffered because of his "odd" characters. But that's what makes the stories work. All the familiar tropes of the western are here--though I think Davis brought not only action but a real western color to his stories; he'd done his homework--but also some of his usual insights into people who are just a wee bit different from standard pulp types.

As with the Torrey, I had a great time reading this collection and I want to tip my hat to Tim Roberts and all the fine salvage work Black Dog Books is doing.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dennis Hopper vs. Don Johnson

Here's a movie note from Wikipedia about The Hot Spot as directed by Dennis Hopper. Imagine Mitchum in the lead. Wow. Don Johnson never did much for me though I thought he did a good job here.

"Charles Williams wrote a screenplay version of his own novel with Nona Tyson in 1962.[1] It was intended for Robert Mitchum. Many years later, Dennis Hopper found the script and updated it.[1] The director described the film as "Last Tango in Texas. Real hot, steamy stuff".[2] A bedroom scene originally called for Madsen to appear naked, but she decided to put on a negligee because she felt that, "Not only was the nudity weak storywise, but it didn't let the audience undress her".[3] Hopper later admitted that Madsen was right.[3] The director gave his impressions of working with Johnson: "He wasn't that bad. He has a lot of people with him. He came on to this film with two bodyguards, a cook, a trainer, ah let's see, a helicopter pilot he comes to and from the set in a helicopter, very glamorous let's see, two drivers, a secretary, and, oh yes, his own hair person, his own make-up person, his own wardrobe person. So when he walks to the set he has five people with him".[4] Johnson found Hopper's approach to filmmaking "a little disappointing, I gotta tell you".[5] Hopper shot the film in Texas during what he described as the "hottest, steamiest weather you could imagine".[6]"

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Eastwood-Tarantino-Towne: Sarris: Boetticher

Thanks to a tip from my cousin I ordered the Netflix version of the Budd Boetticher-Randolph Scott film The Tall T which has, as one of its features, the documentary about Budd Boetticher's life and career. With commentary by the likes of Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Schrader, Peter Bogdonovich, Taylor Hackford and and Andrew Sarris. A fascinating life and a fascinating career. The surprise for me was Clint Eastwood--smart, affable, wry and eager to tell some really good Hwood stories, especially about the evolution of Two Mules for Sister Sara. I want to start seeing some of his movies again. I was a big fan for a long time. Anyway if you're a film fan this is an important look at Hwood.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

John Fante

Ed here: I reread Ask The Dust this week and it had its usual narcotic effect on me. Strange that in the next novel I read, David Goodis' Black Friday, I saw in the story and heard in the language some of the darkest moments of Fante's novel. If you haven't read it--or read the Goodis for that matter--do so.

Happy Holidays everybody!

Discovering John Fante FROM THE GUARDIAN UK From 2010

As in life, he seems forever on the brink of eclipse, so finding his work comes as a revelation to successive generations of readers. How did you find him?

I came upon John Fante's Ask the Dust by the window on the first floor of Waterstone's Piccadilly. It wasn't a very cool way to discover him – he was there as part of a half-table promotion on cult writers and renegades, alongside James Joyce, Richard Brautigan, William Burroughs and Irvine Welsh – but it still felt like an epiphany.

"Los Angeles, give me some of you!" pleads aspiring writer Arturo Bandini in the opening chapter. "Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town …"

As I read I forgot to breathe. Fante's sentences ran into a dark wilderness; a winded substratum of 30s LA. I felt dared and defiled and improved; like I'd joined a secret club consisting of everyone in the universe who wants to write:

"Only two words written over and over across the page, up and down, the same words: palm tree, palm tree, palm tree, a battle to the death between the palm tree and me, and the palm tree won: see it out there swaying in the blue air, creaking sweetly in the blue air."

The frankness, the spare and open description, was shaming and expansive all at once. I couldn't believe no one had ever told me that Holden Caulfield, that neurotic miracle, had this wild older brother:

"They say it's a dollar, they say it's two dollars in the swell places, but down on the Plaza it's a dollar; swell, only you haven't got a dollar, and another thing, you coward, even if you had a dollar you wouldn't go, because you had a chance to go once in Denver and you didn't."

Today, at 11am the Los Angeles Visionaries Association invites you to the corner of 5th & Grand, next to the library in downtown LA. This is the library where Charles Bukowski took Ask the Dust back to his desk "like a man who had found gold in the city dump". He spent years attempting to rescue Fante, whom he called "a God" of energy and form, but Fante remained an outsider, buried under Raymond Chandler, then Hollywood, then Depression-era reading lists partial to Steinbeck and Harper Lee. Now, though, on the 101st anniversary of his birth, the city is renaming that intersection John Fante Square.

Like his Square, Fante-the-author is generally happened upon; never really finding his own audience but always surviving another curve. His writing, though, is so clean and clear that it speaks plainly and entirely for itself. "The book," writes Bukowski, "is yours".

So let's get this 101st birthday party started. How did you discover John Fante?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Amazon Deal of the Day!

Amazon Deal of the Day! The Kindle Daily Deal: Kindle Daily Deal: "The Dead Man" Books 1-5

Today only, the first five books in Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin's "Dead Man" series--original short novels that blend the horror of Stephen King with the action of classic adventure novels--are just $0.99 each (67% off yesterday's price).
Yesterday's Price: $2.99
Today's Discount: $2.00

Kindle Daily Deal Price: $0.99 (67% off)



Not much to add on this title at the moment, except to say that work progresses and we thought we'd give you a look back at some of the covers to the original presentation of the "Paul Pine" stories by Howard Browne (aka John Evans):

• "So Dark for April" from MANHUNT
• "The Paper Gun"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Was Robert Ludlum Murdered?


December 22, 2011

Kenneth Michael Kearns, M.D.Gynecologic Oncologist

Was Bourne Identity Author Robert Ludlum Murdered?
Posted: 12/19/11 02:11 PM ET

A spectacular headline in one London daily tabloid read, "Did Robert Ludlum's Gold-Digging wife murder him?" And another UK paper ran a similar story with a photo of Ludlum burning alive in his recliner. That's the sensational reaction I got earlier this year when I introduced my book, "The Ludlum Identity." I'm the nephew of Robert Ludlum, one of the most successful writers of the 20th century. A few years before his death in 2001, I made a promise to him to write his biography. But after his death, all sorts of things--including my medical practice--prevented me from starting my research in earnest. When I did, my book project quickly turned into more of a murder investigation worthy of my uncle's most riviting storylines.

My mother's sister was Robert's first wife and the love of his life. Shortly after his untimely death, Uncle Robert remarried and his life turned bad. At first, I did not pay much attention to this aspect of his life. There was so much more color and pizzazz in the life of this famous spy novelist and actor; enough action to keep readers turning pages to keep pace with all his hard living lifestyle, the international intrigue, the intelligence agency connection and the pain and sacrifice during his early years.

His was a life of unimaginable achievement and adventure. As an adopted child, Robert Ludlum explored the limits of reasonable behavior and parental tolerance. After a seemingly endless period of rowdy behavior, this future superstar settled down at the famed Connecticut prep-school, Cheshire Academy, and began to establish himself as a credible student of the arts as well as exceptional athlete. He entered the Marines after graduation and saw combat in the South Pacific. Returning from war, he attended Wesleyan College in Connecticut, where he focused on theatre and met his future wife. They got married, worked in television and theatre together and opened a successful playhouse in northern New Jersey.

Life was good, but at age 40 Robert walked away from his acting, advertising voice-over and producing career to devote all of his time to writing. That was a big gamble, but it paid off handsomely. His first book was a best seller, as were all that followed. More than a half billion copies of his fast-paced novels, which have been translated into 32 languages, were sold around the world. But what I found was that like so many of his works, in the final chapter of his life, Robert Ludlum was caught in a trap as deadly as any faced by his character Jason Bourne. The more I learned about the horrific last days of Robert Ludlum's life, the more I realized I wasn't writing a biography, I was conducting a criminal investigation. Robert Ludlum was found burning alive in his recliner one evening and the only person home at the time was Robert's second wife, Karen. She was unscathed and uncooperative with authorities. I needed to find out more.

It was the acclaimed defense attorney Jim Oliver, a bulldog of a litigator, who brought the "team" together to find out how Robert Ludlum died in his Florida home. Oliver introduced me to two of the top services in the nation, CJM Associates and Sutton Associates. These private investigators and forensic specialists looked into the case and agreed to come on board.

First I met Cynthia Michaud, a dead ringer for a James Bond girl from one of Ian Flemings' famous novels. She was blond, beautiful, highly intelligent, exceptionally well trained and deadly, I am sure. With her disarmingly sexy smile and Hollywood hourglass figure, I was captivated. This first meeting took place on a cold November day a year ago and was only an introduction to what lay ahead.

I was coming off a flight from JFK to LAX when my cell phone rang. "Doctor Kearns, this is Mike. I'm in charge of the Western States and I'd like to meet you at your office as soon as possible." The commanding, authoritative, yet kind voice on the line belonged to one of the former decorated FBI agents who had been assigned to this case.

Many days of testimony followed and Mike ultimately became a very close friend. I never saw Mike's car. He came to the office but I never knew how he got there. I did not ask. As it turned out, Mike was a veteran of some of the most sensational domestic crimes in America and it took me a few sessions before I really relaxed. I became "Kenny." It was, "So, Kenny, who was in the room when the second will was signed?" or "Kenny, tell me about the housekeeper and the nurse," and "Tell me every detail," "Try to remember," "Sleep on it," "Call me immediately if you think of something you might have missed".

I also was introduced to the Boss, the real capo di tuti capi, Mr. James F. Murphy, who was one of the nation's most decorated and proclaimed FBI Agents. I would come to find out that he was also a real- life hero as portrayed in the finale of the Al Pacino film, "Dog Day Afternoon." Jim was the real undercover agent who shot and killed a psychopathic bank robber and kidnapper at point blank range. Jim had saved the lives of eight people.

The Ludlum affair was right up Jim's alley. There was money, greed, sex, power and unexplained death. Murphy focused on the players and, as I would come to find out, every person in Robert Ludlum's life would be scrutinized.

Before hiring these professionals, I had found that key witnesses to Robert Ludlum's untimely death and a prior attempt on his life, would not talk. The pros took care of this problem. Six former FBI Agents conducted interviews in multiple states over a five month period, and the plot thickened. Robert's younger son Jonathan, who was in the process of investigating his father's death as well as beginning a challenge to the Ludlum Estate, disappeared two years ago and was ultimately found dead in his home. No one had heard from him for over a month. Karen Ludlum, Robert's second wife and the only witness to the event that took his life, died last year. The cause of death was listed as "suicide."

There currently is ongoing dialogue with police authorities and one coroner. True to the promise I made to Uncle Robert, I'm going to finish this story.

Correction: The character "Jason Bourne"'s name was originally misspelled. This has been corrected.

Forgotten Books: ON THE LOOSE Andrew Coburn

Andrew Coburn

I've been saying for years that the single most neglected major crime fiction writer in the United States is Andrew Coburn. And here he is with a new novel to prove me right again.

I've spent two days trying to think of a tidy way to describe On The Loose (Leisure,$6.99) and thus far my best shot is to imagine a collaboration between John D. MacDonald Ruth Rendell. MacDonald for the page-turning excitement of following the most unique serial killer since The Bad Seed and Rendell for some of the quirkiest characters outside several of her own masterpieces.

Coburn is a profoundly American writer as he demonstrates in this novel that spans slightly more than a decade in the life of a small New England town. The storyline never lets you go. The murders are committed by one of the mostly stunningly enigmatic killers in mystery fiction. He is barely ten the first time he strikes. He is not much older the second time. The killings are what propel the storyline.

But Coburn's sense of the town and the lives of his people are what give the book the depth and range of a true novel. He does what Hitchcock did in Shadow of a Doubt--takes a story that has a death-grip on its readers and then walk thems around the lives and town that surround the killer. The fading beauty lost to excess weight and clinical depression; the police chief who believes he is beyond passion only to find it again and risk being crushed by it; the man dying of AIDs and the woman who befriends him; the divide between rich and poor that belittles both sides.

And the writing itself. Coburn plays all the instruments in the orchestra for this book which is, by turns, lyrical, funny, solemn, sarcastic, violent, terrifying and human in a way page-turners rarely are.

It's time for Andrew Coburn to be recognized for the master stylist and storyteller extraordinaire he has been for more than two decades now. On The Run--and everybody in the book really is running from something--proves that he gets better with each new novel.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

W.R. Burnett

SEPTEMBER 15, 2007
W.R. Burnett
Here, from the Turner Classic Movie site, is a biography of the much underrated writer:


A highly-prolific author whose novels and short stories provided the basis for numerous films ranging from the gangster classic "Little Caesar" (1930) to the Western "Dark Command" (1940), W R Burnett also adapted his own work for film (e.g., "High Sierra" 1941) and wrote original screenplays, both alone and in collaboration (e.g., "This Gun for Hire" 1942, "The Great Escape" 1963).

A former government statistician, Burnett settled in Chicago at the height of Prohibition and penned his first novel "Little Caesar" in 1929. A veiled study of the rise and fall of a mobster who bore a passing resemblance to Al Capone, the novel was an success as was the screen version starring Edward G Robinson. Books and stories with Burnett's by-line were almost a guaranteed sale to Hollywood (not unlike John Grisham and Stephen King in the late 20th Century), and eventually the writer turned to penning his own scripts for Tinseltown. Not only were the villains in Burnett novels revealed in full human texture--something little seen in melodramas--but also the characters of the cops and other urban authority figures were often idiosyncratic and full-bodied, His storytelling practically created the Warner Bros. gangster cycle of the 1930s, reaching a high point with his contributions to the dialogue of "Scarface" (1932). "High Sierra" (1941), adapted from his own novel, offered Humphrey Bogart one of his signature villains and "This Gun for Hire" (1942) brought Alan Ladd to the forefront as a hit man seeking revenge.

With the advent of World War II, gangster films lessened in popularity so Burnett turned to writing or co-writing dramas about men in combat situations. He and co-writer Frank Butler shared an Academy Award nomination for their original screenplay of "Wake Island" (1942), a gripping drama about American troops fighting to maintain control of the titular Pacific island at the outbreak of WWII. He went on to collaborate on "Crash Dive" and "Action in the North Atlantic" (both 1943), among others. Following the war, Burnett turned to Westerns (e.g., "San Antonio" 1946; "Belle Starr's Daughter" 1948) and then returned to form with the film noir "The Racket" (1951). He added a dose of humor to the action genre with "Sergeants Three" (1962), a loose remake of "Gunga Din" with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr before penning his final credited screenplay, 1963's tense "The Great Escape", based on the largest escape of Allied POWs in World War II and featuring a star-making turn by Steve McQueen.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Clint Eastwood's Family to Star in Bunim/Murray Reality Show; HBO Cancels 3 Shows

Cinema Retro: Clint Eastwood's Family to Star in Bunim/Murray Reality Show

Keeping Up With The Eastwoods? Believe it: Bunim/Murray productions, creators of reality sensations The Kardashians and "The Real World," are taking Clint Eastwood's family and turning them into the next big thing with a new E! reality show.

According to TMZ, the show will follow the life of Eastwood's wife Dina, the couple's 15-year-old daughter Morgan, and Eastwood's 18-year-old daughter Francesca Fisher-Eastwood from his relationship with actress Frances Fisher. The point, it seems, is to peek inside the lives of "Hollywood royalty," and the show's focus will mainly be on Francesca's aspirations to become an actress.

But if you're imagining Eastwood as the next Bruce Jenner, think again. Busy basking in his post "J. Edgar" glory and gearing up to star as a nearly-blind sports scout in the upcoming"Trouble with the Curve", Eastwood is only slated to make a few cameos on the still untitled show.

The series is set to air in early 2012. For more, click over to TMZ.
=========================================== HBO

Ed here: Nerts. I really liked Bored to Death and to a lesser degree Hung.


HBO Cancels 'Hung,' 'Bored To Death' And 'How To Make It In America,' Renews 'Enlightened'

HBO has canceled three of its shows: "Hung," "How to Make it in America" and "Bored to Death," Variety was the first to report. But the primetime cable network did spare one series. According to TVLine, the struggling "Enlightened" was renewed.

"Hung," which just ended its third season, starred Thomas Jane as a gym teacher-turned male hooker. Jane Adams, Anne Heche and Rebecca Creskoff also starred. The Season 3 finale aired on Dec. 4 and pulled in under 1 million viewers.

The Bryan Greenberg-fronted "How to Make it in America," about breaking into New York City's fashion scene, just ended its second season. The show, which also starred Lake Bell and Victor Rasuk, brought in under 600,000 for its Season 2 finale.

"Bored to Death" wrapped its third season in late November. The show starred Jason Schwartzman as a fictional Jonathan Ames as well as Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis. Despite its impressive cast, "Bored to Death" only had 200,000 viewers tune into the Season 3 finale last month.

The survivor, "Enlightened," starring Laura Dern, will return for a second season. The show recently picked up several Golden Globe nominations, including one for Best Comedy.


James Franco; Jerry Lewis

Did James Franco Get an NYU Prof Fired?
Ed here: Obviously I have no idea if the following is true. But I do know for sure that a little of James Franco goes a loooooong way. This fromNew York Magazine's website.

By Noreen Malone

James Franco.

José Angel Santana, a 58-year-old former professor at NYU's Tisch school, alleges he lost his job because of the grade he gave master's student James Franco — a D. Franco showed up to just two of the semester's fourteen classes, says Santana (an attendance record that would go a long way toward explaining how Franco is able to juggle so many obligations). Franco, complaining publicly about the poor mark last year, said "I did well in everything else,” which is basically the professor's point. Santana, who is suing the school, also suggested that other professors gave Franco good grades partly as "payback"; the actor hired professor Jay Anania to write and direct the film William Vincent. The lawsuit also points out that the graduate film department's chairman made a cameo in a Franco film. The school didn't reply to the Post for comment. It all sort of sounds like a meta-meditation on the power and portrayal of celebrity — are we sure this wasn't Franco's final academic project?

---------------------Jerry Lewis

As many of you know by now, I'm not a big fan of Jerry Lewis' work. I'm wiling to admit it's me. I watched part of Nutty Professor the other night and I didn't even care much for that. Clever, yes, but no resonance beyond that. (I know I'll get letters). Encore is now running a documentary/tribute and predictably the reviews have broken down into the fans and the haters. Oh, yes, people really HATE Jerry Lewis, actor and man both. I don't know if you'll find the excerpt from Mark Evanier's review even-handed but I do. Evanier knows more about show business than anybody I've ever read and he's spent decades producing TV shows, cartoon shows, writing for TV, writing for comic books, and most recently doing the definitive book on Jack Kirby. As I've said before I find him amazingly intelligent, humane and funny as hell. Here's his take on the Encore show:

Mark Evanier:

I like Jerry Lewis. I like him enough that when he made his Broadway debut in Damn Yankees, my friend Paul Dini and I flew back just to be in the audience for opening night.


I like the guy but to be a Jerry Lewis fan is to cringe often at the man's excesses, ramblings, self-serving statements, angry lash-outs at those he thinks have wronged him, etc. On that great new boxed DVD set of Laurel and Hardy films (this one), he babbles on about their history, getting it all wrong, apparently unaware that there are in this world people who actually know the truth. If someone had made so many errors telling the story of Martin and Lewis, he'd have been furious...but he just goes on and on doing this stuff. Given that he's 85, you might excuse it because of age. Trouble is, he's been like this all his life.

Jerry Lewis: Method to the Madness is the new two-hour documentary that's now playing on the Encore channel. What's wrong with it is summarized in the second on-screen title card at the end — an Executive Producer credit for Jerry Lewis. I don't know how much he actually did on it or what kind of freedom filmmaker Gregg Barson had, but you wish someone could or would tell Jerry, "Uh, it isn't a great idea to announce you were the top guy in charge of an overexcessive tribute to yourself."

Not only that but it's a tribute that so deifies its subject that the mortal can't measure up to the hype. The clips of his work do not demonstrate the brilliance described by the talking heads that range from Jerry Seinfeld's to Carol Burnett's. There may be no clips in the world by anyone that would. I can well imagine younger folks, unfamiliar with Lewis's body of work, watching this, hearing of his comedic genius...and then wondering what's so spectacular about wedging the entire mouth of a drinking glass in your mouth for half a century. All the material of Lewis on-stage in his eighties is a little sad in that way.

for all of it go here--well worth reading:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

7 Surprise Twists I’d Rather Live Without

7 Surprise Twists I’d Rather Live Without [or The Airing of Grievances, Literary Style]
Rebecca Joines Schinsky , posted on December 14, 2011 in Humor, Opinion

Dear Elizabeth Kostova: this would have been a better reveal.
A truly surprising surprise twist—the kind that makes you gasp or clutch your pearls or reexamine everything you thought you knew about a book—is a thing of beauty, especially when you’re the kind of reader for whom suspending disbelief doesn’t come so naturally. (Who’s with me?)

When it works, I can love it, but in general, I am not a fan of the surprise twist, be it a reversal at the ending or a mid-plot change-up. It often seems lazy, a “give ‘em the old razzle-dazzle” approach to distracting readers from a lack of substance, and when done poorly, it can ruin a book for me. And let’s be honest, there are some surprise twist conceits so played out and/or impossible to pull off that no writer should use them again, ever. I propose we start with these. Be warned: I’m spoiling the surprises in half a dozen books here.

1. The Parent Switcheroo – This one boils down to: if I have to read one more story in which it turns out that the sister/aunt/close-family-friend is actually the main character’s mother, I’m going to flip a biscuit. That’s Southern for “rethink that whole ‘book burning is bad’ policy.”

2. The “Dracula lives!”–Oh, Elizabeth Kostova. I wanted to love The Historian. Really, I did. It has the story-within-a-story thing that happens to be one of my personal literary kryptonites AND an epistolary structure that pressed a bunch of my happy buttons. Aside from the fact that it was a couple hundred pages too long, it was a good idea. But then it turns out that not only is Dracula really still alive, he’s also ridiculously easy to kill? I was born at night, but not last night.

3. The “They were lovers!”—Favored by soap operas the world over, this surprise inevitably cheapens a story. I’ve encountered it several times, but Naseem Rakha’s The Crying Tree, which had a lot going for it at the start, is the most recent offender I’ve found. It’s about a couple whose son was killed several years prior, and the mother reaches out to her son’s convicted killer as his execution date approaches. They forge a relationship that teaches them both about healing and forgiveness, and Rakha manages to address questions about the morality of capital punishment without being preachy. No easy feat, that.

The book is a little heavy handed but generally quite fine, and THEN! Then it goes off the rails when we find out that the killer was actually the son’s lover and (double surprise!) the son was secretly gay. This particular use of the “They Were Lovers!” twist is even more egregious because Rakha telegraphs it at least a hundred pages before it is revealed. And I don’t think I only picked up on that because I paid a lot of attention to the lessons about foreshadowing in high school. It was so completely unnecessary and maddening that it’s now the only thing I really recall about this book, and that’s too bad, mmkay.

for the rest go here:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Had To Happen: Don’t Support Your Local Bookseller

Ed here: There's always a contrarian somewhere. In the past months there's been a glut of pieces about supporting your local bookstores, which I'm all in favor of. Now here's a piece that claims we shouldn't. Had to happen.

Don’t Support Your Local Bookseller
Buying books on Amazon is better for authors, better for the economy, and better for you.
By Farhad Manjoo|Posted Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011, at 6:50 PM ET

The independent bookstore is not the last stronghold of literary culture you think it is

Amazon just did a boneheaded thing, and it deserves all the scorn you want to heap on it. Last week, the company offered people cash in exchange for going into retail stores and scanning items using the company’s Price Check smartphone app. If you scanned a product and then purchased it from Amazon rather than the shop you were standing in, Amazon would give you a 5 percent discount on the sale. (Disclosure: Slate is an Amazon affiliate; when you click on an Amazon link from Slate, the magazine gets a cut of the proceeds from whatever you buy.)

I’m generally a fan of price comparison—like everyone else, I hate spending more than I should—but I can understand physical retailers’ fear of the practice becoming widespread. When you walk into Best Buy and get a salesperson to spend 10 minutes showing you a television, then leave empty-handed so you can buy the TV for less on Amazon, you’ve just turned Best Buy into Jeff Bezos’ chump. The Price Check promotion (which lasted only one day) was, like Amazon’s aggressive efforts to dodge the collection of sales tax, a brazen attempt to crush local retailers, and I (as did many others) found it distasteful. Sure, I’m a fan of Amazon and devote a substantial portion of my income to its coffers—but does it have to be so wantonly callous about destroying its competitors?

All of which is to say that I was primed to nod in vigorous agreement when I saw novelist Richard Russo’s New York Times op-ed taking on Amazon’s thuggish ways. But as I waded into Russo’s piece—which was widely passed around on Tuesday—I realized that he’d made a critical and common mistake in his argument. Rather than focus on the ways that Amazon’s promotion would harm businesses whose demise might actually be a cause for alarm (like a big-box electronics store that hires hundreds of local residents), Russo hangs his tirade on some of the least efficient, least user-friendly, and most mistakenly mythologized local establishments you can find: independent bookstores. Russo and his novelist friends take for granted that sustaining these cultish, moldering institutions is the only way to foster a “real-life literary culture,” as writer Tom Perrotta puts it. Russo claims that Amazon, unlike the bookstore down the street, “doesn’t care about the larger bookselling universe” and has no interest in fostering “literary culture.”

for the rest go here:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Robert J. Randisi; Christopher Hitchens

From Robert J. Randisi: Hard on the heels of the newly reissued Gunsmith #'s 1 & 2 comes TRACKER #1: THE WINNING HAND and ANGEL EYES #1: THE MIRACLE OF REVENGE. These series appeared in the 80's under the pseudonyms "Tom Cutter" and "W.B. Longely" but are now being published by Speaking Volumes LLC under the Randisi name, with kick-ass covers! Available in POD paper and Ebook, and soon to be on Audio. Order from the Speaking Volumes LLC website, or and

------------------CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS

I have nothing original or important to say about Christopher Hitchens. I do believe he was a fine teacher for a mediocore student of history and politics like me. Even when I disagreed with him I tried to stay calm enough question my own take on a subject. He was a true intellectual dedicated to making his arguments accessible to people willing to learn and to study. He could be as brilliant about ancient politics as our own; and blistering about people he often admired but felt needed a drubbing.

I mentioned staying calm while disagreeing with him. There were two times I couldn't. I thought his book about Mother Theresa was one of the silliest attacks I've ever read. Yes she dealt with dictators to secure food and medicine for the people she served and yes she tried to convert her people into Catholics with daily prayer and the usual conversion drill. I think it was Howard Fineman (I may be wrong) who said of all the terrible despots on the planet you go after Mother Theresa?

The other time was when he angrily advocated for our invasion of Iraq. I stopped reading him for awhile because of that. Throwing in with Cheney-Wolfowitz-Addison was too much for me. Of course Andrew Sullivan pushed for the invasion, too. They often appeared together on the tube. Hitchens would make nasty veiled comments about Sullivan's being gay which I thought was strange because Hitchens (before he discovered women) had several prominent gay affairs himself. At that time I couldn't stand either of them. Sullivan later recanted on the war; Hitchens never did.

Hitchens was an iconolclast and a brave one. Amid all the furor about water boarding Hitchens allowed himself to be water boarded and came away angrily disputing Bush that it wasn't torture. He was also among the first to seriously take on Obama at the time (in Jon Stewart's words) when everybody still thought "he was our boyfriend." He was prescient enough to see that Obama would call on the same Harvard crowd that had helped destroy our economy to help destroy it even further.

When he first began writing about the evils of religion I agreed with him. We have come in this country to believe that religion (Christian, of course) should be an integral part of our politics. I despise this idea. I'm so fucking sick of Believers quoting the Bible to me I now just simply say "We can't talk. You have all the answers." I agree with Hitchens. It's a book of fables reflecting the prejudices of the tribal communities responsible for writing it. I see all these Family Values crackpots on TV and I always wonder how much money they're making for this cynical gig. Like "The Catholic League" which has six (six!) members.


Like Bill Maher I think Hitchens dined out too long on this particular rant. I'm now as sick of the Atheists as I am the Believers.
The Atheists say that an Agnostic is really an Atheist and the Believers say the same thing. I disagree. I'm an Agnostic--I just don't know. I also think that despite the evils of religion (just about any religion) that it does offer its adherents comfort and succor and community. Which used properly--as is the case with most mainstream religions (except for when the Catholic Bishops get involved)--is a good thing.

I realize that my religious rant here was something of a side trail but I must have seen Hitchens on the tube a dozen times arguing about Belief. This was my post game response. It's a disagreement and a minor one compared to the pleasure and insight Hitchens gave me for fifteen years. His prose was electric and his thinking often startling. He was generally on the side of the underdog and treated many media-sanctified overlords with contempt. His scathing take downs were read around the world.

He was my brother in incurable cancer. I've been much luckier than Hitchens. Most of the people with multiple myeloma die in the first three years. I'm entering my tenth year. And Hitchens suffered. It's a terrible way to go, esophogeal cancer. I remember his responses to people who'd write and plead with him to convert to Christianity. He was sweet but firm in his response. He appreciated their well wishing but there would be no deathbed conversion.

I'm not conveying here the sheer genius of the man and how extraordinarily important his words were to our time. As a political and intellectual guide to our era his work is without equal.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Forgotten Books: The Killer by Wade Miller

Forgotten Books: The Killer by Wade Miller

Wade Miller was of course Bob Wade and Bill Miller. They collaborated on a few dozen novels until Miller died of a heart attack in the office they shared. He was forty-one.

Much of their best work was done for Gold Medal. The Killer is a fine example. A rich man named Stennis owns a number of banks. His son works in one of them. During a robbery his son is killed. Stennis hires a big game hunter named Farrow to find the notorious bank robber Clel Bocock and his gang. When Farrow locates them he is to call Stennis who wants to be there to watch them die. Farrow is a unique character and not just because of the big game angle. He's middle-aged and feeling it, something rare in that era of crime fiction.

The search for Stennis--and the love story that involves Bocock's wife--takes Farrow from the swamps to Iowa (including, yes, Cedar Rapids) to Wisconsin to Colorado. The place description is extraordinary. Probably too much for today's readers but the Miller books are filled with strong cunning writing. Same for twists and turns. For the length of the first act you can never be sure who anybody is. They're all traveling under assumed names and with shadowy motives. The only thing that binds them is Clel Bocock.

For anybody who thinks that Gold Medals were largely routine crime stories, this is the noel you should pick up. Stark House published this a few years back (still available) along with Devil On Two Sticks, one of the most original mob novels I've ever read. There's also an excellent David Laurence Wilson introduction on the careers of the two writers.

Wade Miller got lost in the shuffle of bringing back the writers of the fifties and sixties. This book, so strong on character and place and plot turns, will demonstrate why more of their books should be in print.

Is Amazon Pushing Publishers to Brink On Terms, Co-op?

Is Amazon Pushing Publishers to Brink On Terms, Co-op?
By Rachel Deahl and Jim Milliot
Dec 15, 2011
| Reader Comments 14

Last week Amazon caused a furor in the bookselling world, with its reveal of a price check app consumers could use in bricks-and-mortar stores to get discounts at the retailer. Although the app did not include books, its announcement offered many a chance to slam Amazon as a ruthless corporation out to destroy the community bookstore and, as Richard Russo claimed in the New York Times, literary culture along with it. Although the price check app is what continues to be discussed in the media, what has publishers riled, behind the scenes, is aggressive moves the retailer is making in its demands on co-op and discounts. A number of sources in the industry, all of whom spoke to PW on the condition of anonymity, said the retailer is, in certain cases, threatening to stop selling titles from companies who won't pay up.

Many sources said Amazon has been asking for a steeper wholesale discount on books. (Although e-books are sold on the agency model, print books continue to be sold on the wholesale model, in which retailers purchase titles at a certain percentage off the list price.) Co-op requests from Amazon have also escalated, according to a number of insiders. Although publishers and distributors regularly have discussions with Amazon about these issues--negotiating the terms on these matters is a standard aspect of doing business--the retailer's requests, in recent weeks, have sent shocks through many in the industry, some of whom are worried about what will happen to their books if they cannot meet the demands.

Publishers and distributors have called the latest negotiations with Amazon the most adversarial to date, and many have noted that, for the first time, the retailer is outlining co-op costs for digital, as well as print. Amazon has, as some sources explained, long been pressuring publishers to provide ancillary content on the pages where their books are sold, from videos and q&a's to links to similar books. That content has always been something publishers have had to both pay for and provide. In the latest negotiations with Amazon, sources told PW, the price of providing that content has jumped to what sources say are astronomical percentages (but those sources would not provide specific numbers).

Many publishers and distributors said they have not, and cannot, cave to this newest set of demands from Amazon. The fear, though, is that the retailer could take punitive action. Recalling the most infamous instance of what can happen to a publisher that refuses Amazon's terms, many cite the showdown between Macmillan and Amazon when, in February 2010, the retailer removed the buy buttons to all Macmillan titles after the publisher said it would sell its e-books to the retailer on agency terms, as opposed to wholesale terms.

Although publishers fear seeing their titles disappear from Amazon--for many in the industry the retailer accounts for 20% to 25% of their business--some say the demands the retailer is making are impossible to meet and would nearly wipe out all of their profits there anyway. Furthermore, as some have noted, changing wholesale terms with Amazon, could present a legal issue. Although co-op deals can be varied and private, publishers are prevented by the Robinson-Patman Act from favoring one account over another with notably different wholesale terms. (It was the broad discrepancy in discount terms among accounts that led the ABA to sue Barnes & Noble and Borders in the 1990s.)

The demands regarding co-op have some particularly on edge. Not only are many publishers frustrated about being asked to pay more money for content they are providing, but the whole notion of co-op at the online retailer is unsettling. While the case can be made that co-op in a bricks-and -mortar store is a worthwhile investment--money is spent on getting books to physical areas of the store, such as front tables, where consumers will see those books first--it's much less logical on a Web site. Does having a video or an author Q&A on a book's page on Amazon really encourage a customer who has already clicked on that book to make a purchase?

More problematically, for many in the industry, the latest talks with Amazon are being described as less of a dialogue than a dictation of terms. As one source explained, the talks have boiled down to "what publishers can do for Amazon, and not what Amazon can do for publishers." Most ironically, the new terms would allow Amazon to continue to gain market share as it always has: driving book prices down. As one source put it: "If Amazon wants to improve its margins, it should cut back on the discounting."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What do Isaac Asimov, Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison. James Gunn, Jack Vance, and Donald Westlake have in common?

Ed here: For people like Bill Crider and me the announcement that follows is like the pearly gates opening up. There was no other sf mag like Super-Science Fiction. Scoffers might say that no other sf mag WANTED to be like Super-Science but if you were the right pimply age no other mag provided the same thrills. The copy below tells you all about it. Once again the great Haffner Press comes through.

Tales From Super-Science Fiction

Edited by Robert Silverberg
Illustrated by Frank Kelly Freas & Ed Emshwiller
ISBN: 9781893887480
400+ pp. Hardcover
Color endpapers

(coming soon)

Robert Silverberg has assembled a collection of 14 stories from Super-Science Fiction. S-SF was launched during the sf boom of the mid-1950s. Paying a princely rate of 2 cents a word the magazine attracted fiction by Isaac Asimov, Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison. James Gunn, Jack Vance, and Donald Westlake, and featured cover art by Frank Kelly Freas and Ed Emshwiller. Running for 18 bi-monthly issues (Dec ‘55 to Oct ‘59), the magazine eventually devolved into a publication capitalizing on the then-current craze of “monster” stories.

Editor Silverberg traces the genesis of Super-Science Fiction from it’s beginnings as an outlet for numerous colonization/expedition stories to its conclusion with such stories as “Creatures of the Green Slime,” “Beasts of Nightmare Horror” and “Vampires from Outer Space.” It’s fun, it’s cheesy, and we’re really looking forward to it!

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Introduction by Robert Silverberg
"Catch 'Em All Alive" by Robert Silverberg
"Who Am I?" by Henry Slesar
"Every Day is Christmas" by James E. Gunn
"I'll Take Over" by A.Bertram Chandler
"Song of the Axe" by Don Berry
"Broomstick Ride" by Robert Bloch
"Worlds of Origin" by Jack Vance
"The Tool of Creation" by J.F. Bone
"I Want to Go Home" by Robert Moore Williams
"Hostile Life-Form" by Daniel L. Galouye
"The Gift of Numbers" by Alan E. Nourse
"First Man in a Satellite" by Charles W. Runyon
"A Place Beyond the Stars" by Tom Godwin
"The Loathsome Beasts" by Dan Malcolm (aka Silverberg)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pete Enfantino-A Tribute To Robert Colby

Ed Gorman: When Robert Colby died my friend Pete Enfantino wrote a fine piece about Bob, who was a gentleman of the old school and a damned fine human being as well as a damned fine writer. After reading The Captain Must Die again for the twenty fifth time or thereabouts (I read it when it came out and have been reading it over and over ever since) I decided to read Pete's piece again. It's a good one.

ROBERT COLBY - A TRIBUTE by Peter Enfantino

Robert Colby died last week. A lot of people won’t even recognize the name. That’s a shame, but it’s their loss. Colby was every bit as good a writer as the other Gold Medal authors of the 50s and 60s who’ve found favor among historians and collectors. He just never had one of those million sellers like the other guys did. There was no Death of a Citizen or Hill Girl. Just respectable sales for some of his “adult” titles like Lament for Julie (Monarch, 1961) and Executive Wife (Monarch, 1964).

My introduction to Robert Colby, as was my introduction to all the classic Gold medal authors, was through an article Ed Gorman wrote for a magazine I used to co-publish called The Scream Factory. In the piece Ed sang the praises of a couple dozen GM authors, writers such as Peter Rabe, Vin Packer, Gil Brewer, Wade Miller, and Harry Whittington. Back in 1993, (when the article first appeared) Black Lizard was publishing a lot of forgotten writers like Packer, Rabe, and Brewer, so I was fairly familiar with those guys. One of the writers Ed praised was Robert Colby, a name I was not so familiar with. Ed called Colby’s The Captain Must Die (Gold Medal, 1959) “one of the great GM novels,” so I knew I had to check this one out.

Because of Ed’s article, I had a long grocery list when I hit Tom Lesser’s annual Paperback Show (a must for pb collectors, by the way) in Mission Hills that following April. There I found plenty of the recommended reading, including The Captain Must Die (in a quarter box, no less) and two other Colbys: The Star Trap and Murder Times Five. The latter two were decent reads, but Ed was right on in his assessment that Captain was a must. It’s a nasty revenge tale that holds its own with the best “nasty revenge tales” that Gold Medal excelled in and could have been made into a nice, tight little 50s noir had the movie deal not fallen through.

for the rest go here:

Monday, December 12, 2011

George Clooney Producing Smothers Brothers Movie -- NPH as Tommy Smothers?


George Clooney Producing Smothers Brothers Movie -- NPH as Tommy Smothers?
Published: December 12, 2011 @ 7:50 am

By Kimberly Potts
Oscar winner George Clooney -- a current awards season favorite with "The Descendants" -- has added another project to his packed upcoming movie slate: Clooney and Smokehouse Pictures partner Grant Heslov will produce a movie about the Smothers Brothers and their groundbreaking TV series.

Clooney and Heslov are teaming with Sony to turn David Bianculli's 2009 book "Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour'" into a film.

Bianculli confirmed the project on his site, TV Worth Watching. He called Clooney his dream choice for the movie adaptation of his book about the Smothers and their 1967-69 variety hour series.

His dream casting choice? Neil Patrick Harris as Tommy Smothers.

Read more: Clooney Tells Berlusconi Over Sex Trial: Do I Know You?

"The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" -- which counted Steve Martin and Rob Reiner among its writers -- drew the ire of CBS censors by including social commentary about the Vietnam War and politicians. It was cancelled by the network in 1969.

"First, I'm thrilled on behalf of Tom and Dick, whose story deserves to be told and retold, and whose efforts to inject topicality into scripted TV comedy in the 1960s led very directly to the sort of thing Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher are doing today," Bianculli wrote.

"But I'm also thrilled because, when the book was still in galleys and I was asked by the film-division agent at my literacy agency to name my dream filmmaker for a Smothers Brothers movie, I said two words. One was George. The other was Clooney."

Read more: Hugh Jackman Shows Conan How to Be Like George Clooney (Video)

Bianculli, a TV critic and Rowan University professor, said he uses Clooney's Oscar-winning film "Good Night, and Good Luck," and live remake of "Fail Safe," in his courses.

Brian Hecker and Craig Sherman will write the screenplay for the Smothers movie. They are also co-writing "Atari," a biopic about Atari founder Nolan Bushnell.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bill Pronzini on Elilott Chaze

Ed here: Bill Pronzini's contributions to the genre of crime fiction have been enormous. First he created the groundbreaking Nameless series (stronger than ever) second he wrote numerous stand-alones and stories that have won praise and awards world-wide and third he has compiled a body of excellent literary biography and criticism that needs to be collected and published. Here is an example from Mystery*File.

by Bill Pronzini

Elliott Chaze (1915-1990) was an old-school newspaperman who began his journalism career with the New Orleans Bureau of the Associated Press shortly before Pearl Harbor, worked for a time for AP’s Denver office after paratrooper service in WW II, and then migrated south to Mississippi where he spent twenty years as reporter and award-winning columnist and ten years as city editor with the Hattiesburg American.

In his spare time he wrote articles and short stories for The New Yorker, Redbook, Collier’s, Cosmopolitan, and other magazines, and all too infrequently, a novel. In an interview he once stated that his motivation in writing fiction, “if there is any discernible, is probably ego and fear of mathematics, with overtones of money. Primarily I have a simple desire to shine my ass — to show off a bit in print.”

His first two novels were literary mainstream. The Stainless Steel Kimono (Simon & Schuster, 1947), a post-war tale about a group of American paratroopers in Japan, was a modest bestseller and an avowed favorite of Ernest Hemingway.

The Golden Tag (Simon & Schuster, 1950), like most of his long works, has a newspaper background, contains a good deal of autobiography, and is both funny and poignant; it concerns a young wire service reporter and would-be novelist in New Orleans who becomes involved with two women, one of them married, while reporting on a sensational murder case.

His third novel was the one for which he is best remembered today, Black Wings Has My Angel (Gold Medal, 1953; also published as One for My Money, Berkley, 1962 and as One for the Money, Robert Hale, 1985).

for the rest go here:

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Ed here: I've been reading a collection of Robert Bloch's stories this week and remembered a fine piece about Bloch written by the always entertaining and insightful Paula Guran.


August 1999
By Paula Guran

"PSYCHO all came from Robert Bloch's book." -- Alfred Hitchcock

With the current centennial of Alfred Hitchcock's birth being noted with various events and symposia, I can't help but observe that PSYCHO -- the most notorious and perhaps best known of all of Hitchcock's films -- was adapted from a novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. As Douglas E. Winter put it in his 1985 FACES OF FEAR, "Two masters of horror have been immortalized by the motion picture PSYCHO...One, of course, is its director, Alfred Hitchcock; the other is the man who wrote the novel on which it is based. And no one ever said it better than Hitchcock himself: 'PSYCHO all came from Robert Bloch's book.'"

Before his death in 1994 at age 77, Bloch often joked that his obituary would begin with PSYCHO, a novel that was just a tiny part of his flood of work. Of course, he was right. And, although Mr. Bloch might disagree, perhaps that's the way it should be. PSYCHO, both the film and the book, had a resounding effect on both literary and cinematic horror. Quoting Winter again, "From the Depression heyday of WEIRD TALES and the evocative Universal film adaptations of FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA, the tale of terror had suffered until the mid-1950s, as if the real horrors of World War Two had snuffed out the human need for fictional confrontation with death. Not until the Eisenhower era did the monsters reemerge in force: first in the innocuous science-fictional context of the "big bug" films, then in the exuberant American International youth films like I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957), and finally in the serious context of films and books like PSYCHO."

PSYCHO, however, was not Bloch's first or last exploration of psychopathology or the only way in which he influenced modern horror fiction.

fo the rest go here:

Friday, December 09, 2011

Pro-File: Tony Richards

Here are two collections of stories from Dark Regions Press that should become staples for readers (and writers) of dark suspense and horror fiction. Tony Richards has been writing some of the most unique and most disturbing fiction since the 1980s when the horror boom was still going strong.

Our Lady of Shadows emphasizes the kind of ghost stories that will linger with you long after you close the book, stories that manage to be both chilling and thoughtful. One of Tony's strengths as a writer is to put his people in terrifying situations and increase their desperation page by page.

Shadows and Other Tales offers a wide range of horrorific and dark suspense themes, tropes and creative twists. Tony's take on various modern dilemmas, physical and emotional, power these stories. As always the tales are both page turners and intelligent commentaries on the dark sides of life today.

Here's an interesting and entertaining Pro-Fie with Tony Richards.


Q1/ Tell us about your current novel or project.

A1/ I have two major books on the go at the moment. The first is another short story collection that I’ve just put together. The title is ‘Summertime: The Best SF of Tony Richards.’ I realize that I’m better known as a horror and supernatural author, but I’ve been penning the occasional SF tale for over three decades, and these are my favorites. The collection includes two novelettes that first appeared in Asimov’s in the Eighties, plus a story -- from an old British magazine called Ad Astra -- that first saw print in 1979. The complete book is with Dark Regions Press at the moment, and hopefully they’ll publish it in 2012.

The second is the one I’m working on right now, and it’s a new Raine’s Landing novel. And in case your readers do not know, I’ll explain the premise behind the series. The idea is that there were real witches in Salem, Massachusetts. Clever and prescient, they fled that town before the infamous Trials of 1792 began. They decamped to the town of Raine’s Landing instead, and the place has been full of magic and strangeness ever since. Except there are a couple of small problems. Because of the nature of the Landing, supernatural badness is attracted there like iron filings to a magnet. And the town is affected by a curse -- nobody born there can ever leave.

The chief protagonist -- the town’s main troubleshooter -- is a man called Ross Devries, a former cop who’s lost his family to magic gone badly wrong. He never uses the stuff himself, partially because of that, but he has several people who help him, not least a gun-toting young woman -- formerly a criminal -- name of Cassie Mallory. The first two books -- ‘Dark Rain’ and ‘Night of Demons’ -- were brought out by HarperCollins. And the third -- ‘Midnight’s Angels’ -- has recently been released by Dark Regions. They’ve had brilliant reviews and attracted a following, but they haven’t made the big time yet. Although I’ve had a couple of tentative approaches from movie and TV people, so who knows?

Q2/ Can you give us a sense of what you’re working on now?

A2/ The new Raine’s Landing novel is called ‘Speak of the Devil,’ and it’s something of a departure from the earlier books. In the first few novels, the supernatural menace came from outside the town. This time, it’s a small group of townsfolk trying to take power by means of the darker arts. And because of that -- because it’s his own neighbors -- Ross finds what’s going on much harder to deal with. Additionally, he doesn’t have Cassie with him for most of the book … she is pregnant, and has been hospitalized. That’s something I’m very much trying to do with this series, have things happen to the characters that are outside the main story arc, have them go through setbacks and events that change them, just like people in the real world.

In the earlier books, as well, the threats mainly came from inhuman, or barely human, sources. Whereas in ‘Speak of the Devil,’ I’m dealing with human evil, including one bad guy who’s so innately vicious he makes Hannibal Lecter look like Jimmy Stewart. It’s been tremendous fun writing about him.

Q3/ What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

A3/ I’ve seen more than a hundred short stories in print, two stand-alone novellas, five novels and six collections. And after all this time, I still get a tremendous buzz when something new comes out with my name on it, particularly when it comes with a great cover like the ones Wayne Miller has been doing for my books over at DRP. I’m definitely not someone who writes stuff just to put it away in a drawer … I like to see my work out there and being read. And hearing back from readers -- and the Raine’s Landing novels have generated a good few enthusiastic emails -- is always a pleasure.

On that subject, I’ve in recent years derived a great deal of satisfaction from giving public readings of my work. I was nervous as all hell the first time that I did it, but have begun to genuinely enjoy it since. Writing is mostly a very isolated job, and I’ve no particular problem with that. I’d hate to try and write with people looking over my shoulder and going “You spelt that wrong” or “Ooh, what happens next?” But it’s nice to get out there into the world beyond my head sometimes, and giving a reading let’s you connect with your audience on a very direct level.

Q4/ The greatest displeasure?

A4/ Most writers I’ve ever spoken to agree on this one. I’ve no problem at all with polishing up a short story, but rewriting a full-sized novel is largely drudgery, an enervating slog with very little that is joyful or creative to it. But it has to be done and, since I’m something of a perfectionist, it usually gets done at least four times, often more, before I’m happy with a finished book. All that you can do is tuck your head down and get on with it, looking forward to the day you reach the final page and can start on something new again, the fresh creative juices flowing.

Q5/ Advice to the publishing world?

A5/ Publishing’s a business, sure, and the houses have to either make money or go broke and wind up publishing no one. A smart writer understands that and does not whine on about ‘commercialism.’ But the plain fact of the matter is, far too many publishers don’t conduct themselves in much of a businesslike way. I’m constantly hearing from writer friends who were told that this and that publicity was going to happen and it never did. I even know one woman whose novel got turned into a TV miniseries, starring a well-known actor … and her publishers never even bothered to tie it in. So my advice to publishers would be, ‘be better, smarter businessmen and do more for your authors -- you will sell more books.’

Q6/ Are there any forgotten writers you’d like to see in print again?

A6/ The thing that’s really changing this -- bringing authors back -- is not print but ebooks, although it is a slow process. I was horrified to see that, until recently, there was barely any Bradbury on Kindle, except that’s changing with the re-publication of Fahrenheit 451.

One series that I used to love, and do not see around much any more, was Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise novels. She’s a secret agent, and the books are kind of distaff James Bond stuff. But they’re considerably better written than you would expect, with good characters and exciting plots.

When I was a kid, there used to be an English series -- written, if I recall, by different authors -- about a detective called Sexton Blake, a rather more down-to-earth version of Sherlock Holmes. That could stand revisiting.

How many people these days know about Joan Aiken’s Wolves of Willoughby Chase books? They’re ostensibly fantasies for older children, but are wonderfully imaginative and so beautifully told that any adult can enjoy them, and they’ve invited praise from the likes of Michael Moorcock.

And when it comes to science fiction, did I hear someone mention Cordwainer Smith, who wrote some truly amazing stories such as ‘Scanners Live in Vain’?

Q7/ Tell us about selling your first novel?

A7/ It was called ‘The Harvest Bride,’ and was a supernatural thriller about an alcoholic American journalist, currently living in London, England, who finds his colleagues being murdered and starts linking those crimes to the time they spent in Vietnam, covering the war there. I wrote it on a big blue Olivetti manual typewriter that I still keep tucked away in a closet in my study. And because you could not delete and alter anything you wanted, writing was a rather different process back then. You had to go at your prose rather more carefully the first time around. In fact, I finished ‘The Harvest Bride’ in two drafts. (The following year I bought my very first word-processor, and my next novel -- ‘Night Feast’ -- went through seven, which demonstrates how that kind of technology has changed the way we work).

I then went looking for an agent, and Leslie Gardner, a native Manhattanite who now lives in London as well, picked me up. She showed the novel to Tor, and they bought it straight off. Huge joy in the Richards household, as you can imagine. Headline Books took the rights for the British market. It went on to be nominated for the HWA Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel, alongside Clive Barker’s and Dan Simmons’ debut books. And it got some wonderful reviews, including one from a certain E. Gorman, which is why I’m so pleased to be appearing on this blog. Huge thanks, Ed.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Forgotten Books: Fake I.D. by Jason Starr

Jason Starr is the poet of pathological lives. In Fake I.D. he gives us Tony Russo, gambling addict and bartender/actor, who believes, despite enormous evidence to the contrary, that someday real soon now he will reap a bonanza with his gambling just as he knows that he will soon enough be King of Hollywood. Gold at the track and movie star pussy forever.

One of the ways he hopes to hurry his dreams along is by stealing ten thousand dollars from the bar where he works. He has a chance to buy a share of a race horse and thus become a (another fantasy) a gentleman of the horsey set (his daydream about standing in the winner's circle with a movie star lady practically going down on him is especially embarrassing and pathetic). But being the good businessman he is he takes the ten grand and goes to Vegas where he is real real sure he will play this into much much more. He returns home broke of course.

Being a good sociopath Tony must now replace the money he lost in Vegas. This quest, and it is nothing less, involves more stealing and not incidentally murder. Starr gives us a trio of women who become indelible in the reader's mind. My favorite is Janene. Like Frank, the man who owns the bar where Tony works, she is sensible, intelligent and honest. It is from her that he lifts jewelry.

Starr has one of those quintessential New York voices. Because Richard Price's Ladies' Man is one of my favorite novels I kept hearing riffs on that in this book especially when Starr was writing about the bar and the people who work there and hang out there. Starr has an almost surreal eye and ear for manners and he can be both witty and chilling at the same time. He's excellent with boozy conversation.

Starr is on record acknowledging his debt to certain of the paperbacks of the 1950s and 1960s and the pace and punch of his novel certainly demonstrate that affection especially when all of Tony's sweaty plans begun to unravel. But the book is wholly Starr's and it's a sound strong good one. So many writers try hard to replicate Jim Thompson by using similar material. Tony Russo's heart is as dark as any of Thomson's sociopaths but his environment and his style could not be more disimilar. Lew Ford wouldn't know what to make of him.

Because of his social eye and because of his ambition to include the wider world in his work, Jason Starr is among my favorites of the neo-noir writers. Fake I.D. is a gem of treachery.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Sara Paretsky discusses Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo

On Watching Vertigo on the Big Screen in 35mm with an Audience
Posted by suzidoll on December 5, 2011 FROM TCM MOVIE MORLOCKS

On a cold, blustery Chicago afternoon, I was safely tucked in the back row of a theater watching Vertigo as it was intended to be seen—on the big screen in 35mm with a theater full of movie buffs, cinephiles, and Hitchcock fans. The rich, saturated colors of the new print were a treat after seeing so many contemporary films shot in the drab, flat, burnished colors of digital cinematography. The film was followed by a commentary and discussion led by mystery writer Sara Paretsky and psychologist James W. Anderson, a professor at Northwestern University. Watching Vertigo on the big screen helped me notice details that had eluded me on previous viewings, while comments by Paretsky and Anderson offered a different point of view on the film. I also learned a great deal from the insightful observations of the audience members.

Part detective story and part psychological thriller, Vertigo is about a man who cannot come to grips with his obsession for a woman. And, it is also the story of what it means for the woman to be the object of that obsession, though that part of the tale is often overlooked. Hitchcock was fond using a doppelganger theme in his films, in which one of the main characters has a double who is exactly like them and yet the opposite of them. A doppelganger theme often employs a doubling structure in the narrative; in other words, patterns or events are repeated twice. With this viewing of Vertigo, I noticed that the doubling structure for this film consists of the real version of a character or event juxtaposed with a phony version. Kim Novak is introduced as Madeleine Elster, but she is really Judy Barton who is masquerading as Madeleine as part of an elaborate murder plot. The phony Madeleine pretends to be obsessed with her great grandmother, Carlotta Valdes. Jimmy Stewart is John “Scottie” Ferguson, who is hired by Gavin Elster to follow his “wife” to learn more about her obsession. Scottie is the dupe in the plot who will ensure that Elster’s plan is successful. In pretending to be obsessed, Madeleine visits places associated with her ancestor, including the graveyard where Carlotta is buried and the museum where her portrait hangs. Scottie’s desire for the phony Madeleine, especially after her death, turns into a real obsession, which is manifested through his haunting of the same places—her gravesite, the museum, etc. We see Scottie follow Madeleine to these places in the first half of the film as part of her pretense; then we see him haunt these places in the second half of the movie as part of his real obsession. While recovering from his breakdown, Scottie runs into the real Judy, whom he tries to recreate into the Madeleine who never existed, which duplicates Gavin Elster’s deeds though for different reasons. Truth and illusion follow the same patterns in this story, and, like Scottie, we can’t always tell the difference.

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