Monday, February 28, 2011

Day Keene - David Laurence Wilson


Ed here: As a recovering alcoholic (thirty six years dry this April) I should have read between the lines whenever I ran across references to Day Keene's drinking. The stories are usually presented in a larky sort of way, as if Keene was just a happy drunk whose company was enjoyed by all.

David Laurence Wilson is doing impressive and lasting work in recreating the lives of the Gold Medal generation of writers. I'm eager to read his long piece on Keene in the book posted above.

We've exchanged a few letters lately. Here are two of them.


"Yeah, hard to know about Keene. There were different opinions, a saint or a bastard. I knew about McCampbell (Keene's agent). When Harry was having trouble with him Keene sent him a letter referring to McCampbell as "God". And when McCampbell retired he threw out what was described to me as "pounds" of correspondence with Day Keene. Like the manuscripts Harry threw out, in the depths of his depression, I wish I had a few ounces of that stuff now."

"Yeah ... I know a lot about Keene, so there is that responsibility to get it right, ... but I certainly don't know as much as I'd like. His alcoholism made it difficult for those around him. His son wrote me: "The fact was on the other side of the glamour, the flip side of the character he made of himself, was the drinking. This was a bad scene. The whole family spent a lot of years worrying about him when he didn't show on time." You certainly don't have to be a saint to take up the craft of writing."

I'll try to fit all of it into the essay for Stark House, and eventually, my own collection of essays and interviews on that generation of fiction writers.

There's also that persistent theme of violence against women in most of Keene's crime books, prostitution and rape. Granted, he's from a different generation. These books are fifty to seventy years old, a million miles away from your own fiction, for example.

On the other hand, Keene wrote Seed of Doubt. Despite some antiquated attitudes, it also includes one of the most self-empowered woman characters who came from that generation of crime writers.

Harry (Whittington) was the humanist in that group, I think. Wyatt Blassingame, I think, was a good guy, and I think we're both very respectful of Bill Gault.

There were a few saints in the trade."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pro-File: Creeping Hemlock Publishing

Creeping Hemlock Press was founded in Gretna, Louisiana by the husband-and-wife creative duo R.J. and Julia Sevin (seh-VAN). As sometime writers, oftentime readers, they found themselves frustrated with the scarcity of generous-paying, atmospheric and bizarre short story anthologies. They took matters into their own hands in late 2004 when they began to accept submissions for their own anthology. Many months, one baby, two hurricanes, and one soggy home later, Corpse Blossoms was born to critical success and a nomination for the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker award. As their homeless wanderings carried them to Texas and back, the Sevins also produced an original limited-edition novella by Tom Piccirilli, Frayed, to terrific reviews and enthusiastic reader sentiment.

What motivated you to establish Creeping Hemlock Publishing?

The desire for wealth, drugs, and long, sweaty nights filled with dripping with sexual depravity.

It’s not working out.

But seriously: Newly-married, my wife and I decided to start a home business. I was reading a lot of small press horror, and we sort of looked at one another and said, “We can do this.” We could, and we couldn’t—it’s been seven years since we decided to launch Creeping Hemlock, and we’ve learned a lot since then. Learned the hard way, in many cases—but how else does one learn?

Describe your line to those unfamiliar with it.

We’re all over the map. Initially, our emphasis was on limited editions, but we’ve decided to shift our focus on affordable trade paperbacks and eBooks. We owe our collectors a few more special editions, and we do pride ourselves in producing some of the prettiest books the small press has ever seen, but our primary focus from here on is affordability.

Since 2005, we’ve published a horror anthology, an oddball mystery, a brutal family drama, a neo-noir novel, a futuristic/post-apocalyptic SF/Dark Fantasy , two zombie chapbooks, and a ‘60s soft-core porno.

One way to get a sense of your publishing program is to ask what type of fiction you prefer reading.

I didn’t grow up in a literate household. In many ways, it’s a miracle that I can even read. My love of monster movies and comic books translated into my buying Stephen King’s NIGHT SHIFT when I was eleven or twelve. For many years, I was a horror guy, not venturing very far from that particular dark pool. I still love a good horror novel, of course, but I don’t read much new horror these days. Noir/Crime has become my new mistress—though, between family life, my writing, and my work as a publisher/editor, I don’t have much time for leisure reading. I think I read a whopping three novels last year...

I read an article recently that claimed that small publishers now discover and develop new writers far more often than the big publishing houses in NYC. How do you feel about that?

If it’s an accurate claim, I can see how it makes sense. We’re smaller, and we’re not as thinly spread as editors at big NYC houses. When we edited CORPSE BLOSSOMS, we sent out something like 550 rejection letters—and every one of them was personalized in some way. We tried to give substantive suggestions to everyone who submitted, and it was very appreciated. We’re currently working with a few first-time novelists, helping them to hone their craft—and this is only because we are small. It’s the difference between having three kids and twelve kids, I guess—you’re just not going to be able to put the same amount of effort and energy into twelve as you are three.

What are two or three of the biggest problems small publisher face?

There are problems without and there are problems within. Without—the changing market, the economy, technology’s impact on the distribution of information. Within--getting into the business before you know what you’re doing, before doing as much research as possible.

Being cheap is a bad thing, too: I wish more small publishers would look to NYC publishing to get an idea what real books look like. Too many small presses want to save money and do their book covers in house. The results are sometimes grotesque.

Do you feel that that tsunami of self-published books get in the way of legitimate small publishing?

Eh. The cream rises. The consumer usually–usually—can tell the real thing from some shoddy pretender. For some time, it seemed like vanity publishers were giving Print on Demand technology a bad name. People associated one with the other. Not the case, and of course the line is blurring—self-publishing through Kindle and other eBook platforms is becoming an acceptable practice among professionals who would have, just five years ago, frowned upon the behavior.

That tsunami has receded over the years, in some cases. The crap is still out there, and always will be, but booksellers have learned the hard way the avoid them. Six or seven years ago, stores were getting stuck with non-returnable POD vanity titles. They wised up…

Small press publishing is a perilous task--how are things going so far?

Perilously, to use an adverb that would make Stephen king twitch. One needs to make wise decisions, or to learn from the poor ones quickly enough to start makin’ wise ones…

Which title has been your biggest success so far?

THE FEVER KILL, by Tom Piccirilli.

Tell us about your future plans for the press.

In six years of publishing, we’ve only published two novels. This year alone, we will release at least SEVEN novels, starting in March with the launch of PRINT IS DEAD, our zombie-themed imprint. The novels that we have lined up are spectacular examples of their genre, and given the seemingly endless popularity of zombie fiction, we expect PRINT IS DEAD to be a runaway (or shambling, depending upon your zombie preference) success. The endorsement we received from George A. Romero can’t hurt, either.

In addition to the zombie line, there will be another Lawrence Block reprint (APRIL NORTH, our follow-up to CAMPUS TRAMP), and we’re hoping to follow that book with a reprint of one of his classic crime novels. We’re planning something pretty big with T.M. Wright, and there’s a few other things that I can’t mention yet—too early. In short: this ship ain’t sinking, and we’re not going anywhere.

How are you planning to deal with the e book stampede?

PRINT IS DEAD is a big part of that. Our zombie books will debut as Kindle eBooks, and so on…

Where do you hope Creeping Hemlock will be two years from now?

Wealth, drugs, and those sweaty, sex-filled nights.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Something in The Shadows by Vin Packer

Ed here: I was looking for a copy of the Vin Packer cover for Something in The Shadows (the great Dillons did it) when I stumbled across this review by Michael Carlson on his IRRESISTIBLE TARGETS site. A) This is how reviews should be written and B) This is the finest review of how Packer's finest novel (to me) relates to today's pop culture. I admire the book more than Carlson does but his points are well taken. Carlson's site doesn't seem to be active now which is too bad becaue the man can write (take a look at his credits when you link the the entire review).


VIN PACKER'S SOMETHING IN THE SHADOWS: A Forgotten Friday Entry Michael Carlson

There's a certain resonance to Something In The Shadows now, in the light of first the HBO series Mad Men and then the Hollywood copycat Revolutionary Road, both of which try to address the restrictive boundaries of 1950s American society. The novel is arguably the best of Vin Packer's psychological thrillers, in which a small killing, of a cat, grows into a murder, but the real suspense in the story is the watching of Joseph Meaker's mind crumble. It's reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith, and therein lies part of the tale.

Meaker and his wife live in an old farmhouse, in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania, from which Maggie commutes to her New York job in advertising. Advertising was a buzz-word at the time, and as both Mad Men and Revolutionary Road confirm, we still see the era as defined by the take-over of the sell, the slick media presentation, over the reality of life. Joseph is a scholar, in dead-end pursuit of hex-signs on Bucks County barns, but he spends much of his time contemplating his lost college love, Varda, a Hungarian woman whose activist nature contrasted even more than Maggie's with his pseudo-intellectual passivity; the key moment in their relationship came when he fled racist hecklers at a Henry Wallace for President rally in 1948; Varda of course was working for Wallace.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Beyond The Valley of Burt Hirschfeld

Ed here: The website Glorious Trash has a post about writer Burt Hirschfeld (using the name Hugh Baron here) and some of the novels he wrote in the spirit of Jacqueline Susann's Valley of The Dolls. If you were alive in 1969 you'll remember that Susann and her novel were inescapable. Susann gave good snarky tv interviews, which helped, and famously feuded with Truman Capote who dumped on her novel. She went after him with gay slurs which only raised her profile--and profits--all the higher. Dolls was pure soap opera and not particularly good soap opera at that but the book was set in Hollywood and had enough seeming insider stuff (she'd been an actress at one time) that it sold millions. Below is Hirschfeld's version of Susann. Even at GOP parties you don't meet women this mean. In Hirschfeld's defense he was a good pulp writer. I enjoyed many of his non-Susann novels and have managed to hang on to a few for forty-some years.

Glorious Trash:

It's this flashback nature which hampers The Goddess Game. In short, the storylines for each of the four women are mostly the same. The material in 1969 however is true trash gold and makes one wish for more of it. For as the narrative progresses we learn that Mandy hasn't just escaped; she's been kidnapped, and the kidnappers already have a stash worth of photos of Mandy taking part in "unwholesome activities" with a bunch of men and women.

Only Mandy's flashback sequence comes close to equalling the 1969 portion: Mandy is a true trash fiction bitch, the "Neely O'Hara" of the novel. (The entire novel comes off like a "spot the Valley of the Dolls analogue" guessing game.) Like Neely, Mandy Brooke is a pill-popping man-eater, a malicious monster who schemes and manipulates and backstabs. Her flashback is the juiciest, as she sets up "friend" Holly so as to steal her part in a Broadway play: Mandy pays some bikers to rape the poor girl, and then, while it's happening, places an anonymous call to both the cops and the gossip rags that a "wild sex orgy" is taking place with a Broadway actress in attendance. From there Mandy becomes only more deliciously conniving: she makes a famous, elderly director fall so in love with her that he divorces his wife of decades; then she sleeps with a variety of men so as to become pregnant and fool the director into believing that it's his child, so he will marry her; then she gets an abortion while he's away. Finally she literally screws the poor bastard to death; now that she has the standing of his name, she doesn't need the man himself.

for the rest go here:

30 Rock Rocks Out

Ed here: Last night's 30 Rock tore into the discussion about women in comedy. It was funny but it was also angry, something you don't see often on network sit-coms. Here's an interesting piece on it from Salon.

"30 Rock" takes on feminist hypocrisy -- and its own
The show skewers Jezebel, sexy female stand-ups, lame period jokes -- and we all win VIDEO

Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and Abby Flynn (Cristin Milioti) in the February 24 episode of "30 Rock."
Last night on NBC's "30 Rock," Tina Fey and company dove head first into the mud-wrestling match that is the ongoing conversation about women in contemporary comedy. The show took particular interest in the recent kerfuffle that erupted when unofficially-feminist-but-totally-feminist women's pop-culture website Jezebel took on the beloved "Daily Show" for not featuring enough women as on-air talent or in the writers room, and for its hiring of lissome-but-arguably-not-hilarious Olivia Munn as a token female cast-member. The episode was a direct entrance into the controversy that has lately swirled not only around Munn and "The Daily Show" but also around Fey and her "30 Rock" protagonist Liz Lemon: the one about the very combustible relationship between women, comedy and feminism.

The show begins when a website called takes "30 Rock's" meta-show "TGS" and particularly Fey's meta-character Liz Lemon to task for not employing enough women. In response, Liz hires Abby Flynn (Cristin Milioti), a pneumatic, infantilized, thumb-sucking trampoline jumper whose character was both an obvious reference to Munn (who took a girlish hop on the old trampoline for a Maxim shoot) and, to my eye, an even more devastating take on the pigtailed creepy-sex-object shtick of Sarah Silverman, two hot real-life funny women often credited by male critics for their comedic talent while those women who don't make their sexuality the most salient part of their personae get ignored or dismissed.

fr the rest go here:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

New Books: No One Will Hear You by Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemmons

a new books piece by Matthew Clemens

It was Butterfly McQueen, in the role of Prissy in Gone With The Wind, who said, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ babies.”

That was sort of the feeling I had while Max Allan Collins and I worked on NO ONE WILL HEAR YOU, the sequel to our first Kensington forensics/serial-killer thriller, YOU CAN’T STOP ME. Max and I have been collaborating for over ten years and, most of the time, I have felt comfortable working with a writer considered by many to be a living legend.

The usual analogy for this sort of thing is that writing a book is like giving birth. If that’s true, then this was like having a litter of puppies while juggling chainsaws and riding a unicycle after drinking a triple espresso.

All during the process, characters misbehaved, didn’t step up to the plate and perform, or, in some cases, new characters entered the world fully-formed and ready to rock. Characters wanted, even demanded voluminous interior monologues, but that desire was slowing things down. The book was, in short, giving us fits.

Then, well into the process – me having finished my rough draft, Max about one-third of the way along on his draft - we made some decisions. First, streamline. Though response to the first Harrow, YOU CAN’T STOP ME, had been largely positive, a few readers and reviewers complained that the opening third took too long to get things set-up and the story rolling. With a large cast, it’s easy to get bogged down in back story.

So, following the examples set by Ed McBain in his 87th Precinct books, Richard Stark in his Parker novels, and Dashiell Hammett in, well...everything, we cut anything that didn’t drive the plot forward or inform characterization.

In our other collaborations, we had always used fewer chapters (12 to 15 being the norm); this time we tripled the number of chapters but cut their length by up to two-thirds. Where the mantra in real estate is location, location, location, ours became pace, pace, pace. The idea was to trim the fat and turn this book into a lean, mean, fighting machine. At the same time, we had been contracted to deliver at least 100,000 words – bestseller-style thrillers don’t fit the 50,000-word format of McBain and Stark.

So this took us into new places, including plot twists we had neither planned nor anticipated. When Max and I decided we needed to go all Hammett on their asses, that put me a few chapters ahead of him, cutting and sometimes adding. I remember vividly calling him up and saying, “Looks like we’re going to kill character’s-name-here!”

“Groovy,” Max said.

Although these alterations to our joint style took us out of our comfort zone, we felt these changes would turn this into a rocket ride from beginning to end.

We think we’ve succeeded. Read NO ONE WILL HEAR YOU and see if we’re right.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lee Pfeiffer's hilarious take on the "new" Academy Awards

Ed here: Lee Pfeiffer of the excellent magazine Cinema-Retro posted this bemused take on the "new" Academy Awards coming next Sunday night. I agree with Lee--guaranteed disaster. Support Cinema-Retro!

By Lee Pfeiffer

A.M.P.A.S. is still desperately trying to attract younger viewers for its annual Oscar telecast. Once considered to be "must-see" TV, the broadcast's ratings have declined in recent years. This resulted is an annual pledge to do something radical to attract younger viewers. The most contentious plan was to change the rules to include ten nominees for Best Picture, double the usual number. However, since only five director's can be nominated, everyone realizes that the other five are largely superfluous choices designed to honor films that stand no chance of winning. Consider this a sop to fans of The Dark Knight who complained that the Academy wasn't hip enough to nominate the blockbuster for Best Picture. Changes this year include getting rid of the tag-team of Barbie and Ken types who present an Oscar together amidst the God-awful "spontaneous" banter. Instead, there will be more responsibility on the two hosts, James Franco and Anne Hathaway, who are the youngest people ever to host the event. The fact that most people over the age of 30 may not have even heard of them may result in a lack of enthusiasm for the older audience that remains Oscar's most loyal viewers. There also won't be film montages of classic genres. The gimmick is being retired after last year's awful tribute to horror movies that was compiled by people who think modern slasher films merited more time than the Universal monsters classics or Hammer horror flicks. They are also going to do away with dispensing with the Best Song nominees in a collective number and once again present the songs in their entirety. Given the fact that it seems there hasn't been a memorable song nominated since Ronald Reagan sat in the White House, this should ensure plenty of bathroom breaks for those viewers with weak bladders. There will also be the cringe-inducing gimmick of watching a selected groups of mothers and grandmothers, who will be referred to as "Mominees", to Tweet their observations about the broadcast on their Twitter accounts. That's the final straw for me. I'll be on vacation in the Dominican Republic and I was reluctant to leave the temptation of island drinks and cigars to be cooped up in a hotel room watching the Oscar broadcast. I'll now leave it to friends who are house sitting for me to give me their observations, but it might constitute cruel and unusual punishment. For the Hollywood Reporter's story about the changes to Oscar

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Joe McGinnis looking bad?

Ed here: I hope the following isn't true. Way back in the Sixties Joe McGinnis wrote The Boys in The Bus, his adventures in covering the Nixon campaign. Hunter Thompson created one kind of political sub-genre, McGinnis another. Since then he's had a successful if spotted career. Some of his books I didn't care for but I never doubted his scruples. If this is true, I'm disappointed. Or am I being naive? In truth I'd rather read the other guy's book anyway. He actually worked for the dragon lady.

Huffington Post:

JUNEAU, Alaska — The author accused of helping leak an unpublished tell-all on Sarah Palin is releasing his own book on the former Alaska governor this summer. lists a Sept. 20 release date for author Joe McGinniss' "The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin."

McGinniss made headlines last year when he moved next to the Palins in Wasilla while researching the book. The move prompted complaints by Palin, who extended the fence between their properties.

More recently, McGinniss has been accused of helping leak a draft of an unpublished tell-all by former Palin aide Frank Bailey.

McGinniss didn't immediately return messages Tuesday. His book agent, Dave Larabell, told The Associated Press that McGinniss wasn't the only person in the publishing world to see the manuscript. He declined further comment.

Monday, February 21, 2011

One more ebook venue - unproduced movie scripts

From The Huffington Post:

Film and television director Hubert de la Bouillerie just launched, the first online company to sell Hollywood writers' stories electronically for downloading on iPads and eReaders.

The site features traditional formats of screenplays, as well as its own unique format that removes direction cues. It also features published and unpublished novels and novellas and film and TV treatments compiled as short stories.

" crosses two frontiers," said de la Bouillerie in the site's press release. "First, it gives readers access to brand new content from writers who are fantastic storytellers; and second, it fulfills the needs of today's readers - eBooks for mobile devices like the iPad that, at an average of 100 pages each, are quick reads that fit into busy lifestyles."

The site will initially only feature unproduced scripts by film and TV professionals who have at least one creative credit on IMDb. It already contains the work of writers Mark Medoff, Robert Klane, and Warren Lewis.

Lewis said, of the website, "When Hubert came to me with the idea, I thought: 'This is brilliant. Just because a movie doesn't get made doesn't mean it's not a fabulous story. Why not give readers everywhere access to these stories and let

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kiss Me Deadly - Robert Aldrich

Ed here: Peter Bogdanovich writes the best kind of blog, informed, amused and opinionated, even though some of his opinions collide with mine i.e. his mandatory put-down of Mickey Spillane. But this post is a fine example of a man who knows both Hollywood and the history of film writing about an infamous masterpiece and a director who occasionally had true greatness in him. You should definitely bookmark the site.

Kiss Me Deadly

by Peter Bogdanovich

Talk about the tension between a director and his material—which was one of the critical cornerstones of the French New Wave’s reassessment of American movies—-and they were the first to point out this frisson in the work of iconoclastic director-producer Robert Aldrich; perhaps most noticeably in his aggressive independent film, the dark and dangerous 1955 thriller, KISS ME DEADLY (available on DVD). Aldrich hated detective-fiction writer Mickey Spillane’s novels so much that he took one of the author’s most popular and typical Mike Hammer private-eye stories and transformed it into not only the best picture ever made from Spillane (which isn’t saying much) but a savagely angry film noir classic of annihilating dimension—-literally: At the end, everybody, including Hammer, gets blown away in a dusk-lit Malibu beach house by no less than a nuclear blast. What then happened to L.A. is left to the imagination.

The whole thing starts out quietly one night with a terrified young woman—-Cloris Leachman’s first role—-running barefoot along a deserted blacktop wearing only a raincoat. Hammer—-played exceedingly tough, with virtually no charm, by Ralph Meeker—-picks her up, tries to help her. When she gets murdered anyway, it really pisses him off and this is how he gets involved in the labyrinthine mystery that unfolds and remains fairly difficult to figure out all the way through. But, though often impenetrable, it’s also completely riveting—-like a down and dirty The Big Sleep—-Howard Hawks’ equally mystifying 1946 detective picture with Humphrey Bogart as Raymond Chandler’s detective, Philip Marlowe (also available on DVD).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

New Books: LONG PIG by James L. Ross

LONG PIG. James L. Ross
318 pages. Perfect Crime Books. ISBN: 978-1-935797-10-4
Publication date: February 24, 2011.

My favorite line in LONG PIG comes near the end: “If he couldn’t help anybody, at least he could fuck someone up once in a while.”

Hayes has served his prison time over a Pentagon billing scandal. Now he’s done with the D.C. crowd. His daughter has hired him as an off-the-books investigator at her P.I. firm in Hollywood. He’s got a scriptwriter lady friend who’s twenty years younger than him. He knows he’s an anachronism, knows all his points of reference are out of date, takes small comfort in the scriptwriter’s occasional reference to him as “Studkins”—suspecting she’s joking. This is the kind of character I like, because I’ve known people a little like him: over the hill, doubting that the past meant much. Hayes knows he can’t reform the Washington system. He knows he bought into a lot of b.s. as an army helicopter pilot. He had an epiphany in prison that his old beliefs were like water going down the shower stall drain. So then the complication: a political fixer back in D.C. thinks Hayes is leaking a damaging story about the war-hero President. Since it’s a story Hayes may have picked up from a gay sergeant who served with the Prez in Nam, this could be a little worse than a Swiftboat tale. The sergeant is conveniently deceased. Now the political fixer sets out to shut Hayes up.

What I liked to imagine was: How would a guy like Hayes, at this stage in his life, deal with people who believe he’s a pushover?

I knew a guy more than twenty years ago who had been at the U.S. compound during Tet, and some of his background made its way into Hayes’s. Hollywood and D.C. people might be a little recognizable. I didn’t want to write a roman a clef, but I like stories that have at least shallow roots in things I’ve known. So they have life beyond the immediate needs of the plot.
JAMES L. ROSS February 19, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

One more for Uncle Leo

This is not only a frame from my favorite Uncle Leo scene (it's hard to choose just one, no kidding) but also my favorite of his array of 1970s leisure suit jackets, the turd brown one. Just looking at him makes me feel better.

Robert Bob Levinson is a fine mystery writer and a fine reporter on the Hollywood he grew up in and remains a part of to this day. If Bob ever writes his autobiography it will be a best seller. Bob was nice enough to end me an e mail about Len Lesser, Uncle Leo.

Hi, Ed...

Len was a lovely gent. Lived within blocks of my son's pizza restaurant; came in often, until health problems led him to phone ordering for home delivery...During my time as president of the Hollywood Press Club, Len starred for us as Harry Cohn in a one-act play written by the late Malvin Wald (of "Naked City" fame; Jerry Wald's brother). Suffice it to say, he was terrific...A couple years ago, a mutual friend asked if I might be interested in co-authoring Len's autobiography. I declined, given it's not what I do, but did put Len together with another friend. Last I heard, the work was going well and she'd gotten Seinfeld to write an intro, but otherwise I have no idea of the project's current status...

Stay well.

Warmest regards,

Thursday, February 17, 2011

R.I.P., Uncle Leo

I've mentioned before that the older I get the more I appreciate people in whatever calling who make life pleasanter for me. Jack Warden is my favorite character actor of all time but there have been dozens of others from Ted Knight (Ted Baxter) to Roland Young and Billie Burke in the Thirties. My favorite Seinfeld character was Uncle Leo. His working class viewpoint was a true (if sometimes annoying) contrast to the rather spoiled take of the four main characters. He improved every scene he was in. So long, Len.

Here's a salute to Uncle Leo. The link will take you to a sampling of his best scenes.

Matt WilsteinFounder, Gotcha Media
Posted: February 17, 2011 09:02 AM
BIOBecome a Fan Get Email AlertsBloggers' Index
RIP Len Lesser: Uncle Leo's Funniest 'Seinfeld' Scenes (VIDEO)

Len Lesser, the actor who portrayed Jerry Seinfeld's Uncle Leo on Seinfeld, died yesterday at the the age of 88. Let's look back at some of the funniest ways he annoyed his nephew over the years.

More comedy videos at:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Forgotten Books: How Like An Angel Margaret Millar

How Like an Angel by Margaret Millar

I've always held the opinion that some writers are just too good for the mass market. This is a true of a number of literary writers but it's also true of at least one writer of crime fiction, the late Margret Millar. For all her many deserved awards, she never became the enormous commercial success she deserved to be.

For me she's the single most elegant stylist who ever shaped a mystery story. You revel in her sentences. She used wit and black humor in the direst of novels long before it was fashionable in the genre. And she was a better (and much fairer) bamboozler than Agatha Christie.

I recently reread her How Like and Angel and its richness, its darkness, its perverse wit make me repeat what I've said many times before--if this isn't the perfect mystery novel, it comes damned close.

The story, complex as it becomes is simple in its set-up. Private eye Joe Quinn, having gambled away all his money, begins hitchhiking from Reno to Caifornia. Along the way he sees the Tower, the symbol of a religious cult that eventually offers him not only shelter but a chance to put his skills to use. Sister Blessing asks him to find a man named Patrick O'Gorman. The man is dead. Which makes Quinn suspicious of why she wants him located.

Among its many pleasures is the way this novel, published in the early sixties, anticipates some of the fringe cults that would grow out of the flower power days. There's more than a touch of ole Charlie Manson in the Tower. Millar does world building here--not unlike a science fiction writer at work--giving us a look at a group of varied individuals who have been driven here because they could not cope with the world and its cruelty and deceits. Some are insane, some are sweet and pathetic and a few are diabolical. There is great strangeness here and Millar presents it with poetic force and humor.

The mystery itself is truly baffling. In following it down Quinn goes into a nearby town reconstruct the curious history of O`Gorman. Who was he really? The daylight town scenes contrast with the shadowy ones at the Tower but it is in the daylight that the true darkness of Quinn’s journey is exposed. It always puts me in mind of the end of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane—when Jane escapes the gloom of their house to reach the beach—the searing sunlight crueler to her than anything her sister did. Night suddenly seems a blessing.

Just about everybody who’s ever read Margaret Millar has wondered why she isn’t known at least half as well as her husband Ken Millar/Ross Macdonald. In her own way she was certainly his equal.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

“You Aren’t Too Smart, Are You? I Like That in a Man”


Ed here: Great post on the film on the TCM movie blog on the film "Body heat."

“You Aren’t Too Smart, Are You? I Like That in a Man”
Posted by suzidoll on January 31, 2011

If this isn’t my favorite line of dialogue in a film, it’s at least in the top five. Fans of the modern-day film-noir classic Body Heat will recognize this oft-quoted line from the scene in which femme fatale Matty Walker first meets the clueless protagonist, Ned Racine. The line is not only witty but also reveals Matty’s opinion of Ned and serves as a warning of her intentions to use him. That Ned ignores the subtext of her joke proves her opinion of him to be true. The line becomes richer upon repeated viewings of Body Heat because we know how Matty and Ned’s story plays out. Clever viewers familiar with the film noir genre may not need repeated viewings to predict the end game. As soon as Matty strolls across the screen in her deceptively white dress, we know that she is the predatory femme fatale, and Ned’s days are numbered. Her provocative line of dialogue merely clinches it. I recently watched Body Heat again, and it made me long for those days of well-crafted Hollywood films with appealing adult characters, particularly strong women—even if they were bad to the bone.

Unbelievably, this year marks the 30th anniversary of Body Heat, which introduced a new generation to film noir, launched the careers of stars William Hurt and Kathleen Turner, and marked the directorial debut of Lawrence Kasdan. With its brazen sex scenes, cynical tone, and rich atmosphere, Body Heat became a hit with modern audiences who had lost touch with the original noir cycle of the 1940s and 1950s. Kasdan, who had mined the serials and adventure films of the 1930s and 1940s to cowrite Raiders of the Lost Ark, similarly borrowed from the original cycle of film noir to construct Body Heat. The film’s story of small-time lawyer Ned Racine who is seduced by Matty Walker into killing her husband for the money is classic noir wrapped in a new package.“you-aren’t-too-smart-are-you-i-like-that-in-a-man”/#more-32084

Monday, February 14, 2011

Baretta Does Burbank


Ed here: I've been telling you for years that one of the most sophisticated, interesting and memorable sites on the net is News From Me by Mark Evanier who has been involved in virtually every form of writing and show business far decades. An extremely bright, generous, unassuming man he charts show business old and new from angles nobody else even thinks of. And the writing is always polished and smart. Here's a post from yesterday.

Baretta Does Burbank

I didn't get to the Hollywood Show out in Burbank this weekend but friends who did report quite an event because of one guest...Robert Blake. Blake was there to sign autographs for money along with many other guests, including Angie Dickinson, Alan Thicke, Rich Little, June Foray and about five dozen others.

Saturday morn, Blake got into a yelling match with the show's organizer. Some thought it might escalate into a hitting match but it did not. The issue seems to have been that Blake was placed in a side area — a place where the event always puts one of its bigger attractions. He had a sizeable lineup of folks willing to shell out thirty dollars for a signed photo but it did not seem to him as long a line as, say, Angie Dickinson's. Blake felt he was being hidden away...I guess because of his notoriety or something. The organizers assured him he was getting the same treatment that stars like Henry Winkler and Mickey Rooney had received. At some point, the arguing reached the stage where security was called in and Blake was asked to leave. (One thing that didn't help Mr. Blake keep his temper in check: One person seeking Blake's autograph asked him to sign a couple of menus from Vitello's Restaurant.)

Blake was banned from the premises but Sunday afternoon, to the surprise of all, he was back. He apologized to those present and announced his intention to give out free signed photos to anyone who wanted one. This did not endear him to the other celebrities present who were trying to sell theirs. They watched as their lines disappeared and all the attendees flooded over to line up for Blake's freebees or at least to watch the drama. Blake was asked to leave again so he got up on a chair and proclaimed that he'd be giving out free pictures in the parking lot. The crowd moved out there with him and the remaining guests began packing to leave. Before long, hotel security and/or Burbank police officers were asking him to depart the parking lot. TMZ has more details and some grainy video.

So...anyone surprised by any of this?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Charles Bukowski...for Valentine's Day

Nobody's poetry say Valentine's Day better than...Charles Bukowski's? I've been reading and admiring both his poetry and prose for more than thirty years. He explains the contemporary world just about as well as anybody I've read. But as a messenger for Valentine's Day? The following is from Jacket Copy in The Los Angeles Times.

Slake does Bukowski for (almost) Valentine's

The people at Slake magazine have teamed up with the Huntington Library to offer a special tour of the Bukowski exhibiton at 3 p.m. Feb. 13, followed by a private reception. That evening, Slake presents a love-and-Bukowski-themed reading at nearby Vroman's in Pasadena.

Those who pay $60 for the Slake tour will get admission to the Huntington Library, Gallery and Gardens and a guided tour of the Bukowski exhibit by its curator, Sue Hodson, who is the Huntington's curator of literary manuscripts. Tickets for the Slake tour are limited; the Bukowski exhibit's final day will be Feb. 14.

After the tour, attendees will be given a photographic print of Bukowski's manual typewriter, signed by photographer Anne Fishbein, and hustled off to the new Euro Pane Bakery for a private reception.

All that will be followed by a public reading at Vroman's to celebrate Slake's second issue. Called "Love and Bukowski," it focuses on the poet, who is the focus of pieces by Laurie Ochoa and Geoff Nicholson in the new Slake, and on love. But it promises to be anything but sentimental -- while he often wrote of love, Bukowski wrote poems such as "Prayer for Broken-Handed Lovers," "Love Is A Piece Of Paper Torn To Bits," "Inverted Love Song" and the poetry collection "Love is a Dog From Hell."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Phoenix Wordshop

Ed here: These are friends and co-workers of mine. I can't say I'm impartial in recommending them but I can say that given the years they've spent working as writers and editors--the latter including some very big names--I know that your experience with them will be of the utmost professionalism and editorial savvy. Between them they've worked with just about every publishing house and editor writers of every genre would likely submit to. And on top if it, they're nice people to work with. Here's how to contact them:

Phoenix Wordshop

Home Page
About Us
Services and Fees
Our Process
Submission Form
Sample Editing Agreement
Contact Us

Welcome to Phoenix Wordshop, dedicated to helping each manuscript be the best it can be.

We bring both passion and professionalism to every manuscript we edit. Our founders (John Helfers, Larry Segriff, and Rosalind Greenberg) have more than fifty years of combined experience working in the publishing industry and have edited or written hundreds of novels and non-fiction books—many of which have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list.

Whether you’re looking to submit your book to a traditional publisher or self-publish it on your own, Phoenix Wordshop can help you to improve your work and increase your chance of success.

Content copyright 2011. Phoenix Wordshop. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 11, 2011



Ed here: Two reviews of Dave Zeltserman's books. I read Outsourced in ms. before it was published and thought than
and think now that it is not only a major novel but also one that nails the American economic dictatorship. The second review is of an anthology Dave, Marty Greenberg and I put together to illustrate how certain kinds of western fiction are definitely noir.

The American dream turns to crime in Zeltserman’s latest
By Ed Siegel
February 11, 2011

The middle-class dream has turned into a nightmare for Dan Wilson. From the outside his life looks pretty good — a nice house in the Boston suburbs, an attractive wife, two good kids, plentiful friends.


By Dave Zeltserman
Serpent’s Tail, 313 pp.,
paperback, $14.95
But it’s all unraveling. He lost his job as a software engineer when the company he worked for went out of business. And with the job went his insurance (this is pre-Obama America), making the onset of retinitis pigmentosa particularly dicey.

This is the setup for another of Dave Zeltserman’s local hero or antihero novels, “Outsourced.’’ Wilson, like one of the steelworkers in “The Full Monty,’’ decides he and his friends should go into a different line of work, seeing that there isn’t much calling for a 48-year-old software programmer in the States. His idea is a bit more radical than the stripteasing steelworkers, though. He decides that he and his friends should rob the bank that hired him and then outsourced the software development.

The book’s another feather in the noirish cap of Zeltserman, though it was actually written in 2004 before “Pariah’’ and “Killer,’’ two volumes of his excellent ex-con trilogy (third being “Small Crimes’’), and the even better supernaturally tinged “The Caretaker of Lorne Field.’’

And here again, Zeltserman manages to tell a riveting story in the straightforward, personality-driven manner at which he’s so accomplished. There’s no purple in his prose even though he obviously has learned lessons of the genre from masters like Jim Thompson. His characters aren’t as hard-bitten, which perhaps is why it’s easier to identify with them.

There is, though, one uncharacteristic misstep in “Outsourced.’’ The likable Wilson, no matter how desperate his circumstances, seems far too smart to surround himself with the psycho killers he ends up with, two of whom are also software engineers.

Zeltserman is no doubt having some fun here. He did, after all, give up his day job as a software engineer himself to pursue a life of crime, even if (presumably) he keeps his larceny limited to the written page.

But that’s an in-joke. With friends like Wilson’s it’s no wonder that the robbery is fraught with problems and enough extreme manifestations of personality disorders to make Quentin Tarantino blush. (In fact, movie rights have been sold.) Wilson’s cohorts — there’s also a relatively normal Indian engineer in on the heist — threaten to drag down the book, particularly in the middle section, with their nutty behavior.

Fortunately, two other characters — a cop and a Russian mobster — are much more believable and interesting, so “Outsourced’’ rights itself in the aftermath of the bank robbery as Wilson tries to stay one step ahead of the cop, the Russkie, and his increasingly suspicious wife, who had other things in mind when she told him he needed to bring in more income.

There are similarities to other films and novels about ordinary people running afoul of the forces of law and disorder, such as “A Simple Plan’’ and “No Country for Old Men,’’ though there’s none of the existential pretentiousness of Cormac McCarthy here. Zeltserman seems to be after more concrete emotional resonances with Wilson’s ultimate predicament, and this is where he really shines.

Will Wilson get away with it? Should we be rooting for him to get away with it? I think if he had had better taste in friends, those questions would be even harder for readers to wrestle with. But still, as the body count gets higher and you wonder how things are ever going to tie up satisfactorily, Zeltserman drives the plot forward with a craftiness that results in an ending as sharp as “The Caretaker’’ or any of his other books.

You can outsource software engineering, but so far at least you can’t outsource crime writing as good as Zeltserman’s.

Freelance writer Ed Siegel can be reached at

© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.


On Dangerous Ground: Stories of Western Noir. Cemetery Dance. Mar. 2011. c.404p. ed. by Ed Gorman & others. ISBN 9781587671920. $30. F
Masters of the macabre Gorman (Dead and Alive), Dave Zeltersman (The Caretaker of Lorne Field), and Martin H. Greenberg (The Dean Koontz Companion; Women of the Night) present this anthology of 21 Western-themed stories designed to leave readers screaming for more. Twists of fate and wisps of pure evil subtly wind throughout these chilling tales contributed by a variety of crime fiction and Western authors (Ken Bruen, Harry Shannon, Jeremiah Healy, Bill Crider, James Reasoner, and Robert Randisi). Unexpectedly, they spring forth as the reader (immersed in the virtues of right causes championed by rugged Western heroes) becomes aware of the fetid nature immersing them all. This is classic noir fiction at its very best.
Verdict This skillfully crafted anthology will have great appeal to fans of noir fiction, pulp fiction, and Westerns. The escapism provided through journeying into the bleak shadow-side of human nature allows readers to be guided into a more hopeful reality.—Melody Ballard, Pima Cty. P.L. Tucson, AZ

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's not's him

Jennifer Aniston (left) and Adam Sandler in "Just Go With It"

Ed here: I've seen maybe half a dozen Adam Sandler movies and thought all of them were poor. Junior high humor and stories built to accomodate gags rather than the other way around (I know, I know--the gags are the centerpieces of many good comedies but not in his case). I didn't even think he was funny on SNL. To me he was about one step up from David Spade, whose continued success baffles me more even than quantam physics. I used to think it was just me...but no, at least a few others find Sandler empty and annoying too. Anyway there's a piece on Sandler in Salon today that I thought was worth reading.

"Just Go With It": Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman and a sheep
The comedian's latest film, "Just Go With It," offers poop jokes, boob jokes -- and Nicole Kidman hula dancing


"Just Go With It" is an Adam Sandler comedy, which means it bears only a superficial relationship to the customary conventions of moviemaking, and also that there's no use getting all worked up about that. Now, those who collect pop culture effluvia in their heads (such as me) will be interested to know that this farce about a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who pretends to be married in order to get laid is in some sense a remake of the 1969 Walter Matthau-Ingrid Bergman-Goldie Hawn movie "Cactus Flower," which was itself based on a play by Abe Burrows which was itself based on a French play. (There will be a quiz.) In other words, Adam Sandler, despite all the all-American gags about poop and men getting kicked in the 'nads, is a cheese-eating surrender monkey who hates our freedom. Any further questions?

It's tempting to suggest that Sandler makes such horrifyingly vacuous films, in which absurd gags float around in a killing void resembling outer space, because he is cynical or does not care. I think this is verifiably false. On the contrary, the marketplace has repeatedly proven that the public prefers Sandler in laid-back, recovering-doofus roles where he barely pretends to act, and where such minimal plot and characterization as exist serve only to get us from one ridiculous comic setup to the next. Occasionally Adam gets the drama-school bug and works with some director who isn't his longtime crony Dennis Dugan, and the results, as in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Punch-Drunk Love" or James L. Brooks' "Spanglish," are hotly debated by film critics and ignored by everybody else.

for the rest go here:


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

"With A Smile For The Ending" by Lawrence Block

In addition to writing fiction, I've spent the last quarter century reading fiction for anthologies I've edited or co-edited. Pretty cool duty given my affection for the short story.

Occasionally I'll pick up an anthology I had a hand in and reread some of the stories. Most of them hold up pretty well. A few don't read quite as well as they did originally but even more interesting--a few of them are masterpieces I failed to recognize as such at the time.

Lawrence Block's "With a Smile For The Ending" was first published in 1966 and I've never had the opportunity to republish it. I know I must have read it. Block is one of a handful of writers I hold as idols. But I must have read it in the period after I leapt off the roof of a thirty-story building and landed on my head, thus temporarily damaging my fragile literary sensibilities. I liked it but I didn't l-o-v-e it.

But last night as I read it I realized how rich it is in character, how masterful it is in structure and how apt it is in its observations about life, literature and death.

A young Irisher named Tim Riordan signs on as the work companion of dying novelist Joseph Cameron Bane. Riordan is thrilled with the job because he has long loved Banes' novels about life in this small town where Riordan now lives. The murder of a woman stirs Bane from his ongoing boozy stupor. These are the people he'd written about for decades (though he stopped writing some years ago) and he knows that somewhere in his town there is a murderer.

At this point Block cleverly sets up a Nero Wolfeian-Archie Goodwin situation. Riordan goes into town to dig up all the information he can on the men Bane has listed as suspects and Riordan then reports his facts and observations back to his employer. It is during these conversations that Block really shines. He's always struck me as particularly wise about the human condition and his wisdom is on full display here as Bane discusses what he sees as his failed literary life and his sensible if melancholy thoughts about death.

"With A Smile For An Ending" is Block ten years into his career. Everything is in place including the magnificent sentences and the stubborn need to look beyond the trite to the truth.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

$1.99 for A Creative Kind of Killer by Sandra Scoppettone

If you've been reading Sandra Scoppetone's blog, as you should, you'll know that Sandra has now started putting some of her fine novels on e books. A Creative Kind of Killer is a special favorite of mine. Fortune Fanelli is a great character and Sandra gives us an indelible portrait of Soho and environs.

Here's a review from The Library Thing:

Surprise after surprise assures a fast paced and suspenseful foray into the darker reaches of New York's art scene.

Fortune Fanelli, ex-cop turned private investigator (thanks to a smart investment) and a single parent of two, sets himself to the task of finding a young woman's killer, whose trail snakes along the underbelly of Manhattan's arty SoHo, where drug smugglers, runaway children, and legions of hustlers crowd.

What're you waiting for? Huh?

All this and for one $1.99 on Kindle.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Jason Pinter Goes Digital


From The Huffington Post:

Jason Pinter Bestselling thriller writer
Posted: February 2, 2011 11:25 AM

About nine years ago, I was a college senior, struggling with what to do with my post-college life. I'd always had somewhat of an itch to be a writer, or at least try my hand at writing, but other than a few pale short stories and a navel-gazing attempt at a roman-a-clef, I hadn't written much. Then, as I imagine most fits of creativity stem from the same place, it took a combination of a spark of inspiration and boredom. I was sitting in a not-particularly inspiring class, when I had the idea for a story. A story that resonated with me.

At its heart, it would be the story of a man, not totally different from me, who was trying to figure out what to do with his life. This man, John Gillis, was older, 30, had spent his life toiling behind the same bar, doing nothing but picking soggy tips off the countertops. John would try to discover his destiny through his own mind--specifically by writing a memoir to harness his thoughts. Then came the cherry bomb...

A literary agent would discover John's manuscript. A man desperate to reinvent his once-great career. He loves John's story--but that story needed more action. Romance. Danger. So this man, Nico Vanetti, sets out to manipulate John's life without him knowing it, to artificially create that drama that would skyrocket the asking price for John's still-in-the-works memoir. The greater the drama, the greater the risks, until Nico is willing to put his career--and John's life--in jeopardy. Throw in Nico's associate, an ambitious young woman who falls for John, and it torn between her feelings for him and her devotion to her boss, and I thought I had a pretty good story. I'd interned at a literary agency in college, knew a few folks in the industry, and set out trying to learn more.

When the book was complete, I managed to land a literary agent for this novel in 2003, at the time stintingly titled THE REAL LIFE MEMOIR OF JOHN GILLIS. We went through numerous drafts, then began submitting to publishers. There were a few close calls, but nobody made an offer. One editor offered to buy it--but only if I turned it into a chick lit novel and published it under a female pseudonym. I declined. Not exactly how I imagined my literary career beginning.

for the rest go here:

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Voyage To See What's at The Bottom


Ed here: I watched the first couple episodes of "Voyage To The Bottom of The Sea" from a hospital bed, recovering from a bad car accident. I'd had modest hopes for it despite the fact that it was being produced by Irwin Allen. I gave up early on. The tilting camera whenever the submarine was hit was almost always the worst part of the show until Allen went into Monster of The Week. Another science fiction hope dashed. I was still reading and occasionally writing for sf fanzines in those days. It was generally referred to as "Voyage To See What Was At The Bottom." And bottom it was.

The co-star David Hedison talks about the show in the LA Times and manages to make it interesting. I always felt it was pretty sad to see an actor of Richard Basehart's cred on a show this bad. But he'd hit a rough patch in his career and life and I suppose he thought he could bank some serious cash by humiliating himself this way.

From The Los Angeles Times:
‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’: David Hedison looks back on periscope days
Jan. 30, 2011 | 8:48 a.m.
by Susan King

Richard Basehart, left, and David Hedison on "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea." (Fox Home Entertainment)

When you think of sci-fi stars on American television in the 1960s your thoughts naturally beam up to the Enterprise and the famous crew of ”Star Trek,” but the cast of “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” actually logged more time aboard its ship — the ABC maritime adventure that ran from 1964 to 1968 ended up as the decade’s longest-running non-anthology sci-fi show.

The most famous faces of the “Voyage” cast were the late Richard Basehart , in the role of Admiral Harriman Nelson, and David Hedison as Commander Lee Crane. Hedison, now 83, was a reluctant star at first — he had very little interest in getting on board with the show’s creator and producer, Irwin Allen, when Allen was putting together the 1961 submarine feature film that would spawn the television series of the same title.

The reason? Hedison had worked with Allen on the 1960 sci-fi feature film “The Lost World” — and it was not a memorable experience for actor. “I made some excuse that there was something else I wanted to do, so I got out of that without being put on suspension at Fox,” Hedison said. “When the series came about, he asked me to do it. He just kept hounding me, but then he said that he had Richard Basehart as the admiral, I thought, ‘My God, maybe between the two of us, we can really make something out of this.’ So I signed on immediately.”

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Trap of Solid Gold

I never miss the great blog The Trap of Solid Gold. Steve Scott does a great job charting the life and work of John D. MacDonald. This week he ran a particularly interesting series of quotes from JDM about other writers.

for the rest go here:



JDM on Other Writers
"[Dashiell Hammett's] strengths, and they were so considerable as to elevate his work from hack to art, were in persuasive characterizations, deft, understated, graceful transitions, remarkable dialogue and such little touches of reality in description that he could bring a walk-on completely alive in about two sentences."

-- JDM's 1981 review of Shadow Man by Richard Layman, in the Washington Star

"Some of the people I like to read nowadays are Thomas Williams -- some of his titles are Town Burning, The Night of Trees and The Hair of Harold Roux. I like Charles Williams -- Charley's good, particularly his books Scorpion Reef and Aground. And Nabokov -- splendid, except when he gets too fanciful; when he gets too far away from his story line into erudition, he begins to intrude, he begins to spoil his own narrative effect, almost mischievously. I like John Cheever, very much, and Peter DeVries. Let me see now... that fellow who wrote The Spy Who Came in From the Cold -- John LeCarré. And Eric Ambler I like, and John Updike. And James Jones -- he was a plodder, and was predictable, but he has such a vivid and marvelous control of his own ability. He could create a scene that becomes as unforgettable as if you'd seen it yourself.

"[Norman] Mailer is one of my literary heroes not only because of the restless flood of his talent -- at times he has reminded me of a one-man band, snare drum, bass drum, banjo and a harmonica around his neck on a wire brace -- but also because, along with Saul Bellow and John Updike, he keeps on charging ahead just as if the novel were at the center of the contemporary cultural experience instead of that weeny little thing out there at the far edge of literacy."

-- JDM's USA Today review of Mailer's 1983 novel Tough Guys Don't Dance

Friday, February 04, 2011

Jack Nicholson interview


The Daily Mail (UK) published a fascinating interview with Jack Nicholson. In honor of old guys everywhere, here's an excerpt.

'It’s funny, because he’d already left the party before I arrived… But contrary to opinion, however sated I got, I always looked after myself. I’ve woken up in trees, I’ve woken up almost hanging off cliffs, but I’ve always known how to sort myself out.
‘Keith (Richards) would stay up seven nights in a row. I stayed up late, but I slept in late, too. I always believed in taking care of myself. There was always a discipline within my partying structure. I’ve never kept a camera waiting, and in all my career I only missed one day of work, on The Shining. I put my back out.

‘At the time I thought it was down to a scene where I had to throw this ball. In fact, the reason was that the movie was filmed in London. I loved British actors, and the fact there were these wild guys over there, and I wanted to show them what Jack the Waggle could do.

'The reality was that I was annihilated emotionally by the separation from Anjelica (Huston). That was probably the toughest period of my life'

'I wanted to work like a beast and then go out and be all over London like a fire, the wildest of the lot. I rented a house next to the Thames that had a big high wall, and I’d come home most nights without my keys and I’d climb this wall. The first time I had no memory, and the next day at work I did in my back after this ball scene.
‘A few nights later I was out again, climbing the wall, and when I landed I knew exactly how I did my back in – it was no ball.’

for the rest go here:
Read more:

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Forgotten Books: Wild Night by L.J. Washburn

For generations the Hollywood cowboy was the most inspiring of manly men. Not even during the era of the singing cowboy did the American public doubt that the bespangled, yodeling fool on horseback was anything less than the kind of man who kept our nation strong. The kind of man who took us again and again to the mythic West where right was right and wrong was wrong.

No matter that The Great Train Robbery, the twelve-minute film that brought westerns to the fore in the U.S., was made in Milltown, New Jersey. No matter that the earliest Hollywood actors were men who'd plied their craft in Eastern dramas. Print the myth.

Only when the movies moved to California did real cowboys begin to appear in movies as extras, stunt men, advisors, actors and occasionally as huge stars. There was an informal community of these cowboys in Los Angeles. They had their own bars, nightspots, even living areas.

It is one of these transplanted cowboys, and former Texas Ranger and Pinkerton to boot, that L.J. Washburn writes about in her Shamus winning series about movie extra and private detective--Lucas Hallam.

In three novels and numerous short stories, Livia Washburn takes us back to not only the mythic West but also the Mythic Hollywood because Hallam finds himself involved in mysteries dealing with the first generation of Hollywood actors, directors and hangers-on.

And the books and stories have real bite. In Wild Night, for instance, Hallam is forced to defend an evangelist he doesn't like; an evangelist who'd fit right in with today's batch. With the history as backdrop, the storytelling tight and vivid as the early days of Black Mask, we watch Lucas solve some truly mysterious mysteries.

Livia brings warmth, wit, cleverness and real style to her books. These are now available on Amazon for $2.99 each. Treat yourself.

The Hallam Novels: