Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ed here:I just watched a Perry Mason where Della almost--almost--had a  somewhat serious role and then remembered reading this from The Criminal Element.

Secretaries’ (aka Administrative Professionals’) Day: Mystery Edition

Philip Marlowe might not have had a secretary, but Sam Spade knew better. Who else do you trust to bring you the dingus but your loyal secretary? Who else can you depend on to fend off inconvenient lovers or nasty cops, and deal with dead ship captains?
Dashiell Hammett’s Effine Perrine is just one of mystery’s famous characters who happens to be a secretary. It is impossible to think of Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason without Della Street. No matter what the danger, be it in books, radio, movies, or television, we knew Della would be at Perry’s side when he needed her.
Where would Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe be without Archie Goodwin? Not having a beer while he tends to his orchids, that’s for sure. Though the most popular PI “legman” might be Sam from TV’s Richard Diamond, Private Detective in the late 1950s (Sam was portrayed by Mary Tyler Moore’s legs), Archie is mystery’s most famous legman. But Archie is more than just a legman he also answers the phone, takes notes during meetings with clients and suspects, does the books, and handles the running of Wolfe’s office.
Archie Goodwin is a fine example of how complex the job of secretary can be. It is more than typing, taking dictation, and fetching coffee. No wonder that in fine mystery tradition the “secretary” has been known by any number of names, from the typewriter girls of the late 1800s to today’s Administrative Professional.
for the rest go here: http://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2013/04/secretary-day-administrative-professional-mystery-edition-michael-shonk

Monday, April 29, 2013

J.D. Salinger a Phony? Early letters reveal author could be a ‘terrific liar.’

Salinger a Phony?   From Newsweek

Early letters reveal author could be a ‘terrific liar.’

J.D. Salinger letters
Envelopes from the correspondence between J.D. Salinger and Marjorie Sheard photographed at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York., April 10, 2013. (Sasha Maslov/NYT/Redux)
J.D. Salinger founded adolescent angst, so what a relief to learn that he himself was a mimic of Holden Caulfield. New York’s Morgan Library recently acquired 9 letters written between a 22-year-old Salinger and a 17-year-old Marjorie Sheard, a fan who lived in Toronto. He flirts, brags, vilifies, and complains like a bursting zit. “What do you look like?” he writes on October 9, 1941, and when she sends a picture he replies, “Sneaky girl. You’re pretty.” Cringeworthy, but what could unsettle some fans is how much Salinger might have fibbed about his own life. In one example, he probably exaggerated a fling with the daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill. “I was supposed to get married on furlough. But she wanted it all said and done at her Daddy’s house in Hollywood. So I picked up where I left off with an old typewriter.” Those familiar with The Catcher in the Rye might find this fake, false, deceiving—even phony.
Or not. To Holden, a phony is not simply a liar. “I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life,” Holden says. “It’s awful.” He uses the term for people who try too hard to fit in. What’s more, Holden might even be the first to admit being a phony. “If I ever sat behind myself in a movie or something,” he tells us, “I’d probably lean over and tell myself to please shut up.” Holden is always perfectly ready to withdraw. In his letters, Salinger tells Sheard that The New Yorker has finally accepted his “first Holden story,” but his editor is asking for an entire series on him. “I’ll try a couple more,” Salinger writes to Sheard. “If I begin to miss my mark I’ll quit.” The Catcher in the Rye was published in 1951, and it came to define adolescence, whereupon the Holden stories stopped. Salinger’s fiction trickled on until it dried entirely by 1965, and he retreated into privacy in New Hampshire. You can’t say he didn’t keep his word.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Friends of Eddie Coyle; Clark Howard

From http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/in-celebration-of-rupert-pupkin-the-king-of-comedy-10-essential-antiheroes-20130425  10 Essential Anti-heroes   
Eddie Coyle (Robert Mitchum) in Peter Yates' "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" (1973)
What would happen if you took one of those Robert Mitchum characters from a 1940s film noir or crime pic, aged him thirty years, and took away his cool? That's Eddie Coyle. A brilliant, minor-key riff on (rather than outright deconstruction of) the Mitchum persona of his earlier years, the Coyle featured in the gritty, unglamorised Boston underworld of Peter Yates's terrific "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" is so small-time as to be practically minute, and so long in the game as to be practically respectable. Aging and wearying of his crooked career the same way a guy who's worked in the post office for 40 years might, Coyle does the single least noble thing he can do: in order to stay out of prison he resolves to turn snitch. But in true antihero form, he can't even do that right -- bothersome conscience aside, he ends up fingering guys who've already been caught and whose names are no use to the police, and ends up ultimately being set up to take the fall by a more cunning rat than himself. And the fall, when it comes, is so anticlimactic as to be maybe the perfect antiheroic end: passed out drunk, his pants soiled from a dropped beer that looks like a urine stain, Eddie is shot in the head in a moving car, before it and his body are abandoned in the parking lot of a bowling alley. It's one of Mitchum's greatest performances, because for a guy whose stock in trade was the laconic, morally ambiguous guy with a palpable air of danger, with Eddie Coyle he manages to turn down the volume on that bristling charisma, and show us someone not just broken, but desperate.

Clark Collection: I cribbed this entry from Bill Crider's fine blog.  Marty Greenberg and I (I believe) edited a Year's Best from 1986 until this year when Marty passed. Clark Howard was in virtually if not literally every collection. He's one of the two or three finest short stories writers working today.This is mandatory reading.

Amazon.com: Clark Howard Collected Short Stories - 1960s eBook: Clark Howard: Kindle Store: Clark Howard has written 16 novels, and six books of non-fiction. 

However, Howard didn't start out as a novelist. He started out as a short story writer, and he remains a short story writer. He has won numerous awards for his stories, including the prestigious Edgar Alan Poe Award, five Ellery Queen Readers Award, the Derringer Award. His stories have also been nominated for the Anthony, Shamus and Spur Awards. This book - Clark Howard Collected Stories - 1960s is the first of several planned volumes collecting the bulk of Clark Howard's mystery short stories. 

This first volume features more than 140,000 words of Clark Howard short stories - stories originally published during the 1960s.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Stephen King and Max Brand


Stephen King and Max Brand

If I ever get organized this planet is in for trouble...Fortunately for humanity I can't find any of the doomsday weapons I created decades ago.

Looking for some old stories of mine today I plowed through a box of books and came across, among many other old things, acollection of interviews with Stephen King called Feast of Fear. I'd interviewed hims back in the mid-Eighties for Mystery Scene. He's a great interview subject, smart, flip, wise and passionate about many different things.

I was thumbing through the book and I came across a bit that reflects Duane Swierczynski's very cool Legends of The Underwood on his Secret Dead Blog. I was especially happy to see that King once again praised western-thriller-detective writer Max Brand who for me is one of the great pulp storytellers of all time. When he's at his best his narrative skills are unmatched and he has a range of characters that are the pulp of equivalent of Erskine Caldwell (whom I, like Faulkner, think is one of the great American short story writers).

"I love Max Brand (Frederick Faust)..Frank Gruber tells a fabulous anecdote about him in his book The Pulp Jungle. He says Brand worked at one of the major studious as a "grind" rewriter. Every day, the co-worker who told Gruber the story said, Brand would arrive with a very large steel thermos filled with pure vodka. He would open it, pour a cup into the red top, and begin to write. He wrote all day without stopping except to the bathroom (and to refill his Thermos. from some source in his car, apparently at noon). He never exhibited symptoms of drunkenness. He wrote with hardly a single strike-over. He would finish a quart or two of straight vodka each day, the writer who shared Brand's office said, and he would finish his "grind-work" by 1pm or so. For the next four hours he wrote (his own stuff) either Dr. Kildare or Westerns. And some of those Westerns are damned good stories. You can't put `em down, because the characters actually seem real.

Here's bit of his bio from Wikipedia:

Faust was born in Seattle to Gilbert Leander Faust and Elizabeth (Uriel) Faust, who both died soon after. He grew up in central California, and later worked as a cowhand on one of the many ranches of the San Joaquin Valley. Faust attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he began to write prolifically for student publications, poetry magazines, and, occasionally, newspapers. He did not attain a degree, as he was deemed a troublemaker, whereupon he began to travel extensively. He joined the Canadian Army in 1915, but deserted the next year and went to New York City.

During the 1910s, Faust started to sell stories to the pulp magazines of Frank Munsey, including All-Story Weekly and Argosy Magazine. When the United States joined World War I in 1917, Faust tried to enlist but was turned down. He married Dorothy Schillig in 1917, and the couple had three children. In the 1920s, Faust wrote extensively for pulp magazines, especially Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine, a weekly for which he would write over a million words a year under various pen names, often seeing two serials and a short novel published in a single issue. In 1921 he suffered a severe heart attack, and for the rest of his life suffered from chronic heart disease.

His love for mythology was a constant source of inspiration for his fiction, and it might be that his classical influences, as well as his literary inclinations, are part of the reason for his success at genre fiction. The classical influences are certainly noticeable in his stories, many of which would inspire films. He created the Western character Destry, featured in several filmed versions of Destry Rides Again, and his character Dr. Kildare was adapted to motion pictures, radio, television, and comic books.

Beginning in 1934 Faust began publishing fiction in upscale slick magazines that paid better than pulp magazines. In 1938, due to political events in Europe, Faust returned with his family to the United States, settling in Hollywood, working as a screenwriter for a number of film studios. At one point Warner Brothers was paying him $3,000 a week (at a time when that might be a year’s salary for an average worker), and he made a fortune from MGM’s use of the Dr. Kildare stories. He was one of the highest paid writers of that time. Ironically, Faust disparaged his commercial success and used his own name only for the poetry that he regarded as his true vocation.

When World War II broke out, Faust insisted on doing his part, and despite being well into middle age and having a heart condition, he managed to become a front line war correspondent. Faust was quite famous, and the soldiers enjoyed having this popular author among them. While traveling with American soldiers as they battled in Italy in 1944, Faust was mortally wounded by shrapnel. He was personally commended for bravery by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.i

Friday, April 26, 2013

steve badger - Anthony Mann

The Naked Spur (1953) Poster


steve badger - Anthony Mann

The older I get the more I feel close to the work of Anthony Mann. I suppose being a crazed paranoid loser helps but my appreciation for his skills both with character and style grow every time I see one of his films.

I don't know who Steve Badger is. I ran across this site yesterday and think it's worth checking out. Here are a couple samples of his assessments of Mann's work.

3) The Naked Spur, 1953. Jimmy Stewart made eight films with Anthony Mann. Five were westerns. Many film critics consider The Naked Spur to be the finest western ever made. Besides Stewart there are four other characters, played by Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh, Millard Mitchell (also in Winchester '73) and the always watchable Ralph Meeker (memorable in Jeopardy and as Mike Hammer in Kiss Me Deadly). Technically Ryan is the villain, but each male character is nuts in his way. Meeker in particular personifies heroic villainy, if that is possible. When watching the sunny, breathtaking scenery of The Naked Spur, I always think of the darkness of Mann’s film noir movies. Mann’s command of both interior darkness and panoramic light is an amazing accomplishment.

6) Raw Deal, 1948. Here we discover something Anthony Mann loves to film as much as shadows: co-star Marsha Hunt’s face. Aside from how beautiful it is, one reason may be because she is the only sympathetic character in this movie -- and she isn’t even the most likeable! (That honor goes to the #2 villain played by John Ireland.) The lead bad guy here is perhaps the heaviest heavy in the history of American film: Raymond Burr. Perry Mason fans unfamiliar with Burr’s film noir work are in for a jolt here when he throws burning alcohol on a party guest when she accidentally bumps him: "She should have been more careful." True to Anthony Mann movies though, that scene isn’t the creepiest. That distinction goes to John Ireland and the deer antlers... YOW!


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Martin Scorcese talks homage


Martin Scorcese talks homage

Ed here: Martin Scorcese talks about preparing himself and his actors for Shutter Island in a long and excellent interview in the UK's Telegraph. I should note here that he cites Val Lewton's The Seventh Victim. It is one of the few films I've ever seen (and I've seen it probably ten times over the years) that is propelled almost exclusively by dread. I remember seeing it in a second-run house when I was probably twelve or so and thinking that this was basically my take on the world. The anticipation of terrible things happening and no way to stop them. Lovecraft's darkest gods I suppose, playing with you and whispering that it's going to be even worse than you can imagine.


"The key film I showed Leo and Mark,’ Scorsese says, 'was Laura – Dana Andrews, the way he wears his tie, and the way he walks through a room, and he doesn’t even look at anybody; he’s always playing that little game. He’s just trying to get the facts.’

"But the films, he adds, that he had 'really tied up tight’ in mood and tone were the lower-than-low-budget schlockers made in the 1940s by Val Lewton when he was the head of the 'horror department’ at RKO Pictures – Cat People, Isle of the Dead, The Seventh Victim and I Walked with a Zombie.

'I discovered them in the 1950s. There was a small theatre on Second Avenue that would show third, fourth or fifth-run movies. Isle of the Dead was the one. I was 10 or 11 when I saw it – the scene towards the end where the woman who’s been buried alive comes out, and she’s appearing in the forest at night, she’s wearing a shroud and you never know where she’s going to appear and who she’s going to kill. I remember getting up and walking out of the theatre because it was so terrifying – and you didn’t see anything!’

He laughs. 'There’s no way you could aspire to come close to what those films did. They came out of a certain time and place. There’s no way we can recapture that. But we can make references. We shouldn’t be afraid to make a homage; but it had to be serious, not ironic.’

for the rest go here

Wednesday, April 24, 2013



Taylor Hackford’s PARKER is scheduled for release on DVD in May, giving me a second chance to see the movie.  I failed to catch it in the theaters last January.  

I suppose my apathy would have surprised and dismayed my younger self, the me of 40-plus years ago who became an early aficionado of Richard Stark’s novels.  Was I turned off by the dismal reviews that the film received from many critics?  Not necessarily.  I take most reviews with a measure of skepticism anyway.  And some knowledgeable observers whose opinions I respect -- in particular, Max Allan Collins and “Outlaw Vern,” if it’s ok for me to name names -- gave it decent marks online.

To be honest, my enthusiasm for the series had already waned over the years; more than anything else, my failure to shell out $12 at the box office was just another indication that I’ve become a lapsed Parker fan.  It’s a condition that puzzles me, especially when I consider how brightly the flame burned at one time.

I can’t claim to have discovered Richard Stark back at the very beginning in 1962, but I was still a fairly early convert, considering how long the Parker series has lasted.  On a sunny Saturday morning in June 1969, age 18, on summer break after my freshman year in college, and on a day off from the summer job that my dad had landed for me, I was browsing at the paperback rack in a G.C. Murphy’s five-and-dime in Montgomery, W.Va.  For a total of $1.80 plus a few cents’ sales tax, I bought three new paperbacks.

Two were Bantam books: Ross Macdonald’s THE INSTANT ENEMY and Michael Collins’ ACT OF FEAR.  I knew Macdonald’s work but not Collins’, and I had no idea that Collins was actually a writer named Dennis Lynds, but it was a private eye mystery, a safe bet since I was already becoming a private eye reader.  My third choice was more of a wild card: a Gold Medal original, THE SOUR LEMON SCORE by Richard Stark.

The sketchy cover art had a low-rent look, and I mentally pictured Richard Stark as a guy in a sweaty undershirt in a dingy apartment, spilling cigarette ashes on his Smith-Corona and moving his lips as he typed.  Still, I liked the Gold Medal series by John D. MacDonald, Donald Hamilton, and Philip Atlee that I’d been reading for a couple of years, so anything with the GM brand wasn’t totally an unknown quantity.  In the course of the weekend, I read THE INSTANT ENEMY and ACT OF FEAR and liked them, but THE SOUR LEMON SCORE was a knockout.

I was fascinated by Stark’s terse style, the matter-of-fact depiction of crime, the swift movement of action across several states, the absence of TV-show baloney.  Most of all I was impressed by the characterization of Parker, a professional thief who stole because that was what he was good at, not because he wanted to redistribute wealth or any noble BS like that.

I discovered that THE SOUR LEMON SCORE was actually the latest of a series, including several titles published by Pocket Books predating Parker’s move to Gold Medal.  I determined to find all of the earlier novels.  Mind you, this was ‘way before the Internet, and I was living in a small town.  

From the publishers, I ordered the only other two titles still in print, and then went digging for all the rest.  It took me about two years, but I finally scrounged together a complete set, mostly from junk stores and used book stores.  Three books came in a surprise package from Pat Erhardt, a busy mystery fan of the early ‘70s whom some on this blog may remember.  I think I met Pat by mail through one of the fanzines, and mentioned I was having a hard time finding those three titles.  “Give me a bigger challenge next time,” she said in a note with the books.

By then, I had discovered that Richard Stark was actually Donald Westlake.   I wrote a couple of parody Parker short stories and sent them to Mr. Westlake, and he responded and said he liked them, but I suspect he was just being kind to a kid.  Around the same time, Parker moved to hardcover at Random House.  I also bought the hardcovers as they came out.

I was still a Parker fan, but even then, the flame was beginning to sputter.  I liked the hardcovers but not with the intensity with which I had devoured the paperback originals.  Over the course of the next three years, ’72-’74, I graduated college, got married, found a job, and transferred my enthusiasm to Robert E. Howard and Conan; that landed me a gig with Roy Thomas at Marvel Comics to write fan articles for Marvel’s Conan comics.

When Richard Stark and Parker returned in 1999 with the first of a new run of novels for Mysterious Press, I picked up COMEBACK and . . . well, it was good enough, but it didn’t sock me between the eyes like THE SOUR LEMON SCORE had, thirty years earlier.  I gave the next couple of titles a desultory try as they appeared, and skipped the rest through DIRTY MONEY, the last entry in 2008. 

Today, Parker’s reputation is such that a university press is reprinting the series in a high-end format.  The early novels have been adapted into critically acclaimed graphic novels.  And Hollywood seems to have realized that Stark’s work has solid cult status, making it safe to stake the title of the latest movie on the character’s name.  I should be popping champagne with other fans.  I wish I were, but the infatuation isn’t there anymore.

I’m not sure why not.  Maybe the series itself lost energy along the way, although there are plenty of fans out there who will disagree with that hypothesis, I’m sure.  Maybe I finally had enough of Parker’s recurring sweetheart Claire, the most irritating girlfriend in tough-guy fiction this side of Susan Silverman.  Although Claire was already in the series by the time I came along, she was absent from THE SOUR LEMON SCORE except by passing reference.

More likely, especially since so many other readers are fond of the series, Claire and all, it isn’t Stark and Parker who changed, but me.  More likely, there was something in me that responded to Parker at age 18 that isn’t there at age 62.  Maybe I’ve lost the connection with Parker the same way Wendy lost her connection with Peter Pan after she grew up.

I could test that by re-reading the early novels.  I still have them.  I might discover that they are as compelling now as they were then.  I can still re-read other guys I discovered around the same time -- Dashiell Hammett, Dan J. Marlowe -- with undiminished interest, in the same way that I’m still as fond of Sergio Leone’s movies as I was four decades ago.  On the other hand, JDM and Donald Hamilton haven’t worn as well, in my experience, and I’m afraid of adding Stark to the list.

Maybe I’ll watch PARKER first, and then decide.  Jason Statham can’t be any more miscast as Parker, the Parker I remember, than he was as Ken Bruen’s Det. Sgt. Tom Brant in the movie version of BLITZ -- or can he?

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Gail Russell


Thanks to Peter Winkler for this link:  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror/2007/07/gail-russell.html

Ed here:  
There is an excellent Foster Hirsch interview with the late (and blacklisted) director Joseph Losey. Gail Russell's story has always struck me as particularly sad and obviously Losey had the same impression of her. Here's Losey on working with Russell.

"Gail Russell, who didn’t want to be an actress, was 
picked up by a talent scout when she was a clerk in a 
department store in Beverly Hills, came from a lower 
middle-class family. She died of alcoholism because she 
was so deathly frightened of acting, but she had in her the 
makings of a great star. I had a tragic time with her. I think 
she had the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen, the most 
moving eyes. And she was immensely sensitive. 
She didn’t know anything. Paramount had her under 
contract—like a horse. She got a big salary then, and I had 
absolute instructions from them not to let her have a drink. 
The very first time I shot with her I had a long night-track- 
ing shot. It was a half-night, we finished at twelve. 
She couldn’t 
remember a single line 
and it was three or four 
pages of important dia- 
logue. I wasn’t trained 
enough then to say “Well, 
we’ll shoot it another 
way,” and I kept trying to 
get it by coaching her in 
her lines, and finally I 
said “What’s the matter?” 
And she grabbed 
me, her hands were icy 
cold, she was absolutely 
rigid, and she said “Look, 
I don’t want to be an actress. I’m not an actress. I can’t act. 
I never had a director who gave me a scene this long 
before. I can’t do it.” 
And I said “Oh yes you can. I’m sure you can, and 
you are an actress.” 
“No, I’m not, I’ve never kidded myself. I’m not an 
actress. I hate it, I’m frightened of it. Get me a drink and 
I’ll be alright.” 
So I said, “You know, I’ve been told not to get you a 
drink?” She said. “Get me a drink!” 
I got her a drink and she did the scene. 
By this point Macdonald Carey couldn’t remember his 
lines. She had absolutely destroyed him. It was a very bad 
start for me on that quick picture, to spend the whole night 
on one set-up. And I just barely got it..…This started her 
drinking and she was drunk throughout the rest of the pic- 
ture. That isn’t to say she was bad. I think she was very 
good often, but sometimes I had to shoot scenes in 
ways to disguise the fact she was drunk. "