Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Leigh Brackett: Much More Than the Queen of Space Opera!

book cover of 

Rio Bravo Secret of sinharat.jpg

Ed here: One of my all-time favorite writers and an interesting piece I slightly disagree with in places.
I think there are similarities in all of Brackett's work especially in the structures she used.  She ghosted a novel for actor George Sanders and the opening two-page description has the sweep and myatery of onef her sf adventures. BTW Stranger is one of her finest books, And certainly there are similarities between her hard boiled heroes in space and here on earth. But Falk's piece is a good one and will hopefully make a few of you buy some cheap online prints of her books.

Leigh Brackett:
Much More Than the Queen of Space Opera!

by Bertil Falk

part 1 of 2

When Howard Hawks (1896-1977) planned to make a screen version of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep in 1946, he happened to read “No Good from a Corpse” by Leigh Brackett (1915-1978). Hawks was not overly impressed by the story, but he most certainly appreciated the dialogues. It is understandable. The story is perhaps not that good, but the way it is written. “Wow!” he said, “get me that Brackett guy” or words to that effect.
To his surprise a lanky young woman turned up at his office. And who can blame him? Leigh is an ambiguous first name, mostly interpreted as a male name. And how could he possibly imagine in those days that a woman wrote the most hardboiled and hard-hitting punch cues in Hollywood?
Hawks straightaway overcame his surprise, hired her and in the long run Leigh Brackett became his favorite scriptwriter. She was professional and reliable. Over the years, he summoned her over and over again. And lo, in this the 21st century, her old crime stories and space operas are brought to light and praised again.
In retrospect, Leigh Brackett turns out to be a somewhat different bird in the world of writers. She moved freely and without any apparent difficulties between differing genres like mysteries, westerns, fantasy, science fiction. Certainly, other writers have done the same, but on top of that, she moved equally unhindered between different media: novels, short stories, films, TV, radio. Just imagine how many combinations you can get out of that.
In addition to her brilliant handling of dialogues, she had an excellent faculty for visualizing and an impressive ability to characterize; and at the end many of her stories are replete with over- and undertones of a rare existential quality.
When James Sallis reviewed Martian Quest: the Early Brackett (Haffner Press, 2002) in Fantasy & Science Fiction, he stated that as “with many true originals, much of Brackett’s work, for all its seeming diversity — hardboiled, standard mystery, Westerns, high fantasy, science fiction — falls in a straight line.”
Sallis points out that her first published short story, “Martian Quest,” is “a transliteration of the standard Western plot: stranger with mysterious past rides in from off-planet to a farming community in the reclaimed Martian desert, meets a fine woman, encounters distrust and rejection, solves the community’s problems and saves all.”
But I do not think of science fiction when I read her crime stories. I do not think of fantasy when I read her western stuff. I do not think of mysteries when I read her space operas and — in spite of Sallis’ accurate observation — I do not even think of Westerns when reading “Martian Quest.”
There may be similar plots, similar frames of minds and atmospheres in her writing. Even though she was not a stranger to crossover genres and subcategories, at the end there are sharp dividing lines between many of the different genre stories she tried her hand and mind at. The cruel but outstanding noir story “Red-Headed Poison” (1943) has for example very little in common with the science-fiction story “The Jewel of Bas” (1944) — the latter in itself a gem.

for the rest go here:

1 comment:

Fred Zackel said...

Leigh Brackett recalled the construction of The Big Sleep screenplay:

"I went to the studio the first day absolutely appalled. I had been writing pulp stories for about three years, and here is William Faulkner, who was one of the great literary lights of the day, and how was I going to work with him? What have I got to offer? This was
quickly resolved, because when I walked into the office, Faulkner came out of his office with the book The Big Sleep and he put it down and said: 'I have worked out what we're going to do. We will do it in alternate sections. I will do these chapters and you will do those chapters.' And that was the way it was done. He went back into his office and I didn't see him again, so the collaboration was quite simple. I never saw what he did and he never saw what I did. We just turned our stuff into Hawks."