Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mel Odom's interesting take on A Purple Place for Dying by John D. MacDonald (scroll down)

John D. MacDonald A Purple Place for Dying
A Purple Place for Dying is one of the more twisted Travis McGee novels. The third in the series, it’s one of the landlocked adventures in the early books. The novel is also one of the most surprising with the shocking murder taking place in the opening pages.
The cast of characters that glide through the pages are an interesting and over-the-top bunch, but they’re also very true to the kind of people they are. I grew up in an area that feels a lot like the setting for the book. Jass Yeoman is a lot like the tough cowboy types I grew up with, hard drinking, hard fisted men that didn’t back down from anything. The college professor and his doting sister seem really out of place in today’s world, but I can remember when people like this were almost – but not quite – the norm.
for the rest go here:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

on movie morlocks this a.m. jack benny and raymond burr great stuff lordy i miss jack benny


ATribute To Ray Bradbury fromm the SF SITE

Jason Sturgis is a freelance writer and an avid Sci-Fi and comic book fan. Ray Bradbury is his favorite writer.
Ray Bradbury May Have Passed Away, but His Stories Remain Forever
by Jason Strangis
I thought Ray Bradbury was going live forever. I really did!
So imagine my surprise when I heard that one of the all-time greats of the literary field died on June 5, 2012, at a mere 91 years of age. Well, if the incomparable Ray Bradbury wasn’t going to live forever, I thought he would at least make it to 100.
Alas, no person can escape death, not even the legends.

It’s been more than a year now since Bradbury’s passing and I still can’t believe it.
But I shouldn’t be too sad. None of us in the literary community should be. After all, Bradbury lived a long, rich, full, and incredibly rewarding life with no regrets. He always believed that he never worked a day in his life because he did what he loved most.
“Stuff your eyes with wonder,” Bradbury once stated in one of his novels. “See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream…”
The legacy Bradbury leaves behind is nearly unmatched among the great writers of all time. Immortality is reserved for a select few in their chosen field. In the literary world there’s Shakespeare, Shelley, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Poe among others. Include to that list Ray Bradbury.
Fortunately, we still have Bradbury’s sensational short stories and classic novels such as The Martian ChroniclesDandelion WineSomething Wicked This Way Comes, and perhaps his most acclaimed masterpiece, Fahrenheit 451.
A cautionary tale where books are outlawed and burned in a futuristic totalitarian state, Fahrenheit 451 is perhaps Bradbury’s most personal and strongly felt novel. Self-educated in libraries (for he did not go to college), Bradbury wanted to make sure his beloved books would be safe from censorship and perhaps even worse – banning.
“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture,” Bradbury once said. “Just get people to stop reading them.”
I can’t help but wonder what Bradbury must have thought about the uprising of video games and reality TV. Of course I know the answer. Forever the rebel and anti-conformist, Bradbury would rage against anything (even the Kindle) that takes the place of good old-fashioned, beautiful books.

for the rest go here:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


SATURDAY, MAY 23, 2009


In the Guardian (UK) Michael Hann responds to David Thomson's piece about movie villains. The major and minor ones of different types.

"David Thomson thinks it's Robert Shaw – even when, as in Jaws, he's on the side of the angels, David believes Shaw to have the been the scariest man to stride across the cinema screens. So who are the greatest villains in cinema history? They must be characters who compel us to watch, people who make us wonder: what happened to make them that way?

"So those villains who are set up purely to teach us about the hero – as in the likes of Zodiac or Rear Window – don't work. Not least because you never get to encounter them as real characters. Nor do "supervillains" – the likes of Blofeld or the Joker in either his Ledger or Nicholson guises – because we know they are not and can never be real. They are cartoons, and we know they exist only to entertain.

"The villains who truly terrify are those who we might plausibly encounter, if we are unlucky, if our lives go right off the rails, if we simply happen to be in their path when they come through town. They are those who bring disorder, the thing that those of us whose lives follow patterns fear most. They are the likes of Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men, who holds the life of a petrol station attendant in his fingers, even if the hapless old man doesn't realise it. We are horrified, because of the discrepancy between our knowledge and the petrol pumper's. Or Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas, who turns from genial to petrifying in the blink of an eye, and – worse for us – does so without recognising the distinction. Or Tommy's homegrown cousin, Trainspotting's Begbie, whom an awful lot of YouTube posters seem to regard, worryingly, as a role model."

Ed here:

"The villains who truly terrify are those who we might plausibly encounter, if we are unlucky, if our lives go right off the rails, if we simply happen to be in their path when they come through town."

If that's the measure I'd go with Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear and Joe Pesci in Casino. Mitchum is controlled madness, Pesci is a psychopath with no control whatsoever. Mitchum's lizard looks and Pesci's compulsive explosions are what we hear about on the news today. For instance, in NYC yesterday a man ran his car into a traffic agent about to give him a parking ticket; a few days ago a man tore out his small son's eye; a woman threw her four month old baby out the window of a speeding car.

The other night I quoted Robert Bloch about his crime novels and how he tried to cope with "The terrible inability to understand the irrational behavior of certain human beings, what is it that impels that sometime senseless sadistic cruelty."

There's been a merging of horror and crime fiction and you'll find many examples in both genres. The stuff of this merger scares me (as a reader and viewer) far more than the traditional approach of haunted houses and spooky trappings. Stephen King is largely responsible for this. Carrie terrified because the emotional center of the fear was Carrie's reaction to the horrors of high school, horrors many us us have suffered.

A fair share of King's short stories give us nightmares because they're rooted in reality. Even a complete fantasy such as The Mangler--about a laundry press machine with murderous intentions--gives us the creeps because many of us are luddites and suspect that we aren't using machines, they're using us. Hell, look at our relationship with our computers. A fair share of us work every day at their mercy. They can take a day off and tell us to shove it. They just might be be able to do a lot of to do a lot of other things, too. Things we don't like to think about especially when we see what the Japanese are starting to do with robots.

All this bears on the villains we create today. The original Cape Fear had the power to shock because audiences had rarely seen a madman like Mitchum on the screen. And each decade since then has built on that Mitchum icon, trying to put him in a more contemporary setting without losing any of his animal lunacy. Some of these versions work; far too many don't. The Bad Guy has become a cliche. But true villain--the real Boogeyman--has likely been with us since (in whatever form) we crawled from the sea.

I grew up with men like Robert Shaw--dangerous and unpredictable Irishers. Scary men. I also knew a few guys, later on, who were at least shirttail kin to the Mitchum icon--breathtakingly cruel. One of them ended up being stabbed to death by the wife he'd beaten over the course of many years. She had her leg in a cast thanks to him the night she killed him. He came at her and she picked up a butcher knife and that was that. The jury was out less than an hour. She walked. It was way past time.

To me the most haunting villains have this streak of almost inhuman cruelty in them, a king of cruelty that makes them unrecognizable as people. . I think that's what Robert Bloch was talking about. Think about Lou Ford in Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me.

Hell just take a minute and study Dick Cheney's face. It's all there.

How do you folks feel about villainy?

for the rest of the Michael Hann article go here:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why Alfred Hitchcock Still Lives BY DAVID THOMSON from the New Republic


Why Alfred Hitchcock Still Lives

The other day, two esteemed literary figures sent me a short questionnaire on
Alfred Hitchcock. They wondered, do I think about him? I do.

The questions were going to a lot of people, and I don’t know what the esteemed lit figs plan to do with the survey. But what struck me was the currency of Alfred Hitchcock (1899–1980). It’s not that he has an anniversary, but those dates are telling. He has been dead more than thirty years. A group of exceptional film-makers died at about the same moment: Howard Hawks, Chaplin, Nicholas Ray, George Cukor, William Wyler, Vincente Minnelli, Douglas Sirk, King Vidor. With regret, I have to concede that those careers are now known in the halls of cinephilia but hardly anywhere else. Yet if you say “Hitch” out loud on any bus, people start looking for a bomb, or a fat man with a poker face who is studiously ignoring the search. That voice, his look, the promise, and the threat—they’re all with us still.
A package of Hitchcock’s silent films, beautifully restored by the British Film Institute’s National Archive, is traveling round the country and delighting viewers who had come to think of him as American, Technicolored, and a devotee of desperate cries and screaming music. Recently two feature films about him—The Girl and Hitchcock—had a commercial release. They weren’t any good, but someone reckoned that this director’s curious and repressed sex life was a subject for entertainment instead of biographical research. And in 2012, the poll of critics organized by Sight & Sound (it comes once a decade) determined that at long last Citizen Kane should step aside. Vertigo was the greatest film ever made.
That’s a curious shift. When it opened in 1958, Vertigo was a flop, in an age when Hitch was not accustomed to such affronts. Not long afterward, he withdrew the film, which surely helped to increase its allure. I was entranced by Vertigo in 1958, and I am fascinated by its courage still—I mean its resolve to defy the box office and expose the workings of a secretive man. But is it even the best Hitchcock film? I’d rather see Rear Window, North by Northwest, Psycho, or Notorious. That hardly matters. As soon as you mention Psycho, the cabinet of Dr. Hitchcock is ajar, allowing us to see and hear his insolent mixture of menace and contempt, murder and mischief. My problem with Vertigo’s gloom is that there are no laughs (except for the absurd ease of parking in San Francisco). When Hitch is most himself, we laugh as we cringe, and sooner or later we get the inner message—what are the movies if we don’t know whether to smile or to shudder?
When I imagined the bomb on the bus, with the fat man taking no notice, I was alluding to a big scene in Sabotage (1936), but the example is important to most of Hitchcock. He wanted to devastate us, but he preferred to stay cool and professional about it. He was confirmed in his respect for fear, like a great artist, or a great torturer. His films were experiments in what a screen, darkness, and apprehension could do, and he liked to maintain the manner of the laboratory technician, observing but himself unmoved. So part of the recklessness in Vertigo was the way a private (if not secretive) man was prepared to disclose his own disquiet over this chronic detachment. The guilty passion glimpsed in that film was of a man falling into his own sexual fascination with a story until it drowned life. Thus the greatest film ever made (for now) is a stricken admission about film itself and the fantasy it 
feeds on.

for the rest go here:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Forgotten Books: A Memory of Murder by Ray Bradbury

Memory of murder.jpg


Forgotten Books: A Memory of Murder

Ray Bradbury's first collection, published in 1947 by Arkham House, contained so many memorable and lasting stories it has become legendary. A single book by a young writer including true masterpieces such as "The Lake," "The Small Assassin," "The Homecoming," "Uncle Einar" and many, many more--just about unthinkable. A fair share of these stories were later included in The October Country, a collection that is for me the equal of The Martian Chronicles.

There's another collection that in the scheme of Bradbury's career is far less important but equally interesting. When Dell published A Memory of Murder we were given our first look at the crime and suspense stories Bradbury wrote for such pulps as Dime Mystery Magazine and New Detective Magazine. Most of the stories appeared between 1944 and 1946.

I've probably read this book four or five times over the years. It has the energy and inventiveness of all good pulp with the bonus of watching a young writer struggle to find the voice that is really his. In several of the stories we hear the voice that Bradbury will later perfect. He's often proclaimed his admiration of Cornell Woolrich and here we see the dark Woolrich influence, especially in the excellent "The Candy Skull" (Mexico has long fascinated Bradbury; here it's nightmare Mexico), "The Trunk Lady" and (what a title) "Corpse Carnival." One of Bradbury's most famous stories is here also, "The Small Assassin," written for a penny a word for Dime Mystery Magazine in 1946.

The most interesting story is "The Long Night." I remember the editor who bought it writing a piece years later about what a find it was. And it is. A story set in the Hispanic area of Los Angeles during the war, it deals with race and race riots, with the juvenile delinquency that was a major problem for this country in the war years (remember The Amboy Dukes?) and the the paternal bonds that teenage boys need and reject at the same time. A haunting, powerful story that hints at the greatness that was only a few years away from Bradbury.

What can I tell you? I love this book. At its least it's a pure pulp romp and at its best it's the master about to change science fiction forever. And making a memorable pass at making his mark on crime fiction as well.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Excellent Max Allan Collins piece Why I Write from Publisher's Weekly

Image of Max Allan Collins

by Max Allan Collins
Why do you write?
Many writers have a glib comeback for this question. Samuel Johnson famously said, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” Asked what inspired him, Mickey Spillane would reply, “The urgent need for money.” And I have often described my career as an ongoing effort to avoid a real job.
Certainly earning a living is a valid reason to write; but really, getting paid is what allows me to write – and has made me a full-time writer since 1977. I take pride in not having a day job, and when asked why I write so much, I usually say, “To keep the lights on.” Anyway, what else am I supposed to do with my time?
The ranks of successful authors include lawyers, doctors and in particular teachers – noble professions, but part-time scribes all. Early on I taught at a college myself, though never more than half-time, having sold my first two novels at the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop. Teaching drains the creative juices that writing requires, and I got out of academia as soon as possible.
Stories have been my main interest longer than I can remember. My mother read me Tarzan books at bedtime and encouraged me to read Dick Tracy comic books (her favorite strip). Chester Gould’s famous dick led me into Sherlock Holmes, Ellery Queen and the Saint, and – by junior high – Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe and Mike Hammer, an interest fostered by the wave of TV private eyes of the late ‘50s. My sixth-grade teacher told me I would never be successful because I insisted on writing “blood and thunder” (the title of my 1995 Nathan Heller novel, by the way).

 for the rest go here:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Trouble Man available again for only $2.99


Best known for his novels of mystery and suspense, Ed Gorman is also a practiced Spur Award winning writer of westerns, in both novel and short story form. "Simply one  of the best western writers of our time," said the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS. "Gorman turns the western genre on its ear much like the western writing of Elmore Leonard," wrote BOOKGASM. "Ed Gorman's western stories are anything but ordinary. They often take place in lonely,tragic, mythical landscapes," noted GOODREADS. "Western noir...and Gorman's certainly the best at it," declared SOMEBODY DIES.

Ray Coyle hadn't been a real gunfighter for ten years, and that was the way he liked it. He would have been content to live out his life as a performer in a Wild West show. But then he got the news that his son was dead, killed in suspicious circumstances, and so Coyle set out to discover the truth.

Coopersville was a town full of secrets, most of them ugly. Brutal ex-convict Harry Winston knows those secrets, many of them involving the wealthy Trevor family. And Harry wants not only money but also revenge on the Trevors. His plans are complicated by the arrival of Ray Coyle, who has a score of his own to settle with one of the Trevors . . . and for anybody to get what they want, blood will have to be spilled.

Master storyteller Ed Gorman spins a dark, compelling tale of greed, lust, and murder in TROUBLE MAN, one of the best Western noir novels ever written, now available again from Rough Edges Press. Powerful, tragic, and deeply compassionate, Gorman's critically acclaimed stories and novels have made him one of today's leading authors of Western, crime, suspense, and horror fiction.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering my friend Howard Browne

Howard Browne
Editor's Note:
Thanks to Howard Browne's flippant remark upon reading Richard Shaver's "letter to the editor" at Amazing Stories, Ray Palmer dove into that fabled trash basket to retrieve it. Thus began the Shaver Mystery.

Copyright 1999 Newspaper Publishing PLC
The Independent (London)

November 15, 1999By Jack Adrian
HOWARD BROWNE was that unusual beast, a writer who not only succeeded on both sides of the editorial desk, but who was equally at home in two quite disparate genres, hardboiled detective fiction and SF/ Fantasy. His fantasy, in particular, was of the swashbuckling kind, a million miles - or rather, bowing to the genre, a million light years - from his tales of mean streets, mainly written under his pseudonym John Evans (one of many: others included Lawrence Chandler and Lee Francis).
He successfully jumped media, too, as well as genres, turning, when the pulp magazines began to wither and die in the early 1950s, from writing punchy, riveting prose to creating compelling screen- and tele-plays. And, like all able fictioneers, even at an advanced age he could still turn disaster into triumph - two rejected screenplays, "The Violent World of Jake Lingle" and "A Bowl of Cherries", upon which he had lavished much care and attention, he transformed into a brace of fine late (very late: he was then in his mid-eighties) novels, Pork City (1988) and the hilarious Scotch on the Rocks (1991).
Howard Browne was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of a baker, in 1908, and began his education in Lincoln, Nebraska. However, he dropped out of high school and rode the rails (i.e., hid in the boxcar) to Chicago to seek his fortune. He worked as a legman, or stringer, for a local newspaper before, at the age of 21, securing a post as department-store credit manager, a position he held for over a decade and which gave him an unparalleled insight into the psyche of his fellow men.

for the rest go here:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Richard Matheson TELEFILM TIME MACHINE: THE STRANGER WITHIN (1974) Movie Morlocks


The acclaimed horror and science fiction author, Richard Matheson passed away earlier this week at age 87 and in appreciation of his work I decided to devote my latest installment of Telefilm Time Machine to THE STRANGER WITHIN (1974). This noteworthy ABC Movie of the Week was based on one of Matheson’s original short stories (Mother by Protest aka Trespass), which was first published in 1954. Matheson was also responsible for the script of THE STRANGER WITHIN and even though it might not have the strong cult following of some of his other popular telefilms such as THE NIGHT STALKER (1972) and TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975), it does have its own kind of eerie charm.

strangerwithintvThis sparse drama unfolds in the barren hills of Los Angeles, California at the home of Ann and David Collins (Barbara Eden and George Grizzard). Ann is an artist and David is a teacher who returns from work one afternoon to find his wife waiting for him with some unexpected news. We soon discover that Ann’s managed to become pregnant even though her husband had a vasectomy three years earlier. How did Ann become pregnant? Why is she suddenly devouring salt and drinking large amounts of black coffee? And when did she become immune to the cold and gain the ability the speed read text books? These are just a few of the odd questions that begin to plague the couple as they try and navigate the strange situation they’ve found themselves in. Things are further complicated by Ann’s medical history, which suggests that the pregnancy could kill her but when her doctor (Nehemiah Persoff) recommends she gets an abortion, the medical procedure is continually delayed due to Ann’s recurring health problems. The couple eventually turns to friends (Joyce Van Patten and David Doyle) who suggest Ann should undergo hypnosis in an effort to find out more about her unusual condition but this only seems to complicate matters. As Ann’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic her marriage begins to suffer but she insists on giving birth to her fatherless child regardless of the consequences.
At first glance THE STRANGER WITHIN seems to be just another twisted take on ROSEMARY’S BABY(1968), which generated plenty of knockoffs and copycats. But Richard Matheson penned his strange tale of parenthood fears, suburban paranoia and a marriage on the rocks 13 years before Ira Levin published his best-selling novel that was the basis of Polanski’s film. If we’re going to make comparisons it’s best to acknowledge that Levin was probably inspired by Matheson’s unmatched ability to take familiar settings and situations and turn them upside down while exposing the cold, dark, terrified and tender underbelly of the American psyche.
for the rest go here:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 from Movie Morlocks


Ed here: I'm one of those John Carpenter fans who devoutly wish his career had stayed on track. He directed four or five of the most exciting, darkest B movies of his generation, movies that will last forever. Precinct 13 is one of them. I haven't seen the Ethan Hawke version. The trailer put me off so much I gave it a pass. Carpenter's original I've seen at least six times and will watch it again several more times.

From Movie Morlocks Posted by  on November 19, 2013

Carpenter’s first feature, the sci-fi comedy Dark Star, had started as a student film project during his time at USC, completed in stops and starts when money became available. Assault marked his professional debut, with a full cast and crew to go along with producer demands. The reported budget was $100,000, and he had twenty-five days to shoot it in. Originally titled “The Anderson Alamo”,  Assault was his homage to Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959). Unable to afford an editor, Carpenter cut the film himself, using the pseudonym “John T. Chance”, the name of John Wayne’s character in the Hawks Western. Without the resources or the acting talent at Hawks’ disposal, Carpenter reduces the earlier film’s leisurely story to its central siege sequence. John Wayne, , Dean Martin, Walter Brennan and Ricky Nelson hole up in the one-horse town’s prison to guard inmate Claude Akins, whose land-grabbing brother has sent his hired goons to break him out. The prison interior becomes a proving ground, where Martin battles his alcoholism and Nelson enters maturity, and Carpenter uses Precinct 13 to similar effect. Outside of the station house all the characters are ciphers, while inside their inner lives begin to leak out.
The four narrative strands are: Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker) is a rookie cop sent to oversee the shutdown of Precinct 13; a local gang, who has stolen a large cache of weapons, stalks through the town; a father and daughter innocently prepare for their day; three convicts are being transported through town on a bus. A sick prisoner lands the bus at Precinct 13, while the father is chased in as well, as the only eyewitness to a cold-blooded murder. Shot in various locations in Los Angeles, from Watts to North Hollywood, the exteriors are wincingly bright, exposing vice in every shot. A bulbous warden lands a blow at cuffed inmate Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joston) before he is transferred, while the silent gang commits random acts of violence. Anarchy is in the air.

for the rest go here

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Books: GRIND JOINT by Dana King

What I wanted to do in Grind Joint is to write a story about how shortsightedness, and an unwillingness to consider unintended consequences, can make a bad situation worse. Penns River, Pennsylvania, has been economically depressed since the mills closed in the early 70s. Improvements in Pittsburgh never seem to make it as far as Penns River.

Twenty-First Century America has an answer to local economic woes: build a casino. They’re licenses to print money. They may be for the casino, and they may do well for jurisdictions with the savvy to negotiate a good deal with the owners. Penns River is in over its head, even more so when a Russian mobster with a connection to a casino silent partner wants to take over the “ancillary” businesses from the local crime operation: loan sharking, prostitution, drugs as needed.

Penns River isn’t equipped to handle this. The chief of police is good for the small town this used to be; not for a possible mob war. Detective Ben “Doc” Dougherty has been around more: nine years as an MP, with a tour early on in Iraq. Doc turned down better offers elsewhere to return to Penns River for a simple reason: it’s home. He has a proprietary interest in the town and a harder core than the Russians expect. His cousin, Nick Forte, is a private investigator from Chicago, who has returned to Penn River to visit his sick mother. Nick has a harder core than Doc expects.

Grind Joint is a story of how thin the line is between what we think of as normal, and what’s out of control. People who live in small towns think the danger and corruption they read about and see on the news is far from them, when, in fact, it’s one bad decision—one bad break—away. What we see as Baltimore, South Central LA, or, going farther back, Cabrini Green or Bed-Stuy can show up anywhere. Crime seeks loose money, and is drawn to it like ants to a picnic.

As H.L. Mencken said in the quote I used as the epigraph: There is always an easy solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong. That’s true on both sides of the law in Grind Joint.

Grind Joint, with an introduction by Charlie Stella, was released November 16 by Stark House Press.

Monday, November 18, 2013

One of my favorite pieces by Harry Whitington King of The Paperbackst

This is the best cover of all. This isn't really what Bernice looks like, but it is what she wants to look it works.

My writing life has been a blast. With all the fallout, fragmentation, frustration and free falls known to man I've careened around on heights I never dreamed of, and simmered in pits I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, and survived. Maybe it's just that I forget quickly and forgive easily.
Looking back, I find it perhaps less than total extravaganza. It all seemed so great at the time: Doing what I wanted to do, living as I wanted to live, having the time of my life and being paid for it. I worked hard; nobody ever wrote and sold 150-odd novels in 20 years without working hard, but I loved what I was doing. I gave my level best on absolutely every piece of my published work, for one simple reason: I knew of no other way to sell what I wrote.
I've known some wonderful people in the writing racket. For some years, I lived in a loose-knit community of real, hard working writers – Day Keene, Gil Brewer, Bill Brannon, Talmage Powell, Robert Turner, Fred C. Davis. Out in Hollywood, Sid Fleischman and Mauri Grashin are friends, as were Fred C. Fox, Elwood Ullman. And via mail, Frank Gruber, Carl Hodges, Milt Ozaki. Death flailed that company of gallants – Gruber, Fox, Hodges, Ullman, Keene, Gil Brewer, Brannon, Fred Davis – all gone. Talmage Powell's inimitable stories appear in anthologies and magazines and, as of this writing, as I did in the wild and wonderful fifties when we all were young and pretty, I persist.
The fifties. The magic. Time of change. Crisis. The end of the pulps and the birth of the "original" paperbacks. In recent years critic-writers, Bill Pronzini, Christopher Geist, Michael Barson and Bill Crider have kindly referred to me as king of the paperback pioneers. I didn't realize at the time I was a pioneer and I certainly didn't set out to be "king" of anything. I needed a fast-reporting, fast-paying market; the paperbacks provided this. I wrote 8, 10, 12 hours a day. Paperback editors bought and paid swiftly. We were good for each other.
The reason why I wrote and sold more than almost everybody else was that I was living on the edge of ruin, and I was naive.
James Cagney once said, "It's the naive people who become the true artists. First, they have to be naive enough to believe in themselves. Then, they must be naive enough to keep on going, using their talent, in spite of any kind of discouragement or doublecross. Pay no attention to setbacks, not even know a setback when it smites. Money doesn't concern them."
Money concerned me. I'd never have dared become a full-time writer if I'd known in the forties that the critically acclaimed "authors" I admired from afar were college professors, ad men, lawyers, reporters, dogcatchers or politicians by day. Fewer than 500 people in the U.S. make their living from full-time freelance writing. Since 1948, I've been precariously, one of fortune's 500. I persist.
Because, in 1948, 1 didn't know any better, I quit my government job of 16 years and leaped in, fully clothed, where only fools treaded water. I had a wife, two children and gimlet-eyed creditors standing at my shoulder. I had to write and I had to sell.
At that precise moment, the publishing world was being turned upside down by the Fawcett Publishing Company. When they lost a huge reprint paperback distribution client, they decided to do the unheard of, the insane. They published original novels at $.25 a copy. Print order on each title: 250,000. They paid writers not by royalty but on print order. Foreign, movie and TV rights remained with the writer. They were insane. They were my kind of people. Bill Lengel, Dick Carroll and later, Walter Fultz. Elegant men. One hell of a publishing company.
for the rest go here:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Joseph Losey version of "M" by John M. Whalen

Last Saturday my friend, Fred Blosser, and I went to the American Film Institute’s Silver Theater in Maryland to see a movie I never knew existed. In 1951 director Joseph Losey filmed a remake of the famous Fritz Lang movie, “M.” Everybody knows about Lang’s version. It’s hailed as a cinematic masterpiece of German Expressionism. But hardly anybody has heard of Losey’s version, and even fewer people have ever seen it.
As you know, the original “M” starred Peter Lorre as a creep who prowls the streets of a German city at night killing little girls. The story is about how the police can’t seem to catch the guy even though they tear up every seedy, sinister place they think he might be hiding out. This causes the criminal element a lot of concern, since the police raids are having a negative impact on all their rackets. To end this situation the criminal element decides to team up and find Peter Lorre and turn him over to the cops so they can have some peace and quiet.
Losey’s version updates the story to 1951 Los Angeles. The movie was filmed on location in the seedy Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles, and has more daytime scenes than Lang’s noirish presentation, but it still retains the moody atmosphere of a good noir movie. Losey added a new character to the story, an alcoholic lawyer who works for the mob. Played by Luther Adler, he serves a crucial function in the story, forced to serve as the murderer’s attorney in a mock trial held by the criminals.
In place of Peter Lorre, this version stars character actor David Wayne as the killer, and he delivers MV5BMjAxNjMyNzg3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDIxNTg2OA@@._V1_SY317_CR19,0,214,317_an amazing performance, particularly in the climactic mock trial scene. In fact everyone in the film, including Martin Gable as the top mobster, Howard De Silva as the cop in charge of the case, and Raymond Burr as one of Gable’s henchmen, turn in incredibly realistic performances.  As does the city of Los Angeles itself.
It’s too bad this film got lost in the shuffle. There were two reasons why that happened. First was the fact that Fritz Lang hated it, and most critics at the time dismissed it as a cheap ripoff. The other was that Losey was one of those filmmakers who got in trouble with Joe McCarthy and the House Unamerican Activities Committee. Shortly after the film was finished he was handed a subcommittee subpoena and fled the country to London, where he remained until his death at age 75.
As for David Wayne, he might best be remembered for his role of Inspector Richard Queen on the 1970s TV series, Ellery Queen. But what I most remember him for is a part he played in the “Aren’t You Surprised to See Me.” episode of the Route 66 TV series. In this story, filmed in 1962, Tod and Buz the two guys in the Corvette are in Dallas, Tex., when they have the bad luck to run into Caine, a man who considers himself the Avenging Angel of the Almighty. He goes from town to town, captures someone and tells the police he will kill that person unless the city can go for 24 hours without committing a sin. In Dallas he takes Buz hostage. Wayne gave a chilling performance as the maniac killer. Seeing him in M reminded me very much of that route 66 story. Makes me wonder if Stirling Silliphant, creator of the show and writer of that episode, had ever seen Wayne’s version of M. I wouldn’t be surprised. Silliphant was a very eclectic personality.
So far the 1951 M is not available for viewing anywhere but in AFI theaters, part of a series of LA crime films they’re showing. It it comes to your town, check it out.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Jake Hinkson on why the western version of "High Sierra" is better than Bogie's

Joel McCrea and COLORADO TERRITORY (1949)

When Raoul Walsh remade his 1940 gangster flick HIGH SIERRA almost twenty years later as the Western COLORADO TERRITORY, he improved on the story. Today, the Western isn't as well known as the gangster story. I suspect this has everything to do with the fact that the original movie starred Humphrey Bogart, while the remake starred Joel McCrea.

Today, Bogart is one of only a handful of golden age movie stars still remembered by the public at large. We like to talk about stars as immortal figures, but the truth is that we're only now entering the second century of filmmaking and most of us have already forgotten most of the last century's biggest stars. Don't believe me? Take a poll of the people under thirty and ask them if they know who Bette Davis was. Ask them if they can name a Gary Cooper movie. Go back further. How many can have any clue who Pearl White was?

This isn't a lament. Nor is it a "what's wrong with these kids these days." Movie stardom is, relatively speaking, still a new phenomenon. Maybe this is just what happens to movie stars. Nobody really gets to live forever.

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