Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Long High Noon by Loren D. Estleman

Reviewed by Ben Boulden

“No one but Randy Locke and Frank Farmer knew just what it was that blackened the blood between them, but it didn’t lose its kick with time.”

The feud began in 1868, for reasons unknown, when the two traded drunken shots in an El Paso saloon. It escalated the following morning when Randy broke one of Frank’s ribs with a .44 slug, and their lifelong co-dependence was cast with Randy’s crushed leg; an injury caused by Frank’s misjudged pistol shot, which placed the pill in the horse rather than Randy. From there the two men dance across the Western frontier, their sole reason for living the taking of the other’s life—they trade barbs in Salt Lake City, hunt each other in Wyoming and San Francisco, and plan, with the aid of huckster Abraham Cripplehorn, a live pay-per-view duel to the death in Indian country.  

The Long High Noon is the tallest of tall tales, and its power isn’t a telling of the West, but rather a telling of the mythology of the West. It is told in vivid strokes, whimsy and humor. The humor often exposed in fine dialogue—

In an early passage the narrator—an unidentified gentleman who, from time to time, slips into first person—tells of Randy’s success with women (sometimes not having to pay at all), and Frank’s reaction: “That little stump’d have to pay a sheep.”

In a later passage Abraham Cripplehorn tells Randy: “It never occurred to me you had a mother.”
It chronicles, tongue-in-cheek, the settlement of the American West; from the post-Civil War expansion to its ultimate settlement and civilization. It is something of a mythology of the mythology of the West. It starts with the dime novels, the sensationalism of early western journalism, the traveling Wild West shows, and ultimately the rise of settlement and the fall of men such as Frank Farmer and Randy Locke. A fall both men take quite fittingly.

The Long High Noon is smooth, vivacious, and curious. There are moments—splashes of dialogue, shimmering narrative, clever twists—when Mr. Estleman appears to be showing off; it isn’t cheap or distracting, but rather a display of how good a writer he is. He has mastered his art, and it shows. It also displays a deep understanding of both the westward expansion and the literary genre that grew up around it; the reality and mythology wrapped into one neat package.

Saturday, May 30, 2015


By Harry Shannon

            Howdy. Ed Gorman asked me to stop by and discuss my crime series, how it came to be, and what my new book The Devil in the Clock is all about. I don’t know whether he remembers this or not, but Ed was largely responsible for his original publication.

Although I’d had some success writing horror, and even bit of noir fiction published in the late, lamented magazine Blue Murder, a character called Mick Callahan first introduced me to the majority of crime fiction fans. Mick is a handsome, self involved young media psychologist with a troubled past. Smart but self destructive, he was thrown out of the Navy Seals for a drunken affair with an officer’s wife. Though sober now, Callahan remains a hot tempered man, unstable due to PTSD from chronic physical abuse in childhood. His debut adventure was Memorial Day, first published by Five Star Mysteries back in 2004. It is written in first person. In this story, Mick has already fallen from grace by punching a guest in the nose during a live television broadcast. The only job he can land is filling in on a cheesy radio talk show broadcast from his home town of Dry Wells, Nevada. Returning to the dying town as a total failure, Mick reluctantly investigates the death of a caller, uses his psychological skills to uncover the town’s secrets, and manages to save his own soul in the process. Here we meet his hacker friend Jerry, also a survivor of child abuse, and his AA sponsor Hal, a sage billionaire who owns the media company that once employed Callahan.

The second novel, also published by Five Star, continued the unusual mix of psychotherapy and gritty adventure. After a series of sinister messages arrive, Mick is tricked into attending a colorful counter-culture event in the Nevada desert, where he almost loses his sobriety. The plot to Eye of the Burning Man also brought Mick marginal success via a radio show in the LA area, and a bit of romance with Detective Darlene Hernandez of LAPD. The third book, One of the Wicked, was the last released by Five Star. In that one, Mick does his first full blown investigation, with assistance from Darlene. A long-lost relative appears just as someone close to Mick goes missing. He tangles with the Russian mob and gets help from an old friend Bud Stone, who remained with the Navy Seals and now works for the NSA. With One of the Wicked, Mick is no longer just an amateur sleuth. He’s both a shrink and an action star.

            The fourth book, Running Cold, came out two years ago. The title is a gamblers term for being down on your luck. Mick is depressed, frustrated, and on the edge as he fights to maintain a tenuous relationship with Darlene Hernandez. When a pro bono client is killed after doing public service recommended by Callahan, the frantic action commences. While Mick pursues the killers, the client’s son, a compulsive gambler and Iraq War vet, hunts for Callahan, because he blames Mick for his father’s death. Running Cold was the first Mick Callahan novel to be written in third person. It felt like it needed the distance somehow, so that the story would have some of the same sense of detachment tormenting Mick. I don’t know why the change felt so right, but it did, and for the time being, his voice remains in third person.
            The Devil in the Clock is Mick Callahan #5 and it has just been released. I’m very proud of this one. Callahan suffers a huge personal loss, and at last becomes completely unhinged. His issues with alcoholism and rage boil over. Only the desire to put things right glues him back together. Soon Callahan is on the trail of a professional killer who may (or may not) have been gunning for him. Should he hold himself responsible for the horrific death that resulted, or was it all just a tragic case of human error? On a deeper level, how does one find meaning in the depths of despair? Are justice and revenge essentially the same thing?
            Naturally, you’ll spot a lot of me in this character, though my personal life hasn’t been nearly as dramatic. We were both born in Nevada, have issues with our self destructive tendencies, want to do what is ethically correct, have been in the entertainment business, work hard as counselors, love country music and, when confronted, see red all too easily. Like his creator, Mick fights his own shadow on a daily basis, and is as slow to forgive his own faults as he is quick to forgive them in others. His stories are fictional, but a lot of effort goes into making his psychological struggles feel authentic.
            All five of the Mick Callahan books are available, with the first three re-packaged and sold at a discount on Kindle as The Mick Callahan Novels. It is not necessary to read them in order, though it might be interesting, since I did try to keep them chronologically accurate. The characters change in subtle ways as the years pass. Since 2004, Mick has gone from his early thirties to pushing forty, and has at last begun to ponder his mortality.
I think it was Oscar Wilde who wrote that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. I could not agree more.

As Mystery Scene once said of Mick, “Callahan is a man with a past, a mean right hook and a talk show. He's pretty good at giving people advice, just not necessarily good at taking it. The strength of this series is in its central characters, flawed, human, often funny, sometimes tragic, and the relationships among them."

I hope you’ll give ol’ Mick a chance one of these days. If you already know him, please come catch up on his life with The Devil in the Clock.

Hey, and thanks for reading.

Harry Shannon

The Mick Callahan books in order:
Memorial Day
Eye of the Burning Man
One of the Wicked
The Mick Callahan Novels (the first three on Kindle in one book)
Running Cold

The Devil in the Clock

Friday, May 29, 2015

One of Jake Hinkson's finest posts ever Orson Welles at 100: Touch of Evil (1958)

Orson Welles at 100: Touch of Evil (1958)
JAKE HINKSON from Criminal Element

Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil is one of the great pieces of cinematic trash. It’s a frantic film, wildly over the top, in love with its own squalor, infatuated with the feel and smell of decay. Among the director’s attempts at pulp, it is his masterpiece.

At its center is Welles himself, joyously grotesque in the role of a bloated, degenerate cop named Hank Quinlan. In his small Texas border town, Quinlan is a legend, a fat redneck Sherlock Holmes who always gets his man. When a car bomb suddenly explodes on his side of the border, killing a rich developer and his girlfriend, Quinlan sets out to find the killer. Also investigating the bombing is a Mexican narcotics officer named Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston), a newlywed in town with his wife Susie (Janet Leigh). Vargas thinks the bombing might have something to do with a high profile case he’s working on involving a Mexican drug cartel headed by a goofball named Uncle Joe Grandi (Akim Tamiroff). Quinlan doesn’t want Vargas messing around in his investigation, probably because he’s already decided that the killer is the young Mexican who has been dating the dead man’s daughter.

The film is a duel between the two lawmen, one corrupt and disintegrating, the other upright and honest to a fault. Surrounding them, in a torrent of activity, is a sprawling cast of oddities, from Quinlan’s faithful sidekick Menzies (Joseph Calleia) to a peculiar motel clerk played by Dennis Weaver. The film has the feel—both visually and thematically—of a spiral. Action drifts back and forth across the border, characters and plotlines come in and out of focus, but at the center of it, circling each other like fighters, are Quinlan and Vargas, each convinced that he is right, each increasingly convinced that the other is a bigger problem than the killer. By the end, they’ve both compromised themselves, and one of them lays dead, sinking into a drainage ditch between the borders of their countries.

Since Welles is so associated with the high art of Citizen Kane and his masterful adaptations of Shakespeare and Kafka, it is easy to overlook his lifelong fondness for the kind of cheap, hardboiled stuff we now call noir. He loved paperback crime thrillers and claimed to have written some during his youthful sojourns in Europe. From his earliest days at RKO he had a desire to specialize in this sort of thing (before Kane, he planned to film a script called Smiler with a Knife). Journey into Fear, The Lady from Shanghai, and The Stranger were all early attempts at the genre. On his own in Europe, he labored to make Mr. Arkadin, and as late as the seventies, he helped plan an adaption of Jim Thompson’s masterpiece A Hell of A Woman and hired Bud Cort to play the lead. That project, like so many of his later projects had to be abandoned for lack of funds.

As much as I would have loved to have seen Welles adapt Thompson, maybe it’s just as well that it didn’t happen. Touch of Evil is, in so many ways, the purest expression of everything Welles thought about pulp art. He had struggled before to put his vision of noir onscreen, and he directs this film as if it was his last chance (and of course it was). The film is relentless, pushed along by Henry Mancini’s blistering score. Camera setups—including, of course, the famous three minute opening shot—swing in and grab you and demand your attention. Trash blows down streets, people scurry in and out of frames (Akim Tamiroff unspools pages of dialog while he’s running). Crane shots swoop up and down, shadows splash across walls. The film is a whirlpool from start to finish.

Even scenes that seem relatively sedate are tour de forces. Take a scene at the apartment of Quinlan’s prime suspect, Sanchez. The scene—filmed in long unbroken shots—lasts nearly ten minutes, drifting back and forth from room to room as the police sweat down the young man. It’s a complicated scene, made more complicated by the fact that Welles is slowly, subtly setting up the moment when Vargas realizes Quinlan has framed Sanchez. It’s a masterful piece of filmmaking. Or take an odd little scene a few minutes later, as Vargas uses the phone in a little store to call his wife. The blind shopkeeper sits behind him, pretending not to listen to his conversation. We get Heston in the foreground, the lady behind him, and behind her a sign that reads: If You Are Mean Enough to Steal From the Blind, Help Yourself.

Not only is the film packed with visual details like that, it also indulges Welles’s affection for vignettes. Take the scene late in the film when Quinlan crosses the border and stumbles across a house-of-ill-repute he used to frequent. Still manning the house, with steaming bowls of chili in the kitchen and a tinkling pianola in the parlor, is Tanya (Marlene Dietrich, laconic as ever). She takes one look at Quinlan and tells him the truth, “You’re a mess, honey.”

And he is. Hank Quinlan is one of Welles’s great creations. The director had always been obsessed with old men—they were the great constant in his work—but he had a brutal ambivalence about their disintegration. In Chimes at Midnight, he embraced the profound pathos of Falstaff’s tragic demise and  made perhaps his most touching film. But Hank Quinlan, like Charles Foster Kane, is a monster—albeit a human one—and Welles is unflinching in his embrace of the big man’s fall.
A film this manic can’t be perfect. Dennis Weaver’s portrayal of the Night Man—the manager of an isolated motel where Susie Vargas is terrorized by thugs—is the oddest character Welles ever put on screen (which, given the director’s fondness of absurdist clowns, is saying quite a lot). And while Heston does what he needs to do as the upright Vargas, it requires an act of forbearance to accept him as a Latino.

But here I am pointing out the excesses of a film that luxuriates in its excesses. Touch of Evil is a wild night in a sleazy town. It’s great.

Jake Hinkson is the author of several books, including the novel The Big Ugly, the newly-released short story collection The Deepening Shade, and the essay collection The Blind Alley: Exploring Film Noir's Forgotten Corners.
Read all of Jake Hinkson's posts for Criminal Element.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Forgotten Books: The Plastic Nightmare by Richard Neely

The Plastic Nightmare

 based on the plastic nightmare

I've written before about Neely. He wrote non-series crime novels that pretty much covered the entire range of dark suspense. I mentioned that in the best of his novels the weapon of choice is not poison, bullets or garrote. He always preferred sexual betrayl.

Plastic is a good example. Using amnesia as the central device Dan Mariotte must reconstruct his life. Learning that the beautiful woman at his bedside all these months in the hospital--his wife--may have tried to kill him in a car accident is only the first of many surprises shared by Mariotte and the reader alike.

What gives the novel grit is Neely's take on the privileged class. He frequently wrote about very successful men (he was a very successful adverts man himself) and their women. The time was the Seventies. Private clubs, private planes, private lives. But for all the sparkle of their lives there was in Neely's people a despair that could only be assuaged (briefly) by sex. Preferably illicit sex. Betrayl sex. Men betrayed women and women betrayed men. It was Jackie Collins only for real.

Plastic is a snapshot of a certain period, the Seventies when the Fortune 500 dudes wore sideburns and faux hippie clothes and flashed the peace sign almost as often as they flashed their American Express Gold cards. Johnny Carson hipsters. The counter culture co-opted by the pigs.

The end is a stunner, which is why I can say little about the plot. Neely knew what he was doing and I'm glad to see his book back in print. Watching Nerely work is always a pleasure.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Post of The Day: Steve Hockensmith

I've never seen so eloquent an admission of career fecklessness as Steve has written here. And by fecklessness I mean working in three or four genres before you're well known in your primary genre. I've done the same thing so it's painfully hilarious or hilariously painful to see it laid out so well. For the whole shebang (and be sure to read the whole thing) go here:


Not that I got into this business to be known, heralded and rich. I got into it because I like to make up stories and write them down and have other people read them. Still, as a guy who likes to make up stories and write them down and have other people read them, I do sometimes wonder why more people aren't reading them.
I think I know the answer. It goes back to those seven habits I don't have. I'm guessing one of them is "staying focused." (I have to guess because I haven't gone to Wikipedia to see what's really on the list. In addition to being only Mildly Effective, I'm also Rather Lazy.)
I've written historical whodunits and horror/romance satires and middle-grade mysteries and sorta-kinda cozies. And my thought process about what to do next usually looks something like this:
8 a.m. (driving to work): You know what would be fun to write? A Western!
10:44 a.m. (daydreaming during a slow moment at my desk): You know what would be really fun to write? A screwball comedy about coke-snorting 1970s stunt men!
12:53 p.m. (daydreaming during lunch): You know what would be even better? A nostalgia-soaked YA coming-of-age novel!
3:12 p.m. (daydreaming during another slow moment at my desk): You know what I should really do? A sci-fi/thriller/"men's adventure" mashup!
5:55 p.m. (driving home): Why aren't I trying to write the Great American Novel?
9:37 p.m. (daydreaming while helping my son get ready for bed): You know what would be fun to write? That Western!
Then 10 p.m. finally rolls around, and for the next hour I know exactly what I'm doing: working on whatever's due next. But as of 11:01 --
You know what would be really fun…?
(Sidenote: I'm not joking about any of those ideas. Those are all projects I'd like to get to eventually. Well, maybe not the Great American Novel. But I totally want to write about those coke-snorting 1970s stunt men.)

The New Fiction River: Alchemy & Steam

Alchemy changes more than dross into gold. It changes steampunk stories into stories of magical transformation. These thirteen stories combine science and magic into do-not-miss alternate history stories that span the globe. Travel with a soul-stealing carnival, meet the Grand Dangoolie, put on some perfect perfume, and sample some magical chocolate. These adventures grace the pages of the most creative volume of Fiction River yet.

Table of Contents
“The Rites of Zosimos” by Angela Penrose
“Heart” by Leslie Claire Walker
“Pennies for Portents” by Diana Benedict
“The Order of the Golden Grapefruit” by Sharon Joss
“The Perfect Perfume” by Anthea Sharp
“The Grand Dangoolie” by Ron Collins
“The Whirring Dreams of Aberrant Blood” by Cindie Geddes
“St. Jean & The Dragon” by Brenda Carre
“Weight in Gold” by Dory Crowe
“Heaven’s Flight” by Leigh Saunders
“Blood Moon Carnival” by Kim May
“Makes the World Go ’Round” by Kelly Cairo
“Myrtle’s Boxes” by Louisa Swann 

Kerrie L. Hughes has edited thirteen anthologies: Maiden Matron Crone, Children of Magic, Fellowship Fantastic, Dimension Next Door, Gamer Fantastic, Zombie Raccoons and Killer Bunnies, Girls Guide To Guns and Monsters, Love And Rockets, Chicks Kick Butt, Westward Weird, and forthcoming in 2016, Fierce, co-edited with Jim Butcher. With Fiction River she has done Hex in the City, Alchemy & Steamand the upcoming Haunted.
Fiction River series editors Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch are award-winning editors as well as award-winning writers. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Great post on Roger Moore

SUNDAY, MAY 24, 2015
from the great website

Already tired of summer TV offerings from the major networks? Then, you're in luck because the Timeless Media Group will release all six seasons of Roger Moore's The Saint in a deluxe DVD set on May 26th. If you watched one of the 118 episodes each day, that would kept you busy through the summer!

Author Leslie Charteris introduced Simon Templar in his 1928 novel Meet the Tiger, though he considered the short-story collection Enter the Saint (1930) to be Templar's literary introduction. Sometimes labeled the "Robin Hood of modern crime," Templar traveled the globe to deal with gun-runners, corrupt officials, gangsters, and spies. He collected "fees" from the bad guys, keeping some of the money and returning the rest to its owners or donating it to charity. His nickname, The Saint, was derived from his initials S.T. and his calling card featured a stick figure with a halo. Charteris wrotes dozens of Saint short stories and a handful of novels from 1928 to 1964. 

George Sanders played The Saint.
The debonair troubleshooter seemed like an ideal candidate for the silver screen and Hollywood came calling in the late 1930s. Louis Hayward became the first actor to play Simon Templar in The Saint in New York (1938), based on a 1935 novel. It's a respectable "B" picture, though I prefer RKO's follow-up Saint films starring the always suave George Sanders. Sanders starred in five Saint films before departing to play a similar detective called The Falcon in another RKO film series. Additional actors who played The Saint on the big screen include Hugh Sinclair (who was quite good), Jean Marais, and Val Kilmer. On the radio, The Saint was voiced by Vincent Price, Tom Conway (Sanders' brother), Brian Aherne, and others.

Roger Moore as Simon Templar.
However, the man that came to own the role was Roger Moore. Surprisingly, Moore was not the first choice for the lead in the 1960s television series The Saint. British TV mogul Lew Grade, who owned the ITV network, originally wanted Patrick McGoohan to play Simon Templar. However, in Burl Barer's comprehensive book The Saint: A Complete History, producer Robert S. Baker said: "We had a talk with Patrick, but we didn't see eye to eye...He 's a marvelous artist, but we thought he didn't have the right sort of panache for The Saint. He didn't have the humor. We wanted to do the show slightly tongue in cheek, we had to have plenty of humor."

Moore as Beau Maverick.
Despite his youthful looks, Roger Moore was a 35-year-old film and TV veteran when he became The Saint. His best-known previous role was as Beau Maverick in the Western TV series Maverick (he essentially replaced James Garner during the show's final year). Prior to that, he had starred in two other TV series: The Alaskans (playing a character called Silky Harris) and Ivanhoe, based on Walter Scott's novel. Moore slipped into the Simon Templar persona effortlessly. Whereas some actors grow into a role, Moore was seemingly born to play The Saint (although his TV character aligned more closely with Charteris' later books as opposed to the earlier ones featuring a tougher Templar).

The first season of The Saint quickly establishes that Simon Templar is both well-known and independently wealthy. In fact, many episodes start with someone recognizing him as "the famous Simon Templar"--at which time a halo appears above his head and the credits roll. The third episode, "The Careful Terrorist," introduces a gruff sidekick named Hoppy (Percy Herbert)--but Hoppy is never seen again. Instead, Simon solves crimes and helps people in need on his own. This meant that Roger Moore was the only series regular for the show's entire run. The only recurring character of note is Templar's nemesis, Inspector Teal (Ivor Dean), who appears in 24 episodes.

Julie Christie in the episode "Judith."
Since Templar was not strictly a detective, the plots could vary widely. Thus, any given episode might find The Saint uncovering a devious scheme to poison a friend ("The Talented Husband"), dealing with kidnappers ("The Latin Touch"), stealing the plans for an invention ("Judith"), or recovering counterfeit plates ("The Work of Art"). By the mid-1960s, The Saint began to reflect the influence of the James Bond movies and The Avengers. In "The Helpful Pirate", British intelligence sends Simon on a mission. And in one of my favorites, "The House on Dragon's Rock," Simon confronts a mad scientist and his creepy creation in Wales (think Them!). There was even an episode about the Loch Ness Monster—which was a popular “guest star” in many 1960s British TV series (e.g., The Avengers, Stingray). 

In the U.S., The Saint originally aired as a syndicated TV series, often showing after the local late news. In 1967, with the spy craze fueled by the 007 films, NBC picked up The Saint as a summer replacement series. Its ratings success led to a regular spot on NBC's midseason schedule. The later Saint episodes were filmed in color and shown in over 60 countries. By then, Moore had expanded his role to unofficial co-producer and occasionally director. 

When The Saint ended its run, Lew Grade paired Roger Moore with Tony Curtis in a similar series called The Persuaders. Unfortunately, the two actors never clicked and The Persuaders, which only lasted one season, wasn't very good (though it featured a cool John Barry title theme). Moore, of course, went on to play James Bond--a career move that even eclipsed his success as The Saint.

Simon and his Volvo P1800.
Timeless Media's DVD boxed set is nicely packaged in four separate attractive cases. The image quality is excellent (keep in mind that these shows used stock footage for some exteriors, which looked grainy to start with). Roger Moore, with other members of the cast and crew, provides commentary on several episodes. Speaking of guest stars, the lineup is an impressive one and includes Julie Christie, Samantha Eggar, Donald Sutherland, Anthony Quayle, Jean Marsh, and 007 veterans Honor Blackman, Shirley Eaton, Walter Gotell, Julian Glover, and Lois Maxwell. (Click here to check out our video tribute to The Saint's leading ladies.)

The guest stars, the plots, and Simon's iconic P1800 Volvo coupe (with the "ST 1" license plate) are all excellent reasons to watch The Saint. However, you really need just one--and that's the likable, charismatic Roger Moore.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Gravetapping: SNOWBOUND by Richard S. Wheeler

Posted: 24 May 2015 04:07 PM PDT

Gravetapping review by Ben Boulden

Richard S. Wheeler won a Spur Award for Best Western Short Novel for his 2010 novel Snowbound, and it was a well-earned, and deserving honor.Snowbound is less Western and more historical. It chronicles John C. Fremont’s ill-fated fourth expedition, which was ostensibly to find a railroad route across the Rocky Mountains at the 38th Parallel between St. Louis and San Francisco.

The expedition was privately funded by a group of St. Louis businessmen—with the support of Fremont’s senator father-in-law Thomas Benton—and while its claimed purpose was to find a railroad route its true purpose was to rehabilitate Fremont’s public reputation after his court-martial, and ultimate resignation from the United States Army. The route crossed the high and rugged spine of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, where a railroad passage was unlikely at best, and, to prove something to his detractors, it was attempted in winter.

Snowbound is effectively told in an alternating first person narrative. The narrative perspective changes from chapter to chapter. It is told in the words of several characters, including Fremont, and several of the expedition members—Dr. Benjamin Kern, Alexis Godey, its lead scout Old Bill Williams, and others. It reads much like a diary—the dialogue is minimal, and the story is primarily told with the internal observations of the narrating characters. It is, through the horror of the failed expedition, a character study of John Charles Fremont. Fremont is presented as an enigma. He is narcissistic, admired—idolized, really—complicated, and, in the end, loathed by some.

The novel’s true power is its powerful description of the oppressive, brutal cold of the snowbound high Rockies, and the hardship of the expedition—

“We all looked pretty grim at times, with icicles dangling from our beards like chimes and ice collecting in our eyebrows and a rime of frost around our nostrils.”

“This was a tumble and rocky land, with giant gray outcrops, steep slopes, somber pine forests, groves of spidery cottonwoods and aspen, fierce, cruel creeks. And snow lazily smothered the country. It had caught and settled in every valley and dip, so that we were crossing spots that were ten or twenty feet deep, perilously working upslope in a tamped-down trench that reached our heads.”

“Somehow, we made camp and got fires going in protected snow pits where the wind would not snuff them. The snow had diminished, but the heavens scowled at us, and I had the sense we were trespassers, invaders of a place that was sacred to others, where no mortal should pass by.”  

The hero of the story is Alexis Godey, a former fur trapper and scout, who is Fremont’s second in command. He is developed as a quiet, competent, and ethical man. Godey was responsible for saving the bulk of the expedition’s men when he led the relief party—after reaching Taos with Fremont, and a few others—back into the Mountains to rescue those stranded by hunger and cold. While Godey is leading the relief party, Fremont recuperates in Taos planning the next leg of the expedition to California, and preemptively blaming the scout Old Bill Williams for the disastrous expedition.

Snowbound is a powerful novel of survival, and calamity. It is an introspective interpretation of one of the most eccentric and dishonest topographical expeditions of the Western United States. It is a beautifully rendered piece of literature that captures the stark beauty of winter on the high ranges, and both the hubris and nobility of men.     

Paul Simon will not care for this interview.

 Ed here: I was never a huge Simon & Garfunkel fan. And the times I saw them interviewed I liked them even less. Too much sophomoric posey like the Beatles at their worst in their work for one thing. And Garfunkel's sad insistence that Simon didn't have the right to go out on his own. There's a documentary about Simon producing his Broadway show that demonstrates to the point of hilarity how an ignorant egomaniac can destroy a show. Simon being the egomaniac of course.  

FromThe Telegraph UK  by  Nigel Farndale
for the entire interview go here

 But when I ask him to describe himself he says: “I’m a misanthrope.” There is something in that, given what he will go on to say about Paul Simon. But I would also add “eccentric”. Take his habit of listing on his website every book he has ever read. “You notice it’s heavy sh*t,’ he says. ‘It’s not fluff.”

Since Simon & Garfunkel split up in 1970, he has married twice and raised two sons, had a film career, walked across America and Europe – ”to get away from people” – and continued recording. Although his solo hits (Bright Eyes, I Only Have Eyes for You) were written by other people, and though Paul Simon wrote all the Simon & Garfunkel songs, he does write. Prose poems, mostly. In long hand. “I never bought a computer or a cell phone.” He also does a lot of mathematics, having read it as a student at Columbia. “I’m precise. I think in proportions. I play games with numbers and I proportionalise. I imagine we have now done 1/8th of our interview.” I check my watch.

 I ask about the Beatles, specifically George, who felt his talents were overshadowed. “George came up to me at a party once and said “my Paul is to me what your Paul is to you.” He meant that psychologically they had the same effect on us. The Pauls sidelined us. I think George felt suppressed by Paul and I think that’s what he saw with me and my Paul. Here’s the truth: McCartney was a helluva music man who gave the band its energy, but he also ran away with a lot of the glory.”
Shortly before they split up, Simon & Garfunkel released what was to become the (then) biggest selling album in history, Bridge Over Troubled Water.


Why did they walk away from that phenomenal success?
“It was very strange. Nothing I would have done. I want to open up about this. I don’t want to say any anti Paul Simon things, but it seems very perverse to not enjoy the glory and walk away from it instead. Crazy. What I would have done is take a rest from Paul, because he was getting on my nerves. The jokes had run dry. But a rest of a year was all I needed. I said: ‘I’m not married yet. I want to jump on a BMW motorbike and tour round Europe chasing ladies.’”
Paul Simon once said that it upset him that audiences thought Garfunkel had written his masterpiece, the song Bridge Over Troubled Water – because Garfunkel sang it as a solo, with piano accompaniment. “I saw that quote, too. But how many songs did I sing upfront and have a real tour de force of vocal? Does he resent that I had that one? I find that ungenerous.”
He’s a hard man to get the measure of, Art Garfunkel. On the one hand he still seems eaten up by bitterness about his divorce from Paul Simon, yet he also talks about his old friend (they were at school together) with deep affection. He can seem vainglorious, too, referring to his own “beautiful” voice and being a “helluva singer”, but egomania is not incompatible with self-doubt, or misanthropy. 
Actually, another question strikes me. I speculate about whether Paul Simon might have a Napoleon complex. Is there a height thing there, between them? “I think you’re on to something. I would say so, yes.” He adds that at school he felt sorry for Paul because of his height, and he offered him love and friendship as a compensation. “And that compensation gesture has created a monster. End of interview.”