Saturday, September 25, 2004

The STAR WARS Trilogy

OK, so I bought the set of "original" trilogy on DVD this week. I may never watch the movies, but I figured no house should be without the set.

I hear that there's a lot of whining about George Lucas having made some minor changes in the movies. I may not approve, but so what? They're his movies. Stuff like that happens all the time.

You English majors probably thought immediately of Henry James, whose thrilling novels you first came to know and love in their serial form. Or maybe their first book form. And then old Henry rewrote nearly every single one of them for the "New York" edition. He didn't make just minor changes. He went through and completely rewrote them. So now we have different thrilling versions to enjoy, and what's wrong with that? Works the same way with the Star Wars movies, right? We still have our old VHS tapes of the originals, and we can copy them to DVD if we want to.

I'll be the first to admit that I didn't approve when John D. MacDonald updated his pulp stories for inclusion on The Good Old Stuff and More Good Old Stuff, but they were his stories. If he wanted to rewrite them, he had a perfect right to do it.

I don't approve of colorizing movies, either. Seems to me that's most often done by someone other than the original director, so it's clearly different, and clearly evil.

Friday, September 24, 2004


Vince Keenan and I don't agree on Sky Captain, but we do on Cellular. (Vince's review is here. You may have to scroll down to find it.) Judy and I went this afternoon, and we both enjoyed it. I must admit that you have to be willing to say to yourself, "It's only a movie" and not ask for logic and/or common sense, but after you do that, you should have a great time. Chris Evans is appealing in the lead, Kim Basinger is, well, Kim Basinger, and William H. Macy plays the cop who's about to retire a little bit differently from everyone else who's done it before him. Jason Statham makes an effective villain.


I watched Maverick on GoodLife TV last night and noticed that this show was written by R. Wright Campbell. Later on in his career, Campbell turned to writing mystery novels, some under that name, but most as Robert Campbell. I particularly liked his series about a Chicago ward heeler named Jimmy Flannery. When I won the Anthony for "best first novel" at the Bouchercon in 1987, Campbell won for "best paperback." Somehow the awards got mixed up, and I got the one intended for him. I met him after the banquet, and when we exchanged awards, I told him how much I enjoyed his books. He seemed like a nice guy.

Cheyenne comes on after Maverick, and last night's show featured James Garner in a small role. He appeared in a number of episodes of Cheyenne before he got his own series, usually as a cavalry officer.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Las Vegas Mercury: Goldberg: Dear Young Hollywood

Las Vegas Mercury: Goldberg: Dear Young Hollywood: "I just read that Paris Hilton has signed on to play Daisy Buchanan in a remake of The Great Gatsby and that Mr. Gatsby himself will be played by Chris Carmack--purportedly a 'star' on the TV show 'The O.C.'--and that former N'Sync heartthrob/astronaut Lance Bass is set to produce the movie"

Tod Goldberg is kidding us, right? Right? Please let him be kidding us. It's a funny column, unless he's teeling the truth. In that case, it's more like . . . scary.

Rory Calhoun

Ever see any movies with Rory Calhoun? If you're my age (which so few of you are), you probably did. But did you know he was also a novelist? I've had The Man from Padera (Major Books 1978) on my shelves for probably 25 years, but I'm just now getting around to reading it.
The main character's name is Domino, which seemed a little suspicious to me since Calhoun starred in a movie titled The Domino Kid back in 1957. I looked the movie up on the IMDb and discovered that the plot is identical to the plot of The Man from Padera, not that there's anything wrong with that, since Calhoun is credited with the screenplay of the movie.

It's the old story of the guy who's out to find the man who killed his paw. Or in this case (to up the ante a little) the seven men who killed his whole family. The book consists mainly of a series of gunfights, leading up, of course, the the big shootout at the end, after Domino finally discovers who the mysterious seventh man was. (No prize for you if you figure it out long before Domino does.)

In spite of the publisher's name, Major Books wasn't exactly a major force in the paperback market, so you might be wondering why a movie star like Calhoun didn't find a better publisher. Calhoun, after all, did star with Marilyn Monroe in How to Marry a Millionaire, not to mention his appearance in the unforgettable Motel Hell. He was also in one of my personal faves, Hell Comes to Frogtown, though Hell was played not by Calhoun by by Rowdy Roddy Piper. Calhoun played a character named "Looney Tunes. But I digress.

One possible reason Calhoun didn't find a bigger publisher is that the book really isn't all that good (this, in spite of the fact that my book has "Real Good" printed on the cover by someone whose initials are J. W. G.). There are a few problems with the writing that a good editor could have taken care of, and in fact just a good copyeditor would have made a difference. But there are other problems, too, like characterization. It's a little on the thin side, not to say the cliched side, though that would also be fair. Some of the descriptions are quite good, though. It's almost as if Calhoun was watching the movie as he wrote them. Maybe he was.

There's some graphic violence in the book, and at least one sex scene that would have been impossible to film for the regular markets in 1957.

As far as I know, this is the only book Calhoun ever published, which is OK by me. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good enough to send me looking for another one.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Immoral Mr. Teas dreams while visiting the dentist. Posted by Hello

'Skin flick' pioneer Russ Meyer dies at 82

'Skin flick' pioneer Russ Meyer dies at 82: "'Skin flick' pioneer Russ Meyer dies at 82
Associated Press
September 22, 2004 MEYER0923

LOS ANGELES -- Russ Meyer, producer-director who helped spawn the ``skin flick'' with such films as ``Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!'' and later gained a measure of critical respect, has died. He was 82.

Meyer died Saturday at his home in the Hollywood Hills, according to his company, RM Films International Inc. Spokeswoman Janice Cowart said Meyer had suffered from dementia and died of complications of pneumonia.

Meyer's films were considered pornographic in their time but are less shocking by today's standards, with their focus on violence and large-busted women but little graphic sex.

Altogether he produced, directed, financed, wrote, edited and shot at least 23 films, including his debut, ``The Immoral Mr. Teas,'' in 1959 and the 1968 film ``Vixen,'' whose success earned him notice from major studios."

What can I say? I'll certainly never forget seeing The Immoral Mr. Teas. When I was a freshman in college, a friend (Bob Tyus) and I were determined that we would not only see it but that we would take our friend Mike Leary as well. Mike resisted. He refused to give in to our evil influence. So we carried him. In those days, freshmen at The University of Texas at Austin weren't allowed to have cars. It was well over a mile to the movie theater, down Congress Avenue, at that time the busiest street in town. And there we were, carrying this skinny kid. Well, we carried him only about half way before he gave up and agreed to walk. He later told me that he wished we'd forced him to do more things like that. RIP, Russ Meyer.

Peter and the Starcatchers II

Here's my favorite sentence from the book. It's the first sentence in Chapter 49:

"Quiet," Slank hissed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Peter and the Starcatchers

So you're probably asking yourselves, why did a grown man read Peter and the Starcatchers? I could say that I read it so you wouldn't have to, but that would be Wrong. That would be A Lie. I read it because it was written by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry and because I had high hopes for it. Unfortunately, those hopes were pretty much dashed.

I thought the book was sort of OK at the beginning, but the more I read, the less impressed I was. For one thing, since Barry had a hand in it, I thought it would be hilarious. I was wrong. There are a few laughs and some mild amusements. That's it. And, let's face it, the writing is, well, . . . pedestrian. It doesn't have any sparkle.

Then there's the plot. Ridley Pearson came up with the idea to write a "prequel" to Peter Pan, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing. But then he decided to explain everything that James Barrie left unexplained: why Peter can fly, why there are mermaids in Neverland, where Tinkerbelle came from, and so on. The bottom line here is that some things are best left unexplained, at least as far as I'm concerned. Like magician's tricks. They astound me when I see them performed, and I don't want to know how they're done. When you know that, the fun is gone. Especially when the explanation is as long-winded as it is here.

Reading this book made me realize again that not just anyone, even if he's Ridley Pearson or Dave Barry or a combination of the two, can sit down and write a magical children's book. It made me appreciate even more what J. K. Rowling has done with Harry Potter.

Peter and the Starcatchers will probably sell a gazillion copies. Pearson and Barry have at least that many fans between them. Maybe I'm wrong about the book. Maybe kids will love it. Anything that gets them to read is fine by me.

More On Marlowe (and Laymon)

If you haven't checked the comments on my Dan J. Marlowe post below, take a look. James Reasoner tells us a little something about the Fastback books, and Pete Enfantino fills in a lot of the details on those and some other things.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Chicklit Forums: Books--a drinking game

Chicklit Forums: Books--a drinking game

Via Jayme Lynn Blaschke's blog, here's a thread on chicklit that's got some pretty funny author drinking games. There's even one for Anthony Trollope.

Here's a shot of a couple of the books, more like booklets, that I mention below. Posted by Hello

Dan J. Marlowe

Ed Gorman has some more questions and comments about Dan J. Marlowe. I've sent him a note about Al Nausbaum's relationship with Marlowe, but I'd like to take off from Ed's remark about the support Marlowe received after his stroke from So. Cal. writers like Richard Laymon. I have three odd little items called "Fastback Sports Books" by Marlowe and one by Laymon. These were published in 1985, and they're 25-30 pages long. I have no idea where they were sold or who the intended audience was. I just couldn't resist picking them up when I saw them. I wonder how much Marlowe and Laymon got paid for these.

Something Old, Nothing New

Something Old, Nothing New: "Clark Redfield on Book Reviewing
I keep planning to write something about Elmer Rice's play Dream Girl, and then putting it off. Meanwhile, here are some more quotes from the play's wisecracking and frankly not very likable male lead, Clark Redfield, a book reviewer who -- to the surprise of the heroine, Georgina Allerton -- wants to get out of book reviewing and into the more rewarding field of sportswriting."

Highly recommended reading. Check it out.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Charlie Chan in Cyberspace

Charlie Chan in Cyberspace

A blog devoted to Charlie Chan. Pretty cool.

I went into a store yesterday and discovered that WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE MURDER is out in paperback. The publisher didn't tell me, but then publishers rarely seem to care about telling me anything. I think it's a pretty good book, and I had a great time writing it. And you have to admit that it has a great cover. Posted by Hello