Friday, February 18, 2005

It's All About Marketing

So I'm reading Scott Phillips's Cottonwood, and I'm thinking, "This is a western novel." Not exactly an earth-shaking conclusion to reach, I suppose, except that the publisher doesn't want you to know it's a western novel, at least not until you've paid for it. For example, there's one blurb on the front cover, from bestselling crime writer Michael Connelly: "Scott Phillips is dark, dangerous, and important. Cottonwood is crime fiction at its best." There are several blurbs on the back cover, but only one of them is about Cottonwood. It's from another crime biggie, George Pelecanos, and it says, "Cottonwood is an adventurous, bawdy, and genre-bending epic. Scott Phillips cements his reputation as a fearless, ambitious writer who never makes a false move." I guess the western novel is really dead when a highly regarded new writer does one and it's marketed as a crime novel. Or as a "genre-bending epic."

But, see, I don't get that last part. What's so original about Cottonwood? In an interview on The World's Worst Blog, Victor Gischler calls the book a "horror-crime-western." (At least he's not afraid to use the W word.) So what? It's not like there's never been another one. Where was all the hue and cry when Matthew S. Hart (great name, huh?) published The Prisoners, a horror-crime-cannibal-lesbian-vampire western? (OK, I could be wrong about the vampire part. But not the rest.) Here's a book that I contend is as much a genre-bending epic as Cottonwood, but nobody has ever heard of it. Well, almost nobody. So let's take another example: Trevanian's Incident at Twenty-Mile. What about that one?

I know, I know. Marketing. Matthew S. Hart writes a novel that's part of a series about the Texas Rangers, and nobody who buys it knows that he's reading a genre-bending epic. He just thinks it's a really weird book for a series western. And Trevanian? Hey, he hasn't had a bestseller in a long time. Who knows him?

Anyway, doesn't nearly every western ever written have a crime element? Never mind. I'm putting my soap box away for the evening.

Loonatics, Again

I still think it sucks. Posted by Hello

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Further Depressing Signs of My Old Age

Every day I look at the little box in the newspaper where the celebrity birthdays are recorded. Here are a few I saw today:

Bobby Lewis is 72. He was a two-hit wonder back around 1961, but "Tossin' and Turnin'" was his biggest. I can never see his name without hearing his voice and that great opening line: "I couldn't sleep at all last night!" And right now in my mind's eye I can see Joe Carr, who could do a great imitation of it. That was more than 40 years ago.

Johnny Bush is 70. He did the definitive version of "Whiskey River." Early '70s. Thirty or more years ago. I can hear it right now, clear as ever it was on the AM radio in my 1967 Plymouth.

And Gene Pitney is 64. He wrote some great songs for other people ("Rubber Ball" for Bobby Vee, "Hello, Mary Lou" for Ricky Nelson), but I remember that first great single of his, "I Wann Love my Life Away." Early '60s again, maybe spring of 1960. Definitely a springtime song. And now Gene's 64, as I'll be in a few months. Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?

Worst. Idea. Ever. - ENTERTAINMENT: "Bugs Bunny and pals get a facelift: Warner Bros. offering 're-imagined' versions of classic cartoon characters"

I read about this at Something Old, Nothing New, and I share Jaime Weinman's rage. This is quite possibly the worst idea I've ever heard. In fact, I'd better stop writing this before I being spluttering incoherently like Daffy Duck.

UPDATE: Mark Evanier, the voice of reason at News from Me, seems to think we should prejudge this idea, that it could turn out to be wonderful. But I still think it sucks.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Life on Mars?

According to an article at, "A pair of NASA scientists told a group of space officials at a private meeting here [Washington, D.C.] Sunday that they have found strong evidence that life may exist today on Mars, hidden away in caves and sustained by pockets of water." I have to admit that I'm skeptical, but this is one of those things I'd really like to believe. Wow. Underground life on Mars. It's just like something out of one of those old SF digests.

The Planet Of Sardines

The Planet Of Sardines

I read about this new blog on Incoming Signals. Some wonderful magazine covers (pulps, digests, European and American). I'm bookmarking this one.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

20 Million Miles to Earth

Joe Lansdale told me today that he'd just watched a movie called 20 Million Miles to Earth. As it happens, I own the old one-off issue of Amazing Stories devoted the the novelization by Henry Slesar. It has one of my favorite covers from that era of digest magazines, so I had to get it out and have a look. I remember reading this novel and seeing the movie nearly 50 years ago. I thought the book was good, and of course I loved the movie. Ray Harryhausen did the effects, and the monster depicted on the cover of the magazine looks almost as good in the movie as he does here. I don't remember that he carries around a woman in his hand in the movie, but he does fight an elephant. Posted by Hello

Even More Hammett Stuff

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear : "Nostalgia isn't what it used to be." -- Peter DeVries

Excellent post (as per usual at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear), this one about the radio version of The Thin Man. Lots of information, plus some excerpts from one of the shows. Not to mention links to earlier posts on Sam Spade and The Fat Man. Click on the link above and check it out.

Another Hammett Tribute

The Thrilling Detective Web Site

The latest Hammett tribute is up at Kevin Burton Smith's fine Thrilling Detective website. It includes, among many other things, the 1946 radio adaptation with Humprey Bogart for your listening pleasure.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Ong Bak

I probably shouldn't admit it, but I went to see Ong Bak this afternoon. As I recall, Roger Ebert says in his review that about seven minutes of the movie are devoted to the plot. He may have overestimated. But who cares? The plot is only an excuse to allow Tony Jaa to show his stuff, and show it he does. He's pretty amazing as he climbs trees, jumps over cars, slides under trucks, runs across a crowd of bad guys by stepping on their heads and shoulders, and demonstrates his Muay Thai martial arts prowess. Muay Thai? For all I know there's no such thing. But who cares? Jaa whacks one bad guy after another, which is pretty much what the five of us in the theater were there to see. I think I was the oldest of the five by at least 45 years, except of course in mental age. The acting's corny and the situations are corny. But, let's face it: who can resist a movie in which the chief bad guy says, "Dispose of them, and meet me at the cave." Not me.

Dashiell Hammett: A 75th Anniversay Tribute

Feature | Dashiell Hammett: Guns, Gams and Gratitude

It's the 75 anniversary of the publication of The Maltese Falcon, and January Magazine has a fine tribute issue, including comments by some of today's leading crime writers. And me, too. How I got in there, I have no idea. Be sure to check it out.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


Sin-A-Rama is another fine publication from Feral House, and I read it so Vince Keenan wouldn't have to. Most of the introductory material is reprinted from other sources, but if you didn't get the copy of Letters to Penthouse with Robert Silverberg's fine essay entitled "My Life as a Pornographer," then that alone is worth the price of this book. Of course no one's really interested in the introductory material, though. It's the pictures of the book covers that count, adn that's where the book delivers. If you don't have the books, you can now feast your eyes on the covers of such classic titles as Ape Rape, Burlesque Jungle, Satan was a Lesbian, Her Private Hell, and, well, you get the idea. You're either interested in this kind of thing or you're not. If you're not, you quit reading this back at the first sentence. If you are, you probably have your copy already. It belongs on the reference shelf of anyone who loves old paperbacks. Posted by Hello

Rita Hayworth

Turner Classic Movies This Month Article

Thanks to Walter Satterthwait for this link. Ed Gorman, in a comment below, remarks on Rita Hayworth's problems in The Wrath of God. The linked article goes into a lot more (sad) detail. Wrath was Hayworth's final film.


Jayme Blaschke is usually the go-to guy for up-to-the-date chupacabra information, but I saw this article today and thought I'd post it. These things, whatever they are, seem to be turning up with alarming regularity these days.