Saturday, June 04, 2005

It Was 40 Years Ago Today . . .

. . . on June 4, 1965, that Judy Laverne Stutts and I were married in the Central Baptist Church in Thornton, Texas. Did I ever imagine then what it would be like to spend a lifetime with someone? Heck, no. I never thought past the next five minutes. Which, by the way, is about how long it seems since that picture was taken. I wonder if the next 40 years will go by as quickly? Posted by Hello

Friday, June 03, 2005

Hard Case Crime Press Release

Probably you've all heard this before, but here it is again:

Award-Winning Authors
Team Up For Hard Case Crime

Authors of THE GUARDS and TWISTED CITY to Collaborate on BUST

New York (June 3, 2005) - Hard Case Crime announced today that
acclaimed crime writers Ken Bruen and Jason Starr will collaborate on
an original novel titled BUST, to be published in Spring 2006.
Ireland-based Bruen is the author of more than a dozen celebrated
MAGDALEN MARTYRS. New York City-based Starr has won raves for novels
such as HARD FEELINGS, TOUGH LUCK, and TWISTED CITY. Between them,
the two authors have been nominated for almost every major award in
the mystery field, including the Edgar, the Shamus, the Barry, the
Anthony, and the Macavity Awards. (THE GUARDS won the Shamus in 2003,
TOUGH LUCK won the Barry in 2004, and both men are again up for the
Anthony and Barry Awards this year.) BUST tells the story of sleazy
New York businessman Max Fisher, who hatches a plot to kill his wife
with the help of his Irish-American executive assistant and an ex-IRA
hit man of her acquaintance. Naturally, things go horribly wrong.

Launched in September 2004 by novelists and pulp mavens Charles Ardai
and Max Phillips, the Edgar Award-winning Hard Case Crime imprint
revives the storytelling and visual style of the great pulp
paperbacks of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. The line features an exciting
mix of lost pulp masterpieces from some of the most acclaimed crime
writers of all time and gripping new novels from the next generation
of great hardboiled authors, all with new painted covers in the grand
pulp style. Authors range from current best-sellers such as Lawrence
Block, Max Allan Collins, Ed McBain, and Donald E. Westlake to Golden
Age stars like Erle Stanley Gardner (creator of "Perry Mason"),
Donald Hamilton (creator of "Matt Helm"), Wade Miller (author of
TOUCH OF EVIL), and Charles Williams (author of DEAD CALM). In
October 2005, Hard Case Crime will publish THE COLORADO KID, a new
book by Stephen King, who has said, "This is an exciting line and I'm
delighted to be part of it."

Since its debut, Hard Case Crime has been the subject of enthusiastic
coverage by a wide range of publications including The New York
Times, USA Today, Vanity Fair, Playboy, U.S. News & World Report,
BusinessWeek, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Houston Chronicle, New York
magazine, the New York Post and Daily News, Salon, Publishers Weekly
and USA Weekend, as well as numerous other magazines, newspapers, and
online media outlets. In The Stranger, Neal Pollack wrote, "Hard Case
may be the best new American publisher to appear in the last decade."
The Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "Hard Case Crime is doing a wonderful
job.These modern `penny dreadfuls' are worth every dime." And
Publishers Weekly wrote, "They do write `em like they used to."

"Ken and I have been looking for an excuse to work together and the
chance to collaborate on an old-fashioned pulp crime novel for Hard
Case Crime was just too good to pass up," said Jason Starr. Ken Bruen
added, "We had a blast writing this book and have already started
talking about a sequel."

"BUST is a simply terrific book that will not only satisfy existing
fans of Ken's and Jason's work but should bring them legions of new
readers," said Charles Ardai, Hard Case Crime's editor. "These guys
are well versed in the pulp tradition and know how to tell the sort
of story that grabs you by the throat on the first page and doesn't
let you go until the last. This is definitely a stay-up-all-night-to-
finish-it sort of book."

Zorro -- Isabel Allende

Never having read a book by Isabel Allende, I didn't know what to expect of her version of the Zorro story. But, being a Zorro fan, I wanted to read the book to see what Allende had to offer.

Not much, as it turns out. What we have here is a "prequel," sort of a "how Zorro became Zorro" story. Except that instead of being a prequel to the original tale by Johnston McCulley, this novel is a prequel to every Zorro movie you've ever seen, as we learn how Diego de la Vega became a wonderful magician, acrobat, swordsman, and so on. We find out how the fox became his totem animal and how he learned to hate injustice. Not to mention how he got so handy with a bullwhip. We even get a long section with Jean Lafitte when Diego is captured by pirates. So why wasn't I thrilled?

First of all, let me admit that I'm in a minority. Most reviewers and readers seem to love the book. Maybe I didn't like it because Allende is sort of the anti-Robert B. Parker. Parker tells his stories with tons of dialogue. Allende doesn't seem to like dialogue at all. As for me, I'm with Alice (of Wonderland fame), who, as I dimly recall, said something along these lines, "What good is a book without conversations in it?" Allende writes page after page after page with no conversations at all, and sometimes the page after page after page of writing is all one paragraph. Not that there's anything wrong with that. The paragraphs are fluidly written and easy enough to read. But isn't the primary rule of writing supposed to be "show, don't tell"? This book is 95% telling and 5% showing.

And then there's the narration. About 1/3 of the way through, the narrator suddenly intrudes in the first person, something that happens a couple more times. The narrator is playing coy with us for reasons we discover later. I have a feeling this is Allende's "literary" side, and it's supposed to be a cute little joke, but I wasn't impressed.

And the section with the pirates? Geez. This part of the book sounds like it was intended for some bodice-ripper with Lafitte on the cover, modeled of course by Fabio. Gimme a break.

What it comes down to, probably, is this: Given the choice between Allende's version and the original by McCulley (which I re-read a year or so ago), I'll take the old pulpster any time. Just another example of my low taste in literature.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Sam Cook and the Soul Stirrers

For the last few days, a couple of albums by Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers have been in what MTV used to call "heavy rotation" on my computer. Most people of my age remember Cooke for such pop classics as "You Send Me," "Chain Gang," and lots of other hits. But before he got worldly, Cooke sang lead with a gospel group, and these recordings get down in my blood and bone the way only good gospel can get into someone who grew up in a little Methodist church in East Texas. I'd rather hear these songs than anything Cooke recorded after he became famous and started selling millions of records. You don't have to have grown up like I did to start shouting "Amen" and "Hallelujah" when you hear songs like these. At least I don't think you do.

Cooke's sad and mysterious death adds a little poignancy to listening to these songs. I think they're the best work Cooke ever did. Check 'em out if you can.

Why Wasn't I in the Loop? Seeking Vice President, CMT DUKES OF HAZZARD INSTITUTE: "The job responsibilities for the Vice President, CMT Dukes of Hazzard Institute are:

* watch The Dukes of Hazzard every weeknight on CMT;
* know the words to The Dukes of Hazzard theme song, 'Good Ol' Boys,' written and performed on the series by the legendary Waylon Jennings;
* serve as media expert on The Dukes of Hazzard for the CMT Dukes of Hazzard Institute: must be available for TV, radio and newspaper interviews to share passion for The Dukes of Hazzard on CMT;
* write the CMT Dukes of Hazzard Institute online blog for;
* be passionate about The Dukes of Hazzard on CMT;
* make appearances at special events such as Dukesfest 2005 in Bristol, Tenn., (June 4-5, 2005).

As you can see, Art Scott, E.O.T.U., wasn't joking, and neither was the NY POST. But why didn't anybody tell me about this job when there was still time to apply?

Cap'n Bob Wants this Job, Too!

This comes via Art Scott, E.O.T.U. I don't have a link, so we'll just have to trust him.


Meet the New Yorker with the world's easiest and best-paying job.

Christopher Nelson is getting $100,000 a year to sit in his East Village apartment and watch reruns of "The Dukes of Hazzard."

The Country Music Channel, which airs the backwoods brawls-and-babes show, hired Nelson, 28, to watch it daily and drum up interest with a "Dukes" blog featuring trivia, contests and interviews with the original stars.

His title is vice president of the "Dukes of Hazzard Institute" — the president being The General Lee, the orange 1969 Dodge Charger that Bo, Luke and Daisy Duke tooled around in.

"This is a great job and I can do it right from my home. Any job that's a pants-optional position is all right with me," said Nelson, a transplanted Texan who'd been doing temp work as he tried to kick-start a music and writing career. Bill Hoffmann

Trucker Bombs

‘Urine trouble,’ some states warn lazy truckers - Environment - "SEATTLE — Roadside litter comes in all shapes and sizes — from dirty diapers to syringes — but there's one category that out-grosses the rest: trucker bombs.

Most drivers whiz along the nation's highways largely oblivious to their roadside surroundings. But next time you are out there, take a closer look.

'As soon as you look for it you’ll see it,' says Megan Warfield, litter programs coordinator at Washington state's Department of Ecology. 'You just see them glistening in the sun. It’s just gross.'

They are trucker bombs, plastic jugs full of urine tossed by truckers, and even non-truckers, who refuse to make a proper potty stop to relieve themselves."

I particularly like the use of the word "whiz" in the sentence I emphasized above.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Cap'n Bob Wants this Job!

City pays for private investigator to get lap dances: "City pays for private investigator to get lap dances"

But a certain Sam Smooth probably already has a lock on it.

I Can Hardly Wait

The Books-to-Film Weekly Deals Report, Starring Sylvester Stallone, Leo DiCaprio, Robert Downey Jr. and Akiva Goldsman: "Sylvester Stallone does a one-two punch this month, with two head-scratching deals in place. First, the brawny boxer has just officially confirmed that that he has signed on to star in Rambo IV."

In the second piece of Sly news this week, the star will direct a biopic of a quieter, gentler sort: the life of Edgar Allan Poe, in a film titled not Rampoe, but, merely, Poe. Stallone is wooing Robert Downey Jr. to play the master of the macabre. The bio/drama will be produced and distributed by the same company behind Rambo IV, Nu Image/Millennium Films.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

New Noir Originals On-line Now

Allan Guthrie's Noir Originals Zine: Noir And Hardboiled Fiction

Al Guthrie's Noir Originals is an excellent example of what an e-zine can be. There are articles, stories, and interviews that all look interesting. Check it out.

Brought In Dead -- Jack Higgins

I've had quite a bit to say about Jack Higgins in the past, here, here, and here. In the second of those linked posts, I said that a book called The Graveyard Shift reminded me of a good Gold Medal novel. I should have mentioned then that it was really Fawcett who brought Higgins to the U.S. market back in the 1970s, putting out a lot of his best work in paperback for the first time in this country.

Brought in Dead is another Berkley reprint of an early Higgins book in the same series as The Graveyard Shift and it also features a cop named Nick Miller. In this one Miller is working on the suicide of a young woman who seems to have gone to a lot of trouble to hide her identity before killing herself. He finds out who she was, and her father sets out to get revenge on the man who drove her to her death. This is another fast-moving and entertaining book, and as soon as I finished it, I went out and bought Hell is always Today, yet another Nick Miller novel. I don't know why Berkley has waited so long to publish this series, but I, for one, am glad they finally got around to it.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Dashiell Hammett's The Fat Man

Judy and I had to make a long drive to a funeral on Saturday, so I stuck some Old Time Radio shows on CD into the car's changer. One of my favorite programs when I was a kid was The Fat Man, which starred J. Scott Smart as the title character. The Fat Man was a private detective named Brad Runyon, and he was hefty. The show opened with someone (sometimes a man, sometimes a woman) saying, "There he goes into that drugstore. He's stepping on the scales." (Sound of a penny dropping into slot.) "Weight: 237 pounds. Fortune: Danger. Whooooo is it?" Then J. Scott Smart says, "The Fat Man."

I've heard or read that some people aren't all that fond of J. Scott Smart's voice. I thought it was great, and The Fat Man was a show I never wanted to miss. I was thrilled in the early '50s when a movie version appeared, starring J. Scott Smart himself. I was right there in the Palace Theater in Mexia, Texas, to see it. I don't know if it was a big hit across the country, but it was a hit with me.

And I enjoyed the two shows we listened to. One was "The Black Angel," and the other was "Twice-Told Secret." Both of them would probably seem laughable to today's audiences, particularly in the way Brad Runyon manipulates the cops. He's always the one in charge, and they do what he tells them, legalities be damned. For me the highlight was listening to Smart's narration. I still love that voice. And I love the theme music, too. Hearing it was like being transported back to 1948 or so.

The Fat Man was supposedly created by Dashiell Hammett, but the degree of his involvement is questionable. Obviously the title was a play on Hammett's The Thin Man, but I don't know how much he had to do with the show beyond that. Except to collect his paycheck.

Who could have guessed, fifty or more years ago, that I'd be involved with Hammett in one way or another for most of the rest of my life? Certainly not me. Posted by Hello

Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, the inhabitants of Casa de Crider send a grateful thank-you to all those who serve (and to those who have served) in our armed forces. We remember the fallen. Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Fools in Town are on our Side -- Ross Thomas

I've mentioned before how much I like the novels of Ross Thomas. Here, for example and also here. The other day I picked up a copy of The Fools in Town are on our Side and started thumbing through it, thinking I'd re-read a couple of paragraphs. One hundred pages later I knew I wasn't going to stop. If I hadn't already pledged my allegiance to Chinaman's Chance as my favorite book by Thomas, I might have to say that this one is. It's a close race.

The apparent ease with which Thomas writes makes me grind my teeth in envy (even though I know it couldn't possibly have been easy). When I read a book like The Fools . . . . I wonder why I even bother to try to write anything more ambitious than a grocery list. The book's main story is about how Lucifer C. (for Clarence) Dye corrupts a place called Shankertown, "but the local wits had long ago changed that to Chancre Town . . . ." That sentence tells us what one of Thomas's inspirations for the novel was, but it gives no clue to the way the story unfolds. Or the stories, since the main story is frequently interrupted by flashbacks to Lucifer Dye's past. Naturally these flashbacks are handled so smoothly that you'll hardly realize how well they're done unless you stop and think about it, which you most likely won't do on a first reading, thanks to the propulsive force of Thomas's narrative.

Ross Thomas has been dead for about ten years now. When he died, all his books were in print. Now only the cognoscenti even remember who he was. Or at least that's the way it seems to me in my darker moments. I hope it's not true. Thomas was a masterful writer, absoluetly one of the best.