Saturday, July 17, 2004

IOL: Dunst vetos 'gigantic' boobs: "Dunst vetos 'gigantic' boobs"

Talk about integrity! What more can I say?
: RevolutionSF - Spider-Man 2 : Review: "Even with the movie's flaws (such as Kirsten Dunst's clunky acting and some of the inane dialog), Spider-Man ranks as one of the top two or three comic book films of all time. "

Rick Klaw's review of SPIDERMAN 2 is mostly on target. As to his remark about Kirsten Dunst, I have this response: "And your point is?"

Judy and I saw the movie yesterday, and I thought it was terrific. My only complaint is that it wasn't rated "R." So the theater was full of little kids who had no clue as to what was going on and spent the entire time running up and down the aisle, except for the one who was rolling down the aisle. He ran up it, though. Little wuss wasn't tough enough to roll up it, I guess. It's a good thing I'm not issued a sidearm.

And I know I'm not supposed to think about stuff like this, but when Doc Ock is building his tritium fusion generator in his secret undisclosed location, wouldn't someboy notice he was stealing a million mega-gigawatts of power? I know he robbed a bank to get money to fund his fiendish endeavors. And of course Peter Parker and Aunt May just happened to be in there when he did. Out of all the banks in New York City, he had to walk into that one. But I digress. My question is, where did he buy the equipment to build it with? I mean, even the clerks at Radio Shack might be a little suspicious of him. Sure, he had on those sunglasses. Maybe that threw them off. And he probably wore a raincoat, but in that disguise he'd make the Hunchback of Notre Dame look like a male model.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Yesterday I read MY FLESH IS SWEET (Lion, 1951) by Day Keene.   Maybe not one of Keene's best, but certainly not without interest.  For one thing, the main character is a pulp writer named Ad Connors.   Connors has been in Mexico writing his "breakthrough" book, and he's just found out that the SATURDAY EVENING POST has rejected it.  He's on his way to hock his typewriter for money to get home when he witnesses an auto accident.  One of the drivers is a beautiful American woman who can't speak Spanish.  Connors, however, is fluent, and so he steps in.  And once he does, we're off to the races: a lecherous Mexican general, a mysterious veiled women, a murdered Mexican lawyer, another murder buried 20 years in the past, and more.
Connors manages to get in a number of comments about the life of a pulp writer along the way, and in fact he has to write two 15,000 word stories in order to get enough money to get out of Mexico.  But when he escapes the country, he finds  his troubles are just beginning.   His agent sells the novel that the POST rejected to a hardcover publisher for big bucks, but Connors is now wanted for murder in Mexico.  To clear himself, he has to find the beautiful woman again.  Which is plenty complicated, since she's about to marry a millionaire and doesn't want to see Connors.  And then there's another murder.
Keene, like another of my favorites, Harry Whittington, wrote a lot of books.   Like Whittington, he wrote fast, and he worked cheap, for just about any publisher that would have him.  And like Whittington, his books rarely disappoint me.  They might not be great literature, but they're entertaining, fast moving, and fun.
Now that a request has poured in, I'm posting the subscription information for Steve Lewis's great print fanzine, MYSTERY*FILE.  It's published approximately every six weeks, and single issues can be had for $3.50.  A four-issue subscription is $13.00.  and well worth it, too, if you ask me.  Send your dough to Steve at 62 Chestnut Rd., Newington, CT  06111.
The current issue has a letter column, lots of reviews of mystery novels both old and new by people like Vince Keenan, Dan Stumpf, Walter Albert, Bob Briney, Gary Warren Neibuhr, Richard Moore, and many more.  Articles by Bill Pronzini (on Gardner), Marv Lachman, Bob Adey, Ed Lynskey, and others.   Try it.  You'll like it.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

For a while now, I've been writing columns on Gold Medal Books for Steve Lewis's MYSTERY*FILE. I've done articles on Day Keene, Clifton Adams, Malcolm Douglas, and John McPartland. The one I've just turned in is on John Farris, who wrote for Gold Medal as "Steve Brackeen."

I've been interested in Farris almost as long as I've been interested in being a writer, having read HARRISON HIGH way back in 1950. I was really impressed that a guy not much older than I was had written a bestselling novel, and one that I really liked. (I read it again a couple of years ago, the same old Dell paperback first printing, and I still liked it.) If I'd known that Farris was writing cime novels under a pen name at the same time, I'd have been even more impressed, if that's possible.

I wasn't doing any writing in those days except for a little adolescent poetry. I never really dreamed I could actually write a book, which seems kind of silly now that I've published so many of them (though there are no doubt those who would argue that that still hasn't proved I can write one). It took me almost twenty more years to get really serious about writing, though there were a few attempts in the interim (see earlier posts for a few words on a couple of them). And then I did it only because Jack Davis talked me into collaborating on a Nick Carter book with him. Jack's been dead a good while now, but I still owe him. I'm pretty sure I'd never have published a book without his goading me into it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Last night Judy and I went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to hear a lecture by Dr. John W. Verano from Tulane. His topic was Machu Picchu, and we'd been led to expect that he'd be talking about the site, who built it, and what its purpose was. Which he did. But his perspective was different from what we'd expected. Dr. Verano, it turns out, is a forensic anthropologist, or, as he put it, "a bone man." He was called in by Yale University to examine the skeletons found by Hiram Bingham on his 1911 expedition. The skeletons were examined at that time, but no one had looked at them since. Dr. Verano's conclusions about them differed a little from the original ideas.

For one thing, the original examiner (I've forgotten his name, I'm sorry to say) concluded that the skeletons were mostly female (more than 75%). Dr. Verano says that it's more like 50/50. Why is that important? Because one of Bingham's main ideas about Machu Picchu is that the site was a holy place for the "virgins of the sun." The large number of female skeletons would support that idea. Verano doesn't agree. Also Verano pointed out that there are a number of skeletons of small children. These were explained away by earlier theorists as "accidents." Verano doesn't agree there, either. The skeletons also indicate a wide variety of ethnicity in Machu Picchu.

So what's Verano's conclusion? That Machu Picchu was another in a series of royal palaces or resorts built by the emperor Pachacuti. The skeletons are the remains of the servants and workers who kept up the resort. Sounds pretty reasonable when Verano goes over it. Sure, there were altars and other sacred places at Machu Picchu. The emperor was believed to be the "son of the sun." So naturally he would have kept up appearances. But worship wasn't the main purpose of the site.

Verano also pointed out a number of other interesting things he'd learned. For one, there was tuberculosis in Machu Picchu. But no syphillis. Tooth decay was rampant and somtimes even fatal.

All in all, a very interesting evening.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Yesterday's mail brought me a copy of a new Stark House double volume. This one reprints two of Vin Packer's Gold Medal novels, SOMETHING IN THE SHADOWS and INTIMATE VICTIMS. It's a nice package, and one I highly recommend. Packer (whose real name is Marijane Meaker) was one of the few women writing paperback originals in the 1950s, and she was right up there with the best. Anthony Boucher consistently praised her books in his NYTBR column, and with good reason.

Besides the two novels, this new volume has a short introduction by Packer that touches on her relationship with Patricia Highsmith and tells a little about the envy Highsmith had of Packer's income and reviews. Packer, the lowly paperback writer, was making a lot more money for her novels than Highsmith was with her prestigious hardcovers. And Packer was getting reviews in the New York papers just as Highsmith was. Highsmith didn't think it was fair for a paperback writer to get the same kind of attention that a hardcover author received.

There's also a reprint of Jon Breen's essay titled "The Novels of Vin Packer," also highly recommended reading.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Lately I've been browsing the capsule movie summaries in Arthur Lyons' book called DEATH ON THE CHEAP: THE LOST B-MOVIES OF FILM NOIR, and I find them highly entertaining.

But here's something that's really bothering me. It has nothing to do with the movies or the book itself. It's a sentence in the blurb from Robert Crais in the front of the book. Here it is: "Written with the sure hand of a gifted novelist, Arthur Lyons has opened an entertaining treasure chest that will have you racing to your local video rental joint." As a former English teacher, all I can say is, "Arrrgggghhhh!" And to think that Crais out-sells me about a million to one.

Since I'm far from a film noir geek, or even a film geek of any kind, I don't have too many nits to pick with Lyons himself. However (you knew there was going to be a "however," right?) there's this on page 122 in Lyons' comment on THE MYSTERIOUS MR. VALENTINE (1946): "This film was a new kind of role for Linda Stirling, who up to this time had spend most of her time at Republic dressed in a leopard cat suit and beating up bad guys in THE TIGER WOMAN serials (sic). Tristram Coffin, in contrast, was right at home, having been a staple minor villain in many a Republic feature. In 1951, he finally got a taste of what it was to play a good guy when he starred as Commando Cody in LOST PLANET AIRMEN, Republic's feature release of its serial KING OF THE ROCKETMEN."

As I said, I'm no expert, but this wrong on so many levels.

As far as I know, for example, there was only one TIGER WOMAN serial (Lyons is right about the leopard costume, though. Why they didn't call her the Leopard Woman is a still-unanswered question.) She certainly hadn't spent all her time at Republic in that one serial, either. How can one forget her sparkling performance in another serial, ZORRO'S BLACK WHIP? (Alas, I'm pretty sure it wasn't Linda wielding the whip in several scenes, which sort of takes away the fun of it if you know what I mean, and I think you do.) Or THE PURPLE MONSTER STRIKES, for that matter?

And if Tristam Coffin played Commando Cody in the feature release of KING OF THE ROCKETMEN, wouldn't he have played good-guy Cody in the serial itself? (You'd think so.) But wait. Since the title of the serial is KING OF THE ROCKETMEN, wouldn't Coffin have played a guy named "King"? (Darned right. Jeff King.) And wasn't Commando Cody in a completely different serial? (Darned right: RADAR MEN FROM THE MOON. He was played by George Wallace [not the Governor of Alabama]. And by some other guy in COMMANDO CODY: SKY MARSHAL OF THE UNIVERSE.)

Sort of makes a fella wonder about the rest of Lyons' commentary.