Saturday, August 07, 2004

Rough Edges

Rough Edges: "By the way, while it was a great TV show, THE AVENGERS may hold the distinction of having the worst series of tie-in paperback novels. The ones published by Berkley and written by Norman Daniels (usually a fairly good writer), Keith Laumer (likewise), and John Garforth (whoever he was) are just terrible, even worse than the I SPY novels by John Tiger (who I think may have been Walter Wager)."

I've never read any of the novels based on THE AVENGERS, but I'm in agreement with James that the writers involved are usually pretty good. Keith Laumer wrote some hilarious SF novels about Retief of the CDT, as well as a pretty darned good Raymond Chandler pastiche, FAT CHANCE, which was made into a movie with Michael Caine. I like the book and the movie, but not everyone agrees with me. And then there's Norman Daniels. I remember with great affection a book called SPY HUNT, which I liked a lot. Later, the main character, John Keith starred in a series of novels for Pyramid Books, but I never liked any of them as much as the first. I believe Daniels got his start in the pulps and maybe was a writer for G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES. James would probably know for sure.

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear : Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear : Thrilling Days of Yesteryear “Aw relax, Archie…relax…”

The comment above doesn't refer to yesterday's comment on the shocking nudity of Veronica Lodge. The link goes to a commentary on the Archie Andrews radio show, which we're told "has not worn well at all." Interesting stuff, and you may have to scroll down to find it.

Gold Medal Guys

The talk about Black Wings Has My Angel made me think about Gold Medal Books, a topic dear to my heart. What a great list of writers they had in the 1950s: John D. MacDonald, Harry Whittington, Gil Brewer, David Goodis, Richard S. Prather, Charles Williams, Day Keene, Stephen Marlowe, Edward S. Aarons, Peter Rabe. Those guys were all regulars, and I'm probably leaving out a lot. In the 1960s, Donald Hamilton came along, as did Dan J. Marlowe. Richard Stark (Donald Westlake) switched over to GM from Pocket Books. And there were the lesser-known names like Richard Wormser and Walt Sheldon. Again, I'm sure I'm missing some, this being just off the top of my head. For a quarter (thirty-five cents, a little later on), you could get some great reading. Now a paperback costs seven or eight bucks, and while you get a lot more pages, but I'm pretty sure you don't get better writing, better plotting, or better characters.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Black Wings Has My Angel

I was thinking today about Elliot Chaze's Black Wings Has My Angel. I'm probably to blame, at least in part, for the high price that the book commands these days because I praised it in a fanzine article 35 or so years ago. Since then, others (Max Allan Collins, for one) have also expressed their admiration.

But what I was wondering about is why so few copies of it turn up for sale. There are two copies of the Gold Medal edition available right now at abebooks, one for a hundred bucks and one for $350. The book was later reprinted by Berkley, but those seem to be even harder to find than the Gold Medal.

Other Gold Medal Books from the same time period are a dime a dozen. They turn up on eBay, and nobody even bids on them. Everybody knows that GM had huge print runs, something like 250,000 to start. So what happened to all those copies of Black Wings? Did they all wind up in a warehouse by mistake and get pulped later on? I mean, there are seven copies of the Lion edition of Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me for sale at abebooks. Lion couldn't have had better distribution than GM, and I doubt that Lion's print run was as big as GM's.

All I can say is that I'm glad I got my copy long ago and don't have to try finding one now.

retroCRUSH: The World's Greatest Pop Culture Place

retroCRUSH: The World's Greatest Pop Culture Place: "VERONICA GOES TOPLESS!

OK, I'll admit it. I had to check this out. It's been a long time (a loooooooooong time) since I looked at an Archie Comic. Things have changed

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear : Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear : Thrilling Days of Yesteryear : "Mandrake the Magician (1939) concludes with this twelfth and final chapter, as our heroes manage to stumble out of the rubble that was once stately Mandrake Manor."

I'm sorry that we've come to the end of MANDRAKE on the THRILLING DAYS OF YESTERYEAR site. Reading the daily chapter summary was almost as good as seeing the serial. In some ways, it was better, since the commentary is often quite funny.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

When I jogged by Alvin High School this morning, the streets were jammed with cars parked along both sides, block after block. It's the annual Pre-School Workshop for the teachers. It reminded me that 41 years ago, I attended my first workshop in Corsicana, Texas, where I was going to begin teaching high school for the princely sum of $4050 a year. I have many vivid memories of that first year of teaching, and it's hard for me to believe that the kids who were in my classes are now nearly 60 years old. I wonder what they look like and what they did with their lives, but I doubt that I'll ever find out.

Dennis Lynds

Dennis Lynds, Michael Collins, Mark Sadler. All the same guy, a terribly underrated writer. I just re-read Circle of Fire (1973), which was published under the Mark Sadler name in 1973. Solid plotting, interesting characters drawn in varying shades of gray (including Paul Shaw the first-person narrator), and good writing. So why isn't Lynds better known? My guess would be that it's because his books aren't action-oriented. There's action, quite a bit, but it isn't ramped up the way it is in many current books. And there's a lot of introspection. It seems pretty clear to me that this is a Ross Macdonald-influenced book. While it's not as good as the best Macdonald (but that's a pretty high standard), it's a solid novel. The other day I found two Sadler books that Berkley reprinted the 1980s. I plan to read the other one Real Soon Now.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Author! Author!

I'm sure many of you know that Pamela Anderson has written a novel. It's called Star, and there's a a brief excerpt from it being reprinted in articles around the 'Net. Here it is:

"'You're not dying, you're just growing up,' her mother tells Star according to an excerpt. "'Looks like you're finally going to get some boobs. You're becoming a woman, honey. You're blooming!'"

"And bloom she did. Her breasts came on suddenly and tenaciously, as if trying to make up for lost time."

Now that's what I call writing! Pure poetry.

Something Old, Nothing New

Something Old, Nothing New : "Things That Suck: '50s Novelty Songs"

Maybe because I was a kid in the 1950s, I didn't think those songs sucked. In fact, "If I'd Known You Were Coming, I'd've Baked a Cake" was one of my favorites. I even liked "Mambo Italiano." I probably never even thought of it as a "novelty song." That designation was reserved (by me) for things that came along later, like Buchanan and Goodman's "Flying Saucer Parts 1 and 2," "The Witch Doctor," and "Purple People Eater," all of which I also liked, though I was older and probably should have known better. Anyway, it turns out that I liked a lot of songs that Bob Merrill wrote, and I still do. I didn't know about his suicide, and learning about it four or five months after the fact still makes me sad.

A few Websites

Through a site called Pop Culture Junk Mail (, I learned about another one called Avacado Memories ( You might want to have a look at both of them, but Avacado Memories is the one that anybody who grew up in the 1960s will enjoy. It's got tons of essays (and photos) that detail Wes Clark's life (I'm assuming that he's no relation to the general who ran for president). There are also a number of pages about the house he grew up in, and for some reason I found all of this stuff interesting. And I didn't even grow up in the 1960s.

For you spy fans, Clark's take on some of my favorite spies is here:

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


Some of you might not be on DorothyL, the mystery listserv, so for your benefit (don't you feel special?), I'm reprinting a message I sent to the list today:

You remember Walter Satterthwait, don't you? What about Miss Lizzie? Which brings me to the point of this message. Walter has recently completed the sequel to Miss Lizzie, and he let me read the manuscript. So I've read it, and you haven't. Neener, neener, neener.

I'm sorry. That was rude, and I apologize. The tentative title is New York Nocturne, and all I can say is that it's great. New York in the roaring '20s, Amanda and Miss Lizzie on the trail of a killer, cameos by the famous and infamous, and prose that sings. What more could you ask? It's making the publishing rounds now, so if you have the ear of any influential editors, you might want to clue them in.

And Cavalcade, the third book in Walter's series that began with Escapade and Masquerade, is coming from St. Martin's in February.

Notice how I'm modestly not mentioning my own books.

Rough Edges

Rough Edges: "26 pages today finished the current book, which is #166 overall."

James Reasoner continues to amaze me. I knew him before he'd published a single novel, and now he's completed 166. Soon enough, he'll pass the 200 mark. How does he do it? If he were writing crap, I could understand. Maybe. But I don't think he's ever written a bad book. I particularly enjoyed his WWII trilogy and the Civil War series, but everything he's done is classy work.

Welcome to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine!

Welcome to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine!

Here's a little of what Jon Breen has to say about Robert B. Parker's latest Spenser novel in his review for EQMM: "*** Robert B. Parker: Bad Business, Putnam, $24.95. Boston private eye Spenser, hired to get the goods on a wandering husband, encounters sexual and corporate malfeasance and, of course, murder. Parker’s minor classics God Save the Child (1974) and Mortal Stakes (1975) were followed by a series of socially significant, always well- written, but seriously underplotted sequels. More recent wisecrack-driven Spenser novels are pure entertainment, less reminiscent of Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald than of old radio shows like Blake Edwards’s Richard Diamond."

I hadn't thought about before, but Jon has a point. I've probably mentioned that I still read Parker, though a lot of people have simply given up on him because he no longer writes the kind of books he did earlier in his career. One reason may be that I grew up listening to radio shows like RICHARD DIAMOND, SAM SPADE (I knew him as Howard Duff on radio long before I saw THE MALTESE FALCON on film or read the novel), and BARRY CRAIG, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR. My father was a particular fan of the latter show because Barry Craig got hit on the head and knocked out so often. He thought that was the sign of a good program. At any rate, the wisecracking on those shows, and on others, particularly Jack Webb's PAT NOVAK (I think that's right), was part of my growing up, and I still enjoy it when I read Parker's books or when I listen to one of the old radio programs on tape.

I also happen to think that even Parker's recent novels have a certain amount of social significance in them, but I could easily be wrong about that.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Steve Mertz

Gotta agree with much of what Steve Mertz says in his comment below about the James Bond movies and the actors who played Bond. And I even agree about George Lazenby. He coulda been a contender. Steve and I may be the only ones who believe that, however.

Which reminds me: Could there have been a worse choice to play Matt Helm than Dean Martin? Now I like Dean Martin. I liked him especially in Rio Bravo and in Some Came Running. And The Young Lions. But I didn't like the idea that he was playing Matt Helm. Those movies were awful, just awful. The TV series with Tony Franciosa ("Matt Helm? Gotta find us some Italian guy to play him") was pretty bad, too.

Cutthroat Island

Speaking of action movies, I've often wondered why I'm the only one who likes Cutthroat Island. It's true that I'm a big Geena Davis fan, but I might have liked the movie even if she hadn't been in it. I first saw the movie at a sneak preview in Houston, and as soon as the DVD came out, I got a copy. I've watched it a couple of times, and I like it even better now than I did the first time.

I mean, what's not to like? You have your pirates, your treasure map, your sword fights, your chase scenes on land and sea, your Geena Davis . . . oh, yeah, I've already mentioned Geena Davis. You also have Matthew Modine, and I'll admit that he's no Errol Flynn. But then who is? Orlando Bloom? Gimme a break.

Another thing I like is the color. It might not be Technicolor, but it's close. There are some beautiful shots.

And the action scenes are great. You can tell what's happening all the time, as you can't in so many movies these days. Gladiator is the one that comes to mind. My theory used to be that nobody knew how to film action these days. But my new theory is that the actors and stuntpersons just can't cut it, so they do all that quick cutting to make you think something's happening when it isn't. Basil Rathbone and Errol Flynn would be appalled.

Anyway, no matter what anybody else says, I like Cutthroat Island a lot. (I also like The Long Kiss Goodnight, and not just because it has Geena Davis in it. But she's really good.)

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Something Old, Nothing New

Something Old, Nothing New : "
Bond, James... Ah, To Hell With It
I'm sure you've all heard, and become kind of sick of hearing about, the rumor that Pierce Brosnan might not be playing James Bond any more. Whenever a change in Bonds is made, the real question is, will this be a chance for the series to go in a new direction?"

Vince Keenan pointed me in the direction of this blog, so he has a lot to answer for. One thing I didn't need was another blog to read. Anyway, I was reading along and came to this comment about the James Bond series. I like the idea of doing a movie as a '60s nostalgia piece, but I also liked the direction the series took a long time back when Timothy Dalton took over as Bond for two movies. The old jokey Roger Moore style was dumped for a darker, more serious Bond. LICENSE TO KILL was probably the darkest in the whole series. I think it was also the one of the least popular. Maybe I'm the only one who liked these, which is why they replaced Dalton and lightened up again.

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear : Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear : Thrilling Days of Yesteryear : "Credit where credit is due"

I got a mention today on THRILLING DAYS OF YESTERYEAR, one of the blogs I read every day. Some great stuff on Old Time Radio, and right now a chapter-a-day synopsis of MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN, a Republic serial. This is a well-written and entertaining blog that you should put on your list if you care at all about The Good Old Stuff. Click on the link above and take a visit.

The Bourne Supremacy

Judy and I went to see THE BOURNE SUPREMACY on Friday, and we both liked it. I've been told that the sound track irritated some people, but I didn't even notice it. Now I need to see the movie again and find out what I missed.

When I saw THE BOURNE IDENTITY, I wasn't entirely convinced that Matt Damon had what it takes to be an action star, but after seeing SUPREMACY, I think he just might. He didn't crack a smile during the entire movie. That takes acting chops, right?

The movie reminded me of why I read so many spy novels back in the early 1960s. Ian Fleming, Donald Hamilton, Len Deighton, John Le Carre, and a myriad lesser lights. I guess I liked the resourcefulness of the protagonists, the hairbreadth escapes, the shady half-world that they moved in. Interestingly enough, I read only one book by Robert Ludlum, and it wasn't in the Bourne series. I didn't much care for his writing; for me, the movie is much more fun than his book was.

What irritated me about the movie was the quick-cut action scenes. I have no idea why directors these days seem to think that the audience doesn't want to be able to tell what's going on. I like my action the old-fashioned way, but in BOURNE, as in so many movies these days, it's chopped into so many little pieces that (for me at least) it's incoherent.

Ludlum wrote the Bourne books as a trilogy, so I'm sure that a movie of THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM is in the planning stages. And I've read that Eric Van Lustbader is continuing the series with a new book called THE BOURNE LEGACY. (Lustbader has bestsellers of his own, so the money he's getting for taking Ludlum's place must really be good.)