Saturday, April 09, 2005

Bye-bye, MGM - Bye-bye, MGM - Apr 8, 2005: "Bye-bye, MGM
Famed studio, and UA partner, swallowed up in purchase"

The summer after I graduated from college, I drove back to the campus to take the Graduate Record Exam. While I was there, I walked around to have a look at some of the places where friends of mine had lived and where I'd spent lots of hours goofing off. Mike Leary and Allan Rast had spent their freshman year at a place we called the Newman Club, a Catholic rooming house. When I went by that summer day, there was nothing left of it but a few boards and a couple of bricks. A sign in front said, "Another Building Demolished by Prather and Sons." I've thought about that sign a lot in the ensuing years. Seems as though the older I get, the more I think about it, dagnabbit.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Now Available in Trade Paperback!

Yes, folks, it's time I plugged my own books again. So I thought I'd let you know that Dead Soldiers is now available in trade paperback format. Not noir, not hardboiled. But here's what Booklist had to say: "Crider, known for his Sheriff Dan Rhodes series, unerringly re-creates the claustrophobic atmosphere of a small-town university, leavening his tart plot with humor and a simmering sense of the absurd. Unerringly enjoyable." You can't beat "unerringly enjoyable," can you? I don't think so.

The Shame of Alvin, Texas

THE BRAZOSPORT NEWS: "The shame of Alvin, Texas"

Banjo Jones has a photo of the Nolan Ryan statue that stands in front of the Alvin City Hall. Unfortunately, the statue hasn't been treated with the proper respect by the local bird population, and on one has seen fit to do a clean-up. I guess I'll have to go down there and take care of it myself.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

From Andy Jaysnovitch

Andy Jaysnovitch has a comment on Errol Flynn below, but some people don't read the comments, so I'm reprinting it here.

There's a great article in the March issue of Classic Images in which Paul Picerni tells of growing up and dreaming that someday he'd be in a movie with Flynn. His dream came true when he was cast as a private eye in Maru Maru opposite Flynn who was playing a salvage diver looking for a lost treasure in diamonds. Picerni (in this excerpt from his upcoming autobiography) tells some great stories about Flynn. Picerni couldn't understand how he could be so dramatic in his scenes while Flynn was being so matter-of-fact and doing virtually nothing. He finally passed his acting course when he saw the film and realized that he was overacting and Flynn was doing it just right. Flynn truly did make it look effortless. Picerni of course is well remembered for his part as Agent Lee Hobson in the Untouchables. He tells a great story (this article is recounted to the estimable Tom Weaver) and he had a previous piece in Classic Images in which he told of being afraid he was really going to get decapitated in House of Wax. Don't miss his book when it does come out!

Errol Flynn

Both Ed Gorman and Vince Keenan have posts today about the Errol Flynn documentary on TCM. I watched the documentary, too, and it reminded me of how many of Flynn's movies I saw as a kid, and how much I enjoyed them. In those days, they "re-released" movies fairly often, so I was able to see them on the "big" screen, though it wasn't really so big.

The Adventures of Robin Hood is probably my favorite, but I'll always have a soft spot for Adventures of Don Juan, the first movie I ever saw at a drive-in, while visiting my aunt in San Antonio, probably around 1950. And The Charge of the Light Brigade is another big one on my list of favorites. Not to mention They Died with their Boots On.

Flynn made acting look so easy that people didn't take him seriously. I think he was a much better actor than he's often given credit for, and I know that his movies gave me as much pleasure as just about any I saw when I was growing up. It's too bad he had such a weakness for booze and drugs and came to such an early and sad ending.

I've had a copy of one of Flynn's novels, Beam Ends, for years and never read it. Now maybe I will.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Twisted City -- Jason Starr

Jason Starr, as we all know, is one sick puppy. So it should come as no surprise that Twisted City is, well, twisted. David Miller, the narrator, seems like a normal enough guy. But he has problems. The recent death of his sister preys on his mind. He's living with a chick who seems a little strange. Or maybe a lot strange. His job isn't going too well. When somebody lifts his wallet, his problems start to get worse. A lot worse. As things go downhill, it begins to seem that maybe Miller's problems aren't all coming from outside himself. (Character is fate, as we all learned when reading Medea in the fourth grade.) There are several nice twists (no pun intended) in the plot, and Starr saves the best one for last. This is primetime noir. Check it out. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Saul Bellow -- R.I.P.

I realize that Saul Bellow isn't the kind of writer I usually mention here, but what the heck. Well over 40 years ago, I read his short novel "Dangling Man." I thought it was OK, but it didn't really make a deep impression. A few years later I read The Adventures of Augie March, which did. And Henderson the Rain King was a staple in freshman English classes when I was a teaching assistant in my grad school days. I read Herzog and liked it so much that I later taught it for a couple of semesters. And I also read and liked Mr. Sammler's Planet. All my books from those days are in storage, but I'm sure I still have them, each one heavily underlined, and no doubt containing pithy comments in the margins. It's been at least twenty years since I read anything by Bellow, but now that he's gone, I kind of miss him.

Zorro's Fighting Legion

James Reasoner has an excellent post on Zorro's Fighting Legion over at Rough Edges. (You'll have to scroll down to find it, since he's already started watching another great serial, Undersea Kingdom.) I've see Zorro's Fighting Legion a couple of times, the first when I was a little kid. I'm sure I've mentioned before how the boys in my fourth or fifth grade class used to march around the playground chanting in a monotone, "Don del Oro. Don del Oro." Many years later, I bought a VHS tape of the serial and watched it again. I let my rotten kid brother borrow the tape, and he never returned it. So when I saw it on DVD a while back, I bought it. And James' post spurred me to start watching it yet again. I was planning to watch only a few episodes, but it's so much fun I'm sure I'll watch all of it. You have your swordfights, your bullwhips, your secret cave hideout . . . what more could you ask for? Maybe a great theme song, and this serial sure has one: "We ride, with the wind/ over hill over dale/ with a spirit that cannot fail/ men of Zorro are we." Hard to top.

Monday, April 04, 2005

From Ed Gorman

Man did that Amazing cover and your piece on Johnny Mayhem take me back. I used to haunt my two closest pb and mag outlets for anything sf or Gold Medal or Ace. But I was a special Ziff-Davis freak. I think it was all those great loopy sexy Valigursky covers. You're right, though. The one thing he couldn't draw was monsters. Half of them looked like Beanie & Cecil outtakes. Between 1949, when he first sold to them, and 1956 Steve Marlowe/Milton Lesser must've written millions of words for them. Then Silverberg took over when Steve started doing pb novels for Gold Medal.

I can still remember the hot September night when I was all broken up over my ninth grade love (well, I was her love; as I discovered she wasn't necessarily mine) and I sat on one of the long bridges that connect the two land masses of Cedar Rapids. It was just before this drug store closed. I decided to go buy a pack of Luckies (kids rarely had trouble buying underage smokes in ole CR) and a bottle of Pepsi so I could sit on the bridge some more and try not to think of jumping in.

And there on the shelf was the new Amazing. I thumbed through it and found my very first fan letter ever published. It didn't help much where my true love was concerned but I felt in the club--Kent Moomaw, Mike Deckinger, Roger Ebert, the whole gang. I still have that issue in my a drawer in my desk. It had a great Valigursky cover with no bug eyed monsters, just an astronaut strapped to an asteroid (I didn't say it was scientifically accurate, did I?) Thanks for the ride on the time machine.

Is Time Travel Possible?

Sure it is. Every spring the lunkheads in the legislature shoot us an hour into the future. Then in the fall they drag us back an hour. I'm here to say: Stop the Madness!

I mean, what good is Daylight Saving Time? Has there ever been a study that proves its usefulness? Not that I'm aware of. There are, however, studies that show an increase in traffic accidents every year on the Monday after DST begins. Yet every time spring comes around, the pussies on the Potomac deprive me of an hour's sleep. Why? There has to be a reason, right? Somebody must be paying them off. So who profits from DST? I have no idea, but there must be someone.

I've heard it said that DST is good because the little kiddies don't have to go to school in the dark. I say: Start school an hour later. The little kiddies would like that solution a lot better, and so would I.

I think it's time that we told the cockamamie Congress to stop messing with the clock and leave it one way or the other. I can live with DST year 'round, though I'd prefer Standard Time (or, as it should be known, God's Own Time). One or the other. But no more changes.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Johnny Mayhem

For some reason Duane Swiercyznski's Secret Dead Men reminded me of Johnny Mayhem. I'm sure only a few of you have ever even heard of Johnny Mayhem. He was a series character created by Milton Lesser (better known as Stephen Marlowe) for Amazing Stories in the 1950s. He began life as Johnny Marlow, "a pariah, a criminal, . . . who had been mortally wounded on a wild planet deep within the Saggitarian Swarm, whose life had been saved, after a fashion, by the white magic of that planet. Mayhem, doomed now to possible immortality as a bodiless sentience, an elan, which could occupy and activate a corpse if it had been frozen properly." Being an elan has reformed Marlow/Mayhem, "who had dedicated his life to the service of the Galactic League because a normal life and normal social relationships were not possible for him." See, that's because an elan can't "remain in one body for more than a month without body and elan perishing." Since you never know when you'll need a guy (or an elan) like Johnny Mayhem, "Every world which had an Earthman population and a Galactic League post, however small, had a body waiting in cold storage, waiting for Johnny Mayhem if his services were required."

I really liked the Johnny Mayhem stories when I was a kid. The one in the November 1958 Amazing is both typical and different. It involves an escaped con and a one hundred member symphony band. All the band members are women. Judging by the interior illo for the story, they all wear really short shorts, tight blouses, and boots, which seems like a good idea to me.

About that cover: there was a time when both Amazing and Fantastic went through a "monster of the month phase." And of course the monster was usually menacing a woman who looked as if she might be headed for an audition for a spot in a symphony orchestra. Ah, the good old days. Posted by Hello