Saturday, April 16, 2005

3 TO KILL -- Jean-Patrick Manchette

Some of the members of rara-avis have been singing the praises of Jean-Patrick Manchette for a good while now, and I decided it was time to give his books a try. I ordered two of them, this one and The Prone Gunman. I still haven't received TheProne Gunman, and I'm wondering if I ever will. At any rate, I read 3 To Kill with high expectations. It almost lived up to them.

It's the story of a businesman named Georges Gerfaut who helps an accident victim and then finds himself targeted by hitmen. He has no idea why the men are trying to kill him, but he proves to be a lot more resourceful than they expected. He escapes them and hides out in a small village (but not until after he suffers considerable physical and emotional damage). Eventually he's tracked down, and there's a violent shoot-out. There's a bit more violence later on, and then Georges returns to his humdrum life. He's not quite the same, of course.

This is a very short book, and it has some things in it that I liked a lot. For example, I loved it that one of the hitmen is reading a French translation of a Jack Williamson book. I also liked the speed of the narrative and the straight-forward storytelling.

A couple of minor things bothered me. There's a lot of jazz music in the story, and every reference might be entirely accurate, for all I know. Jazz is out of my territory. However, on page ten I ran across this bit about Georges's taste in vocalists: "syrupy American popular singers: Mel Torme or Billy May." Something like that takes me right out of the story. For one thing, I don't think of Mel Torme as being "syrupy." For another thing, Billy May wasn't a singer at all. He was an orchestra leader and arranger. Did a lot of albums with Frank Sinatra. So I start to wonder. Is this the translator's error? Or Manchette's? And why, after several editions of the book, hasn't somebody stepped in and fixed it?

Even more minor is the line on page 84, where "Gerfaut said he could care less." I guess those French are as careless in their speech as Americans.

Friday, April 15, 2005


Judy and I went to see the lastest movie titled Sahara this afternoon. I kind of like the old one with Humphrey Bogart, but this one's nothing like that.

There are more explosions in the first five minutes of this one than in anything else I've seen this year. I figure it might hold the record for most explosions ever, but I'm not sure.

I am sure that it has just about everything you could want in an adventure movie. There's a fine cast, including the hot chick (Penelope Cruz), the high-spirited adventurer (Matthew McConaughey), the zany sidekick (Steve Zahn), despicable villain #1 (Lambert Wilson), despicable villain #2 (Glynn Thurman), the stalwart Old Man (William H. Macy), the other zany sidekick (Rainn Wilson). You have lost treasure, toxic poisoned wells, a Threat to the Entire World, a ticking clock, the flight of the phoenix, guys (and a gal) jumping onto a moving train from the backs of running camels, a Civil War ironclad in the African desert, a neat old car, and I'm sure I'm forgetting eight or ten other things. I didn't see a kitchen sink, but I got the feeling that any minute one could come flying onto the set. And explosions. Did I mention the explosions?

I was curious about one thing. Was it possible that Penelope Cruz (who looks great on camelback, by the way, but then she always looks great: dressed up, disheveled, sheveled, robed, disrobed (but only down to a bikini in this movie) could turn in a performance (she plays a doctor for the World Health Organization) to equal that of Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist in The World is Not Enough? The answer is: Yes. I was absolutely convinced. Of course the members of the so-called Academy of Motion Pictures of Arts and Sciences, in their overweening envy will never nominate her for the Oscar she so richly deserves, just as they have denied Denise, not only for her performance in the above-mentioned James Bond movie but in the classic Wild Things.

McConaughey and Zahn seem to be having a heck of a good time, as if they both know how outlandish the whole thing is and just don't care. Zahn's there to provide laughs, but he more than holds up his end in the action scenes. (There are hardly any other kinds of scenes in the movie.)

And McConaughey can deliver the required dialogue in just the right spirit. I found myself smiling along with him when the Old Man says, "You know I can't ask you and Al to do this alone," and McConaughey replies, "That's what makes it so good, Admiral. You don't have to." And of course in the next scene, he and Zahn are speeding away to take on hordes of bad guys all by themselves if need be.

So if you like the kind of Boys' Own Adventure movie that doesn't care in the least that it's totally preposterous, if you're willing to go along for the ride and the laughs, you should have a great time at Sahara. I did.
Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Dead Soldiers Update

When I posted the cover of Dead Soldiers the other day, I used a scan of the hardcover edition, as I assumed that Five Star would use the same cover for the trade paperback. They didn't, and boy, am I glad. The new cover is a huge improvement, and it even has something to do with the novel. I like this cover a lot. And remember: the book is "unerringly entertaining." Posted by Hello


I've already received an e-mail asking why I haven't posted anything about the new Fox TV series Stacked. So I'd better say something about it. I watched it because it was set in a bookstore. How could any booklover resist a comedy series set in a bookstore? It stars Pamela Sue Anderson, a bunch of people I never heard of, and Christopher Lloyd. And it was actually pretty funny, better than I thought it would be. Anderson has fun playing a sort of parody of herself (if that's possible), and some actual incidents from her life were used in the script. The rest of the cast is appealing enough (I always like Christopher Lloyd), and if they're stealing a little from Frazier with the ex-wife character, at least they're stealing from a pretty good show. I'll definitely watch this one again to see where it's going. After all, I just can't resist a show about a bookstore. (And in case you're wondering, the photo above isn't from the show.) Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Open Season on Cats? (Update)

My Way News: "MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A proposal to legalize the killing of feral cats is not going to succeed, Gov. Jim Doyle said Wednesday.

'I don't think Wisconsin should become known as a state where we shoot cats,' said Doyle, a Democrat who neither hunts nor owns a cat. 'What it does is sort of hold us up as a state that everybody is kind of laughing at right now.'"

My original post on this is here. I'm glad to see that saner head prevailed.

Even More about Bomba!

This just in from Jeff Meyerson:

Your blogging about Bomba the Jungle Boy reminded me of a thing Pete Hamill wrote about the series. I found the following excerpt from Jim Trelease's THE READ-ALOUD HANDBOOK:
graph spacerIf you think today's best writers were all reading the classics as children, guess again. A few years ago at an event at the Museum of the City of New York, two men were huddled in deep conversation. There were perhaps no two people in the room more disparate than they.
graph spacerOne was Louis Auchincloss, son of a corporate lawyer and one himself, Yale graduate, novelist, biographer, essayist, and president of the Museum of the City of New York. He's been described as the closest thing this age can offer in the way of Henry James, Edith Wharton, and Anthony Trollope.
graph spacerHis partner in conversation was Pete Hamill, eighteen years his junior, son of impoverished Irish immigrants, college dropout, sheet metal worker, advertising designer, journalist, and New York newspaper editor. While Auchincloss spent much of his life writing about boardrooms and bankers, Hamill won awards for writing about the Bowery and boozers. Yet here they were, deep in conversation. About what? If you'd been close enough to eavesdrop, you'd have heard them discussing the fact that Auchincloss had just found a used copy of Bomba, the Jungle Boy at the Death Swamp, the favorite series from both of their childhoods.(This scene was recounted by Hamill in Ronald B. Schwartz's book, For the Love of Books (Grosset/Putnam, 1999).

"Johnny B. Goode" R.I.P. "Johnny B. Goode" is Dead: "'Johnny B. Goode' is Dead"

When I was a teenager, Chuck Berry was at the top of his game. "Maybellene" and the rest of his hits are part of the soundtrack of my life. I didn't realize until now that it, along with the others, was co-written with Johnnie Johnson.

So, would you like to talk to space aliens? -- The World's First Intergalactic Communication System.

Or maybe you'd rather just e-mail them. You even get a FREE "Certificate of Interstellar Broadcast." How can you resist?

E. C. Comics

news from me - ARCHIVES: "Here's an easy review: If you have any interest in EC Comics, you need a copy of Foul Play, a fine new book by . . . Grant Geissman."

There's more to the review over at Mark Evanier's News from Me. Just click on the link.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Amateur (wink, wink) Athletics - NCF - NCAA panel OK with 12th night (or day) game: "INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA Division I Management Council has backed legislation that would allow Division I-A and I-AA schools to add a 12th football game starting with the 2006 season."

When are we going to admit that college football is really just a farm system for the NFL? Why keep on pretending that the players are in school for an education? I mean, have you ever heard an NFL player talk? Time to face up to the facts, pay the guys, and stop making them attend those bothersome classes.

Bomba, Again

After posting about Johnny Sheffield, and after reading Juri's and Frank's comments, I just had to have a look at a Bomba book or two. So I went to the shelves. Naturally I grabbed one with a croc on the cover. Here's the opening paragraph: "A jagged streak of lightning shot athwart the sky, followed by a deafening crash of thunder." How long has it been since you saw the word "athwart" used in a novel? A little farther on we have Bomba "ever and again sending a glance aloft at the lowering skies." Hard to imagine a little ten-year-old kid these days reading a book with a vocabulary like the one "Roy Rockwood" uses. Great stuff.

But it's on page 11 that we get to the kind of thing I remember most fondly from the Bomba series. Ever and again Bomba finds himself in real pickles. In this case a jaguar is about to spring at a man hanging from a tree branch. Bomba is about to draw his knife to attempt a rescue: "While from that belt the jungle boy was drawing his razor-edged machete it may be well, for the benefit of those who have not read the preceding volumes of this series, to tell who Bomba was and what had been his adventures up to the time this story opens."

Yes, as I recall, that's what happens in every book. There's tension you can cut with a machete, and the author steps in to interrupt the story and recall for us the tedious history of Bomba's origins. As I say, I remember this device fondly. I came to expect it and to depend on it. I'm indeed a sad case.

Another thing you could count on with Bomba is that there would be plenty of action to interrupt. By page 11 of the book I'm looking at, lightning has split a nearby tree in half, and Bomba has fought off a savage puma (with the aid of another puma, friendly to Bomba, but still savage). Almost immediately after that, the jungle boy is swept away by a wall of water, and as soon as he escapes drowning, he spots the man dangling from the tree limb and the threatening jaguar. A thrill a minute! They truly don't write 'em like that anymore.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Happy Birthday, Bomba!

I noticed in the "celebrity birthdays" column today that Johnny Sheffield turns 74 today. I, of course, remember him from many Saturday afternoons in the Palace Theater. First, he was Boy in the Tarzan movies, and then he was Bomba the Jungle Boy. And then he pretty much disappeared completely.

When I was a kid, I read as many of the Bomba books as I could get my hands on. I'm sure they were wretched stuff, but I loved them. (I've always had pretty low taste in literature. Movies, too, I guess.) I couldn't find all the books in the public library, so I even managed to buy a couple. But I never managed to complete the series. Posted by Hello

Australian Vintage Paperbacks

Australian Vintage Paperbacks: "This website, produced by Graeme Flanagan, author of Australian Vintage Paperback Guide, is devoted to several series of Australian vintage paperbacks, including the long-running Carter Brown and Larry Kent series, as well as the unique and fascinating Phantom Books series. New cover scans will be added on a regular basis. Click on any of the images below to enter different parts of the website."

I should have mentioned this site long before now. There are some great covers here, many of them the same as on the U.S. digests, but plenty of different ones. Highly recommended browsing.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A Message From the Kinkster

THE BRAZOSPORT NEWS: "A message from Kinky Friedman"

Over at the Brazosport News (link above), Banjo Jones has the latest on Kinky Friedman's campaign to become governor of Texas. Here's a link to Kinky's website if you want to have a look at one thing he has planned.