Saturday, August 06, 2005

Great Cover and a Starred Review in PW

From the New York Times:

Scarcely a year after Marlon Brando's death at 80, the detritus of his fiercely guarded private life continues to bubble to the surface. In June there was an auction of his personal effects, a grab bag of bizarre and often silly objects that included both his Foosball table and a plastic bagel with a plastic cockroach inside.

Now there is another odd blast from his past - "Fan-Tan," a film treatment-turned-novel about pirates in the South Seas that he wrote in the 1970's with a filmmaker, Donald Cammell, best known as the co-director with Nicolas Roeg of the druggy 1970 movie "Performance."

After kicking around in various forms for nearly 30 years, the novel is finally being published next month by Alfred A. Knopf, edited by the film historian David Thomson, who also wrote a final chapter and an afterword.

Fantastic Four

Now you know it's true: I'll watch just about anything. Actually it wasn't too bad, considering that most of the movie was setting up all the relationships between the characters and getting that out of the way before the inevitable sequel. I thought the acting was OK, though nobody's going to be up for any awards. Chris Evans as Johnny Storm was the only one who seemed to be having a whole lot of fun, and I enjoyed his performance. The script was pretty bad. Back when I started reading comics (long before the Fantastic Four came along), a favorite exclamation was "What the . . . ?" I found myself saying that a lot during the movie. It wasn't so much that things didn't make sense as that they were just goofy. OK, and sometimes they didn't make sense, either. What the heck. Watching this wasn't a bad way to spend a hot summer afternoon.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Saving Nolan Ryan


As a civic-minded old retired poop, I couldn't resist getting involved. The link goes to Banjo Jones's report.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

One Shot -- Lee Child

I always enjoy Lee Child's books about Jack Reacher, one of those competent guys who always knows what he's doing, who's always sure of himself because he's bigger and smarter than the ungodly and doesn't mind telling them so. Which he does. Often.

One Shot begins with what seems to be a random shooting by a sniper, five people killed in under five seconds. The cops make their case with amazing speed, and it's airtight. Until Reacher shows up. Then little things start casting doubt on the police case. Nothing much at first, but enough to cause the real perps some uneasy moments. And before long it's clear that there's a lot more going on than anybody thought to begin with.

Child writes well. He knows the military stuff and the weapons, and he has an eye for detail (sometimes too much detail, I think). Reacher's an appealing fantasy hero, and the stories move fast. But. (There's always a but.) Twice now, Child has had Reacher (and everyone else) overlook things that seem far too obvious to me. I can't remember the other book it happened in, but it seems really egreious this time. If Reacher's so damned smart, he should have thought of it before page 200. That complaint aside, though, you can buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Now THIS is a Treehouse

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Blondes Die Young -- Bill Peters (William P. McGivern)

The other day I commented on a novel by William P. McGivern, and Ed Gorman had this to say in the comments section: "Thanks for bringing McGivern to our attention. I became friendly with Dorothy B. Hughes the last five years of her life and we often talked about writers who had faded after their deaths. She considered McGivern one of the two or three best hardboiled writers of his generation. She always said that he was a serious writer, kind of a pulp Graham Greene. And I sure agree. There are at least eight or nine of his titles that would be in print in a just world and But Death Runs Faster is one of them. He did a post-war novel set in the jazz clubs of Chicago called Blondes Die Young---under the pen-name Bill Peters--and the historical element is fascinating. Because what he's describing is the pre-beat era that was already there--crash pads, cheap wine parties, poetry readings, heavy duty jazz and of course so much marijuana I got a contact high just reading it. He was a fine fine writer and Blondes could also easily have been a Gold Medal, too. His masterpiece was Odds Against Tomorrow, which is spiritually one of those most violent and nihlistic novels I've ever read until the very end."

After reading Ed's comment, I naturally had to check the shelves to see if I had a copy of Blondes Die Young. Sure enough, there it was, in a nice Popular Library pb edition. "Time On Her Hands -- Men On Her Mind." They don't write blurbs like that anymore. Naturally I had to read the book.

And, sure enough, Ed was absolutely right. This one could easily have been published by Gold Medal. It's boiled a lot harder than But Death Runs Faster. Lots of violence and brutality, and some of the reviews compare the book to those by Mickey Spillane. But the narrator, Bill Canalli, takes more punishment than even Mike Hammer. He gets in a lot more sack time, too, if you know what I mean and I think you do. One think I liked the book is the neat variation on Spillane's themes that McGivern works out here. I won't say anything else about that, but if you ever get a chance to read the book, you'll see what I mean. Check it out.

Hey, Dudes!

Welcome To Jeff

Banjo Jones called my attention to Jeff Bridges' cool website. Supposedly all the artwork is done by the Dude himself. Check it out.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Time for Cap'n Bob to Go Back to College?

Salford Advertiser - Air head wants to get a PhD:

"AMANDA Griffiths is studying air guitar for her PhD.

MEET madcap Amanda Griffiths of Chorlton, the PhD student who is studying for a doctorate - in air guitar.

Amanda is researching the phenomena of playing along to famous electric guitar solos with nothing more in your hands than a fistful of fresh air as part of her doctorate at the University of Salford.

And the 32-year-old is even a special guest at the Air Guitar World Championships held in Oulu, where she will give a lecture on the subject."

Slightly Scarlet

Why would anybody make a film noir in Technicolor? Let me put it this way: If you were going to make a film noir starring Arlene Dahl and Rhonda Fleming, you'd be crazy not to. Dahl and Fleming are a couple of Hollywood's most gorgeous redheads, and they play the bad sister and the good sister in Slightly Scarlet. The only way this movie could have been improved would have been to have Maureen O'Hara in the cast as the in-between sister. But the movie is wonderful enough as it is.

It opens with Arlene, the bad sister, a man-crazy klepto, getting out of prison. Her hair and make-up are perfect, and her outfit is a knock-out. Rhonda, the good sister, is there to pick her up in a beautiful 1955 Plymouth convertible with a Pompano Peach paint job. (I couldn't find a photo of that color, but here's a nice one of the car.) John Payne, wearing a suave propeller bow tie is across the street taking photos with a long lens.

It just gets better from there. Rhonda and Arlene arrive at Rhonda's house. The house number is 1313, so you just know things aren't going to go well. And they don't, except for the person watching the movie, which is a visual treat. You wouldn't think the film noir techinques that work so well in b&w would work in color, but they do. John Alton, who apparently shot a lot of the b&w kind, does a great job here. Check out the lighting, the shadows, the composition. It's all there.

The interiors are almost as gorgeous as Rhonda and Arlene, and the swinging bachelor pad that is the bad guy's beach house is impossible to top. You have to see it to believe it. It's '50s kitsch to the max.

The outfits that Rhonda and Arlene wear are perfection, and of course perfectly color-coordinateded for redheads. I can't decide which is my favorite, but Arlene's green dress with matching hat, shoes, gloves, and scarf has to be a front-runner. Arlene is also quite fetching in a leopard-skin bathing suit. How John Payne resists her advances is beyond me. But I think I'd have to vote for Rhonda's short-shorts. Hubba-hubba!

And did I mention how great Arlene and Rhonda look? I mean, all the time. For example, there's a late-night phone call, and when Rhonda rouses herself to answer, her lipstick, hair, and make-up look as if she just stepped out of the dressing room.

The use of Technicolor in the movie is amazing. It's as vivid as anything you can imagine, and to people who say it's not "realistic," I say, "And you're going to tell me that b&w is realistic?"

Some people might wonder about the plot. Does it really matter? John Payne is a good/bad guy who'd taking photos one minute and in charge of the mob the next. Kent Taylor (without his pencil-thin moustache, the Boston Blackie kind) is the reform mayor. Ted de Corsica is the crime boss who leaves town but who you can bet will be back for the big shoot-out at the end. Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton!) is Rhonda's maid, who tries to carry on as if she were working in a slightly normal household. It's all good.

The DVD I have has a commentary track by Max Allan Collins (when does that guy ever have time to write?), which I haven't listened to. Maybe I will, one of these days.

I found out about this DVD from Vince Keenan's blog. You might want to pay a visit and see what he had to say about it.

Monday, August 01, 2005

But Death Runs Faster -- William P. McGivern

When I was a kid, I knew William P. McGivern as the author of frothy fantasy stories for magazines like Fantastic. I had no idea he was married to Maureen Daly, the author of a book called Seventeenth Summer, which I read in high school mainly because Daly supposedly wrote it when she was still in her teens. (I loved it, but I didn't tell anybody then that I'd read it because it was "a girl's book.") And I found out only later that McGivern was the author of such hardboiled classics as The Big Heat and Rogue Cop.

But Death Runs Faster
(from 1948) isn't hardboiled. About medium, I'd say. And it's a formal mystery story, right down to the gathering of suspects at the end. The plot is the one about the office bully, the guy everyone hates and has a motive to kill. Of course he's murdered, and of course the narrator, Steve Blake, is the prime suspect. All that being said, McGivern presents the material in a way that would have made the book fit right in if it had been published five or six years later as a Gold Medal original. It's that good.

What might make the book even more interesting to some of you is that at the beginning of the novel, Blake takes on the editorship of a pulp detective magazine. (The office bully is his associate editor.) McGivern has a little fun with some pulp writer characters, and gives a some insight into how a pulp magazine was (or should have been) run. I found all of this highly entertaining. What I liked was how the writers all talk about Proust and Stendahl instead of, say, Carroll John Daly. And of course they talk about money, too. If you can find a copy of this book, check it out.

An Excellent List (especially #3)

The Seattle Times: Sports: 10 great moments in "chatting" history

OK, I Didn't Really Need to Know This

DELIVERANCE - REYNOLDS NELSON AND I WOULD HAVE MADE GREAT GAY LOVERS: "DELIVERANCE star BURT REYNOLDS was so impressed with country legend WILLIE NELSON when they met, the actor's now convinced they'd have made the perfect gay couple.

Reynolds and Nelson teamed up to make appearances in the upcoming movie adaptation of cult TV show DUKES OF HAZZARD, and twice-divorced Reynolds admits he almost immediately saw a perfect partner in the singer.

He says, 'When I worked with Willie Nelson - who is just about the nicest man I've ever worked with in my life - I thought, 'If I'd have been gay, it would've saved me millions, just because we'd still be happily married.''"

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Hollywood Is Out of Ideas

HOLLYWOOD HUNTS DEMON CHILD FOR OMEN REMAKE: "The hunt is on to find the world's creepiest boy, as movie bosses search for a young actor to star in a remake of the classic 1976 horror film THE OMEN.

Studio chiefs at Twentieth Century Fox are hunting for the perfect demonic child to play the coveted role of evil DAMIEN, the son of SATAN, in THE OMEN 666."

Comment of the Day

Ed Gorman & Friends: "Jean Simmons, at seventeen or eighteen, played Ophelia to Laurence Olivier's Hamlet. I'm pretty sure Paris Hilton could do that if she wanted to. Sure she'd wear a thong but it'd be like experimental theater. You know, Ophelia as a club girl. Ole Bill Shakespere would probably dig it."

Have a look here for the remarks that inspired it.

Terry Pratchett Isn't Pleased

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Arts | Pratchett anger at Rowling's rise

"Author Terry Pratchett has complained that the status of Harry Potter author JK Rowling is being elevated "at the expense of other writers."

Pratchett makes some good points, but that first comment makes it sound as if he's just jealous.

Cruse'n With Lonnie

Cruse'n With Lonnie: "I read DEATH BY ACCIDENT by Bill Crider over the weekend and loved it. I'm a big Crider fan, and it's no accident that the protagonist in my series is a sheriff. But I do try to make my character different from Crider's sheriff. Really."

The fact that Lonnie Cruse likes my books has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I'm plugging her blog here. Trust me.

Sea Monster!

Unidentified Sea Creature Found After Typhoon

A genuine sea monster? Or just a giant crocodile? I report, you decide.