Wednesday, August 31, 2011
In the first week of May, David Cranmer featured my poems "Security" and "Life Sentence" on BEAT to a PULP, part of the site's first-ever week of poetry. Patti commented that she adored "Life Sentence", and today invited me to expound on how I came up with both poems.
Having published THE LINEUP: POEMS ON CRIME the past four years, I've become fascinated with themes of crime in poetry, much the same as you may enjoy crime fiction. After the first issue of THE LINEUP, I opted not to publish my own work in the journal, so when David asked if I'd submit poetry to BTAP, I was ready.
"Security" came out of my noticing how the suffix -ity watered down the word "secure". Security feels more like a concept, more abstract than actual, as in "false sense of security". The poem is an illustration of that watering down. Is our security really secure? Is our reality real? "-ity" seems a flimsy structure to me, tacked onto solid adjectives because common wisdom says nouns are safer footing than adjectives.
"Life Sentence" is a similar look at punctuation. It struck me that our attitudes toward how life ends could be expressed through end punctuation marks. The ellipsis represents the slow trailing-off of age, the exclamation point the sudden violence of stroke, the period the peaceful yet unconscious end of sleep. Preferable to any of these, I think, is the chance to go out on one's own terms, with a dash, a flourish, of choice.
Two of my co-editors at THE LINEUP have stepped down as their own projects and day jobs have gotten busier. I don't have the resources to print THE LINEUP on my own, so I've moved to a weekly website format, THE 5-2: CRIME POETRY WEEKLY, which will publish one poem per week year-round, starting Monday, September 12. I'm also including video clips, and short "signed confessions" from each poet about how each poem was written. I welcome submissions of unpublished poetry to http://poemsoncrime.blogspot.com
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
BREAKING BAD is the biggest source of tension at our house.
I think it's the most brilliant TV show since THE WIRE. Phil thinks it glorifies the drug business by making it so much the subject of interest. It think it exposes it as the soul-sucking business it is. If he didn't run off to check the Tiger score so often, he might see the scenes where Walt is exposed as the slimebag he's become.
I detest Drive-ins, Diners and Dives. Shuffle the deck-every episode is the same. Phil loves it. Loves watching meat cook on a grill. I can respect a good cooking show, but damn, this isn't it.
I know we need another TV, but we both kind of think we can find common ground. Right now, JUSTIFIED and MAD MEN are the only shows we both like. And I ask you, how different is JUSTIFIED from BREAKING BAD.
Is there a TV show you and your spouse or partner disagree about? Or do you go to your separate corners.
Two Stories from Deadly Treats
Treats, Tricks, and Terror in Tin Lake.” Paula Fleming
"This Old House" Paul Brazill
Monday, August 29, 2011
Saw a good documentary on Harper Lee called HEY, BOO: HARPER LEE and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. ("Hey. Boo," is what Scout says, when she finally meets Boo Radley.)
Lee kept her silence both in this film and over the years. She has not been interviewed since the sixties. It is also poignant that she never wrote another book. No one knows why although I suspect it was the very success of this one.
Quite nauseating though how Truman Capote ended his lifetime friendship with her when she won the Pulitzer. He insinuated for years that he had a hand in the book.
Who are some of the other one-book wonders?
How I Came to Write This Story:
Chris La Tray
"Vampires are Pussies"
in Noir at the Bar
It's all about being in the right place
at the right time. Last Fall I was
scheduled to be in St. Louis, and
it just happened to coincide with a
Noir at the Bar episode slated to
occur while I was in the vicinity.
So I dropped Jed Ayres a note to see if I could get on the bill. I could hear
the heavy sigh in his return email when he said, "Yeah, I guess. If we can't get
anyone better." Apparently they couldn't, and I was on the flyer.*
Fast forward a couple months and all of us N@B readers were invited to contribute
a story to a print anthology that was being compiled to benefit Subterranean Books,
the shop just down the street from where we'd rocked the house. The idea was to use
the story we had read at our reading, or something else, whatever we wanted.
The story I'd read, "Buster Lee and the Chucklehead Who Wouldn't Stay Down,"
had just come out in Crimefactory's special Kung Fu Factory edition,
so I wanted to do something a little different. So here’s the overwritten
backstory of where my story came from.
I’ve only recently returned to doing any kind of fiction writing.
Two summers ago I’d taken a couple writing workshops, all around the time
I first started reading a lot of crime fiction for the first time.
I was also reading some great crime/espionage graphic novels;
stuff like Ed Brubaker’s Criminal and Incognitoseries,
Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country, and a great little story by Beau Smith
called Cobb: Off the Leash. All of this reading and writing inspired me to
take a shot at Nanowrimo that Fall; I wrote a mess of a novel that I realized
has sort of an Urban Fantasy vibe to it. Since that genre usually makes
my skin crawl.
I shelved it because I wasn't sure I wanted to pursue it any deeper,
nor did I know what kind of market there is for what I was trying to pull off.
It is a superhero story, with the main character being enlisted as the "official"
superhero of the US government. His "hero" name is US Idol, and he hates it.
I’d read one other superhero novel and didn’t like it at all, and wondered
if one could even work.
Then I read Christopher Farnsworth's Blood Oath, a novel where the setting
is kinda/sorta like what I envisioned, about a vampire who is basically
the President's secret weapon (the follow-up, which came out this year,
is actually called The President's Vampire)(coincidentally, I’d only picked the book
up after getting a recommendation from Beau Smith to do so). The book kicked my ass
all over the place, and suddenly my superhero story seemed more viable. It made me
realize that something akin to an urban fantasy didn't have to be painted with the
lover” brush. It could be fun, and gritty, and cool. I’d wanted to take the things
I love in crime and espionage and adventure and horror-type stories and throw them
all in one big hopper, the probe set high to near overflowing, and here was a guy
pulling it off in grand fashion. I was inspired. So I started playing around with
my idea again.
I'd considered serializing the novel online, and still might . . .
but when the opportunity to write a story for N@B came up, I thought I'd take a stab
at something featuring US Idol. I wrote it and submitted it to Jed along
with another, more "typical" crime story. Jed was game to use either one, and
I chose the Idol yarn. It's quite a bit different from the other stories in the collection, but I'm happy with it and grateful to Jed, and Scott Phillips, for not only putting the anthology together but also for letting me participate in N@B. It's been a lot of fun. Hopefully people will survive the other tales in the book sane enough to appreciate my little yarn at the very back of the thing.
* This isn't exactly how this went down. I offered to pay for a slot.
Jed said, "Hey, ten bucks is ten bucks...." and I was in.
Chris has generously offered to provide an e copy of NOIR AT THE BAR to a commenter
who correctly identifies the city where that bar is.
All correct responder's names will be thrown into a hat.
Bio: Chris La Tray is a rocker, a writer, and a wannabe adventurer.
His nonfiction writing has appeared in the Missoula Independent,
Vintage Guitar magazine, and World Explorer
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Do you have someone read your story before sending it out if so do you take suggestions seriously or are you your own best critic?
(Michael said no, that he is his own best critic)
I always have my husband read my stories--although he is way too easy on me, but that's okay because I factor that in. I also run most stories by my writing group and they are good at picking up troublesome factoid things. Like is that amount of money feasible. Would that be enough time.
But since they don't have much time to digest it, in the end I have to be my own critic.
How I Came to Edit this Book: Pulp Ink by Chris Rhatigan
Last winter I was emailing back and forth with Nigel Bird about his brilliant collection of short stories, Dirty Old Town. He mentioned that I should put together an ebook of my stories. I didn’t feel ready for that.
But I got to thinking. I was reading all of these excellent writers on the internet. Writers who made me fall in love with the short story. Why not get them together for an anthology?
I threw this idea out to Nigel and said I would do it as long as he was on board. We batted around a few ideas about a theme until we settled on soundtrack titles and snippets of dialogue from a Tarantino movie as prompts. Then we put together a list of some of our favorite writers and asked if they would be interested in this project.
I was stunned that almost every writer we asked signed on. The stories rolled in and they were exactly what we were looking for – dark crime fiction with style and swagger. Nigel and I made some minor changes, but every story was a gem when we received it. Steve Weddle with Needle Publishing signed on, too, taking the formidable task of formatting the whole book and giving us good advice, and we were on our way.
Of course, there were a few bumps in the road, and I’ve learned a few things about being an editor. One thing is that you can recover from any crisis. Nigel is fantastic about this – a cool head every time – and I’ve taken my cues from him. Every problem that’s come up we’ve managed to solve.
And I think that’s because our original vision was sound. We wanted to put together a collection featuring authors whose writing we loved, loosely link their stories together, and make it very affordable.
Bottom line is that editing Pulp Ink has been a fantastic experience. It’s a little contribution to the form that I love – the short story.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Jackie works as a CCTV operator in the 2007 Scottish film RED ROAD. Each day she watches over a housing estate in Glasgow, protecting the people living under her gaze. One day a man appears on her monitor, a man she thought she'd never see again.
This film took its time in explaining itself, but in the end was a good one.
RED ROAD is about watching other people and some great films have dealt with the subject. In this case, she is paid to watch. But in many cases, the watching comes about in other ways.
What is your favorite film about watching? I'm going to pick the obvious choice since it's my favorite movie and go with REAR WINDOW.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Check out my review of POINT BLANK on Crimespree Cinema.
The Summing Up, Friday, August 26, 2011
Patti Abbott, Replay, Ken Grimwood
Yvette Banek, The Album, Mary Roberts Rinehart
Joe Barone, Another Man's Moccasins, Craig Johnson
Paul Bishop, Snowball, Jimmy Sangster
Bill Crider, Spoon River Anthology, Edgar Lee Masters
Scott Cupp, Sacred Locomotive Flies, Richard Lupoff
Martin Edwards, The Piccadilly Murder, Anthony Berkeley
Ed Gorman, Hollywood Rock, Marshall Crenshaw
Jerry House, Shadow of Night, August Derleth
Randy Johnson, Brass Knuckles, Frank Gruber
George Kelley, Red Lights, Georges Simenon
Margot Kinberg, Maigret and the Yellow Dog, Georges Simenon
Rob Kitchin, The Big Mango, Jake Needham (Marshal Cavendish)
B.V. Lawson, Murder Intercontinental, ed. Cynthia Manson and Kathleen Halligan
Evan Lewis, The Punisher in "Welcome Back Frank"
Steve Lewis/William Deeck, The Beautiful Mrs. Davenant, Violet Tweedale
Todd Mason, Epoch, Fall 1955; Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (F & SF) Sept. 1955
J.F. Norris, Frost, Donald Wandrei
Richard Pangburn, How to Sell, Clancy Martin
David Rachels, The Cage, Kenzo Kitakata
James Reasoner, Dial "M" for Man, Orrie Hitt
Gerard Saylor, Criminal, Ed Brubaker * Sean Phillips
Ron Scheer, Isidro, Mary Austin
Kerrie Smith, The Hunting Ground, Francis Clifford
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, Dead Famous, Ben Elton
Blogger has spacing issues today. Sorry.
Patti Abbott, REPLAY, Ken Grimwood
REPLAY by Ken Grimwood was written in 1986. It tells the story of man who has a coronary in his late thirties and wakes up to find himself a high school student again. He quickly comes up with the idea of having an older friend place bets on horse races and football games where he knows the outcome and proceeds through this new life, a hugely wealthy man until it happens again.
And again, and again, with each life taking unexpected turns as he makes new choices.
He meets two other replayers, which allows him to discuss his situation.
This was a real page turner (recommended by Jeff Meyerson). Grimwood manages to insert some complexity into the thinking while keeping the pace up. Highly recommended. I can't help but wonder why this was never a movie. Could have been a terrific one. Or even a TV series. That might be even better.
Ed Gorman is the author of STRANGLEHOLD and TICKET TO RIDE. You can find him here.
I've always liked Marshall Crenshaw's songs especially the heartbroke ones which he manages to write with a light but no less painful touch. I saw him once in person just after his career started to slide. He's an interesting guy and a fine musician.
The Guide goes all the way to 1994. The reviews are sometimes serious demonstrating that besides being a true rocker he's also a perceptive critic. But the most fun for people like me who grew up in the fifties are his reviews of the rock movies of that decade (and on into the sixties).
God were those movies terrible. I lost count of how many had the same basic plot--town/suburb of oldsters hate rock but kids put on a show for charity/fame and convince even the crabbiest oldster in the film what great young `uns they are after all. And those were the ones that were at least about rock `n roll. There were hybrids put together by adults who didn't have a clue. Thus in the same movie you might have Chuck Berry, the Platters and Liberace.
One of these was so bad that Crenshaw calls it "The attempted murder of rock `n roll." This starred Jimmy Clanton as "Teenage Millionaire." The first thing wrong with it Crenshaw notes is that Clanton "looks about twenty-eight." Here you had Jackie Wilson and Dion appearing with Zasu Pitts (talented actress who started in the silents) and that great actor...Rocky Graziano. Crenshaw's summary line for this one: "The producers of this film are probably on the run because there's no statute of limitations on crimes like this."
Inevitably he gets to Elvis movies and has a great time with them. He says that in "Kissin Cousins" "Elvis fights heroically for a nuclear missile site" to be implanted in this lovely bucolic setting (thanks El). There's also a weird sad note for those of us who liked the Fifties western series "Sugarfoot." At the time Will Hutchins appeared in his Elvis movie he was employed by a studio as a bicyle messenger. Edd Byrnes deserved this fate not Will Hutchins.
A dazzling, smart, fond look at the good and bad that has been done to rock `n roll in both American and British films (The Brits were at least as goofy as we were). You can't go wrong with this one.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
WARNING: This is a tough final scene and it does not always end like this.
I saw this David Mamet play at the Library Theater Company in Manchester, England in 1995. At that time I felt the conflict over sexual harassment was interesting and it was a well done production starring Melanie Hudson and Robert Jezek. It concerns accusations of improper behavior between a professor and a student. It was a nerve-wracking play to watch with a particularly difficult second act. It is said Mamet wrote it in response to the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings.
I have seen it again in a local production and as a movie. The ending of this play and audience response to it has changed over the years. Who comes out on top and what we think of it has changed, in other words.
It has become clear that Mamet never intended this to be a fair-minded look at sexual harassment. At the time, we knew less about him and his views.
I wouldn't see it again.
The Rule Book
The advice: The first line needs to jump straight down your throat and grab you.My response: Now there’s an idea.
The line: His eyes fixed on the sword and started to travel its length, down from the black handle, over the plain hilt and along the two inch wide shaft to where it penetrated the young woman’s mouth.It all fell into place pretty quickly from there. A police procedural following several police teams as they try to catch a killer who is leaving a trail of seemingly random victims dotted around Dublin, Ireland, each accompanied by a chapter from a book on how to commit the perfect murder. I’m a fan of police procedurals. Choosing to write one was an easy decision.
There were four things I wanted to try and achieve. First, that the police investigation was as realistic as possible. I normally don’t mind authors taking liberties with how things would normally occur with the exception of fiction, such as police procedurals, that seek to portray a social realism. Too often I get frustrated, and I know police officers do as well, with stories that include procedures or events that simply would not happen in real life. The result is that The Rule Book has a fairly large cast of characters as in cases where there are multiple linked murders, each murder is investigated by a separate team that reports to a central coordinating team. No set of murders are investigated by a single inspector with his trusted sergeant working in seeming isolation from anybody else. To give a focus to the book, the lead character is a Detective Superintendent whose job it is to run the central coordinating team. To make sure I got all the detail right, I spend quite a bit of time talking to a former Detective Superintendent from the Irish National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and he read through drafts of the manuscript a couple of times as well.Second, I wanted the lead character to be an ordinary police officer, not some maverick or super-intelligent investigator. I wanted him to be immersed in a situation where he is out of his depth, where he’s trying to cope with multiple pressures at home and work and isn’t doing such a good job of it. Third, was to keep the tension and pace high from the get-go. Fourth, I wanted to subvert the usual endings of crime novels. A large proportion of crimes in real life are not solved and cases are often open-ended and messy.
The next stage of finding a publisher took way longer than writing the book. In the process, the manuscript was edited and tweaked in response to the advice of agents and editors. One victim was my fourth aim. The view of agents and editors seems universally to be that ambiguous or open-ended or messy endings are a definite no-no; there should be definite and clean resolution. We compromised. Kind of. There were a couple of other compromises around the description of characters and violence. The original draft had little of both. I prefer readers to use their imagination in respect to both, filling in the gaps based on what characters say and do. I was asked to add in both. Thankfully the reviews to date have been very positive (see http://theviewfromthebluehouse.blogspot.com/p/rule-book.html), but where I have received critique it is related to these two aspects. I’m happy with the book, but if I have a regret it’s that I didn’t resolutely stick to my guns on all aspects of style and content.The other thing I probably shouldn’t have done was write the second in the series without having placed the first book. There’s not a lot you can do with a child book when the parent is still waiting to see daylight. That book, The White Gallows, has subsequently been published (see http://theviewfromthebluehouse.blogspot.com/p/white-gallows.html). The third, Ghostland, is finished and presently under consideration by a publisher.
The Rule Book was recently released in the Kindle format. Here are some links if it sounds like your kind of book.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
In Sunday's NYT, a few horror movie directors were asked the single scariest scene in a movie and this scene from THE SHINING was mentioned often.
I think the sound of the wheels of Danny's bike going down the hallways was even scarier.
What about you? What is the scariest scene you have watched?
HOW I CAME TO WRITE THIS STORY
Basically, it was like this: I gotta write another muscle story. I’d been working on this novel about black market steroids for a while. I needed a break. I wanted to write some stories about the muscle world; steroids, rage, gyms. The psychopathology associated with the hardcore element of this subculture. And the characters that populate this world. Figured it would help flesh out that world in my mind.
The first story was “Jacked,” in Thuglit (thanks Big Daddy). Then “Mr. Universe,” which ended up in Blood, Guts and Whiskey (thanks again, Big Daddy). Then “Muscle Chick,” in PWG #3, “Balls to the Wall,” in Pulp Pusher, “Johnny Boy,” and “Strong Island Disco Doorman,” in Powder Burn Flash, “Marvin K Stein’s Killer Penis,” in OOTG 6 Sexploitation, and “Ass Shot,” in the long silent, Shred of Evidence.
Then I figured if I wanted to put a bunch of these muscle-themed stories together as a collection someday, I would need a couple more. Some longer stuff. Brainstormed. Decided to tap into the crazy days I spent pumping iron in Venice Beach in the early 80’s. Out came “Venice Beach Birthday Boogie.” Steve Weddle and crew were kind enough to accept it for an upcoming NEEDLE. Awesome.
Okay, maybe one more.
Bigorexia. In my mind, that’s a word that begs to be a story title. Ever since I heard it, I knew it had to be a story. Bigorexia is a real psychiatric term and is relatively new, coined in the 90’s. Roberto Olivardia, PhD wrote the first article in 1996 describing bigorexia/muscle dysmorphia. It’s also referred to as Adonis Complex. Some refer to it as reverse anorexia, and it’s part of the spectrum of body dysmorphic disorders. It’s like this:
Anorexic: I’m so fat. I can never be thin enough, even if it kills me.
Bigorexic: I’m so small. I can never be big enough, even if it kills me.
There are multiple criteria that need to be filled to make the diagnosis. I wanted the character in this story to exhibit most, if not all, of these traits. So I already had a fully fleshed out character. I wanted my character to be the ultimate bigorexic, not just using steroids, but site enhancement oils too.
I get the whole concept of wanting to be big, muscular. Training like crazy, dieting. Feels great. I even understand the desire to use anabolic steroids, to get to new levels. I mean, you still need to train like an animal, eat right. It’s damn hard work. Muscle doesn’t just “happen”.
BUUUUTTT. Injecting site enhancement oils. Man, that’s a whole different ball game. Instant size with no work. Once I started researching, I was hooked. Fascinated. Googled, “synthol freaks,” and was blown away by what I saw.
Who does this?
To this extent?
Site enhancement oils were first developed by a German bodybuilder, Chris Clark in the early 90’s, as a way to fine-tune right before a contest. Just a few cc’s. Maybe if the calves were weak, you could give them a little boost. Or maybe one bicep was a tad smaller, asymmetric, you could add a bit of oil right before a show, even things out.
BUUUUTTT. Some people just can’t control themselves.
It’s a disease.
Now, there’s a story.
Glenn Gray has numerous stories published both online and in print. He has stories forthcoming in Shotgun Honey, Pulp Modern, Needle and Beat to a Pulp: Round 2.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
This book should be loads of fun.
Thanks to Kieran Shea, Greg Bardsley and Jed Ayres for bringing it to fruition and including me.
You can buy D*CKED here. I am sure mine ("Are You Going To Take Care of This Guy or Not") is the tamest one of the bunch.
In the 1960s British working class life had a good run at the movie theater. A Taste of Honey was one of my favorites. It featured a knockout performance by Rita Tushingham as Jo, a girl tossed out on the streets of Salford by her Mum, who gets pregnant by a black man and eventually finds a home with a gay man.
The gritty look of this film suggests noir and it is. The song, performed by Herb Albert among others, was a big success. When did we give up making domestic dramas about real people. If we get this sort of gritty film today, it usually concerns a crime.
The film was directed by Tony Richardson.
Other forgotten movies can be found here.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Take a look so Jean Pierre can win!
And the challenge is: blog about books or stories written by women. If you'd like to join in, Barbara Fister is here.
BLACK SECONDS is the second book by Karen Fossum I've read. And the ending really caught me up. An unexpected ending is not a prerequisite for me so I am always amazed when someone pulls it off. And pull it off, she did in a most satisfying way. It all made sense, the clues were there, and yet I didn't see it coming.
Fossum takes elements of the police procedural and mixes them with psychological drama in BLACK SECONDS. Women writers seem more interested in doing this. Less concerned with action and more concerned with motivation and character, which makes for a good read for me. The great exemplar of this sort of writing was Margaret Millar and I think Fossum is a worthy successor.
Inspector Sejer is the series detective in the two Fossum books I have read and it is he who doggedly follows the few threads he is able to find in the story. BLACK SECONDS concerns the disappearance of a ten year old girl on a yellow bike.
A secondary plot deals with a cousin of the girl--a teenager who crashes his car. This plot gradually dominates the novel. But the two strands come together in the end.
Karin Fossum is very adept at both keeping you reading and in putting depth and complexity in her plot. I am anxious to read a third book by Ms. Fossum.
Anyone else read Karin Fossum?
by Jack Bates
When I was an undergrad, I did an assignment for a poetry class that I based on the paintings of Edward Hopper. The poems were sharp, brief, and cut to the quick of the emotion of the subject. It coincided with an earlier assignment I’d had in an acting class where we had to study a painting and do improvised scenes based on what we saw or imagined we saw within the borders of the frame. I never forgot how both of those exercises opened and strengthened my creativity.
Earlier this past spring, Jim Harrington from Apollo’s Lyre asked me to contribute to a special summer post of writers from our crime fiction writing group. I went back to my book of Hopper paintings. I chose Four Lane Road, altering the title to Four Lanes, to be the foundation of my story. If you’ve ever looked at Hopper’s work, I’m sure you’ve noticed the stark images of people lost in thought or just lost. Nighthawks, which I recently saw ‘live’ on a trip to Chicago, is the picture of noir for me: lonely souls in an isolated location at night and no one talks but everyone has something on his or her mind and it’s probably troubling.
Four Lane Road depicts a man sitting on the back porch of a 1930’s era filling station as he stares absently down an empty stretch of divided highway. Leaning out a window behind him is a woman, presumably his wife, who appears to be giving him an earful about something he’s heard all too often from her. For me, that became the genesis of the story. The man had dreams of cars filling his pockets with cash as he filled the tanks. Unfortunately, that reality has been slow in happening and she’s not shy about letting him know it. Pushed to his breaking point by an eroding dream and a nagging spouse, he takes matters into his own hands and it is definitely troubling.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
from Deadly Treats.
As some of you may remember, on our trip to Paris in May 2010 I was quite taken by this vision across the street. Wings of some sort were propped in the window and I did a flash piece about it, but it influenced a longer story even more.
When Theresa Weir invited me to submit a story to a collection she was putting together, the entire story fell quickly into place. It was to be a Halloween story for a volume she was then calling BATS IN THE BELFRY. At the time, she planned to publish it herself, probably as an e-book
I wanted my story to be reminiscent of THE METAMORPHOSIS, but lighter in tone. I soon came up with the idea of the idea of wings appearing suddenly on the shoulders of a pickpocket.
I don’t know why I was so reluctant to tell him (a doctor). Was it fear of what he might tell me or embarrassment at my…problem’s… oddity? For several weeks, I’d noticed a growth on both sides of my upper back. Felt it more than saw it, of course, because it was in one of those places hard to spot—even in a mirror.
“I seem to have some sort of… enlargement.” The word growth seemed laden with implications I didn’t want to introduce into our conversation.
My hope with the story was to make it believable but magical at the same time. So Deeb's interaction would be with a little girl.
“What’s your name anyway?”
“Deeb,” I said, without thinking.
“That’s a funny name for a guardian angel. I suppose I can get used to it though.”
“Sure, call me Deeb.” What did it matter if we never met again?
“You can call me Princess Isabella.” I nodded. “And next time you come, try and remember to bring me a greeting gift.”
I nodded again. “I’d better be off.”
“I especially like barrettes if you can’t think of something.”
I had a lot of fun writing this story. And I am happy to have it included in this terrific collection.
I am going to leave her most wonderful performance for someone else to mention and remember THE LADY EVE. I just loved her versatility as an actress. THE LADY EVE is one of the most magnificent screwball comedies ever. Henry Fonda also sparkles in this Preston Sturgis comedy.
Even in her late years on THE BIG VALLEY, she could mop up the floor with anyone else. What a talent!
Friday, August 19, 2011
Shakespeare Gardens, Stratford, ON
Yvette Banek, In and Out of the Garden, Sara Midda
Joe Barone, The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon, Tom Spanbauer
Paul Bishop, The Cheaters/Dial M for Man, Orrie Hitt
Bill Crider, Eddie and the Cruisers, P.F. Kluge
Scott Cupp, Anarchaos, Curt Clark (Donald Westlake)
Martin Edwards, The Crime at the Black Dudley, Margery Allingham
Cullen Gallagher, First Blood, Jack Schaefer
Jerry House, Her Last Call to Louis MacNeice, Ken Bruen
Randy Johnson, Dagger of Flesh, Richard Prather
George Kelley, The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate, Ted Chiang
Margot Kinberg, A Window in Copacabana, Luiz Alfredo Garcia Roze
Kate Laity, Mary of Nijmeghen
B.V. Lawson, Murder on the Run, Adams Round Table
Evan Lewis, The French Key, Frank Gruber
Steve Lewis/Dan Stumpf, Night of the Jabberwock, Fredric Brown
Todd Mason, In Search of Wonder, Damon Knight, The Universe Makers, Donald A. Wolheim
The Issue at Hand, William Atheling, Jr. , The Three Faces of Science Fiction, Robert A.W. Lowndes, The Tale That Was the God, James Blish
J.F. Norris, The Eliminator, Andrew York
Richard Pangburn, The Genuine Article, A. B. Guthrie
Eric Peterson, Balefire, Kenneth W. Goddard
David Rachels, Clean Break, Lionel White
James Reasoner, Jack Kirby's Jimmy Olsen, Jack Kirby
Richard Robinson, The Mouse in the Mountain, Norbert Davis
Gerard Saylor, Purple Cane Road, James Lee Burke
Ron Scheer, Sundown Leftare, Frederic Remington
Kerrie Smith, The Throtttlepenny Murder, Roger J. Green
Kevin Tipple, Early Pride, Bobby Jaye Allen
TomCat, Murder in Fiji, John Vandercook
R. Narvaez was most recently published in Black Heart Magazine’s Noir issue.
THE HOLLOW MAN, John Dickson Carr
The Hollow Man would make Raymond Chandler kick a hole in a stained glass window. The book’s protagonist, Dr. Gideon Fell, is one of those idiosyncratic, overly clever characters who exist only in cozy mysteries, someone you would never want to know socially in real life — because wherever he goes someone dies. He is also exactly the kind of fellow Chandler decries in his essay “The Simple Art of Murder”: “The hero’s tie may be a little off the mode and the good gray inspector may arrive in a dogcart instead of a streamlined sedan . . . but what he does when he gets there is the same old futzing around with timetables and bits of charred paper and who trampled the jolly old flowering arbutus under the library window.”
But in trying to write my own crime fiction, I have been intrigued by the idea of clues, of leaving evidence around to engage and perplex the reader. TV’s Columbo is one of those types of clue-strewn mysteries. After Columbo, ahem, I mean Peter Falk died, I read an interview with one of the shows co-creators, William Link. Link mentioned that his writing partner Richard Levinson and he were influenced by Carr, someone I’d never heard of. Curious, I Googled Carr and found that he was quite popular in his the 1930s and ‘40s and that one of his best known works was The Hollow Man (aka The Three Coffins), originally published in 1935. I had to read it. After some legwork, I tracked down a UK paperback.
The book begins with teasing at the supernatural (vampires), but soon settles into the classic locked room mystery. In this case, a Dr. Grimaud lies dead in his locked study. There only way out is the window — but the freshly fallen snow on the sill and the ground below is untouched. The killer has evaporated. Dr. Fell deduces a suspect, Grimaud’s long-lost brother, but that person is found dead, shot at close range, in the middle of a street covered with fresh snow — and, alas, no footprints but the victim’s. Two impossible murders! Chandler would have thrown his pipe across the room. Then, Dr. Fell and his Lestrade, Inspector Hadley, volley theories back and forth, with Fell alternately announcing that he has solved it and then stating how he almost made a huge mistake. And, yes, he futzes around with timetables and bits of charred paper.
And then just before the big reveal, Dr. Fell takes time out from capturing a killer to lecture on the conventions of locked room mysteries — for an entire chapter. It’s a humorous bit of meta-narrative, and here I could feel Carr shamelessly bragging about his mastery of the genre.
Overall, I find The Hollow Man’s greatest value is as a textbook for mystery writers in what to do as much as what not to do. It is incessantly logical, gives lessons in subtle clue dropping (ah yes, the firecrackers!), and has mischievous fun with misdirection. But at the same time there is far too much exposition (complete with two diagrams) and most of the characters are merely names — Dr. Fell himself is little more than girth, unkempt hair, and a shovel hat. So, yes, it a flawed but entertaining puzzle, a diversion, of course, not for all tastes; but in it the patient student of mystery fiction will find many rewards.
Steve Lewis/Dan Stumpf
Thursday, August 18, 2011
I saw THE GIN GAME (D.L. Coburn) in 1999 at the Music Hall Theater in Detroit. It starred Julie Harris and Charles Durning and these two great actors made for an exciting evening. It played on Broadway with the same cast in 1997 and was nominated for three Tony Awards including Best Revival.
Julie Harris came from this area and was always a real favorite here. An enjoyable evening for sure.
A feature on NPR today on Wendy Wasserstein solved the mystery of who raised her child. Her brother took the child, but died a few years later. His ex-wife is raising the child today. A new book out, THE WENDY CHRONICLES, tells her story.
I have been thinking a lot about what makes me pick a book up and what makes me put it back down. Not blurbs but plot descriptions on the jacket.
If I see a word like elves, military, or astrology, there is very little chance I will go any further. I suppose there are some terrific books with elves in the plot but I don't know of them. War is not something I like to read about either. So a description like this would not win me over:
A group of woodland elves prepare to arm themselves when the Reader of the Stars indicates a growing threat from the River folks.
If I see a word like amnesia, a disappearance, or time travel in the description, I will likely give it a longer look. I don't know why these concepts fascinate me, but they do. I like the idea of a character finding him/herself in a new pair of shoes and trying to find the old ones.
This would make me consider:
When John wakes up and can't remember who or where he is, he must travel back and forth in time to determine what brought him to this hospital bed.
Now that I look at it, they're not so different, are they?
What turns you on when you read that jacket? What turns you off?
Bats in the Belfry (DEADLY TREATS)
By Anne Frasier (Theresa Weir)
Two years ago I decided to start my own publishing company, and I planned to begin with a single ebook. This was around the beginning of the ebook rise. Everybody and their uncle had jumped in, but not the aunts, cousins, and kissing cousins. I settled on horror and suspense as a publishing focus, and I called the house Belfry Press. The first book would be a collection of Halloween stories, and I sent out invitations to twenty-five authors, published and unpublished, asking if they’d like to join me in my little experiment. I promised nothing but possibly a rubber bat and a free download of the Halloween anthology, which I was calling Bats in the Belfry. I thought that would be a nice launch title. The first story came in and well…it blew me away. The next story came in and, well…it blew me away. And so on, and so on.
About this time, I started releasing my backlist in digital format, and I saw that sales weren’t spectacular. And I quickly came to realize that a digital ebook by an unknown press might not be the best place for these wonderful stories. They deserved more. So I asked the contributors if they’d be okay with my shopping the collection around, and all but a couple said fine.
About the same time, one of my old Theresa Weir books was reissued by an ebook house, and less than twenty-four hours after the release it was being pirated in several places. So I suddenly wasn’t feeling all that warm and fuzzy about ebooks. I submitted Bats to a print-only house in Minneapolis called Nodin Press. Nodin Press has published a lot of mysteries and anthologies, but never a Halloween book, so I was surprised and thrilled when the owner, Norton Stillman, called and said he’d like to publish Bats. Along the way, we decided the title no longer worked because, well, it was chosen with Belfry Press in mind. After some back and forth emails, we decided on Deadly Treats. The book just came out, and honestly, this anthology is such a LOVELY TREAT, and I'm in awe of the writers and the writing. I'll think, Oh, this is my favorite. No, this is my favorite. Oh, but what about this one? And this one? SO MANY great stories! You can order a copy directly from Adventure Publications, or you can find Deadly Treats almost anywhere print books are sold.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
This is the movie that contains the line "I used to love trains."
It is uttered poignantly by the character played by Candy Clark.
I put all of the commenters in a hat and came up with Kevin Tipple.
If you email me your address, I will send along the book. Thanks for playing everyone. I know the line was obscure, but I wanted anyone who put something down to have a crack at it.
I saw a new cut of this at the Detroit Film Theater last week and unlike my three companions, I didn't get much out of it. I understood the plot well enough, but it seemed repetitive and nonsensical at points. It seemed to be in love with its own sense of profundity. Long scenes with nothing happening prevail in this film.
After two hours, my mind wanders, my feet turn to cement. I liked the sound track more than the movie, I think.
Any fans of the movie out there? What makes it work for you? My companions felt it was poignant, sexy, and perfectly captured the seventies.
I missed it, I guess. But boy, there was a lot of naked bodies compared to films today. Anyone read the Tevis novel? I think it was set a decade earlier, which in a way makes more sense given the sixties paranoia.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
PULP INK has some of the sassiest-assed stories you're likely to read. Edited by two of my favorite gentleman, ( at least when not in print), Chris Rhatigan and Nigel Bird.
Mine is one of the tamer tales I am sure. You can find it here.
Also in print now is DEADLY TREATS from Nodin Press, wherein I write of angels.
You can find that anthology, edited by the lovely Anne Frasier (Theresa Weir) right here.
Or check here with the publisher.
The Traverse City Film Festival, the brainchild of film maker, Michael Moore, takes place the last week of July. This was its seventh and biggest year with over 90 films being shown. Although there are a handful of more traditional films, the emphasis here is on foreign, art house, and documentary films. There are also free panels on various topics every morning, film lounges to discuss films with fellow viewers, a film school on aspects of film making, and a music stage. There are student films, shorts, everything you would expect to see at an event such as this. The largest outdoor screen in the world shows free films at dusk every night.
You can immediately sense this festival is more about celebrating a love of movies than in making a lot of money. The event is staffed by hundreds of volunteers with free buses transporting guests from one theater to the next every seven minutes. I cannot emphasize how much fun this festival is. Lots of the film makers and stars are there for Q and As after the film.
Traverse City is a lovely city set on miles and miles of beaches of Lake Michigan. Vineyards are minutes away; Interlochen, a community for musicians, a half hour; sand dunes, under an hour.
But let’s talk about the movies.
This year’s special events included a 100th birthday celebration of Roy Rogers, the 50th anniversary celebration of To Kill a Mockingbird, a tribute to Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi, and a salute to the public employees of the Great Flint Sit-down Strike.
We were only there for three days but saw four fine films and attended two interesting panels.
Higher Ground, directed by and starring Vera Farmiga, is based on Carolyn S. Briggs memoir of her life as a born-again Christian. The film gave a very balanced look at life in a close- knit religious community. It avoided the clichés that often creep into films like this by giving attention to supporting characters as well as its lead. No one was painted as all good or bad and hence the struggle of Corinne to find a place in the world was very poignant.
Black Butterflies is a biopic about South African poet, Ingrid Jonker. Carive von Hauten gives a mesmerizing performance as Jonker, who is the victim of a repressive father (Rutger Hauer), South African’s cruel apartheid years, and inner demons, which eventually drive away those who love her. I wish the director (Paula van der Oest) had come up with a methods to give the audience more of a taste of her poetry, but that’s always the problem with movies about writers, isn’t it?
Bride Flight was the sudsiest of the films. A period drama, it follows the intersecting lives of three brides who fly from Amsterdam to New Zealand after World War 2. This was another film that profited from its lush landscape. I didn’t mind the soap operatic feel of it—there was enough story, character, and scenery to divert me.
Rid of Me was the sometimes painful and often funny story of new bride (Katie O’Grady) who can’t quite measure up to a past girlfriend when she travels with her husband to Portland to meet his boyhood friends and start their married life. Portland and indie movies is a perfect fit and this film drives that home. The film’s success was largely due to the performance of O’Grady who captured her character perfectly, traipsing winningly through some startling life changes.
We attended two panels. The first was a discussion of the documentary Being Elmo. The panel consisted of the entire team that put together the movie, which really is about the puppeteer who operates Elmo, Kevin Cash. It made me very sorry the documentary was sold out.
The second panel was a gathering of many of the documentary makers with films at the festival and a discussion of their films, the problems they encountered making them, and various issues in the business. It was also terrific. Documentaries, once confined to the smallest of venues, are now some of the most interesting films of the year.
I encourage you to consider making this film festival a destination if you have an interest in films. You can find out more about it at: http://www.traversecityfilmfest.org/