Friday, May 31, 2013

Your Family's Reading

How likely are you to read the same books as your spouse/partner/parents/kids? In our family, not so often. I have more luck in getting friends to read books I enjoyed. (Like you!)

Proud to Announce My Story "Mad Woman" will be part of this collection.

Look at all the other great writers included. Thanks to Clare-who worked so hard to get this anthology off the ground.

Criminal Element is a terrific site while you're there. It has more reviews of books, TV shows and movies than any other site. Lots of care and thought went into it.

And here is my review of FRANCES HA on Crimespree Cinema, which I loved.

Friday's Forgotten Bools, Friday, May 31, 2013

THE INNOCENT MRS. DUFF, Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

This book did not resonate for me quite as much as the BLANK WALL did last week because it centered on a villain that was completely narcissistic if not a sociopath without ever really giving a reason for his villainy. Equally painted in white is his young wife, the title character. She tolerates all the abuse he dishes out, trying to reason with him or at least have a discussion about it.
However the writing was still fine and it was a compelling story.

Jacob Duff spends the entire novel drunk. Thie alcoholism is as close as we get to a reason for his behavior. While drunk, he is either in a rage or feeling sorry for himself. He treats both his young son and young wife with contempt. Most of the novel is concerned with him trying to find a way out of the marriage through various means. Attempts by his aunt to moderate his drinking or attitude are not heeded.

This is a quick novel that I read with pleasure if not quite the adulation I read BLANK WALL. Characters painted in black and white grow tiresome after a while.

Sergio Angelini. MAIGRET SETS A TRAP, Georges Simenon
Patrick Balestar, THE UNQUIET NIGHT, Patricia Carlon (THE RAP SHEET)
Yvette Banek, WHEN IN ROME, Ngaio Marsh
Joe Barone, THE ROSARY MURDERS, William Kienzle
Brian Busby, Fermez La  Porte, On Jele, Rene Carrier
Bill Crider, THE SECRET MASTERS, Gerald Kersch
Curt Evans, DEATH RIDES THE AIRLINE, William Sutherland
Ed Gorman, REMOVERS, Matt Helm
Jerry House, BAD RONALD, John Holbrook Vance
Randy Johnson. THE ODOR OF VIOLETS, Baynard Kendricks
George Kelley, SOFT TOUCH, John D. MacDonald
Margot Kinberg, THE 7th WOMAN, Frederique Molays
Rob Kitchin, DEATH OF A NATIONALIST, Rebecca Pawel
B.F. Lawson, ONE NIGHT'S Mystery, May Agnes Fleming
Evan Lewis, THE LONG RANGER, Big Little Books
Todd Mason, SHIELD FOR MURDER, William P. McGivern
J.F. Norris, TOO MANY BONES, Ruth Sawtell Wallis
David Rachel, ANYONE'S MY NAME, Seymour Shubin
James Reasoner, THE LURE OF ADVENTURE, Robert Kenneth Jones
Richard Robinson, THE CASE OF THE VAGABOND VIRGIN, Erle Stanley Gardner
Gerard Saylor, BIRDMAN, Mo Hayder
Ron Scheer, THE TRAIL OF '98, Robert Service
Michael Slind, THE BIGGER THEY COME, A.A. Fair
Kerrie Smith, BEAT NOT THE BONES, Charlotte Jay
Kevin Tipple, Daiquiri Dock Murder, Dorothy Francis
TomCat. A WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING, DeWaal and Baantjer
Prashant Trikannad, THE SNAKE, Mickey Spillane
James Winter, 80 MILLION EYES, Ed McBain

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Books Into Movies

We often talk about books that should never have been made into movies. But what books seemed ripe for a movie and yet nothing happened?

How about DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY by  Eric Larson? This book seemed to be made for a big screen adaptation and maybe it will still happen.

What's your choice?

Opening Credits:LORD LOVE A DUCK

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tuesday Night Music: Words of Love

Book Covers/Jackets

I doubt there is any jacket more memorable or iconic than the 1925 one for TGG. What comes close?

Tuesday Forgotten Movies: THE PALM BEACH STORY

The trailer here sums things up pretty nicely. One of my favorites even if it is not forgotten. Joel McCrea is always in top form and Claudette Colbert is too. You can hardly go wrong with this cast in a movie directed by Preston Sturgis. Both stars could play any part and make it work. Likewise Mary Astor and Rudy Vallee. Love it. The pacing is exquisite. Why do no current directors or writers get it?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Movie theme Song: Gidget

Say Something Good About Detroit: DETROIT RESPECT

Michael Haas and Colin McConnell have a small business that makes tee shirts that reflect their positive attitude toward Detroit. I took this picture at the Eastern Market, a Detroit landmark and place to buy food, flowers, etc on Saturday morning. The tee shirts are sold at WWW.DETROITRESPECT.COM

Here is their mission statement:


Detroit Respect is a clothing line that embraces the passion and positive energy to one of the greatest and hardest working cities in the world and the love that makes people proud to say they are from Metro Detroit. We embrace the past, present and future of a city that has stolen all our hearts. We want to provide high quality, unique, fun designs, and affordable clothes for everyone who lives, visits and has been transplanted away or transplanted to Metro Detroit. All garments made by Detroit Respect are designed and printed in Metro Detroit. We believe in giving back to the city we love that is why we do not outsource our work to anywhere else and we never will.



Saturday, May 25, 2013

Saturday Night Music: Shovels and Rope

Ditching TV Shows

I had my doubts about GAME OF THRONES from the beginning. But midway through SEASON ONE, I was won over. Season Two was pretty good too. But now,  midway through 3, I have lost all enthusiasm for the show and will finish this season but no more.

The reason is this: there are so many storylines, so many characters, so much darkness, that I can barely tell the characters apart nor keep track of their quests. Each episode gives at most a few minutes to each of these-not enough for me to care about any of them. If you total up the screentime of Peter Dinkage, the breakout star of the show, it must be less than ten minutes through ten episodes. Some characters are on the screen so seldom, I have no idea who they are anymore. And sadly, I care very little about any of them. Not because they are too evil to care about, but because they are too underdeveloped to care about. At the end of the episode, when the writers/directors discuss a scene, I say "huh?" Is that what you thought I should get from that?

What show did you leave midway through and why?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday's Forgotten Book, Friday, May 24, 2013

A reminder that June 28 is Elmore Leonard day on FFB. Feel free to join in. I will post any reviews from those without blogs. 

THE BLANK WALL, Elisabeth Xanxay Holding.

Elisabeth Sanxay Holding has been recommended on FFB many times and I finally got my hands on two of her books after Megan raved over them too.  In THE BLANK WALL, Lucia Holley's husband is away fighting  during  WW 2, and she is in charge of her aging father and two children. Bee, the seventeen year old, has become involved with an older man (Ted Darby) who manages to put off Lucia on their first meeting, and a few pages later, he turns up dead in the water. Lucia believes her father is responsible and sets out on a course to protect her family. 
Ted Darby’s nefarious associates soon turn up, with material to blackmail Lucia. Lucia suddenly becomes plunged into a world she knows nothing about. Her focus throughout, however, is not on how to save own reputation or life, but those of her family. She gives no thought to her own safety as she does what she believes will save them. She has help from her maid, Sibyl, who knows more of the world than her mistress and is also a keen observer. Both children dismiss their mother as unworldly, dull, and incompetent even as she works to keep them from harm's way. Their scorn for her is sadly but truthfully observed. Clearly Holding was a first -rate observer of what the lives of women were like at the time. Married women were seen as little more than children.  As the story progresses, Lucia's strength grows and she becomes more savy in her problem solving. 
Parts of this book were quite amusing. One of the scoundrels becomes quite taken with Lucia and tries to help her as much as he can. But mostly, it was terrifically suspenseful and the pages turned quickly. This is more a character study than a classic crime novel and I think that is what Holding wrote early in her career. She turned to suspense novels to make a living when the need arose and was highly successful. This s novel was twice adapted for the screen. (RECKLESS MOMENT and THE DEEP END).

Sergio Angelini, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TURK, Jakob Arjouni
Joe Barone, NOBODY'S PERFECT, Donald E. Westlake
Les Blatt, FATAL DESCENT, John Dickson Carr
Brian Busby, TAN MING, Lan Stormont
Bill Crider, BLACKBURN, Bradley Denton                                                                                                                                   
Scott Cupp, LOST GIRL OF THE LAKE , Joe McKiney and Michael McCarty
EARTHMAN'S BURDEN, Poul Anderson, Gordon Dickson
Martin Edwards, MURDER ISN'T EASY, Richard Hull
Curt Evans, THIRTEEN MEN, Tiffany Thayer
Randy Johnson, TRACE, Warren Murphy
George Kelley, DEADLY WELCOME, John D.MacDonald
Margot Kinberg, WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS, Jonathan Kellerman
Kate Laity, LADYKILLER, Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
Evan Lewis, THE SHADOW IN TRAIL OF VENGEANCE, Walter Gibson                                                                                                                                 
Steve Lewis/William Deeck, THE LYING LADIES, Robert Finnegan
Todd Mason, FREE ZONE and TENDER LOVING RAGE, Charles Platt  
Neer, NIGHT SCREAMS, Bill Pronzini and Barry Malzberg
J.F. Norris, THIRTEEN WOMEN, TIffany Thayer
Gerard Saylor, THE BIRDMAN, Mo Hayder
Ron Scheer, THE SPELL OF THE YUKON, Robert W. Service
Michael Slind
Kerrie Smith, ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE, Agatha Christie
Kevin Tipple/Patrick Ohl, THEY LOVE NOT POISON, Sara Woods
TomCat, TRICKS, Ed McBain
James Winter, GERALD'S GAME, Stephen King
Zybahn, WINTER CRIMES 8 edited by Hilary Watson

Thursday, May 23, 2013

MY Life in the Theater: ROAD, Jim Cartwright

We saw this at the ROYAL EXCHANGE THEATER in Manchester, England in 1994ish. It dealt with the plight of the working poor under the Thatcher regime a decade earlier. Jim Cartwright directed it himself. I think it has a pretty successful  history of performance since the mid-eighties.

Summer Reading

Does your summer reading differ at all from the rest of the year? What books do you plan to read in the weeks ahead? Mine include: DEADWOOD, Pete Dexter; KILLSHOT, Elmore Leonard, THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS, Clair Messaud, THE IMPOSSIBLES, Meg Wolitzer, SERENA, Ron Rash, and the Jordan Marsh book by Bill Pronzini (Can't remember the exact title).Probably others will intervene but these sit on the likely pile.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Do People Only Like Their Sports' Movies Sympathetic?

I noted that 42 despite tepid reviews did okay at the box office. MONEYBALL, an excellent but cynical look at baseball last year or the year before, did not do all that well despite the star power of Brad Pitt.

Are we especially nostalgic about sports movies and only embrace ones that show the sport the way we would hope it to be rather than how it is? My favorites take a more jaundiced look at sports. HOOP DREAMS, for instance.

Baseball movies seem the most nostalgic. What are your favorites? Which ones offer a full picture?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Theme Song: Bewitched

Say Something Good About Detroit: FAYGO

If there is any commercial that reminds me of Detroit when my kids were growing up in the seventies and eighties, it is this one. The boat is the one that used to go from downtown Detroit to Boblo, a charming amusement park on the Detroit River between Canada and the U.S. The boat ride was half of the fun. It was a memory anyone from Detroit before the eighties shares.

Faygo is Detroit's own soda or pop as it is called here.

Now Boblo is an island full of very expensive houses. It could be worse, I guess.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Steve Martin & Edie Brickell: When You Get to Asheville

Friday's Forgotten Books, May 17, 2013

Friday's Forgotten Books

Todd Mason will have the links.

At Deb's suggestion, let's have an Elmore Leonard Day. How about Friday, June 28, 2013. A western, a crime novel, a short story or two. Anything goes.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tuesday Night Music: THE MAGNETIC FIELDS

Forgotten Movies: Mr and Mrs. Bridge

Although the movie can no way compare to the brilliant novels written by Evan S. Connell, perhaps two of the finest character studies on the 20th century, the movie is pleasing because of the chance to see Newman and Woodward on the screen together. Mr. Bridge is a hopelessly old-fashioned 19th century man between the two wars of the 20th century and Mrs. Bridge is only a step ahead. The two are lost in a world changing far faster than they can tolerate.

Directed by James Ivory, the screenplay can't compete with the novels. And perhaps Paul Newman is miscast here. But it looks lovely and gives one a taste of the novel. But read the novels if you can.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Movie Themes: BORN FREE

Your Favorite Elmore Leonard novel

A few weeks ago, I said I had never read a Bill Pronzini novel and got some fabulous recommendations and read a great book.

Now I have read only one Elmore Leonard book (hangs head in shame), so tell me what your favorite book of his is and I will read that one.

Published: May 27, 2007
LEONARD’S FINAL FOUR: What’s Elmore Leonard’s best novel? In the right bar, that question could start a rumble. But Mark Reiter tackles it with elegance and wit in his recent book “The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything,” which he wrote with Richard Sandomir and Nigel Holmes. According to Reiter, the novels that make it to Leonard’s final four are “Hombre” (1961), “Swag”(1976), “LaBrava” (1983) and “Killshot” (1989). It’s hard to quibble with that list. “LaBrava” got there by defeating, in the second round,“Get Shorty.” (Reiter calls this “an ironic matchup, since Leonard wrote ‘Get Shorty’ to get back at Dustin Hoffman for torturing him during the writing of the ‘LaBrava’ screenplay.”) The final matchup, in Reiter’s bracket, is between “Swag” and “Killshot.” I’ll let Reiter describe which book wins: “ ‘Swag’ is great because you root for the crooks. ‘Killshot’ goes it one better with Leonard’s best-ever opening chapter, a cast of kinky characters who are both menacing and sympathetic, and the rarity of a happily married couple as the novel’s action heroes. Even the blunt title is perfect.” Leonard’s new novel, “Up in Honey’s Room,” is at No. 15.

Say Something Good About Detroit: HELLENIC MUSEUM

(From several newspapers)
The Detroit area has a large Greek population and although Greektown itself might lack authenticity, the Detroit Greek population deserves the attention this museum might bring.

Housed in a 1912 red brick mansion right across East Kirby from the Detroit Institute of Arts, the museum — with a total investment so far of about $2 million raised from foundations and individual donations — will add yet more oomph to the Cultural Center at the north end of Midtown, joining the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History as the district's other ethnically focused institution. With eventual plans for exhibits, lectures, films, cooking classes and music and dance performances, the Hellenic Museum will round out weekend entertainment options for the culturally inclined.

The museum is starting small, however, and many of those plans will take shape slowly over the next year. For the foreseeable future, the museum will only be open Saturday afternoons while work, mostly out of sight, continues.

"Keep in mind that this building was vacant for 10 years," says executive board president Ernest Zachary, whose real-estate development firm is located just a few blocks away. "So we had to put it back together. And we're still doing that. There were a lot of leaks, buckling floors and cracked plaster."

Visitors strolling through the galleries, however, are unlikely to be aware of that. The house, with a renovation plan by Elisabeth Knibbe — the same architect who did the Inn on Ferry Street right behind the museum — will feature a first-floor exhibition on the history of Detroit's Greektown that Wayne State University students compiled, while the wider story of Greek history, complete with a useful timeline from 4,000 B.C. to the present, will be presented in three rooms on the second floor.

Upstairs, don't miss the dark green, 19th-century wedding dresses in a room devoted partly to examples of the national costume. Downstairs, in addition to its own timeline and historical photographs, the Greektown exhibit will include colorful artifacts such as the actual front door — complete with a bas-relief sculpture of a 19th-century Greek freedom fighter — from the old New Hellas Restaurant on Monroe Street that closed several years ago.

Stephanie Vlahakis, past president of the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago, helped advise the Detroit founders, and tips her hat to their feat in pulling off a new museum in the midst of a down economy. "Tenacious individuals make miracles happen," she says.
The museum has also benefited from the generosity of its neighbors. The College for Creative Studies sent students over to help with labor, while students at the University of Michigan's landscape architecture program worked up a plan for the grounds that Zachary says will be implemented. And for the past several months, 12 students from Marilyn Zimmerman's Art as Activism course at Wayne State University have undertaken much of the archival research to pull together the Greektown exhibit.

Wayne State junior Che-Lin Aldridge, who went through hundreds of historic photos for the museum, sees it all as part of the dizzying ethnic tapestry that comprises the greater Detroit area.

"It's so interesting how cultures blend together," she says. "I'm African-American but spent lots of time in Greektown while growing up, whether playing pinball, going to Pegasus or," she adds with a laugh, "the Golden Fleece for breakfast at 2:30 in the morning."

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Saturday Night Music: Luke Winslow-King

Saving Books

Does anyone else save books they know they are going to love for a special occasion? I am saving DOGS OF THE SOUTH and the final book in the Hoke Mosley (Willeford) series for such a time. What are you saving?

My story READING MOTHER is up for Mother's Day on the Huffington Post.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dirty Old Town: The Pogues

My review of UPSTREAM COLOR is up at Crimespree Magazine. 

Fridays Forgotten Books, Friday, May 10, 2013

Be back in the P.M. to add links. Todd will do the duties next Friday.

Friday's Forgotten Books

SHACKLES, Bill Pronzini

This was the book that the most of you recommended when I asked which Namesless Detective book I should read first, and I could not be happier. It was a thrill ride of a book and a primer on how to write a crime novel without too much violence,  but with a high quotient of excitement and suspense. I was won over by page one and sped through the book, which is  unusual for me. I am especially drawn to this sort of story--where someone has to cope alone with a difficult circumstance. Where his ingenuity and fortitude allow his success.

The Nameless Detective is leaving his girlfriend's apartment when he is abducted by a man who speaks to him in a whisper. He is chloroformed and tied up for the very long car ride ahead of him. Here he is left in a primitive cabin in an icy terrain, shackled, with only enough food and warmth to survive for a few months. (I did chuckle that he is left with reading material). To a reader, to do less would be too cruel.

His captor refuses to divulge his reasons for the abduction, and in fact, only returns once to taunt him.

Months pass and the N.D. loses weight, wrestles with the reason for his imprisonment, and tries to build his body. He keeps a journal, trying to remain sane.

The second half of the book deals with his attempt to find his captor and take his revenge. Each step in this process is laid out as meticulously as his routines of the first half.

To repeat myself, there is no false step in this book. The method of escape is entirely plausible and you follow his tracks eagerly as he figures out who is behind it. I wish he had contacted his girlfriend immediately to tell her he was alive, but that is not the way of the N.D. Great book indeed.

Ed Gorman is the author of the Dev Conrad series of political crime fiction. 

The Hidden by Bill Pronzini
THE HIDDEN by Bill Pronzini

Bill Pronzini is not only a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America, he's a Grand Master of the dark and sinister noir novel. He demonstrates this again in one of his finest (perhaps the finest) books in his long career.

Jay Macklin is a failed man. A career as a baseball player was ended early by injury. As were other attempts at establishing himself. His decade-plus marriage to Shelby was so solid and good for a long time but unemployment and heart trouble (the latter something she doesn't know about) have taken their toll. Shelby finds herself attracted to a doctor at the hospital where she works as a paramedic. 

The novel brings Jay and Shelby together in an anxious attempt to find their old love and respect. They travel to a cottage in rugged Northern California only to meet Brian and Claire Lomax, a married couple who has even more problems than they do. They also become aware of a serial killer who has been traveling this same area. A power failure seems symbolic of their marriage's final days. 

Pronzini has always been at his best dealing with smashed lives. HIs descriptions of violent weather and pitiless nature only enhance the emotional turbulence that make the drama so rich. Gripping, sinister, unpredictable, The Hidden is a masterful novel of treachery and terror by a true master of the form.

Joe Barone, MURDER DOWN UNDER, Arthur Upfield
Brain Busby, MANHANDLED, Russell Stringer, Arthur Holman
Bill Crider, OUR MAN IN WAHINGTON, Roy Hoopes
Martin Edwards, THE MURDERS OF MONTY, Richard Hull
Curt Evans, TEN PLUS ONE, Ed McBain
Elisabeth Grace Foley, MISS BUNCLE'S BOOK, D.E. Stevension
Jerry House, CAGES, Ed Gorman
Randy Johnson,  THE OUTSIDER, Lou Cameron
Nick Jones, FROM HERE TO MATERNITY, Peter Rabe, and congrats to our friend.
George Kelley, THE EXECUTIONErS, John D. MacDonald
Margot Kinberg, FELLOWSHIP OF FEAR, Aaron Elkins
Rob Kitchin, BOGMAIL, Patrick McGinley
Evan Lewis, GANGLAND'S DOOM, Frank Eisengruber, Jr.
Steve Lewis, SCATTERSHOT, Bill Pronzini
Todd Mason, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
J.F. Norris, THE KIND MAN, Helen Nielsen
Richard Pangburn, THE WINTER OF FRANKIE MACHINE, Don Winslow
James Reasoner, HAWKE, Ted Bell
Gerard Saylor, PLUGGED, Eoin Colfer
Ron Scheer, THE TROLL GARDEN, Willa Cather
Michael Slind, THIN AIR, Howard Browne
Kerrie Smith, THE BROTHERS CRAFT, Peter Coris
Kevin Tipple, DYING VOICES, Bill Crider

Thursday, May 09, 2013

My Life in the Theater: PERFECt CRIME

We saw this one in New York with Catherine Russell about a million years ago. It is good fun and is still playing as far as I know.  Clearly this makes its living from tourists that want an inexpensive show that is well done.

How I Came to Write This Book: STIFFED, Rob Kitchin

How I came to write this book ... Stiffed by Rob Kitchin

Stiffed is a screwball noir set in New England about a group of friends trying to get rid of a dead body but, in so doing, plunge themselves into deeper and deeper trouble.  There were two inspirations for the story.  The first was a single line that I stumbled across - ‘Friends help you move, true friends help you move bodies’.  A light bulb immediately sparked into brightness.  The second, was a blog post by Donna Moore that I’d been thinking about for a while in which she gave her definition of noir:

“Noir fiction has our protagonist spiraling down into the pit of despair, thrown there by a mocking Fate, who then stands at the edge of the pit shoveling dirt onto the head of the protagonist until he is half-buried. Fate then throws the shovel down into the pit and the hapless protag reaches out for that glimmer of hope, only for it to whack him on the head and kill him.”

From these two seeds I had my premise:

Take an ordinary guy.  Put him in an impossible situation by giving him a dead body and a very good reason not to go to the police.  Add his friends.  Dump a ton of crap on them.  Keep dumping crap on them until they’re buried up to their eyeballs.  Give them a glimmer of hope, then dump more crap on them.  Wait until they’re buried alive then give them a small shovel.

I had the first chapter written within a couple of hours.  Over a weekend I mapped out the rest of the story, aiming to keep the narrative fast paced and humorous, with lots of action, twists and general mayhem.  This is basically achieved by throwing in a bunch of bad guys and ensuring that the central character and his friends face or commit just about every crime on the statute book in a twenty four hour period in an effort to get rid of the body and keep themselves alive.

An initial review by Paul Brazill does a good job of capturing the essence of the tale: “Stiffed is a massively enjoyable, fast-moving and very funny black comedy of errors that comes across like Hitchcock’s The Trouble With Harry directed by the Coen Brothers.”  Though some might say it is more Farrelly Brothers than the Coens.

Check out SPINETINGLER for some additional praise for STIFFED.

STIFFED is published in paperback, kindle and other formats by SNUBNOSE PRESS. 

Grandparent's Day

I have to leave here at 7:30 tomorrow morning. I will get the links up later in the day. Sorry for the last minute notice. If you get yours up really early or the night before, I may get it up before i go. Due to return mid-afternoon.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Opening Credits: DOG DAY AFTERNOON

New York in the Seventies was a little different.


An article in SLATE said yes they do. But when I see lists of favorite books from men, women are rarely on them. How many of the forgotten books we have mentioned here are female-authored if we eliminate Bonne, Kerrie, Deb and me. Not many if I look back.

If I look across the room, Phil has read GONE GIRL and BURIAL RITES (Hannah Kent) in the last few months but could think of no more.

What books by women writers have you read recently?

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A Stop By from Bill Pronzini

 Bill Pronzini said...
Wow. All the glowing comments greatly appreciated, the more so since I have now officially reached geezerhood. It's good to know Nameless and I have so many loyal readers. Couldn't prove it by my royalty statements, so you're all among the select few.

For the record, these are what I consider my best -- or at least my favorite --novels, in no particular order:


Tuesday Night Music: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: A NIGHT IN TUNISIA


Where PENANCE came from

When you ask the question “Where did this story come from?” and it’s a story that’s been rattling around my head for almost forty years, that’s a tough one to answer. 

I went to a peculiar high school – a Catholic military academy.  Great training for cognitive dissonance. One period we’re discussing the Beatitudes, the next period a sergeant who’d spent a little too much time in country during Vietnam is demonstrating how to kill somebody with a copy of Sports Illustrated. Even the school motto kinda freaked me out. Crede de Deo, Luctari pro Eo – To Believe in God and to Fight for Him.  I always figured if there was one guy who could handle his own beefs, it was the almighty. Hell, ask Noah’s neighbors. As the good folks of Sodom.

Anyway, one fine spring day back in 1976 one of the monks who ran the place pops this question in the middle of theology class. If you were going to die unexpectedly – say you were going to be murdered, when and where would you want that to happen?  I was leaning toward never and nowhere. Turns out the answer he was looking for was stepping out of the confessional. Seems you’d be in a state of grace, seems you take the A-train to Elysium. 

I was already having my issues with Catholicism, and that didn’t help. But I do remember thinking “That might make a cool place to kick off a story.”

OK, if you’ve seen any of my other interviews, you know the whole tale of woe. How I always wanted to write fiction, but I ended up writing technical financial copy, marketing copy, how I decided that fiction writing was a childish dream and that I should act like a grown up and follow the money. Which I did for decades.

A few years back when I finally had my epiphany, realized I’d spent my adult life pissing on my own dreams, and I decided I was actually gonna by-god write me a novel, the confession idea is what I went back to. Really, at first, that was all I had.

See, I don’t do the whole outlining thing. The only way writing works for me is to just start and then follow the characters around my head and take notes. So everything grew out of that beginning.

I decided I wanted the killer to be a sniper, so I had to figure out where and when he would have learned to shoot like that. I had to give him a backstory that would account for his bizarre religious motivations. Things snowballed from there.

But it all started with a strange question in Theology class at Marmion Military Academy almost forty years ago.

Forgotten Movies: JOE

Bill Compton (Dennis Patrick) accidentally kills his daughter's (Sarandon) hippie boyfriend after an argument. Panic-stricken, he escapes to a bar, and meets Joe Curran (Peter Boyle), a loud-mouthed, angry, bigot who is bitter over what he feels his country has become. A bond between two men from disparate classes forms. Both are livid over changes in American society. Director John G. Avidsen ("pre-Rocky"), directs this low-budget film fearlessly, and at the time, people found the sentiments expressed here shocking and difficult to watch. Today, not so much. Opinions like this are now aired in the seats of government. 

I really enjoyed Megan's review of the new book on Ripley of Believe It or Not fame in the LA REVIEW OF BOOKS, so I am sharing it with you