Saturday, July 01, 2006
James M. Cain (1892-1977) did not write about detectives or publish in the pulps. He was an Easterner, a newspaperman and a protégé of H. L. Mencken who went West during the Depression to write for Hollywood. There he wrote moviescripts and crime novels. His gift for dialogue and the first-person, confessional form of his narratives gave them the suspense other writers achieved with a detective on a case.
Like a lot of you, probably, I still remember the first time I read The Postman Always Rings Twice. Wow! I got a copy of Double Indemnity and read that one. Wow, again! I saw the movies later. Wow, a third time! Cain translated well to the screen in black and white. No question, one of the greats.
On the July 3rd broadcast of Beth Foxwell's radio show "It's a Mystery," she'll present the radio version of Double Indemnity. That's Monday at 10:00 A.M. CDT at this link.
Friday, June 30, 2006
and Doc Savage pulp novels, and will be publishing trade paperback
reprints in partnership with Nostalgia Ventures, Inc., a leader in the
field of radio and television nostalgia. These Shadow and Doc Savage
volumes are officially licensed by Condé Nast, the owner of the famous
"This is a dream come true for me," proclaims Anthony Tollin, the
former DC Comics professional who is also a leading pulp and radio
historian. Tollin co-authored Walter B. Gibson's The Shadow Scrapbook
in 1979, and has long desired to get Gibson's Shadow novels back in
print. "We're reissuing the classic pulp stories with the original
covers and interior art, with the type reset for clarity. We're
initially releasing the stories in a double-novel format. Our first
volume, already at the printers, reprints Walter Gibson's Crime,
Insured and The Golden Vulture, a Shadow novel that Lester Dent
wrote in 1932 that was later revised by Gibson and published in 1938.
This is the Shadow novel that won Lester Dent the Doc Savage contract.
Our first story, 'Crime, Insured' is recognized as Walt Gibson's
greatest action thriller, in which a criminal organization penetrates
The Shadow's operation and captures his major agents, and The Shadow
is trapped as the entire New York underworld invades his sanctum."
I read about this on the fictionmags list. No more details yet.
But that's certainly not all the movie has going for it. Consider, for one thing, the great retro opening title sequence.
The plot is convoluted, but I followed it pretty well. (Just one minor quibble, I think.) Anyway, a convoluted plot is exactly what's called for in a movie where each section is introduced with the title lifted from Raymond Chandler, a master of convolution. The characters are great, and the cast does them justice. Robert Downey, Jr., is scruffy (and self-referential), Val Kilmer does one of his patented movie-stealing turns as the private-eye called Gay Perry, and Michelle Monaghan is as tough and spunky as you could ask for, reminding me a little of Geena Davis in The Long Kiss Goodnight (this is high praise from me, in case you're wondering). There's plenty of humor and snappy dialogue, along with a lot of action. Two thumbs way up.
To gear up for contests, she constantly tries to maintain or improve her hand speed, eye-hand coordination, jaw strength and stomach capacity. She says her day job as a Burger King manager keeps her hand speed and hand-eye coordination in top form.
"When I'm working I'm non-stop for eight hours, constantly moving and walking around and I can tell my body is working hard," she says. "I'm pulling orders out of windows and scooping fries." She also keeps her jaw in shape by chewing two pieces of sugarless gum at a time throughout the day. Once or twice a week she eats dried squid. "It really exhausts your jaw," she says."You have to keep your jaw strong when you eat so much and are using the muscle for such a long time," she says.
I've read one of the short novels so far, All the Old Songs and Nothing to Lose. I picked this one because it's a crime novel, and it turns out to be sort of Bruen's version of Death Wish. A vigilante is on the loose, but he's a Bruen vigilante, one who quotes literary poetry and song lyrics with equal facility. Great stuff, and it has all the hallmarks of Bruen's current work. Props to David for publishing this volume. Check it out.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
June 29, 2006 — A team of Texas archaeologists believe they may have located the remains of Noah's Ark in Iran's Elburz mountain range.
"I can't imagine what it could be if it is not the Ark," said Arch Bonnema of the Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration (B.A.S.E) Institute, a Christian archeology organization dedicated to looking for biblical artifacts.
Bonnema and the other B.A.S.E. Institute members hiked for seven hours in the mountains northwest of Tehran, climbing 13,000 feet before making the apparent discovery.
This is Frank Gruber's only paperback original about Johnny Fletcher. It's a Belmont Book from 1964, and it's about song theft, something that probably wasn't uncommon in the 1950s. Maybe it's not uncommon even now, but this book reads as if it were written six or seven years before it was published. It would be interesting to know if it was a trunk book.
But I digress. Johnny Fletcher and his sidekick, Sam Cragg, share a room at a small hotel. They're essentially conmen, though when asked they claim to be book salesmen because that's their line. They set up on the street and sell body-building books out of a suitcase. Sam Cragg demonstrates how he can snap chains by explanding his manly chest. Did I mention that he and Fletcher live together in a hotel room? Not that there's anything wrong with that, and besides, these guys get involved with all kinds of hot chicks. They're not overcompensating, either. At least I don't think they are.
But I digress again. What happens is that Sam wins a song in a crap game, and then the guy who wrote it is poisoned, and then it turns out that someone's already recorded the song and has a big hit with it. All this is straightened out in the end. Gruber tells everything in a straightforward, no-frills way. Very light entertainment, not necessarily for everyone. Worth checking out as an artefact of a by-gone time, though.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. is a series of experiments conducted during finals week, 1995, at Rice University. The tests were designed to determine the properties of that incredible food, the Twinkie.
Rice is one of Texas' premier universities. It's easy to see why. Be sure to read the haiku.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Once again there's a paperback of one of my books that you can get only through the Worldwide subscription program. Kind of a drab cover, but then the cover doesn't really matter since the book won't be available at bookstores. Within a day or so you can probably get a copy on Amazon for a penny, plus postage. I think the hardbacks are going for a quarter. As you can tell, I'm a highly collectible author.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Thomas Cook's Red Leaves was nominated for an Edgar. It's not a mystery novel, but I suppose it's a crime novel. It's mainly about what happens to a family when suspicion and fear get the better of a father whose son is suspected in the disappearance of a neighbor's young daughter. The resolution to the crime is a little bit out of left field, and for at least one reason very unsatisfactory to me, but the book is well written and suspenseful. It's also as bleak as any noir fiction you're likely to read anytime soon. If that's the kind of thing you like now and then, grab this one now. Don't wait for then.
A protein created from the blood of the North Atlantic ocean pout could cut the fat content, reduce calories by 30 per cent and alter the genetic make-up of ingredients without affecting taste.
It is already used in some US ice creams and is being developed here by Unilever.
A spokesman said: "People want lower fat products but don't want to sacrifice taste."
You're not the only one. The federal government has decided to put its own secret Homeland Security hotline to the nation's 50 governors on the federal Do Not Call Registry, according to Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.
The move came after a complaint Thursday by Minner, who said that when her line rings, chances are it's not an emergency but an unwanted intrusion. 'Every time that phone rings, it's telemarketers,' she said in Washington.
Minner keeps the secret homeland defense hotline in her office. Governors have them for instant communication with Washington in case of a major emergency. Minner says that when her line rings, it's someone offering a time-share condominium or the latest deal on long-distance phone service.
'I wonder about the security of that line,' Minner said."
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Woman eats 60 ham biscuits in eight minutes: "It's a country staple, but normally Ham Biscuits aren't devoured like this. It was a gluttonous scene at Lynchburg's Virginia Harley Owners Group rally Saturday afternoon.
One woman chomped down her biscuits faster than anyone else there. Her name is Sonya Thomas.
She's known as the 'Black Widow' in the world of competitive eating."
The Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) is proud to announce the nominees for the 25th annual Shamus Awards, given annually to recognize outstanding achievement in private eye fiction. The 2006 awards cover works published in 2005.
PWA was founded in 1981 by Robert J. Randisi to recognize the private eye genre and its writers. Previous Shamus winners include Lawrence Block, Ken Bruen, Harlan Coben, Max Allan Collins, Robert Crais, Brendan DuBois, Loren D. Estleman, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Sue Grafton, James W. Hall, Steve Hamilton, Jeremiah Healy, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman, John Lutz, Bill Pronzini, S.J. Rozan, Sandra Scoppettone and Don Winslow. The awards will be presented on Sept. 29, 2006, at PWA’s 25th Anniversary Banquet in
Shamus Awards 2006 Nominees (for works published in 2005)
Oblivion by Peter Abrahams (Wm. Morrow), featuring Nick Petrov.
The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown), featuring Mickey Haller.
The Forgotten Man by Robert Crais (Doubleday), featuring Elvis Cole.
In A Teapot by Terence Faherty (Crum Creek Press), featuring Scott Elliot.
The Man with the Iron-On Badge by Lee Goldberg (Five Star), featuring Harvey Mapes.
Cinnamon Kiss by Walter Mosley (Little, Brown), featuring Easy Rawlins.
Best Paperback Original
Falling Down by David Cole (
The James Deans by Reed Farrell Coleman (Plume), featuring Moe Prager.
Deadlocked by Joel Goldman (Pinnacle), featuring Lou Mason.
Cordite Wine by Richard Helms (Back Alley Books), featuring Eamon Gold.
A Killing Rain by PJ Parrish (Pinnacle), featuring Louis Kincaid.
Best First Novel
Blood Ties by Lori G. Armstrong (Medallion), featuring Julie Collins.
The Devil’s Right Hand by J. D. Rhoades (
Forcing Amaryllis by Louise Ure (Mysterious Press – Warner), featuring Calla Gentry.
Best Short Story
“Oh, What a Tangled Lanyard We Weave” by Parnell Hall. Murder Most Crafty (
“Two Birds with One Stone” by Jeremiah Healy. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Jan/Feb 2005, featuring John Francis Cuddy.
“The Big Road” by Steve Hockensmith. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, May 2005, featuring Larry Erie.
“A Death in Ueno” by Michael Wiecek. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, March 2005 featuring Masakazu Sakonju.
“The Breaks” by Timothy Williams. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, September/October 2005 featuring Charlie Raines.
New York Daily News - Breaking News: "NYC renames block after Humphrey Bogart
NEW YORK (AP) -- The Upper West Side brownstone where Humphrey Bogart grew up has long ago been turned into public housing. But the block, like Paris, will always be his.
Scores of fans stood in the drizzle Saturday as the city unveiled a plaque renaming the short stretch in front of 245 W. 103rd St. as Humphrey Bogart Place.
'Bogie would have never believed it,' said the actress Lauren Bacall, who was married to Bogart from 1945 until his death in 1957. She said the day was an emotional one, and her time with Bogart too short."
Most coroners -- if confronted with a corpse who obviously has a wallet in his pants pocket -- would check that wallet for what investigators call 'clues' as to the victim's identity.
They don't mess with such high-falutin' detective work in New Caney, where the slogan seems to be 'We'll get the right ID -- eventually.'"
How Iraq became greater Islington - Sunday Times - Times Online: "[Rory Stewart] arrived in southern Iraq in the autumn of 2003, six months after the invasion, and spent more than a year as local governor, overseeing the local 'rebuilding' of the community. The dissonance between the aspirations of his bosses in Baghdad and the situation on the ground is staggering. When he could not even leave his compound as it was under siege from mortar attack, he was sent memos ordering him to set up 'gender awareness workshops' in remote marshland villages. Vacuum-packed $1m 'bricks' arrived so fast that he ran out of ideas about how to spend them. While his region drowned in blood, he was drowning in memos laden with 'David Brent jargon' or ordering him to seek out three rival glaziers to gain quotes to replace a window."