Friday, April 18, 2014

Paul De Filippo discusses Robert Moore Williams and minor writerdom


 This is from Locus Science Fiction
Paul Di Filippo has written some of my favorite contemporary science fiction. Here he takes a look at a truly forgotten writer and not only assesses his work but also talks about the fate and relevancy of those minor writers.I read a lot of Robert Moore Williams in my early teens. Here Di Filippo gives him an honest and honorable overview.
 
Paul De Filippo:

If we regard the world of literature and publishing as a forest ecosystem, then somebody has to be the mulch, the humus, the duff. It’s not a glamorous role. You’re not a giant sequoia or even a pretty little mountain laurel shrub. You’re the compost, the soil that supports everything else. Humble, overlooked, but essential.
Okay, maybe that metaphor can be stretched to the snapping point. But still, that near-anonymous supportive functionality is always how I think of a certain tier of writers. They had long, productive careers, selling books, providing mild pleasure to many readers, somehow serving as a foil to the luminaries of the genre. Taken together, they were the substrate of competence on which the masters flourished. You can’t have a genre composed of one-hundred-percent geniuses, simply because there aren’t enough geniuses to go around. Modern commerce and the recreational demands of consumers mean there has to be a pipeline full of decent but nearly interchangeable product all the time.
But guess what? Sometimes reading these humus authors delivers a certain kind of modest, unique pleasure otherwise unobtainable. With them, you don’t confront the pressure of being worthy of their masterpieces. They labored in quiet and without expectations or constraints, rewarded so long as they delivered on time. Occasionally their work bordered on the surprising, and even the brilliant. Also, after enough time has passed, their work evokes a greater nostalgia, because it is generally timebound, a distinctive product of the era, rather than some timeless, transcendent work of genius.
By any standard, the forgotten Robert Moore Williams was one such figure. Here’s what the Science Fiction Encyclopedia has to say about him. “[By] the 1960s [he] had published over 150 stories. Though most are unremarkable, he was an important supplier of competent genre fiction during these decades, and tales like “Robot’s Return” (September 1938 Astounding)…retain a dawn pathos.”
If you want to sample Williams’s work in a very handy and attractive format, you should pick up the new collection from Armchair Fiction, a fine firm that specializes in reprints of neglected writers, as well as lesser-known items from the famous.
I’ll put the original sources for these tales in parentheses. The litany of old zines is potent in itself.
The volume opens strongly with “Time Tolls for Toro” (Amazing, 1950). Right from the start we sense that Williams can command an emotional immediacy and impact which overcomes his often blunt prose and erratic plotting. A man is walking down a city street in a kind of automatic fugue state, unknowing of his own identity or much else. Williams gives us a red herring, with news that police are looking for an escaped killer named Toro. Is this our hero? But no, he proves to be William Sumner, the inventor of time travel. We also get a beautiful mystery woman, and the eventual appearance of Toro, who proves to have surprises of his own. There’re kidnappings and cloak and dagger stuff and a gruesome set piece of mass murder by Toro, and then everything is resolved rather matter-of-factly. Endings were not Williams’s strong suit. But while the van Vogtian or Phildickian confusion is ongoing, it’s marvelous.
for the rest go here:
http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2014/04/paul-di-filippo-reviews-robert-moore-williams/

About Forgotten Writers: Paul Di Filippo reviews Robert Moore Williams


This  is from Locus Science Fiction
. Paul Di Filippo has written some of my favorite contemporary science fiction. Here he takes a look at a truly forgotten writer and not only assesses his work but also talks about the fate and relevancy of those minor writers.I read a lot of Robert Moore Williams in my early teens. Here Di Filippo gives him an honest and honorable overview.
 



Paul Di Filippo:

If we regard the world of literature and publishing as a forest ecosystem, then somebody has to be the mulch, the humus, the duff. It’s not a glamorous role. You’re not a giant sequoia or even a pretty little mountain laurel shrub. You’re the compost, the soil that supports everything else. Humble, overlooked, but essential.
Okay, maybe that metaphor can be stretched to the snapping point. But still, that near-anonymous supportive functionality is always how I think of a certain tier of writers. They had long, productive careers, selling books, providing mild pleasure to many readers, somehow serving as a foil to the luminaries of the genre. Taken together, they were the substrate of competence on which the masters flourished. You can’t have a genre composed of one-hundred-percent geniuses, simply because there aren’t enough geniuses to go around. Modern commerce and the recreational demands of consumers mean there has to be a pipeline full of decent but nearly interchangeable product all the time.
But guess what? Sometimes reading these humus authors delivers a certain kind of modest, unique pleasure otherwise unobtainable. With them, you don’t confront the pressure of being worthy of their masterpieces. They labored in quiet and without expectations or constraints, rewarded so long as they delivered on time. Occasionally their work bordered on the surprising, and even the brilliant. Also, after enough time has passed, their work evokes a greater nostalgia, because it is generally timebound, a distinctive product of the era, rather than some timeless, transcendent work of genius.
By any standard, the forgotten Robert Moore Williams was one such figure. Here’s what the Science Fiction Encyclopedia has to say about him. “[By] the 1960s [he] had published over 150 stories. Though most are unremarkable, he was an important supplier of competent genre fiction during these decades, and tales like “Robot’s Return” (September 1938 Astounding)…retain a dawn pathos.”
If you want to sample Williams’s work in a very handy and attractive format, you should pick up the new collection from Armchair Fiction, a fine firm that specializes in reprints of neglected writers, as well as lesser-known items from the famous.
I’ll put the original sources for these tales in parentheses. The litany of old zines is potent in itself.
The volume opens strongly with “Time Tolls for Toro” (Amazing, 1950). Right from the start we sense that Williams can command an emotional immediacy and impact which overcomes his often blunt prose and erratic plotting. A man is walking down a city street in a kind of automatic fugue state, unknowing of his own identity or much else. Williams gives us a red herring, with news that police are looking for an escaped killer named Toro. Is this our hero? But no, he proves to be William Sumner, the inventor of time travel. We also get a beautiful mystery woman, and the eventual appearance of Toro, who proves to have surprises of his own. There’re kidnappings and cloak and dagger stuff and a gruesome set piece of mass murder by Toro, and then everything is resolved rather matter-of-factly. Endings were not Williams’s strong suit. But while the van Vogtian or Phildickian confusion is ongoing, it’s marvelous.
for the rest go here:
http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2014/04/paul-di-filippo-reviews-robert-moore-williams/

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Forgotten Books: Cross Country by Herbert Kastle



Forgotten Books: Cross Country by Herbert Kastle


FORGOTTEN BOOKS: CROSS COUNTRY

Herbert D. Kastle wrote a number of science fiction stories in magazines of the 1950s. That's where I first read him. Later in the 1960s he was writing those fat sexy bestseller-type novels that owed more to marketing and Harold Robbins than his presumed muse. Then in 1974 he wrote CROSS COUNTRY. Here's a quote from one of the reviews: "This novel seems to occupy the same dark and twisted territory as the works of Jim Thompson. Characters interact in a dance of barely suppressed psychopathological urges and desires that is as grotesquely fascinating as a multi-car pileup on the freeway. It may leave you feeling unclean afterwards, but chances are you will not forget it."

Damn straight. It really is a sewer of sex and terror and blood-soaked suspense. I read it in one long sitting. If it's trash, as some called it at the time, it is spellbinding trash.

IMDB sums up the story line succintly: "After a woman is found butchered in her New York apartment, suspicion falls on her estranged husband, an ad executive who has suddenly left town on a cross-country road trip. He takes along a beautiful girl he met in a bar and a drifter he picked up along the way. A cop sets out after the husband, but he's more interested in shaking him down than bringing him back."

Kastle masterfully controls his long nightmare journey and you buy into his paranoia. He shows you an American wasteland of truck stops, motels, convenience stores connected by interstate highway and darkness. By book's end everyone will betray everyone else. This is survival of the fittest enacted by a Yuppie businessman, sociopathic hippies and a crooked cop. The sheer nastiness of Kastle's existential vision make this book impossible to forget. Thirty-some years after I first read it I still think of it from time to time when hundreds of other novels have fled from memory.

It's a vision of hell that fascinates you as it troubles your conscience.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Forgotten Films: The Man From Laramie


The Man from Laramie Poster.jpg


The Man From Laramie

TCM ran the letterbox version of The Man From Laramie this afternoon. I hadn't seen it in years and I'll tell you I was dazzled by it in every respect. If, as John D. MacDonald suggested, most pulp fiction is actually a kind of folk tale, then Laramie is one of the best folk tales ever told.

I've never heard a satisfactory explanation from why Anthony Mann and James Stewart fell out. But what an extraordinary way to say goodbye.

While Stewart is the star this is really ensemble acting. In fact Donald Crisp as the complicated, doomed patriarch is, for me, the most compelling character in the movie.

If I was asked to compare the differences between a genre western (even a great one) and a mainstream western I'd point to this film. Each of the main characters has a history that bears at length on the story. Stewart, as usual in a Mann western, is driven by a hatred that makes him difficult to like at certain time, though the violence visited on him early on still has the ability to shock even in this age of slice and dice movies. A great line early is spoken by an old man to Stewar:t "Hate is unbecoming on some men, Mr. Lockhart. On some men it shows."

For me, Mann is a far better director of westerns than John Ford (though I greatly admire The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance). There is no sentimentality or Cavalry myth here. There a few scenes that would do the Sopranos proud.

Laramie is also one of the most exciting hardboiled stories ever done in the western field. Phillip Yordan's fine script gives us a twist every fifteen minutes or so. And the last twenty minutes consist of three stunning set-pieces of sustained action.

And what a pleasure to see Cathy O'Donnell again. A sad, quiet turn here gives a look at how limited life was for women on the frontier.

Here's a good over view from IMDB:


Author: ironside (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico

Some of the best Westerns of the fifties were those directed by Anthony Mann and John Ford, straightforward and unpretentious, but each with an interesting approach to the requirements of the genre... Mann's films were the more prestigious, usually featuring James Stewart who, with John Wayne, was the fifties' biggest box-office draw... "The Man From Laramie" best known because of the Frankie Laine theme strong which accompanied it, is notable for (among other things) Alex Nicol's extraordinary projection of sadism, an element which dominated the best of Mann's movies... The motion picture was to be the last of the Mann-Stewart Westerns...

Stewart is cast as a wagon handler from Laramie, Wyoming, but is, really, an army officer out to avenge the death of his younger brother, a U.S. Cavalryman, massacred by the Apaches who were buying guns from unknown persons... It is these persons that Stewart is looking for..

Soon Stewart gets involved in an area of New Mexico which is ruled by the iron hand of a cattle baron Donald Crisp, a strong authoritarian "who can't live with a lie"... Crisp's one weakness is his love and care for his spoiled son, Alex Nicol...

Wild but feeble, yet vicious, Nicol - with extraordinary projection of sadism - accosts Stewart in several confrontations in which (among other outrages) Stewart is dragged through fire by horses, and has his hand held tight while Alex puts a bullet through it... Mann proceeds in this mood throughout the movie, growing even more sadistic...

Arthur Kennedy, a hard-working heavy, plays the adopted son of Crisp... He is a son in disguise, jealous of Alex, pretending to be his brother's ally and protector...

A lot of good supporting actors are cast including Cathy O'Donnell, the fragile beauty who has little to do but await patiently for an opportunity; Aline MacMahon, the fine 'ugly' woman who never leaves the old man, and Jack Elam who tries to knife James Stewart in the back...

Anthony Mann adopted an altogether tougher approach to Western mythology than John Ford... His obsessive, neurotic characters and his emphasis on violence foretell the work of Peckinpah, Leone and Eastwood...

Filmed in Technicolor, "The Man From Laramie" is a Western with new touches of brutality touching off the wide screen spectacle...