CALL ME HAZARD by Frank Wynne (Brian Garfield) by Fred Blosser
Posted: 25 Jan 2015 08:46 AM PST
It has been a summer of great older stuff at my house, and one of the fascinations I developed is the work of Brian Garfield. I read a handful of his novels and reviewed two—Necessity and Fear in a Handful of Dust. My latest Garfield experience is a Western he wrote for the ACE Double line titled Call Me Hazard. It was published as by Frank Wynne in 1966 (M-138 withThe Rincon Trap by Dean Owen), and while it isn’t the top of his work it is pretty damn good.
Jason Hazard is a hard case. He isn’t a bad man, nor is he the type who looks for trouble, but nonetheless he is hard, silent, and (when he needs to be) violent. He is also a mystery—the people around him respect and admire him, but Hazard always holds back. When he left his successful mine, and the town of Stinking Springs, Arizona, he didn’t tell many why. He just left and there were a few who took exception to his absence.
Hazard is back in Stinking Springs, but he doesn’t find a warm welcome. There is a new mine owner in town. A man named Vic Olsen who has a long history with Jason—it goes back to their teenage years—and his major ambition in life is ruining Jason’s. The other major mine owners in town are all having trouble too. The place seems jinxed. There have been an abundance of cave-ins and payroll robberies, and most of the owners are contemplating selling out and moving on.
The foreman of the largest operation has gone missing and the local law—a tiny man named Owney Nash, who is owned by the new player—thinks Hazard did it. Hazard hasn’t seen the foreman since he left years earlier, but as he walks into Stinking Springs all hell breaks loose and he will need the few friends he has left in town to survive.
Call Me Hazard is an early example of Garfield’s work. His trademarks are all there—the tight and controlled suspense, the crisp dialogue and competent and literate writing—but it isn’t as sharp or developed as his later work. The story is larger than the space allowed. The plot is tricky and Garfield does well at packing it in to 126 pages, but it would have worked better with more room and run time.
With that said, Call Me Hazard is really entertaining. It is a traditional Western with everything from hired guns, to nefariously beautiful women, and cold-blooded murder. It even has a few humorous names, of which Hazard and Stinking Springs are only two. The lead is a stolid and quiet man who isn’t a hired gun or even a loner. He left Stinking Springs for a reason and everyone who knows why he left is more than glad to see him back.
There is one particular scene—the first major showdown between the protagonist and the villain—that is as suspenseful as any scene in a successful suspense novel, which is Brian Garfield’s calling card. His work, no matter the genre, is plotted to ratchet the suspense from scene-to-scene and Call Me Hazard is no different. It is early and a little too short, but it is all entertainment and a fine example of how good—even at the age of 27—Brian Garfield is.
Sunday, January 25, 2015
SOULS OF THE DEAD, the second book in my Hit Man with a Soul trilogy, is now available at Amazon and B&N.com from Down & Out Books.
This is what was said about last year's UPON MY SOUL--
“Leave it to master-storyteller Robert Randisi to come up with a soulful new spin on the hitman genre. Sangster is a unique addition to the ranks of killers for hire.” —Max Allan Collins, creator of QUARRY
“As many excellent hitman novels as there have been over the years…you wouldn’t think there would be much left to do with the sub-genre. But you’d be wrong, as Robert J. Randisi…proves quite handily. —James Reasoner, author of Texas Wind
“…an ambitious, fast-paced thriller that plunges readers headlong into the world of professional hitmen…author Randisi promptly throws some fresh twists into his tale that amp up the excitement and suspense all the more.” —Wayne D. Dundee, author of the Joe Hannibal PI series
SOULS OF THE DEAD find ex-hit man Sangster back in New Orleans dealing with an attack on his good friend, Ken Burke, who is in an unexplainable coma. He wades into the world of Voodoo Queens, deities and spells to discover the answer, all the while being stalked by another hit man who wants to take his shot as the master.
About SOULS OF THE DEAD author Gary Phillips had this to say:
“Taut, clever and gritty, under the sure hand of Robert Randisi, The Souls of the Dead is an unputdownable crime story with a rough-hewn charm. Bring me more Sangster.”
-- Gary Phillips, author of Treacherous: Ruffians,
Grifters and Killers
Saturday, January 24, 2015
REVIEW: “THE FAN” (1981), STARRING LAUREN BACALL, JAMES GARNER, AND MICHAEL BIEHN; WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION RELEASE
BY FRED BLOSSER
Producer Robert Stigwood ended the 1970s with three major musicals in a row, “Saturday Night Fever,” “Grease,” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band,” and then stumbled in 1980 with “Moment by Moment,” a dumb romantic melodrama with Lily Tomlin and John Travolta. “The Fan” (1981) was expected to revive his winning streak, headlining Lauren Bacall and James Garner in a suspense thriller about a Broadway star (Bacall) stalked by the deranged title character, played in fine creepy fashion by newcomer Michael Biehn. But “The Fan” also did mediocre box office. Some observers believed the timing was bad. Three real-life tragedies involving stalkers were still uncomfortably fresh in peoples’ minds -- the murders of John Lennon and actress/centerfold Dorothy Stratten, and the attempted assassination of President Reagan. Other critics blamed the studio’s marketing of the production as a “Bacall and Garner movie.” The two stars drew an older fan base that perhaps expected a sedate show-biz suspense drama, and instead were surprised and turned off by scenes of slasher violence and homosexuality.
Despite co-billing with Bacall, Garner has hardly more than a walk-on role as Jake, the ex-husband of Bacall’s character, Sally Rice. He doesn’t even show up in the denouement when Sally has her big confrontation with knife-wielding Douglas Breen (Biehn) in an empty theater. Garner’s absence from this key scene must have confounded his followers. Surely Jake would pull a Jim Rockford and show up in the nick of time to rescue Sally.
Thirty-plus years on, viewers who come to “The Fan” by way of its new release as a Warner Archive Collection DVD may find it far more interesting than moviegoers in 1981 did. This was director Edward Bianchi’s first feature film (he’s since gone on to a prolific career directing TV dramas), and instead of investing the movie with his own style, he clearly borrows from Brian de Palma for the stalker scenes and from Bob Fosse for the backstage rehearsal scenes and Sally’s big number for opening night. It isn’t that Bianchi doesn’t borrow well, with the debt to de Palma underlined by the fact that the movie is scored by de Palma’s resident composer, Pino Donaggio. It’s that the jarring slasher scenes seem to belong to a different movie than the slinky, “All That Jazz”-flavored song-and-dance routines. Adding to the tutti-frutti mix, Bacall’s spotlight number, “Hearts, Not Diamonds,” sounds like a Saturday Night Live parody of a 1981-era Marvin Hamlisch/Tim Rice show tune. In fact, it actually is a Hamlisch/Rice composition.
Where the 1981 audience may have been disappointed by this scrambled omelet of over-the-top moments, it’s a lot more entertaining than the predictable, star-driven suspense movies that followed later in the ‘80s, such as “Still of the Night,” “Jagged Edge,” and “Suspect.” Younger viewers now may get a kick out of the movie’s vanished world of land-line rotary phones, typewriters, and people smoking in hospital waiting rooms. Pay attention and you’ll see Griffin Dunne, Dana Delaney, and Dwight Schultz in minor roles. A scene of Douglas cruising a gay bar, with unfortunate results for a young man he picks up, has chilling implications on a symbolic level that would not have been apparent to audiences when the movie opened in May 1981; the first reports of a real-life scourge stalking the gay community, AIDS, had not yet surfaced.
The Warner Archive Collection edition of “The Fan” is a manufactured-on-demand DVD. It has a scene-selection menu and English captions for the hearing-impaired, but no other extras. The image is a little soft, which may be unavoidable for older source material, and it’s only a drawback in the “Hearts, Not Diamonds” number where a crisper image would add to the fun.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM WARNER ARCHIVE
Friday, January 23, 2015
by Nick Cutler
Nick Cutter's The Deep is The Shining meets The Abyss--something is happening at a research station at the bottom of the Pacific, and horror fans will relish every frightening page. Cutter picked 10 of his favorite off-the-radar horror novels.
I’ve been reading horror since I was a kid. I was a lummox, you see, and my parents were pleased to see me reading anything. They weren’t too fussed about what may have been sandwiched between the covers of the books I carted around. If they had looked at those covers, they would have seen the odd skeleton cheerleader, plenty of blood-dripping knives, and fangs. Lots of fangs.
Having read a great deal of horror books, I thought: Why not share some of the littler-known horror gems I’ve stumbled across? I’ll assume you’ve read the old standbys that usually make lists of this sort, your Shinings and Haunting of Hill Houses. Those are great books, their place in the hierarchy unassailable. These are books by—in some cases—writers who are not yet well known, or perhaps earlier books by well-known writers who could use a little shine. The list leans towards the more . . . erm, visceral side of the horror ledger. No excuses there. I likes them how I likes them—raw.
1. The Light at the End by John Skipp and Craig Spector - Vampires aren’t really my bag. Which is strange to say, seeing as there are two vampire books on this list. John Skipp and Craig Spector were the enfant terribles of nineties horror—they started a groundswell movement in the genre known as “splatterpunk,” which was basically a casting off of the moody, bloodless breed of narrative their predecessors of the Shirley Jackson ilk trafficked in. Splatterpunk was about being extreme, over the edge. This is the best of the six books the duo wrote together. A vampire tale that is rough, brutal, funny, and boundary-breaking in its way.
2. Swan Song by Robert McCammon - McCammon is a marvel. He began his career writing fireballing horror books, morphed in midcareer to writing realist tales with dark overtones (Gone South, the masterful Boy’s Life) and now is writing historical fiction. If the name is not familiar to you, it ought to be. I’ve chosen Swan Song—a slobberknocking 900-pager concerning the aftermath of a global holocaust—but it could as easily be a half-dozen others. They’re all gold. He makes you care deeply about his characters, takes huge risks, and writes with a ton of heart. One of my favorite writers, period.
3. The Elementals by Michael McDowell - McDowell had a varied and very interesting writing career. He scripted Beetlejuice, the Michael Keeton starrer, and had an enormous output of novels in several genres before dying too young of an AIDS-related illness. The Elementals concerns a rich, dandyish southern family’s sojourn at a vacation spot deep in the south: a trio of old houses at an isolated beach, one of which is haunted. Never could I have imagined that sand—drifting, cresting, ceaselessly moving sand—could be terrifying. Well, McDowell manages it. Beyond that, he gets the members of his southern clan exactly right: you may not like them, but still, you sense them as real and vital people and as such are moved by their trials.
4. Every House is Haunted by Ian Rogers - This perfect little spider’s web of a debut story collection knocked me out of my boots a few years ago. Rogers had placed his stories in venues like Cemetery Dance, places where keen horror readers are always attuned for the next big breakout writer. So when Chizine press collected Rogers’ work in one handy-dandy volume that fairly pulsated with bad intentions, well, I was sold. The standout novella, The House on Ashley Avenue, has been optioned for TV; I would love to see it hit the small screen someday.
for the rest go here: