Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Short History of The Gunsmith & an Update -- Robert J. Randisi


OUR MAN CLINT

The Gunsmith Continues

By Robert J. Randisi, aka J.R. Roberts

It was a bloodbath, probably fitting, given how long adult westerns and men's adventure paperbacks have been spilling blood within their pages.  But in one fell swoop publishers, with seeming disregard for the readers—or the readers that were left, anyway—cancelled all the Adult Western series—notably the long running Longarm and Gunsmith series—and mens adventure series—most notably, the Mack Bolan series.  This move, as of April of 2015, will not only rob loyal readers of the adventures of Custis Longarm and Mack Bolan, but will also put entire stables of writers out of work. Both series, along with many others, were written by multiple writers, having supplied work for many working writers for a good 40 years.  In fact, the Adult Western genre not only invigorated the western genre and kept it alive, but provided income for dozens of writers over the years. And now it’s the end of an era for all of them . . .

. . . except The Gunsmith.

Why?

Very simple answer. For the most part, the Gunsmith was created and written by one man. When Charter Books contacted me in 1981 and asked me if I could create an Adult Western series for them, I jumped at the chance.  I created a bible and, when it was approved, signed a two book contract.  Then a contract for a third.  And then they called me and said they wanted to go into the genre whole-heartedly, and could I write a book a month.  I was 30 years old, had no idea if I could write a book a month, but I said “Yes!”


I started writing under the pseudonym J.R. Roberts.  When I attended my first Western convention I discovered what anomaly the Gunsmith and I were. There were several other monthly adult westerns running at the time, and they were being written by three or four writers under a single house name. A “house name” is a name used by many authors on one series.  My “J.R. Roberts” nom de-plume was a pseudonym used by one person, not a house name. (It was only after Berkley Books purchased Charter Books and wanted to keep the Gunsmith going that they asked if they could hire two more writers, just to build up an inventory. The writers were to be approved by me, and I was to own even those books which I did not write, and receive a royalty. It made me even more of an anomaly in the genre. Once we had built up a one year inventory, I went back to writing all the books.).

And I have done so since then, for over 32 years.  Gunsmith #1: Macklin’s Women came out in January of 1982, and there has been a Gunsmith every month since then.  Berkley Books decided to end of the run in April of 2015 with #399, and I was given enough warning so that I was able to place the series elsewhere and assure that Gunsmith #400 would appear in May of 2015, with no break in the action.  They will appear with a new cover design in ebook for from Piccadilly Publishing, and in paperback from Western Trailblazers.  And Our Man Clint will go on appearing in a book a month for as long as my flying fingers can flex.


So to those loyal Gunsmith readers who pick up up each and every month, you may continue to do so, with heartfelt thanks from me, and from Our Man Clint Adams.

I should also thank Charter Books, where it all started, and then Berkley Books, which has kept the series going all these years, as we all move on to the next bend in the road.



Letter of Recommendation: Turner Classic Movies By LEON WIESELTIERFEB. 27, 2015

Letter of Recommendation: Turner Classic Movies
By LEON WIESELTIERFEB. 27, 2015
The New York Times

Some people turn to psychopharmacology when they are blue. I prefer Turner Classic Movies.
When disappointment has brought you low, or sadness has colonized you, or fear has conquered your imagination, you experience a contraction of your horizon. Your sense of possibility is damaged and even abolished. Pain is a monopolist. The most urgent thing, therefore, is to restore a more various understanding of what life holds, of its true abundance, so that the bleakness in which you find yourself is not all you know. The way to break the grip of sorrow and dread is to introduce another claimant on consciousness, to crowd it out with other stimulations from the world. Sadness can never be retired completely, because there is always a basis in reality for it. But you can impede its progress by diversifying your mind.

Nothing performs this charitable expansion of awareness more immediately for me than TCM. Movies are quick corrections for the fact that we exist in only one place at only one time. (Of course there are circumstances in which being only in one place only at one time is a definition of bliss.) I switch on TCM and find swift transit beyond the confines of my position. Alongside my reality there appears another reality — the world out there and not in here. One objective of melancholy is to block the evidence of a more variegated existence, but a film quickly removes the blockage. It sneaks past the feelings that act as walls.
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I recall an evening when my mother was ill in bed and very fragile. The room was lit by only the flickering luminosities of a black-and-white movie that TCM was running. All of a sudden my mother recognized, and quickened to, the sound of Eve Arden’s voice. She gently smiled. It was a small cognitive resurrection. Never mind that I myself have little patience for Eve Arden and her compulsive wisecracking, her tedious insistence upon the last word. The sound of that mondaine voice restored my mother to the rich world in which there were Eve Arden movies. For a few moments, her memory successfully challenged the tyranny of her condition. Her horizon was cinematically extended. She was, however inarticulately, delighted.

When I watch the older movies on TCM, I am struck by the beauty of gray, which makes up the bulk of black and white. How can the absence of color be so gorgeous? Black and white is so tonally unified, so tone-poetic. Shadows seem more natural, like structural elements of the composition. The dated look of the films is itself an image of time, like the varnish on old paintings that becomes inextricable from their visual resonance. There is also a special pleasure in having had someone else choose the film. Netflix, with its plenitude of options, asks for a decision, for an accounting of tastes; but TCM unburdens you of choice and asks for only curiosity and an appetite for surprise. The freedom to choose is like the freedom to speak: There is never too much of it, but there is sometimes too much of its consequences. Education proceeds by means of other people’s choices. Otherwise it is just customization, or electronically facilitated narcissism. Let Mr. Osborne decide!

for the rest go here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/01/magazine/letter-of-recommendation-turner-classic-movies.html?ref=movies&_r=0

Friday, February 27, 2015

Classic Film TV Post "Horror at 37,000 Feet" and "Ellery Queen: Don't Look Behind You"


http://www.classicfilmtvcafe.com/ 

Hey, something's wrong with this plane!
The Horror at 37,000 Feet. What can you say about a movie in which William Shatner gives the most credible performance? That’s the challenge with The Horror at 37,000 Feet, a 1973 made-for-TV film with a better reputation than it deserves. It makes one wonder if the film’s admirers have actually sat through all 73 minutes. The premise shows promise: An airplane departs London with a handful of passengers and cargo consisting of remnants from an abbey used by Druids for sacrificial rituals. It’s not long before the plane comes to a standstill mid-flight, the cabin temperature drops to icy depths, and possessed passengers start spewing Latin. The cast consists of TV veterans Chuck Connors, Buddy Ebsen, Roy Thinnes, Paul Winfield, and Shatner. They struggle with poorly-developed characters, bad dialogue, and inane plotting. At one point, Connors’ pilot copes with the situation by telling the stewardesses to offer free alcoholic beverages! Only Shatner rises above these ruins as a defrocked priest who ultimately takes matters into his own hands. My advice is to steer clear of The Horror at 37,000 Feet and seek out three other nifty made-for-TV terror tales:  Gargoyles (1972), Trilogy of Terror (1975), and Spectre (1977).


I don't think a single strand of
Lawford's hair moves during the film.
Ellery Queen: Don’t Look Behind You. Before NBC launched the popular Ellery Queen series with Jim Hutton in 1975, it made an earlier TV movie with Peter Lawford as the literary detective. Ellery Queen: Don’t Look Behind You (1971) was intended as a pilot for a prospective series that never materialized. It’s easy to see why, although it’s not a total disaster. Based on the 1949 Ellery Queen novel Cat of Many Tails, the plot revolves around a series of apparently unrelated NYC murders committed by a killer dubbed “The Hydra” by the press. The connection between the crimes is a clever one, but it’s revealed with almost half the running time remaining. Even worse, it doesn't take much deduction to figure out the killer’s identity (there are only two viable suspects and one is much too obvious). Unlike Hutton’s 1940s-set series, Don’t Look Behind You is a contemporary mystery and Ellery has been transformed into a ladies man. In lieu of his father, Inspector Queen (wonderfully played by David Wayne in Hutton’s show), Harry Morgan plays an uncle that works for the police department. Lawford and Morgan don’t really click and Stefanie Powers is wasted as a suspect that gets involved with Ellery. Although the teleplay is credited to Ted Leighton, Columbo creators William Link and Richard Levinson may have penned an earlier draft. In an interview on the Ellery Queen TV series DVD boxed set, William Link mentions working on an Ellery Queen movie. However, the script was rewritten while he and Levinson were vacationing in Europe. They had their names removed from it. Given the timing, I suspect he was referring to Ellery Queen: Don’t Look Behind You.



FORGOTTEN BOOKS: CROSS COUNTRY


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, February 25, 2015

Defeatism by the great Lev Levinson

”Old Age is a defeatism that overcomes cowardly and weak people.” - Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) Greek writer

I read this line in the 1970s and thought it sounded completely accurate, although I had no idea of what old age would entail.  I swore never to succumb to defeatism when I became elderly, but was blissfully unaware of what horrors lay ahead.

Now I’m elderly (79) and realize it’s more complicated that one-liners from legendary Greek writers.  Because health issues invariably accompany the aging process, and I regret to inform you that positive thinking cannot overcome cancer, heart attacks, arthritis, etc. in the real world.  Illness comes to elderly people regardless of how positively or courageously they might think.  No one gets out of this world alive no matter how enlightened they might be, or how much quinoa and chia they might consume, or how much yoga they do, or what high-minded delusions we might base out lives upon.

But actually, if the truth be told, Kazantzakis wasn’t completely wrong.  Because sometimes elderly people get depressed and surrender long before it’s necessary to check out, kick the bucket, or whatever you want to call it.  The sad truth is that some unfortunate elderly folks have no interests except wallowing in their misery.  I knew a woman who wouldn’t even watch TV.  She just sat, stared into space, felt sad, and prayed to die.  Then one day her prayers were answered.

We elderly people don’t have the stamina we had back in the day, and certain aches and pains cannot be avoided, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t enjoy many of life’s pleasures such as good food and drink, stimulating conversation, spectator sports, and all the arts.  Many of us even can walk, do calisthenics, and bop around at rock concerts.  And some of us are fortunate enough to fall in love again, although it might be imaginary love affairs with movie stars such as Catherine Zeta-Jones.

So ultimately I think Kazantsakis was right.  The defeatism of old age is a state of mind, a point of view, an opinion or a weakness, really, that undermines whatever lingering happiness is available to fogies and geezers.  Avoid that defeatism by all means if you can.