Sunday, January 31, 2016

Now Available: Shoot First - Ed Gorman


I want to thanks Livia and James Reasoner for reprinting

my book.

Now Available: Shoot First - Ed Gorman

With the 20th Century fast approaching, Butte City, Colorado, 
has put its wild and woolly past behind it, and that’s just the way 
Sheriff Reed Matthews likes things in his town. 

But then a secret from ten years in the past rears its ugly 
head, and one of the town’s leading citizens is murdered. 
There’s a Pinkerton detective poking around in Butte City, 
too, and when he also winds up dead, Matthews knows the 
peaceful days he enjoys are every bit as dead as those two 
victims. A lunatic with a grudge is stalking the town, and 
Matthews will have to rip apart several carefully preserved 
webs of lies to get to the truth and stop the killing. 

Once again, Ed Gorman proves why he is the master of 
Western noir in SHOOT FIRST, a cunningly plotted tale of lust,
 greed, and murder, peopled with compelling characters and told 
with razor-sharp suspense.

(This is one of my favorites of Ed's Westerns. If you haven't read it, 
I highly recommend it.)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Ben Boulden Reviews The Plague of Thieves Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini

from Gravetapping

The Plague of Thieves Affair 
is the fourth entry in Marcia Muller’s and Bill Pronzini’s historical detective series featuring Sabina Carpenter and John Quincannon. The two spend the novel working on separate cases—Quincannon is looking for the killer of a brew master at a local steam beer brewery, and Carpenter is hired to protect a traveling exhibition of very expensive reticules, handbags, being displayed at a local gallery. Quincannon’s inquiry goes sideways when his suspect is found shot dead behind not one, but two locked doors, and the police rule it a suicide. Quincannon doesn’t agree, and he determines to solve the mystery of both murders.

Meanwhile, back at Carpenter and Quincannon, Professional Detective Services, Sabina is approached with, potentially, the solution to the vexing mystery of the true identity of a man who claims to be Sherlock Holmes. It is vexing because Mr. Holmes has the bad habit—at least in Quincannon’s mind—of dropping in on many of the agency’s cases and, using flawless deductive reasoning, solving them before disappearing again. The estate wants Sabina to find the Sherlock impersonator, whose real name may be Charles P. Fairchild III, so it can determine if he is mentally fit to inherit the estate.

The Plague of Thieves Affair is an adept, entertaining, and intriguing whodunit. Its setting is a well-developed late-Nineteenth century San Francisco. There are several descriptions of the business climate, a quarry with little regard for crushing a house or two to get its desired stone is the best, giving the story a sense reality and place. Quincannon is gruff, intelligent, and deeply in love with Sabina—a name as alluring as any in fiction. Sabina is much less gruff, but just as intelligent as John, with an added air of sophistication. The mystery of the Holmes impersonator is the gem of the story and it nicely unravels with the surrounding investigations. The crimes are solved with a combination of wit and intelligent deductive reasoning. It is as readable as it is satisfying. 

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Classic Quotes from Hollywood actors (Dean Brierly)

Neville Brand (1920-1992)

A beautiful mug.

“With this kisser, I knew early in the game I wasnt going to make the world forget Clark Gable.

Ed here: Dean Brierly always does a great job with his movie article. This is an especially good one. To read all of it go here:

Joseph Cotten (1905-1994)

Talented beyond a shadow of doubt.

“Orson Welles lists Citizen Kane as his best film, Alfred Hitchcock opts for Shadow of a Doubt, and Sir Carol Reed chose The Third Man — and Im in all of them.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Heart-Felt Pt. 4 January 26th, 2016 by Max Allan Collins

Heart-Felt Pt. 4

January 26th, 2016 by Max Allan Collins
I apologize. I really do. But there’s been another postponement of the surgery. I was supposed to go in for the operation on Jan. 26 (the day this is posted), but now I have to take another pre-op test that day. With some luck, the surgery will be rescheduled yet this week – maybe Thursday, but that’s a guess.
Barb had warned me not to post about my pending surgery until after-the-fact. She is always right. Still, it’s nice to find out people prefer you to be alive. I’ll see what I can do.
Since I am in total limbo as I write this, I can only say that I – or possibly Nate – will be providing brief updates here and on Facebook, as we know more.
Many thanks to all of you for your support and patience.
* * *
Throughout these fun and games, I have continued working – not at my usual pace, but working. As I may have said, I’ve done two TV scripts as well as a Hammer novel, MURDER NEVER KNOCKS. I received advance but finished copies of that over the weekend, and it’s a handsome book. What’s more, I like the story within the handsome covers.
In addition, I’ve done various short projects, including a Sherlock Holmes story with Matt Clemens, one of two we were asked to do (the other one I may be working on this week, depending on how things go down). A few of you may recall that Matt and I, a few years ago, collaborated on short stories to accompany and supplement various puzzles, including some famous licenses, like CSI and its spin-offs, THE MENTALIST and NCIS. The Holmes stories will be attached to jigsaw puzzles, as well.
I’ve always wanted to do a Holmes story – well, a Holmes novel, really – so this has been fun. On the other hand, I did not have time to re-read any Doyle, which I would certainly have done had this been a novel project. As usual, Matt and I plotted both tales together, and he has written rough drafts. As indicated, I have completed a final draft of one, entitled “The Adventure of Professor Moriarty’s Notebook.”
One of the other small projects I’ve done in recent months is a Mike Hammer story for THE STRAND, “A Dangerous Cat.” I believe it will be in the next issue.
That story completes eight that represent short but useful Hammer fragments from Mickey Spillane’s file of unfinished stories and novels. One of these became “So Long, Chief,” which was Edgar-nominated and Shamus-winning. With all eight completed, I have a book, the first ever Mike Hammer short story collection (Mickey wrote very few short Hammer tales). I have assembled these in roughly chronological order, and written an introduction discussing how the stories came to be. Otto Penzler, who published THE GOLIATH BONE, THE BIG BANG and KISS HER GOODBYE when he was at Morrow, is going to publish the collection later this year, as A LONG TIME DEAD: A MIKE HAMMER CASEBOOK from his Mysterious Press.
The book will have a very limited print run of perhaps 1000 trade paperback copies before going into POD status (and will obviously be available as an e-book). In addition – pay attention, fanatics – a limited hardcover edition of only 100 copies (signed by me and Jane Spillane) will also be available. This will quickly become the hardest-to-find hardcover first-edition in the Spillane canon.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Classic Film and TV Cafe-This Gun For Hire


This Gun For Hire: One of the Great Film Noirs in American Cinema

Alan Ladd in his star-making role.
This practically perfect early noir has a strong reputation and yet, while researching for this review, I was left with the feeling that it's underrated. The prestigious British Film Institute doesn't even include This Gun for Hire (1942) in its list of "10 Great American Film Noirs." (Yes, it would rank in my Top Ten.)

Alan Ladd became a star as anti-hero Raven, a contract killer who is double-crossed by his client. The film's opening scene tells us all we need to know about the quiet Raven. He takes in a stray kitten and feeds it milk. But when the cleaning lady (dressed like a showgirl) shoos away the cat, Raven grabs her, rips her dress, and slaps her backhanded across the face. Here is a man that is ruthless, but with a morsel of humanity buried deep inside. (Later, Raven tries to rationalize his affection for cats by claiming that they bring luck.)

Raven kills the innocent girlfriend.
Still, the screenplay by Albert Maltz and W. R. Burnett leaves no doubt that, first and foremost, Raven is a man that will do whatever is required. Knowing that a victim's innocent girlfriend can identify him, Raven shoots her in cold blood. Later, after vowing not to kill again, he does just that when trying to evade a policeman.

The plot hinges on a chance encounter when Raven and nightclub entertainer Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake) wind up sitting together on a train from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Raven is going to L.A. to find Willard Gates (Laird Cregar), an obvious middleman who hired Raven and then tipped off the police by paying the killer with stolen money. Raven's objective is to find out who Gates works for and then kill Gates and his employer.

Unknown to Raven, Ellen is also traveling to meet Gates, who owns The Neptune Club. A U.S. senator has informed Ellen that Gates is working for a powerful man who is selling a secret formula to the enemy. Ellen's mission is to find out the identity of Gates' employer.

Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd.
The glue that holds the film together is the relationship between Raven and Ellen. From the outset, he is surprised by her kindness. When he steals $5 from her, she demands he return it, but then offers to give him $1. Raven admires her street smarts and, though he's careful never to show it, he undoubtedly finds her attractive. Most importantly, Raven trusts her--enough to describe his abusive childhood (if only in the context of a dream).

Ellen is touched by the fact this hardened killer is willing to confide his darkest secret to her. She is also attracted to his decisiveness and moxie when he rescues her from Gates' henchman. In many films, this relationship would have involved into an unlikely romance. But in This Gun for Hire, Ellen kisses Raven on the cheek and that's it. There are no looks of missed opportunities. Raven is simply not a man that falls in love easily (if at all). And Ellen truly loves her police detective boyfriend (Robert Preston).

Laird Cregar as Gates,
Despite the fine performances from the leads, Laird Cregar almost steals the film as Gates. He's a villain that's willing to send a hired gun to kill people, but wants no part of the actual event. When his henchman is describing how he will skilfully dispose of Ellen's body, Gates squirms uncomfortably and tells him to stop. Cregar provides the film's humor, but in a subtle way that never comes across as obvious comic relief. It's a performance that somehow reminded me of Vincent Price's turn as Shelby Carpenter in Laura (1944).

Director Frank Tuttle and cinematographer John Seitz team up on a number of exciting visuals. The chase through the train yard and the drainage pipes may be the film's highlight, but there are clever bits throughout. My favorite may be a scene where the hotel maid goes to use a pay phone in a police-filled lobby, unaware that Raven is hiding there. He presses his gun against her side as she pretends to talk on the phone. Her phone dialogue consists of answers to his questions. It's a brilliant merger of smart dialogue and murky lighting.

Veronica Lake as Ellen.
John Seitz, by the way, would earn seven Oscar nominations for cinematography during his career. He served as the director of photography on a number of film noir classics, including Double Indemnity (1944), The Big Clock (1948), and Sunset Blvd. (1950).

This Gun for Hire was loosely based on Graham Greene's 1936 novel This Gun for Sale. James Cagney directed a remake in 1957 called Short Cut to Hell, which starred Robert Ivers and Georgann Johnson. It was Cagney's only stint in the director's chair.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Hall of Famers Margaret Millar at 100 JAKE HINKSON

Margaret Millar at 100

In the vast criminal menagerie that Margaret Millar created over the course of her long career, there is a special place for the “woman in distress” plot. She wrote many different kinds of stories — and her novels were as likely to feature male protagonists as female — but one of the things that she did best was to put a young woman in a pressure cooker of a situation…and then keep cranking up the pressure.
Perhaps the best example of this is her 1955 novel Beast In View. It tells the story of Helen Clarvoe, a well-off “spinster” (at the ripe old age of 30), who is being stalked by an insane woman named Evelyn Merrick. Clarvoe asks her family lawyer, Paul Blackshear, to get rid of the troubled Ms. Merrick. Things do not go as planned.
Beast In View was, in some respects, Millar’s most successful novel. It got rave reviews, sold well, and won Millar the Edgar Award for Best Novel. As the years have gone on, it has remained perhaps Millar’s best known work. It was adapted for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in the 60s and Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the 80s. Writing about the book in 1984 for the New York Times, Anthony Boucher said, it was “written with such complete realization of every character that the most bitter antagonist of mystery fiction may be forced to acknowledge it as a work of art.”
The novel is short (around 158 pages depending on the edition) and brisk. Millar sets things in motion with the first lines and propels the reader forward toward an unforgettable ending. Along the way, she writes with her usual spark and wit, especially when noting that both Helen and Blackshear are out of their element. Blackshear notes this problem at the outset:
Behind her wall of money, behind her iron bars, Miss Clarvoe was the maiden in distress, crying out reluctantly and awkwardly for help. Blackshear made a wry grimace as he pictured himself in the role of the equally reluctant rescuer, a tired, detached, balding knight in Harris Tweeds.
This is one of Millar’s trickiest novels, the kind of mystery with a twist ending that reconfigures the meaning of what has come before it. I’ve been debating whether or not to spoil the ending. And I’m going to spoil it. I’m going to spoil the hell out of it. Before I do, though, let me explain why. For one thing, the book is now 60 years old. Its twist ending has been revealed in numerous places on print and in the internet. In addition to that, the nature of the twist — while groundbreaking in 1955 — has been ripped off time and again by other books, movies, and television. In short, the secret is out. As a result, as we celebrate Millar’s centennial, I want to discuss this — her best known work — as a novel in full, in the kind of depth it deserves. If you don’t want to know the ending, then I heartily invite you to stop reading after this paragraph, go get the book, read it, and come back here for the rest.
Okay, so let’s discuss the ending. The fact that Evelyn turns out to be the alter ego of Helen is in some ways less important to the overall theme of the book than the fact that Evelyn ultimately succeeds in killing Helen. While Millar wrote her share of mysteries and potboilers, she also did some exceedingly dark work in noir. This book, though, is her darkest. Even in her book Do Evil in Return, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Here, the tunnel goes black and seals shut from behind. Rereading the book, one can see that the contest throughout is whether or not Helen or Evelyn will ultimately win out. Helen’s inability to reconcile the different aspects of her own personality — not just her repressed sensuality but her buried rage — gives more and more power to Evelyn. At the end, her penultimate words to Blackshear are “I’m not Helen! I am Evelyn. Say it. Say I’m Evelyn.” When Blackshear tries to talk her out of this, she shuts him down with a simple, “Be quiet. You lie.”
Throughout the book, we see Helen doing battle with herself, trying to tamp down the resentments she feels toward those around her. Lines that read as tossed off on first blush become pointed on rereading, like this exchange between Blackshear and Helen:
“You have a low opinion of yourself, Helen.”
“I wasn’t born with it.”
“Where did you get it?”
“The story,” she said “is too long to tell, and too dull to listen to.”
In the end, when Helen succumbs to Evelyn, and Evelyn kills her dreaded enemy (keeping the promise that she makes in the first chapter), Millar ends on a disturbing image, albeit one that ends the book on a note of a horrifyingly achieved peace:
She pressed the knife into the soft hollow of her throat. She felt no pain, only a little surprise at how pretty the blood looked, like bright and endless ribbons that would never again be tied.
It’s still shocking to see a book that ends not just with a moment of suicidal violence, but with a moment that uses suicide to resolve the central conflict of the plot. Helen and Evelyn, bound together in torment, are at last freed because Evelyn succeeds in killing them both.
The revelations at the end of Beast In View add up to more than just a gimmick or a twist. They deepen the story and darken its ultimate meaning. At first, Blackshear is amused to note that he’s being asked to help the “maiden in distress,” but he has no idea how deep that distress goes. He has no idea just how helpless he really is to stop what is coming.

Jake Hinkson is the author of several books, including the novel The Big Ugly and the newly-released short story collection The Deepening Shade.
Read all of Jake Hinkson's posts for Criminal Element.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Strange and Mysterious Death of Mrs. Jerry Lee Lewis

The Strange and Mysterious Death of Mrs. Jerry Lee Lewis

In his classic 1984 essay, Richard Ben Cramer wonders if Jerry Lee Lewis got away with his wife's murder.
Richard Ben Cramer died one year ago this week and he is still sorely missed. His career began at the Baltimore Sun during the Watergate Era, blossomed at the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he won a Pulitzer for his reportage in the Middle East, and broadened in the 1980s when he conquered the long magazine profile with his enduring Esquire piece on Ted Williams. Cramer then dove headfirst into publishing with an exhaustive account of the 1988 presidential election in What It Takes, and followed that with a bestselling biography of Joe DiMaggio. At every turn, Cramer was a masterful storyteller.
“I’m the guy on the barstool, telling them the story,” Cramer told Robert Boynton in The New New Journalism. “And they’re in the armchair listening. As long as I can keep them from remembering that they’ve got to go home tonight, we’re good.”
I got to know Cramer over the last six-and-a-half years of his life. Met him on the D train going to Yankee Stadium one day and spent that afternoon watching a ballgame with him in the press box. He made me feel like a peer, like I belonged—no small gesture. He was charming and generous, as he was to so many others, and I was in good company in calling him a friend. Not an intimate friend, not mishpocheh, exactly, but a friend.
Cramer was hard to get on the phone but when you did get him, he was yours. He told jokes and was quick to laugh. We talked about food, marriage, baseball, and writing. One time, I asked him if a writer needs to believe that they are great in order to get anything done.
“You don’t worry about greatness,” he said. “You worry about the contract between you and the reader and anything that comes in between has got to be flattened.  Because that is the only thing that really counts. Writing is hard. It never gets easier. Nobody is going to help you.  Not that they are against you or don’t like you necessarily, but nobody is going to help you get it done.  It’s all on you. It’s about you and the reader.”
Here’s a quick sampling of Cramer’s work available online:
These two fine portraits of Cramer, one by Michael Hill, the other by Martha Sherrill are well worth your time, as is this TV interview Cramer did for C-SPAN’s Booknotes.
Here is “The Strange and Mysterious Death of Mrs. Jerry Lee Lewis” which first appeared in the March 1, 1984, issue of Rolling Stone and is reprinted here with permission. It is preceded by a foreword Cramer later wrote about the genesis of piece.
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How was I out to lunch? Let me count the ways. I was new to magazines, never having written for a national publication, much less for ROLLING STONE. I was a newspaperman, just returned from the Middle East—a bit unsteady, still, in America. The provenance of rock & roll I had traced as far back as the record store. Past that lay a great sea of unknowing.
All of a sudden, I was in Hernando, Mississippi, where no restaurant order was complete until the waitress asked, "You wan' gravy?" Where the leading candidate for sheriff was known as Big Dog Riley. Where Jerry Lee Lewis was a legend and a power, not to mention the spendingest man in the county, which spending had bought for almost a decade the quiet cooperation of local authorities who would perform all kinds of "community service," like towing the Killer's car out of a ditch without checking his blood for alcohol, or bargaining his drug charge down to a simple hoe, or shipping off the bruised body of his dead fifth bride for a private autopsy, with no coroner's jury and little public inquiry into the cause of her death.
And I was proposing to penetrate this long-closed world, to find out how that girl died?
Truly, I was out to lunch.
for the entire article