Joe Kenney describes, the writing is “almost puritan in its descriptions: cursing is kept to a minimum, [and] there’s not much gore.”
Monday, March 29, 2021
Saturday, March 27, 2021
Friday, March 26, 2021
Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.
Friday, March 19, 2021
The hallmark of Gorman's style is the utter simplicity and clarity of his language. He doesn't go in for hardboiled-isms, procedural jargon, expletive overload, or any other attention-grabbing affectation. Straightforward prose is more than just a stylistic decision; it's the foundation of Gorman's moral universe. His protagonists shun pretensions of any kind—artistic, social, or political. In both style and substance, Gorman's work radiates a profound sense of honesty. His characters can see the worst qualities in others because they've first recognized them in themselves. Among my favorites of his books is the Sam McCain series. First introduced in 1999's The Day the Music Died, McCain is a lawyer and licensed PI in the small town of Black River Falls, Iowa, and one of Gorman's most compassionate and endearing characters.
Sunday, March 14, 2021
It all begins when a young female corpse is discovered mutilated in the streets of San Miguel de Allende. Leading the investigation is police inspector Hector Diaz, a man prone to indigestion, ill-timed erections, and hallucinations of Aztec gods. After the corpse is identified as Amanda Smallwood, a young model from Texas, the trail leads Diaz to a local community of expatriate American artists that includes a charming convicted child molester, a Canadian diplomat’s wife, and scores of jilted lovers and wannabe artists living Bohemian fantasies with total abandon—any of whom seem desperate, envious, inebriated, or crazy enough to have committed the murder.
Friday, March 12, 2021
"The (Original Adventures) of Ford Fairlane: The Long Lost Rock ’n’ Roll Detective Stories" by Rex Weiner (2018) - FFB
Into this fray rode Rex Weiner’s Ford Fairlane, an ex-bouncer-turned-punk-rock-PI who made the New York and L.A. scenes in two serialized stories in the New York Rocker and the L.A. Weekly in 1980. Long out of print, both are now collected in The (Original Adventures) of Ford Fairlane: The Long Lost Rock ’n’ Roll Detective Stories (2018), which also includes an insightful “Backstory” by Weiner, as well as contextual interviews with the stories’ original editors, Andy Schwartz of the Rocker and Jay Levin of the Weekly, and with filmmaker Floyd Mutrux, who first tried to bring Fairlane to the screen (he is not at all responsible for the obnoxious Andrew Dice Clay–fronted adaptation from 1990, that dishonor belongs to Renny Harlin). The reappearance and reappraisal of the Fairlane stories is overdue, as these should-be classics of the genre strike a perfect tonal balance between tradition and innovation.
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
While Keene's pulps often focused on innocent everyman protagonists who were framed or detective-proxies (be they private eye, cop, or a stand-in), some of his funnest—and darkest—yarns were about criminals. The one in this collection is among my favorite of Keene stories. "I'll Be Seeing You" is about a racketeer who plots to get rid of the newly-elected D.A. when he meets her sister one night, unaware that she has a plan of her own underway. The ending has a delightful and dark sense of poetic justice. Keene's criminal-centered stories are often shorter than his detective-based narratives, which gives them an extra sense of bit—and "I'll Be Seeing You" shows Keene's teeth at their sharpest.
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
The Rock Hudson Collection: "Seminole" (1953), "The Golden Blade" (1953), and "Bengal Brigade" (1954)
Kino Lorber Studio Classics’s Rock Hudson Collection highlights three of the actor’s early adventure pictures: the frontier epic Seminole (1953); a Middle Eastern swashbuckler, The Golden Blade (1953); and Bengal Brigade (1954), set during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
Sunday, March 7, 2021
Over at the Los Angeles Review of Books, I have a piece on Day Keene focused on his working-class upbringing, early years as an itinerant actor, and his radio career, and how these experiences influenced and are reflected in his later pulp stories and paperback novels.
Struggle is rampant in Keene’s world, and nothing ever comes easy. “It burns me up when I think of it. I get all sick inside,” admits a police lieutenant in Wake Up to Murder, lamenting about how he’s only an $80-per-week cop raising a family instead of the rich man he thought he’d be. “I guess all we little men of the world have the same problem. We’re all riding a blind horse. And despite our best efforts, most of the time it plods on where it will. And all we really can do is hang on and keep our heads.” This working-class ethos stems from Keene’s own upbringing and his pre-pulp careers as an itinerant actor in the 1920s, specializing in vaudeville and stock theater, and as a radio writer in the 1930s.
I am deeply grateful to the LARB for publishing this piece, and my fabulous editor Boris Dralyuk for his patience, support, and enthusiasm.
In P.J., George Peppard (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) stars as the titular character, a down-on-his-luck private detective who has been reduced to framing a wife by posing as her lover so her husband can catch them in a motel room and have evidence for divorce; the husband even throws in an extra $50 so he can beat up P.J. to make it look more convincing. Later, P.J.’s loyal bartender gives him a tip on a bodyguard job for Maureen Preble (Gayle Hunnicutt), mistress to business tycoon William Orbison (Raymond Burr). From the pre-credit sequence, we know that Orbison has hired an assassin, though it’s not clear who he hired—or who he wants killed. Multiple attempts have been made on Maureen’s life, and P.J. is determined to keep her alive at any cost. As expected, the case is more complicated than P.J. or the audience can imagine.
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Chris Stachiw, host of The Kulturecast podcast, was kind enough to invite me to program a month of episodes based around noir movies. I was greatly honored by the invitation, and lost track of how many movies and themes I considered. In the end, I went with my gut and chose 5 favorite noir films that I think are under-seen and under-appreciated. I looked at it as an opportunity to help spread the word about these movies. Here's a list of the films with a schedule of speakers:
1) The Sound of Fury (1950) - Chris with Trevor Gumbel
The Sound of Fury, also known as Try and Get Me, was directed by Cy Enfield before he was blacklisted and forced to relocate to England to continue working. This movie epitomizes post-WWII noir for me. Frank Loveloy is a vet who is down and out. Unable to find a job, he runs into sharp dresser Lloyd Bridges who offers him an easy job—just drive a car. Soon, Lovejoy is a getaway driver, and things go south from there. What really hits me about the movie is the ending—utter bleakness. No redemption, no justice, just a rioting mob and widespread violence.