In enlarging it for this anthology, I wanted to look at the incident more closely from the viewpoint of the tailor who made the fur coat (with slits for Caruso's hands) that he wore on the fateful day. How he saw the fur coat as his opportunity to increase his wealthy clientele and perhaps eventually move uptown.
It was fun looking into life on the lower east side at the turn of the last century and what a shop like his might be like.The story is true except for the parts about the tailor. It is very possible the coat was made uptown and not downtown at all. But I like to think my little tailor was responsible.
You can find this available on kindle and soon it will also be in print.
Hollywood has never met an old idea that it didn’t try to make new again, but this past year they’ve managed to do it surprisingly well. A good number of the 2015 Oscar nominated films were based on books, and what is shocking is that the movie adaptations were often as good, if not better, than the original formats. As a librarian it is my duty to provide reading assignments so that you may decide for yourself how the books compare to the nominated movies (some in technical categories):
Alan Turing: The Enigma, by Andrew Hodges - The Imitation Game is based on this nonfiction account of how Alan Turing eseentially invented the computer and helped the Allies win WWII by breaking the Enigma Cipher codes. Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance is amazing as he portrays a man tragically destroyed by the country he saved.
American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in American History by Chris Kyle, Scott McKewen, and Jim Felice – It’s impossible not to watch this film and not be impacted by the real death of Chris Kyle during the movie's production. There have been numerous disputes concerning the accuracy of some of Kyle’s stateside activities in his memoir, but Kyle's skills and kills were well-documented. The film itself is a rather apolitical presentation of the war and mirrors Kyle’s unquestioning dedication to his duties as a soldier, as well as the challenges he faced when coming home. Bradley Cooper is quiet but physically huge in his immersive performance, and the conclusion showing real footage of Kyle’s funeral destroyed me.
Sunfire & Big Hero 6 by Scott Lobdell, Gus Vazquez, & Bud Larosa – This was an adult Marvel X-men spinoff that included their Asian characters, Sunfire and the Silver Samurai. Apparently Marvel wanted to cash in on the Asian market and would later combine them with their other minority characters…Canadians. Big Hero 6 would go on to appear in a team-up with Alpha Flight. Disney's film version is very entertaining for a younger audience, but be warned, there is a lotof death for a children's film.
Captain America: Civil War by Ed Brubaker – The movie Winter Soldier was not based on a specific graphic novel, but if you want a preview of where the franchise is going read Captain America: Civil War. This is an outstanding graphic novel that brings modern-day politics into the superhero arena.
Foxcatcher: The True Story of My Brother's Murder, John du Pont's Madness, and the Quest for Olympic Gold by Mark Schultz and David Thomas. Mark Schultz has had a few issues with the movie and possibly been a little quick to react on social media, but this is a moving memoir of two brothers’ complex relationship and the sociopathic man who both mentored and destroyed them.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Spoilers! But seriously, you've been hiding in a cave if you haven't yet heard of the "twist" in the film and book. Flynn had the rare opportunity to also write the screenplay, so it’s interesting that the film seems to present a far more sympathetic view of the husband. This is one of the rare cases where seeing the movie before reading the book makes for a better film experience. It also makes me so glad that I’m not married.
Guardians of the Galaxy – There is a reason that when Marvel announced this new franchise everybody said, “Who?” This is a very weird comic series and will appeal to those who like...the unique. The orginial comic was published in 1969, but good luck finding that one. There was a reissue in 2008 that has the action still taking place in space but with fewer interactions with the Defenders and The Avengers.
The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien – The final in the film trilogy was this year's The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (the Eagles were an army). We did not need three movies from what was essentially a children’s book. Despite being intended for a younger audience, be prepared for an impressively high body count. Peter Jackson added characters and subplots that are barely mentioned or not mentioned at all in The Hobbit to stretch out the films (and make up for the lack of females in the book). While I loved the book and the many confusing names that I may have I bleeped over, I remember seeing the original animated 1977 movie and thinking that they really should have just sent the Eagles in first.
How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Crowell - For children ages 7 and up, this is a delightful series of books about young Viking Hiccup and his dragon Toothless. The books are full of humor and lessons on how to be a hero, and while the movies are a serious departure both are equally wonderful.
Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon – I have to admit, I’ve never read Pynchon. But this is his extremely unique twist on the detective novel that takes place in the 60s, so I assume a lot of drugs and sex are involved. Joaquin Phoenix is weird enough to capture the tone of the book.
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – As the series went on it never matched the quality of the first Hunger Games, and frankly, I found the books rather depressing. Be prepared to know that things do not get more upbeat in the last half of the book that will become the next movie, Mockingjay Part Two.
Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Wilde Hawking – This memoir by Stephen Hawking’s first wife was adapted into the film The Theory of Everything and is a tale of a marriage that was challenged as much by Stephen Hawking’s success as his illnesses. And then the dude leaves her for his nurse.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand – The incredible true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who survived 47 days at sea and was rescued by the Japanese; who tortured him as a Prisoner of War for another year and a half. Director Angelina Jolie said that she cut out real parts of his life from the movie because she didn’t think an audience would be able to believe they actually happened. When was the last time you punched a shark?
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed – Author Cheryl Strayed worked closely with Reece Witherspoon, keeping the sentiment and tone of the novel. The mother-daughter relationship is outstanding in both.
X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills by Chris Claremont and Brent Anderson – The movie title was changed to X-Men: Days of Future Past, with the much more marketable Wolverine time-traveling instead of Kitty Pryde. This 1990 graphic novel is truly haunting for its Terminator-looking cover and Holocaust/Internment Camp themes.
They was robbed and just because:
Snowpiercer by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette – I loved this insane movie based on a graphic novel. The movie itself was beautiful, Tilda Swinton was whackadoodle, Chris Evans was both stoic and desperate, and there was an ax battle scene. In the future the entire surviving population lives on a train that circles Earth, with the poorest barely surviving in the back and the absurdly rich relaxing in the front. Can we say, revolution?
In the past, I don’t think that I ever enjoyed a movie after reading the book first. When I read a book I visualize characters in my head, and seeing a film's translation afterwards is just too jarring . Happily, that changed this past year. Looking at this list of great films, there’s very little chance that there will be a shortage of future movie adaptations from books. I can only hope that they continue this trend of respecting the content of the book, even as they improve and refine the presentation.
• Wayfaring Stranger, by James Lee Burke (Simon & Schuster)
• Smoke River, by Krista Foss (McClelland & Stewart)
• Gangsterland, by Tod Goldberg (Counterpoint)
• Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King (Scribner)
• Goodhouse, by Peyton Marshall (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
An announcement of which book and author wins this commendation will be made around the time of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association’s (NAIBA) Fall Conference, scheduled to be held in Somerset, New Jersey, from October 2 to 4.
(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)
Maggie Pierce as Lenora Locke
Leona Gage as Morella Locke
Edmund Cobb as Driver
Debra Paget as Helene Valdemar
David Frankham as Valdermar's physician
Peter Lorre as Montresor Herringbone
Joyce Jameson as Annabel Herringbone
Basil Rathbone as Mr. Carmichael
I just learned that my work is available in 666 libraries in the U.S.
Proving as clearly as anything that Mr. Satan is everywhere.
That’s kind of neat, though, I guess. I mean, now I don’t feel like a complete unknown outside some of the more questionable watering holes in the lesser Mexican area.
Another thing that makes me feel I’m making progress in this writing thing is that my second co-authored novel with the legendary Clive Cussler is now up for pre-order: The Solomon Curse. Releases in September.
The last one hit the #2 position on the NY Times list its second week out. Not a terrible showing. Seems to have sold a few copies, too, so all good. And my novella in Steven Konkoly’s The Perseid Collapse Kindle world, Deadly Calm, will go live on Feb. 3rd, which will no doubt put me over the top. For those who enjoy my balls to the wall action romps, it’s a good example of how I roll. It turned out well, and I believe it’s a worthwhile entrant into the whole Kindle world thing. Worth checking out.
What does it all mean? Beats me. I’m still writing every day, putting in more than full time hours, clocking 4-6 miles on the treadmill desk, which is the bomb, and a must-have for full time desk monkeys. There was another study published the other day that says sitting kills. So it’s not just a matter of trying to cram in exercise when you don’t have the time – it’s a matter of life and death. I’m completely happy with mine, and will get another in a heartbeat whenever this one burns out.
Beyond that, what the hell happened to January? I mean, it was just here, and now it’s gone. Seems like that’s happening a lot lately – time gets away from me, and soon it’s another year under the belt and deeper in debt.
Things in my neck of the woods are returning to normal now post-Hurricane Odile, although crime in La Paz is off the hook since the storm – they’ve been averaging a shooting per day there as two factions of the same cartel battle it out for the meth trade in the barrios. It’s a hundred miles from me, so I’m not that worried, although that’s only a couple hours drive, so too damn close for comfort. Given a population of 350K or so in La Paz, at 350 intentional homicides per year, which is about one a day, the ratio per 100K population would be…100. To put that into perspective, the ratio in the U.S. is about 5, and that includes trouble spots like DC, Detroit, etc. etc. Same in Argentina. Chile, actually lower, more like 4. Canada, even lower. Mainland Mexico, about 20-something. 100 is insanely dangerous. As in, worse than anywhere else in Mexico, dangerous.
The year before, the ratio for Southern Baja was about a 2 or so. My, the times they are a changing. Of course, those being gunned down are the ones that need killing – drug dealers. But it’s just a matter of time until there’s collateral damage. It’s a bad situation, and one the local media has studiously ignored, I believe because the government doesn’t want to scare away the tourists. But I also believe that if they don’t get that shit under control stat, it’s going to be common knowledge, and then buh bye tourist dollars – most Americans won’t differentiate between La Paz and Los Cabos when reading travel advisories for Baja, even though it’s like not visiting La Jolla in San Diego because the drive-byes in South Central LA are off the hook. To Gringos, it’s all kind of one and the same – Baja California Sur. And if it’s killing fields “there” the tourists won’t come. The irony being that the Cabo and San Jose del Cabo areas are about as safe as ever.
That’s all I’ve got. I’m working my fingers to nubs so that my readership can remain entertained, and won’t have to start dating other authors to get titillation. I’ve got the following scheduled now with my editor for 2015: JET – Ops Files, Terror Alert, for late March (just went on pre-order yesterday, I believe, with a temp cover that will be replaced next week). An Assassin novel for May. JET #9 for June. Another JET – Ops Files end of Sept or October. And JET #10 for Xmas. And possibly BLACK #5 for Sept – remains to be seen how inspired I feel. Oh, and also possibly the first installment in a new series in Sept. – one I think will be frigging huge – and action adventure yarn that’s part treasure hunt, part conspiracy yarn, with some of the most memorable characters I’ve yet created.
So there will be plenty more opportunities for crap buying in 2015 – a veritable plethora of crap. But do check out Deadly Calm when it goes live on Tuesday. It’s dirt cheap, reads really well, is my first shot at dystopian/prepper fiction, and is a fun romp that floors the throttle from the first chapter. Remains to be seen whether the bloodthirsty cannibal pandas make it past the final edits. I hope they keep them in. We’ll see.
FEMALE ON THE BEACH. Universal International, 1955. Joan Crawford, Jeff Chandler, Jan Sterling, Cecil Kellaway, Natalie Schafer. Director: Joseph Pevney.
There’s that infamous scene in The Hustler (1961), the one anybody who’s ever watched the film will not easily forget. Where Piper Laurie’s character uses lipstick to scribble on a bathroom mirror, following a seedy dalliance with George C. Scott’s character and just prior to taking her own life. The words: PERVERTED. TWISTED. CRIPPLED. Those words speak volumes about the lurid, seedy, sad atmosphere that permeates Robert Rossen’s masterpiece.
And that’s the same type of environment that seems to exist in the 1955 thriller, Female on the Beach, in which a (miscast) thirty-something Jeff Chandler portrays Drummond Hall, a rather uninspiring character who falls for, and marries, a fifty-year old sauced up widow, Lynn Markham (Joan Crawford). For most of the movie, we are led to believe that “Drummy” (Chandler) murdered the previous tenant of Markham’s beach house and that he ultimately has his eye on Markham’s life as well. Notice that I say: “seems to.” That’s because the story, the characters, and the atmosphere never quite gel into a coherent, believable cinematic whole.
But it’s not for a lack of trying.
In fact, the movie tries too hard to be something that it’s not: a compellingly watchable murder mystery. And don’t let the black and white cinematography fool you, for it’s not noir, either. Not remotely. Instead, it’s a middling thriller with some good moments, over the top acting from Joan Crawford, and a lurid, psychologically twisted claustrophobic Orange County, California beach house setting. I guess that’s worth something.
The push-and-pull, cat-and-mouse love affair between Chandler and Crawford is alternately bizarre, off-putting, and unintentionally hilarious. Check that: maybe it was intended to be funny, or at least tongue firmly in cheek. Make no mistake: Female on the Beach is a strange movie about strange characters doing strange things on the beach. But ultimately, despite Chandler’s best efforts at portraying a character quite different from those larger than live heroes he often portrays, it’s not a particularly engrossing film.