Jan 262015
 
Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:          


TAKE MY LIFE. General Film, UK, 1947; Eagle-Lion Films, US, 1949. Hugh Williams, Greta Gynt, Marius Goring, Francis L. Sullivan, Henry Edwards. Screenplay by Winston Graham and Valerie Taylor, additional dialogue by Winston Graham and Margaret Kennedy based on the play and novel by Winston Graham. Cinematography: Guy Green. Director: Ronald Neame.

         Warning, Spoilers Ahead:

   There is a credit that belongs on this list that isn’t in the on screen or IMDb credits, that name is a former film editor turned director who began his career working with Neame, and according to some sources returned the favor with the outstanding editing that contributes so much to this suspenseful outing, David Lean.

   Whether that is true or not, this film is not only beautifully written by Winston Graham (Marnie, The Walking Stick, The Poldark Saga …) and directed by Ronald Neame, it also has a first class score and outstanding cinematography by Guy Green along with the imaginative editing and structure that adds so much to this film.

   The film’s opening is narrated by Francis Sullivan, the sarcastic and brilliant QC prosecuting Nicholas Talbot (Hugh Williams) for murder. We hear Sullivan’s account of the case while we watch what actually unfolded, even when it veers from Sullivan’s biased account.

   Nicholas Talbot is the n’eer do well husband of opera star Phillipa Shelly (the beautiful Greta Gynt) nee Talbot, and now as her manager, he has his first success in life. Her latest opera is opening in London, and Talbot is busy setting up her future appearances. The night of her debut she is nervous, and a famously temperamental diva on opening nights.

   So it is exceptionally bad night for the substitute violinist in the orchestra to turn out to be Elizabeth (Rosalee Crutchley in a nice totally unsympathetic turn), a lover of Nicholas from the past who begs him to come to see her, accidentally pockets his engraved silver pencil, and carries a picture of him in a locket.

   Phillipa, nerves on end after the success of the debut, puts on a jealous show, keeps digging at Nicholas, and finally throws some thing at him cutting his head when he reacts. He storms out leaving her alone. And during the period he wanders in the rain, a man approximately his height in the same overcoat and trilby that he is wearing shows up at the flat, where Elizabeth, his former lover, lives. He kills her in a fit of rage, sustaining a wound to the head, and then burning the body so no image of her face exists.

   There is a witness, of course, who never saw the killer’s face, but he saw him holding a handkerchief to his wounded forehead. When Scotland Yard puts out a call to hospitals for a man fitting that description, Nicholas is in an emergency clinic getting his wound sewed up because it wouldn’t stop bleeding.

   He is arrested, lies about how he got the wound out of embarrassment. and then when he tells the truth and police go to Phillipa, and thinking she is protecting him, she lies, tightening the noose around his neck. Then the only witness identifies him in a line up as the man he saw on the stairs.

   It may not be true, but the more questions the police ask the more Nicholas looks like a failure who hitched his wagon to Phillipa’s star and thus would have ample motive to murder a threat to that profitable future. He has motive, opportunity, he lied to the police, we really don’t know whether to trust it wasn’t him we saw kill Elizabeth.

    *** If you don’t want to know the rest of the plot, stop here.

   Up to this point the viewer has no idea whether he killed Elizabeth or not. We haven’t seen the killer. We can’t trust the narrator. Have we been seeing what really happened that night even when it veers from Sullivan’s account, or is Nicholas being railroaded on circumstantial evidence?

   It is only as Sullivan describes the crime in court that we see the murderer is Marius Goring, a man in an overcoat and a trilby who receives a wound to his forehead. We follow him home to Scotland where we see a photo of Elizabeth on his piano, but we have no idea who he is or what their relationship is, or how he could ever be tied to her and traced.

   It doesn’t look good for Nicholas, and Phillipa, feeling guilty, begins to investigate on her own with aid from sympathetic Inspector Archer (Henry Edwards) from the Yard. With no photograph of Elizabeth, she can’t even advertise for someone who knew her and might provide another suspect beyond Nicholas. She hits one dead end after another, even traveling to Holland to speak to Elizabeth’s mother hoping to find a picture, but the hateful old lady destroyed them all.

   In the dead woman’s things Phillipa finds a sheet of music, but it leads nowhere until visiting her family she hears her nephew humming it. Seems his friend heard the music at a school in Scotland and he picked up from him humming it, and with that her only clue, Phillipa boards the train for the remote boarding school in a small Scottish village.

   A boarding school whose master is Mr. Sidney Fleming, Marius Goring.

   There is a top notch scene worthy of Hitchcock when Phillipa plays the music on the organ in the school’s chapel goading Fleming, and suddenly can no longer see him behind her in the mirror above her. It’s a slick take on the famous scene from the silent Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney, and it is almost as nerve wracking, a murder in the making prevented only by the arrival of the school caretaker, the sinister Goring advancing behind her shot at a slightly skewered angle.

   She eludes Fleming and finds a picture of Elizabeth that proves she was Mrs. Fleming at a shop owned by a cranky Scot’s photographer. She rushes to catch her train back to London before Nicholas appears in court and is convicted of murder and sentenced to hang, but Fleming is on the train with her, and the man in the compartment with her is deaf and can’t hear a thing as Fleming confesses his crime and plans to silence her.

   Phillipa is saved, and Fleming falls from the train to his death, the death he planned for her, but the photograph has been destroyed, and she has no proof when she goes to tell her story at the Yard.

   There is a nice twist then that comes a bit out of left field, but it’s not bad, and by then the suspense is ratcheted up enough that all you want is to be let off the hook. How you get off is of much less import. Some may be more bothered by it than I am, but if you pay attention you can see it is not entirely improbable and Neame only cheated a little.

   You may as well give up on the suspense genre if you are going to be too much of a stickler for logic. So long as they don’t just pull them out of a hat, I’m willing to be flexible.

   This is a fine suspense film that is gorgeous to look at, imaginatively cut, and shot and directed by the always interesting Neame. Whether Lean actually cut the film or aided in it or not I can’t say for sure, but someone did an outstanding job that is as important as the plot or characters to the final product.

   I have one or two mild bits of carping to add. I found Williams a bit old and not as charming as I would have liked as Nicholas, it is hard to watch it and not think how perfect James Mason, Stewart Granger, or Ray Milland would have been in the role, and they might have held back the revelation regarding Goring a bit later in the film since the untrustworthy narrator was working so well, or set up that twist a bit better, but those are minor at best

   I read the novel back when Bantam was reprinting many of Graham’s suspense novels following the bestselling Marnie and The Walking Stick. It was an instant favorite, and I spent years looking for this film, finding a mention in a book here or a still there, but until now never the full film.

   If you never read one of Graham’s finely wrought suspense novels I suggest you go out and find one. This, the two above, Greek Fire, or The Green Flash are all good choices by a master whose work is much like that of Robert Goddard, a master of civilized but nerve stretching suspense who doesn’t always go for the easy or happy endings.

   Catch this one though. It is a classic suspense film you may well never have heard of, and you should get to know it. If you thought you had seen all the great suspense films, this one adds one more to the list. It really is exceptionally good and more than worth any lover of the genre’s time.

 Posted by at 12:50 am

We are all in danger

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Jan 252015
 

I recognize that this is an extremely charged subject, but I’m never one to back away from controversy, and I’m not about to start now. So if you can’t handle the truth, stop reading now, because this is going to ruffle a lot of feathers.

I woke up today, read the news, and realized I must have been living in a cave for the last few years. You see, I’m the last one on the planet, but I guess I hadn’t heard about the latest threat to freedom from the dark forces of tyranny: Muslin extremists.

Apparently these bastards aren’t content with their preferences, their lifestyle. They want everyone else to defer to their beliefs and kowtow to their tastes. They refuse to integrate into Western society, preferring to live apart, while harshly judging anyone who doesn’t share similar beliefs – and in extreme cases, acting out with appalling violence.

You can see where this goes. Pretty soon our women are being raped, our country is in tatters, our entire way of life goes into the crapper. Cats dance with dogs, the sun bleeds poison, we’re all speaking French or something, and the only available programming is reality TV featuring celebrity chefs.

Look. I’m open minded. If you prefer your garments to be made from coarsely spun cotton, I have no problem with that. Live and let live, I say. Some favor synthetics, some blends, some wool, some muslin.

But to take and pervert a belief that one fabric is superior to all others, and that you alone know the unique truth, as though from God’s lips to your ear? It’s an abomination, and we can all see…

What?

…Oh… Muslin. Right. Got it.

Never mind. Damned spell check. Carry on. Nothing to see here.

Don’t you have some crap to buy or something?

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Jan 252015
 
Not only do I collect books in DJs sometimes I collect photos of DJs that I encounter in book catalogs and on the net. Here are a few attractive rarities I wish I could buy. I own a few of these without DJs like the ultra scarce 1st American edition of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The 5:18 Mystery and both Bertram Atkey books. Upgrading to copies in jacket would cost me a mini fortune.  I'm content just to look at the DJs I wish I could afford if I were a lot more wealthy.

The DJ shown for The Ghost and Mrs. Muir below is not for my US edition, but for the incredibly rare UK 1st edition. The price tag on that book ranges from $465 to $1200 depending on condition.  The mind boggles.












 Posted by at 5:56 pm

The Book You Recommend Most

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Jan 252015
 

For years I have been trying to get people to read TIME WILL DARKEN IT by William Maxwell and today in the NYT book review, Daniel Handler picked it as a favorite too. So I am not its only fan!

What book have you been trying to get people to read for years?

PUSH-UPS: Anthony Neil Smith

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Jan 252015
 
So, what you pushing right now?
Got a new novel called WORM from Blasted Heath Books that has just hit the Amazons. The e-version is out, and there will be a paperback version from Down & Out Books in a couple of months. 
Also, after XXX SHAMUS (which I wrote under the pen name Red Hammond) was banned on Amazon, Broken River Books teamed up with Fanbacked to offer it *exclusively* right here: http://www.fanbacked.com/c/xxx-shamus/
What’s the hook?
WORM is a standalone novel about a regular guy looking for work up in the North Dakota oil fields—an economic gold-mine, an ecological disaster, and a sad human story all balled up into one lonesome stretch of prairie. This one took me a long time to write, and I’m pretty proud of it. 
And XXX SHAMUS is pretty much porn, but un-sexy. It’s kind of a critique of both the “pan to the curtains” shot in PI films, and the soul-sucking weariness of an over-porned culture. So, Hopper is a New Orleans private eye looking for a missing pregnant teenager, but Hopper is also irresistible to nearly everyone he meets. So he ends up fucking a lot of people. And how does that make him feel? Tired. Very tired. 
Yep. That shit was banned from Amazon.com.
And why’s that floating your boat?
Because being banned is cool if you can then turn the book into a cult classic! Goddamn, we’re trying!
WORM is a bit personal to me because 1) my mother-in-law was the one who pointed out the possibility of a story there in North Dakota, and 2) I had a heart-attack while I was writing it. I’ve made a full recovery and I’m in great shape, but damn, ya know? After that heart attack, I looked at what I was doing and decided I loved being a writer on an indie press, working with people I really admire and like, instead of chasing after douchebag agents and Big 6 presses.

When did you turn to crime?
Young age. Young, young age. Had to be, like, six or seven, discovering the Hardy Boys, the Three Investigators, and Encyclopedia Brown. That quickly gave way to adult novels, because the covers were wicked cool.

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary? 
Always noir, always contemporary. I want to see what writers can do with it next to make it new and exciting. Same shit I’m trying to pull. No one wears fedoras much anymore, but people still treat other people like shit and then get stomped into shit themselves, usually over drugs, money, or fucking. 

And, what’s blown you away lately?
Oh, I hate hate hate to do this because I hate leaving people out (and that’s because of how often I’m left out of “best of” lists), but okay, lately? Rusty Barnes’ novel RECKONING, The Area X Trilogy, Jim Harrison’s THE GREAT LEADER, Ryan Bradley’s WINTERSWIM, and now I’m regretting naming things. So much stuff on Kindle (shout out to Anthony Schiavino’s SHOTGLASS MEMORIES), damn you for asking. I’m also getting into hair pomade, and I love Lockhart’s Hair Groom, Anchor’s Teddy Boy Original, Shear Revival, and O’Doud’s Light.
See any books as movies waiting to happen?
No. Not mine, anyway. I mean, HOGDOGGIN’ is supposedly under contract, but we’re way past when I thought that would get traction (although I still love the producers and the director. I know, I know, movie stuff takes time.)
I’m very picky about movies, anyway. I get bored with them really fast, and I’ve found that when a ton of people in the noir world are going nuts over a particular movie, I usually don’t get the hype. So maybe I just prefer TV and novels.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
Gotta go indie. I’m just finding more interesting stuff, writers willing to take risks and publishers willing to let them.
And I’m going to say digital. The prices of indie press books on Kindle make it possible to discover a lot of new stuff, and I read faster on Kindle. So that’s my discovery engine. When I buy paper now, it’s because I love the author enough to get it immediately, or because the book itself is from a small press and handsome, or, most importantly, it’s a mainstream book that’s used and cheap. Books should be cheaper. Cheaper books means we are willing to try more authors and take more chances.

Shout us a website worth visiting …
Well, Fanbacked, of course: http://www.fanbacked.com/c/xxx-shamus/
Here’s another: http://www.wdwforgrownups.com/

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
Even though I’ve come to accept and appreciate my position as a small-time writer on indie presses, it is still pretty hard to not be bitter about how things didn’t work out with larger presses for the earlier books, especially ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS, which really should’ve…[takes deep breath], but after the heart attack, I just couldn’t put myself through that grind any more. I’d rather work hard to leave the stress and heart break (ha, see what I did there?) of those days behind and publish with smaller presses where I know fewer readers will find me. It’s complicated. It’s sometimes shitty, but I’m also now in a place where the happiness outnumbers the unhappiness 10 to 1.

I’ll just keep writing novels. It’s just a part of my life now.
Jan 252015
 

Jessy Randall

Darkhouse Books wants mystery stories set in vacation areas. Here's the call, deadline March 31, 2015:

Darkhouse Books is seeking stories for “Destination: Mystery”. A collection of mystery and crime stories set in locations popular for vacations. We are looking for stories residing on the cozy side and that highlight the attraction and appeal of the setting – though please, no puff-pieces. We prefer stories with locations where average people vacation, including sandy resorts along Lake Michigan, log cabin lodges in the Adirondacks, quaint, coastal towns on any coast, and legions of other places forever enshrined in generations of family photo albums. Since we want the locations to be recognizable, stories should not be set prior to mid-twentieth century. The submission period is now open and will remain open through 11:59pm (PST), March 31st, 2015. We are seeking stories in the 2500 to 7500 word range, though if it’s truly knockout material, we’ll consider any length. The anthology will contain between twelve and twenty stories, depending on the overall length. Authors will share equally fifty percent of royalties received. We accept MS Word .doc and .docx files. Submissions must be in standard manuscript format. Links to formatting guides are available here. Previously published work will be considered, provided the author has the power to grant us the right to publish in ebook, audio, and print versions, and that it has not been available elsewhere more recently than January 1st, 2014. Submissions may be sent to submissionsATdarkho usebooksDOTcom. Please leave “Submission-Destination" in the subject line and add the name of your story.
Andrew MacRae
Darkhouse Books

Jan 252015
 

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




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Jan 252015
 
I always enjoy Earle Bergey's science fiction pulp covers. This one from the June 1950 issue of THRILLING WONDER STORIES is a good one. My old mentor Sam Merwin Jr. was the editor then, and he filled this issue with stories by Arthur C. Clarke, Raymond Z. Gallun, Mack Reynolds, Cleve Cartmill, Raymond F. Jones, and Margaret St. Clair. That's a fine bunch of authors and shows why TWS under

Fred Blosser reviews the film “The Fan”

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Jan 252015
 


REVIEW: “THE FAN” (1981), STARRING LAUREN BACALL, JAMES GARNER, AND MICHAEL BIEHN; WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION RELEASE