Ed Gorman

John Sayles on Anthony Mann’s Border Incident

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Jul 212014

I never quit pushing Anthony Mann do  I?

Mystery File did a fine piece on this movie. I've seen it two or three times and now I want to see it again.
Jul 202014

Celebrating Films of the 1960s & 1970s


Jul 192014

The Stacks: Mr. Bad Taste and Trouble Himself: Robert Mitchum

Almost 6,000 words
for the entire article go here:
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/19/the-stacks-mr-bad-taste-and-trouble-himself-robert-mitchum.html  The Daily Beast

“He drank too much and smoked too much. He granted too many interviews full of cynical observations about himself and his business. He made too many bad movies and hardly any of the kind that stir critics to rapture or that, taken together, look like a life achievement worthy of official reward.
God, some of us are going to miss Robert Mitchum!”—Richard Schickel

And he’s still missed, 17 years after his death. No, you sure don’t see movie stars like Robert Mitchum anymore. But we can still appreciate the real thing. In 1983, Robert Ward hung out with the star of Out of the PastThe Night of the HunterCape Fear, and The Friends of Eddie Coyle, and wrote the following profile, “Mr. Bad Taste and Trouble Himself: Robert Mitchum.” It originally appeared in the March 3, 1983 issue of Rolling Stone and is collected in Ward’s terrific anthology, Renegades. It appears here with the author’s permission. —Alex Belth

A big, crazy, sexy sixty-five-year-old little boy who can’t get used to the idea that he’s supposed to act like, like Ward Cleaver, you dig? 

Robert Mitchum is walking down this Kafkaesque hallway, holding his arms straight out in front of him, crossed, as though they’ve been manacled by the CBS production assistant who trucks along in front of him. Mitchum staggers a bit. All he drinks nowadays is tequila—and milk, though not together—and he had his first shot at one thirty in the afternoon, and now it’s ten thirty at night and he’s been through five interviews and a fifth of Cuervo Gold Especial and is fast moving into that strange land between dreams and wakefulness.

Jul 182014

Margaret Truman, Donald Bain Margaret Truman's Undiplomatic Murder


(Most blogs I know of draw names randomly, using a generator such as Rafflecopter (http://www.rafflecopter.com/). They typically have people enter by commenting on the blog or sending an email.)

 The next installment in theNew York Times bestselling Capital Crimes seriesMARGARET TRUMAN’S UNDIPLOMATIC MURDERDonald Bain
 “A dazzling series.”—The Atlantic Journal-ConstitutionMargaret Truman’s legacy continues with the latest novel in herNew York Times bestselling Capital Crimes series: MARGARET TRUMAN’S UNDIPLOMATIC MURDER (A Forge Hardcover; $24.99; On-sale July 15, 2014) by Donald Bain. Once again readers are brought face-to-face with the corrupt underbelly of America’s most powerful city.Private investigator Robert Brixton has always hated Washington but, against his better judgment, he sticks around to take a job in a new State Department security agency. An after work meeting with his daughter, Janet, at an outdoor café turns into a tragedy when a young Arabic woman blows herself up, killing Janet and a dozen others. Seeking revenge for his daughter, Brixton follows the tracks of the bomber to a powerful senator’s son.
Brixton finds himself digging deep into what turns out to be a small but powerful cabal whose goal is to kill embassy workers from nations involved in the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Margaret Truman had an insider’s perspective of the powers of Washington, and she used it to craft unique and riveting thrillers. Donald Bain, a long-time friend of the famed author continues her legacy, following the nuanced maze of power and privilege in the dark underbelly of our nation’s capital inMARGARET TRUMAN’S UNDIPOLOMATIC MURDER.Praise for Margaret Truman’s Capital Crimes Series“Truman ‘knows the forks’ in the nation’s capital and howto pitchfork her readers into a web of murder and detection.”—The Christian Science Monitor

“Truman can write suspense with the best of them.”  —Larry King “Truman has produced another knowing look at Washington politics. She, of all people, should know her characters well, and she draws them with style.”
—The Dallas Morning News on Murder at Union Station

“A satisfying tale . . . remarkably fresh in its insights about politics, intrigue, money, and sex in the city by the Potomac.”—The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) onMurder on K Street

MARGARET TRUMAN won faithful readers with her works of biography and fiction, particularly her Capital Crimes mysteries. Her novels let readers into the corridors of power and privilege, and poverty and pageantry, in the nation’s capital. 

DONALD BAIN, the author of 115 books, including forty of the bestselling Murder, She Wrote novels, was a longtime friend of Margaret Truman. He worked closely with her on her novels, and more than anyone understood the spirit and substance of her books.

  1. Send an email to contest at ejgorman99@aol.com
  2. In the subject line, enter “Murder Undiplomatic
  3. Please provide a mailing address in the email so the books can be sent as soon as possible. (The winning address is used only to mail the prize. All other address info will be purged once the giveaway ends.)
  4. Geographic restrictions: This giveaway is open only to residents of the U.S. 
  5. The giveaway will end Friday July 25, 2014 (9:00 PM U.S. Central time). The winners will be selected at random, notified, and announced shortly thereafter.

Forgotten Movie Actors – Character Parts

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Jul 182014

I like to read while I eat. Lately I've been working my way through David Thomson's enormous Biographical Dictionary of Film at lunch time. Thomson is the most interesting and entertaining flm critic since Pauline Kael--and every bit as frustrating. When I disagree with him, I want to call him up and read him his rights--before violating every one of them.

Today I read his take on Edmond O'Brien. Thomson notes going in that movie stars aren't supposed to sweat. That makes them too much like everybody in the audience. Part of movie stardom is inaccessability, fantasy. But what a clever hook because beefy O'Brien sweated all the time, especially in his most memorable movie DOA. He was also fat, frequently out of breath, devoutly neurotic and often frightened. He was, in other words, pretty much like the people in the darkness watching him on the big screen. An Everyman of sorts.

In the course of his entry on O'Brien, Thomson makes clear that he enjoys the odd-ball actors and actresses far more than he does the stars. Thus he finds Warren Oates vastly more compelling than Robert Redford and Jeff Goldblum more intriguing than Paul Newman. (Me, too.)

When I was a kid I rarely wondered about the lives of the stars. But I was always curious about character actors such as Elisha Cook, Jr. and J. Carrol Naish. There was a vitality to their performances that the stars were rarely capable of matching. And in the case of Cook, there was a melancholy and weariness that I recognized even then as being much like my own.

Same with the women. The ones I was always excited about were the second-and third-leads. They were the ones I got crushes on. They were often as pretty as the leading ladies, sometimes even prettier. And they frequently had more interesting roles, the bitch, the tart, the victim.

Barry Gifford once remarked that when you see a musical with all those young gorgeous girl dancers you have to wonder what became of them. The majority probably became housewives; more than a few probably took to the streets as parts became harder and harder to come by; and a lucky handful became the wives of powerful Hwood men.

I've been watching a lot of silent films of TCM and the same impulse grabs me then, too. Who were they? What happened to them? Did they know they'd become immortal? A full century later I sit in our family room and watch them as--most likely anyway--another century from now people will still be watching them. This is probably heresy of sorts but to me film immortality is far more imposing than literary immortality.

From Gravetapping: The Quaking Widow

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Jul 162014

“A man can get into a lot of trouble if he’s lonely. If he’s just lonely enough and has time on his hands. That’s a combination made for trouble.”

Burt Keating is from New York—just outside Buffalo—where he manages a small savings and loan branch. He is in his mid-thirties with a beautiful wife and a very comfortable life. That changes when his wife leaves on an icy night for some butter, and a few blocks from their house she is crushed between a Buick and a tree. Burt can’t seem to function anymore. He sells the house, takes a leave of absence from his job and purchases a new car—

“I wanted to flee to a new world and I knew that short of some South Pacific island, southern Florida was as close as you could come. After a few restless days in Miami, I took an apartment on the beach at Ft. Lauderdale some twenty miles away. It was a place called the Tropic Moon Apartments.”

Unfortunately the miles and warmer clime can’t set Burt’s mind right. The only thing that has any meaning is the memory of his dead wife and the life they had, but that is over and there is nothing he can do to change it. Then he meets Alicia Shafton. A woman who seems as lost and lonely as Burt, but she has a secret. Her husband, a gambler and shyster, died and left a lockbox with a note attached. It instructed her to sell the box to a man named Ralph Emory for $200,000. The only problem: Everything goes wrong and Burt can’t help but get involved.

The Quaking Widow is the first work by Robert Colby I have read and it won’t be the last. It hit a note with me—the story, setting, characters—that many works of fiction don’t. It opened with a blast—an immediate and drastic change for a protagonist with an uncertain future—and cruised forward into ever increasing peril. The characters were the expected: sleek, beautiful, mysterious, and good and bad in varying measures.
The setting is drawn marvelously. As I read, I mourned the Florida that was. The pre-Disneyland and Miami Vice Florida that was one part hillbilly and another parts chic, wealthy and dangerous. A Florida that a person can get lost in. The same Florida that was painted in the novels of John D. MacDonald with his vivid and beautiful flashes of prose.

The plotline is the expected—the dangerous and unknown femme, murder, a wildcard nympho and mysterious opponents that will stop at nothing to get the prize. In this case the box and its contents. I guessed the major plot turns before they were revealed, but it didn’t bother me because the story, while plot-driven, is textured with enough humanity to keep it more than interesting. The pacing didn't hurt either. It is perfectly developed with a well-balanced mixture of action and suspense, with a dash of romance and mystery. The prose is hardboiled and, at times, clever and rich:

“She turned around and walked briskly across the room, her high, firm buttocks waving an insolent goodbye.”

The Quaking Widow is worth tracking down. It is fifty-three years old, but it is more than just nostalgia. Heck, I wasn't even on the radar when it was written. Instead it is a fine example of a linear and well-told tale that is both entertaining and exciting.

It was published by ACE (D-195) in 1956, and coupled with Owen Dudley’s The Deep End.

This is a repost. It originally went live August 10, 2009. Since I wrote this review I have read several more Robert Colby novels, and he has become one of my favorite pulp writers.

Otto’s Penzler’s Amazing Bibliography

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Jul 162014

from Bill Crider's blog
In July 2014 the Mysterious Bookshop will publish an annotated bibliography of first editions of mystery fiction set in the world of books. Written by the award-winning mystery expert and editor Otto Penzler, this comprehensive volume will cover every title published between 1849-2000 that falls into the bibliomystery sub-genre.  In addition to notes of issue on publication, publisher, and date, plus plot descriptions, Bibliomysteries will also include 130 full-color photographs of rare or especially interesting dust jackets and covers.  Limited to 200 signed and numbered copies, this bibliography is a must for collectors, booksellers, and scholars of mystery fiction.  

Price: $75.00

Margaret Millar – Tom Piccirilli and me

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Jul 152014


Margaret Millar

In my effort to get people to read Margaret Millar I'm reprinting some comments that Tom Piccirilli and I--among others--have been making about her recently on The Big Adios . hope some of you find them interesting.

Finished up Margaret Millar's THE CANNIBAL HEART today and really dug it. Man, she's got such a gothic underpining to her fiction, her writing is just drenched in atmosphere. This was a solid tale of a family renting a beach house from a woman whose husband has recently committed suicide and whose retarded son has recently also died. A touch slow in the opening but soon you get the snaky feeling that all is not right (and don't we all love that?) A lot of flavor and style reminiscent of Shirley Jackson.

Tom, you nailed it with the "gothic" angle. Millar like Shirley Jackson was much enamored of gothic elements the difference being (my theory) is that Jackson and early Capote (his early stuff was pure gothic) etc came out of Faulkner as did so many other Southern writers. Where Millar came out of a very white Northern and mostly middle-class environment. But the results were similar occasionally. Millar, like Jackson, was a tart and sometimes droll social observer though in her later novels I think Millar surpassed Jackson at this.

Ed, I agree about how Millar's sense of the gothic doesn't have that sweaty southern sensibility to it, although I think she early on left behind the white north and gave her gothic a dark southern California feel. Man, southern Cali at the time must've just had such a hook. Both she and (her huisband Ross) Macdonald came out of Canada and just seemed to leave it completely behind. That black Cali mood is reflected in Macdonald's work as well. He gives you the weird gothic families underscored by a hipster PI narrative, whereas Millar focuses on the "un-hip" elements and just pours out the atmosphere. You're right that the droll social commentary comes through, usually where underlying and hidden tension in marriage and family is concerned. I know that Jackson's marriage was rough-going, and her husband had a number of flings. I wonder if all the disatisfied married characters in Millar's work parallel her own marriage. Damn, just more reason to read the bio.


Tom Nolan's biograph of Ross Macdonald (Millar) is a masterpiece.

Thrift Shop Book Covers: If Dying was All

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Jul 142014

Posted: 02 Jul 2014 04:14 PM PDT
If Dying was All is the first of four novels featuring 
Southern California private eye John Easy. It was 
published as a paperback original in 1971 by Ace Books,
 and the cover art is absolutely groovy. Not just anyone can 
pull off an ascot, polyester bell bottoms, and Florsheims. 
The artist: Beats me. Although I do know I really, really like this cover.

The opening paragraph:

“The tall, naked girl held up the portable typewriter at arm’s length, gripping the case handle with long tan fingers, and asked, ‘How about this one?’

The other three Easy novels are: Too Sweet to Die (1972), The Same Lie Twice (1973)and One Grave Too Many (1974). John Easy also appeared in three short stories—“The Tin Ear” (1966), “You Have to Stay Dead for So Long” (1976), and “They’re Gonna Kill You after Awhile” (1976).

This is the sixth of a series of posts featuring the cover art and miscellany of books I find at thrift stores and used bookshops. It is reserved for books I purchase as much for the cover art as the story or author.

Turnabout and Shallow Secrets by Rick Ollerman

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Jul 132014
Rick Ollerman

Timepieces: The New Old Worlds of Rick Ollerman
by Cullen Gallagher

Conventional wisdom separates the critics from the authors. It’s a literary prejudice akin to that school-age fallacy, “Those who can’t do, teach.” (It was memorably extrapolated by Woody Allen in Annie Hall to also include the coda, “And those who can’t teach, teach gym.”) In grade school, that is a perfectly acceptable philosophical outlook on life: a way to assert one’s own sophomoric superiority over their teachers. As we grow older, however, we discover that such dichotomies are rarely so simple, and that conventional wisdom is often just misinformed malarkey.
Such is the case with the critic/author division, and this volume of Ollerman’s novels is the proof.


I first got to know Rick Ollerman through his critical introductions to Stark House’s books. The first one I read was in Peter Rabe’s The Silent Wall and The Return of Marvin Palaver. It was immediately apparent that what I was reading more than just an “introduction”—it was the transcription of a deep conversation between reader and text.

“His sentences are often stark and at the same time rich with subtext; idiosyncratic, yet so deftly written their intent remains clear.”

And that was just the beginning. It was the sort of rigorous, perceptive critical analysis that fans of noir fiction long for yet rarely find. Ollerman took one of my favorite writers, explained to me in intimate details why I loved him, and then provided me with dozens of new insights and reasons to love him. A finer and more insightful essay on Rabe has yet to be written.
Ollerman was my new best friend, and I had never even met the man.
Future introductions were included in the books Nothing in Her Way and River Girl by Charles Williams; Jada M. Davis’s never-before-published country noir masterpiece, Midnight Road; two West Coast countercultural novels by John Trinian, North Beach Girl and Scandal on the Sand; and several others. In his critical essays, Ollerman does more than just remember books that have unjustly fallen through the cracks, he reminds us why they deserve to be remembered, and of the rich legacy that was almost lost. Most importantly, he treats paperback originals not as some low-brow curiosity, but as literature, the way they should be. His is an invaluable insight and knowledge that should be treasured and revered for generations to come.
That is Rick Ollerman the critic.
Now, meet Rick Ollerman the author.


Ollerman writes the types of books that he would love to write about. High-octane noir. Mystery laced with action and doom. Thrillers with big black heart at the core. Gruesome crimes. Investigations that bring out the worst in people. Spiritually broken protagonists with nothing much to lose because they’ve already lost it all. Driving plots told with breakneck pacing, where each passing page brings the incessant timer that much closer to zero. His style is a fond homage to the pulpy élan of 1950s and 1960s paperback originals, but it’s not imitation or pastiche. Ollerman’s stories are of their moment, and the stories and characters thoroughly contemporary.
Imagine Lionel White and Charles Williams writing a computer caper and you have an inkling of what Turnabout is like. It is equal parts heist-, revenge-, buddy-, and techno-thriller, topped off by a killer chase through Florida swampland for the big finale. The story is about a cop, Frankie O’Neil, who decides it is time to retire after his marriage starts to fall apart and a fellow cop commits suicide. By chance, he falls into the then-new business of computer consultation. But after a tech colleague is found murdered floating in the ocean, O’Neil is pulled back into action by two cops who were working with the victim on a money laundering case.
As the title suggests, Turnabout is no straightforward mystery, the characters aren’t simply good and bad, and the moral situations are never just right and wrong. After all, the book is about an ex-cop colluding with an obese pickpocket and a computer-obsessed custodian, and they’re breaking into offices after hours to battle corrupt businessmen dealing in stolen money that is also wanted by equally corrupt cops.
The title also suggests an instruction to turn around and travel back in time. Even though it is set in the not-so-distant past of the early 1990s, to newer generations these primitive days of the computer boom will seem like science-fiction. As Ollerman explains in his preface, “These books were written back in the days when the technology most of us use every day was either not invented yet or still very uncommon. There was the Internet, but no world wide web.” In this light, I don’t think Turnabout could be written today, and I’m sure many publishers wouldn’t have the guts to even publish it. The very qualities that make it such a timepiece, on the other hand, are also what make it such a valuable piece of literature. It offers us an insider’s view into a world on the precipice of an enormous change, the magnitude of which even the characters are unaware of, despite what they say. Turnabout exists in a technologically naïve world to which we’ll never be able to return. Ollerman, however, makes it possible to revisit that world, if only for a few pages.

“You’ve got to remember what I said about computer security. There’s no such thing. When personal computers were designed nobody dreamed of the kinds of things we’d be doing with them today. Nobody knew how clever we could be with them. … Anything someone can think of to secure the data, someone else can think of ways to un-secure that data. We can’t outsmart ourselves.”

The second novel here, Shallow Secrets, is the dark beast of the two, a grim and brooding blend of noir and backwoods horror that suggests a lost weekend shared between Robert Bloch, David Goodis and Harry Whittington.
Whereas in Turnabout, O’Neil left the police force just as the darkness began to touch him, in Shallow Secrets, the protagonist wasn’t able to get out so clean. Ex-detective James Robinson is fully engulfed by darkness. He carries within him a shattered marriage, a girlfriend murdered by a serial killer who he’d let crash in his house, a crime that he himself was officially implicated in but never given the chance to redeem himself. He also told the girlfriend’s bother he would get to the bottom of it, a promise he never fulfilled. So, he leaves the force and becomes a recluse, fixing motorcycles to pay the bills. Now, six years later, another serial killer has been caught, and he will only talk to Robinson, which pulls him into the case both as an unofficial investigator, and also as a suspect.
The vacuous blackness that is consuming Robinson is brilliantly manifested in his home—or, rather, in the sinkhole that has literally swallowed the rest of the housing development, leaving only Robinson’s house on unstable ground that will surely give way in a matter of time. This is, without a doubt, high among the most noir homes ever, physically representing the spiritual crisis that is plaguing Robinson throughout the book.

“You’re like my life,” he said to the sinkhole as he popped another can. “A goddamn black hole that swallows everything that comes near it.”

This scenic trope also shows the literary quality of Ollerman’s writing, an inspired touch that plunges the story into a surreal, symbolic world apart from the rest of the story. I’m not sure if it is intentional or not, but it reminds me of the beached whale in John Trinian’s Scandal on the Sand that washes up in the first chapter and haunts the characters and landscape for the rest of the novel. Like the whale, the sinkhole is a moment of magical realism in an otherwise realist narrative, a metaphorical anchor for the book’s overarching theme of life losses that are beyond our control.


In the 1950s, these two novels would have been published by one of the premier paperback houses such as Gold Medal, Lion, or perhaps Ace, who would have issued it as one of their signature “doubles” that could be flipped over for the second book. Sadly, Gold Medal and Lion are gone, and Ace no longer offers those literary double features. But thankfully, we do have Stark House Press, who honors their legacy not only by reprinting their classics from half a century ago, but by issuing new work that carries on in their tradition. Rick Ollerman, critic and novelist, represents the best of both worlds.
And now, without further ado, here’s Rick Ollerman.

–June 2014
Brooklyn, NY