Ed Gorman

Oct 242014
 



Gravetapping by Ben Boulden




Posted: 23 Oct 2014 02:20 PM PDT
Max Allan Collins has been writing about his hardboiled former Chicago cop turned private dick Nathan Heller for 30 years, which translates into 15 novels and four short story collections. Nate first appeared in True Detective (1983) and most recently in Ask Not (2013). In 1991 the first collection of Nathan Heller stories appeared, and its title story—the best in the collection—was a Shamus nominated novella titled “Dying in the Post-War World”.

“Dying in the Post-War World” is set in Chicago. July, 1947. Heller’s wife, Peg, is pregnant, and while business at his A-1 Detective Agency is slow—no one is getting divorced in the post war euphoria—life isn’t bad. That is until Bob Keenan, a high level administrator at the Office of Price Administration (OPA), calls with an emergency, and Peg tells Nate she wants a divorce. In that order, and just that quickly.

The emergency. Bob Keenan’s six year old daughter JoAnn was kidnapped from her room. The window open. A broken down ladder outside, and a note on the floor of the girl’s room:

“Get $20,000 Ready & Waite for Word. Do Not Notify the FBI or Police. Bills in 5’s and 10’s. Burn this for her safety!”

“Dying in the Post-War World” is an intriguing retelling of Chicago’s Lipstick Killer. The names have changed—William Heirens (the real world convicted Lipstick Killer) is now Jerome Lapps, and Suzanne Degnan (the kidnapped girl) is now JoAnn Keegan. Mr Collins also plays with the timeline, and adds an appealing mob connection in form of one Sam Flood (aka Sam Giancana). The details are interesting, but the magic is in the telling. The smooth integration of fact and fiction. The old world Chicago. A Chicago where it was both possible to buy, and people actually wanted, a brand new Plymouth. The humor—“crooked even by Chicago standards.”

The story is written in first person. It is something of a nostalgic memoir. It is hardboiled, lean, and tough as the Windy City. It also has a bunch of post war angst. The sort of angst we all feel; a little hope and a lot of fear for the future. Not necessarily our own future, but the future we leave our children—

“For that one night, settled into a hard hospital chair, in the glow of my brand-new little family, I allowed myself to believe that that hope was not a vain one. That anything was possible in this glorious post-war world.”

But the most powerful effect of the story? Doubt. Doubt about the killer. The future, and ourselves. And even a touch of shame; at what we do, how we do it, and worse, how we rationalize it.

Forgotten Books: Fright by Cornell Woolrich

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Oct 232014
 

Fright

Cornell Woolrich's first novel emulated the novels of his literary hero, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Judging from the first act of the new Woolrich novel Fright from Hardcase Crime, the Fitzgerald influence lasted well into Woolrich's later career as a suspense writer.

The young, handsome, successful Prescott Marshall could be any of Fitzgerald's early protagonists. New York, Wall Street, a striver eager to marry a beauiful young socialite and acquire the sheen only she can give him...even the prose early on here reminds us of Fitzgerald's "Winter Dreams" and "The Rich Boy." Strivers dashed by fate.

Bu since Woolrich was by this time writing for the pulps and not Smart Set or Scribners Magazine, young Prescott Marshall's fate is not simply to lose face or be banished from some Edenic yacht cruise...but to face execution at the hands of the State for killing a young woman he slept with once and who turned into a blackmailer. This is in the Teens of the last century, by the way; a historical novel if you will.

From here on we leave the verities of Fitzgerald behind and step into the noose provided by another excellent writer and strong influence on Woolrich...Guy de Maupassant. In the Frenchman's world it's not enough to merely die, you must die in a tortured inch-by-inch way that makes the final darkness almost something to be desired. And dying for some ironic turn of events is best of all.

I read this in a single sitting. It's one those melodramas that carry you along on sheer narrative brute force. I woudn't say it's major Woolrich but I woud say that it's awfully good Woolrich with all the master's cruel tricks at work and a particularly claustrophobic sense of doom. Readers will appreciate its dark twists. Collectors will want to buy a few extra copies.

Headlines that shouldn’t be true but are

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Oct 232014
 


‘F*ck your ginseng!’  San Francisco tour guide’s racist Chinatown rant

School board chief won’t resign over racist videos: ‘Nothing illegal
about having bad taste’

Fox host tells supermodel to shut up about gun control: You have a
‘lovely bottom… stick to that’

Gamergate’s anti-woman agenda made clear: Actor Felicia Day threatened
for speaking up

Top VA GOP adviser unhinged on Facebook: Gay sex leaves men in diapers,
‘pooping their pants’

Idaho voters favor Republican plagiarist who lied about education and
marital history

Pat Robertson finds ‘atheist’ who says God cancelled her abortion
appointments

'Highly troubling': Justice Dept. slams local officials over Michael
Brown autopsy leak

California cop stole DUI suspect’s racy photos from her cell phone:
prosecutors

Meth witch? Arrested Oklahoma ‘Wiccan’ claims religious right to use
drugs

North Carolina judge resigns in protest after Supreme Court shoots down
same-sex marriage ban


What happens if the GOP takes control of the Senate?

Why don’t Millennials vote? Cartoonist Matt Bors has the answer

Millennials have the power to shape the Senate — if they would only vote

Relax, Democrats: We figured out how to get Millennials to vote

Election Night, hour by hour: A handy guide to Democratic disaster (or
miracle comeback!)


This scientist thinks cancer can be prevented— and even cured — through
diet

Why Oregon is about to be the poster child for how to legalize and
regulate marijuana

Bristol Palin claims family's drunken brawl never happened, even after
audio proof released

Cornel West shoots down Sean Hannity: Republicans play the ‘race card,’
too

Sam Harris and Cenk Uygur debate whether Islam is a religion of violence

GOPer Don Young doubles down: Suicide is an ‘illness’ lazy people get
from government handouts

Colorado man admits to killing Montana teacher in cocaine frenzy

Washington soldier accused of gunning down wife because another man
bought her liquor

Border militia’s ‘commanding officer’ turns out to be a felon, arrested
on gun charge



Oct 222014
 


What movies do you hate that everyone else loves?


Doesn't it make you crazy when there’s a movie out that’s real popular and all your friends love it but you don’t? It’s like you're totally out of step with pop culture – and is there a worse fate than that? I’ve listed some movies that were boxoffice dandies and zeitgeist zeniths but just didn’t do it for me. You’re going to look at this list and be outraged over a couple. But that’s the whole idea. I KNOW you and most everyone in the world likes these movie but for whatever reason I hate 'em.   Sorry.  I do.   I’ve also left out films from genres I just don’t care for, so it’s unfair to dump on SAW III. And I won’t go to see a Katherine Heigl or Nancy Meyer romcom. Just loathe ‘em.  I know what I’m going to get. And I’m never not being disappointed in being disappointed.

So this is my partial list. I’d be curious. What’s yours? And I’ll make you a deal. If you don’t rip me for not liking LINCOLN I won’t attack you for not liking AMERICAN BEAUTY (although, seriously, what’s wrong with you?).

ENGLISH PATIENT
Last Batman movie
Last Superman movie
CRASH
MATCH POINT
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
NEIGHBORS
LORD OF THE RINGS
LINCOLN
THE NATURAL
NEBRASKA
THE DESCENDENTS
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING
LES MISERABLES
YOU’VE GOT MAIL
MOULIN ROUGE
LUCY
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE


From Sandra Balzo Jerry Healy and dogs

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Oct 212014
 


By Sandra Balzo

http://jeremiahhealy.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Sandy-and-Jerry-150x111.jpg   As many of you know, Jeremiah Healy died on August 14, 2014, at the age of 66 after a long battle with depression.

Jerry and I are both mystery writers and our fellow authors, Brendan DuBois, Andi Shechter, SJ Rozan and her sister Deborah have found a way of commemorating Jerry’s work and life that I think he would have absolutely loved.

As Brendan says in his announcement: “Besides his work as an attorney and an author, Jerry was a U.S. Army vet, and was also a lover of dogs. We have therefore reached out to a service dog organization in Maryland that trains dogs to assist wounded veterans, and they will be thrilled to receive donations in Jerry's name.”

This all started a few weeks back when Brendan asked me the deceptively simple question, “What cause would Jerry want?”  My first thoughts were things that were on my mind – causes like depression, suicide prevention or literacy. All worthy, but not . . . very Jerry.

So I asked myself Brendan’s question again: “What would Jerry want?” If you knew Jeremiah Healy for any length of time, you might have heard him talk about the military and refer to somebody as “the real thing.” “The Real Things” are men and women who served our country heroically and selflessly, often at the expense of life, limb or mental health. In fact, the only time I saw Jerry cry was as he recounted an air mission in which the pilots took off knowing that, once the mission was achieved, they didn’t have the fuel to return.

As for the canine component, I can’t tell you how many strolls were doubled in duration because Jerry had to stop every passing dog-walker with the question “Is he (or she) friendly?” and give ‘em a good scratch. Even depressed, it was the one thing that seemed to help him, so I can only imagine what it does for wounded vets.

So Hero Dogs, it is! Below is the scoop (no pun intended, though I kind of like it) from Brendan and company. We’d appreciate your sharing the word--Jerry always believed in paying it forward.

With thanks for the happiness you gave Jerry,
Sandy Balzo
http://jeremiahhealy.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Mitch-on-the-Hill1.jpg 
By Brendan DuBois:
I'm so very pleased to announce that through the efforts, suggestions and recommendations of Sandra Balzo,  Andi Malala Shechter, SJ Rozan and her terrific sister, Deborah B. Rosan, that a means of commemorating Jeremiah Healy's works and life has been established. Besides his work as an attorney and an author, Jeremiah Healy was a U.S. Army vet, and was also a lover of dogs. We have therefore reached out to a service dog organization in Maryland that trains dogs to assist wounded veterans, and they will be thrilled to receive donations in Jerry's name.
The group is called Hero Dogs, and is based in Maryland. Their website is listed below. They are an IRS approved 501(c)(3) organization and operate entirely on donations. You can donate via their website, or by sending a check to Hero Dogs, P.O. 64, Brookeville, MD 20833-0064. But please ensure either by writing on the memo section of your check, or using the form on their website, that you're making this donation in Jerry's name. That way, Hero Dogs can track how many donations come in, so that they can be used in some way to keep Jerry's memory alive in years to come. Please donate what you can, and please share this link. Thanks to all of you who were friends or fans of Jerry's. http://www.hero-dogs.org/

Oct 212014
 

Backlist Spotlight: Nice Girl Does Noir
Image

Dear Ed,

"Short stories are the poetry of prose. They are precise, cut to the bone, every word a necessity. Not many authors develop that control. Libby Fischer Hellmann has the hand of a master. Take it from a guy who knows her well: Libby is a nice girl. But she writes noir with a savvy edge honed on the hard, dark knowledge of the evil possible in us all." - William Kent Krueger
While Kent's words are meant to be flattering, I do have to confess something: I love writing short stories. I often say that a novel is like a marriage, but a short story is an affair: passionate, all-consuming, wonderful, and brief. So I've written lots of short stories, and continue to. I've collected fifteen of them in Nice Girl Does Noir. Volume I includes five Ellie Foreman and Georgia Davis stories; Volume II has ten stand-alone stories that span different territories, characters, and times. You'll find them all here.
And if you'd like to know why I think writing short stories are critically important for a writer's career, take a look at this article.
Reviews
"I don't usually like short stories, but these are terrific! I roared through them. Hellmann had a good mix of Chicago historicals and contemporaries. My highest recommendation here."
- Molly Weston, Meritorious Mysteries
"When Hellmann explores the less sunlit areas of Chicago, her canvas becomes not only more universal but has greater depth and emotional value. Aspiring short-story writers would do well to pay attention."
- Naomi Johnson, The Drowning Machine

Best




Libby
Please add my email address to your safe sender list so my emails don't get 
trapped in the netherworld of your spam box.





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Oct 202014
 


Harry Dean Stanton: at 88, still going strong down Route 66

A screening of an acclaimed documentary about the actor offered a rare chance to see him in concert

from The Guardian UK
Harry Dean Stanton in Hollywood, October 2014.
Harry Dean Stanton in Hollywood, October 2014. Photograph: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
California is crippled by a three-year “mega-drought”. The rivers are withering, the landscape a scratchy brown, and woe betide those who break the hosepipe ban.

Perfect weather, then, for a gravelly performance from Harry Dean Stanton: a man with a face like dust bowl, dessicated further by 70 odd years of cigarettes.

Stanton has appeared in more than 200 movies including Paris, Texas, Wild At Heart and as cat loving Brett in Alien. I first saw him as the dad in Pretty in Pink. Laconic, beaten-down, accepting, I thought he was the coolest thing since Molly Ringwald’s prom frock.

His backstory was explored Sophie Huber’s brilliant documentary, Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (released in 2012, now available on Netflix).
This Swiss-born film-maker first meets her subject in his regular drinking haunt, Dan Tanas in Santa Monica, and uses music as her route in to this intensely private man. She follows him as he potters about his day-to-day routine, splicing the footage with pared down renditions of his favourite songs, such as Danny Boy and Blue Bayou, which are performed from the safety of his living room.
Late last month, the film was screened at the Grammy Museum in downtown LA, and both Stanton and Huber took part in a charming Q&A afterwards. Followed by some tunes: Stanton singing and on harmonica, accompanied by guitar and bass.
As he took to the stage, fragile as a larch, the audience moved to the edge of their seats. Stanton fumbled first for his reading glasses, then for one of his many harmonicas, all tuned to different keys. Would he make it through the first bar? He would; albeit from the comfort of an overstuffed armchair (as he said - he is 12 years off 100).
His exit was quicker: Stanton scarpered immediately after the three tracks were over; his guitarist, Jamie, revealed to the crowd that he’d called the night before to try and wriggle out of the performance.
Stanton was one of those rare beasts: exactly in the flesh as you’d suspect from the screen. Introspective, and mischievous; a loner, and old-fashioned with it. In an age of white noise and celebrity hysteria, this was a reminder of a previous time; refreshing courtesy in the drought. He’d never married, he said in the film - and only once proposed because it seemed the civil thing to do. He’s wiser now he’s older, he said. After all, “what’s wrong with silence?”

Headlines that shouldm’t be true but are

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Oct 202014
 




Daily soda consumption not only expands your waistline — it
destroys your DNA

Justice Ginsburg admits to keeping stash of ‘Notorious RBG’ shirts to give to friends

Cage-fighter War Machine blames anti-male society for his domestic violence in suicide note

Bagpipe-playing Oregon racist’s message backfires as community unites against hate

Revealed: King Tut had overbite, club foot because his parents were brother and sister

Pat Robertson rants over ‘deadly’ gay marriage in Idaho: It’s an ‘onslaught of homosexual behavior’

Texas men accidentally shoot each other while firing at partygoers over beer pong loss

SC GOP candidate: Don't be deceived -- 'cute' same-sex 'gremlins' will destroy US

Teen convicted as 'armed clowns' spread panic in French towns

John Oliver ‘dogs’ Supreme Court with hilarious canine re-enactments

Tavis Smiley rips Bill Kristol: You are ‘the worst of America’ for
using Ebola in politics

Pumpkin Festival coordinator gets physical with local reporter trying
to cover riots

Russell Brand’s anti-voting revolution makes Sex Pistols’ ‘Johnny
Rotten’ want to puke

Video shows scuffle between St. Louis Rams fans and Ferguson protesters

Oklahoma man opens fire on ex-girlfriend for not leaving 'fast enough':
police

Kafkaesque ‘bureaucratic clusterf*ck’: Oliver slams US treatment of
military translators

Fox News priest: How can we baptize kids in same-sex families if
parents are sinners?

Tennessee lawmaker arrested again, this time for stalking and
threatening neighbor

Researchers develop tiny tractor beam, and they’re sure they could make
a larger one

Welcome to the best World Series ever — and why ESPN can’t see it

Black Nevada conservative and ‘brave white man’ Cliven Bundy call Eric
Holder out

Supreme Court denies request to block Texas voter ID law

Will there be enough fish to go around? Not if we follow healthy eating
guidelines

Ebola fearmongering is the GOP’s new crazy, racist dog whistle

‘I’m not panicked, I’m just pissed’: Bill Maher blasts Dallas hospital
‘morons’ over Ebola

Two guys show up as famous women for dress as celebs event, and school
freaks out

Willie Horton 2.0: Republicans launch ‘race-baiting’ ad linking
Nebraska Democrat to murderer

Tesla Motors slams Michigan car dealers for new bill banning them from
in-state sales

Question of lynching lingers around hanging death of black NC high
school football player

California man eaten by bear after dying from heart attack







Oct 192014
 















Bogie and Bacall: Dark Passage (1947)
from the criminal element




In tribute to the late Lauren Bacall, we’re looking at the four classic films she made with husband and screen partner Humphrey Bogart between 1944 and 1948: To Have and Have NotThe Big SleepDark Passage, and Key Largo. Last week we looked at Hawks’ The Big Sleep. Today we’ll look at Delmer Daves’ Dark Passage.
Dark Passage doesn’t get any respect. It’s a fine film noir that has two things working against its reputation: 1) a hokey stylistic device, and 2) the fact that it is the least of the Bogart/Bacall vehicles.
I’ll deal with each of these criticisms in a moment. First however, the plot: Bogart plays Vincent Parry, a convict who has just busted out of prison when the film starts. He’s picked up by a talkative motorist named Baker (Clifton Young). It doesn’t take Baker long to figure out that Parry’s a fugitive, so Parry slugs him, takes off on foot and is picked up by another motorist. She’s Irene Jansen (Bacall), and surprisingly she already knows who Parry is and wants to help him. It turns out that Parry was convicted of killing his wife, and Irene followed his trial in the papers, convinced of his innocence. Before long, Parry undergoes a facelift and sets out to track down his wife’s killer.

Because the story involves plastic surgery, the makers had to come up with a way to handle Parry’s transition from one face to another. Their solution was to have the pre-facelift sections of the movie told from Parry’s point of view through a subjective use of the camera (i.e. the camera functions as his eyes, so we never see his face). The subjective camera was a hot concept in 1947.Orson Welles had planned to use it in his proposed adaptation of Heart of Darkness before abandoning the idea as unworkable. Robert Montgomery picked up the idea and shot his entire adaption of Raymond Chandler’sThe Lady in the Lake with a subjective camera. The results there were disastrous. Here, the technique is a bit distracting, but Daves is able to blend it a little more seamlessly into the story. For one thing, although much of the first forty minutes of the film is done subjectively, not all of it is. Daves gives himself the freedom to alternate between Parry’s point of view and a more conventional point of view that includes establishing shots. It also helps that once the facelift occurs we cut to Bogart’s lovely visage. While the subjective camera stuff is gimmicky, it has the virtue (unlike in Montgomery’s film) of serving a purpose and solving a problem presented by the story.
The other obstacle standing in the way of Dark Passage’s reputation is that it has the unfortunate distinction of being lumped together with the other Bogart/Bacall films (To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Key Largo). Those movies are masterpieces (at least the first two are), and I will grant that Dark Passage does not rise to their level.
However, this is quite a fine piece of work. For one thing, Bacall is excellent. She has to carry the first half of the movie by herself because Bogart isn’t onscreen, and she also has to make Irene’s rather odd character believable. She carries off both of these tasks with great skill, and her work here is far more interesting than in Key Largo, where her job mostly consisted of staring at Bogart with longing for two hours. When Bogart does appear onscreen, he’s as good as she is. His Vincent Parry is an underacknowledged swerve for the actor. Parry isn’t a superhero like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. He’s a normal guy who’s in over his head.
The first two Bogart and Bacall movies were all about the sexual tension between the leads. They were falling in love onscreen and having an affair offscreen. By the time they made Dark Passage, however, they were married. The sexual tension of the earlier work—which also owed something to the airy touch of director Howard Hawks—is here replaced by gravity. Bacall has a way of looking through Bogart, stripping him of any defensive shield. And Bogart’s mournful visage—especially his dark, heavy eyes—seems weighed down by a deep-seated knowledge of failure. This quality is perfect for Dark Passage, based as it is on an early novel by the great David Goodis, an author incapable of writing about heroes. His characters are sad, lonely, broken people. This movie glosses things up a bit, of course, but the last few scenes between Bogart and Bacall have a fragile emotionalism unlike anything else in their work together. The last shot of the film is probably the sweetest one they ever shared.
The rest of the cast is equally good. In particular, Clifton Young is a sleazy joy as Baker, the slugged motorist who resurfaces later in the movie to make trouble for Bogie and Bacall. And it is always good to see Agnes Moorehead. Here she plays Madge, an old friend of Parry’s and the key to unlocking the mystery at the center of the movie. When she was used right, there was no one more hypnotically watchable than Agnes Moorehead, and here she’s used right.


I’ve always thought Delmer Daves was an underrated director. For one thing, his movies unfailingly have a great physicality. This made him a strong hand at westerns (3:10 to Yuma, The Hanging Tree), but it also served him well in his noir work (The Red House). His films usually have atmospheres achieved through their excellent utilization of black & white photography and even more through a mastery of art design, set decoration and camera work. Daves wasn’t a realist, but he had a realist’s eye. In Dark Passage you can almost smell the cheap apartments, the cigarette smoke, and the alcohol. Some of the film was shot on location in San Francisco, and he exploits that glorious city as well as anyone ever did.
Dark Passage isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a damn good piece of work and one that I never seem to tire of seeing again.

Jake HinksonThe Night Editor, is the author of The Posthumous Manand Saint Homicide.
Read all posts by Jake Hinkson for Criminal Element.
Oct 182014
 






Gravetapping



Posted: 16 Oct 2014 10:42 AM PDT
The Peninsula is “a comma of land hooking into the sea southeast of Melbourne” in Victoria Australia. It is a tourist destination known for its beaches, wineries, and coastal towns. It is sparsely populated, beautiful, and, recently, the stalking ground for a sex killer. One woman was found dead on the Old Peninsula Highway—a lonely road treading the eastern coast of the peninsula, cutting south and west—and another has disappeared.

Inspector Hal Challis, the regional homicide specialist, is assigned the investigation. The search is headquartered in the fictional city of Waterloo. A city with a small police force, and an even smaller CIB—Criminal Investigation Branch—squad. The killer is careful and clean. The only significant lead is the track of a rare brand of tire near the dumping site of a victim—

“There was no semen. The killer used a condom. There were no fingerprints. The killer used gloves. What he’d left on his victims wereabsences, including the absence of life.”

The Dragon Man is a beautifully written police procedural. The main plot is supplemented with crisscrossing subplots. An overzealous constable. A series of house burglaries. A frightened woman trading sex for drugs. And Hal Challis. An almost broken, flawed man. A man who is married to a woman who, along with her lover, attempted to kill him. A man who is underestimated by most, and a man who is likable, and, at times, real.

“He drove on. Christmas Day. With any luck, someone would find a body and free him from Christmas Day.”

The setting is rendered with care, and the small details—a bucket in the shower to catch the water for additional use in the garden, dry draught-like conditions of mid-summer heat, herons feasting on mosquitoes—create a real world believable place. A place that is familiar, but simultaneously exotic. Mr Disher also plays with morality. The police often behave more consistently with the criminals they chase. One steals evidence from the police locker. Another attempts to blackmail a woman for sex during a traffic stop.

The Dragon Man is the real deal. It is the first novel (of six, so far) featuring Hal Challis. It is something of a cross between literature and police procedural. It is economical, meaningful, and a wonderfully entertaining novel.