Nov 042014

PulpFest2015PLogoWe’re happy to debut the new look for The clean design by Chris Kalb is an effort to make our site easier to use and to highlight the latest information about PulpFest 2015, our attendees, presenters and dealers.

There might be a missing feature or two, but over the next couple of weeks we’ll be fine-tuning the site as we get user feedback. If you notice anything broken or misplaced, please don’t hesitate to contact our sitesmith, Chuck Welch. ( chuck @ )

When we finalize all costs and information for 2015, we’ll post links on the top menu — just below the PulpFest logo. The red menu at right will link to posts about programming, our dealers, awards, auction information and more. Most of the posts are about PulpFest 2014, but expect much more about 2015 in the coming weeks.

If you’re into social media, you can follow PulpFest at Facebook, Twitter and through our RSS feed. (Our email list is still active. We’ll publish the address to join in just a few days.)

Thanks for making PulpFest your favorite summer pulp convention. We’re looking forward to seeing you in Columbus August 13th through the 16th, 2015!

Oct 102014

Mike Dennis, who did a remarkable job of voicing the audiobook of my own early novel, Borderline, discovered this great noir classic in the public domain. He decided to narrate an audio version, and while he was at it, made plans to publish ebook and POD paperback editions as well. (While other e-versions exist, he found them to be typographical disasters, and felt the book deserved a proper and respectful presentation.) He asked me if I’d write an introduction, and I thought some of you might enjoy a look at what I turned in.

You might also welcome a look at the book itself. And, if you’re an audiobook fan, you’ll want to hear Mike’s rendition when it becomes available.



DETOUR by Martin M. Goldsmith

Foreword by Lawrence Block

Most people who know Detour at all know the film—specifically, the 1945 film directed by Edgar G. Ulmer and starring Tom Neal and Ann Savage. (It was remade in 1992, with the male lead played by Tom Neal Jr. No, I’m not making this up.) No end of myth has grown up around the movie: Ulmer said he shot it in six days, Savage said it took four six-day weeks plus retakes; Ulmer said it cost under $20,000, a researcher found it was more like $100,000. But in 1998 it fell to Roger Ebert to say everything you need to know about it:

“Detour is a movie so filled with imperfections that it would not earn the director a passing grade in film school. This movie from Hollywood’s poverty row, shot in six days, filled with technical errors and ham-handed narrative, starring a man who can only pout and a woman who can only sneer, should have faded from sight soon after it was released in 1945. And yet it lives on, haunting and creepy, an embodiment of the guilty soul of film noir. No one who has seen it has easily forgotten it.”

And he finished his lengthy essay like so:

“Do these limitations and stylistic transgressions hurt the film? No. They are the film. Detour is an example of material finding the appropriate form. Two bottom-feeders from the swamps of pulp swim through the murk of low-budget noir and are caught gasping in Ulmer’s net. They deserve one another. At the end, Al is still complaining: ‘Fate, or some mysterious force, can put the finger on you or me, for no good reason at all.’ Oh, it has a reason.”

That’s the film—and, as it’s in the public domain, you can readily get hold of a copy and see it yourself. Full disclosure: if and when you do, you’ll be ahead of me. I haven’t seen Detour, but then I’m not here to write about the movie. I’ve read the book, the novel of the same name, published in 1939 when its author, Martin M. Goldsmith, was 25 years old. And it’s the book which I’m pleased to bring to your attention.

If Detour got in on the ground floor of film noir in 1945, the novel was even more of a novelty six years earlier, with its fast-paced narrative, hard-edged characters, and uncompromisingly dark world view. It’s an easy read, albeit an unsettling one, from the first page to the last, and much of what Ebert has to say about the film fits the book it came from.

It’s all over the place. It hinges on no end of coincidence, one element of which—Alexander’s happening to pick up a hitchhiker who happens to be Vera, the very woman who cat-scratched the poor mope who picked him up earlier—would be a dealbreaker for most publishers. It’s told by two first-person narrators, Alex and Sue, who were lovers before the book opens and who never—never!—encounter each other again.

It speaks well of Goldsmith’s narrative gifts that his story’s pace and drive can blind one to the wild irrationality of its plot. The actions of Alex and Vera, after they team up, never make a particle of sense. They’re afraid to sell their car, as if it’ll be traced to a dead man in another state, and yet they take other genuinely risky steps with astonishing sangfroid.

“People are afraid of all the wrong things.” That’s the promotional tag line for A Walk Among the Tombstones, the film based on a book of mine, so it’s much on my mind lately. And it applies well enough to Alex and Vera—and, for that matter, to Sue and Raoul.

Goldsmith, I should add, wrote and published another novel, Double Jeopardy, a couple of years before Detour. He went on to write two more novels, and received story and/or screenplay credits for a host of films and television programs. He was eighty when he died in 1994, and seems to have left behind an unpublished autobiography—which might make very interesting reading indeed, should somebody manage to hunt it down.

Meanwhile, here’s Detour. It’s a fast read, and I think you’ll find it worth your time.

 Posted by at 5:33 pm
Sep 092014, largely a sports-oriented site named after the legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice, is a house containing many mansions. Just yesterday I taped an hour-long podcast with screenwriter Brian Koppelman (who wrote a lyrical tribute to the Scudder series in The Night and the Music) which will be up on in a week or two; his podcast with Ray Liotta is running now. And today, in “Hollywood Prospectus,” a dozen or more writers share their varied media enthusiasms. The whole thing’s worth reading, even as the entire site’s worth bookmarking for regular visits, but if you scroll way down you come to the following, which not even my vaunted false modesty can keep me from reprinting in full:

Michael Weinreb: On September 19, writer/director Scott Frank will release a movie called A Walk Among the Tombstones, starring Liam Neeson as an alcoholic private detective named Matthew Scudder. This movie might be very good, or it might be very bad; I have no idea, and in a way, I only care insomuch as it boosts the legacy of the man who wrote the book on which it is based. His name is Lawrence Block, and he’s been writing since the 1950s, and his output is heroically abundant. He got his start writing paperback erotica; eventually, he began writing several different series’ worth of crime novels. He’s 76 years old, and he’s authored, I don’t know, maybe around a hundred books, including seven writing-advice books, a memoir, and a short tome called The Specialists, upon which the A-Team may or may not have been based. (A few months ago, I picked up a novel of Block’s called Random Walk; it was a trippy New Age story about a bartender who, you know, goes on a random walk. It wasn’t one of his best, but that almost wasn’t the point; even the Tony Robbins–meets–Stephen King undercurrent of the plot was tempered by Block’s utterly humanizing portrayal of his characters.)

In the crime-fiction world, Block is already viewed as an American treasure, but he, like his old friend Donald Westlake, is one of those writers who deserves to transcend his genre. All the Matthew Scudder books I’ve read have been dank and harrowing little gems, especially the ones set in New York before it became an adult theme park. (In other words, it’s possible Neeson could be perfectly cast.) Block knows New York; he’s lived in the West Village since before it became an aspirational address. (He’s admitted to struggling with alcohol himself, and he’s given to bouts of depression, which, like everything else, he discusses in his work.) But my favorite Block novels are the ones he started writing in the late 1990s; they’re about a stamp-collecting hit man who calls himself Keller, who’s continually trying to get out of the business he’s in but can’t seem to bring himself to do it. I can’t imagine there’s ever been a more likable and competent killer in modern fiction, which is a testament to Block’s abilities, and to his longevity, and to the idea that writers like Block — skillful and professional and utterly unafraid of failure — should always be a rare and treasured commodity.

Uh, wow. And thank you. I’m in Los Angeles, I just got here, I’ll be on Craig Ferguson’s show tomorrow night, and just as I was getting on my flight, the above showed up in my Twitter feed. I’ll tell you, if I hadn’t been flying on air I’d have been walking on it…


 Posted by at 11:41 pm
Aug 252014

As LB mentioned in the previous post, Empire Magazine, the premier film magazine in the UK, loves A Walk Among the Tombstones! Here is Dan Jolin’s review in its entirety:


Liam Neeson has said that when he first read the scene in A Walk Among the Tombstones where grizzled gumshoe Matthew Scudder threatens his quarry (a kidnapper) down the phone, his instinct was to walk away from the tombstones. Thankfully, he read on and realised that, despite superficial similarities, Scott Frank’s take on Lawrence Block’s novels was a different breed of thriller to Taken.

In many ways, it’s the anti-Taken. Scudder has little personal investment in the case. He doesn’t pack heat. Although he throws a mean punch, violence is something he avoids if possible, preferring to talk his way out of tricky situations. His particular set of skills involves wheedling information out of people (without resorting to torture), pounding pavements and having “a strong bladder.” He’s an old-school shamus, suspicious of cellphones and computers (interestingly, Frank sets his entire mystery amid the pre-millennial tension of the Y2K scare; as one of the killers observes, “People are afraid of all the wrong things”). Frank has unapologetically served up something talky, complex, grown-up.

Rain-drenched, grey-toned and located in a dilapidated, graffiti-daubed Hell’s Kitchen, this is a dour affair. Tombstones has a thick vicious streak, which while not gratuitous involves the kinds of atrocity you’d expect from a full-on serial-killer thriller. Yet it’s far from one-note. Like Connery, Neeson may never nail the Yank accent, but he sparkles as Scudder, a man tussling with demons but gifted with a wry sense of humour that makes him deeply likable throughout. And, especially in the scenes between Scudder and his unwanted streetkid sidekick TJ (Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley, fresh from American X Factor), Frank imbues his script with a light and knowing regard for the genre, as if to say the private-eye movie, like Scudder himself, might well seem outmoded, but goddammit, it still gets the job done.  DAN JOLIN


Like a good butcher’s cleaver, it’s weighty, solid and sharp—an effective matching of director and star in what is hopefully the first of a new film series.
 black_star_icon_by_midnight_flame-d4oxfl5 black_star_icon_by_midnight_flame-d4oxfl5 black_star_icon_by_midnight_flame-d4oxfl5 black_star_icon_by_midnight_flame-d4oxfl5



Aug 192014
Like many other writers I was shocked to learn Jeremiah Healy passed away recently. I loved his work, having picked up the first John Francis Cuddy books because I had read most Spenser books and was looking for something similar. Of course, besides the Boston PI thing there's little they really had in common. The Cuddy books had their own style and Cuddy wasn't the superman Spenser was.
So sad that now both Robert B. Parker and Jeremiah Healy have passed away.
I will always be grateful for the blurb he provided for my Noah Milano books:
 "J. Vandersteen takes us back to the glory days of pulp fiction. And I mean the genre, NOT the movie. His Noah Milano character rings completely true as a tough, lone-wolf private."

That goes to show you what a wonderful man he was and how friendly he was to his fellow writers, always ready to help them along.

He will be missed by readers, writer and family.
Aug 062014

Beginning of May I spent a few hours with Neda Ulaby of National Public Radio, and the resultant profile will air on NPR’s Morning Edition Thursday, August 7th. (That’s tomorrow as I post this, but may be today or yesterday by the time you get around to reading it.) Air time will vary with individual stations, but if you are unable to catch it live, you’ll be able to listen to it on line. I’ll post a link in a day or two.


 Posted by at 5:48 pm
Jul 162014
BOLO Books: Did you and/or your publisher have any trepidation about centering your latest novel around a school shooting—with it being such a grim and hot-button topic of discussion these days?
Marcia Clark: People want to talk about this subject. They need to talk about it. We can’t push this under the rug and pretend that’ll make it all go away. We have to get out ahead of the problem and we can’t do that unless we to learn as much as we can, talk about it and find ways to spot these killers before they can act. That is, ultimately, our best protection. But it’s a difficult subject, to say the least. So putting it into a fictional setting creates somewhat of a remove, a safer forum to learn about it and think about it. I’ve been very glad and relieved to see all the positive reviews and reactions, and all the discussions the book has sparked.