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

 

VERDICT
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.
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BATTLE OF THE POWELLS: WILLIAM VS. DICK

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Aug 252014
 

BATTLE OF THE POWELLS: WILLIAM VS. DICK

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Ed here: Pauline Kael once referred to Dick Powell as "the sappiest crooner" of the Thirties. Yet he ended up doing well by Philip Marlowe. On the other hand a William Powell's fedora tip to the crime genre was playing Philo Vance as well as appearing in several other mysteries. Susan Doll's take on the two is well done..

Susan Doll:

Today, TCM pays tribute to Dick Powell, airing 14 of his films as part of Summer Under the Stars. Earlier this month, a day had been devoted to William Powell. As a major fan of both stars, I can’t decide if I was more excited to listen to Dick Powell croon and crack wise, or watch William Powell woo his costars with wit and style.
Like several male stars from the Golden Age, neither Powell was classically handsome. Yet, both are attractive and appealing because of their cultivated charisma and star images. WP was the elegant gentleman who exuded romance and class, while his keen sense of humor prevented his characters from becoming too high brow or pompous. Though he played oily cads very early in his career, his star image as the suave gent was cemented by the 1930s and remained remarkably consistent until his last movie, Mr. Roberts, in 1955. I admire those Golden Age movie stars who were able to maneuver their images through the changes in the industry and the ravages of aging. But, then again, who doesn’t respect Dick Powell for completely changing his star image from the sweet-faced crooner of backstage musicals to the wise-cracking, hard-boiled anti-hero of film noir.
William Powell is the very essence of romance in his films from the 1930s. His graciousness and consummate manners seem like a throwback to another era, when men treated women with respect and approached them with gallantry. Or, perhaps there never was such an era and it is only “movie memory” that makes me think there was. Even when his character deceives Myrna Loy—his most constant costar—in Libeled Lady or goads her inDouble Wedding, we know he will ultimately act in her best interests at the expense of his own. WP’s best tool for charming women was his voice—so smooth, soothing, melodious.
Dick Powell’s voice was also his best asset, and not just because he could sing in that high tenor voice (see 42nd Street today at 1:00pm). With his impeccable timing and sarcastic tone, he could toss off a verbal barb with wit and aplomb. Of all the actors to play Philip Marlowe, Dick Powell was the best at handling Raymond Chandler’s wise-cracking one-liners and smart dialogue. Revisit Murder, My Sweet this evening at 9:15 on TCM and focus on Powell’s line delivery. The back-and-forth banter between Powell and his leading ladies in his film noirs is a verbal dance—sexy in its sarcasm and modern in its suggestion that all romance is a sham. This is miles away from William Powell’s star image—yet I find both romantic in different ways.
for the rest go here:
http://moviemorlocks.com/2014/08/25/battle-of-the-powells-william-vs-dick/#more-77332

Aug 252014
 
A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

The Silent Boy, by Andrew Taylor (HarperCollins UK)

The Gist: “Taylor’s new novel utilizes two of the characters from his last book, The Scent of Death,” explains a review of The Silent Boy featured on the Web site of The Forest Bookshop, in Coleford, England. “In 1778, London clerk Edward Savill was obliged to turn detective in the desperate last days of British colonial New York, posted there by his patron Mr. Rampton, his wife Augusta’s uncle. Now, 14 years later, Savill’s estranged wife has apparently been murdered in the midst of the post-[French] Revolution Terrors, which splattered guillotine-riddled Paris with torrents of blood in 1792. But a murder mystery isn’t the thrust of this story--rather, it concerns a child-custody battle involving, on one side, [Augusta’s 10-year-old son] Charles’ claimed aristocratic father, holed up in a ‘Somersetshire’ mansion to which he and his Parisian retinue have fled with the child, versus Savill acting on behalf of Rampton and also Savill’s daughter--Charles’ half-sister. … What is a mystery are the protagonists’ motives for wanting custody of Charles--it certainly doesn’t appear many of them have the child’s interests at heart.” Writing in Shots, critic L.J. Hurst carries the plot line further: “Then early one morning the boy, Charles, disappears, at just about the time a stranger has been spied on the edge of the estate. Savill produces his warrant and invokes his powers on the local magistrate, but they can do little more than follow the strangers back to London. It is in London that events develop James Bond-style: breaking-and-entering, mysterious cabs driving by, doors left open to overhear what is being said, knives used, pistols fired. Or to put it another way: double-crossing, triple-crossing, returns from the dead, simpletons more trusting than they should have been.”

What Else You Should Know: A recipient in 2009 of the Crime Writers’ Association’s Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement, Andrew Taylor is also the author of the Lydmouth stories, the Roth Trilogy, and Bleeding Heart Square (2008). His novels rarely fail to impress, though they may start out slowly; give them a chance to prove their value, and you shouldn’t be disappointed. I haven’t yet read The Silent Boy, but some of the blurbs convince me that I shall relish the experience. “I enjoyed this book very much indeed,” says C.J. Sansom, the author of Dominion as well as the Matthew Shardlake historical mysteries. “I found the evocation of late 18th-century England, and the French exiles, effortlessly authentic, the hunt for Charles gripping, and the portrayal and first-person narrative of the helpless, traumatized, yet strong and resourceful little boy moving and believable. An excellent work.”
Aug 252014
 
We are rolling along on the 2014 USA Fiction Challenge

 The Next Stop
The State of Michigan

 Angel Eyes 
by Loren D. Estleman

Ann Maringer is a go-go dancer with a problem. Her life is in danger and she is certain that her end is coming very soon.


An exotic dancer by the name of Ann Maringer is in danger, she is scared and sure someone is out to get her. She turns to Amos Walker a private-eye from Detroit but then she disappears and Walker is out to find out what happened and where she is at.


Printing History
Written by Loren D. Estleman (195- )

Houghton Mifflin
September 1981
ISBN 395 31558

 Posted by at 6:57 pm

“The Hard Liquor of Crime Films”

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Aug 252014
 
In a piece for The Dissolve about Mark Fertig’s new book, The 101 Best Film Noir Posters from the 1940s-1950s, Noel Murray writes:
There’s something bracingly adult about noir. Even the best Hollywood movies from the 1940s and 1950s sometimes feel incomplete, because they’re populated by characters who never appear to feel any lust or shame. Film noir was a corrective to that lack. While still working within the limits of Hollywood’s written and unwritten production codes, noir directors like Anthony Mann, Fritz Lang, and Samuel Fuller acknowledged the shadow America where desperate men and women made bad choices. These people aren’t all that different from anybody else. They’re driven by sexual desire and greed, and they wear the stain of guilt that human beings carry with them like a birthmark--even though most have learned how to keep it concealed.

The posters for these movies are startlingly brazen. None of the artists and designers working in the studios’ advertising and promotions departments tried to hide what film noir was all about, because that would’ve defeated the purpose. The whole idea was to advertise seductive women in form-fitting dresses, rough-hewn men holding smoking guns, and underlit neighborhoods far from the local Bijou. To extend Fertig’s analogy, the best posters for noir films were, for some moviegoers, the equivalent of seeing a skull and bones on a bottle of rotgut. “
This,” the posters whispered, “is what you’re really looking for.”
Click here to see nine examples of posters that, in Murray’s opinion, are “especially evocative.”

Favorite Summer Movies: A WALK ON THE MOON

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Aug 252014
 


It is 1969 and the walk on the moon is imminent. The movie takes place at a camp for Jewish families in the mountains. Diane Lane is a lonely wife and mother who falls hard for a salesman (Mortensen). The is a different movie than ones we usually see, capturing what family camps were like in that era. Not much glamor here. This is the one that brought Lane back in 1989. She captures the desires and frustrations of a woman caught in a fairly dull marriage with not enough to do.

I. Asimov Ben Boulden from Gravetapping

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Aug 252014
 

Posted: 24 Aug 2014 07:45 AM PDT
Shortly after Isaac Asimov’s death in 1992 his memoir I. Asimov was released by Doubleday.  It is a series of essays Asimov wrote, seemingly, from the narrative and the date of its publication, on his death bed.  The book meanders—it starts at childhood, but jumps forward to his early writing career, and then back.  It is a patchwork of related postcards rather than a chronological narrative of his life, and it works very well.  

The essays run about four or five pages—sometimes longer, sometimes shorter—and cover a specific event, person, or idea.  He discusses his early life in detail; specifically, working in his parent’s Brooklyn candy store as a boy surrounded by the pulp magazines of the 1920s and 1930s, which he wasn’t allowed to read until he convinced his father the science fiction magazines were about science. 

The bulk of the book is devoted to his literary life, which, in his own estimation was his life.  In several sections of the book he wrote he would rather write than anything else.  He did not enjoy travel, and while he did enjoy the company of others, he did not tend to seek it out, and, especially in his early years, he had difficulty getting along and making friends. 

He touches on his major works—The Foundation series; specifically the original trilogy—“Nightfall,” “The Ugly Little Boy” and many others.  He freely admits he enjoyed writing nonfiction more than fiction, and in fact, he considered himself a much more accomplished writer of nonfiction.  A sentiment I tend to agree with; however I enjoyed the original Foundation trilogy immensely when I read it as a teenager.

The most interesting essays in I. Asimov are the short pieces he wrote about his experiences with other science fiction writers.  He had lifelong relationships with many writers, some of whom were part of the science fiction fan club The Futurians.  The Futurians, as Asimov describes it, was an off shoot of the Queens Science Fiction club. The split occurred because the Queens club wanted science fiction to keep itself above politics, and specifically not speak out against fascism, which was spreading across Europe at the time, and The Futurians wanted fascism denounced.   The Futurians included Frederick Pohl, who has written extensively about the club on his blog, Cyril M. Kornbluth, and Donald A. Wollheim. 

He also writes admiringly of John W. Campbell, the editor of Astounding Science Fiction (ASF), who gave Asimov his first real hope of publishing his science fiction stories and also, later, gave him the idea for his short story “Nightfall”.  The seed for the story came from a Ralph Waldo Emerson essay titled “Nature”.  

Asimov seemingly knew everyone writing science fiction in the 1940s through the 80s.  A few of the more interesting comments Asimov makes about his contemporaries follows.

H. L. Gold.  Gold was the editor of Galaxy; a top tier science fiction magazine where Asimov placed several stories.  Gold was an ill-tempered editor, who changed story narratives and titles, and replied with meanness when the authors objected.  Galaxyserialized Asimov’s novel The Stars, Like Dust and changed the title to Tyrann“Worst of all was his pernicious habit of writing insulting rejection letters.”              

Robert Heinlein.  Heinlein is considered the father of modern science fiction, and Asimov worked with him during World War II, as a civilian employee of the Naval Air Experimental Station (NAES) in Philadelphia.  Asimov wrote that he and Heinlein had an uneven friendship.  He quipped about Heinlein: 

“…although a flaming liberal during the war, Heinlein became a rock-ribbed far-right conservative immediately afterward.  This happened at just the time he changed wives from liberal woman, Leslyn, to a rock-ribbed far right conservative woman, Virginia.”

Clifford D. Simak.  In 1938 when Asimov was still a teenager he wrote a letter to ASFregarding Simak’s story “Rule 18”; he didn’t like the story much.  Simak wrote a polite letter to Asimov inquiring what he didn’t like about the story.  In response to Simak’s letter Asimov wrote:

“…I promptly reread [it]…and I found, to my intense embarrassment, that it was a very good story and that I liked it.”  

I. Asimov doesn’t have the depth and detail of an autobiography.  It has the feel of a congenial conversation, but it seemingly reveals his character, and he makes a point to highlight his flaws.  It is an appealing book written by one of science fiction’s most well-known writers, and it is more entertaining and enlightening than I would have imagined.

This review originally went live June 3, 2012; however the stories Mr Asimov tells in its pages has stuck with me over the past few years, and I have especially been thinking about it again over the last several weeks.

Aug 252014
 
Operation Hang Ten #3: Deadly Group Down Under, by Patrick Morgan No month stated, 1970  Macfadden Books Possibly one of the most overpriced men’s adventure series on the market, with some volumes listed online at vomit-inducing prices, Operation Hang Ten is also one of the more unusual, so far as series concepts go, with its hero a 23 year-old surfer who works as a spy. Yet another