This week’s guest guest blogger is James Grady, who shares a few thoughts on paranoia. Just reading his stylized commentary has us peering over our shoulder . . .
You feel it. Paranoia.
They’ve got your number. It’s personal. You’re reading this. Looked at that. Took a chance, did something, or hell: they just think you did. You stood up for yourself. Stood out. You’re in their way: your boss who knows you know what really happened, your lover who wants you gone. Footsteps behind you. You’re in the shower.
You’re just a number. It’s not personal. It’s “just.” Like in justice. Or not. You’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. A crazed Mommy in the grocery store grabs a cleaver. You’re part of the Matrix. Visiting a friend in the World Trade Towers. Ebola. Dr. Strangelove smiles. It’s not a movie witch that’s melting.
Life is out to kill you. All you want is to be left alone.
That’s the beating heart of paranoia: you’re all alone.
That’s true. You were born, nobody really knows you, you die and that is you, just you.
That’s false. It’s not just you. We all live, we all die.
Paranoia determines how we live and die.
McLuhan and the mushroom cloud moved us all into a global village, but our global compound fosters warring tribes. Yesterday it felt easier to know who “us” was. And to trust us: yeah, Big Brother, but of thee I sing.
Trust is the shimmer between prudence and paranoia. You wear your seatbelt yet strap yourself in a crushable metal box.
So how can you find the line between just being smart and being just scared?
“Facts” are not enough. “Facts” are who furnishes them. J. Edgar Hoover. Osama bin Laden. Fox News vs. MSNBC. The candidate who wants power. The housewife in the TV commercial. The guy who says: “Everybody knows….”
What helps you see the line between prudence and paranoia is fiction.
Fiction reveals possibilities. Fiction is our safe mirror. Fiction—in lines of prose or poetry, in the lyrics of a song, through the actors on stage or screen—is not “real.” Or so we can believe. And that belief lets us see the universal reality of a character “just like me…that happened to me.” Or “I wish that were me…if that were me….” Fiction glides us into what could be, gives us a world where we learn archetypes of who & what to trust without penalty, without pain. The what could be we experience with fiction helps us see the shimmer between factual forces and fantasy fears in our world of flesh and blood.
The “truth” may set you free, but the “lies” of fiction may be your best chance to escape paranoia, to perceive who and what to trust so you can best use our life’s terrifying freedom.
Author James Grady won France’s Grand Prix du Roman Noir, Italy’s Raymond Chandler medal, and numerous American literary awards. A former investigative reporter, he lives inside D.C.’s Beltway and in February, will publish Last Days Of The Condor, a sequel to his Robert Redford adapted novel.
Loved the TV show and was so excited when I heard a movie was being made-I was a bit worried about the casting (Fiennes and Uma) and the movie turned how to be a real dud. I think a great movie can be made from this source material--but this script, this cast, and this director were the wrong choices. Try again, Hollywood. You can get the sixties vibe if you try harder.
What movie do you think had the potential to be great and wasn't.
CHEYENNE. Warner Brothers, 1947. Dennis Morgan, Jane Wyman, Janis Paige, Bruce Bennett, Alan Hale, Arthur Kennedy, John Ridgely, Barton MacLane, Tom Tyle, Bob Steele. Screenwrters: Alan LeMay & Thames Williamson, based on the story “The Wyoming Kid” by Paul I. Wellman. Director: Raoul Walsh.
Cheyenne is a movie with an identity crisis. It’s a Western, but also a mystery. It’s a comedy, but it feels like a would-be musical, especially given the fact that the score by Max Steiner occasionally overwhelms the dialogue and the plot. There are some gritty fight sequences, but also ridiculously light, borderline risqué, romantic moments.
And with a screenplay by Western writer Alan LeMay and direction by Warner Brothers’ go-to guy for action films, Raoul Walsh, you might think you’re in for a psychological Western. But you’d be wrong. Cheyenne is much more typical of a late 1940s Western, one that doesn’t push the envelope very far.
In that sense, the casting of Dennis Morgan and Jane Wyman, talented actors both, as the leads was a perfectly good decision. Plus what’s not to like about Alan Hale as Fred Durkin, a goofy, yellow Wyoming lawman?
Morgan portrays James Wylie, a gentleman gambler and a cheat. After getting himself into a pickle in Laramie, he’s faced with a choice. Either work for the law or be sent back to Nevada to face justice for some past misdeed. Wylie’s a smart man and quite debonair. He chooses to work for the law, an easy choice. His mission: seek out a mysterious bandit named The Poet who is stealing from the Wells Fargo Stage Line.
Wylie heads from Laramie to Cheyenne, encountering a group of bandits led by a man named Sundance (Arthur Kennedy) along the way. He also makes the acquaintance of a lovely young woman, Ann Kincaid (Wyman) who engages him in a bit of push and pull deception and flirtation.
Theirs is a Western battle of the sexes, one that would be pulled off with much better effect by John Wayne and Angie Dickinson in Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959). There’s just not that much visible chemistry between these two leads. Morgan just isn’t gritty enough for a Western hero.
Cheyenne does have some mystery, but not all that much. There’s quite a bit of mistaken identities and assumed identities, lies big and small. It doesn’t take all that long, however, to figure out that Wells Fargo employee, Ed Landers (Bruce Bennett) is up to no good or that saloon girl, Emily Carson (Janis Paige) is going to play an important role in the film.
Altogether, it’s a pleasant enough affair. Someone should just have turned down the musical fanfare a bit.
by Marv Lachman
Though he died in 1956 and wrote only one true mystery novel, A. A. Milne is a writer who keeps cropping up. As parents we likely have read his Winnie-the-Pooh stories to our children. As mystery fans we probably have read his classic novel, The Red House Mystery, and Raymond Chandler’s devastating criticism of it in “The Simple Art of Murder.”
Milne wrote other works that fall into our genre, including his very first sale as a free-lance writer, a delightful little Holmesian parody, “The Rape of the Sherlock” (1903). He also wrote several plays with mystery elements, including one, The Perfect Alibi (1928), which is clearly a forerunner of Sleuth, Witness for the Prosecution, and Death Trap.
Though it is long out of print, Milne’s Autobiography (1939) is worth searching for in your local library. It’s a delightfully witty picture of someone growing up in Victorian England. At one point Milne remarks that “Very few Victorians were on Christian name terms with each other; Holmes, after twenty years of intimacy, was still calling his colleague Watson.”
Finishing a chapter on how he writes, Milne provides some clever, though helpful, advice to those of us with authorial ambitions:
This little fella (we haven't settled on the color yet, thus the multiple hues - though I'm leaning toward the green) is an interstellar critter known as a "globlin." They cling to spaceships and get stuck in the jets. This particular specimen's name is "Kooba.," because of his affinity for a certain 22nd Century soft drink brand.
More - much more - to come.