We’ve got an eBook edition of The Complete Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe!
- Marcia Clark, author of the Rachel Knight series, is answering questions right now on Goodreads!
I mentioned in my news wrap-up of September 17 that this month marks the 50th anniversary of the worldwide release of Goldfinger, the third of Sean Connery’s James Bond films. Adapted from Ian Fleming’s 1959 novel of the same name, Goldfinger turned Agent 007 from a diverting big-screen curiosity into a box-office phenomenon. “Of all the Bonds,” wrote Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert in 1999, “Goldfinger is the best, and can stand as a surrogate for the others. If it is not a great film, it is a great entertainment, and contains all the elements of the Bond formula that would work again and again.”
In my brand-new column for Kirkus Reviews, I look back at the release of that movie, but more importantly, at the book on which it was based. As I write in the article,
Goldfinger, with its wildly implausible plot so dependent on coincidences, doesn’t always rank among readers’ favorites from the Bond canon; Moonraker (1955), From Russia With Love (1957), Casino Royale (1953) and Thunderball (1961) typically score higher. Yet this 1959 thriller is a splendid companion to the Connery picture, offering a great deal of interesting background to the action taking place on-screen. We’re also given a deeper understanding, in the book, of Auric Goldfinger and the adversarial relationship with 007 than the film, for all its strengths, portrayed.Click here to read my whole Kirkus piece.
READ MORE: “Goldfinger: When James Bond Movies Truly Became JAMES BOND Movies,” by Terence Towles Canote (A Shroud of Thoughts); “Goldfinger’s 50th Anniversary: The Golden Touch,” by Bill Koenig (The HMSS Weblog); “11 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About James Bond,” by Charlie Jane Anders and Amanda Yesilbas (io9); “The Big (James Bond) Quiz,” by Rick29 (Classic Film and TV Café); “22 Ridiculously Amazing 007 Posters for James Bond Films,” by Mike Flacy (The Checkout).
I didn’t read a lot when I was a little kid.
Scratch that—I didn’t read a lot of books. I read comics, that was what I did. I’ve mentioned in other posts how much comic books shaped my life, even as an adult, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned that comics actually taught me how to read. My mom took full advantage of my bizarre obsession with dudes in tights and capes running around beating up bad guys by making sure I never ran out of comics to read (they were super-cheap in those days). And so, through them, I learned about story structure, conflict, character development (as miniscule as it was) and all those other things that go toward making a story work.
At about ten years old, I began casting around for other heroic tales to put myself into, and that’s when actual books started playing a role. We started studying Greek mythology in school, and I fell in love, devouring Bulfinch and Edith Hamilton. I discovered the exciting and bloody tales of King Arthur via Mallory (no, I didn’t read Le Mort D’Arthur at ten years old, but rather an illustrated children’s version). Basically, these were like super-hero stories, except that the teacher didn’t seem to judge them as harshly. Perfect.
But my first actual adult reading occurred pretty much by accident: stumbling across this short story collection hidden away in the basement, something my mom had apparently forgotten. It was called HAUNTINGS. It had this gorgeously creepy cover by Edward Gorey, and stories by Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, John Collier, and a bunch of others as well. The cover sparked my morbid little imagination, and I sat there in that dark basement and read three or four in a row and everything—I mean, everything—changed for me. It would never be the same again.
Heroics fell by the wayside for a while then, to be replaced by an overwhelming need to have the shit scared out of me.
Through my teens and even well into my twenties I was a horror nut, reading every horror novel I could find and becoming quite the little expert on the genre. I especially fell in love with Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, and Manly Wade Wellman's John the Balladeer stories. This all coincided with the so-called “horror boom” of the eighties, so it worked out pretty well.
Not to say that I never read anything but scary shit. There were books we read in school that I actually quite liked. The usual stuff, you know: Lord of the Flies (which is still one of my favorites), Huckleberry Finn, Call of the Wild.
I also got hold of some old Doc Savage re-prints then, great heroic stuff if not exactly brilliantly written. The Shadow followed (to a lesser extent), and Robert E. Howard’s stories about Conan and Solomon Kane.
At fifteen or so, on a whim, I read a couple Mack Bolan Executioner books, by Don Pendleton, and absolutely lost my shit. Ultra-violent, non-stop action. The perfect thing for removing an awkward young man from a world he had no control over and giving him some "realistic" heroic fantasy to cling to. At that time in my life, I needed the well-crafted escapism that the Executioner books provided, and within two months I’d read every single book in the series up ‘til then (which was somewhere around fifty, I think).
Anyway… the finest (and occasionally trashiest) of horror, along with the bloody campaigns of Mack Bolan, sustained me throughout my teenage years. There was other stuff, granted, but that was what made up the bulk of my reading then.
It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that my reading habits took a monumental turn and opened right up. Books and writers that I still read now, and that had an enormous influence on my own writing.
I read Hammett, then, and Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain.
But it really started with Pop. 1280, by Jim Thompson.
The Black Lizard re-prints of classic paperback original stuff from the 50's were just coming out then, and I can't really over-state what an impact they had on me. I've talked elsewhere about how Pop. 1280 changed things for me, and on the heels of that one I discovered Charles Willeford, Peter Rabe, Dan J. Marlowe, Day Keene, etc.
I started seeking out similar writers, stumbled across John D. MacDonald, Chester Himes, Patricia Highsmith.
If I had to boil it down, the "noir" writers had the biggest impact of all. I still loved other genres (and still do), but those paperback original writers who slaved away in relative obscurity made a permanent mark on me like no one else.
In my early 30's I started developing a taste for Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and William Faulkner, and discovered that, tonally, they read very much like the noir writers.
For a while, I flirted with a lot of modern speculative fiction, and was particularly blown away by James Morrow, Tim Powers, and George Saunders (who, honestly, is some kind of genius).
All of this varied reading wound up informing the story and structure of my first novel, THE BASTARD HAND, which, for good or ill, defies categorization.
Lately, I've been reading a lot of Westerns. One more genre thrown in the mix, right?
The thrill of discovering new writers and new kinds of stories never gets old. With any luck, it will never stop happening.
We’ve got an eBook edition of Jack Boyle’s Boston Blackie, a collection of stories featuring the eponymous jewel thief.
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.