Jul 302014

Terror Tales 34-11John Newton Howitt studied at the Art Students League with George Bridgman and Walter Clark. A devoted landscape painter, his work was sold at fine art galleries in New York City. In 1905 he began to freelance for The New York Herald Tribune, This Week, and other publications. His later markets included Red Book, Woman’s Home Companion, Maclean’s, and Scribner’s. Following the First World War, Howitt’s work could be found in Country Gentleman, Farm Life, Liberty, and The Saturday Evening Post.

The Great Depression vastly diminished the markets to which Howitt had been selling. Needing an income, he turned to the pulps. An excellent painter, Howitt found a ready market in the rough-paper periodicals, selling freelance pulp covers to Adventure, Dime Detective, Dime Mystery, Horror Stories, Love StorySecret Service Operator #5, The Spider, Terror Tales, Top-Notch, The Whisperer, and Western Story. Although he signed his covers for the western, adventure, and romance pulps with his professional signature, his work for the hero and weird-menace pulps was signed with only his initial, “H.”

Although John Newton Howitt’s iconic cover images for Terror Tales, Horror Stories, The Spider, and Operator #5 are among the most disturbing in the history of pulp art, his painting technique is among the most dignified of all the pulp artists. On Saturday, August 9th, at 8:30 PM, please join art historian David Saunders for an exploration of “The Mystery and Mastery of John Newton Howitt” at PulpFest 2014.

Born in 1954, David Saunders is a New York artist. His work has been exhibited worldwide in museums and corporate and private collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Hirschhorn Museum of Art in Washington, DC. He has taught art at colleges nationwide, including Yale, Oberlin, R.I.S.D., S.C.A.D., Middlebury, Washington University, as well as art schools in France, Korea, Mexico and Japan.

David’s father was the legendary illustrator, Norman Saunders. His mother, Ellene Politis Saunders, worked at Fawcett Publications as Chief Executive Editor of Woman’s Day Magazine. In 1972, David became his father’s business and correspondence secretary, which started a long project to catalog his father’s 7,000 published illustrations. He spent the next seventeen years gathering published examples of his father’s work from used bookshops and submitting each new entry to his father’s inspection. What began as a sentimental hobby for a father and son grew into an impressive archive of 20th century American illustration. After his father’s death in 1989, he continued to complete the archive on his own. He interviewed his father’s surviving associates to record their oral histories. These transcripts helped to broaden his viewpoint of the popular culture publishing industry and also recorded vital information about the lives of other historic illustrators. Some of this material has been published as biographical profiles of classic illustrators in Illustration Magazine and a number of book-length biographies and appreciations of pulp artists.

David Saunders is the foremost scholar of American pulp illustrators. His free public website, Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists, has over three-hundred biographical profiles of these creators of popular culture. David continues to research, document, and promote a greater appreciation of pulp artists. To find out more, please visit pulpartists.comdavidsaunders.biznormansaunders.com, and the illustratedpress.com.

Ed Gorman's blog 2014-07-30 20:48:00

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
Jul 302014


Posted: 29 Jul 2014 04:09 PM PDT
The American western novel has a bad reputation. It is reputed to be ethnocentric, violent and, even worse, simple and inaccurate. The good guys are too good, the bad guys are too bad, and the natives are one-dimensional cutouts. The townsfolk—the common working class—are portrayed as stupid, weak, or both.

In many cases this poor reputation is deserved—there have been some really, really bad westerns introduced on television, film and fiction. There have also been some damn good westerns over the years—both past and present. To quote Theodore Sturgeon—he was defending SF, but the same rule applies to westerns—“ninety percent of everything is crap.” It is the other 10 percent that separates a viable genre from a dead one and the western is far from dead, whether we are talking about golden age stories or the novels published today.

An example of an older title—it was published by one of the more maligned houses, ACE, in 1962—that holds its own against the often valid arguments against westerns is Brian Garfield’s The Lawbringers. It is a traditional western from beginning to end. It is short, seemingly simple, and very much to the point, but it is also clever, intelligent, and subtly complex.

The Lawbringers is a biographical novel about the formation of the Arizona Rangers—a law enforcement agency created by the territorial Governor to combat the seemingly endless supply of toughs and criminals that haunted Arizona in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Its focus is directed at the chief Ranger, one Burton “Cap” Mossman, but it is told in an unexpected way. It is a multi-perspective novel that never attempts to get into the head of Mossman. Instead he is painted and defined by the characters around him—some real, others created by Garfield—as a hard, stubborn and tough man.

The novel is dedicated to Burt Mossman—“a chivalrous gentleman, a lawman, and an Arizonan.” But it is far from a one-sided novel of adoration. It tackles the man’s complexity as well as his flaws. He is depicted as a hard man doing a hard job. His decisions are made with the citizens of Arizona in mind, but with a frightening lack of color. There are no gradient shades, but rather his view is strictly black and white, and more often than not the end justified the means. He wasn’t above lynching a man to make his point, and the Mexico-Arizona border was less an end to his jurisdiction and more an artificial line to be ignored.

Mossman is a man who withstood political pressures and did what he thought best no matter the consequences. He typified the mythical western protagonist, but is portrayed by Mr Garfield as nothing more than a man—stubborn, sincere, and flawed. He had friends, enemies, and admirers, but he hid behind a wall of secrecy and loneliness. He was a man that fit into the demands of an era, but whose era passed quickly and without much fanfare.

The Lawbringers manages to does all that and also tell an exciting and tight tale. It has a peculiar heavy quality. It is packed with emotion and wonder; wonder at the basis of right and wrong. It has a conscience without being limited or judged by that conscience. It is complex and wondrous. In short, it is very much part of that 10 percent, which has allowed the western story to survive for more than a century.

This post originally went live September 1, 2009 right here at Gravetapping.
Jul 302014
• The Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival and the Deanston Distillery have jointly announced their shortlist of nominees for the third annual Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year:

-- Flesh Wounds, by Chris Brookmyre (Little, Brown)
-- Falling Fast, by Neil Broadfoot (Saraband)
-- The Amber Fury, by Natalie Haynes (Corvus)
-- Entry Island, by Peter May (Quercus)
-- A Lovely Way to Burn, by Louise Welsh (John Murray)
-- In the Rosary Garden, by Nicola White (Cargo)

The winner is scheduled to be declared on September 20 during a special Bloody Scotland event. (Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

• And recipients of the 2014 Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense competition were announced last week during the Romance Writers of America national conference in San Antonio, Texas. Click hereto see the winners in half a dozen categories.

• I respect Will Ferrell as an actor, but I think this idea is dumb: It seems he is among a group of film folk determined to revive the 1983 TV series Manimal as a big-screen picture. For those of you who don’t remember the NBC’s Manimal, Wikipedia describes it succinctly as centering on “the character Dr. Jonathan Chase (Simon MacCorkindale), a shape-shifting man who possessed the ability to turn himself into any animal he chose. He used this ability to help the police solve crimes.” Flavorwire is not wrong when it includes Manimal--along with Cop Rock and My Mother the Car--in its new list of “The Most Ridiculous TV Show Concepts in Pop Culture.”

• British author Martin Edwards, who writes quite often about classic crime fiction, has posted a rundown of his 10 favorite Golden Age mysteries. It includes Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Dorothy L. Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise, John Dickson Carr’s The Crooked Hinge, and several books I have not yet read. I guess I have my reading work cut out for me--as usual.

• Meanwhile, Jeffrey Marks names his five favorite Agatha Christie novels. No shock: He also mentions And Then There Were None.

This is the first trailer I’ve seen for Pierce Brosnan’s new film, The November Man, based on the late Bill Granger’s 1987 novel, There Are No Spies. I really enjoyed Brosnan’s James Bond films, and The November Man returns him to that dimly illuminated world of espionage. It also features the lovely Olga Kurylenko, who starred in the 22nd Bond flick, Quantum of Solace.

• Here’s a headline I thought I would never witness in the 21st century: “Typewriter Manufacturers See Boom in Sales.” It seems the U.S. National Security Service (NSA) is to blame.

• I used to love TV movies-of-the-week, which showcased familiar small-screen actors and actresses in unfamiliar roles and often served as pilots for prospective new series. Nowadays, it seems the Big Three American networks have given up on such expensive projects, leaving them to cable-TV networks. Just as in the old days, some of these teleflicks deserve accolades, while others--including these “35 Campiest TV Movies Ever Made”--are best forgotten.

• Max Allan Collins has wrapped up a week’s worth of posts from Comic-Con International in San Diego--an event during which he won a 2014 Scribe Award for Best Short Story. You’ll find Collins’ Comic-Con coverage in five parts: here, here, here, here, and here.

• Happy 12th birthday to Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine. As Crider explains, “[the blog has] been a good distraction for me over the years, so I’ll keep it going for a while longer. So far there have been 41,725 posts prior to this one. That’s kind of scary. Maybe I should just get a life.” The Rap Sheet celebrated its eighth anniversary in May. If I can keep it going as long as Crider has been writing his blog, I might impress even myself.

• In case you didn’t notice, I spent the last two weeks posting summer-related (and occasionally lascivious) paperback fronts in my other blog, Killer Covers. Enjoy the whole set here.

This is one hell of a Raymond Chandler book collection!.

• Can you ever have too many books? Yes, insists Rachel Kramer Bussel in an essay for The Toast that begins: “Nothing brought this home for me like watching paid professionals cart away hundreds of books--read and unread, purchased lovingly or attained at book parties or conferences--when I hired a trash removal service last year upon moving from my two-bedroom apartment after 13 years. The most heartbreaking part was seeing anthologies I’d edited, with my name right there on the cover, being swept away into giant garbage cans. This was reinforced when I moved again this year, and was told by the movers, multiple times, that my boxes of books, rather than furniture like a bed and a couch, was what was weighing down their truck.”

• B.V. Lawson’s In Reference to Murder provides this tidbit: “Angus Macfadyen (Turn) will star in The Pinkertons, a 22-episode series based on the real-life cases of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, which premieres in first-run syndication in the U.S. this fall.”

• Mary Kubica, author of the suspenseful new novel The Good Girl (Mira), talks with BOLO Books’ Kristopher Zgorski, who says she “seem[s] poised to be a bit of an overnight success.”

Casablanca--“Hollywood’s greatest film”?

• And I’m sorry to hear that American actor James Shigeta has passed away at age 85. As the blog A Shroud of Thoughts recalls, “In the Seventies Mr. Shigeta appeared on such TV shows as Emergency!, Kung Fu, Matt Helm, Ellery Queen, S.W.A.T., The Streets of San Francisco, Little House on the Prairie, Police Woman, The Rockford Files, and Fantasy Island.” Shrouds’ Terence Towles Canote adds that “With the looks of a matinee idol and considerable talent as both an actor and a singer, James Shigeta might well have been a major star had he been born in a later era. Unfortunately, in the Sixties and Seventies roles for Japanese Americans were even rarer than they are now. Regardless, Mr. Shigeta had a very impressive career.”
Jul 302014
The Reading Room: How does it feel to have the novel back out in the public eye (with a striking new cover!) for a generation of readers who perhaps missed it the first time?
James Sallis: Well, considering that almost everyone seems to have missed it the first time, it feels great. Tremendous. The book’s had a tiny group of ardent fans over the years, was even optioned for some time, but it more or less remained among the good dishes you don’t bring out often.
RR: Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a particular routine – things that you prefer to have in place – or is it more of a free for all? And has it changed over the years?
Sallis: The thing I have “to have in place” is butt in chair, and that’s definitely become more difficult over the years. No more three- and four-hour writing jags; I can’t sit for more than forty minutes or so before I’m up, wandering about the house, reaching for a mandolin or guitar. There’s a lot more wandering about in the story itself, too: rummaging, poking it with sticks, seeing what comes to the top.
RR: What needs to happen on page one of a novel to make for a successful book that urges you to read on?
Sallis: The writer must lean close to me and whisper “I have something important to tell you.”
Jul 302014

“Why shouldn’t we be able to do as well as any Hollywood hack?”

“Because what the producers want is an original but familiar, unusual but popular, moralistic but sexy, true but improbable, tender but violent, slick but highbrow masterpiece. When they have that, then they can ‘work on it’ and make it ‘commercial,’ to justify their high salaries.”

- A 1945 conversation between Bertolt Brecht and Salka Viertel, recounted in Viertel’s 1969 memoir The Kindness of Strangers

 Posted by at 5:55 pm
Jul 302014

Lynne Patrick

They call it the silly season. In newspapers, it’s traditionally a time when small human-interest stories get a look in while politics and major crime take a rest.

Between Gaza, Ukraine and Iraq, it doesn’t seem to be working in the wider world this year, but for me it’s been another of those weeks when nothing worth posting about has happened.

Fortunately a book I’ve just finished set some thought-wheels spinning. About names.

In one of my several lives, I used to run writers’ workshops on the craft of fiction, and a question which often came up was, how do you choose names for your characters?

Where do names come from?

I didn’t have a definitive answer. For myself, I always found – find – that characters choose their own names. Or more specifically, they arrive in the story with names already in place. Clearly that isn’t the case for everyone who embarks on the perilous adventure of writing fiction, or the question would never be posed. So when it was, a lively discussion usually ensued.

Here are a few of the points which emerged, not necessarily all in one discussion, but over the years. If you don’t mind, we’ll leave aside the more fanciful inventions who seem to populate the mysterious world of the romance writer; let’s stick to the more mundane.

Names resonate with their time. There are fashions and trends which last a few years then fade away, which lets a writer suggest a character’s approximate age through a name which was in vogue at the time s/he was born. My schoolmates back in the dark ages were called Christine, Pamela, Elaine and Valerie, or Martin, Graham, Alan and Christopher. My daughter’s were Lisa, Emma, Rachel, Jason, Jonathan and Ben. Any guesstimates as to the decade in each case?

Sometimes little girls are named for the current pop princess or TV heroine, little boys for a football star. It became a running joke here in the UK that in about 1990 you could stand at the school gate at home time and call Kylie! or Ryan! and a dozen kids would look round.

But what goes around comes around, and sometimes names come around again. Back in the 1950s there were numerous old ladies called Sarah and Emily. Twenty years later they were favourite names for new babies. And Lily, Ruby and Maisie have recently made a reappearance.

All this is helpful if your character is pregnant; less so if she’s a high-powered 40-something lawyer. In that case she might be Claire or Lisa. Ain’t Google wonderful?

A friend once told me she’d given her children names which would stand the test of time. She called them Elizabeth, Richard and Stephen. Did her strategy work? From this distance – the kids are now in their 30s – I’m not sure it worked. Timelessness is a useful quality in a fictional name, but does it exist any more? I used to think Catherine, Laura and Anna were pretty timeless for girls, as were Andrew, Michael and James for boys, but now I’m less certain.

This all applies primarily to my own homeland. I’ve found that across the water people can be called all kinds of unlikely things; I’ve encountered Skip and Brick, Lane as male and female, and that’s just the less unlikely ones. But mostly I suppose more conventional names are in use. I have good friends called Jenni and Ted. And Josh, Jeff, Jessy, Erin, Marilyn, Ben. And now Terri.

All the above can be made use of if characters resolutely refuse to name themselves and expect the author to do the job for them. But then there’s crime fiction, which throws up a whole new set of criteria. What do you call a murderer? Is there such a thing as a victim’s name? And does a cop or sleuth need a name that will stay in the reader’s mind, in case the debut turns into a long-running series? In fact, does the genre affect the choice of names in any way (other than romance, which seems to make its own rules on this)? Feel free to offer answers, my friends!

OK, enough of this airy persiflage. Maybe next week something will happen.

Jul 302014
In the days following the Civil War, Clint Gordon returns to his home in a devastated Texas to find himself facing another war, this time against rustlers, renegades, and hired guns. Clint isn't going to give up, though, even if his fight leads him to a deadly showdown on a mountain of bones!  A SKINNING WAR is a brand-new 5000 word Western short story from acclaimed Texas author David Hardy.

Sad State of Affairs

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
Jul 302014

Clive and I are working furiously on the next Fargo novel, the as yet untitled tome that is the continuation of the series I co-authored the last installment of, which releases Sept. 2, titled The Eye Of Heaven.

So if you haven’t seen much of me, that’s why.

Either that, or I’ve been incarcerated by the Mexican authorities again for deviant behavior. Kidding. Here, I think they throw you a parade and make you mayor, they don’t jail you.

Which brings up an interesting point that was raised the other day by a buddy who was bemoaning how hard it is to use cash in the U.S. any more.

I’m not surprised. Even though I’ve been living abroad for over a decade, I saw it coming way before 9-11. Back then, of course, it wasn’t a war on terror that was the reasoning for criminalizing the use of cash, it was the war on drugs. But even if the playbook has changed, the net result has remained the same: the government wants to be able to track every dime you spend, and it can’t do that with cash, only electronic purchases. It also can’t control you as easily if you can put your net worth into a briefcase and walk across a border, but it’s got all the options if it only needs to shut off your access to bank accounts with the flick of a switch.

I’m reminded of that movie, Enemy of the State. George Orwell saw this developing many years ago. Now, if you read 1984, it reads like a sober description of the current state of affairs in the U.S. and many first world countries in Europe, whose privately-owned central banks are dictating terms to those governments. The message is simple: You must be able to control your population with the implicit threat of imprisonment for any and all reasons, including de facto imprisonment within your borders via currency controls and locking up your citizenry’s assets.

I write conspiracy theory-based novels. But what makes them provocative, at least for me, is how closely they track reality.

Most don’t know that the IRS was created in the same bill that created the Federal Reserve (you know, the privately owned central bank that had to be called something that sounded governmental so the average Joe would think it was part of the government), back in 1913. The reasoning was simple. The banks intended to siphon off most of the nation’s net worth over generations by printing money and taking a cut, but there was a problem – they needed a mechanism to pull all that money back out of circulation so they didn’t create runaway inflation, merely controllable inflation, which is another way of saying debasing the value of the currency (its buying power) at a controlled rate every year, the loss effectively being their profit via their banking Ponzi scheme.

So suddenly a tax on personal income was introduced, and bam, there was the mechanism to suck the money that had been created back. It had zero to do with paying one’s fair share, and everything to do with a rinse and repeat mechanism. Most also don’t know that 100% of the government’s obligations were met each year from corporate and import/export tax, so there was no requirement for a new tax base. It was purely to create that print money, suck it out cycle, which is why the same bill, written by a relative of one of the bankers behind the bill and passed in a special session of Congress over the Christmas break when only his cronies would be in town to vote on it, created the IRS. You learn something new every day. Go read about it. Check out The Creature From Jekyll Island – a non-fiction tome that details the entire nefarious scheme (and which was denied for generations by the Fed and the government – until the internet made it impossible to hide the ownership anymore).

The problem becomes that all systems that abuse their populations encourage the smarter ones to bail out of it at some point. To take their marbles and go elsewhere. That has to be stopped, especially as the state requires the productive to support the unproductive at an ever increasing level.

This is all about control. About a federal apparatus that doesn’t work for you, but rather for the enrichment of its backers and the power of its politicians, who require ever increasing say over every aspect of your life. If it can track every purchase you make, if the implicit threat of being able to cut you off at the knees and seize everything is always waiting in the wings, then it owns your ass, and it can do whatever it wants in spite of your feeble protests.

Bluntly, when your government becomes a master to be feared rather than a servant to be distrusted, you’ve lost.

That’s the sad state of affairs. And no, this isn’t anti-American. The same situation is in place in the Euro zone for the exact same reasons. It’s the same banks, after all. Bank of England’s been privately owned for centuries – back in the 1800′s, it essentially seized all the government’s assets when the UK government couldn’t pay its debts to the privately owned bank, and has been using it as its bitch ever since. Ditto for every other European economy – even the central bank of the central banks, The Bank For International Settlement, is privately owned.

The classic generational land grab by the banks is usually war. They finance both sides, reap the profits as countries are destroyed, and repeat again after everything’s rebuilt using money borrowed from them. Nowadays, though, except for limited wars without end like Afghanistan, that’s not feasible, so the new technique is to encourage reckless spending by government using debt, and then grabbing all their assets when they need yet more money – it’s what they’ve been doing to Greece, Spain, Portugal, and so on. Works every time. Before, they had to get them to go to war. Now, just hand them a credit card for a few years. Same net effect.

The antidote to free exchange of information is to scare the crap out of the citizenry so it doesn’t dare protest, and flinches like a whipped pup whenever it’s threatened.

Welcome to the 21st century.