dealing with mortality, the loss of longtime friends and the existential
traps everyday existence.
Why I write poetry by Tom Piccirilli
available exclusivey from crossroads press
SLEEPING CAR TO TRIESTE. General Film Distributors, UK, 1948; Eagle-Lion Films, US, 1949. Jean Kent, Albert Lieven, Derrick De Marney, Paul Dupuis, Rona Anderson, David Tomlinson, Bonar Colleano, Finlay Currie, Grégoire Aslan, Alan Wheatley, Hugh Burden, David Hutcheson, Claude Larue, Zena Marshall, Leslie Weston, Eugene Deckers. Writers: Clifford Grey (story), William Douglas-Home (writer), Allan MacKinnon (writer). Director: John Paddy Carstairs.
We watch as an important diary is abducted from a wall safe in a Paris embassy and one of the staff has the misfortune to witness the theft, with fatal results. The thief passes the book to an accomplice and then suavely rejoins the party in progress. As the plot unfurls we learn that this diary contains enough explosive information to ignite another war in Central Europe.
What our murderous book taker doesn’t count on is being double-crossed by his accomplice, who intends to sell it to the highest bidder. What our double-crossing accomplice doesn’t count on is being closely pursued by the other guy aboard the Orient Express. He has already killed once for the diary, and as we’ll see he won’t hesitate to do it again.
For a story of murder and political intrigue, this movie has a remarkably light tone. Much of the film is taken up with amusing character interaction — even the villain seems to have a human side. That, as much as the rest of the plot, makes Sleeping Car to Trieste highly watchable.
Both IMDb and Wikipedia inform us that Sleeping Car is a remake of a 1932 British film called Rome Express (in which, incidentally, Finlay Currie appeared as another character), with a somewhat different plot line and writers.
Take note of the steward who can’t keep his tunic buttoned, Eugene Deckers, a Belgian actor who appeared many times in many disguises on the 1954 Ronald Howard Sherlock Holmes series, most memorably as Harry Crocker, the disappearance expert.
Viewers might remember David Tomlinson as the father in Disney’s Mary Poppins; in Sleeping Car he’s endowed with just one brain cell more than Bertie Wooster, his unwitting interference deflecting the story in unexpected directions.
Here in the Midwest we are having a rather warm winter. Sure, we were below zero around New Years Eve, but it has been very mild over all. I am sure that our weather will return to sub-zero temps soon and when it does, I will be stocked up. And so, I will present you with the best damn lasagna recipe ever! The link is here.
Obviously, the first thing you want to do is dice your vegetables. If you have a slap chop or something similar, make it your best friend. You have a lot of stuff to chop, and you want the pieces to be small and roughly the same size.
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Cook your lasagna noodles.
Heat the olive oil in large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for a minute. Add the chopped red bell pepper and cook for another minute or so. This helps soften it up before you add the other veggies.
Add the squash, zucchini, and mushrooms, and cook for a few minutes. Pour in the wine and add salt, pepper, and seasonings to taste.
Crush the whole tomatoes with your hands or a fork, and pour the entire can into the skillet. Stir, and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste often to check the seasonings, add more if the taste dissipated when the tomatoes were added. Add chopped parsley.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, salt, pepper, and parmesan.
To assemble the lasagna, spread a small amount of the sauce on the bottom of a lasagna dish. Layer 4 noodles on top, and then spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over them. Layer the mozzarella slices over the ricotta, and then top with 1/3 of the vegetable sauce. Repeat twice more, ending with the rest of the sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan.
Cover with foil and bake at 350° for 20 minutes, and then remove the foil and cook for another 10-15. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 1o minutes before cutting and serving.
We deviated from the recipe slightly, after all, recipes are merely a suggestion. We added some mild Italian sausage and used spaghetti sauce instead of tomatoes. Put a slice of fresh baked bread on the side and it's perfect! Which is what my lunch is today and I am starving. So off I go.
Hope all you New Englanders are faring well!
ORRIE HITT – I’ll Call Every Monday. Red Lantern Books, hardcover, 1953. Avon #554, paperback reprint, 1954.
I was trying to think how I would describe Orrie Hitt’s writing style, and I went through quite a few ideas such as ‘post war spicy pulp’ or ‘hard-boiled soft-core,’ but I finally came up with the most accurate description I could think of.
Orrie Hitt wrote in paperback covers.
Read that passage above and tell me if you can’t see that cover by Avati, McGinnis, or Saber. The man wrote in paperback covers.
That’s not a knock. It’s a vivid and entertaining style with a flavor of the pulps but adapted to the post war hard-boiled paperback original industry he worked in. He isn’t a lost master, but he wrote professional readable books sometimes a bit above the average and there were actual plots between the not quite sex scenes.
It is difficult to remember how hot this was when written. Today it’s at worst frustrating. It’s the fifties juvenile kind of sex where the hero wants to see the girl naked, but he’s not quite sure what to do when she is. When anything actually does happen, you have to go back and reread the passage to be sure it did.
I’m not complaining that it is not more graphic, only pointing out that it is hard to believe you had to read this with a flashlight under the sheets or hide it in your treehouse from your parents.
This one was published by Avon. Beacon or Midwood were more often his style.
The hero of this one is Nicky Weaver, a bit of a drifter, the usual WWII veteran of popular fiction of the era.. As the novel begins he’s selling insurance in Devans a small town in upstate New York USA.
If you get the idea early that Nicky is a poor man’s Walter Neff from Double Indemnity you wouldn’t be far off; the film version anyway with that mouthful of Chandleresque wiseacre observations; first person Smart Aleck. The girl with the accordion is a sweet kid who lives where he does.
That’s Sally, the accordion girl, and another paperback cover moment. There are several of them along the way with her and others.
The chief female in question appears shortly after. She has a husband and she’s buying life insurance on herself, for now. She’s Irene Shofield, wife of Shepard Shofield:
Irene does things to Nicky:
As you might guess Shepard really needs life insurance. You see, in New York State if the wife is insured for over $1,000 the husband has to have coverage as well. That must have come as a surprise to Irene, such a thing would never occur to her. Whether that was true or not about the insurance, Hitt sells it and writes believably about what Nicky is all about, not only in his pants, but in his work. His attention to the details of the business weaving in and out around Nicky may remind you of John D. MacDonald, a lesser John D. MacDonald, but still.
The book moves well, is well plotted, and if no surprises it has no disappointments either. Hitt’s not in the class of a Ed Lacy, a Harry Whittington, or a Day Keene, and he’s a shade on the sleazy side, but he’s the king of what he did.
While Nicky struggles with his itch for the troubled close to illegal Sally and the seduction by the gorgeous Irene a colleague, Dell Waters, dies, and Dell told his wife that Nicky was a good guy who could help her, and of course she is attractive and represents the healthy side of Nicky’s libido. I can’t say she mourns very long though.
Bess and her kids are Nicky’s salvation, if Irene doesn’t drown him in desire and her plans. Irene is a shade on the sociopathic side. Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity is pure as the driven snow compared to Irene.
There are a good many complications and situations for hot breathing and some panting with Sally, Bess, and especially Irene, and Irene will show her true colors with Nicky having to make the big choice between her and murder.
There’s even a plot and several sub-plots that don’t quite get in the way of the panting, but the tame sex that seldom gets beyond a kiss, a bit of groping, loose clothing, and the temperature of the woman-in-question’s body under her clothes. “Pointed breasts” is about as graphic as it gets. This is much tamer than anything in Spillane’s work, whatever kind of hound Nicky is.
The difference is the sex is really what this and most of Hitt’s books are about. The plot is incidental to that paperback cover style of writing.
It’s a fairly standard paperback original suspense novel, Hitt a bit better as a writer than some, at least enough to be memorable. If you didn’t already know that he was a collectible writer from the era, you would likely read another one by him. This one is what John D. MacDonald might have written if he was just a paperback original writer and not John D. MacDonald. It’s what people thought Gold Medal was giving them, when they were giving them so much more in most cases.
Something is missing though, and it escapes me exactly what it is. The same plot, the same level of writing in other hands didn’t feel trashy, and this does. I’m not saying it’s bad trash, though. I enjoyed it for the hour and fifteen minutes it filled. I’m just not sure I’ll remember much of it a month from now or be able to distinguish it from another Orrie Hitt book.
There is a mystery involved here as well. Sometime later Hitt wrote a book called Ladies’ Man. That book is in the third person and features a hero named Nicky Weaver who used to sell insurance and takes a job selling advertising for a small radio station in a new town, gets involved with a woman and a bit of embezzlement, and ends up a murderer being arrested as the book ends. If he’s the same guy, he’s bi-polar at the least.
I’ll leave that one for someone else to solve, but it’s also written in paperback covers.