Time for Some Fun

 Erin Mitchell  Comments Off
Aug 292014

by Erin Mitchell

I was going to write a Very Serious Post this week about LinkedIn. But you know what? It’s my last post of August—so the last of unofficial summer—and most of you have already started your holiday weekend, so instead, I wanted to share some silly fun.

Not long ago, Facebook introduced “Trending Topics.” They added a heading called Trending on the right side of their home screen, under which stories about “popular topics or hashtags” are listed.

If they illustrate what the billion-plus people on Facebook are actually interested in, they’re pretty depressing.

To combat the sighing and eye-rolling in which I’m compelled to engage when I glance at the little Trending box, I started combining the stories—there are three displayed at a time—in my mind. And I found it hilarious. So I started sharing them. So here they are…

There’s a Snickers commercial about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt getting married because a senator was called fat by a male colleague.

Shakira is pregnant with Hello Kitty because a senator was called fat by a colleague!

Now Shakira is pregnant by Joan Rivers with Hello Kitty!

Michael Vick lied about saving drowning Shakira!

Joan Rivers is resting comfortably because Longmire was cancelled while Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie got married.

The UK terror threat has been raised because Netflix bought The Blacklist while a WWE legend is in intensive care with double pneumonia.

An attack in the UK is highly likely because Chelsea Clinton has quit CNN to join Tony Stewart at NASCAR!

I warned you they were silly.

And now, I wish all you Americans a lovely holiday weekend. If you’re drinking, please give your car keys to someone who isn’t.

Thank you.

Aug 292014
I was a bit surprised, but pleased, to find that The Boston Globe’s just-published remembrance of 66-year-old author Jeremiah Healy--who took his own life on August 14--includes several quotes he gave me during an interview I conducted with him more than a decade ago for January Magazine:
John Francis Cuddy, the Hub-based hero of his 13-book mystery series, “is a man who keeps his promises, but isn’t afraid to use violence to do so,” Mr. Healy said in an April 2000 interview with January magazine. He added, however, that “the reason why I’ve been blessed with so many female readers is that Cuddy isn’t sexist. He’s also honorable in his dealings with the women in the books.”
The piece, by Globe staffer Bryan Marquard, goes on to say that “Within the community of crime writers, Mr. Healy was as loved for the time he invested as a mentor to aspiring writers as he was respected for his 18 novels and dozens of short stories.” It adds, “As a teacher [at the New England School of Law], he modeled himself after Charles Kingsfield, the Harvard Law professor portrayed by John Houseman in the film ‘The Paper Chase.’ Mr. Healy addressed students formally, by honorific and last name, and insisted they stand while answering questions.” And Marquard explains that
In a blunt, informative essay posted on his website, Mr. Healy wrote about being treated for prostate cancer a decade ago and apparently planned to write about depression, too. A week ago, [his fiancée, fellow author Sandra] Balzo was going through papers on his desk and discovered a note on a legal pad: “JH memoir on depression: Can’t see the sun even in June. A lifetime of fighting--and beating--depression.”

“Sadly, Jerry didn’t beat it,” she said by e-mail Sunday evening. “But he sure as hell did fight it.”
Click here to read the Globe’s entire report.

Headlines that shouldn’t be true but aree

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Aug 292014
Florida pastor lashes out at atheists because he wants school prayer
‘like the Constitution says’

Teacher reprimanded for tweeting desire to stab students...

Georgia cop accused of killing woman he met online, then burning her

Bounty hunter attacks woman with Taser as her family arrives home from

Police chief defends cop in video threatening to ‘put a round in your
ass’ during traffic stop

Stephen Colbert rips Fox News for blaming media for Ferguson violence

Detroit Girl Finds Rifle, Fatally Shoots 4-Year-Old Boy

Georgia student’s family disowns and assaults him in nightmarish gay
‘intervention’ video

COPS: Teacher receives cocaine delivery at school...

Woman Discovers Her Cat Is Cheating On Her

Florida mailman calls cops on meth cooks fending off imaginary invaders
with real guns, toilet

Stephen Colbert mocks GOP for believing ISIS can be defeated with the
power of make-believe

Police altered video showing what happened before cops shot WV man 23
times: lawsuit

Notorious Serial Arsonist Is 11-Year-Old: Fire Chief

Neighbor Hellbent On Shutting Down Kid's 'Illegal' Lemonade Stand

Aug 292014

In their roundup of the summer’s best fiction, The Daily Express says of THE BURGLAR WHO COUNTED THE SPOONS:

You cannot fail to be entertained by the latest Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery which follows the New York-based bookshop owner as he helps the police to track down the killer of a rich widow. So assured is the writing, with plenty of wisecracks and literary in-jokes, you almost forget Bernie is trying to solve a crime. Block at his very best.

Click here to read the article


“Longmire” Cut Short

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Aug 292014
This news comes as something of a surprise:
Longmire, A&E Network’s most-watched original drama series of all time, will be ending its run on the cable network after three seasons. In a surprising move, the network has opted not to renew the series for a fourth season. I hear Warner Horizon, the studio behind Longmire, will be shopping it immediately. “We would like to thank the phenomenal cast, crew and producers of Longmire, along with our partners at Warner Horizon, for their tireless work on three seasons of quality dramatic storytelling,” A&E said in a statement. “We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved together.”
That Deadline Hollywood report, by Nellie Andreeva, notes Longmire’s viewer numbers declined somewhat during its recently concluded third season, but observes that fans of the show are unlikely to take this cancellation casually. “Especially since they are being left hanging by the recent Season 3 finale, which ended with a cliffhanger, the sound of a fired shotgun.” You can read the whole piece here.

I hope some other network does pick up Longmire, which Andreeva says “logged A&E’s largest viewership for any series this year behind only flagship Duck Dynasty.” Although I am still two or three episodes short of having watched all of Season 3, Longmire--starring Robert Taylor, Katee Sackhoff, and Lou Diamond Phillips, and based on Craig Johnson’s best-selling mystery series--has certainly proved itself to be among the boob-tube’s more interesting, least predictable crime dramas of recent years. It deserves a longer run.

(Hat tip to Crimespree Magazine.)
Aug 292014
From the Shameless Self-Promotion Department:

Revived and Reissued! Brand Spanking New! Eye-catching Design!

It's the latest reprint of a (somewhat) forgotten pulp classic from Raven's Head Press. Bury Me Deep (1947) by Harold Q Masur was the first of eleven fast paced, semi hard-boiled, detective novels featuring the hip and with it Manhattan lawyer Scott Jordan. Taking his cue from Raymond Chandler who he admits was his inspiration to write for the pulp magazines Masur pens a tale of avarice, manipulation, duplicity and murder. A new trade paperback edition was released a few weeks ago and is now available for purchase from amazon.com or by visiting Raven's Head Press. Our new cover design by artist Doug Klauba is a nod to the original 1st paperback edition (see below) published by Pocket Books back in 1948. Verna Ford, the blond in her underwear, has served as the inspiration for two previous paperback covers. Why not? Scantily clad women -- whether lounging and drinking from a brandy snifter or being threatened and menaced by dark men with guns -- have been the iconic imagery for pulp magazines and paperbacks since the 1920s.

It opens with Jordan discovering Verna in her lingerie helping herself to expensive brandy in the appropriate snifter. She's been waiting for someone in Jordan's apartment but it cant' possibly be him. He was away in Miami and cut his trip short to come home. No one was expecting him. Verna tries to put the moves on Jordan but he won't have any of it. Then she downs her brandy and immediately passes out. Jordan foolishly takes her to a cab, bribes the driver to babysit her until she comes to, and asks him to let her off at her home. But the driver soon discovers Verna is not dead drunk, just dead. The lawyer is immediately suspected of doing her in and trying to dispose of the body. So he decides to find out who she is, why she was in his apartment and who poisoned her brandy. The case becomes a lot more complicated when it turns out Verna was involved in a legal battle involving a will that leaves millions of dollars to the proper surviving relative of a husband and wife who died in a car crash. Lots of down and dirty action that turns pretty nasty. Villainy and double crossing galore! It's a corker, gang.

GIVEAWAY TIME! A full review of the book will appear tomorrow, but I wanted to take the time to help promote the Raven's Head Press release of this new editions. As usual I'm giving away three copies of Bury Me Deep. Don't all raise your hands at once. (First of all I can't see you. This is the internet, you know) Sorry, but this giveaway is confined to USA and Canada. If you'd like to be considered simply leave a comment below. Three names will be selected by a highly irrational process involving a blindfold and a dart board. OK, not really. Winners be selected at random, etc, etc. You know the drill. I'll announce the winners probably next Friday to allow for Labor Day revelers who may be drinking and BBQ-ing and whooping it up away from their computers to catch up on their blog reading.

If you like the good old pulp style action of fist fights in a barroom, slinky dames pawing the detective hero, no good skunks and slimy gangster types, sleazy dives and smoke filled saloons then the Scott Jordan books are right up your alley. I was genuinely surprised that I found Bury Me Deep one of the best of the Chandler imitators. Plus it's set in New York! How can you beat murder and deceit and treachery in late 1940s Manhattan? Harold Q. Masur was quite the interesting guy, too. Read this fascinating interview he gave Gary Lovisi back in 1992 when Masur was 83. Among many intriguing anecdotes he talks about how Bury Me Deep came to be written, his inspiration in Chandler, and how he walked into Simon and Schuster's offices with the manuscript in hand daring them to publish it. What chutzpah! He was also one very involved with the Mystery of Writers of America serving a stint as president in the 70s and as their legal counsel throughout his lifetime.

 Posted by at 3:32 pm

Fred Blosser reviews Spaghetti Westerns

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Aug 292014

The Fourth Sergio

Sergio Leone pioneered the Spaghetti Western.  Sergio Corbucci and Sergio Sollima made significant contributions to the genre in Leone’s footsteps.  When fans think of Spaghettis, those are the three Sergios who usually spring to mind.  But there was also a fourth Sergio in the Italian West  – Sergio Martino – who directed two interesting entries on his way to bigger fame in other Italian B-movie genres in the late ‘70s and the 1980s with “Slaves of the Cannibal God” and “2019: After the Fall of New York.”

Nominally, “Arizona Colt Returns” (1970) was a sequel to an earlier Spaghetti, Michele Lupo’s “Arizona Colt” from 1966, also known as “The Man from Nowhere.”  Both movies were written by prolific screen scribe Ernesto Gastaldi, and both feature character actor Roberto Camardiel as comedic sidekick Double Whisky, but different actors star in the title role – Giuliano Gemma in the original, and Anthony Steffen in the sequel.  Steffen does a pretty fair imitation of Clint Eastwood’s flinty stare under the lowered brim of his hat.

Bandit Keene (Aldo Sambrell) kidnaps Paloma (the sultry Rosalba Neri, hubba hubba!), the daughter of wealthy rancher Moreno (Jose Manuel Martin) and steals Moreno’s gold in the bargain.  Moreno tries to hire gunslinger Arizona Colt to recover daughter and gold.  Colt declines until Keene captures and nearly kills Double Whisky – and now it’s personal.

It isn’t a top-tier Spaghetti, but there’s plenty of action, which becomes non-stop in the last fifteen minutes when Colt stalks Keene and his outlaws.  Like other Italian Western directors, Martino borrows a lot from Leone in his camera placements, stunt choreography, and visual gags.  You may remember Camardiel’s face from other Italian Westerns: among other supporting roles, he was the cynical sheriff in “The Big Gundown” and the snide station master in “For a Few Dollars More.”  Here, he delivers a lip-smacking performance that may give you a greater appreciation for the relative subtlety of Gabby Hayes and Andy Devine in similar roles in American Westerns. 

There are at least three DVD editions on the market.  The one I have is a widescreen Koch Media DVD edition from Germany under the title “Der Tod Sagt Amen” (which translates to “Death Says Amen,” I think, but I may well be wrong).  The visual quality is pretty good if not spectacular, and although the DVD has an Italian soundtrack, there are optional English subtitles. 

You may want to put your TV on mute as the title credits roll; otherwise, you’ll be doomed to have the bouncy bubble-gum title song (“I guess I gotta get … my gun. /  I guess I gotta shoot … someone”) loop endlessly through your mind all day.

Martino’s second and last Spaghetti, “Mannaja – A Man Called Blade” (1977), was one of the final Italian Westerns as the genre sputtered to an end in the Disco era.  I’m not even sure it had a U.S. theatrical release, at least not widely.  Maurizio Merli plays the title character, a hatchet-wielding bounty hunter who rides into a ramshackle town run by mine owner McGowan (Philippe LeRoy) and McGowan’s scheming topkick, Voller (John Steiner – who looks a bit like American actor John Beck).   

McGowan is a puritanical tyrant who rails against saloons and dance-hall girls while his mines pollute the valley and his workers cough out their lives from lung disease.  Any commentary on the intersection between religious hypocrisy and greed is coincidental, I’m sure.

Where “Arizona Colt Returns” came from that period in which Spaghettis were still pretty much modeled on Leone’s “Dollar” movies, “Mannaja” reflects a wider range of inspirations.  As critics have noted, there’s a Sam Peckinpah influence in Martino’s slow-motion scenes of violence (Sam did it better, of course), and something of Robert Altman’s “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” in the muddy, raw look of the sets and locations.

Nevertheless, among the Peckinpah and Altman touches, the echoes of the earlier Spaghettis are still evident.  The relationship between Blade, Voller, and McGowan is very similar to that of the characters played by Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda, and Gabriele Ferzetti in “Once Upon a Time in the West.”  A plot twist involving Blade, Voller, and McGowan’s daughter is similar to one involving Arizona Colt, Keene, and Paloma in Martino’s own earlier Spaghetti.  Several familiar Spaghetti veterans appear in the cast, including Donal O’Brien and Nello Pazzafini.  

Where “Arizona Colt Returns” was scored by Ennio Morricone’s frequent collaborator Bruno Nicolai, the “Mannaja” score by the DeAngelis Brothers seems to be modeled on Bob Dylan’s score for “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” and Leonard Cohen’s for “McCabe.”  The croaking vocals and druggy instrumentation are off-putting at first, but like “Mannaja” as a whole, they grow on you after repeated viewings.  I believe the excellent 2003 DVD edition from Blue Underground is still available.  It’s too bad the genre didn’t survive long enough for Martino to explore it some more.  A meeting between Arizona Colt and Blade would have been interesting.

Aug 292014
“I’ve read enough John le Carré and Eric Ambler and Robert Ludlum to grow suspicious when people carrying valuable items die moments before they reach their meetings with important officials.”

- David Shafer connects the dots between his grandfather, the CIA, a sudden death, and a mysterious photo album in an essay for the New York Times.