Dec 172014

Josh Getzler

So I suppose it was inevitable. My wife is a teacher. My mother was a professor. I’ve always loved to speak in front of people (my friends reading this are rolling their eyes). When I was in baseball in my previous life, I spent a huge amount of time talking to kids (mostly about Derek Jeter, it turns out). It was only a matter of time before I got a gig teaching something somewhere.

This morning I submitted my final syllabus for NYU’s Master of Science in Publishing PUBB1-GC 3015 002 course, The Role of the Literary Agent, which I’ll be teaching for seven Monday evenings this winter. It’s a second semester course, and gives the agent’s perspective on how authors get represented, submitted, and published. It’s going to be 17 ½ hours of query letters, contract analysis, ethics, and the basics of Publishers Marketplace and royalty statements. My students will be second semester masters students, and they will presumably understand all the basics of the publishing industry in this changing era of digital rights and contracting houses.

When I was thinking about this evolution, one of the things that came to mind was the summer I spent in 1990 at the Radcliffe (now Columbia) Publishing Course. It was right after I graduated from college, and I knew I wanted to be an editor. I went to Boston to live in a (very warm) dorm at Radcliffe, where for three weeks I was going to get a crash course in book publishing and for three others, a primer on the magazine world.

I’d interned for a summer with an agency, and a semester with Philadelphia Magazine, but the information crammed into my head between cocktail parties and trips to Walden Pond was fascinating. At the end of each unit, we spent a week working as a group planning a season’s “list” of books or one month’s issue of a magazine. My publishing house was going to be called God and Mammon Press, but we were told we could include the Deity in our name (copyright?), so after a highly adolescent snit of a memo to our advisor (written at 2 AM after, if I recall, some extremely delicious burritos and perhaps a little tequila), we called ourselves Demiurge Press. We were clearly doomed. But very clever. And if you’d asked us we would have told you just HOW clever we were.

I was thinking about this because so many of our strategies and assumptions are no longer relevant in the marketplace today. Print advertising? Not unless your name is Danielle Steele and you continue to insist on the NYT Book Review Centerfold twice a year. Author tour? How’d that work for you, Jeff Cohen, from the perspective of moving the dial, sales-wise? (Not to say that author tours are useless—just different.) And, well, it was long enough ago that the internet didn’t yet exist outside academia. Mark Zuckerberg was six years old.

And yet, many of the aspects of selling books that we discussed in 1990 are evergreen, and my students will be discussing them in February. How do authors earn out their advances? How are books discovered in the market? (OK, so now we are sometimes looking at virtual bookshelves instead of physical ones. But then, Barnes & Noble was the Juggernaut, taking over the industry and putting smaller retailers out of business through economies of scale and lower price points. Sound familiar?) Is the Midlist going to disappear? (Been talking about it for at least 50 years, and still there are small domestic novels and cozy mysteries selling for $5,000 advances.)

My hope is that my students will get one thing that I got from my teachers that summer, and which my wife’s student’s get from her and my mother’s got from her: The thrill of learning something that the instructor loves. I hope that my enthusiasm for this industry shows up, and that I can hear in 23 years that one of my kids is still (back?) in the business, trying to keep publishing going for another generation.


Dec 172014

Popular Detective 1945-12Don’t wait for the grim reaper to drag you to your first PulpFest. By then, it will be too late! That’s what this fine young woman is about to find out, courtesy of the magnificent brush strokes of artist Rudolph Belarski, created for the December 1945 Popular Detective, published by Standard Magazines.

Why not resolve to make PulpFest 2015 your pulp destination of the New Year? We’ll be back at the Hyatt Regency Columbus beginning on Thursday, August 13th and running through Sunday, August 16th. Our themes for the 2015 convention will be H. P. Lovecraft and Weird Tales and Ned Pines’ Standard Magazines, also known as the Thrilling Group.

In the meantime, the PulpFest organizing committee–Jack and Sally Cullers, Mike Chomko, Barry Traylor, and Chuck Welch–would like to wish everybody and healthy and happy holiday season.

 Posted by at 1:00 am
Dec 172014

ERLE STANLEY GARDNER – The Case of the Lazy Lover. Ballantine, paperback, 1981. First published hardcover by William Morrow, 1947. Subsequently reprinted in paperback by Pocket many times over.

   Perry Mason it was, who introduced me to “adult” mystery fiction — assuming you can exclude the inevitable batch of Sherlock Holmes stories that everybody read as a kid, didn’t you? — and I’ve had a weakness for his cases ever since. It’s been a while since I actually read one, though, so I read this one with a little bit of a question mark in my mind. Have my tastes changed? Is Gardner’s sometimes bare-boned writing style now slipped beneath me?

   Nope. Not really. I notice it, his writing style, more now, and I can see more clearly what he’s doing when he does it, but I can assure you that the formula still works. I enjoyed this book, and I’m going to start reading more of them.

   Start with a mystery, grab the reader’s attention right away, and don’t let go until you’re done. That was Gardner’s motto, and here’s a fine example of the kind of results you can get from that sort of story-telling philosophy.

   Mason gets two checks for $2500 from the same person, previously unknown, on the same day. One proves to be a forgery. Add a possible amnesia victim. Various corporate power struggles and legal shenanigans follow. Then a murder, complete with detailed map. Perry Mason once again shows that circumstantial evidence is shown to be worth what it is, about the same as any other pack of lies. And the beginning chapter’s events are not explained until the very end.

   Except for minor details and occasional changes in the law and police procedures between then and now, the Mason stories are very nearly timeless, and I’m glad to see them back in print again. [This review was written right around the time that Ballantine started their program of reprinting most, if not all of the Perry Mason novels.]

Rating:   B.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 5, No. 3, May/June 1981. (mildly revised).

[UPDATE] 12-16-14.   I no longer feel the same way, I’m sorry to say. The formula Gardner used to wrote the Mason books, which were extremely popular when he was still writing them, has worn thin, and now 33 years later, I don’t believe there that any publisher is going to start reprinting them soon.

   It isn’t so much the lack of characterization that has bothered me the last few times I’ve read a Mason story — that’s a given — but I’ve begun to believe that the intricacies of the plots don’t really stand up to close examination all that well. Or perhaps I’ve been reading from the tail end of the series. Maybe I should try choosing from the earlier books, the ones from the 30s that made Gardner’s reputation what it was from the start, and see how those read today.

 Posted by at 12:56 am
Dec 172014
Anthony Rainone is a contributing editor to January Magazine and a (too-infrequent) contributor to The Rap Sheet. He lives in Brooklyn, where he writes screenplays, novels, and stories.

The Burning Room, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown):
Harry Bosch is like a fine bourbon: you taste the complexity but you’re not quite sure what produced it. Except in this case, you can go back to all of Connelly’s previous 16 Bosch novels and learn exactly what made him the finest cop protagonist in literature today … and maybe for a lot of tomorrows. In The Burning Room, we find the Los Angeles homicide detective just a year away from retirement, and now teamed up with novice Lucia Soto, or “Lucky Lucy,” who’s become a hero for having shot it out with the armed robbers who subsequently killed her previous partner. Soto has an immediate appeal and depth not seen in a Bosch cohort for some time, not since the days of Jerry Edgar and Kizmin Rider. Bosch and Soto go on to work a 10-year-old cold case involving the murder of a mariachi musician, as well as a decades-old day-care fire that claimed the life of Soto’s childhood friends. No matter how long he’s been at his job, Bosch still manages to piss people off. A cameo appearance here by FBI Agent Rachel Walling is a welcome touch. Connelly does in this novel what he excels at: weaving together two complex cases, upping the tempo and stakes of each one. Bosch and Soto make a dynamic duo and one laments the team’s short shelf life. But at least in these pages, it’s sublime.

Murder in Pigalle, by Cara Black (Soho Crime):
Cara Black’s Parisian private-eye heroine, Aimée Leduc, is a complicated woman. Five months pregnant with her first child, fashionista Aimée finds herself embroiled in a serial rapist case that becomes personal. The victims are teenage girls, and when the daughter of Leduc’s café-owning friend goes missing, the P.I. races against the clock to find her. Author Black is perhaps writing her finest prose these days, and this particular novel has a gravitas that pulls the reader in--if the sensory-infused writing doesn’t do it first. The topic here is difficult; yet in Black’s hands, it avoids the gut-wrenching for the practical: finding the man responsible. Although this tale is set in 1998, Leduc is the embodiment of the modern woman: keeping her business afloat and her love life thriving, and doing what she does best—solving crimes. Every time I read one of Black’s novels, I want to book a flight to Paris. The only disappointment would be not finding Aimée Leduc in residence there; she’s one of the best things the fictional City of Light has to offer.

Straight Jackets

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Dec 162014
Have you cast your ballot already in The Rap Sheet’s poll to pick the “Best Crime Novel Cover of 2014”? If not, you can still do so by clicking over to this post and then scrolling down to the bottom. We will keep the voting open through this coming Sunday, December 21, after which the results will be tallied and announced on this page.

As of this afternoon, the fronts from Kim Cooper’s The Kept Girl, Benjamin Black’s The Black-Eyed Blonde, Samuel Fuller’s Brainquake, and Tod Goldberg’s Gangsterland were holding down the top four slots. Those rankings, though, could change dramatically over the next five days. Voice your own opinions here. But do it soon!
Dec 162014

From Classic Film & TV Cafe

Name: Dr. Richard Kimble

Portrayed by: David Janssen

TV series: The Fugitive

Occupation: Pediatrician before getting arrested for his wife's murder.

Lifestyle: Since he was constantly trying to evade police Lieutenant Philip Gerard, Kimble rarely stayed in one place for long. His occupations included: truck driver; farm laborer; bartender; chauffeur; construction worker; fisherman, masseuse, bellhop, and carnival worker.

Family and Friends: Father was Dr. John Kimble, who had a heart attack and retired to a home in the country. Had a strained relationship with his brother Ray, but was very close to his sister Donna Taft (who appeared in five episodes). Deceased wife was Helen Kimble; her sister Terry was in love with Richard. Kimble developed feelings for several women during his years on the run. In the final episode, "The Judgment," he appeared to have found true love with Jean Carlisle (Diane Baker).

Trademark: Quick, slight smile with only one side of the mouth turned up.

Adversaries:  Stafford, Indiana detective detective Philip Gerard (who appeared in 37 episodes) and Fred Johnson (10 episodes), the one-armed man who murdered Helen Kimble. Interestingly, Kimble had encounters with both Gerard's wife (the two-part "Landscape With Running Figures") and son Phil Jr. ("Nemesis").

Useful Skills:  He was a physician!

Classic quote: "I didn't kill my wife."

Classic episodes: "Landscape with Running Figures"; "The 2130" (a computer is used to track Kimble); and "Corner of Hell" (Kimble saves Gerard from moonshiners).

Posted by Rick29 at 5:00 AM 9 comments 

Recommend this on Google
TUESDAY, JULY 26, 2011

The Fugitive, which aired from 1963-67, frequently appears on lists of the greatest U.S. television series ever broadcast. Its reputation is well-deserved. The first three seasons are so strong that it's difficult to pare down its best episodes for a top five list. Still, here's how one Fugitive fan would rank them:

Kimbles tries to avoid capture...again.
1. Landscape With Running Figures – Unofficially known as “the episode with Mrs. Gerard”, this season 3 two-parter has Kimble narrowly evading Lieutenant Gerard…only to come to the aid of a temporarily-blind Mrs. Gerard (Barbara Rush). The exceptional script provides a rare glance into Gerard’s private life and the impact of his obsession to capture Kimble. At one point, a frustrated Marie Gerard casually remarks: “Life without Kimble…what a pretty dream that used to be.” Barry Morse, whose character is often used to simply further the plot, takes advantage of an opportunity to shine here. 

Suzanne Pleshette as the
concerned mother.
2. All the Scared Rabbits – A divorced mother (Suzanne Pleshette) hires to Kimble to drive her and her daughter from Iowa to California. What they don’t know is that the little girl has stolen a rabbit from her father’s laboratory—and it’s infected with a lethal strain of meningitis. This gripping, suspenseful episode is a great example of an episode where Kimble’s plight takes a backseat to the events surrounding him.

3. Moon Child – When the police pursue Kimble during a manhunt for a serial killer, the fugitive takes refuge in a dilapidated structure filled with dark passageways. At his wit’s end, Kimble is befriended by a young mentally-handicapped girl. This taut episode balances its chilling moments (involving the real killer) with Kimble’s touching relationship with the young girl.

4. Corner of Hell – On the run from Gerard, Kimbles stumble into the hideout of a family of moonshiners. At first, they want to get rid of him, but their plans change when he proves his worth. However, when Gerard tracks Kimble to the moonshiners’ hideaway and flashes his police badge…well, they don’t take kindly to the arrival of the law. This is one of the best of several episodes that placed Kimble in a moral quandary. In this case, does he flee, knowing that Gerard is certain to be murdered? Or does he help the man trying to capture him?

Gerard, bound in a chair, watches as Kimble (far right)
makes a plea to save his nemesis.
5. Dark Corner – Kimble finds a sanctuary on a farm where he is befriended by a young blind woman (Tuesday Weld), who must cope with a devious sister…but all is not what it appears to be. Plot twists weren’t commonplace during The Fugitive’s run and when they did appear, they were typically twists of irony. This atypical episode goes for the shock value and succeeds nicely. 

Tuesday Weld plays the blind young woman who
shelters Kimble in "Dark Corner."

Honorable mentions: “The Witch” (a young girl make false accusations against Kimble); “Dossier on a Diplomat” (Kimble finds sanctuary in a foreign embassy); "The 2130” (a businessman uses a computer to track Kimble's whereabouts); and “Nightmare at Northoak” (Kimbles attains unwanted celebrity status when he saves children from a burning bus).

The First Novel Experience, re-visited

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Dec 162014

This bit appeared originally at Ed Gorman's blog, a few years ago, in a slightly different form. It seemed like time to re-visit it.

Sometime back, I wrote this book, the one that’s now called The Bastard Hand. I wrote it without any thought about a market or an audience or a future. It was just something that kept eating away at me, wouldn’t get off my back until it was done. It took a long time. I mean, a real long time. But one day I was shocked to discover that I’d actually finished the damn thing. I’d finished it, and I had no idea what to do with it.

If you haven’t read it, I’ll tell you this much: The Bastard Hand is a violent, profane, black comedy-noir-southern gothic. There are no good guys in it, and no bad guys either, not really. There’s just some messed-up people, doing messed-up things. All my personal obsessions got poured into it along the way, and it wound up being a bizarre hodge-podge of genres and influences.

But you know what? I thought it was a pretty good book. I still think so.

For a while, though, it seemed as if I was the only one who felt that way. After the usual editing and polishing up, I did my research and started sending that sucker out to literary agents, one or two at a time. I’d send it off, and sit back to wait for the fame and fortune due me as the creator of this weird literary mess.

I didn’t wait long. The rejections flooded in like a tsunami. There were a lot of the usual “not right for us” sort of things, but also the occasional “no clear market” or “difficult to categorize”. I even got a few “too offensive” and “too depressing” comments.

After about a year of this, I gave up. Just shelved it. This book I’d poured every bit of myself into seemed destined to die alone on some street corner, bumming change from every passing James Patterson or Michael Connelly. But so what? It happens every day, doesn’t it? Some wanna-be strips himself bare on the page, bleeding out his guts, only to be ignored. Sad, but true. I resolved to start working on something new and forget all about The Bastard Hand.

Some time later, I started my blog, Psycho-Noir, more or less just to spout off about books, movies, etc. Maybe even to promote myself a little. On a whim, I posted the first chapter of The Bastard Hand there, along with some short stories and essays I’d written.

And one day… one fine day… I get this e-mail from a guy calling himself Bassoff. Jon Bassoff, from New Pulp Press. Said he liked that first chapter, wanted to know if I’d be interested in showing him the rest. I checked his bone fides and found he’d published 10 or 12 very highly regarded books—and had even done a reprint of an old Gil Brewer!

I sent The Bastard Hand off to him, not expecting anything, to be honest. He’d read it, and write back saying, “Ah, sorry, my mistake. Not quite right for NPP” or, even worse, he’d just “lose” my e-mail.

But that’s not what happened. He loved it.

Weird, huh?

So flash-forward a little over a year, and The Bastard Hand comes out and holy shit, everyone seems to like it a lot. Not just readers of nasty crime fiction, but some of my own literary heroes—Allan Guthrie, Megan Abbott, Dave Zeltserman, Vincent Zandri…

Reviews at genre websites are uniformly positive. People are saying REALLY NICE THINGS.

And I take it all very personally, you know? Because this book was very personal to me, just like most first novels, I’ve been told.

As a bonus, I made some great new friends, people who share a common interest in this thing we call noir. They enriched my life, above and beyond the success of the novel. And many of them went to great lengths to promote my work, and to help me ease my way through the professional stuff (of which I was absolutely clueless).

I've written a number of things since then. But that moment, that weird, invigorating time in my life in which my first novel came out and struck a chord with readers and writers alike, is something I know I'll never get to experience again. It was remarkable, and yes, life-changing.

Dec 162014
Mordecai Slate was a mysterious figure who roamed the United States and its Territories from 1870 to 1912. He was more or less a bounty hunter, who just happened to specialize in hunting outlaws of the supernatural variety. He carries a special modified 1855 Colt Revolver Rifle that fires 12 rounds of silver ammunition, a Remington double-barreled Derringer, a Colt Peacemaker .45, and a

Forgotten Movies: LARCENY, INC

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Dec 162014

Directed by Lloyd Bacon, this early forties comedy tells the story of three recent paroled criminals who buy a luggage shop in order to tunnel through to the bank next door. A pretty familiar plot nowadays but perhaps less common then.

It doesn't matter though because the movie is played for laughs and takes a lot of unexpected turns. The street the shop is on is being dug up for a new line of the NY subway, which adds to the confusion. The writing is sharp (S.J. Perlman) and the acting and directing is swell.

At 93 minutes it felt a tad long but its Christmas theme fit right in with the season, so we didn't mind much. Jack Carson as a love interest? Jane Wyman as a blonde?