Mar 262015
 
Gold Medal Corner -- John McPartland

This is a little essay I did for Steve Lewis's Mystery*File. I'm reprinting it here because Duane Swierczynski recently read a McPartland book and wrote about it in his blog. Now Ed Gorman has joined in the fun with a reprint on his own blog.

Gold Medal Corner
by Bill Crider

If people of a certain age (that would be my age) remember John McPartland at all, it’s probably because of his 1957 “breakthrough” novel, No Down Payment. But the truth is hardly anybody remembers even that. (Try a google search if you don’t believe me.) Probably even fewer people remember that both before and after the publication of his “big” book, McPartland published novels with Gold Medal. And they were good ones.

Probably my favorite is The Kingdom of Johnny Cool (1959). Written years before Mario Puzo thought of The Godfather, this is a crackerjack novel about the Mafia (McPartland calls it the Outfit). The title has a couple of meanings, as there are two Johnny Cools in the novel, one young, one old. The young one is the killer, the man who’s going coast-to-coast to kill five men in one day. How he does it, what he becomes in the process, and what happens to him are just a few of the things the book is about. Although there are only 160 pages, this novel has enough details about the Outfit and the way it operates to make even Puzo blink. I seem to recall that Puzo said he made everything up. McPartland may have done the same, but it certainly sounds authentic, as do the all the details of police procedure that are introduced after the murders. The book had at least two Gold Medal printings, and they probably weren’t small ones, but I’m surprised it didn’t do even better. 

Maybe it would have, in a different time. McPartland was restricted by publishing conventions of the 1950s, so he couldn’t be nearly as explicit as Puzo was able to be later on. For example, after a young woman with the unlikely name of Dare Guiness is raped, Johnny takes revenge on the killers by stabbing them with a knife from Dare’s kitchen. And then: “There was a tradition for bodies like these two, a tradition that required the use of the knife once more on each of them. Johnny did this and left the bodies where they lay on the gray sidewalk near the garage.” Readers these days (and probably those days, too) knew what it was that Johnny did, but specificity in that sort of thing seems mean bigger sales. McPartland did his best. And even with the restrictions, this is a brutal book, maybe even a little shocking for 1959, and the ending is a real downer. 

But there are a couple of lighter moments, including some snappy patter that wouldn’t be out of place in an Arnold Swarzenegger movie of a few years ago. After a couple of killings in Las Vegas, Johnny gets on a package tour bus and sits down next to a guy counting his winnings. The guy wants to talk:

“Boy, I murdered them here,” he said. “How did you do?”
“I did all right,” said Johnny.

McPartland’s books are well worth reading if you like hardboiled action, as I do now and then, and the writing’s fine, too. The Wild Party is another good one, as are the others I’ve read.

If McPartland was so good, why didn’t he make a bigger impact on the crime field? One reason might be that he died at the age of forty-seven. He was already dead by the time The Kingdom of Johnny Cool was published. Too bad he didn’t stick around longer. A lot longer.

Gold Medal Media Bonus: In 1963, The Kingdom of Johnny Cool was made into a movie with the shortened title of Johnny Cool. It starred Henry Silva and Elizabeth Montgomery, and it made a big impression on me and my date (who’s still my date to the movies, by the way). I thought it would make Silva a big star. He was a brat-packer at the time, and Joey Bishop and Sammy Davis, Jr., make cameos in the movie. The real revelation, though, is Montgomery. Wotta performance! After you see her in this movie, you’ll never be able to think of her as that cute Samantha again.

Non-Gold Medal Media Bonus #1: After you see Johnny Cool (which will be next to impossible, as I don’t believe it’s available), you should watch Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: the Way of the Samurai (1999). Supposedly it’s based on some French film, and I might be the only major movie critic who noticed that it’s sort of a remake of Johnny Cool. Forrest Whitaker is the star, but the old Mafia guy is (a great touch) Henry Silva.

Non-Gold Medal Media Bonus #2: And after that, see if you can find the movie version of No Down Payment. I’m betting you can’t, but give it a try. It’s one of the better “lost” movies of the 1950s, with Joanne Woodward and Tony Randall, who proves here that he could do a lot more than just play the comic sidekick in movies with Doris Day and Rock Hudson. This is one of the best portrayals of suburbia ever, or at least of what people thought suburbia was like in the 1950s. I’ve never read the book, but I really should, one of these days.

Posted by Bill Crider at 8:46 AM 
Mar 262015
 
On the heels of this morning’s Petrona Award shortlist announcement comes news about the 2014 Strand Magazine Critics Awards, “recognizing excellence in the field of mystery fiction.” There are two categories of contenders, as follow:

Best Novel:
The Fever, by Megan Abbott (Little, Brown)
Jack of Spies, by David Downing (Soho Crime)
The Secret Place, by Tana French (Viking)
Fear Nothing, by Lisa Gardner (Dutton)
Die Again, by Tess Gerritsen (Ballantine)
After I’m Gone, by Laura Lippman (Morrow)

Best First Novel Nominees:
Dry Bones in the Valley, by Tom Bouman (Norton)
Dear Daughter, by Elizabeth Little (Viking)
The Home Place, by Carrie La Seur (Morrow)
Ice Shear, by M.P. Cooley (Morrow)
Confessions, by Kanae Minato, translated by Stephen Snyder (Mulholland)
The Good Girl, by Mary Kubica (Mira)

We wish all of these contenders the best of luck.

In addition, says the magazine, “Otto Penzler will receive The Strand’s Lifetime Achievement award for his contribution to the crime genre. For over four decades Penzler [has] stood as a giant in the crime publishing genre--he founded Mysterious Press in 1975 and has published authors such as Nelson DeMille, Elmore Leonard, Patricia Highsmith, Eric Ambler, and scores of other bestselling authors. He’s also edited dozens of mystery-themed anthologies, which have included original works by Michael Connelly, Jeffery Deaver, Ed McBain, and J.A. Jance. And last but not least, he’s the proprietor of the legendary Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. “I have been at every award ceremony since The Strand Magazine began to honor the stars of the mystery world and have celebrated with those who received these prestigious prizes,” says Penzler. “In all humility, I was stunned to join their ranks and my heart swells with joy and pride.”

This year’s Strand prizes will be handed out during a cocktail party to be held in New York City on July 8.

Clean Reader

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Mar 262015
 

What's on my mind today? The Clean Reader App. An app I absolutely oppose. An app that is complete bullshit. And frankly, I can't say it any better than Chuck Wendig has. Click here to go to his blog post.

A big yes to this:  

When I write a book, I write it a certain way. I paint with words. Those words are chosen. They do not happen randomly. The words and sentences and paragraphs are the threads of the story, and when you pluck one thread from the sweater, the whole thing threatens to unravel — or, at least, becomes damaged. You may say, Well, Mister Wendig, surely your books do not require the profanity, to which I say, fuck you for thinking that they don’t. If I chose it, and the editor and I agree to keep it, then damn right it’s required. It’s no less required than a line of dialogue, or a scene of action, or a description of a goddamn motherfucking lamp. Sure, my book could exist without that dialogue, that action, that goddamn motherfucking lamp.

But I don’t want it to. That’s your book, not my book.

My consent matters when it comes to the book.

If changes are necessary to the book — then I consent to making them.

An editor sends me edits, I can say whether those edits fly or not.

Just as the publisher can consent to the book they publish.

That’s the deal. That’s how this works.

According to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2013 there were 304,912 books published. I am pretty sure that if you want a "clean book" you can find a couple in the nearly 305k published. So leave the content alone. A novel is a work of art. To deface that art by changing the words the author has chosen should be illegal.

As I learned yesterday when a blown transformer knocked out our power, as well as damaged our servers, technology isn't always a good thing.

 

Mar 262015
 
Half a dozen works of fiction make up the shortlist of contenders vying to win the 2015 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year. This commendation--established just two years ago--takes its name from the blog operated by Maxine Clarke, a British editor and “champion of Scandinavian crime fiction,” who died in 2012.

Here are the latest Petrona candidates:

The Hummingbird, by Kati Hiekkapelto,
translated by David Hackston (Arcadia Books; Finland)
The Hunting Dogs, by Jørn Lier Horst,
translated by Anne Bruce (Sandstone Press; Norway)
Reykjavik Nights, by Arnaldur Indriðason,
translated by Victoria Cribb (Harvill Secker; Iceland)
The Human Flies, by Hans Olav Lahlum,
translated by Kari Dickson (Mantle; Norway)
Falling Freely, As If in a Dream, by Leif G.W. Persson,
translated by Paul Norlen (Doubleday; Sweden)
The Silence of the Sea, by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir,
translated by Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton; Iceland

According to a press release sent out this morning, “The winning title will be announced at the annual international crime fiction event CrimeFest, held in Bristol 14-17 May 2015. The award will be presented by the Godmother of modern Scandinavian crime fiction, Maj Sjöwall, co-author with Per Wahlöö of the Martin Beck series. ... The winning author will receive a full pass to and a guaranteed panel at the 2016 CrimeFest event.”

Congratulations to all of the nominees! To learn more about the books mentioned above and this year’s Petrona Award judges, click here.
Mar 262015
 
TELEVISION|Gregory Walcott, Actor Known for ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space,’ Dies at 87


Gregory Walcott, Actor Known for ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space,’ Dies at 87
G
Gregory Walcott, a character actor whose résumé included numerous television westerns, several Clint Eastwood movies and prestige films like “Norma Rae” — but who was probably best known as one of the stars of “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” often called the worst movie ever made — died on Friday at his home in the Canoga Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. He was 87.
His death was confirmed by his son, Todd Mattox, who said Mr. Walcott had been in poor health for some time.
When Mr. Walcott, a tall, ruggedly handsome Southerner, was offered the key role of a pilot in “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” the idiosyncratic director Edward D. Wood Jr.’s low-budget 1959 oddity about aliens who bring the dead back to life, he had already been in the hit Henry Fonda Navy comedy “Mister Roberts” (1955) and other movies. He said in a 1998 interview that the “Plan 9” script “made no sense” but that he took the job because one of the producers was a friend of his.
“I thought maybe my name could give the show some credibility,” he said.
The film seemed destined to be no more than a footnote in Mr. Walcott’s busy career. He was a regular on the 1961-62 police series “87th Precinct” and had guest roles on “Bonanza,” “Maverick” and virtually every other TV western. He acted alongside Mr. Eastwood on “Rawhide” and in “The Eiger Sanction” (1975), “Every Which Way but Loose” (1978) and other movies. Often cast as an authority figure, he played lawmen in Steven Spielberg’s “The Sugarland Express” (1974) and Martin Ritt’s “NormaRae” (1979).
But “Plan 9 From Outer Space” slowly developed a following for its cheap effects, its stilted dialogue and a ragtag cast that included the one-name TV personalities Vampira and Criswell as well as Bela Lugosi, in footage shot shortly before his death in 1956. To Mr. Walcott’s embarrassment, “Plan 9” became a staple at bad-film festivals and the movie with which he was most often associated.
He was born Bernard Wasdon Mattox on Jan. 13, 1928, in Wendell, N.C. After graduating from high school and serving in the Army for two years, he hitchhiked to Hollywood and before long had given himself a new name and was landing small film roles.
In addition to his son, Mr. Walcott is survived by two daughters, Pamela Graves and Jina Virtue, and six grandchildren. His wife of 55 years, the former Barbara May Watkins, died in 2010.
Mr. Walcott came to accept his bad-film fame with good humor. His last screen role was a cameo in Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood” (1994), about the making of “Plan 9” and its eccentric auteur. Mr. Mattox, his son, said that when a bar called Plan 9 Alehouse opened near his home in Escondido, Calif., last year, he gave the owners, with Mr. Walcott’s blessing, a copy of his “Plan 9” script to use as wallpaper in the men’s room.
“I didn’t want to be remembered for that,” Mr. Walcott told The Los Angeles Times in 2000. “But it’s better to be remembered for something than for nothing, don’t you think?”
A version of this article appears in print on March 26, 2015, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: Gregory Walcott, 87, a Star of ‘Plan 9’. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe
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Mar 262015
 


selinaselinas:

People say you should never judge a book by its cover, and while that may be true, its also foolish to think that a book cover bears no weight on one’s decision to invest in reading a book. When I was walking through Barnes N’ Noble, I only picked up Lauren Beukes’ novel, Broken Monsters, because the cover caught my interest. However, it was the synopsis, and online reviews that actually piqued my interest enough to purchase this book. I had hopes that this would be a cool avant garde horror novel that would serve as a good read while bored at work, but I was very pleasantly surprised to find that this was a story worth losing sleep over. It does start off slow, as each chapter is from the perspective of a different character and none, except the detective and her daughter, seem to relate. However, once their stories begin to connect to one another, it becomes increasingly difficult to put down until you suddenly realize it’s 4:00 AM and you are too spooked to sleep without a light on. 

Come for the cover, jacket copy, and online reviews—and stay for the imaginative, propulsive writing.

Mar 262015
 
Decoy #2: Moon Over Miami, by Jim Deane May, 1975  Signet Books The second and final volume of the misnamed Decoy series is just as boring and tepid as the first. Once again our breast-obsessed narrator, Nick “The Great Pretender” Merlotti, blathers on and on as he relates his latest (and thankfully last) case, which for some reason has him trying to clear the name of a young Hispanic kid
Mar 262015
 

CROSSING JORDAN. “Pilot Episode.” NBC. 24 September 2001 (Season 1, Episode 1). Jill Hennessy, Miguel Ferrer, Ken Howard, Lois Nettleton, plus a large ensemble cast. Creator/screenwriter: Tim Kring. Director: Allan Arkush.

   Please forgive the lack of screen credits. This is the only episode of Crossing Jordan I’ve seen so far, and I haven’t yet placed names with faces, nor do I know how long some of the faces will last. I didn’t include any names in the guest cast, either, since most of this first episode was devoted to introducing the characters, not the story itself.

   Which was OK, or maybe even more than that, but if you’ll allow me, I’ll get to that in a minute. The series was on for six years, and I won’t lie to you: I’d barely heard of it before buying a box set of DVDs of the first season. I can’t tell you why it’s been under my radar all this time.

   Or maybe I can. (A) A lack of time to follow everything that’s on TV, even crime-solving shows, and (B) an assumption that new shows won’t last, so why start watching them, but missing one like this one that does catch on, and it’s too late to catch up with the story line, or so I think.

   Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh (Jill Hennessy) is a medical examiner who insists on helping the police solve the cases her dead bodies involve her in, against all of their wishes. She’s beautiful, smart-talking, feisty, has a problem with anger management, and as a direct result, she has run out of places to work until her former boss, Dr. Garret Macy (Miguel Ferrer), convinces his superiorss to hire her back at the Massachusetts Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

   I gather her father (Ken Howard) doesn’t stick around for the entire series, but at least during the first season he’s an ex-homicide detective who helps Jordan solve her cases by playing a version of killer/victim to re-enact the crime given the facts as she has them. He’s glad to see her again, but Jordan has problems, in the pilot, at least, with the fact that there is a new woman in his life, Jordan’s mother having been murdered when she was a child. This may explain some of the chips on her shoulder.

   There are quite few others in the ensemble cast, as I said earlier, all of whom get a brief introduction and some exposure in this first episode. The story itself is interesting without being overly memorable. It turns out that a young prostitute, found dead in an alley and suspected of dying of a drug overdose, is actually a virgin. It is then discovered that she came to Boston looking for her father, and — well, I needn’t tell you everything, need I?

   I do like the characters, and so did the general viewing public, given that the series lasted for so long. It’s one I’ll keep watching, at least through the first season, which is all that’s been officially released on DVD. (The problem being rights to the music played in the back ground.)

 Posted by at 3:12 am