Friday, July 22, 2016

FFB: THE CRIME OF OUR LIVES by Lawrence Block (Lawrence Block, 2015 hardcover)

Lawrence Block is a friendly acquaintance. I've mostly avoided reviewing the work of friends and close acquaintances, for much the same sort of reasons Block gives here for usually not writing about his living don't want to leave anyone out (at least for praise), you don't want to strain relations by not actually loving their (creative) children, nor do you want to damn something, necessarily subjectively, that the next reader might reasonably love. He has produced this collection of his columns in Mystery Scene magazine and introductions to books (while the title essay was an assignment from American Heritage magazine), most of the books collections by the writer-subjects of the short essays, and most of those dead writers Block admired and continues to admire. Ed Gorman, a "virtual" friend to me and that and more to not a few who might read this, being one of the notable exceptions to the long line of dead men (and a few women) otherwise celebrated here (Mary Higgins Clark, Spider Robinson and Gar Anthony Haywood are the only other living writers to get their own entries in the table of contents). But reluctance and perhaps even a bit of bashfulness will out...he has a running joke throughout the Gorman piece about keeping a tally of how many words he's already put down in the essay, very much including the toting-up sentences, as he's been asked for a thousand words.

Block, I gather, isn't Too impressed with his work in this mode, even while often glad to do it, whether to pay back and forward simultaneously, or also to help work out or express a few ideas about the writing life (he notes his Haywood introduction is also a rumination on the place of short fiction in publishing these years).  Unsurprisingly, the longest essay in the book is about one of his closest friends, Donald Westlake; the next longest, after the title-essay which deals with several writers, is Block's memoir of working at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency, at midcentury hugely influential, particularly on crime fiction publishing in the U.S. and important beyond that, and employing not a few young writers (such as Block, Westlake, Evan Hunter and others) for such tasks as "reading fee" criticism of would-be professional writers' manuscripts, sent in to SMLA with the required fee; the standard operating procedure, set by Meredith himself, was to string the aspiring writers along and get as much repeat business out of them as possible. (The book is dedicated to Barry Malzberg, a slightly younger veteran of SMLA in various positions, including his current one of basically serving as the legatee of SMLA's remaining business.) A few details of Block's career differ from essay to essay here (not so very much, but the timeline of his first sale of a short story to Manhunt magazine is retold slightly differently in two accounts); in his concluding short essay, which touches heavily on the career of William Campbell Gault, Block  conflates a Damon Knight assessment of Gault's more or less adult sports pulp stories and his later series of YA sports good as the YA novels were, the pulp stories were better, because somewhat less self-censored (oddly enough, I read several of them in 1960s and '70s anthologies aimed at YA readers...but Gault had made a major name for himself as a YA novelist by then). 

Block, having self-published the hardcover and paperback editions of this book along with the electronic form, has a few minor copy-editing bobbles here and there (there's a typo in the page numbers in the table of contents), and one does have to consult the headnotes to each piece to find the previous publication credits (no individual copyrights page), but these are not reasons to not consider picking this one up...and Block is liquidating his stash of the hardcover at while supplies last, $9.99 a throw (Amazon Prime members get shipping for free; the paperback edition, which will remain available, currently runs $14.99; though the electronic version runs a little less than five bucks and will also continue to be offered). 

For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog...I will host the links next Friday.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Theodore Sturgeon Discography

Honorable Mentions:
In comments, below, SteveHL draws our attention to a streaming archive of the first episode of NBC Radio's Anthology, a 1954-55 series about poetry, which features a good interview with Sturgeon (and Helen Hayes reading Julia Ward Howe, among other bits and pieces). 

The flipside of this Radiola release is the Beyond Tomorrow (CBS Radio, 1950) adaptation of Sturgeon's "Incident at Switchpath"

Pretty-enough photos of some women doing a quotidian thing, albeit in "full" makeup, and why Are some people upset about this, anyway? (NSFW?)

I'm late to this, but I understand that various people have objected to this photo either because Ms. Olivia Cockburn (aka "Wilde"*) is breastfeeding on camera at all, or because she is Glamming Up Motherhood and making women who don't have a fashion-shoot staff working on them just before breastfeeding feel dowdy and sad. I would mostly wonder about the interaction of a diaper-free infant and an expensive gown, but it's not as if I care, and I have to wonder about those who Care Volubly in the first two cited tendencies. (Somehow, I doubt even the most impressionable teen will be moved to intentional pregnancy by actors' photos, even as many as a few dozen...the tipping point would surely occur elsewhere.)

(*Cockburn being a rather bad marquee name.)

Jaime King also among those famously sharing snaps of herself breastfeeding her child...around which is "controversy"...with some pro-lactation people arguing such things as "breastfeeding isn't nudity"...and my reflexive response tends toward, Well, even if a woman is briefly nude at the breast, why do we care? And even if, as some note with alarm or other sorts of consternation, somebody sees a breastfeeding woman as sexy, why should we care about that? (Intensely gawking or visibly salivating need not be indulged, except when that of the feeding infants themselves.) But, y'know, some people get squirrelly real quick when we are reminded of our mammalian-family membership. Perhaps some of the same people can get as upset about the dog on King's bed. 

Then again, in re glam motherhood: 
Comedian mother recreates celebrity motherhood photos

Friday, July 15, 2016

FFB: THRILLERS: 100 MUST READS edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner (Oceanview Publishing 2010); Carolyn See, RIP

Carolyn See, RIP. 

The novelist and scholar and regular book reviewer for The Washington Post  in the years I lived in the DC area (and so much more interesting to read than Jonathan Yardley, whom IIRC the Post had retrieved from the ashes of The Washington Star, and ashen he remained) died on Wednesday, the LA Times reported, and in the fiction-magazine discussion list I'm often happy to be a part of, we were pointed to The Rumpus's not terribly well-proofread OCR scan of this article by See, posted in 2009 and not the worst unintended obituary anyone's ever written for themselves even though mostly a memoir of her father, who wrote a number of porn novels after some years of being (sometimes savagely) stymied in his literary among other ambitions, and her first great intellectual inspiration after him, academic scholar Helen Gardner. And, more offhandedly, her life-partner for the better part of three decades, John Espey. Lisa See is See's daughter, but if you know who Lisa See is, you probably know that. David Pringle suggested this was worth reading, and John Boston seconded...I agree, and you might as well even if you're not so very sure who either See or Helen Gardner have been.

By the time I finally got around to my copy of Golden Days, See's sf novel (published in one of the several New Fiction lines various publishers hoped to catch your attention with in the '80s, in this case it was a mass-market series from Ballantine/Fawcett; most were in "quality paperback" format which is now more likely the default for any bound paper publishing), it was time for one of my six or seven residence changes in my years in Northern Virginia, and it went into one box or another. Perhaps, or definitely, past time for it to come back out.

Thrillers is consciously in the mode of everyone else's "100 Best" books; editors Morrell (best known as the creator of Rambo, in the 1972 novel First Blood,  recommended here by Steve Berry's short essay) and Wagner explicitly cite the example of Stephen Jones and Kim Newman's Horror: The 100 Best Books, and that one has had a lot of company, both since and beforehand (though Morrell, a notable horror as well as suspense-fiction writer among other flavors of work, had an essay in the cited volume and I suspect it looms large in the's also one of the few to get a direct sequel). Like some, and unlike others, it draws on a range of writers to choose their favorite examples, and arranges them chronologically by date of subject's publication; in this case, the short-essay contributors are members of International Thriller Writers, for whose benefit the book has been published and which has been given the copyright.  Unlike many such books, however, the editors (and the aforementioned Steve Berry) contribute a couple/few several-page entries each, with the rest on a one recommendation per contributor basis (some such volumes give us only one choice from each contributor, others are completely written by one or two critics); also slightly unusual, two of the selections are short fiction amid the novels and occasional novella and one is Edgar Wallace's version of the script for King Kong, and three of the five Our Historical Antecedents cited works are epic poems (Homer's are given a double-header essay, along with Beowulf) while the other two are the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur (with a nod particularly toward Plutarch's recounting) and Macbeth; Katherine Ramsland chooses "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell, and Thomas Monteleone handles Cornell Woolrich's "Rear Window." Beyond that, the rather wide range of what can be classed a thriller is explored, most of them suspense novels, but also science fiction, horror, adventure fiction (historical and otherwise), at least one nearly straightforward mystery, and R. L. Stine opts for P. G. Wodehouse's Summer Lightning (in the interests of demonstrating, as Robert Bloch was wont to do in  dccades past, the kinship of humor and the frightening). At this point, if you've waited this long, you can begin arguing with what has been represented and what hasn't; Robert Bloch's work isn't cited, nor is Shirley Jackson's, which was brought home by the inclusion (as the only 1959 example) of Richard Condon's The Manchurian Candidate (which I still need to read, but '59 would've been a hell of a year with only Psycho and The Haunting of Hill House to its credit; certainly the cinema isn't complaining); Robert Levinson (co-creator of Columbo among much other work) does the honor there. 

Some of the contributors are matched with exactly the item you'd expect (Max Allan Collins with One Lonely Night, Raymond Benson with From Russia with Love), some are less unsurprising but not startling good choices (Joe R. Lansdale writes up The Postman Always Rings Twice and Bev Vincent opts for a Thomas Harris novel rather than a Stephen King). The 1970s-1990s are overrepresented in contrast to other decades (not terribly surprising, given the age of most of the contributors), and that only The Da Vinci Code is cited post-2000 likewise (the editors note that they wanted to wait and see on books published in this century). That last, and that only The Green Ripper is cited as an example  of John D. MacDonald's work, are among the more questionable choices, but this kind of book is meant to spark some arguments, pay back to great influences on the writers contributing and pay forward to the readers who might not yet have caught up with the items under discussion nor thought of them in quite the manner suggested...pretty much what we do with Friday Books, only with no concern whatsoever for citing the items not nearly Forgotten...the latter need to be included, in fact. Though that no one suggested an anthology, not even one of Robert Arthur's or Harold Q. Masur's Alfred Hitchcock Presents: volumes, is a crying shame. But you do go from Deliverance to The Bourne Identity and many likely stops between.

The far more reasonably prompt examples of our citations are toted up at Patti Abbott's blog (she, and her daughter, will be popping up in such projects as subjects sooner rather than later, I suspect).

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Overlooked A/V: Films, Television, Radio and more: links to the reviews, interviews and more

The weekly roundup of reviews, interviews, and other citations of (often, though not always) underappreciated examples of the dramatic and related arts; an sf-film countdown is in progress at Wonders in the Dark, and other blogathons are in full flower As always, please let me know if I've missed your or anyone else's contribution this week in comments... thanks. 

Anne Billson: Finding Vivian Maier

Bhob Stewart: "Terminus"; Carnival of Souls; Baby Doll; Cassini Mission true-color imagery of Saturn

The Big Broadcast: 10 July 2016
  • 7 p.m. Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
    "The McCormack Matter" Part 2 and Part 3 (CBS, Original airdates October 4 and October 5, 1955)
  • 7:30 p.m. Maxwell House Coffee Time Starring George Burns & Gracie Allen
    “How Jack Benny Became Cheap” (NBC, Original airdate March 31, 1949)
  • 8 p.m. Gunsmoke
    “Odd Man Out”, episode 276 (CBS, Original airdate November 24, 1957)
  • 8:30 p.m. The Adventures Of Maisie
    Program #66 (Syndicated, Original airdate May 17, 1951)
  • 9 p.m. The Adventures of Superman
    “The Meteor of Kryptonite” (MBS, Original airdates September 24 and September 25, 1945)
    “The Roswell Reports” from ABC’s Headline Edition
    July 8, 1947 
  • 9:30 p.m. X Minus One
    “Pictures Don't Lie” (NBC, Original airdate October 24, 1956) 
  • 10 p.m. Lux Radio Theater
    “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (CBS, Original airdate January 1, 1954)

Elizabeth Foxwell: University of the Air: "Clarence Darrow"; Bank Shot   

Eric Hillis: The Ox-Bow Incident

Gary Deane: Dancing with Crime

George Kelley: The Cabin in the Woods; Our Kind of Traitor

"Gilligan Newton-John": How to Murder Your Wife and other films with similar theme; some NSFW imagery

Iba Dawson: Little Dorrit; Bleak House

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.: The Line-Up; Lou Grant

Jack Seabrook: Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Invitation to an Accident"    

Jackie Kashian: Heather Simmons on Lewis Carroll and the "Alice" novellas and their legacy

Jackie Kashian and Laurie Kilmartin: The Jackie and Laurie Show

Jacqueline T. Lynch: Tiffany Vasquez  

Jaimie Grijalba: The Box

James Reasoner: Precious Cargo

Janet Varney: Dave Hill; Matt Gourley

Jerry House: "Superman: Terror on the Midway"

John Grant: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1931 film), among the many; Unashamed; Rogues Gallery

John Scoleri: Dark Shadows Before I Die: the episodes reviewed

Jonathan Lewis: Attack!

Karen Hannsberry: The Strange Love of Molly Louvain; Queen Christina

Kate Laity: The Living and the Dead (BBC television); International Medieval Congress; Caroline Aherne

Ken Levine: missed actors; default standing ovations; checking the ego

Kliph Nesteroff: Huey; "The Champs Step Out"

Kristina Dijan: 20,000 Years in Sing Sing; The Nuisance

Laura G: His Girl Friday; Suspicion (1941 film)

Lee Price: Invaders from Mars (1953 film)

Lesley Gaspar: Grand Hotel

Lindsay: Night Must Fall

Lucy Brown: Shetland

Martin Edwards: Fear Island; Secret Beyond the Door; The Murderer Lives at Number 21

Marty McKee: Gridlocked; Mission Mars; The Mutilator

Mildred Perkins: Zathura

Mitchell Hadley: TV Guide, week of 10 July 1965

Movie Sign with the Mads: Independence Day: Resurgence, among much better films. (Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff and Carolina Hidalgo)

Noel Vera: Taxi (2015 Iranian film)

Patricia/Patti Abbott: Brian's Song

Patricia Nolan-Hall: The Beast of the City

Paul D. Brazil: The Krays; The Hitch-Hiker

Randy Johnson: Drummer of Vengeance (aka Il giorno del giudizio)

Raquel Stecher: Johnny Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Rick: Steel Collar Man; Always a Bride; The March Hare; five great war films; 7 television series I remember

Robert Hornak: Primer

Rod Lott: Island of Death; Hijack!; Clown; Terror in the Jungle

Ron Scheer: The Sons of Katie Elder

Rupert Pupkin: Deadline U.S.A.; Invisible Invaders

Ruth Kerr: The Old Dark House (1932 film); The Robe

Salome Wilde: Two Seconds; The Old Dark House (1932); The Brighton Strangler; A Woman's Secret; Vice Squad (1953 film)

Sanford Allen: shadows on Ceres

Scott Cupp: Michael Shayne, Private Detective

Stacia Jones: Tickled; Leslie Caron: The Reluctant Star

Stacie Ponder: Martyrs

Stephen Bowie: The Kraft Theatre: "Three Plays by Tennessee Williams"

Stephen Mullen: Plan 9 from Outer Space

Steve Lewis: Dark Streets of Cairo; Crime, Inc.

Television Obscurities: surviving episodes, Kraft Television Theatre

Theresa Brown : Hot and Bothered: the Films of 1932 (Day 1)

Tynan: 101 Dalmatians (1961); 3 Women; Random Harvest; Shadow of a Doubt; 4 "good girls" of film noir

Victoria Loomis: Gilda

Vienna: The Good Fairy