Ice, Anna Kavan. A
waifish, opiate-addled writer’s last breath: a translucent bone thin
blond heroine. An obsessive pursuer, racing through a glacial earth,
hallucinations and reality colliding like icebergs in a continental
Sparse, terse prose, reporting a world to come. Catch her if you can. GBH, Ted Lewis. A drunken, booze guzzled writer’s last belch: an
alcoholic paranoid underworld kingpin, some underling in his outfit is
screwing him. How many kills and how much isolation til he peels down
to the ugly core, exposing the rotting seed
Only bummer is that unlike Kavan, Lewis lacks the courage of his
convictions, going 3rd person omniscient after the kaleidoscopic
downfall—just to make sure you got it, dear reader. Wouldn’t want you
left feeling as confused and wasted as your protagonist,
Violent Saturday, W.L. Heath. So you’re reading Appointment in Samarra, or Tender is the Night, or
maybe Revolutionary Road, and in the middle of it, and while the upper crust
handsome couples self-immolate in wanton lust and plastered parties,
some bank robbers come to town and blow everything
I dug it.
Narrative of the Life of John Allen, alias
Jonas Pierce, alias James H. York, alias Burley Grove, the Highwayman,
Being His Death-bed Confession to the Warden of the Massachusetts State
Prison (1837). Short, surprisingly
readable, unapologetic, plain language life
story of a burglar. It's surprising to see that people were actually
able to write in fairly modern American English in 1837. Mainly a
series of stories recounting various crimes and time in prison.
Unfortunately, he died about 2/3 of the way through the
story, so the end of the book is written in the 3rd person by the
warden. According to Wikipedia, and probably more interesting than any
content in the book, is this factoid: "The
book is most often associated with the copy in the collection of the Boston
copy was bound in the author's own skin,
tradition holding that Allen requested that a copy of his confession be
bound in his skin and given to John A. Fenno, who had earlier resisted
Allen's attempt to rob him."
of Nat Turner (the 1831 version--not the Styron novel). Again,
fairly plain English, which is nice. I was shocked how violent Nat
Turner's Confession was. God told him to start killing slaveholders, so
he and his buddies started doing it--Manson style.
They axe-murdered entire families, men, women, children, even infants.
Not at all apologetic, and not particularly abolitionist. Nat Turner
says his own master and family were fairly kind to him--so it wasn't
retribution. Nat Turner was a very religious
man, memorized large chunks of the Bible, never took a drink, never
gambled, never cursed, never engaged in sexual improprieties, and was
revered by the other slaves who knew him as a kind of a prophet who
thought he was on some apocalyptic mission from God.
of Night, John Rechy (1963). Semi-autobiographical story of a
hustler, raised (razed) in El Paso, then onto New York, LA, Hollywood,
San Fran, Chicago and finally to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Definitely
gives you the feeling for the life of a hustler
in mid-century America, and all of the strange encounters of street
life. Has the ring of truth.
Day's Journey Into Night, Eugene O'Neill. You know what's odd is
the passive-aggressiveness of the upper class when compared to the pure
violence of the lower depths in the prior 3 books mentioned above. Yes,
the characters are all tearing each other
apart. But if you translated it in into another language, I bet the
violence wouldn't register with the reader at all. They're all drinking
and syringing themselves to death, yes, but the proximate cause of all
the pain is the guilt they thrust at each other
like rapiers to the gut.
Panzram Papers by Carl Panzram
: The short memoir of a serial
killer written right before execution in 1930. Remarkable document.
Clean, simple, hardboiled prose. Events flatly described without
remorse and without pride. No
desire for either reprieve or profit. No belief in redemption in this
world or the next. He made a gift of the memoir to a death-row guard he'd grown
to like. The guard, trying to find a publisher for years, finally got
it published in 1970. Read on Kindle: $2.99
Daughter of Earth
, Agnes Smedley. 1929, semi-autobiographical
novel of a poor Missouri farmer's daughter. But this daughter is a
freaking firebrand. She is not going to accept a mediocre life if she
can help it. And she ain't gonna be dominated by
shit. This is the story of a born rebel who tries to bull her way through all the world's oppressive forces to become free. No prison can cage
her spirit. Her only novel. And pouring your soul into something like
this, you doubt she had anything much left
to say on the subject of her life. [TM: she did write some short fiction, and nonfiction for The Masses and elsewhere]
Somebody in Boots, Nelson Algren. 1935.
Semi-autobiography of a road kid, part time hobo, part time pimp, small
time criminal, full time loser, wandering around aimlessly across America after his father murders
the guy that took his job and his sister converts the family home to
her personal brothel. After the book failed to sell, Algren tried to
gas himself. When that failed, he reinvented himself with the much less
convincing (IMHO) but much better loved Never Come Morning. Algren rewrote the book in the '60s using '60s hipster
prose as Walk on the Wild Side, from which Lou Reed made a song
(with some Warholian Factory flourishes).
America is in the Heart, Carlos Bulosan.
1946. Semi-autobiographical novel about a poor Philippine farmer's kid
chasing after the American dream, travelling across the sea, finally to
arrive at Alaskan canneries
and migrant labor camps. Trying to avoid the life of crime of his
brother, a cheap crook, he shifts back and forth between shiftlessness
and decency. Inspired by his buddy John Fante, he writes down the story
of his life.
Ralph Ellison. 1952. Despite a long life, Ellison only finished this
one novel--another semi-autobiographical one. And reading it, it's
pretty easy to see that he, like Smedley, probably said all he had to
say. He grew up believing all the bullshit. That
if he'd be a good boy he could pull himself up by his bootstraps and
make something of himself. He was a really good orator. He was
recognized in high school for it. And was to be given a medal and
scholarship by the mayor at a town hall. So he showed
up to give his speech about being a good boy and lifting yourself by
your bootstraps. But the mayor said 'Oh, first things first, boy--first
you gotta have a boxing match with 5 other black boys'. So the white
drunken crowd threw them all but naked into the ring
and wanted the black boys tear each other to pieces, which they did,
the winner getting a $10 bill. Afterwards, he gives his speech on black
and white unity to which no one listens. He then goes to Howard
University, where he works really hard to be a good
boy. He's so good that the chancellor chooses him to chauffeur around a
big fat old white donor. The donor orders him around. He wants to see
the real townfolk. So on the white dude's orders they stop by the house
of the town pariah who tells the donor
his story of how he mistakenly impregnated his daughter one drunken
evening. The donor is equal parts appalled and titillated and really
needs a drink. So demands to be driven to the closest watering hole
which happens to be the town whorehouse. For showing
the donor the reality of the town, he's expelled by the chancellor. He
heads to NYC, where the Commies pretend to befriend him in order use
his oratory to cause Harlem riots, which they think might spearhead a
revolution. Now everyone hates him. The Commies,
the Black community, his family, the university. He is nothing. He is
an invisible man.
Reprinted from the Rara-Avis discussion with Tony's kind permission...
I was a big fan of these ALFRED HITCHCOCK anthologies when I was a kid. In the 1980s, I lost interest but now I'm buying the missing anthologies whenever I run across them.
I never quite lost interest, but the ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S ANTHOLOGY issues published in the 1980s reflected the blander nature of the magazine as edited by Cathleen Jordan (not awful, and featuring a scrap more horror fiction than Eleanor Sullivan had before her, but blander)(sadly notable, how Davis Publications editors Sullivan and Jordan both died rather young, in their early '60s...crime fiction doesn't Usually do that to one).
Editors: (from the FictionMags Index)
William Manners - Editor: Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Dec 1956 – Aug 1961.
Lisa Belknap - Editor: Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Sep 1961 – Jan 1963.
Richard E. Decker - Editor: Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Feb 1963 – Sep 1964.
G. F. Foster - Editor: Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Oct 1964 – May 1967.
Ernest M. Hutter - Editor: Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Jun 1967 – Feb 1976.
Eleanor Sullivan - Editor: Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mar 1976 – Nov 1981.
Cathleen Jordan - Editor: Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Dec 1981 – Jun 2002.
Linda Landrigan - Editor: Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Jul 2002—.
Davis Publications, Inc.; New York: Alfred Hitchcock’s Anthology
Eleanor Sullivan - Editor: Alfred Hitchcock’s Anthology, 1977 – Mar 1982.
Cathleen Jordan - Editor: Alfred Hitchcock’s Anthology, Sep 1982 – 1989.
Awesome post Todd (and thanks for the nice shout out) - I had no idea the Sturgeon book had been published in one of the Hitchcock anthologies. One would imagine that more readers would have found it this way than in the original paperback, do you think?
Considering how well most paperbacks were still selling in the early '60s in the US, no, unless there was some distributor resistance to that title or Ballantine. But given how many AHP: books were in libraries, it might have eventually come close (in those bad old days that paperbacks weren't so welcome in libraries and paperbacks rack life in non-booskstores could be as little as a few days or a week...
Check ISFDB's record of editions for the Sturgeon novel here: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?14529
I read this anthology (and all of Arthur's AHP anthologies) when I was much younger. They have stayed with me as an example of what an anthology should be. Thanks for the review, Todd.
Two points: "Andrew Benedict" was an Arthur pseudonym; and you published this review on Gerald Kersh's birthday.
Thanks! I was utterly unaware of Benedict, and really should've mentioned Kersh, as well as reading the ISFDB page of birthdays...AHP anthologies introduced me to his work...
Thanks for the link Todd - had far more reprints than I would have imagined!
The face even a mother would have trouble loving.
Todd, do you have any idea what story by Robert Arthur was used as the source for the Hitchcock hour "The Cadaver"? I've searched everywhere but have not found it yet. I am sure the story was not called "The Cadaver" and I know it wasn't in AHMM.
Other than to guess *maybe* "The Jokester" as by Anthony Morton (The Mysterious Traveler Magazine Mar 1952; The Saint Detective Magazine (UK) Jan 1956) or "Welcome Home"(Dime Mystery Magazine Oct 1948, as “Calling All Corpses!” by Robert Jay Arthur; The Mysterious Traveler Magazine Jun 1952). not even a vague suspicion. I will ask around.