Friday, February 05, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Books, February 5, 2016

DON'T FORGET RUTH RENDELL week in a month. 


(From the archives)

GHOST TOWN, Ed Gorman (from the archives)

It's been of some embarrassment to me that despite the many readers and writers of Westerns who contribute to Friday's Forgotten Books, I have not read one. Okay, I did read Lonesome Dove, but that's about the only one.

I've always suffered from the mistaken impression that Western novels resemble the TV westerns of my youth. The plots were about cattle rustling, bar fights, women depicted as all good (schoolmarms and wives) or all bad (saloon girls and hookers), shootouts, Indian fights, cattle herding, lynchings, etc. Everything seemed painted in black and white to match the day.

Ed Gorman took pity on my misconceptions and sent me two of his Westerns, saying he thought I'd be surprised at the modern Western and how it bore more a resemblance to noirish crime fiction than I might think.

I read GHOST TOWN and it was surprisingly like current crime fiction, but more than that, it was a terrific novel, regardless of its genre-leanings. GHOST TOWN was a great story, well-told, with interesting characters in an unfamiliar (to me) setting.

The book takes places in a small Wisconsin town overrun by both malaria and a few suspicious types who run the bank and the town. It's the story of Bryce Lamont, who comes here to get his share of the take from a jewelry theft that put him in prison. What he finds in that Wisconsin town will lead him down a bloody trail, jeopardizing himself and the people he loves.

I don't want to give away too much of the plot here, but let me say this--nearly every character in Ghost Town is complex--neither all good or bad, and this includes, of course, the protagonist. Although there is a lot of action in the novel, it never feels overdone. There is plenty of time to look around at the scenery, the clothes, medical practices, woman's issues, the news of the late 1800s in a small mid-western town. Despite this, the book is succinct, fast-moving and exciting.

Its greatest asset is-- this book has heart. You can feel it beating on every page. And that's not easy to pull off in any genre of writing. Grit and heart in one slim volume is a gift.

I will certainly read more Westerns after this one. It hardly hurt at all. Thanks, Ed.

Sergio Angelini, LULLABY, Ed McBain
Joe Barone, A THOUSAND FALLING CROWS, Larry D. Swearzy
Elgin Bleeker, UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES, Stuart Woods
Bill Crider, HAIL STORME, W.L, Ripley
Martin Edwards, LOBELIA GROVE, Anthony Rolls
Rick Horton, THE GINGER STAR, Leigh Brackett
Jerry House, CAPTIVE, the Gordons
Nick Jones, Desmond Quarry's Mr. Pilgrim 
Margot Kinberg, MAXIMUM BOB, Elmore Leonard
Rob Kitchin, SLOW HORSES, Mick Herron
B.V. Lawson, HARBINGERS OF FEAR, Dorothy Sumpson
Evan Lewis, CONAN, THE DEFENDER, Robert Jordan
Steve Lewis/Walter Albert, JO GAR'S CASEBOOK, Raoul Whitfield
Todd Mason, THE LITTLE MAGAZINE IN AMERICA: A MODERN DOCUMENTARY HISTORY edited by Elliott Anderson and Mary Kinzie 
J.F. Norris, SO BAD A DEATH, June Wright
Matt Paust, THE COLD WAR SWAP, Ross Thomas
J. Kingston Pierce, BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL, Elliot Chaze 
James Reasoner, HELL ROARIN TEXAS TOWN, Robert Denver 
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, KILLERS ARE MY MEAT, Stephen Marlowe
TomCat,LATE,LATE IN THE EVENING, Gladys Mitchell
TracyK, TRUST ME ON THIS, Donald E. Westlake 
Prashant Trikannad, THE CASE OF THE INVISIBLE CIRCLE, Erle Stanley Gardner

Thursday, February 04, 2016


Costume dramas are hard to pull off, I think. I loved this movie at the time but on rewatching it, I think several of the actors didn't work well in their roles. Hugh Grant, doing his fluttery eyelids and stuttering routine seemed unworthy of Emma Thompson's affections. And Emma herself seemed to be too 20th Century for the part. Kate Winslett was perfection, however. So too Alan Rickman. And so too the secondary roles, which the British always cast right.

Does this happen to you on revisiting a movie you loved? Sometimes it works but sometimes....And although Emma captured the character in RETURNS OF THE DAY perfectly, this was a century earlier and she did not have the face and form for it for me. Something else too...can't put my finger on it.

Also, what happened to Hugh Grant? He has not made a major movie in a long time. Did he never recover from his escapades of the late nineties. And, strangely he now has four kids under five with two women, neither of whom he married.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

First Wednesday Book Reviews

THE COLD SONG, Linn Ullmann

Jon and Siri, a long married couple and parents of two young girls, spend the summers with Siri's difficult mother. One summer, the girl that they hire as a babysitter disappears. Now this is not as much about that disappearance of the nanny as it is about the story of a marriage going sour. Their oldest daughter has become difficult; the mother and the kids' caretaker are difficult too. All of these things contribute to the fissures in their marriage. This is a well-written novel that didn't quite work for me. There is not enough concrete conflict. It's hard to understand what exactly has driven them apart. And there is not enough attention paid to the disappearance. The nanny's parents' terror is kept at arm's length until the end. A good novel but not a great one. Perhaps the nordic cold was part of the problem.

For more book reviews, go to Barrie Summy;s blog, right here. 

Monday, February 01, 2016

Positively Fourth Street

Couples that perhaps should not end up together.

This will also function as tomorrow's forgotten movie. I post it today because the film is on TCM at 9:30 am tomorrow (2/2) if anyone wants to see it.

I saw DEAR HEART a few weeks ago and I found it to be an unusual movie in many respects. Made in 1964 it was about romantic hi-jinks at a postmaster's conference in New York. Geraldine Page was a postmaster (mistress) but Glen Ford was staying at the hotel as a greeting card salesman. When was the last time we made movies about people like this? There were many quirky things about the movie. I will leave them for you to discover if you care to watch it.

But (spoiler) when the film ends with Ford and Page getting together, I wanted to yell, "NO!" There is no way these two belong together. He is your standard issue early sixties guy-like the one he played in THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE'S FATHER. But Page is a romantic, a kook, a born spinster or at most, a mistress (and not just a postal one). No way is this going to work out.

Does this ever happen to you at the end of a book or movie. Maybe it was partially miscasting Ford or Page. Or maybe the trouble lay in the author's idea of what would make an interesting couple. But I knew they were headed for divorce court. I'd bet money on it.

Friday, January 29, 2016

FRIDAY's FORGOTTEN BOOKS, January 29, 2016



Jerry House lives in Florida. He can be reached at
TARZAN OF THE MOVIES by Gabe Essoe (From the archives)

With the death of Johnny Sheffield last month, I got to thinking about Tarzan movies. Five-year old Sheffield had been handpicked by Johnny Weismuller to play Boy in TARZAN FINDS A SON. Weismuller had looked on Sheffield as the son he couldn't have during his tempetuous marriage to Lupe Velez. (Weismuller's first marriage to Bobbe Arnst ended at the request of MGM Studios, which paid Bobbe $10,000 for the divorce, because the studio felt marriage would be a hindrance to Weismuller's career; his later romancing of Velez was approved by the studio as good publicity.)

This is just one tidbit from Gabe Essoe's TARZAN OF THE MOVIES: A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF MORE THAN FIFTY YEARS OF EDGAR RICE BURROUGH'S LEGENDARY HERO (Cadillac Publishing, 1968), a chatty walk down memory lane from Elmo Lincoln to Mike Henry, with a side jaunt to the Ron Ely television series and a few unauthorized foreign films (such as Singapore's THE ADVENTURES OF CHINESE TARZAN, 1940). Some of the other interesting items:

- When a drugged lion turned on him during the filming of TARZAN OF THE APES, Elmo Lincoln stabbed and killed the lion.

- Boris Karloff's first screen appearance was as a Waziri chief in TARZAN AND THE GOLDEN LION, the last true silent Tarzan movie, which also featured Burroughs' future son-in-law Jim Pierce as Tarzan. That movie, by the way, was financed by Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of John F. Kennedy. The book has a great photograph of Karloff as an angry African warrior.

- The several attempts to kill off (or ignore) Jane as a character.

- The deaths of an actor, a trainer, and a stuntman during the filming the series.

- Among the actors rejected for the role of Tarzan was Clark Gable. (Because, "He has no body.")

- How Weismuller made a friend of the movie Cheetah by hitting him hard on the head with his hunting knife to show him who was boss,.

- The original Tarzan yell was created by using four different synchronized sound tracks: a camel's bleat, a hyena's howl, the growl of a dog, and the plunking of a violin's G-string. Weismuller and Lex Barker were able to recreate the yell; Ron Ely wasn't.

The book portrays Burroughs as a sometimes canny/sometimes naive businessman whose protective nature for his creation was paramount. His disdain for many of the portrayals of his character is evident, as we follow the complicated business dealings that allowed "duelling" Tarzans from different studios. All too often the producing studios' visions led to the degradation of the series to strictly juvenile fare.

TARZAN OF THE MOVIES also contains hundreds of photographs (all, alas, in black and white), including those of television guest stars Diana Ross and Mary Wilson, Ethel Merman, Fernando Lamas, and Julie Harris.

Bottom line: a casual and entertaining overview and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

Sergio Angelini, PURITY, Jonathan Frantzen
Joe Barone, THE GIVER, Lois Lowry
Bernadette, THE JUMP, Douglas Johnstone
Brian Busby, TED ALLEN
Bill Crider, THE TALL STRANGER, Louis L'Amour
Scott Cupp, THE DEEP RANGE, Arthur C . Clarke
Martin Edwards, THE CASE IS ALTERED, William Plomer
Ed Gorman, BLACK FRIDAY, David Goodis
Jerry House, THE FEATHER MERCHANTS, Max Shulman
Margot Kinberg, THE MERCHANT'S HOUSE, Kate Ellis
B.V. Lawson, SYLVIA, Howard Fast
Steve Lewis/Walter Albert, AMAZONIA, James Rollins
Todd Mason, TEENSPELL edited by Betty M. Owen; BENCHMARKS REVISITED by Algis Budrys
Mathew Paust, APOCALYPSE, D. H. Lawrence
James Reasoner, DAUGHTER OF THE NIGHT, Richard S. Shaver
Richard Robinson, THE LEAGUE OF FRIGHTENED MEN, Rex Stout
Gerard Saylor, THE CONFESSION, Domenic Stansberry
TomCat, A PLAGUE OF THIEVES AFFAIR, Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini
Zybahn, BETE NOIR #3