Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Next Isabel & Alma Trumbo Cozy Mystery

 The first novel in the Isabel and Alma Trumbo cozy mystery series was QUIET ANCHORAGE. They are a pair of sisters who play senior sleuths in Quiet Anchorage, a small Virginia town. Think of the popular TV/fiction character Jessica Fletcher of Cabot Cove times two does Virginia. This week I've been proofreading the formatted pages of their second title, THE CASHMERE SHROUD. Isabel and Alma are again called upon to solve a murder mystery. I had a lot of fun writing THE CASHMERE SHROUD, and I'll keep you updated as we proceed along with it. Look for a release later this summer just in time for your beach/poolside reading pleasure. Meantime back to my proofreading.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Act of Violence

This 1948 film noir is often cited in the top echelon of the film noirs ever made, and rightfully so. I'd seen parts of it shown on TCM, but this time I saw the entire movie on its DVD release. The film features roles played by Van Heflin, Robert Ryan, Mary Astor, and a very young looking Janet Leigh later famous for her murder-in-the-shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece Psycho. I'm not a big Van Heflin fan, but he turns in a tense, conflicted performance as a World War II American officer who ratted out his fellow POWs to the Nazis at a prison camp. The war is finished, and Heflin is married to Janet Leigh. He also enjoys a good job and is a solid citizen. Robert Ryan plays one of the surviving American POWs who vows to kill Heflin to get revenge. I like Robert Ryan and wonder if he'd be better suited for the lead role played by Heflin. At any rate, Heflin undergoes a guilt crisis and wanders through the sleazy streets of L.A. Mary Astor plays the harlot-with-a-golden-heart who tries to help him out. Quite enjoyable fare for the genre.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Movie Review: "Mud"

I've been meaning to catch this nifty coming-of-age film for some time, and I wasn't disappointed. MUD is right in my wheelhouse for prime movie watching. My only quibble is the film takes a while to get cranking. But that's okay because the acting in first rate, drawing me into the different characters. Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland playing the two teenage boys are good buddies who somehow manage to find a large fishing boat lodged up in a tree. Not only that but the boat is on island. They live on houseboats, a disappearing subculture in the South we find out during the movie. Matthew McConaughey is living on the boat as a fugitive named Mud who is wanted for killing a man who abused his girlfriend played by Reese Witherspoon. He aims to reunite with Reese and escape on his boat. That's all I'll say about the plot. Don't read the Wikipedia entry which gives away the entire plot. Sam Shepard, one of my favorite actors, has a key role, and the always solid Joe Don Baker also makes a couple of appearances. All in all, I had a great time checking out MUD.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Film Review Stories We Tell

 We watched this pretty good 2012 documentary film made by Sarah Polley and produced by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). Polley looks at her fractured family life and reveals she is the product of her mother Diane's extramarital affair. This is kept as an open secret by Diane and her friends. She goes to painful lengths to hide it from her husband Paul. After Diane dies at an early age from cancer, Sarah takes on the task of telling her story with the help of the memories from her family members who she interviews on camera. Paul discovers he raised another man's child, but helps out Sarah by using his writing talents to his memoir which is part of Sarah's story. I found the film to be touching, funny, and intelligent. The film runs 108 minutes.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday's Forgotten Books: The Bloody Spur by Charles Einstein

I like to consult Geoffrey O'Brien's excellent Hardboiled America: Lurid Paperbacks And The Masters Of Noir as a guide whenever I'm selecting hardboiled/noir titles to read from the classic era (1929-1960). I generally find his picks to be reliable and solid ones. If I had the free time, I'd read all the titles he includes on his checklist. As it is, I've read a good many from there. One of the 1953 hardboiled titles O'Brien selects is The Bloody Spur by Charles Einstein. Munsey's has it available is an e-book, and that's the version I read. The fine writer (I've also enjoyed reading his books) and newspaper editor Wallace Stroby has an eloquent, insightful tribute he wrote about Mr. Einstein: From it, I see that Mr. Einstein was an old newspaper man. His The Bloody Spur might be a newspaper noir, if there is such a subgenre. It served as the basis for Fritz Lang's film While the City Sleeps which I should watch pronto. The basic plot is the old man of a big news media conglomerate dies, and there's a four-way scramble by the rivals to get the top dog's position. There are double crosses and laugh-out-loud bawdy jokes. I also got a fascinating in-depth look at the newspaper business of the time. The novel's pace is fast, the prose lucid. Some of the anecdotes are memorable ones. One character has the odd habit of chewing strips of paper! This is first-rate vintage stuff. I just wonder why it took me this long to read The Bloody Spur, but I'm glad I finally did.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Film Noir Review: Black Angel Starring Dan Duryea

I watched this 1946 film noir for two reasons: one, I like Cornell Woolrich's noirs (the movie is based on his novel also titled The Black Angel), and two, I'm becoming a big Dan Duryea fan. I wasn't disappointed either. The storyline uses Woolrich's famous plot twists and rich irony. Peter Lorre turns in a convincing performance as the sleazy night club owner. Duryea is an alcoholic pianist/songwriter who is rescued by the wife of a man who is on death row for the murder of Duryea's wife. How is all this and more pulled off? Watch the film and find out is the best I can tell you. I don't think I've read the Woolrich novel, so I don't know closely the movie adaptation follows it. June Vincent playing the wife does a good job of standing by her man going to the gas chamber even when Duryea tries to romance her. I see on Wikipedia that Woolrich didn't care much for the movie. rates Black Angel as a 7.0/10.0, but I believe it deserves a higher consideration.

I saw this crisp, clear version of Black Angel on YouTube at this link:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

What Novel I'm Working On Right Now

I haven't been blogging as much as I was earlier this year. I've been working to complete the final draft of my next cozy mystery series title. It's been going smoothly enough, and I'm generally happy with the results. My editing cycle just takes up large blocks of my time, and once I get up a head of steam, I like to go with it. I hope to finish up the project in the next couple of weeks. For those who don't know, I've been writing a small town cozy mystery series featuring a pair of sisters as senior amateur sleuths. For the most part, I enjoy the protagonists as well as the setting. I hope that fun comes through in my writing and makes for entertaining reading. I've been going back and forth between the genres (hard-boiled and soft-boiled) for most of my fiction writing career. I'll post more updates in my future blog posts. Thanks for hanging with me.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Film Noir Review: The Killer Is Loose

I've seen this short 1956 crime noir film run on TCM a couple of times. Budd Boetticher was the director and the stars included Joseph Cotten, Rhonda Fleming and Wendell Corey. It's a fairly typical film noir fare of the mid-1950s. Corey does a convincing job of playing the well-mannered psycho killer who is bent on revenge by killing the policeman Cotten's pregnant wife who is Fleming. Cotten isn't one of my favorite actors although I did like him in The Third Man. The ending felt a little flat to me, but that's all I'll say about it. Corey is definitely the main attraction with his sometimes sad and sometimes violent side coming to the fore. Not a bad way to spending 75 minutes or so.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Company We Keep Starring Robert Redford

We recently watched Robert Redford in the 2012 political thriller The Company We Keep. Redford also directed and used an accomplished veteran cast of characters including a gruff-speaking Nick Nolte, Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Sam Elliott, Stanley Tucci, Chris Cooper, and Richard Jenkins. The result is a fairly entertaining film. I'm a big Redford fan, so if he's in the movie, I'm already hooked. There are no opening credits, so I spent part of the movie trying to figure out who the actors/actresses were. I know their faces, but I can't put names to all of them. The pace is pretty snappy, there's some suspense, and the plot is solid enough. Redford is a former member of the Weather Underground, a radical activist group. He's wanted for allegedly having killed a bank guard during the group's heist gone south some thirty years before. I found myself thinking of the recent Boston Marathon bombing which detracted a bit from my enjoyment of watching the film. But there's little on-screen violence or sex, and I got caught up in the story making it worthwhile to have paid money to see The Company We Keep.

Friday, May 3, 2013

THE DIRT-BROWN DERBY: My Second P.I. Frank Johnson Novel Now An E-book

My second title in the P.I. Frank Johnson series title The Dirt-Brown Derby is now available on Amazon as a Kindle book.

"Stylistically ambitious w/nice narrative touches & observations."
Jon L. Breen, Ellery Queen Mystery Mag.

"A lovely & gritty, contemporary noir story."
Mark Rose, Bookgasm

"A worthy heir to some of the pulp's best 'eyes'."
Jack Quick, Bookbitch

Film Noir Review: The Tattered Dress Starring Jeff Chandler

This 1957 film noir actually qualifies more of a courtroom drama where Jeffrey Chandler plays a sharpie New York City criminal attorney. He's hired by a wealthy couple in Nevada to defend the wife against a homicide charge. When he arrives in town, he finds a frosty reception, including from the shady sheriff played by Jack Carson. After Chandler gets the wife off free, he's slapped with a juror bribery charge and winds up on trial himself. Most of the action occurs inside the courtroom, and Chandler makes a fairly dramatic lawyer with a deep baritone voice. His newspaper friend/sidekick is Edward Platt, also later to be seen as Don Adams' boss in the TV spy spoof sitcom Get Smart. The director Jack Arnold is better known for his 1950s science fiction films like Creature from the Black Lagoon. The Tattered Dress didn't thrill me maybe because I was expecting something different. Still, it's competently acted with an entertaining plot. I watched it on YouTube at this link: