Got Them Ol’ Stuck Inside Down Home Blues, Mama!

PublixLike many of us, my wife and I have been in lockdown. For the first time, in a week we ventured out this morning for food shopping at Publix. There were plenty of people there, but most tried to keep a reasonable distance from each other.  Paper products, sanitizers, pasta, bread, frozen veggies, meats (for meat lovers), some can foods were in short supply or non-existent. We probably got enough of everything needed to hunker down for two weeks before venturing out again.

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So the question becomes what to do while hibernating at home? For me, I find myself with more than enough to keep myself busy. The morning routine hasn’t changed: breakfast, read the headlines, check emails, social media and hopefully do some writing, editing and plenty of rewriting! By now, lunchtime is here, and these days I look for a movie to watch. Over the past few days, I’ve seen The Meyerowitz Stories, Agatha, Agatha and the Truth of Murder, Blow the Man Down, and the Gift. After the movie, it’s time to doing some reading, either articles I have been saving and need to catch up on or a book. I am currently reading D. H. Schleicher’s collection of 11 short stories, And Then We Vanish. After dinner, my wife and I watch a TV show. At that point, we’re both back to reading or social media.

And Then
Oh yeah, there is one other thing that keeps both me and my wife busy. As some of you know, over the past two years we lost four of our five cats. Three to cancer! Our one remaining cat, Natasha, has been on her own since last September. Well, a little over a week ago we adopted an almost 12-year-old, handsome boy by the name of Skeeter. He’s laid back and sweet. Currently, we have him isolated to one room while he acclimates himself and we can work on the introduction between Natasha and her new brother. Anyway, my wife and I take turns during the day spending time with him.

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Skeeter

Along with all this, there is my photography! We’ve put taking photos and travel on hold for now. We canceled a long time planned trip to Alaska scheduled for this coming July. Disappointing, but considering the circumstances we are in, it’s the right thing to do.  So, in my spare time, I will work on some photos that have been ignored for a long time, and any new work will be limited to photographing our two cats! That should keep me busy!
If you stuck at home, which most of us are or should be, make the best of it,  stay active, discover things to do and stay safe!

Agatha Christie’s Biggest Mystery

Hounds

Agatha Christie’s greatest mystery remains a mystery over ninety-years later. On December 3rd, 1926, Agatha Christie kissed her daughter goodnight, packed a small bag, and left a note for her secretary that she would not be returning that night. She got into her two-seater Morris Cowley automobile and drove off.

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The next day, the automobile was found hanging over a ditch, held back from falling by bushes. An attaché case was found in the car as well as some clothing. There was no sign of the author. Christie, was a well-known author by then, her most recent novel at the time was The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which made her disappearance international news. Her husband, Colonel Archibald Christie, who had recently demanded a divorce, claimed she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. A massive search by a thousand police and thousands of volunteers looked for three days before the hunt was called it off. Christie’s bother-in-law claimed to have received a note that read she’s going to a Yorkshire spa for rest and treatment. Not convinced or reassured, the police continued their search.

As the manhunt continued, rumors spread that the disappearance is a publicity stunt, a rumor her secretary vehemently denied. Other rumors claimed the future Dame Agatha was in London dressed in men’s clothing. A spiritualist was consulted, determining Christie met with foul play.

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Eleven days later, the author was found at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate registered under the name of Mrs. Tressa Neele. The Colonel claimed the entire incident was due to a nervous breakdown, and he had no idea about the significance of her alias. That second point was a complete lie. The name belonged to her husband’s lover. Christie knew of the affair and had been distraught.

When the Colonel came to pick up his wife, it’s been said Christie met him with an icy stare.

Fifteen months later, Agatha Christie sued and divorced her husband. In 1930, she remarried. Archibald Christie also married. His new wife, none other than Tressa Neele.

Over the years, many biographers have tried to find out exactly what, why, and where Agatha Christie disappeared. Was it revenge for her husband’s affair, manic depression, amnesia or something else? No one knows for sure. Throughout her life, Christie refused to talk about that period, except once to a British newspaper, and her story revealed few details.

Agatha 1When one of the greatest mystery writers has an unsolved mystery in her own life, you can bet there would be much interest. In 1977, author Kathleen Tynan wrote the novel, Agatha, featuring her own interpretation of what happened during those eleven days. Hollywood released a big-screen adaptation of Agatha in 1979 starring Vanessa Redgrave at the shy author, Dustin Hoffman as a fictitious American journalist, and Timothy Dalton as Archibald Christie. More recently, two British Made for Television films, Agatha and the Truth of Murder (2018), and Agatha and the Curse of Ishtar (2019) turn Ms. Christie in Jessica Fletcher. A third film in the series is scheduled for this year.

Stay Safe, Stay Connected!

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These are dangerous times. People are hunkering down, I know I am. My wife and I are only venturing outside our home when it is necessary, canceling all non-essential appointments, travel and more. It’s stressful and isolating.

Fortunately, we live in a time where staying at home does not mean you cannot communicate. Take advantage of it with family and friends. Call them, text or email. Keep the lines of communication open.

And please follow what our medical experts are advising: social distancing, washing your hands, staying home, have two weeks of food on hand (don’t hoard), and don’t forget your pets!

Stay safe and stay connected!

John 

The Movie Club

The Movie Club meets every other week. Tonight is also Halloween night and it’s going to be frightful.

The Movie Club is one of eight short stories with a movie tinted flavor in my new collection, The Late Show and Other Tales of Celluloid Malice. Available at Amazon.

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Anniversaries: New CMBA eBook

I have been working on editing a new collection of film essays for the Classic Movie Blog Association’s  (CMBA) ninth eBook. Each book has its own theme, Banned and Blacklisted, Underseen and Underrated, and Hollywood on Hollywood to name a few. This book is no different. The subject is Anniversaries. Why Anniversaries, you ask? Well, in October of last year the CMBA celebrated its 10th anniversary, so it seemed fitting.

Anniversaries Book Cover

The CMBA began in 2009 as a dream of Rick Armstrong who blogs as the Classic Film and TV Cafe. He was the organization’s first President and its guiding light. Today, there are close to 90 members and going strong.

This book contains 10 essays from celebrating how Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and other films from 1969 bridged the Old And New Hollywood to how the Spanish Flu of 100 years ago affected the film Industry.

Anniversaries: 10 Years of the CMBA book is now available at Amazon for .99 cents (proceeds are donated to the National Film Preservation Foundation, and at Smashwords for free!

 

 

 

Hard-Boiled Hammett

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Considered one of the founding fathers of hard-boiled fiction, if not the founding father, Dashiell Hammett is must reading for anyone interested in tough guy crime fiction. Detective fiction before Hammett came along the likes of Agatha Christie: conventional, polite detectives where few got their hands down and dirty were standard. Hammett changed all that. His Sam Spade was a cynical outsider who lived by his own personal code. The streets of crime were tough and Spade and other Hammett characters walked them with a new literary style. They called it “hard-boiled” and as The New York Times in their obituary, christened Hammett he was the dean of the “so called” hard-boiled school of detective fiction.

Hammett served in World War I, where he was rewarded by contracting tuberculosis. During his recovery, he met a nurse, Josephine Dolan, who became his wife. For a few years, Hammett became a Pinkerton detective.  It was his work during these years that gave birth to his aspirations of becoming a writer. Reading stories in the pulp fiction magazines like Black Mask, he realized he could do better than those guys.

Drawing on his experience as a real-life detective, The Smart Set published his first story (The Road Home) in 1922. Many of the stories he wrote at the time featured The Continental Op, a nameless P.I. who worked for the Continental Detective Agency located in San Francisco. The Op led to Sam Spade, Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and other tough guy P.I.’s.

Throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, Hammett was most productive: Red Harvest (1929), The Dain Curse (1930), The Maltese Falcon (1930), The Glass Key (1931) and The Thin Man (1934). It was during this short twelve-year period that Hammett produced most of his work. Alcoholism, politics, the blacklist, imprisonment, illness, and writer’s block all became barriers. A bright spot happened in 1931 when he met Lillian Hellman. They began a long term, though turbulent, relationship that lasted until his death from lung cancer in 1961. He was 66 years old.

This brings us to Wim Wenders 1982 film Hammett. Based on Joe Gores semi-fictional novel, the film is an homage not only to the great author but a stunning visual homage to those dark mean streets of film noir.

HammettSet in San Francisco. Hammett (Frederic Forrest) is already pumping out short stories to Black Mask but is not making much money. His old boss Jimmy Ryan (Peter Boyle) from his days as a Pinkerton detective, and the model for Hammett’s Continental Op, shows up at his front door. He’s not there to reminisce about the good old days, he’s on a case and wants Hammett’s help. Toss in Chinatown, crooked cops, dangerous dames and an eerie mood of disillusionment and you have a classic tribute to the noirs of yesteryear.

This was German director Wenders, first English speaking film, and not a good experience. Over the years rumors have spread the Wenders was fired and that Francis Ford Coppola took over. In an interview with IndieWire, Wenders reveals his version of what happened, why the film was literally shot twice. Read about it here.

A big part of the film’s moody ambiance is thanks to master cinematographer Joseph F. Biroc whose films included, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Killer Who Stalked New York, Dry Danger, Attack, Forty Guns, China Gate, The Garment Jungle, Tony Rome, and many other films and television shows.

The film stars Frederic Forrest, in an excellent performance, as Hammett, Peter Boyle, and Marilu Henner. Look for Sylvia Sydney, Elisha Cook Jr. (Wilber in John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon), Royal Dano, and maverick B film director, Sam Fuller.

The Late Show…And Other Tales of Celluloid Malice; A Short Story Collection by John Greco

A great review from ALL THINGS THRILLER!

All Things Thriller

John Greco loves movies.

Uh-huh. Lot’s of us do.

He writes about movies.

Yeah? Good for him. There are hundreds…no…thousands of movie blogs out there.

John Greco is a cinephile.

Oh no. Not another film snob going on and on about camera angles and 35 millimeter film…

Okay. Stop it. John’s not that guy.

Yes he’s an encyclopedia of cinema and of film techniques, all of which he presents in a very friendly, accessible way on his superb blog twentyfourframes.

But this post isn’t about his blog. This post is about John Greco the author because, first and foremost, John is a writer of fiction. And what a fine writer he is.

In his third published compilation, The Late Show, John has mined his passion for film in a taunt, page turning collection of eight short stories inspired by classic cinema and reminiscent of the golden age of television (e.g.,

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New Interview!

I am interviewed by Rick Armstrong of the Classic Film and TV Cafe. You can read the interview here!  The Late Show and Other Tales of Celluloid Malice is available at Amazon as both an eBook and Paperback.

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The Late Show is Now Playing!

IT’S HERE!  Today my latest collection of short stories, The Late Show and Other Tales of Celluloid Malice, is available for purchase on Amazon as both an eBook and paperback.

The Late Show Poster Collage2

Eight dark short stories all with two things in common – Movies and Malice! Murder, revenge, greed and more are now playing.  The stories include:

The Late Show Kindlw Cover-004The Late Show

I Ain’t So Tough

Six Shooter

The Green Light

The Movie Club

The Cabin

The Butcher’s Kid

Benny and Slaughter

Creativity Comes From…

Creativity comes from many sources and directions: newspaper articles, movies, dreams, travel, photographs, talking to others and more. Writers observe as do photographers and other artists. To me, that is the key to creativity… observation.  You see something, you hear something and that gets your creative juices flowing. I have been inspired to write by my own photographs. For example, the photo below was taken at the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. The photograph inspired a story called The Bombay Hook Incident.

Sunrise Bombay Hook NWR Delaware CW-1572

 A little background. My wife and I went on a photo trip with photographer John Slonina, and The Bombay National Wildlife Refuge was one of our stops. As any photographer knows, early mornings are a great time to shoot, especially landscape and wildlife. While driving around the refuge, we came across a tent near some sand dunes. Apparently, some people camped there overnight. I doubt it’s legal to do so, but there they were. The scenery, the beautiful morning skies, the abundance of wildlife got me thinking, and I wrote this story about a female photographer out there alone in the early morning who runs across a shady individual looking to steal her photography equipment. It was published last year in the online A Million and One Magazine. You can read it here.

This leads me to my new collection of short stories, The Late Show and Other Tales of Celluloid Malice. One story, The Butcher’s Kid, is about an older teenage boy who helps his father get out of a jam with a local hoodlum. I was thinking about my old Brooklyn neighborhood and a butcher shop that my mother frequented. The butcher had a daughter about my age. We both attended the same junior high school and shared a class or two together. The girl was pretty, and I admittedly had a bit of a crush on her. That’s probably the reason it remains a memory. Using that as the background, except for the girl who is not in the story, I came up with this short tale of a father and son protecting their turf and themselves.

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The Butcher’s Kid is one of eight short stories, all with two things in common – Movies and Malice! Murder, revenge, greed and more are now playing. These stories may make you change your movie-going habits. Available now for pre-order. Due on March 3rd.