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!

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.

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.

The Late Show Kindlw Cover-004

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.

Five Stephen King Films and Characters Who Are Writers

Anyone who has read Stephen King knows many of his characters are writers. I don’t know of any other author who has used a writer in so many of his stories. Many of these stories have been transferred to the movie screen, once again, possibly more than any other author. And there are more on the way. Here are five of my favorites.

 

Misey

Whether you’re a musician, actor, artist or writer you know having fans is an integral part of the experience.  Fans are supportive, financially and artistically. Fans follow the artist on social media, fans share experiences and thoughts with each other, and fans are devoted.  Sometimes like Annie Wilkes, a little too devoted. In Misery, King created one of his most devoted and deranged fans. One of my favorite King novels and films.

Shining

Every writer needs time alone when he’s working. Solitude to think, research and create. In The Shining, Stephen King’s Jack Torrance is no exception, and he finds his opportunity when he is hired as a caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, closed for the winter. The fact that the previous caretaker went mad does not deter Jack from taking the job and his family along. HERE’S JOHNNY!

Salem

I read the novel and saw the made for television movie back in the 1970s.  All I can say is that Salem’s Lot remains one of my favorite King novels. A mini-series was made in 2004.

Secret Window

In Secret Window, a psychological thriller (based on the novella Secret Window, Secret Garden from Four Past Midnight), Johnny Depp portrays a successful writer going through a rough divorce. He is stalked by a wannabe writer (John Turturro) who accuses him of plagiarism. I like this film more than a lot of folks do. One of Depp’s finest performances.

 

Big Driver Maria Bello-001

Stephen King’s novella, Big Driver (a TNT film), originally part of King’s Full Night, Dark Stars collection is a tale of not so sweet revenge in line with the film I Spit on Your Grave.  Tess Thorne, an author of cozy mysteries, is attacked, brutally raped repeatedly and left for dead, on an empty back road while she is on her way back home from a speaking and book signing engagement at a library. Afraid to tell anyone about her rape she seeks revenge on those responsible. With the help of her inner voice and a GPS named Tom, The author’s perpetrators get their bloody revenge.

 

Book Review: Double Feature

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Hard Case Crime recently brought back Donald Westlake’s 1977 book Enough under a new title called Double Feature. The original book was hard to find unless your local library had a copy. That’s where I originally discovered it some years back. Double Feature consists of two short novellas; A Travesty is the longest and best of the two stories. The second story, Ordo is decidedly less interesting. With the recent publication under its new title, I reread A Travesty and still found it a fun read. Attached is a link to a post called A Slight Case of Donald Westlake, I wrote a few years back that includes a review of Enough/Double Feature.

She Took One Step Into The Bedroom…

She took one step into the bedroom framing herself by the open bathroom door. Jimmy stared at her.  Exactly as John Garfield first saw Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice, he thought: white shorts, halter top, and turban.   Only this time Margaret added one more accessory… – The Late Show and Other Tales of Celluloid Malice

 

Lana Potman