Andre is Writing Again

DLM Andre PC-002Andre is back once again at my laptop pounding on the keys. I can only hope he is not writing his memoirs. If he is, I am in deep trouble!

While you are waiting for Andre’s tell all book to be published , you can check out Devious Tales available now at Amazon.

The Best Years of Our Lives on TCM Nov. 11th

William Wyler’s Academy Award winning The Best Years of Out Lives will be broadcast on TCM Saturday November 11th at 5PM. You can read about the film and other classics in my book Lessons in the Dark. Below are a couple of excerpts.

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The Best Years of Our Lives has not dated at all. In fact, it remains extremely relevant to our lives today. Sadly, since World War II, we as a country, have been involved in wars or ‘conflicts,’ seemingly one right after another: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan being the major engagements and there have been numerous others, too many to list. In each case returning soldiers have faced emotional and physical adjustments and sometimes, like during the Vietnam War, were greeted with protests and indifference

Over the years there have been many films that have focused on returning soldiers coming home with uncertainty or shell shock or with battle fatigue or post war syndrome, call it what you will, in works like Coming Home (1978), The Deer Hunter (1978) and more recently Home of the Brave (2006), and most recently, Stop-Loss (2008) and The Lucky Ones (2008). The Best Years of Our Lives was one of the first, if not the first, to focus on returning veterans coming home and adjusting to civilian life. It also remains the greatest.

You can read more about The Best Years of Our Lives and other films in my book Lessons in the Dark. Available at Amazon.

The Steel Helmet on TCM Nov. 9th

Sam Fuller’s gritty war film The Steel Helmet will be on TCM tomorrow, November 9th at 2PM. Below is an excerpt from my book, Lessons in the Dark.

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He has been called a guerrilla filmmaker, a primitive filmmaker and a tabloid filmmaker. Whatever title you want to label him with, Sam Fuller’s The Steel Helmet is a low budget masterpiece made for only $100,000 in just 10 days. It may just be the most honest and brutal look at war ever put on film. Produced, directed and written (he used his own diaries as source material) by Fuller, The Steel Helmet is the story of a battle weary Sergeant known only as Zack, the sole survivor in his unit massacred by the North Koreans. As portrayed by Gene Evans, a World War II veteran himself, Zack is cynical, bad-tempered and unemotional.

You can read more about The Steel Helmet and other films including Gold Diggers of 1933, M.A.S.H., Ace in the Hole and Brute Force in Lessons in the Dark available from Amazon.

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New E-Book From Classic Movie Blog Assn.

I am one of ten contributors to the new ebook, Underseen and Underrated. The book collects ten articles reevaluating and  celebrating little known classic films including Gunman’s Walk, Unfaithfully Yours, 7 Women and my own take on Between the Lines. All proceeds from the book are being donated to the National Film Preservation Foundation.  Available at Amazon.  

Underseen an Underrated

 

Pitfall on TCM Friday

PitfallAndre de Toth’s  1948 film noir Pitfall will be on TCM Friday, September 29th, at 11:45AM. The film stars Dick Powell as John Forbes, a bored insurance investigator, allegedly  happily  married to Sue (Jane Wyatt). His world falls apart when he meets sultry Mona (Lizabeth Scott) whose lover embezzled money from Forbes’ company. Complicating matters is the P.I. (Raymond Burr) the insurance hired who also has eyes for the femme fatale.

Pitfall1De Toth and his writers weave a downward spiraling tale with elements of suburban discontent, stalking, infidelity and murder. Aptly titled, “Pitfall,” the film reflects the consequences of one man’s actions on many. Forbes infidelity leads to at least one man dead. Mona is in jail, arrested for at least attempted murder, and of course Forbes’ own marriage is now in a fragile state. –    From Film Noir at Twenty Four Frames Per Second.

Available at Amazon.Book Cover_DSC_0583-002_Final2_small

 

Murder With A Twist Free on Amazon

Today only, my eBook Murder with a Twist is free on Amazon. Here’s what author Carol Balawyder had to say….

The two short crime stories in this book read like hardboiled fiction. Like any good short story both stories in Murder with a Twist are tightly written and we jump into the action right away.

This deal ends at midnight tonight! Click here or here or here!

Reviews are appreciated: Amazon, Goodreads, Blogs, etc.

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Fall Reading

autumn-books-cozy-fall-Favim.com-2078854Officially, the tall season is a little more than a week away. However unofficially, Labor Day kicks off the beginning of fall in the arts. We read in newspapers and magazines about all the new films, television shows, theater, music and of course books that will be coming out over the next few months. Similar to what I did back here for summer reading releases here are some of the books currently on my list to read this fall. Continue reading “Fall Reading”

Depression Blues and the Dance Marathon

they-shoot-horsesDance marathons were phenomena that began in the 1920’s. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Horace McCoy’s 1935 novel is a dark tale of losers desperately attempting to hang on to impossible dreams. Just like in Nathaniel West better known novel, Day of the Locust the characters all have unreachable dreams of being in the movies. Continue reading “Depression Blues and the Dance Marathon”

A Slight Case of Donald Westlake

westlake-photo-0-jpgOne of my favorite crime writers is the late Donald E. Westlake. Westlake was awarded the title of Grand Master by The Mystery Writers of America, as well as a three time Edgar winner. He wrote over 100 novels and numerous short stories and screenplays.

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Westlake was a prolific author, best known for two long running series, one featuring the dark anti-hero known only as Parker, written under one of his many pen names, Richard Stark, and the lighter comedic mysteries featuring John Dortmunder. By 1977, both characters had already made their way to the movie screen. In 1967, the first Parker novel, The Hunter, appeared under the title Point Blank (1) with Parker’s name changed, inexplicably, to Walker. The film featured Lee Marvin in the lead role. Five years later John Dortmunder hit the screen with Robert Redford in The Hot Rock.
ENoughBack in 1977, the author published a book called Enough. It consisted of two novellas, the longer of the two was called A Travesty, and the second, shorter story, was Orb. Enough may be one of the toughest of Westlake’s works to find a copy. I was fortunate enough a few years back to discover a copy at a local library. A Travesty is a dark, comic tale involving a sexually insatiable film critic, Corey Thorpe, who during a heated argument with one of his lovers accidentally kills her. Having seen too many movies, instead of calling the police, Thorpe decides to cover up his involvement in the transgression. Unfortunately, Thorpe’s lover was under surveillance by a blackmailing private investigator. Additionally, the investigating police detective takes a liking to our “‘hero,” and admires his amateur detective instincts. He’s also a frustrated screenwriter and would like Corey to take a look at what he wrote. Along the way, Corey is “forced” to commit a couple of more murders. Regrettably, for the film critic, his voracious appetite for sex does him in when he spurns the wrong woman.

a-slight-case-of-murder-150353l-600x0-w-5cb070a8Let’s fast forward more than 30 years to 1999 and the premiere on TNT of a film called A Slight Case of Murder. It’s not to be confused with the 1938 Edward G Robinson film with the same title, but a made for TV film starring William H. Macy, Felicity Huffman, James Cromwell and Adam Atkin. The film is based on A Travesty and adapted for the screen by Macy and director Steven Schachter. The duo faithfully captures the humorous essence of Westlake’s novella. The film critic’s name was changed in the movie from Corey to Terry, but much of the tale stays close to Westlake’s original work. It’s smart with plenty of visual and verbal nods to the noir films it’s sending up including Terry talking at times directly to the camera (in place of a voice over). It’s filled with murders, sleazy characters and plenty of twists wrapped up in a funny script that film lovers, like myself, will especially love.

The performances by the four main actors are all of high quality, though William H. Macy gets a special nod in a role that some may find reminiscent of his Jerry Lundgaard role in Fargo. Also noteworthy is Julia Campbell’s work as Arkin’s amorous wife, whose affair with Macy leads to his downfall.

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I am a big fan of two of the author’s stand-alone books, The Ax and The Hook, both wonderful satires. In The Ax, the main character is Burke Devore, a quiet company man who after twenty-five years of service becomes a victim of corporate downsizing. After two years of unemployment, his life falling apart, Burke comes up with what he considers the ideal solution, eliminate his competition by killing them off.

The Hook is a devious tale about author Bryce Proctor, a mediocre but best-selling author. Then there is author Wayne Prentice, a more accomplished writer than Procter, but his books no longer hit the best sellers list. Bryce has been going through a rough stretch including a divorce which has led to a bad case of writer’s block. To make it worst he has a deadline quickly approaching on his next book. Wayne comes up with a plan that would help them both. He’ll write the book, give it to Bryce to publish under his name, and they split the royalties 50/50. Bryce is all for it except he has one caveat, Wayne needs to kill Bryce’s wife.

Many of Westlake’s books have made it to the screen, unfortunately not always in a good way. The previously mentioned Point Blank, The Hot Rock, and A Slight Case of Murder are on the plus side. However, more often than not, there were mediocre films like Cops and Robbers, The Twin, The Split, The Bank Shot, and the awful and misguided Jimmy the Kid which was turned into a vehicle for Gary Coleman. Interesting enough, a few of Westlake’s books have been made into films by foreign filmmakers including Costa-Gavras whose 2005 film, Le Couperet, is based on The Ax. In 1966, Jean Luc Godard loosely adapted Westlake’s The Juggler (a Parker novel) turning it into Made in the U.S.A. (2) No one connected with the Goddard film, including Goddard, at the time, bothered acquiring the film rights. Westlake eventually sued and won.

As a screenwriter, Westlake was nominated for an Academy Award for his adaptation of hard-boiled author Jim Thompson’s The Grifters (1990). He also wrote the screenplay for the original The Stepfather film which was adapted from a short story he wrote with co-writers, Brian Garfield and Carolyn Lefcourt. For a full list of Westlake’s film credit’s check here.

If you like reading crime fiction and have not read Donald Westlake, get down to your local independent book store or anywhere books are sold and start catching up. If you like hard boiled fiction, the Parker books written under the name of Richard Stark are must reads. On the lighter side are his John Dortmunder books. Dortmunder is a cool, criminal mastermind, brilliant at planning heist. Unfortunately, his luck is not as good as his talent. Inevitably something always goes wrong.

 

Footnotes:

(1) In 1999, Point Blank (The Hunter) was remade as Payback with Mel Gibson in the lead role. Once again Parker’s name was changed again, this time to Porter.

(2) Wikipedia Donald E. Westlake.

Devious Tales

My thanks to author Carol Balawyder for the wonderful review of DEVIOUS TALES, my short story collection.

Carol Balawyder

There’s a saying in writing: make every word count or at the very least have every paragraph/scene be relevant. This can be argued, especially for the novel where there is room for sub-plots and leisure strolls through gardens and having tea with a favorite aunt. Not so for the short story. Short stories are (generally) tight, concentrated and condensed.

John Greco’s latest collection of short stories, Devious Tales has all the technical markings of this form and Greco skillfully merges his skill as writer and photographer in these twelve snapshots of life.

His stories are also highly influenced by his passion for noir film and fiction. His short story Late Night Diner reminded me of the rural diner in James Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice and I immediately associated his story The Organic Garden to one Stephen King could have written because of its macabre and conniving ending.

John…

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