Recent Read:Learning to See

see

 

Elise Hooper’s Learning to See, a biographical novel about the life of photographer Dorothea Lange is a timely, fascinating read about a time in America’s history when bad times struck millions.

After moving from the east coast to San Francisco, Dorothea Lange opened a photography studio where she photographs the city’s elite. She met the West Coast top art photographers of the day including Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Imogen Cunningham, the last became a close friend. Though Lange knew these titans of photography she was not one of them. They were artists, Lange was a commercial photographer catering to San Francisco’s upper class. During this period, Lange met Maynard Dixon, a well-known artist of western art. They married and had two kids. Lange continued to be successful with her portrait studio work photographing the city’s most successful in society. Her income was steady and there were many times she was the one supporting the family.

Then came the Great Depression.

Lange’s studio work started to dry up. She took her camera outside the studio and found herself emotionally moved by the poverty and homelessness that was more prevalent with each passing day. She met Paul Taylor, an agricultural economist. Taylor was working on a Gov’t project studying Mexican employment patterns in the U.S. He published thirteen monographs on Mexicans immigrants and Mexican-Americans.  Taylor was impressed with Lange’s street photography. He felt it expressed what he wrote.  They began working together documenting the rural poverty and exploitation of migrants and sharecroppers.

As Lange began the most important part of her career working for the Federal Farm Security Administration photographing the effects of the Dust Bowl: the poverty, the exploitation of migrant workers and sharecroppers, her marriage to Dixon collapsed.

Lange marries Paul Taylor, and while her work reached its most important period documenting social injustices, her private life became more difficult particularly with her son Dan Dixon.

This is a good book, though too much time is spent on Lange’s early years and development before reaching the most important period in her artistic growth. The book ends as Dorothea with her now-adult son Dan prepares for an exhibit of her work at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

As the author states in the Afterward, the book is a fictional version of Lange’s life based on the author’s research and the need to make artistic decisions combing and or altering some events but keeping the spirit and soul of her subject intact. She does it well.

 

 

Make it Write – New Short Story

Twenty Four Frames

If you are a fan of The Twilight Zone you may want to check out my new short story, MAKE IT WRITE.  It’s a slight departure from my usual tales tossing in a bit of Rod Serling fantasy along with the usual darker deadly deeds.  I hope you’ll like it.

“Another great story by John Greco. This one reads like a Twilight Zone episode. Every author can relate to this creepy story. And what a twisty ending.” Joseph Souza – Author of Pray for the Girl and The Neighbor.

MAKE IT WRITE is available as an ebook on Amazon for only .99 cents.

Make it Write Book Cover Final2r-002

View original post

Meeting Author Sarah Graves at The Eastern Most Point in the U.S.

Sarah Graves-Eastport_CR

Back in 2007, my wife and I were on one of our trips to Maine. One of our stops was a day trip to Eastport which we learned is the most eastern point of the United States. It’s a neat little town and upon our arrival came upon an unexpected surprise.

Strolling down Water Street, the seaside town’s main street, you get a beautiful view of the Atlantic, and New Brunswick, Canada across the waters. As we walked along we came across S. L. Wadsworth and Son, a local hardware store. There’s nothing special about it except that along with the usual hardware items you’d expect to find in a hardware store window there was a collection of paperback books for sale. The books are all by one author… Sarah Graves. Neither my wife nor I could claim familiarity with Sarah Graves or her work. Avid readers, we went inside and checked out the books. It turns out Sarah Graves is a mystery writer! Perfect!

Both of us are always willing to check out an author new to us so we purchased two paperbacks. The woman behind the counter asked if we would like to meet the author and have her autograph the two books. Seriously? In a hardware store? We willingly agreed and followed her to the back and up a circular staircase (being a reader of mysteries and suspense my mind quickly began to churn wondering, for a moment, if would be the last time anyone will see us alive!) At the top of the stairs, sitting at a desk we were introduced to Sarah Graves. She greeted us and thanked us for buying her books. We chatted for a few minutes; she signed the books and posed for the photo above.

We left with our new books, happy with the chance encounter, a pleasant surprise and an unexpected treat to our trip.

Sarah Graves is Eastport’s local celebrity and like her fictional home repair sleuth, Jacobia (Jake) Tiptree is a home fixer upper. Both are ex-New Yorker’s and both Sarah and the fictional Jake frequent the hardware store.  As one would expect Sarah’s books do well in town with the locals and bring plenty of tourist to the area.

Edgar Ulmer’s Detour on TCM

dtout

If you like down and dirty film noir, set your DVR for 4:45pm (ET) to catch Detour. Edgar Ulmer’s bargin basement noir is poverty row film making that rises to the level of art.

You can read more about Detour and other noirs it in my ebook Film Noir at Twenty Four Frames per Second. Available at Amazon. BUT be sure to set your DVR!

Book Cover_DSC_0583-004

 

 

Recent Read: The James Deans

Deans

 

With Moe Prager, author Reed Farrel Coleman has created one of the great modern day P.I.’s. Like many private dicks, Prager is a former cop. His career ended due to a freak accident that occurred during the days the city was in lock down and hunting for Son of Sam. Unlike most fictional P.I.’s we meet Moe is not walking the mean streets twenty-four seven. But he is smart and tenacious.

There are so many things to like in this book: characters are well developed, the writing is sharp and direct and the landscape descriptively detailed. Coleman knows New York City. You feel it in his writing. The narrative is smart, fast moving with plenty of twists.

The James Deans is a gritty and relentless tale, and though it’s only May, I know this book will be on my top ten list.

Recent Read: Beyond the Truth

Beyond

Bruce Coffin is a new author for me, but after reading he’s latest Detective John  Byron novel, number three in the series, I look forward to reading more. Beyond the Truth is a detailed police  procedural. A fast  paced tale about a Portland, Maine police officer, a man with a long and stellar record, who finds himself involved in the shooting of a teenage robbery suspect. The kid, a local high school sports star, had a gun, but no gun is found at the scene. During the investigation, Byron has to deal the press, politicians, and his superiors all with their own agendas that could impede the truth. Meanwhile, Byron has his own personal demons to battle.  Beyond the Truth is a complex tale with nicely drawn characters, and a super ending that won’t disappoint.

 

 

 

Recent Read: A Florida State of Mind

Florida stateFlorida! The land of sunshine, beaches, Mickey Mouse, and Disney World; it’s the happiest place on earth, or so it likes to bill itself. Florida is also the land of hanging chads, gator wrestling, 17-foot pythons, uncontrolled urban sprawl, low paying jobs, a history of violent colonization, and real estate con men; land swindles were so common, Hollywood satirized it in the Marx Brothers film, Coconuts.  Florida is the land where the Outback Steak House is considered the best place to eat, and Fried Gator Tail is a delicacy.

Florida was weird from its early beginnings. Spain was the first to try and colonize Florida but found the unfriendly hot and humid weather as well as the hostile Native Americans overwhelming. The Spanish government gave way to the Government of the United States which after multiple wars and battles forced most of the Native American population to move west.

Florida does have its good side too; the winters are mild, if non-existent. Many beaches are pristine, that is if you don’t mind seasonal red tide, and you can thank Floridian born John Gorrie for air-conditioning. You can also thank Florida for Faye Dunaway, Tom Petty, Jim Morrison, Wesley Snipes, authors Carl Hiassen, Judy Blume, Lisa Unger, and many others.

While other states can try and claim the number one spot for strangeness (California?), Florida consistently ranks number one. The most recent stories about weird Florida alone since I read this book involves the Mayor of New Port Richey, and his immediate replacement both were arrested within a month of each other, and then there was the woman crossing  I-95 naked, dodging cars as she attempted to retrieve her dog,

Author James D. Wright explains the good and the bad in his new book A Florida State of Mind. As Wright points out, Florida likes to bill itself as the happiest state in the country. In truth, depending on the survey you look at it ranks between twelfth and twenty-fourth. Wright lays out an entertaining history of the weirdest state from its earliest days right up until the 21st century. The book is nicely laid out in chapters dealing with its history, growth, politics, tourism, and the environment. An entertaining read on a subject that is never boring.

Note: I received an ARC from St. Martin Publishing.