Monday, September 30, 2013

Jake Hinkson Reading at Cal State San Marcos

I'm excited to announce that I'll be doing readings from HELL ON CHURCH STREET and THE POSTHUMOUS MAN on November 7th at 7pm at Cal State San Marcos as a part of the Community and World Literary Series. If you're in that neck of the woods and you're wondering what I sound like when I really put the okra into my accent, then I'd love to meet you. I'll sign books and provide a vigorous handshake with every copy.

Here's a link to more details

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Girl They Loved To Kill: The Many Deaths Of Peggie Castle

NOIR CITY e-magazine has posted my essay "The Girl They Loved To Kill: The Many Deaths of Peggie Castle" over on the magazine page of the Film Noir Foundation website. Click on the link above and check it out. Then you can click here ("Me And Peggie Castle") to read my thoughts on writing the essay.

People ask me sometimes which of my pieces of writing is my favorite. Easy. This one.

I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Mutiny On The Bounty

Why did the mutiny aboard a grimy little cutter on a mission to transport breadfruit plants become on of the most famous incidents in all of naval history? I toss around some possible answers to that question over at Criminal Element this week when I look at the history and myth-making surrounding the failed voyage of the HMS Bounty in 1789. I also try to evaluate the best and worst of the many literary and cinematic interpretations of those events.

Read my piece here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


One of the best aspects of moving to Chicago a couple of weeks ago is that I now live about five minutes away from the glorious Patio Theater. A huge one-screen theater from the days when going to the movies was an event in-and-of-itself, the Patio now operates as a rep in conjunction with the Northwest Chicago Film Society. They show great films at $5 a pop. You can't beat that, folks.

Last night, the Patio showed Terrence Malick's DAYS OF HEAVEN, and what a joy it was to reacquaint myself with this movie--or, really, since I'd never seen it projected on the big screen before, it's more correct to say that I saw the film for the first time.

Malick's follow up to his debut with BADLANDS is a deepening of his vision. Like his first film, DAYS OF HEAVEN is the story of fugitive lovers on the run. In this film, however, the Malick we would come to know from films like THE THIN RED LINE, TREE OF LIFE and TO THE WONDER came into full flower. 

DAYS OF HEAVEN follows itinerant farm workers Bill and Abby (Richard Gere and Brooke Adams), lovers who pose as siblings and travel with Bill's young sister, Linda (Linda Manz). They wind up on a huge wheat farm in Texas owned by a quietly dying farmer played by Sam Shepard (who is known in the film only as The Farmer). When the rich man takes an interest in Abby, Bill sees an opportunity: Abby will marry the Farmer while Bill and Linda loaf around the farm and wait for the sickly man to die. This scheme goes as planned except for two things: Abby falls in love with the farmer, and the farmer doesn't die.

Like all of Malick's work, DAYS OF HEAVEN has a loose narrative structure that is put in place mostly to provide a framework for the poetry of its visuals. Malick is the rare filmmaker who is as assured working with his miniatures (extreme close-ups of bugs, plants, food) as he is with his vistas (the epic sweep of the wheat fields with the house on the hill looking as lonely as one of Hopper's landscape paintings).

The performances here are impressions rather than fully formed characters, an effect created by the elliptical editing. We come into scenes halfway through and leave before they've reached a traditional climax. The dialog drops in and out, as if we're overhearing private conversations. If Gere is too beautiful and mannered to be completely believable as Bill, Adams and Shepard are pitch perfect as Abby and The Farmer.  Likewise, the not-often-commented upon performance of Richard Wilke as the Farm Foreman. One of the great character actors, Wilke creates a grizzled man of integrity and passion in just a few short scenes.

And Linda Manz, about fourteen or so when the film was shot, is astounding as the young sister--it's impossible to tell if she's giving a great performance or simply operating as a filmed subject. Maybe there's no difference. Either way, Manz ties the whole film together. It's her flat, beaten voice that narrates the story, her reserved point of view that we inhabit. Like the rest of the movie, she seems more elemental that practiced.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Me and Peggie Castle

Dead women are dangerous. Those of us who write about them know this in our bones: falling in love with a dead woman is an invitation to madness.

I'm not sure when I fell in love with Peggie Castle. I first saw her films years ago, and it wasn't love at first sight. I mean, I always thought she was beautiful. And sexy. And fascinating. But my actual obsession with her started without me realizing.

One night I started doing research on her for an essay in the new issue of NOIR CITY. The next time I looked up, days had passed.

If you've never heard of Peggie Castle, don't feel bad. Most people haven't. Most film geeks haven't. Hell, most FILM NOIR geeks haven't. She was never famous. She was just another pretty and talented young woman who came to Hollywood with a lot of dreams that didn't come true. She had a brief career which she pursued with single-minded vigor but for some reason it just didn' The ranks of noir goddesses are full of women with similar stories. There's no good reason that people like Martha Vickers and Helen Walker and Peggie Castle didn't become stars.They had everything stardom required except that last little bit of luck.

Of course, to be obsessed with one of these women is really to be entranced by the sheer ineffable nature of movies themselves. That's really, ultimately, what classic movie geekdom is all about, staring at silvery fragments of the past, looking for some kind of connection to ourselves, searching for that connection before we ourselves slip into the blackness.