Friday, May 30, 2014

The Theologians

I'm thrilled to be in the new issue of ALL DUE RESPECT. My new story "The Theologians" kicks off this collection, which has contributions from Patti Abbott, Jessica Adams, Alec Cizak, Angel Luis Colon, Jen Conley, Rob Hart, Chris Leek, and Mike McCrary. It also features interviews with yours truly and Beat To A Pulp's David Cranmer, plus lots of reviews of new crime titles. It's another great issue brought to you by editors Chris Rhatigan and Mike Monson. 

This is some good stuff people. You can get the electronic version here. The paperback is soon to follow.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Film Noir Books: What To Get

Noir studies are big right now. There are about a million books on the market--from vast overviews of the genre to studies of individual films and filmmakers. 

Over at Criminal Element, I've put together a list of some beginning tomes. This is far from an exhaustive list, just a nice starting place for the fledgling noir geek.

You can read Build Your Book Case here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Amazing Leigh Brackett

Consider this--Leigh Brackett wrote or cowrote the following films:

Howard Hawks' classic private eye flick THE BIG SLEEP
Robert Altman's revisionist PI flick THE LONG GOODBYE
Hawks' John Wayne western classic RIO BRAVO
The Hawks/Wayne remake of RB, El DORADO

That's a heap of different tones and textures, genres and genre-revisionism to come from the typewriter of one person.

I have a new piece up about Brackett over at Criminal Element called Adventures In Screenwriting. Check it out.

You might also like this, a pretty-damn delightful personal essay Brackett wrote at the time of her first publication in the sci-fi mag AMAZING STORIES. The first line sets the tone: "In quite undramatic fashion, I began by being born."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Carl Theodor Dreyer

For me the work of some artists is an ever-replenishing well. I can return to it again and again--not just for entertainment (though, that's part of it, of course) but for something like spiritual nourishment. I'm thinking of the work of Orson Welles, Emily Dickinson, Johnny Cash, Krzysztof Kieslowski, and James Baldwin. I'm thinking of Beethoven and Bergman. And I'm thinking of Carl Theodor Dreyer.

Dreyer is best remembered today for his 1928 classic THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC. It's an amazing, intense experience quite unlike any other I can think of, but it's only one of the films that I love from the director. The 1943 DAY OF WRATH is a powerful witch-buring parable made under the noses of the Nazis. My favorite of his films might well be 1955's ORDET, about two pious families with differing religious beliefs. These films contain depths that my paltry summations don't even begin to touch. They are meditations on belief, disbelief, and the way individual human psychology informs and malforms religious dogma. They're not for everyone, but I love them.

I bring up Dreyer here to point the way toward an excellent website dealing with his life and work. Carl Th. Dreyer is a first rate resource for anyone interested in this invaluable artist--it provides articles, biographical research, and much more. I wish that every artist I love had such an impressive website. Go check it out. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Beginner's Guide to Studying Crime Fiction

I have a new post up at Criminal Element in which I've put together what I think is a nice beginner's guide to some of the critical/historical literature that's sprung up around crime fiction over the years. This isn't a comprehensive list, just a nice jumping off place for fans of the hardboiled stuff. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Edward A. Grainger on Wyatt Earp

Western powerhouse Edward A. Grainger, aka David Cranmer, has a new piece over at Criminal Element called "All My Earps: The Many Film Faces Of Wyatt Earp." It's a smart, idiosyncratic overview of perhaps the most famous lawman of the old west. 

I differ on only a couple of points on the list. First, I've never been a big fan of TOMBSTONE. Despite the almost universally high regard in which that film is held, it's always left me a little cold. (I've always preferred the widely derided Costner/Quaid epic WYATT EARP which was released around the same time.) And I'm a far bigger fan of MY DARLING CLEMENTINE--which is on my shortlist of favorite John Ford movies--than Cranmer appears to be.

But disagreeing on the finer points of these things is half the fun. Check out Cranmer's list. Then go check out some Earp flicks.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Murder of William Desmond Taylor

Quick, what does King Vidor (director of classics like the 1928 THE CROWD) have in common with Kimberly Peirce (director of the brilliant 1999 BOYS DON'T CRY)? Both of them tried unsuccessfully for years to film a story about the murder of another director, the silent film pioneer William Desmond Taylor. What is so fascinating about the murder that two directors, decades apart, would attempt to wrestle the mystery into a movie about sex, betrayal, and fame? I suppose the answer is in the question. The murder of Taylor shook Hollywood to its core, and the bizarre circumstances around the case seemed to touch every power center in LA from the studios to the press and all the way into the upper reaches of the the LAPD.

Check my essay on the case over at Criminal Element.