Tag Archives: Hollywood

The Late Show: Michael Connelly

The Late Show brings us a new series from author Michael Connelly and this time, instead of Harry Bosch,  it’s Renée Ballard, a detective in the Hollywood Division. Renée and her partner, Jenkins, work at night, “the midnight shift, the late show, moving from case to case, called to any scene where a detective was needed to take initial reports or sign off on suicides. But they kept no cases.” She’s been shelved and transferred to this shift following a sexual harassment complaint, which was thrown out, against Lt. Olivas. Ballard is still bruised from the experience, but she’s dealing with it, working hard, and trying to do her job.

The Late Show

The book opens with a call to the home of a woman whose credit card appears to have been stolen, and then it’s onto Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center for the vicious beating and torture of a young woman (later discovered to be trans gendered), but before Ballard can press for forensic tests, another victim arrives from a quadruple murder that occurred in a Hollywood Club called the Dancers. When that victim, a waitress at the club dies, Ballard goes to the club to talk to witnesses.

So we have three crimes: a credit card theft, the beating and torture of a transgender person, and a multiple homicide at the club. The shooting at the club is odd. How are the victims related? –they’re an assorted trio of felons, a bookie, an enforcer, and a drug dealer, all in the same place at the same time, shot to death. And the drug-dealing waitress was “collateral damage.”

“Did anybody in here tell you they saw the waitress get hit?”

Jenkins scanned the tables, where about twenty people were sitting and waiting. It was a variety of Hollywood hipsters and clubbers. A lot of tattoos and piercings. 

“No, but from what I hear, she was waiting on the table when the shooting started,” Jenkins said. “Four men in a booth. One pulls out a hand cannon and shoots the others right where they’re sitting. people start scattering, including the shooter. He shot your waitress when he was going for the door. Took out a bouncer too.” 

Ballard is supposed to pass off the cases she works on the Late Show to the day team, but this is a driven detective who, still smarting at an unjust transfer, wants more.

She manages to wrangle holding onto the transgender torture case, but since the victim is in a medically induced coma, many questions are unanswered. Ballard’s partner Jenkins is distracted by his wife’s illness, but Ballard, who likes to go solo in her personal and professional life, starts investigating both the club shooting and the torture cases on her own. …

I thought I knew the direction the plot was heading, but I’m delighted to say that I was wrong. When it comes to crime enforcement, author Michael Connelly obviously has respect for the profession, but not every cop is idealized, and many flaws fester under the badges of some of the characters in these pages. The book’s visceral tone draws the reader into Ballard’s cases, and there’s a sense of immediacy–we are there with Ballard, an intriguing protagonist, who is strong enough to lead a series. It’s fun to think that we know how all the procedures of police work, but occasionally, only occasionally, there were too many details. But apart from that niggling issue, The Late Show is a pageturner.

Review copy.

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Filed under Connelly Michael, Fiction

Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, The Flesh and L.A. by Eve Babitz

“Not that I like to blame things on tequila, but…”

Eve Babitz: it’s not what she sees or who she’s with, it’s her wryly witty observations that make Slow Days, Company: The World, The Flesh, and L.A., from New York Review Books, so much fun to read. So who is Eve Babitz? According to Wikipedia, she seems to be mostly famous for who she slept with, but if you dig around a bit, shove the notoriety aside, then you find her work as an artist and as a writer. Matthew Specktor’s introduction tackles the issue of how Babitz’s notoriety buries her books: “to start laying out the names of Babitz’s paramours is to begin building the wall that obscures our view of her work.” Specktor also points out a major point with Babitz’s work: yes she may have slept with this or that famous person, but these very real people are “largely pseudonymous, or brushed aside in a way that feels aptly dishabille.” Babitz’s reputation, unfortunately, seems to subsume her books, and while I approached Slow Days, Fast Company prepped for pretentious name dropping–there’s none of that here, and instead the book is a refreshing, disarming perspective of California life. Whether it’s Bakersfield, Orange County, Forest Lawn, Palm Springs or even something as simple as California rain, Babitz’s canny observations make us see things through her eyes, and that’s quite a vista.

slow days fast company

Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, The Flesh and L.A. is a series of essays–each gives a snapshot of some aspect of the author’s California 1960s and 70s life. Her writing is a mesmerizing blend of worldliness mixed with innocence, and the result is, ultimately, unique and fascinating. A part of the Hollywood fast track glamour scene, nonetheless, Babitz managed to mix with the in-crowd but always kept an outsider’s critical eye. While it’s clear that Babitz loves California, still she always maintains a healthy skepticism about the lifestyle as, for example, when she mulls over the thought that “in Los Angeles it’s hard to tell if you’re dealing with the real true illusion or the false one.”

One essay finds Babitz visiting a fan in Bakersfield. It’s a unique area–you can think you know California and then you visit Bakersfield and realise that it’s a world apart. It’s an epic journey for Babitz: “It takes two hours for an ordinary person to get from Hollywood to Bakersfield, so I planned on three.”  She mingles with the locals and marvels, with an anthropologist’s interest, at the social mores, but always with curiosity–never condescension. The scene at the Basque restaurant echoed my own experience: “The forty of us from the party went to the White Bear and thirty-nine of us were prepared for what happened next. I was not.”

If I had a favourite essay, it would have to be Emerald Bay, which records a visit Eve Babitz made with Shawn, a gay man, who becomes her constant companion. In this affluent community, Babitz meets a boring woman called Beth Nanville, and while the essay could have dwindled into a diatribe of the affluent set in Orange County (where everyone is “so sadly hideous and Nixony,“) instead, the essay becomes a soliloquy of just what the author missed in the deeper, indecipherable side of Beth Nanville.

Ultimately, there was so much I liked about Eve Babitz, and this was unexpected from the things I’d read about her. I applauded the way she kept her love affairs more or less off the page; I loved the way she acknowledged feeling claustrophobic in San Francisco; I laughed when she describes her stylish friend Pamela and how she keeps  “hoping for something that is evil and brilliant to come out of her boyish mouth, but all she ever says is ‘Why aren’t there any men in this town?’ ” But here is, I think, the best quote from a highly quotable book:

Since I’ve started carrying a book everywhere, even to something like the Academy Awards, I’ve had a much easier time of it, and the bitterness that shortens your life has been headed off at the pass by the wonderful Paperback. Light, fitting easily into most purses, the humble paperback has saved a lot of relationships for me that would have ended in bloodshed.

A big thank you to Jacqui for reading and reviewing Eve’s Hollywood. I was on the fence about Eve Babitz’s work, but after reading Jacqui’s review, I decided to take a chance. Sometimes books written by people who are famous for being famous are pretentious, egotistical and boring. Not so Babitz. She has a remarkable eye and this book has a freshness that belies the society Babitz lived in.  Slow Days, Fast Company; The World, The Flesh and L.A. is highly recommended for regular readers, Emma, Carolina, Marina, Max, and, of course, Jacqui.
Review copy

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Filed under Babitz Eve, Non Fiction

The Filthy Truth by Andrew Dice Clay (with David Ritz)

The Diceman Cometh… back.

“I wanted to show the world that a comic could be as big as a rock star.”

There was a time in the late 80s when I swore that one day I’d see Andrew Dice Clay in concert. In those years he was everywhere–the raunchy hottest comedian around; his shows were rude, crude and lewd–the sort of comedian bound to offend someone. In fact, even saying that you were an Andrew Dice Clay fan raised eyebrows. No matter, I love a good laugh and my sense of humour has always been in the gutter.

the filthy truthIn spite of my intentions to one day attend a Diceman concert, it never happened. Most of Dice’s fans are aware of the ‘controversy’ that buried Dice’s career–Dice was slated to appear on SNL (yes, that supposedly cutting edge comedy programme) when one of the cast members boycotted the show. The boycott was joined by Sinead O’Connor, and then MTV slammed a lifetime ban (lifted in 2011) on Dice following the 1989 MTV awards (come on, if you make Dice a live prime-time TV presenter what the hell do you think is going to happen?) and then the Puritanism snowballed from there. Dice, at the top of his game and able to sell out tens of thousands of seats in minutes, suddenly became a hot PC potato. He disappeared, reappearing briefly in a sadly harnessed performance for a drab television sitcom.

Frankly, it was startling to see how Dice’s career was eviscerated practically overnight. William J Mann’s book Tinseltown documented the witchhunt that threw Fatty Arbuckle to the ‘moral reformers’ and ruined his career. Perhaps we could expect scapegoating in the 1920s–those days of imminent film censorship, but it is startling to see the same sort of thing occur again in the 90s. And let’s not forget that Fatty Arbuckle was accused of rape and murder before emerging, an innocent man, from no less than 3 trials. The most Andrew Dice Clay can be accused of is bad taste, and I bet he’d gladly admit it.

If the press didn’t understand that the Diceman was a character who amplified certain attitudes that millions of people had–not only amplified those attitudes but actually made fun of those attitudes by making fun of himself–then the press had its head up its ass.

I’ve missed Dice over the years, but I’ve had the occasional Dice Nostalgia Night with a rewatch of one of the many Dice concerts or even his cult film: The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, and I was delighted to see Dice in the role of a disgruntled ex-husband in Woody Allen’s 2013 film Blue Jasmine. Could this mean that the Diceman is back?….

The Filthy Truth, Andrew Dice Clay’s memoir, begins with Dice at the lowest point of his life. He’s “lost millions” and with two marriages behind him, “broke, grinding through the toughest decade” of his life, is about to play to an audience of 16 in the back room of a Las Vegas sushi bar–a far cry from the days when he sold out two consecutive days at Madison Square Garden–the only comic in history to do so. Dice says of the experience in the back room of the sushi bar,  “that night was the beginning of the ride back,” The book then moves from Dice’s childhood in Brooklyn, through the beginnings of his comic career, the formation of his Dice persona, the struggles, the successes, the marriages, the pinnacle of his success and his fall.

The book includes details of several sexual encounters, and this is when the book is at its weakest. Unlike Dice’s jokes, these encounters don’t come with a punch line, and the stories just read as titillation rather than interesting or even erotic. The details of Dice’s family, known as the Originals are wonderful; you just knew that he had to come from some pretty extraordinary people, and Dice’s parents (his mother especially) come to life in the pages. There’s the sense that Dice had an incredible career that was unique for a number of reasons, and Dice always seemed to be able to gauge the right moves at the right moment–that is until he drastically underestimated the power of Moral Righteousness and “the orchestrated campaign” which finally dragged his career into the undertow.

I ran down to the newsstand on the corner and picked up the paper. And right there, in a five-word description of the Diceman Cometh, I read, “The Demise of Western Civilization.”

I was half amused, half amazed that the Times took me so fuckin’ seriously. But I wasn’t upset. I was actually glad for the attention. Let the press write whatever the hell they wanna write. I work for the fans, not the press. All the press could do was bring me more fans. I didn’t see then–and remained blind to for months to come–the power of the press to fuck me up.

It’s clear that Dice, born and raised in Brooklyn, was always a ‘character,’ as we read of his childhood (he was a “third-rate student and a first-rate clown,”), how he “dated” his mother’s fur coat, his first and last trip to a bordello (“the madam looked like Bela Lugosi in drag,”) and worked at a men’s clothing shop selling cheap suits “a little better than papier-mâché.” But it didn’t take long for Dice to realize that he was not going to have a traditional career, and so we follow how he developed his first act and made the decision to move to L.A. where he built his routine at the Comedy Store. Reading the book gives the impression that Dice is in the room telling his story complete with frank admissions of mistakes and failings, and there’s the sense that a fall will occur as we hear about the houses bought, the huge gambling losses, the purchase of a car for sixty-nine thousand in cash, and the night he played Vegas with three-hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth of chips stuffed in his pocket.

Included in the book are snapshots of various celebrities who befriended Dice or gave him a kind word along the way–including  Rodney Dangerfield, Eddie Murphy, Mickey Rourke, and Eminen.

The Filthy Truth will appeal to all the fans out there who’ve missed Andrew Dice Clay and are still cheering for him. Those familiar with Dice will know what to expect in terms of language and subject matter, so readers can’t bitch when they find the first four letter word. Dice’s role in Blue Jasmine signals his triumphant return, but his fans never forgot him in the first place.

I got up onstage and I took my sweet fucking time lighting my cigarette with a flick of the Zippo and an over-the-shoulder back of the-head drag. I opened with the nursery rhymes.

Review copy

 

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You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up: Richard Hallas (1938)

“And I knew there was something I had to do and something I had to wait for, and it wasn’t till I saw it that I knew.”

Richard Hallas was the pseudonym for Eric Knight (1897-1943)–the man who created the character of Lassie. I’m still trying to get my mind around that. Lassie Come Home is …well… touching and a bit weepy, but here’s You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up, pure noir fiction, a superbly dark, hardscrabble tale of crime and moral corruption. Eric Knight was born in Yorkshire but emigrated to America in his teens. He was a Hollywood screenwriter, but in 1943 while a major in “the film unit of the U.S. Army Special Services,” he was killed in a plane crash. You Play the Black and Red Comes Up, published in 1938, was his only crime novel.

you play the redAlthough the book begins in an Oklahoma mining town, this is primarily a California novel. The book begins with the narrator, Dick, leaving his midnight shift to discover that his wife, Lois, has run away from the family-owned roadside diner with their child.  The tiny roadside diner is an iconic American image–a drab place of tarnished, shriveled dreams where the owners wait, hoping for customers as life passes them by. There’s a quaintness to this particular diner that’s submerged by its sad ordinariness. While Dick mentions that he’d “painted the front in blue and yellow squares like a checkerboard so that the truck-drivers on the way down to Dallas would always remember it,” we know that the diner is bigger in Dick’s mind than to the drivers who pass by on the highway. Dick immediately guesses that Lois has run off to Hollywood as she’s “crazy to get in the pictures” and has cousins living there. Perhaps we don’t blame Lois for ditching the diner and the long, lonely hours.

you play the blackDick doesn’t hesitate, he hops aboard a westbound freight, laying on the top of a box car and watching “the glow of the smelters a long way off” slowly fade as he gains distance from the town. He’s in the company of a “bunch of floaters” all headed for California and the myth that “there was a man there going to be elected Governor who would take all the money away from the millionaires and give fifty dollars a week to every man without a job.” In one town, police herd hoboes out of jail and onto the freight train beating the men with their billy sticks as they mount into a box car. The train trip becomes a hellish journey with the strong bullying the weak, the old and black.

It’s funny, when you’re in the dark you can’t get things very straight. Sometimes I knew it would be daytime, because I could see light through chinks in the boards. I tried to figure out when we’d get out, but I couldn’t tell where we were. Sometimes I’d smell desert and alkali dust, and I’d think we were in Arizona. Then we’d feel them coupling another engine and we’d be going up a mountain and we all like to froze to death because it went down to zero and only being crowded together kept us alive.

Once in California, fate, and fate plays a large role in this noir story, throws Dick into the path of eccentric, probably insane, movie director, Quentin Genter. This meeting leads to a number of twists and turns in Dick’s life, and while Dick sees Quentin as his friend, it’s apparent that Quentin is a collector of people, an expert in poison, and an arch manipulator.

Penniless and with no prospect of employment, Dick turns to crime to make an easy buck. This is another event that leads to yet another fateful meeting–this time with divorced lush Mamie and her friend Pat–women who’d “both decided to be blondes.” Mamie sticks like glue to Dick and while Dick is soon ready to move on, she may or may not have the knowledge to send him to prison. This uneasy alliance, with Dick unsure whether or not Mamie knows the truth about his criminal act, keeps him behaving, stuck with Mamie, and on edge. Are the comments she makes threatening or is he just reading this into the situation?:

Then I got to thinking she acted like she knew all about it anyhow. I kept going back over what she’d said and remembering her words. And one time it would sound sure as if she knew everything, and the next time I could prove to myself that she’d said nothing that wasn’t just an innocent remark. And that’s the way it went, back and forth, I could prove either way I wanted; things she’d done, and the next minute proving she could have done and said everything by chance.

That’s the way I sat there, not saying anything, and Mamie sitting there in her new dressing gown, brushing her hair and smiling. Then that got me to worrying whether her smiling meant she had me cornered or that it was just an innocent smile meaning she wanted to be pleasant and make up again.

That’s the way it was.  

You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up is a quintessential California novel. California has always had a certain mystique and undeniable lure: from the Gold Rush to the dream of becoming a film star in Hollywood. This novel was published towards the end of the Great Depression, but that period in history is still seen in these pages–from the hoboes travelling west towards their dreams and opportunities to Dick whose poignant memories of his desperate parents become another dream to pursue for entirely different reasons. Everything that happens to our narrator once he arrives in California has a dream-like, hallucinatory quality to it, an artificiality, a movie set feel to it. Film director Quentin argues that everyone becomes crazy in California, and if he’s anything to go by, well there might be something to it. There’s a bit of a joke behind this, as I learned not long after moving to America. You can live in California and imagine that you know America. You do not. California is unlike anywhere else in this vast country. And yes, some Americans do think that California is off the deep end–an extreme place for its attitude and acceptance of beliefs rejected elsewhere in the country, so I was pleased to see that even back in the 30s, California was seen as an anomaly when compared to the rest of the country. Here’s Quentin on the subject of what happens to people when they come to California:

“It’s the climate–something in the air. You can bring men from other parts of the world who are sane. And you know what happens? At the very moment they cross those mountains.” he whispered real soft, “they go mad. Instantaneously and automatically, at the very moment they cross the mountains into California, they go insane. Everyone does. They still think they’re sane, but they’re not. Everyone in this blasted state is raving mad. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

Dick’s experiences in California begin with a hunt for his wife and child, there’s a detour to crime, and that’s when everything gains momentum. There are twists of fate: a change of fortune, love (with a possibly insane woman), and a cult (even then) but there’s also a lot of darkness and deceit. While often a noir character takes one false step that takes him deeper and deeper on the narrow path of no return, Dick’s one misstep creates ever-widening spaces of tainted relationships, hypocrisy, falsity and moral corruption. Quentin seems to be Dick’s friend but he’s a satanic figure, and if he’s a satanic figure then the novel has an allegorical quality. Told in a deceptively simple style by a narrator who accepts what happens to him, not in a naïve way, but rather after the fashion of an Everyman, You Play the Red but the Black Comes Up, a title that hints at chance, good, and bad luck concludes with a spectacular, and surprisingly moving ending. 

It was pitch-dark but I wasn’t afraid of losing my way. I knew where I had to go, and somehow it was like something would be sure to tell me how to get there.

One of my best of 2013.

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My Face For the World to See by Alfred Hayes

For its bleakness and its Hollywood setting, I loved My Face For the World To See (1958)–a dark tale of a tangled relationship between a married screenwriter and a very damaged would-be actress. At 131 pages, this New York Review Books release doesn’t waste words, and there’s the sense that this tale has been pared down to perfection. The story flings us right into the drama with an opening set at a beach house party with various Hollywood people in attendance. The screenwriter, who remains nameless throughout the story is bored and feeling alienated when he goes outside and spots a woman stepping into the ocean. He thinks he’s seen the girl before, but then again perhaps not. She looks, after all, like so many other pretty, leggy desperate young women who drift to Hollywood. He realizes that she is trying to commit suicide, so he pulls her out of the ocean, and the drama begins.

My face for the world to seeThe screenwriter, who’s in his late thirties, is well paid but not particularly happy. His wife of fifteen years, a woman he’s no longer attracted to, lives in New York with their child. He rents an apartment that’s a “little too bridal,” and has the occasional affair. He’s not a wolf by any means or a predator, but he’s used to being alone with his cynicism:

I thought of my wife. She was at a distance. The distance was in itself beneficial. I supposed I was being again uncharitable. She was what she was: I was what I was. That, when you came down to it, was the most intolerable thing of all. If only she weren’t, now and then what she was, always. If she’d let up a little or knock it off a little or hang it out for a good airing once in a little while.  God, marriage. No: it wasn’t marriage. There wasn’t, even on close examination, any other available institution, any other available institution you could substitute. There seemed to be nothing but marriage, when you thought of it, and when you thought of it, my god, was that all there was? That, and raising a family. That, and earning a living. That, and calling the undertaker.

This bleakly abbreviated view of the meaningless of life says a great deal about our narrator. He finds his tired marriage, strained by “something that resembled a truce,” suffocating; perhaps he married too young, and he has yet to find anything to substitute for any sort of meaning to his existence. Yet his attitude towards life extends beyond his marriage, and he hates New York, “that immense slum.” Hollywood isn’t much better as far as the screenwriter is concerned. He dislikes Hollywood and the money it generates. To him the town is “rotten” and its immense wealth has a “phantasmal quality.” In a town driven by money, power, and fame, all three leave him cold.

At this very moment, the town was full of people lying in bed thinking with an intense, an inexhaustible, an almost raging passion of becoming famous, and even more famous if they were; or of becoming wealthy if they weren’t already wealthy , or wealthier if they were; or powerful if they weren’t powerful now, and more powerful if they already were. There were times when the intensity with which they wanted these things impressed me. There was even, at times, a certain legitimacy to their desires. But it seemed to me, or at least it had seemed to me in the few years I had been coming and going from this town, there was something finally ludicrous, finally unimpressive about even the people who had all the things so coveted by all the people who did not have them. It was difficult to say why. It might have been only a private blindness, a private indifference which prevented me from seeing how gratifying the possession of power or the possession of fame could be. 

The meeting between the screenwriter and the young woman grows into a relationship. The woman lives in spartan circumstances, but she’s proud of what she’s accomplished while the screenwriter finds that he’s “wandered into a ‘unsuccessful’ life again.”  He senses that “something quite heavy, quite immovable, weighed her down.” When questioned, he’s frank about his marital status, and an affair begins–with the young woman accepting that what they have is a dead-end with no future. Not a great deal happens during the course of the affair–a few dinners, a disastrous trip to Mexico, and, of course, confidences, which include the woman’s troubled past, are exchanged.

Author Alfred Hayes chose to keep his two characters nameless–although there’s one point in which the woman refers to herself as Miss V. It’s much more difficult to write about a book in which the main characters are nameless, but what’s interesting here is that the lack of names adds to the general feeling of anonymity. These people live in Hollywood–a town, “true to its rhinestone self,” in which names are of paramount importance. The last thing anyone connected to the movie biz seeks is anonymity, but that’s exactly what these two characters have. The woman, of course, seeks fame–she wants to hit the Big Time with “my face for the world to see,” whereas the man doesn’t care for any of the usual gilt covered carrots that drive ambition in Hollywood. Then there’s the issue of the affair….  Why, oh why, would anyone be insane enough to get mixed up with this emotionally damaged woman? Yes, she’s attractive and available, but as the narrator points out, the town in swamped with beautiful, attractive women eager to make connections and more than happy to attend Hollywood parties. The screenwriter’s introduction to the young woman, her suicide attempt, should tell him all he needs to know. This is not a stable young woman, and an affair can only end in disaster for both of them. Why then, given the benefit of all the warning signals, does he take the green light and begin an affair? Vulnerability can be a weapon, and it can also be a magnet.

In Love is the story of two people in a relationship that sours even as it goes nowhere. My Face For the World To See, the finer book of the two, is the story of a relationship that goes to hell. Alfred Hayes has a self-interruptive style which is only occasionally apparent in My Face For the World to See whereas this style is pervasive in its repetitive uncertainty in In Love. This is a sparsely, beautifully written tale of damaged souls, with sentences that lap over our senses and recede slowly, leaving behind an emotional stain:

There was a noisy rush of water from the bathroom, and she appeared, ready for the evening, a smile she had chosen, I thought, from a small collection of smiles she kept for occasions like this, fixed upon her face.

Praise goes once more to New York Review Books for resurrecting a lost gem. How do they find their titles?

review copy

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Filed under Fiction, Hayes Alfred

I Should Have Stayed Home: Horace McCoy (1938)

“This is Hollywood, old man,” he said, “where morality never crosses the city limits.”

Last year, I read and enjoyed Horace McCoy’s (1897-1955) masterpiece They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? This was one of those novels I’d intended to read for some time, a title that had crossed my path more than once, so when I saw I Should Have Stayed Home by the same author, I knew I had to read it. When I say that the two novels are connected, I Should Have Stayed Home does not carry the punch of McCoy’s masterpiece. How could it? Nonetheless I Should Have Stayed Home is another look at exploitation–and once again it’s the exploitation of young would-be actors and actresses who’ve arrived in Hollywood and are desperate to be discovered. The big question in both books is how far are they prepared to go for fame, but while Gloria and Robert in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? opt for a dance marathon, Mona and Ralph in I should Have Stayed Home are still hoping for bit parts that segue into brilliant careers.

I should have stayed homeThe story is told by Ralph a young, naïve small town theatre actor from Georgia lured to Hollywood by a talent scout who promised a screen test. Once there, the promised screen test was taken, but there were no calls and now he lives in a small bungalow, barely able to make the rent, with bit part actress, Mona. Disillusionment has begun to set in but it’s not deep enough to make Ralph return home. While he acknowledges that Hollywood is “the most terrifying town in the world,” he’s not ready to give up, and that’s partly because he’s sent letters home bragging about his Hollywood success. With lies, he’s fabricated a scenario of success, and now he’s done that, he keeps hoping for that big break so that he won’t have to go home and admit the truth. Once again, McCoy paints a very bleak picture of Hollywood:

Feeling the way I did, alone and friendless, with the future very black, I did not want to get out on the streets and see what the sun had to show me, a cheap town filled with cheap stores and cheap people, like the town I had left, identically like any one of ten thousand other small towns in the country–not my Hollywood, not the Hollywood you read about. This is what I was afraid of now, I did not want to take a chance on seeing anything that might have made me wish I had stayed home, and this is why I had waited for the darkness, for the night-time. That is when Hollywood is really glamorous and mysterious and you are glad you are here, where miracles are happening all around you, where today you are broke and unknown and tomorrow you will be rich and famous.

When the novel begins, the days of not being called for a part have morphed into a crisis. Mona and Ralph’s friend, Dorothy–who lives in the same bungalow complex–has been arrested for shoplifting and sentenced to the women’s prison at Tehachapi for three years:

She had come out to Hollywood to crash the movies too, but she had crashed a department store instead.

Dorothy’s arrest sets off a chain of events that mark a turn in Ralph’s fortunes and also a bitter shift in Mona’s attitude, but whether these are good or bad changes remains to be seen. As a naïve and sexually inexperienced protagonist, Ralph doesn’t understand a great deal of what goes on behind closed doors, and he certainly is no match for the man-eating, wealthy socially prominent, nymphomaniac” Mrs Smithers, an obnoxious woman who uses a series of men as her gigolos. As Mona, who is a big sister figure to Ralph warns:

As innocent as you are, a woman would have to start taking your pants off before you got suspicious.

After a few hours in the company of Mrs. Smithers, Ralph realizes that “nobody can beat the movie game without help–and the quicker you play ball, the quicker you succeed.”  

The story includes rumblings of trouble in Hollywood. In one scene, an actress mentions the Scottsboro Boys, so this places the story in 30s. There’s also discussion about the Communist party, the Anti-Nazi league, censorship, blacklisting & anti-union sentiment. In one scene, for example, a publicist walks off his job over the film The Road Back (1937)–a very real film based on a novel by Erich Marie Remarque:

“This was in the Los Angeles Times yesterday” he said. ‘”This is from the movie column in that great reactionary journal. Listen ‘The German Consul, incensed at final scenes in The Road Back’–that’s one of our big pictures–‘incensed at final scenes in The Road Back, showing German youngsters being drilled as soldiers, has induced Universal to revise the film’s editing. At the same time, the studio will try to work in some more love interest.’ He took a few more sips of his coffee, looking at me. “That’s why I quit,” he said. Wouldn’t you?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t see anything in that article to make you quit.”

“You don’t? Haven’t you seen any of those pictures in Life or Fortune about all the German youth being drilled in uniforms with guns and wearing signs across their breasts: “We were Born to Die for Hitler?”

“I don’t believe so,” I said.

“Well it’s true anyway. That Hitler’s going to start another war and why should the German consul get his bowels in an uproar because we show German kids drilling? I didn’t get sore about that, you understand, because the German consul’s bowels are always in an uproar about something. What I got sore about was the studio letting him tell ’em where to get off.”

I should Have Stayed Home was written in 1938. That was 5 years after Goebbels had Remarque’s books publicly burned and the year Remarque, who was living in Switzerland, had his German citizenship revoked, and it’s interesting to see McCoy infuse his novels with topical subjects.  This is a weaker novel than They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Ralph isn’t a strong enough character to carry the narrative, but it’s still a prescient tale of exploitation and corruption, and the insider’s view of the flexible politics of the studios gives great insight to Hollywood of the 30s. Review copy.

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Filed under Fiction, McCoy Horace

The Empty Glass by J.I Baker

Excerpt from a CIA memo dated August 3, 1962

“2. Subject repeatedly called the Attorney General’s office and complained about the way she was being ignored by the president and his brother.

3. Subject threatened to hold a press conference and would tell all.” (from The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe by Donald H. Wolfe)

About 1/3 of the way through The Empty Glass, a debut fiction novel written by J.I Baker, almost unable to grasp the significance of what I was reading, I put the book down and started reading about the recorded events surrounding Marilyn Monroe’s death. Marilyn had just been dumped by Robert Kennedy and she told Robert Slatzer, a former lover,  “If I don’t hear from Bobby Kennedy soon I’m going to call a press conference and blow the lid off this whole damn thing. I’m going to tell about my relationships with both Kennedy brothers.The Empty Glass is narrated by Ben Fitzgerald, a deputy LA coroner, who has the misfortune to be called to Monroe’s house on August 5, 1962, and the book details the mysteries surrounding this bizarre case. As I read the book, I asked myself if this was true–how much of this incredible stuff that I was reading was made up? Was this a figment of the author’s imagination? To my surprise (well, shock, really), I discovered that not only has the author very carefully reconstructed the events and the names of that night, but he also included some portentous events from both JFK’s and Marilyn Monroe’s life. The interesting thing here is that we will probably never know for certain what happened that night at Monroe’s home. We can speculate all we want, but by writing a fiction novel, the author effectively steps into a sequence of events in which the outrageous details were hijacked and an alternative narrative created by the people who…yes, I’m going to say it.. by the people who wanted Marilyn Monroe dead.

I have a vague childhood memory of hearing my mother discuss Marilyn Monroe and agreeing with the consensus opinion that she committed suicide as she was aging and couldn’t handle the knowledge that her looks were fading. Anyway, Monroe was a well-known loose cannon, so the suicide fit with that tragic star image. Author J.I.Baker shows that if the story fed to the public for the first 24 hours sails unchecked, then it’s virtually impossible to change the accepted narrative without invoking that nutball, dismissive phrase ‘conspiracy theory.’ What’s so very interesting here is that the author, using fiction as his venue, presents this story bolstered with the very-real facts as told by a fictional character. By using this approach the author effectively strips away the official story of Marilyn Monroe’s suicide which some (including me at this point) would argue was fiction presented as fact. And this novel is perfect timing, by the way, as this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death.

The novel begins with the information that something has gone horribly wrong in Ben Fitzgerald’s life, and then the story segues to the night of August 5, 1962 when Ben is rousted at 2:15 in the morning from bed at the cheap hotel where he rents a room. He’s told to go to 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood to the home of Marilyn Monroe as she’s committed suicide. Upon his arrival, Ben notes that the whole suicide story doesn’t fit the scenario:

Her fingernails were blue. The cause of death seemed obvious: an overdose. Except–Except the body was in the soldier’s position: legs straight, head down.

“I don’t have to tell you what that means, Doctor,” I say.

“Yes,” you say. “You do.”

“Well, it looked as though she’d been placed.”

“What?”

“Placed,” I say. “People who overdose don’t drift happily away. There are usually convulsions. Vomiting. They die contorted. And she was clutching the phone.”
“So?”

“A person dying of barbiturate overdose would not have died clutching a phone. She might have answered it. But a person dying of a barbiturate overdose would have gone limp before the convulsions began.”

Curiouser and curiouser, Marilyn’s housekeeper, doctor and psychiatrist have timelines concerning the events of that night, but within a few hours, they all change their stories. And then Ben discovers Marilyn’s diary, her “book of secrets” which for the record was never found–even though memos from both the FBI and the CIA acknowledged an awareness of its existence. He doesn’t grasp the significance of this find and in hindsight admits:

I had no reason to believe it would jeopardise my own life or that of my family. So you ask: If I had known, would I have just walked away?

Sniffing that there’s a lot wrong with Marilyn Monroe’s “suicide,” Ben takes the diary and begins doing a little freelance investigation of his own. Big mistake.

Some factors about the autopsy strike Ben as odd and inconsistent with suicide. Marilyn’s stomach was empty, so how did the overdose occur? He’s told in no uncertain terms that ‘s not his job to “speculate,” but his curiosity leads him into a nightmare existence of surveillance and threats–an existence in which Ben becomes increasingly paranoid and powerless.

The Empty Glass is a fast-paced read, full of short, sharp sentences that match the novel’s subject. The novel covers the weekend before Marilyn’s death when she travelled to the Cal-Neva resort, and also includes the JFK-Florence Kater-Pamela Turnure affair, along with fictional diary entries in which Marilyn Monroe mentions “the general.” The diary entries didn’t ring true for me–perhaps they just didn’t sound like Marilyn’s voice. On the down side, I doubt the novel will appeal to readers unless they have an interest in Marilyn Monroe. On the positive side, the author did some phenomenal work with the facts and effectively deconstructed the official story.

Wikipedia has a very interesting page devoted solely to the death of Marilyn Monroe. And here for the author’s web page for additional information about the life and death of Marilyn Monroe.

review copy from the publisher.

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Filed under Baker J.I., Fiction

J Edgar Hoover Goes to the Movies: The FBI and the Origins of Hollywood’s Cold War by John Sbardellati

Those tinged with alien ways did not even have to be intentionally disloyal, for they naturally carried with them an ‘instinctive racial affinity inherited from European social life’ that, revolutionary or not, was deemed as un-American.”

“No one of foreign extraction was above suspicion.”

“If we herd all the reds and Communists into concentration camps, outlaw two-thirds of the movies … the problem would be solved.” Gerald L.K. Smith, founder of the America First Party

 

I’m not a fan of Clint Eastwood-directed films, but I am a fan of Leonardo Dicaprio, and that convinced me to watch the newly released DVD J. Edgar Hoover. When I finished the film, I thought how proud J. Edgar would be at this exquisitely crafted piece of propaganda (apart from the scene when he dresses in his mother’s clothes). This is a film that makes you almost shed a tear for one of the most toxic and powerful individuals in the history of America. I realised I needed an antidote; it was a perfect time to turn to the book, J. Edgar Hoover Goes to the Movies: The FBI and the Origins of Hollywood’s Cold War by John Sbardellati. While this book, from Cornell University Press, can be a bit of a dry read at times, nonetheless, it’s lining up as the MINDBLOWING read of the year. As a film freak with a special interest in noir, I’d known, of course, about the impact of blacklisting and the HUAC hearings on the film industry, but J. Edgar Hoover Goes to the Movies (and what a marvellous title that is) reveals just how paranoid, insidious and destructive the FBI’s surveillance of Hollywood was.

Sbardellati argues that “the dark period in Hollywood history” which included the HUAC (House Committee on Un-American Activities) hearings signaled the “convergence” of HUAC with the FBI, and the book spends considerable time showing that “whereas the containment of Communism in the international arena began in earnest after the Second World War,” in actuality, Hoover had had his sights on Hollywood decades earlier and that the origins of the Cold War are to be found in Hoover’s policies towards, and designs against, what he considered ‘radicalism’ in Hollywood. Tracing Hoover’s career, the book follows his “meteoric” rise to power from the position of clerk within the Bureau of Investigation in 1917 to his appointment as director of the bureau in 1924. With his hallmark zestful  “xenophobia and antiradicalism” Hoover’s “personality” shaped policy, so we see him early in his career establishing the “setting of strict legal limits to allowable political dissent” with the deportation of subversives through his Radical Division. Hoover, apparently compared Communism to a “disease.

The communist hopes to implant his red virus  and to secure a deadly culture which will spread to others.

The problem with a ‘disease’ is that anyone can, in theory, ‘catch it,’ and that is exactly how Hoover viewed Communism. If, for example, you saw what he considered to be a ‘radical’ film…wait for it… try It’s a Wonderful Life, (the film “discredits bankers” and also attempts to “magnify the problems of the so-called common man,“) then the entire audience was exposed to some sort of mind control/infiltration and were receiving Communist indoctrination. According to Hoover, just having lunch with a Communist made you a suspect. That sort of thinking of infectious proximity extends to the Domino Theory, and we all know where that led….

With Hoover, virus infiltration extended even to the bathroom and a phobia of germs. Hoover: 

had his toilet in northwest Washington built on a platform to protect him from the menace of micro-organic invasion.

The author emphasises that to Hoover, “Communists were very much like germs,” and that “he identified political radicalism with filth and licentiousness, neither of which ever failed to arouse in him almost hysterical loathing.” So with that equating of germs with Communism, it should come as no surprise that Hoover obsessed about stamping out Reds. But what’s so phenomenal here are the extraordinary lengths he went to in his war against those he considered as against his interpretation of the so-called American way of life. Detailed here are the ways the FBI got their hands on scripts (the agents found it difficult taking notes in a dark cinema), maintained a secret list of subversive films, and wire tapped suspects. The author reveals Hoover’s often convoluted and illogical treatment of suspects; for example, if studio heads didn’t cooperate, they were simply naive, interested in box office success, or “politically blind” whereas if directors and stars refused to cooperate, they were Reds.  This, of course, signifies class distinctions and protections–and interestingly, Hoover perceived any mention of class differences in film as just more evidence of the Communist grip on Hollywood.

Various committees established to regulate the movie business are examined–including the MPA (Motion Picture Alliance). Some time is also spent on the 1943 film Mission to Moscow. Hoover saw the film as “an ominous indicator of the Communist grip on movieland,” and while the film, based on a book written by former Soviet ambassador Davies, rather ludicrously and tragically whitewashes Stalin’s Purges down to the trial of a few  “operatives of a dangerous Nazi fifth column,” (one historian argues that over a million were executed during the Purges),  Hoover seems to ignore that the film was part of national policy and that “the Roosevelt administration, through both the Office of War Information and Davies himself, had a hand in the production of the film.” In fact the Office of War Information’s Bureau of Motion Pictures considered the film ” a magnificent contribution,”  and while the film is progaganda, it’s propaganda organised with the seal of approval of Roosevelt.

Hollywood films whitewashed British imperialism just as much as they whitewashed Stalin’s purges. The impetus for such propaganda stemmed not from Communist partisans or imperialist advocates but from the U.S. government’s Office of War Information (OWI) and the chief purpose was building support for the war by presenting it as a Manichean struggle between the forces of good and evil.

In a sense, Hoover was partially correct; some filmmakers thought that films were the perfect medium for raising consciousness of various societal problems within America. But to Hoover, any examination of America’s social problems signaled the spread of Communism and the harbinger of revolution, and so instead of film being a very natural medium for examining social problems or even differences in political ideologies, the issue of content became the battleground. Hoover was appalled by marvellous films such as Sahara and Cross-Fire which advocated improved race relations, and so, through film, the control of Hollywood became a battleground for control of American culture.

There’s almost a sense of insanity when two other interesting personalities emerge in the book: Lela Rogers (the mother of Ginger Rogers) and Ayn Rand. And it’s with these two that we see some additional nuttiness: screen mother Lela Rogers also seemed to see Communists everywhere, and she had problems with the line “share and share alike” in Tender Comrades a film which starred her daughter. Particularly interesting here is Ayn Rand’s incredibly toxic influence on the FBI and the manual she wrote for the MPA Screen Guide for Americans. Largely ignored by Hollywood but taken seriously by the FBI, Rand’s guide includes various ‘dos‘ and ‘don’ts’ with as emphasis on individualism and American exceptionalism: “America is the land of the uncommon man.”

 And finally, I have to mention an incident recorded in the book when Eric Johnston, President of the motion Picture Association of America was called to testify by HUAC:

Sensitive to charges of subversion in Hollywood films, in 1946, Johnston informed screenwriters: We’ll have no more Grapes of Wrath, we’ll have no more Tobacco Roads, we’ll have no more films that deal with the seamy side of American life. We’ll have no more films that treat the banker as villain.

At the HUAC hearings, Johnston “offered a direct rebuttal to Hoover’s charges of Communist infiltration in the industry and subversion of the screen.” He pointed out something that most people seem to have overlooked …. Hollywood films were “welcomed everywhere except Communist countries.” Simple, logical and direct, but this statement served only to incense the FBI and cement a seedy relationship between HUAC and the FBI, and thus began the FBI’s “black bag jobs–bureau code for  break-ins and covert surveillance operations.”

J. Edgar Hoover Goes to the Movies is an astonishing and relevant book. In spite of its occasional dryness, the book is clearly the result of a passionate interest, and in these times of increased surveillance with dissent viewed as a matter of national security, it’s a remarkably prescient read. If back in the 1920s, someone had given Hoover a soap box and steered him to the nearest park to deliver his rants to the occasional bystander, then some of the information revealed in the book would have seemed almost funny, but when one considers the limitless power Hoover wielded and the lives he damaged during his long career (here’s looking at you, John Garfield), well there’s a lesson to be learned here in today’s troubled America. J. Edgar Hoover Goes to the Movies is lining up as one of my reads-of-the-year.

 For the G-men it was always about the movies

Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

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Filed under Non Fiction, Sbardellati John

Drive by James Sallis

“Maybe he should turn around. Go back and tell them that’s what life was, a series of things that didn’t go down the way you thought they would.”

A few months ago I read The Killer is Dying from American author James Sallis. I knew it wouldn’t be long before I returned to this writer, so here I am listening to the throbbing, hypnotic soundtrack of Drive from the recently-released film and writing a review of Sallis’s phenomenal crime novel Drive. While this is my favourite crime novel of the year, Drive is so well-written, it transcends genre, so if you’re a crime fan, waste no time–do yourself a favour and get this book. I loved it.

At 158 pages, Drive is lean and mean, yet at the same time it feels as though it’s a lot longer novel. Not sure how Sallis achieves this but the author’s use of the passage of time and the almost mythological stature of its protagonist, a young man known simply as Driver, contribute to the book’s substance.  Here’s the opening paragraph:

Much later, as he sat with his back against an inside wall of a Motel 6 just north of Phoenix, watching the pool of blood lap toward him, Driver would wonder whether he had made a terrible mistake. Later still, of course, there’d be no doubt. But for now Driver is, as they say, in the moment. And the moment includes this blood lapping toward him, the pressure of dawn’s late light at windows and door, traffic sounds from the interstate nearby, the sound of someone weeping in the next room.

Sallis drops us right into the tale–chaos, blood, death and some kind of deal that’s gone wrong, and from this point the novel goes back and forth in time leading up to the scene in the cheap motel room and beyond.

Driver is a young man with a past seeped in crime and violence who arrives in Hollywood at age 16 hoping to become a stunt driver. A steady worker with extraordinary talent who gets the job done every time, Driver soon becomes a name in the business, but he also has a sideline: he’s a wheelman, and as he explains to someone who wants to hire him, there are limitations to the jobs he takes on:

I drive. That’s all I do. I don’t sit in while you’re planning the score or while you’re running it down. You tell me where we start, where we’re headed, where we’ll be going afterwards, what time of day. I don’t take part, I don’t know anyone, I don’t carry weapons, I drive.

Driver’s fees are high which takes him out of the low-life league, but his rep ensures that some are willing to pay the price. Driver always picks his own vehicles “something that would fall into the background,” with a “preference for older Buicks, mid-range, some brown or gray,” but since he’s only in charge of the driving part of the heist, there’s a lot that can go wrong:

Things go wrong on a job, sometimes it starts so subtly you don’t see it at first. Other times, it’s all dominoes and fireworks.

As the novel goes back and forth in time, we pick up slivers from Driver’s past–the friends he made, the jobs that went wrong, the Hollywood stunts, and the anonymous rootless life he leads:

He existed a step or two to one side of the common world, largely out of sight, a shadow, all but invisible. Whatever he owned, either he could hoist it on his back and lug it along or he could walk away from it. Anonymity was the thing he loved most about the city, being a part of it and apart from it at the same time. He favoured older apartment complexes where parking lots were cracked and stained with oil, where when the guy a few doors down played his music too loud you weren’t about to complain, where frequently tenants loaded up in the middle of the night and rode off never to be heard from again. Even cops didn’t like coming into such places.

A large portion of the book follows Driver as we found him in the first chapter, injured, surrounded by stiffs and wondering just who sold him out. It may not be personal, but Driver’s enemies want him dead, and they make the mistake of severely underestimating him….

By leaving Driver as a largely undefined character (except for his phenomenal driving ability), Sallis creates an intriguing, enigmatic anti-hero. Just what Driver is capable of becomes evident as this extraordinary neo-noir novel plays out, and while it’s clear that Driver’s actions become a response to circumstances, it’s also obvious that Driver isn’t the sort of man who leaves loose ends. He just doesn’t think that way. Once again, wordmaster Sallis wastes no words, and while the story is lean, it’s haunting and will dig in under your skin.

But what he did best, what he did better than just about anyone else was, he drove. 

For anyone interested, here’s a film trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAc23x2JJG0

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Filed under Fiction, Sallis James

L.A. Noire: The Collected Stories (Rockstar Games)

One of the features I really like about the Kindle (apart from the free classics) is the way stories, novellas, and novels not published anywhere else find their way onto this device. Example: I came across L.A. Noire: The Collected Stories for the princely sum of 99 cents. How could I not buy this?

Ok, so what do you get for your 99 cents?

That Girl by Megan Abbott

See the Woman by Lawrence Block

Naked Angel by Joe R. Lansdale

Black Dahlia and White Rose by Joyce Carol Oates

School for Murder by Francine Prose

What’s in a Name by Jonathan Santlofer

Hell of an Affair by Duane Swierczynski

Postwar Room by Andrew Vachss

Charles Ardai, the founder of Hard Case Crime, wrote the introduction which explains that Rockstar Games set out to create a classic noir experience,” and that LA Noire puts the player “into the shoes of Cole Phelps” former Marine now a member of LAPD. In addition to creating the game, Rockstar Games also “invite[d] some of the most acclaimed living practitioners of the noir storytelling art … to each write a new short story inspired by the world of LA Noire.” Some of the stories, apparently, are inspired by cases in the game.

I’m a Megan Abbott fan, so I was happy to see her included, and her story, The Girl is a female-centric tale that focuses on the tawdry side of Hollywood. I’ve read all of Abbott’s novels, btw, and The Song is You is my favourite. The Song is You was inspired by the real-life, unsolved disappearance of actress Jean Spangler. It’s a bitterly haunting novel, and I found myself thinking about it as I read The Girl. The Girl is set in a “famous” LA house, and I know which house inspired Abbott here. It’s a “Mayan fortress made of ferroconcrete blocks stacked like teeth.”

The protagonist of the story is an actress called June. She doesn’t have much of a career, but she’s married to a gangster named Guy, and this career move has removed some of the desperation from June’s life. June’s agent tells her that she’ll meet Huston at the party:

“Key Largo. The part’s perfect for you.”

“Claire Trevor’s got it sewn up between her thighs,” June said softly, looking up at the house from the open door of the agent’s middling car. “Ten years, every bed I land in is still warm from her.”

“She’s not married to Guy,” the agent pointed out.

“You see how far that’s got me,” June said.

Ok, this is a Hollywood party of the movers and shakers, the power people of Tinseltown. June has already admitted that she’s slept around to get parts. What else is she willing to do?

The first few years in Hollywood, times were hard and June shared apartments, rooms, even, with a hundred girls, their shared pillowcases flossy with their peroxided hair.

Working counter girl, working  as an extra, working as a department-store model, a girl to look pretty at parties, she got by, barely. She even filled her teeth with white candle wax when they turned brown and died.

She said she would do things, and she wouldn’t suffer for them. She’s seen where suffering could get you, and it wasn’t her bag.

So she hustled and hustled and finally found the ways to get all those small roles at Republic, B-unit jobs at Fox. She never could be sure, though, is she was making headway or running on her last bit of garter-flashing luck.

I am a fan of Joe R. Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard series, so it wasn’t too surprising that another favourite story came from this author. Lansdale’s story, Naked Angel, is about patrolman Adam Coats who finds a dead body frozen inside a huge block of ice.

Downtown at the morgue the night attendant, Bowen, greeted him with a little wave from behind his desk. Bowen was wearing a white smock covered in red splotches that looked like blood but weren’t. There was a messy meatball sandwich on a brown paper wrapper in front of him, half-eaten. He had a pulp-Western magazine in his hands. He laid it on the desk and showed Coats some teeth.

I wasn’t sure which was worse–thinking that the morgue attendant’s smock was covered in blood or realising that he was eating a messy meatball sandwich a few feet away from the stiffs.

Another favourite I’m going to mention is Hell of an Affair by Duane Swierczynski. This is the story of Bill Shelton, an underpaid Los Angeles surveyor who thinks he gets lucky when he picks up a waitress named Bonnie. Wait. I’ll revise that. She picks him up. Bad sign. A few dates and a little tongue hockey later, Bill’s ready to do whatever it takes to get Bonnie out of trouble.

These are classic noir tales: the easy pick-up femme fatale, affairs torched by lust, greed and ambition, and our characters lured by opportunity only to be tricked by fate. Some of these short stories have the feel that they could be fleshed out into novellas, but hey for 99 cents, I’m not bitching.  And if you want the low-down on the other stories, knock yourself out and spring for a copy.

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Filed under Abbott Megan, Block Lawrence, Fiction, Lansdale Joe R, Oates Joyce Carol, Prose Francine, Santlofer Jonathan, Swierczynski Duane, Vachss Andrew