Friday, February 24, 2017

Forgotten Hits: February 24th

Forgotten Hits: February 24th

15 Intense Facts About 'Cape Fear'

15 Intense Facts About 'Cape Fear': In 1991—long before the term "gritty reboot" came into this world and lost all of its meaning—Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro teamed up to make a gritty reboot of J. Lee Thompson's 1962 thriller Cape Fear.

Song of the Day

John Conlee - Rose Colored Glasses - YouTube:

I Miss the Old Days

Broads, Dames, Dolls and Dishes: Gorgeous 1960s Mugshots

Today's Vintage Ad

6 of the World’s Most Mysterious Standing Stones

6 of the World’s Most Mysterious Standing Stones


Evelyn Eaton, Quietly my Captain Waits, Perma Books, 1951

First It Was the Thin Mints Melee

Woman's fingertip bitten off during fight over shoes in Delray  

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

I Have a Feeling It's Not Just Texans

13 things only real Texans love to eat and drink 

I'm Sure You'll All Agree

Why 1977 Might Be the Greatest Year in Music History

Or Maybe You Do

14 Facts You May Not Know About Johnny Carson 

Bonus FFB: The Best of H. P. Lovecraft

Robert Bloch mentioned in Once Around the Bloch that he'd written an introduction to a hefty Arkham House collection of H. P. Lovecraft's work.  It happens that I have a copy of that book.  Not the Arkham House edition but the Ballantine reprint.  I hadn't read Lovecraft's work since the '50s, so I thought it might be fun to dip into it again and see what I thought.

The complete Table of Contents is below.  The stories I read were "The Rats in the Walls," "The Outsider," "The Call of Cthulhu," and "The Dunwich Horror," all of which I'd read back in the old days.  I had no trouble at all with the writing style.  In fact, I was quite comfortable with the long paragraphs, the lengthy descriptions, the many adjectives, the arcane vocabulary.  It was like visiting an eccentric old friend.  Not that the stories were as effective as they once were.  There's a big difference in reading Lovecraft as a teenager and as a really old guy.  I think this is particularly obvious in "The Outsider."  Has there ever been a sensitive teen who didn't read this and identify with the narrator, even at the very end?  Especially at the end, maybe.  Great stuff.  The creepiness factor in the other stories is still high, but it's not the same as it was in the old days.

Lovecraft has come under a lot of fire lately for his racist attitudes.  I wonder how many people will toss the book aside when reading "The Rats in the Walls" when they come to the name of the narrator's cat.  Probably quite a few.  There are lots of references in the stories to degeneracy and mongrelism, too, so be warned.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Heritage of Horror, by Robert Bloch
The Rats in the Walls
The Picture in the House
The Outsider
Pickman’s Model
In the Vault
The Silver Key
The Music of Erich Zann
The Call of Cthulhu
The Dunwich Horror
The Whisperer in Darkness
The Colour Out of Space
The Haunter of the Dark
The Thing on the Doorstep
The Shadow Over Innsmouth
The Dreams in the Witch-House
The Shadow Out of Time

FFB: Dead Man's Tide -- William Richards (Day Keene)

Someone (August West?) mentioned Dead Man's Tide in a comment on a long-ago post, so I thought I'd grab my copy and read it.  My guess would be that Day Keene aimed this book right at Gold Medal, but it missed the cut. 

The opening is one that's been used many times before.  Charlie Ames wakes up in a strange place with no memory of the night before.  There's no dead body around, as there often is in this kind of story, but he sees a lot of blood.  The body shows up, however; Ames is accused of murder, and the frame is a perfect tight fit.  Even his wife doesn't believe he's innocent at first.  When she does believe him, she searches for evidence to clear him.  Finding something, she's knocked out and accused of a second murder.

Things happen fast, as you'd expect in a Keene novel, and if the gimmick is too obvious, there's a lot of Florida local color (both scenery and characters) to make up for it.  The book was later republished by Avon as It's a Sin to Kill under the Keene byline.  Check it out.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Master and Margarita -- Mikhail Bulgakov (Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky, translators)

In the late 1960s, the Signet paperback edition of The Master and Margarita was all over the paperback racks.  I loved the cover, but I was a grad student in American literature and didn't really have time to read a long Russian novel.  After all, I was reading a lot of Gold Medal originals in my spare time.  

The other day I read that the book was Soon to Become a Major Motion Picture (not that is hasn't already been made into motion pictures and TV series), so I thought it was time for me to see what I'd been missing.  The edition I picked up was published by Penguin Classics in 1997, and it's about 400 pages (not counting the end notes) of tiny print, not the kind of thing I usually read, but I persevered.

There are several main plot threads in the novel, but they're all connected with the arrival one day of the Devil and several of his pals (that's one of them on the cover pictured above) in Moscow.  Hijinks ensue, to say the least.  I'm not sure whether to call the book a fantasy or magical realism.  Maybe some of you can help me out.  Another plot thread has to do with Pontius Pilate on the day he condemns Jesus to be crucified.  This is both a story told by the Devil and a novel written by the Master, who hardly appears in the first half of the book.  Margarita appears even less and doesn't figure at all until the second half.  But those two are the third strand of the plot, which I won't try to unwind for you.  It's one of those books you just have to read for yourself.

If I knew more about the political, social, and literary goings on in Russia in the 1930s, maybe I could some up with some comments about the book's satire.  I'm pretty ignorant of all those things, however, so I just enjoyed the story, the wild happenings, the humor, and the characters, who, I must admit, were a bit hard to keep up with because of the Russian names and the fact that everybody seems to have at least three or four names, most of which aren't like the others.  Is this one of the great books of the 20th century, as it's often been called?  You can't prove it by me, but I'm glad I read it.

The Radical Argument of the New Oxford Shakespeare

The Radical Argument of the New Oxford Shakespeare

Song of the Day


Gator Update (Stolen Statue Edition)

Alligator statue stolen from Riverside home: "I would like for the people who caught it to be fed to some alligators," said Carr.

Oscar Nominees’ Most Embarrassing Roles

Oscar Nominees’ Most Embarrassing Roles

Today's Vintage Ad

I'm Sure You'll All Agree

Type casting: the worst novels by Hollywood actors 


Susan Ertz, Mary Hallam, Bantam, 1950

“Screaming Blue Murder—Writing For Television” (by Cath Staincliffe)

“Screaming Blue Murder—Writing For Television” (by Cath Staincliffe) | SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN: Cath Staincliffe’s work first appeared in EQMM in January 2016. Her latest EQMM story, “The Rat,” is featured in our current issue, March/April 2017, and a third story will appear in EQMM later this year. The Manchester writer is a founding member of the Murder Squad, a collective of crime writers from the north of England. She came to EQMM later in her career than the other members of that group, which includes Martin Edwards, Ann Cleeves, Kate Ellis, Margaret Murphy, and Chris Simms.  Long before her EQMM debut, Cath had become an award-winning novelist, radio playwright, and creator of the hit series Blue Murder for Britain’s ITV.  She has been shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association’s Best First Novel award and for the Dagger in the Library. She was also joint winner of the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2012. Her novel Letters To My Daughter’s Killer was selected for the Specsavers Crime Thriller Book Club on ITV3 in 2014. She also writes the Scott & Bailey novels based on the popular television crime show.  The Silence Between Breaths, her latest book, explores what happens when ordinary people are caught up in a terrifying and extraordinary event. In this post, Cath talks about her experiences writing for television.—Janet Hutchings

I Found a Penny in the Walmart Parking Lot Last Week

Found: 50,000-Year-Old Microbes Hiding in the Cave of the Crystals 

The Most Successful Songwriters in Rock History

Neatorama: Popular music in the early 1950s was all about cardigan sweaters and sanitized tunes. But then a pair of upstart songwriters taught teenagers how to let down their hair. Here's how two Jewish kids from the East Coast brought black music to white America.