Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Books, September 23, 2016

The Evil Days by Bruno Fischer (archives of Ed Gorman) 
Bruno Fischer had one of those careers you can't have any more. There's no market for any of it. He started out as editor and writer for a Socialist newspaper, shifted to terror pulps when the newspaper started failing, became a successful and respected hardcover mystery novelist in the Forties and early Fifties, and finally turned to Gold Medal originals when the pb boom began. His GMs sold in the millions. His House of Flesh is for me in the top ten of all GMs.

Then for reasons only God and Gary Lovisi understand, Fischer gave up writing and became an editor for Colliers books. But he had one more book in him and it turned out to be the finest of his long career.

Fischer shared with Howard Fast (Fast when he was writing mysteries under his pen names) a grim interest in the way unfulfilling jobs grind us down, leave us soulless. Maybe this was a reflection of his years on the Socialist newspaper. The soullessness features prominently in The Evil Days because it is narrated by a suburban husband who trains to work each day to labor as an editor in a publishing company where he is considered expendable. Worse, his wife constantly reminds him (and not unfairly) that they don't have enough money to pay their bills or find any of the pleasures they knew in the early years of their marriage. Fischer makes you feel the husband's helplessness and the wife's anger and despair.

The A plot concerns the wife finding jewels and refusing to turn them in. A familiar trope, yes, but Fischer makes it work because of the anger and dismay the husband feels when he sees how his wife has turned into a thief. But ultimately he goes along with her. Just when you think you can scope out the rest of the story yourself, Fischer goes all Guy de Maupassant on us. Is the wife having an affair? Did she murder her lover? Is any of this connected to the jewels? What the hell is really going on here?

Sometimes we forget how well the traditional mystery can deal with the social problems of an era and the real lives of real people. The hopelessness and despair of these characters was right for their time of the inflation-dazed Seventies. But it's just as compelling now as it was then when you look at the unemployment numbers and the calm reassurances by those who claim to know that the worst is yet to come.

All this wrapped in one hell of a good tale by a wily old master. 
Margot Kinberg, IN THE BLEAK MID-WINTER, Julie Spencer-Fleming
B.V. Lawson, FIRST COME, FIRST KILL, Richard and Frances Lockridge
Steve Lewis/William F Deeck, WEREWOLF, Charles Lee Swem
Neer, Three Vintage Mysteries Written Under Pseudonyms
J.F. Norris, WILD JUSTICE, George Birmingham
Matthew Paust, ELIMINATION, Ed Gorman
Reactions to Reading, PIETR, THE LATVIAN, George Simenon
James Reasoner, TRAILS WEST, Eugene Cunningham
Richard Robinson, GROTTOS OF CHINATOWN, Arthur J. Burks
Gerard Saylor, THE PAPERBOY, Pete Dexter, SEDUCTION OF INNOCENT, Max Allan Collins
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, BLUNT DARTS, Jeremiah Healy
TomCat, NECK AND NECK, Leo Bruce
Westlake Review, SMOKE

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What Makes a Sentence Great.

and here is a link to Prof. Jenny Davidson's piece on that subject. I am a great fan of her blog called Light Reading and I would read any book she recommended because she reads across all genres. A reader who can see the beauty in every kind of writing.

So give me a great sentence.Of course, in crime fiction, a first sentence would certainly be this one.

"When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon." James Crumley  The Last Good Kiss


"Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write." Judgment in Stone  Ruth Rendell

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Forgotten Movies: FISH TANK

Andrea Arnold wrote and directed this British film in 2009.  I am on a bit of a Michael Fassbender kick and I remembered this one when I saw his credits on IMDB.

It's the story of a teenager being raised by an awful mother but who is somehow is strong enough not to allow it to ruin her life. When her mother's new boyfriend shows a (at first) kindly interest in her interest in dancing, things look up.

Reminds me a bit of an English version of DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL of two years ago. And it brings up the question of how can single mothers introduce men into their households without endangering their teenage daughters? Scary, exhilarating
, honest. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

How Truthful Should You Have to Be When Telling a True Story in a Movie Not a Documentary?

We saw SULLY last week and found it moderately enjoyable. Now part of the enjoyment came from the scenes where the passengers on a plane were saved by the crew and also by Hudson River barges, ferries, etc. But a large part of the movie's excitement came from a lie. The movie portrayed federal agencies (National Transportation Safety Board) as looking to paint Sully as incompetent in the decision he made to land the plane in the Hudson river rather than turning back to LaGuardia.

 Here's a long explanation of what really happened and what the movie portrayed.

When a movie takes dramatic license in the way SULLY did, it portrays real people and government agencies as nefarious. In this case, an agency that did a good job in ferreting out the truth, is made to look like the opposite actions occurred.

I know this happens all the time but in this case so much of the movie hung on this lie, I find it inexcusable. What do you think? Perhaps it is just a movie, but millions of people will walk out of the theater believing once again that the government cannot be trusted.

Sunday, September 18, 2016