Author Archives: george

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #449: HARDBOILED, NOIR, AND GOLD MEDALS BY Rick Ollerman



“Rick Ollerman’s essays extend the tradtion of critics of crime fiction like Anthony Boucher and Jacques Barzun. His insights are as sharp as a stilletto.”
Yes, I wrote that blurb. You’ll find on the back cover of this book.
What makes Rick Ollerman’s Hardboiled, Noir and Gold Medals: Essays on Crime Fiction Writers From the ’50s Through the ’90s is Rick’s passion. From the very first page you discover Rick really loves these books! Many of these essays first appeared as introductions in various Stark House omnibuses. You’ll learn a lot about Peter Rabe, Donald Westlake, Ed Gorman, James Hadley Chase, Wade Miller, Charles Williams, Jada M. Davis, Andrew Coburn, Malcolm Braly, and Lionel White. If you’re a fan of crime fiction of the 1950s, especially Gold Medal writers, you’ll love Hardboiled, Noir and Gold Medals. And, if you love these books as much as I do, you’ll want to drop everything and read some of these wonderful writers!
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
How Harlan Ellison Ruined My Life 8
Ed Gorman, Donald Westlake, Peter Rabe, and the Gateway Books 13
The Differential Peter Rabe: An Appreciation 23
How Jane Smiley Ruined a Book (and Lost a Reader For the Rest of Time) 34
Rene Brabazon Raymond: The Discovery of a Thriller Writer 38
Sexy Covers, or Buy the Covers, Stay for the Book or Buy the Book, Don’t Let the Covers Put You Off 49
The Minds of Peter Rabe 52
The Unsung 63
Criminal Friendship: The Work of Robert Wade and Bill Miller 66
Sense of Wonder 84
Paperback Wonder 87
Horror Books 93
In Pursuit of a Pleasant Oblivion 97
Untitled 104
On Writing Introductory Essays 105
Charles Williams: The Best Known Unknown Paperback Original 107
Noir and Bleu 142
Midnight Road: The Quiet Noir of Jada Davis 145
A Bit More Jada Davis 150
Jada M. Davis: The Forgotten Contender 151
Repeats and Covers 161
Ed Gorman, The One and Only 163
Cruising Down the Literary Strip with Ed Gorman 165
The Power of Words and Tears 193
About Andrew Coburn 196
Can Humor and Crime Really Co-exist? 201
Danny and Manny: The Series Characters of Peter Rabe 203
The End of Daniel Port 212
Too Big to be Forgotten? 219
They Really Can’t Win: The Start of W. R. Burnett’s “Urban Trilogy” 221
Untold Stories 233
aka James Hadley Chase 238
Paging Dr. Noir 247
City of Closed Doors–Do Your Own Time: Malcolm Braly 253
Bad Men 270
Crime a la White 273
And Now the End 292

MESSY: THE POWER OF DISORDER TO TRANSFORM OUR LIVES By Tim Harford


Tom Harford argues that occasionally leaving our scripted lives and “changing things up” can trigger creativity, innovation, and increased productivity. And Harford provides plenty of examples to prove his point. I never knew that Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was improvised. And who knew that Rommel won many of his battles in World War II by ignoring orders and just making up battle plans as he went along. Sometimes being messy produces unique solutions to problems. I found Harford’s stories both compelling and inspirational. I’m going to try to be less rigid in my actions and thinking as a result. Are you messy or are you a neat-freak (or something in the middle)? GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction: “It was unplayable.” p. 1
1 Creativity: “You’re asking the blood in your brain to flow in another direction.” p. 7
Bowie, Eno, and Darwin: How Frustration and Distraction Help Us Solve Problems in Art, Science, and Life
2 Collaboration: “My brain is open!” p. 33
Paul Erdos and the Robbers Cave: Why Tidy Teams Have More Fun but Messy Teamwork Gets More Done
3 Workplaces: “Nobody cares what you do in there.” p. 61
Where Steve Jobs Went Wrong, and Why It’s Nobody Else’s Business Whether You Tidy Your Desk
4 Improvisation: “You ain’t got much lime to think, ’cause you in the chair from now on.”
Martin Luther King, the Help Desk, and the Unexpected Benefits of Letting Go of the Script
5 Winning: “What else matters but beating him?” p. 117
Bezos, Rommel, Trump: How to Use Mess as a Weapon in Business, Politics, and War
6 Incentives: “You wouldn’t need a large army. You’d need a small SWAT team.”
The Prime Minister and the Paramedic: The Pitfalls of Imposing Tidy Targets on a Messy World
7 Automation: “But what’s happening?” p. 177
Flight 447 and the Jennifer Unit: When Human Messiness Protects Us from Computerized Disaster
8 Resilience: “Everything had to be neat and orderly. No mess.” p. 205
Broken Windows. Stomach Ulcers, and the Dangerous Belief That Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness
9 Life: “Appointments are always a no-no, Planning ahead is a no-no.”
Franklin, Schwarzenegger, and the Genius Who Hacked OkCupid: Why We Should Value Mess in Our Inbox, Our Conversations, and Our Children’s Play
Acknowledgments p. 267
Notes p. 269
Index p. 287

THE WORLD FANTASY CONVENTION IN SAN ANTONIO: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY


Last week I flew to San Antonio to attend The World Fantasy Convention. I had a great time! I plan on attending next year’s Con in Baltimore. Here’s why:
THE GOOD:
1. Excellent panels like URBAN FANTASY and FANTASY IN TEXAS. My favorite panels featured Bill Crider, Joe R. Lansdale, and Scott Cupp.
2. Speaking of Bill Crider, Joe R. Lansdale, and Scott Cupp, we had a delicious meal at an authentic Mexican restaurant. Scott’s lovely wife Sandi and Joe’s talented daughter Kasey joined us. Great food and great conversation!
3. Unlike the Toronto BOUCHERCON, the book bag was high quality and full of wonderful books!
4. The Wyndham Hotel offered good conference rooms and amenities. Plenty of snacks!
5. Best Dealers’ Room I’ve seen in a long time!
6. The Book Cellar in the San Antonio Central Library (a short walk from the Wyndham Hotel) featured thousands of books, organized by genre and alphabetized. The day I was there, paperbacks were 2 for 25 cents, hardcovers were a buck a book! I bought as much as I could carry back to the hotel!
THE BAD:
1. Annoying people making lots of noise at 3 A.M.
2. The Wyndham bar charging $11 for a half glass (mostly ice) of sangria!
THE UGLY:
1. I was very impressed with San Antonio with its River Walk and Alamo. But each time I left the hotel, I saw packs of homeless people. Very sad.

All in all, The World Fantasy Convention was a fun experience. I highly recommend it! You can check out their website here.

THOR: RAGNAROK


Thor: Ragnakrok blends several MARVEL superheroes: The Hulk, Doctor Strange, and Stan Lee. Thor’s evil sister, Hela, returns from exile to conquer Asgard. Thor doesn’t stand a chance against his big sister, played brilliantly by Cate Blanchett. Thor finds himself on a junkyard planet ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) who keeps the populous happy by offering gladiatorial games for their entertainment. Thor needs to escape and return to Asgard to stop Hela’s dark ambitions.

My favorite aspect of Thor: Ragnarok is its humor. In previous Thor movies, things were a little too serious for my taste. This new movie features plenty of fun. Thor gets into plenty of ludicrous situations. Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki. And, expect some surprises from the twisty plot. GRADE: A

FANTASYLAND: HOW AMERICA WENT HAYWIRE By Kurt Andersen


Kurt Andersen shows why America today struggles with “Fake News” and “Alternative Facts” and “Magical Thinking.” From the beginning, when Columbus and the other explorers searched for El Dorado and the Fountain of Youth, the New World was a fantasyland. Andersen analyzes the groups that colonized our country and formed a unique Government. Social movements, religious movements, mystical movements all built the culture we live in now.

Philip K. Dick, who wrote about alternate Realities and the fluidity of Time and Space, gets referenced by Andersen as America becomes a drug culture. Con artists and hustlers flit in and out of American History. I really enjoyed the chapter on P.T. Barnum. Televangelists opposed evolution and pushed faith healing and conspiracy theories. Alien abductions and summoning demons became “normalized.”

Our wacky Government and the loony 2016 campaign act as warnings of what we face in the Future. Holocaust deniers, Moon landing deniers, and climate change deniers are the direct result of making Truth relative. Our civil discourse, riddled with lies and myths, produce marches supporting Science. Things are going to get worse before they get better. Fantasyland is the best book I’ve read in 2016! GRADE: A
TALBE OF CONTENTS:
1 Now Entering Fantasyland p. 3
Part I The Conjuring of America: 1517-1789
2 I Believe, Therefore I Am Right: The Protestants p. 15
3 All That Glitters: The Gold-Seekers p. 18
4 Building Our Own Private Heaven on Earth: The Puritans p. 24
5 The God-Given Freedom to Believe in God p. 32
6 Imaginary Friends and Enemies: The Early Satanic Panics p. 37
7 The First Me Century: Religion Gets American p. 43
8 Meanwhile, in the Eighteenth-Century Reality-Based Community p. 50
Part II United States of Amazing: The 1800s
9 The First Great Delirium p. 57
10 The All-American Fan Fiction of Joseph Smith, Prophet p. 68
11 Quack Nation: Magical but Modern p. 74
12 Fantastic Business: The Gold Rush Inflection Point p. 82
13 In Search of Monsters to Destroy: The Conspiracy Theory Habit p. 88
14 The War Between States of Mind p. 92
15 Ten Million Little Houses on the Prairie p. 98
16 Fantasy Industrialized p. 104
Part III A Long Arc Bending Toward Reason: 1900-1960
17 Progress and Backlash p. 117
18 The Biggest Backlash: Brand-New Old-Time Religion p. 122
19 The Business of America Is Show Business p. 135
20 Big Rock Candy Mountains: Utopia in the Suburbs and the Sun p. 142
21 The 1950s Seemed So Normal p. 150
Part IV Big Bang: The 1960s and ’70s
Introduction p. 173
22 Big Bang: The Hippies p. 176
23 Big Bang: The Intellectuals p. 189
24 Big Bang: The Christians p. 198
25 Big Bang: Politics and Government and Conspiracies p. 209
26 Big Bang: Living in a Land of Entertainment p. 221
Part V Fantasyland Scales: From the 1980s Through the Turn of the Century
Introduction p. 237
27 Making Make-Believe More Realistic and Real Life More Make-Believe p. 239
28 Forever Young: Kids “R” Us Syndrome p. 247
29 The Reagan Era and the Start of the Digital Age p. 252
30 American Religion from the Turn of the Millennium p. 265
31 Our Wilder Christianities: Belief and Practice p. 272
32 America Versus the Godless Civilized World: Why Are We So Exceptional? p. 286
33 Magical but Not Necessarily Christian, Spiritual but Not Religious p. 293
34 Blue-Chip Witch Doctors: The Reenchantment of Medicine p. 300
35 How the Mainstream Enabled Fantasyland: Squishies, Cynics, and Believers p. 306
36 Anything Gobs-Unless It Picks My Pocket or Breaks My Leg p. 317
Part VI The Problem with Fantasyland: From the 1980s to the Present and Beyond
37 The Inmates Running the Asylum Decide Monsters Are Everywhere p. 325
38 Reality Is a Conspiracy: The X-Filing of America p. 342
39 Mad as Hell, the New Voice of the People p. 356
40 When the GOP Went Off the Rails p. 362
41 Liberals Denying Science p. 376
42 Gun Crazy p. 381
43 Final Fantasy-industrial Complex p. 390
44 Our Inner Children? They’re Going to Disney World! p. 401
45 The Economic Dreamtime p. 409
46 As fantasyland Goes, So Goes the Nation p. 413
Acknowledgments p. 441
Index p. 443

THE BODYGUARD: THE MUSICAL


Deborah Cox lights up The Bodyguard: The Musical (aka, Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits) with her dance moves and strong voice. This is a musical version of the 1992 movie starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. A pop star, based on Whitney Houston, is being threatened and stalked by a psychopathic killer. A former Secret Service agent is hired to protect the pop star. That’s pretty much the plot. This musical version goes from song to song without much dialogue or plot. There’s just one scene where Deborah Cox and Judson Mills (who plays the bodyguard) get to interact: in a karaoke bar. Needless to say, it was my favorite scene in the whole production. If you like Whitney Houston’s hits, you’ll enjoy The Bodyguard: The Musical. Do you have a favorite Whitney Houston song? GRADE: B-
Act I
“Queen of the Night” – Rachel and Ensemble
“I’m Your Baby Tonight” – Rachel, Fletcher and Ensemble
“Oh Yes” – The Stalker and Rachel
“Saving All My Love” – Nicki
“Saving All My Love” (Reprise) – Nicki
“So Emotional” – Rachel, DJ and Ensemble
“Run to You” – Rachel and Nicki
“How Will I Know” – Karaoke Girls
“I Will Always Love You (Dolly Parton Version)” – Frank
“I Have Nothing” – Rachel and Nicki
Act II
“All the Man That I Need” – Rachel and Ensemble
“I’m Every Woman” – Rachel and Ensemble
“All at Once” – Nicki
“Jesus Loves Me” – Nicki, Fletcher and Rachel
“Jesus Loves Me” (Reprise) – Rachel and Ensemble
“One Moment in Time” – Rachel
“I Will Always Love You” (Whitney Houston Version) – Rachel
“I Wanna Dance with Somebody” – Company

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #448: THE ART OF THE PULPS: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY By Douglas Ellis


Douglas Ellis’s new The Art of the Pulps: An Illustrated History presents the development of action Pulps to spicy Pulps and everything in between. Ellis presents the complete history of Pulp magazines from the the stories and their writers to the artwork and artists, including the changing market, readership, and publishers.

Each chapter in the book includes dozens of examples of the best eye-popping Pulp graphics. The book is organized by genre with a selection of the best Pulp magazine covers and interior graphics presented chronologically throughout the chapter. F. Paul Wilson’s informative Forward gives historical context to the Pulps. Ask Santa to bring you a copy of this wonderful book! GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Foreward By F. Paul Wilson 6

Introduction: Birth of the Pulps By Douglas Ellis 8

1. In Search of Adventure (action pulp, ERB, Adventure covers) By Douglas Ellis 12

2. Cops, Crooks & Private Dicks By John Wooley 32

3. Riding the Range (Westerns, Max Brand, etc..) By Ed Hulse 52

4. Above the Clouds & In the Trenches (Aviation & War, Zeps & Subs) By Tom Roberts. 72

5. Armchair Athletics (Sports, Sport Story, etc…) By Michelle Nolan. 92

6. Love on the Newstands (Romance, Daisy Bacon, Western love, etc) By Laurie Powers 110

7. The Horror! The Horror! (Horror, sex & sadism, The Big Three, etc..) By Robert Weinberg, Douglas Ellis & Ed Hulse. 128

8. Adventures in Other Worlds (sci-fi, fantasy, Hugo G, British Sci Fi, etc) By Mike Ashley. 148

9. When We Needed A Hero (Heroes, The Shadow, Doc Savage, Villain Pulps (Fu Manchu), etc) By Will Murray 170

10. Adding More Than A Pinch of Spice (sexy stuff, Henry Marcus, NSFW stuff) By Douglas Ellis 190

11. Wizards with a Brush (incl. Norman Saunders & Walter Baumhofer) By David Saunders 210

12. Wizards With A Pen (Lovecraft, Howard, etc) By Ed Hulse 222

Afterword: The Death of the Pulps and Rise of Paperbacks By Ed Hulse 234

Index 236

Art Credits 239

Contributor Bios/Acknowledgements 240

BUFFALO BILLS VS. NY JETS


The surprising 5-2 Buffalo Bills take on the struggling NY Jets (3-5) tonight on the NFL Network. The Bills are 3 and 1/2 point favorites. The Bills were able to defeat the Oakland Raiders in the wind and the rain of Western NY. The weather forecast for tonight’s game appears more benign. These AFC East games can be rough, tough, and close. No Bills fan expects an easy game tonight.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES


I loved Emma Stone’s performance as Billy Jean King in Battle of the Sexes, the story of the TV event in the Astrodome that captured the largest audience for a tennis match at that time. Steve Carell plays frustrated 55-year-old former tennis great Bobby Riggs. Riggs decides he can regain the public spotlight (and make some money) by becoming a sexist clown and challenging women tennis players to competitive matches.

Many of you may remember the famous Battle of the Sexes event on ABC TV narrated by Howard Cosell and Rosie Casals (Natalie Morales). Austin Stowell plays Billy Jean’s devoted husband. I liked Sarah Silverman as Billy Jean’s feisty agent. Bill Pullman and Alan Cumming are part of the talented cast.

A good part of this movie shows the pressures Billy Jean King endured on the professional tennis tour, the physical and mental demands. Billy Jean’s relationship with a hairdresser (Andrea Riseborough) isn’t sugar-coated although the resolution is. Good performances and great story. What more could you want? GRADE: B+