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Feb 11

FORGOTTEN BOOK: Run from the Hunter by Keith Grantland (Charles Beaumont and John Tomerlin), 1957

Posted on Thursday, February 11, 2016 in Books, Forgotten Book

The "wrong man" suspense novel Run from the Hunter takes place around Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama, which makes it a fun, fast read for this time of year.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 176th in my series of Forgotten Books.

As I write this, Mardi Gras is being celebrated across the country and in New Orleans with fine gusto. I have never been to the various parades and such since I dislike large crowds and drunken revelries as a general rule. But I have friends who are there right now collecting beads, listening to blues and jazz and eating some mighty fine food.

So I decided to celebrate Mardi Gras in a different way by reading a mystery set during Mardi Gras, though in Mobile, Alabama. In Run from the Hunter, Chris Adams is a former columnist for the Mobile Messenger who has been convicted of killing his former girlfriend Steffany Fontaine. There seems to be a motive, since she was running around on him. Adams is innocent and a bartender should have provided the alibi, but, for some reason, the bartender lied and now Adams is on his way to prison via railroad.

Mobster Frank Giogio is on the same train with the same destination intended. But he confides in Adams that the train will be derailed in four minutes. Adams tries to alert the police who do not believe anything he says. They should have listened.

Giorgio is killed when the bridge over the swamp is blown up, as are several policemen. But Adams survives and manages to get the handcuff key and escape into the dark and the bayou. The police are definitely going to be following him.

In the darkness, he manages to find a run-down house and takes shelter. But he is soon surprised by a young woman with a rifle. His case is now well known and the young woman, Loni Gaillard, recognizes him. And so does her mother. Adams tells his story and Mrs. Gaillard believes him. Besides, the rifle has no bullets.

Adams is allowed to sleep the night before he’s sent to see Jericho, an old man who agrees to help him. Jericho has an old Deusenberg that they use to go back to Mobile. Meanwhile, tracking Adams is Lieutenant Carr, the police homicide detective who built the case against him. Turns out, Carr was also one of Steffany’s suitors. He took her death pretty badly and has vowed to track Adams down.

Since it’s Mardi Gras and Adams is afraid of being recognized, he and Jericho stop for costumes, a pirate costume for Adams and a skeleton for Jericho. Adams contacts his former boss, Sheridan “Sherry” Paige, for help. They track down the bartender to question him about his perjury, only to find him dead. Things seem to be progressing poorly for Adams as the police keep getting closer and closer.

Run from the Hunter is a pretty nice suspense and mystery novel, which Beaumont began but turned over to his friend Tomerlin to finish. The duo worked together on the final draft and polish. The original edition was published by Gold Medal under the Keith Grantland name, which Tomerlin says in his introduction to the Centipede Press edition was from the middle names of each of their sons. There were two printings from Gold Medal and a hardback edition in the UK from Boardman. I’ve had both the Gold Medal printings, which had different covers, and I recently acquired the Centipede Press edition, which is very nice and contains a decent short story, “Moon in Gemini,” by the pair.

I have read a lot of Beaumont’s short fiction. I’ve got his solo novel The Intruder, which was filmed in the early 60’s with William Shatner in the lead. I haven’t read it yet, though it has a good reputation. The quality of Beaumont’s short work gives me hope for it. The film version was made by Roger Corman and is one of the few Corman films to not make a profit. IMDB shows a 7.8 out of ten rating for the film. Apparently Beaumont, William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson all have bit parts in it.

Centipede Press also did a recent edition of that novel, which is the edition I have. They make very nice books. They are expensive but the quality that goes into the finished product is always worthwhile.

So enjoy your Mardi Gras and have a wonderful weekend. Check out Run from the Hunter if you get the chance. It’s a worthy novel that deserves a larger audience.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 



Feb 9

Forgotten Films: The President’s Analyst (1967)

Posted on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 in Forgotten Movie, Movies

The President's Analyst might appeal to you if you like your comedies on the paranoid side. Not so much, however, if you're an Adam Sandler fan.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 154th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

Comedy is such a personal thing. Films some people, find to be hilarious, I find to be offensive, juvenile, or just not funny. I’m looking at you Adam Sandler! Nothing you have done is funny to me, so I make it easy on both of us and avoid your movies like the plague. Same goes for Ben Stiller, Kevin James, Seth Rogen, Melissa McCarthy and most of today’s “comedians.”

Now that I have gotten that out of the way, I want to recommend a very funny comedy. The President’s Analyst is certainly one of my favorite films. It is a product of its time and the rampant paranoia makes it seem like something Philip K. Dick might have done.

Dr. Sidney Schaefer (James Coburn) is a prominent New York psychiatrist. One of his patients is Don Masters (Godfrey Cambridge), a spy with the Central Enquiries Agency (the CEA). The opening scene of the film shows Don killing an Albanian spy while pushing a cart through the street of the garment district in broad daylight. Don drops off the cart with the dead body to some handlers so he can make his appointment with Dr. Schaefer. Don then tells Sidney how he feels about this action during his session and waits for the doctor’s reaction.

This turns out to be the final piece in the vetting of the good doctor to become the personal analyst for the president. He is told that everyone needs someone to talk to and he has been selected for the role.

Sidney and his girlfriend Nan (Joan Delaney in her first film role) are moved to Washington, DC, much to the disgust of Henry Lux (Walter Burke) the head of the Federal Bureau of Regulation (FBR), who has moral objections to the living arrangement.

Soon Sidney has more secrets in his head than is good for him. He can’t discuss them with anyone, and he becomes the target for various foreign powers. When it is discovered that he talks in his sleep, Nan is removed from the house. He can still see her, but he cannot go to sleep with her.

Then the fun really begins. Sidney starts to see spies and plots everywhere. Unfortunately for him, the spies and plots are real. He tries to escape by insinuating himself into the household of the Quantrills (a very young William Daniels and Joan Darling), a pair of gun-toting liberals. The Quantrills’ son wiretaps Sidney’s attempt to call the president for help and turns him over to the FBR, which naturally has orders to kill him.

Sidney escapes in the van of a rock band called Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (fronted by Barry “Eve of Destruction” McGuire and Jill Banner). Luckily, the doctor finds some peace and love here. While dallying with Snow White in a grassy field, we are shown how insane everything is with spies attempting to capture him killed by other spies who have the same intent. When Sidney and Snow leave, the field looks like a battle scene. Spies have been garroted, stabbed, shot, killed by poison dart and more. It is a marvelously surreal and funny scene.

Don, meanwhile, is teaming up with Kydor Kropotkin (the wonderful Severn Darden) to rescue Sidney. Kropotkin rescues Sidney from the Puddlians, rockers who work for the Canadian secret service. While fleeing with Sidney, Kropotkin finds himself undergoing analysis and liking it. Soon he is a patient.

I’m going to not reveal the ending, which deals with one of the most nefarious of all spy groups and features Pat Harrington in a great role. But Sidney, Don, Kropotkin, and Nan (who was also turns out to be a spy) have to try to save the world.

It a frantic, paranoid satire that is as relevant today as it was nearly 40 years ago. I’ve watched this film many times and given it to many friends. One way to judge how close our friendship will be is in seeing how they react. Those who don’t get it are never going to be close friends.

I love The President’s Analyst, and it’s pretty readily available if you need to see it. And, If you like those guys I singled out in the first paragraph, it’s likely you won’t like this one. As I said before, my taste is in my mouth. And I like it there.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 



Feb 4

Forgotten Book: Between the Living and the Dead by Bill Crider (2015)

Posted on Thursday, February 4, 2016 in Books, Forgotten Book

In addition to solving crimes, you can depend on Sheriff Dan Rhodes to do some bull wrestling in a Walmart parking lot.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 176th in my series of Forgotten Books.

I don’t know how many people click the link at the end of the column to see the listing of the other Forgotten Books each of these installments. Patti Abbott, a very fine writer in her own right, compiles a listing each week (and when she’s not available, some other very fine folks make it).

I have found some wonderful titles from the various listings. The listing for last week contained two that someone felt compelled to write about. I had read three of those titles and was aware of six others. The remainder were new to me or had never been on my radar. I will be checking out several more of them as the year moves forward.

Among the people who write the various Forgotten Book and Forgotten Film columns each week, Bill Crider is a prominent force. To the general reading public, I’m not so sure. He has written a lot of books over the years but he has not achieved household name status. And that is the shame.

I have posted about other Crider titles over the past five years, including A Vampire Named Fred and Mike Gonzo and the Sewer Monster. These were young adult books I really enjoyed. In addition to them, Crider has written mystery novels in five different series, men’s adventure novels, horror novels, western novels, a Nick Carter-Killmaster novel and some pseudonymous things he is very tight lipped about.

The Sheriff Dan Rhodes series is the biggie among his mystery novels. The series currently stands at 23 books (there is another being prepped for publication). Rhodes was his first series character, beginning with Too Late to Die (1986). Rhodes, the sheriff of Blacklin County, Texas, works out of Clearview, a smallish town with its share of wonderful characters.

Between the Living and the Dead begins with the death of Neil Foshee, a local meth dealer, at the local haunted house. Everyone knows the house is haunted. It has been empty for years. The last owner died alone there. So, over the years the stories about the death have grown and expanded. Sheriff Rhodes knows the facts, but locals don’t want facts to get in the way of their stories.

Local math professor/singer/amateur PI/character C. P. “Seepy” Benton provides some fun comic relief to the proceedings, as he has set up Clearview Paranormal Investigations (CPI) and offers his “expertise” to the county for a potential law enforcement endorsement.

Foshee’s two cousins have just gotten out of jail on bail, so they are potential suspects. But then so are Neil’s former girlfriend and her current boss/boyfriend, the mayor, the mayor’s wife and the mayor’s nephew. And when the skeleton shows up, the whole thing changes.

In addition to looking for murderers, a small town sheriff has to deal with lots of things like chasing suspects on foot through the woods and then avoiding the rampaging hogs or wresting a bull in the Walmart parking lot after it charges a small child. He has to deal with the his bickering employees and their relationships. And, of course, he has to deal with the dangerous drivers in Clearview who do not use their turn signals!

Crider captures that small town feeling and atmosphere superbly. Over the course of these books, you get to see the wondrous nature of that small town and come to care about many of the folks.

I’ve known Crider for about 40 years. I’ve read many of the books in this and the other series. They are great go-to books when you need a good solid read that puts a smile on your face and happiness into your heart. I don’t think I tell him enough how much I love his books, so hopefully he gets the idea now. Thank you, Bill, for these books.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 



Feb 2

Forgotten Films: Predestination (2014)

Posted on Tuesday, February 2, 2016 in Forgotten Movie, Movies

The Australian sf film Predestination isn't old, but it may not have cropped up on your radar screen.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 153rd in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

This week we have a film that is again not very old but may not have cropped up on the radar of many of our readers. Predestination is an Australian film that was screened at South by Southwest in 2014 and opened in the U.S. in January of last year.

It is a tricky film with lots of twists and turns and I will try not to spoil too many of them. The story begins when a young man named John (played by Sarah Snook) enters a bar in 1975 New York and encounters the bartender played by Ethan Hawke. John reveals that he writes confession stories for the various true confessions pulps. There follows a bet with the bar tender where John says he has a weird story and bets a bottle of booze versus $20 that it is the wildest he has ever heard.

The story begins when John says, “When I was a little girl …” and goes forward. He had been a foundling, dropped at an orphanage where he was named Jane. Jane excelled at math and physics but failed miserably at relationships and getting along. Upon leaving high school, Jane applied to work for SpaceCorp, where young women entertain spacers on their return from missions. Essentially, this is a brothel for spacemen seeking intelligent women. But Jane has trouble getting along and eventually is kicked out of the program.

Jane then took a job as a servant for a family and enrolls in classes at a charm school. Here she meets a strange man whom she falls in love with and, in a fit of passion, has sex with. When he disappears, she chalks it up to experience until the skirts get tighter and she finds herself on the road to motherhood. When the child is born, Jane is informed that the delivery was a caesarean section. The doctor informs her that she was an unusual case. She had two sets of organs within her body — male and female. They were both underdeveloped. The pregnancy has messed up her female organs and she has had to have a hysterectomy. To save her life, the doctors make her a man. Also, while she was in the hospital, the baby is kidnapped.

Jane (or John) is now a fish out of water. A person with few social skills and no experience in her new identity, John becomes a secretary and, while typing up a true confession story, decides that he can do better at it and begins to write a column as “The Unmarried Mother.”

So far, it’s a pretty odd story. But the bartender offers John a chance to kill the man who caused her all this grief, made her pregnant, and cost her the life she knew. She leaps at the chance and finds out that the bartender is actually a time traveler for the Temporal Bureau and takes her back in her life.

If this sounds familiar, Predestination is based on the story “All You Zombies” by Robert A. Heinlein. And if you read that story, you know where this is all going. And, if you haven’t, you should.

Sarah Snook is great as Jane and John in her various incarnations. She is a lovely young lady and not a bad young man (bringing to mind a young Leonardo DiCaprio). There is a story about the “Fizzle Bomber” whom Ethan Hawke is tracking. The bomber has blasted him at least once, burning his face significantly in the early moments of the film. Overseeing it all is Mr. Robertson (Noah Taylor), acting strange and mysterious in much the manner that William B. Davis’ Cigarette Smoking Man handled the X-Files weirdness.

I enjoyed the film. I had initially heard about it on Facebook and found a Blu-Ray copy for less than $10 at Amazon, which still lists them at that price. It’s not a perfect film, but it is fun and odd and well worth your time.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 



Jan 28

Forgotten Book: The Deep Range by Arthur C. Clarke (1957)

Posted on Thursday, January 28, 2016 in Forgotten Book

If you're interested in undersea adventure, Clarke's The Deep Range may hold some appeal.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 175th in my series of Forgotten Books.

Over the last 50 years I have read a lot of science fiction and, early on, I tried to concentrate on some of the classics of the field. I got hold of a list of the greatest science fiction as determined by the readers of Astounding/Analog in 1957 and 1967 (if I remember correctly). This list included such things as A Canticle for Leibowitz, Last and First Men, Childhood’s End, The Demolished Man and many more. (I made a very quick look online and did not see it. That’s not to say that it isn’t out there, but my patience was small).

I found that I really did not like the works of Arthur C. Clarke. And I did give him a try. I read The City and the Stars, Childhood’s End, The Other Side of the Sky, A Fall of Moondust, Against the Fall of Night, 2001: A Space Odyssey and more. I enjoyed Childhood’s End and A Fall of Moondust. But I just didn’t love them the way I loved a lot of other books by other writers.  His award winners Rendezvous with Rama and The Fountains of Paradise never appealed to me. I find his characters wooden and his plots pretty contrived.

I know many of you love these books, and maybe someday they will leap into my hands and I might come to love them, but that has not happened yet. And that is one of the things I love about the field. I can see what some people love in books and while they may not appeal to me, we are still part of the same geeky family.

That said, why did I pick up this Clarke book this week? Beats me. But I really enjoyed A Fall of Moondust and the subject of The Deep Range was something I had interest in. I have had a copy for a while, and since I’ve been addressing some classic writers recently, I thought this might be the time. And I’m glad I did.

The Deep Range is set some discrete period in the future when the population and overcrowding have outstripped the ability of land farms to supply the food and nutrition necessary for life. The single world government has established the World Health Organization’s Bureau of Whales. Whales are a major portion of this world’s food supply. Plankton farming provides protein for humans and whales. The Bureau of Whales’ wardens provide protection for this resource – protecting them from the orca killer whales and keeping them safe and sheltered during calving time.

Walter Franklin is a former spacer who has been grounded and is now on an escalated training course to become a whale warden. His six-month training is accelerated from the normal multi-year training. Walter is trained by First Warden Don Burley who is given no background on Walter’s situation. He is reluctant at first but soon finds himself growing to like the man. They both find themselves attracted to scientist Indra Langenburg, who is working up a master’s thesis on sharks, but it is Walter that eventually wins her.

The novel covers around 20 years of Walter’s time with the Bureau and his adventures, which include a near death experience in very deep water, encounters with a giant squid and a giant sea serpent, bureaucracy, activists and a rescue of a fallen submarine.

Walter Franklin is a likable character and I really enjoyed reading his adventures. Clarke was a diving enthusiast and spent a great deal of time underwater, exploring the ocean floor and fauna. You get a lot of that information in various info dumps as Walter learns about his environment, but I like the subject and actually enjoyed those bits.

So, I give this one a thumbs up. It may not be in most people’s list Clarke’s best, but it’s on mine. And, as I repeatedly say, my taste is in my mouth and your mileage may vary. If you like Clarke, the seas, whales or adventure stories, you could do much worse than The Deep Range.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 



Jan 26

Forgotten Films: Cloud Atlas (2012)

Posted on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 in Forgotten Movie, Movies

Audiences tend to love or hate Cloud Atlas.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 152nd in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

This week’s film is not very old but I think it is pretty forgotten. There seems to be a sharp divide among the folks who have seen Cloud Atlas. Many of them love the film; the remainder seems to despise it. There’s not a lot of middle ground. Love it or hate it.

And it is pretty easy to see why the divide is there. Cloud Atlas is not an easy, mindless film. It requires work on the part of the viewer. No easy-to-follow caper or adventure film here. And, to top it off, it is long, clocking in at 172 minutes.

So let’s talk about the film and its structure. The story follows six narrative paths with intertwining fates. The basic story lines involve 1849 Pacific Islands and San Francisco, 1936 London/Edinburgh, 1973 San Francisco, 2012 London, 2144 Neo-Seoul and Hawaii 106 years after the big fall (estimated as 2321). The lead actors have the following roles:

  • Tom Hanks plays Dr. Henry Glass, hotel manager, Dr. Isaac Sachs, gangster/author,  Dermott Hoggins, an actor playing Timothy Cavendish (see below) and Zachry.
  • Halle Berry plays a native woman, Jocasta Ayrs; Luisa Rey, an Indian party guest; Ovid and Meronym.
  • Jim Broadbent plays Captain Molyneux, Vyvyan Ayrs, N/A, Timothy Cavendish, a Korean musician and a prescient.
  • Hugo Weaving plays Haskell More, Tadeusz Kesselring, Bill Smoke, Nurse Noakes, Boardman Mephi and Old George.
  • Jim Sturgess plays Adam Ewing; a poor hotel guest; Megan’s Dad; a highlander; Hae Joo Chang and Adam
  • Doona Bae plays Tilda Ewing, N/A, Megan’s Mom and Mexican woman, N/A, Sonmi-451 and N/A
  • Ben Whishaw plays a cabin boy, Robert Frobisher, store clerk, Georgette, N/A and a tribesman.

The primary viewpoint characters are Adam Ewing (Sturgess), Robert Frobisher (Whishaw), Luisa Rey (Berry), Timothy Cavendish (Broadbent), Sonmi-451 (Bae) and Zachry (Hanks). As you can see, each actor had multiple roles and each plays a different part in the overall plot.

The various plots include the awakening of a young rich man to the problems of slavery and a plot to kill him, a young composer trying to get ahead by being the amanuensis to an elderly composer, the quest of a young journalist to find out about a flawed nuclear power plant, the attempts of an elderly publisher to escape danger and a mental hospital, the awakening of a female android (fabricant) and her message to the people of her world and the trials of a middle aged tribesman trying to overcome his shame and fear of the unknown.

The Wachowskis (Lana and Andy) along with Tom Twyker wrote the screenplay based on David Mitchell’s novel and the trio also directed the film. The structure has the six stories running simultaneously, sometimes with dialogue from one era suddenly appearing and applying in another. And there is no rigid flow from one section to another. You may go from the post-apocalyptic final world to the South Pacific to Neo-Seoul to San Francisco and so on. The stories each have their cliffhangers, which are addressed, and there are numerous similarities between the stories. Somni trying to escape on a telescoping bridge matches to a sailor walking along a top sail beam ready to unfurl it.

It’s a complex movie that respects the intelligence of the viewer by not trying to explain everything, Much of the later sections’ dialogue are a patois that you can get the gist of without knowing the exact meaning of each word, since the language and everything else has evolved over time.

The film rewards the careful viewers in many ways, and, for once, the documentaries on the Blu-ray actually have insights that are revealed in later viewings.

If it sounds interesting, give this one a try. And, as I have said many times, your mileage may vary. I loved this film and wish I could describe it better to you. And I really, really wish I had seen it on the big screen.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 



Jan 21

Forgotten Book: The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron (1954)

Posted on Thursday, January 21, 2016 in Books, Forgotten Book

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet sets the wayback machine to 1954.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 174th in my series of Forgotten Books.

This week we have a book that shares some similarities with last week’s Shell Scott adventures. No, The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet is not a humorous detective novel. But like the Prather novel, I missed Eleanor Cameron’s Mushroom Planet novels when I was much younger.

This first novel in the series should have been in my school libraries when I was in grade school and, had they been, I would have found them. But, in those formative years, I was in Alaska and then in small-town Texas. The libraries were small – heavy on reference books and some fiction. In several, there was not a formal library, just collections of books in each teacher’s room and whatever was there was what you got. It was not until junior high in Iowa Park, Texas, that I really found out about libraries and what wonders they held.

The Iowa Park town library was small and featured many older titles. I got to read my first Edgar Rice Burroughs books there and Tom Swift (not the Tom Swift Jr. titles that were coming out when I was at that age; these were the older things). And, since the junior high was in the same building as the high school, we had a more formal library at the school, and there I found Heinlein, Wells and Verne. Those were exciting days of discovery.

But, the Mushroom Planet was never in the galaxies I roamed. I don’t believe I ever heard of those books until I got to college and took a course in children’s literature (kiddy litter, as we called it). And I was not about to read them then.

Somewhere along the way, I acquired the first volume of the series and it has been on my shelves for a while. The other day I decided to pick it up and read it.

It’s a fast read and definitely a kid’s book. There are some attempts at science-y things but not much. And that is deliberate. The first chapter tells you what you need to know with the strange green ad in the paper

WANTED

A small space ship about eight feet long, built by one or two kids. The ship should be sturdy and well made and should be of materials found at hand. Nothing need be bought. No adult should be consulted as to its plan or method of construction. An adventure and a chance to do a good deed await the boys who build the best space ship.

Yep, you’ve got to be imaginative and a risk taker and your own person. David and his buddy Chuck are the boys who meet up with Mr. Tyco M. Bass, a peculiarly odd person who wants the boys to travel to Basidium X, a small planetoid located 50,000 miles above Earth that only he can see because he has a special filter. He can make a fuel to power this ship and send two boys to it in two hours, and there they can help out the residents of the tiny mushroom planet. They need to bring some food, capture some Basidium air and bring a mascot, for which Mrs. Pennyfeather, David’s chicken serves the role.

They travel to the planet and meet two wise men, Mebe and Oru, and the great King Ta help them solve a problem and return home, all in one night. Of course, no one believes them because they are kids and things happen to their proof.

It was a fun enough book. If I had preteen kids or grandkids, I might have subjected them to this. I think they would have enjoyed it. But I find that for myself, the one book will do. I don’t really care to return to the Mushroom Planet.

What about you readers out there? Someone have a fond spot for these books, or some other ones. As a kid I read a lot of Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Tom Swift. Then I found ERB. I was lost from that point on. And at 14, Conan began to appear and Elric the following year or so. And Philip K. Dick. I was doomed.

I hope your new year is going well. I’ll be back with another book next week, certainly one more age appropriate, I think.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 



Jan 19

Forgotten Film: Blow Dry (2001)

Posted on Tuesday, January 19, 2016 in Forgotten Movie, Movies

Not Alan Rickman's best-known film, but certainly worth checking out.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 151st in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

With the unexpected death of Alan Rickman this week, I was reminded of my favorite film of his which, of course, no one mentioned in any of their notices about his career. So I pulled my DVD off the shelf and took another look at it — and I still loved it a lot.

Blow Dry has a pretty stellar cast with Rickman, Natasha Richardson, Rachel Griffiths, Rachael Leigh Cook, Josh Hartnett and Bill Nighy in the lead roles and lots of great British character actors like Warren Clarke (Dim from A Clockwork Orange), Rosemary Harris (Aunt May Parker from Spider-Man 1, 2, and 3) and David Bradley (Argus Filch from Harry Potter) in supporting roles.

The story starts in the town of Keighley in Western Yorkshire where the prestigious British Hairdressing Championship is coming. Tony (Warren Clarke), the mayor of Keighley, is excited about this but no one else seems to care until people start arriving. Among the contestants are Raymond Robertson (Nighy), the two-time defending champion and his daughter Christina (Cook), who is visiting from America. Their primary competition is seen as the Kilburn Kutters with Heidi Klum as their model and the Style Warriors from London. What Ray does not know is that Keighley is the home to his old nemesis Phil Alan (Rickman) who was also a two-time winner until, on the eve of the final competition, his stylist/wife (Richardson) ran off with his model (Griffiths), leaving him with a young son and no way to compete.

Phil now works as a barber with his son Brian (Hartnett) in Keighley. His ex-wife Shelley and her partner Sandra own a beauty salon in the town called A Cut Above. Phil has ignored them for ten years, never speaking to them.

Shelley wants to enter the competition. She has incurable cancer and has not told anyone. She’s told Sandra it has been cured. Only Daisy (Rosemary Harris), a blind old woman she does the hair of, knows her secret. Shelley wants Brian to help with the men’s timed cut, but he is reluctant to do it for fear of alienating his father.

Robertson makes the mistake of visiting Phil and talking about the competition, and Phil gets mad and agrees to let Brian help. Brian is fascinated by Christina, whom he remembers from the old contests when they were both kids. Robertson really wants the third win and he is not above cheating to get it.

In many ways this is a predictable film. There is anger and hostility from Phil but he eventually comes around. There is a come- from-behind victory and the reuniting of Phil, Shelley, Sandra and Brian as a family. And, yes, here are also some bizarre hairstyles.

One of my favorite bits has Christina trying to improve her hair coloring. Her attempts have not pleased Ray, so Brian offers to help her by taking her to the funeral home where he regularly cuts the hair of the recently deceased. She colors the hair of an old man bright red with Sid Vicious spikes. But, before she can return his hair to its natural color, Christina and Brian get locked out of the funeral home. The old man’s family is not amused when they arrive the next day.

The wonderfully quirky script was written by Simon Beaufoy who was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay for The Full Monty. He subsequently won on Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire. Warren Clarke delivers a fine performance as the mayor who gets more and more into the competition. It culminates with him lip-syncing over the closing credits to the Elvis Presley song “I Just Can’t Help Believing.” The soundtrack includes Bill Withers, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Roger Whitaker, Santa Esmeralda and Jackie Wilson.

One odd thing I did notice is that the DVD features both Hartnett and Cook on the cover while the movie poster just has a model. If you did not know it, you would not know Rickman was in the movie unless you read the fine print. Poor packaging in my opinion.

According to Wikipedia this film got blasted when it was released and only earned a score of 19% from Rotten Tomatoes. I’m not sure what film those critics saw, but I loved this one and the people I have shared it with also loved it. Apparently, it ran in US theaters for 24 days and earned a little more than $600K.

Others will remember Alan Rickman for Die Hard or Harry Potter or Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. I will remember him for those and for Galaxy Quest, too. But I will always remember him with flashing scissors and the amazing tattoos on the soles of his feet in this film.

Check it out. Your mileage and mine may be different but then, so are we. RIP, Alan Rickman. We will all miss you.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 



Jan 15

Speculative San Antonio: Science Fiction Author KB Rylander

Posted on Friday, January 15, 2016 in Books, Speculative San Antonio

San Antonio author KB Rylander has won the Jim Baen Memorial Award.

I met KB Rylander a couple years ago at Armadillcon, simply excited to run into yet another San Antonio author at the convention.

Turns out KB wasn’t just another emerging writer from the Alamo City, but a very good emerging writer from the Alamo City. By the time I sat down at the bar with her at the next Armadillocon, her short story “We Fly” had won the 2015 Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award.

The work I’ve read from her so far explores some familiar sf tropes like uploaded consciousness and generation ships, but always with an engaging focus on the humanity of its characters. The people in her stories feel real and idiosyncratic — and as a result it’s easy to become absorbed in her prose.

Make no mistake, KB Rylander is a writer to watch.

In addition to being your first professional publication, your story “We Fly” won the Jim Baen Short Story Award. Could you talk a little about what the award is, about your story and why it appealed to the judges?

The Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award is sponsored by Baen Books and the National Space Society and is for near-future science fiction involving manned space exploration. Anyone can enter who hasn’t already won and there is no entry fee, so check it out!

My story “We Fly” is about a woman whose consciousness was uploaded into an interstellar probe to search for habitable planets. After decades of travel she awakens at her destination but something is wrong. She has unknown errors in her processors and her memories are giving her contradictory clues.

My idea for this story came from the logistics of exploring planets outside our solar system and how probes make sense given the extraordinary travel times. That said, since communication with earth might take years those probes are going to have to be highly intelligent and self-sufficient. When I decided to use an uploaded human mind the central idea for this story popped into my head. I can’t say what that idea was because it spoils the ending, but it allowed me to have a lot of fun writing memories that the character experiences within the story and give clues within those flashbacks.

I think it appealed to the judges because the reader is anchored close to the human struggles of the characters while still having a cool science fiction premise. I suspect it also did well because of the strength of the last couple of lines. That last image you leave a reader makes a huge impact in their overall satisfaction of the piece. I lucked out on this one because “We Fly” was one of those stories that just gave me the right ending before I’d even finished the first draft.

Writing is sort of a family business, from what I understand, as your mom also wrote (or still writes) fiction. How did growing up around a writing parent prepare you for what you’re doing now?

My mother is a writer and was writing seriously when I was a kid. She has unfortunately taken a twenty year break but I’m trying to nudge her back into it!

Even though I wasn’t planning to be a writer myself, I often attended writing conferences and lectures with my mom and occasionally sat in on her writers group listening to everyone give critiques.

We were a family of readers and my mom always talked about what was good writing and what wasn’t, and I listened and learned.

Needless to say, she has been a huge influence on my writing.

I think part of my hesitance to pursue it myself was seeing how difficult it is to succeed, but that has also prepared me to have realistic expectations.

How long have you been writing and when did you start sending out work for publication?

I never thought I wanted to be a writer, but looking back all the signs were there. I’ve been writing stories for fun my whole life, but got serious about it five years ago after my daughter was born.

My whole childhood I thought I was going to be a scientist, but by college my interests had shifted to history and linguistics. I kept running into the same problem that I hated the idea of specializing in any one field. At some point I realized a writer can do All The Things.

That said, it felt like an impossible goal because there are so many people trying to make it in this field and so few people succeed. I decided to give it my all and gave myself permission to fail, which I needed.

I spent the first couple of years of serious writing working on novels and shifted over to short stories in 2013. I started submitting them in 2014.

So far, I’ve only read short work from you. Are you working on any novel-length projects?

I have a young adult novel in the works.  It’s near future science fiction about a genetically engineered teenage girl trying to keep her siblings alive after 99% of Earth’s population drops dead.

I wrote the zero draft in 2011 and 2012 and put it aside. I rewrote half of it in November and hope to get it ready for submission this year.

Do you only write science fiction or do you work in other genres as well?

Most of what I write is science fiction but I write some fantasy.  I dabble with non-speculative fiction as well.

I feel most comfortable with middle grade and young adult because I’ve read so much more of it. I can’t picture myself writing a novel that isn’t MG or YA but you never know.

Who are some of the writers whose work inspired you, and what have you learned from them?

This is a tough question because there are so many wonderful books and short stories that have inspired me in different ways.

Honestly I think it’s teachers who inspired me more than anyone else.  My mother is one.  Another is my eighth grade English teacher Kim McIntire who introduced me to a ton of classic science fiction. We spent a whole semester just on Ray Bradbury works. We read The Martian Chronicles and Dandelion Wine and dozens of his short stories.

My high school English teacher Tess Morris was probably the best teacher I ever had, college included.  She challenged me and we read a lot of great literature.  My favorite was As I Lay Dying. I loved Faulkner’s use of POV and how he tossed rules out the window. One of our assignments was to write missing chapters of the novel. I had a lot of fun playing with strange POVs and stream-of-consciousness. From there I went on a Faulkner binge and was first introduced to the concept of a circular structure reading Light in August. Frankly, I hated that novel, but it started me thinking about writing in a different way.

In college I devoured the Harry Potter series and loved it much as I loved Lord of the Rings as a kid. In those books the writing just needs to get out of the way so the reader can immerse in the story.

The Book Thief is one of my favorite books and I put it right up there with To Kill a Mockingbird. The writing is just so darn beautiful. If I could write half that well one day I’ll die happy.

What’s next for KB Rylander? Where else can readers find your work?

I’ve got a short story coming out in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction sometime this year.  It’s called “Last One Out.”  It’s about the last woman on Earth and her robot companion and is set in Sweden, where I spend a lot time.  It’s one of my favorite things I’ve written.

 



Jan 13

Forgotten Book: Everybody Had a Gun by Richard Prather (1951)

Posted on Wednesday, January 13, 2016 in Books, Forgotten Book

Everybody Had a gun features Richard Prather's private eye Shell Scott.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 173rd in my series of Forgotten Books.

This week is special across the various blogs that constitute the Forgotten Books group. Check out the listing at Patti Abbott’s blog by clicking the link at the end of the column. Friday, January 15, has been designated Richard Prather Day, when as many of the bloggers as are inclined will discuss the work of this quintessential ’50s paperback writer.

I will confess up front that I have not read much Prather. I didn’t discover his works when I was at the impressionable age where I would have read everything multiple times. By the time I had found Prather’s work, I was already reading Hammett, Chandler, both McDonalds, Charles Williams and more. Prather was entertaining, but the others were more representative of what I wanted to read. Still, I thought I would give one a try this week.

Prather is best known for his Shell Scott series of detective novels. Scott is a California private eye, tall with blond close cropped hair, a veteran of WWII and able to get into some truly interesting situations.

This novel begins with action on the first page. Shell is walking down the street when someone starts shooting at him. He almost doesn’t even notice it since he is reading the paper about a local hood named Lobo who had contracted a fatal dose of lead the previous night. But when he does, he has no idea who or why is after him.

He cautiously approaches his office and begins running down the list of people who might have a grudge. It might be Marty Sader, who runs a local nightclub and who had hired Shell to check out a horse betting parlor and to get an idea of the take. Shell takes the job but finds out very little, as Lobo approaches him and tells him to stop. This is something he would normally ignore, so he continues his research, but Lobo is a little more insistent the next time. And Lobo is a right hand guy for a bigger fish named Collier Breed with whom Shell does not want to tangle.

When he gets to his office, Shell sees an attractive redhead tentatively approaching the building. When she sees Shell at his window, she crosses over the street headed toward his office. Meanwhile, a short skinny guy with a gun enters the office and attempts to take Shell away. There is a fight and he knocks the hood out. The redhead shows up and recognizes him as one of Sader’s guys.  She says Sader wants to kill them both and that she has just escaped from him. She won’t talk until Shell gets rid of the hood, so he sends her down to the bar below his office and takes the hood to a nearby cop.

When he gets back to the bar, he discovers the girl never made it there. He finds her purse and learns her name is Iris Gordon. He tracks down her address. He meets her barely clothed roommate, Mia, and finds that they both work for Sader. Figuring that if she escaped from Sader earlier, perhaps she has been taken back there. He tries Sader’s house first and finds a drunken Mrs. Sader shooting a big gun at bales of hay.

Soon he is involved with two gangs, lots of people with guns, some fast talking and quick thinking — and lots of dead bodies. It’s a fast-moving, quick read about attempted takeovers, murder and more.

Overall, I enjoyed it. I would have probably loved it when I was a teenager, but it wasn’t bad. It had a fair bit of skewed humor, which was OK, but a little can go a long way. If you’ve not read Prather, this isn’t a bad one to start with. Chronologically, it was the third Shell Scott adventure and the series was starting to get its quirky feel.

Check out the other Prather reviews on Friday and give him a try. As always, your mileage may vary.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.