Monday, June 30, 2008
My net travels this weekend found me at the summer issue of Mysterical-E, which I hope to begin reading soon, though I haven’t finished the final Hardluck issue yet. Btw Bill Crider’s Crossroads is excellente!...
Via One Word, One Rung, One Day, I found this illuminating NPR interview with Patrick Hemingway. His take on the high number of suicides in his family and Death having a field day with people between 80-90 is intriguing...
I left a comment over at pattinase. I couldn’t agree more about just getting to know someone through their writing, and bam, they vanish. That’s one reason why I had to have a final farewell on the Axiom Report. I hate to leave people wondering what happened. Speaking of the AR, don’t forget to support Rose Kellog with her latest site...
Little d and I were at the bookstore again yesterday and I purchased the latest EQMM and AHMM. She picked up The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart. It’s about a bored, unfulfilled psychiatrist who begins making life decisions based on a roll of the dice, leading him and several patients down a path of sexual experimentation, drugs, rape and murder. Should be a good, light read...
While we were out and about, we had an encounter with the poor customer service of AT&T. We stopped at one of the stores to inquire about my broken BlackBerry -- I have an old model with the wheel on the side that somehow lost it’s “spring”. With only six months left on my 2 year contract, I was looking forward to switching over to Verizon for better service. Well, before I knew it, my sim card was placed into a sleek new Blackberry (with a trackball on the front) and I was signed up for another 2 years with AT&T! (cue record-needle screech!) What?! In order to get the phone for $200 with a $100 rebate, part of the deal was that I had to sign up for 2 more years of my life with a company I have not been pleased with, otherwise the phone would cost $300 (ouch!). If the service rep had informed me of all this before the purchase went through, I would have put the brakes on and immediately headed over to Verizon, which was practically next door. I wonder if it is part of their scheme to sell phones that will crap out within 2 years so you have to renew your contract when you need to buy a new phone.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
I squatted in my father's tree stand and froze. I had begged him to take me hunting and he finally relented.
"Why did you build the fort here?" I asked.
My dad smiled, "This is a tree stand, not a fort."
"Why did you build the tree stand here?"
"The well-worn path you see at the base of the tree, that's where the deer wander past on their way to the creek."
"Why is the fort, I mean tree stand, so high up?"
"You don't want the deer to see or smell us, do you?"
"No, I guess not." I said.
I loved spending time with my dad. It was being allowed into the adult world, a sneak peek or coming attractions, if you will, of the future.
I gazed at the can of Budweiser beer my dad was drinking.
He caught me looking and asked me if I was thirsty.
My eyes widened and I nodded with a grin.
"Just a sip. Don't tell your mother," he said.
I grabbed the can and took a sip as he instructed.
I made a twisted expression.
"That's awful," I said.
He laughed and took the can and patted me on the back. "Hank," it was the first time I remember him calling me that, "we have to be quiet now and wait."
I placed my finger in the snow that had collected on the edge of the tree stand and ran my hand along the side watching the flurries drop to the ground. I waited in silence with my father.
Though we didn't see a deer at all that day, I now know that I succeeded in a rite of passage.
Originally posted as "Henry's Life: The Tree Stand" on the Axiom Report on 2/29/2008.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
At first, I skimmed Pulp writer Roger Torrey’s bio a little too fast and told little d that “Hey, here's a husband-wife team that wrote together just like us.” You see, normally, I type out a few pages and throw them d’s way to edit and then she tosses them back and so on. She asked me what the blurb said, and I was reading it to her when I started laughing halfway through:
He [Torrey] was a heavy drinker of such mythical stature that he found the perfect woman for him – in a bar. Also a hard-drinking writer, she moved into his hotel room and they established a system of producing fiction that seems to have worked for them. He sat at one desk, she at another, with a bottle of booze nearby. The first person to finish the story on which they were working was permitted to drink while the other had to finish the story before being allowed to have a nip. Torrey, a veteran of the pulps, wrote faster, so generally finished first, then drank and mocked her while getting smashed.
Alright, maybe not so much like us but talk about a colorful character. Roger Torrey was extremely prolific as a writer and produced fifty stories for Black Mask alone. He allegedly died in the arms of his mistress somewhere in Florida in the late 1940s...
As for this writer, I am pounding away on my latest story, and for the most part, it’s coming along well. The word count is over 2,000, the plots unique but the story is still missing the right voice and hopefully this weekend I can zero in on the finish...
I am super proud of my charmer. One of her crossword puzzles has been accepted by a magazine to be published later this year. I will post the mags name as we get a little closer to the publication...
I had to leave a message over at Bookgasm after reading a review of Fer de Lance and League of the Frightened Men. Nero Wolfe, in my opinion, is in the top ten of the greatest detectives ever created. I can see taking issue with Matthew Scudder or Kinsey Millhone but Wolfe? C’mon!
Parts of this blog were originally posted on the Axiom Report on 4/16/2008.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The last and final issue from Hardluck Stories has arrived. I came to this exceptional webzine a little late and regret never contributing an entry to its fine publication. The final bow features new material from Bill Crider, T.L. Wolf, Terence Butler, and Terrie Farley Moran to name a few. The Red Reef by James Reasoner is my pick. It’s pulp on the high seas in the tradition of H. Bedford Jones and is magnificent storytelling that clips right along with a strong kick at the end.
Recently, Anonymous-9 reminded me of James M. Cain's talented body of work. Growing up a 1940’s movie buff, I became aware of Cain’s legacy through films like Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice and Mildred Pierce. Later I bought the books, and though I knew the plots, I wasn't prepared for the stripped down prose: it was brilliant. I had never read any of his short stories and remembered Pastorale was in The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps.
Cain's dark humor abounds in Pastorale (1928) as two witless protagonists dig a grave for their victim. The entire yarn’s narrative is written in an amusing uneducated voice:
He dug for two hours, until he got so damn tired he couldn't hardly stand up. But he ain’t hardly made no hole at all. 'Cause the ground is froze and even with the pick he couldn't hardly make a dent in it scarcely. But anyhow Hutch stopped him and they throwed the old man in and covered him up. But after they got him covered up his head was sticking out. So Hutch beat the head down good as he could and piled the dirt up around it and they got in and drove off.
The dead man's head does not stayed buried for long and gets chopped off, kicked out of a moving car and ends up on a frozen lake as one of our foolish murderers falls through the ice to retrieve it.
The author once described his most famous novel Postman as simply being about "a couple of jerks who discover that murder, though dreadful enough morally, can be a love story, too, but then wake up to discover that once they've pulled the thing off, no two people can share this terrible secret." This recurring theme of Cain’s was first explored in short stories like Pastorale.
Speaking of Anonymous-9, check out Tequila Spike over at Thuglit. Well done and if you can spot the ending coming, well then, you’re better than me and should be writing hard boiled yourself.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Someone offered him a drink but he declined. Others tried to include him in their conversation but he seemed distant, perhaps only half listening to the people around him swapping stories.
A person next to me whispered that he was dying of cancer and then I recognized his emotion. It was the unfocused gaze of a battle-weary soldier who's facing death. I experienced it fifteen years ago in Korea. Things that once seemed important became trivial while the ant crawling on the edge of a blade of grass prevailed.
I watched him from where I sat on the sofa with a twenty year old pseudo intellectual, who was using slang like dig and freak out. Since she brought me, I pretended to listen to her self-indulgent philosophies but my mind was on him.
He stood up and headed for the door. Through the window, I saw him having a smoke.
"Where are you going Henry?" she asked.
"Does it matter?" I said standing.
I walked outside and said hello to him and pulled out my own pack lighting one and inhaling deeply.
"This is probably foolish" he said waving the cigarette in the air.
"No, it's not," I said.
I wish I could remember what we talked about and tell you it was monumentally prophetic but life isn't like that. Yet these accidental moments can turn the tide in one's existence.
We looked into the house through the haze of smoke to see one woman dancing nude as a hippie was drumming away on some imaginary bongo. My date was sharing a joint with a young man her age.
Dusk was giving way to night. I dropped the cigarette to the ground and extinguished the remainder with my heel.
"The best of luck to you," I said shaking his hand.
"And you," he said smiling.
I began walking down the dusty road that led back to the main highway. I looked over my shoulder once to see him walking through a small garden adjacent the house. He was watching a cat swipe its paw at the fireflies as they lit the darkening sky and disappeared.
Originally posted on the Axiom Report as "Henry's Life: Renewed" on 3/15/2008.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
My latest Vengeance on the 18th was rejected by two editors within a week and I'm glad. I wasn't at first because rejection, for lack of a more descriptive term, sucks. As I re-read what I originally thought was some first rate degenerate pulp, I found it was in fact so-so. The plot was A+ but the storytelling was D-. Why hadn't I seen this? I now realize I was too close to the material. If either editor had been desperate enough for a story and accepted it 'as is' then my standard for myself would have been set incredibly low.
Meanwhile, I am done with the rough draft to Blubber and I'll eventually return to 18th to find the diamond that's hiding.
Monday, June 23, 2008
It was an unpleasant decision, and I have to admit, it seemed odd not updating the site this morning. In addition, I felt crummy letting so many people down, but for many reasons that I stated there, it had to be done.
My Blogger page is still under construction, so give little d and I some time to work out the kinks. One thing about my old web site is we were familiar with the coding and had more control over layout, so this will take a little time to figure out. Why the 'Education of a Pulp Writer' for a title? Well for one, 'Confessions of...' was my first choice but it is already taken by the first-rate Sarah Weinman with Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind.
Second, I'm an admirer of The Education of Henry Adams and feel kinship to the Bostonian who struggled to come to terms with the dawning of the 20th century. I feel like I'm at the launch of learning my craft and sometimes feel just as ill prepared as that 19th century historian. So 'Education' it is...
Check out AREN'T YOU GLAD? by Megan Powell over at Muzzle Flash. Good, short tale.
The other part of the weekend was spent working on a short story titled Blubber. It's coming along well. I submitted my previous yarn to a publication, but it was rejected because, according to the Ed., I failed to build enough suspense and to tack on the proverbial twist ending. So for this one, I'm including everything but the kitchen sink. It's working well.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Cate Blanchett is arguably the greatest actress of her generation and turns in a splendid performance of a woman standing tall as religious conflicts rage around her and keeping many scheming advisers at bay. She learned her political savvy well from her mother's mistakes. Elizabeth's transformation from a princess to a queen is skillfully assisted by the utterly loyal Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush is exceptional as usual), who ruthlessly weeds out any opposition to his queen, and constantly reminds her of her duties when she must make unpleasant decisions. Interestingly, Elizabeth decides that she can have more political power by remaining unmarried, we find her sobbing in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary and she inherits the appellation The Virgin Queen.
My gripe with Hollywood continues with their attempt to condense (rewrite is a more appropriate term) history. The events of this movie - Elizabeth is locked up in the Tower, nearly married into an alliance with France, survived Norfolk's rebellion, and eventually transformed into The Virgin Queen persona - all actually took place over a period of roughly 30 years. What happened to aging actors? Condensing history is bad enough but the biggest crime is that they portray Robert Dudley (played by Joseph Fiennes) as betraying Elizabeth when in fact he remained a loyal subject until his death. It would be the equivalent of Bobby Kennedy turning on JFK or Karl Rove pulling a knife on W. I guess after 500 years nobody cares but we should.
I enjoyed the movie and wanted more and of course there is. Elizabeth: The Golden Age was released in 2007... and my English history lessons via Hollywood continue.