Thursday, April 28, 2016

Under Burning Skies: The Americano, Hombre, and Backshot

The Americano (1955, film)

You have to love low-budget RKO Pictures for always throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. In the first thirty minutes of The Americano, Glenn Ford on a trip to sell three Brahman bulls in Brazil, encounters piranhas, crocodiles, mountain lions, snakes, and a desperado named el Gato played by Cesar Romero! Silly, undemanding, pulp Western grounded by the ever reliable Ford and mucho on-location filming of Brazil that’s astounding to behold. But, without a doubt, Romero steals every scene, and as I watched The Americano I realized I would rather be watching a story about the colorful el Gato.

Film flub: Ford’s horse quite clearly changes back and forth between two different animals.

Hombre (1967, film)

Paul Newman is John Russell, reared for a period by Apaches and now as an adult would prefer to live with them. He returns to the land of the white man when his biological father dies leaving a boardinghouse to John. Traveling by stagecoach with the standard cliché of passengers (Hollywood is all but unpredictable) they are held up by Cicero Grimes (menacing perfection by Have Gun, Will Travel’s Richard Boone) and it’s up to John to lead them to safety. This socially conscious Western has aged well thanks to a strong cast that also includes Richard March, Martin Balsam, and Diane Cilento.

Trivia: The photo that closes the film is that of Jimmy Santiago McKinn captured by Apaches in 1885.

Backshot (2015, novel) by Ed Gorman

Parnell is a ne’er-do-well who has pissed off his last friend in the town of Granite Bend with his mounting gambling debts. When his corrupt boss and the woman he longs for plan to rob a judge of a wealthy coin collection, he figures he has nothing to lose by throwing in with their scheme. But then nothing goes as they planned in this authentic Western that steers clear of mythological posturing. The jacket blurb of Backshot states “in the tradition of Charles Willeford noir Westerns.” Future practitioners of this subgenre will be likened to Ed Gorman—a master of crafting Westerns dripping with raw human emotions.

Note: another superb Ed Gorman story is Relentless that I reviewed for Macmillan’s Criminal Element blog.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Dust Up

I feel obliged, for the first time, to insert myself into the proceedings. Back in 1994, as a military policeman in the US Army, I was deployed to Haiti as part of President Clinton’s Operation Uphold Democracy to return Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. From the instant we landed at the airport to cheering crowds, I was taken in with the kind people who were non-reticent in approaching us with thanks and their desire to share thoughts on their country. Reading Dust Up took me...

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Lucky #7

                               Drifter Detective #7. This time from yours truly.
                               Amazon eBook | print

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Where All Light Tends to Go

My latest review for Macmillan's Criminal Element blogSample:
Consumers of crime fiction are living through an epic cultural period, triumphing the underside of “The American Dream,” where the working man and woman worth their salt has been pushed to the border of our humanity, and where gun-running for a motorcycle gang that works with drug cartels for protection or selling crank to pay for cancer treatments is presented as fair and judicious life choices.

RAZORED ZEN: Reviews: Torn and Frayed, and, HWA Poetry Showcase...

RAZORED ZEN: Reviews: Torn and Frayed, and, HWA Poetry Showcase...: Here's a couple of reviews I put up on Goodreads lately. I also posted these on Amazon but they took off the HWA one, probably because I...

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Drifter Detective #7: Torn And Frayed

Sometimes I’ll pull off the shelf a Ross Macdonald book featuring the world weary Lew Archer, P.I., and other times I might choose to read several passages from the absurdist essayist/novelist Albert Camus. From these two vastly different entities, my own story TORN AND FRAYED transpired for the seventh installment in the Drifter Detective series. I’m hoping I’ve created a plot without the standard tropes associated with the genre, serving up a splash of absurdism. Amazon description reads:

The road may have finally gotten to Jack Laramie. After a heated incident at a roadside diner, uncharacteristic of the wandering P.I., he decides he’s in need of a break and accepts a steady gig as a handyman at the ranch of an elderly farmer. Thinking he’s going to have an easy time of it tending to the chickens and pigs, Jack soon finds that it isn’t so different from his usual job when family secrets and money-hungry scoundrels threaten to pull him into a web of deception that might just tear him down.

Amazon ebook link.

*print edition forthcoming soon.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

It took me four months to watch the biggest film of 2015—Star Wars: The Force Awakens—and here are a few haphazard thoughts from my first, late-to-the-game viewing last night:

What a strong actor Daisy Ridley (Rey) is in every scene. All the youngers are marvelous but this lady has serious acting chops—looking forward to watching her in material beyond a space opera. And for the returning veterans: Great to see Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewie (Peter Mayhew) though Carrie Fisher seemed stiff as Leia—uncomfortably so. And, hey, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han sure could have used you a little sooner. (I’m sure that will all be explained in further detail but talk about sitting this one out, right?) That being acknowledged when we do see the last of the Jedi’s, this fanboy, was seven-years-old again, it was 1977, in Dryden, New York, and I was watching the original with my mom and dad at a drive-in. The Force Awakens is what ‘going to the movies’ is all about.

Minor nitpicks: Believe this point has been voiced in numerous fandom circles: found it amusing that Luke, Han Solo, etc., are myths after only thirty odd years. But, who knows, sands through the hourglass may move faster this galaxy far, far away. And I would have liked to have seen more of Chewbacca in a couple of key scenes.

When talent, writing, and direction is packaged fresh, it’s almost eye-opening and awe-inspiring how a plot that has so many borrowed elements from Star Wars: A New Hope can seem born again. J.J. Abrams deserves a ton of credit for paying homage and also providing a fresh direction.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a whole lot of fun that I recommend to everyone … especially us old scruffy-looking nerf herders.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Buster Keaton

I was doing some research this afternoon and got lost in this chaotic, loony, wonderful world. Any Buster Keaton fans?