Friday, April 15, 2011
Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, April 15, 2011
I seemed to have been struck down by some flu so it may be tomorrow before I post the summary.
Ed Gorman is the author of TICKET TO RIDE, STRANGLEHOLD and edits (with Dave Zeltserman) ON DANGEROUS GROUND. You can find him here.
The Detective in Hollywood, Jon Tuska
One of the books I pick up two or three times a year is The Detective in Hollywood by Jon Tuska. Because I'm a big fan of stories about the B movie factories of the Thirties and Forties this is nirvana between covers for me.
The book is packed with biographies of everybody from Rex Stout to some of the actors you saw in virtually every Monogram film ever made. The writing is respectful and never giddy and wise instead of wise-guy. Each person from grips to would be geniuses gets his or her due.
Tuska makes even Philo Vance interesting. Not as a character of course but as the name around which a very successful series was run. In the course of a long chapter there's more hard information about running a B movie series than in most full-length books I've read on the subject.
I've mentioned before the story of Leslie Charteris' contention that the B series Saint would become a smash A series if only RKO would convince Cary Grant to take it over. Right Cary Grant. Then one of the top two or three box office draws in the country. Charteris nagged them about this and other matters until they finally dumped the whole series along with Charteris himself.
I've never believed that today's television is the equivalent of the B factories of the Thirties and Forties. Early Warners and Universal was; they ran the tv elements of their studio pretty much the way they'd run them when Bs were usually the bottom pictures on a double-bill. What's most amazing is how many of these films, while not masterpieces, are popular and worth seeing today--when so many of the stumbling pompous A pictures of the time are long forgotten.
This should be a staple in any crime library. From the sad story of Tom Conway to the tale of the resilient Boris Karloff to long choice overviews of Hammett, Chandler and even Hemingway...this is a fine companion for rainy nights.
The Liberty Campaign, Jonathan Dee (1993) Patti Abbott
Gene Trowbridge is an advertising executive living on Long Island and almost ready for retirement. His interest in a neighbor is aroused when a reporter asks him questions about, Ferdinand. Ferdinand confesses to Gene that he's a former Brazilian Army captain who looked the other way in the torture of civilians in the 1960's. But Ferdinand claims it was part of the war against Communism and believes God will forgive him given his choices at the time.
As the government closes in, Ferdinand appeals to his friend for help--but Gene is completely at bay with what to do, having lived his life without considerations of questions of morality.
What makes this book work so well is that Ferdinand is a man we come to respect despite his past crimes and the reporter, a man we come to dislike, with poor Gene stuck in the middle. Will Gene begin to live a reflective life.
For a look at a forgotten writer, Stona Fitch's uncle, go here.
Steve Lewis/David Vineyard
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang