Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, November 15, 2014

Ed Gorman, THE GARNER FILES, James Garner with Jon Winikur

I wish I hadn't read this book.
   I first saw James Garner the night "Maverick" appeared on a Sunday night way back in 1956. I've been a fan of his acting ever since.
   To repeat I wish I hadn't read this book; even more I wish he hadn't WRITTEN it.
   I don't know who Jon Winokur is but he has served Garner poorly. I'm not naive enough to believe that the Garner of movie and TV fame is the Garner of reality. But Winokur (or Garner who did after all have the last word) should have given us an impression beyond that of an inexplicably angry man who carries so many grudges it's amazing he can stand upright.
   The most irritating issue in the entire (and frequently irritating book) is Garner's treatment of Roy Huggins.  Now I have mixed feelings about Huggins as a man. He named names to House UnAmerican Activities so he could keep his own enviable career going. I've written before that I don't know what I would've done in the same circumstances. Fifty-fifty I would've named names.
   That said Roy Huggins is one of the giants of television. He created among other shows "Maverick," "The Fugitive" and "The Rockford Files." Note that "Maverick"created Garner's stardom and "Rockford" helped sustain it.  He quotes  Huggins' line: "I love Jim Garner and he hates me." Garner agrees and then bitterly brushes Huggins off.
   Garner is nice to film and tv crews, supports liberal causes, loves his wife and daughter, appreciates what some writers, directors and actors have done for him. I believe all this. I don't think he's this terrible guy.
   But all the people he's punched or wishes he'd punched (we get it he's a macho man), all the people he thinks have ripped him off or let him down, all the people he mocks or know some of this would add texture and spice to the average Hollywood autobiography. But here the tone of these incidents and opinions quickly begin to make you wonder why, after all his success, he's still so troubled by a life he's clearly earned and deserves...but a life that leaves him singularly unsatisfied.
   The other negative is that Winokur speeds through numerous moments that could easily have been expanded and developed. If they had been there wouldn't have been so much room left for all the bitching and misery.

Ed Gorman is the author of the Dev Conrad series of political crime novels. You can find him here. 

DIRTY WORK is the debut novel from Mississippi writer, Larry Brown, and it seemed appropriate to read it around Veteran's Day since that's its subject matter. I picked it up in Mississippi last month and just wish I had picked up more of them. I have RABBIT FACTORY around somewhere and will dig it out now.

Walter James and Braiden Chaney are two Vietnam Vets lying side by side in a Vet hospital 20 years after the war. Chaney has basically spent the entire time in a hospital since the war left him with no arms or legs. James is newly admitted with some sort of brain trauma from a bullet lodge in his head. He has also been badly scarred from his years in Vietnam. 
The two men eventually trade war stories, but this book does much more than that. It painted the lives of the sort of men who couldn't dodge the war--the down and dirty life they led in northern Mississippi. Much of Chaney's thoughts are dream-induced and almost biblical in theme. Who could spend 20 years in a bed and not retreat to such a place?

The two men do a lot of drinking with the beer Chaney's sister smuggles in.  They also smoke a lot of pot. Their stories are different and the same. It was men like these two who served in Vietnam and never recovered from it. They either died in body or died in spirit. An amazing and thought-provoking book.

Sergio Angelini, THE WINTER MURDER CASE, SS Van Dine
Yvette Banek, FOR OLD TIME'S SAKE, Delano Ames
Brian Busby, THE CROOKED GOLFERS, Frank L. Packard
Bill Crider, HIS BROTHER'S WIFE, Clay Stuart (Harry Whittington)
Scott Cupp, BLOOD OF THE LAMB, Sam Cabot
J. Escribano, BLACK ICE, Michael Connelly
Curt Evans, NO LOVE LOST, Margery Allingham
Ray Garraty, A HOUSE IN NAPLES, Peter Rabe
Jerry House, BATTLE ON MERCURY, Lester Del Rey
Nick Jones, THE SANDBAGGERS, Ian Macintosh
Geroge Kelley, BLACK MONEY, Ross Macdonald
Margot Kinberg, ONCE UPON A LIE, Jill Patterson
B.V. Lawson, MRS. KNOX'S PROFESSION, Jessica Mann
Evan Lewis, DONT'T CRY FOR ME, William Campbell Gault
Steve Lewis, MY LOVELY EXECUTIONER, Peter Rabe
Todd Mason,FACES OF FEAR: Interviews by Douglas Winter; DARK DREAMERS: Interviews by Stanley Wiater; CUT! HORROR WRITERS ON HORROR FILM, edited by Christopher Golden
J.F. Norris, DESERT TOWN, Ramona Stewart
Juri Nummelin, THE POWER OF THE DOG, Don Winslow
James Reasoner, SADDLES, SIXGUNS, SHOOTOUTS, Charles Beckman, Jr (Charles Boekman)
Kelly Robinson, WILLIAM TELL TOLD AGAIN, P.G. Wodehouse
Richard Robinson, BENCHMARKS, GALAXY BOOKSHELF, Algis Budrys
Ron Scheer, ADIOS, HEMINGWAY, Leonardo Padura Fuentes
Michael Slind, THE ORIGIN OF EVIL, Ellery Queen
Kerrie Smith, THE CAVALIER CASE, Antonia Fraser
Prashant Trikkannad, PERJURY, Stan Latreille
Kevin Tipple, WHEN THE SACRED GINMILL CLOSES, Lawrence Block
James Winter, HENRY VI, PART 3, William Shakespeare
Zybahn, ROOM, Emma Donaghue


Anonymous said...

Patti - As always, such a nice variety of different kinds of books - I love it! And thanks for including my post.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Patti, I have an FFB entry — "Perjury" by Stan Latreille, 1998. He is a Michigan-based writer. Thanks again.

Joe Barone said...

I loved Maverick.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I love Maverick too. It was so far ahead of its time.
Yes, I will be ordering the stories, Jeff. Wish I had bought them in MS at Square Books though. That seems fitting.

Anonymous said...

Patti, am I spam again?

My comment disappeared.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

I must say I'm not that surprised about the Garner book, having read several interviews where he came across as an angry curmudgeon who hangs on to his grievances. I always think people like that are hurting themselves more than anyone else.

My favorite Garner movie might be SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF.

Jeff M.

Kelly Robinson said...

Looks like my scheduled post didn't post properly. It's up now:

Charles Gramlich said...

Rather disappointing to hear that about James Garner. I generally figured him to be more like his TV persona. Foolish of me, I suppose

pattinase (abbott) said...

Patti, glad you discovered the late (sadly) Larry Brown. Besides DIRTY WORK let me recommend the two short story collections of his I've read, FACING THE MUSIC and BIG BAD LOVE, plus his memoir ON FIRE.

Great stuff.

Jeff M.

Todd Mason said...

Finally, as usual.

FFB: nonfiction about horror fiction and drama: FACES OF FEAR: Interviews by Douglas Winter; DARK DREAMERS: Interviews by Stanley Wiater; CUT! HORROR WRITERS ON HORROR FILM, edited by Christopher Golden

Yvette said...

Patti, I've got one up today as well.
I was never a MAJOR fan of James Garner so the post by Ed on his book is not too surprising to me, still I wonder about someone who would appear so angry over a lifetime of clear success. He must have some sort of internal thing going on that prevents him from being happy. Some people are like that. You shrug your shoulders and move on.

Jerry House said...

Patti, Hollywood accounting was able to cut Garner out of the profits from ROCKFORD, while still giving a steady and hefty chunk to Huggins. Garner blamed the studio and railed against the accounting system but, in his anger, placed some of the blame on Huggins also. Garner sued the studio and (I believe) eventually won.

pattinase (abbott) said...

After Ed's comments I will stay away from the book and remember his as a star of two of my favorite TV shows.

Ed Gorman said...

Hi Jerry--Yes Garner not only won his (deserved) suit against the crooks at Universal, he made even more in the suit than if they'd paid him honestly. In the book he gloats over this (naturally enough) but then he goes right back to bitching.

Cap'n Bob said...

I was surprised to read about his aggressiveness with others. Does anyone remember the road rage incident when another driver punched his lights out? He wasn't very tough that day, although he wasn't very young, either. Still, it's too bad he isn't a happier man.

PETA would love my verification word: ourfur.

Todd Mason said...

DIRTY WORK definitely sounds like a child of JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN. And thus of ALL QUIET and all the other warnings we keep getting, as opposed to the romances of the likes of Hemingway.

Ron Scheer said...

Good to see Larry Brown get a mention here. I rarely find anyone who has heard of him. I think of him as Faulkner without the convoluted sentences. I also recommend his memoir ON FIRE. As for Garner, I heard of his mean streak a while ago. It makes his edgier roles more believable, such as HOUR OF THE GUN.

Kelly Robinson said...

Just FYI, Nick Jones' link leads to the wrong blog. (Yes, I'm still making my way through these. Sometimes it takes me all week.)