Monday, May 11, 2020

Seven Men from Now - the Paperback

Burt Kennedy wrote the original screenplay for director Budd Boetticher’s 1956 Western, but he didn’t write the novelization for Berkley paperbacks.  This fact was confirmed to me in a series of conversations I had with Kennedy commencing in 1997, and there is an on-line Kennedy interview with a writer named Sean Axmaker where this fact is also confirmed. So who wrote the paperback version for one the greatest Western films? I have no idea. The book is quite good and deviates from the film version in only slight ways. Of the film itself, I’ll abstain from analysis which is constant enough for google users cribbing thesis paper material. I will say it’s one of my top ten favorite Western films. As for the paperback shown here, it is commonly found on e-bay at affordable prices. As I mentioned, the book is quite good and obviously handled by a professional who understood Westerns. The prose is terse and masculine. The book makes a nice collector’s item for fans of Western Americana, no matter who wrote it. Much of the dialogue is verbatim from the film, yet there are small differences, which isn’t unusual in film novelizations. I have no doubt that the author’s identity is known to someone, and perhaps one day I’ll learn who it was. I won’t air my speculation because there’s no sense to it. All that matters is that the book is pretty good, and the film is much better. The interior advertisement proclaims, “A great novel becomes a great motion picture.” In fact, the screenplay was written first but Berkley was clearly attempting to capitalize on the film’s popularity. I watched Seven Men from Now again recently, and the film never loses its appeal. Randolph Scott is excellent as always. Kennedy was a straight-shooter and fine writer. His screenplays are worth studying, and interestingly enough, they are written in a manner that breaks nearly all of the so-called “rules of screenwriting” that are sold and marketed incessantly these days by one organization or another. Great writers always break the rules, and they forge their own path.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Seven Contemporary Novels

I love the novella form. There was a time when short novels (under 65k words) were highly regarded by most publishing firms. This anthology of seven short novels was originally published in 1969, and I encountered this second edition in 1976. It includes a “Topics for Paper and Discussion” at the conclusion of each novel. Those discussion topics can serve as an example on how to properly critique a novel. The seven short novels included are all masterpieces of contemporary American fiction. 

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers
Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth
Noon Wine by Katherine Anne Porter
Seize the Day by Saul Bellow
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor

Numerous of these, such as The Ballad of the Sad Café and Noon Wine, had a profound and lasting impression on me when I first read them. When I look at these novels now, I think to myself, “This is what writers do.” I am happier for the experience. It is also important to note that several of these books have been banned by one radical, disaffected group or another. Screw them. This is great literature. Those seeking reading recommendations are encouraged to start here.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Tales from the Graveyard by Guy N. Smith

The cover blurb on this new release from GNS is no exaggeration. Unspeakable horrors do indeed lurk in this nifty collection of short fiction published by Sinister Horror Company. The stories are short-shorts, really Flash Fiction, but well-done, and laced with macabre scenes. There are twelve shorts included, all reprints from the fanzine “Graveyard Rendezvous.” Some of these read like story notes or ideas for a later draft, and some feel complete and well-rounded. All of them share the distinction of benefitting from Guy’s wild imagination. Some of these tales are truly chilling, such as “Mr. Strange’s Christmas Dream,” and “The Executioner.” There are some throwaway ideas here that GNS might have (or still could) develop into a longer work, such as “Cannibal Island.” Another tale, “Hounds from Hell,” is a capsule of themes and ideas common to Guy’s work; and “The Ghouls” was my favorite, a body snatching story that might easily be expanded into a novella. Let’s hope that happens. As these stories were dashed off for a long-running fanzine, readers should expect brevity coupled with suspense. Nobody does it better than GNS. This book is a quick, fun read, and beautifully produced by the Sinister Horror Company, my new top favorite Indie publisher. They offer a tight but quality catalogue of titles.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Book Corral Recommendations - Man Bait!

Howdy Pards!
It’s no joke, why not start April with some Man Bait Paperbacks?
Ride over to McNulty’s Book Corral
For some saucy recommendations!

As you should expect, I stand in opposition to those 
critics and highbrow snobs who dismiss genre fiction!

Follow this Link!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Ride the Devil’s Herd by John Boessenecker

This incredible book provides the first comprehensive and understandable analysis of the Cowboy gang that terrorized the Arizona territory in the early 1880s, resulting in the famed gunfight at the OK Corral. Ride the Devil’s Herd is not necessarily a full-length biography of Wyatt Earp and his brothers, although they are clearly central characters in the narrative. Author John Boessenecker’s meticulous research and practical writing style manages to present a complex cast of characters and keep the conflicts and motivations crisp and clear. Frankly, this is an amazing accomplishment, and it’s to his credit that he pulls it off. Ride the Devil’s Herd also gives us what I believe is the best representation of Wyatt Earp and his brothers who are too often portrayed as being nothing more than opportunists and gamblers. Under John Boessenecker’s objective view, we see the Earp brothers as they really were, fully justified in their actions on that fateful day when they walked down the street side by side with Doc Holliday. When I was reading Boessenecker’s account of that now famous gunfight, I actually blurted out loud, “Finally! Someone that gets it!” This is not to say that he paints the Earps as saints, but he makes it clear that at heart they were not truly bad men, unlike such players as the Clantons and the McLaury brothers. That gang of “Cowboys” as they were called, were immoral, thieving opportunists and murderers. There were many more of them than those few that participated in the Tombstone gunfight, and Mr. Boessenecker describes these personalities at length, tying events together and clarifying their connections. The author’s enthusiasm for his subject is infectious. His joy is evident in his summations and descriptions. Boessenecker avoids using the phrase “Earp’s vendetta ride” as it’s been called when discussing the aftermath of the Tombstone gunfight. All the same, his account is chilling. At the conclusion, it was clear to me that Wyatt Earp was a far more complex man than he is generally portrayed, and his actions and those of his brothers on that fateful day in Tombstone will remain a fascinating highlight of American Western history. I have read and collect many books related to Wyatt Earp, but this one is now my favorite. Highly recommended!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Plague Time!

Copyright © 2020 by Thomas McNulty

Flash Fiction to cheer you all up (He said sarcastically)

Richard and Pamela sat near the bay window and watched the sun-soaked July street. Richard held his cell phone and thumbed through Facebook while Pamela sipped her tea and idly gazed down the street at a smudge of blue on the curb. Crows flitted about near the rumpled pile of blue. The tea was very good this morning, she thought. 
Richard paused, set his phone on the tea table and plucked a colorful sugar cookie from the silver platter. He munched the cookie, keeping his mouth closed to muffle the smacking sounds. The cookies were quite good. He dabbed his mouth with a dainty napkin. Suddenly, he coughed twice. Pamela stared at him a moment.
“Martial law has been extended.” He said. “This might well last until early September.”
“Yes, I read on the newsfeed the Kardashians are having their butts set in plaster and then painted as part of an art exhibit once martial law is lifted.”
“Lots of bathroom mirror photos with that group.” Richard said.
“I counted seventy-five complainers on Facebook this morning.”
“You’d think people would find better things to do with their time.”
“I’m afraid this plague is the best thing to happen.” Pamela was stoic as her gaze once again drifted down the street to the smudge of blue. “You’ll remember, of course, the Harrington boy.”
“Of course. He was a fine little boy. Billy, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, little Billy. Well, the crows are at him today. The debris retrieval units haven’t picked him up yet.”
“We can report that.” Richard said, suddenly feeling indignant. “You mustn’t stare out the window if the streets aren’t clean. That won’t do you any good.” Richard coughed again, holding his palm to his mouth.
“Have some tea.” Pamela said.
“Perhaps in a moment. I was reading about another celebrity singing on Facebook. They sing in their bathrooms. It’s supposed to make lower income families feel better.”
“Do you think it works?”
Richard coughed and finally reached for the tea. He took a sip from the cup and smacked his lips. “I’m sorry. What was that, dear?”
“The singing celebrity. Does it make lower income people feel better?”
“I can’t imagine how it could. The celebrity mask allocation is in the higher percentage. They have catered nurses and physicians.”
Pamela glanced out the window again. “The Harrington’s didn’t qualify. The father lost his job six months ago.”
Richard paused and looked out the bay window. “It’s warm today. Little Billy was the last Harrington wasn’t he?”
“Yes, I’m sad to say he was. He dropped right there, and now the crows are at him.”
“That won’t do at all.”
Pamela was thoughtful a moment. “If he had made it to our door we couldn’t have let him in.”
“Oh, no.” Richard said quickly. “Our mask allocation wouldn’t accommodate a third person. Remember, the pack must survive. The government says that means making hard choices.”
“Let’s not think about it any longer.” Pamela said.
Pamela shifted in her chair and looked in another direction. It was a lovely day. Richard coughed again as she watched a light breeze ruffle the maple tree branches. Nothing else happened except the street and the empty homes and green yards all looked beautiful. The pack must survive, indeed. 
An hour later, Richard was coughing in fits and starts. That’s unfortunate, Pamela thought. The tea would help a little but he was coughing too much. They didn’t talk about it, and Richard remained fixated on Facebook. 
The day stretched into incremental moments of inactivity and memories. It was nice to think about how it was, Pamela thought. It won’t be that way again, but it was still nice. Richard’s coughing was too much. His face was red. The poor man. She waited another hour, thinking about the past. Then she rose, and stepped across the room to the maple cabinet where Richard kept the old Webley .38 revolver. Richard had taught her how to use it all those years ago during the first plague. The weight of the gun in her hand was reassuring.
She shot Richard in the back of the head. He slumped over and twitched. After the gunshot’s echo subsided, she was thinking what a terrible mess she had to clean up. Fortunately, they’d been allocated extra bleach and antiseptic wipes. The extra food they’d hoarded would come in handy now, as well. She cleaned the carpet first. She enjoyed sitting near the bay window and she wanted to keep that area clean.
It took the remainder of the day to wrap his body in the tarpaulin, but Pamela was in good shape, and she paced herself properly. No sense getting emotional. Once the body was wrapped, she pulled Richard by his ankles to the side door and deposited him near the trash bin which was scheduled for debris retrieval in three days. She reminded herself to send an email asking that they pick up the Harrington boy as well. It just wouldn’t do to have all of these bodies lying around. 
Pamela felt emboldened. She had important things to do now that she benefitted from a double allocation. It was twilight and the trees along the street looked so lovely in the fading light. She picked up Richard’s cell phone and began scrolling through the latest gossip, feeling that she would honor his memory in this way. There were always lots of cheeky things to look at on Facebook. She would be fine, she thought, really fine, but maybe a little sad. 
An hour later, she coughed.


Copyright © 2020 by Thomas McNulty
Keep smiling you lovelies!

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Masquerade for Murder by Spillane and Collins

Once again Max Allan Collins proves his incredible talent with another entry in Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer series. Often working from a sparse outline, Collins has crafted a remarkable series that not only pays tribute to Spillane, but advances the tough guy world he so brilliantly embodied. Masquerade for Murder is a hardboiled lunch, served up with a cold beer in a tall, chilled glass. It’s perfect. The characterizations are spot-on, the suspense is like a delicate soufflé, ripe with tension but delightful for readers to experience. There’s a solid mystery that needs solving, and while I suspected a few things, I was pleasantly surprised that I hadn’t figured it all out. That’s okay, that’s Mike Hammer’s job anyway, and he does so with the usual tough guy attitude. The story takes place in the late 1980s, and Hammer might be older, but he’s still a contender as several bad guys quickly find out. I’m quite the fan of both Spillane and Collins and I never get tired of these “collaborations.” Collins is a bit nostalgic this time around, or should I say that Hammer is a bit nostalgic. The New York of post-war America is gone, but Mike Hammer is still a rough and tumble tiger roaming the mean streets of Manhattan. Velda is here, too, older but still sexy. A few other kittens show up, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens. Masquerade for Murder is a great, fun book, and it arrived as if by a providential hand to brighten my day. Highly recommended!