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.