Wednesday, March 31, 2010

MyNoReMo Starts Tomorrow

Last week I decided I'd been ditzing around long enough with the novel I "finished" last year, and announced I'd get the final revisions done in April. A fit of madness? Probably. But I'm still committed, and the battle begins tomorrow. I'm calling it MyNoReMo, or My Novel Revision Month.

So far, three stalwarts have signed on to struggle through this with me. In order of sticking their hands up, they are: Kassandra Kelly, Cap'n Bob Napier and a talking cat named Zipper. Others are still welcome. (Hey, if a talking cat can do it, why not you?)

An event called NaNoEdMo is just now finishing. Their goal was to do 50 hours of editing during the month of March. For MyNoReMo, I'm not sure counting hours is the best way to go. Since my end-of-month goal is to "Get That Sucker Done", tracking progress will tough. Here's my plan, as of the moment:

I'll spend the first two days reading the manuscript start to finish and taking brief notes on areas that need work. Then I'll allocate the rest of the month accordingly. By the end of Week 1 I'll expect to have revisions done through page XX, and set page number goals for the next three weeks. If I fall behind, tough. I'll just have to work overtime to catch up. If all else fails I'll call James Reasoner and ask him for a pep talk.

In preparation, I've scheduled a mess of generally mindless posts to go up. Expect fewer words and more pictures (probably an improvement). It may look like I'm blogging, but I'll be working - honest!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ten Most Influential Books

Patti Abbott called this "George's Meme" (as in George Kelley) and that seems like a pretty swell name to me. I'm listing these in the order I encountered them, because determining the order of importance is a brainbuster.

The Iliad of  Homer. At age ten, I discovered there was more blood, guts and magic in the school library than my teachers wanted me to know.

The Man of Bronze by Kenneth Robeson (Lester Dent). My introduction to the pulps, though I hardly realized it at the time. All I knew was this guy wrote with a style and attitude that started creeping into my schoolwork.

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake. This book seemed to unlock the mysteries of interpreting English literature, or at least gave me enough insight to fool my college professors.

Conan the Barbarian #1
by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith. My first brush with Robert E. Howard, who consumed my attention for several years. One of several authors who made me (and still make me) want to write.

Roughing It by Mark Twain. Proof that Samuel Clemens is God.

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Who knew a writer could be such a smart ass and get away with it? An inspiration to us all. I used to carry a loaner copy in my the trunk of my car at all times.

The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. These stories flowed though me so smoothly I felt I was writing them myself. Still can’t read Doyle without falling into that pattern of thought.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. My first hardboiled novel. The beginning of a mania (almost a lifestyle), now in its second coming.

The Godwulf Manscript
by Robert B. Parker. The beginning of a long acquaintance with my favorite writer and favorite fictional character, that will not end until I do.

David Crockett, the Man and the Legend by James Atkins Shackford. My first serious look at the life of old Davy and what really went on at the Alamo. Obviously, I’m still hooked.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Alamo Pilgrimage 3: Battle Aftermath

Following the battle reenactment on March 6, 2010, participants got chummy with one another and posed for us tourists.

Santa Anna chats with a Texian rebel.

The New Orleans Greys show off their gun.

 Is that Jim Bowie? Close! It's Ron Ianitello.

Davy meets Davy.

Defenders swap email addresses.
This fearsome fellow is actually a concert trombonist.

Jim Bonham (Wade Dillon) still has some fight in him.

For more photos (and a battle video) from my Alamo trip, click HERE. More pics coming soon.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

LEGEND 5: Half A Pig by Matthew P. Mayo

Eamon Riggs is about to hang his own nephew for stealing half a pig.

“You hung yourself, boy. You know that sure as road apples are ripe year round.” Eamon Riggs stared at the sweaty, pocked face, but there was no sign that the boy heard him. His eyes kept that half-closed stare at nothing, as if he were bored and about to doze off. Like that his whole life, thought Riggs. It’s the Mexican in him.

The kid says nothing.

Riggs took a draught of air through his nose, his lower jaw canted as if he were considering how to answer a delicate question. His left hand struck out with his leather quirt and snapped at the beast’s haunch. The mule lurched forward, digging hard, and all three men in attendance watched the boy’s face finally show the light of interest, his eyes wide and pushing forward, his mouth stretched as if pulled from either side with fishhooks, his head and torso working back, then forward, like a pecking bird, black curls bouncing on his forehead.

Witnessing this are Dilly, one of Riggs’ oldest hands, and Pelt, new to the job and no older than the kid being hanged. “Half A Pig” is about what the hanging means to these two men, and what it teaches them about themselves.

There’s some truly fine writing here, and it was recognized recently by the Western Writers of America, as they chose this tale as a finalist for their BEST WESTERN SHORT FICTION STORY of 2009.

“Half A Pig” is just one of the 20 fine short stories (plus one of mine) in the Express Westerns anthology A Fistful of Legends, now available right HERE.

Matthew P. Mayo is the author of three Black Horse Westerns (so far) along with Cowboys, Mountain Men and Grizzly Bears: The Fifty Grittiest Moments of the Wild West. You can visit him at his website HERE.

For more, see the fine interview Richard Prosch did with Matt over at Meridian Bridge.

Legend 1: Dead Man Talking by Derek Rutherford
Legend 2: Billy by Lance Howard (Howard Hopkins)
Legend 3: Lonigan Must Die! by Ben Bridges (David Whitehead)
Legend 4: The Man Who Shot Garfield Delany by I.J. Parnham
Legend 19: Cash Laramie and the Masked Devil by Edward A. Grainger (David Cranmer)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Forgotten Book: And Sudden Death by Cleve F. Adams

A couple of weeks ago I reread (and reviewed) Cleve F. Adams’ first novel Sabotage, and enjoyed it so much I was eager to reread the second. This is it, and I was not disappointed. There’s something infectious about Adams’ voice and style that just makes me want to keep reading. Luckily, I have another dozen of his books on hand. 

And Sudden Death (1940) first appeared as a 6-part serial in Detective Fiction Weekly under the title “Homicide: Honolulu Bound”. It's a direct sequel (at least in sub-plot) to Sabotage. Private detective Rex McBride is still smarting over what happened to his lady love in the first book, and she is often on his mind.

This time, Rex’s job is to follow a woman to Hawaii, where she just might be planning to rendezvous with her husband - a man who betrayed his business partners and absconded with two million dollars. In 1940, that must have been a ton of dough.

The case, of course, is not that simple. He’s soon caught up in a web of espionage and revenge, and needs all his skills at womanizing and consuming vast quantities of liquor to come out on top.

In the Sabotage review, I addressed the charge by some 80s-era critics that McBride is a racist. This book offers evidence to the contrary. While other characters express distrust of Japanese folk, Rex does not. When the fellow on the pulp cover asks to borrow his binoculars, Rex agrees. He finds he genuinely likes the guy and invites him to shoot craps. Even later, when they become adversaries, McBride retains his respect for him.

The title comes from a line late in the book, when McBride predicts, “I don’t know just how soon, but sometime in the very near future there’s going to be murder and sudden death.” Guess what? He’s right on both counts.

And Sudden Death was reprinted at least once in digest (with a hideous cover) but I don’t believe it ever appeared in a regular paperback. Too bad. It’s a good read, and I’m looking forward to the next book, Decoy.

(click to enlarge)

For your reading pleasure, I recently posted a complete Cleve F. Adams novelette called "Jigsaw".

For links to more of today's Forgotten Books, visit Patti Abbott's pattinase.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Forgotten Music: FESS PARKER

Given recent events, this seems the appropriate time to remember the musical stylings of Mr. Fess Parker.

You've probably heard at least one of his four versions of "The Ballad of Davy Crockett", but Fess didn't stop there. He recorded enough other stuff to fill two whole LPs - and then some.

Over half of Fess's musical output is now available on two CDs (see them HERE.) Several of those tunes are featured on YouTube, but a couple of my favorites are not, and I present them for you here:

"Be Sure You're Right" by Fess Parker & Buddy Ebsen
"King of the River" by Fess Parker

For links to more of today's Forgotten Music, visit the master deejay Scott Parker.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Almost The Spider: CITY OF CORPSES by Norvell Page

I expected this collection from Black Dog Books to be good - I’ve yet to meet a Norvell Page story I didn’t like - but I didn’t expect these stories to be so Spider-like. Norvell Page, you see, was the chief driving force behind the pulp hero The Spider, penning over 80 Spider adventures between 1933 and 1943. 

Most of the stories in City of Corpses were written before Page took on his Spider duties, and offer a tantalizing glimpse of what’s to come. That’s what makes this book so interesting. While these stories are great reads on their own, they’re also fascinating on another level, as we see Page developing themes, props and character traits he would put to good use over the next eleven years.

It might even be fair to call Ken Carter, the hero of these stories, a sort of proto-Spider.

All but one of the stories in this collection appeared in Ten Detective Aces in 1933.  And all exhibit that Norvell Page trademark - frantic action from start to finish.

In the first tale, “Hell’s Music”, Carter is a relatively normal lone-wolf private detective. The only thing that makes him unusual is his background - he was once a  juggler in vaudeville. His case, though, is anything but normal. Passengers aboard an ocean liner hear an unearthly music and promptly fall dead.

In the second story, “City of Corpses”, Ken Carter faces the Blue Death. People on the streets of New York keel over with no apparent cause and turn a livid blue as they die. In this story we learn Carter has other operatives working for him, and that his vaudeville experience included work on the high wire.

In “Statues of Horror” innocent victims are being turned to stone. Ken Carter now has a corp of assistants at his command, plus a private plane - a low red-winged Lockheed Orion -  stocked with weapons for every emergency.

“Gallows Ghost” presents Carter in full almost-Spider mode. He now has a Daimler sedan (just like the Spider’s alter-ego Richard Wentworth) and a chauffeur. This time it’s the governor who needs Carter’s help, as dead people in noosed parachutes are floating down from the sky. In this one we meet seven of Carter’s operatives (“as queer a group as ever-assembled under one leadership”) likely inspired by the aides of Doc Savage.

And things just get stranger. “The Devil’s Hoof” finds Carter in New Orleans, where crushed bodies bear the imprint of an enormous hoof. Carter reveals yet another old vaudeville skill - knife-throwing.

There are still two more stories, as weird and thrill-packed as the others, but you get the idea. At this point, Ken Carter is operating very much like Richard Wentworth. In fact, if someone wanted to play L. Sprague de Camp to Page’s REH, he could expand these stories into full-blown Spider novels.

As a bonus, the book ends with an essay from the 1935 Writer’s Year Book called “How I Write.” This, too, is great stuff. Using one of his own stories as an example, Page walks us through his process, everything from getting and developing the idea to the painstaking revisions and final product. Page, we learn, was not one of those legendary fictioneers who mailed his stories off as fast as he could type them. He often wrote many thousands of unused words in search of just the right opening scene, and this attention to craft shows in his work. It’s a fascinating article, and a rare look inside his mind - much like the story collection itself.

For anyone interested in the Spider, or just thrill-a-minute pulp fiction, I recommend City of Corpses most highly. 

City of Corpses is available direct from Black Dog Books. Click HERE to buy. And check out the rest of their new website, where you'll find info on books by Lester Dent, Cornwell Woolrich, Robert Leslie Bellem, Roger Torrey, H. Bedford-Jones, Talbot Mundy, Harold Lamb and Murray Leinster.

And there are more Norvell Page books on the way. Did you see “Death Plays Knock-Knock”, the Page story I posted yesterday? It featured a hero named Bill Carter. Well, I’ve just learned that Black Dog publisher Tom Roberts is now assembling a collection of the first ten Bill Carter adventures from Spicy Detective, and will follow up with a second collection of ten more. If those books are as good as City of Corpses, I’m going to be a very happy Page fan.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Complete SPICY DETECTIVE Story by Norvell Page

Norvell Page is best known these days as man who wrote most of the classic pulp adventures of The Spider. His Spider prose has a fervor that grabs you by the throat and won't let go until the final page.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at the newest Norvell Page collection from Black Dog Books, a series of very Spideresque stories called City of Corpses. So as sort of a warm-up, just to get you in a Page frame of mind, here's a tale from the April 1937 issue of Spicy Detective. Page often used the monicker N. Wooten Poge when writing for the Spicy line. 


Monday, March 22, 2010

April is MyNoReMo - And You're Invited!


For me, doing final revisions on a novel manuscript and getting it out the door is akin to wrestling an alligator. I figure the only way I'm going to get it done is by setting a deadline. So that's what I've done. I'm declaring April to be My Novel Revision Month and inviting all and sundry to join me.

I've yet to work out the details - like how to measure progress and keep on track throughout the month - but I'll figure something out before April 1 (and I'm certainly open to suggestions). All I know for sure is I'll have that pesky manuscript revised and ready to send somewhere on May Day.

So how about it? Do you have a not-quite-finished novel lurking in a drawer, or maybe on your hard drive? Do you long to have done with that sucker and unleash it upon the world? Then let me know. Make April your MyNoReMo too. Let's see how many alligators we can whip.  (Note to the ASPCA: No actual alligators will be harmed in the performance of these revisions.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fred Gwynne as Davy Crockett? Strange but True.


Believe it or don't, one of the guys who once played Davy Crockett on TV was future Herman Munster 
Fred Gwynne.

My source for Gwynne-as-Crockett was Ed Andreychuk's 2005 book American Frontiersman on Film and Television. The other frontiersmen featured in the book are Jim Bowie, Daniel Boone, Sam Houston, Jim Bridger and Kit Carson.

Gwynne pops up in a discussion of the CBS show You Are There, which evolved from the radio show of the same name. Andreychuk notes that they first aired a TV version of the Alamo battle in 1953, but lists none of the players. Then, he says:

"You Are There returned as a weekly series in September 1971, and it ran until May 13, 1973. Once more Cronkite was the host, with Vern Diamond producing. The color episode "The Siege of the Alamo" aired on October 9, 1971. Fred Gwynne (of television's Car 54, Where Are You? and The Munsters) played Davy Crockett in this later episode."

The revamped show, he says, aired on Saturday afternoons and was geared for children.

Well, it appears Mr. Andreychuk knew what he was talking about. I found the proof on YouTube. Gwynne as Crockett is seen only at the beginning of this clip, but is listed in the credits at the end.