Saturday, September 29, 2012

Award Winners: Bill Cameron & Johnny Shaw!

Bill Cameron and Johnny Shaw. (If Bill looks a little fuzzy around the edges, 
don't blame my camera. He always looks like that.)

Last Thursday night, right here in Stumptown (also known as Portland, OR), the highly esteemed Friends of Mystery presented their highly prestigious Spotted Owl Awards to authors Bill Cameron and Johnny Shaw.

I was there and witnessed the whole shebang with my own eyeballs.

The Spotted Owl is awarded annually for the best mystery novel by a Northwest writer. This year the judges read over 60 books, and presented the award to Bill Cameron for County Line, the fourth novel in his Skin Kadash series. But the judges were so impressed with Johnny Shaw’s Dove Season that they also gave him a Spotted Owl for the best first mystery by a Northwest author.

Johnny revealed that Dove Season is set in the area he hails from - down around the Mexican border near Calexico and Mexicali - and is based in part on his real-life relationship with his father. Johnny’s dad loved books, and had over 10,000 in his collection, so Johnny spent most of his childhood reading. It’s little wonder, then, that he became a bookstore owner, a screenwriter, a writing instructor, an editor, and eventually a novelist. He edits the very cool ‘80s retro men’s adventure fiction mag, Blood & Tacos, and has just seen the release of his second novel, Big Maria.

Bill then stepped to the plate, admitting that the first novel he ever read was Mystery of the Witches’ Bridge by Barbee Oliver Carleton, and displaying the book to prove it. From there he moved on to the works of Rex Stout, John D. McDonald and Harold Robbins. At 18 he wrote an epic sci-fi novel called The Hunter of Fishes, which was essentially Moby Dick in Space. He followed that with a literary novel consisting of a single chapter with no scene breaks, and a 1200-page fantasy novel (all unpublished) before meeting mystery writer Gordon DeMarco (a guy I knew, too), who set him on the right path. A mere eleven years later, his first published novel, Lost Dog, hit the bookstores.

If you haven’t read these guys, take it from me - and the Friends of Mystery - and check them out. You won’t be sorry.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Forgotten Books: Say Yes to Murder (aka The Demise of a Louse, aka Murder in Hollywood) by W.T. Ballard (aka John Shepherd)

Whew! What a strange publishing history this one's had.

Bill Lennox, the hero of this book, was one of Cap Shaw's regulars in Black Mask, appearing in 27 stories between 1933 and 1942. Ballard then put Lennox through his paces in four novels, of which this thrice-titled entry was the first. (The 1942 first edition seen here is described as an ABE dealer as a presentation copy with the following inscription: "To Joe Shaw who had more to do with Lennox's development than I did. Tod Ballard.") He's offering this copy for a mere $2500, plus postage.

Lennox is not a detective, he's a man without a title at Consolidated General Studios in Hollywood, and is usually referred to as just a "troubleshooter." He often acts like a detective, of course, because he's often called upon to sweep murders under the rug, and usually winds up having to solve them.

Though W.T. Ballard was a fixture in Black Mask, and must have been popular with readers, he's been largely ignored by hardboiled anthologists. Shaw passed over him for The Hard-Boiled Omnibus, Ron Goulart for The Hardboiled Dicks, William F. Nolan for The Black Mask Boys, and so on. Far as I know, the only Lennox story that's been reprinted is the first, "A Little Different," in The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories.

This lack of respect is not too surprising. Ballard's prose was tough enough, with the clipped dialogue and largely objective approach Shaw admired. But unlike Hammett, Daly, Nebel, Chandler, Cain, Gardner and Whitfield, his writing has no distinctive style. His prose is just generic hardboiled, much like that of George Harmon Coxe, who is also absent from most anthologies.

That said, Say Yes to Murder, first published in hardcover in 1942, is a pretty good read, and delivers a lot of Black Mask flavor. Surprisingly, given the fact that most of those other writers recycled their magazine stories into novels, Ballard seems to have written this one - and those following it - from scratch.

Now for the publishing history.

The first reprint to appeared in 1943 - a digest edition from Sphere Publications, Martin Goodman President, and identified as B.D.S. #9 (B.D.S. apparently stood for Best Detective Selections). This one provided the most lurid cover art - a pointy chested blonde wielding a bloody knife - but fails the test in the word department, because it was heavily abridged. Along with large chunks of innocuous prose, the editors excised such objectionable words as "whorehouse" and "Christ." In one instance, the word whorehouse was replaced with "joint." (A word from the Art Police: There are pointy-chested blondes in the book, but none of them are murder suspects, and no female is seen holding a bloody knife.) If you can abide abridgments, this one is offered as a free download in a variety of eFormats at That's HERE.

Next up, in 1945, was the Penguin paperback. This one says "complete" and "unabridged" right on the cover, and they weren't lying. Every word of the original, including the objectionable ones, appears to be there. (The cover art passes the test too. Car chase: Check. Body under bed: Check. Pills dissolving in water: Check.)

According to an ABE dealer, the Canadian paperback Murder in Hollywood was published in 1951. Can't prove it by me, because my copy of this White Circle Pocket Edition bears no date. But like the Penguin book, the text is all there. (Cover trouble: The brunette discovering the body - which should be laying face down -  should be wearing a long flowered housecoat with a zipper up the front. But hey, cleavage sells, even in Canada.)

The worst reprint in my possession is The Demise of a Louse, issued by Belmont in 1962, as by "John Shepherd." This was published as a follow-up to Lights, Camera, Murder (1960), the fourth and last Lennox novel, which was apparently a Belmont original. It, too, for some strange reason, appeared under the John Shepherd pseudonym. Ballard was writing a lot of westerns around this time, and it might be thought he wanted to reserve the Ballard name for his western audience. BUT that theory fails to account for the other W.T. Ballard mysteries appearing in paperback at around the same time: Chance Elson (1958), Fury in the Heart (1959), Pretty Miss Murder (1961) and The Seven Sisters (1962). And though The Demise of a Louse claims to be "a complete paperback version of the Best-Seller Say Yes to Murder," it's actually a reprint of the abridged Sphere digest. (Cover check: There are two brunettes in the book, and though one is glimpsed naked, neither is seen applying lipstick in her undies. The body, on its face with a knife is back, is okay, but should be halfway under a bed. Worst of all is the back cover, identifying Lennox as "the Rat-Pack Private-Eye." He is, of course, NOT a private eye, and there's no Rat Pack, or anything resembling it, in the book. An inside page identifies this as the second of the "Rat-Pack Private Eye" mysteries, following Lights, Camera, Murder. Sheesh.)

The book was reprinted again in 2009 by I don't have this one. Do you? If so, here's an easy way to tell if it's the original or the abridged version. Turn to Chapter 7, subchapter 3. It should begin: The doctor said, "I think she'll be all right now." If it doesn't, page back to subchapter 2, where you'll find that line. Viola! It's the censored abridgment. Or not.

Today's Forgotten Books links are assembled at SWEET FREEDOM.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Too Many Crocketts" now at BEAT to a PULP

“Too Many Crocketts,” now playing over at BEAT to a PULP (that’s HERE) is what happens when I read too many of Robert E. Howard’s Breckenridge Elkins stories. Something about old Breck uncorks my inner Davy, and he won’t go back in the bottle until I write a story about him.

That’s happened several times now, so I’m putting together an eCollection called Too Many Crocketts and Other Tales that will feature five Dave and Davy adventures and a Crockett-free bonus story. Coming soon, I hope.

(About this photo exposing my inner Davy: A friend of mine says all it needs is a cigar and glasses to turn it into Groucho Crockett. Yikes! He's right.)

Meanwhile, Davy manifests himself in other ways. “Mr. Crockett and the Bear,” in the May issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine introduced his modern-day namesake, a Memphis attorney and Tennessee State Representative who (like me and the hero of “Too Many Crocketts”) just can’t seem to get Old Davy out of his head. There will be more stories in that series too.

The May AHMM is still available in a variety of eFormats from Fictionwise. (That’s HERE)
P.S. Fictionwise also offers the Sept/Oct ish of EQMM, featuring “Skyler Hobbs and the Garden Gnome Bandit.” (HERE)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Flash Fiction: FRANK JR. -or- Skyler Hobbs and the Thousand Regrets

(NOTE: This is in response to Patti Abbott's challenge to write a tale of a thousand words or less titled "Frank, Jr.," or in this case, "Frank Jr." - because all those before and after commas drove me crazy. You'll find links to more "Frank, Jr." stories HERE.)

The man on the phone said, “Frank Jr. has been kidnapped!”

“It’s for you,” I told Skyler Hobbs, and listened in while they talked.

All Hobbs could get out of our caller was an address and the promise of a thousand dollar fee. Still, that was enough. Hobbs may be nuts—he does, after all, insist he’s the reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes—but he knows the value of a dollar, especially when it has 999 friends.

Twenty minutes later, a woman with haunted eyes ushered us into a living room where a man sat hunched over, his face buried in his hands.

“Frank,” the woman said gently, “the detectives are here.”

“Detective,” I corrected her, pointing at Hobbs. I gave her one of my Computer Doctor cards. “I’m Jason Wilder, his faithful Indian companion.”

Frank regarded us through red-rimmed eyes. “Please. You have to bring Frank Jr. home safe.”

“Kidnapping,” Skyler Hobbs began, “is a job for—”

“Yeah,” Frank said, “I watch TV, but so does the kidnapper. He said no police. I want you to handle the exchange, with no attempt at heroics. Will you?”

A thin teenaged boy slouched into the room, smirked at Frank, and turned the smirk on us.

I said, “We’ll do whatever it takes to bring your son home safely.”

The teenager made an ugly sound that might have been a laugh.

The woman whimpered.

Frank said, “Uh . .  Frank Jr. is not exactly my son.”


I said, “This is the dumbest damn case you’ve ever dragged me into. Whoever heard of a kidnapped plant?”

We sat in my blue PT Cruiser, engine idling, behind a second-rate strip mall.

Hobbs sighed. “Frank Jr. is hardly just a plant. It is a previously unknown variety of the Titan Arum, one with blue rather than red foliage. It is certain to cause a sensation among horticulturists around the world.” He flourished the photo we’d been given. Frank Jr. looked like an erect penis growing out of a blue lettuce leaf.

“Spare me the sales pitch,” I said. “I want half that thousand buck fee.”

Following the kidnapper’s demands, we had left fifty thousand of Frank’s unmarked dollars in a gym bag behind a Dumpster at the far end of the mall. Contrary to Frank’s instructions, though, Hobbs was determined to catch the culprit. I’d set up a small wireless camera, and we now watched the scene on my laptop.

“Besides,” I said. “It was obviously the boy.”

“And how did you make that deduction?”

“Hell, you saw him laughing up his sleeve. He’s jealous of the old man’s obsession with that plant, and dreamed up this goofy stunt for revenge.”

Hobbs nodded. “You grow more observant, Doctor. But what of the $50,000? Do you assume the lad plans to spend it on rock and roll records and entertaining his friends at the malt shop, or wherever it is young hooligans congregate these days?”

Just then, a dark figure in a hoodie moved across the computer monitor.

“Hurry, Watson! The game is afoot!”

“Wilder,” I grumbled. I floored the Cruiser and we roared down the alley, catching the dark figure in the headlights.

Hobbs shouted, “Stop where you are! The doctor has a revolver, and will not fail to use it!”

That was a lie, on both counts, but it worked. Our quarry stood cringing as Hobbs and I approached.

Hobbs drew back the sweatshirt’s hood.

The words I told you so died on my lips.

The plantnapper was not Frank’s son. It was his wife.


“Why?” Hobbs said when we had both her and Frank Jr. in the Cruiser.

“You saw how Frank is. Nothing is too good for his goddamned plants, but Ronnie and I might as well be invisible. Ronnie’s about to graduate from high school, and Frank won’t even discuss sending him to college.”

Hobbs’ eyes bored into her. “So you devised a plan to secure his tuition.”

“And I’d have gotten away with it,” she said bitterly, “if not for you.”


Frank answered the door, hope and fear competing for control of his face. “Where’s Frank Jr.?”

Hobbs stood with one hand behind his back. His face was somber. “I am sorry to say that the plantnapper made off with the ransom money.”

“I don’t care about that. Did you get my plant?”

Hobbs nodded, a bit sadly. “I did, but regret that I must forego my fee. Frank Jr. was injured in the exchange, and is somewhat the worse for wear.”

Frank’s lip trembled. His face turned pasty white.

Hobbs brought the hand out from behind his back. It held a limp and bedraggled thing that might have once been a plant—a plant that had been run over by a truck, hacked with a machete and stomped by a marching band.

Teenaged Ronnie, peering over Frank’s shoulder, began to laugh.

Frank fell to his knees, great sobs pouring from his chest.

Mrs. Frank looked from the plant to her son, and her eyes welled with tears. She sniffed.

Frank glanced up, his face red, and stared at her. Pushing himself erect, he put an arm around her shoulder. “You miss him, too, don’t you?”

She sniffed louder.

Frank hugged her close. “I didn’t realize how much you cared. But we’ll get through this together.”

Mrs. Frank looked pointedly at Ronnie.

Frank followed her gaze. “Yeah,” he said. “You, me, and What’s-his-name too.”


Back at 221B SW Baker Street, Hobbs gave the real Frank Jr., still in prime condition, a place of honor on the mantel.

I said, “Why’d you have to keep that thing? It smells like a dead 'possum.”

“Since I could not accept the fee,” Hobbs said, “I felt I deserved something for my trouble.”

“What about my trouble?”

“I have given that due consideration and reached an equitable solution.”

That perked me up. “You’re giving me five hundred bucks?”

“Better,” Hobbs said. “I am rechristening the plant. Henceforth it shall be called Jason Jr.”


© 2012 by Evan Lewis

The following Flash adventures of Skyler Hobbs are still online (each title links to the story):
Skyler Hobbs and the Man Who Couldn't Fly
Skyler Hobbs and the Man Who Smiled at Death
Skyler Hobbs and the Sweetest of Dreams
Skyler Hobbs and the Fate Worse than Scars
Skyler Hobbs and the Yuletide Terror

The following mostly-longer tales have appeared elsewhere:
Skyler Hobbs and the Rabbit Man - EQMM February 2010 (out of print)
Skyler Hobbs and the Cottingley Fairies - BEAT to a PULP: Round 2 (available HERE)
Skyler Hobbs and the Garden Gnome Bandit - EQMM Sept/Oct 2012 (available HERE)
Skyler Hobbs and the Rollback Bandit - Discount Noir (available HERE)
Skyler Hobbs and the Magic Solution - Grimm Tales (available HERE)

And for those of you who'd rather read the stories in Japanese, a couple of these have been translated by Toshiji Kawagoe:
Skyler Hobbs and the Rollback Bandit (Japanese version HERE)
Skyler Hobbs and the Man Who Couldn't Fly (Japanese version HERE)

More to come!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

THE HUNTED by Dave Zeltserman: Hunt it down!

Everything Dave Zeltserman writes is gold, and his (relatively) new Hunted series is no exception. This 25,000 word eBook introduces us to Dan Willis, an assassin employed by a secret government agency to protect us from insurgents. As The Hunted begins, Willis has saved us from twenty-three such villains, and is just beginning to suspect there's something hinky about his assignments. And guess what? He's right!

As always, Dave's writing is tight, tough and cool, and he can turn on a dime from violence to sensitivity and back to violence again.

This series has been compared to Richard Stark's Parker series. I didn't see much Parker influence in this one, but the buzz is that things get more Parkeresque in book 2, The Dame. I look forward to finding out.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ron Scheer's "Half-Breed" at BEAT to a PULP: It ain't what you think!

Anybody who reads Ron Scheer's blog Buddies in the Saddle (that's HERE) knows he writes entertaining and insightful reviews of western novels and films. But guess what? He's also a fine fictioneer.

"Half-Breed," playing this week over at BEAT to a PULP (that's HERE), is a western tale that just happens to take place fifty or more years in the future. As a western, it has boots, guns, wild critters and other familiar trappings, but it also has elements that just ain't found in an ordinary oater.

I'm not saying what happens - you'll want to find that out for yourself. But I can tell you there's some mighty fine writing here, and I'll be looking forward to more fiction from this feller.

Here's what I know about so far:
"Jingle Bob" on Fires on the Plain (HERE)
"Overdue" on The Western Online (HERE)
"Bikers" in Pulp Modern III (HERE)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Forgotten Books: The Lady in the Morgue by Jonathan Latimer

Jeez, it's been a long time since I read this one, and it made me wish I'd done it sooner. Latimer's Bill Crane mysteries are the sort of books that should be reread - and savored - every few years.

Part of what makes The Lady in the Morgue (1935) so great is the three-way repartee between Crane as his two detective pals, Williams and O'Malley. Doc Williams had a solid role in the first book, Headed for a Hearse, and appeared only briefly in number 3, Murder in the Madhouse. O'Malley makes his first appearance here. Together, they're sort of a cross between the Three Musketeers and the Three Stooges, and if there's another trio like them anywhere in crime fiction, I'd like to know about it.

The story starts, as you might expect, with a lady in the morgue. When her body is stolen, everyone either blames Crane or insists that he find her - and, in the process, find out who she was. Caught between two rival mobsters, a society family, and their demanding boss Colonel Black, Crane and friends drink up half the liquor in Chicago and engage in plenty of good-natured lechery on their quest to solve the mystery.

I'm impressed with every line of Latimer's prose, but I was particularly fond of this single long paragraph in the middle of a party scene:

     Somebody had turned up the radio until the music sounded as though it were being played by the United States Marine Band. A girl was dancing on the terrace in an orange-colored chemise. Somebody was smashing crockery in the kitchen. Two men were being dissuaded with difficulty from fighting. A baby-faced blonde borrowed a dollar from Crane for cab fare home. A couple were necking on one of the davenports. Three men were bitterly arguing politics on the other. A man in shirt sleeves asked O'Malley if he was having a good time. O'Malley asked him what the hell business it was of his. The man said he was sorry. He said he wouldn't have asked except that he was giving the party and wanted everybody to have a good time. O'Malley accepted his apology. A baby-faced blonde borrowed a dollar for cab fare home from Williams. Somebody fell over a chair on the terrace. Two girls were wading in the fountain. A gold watch flipped from the pocket of a man trying to Charleston on the terrace, shattered itself on the polished tile. Williams asked the girl in the nightgown which wasn't a nightgown for her telephone number and she tossed him a handkerchief, and what do you think? The number, Superior 7500, in green thread in one corner, so all you had to do was to keep the handkerchief. A baby-faced blonde borrowed a dollar for cab fare home from O'Malley. The redhead, Dolly, passed out and had to be put to bed. 

Now that's a party!

Preston Foster starred in a movie version in 1938 - a movie I still hope to see someday. Don't know how good it is, but the ad copy sounds pretty close to the mark:

More Forgotten Books at pattinase!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Skyler Hobbs goes to Japan


In the wake of reviewing the Sept/Oct EQMM story "Skyler Hobbs and the Garden Gnome Bandit" (among others) on his blog (as reported HERE), Japanese writer Toshiji Kawagoe has done me the honor of translating my first Hobbs flash fiction tale, "Skyler Hobbs and the Rollback Bandit," into Japanese.

For those of you who read Japanese (or just like looking at it, because it does look pretty cool), that's HERE.

For those of you who read Google Translate and enjoy scratching your head and wondering what the heck it means, that version is HERE.

This tale originally appeared here on the Almanack in November 2009, in answer to Patti Abbott's "Walmart, We Love You" challenge. The story was then collected in the Untreed Reads eBook Discount Noir, where the English version resides today. That's available HERE.

My thanks to Mr. Kawagoe for making Mr. Hobbs accessible to Japanese readers. More flash translations are coming soon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Not-so-Overlooked Films: The Gunfighter (1950)

Sadlly, The Gunfighter is not about gunfighting. It's a about a gunfighter regretting the life he's led and losing everything he's ever wanted. And if that's not depressing enough, all the other characters are helping him regret, and helping him lose. It's what you might call an anti-gunfighter film.

The trouble is, the producers of this one were so intent on making a "grown up" western that they forgot what makes a western good. Despite the smoking six-guns depicted on the posters, this one has almost no shooting, dang little action, and not a lick of fun. Gregory Peck spends most of his screen time fretting and regretting in a near-empty saloon. And just to prove how grown up the film is, it delivers a totally predictable downbeat ending.

I ain't saying grown-up themes or emotions are bad, even in westerns, but they're a lot easier to take when balanced with a little raucous humor and gratuitous violence. If this is an "A" western, I'll take a "B" every time.

Punk Kid #1 challenges Gunfighter. 

Punk Kid #1 bites the dust. (Yeah, this is the same scene, but the lobby cards for the rerelease were colorized differently than the originals.)

Punk Kid #1's brothers come looking for trouble.

In the next town, Gunfighter discovers an old pal packing a star.

An ex-father tries to bushwhack Gunfighter, believing G killed his son. 

Ex-Father is invited to cool his heels.

Punk Kid #2 tries (and fails) to pick a fight.

Ex-girlfriend declines G's invitation to visit South America.

The downbeat denouement.

More Overlooked Films await you at SWEET FREEDOM. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Devil Wings Over France: An Air War Thriller by James Reasoner

Back in the 1930s, Air War pulps were hugely popular. Writers like Frederick Nebel, Raoul Whitfield, Lester Dent and David Goodis, among many others, churned out millions of words detailing the thrilling battles between American aces and German pilots in the skies over Europe.

Several air fighters even got their own magazines, including The Lone Eagle, Dusty Ayres, and the most popular air war hero of them all, G-8. The magazine G-8 and his Battle Aces ran for 110 issues, and the secret of its longevity was that he wasn't fighting just Germans. Like other great Hero Pulp heroes, G-8 went up against threats that crossed the line into the worlds of fantasy, science fiction and the supernatural.

Well. Fast-forward eighty years, and we find James Reasoner, who's written tales in just about every other pulp genre, introducing his own air war hero, American ace Dave "Dead-Stick" Malloy, in Devil Wings Over France. I can't say much about the plot of this adventure without giving too much away, but suffice it to say that Malloy is a worthy successor to G-8, and I'm hoping more tales of his WWI heroics will be coming soon.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Forgotten (and FREE) Race Williams Stories: "The Wrong Corpse" by Carroll John Daly

Here's the sixth in our ongoing series of the Lost Adventures of Race Williams - tales that have never been reprinted, and ain't likely to be anytime soon.

"The Wrong Corpse," from the February 1949 issue of Thrilling Detective, comes to us courtesy of Kim Anderson, who scanned this baby and sent it in. Thanks, Kim. We're all in your debt.

This time Race goes up against a shyster lawyer, a shifty private detective and the cop he loves to hate - Inspector Nelson - in a case involving two dangerous dames. One of those dames is dead, but Race has a heck of a time figuring out which one.

If you're already a member of Race's Fighting Legion, I'll be emailing you scans of this adventure. If not, shoot me an email at, and I'll send you this and the previous five stories, detailed HERE.

For those of you not yet acquainted with our man Race, the sample below offers a good introduction to his character.

Forgotten Books is a revered Friday institution engineered by pattinase.

And coming in October, this new collection from Black Dog Books features five more Race Williams adventures, a Satan Hall story, and three other Daly gems . . .

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Skyler Hobbs Review - Japanese style

I have a Google Alert on my recently published EQMM story, "Skyler Hobbs and the Garden Gnome Bandit," and it turned up this review by Japanese writer/blogger Toshiji Kawagoe.

Now, thanks to the magic Google Translate, we are able to almost decipher what it says. Read on, if you dare.


An excerpt from the post "Critique of the work published EQMM 9 / October (first half)"

Evan Lewis "Skyler Hobbs and the Garden Gnome Bandit" 
Hobbs has crowded believe reincarnation of Holmes himself is chasing robbery continuous figurine precision reminiscent of Jason and Wilder decided the role of Watson himself, the "Napoleon of Six", of land for gardening. Holmes parody of things like work. Continuous theft figurine gnomes, we will eventually lead to theft bike continuous. Baritsu to attack or defend themselves with the villain, but funny Rocchi Ann Shah, it was amusing Cozy Mystery. Evan Lewis, this is what Hobbes Schuyler will be published in the first post of department EQMM, seems to have its debut short story takes a further Newcomer Award.
The rating B +

"Cozy Mystery"? Ouch. But I'll take the B+.

As proof I didn't make this up, the Google Translate version of the full review of seven stories is HERE.

The original Japanese blog post is HERE.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"Blood Kin" at BEAT to a PULP: Is is Prosch, or is it REH?

Okay, I know Richard Prosch actually wrote this himself. It says so here on the "cover," doesn't it? But Robert E. Howard (who wrote both westerns and horror stories) also wrote some western horror stories, and "Blood Kin" fits right into that Howard western horror groove. That's high praise, I know, but well-deserved. Check it out right HERE at BEAT to a PULP!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

(Should Be) Overlooked Films: Frontier Marshal (1939)

With all the wildly inaccurate films about the life and times and Wyatt Earp (in other words, all of them), I figured that one purportedly based on the book Frontier Marshal by Stuart Lake (based on conversations with Wyatt himself) would be closer to the mark.

Boy, was I wrong!

Frontier Marshal is, in fact, the most historically silly Earp film I've seen, and I've seen a lot of them.

So I have to warn you. In picking this turkey apart, I can't help unloading a few SPOILERS. If you're allergic to those, this might be a good time to bop over to BEAT to a PULP and check out Richard Prosch's new weird western, "Blood Kin." That's HERE.

First, the good news. Randolph Scott, as always, is playing Randolph Scott, but his Earp is as good as anyone's. Cesar Romero makes a fine Doc Holliday. And the supporting cast includes John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr. and Ward Bond. We even get Eddie Foy Jr. playing the role of his father.

There's one great scene, where Wyatt trees Indian Charley and drags him into the street by the heels (see lobby cards below) and a couple of other decent (but too brief) action scenes.

Now the bad news. This film is only marginally about Wyatt Earp. The real story revolves around Doc Holliday's completely fictional love life. Doc, so the story goes, abandoned his good girl fiance because he didn't want to saddle her with a lunger. In Tombstone, he dallies with the bad girl saloon dancer, who naturally falls for him, and resents it (as does Doc) when Good Girl finally tracks him down. The rest of the film is mostly about Wyatt trying to help Doc choose Good Girl. Ho hum.

Then there's the slap in the face of history. Remember what I said about SPOILERS? Here they come. There's some silly talk early on about Doc's medical practice back in Virginia, and him birthing a lot of babies (Doc, of course, was actually a dentist). The reason for this tomfoolery becomes clear when the saloon keeper's kid is shot, and Doc is called upon to perform emergency surgery (Yeah, I know - an emergency root canal would've had less emotional impact).

Throughout the film, Wyatt has a hate-hate relationship going with Curly Bill. That, of course, is as it should be. But after Doc's love triangle finally works itself out (guess who he choses?), Curly Bill rides into town and shoots Doc dead. Bill then tells Wyatt he and his gang will await him at the OK Corral. So Wyatt marches off to the shootout alone, without his brothers (who are absent from the film) and without Doc (who dies six years before his time).

At the corral, which in this case appears to be more of a livery stable (a far cry from the vacant lot next to Fly's Photography Studio), Wyatt battles Curly Bill and his boys, including Indian Charley, who appears to have risen from the dead - instead of Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers (also not in the film). And it takes place at night instead of the afternoon. And when Curly Bill runs away, he's shot down in the center of town by Bad Girl, who thereby redeems herself and gets vengeance for Doc at the same time.

The film ends with the camera zooming on Boot Hill, where a new tombstone reads, John Halliday (sic) M.D. (should be D.D.S.), 1848-1880 (should be 1851-1887), Beloved and Respected Citizen of Tombstone (should read Hated and Feared Interloper).

Here's the play-by-play:

When Ward Bond (center) wimps out as marshal, Wyatt steps in to handle an emergency. 

The emergency is Indian Charley, who's shooting up the Bella Union. Until Wyatt shoots him

Wyatt drags Charley into the street. Looks mighty dead, don't he?

Wyatt braces Curly Bill (seated center) and the boys.

New marshal Wyatt catches Bad Girl helping a card cheat and dumps her in the horse trough.

Doc arrives in town. This is a staged photo, not in the film. Bad Girl tries to pit Doc and Wyatt against against each, not keep them apart. And Wyatt never wears a suit.

After chasing Doc all over the West, his ex arrives.

Another staged photo, but a good look at Good Girl.

When Curly Bill's gang comes hoorahing the town, Doc saves Wyatt from a backshooter.

Sadly, there are no lobby cards depicting Doc's demise or the debacle at the OK Corral.

Overlooked Films is a SWEET FREEDOM presentation.