Friday, January 14, 2011

This Just In...

Sorry for the info dump, but for those of you who have lives and haven't been following me on Tweeter or don't religiously visit the This Just In... portion of The Thrilling Detective Web Site, I thought I'd re-post some of my recent ramblings and stray thoughts...

Sad news to report. Joe Gores, the Edgar-winning creator of the astounding DKA series, and the man behind Spade & Archer, Interface, Hammett, Cases and a slew of other great detective and crime fiction, both in print and on television, passed away a few days ago. I had the chance to meet him a few years back, in a bar at Bouchercon, and we killed a little time while we waited for our wives. He was charming and gracious, and a full-tilt storyteller 24/7. He will be missed.

Joe Gores passes away, and a new short story by his hero is discovered. "So I Shot Him" by Dashiell Hammett is scheduled to be published in the Winter/Spring issue of The Strand Magazine.

New Law Passed by United Nations
Unanimously, in fact. Joe Pike and Jack Reacher are prohibited by international law from being in same time zone simultaneously. Something about disrupting the time/space/testosterone continuum, evidently...

Good News! The suits at NBC have decided to pass (for now) on the "reimagining" of America's most beloved private eye, and a grateful nation heaves a collective sigh of relief. But we're not out of the soup yet. Last year's unaired pilot, starring Dermot Mulroney and scripted by "House" creator David Shore wasn't picked up, but it's still kicking around, and while NBC has dropped plans to rework it, it may be only temporary. I'm sorry, but given how popular the original series was, and how respected and admired James Garner is, remaking this series would be like NBC pissing on a whole country. Don't do it, NBC! Remake something that was crappy to begin with. Or -- gosh! -- come up with a NEW idea.

It sounds sexier than it is, but still... By the way, her new Tess Monaghan novella The Girl in the Green Raincoat is now out: as neat as reworking of Rear Window as I've seen, and about as respectful and graceful an exit as an author could give a beloved character, if Lippman decides to let Tess go. Although I hope she doesn't.

Okay, "private eye" might be a little bit of a stretch, but insurance investigator Ralph Henderson, who appeared in the 1862 serial The Notting Hill Mystery, which predates The Moonstone, Lecoq and Sherlock Holmes himself, sure qualifies as a private detective. In fact, I'm so jazzed by this one that I've done a new cover!

The Pulp/Noir issue of India's Tehelka Magazine is now available online featuring stories, videos and all sorts of goodies. And let's face it, where else are you going to read lines like this one from "Damsel in Distress" by Siddharta Chowdbury: "the girl sitting diagonally opposite me at Pindi Sweet House in Kilokri near Maharani Bagh had tits that would delight even the great Jogen Chowdhury." Hey, I read 'em all.

How the Hell did I miss this? One of the pitfalls of my wilderness year is how much flew right by me. Anyway, it looks like plenty of folks have rushed in to pick up the slack since we dropped fiction at Thrilling Detective. One of the very best I've seen is Needle, an honest-to-God-damn print magazine, which bills itself as "a magazine of noir." Many of the contributors will be familiar to readers here, including old pals like Ray Banks, Kieran Shea, Patti Abbott, Dave Zeltserman, Sandra Seamans, Sarah Weinman, Stephen Blackmoore, Anthony Neil Smith, Libby Cudmore and Graham Powell. Check it out!

Because the Night Belongs to Gumshoes?
In the December 26's New York Times, columnist Maureen Dowd talks of rocker Patti Smith's passion for "writing detective novels." Evidently, something about the writing of the National Book award-winning Just Kids has evidently unlocked Smith's inner Mike Hammer? Stay tuned...

Friday, January 07, 2011

Sitting there playing solitaire with your pearl-handled deck?

This one's for all you Zevonphiles out there, or anyone who loves a good cover.

Canadian singer/songwriter Murray McLauchlan, probably best known for "The Farmer's Song," actually recorded the classic junkie lament "Carmelita" in 1972. Four years before Zevon before it finally landed on a Zevon album. So I knew the song years before I'd ever heard of Zevon. Or even, for that matter, Linda Ronstadt.

In fact, when I was growing up, McLauchlan was pretty hot stuff, and he's still one of my favorite songwriters. Scottish-born, he grew up in Toronto, and racked up a slew of AM hits and FM radio picks in the seventies, marked by a dour skepticism and street level pessimism leavened by a scruffy sense of wit and observation that marked him as an original, even as he was borrowing liberally from country, folk and rock influences.

He may have never been really cool (his first big hit was a tribute to farmers, fer cryin' out loud), but he was all over the radio:

"Maybe, Tonight" A lonely traveling salesman looking for some...

"Down by the Henry Moore" Captureing the whirl of early seventies Toronto better than just about anything).

"Honky Red" The classic wino lament with the immortal lines: "I fought in your wars/Now I sleep in your doors/And I left my leg in France."

"On the Boulevard" Working man blues. Lou Reed without the contempt.

"You Need a New Lover Now" Which at least one Canadian mystery writer swore to me is all about her.

"Hard Rock Town" An ode to the mining town of Sudbury, Ontario, and still as good a study of kids growing up in a dead-end town as there's been. "The kids grow up too fast inside/Now they're spitting in the high school halls..."

"Child's Song" Also recorded by folkie Tom Bush, mapped out the whole angsty father/son battlefield Springsteen would later ride to glory.

The obligatory double live album, Only the Silence Remains, featuring McLauchlan on guitar, harmonica and defiance, backed only by a bass player and a rowdy crowd, remains one of my all-time favourite albums (and is, of course, now sadly out of print).

The American market, however, eluded him. He went rock, he went country, he went folk, he toured but just couldn't crack the market. Eventually his brand of homespun singer/songwriter rock, full of wry observation and slice of life grit fell out of fashion, even back home.

What was he supposed to do? Go glam? Shove a safety pin through his nose? Release a disco album?

So he became a bush pilot. He staged occasional comeback attempts. He wrote his autobiography. He hosted a popular CBC radio show or two. And even now, he releases an album every now and then. They don't chart anymore, but I buy 'em. When I can find him.

But I digress...

Back in the early seventies, Zevon was earning his daily bread as musical director for The Everly Brothers who were going through their third or fourth comeback attempt. Phil and Don were doing a tour of British Columbia "mining towns," and the opening act was McLauchlan, who was just starting to make a name for himself. The two young singer/songwriters hit it off, and agreed to record one of each other's songs.

McLauchlan kept his promise, and "Carmelita" appeared on his 1972 self-titled album, Murray McLauchlan (his second). The McLauchlan version even has an extra verse, a little bit of nonsense about an angry Samoan.

But during a Montreal concert during the Excitable Boy tour, before playing "Carmelita," a very, uh, over-served Zevon blurted out the whole story, and offered up a sort of rambling apology to McLauchlan for not keeping up his end of the deal. I was there. I heard it.

No, McLauchlan's version isn't better than Zevon's. Zevon's doom-and-gloom bellow is missing, but McLauchlan has a rather unique voice himself, a sort of Canadianized, rough-and-tumble yelp mixed with a Toronto-ized Scottish burr, that brought it down a notch, made it less epic mythology and a bit more street-level, if you will.

So, it's not better, it's not worse; it's just different.

But I sorta like it.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

With Apologies to Ray... (Snow in Palmdale)

"There was a cold wintry wind blowing in the desert that night. It was one of those freak snows that come down through the mountain passes and bury your car and most of the twitchy paranoia. On nights like that every booze party ends in a snowball fight, and grown men try to write their names in the snow. Meek little wives put on another sweather and turn the kettle on, while waiting for their husbands to finish shoveling the driveway. Anything can happen. You can even catch a hockey game at a cocktail lounge."

It may not rain in Southern California, but girl, don't they warn ya, it snows.

Man, It snows!!!

No, really! Snow in the palm trees! I kid you not. This errant canadien is happy.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy Damned New Year, Part Deux