Category Archives: Books

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Go West, Young Writer

Elmore Leonard is best known for urbane urban crime stories set in Detroit or South Florida. In his early days, he wrote a string of successful westerns. Boy howdy.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Pale Moon

W.R. Burnett is best known for hardboiled crime fiction novels that were turned into movies: Little Caesar, High Sierra, The Asphalt Jungle, and Nobody Lives Forever. He also wrote the odd book set in the West. Pale Moon is one of them:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Wooden Ships

A New Frontier by Alan Bean

Summer colds are the worst. I have one so I’m keeping this introduction brief. This time I mean it.

This week’s theme song, Wooden Ships, was written in 1968 by David Crosby, Paul Kantner, and Stephen Stills. There are two original versions of this song but I’m posting the Crosby, Stills & Nash one first because it was released in May of 1969 whereas Jefferson Airplane’s version came out that November.

Now that we’ve fled planet Earth, let’s jump into the void, I mean, jump to the break. I’m not sure if Kantner, Crosby, and Stills provided parachutes. They were hippies so I have my doubts. I’ll guess we’ll find out on the other side.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Dead Ringer

The Dead Ringer is set in a carnival, which explains the peeping gorilla. But was its name Tom?

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Toff On The Farm

John Creasey was a successful and highly prolific crime fiction writer. And when I say prolific, I mean it: he wrote over 600 novels using 28 pen names. He made Stephen King look like a slacker.

The Toff was one of Creasey’s best-loved series. He was a gentleman detective who specialized in “fish out water” stories: hence the urban and urbane Brit at a farm.

My late mother was a fan of Creasey’s work and they were among the first grown-up books I read as a tadpole. No wonder I’m an Anglophile, eh wot?

Pulp Fiction Thursday: A Night For Treason

It’s time for another classic pulp image by Verne Tossey. The femme fatale on the cover may be ruthless but she’s well put together.

1956’s A Night For Treason was an early book by John Jakes who became famous for writing best-selling historical novels such as North and South. I don’t believe that there’s a A Night For Treason mini-series but Revlon or another lipstick company would have been a perfect sponsor. Oh well, there’s always Netflix.

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Jazzman In Nudetown

Initially, I thought this was a parody book cover because of the ridiculous title. It is not. This fakakta book was published in 1964:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Back In The High Life Again

Mesas In Shadows by Maynard Dixon

I had a stupid kitchen accident this week. The sink was full-ish so I decided to pour boiling water into an airborne/hand-held colander. I missed and mildly scalded my left hand. It hurt like hell for a day or so but barely qualified as a first degree burn. I did, however, feel like a first degree dumbass. It was not unlike being an honorary Trump.

I just finished reading John Farrell’s fine 2017 biography of Richard Nixon. I learned two positive things about Tricky Dick. First, he broke his arm as a young politician after slipping on the ice outside his DC area home. The break occurred because he held onto his daughter instead of bracing for the fall with his hands. Second, Nixon was a good tipper. He tipped 25% in the late Sixties when 10% when standard and 15% was a big tip. Hell has frozen over: I just said something nice about Nixon.

After last week’s sad theme songs, I decided to elevate the tone a bit. Back In The High Life Again was written by Steve Winwood and Will Jennings in 1986. It was a big hit; surely aided by James Taylor’s gorgeous harmony vocals.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Winwood’s chirpy original and a mournful interpretation by Warren Zevon, another wry and sardonic guy. We’re everywhere, y’all.

Now I want some Miller High Life, which is my favorite cheap beer. It’s even good enough for my beer snob/home brewer friend Greg. On that note, let’s take a swig of Miller, then jump to the break. Try not to spill any. Wasting beer is a sin.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: Teen-Age Mafia

The most amusing thing about this cover is the hyphen in teenage. I guess the usage changed in the Sixties when teen-age culture went mainstream.

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Hot Rod Mania

Anyone who has ever seen Rebel Without A Cause, can attest that hot rods were a big deal in the 1950’s. Here are two more examples of hot rod mania:

John Fogerty gets the last word:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Here’s Blood In Your Eye

I identify with this book title because I have allergy related bloodshot eyes. Note that the cover on the left was published under the Harlequin imprint. It’s obviously not a romance novel. Ain’t nothing romantic about bloody eyes.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Rod Serling

Submitted for your approval:

Today On Adrastos’ Obsession With Robert Caro

Regular readers of Saturday Odds & Sods are already aware of my Robert Caro obsession. I usually like post to pieces about and by him there. I thought it was time to let my inner fan boy shine on a school day. I don’t have an apple for the teacher but I do have some unsyrupy thoughts about Caro.

I first heard about Robert Caro from a Gore Vidal review of The Power Broker. I read the book and was enthralled by this, unknown to me, story. As a baseball history buff, I was particularly interested to learn that Robert Moses was one of the reasons the Dodgers left Brooklyn. Walter O’Malley had an inner city Brooklyn site in mind for a new ballpark that would be accessible to public transit. Moses wanted a more car-friendly location and insisted that the Dodgers move to the site where Shea Stadium was later built. O’Malley moved the team to Los Angeles instead.

One of the reasons I’m so drawn to Caro’s magisterial Years of Lyndon Johnson series is that he’s such a great storyteller. Who else would talk to LBJ’s high school and college friends as a way of illuminating his style as a politician? A typical biographer/reporter would talk only to the “important people.” I was raised to believe that how one treats the “little people” is more revealing of one’s character. Caro gets that as did David Halberstam before him.

Anyway, Robert Caro recently sat for an interview with David Marchese for the New York Times Magazine. I was particularly interested in how he used Georgia Senator Richard Russell to explain the South and Civil Rights:

So there’s this character, Senator Richard Russell. He’s fascinating because he’s so smart, he’s so learned. In foreign affairs he’s like a consul of Rome. He sees the whole world, you know? But he’s this son of a bitch.

And a racist. Yes. Here’s how I boiled that book down: I said that two things come together. It’s the South that raises Johnson to power in the Senate, and it’s the South that says, “You’re never going to pass a civil rights bill.” So to tell that story you have to show the power of the South and the horribleness of the South, and also how Johnson defeated the South. I said, “I can do all that through Richard Russell,” because he’s the Senate leader of the South, and he embodies this absolute, disgusting hatred of black people. I thought that if I could do Russell right, I wouldn’t have to stop the momentum of the book to give a whole lecture on the South and civil rights. What I’m trying to say is that if you can figure out what your book is about and boil it down into a couple of paragraphs, then all of a sudden a mass of other stuff is much simpler to fit into your longer outline.

Caro declined to be drawn into a discussion of the Trump presidency*. I’m glad: I want him to live to publish the final book in the LBJ series. Discussing Trump is bad for one’s health. Believe me.

While running a search on the NYT web site, I learned that late night funnyman Conan O’Brien shares my obsession with Robert Caro. His dream as a chat show host is to have Caro as a guest. I can’t  resist posting the full NYT link because the image is such a hoot:

Here’s one of many money quotes from the Conan piece:

Mr. O’Brien was insistent that Mr. Caro’s team has been nothing but polite in sending its regrets. In fact, a few years ago, Mr. O’Brien received a signed copy of “The Path to Power” with the inscription: “To Conan O’Brien. From A Fan — Robert A. Caro.”

The gift only confused matters.

“It just cracks me up,” Mr. O’Brien said. “It’s like the White Whale writing Ahab a note, saying, ‘Hey, man. We’ve got to get together. I’m a fan!’”

So, Mr. Caro, be well and finish that book. When it’s done, cut Coco some slack and grant him an interview. Then I can write a post titled When Caro Met Coco.

UPDATE: A pox on me for not googling Caro + Conan. I missed a piece in Vulture wherein we learn that Coco’s dream will come true later this month. Thanks to Mr. Cosmic Ray for the correction.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Letter

Another day, another epistolary title. W. Somerset Maugham had a long run as a popular writer. He is only remembered today, if at all, because of some first class movie adaptations of his work. The Bette Davis-William Wyler version of The Letter is the best one of all.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Hand Of Kindness

Still Life with Onions by Paul Cezanne

March is the cruelest month in New Orleans for allergy sufferers like me. The weather has been sunny and cool; perfect for outdoor activity. The rub is the oak pollen that can be found everywhere. It coats cars, sidewalks, and any surface it can light on. It makes me feel itchy and my nose run like a broken faucet. The most dramatic symptom involves my eyes, which resemble red gravy in sockets if such a thing is possible.

Enough bitching about my allergies. This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson and was the title track of his 1983 solo album. It was his first record after breaking up personally and professionally with Linda Thompson. It’s one of his finest albums featuring some of his best songs and that’s saying a lot.

We have two versions of Hand Of Kindness for your listening pleasure. The studio original and a live version from Cropredy circa beats the hell outta me.

Now that I’ve extended the hand of kindness, it’s time to jump to the break. Given the RT album cover, we may have to do so at the Chelsea Embankment. Splash.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: Mr. Angel Comes Aboard/Johnny Angel

I’m working on a Movies Set In Louisiana piece for the Bayou Brief. It’s taking a bit longer than anticipated but it has a lot of moving parts; pun intended, it always is. It should be out sometime next week.

One of the moving parts is a nifty film noir set in New Orleans, Johnny Angel, which is based on a book by Charles B. Booth, Mr. Angel Comes Aboard.

The book cover is so torn and frayed that it gave me an earworm:

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Deadly Dove

Rufus King had a long run as a crime fiction writer. 1945’s The Deadly Dove was published smack dab in the middle of that lengthy career. Both editions have a strong tagline game.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Lou Marchetti

Every once and awhile I like to honor the illustrators of vintage pulp paperbacks. This week, we’re featuring two covers by Lou Marchetti whose daughter Louise has assembled a terrific website in honor of her late father.

The tagline for The Mugger has given me an earworm so Genesis gets the last word:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Case Of The Shoplifter’s Shoe

I’ve never deliberately repeated a PFT entry before. This was first posted  2/8/18. Why am I doing this? It’s Muses Thursday and half the city is coming to our house. That’s why:

I know what you’re thinking: when in pulp fiction doubt, post a Perry Mason cover. Guilty as charged. It’s also relevant this Muses Thursday. That all chick krewe throws decorated shoes.

I’ve also posted a cleaned up version of the cover that I stumbled into on the artist’s website. Thanks to John Farr.