Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Overlooked Movies: Night Moves

"It was a wandering daughter job."

For most of the way, Night Moves is an entertaining private-eye movie.  Gene Hackman is very good as Harry Moseby, who's looking for the wandering daughter (Melanie Griffith) of a former movie actress.  He's also investigating his own wife and discovers that she's having an affair.  Harry's too devoted to his work, it seems, and he's like many  of the private-eyes you read about in books.  He has to follow his investigations to the end.  He wants to know the answers, all of them.  It's an obsession with him.

He finds the wandering daughter in Florida, with her father, but there are other things going on, too.  Harry wants to know about them.  The deeper he delves into the case, the more it appears that everything he thinks he knows is wrong.  He does return the daughter to California, but she's killed in an apparent accident.  Harry goes back to Florida, and . . . I'll be darned if I know.  I've seen this movie twice now, and I still can't figure out the ending.  I'm pretty sure Harry doesn't have everything figured out, either.  I know what happens, and so does Harry, but a lot of it doesn't make any sense, at least to me.  I've never even figured out if Griffith's death is an accident or not.

That doesn't mean this isn't a very good movie.  The acting is topnotch all the way, and the story's a good one right up until the end.  If you have it figured out, let me know.

Night Moves

Night Moves (1975) Official Trailer - Gene Hackman, Jennifer Warren Movie HD - YouTube:

Monday, January 23, 2017

Special Guest Post by Michael Keyton

I came across Peter Cheyney when I was somewhere between twelve and thirteen. A church bazaar or second hand bookshop, the memory is blurred.  I forgot all about him for almost forty years. And this ‘forgetting’ is key to the whole story. Peter Cheyney was the most popular and prolific British author of his day. He was also the most highly paid. His curse perhaps is that he undoubtedly influenced Ian Fleming, for Bond is nothing more than a glamorous composite of the Cheyney ‘hero’. Cheyney created the template that Fleming developed, and the rest is history. Bond got Chubby Broccoli and celluloid fame, Peter Cheyney obscurity and critical censure.

 John le Carre, when asked about spy books that might have influenced him as a child, gave the following response. He duly bowed his head to Kipling, Conrad, Buchan and Greene, and then referred to the: ‘…awful, mercifully-forgotten chauvinistic writers like Peter Cheyney and Co.’
John Sutherland made a similar point, referring to Cheyney’s Dark Series as the ‘high point of a resolutely low flying career.’ These two, wonderfully pithy, assessments are true to a point. They are also skewed by the cultural background and literary talent of both men.
In the mid 1930’s Cheyney was finding his feet, his first three novels introducing Lemmy Caution, with its bizarre cockney interpretation of American ‘gangster-speak’. 

So why write a book about him, other than the fact that the only biography of Cheyney was one written by a fairly uncritical friend in 1954? The reason is the same reason I’m drawn to the works of Edgar Wallace and Sapper, Spillane, and Richard S Prather. They may not be great literature, though they offer some wonderful vignettes, but they open windows into cultures and mores now largely unknown. Edgar Wallace and Sax Rohmer illustrate wonderfully the underlying unease and hysteria in great swathes of the population after the Great War; they offer insights into the fantasies and prejudices of ordinary readers. Peter Cheyney, coming a little later, does the same, his greatest achievement catching the zeitgeist of the Second World War in his justly acclaimed ‘Dark Series.’ 

The Dark series was immensely popular because it tapped in to what people wanted to believe. There is little subtlety in the books. Women are lovingly described for men far from home; and in his lavish and detailed accounts of what his female characters are wearing, Cheyney appeals to women suffering from rationing and austerity. To both he offers wish fulfilment when wishes are all that’s un-rationed. He also offered hope.

During the dark years of World War II and the austerity that followed, Cheyney’s novels were taken into battlefields, were exchanged for ten cigarettes in POW camps, and at a time when fabric was rationed, women fantasised about the glamorous Cheyney femme fatales in their satin and silks, sheer stockings, ruffles and bows. Read Cheyney and you’re reading violence and brutality set in a fashion catalogue. 

The Dark Series tapped into a zeitgeist, when hope and belief trumped sophistication. Britain was fighting a war, its very existence at stake. This central fact perhaps best explains why so many Peter Cheyney books were found in the battlefields of Europe. The books were propaganda gold, offering what every Briton wanted to believe. 
They also held a mirror up to a truth the authorities denied —a startling loosening of sexual mores.

Five years of total war brought unimaginable violence to ‘ordinary people’ and when faced with disruption and imminent death moral restraint appears quaint rather than admirable. War coarsened in its need for immediacy and the pleasures of ‘now.’ The poet, Philip Larkin, once famously said ‘Sex was invented in 1963…between the end of the “Chatterley” ban… And the Beatles’ first LP.’ A snappy sound bite but essentially false. 

The truth was far different. Sexual permissiveness was kick-started by World War II and was not the preserve of the young. German propaganda, like Cheyney was aware of this, many of their leaflets playing on the fears of soldiers far from home and distant wives.

In ‘Virtu

e Under Fire,’ John Costello’s central premise was that the drama and excitement of the war eroded moral restraints, the totality of war bringing the urgent licentiousness of the front line closer to home.  In the words of one American soldier: “We were young and could die tomorrow.”

Costello’s analysis, an eye-opener in 1985, was predated by Peter Cheyney and brought to life in his ‘Dark’ series forty years before. What makes Cheyney so significant and explains his popularity is that his books reflected what officialdom wouldn’t, and reflected without judgment.

In the world Cheyney, Behave examines, you will find misogyny, homophobia, racism, sexism and chauvinism and, at its core, idealism and profound vulnerability. Cheyney’s success as the most highly paid writer of his time does not necessarily qualify him as a literary giant, but it does show that his work reflected the attitudes and mood of a huge swathe of the population, amplified it and played it back to them. Cheyney talked to the popular mood rather than the concerns of an educated elite. It was ‘everyman’ who bought his work in droves. In terms of market forces his books reflect a world long past, one far different from ours but fascinating and worth understanding. Read Cheyney, Behave and judge for yourself. Alternatively if it’s a wet and windy day and you have nothing better to do, feel free to visit my author page and/or blog.



Razzie Nominations: Full List

Razzies 2017: Zoolander 2 leads losers with nine nominations

The Hidden Room Behind Mount Rushmore

The Hidden Room Behind Mount Rushmore

Song of the Day

1958 HITS ARCHIVE: Somebody Touched Me - Buddy Knox - YouTube:

Top 10 Longest Novels

Top 10 Longest Novels

Today's Vintage Ad

20 Short Novels To Stay Up All Night Reading

20 Short Novels To Stay Up All Night Reading


Stuart Palmer, The Puzzle of the Silver Persian, Dell, 1943

2017 Newbery and Caldecott Winners

2017 Newbery and Caldecott Winners: Kelly Barnhill, author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon, is the winner of this year’s Newbery Medal for “most outstanding contribution to children’s literature,” and Javaka Steptoe, author of Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, won this year’s Caldecott Medal.

What Paris sounded like in the 18th century

Historians imagine what Paris sounded like in the 18th century 

New Poem at The Five-Two

The Five-Two: Jennifer Lagier: NEVER SEE MORNING

The Many Bad Moms of Charles Dickens

The Many Bad Moms of Charles Dickens 

10 Lesser-Known Facts About Popular Horror Movies

10 Lesser-Known Facts About Popular Horror Movies 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Doc Savage and the Empire of Doom -- Kenneth Robeson (Will Murray)

Doc Savage and the Shadow are together again in a rip-snorting, ocean- and continent-spanning adventure that pits them against one of the Shadow's famous foes, Shiwan Khan, and ends in caverns measureless to man.  

The story begins when Shiwan Khan, using his amazing hypnotic powers, steals a U.S. Destroyer from the Brooklyn Navy Yard and uses the guns to destroy a rundown hotel Midtown Manhattan, which houses the secret sanctum of the Shadow, along with some powerful weapons that the Shadow has captured.  And the chase is on.

Shiwan Khan has mental powers that Doc Savage can scarcely credit, including not just the power to take over minds by telepathy, but the ability to create a fog of total blackness and to reanimate a corpse.  The Shadow, having dealt with such things before, finds it easy to believe them.  And besides those things, Doc and his crew (everyone buy Johnny) and the Shadow have to deal with the killing machines that Shiwan Khan as taken.  There are plenty of battles both among men and between super science and amazing mental powers.  Doc and members of his group are declared dead more than once, as is the Shadow. We readers, of course, know better than to believe such things, but the calls are close. 

I tore through this one at a record pace, and for me the best thing about it, even better than the adventures and the battles, was the fun Robeson (Will Murray) has with the Shadow's shifting identities.  Lamont Cranston has a bit part in this one.  Even more fun was the problem that Doc has with trying to keep the Shadow from killing people.  Once the Shadow fires up that Thompson or one of his killing machings, people die by the scores.  It makes Doc a bit cranky.

Although this is a handsomely produced volume printed on heavy paper, I could almost feel the brittle, yellowing edges of pulp pages flaking off as I turned them.  If you like Doc Savage and/or the Shadow, you can't miss with this one.  Great stuff.

The Hollywood Canteen

The Hollywood Canteen where Movie Stars were at your Service

Song of the Day

Jesus Put a Yodel in My Soul - YouTube:

A Big Day for Harry Stephen Keeler Fans!

Art Scott forwards this update from Richard Polt, with some great links:

Dear Keeler Society members,

Today is the 50th anniversary of Harry Stephen Keeler’s death, and Keeler News has now been published for 20 years. To mark this occasion, I’ve put out a special issue of the News . . . . 

Meanwhile, Jon Michaud of the Center for Fiction has interviewed Ed Park and me to create two fine introductions to HSK and some of his greatest works:



Finally, our longtime member John Norris will be publishing a story about coincidence in HSK on his blog today:


Today's Vintage Ad

Gilmore Girls/Murder She Wrote Crossover? Sort Of.

BENDIS Writes GILMORE GIRLS/MURDER, SHE WROTE Crossover, For Real... Sort Of: Gilmore Girls may have already returned on Netflix, but now Rory and Lorelei have made a different kind of comeback, this time teaming up with Murder, She Wrote's Jessica Fletcher - and in comic book form, no less.  

Hat tip to Toby O'Brien.


William Bogart, Murder Man (Hell on Fridays), Phantom Books (Australia), 1955

Can You Identify A Writer By Reading One Random Paragraph?

Can You Identify A Writer By Reading One Random Paragraph?

Once Again Texas Leads the Way

Border Patrol seizes 3,000 pounds of weed disguised as watermelons  

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

At Least One of These Would Have Been Great

10 Classic Films That Nearly Starred The Last Actor You'd Expect 

I'm Sure You'll All Agree

The Greatest Drinking Song in the World?