Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lolla-POE-Looza resurrects Poe for a night a la Ed Pettit

Hiway’s Lolla-POE-Looza resurrects Poe for a night

By Amanda Glensky
Staff Writer

Once upon a midnight dreary, the Hiway Theatre in Jenkintown and the Philly Poe Guy, Ed Pettit, decided to throw a special event for Halloween, featuring the master of the macabre.

The nonprofit member-supported theater will host Lolla-POE-Looza on Oct. 31, a late-night cinematic celebration dedicated to Edgar Allan Poe. The event includes an 11:30 p.m. showing of a 20-minute short Poe film and a midnight screening of “The Raven,” the 1935 classic featuring horror-film icons Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff.

“Every year there are many images and stories we associate with Halloween costumes and the like, but I think Edgar Allan Poe is a literary figure and folk figure that really kind of embodies the…macabre sensibilities of Halloween,” said Fred Kaplan-Mayer, executive director of the Hiway Theatre.

“We wanted to have an event that would capture both the imagery and spectacle of Halloween and the imagery and spectacle of Poe as a person,” he said.

“The Raven” is not based on the famous poem or any of Poe’s other works. It tells the story of a fanatical Poe collector and shows the crazy way people today view the writer, said Pettit, a Poe scholar, freelance writer and professor, who is the Poe literary consultant for “Haunted Poe,” a production currently running in South Philadelphia.

“Halloween is the best night to celebrate Poe. There is not a better movie to go to than a Poe movie on Halloween,” he said. “Poe season is October. Very few writers have that kind of presence in culture,” he added.

Pettit, of Jenkintown, will speak about Poe and various film adaptations of the writer’s work before each screening.

He was named the Philly Poe Guy based on an article he wrote for the Philadelphia City Paper, “We’re Taking Poe Back,” in which he argued why Philadelphia can rightly claim Poe as its literary son.

From reading original newspaper accounts of Poe’s time in Philadelphia, he knows that the time the writer lived in Philadelphia was the most important of his career.

Poe lived in Philadelphia from 1838 to 1844. He was attracted to the city because it was the publishing capital of the country.

“Poe really wanted to be a real literary critic and poet, but he was best at writing short fiction,” Pettit said.

The tradition in Philadelphia at the time of Poe’s residency was Philadelphia Gothic, an era when the city became the important setting for the development of the horror tale, Pettit said.

Early in Poe’s career, he wrote more about the supernatural, but his focus shifted to real-life threats as he became swept into the Philadelphia Gothic scene, where the threat is not a ghost but a man with an axe or a murdering roommate.

Philadelphia’s influence on Poe is apparent in “The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” all of which he wrote in the city.

When Pettit gives talks about Poe, he also likes to dispel myths about the writer, particularly that he was a deranged, drunk and drug-addicted writer. Poe had a drinking problem, but the rest are false. This image of Poe surfaced after his death, Pettit said.

“What interests me a lot about Poe is not that iconic image of Poe as a morose madman, writing out his own nightmare,” Pettit said. Rather, he is inspired by Poe’s work ethic and the longevity of his works.

Poe was a very hard-working professional writer, and very personable – he had a lot of friends, Pettit said.

“Poe is not just one of these old writers that you only read in school…there are so many people that read Poe on their own and that doesn’t happen with any 19th century writer. He’s inspired so many movies, comic books and music,” Pettit said.

The writer also inspired a worldwide cult, which is still going strong 160 years after his death.

Lolla-POE-Looza will happen one night only and nevermore, starting at 11:30 p.m. Halloween night.

The event will coincide with the Harvest Silent Auction at the Hiway Theatre, which begins Oct. 30 and will feature goods and services from residents and local merchants.

If you go to Lolla-POE-Looza, it will take place at the Hiway Theatre, 212 Old York Road,
Jenkintown, PA 19046, Saturday, Oct. 31, 11:30 p.m.  Tickets: $7, general; $5, Hiway Theatre members.  Info: 215-886-9800 or

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

HERO COMPLEX by Geoff Boucher

'The Hunter': Darwyn Cooke and Donald Westlake pull off the perfect crime

Even when the movies ended up bad — and they usually did — crime novelist Donald E. Westlake never had a problem taking Hollywood money for his ideas. But with his signature creation, the ruthless career criminal known simply as Parker, Westlake insisted that the names be changed to protect the guilty.
Westlake, who died at age 75 this past New Year’s Eve, saw seven movies made from his Parker novels (which were all published under his pseudonym Richard Stark), but in each film the main character’s name was changed; even when Lee MarvinRobert Duvall or Mel Gibson was in the role, Westlake wouldn’t entrust his favorite brand name to anyone else. That changed, though, in the final months of Westlake’s life in an unexpected way that had nothing to do with Hollywood.
A Nova Scotia-based illustrator named Darwyn Cooke and an San Diego book editor named Scott Dunbier persuaded the aging author that the ideal visual medium for his terse, bare-knuckled tales of mayhem was the graphic novel. And, after Westlake saw Cooke’s spare and stylized artwork (think somewhere between the vintage-cool of “Mad Men” and the storytelling flair of Milton Caniff’s “Steve Canyon” comic strips), he enthusiastically agreed. The result hit shelves last week, the 144-page graphic novel “The Hunter” (IDW Publishing, $24.99 hardcover), a meticulously faithful adaptation of the 1962 novel of the same name that introduced the scowling Parker.
The Cooke adaptation is already being hailed as a masterpiece by key tastemakers in the comics world and next week it will meet the public in a major way as Cooke and Dunbier take it to Comic-Con International in San Diego, the massive pop-culture expo that is a sort of Cannes for capes or a Sundance for sci-fi. Cooke will be on two panels, one of them a Thursday program entitled “A Darker Shade of Ink: Crime and Noir in Comics.” That might conjure up memories of the infamously lurid EC Comics of the 1950s, but hard-boiled crime is heating up in the word-balloon medium.

Hunter pills

Superheroes still dominate comics but “The Hunter” is part of a surge in noir-minded projects that owe far more to the bloodied pulp of Westlake, James M.Cain and Jim Thompson than they do the cosmic melodramas of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.

Next month, DC Comics, publisher of the bright-hued Superman, is launching a new imprint called Vertigo Crime that will be populated by bloodthirsty lovers and mob enforcers. The first releases are the sexed-up murder tale “Filthy Rich” by Brian Azzarello and Victor Santos and “Dark Entries,” a locked-room mystery written by Scottish crime novelist Ian Rankin.
Vertigo Crime hopes to match the high standards and low morals established by “Criminal,” the series written by Ed Brubaker for Marvel Comics imprint icon that created a tapestry of interwoven underworld tales that had a body count and multi-generational ruination that rivals “GoodFellas.” There’s also the horror-noir ofSteve Niles, whose Cal MacDonald is a drug-addled version of Lew Archer roaming a (literally) haunted L.A. in the Dark Horse series “Criminal Macabre.”
Hollywood has been watching with interest. “History of Violence” and “Road to Perdition,” both well-regarded films, were adaptations of crime comics, and this September comes “Whiteout,” a blood-in-the-snow serial killer story based on the 1999 Oni Press series by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber. There are at least half a dozen more in the pipeline, perhaps most interesting among them is David Fincher’s long-discussed adaptation of the true-crime series “Torso.”
Cooke’s pen-and-ink Parker may well lead to a new round of Westlake curiosity in Hollywood. (In a coincidence, there’s a stir of film interest in another 1960s tough-guy, author John McDonald’s Travis McGee.) If Cooke puts Parker back on screen it would be poetic justice; the artist became a Westlake fan after watching a late-night rerun of John Boorman’s 1967 classic “Point Blank,” regarded as Hollywood’s best take on the cruel charisma of the novels.

“The movie just blew my head apart,” Cooke said chuckling. “There’s only been a few movies that really rocked me. When I watched ‘Point Blank’ I felt like I was seeing a whole new way to do a movie. Lee Marvin was so brilliant in it and the story was very simple — a crime story, a genre story – but it was so compelling.”

“The Hunter” graphic novel (the first of four Parker adaptations planned by Cooke) is rigidly faithful to its 1962 namesake. It tells the tale of a battered and betrayed professional criminal named Parker who methodically seeks vengeance and dismantles anything (and anyone) in his way.
Westlake once told an interviewer that Parker was an “unreconstructed guy from a much harder age” and cited as compass point his own father, who once responded to an oncoming heart attack by reaching for a bottle of rye.
Cooke treasured his correspondence with Westlake and says now that it left a huge impression on him not just as a fan, but as a creator.
“One of the most valuable things in my professional life, one of the big gifts in my career, was the time I got to spend chatting with him through e-mail,” said the 47-year-old Cooke. “What I tried to do more than anything was to impress upon him my interest in one question: Where did other adaptations fail and what did they miss in the character. How can we get these things on the page?”

Hunter action

A big challenge: Parker's visage.
"Yes, it was a lot of struggle finding Parker’s actual appearance," Cooke said. "I had to wean myself off of that Lee Marvin prototype. We went through several evolutions. At one point he looked a lot like Jack Palance. That’s what Donald had said, ‘I always pictured him as a young Palance from ‘Panic in the Streets.’ Then I had that in my head. A big raw-boned guy. That led the way."
At one point, Cooke's "The Hunter” had art in three colors: black, white and something that might be called “drowning-victim” blue. But it was too jolting and the artist kept searching for the proper final color key and found it in a grim teal. “My wife,” Cooke said, “calls it gun-metal green.” (Note: The art in this blog post is from various stages so the color scheme varies.) The panels are shape-based with distracting details drained away.
“There’s very little line work and very little detail that isn’t just implied by a color plane or shape,” he said. “The idea was to subtract everything flowery or extraneous. The color is muted and I also had the pages antiqued with the very faintest amount of yellow.”
As Cooke circled in on the art, he also was finding the hues of Westlake beyond his public persona. “What came through all the e-mails was a really funny, affable guy, a man who at the age of 75 still had all the time in the world for these new things and ideas. When he granted us permission to use the name New Frontier verticalParker – which is a really touchy issue – that’s when we knew he had confidence in this whole thing.”
Cooke said the lean Westlake prose is ideal for the graphic novel medium.
“The original novel was really an experiment to see if he could tell a story without any real emotional content,” Cooke said. “You’re only clue to the protagonist — if you want to call Parker that — and his emotional state would be physical action that might betray it. All of his emotions were internalized and that led him into an area where he was stripping things out. The clean, direct prose style brilliantly leaves things for the reader to fill in for themselves. I needed art that matched that.”
Cooke came to the project as an established star in comics. The Toronto native worked in magazines and graphic design in the 1980s before moving into animation where he was part of the team behind the Emmy-winning “Batman: The Animated Series.”
He moved to comics where his biggest success was “DC: The New Frontier,” the 2004 series that won Eisner and Harvey awards by reworking Justice League lore for a period piece that played out like “The Right Stuff” with masks. Cooke also revived Will Eisner’s “The Spirit” for DC with a sly verve missing from the recent film.
While most artists today have Kirby, the great Neal Adams or later stars such as George Pérez orTodd McFarlane as their north star, Cooke was more beholden to the graceful, dynamic realism of Caniff, Alex Toth and Al Williamson. Cooke, certainly, was strongly inspired by the photo-realistic work by Adams on Batman ("Neal Adams was the guy, the one that got me into the idea of drawing GI Joe from Darywn 2comics"), but his eventual style was shaped by commercial illustrations, such as the paintings used in old G.I. Joe toy packaging and advertisements.
"As much as I like comics and lot of things," Cooke said, "it was the paintings on these boxes that really made me want to draw stuff. They could put a whole story on a painting on box but also leave it open-ended enough that you could take it where you want."
Cooke has an impressive collection of unopened G.I. Joe artifacts and recently installed a horseshoe-shaped display area with glass shelves for them at his home. The lanky Cooke and his wife, Marsha, live in “a wilderness place in Nova Scotia,” as he calls it, a coastal acre hemmed in by a creek and a ravine. It backs up against a 600 acres of Crown Land (the local term for government-protected preserves).
Cooke is a student of comics history and spoke at length about his influences on this particular project. Among them was "His Name is Savage," the great Gil Kane's über-violent, magazine-sized comic from 1968 that is often overlooked when histories of the graphic novel are compiled. "When it comes to what I'm doing, that book by Kane was the first long-form stab at it. I was always a fan of Gil Kane inking his own work. But I also have to tell you that even back then, when I didn’t mind a little blood and thunder, I thought it went too far, with the gun barrels jammed through teeth.”
Despite his comics success with masked men, Cooke said he rues the spandex domination of comics. He said crime, romance, westerns, war and horror are still woefully overlooked by DC and Marvel, the His Name is Savage [1968]dominant publishers. “If people want to go see Quentin Tarantino movies, why wouldn’t they want those comics? The scene is ripe for newcomers to come in with different ideas.”
Cooke's ideas for Westlake and Parker have quickly seized attention. Douglas Wolk, writing in the Washington Post, hailed Cooke’s "space-age designs and stripped-down chiaroscuro…his loose, ragged slashes of black and cobalt blue evoke the ascendancy of Hugh Hefner so powerfully you can almost hear a walking jazz bass.”
Richard Burton, writing for Forbidden Planet, wondered if anything this year will be able to match up to "The Hunter." "It's July," he wrote, "and this may well be the book of the year."
Peers and elders are hailing it as well. This week, animation icon Bruce Timm said Cooke's new work is "practically pitch-perfect." Howard Chaykin of "American Flagg" fame said "The Hunter" "demonstrates uncategorically that all it takes is a brilliant talent to take material I've known and loved for over 35 years and make it brand new." Brubaker, perhaps the top writer in comics at the moment, said the book is "Darwyn's best work and the best version of 'Parker' outside of the novels."
Cooke never met Westlake, and the author never saw the finished Parker adaptation. Last December, Cooke mailed Westlake a batch of finished pages but the parcel arrived at the novelist’s home in Ancram, N.Y., while he was away on vacation in Mexico. The writer suffered a fatal heart attack during the trip. The news left Cooke in a deep funk. He walked away from the project for a time. “I had been doing it,” he realized, “for an audience of one.” Eventually, he returned to the drawing table for a reason the straightforward Parker would respect. “He wanted this done and now it is.”
-- Geoff Boucher

Crime Comics Make A Comeback With 'Noir' by GLEN WELDON

Noir: A Collection of Crime Comics

By Brian Azzarello, Ed Brubaker, Alex de Campi and others.
Paperback, 104 pages
Dark Horse Comics
List price: $12.95

By the time Superman got around to donning his circus tights in 1938, the crime comic was already a fixture on newsstands. Last year, comics historian David Hajdu's Ten-Cent Plaguedocumented the surprising variety of pulpy, two-fisted tales of murder and mayhem offered up in those early days of comics, including Dick Tracyand his fanciful ilk; War on Crime, the blandly moralistic newspaper strip conceived by J. Edgar Hoover himself; and, slightly later, the influential Crime Does Not Pay, a gleefully lurid series that broke with tradition by focusing on the unrepentant lawbreaker instead of the lantern-jawed lawman who pursued him.
When the superhero fad faded at the end of World War II, it was the crime comic — alongside horror and romance titles — that kept the comics medium alive. By the mid-1950s, however, the growing explicitness of these tales of gumshoes, gunsels, lies and larceny caused church groups and politicians to see them as a major cause of juvenile delinquency. Book burnings and Senate hearings followed; the crime comic disappeared, taking its many noirish, whiskey-breathed pleasures with it.
Until today. Although the superhero genre (which bounced back forcefully after its brief midcentury remission) dominates the shelves, crime comics geared to adults are experiencing a boomlet. From true-crime accounts like Rick Geary's beautiful, painstakingly researched Treasury of Victorian Murder volumes to gritty, uncompromising books like Criminal, 100 Bullets, Scalped, Fell and Darwyn Cooke's masterful adaptation of Richard Stark's Parker, the crime comic is back.
Dark Horse Comics has commissioned short stories from several creators behind the current crime comic renaissance, as well as several authors known for their non-genre "indie" work. The result, Noir: A Collection of Crime Comics, is a seamy, exploitative walking tour through man's basest desires. Which is to say, it's a lot of fun.

As you might expect, the thrills tend toward the cheap, the femmes tend toward the fatale, and Things Are Seldom What They Seem. Within these genre constraints, most of the collection's authors manage to uncover something new. What makes the Fillbach Brothers' "Lady's Choice" so satisfying, for example, is its decision to adopt the point of view of a character always seen but rarely heard in crime fiction: the woman in the slinky dress guzzling champagne as she hangs off the gangster's arm. Jeff Lemire's "The Old Silo" sets up the emotional stakes with great care and even greater economy before supplying us with its twist, and succeeds because of it. "The Bad Night," by Brian Azzarello, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, is the collection's cleverest, most grimly amusing tale, though to reveal why would ruin it. Suffice to say that it sneaks up on you, offering a slanted take on one of the most sacrosanct moments in all of comics.
Less successful are the stories that feature characters created elsewhere. Paul Grist's Kane and Dean Motter's Mister X both have their own series, but the stand-alone stories found here simply don't stand sufficiently alone, dependent as they are on the reader's familiarity with characterization and continuity established outside of these pages.
Unlike the seminal crime comic Crime Does Not Pay, whose editor famously forbade artists from using black ink in backgrounds (convinced that bright colors drove sales), Noir is fittingly steeped in shadows, and the book's production does them justice. Its blacks are that of the abyss, its whites pure and crisp as fresh linen; the only grays to be found in the book's palette are those that exist in the souls of its many flawed, hapless and ultimately doomed characters.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


‘The Guards’ Shoot Underway in Galway 

27 Oct 2009 |

Iain Glen
Magma Films’ latest project, an adaptation of Ken Bruen’s ‘The Guards’, has begun shooting today, October 27th, in Co. Galway. The film is directed by Stuart Orme (Inspector Morse, Merlin) with Iain Glen (Song for a Raggy Boy, Tara Road) leading the cast.
Produced by Ralph Christians (Niko and the way to the Stars) and Clodagh Freeman (Summer of the Flying Saucer), the script was adapted from Bruen’s novel by Anne McCabe, Tom Collins and Ralph Christians. Other crew involved includes Director of Photography John Conroy (The Bourne Ultimatum) and Production Designer Derek Wallace (Triage).
‘The Guards’ tells the tale of Jack Taylor, a disgraced ex-cop, cast out of the force after physically assaulting a member of parliament. Now operating as a private eye, Jack takes his drinking as seriously as his job. When asked to find a missing child, his investigation uncovers the seedy underbelly of Galway City. Then, when an old friend of Jack’s dies under mysterious circumstances, everything Jack believes in begins to unravel, making him question even those closest to him.
This 90 minute TV movie is the first episode in a series of Jack Taylor stories (of which Ken Bruen has published seven), co-financed by German broadcaster RTL, Richard Price TV Associates, UK, The Media Fund and Magma Films, Ireland.
Iain Glen (Tara Road) stars as Jack whilst Ralph Brown (The Boat that Rocked) stars as his sidekick Sutton. The female leads are played by Irish actresses Tara Breathnach (The Tudors) and Nora-Jane Noone (Savage).
Producer Clodagh Freeman tells IFTN: “Magma Films are delighted that the first day of principal photography is finally underway on the adaptation of Ken Bruen’s first novel in the Jack Taylor series ‘The Guards’. We are confident that this wonderful franchise will fill the gap in the market for Irish crime series internationally.”





Friday, October 23, 2009

NOIR TO ME by Jim Owens of CAR NOIR


Q: I like the opening of your website and what about the opening noir quote?
 I really like people to be entertained so I wanted an intro that would set the mood.
Q:  I am fascinated about how you came to start CAR NOIR.  What attracts you to the Car Noir?
The whole Car-Noir thing came from two things.

One, when I decided to focus my painting on cars I was talking with my wife one day and I said to her, "I'm not sure what to paint." She then said something that was so simple but pretty profound. She said "You have to paint what you like." Duh! Dawn breaks on marble head! So I started thinking about the kind of things I have always been drawn to; Hot rods and custom cars, anything 1940s, Movie posters, Typography, B movies and film Noir. So I just kind of shook all that up and the paintings are what came out.

Then one day I was hanging out in my studio with my friend, actor Paul Dooley (He was the dad in "Sixteen Candles", "Breaking Away" and "Runaway Bride") and he said, "These are very car noir!" I said "Man that is great! I'm stealing that from you."

I realized no one in the car scene was doing anything like it. It has kind of become my thing.

            Q: Was it a particular work of art, literature, music, turn of phrase, time or person that sparked CAR NOIR?

It was sort of everything that I have been drawn to my whole life. When I was a kid I was crazy for anything with James Cagney or Humphrey Bogart in it. I spent hours in my room watching old gangster movies and reading books about old movies. I was also interested in the paintings on those old pulp novel covers and movie posters. But they were hard to find back in those pre-internet days. You had to luck onto them at garage sales or flea markets. As I got older I began to find the artists that I was most into were illustrators like Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker and Haddon Sundblom. I'm still discovering artists that I didnt know anything about. Like Norman Saunders and Robert Maguire. Both top pulp artists. So it really was just a long journey until I found my own "Voice" by diving into what I had actually always wanted to do but didnt want to risk the problem of not earning a living in the commercial art field.

           Q: How would you define Noir?  In your own words.  There certainly is no right or wrong answer to this question.  I think we all have different interpretations of what that darkness that defines the abyss is.

Wow. That is a question that entire books have been dedicated to. Noir to me is a mood. Generally a bleak mood but I think it has a bit of a nostalgia to it. And that nostalgia allows us to view that bleakness through an amber glass. Example: Dig this phrase. "Say Mac, what's the rub?" In the 1940s that may have sounded hard or tough or threatening but by our nostalgic ear it has a humor to it, an old time mood. I like that. My wife an I will watch an old film like "Dead Reckoning" and really enjoy the dialogue for the colorful way it was written. We'll actually say out loud "Oh man that was a great line!" It is a specific style. Like the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare. If you want to see a great modern interpretation of that style check out the Cohen brothers film "Miller's Crossing". So I guess for me it is the nostalgia angle I dig. For a modern Noir that doesnt have the nostalgia factor check out "Blood Simple".

          Q: When it comes to the Noir, what most closely do you connect with your work?

I would say it is the cinematography of those old movies. I love great lighting. It is something I wish I would have had some training in. I'm still learning about it.

         Q: Do you think that people are drawn to your work based on curiosity or a shared interest in the Noir?

Generally I find that the people that buy my work are nostalgic types. I dont think it is necessarily a shared interest in Noir but people with an affinity for the things of the mid 20th century.

NOIR TO ME by Dan Fante

(credit Volker Correll)

Q: What attracts you to the "noir" of life, the banal, down-on-your-luck, spiralling out of control, aspect of life?
A: My own experience.

Q: Do you fear looking into the abyss of the unknown?  What do you think you will see?
A: I see my own struggle with sanity, sober.

Q: Was it a particular work of art, literature, music, time, place, person or event that grabbed you and drew you to the "noir"?
A: Selby's Last Exit To Brooklyn. A suberb piece of work.

Q: If so, then what or when or who was it?

Q: How would you define the nebulus term "noir"?
A: For me noir is dark literature. Seline, Bukowski, Henry Miller, Edward Lewis Wallant. 

Q: When it comes to the "down-and-out" quality of life, how closely do you associate with it?  Does it scare you?
A: I have a long history as a much-troubled drunk. My work is an effort to 'speak' to people like me. Madness and addiction can be overcome. I want my reader to identify.

Q: Are you drawn to the "noir" for some vicarious or voyeuristic reason?
A: No. It is where I come from.

Q: Do you think others are drawn to your work out of curioustiy or some sort of feeling of symaptico?
A: The human condition is much undiscussed in contemporary fiction. I think the honesty of my work is what attracts the reader.

Q: In your words, why are so many people resentful against noir?
A: Most people want to be entertained. Our culture is centered around 'the quick fix' emotionally.  Apparently, honesty in literature is not commercial.

Q: In your words, what is the greatest work of Noir ever written?filmed?pictured?painted?
A: Off the top of my head I'd have to say the film: Doctor Strangelove. Simply brilliant.

Q: What would you like to add that I have neglected here about the "noir"?
A: Writing memoir noir fiction 'from the heart' has resulted in me receiving hundreds of e-mails from people who identify with my characters. They 'see' themselves in my work. They say they are 'moved' and changed by my novels.  No higher compliment is possible for a writer.

An excerpt from 86’d by Dan Fante,
On sale September 22nd from Harper Perennial

It happened to me rarely these days. Working and making money and writing and managing Dav-Ko was all that I’d been doing for months. But I now clearly had a serious case of the fuckits.

I can’t say it was Ronny Steadman and I can’t say it wasn’t but within me there is this leveling devise thing that, when my mind exceeds a certain point, just goes on tilt. Snaps. I know that normal people can take a pill or go to bed or call their friend Bob and watch TV or have sex with their wife or jerk off, or some goddamn thing. But that stuff doesn’t work for me. 

I know what I was thinking. I was thinking: what’s the big deal. Life is too short for this shit and I need to take the edge off. Fuckit. I deserve it. Fuck it!    


A door slammed. I woke up.

It was a strange room. It looked to be a nearly unfurnished one-room apartment with only a small window and dark yellow walls. No pictures.

Clearing my head, I rolled toward the floor and looked down - a woman’s dirty underwear and a pack of cigarettes and a strange half jar filled with blue liquid tucked just beneath the head of the bed.

Lifting the jar up I studied it: A set of false teeth, bridges, uppers and lowers. The sight of these in the strange colored water unnerved me and the glass slipped from my hand and fell to the floor. A pool of blue liquid now flooded the linoleum and nearby underpants.

Reaching back down I picked up the teeth again and held them in my hands, examining them.

How the hell did I get here on this bed with these goddamn things? The top bridge had six fronts with one missing space.  No back teeth. The bottoms had no molars but like the uppers, all the front teeth were there. In other words whoever owned these had no real teeth on the top and bottom. My brain collated this information and gave me an image of the toothless bitch who owned them. Whoever had slammed the door must have left in hurry and neglected to put her teeth in. 

Near the underpants on the floor but away from the blue pool, were my pants and socks. Both my shoes and my jacket appeared to be missing.

Reaching for the pants I found that the pockets had been turned inside out. The wallet was gone. My money was gone. The cell phone too.

Pulling back the sheets around me I discovered several hair pins and a sex stain. I was naked except for my torn and soiled shirt. Two buttons were missing. 


Finding the bathroom I vomited again and again until my head hurt so much that I had to fall to the coolness of the tile floor and curl myself around the porcelain toilet, in a ball. Then the shakes started.   

Fifteen minutes later I’d pulled myself together enough to leave the crapper. But lighting a cigarette forced me back into the bathroom to puke again.

Back in the main room I checked for more signs of where I was and what had happened. I saw more dirty women’s clothes and underwear strewn in the corner. Under some socks was a stack of supermarket coupons held together by a rubber band. Nothing else except a large, gold plastic crucifix looked down from above the apartment’s main door.

The window was partially covered by a sheet. The only furniture other than the bed was a dresser. I opened the drawers. They contained a child’s clothes. Old and worn.

Outside, looking down from the second floor, the neighborhood appeared to be Ghost Town, in Venice – a row of old, run down houses with sad, un-watered lawns. But maybe not. Maybe I was in Compton or old Torrance or even Long Beach. I couldn’t be sure.

On the window sill were two green plants. They still had their price tags stuck to the black plastic pots.  

Then something shiny got my attention: my car keys. Across the room in the corner.

But that was it. Nothing else belonged to me. All of my shit was gone – gone with whoever slammed the door and departed in a rush.  

Back in the bathroom I washed myself. There was no soap. No towel. No toothpaste. Nothing.

I gulped as much water as possible from the faucet until I felt myself wretch convulsively, but somehow I kept the liquid down.

So far so good.

Drying my face with the end of my shirt I then ran water through my hair with my rattling hands in an attempt to smooth it into place. Then I used the last of a toilet paper roll that sat on the toilet tank to clean my teeth.  

I now had a sudden and immediate need for a drink. Without a drink I would start puking again or pass out. Or die.

Picking up the set of teeth I stuffed them in my pocket, one in each, along with my car keys. Then I pulled on my socks.

On the street in the heat I intended to circle the block until I found my car. But a few minutes later, with no luck, I reached a main drag with a sign:
North Van Nuys Boulevard
. Fucking

Van Nuys Boulevard
. The ghetto. Had I spent the night with a Mexican hooker. That figured. My thing had always been Latin women.

My feet were starting to burn badly and swell as they scraped the asphalt. A mother with her two young daughters averted her glance as she passed me crossing the street.

I kept moving, my brain aching and slamming itself inside my skull. I couldn’t stop. I had to locate my car and I had to have alcohol. A drink. Immediately. The voice of Jimmy, my hangman, scorched my brain. Well done, fucko! Lost in the gaddamn Valley! No shoes. No money. Just swell. You’ve outdone yourself once again. You’re a gutless juicer and a loser just like your fucking brother. You deserve this. Hey cheesedick, with a little luck you just might get yourself arrested for vagrancy – or drunk in public.

There was only one way I’d ever been able to shut Jimmy up:  drown him in bourbon.    

Finally, my fists sweating and still clenched around the teeth in each pocket, I reached a section of shop fronts: A 99-cent store. A 7-11. Instant pay-day loans. A porno arcade. A pawn broker. In the window above a display of beat-up used watches, the pawnshop clock read 10:20 a.m.

I stopped. I felt myself starting to pass out.

Leaning against a wall I sucked in air. It took thirty seconds for the dizziness to pass then I was okay. I could walk. 

Maybe the 7-11? I decided to turn back. I had no money but maybe I could steal two talls or a forty-ouncer while the guy’s back was turned. For once Jimmy screamed some good advise: Hey nutcase, are you completely crazy? You’ve got a torn shirt and no shoes!...Keep moving, for chrissakes.

So I kept going.

Then, on the corner, I saw it. A bar! It was open – a square neon sign in the window flashing.

I pushed the door open and went in.   

Two working guys sat at the rail drinking bottled beer. The juke box played mariachi music.

Then it happened. I was inches away from the stools. The bartender had seen me and was moving toward me when I felt the spasmodic rush of hot liquid hit the inside of my pants. I’d crapped myself! Without underwear I felt the heat of the mess running down my leg. 

As I reached the stools I tossed my car keys up on the bar, trying to appear self-confident.

The bartender’s expression changed. He knew. The stench had been immediate and overwhelming.

“What’s up?” he snarled. 

“Look” I said, “I’ve got an idea. Hear me out, okay? Do you want to make some money?”

“I ka smel jour idea from ober here! Take a walk, cabron! Now. No chit. I mean it. You wann troubl in disa plaze, you got troubl!” 

I raised my hands in the air like a guy under arrest. “No kidding!” I blurted. “Do you want to make a hundred bucks? For real.”

“For wha, chitman.”

“For a pop. One drink! A hundred dollars for one drink. Straight business.”

“Lemme guez, okae. Jour problem is jou ain’t got the hundred on you. Am I rie?”

I nodded.

 “Mira stupido, jou got ten seconds to get jour stinky culo outa here and go bak on da stree. Ten seconds, comprende? Nine…eight…”   

“Two hundred! No joke!” I was panting now. Gulping air.  “I’ll pay you two hundred bucks for one drink…and a phone call! I run a business. I’ll have someone bring the money. It’ll be here half an hour after I make the call. C’mon, cut me a break.”

“Thaz it, chitpants! Timz up!”

The guy scooped my car keys off the bar and held them toward me. “I tole jou, take a fukking walk!” he hissed. “I ain no kiddin’!”

Then something happened. With my key ring in his outstretched arm, the bartender’s expression changed. He was looking at what he held in his hand. “Whaz about thez?” he said.

“What?” I said.   

“Deez one, my man!” he snarled, pinching the coin on the ring between his fingers.

It was a fifty cent piece. A silver half dollar. The coin and chain had been a gift from my ex-girlfriend Cynthia years before after I bought the Pontiac.

I felt my body breathe again. “What about it?” I asked. “You want it?”

“I collek. I collek koinz.”


“Dis one iz a 1916. Firss jear minn. Walkin’ Leebertee. Goo condicion too.”

“I know what it is,” I lied. “How about a trade?”

The guy folded his arms across his chest. “Hokay, chitmajn, herez dee deal: Jou get jour stinky, shakin ass to the bahroom ‘n clean up an when jou come back I giff jou one drink – an one phon call. For dis.”  

“Two drinks” I blurted. “Two drinks and you have a deal. Double shots. Deal?”

“Deal,” he snarled. “Now go wass jour ass.”

Bonus material:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NOIR NOTE by George Szirtes

It is a big subject with big literature, the general lines of which are established to the point of cliché, particularly the role of the femme fatale, but also its themes of transgression, fatalism, lack of character certainty, violence and moral ambiguity. I don't want to discuss these things all over again in either a political or historical context. I am however interested in why film noir still thrills.

What fascinates me is the sheer poetry of it. In what way?

The narrative to begin with. The narrative is nearly always complex, often unclear. Some evil has been done, is being done, or is about to be done. The precise mechanism of the action is of secondary importance. It is our apprehension of events that is being courted, not our reason. Film noir is never really a whodunnit. Detectives appear in the films, are often the central characters in films, but it is not detective work, not deductive reasoning that is the point. Film noir pits image against syntax, or, to put it another way, the point of syntax is image, the apparitional image. It is the figure looking in a lit doorway, at the end of the drive, throwing his or shadow on the wall behind the desk. It is the femme fatale's sexual presence not her agency. She is undoubtedly up to something but it hardly matters what. It is simply not the story. The story is secondary. It can be as minimal as narrative in a lyric poem, which does have a narrative but not one of the what-happens-next variety. It is the sensation of possibility, the apprehension of something pending that matters.

So the narrative is poetry narrative rather than novel narrative. Thats what the stock characters are about. They are the genius loci of the backyard and the mean street. The weight they carry is beyond rational or instrumental. The femme fatale is not merely a device to embody the struggle of (and with) female independence or sexuality, though it could be that as well, but, more importantly, a figure that has always been there in both male and female imagination as a dream power, a latency. A shape that is the precise dimensions of desire but never quite still, entering, looming, disappearing. Never quite to be focused.

The language of film noir is pretty formal. Its devices are rhythmical and expected, like metre and rhyme: staircase, wall, lamppost, hand, drifting light, vertigo, swing of hair, great pool of shadow, glimpse, a look away, the broad shoulder with the jacket thrown over it, swing of hip, the half-open door, desk, back of chair, desklight, cigarette, a hulking back, a craggy face, car fin and car door. These images and others like them form the stanza, the rhyme scheme, the chorus. 

The lyric I as a loner
Everyone in a film noir is on the outside. If there is an insider view, the insider is already isolated. There is no real communal life. It is the world of the poet as melancholiac, as romantic outcast, as voyeur. However the central characters resolve their situations their natural state is helplessness. They are being drugged or slugged or imprisoned or puzzled. They are troubled partly because there is only ever an outside. The inside, should there be such a place, is already corrupt. 'I wouldn't join any club that would have me as its member,' quipped Groucho Marx. And that is precisely the point.

The spectral
The characters are ghostlike or are in the process of becoming ghosts.Ghosts, wrote Peter Scupham, a good poet friend, are a poet's working capital. That's as true as it gets. Ghosts don't do things, they are just there, drifting about. Everyone in film noir is either being shot or about to get shot. They may not be shot finally but being on the edge of being shot is their very essence. They are all, in their way, uncanny, unheimlich. That, I think, is often the poet's sense of his own being in his or her own skin. It's all just a bit uncanny. What an odd place for consciousness to have lodged in, this Plato's cave of shadows!


Form, apprehension, sense of story rather than story, unfixed desire, isolation, haunting. 
Art is a house that tries to be haunted said Emily Dickinson. Yes, but the haunting takes place in a real world, a hard, mean, dollar-down kind of world, not in a ghost story.

If I like 
film noir It is for reasons like this.


Both Christa and Duane are ascending stars in an area of literature that we both fear and are inexplicably drawn to.

Christa channels the stark reality of life that was David Goodis and Duane is from the Goodis hood!

Long may they continue to enchant us and scare the shit out of us.