On the Virtue of Patience in Publishing

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019 | Posted by Pierce Watters

dink_&_co-small

At a publishing convention in New Orleans in the 80: Ralph Arnote, book sales guru; Jim Baen,
Editor-in-chief for Tom Doherty at Ace; C.M. “Dink” Starns, my mentor; Tom Doherty, founder
and publisher of Tor; Ed Gabrielli, Macmillan VP; Jane Rice, career sales rep at Ace; and others

I was thinking of the importance of patience. Beth Meacham brought it to mind with a post.

An example: In the 80s, there was a time when my income was neither stable nor plentiful. At the time, Pocket Books was distributing Zebra Books. The local wholesaler was feuding with Pocket. As a consequence, Zebra was not being distributed either.

The Zebra Publisher, Walter Zacharius, was a power in publishing and a friend. But a dear friend of mine, one of Walter’s comrades, was Harry Hills. A mentor.

Harry and I went back to the 70s at Ballantine together. Harry started out doing marketing stunts at Bantam. One involved 6 people, including Harry, holding a very large python on a California beach. I’m not sure if Ian Ballantine was still at Bantam then.

Harry’s memos always started, “Attention All Hands!”

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Andrew Salmon on David Montrose

Monday, October 14th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

This week, I got fellow Sherlock Holmes friend Andrew Salmon to hold forth on hardboiled pulp. You’d be surprised how many Holmes fans are also pulpsters. Andrew is a leading light in the New Pulp movement (along with some other Black Gate guest posters, like Frank Schildiner, Will Murray and Duane Spurlock – who wrote last week’s post). Today, he takes us international, so read on!

“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

A FRIEND IN TEED – The Lost World of Montreal Noir

Montrose_DorvalEDITEDThoughts of hardboiled fiction’s history conjure Mike Hammer’s New York or the sunny California of Sam Spade and Lew Archer. But the rich tradition of the genre along with Noir has expanded immensely, yielding rich gold mines in Berlin Noir and Dublin Noir to name two of many.

And yet there is a closer example of the universality of mean streets all over the world laid out in grimy exuberance in a hardboiled tale well told – and it is not a recent offshoot. I’m talking about the little known, until recently, forgotten hardboiled Canadian noir of the 1950s.

These were paperbacks to be found on spinner racks on both sides of the border. Issued by small printing houses in small print runs for the much smaller population of Canada, the pulp yarns churned out by a host of writers was long forgotten and scarce hardly sums up their availability. They aren’t collectible offerings from big names in publishing. The books came and went to molder in attics, landfills and to find second use helping to start fires on cold Canadian nights. Lost to time.

Until Ricochet Books, an arm of Vehicule Publishing, decided to pick up the gauntlet laid down by Hard Case Crime Books (among others) and began hunting up these lost gems. The books are widely available now in new editions with the old, classic covers and I urge you to look them up.

For the sake of this piece, however, I’d like to focus on a trio of novels that best fit the hardboiled school. Author Charles Ross Graham, writing as David Montrose, produced three Russell Teed novels between 1950 and 1953. Teed’s a former reporter turned private eye and in typically understated Canadian fashion works insurance claims and other non-violent crimes.

That is until the first book, The Crime on Cote Des Neiges (1951), which has him thrown into the investigation of a bootlegger’s murder. The police are convinced the widow is the guilty party and Teed has to get her out from under before it’s too late. What follows is an engaging mystery the hard drinking Teed weaves his way through amidst an entertaining presentation of Montreal when it was the Sin City of the North.

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Of Phibes and Androbots I Sing

Saturday, October 12th, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

phibes 5Phibes 4Dr. Phibes is far more than the evocation of the great thriller characters of its creator’s childhood; he is a character that stands proudly alongside Dracula, Moriarty, Nikola, Fu Manchu, Fantomas, and Mabuse as an equal in inventiveness and execution. William Goldstein, as screenwriter and novelist, created an immortal as only the best storytellers do. Phibes is a character who transcends his era, defines his own archetype, and is firmly established in his own mythology to pass from one generation, century, and millenium to the next. The best news for fans is The Master’s work continues with the fifth and latest book in the ongoing series, The Androbots – Book I of The Dr. Phibes Manifest.

Those who have read the first four books in the series or, at the very least, my other Black Gate articles covering these titles, are aware there is a significant tonal difference between the two Vincent Price Dr. Phibes films of the early 1970s and William Goldstein’s novels. The books retain the films’ eccentricities, but are far more tragic than comedic. I do revere the two AIP releases. Director Robert Fuest and his production crew imbued both pictures with a sardonic touch that allowed Vincent Price and several of his co-stars to turn in subdued performance that carefully balance extreme bursts of horror, tragedy, and comedy. One never knows quite what to expect as one scene ends and the next begins when watching the films.

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Gyro Gearloose’s Little Helper

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

Four Color Comics #1267, Dec.-Feb. 1961 cover

I started reading comics in about 1958, or at least those are the oldest ones I still have, mostly bedraggled, torn, or coverless from hundreds of readings. They were age-appropriate Disney comics, from Dell Comics. (Gold Key wouldn’t take over until the 1960s.) I was indiscriminate, of course, having no idea which were good or even what good meant, so I had piles of Mickey Mouse and Chip ‘n’ Dale. I soon realized why I was drawn to those titles. They were all regular features in the flagship Walt Disney Comics and Stories (WDCS), the comic of comics. A Donald Duck tale always ranked first, better told than any of the others. Those stories contained witty adventures, taking place all around the world, and often off it in that post-Sputnik year. Oddly, no Donald Duck comic could be found. Instead, I picked up a comic about a non-title character: Uncle Scrooge. The miserly multiplujillionnaire drove all the adventures, roping in Donald, and his nephews, and the other residents of Duckburg, a city more amazing and more fully realized than Metropolis in the Superman comics I soon found. That superiority was due entirely to writer/artist Carl Barks but I wouldn’t know that for decades. No matter. The difference between a Barks story and anyone else’s was a lesson I took with me to better comics and then to better science fiction. There was fun and there was good and then there was superior. Thus a critic (none dare say carper) was born.

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The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – Thoughts

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

The_Dark_Crystal_1982 Film_Poster 2

This was almost my entire childhood.

Good morning, Readers!

I grew up on The Dark Crystal. In my house, it shared a VCR tape with The Secret of NIMH. Or was it a Beta Max cassette? I can’t really remember, save that we had both players in the house. That’s not the point. The point is, I grew up watching The Dark Crystal. It was one of the favorite movies of my childhood. I remember being so invested in Jen and Kyra, terrified of the Garthim, and utterly petrified of the Chamberlain, whose terrible whimper became a signal for immediate danger.

I credit this movie for my love of all things dark fantasy, because it was incredibly dark. With the name Jim Henson attached, one might be forgiven in thinking it is a light, friendly tale designed for young children. While I would recommend it for children, as a matter of personal philosophy, The Muppets it is not. It is a dark story with frightening events that led to more than one nightmare (incidentally, having rewatched it as an adult, I found the story still excellent, the puppetry breathtaking, but the narration so thoroughly irritating. It’s still watchable for me, as long as I fast forward through the narration).

When I heard Netflix was “remaking” The Dark Crystal, my eyes rolled skywards and I cursed under my breath. Not only was The Dark Crystal perfectly fine as it is, but there are so many original stories, or even adaptations of original stories that deserve attention. Whhyyyyyyyyyyyyy must studios constantly remake things that already exist? I resolved to never watch it. Until I saw the trailer.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Duane Spurlock on T.T. Flynn’s Westerns

Monday, October 7th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Flynn_DeepCanonEDITEDAnd we’re back live here at A (Black) Gat in the Hand. And we went big, making our first foray into that venerable pulp genre, The Western. I lobbied author Duane Spurlock to join in during the column’s first run, and he decided it was easier to write a post than have me pestering him again. I discovered T.T. Flynn through his Dime Detective stories about racetrack bookie Joe Maddox. But Flynn would go on to a long, successful career writing Westerns. Read what Duane has to tell us!

“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

When we discuss hard-boiled narrative, the default topic typically is crime fiction—usually the pulp-magazine-era tales from Black Mask and its contemporary competitors through the digest era, culminating in the pages of Manhunt and engendering the rise of the paperback original novel. Bob Byrne  has been admirably addressing the earlier realm of hard-boiled narrative in his Black Gat essays.

But hard-boiled writing encompasses more than the works of Carroll John Daly, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and their followers. The western genre is a prime example.

These days, if someone mentions the hard-boiled western, what usually come to mind are the violent Spaghetti Western film genre and the resulting prodigious output from the Piccadilly Cowboys and The Man With No Name novels written by Joe Millard and others. Actually, the western and hard-boiled narrative have a long, intertwined history. It began at least with the novel that launched what we recognize as the literary western romance: the 1902 bestseller by Owen Wister, The Virginian, which includes the famous line, “When you call me that, SMILE!” If that’s not hard boiled, I’m not sure where we’ll go with this discussion.

(1902: Twenty years before Daly published ‘the first hard-boiled story,’ “The False Burton Combs” in Black Mask and before Hammett’s first stories, “Holiday” and “The Parthian Knot,” appeared in Pearson’s Magazine and The Smart Set; twenty-one years before Ernest Hemingway’s first short stories were published in Paris, “Three Stories and Ten Poems“)

Of course, the western and the crime story are closely related: since most involve robbers, rustlers, and murderers, we don’t really need John Cawelti’s The Six-Gun Mystique or Richard Slotkin’s Gunfighter Nation to make those connections. During the pulp era, many writers worked in both western and crime/mystery genres, as a number of contemporary authors continue to do – the late Ed Gorman, Loren Estleman, Bill Pronzini, Robert Randisi, and the late Bill Crider have all created excellent tales in both arenas). Among them was T.T. Flynn, whose writing career began in the 1920s.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Donald A. Wollheim

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Donald A. Wollheim

Donald A. Wollheim

The Milford Award was created by Robert Reginald and was first presented in 1980 at the J. Lloyd Eaton Conference on Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature at the University of California, Riverside. It is presented for lifetime achievement in published and editing. The award recipient is chosen by a jury that was originally chaired by Reginald. Originally, the award was a hand-lettered scroll mounted under glass, although beginning in the award’s second year, it took the form of a bronze plaque mounted on a wood base. The first recipient of the award was Donald A. Wollheim. The award was discounted following 1997. It was won by David Pringle in its final year.

Donald A. Wollheim is one of those people who is seminal to the creation of modern science fiction. From his early days as a fan in New York to his career as an author and eventually as an editor and publisher, he has touched every aspect of the field.

He was born on October 1, 1914 in New York and joined the International Stf Guild in 1934 and joined a variety of New York based clubs. He published several early fanzines and helped organize the 1936 trip by members of the NYB-ISA to Philadelphia to visit the Philly branch in what some have termed the first science fiction convention. The following year he helped found the Fantasy Amateur Press Association, which is still in existence in the 1938, he was one of the founding members of the Futurians, a science fiction club in New York that counted numerous future science fiction authors among its members.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Hard Boiled Holmes

Monday, September 30th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

HBH_Murder

OK: The kidney stone passed and I spent last week trying to dig myself out of…well, everything! So, it’s another repeat colum this week. I happen to think this the best thing I ever wrote before I joined Black Gate. Yeah – you’re actually getting my good stuff here at Black Gate. Sad, ain’t it?

I wrote this for Sherlock Magazine, where I wrote a column reviewing mystery websites. Then-editor David Stuart Davies (a notable writer of Sherlock Holmes stories and non-fiction) let me write a feature. I will probably revisit this some day, as I’ve learned a lot more about hardboiled since then; but I still think this is pretty darn good. Let me know what you think!

And we’ll be back on track next week. 

“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

By now, readers of this column (all three of you) know that I’m ‘all-in’ on Sherlock Holmes and Solar Pons. But I am also a long-time hard boiled fiction afficionado. I’ve got a section of the bookshelves well-stocked with private eye/police novels and short stories, from Hammett and Daly to Stone and Burke.

Now, I wouldn’t bet my house on the premise of the following essay, which first appeared in Sherlock Magazine back when I was a columnist for that fine, now defunct periodical. But I believe that I make a more compelling argument than you thought possible at first glance. The roots of the American hard boiled school can be seen in Sherlock Holmes and the Victorian Era. Yes, really.

And if any of the hard boiled heroes mentioned catch your fancy, leave a comment. I’ll be glad to tell you more about them. Without further ado, I bring you “Hard Boiled Holmes.”

“But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”

Raymond Chandler wrote these words in his essay, ‘The Simple Art of Murder.’ Ever since, the term ‘mean streets’ has been associated with the hard-boiled genre. One thinks of tough private eyes with guns, bottles, and beautiful dames. But was it really Chandler who created those words to describe the environment that the classic Philip Marlowe operated in?

Is it possible that it was Victorian London that gave birth to the mean streets, which would later become famous as the settings in the pages of Black Mask? Could it be that Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe were followers in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes?

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9 Seasons of Hell on Earth: Some Thoughts About The Walking Dead, Part Two

Saturday, September 28th, 2019 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

NightOfTheLivingDead 1968

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

dawn of the dead 1978

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

DayOfThedead-1985

Day of the Dead (1985)

“Yeah, they’re dead. They’re all messed up.”  — George A. Romero, Night of the Living Dead (original 1968)

Oh, How Those Zombies Have Evolved, Devolved and Decayed!

This ends a two-post series (Part One here) on The Walking Dead. The first post concluded with the observation that TWD has a mysterious lack of “zombie” vocabulary.

To my knowledge, George A Romero invented the flesh-eating zombie genre. Before him there were films like White Zombie, I Walked with a Zombie, and The Zombies of Mora Tau — films I saw as a kid in the 1950s and 1960s, and all of them deal with more traditional, Haitian-voodoo zombies. After the original Night of the Living Dead, filmmakers such as Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci jumped into the zombie arena. Then came a host of spin-offs, take-offs, remakes, reboots and rip-offs.

I always thought George Romero never used the word zombie in his Living Dead films. But after binge-watching all six of his living dead films, I learned a few things. In Night of the Living Dead, the Dead are referred to as cannibals and ghouls. In Dawn of the Dead, the character of Peter (Ken Foree) calls them zombies; the end credits list four actors under the heading, LEAD ZOMBIES. The characters in Day of the Dead call the Dead everything but zombies. By the time Romero got around to filming Land of the Dead, the zombie genre had exploded like a Walker’s head after being hit by a shotgun blast. In this film, the Dead are called Stenches, although one character refers to them as Walkers. Dennis Hopper calls them zombies in one scene. In Diary of the Dead, which I consider Romero’s best, and was basically a reboot of the series, no one knows what’s going on, and the Living Dead are referred to as “the Dead.” In his final film, Survival of the Dead, the word zombie is used a couple of times. Tom Savini’s fairly decent 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead, with a new screenplay by George Romero, went back to the basics and did not use zombie as a term for the Living Dead.

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9 Seasons of Hell on Earth: Some Thoughts About The Walking Dead, Part One

Thursday, September 26th, 2019 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

twd-2

I chose to finally write about The Walking Dead after nine seasons because of the departure of a major character, which changed the whole dynamic of the series, turning it into a different direction (Season 10 broadcasts Oct 6, 2019). For fans of the show, much of what is in this article is me stating the obvious. I know many people who have stopped watching the show after various seasons, for one reason or another. I also know people who have never watched TWD and never will, and some who have just started watching. There may be some hints and clues about certain things, but there are no real spoilers here. This article is about how the show affects me, personally.

Someone on Facebook commented that they stopped watching simply because the show is so sad, even depressing. True. This is not a comedy. There’s a lot of sorrow and sadness in almost every episode, a veritable trail of tears. Sometimes the grief on an actor’s face is enough to get to me. There are powerful emotions here: both love and hate, as well as fear and horror in the eyes of the characters; there’s also plenty of heart and soul poured into these scenes, which the cast so effectively conveys. As a relative told me when we were discussing the series over the Labor Day weekend, “My heart has been ripped out over and over again by what happens to these characters. I feel their pain, I feel their grief and I mourn with them.” I agree with her. I’ve gotten caught up in the lives and deaths of these characters. So please, bear with me.

Although I’ve read only a handful of Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels, I’ve been a fan of the television series since episode one, and still remain a fan. I’m not a mad puppy because the show’s producers and writers made some changes which aren’t part of Kirkman’s mythos. Certain characters that had been killed in the graphic novels became so popular on the TV show that the producers decided to keep them around. Other popular characters were killed off on the show and, as most writers know, characters and plot twists often demand to be heard and made.

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